It is hard to believe that it is that time once again. The Ride for the Breath of Life, in support of Cystic Fibrosis research, was held on Saturday. I was honoured to once again participate, even if that happened at a distance.
I have been involved with the ride—based in Edmonton—since I have been motorcycling. I no longer have a total count of the rides I’ve done, but this was the seventeenth outing overall. I’m comfortable that my involvement numbers at least a dozen, and every one since 2015, when we celebrated the tenth ride.
Participation was much easier when I lived in Edmonton. Taking part has also been much stranger since the start of the pandemic. The last two years were virtual, and I was on my own bike in my own neck of the woods. This year, the ride was once again in person, but for logistical reasons I was unable to join them in person. Enter virtual ride number three.
As I have done for the previous two rides, I set my destination as Tobermory, on the Bruce Peninsula. As well as being the pointy end of southern Ontario, dividing Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, it offers some spectacular scenery and delightful riding roads. The total journey clocks in at around 600 kms or so, which makes for a long day in the saddle. It is both a worthy cause and worthwhile riding, however, so we’re going to go with that.
I arose early, with the intention of getting a reasonable start on the day. That was still well in advance of the commencement of the Edmonton ride, so I’d get a bit of a head start on them, as it were. I began loading the bike up at about 8:30am, although once all was said and done it was a little after 9am when I was finally sorted and ready to be on my way.
A bit of a background on prepping for a long motorcycle ride: it pays to be prepared. That means lots of the usual things: filling up the gas, checking tire pressures, confirming lights and signals are working (and we all do that, right?) It also means being prepared for anything, come what may. Unlike driving in a car, on a bike you are out in the world. You experience nature to the full: the sights, the sounds, the smells (including when they are fertilizing the fields). You also experience the weather.
I have ridden in weather that has varied from just above 0ºC to well ov er 30ºC, and from blazing sun to hailstorms to torrential rains. Layers are your friend; you can add as you need, and take off as you do not (while still keeping the bare minimum of jacket, helmet and gloves at all times). This usually also involves carrying at least four different pairs of gloves, of varying temperature tolerances and waterproofing. Preparation is everything.
Today, however, required none of that. The forecast was spectacular. No rain was anticipated everywhere, just glorious sunshine and a high of about 22ºC. It genuinely doesn’t get better than that. For the first time in forever, I headed out on an all-day ride in a pair of jeans and the gear I was wearing, the sole concession to possible changes being an extra pair of ventilated gloves for the afternoon.
Once you get to the Bruce Peninsula, there is one highway up and down. Prior to that, however, there is much choice. For reasons that escape me, but are probably due to some arbitrary land-division process when the province was settled, the roads of a large wedge of southwestern Ontario do not run east-west or north-south; they are on the diagonal. There is no direct route northwards. Until you get to County Road 10 and the path to Tobermory, you have to go diagonally in one direction, and then tack back diagonally in another direction.
This creates many options in terms how to get their from here, and so I opted for the road not taken before. The general region I have ridden through many times, but I keep looking for new and different avenues (and roads and highways and byways) to get there.
By the time I got to Tobermory, it was about 1pm and the town was bustling. Tourists were everywhere, cars were lining up for the ferry, dive boats were coming and going and every restaurant, patio and food stand was overwhelmed. Sunny Saturdays happen only so often, and everyone was out taking advantage of this one. One circumnavigation of the water front, and I headed to quieter parts of the peninsula.
While there is one highway up and down the Bruce Peninsula, there are a couple of out-of-the-way but oh-so-worthwhile roads along the coast of Georgian Bay that are worth the time to traverse. You can’t get all the way down the island that way, but the views and the roads are well worth the detours. The first road runs through Lion’s Head to Colpoy’s Bay before routing back to Wiarton and the main highway. Quiet, lightly travelled, lush scenery and some spectacular real estate.
A few kilometres further south in Wiarton, and Grey Road 1 begins. It hugs the coast all the way around to just south of Kemble, and is one of my favourite roads in the province. Again, there was hardly any traffic, which I accepted with karmic grace. I’m not going to argue when the roads are clear and open. I stopped at the Women’s Institute lookout in Kemble, which is an improbably awesome and unexpected place in the middle of nowhere. A great place to have lunch and reflect on the day, before starting the process of navigating home once more.
It was past 4pm when I hit the road, and it wouldn’t be until about 7pm when I pulled into my driveway. We’re close enough to the solstice that the sun remains high in the sky the whole way home. That involved some unanticipated detours, but led to some surprising roads I probably otherwise wouldn’t have discovered. An unexpected surprise ending to an utterly enjoyable day of riding.
I missed not being able to ride with the rest of the community in Edmonton this year (although they were doing their best to avoid rain while I was basking in sunshine). Virtually everyone on the ride is a direct part of the CF community, and it is always a wonderful opportunity to see familiar faces (coupled with the unfortunate and tragic reality that some faces will no longer be on the ride or around the table, something that happens with an uncomfortable regularity).
This was the second year since we lost Erica, the daughter of a very good friend of mine. It is in her honour that I ride, while doing what I can to support all the other families that are still confronting CF daily. Despite the economic realities that we are dealing with currently, this year’s ride was an incredible success. Overall fundraising was over $30,000 in total. Through the support of people like you, I’m incredibly proud to have raised what at last count is just over $,3900 of that. Collectively, the ride has now raised more than $640,000 since it got its start 17 years ago.
CF is a horrific disease to live with. Research is making real strides, and there have been breakthroughs in recent years that have been literally life-changing for those who have been able to take advantage of them. A cure is possible, and improvements in life expectancy and quality of life are an absolute reality. Thank you from deep inside for supporting the cause, and sponsoring me for the ride. I sincerely appreciate it.
It means the world to me, and more to the CF community. Your contributions are making a real difference.