Blind cyclist planning cross-country bike trip

A Central Albertan woman isn’t letting her disability hold her back. After a lifetime spent dreaming about heading out on a trip across the country, Mary Kennedy is close to making her dream a reality.

Though legally blind

Though legally blind

A Central Albertan woman isn’t letting her disability hold her back.

After a lifetime spent dreaming about heading out on a trip across the country, Mary Kennedy is close to making her dream a reality.

The 56-year-old mother of three has been legally blind since birth, but she has peripheral vision in both eyes that allows her to ride a bicycle. She was diagnosed as a child with a condition similar to macular degeneration, which results in the loss of vision at the centre her retina.

Her trip across Canada, because she cannot drive a vehicle, will be on a bicycle, alone.

Kennedy lives on an acreage east of Innisfail and often rides her bike into town to buy groceries. She works out of her home as a reflexologist, working on people’s feet to treat and stimulate different organs in the body.

She has been riding a bike regularly for the past 11 years. Over the past five years, she has gathered the equipment she will need for her cross-Canada tour, including a bicycle trailer.

“It’s about what the human spirit can do,” she said. “I have a disability but it’s more what you can do than what you can’t do.”

During the May long weekend, she took an exploratory trip, donning her yellow jacket and hooking up the trailer to her bike. She rode from Central Alberta to Kindersley, Sask., 400 km southeast of Red Deer. Along the route, the ditches were filled with water and frogs, red-winged blackbirds and meadowlarks sang while she biked along. She faced wind, rain and traffic, but made it safely to her destination.

Kennedy plans to train during June, July and August and head east, across the country when the summer traffic slows down in late August.

“I’ve always wanted to see Canada and I don’t know anybody interested to go on a tour of Canada. I don’t want to miss out on it because I didn’t do it and the only way I have of doing it is on my bike, unless I walk. That’s a little slower,” Kennedy said.

She will be riding a Specialized road bike designed for women, leaving her husband Jack and daughters Jenny, Lindy and Taylor in Alberta, updating them often on her travels across the country on her own.

“I don’t think they think it is a do-able thing. It’s always hardest to convince those who are nearest to you when you have kind of an outlandish dream,” Kennedy said.

She has held back on telling many people about her dream because she said it’s hard enough to move forward with the idea on her own without the weight of carrying others’ doubts. She hopes the trip will inspire others to follow their own dreams.

“If you don’t try it you’ll never know whether you could do it or not. Like I said, dreams are for doing and that is how you accomplish (things),” Kennedy said.

sobrien@bprda.wpengine.com

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