I ride a lot. I love my gravel bike, Gigi, and I adore my Cérvelo, Carmen. I have found that I actually enjoy riding more than running, though I’ve been a runner for over 45 years. But I get on a bike and things just fly by with little or no effort. (Except maybe Shaw’s Creek hill or the hills outside of Erin. Or hills in general.)
It was bikes that convinced me it was not a good idea to go see my friend Anne Nicholson in Quebec this weekend. I know, it’s hard to make the link between riding and visiting. But bear with me as I explain.
Like fly fishing (which, of course, is the best thing of all), I find my mind clears when I ride. When I say clears, I don’t mean allows me to ponder the things I “need” to think about, like work projects or even groceries. It simply becomes open. When I hit a hill or a rocky trail, I can commit all my focus to the obstacle without fear of anything else getting in the way. Like setting a fly.
Anne and I have been friends since we were in our 20s. We met when we were both working at the now defunct Leslie Frost Natural Resources Centre in Dorset, Ontario. Upon meeting, we quickly found that we had shared many joys – riding, skiing, paddling, breathing, laughing…ever so many things! And we did them all – we cycled together, paddled a racing canoe, skied and in, fact, we ran our first marathon together in Ottawa back in the early 80s.
Life takes twists and turns and we both twisted and turned with it. Anne left Dorset and went back home to Lake Catherine, Quebec. She and her husband took over her father’s maple syrup business, and celebrated many other things that made their world rich and wonderful. 2 children graced their lives, a few dogs, new and different work, and lots of skiing, hiking and riding.
Like Anne, I left Dorset, got married, had two amazing children, lots of dogs and skied, hiked and rode to my hearts delight. My work varied, from the Ministry of Natural Resources to building my own consulting business.
And time passed. Almost 30 years.
Somehow, through Facebook but definitely prompted by a need for social connection and re-connection forced on us by COVID, Anne and I found each other again this spring. It was as if not a year had passed, we hadn’t aged a moment, and we just laughed when we heard each other’s voices. We knew it was time to erase those 30 years and head out together with hiking boots, a canoe or even just a bottle of wine. Plans were made, and I was preparing a list what I had to bring this weekend so we could enjoy every moment.
But enter cycling. Last week, I saw a father and his two children riding in Belfountain. We are a small hamlet, but we get a lot of traffic on the weekends. There were cars racing by, motorcycles, road bikes and general chaos in front of the coffee shop. And there was this little family, out enjoying the sunshine on their bikes. The kids both wore helmets. The father did not. I admit, I hate seeing that. In the past, when I’ve asked adults why they don’t wear a helmet when they make their kids wear them, I get a variety of answers: legally they don’t need to; they are adults and they will be careful; their kids have to learn to ride their bikes with the same level of care…etc.
Yesterday morning, I was thinking about the increase in COVID in the province of Quebec, and how I was getting ready to travel there anyway. Then somehow, I thought about that father riding without a helmet. He figured he was safe. But his kids had to wear their helmets to be safe. I realized I was just like that father. It was okay for me to go to Quebec; I would be careful and stay safe, for sure. But I didn’t want anyone else going to Quebec because I wanted everyone else to be follow the rules, written or unwritten, and stay safe.
I called Annie and told her that I had been cogitating on my trip all day and morally, I couldn’t come visit. Big surprise, she agreed completely. I didn’t even have to give her my bike helmet spiel! We were both saddened, but agreed it made sense to wait.
This virus is a brutal one. Scientists from across the planet are in a war-like effort to develop a vaccine, to control its spread and to help humanity survive and thrive into the next century. It is a menace that depends entirely on human hosts. As humans, we are social creatures. But the more people continue to maintain our innate social habits, the more the virus can spread and the worse it becomes.
I don’t like it, but I made a choice to not be social this weekend. Anne and I have waited 30 years to get back together. We can wait a bit more, when the evidence-based science tells us that it’s okay to jump in the car with hiking boots, bike strapped on the back, fly rods at the ready and Isla inside, to head off to Lake Catherine.