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A great adventure: Canadian cycling across country raising awareness of Parkinson’s disease

Walter and Regula Reich began their cross-country expedition in British Columbia and have finally found themselves on the East coast.
Walter and Regula Reich began their cross-country expedition in British Columbia and have finally found themselves on the East coast. - Theo Giesen
WINDSOR, N.S. —

A cross-country road trip is a great way to appreciate the scenery this country has to offer, from lakes and mountains to the vast Great Plains.

It’s an incredibly long car ride, but imagine that same trip on your bicycle. Still think it’s a good idea? Seventy-year old cyclist Walter Reich does.

The ride across Canada is an adventure Reich has been dreaming of going on for quite some time, but a journey like that takes a long time to plan and even longer to do.

Now that he’s retired, there’s nothing holding him back. With the full support of his wife, Reich set off on what he’s called the ‘Walter and Giant Campaign for Parkinson’s’ tour.

“The idea of cycling across Canada has been a long dream of mine, and I figured I may as well do it towards a cause,” says Reich. “I chose to raise awareness for Parkinson’s disease because it has affected two members of my wife Regula’s family.”

Reich, who lives in Ontario, began his ride on Vancouver Island and plans to finish in Newfoundland during the fall. In between those two places is about 8,000 kilometres and a whole lot to be taken in.

“British Columbia was really nice and fun to cycle through, except for the mountains,” Reich jokes. “The views were spectacular, though. P.E.I was beautiful as well. It’s hard to choose a favourite; I can’t pick one.”

Walter Reich is travelling across Canada to advocate for Parkinson’s research. He visited Windsor Aug. 2 and participated in the parade Aug. 3. - Carole Morris-Underhill
Walter Reich is travelling across Canada to advocate for Parkinson’s research. He visited Windsor Aug. 2 and participated in the parade Aug. 3. - Carole Morris-Underhill

Though he had plenty of good things to say about Nova Scotia and its residents, Reich says it hasn’t exactly been the most exciting leg of the trip.

“Here in Nova Scotia there are so many trees and forests. Everything is so spaced out. Yesterday we came up through the south and there were only trees around for hours — there’s nothing to see! That’s a good thing for the environment, though, so I don’t mind,” Reich said while in Windsor promoting his cause during Avon River Days.

As an experienced cyclist, Reich knows what it’s like to battle against long upward climbs and ride in wet conditions, but he says nothing has been as bad as the winds.

“The high-speed winds have been really tough on me. There’s been a lot of cross-winds coming at us and I wasn’t expecting that. It’s not easy cycling in the cold, windy weather. There’s been a few rainy days, but the windy days are worse,” he says.

Regula Reich, who has been following behind her husband in an RV, says that it’s been a wonderful experience for them both.

“It’s been a lot of fun, a great adventure. I’m so proud of Walter and what he has been able to accomplish. It’s amazing the distance he’s gone and the conditions he’s rode through,” she said.

It’s an accomplishment the couple said they couldn’t have achieved without the support of Canadians across the country.

“The National Parks staff have been a huge help to us by letting us camp on their sites. There’s also been a lot of hotels who have offered to put us up or give us a discount, and that means we’ll have more money to put towards Parkinson’s Canada,” she says.

Through his GoFundMe campaign, Reich has managed to raise more than $4,000 to give to Parkinson’s Canada. He says it’s both the charity aspect and his own competitiveness that drives him forward.

“I think that everybody should cycle across Canada. I don’t know if everyone can, but that’s part of the challenge.”

The Reichs will be travelling overseas at the end of the summer for a wedding, but Reich says that when he returns, he's going to finish off the last leg of the journey in Newfoundland.

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Donations towards Reich’s campaign can be made at www.gofundme.com/walter-and-giant.

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