Waking up to rain always prompts a lazy morning filled with procrastination. Suddenly you find the need to stretch in the morning, meticulously fold your clothes and brush your hair for the first time in weeks. Evidently though, you have to at some point suck it up, put on those wet shoes and get on that bike.
We woke up in Irvine to head winds and rain but after a much shorter day of cycling the day before, we had to keep moving and finally made it on the road around 3pm. Back on that Trans Canada. After a few hours of cycling in the rain we started to see ‘Be Smart- Don’t Spread Elm’s Disease’ and ‘Come Again’ signs that were no longer green, rather brown and yellow, meaning that we were about to cross another provincial border! It seems that all of our epic border crossings happen in the rain, but we sucked it up and got a picture at the new provincial visitors centre sign and continued to cycle.
When we were talking to other cyclists who had done the cross-Canada tour in preparation for the trip, I remember them saying, ‘It’s all mental.’ I also remember thinking, ‘of course- cycling for 8 hours a day does not take any physical strength or capability’ sarcastically. But now, I get it. When you are in the rain with trucks sucking you into their vacuum time and time again as they zoom by only to spit you out leaving you gripping onto your handlebars with locked elbows hoping you can quickly gain quickly control- keeping going is mental. When the wind is pushing against you and you feel like you could walk faster than your current pace- it is just as much a mental challenge to keep your legs peddling as it is a physical effort to do so.
I remember the first real time we were sharing the road with trucks was in Manning Park in BC. Every time one would go by I would scream. No one could hear me, but for some reason it helped. Now, on this stretch, there were too many trucks passing me to scream and I just wanted to stop.
There is something about being on a highway like the Trans Canada that poses such a challenge. The towns are so far apart and usually we cycle for a day just to make it to the next town meaning that I know each of those pick-up trucks is passing where I want to go. One could easily put my bike in their pick-up and drive me for just a few minutes to where I need to go.
Another mental challenge is that when you are on the bike, you have a lot of time to think. If your wandering thoughts are not in a good place, you have time to think about all of those things about yourself you are not fond of, challenges you have not yet overcome, and you can replay memories over and over. In combination with terrible weather conditions, trucks and the thought that you have to keep going straight, I was not in a good head space.
So, there I was on this ride, simply overwhelmed. I had to pull over on the side of the road and cry. I balled, angrily looking at cars pass by who did not offer to rescue me. We ate hard boiled eggs with salt and pepper while gnawing at a block of cheese and sat for a few minutes. I cried some more, resting my head in Mischa’s lap and then it dawned on me; this is what they were talking about. This is the greatest challenge. I knew that I felt shitty, but I also knew that I could physically do this. I am capable of peddling for a few more hours. I knew that at some point soon I would be in a warm sleeping bag and that this will end. What was stopping me was my perspective and my mind.
We stood up, lifted our bikes and kept peddling; all the way into Maple Creek. Well… almost into Maple Creek. We peddled until Mischa got a flat tire a few kilometres out and as we were repairing the tube, a man named Joe picked us up and dropped us off in town. He even made sure that we got into a motel safe and sound. I guess I did finally get that ride after all! And yes, that awful feeling of coldness slowly disappeared as I warmed up and we got to eat, drink and sleep again, feeling at ease and awfully proud of myself for making it.