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Tour de Rock’s Rick Geddes rides a high into Port Alberni

Ucluelet fire chief conquers hometown highway, raises thousands for pediatric cancer research
Ucluelet rider Rick Geddes, who grew up in Port Alberni, introduces the Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock team at their stop at Alberni Toyota on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

The Alberni Summit on Highway 4—known in the Alberni Valley as “the Hump”—is often one of the most psychologically punishing hills during the 1,000-kilometre Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock.

But for Ucluelet Fire Rescue Chief Rick Geddes, it was one long, ripping ride home.

The Tour de Rock made its annual stop in Port Alberni on Friday, Sept. 30. It signals the halfway mark for the tour, which left Port Alice on the North Island the previous weekend.

This is the 25th year for the Tour de Rock, which has raised more than $27 million for pediatric cancer research and for Camp Goodtimes.

Geddes said riding down the infamous Hump and into Port Alberni wasn’t as difficult for him as it was for other riders.

“It was great, especially knowing I’m coming home to see my family, and my family was waiting for me down here. It was really fun coming down the Hump, having the road safely closed by the police. We just let ‘er rip.”

Family and friends supporting both Geddes and Chris Van Swieten from Victoria Police lined a corner of the access road into Alberni Toyota, waving signs and cheering as the team arrived.

The team coasted into the parking lot just before 11 a.m. at Alberni Toyota, where the Alberni Auto Group held a lunch for the riders and their support members. Alberni Auto Group and Beaver Creek Home Center representatives then presented a cheque for $5,000 to Geddes.

Geddes’ junior rider, Ryker Dodding, joined the team during a break at the top of the Hump. He climbed into a Dodge Charger police car that is part of the entourage and led the team into Port Alberni. “He was pretty excited about that.”

Geddes said knowing Ryker was going to be there helped him get up the Hump. “I had a bit of an advantage being from the area, and I’ve trained on the Hump a little bit,” Geddes said. “It can be kind of a mental block, some of these hills, especially if you’re not familiar with them.”

Geddes waited more than a year to participate in the Tour de Rock, which paused for one year and looked very different last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. He said he has been able to appreciate the ride so far, which has happened under unseasonably warm and dry weather.

“Our day is very scripted, right down to the minute. But at the end of the day…yeah, it’s lots of fun.”

Geddes said Friday it’s hard to choose a memorable moment on the tour.

“There’s been a lot of best parts,” he admitted. “In the end it’s going to be hard to find a best part. Every time we pull into a school…yesterday, Kwalikum Secondary gave us an amazing greeting. They had signs with each individual rider’s name…Miracle Beach Elementary School had a song and dance for us.

“Everywhere we go it just keeps getting better and better.”

Riders spent some time at the Johnston Road Co-op before stopping at the Port Alberni RCMP detachment on Friday afternoon. The tour usually stops at schools but schools were closed on Friday for National Truth and Reconciliation Day.

Riders headed out to the Tseshaht First Nation where they disembarked from their bicycles, put on orange “every child matters” shirts and walked with Tseshaht elected Chief Councillor Wahmeesh Ken Watts at the end of the Orange Shirt Day walk for Truth and Reconciliation. Riders were shown the memorial for residential school survivors that stands outside Maht Mahs Gym, on the site of the former Alberni Indian Residential School before mingling with hundreds of people gathered at the fire in the Maht Mahs parking lot.

At 5:30 p.m. the West Coast Highlanders Pipes & Drums band piped riders into a pasta dinner at Royal Canadian Legion Br. 293. Legion members raised more than $7,000 from auction items and the dinner on behalf of rider Rick Geddes, fire chief in Ucluelet who grew up in Port Alberni.

On Saturday morning the riders headed to Ucluelet and Tofino, before hitching a ride with their support vehicles on Sunday back to Parksville so they could resume their trek down-Island.

It took one day for Geddes to find his memorable tour moment: he proposed to his partner, Donna Monteith, during the fundraiser at the Ucluelet Co-op. She said yes.

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Anna McMillian from CTV Vancouver Island, the 2022 media rider, grins as she is introduced during the teams’ Port Alberni stop on Sept. 30, 2022. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
A Dodge Charger, with junior rider Ryker Dodding in the back seat, leads Tour de Rock riders into the Alberni Auto Group complex on Friday, Sept. 30 in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Tour de Rock riders disembarked from their bikes, donned orange shirts and walked in Port Alberni’s Truth and Reconciliation Day walk through Tseshaht First Nation land on Sept. 30, 2022. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Susie Quinn

About the Author: Susie Quinn

A journalist since 1987, I proudly serve as the Alberni Valley News editor.
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