Thursday, 12 September 2013

The many thank-you's!

There are so many people and businesses that need thanking and so many who have helped in big and small ways over the past year and a bit. I'll try and mention some here, but I know I can't get everyone.

First off, thanks and praise to God for His grace and His love for us, and for blessing our trip and using us to help others and glorify Him! "...with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26)

Secondly, thanks to our families and close friends who (even though there were some with doubts) encouraged us to do this, asked tough questions to get us thinking about the planning, and supported us all the way through!

Third, thank you to all of our very generous sponsors who purchased our various sponsorships and helped make this trip possible. We had our Title Sponsor; Tim Hortons & Cold Stone Creamery (Mark & Michelle Trombley own the two locations in the Hespeler area of Cambridge). Our Primary Van sponsors - Bookstore316 & Storehouse Accounting; Forward Church & Brighthouse Branding Group (thanks to Tracy for the awesome graphics on the left side of the van!). Our Cycling Jerseys sponsor, Graham Mathew and our Cycling Shorts sponsor, Grand Valley Fortifiers! Our Bicycle Frame sponsor, Fliet Electric, and our Secondary Van sponsors, Hammond Plumbing & Heating Inc., KW4Rent, Ride for Refuge, and Sterwyn Contracting Ltd.!

When we were approaching the beginning of our trip, we were still not quite at the level of our budget, which was $16,000. But by the time we left, we found we actually had $17,400, thanks to a number of friends and family who gave us donations to fund our trip! It was nice to know at the time that we had more than what we planned to be needing. As it turned out, we had way more than what we needed, and are able to donate the rest to Ratanak!

A special thank-you to Murray and Katie Lewis, for letting us use their mini-van for the trip! We saved money by not having to buy a used van, and it was nice to know that the vehicle we were using was reliable.

Thank you so much to the amazing staff at Ratanak International, who have cheered us on since we first approached them last summer with our ambitions of supporting them; thanks especially from my end to Alexis Cobham, who was my primary contact there and helped me with the many questions and details I had to figure out.

Thanks to many, many people who fed us, gave us showers and a place to sleep, or arranged with friends and contacts for us to stay somewhere; the churches who let us use their facilities for a night, the churches who gave us a few minutes to talk about our trip. So many people were involved in direct support for us on our trip-easily well over 100 people that I can think of right away!

There were also so many people from our church and other churches who encouraged us, sent us messages, wrote us encouragement letters and especially, prayed for us continually! That meant so much before and during the trip, so thank you for that!

Through our many hosts and all those who fed us along the way, as well as thanks to the generous support we received from our sponsors and friends and family-which put us at $17,400 for trip funds-thanks to that, we were able to save a lot of money, and that has gone towards our fundraising for Ratanak.

To continue the good news, I just got some numbers from Ratanak at the end of last week, and combined with the donations that I'm sending to them this week, we have $33,868.52 in donations now! That's about twice as much as we had near the end of the trip (about $16,500), and almost $10,000 over our goal of $25,000! A HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who donated! No matter how small a gift, it helped, and it added up to something BIG.

Through our trip and the many things that have come together to make this happen, we've seen how God has worked in others and in us to make amazing stuff happen! Whether it was funding, billets, opportunities to share about our trip, or fundraising, God used us to make a difference in other people's lives!


Helping [E]xploited [P]eople [I]n [C]ambodia,
Ben Looby & the EPIC Riders - Dave, Luke and Evan

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Our favourites and not-so-favourites of crossing Canada...

Since we've gotten back home, a lot of people have asked us a lot of the same questions. Questions like, "Has your body recovered from the trip?", "How does it feel to be home?", "What was your favourite part of the trip?", or "What was your favourite part of Canada?" and "How much money have you raised?"

The first question is pretty easy for me to answer, since I didn't do any riding, I didn't have much recovering to do. Evan, Dave, and Luke have had some time to recover, so they're doing better. Dave even went for a bike ride about a week after getting back.

We're all glad to be home for sure. Getting back to work, school, and social activities. The comforts of home; good food, comfortable bed, and not living out of a backpack and luggage bag. It's also nice to back with our families. It's weird, but the 8.5 weeks we were away felt like nothing. It seemed to go so fast; maybe not fast in the moment, but looking back at certain points it was like, "Wow, we're here already in the trip?", or even "We're home already?"

