Monday, May 26, 2008

Tip to Tip - A Spirited Adventure of Spandex and Generosity


I cannot sleep. For the love of me, I cannot sleep. I spend the majority of the night tossing and turning, sneaking peeks at the bedside clock. At one point I even pull my sheets off the bed and try out the floor. Sleeping is normally not a problem for me – I’m good to go once I’ve put my earplugs in and turned the light out. Fred’s company also helps, but there wasn’t room for him in my suitcase. Sigh. This is not good. Eventually, I give up trying to get a full night’s sleep and promise myself I will make it through whatever the next day brings. I finally fall to sleep somewhere around 4.00 a.m.

The next morning brings more grey clouds and cool temperatures – the silver lining is that the winds are light. I wish I drank coffee. I really do. I sit down to breakfast with Derek Lawther, one of the veterans on the trip, who has taken it upon himself to share the ‘Top Ten Things You Really Didn’t Want to Know About Me’ with the group during the weekend. Last night we learned he has only had one cup of coffee in his life. Yes, yes us non-coffee drinkers secretly like to think we are superior in our abstinence of a caffeine-induced morning pick-me-up. Except on those mornings after a night of no sleep, then we just curse and grumble a lot and search for a vending machine that sells chocolate bars.

Jen and I are the last of the group to head off from Mill River. This, surprisingly, is not because I am sluggish. Truth be told, after a few chocolate almonds, I feel mighty and strong – ready to conquer the trails. If only Jen could crawl out of bed...a morning person she is not. So we head off at 8.10, with our shepherd, Bruce, and Geoff, the bike mechanic with the pink bunny horn and T-shirt that reads ‘Bicycles Can Save The Planet’. Early into our ride Jen stops to take horse pictures, and my impatience sets in. I want to get to lunch! So off I go alone. Along the way I encounter a hare on the trail and chat with other riders. I’m surprised when I catch up with other bikers, I didn’t think we’d see any of them until lunch, but Bruce did say we were doing a good pace when we left the hotel. Eventually Jen catches up to me and we ride into our lunch stop together. Brrrr. Everyone is freezing and the warm chicken fricot served up at the Wellington Community Centre is a godsend to the starving, shivering group of bikers that descend upon it. Yummy biscuits and plates of delectable sweets complete the deal. Based on what we’ve been fed so far, I determine I will not be losing any weight during this trip. (Insert lame attempt at foreshadowing - little do I know then what devastation the scales will bring me on completion of the four-day trip…)

I want to be closer to the front of the pack – more specifically I want to be at the Boxcar Lounge in Emerald Junction before it starts raining, preferably with a beer in my hand. I head out with some of the first in the group, it’s 39 kilometres to our next break – the Frosty Treat in Kensington. I find myself biking with Jeff and Ryan. We draft most of the stretch to Summerside, with Jeff doing the lion’s share of the pulling. I am smitten with this thing called drafting, it makes pedalling so much easier (up to 30% apparently). We take an unscheduled break at the Cows in Summerside, where Cynthia and Derek are enjoying ice cream cones at staff prices. We indulge as well, and then head back out on the trail. That’s when we discover what headwinds are really made of and the going gets a bit rough. The trek from Summerside to Kensington is all grind, grind, grind. It’s unrelenting, there is no shelter from the wind and as we crisscross over Route 2, I fantasize about getting on the highway and going the quick and easy way. Thank goodness Jeff is there to keep me in line and pull me along.

I have been waiting for fatigue to hit all morning and afternoon, but it does not come. I am filled with gratitude to my body for giving me all it has and to my mind for sticking with the program on only three hours of rest. I am keeping the promise I made to myself in the wee hours of my sleepless night – I will get through whatever today brings.

A short break in Kensington, then Jeff and I are off again, trying to beat the dark storm clouds to the Boxcar Lounge. 19 kilometres later we are ordering up drinks and warming up beside the propane fireplace. The cheers grow louder with each cyclist that comes through the doors. And then it starts raining and we hear that someone has been injured. Kim braked really quickly and flew over her handlebars. She’s OK, a bit bruised and battered, but nothing broken, thankfully. Finally, everyone comes in from the rain and we climb on the bus to Charlottetown, where warm showers and a banquet evening await us.

Mom and Jim join me for the banquet dinner. It’s so nice to see their smiling faces at the halfway point. Some familiarity in the midst of unfamiliarity is reassuring to say the least. Dinner is followed by an auction of South African goods generously donated by Don Wagner, a professor at the School of Business who has been on sabbatical in South Africa working with micro-financing groups for the last year. I watch tables filled with people who were strangers 36 hours ago, laughing together and bidding each other up on items made halfway around the world and purchased by a former Tip-to-Tipper and PEI resident. I amreminded that there are no boundaries in this world, except the ones we set. Friendships can be forged on bike trails, and neighbours can help neighbours half a world away. We need only open our minds and our hearts to the idea of living in a world without boundaries and we will find ourselves richly rewarded. So give it a try, I dare you!

No comments: