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Can you help shelter my child?

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I’m leaving early Friday morning for Peterborough and won’t be back to work until Tuesday, Sept. 7.

I’m renting a minivan — we haven’t needed one of our own since the kids moved out of the house and we stopped transporting kids’ teams.

I’m heading across the top of Lake Superior to Upper Canada with all kinds of stuff that child the younger has decided she can’t survive without, now that she’s moving from residence into a six-woman house for second year of university.

And I’m bringing back child the elder and all the stuff he’s accumulated in four years at university.

Which brings me to my point......

Having just convocated with his undergraduate degree, child the elder is getting ready to fire off applications for law school for the fall of 2011. But meanwhile, after working this summer, he’s taking the academic year off to ride his bicycle down east, then cycle around the perimeter of the U.S. until next spring, riding down the east coast, along the south coast, back up through California and Oregon and Washington, maybe coming home across Canada, maybe across the northern U.S., to return to Winnipeg next spring.

He’ll be coming back to Winnipeg with me late next week for a few days, then hitting the road Sept. 14, filling his parents with awe and admiration and trepidation. Don’t count on me being able to focus on work too well the morning he leaves.

But I digress.

I’ve been learning a lot about the cyclists’ online networks, about their extensive reciprocal arrangements to give cyclists a bed for the night and to be welcomed into the homes of other cyclists; about camping in national and state parks; about hostels; about tips on where to stay and where to eat and what to see.

We like the sound of a bed in a house with the possibility — but not the guarantee — of a dinner and breakfast, with a roof and a lock on the door. Rumour has it that the older and more settled the cyclist host(s), the better the chances of meals. And certainly we’ve asked all our relatives and friends, not only to put up our son when he passes through, but to recommend anyone else they know along the route, especially in the U.S.

You can read about his plans on his two blogs, and also here — the former a cycling website for touring cyclists to set up their own journals, the latter a category on the environmental issues site that child the elder and his friend and now-former-classmate Tim have been writing.

Our son assures us that there are Internet accesses all over the U.S. of A., in public libraries and coffee shops and all sorts of venues, so he’ll not only be able to email us regularly — no, we’ll give it more than three hours between emails before we call the FBI — but also to post his adventures regularly on his blogs.

Let’s hope.

So, for the pitch.......

I’m hoping that some of you will have taken on similar adventures, and that you’ll have advice to share. And I’m really, really hoping that some of you have relatives, friends, colleagues scattered across the perimeter of the States, who might be able to give a 22-year-old Manitoban adventurer a bed for a night along the way.

Child the elder is articulate and educated and a great conversationalist on a wide variety of subjects, though he certainly knows enough to be a good listener before giving his opinion on U.S. politics, religion, various social issues, and the imminent return to supremacy of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The safer he can leave his bike and gear on his stops, and the safer he is at night, not only will his parents sleep better, but our son will be better able to explore places, to see national parks and historic sites and natural wonders and museums great and little.

I have a first cousin who lives just outside Boston, an ideal place to stay while being able to explore a great city on foot.

And we plan to fly down and connect at some point during the winter.

I did two months in Europe on a second-class Eurail pass in 1971 after graduating, and it remains one of the great times of my life. It’s a fabulous way to grow up and gain a whole different kind of education.

I’ll be keeping you up to date here during the next few months.

If there’s any way you can help, through advice or a contact for lodging, please contact my email at

Thanks so much.

And, yes, he wears a helmet.

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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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