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.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Day forty-eight - Cobourg ON

[Day 48 was yesterday, July 23. The blog could not be posted until this morning because of the absence of any internet connection at my motel, which shall remain unidentified. I was lucky to get any room because all respectable motels in Cobourg were full.]

Last night’s function was a reception I suppose. The Toronto community of people from Burma and friends of Burma wanted to welcome us to their city, and celebrate our sustained effort to raise funds for a Burma-related cause. And welcome us they did.

The venue was the Motherhome Myanmar Cuisine restaurant at 1194 Bloor Street West. More than 25 attended for a delicious meal and to offer many kind, encouraging words. Soe Naing knew two or three of these people from his days on the border. I knew only Tin Maung Htoo who was down from Ottawa. So both of us met many interesting and supportive people.

Collectively, this little crowd blew me away with a practical gesture we did not expect. They paid for their dinner which was generously provided at a discount by Htay Tint who operates the restaurant with his wife, Thida Khine. Then the hat was passed around so to speak. Htay Tint made a donation which probably eliminated any profit on the evening. Others made very generous donations. No one wanted a tax receipt. The total donated? $1,072!

Not exactly the constituency I had in mind when I conceived of this ride as a fundraiser. The plan was to secure donations from affluent Canadians and Americans who might learn something of Burma from our ride. But these people know the worth of the Mae Tao Clinic and Back Pack Health Worker Team. We are genuinely touched by this donation, and extend our humble and sincere thanks to everyone, including: Aung Tin, Aung Moe, Si Thu, Lwan Thu, Myo Thein, Kyaw Zaw Wai, Maung, Mo, KoKo, Than Htike, Timothy Zaw Zaw, San San Mo, Cho, Coady, Maggie, Linda, San Lwin, Trev, Kristen, Kyaw Kyaw Han, Soe, Tim, Ye Yint, Louis Zaw Win, Karen Harrison, Tin Maung Htoo and Shah. I beg forgiveness for names omitted or misspelled.

Unfortunately, I do not have a photo of the event, although many were taken. Perhaps I will be able to include one in a future blog. But, before I forget, let me say that when in Toronto you should try to get to the Motherhome for a meal. The most clever of the guests last night ordered Mohinga and it looked great. You can enjoy a real taste of Burma at the Motherhome.

Mention was made during the evening that some wanted to ride with me today. When I said that anyone at the Kingston Road and Lawrence in Scarborough at 7:00 am would be welcome, I expected that would be the end of it. But no, when I returned to my room with a coffee at 6:45 this morning, there was Si Thu in the parking lot, delivering his friend, Kyaw Win and bike. Kyaw Win could not attend last night but his wife and daughter, KoKo and Darlene, did.

So I had company for most of the day today and Kyaw Win performed incredibly well for a guy who has not been riding for hours every day and whose mountain bike is not built for the road. He was assisted by our start on the Waterfront Trail, which is scenic but slow.

The prettiest little lakeside village we encountered was Pickering Beach, situated in the shadow of the Pickering Nuclear Power plant. It was when we cycled the trail around the plant that we started looking for straighter routes. But we sometimes returned to the trail when the alternative straight route was too far to the north.

The signing of the Trail is sometimes confusing or absent. That and a wrong assumption on my part toward the end of the day resulted in way too many infernal backtrack kms. But the Lakeshore Road into Port Hope made up for all of the day’s frustrations. A rolling country road with Lake Ontario views, cutting through cultivated fields and past country estates. Kyaw Win struggled a little on this stretch but he’d pedaled 100 kms when Si Thu, accompanied by KoKo and Darlene, picked him up in Port Hope.


The team today. Kyaw Win is the sixth Just Rider in addition to Soe Naing and I. Thanks so much for honouring our ride, Kway Win, and well done!


Here’s a view as we approached Port Hope, Lake Ontario in the distance.

Today: 107 kms. To date: 4,564 kms. After adjustments necessitated by the absence of Soe Naing, the total per km pledges “earned” to date: $4,910.13.

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