Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Wide Open Spaces

Needless to say, when I arrived at my destination I felt an unbelievable sense of accomplishment. The previous 5 hours evaporated as though they didn't even exist. It was barely noon and I had the rest of the afternoon ahead of me. I parked my bike along a fence and stood behind a van with a yappy dog, waiting my turn to check in. When I got to the window to check in, I gave the lady my name and she punched in my reservation. She then asked for my license plate number. When I told her that I didn't arrive by car but by bike, she just looked at me and said, “You're nuts”. I just smiled quietly. The lady then gave me a card with my campsite number on it. One for the post and one to show when I come in at the gate. Thanking her, I got back on my bike and headed toward the site. The first thing I came to was a long steep hill going down. Which was nice at the time but I knew that I would have to climb back up that hill a few more times. However, at that moment I didn't care.

I quickly found my site and began to unload my gear. My tent is a lot bigger than necessary for one person but I wasn't about to go buy a new one for this trip. It goes up fairly quickly; in about 20 minutes or so. I wasn't in too much of a hurry but I knew I needed to find town and get some provisions. A trip I knew I would have to make daily because I didn't have a cooler to keep the perishables from going bad. I improvised and made due with ice and one of my smaller back packs. Anyways, I was getting tired but knew what I had to do. I headed back up that steep hill and headed into town. Relying on my maps instead of asking directions, I tacked on a couple of extra clicks and a couple of extra unnecessary hills. Oh well.

My energy level was now fading as I headed into the prevailing westerly winds. I came to a cross roads and not knowing whether to turn left or right to find what I needed, I asked a passerby. He told me what I needed to know but not what I needed to hear. I had another 6-8 km to go. I had to get one more piece of equipment for my campsite if I wanted to eat and had to find a Canadian Tire. The campsite did not provide grills for your campfire but I knew where to get one. It would have to be left behind but it was worth the $14. I picked up everything I would need for the night. Including the all important coffee for breakfast. My saddle bags filled again, I headed back towards my temporary home for the next few nights. Before leaving for town, I stopped by the concession stand and asked them to deliver 5 bags of firewood for later. When they heard I made my journey by bike, they were very accommodating. For which I was grateful.

My site was backed by trees and so was fairly dark as the sun was setting behind me. I went into the woods, gathered up some kindling and set about getting a fire going to start dinner. I cut up some baking potatoes into chunks, added some butter and seasoning. Wrapped them in tin foil and set them on the grill. I made extras for home fried potatoes for breakfast. When the potatoes were near done, I seasoned up a couple of pork chops and cut up a couple of yellow zucchini to grill. I was famished and set about eating almost everything. After eating, I heated up some water and filled my collapsible “sink”, collapsible being the key word. Because, it was very difficult to keep it from collapsing. I tidied everything up and cleared away as much as I could.

The sun, having completely settled for the night, I took in my new surroundings. Heaping more wood on the fire, I set up a couple of bags of wood to use as stool and sat by the fire. It was only after 9pm but I was exhausted and could have fallen asleep standing up. When I arrived at my site, I met one of my neighbours briefly and said hello but could not really understand his response. I found out later that he was mostly deaf but could read lips and appeared to be stricken with cerebral palsy. His wife was completely deaf and they signed in order to communicate. Their son, who was about 8 years old was also able to communicate with his parents using sign language. What an interesting dynamic. By Sunday however, it appeared as though the wife returned home leaving her husband and son to fend for themselves.

The biggest pain in my backside, were the neighbours on the other side of me. They were a young group in their twenties. About 8 or 10 of them with the sole purpose of seeing how drunk they could get and how often. The first night they were told by the park security to shut it down a few times into the wee hours of the morning. The only thing that kept me sleeping that night was the comfortable exhaustion I felt. The rest of the week end was very difficult to get any quality sleep at all. They were not only loud but rude and vulgar as well. Especially with young kids parading around the sites.

The next morning I got up facing a sunny blue sky and was looking forward to a cup of coffee. I had one of those little portable stoves with the tin fuel and proceeded to get a pot of coffee to brewing. The problem was, it never get hot enough to boil the water in the pot forcing me to start a fire in the pit. Eventually I got the coffee pot to boil and enjoyed it immensely in the morning sun. Heating up my griddle on the wire rack, I then fried up some bacon, eggs and the leftover potatoes from the night before. I even had a couple of slices of toast to go with it. This was my morning ritual while I was there and well worth the effort.

