COURAGE CANADA BLOG

Weekend in Thunder Bay - July 24-26
I am currently hanging out in the awesome Courage Canada RV on my way back from Retrofest weekend in Thunder Bay, ON. From start to finish the team and I had a real blast getting our first taste of the action in Thunder Bay and gearing up for our official arrival in town next weekend! (Saturday, August 1, 7PM @ The Terry Fox Memorial Lookout, Thunder Bay)

On Friday afternoon (July 24) I drew the line in White River, ON, home of the famous Winnie The Pooh. The drive up to Thunder Bay for Retrofest was a fun filled 4 hours. I was especially excited to get to Thunder Bay because my Dad and Paolo were flying in to town for the weekend. Along with the excitement of having some added company, Cameron and the guys got hugely excited when they finally spotted not one, but two moose on the drive up. There has been so much talk from the boys since we first entered “moose country”, anticipating their first moose citing. So to see a mama moose and her baby was really great for everyone.

After picking up my Dad and Paolo from the airpot we all headed over to The Keg for a delicious dinner provided by their manager Stephen. Thanks for the great meal Stephen, it was a real treat! After eating our hearts out at The Keg we enjoyed a great night out on the town spreading the Courage Canada message to many nice people along the way.

Saturday (July 25) could only be described as an excellent day overall! The beautiful Mandi Schlesinger joined us in the morning, flying in from Toronto to spend the week helping out on the RV. After grabbing Mandi I had a nice relaxing afternoon in Thunder Bay, running a few errands and taking advantage of the wireless internet at the Best Western to catch up on some work. Before I go on I must give a huge Courage Canada “Thank You” to Norm from Best Western for providing such great accommodations for the team and I while in Thunder Bay. We look forward to working with you, Norm, in the future.

After taking care of business in the early afternoon, it was time to get down to Retrofest! The event that we had all been waiting for was finally upon us; so we headed over to Fort William Historical Park around 4PM to start setting up and begin meeting with some local media, MP’s, MPP’s and many others. I did some really great interviews with television, print, and multimedia news organizations (TBTV, TB News Watch, Thunder Bay Times) and it got me really ready to rock. I took to the stage at 7:30PM and spoke to several thousand in attendance before legendary rockers Chubby Checker made their headlining performance. We all had a blast doing “The Twist” with Chubby during his performance and hanging out with him and the band after the show.

As much as I had been really looking forward to it, and even expecting it, the amount of support that I received from the Thunder Bay community was just tremendous! Everyone, old and young, from near and far, came by the Courage Canada booth to make donations, buy the official Courage Canada hat (which made its debut at Retrofest), and talk with me. I signed tons of hats and postcards for kids and had an incredible evening getting a real sense of the generosity that runs through the Thunder Bay community. Special thanks to Marty Mascarin, Communications Officer for Fort William Park for inviting the Courage Canada team and I to take part in your wonderful festival.

I can’t wait to officially skate through Thunder Bay next weekend, Saturday, August 1, 7PM at The Terry Fox Memorial Lookout!

This morning (July 26) I unfortunately had to say goodbye to my Dad, Paolo, and to my good friend Lee Ann who will all be returning to Toronto. It was great having you all around. Thanks again Lee for helping out so much over this past week, you were a great part of our team!

Please come and join me at The Terry Fox Memorial Lookout at 7PM and share this wonderful moment along with me! It will be a truly powerful day for me when I make it to the monument that commemorates the life of one of my biggest idols and one of Canada’s greatest heroes next Saturday.

Goodbye for now Thunder Bay. I know it will be tough, but, lets see if we can’t top this visit the next time around!

White River to Marathon, ON tomorrow! I’ve got a long week ahead of me. In fact, one of the most difficult yet on my Quest.

Cheers,
-Mark
Mon Jul 27 2009 @ 8:49am by Mark DeMontis

Just One of Those Days - July 23
Today everything just seemed a little off. And, while I have an idea of why it started I have no idea why it didn’t end!

