Ride for the Breath of Life – 2016

On Saturday, 25 June I participated in the Ride for the Breath of Life, in support of cystic fibrosis. This is one of the key fundraising efforts for Cystic Fibrosis Canada. It also happens to involve motorcycles. So there’s a lot to love here.

It’s not my first ride. Of the eleven years it’s been run in Edmonton (it started in Saskatchewan) I’ve been proud to be involved in five. Three of those were while I called Edmonton home. Last year, I rode in the 10th anniversary ride, and this year I rearranged my travel schedule so that I could participate once again.

A very soggy start to the day. Which does nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the riders.

A very soggy start to the day. Which does nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the riders.

The reasons for riding are close to home. Abe, a good friend of mine, has a daughter with cystic fibrosis. Last month, I was having dinner with he and his wife, Shannon. We were well into an enjoyable evening and wrapping up dinner (at the tender hour of 11:00pm, which will surprise no one that knows me) when the phone rang. Erica was on her way to hospital with difficulty breathing.

The number of people from the CF family that came to see the bikes and cheer on the riders was extraordinary.

The number of people from the CF family that came to see the bikes and cheer on the riders was extraordinary.

Erica would spend more than two weeks in hospital on an IV, taking antibiotics for a serious lung infection. On top of that, her weight was down—below 100 lbs—she was running a fever and her O2 saturation was low. This was the second time in a year.

Skully the skunk is the CF mascot. Because CF stinks.

Skully the skunk is the CF mascot. Because CF stinks.

A normal day for Erica involves getting up at an hour when most of us are still asleep, for three hours of physio. She takes 22-25 pills a day to help her digest her food. More recently, she’s required five insulin injections a day. All of this helps her to live a life that most of us take for granted as being normal.

As the ride begins, the rain recedes.

As the ride begins, the rain recedes.

Last year, the ride was spectacular. Not only well attended, it enjoyed near-perfect weather: dry, sunny and warm. Well, hot, really. This year’s weather report called for rain for most of the day. Not a lot necessarily, but a good sprinkle throughout the morning and sporadic downpours through the rest of the day.

More than 40 bikes participated in this year's ride.

More than 40 bikes participated in this year’s ride.

Motorcycles and rain are not necessarily incompatible. In wet weather, you’ve still got about 85% of the traction that you have in the dry. And given that most people don’t use anywhere near the traction they have, you’re usually pretty good. Motorcycle riders and rain, however, are a different story. Most people like to stay dry. A good approach is staying indoors. With the day starting wet, there was a good chance that many were going to look out the window, see a wet sidewalk, and head back to bed.

The ride route is quintessential Alberta. Riding between Camrose and Wetaskiwin.

The ride route is quintessential Alberta. Riding between Camrose and Wetaskiwin.

Despite a very soggy beginning to the day, more than 40 bikes were on hand at the start of the ride. Even better, several more people from the CF community came out to a rest stop well beyond the easter edge of Edmonton with the sole and express purpose of seeing the bikes and wishing us well. It’s an awesome thing to be able to meet the people that you are supporting, and know how much it means to them that things like the ride are happening.

There is no such thing as bad weather. Just inappropriate clothing.

There is no such thing as bad weather. Just inappropriate clothing.

The ride is about 200 kms in total. In a car, that might not sound like a lot. On a motorcycle, it’s a fair bit. Three rest stops are build in, and overall the ride winds up substantially filling the day.

Reflecting on what it means to support such a worthy cause.

Reflecting on what it means to support such a worthy cause.

The route essentially carves a wide semi-circle below Edmonton, starting in the east and finishing in the west. The scenery is quintessential Alberta: rolling farmland, grassland, industry, small towns and—towards the end of the ride—cottage country. Pigeon Lake is a popular location for cabins for those who live in the City, and for a number of years the ride has wrapped up in a hall in the vicinity.

The reward at the end of a long day. A meal with friends.

The reward at the end of a long day. A meal with friends.

The reward for a long day of riding is a good meal with new and old friends. It’s an opportunity to catch up, to celebrate and to share a laugh before once again heading our separate ways. It’s rewarding to see so many familiar faces. It was even more of a delight to begin to be considered a familiar face.

Erica shares what it means to live with CF. Squeezing a full life into a compressed timeframe.

Erica shares what it means to live with CF. Squeezing a full life into a compressed timeframe.

Overall, the ride was an exceptional success. Despite the weather, the downturn in the economy and the reduced number of bikes on this year’s ride, the results were still exceptionally positive. Overall, we raised nearly $29,000 to contribute to CF research. My team contributed a healthy $15,785. Thanks to the incredible generosity of all of you, my supporters, our contribution was more than $2,400.

I want to extend a huge thank you to everyone that made a contribution to the ride. I sincerely appreciate it, as do all of the families who are touched by cystic fibrosis, so many of whom do a huge amount to support the ride year in and year out. It’s an incredibly challenging diseases that robs years and decades from those that suffer from it. Contributions like yours are what will help to make a difference, and move us closer to a cure.

So thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for helping to make a difference.

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