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Pushing the envelope and pedaling for a causePosted: June 16, 2012

Perceptions by Gerry Warner

Ever pushed the envelope? By this, I mean your personal envelope. Pushed it really hard? That’s what I did last week as I gamely tried to keep up with six stalwart members of Cranbrook’s Sunrise Rotary Club as they ‘Pedaled for Polio’ almost 600 km to Kennewick, Washington for a district conference.

When the idea was first suggested, I eagerly said “I’m in.” Had I to do it again today, I wouldn’t be so eager. And not just because of my aching butt.

But once you’re in – you’re in – and even though I came down with sciatica (you don’t want to know) and missed much of my training and was the oldest in the group, I lined up with the rest of them at the Moyie Pub June 2 as the heavens opened and the rain came down in buckets, soaking us to the skin before we were out of sight of the lake.

And then it got bad.

By the time we reached the American border at Kingsgate, I was getting hypothermic and so were some of the others. But a few hours later we were soaking in the hot tub at the Best Western in Bonners Ferry and I could feel circulation slowly returning to my feet. Hey, this wasn’t so bad I thought to myself as we headed off to Coeur D’Alene the next day in a pea soup fog so thick we couldn’t see to the other side of the river. And other than the wicked hill just before Silverwood, it turned out to be a decent day as was the next when we cruised into Spokane along the Centennial Trail from Post Falls.

But the weather gods weren’t through with us yet. On the fourth day, we rode out of Spokane on a former railway grade and pedaled straight into a headwind and a freezing light drizzle with the temperature hovering around plus 5 C, which is damn cold for June. Soaked with sweat on the inside and cold rain seeping in from outside, I started to get hypothermic again and finally took a short break in one of the support vehicles before we got to the sagebrush plains of Ritzville.
Fitfully falling to sleep that night as the wind howled over the roof of the Ritzville Best Western, I kept thinking to myself: “This is supposed to be a desert. Where is the !!%&*#!! heat?”

But the next morning one of our members had a brainwave. None of us wanted to battle the headwind again, but we needed to pedal the freezing pavement one way or the other to honour the $8,000 pledged to us for polio. “One way or the other” turned out to be a great idea.  Instead of pedaling against the wind, we drove to the end of the section and pedaled in the opposite direction with the wind and fulfilled our obligation.

I could have kissed the person who came up with this idea. Come to think of it, maybe I did, but I’m not saying who.

The final day was anti-climactic as the wind actually reversed for half the day and it rained again as we sloshed across the Big Blue Bridge over the swollen Columbia River into Kennewick and straight to our hotel next to the Three Rivers Convention Centre. We were a sodden, bedraggled-looking crew but we made it and we felt more than a little proud.

The next day we were actually piped (except the Americans do it with trumpets) into the convention centre and treated as conquering heroes. We even got to share the stage with an American Four-Star General fresh back from the war in Afghanistan, who gave the crowd a somewhat muted update on the war just before we were ushered on the stage. It was a memorable day to say the least.

But if I had to cite one memory of our adventure, that for me at least bordered on an ordeal, I’d say it occurred at a desolate, desert pit stop somewhere between Washutucna and Kahlotus when a woman we briefly spoke to about polio suddenly reached into her purse and handed us a $20 donation. She didn’t look particularly rich, but perhaps seeing us and hearing about our cause, she decided to push her envelope too. Don’t thank me. Thank my Rotary team partners; Frank and Robyn Vanden Broek, Daryl Richardson, Pat Van Hesteren and Brent Jossy.

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One Response to Pushing the envelope and pedaling for a cause

  1. Pingback: Cranbrook Sunrise Rotary presents 14 Paul Harris Fellowships

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