Mobilize March -- Travel Blog


Wow. That is the only way I can sum-up today’s experience…”wow.” After about 8 hours and 74km, I have officially completed “Operation: Epic Drive” and lived to tell the tale. I am pretty sore (not nearly as bad as expected) and really, really tired, but everything went according to plan today.

We began the huge drive from Kingston this morning around 9:30am, making our way to Gananoque for a mid-day lunch/rest. This drive went off without a hitch, absolutely flying by–I was full of energy and ready to tackle this huge day of driving. Moments after leaving Kingston, the unbelievable scenery began to unfold. To my left, I had beautiful trees and rock formations and to my right I had variations of lake front, forest, and wetlands. About halfway to Gananoque we came across a fellow traveler who had lost his way–a surprisingly large turtle who appeared to have fallen asleep on the road. As we drove past I radio’d to Sam to ask if she thought we should save it, as it was sitting right in the road. She was down with a little game of Rescue Rangers, so we pulled over and did our best emergency crew impersonation, transporting the wayward turtle from one side of the road to the other. Nice try Darwin, you can’t have this one! Just as we were laughing and watching the turtle crawl back toward the pond, another turtle bolted from the trees and tried to make it’s way across the road. This one, luckily, had the wherewithal to make it across the road so Sam didn’t have to cradle it across, but we thought it was pretty hilarious that all of these turtles were crossing the road at the same time. We would later come across actual “turtle crossing” warnings later down the road–I guess it’s more common than I thought. I also came across a field full of sheep with one donkey standing in the middle (one of these things is not like the other) and a Ram who I think wanted to fight me…he was definitely giving me the challenging eye! This trip was like an episode of Wild Kingdom, it was pretty funny.

Arriving at Gananoque in good time, this is when our plan kind of fell apart. We parked the van and got out to find some food but unfortunately very few places downtown were wheelchair accessible. In fact, the only accessible eatery we found on the main strip was in the process of being sold–ugh. We kept walking down the road when finally we found a nice little deli-looking place that, while not wheelchair accessible, did in fact have a wheelchair accessible patio. Oh well, beggers can’t be choosers, right? Boy oh boy were we in for a treat! The little diner had the nicest staff ever with a very “small-town” feel–very personal and accommodating. Our culinary assistant for the afternoon explained that his shop has the best quesadillas in town and we thought, who are we to argue? Low and behold, he was right–these were probably the best quesadillas we’ve ever tasted. They were unbelievable! So good, in fact, we lost track of time and spent an hour on the patio stuffing our faces. I should add that the weather was really bizarre today, although mostly sunny, we got a BIT of rain while sitting on this patio.

After letting the food digest a bit it was time to get back on the road–we still had close to 55km to dominate! We set off again along a beautiful stretch of road called the “1000 Islands Parkway.” If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend checking out this stretch of road! Why go on the 401 when you take a little bit longer and have this type of scenery!? It was absolutely gorgeous. It is also home of some of the funniest street names ever. While I cannot remember them all, my personal favourites were “Smuggler’s Bay,” “Butternut Bay,” and “Horse Thief Bay.” I officially petition the City of London to change Dundas Street, where I now live, to “Horse Thief Way” or perhaps “Horse Thief Crescent.” How in the world does somewhere get named “Horse Thief Bay”??? I honestly spent an hour after seeing this sign wondering what in the world could have happened there (aside from some good ol’ fashion Grand Theft Equestrian) that could possibly land it such an amazing name. Think about it for a moment–not everywhere in this world where horses are stolen get named “Horse Theft Road” and not everyone who steals a horse gets their street renamed to “Horse Thief Lives Here Road.” How many horses do you need to steal to get the name? Or is it the number of horse thieves that live on the street? Furthermore, if everyone who lived on the street stole horses, wouldn’t they be sent to prison, meaning there wouldn’t be any active horse thieves still living on the road? These are the questions running through my mind most of the drive. It’s a conundrom.

All in all, this drive was amazingly long and difficult: the last hour is a complete blur…I didn’t even see the “Welcome to Brockville” sign! The last hour was definitely pretty grueling and I just kept reminding myself of the Stars lyric “Live through this and you won’t look back”–if I can make it through this drive I can do anything. When all is said and done I did exactly that: I’ve definitely survived and I’m ready for more. From the comfort of my hotel room I can say that it wasn’t the hardest thing I’ve ever been through in my life (spinal chord surgery takes that cake) and I’m pretty sure I had another 10 or 15 kilometres left in me, but the story might be a little different if you had asked me during that last hour. But now that I’ve been able to sit back for a few minutes and eat some food, I’m already feeling a lot better!

Well, I’m pretty tired and have an early interview tomorrow on The Beach so I’m going to wander off to bed. I got some good news today that Christina and Natalie are hitchin’ a ride with Duncan Hawthorne to Ottawa, so I will get to walk the last kilometer with at least two very special people!

Can’t wait!

– Jeff

Mobilize March -- Travel Blog

Day 37 — Can…can I come in or…? No? Oh okay…

Fun fact to begin tonight’s blog. I have been on the road now for so long that I actually have to check the previous blog post to remember what day it is…it’s a sad fact, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Every single night I go to write the blog and have to right-click open the “View Site” link to see what day it was yesterday. I like to think it’s because I have more important things on my mind, but I’m pretty sure that’s a totally baseless excuse.