I woke up this morning and didn’t get off to my normal routine as a result of some serious rain. Over the past month I have really settled in to my daily routine; waking up nice and early, taking the time to get mentally prepared for the day, eating a healthy breakfast, lacing up the skates anywhere from 8:30AM to 9:30AM and hitting the road for at least 3 hours in the morning. Today, however, the rain was just too heavy to skate in and the thunderstorm warnings weren’t helping the situation either.

While I did enjoy an uncommon and enjoyable sleep-in, by the time I did wake up and get my day started I just felt very out of my element. Once the rain had passed and I started out on the road it was already after 12:30PM. I took my lunchtime break close to 4:00PM and then didn’t get back on the skates until 6:30PM, around the time that I typically finish up. Unfortunately for me, this would just be the start of my troubles.

To briefly go over some of the more brutal occurrences that went down: As I have already mentioned, the bad weather really bummed me out, I woke up with a bad stomach ache from the wings I ate last night, I stepped out of the RV this morning without the entrance step down and almost fell, I ate a bunch of cherries on my break and that just added to my stomach ache because I think I my be allergic to them, I got bit terribly by mosquito’s on a walk I took at the rest stop, after returning from the walk I was excited to use the washroom until the lady at the rest stop told me that I couldn’t use it unless I made a donation or bought something (I had no cash on me and because they had a minimum credit card purchase amount I ended up spending $11.65 on things that I did not need), as I started to take to the road for the afternoon skate I actually did trip and fall before even taking my first stride, when I arrived at the Obatanga Provincial Park this evening the woman working at the counter did not know what a CNIB card was and cold not find the reservation I made this morning, I accidentally poured far too much salt on my mashed potatoes which was the one thing I was looking forward to all day and successfully managed to ruin, to cap it all off, I pulled a loose piece of skin that turned out to be a blister and my foot started to bleed.

The one bit of solace that I have in this big mess of a day is that there is no possible way that tomorrow could be any worse! In the end I deal with these types of days in the only way I know how; I just laugh it off. I have been through far worse in my 22-years on this earth and so when it all falls down I just need to chuckle and shrug it off.

I am going to sleep before I do anything more to bruise myself or my ego.

I am still looking forward to a great few days at Retrofest in Thunder Bay, ON! Once again, you can catch me at my booth in the merchandise tent starting at 6PM and on the main stage at 7:30PM!

Wish me luck for this weekend and tell me to break a leg...on second thought maybe I should take that back!

Goodnight all.

Cheers,
-Mark
Fri Jul 24 2009 @ 4:57pm by Mark DeMontis

Following Terry’s Footsteps - July 22
I woke up this morning still somewhat drained from the intense skate yesterday. But, knowing that I have a goal in mind each and every day of this journey is what drives me to push hard from the minute I wake up in the morning to the minute I go to bed at night. Also, I knew that today I would pass by Old Woman Bay, the site of the famous photograph of Terry Fox running behind the cop car in 1980 on his Marathon Of Hope. These two feelings really stuck in my head while on the road today, and as soon as I hit Old Woman Bay I felt more of a connection to Terry and his campaign than I have ever experienced before. Terry’s steps from Sault Ste Marie to Thunder Bay were some of his last and most meaningful, so, it really caught up to me that I was living in the footsteps of Terry Fox.

Stopping off at Old Woman bay and trying to relive that famous photograph allowed me to truly feel the presence of Terry Fox. Throughout my Quest I have thought about Terry and his Marathon Of Hope. I have thought about where he had been, and what his goals were. I have thought about how hard he pushed himself and the vision he possessed. Today at Old Woman Bay was very special to me as I felt a great connection between his campaign and mine. Being the great Canadian hero that Terry was I started to see a little bit of a hero inside of me and realize that I will hopefully impact many blind youth in the future.

