When we rolled into Grandfalls the temperature was dropping rapidly and we knew that we were in for a cold night… needless to say “cold night” translated into “meat freezer” within the confines of the insulated trailer. I was prepared as much as I could be… sleeping bag, socks, touque, and I even wore the awesome team thermal jacket that we were given… Come morning time I did “ok” until I started getting ready and realized just how darn cold it was! The forecast was for a warmer afternoon, so I sucked it up like a good little princess and got moving.
The morning dedication was for Michael Leiter who passed away from Hepatocellular Carcinoma (Liver Cancer) in 2006, son of fellow National Rider Mike Leiter… I believe this is Mike’s fifth National Ride (shared between being a Rider and volunteer), not including the various Tour for Kids rides. Mike is from Pennsylvania, USA and when looking for an outlet to channel his grief he couldn’t quite find what he was looking for in the States, but found his way up here. He was made on honorary Canadian earlier in our journey… he is an RV buddy and I got to know him better – they made a good choice, and we are proud he is now Canadian. I’ve seen Mike share he grief twice now, first at the Terry Fox memorial and today… it is raw and as equally powerful as the bereaved mothers we have heard from.
When I look at Mike I see a warrior… someone who is a bit battle scarred, but throws himself into the fray with the passion he displayed today regardless of the physical toll… some days are good, some not but that’s ok because it’s not about the mileage but about the cause… would you rather go into battle with a pretty boy who has no heart or into battle with a veteran who will lay it all on the line… I choose the later, and I’m honoured to have met him and ride with him.
We rolled out into the fog, turned a few corners and it seemed good! Then we went a bit further and turned a few more corners and I discovered what “foggy” truly means… the first few hours of the ride were intense and totally cool… riding through the fog was a blast, and I vividly remember riding across a bridge and glimpsing the scenery or the river below… had it not been for being in a group I would have slammed on the brakes to sit there and be mesmerized. Despite my gloves, my fingers alternated between “freezing cold” and “frostbite cold”… but things changed… a few corners later we were met with the glorious sun and it followed us for the entire day… and we had a tailwind, and we zoom-zoomed to the 90km mark.
We went across and back on the “covered” bridge, and confidence high we moved on…That’s when the next reality check came into play…
We were told in advance that the roads were “questionable” but things had been good up to that point… then we hit a stretch of road that I can only describe as “an army firing range”… oh yeah, it was on a steeeeep descent as well… we were flying down that hill and at one point it became every man (and woman) for himself… all we were missing was live mortar shells raining down on us like something out of “Saving Private Ryan” as we bobbed and weaved through the road carnage… we made it, but I’m sure if our bikes could speak they would have had some “very choice words” for us… despite this, it was a hoot but the only way I would EVER ride this stretch again would be on my Fat Bike…
And the HILLS… the kind of hills that when you rounded the corner and looked ahead your heart sank and prepared yourself for the grind… But we hunkered in and got it done.
Did you know that in rural New Brunswick most “big” dogs aren’t on leashes? Would we have had it, “bear spray” might have been a valid option but we were fortunate that wasn’t required.
As we rolled into Fredericton we were met with a fire engine escort and they led us in… God bless them, but they led us up probably the two biggest hills I’ve had the “pleasure” of riding… if our legs were fresh, it might have been ok but after 197km we were hitting our limit…
Baby J – I looked at your picture quite a few times today, and especially on those last set of hills!!! It kept me going.
As we rolled into the parking lot, most people were 0.5km short of 200km so we went out of our way to ride laps like a bunch of goofballs until we hit the 200km mark… worth it!
All in all, this was probably the most scenic and wonderful riding experience I have ever had… despite struggling on the hills a bit I felt really good on the bike and had one of my strongest days ever.
Early morning tomorrow, and only a few more days until I’m reunited with my wife and Daughter in Halifax… It seems like forever ago that we just started, and I can’t believe we are almost done.
Thanks for reading and your support!