The next couple of days, I rode into the town of Woodstock getting familiar with it and taking a couple of pictures here and there. Knowing the way around didn't make it seem all that long a ride once I got used to it. However, the back and forth trips and sight seeing did enable me to log another 60km while I was there. It was a nice little town and surprisingly not too busy. It had some great old buildings with some interesting architecture. A lot of the older homes were quite large as well. All in all, it was a nice town to visit and I was happy to be there.

The evenings were my favourite time of all. Sure you had mosquito's to contend with but what the hell. The skies were clear, the stars shone bright and the moon played peek-a-boo through the trees. I tried valiantly to get some pics of that but my camera just isn't up to that kind of shot taking. That may be just the gift I buy myself for my birthday. Anyways, in the evenings after eating and cleaning up the few dishes, I always made sure I had plenty of firewood to keep a roaring fire going. There was no sense in trying to sleep early, the group beside me made sure of that. They did however provide some half decent music. There was enough light to read by and just relax. It was in those brief moments of clarity that I was beginning to doubt whether the trip back would have been a wise move. I thought about calling a friend and asking to be picked up. But then, I thought to myself, you got yourself here, you will damned well get yourself back.

Before hitting the sack, I would take a quiet walk around the campground. Watching the flames from the many fires flickering against the dark sky and the hushed tones of quiet conversation. Some people were enjoying a quiet beverage while others were playing boardgames or cards by the light of their lanterns. Marshmallows and wienies on sticks abounded and I kind of wished I had a few to enjoy. Mind you, there were still those few who could not leave technology behind having brought every modern convenience you can think of. Imagine seeing satellite dishes at a campground. Sheesh! Talk about “roughing it”. Oh well...to each their own.

Sunday night was my last night. For dinner I made myself some skewered garlic shrimp with rice and a side Caesar Salad. Yummo! Again, I cozied myself up to the fire and just soaked in the atmosphere. I tried to stay up as long as I could hoping beyond hope that my neighbours would allow me at least one night's decent sleep. Didn't happen. Besides, I was now running through my mind what I would have to do in the morning if I were going to get back on the road at a decent hour. Needless to say, I tossed and turned all night. Sometime before 7am, I thought I could hear the crackling of a fire. I thought, “you have got to be kidding”? Without success, I could not put the sound out of my mind and finally succumbed to the inevitable. When I got out of my tent, there was my other neighbour standing by an early morning fire oblivious of the crackling sound it was making. “Oh well”, I thought. Might as well get packing.

There would be no big breakfast this morning. Just some juice water, a banana and a dry cereal bar. Slowly I packed everything I had with me leaving a couple of the things that I bought behind. The grill for instance and a couple of odds and sods that I was sure would be scavenged before too long. Another neighbour, who I had spoken to the night before, was amazed that I was able to pack away everything that I did. When I felt the weight of the backpack again, I just groaned quietly. After hooking up my saddlebags, I scanned everything at the site to ensure I left it as clean as possible. I then mounted my trusty “steed” and began the rolling uphill climb towards home. It was ten past ten in the morning.

When I got to the top and headed out the exit, I paused and waved goodbye to the lady at the front desk. She just shook her head and laughed. I could only imagine what she was thinking. The early part of the ride appeared quicker than I remembered it on the way up. When I cycled through the first town, I just felt more comfortable than I expected. This time the wind was a little more at my back and made the down hills all that much more enjoyable. I had decided on 10km segments before stopping for a rest but before I knew it, 20km had already rolled by. This time, I made the turn on the road that I wanted to travel on. At least part of the way anyways. I came to a small town called Bright where they make cheese and cheese products. It was somewhere around the halfway mark.

Leaning my bike against a post, I sat in the dry grass and had a drink. Recognizing the upcoming towns on the directions signs, I studied the maps to ensure I was heading in the right direction. I thought, something was wrong because the trip back appeared to be passing quickly. What I failed to mention was, that my hands were the ones that paid a bit of a price. Not only on the trip up but also on all of the previous practice rides. The amount of weight on my back and holding onto the handlebars, my hands lost some strength and three fingers on my left hand are kind of on the numb side. Hopefully, it is only minor and all will eventually return to normal. So, needless to say, I was trying to be very cautious and decided to go back to the 10 klick rule. I also stopped to get the circulation flowing properly before any hill that appeared to be long or steep. No sense being an idiot after all.