Despite some fatigue and more hilly terrain, passing through Old Woman Bay helped me get through 50KM before breaking for lunch. As I took my lunch break I got the opportunity to catch up with both Johnny Bower and Walter Gretzky on the phone which added to the inspirational day that I was having. While on the phone with Johnny we enjoyed a good chuckle when he commented the I was a pretty tough guy, going up all of these hills. To that I replied, “Tough? Johnny, you didn’t even wear a face mask when you were in net!” Speaking to both of them always helps to keep me motivated, they are such great guys and they have really made a difference on this campaign.

The afternoon was unfortunately plagued with lots of heavy rain, however, I managed to battle through it for quite some time. Especially knowing that the weekly forecast is filled I had to push myself hard this afternoon.

I am preparing myself to battle the wet conditions throughout the next bunch of days, and I am ready and willing to do whatever it takes to keep myself on track.

I’ve got one more night at the beautiful Wawa Motor Inn before continuing further north.

Everyone reading in the Thunder Bay, and surrounding area I’ve got some big news to share with all of you!

I will be taking part in this year’s RETROFEST at Fort William Historical Park on Saturday July 25! You can catch up with me at the “entertainer’s merchandise tent” beside the stage, and make sure to pay close attention as I get up on stage at 7:30PM to talk about my Quest to the West before the headlining band.

Exclusive Courage Canada hats will be making their debut at Retrofest, and will be available for sale at our booth! More merchandise will also be on sale soon through the website!!

See you all in Thunder Bay!

Cheers,
-Mark
Thu Jul 23 2009 @ 4:55pm by Mark DeMontis

Northern Hills - July 21
I woke up bright and early at the Twilight Resort in Montreal River Valley to give myself enough time to mentally prepare for the day that lay ahead. I had been told that today would be the most grueling stretch of hills thus far on my Quest.

Sure enough, as I set out on the road around 9AM the first 5KM were entirely up hill. Known as the Montreal River hill, I pushed hard through the steepest, longest stretch of incline that I have done so far, and apparently also the hardest hill that I will find on the stretch from Sault Ste Marie to Thunder Bay. Today’s skate was littered with big hills from start to finish, so it was nice that I got the worst of them out of the way early. It definitely got my legs warmed up.

In the afternoon I took a break with the team at St. Clair Cove beach. We made sandwiches, hung out on the sand and rock beaches of Lake Superior, skipped stones, took some great pictures and had a great nap to get ready for the afternoon en route to Wawa, ON.

There were a great deal of ups and downs throughout the rest of the day as far as terrain went. The roads are almost never flat around here and the OPP did a great job at keeping me safe, making sure to warn oncoming traffic when I was skating around blind corners.

I got a very solid skate in for the rest of the day and continued heading towards Wawa where the team and I had accommodations at the Wawa Motor Inn. We stayed in a beautiful log cabin with a full kitchen, and a nice fireplace in the living room. It was a real pleasure to kick back and relax in such a great setting. The General Manager of the Inn, Linda, even arranged for the caption “Welcome Mark DeMontis Keep Up the Good Work!” to read on the main sign, which was a very kind gesture. Thank so much Linda and everyone at the Wawa Motor Inn for being so welcoming and providing us with such a fantastic place to stay!

After settling in we took advantage of having a nice big kitchen at our disposal and cooked a fabulous meal. Following supper I had a few interviews to take care of both on the phone and in person, which all went very well.

I am heading to bed now feeling exhausted after a long and vigorous day.

I’ve got another long one ahead of me as I roll further towards Thunder Bay, ON.

Cheers,
-Mark
Thu Jul 23 2009 @ 4:55pm by Mark DeMontis

All kinds of nice: Norther Ontario - July 20
This morning (July 20) kicked off in the best way possible, with lots of media attention. Between interviews, photo’s, and video footage I was very pleased with how my stop in Sault Ste Marie ended off. I met with Stella Acquisto from MCTV News, Brian Kelly from the Sault Star (daily newspaper), and Carol Martin from SooToday.com. Each of the reporters was very enthusiastic to cover my story and learn more about my Quest and I was equally happy to spend some time sharing it with them.

