Sunday, 2 October 2016

Ride for Ralf: The Final Stretch

I want to preface this (final) blog to explain why Christian finished the ride for Ralf.
It was the summer of 2015, weeks before Ralf's Ride and I overheard Ralf talking with Christian out on the deck. He said to Christian “if for some reason I don't finish the ride will you finish it for me?” I was stunned by this verbal request, it sounded so ominous. I interjected after I heard Christian agreeing to finish the ride for Ralf. I expressed my shock at such a dire request... and told Ralf not to ask such stupid questions.
So to honour his father's wish, Christian was determined to finish the ride for Ralf. On Thursday August the 11th Robyn, Megan, Christian and I flew to B.C.

Thursday August 11
Up at 0330 hrs. Megan up too! Megan can be somewhat tardy. Robyn REPEATEDLY told Megan “we are leaving at 0415”. Christian up at 0345. Robyn walked through front door at 0400 and asked “is Megan ready?” And good morning to you honey. Our plans were to drive to the airport and leave the car in the parking lot but that would cost more than the combined flights. Terry and Robyn had booked a limo at 0130 this morning and at 0415 our ride had arrived. The limo driver was very professional looking. We all piled into the limo at 0420. I forgot to mention our flight on West Jet left at 0630. Thank goodness it was a domestic flight.

In line at airport to go through security and Christian and I were taken to the front of the line - we showed our Nexus passes. Megan waited with Robyn as Robyn doesn't have a Nexus card. Robyn and Megan were 10 people behind us. The good thing about being at the airport without a Nexus card at 0430 in the morning the line ups aren't very long. We hadn't used our Nexus cards at the airport so we wanted to try it out... worked good. We arranged to meet at the restaurant – we'd go ahead and get a table. As we were pulling our chairs out at the restaurant Megan and Robyn arrived.

Megan and Christian had eggs Benedict; Robyn and I split the breakfast sandwich.
Boarded plane to Calgary. Plane is full ... where are people going???? We are on and older West Jet plane where there are no tv screens on the back of chairs. So while I am writing this to pass the time, Robyn is reading, Christian is sleeping and across the aisle Megan is sleeping too. Well I will put my pen to rest and catch some Zzzzzzzz's too. Next stop Calgary.
Spent about an hour or less in the Calgary airport. Went to the washroom before boarding plane to Comox and turned wrong way coming out of the washroom. Thank goodness for cell phones as I had to call kids to get back to the gate. Short flight to Comox. I had a window seat and it was surreal looking out over the Rocky Mountains. I kept thinking about Ralf cycling over them... the highs and lows (literally) ... the best times ... Ralf was a machine cycling over them.

We were met at the Comox Airport by my brother Warren. Weather was perfect: sunny and warm. Stopped off at his home in Courtenay to pick up some supplies and headed off to his cabin on Sproat Lake, minutes from Port Alberni.

Robyn spoke with the investigating RCMP officer, Jeff Swan, before leaving Ontario. She told him of our plans to place a Ghost Bike at the accident site and Christian completing the ride for Ralf. Unfortunately he was going to be on holidays during the time we were out there and couldn't meet us. He made arrangements for other officers to assist us.
Robyn spoke with a female RCMP officer re the cycle Friday August 12. She strongly advised not starting at accident site on Hydro Hill as the area is treacherous, dangerous, with hairpin turns. Arrangements were made to meet up with Constable Marcel Midlane, Ucluelet RCMP Detachment, Ucluelet Tourist Bureau at 0745.

Friday August 12
Warren, Scotty (nephew), Christian, Robyn, Megan and I up 0615. Had toasted bagels, fruit and coffee before heading out. Scotty works at a coffee shop down the road and suggested we get free lattes for the ride. Sounded like a good idea at the time. An inexperienced barista was working the am shift and took forever to make the lattes. Was about to cancel the remaining orders when Scotty came out with a tray of lattes. They were okay but nothing like what Scotty makes (according to Scotty).

As we drove in my brother's pick up truck towards Hydro Hill it was another surreal feeling. When I last drove it, it was in torrential rains. As I was pulling off the highway to take multiple pictures and meeting Ralf every 10km, blogging etc. I had no idea what the highway was like. From my brother's cabin in Port Alberni it was all uphill. There were no shoulders to cycle on. There's only one road/highway to Tofino. It was an old logging road that they paved over. The road in the Hydro Hill is uphill all the way- narrow, treacherous, dangerous with hairpin turns. Seeing it on a clear weather/flawless day I can see the challenge Ralf endured.

This was nothing like cycling over the Rockies especially the Rogers Pass. In retrospect, if I /we knew what laid ahead we would have completed the ride in Vancouver. Coupled with the horrible weather it was an accident waiting to happen.

So at the Ucluelet Tourism Centre we met constable Marcel Midlane. There are not enough words to describe this man. He was, in a nutshell, wonderful. He drove behind Christian, with Warren leading the convoy. His flashing vehicle lights remained on the whole time. We met every 10+ km. It took the boys roughly 2 hours to arrive at the Wickaninnish Inn Tofino. Ralf you would be very proud of Christian finishing the ride for you. The road from the Ucluelet Tourism Centre was fairly flat. Ralf you were so close to finishing.

After lunch, we drove back to the accident site on Hydro Hill. 

Marcel met us there. He suggested we don't put the Ghost Bike where Ralf was killed as it would be too distracting for vehicles coming around that hair-pin turn. Just a few feet from where Ralf was hit there was an area to turn off from the road. This was the perfect place to leave the Ghost Bike. On the other side of the the place where the accident happened, the Ghost Bike was placed on a large piece of drift wood and chained to the tree. Marcel asked if we had a plaque to place with the bike which we didn't. We will get one made and mail it to Marcel who will drive back and place it with the bike.

I want to thank my niece Alyssa and her fiance Gaelen for getting the bike and spray painting it white.

Marcel stayed with us till we secured the bike, took pictures and made arrangements for him to bring plaque out. It is his wedding anniversary today. Not once did he look at his watch to check the time. He was so respectable of everyone's heavy-heartedness. He was definitely a godsend.
We drove back to the cabin on Sproat Lake.

Well it wouldn't be a Keeping an Eye on Ralf/ Ralf's Ride/ Ralf Rides Again without a “Top 10 Things I Would Do Differently” list. However on this final blog, I want to highlight the Top 10 Things I Wouldn't Do Differently:
  1.  Being the support vehicle for Ralf
  2.  Staying at Jean Arbuckle's place on our first and last night in Calgary
  3.  Letting Ralf rest his bike against my car (because that was a biggie)
  4.  Watching Ralf triumph over Rogers Pass
  5.  Seeing Ralf accomplish the last leg of his Trans Canada bucket-list bike ride
  6.  Continuing to fundraise for the new Peel Memorial Hospital
  7.  Spending time with Warren and family on Vancouver Island
  8.  Sharing the last of my coffee with Ralf before Hydro Hill
  9.  Making more memories filled with laughter and love during our last thirteen days together
  10.  Spending every one of Ralf's last days with him until his final breath on September 24th, 2015

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