Drowning

After leaving Johno I rode on to Port Blandford, about 40K down the road and right outside the entrance to Terra-Nova. Just a little smear of houses, a church, store and post office clinging to life beside the dead NL Railway [which saw its last train in November of 1990].

In the morning it was bagels and trail mix at five. I had removed the toe-straps by this time, the only thing that was holding my foot, against their own power, on the pedals. Everyone and his dog had said i should at least have something if not clip-less pedals but they were pissing me off.

Terra Nova was nice but mostly without view. The main road runs mostly through the dense woods and i was too committed to Gander that day to make any deviation. I met a father son team from Quebec who had started from Montreal and headed East. From SJ they’d fly to Van and carry on back home.

At Gander I ate at Timmy’s and phoned the parents and let them know about Johno. Gander’s decent enough and I’d originally planned to stop here, maybe go into the army base and see if i could get a free bed.

But I looked at the sky and the sun was only three quarters over and I though, to hell with it, let’s see if I can break a record.

At 2330 I arrived in Grand Falls/Windsor. 218Km, not bad. I’d thrown MEC turtle lights on the handle bars and seat to make myself a real carnival for passing semis, and my right knee was killing me. The last K’s had to be walked since it felt like the knee cap was trying to slip upwards and out of place. The muscles everywhere were dead and I was passed that point where you keep making small mistakes out of fatigue, like loosing your balance. Maybe it was dumb, but the ride had been worth it.

I ate Timmy’s again. I’d got a big book of coupons in the Stan and also gift cards from people at home, about eighty bucks worth, but the line-up was so long for the few days I was in KAF that I’d never bothered to go.

Afterwards I dragged myself to a Walmart and lay down behind an outbuilding, the bike standing locked between me and the wall.

Stuff was getting arranged in the bivy bag when I felt the rain and thought dammit!

It was just me being dumb of course. I’d told Johno to take the tent, I didn’t want to carry it. The bivy bag is army issue, a big Gore-Tex sack that you crawl into with everything you need dry. This one has seen a lot of wear and tear, with the army and otherwise. I’d always hung onto it since its green and I didn’t want to get the new one in digital pattern since it sticks out in civy-side like a clown at a funeral.

But yeah, it was finished and I’d always known I’d be giving it up the hard way, by getting soaked one night and maybe catching my death.

The weather remained unimproved but I was dead to the world and didn’t care, but fell asleep in minutes, and in the morning I woke up early and realized I was soaked. It was warm anyway, and I rolled over to see the bike was still there, then rolled again and went back to sleep, the rain hitting my face and running down my neck into the sleeping bag.

When I finally got up, packed, and hit the road again, I felt the flat. I’d come off the sidewalk with an unusual bounce, knew what it was, and the quick reaction had been a run across the street to Canadian Tire. I’d forgotten the tire hook when i left Johno, and its a huge pain to change one without them, not to mention the danger of damaging a wheel-rim. Crappy Tire had nothing, but Walmart did and I fixed the offending member under the friendly awning by the entrance. I even stopped a lady and told her a senseless lie about writing a book about bicycle touring in Newfoudland and getting her to take a picture of me. Its amazing how many people actually point the camera themselves and try to take picture of you: Its happened twice on this trip already.

After that there was nothing to do but push on.

I only made 20 K that day. It had to do with having been stupid when i was fixing the flat, not checking inside the tire properly and failing to find the fine wire hair that had caused the puncture.

As I pedalled along it was matter of stopping every two or three K to re-inflate the one I’d just put in which had also sprung a leak. The going itself was difficult due to a hard head-wind.

I stopped in Badger and said screw it. The next hint at civilization would be South Brook, 60 K from here.

The hotel was fifty bucks that I’ll never remember and the fish and chips were sent by God in the form of an Asian woman with a Newfie accent. Still in spandex I sat by the window and let the heat come back to my finger tips, let the coffee fill my stomach and return me to life.

It was good to get internet time, answer emails, and begin something of a blog. I also fixed the flat again and this time removed the hair-thin antagonist. A bath followed, and after that, unconsciousness. The bed was soft as a girl’s inner thigh.

The same gray skies met me in the morning. Outside the wind lashed the ground and made long moving patterns on huge puddles, and the rain was falling in sheets.

Rain gear on I sent a last glance around the room to check for anything forgotten. Good to go. No more procrastinating. The only way to get sun sometimes is by charging into the rain.

But the day is hardly worth a mention. I remember it like a bad dream, not a frightening one, but very frustrating. The wind was doing 40km gusts and practically sending me backwards. There’s nothing like having to peddle down long steady hills because if you don’t the wind will bring you to a stop and knock you flat.

Soon my hands were wood and the black Mechanix gloves, the dust from the Stan rained out of them, were soaked and useless. I had to stop a lot to just lean over in the torrent and blow on them, or squeeze them between my crotch or armpits to get the blood back in . It was one of those days were you curse yourself and you curse God and you wonder what drove you to do this in the first place. Maybe you cry hard tears and scream at the storm in anger. If I’d had claws I’d be tearing myself to pieces. But these are the same emotions that we always forget when that day passes. It’s almost as if it never happened. The brain puts up a wall because if we remembered this stuff the way we lived it, we could never do what we really want.

At the end of the 60K I was done like road-kill and soaked to the bone. The ride had gone on for seven hours – a distance I usually do in three.

Now a hotel room again. I winced. This was not the trip I’d been imagining. I was thinking very much about Johno’s tent.

But in the evening things cleared up. The skies drew back like curtains and the twilight sun appeared. I had been writing and writing about other things all afternoon and in the sinking light I went out for a walk over a long quiet bridge spanning a river, or a brook [South Brook?]

There was general store nearby and I found some food and mailed postcards before going back.

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