There was a time in the summer of 2013 when I thought I had done enough. It was a sunny day in Nanaimo, BC and I was staying in a cheap hotel after a good roll through Vancouver Island (previous post). It was a sensation I will never forget. A silence descended on my soul as I looked out over the Georgia Strait from my perch on a rock. My body didn’t want to move anymore, my mind was calm and my thoughts were slow and definite.
It wasn’t like I wanted to die at all, it was more like I was content that I had laid to rest all of the miscalculating, non-planned adventuring that was churning inside. That particular emptiness was sated. Maybe the trigger for the belief was that the events were stacking on top of each other and I couldn’t think of everything or remember any sort of real sequence to tell a story. When I tried to tell someone what I had done this summer I had to edit, re-tell, sort and it came out as a jumble of crazy person words. Which I have accepted and moved on from. The story was disjointed and weird enough that I was tired of thinking about it. Something simpler for a while would feel nice. A job? Or a year long boat ride? Or a few months on a combine?
Now I’m sitting and feeling a nostalgia for the camper we left in the desert in New Mexico. That thing was a danger to us and to everyone driving near it.
I drank my own pee in it while we played Original Nintendo with our feet up on the brown and yellow fabric cushions around the “dining” table. It wasn’t on purpose, I just didn’t know which bottle was a Mickey’s and which was Tim’s-kidney-filtered Mickey’s. We almost froze to death sleeping in it in Montana while a pack of howling coyotes circled nearby. I could see my breath and was shaking but for some reason the howling calmed me. Once, in a small town in Montana we saw a station wagon in worse shape than the pile of steel we were driving and then took out more money than we thought we had. We bombed the Ford Ranger around the back roads in a New Mexico desert for hours, testing the durability of late 70′s vehicle technology before playing catch wrong handed to try and strengthen the other sides of our brains. We hiked down to the Rio Grande, stripped naked, jumped in then laid on the massive, black boulders. Yes, there were other hikers but they didn’t seem to mind too much. Stefan took a dump in the river.
I know these times are never to be replicated. At the time I sensed that truth but now I know. This is a good thing. Remembering takes out all the hard times and replaces them with only the great times.
A bright light shone in my face and I thought, “Well, they’ve found me now.” My ditch dreams must have been pretty intense. I started to gather my things in order to follow the holder of the light to the cell where I would be spending the night when I looked up and saw more clearly; it was the moon! I laughed with relief. “Not today!”, I yelled and walked the remaining 5km’s to my campsite.
I had chosen the ditch because I didn’t think I could make it from downtown Port Alberni to the site. I had already walked close to 20k that day and dehydration and heat exhaustion were fully set in. The ditch seemed like a good place for a rest.
This was the Vancouver Island adventure that went wrong. I had already slept in 12 different beds in 13 nights; tent, camper, bed, fireside, floor, patio, couch, futon, ditch and places I can’t remember. And it wasn’t over yet. I still had to get off the Island and back to Calgary for a meeting.
Things went wrong. I had seen a friends patio set alight, left my macbook in the rain, dropped my phone in water and then sat on it, tore up my shoes and shorts double skeleton longboarding along the path in tofino (the girls idea), broke a heart, lost my chargers, spent all of my money and dropped my old wedding ring into the rocks accidentally (I had meant to send it out to sea).
Maybe the grossest thing was that I decided to cook fish on the fire one night but forgot and left it in my backpack overnight.Friends were adamant that I throw the foul mess away because it stank so bad but I had just bought it! So I walked around stinking like fire and fish. Sorry Tofino, it was me.
I’m back in Calgary and alive after having an IV, ECG and blood tests at a clinic where the doctor asked “Why didn’t you come in sooner?”
Mr. 56 is a big poopy. He tried to kill us!
I’ll get to him in a little bit after I tell you the story.
Me and the bossman were headed up to see the family. I love cycle trips because I get to see the countryside for real instead of hanging from the back of a car, or, gross! Seeing nothing from inside the trunk. We were going to take it leisurely from Calgary up to Castor Alberta, which was about 300k. That’s nothing to me even though bossman huffs and puffs like a chubby baby.
We didn’t bother to look up what route to take we just checked the maps and decided to choose the yellow roads instead of the black ones. Easy right?
Our first leg took us on The Man From Country Hills’ road. He was not very nice. There was no room for my two wheels and the big oily grease trucks looked at us like we were flies. We panicked for a second and then turned onto Mr. RR8165 (I think that was his name). That was better. He was old but not well travelled and old-man-doesn’t-know-the-world-grew-up hospitable. We stayed on him until Mr. 567. He was gentle and even cleared most of the rocks away.
