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Friday, 27 December 2013

Hills... Bloody hills!

By Jack Hawkins
Photo: Jack Hawkins

It was time for another day-trip, on the weekend of October 5th. This time, I was headed thirty-five miles west, and into Bass River and the Upriver Country Market. It was again an early morning start, up at 8AM however I took the morning slowly – having worked a twelve-hour shift the night before.

Up and showered and had another oatmeal-tea breakfast combination before packing just the one pannier for today's trip, since I was only planning to be out for a few hours and therefore there was no need to pack a lunch. After a quick trip to the shops for my food for the day – I stocked up on granola bars and bananas, I was not making that mistake again!

I headed out of Richibucto and into Rexton, turning right at the Irving gas station, this put on Highway 116, headed west to Bass River. It was mid-morning and there was a glorious sun climbing into the sky,  I was beginning to get into the swing of the ride, and although it wasn't too warm – roughly between ten and fifteen degrees, I was enjoying it. Although I did stop to unpack a long-sleeved top from my pannier and put that on.

Riding along the 116, I found many places of opportunity to stop, snap a photo and have a granola bar. I was surrounded by glorious autumn colours, red, yellow, gold – the views across the many creeks that dotted the route were simply sensational.

I was about halfway there when the inclines began to get steeper. Ever so slowly rising and while I was in better condition than on my previous trip, and better nourished – they were still difficult, as I hadn't quite gotten the hang of the touring bike's gearing yet. According to my cycling app – MapMyRide, the highest incline was 121 feet!

Tackling hills – at least for me, goes a little something like this: See the hill, approach the hill, then curse at the realisation that the hill is monstrous. Then, shift down through the gears at a great rate of knots as you ascend. All the while wondering why, oh why, there is a damn great hill breaking up this flat and pristine landscape. And then, as you crest the hill and you see the serenity of what's below, the sun glistening off the water in the river... Then you can truly appreciate the climb you've just made.

And so, forever cursing the hills, I chugged on – past the next couple of churches before I saw a sign that pointed me in the right direction. I began a steep descent of the last proper hill before reaching my destination. I hit a whopping 47km/h (27mph) on the way down. Too much speed, coming about from the adrenaline rush of the day I managed to get control of my bike, almost losing my balance.

But, I recovered and rode the next few kilometres before reaching my destination. I reached the Bass River Country Market in about two hours, went in and parked my bike. I was immediately greeted by my former Journalism teacher, who I had no idea I would be there, so it was a nice surprise all round! We chatted for a few minutes and it felt good to speak so frankly, outside of the school environment. She had a stall of her own where she sold coffee, tea, and had even set up a couple of “Fender-Blender Bicycles”. Pedal away for a few seconds, and you've got yourself a smoothie – how cool is that?!

The market had about ten stalls in total, each selling something different, from coffee and tea to decorated glassware and crockery. There was also a nutritionist at the market and we spoke for a while as I had questions related to healthier and more organic eating. I also met an editor from the Halifax Media Co-op and we spoke in depth about my touring plans for the next year. All in all, the atmosphere in the small barn was warm and welcoming, and although I was by no means a market regular, I shall certainly be taking trips up next summer.

Unfortunately for me, I arrived with only half an hour to spare before the market was due to pack up and everyone headed for home. So, I didn't get much time to hang around, and so, I'd originally planned to go and see a friend in Bass River – which I thought was only about ten, fifteen kilometres from the market... No trouble, I thought.

However, as I've discovered with my day-trips thus far – things rarely go according to plan. The journey to see my friend began brightly and I was excited to get there and relax a bit. Then, disastrously, the weather took a turn for the worst. Thick, dark, rain-filled clouds began to appear, and not wanting to get drenched – I reluctantly turned for home. Apologizing to my friend, I began the journey home.

The route home was the same one as the route up – although it was much easier. I'm not sure whether I was prepared for the hills this time, or whether it was just my body wanting to get home before the rain hit, it seemed to fly by. I reached home in an hour and fifteen minutes – where had that forty-five minutes gone?

I was grateful to be home and warm, the colder weather served as a reminder that any further trips out on my bike for the day, would have to wait until the Spring of 2014.

More Articles (Photos and titles are clickable links)

Training for the Touring Season

Another article from writer Jack Hawkins. In this one he is writing about getting back on the bike after the 2013/14 winter. Always nice to get back on the bike in the spring.

Off the Beaten Path

Trails, unopened road allowances and tractor paths might just be the ticket if you wanting to get away from it all. I liked the occasional off road venture when I was younger.

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