This year Renedian Adventures and TELUS Ride for Dad (RFD) collaborated to offer a free trip to Africa with Renedian. Leah Verishine won that trip and chose next year’s Waterfalls and Wildlife safari. We spoke with Leah to get to know her and hear what she’s expecting from the trip. We’ll speak with her again when she’s back and compare “before” and “after.”

Leah Verishine grew up on Vancouver Island and returned in 2015. In between, she and her husband Al spent twenty-five years in Whitehorse, Yukon. In 2002, Al bought an Ultra Classic and Leah became a passenger. It didn’t take long to want her own bike. That year, another Harley Davidson appeared under the Christmas tree and she’s been riding almost ever since.

After a few lessons in Whitehorse in 2003, she tackled her first road trip—riding to the Alaska State HOG rally. “We left in the rain and it rained the whole time. The day was ugly—windy, twisty roads with semis pushing me, having to cross windrows in six inches of gravel on a section of highway under construction—but I was so proud of myself for riding it. I didn’t drop the bike or have any heart-stopping moments.”

Leah’s first ride

That was the first of many annual rides around Alaska, through British Columbia and Alberta, and even to Sturgis. Leah and Al ran the Yukon HOG chapter for eight years and started Whitehorse RFD, serving on the executive for six years. “While it was a real learning curve growing from 100 to almost 200 riders, it was very rewarding and kept us in touch with the motorcycle communities. Stories from families that prostate cancer has affected, and the awareness we were bringing to the community, inspired us. We received the blessing of the Yukon Medical Association.

The couple loved Whitehorse but when it was time to retire, they sold almost everything and moved to Vancouver Island to help deal with her aging parents. Al’s health was also deteriorating and with nowhere to park or opportunity to ride the bikes, they sold them. Sadly, Al passed away in December 2016 and didn’t get much time to enjoy the Island.

In 2017, RFD recruited Leah to organize the local RFD with another executive member who’d just moved there from Edmonton. “2018 was a ton of work, with about 200 riders, but we’re putting it on hold for 2019 to regroup and figure out a better way to keep it running.” Leah was ecstatic when she learned of her big Renedian win! Her love of animals prompted her to choose the Waterfalls and Wildlife safari. (It was also a shorter trip. She was finalizing a new job and her condition of employment was that she was allowed time off for the ride.)

“The riding will be great and I want to do as much of everything as possible. I want to see as many animals as I can, walk with the lions in Victoria Falls, and maybe hang out with the elephants. The idea of a helicopter ride over the Falls is cool, but I’d rather spend time with animals.

“I’m also interested in experiencing the locals—seeing how they live, getting to know a different culture, and hearing the music. I’m curious about the food and whether we’ll be eating bugs. My husband would be extremely envious of me going on this trip. He really loved the music that comes out of Africa.”

In the mean time, she’s on the hunt for a new bike, and researching Africa. She’s devouring a two-inch-thick Lonely Planet guide, (re)searching the internet, and reading Michener’s The Covenant.

“I had no vacation plans. It’s hard to imagine going somewhere by myself for the first time. Here’s a group I’m already a part of and I’ll make fast friends. I’m looking forward to sitting around the campfire in the Okavango Delta, getting to know people, and listening to the critters.”

Photo credits: Leah Verishine