charity · fitness · Horseback riding

Charity riding– on four legs, not two wheels or feet

Many of us have done charity rides or runs. We blog about it frequently. Samantha most recently did her PWA Friends for Life Bike Rally, as well as other more spur-of-the-moment charity riding. Amy has walked for Alzheimer’s research, Out of the Darkness (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and North Shore Juneteenth Association. Nicole has raised money running for the Canadian Diabetes Foundation as well as the Odette Cancer Center and spinning for Michael Garron’s Ride for Mind in Toronto. I’ve done the Bikes not Bombs ride in Boston a bunch of times, and others of us have done lots of charity events. Diane, our aqua-blogger (among other things) does a vampire swim every Halloween, with a donation to Canadian Blood Services (actual blood) or the Red Cross (money instead). Here she is with some water-loving friends, all dressed up for a swim a few years ago:

Diane (far right, with bandage from actual blood donation) and friends getting ready for their vampire swim.
Diane (far right, with bandage from actual blood donation) and friends getting ready for their vampire swim.

However, my friend Felicity did a charity ride recently, using a mode of transport that none of the bloggers has tried: on horseback. She and a bunch of other equestrian philanthropists did the Ride for the Cure in Woodstock Vermont, raising almost $40K for breast cancer research. She (and almost 50 others) rode 10 miles on a beautiful October day.

Felicity (right) and Alice (left, on their Icelandic horses, with bright orange and red fall leaves in the background.
Felicity (right) and Alice (left), on their Icelandic horses Segall and Hrollur.

Segall, Felicity’s horse, got a pink ribbon on his hind flanks in honor of the day.

Segall, having a snack, sporting a painted pink ribbon for breast cancer research.
Segall, having a snack, sporting a painted pink ribbon for breast cancer research.

Other horses were decked out for the occasion.

If you want to watch a short video clip about the event, check it out here. Felicity herself says it was an easy, fun ride. If I find myself with horse transportation next October, maybe I’ll do it, too.

Looking this up online, there are (unsurprisingly) other horseback riding events for charity around. One of them is coming up in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (where I graduated from high school): it’s the 41st annual American Heart Association Beach Ride, scheduled for early November. Wish I were there, with saddle and trusty mount. In the meantime, this will have to do…

Pretty impressive horse costume for bike, with rider dressed as jockey.

Hey readers– have any of you done horseback charity events? This was the first one I had heard of, but apparently they’re out there…

charity · cycling · family · illness

Pedaling for Parkinson’s in Prince Edward County: Join us next year?

Parkinson’s Canada hosted “Pedal for Parkinson’s Prince Edward County” this past Saturday, a charity bike ride features a 40-km and 75-km option, starting and finishing at the North Marysburgh Town Hall.

Our team was called Susan’s Spinners– Sarah, Sarah’s Zwift ZSUN teammate Emily, and me. In the photo above we’re joined by Susan, a family member and occasional blogger at Fit is a Feminist Issue, who is also a cyclist and who has Parkinson’s.

Here’s a few words from the participants:


This year attending the Pedalling for Parkinson’s event in PEC was somewht bittersweet. I haven’t been on my bike for the past month due to a recent back injury, so didn’t want to chance riding.

I also missed my original team, the Rigid Riders (people with PD and their friends) as most were attending events supporting team captains Mike and Steve as they ride across Canada raising awareness and funds for Parkinson’s (

What made it a wonderful day though was that two members of my extended family, Samantha and Sarah, and Emily, a friend of theirs who I didn’t know, came together on short notice to form a team, Spinning for Susan, to bike and raise funds to support me and Parkinson Canada.

Recently I’ve thought the most important message a person with PD can hear is that they are not alone. I not only felt that profoundly but am happy that my team raised funds for Parkinson Canada to spread that message and to continue to support people with PD across the country.


