COURAGE CANADA BLOG

Back In A Big City - Aug 18
Today was the big day that I would finally skate through downtown Winnipeg, MB. Although I have already spent a weekend-off in the city I had been anticipating my skate through the downtown core since I crossed into Manitoba.

Despite being through some pretty major cities such as Sudbury, Sault Ste Marie, and Thunder Bay, I had yet to arrive in a metropolis that even remotely resembled my hometown of Toronto. Where I grew up I am so used to the busy streets, tall buildings, and constant noise, and in many ways I have started to miss all that action around me.

While I certainly got a taste of the action in Winnipeg over the weekend, skating though the city today was a completely different kind of sensation. As I took to the streets of downtown, along with the fantastic support of the Winnipeg Police, I was overcome with a great deal of feelings.

I felt like a million bucks, escorted by a police cruiser in front of me and flanked by two police bicycles at my sides. The honking and cheering that I received from the general public raised my spirits even higher and just being a part of the hustle and bustle of downtown life made me feel very close to home. One of the most familiar sensations was the smell of hot dog vendors on the street corners, a Toronto staple, and something that brings me back to my childhood, picking up a dog with my dad before a Leaf’s or a Jay’s game.

Of course the experience of skating amongst the big buildings and busy streets was great in itself, the highlight of my day had to be the unexpected encounter I had with City TV Winnipeg. As I was skating along Main St., just about at the Parliament Building, I was waved over to the side of the road by a reporter and a camera man from Breakfast Television. The two happened to be in the right place at the right time for both of our sakes, and the spontaneous interview that followed really made the day extra special. City TV’s Breakfast Television is one of the most widely watched morning shows in the province of Manitoba and being on camera with them not only got me very excited, but also peaked the interest of many passing pedestrians. I will be appearing live in the City TV studio with Heather Steele on Breakfast Television tomorrow morning as well.

The interview took place right around noon in the heart of the business district of Winnipeg as well as in close proximity to major parks and tourist attractions, so, the time and place couldn’t have been more perfect. The response from those out for lunch, or taking an afternoon stroll with their kids, from city workers, to businesspeople, was just tremendous and I have to say that this really made my day.

My day finished off just west of Winnipeg in the town of Headingley, with a follow up interview with Global TV. I’ve got a real big skate ahead of me tomorrow, 75KM into Portage La Prairie, MB.

It’s time for a solid rest and, hopefully, another great day!

Cheers,
-Mark
Wed Aug 19 2009 @ 5:14pm by Mark DeMontis

Out Of The Norm - Aug 17
What a weird one it turned out to be today. Over the course of the past month and half I have grown to expect the unexpected. Yet, I am still finding it difficult at times to adjust to all the sudden changes as they come. I managed to adapt to the circumstances that presented themselves today, however, I’m not sure if it had to do with dealing with these little trials outside of my home province, but things just felt different.

First off, today was the first full day where I was not accompanied by a police escort. The Falcon Lake detachment who escorted me from the Manitoba border yesterday were unfortunately without the man power to assist the team and I. I am quickly coming to the realization that this is something that I will start to come into contact with more and more as I move through the prairies. Many of the small jurisdictions that I pass through sometimes have only one or two officers on duty for an entire shift, so, as much as they have expressed their desire to help me out, I can understand that there are times where it is just not possible.

The Falcon Lake RCMP gave the team and I some helpful tips to ensure that myself and whoever is skating with me at the time are staying safe. Keeping to the paved shoulder whenever possible and leaving enough space between the RV and the skaters on the road were just a couple things that would ensure that there were no issues with approaching cars. Along with our four way hazard lights and our warning: “Approach With Caution. Slow Moving Vehicle. Inline Skate In Progress” we have also attached a flashing LED arrow to the back of the RV that points cars to the left lane. The guys driving have noticed that this makes a big difference in terms of alerting the cars coming up behind us and keeping the whole team safe.

As much as these precautions have helped, both myself and the guys driving have noticed that cars were far more aggressive during the day today due to the lack of police presence. I feel as though when drivers see us along with the police escorts there is an instant legitimacy that is associated with us, and although there have been no real issues without them, I feel as drivers don’t take it as seriously.

