Thursday, August 30, 2007

Home for a rest

Stories stories... I left Quebec City a little late because I just didn't want to leave, I had such a great time seeing my friend and playing the little concert that I didn't want to move on. The feeling of the house concert is something I have only experienced in Quebec, a bunch of people get together with some good food, drinks of all kinds, and share their lives, it is one of the reasons that Quebec always feels like home. The funny part is that my friend is actually a Dutch transplant! The ride along the St Laurence was jaw dropping. I have been out that way before but nothing looks the same from a bike, on a bike you can smell the air as it changes, feel the temperature go up and down depending on how close you are to the water. All the way to Rivier du Loups was something to take in, inhale all of it, the way the houses started to become more maritime in style. That night I went to sleep with a bit of a soar throat...

Next day I was feeling a little less than wonderful, but I was committed now and had some serious ground to cover so I got to it. Some of it feels like a blur now but a beautiful blur. I had heard a friend talk about Kamoraska country but had never seen it, fields, mountains on the other side of the river. By the end of the day I had covered 150km so I put in a good day even while feeling a little on the slow side.

When I got into New Brunswick someone had put mountains in that province! It felt a lot like, well, Quebec. One thing that I noticed is how the lines between Quebec, New Brunswick are there only in accent. New Brunswick also brought about a few bike pains, as in the bike was in pain. The chain broke, no biggy really as I have the tool with me to fix it, however when it broke it messed up the front deraileur. When I fixed the chain I had to shorten it, which made it so the gears in the back didn't work very well or not at all sometimes. This all happened at the end of my day while feeling sick, and still haven ridden 140km.

That night I went to a camp ground after not having seen a shower in 3 days. Did I mention that its cold in the mountains of New Brunswick? Not a big deal as I have a nice sleeping bag, but still having to cook dinner with a shirt over your head to keep warm is not ideal. The funny part came once I was asleep... The gentleman who ran the little camp ground was, well, odd. Imagine if you will an overweight, gay man that talks like a stereo typical gay man does, and to top it off he has a little Hitler mustache. Ok so now that I have set the scene a little imagine if you will I am dead asleep at this point, no late parties for me, sick, cycling 120-150km a day makes a boy tired. So I have my earplugs in because I really needed to sleep well that night, and then I hear some voice "Sir, Sir" I wake up, take it the ear plugs "Its very cold, I have two extra beds in my camper, would you like to come sleep with me in my camper, I could make you breakfast." As much it was a nice offer, I passed and went back to sleep.

At this point I am waking up with a throat of fire, coughing, feeling just wonderful, but "shut up and ride boy you've got a lot of ground to cover" Oh did I mention the best town name I have ever heard? I passed it all ready but can't leave it out "St Louis Du Ha! Ha!" I would someday love to say that I lived in Ha! Ha! Ok where was I... right, sick, broken bike, riding lots... the best part of this day was getting to Woodstock! Yes I was in Woodstock, not that Woodstock but none the less something wonderful happened there. I stopped to ask the nice old man who was selling some of his produce off the road for suggestions of what would be a better road to take. There was a woman there buying some veggies. In the end she offered a place to crash in her backyard, which I accepted even if I hadn't gone as far as I should have, only 120km but I felt like death warmed over. She drove off ahead and I caught up as she was about 2km down the road. Now to set the scene a little, her house is a humble little place on the river, her name is Pauline and she is 80 years old. With more energy than most people I know she asks if I would like to stay in the little bunk house "It used to be Ron's Barber shop..." and she rips into a long story of how her "common law" husband of 28 years had cut hair there before he died. The common law part was important to her, she had been married and had kids with another gentleman and she wanted to make sure they kept his last name.

That night she cooked dinner and we talked, well I talked a little and she talked a lot. I was happy to sit and hear stories of her life that she told with such vigor. I always feel that it is one thing to be young and do trips like I have just finished but to maintain that until 80 is something that deserves the utmost respect and admiration. Of all the things I hope for in life I think that is the greatest challenge of them all, maintain my love of life until I am old and gray. Pauline had seen many hard times in life, in the space of a year she lost her common law husband Ron of 28 years and her daughter. Hearing her tell the stories you can see the tears begin to shine in her eyes but she pulls them back and tell stories of the good times. I am getting better at doing the same, tell the best part of the story.

