There were a series of books aimed at children/young adults in the 80’s that took the reader to a far off place, some involving wizards, some ghost stories, but the premise was always that you would read a few of the pages, and if you decided to follow the characters into another direction you would simply flip to the page it requested you to. Usually this was lots of fun, and sometimes one wouldn’t get too far, often falling in a pit, or ending prematurely. You’d then start the book all over again (or just remember where you last deviated and keep moving forward). That is sort of exactly how my day went today..
I awoke at the side of a gas station in East Dalhousie, only 60km away from Chester where I was staying the night before. I hadn’t left Chester until 2:30pm as I was sharing great conversation with my hosts and helped them out a bit technically, and wanted to make sure that everything was in order properly. They were heading off on Vacation shortly and I wanted to make sure there would be no surprises for them with their computers/mobile devices. The rain was also playing a part in my sluggish departure, and it just so happened when I left the sun came out putting a big grin on my face. Until it left 30 seconds later and started pouring. And pouring. And pouring. Oh, don’t forget about the wind! So, pouring rain, and wind equals pelting rain to the face. I was already soaked so didn’t bother putting on my rain gear and just dealt with it. I finally threw in the towel at about 7:30pm when I found the convenience store/Laundromat/restaurant/community center (The Walmart of East Dalhousie they keep trying to tell me). The owner was real nice in letting me pitch a tent on their property and even came out 5 minutes later to offer a room in their vacant cabin. I declined as my tent was already setup and I figured it wouldn’t be so bad with the rain coming down – besides I want to further stress test my tent to see if it is right for me.
I had a less than nutritious dinner of an electrolyte replacement beverage, 2 scoops of Nutella and a few granola bars and headed off to sleep after inputting the daily stats into the computer. I spent considerable amount of time over the winter making it so that things could be entered easily and automated much of the process such as my stats updating, current location, and elevation charts. It is a bit complex, and obviously I left a few things outstanding when I was building it over the winter. I fiddled with trying to make the code work before giving up and going to bed (It’s fixed now as of 10 minutes ago). Anyways, back to today. 6am came quick, but not quicker than 1am when I woke to find my air mattress had deflated. It was real windy outside and the rain was coming down. I also awoke at 4am w hen I realized I was lying in a puddle of liquid – Fuck! I peed myself in my bed? No, it was just the floor of the tent letting in water. Strike #2 for the tent – actually I’m going to flat out and say that settles it, I will look for a different tent.
So I never made it out of bed until 7:30 and headed into the gas station soaking wet, grumbling to myself and sitting down making myself a coffee from my supplies. They had some power outlets and a reasonably stable internet connection even in the mdidle of nowhere so I took advantage to catch up on a few emails, chat to some friends and let people know I wasn’t going to make it to the Digby Ferry in time for Friday at 4pm. I had been thinking that I might have given it a go if the weather was good and I made good time for the first 30km, as that was where I had to make a decision to take the longer “scenic” route, or the shorter “I’ve been riding through this stuff for 3 days now, change of scenery please?” route – but it wasn’t meant to be so I hung out talking with the locals hearing about wacky conspiracy theories and how they were planning on standing at their door with a shotgun in 2012. Sounds crazy, but they were good folk.
I sped off sufficiently caffeinated and followed the route I planned the night before from memory. My GPS was buzzing telling me to go onto a dirt road, so I decided I was going to, knowing that it would get me where I needed to be. Well, that was one choice of my adventure. I rode on the dirt road, which was more like loose packed sand because of the previous few days rain, noticing signs for the upcoming Highway 101 in 28km. Obviously this dirt road went far, yet it would add considerable amount of backtracking to get where I needed to be. So I found a little side dirt road and followed it for 2km, finally coming to another fork in the road, and another, and another, and another. Whew! 13km into these dirt roads and I’m flat out lost wondering if I’m actually going to make it to the Route 10 like I had planned. My compass showed I was heading “sort of” in the right direction, so I stopped for a while for a bite to eat, finished off the Nutella and was relaxing when I saw my bike tip over and completely bend the Click-Stand Folding Bike Stand I have been using. To be honest it has been starting to piss me off as of late, and it is either too short (bad measurements?) or just isn’t set out to be used in a dirt road environment. Anyways, I spent some time trying to bend it back into place eventually giving up planning on taking a photo of it to send to the manufacturer. I kept on riding towards my general intended direction coming to a dead end. OK, no problem! Try the other one. Dead End. Well, since I’ve gone down so many forks surely one must complete I thought to myself as I slugged my way up steep hills and even got off the bike to push more times than once. There was no sounds other than the birds, and an odd animal that sounds like a lawnmower starting up and ceasing to work. Conditions getting worse I noticed fresh scat on the roads and lots of paw prints – coyotes. Remember back in October when I saw a few and they almost looked like Wolves – this is a cause for concern for me and I continued moving always feeling like something was watching me.
2 more hours went on with my experimentation (read: not wanting to give up and backtrack) with many loud swear words yelled, a few tumbles off the bike, extreme fatigue and wishing to myself that someone would appear magically out of nowhere to shower me with cold refreshments. Nobody appeared, and I finally decided it was time to turn back. My GPS was recording my route so getting back was easy, only it was running short of batteries, and I plugged it into my Pedal Powered Electronics Charging System. It took the power alright, but decided to reset itself for some reason thinking it was plugged into a computer! When that happens all memory gets wiped from the unit unless it is viewed from an actual computer using their Mapsource or Basecamp software. Uh oh – So I’m to go from memory as to which door is the correct door to get me out of Oz… I made it out, long story short it was a frustrating almost 26km of nosing around in the woods on dirt roads and I didn’t get a chance to make the distance I had planned for the day. Because of this I was dehydrated, running out of water and feeling growly. I haven’t listened to music for a few days and that’s always something that slows me down a bit. I decided enough was enough and to take the shortest route possible to Digby before being met again with a dirt road. I was moving better this time recharged 2 hours later from the previous road conditions. I found some locals walking who didn’t seem the slightest bit interested in helping me out to tell me where a decent water source was, I was bone dry and kept on going down the road, finally making it to West Dalhousie, where I saw a man smoking outside with a big dog. I came over to ask him for a refill of my jugs and had a chat with him asking him where the community centre was – knowing that was a great place to setup camp in the town of 200. He told me that it was all rocks and I wouldn’t have luck, but I decided to take my chances anyways. Sometimes things do work out. I was frustrated, unpacking a soggy tent, soaking wet sleeping bag and air mattress when I heard a car come around – not what I wanted to hear. It turns out it was the man from up the road with 2 sandwiches for me and two huge chunks of “meat” – He never told me what they were, but were fully cooked and sort of tasted like Turkey, but I’m willing to bet its wild game. I thanked him and prepared for a long sleep eventually writing this -
So, what did I learn today? That I didn’t learn anything from the last few times I’ve decided to take shortcuts and gotten lost. I also reinforced the idea that I’m a stubborn man, wanting to deviate from my plans but not wanting to ever backtrack and admit failure until the 11th hour. Whatever, I’ll figure it out one day. At least I’ll still make Digby tomorrow.