The plan for the day was get up early, make some phone calls and prepare for my meeting at Kingston City Hall this afternoon. Everything went according to plan, except the press beat me to the punch and called me first! So around 10pm we were out the door to meet up with a photographer from the Kingston Whig (keep an eye out for the story tomorrow, I’ll post a link). The photographer was a really cool guy and I think he got some really sweet pictures of me with some inaccessible busses. Hilariously, he took us to the local mall where there is a relatively large bus terminal with the hopes of finding an inaccessible bus. We didn’t have to look hard, as 6 of the 7 busses sitting at the mall when we arrived were completely inaccessible. Yikes…it was gonna be an interesting meeting with the Mayor in the afternoon for sure!

After getting some glamour shots snapped (I worked my dimples for all they are worth–eat it Prince William), the tornado’s in London decided to subside long enough to allow Sam to escape and return to us. We were a little lost without her, for serious. There are just some things two boys cannot complete without a woman’s soft touch. The team was, once again, complete…for about 10 minutes, when Pete left for London to attend his convocation tomorrow. I’m getting a little nervous being surrounded by all these graduates! My parents likely hope some of their “graduation” will rub off on me and I’ll consider graduating one day. Not likely!

After lunch, Sam and I headed off for City Hall in beautiful downtown Kingston. I haven’t been to Kingston in yeeeears and all I remember about my last visit was driving past the prison: it’s funny what will have an impact on you as a kid. Anyway, the downtown core is quite impressive with some very cool architecture. Unfortunately, the old (historic) buildings also bring a laundry list of accessibility issues–including City Hall. After arriving, Sam and I were left dumbfounded, starring at the massive front steps to City Hall and trying to figure out how to get inside. Even funnier, there is a huge wheelchair accessible bathroom sticker on the front door, daring me to try and get in…taunting me…

By the time we discovered a little map beside the stairs that directed us to a ramp around the back of the building, we were greeted by several members of the Accessibility Advisory Committee, who were quickly followed by Mayor Rosen himself. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this meeting, as Nicole had only written in my agenda to “meet on front stairs.” I assumed this meant we would meet at the stairs for a photo perhaps and then head inside for a meeting, but apparently they do things a bit differently in Kingston and we had our meeting right there on the sidewalk. It was actually kind of neat because we had a really good conversation out in the nice sunshine for everyone to hear. I like to think some passersby got to hear some interesting things about accessibility in Kingston and what the city is doing to help improve things for the disabled population–now that’s a participatory democracy. Once again, we discovered that the Accessibility Advisory Committee is actively tackling barriers and engaging the disabled population to partake in the political process. While there are definitely some problems here (only 50% accessible buses and no accessible cabs at all), this is a city in transition who have just recently committed time and energy to solving the transportation problem. Yes there are problems right now, but I am getting a real sense of optimism from the council that some solutions are in the works and the people of Kingston will be enjoying more access to transportation in the very near future. We had a great chat and I offered them some suggestions on solutions I have seen working elsewhere in the province. The committee members and the Mayor were excited to hear about some of my cost effective and functional solutions that I’ve been dreaming up along the way and I have no doubt this committee will take some of these recommendations, build on them, and enact some solutions that will work for this community.

Tomorrow is the Epic Drive. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m not afraid of it anymore…I’m ready to stare down this challenge tomorrow. We were doing some number crunching tonight and it’s actually not going to be too bad. We’re going to leave early tomorrow morning and get to Gananoque by lunch, rest for a bit there, then drive in 2-hour bursts, essentially driving for 2 hours and then resting for 15 or 20 minutes. I think the key to this long drive is to take it in portions and keep the shoulder and neck rested during the breaks. Granted, I have not done a 70km drive yet on this trip, but I have done several 20s and even some 50s. So! If I break the trip tomorrow down into little 20km sections, suddenly it becomes far more managable…at least in my mind, which is have the battle, honestly. I have discovered along this trip that if you can convince your mind of something, the body just follows along, whether it wants to or not. Overcome those feelings of doubt and reservation and you can accomplish some pretty incredible things. Also, the weather is suppose to be SUPREME tomorrow! They’re saying it will be totally clear with a bit of wind, little humidity and probably only low 20s. Everything is coming up Jeff!

Well, I need to go lay down and rest my body. Despite my optimism, it is a long trip and I’m going need everything I’ve got to make through alive.

Almost there, 3 more drives.

– Jeff

Mobilize March -- Travel Blog

Day 36 — “WAS THAT A FOX OR A DOG?!?!”

What a beautiful day for a drive! We made our hop from Napanee to Kingston today and it was absolutely fabulous out on the road–nice and warm but not a pressure cooker like yesterday. While the sun was shining the whole way and it was pretty humid out, today we had a beautiful wind coming off the Bay of Quinte, which kept me at a pretty reasonable temperature the entire way (except when we stopped).

While we had originally intended to shoot right down Highway 2, we made a last minute decision to swap in a new route that would take us a little closer to the water and hopefully a little further from the traffic. We lucked out and found a really good way into Kingston that would only add about 3km onto the trip, which is relatively negligible when you factor in the time we would have spent on the shoulder on a busier road. I’m really glad we made the switch-up because our route was absolutely beautiful.

Given that it was so warm, today was the first day that I finally broke out the shorts. Now, for those of you who don’t know me I hate the feeling of shorts. They never fit me correctly because shorts were not made to be sat in…ever…they just ride up in all the wrong places or ride so low it looks like I’m preparing for a flood. To make matters worst, when I start driving fast the wind blows into the pant legs and causes them to blow up, like a skirt, giving everyone a nice view of my nether regions. But, this trip is about sacrifices and some sacrifices must be made. Ultimately, my discomfort in shorts was trumped by my discomfort of dehydration. I tried to tuck the pant legs under my thighs as good as possible, but I’m pretty sure I still flashed a few passing cars–sorry guys!

