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Mark’s Cross Canada Ride for ShelterBox

by Dani Bristow September 18, 2020

Mark Keating went Off the Grid in August 2020 on a cross-Canada motorcycle journey in support of ShelterBox. This wasn’t Mark’s original plan – Coronavirus meant that Mark had to shift gears. We spoke with Mark to find out more about his ride and how he was able to raise over $6,500 for families recovering after disaster around the world.

Tell us about your ride

In a 16 day period mid-August, I rode my 2005 Harley Davidson Road King a little more than 15,000 km across 8 of the 10 Canadian provinces.  My primary goal was to ride coast-to-coast (Halifax to Vancouver) in under 90 hours.  Once in the west, I had 5 days to explore the Canadian Rockies – a corner of Canada I had not ridden in before.

During my ride, I chose to go “off the grid” in support of the campaign ShelterBox Canada was promoting – meaning I slept in a tent (or outdoors) and remained disconnected from the electricity grid. This proved to be easier than I expected – the provincial and national parks were very accommodating (and less busy than usual), and I could keep devices charged by connecting them to my motorcycle power supply.

I was also pleasantly surprised to reconnect with a number of friends (a number of which hosted me overnight on their decks or in their yards), who I’d not seen since the mid-90’s when we were attending university.

Mark and his motorcycle.

 

Coronavirus meant you had to change your initial plans from riding in the Hoka Hey, to travelling across Canada – how did you adapt your plans?

My original plan for 2020 was to participate in the Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge held bi-annually in the USA.  It’s an “old school” motorcycle event in which the 100 or so participants are required to follow an approximately 10,000 mile predetermined (but secret to them) route across the continental US.  In the process of following this route, participants are not allowed to use electronic navigation (GPS, phones, etc.) and must sleep outdoors with their bikes.

With the USA-Canada border closed to non-essential travel, I realized I needed to think of something “closer to home” to do. Plan B was to ride all 10 Provinces and 3 Territories – but the pandemic put a hold on that plan as well – with restrictions to out-of-province travellers to a small number of provinces and the territories.

So, Plan C was born.  A 2 week + ride wrapped around a coast-to-coast challenge ride.

What was the most challenging part?

I think the most challenging part of this effort was simply to navigate the planning and re-planning of what I could and could not do due to the pandemic response in Canada.  Once I was riding, it turned out to be relatively uncomplicated.  Some services were closed – either altogether or earlier than their normal times – which left me using the emergency fuel I carry on the bike twice over the course of the ride.

A few stops along Mark’s journey, including his Off the Grid set-up.

 

Why did you decide to fundraise for ShelterBox while you completed your ride?

ShelterBox seemed a natural choice given my original plan of participating in the Hoka Hey – and even in how I executed my coast-to-coast ride – sleeping outdoors and disconnected from the electricity grid.  The cause is hugely important – with what seems like an ever more frequent natural or man-made disaster forcing people out of their homes.

The support the Canadian ShelterBox team offered me was superb.  They helped to build an “international” fundraising site and to broker discussions with their US and UK counterparts to help me make sure I could collect tax-deductible donations from multiple jurisdictions.

I’m very pleased to have (so far!) raised more than $6,500 CAD for ShelterBox – though I’m still short of my original $10,000 goal!

What was the source of your determination and motivation for you ride?

There’s little external motivation required for me to ride my motorcycle!  Intrinsically, it is “wind therapy”.  I gladly jump on the bike and spend hours just enjoying the wind and a gentle curve in the road.  I’ve spent most of my riding miles in the US prior to 2020.  And with the border closure I was “forced” to explore roads closer to home, and corners of Canada that I had not seen before (or had last seen more than 30 years ago).  In hindsight, I wonder why it took me so long to do so.

Clearly I had some long days in order to travel more than 15,000 km in 16 days. Not once did I wish I was sitting behind a keyboard plugging away on some work project instead of behind my handlebars with the wind running through my hair.

Our wonderful supporters, like Mark, fuel our work and keep us going, even in the most challenging times. We know that disasters don’t stop, but we also know that our amazing fundraisers won’t, either. Thank you so much to Mark and our global network of supporters – you are amazing!

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