Sunday, October 7, 2012
COPENHAGEN and RIDE AWAY CANCER
Murph, Daniil Novikov and his Mum at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen Denmark.
Daniil is there to receive a bone marrow transplant to combat his Leukemia.
I went to Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen on a whim, well, not really a whim but I wanted to go to a children's hospital as I was riding up to Vejbystrand Sweden where my friends Kjell and Karin live. I had absolutely craappy weather from northern Germany to Denmark, cold, damp and wet, reminded me of Ireland, that damp 'oul sod I left 30 years ago.
I didn't have a place arranged to stay for the night, I never really plan ahead anymore, I always find something, if not I can always stealth camp somewhere, I'm pretty good at that two and a half years on.
My host in Denmark,Tom.
Anyway, I had an email a few months back from a guy who lives in Denmark, Tom, and he mentioned that if I need a place to stay for the night on the way up to Nordkapp that he has a spare room I can stay in for the night. Tom also gave me a locals opinion on my route, which was a huge help, since I've never been up this way before, so my route was based on nothing more then a general north eastern direction. So that morning before I left Germany I sent Tom an email, told him I'll probably be up there that day at some point, I just didn't know when.
I used to be able to guesstimate my ETA to a particular destination but for the last year or more it's become increasingly more difficult, mainly because I stop more often to photograph 'stuff'. And the longer I'm on the road the less I like time to dictate how and where my journey takes me. A hedonistic luxury?. Perhaps.
But there are some places that one may never pass through again, so I really look upon and favor them as "now or never" moments, I mean, how often does one get to ride around the world the same way twice, right?. If I get the chance to do another Round the World, I certainly won't go the same route as this, another path with new countries and different cultures and people would be my preferred path. There's a vast series of untravelled pathways out there waiting for me, beckoning me to come hither and wander their dusty trails.
It used to be the norm for me, back when I had a solo motorcycle and not a sidecar, to ride about a 5-600 mile day comfortably, but thats now been cut down to 3-400 or so, and if it's crappy weather that could go as low as 200. But I like it a little slower now, I see more, I get to photograph more, and I don't get any more speeding tickets, at least not yet. Russia may be a different story.
The Storebaelt Bridge, Denmark.
It's getting cold up in these parts now, cold and wet, so on the ride from Tom's house in Horsens, the Storebaelt bridge was the second bridge I crossed, linking the Island of Funen to Zealand, where Denmark's capitol of Copenhagen is.
There are also two hospitals that I found there, Rigshospitalet and Bispebjerghospital, I didn't know anything about them, I just typed in "Childrens Cancer Hospitals Copenhagen" while at Tom's house and those were the two main ones that I saw.
My initial thoughts were to just stop by, albeit unannounced, and hope that I could somehow connect with some of the kids or young adults who were there getting treatment without too much red tape or hurdles to jump, take the gear out of the sidecar and see if I could give one or two of them a sidecar ride for 15 or 20 minutes and put a smile on their face, give their mind a 20 minute vacation in a sidecar, or as Nikkie from Eindhoven put it,
"A moment of Freedom".
But plans never seem work out for me these days, which is why I try not to plan anything, just go with the flow. The constant rain and dampness on the ride up from Germany to Denmark killed some electrical stuff on the bike, a brand new TomTom GPS I had just bought in Germany 2 days before, and the sidecar was also full of gear, so I was trying to figure out where I was going to leave all the gear in it if I unloaded it to give someone a ride, so I decided to just ride straight up to Kjell and Karin's place in Vejbystrand instead, unload all the stuff from the sidecar, do some repairs and go back to Copenhagen the next day. All right, well, sometimes plans are good.
Kjell and Karin, Death Valley, Oct 2010.
