On my fiftieth birthday, I woke up insane. To be fair, I was never a perfect package of sanity and predictability, but I mean, I woke up batshit crazy that day. I suppose that old man who told me not to get old may have seen it coming, but, I had not.
I awoke that morning with what seemed like perfect clarity. I reasoned that having reached the age of fifty, it was time to do those things I had always intended to do, but not gotten down to, in the interest of seeing to them while I was young enough to do so. Of course, I had always wanted to write, and that would have been a reasonable objective to pursue but did I choose that? Of course not. I decided that I would go on the twelve hundred kilometre bicycle ride I had always thought about. As luck would have it, I ended up celebrating my birthday, along with a family member who just happens to share the same birthday but a significantly higher alcohol tolerance than myself. In retrospect, I now see that I was surrounded by very sane people with very reasonable arguments as to why I ought not to embark on this venture that night. Fifty-year-old insane men, however, do not listen to smart young punks or wise neighbours. The latter part of that evening will be omitted from this tale since it is entirely irrelevant to the story about the bicycle, and also because it would involve hear-say, or at least a guest author due to a slight memory aberration. I never trust guest authors to get the story quite as it happened in any case.
I suppose I must have caught a slight chill that night because when I awoke the following morning, I felt a little under the weather. I decided to put the trip off until the following day. Eventually, I did set out, a day late, but happy to get out on the open highway. Within ten minutes of leaving, however, the west wind picked up to the extent that riding downhill became difficult. My relationship with the wind had never blossomed before I was fifty and those next days it seemed the lack of affection was very mutual. I managed about fifty kilometres by the day’s end and had I been in possession of even a minute capacity for reason I am sure it could have quietly ended there. This was not the case. The second day would be better. I was confident, and besides, it was fun. The second day at breakfast was partly cloudy and nice. A few miles out it was raining with a cold icy wind. I hid behind a church for hours waiting for things to calm down and by the day’s end had managed another fifty kilometres or so between periods of cowering in the few sheltered nooks I was able to find.
On day three lady luck was feeling playful and granted me the nicest of days. A gentle south breeze, and an idyllic mix of sun, cloud and grass waving to me as I went by. As it happened, I was travelling north and so had the breeze at my back as I pedalled down the broad paved shoulder, glad to be alive and so lucky.
Not all luck is good luck as it turns out. After riding happily for twenty kilometres or so I came upon a bridge under construction. I rode by curiously, enjoying the fact that, instead of being the worker, as I had been in the past, on this day I had drawn the role of slack-jawed gawker. That was when things took a downward turn.
I was slightly alarmed when my paved shoulder came to an abrupt end. Premonition perhaps. I had specifically chosen this route for that shoulder. Now I had to ride in traffic that was travelling at freeway speed. The day’s problems were just beginning. The highway had not been resurfaced after a flood covered it some years earlier and here the washouts began. They were about four inches deep and half a foot wide, resulting in my buttocks coming down, just as the bicycle seat ambitiously rose, to attempt penetration. It was not a short-term problem. Thirty or forty kilometres of a pounding fit only for an extreme masochist’s fantasies finally came to their merciful end as I approached a village with a nice roadside hotel where I could stop and gingerly sit down for dinner and a beer.
I had intended to write just a few words about this little learning adventure of mine, but upon reflection, I have decided to continue it later since there are still a few horrors to be recounted. I will leave you for now with the dreaded ……
To be continued