Aside from the different sense of being without cops, the familiar rain did accompany me for most of the day. Although I have barely had two consecutive days without rain this entire trip, I was picturing sunny farm land and warmer weather once I hit the prairies. This has of course not panned out just yet.

Today also brought many patches of construction along the road. I have been noticing lots of construction signs and pylons out of my peripheral and as I hear the workers and machines around me I am conscious that I may need to take some things a bit slower, staying extra cautious through these areas.

The big positive of the day was an interview I did with Global TV at the border of Winnipeg. The segment aired on the Global news at 10 PM, which definitely helped make my day a bit better.

I am really excited to skate through the Winnipeg core tomorrow!

Goodnight from rainy Manitoba.

Cheers,
-Mark
Wed Aug 19 2009 @ 5:06pm by Mark DeMontis

Big Weekend in Winnipeg - Aug 14 to 16
The boys and I were violently aroused from our sleep just after 5 am on the morning of Friday, Aug 14 as one of the most vicious thunderstorms that any of us had ever experienced swept through the Steinbach countryside. As I frantically paced around the RV contemplating how I was going to escape this terrifying situation the boys seemed to be calmly in awe of what was going on outside our home on wheels.

The hail and the rain was pounding on the top of our fiberglass roof as if we were stuck in the middle of a driving range and we had 10,000 Tiger Woods’ taking golf shots at us. The cracks and bangs of the thunder were more constant than I had ever heard before. It was actually so loud that I asked whether the guys thought there was an earth quake because the entire RV was shaking as a result of it. Lightning was coming in such frequent sheets that it seemed like there were strobe lights positioned all around the RV; needless to say, none of us were partying inside. Despite the fact that the storm was hardly settling the guys slowly convinced me that there was nothing that we could do, and that running to Carol’s house in my Reebok hockey equipment or trying to drive out of the storm wouldn’t help solve the problem, or cease my fear.

A few more hours of restless sleep later, I woke up and headed into Carol’s house to have breakfast with her, the Ilczszyn’s and the guys. After fueling up for the morning and saying my goodbyes the crew and I headed out and began the skate on some wet roads. The day really allowed me to get a good sense of what I would be experiencing over the next bunch of weeks. While I expected to be so relieved to hit the flat terrain in Manitoba I am sad to say that I am already growing a little tired of the lack of varied terrain. I have grown so used to the winding roads and constant hills that the flat straight roads in Manitoba - while easier to skate on - are quite the change. The kilometers seem to blur with the same scenery; I guess it will just give me more incentive to get through the prairies as fast as I can!

That being said, I think that part of me just needed a weekend to regroup and to mentally prepare myself for the less demanding change of scenery. I am a very routined person and so I find it hard to adjust to change in such a short period of time. The need to process this adjustment got me looking forward to spending the weekend in Winnipeg and getting a chance to relax, let loose a bit, and clear my mind.

On Friday evening the boys and I checked into the Charterhouse Best Western in downtown Winnipeg-- home of Chicago Blackhawks team Captain Jonathan Toews. Our sponsors over there were kind enough to accommodate us for the weekend, and we definitely enjoyed our stay.

After some much needed showers we all headed out to the Red Lobster on Portage Ave. for an incredibly satisfying dinner before returning to the hotel to meet up with our friends Lee Ann and Lauren Harris who flew in to town to join the boys and me for the weekend. It was really nice to be in a new city and meet lots of new people, but, at the same time it was great to have friends from back home to share in the experience.

We went out to Alive Nightclub both nights and a had a really great time taking in the nightlife and getting a bit of an opportunity to break away from the normal routines of the trip. It was especially great to be in an environment with so many people my age just out to have a good time. As much as it was fun, my mind was frequently on the campaign and on the next bunch of weeks of the journey. I admit that I have some trouble fully breaking away and just letting my mind go completely clear, especially when it concerns this journey and my life at the moment. Nevertheless, both nights were filled with many good times, great memories, and I look forward to our next major city stop.

I kicked off the day of Saturday, Aug 15 in one of my favourite ways possible. Not only did I enjoy a fantastic sleep-in, but, Jason and I went out for a great all you can eat sushi lunch as well! After lunch J. and I headed over to meet up with the rest of crew over at the Polo Park Mall. I bought myself a new shirt for the evening and got a nice haircut. The afternoon left me feeling very refreshed, and, being back in a big city, somewhat more in my element.