At the end of the first day we were headed north on Mr. #9. He was our friend immediately. He had lots of room for us and offered water and shelter. He even invited us to stay the night! I hugged him with each rubber rotation.
On day two we left the human photo town of Beiseker where I was chained to a tree for the night like a dog. The town looks like one of those postcard towns from a Stephen King movie and the people seemed a bit too normal. We left early but 60k along Mr. #9, the sky started crackling and spitting so we hunkered down in a dinosaur town.
Day three was our nightmare. We woke up; I greased and cleaned because I knew the wind would be slapping us all day, then took off towards Mr. 56. On the map it looked like the logical choice. We were wrong.
Mr. 56 was trying to kill us. He put deep rumbly strips on the side of the road and only left us 2 inches to maneuver in. The drop to the right was 6 inches straight into the moat and oily trucks sped passed as though they would die if they didn’t break the sound barrier.
Then it got worse.
Sure, there were no rumbly strips on the next section but that was because there was no room for them! The rigs increased their speed and numbers and we had to pull over a couple of times when there were two at once. I sweated lube and bossman pooped a bit. We stopped and had a chat.
“Should we go on and risk death? Or should we turn around and make the trip longer?”
Just then an oversized money rig blasted passed us and shook our pedals. If we were rolling at that moment we would have been clipped.
We turned around.
Soon after we turned toward Mr. #9 a people ambulance drove by us from behind. Maybe there is someone looking out for us in case we decided on doing the stupid thing!
Mr. #9 welcomed us back with open arms. “You stay with me young men. I’ll take care of you.”
We laughed and drank gatorade and biodegradable lube. Yum Yum.
Jake the Snake (2007)
I recently rode my bike, a Kona Jake the Snake from Caronport, Saskatchewan to Calgary, Alberta on the Trans Canada Highway. The trip took 5 days and covered 678 kilometers. I was very lucky to have a rare east wind pushing me and when I saw that window, I jumped through it.
I had been planning to do the ride for a month before I did it and the urgency hit when I ran into a couple of guys at the Moose Jaw bicycle shop, Boh’s Cycle, They were cycling from Vancouver to Halifax and had already covered 1800 km’s in 15 days. They told me that I would have a week of east wind if I left in the next couple of days. So I bought some gear and took off!
I had: 2 panniers, 1 change of clothes, small tent, sleeping bag, Garmin, iphone, 2 tubes, chain links, changing tools, pump, cycling shorts and a jersey.
I’m not a guy who prepares well for things. I hadn’t been on a bike in almost 2 months and had just started running again thanks to a healing foot. I bought a box of Lara Bars, a little jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread (which I promptly forgot in Caronport). I put my bike back together and hit the highway.
Aside from an incredibly sore butt, the first four days were a breeze. The sun was out and the wind made it feel like there was an invisible hand pushing me on. I stopped at Herbert, Gull Lake, Medicine Hat, Brooks and then finally, Calgary. I had a tent that barely fit me and a sleeping bag that wasn’t as warm as I remember. Apparently, never put your sleeping bag through the wash.
Day five (198 km’s) was spent wringing out clothes and telling myself that physical pain is nothing. I have never been so soaked in my life. My legs, perineum, and shoulders ached. My Sony Walkman mp3 player got the worst of it though and has retired from active duty. I might frame it and use it as a reminder of the good times.
On a day that carries with it a rainfall warning, the potential for a warm shower is sometimes all that keeps a person going. 30k at a time. I wanted to bail and call for a ride a dozen times but kept making my goals shorter and shorter. Gleichen – Strathmore – Chestermere – Calgary city limits – Deerfoot – Beddington.
The day after I arrived the winds changed and said “You’re welcome.”
I’d like to cycle from coast to coast some day and now I think it is possible. I’ll just take it one day at a time. Leading up to that I will definitely train more and invest in better gear. It is going to be fun! You in?
I’ve never chosen to cease driving because of 20 km/h winds before but three minutes of wobbly bobbin on the Trans-Canada highway in the 1978 Ford truck underneath a massive camper with the words “you suck” scrawled over the horse logo made stopping the only option. We might as well have attached a sail to the top and taken it out on the lake. Every cross-wind gust just about tipped the ol’ girl into the ditch.
