Tales from the Trails is a new section on OBT were our readers can guest post their bike riding adventures. We welcome cyclists to submit story ideas and a few photos to share your tales from the trails of Ontario or the world.
Kathy was out cycling the Uxbridge Rail Trail east of Toronto, while on the spur line trail to Sunderland she encountered a few mishaps but it all worked out in the end. – editor Dan R.
By Kathy Carter
“Did you hear a gun shot?” the woman said to me anxiously as I wheeled my bike sheepishly past her. “It spooked my dog – I think he’s in the bushes up there. Did you see him?”
“Uh…yes…he’s just up the trail a bit,” I replied, debating on whether or not to come clean. She did look frightened, so I decided honesty was the best policy. “But it wasn’t a gun shot. My bike tire just blew – sorry about that.” I don’t know why I thought I owed her an apology, but said it anyways.
“Oh, thank God!” she exclaimed as her dog appeared out of the bushes and made his way towards us. “Wow that was loud, though!”
“Tell me about it! It scared the heck out of me, too!”
And so I began my long trek down the rail trail and back to the parking lot, my enthusiastic plans for the afternoon dashed in an instant.
30 minutes earlier…
It had taken me a few years to work up the nerve to ride the Cannington to Sunderland rail trail by myself. My husband wasn’t big on the idea, so I finally decided to load up the bike and go it alone. From the map, it looked to be around 12km long at the very most. I’d park in the quaint town of Cannington and treat myself to lunch in Sunderland. What could possibly happen on a flat ride between two very safe rural towns?
I parked, took my bike off the rack and started pedalling. The day was perfect; a comfortable temperature to ride and not a cloud in the sky. I glided happily along – the trail was hard packed, making for a smooth ride, and it was reassuring to see a couple of bikers ahead of me. Birds flew out from the bushes as I whizzed past them. I recognized flickers, red-winged blackbirds, and cedar waxwings, to name a few. I even saw a couple of foxes in the distance.
I was finally doing this! My thoughts wandered as I relaxed, enjoying the solitude and the rhythm of the ride. That is, until the unthinkable happened.
The tire exploded in one deafening blow. It sounded exactly like a gun had gone off, and for a few moments, I actually thought that was what I’d heard. In all my years of riding, I had never had this happen and cursed that I was so unprepared. On top of not having a spare tube or an air pump, I had never even changed a bike tire before.
I turned around and rode as long as I could on the flat, then realized I’d probably done irreparable damage to the rims in doing something so stupid. I’d keep that one to myself, if my husband ever asked. It was a good 5km back to the parking area, so I plodded on, disheartened that my little journey had so swiftly turned into a misadventure.
24 hours later
It was time to try this again. After a few trips to Canadian Tire and ultimately learning the difference between a Schrader and Presta bike valve the hard way, I was ready to be on my way. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
Another perfect day had dawned and hopefully this time, the ride would be perfect as well. To be safe, my husband had changed both tubes and tires – after all, they were old. Very old. I’m actually embarrassed to say that 25 years comes to mind as a rough estimate.
Arriving in Sunderland, I found a cute little café serving coffee and lunch. Perfect. I reached into my pouch for my wallet only to find that it wasn’t there. Panicking, I searched again, removing everything, and hoping in vain that I’d have a couple of toonies stowed inside. Nothing.
Undeterred, I saw a bank I have an account with on the main street. Even though I didn’t have my bank card with me, I was a customer and perhaps they’d allow me to withdraw a paltry $10. It was a long shot, but I was so hungry at this point, anything was worth a try. After some persuasive negotiation with the teller and correctly answering several security questions, I had my $10.
After a piping hot mug of coffee and a bagel, I was refreshed and ready to ride back to Cannington. Hoping the journey back would go smoothly, I thanked my waitress and hopped back onto my bike.
A few foxes and hundreds of birds later, I smugly loaded my bike onto the rack and made my way back home, happy to see my wallet still in the back seat of the car.
I rode the trail again uneventfully that fall. Apparently, the third time was the charm!
Author Kathy Carter – I’ve been riding bikes for as long as I can remember! My current bike is a hybrid – an old teal- coloured Raleigh, which has served me well for many years. I usually enjoy riding the country roads around my home, north of the town of Keswick, Ontario, but also enjoy riding rail trails. One of my favourite rides is from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Niagara Falls and I try to do this one at least once a year. I hope to ride the Le P’Tit Train du Nord, north of Montreal, sometime in the future. When I’m not riding, I’m busy working at my home-based pet care business or training for a running race.