Early Spring 1985
April 11, 1985, Rick wheels across San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. Rick is averaging 70 miles per day – 85 km – and $1 per mile in donations. At that rate, the Tour would raise a whopping $25,000.
The team, while committed, is also disappointed. What would it take to draw mass public attention and support? Turns out a piece of the answer lay in Los Angeles. Grammy-award winner David Foster, inspired by Rick’s story, composes ‘St Elmo’s Fire’. The song goes on to become a chart-topper around the world, and the Tour got its anthem. Media interest starts to grow, and with a police escort through LA, Rick continues down the cost to San Diego. Several weeks later, the team finally starts to head East across the Southern states.
Late Spring 1985
Rick and the crew settle into a grueling routine: wake up in the darkness, wheel 24 miles each morning, break for 2 hours, wheel another 24 miles, and then another break; wheel a further 24 miles, visit schools, meet media; sleep. For weeks Rick wheels in sweltering heat through the arid desert states of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama. Every mile gets the team closer to Florida – the final stop on phase one of the Tour.
June 24, almost 4,700 miles from the British Columbia/Washington border, the team wheels into Miami, Florida.
While only $6,000 had been raised for the Legacy Fund, Rick and the team were learning how to work together, how to run the daily operations, and how to generate media attention.
Through sheer grit and determination, phase one of the Tour was complete.
The European portion of the Tour gets off to a rough start with both Rick and his physio (later his wife) Amanda exhausted from the flu, and the team’s capacity stretched thin.
In spite of illness, Rick continues to wheel 52 miles per day and attend scheduled events. In hindsight, a much needed break would have done the whole team good.
The day the team wheels into London, there is a mix up – they’d given the police the wrong meeting place and end up, unescorted and totally frazzled, wheeling into the city’s core during rush hour. A little creative thinking saves the day. Not able to find the police, they let the police find them by parking obviously and illegally in a ‘definitely no parking area’ at Hyde Park. Not surprisingly, the police quickly turn up and what started off as a bit of a disaster turns into a trip highlight in Great Britain. Soon the Queen’s own motorcycle escort blocks off traffic on London Bridge at the height of rush hour traffic in order to allow Rick and the team to wheel the span of this historic bridge.
On July 20, 1985 the team bids farewell to the rainy British Isles, boarded a ferry and headed to France and then on to Belgium, the Netherlands and West Germany. The weather turns warm and sunny for the first time when Rick crosses into Denmark. Waves and smiles greet the team throughout Denmark, Sweden and Norway. The team hits the 7,000-mile mark and celebrates Rick’s 28th birthday in Finland.
Rick and Amanda make a brief trip to Moscow, purportedly a world leader in spinal cord research. A short visit quickly reveals that organized wheelchair sport and rehab for those with spinal cord injuries are not high on the Soviet priority list. After a quick tour of the city, Rick and Amanda head to Poland to re-unite with the team.
The Tour continues throughout the summer through Poland, the Austria Alps, Switzerland and France.
The weeks include such high moments as the friendly crowds in Poland throwing roses in Rick’s path, to lower ones as when the motor home caught fire. Following Spain, and the 9,000-mile mark in Portugal, Rick and the team wheel into Italy.
November 25, 1985, Rick and the team are granted an audience with Pope John Paul. The Pope speaks with Rick about his Tour and about sport for people with a disability, and gives Rick his blessing for a safe journey. Rick and his team wheel down the crowded coastal roads of Italy, surrounded by aggressive drivers and receiving little further encouragement.
Rick turns his attention to Greece – the final portion of the European phase. After wheeling into Athens during rush hour, the team allows itself a brief moment to pop champagne and celebrate – they’d wheeled from London to Athens.
Late Fall 1985
After 30 miles of wheeling on the island of Bahrain, the team flies to Jordan. Rick wheels into the capital, Amman, where he is warmly greeted by Prince Ra’ad Ben Said, cousin to King Hussein. With tensions between Israel and the rest of the Middle East high, Rick heads to the Allenby Bridge, linking Jordan and Israel. While the crossing of the short bridge poses no problems, the symbolism and importance is not lost on Rick.
One of the most moving personal moments of the Tour is a visit to the newly built Terry Fox monument in Israel. Rick speaks of Terry’s spirit being with him on his long journey. A relatively short trip to the Middle East ends in Tel Aviv where the team prepares for its long flight to New Zealand.Read more: 1986 | Home Sweet Home