Some might think that choosing to drive for 1000′s of km’s in a $500 camper/truck set is a tad foolish. Perhaps, but it’s better than not doing it when it’s an option. What would be better? I’ve already awoken-worked-worked out-hung out-slept-repeat for years while thinking of my next safe-ish vacation. The two-tone brown unit represents a plunge into the unknown.
Aside from a bewildered look from a border guard and a nasty knock in the engine in Montana that was cured by adding oil instead of turning up the music (who knew), the freedom cruiser rolled along like the ocean liner it is. There is a letter that needs to be written to the city of Denver however, stating that the roads through that high city are not brown-boat friendly and need to be flattened. The Bronco just about fell over on a few unsuspecting motorists.
Hopefully this is just the beginning of many more kilometers for the ’78. Not knowing if we are going to make it to the next gas station or town is a test in patience and faith that there may be something else pushing us along. What is there to worry about? Probably nothing.
As a bike commuter who has (gets) to wear collared shirts and sometimes even ties (gasp) at work I constantly struggle with how NOT to get wrinkles during the trip. The clothes are stuffed into my backpack after a good ironing and off I go. When I get to work, guess what? Wrinkles.
I’ve tried putting shirt and pants each into a plastic bag, leaving some clothes at work, and biking a bit slower with the clothes on if for some reason I don’t have to bike as far.
There has got to be a way. I imagine executives downtown show up and give their clothes to their assistants who iron them before they wear them. Maybe they even keep all of their clothes there. Maybe there is a team of elves on executive floors who just breathe hot elf-air on the clothes when they get there and it straightens right out.
What is your strategy? Is there a solution? Are we doomed to wrinkles?
When I looked down at my feet today and saw what salt and melting snow can do to dress shoes it reminded me of what my t-shirt looks like after it has been dipped in the ocean and left to dry in the sun.
That was a fleeting thought. I was jumping puddles and avoiding the splash of a Hummer’s tire as it sped through the slush beside me the rest of afternoon. A Calgary chinook is a blessing albeit a messy one.
The salt stayed on my shoe and the allure of the Hawaiian ocean stayed on my mind: the breeze, the smell, the pace. I can picture it now…
I will step off the plane on the Big Island into an open-air airport and perfectly humid air that makes me feel like I can grow my hair back. The Hawaiians won’t bat an eye when I hitchhike to Kona. The two shirts and two shorts I will pack will suffice for the high of 25C and the low of 24C. I will surf at Pine Trees, I will climb the Mauna Kea, I will kayak to Captain Cook.
Cycling to work in winter is not something I thought was possible 5 years ago. Now, I think of it as a challenge that many others have met in the city of Calgary so why don’t I? It’s easier than it looks and the benefits are multiple.
Here are reasons why I bike to work in winter.
1. Faster than transit.
2. Cheaper than driving.
3. It’s a workout.
4. Don’t have to take time to workout.
5. Instead of flipping the bird to a fellow motorist I wave at the cute girl passing me on a bike.
6. Get to try different types of warm layers.
7. Sense of accomplishment for defeating Old Man Winter at his game of “Stay Inside”.
8. The urban rabbits stop and give an approving nod as I roll by.
9. Skidding, sliding stops make me feel like I’m 8 again.
Some tips are found here:
This, that and the other thing. There are a lot of th’s in that common statement. It’s not even a sentence. I can tell by the jagged green line underneath the words put there by Word to show me how dumb I am.
To Word I say, “I can speak dickhead”.
Not that dickhead is a language. I didn’t put a comma in the last quotation so it looks like it is a tongue that people speak.
Tongue is a funny way of saying language. I like to think I’m tonguing English right now. I feel like the World tongued the English when the Beatles emerged. The Beatles tongued Pop music.
There is a “dickhead” language I believe. It’s unspoken and it smells like New Car. It’s the thing that passes between when a guy tells a girl he just met how much $ he could make and why he chose to drive his BMW. That’s the dickhead language and it tastes like the fur of a freshly licked farm cat.
I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t want to poop his or her pants. It’s a part of life. If she poops her pants does it smell like a flower? Yeah, it does. A flower that’s been shit on. I’ve seen nice flowers growing out of poop.
All sorts of poop. Dog poop, cow poop, moose poop, coyote poop, deer poop, bear poop and beer poops.
A guy came into the store today and used the staff washroom. He said before going in, “I hope it doesn’t stink in there. Like beer.”
What does that mean? That we were drinking in the morning? That we shat beer, left it in the toilet and didn’t spray the orange smelly-ridder stuff on top?
Idiot. We hide our work beer by the sink in the back. Covered in flowers so it smelled like flowers.
I stole his pants. Pants are dumb.