After another fun filled night at Alive, the Lions Club of Winnipeg had arranged to have a little reception for the team and I at the Rib Room in the Best Western on Sunday, Aug 16. At noon we all headed downstairs to meet with Lion Ellie and the rest of the Lions for a really nice time. The food was great and the Lions were so genuine and eager to hear more about my story and the Quest to the West. After brunch Lion John presented me with the Hope Medal, a medal symbolizing hope and peace, which I was incredibly honoured to receive. Many thanks to Lion Ellie for all of her help in organizing this great event and for all of the thoughtful gifts that you brought for the team and I (including a baseball cap adorned with Lions pins, a Manitoba flag, and some Journey for Sight shirts for the whole team).

In the afternoon I took the opportunity to relax and take in a bit more of the Winnipeg scenery. Cam and I went for a little walk downtown and checked out the MTS Centre where the Manitoba Moose play. It was good catch a glimpse of the home of Manitoba Hockey now that the Jets aren’t around anymore. Especially after visiting the city and talking to many hockey fans I feel strongly that the city of Winnipeg deserves an NHL team; this really is a Canadian Hockey city.

After getting back from my walk I chilled out in the hotel room and watched One Week with Joshua Jackson, the story of a guy who gets diagnosed with terminal cancer and decides to buy a motorcycle and travel across Canada. It was really interesting for me to watch given the nature of his journey, and the close relation to what I am doing, especially since he was traveling out west from Toronto. He is pictured in the film in so many of the places I have crossed so far on my Quest and will soon reach, and the message of the film really resonated with me as I watched.

For dinner, the team and I had been invited to the Watts family household for a barbecue. Jason’s aunt Deborah grew up in Manitoba and went to The University of Manitoba along with Colleen Watts. Colleen and her husband Jim were so welcoming and it was really nice to hang out and meet their son Johnson as well as their daughter Andrea and her husband Tom. They cooked a fantastic dinner and made us feel so comfortable in their home. Thanks Colleen and Jim for such a great evening!

With that, my big weekend in Winnipeg was nearing its end. It was really excellent to kick back in a city that I’ve heard so much about and to spend some time in another major Canadian hub. The friendliness of the Manitobans I’ve met so far has been great and this weekend has capped off a an excellent start to the province!

One more nice sleep at the Charterhouse Best Western before I settle back in to my skate, well rested and well prepared to tackle the prairies!

Cheers,
-Mark
Mon Aug 17 2009 @ 4:46pm by Mark DeMontis

Life on the Other Side of the Border - Aug 13
With a new day and a new province came a new feeling as I awoke from my first sleep-in pretty much this whole trip at the Whiteshell Provincial Park just across the Manitoba border. Due to some thunderstorms this morning it was unsafe for me to skate and so when I initially woke up at 7:30 am to start the day we were forced to call our RCMP escort and delay my start until the afternoon. As you all know, I have battled through a tremendous amount of rain so far, but, thunderstorms (one type of storm I am unable to skate through) have been more of a nighttime issue. Nevertheless, today was just one of those days. If I could dictate the weather I can assure you that this trip would be drastically different!

So, after a refreshing sleep and a tasty breakfast in Whiteshell I headed back to the border to begin my day of skating around 1 pm. Just before taking off I met a super nice family from Renfrew, ON (just outside of Ottawa) who were on their way to a wedding in Winnipeg. Hennie and Ken Clemmer were accompanying their grandchildren, Connor, Justin, Tyler, and Mitchell (all big hockey fans, Sen’s fans in fact. Ya hear that Eugene!) I really enjoyed meeting all of them, taking some pictures, and talking hockey. It got my day off to a great start and it got me excited to meet more people west of the Manitoba border.

As I started my skate I instantly noticed the terrain starting to flatten out. I hit two steep but short hills just west of the border, but, I swear these had to be the only two hills in the entire province of Manitoba! Today was really the start of a new chapter in my Quest and I was really enjoying the comforting reality of the prairies as I skated along what is now called the Trans Canada Highway #1.

