Mobilize March -- Travel Blog

Day 42 — Only a chance of showers, less than 1mm accumulation…?

Beginning of the end–a years worth of work and a months worth of labour and it all came down to one day: the last drive into Ottawa.

Last night I had a bit of the pre-game jitters and opted to read a bit before bed, partly to calm me down and partly to give the band a chance to stop playing. While our time in Kemptville was quite restful, unfortunately our room was directly beside a new bar/restaurant which was having it’s grande opening last night, complete with classical rock band, who we could hear clearly through the wall we shared with the bar. The band stopped playing around midnight (oh well, I probably wouldn’t have gotten to sleep early anyway) and I figured I was set for the night. After all, I have attended a concert or two in London in my day and generally the headliner band finishes around 12 or 12:30. Very rarely do they go later than midnight. The fates were working against us last night though and the band started up again around 12:30. I knew we had an early morning and today was going to be a busy day, so I got on the horn and luckily the hotel was able to move us a few rooms away from the bar so I could get some sleep. Not the most ideal, but we’ll take it!

This morning we hit the road early and slugged out 38.4km straight right off the hop. It was a pretty rural route and provided several interesting moments, including a chance to see an individual who was living inside an old school bus that was parked inside a forest and a near-miss with a deer that decided to jump out in front of me from the bushes. Now I’ve seen what happens when a car hits a deer but I’m not really sure what happens if a deer hits a wheelchair. Pete figures likely you’d just get kicked a few times and the deer would run off–I think I could take’um.

We made really good time to the edge of Ottawa and there was no sight of this rain. In fact, it was surprisingly hot on the road, so much so I had to strip off a few layers. As far as we could tell, everything was really coming together nicely. We had a chance to sit and rest for an hour at a Tim Hortons, grab some food, and receive a phone call of support from our Malaysian-living sponsorship rep, Alex. After grabbing some food it was time for the final push–the last 12km. We met up with our police escort, who was totally rad! She was very cool and I’m glad we had her along for the ride, she was a huuuuge help.

Cue the dramatics.

The first part of the drive went quite reasonably, but in typical Jeff Preston fashion, this wouldn’t last for long. As I was making my way down Prince of Wales Road, I could see a massive storm brewing to our left. The storm appeared to be holding off and I was hopeful we’d make it before the insanity struck. I was wrong. Shortly after turning onto a road called Colonel By, which is a one-laner with the canal on one side and a hill on the other, the clouds began to opened up. The rain was pretty light at first actually and I opted to keep driving with just my t-shirt and rain pants on. This would be a fatal error, as moments later the rain really started coming down–harder than it’s ever been thus far on the trip. The problem was that the road had very, very few connecting roads, meaning that we were literally stuck in this one lane road with no shoulder and no way to safely pull over and put on some protective gear. So, I kept driving through the insane rain, with heavy winds, until we finally came to a side road where we could pull over and get me covered. By this point, I was thoroughly drenched and requiring some new clothing. We were making good time, so we decided to try and wait the storm out and I’m glad we did–it only got worst moments after getting into the van. After about 10 minutes the rain had nearly stopped, although the damage was already done. Despite this, I decided to make a last dash for our meet-up point at the German Embassy, so we were off again.

We made it the rest of the way without too much trouble, although the rain was beginning to seep through my pants and into my socks and the small pool that had formed in my lap was beginning to find it’s way into my underwear–it was kind of uncomfortable. Once again, the fun wasn’t over yet. Just as I was passing the German Embassy my chair decided it had driven far enough. With that, my chair clunked out and was down for the count. We thought it might have just been a little wet from the rain storm, but without giving too much away, the chair is still not working–I think I may have finally blown the motors. It made it all this way, nearly 600 kilometres, but that last kilometer was just a bit too much.

Sitting in my van, trying desperately to figure out what is wrong, people slowly began to show up for the rally. Our turn out was a small, but dedicated, group of supporters who braved the ridiculous rain to see me to the final kilometer to Ottawa City Hall. The walk was unbelievably wet, but with Peter’s help (he’s my new motor) I managed to cross the finish line.

So there you have it, mission complete. I drove my wheelchair from London to Ottawa. It was a hard trip but an unbelievably fulfilling trip and ironically enough, whether I drove my chair here or flew here, either way I would likely be sitting in a broken wheelchair tonight.

Unfortunately, I’m unbelievably tired and need to sleep. I’m so tired I’m having problems stringing coherent sentences together. The weight of the trip has finally come crashing down on me, now that we’re here, and I’m in desperate need of some rest. So I am heading off to bed to get some rest and will be back again tomorrow with some analysis of how things went and what I have learned. This has been an unbelievably changing experience and it will likely take me more than a few days to peel off all the layers and get a handle on what it all means to me, but never fear, I will be sharing that entire process right here on the blog over the next few days so stay tuned!

Also, I’m going to edit all the video from today and upload it to Youtube either tomorrow or Tuesday.

We may have arrived in Ottawa, but there is plenty to come!

– 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.