People of Georgian: Former Olympic skier drives $1 truck across Canada

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The Georgian community is full of unique, inspiring perspectives —and we’re sharing them as part of an ongoing series.

People of Georgian: Meet Ron Howden

I competed in the Olympics in 1988 for Great Britain.

I had dual citizenship and an opportunity to ski internationally with them after I picked up cross-country skiing in high school. It was a lot of fun. I skied the Junior World competition in Italy in ’87, and then the World Championships in Germany, and then the Olympics in ‘88.

The Olympics was the biggest crowd I’d ever skied in front of, and it was a little overwhelming. You don’t want to trip on your way to the stadium.

Two people standing outside in a snowy forest take a selfie.
Ron and his wife, Colleen, lead an active lifestyle.

I skied a 15-kilometre race, and it was one of the hardest courses I’ve ever skied. When you have that many people in the crowd, you just have to give ‘er as hard as you can. After a kilometre of that, you realize you started way too fast and you have to recover and get into your race more comfortably.

There were no medals or anything like that. I was the youngest one in the race at age 19. It was meant to be my first international race – get the first Olympics under my belt and then I was supposed to keep going, but I didn’t like skiing for other people.

But the overall experience was pretty amazing. The Olympics is The Show. Everything is looked after, and you’re treated like a hero.

When I came back, I went to university and I met my wife.

Two adults and a black dog stand on a beach near the water.
Ron and his wife travelled across much of Canada together.

Ron drives a $1 truck across Canada

One thing led to another and she ended up pregnant, so we wanted to move to Western Canada. At the time, my father worked at a lumber store where they wanted to get rid of a delivery truck, so he asked me if I wanted to buy it for $1. I’m like, “Yeah, I’ll take it.”

You can imagine that a $1 truck is probably not the best truck going, but we packed up the truck and started driving in July in the sweltering heat. Well, this truck kept breaking down – the tires blew, the brakes crapped out, the hood blew off. We had many adventures with that truck.

My poor pregnant wife was so nauseous and sick, but she was such a trooper. Then we stopped in Canmore, Alta., and said, “Well, I think we’re going to live here for a while.”

An adult takes a selfie with a dog in front of some large rocks.
Ron and his dog, Kira.

The $1 truck actually stayed with us for about three or four more years while we settled in Alberta.

I was never deterred by any problem that came up with the truck, and I’ve always been like that with anything; let’s just figure this out. It’s like man vs. machine – the man is always going to win. As long as we can figure out how the machine works and we fix it, then the person wins. Whether I’m fixing a blender at home or a car, it’s all the same idea that it was all built by a person, so they want us to be able to fix it and make it run.

Four adults and a dog walk in the woods.
Ron loves spending time with “lovely ladies in my life,” his wife and daughters.

‘I have an insatiable appetite for learning’

I’m taking this same approach to my studies at Georgian.

While working at the college, I saw some really cool things they’re doing here with automation and robotics and combining it with mechanical engineering, and I really wanted to be part of that.

And then who knows? Maybe I’ll take a culinary program next. I figure, you can only make pasta and barbecue so many times before my wife goes, ‘Well, it’s good, but you should learn how to cook.’

I have an insatiable appetite for learning. It’s been such a good experience so far – I’m hooked.

Ron Howden, Auto Service Mechanic and General Maintenance with Georgian’s Facilities Management. Ron is also a current student, working on completing the Mechanical Engineering Technologist and Welding Techniques programs at the Barrie and Midland campuses, respectively.

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