As the day continued and I pushed farther north from Sault Ste Marie I hit some very interesting stops. The first, and one that I had really been looking forward to, was the “Center Point of Canada”. Located roughly 40KM north of the Soo, the team and I made a brief stop for some photo’s before hitting the road once again. I crossed over clear rushing rivers, through blasted rocks, around blind corners, and up and down plenty of hills as I snaked around Lake Superior. Before I go in to more detail about it, I must quickly mention how unbelievably captivated I have become by this section of Canada.

I broke for lunch this afternoon at a popular destination for cross Canada travelers, The Canadian Carver trading post. As soon as I skated in to the parking lot followed by the RV I had an unexpected amount of people greeting me, passing me donations and asking about my journey. One individual in particular quickly approached me and said “Stay right there! I need to go get my video camera”. Turns out this man was Shane Hall, an independent videographer who has worked extensively with networks such as NBC and The Discovery Channel. He is currently traveling across Canada filming a documentary about the pioneer life, from where they travelled, their heritage, and their infrastructure. Shane seemed super excited to hear about my Quest, where I had been thus far, my plans for the future, and also expressed some interest in catching up with me down the road. What a great coincidence to run into a guy like that. Hopefully I’ve got more of those types of run-in’s to come.

After meeting with Shane and some others traveling in and around the country I enjoyed looking around the shops packed with native crafts, animal pelts, leather goods, wood carvings, and spices. From the trading post the team and I headed back a few kilometers to The Voyageur (upon recommendation from Sault Star columnist Brian Kelly) for a quick and tasty lunch. We actually liked the restaurant and the atmosphere there so much that we went back for dinner too!

I hit the road once again in the afternoon and the reality of the North started to fully sink in. I have heard a lot of things about this region from others who have done similar campaigns, travelers, police, and locals. I have heard about the long hills, the rougher terrain, the tight turns, and the falling rocks, and amidst all of the talk, today was the first time I felt like I was actually experiencing it first hand.

Aesthetically, this is a part of Ontario that not too many people talk about about where I am from. It is also a part of this country that should be spoken of a lot more in my opinion. The scenery is beyond anything that has been described to me and definitely beyond anything I could have imagined. The endless views, the mass of coniferous trees, the increase in wildlife, the crystal clear waters of Lake Superior; the true beauty of the North.

Another thing that I had been warned about was the lack of cell phone reception which quickly began to become apparent. I dropped almost every call I was on yesterday and trying to get on the internet to post this blog and the days pictures was completely out of the question. In relation to the growing remoteness of my surroundings, the fact that it was going to become much harder to find basic things such as groceries was something I hadn’t really taken into consideration. As I continue to roll farther and farther north, and even into the prairies, the team and I are going to have to be much more aware of how to properly stock up on food, and make the most of our stops.

The last, and likely least shocking thing that has come to my attention while rolling farther north is the genuine friendliness of the people. Everyone I have met, whether it be on the road, at rest area’s, or where the team and I have been spending our nights have just been so genuine. From something as simple as a “hello” or a “keep up the good work”, or as beneficial as a donation, I am continually blown away at the great support I have received from those in norther Ontario.

Tonight we are staying in the Twilight Resort in White River, ON, right on the coast of Lake Superior. Thanks Dan for letting the team and I plug in the RV for the night. The scenery was just gorgeous and the spot provided us with a great, safe, and quiet place to crash.

Tomorrow I am on to Wawa, ON. As I continue to travel on Highway 17 in this beautiful region I can’t wait to see what new discoveries lie around the next corner.

Cheers,
-Mark
Wed Jul 22 2009 @ 11:42pm by Mark DeMontis

Sunny Days...Oh, Sunny Days - July 19
The day started off great with a nice early breakfast over at Sandro’s in Sault Ste Marie, ON provided by the local Lions. Lion Chuck, Lion Andrew, and Lion Andy also joined the team and I for the meal which just added to the experience. Thanks so much once again to all the Lions of Sault Ste Marie for breakfast, their wonderful company, and of course their continued support.