Before I knew it, I was in a town called New Hamburg. Only a hop skip and a jump from home. I stopped to take on more fluids, knocking back a bottle of Gatorade and water which I purchased at a local store. After stopping for about 10 minutes or so, I continued on my way. Up ahead in the distance, some guy was peddling his bike up a hill and did not see me coming. I caught up to him and passed him satisfied with myself at still having some energy. He caught up to me and we started talking for a bit as I asked him for directions back out of town. He couldn't believe I had just come all the way from Woodstock and this put a bit of a smile on my face. It would be the last one I would have for awhile. I said goodbye and heading back onto the road home. Little did I know that it was the beginning of the road that I had used as a practice run.

There were more hills than the Sahara desert. And just as hot. Stops and starts were more deliberate now but I also knew that my destination was getting closer. Soon enough, after a rather nice long down hill respite, I was at the crossroads of an intersection I recognized. Only 12km to go but still a few more treacherous hills to climb. When I finally got to my turn off, I knew I was home free. I knew every hill that remained but also knew were but mere ant hills in comparison. I was back into residential area and the klicks tumbled off.

Now for a little amusing stretch. I was coming down a rather steep hill when up ahead I spied a family out having a leisurely bicycle ride. Mommy in the rear, interspersed with the kids of various ages and sizes, (there were 3 or 4 of them) and way up ahead, of course, was “Big Daddy”. Well, more because of my momentum rather than my effort, I cruised on by Mommy and a couple of the wee ones. One of the little guys decides he wants to tag along with me and starts talking. He looks at my backpack, and says, “That looks awful heavy”. I assured him that it was. Then he says, “Are you having fun”? Not really, I admitted. But I smiled anyways. By then of course, I passed him and his daddy. But we were heading down another hill before the final uphill climb as I coasted on down and began peddling methodically back up the other side. Well lo and behold, here comes daddy like a bat out of hell racing up the hill around me as though it were a competition. Now, I wonder how successful he would have been if the roles were reversed. And, how stupid he would have felt if he couldn't even lift the backpack never mind carry it. Regardless, I watched with satisfaction as he got to the top of the hill and stopped, panting heavily, trying to catch his breath while waiting for the rest of his family.

The ultimate satisfaction was mine. My goal loomed a lot larger as I peddled my way through the cemetery. This was one stop I wouldn't be making any time soon. Yes, I made it. I cannot even begin to describe the feeling that I felt at that moment. It was one of the most gratifying things that I have ever done. It was something I thought of on the spur of the moment. Decided to give it a go and even with doubt lingering in the back of mind, accomplished it. Even with all of the extra little stops, I managed to get home in 3 hours and 50 minutes. And just in the knick of time. Within an hour of my getting home, the winds intensified and the clouds became as dark as coal. Then, the rains came the likes of which haven't been seen since Noah built his Ark. I was home. Safe and dry and could care less what went on outside my windows. That night, I slept like a well fed baby dreaming of the accomplishment and planning my next journey under the wide open spaces.


ms toast burner said...

It's waaay past my bedtime so I'm in no head space to type much but I've just read this and want to say... well f$%king done, Bogey!

I agree with the campground woman - yeah, you're nuts! ;-) but it's very good to be nuts... conventional is boring. You're very inspiring! What a great post.


Anonymous said...

I've been waiting for this installment to the story. Very entertaining indeed. I am glad that you had a good time. That feeling at the end is priceless isn't it? You are nuts!

James said...

Wow! I realy enjoyed reading about your adventure. It seems like this and your last post should be published in a magazine.
Very well done!

Mog said...

That post makes camping seem like fun. Yummy meal.

I love the slideshow feature too.

smiles4u said...

Yay! You did it! You are nuts but only in a good way! LOL! I was waiting to read this...you tell it so well.

When you shared about your loud "neighbors" it reminded me of the night we camped in the mountains on my trip. I got very little sleep and not just because of being in pain and sleeping on the ground. There was a couple groups of young people that partied all night long. During the middle of it, I heard some loud banging but didn't think anything of it. The next morning at about 7 am I went up to the car to get something and found that people had pushed a car into my van and kicked in every car that was parked there(about 8 vehicles)! Oh the excitement of it all...lol. Not much damage to my car but such stupidity! But, anyways, we camped pretty much how you camped and it was great!

I'm really glad that you did this for yourself. I love the pictures you took. What great food you cooked...and how creative you were in how you did everything. It sounds like you had a great time over all and what a great experience to have in your memory. Are you planning on doing this again?

Very good post my friend!

lakeviewer said...

What a wonderful trip you had; and all done on your bike. You must feel quite proud.

Winifred said...

My you make me feel ashamed. I don't cook food as nice as that at home!

Sounds like a great trip despite the horrendous young neighbours. Sadly it's a really terrible problem here. Drinking amongst young people is very bad, they are suffering now with high rates of liver disease. It's not making any difference though.