That night I slept in a bed, but I slept like crap because I coughed all night. This was the 3rd night where I didn't get much sleep. That morning I dragged my butt into the house and Pauline was a whirlwind. I had told her where I would be living for the next year, she had found it on a mad of Quebec, that is the kind of energy she had. We talked lots more that morning and after leaving with a full belly, sandwiches for lunch, and the best part of all, homemade apple sauce!!!! It was the tastiest apple sauce I have ever eaten. The night before we had talked about getting back to basics as she had spent the day canning pickles and other things for the winter. She had a big freezer full of fruit she had picked. When I told her I was excited about being up North and learning how to fish and hunt she said "Learning how not to live out of a can."

That morning the cable for my back gears broke, which was a drag, but I just laughed and thought "Now I get to do all the hills standing up." I had to ride some big hills with no easy gears to Fredericton which was 100km away. So rain, no gears, but man I had some great apple sauce! Once I got to Fred Town I found a nice bike shop that helped me get my bike back into shape so I could get to Halifax in one piece. Thats when I noticed that the back wheel was about to die as well. Everything was coming undone on my poor bike, it had been a long haul with a ton of gear so I couldn't be mad about it. I gambled that it would make it as I didn't want to spend the 200 dollars on a new wheel. I camped behind a church that night and after have been rained on all day, the night before frozen, and now I was soggy and sweating from the heat, go figure. I didn't sleep that night as I was too busy coughing.

All this on my head, but damn it I was all most there so I was still in good spirits. I made it to the ferry from St John to Digby, but barely as I got 2 flats on the way! I must admit I swore a little when I got the second one. Riding into the ferry was a great feeling as the last bike trip I had done with Kristin and Riley had started and ended here. Finishing that trip would be hard to beat as it was a huge success for Riley who had never done a trip like that before, he was 10 and cycled 2500km in a month! All this to say that I had a lot of wonderful memories with me as I rode in. As the ferry started to pull in to Nova Scotia I was standing out on the deck with many other people around me but I just couldn't help but let out a huge scream of joy, I was going to make it!!!!! Once I touched the ground I was bouncing, it was true I was in Nova Scotia! I had another cyclist take a few pics of me in all my joy. That night I went to sleep feeling victorious, only 232km to Halifax now... so I didn't sleep again as I was up coughing all night.

The next two days I just found myself thinking about the tour and the whole trip, thinking overall how great it had been, ignoring a few details. Nova Scotia is a place I feel very at home in, I think it is a place I could live someday. As I rode down Highway 1, which seemed the perfect number to be on as I finished this event, meandering along this old road along the Bay of Fundy on my left for a portion of it. I had all kinds of songs in my head, songs that I love of other artists about the feeling of accomplishing something great. I was so close to Halifax it was hard to believe as signs on the road said 92km...70km...52km... after all the riding I had done it didn't seem possible that it would be ending.

As I rolled into Halifax it was a little surreal, thinking, dreaming and wondering for so long if I would make it to this point there I was. The song that I had in my head was fitting, its below, a tune by RUSH.

If we burn our wings
Flying too close to the sun
If the moment of glory
Is over before its begun
If the dream is won --
Though everything is lost
We will pay the price,
But we will not count the cost

When the dust has cleared
And victory denied
A summit too lofty
River a little too wide
If we keep our pride --
Though paradise is lost
We will pay the price,
But we will not count the cost

And if the music stops
Theres only the sound of the rain
All the hope and glory
All the sacrifice in vain
[and] if love remains
Though everything is lost
We will pay the price,
But we will not count the cost

I played a little concert in Halifax at my friends place, I sounded like Darth Vader as my voice was shot at that point. It was a nice way to end, not how I had pictured it but its best not to let our own pictures get in the way of life. I will post some pictures and that will be it, the end of the MUSICYCLE tour.


sjvr said...

congrats on making it!! looking forward to the pictures....

Katrina Urquhart said...

Congrats Derek - talk about perseverance (but don't try spelling it). I hope you get well, lots of happy homemade soup and cuddles in your immediate future I hope.
You rock Derek, you did it, I'm really proud of you, amazing strength of character! -Kate

ghyslain said...

Way to go Derek! what's next for an encore?

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Derek. I'm sorry to hear the last leg of the journey had its trials, but you made it! I hope you're doing well up north. All the best,