It felt odd to be doing another charity bike ride so soon after the Friends for Life Bike Rally, but this is an important cause for our family. Susan and I have known each as friends since Grade 9 home economics and we’ve been family since I married her brother many years ago. I joke that Susan and I were friends first, back when he was the annoying older brother.

So Susan’s Parkinson’s diagnosis has hit the whole family. She’s been riding with a Parkinson’s group and in past years has ridden this charity ride. When it turned out that we could have the use of Sarah’s family farm in Prince Edward County that weekend, it all started to come together. Sarah and I would ride and Susan would come along for support and inspiration. She’s also a very generous donor to Parkinson’s research, giving enough so that Sarah and I both got jerseys! When Sarah’s teammate Emily, who lives in the county, agreed to come along, we had a happy trio of riders. I’m struggling a bit with speed these days so I was happy to have a chatty, scenic social ride for a very excellent and important cause.


I didn’t even know the event was taking place until 48 hours ahead of time when Sarah invited me to join in. Since I’m training for a 150km ride in September, and live in the neighbourhood, it sounded like a great opportunity to find some company for a long ride.

As I signed up online felt a pang of guilt, however. They were asking for a minimum fundraising commitment of $250. The ride was in just over 24 hours… “Nothing to lose,’ I thought, and made my own donation to get the ball rolling. Four of my friends and relatives jumped at the chance to donate. In less than 24 hours I was above the threshold. Guilt assuaged.

So happy that I went. I not only managed to raise a little for a really good cause, I got to meet the wonderful Susan, for whom we rode, and had a lovely social ride as a bonus.
I will definitely be back next year!


Like Sam I found it seemed strange to be doing another fundraising cycling event so soon after the Bike Rally, but I knew I really wanted to ride in support of my family who are living with Parkinson’s Disease, including Susan and my uncle Jack. I also had two grandparents with PD, so I’ve been able to see the results of all of the groundbreaking research, much of it being done here in Canada, that’s making a big difference in the everyday lives of over 100,000 Canadians with PD. In a generation there have not only been huge leaps in treatment but also understanding this progressive neurological disease, and the important role exercise plays in mediating symptoms. It was amazing to ride with folks who told us how movement, especially on a bike, is medicine for them.

The ride itself was super well organized and had lots of support from the Prince Edward County community, from the local radio station to the Lions cooking us lunch. I will never cease to be amazed at the number of cycling-friendly roads all over the County, even if some of them are a little rough.

All in all, a great day on the bike for a great cause!

Sarah and Sam listening to the pre ride instructions

Join us next year! It would be great to have a larger team and make it a social weekend in Prince Edward County.

charity · cycling · fitness

Pedaling for Parkinson’s in Prince Edward County

Sarah and I got home from the bike rally Sunday night and have both had a very busy work week. So you’ll never guess what we’re doing Saturday? Another charity bike ride!

The timing isn’t great but it’s an important cause and one that matters to my family. It’s Pedaling for Parkinson’s in Prince Edward County.

“Welcome to the Pedaling for Parkinson’s Prince Edward County
The 2022 ride will take place on August 19th & 20th, 2022. The Pedaling for Parkinson’s (P4P) Prince Edward County ride is intended to be an inclusive, family-friendly event. The North Marysburgh Town Hall, located at 2699 County Road 8 in Waupoos, will be the start/finish area for both routes, which include a 40km and 75km option.

Early check-in will take place at Barley Days Brewery (13730 Loyalist Pkwy) from 5:00-6:30 pm. This is an opportunity for you to drop off your donations, pick up your rider bib, tech t-shirt ($250+ in fundraising), and jersey ($1,000+ in fundraising), and grab a printed copy of the route map.

The P4P social gathering will take place at Barley Days Brewery immediately following early check-in. Enjoy some complimentary snacks, grab a refreshment(alcoholic beverages for purchase), and meet your fellow riders. We’ll have an informal ceremony, and lots of time to play lawn games! “

You can sponsor me here and Sarah here. We’re hoping Jeff decides to ride with us as well. You could also join us! Prince Edward County is lovely bike riding country.

