Kevin Baker has always been the type of person who is eager to try new things – and that trait has certainly become well known to friends, family and colleagues over the years. That’s why it wasn’t much of a surprise to his wife, Kellie, when he informed her was going to ride his Vulcan 900 from Deadhorse, Alaska to Key West, Florida – a ride that will see him cover almost 10,000 kilometers (6000 miles) in 17 days!
Kevin is a Dean at Durham College in Oshawa, Ontario and a father of three. The youngest of his children, Kameron, is on the autism spectrum – more specifically, he has Asperger’s. In his professional role, Kevin oversees a program called the Community Integration through Cooperative Education (CICE). The program promotes the inclusion of young people who are often excluded from post-secondary education and, ultimately, paid employment and independence because they have intellectual challenges that impair their ability to learn.
That’s where the ride will come in.
“My love for my son, the passion I have for my CICE students and my insatiable desire to ride have all combined to inspire the Ride for Inclusion,” he explains. “The purpose of the ride is twofold. I want to promote the integration of young people with intellectual challenges into mainstream society, and I have set a goal to raise $30,000 to establish an achievement award for current and future CICE students at my college.
“I began thinking about doing the ride over a year ago…then a meeting with Durham College’s Chief of Staff Tony Doyle convinced me to consider it more seriously. Now it’s grown into something that Durham College has a vested interest in and we’re just about ready to make it a reality!”
Kevin is addicted to riding and has several rides of 1,600 kilometers (1000 miles or more in a single 24-hour period). These rides are certified by the Iron Butt Association (IBA) and fall in the SaddleSore & Bunburner classification – meaning the rider has accomplished 1,000 miles in under 24 hours or 1,500 miles in under 36 hours. Kevin’s upcoming ride will put him an elite class – the Ultimate Coast to Coast – which is crossing North America from Deadhorse, Alaska to Key West, Florida in 30 days or less. Even the IBA website has an Xtreme! tag next to it!
“It’s an epic ride!” Baker says. “All my biker friends kept telling me “you can’t do that on a cruiser”, and the more they said I couldn’t, being as stubborn as I am, made me want to do it all the more! Then, when I gave it some more thought, I figured I should also make it worth someone else’s while as well, and do some fundraising.”
“The money raised will used to establish an endowment – to create academic awards – which is something many of these students have never received. Everyone deserves a chance to achieve their personal academic best, and I just hope this helps some of them realize their true potential.”
Kevin had originally set a goal of $30,000 in fundraising through individual donations with corporate sponsors on board to fund the ride itself, paying for gas, food, accommodations and incidental expenses.
“I can’t thank Durham College and UNIFOR enough for their generous financial support. Other supporters like Milestone Motorsports, Rotary and Vulcan Riders – Ontario and, of course, my club Canadian Motorcycle Cruisers have been amazing.”
The plan is to do 600-700 kilometers (375-425 miles) per day, taking time to schedule and meet up with families of kids with disabilities, service clubs and other community groups along the way. “We want to raise awareness of the cause and hopefully a few extra dollars towards the endowment fund.” Kevin originally intended to tackle the entire venture by himself, but now has a support crew put together by his employer so he will have time to focus on the ride and not worry about all the particulars. The crew will include two videographers to document the journey, a logistics assistant to schedule events along the way, and a driver for the chase vehicle.
The trip scheduled to run from July 2-August 3, will start with approximately 500 kilometers (300 miles) of dirt road driving on the Dalton Highway.
“Using common sense and remembering to not give the bike too much throttle is going to be the most important part. I’ll be wearing protective gear and the bike will be done up in a way so that if I have to ditch it then I won’t total it,” he says, noting that the entire ride will only take place during daylight hours.
So far, Kevin has scheduled appearances on Rogers TV and other local media outlets in an effort to gain as much momentum as he can before making the trek north to his starting line.
“The support we’ve been getting from individuals and organizations around the Greater Toronto Area have been phenomenal to this point – but once I hit the road we’ll have to have be proactive in spreading the word before we hit each community.”
As for summer plans with the family, there will still be lots of time to enjoy barbeques and baseball when the ride is over, until then, the Bakers will make it work!
“Kellie plans to take a vacation with the kids – but I’ll see them along the way through to the States. It will only be for a night but it will be a nice way to re-charge. And there’s always Skype, so we’ll be able to stay in touch each day.”
To see how things are going with ride preparation and for updates throughout the journey, you can follow the ride at www.rideforinclusion.com, @inclusionride on Twitter, @rideforinclusion on Instagram, and www.facebook.com/rideforinclusion on Facebook.