Some of our favourite parts of the trip were just in the different meeting we'd have with people. Like the night in Moose Jaw, SK, where we met 4 other cyclists going across Canada. We also enjoyed seeing things like the Terry Fox monuments in Thunder Bay, ON and St. John's, NFLD; the RCMP museum in Regina, SK; the Olympic Oval in Richmond, BC; and Fort Frontenac in Quebec City. The natural wonders of Canada were really beautiful too! Places like Mink Creek Falls in Ontario, Lake Superior, both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, the mountains out west and the hills out east. The prairies of the mid-west, Lake Lousie in Alberta, and the St. Lawrence River, which we travelled alongside for a few days. We also really loved all the days where we knew we had a place to stay for the night-usually in beds, at someone's house where they would also feed us. We had planned to camp for about 40 nights of the trip, but by the end, we'd only tented for 11 nights, and a couple of those nights were at hosts' houses! So thank you to all who helped out in that regard. You were such a blessing to us!

We also had a few parts of our trip that we didn't like so much. There was our string of flats on day 2, heat exhaustion on days 4 and 5, Luke's fall on day 17, and Dave's fall on day 21. Several cold and wet days of riding for Luke and Dave during the 11 straight days of riding (days 21-31), the leaking tent in Pancake Bay Park, and the really late night of riding on day 43. Of course, just riding the terrain and doing that many days of riding were a challenge to start off with. We were gone for 61 days, and our actual ride from coast-to-coast took 53 days; only 9 of which were rest days. So in 44 days, we covered 6569 kilometres (4082 miles); an average of 150 km a day! Some days were longer than others, and some days were just average, but the weather, terrain, or aches, pains and bike problems made some of those days difficult.

Overall, the ride was good, and we found ourselves pushed and grown in new ways. We had some great days, and had some rough days, but through God's strength and with His hand protecting us, we made it to the end in one piece!

Live EPIC!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

End of the EPIC Ride and other stuff...

Well it's been over two weeks since we got home... I figured I should stop procrastinating and get this blog post written up and stuff before I get too busy with school and whatever P/T job I end up finding.

Let's recap from where we left off, shall we?

Our last post had us arriving in St. John's in the late evening. We stayed with some friends of mine, Burton & Josie Ward, and enjoyed pizza, pop & chips while sitting around talking for a while.
The next morning, we got all packed up, took some wheels off the bikes (to avoid damaging them or getting them dirty), and went to see down-town St. John's where we ended up finding a candy store...

...then we went to Signal Hill...

... and the Terry Fox monument...

After our sightseeing, we got going for the other side of Newfoundland. Our ferry was the next day, at about noon, on the 21st. We drove all afternoon, evening, and part of the night. As it got darker, we slowed down our driving and took 500 km of the 900 km drive at about 60 km/h. We were really concerned with hitting a moose, and it was a long, dark drive.

Since we had a lot of time, on our drive back, we stopped near a small lake to get out and look at the moon and stars...and then I accidentally locked us out of the van. Thankfully, Luke had his CAA card and we called to get some help.

We finally arrived in Port-Aux-Basques at about 2 am. Then we slept in the ferry parking lot and the next morning, drove onto the ferry. The guys mostly slept during the ferry ride, but I did some work and read, and watched the ocean from the sun deck.

We landed back in North Syndey, NS and started driving at about 8 pm. We didn't stop driving again except for a quick stop to pick up some cycling shoes Luke had seen a few days earlier...

... and to drop off a key in New Glasgow to Christian Fellowship Church.

Other than that, we only stopped for gas and snacks, and ended up arriving home at the Lewis' at 6:30 pm. With the time change our drive home took about 24 hours.

On our drive home we received the news that Evan's father, Felix, passed away unexpectedly while on vacation in BC.

The funeral for Felix was on the 30th. We grieve with the Redka family but also rejoice in the hope that we have because of our Saviour Jesus Christ. We ask that you please continue to pray for Evan and his family as they move back into daily routines and the fall activities.

If you check out our Facebook Page in the next week or so, you'll get to see a lot more photos, and over the next couple of weeks, we'll add descriptions and tags to them!

Ride EPIC!