Occasional guest blogger and family member Susan has written about the ride too but this year she’s not riding due to a recent injury. We’re riding and raising funds on her behalf and have named our tiny team Susan’s Spinners.

We’re riding the 75 km route below.

Pedal for Parkinson’s 75 km route
camping · charity · cycling · fitness

2022 #F4LBR: All the posts in one place

The first day was tough. We rode in a heat alert from Toronto to Port Hope. So many traffic lights. So much near heat exhaustion. So few women’s showers. I was never so happy to eat vegetarian lasagna at the day’s end and despite all the things that we were really tough I went to sleep with sore cheeks from smiling. It was so great to see everyone again.

Sarah and Sam tongues out in the heat

Day Two is the longest day. It was also a very hot day. But we made it. Sarah described it as using every trick in the “avoid heat exhaustion” book. We kept drinking. We took all the breaks. We paced ourselves. And we rolled into Adolphustown not feeling too bad. It was also the day we first wore our team jerseys. Thanks Rally’s Angels captains Michael and Vanessa.

Rally’s Angels in the morning sun

Day 3 is red dress day and a slow roll into Kingston. Time for a real bed, dinner out with the team, drag show in the park, and laundry!

Rally’s Angels on red dress day

Day Four involves one of my favorite sections of road, the Thousand Islands Parkway. No cars, just smooth sailing to lunch. We had a great new lunch spot this year at The Barn. Thanks guys for hosting us!

Day Five another fave section, the Long Sault Parkway and this year the nicely paved path through Upper Canada Village. We also opted to wear our team jerseys again since we began the day serving breakfast at 530 am.

Breakfast anyone?

Day Six is the ride into Montreal but first we ride through lots of small towns along the way. This year was the smoothest ride into the city ever. Single file, no passing, no stopping and starting and a police escort once we got downtown. Thanks Rally organizers for that. It’s a moving moment seeing all of the riders on the path into the city and I liked being able to soak it in without worrying about crashing into the bike in front of me.

Rolling into Montreal
We made it!

What to do after the bike rally? Ride Bixis around Montreal of course. We also visited with family. Hi Victoria! And basked in the warm waters at Bota Bota.

I’m also so thankful to all of the friends, family, bloggers, readers, colleagues etc who donated. It’s your gift that makes this ride meaningful.

Thanks Susan, Udo, Byron, Nancy, Kira, Jenny, Madeline, Tracey, Tracy, Ed, Emmylou, Martha, Catherine, Todd, Yoni, Anita, Jane, Cate, Sergio, Gwen, M.E., Leela.

You can still donate here.

Thanks Kelly. Unsplash.
camping · charity · cycling

Bike rally day six: We made it to Montreal!!!

Riders heading into Montreal, our team at the center. Selfie taken by Rally’s Angels Team Co-Captain Michael

This is just a very short post to let you know we’ve made it to Montreal.

Thanks Robert, Byron, Kira, and Tracy for donating and helping out the rally.

Thanks to my very wonderful team co-captains Vanessa and Michael for all of your work organizing us and keeping us connected during the week. I loved the Rally’s Angels temporary tattoos you gave us for the ride into Montreal.

Today began super early, breakfast at 530 am, to make sure we could all meet up in a Lachine to ride into the city together as a group.

After Sarah and I stopped for ice cream in Lachine, we had a great ride into the city along the Lachine canal. And here we are in Place Émilie-Gamelin where we gathered for speeches and a welcoming celebration.

Sam and Sarah in the middle, with team co-captains Vanessa and Michael on either side. We did it!

Here’s our route:

We’re staying in the Grey Nuns residence at Concordia before taking the train home to Toronto and then on to Guelph. My bike is getting home in one of the bike rally trucks.