Continuing along with my skate this morning, escorted by our first RCMP Officer, Jerome Beaubain, I enjoyed another welcome encounter, this time with some more familiar faces. The Ilczszyn family from Thunder Bay drove past me on the road honking the horn of their red Honda while Connie waved passionately with her head out the window! Connie, Tom, and Aaron pulled over to the side of the road to come out and say hi to the guys and me and see how things had been going over the past week. They were on their way to visit Connie’s sister, Carol, in Steinbach, Manitoba and she was adamant that the team and I come by for dinner. At the time we really did not have much planned for later on and we would be ending the skate not too far from Steinbach, and so we gladly accepted her offer, and parted ways for the time being.

The guys and I took our lunch break in Falcon Lake where our RCMP escort has their detachment. We hung out in the RV and made some lunch in the parking lot of the local “mall” and then headed in to a nice little coffee shop/bakery to take advantage of their wireless hot-spot. Just before heading inside Jason got to chatting with two women, one from somewhere in Saskatchewan and the other from Winnipeg, who had passed us earlier on in the day. They came by the RV and were really curious about exactly what I was skating for and were super supportive and even gave a generous donation.

The afternoon skate was another hot one! Aside from the rain this morning, the past few days have been some of the only days that have actually felt like summer. The humidity has definitely started to pick up and the sun is scorching hot when it manages to poke through the clouds. I think I may have to get used to skating in “real” summer weather pretty quickly. Keeping a close watch on how my body feels and staying properly hydrated is going to be crucial in getting through these hot days.

Along with the increase in heat comes the increased danger of the dreaded tar strips on the road. When wheels on my skates start to get really hot from the friction on the road and the tar strips that litter the highway heat up from the sun, the combination of one hitting the other makes for quite the sticky situation. This afternoon I had my first official fall as a result of this treacherous combination. Around an hour into my skate my left skate got caught on one of these tar strips and I tumbled hard. Lucky for me, I managed to tuck my left shoulder and roll off the fall, leaving myself with little more then a bit of road burn on my shoulder and left elbow. I’m actually quite amazed that I wasn’t more banged up afterwards, but, I’m certainly not complaining about that. I found it kind of funny that I’ve skated up and down some of the steepest hills in Ontario yet once I got to the prairies, where I thought everything would be smooth sailing, I finally experienced my first fall out on the road.

After I finished my skate for the day, the team and I drove in to Steinbach in the early evening with great anticipation to meet Connie’s other half (her and Carol are twins), and indulge in what was sure to be another great meal.

The guys and I were warmly greeted at Caol’s by her and her fiance Bob, as well as the whole Ilczszyn clan. We got to chatting with them right away as if we’d known them for years and had a really fantastic evening. The food was cooked to perfection, from the chicken and potatoes that were done up on Bob’s smoker, to the fresh salad that had been picked earlier that day from Carol’s garden. The night couldn’t have been better. Thanks so much once again Carol and Bob for hosting the team and I last night, it was great to meet you two and I hope that you both stay in touch!

Looking forward to more adventures in Manitoba, and my arrival in Winnipeg tomorrow night!

Cheers,
-Mark
Fri Aug 14 2009 @ 2:50pm by Mark DeMontis

Battle to the Border (1 Down 4 to Go) - Aug 12
The big day has finally come! I have waited 48 days to cross my first geographical border and this evening, at 7:52 pm I did it!

The day got off to a great start as I headed in to the 89.5 Mix FM studios to do a live interview at 8 am. Everything went really well, and, as if my excitement weren’t already nearing its peak, chatting about my close proximity to Manitoba got me really pumped.

Although today was one of my most rewarding days on the trip it was also one of the most difficult. It was a huge battle in many ways. From the scorching heat (something that I haven’t had much of a chance to get used to), to the amount of kilometers I had to get through to reach my goal, as well as the disintegration of 14 of my wheels (due to the serious heat and their extended wear). Thanks Cam for being so patient with the wheel situation and constantly making sure that my equipment was running smoothly.

It was great to skate through the city of Kenora this morning, cruising down Main St. and along side of the Lake of The Woods. Courage Canada got a lot of great exposure as I rolled through downtown and the reception I got from the Kenora locals was overwhelmingly positive.

I took a break for lunch at the Husky Gas Station on the west end of Kenora where I met the parents of Justin Schneider, a member of the Canadian National Inline Hockey Team. They saw us skating into town and were following the team and I along the road waiting for us to pull over so they could find out what the campaign was all about. They were thrilled to hear about what I was doing and my story, and it looks like we will be seeing them when we arrive in Winnipeg.

