On the road with Peter and the Friends for Life Bike Rally
Our last morning! It's so bittersweet waking up at 5:30 a.m. and packing up our camp for the last time together. By this point I'm a bit over living in a damp and dirty tent, but I'm going to miss being part of this group all doing the same thing each morning. By this point, everyone really feels that we are all in this together. We've all cycled the same distance, have the same aches and pains, and we are all not getting enough sleep.
We all met in a large open space before departure to listen to morning announcements, take team photos, and to warm up with the massage therapists. It's a tradition that the CMCC interns put on a bit of a show for us before the warm up to get our spirits high before setting out on our last day.
Not long after we departed we crossed the Quebec border and we all stopped for a photo opp at the Quebec sign along the side of the road. It's at this point, that it really hits you where you are and how far you've come.
Today's ride was just over 100 km, but at about 90 km we all meet up at Lachine Canal so that we can ride single file into downtown Montreal and to our final destination at Place Émilie Gamelin. Here's where the emotions kick in. Riding one by one along the rec path and through old Montreal everyone stops for us to cheer us on whether they know where we're coming from or not. The great mass of us all riding in, wearing the same jersey is magnificent to see, as are the smiles which cannot be wiped from our faces.
Entering Place Émilie Gamelin is indescribable. The support from friends, family, and locals of the city means so much. There's music, beers, and lots of tears and so very many people to hug. We learn that we've raised over $1,000,000 and take the time to recognize all of the volunteered hours that have gone into making this ride happen and allowing PWA to operate another year with the funds necessary to help support those in Toronto living with HIV.
Now we need to get all our belongings from our bins and into our luggage. It's always hilarious seeing everyone emptying out their bins inside the parking lot and trying to repack everything back into their luggage. How did this all fit a week ago and why is it impossible to fit now? We're given a complimentary one-night stay at one of Concordia University's residences, and in the evening we take over the rooftop at club Unity on rue Ste. Catherine to celebrate our massive accomplishments.
I'm on the charter coach bus now heading back to Toronto reflecting on what just happened, what I put my body through, and the friendships that I've made. Your social circle explodes after being involved in this event and you meet such a diverse group that you might not have met otherwise. I've got to know a lot of the riders quite well but there are so many crew members who support us with food, road support, or bin rustling that I feel I need to make a connection with still. Next year is the 19th year of the bike rally and I'm thinking I'd like to take a break from riding and volunteer my time on road support. Some of my favourite memories are riding and seeing road support dressed up in colourful costumes pointing us in the right direction or parked on the side of the road giving us liquids and cliff bars to get us through the day. I really want to bust out my tickle trunk and dress up and have a fun time supporting the riders. The 20th anniversary year in 2018 is looking to be the biggest year yet and I'd love to return as a rider then.
Although the ride is over, it's never too late to donate or to sign up for the rally. Visit http://bikerally.org
to learn more and sign up for 2017. Photos from this year to be posted online soon. Thank you so much for following my experience on this ride and I hope that I have encouraged some of you to participate in this incredible and life-changing journey.
Team leads lined up.
Downtown Montreal waiting to begin our single file ride into Place Emelie Gamelin.