Arriving in Vejbystrand Sweden was a bit of a big milestone for me in that my friends Kjell and Karin I had met two years prior, October of 2010, in Death Valley California at Emigrant Campground just outside of Stovepipe Wells. I had just spent the previous two months at the Bonneville International Speedway or the Bonneville Salt Flats as they're also known, working and photographing some of the speed events there and also picking up a little work in the pits with the racers to make some extra gas money, so I followed my buddy "TR" and his gal Rosie over to DV to spend the last few weeks there before he went further south and I went back east to Florida. So reaching Kjell and Karin in their homeland of Sweden was a real big thrill for me, I gave myself a pat on the back. It was one of those "I made it" moments for me I guess.
So after taking out all my gear from the sidecar in and leaving it in Vejbystrand I loaded up the toys I had bought in a Toys R Us in Germany and rode down to Copenhagen to see if I could connect with some of the kids in the hospital and brighten up their day. Not a long ride, but with gas at $10+ a gal here, even a small 140 mile round trip ride ends up costing me about $50.
I ended up at Bispebjerhospital first, because I had the address of Rigshospitalet loaded on the TomTom GPS, and as it was now busted, I had no route or way of finding it so it was back to the old tried and trusted paper maps that prior to the GPS and cellphone age, always seemed to get us where we needed to be.
Photo credit: JW Luftfoto
Bispebjerhospital, built in 1913, is one of Denmark's older hospitals, a series of beautiful old stone buildings with long white tiled interconnecting hallways. I didn't have any time there, just time enough to ask one of the many nurses walking through the grounds to another building if there was a children's cancer ward there, instead she directed me to go to Rigshospitalet, there's a cancer ward there. I'm sorry I didn't spend a little more time there and photograph some more, but as you will find out, it was fortunate that I didn't.
I managed to find my way to Rigshospitalet and went inside to the information desk and spoke with one of the ladies at the desk. I really didn't know how to approach explaining my reason for wanting to be there, I honestly thought that I would encounter quite a few problems, showing up unannounced, no appointment or even a Ride Away Cancer card (note to self and John Nikas, RAC cards). I was expecting some "Oh no, we can't let you take people out in your sidecar" or some other protestations.
It's my first time doing anything like this, I'm not used to it, so I tried to keep my pitch simple and on track about Ride Away Cancer and my desire to give a child a ride in my sidecar as I travel around the world and stop off at a different town along the way, which was greeted with a warm smile by the lady behind the desk, so she directed me to a little room right next door to her information desk.
It looks like a break room, I went inside and spoke with the two people working there, Jakob and another girl whose name escapes me.
They have a program there working with cancer patients, and as luck would have it, a patient happened to be there at the same time as I walked in.
His name was Daniil, 17 years old and originally from St Petersburg in Russia, where I will be headed in November, and I could tell by his appearance that some form of cancer was his passenger in life.
Daniil has a strong but a tired look to him, he is a tall young man, but his face and eyes had a resigned softness to them that I guess that only many years of struggle and suffering with cancer, relapses, and it's associated chemotherapy treatments have etched him with, but there's something else about him, the way he looks at you has a depth, like he knows something that you don't, and I wonder if it's that he has a very real knowledge of how very fragile his life is, his life that at the moment is being ravaged by Leukemia.
So after explaining to Daniil my reason for stopping by Rigshospitalet that morning, Daniil called his Mum to ask her permission to go for a sidecar ride with me, and thankfully she gave her consent.
We had to hurry, Daniil had to be at a treatment at 1:15 pm, it was 12:50, so we had 20 minutes, just enough time to take Daniil for a ride in the Ride Away Cancer sidecar around a few blocks of Copenhagen. So it was very lucky I decided not to stay and photograph the wonderful old Bispebjerhospital, because if I did stay any longer there, I would have missed out on meeting Daniil and getting him a Ride Away Cancer sidecar ride.
We spoke for a few minutes after the ride, Daniil still sitting in the sidecar.
He was genuinely thrilled and happy that I stopped by just to give him a 15 minute sidecar ride, it was his first time riding in a sidecar, and my first time doing something like this.
I asked him about his upcoming bone marrow treatment and what his chances were, and wished him the best for the treatment.
His eyes started to mist a little.