The best part of the trip was down this gravel-y back road called “Doyle Rd,” which may or may not have been chosen because we watched the movie “Billy Madison” last night while going to sleep (O’Doyle rules?). While I try and avoid the dirt roads, this road was about as close to being paved as you can get without pavement. It was a relatively smooth ride and offered some STUNNING landscape. It also provided one of the biggest scares of the trip so far.

As we were driving along, suddenly an animal BOLTED across the road about 100 meters in front of me. Now I didn’t get a real good look at it…it looked a little like a dog but I wasn’t totally sure. To make matters worst, the grass was really tall on either side of the road and I totally lost sight of it once it crossed. The animal did, however, get a nice big glance at me as it crossed and given that it was around noon I had the worst feeling that perhaps all was thinking “hmmm, lunch.” So I picked up the walkie talkie and radio’d to Pete “Was that a Fox or a Dog??” Unfortunately he didn’t get a good glimpse of it either, but he assured me it was likely more afraid of me than I was of it…I find this unlikely. So I proceeded slowly, moving as far to the other side of the road as I could go. All I could think about as we drove by was “What am I going to do if this thing jumps on me?” We don’t have any real “weapons” and I’m not much good in a fight (shocking, I know!). All I could think about was keeping the chair between me and where I saw the thing enter the tall grass and hope I could give it a hard ram with the foot plates, which would give Pete time to run it over with the van…or kick it…or something…to save me, basically.

Wow, I just realized what a great employer I am. When facing a vicious animal attack, my exit strategy is to throw my attendant in it’s way and high tail it out of there. Wow I’m a coward. Having said that, I don’t remember reading anything about wild fox attacks in the WSIB handbook, so I think I’m good to go here.
Sure enough when I came to the point where it crossed I could see it standing about 100 meters from the road, watching us, and it was most certainly not a dog. This lead to several hours of debate between Pete and I over what it was. Pete thinks it was a coyote, I think it was either a fox or a werewolf. The argument was never officially settled, however it came to an end when we passed another open field that was full of deer, who took off running once we passed.

All in all, this was a pretty eventful drive!

Tomorrow is going to be a lot of fun. We’re meeting the Mayor of Kingston at City Hall, along with members of the Accessibility Advisory Committee and the local press. I’m not sure how many journalists are going to show up–apparently one of the Princes of England was around here recently and I’ve got nothing on Harry…or William…or Reginald or whatever his name is…how can I remember his name after seeing those bashful dimples? Speaking of weapons of mass distraction…

Anyway, after the meeting with the Mayor, we are kicking “Operation: Relax Shoulder” into high gear to prepare for our epic drive on Wednesday. I’m actually really excited for it–it’s one of our most scenic drives and I’m kind of looking forward to the challenge. I know…I’m a glutton for pain…but we’re almost there and if I can overcome the ridiculous weather I can overcome anything!

– Jeff

Mobilize March -- Travel Blog

Day 35 — Arrived in Napanee…DON’T TELL AVRIL!

Last night, as has become my pre-drive ritual, I was memorizing the route and checking the weather, only to discover that once again I would be facing a day in the rain. Although not calling for a lot of rain, the weather man as expecting it to rain off and on for a majority of the day–no matter when I left, I was going to get a little soggy.

With this in mind, we got up early this morning to check out the weather and see if we could put a few kilometers behind us before the rain hit. To our surprise, we woke up to discover a nice warm sun without a cloud in the sky. I immediately checked the weather report online and it was still saying we were going to get rain starting around 11am. With this in mind, we grabbed some breakfast and started packing up–maybe we could hit the road by 10am and beat some of the rain. Well, by 9:45 we were almost packed up and it was still really sunny out so we decided to slow down a bit, eat breakfast and take our time because, honestly, Pete and I had no idea where this whole “rain” stuff was going to come from given the lack of clouds in the sky.

I decided to try and save my poor, deeply tanned arms by wearing my jacket this morning, but the humidity was so thick when I began that you could cut it with a knife, so I had to go to the t-shirt and sunscreen lotion combo right off the bat. To describe today as “hot” would be a profound understatement–so much for that rain, Weatherman! Although not the longest of drives, today’s drive was definitely one of the most grueling. The humidity, mixed with the lack of wind, basically cooked me alive on the road today. It is unbelievable how hot it gets on the pavement in the middle of the day, you can actually feel the difference in temperature merging from the road to the shoulder. While it was another really scenic drive, unfortunately there were very few trees directly beside the road, meaning I was taking the full brunt of the sun almost the entire drive. Miraculously, my arms are in pretty good shape–I applied and reapplied sunscreen almost constantly and hoped I wouldn’t get burnt to a crisp. Having said all this, I really do enjoy the heat, it’s definitely my favourite temperature, so my spirits were up the whole drive. In fact, I couldn’t wipe the silly grin of my face for most of it.

Leading the parade for the first time today was really cool, I think I like it a lot more than being sandwiched between the two vehicles. Although the lead car is only a mini-van, I really felt like I could “see” so much more on the drive today. Seeing the road stretched out in front of you, unobstructed, is a pretty amazing view–it’s like I can hear the road daring me to conquer it. I’m not sure if it was because the road was narrower or because Sam wasn’t in front of me, but I really felt like the cars were passing me much faster and much closer today. Having said that, I wasn’t in any real danger–just had a couple surprises when vehicles would come flying out of my blind spot past me. Despite this, I think we will likely stick to this strategy for future runs because I have more fun in the front and I won’t have to worry about face-planting into Sam’s bumper because it’ll be easier for her to keep pace behind me than trying to guestimate my speed from in front.

