I’m sitting in Scarlet on the main street of Alliston, Ontario. I’m way early for the Annual General Meeting of the Tour du Canada. The TdC is the organizer of the cross-Canada bicycle trip I’m going on this summer, with 19 other riders. I’m not super keen on motions and policies but there’s one thing that has my juices flowing – the possibility that I’ll meet one of my fellow cyclists at today’s meeting. Right now I know not a one of them.
I’ve been on the Tour’s website. Two people have introduced themselves. I look at the print on my laptop screen and see a name: Joe somebody. But in a few months, Joe will be my friend and we’ll share many adventures and no doubt numerous obstacles. Joe will be so very real to me.
Okay, this is a more reasonable time to knock on the door. Here goes.
I shake hands with Bud and hug Margot. They’re the two sources of the TdC, which they created 30 years ago. Soon, about 10 other faces are saying hi. All except one are veterans of the ride. But sadly no other 2018 cyclist is at the meeting. I smile to myself. I can wait another 3+ months.
The meeting is about lots of issues unfamiliar to me. Doesn’t matter. It hits me, more than once, that these human beings in front of me mean that the Tour du Canada is now real. Websites and correspondence and Skyping are fine but now I’m looking folks in the eye. Again and again, I’m brought to silence when this reality hits home. It’s not just a long-held dream, a “maybe” – it’s 20 of us setting off from Vancouver on June 22. And I’m just as valuable a team member as anyone else, probably slower than most but so what?
During the meeting and the supper afterwards, folks tell their stories of the road. One woman did the ride 29 years ago, but her description of a long ago moment is relived vividly in her eyes. Actually, every person who spoke transported themselves back to a magical summer, full of joys and heartaches. The weather, the hills, the aches and pains. Exhaustion towards the end of the day and then a road sign appears announcing the campground is still 16 k away. Being on the road for the sunrise. Eating impossible quantities of food.
I heard about the tremendous feeling of achievement in reaching St. John’s. About the couples who met on the ride. Might that include me in 2018? About the lovable quirkiness of a rider or two. And smiles all around. “Do you remember that morning when I looked at the schedule and told you ‘Oh good, only 130 kilometres today’?” And then we laughed and laughed.”
Advice came at me from all directions. “Buy $200 cycling shorts.” (What?) “Buy a really good tent that won’t fall apart in a fierce storm.” “Buy three different brands of excellent shorts so the edge of the chamois [padding] isn’t always rubbing away your skin in exactly the same spot.” (Who would have thought? Not me.)
As we left each other and walked out into the darkness, everyone wished me good luck. A few said they were jealous. And I just said “Thank you.”
I think I’m doing a remarkable thing come June. Just like hundreds of other folks have done. I’ll be creating another community for myself, and that makes me happy. The nineteen other riders deserve my best. I’ll give them that.