Thursday, April 23, 2015
Last night I received an email from Michael letting me know that he is not having a great internet connection. He took many photos, but I only receive one. The rest is sure to follow. Michael has many things to tell:
"Today I woke up at 8:30am. That was not my goal, but I don’t mind. I quickly check today’s route, get dressed and have breakfast in the hotel, which looks and tastes really good. The lady at the reception wants to have her picture taken with me before I leave. So it is pretty late before I get on my way. Thankfully, I have just 45 kms to go today.
Right away I feel the pain in my knee again. That is not something I need today. I try to put less pressure with that knee and use my other leg more. I am taking Old Montreal Road which is hilly but safer than the Highways which have gravel shoulders on which you can’t bike. The sun is shining and although the teperature shows 10 degrees Celcius, the wind feels cold. My surroundings are beautiful and I actually see a groundhog, albeit that he seems to be the victim of a traffic accident and is no longer alive. I resist my urge the snap a picture.
I encounter some roadworks that are to be expected since winter wreaks havoc with the roads here. As soon as the weather allows they start fixing the roads. Biking is a bit difficult here, since cars are unable to pass me in the single lane; although not everyone thinks so...
I decide to ride in the middle of the road to keep the cars behind me. Thankfully it is just a short part. At one point I need to ask for directions. I thought I was on Old Montreal Road, but I seem to be on St. Joseph something or other. It appears that I am acatually on Old Montreal Road. “Oh, yes, Ottawa likes to change the names” says a man who I ask for directions. He wants to know why I am biking here. “Isn’t that way to much and it is still winter, man!” I explain what I am doing here and that I am a little crazy. He agrees with the latter, unfortunately!
A little later I have lunch in a suburb of Ottawa at “Subway”. Here also, I make quick connections with people although I am not necessarily trying. Then again, considering the way I am dressed it is not hard to attract attention. I see a guy orderingf a meal who has a gun hanging on his belt. That is unusual to see for me. He appears to be an OPP officer (Ontario Provincial Police). Apparantly they are known for their no nonsense approach. I see him drive away in an unmarked car.
After lunch I ride for about half an hour and find myself on the fringes of the City of Ottawa and then in the city itself. Biking is going very well right now and the pain in my knee seems to have subsided entirely. I ride to the B&B where I booked a room through the internet last night. On my way there I see a film crew working. I am not sure what they are doing, but decide to ask them what the best way is for me to get some attention from the media. They are a crew from CTV. When I was in Newfoundland I also connected with a local CTV station. They give me a short explanation and a phone number for the CTV newsroom.
When I arrive at the B&B I check in. It is a beautiful old home that is completely set up as a Bed and Breakfast. The one disadvantage is that I am not allowed to bring my bike inside. It will have to be parked and chained at the back of the house. It appears to be a very safe neighbourhood, but I am still a little concerned...
While it is still early, I decide to visit the Terry Fox exhibition at the Canadian Museum of History. With a fully packed bike I ride through Ottawa. I stop at the National War Memorial and speak with police officer and a militairy guard and ask if they don’t mind taking my picture. They oblige and want to know why I am biking here. I explain my story. Sometimes it can be a little annoying, but it is to be expected driving around the way I do. I gather from the conversation that this is the spot where their collegue Nathan Cirillo was murdered last year. I offer my condolensces which they appreciate and tell them that this awful news also reached Holland at the time.
I continue on to the Parliament of Canada buildings and take some photos. There is a lot of police around. I was here aswell in 2013, and I notice the difference. The attacks of last year obviously left an impact on Canada. It is unfortunate that through this, as a country you loose a bit of freedom to fear. At least that is the way I see it.
Across from the Parliament is the statue of Terry Fox that was unveiled by Terry’s mother in 1998. I take some photos and take a minute to remember Terry as well as my experience in Newfoundland. It must have been so tough for him. It is special to me that I feel quite connected to him right now. I realize that I am one of the people who is actually paying tribute to his legacy with my tour.
I decide to visit the Terry Fox exhibit. It is not very far. I ride across the bridge which has a separate bike lane. The Museum is a beautiful building. I decide to bring my bike inside. I speak to a manager who, after hearing about my story and connection to Terry Fox tries to make it possible for me to have my picture taken in front of the car that followed Terry on his journey. It is not that simple. Normally this would not be allowed and to make this exception is complicated.
The good news is that I receive two email addresses that can be helpful to me. They are both related to an exhibition that is planned here about space and safety. “Who knows?” says a very friendly and involved manager. “You know admission to the museum is free today and I have arranged for someone to guide you through the museum and take pictures of you where ever you like.” Fantastic, I really appreciate that. First I can park my bike in the coat check and I even get a number for it...
He takes me to the area where the exhibit is and I feel a lump in my throat. I have been so involved with this whole story and here I stand face to face with the Terry Fox van, his artificial leg, his sock, his shoes, even his diaries. We take some photos by the van after which I take my time to walk through the exhibition. There are quite a few people around. I leave my guide behind and feel emotional several times as I watch the videos where I see Terry run in places where I have just biked. They ask him if the road at start of his walk was not to steep with a 23% incline. Terry did not think so because he was focussed on his goal. My experience of that incline was that it is really tough and I could barely make it. Of course, Terry did not have 35 kg of luggage to drag with him.
The reports are just as inspiring and really bring the event to life for me. I recognize the hills he describes at Clarenville and right before Gander. What does surprise me is that he had so much media attention. He did not have to worry about anything but walking. Although it was different at the outset in Newfoundland where the financial support was still minimal, but where the people were extremely supportive.
I am very grateful to be able to be here and experience this piece of history from up close. It gives me a renewed appreciation for what Terry did and will take that with me on on my own journey. Ofcourse, I also realize that at the same time I have to make my own journey and to let go of comparing it to Terry’s. It is not about copying what someone else did, but for it to be my own journey. This was a great experience for me today!
It is around 7:30 pm when I leave the museum. I very much enjoyed it and it really touched me. With those thoughts I return to the B&B and bring my bags upstairs. Right away I start my computer to check my email and read my messages. It is always a joy to read everything. But unfortunely I can’t get an internet connection. Whatever I try, it is not working. I can connect on my phone, but not on my laptop.
I decide to get changed first and get something to eat. I saw a Mexican restaurant around the corner here this afternooon. This appears to be a good choice as the food with lots of vegetables is delicious.
Once I get back, I try the computer downstairs and it works, at least for a while, because suddenly the screen goes black. There is nobody here, but I do have a phone number. It is almost 10:00 pm and maybe a little late to call. I try to reboot the computer and after a while it works just fine.
Tomorrow I am going to take some photos at the statue of the Man with Two Hats for the Ottawa Citizen. Good!
Now if I can just get this piece over to Han…"
Han Schomakers, editor
Translation by Sytske van der Veen