All it all it was a really good run and we safely arrived in Napanee. I was a little tired and pretty hungry after the run so we decided to just order in some food before falling asleep, so unfortunately I won’t get the chance to really get out and visit this city much before leaving for Kingston tomorrow. I suppose it’s probably for the best–this way I don’t have to worry about saying something bad about Avril. We did, however, drive past a skate park which did have some skater boys there. I was tempted to hop out of the van and show them what an electric wheelchair can do on a half pipe…then I realized the lyric “he was a wheelchair boy, she said see you later boy” just doesn’t have the same ring. Oh…and there’s also that thing called “gravity”…nature’s party pooper…

Anyway, Napanee for tonight, Kingston tomorrow. I cannot believe we’re almost in Kingston. I also cannot believe there was a tornado warning in London tonight(?!?!?!). Apparently Helen Hunt is trying to assassinate Sam. Well back off Ms. Hunt, I need Sam back tomorrow! Go find Bill Paxton or something…

– Jeff

Mobilize March -- Travel Blog

Day 34 — Do you have a death wish, Mr. Computer?

The plan for today was to edit and upload the video footage of the past week into a nice little vlog. I was looking over the footage and Pete has definitely out done himself this time around–he totally pulled some crazy Scorsese stuff. Unfortunately, my computer decided this was a horrible idea and rebelled the entire day. First my external hard drive kept coming undocked in the middle of the import process, then iMovie kept freezing in the middle of editing, and now YouTube is being temperamental. A process that usually takes a few hours has honestly taken all day and I’m about ready to throw this laptop out the window. Okay…not actually. I love this laptop like a child, but it’s definitely driving me a little crazy right now.

I think YouTube has finally decided to stop being a little priss, so while the video uploads I’ll lay out the strategy over the next few days. Tomorrow we head off to Napanee for the night. To be honest, I have no idea what (or if) the Internet situation is going to be like there, so there’s a potential there will be no blog tomorrow night, but never fear, I will write one tomorrow night regardless and publish it once we get into Kingston the following day. That’s right, we’re doing another back-to-back drive: Napanee on Sunday and Kingston on Monday. Kingston is going to be a nice little respite between drives, giving me a day to relax and meet up with the Mayor before heading into the great abyss of the Epic Drive on Wednesday. Tomorrow will also be the first time I’ll be driving with only one vehicle! Sam is currently back in London at her convocation, leaving Pete and I to fend for ourselves on the road tomorrow and on Monday. Meeting us in Kingston on Monday night, Sam will then be trading off with Pete, who is heading home for his convocation. This of course means Sam and I will be tackling the epic drive by ourselves. It’s going to be interesting driving along with only one van, although I’m kind of looking forward to not looking at the back of Sam’s van for the few rides…the lack of exhaust pipe in my face will also be appreciated.

Hallelujahs! YouTube is finally co-operating and has uploaded the video blog! You can check it out at:
And on that note, I’m going to bed!

…stupid computer

– Jeff

Mobilize March -- Travel Blog

Day 33 — Oh right, the sun!

Reluctantly, we left Brighton this morning after a wonderful stay in this small water-front community. After grabbing one last amazing breakfast at the Cafe, we set out for Belleville around noon. The sun was shining brightly and the humidex was already climbing–it was going to be a hot one! I came prepared for the warm weather today though…sort of…I started off right away with my t-shirt and put on my thinnest black pants. Of course, I quickly learned this was a horrible decision, but because I hate how shorts feel, I didn’t have anything lighter to change into. Oh well, it just meant Pete and Sam would have to deal with a very sweaty Jeff by the end of the run. Despite slapping on a bunch of sun tan lotion, I still managed to burn a little today…ugh…I’m going to be soooooo tanned when this is all said and done! Oh well, the burn doesn’t hurt too bad, hopefully it doesn’t get all peely and gross by the end of the trip!

Today was also the first day of an ongoing study into how to reduce the strain on my shoulder for longer drives. We recently made an executive decision and decided to cut Gananoque off our itinerary and will be driving directly from Kingston to Brockville on Wednesday. I was a little worried about making back-to-back +50km drives, followed by a shorter drive right before arriving in Ottawa. So we will be arriving in Brockville a day early, spacing out the drives and reducing the strain on my shoulder. Unfortunately, this means my Wednesday drive will be over 70km, the longest drive of the trip, almost 30km more than the previous record.

This epic drive, as we have dubbed it, poses two major problems–battery endurance and physical endurance. On our last run we decided to see how far the batteries could go on a full charge before crashing. Astonishingly, we made it close to 43km before noticing a bit of a slowdown. This appears to be consistent with a previous drive where we went around 38km on one set of batteries. This means, contrary to my original estimates of a 60km range, my range is likely closer to 85km on two charged batteries. So, the battery problem is solved.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t account for the physical endurance. So far, the longest drive we’ve made was only about 50km and I was like putty afterwards and that was during a perfect drive day–no rain or outrageous heat. Ultimately, we need to find a solid way to allow me a good 8 or 9 hours of steady driving without absolutely obliterating my shoulder or draining me of so much energy that I get sick or nonfunctional. The first, and probably best, idea is to strap my shoulders down to the back of my chair, allowing me to rest back in the seat without being thrown around when hitting bumps. Now there are several ways to accomplish this goal, two of which we tested today with limited success.

The first option was to use the camel back as an improvised chest support, wrapping it behind my seat and pulling the arm straps around to the front, strapping me down to the back of the seat. While this definitely held me back, the design of the straps forced my arms out at a ridiculous angle, making me look like I’m attempting to take off with my boney little chicken arms. Aside from the obvious fashion issues, it was also really uncomfortable.