I took the the road at 9:30AM back in Thessalon, ON, where I was forced to stop yesterday evening. Someone must have been listening to the blogs the past few days, because my wish for some better weather definitely came true! The day was sunny, not too hot, and just added to my eagerness to finally arrive in Sault Ste Marie (on skates that is), the home of Pittsburgh Penguins 2009 Stanley Cup champion, Tyler Kennedy. There were many kilometers ahead of me earlier today, but, I have to say that the beautiful weather and my anticipation helped me push towards the Soo with my goal in mind.

I broke for lunch at a small rest stop just off the highway called the 17 N. Trading Post and had lunch with the boys, Lee Ann, and our new pal Lion Chuck, who came out to cheer me on in the early afternoon. After a nice rest and a tasty meal I was ready to lace up my skates and hit the pavement once again. As I mentioned earlier, I had set out this morning to reach Sault Ste Marie, a mere 87KM from Thessalon, and I was determined to make that happen.

Sure enough, two and a half hours after leaving our rest stop, I rolled in to sunny Soo just after 7PM this evening. The feeling was oh so sweet! I felt really comfortable out on the road all day long; I stayed well hydrated, and finally found my true stride which will help carry me farther and faster as the days roll on.

After arriving in the Soo for real this time the crew and I headed to the KOA camp ground where we will be spending the night, and enjoyed a much needed shower before heading out to dinner. Upon the recommendation of the newest Courage Canada member, Lion Chuck, we hit up The Dock’s Grill right on the water in downtown Soo for a delicious meal to celebrate our safe arrival.

I am anxiously awaiting a good nights sleep tonight as I have a long day ahead of me...and an even longer couple of weeks.

I am, however, hoping that there will be many more days like this to come in the near future, as I am about to hit the longest and most challenging stretch of my entire Quest. I have been told from many people before the journey even began, and even more recently, how difficult the terrain will be. The remoteness of northern Ontario is also something that I have been informed about a great deal lately. Apparently, the hills and the long stretches between towns will only be one of the many challenges that lie ahead as my mental and physical limits will be truly tested. I have been warned that cell phone service is essentially non-existent, which means that the chances of ever connecting to the internet are also slim to none. With that being said, I will do my best to keep in touch with everyone and to keep the blog up to date. However, if the blog posts happen to be a little less frequent, please do not be alarmed; I will survive the stretch, and, I will do everything I can to keep all of you informed on my progress as I continue north towards Thunder Bay, ON!

Before I leave off tonight, and possibly even for a few days, I just need to thank everyone reading, writing, and supporting me on my journey! You have all been so great and I want you all to know how much it means to me.

To all of the challenges that await me, get ready to face-off. It’s game time!

Cheers,
-Mark
Mon Jul 20 2009 @ 12:40am by Mark DeMontis

When It Rains...It Rains - July 18
I woke up this morning at Lakeside Park in Thessalon, ON to the sound of hard rain on the roof of the RV. The rain was fierce and it seemed as though it would not let up, but, I was hopeful that by the time I finished breakfast at the Sunset Restaurant (generously provided by the Lions Club of Thessalon) it would have let up. Unfortunately, today was a day of rain, and a day that brought the reality of setbacks to the forefront of my mind.

As the original schedule for this trip was being drawn up, it didn’t occur to both myself and those helping me with it how important it would be to allot for days like today. Each day was ‘go go go’ and there were no days to account for things like bad weather. Who could have predicted that there would be so much rain thus far?

Today, was of course, another one of those days where things just didn’t exactly fit with the schedule, yet, today was also one of those days that I learned a lot from. First off, my journey to the Soo has now been somewhat prolonged, but, as you’ve all heard, I have met obstacles before and I will overcome this one. It doesn’t matter if this throws me a little off my schedule, because in the end the job remains the same, to skate. More so, my goal will never change; I will arrive in Vancouver this September.

