Kevin Mills has been cycling across the country since May and on Wednesday he is slated to make a stop in Airdrie. The Newmarket, Ontario resident started his journey in Cape Spear, Newfoundland and is hoping to finish in Victoria, British Columbia by the end of this month.
But this cross-country cycling road trip is different. Mills is not using his legs to pedal. He is using his hands.
"We're establishing and sharing an accessible bike route across Canada. I'm a quadriplegic, so I don't have full use of all my arms. I have shoulder and bicep function, but I don't have any hand function or tricep function," Mills explained. "I really rely on just a few muscles to power it [my bike]."
But it's not just the muscle fatigue that can be wearing on this 7,000-kilometer journey. It is also the elements. Mills said that because he can't sweat, heatwaves during the summer months can be particularly brutal.
"Nikki [my friend] has to pour water on me every couple of kilometres, and then battling the wind through the prairies. It's all been challenging for sure, but it has been an amazing ride."
The motivation to bike across Canada to raise awareness of disability and accessibility for those living with disabilities was born out of a fellow cycling friend asking Mills if he was up for the trek. At first, Mills said it wasn't meant to be more than two friends going on a road trip.
"I don't really think she understood the significance... or how much bigger this could be. To her, she was just asking a friend to bike across Canada, who happened to be disabled," he said. "For me, this means so much, because someone with my level of ability would very rarely have an opportunity like this. I just wanted to show and help other people with disabilities and show them that this kind of thing is possible and how important activity is."
Now Mills and his friend have firmly taken to their cause, which they have aptly named Pedaling Possibilities Across Canada. Mills has also created a website dedicated to his trip, which allows people to track his progress in real-time, as well as donate to the cause. Mills said the public response to his trip has been nothing short of amazing.
"When we tell them what we're doing and promoting accessibility and getting people out, everyone just loves the idea there. We've had people helping in so many different ways, from coming out, donating on our website, and bringing us food. We even had someone come help us do our laundry."
Help also came when Mills was the victim of a burglary in Quebec when his second bike got stolen. A couple from Ontario purchased a replacement for him.
Looking back on when he sustained his injury 14 years ago, Mills said nothing was ever the same again, though it hasn't stopped him from being determined.
"I was at my sister's wedding and I was swimming in the ocean. A large rogue wave picked me up and dumped me headfirst into the ocean floor. I was paralyzed then and threre," Mills said. "You do just have to find ways to adapt and change, but still try and be active and do some of the things you love to do."
Mills estimates he cycles 100 kilometres daily, though one of his longest treks was 140 kilometers in one day.
In response to Canada's Online News Act and Meta (Facebook and Instagram) removing access to local news from their platforms, DiscoverAirdrie encourages you to get your news directly from your trusted source by bookmarking this page and downloading the DiscoverAirdrie app