“This has got to be the craziest thing I’ve ever done,” I thought, as I and 4,600 other riders cycled our way down Lakeshore Road. For two days, we were to bike 200+km from Toronto all the way to Niagara Falls in the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer, benefiting Princess Margaret Hospital.
It is an incredible event. Cycling through city streets with roads closed off, police directing traffic – the sheer logistics of this ride was staggering. And the passion of the riders for this cause, and that of strangers cheering on street corners, was overwhelming.
Farther out from the city, as the landscape changed to lush green, there was more time to reflect, settle in and really enjoy the ride. I was thinking about the beautiful escape that nature provides us from our hectic lives when I came across the first of a few of our Greenbelt signs, which was exciting as it was a project I worked very closely on. Green fields rolled to meet the profile of Mount Nemo in the distance, a landmark I used to stay motivated by judging its closeness as we cycled into Burlington.
That was the first of many Greenbelt moments for me on the ride. Others included cycling up the mountain in Ancaster and passing one of the turnoffs to Tiffany Falls, passing by a Greenbelt Walks initiative in partnership with the Bruce Trail Association, to biking through rolling vineyards in Niagara coming down the Escarpment towards the Falls. We even passed an orchard where my son and I stopped to pick apples on last year’s Tour de Greenbelt. And of course, more Greenbelt signs!
Being out in all that green space was peaceful and yet overwhelming in its own right. Cycling along as a tiny speck on the landscape, it’s hard to wrap your head around the sheer size of the Greenbelt – 1.8 million acres is a lot of space! And as a transplanted Ontarian (I’m from Alberta, where I’ve shamefully taken wide, open spaces for granted), I was filled with a huge feeling of awe for the vision and leadership that Ontarians have shown in protecting this space. This is our Greenbelt.
Coming down the final stretch towards the Falls was an incredibly emotional experience, especially as a survivor. I crossed the finish line, bursting with pride -- I was proud of my accomplishment and proud to live in a place that protects our green space, keeping our air and water clean, and Ontarians healthy.
Allison Decker is a Communications Manager with the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation. She’s planning her next ride to be a more modest 50km, with this year’s Tour de Greenbelt in Rouge Park. Check out www.tourdegreenbelt.cafor more details.