I hear a noise – it’s the door opening to the garage. I roll over and without my contacts can make out Chris moving things outside in preparation for the day. I realize I should probably get ready so I make my way out of bed and start to gather my Team Speranza kit to wear for the day and all my other supplies for camping. I make it through my morning routine and head outside to finish loading up the Tahoe so we can get on the road. Chris, being much more prepared than I, was sitting on the steps for me as I gathered the last of my stuff to go outside.
Once we play some musical vehicles to get my car out of the driveway we get on the road to head to Stonewall, MB where the ride begins. I finally get the bright idea as we’re leaving his house to set my GPS to metric so it will display the speed limit in kilometers instead of miles per hour (No more looking at the tiny numbers on the speedometer… DUH!). As we drive out to the site we chat about various things including the weather and the forecast for the weekend. I think we also discussed how this ride had 5 rest stops each day – which I felt was excessive for the total mileage (80k/52mi). We passed a few cars with bikes on the bike who presumably were going to the same ride we were. After getting slightly lost (we didn’t have an exact address but Stonewall isn’t a huge town) we made our way through the circus of a parking lot and get parked.
We walk towards the building where breakfast and check-in was located. As we were walking I was looking around and I felt out-of-place at a cycling event but this time for different reasons than most. Typically I’m the overweight cyclist in lycra and clips standing among uber-fit cyclist in lycra and clips. This time I was one of the few people in a full kit, clips, and have a road bike. Well, Chris also was in a kit and has a road bike but I would say we were the minority by far. It was a new feeling for me but I thought, “Maybe these people are just really good on their bikes”. I finish filling out paperwork and turning in the money that Chris raised for me so I didn’t have to pay (Thanks again Chris!). I grabbed an orange juice and banana (shocking – most of the food contained gluten). We made our way back out to the Tahoe to get ready for our part of the ride. We drop the bags off and then we prepare the bikes for the ride.
As we’re still getting ready we hear them start to talk at the start line and realize that is our queue to get over to the start line. We make our way there and end up in the back. As I surveyed the land of hybrid and mountain bikes I quickly realized that we were going to have to eventually make our way to the front.
We’re off… well, sort of. I was one foot clipped in and one foot pushing myself off the ground as the speed was below what it required to keep upright with both feet clipped in. We finally get onto the road and we’re riding… at about 10 MPH. This lasted for a bit but finally I HAD to get moving faster. So I asked Chris if we could start passing people and he gave me the go ahead. The next thing I knew I was doing 20MPH and just flying in the left lane saying “on your left” about a 100 times. It was fun to people watch as we passed riders. You saw riders of all shape and sizes, variety of bikes and variety of apparel. We pull into a gap while there was oncoming traffic and Chris quietly says to me,
“Do you have your phone handy?”
My first thought, “Why are you using my phone? I have to pay mad roaming charges to make calls here in Canada?!?! You have a phone?”
I respond with a simple, “Yes”
He didn’t say anything.
Finally I look up and realize why he asked – he wanted me to snap a picture of our friendly rider in front of us.
In case the picture doesn’t do it justice – he is wearing a leather vest (no shirt underneath), cargo/skater shorts, combat boots on a fixie. It was a very hot look – not going to lie.
After snapping the picture I said, “Is that what you wanted?” Chris followed that up with a chuckle so I took that as a yes.
I just get into a good stride and there is rest stop number 1. Since we were in no hurry we decided to stop at every rest stop so we rolled in. I picked up some more calories and some water. We roll back out and start passing people that we’ve previously passed. I was thinking to myself, “Oh, so this is what it feels like to be the fast team.” I think it is great that all these people came out to support a cause and ride that distance on anything but a road bike. I just felt a little bad by passing them after every rest stop because I know that when I’m that guy being passed over and over it breaks your spirit a bit.
Four more rest stops later we pull into the finish line. I noticed the lack of people and wasn’t sure what to think. I’m almost always one of the last riders into a ride and there are tons of people. This time, we were some of the first people into the finish. After taking a quick jaunt around the little town of Gimli we head back to the finish line to setup the tent and get cleaned up. I got a complimentary massage (because why wouldn’t you get a massage?) and then gather up our bags to go setup the tent.
