Nate and Wade’s Ride to Remember
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
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.