Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Day 188 Calgary to Airdrie, Alberta

Wow, day 188 already, and it seems like an eternity since the summer and fall days at the start of the relay back in Atlantic Canada.

After breakfast, I went back up to my room for a minute and the t.v. just happened to be on CTV , and they were interviewing Lisa from our marcomms (marketing and communications) team. CTV was doing a live broadcast from St. Mary's high school in Calgary, where day 188 of the 25th anniversary Rick Hansen relay was starting from.

they also interviewed a couple of the medal bearers, including Leanne.

They school band was getting warmed up as well.
and another interview with Randy.

Back down in the lobby I saw Kyle and Lonnie our endurance athlete. After one month on the road with us it was time to say good-bye. I will miss his sense of humor and his positive, upbeat demeanour. He represented the relay well.

I was back on shuttle bus today with Kyle, and we took a cab out to the bus (5 kilometres from the hotel). It was cold, but not as much snow to scrape off as yesterday.

Still a little ice on the windshield as we head out to our first medal bearer meeting point of the day.
Crossing the Bow river, with the city in the far background.

Branton junior high school was prepared for our arrival.

Class is in session! Kyle is teaching Rick Hansen 101
Now there's a statement!

The students all came out onto the street in anticipation of the arrival of the relay. CTV also had 3 on air personalities in our medal bearer group to take part in the experience.

There's that Canadian pride I saw so much of on the Olympic Torch Relay .

 Following our pilot vehicle, heading down 16th ave. north in Calgary.
The "Craig cam", Craig is documenting his medal experience from start to finish, awesome!

We drove by this architectural marvel, a new campus building for SAIT (southern Alberta institute of technology.)

Another relay first, Dave ( who has suffered a brain injury), wanted to do his segment on his own cycle that was built just for him. Congratulations, Dave!

What is wrong with this picture? (Nothing in the eyes of the relay). but I noticed looking in the side mirror, there was no traffic coming. The relay has temporarily closed down the east bound lanes on 16th ave, which happens to be one of the busiest streets in Calgary and more affectionately known as Trans-Canada Highway 1
After Kyle and I finished dropping off the last medal bearers in our group, it was time to head north on highway 2, not as far as Edmonton, but to Airdrie, (population 40,000)  about 30 kilometres from Calgary.

Kyle and I had to make a pit stop at the Wal-Mart in Airdrie to pick-up a couple neccessities like toothepaste, tooth brush, deodorant, (okay, you get the picture)

In the store I saw this story about Rick and our end of day celebration in Calgary on Sunday. (day 187 in our world)

Our meeting point and our end of day celebration was at the Airdrie Legion.
We had our meeting in the lounge section of the Legion, another relay first.

Our end of day medal bearer, Cedric, is a veteran, and a long time member of the legion. I think a pint was certainly in order!

The sun is definately shining on another group of difference makers.

CTV (who are a sponsor) set up a remote satellite truck outside of the legion.
A panoramic of shuttle back at the legion after we dropped off all of our medal bearers, and the convoy coming down the road towards our end of day location .

Here come our end of day medal bearer, Cedric, and his contingent.
Which included fellow members of the legion in their uniforms. (actually, Cedric had his uniform on under his yellow jacket!)

Back at the end of day celebration, Jeremy congratulates Cedric.

and Kyle and I head back for our last night in Cowtown

Okay, how does that saying go, it's good to be lucky? after I dropped Kyle off at the hotel I decided to wash the bus and on the way back to parking I got a little off track, but I ended up in this residential area above the Saddledome and with a pretty incredible view of Calgary. He shoots he scores!!!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Days 185, 186, and 187 High River to Okotoks to Calgary, Alberta

Day 185, seems like winter is going to hang around just a little bit longer.

I was back on shuttle bus number 3 with Kayla as the medal bearer host again. Our first meeting point was in Okotoks, a town of about 24,000, which has almost doubled in population in the last 6 years. (proximity to Calgary, 45 kilometres away). We were the second of two medal bearer meetings at the Okotoks rec centre.

Another new facility.

Inside the foyer was this display, including another one of the $100 kilometres purchased during the original man in motion tour 25 years ago.
Tara, one of the medal bearers today brought a framed memorial of her dad, who passed away 14 years ago. She will be carrying the Rick Hansen medal in his honor today.

She also showed us this autographed picture of Rick Hansen. Here is her story:

Rick Hansen has been an inspiration to me thoughout my entire life. At the age of 1 my father was involved in an accident which took away the

full use of his arms and all use of his legs. I was raised in a world full of different challenges that wouldnt be evident to a normal child growing

up. The fact that an automatic door wouldn't open up for us at a grocery store because we weren't tall enough or the Handicap stall not being

big enough to get his lift down to get out of the van. I remember how well he could hop the curb because there never seemed to be enough

curb approaches for wheelchairs. My dad, whose name is Don Smeal, passed away 14 years ago and I would love to be a part of this relay for

him. He was a big supporter of the Man In Motion Tour and had the pleasure of working with Rick Hansen on some occasions. He owned and

opperated a company in Calgary called Handi-Wheels Company, which helped people gain accessability and independance in their everyday life.

I think that if he were here today he would be happy with the advancements in the research being done but would always say that more could

be done. I would be truley honoured to take part in this event in honour of my dad - Don Smeal.

Another medal bearer today was Glenys Bakker, who is proudly showing off her bronze medal she won as a second on the Shannon Kleibrink rink in curling at the 2006 winter olympics in Turin, Italy

How do I look!?

In the rec centre was a commemorative torch from the 2004 Alberta Summer Games
The pre-shuttle group shot before we take them out to their medal bearer moments.

Our segment went through downtown Okotoks.