How healthy are you after all that cycling! Amazing.

Nancy said...

Whoa, that was some adventure! What a way to spend a few days! Thanks for taking us along. I really liked the pictures, also. That courthouse is amazing. Too bad the young campers didn't have a bit more class, however. Glad you didn't let it spoil your trip.

Rob-bear said...

Great adventure! Did the same kind of thing myself when I wore a younger man's clothes.

And it a world as squirrelly as ours, it takes a lot of courage to be a nut.

Bogey said...

Thanks Marnie. Yeah, I may be nuts but, as you said, conventional is boring. For a first time trip like this, it was one of the more rewarding things I have ever done.

Hi Queen, priceless indeed. Nobody around would have understood the swelling in my chest. And yeah, they too would have thought I was nuts. But apparently, there are a lot of other people out there who do this stuff and go farther still.

Thanks for your kind comments James. Hardly worthy of a magazine but I am happy that all of you came by to give it a read.

Welcome Mog. I do love camping, weather permitting of course. There is no feeling like behing outdoors in the short summer. Thanks for stopping by.

Hi Lori, welcome back. Being a little nuts seems to be the theme here. I don't know what posessed me to do it but I am glad I did. When you camp solo and in this fashion, you have to be creative when cooking. Eating typical camping fare such as burgers etc. isn't really practical if you have to lug or buy condiments. Although I would have enjoyed some jam on my toast. Sorry to hear about the hooliganism at your campground. I hope they were rounded up and given the boot. And yes, I am planning on doing this again in a few weeks. I just haven't decided where as yet.

Thanks Rosaria and yes I am proud. After the fact, it wasn't as painful as you would think. Probably because the brain overlooks those things once you reach your destination.

Hello Winnifred and thanks. I have plenty of experience in cooking and so this is no hardship believe me. I would have taken pictures of everything I cooked but I am sure others around me would have thought I was really nuts.

Hi Nancy, no I did not let them bother me. It just made sleeping well a little more difficult. It was a nice adventure and the weather cooperated rather well.

Regardless of age Rob-Bear, there are still other adventures out there. Don't you think? Thanks for the sentiments.

ms toast burner said...

"I don't know what posessed me to do it but I am glad I did."

Hey Bogey, if you ever figure out why or how or where the idea came from, I'd be interested in knowing.

Hilary said...

Bogey.. Well done! I can't imagine mustering up the energy at this moment to take on more than a subtle hill. I'm so impressed that you cycled onward and upward. Your accomplishment must keep you smiling at the thought. A wonderful thing to dial up as needed.

Woodstock is indeed a beautiful town. I've only been there once - and briefly at that - and by car (I'm not nuts!) ;) Truly, I'm happy for you and applaud your success. :)

Bogey said...

Well Marnie, seeing as how you asked. In a couple of days I will be turning 50. An accomplishment in itself I suppose. The odds of me living to be 100, I think, are pretty slim. Therfore, this kind of puts me on the other side of the hill...so to speak.I wanted to do something that I had never done before and also wanted to see if I had it in me. While in the middle of all of this riding, I have discovered an unbelievable connection between me and the road. It kind of makes me wonder how far I can go and how far I am willing to push myself.

Thanks for the kind words Hilary. I guess you have to be a little nuts or adventurous to take on something like this. There were so many unknowns such as road conditions, weather and break downs. I know that there are a lot of people out there who do this kind of thing and travel farther and take on more than I think I would ever do. That being said, for my first time, I was happy with the outcome and satisfied with my success. I am planning another trip on the next long weekend and perhaps yet one more before Thanksgiving. We will see.

ms toast burner said...

Thanks for the answer Bogey and it makes sense.

I'm not of the day, but Happy Birthday! :-)

Lori ann said...

Hi Bogey,

I just now got caught up on your great adventure. It was such fun to read about, really wonderful writing in your posts!

And I love how you did this to celebrate your most important birthday coming up (Happy Birthday), there is something indescribable about stepping outside the familiar comfort zone to find what we're capable of. Much more than we give ourselves credit for. I didn't have any doubt you'd make this a great sucess, and you did!

Maybe next time you can find a camp with a little more solitude?

Thanks for sharing with us, it was really fun to come along.


Bogey said...

Thanks Marnie, it was last Sunday.

Hi Lori. I see you are up and running again. Thanks for the kind words and encouragement. Also, thank you for the well wishes. I don' t know what the attraction is, but I really enjoy the solitude of the open road. It is very soothing in so many ways.