Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Bicycle as teacher


I have had a great 2010 cycling season. My bike has taught me many lessons of life. It is hard to believe that a machine can do this, but it does!

For many of my longer rides, there is a support van or a sag wagon. While these are advertised as wagons or vans to help you if you are tired, to me they are the vehicles of last resort, reserved for the infirm, the aged or the out of shape.

On the Bon Ton Roulet tour, I made the fatal mistake of stopping for lunch and having a few glasses of cool white chardonay wine made by the Blue Heron winery where I had stopped for lunch. The scenery was glorious, the wine cold and the lunch service very slow. I had a mere 30 miles to ride and a few hills and I scoffed it off enjoying the moment.

10 miles after, I started to slow down and came to a halt at the last rest stop. There was a hill and I had no more energy. My legs had become like stone trunks with no power whatsoever. Reluctantly I hailed a sag wagon.

The lady was a pleasant middle aged woman who was very kind. I was mortified. I made sure my bike was hidden by others and I slouched to make sure NO ONE I KNEW would see me. I kept shaking my head and apologizing. The other cyclist was thrilled with the ride and very chatty but I was simply devastated at my terrible performance on that day. I missed an opportunity because I was so focused on my lack of energy and shocked that this could happen.

Life is funny. I seriously considered going on but because of the wine, dehydration and plain fatigue I simply could not do it. There are times when my body says enough. I am learning to accept it.

In fact, I have learned a lot about my limitations this year with the bike as my teacher. I have learned, that I need to eat while I ride. No fuel=no power.
I have learned that I love to ride, but I also need time to enjoy what is around me. In the bon Ton tour, I stopped for a swim on several occasions. I have learned that it is not the destination that counts but the journey. The destination on our tours were always an anti climax, with the journey, the climbs and the scenery being more impressive. One of our days while cycling in Mennonite country, I had a yearning for Mennonite baking and lo and behold..there was a Mennonite horse and buggy and a stand selling fantastic baked goods!

I have learned that it is important not to overlook small things. One day on the tour before an enormous hill, there was a little girl advertising Kool aid. People were not stopping. I stopped and insisted that others stop too, threatening to jump in front of their bikes if they did not. The little girl was about 9 years old and had decided on her own to offer Kool aid to the bikers. She sat me down in her yard with a plastic table and chairs and poured me a glass of watery red kool aid. We chatted about school and sports and Canada and I thanked her and biked on. Sometimes we can get too focused on the unpleasant tasks (in this case the HILLS) and forget the joys and beauties around us.

I have learned that while going fast is a lot of fun, it is more rewarding to encourage others.

I have learned that my bike is not a horse and I don't need to carry an extra sweater, lunch options, a full tool kit, a full first aid kit, extra drinks a corkscrew and three extra inner tubes just in case! I am learning to be more of a minimalist on my rides and learn more about self sufficiency. The bike is an exercise in zen minimalism and the fundamentals of trust in yourself, in your fitness, in your abilities and in the way you interact with your world.

The bike is a great teacher because when you are riding, it is really just you and a splendid machine. There are no engines, no supports, just you and the road. You feel light and unburdened by things. You find yourself dwelling on what is present and your tensions, your worries seem to vanish like the road behind you. I love the quiet of my bike. I don't hear roars or hums just a steady whir of my feet on the pedals. I love the colours that I see, the grasses, the barns, the trees and the fact that I can go anywhere with my bike. My bike teaches me that limitations are in your imagination and that you really can think outside the box. A car is limited to the road, with a bike, you are limited by nothing but your own level of fitness.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Horror on the front page! Allo Police!

A few years ago, our Quebecois neighbours would go to the local depanneur and pick up a copy of Allo Police. Allo Police contained lurid and sensationalistic stories about crime, murder and mayhem. Everyone knew Allo Police as not a serious journal and it never pretended to inform, only to satisfy curiosity.

I subscribe to the Globe and Mail and wonder with the recent coverage of Russell Williams whether or not the former Allo Police writers were contacted!

As all of us are, I am dismayed and shocked at the revelations of the Russell Williams case. There is no redemption in this story and no shred of humanity to be found except the heart wrenching pleas of the terrified victims before Williams brutally murdered them.

What is the purpose of reporting these horrid details? Is it to frighten people? Is it to further traumatize the families? The reporting of this story does nothing to honour the victims. Instead it plays on their final words and horrible ordeal.
If the story does not honour or even respect the victims and their families and has no redeeming value whatsoever why report it?

Surely our national newspaper has not sunk to the sensationalism of the now defunct "Allo Police"

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Harper and the Chilean mine rescue

Like many around the world I was transfixed by the saga of the trapped miners. I cheered and cried when they emerged. I was moved when I learned of their fortitude, courage and tremendous spirit.

I was most impressed by the President of Chile's attitude and speech tonight. He did not merely fly in for a photo opportunity, he was there with his people. His speech was remarkable, he spoke of the rescue as a miracle and that God was using this to bring his people together. He was proud to show the world what Chile could do, but also he spoke at length of the miners and what they taught the country and what they taught him. They taught him about courage, and he promised that he would improve the conditions of labourers in the country. It was a remarkable speech.

At a time when in Canada we have tasted defeat because of our own small minded attitude towards the world, Chile and the attitude of their President was like a shining star. The miners have much to teach us.

I doubt if our Prime minister Harper could ever have the strength of character and courage shown by the President of Chile. I doubt if Harper could ever learn from what the miners have shown to the world.

No, if the mining disaster had happened in Canada, Harper would have blamed the Liberals. He would have annoyed so many other countries that the world would not have shared their expertise as they did with Chile. Had the miners survived the political squabbling, he would not have spoken with the families, nor sung the national anthem (Remember he wanted that changed?).

Let us hope and pray for the sake of our country, that we learn from Chile.

Karine's Blog

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