After a good rest and a nice bit of time to mentally prepare for the big afternoon that lay ahead of me, I had to push myself to the peak of my abilities in order to get through 50KM and ensure my arrival in Manitoba by the end of the day.

I went through a lot of little battles in the afternoon aside from just the length of the skate. My body was feeling quite sore and increasingly tired. My ankles especially hurt me after so many long hours on the skates, and the heat was really starting to drag me down. One of the things that really kept me going was reflecting on he past month and a half that I spent in Ontario. From all the good times spent with the team, to people I’ve met, to all of the special moments going through my head, it would be tonight where all of these memories would culminate as soon as I crossed into Manitoba.

Getting the job done over the past 48 days was made much easier as a result of all of the support that I had coming in from all directions, and I really used the positive energy that has come my way to get me through today.

I was really pushing it through the last few kilometers, and I had tons of little clips running though my head. My family, my closest friends, my team, my mentor Chris Delaney, my trainer Daryl Devonish; all of the elements that have contributed to the success of my Quest and to the success of my life thus far. In the end, however, the one thing that stayed with me throughout the entire afternoon was that image, that sensation, that I would have the second I crossed that border.

At 7:52 pm on Wednesday, August 12, 2009 it happened!

Right when I crossed the line it felt like I had just dinged a slap shot top corner from the point. I threw my stick in the air and hollered with joy. I felt my legs start to shake. My heart was pumping at a mile a minute, and I felt like all of my nerves were going to burst out of my skin. It was one of the single greatest moments in my life to date!

The team and I had a celebratory drink in the RV just inside Manitoba. Today was a celebration for the team as much as it was for me. Cam, Jason, and PJ have been there every step of the way and have held me up in my weakest moments. Today was a huge milestone for the four of us as a team and I’m sure it is a day that we will remember for the rest of our lives!

Now, I have made it to Manitoba. Another province, another chapter, with many more great stories and experiences waiting to be put down into the book. Ontario brought so many good times that I am more excited today then I have ever been to see what Manitoba will bring.

I have just finished the first of a five round playoff series. While looking back will always be comforting, I know from my days out on the ice that I need to stay focused on what lies ahead. I am ready for the second round and I can’t wait to come out on top!

Aside from my own motivation, the moral support from all of my family and friends is what’s going to carry me through Manitoba and on to Vancouver, British Columbia.

With that said, my Quest is not going to get any easier. The way I see it, it has truly just begun.

More great stories to come from Manitoba!

Cheers,
-Mark
Thu Aug 13 2009 @ 9:53pm by Mark DeMontis

Manitoba Bound - Aug 11
This is it!

One more day. One more day until I finally cross my first border. One more day until Ontario is a fond memory rather than just a harsh reality. One more day until I am one province closer to Vancouve, B.C. One step closer to realizing my dream.

The Ontario experience has been epic to say the least, however, it has been a real long haul thus far. I know that I have mentioned it a lot as of late, but, it’s a bit hard to put in perspective the mix of feelings that I am experiencing now that I can almost taste the Manitoba air.

On the one hand I can’t wait to cross over that border and begin a new chapter in my Quest to the West, complete with new towns, cities, people, and experiences. On the other hand, I know that there will be a bit of a sorrowful tinge to my thoughts a bit down the road knowing that I have put my home province behind me.

I will always remember and cherish the memories I have made over the past month and a half. My Quest to the West truly started out in the best way possible; the support that has been shown by my fellow Ontarians including local MPP’s as well as the average citizen, the amazing help from the OPP and Regional Police, the tremendous financial contributions that I’ve received on the road, and the overall experience I have had discovering so much of Ontario. I have come to appreciate this beautiful province of mine in so many ways. Going beyond the sheer magnificence of the landscape, the clarity of the water, and the freshness of the air, the kind souls that occupy Ontario are of the highest calibre.

As I am now more mentally and physically prepared to move forward on my journey I can certainly find comfort knowing that I my departure from Ontario is only temporary. Ontario will always be my home, Toronto my town; it is where I grew up and where I will grow old, alongside my family and lifelong friends. Nevertheless, I now feel as though I have dozens more temporary homes across this great province with a family of Lions, and a long list of new friends.

