Winnepeg!! it's just not enough!!!
By the time Nick reached Winnipeg he had put 1100 miles behind them and would view this as a halfway point!!, for sure now he had the full weight of the media at his disposal and at times Nick said most of the other vehicle's on the highway seemed to be news crews and satellite trucks ready to beam back up to date information of the Bellesprogress.
For Nick the trip so far had been a lot easier than his first protest trip to Victoria a few years earlier!This 500 mile trip had been on mountain roads narrow bridges and very steep hills to negotiate ,which was quite a challenge,but back then Nick had little idea that within a very short time he would drive at least five times that distance!!
Once again the generosity of people never failed to touch Nick, the donations to the charity to help the struggling farming families continued to roll in and Nick would meet up with local farming groups to bolster even more support, and it came to be that everyone wanted a photo stood by Belle and be associated with what was trying to be achieved.
Nick commented that the most frequent asked question everyday was "Do you think what you are doing will make any difference" Nicks answer was always " what does doing nothing achieve?"
Nick would also comment that he wouldn't leave Ottawa with Belle until he had spoken to the Prime Minister! Jean Chretien Or at least given something to support this beleaguered industry.
It was about this point in the trip that word had reached everyone that the government had pledged $100 million of aid to the provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan! But as Nick commented this wouldn't even scratch the surface, and any funds should be directed to disaster areas anywhere not just the provinces!!
It would seem at last that someone is starting to listen to the growing tide of opinion that was flowing towards Parliament Hill Ottawa! But it was just not enough!!
For Nick who by now had been on the road for a month! With Belle, the next big landmark would be Toronto and once again he would be involved with the Highway patrol??
Trouble in Toronto!!
Nick had been on the road for a long gruelling month, and now he was preparing to leave Winepeg, for another 1300 miles to his goal the City of Ottawa.
The temperatures now we're a numbing 40 below and it was hard grind for Nick to keep up the daily pace to reach his daily targets, the first of which was the small rural community of St Anne with a smaller population of 1330 inhabitants, this journey was 42 km and a relatively easy run of a day, but the next leg would take him 15 days to complete and into the city of Toronto!!
During the next week Nick would experience a front wheel tyre blow out and a puncture on the rear, these would be expected and Nick made sure before he left he had 4 spare wheels! Although changing wheels would need some help but help was only a call away no matter what time of the day or night!.
The media interest was intense now and several big media companies had joined the press pack! following Belle and Nick, waiting for any opportunity to grab some more update on this epic trip.
This story had also made coverage in the British magazine, Farmers Weekly!.
Nick commented that this trip was so different to his earlier protest journey to Victoria a distance of some 500 miles! But the terrain was mountainous in places crossing many narrow bridges and mountain ranges!! tougher on him and old Belle but this journey was completed and they had hoped to a better outcome of the trip in way of help to the struggling farmers, but this was not to be!! And this eventually led Nick to raise his sights to this mammoth journey.
During the trip to Toronto Nick had been asked by the local farming groups to navigate Belle into the centre of this very busy city!! where he would be welcomed by pretty much everyone!!
So on the 15th day of this leg of the trip Nick made his way through the rush hour multi lane traffic to the city centre, causing chaos! as you would with a vehicle that takes up two lanes of a highway!!
As someone who owns and oprates an 860 today, i take my hat off to Nick! for sure for me at harvest time the travelling to farms with these giants is quite stressfull and visibility behind is next to nothing! and an accident with an impatient car driver is always a certainty!!
After a great reception in the city centre, Nick and Belle started to leave the city but were duly halted by highway patrol officers who forbid them to continue the journey through the busy city centre! they would only be allowed to continue with a two cruiser (patrol) car escort and officers at a cost of $500 dollars an hour!!
This came as a bit of a blow to Nick, but he explained to the officers that he respected they had a job to do and the safety of everyone on the road was very important, but he himself had only $20 dollars in his pocket and the hope of paying this cost would be very remote!!.
After about an hour or so stand off with Belle parked up on the highway! a cruiser and two officers turned up and said get her started and follow us out of here!!
So it was all rip and go and Nick commented i didnt stand around to ask questions i was just glad to be on me way again with a two car escort!! a rare luxury on this trip for sure.
