By Heather Pardon
A few years ago I never would have imagined myself embarking upon a road cycling trip on a hybrid bicycle while towing my dog behind me in a Burley Rover dog trailer. Yet, a few years ago I wouldn’t have imagined myself leaving behind my life in Ottawa in exchange for a drastically new life on Vancouver Island either.
With cycling as with life, we never really know what may come with each turn of the wheel. It’s a wonderfully serendipitous fact of life that as we evolve, our cycling evolves with us, connecting us with new friends, new parts of ourselves and new adventures on the road ahead.
I began my cycling “career” as a hard-core roadie. Although I must admit that I giggle a bit when I think back to the old Bell helmet (aka “the Salad Bowl”), wool shirt and shorts and rat-trap pedals I was using when I first got into the sport over 30 years ago. Thankfully, at least I wasn’t simultaneously sporting a shag hairdo to complement such a fashionable outfit.
At the time, I was happy to do what many good roadies do. I rode my bike for miles and miles every day. I competed in road races and criteriums (a one-day bicycle race on a circuit road course). I cleaned my bike daily and ate, drank, read and slept cycling. I thought that road riding was the ultimate in cycling and that I’d always be a roadie.
Road riding seemed to complement my life, offering me the opportunity to escape routine and enjoy the solitude that hours on the road afforded me. I guess that’s what I needed at the time.
I recall once scoffing at mountain bikers, wondering why on earth anyone would ride their bike through the woods and imaging how “easy” the sport must be. You’re only riding on trails after all.
Well, I found out how “easy” it was when I took up the sport in the early 90′s , encouraged by a fellow cyclist. As I discovered over the course of ten years of recreational mountain bike riding and racing, it’s a demanding sport and one that challenged me in ways that road riding wasn’t able to.
I joined FlyGurlz, a women’s mountain bike team. With my new teammates and friends, I enjoyed many seasons of travelling to races across Ontario and British Columbia, discovering parts of my cycling and other self that I didn’t know existed. I guess that’s what I needed at the time.
As our cycling evolves and challenges us, it’s only inevitable that we evolve and grow with it. So perhaps it shouldn’t have been such a surprise that after years of long miles on the road and ten years enjoying the ups and downs of mountain biking (literally and figuratively), I’d finally muster the courage to leave behind the somewhat comfortable but unsatisfying life that I knew in Ontario for a new life in the west.
When we dare to cycle outside of our comfort zone, whether it’s tackling a tough climb, signing up for an event or adding a few more kilometres to our weekly ride, it seems that the benefits spinoff into other areas of our lives as well.
In the spring of 2009, with 30 years of cycling under my belt, I spontaneously sold my house in Ottawa, closed my two businesses, got rid of most of my belongings and hit the road in an RV for a soul-searching adventure of a lifetime. When I needed a bicycle to accompany me for the trip, I chose a hybrid, something that would allow me to enjoy a somewhat slower, more comfortable pace on the road. I think it’s exactly what I needed at that stage of my life.
Three years, several thousand kilometres and a puppy later, I now happily reside in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island where my Jack Russell Terrier, Daisy ‘Mo, regularly accompanies me on rides in her tow-behind trailer.
Our little caravan worked well for Daisy ‘Mo and I on a recent 60 km trip from Nanaimo to Saltspring Island to visit with friends I met when I first moved here. Saltspring is an irresistibly beautiful island that is well-known for its highly talented and eclectic mix of artisans, social, community and cultural diversity, intriguing sightseeing, somewhat hippie lifestyle and lush, rainforest landscape.
It’s true that island life is slower and calmer than on the mainland. Towing a trailer reduced my average speed to 10 mph, allowing me ample time to slow down and enjoy my surroundings. However, after years of faster-paced living, I appreciate going slower both in my cycling and non-cycling life.
“Slow down, it’s Saltspring Island”, reads the caption on the t-shirts for sale at the famous Saturday Ganges market, which reflects the local attitude towards life and cycling. As a venue for enjoying a slow-paced, calm ride on my bicycle, a better destination I’ve never seen in all my years of cycling and I would guess that many other cyclists would agree.
When I disembarked the ferry and began my climb into town, I was warmly greeted by several houses and businesses that displayed colourfully decorated bicycles out front.
“What fun!”, I thought. Later I learned that these inspiring bicycles were the result of a recent cycling awareness campaign that encouraged many of the locals decided to display bicycles as a reminder to everyone to slow down and share the road. I certainly wish that more communities across the country would follow suit.
As I travelled along the Island roads, I received friendly waves and plenty of room from local drivers, which allowed me to enjoy a calm , relaxed ride and the spectacular ocean views. As my life is much calmer, slower and relaxed than it used to be years ago, riding a hybrid and towing a doggie trailer suits my lifestyle perfectly at the moment.
I don’t know where cycling or life will take me in the years to come. I only know this – that as the wheels of our bicycles turn, the wheels of our life turn as well. And if we roll with both of them, they’ll take us to places we could never imagine and some of the best cycles of our life.
Heather Pardon is an author, speaker and enthusiastic cyclist who is often fuelled by her new home’s namesake treat, delicious Nanaimo bars. Heather recently published “Following Daisies – A True Story About One Woman’s Adventures Finding Happiness, Fulfilling Dreams and Becoming Herself” which chronicles the story of her soul-searching adventure of the heart in her RV,“Miss Daisy”. You can visit Heather’s website and also read more about “Following Daisies” at www.wilddaisy.ca
If you’d like a copy of Following Daisies for your Kindle, you can download a copy for FREE on September 30th by simply going to this link during this one-time special promotional offer: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008RG0432
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