Chris pulls the tent out of the bag and we stake it to the ground and then get the poles together and get it setup. Once it’s done I survey it and think, “Well, at least it looks sturdy”.
I then blow up the queen sized air mattress and it fills almost the entire floor of the tent (when I say almost I mean – we had enough room to put our bags on either side of the bed and they were up against the walls of the tent). So… it looks like we’ll be sharing a bed. Oh good, as someone who has personal space issues, I thought to myself, “Clearly, Canadians must measure personal space in centimeters however this American measures it in feet… haha”.
I felt bad but all afternoon/evening when I was near the tent I just laughed because as I play out this scenario in my head I think how crazy people will think of me when I re-tel this story… “Yes, I drove 20 hours to meet a guy off the internet, stay at his house and then camp with him in a tent for two people where we shared an air mattress.” I have to say that if I was being told that story I know I would laugh and probably tag the descriptor of “crazy” to that person. Honestly, it was very generous for Chris to share his tent with me and obviously this was a two-way street – Chris also was sleeping in a small tent, sharing an air mattress with a half-Asian American he just met. I guess that means we’re both a fair amount of crazy?
We finish getting cleaned up and then we realize there is nothing to do until 6:30 PM. Surely it is later than we think… Nope, 1:17 PM… We wandered around and met up with Karen and Jamie (Chris’s friends). Karen said she’d walk with us into town.
We walk around the little town and we get some ice cream. I decided to get the most stereotypical Canadian item on the menu which was called “The Canadian Maple”. It was vanilla ice cream with maple sauce, walnuts and garnished with maple cookies. It was very… “maple-ey” but good.
Afterwards we headed over to this little store that sold clothing and books and various touristy things. This is where Karen and I decided to be Vikings and of course I find the hat with the smallest horns for comedic effect. I almost bought the hat but that little voice that keeps me in line started telling me this is how hoarding starts and I put the hat back… LOL
We stop at a dollar store for me to get something to drink – this is when I learned that Canadian Fresca was all grapefruit flavored and not “original citrus” like we have in the States. Also while we were here Chris decided to be a Viking as well.
Back at the “Tent City” Chris and I discover a checker’s table near our tent. So we decided to play what I referred to Canadian checkers. Chris used rocks and I used coins for pieces. It was actually really fun and a memory that I’m sure I’ll have for years to come. It was fun watching strategy and what works and what doesn’t. It’s very true – no game of checkers is ever the same.
Finally we decide to take another walk but this time down to Sobeys (a grocery store). We spent almost an hour walking through the store and I pointed out everything that we didn’t have in the States. I also pointed out things that we DID have in the States that they didn’t. It is hard to believe that just over the border that the store would be so different! I was introduced to Ketchup Chips during this trip to the store. Ketchup Chips have changed my life and almost made me want to research Canadian citizenship because they’re that amazing.
Finally it is dinner time – we had some great food and listened to various people talk about the event. It reminded me very much of opening ceremonies at Pelotonia. It reminds me why I ride in these charity rides and always lifts your spirits to finish strong the next day.
We go to the “Viking Inn” for a “social” (which apparently is a term that is used in Manitoba but not the rest of Canada). It was fun sitting around with everyone and chatting. The bar was playing country music and there was Nascar on television so I was in heaven. Before I knew it – it was getting late and we had to head back to tent city to go to bed.
I laid down and it was very apparent how close I was to another person. After adjusting a few times and whatnot I must have fell asleep for a little bit. I woke up off and on all night. I was always scared of moving for fear of waking Chris. At one point in the night I woke up to our neighbor coughing up a lung. She just kept hacking and hacking and hacking. At one point I thought, “maybe I should check on her? That would be the friendly Canadian thing to do.” She finally settled down so I figured she must be ok. The next time I remember waking up is when we had some strong winds and I could hear the tent. Then I passed out again and woke up to rain. Lots and lots of rain. I kind of felt around the side of the bed and noticed everything was dry so I fell back asleep.
To be continued…