In my side mirror, I can see the convoy right on our tail.

Everyone is in high spirits on the shuttle. We try and keep it fun by showing relay videos and rockin' the shuttle with some upbeat music.
One of our difference makers, Calvin, had a fan waiting for him.

And here he is waiting for the convoy to arrive. This young man was very well spoken in the medal bearer meeting point, and is quite an inspiration in his own right. Here is his story:

I would like to enter the relay to represent my nine year old son. Calvin is profoundly deaf and uses bilateral cochlear implants to hear. He is

helping other children, and adults, understand that deaf children have the same needs and capabilities as other children. They can and should

be integrated into schools, communities and workplaces. Calvin is already a role model for other 'differently abled' children. He displays

resiliency and confidence. Calvin has met with many other hearing impaired children and shown them, and their families, that the future is

bright. Working with our local school, we helped raise money to install sound field systems in every classroom so that all children could hear

better. Calvin's deafness does not deter him: he plays soccer, hockey and swims; we clean up the river banks every spring and we collect food

for the food bank every fall. By participating in the world around him, Calvin helps break down social stigmas about deaf people - they are not

'deaf and dumb.' Isn't it great when one of your heroes is your own son?

A CTV camera man arrived to film part of the relay.

Relay crew and medal bearers, one big happy family.

After the end of day celebration in Okotoks, we headed back to Calgary. Kenn (one of our bike escorts) set up arranged for the relay crew to go on a brewery tour at the Village Brewery in Calgary
They feature two beers, the Blonde and the Blacksmith which is a darker beer. They were both very good.

The owner, Jim, has a lifetime of knowledge in the beer industry, he was very informative.

One of the control panels for the beer making equipment

Beer making central.
Frost on the pipes, does that mean I get an icy cold beer? (actually, more than one!)

Jake and Kenn modelling with one of the 2 litre bottles that they have for sale.

We are very lucky on this relay we get to experience so many different things.

Jordan and Marilyn pose with their purchases, the 2 litre "growlers" (hey, that's what they were called!) Thanks to Kenn for organizing, and to Jim and his staff for hosting us and giving us all those delicious free samples!
Day 186 was another day off, that meant chores again. Hank, Jake and I headed to the local laundromat ( it was about 3 kilometres from the hotel)

I kept hearing water so when I looked over top of the washing machines, I saw the water from the washing machines was draining into a huge floor drain.

and yes, they did sell O Henry candy bars. Other than that, it was time to give the camera a rest and just hang around the hotel and catch up on personal things, like correspondance, bills, and of course, blogging!

Day 187, well, good thing we hung onto the snow scrapers!

 Today I was back on shuttle 3, but this time I had Kyle as the medal bearer host. I always said Kyle should get into acting, a little drama on how cold it was.
Today our meeting point was back through downtown and out to the Kingsland Community center in southwest Calgary, just of of the Mcleod Trail, one of the major arteries through town.

A bit of a greyer day than we have been used to in our trek across the prairies. We had 13 medal bearers today in our group.

We have a day book that gives us all the information to get us through a relay day, including the insertion point for the first medal bearer in our group. It just happened to be at Tom's House of Pizza on the Mcleod Trail (free plug!)

The difference makers are watching a video from Rick Hansen thanking them for their participation in the 25th anniversary relay.
The pilot vehicle leads us through rain, sleet, snow, and or hail, (will not stop them from their appointed rounds) hmmmm, sounds familiar.

In the side mirror I can see a lot of things, the police escorts, the bike escorts that have to negotiate the slush (including for the first time police bike escorts),  and the medal bearers and their friends and family and most of all, the fact we have closed down the south bound lanes on the Macleod trail (one of the busiest roads in Calgary)

The last medal bearer in our group, Larry, shows the 25th anniversary Rick Hansen medal to the man himself, Ronald McDonald. Larry is the executive director for Ronald McDonald houses in southern and central Alberta.

We have celebrations at a lot of the McDonalds restaurants along the way. McDonald's is a big supporter and sponsor of the 25th anniversary relay.
Our end of day celebration on day 187 was at the BMO centre on the Calgary Stampede grounds. The Calgary Stampede is celebrating their 100th anniversary this year.

There was great entertainment at the end of day celebration including this country band. (after all, we are in cow town!)

The panorama of the end of day scene in the Palomino room.

Our end of day medal bearer Journey, gets a little emotional as she talks about her experience and what the 25th anniversary relay means to her. I think a little of her emotion comes from the fact Rick Hansen is beside her (looking good in the cowboy hat).
The cowboys and cowgirls are part of the Calgary Stampede  "cake posse"

and there was plenty to go around ( I held myself back, only having two big pieces!) (back to the gym, Monty)

Rick (and Ronald) looks on as the accolades come in. 

Kyle and I worked at the merchandise table today (shirts, commerative medallions, and books) Everytime Rick is at one of the events, the books sell out first, as people line up to get an autograph. (today Rick was very obliging and he was still signing autographs and taking pictures with people after we had packed up all of our event displays)
The man in motion always captivates his audience. He speaks from the heart, and I am always blown away with his words of inspiration.

On stage, he is about to shake hands with our endurance athlete, Lonnie, who has been on the relay with us for the last month. Lonnie is a class act, has become part of our family and he will be dearly missed by all of the relay crew.

Another relay tradition, the singing of O Canada

Quite a few of the 61 medal bearers from day 187 showed up for the end of day celebration and the traditional group picture.

and to do the (what started out as a medal bearer meeting dance) "warm-up" dance, (once again danced to the tune of Katy Perry's "firework" song. )

there they go!

Outside the BMO centre was this statue, one of many cowboy related scuptures in the city.

Back to the room, all is quiet on the western front!