The heroic journey of Ramesh Ferris


Twenty years ago, in the summer of 1988, I drove across America with my friend and future brother-in-law Santosh. We traveled from Delaware to California in about four days, making as few stops as possible. I remember feeling like we had accomplished something, like we had passed some kind of endurance test. It takes a lot of effort, after all, to put your foot on the gas pedal.

Our cross-country trip was a breeze compared to the one Ramesh Ferris is taking. Ramesh, a polio survivor, is hand-cycling across Canada to raise money (and awareness) to fight the disease. He began his 7,200-km journey in Victoria, BC, on April 12 — the 53rd anniversary of the release of Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine — and expects to complete it in six months. Accompanied by a support team of about five people, he is trying to cover 400 km every 10 days on his 27-speed hand cycle. That’s 40 km a day, using mainly his arms to power his cycle forward. I don’t know about you, but after about 10 km, I’d be sticking my thumb out at passing motorists.

I’m not sure if Ramesh is the first polio survivor to hand-cycle across Canada, but he’s definitely the first blogging polio survivor to do so.

Yup, it’s truly spring now – I can smell it in the air. It’s a package
deal though, complete with all the mucky dirt on the shoulders of the
road.  Because of a short rain today I was covered in dirt from my
face, head, back, chest, legs and toes.  Add to that all of the chain
grease that accumulates on my jersey every day as I cycle, and you can
imagine that I was feeling pretty gross by the end of the day.

This morning we reached Obed Summit, which is the highest point on the
Yellowhead Highway, 1163.9 m above sea level. I thought it was all
downhill after that, but to my surprise, there was steep hill after
steep hill for the next few hours. [Link]

Ramesh is going to love it when he gets to the prairies, the flat provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The only time he’ll need to go uphill is when he’s climbing out of a pothole.

As I reflect back on today I got extremely dirty cycling down the
Yellowhead, but it’s important to remember that the dirt comes off. In
our world we have a culture of crawlers: children, teenagers and adults
that have had their legs paralyzed for life because they did not
receive the polio vaccine that would have protected them for life. In
the lives of these crawlers they are almost always dirty, because many
of them depend on cut up pieces of tires for their knees, and sandals
on their hands to drag them through the streets of where they live.
Awareness is important, but it’s donations that will help polio victims
around our world walk. It’s donations that will provide those drops of
the polio vaccine to children around the world to protect them for

This is why I’m cycling to walk.  Please donate or sponsor today. [Link]

He’s doing the hard part. With just a few clicks, we can do the easy part.

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through and You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.

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