Dino's blog for mini adventures and endurance challenges

Thunder and sunshine

June 19th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Day 15: Calgary to Brooks (106.5 km)

“Souls that have toil’d, and wrought, and thought with me, That ever with a frolic welcome took The thunder and the sunshine” ~ Tennyson, Ulysses

A shock of electricity burst in white sparks as it struck the pylon next to me. My vision flashed. Thunder cracked like a hammer against the anvil of my head. Booming, deafening thunder a metre from my skull. I cowered.

The words of John and Kumiko’s last email ran through my head: “…and don’t cycle in thunderstorms.” Here I am, cycling on Monty, in the eye of the storm.

I could see the washroom up ahead. I pulled off. The rain started lashing down more heavily, I opened the door and pulled Monty inside. I’m safe, I’m alive, I’m out of the storm.

The wanderers had sent me a message “hope you and Monty are sheltered right now.” “Monty & I are sheltering inside a washroom. lightning cracked above us.” I replied. They were in a car and had just passed a sign for 19k to Strathmore. I was 15k from Strathmore. Worried that they were about to drive past me I tried to type as fast as I could… Before I could get to the end of my tweet I heard the crunch of wheels outside the washroom.

I opened the door to rain and a Mercedes GL550 SUV. The rescue.

The wanderers climbed out and helped pile me and Monty into and onto the Mercedes. My wet feet squelched inside my cleats. And then we were driving. Karen, one of the wanderer’s aunts, in her car was the saviour of the day. She drove away from the charcoal clouds, away from the flashes and the cracking lightening. She drove until the sky was blue.

And then we climbed out the car and I saw still wet but it was hot. Only puffs of white cloud sailed overhead. We ate lunch at a picnic bench. Having eaten my fill of avocado and crackers I lay on my back and looked up. A rainbow shone in a perfect arch around the sun. I smiled. I was safe.

It was so hot we peeled off layers before getting in our bikes and heading out into the prairies. The land was flat. The road was dead straight. And the wind was behind us. Trucks rumbled by close enough that you could smell their loads: logs, hay bales and manure. Highway 1 cut a straight line through endless grassy fields. A red-winged blackbird called from a fence post. We passed some cows. Sometimes my vision would flash in an echo of the morning’s thunder. Yet all around was sunshine. And on we cycled, non-stop for 46km.

We pulled over at the outskirts of Brooks. This is a strange town. It’s famous for its XL meat processing plant which recently have to recall its products. Our campsite adjoins the town museum. The museum features farming machinery, a fake Adventist church and one train carriage. What a place.

We ate Popsicles in the sunshine at the campsite.

Addendum: We had just finished eating dinner and Katie Wanderer checked the weather online to discover a weather warning for “severe thunder and lightening with large hail stones.” There was a motel over the road. The wanderers went over to negotiate a price and, given that our lives are collectively worth the €85, we packed up camp as fast as possible before scuttling over the road under ominous violet clouds. Lightening cracked like a bloodshot eye on the horizon.

Thank you for praying for me. I am glad to be alive. I have survived the thunder and the sunshine.

P.s. I should add that the day actually started nicely as Steve and his young son Reid (people I’ve been staying with) led me through the bike paths of Calgary. It was a real pleasure staying with the family.

My fear of bears

February 15th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada - (0 Comments)

Bears. Grizzlies. I started worrying about bears concurrently with planning my trip. The worry went something like this: And there I’d be – camping alone in the middle of a forest, curled up in my sleeping bag. Every shuffle from the trees is the threat of a bear, every gust of wind a sniff of my scent, every snapped twig a footstep approaching…

My worry was hugely exacerbated when I was kindly given a book for Christmas called Call of the Wild. The book is written by a Scot, Guy Grieve, who lived in the Interior of Alaska for a year. In it he recalls the tragic story of a man, a self-taught expert on bear behaviour, and his girlfriend who were both eaten to death by a bear in October 2003. As Grieve explains “it takes a long time to be killed by a bear, as they start on the lower limbs, buttocks and soft tissue. Bears are also keen on our glands, and seek these out with relish… [the man’s] death lasted for over an hour.”

Oh yikes.

My first thought on reading this was that “with relish” is a really inappropriate turn of phrase as it evokes an image of a bear popping open a jar of piccalilli. The second thought, confirmed by glancing down at my ample behind, was “oh goodness, can you imagine how much lower limb and buttocks I would have as a transcontinental cyclist?” That would be a very, very long lunch.

It’s at this point in trip planning that panic sets in. But no! I say, with great resolve. I must get the FACTS on bears.

So I do what I should have done months ago and look up the stats on bear attacks on Wikipedia. I am at this point on my Dad’s computer. My Dad is ironing his work shirts in the background. I read aloud:

“Around three people in the US and Canada are killed by a bear each year.” Oh, that’s not many. “One is more likely,” the page continues “to be struck by lightning than to be attacked by a bear… around 90 people are killed by lightning each year.”

“Oh yes,” interjects my Dad, “you should worry about the lightning. In the prairies your metal bike and tent pole will be the tallest things for miles around.”

And suddenly my fear of bear vanishes in a flash of lightning.