Get off the F-ing Road!
Craik, SK - Thursday, July 24, 2014

Even from 20 metres away, I can hear his shrieking voice: Get off the f-ing road! Youre all going to get yourselves f-ing killed!

Hes a slightly-built man with a fair-coloured goatee, leaning out from his truck, the drivers door swung open. Hes screaming directly at Colette, my daughter-in-law, while Margaret and David look on.

Im cycling at a much slower pace and coming late on the scene, wondering at first why the on-coming truck has stopped.

My wife almost killed one of you this morning on her way to work. Are you people all crazy? Whats wrong with you?

Cant you see this is a working road? Those big semis dont see you in all the dust. Theyre going to run right over you. Or youre going to get yourselves killed by the big chunks of rock theyre throwing around.

Were cycling south from Craik, diligently following Hwy 643, the proposed Trans Canada Trail route, a high-traffic road congested with huge trucks and grain-haulers.

The road surface is loose gravel and our bicycles are slipping and sliding. And the big semis are constantly brushing by, showering us in clouds of rocks and stones.

Theres a highway over there, go ride your bikes where its safe!

Hes referring to Hwy 11, a two-lane asphalt route that runs in a southerly direction. It has no shoulders.

Im scared by this road too. Somebody might very well get killed. I pull my bike over to his door, and try to be conciliatory.

Hi, I start out, Im sorry about all this. I know were riding on a very dangerous road, but its the proposed route for the Trans Canada Trail a pathway recommended for hikers and cyclists. And thats why were here. My wife was killed on a cycling trip when we rode on a highway. Im trying to promote the Trans Canada Trail. Heres a sticker with my website marked, explaining what Im trying to do.

He pushes my hand away. He doesnt want anything to do with me or my sticker.

Im sorry about your wife. But if you have to ride this road, do it on the weekend. Come back on Saturday when theres no traffic. Weve got jobs to do.

He slams his truck door and pulls away in a burst of dust and gravel. He might not be very polite, but hes right. Im crazy to do this ride.

After hes gone, I start to feel sick to my stomach. Its okay for me to put my own life at risk. But why am I allowing my family and my friends to join me? Its completely insane.

Further down the road, we meet a more amiable resident, a long-time farmer and municipal councillor, curious about why a group of cyclists are struggling down a busy gravel road.

I explain my mission. He understands. Its his wedding anniversary today.

A young woman came by here some time ago, he tells me. Said she was from the Trans Canada Trail, and wanted to know if I could suggest another road. This ones too busy. But I never heard back from her.

We discuss politics for a while. I tell him that the provincial government should be building this trail, planning the route, putting up the resources, and not downloading everything onto the municipalities. This is a national project, not a local matter.

Youve got that right, he says.

I can feel tears welling up in my eyes, so I wish him a happy anniversary, and say goodbye. Im thinking about Elizabeth. And worrying about my sanity.

 

Hwy 643, near Craik, SK. Photo by Edmund A. Aunger.