To everyone who has made my Quest through Ontario so unbelievably special, thank you! This is only the end of the beginning of this campaign, and without all of your fantastic support I couldn’t have made it this far.

My arrival in Kenora, ON this evening was really something else. Knowing that it is the last major city that I will hit before Manitoba the feeling I got as I turned off the highway was almost indescribable.

I was fortunate to get a bit of a preview of the city this afternoon as the team and I drove in to town to refuel on some groceries and other supplies for the RV. While sitting in the RV in the parking lot of the Extra Foods I got a chance to catch up with reporter Ryan Agnew from the Daily Minor newspaper who happened to be passing through the area.We sat down for a really great interview which got me geared up to officially arrive in Kenora in the evening.

The city of Kenora borders the Lake of the Woods, described to the guys and I by our friend Lion Don, as one of the most beautiful lakes in all of Canada. Lake of the Woods boasts a daunting 50,000 plus kilometers of shoreline and is home to over 15,000 islands. The team and I were fortunate to look out over this stunning body of water from our dinner table at the Waterside Restaurant on the top floor of the Best Western Lakeside Inn where we will be spending the night. A special thanks to Lion Don and Lion Dino for providing such a delicious meal and of course some really great company.

On another happy note, some very exciting news has just come through for Courage Canada, and to everyone waiting to hear about the surprise from last night’s blog!

I am extremely proud to announce the addition of our newest sponsor to Courage Canada, The Toronto Maple Leafs. It is really great to have the support of the hockey club I grew up following and I’m looking forward to a long lasting partnership with The Toronto Maple Leafs in the future. What a great way to leave the province! Special thanks to General Manager Brian Burke for all of his support.

Stay tuned over the next few weeks to find out more about the sponsorship.

As for tomorrow, I’m not out of Ontario quite yet. I have a very long and hard day ahead of me, yet, I am determined to make it to Manitoba by tomorrow night no matter what it takes!

I’m starting the day off bright and early as I go live to air with 89.5 Mix FM in their Kenora studios at 8 am.

With 75KM to go I am officially Manitoba bound!

Sweet dreams my friends...I know I’ll be having a few of them myself.

Cheers,
-Mark
Wed Aug 12 2009 @ 10:13am by Mark DeMontis

Courage Canada Salutes Ontario’s Police - Aug 9
I woke up at the Best Western this morning in Dryden, ON well rested from another very comfortable sleep and ready to start the day. Just before 9 am the guys and I met up with our OPP escort for the day, Constable Brian Eschbach. I have spoken quite frequently about the great support that we’ve been receiving from all of the Police across the province and today was certainly no exception. In fact, as I will further elaborate later on in the blog, today happened to really stand out for the whole team.

I skated out the morning feeling really great. The roads were beautifully paved and the temperature started to warm up nicely by the time I took my break in Wabigoon, ON. To the First Nations people, Wabigoon means “Deep Muddy Lake”, and, while I didn’t really get a chance to check out the water I enjoyed that little cultural tidbit that Officer Eschbach shared with us. We drove through with the sirens blaring and were really well received by the locals.

After a solid lunch break I resumed in the afternoon and skated in to Dryden until the day was unfortunately cut a little short due to some severe thunderstorms. The timing, however, wasn’t all that bad because it gave me a chance to catch up with Sarah from the Dryden Observer (community newspaper) at the OPP detachment to do a really great interview. At the detachment I also got a chance to meet a few of the other Officers and chat a bit more with Constable Escbach.

I have to say that although I have received such incredible support from all of the Police so far on my journey, Constable Eschbach really proved to be incredibly supportive as well as a genuinely great guy. I actually just received a sincerely heart felt email from him just a few minutes ago which really solidified my feelings for the guy and reflected the great day that the team and I had along with him.

I hope you don’t mind Brian, but, I really need to share one specific part of the email that really touched the boys and me.

“My 17 year old daughter asked me - How my day at work was today? I said - Great - probably one of my top 10 days of work as an O.P.P. Provincial Constable! It is days like today, when it ishard to believe that I get paid simply to help good folks out like yourselves!”

This email was especially thoughtful because it seemed to put into words the mutual feelings shared between the team and the Police Officers who have come out to help us along the way. More so, to hear that coming from an Officer who we enjoyed spending the day with so much really means a lot, and, I must mention again how much we appreciate all of the support that has come from the OPP and Regional Police forces over the past month and a half!

