Penticton and South Okanagan
Partially sighted cyclist in Penticton
Oct 18, 2013 / 1:30 pm
Cyclists Lloyd McLean and Bob MacDonald were greeted with picture perfect weather and smiling faces as they rolled into Penticton Friday.
The men are participating in the Craig Gives Back- 2- Back Cross Canada Bicycle Tour to raise awareness for three charities that assisted Craig Aucoin, the legally blind cyclist the tour is named for.
"I've spent several days with them, and they are heroes, they really are," said David Purdon, with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, CNIB, one of the charities. "And we are very grateful for what they are doing to raise awareness for vision loss and health."
McLean, who is the sighted guide, and Aucoin, who was diagnosed at age 8 with retinitis pigmentosa, are friends from the same town in Nova Scotia.
They started planning for the trip in recent years, training for 52 weeks doing a virtual tour at the YMCA.
The ultimate goal of the long trip is to contribute to the CNIB, the YMCA and Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind. The three turned Aucoin's life around, when he was at a low point, suffering from depression and overweight.
They left St. John's NL. on Aug. 4, bound for Victoria, but on day four, Aucoin suffered a cycling injury and needed to stop for rehabilitation and rest.
He was expected to rejoin the tour, but suffered a second injury, breaking his wrist at home.
MacDonald, a friend, who is partially sighted, filled in for Aucoin.
Initially he thought he was only signing up for two weeks, but after his friend's injury, he has gone across the country.
Most challenging, he admitted, is getting used to riding the tandem recumbent bicycle, the men are using.
"I do cycle," he said. "But this uses a whole different set of muscles."
As for McLean, he has appreciated the kindness of Canadians, as they travelled the country, staying at campsites and motels along the way.
Home Hardware has also provided support throughout the journey, including at the stop in Penticton.
"There were challenges, ironically especially in Newfoundland, where there was hills, weather and wind," he said. "But along the way people stopped and donated to us. It seems to be ingrained in this nation to give back."
When MacDonald completes the journey, he will be the first legally blind person to bike ride from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast, according to McLean.
From Penticton, the pair will cycle on to Vancouver, where Aucoin is expected to join them on Oct. 23. The three will then continue on to Victoria, where the journey ends on Oct. 27.
"This is bucket list stuff," said MacDonald. "I always thought it would be neat to bike across Canada."
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