There’s a party tonight but we’re too tired. It’s been a big week of riding and camping. My heart is full from the closing ceremony this morning. I’m happy to be in Montreal, happy not to be riding my bike, proud of all that we’ve done, but I’m also very sad to be leaving my bike rally family for another year.

Check out my activity on Strava:

You can still donate here.

camping · charity · cycling

Bike rally day five involves two of Sam’s favorite things: The Long Sault Parkway and Dairy Queen

Today we rode 113 km to Lancaster. We had a really wonderful day 5 of the bike rally. I mean yes, it was a lot of riding, after days of lots of riding. But there was an awful lot to like.

Here’s some of the highlights:

  • I love the Long Sault Parkway and riding on the paved bike paths through Upper Canada Village.
  • I had the best freezie of my life thanks to Tourism Cornwall who were handing them out.
  • We had a terrific tailwind after lunch. Zoom. Zoom. Fun.
  • Sarah and I have been getting better at riding together as the week continues and today we had fun working together and setting a reasonable pace while still having fun.
  • The day ends at Dairy Queen just outside camp. I had a cherry slushie float. Yum.
  • Finally despite scary clouds in the afternoon we never actually got rained on.

(I think I was surprised by how good today was. Memories of rainy day fives of years past are still sharp in my memory!)

We won’t mention that we’re staying at Camp Spider. Shhh.

That’s one of my least favorite things.

But otherwise, a pretty wonderful day of riding. Wow.

Here’s the map:

We are almost to Montreal. Just 100 km away. We’re still not quite at our 1.5 million dollar fundraising goal. You can donate here.


camping · charity · cycling · fitness

Bike Rally Day Four: It was the best of roads, it was the worst of roads

On Day Four we set out from Kingston, led by the rally’s top fundraisers. I joked that since the route out the city involves hills the top fundraisers ought to get a bus.

It was a quick 30 km to Ganonoque for break and then another 20 or so along the Thousand Islands Parkway to lunch. The parkway is one of my favorite sections of this ride. It’s all newly surfaced and completely separate from car traffic.

You know, I think of myself as someone who is pretty comfortable riding near cars, in traffic. I do it most days. And yet, on the parkway, my spirits lift, I smile more and I’m really relaxed. It makes me realize how much of my bike riding brain is occupied with safety on city streets. Sarah and I had a lovely ride talking with Stephanie Pearl McPhee, aka The Yarn Harlot. I’m in absolute awe of how much money she raises for the rally. She’s always one of the top fundraisers for this event.

But once we get off the Parkway, into Brockville and beyond, we’re on terrible shoulder of badly bumpy roads for the last 30 km or so. So bumpy. I wasn’t tired at the end of the day. I feltt more banged up from all the bumps and gravel and disappearing shoulder. There were also some grumpy drivers.

The campground here is beautiful though and we all got in pretty early. Even the sweeps were in by 4 pm giving everyone time for a dip in the lake before dinner.

Check out my activity on Strava:

Our fundraising is going well. We’re almost at our goal. Your donations help in important ways, even small donations.

Here’s Stephanie’s description of what they do, “The funds raised by this ride go to making a direct and fundamental changes in the lives of people with AIDS. It is help for mothers, food for children, rides to the doctor, someone who cares if they are lonely, support, love, care, haircuts, pet food, hospital visits, childcare… Every dollar you donate makes a real, tangible and important change in the life of another human…”

You can donate to the bike rally here

I’m very sleepy now. It’s after 10 at night and we’ve been taking part in the rally’s candlelight vigil where we hear from some of the rally’s participants about the their experiences with HIV/AIDS and the bike rally.

Also, my team, Rally’s Angels, is serving breakfast in the morning. That means we need to be dressed and ready to help at 530 am. Night night!

Moon over the lake
camping · challenge · charity · cycling · fitness

The bike rally day 3 is a slow roll into Kingston, also red dress day!

