In 2012, Daegan and I embarked on our longest ever bicycle tour: 500 Kindnesses. This project was treated like a charity bicycle ride in that we asked for “sponsors” to support us. But instead of sending money to a charity we asked them to perform a random act of kindness for someone. In the end, over 1,000 pledges were received. Our ride would take us from Toronto, northeast to Ottawa and Montreal then south through my home state of Vermont, eventually ending up in New York City. The trip was made on a tandem bicycle as Daegan was still young (only 13) and less confident cycling on busy streets like we might encounter in the major cities we’d pass through. Or perhaps, if I’m honest, I can say that I was far more nervous than he was and having him riding the same bike made me feel more comfortable.
Over the next several weeks I’ll be posting original entries from the trip.
July 5, 2012 – Approximate distance: 86 km
After a quick breakfast of oatmeal, fruit, and nuts, we left our hosts behind and headed further east. Once again we checked out one of Google’s suggested trails, the Cataraqui Trail, and found it to be pretty much impassible with a loaded touring bike. So instead of riding off road, we made our way to Perth, stopping about an hour in to get a second breakfast of eggs, home fries, bacon, coffee, and juice at a cafe in Sydenham. It didn’t take us long to move from the standard three daily meals to 4-5 meals/day and nearly constant snacking.
Eventually we reached the aptly named Perth Road. At the same time, I felt my body beginning to register a complaint. To this day I remember someone in one of the pre- Bike Rally workshops mentioning that what might feel like a minor discomfort for a short ride could turn extremely painful over the course of one or more day’s ride. This came back to me as I sat on the side of Perth Road, digging through the panniers looking for some Advil. My new handlebars, designed to offer many different hand positions for maximum ergonomic pleasure had started to be a problem. My wrists were really beginning to ache, my pinkie and ring fingers on both hands along with one side of my middle fingers were beginning to go numb. With hundreds of kilometres to go this would have to be addressed soon. But for now I resolved to try to switch hand positions more often and hope for the best.
We got on our way and saw some of the most beautiful scenery of the ride so far. While there were very few stores, we’d learned from the previous day and hoarded more food and water in our bags. The terrain began to get more hilly but we didn’t mind that much. After all, ever hill we crested seemed to reward us with views like these:
Despite the beauty of the ride, we began to tire of snacks and were ready for a real meal. And by mid-afternoon we found our way to Westport, a town of just over 600 people but somehow still having several restaurants and even a small, but well-stocked supermarket. We stopped for more fish and chips, rapidly becoming the meal of choice for the trip which prompted Daegan to say as we finished lunch: “Powered by fish and chips and Fig Newtons: The Vehicle of the future!”
Filled with a good meal, rested, and with the snack bag restocked, we headed out of town and almost immediately came face to face with an enormous hill: Foley Mountain. I’m glad we didn’t know it was coming as I was likely to have dreaded it all day. The incline started off really steep and we quickly ended up in our lowest gear. But then, maybe 50 metres before the top, the road became even steeper and our speed slowed. And then something I’ve never experienced in my life as a cyclist occurred. Our 1.5″ wide wheel began to spin on pavement. Thus ended our attempt at this hill. We walked it the rest of the way up. This would be the only hill we couldn’t ride all the way up on the entire ride, including far hillier places such as the Green Mountains of Vermont and the mountains of western Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Fortunately, though there were other hills on the rest of the day’s journey, none were anywhere near as challenging and we spent the remainder of the ride to Perth singing along with goofy late-80s hip hop, playing improv games and making up stories together.
Finally, after 86 KM we ended the day at our host’s home in Perth. Our timing was perfect, as we arrived with just enough time to have a shower before heading out to a park where several friends from the community had gathered for a bi-weekly potluck. Dinner was lovely and we had fantastic conversations about permaculture, bike touring, and simple living. When we returned to the house, our host and I sat outside and chatted about current attitudes on parenting, kindness, and the various projects we wanted to do in the future. While we talked, Dae got to have a bit of relaxation in the form of what I think was his first experience with a Playstation. Before bed the two of us played a bit together. So far on the trip, Perth was the first place I really felt at home. It’s a small town not unlike the one I grew up in, but with a large progressive community filled with warm and friendly people. I hope someday to spend more time back there.