To rectify this, we decided to go smaller and tighter, turning to a bungie cord. Basically we just grabbed one of our cords, wrapped it around my chest and secured it behind the seat. This solution worked reasonably well, on the road, except that there was enough give in the system that I got really jossled around while driving on the shoulder. I would hit a bump hard enough that it would catapult me forward and then the elastic would snap me back into the seat, giving me a bit of whiplash and a bit of a headache. The other obvious issue here was the fact that it’s not really comfortable having an elastic wrapped around your chest–I know, who knew?! In the end, we had to give up on this experiment for the remainder of the ride, but we’re going to go back to the drawing board tomorrow to see if we can come up with something else that will work.

As a side note, yes I know they actually make shoulder straps for wheelchairs to hold people in, especially when driving, but we have no way of getting something like that at this point in the game and besides, what fun would it be to just buy one? It’s way more entertaining to reinvent the wheel!

So our drive today was reasonably short but surprisingly grueling. It was my first real taste of ’summer driving,’ with a beating sun and next to no wind or shade. It was only about 26 or 27 out today, but with the humidity and lack of wind it felt like a solid 30 or 32 degrees–I was sweating almost immediately…and those stupid black pants didn’t help matters! To make matters worst, Trenton had some of the worst sidewalks I’ve ever driven on so I had to exert a LOT of energy pivoting and leaning and holding myself up as I launched myself off huge curbs and rocketed up and down hills–it was like doing sidewalk moguls. As I mentioned earlier, I did get a little sun burnt, despite a LOT of suntan lotion, but I was able to keep hydrated and cool off ever now and then by tossing some water on my head and shoulders.

As usual, the honks were out in full force today, bleeping our entire way from Brighton to Belleville. I’ve been thinking a lot about horns recently (exciting, I know), specifically about how much they annoy me. When we were in Toronto people were constantly laying on their horns to admonish vehicular indiscretion and faux pas. Driving too slow? Give’um the horn! Make an illegal turn? Horn’um! Merge in front of me? Oh you better BELIEVE you’re getting horned. I find it so bizarre that we have NO problem blasting our horns at people on the road who do stupid or questionable things and yet that type of behaviour outside of a car is abhorrent. We would never yell at someone walking too slowly on the sidewalk and yet we find it perfectly acceptable to do it on the road in our car. While I won’t go into why I think this may be, I’d speculate it has something to do with the anonymity we feel inside our cars. What is more interesting, though, is how the meaning of a horn can be dramatically different without using a different type of horn. The sound we make to tell someone to get out of the way is the same sound we make to say hi to an old friend as we pass by–two very different meanings, one sound…and yet we seem to have no problem distinguishing between the meanings. I’ve always found that interesting, but this tangled web of semiotic construction gets even more interesting when put in the context of the March. The horn, often a sign of disgust or disapproval, is constantly being used as a means of supporting me as I make my way across this fine province.

Driving down the road, people quite regularly give me a little beep of their horn, often followed by a wave or thumbs up (or a fist pump…if I’m lucky) as a means of saying “Good job!” or “Keep going!” Ultimately, the horn is the motorist’s way of vocalizing their support for my cause and urging me to continue what I’m doing from the comfort of their driver seat. I find this fascinating, and dare I say poetic, when put in the context of the walk. So many Ontarians with disabilities have had their voice marginalized and minimized when asking for more access to transportation. In many cases our pleas for justice fall on uninterested or inattentive ears. To make matters worst, the insidious discrimination against the disabled population is so covert and unspoken, borderline wordless, that we are left with nothing–not even a spoken example of how we have been wronged. We are never told “No Cripples Allowed,” but rather a canned list of “politically correct” responses is rolled out, explaining it is just too expensive or that we should be a bit more patient (come on sport, what’s another 10 years?). The wording may be different but the result is the same–we are placated, left to languish in anguish, trapped alone, solitary, in a structured silencing.

To make matters worst, not everyone with a disability has the ability to speak out for a variety of different reasons, whether it be that they are nonverbal, uncommunicative or simply too shy. Others find it difficult to gather their thoughts and explain their problems in a comprehensive and concise manner, sometimes because they are simply so disgusted by how they are being treated that they cannot formulate a rational argument, other times because they simply haven’t had access to the proper education to assist them in formulating their thoughts. The disabled population is horrendously undereducated with astonishingly few people gaining post-secondary training.

By driving to Ottawa, I hoped to rectify this problem, urging those who can speak out to find their voice, to find our collective voices and rise up together and say “Enough!”, demanding fair and equal treatment. Although I love to gab, I thought perhaps this time around I would let my wheels do the talking–the rubber of my tires painting a portrait of oppression along the roads of Ontario. But something even better has begun to take form…

At the start of this trip, I decided to bring my iPod to offer some entertainment and provide a custom soundtrack for my trip, but as I’m driving along, a moving tableaux of a terrible transportation system, I am now being serenaded by a near constant choir of honking cars. These horns are growing into the true melody of the trip–the marching beat of the revolution–and by honking their horns, people are giving voice to the voiceless. For those who cannot speak for themselves, these motorist’s honks call for change, employing the horn to not just support my efforts but also to vocalize disappointment and disapprove of the deplorable treatment the disabled currently endure every day in this province. While I couldn’t stand the horns before, they have honestly become music to my ears–an audible commitment to the cause and a plea for justice across this province.

So the next time you are on the road, blast your horn for all to hear because there is no bigger indiscretion or faux pas than accessible transportation in this province.