During this epic trip Nick has said he was always treated fair with the law enforcement officers in all areas!! They realised what I was trying to achieve and any action taken by them would of been for the right reasons! And they were just doing their job at the end of the day!!
Nick was just glad to be back on the open road again,away from the busy city, and at this stage he was only 5 days away from Ottawa!!
The end in Sight!!
At this stage of the trip with just days to go, Nick had been away from home approaching 7 weeks! And the daily ritual of driving Belle had taken its toll it was a constant grind and in the back of Nicks mind was if the outcome of the trip means he didn't get an interview with premier Jean Chretein he would just leave Belle outside parliament hill! And he would return every day until he does!!
Nick commented that during the trip he had met and spoke to so many people not just farming folk, but people of all ages and occupations and the amount of support he received was just humbling it really was, I witnessed landowners in tears and as a farmer myself and also facing these challenging times they could confide in me and just hope that I could somehow improve this dire situation for us all.
The expectations I felt placed upon me were considerable at this point of the trip now, and I only just hoped I could in some way not let every one down!!
As the last two days of the trip approached Nick had been briefed about a possible $400 million aid package in the house of commons!
Although as Nick commented this was at this late stage just speculation, and he said Action is strong Talk is weak!!
As the last day came Nick spent a quiet few moments walking around Belle as he would do every morning of this long and arduous trip, and he said a special thank you to this old girl for bringing him here safe, for sure this could of been any combine and any driver! But it was a Canadian built combine from Brantford Ontario assembled by a proud workforce who at that time were the envy of many of the rival companies!!
And Nick, well he had the self belief that one man and his machine could make a big difference and now today he was about to find out just what sort of welcome he would receive when he reaches parliament Hill.
Nick was met at Parliament Hill by a huge contingent of the media and also opposition party leader Preston Manning who had voiced his support for Nick and the Farmers but as yet no word on that meeting with the Premier!.
Federal agricultural minister Lyle Vanclief had pledged to table a $400 million aid package, but the opposition tried to keep the bill from being tabled by the Liberal government.
But just a day after Nicks arrival at Ottawa the Bill was passed.
But in the mean time Nick was caught up in a rugby scrum of interviews with all the national networks and radio stations for several hours!! But he was asked by the law enforcement officers to remove Belle from its position pending security issues!! So reluctantly Belle was removed to some safe storage a block away and Nick went to clean up and prepare for more interviews during the evening at a nearby hotel.
Within a couple of hours Nick was asked to report to reception where a car and two security officers awaited!
Nick takes up the story!! It all just happened so quick I was escorted to an official staff car with these gentleman there wasn't a lot of conversation and everything just happened so fast, before long we pulled up outside of the premier's residence 24 Sussex Drive and I was escorted in to meet the prime minister Jean Chretein.
The meeting probably lasted 45 minutes, in that short time I tried to express the utmost despair that the industry had found itself in and the proud Canadian farming family's were losing their farms at an unprecedented rate, and any help would have to be long term structured to get the industry in a good situation for the future food production of the country's economy.
The meeting was very jovial and Nick shared a whiskey with the premier, who agreed he would take steps to help the industry all he could with the forthcoming aid package and he thanked Nick for his efforts and wished him well for the future.
As quickly as he arrived Nick was on his way back to his hotel he had done all he could now it was up to many other people, for his journey was at an end and he was looking forward to getting home to Jane and his two daughters, and Belle? Well she would enjoy a quicker trip home on a low boy (low loader) her journey at an end also.
Coming up Nicks return home and harvesting with Belle!!
Life today for Nick and family.
And an update on Belle!!
Nick returned home to Dawson Creek! To a huge welcome from his family and neighbours, he was absolutely shattered and within a few days he would quietly slip into the routine of farm life once again and look forward to getting a good night's sleep every night in his own bed!!
Within a few days Belle arrived, she was looking every bit of a combine that had gone through a lot! And Nick would over time return here back into a full working combine in preparation for the coming season.
What follows now is a few photos of Belle at work on Nicks Farm.
Belle at work!!
More to come of The Longest Journey page 3