It’s the shortest day on the rally, just 60 km into Kingston. Now that’s not nothing but it’s less than half of what we did yesterday. It’s also Red Dress day or Dress in Red day, your choice.

Here’s Sarah and me at the start. Or as Sarah and I like to call it, the hurry up and wait, part of the morning. You rush to have breakfast, get dressed, take down tents, pack bins and load bins on the truck, but then you can you can’t leave until all of the trucks and loaded and have left.

But the weather was good this morning and so we sat in the grass pretty happily. It is overcast and in the low 20s. No bright sun, no rain, just perfect riding weather.

We also took the time to take team photos in all of our red dress finery.

Rally’s Angels

Here’s our ride on Strava.

Ride on Strava

Why the slow roll approach? Well we’re staying in the residences at Queen’s tonight. Thanks Queens! And while there are hot showers, laundry, real beds, and air conditioning, we don’t have access to our rooms until 1. So if we leave camp at 9 that’s 4 hours to do 60 km.

Our team decided it was a good morning to stop for coffee en route. Sarah and I were also slowed down by our first flat of the rally.

Here are all the bins in the courtyard of the residence at Queen’s

Here’s some video from the day

And our team at the Kingston sign.

Rally’s Angels

Tonight it’s team dinner plus a drag show in the park after. If you’re around, stop by.

“DRAG IN THE PARK: Trellis HIV & Community Care, Tourism Kingston, and the greater Kingston community invites The Friends For Life Bike Rally to DRAG IN THE PARK, a showcase of fantastic (and slightly naughty) entertainment under the open sky in Confederation Park (that’s the big park between Kingston City Hall and Lake Ontario). The show will start at 7:30pm on the veranda of the Kingston Visitor Information Centre.”

Tomorrow we ride Kingston to Johnstown, about 110 km.

We’re now halfway to Montreal and I think about $30,000 away from our 1.5 million dollar fundraising goal. If you’ve been thinking about donating, every bit helps, and here’s the link.

camping · charity · cycling · fitness

Bike Rally Day 1: Toronto to Port Hope, #f4lbr2022

Here’s our day 1 route, Toronto to Port Hope. As you likely know or might reasonably expect, getting out of Toronto is a chore. It seems to take forever.

But after the lunch stop in Oshawa (ish) it’s a very lovely ride. We keep saying that we could do that chunk by taking the GO Train to Oshawa and bypassing the city bits.

Now for the actual bike rally, I like the crowds at the big departure. I like the spirit and the cheering. We joke sometimes about going for the send off ceremony before sneaking off to the GO train.

Today was no different. It was a long hot slog getting out of the city with so many traffic lights and lots and lots of unclipping.

What I like? All of the music and cheering and the chatter.

What I don’t like? City drivers and traffic lights.

Upside of today’s ride, we were all so happy to be together again. There was a lot of grinning and hugging. The volunteers were lovely and helpful as always.

Downside, wow the heat. It was probably the hottest and most humid bike ride I’ve ever done.

We worked hard at hydrating though. Also, stretching. No cramps or barfing today!

We’re staying the night at Haskills’ Farm. Here’s what it looks like.

Wish us luck tomorrow when the weather turns. From heat and humidity to thunder and rain. After that though it’s perfect cycling weather. Sun and highs in the mid twenties. And overnight lows in the low teens.

Tomorrow we ride to from Port Hope to Adolphustown.

charity · cycling · fitness

It’s three weeks until departure day. Yikes!!!

I promise I’ll write about something else when the bike rally is over. I will. I really will. But for right now it’s on my mind a lot.

I haven’t done it since becoming dean and it’s very clear to me now why. It’s a HUGE commitment. Yes, the ride. Yes, the fundraising. But more than anything, the training.

This weekend is the deadline to ride two long days back to back. And friends, depending on just how you read those training rules, I think we met it.


On Saturday we set out with our friend and sometime blogger Kim Solga and her friend Natalie, who is back on the bike after a few years off, and is training for a 100 km ride.