To give you all a sense of what today was like for me, skating in the rain is more than just a shower on the road. As evident as it may seem, it is wet, it is often very cold, and it’s not the most comfortable thing I have ever experienced. Today it felt like it was freezing rain and soaked me to the bone, from my hat down to my skates. In order keep from catching a cold and to stay as comfortable as possible I had to constantly change my equipment and clothing throughout the day (especially my socks). Cameron was frequently working away on my skates; switching the pair I was wearing, rotating the wheels, and drying out the bearings in an attempt to keep my feet dry and my skates running smooth.

Despite all the help from the team, as the rain got increasingly heavy I felt like I slipped with every stride and my visibility just kept deteriorating as the day progressed. As much as I wanted to push on to the Soo, it just wasn’t in the cards for today. I know, however, that tomorrow is another new day, and another new start. As much as I have a goal in mind in the long run, this Quest of mine relies on me taking one day at a time, and meeting each new challenge head-on as it comes.

After the rainy day of skating was over, the team and I had a commitment to meet with the Lions Club of Sault Ste Marie. Our RV was escorted in by the Sault Ste Marie fire department as Lions members and local media gathered to welcome us to the city at the Shady Rest Motel. The Shady Rest Motel is actually owned by Lion Frank Gallo, and he and the rest of the Lions were generous enough to provide the team and I with two rooms for the night. After meeting close to 15 members of the local Lions Club the team and I, along with my good friend Lee Ann who flew out to join us for a few days, were invited to have dinner over at Lion Chuck’s house. He and his wife Liz cooked us a great meal and gave me enough fuel to come back and write this blog and then gear up for a great nights sleep.

I am off to hit the hay knowing that I’ve got a big day ahead of me tomorrow. Stay tuned to find out more about my journey through norther Ontario.

Cheers
-Mark
Sat Jul 18 2009 @ 11:37pm by Mark DeMontis

Little by Little - July 17
As I continued to skate towards Sault Ste Marie, ON today the theme that began to run through my mind was support. More specifically, the way in which small acts of kindness have continued to pick up and have started to really enhance my experience on the road.

Waking up at the North Shore Wayside Inn was just the beginning of a day of great amounts of support and kindness. As I mentioned yesterday, Janet and Dennis, the owners of the North Shore Wayside Inn, provided accommodations for the guys and I last night; having the luxury of a nice hot shower and a bed for everyone to sleep in has been one thing that I have really come to appreciate thus far. So, thank you both once again for the comfortable night in Blind River. While on the topic of accommodations, I have had some awesome help on that end of things. Whether it is at a hotel, motel, campsite, provincial park, or even just the use of a parking lot, the generosity has been greatly appreciated. Most recently, Kris from Lakeside Park has helped us out with a spot for the night to plug-in and gave us some firewood to keep us warm and entertained for the evening. Two things that we shared were our mutual involvement for causes such as the Terry Fox Run for Cancer Research and other similar campaigns, as well as the experience of battling through adversities in life. Each of those similarities really connected us and added to my time spent at Lakeside this evening. Thanks for sharing your story with me Kris, you’re the man!

I have certainly mentioned this form of support before, however, I cannot overlook the amount of help that I have received from the OPP and other local Police forces throughout this portion of my journey. The past few days with OPP officer Don Henderson have been particularly memorable as he drove out several hours just to assist the team and I, and also went above and beyond by sharing stories with us about his time on the force and the northern Ontario lifestyle in general. Thank you Don, and thank you to all of the Ontario Police who have donated their time and efforts to make sure that I get to my next destination safely and in good company.

