Day 21: We hit the rolling plains



Mike Begin has arranged a pancake breakfast send off at Spartan HQ. Picnic tables set up in the parking lot, and many employees and family present on a bright Saturday morning. They are again so gracious and generous. Their personal donations have been unexpected, yet they keep coming. Mike calls his team "Spartans "and takes the mic to explain the impact he feels we have had rerouting our journey to come through Calgary. He emphasizes his words as he presents us with a cheque for $25,000 and promises that we will have a future part to play in Improving mental health in Alberta. With a standing "O", the Spartans send us off accompanied by seven other riders towards Bassano. Imagine how good that makes our crew feel.

Today is a long ride, of 180kms, sweeping through the rolling plains along #1. Tatanka used to roam these hills by the millions, now home to the odd deer and pronghorn. Our posse leave us with fond farewells after 30km in Chestemere, AB, except for an affable companion named Sylvester who is crazy about biking and our cause. He keeps Gin company for another 30km until we hit Strathmore, with the parting comment, "My God, she's a killer."

Young pup dawg Keenan joins me for our last leg, under overcast skies and 65-degree temps, perfect touring weather. The wind is neutral, the shoulders wide and we ride for much of the way side-by-side, just cruising and talking whatever comes into our heads. He tells me how much he is learning on the trip and how he feels it can bring out his leadership qualities. I tell him the story of driving down this same stretch of road, with Kelty, to his grade 12 year at Notre Dame in 2000. He wasn't many more months for this world and looking back now, I think he knew it. Why? For one thing Kelty wanted to spend as much time as he could with me before going back to school. I had promised to drive with him from Whistler, but at the last moment, as per usual in real estate, I had a big deal pop up and so I proposed we fly. He was adamant to the point of extremity that I keep my promise and so I did. Another extremity was his quest for knowledge about his family: "Dad, tell me all about GP (my father). Tell me what he was like, tell me all the stories you know about him. Ok, tell me all about older brother, Shaunie. Why did he live up north? What was he like? Was he your favourite brother? Why?" and so forth down the family tree.

One thing I had promised myself was not to backseat drive Kelty during his turn at the wheel. Not that he was a bad driver but he was a young 17 and had little experience. As he was perusing his answers, he was driving as fast as my SUV could go. As a matter of fact he had it floored. Top speed was 110 mph and he hit that several times, indicated by the governor on the engine cutting in and slowing the vehicle back down to 100 mph. "Kelt," I said, "I know this is a new car and there's not much traffic, but as a young driver a ticket here is going to cost me about $600." He just looked over and shrugged, as if that was the last thing in the world that mattered. Needless to say we got to Notre Dame in record time. What a great kid. He was my first thought when planning a golf game or a fishing trip. We miss him dearly.

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