It’s July 3, 2012 and Daegan and I leave Cobourg, Ontario. We are on the third day of the 500 Kindnesses ride – a “charity bike ride.” Instead of asking people to donate money, which isn’t always easy for people, my son Daegan and I ask people to “sponsor” us by performing a random act of kindness somewhere and sharing what they did anonymously with us. People have bought meals for strangers, volunteered their time and visited people in old age homes. Meanwhile, the members of an old age home outside Chicago have put up a bulletin board about kindness and the residents are actively thinking of kind things to do for one another and being appreciative of those being kind to them. It’s hugely inspiring. The ride will take us and our tandem bicycle the better part of a month at about 50-60 miles/day (80-100 km). We will ride through Canada and the northeastern us US a total of 1,500 kilometres, ending after 25 days in New York City.
The day starts with the kindness of a stranger who has offered their home to us through Couchsurfing.com. She’s cooked us breakfast and coffee. The weather is heating up fast and there’s a lot of humidity in the air. Some nasty storms are predicted for later in the day so we leave as early as we can, calling my partner, Sage, to let her know we are on the road for the day.
The morning is glorious. We ride on back roads with hardly any cars. It’s so quiet out that I can just put music on my iPhone, toss it in the back pocket of my jersey and we can both listen to it.
For much of the morning we ride parallel to some railroad tracks. At one point, as Johnny Cash’s “Orange Blossom Special”
Look a-yonder comin’
Comin’ down that railroad track
Hey, look a-yonder comin’
Comin’ down that railroad track
It’s the Orange Blossom Special
Bringin’ my baby back
As it plays, a freight train comes up behind us. As it passes, the engineer gives a quick “toot-toot” on the air horn. We smile wave back.
The day goes on and it gets hotter and more humid. Something big is coming. We’ve still got a good 50 kilometres to go – with our fully loaded bicycle – both of us and all of our gear on it – it will take a good 2.5 to 3 hours to get there. The wind is now coming from behind us, pushing us along and making it a little easier to go. But it’s a hot and humid wind – the breath of a monster storm bearing down on us faster than we can pedal.
We realize we’re not going to make it to our destination before the storm comes down on us with all of its force and I try to think of some backup plans that don’t involve us being soaked or struck by lightning. And then it comes to me. On previous rides in the area I passed by a bed and breakfast right nearby. We stop there and knock on the door. A woman comes to the door and we tell her we’d like a room. She curtly tells us that they’ve got no room. As we pedal away, she yells “You’d better find somewhere soon!” as we dodge a trashcan that is blowing across her driveway.
We continue on the way and the rain starts to gently fall. We’re riding along the shore of a lake. On one side of the road are massive houses with large fences and gates. On the other side of the road are the boathouses of the big houses. I think to myself that if it gets too bad we might be able to take shelter in one of those. It may not be good in the event of lightning but could protect us from pouring rain and damaging hail.
We reach the end of the narrow lake and turn right and there we see a sign for a campground advertising vacancies. We didn’t bring a tent so it was a long shot but we stop and knock on the door. A woman answers the door and tells us that there’s a large camping trailer we can stay in next to the lake and it would only be $80/night. with only $10 in my pocket I ask her if they take debit or credit cards. Sadly they only take cheque or cash. I ask where the nearest ATM is and she says it’s quite a ways away. I ask for directions and she stops me.
“The weather’s really looking bad. I can just drive you guys there – and if you want to pick up something for dinner you can get that then also.” And so we get in her truck and head for town. And then the skies open up with a storm that would most definitely have sent us to trespass in someone’s boathouse. At one point we could barely see out of the windshield of the truck. We get to the bank, get cash, and then she waits for us while our dinner is cooked and packaged up.
By the time we return, the rain has stopped and the skies are looking brighter. The sun is starting to set over the lake outside our window. We change in to our bathing suits and jump in the lake, watching the sun set on one of the best days of our trip.
Just over three weeks later we made it to New York City:
(Inspired by the Rise/Set photo challenge)