– Jeff

Mobilize March -- Travel Blog

Day 32 — On an island in the sun…

What an unbelievably beautiful day it was today. We got up this morning for a quick radio interview to be greeted by a warm sun and a gentle breeze coming off Lake Ontario. I was worried it would rain today, so we thought only seemed fitting to walk over to the Cafe across the street and grab some breakie on the patio and enjoy the sun while it lasted. Little did I know, the entire day would be sunny and warm–perfect for doing some work outside!

Today was a day of rest before making our drive tomorrow to Belleville. I find the extra day of rest really helps reduce the strain on my body when making the drives, especially on my shoulder. With that in mind, I tilted back my chair, rolled up my sleeves, and got to work under the glorious June sun. I had been intending on posting some photos online for a while now but never really had the time to format and upload them all to flickr. Luckily this afternoon provided a bit of a respite from the typical grind so I managed to get them all online through my flickr profile. I will be adding photos as they become available here. Unfortunately, we raaaaaaaarely remember to bring the camera along with us so photos are few and far between. Anyway, you can check them out at:

A storm is blowing in so I should probably shut down my computer–all I’d need right now would be a shorted out laptop! Apparently the clouds are suppose to get all rained out overnight and be nothing but sunny tomorrow afternoon for our drive to Belleville. Perfect! That’s just what I like to hear! Tomorrow is doubly exciting because we’re going to conduct a little experiment too! I won’t say much now, but hopefully I’ll have some good news to report tomorrow!

Anyway, I’m off to grab some sleep before the drive…you know, we’ve been on the road for over a month now and I still get really excited the night before a drive. We sat down and did the math today and I have now driven just over 280km with about the same amount left to do before June 15th. Spending time out on the road definitely changes a person. I’m not exactly sure how to explain it without sounding like a really kitschy movie from the 80s, so I’m not even going to attempt it (…YET…) but I realized today how much I’m going to miss my time on the road once this is all over.

Oh well, it may be the end of the trip but it is just the beginning of the journey.

– Jeff

Mobilize March -- Travel Blog

Day 31 — Making waves by the waves

Before going into detail about our day today, I have a couple little house keeping things to take care of.

First I am writing this blog entry outside, from the patio in front of someone else’s hotel room at the Brighton Harbourview Motel, a quaint little hotel right on the water. The place is more cottage than motel but it’s owned by the two sweetest British people ever who also own a cafe across the street. We definitely had some amazing home cooked food tonight. Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself again, all that really needs to be said so far is that I’m writing this outside, the mosquitoes are attracted to the lights on my keyboard, and the sounds of the waves rolling against the shore are putting me to sleep–it’s pristine.

Second is a story I forgot to tell about yesterday on last night’s blog (I was sleepy and couldn’t get Bruce Willis off the mind). Arriving at Port Hope’s town hall for the council meeting, we were all a little confused about where we were suppose to go. Entering the building, we found our way to an elevator and took it to the first floor. After looking around for a bit we came to the conclusion that we were clearly not in the right place (although we did find a sign labeling a door as “elderly drivers”…I really want to know what happens behind that door). Just as I was beginning to panic, a gentleman enters the front door of the building and we ask him where the city council meeting is being held. With a big smile he explains, “Oh it’s just up on the third floor, you can use the elevator which…is…..down…” At this point, he realizes that I’m on the 1st floor, not the basement where the wheelchair accessible door, and subsequently the elevator, is located. Confusion sets in and I can tell by the look on his face that he cannot understand how in the world I managed to get to the 1st floor when the elevator starts on the ground floor. Then he looks at Sam and his eyes grow as large as saucers–I’m pretty sure he thought Sam carried me and the chair up the flight of stairs. I hope, at this point, that he began plotting a way to hire Sam as the new elevator in the Port Hope town hall. Sam interjects and explains we took the elevator up to the first floor and had just gotten a bit lost. With a sign of relief, and what may have been the look of a crushed dream, the man went about his way. The look on his face was priceless.

I was still a little creaky and moany getting out of bed this morning and was worried all this cavorting around Ontario may finally be catching up to me. Luckily that little pang of exhaustion only lasted a few minutes and I was ready to go by the time we arrived at the school for our morning presentation. The presentation went pretty well, except that while attempting to show the kids how I play hockey I fired the ball right through the gym door and had to go chasing it in the hall–oh well, I never said I was good at hockey, I just said I knew how to play! After the presentation it was time to answer questions again and one of the boys from the school was so excited to ask a question I thought he was going to explode if I didn’t call him next. He was literally quivering with excitement. It was pretty fantastically cute.

After the school it was back to Cobourg to pack up and head down to the City Hall to celebrate disability awareness day. I have been talking to Don Ubell for the past few months getting everything set up for today so I was really excited to finally meet him in person and hear about what Cobourg has been up to over the past year to help improve accessibility. Little did I know, a trap had been set–the moment I walked in the front door of the city hall I was ambushed with applause, hand shakes, and lots of camera flashes. I was kind of intimidated and didn’t really know how to react so I just kept smiling, shaking hands, and tried not to blush too much. It was a lot of fun to chat with all the people who showed up and see the exhibits that had been set up in the lobby of city hall to explain what programs and services are being run in Cobourg to help individuals with specialized needs. After the meet and greet we were whisked upstairs for a luncheon with the most fantastic ham and cheese sandwiches and some delicious cake. It was really good to sit and chat with Don and the other members of the accessibility committee and I really want to thank everyone who was involved today for making us feel so welcome. It was a truly magical morning and it left me totally energized. It’s moments like this that truly makes the trip worthwhile for me and affirms in my heart that we really are moving mountains together.