- Ben

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Day 53 of the EPIC Ride - Port-Aux-Basques to St. John's, NFLD

Day 53                            
Monday, August 19, 2013
Port-Aux-Basques – St. John’s, NFLD
Distance: 900 km driving, 100 km riding

The ferry reached Newfoundland at about 7 am local time and we started driving across right away. We stopped after about 200 km to get gas, and then kept going. Evan drove the first few hundred km, then Luke drove about 400 km before stopping for a dinner break.

You may recall that our original trip plans had us ferrying to Argentia, Newfoundland and then riding about 130 km to St. John’s. Since that ferry route had been cancelled for this month, we took the shorter ferry to Port-Aux-Basques. Then we were thinking of maybe stopping about 50 or 20 km from St. John’s and having the Riders go into town from there.

After driving in the van all day, though, getting onto a bicycle isn’t something the guys really wanted to do; except for Luke. He wanted to put his bike’s speedometer over 6000 km, so he decided to ride 100 km.

Dave drove the rest of the way to St. John’s, stopping to let Luke get out and start riding.
A little while after dropping Luke off, we saw that we were running out of gas, so I used Google Maps to find the closest gas station. The van’s computer display was telling us that we could go about 30 km farther, and Maps pointed out a station 14 km away. At first it seemed fine; we got off the Trans-Canada and drove on a couple of other highway roads, but then the directions had us turning onto a cottage road-basically an ATV track. Eventually we got to where the station should have been, but saw that it obviously wasn’t there.

Check later for a link to a video Evan shot during our drive.

We kept going and passed someone in a truck who said there was a station 10 minutes away. So we kept driving and eventually reached a main road, and 5 minutes later, finally reached a gas station. We ended up going about 15 km with the van saying “0 km until empty”.

In St. John’s we stayed with friends of mine, Burton & Josie Ward. We got there at about 8 pm, and Luke arrived at 9, having ridden about 100 km across Newfoundland’s hilly terrain, with a 30+ km/h wind that was mostly at his back, but sometimes at his side or even a headwind!

So this is it! We’re done now! We got to St. John’s, NFLD! In 53 days we’ve gone from Richmond, BC to St. John’s, NFLD; from the West Coast to the East Coast of Canada, with over 6500 km of riding!

In a couple days, there'll be another post, about the trip home.

Thanks for following our journey across the country!

-Ben & EPIC

Days 51 & 52 of the EPIC Ride - New Glasgow - Port Hawkesbury, NS; Port Hawkesbury - North Sydney, NS

Day 51
Saturday, August 17, 2013
New Glasgow - Port Hawkesbury, NS
Distance: 121 km

Day 52
Sunday, August 18, 2013
Port Hawkesbury - North Syndey, NS
Distance: 150 km

Sorry about the delay in writing this post; I've been busy driving and sleeping and seeing Newfoundland and the ocean in the past few days.

So on Saturday we went from New Glasgow to Port Hawkesbury, which wasn't too far. The Riders left at about 10 am, and were all in Port Hawkesbury by 4 pm. We set up our tent in the backyard of United Baptist Church.

A lady from the church, Anne Cormier, made us dinner that night and let me use her washer & dryer to do some laundry. She also made breakfast and a lunch for us the next day. We had a good sleep in the tent, and then stuck around on Sunday for their church service, where we got to talk about our trip and received a few donations.

Also, on Saturday, our own Rider Dave Lewis celebrated his 22nd birthday! It just so happened that the dinner Anne made for us was spaghetti, which is one of Dave's favourite foods, so that was cool!

After church, we packed up the tent and got going for the last full day of riding, 150 km to the ferry in North Sydney, NS!

I should mention that on Saturday all the Riders-including Evan-rode the whole distance! They also did all 150 km on Sunday, including climbing Kelly's Mountain...

By about 7 pm, we were all in North Sydney, loaded up everything and went to get supper at Tim Horton's. Then we went to the ferry terminal and waited in line to board. By 10 pm we were getting on-board and went up to our cabin. We had a 4-berth cabin aboard our ferry, the Marine Atlantic vessel, Atlantic Vision. There were 2 sets of bunks and a private washroom with shower; a small cabin, but well organized and comfortable. By the time we left port at 11:45 pm, the guys were all in bed, but I stayed on upper deck watching the land slip away quietly in the dark. It was a very peaceful experience, and with a bright moon at our stern, the view of the ocean was beautiful...


