Greg Van Tighem is ready to get on the road again.
The 53-year-old Fire Chief is checking off his final to-do list before he hits the highway for stage two of his End to End to End MS journey. Last week, on Friday, March 14, he rolled into Jasper after more than 1,200 kms from Masset, Haida Gwaii; tomorrow (Saturday March 22) he pedals the first of another 1,800 or so kilometres before reaching his final destination of Winnipeg, at the eastern end of the Yellowhead Highway.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said while checking in with fire departments all along Highway 16, where he’ll bed down between biking.
Alberta’s top Multiple Sclerosis Society fundraiser has been moving forward most of this month. Since leaving Masset on March 3, he’s shaken off rain, wind, hail, sleet and snow to keep on schedule—and to get back to Jasper for fire duty. Now that he’s put in a busy week of work, he’s eager to get back on the road.
“I want to get moving again, get back into the zone,” he said.
To get there, he’ll hop back on his ride of choice, a rugged, all-seasons “fat bike” sporting ultra-wide tires and a beefy frame. It’s not the speediest way to spin two wheels, but it may be the steadiest. During stage one, when he encountered icy berms instead of Highway 16’s shoulder or had to ride through long stretches over snow and standing water, he was happy to have the extra traction.
“The bike performed awesome,” he said. “I had no real issues.”
He might not think he has issues, but The Jasper Local isn’t so sure. Biking from Jasper on the afternoon of March 14 to meet GVT for stage one’s final kilometres and subsequently getting splashed with slush by passing vehicles and nearly blown off the road by speeding semi trucks, it was defeating after only 30 minutes of cycling into the wind. Over the cacophony of roaring tractor trailers, The Jasper Local asked the Chief what the toughest leg of stage one was.
“The first one,” he yelled.
Now, peering ahead at his ambitious calendar, Van Tighem isn’t so much worried about the long legs (at 144 km, North Battleford to Saskatoon will be the longest leg), but he is fearing the wicked winds.
“My fire chief friends in Saskatchewan keep warning me about the nasty wind gusts,” he said. “Headwinds are a concern because they slow me right down.”
What will cheer him up are the legions of fans GVT has in Alberta. Supporters in Hinton will welcome him with a barbecue tomorrow and plans are already in the works for parties in Edson, Wabamun, Edmonton and Lloydminster.
Celebrations aside, there will be many lonely miles logged by the man who has raised more than $250,000 for the MS Society. In those moments, when his own determination can’t lift him up, GVT says he’ll do what he always does to put things in perspective: he’ll think of his friends who suffer from MS everyday.
“I start thinking of what Luigi or Ali or Tammy or Sue is going through,” he said. “That usually puts me back on track.”
Stage two of Greg Van Tighem’s epic traverse of Highway 16 starts March 22, 10 a.m. at the Jasper Fire Hall.