Now where was I before breakfast interfered? Ah yes roadside hotel patio, beer , burger, sore butt.
The Canadian summer days are long, so the sun was still high when I suspended my intimate three-way with highway and bicycle. After devouring a delicious meal I sat sipping my beer, weighing thoughts of tarrying over night or continuing the remaining twenty kilometers to the city I was approaching. Insanity does not lend itself well to accurate measurement of reality or weight, and so before long I found myself back on the highway.
Once again finding no pavement on the shoulder I was back to playing in traffic. I should state here my profound appreciation for all the truck drivers out there. I found, one and all, to be wonderfully considerate, in leaving my conveyance as wide a berth as they could, and I am, not sarcastically, most grateful to them. Sadly not all drivers are truck drivers, as I found when, upon hearing a car, I looked over the three inches between me and it into the surprised face of an elderly gentleman. He seemed astonished at having missed his intended target as the truck on the opposite side of him nearly came to a stop in anticipation of scraping my sorry remains from the pavement.
Seconds later, death averted, all was as it had been aside from a cementing of realization in my own mind as to the very real possibility of instant demise. I pedaled onward. The evening wore on and the sun sank as the mosquitoes, from the nearby river that wound alongside the highway, floated alongside, driven by their insatiable lust for blood. I had repellent, but, it was in the bottom of a pack somewhere. I was worried about the fading daylight, with miles to go. Just as darkness fell, I found pavement on the shoulder, and relative safety from the elderly fellow I was sure would return for another go.
I rode on, rising to my feet with increasing frequency, to spare my unfortunate bottom the excruciating sensations, of participation. The stars came out. More mosquitoes came out. More blood letting. Finally this medieval medical practice came to an end as I reached the outskirts of the city. It was late. Too late. Rooms were occupied. ALL rooms. I contemplated continuing around the outskirts of the city, in the dark, and even set out for a mile, but opted to live instead. I found my way to a park and sat down wearily on a bench. I had ridden ninety kilometers that day. Twice that if you counted the distance to the bottom and back of each wash in the highway. I was exhausted. The night was clear and cool. A chill came over me, and I pulled a blanket from my pack, as I lay down on the bench, pondering my predicament.
The sound of approaching footsteps jolted me awake! A young security guard approached. I greeted him and explained my situation. The night half over, he suggested a poorly lit area for me to sleep till morning to avoid a vagrancy arrest. I agreed and tucked myself away from the chill as best I could.
Moments later the early light of dawn found me. I packed my blankets away, and headed into the morning traffic, just as the city began it’s daily descent into chaos. The stench of landfill fell upon me, like the old hag, in the succubus stories of the Canadian east coast. Stifling. Cities can be breath-taking. When I finally put the landfill behind me I stopped for an uneventful breakfast at a friendly restaurant and hungrily refueled my weary body.
Not long after, the city and all it’s glory was behind me. The sun was hot as I rode into the wind. I was wearing jeans. I always wear jeans. Jeans and bicycles are not compatible. I removed my shirt and drank water. I donned sun-glasses and drank Gator-aid. I became Jake jerky. It was mid-afternoon when I noticed an old abandoned farm yard down a dirt lane off the highway. I turned into the lane for the privacy it would afford to exchange my jeans for shorts. Hidden from the prying eyes of travelers I stripped down and threw my pack on the ground looking for my shorts.
An army of large, aggressive, Horace reading , ants, seized the day! In seconds they were everywhere. Their glorious assault will fuel legends of inspiration for their generations. The uneaten part of me, that was able, fled, half dressed, and half packed. The attack continued for several kilometers up the highway as stealthy agents of their camp hiding in various parts of mine launched again and again. I fondly recalled the loving, gentle, mosquitoes of the previous night.
As the afternoon wound to a close I approached a campground. This time I wasn’t gambling on finding lodging later. I stopped in to secure a campsite. The young mother working the desk, while her children attempted to distract her was friendly. An absolute delight in contrast to the stewards of my last stop. I set about setting up camp. I had purchased a so-called pop-up tent for the trip. Now, If you, dear reader, take anything from this sordid tale, let it be advice on never buying a pop-up tent. When I had first pulled the tent out it ” popped” up beautifully, and with force enough to nearly knock me down. However when I tried to un-pop it, ( and I did my level best to follow the pictured directions) I broke it. (Feel free to buy one if you intend only to use it for one location, and never take it down.) Having fashioned some makeshift corrections to undo the damage I was able, laboriously, to erect my pop-up tent in under an hour. I had skipped lunch and now having showered found some nuts and chips in my pack to sustain me for the night. I read for a while, as the daylight faded into night, and then, having placed my packs in the tent in case of rain, I retired, in anticipation of much needed rest.
My nightmare, of an attack by the ants, was interrupted, by an attack, by the ants. They had infiltrated my packs and blankets while I was naked and vulnerable. Now in the darkness they had the upper hand. One of the monsters had ambitiously attempted a kidney extraction, and, even in my exhaustion this was enough to bring me back to life. This time I couldn’t flee like the coward I was. I lit up the tent and hunted them down one by one, before dropping among the corpses. Afraid to sleep I contemplated things with wide-eyed wonderment. I considered the remaining distance and resolved that my direction of travel the following morning would be decided by the direction of the wind.
Riding a bicycle with the wind at your back is usually quite enjoyable. I was in pain by now. I was also dehydrated and hungry. The thunderstorm had me at a disadvantage by virtue of elevation. It was able to catch more wind than I was, and though I pedaled furiously, it became apparent, I would be less dry soon. I managed twenty kilometers or so before it hit. I was on the open prairie. Traffic roared by as I got hit by one sheet of water from the sky, and another, mixed with that wondrous assortment of elements that washes off a highway, from the side. I realized, between flash and rumble, that I was a lightning rod. A few kilometers and soaked to the skin many times over I saw a small building a few hundred yards off the highway down a graveled road. It was sanctuary and somehow I got there. One side of the building had an overhang, providing enough space to be out of the rain as long as I remained standing.
When the storm let up and I had made my way back to the highway a lovely young woman who happened to be a cycling enthusiast stopped to offer me a lift. I gratefully accepted. As she drove, with my bicycle safe in the back of her truck she listed some of the mistakes I had made on my journey. I learned a lot from her. I am confident I could plan a successful trip on a bicycle now.
The rest of my little adventure consisted of, drying out over breakfast, before eventually making my way to a pub, where I made a phone call, before having a beer. Oddly my memory fades again at that point. It would be days before I realized the insanity was in no way connected to the bicycle.
For my next highway adventure I am thinking I will hitch-hike. Stay tuned to my blog for the results.