Like a Tumbling Tumbleweed
Shawnigan Lake, BC - Tuesday, July 2, 2013

When I take cycling trips, I make notes. Very utilitarian notes. I record routes and distances travelled. But also social and economic conditions observed.

A loose-leaf notebook is in my handlebar bag, a current page is in my pocket, and every time Elizabeth stops to take a photo or consult a map, I pull out my pen and paper and hurriedly jot down a few details.

Of course, this time, Elizabeth is not with me, and never will be. And Iím a man on a mission, determined to fully document every metre of the Trans Canada Trail, its surface, its width, its gradient, its users and its style. Iíll publish my results.

So Iíve come fully equipped with all the latest electronic gadgetry: Garmin Edge 800, Dell XPS 13, Canon ELPH 330 HS, Sony ICD-SX712, Samsung Galaxy SIII.

Not only can I keep track of the most minute facts, I donít even have to dismount from my bike. As I pedal down the Trail, I can change screens on my GPS device and dictate information to my digital recorder. No unnecessary stops; Iíll be a model of cycling efficiency.

If she were here, my wise and well-grounded wife would have talked some sense into me.ďDonít you think itís dangerous to be playing with these toys while youíre riding your bicycle?Ē she would have asked quite pointedly. ďWhatís the rush? Take your time.Ē

And then I might have remembered the cardinal rule of two-wheel mobility: ďIf you donít have both eyes on the road, you must have both hands on the handlebars.Ē (I learned this when I was a 21-year-old motorcyclist living in London, England.)

Anyway, itís Tuesday morning, Day Two, and Iím still trying to connect safely to the Trans Canada Trail, taking a circuitous detour to avoid the Malahat Highway. Iíve left Shawnigan Lake behind me and, in a few minutes, Iíll reach the Trailís spectacular Kinsol Trestle.

Iím travelling on a two-lane asphalt road with a paved shoulder and then, unexpectedly, the shoulder vanishes, transformed into a gravel slope. I continue downhill in the car lane, picking up speed, while reaching out with my right hand to change GPS screens and read the odometer; and then I turn on my digital recorder to note the road conditions.

I have an eerie sense of dťjŗ vu. This Vancouver Island road greatly resembles the Prince Edward Island road where Elizabeth was killed almost a year ago. But that one was straight; this one is winding.

Suddenly, my front wheel hits a rut, slips off the pavement and slides sideways on the gravel slope. Iím fighting to keep the bike upright, but itís a losing battle. And since I canít get my feet out my toe clips, man and machine, inseparably entwined, are soon tumbling back and forth and bouncing up and down.

The handlebar hits and bends, my knee digs in hard, my shoulder rips through my shirt, a rear pannier drags free.

Finally, we all come to a full stop and I have lots of time to contemplate my stupidity. And flex my limbs to make sure nothing is broken. And be grateful that I havenít been struck by a passing car.

I take a water bottle and pour the precious liquid on my knee and try to wash out the debris. (As I stare down at my bleeding leg, I remember my Glaswegian Uncle Alex telling me about the Scotsman who took a serious tumble as he staggered home from the bar. He had a whiskey bottle in his hip pocket, and when he felt something wet running down his leg he exclaimed: ďI hope thatís blood!Ē)

IMG_0019Photo by Margaret Marean

Paul, a local fireman, stops his vehicle and comes across the road with his first aid kit. He has some antiseptic wipes for my wounds. ďIíll drive you to a medical clinic,Ē he offers, ďbut youíll need a couple of stitches for that knee. And you can only get those in Duncan.Ē

Good. Weíre staying in Duncan tonight. But itís still 70 km away.

We repair the bike and then carry on. ďYou look like a homeless person,Ē my friend David rebukes, ďwith your torn clothes and oozing blood.Ē

At 7:30 pm we arrive at our hotel and then take a taxi to the Cowichan District Hospital. Weíre there for five hours but itís worth it. Dr. Michelle Weizel very capably stitches up my knee in three layers Ė three stitches close to the kneecap, four in the middle and five on the outside. A tetanus shot, an x-ray, twelve stitches, an intravenous, a prescription, and Iím good to go.

Sorer but wiser.