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Cross Canada Grandpas take a break in Dryden

You never know who you might meet at the barber shop, if you visited Jmac’s last week you may have met the “Cross Canada Grandpas.”

The Cross Canada Grandpas took a break at Jmac’s last week after 32 consecutive days on the bikes. Photo by Michael Christianson

All four men, Mike Tanner, Elio Zanella, Volkmar Bandermann and John Greven, are in their 70s and originate from southern Ontario but they began their journey in Victoria, British Columbia and plan to make it to St John’s, Newfoundland and they all ride for a cause.

“We began in Victoria, Vancouver Island, and we have four causes. Mike’s wife died of cancer and she was instrumental in upgrading palliative care in Sarnia. Elio’s wife died of ALS, so he’s riding for ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease that is. John is with a group developing world and they have a specific thing right now in Guatemala where women and children often die or get sick of respiratory problems with the smoke they inhale and they will get stoves or other facility so they can smoke without inhaling that smoke,” said Bandermann. “And my cause is Indigenous people, the healing fund within the United Church that helps Indigenous people that went through the residential school system to reconnect and get the support they need as well as children and people redeveloping their language and their culture. So these are the four causes.”

Bandermann, the oldest of the group at 78, said it has always been a dream of his to ride across Canada and that him and Greven have cycled together before with their wives.

Zanella and Tanner met the other two more recently when they met through online cycling groups. Tanner says part of the reason for joining the group is that he wanted to do something exceptional for his 70th birthday.

“We’re on day 32, never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be jumping on a bike for 32 days in a row. I prepared somewhat but nowhere near enough,” said Tanner. “When we started I had optimistic expectations but B.C. was tough with the mountains and a lot of climbing in B.C. but each day we just got through it. Some days were spectacular, we rode up the Okanagan and stopped at a winery and had a really neat time. Coming down from Lake Louise was probably the most scenic but it was pouring down with rain and it was just a brutal day. Probably the hardest day was going up the Kicking Horse Pass, that was the final climb out of B.C. into Alberta and it was just never ending.”

Tanner added that they have met a lot of fellow travellers and everyone is amazed four “old guys” would undertake this expedition.

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