Lise Broadley, Comox Valley EchoPublished: Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Just as they were wrapping up their cross-Canada journey on Thursday, the Mackinnon brothers reached their goal of raising $40,000 for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.
The four brothers rode in to Comox Marina Thursday evening after completing a two month,coast-to-coast bicycle trip in honour of their grandfather and to raise money to combat Parkinson's disease, which took his life in 2003.
The Mackinnon boys, who affectionately refer to their grandfather as Baha, set out in May on the 61-day Biking for Baha ride with the goal of raising both money and awareness. As they rode in to Comox Thursday flanked by dozens of friends, family members and admirers who joined them for the final leg of their journey from Nanaimo to the Valley, it was clear they had succeeded on both counts.
"Any time you see four guys fully packed up with bikes it's something that people ask about. That was big for us - it brought conversation," said youngest brother Ryan, 22. "Canadians are stereotypically very nice and I am full-on that now, I'll agree with that. They asked us what we were doing and we got a lot of donations up front. It was really nice."
The four brothers - Scott, Sean, Ross and Ryan - first thought about riding across Canada to honour their grandfather in 2010. Their Baha, as he became affectionately known after one of the boys mispronounced "grandpa" as a child, was an Olympic athlete and avid cyclist who had planned his own cross-country trip before Parkinson's disease prevented him from going.
After watching their beloved grandfather bravely fight the disease, they decided to embark on the trip their Baha was unable to complete. They even rode two of his vintage 1980s bicycles.
"It was always his dream. He always planned to but was unable. We actually rode two of his old bikes," said Ryan. "It was kind of like we had him with us the whole way."
They started out in Vancouver and eventually made their way to Halifax, where they dipped Baha's bicycle wheels in the Atlantic Ocean and sprinkled some of his ashes there. They then flew back to Vancouver before taking the ferry to Nanaimo and riding in to greet a group of cheering supporters in Comox Thursday night.
During the barbecue that followed, they raised about $6,000, enough to push them over their fund raising goal of $40,000 for the trip.
"It was unbelievable. To be honest, we weren't expecting anybody to come. Maybe just family, friends," said Ryan. "We had about 20 people bike with us from Nanaimo and when we got to Royston it must have been 50 or 60 people all together riding. We eventually came down into Marina Park and I'd say there must have been 100 or 150 people waiting there for us at the barbecue. It was an amazing experience for us to see that and it just goes to show what kind of community the Comox Valley is and what kind of support we've had and what great friends we have here."
Along the way from west to east, they camped, sometimes sleeping on the side of the road when there was no campsite nearby. They stayed in motels from time to time and also bunked with people they met along the way, strangers who opened their homes to the brothers as well as old friends spread across the country. It was, said Ryan, a humbling experience.
"We had a lot of amazing people put us up just by meeting us on the street, telling our story," he said. "A big thank you to everyone. We were amazed by the support we received. Thank you."
The boys completed the trip without a support vehicle which meant they had to carry everything they needed on their bikes. The first part of the trip was the most difficult, said Ryan, not only because the brothers were passing through the steep Rocky Mountains, but because while they are fit, none of the boys are long distance riders and none had done such a trip before.
There were days, particularly in the first two weeks, when they began to have doubts about their ability to carry on and see the trip though, but they persevered.
"I thought it was cool not only to see the history, but the geography of Canada as it changes going east," said Ryan. "It was also pretty cool meeting people with Parkinson's disease. Interacting and speaking with them, listening to their experiences and just meeting them was cool."
To read the brothers' blog and view photos of their trip visit bikingforbaha. weebly.com.