A South Surrey man and his son recently returned from a “powerful” and “profound” cycling trip overseas.
Ocean Park resident Larry Osachoff, 71, and son Steve cycled 600 kilometres across Europe and raised $8,000 for charity as part of the 2017 Wounded Warriors Canada Battlefield Bike Ride, in honour of the 100th anniversary and Vimy Ridge.
They rode under the team name The O’Boys, from June 9 to 17.
Many stops along the trip were humbling for the father-son duo, who both work for RBC Dominion Securities and have both served on the board of directors for Royal Columbian Hospital Foundation.
“At each monument they would have bagpipes, our bugle player would play and we’d hear some historical context,” said Steve, 37. “Every place was powerful, but Vimy was where everyone was cycling all these days to get to, and fundraising to get to. It was pretty powerful.”
The Wounded Warriors trip finished at the Vimy Ridge memorial.
Stops along the journey to arrive there included the Menin Gate memorial in Belgium where daily ceremonies are held in honour of nearly 55,000 Commonwealth soldiers whose bodies were never identified or found; The Cloth Hall at Ypres where John McCrae penned his iconic poem “In Flanders Fields”; the memorials of Passchendaele and many more.
For father Larry, one of the most “gripping” sites was not one they stopped at for a ceremony.
“It was Notre Dame de Lorette,” he said, which is the world’s largest French military cemetery. “What grips you is the fact that at that site there’s so many men buried there. Commongrade crosses that stretch the size of several football fields. I look at it and say that’s almost twice the population of every man, woman and child in Surrey. You just can’t understand it. And that was just one location of so many that are just horrific.
“That’s part of what we hoped to accomplished,” he said of their journey, “to expose the horror of war.”
The men cycled about 600 kilometres as part of the charity ride, but another 400 or so on their own to put a personal family twist on their adventure.
Before Wounded Warriors’ trip began, they made an early stop to Brighton, which was where Larry’s mother-in-law Edith was born and raised, and where her husband Henry was stationed during the war.
The two met at Sherry’s Dance Hall in Brighton, Larry explained.
“In fact, we got to find (the hall) and we got access into it,” Larry said, excitedly. “We stood on the very floor that that branch of the family tree started from.”
Asked what he’d say to encourage others to hop on the saddle with Wounded Warriors, Larry quickly replied, “Just do it!”
“Maybe it’s just a way of giving back,” he mused about why he embarked on this journey.
Though, this was far from Larry’s first cycling trip.
The 71-year-old, who has had not one but two cardiac procedures that involved inserting stents, has cycled across Canada.
“The doctor said go live a normal life and I consider this quite normal,” he remarked.
“My biggest (ride) was in ‘02 when I went across Canada, 7,100 kilometres,” he said. “I rode roughly five to six weeks a year from 2002 to 2005, and in 2011 did a 2,100 kilometre trip to Inuvik, though that was part cycling, part riding.”
His trips have taken him through Ireland, Wales and England, as well as Russia, Siberia, China, and to the Ural Mountains dividing Europe and Asia.
In 2015, he took a 300-kilometre trip on an ancient pilgrim trail in northern Spain.
Larry said he hopes to inspire people.
“We just have so much feedback about how my trips across Canada and Asia touched people in a positive way. That feeds on itself and you just want to keep on doing it.”
“Think of all the carb loading you can do,” added Steve with a laugh.