Aspiring West Central cyclists: Could you cover 150 kilometres a day, 900 kilometres a week for six weeks, travelling across the nation on a bicycle? Now imagine completing it on the back of a degenerative disease.
Some truly inspirational people rode their way through Kindersley earlier this week doing just that, making a stop in the West Central community as they move across Canada.
The 'Spinning Wheels Tour' consists of Steve Iseman, Jim Redmond, Mike Loghrin, and his wife Darlene Richards-Loghrin as they make their way across Canada on two-wheels. Each of Iseman, Redmond, and the Loghrin's have had their lives changed due to Parkinson's.
Once just a crazy idea, they stopped in at the Kindersley Museum & Tourism Centre back on Tuesday as part of their cross-country cycling trip in support of the Passion for Parkinson's Foundation.
Iseman and Redmond are the full time riders. Loghrin goes part time on a bike along with running the group's social media, and the fourth and final piece of the team Darlene is around to make sure they have a place to go every single night; aside from being the road warriors biggest supporter.
Her bio on the website cheerfully states, "when Mike came home one day, chuckling at Jim and Steve’s crazy idea of cycling across Canada, I said, 'That sounds like an adventure and a good cause, I’ll drive.' Mike stopped chuckling."
According to their website, Canada is home to over 100,000 people living with Parkinson’s disease. They also note that 9 in 10 people who suffer, do so in silence, isolation, or without the support of a knowledgeable organization or community.
"You asked why cycle, and it's because we can," said one of the participants with Parkinson's in Steve Iseman. He expanded.
"There are abilities that are maybe slowly being taken from us. Some slowly, some more quickly. But cycling seems to be one of the few things that you can do at a high level of intensity when it comes to joint damage and that sort of thing."
Joint damage is a major risk for someone with Parkinson's, especially during the early stages where the lead rider's Iseman and Jim Redmond are currently at. Iseman shared how the disease affects half of one's body disproportionately to the other half, creating some asymmetries across the motor skills needed for different sports.
Following their stop in Kindersley, they headed east down Highway 7 to Rosetown, turned south onto Highway 4, and then ended up at Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park. They are now moving on through Swift Current today, and then over into Regina where they have some media obligations lined up.
Their short time so far in Saskatchewan has been memorable, and their time in Kindersley specifically won't soon be forgotten.
"(Saskatchewan) has been quite a pleasant surprise," said Iseman, "In fact, for some of us it's been our favorite province so far."
He and the rest of the team have come up with some theories on just why that may be the case.
"You know we were trying to puzzle this out, and my theory is the people are so tied to the land here, in a way that they're not in other locations," said Iseman of the great Saskatchewan hospitality they witnessed, "When you are tied to the land like that your neighbors really matter, and when your neighbors matter, communities form in a way that, frankly, I'm not used to and it's just so warm."
His fellow bike rider in Redmond agreed.
"It's the way that we all hoped it would be," he said, "For me, it has been the highlight of the trip across Canada so far."
They weren't expecting to be the main focus of attention at the fundraiser event by any means, but were blown away by the amount of support already present towards Parkinson's disease in Kindersley. Many people showed up in support of local advocate for Parkinson's research Nancy Kelley, who is a main organizer with the local Parkinson's Canada Superwalk after living with the disease for many years.
Another local connection for Redmond was actually the reason the Spinning Wheels Tour marked little old Kindersley, Saskatchewan as a stop in the first place.
"My uncle and aunt, Reed and Bonnie Burton live just outside of Kindersley, so it always had to be a stop on the Spinning Wheels Tour route just because of family" explained Jim, "They opened up their home and heart, so we were so happy to be able to stop by and see them and meet so many people who are friends of theirs and you can just tell the tight knit community that that they've established in Kindersley."
What we take for granted here in the heartland the two men from Ontario were taken aback by, as whatever the mood was, it's not one that they are used to getting back home.
"We were introduced to so many people. 'Here's my friend. Here's my neighbor. Here's the person who lives down the road that I've known for 40 years.' It was a real eye opener in community."
Redmond, along with the rest of the team's eyes were also open to all of the beautiful country Saskatchewan has to offer.
"I mean just the fields that we get to cycle past! The canola that's coming. A couple of flax seeds here and there, and the grain elevators in the background. It is remarkable."
Iseman jumped in to say that even though Saskatchewan is typically regarded as flat, the hills they have had to ride over are no joke. On 26 days of the Spinning Wheels Tour the group has climbed nearly 12,000 metres, and people from West Central know that the Flaxcombe hill portion of their trip alone added a nice chunk to that total.
Over $2000 was raised from the event put on for Kindersley residents at the local museum. They were blown away by not only the community, but financial support seen as well. Still though the good nature of people is still what won them over here in Saskatchewan, as they were flagged down by one person who had heard about their program through the grapevine.
"In fact the next day someone just ran up to the RV and said they couldn't make it to the barbeque the day before, but still wanted to donate. They made a donation on the spot and it was very touching."
Travelling only 180 kilometres a day is a short, but great way to see the country. As mentioned the next leg of their trip will be taking them to Regina, and they hope to roll into Winnipeg by the middle of next week. The trip has already been one of a lifetime, and their end goals see them riding into St Johns, Newfoundland around mid-September.
People can donate online through the Spinning Wheels Tour website, and also check out some of their other content along the way. There are also links available to different charity's throughout the country, as the "Rigid Riders" want people to know there are tons of different ways to help Parkinson's research across Canada.