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Stroke survivor embarks on long ride

Published March 6, 2013
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Hopes to raise money for Heart and Stroke Foundation along the way

By JEREMY KROEKER/SPECIAL TO THE STAR

In late September 2009, Nevil Stow, then a 45-year-old property manager from Canmore, Alta., was on his hands and knees sanding scratches out of a wooden floor when he felt something like a lightning bolt shoot through his arm.

His left hand went numb, and Stow assumed that he had pinched a nerve in his back. He phoned the site safety officer to report the incident before walking to the office to fill out injury paperwork.

Along the way, Stow felt as if he had a small pebble under his foot. He stopped several times to remove his shoe and sock, but he never found the stone.

What he didn’t know at the time, and what he wouldn’t realize until 24 hours later, was that he had experienced a minor stroke.

The next morning, the entire left side of Stow’s body was numb. At the hospital, doctors tried to check his blood pressure, but the numbers were so high that they shut down two machines on error codes.

“Are you a smoker?” the doctors asked.

“Well, yes,” said Stow. “But I guess I’m not anymore.”

Stow threw his remaining cigarettes into the trash outside of the hospital, and he hasn’t smoked since.

“I think the stroke was a kind of blessing in a certain way,” says Stow, “because I think it affected the receptors as well. I never got a craving.”

Today, Stow manages his blood pressure with medication. Fortunately, the stroke hasn’t slowed him down.

It’s March, 2013, and once again, powdery snow has drifted up against the door of Stow’s garage in Canmore.  Stow sits on the other side of that door, dressed in sandals and a peach T-shirt. He holds a socket wrench in one hand, and a margarita in the other, as he tinkers with Twiggy, a 2004 Suzuki DR 650 motorcycle.

This is the machine that Nevil Stow plans to ride around the world, beginning this May.

“In 2005,” Stow explains, “I would have never done this trip. I was more concerned about a comfortable retirement and saving up as much as possible. But then the housing boom collapsed and I had my stroke. It really humbled me, and I thought – cliché though it is – ‘life is not a dress rehearsal.’ I have to do this trip now.”

Stow owns two motorcycles including Princess, a 2008 BMW GS Adventurer. That machine is more like the bike that people imagine when they think of adventure travel but, as Stow explains, “I’m not a big guy. It’s just too heavy for me. If I drop it in the mud 15 times a day, I’m on my way to another stroke, I think.”

Instead, he’ll opt for the more nimble machine – although the Suzuki technically belongs to his wife.

“If I’m stuck on the Road of Bones (in Russia) and I’m axle deep in mud, I can strip all the baggage off it, and I’ve now got a nice light bike that I can get from point a to point b.”

Twiggy already has 77,000 kilometres on the odometer, and it will have at least another 30,000 on it by the time Stow completes his circuit. Yet, he is confident in the machine. With help from his friends, he has stripped it down and completely rebuilt it.

“The only thing that resembles a DR 650,” he says, “is the engine. Everything else has been customized.”

The bike is fitted with a Happy Trail luggage system, and a long-range fuel tank from Safari Tanks. These and other companies have donated product to Stow because they like the idea of his trip. He’s a stroke survivor, and his round the world adventure will raise money for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

“I was going to do the trip anyway,” says Stow. “But as long as you’re going, you may as well do some good.”

Stow quickly points out that he is paying for the trip in its entirety with money pulled from RRSPs. He admits that the budget is extremely tight, but he hopes to complete the journey for under $15,000.

“If anyone chooses to donate to this cause, 100 per cent of the money goes to the Heart and Stroke Foundation. But,” he adds, “if you’re in a far-flung country and you see me coming through, please look after me, because I’ll be living like a pauper.”

To donate to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, visit: TinyURL.com/NevilsRTW

For updates on the progress of Nevil Stow, visit: RTW2013.com 

Jeremy Kroeker lives in Canmore, Alta. He is the author of “Motorcycle Therapy.”

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