We’ve been on the road for six days now. Beginning in Murray Beach, New Brunswick, we’ve cycled over one hundred sixty miles, so far. It has been great, but not dry. In fact, we’ve only had one rain free day.
We knew when we planned this trip there would be rain. There is always rain. Come to think of it, on our last journey to the Maritimes, it rained more days than it was dry. We carefully researched rain gear and purchased the best available. We are thankful to Up-Side Over, our children’s gear sponsor for providing the children with fabulous Marmot rain jackets and pants. They looked fabulous coming out of the packages. We tried them on in our nice, dry, cheerful living room, then packed them away with an almost clinical level of denial. We’ll never open THAT pannier, I hoped quietly to myself. Ha. As I write this, I’m snugly tucked in between crisp white sheets in a warm bed at the Fairwinds Motel in Sheet Harbour, Nova Scotia. Things couldn’t be better, or drier. I’ve even had a good hot cup of tea in the dining room: two sugars, two milks: perfection. It was a long, wet, windy day getting here.
The last two days have been nothing but rain, wind and more rain. We set out from Stellarton yesterday morning under ominous skies, and with mid-level denial. "We won’t get THAT wet." Even without the rain, the wind was incredible. Pedaling DOWN the hills was work. The flats felt like up hill riding, and up hill, well, there was very little riding. I walked, pushing my heavy-laden bike, with Ezra singing his way alongside. Then the rain started. At first it was only a few drops, then a steady drizzle. Before we knew it, an all out downpour had let loose. We were cycling across 374, through 40 miles of completely empty wilderness. No gas stations, no restaurants, no camp grounds, and certainly no accommodations in which to take refuge. Nowhere to use the bathroom; or fill a water bottle either, for that matter.
We struggled uphill, against the wind for our requisite thirty miles – far enough to make the twenty or so miles left to Sheet Harbour seem easy, before we made camp on an old, unused, logging road. We pushed our dripping bikes back off the road, set up the tent in a drizzle, only to discover that the earth under us was so hard packed from logging trucks that using stakes for our tent was impossible. So the children collected rocks, the biggest they could find, to hold out the guy-lines on the tent. We ate our Beef Stroganoff a hundred yards from the tent (to discourage bears or other scavengers from coming into our tent for food residue) in a steady downpour, the kids laughing all the while.
Our tents were dry – lovely. Note to self: When planning a major adventure, listen to the man and let him spend the big bucks on TRULY waterproof bags and the expensive “expedition grade tent". I thanked him profusely, chiding myself for being tempted to “cheap out” on such things. The night was inky, as only wilderness dark can be. We lay awake listening to the rain and the lonely wolves howling to the moon in the distance.
Morning broke wet. Surprise, surprise. We lay there a while, still in mild denial, hoping that it would blow over. It didn’t. There was nothing to do but drop the inner tents and pack them dry, drop the outer tent and pack it wet, suck it up and pedal the twenty two miles we had left in yet more rain.
The children were troopers. They passed the time as we pedaled through puddles by naming the swamps and piles of rock with fabulous storybook names like “moose heaven” and “cougar crag". I like that about my children. Just when it seemed we could get no wetter, a huge truck pulling two trailers worth of logs to the pulp mill would barrel past us, jake breaks rattling and spray us from head to toe in a water, diesel, pine sap cocktail as a parting gift.
The upside was that the wind had laid, so the ride was much easier. The hills were manageable. The kids were cheerful (Ezra, singing his version of “It’s raining it’s pouring the old man is snoring, went to bed, bumped his head, woke up and saw blood in the morning, got up, put on a band-aid, went down and made breakfast and sucked it up….”) The ride was short (20 miles instead of 30), and the forest smelled incredible – like Christmas, according to Hannah, and she was right. It was exactly the scent that Yankee Candle tries to replicate with its “Balsam Wreath”. Imagine thirty of them, burning all at once in the same room and you’ll approximate the intoxicating, overwhelming evergreen scent we cycled through for hour upon hour. I hope heaven smells like that some of the time.
Megan said it perfectly when we were finally safe and dry in our inn, little boys snoring on the floor all around us during nap time: “It makes us appreciate the little things like dry underwear and showers and a bed.” Yes it does. If nothing else, cycling through a deluge breeds thankfulness, and I suppose that is worth its weight in gold.
The last two day were not my favorite. As the Mama, I was responsible for drying ten pairs of feet and packing up a load of wet laundry and then drying it all. However, it wasn’t bad either. We had a cheerful night of bonding in the tent. We shared a delicious (dry) cup of tea with ice cream sundaes with the girls one night, after we’d put the boys to bed. As Tony stated to the children last night at the most miserable point, “We’re learning what we can really do.” That is important. I want my children to learn to do hard things, miserable things, and like it. Even Megan, who is only a rental, grinned underneath her raincoat last evening as I handed her a soggy plate of stroganoff and salad. Goose bumps were standing up on every inch of her exposed skin as she said, “Mrs. Miller, this is GREAT, it’s so far from anything I’ve ever experienced.” So it is – great. Rain and all, we’re having a blast!
Read more about the Millers on their World Wide Edventure.