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Lone Rider

JACKIE CARMICHAEL Westerly News Wheeling across Canada with a good cause in mind, Eoin Kenny kicked off his Ride for Sight on the West Coast of Vancouver Island.

The Edmonton man, recently retired from a career in newspaper and

communications that included time with the Alberta government, baptized his BMW K1200LT - aka the Bike-A-Lounger -motorcycle with water from a

Tofino boat launch on Saturday.

"I'll turn around and head across this land on two wheels," Kenny said on his blog, acrossthislandontwowheels.

It's all in support of the Foundation Fighting Blindness.

"I have always worn glasses and over the years, they have become stronger as my vision gets weaker. And I've always

feared that my eyesight would someday limit my ability to ride a motorcycle. My mother had agerelated macular degeneration, a condition that causes blindness due to changes in the shape of the retina," Kenny said.

The foundation is dedicated to helping Canadian families affected by retinal diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration. These diseases strike the nation's two most vulnerable populations, children and seniors. It is estimated that vision loss affects over one million Canadians.

Over the past 40 years, Foundation donations have supported an impressive 202 research grants, amounting to a $25 million investment in ground-breaking science at Canadian hospitals and universities.

Kenny first visited the West Coast on his honeymoon with wife Mindy in 1996 - and he was thinking rain, only to be delighted with sunny skies that prompted him to strip off much of his gear.

"By the time I made it to Cathedral Grove, though, the weather had cleared; now sunny and in the low 20s. Perfect biking weather," he said, recalling a stop in the majesty of Cathedral Grove on the way to the Alberni Valley.

"I walked under the shadow of towering ancient Douglas fir trees - 'majestic pillars untouched by the modern world,' according to the interpretive signs," he said.

"I went for a walk along Port Alberni's Somass Estuary where I saw an older couple picking armfuls of what looked like pretty yellow wildflowers. But looks can be deceiving," he said of his discovery of that imported scourge, Scotch broom.

Intentionally introduced to B.C. in 1850, the hardy invader quickly spread up the east coast of Vancouver Island before invading the Gulf Islands and mainland. Highway departments planted Scotch broom as a bank stabilizer because of its deep root structure and rapid growth.

The weed is a strong competitor with various native plants - and digging it out is problematic as disturbance triggers the release of each tiny blossom's cache of seeds,

Kenny said, adding that he was impressed by the volunteers working to eradicate Scotch broom and other invasive plants on the West Coast.

"I have to admire committed volunteers like these folks. Where would we be without them? It's also got me thinking about putting my time to a worthy cause when I get home," he said.

Kenny was impressed by the Ucluelet harbour, the sunset view from Black Rock Oceanfront Resort over appies with friends, Wickaninnish Beach and Tofino, where he honeymooned at Middle Beach Lodge almost two decades ago.

Now he will go through all 10 provinces on his way to Cape Spear, Newfoundland.

It's a journey of 16,000 kilometres (10,000 miles).

"Along the way, I'll be accompanied by the spirit of Stompin' Tom

Connors, Canada's unofficial poet laureate and travelling minstrel," he said. "Hopefully, I'll raise a little money for the Ride For Sight, Canada's longest-running motorcycle charity fundraiser!" Ucluetian and former Edmontonarea resident Gerry Carmichael lived in Olds, Alberta during the very first Alberta Ride for Sight fundraiser, set in Olds. There, riders from all over the country descended on the town and Carmichael tended the charity's bar with fellow Lions Club members.

Now, almost three decades later, Carmichael played host to Eoin Kenny as he launched his cross-Canada ride for the cause to fund research into macular degeneration, and he pledged a penny a kilometer for Kenny's journey.

"It was great to see Eoin continue this tradition," he said.