After teaching Natalie to clip and unclip and shift on the bike she was borrowing–please note Sarah is an excellent teacher and Natalie is a quick learner–we set off on our ride to Campbellville and then Carlisle and then back to Guelph.

I loved the route and I really enjoyed the company but It was hot, stinking hot and I might have learned a lesson about electrolytes, cramping, and barfing.

Total distance: 85.5 km

Stopping at the Flying Monkey bike and coffee shop


Day two of our big bike rides was the Tour de Norfolk–a community sponsored ride through beautiful countryside–very flat and shady–and for the last two years it’s been cancelled due to covid. I wasn’t sure I’d make it given how awful I felt after Saturday’s ride but I seemed fine in the morning and so off we drove to the start, giving ourselves permission to bail if 10 km in it I started to feel rotten.

Driving to Delhi we were listening to CBC and there was a discussion of avoiding the ill effects of very hot weather. One of the first pieces of advice for days like today, avoid strenuous exercise. Yeah, no.

About 10 km in we didn’t decide to quit but we did decide to scale back and opt for the 75 km instead of the 100 km. A wise choice I think given the temperatures,

Tour de Norfolk

We made it. But for now Strava thinks I need to take a break. I’m declaring Monday a rest day. It won’t be a complete rest day. I’ll bike to work and to knee physio but no big distances Monday after the big weekend of riding.

Well above weekly range, says Strava. Be cautious of over training and give yourself ample recovery time.

So we’ve been doing big rides in preparation for the rally. We did a 97 km training ride. I rode 80 km on gravel with a group of Guelph cyclists but I am still fretting a bit about the rally and its demands. Why am I worried? Why I am anxious about being behind with training (and fundraising)? A few years ago I wrote about doing the bike rally without sufficient training and there I said, I guess this is a thing my body can do. But now I am no longer so sure.

Part of it’s aging, part of it’s my unreliable knees, and I’m sure part of it is pandemic anxiety. I wasn’t even sure the rally was going to happen. It hasn’t for the last two years–the usual 6 day version anyway. I really appreciated reading fellow rally participant Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s blog post about uncertainty. It’s hard to do all the work when you’re not sure a thing is going to happen.

She writes, “As I packed, I thought about the Bike Rally. The first year of the pandemic the whole rally was virtual but we had a little family socially distanced really anxious rally, then last year I thought there would be a rally and there was the abbreviated little version instead, and this year – well this year there’s a full rally. Six days of cycling- more than 600km (about 375miles, for my American friends) from Toronto to Montreal in support of PWA (People with Aids Foundation) and two other ASOs. (An ASO is an Aids Service Organization) and I am signed up and so are Cam and Ken and Pato and together we’re this year’s Team Knit. By now we should be doing a lot of two things. Riding, and fundraising.

I’ve neglected both. I’ve been riding my bike a few times each week – between 40 and 60 kilometres each time, but truthfully there’s been more 40s than 60s and I really, really should be heading out to the formal organized rides – but they are hard to get to without the subway and I’ve been trying not to get Covid so I can do this retreat and not give it to Meg and <insert excuse here>. I finally got out for an official training ride the other day and to be completely honest I rode the whole 80km and then cried the last five home because I had my arse so completely handed to me. Even if the Rally is a “maybe” somewhere in my mind it needs to become a “definitely” in terms of training or things are going to be seriously, desperately ugly out there, but at least if I screw up training that only hurts me – the fundraising needs to be where this team gets it together, and soon.

Usually by now Team knit has things well underway, with every member headed for meeting their goals and we’re nowhere near that now and it’s because all of us are a little leery, holding back a little bit, trying to get our heads back in the game, and that’s a jerk move because here we all moving slowly towards getting our scenes together while time is short and the need is great.”

Please help us with fundraising. We’ve all got three weeks to go. It’s a great cause. Click here and help out, small amounts make a difference. Thanks blog friends!