I woke up and listened to fast-flowing techno beats to
pump me up for the difficult pedal I had ahead of me. I suited up in my tights.
I realized that my green cycling jersey didn’t match my helmet, gloves or
shoes. So I got on the road a little late after trying to rearrange my outfit.
It’s really tough not having easy access to laundry every other day to have my
matching cycling uniform washed. I checked my bike for scratches, and set off
for my ride. I was really hauling the first couple kilometres. The road was
smooth and I felt good. The next 3 kilometres the pavement became really rough
and littered with pot-holes, so was lucky to have mountain biking experience.
The average cyclist probably would have had to have walked their bike. About
500m later my gears skipped once. That should never happen, so I got off my
bike, and looked at my bike. I wondered if the screws on the thing that
switches the chain needed to be screwed in more.
The road turned and there was a huge wind. I battled it
but I exerted myself way too much. I came to the top of a hill far outside the
city limits of Rosetown, and felt my legs trembling from fatigue. I took a look
at the view, sipped my protein water, and then using the last of my reserves, I
fiercely pedaled back to Rosetown, realizing that the wind was just too much
today in combination with the not-so-flat Saskatchewan, and the immense riding
the previous day. I needed something to reward myself for my effort, so I cycled
around Rosetown looking for a Starbucks. There wasn’t one, so I found a park
bench, sat down, and called it for the day. My legs were still quivering.
None of that happened. I actually cycled 242km from
Rosetown to Chaplin, Saskatchewan.
Day 21 (the real day 21) – Rosetown to Chaplin, SK – 242km
I got up at 6:30am. I looked at the weather for the
region; the winds in particular. Again, more easterlies mixed with southerlies.
My planned route was pure tail wind over the next 2 days. I couldn’t see myself
cycling 160km against a 30km/hr headwind after finding a little over 80km a
challenge yesterday. I decided to get tactical with the wind. I changed my
route, adding an extra 100km onto my route over the next 2 days. I would head south,
then east, rather than heading east and then southeast. With my new route I
would have mostly cross-winds instead of headwinds.
I ate my large breakfast. I woke Nathaniel up (he was
camped beside our RV), chatted with him, checked over his well-ridden bike, and
then we parted our ways after saying “farewell and safe travels”. He was
heading north to Saskatoon, and I was heading south to Swift Current, where I
would get back on the Trans-Canada.
The first 150km went smoothly and quickly. It probably
sounds weird to people who don’t road bike, hearing that said so casually. I
had mostly cross-winds, allowing me to average a decent speed until I hit
headwind about 30km north of Swift Current. It was another 90 to Chaplin from
Swift Current on the Trans Canada. A lot of this section of highway there was a
headwind, and occasionally a strong cross-wind. The Trans Canada actually was
quite pleasant to cycle on. There was a wide, smooth paved shoulder, and lots
of draft from the frequently passing trucks.
Looking back on it, I don’t know how I mentally handled
riding 9 hours and 40 minutes on my bike with only a few short breaks every
hour and a half to two hours. The first three or four hours, I was enjoying the
scenery; grassy fields, hazy horizons, and swamped fields filled with cities of
ducks. After that, I focused on my technique and tried to think of other things
in my life or future. I think I must have dissociated a bit too, because I
simply don’t remember that much about my ride after Swift Current. I do
remember the final hour of the ride. I saw a sign saying “Chaplin: 29km”. This
gave me energy. I suppose my hormones started kicking in more. Again, I found
myself hammering away with new energy as the sun was near setting. The
cross-headwind never let up, but it was all the more satisfying when I
finished. It was much more difficult cycling 242 in Prairie winds than 222km in
For any cyclists planning a cross-Canada trip or
trans-Prairie trip, all the roads I’ve been on have had generous paved
shoulders, with minor 1-3km exceptions here and there on Highway 9. The Trans
Canada has smoother pavement, and is flatter than the country roads. The
Prairies are very flat, but on the roads, you’re either going gradually uphill
or downhill. Everything is left up to the wind. I’ve had the personal goal of
getting a fierce tailwind one day, and doing over 300km in a single day, but it
doesn’t look like that will happen. There are only easterlies in the forecast
for the next week, and I’ll be out of the Prairies in a week.
It seems unfair to me that I have to work so hard to
overcome something that isn’t in my control. The wind disables me. Now,
remember this. People aren’t disabled. Society disables. If you can take the
subway like anyone else and communicate your ideas and feel heard the same in
the end, you are merely differently abled. Now, let’s say you can’t take the
subway because it isn’t wheelchair accessible, or you can’t contact your
utility company by phone because they don’t have a text-talk service, then the
society around you is disabling you. Perseverance often is the key. I hope
people see the perseverance that Kilometres for Communication
demonstrates—through the stories on our website, and my own struggle to push my
body way beyond my comfort zone. Disability isn’t a perfect parallel to cycling
against a headwind. The wind cannot be changed. Society can be sculpted.
Attitudes can be changed, people educated, policies changed. Finally, I can see
the finish line—the tree line in Ontario, and ultimately August 4th
in Newfound Land. Also, if I want to be a quitter, I can be. I could quit
anytime (don’t worry, that won’t happen). If you are differently abled, and
society is disabling you, and you’re tired—tired of struggling, you’re tired of
waiting for funding, tired of the uncertainty of when your communication device
will arrive, tired of people assuming inability, tired of not being able to get
places, tired of not living independently—you can’t quit. That isn’t an option.
Headwinds can be overcome, but often there is a detour, and there doesn’t have
to be a headwind.
Kilometres for Communication has a focus on people who
speak with AAC, but it is a campaign for the more than 3 million Canadians who
are differently abled.
Now, I’ve got a proposition. If you laughed out loud at
this post, made an embarrassing snorting noise and made someone look at you, or
were completely fooled by my fake post, please share this blog with your
Deal? Deal. By spreading word of our campaign, more
people will become educated, involved, and we will be a stronger force.