Mobilize March -- Travel Blog

Day 31 — Making waves by the waves

Before going into detail about our day today, I have a couple little house keeping things to take care of.

First I am writing this blog entry outside, from the patio in front of someone else’s hotel room at the Brighton Harbourview Motel, a quaint little hotel right on the water. The place is more cottage than motel but it’s owned by the two sweetest British people ever who also own a cafe across the street. We definitely had some amazing home cooked food tonight. Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself again, all that really needs to be said so far is that I’m writing this outside, the mosquitoes are attracted to the lights on my keyboard, and the sounds of the waves rolling against the shore are putting me to sleep–it’s pristine.

Second is a story I forgot to tell about yesterday on last night’s blog (I was sleepy and couldn’t get Bruce Willis off the mind). Arriving at Port Hope’s town hall for the council meeting, we were all a little confused about where we were suppose to go. Entering the building, we found our way to an elevator and took it to the first floor. After looking around for a bit we came to the conclusion that we were clearly not in the right place (although we did find a sign labeling a door as “elderly drivers”…I really want to know what happens behind that door). Just as I was beginning to panic, a gentleman enters the front door of the building and we ask him where the city council meeting is being held. With a big smile he explains, “Oh it’s just up on the third floor, you can use the elevator which…is…..down…” At this point, he realizes that I’m on the 1st floor, not the basement where the wheelchair accessible door, and subsequently the elevator, is located. Confusion sets in and I can tell by the look on his face that he cannot understand how in the world I managed to get to the 1st floor when the elevator starts on the ground floor. Then he looks at Sam and his eyes grow as large as saucers–I’m pretty sure he thought Sam carried me and the chair up the flight of stairs. I hope, at this point, that he began plotting a way to hire Sam as the new elevator in the Port Hope town hall. Sam interjects and explains we took the elevator up to the first floor and had just gotten a bit lost. With a sign of relief, and what may have been the look of a crushed dream, the man went about his way. The look on his face was priceless.

I was still a little creaky and moany getting out of bed this morning and was worried all this cavorting around Ontario may finally be catching up to me. Luckily that little pang of exhaustion only lasted a few minutes and I was ready to go by the time we arrived at the school for our morning presentation. The presentation went pretty well, except that while attempting to show the kids how I play hockey I fired the ball right through the gym door and had to go chasing it in the hall–oh well, I never said I was good at hockey, I just said I knew how to play! After the presentation it was time to answer questions again and one of the boys from the school was so excited to ask a question I thought he was going to explode if I didn’t call him next. He was literally quivering with excitement. It was pretty fantastically cute.

After the school it was back to Cobourg to pack up and head down to the City Hall to celebrate disability awareness day. I have been talking to Don Ubell for the past few months getting everything set up for today so I was really excited to finally meet him in person and hear about what Cobourg has been up to over the past year to help improve accessibility. Little did I know, a trap had been set–the moment I walked in the front door of the city hall I was ambushed with applause, hand shakes, and lots of camera flashes. I was kind of intimidated and didn’t really know how to react so I just kept smiling, shaking hands, and tried not to blush too much. It was a lot of fun to chat with all the people who showed up and see the exhibits that had been set up in the lobby of city hall to explain what programs and services are being run in Cobourg to help individuals with specialized needs. After the meet and greet we were whisked upstairs for a luncheon with the most fantastic ham and cheese sandwiches and some delicious cake. It was really good to sit and chat with Don and the other members of the accessibility committee and I really want to thank everyone who was involved today for making us feel so welcome. It was a truly magical morning and it left me totally energized. It’s moments like this that truly makes the trip worthwhile for me and affirms in my heart that we really are moving mountains together.

After this great morning it was time to hit the road again, off to Brighton for a day. The drive was pretty nice, although it was overcast and UNBELIEVABLY windy. What appeared to be a straight path from Cobourg to Brighton turned out to have a lot of bends and turns over some pretty sizable hills. In fact, I had no idea Ontario had rolling hills like this…it was like something out of Lord of the Rings. Hilariously, we came across a sign that just had the “Ontario” logo on it, to which Pete stated on the radio “Oh good, we’re still in Ontario!” At first it was kind of funny, but to be honest, at moments it was kind of tough to tell!

Other than the breathtaking landscape and the swooping hills, the drive was relatively uneventful, aside from a hilarious sign that stated “Rhubarbs” with an arrow pointing directly into a very thick and scary looking forest. It was like a trap had been set for Little Red Riding Hood but the wolf had kind of mixed up the story line and was trying to lure her into his lair with rhubarbs. I’m curious to know how many people have entered that forest hoping to find rhubarbs and instead only found a dark scary forest. To be fair, there may have been a massive rhubarb field inside that forest and I was just too afraid to go check. I guess we’ll never know!

Upon arriving in Brighton, I was once again transported back to my childhood. For unknown reasons, this community really reminds me of a small northern community my family went to when I was younger on a fishing vacation. We are staying in the sweetest little motel in “Gosport” (I’m not sure what the difference is but they have a town/ville/hamlet/region/whatever sign) right by the water that is owned by this amazing British couple who also own the cafe across the street (as I mentioned earlier). Before grabbing some dinner, Pete, Sam and I decided to take a walk along the shoreline and see the sights. It’s very pretty around here, although the wind was a little cold right down by the water. On our way back to the motel, Sam spotted a playground and had the uncontrollable urge to go play–being stuck in a van driving 10km/h for a couple hours will have that affect on just about anyone. So we raced through a field to the playground and started getting into mischief. I hadn’t been in a swing in YEARS and when I saw they had kiddie swings (which have trunk support to hold me upright), I decided it was time we rectify this little situation. Unfortunately, I have grown a bit since the last time I was in a swing set (probably 15 or 20 years ago) and definitely didn’t fit inside a kiddie swing, although it did provide a hilarious moment with Sam and Pete attempting to wrestle me into the seat and Sam suddenly asking “Wait wait wait, how in the world are we going to get him OUT of this after we jam in him?!” It was a valid point and we gave up on this endeavor, only to try again moments later with a tire-swing. This worked out a lot better and we had a great time…I even got my shoes dirty for the first time since buying them 2 years ago…ugh, Peter Pan would not be impressed with how I turned out.

After some good old fashion fun and playing with some angry Canadian Geese, Pete and I decided to grab some food from the cafe before watching the hockey game. Things move a little slower around these parts than they did in Toronto, but honestly the food was amazing and the conversations with some of the locals were even better. As excited as I was moving to London six years ago, I could almost see myself settling down in a lake-front community like this sometime in the future…I guess you can take the boy out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the boy.

Well, I’ve got a busy day ahead of me tomorrow–last night I submitted an open letter to the London City Council, urging them to put more accessible cabs on the road. The letter was received quite warmly and I’m talking to a radio station tomorrow morning about it. I’m hoping this letter will help sway some people’s minds on whether or not to put more cabs on the road…fingers are cross!

Oh well, nothing like makin’ waves to the sound of the waves, am I right?

– 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.