Underneath all of the layers of bulky winter gear, Phil Meagher, Hans Zundel and Ken Krahn are actually pretty skinny guys, they joke.
It’s around 4:00 p.m. and the team of three Fort McMurray men on ATVs has just pulled in to Fort Smith after nine hours hurtling down the ice road on their 4-wheelers.
While the men were all chuckles and smiles after their finger and toe-numbing adventure, they explained that the trip was about more than just good times; it was to raise awareness and money for the Centre of Hope homeless shelter in Fort McMurray.
This is the eighth year Krahn, a tire store manager in Fort McMurray, has organized and led the Ride for Hope, quadding 500 km from Fort McMurray to Fort Smith in less than a day.
After last year’s trek, Krahn’s grand total is more than $100,000 raised. The team this year included Meagher and Zundel, both first-time ice road ATV-ers, and brought in another $15,000 for the cause.
The weather conditions on this year’s trip made it significantly colder than last year, with temperatures around -27C when the team left Fort McMurray at 5:00 a.m. and hovering below -20C for most of the drive. A west wind hit the men hard around Fort Chipewyan, but did little to shake their resolve.
“Even though we were cold, at the end of the day we’re trying to raise awareness to let people know we can do this because we got all the gear and stuff, but some people don’t have that luxury,” Zundel said. “This is their life living on the streets in these temperatures.”
Despite their heavy outfitting, which included boots made for Arctic temperatures below -50C, it didn’t quite keep the feet from going numb on a quad, Meagher noted.
Meagher, a municipal councillor in Fort McMurray, has a history with cold temperatures after a fundraising effort last March had him cross-country ski from Fort McMurray to Fort Chip, only to be forced to quit 50 km from the finish line because of health concerns.
“I convinced him quadding would be much easier,” Krahn said with a laugh.
Luckily, in some respects, the quads seemed to run out of gas in turns during the trek, which meant more than six stops for the team to fuel up. The frequent breaks gave the men a chance to move around and force the feeling back into their frozen digits.
For the upcoming 10th anniversary ride, Krahn said he hopes to convince even more friends and fellow ATV adventurers to make the journey with him all the way to Hay River.
“I’m out of town that weekend,” Meagher joked, getting a heart and toe-warming laugh from the team.
The money raised from this trip will be going directly to the Centre of Hope’s Subzero Challenge, an initiative that challenges Fort McMurray residents to give $100 towards providing warm clothing to a homeless individual during the winter months.