Day 34: Owen Sound to Hamilton (The Centre Of The Universe)
4443km to 4630 (187km)
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros: Home
Teal Booth: Hamilton Song
Beep beep beep. The alarm went off at 5am and I was seriously so tired I debated trying to convince Wade to start later in the day. I knew it would be cold and probably wet and the prospect of getting out there in was pretty low on the list of things I wanted to do. Still, even though I was exhausted I didn’t regret my decision to stay up late talking with the family from Ecuador. When would have I got the chance to do so again? Plus, I knew I’d have adrenaline and the “Nosty” Nos energy drink Wade bought me at breakfast to jump start my leave. Drinking the entire can before leaving was perhaps the biggest struggle of the ride, but desperate times call for desperate measures and I knew I’d need the boost.
Before leaving I remember consulting with Wade if he thought it might make more sense for me to wear contact lenses for the ride given the potential rain. The pro obviously being that if it rained I could see much better, the con being that if it got sunny I couldn’t put on my sunglasses as they’re also prescription. I decided against the contacts which of course was the wrong decision. Closing the motel room door at 6:17am I remember thinking how weird it was that it was the last time I’d do that all trip. Pretty much immediately after we left the rain started coming down. With it being 12 degrees outside and the rain soaking us you can imagine it didn’t take long before I was freezing. About 10km into the ride the rain was so bad that I told Wade I needed to switch to my contacts so we pulled into a coffee shop in Chatsworth wear he had a coffee, I switched into contacts and bought the last Gatorade I hope to drink for a very long time. The cashier shared she had lost her mom to Alzheimer as well. When you are suffering so much it was easy to forget why we’re doing the ride so her sharing that was for me a good reminder.
Back on the road we battled the constant rain and wind in our face for another 40km. It was so unbearable. I’m being 100% honest when I say I wanted to find a motel and call it a day. No doubt I would have been disappointed to stop so close to home, but it really was that bad. Wade and I opted to stop for breakfast in the town of Durham in the hope that we could maybe wait it out. I was so cold I went to the bathroom on multiple occasions just to run my hands under warm water. It barely helped. My spirits were recharged here a bit by the kindness of two “regulars” in the diner that saw us suffering and surprised us by paying for our breakfast. Such a simple, but beautiful act of kindness.
To the two guys that bought us breakfast – thank you again for your generosity and kindness. You helped make an awful day a bit better.
With the rain not seemingly letting up much at all, Wade and I knew the only way we were going to get home was getting back on the bikes. Less than a minute outside we were so cold that our teeth were chatting and Wade was visibly shaking on his bike. I was genuinely worried about being able to control my bike because my hands were so cold and losing feeling. I was seriously looking for anyway to get warm. Despite knowing it would make us colder in the short term Wade correctly stressed that we needed to pedal as hard as possible for warmth. The plan had some success until Wade got his fourth flat tire of the trip. I couldn’t believe it. Just when I thought things couldn’t make me want to quit anymore we were now desperately looking for shelter for him to change his tire. Wade rode as long as possible with his flat tire and I recall seeing a sign for Mennonite bakery advertising butter tarts which I knew Wade loved. He joked about buying as many of them as possible and calling it quits right there as they’d undoubtedly be filled with gluten and make him quite sick.
Fortunately, it wasn’t too long of Wade riding on his flat tire before we saw a golf course restaurant about 10km outside of Mt.Forest. There we took shelter in their garage while Wade changed his tire and I connected with a few people dining and the staff that ran the place. Once his tire was changed it looked like we were finally going to get a break from the rain! It last for a very short before returning. In total we had about 40 minutes without rain in the first 75km of the ride and no sun.
With Wade’s flat tire changed and the wind changing to be at our backs/side our outlook on the day began to change. The rain returned, but we didn’t let it dampen our mood since we were now on a mission to get to Guelph and have a Boon Burger! I remember 19km outside of Guelph seeing a sign for it and a sign which read 69km to Hamilton. It was the first sign I remember seeing with Hamilton on and in that moment I remember nearly losing my mind with excitement. Home was within reach!
Along the way home we saw both Jack Bernacki and his family driving up the cottage, as well as, Tom Bernacki and his family driving up. It was an exciting sight to see some friends as we approached home! Perhaps quite fitting as well since the Bernacki brothers were an essential part in connecting Wade and I in the first place.
