On a drizzly but calm Saturday afternoon, after eight days on the road, Eddie Jossy and the rest of the Tour de Eddie cycling team pedalled their last few metres, crossing a finish line at the Josephburg Community Hall to the cheers of family and friends.
“Sore but overwhelmed,” Eddie commented when asked how he was feeling a few minutes after riding the final stretch of an 800-km trek from Kimberley, B.C., to his Alberta hometown.
The Tour de Eddie, which started June 2, was organized by Brent and Leah Jossy, Eddie’s son and daughter-in-law, two of six riders who made the entire cross-province journey. The couple came up with the idea for the tour after looking for a way to show Eddie they were standing behind him as he adjusted to life with Parkinson’s disease. Eddie had been diagnosed with the condition in 2011 at age 57.
Parkinson’s disease, which affects thousands of Albertans and has no known cure, is a neurodegenerative disorder that interferes with motor function. Symptoms include tremors, difficulty moving and walking, fatigue and speech changes.
After his diagnosis, Eddie struggled with sharing the news with loved ones, not sure he wanted everyone to know.
“He's kind of kept things a secret and he's kind of kept it to himself. And it's not really brought it out to the open,” Brent said. “So we thought we could kind of bring it out into the open a little bit more and maybe raise some donations and awareness of it.”
The Tour de Eddie raised over $17,000 for the Parkinson Association of Alberta, far surpassing the organizers’ $10,000 goal.
Wind at their backs
Eddie, who sat out for only small parts of the ride, spent the journey pedalling on the back of a tandem bike steered by his brother-in-law, Darryl Tetz. The two started training together a few years ago, with physical fitness soon becoming an important part of Eddie’s life as he managed his Parkinson’s symptoms.
“We knew going in it would be hard. And it was,” Tetz said of the tour, adding that it would take everybody a few days to recover from the ride.
Tetz speculated that the many hours of daily exercise during the tour may have had an effect on Eddie’s physical symptoms.
“The interesting thing is that Eddie, in the last two days, has just sort of recovered some of his pedalling power,” Tetz said.
The ride took the Tour de Eddie team through some of the most scenic parts of B.C. and Alberta, through Kootenay National Park, Radium and Lake Louise. The weather cooperated until the last few kilometres, giving the team a tailwind and clear skies for most of the ride.
Brent and Leah, who live in Kimberley, started getting in shape for the tour in March, first on stationary bikes in their basement then taking to the roads once the snow melted. They took turns heading out for longer training rides between caring for their young children.
For Brent the highlight of the tour was returning to camp each afternoon to spend downtime with the family and support crew, including his mother and 84-year-old grandmother, who followed in vehicles carrying gear and supplies.
"It was nice just to kind of shoot the breeze at the end of the day and basically hang out together as a family. Because that's something that I don't get the opportunity to do very often.”
"A lot to live for"
Brent said that the tour accomplished exactly what he wanted it to beyond raising money and drawing attention to Parkinson’s disease.
"We rode from Kimberley to Josephburg in my dad's name. We wanted it to be all about my dad. We made it all about my dad. We arrive in Josephburg and there's family and there's friends there. There was just a huge support group there for my dad. And that's what I wanted.”
Eddie has a wish of his own -- that people understand that a Parkinson’s diagnosis doesn’t have to mean the end of enjoying life.
“You still have a lot to live for and accomplish throughout your life,” he said. “It doesn't matter what you have wrong with you. You can overcome it.”
For more information about the tour or donating, visit the Tour de Eddie Facebook page.