HALIFAX — A young man is nearing the end of his 8,000-kilometre bike ride across Canada, an endeavour he began to honour his grandfather and raise money for Alzheimer's research.
Skyler Roberts, who has raised nearly $2,000 for the Alzheimer Society of Canada so far, said his grandfather was diagnosed with the disease several years ago and died in January.
"I didn't really notice it when it started, because it just started with him being a bit quiet, or repeating the same thing," said Roberts.
"A few times we'd have a conversation, and as it went on you could see that he was really having trouble following conversations and starting to forget people."
Originally from Brampton, Ont., the 21-year-old flew to British Columbia three months ago with his best friend, where they began their journey by dipping their feet in the Pacific Ocean.
The two men recently arrived in Halifax, and Roberts said they have plans to bike up to Cape Breton and hop on a ferry to Port aux Basques, N.L., before making their way to their final destination of St. John's, N.L., where they'll finish their journey by dipping their feet in the Atlantic Ocean.
Roberts said his grandfather came to Canada from India 50 years ago and fell in love with the country, so the trip seemed like a fitting tribute.
"I think he'd be pretty proud of me," said Roberts, before adding: "I think he'd also think I was a little bit crazy for doing this."
They hope to wrap up their trip by July 31: a hundred days after they left.
"My grandfather lived to be 99, so we figured we'd go for 100," said Roberts.
According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, the disease is a major cause of dementia, which they say affects over 500,000 Canadians.
In a written statment, society spokeswoman Rosanne Meandro said: "Most of us will be touched by Alzheimer's or other form of dementia at some point in our lives, so it's tremendously appreciated when Canadians of all ages and walks of life get behind this cause to raise much-needed awareness and funds for research."
Before embarking on the trip, neither of them had any cycling experience, and Roberts said they were unsure if they would actually be able to do it.
"We just said, 'Hey, let's see how far we can go,'" he laughed. "We've somehow made it this far and got some good muscles ... we're definitely cyclists now."
The two men cycle during the day, and at night, Roberts said they either set up camp or stay with people in the towns they're travelling through.
Before they took off, Roberts bet his cycling companion Mario Caicedo $20 that he wouldn't be able to complete the journey. With the end of their trip on the horizon, Caicedo said he looks forward to cashing in on that bet — but not as much as he looks forward to being back home.
"It's been a long trip and I'm ready for it to be over, to go home and have my bed every day, as opposed to sometimes not knowing whether or not we'll be able to sleep inside," Caicedo added.
Alex Cooke, The Canadian Press