First off I must give a huge “Thank You” to OPP Deputy Julian Fantino for all of his assistance in bringing together the support of the fine men and women in uniform. You have truly helped make our travels throughout Ontario not only safe but enjoyable. It is a real testament to the way that you work and the importance you place on helping those in need.

Now, to extend a few special shout outs to some of the Officers who have really gone above and beyond so far on the journey to enhance the memories that the boys and I will take away from this trip. A big, big Courage Canada “Thank You” to Officer Dave Shanley (Halton Region Police), Constable Skeeter (Mactier OPP), Constable Don Henderson (Sault Ste Marie OPP), Constable Stevenson (Sault Ste Marie OPP), and Constable Peter Burton (Marathon OPP). You guys did such an exceptional job and I want you to know how much the team and I appreciate all the time you took to come out and aid us on the road.

From making sure that we get to our destinations safely, helping us figure out the best route possible each day, connecting us with local media, recommending the best spots to eat and stay, providing background on the places we pass through, sharing their personal experiences about life as an Officer, and cracking jokes and telling a great tale or two; each one of you have really made a difference on this campaign. Also, so many of the Officers that we’ve met are huge hockey fans, and many have played at a high level and even coach still to this day. While it’s nice to share our love of the game with all of the Officers, it is especially rewarding to know that so many of them can personally connect to the cause.

One thing that I’ve learned throughout Ontario is that these men and women who serve us are more than just Police Officers; they are fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, good friends and good neighbours, and I have really learned to appreciate their work. I have grown to better understand the nature of their job, and, am grateful for all of their continuous efforts to keep our communities safe.

While on the subject of great support, the team and I are back at the Best Western this evening once more. Norm and Lorraine Bevilacqua have been so incredibly supportive and generous the past few days and I need to thank them once more for their kind help.

I just got out of the hot tub and I am feeling nice and mellow and can’t wait for the sleep that is ahead of me.

See you all in the next few days in Vermillion Bay and Kenora. I’m coming soon Manitoba!

Goodnight all.

Cheers,
-Mark
Mon Aug 10 2009 @ 2:42am by Mark DeMontis

Battling the Blade - Aug 8
I got off to an early start this morning from Ignace, ON with overcast skies but a cool and comfortable temperature for skating. I got a solid 35KM out of the way over the course of the first several hours, however, my mind was really racing while I was out on the road.

Lately I have been getting a bit more frustrated by the lengthiness of Ontario. The province has seemed to endlessly drag-on over the past few days and I have been finding myself growing increasingly irritable as a result. As much as I have tried to control my emotions I have been letting a lot of little things bother me. The result of these small tiffs resulting in the slamming of a door or kicking of some stones essentially doesn’t help the situation at hand and I have been learning to try and take a breath and put what is bothering me aside. Also, the consistently poor cell phone reception has just added to my rising frustration. I have been cut off numerous times while on the phone and I feel like I am not communicating with people nearly as much as I would like to.

Over the course of the next week it is going to be very interesting to see how things go as I come closer to leaving Ontario. I feel like I have been trapped in the same province for so long and my eagerness to get to Manitoba is only rising with each passing day. I find that I have hit my threshold in some respects and as the days pass I find that myself and my thoughts have been straying from the task at hand, letting myself get caught up in my own frustration.

I have also started to feel the strain on my body more and more. I have been experiencing increasing soreness on the inside of both of my ankles and there are many days where my legs and joints feel heavy as I walk. I have been doing my best to stay healthy; from stretching throughout the day and frequently applying cold and heat rub to my sore bones and muscles, I feel like this is not the last of it but that it could also be far worse.

After another good afternoon trying to clear my head of some of the negative thoughts, I arrived in Burab’s Corner just outside of Dryden, ON.

As the team and I rolled into town Cam happened to be filling up the RV at a gas station next to the owner of the Dryden A&W. They got to talking and the owner was generous enough to invite us over to his store for a free meal. How did he know how much I loved food...especially when it’s free! Thanks again for the great meal!

I had a really calm, relaxing evening at the Best Western. Hanging out with the guys and sooting my sore body in the hot tub really helped to clear my mind.

