The Road Home

We  start, as is proper, with the exclamation mark at the end of the story:

But the 100 minutes before sitting down to a double rum and Coke (Zero) were full of question marks and doubts and interior dialogue as I cycled home from work after a day of oatmeal snow had collected on the river valley trails.

Hold on tight, down we went from the top of Grierson Hill to the path along the freezing river. It was quiet and the air was cold and it was beautiful.

Beauty quickly turned to hard work, every crank a piece of labour as the soft snow fought with the tires and my legs gave their verdict with each revolution. A thought began to form. Something about work and energy and grip. And then the thought disappeared in the face of the present challenge of simply staying upright. It took 30 minutes to get to the Victoria Park skating oval. That's what it normally took to get home. But today that's when I first had to stop and rest and chase back the question of how I could get a ride home. Push on. Keep going. The sunset reminded me somehow of Joe Strummer. No pity, maybe. Keep going.

Just footprints and a few bike tracks when I stopped at the top of the MacKinnon Ravine. My neck was already sore from accepting the vibrations that kicked up from the front tire, went up the forks into my hands, up my arms. I was breathing hard. Look back.

Look down.

It was the small ring on the front all the way. It was the only way to keep my legs spinning. Look inside. What was I carrying? Somehow I was going to find out what I got.

Mental toughness, I remembered. That's what Jeannette Cable had talked about a week before when she and Hogle and I had lunch. Well, here I was. The potential help of the city everywhere around, but no help anywhere, really. Keep going. Down into the ravine. And then I had to rest again and catch my breath. A shot of water. A glance at the floating lillypads of ice on the North Saskatchewan. And the thought came back. Work and energy aren't everything. Ahead was the last climb up to 142 St.

Click. One boot found its pedal clip. But the snow stopped the wheels before the next boot could  get connected. Re-start. The back tire spun out but I found the pedal and there was sweet forward motion. Barely. Up the hill. Already in my easiest gear. I made it up to the bridge, but then had to walk the last incline. Man and machine or man versus machine?! Water at the top and a look back.

And the thought was there waiting for me. Effort is not everything. It can't be. It may be that success is 90 per cent perspiration and 10 per cent inspiration, but the point is that 10 per cent, it seems. Work without grip is just spinning your wheels. So, figure out how to point your effort. Tires, leg strength, cleared paths, they all combine to point the effort toward success. Effort and grip. Work and knowledge.

Another 25 minutes to go along sinking tire tracks. And then up the front street, up the front lawn and around the house into the backyard where I fell over in fatigue, boots still clipped to pedals.

What a ride. I figured out a few things.

And then into the warm, well-lit house. Shelagh had a blanket ready.

Mikey went to get the mix.


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