After this great morning it was time to hit the road again, off to Brighton for a day. The drive was pretty nice, although it was overcast and UNBELIEVABLY windy. What appeared to be a straight path from Cobourg to Brighton turned out to have a lot of bends and turns over some pretty sizable hills. In fact, I had no idea Ontario had rolling hills like this…it was like something out of Lord of the Rings. Hilariously, we came across a sign that just had the “Ontario” logo on it, to which Pete stated on the radio “Oh good, we’re still in Ontario!” At first it was kind of funny, but to be honest, at moments it was kind of tough to tell!

Other than the breathtaking landscape and the swooping hills, the drive was relatively uneventful, aside from a hilarious sign that stated “Rhubarbs” with an arrow pointing directly into a very thick and scary looking forest. It was like a trap had been set for Little Red Riding Hood but the wolf had kind of mixed up the story line and was trying to lure her into his lair with rhubarbs. I’m curious to know how many people have entered that forest hoping to find rhubarbs and instead only found a dark scary forest. To be fair, there may have been a massive rhubarb field inside that forest and I was just too afraid to go check. I guess we’ll never know!

Upon arriving in Brighton, I was once again transported back to my childhood. For unknown reasons, this community really reminds me of a small northern community my family went to when I was younger on a fishing vacation. We are staying in the sweetest little motel in “Gosport” (I’m not sure what the difference is but they have a town/ville/hamlet/region/whatever sign) right by the water that is owned by this amazing British couple who also own the cafe across the street (as I mentioned earlier). Before grabbing some dinner, Pete, Sam and I decided to take a walk along the shoreline and see the sights. It’s very pretty around here, although the wind was a little cold right down by the water. On our way back to the motel, Sam spotted a playground and had the uncontrollable urge to go play–being stuck in a van driving 10km/h for a couple hours will have that affect on just about anyone. So we raced through a field to the playground and started getting into mischief. I hadn’t been in a swing in YEARS and when I saw they had kiddie swings (which have trunk support to hold me upright), I decided it was time we rectify this little situation. Unfortunately, I have grown a bit since the last time I was in a swing set (probably 15 or 20 years ago) and definitely didn’t fit inside a kiddie swing, although it did provide a hilarious moment with Sam and Pete attempting to wrestle me into the seat and Sam suddenly asking “Wait wait wait, how in the world are we going to get him OUT of this after we jam in him?!” It was a valid point and we gave up on this endeavor, only to try again moments later with a tire-swing. This worked out a lot better and we had a great time…I even got my shoes dirty for the first time since buying them 2 years ago…ugh, Peter Pan would not be impressed with how I turned out.

After some good old fashion fun and playing with some angry Canadian Geese, Pete and I decided to grab some food from the cafe before watching the hockey game. Things move a little slower around these parts than they did in Toronto, but honestly the food was amazing and the conversations with some of the locals were even better. As excited as I was moving to London six years ago, I could almost see myself settling down in a lake-front community like this sometime in the future…I guess you can take the boy out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the boy.

Well, I’ve got a busy day ahead of me tomorrow–last night I submitted an open letter to the London City Council, urging them to put more accessible cabs on the road. The letter was received quite warmly and I’m talking to a radio station tomorrow morning about it. I’m hoping this letter will help sway some people’s minds on whether or not to put more cabs on the road…fingers are cross!

Oh well, nothing like makin’ waves to the sound of the waves, am I right?

– Jeff

Mobilize March -- Travel Blog

Day 30 — “…wait…is that A BRUCE WILLIS RECORD ALBUM?!?!”

For the first time in the history of this trip, fate might actually be working on our side! If you are reading this, please knock on wood immediately to help prevent the imminent jinxing. So, contrary to the weather trends of this entire trip, yesterday was a beautiful day, followed by a rainy day here in Cobourg, which is suppose to be followed by a reasonable day tomorrow for our drive to Brighton. Holy smokes, you mean I won’t get rained on?! The weather man has been calling for rain on Wednesday for the past week but miraculously it all changed this morning, bringing the rains in today and supposedly getting less than 1mm of rain tomorrow morning and afternoon. Cross every finger you have for me because I really don’t want to drive through torrential rain tomorrow!

This morning began with a presentation at Howard Jordan Public School and it went over quite nicely. For whatever reason, my wireless microphone decided to be a poor sport and stop working, but it was a nice and small gym and I had no problem projecting to the kids in the back. After the presentation, I was once again inundated with fun and interesting questions from the kids: it’s always so interesting to hear what kids want to know about living in a wheelchair…it’s never quite what you expect to be asked about.

After the school presentation we decided to kick “Operation: Shoulder Repair” into overdrive and spent most of the afternoon laying around or soaking my arm in the bath. Luckily, I’ve gotten pretty good at multitasking from a prone position and was able to get some work done despite my horizontal state. After doing an in depth interview with a journalism student it was time to get back into the groove and head off to the Port Hope city council meeting.

To celebrate the federal disability awareness week, Port Hope City Council was awarding students and business owners in the community who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to promote accessibility. It was really cool to be there and hear about what has happened over the past year in Port Hope to increase accessibility and some of the personal stories about how these changes have affected people. I also had the opportunity to meet a really cool guy named Zack, a student here with CP (I think, sorry if I’m wrong…I’m forgetful) who has raised over $20,000 in the past year to build an accessible playground beside City Hall. He was a pretty incredible young man and I’m excited to see what he takes on after finishing up this playground–it sounds like he’s basically got this project nipped in the bud after a year of hard work.