Saturday, 17 August 2013

Days 49 & 50 of the EPIC Ride - Moncton, NB - Charlottetown, PEI; Charlottetown, PEI - New Glasgow, NS

Day 49
Thursday, August 15, 2013
Moncton, NB - Charlottetown, PEI
Distance: 157 km

Day 50
Friday, August 16, 2013
Charlottetown, PEI - New Glasgow, NS
Distance: 87 km
Sunny, light clouds, breezy

We left Moncton by 9 on Thursday morning, after a delicious breakfast prepared by our hosts, Dave & Evelyn Sherman. Thanks again for letting us stay with you for the night!

It was about 95 km to the beginning of the Confederation Bridge from Moncton, and the Riders did it all in one shot, with no breaks, and met me at the exit before the bridge.

On the way there, they met a couple of young men (22 & 23) named Nigel and Mike, who were cycling from Montreal to Charlottetown.
Their third teammate (although we didn't know it at the time), Hans, was already across the bridge and waiting for them on PEI.
The three of them make a team called Pedal'aid, and are cycling to raise money for the Red Cross' work in the Lac Megantic train crash and fire.

After crossing the bridge, we had lunch, and then the Riders left to do the last stretch of riding to Charlottetown.
A couple kilometres along, I saw Luke stopped at the side of the road, so I pulled over. With him was Hans, the third guy from Pedal'aid.
It turns out Hans had broken a spoke on his wheel earlier that day, and had hitched a ride onto PEI with a some girls, back in New Brunswick. He then stood at the side of the road for 1 1/2 hours, trying to hitch a ride to Charlottetown, so he could get his bike repaired and meet his teammates there. I loaded up him and his stuff, and took him to a bike shop.
We chatted along the way about stuff we've seen on our rides and exchanged contact info for our teams. Their team almost ended up joining us at our hosts' house, but they ended up meeting a friend from Montreal, who took them in.

In Charlottetown, we stayed with George & Rosalie Maker, some folks who'd taken in Brian Mullins - a friend of ours from Forward.
They fed burgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob, and fruit pizza pie. Then George drove us around Charlottetown to see some of the city, and then out to the north side of the island, where we walked on the beach and watched the sunset.

On Friday, we had breakfast at the Makers', then rode and drove the 65 km to the ferry that would take us to Nova Scotia.

The ferry ride wasn't long-only 1 1/2 hours, and then we were on Nova Scotia, our 9th province! After landing, we only had 22 km to ride to New Glasgow, so we ended up reaching our destination by 4 pm!

We stayed at Christian Fellowship Church for the night, where we had showers, ate chicken fajitas, and watched Youtube videos.

50 days since leaving Vancouver and counting! 55 since leaving Cambridge, and only 5 until we get home!

Over $16,500 raised for Ratanak! Click here to DONATE!


Thursday, 15 August 2013

Day 48 of the EPIC Ride - Oromocto - Moncton, NB

Day #48
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Oromocto - Moncton, NB
Distance: 153 km
Grey in the morning, sunny later in the evening.

After a great breakfast at Stephen & Veronica's, in Burtts Corner, then drove back to Oromocto to pick up with the riding where the guys left off on Monday.

The ride to Moncton was relatively unremarkable; decent roads and weather, and a good riding pace.

Evan and I made it to Moncton mid-afternoon. On the way into the city, we stopped off to drive the Magnetic Hill. It's not actually magnetic, but is a very convincing optical illusion. I drove-what seemed down-the road, and then went over to the left side, put the van in neutral, and watched it crawl back-what looked like up-the road!

Then we drove through Moncton to our hosts' house. We stayed with Dave & Evelyn Sherman; Dave is the brother of Audrey Brodeur, and we stayed with Audrey & Camille in Brandon, MB back in mid-July.

Dave got there at about 4:30, and then at 5, Luke texted me to come and give him some more tubes, because he'd gotten two flats. I turned out that he only had one, and the new tube he'd put in didn't inflate because his hand-pump wasn't working. So I got him some new tubes and he used the larger tire pump to get going again. He arrived in Moncton at about 6:30.

We enjoyed a hearty dinner of potatoes, corn, peas, ham, and buns and finished it off with some chocolate cake!

We were all tired, so we just went upstairs to our beds and lounged around for a while before going to sleep.