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The first day of the trip is always filled with excitement and trepidation. Mine have always been a test since I never really train for them and am always not yet in shape. This year the iron infusion has not fully kicked in and Zander adds another 17 pounds to the load. So, the day had its ups and downs like the road itself

OBSTACLES

Steep hill just after the round-about that reduced me to pushing the bike

Three detours looking for the trail in rain and hail

Legs failing, feeling hollow, hills felt like mountains

No pets allowed at two hotels, Zander unhappy on the bike

Thoughts of giving up, doubting the plan

DANGERS

Cold rain and hail left Zander shivering

Impatient driver cut off my left-hand turn

Rutted shoulders, pot holes had me swerving

Fear and uncertainty cloud my commitment

OPPORTUNITIES

Sailing through Bayers Lake looking for the trail

Spirits rise as I reach Timberlea

Hills come slowly but the top comes nonetheless

Small roadside park with stream and new green shoots of life renewing

I’m so hungry I eat two plates of Chinese food for dinner

Zander licking my face as I exert more effort up the grades

Stopping more often to ensure Zander’s happiness

GIFTS

Maintenance man kindly assists in getting bike and trailer into the room

Construction workers awed by biking alone and willing to stay in a hotel when cold

Like a slot machine the coke machine gives me extra change

Yellow, blue and purple flowers waving along the route

Maple trees coming out of dormancy strut their red leafs and yellow blooms

Warm shower feels good on cold feet and tired muscles

Warm soft dog fur curled against my skin at end of the day

Two guys ask for a ride as I pass by; I respond: “Cheap but very slow!”

Clouds lifting, temperature rising, rain passing

 

Some bicycle tours are about mileage per day, conquering mountain slopes, or “never walking.” This bicycle trip explores what Zander and I can do in Nova Scotia within the limits of who both of us are. We will keep you posted.

 

I did not expect my 65th birthday to be anything other than an ordinary day in June. But over the last month or two, I have been startled by the random thoughts of aging, the reminders from Revenue Canada about health policy changes and “Old Age Pension,” and the need to make work decisions with consideration of a tentative retirement date (doctoral students take a commitment of 4-6 years). And, of course, decisions now have a kind of finality or lack of open options that decisions at 20 or 30 did not. I am also flooded with memories and realizations of what an incredible life I have already lived and a joy for the challenges to come and projects I have yet to finish.

So, what a great time to undertake a bicycle tour of Nova Scotia with Zander. I have always wanted to tour the Maritimes. The memories of my last bicycle trip consistently remind me of the generosity and abundance of life, that any hill or mountain can be traversed one step or pedal revolution at a time, and many more insights that seem particularly important to embody again.

Tonight is my last night in the Westin Hotel overlooking the Halifax harbor. Tomorrow, I unpack my bicycle and get everything packed. Zander and I will leave Halifax on Sunday heading south toward Peggy’s Cove. We will do a relatively short day getting used to the bicycle, trailer and roads. We are hoping for good weather–it has been variable and a little on the coolish side. It feels like another grant adventure….a pilgrimage into a new chapter of life!

Learning to be Present

What was I thinking? Even reading the the books of Anne Mustoe and Dervla Murphy, was I crazy to set out from Jasper across the Canadian Rockies for my first long distance bicycle tour? Couldn’t I have started in the Netherlands, Denmark, or Holland? But I wanted to travel slowly physically through the lands of Canada where I had immigrated. With some training and an overloaded BOB trailer (only later would I learn to carry only what was absolutely necessary), I left the Wapiti Campground quite slow and wobbly and questioning my decision, my strength, my mind. Each rise seemed harder and I was slower than I had ever imagined as I stopped at every excuse. The rests began to teach me how to treasure moments

moments to snack and enjoy each nut or piece of dried fruit and the chocolate chips.

moments to linger in awe as a moose and her calf crossed the boggy grasses and riverlets

Practical mother grazing on food, conserving energy, and plotting efficient routes from place to place

Calf bouncing/bounding around or running from spot to spot, sometimes grazing, sometimes stuck or hesitant to jump a stream.

I stumbled and wobbled into Lucerne Campground only 35 kilomtres west of Jasper with only enough energy to set up the tent, cook a little food, and fall into my sleeping bag. Even as I felt bet I reached the first campsite with barely enough energy to heat my food, set up my tent, and crash for the night. Even as I felt better in the morning, the next day was even harder and I fantasized over and over again about catching a ride home, giving up this crazy dream. In tears and shaky, I pulled off at the roadside park to view Mt. Terry Fox–a Canadian who had cancer and ran some 5,373 kilometres across Canada to raise funds and awareness as he fought cancer. As the water and snacks slowly coursed through my system and stabilized muscles and mood, I began to sense the life, spirit, and energy of Terry Fox who understood how all of us have journeys to walk, crawl, ride, endure, and enjoy. As tired and discouraged as I was, i understood that I would not give up until I had finished the route. I also began, unknowingly, my journey into mindfulness. As someone who has myasthenia gravis, I am limited by how well my muscles function in order to breathe. No sprints, no racing because I must stop when I struggle to breathe. So, going up inclines is always a struggle since they often happen after a downward rush. If I don’t adjust my cadence, I will quickly deplete my lungs before the climb really begins. It would take many hills and miles before I could accept and work within the limits of my lungs–slowly, enjoying the view, the objects along the shoulder (ranging from diapers to pens, to parts of vehicles, to the occasional coins or dollar bills), the smell of the trees, the feel of my legs in an even, steady rhythm moving me along my route. Over time I would embrace the hills as a chance to rest deeply in movement and the lands around me and stay simply in the present moment–sniffing the air, one leg and then the other circling the bottom bracket, listening for birds and vehicles, sensing the wind and heat/cold on my skin, and scanning for flowers, bears, deer, moose, birds, and hazardous objects.

Hello world!

Being with bicycling, yoga, poetry, leisure, and the world.

For most of my life I have worked hard to do, be somewhere and someone, change my body, get somewhere in the world, and change others and the world. It was a grand and glorious trip and yet there is so much I overlooked, missed, dismissed, and judged unimportant. Something dynamic around intersections, lines, people and many varied types of leisures–yoga, computer gaming, urban Aboriginal hip hop, heavy metal music cultures, bicycle tourers, photography, and agility training.

In 2004 a dream came true as I began to travel by bicycle around the islands of Oahu and Hawai’i and some 5000 kilometres in British Columbia well after the age of 50. Kindred spirits like Dervla Murphy, Marg Archibald, and Anne Mustoe had inspired me to see the world slowly, on my own power, and so the world etched itself on my physical body. I took a pocket book about yoga to address sore muscles only to find that both the slow cadences of cycle touring and yoga poses enhanced and deepened a meditative mind about who was the I of me, my place in the cosmos, and the blending of me with the world. Cycling–attentive to the world, living out in the open, caressed and pummelled by weather, natural forces, and beings.

Bicycling and yoga tuned me to the spaces and forces around and within me.

As a professor of leisure it is probably not strange that bicycle touring weaves itself through my life and intersects with my research and teaching, my desire to connect to the world as it is, and

Leisure is an often overlooked aspect of life now riddled with judgments, work practices, achievement, and consumerism. Historically and philosophically leisure has been multi-faceted: Dionysian celebrations, daily socializing and games, intellectual approaches to citizenship, large public events and spectacles, and deviant practices. The classical history of yoga suggests another understanding of leisure–quieting the mind and non-attachment to the ego-self where being with what is nourishes peace and contentment.

Daily cycling rhythms allowed me to taste this contentment as self blended into movement and the world/people along the route and led me to ponder these intersections in my life.