Before I go, I just want to share one moment of amazing that happened to us tonight. It was shortly after returning from the City Hall meeting that we were all struck with a sudden late-night hunger. We decided to pack up and head down the road to a pub we had seen on our way in and sample some of their delicious bar grub. The place was really nice (accessible, wahoo!) and unbelievably quiet (we were basically the only ones there) so it was the perfect venue for some late night snacking before getting to bed. Shortly after sitting down I noticed Sam became unresponsive and her eyes suddenly glazed over. Concerned she was under some kind of alien mind control device, I asked her what was wrong and with a slack jaw she mumbled out “…wa…wait….is….is that a bruce willis album on the wall?!?”

So trying to look inconspicuous in an empty bar, Pete and I both attempted to turn and take a peak. Sure enough, it was indeed a Bruce Willis record. Now I know what you’re thinking and no, we didn’t know Bruce Willis was a singer either, or that he ever produced a vinyl, or who Bruno is (although apparently he’s returned). All we know is that we need this album. Desperately.

Anyway, tomorrow is going to be a really busy day so I should probably head off. We’re up early for another school presentation, followed by a special disability awareness week celebration here in Cobourg, which runs until we head off for Brighton just after lunch. I’m definitely going to be tired tomorrow but I honestly couldn’t be more excited.

Bring it on! I’m ready for more!

– Jeff

Mobilize March -- Travel Blog

Day 29 — Gonna feel THAT ONE in the morning…

So I had just written up a beautiful and lengthy entry about how our day was today, which was both eloquent and elaborate, but apparently the wireless internet in this hotel decided it wasn’t meant to be read and instead transmitted it into the aether, never to be seen again. Unfortunately, it’s now getting late and I’m really feelin’ the drive today so this is going to be a shorter post than originally intended. Don’t worry, I’ll attempt to recreate it tomorrow when I’ve got some time and a shoulder that doesn’t feel like it’s been smacked around with a baseball bat.

Knowing we had a long drive ahead, we got an early start this morning, hoping to get some kilometres under our belts before to phone interview. I was full of spit and vinegar this morning, ready for anything. Part of this was from the warm sun that greeted me this morning. However, today was going to be tough–it was the first time we’d be doing back-to-back drives, leaving Oshawa the day after arriving. Not only that, but this would also be a loooong drive, over 50km. We managed to get to Bowmanville by the time Rogers TV called, which worked out nicely because it meant we could do the interview from a quiet parking lot rather than from the side of the road with cars whizzing past. After the chat with the hosts from Daytime it was time to get back to the drive. In the interests of speeding things up (and preventing Sam and Pete from going crazy with inner-city driving) I decided to zip down the sidewalks through Bowmanville and meet the crew at the far side of town. This worked out pretty well and definitely alleviated a lot of stress. One of the goals of this trip has been to try and minimize our impact on other commuters and keep the flow of traffic going unobstructed whenever possible because I know what it’s like to be held up by a terrible transportation system and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone else. While this strategy helped keep traffic moving, Bowmanville is way wider than I expected. So wide in fact that our walkie talkies couldn’t reach from one side of the city to the other, meaning that we lost radio contact for a majority of our time in the town. This wasn’t such a big deal though and the warm sun was keeping me in great spirits.

After Bowmanville things got really interesting. As I was driving along I was joined by another visitor–no, Kathy didn’t make the trip again today. Instead, a man and his young boy followed me on a mini-ATV. They saw me coming and decided to take a bit of a ride with me to hear what I’m up to. As it turns out, this gentleman has a relative with MS and knows how tough things can be to get around. After some laughs and a handshake it was all ahead full speed.

The roads we used became less and less active and before long we found ourselves alone on what may or may not have been the path to Narnia. The rippling meadows of green grass got taller and taller and the bending shady trees got closer and closer. This path was absolutely stunning–best route choice EVER. I can only describe it as being surrounded in a tunnel of deep shimmering greens, soft baby blues and warm golden beams. Before long we had to stop and grab some food, so we chose a nice side road to stop and eat. By this point it was getting a little warm so I began shedding layers and stripped down to only a t-shirt for the first time in the trip, sporting my spindly white little arms for the world to see. I slapped on a bunch of sun tan lotion and was ready to go again (although I missed the spot on the back of my arm…whoops…little burnt). I should also mention that the bugs came out in FORCE during this stop and without even realizing it, we were almost eaten alive by an army these tiny little black flying bugs. I have little bites all over my arms…but they don’t itch really, so I’m not too concerned.

The drive kept chugging along through this beautiful country, leading us down rocky dirt roads, bush paths and over a rickety wooden bridge (my favourite part). Before long we finally made our way to Port Hope and were almost there. Once again we decided to split up with me on the sidewalk and Pete and Sam going to the other side of town. Unfortunately, the plan didn’t work out so hot this time around. Shortly after leaving radio silence, I began having some wheelchair problems going down the big hill in downtown Port Hope. I know what the problem was (fast hills+hot motor=shut down), but it held me up just long enough that I would lose radio contact with Pete and Sam when they discovered the sidewalk only continues on the left side of the road, not the right side that I was currently driving on. I eventually discovered this myself and had to turn my wheelchair into a tonka truck and climb some crazy curbs and roll over some surprisingly deep grass. After fighting my way through Middle Earth, rescuing the princess, and taming the mystical dragon, I finally made it to the far side of Port Hope and was ready for the last 8km of the trip.

By this point, my shoulder was absolutely raw, my legs hurt from the bumpy road and my neck was screaming for rest. By the time I crossed the line in Cobourg I could barely sit up and was breathing really heavy. Today was a huge work out and really draining, so I’m heading to bed as we speak (might stay up a biiiiit longer to watch the game…go pens go?). I’m sore and cranky but we’re here in Cobourg and can’t wait to meet some great people around here over the next few days.

More tomorrow, I promise. For now, I rest!

– Jeff