More than 2,600 kilometres into his attempt to be the first quadriplegic to trek across Canada by pedalling with his arms and shoulders, Kevin Mills has run into an unexpected road bump: One of his two bikes was stolen from a parking lot in Quebec City.
Somewhere between 50 and 80 kilometres east of Montreal, pedalling in the 30-degree heat, he worries about something happening to him while on the road. Reliant now on only his secondary bike, which is specially made for him to use, the options available should it suddenly break down are very limited.
“It’s kind of hard to find where to repair it. There’s only one dealer in Canada,” Mr. Mills said.
He became paralyzed from a C4 level spinal injury while on vacation in 2009. Having lived an active lifestyle before the accident, he worked to regain full function of his shoulders and arms. Though he can’t move his hands, he eventually found a way to bike again.
After five years of biking together, Mr. Mills’s personal trainer and friend, Nikki Davenport, had the idea that the pair should make a journey across Canada. With the 8,100-kilometre trek over four months, he hopes to encourage others with disabilities and raise awareness about the need for a more accessible world.
Last Saturday, Mr. Mills and Ms. Davenport arrived in Quebec City for a few rest days. The bikers, along with Mr. Mills’s personal support worker, Candace Wyns, have been staying in an accessible RV each night since setting out from St. John’s at the end of May.
Wanting to stretch out for a change, they checked into a Hilton hotel but were unable to park the RV in the parking lot; they were instead instructed to park in an off-site lot in Parc Victoria near La Cité-Limoilou police station. When Ms. Wyns went to get the RV on Sunday morning, Mr. Mills’s bike had been stolen from the back of the vehicle.
They alerted the hotel, which told them there was nothing they could do, as it was a third-party parking lot. A Hilton Quebec representative, Gina Cuglietta, told The Globe and Mail that the hotel doesn’t own their own parking lot and work with third-party spaces. The interior lot would not fit an RV, which is why the bikers were directed to an outside lot where larger vehicles would normally park.
Mr. Mills said they also filed a report with the local police but have not heard anything back.
His bike, built by 49 Bespoke in his home of Newmarket, Ont., is a specialty set of wheels that directly attach to his wheelchair. It is specifically made to his body type and needs as a quadriplegic, with special hand grips and a bar to operate the bike along with a built-in reverse break.
“The one consolation I’m hoping is, if it does get in the hands of someone with a disability, they can use it. To me that would be the best case,” Mr. Mills said of the stolen bike.
Over the past month, he has alternated between his primary and secondary bike four times for mechanical issues. Each time, they contact 49 Bespoke on the phone or video call for help with repairs or bring it to a local bike shop.
“We’re both a little nervous in the back of our mind knowing that we only have one to rely on,” Ms. Davenport said.
Mr. Mills said 49 Bespoke are working on getting him a new bike by the time their trek reaches Newmarket in about two weeks.
“It’s not as common for a quadriplegic to be biking, so they obviously wouldn’t have more in stock,” he said.
Mr. Mills said he’s been struck by how kind the people they meet are and how much they want to help what they’re doing on their journey. Ms. Davenport also said people have been wanting to help, and that once they reach Ontario, they’ll have a larger support system.
But until then, the plan is just to keep going.
Mr. Mills and Ms. Davenport have biked through hurricane-level winds and now through extreme heat. They have to make sure they have enough water, as his injury is so high in his body that he doesn’t sweat at all.
They’re hoping to cross the Rocky Mountains before the weather turns too cold and the roads become too slippery, targeting the end of September if they are able to keep to their goal of biking 100 kilometres a day.
“Nikki has put her life on hold to bike with me. She’s putting four months in and obviously she’s going to keep going with me,” Mr. Mills said. “But we can’t go indefinitely.”