Mobilize March -- Travel Blog

Day 01 — Such a short trip, so many stories!

Well the first stage of this journey is officially in the books! Around 4pm this afternoon I crested the final hill leading into Woodstock and had officially completed drive one of fourteen. While this was a welcome sight, there were some pretty memorable moments along the way out of London.

The morning started, bright and early, finalizing our packing and running to City Hall for our launch at 9:30am. We arrived (just in time…but not late! Perfect timing? Absolutely) and got everything set up just in time for the kids from Nancy Campbell Collegiate Institute to come strolling down the street. Everything went great with the launch, Harold Usher (Ward 12 Councilor) delivered a passionate speech about the rights of the disabled and our communities duty to provide equal access to transportation. After my speech I had a chance to meet with some of the crowd who showed up and discovered I was being seen off by friends, both old and new. Professor Blackmore and Professor Gryzb were both there to see me off, some of my fellow grad students, and even my very first Educational Assistant, who came in from Port Elgin, Mrs. Eby. Christina and Natalie made the trek as well, along with Natalie’s cousin, Caleigh. It was great seeing the dynamos from Hanover again–the launch wouldn’t have been complete without them along for the ride.

About an hour out of London, the monotony of the road was beginning to get to me–drive straight, drive straight, drive straight, drive on the shoulder to let people pass, drive straight, drive straight, drive on the shoulder, drive straight, drive on the shoulder, drive on the shoulder, drive on the shoulder…I was already going stir crazy and we had only just begun! I began wondering what in the world I had gotten myself into–why am I driving all the way to Ottawa? I drive myself out side, through all sorts of weather, all the time when I can’t get a ride…I don’t need a special reason to do it! It was from this wasteland of growing despair when fellow motorists started honking their horns and waving as they passed; especially motorcycle riders, they ALWAYS smiled and waved…they truly know what it means to take to the open road, sun on the skin and wind in the face, I suppose. Something so simple was such an INCREDIBLE boost to my confidence. I’ve known all along that this was important and it’s something I just have to do, but when I think of all the people who came out to see me off today, all the people with disabilities around this province stuck in the ridiculousness that is accessible transportation, and all the friendly motorists along the way who happily shared the road with me today, well I know that not only can I accomplish my goal to reach Ottawa, but we truly are on the cusp of something revolutionary. People seem to really understand the problem and empathize with our plight–they genuinely believe that we, the disabled, have the same right to access transportation just like everyone else. I think that’s really significant.

The ride only got easier and easier from that point on. The sun was feeling great and the breeze was just perfect–not too warm and not too cold. I even had a Llama (or perhaps it was an Emu? I’m not really an animal expert. It may have been a Giraffe…) running along side me from behind a fence! He was loving it, for sure!

We got into Woodstock without too many problems and Sam and Pete worked out a great system to keep us moving but try and reduce the traffic backup caused by my lack of rocket boosters. I have also developed a new appreciation for the lack of fields covered in manure in London…the only thing worst than walking home at 3am in November would be walking home at 3am in November beside a field covered in manure. It certainly stunk, but no worst than the accessible transportation system currently operating in Ontario (hiyoooo). I also discovered upon entering Woodstock that my trip through rural Ontario left me completely covered, from head to wheel, in a thin film of sediment–the first thing I did when we checked into the hotel was to jump in the shower and peel off the layer of farmland that I transported from London to Woodstock. There is a slight chance I could grow crops in the shower in my hotel room. Okay, that’s a total exaggeration, but the amount of dust was impressive!

This has been a really long post so I’m going to wrap it up shortly, but before I do I just wanted to share one more story. Moments after getting cleaned up we decided to go grab some food, but Sam wanted to go work out first (something about her getting in shape this trip? I don’t even know…is it bad that we’ve already started zoning each other out?) and I asked her if she wanted to just get food with us first and then go work out after. At this point, she gave me a confused look and started to say “Wait, have you never eaten before working out?!” at which point she remembered who she was talking to, Captain Unhealthy the 3rd, and retracted her statement. I think my favourite part about this question was that she actually nuanced it with the “eaten before” phrase, implying that I may have worked out so many times that I would need her to narrow the experience down a little bit.

Amazing. Maybe the first drive has made my muscles grow at an unbelievable rate!

Probably not.

…Definitely not.

Anyway, I should get going–we have an early meeting with the Mayor of Woodstock tomorrow before heading off to Cambridge on Wednesday. A heads up to anyone in Cambridge, we’re hosting a Rally at Cambridge City Hall at 11am on Friday, May 9th. Anyone who would like to meet me and chat about accessible transportation I encourage to come out and see me!

Talk to you soon,

– Jeff

By Jeffrey Preston

Born with a rare neuromuscular myopathy, Jeff has spent his life dedicated to advocating for himself and others with disabilities. With a PhD in Media Studies from Western University, Jeff's research focuses on the representation of disability in popular and digital culture. Jeff is currently an Assistant Professor of Disability Studies at King's University College @ Western University in London, ON.