Nate and Wade’s Ride to Re­mem­ber

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - PAUL WIL­SON

Two men on a 4,690-kilo­me­tre mis­sion for the Alzheimer So­ci­ety of Canada

When some­thing’s on your mind, it’s not a bad idea to hop on your bike and go for a ride.

That’s what Nate Savelli is do­ing right now. He had plenty to think about and de­cided a long ride would be best, from Vancouver to Hamil­ton.

He’s not do­ing it alone. Wade Zacharias is right there be­side him. It is Canada’s 150th, but that’s not the main rea­son for this trek. It has more to do with Nate’s mom.

Her name was Cather­ine, and he lost her three months ago. She was 69. Alzheimer’s took her too soon.

She loved walks, horses, the Blue Jays and ev­ery Cather­ine Cook­son novel. She didn’t fin­ish high school, but took great joy that her kids were able to fol­low their pas­sions. There’s a vet, a teacher, a pro­fes­sor, a pro­fes­sional wrestler.

And there’s Nate, who earned his mas­ter’s in so­ci­ol­ogy from McMaster and works as a life coach for high school stu­dents in the Path­ways to Education pro­gram at the North Hamil­ton Com­mu­nity Health Cen­tre.

“I think of my mother ev­ery day,” Nate says. And the thoughts are com­pli­cated. “You think, ‘thank good­ness she’s not suf­fer­ing any­more.’ But it’s also, ‘Mom’s gone and I’m never go­ing to see her again.’”

There were five sib­lings in his mother’s fam­ily, and four were di­ag­nosed with Alzheimer’s. Nate lost his Un­cle Lanny — kind, gen­er­ous and won­der­fully silly — four years ago. This year, his mom. Aunt Sandy and Un­cle Low­ell have Alzheimer’s, too. Nate was 12 when he lost his grandma to the disease. It hurt when she no longer knew him.

Nate is 30. Is he old enough to be scared of Alzheimer’s?

“Ab­so­lutely,” he says. “It’s a very real prob­a­bil­ity for me.”

So he’s do­ing some­thing about that. He and Wade are rais­ing some money.

Wade is 38, mar­ried with two kids, and works for the Canada Rev­enue Agency. He’d wanted to do the cross-coun­try ride for years, and in Fe­bru­ary asked Nate to join him.

Wade had thought of rais­ing funds for can­cer re­search as part of the ride. But when he learned the tough story of Nate’s fam­ily, he said, “Why split our ef­forts?”

So they signed on with the Alzheimer So­ci­ety of Canada. The ride is 4,690 kilo­me­tres long, so they made that their dol­lar tar­get. Fam­ily, friends and friends of friends have al­ready pushed the to­tal sev­eral times past that amount, now clos­ing in on $15,000.

The two started rid­ing July 3. Wade is the mas­ter plan­ner. He has mapped out the en­tire route down to the day, on an Ex­cel spread­sheet with kilo­me­tres, el­e­va­tion, ac­com­mo­da­tion, colour­coded by prov­ince.

Today the sched­ule called for them to be ped­alling from the B.C. vil­lage of Nakusp, with free ac­com­mo­da­tion found through warmshow­ers.org, a world­wide hos­pi­tal­ity ex­change for tour­ing cy­clists. The day’s ride, which in­cludes a short ferry trip, ends in Revel­stoke, 105 km away.

Nate and Wade have jobs to go back to, so this voy­age is to be done in 38 days, with none off. There will be some sad­dle-sore out­ings, like the day from Medicine Hat, Alta., to Swift Cur­rent, Sask. — 223 km.

Nate and Wade have put to­gether a ter­rific web­site at WhereAreWeNow.ca. You can go there to do­nate, and to read lively and hon­est re­ports from the road.

The two are in good shape. Nate eats no meat or dairy, so it’s lots of spinach, nuts, beans. He’s run a marathon, done some long-dis­tance cy­cling. All that came af­ter he got hit by a car as a teen, and the re­cov­ery took two years.

That put him in a state of steady worry, and he fought back by test­ing his lim­its. “I had to prove to my­self that one sin­gle ac­ci­dent was not go­ing to change my life.”

Now he’s push­ing hard again — to build his body, to heal his mind, to hon­our his mom.

Paul Wil­son’s col­umn ap­pears Tues­days in the GO sec­tion. PaulWil­son.Hamil­ton@gmail.com Twit­ter: @PaulWil­sonInHam

SUBMITTED PHO­TOS

Day One, July 3: Wade Zacharias, left, and Nate Savelli do the cer­e­mo­nial dip in the wa­ters off Vancouver’s Wreck Beach.

Savelli, left, and Zacharias pulled into Prince­ton, B.C. on July 7, a day that hit 36 de­grees Cel­sius.

The ride out of Hope, B.C. on July 5 started with a climb up Ten Mile Hill, with more moun­tains to fol­low. Savelli cel­e­brates on top.

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