Despite much of the frustration that has surfaced over the past week there is still a lot of excitement brewing inside of me. I am genuinely happy to start each new day and to see what new thoughts, feelings, and adventures it will bring.

With these positive thoughts in mind, we’ll see what tomorrow has in store as I push past Dryden and move one day closer to the Manitoba border.

Cheers,
-Mark
Sun Aug 09 2009 @ 9:23am by Mark DeMontis

Closer to Dryden, ON - Aug 7
This morning began at the English River Motel and got off to a good start. The team and I seemed to all be well rested and ready to tackle the day and the morning skate definitely reflected that.

After banging out a good 35KM I took my break in Ignace, ON. Begin in the town we took advantage of the time to re-stock on some groceries and to head to the nearby Sandbar Provincial Park to fill up our fresh water in the RV and dump our refuse as well.

I resumed a few hours later happy with how the day had been going thus far and ready to tackle the afternoon. The past couple days have been great due to the change in weather and the flatter roads so I was feeling extra prepared to finish the day strong. All in all, the afternoon went smoothly and knowing that I would be heading to the Best Western (our newest sponsor) in Dryden, ON at the end of the day really motivated me to get r’ done.

For the next two night the team and I will be hosted at the Best Western. I must give a huge “Thank You” to Norm and Lorraine Bevilacqua for all of their kindness and generosity. They have provided the team with an exceptional amount of support; having a comfortable room to sleep in and great wireless access whenever we stop at a Best Western is something we all really appreciate.

Before I sign off for the night I have to give a warm happy birthday shout out to Sidney Crosby. Sidney just brought the Stanley Cup back home to Coal Harbour, Nova Scotia today and it was nice to hear of the reception he received and the joy it has brought to his hometown and much of Canada. It’s pretty crazy to think that we’re both 22-years-old and how he has already captured the greatest trophy in the hockey world. I wish him all the best and I hope he enjoyed a well deserved trip back home.

That’s all for tonight folks. I’ve got to be up and ready to go at 7:45 am tomorrow so I am looking forward to my comfortable sleep here at the Best Western!

Cheers,
-Mark
Sun Aug 09 2009 @ 1:05am by Mark DeMontis

Manitoba Dreaming - Aug 6
Today started off nice and early as I geared up for an 8:30 am start. I woke up at the Upsala Campground and was excited to get out on the skates and make up for some lost kilometers from yesterday due to the heavy rain.

Although I had to delay my start slightly due to some thick fog once I hit the road I enjoyed much more favorable weather than I’ve gotten used to. The road conditions stayed pretty flat for the most part today and the sunshine motivated me to get a lot of skating in.

As the team and I took a break at a very small roadside stop this afternoon one of us happened to open up a laptop and managed to pick up a random wireless signal. Being that we are in some fairly remote parts of Ontario right now it was really great and totally unexpected for us to pick up a wireless signal that also happened to not be password protected. We all took the opportunity to jump on the internet and get some valuable work done, updating the blog postings, sending out emails, and loading new photo’s on the MySpace page.

I had quite an enjoyable skate in the afternoon. With more good road for the most part and fairly flat terrain I managed to get a god bunch of kilometers in. The increasingly flat roads have been giving me a bit of a taste of what’s to come in the prairies, and making me really anticipate my arrival in Manitoba.

While today was a welcome break from the past few weeks, both in terms of the weather and the level ground, I am beginning to feel the drag of Northern Ontario. I have enjoyed my time on the road tremendously thus far, and the people and places I’ve encountered have just been so incredible, nevertheless, traveling in Ontario for well over a month now and still having a week or two to go until I hit Manitoba is making me a bit antsy. I have heard so many great things about Manitoba and the people there and I am starting to look forward to my arrival in Winnipeg more and more. I am really excited to meet more people from another province and to get a taste of what Canada is really like beyond Ontario. Until then, however, my next big stop is in Dryden, ON and hope that the next few weeks brings more good weather as I push closer towards the Manitoba border.

Tonight I finished up in English River, On and am staying in the parking lot at the English River Inn (in the RV of course).

Hopefully the sunshine and flat roads continue tomorrow!

Goodnight all.

Cheers,
-Mark
Fri Aug 07 2009 @ 11:20am by Mark DeMontis

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