Winter 1986 – New Zealand and Australia
The New Year begins with $3,000 of gear and equipment being stolen from the van, most of which was useful only to Rick.
Coupled with losing irreplaceable tapes of their journey through the Middle East and two wheelchairs that somehow went missing in transit, the Tour was off to a shaky start. On a happier note, the team welcomes Mike Reid, Amanda’s brother and Rick’s future brother-in-law to the group. They are tired, and a strong and enthusiastic extra team member was appreciated.
Arriving in Australia the tide turns. Rick and the team reach the halfway point in the Tour in Melbourne: 12,450 miles. For Rick, the symbolism was enormous – he knew if he could wheel half way around the world, he could finish the other half. Passing kangaroos and ostriches, the team finishes the Australian portion of the Tour in Bundaberg – and promptly leaves for Surfers Paradise and a much needed week’s rest.
One full year into the Tour now, the team takes inventory: 1,086 postcards written; 63 flat tires; 4 robberies; 47 worn gloves; 7,180,800 wheelchair strokes.
Spring 1986 – China
From the moment Rick and the team land in China, the good will and support of the people is evident. Deng Pufang, Chairman of the Chinese Welfare Fund for the Disabled and son of chairman Deng Xiaoping, is a paraplegic who received medical and surgical care in Canada. He became an influential and important supporter.
On a hazy, overcast day in Beijing, Rick realizes a dream: wheeling up the Great Wall of China. An incredibly difficult undertaking with grades up to 60 degrees, with his team at his back, Rick slowly makes his way up 103 steps. At the top, Rick and the team are surrounded by enthusiastic supporters, media and tourists.
As Rick wheels on to Tianjin en route to Shanghai, he is greeted by crowds of thousands, all yelling and throwing flowers. The people accepted Rick, celebrated the MIMWT and won a permanent place in his heart.
Rick finishes the Asian portion of the Tour wheeling through South Korea and Japan. The Tour had been an incredible success - its messages accepted and supported. For Rick, it is in Asia that the Tour had come alive.
A Long Road Home
In the summer of 1986, Rick and the team arrive in Miami. From there they wheel up the East Coast through New York and Boston.
In New York, Rick is interviewed on the ‘Today’ show, meets New York City Mayor Ed Koch and mega-star Michael J Fox. Awareness is finally building of Rick and the Tour in the U.S.A. Read more: 1985 | Home Sweet Home