The amount of small acts of kindness that I have experienced while actually on the road have also started to really stand out. Whether it comes in the form of honking, clapping, or giving a nice thumbs up, to all of you reading who have showed your support in those ways I really do appreciate it. Today especially I had some really great experiences with several drivers handing out donations while driving by. One standout had to be a trucker who pulled his 18-wheeler over to the shoulder to run out and give us some financial support. Also, I get frequent words of encouragement while I skate, and today, as I was skating with Cam, I actually had one gentleman yell “Go Weston Go” from his car, which was so cool for me and also somewhat of a mystery. If you happen to be reading this blog, and it was you who gave that shout out, I would really love to know who you are. In the end, all of the kind words and gestures while I skate have not gone unnoticed, and I need to express how much these little things keep me motivated each and every day.

The next bit of support that has truly made an impact is the local interest that those across Ontario have shown. Today, for example, I had a gentleman named Bob come knocking on the RV door as I had just finished my skate for the day. Bob was from Newmarket, ON, and actually had no knowledge of my Quest or what it was about. So, when I told him what I was doing and a bit of my story, it was an odd coincidence to learn that his father was actually blind. He, and his son Jake were also both big hockey fans and so it was really nice to chat with him for a bit and discover a mutual connection. All of the people that I meet have different, and often interesting stories, and certainly leave me with a lasting impression and a genuinely good feeling.

Social media is just one other way that those who have been following my journey have shown a great deal of support. Whether it is through the website and reading this blog, the Twitter page, Facebook, or MySpace, I have gotten plenty of heartfelt and inspiring messages. To all of you who have written to me, shared your life stories, and commented on mine, it has really helped to drive me forward on my campaign.

Next up we have the Lions Clubs of Canada who have provided such incredible support since day one. Whether it is a place to stay, a hot meal, a donation, or a new pin for my honorary Lions vest, the Lions members have been out and active at mostly every stop. You have all been so unbelievable and supportive and I cannot being to thank you enough. I look forward to meeting more Lions across Canada. Most recently, I need to thank Lion Boe for arranging breakfast for the guys and I tomorrow morning at the Sunset Beach Restaurant in Thessalon, Ontario.

Lastly but definitely not least, is the fantastic support that I have received from local government officials: City Councillors, Mayors, MPP’s, and MP’s. Just before heading out to the fire, to spend the remainder of the night with Cam, P.J. and Jason, I received a phone call from my local MPP Laura Albanese. It was great to hear from Laura; we chatted for quite some time about some things that have happened thus far on my trip as well as how things were holding up back home. Laura has continued to show her ongoing support for a long time now since I formally met her earlier this year; spreading the word throughout the province and spearheading a great deal of activity from provincial parliamentarians. She has been a great supporter, and, more importantly a great friend. Tonight I thanked her once again for the beautiful speech she gave at the launch of my Quest to the West on June 27, in Weston. Laura, you are not only a great politician, but also, a valued member of the community. It is people like you who bring a smile to my face knowing that I’ve got such great support back home.

I’m heading out to the fire now, keeping a close watch on the bears. But don’t worry everyone, I’ve got my bear armor ready; my Reebok helmet, gloves, and one piece composite stick. It’s ‘game on’ bears!

Sault Ste Marie tomorrow, here I come!!!

Cheers,
-Mark
Fri Jul 17 2009 @ 11:16pm by Mark DeMontis

Road of Reflection - July 16
I took off today from Massey, ON and began my trek towards Blind River, ON. Now that I have started to get further north into the province I have gotten a lot more time to think about more than just this trip. Being on the road with not much around has provided with a lot of time to reflect.

While my focus is essentially always on my Quest I have started to think much more about my future, my career, finding a girl, and especially how lucky I am to have such a great family. I also have been thinking about the things I am beginning to miss. I am definitely missing my family, my community, my friends in both Weston and London, my dog Bella (who used to sleep in my bed with me every night), and also those who I have unfortunately lost in my life as well.