Stopping in Guelph at Boon Burger at about 2pm I was so excited to devour a burger, salad and soft serve ice cream. Our waitress kindly ran the ice cream machine just for me. Such a saint! After completing crushing the food and Wade failing to trick his wife Emily into thinking we were too tired to continue we jumped back on the bikes nourished and so excited to get home. Having both cycled back and forth to Guelph a number of times we had a really good idea of what was left and mentally I think that helped us push on through it. The wind at our back and mostly downhill terrain undoubtedly helped as well.
And then almost as if 34 days of riding had passed by within seconds we saw it: “City of Hamilton” on the big blue sign we had been dreaming of every day we rode. It took a tremendous effort to fight back the tears of excitement, joy and relief. There are honestly no words to describe how good it felt to be home.
This sign of course was only for the city limits and meant we still had 21km to ride. So excited and feeling invincible we pushed on toward Wade’s home with as much speed as we could muster. The hills we’d both previously feared on past training rides felt so much easier and not nearly as terrifying as they did before. It was a cool moment of reflection for us both to see how far we had come in just 34 days. At what was 5km from Wade’s place after we took came down a hill he told me had a flat tire. I legitimately almost ignored him and kept riding because I thought he was just messing with me. Comically though he somehow managed to get two flats on our final day and in particular this last one so close to home. This made for his fifth flat tire of the trip. Having helped changed my two flat tires as well he was pretty much a pro and made quick work of it while I kept his wife Emily in the loop about our delay.
Riding the last few kilometres along York Blvd and really feeling back in the city was such a surreal feeling. Finishing at Victoria Park we were totally surprised to find a huge group of people there waiting to greet us and celebrate. All of it organized by Emily. I nearly died of cuteness overload when Wade’s two kids started spraying us with water guns telling us we needed showers. The whole experience was unreal. Seeing my friend Mike there was such a nice sight and even better because I could unload all my bags into his car and ride the last few km’s back home unloaded. Before leaving though Wade and I got a photo together and shared a big hug. I remember telling him I couldn’t have done it with put him and sharing the same. I can’t believe I won’t be waking tomorrow and spending the day riding with him.
Getting back home on an unloaded bike felt like a breeze. There I chatted with my neighbour Steve briefly and then unpacked my bags. Mike and I caught up about the trip, but most importantly I made the milkshake I’d been thinking about for days. Before leaving I cleverly bought some vegan ice cream just for the occasion, but forgot to get almond milk. Mike was the milkshake savour picking up almond milk for me the day before I got back home. After devouring it I went straight for the shower and to clean up. I think I must have told Wade a million times about how much I was looking forward to trimming my beard at home.
Cleaned up and wearing completely clean clothes (a luxury rarely afforded on the road), naturally there was only one thing I could do: get back on the bike and take the short ride to Gage Park for the Festival of Friends. The music at the festival was after all the reason we sped up the trip in the first place. I took my road bike there and the difference it and my touring bike had never felt so drastic. I felt like I was flying and in such an aggressive position. It was a very weird feeling. Once I got to the festival I went looking for my friend Samanatha Diller, but even when finding her it was too hard to chat because of the set up. We will have to catch up another time! While walking towards the stage though I got a text from my friend Emily (not to be confused with Wade’s wife) that she thinks she saw me walking. Sure enough it was true and within a couple minutes I was comfortably on a blanket catching up with her. It was such a nice surprise! We enjoyed Kathleen Edwards together and I got to meet a few of her really wonderful and lovely friends. I spent most of the time chatting with Erin, Ciara and Kelly. I’m hopefully my paths will cross with them again sooner than later since they all seemed like such beautiful people. I felt super grateful for the opportunity to share a bit of the trip with them. I think they all thought I was maybe a bit crazy for finishing the ride today and coming out to the festival, but music as some of you know has a way of recharging me. Likewise, meeting new and lovely people does as well so it was really the perfect way to spend part of my evening. With July Talk going on though I was hopeful to get closer so I said my goodbyes and did my best to get closer without pushing into people that had been waiting there a long time. Unsurprisingly, Juy Talk put on an amazing show and I’m so glad I made the energy to go to the show. Having started my trip with two concerts in Victoria it seemed only fitting that I end it in the same way with Stars tomorrow.
Coming back from the show I got to be briefly see my friend Andrew Dobie that is back in town for the long weekend. He was here playing video games with Mike. Quite a pleasant surprise given how rarely I get to see him. After Andrew left I caught up with Mike for a bit before having a relaxing bath. Too tired to finish the blog post that night I passed out in my own bed for the first time in 37 days. Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt.
Love, Peace and Bike Grease,
PS: Even though the ride is done now you can expect a couple more blog posts for me. I’ve got a few other things on my mind that need to be said.