It will be a long ride.

Rod Germaine
On the steps of his law school in Halifax (Nick Pearce photo, courtesy of Dalhousie University)

The Codger has done it. His crazy journey ended on August 7.

This is the blog of Rod Germaine’s bicycle ride across the continent in 2011. Accompanied by his good friend, Soe Naing, Rodger the Codger left North Vancouver on June 2nd. He did not stop until he got to Halifax where he attended his class reunion. It was the 40th anniversary reunion of the Dalhousie Law School class of ‘71.

Among other things, the ride was a fundraiser for the Just Aid Foundation: www.justaid.ca. The total raised was close to $35,000. Germaine is genuinely grateful to all who donated so generously.

It is worth mentioning that none of the donated funds were used to pay expenses. Germaine paid for the ride with his own money. And the long succession of cheap motels and mostly mediocre meals cost some real money. He did not keep track but a member of his family did; the cumulative total was well over $8,000. Soe Naing was more frugal but he also spent a few thousand dollars of his own money by the time they got to Toronto. Covering the costs out of their pockets was consistent with the policy and practice of the Just Aid Foundation. It is maintained by volunteers; expenses are limited to accounting fees, a modest honourarium for the bookkeeper and the charges imposed by online service providers and credit card companies. Subject to these unavoidable costs, all funds raised by the Foundation are used to support the Mae Tao Clinic (www.maetaoclinic.com) and the Back Pack Health Worker Team (www.backpackteam.org).

Germaine extends his thanks for all the support he received from friends and family, from new friends he made along the way, and from Burma activists in many towns he visited. Four individuals deserve very special thanks:

  -Soe Naing, without whose company and assistance he may not have made it to Toronto;
  -Bob Blair who cheered the team, carried the gear and guided the ride through Southern Alberta;
  -Murray Clemens, whose company and assistance through the Province of Quebec must have cost him a small fortune but was immensely appreciated because it was especially timely and great fun; and
  -last but most certainly not least, his angel Adeline, who transported his gear up the first big hills on the Hope Princeton so he could cycle on a light bike, and who worried constantly but patiently tolerated and even supported a project she considered completely crazy.

The daily blogs follow in reverse chronological order. The blog on the top was posted only recently and it is the last. Earlier blogs are accessible by clicking on “Older Posts” at the bottom of this page. You can contact Germaine at info@justaid.ca.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Day thirteen - Jaffray

Ok, I’m a whiner. When I ride, I want favourable conditions. But the headwind this sunny afternoon does not explain our short ride. We had people to meet in the morning.

Zaw Naing, our generous host, led us to the coffee shop where we gathered with Bygee, Susan, Shauna and Barry Coulter, Editor of the Cranbrook Daily Townsman.

Soe Naing and Bygee, who copes with medical challenges, met in a refugee camp in Thailand in the early 90s. Shauna had thoughtfully collected him for the get-together so we could extend the short visit we paid him the previous evening. As Shauna said, it is not every day that a man from Burma comes to town.

Barry interviewed us for a story, patiently assimilating the Burma and Just Aid stories, and relating them to the local residents from Burma. (The fantasy: his excellent piece in the Townsman is picked up by the wire services and the money starts to flow).

Then we watched Susan’s moving documentary on the refugee experience, based on the several people whom local and Calgary groups have sponsored, among them Zaw Naing who is a remarkable success story in Cranbrook. Called “Run For Your Life”, the film is not the first documentary she has made. To see her previous film, go to http://riim.metropolis.net/research_policy-dissemination_output.html and click on the beautiful image of the young Ku Jay. “Run For Your Life” will be available at this internet location later this year. For more information, contact Susan Dancer: dsdancer@telus.net.

All of which, it seems, revolves around Shauna Jimenez. Although we hardly know her, I’m confident she will not approve of this characterization of her role. She lives at Wasa Lake, north of Cranbrook, when her work does not take her to Calgary for a good part of each year. How is she so pivotal? She devotes her energy after work to organizing groups to sponsor refugees. It started with Cambodians and more recently various groups in the Kootenays and in Calgary have sponsored refugees from Colombia, Eritrea and Burma. This is how Bygee, Zaw Naing and his family, as well as another, have come to live in Cranbrook. It is how a large Karen family and others (twelve in total) now live in Kimberly where Susan lives. And this is only a fraction of the full picture. Shauna clearly has a talent and calling; she is an articulate advocate for refugees. Her care for the individual was evident in her concern for Bygee.

Soe Naing and I feel privileged to have met all of these people. We salute Susan and Shauna. We express our immense admiration for their willingness to work in their own communities to provide genuine, practical assistance to people whose need is desperate.

Incredibly, this group - the East Kootenay Friends of Burma, which needs money for its sponsoring activities and never spends a penny on administration - had collected something like a $100 to donate to our Just Ride 2011. We donated it right back. Fond farewell to all.


Shauna, Susan, Soe Naing and I in front of Cranbrook's worthy Starbucks.

Knowing we would only have the afternoon to ride and that accommodation between Cranbrook and Fernie is thin, I'd made a reservation with the Loon Bay B&B in Jaffray. It is 5 kms off the highway but Roy, the very considerate host at Loon Bay, drove to the highway in his pickup and transported us to his secluded and tranquil facility. It was reasonably spectacular, with a view of Tie Lake from the common area which we had all to ourselves. Deer everywhere. We enjoyed a quiet, restful night. Jan packed us a delicious breakfast and Roy gave us a ride back out to the highway this morning. Thank you very much Jan and Roy.


Loon Bay B&B, from the road which is not visible in the view of Tie Lake from the house.

Today: 47 kms. To date: 937 kms. Total "earned" pledges: $545.80 (in addition to donations).

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