Physically, a lot of feelings have started to become much more apparent. My body has taken a massive change; I have started to drop a lot of weight and I am getting back to the body I had when I was 17, just before losing my sight. I am feeling great about the kind of shape I am in, and I am regaining a sense of confidence that I haven’t felt since the last time I was living such a healthy and active lifestyle, and pushing body and mind to limit every day. Also, I can noticeably feel that my legs have gotten a lot bigger and stronger, yet, at the same time a bit heavier. I have been making sure to take good care of my body, through proper stretching several times a day and putting on heat rub regularly. P.J. has helped a great deal with ensuring that I am ready to go each and every day, stretching me out and taking care of my blisters. His knowledge of stretching, and physical fitness has been a real asset on this journey.

The bulk of my day consisted of extensive skating, and, luckily I enjoyed a day of nice sunny weather. I have begun to notice, however, the fact that the wind has started to pick up a lot in the past few days and it has become a bit more of a challenge at times, especially on the hills.

The team and I had a great OPP escort along with us, Don Henderson, who came all the way down from Sault Ste Marie to help us out. He taught me and the guys a lot about living up north and the wildlife that will be surrounding us from here on out. It really got me thinking about the kind of country that we live in and the different types of lifestyles people experience throughout Canada.

After finishing up on the road this evening, I travelled to the North Shore Wayside Inn, in Blind River, where the owner’s, Janet and Dennis, were generous enough to hook me and the guys up with a room for the night. We had a great meal of their “famous” fish and chips in the restaurant, The Musket and Sword, and then did a nice cleaning of the RV before going to bed.

I am really excited to be rolling in to Sault Ste Marie on Saturday. We’ve got a number of things planned, so make sure you all stay tuned tomorrow to find out what’s going on! I am pumped for a new day to come. Lets hope the rain holds out!

Have a good night everyone.

Cheers,
-Mark
Thu Jul 16 2009 @ 11:32pm by Mark DeMontis

Soggy from Sudbury - July 15
I was up today bright and early to go in to downtown Sudbury to do an 8:30AM interview with VoicePrint/The Accessibility Channel at their studio. The interview went really well. I especially enjoy doing interviews with the Accessibility Channel as I am a firm believer that all media should be accessible to those who are either blind or deaf. And, given my situation as a blind student studying media I have learned to appreciate networks such as these for all they do to bring current and relevant information to a wider spectrum of the public.

After my interview I met up with the Sudbury OPP at their headquarters and took to the road around 10AM. The morning skate was quite enjoyable alongside Cameron, and I really started to appreciate all the beautiful scenery that this part of the country has to offer. While the team and I took a break for lunch, we headed back to the core of Sudbury to say goodbye to my good friend Andy (our rental player) who spent the past few days with us. Thanks so much for coming and helping us out Andy, you’re a true “MVP” just like Conn Smythe! After leaving Andy behind the crew and I did a little bit of grocery shopping and hit up a Subway for some lunch before re-joining the OPP to skate out again.

The afternoon was also a good one, however, things got a bit soggy part way though due to some increasingly heavy rain. I have learned throughout my time on this journey to adapt to some changing weather conditions, and today was definitely a new challenge. I managed to battle through the rain for a couple of hours before it came to a point where the roads became a bit too slippery, and my visibility started to falter. I decided it would be best to put put safety first around 5:30PM and call it a day.

The team and I headed to Chutes Provincial Park afterwards to spend the night at a beautiful camp ground. We took the opportunity to walk around a bit and visit the waterfalls. We took some great photo’s and then had supper.

It was also great to chat tonight with my cousin John on the phone. We spent a lot of time fishing and camping together as kids so it was a nice throwback to talk with him while at Chutes. He reminded me of what a great thing I am doing and to really keep my head up and take it to the limit. Speaking of which, only 250KM to go until I reach Sault Ste Marie, ON, home of Stanley Cup champion Tyler Kennedy.

Its time for me to hit the hay while the boys chill out by the fire. I can’t believe they’re not scared of bears!

Goodnight all.

Cheers,
-Mark
Wed Jul 15 2009 @ 10:50pm by Mark DeMontis

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