LYONS BROOK – Three men who dedicated themselves to cycling across the country to raise money for charity are taking a well-deserved break.
Bob MacDonald, left, Craig Aucoin and Lloyd McLean stand in front of the Terry Fox Memorial in Victoria, B.C., after finishing the Craig Gives Back tour. Submitted
Bob MacDonald, Lloyd McLean and Craig Aucoin finished their 8,200-kilometre journey from Newfoundland to Victoria Sunday in 85 days as part of the Craig Gives Back tour.
Pictou resident Aucoin was injured in Newfoundland and was temporarily replaced by Lyons Brook resident Bob MacDonald. MacDonald started cycling with McLean in Sydney, N.S., and continued on the back of tandem bike until Aucoin joined them Wednesday to catch the ferry at Sidney, B.C.
Aucoin was born with choroideremia, an incurable eye disease that was diagnosed when he was eight. When he turned 15, Aucoin’s eye condition deteriorated so much that he could no longer participate in team sports or actively play with other kids.
MacDonald, his wife Laureen, McLean’s wife Andrea Haughan and her nephew Briely rented bicycles in Victoria and finished the last 30 km with Aucoin and McLean.
“It was kind of a weird feeling knowing that we were finishing it off,” said MacDonald. “It’s over.”
The Craig Gives Back team travelled on an Altena Janus, a back-to-back recumbent tandem bicycle. MacDonald is the first legally blind Canadian to bicycle on two wheels from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.
MacDonald, who has retinitis pigmentosa, said they were met by about 40 people in the Victoria Park in B.C., which is home to the Terry Fox Memorial. Some of the groups there to meet the cyclists represented the charities CNIB, YMCA and Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind. All of these charities are recipients of funds raised by the cycling tour. A final amount of funds raised is not available at this time.
As he relaxes in a hotel room in Vancouver, MacDonald said one of the biggest highlights of his trip was cycling through Montreal.
“The cycling community is huge in Quebec,” he said. “It is leaps and bounds over any other province. They have so much infrastructure set up for cyclists there that you cycle into Montreal without even realizing it.”
He said another highlight was meeting other tandem bike riding groups in Montreal, Peterborough and Toronto. Some people from these groups came out to join them as they passed through their areas.
“In the winter, these same groups in Montreal do snowshoeing and cross country skiing,” he said.
MacDonald admits he had a few problems getting his diabetes under control at the start of his journey, but after that was dealt with, there were very few complications along the way.
He said they were safe for the majority of the journey, but there was one close call in New Brunswick he will never forget.
“I don’t know if the guy never saw us, but we were on a secondary road and he came so close, he nearly clipped our mirror,” he said. “Other than that, everything was great. Trucks and cars would move over for us.”
Allison Pass in British Columbia was one of the most difficult stretches of road for him physically, he said.
“There were a lot of steep climbs and we were 1,342 metres above sea level,” he said, adding Rogers Pass in British Columbia was also a challenge for similar reasons.
MacDonald said McLean told him Newfoundland was the roughest stretch of road for him, not only because of the terrain but because Aucoin was injured at the time.
He said McLean has been a good cycling partner for the past few months, keeping the duo on track and focused throughout the cross-country tour.
“We didn’t know much about each other before we started, but we do now,” he said jokingly. “He is a good leader and a good fellow to take care of everyone.”
MacDonald said he was happy to be a backup for Aucoin and he was glad he was able to fly out to British Columbia to finish the tour with them.
“It felt a little funny not being on the bike at the end, but it’s Craig’s tour and his message. I was able to follow them on my own bike, but it got a little tricky along some trails where there was contrast of light from the shade.”
He said the entire trip has been a chance of a lifetime for him, one he is not sure he will ever experience again.
“I am happy I got to do this now because in five years, I might not be able to see everything that I did see,” he said.
MacDonald said he is enjoying the rest in Vancouver now, but he won’t be long getting back on his own bicycle when he returns home.
“I might take a couple days off, but I kind of miss my own bike.”