Every year the Cycle of Hope follows a different route, touring some unique corner of North America, but the one piece that remains the same from year to year is that the ride will finish at our Winnipeg build site where the home we are fundraising for is being built.
Finishing this year in Waterton Lakes National Park, our group has a two day drive back to Manitoba, with an overnight in Portage la Prairie before our our final day of riding into Winnipeg. The long ride home gives everyone one more chance to swap stories about our experience on the ride.
As the sun rose over Portage la Prairie, We welcomed 45 alumni riders who joined us for the last leg of our journey, with time for hugs and reminiscing with friends we had made on previous rides.
Leaving Portage la Prairie, we follow a route familiar to many of us as a training route, along Highway 26 through St. Francis Xavier, with a lunch stop at Assinaboine Downs. Nobody was in a particular hurry to finish. We savoured the last few kilometres, lingered a little longer at rest stops, and enjoyed the flat vastness of the Manitoba prairie. After days of big climbs or downhills in Alberta, our Manitoba ride was almost flat and the sky seemed immense. It was such an easy, pleasant ride.
The day was capped off with a 10 kilometre ride from Assinaboine Downs to the Habitat for Humanity build site, along Portage Avenue escorted by the Winnipeg Police Department. It was our chance to feel, for half an hour, just a little bit like celebrities. Drivers honked and pedestrians waved as we rode by. We arrived at the build site in St. James to the cheers and applause of hundreds of volunteer Habitat for Humanity workers and our families and friends.
Speeches were made, reminding us of the value of the good work we and the other Habitat volunteers have performed, contributing to the Habitat cause of making affordable housing available to low income families. We missed seeing Jimmy Carter who fell ill just that morning and was hospitalized but are thankful that his illness is just dehydration and nothing more serious.
We gather our things and head home with our families, happy in our hearts for the wonderful experiences we have had and thankful for the chance to make a difference in the lives of a Habitat family who will buy “our” Habitat home.
On a personal note, I would like to take a moment to thank everyone involved who helped make this happen; the donors who offered their financial support, the support crew who kept us safe on the roads, the food support crew who had the seemingly unending job of feeding everyone, the planning committee who put this whole endeavor together, the other riders who made the long miles more enjoyable, and finally my family who offered encouragement along the way.