A surprising little cavalcade shared the road with us as we were driving along the Fraser Highway into Aldergrove, British Columbia on a drizzly February afternoon. A man, riding a bicycle, pulling a small flat-bed trailer behind, accompanied by three husky sled dogs, was moving along in the traffic. Curiosity made my granddaughter, Jade and I hop out of the vehicle as my husband pulled into the mall a bit further along the road. An all too short visit with this gentleman and his dogs led to the discovery that Randolph Westphal has been traveling like this since he was diagnosed with cancer and given a short time to live, in 1987. He realized that there were many things he still had to do with his life and he set out to do them. A printed paper, mounted on the side of his bicycle, states that he is "Pedaling a Message of Hope." The dogs, beautiful, black and white, huskies, Chinook, Yukon and Nanook are his constant companions. The well-trained, very obedient animals help him navigate the steep hills. In return they get to ride on the trailer on the downhill runs and whenever they are tired. The entourage only travels in the winter months, as the dogs have heavy coats, so can handle the cooler weather best.
The amazing thing is that while doing all this traveling, Randolph has had to return home to Germany to have a succession of surgeries. He has had 66 operations in total, 26 of them for the cancer that was supposed to kill him twenty years ago. Fortunately he gets free medical treatment in Germany. Donations and hotels/motels that are willing to host him help him along his way. Westphal has no permanent address, but he has an e-mail address. Communication by this method could be difficult as Randolph told me he does not read English, but I found he speaks and understands English quite well, a language he picked up on the road. A company by the name of Jack Wolfskin assists him with equipment and transportation expenses.
His journeys have not been without their hazards. He nearly died in a collision with an 18-wheeler in Argentina in 1996. His first dog died in the accident. Randolph nearly lost his leg at that time. He was in a wheelchair for one year. No one would believe that to see him pedaling along the road today. He did loose his memory as a result of the accident, but with the help of his diaries, he was able to relearn about his experiences and motivation.
Originally from Germany, Randolph Westphal proudly told me he is into the equivalent of his fourth round-the-world journey. He discovered, while visiting Montreal in 1990, that his message helped bring hope to those diagnosed with cancer. He now speaks to other cancer survivors in universities, hospitals and community centres as he travels the world. This particular segment of his travels began in Alaska in September 2005. He has had bears and wolves and a knife wielding thug to contend with while on his travels. He learned long ago, while in the army, that you never show fear. As a result he has sometimes left his attackers more shaken up than himself.
After our brief encounter, this man and his dogs rode off out of the mall and on their way to find others who might need his message of hope. His card says, "The Greatest Gift God gave us is the Gift of Life. The Greatest Loss is to Return Unopened."
Safe journey Randolph, Kodak, Chinook and Nanook.
Article and Pictures by M. Maxine George
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Last Updated on November 07, 2008 by M. Maxine George editor.
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