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In your profile, you mentioned that you retired after 32 years with 3 ministries. Could you share a bit about your career path and the roles you held during your time with the Ontario Public Service?

I always felt very fortunate to have found my career home in the OPS. Among the many reasons for this, I most liked that I had almost endless options for different directions to take my career.

My first decade began as a Review Engineer at the Ministry of the Environment working on industrial wastewater approvals, this included working on the industrial sewage regulations for the Iron and Steel Sector which had me in all of the province’s mills.

My career took a turn towards policy work when I accepted a role in developing and then implementing the transfer of provincially-owned water and sewage works to the municipalities.

I joined the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care in 2000 and managed the transfer of the Provincial Land Ambulance Program and I returned to the Ministry of the Environment in 2001 as the London District Manager. In 2011, I had the opportunity to work out of Guelph for the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs as the General Manager of the Meat Inspection Program. Similar to my work at Health, I was leading a team who were my experts, and my role was to support my team to implement effective food safety.

I ended my career with 7-years as the Southwestern Ontario Regional Director for the Ministry of the Environment (with some ministry name changes along the way).  This really felt like the pinnacle of my working life, bringing operational, policy, and program work to bear on thousands of files.  I enjoyed developing and promoting within the OPS a more inclusive relationship with local First Nations Communities. I had a fantastic team of professionals who came up with brilliant solutions to enhance how we protected the natural environment. Our work in Sarnia strategically addressing industrial air pollution by focusing on the highest-risk air contaminants, monitoring them, liaising with the community, and driving measurable improvement won our team an Amethyst Award!

I retired in June 2021.

After such a long and diverse career, what made you decide to embark on an active retirement, leading bicycle tours in Cuba during the winter months? In your opinion, what sets Cuba apart from other destinations for bike tours, and why do you believe it offers a unique experience for travellers?

As I approached retirement, I wanted to build on my passion for cycling and travel.  My wife Beth and I had always been active cyclists, riding with local cycling clubs, and often mixing cycling in with our travel in the Americas and Europe.

While I was still working, we had done two bike tours in Cuba with a company called Bicycle Breeze (CanBiCuba at the time). The company has been running tours out of Havana for over 20 years. I became friends with the company owner during the tours and he suggested that I lead bike tours for him. Beth co-leads the tours with me and we aim to do two tours per winter between January and March which is ideal for a winter vacation and the best time for cycling in Cuba. Our winter is the dry and (relatively) cool season in Cuba. It hardly ever rains and daytime highs around 28 celsius are followed by pleasant 19 celsius nights. In Cuba, hardly anyone owns a car. They mostly travel by bus, bicycle, or horse-drawn cart. This makes the roads in Cuba very safe for cycling and makes it the ideal winter cycling venue.

After two winters, we have covered the whole island riding routes in the East, Centre, and West. Cuba has a surprisingly diverse geography with flat farm fields, small mountain ranges, and a major mountain range along the southeast coast, all connected by a good road system. Of course, there is the fascinating history of the island with battles to separate from Spain, and most recently the Cuban Revolution. The people of Cuba are always warm and welcoming, they love to play music and dance. Times are currently hard for Cubans as their economy is suffering, and they rely on tourism to bring in much-needed foreign currency to buy food on the international market. Surprisingly, Cuba imports 80% of its food. As tourists, we are treated very well and have access to plenty of food to keep us going after the daily 30-80 kilometres on the bike, and bottled water to keep us hydrated. A tour bus follows us each day and for anyone who wants a shorter riding day, they can hop on the air-conditioned bus. We also spend a few days touring cities, historic sites, and relaxing on beaches.

One of the things that attracted me to this tour company is its strong role in supporting the provincial youth cycling clubs. These are run at schools where promising athletes train as they learn. In Cuba there are no racing bicycles for sale, and virtually no parts. We encourage our tour riders to bring bike parts which we donate to the youth clubs. Last year, we donated two bikes and about $10,000 in parts and equipment.

As you transitioned from your professional career to retirement, did you face any challenges or significant changes in your daily routine or mindset? Do you have any advice you would like to share with Applaud members?

I spent a lot of time in my first year of retirement catching up on work around the house that I had been forced to delay due to the demands of my OPS work. Sidewalk pavers were relayed to fix slope issues, windows were repaired and painted, rooms painted, and cars fixed. I have chosen to reduce this work as it can be tiring and hard on an aging body. Now I only take on a few projects per year and pace myself as I do the work. After all, I have many years to get it all done.

I was fortunate to have the bike touring work to keep my mind occupied after retirement. I think it was critical to have this fun work to maintain my mental health and allow me to develop new skills. My tour leading keeps me busy for a few hours a week all year, as I promote the tours, do presentations, write blogs, create videos with my GoPro footage, and support people interested in traveling to Cuba. It also gives me the opportunity to look forward to a warm and active winter each year.

Beth has been a keen indoor rock climber since about 2020, and we now do this together a few days per week. It is a surprisingly good total body workout requiring you to improve flexibility, strength, and balance to progress to more difficult routes. This has also helped us find more friends, which again, is a critical support to a retiree to keep motivated and engaged.

We also get to spend more time with our adult son and daughter, plus four grandchildren.  We recently purchased a travel trailer and will spend the spring and fall months traveling North America and seeing our family who are now spread across Ontario and Colorado.

I am truly blessed to have worked for the OPS, developed so many skills and friendships, and now enjoy the fruits of that labour of love.  Best wishes to all other OPS’ers in your retirement.