Get off the
Craik, SK - Thursday, July 24, 2014
Even from 20 metres away, I can hear his shrieking voice: “Get off the f-ing road! You’re all going to get yourselves f-ing killed!”
He’s a slightly-built man with a fair-coloured goatee, leaning out from his truck, the driver’s door swung open. He’s screaming directly at Colette, my daughter-in-law, while Margaret and David look on.
I’m 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? What’s wrong with you?”
“Can’t you see this is a working road? Those big semis don’t see you in all the dust. They’re going to run right over you. Or you’re going to get yourselves killed by the big chunks of rock they’re throwing around.”
We’re 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.
“There’s a highway over there, go ride your bikes where it’s safe!”
He’s referring to Hwy 11, a two-lane asphalt route that runs in a southerly direction. It has no shoulders.
I’m 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, “I’m sorry about all this. I know we’re riding on a very dangerous road, but it’s the proposed route for the Trans Canada Trail – a pathway recommended for hikers and cyclists. And that’s why we’re here. My wife was killed on a cycling trip when we rode on a highway. I’m trying to promote the Trans Canada Trail. Here’s a sticker with my website marked, explaining what I’m trying to do.”
He pushes my hand away. He doesn’t want anything to do with me or my sticker.
“I’m sorry about your wife. But if you have to ride this road, do it on the weekend. Come back on Saturday when there’s no traffic. We’ve 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 he’s right. I’m crazy to do this ride.
After he’s gone, I start to feel sick to my stomach. It’s okay for me to put my own life at risk. But why am I allowing my family and my friends to join me? It’s 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. It’s 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 one’s 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.
“You’ve got that right,” he says.
I can feel tears welling up in my eyes, so I wish him a happy anniversary, and say goodbye. I’m thinking about Elizabeth. And worrying about my sanity.
Hwy 643, near Craik, SK. Photo by Edmund A. Aunger.