Given fewer than 40 hours to leave its impression on the Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock, the North Island came through in its typical style last weekend.
From its annual kick-off dinner and auction in Port Alice Saturday night to a rain-drenched departure from Port McNeill Monday morning, the tour got a taste of much of what the region has to offer as it commenced its 1,100-kilometre run to Victoria.
Actually, it got quite a few tastes.
From the seafood dinner in Port Alice to hot dogs and lumberjack-sized Subway sandwiches in Port Hardy, to a barbecued steak dinner served up by the Rotary Club in Port McNeill, to Monday’s send-off breakfast at Port McNeill’s Legion Hall, North Islanders seemed intent on seeing all those lost calories replenished.
Of course, the reason for the tour is fundraising for pediatric cancer patients and research, and locals came through in a variety of ways, from Frank Byce of Port Alice raising $1,038 to shave off a beard he has boasted for 44 years to Port Hardy teen Jodie Korhonen collecting $330 to cut off 14 inches of her hair to be used for a wig.
The riders, comprised of police, military and security personnel along with several media participants, were backed by a sizeable support contingent as they followed an evening in the Port Alice Community Centre gym with a 100-km Day 1 ride Sunday under a blazing sun. The first leg took them to Port Hardy’s Carrot Park, where the Battle of Britain commemoration was just wrapping up, and to the Civic Centre, where the North Island Community Band provided entertainment while gifts were exchanged. Local rider Tyson Richard of the Port Hardy RCMP and several others stepped up to have their heads shaved by resident stylist Liz Kufaas, and kids took part in a bike parade.
After presenting thank-you plaques to the Port Hardy Lions Club and to Overwaitea Foods for their support of the tour, the riders rolled on to Port McNeill, where the Rotary Club cooked up another feast at the Black Bear Resort and the community band rolled through another playlist as residents mingled with the visitors, many of whom had never been to the North Island before arriving to start the Tour. More plaques were presented to the Black Bear Resort and Rotarians on the Port McNeill stop, with a large canopy providing respite from the relentless sun.
Before their stay was over, though, the Tour participants got a taste of the region’s legendary liquid, as the sun gave way to the first big rain shower of the season for Monday’s pedal from Port McNeill to Sayward — at 140-km the longest single ride of the Tour.