The word ‘Africa’ is heard often in the Gosselin household, so it’s not surprising that Denis Gosselin ended up there on his motorcycle. He’s traveled in many areas around the world, but never by motorcycle. And he’d never set foot in Africa. Picking up informational material at the Renedian booth at the Toronto Motorcycle Show got him thinking seriously about it.
An outreach effort in Kampala, Uganda, in the heart of Africa and more than 3,000 miles away from where he’d be riding, had piqued his interest more than a decade earlier. Humanitarian workers, who attended the same church in Newmarket, ran into a dozen children, all alone, under a tree just outside the city, with no food.
In response, people from the church got involved. Denis, who works with large power systems, began investing his resources in order to see this effort evolve. He helped raise funds to get brick making machines, school books sent over, and teachers to volunteer in the schools. His volunteer efforts also contributed to a big playground and sending construction workers, doctors, and nurses over for two- to three-week stints. He’s still involved, but “on a very light note.”
His interest in riding in Africa, however, grew, and three months after that Toronto Motorcycle show, he had a three-year plan to go on the Spectacular South West Africa safari.
“I knew I’d go on this trip in 2018,” he said, “and wanted to look forward to it. I started going to the gym five days a week to get fit, so I’d be ready for the rigors of that ride.“ Even after the trip, getting in shape has given him an impetus to keep going to the gym. He also practices company-sponsored office yoga at work once a week.
“Africa excited but didn’t scare me. At least fifty times, I’d think what we were going through was unbelievable, over the top. All of us were totally exhilarated with the riding and the sights, smells, and sensations. Something beautiful and utopian happened four or five times every day.
“The gravel riding was challenging, but not to the intensity and frequency of what I grew up with in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, at the northern tip of the Appalachians,” Denis said. “As a young boy, I’d ride the mountain trails, lots of gravel roads, and go through creeks. I learned how to control a motorcycle.
“I like to connect with what has been created in this world — from the sand dunes to the lush forests, deserts, all these views, and the smells. I connect to God, and say, “You’ve made an amazing planet! I’m getting to see something I never thought I’d experience. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to see what you made that I didn’t even know exists, other than in pictures.”
Denis now has another three-year plan, which he’s told his friends about. “I’ve got onto Rene’s spreadsheet for his Nov/Dec, 2021 trip to Argentina. If you tell people, you have to follow through to the other end.”
Next time, he’ll take his wife, Merilee. “We dated on my motorcycle in our early twenties. She has a neck injury that doesn’t allow her to ride right now so we’re building up energy, and strength so she’ll be able to go to Argentina, too. We travel so well together, I want her to be part of this.”
Denis and Merilee’s daughter Madeline just graduated from university with an International Studies Major. This September, until Christmas, she’s going to Uganda for a work term with an NGO and to take a course specializing in NGO’s in Kampala.
It looks like the word ‘Africa’ is going to keep coming up around the dinner table for some time yet.
Photo Credits: Denis Gosselin