You might be wondering who this Prince Edward was. In 1799 the Island was named in honor of Edward, the father of Queen Victoria.
Each day we will dedicate our ride across PEI to one person. Today’s comes from the Great White North, Bill Buggie, my University of New Hampshire and our family friend of 30 years. Without Bill, our trip doesn’t happen. He spent ten hours yesterday in the car with us so we could have a car waiting when we finish our bike ride across Prince Edward Island.
Given our innkeeper’s Debbie Downer forecast of morning rain when we checked in last night, Hannah and I wonder when our biking day will begin. Usually up first, I peer out on the deck of our two bedroom cottage and notice the temperature is 62F, partly cloudy skies, a slight wind. Sweet Georgia Brown! We’ll be biking right after breakfast this morning with cool temps and plenty of sunshine.
Slipping into my biking shorts, I then must do the indelicate Bag Balming of my thighs and butt for today’s 70 miles. Waiting for the others to shower, I watch Sports Centre. Sports Centre with an –re! That can only mean trouble for Americanos like me! Hockey – morning, noon, and night. Last night LeBron James and the Miami Heat won and I get nothing of the game this morning. Sacre bleu.
Our morning B and B breakfast fuels our double piston engines (i.e., our legs) for our seven to eight hours in the bike saddle. Here at Murphy’s, I begin with Corn Flakes while Hannah has yogurt. A cheesy omelet with peppers and a side of ham follows. Homemade toast, blueberry banana muffins, orange juice, and decaf coffee! Yet it’s the forecast of no rain that gives me the most energy.
Laden with full panniers for the first time, we pedal a quarter mile through town to the start of the Confederation Trail.
As a one-time railroad bed, the trail is as level as an honest roulette table in Vegas. Over the first three hours we never need to get up off our bike seats to pedal an uphill as the trail meanders past fields and through forests. It will be the third day before we bike along coastal waters.
The red crushed gravel gives us a smooth ride without mushiness. Pedaling more forcefully than we would on pavement, we still fall into easy conversation. Throughout the morning, we do not see another bicyclist and just the occasional walker on this first Tuesday in June. Only occasionally do we hear a car’s engine, for we are well away from the island’s highways and have the morning for each other.
Due to my years of meteorological training (i.e., watching the Weather Channel), I am well aware that the prevailing winds in the northern hemisphere flow from west to east. As such, we chose to start our ride in Tignish in the west to gain the advantage of a tailwind. Already this morning we feel the zephyr’s push at our backs. With temperatures in the low 60s, we’ll use our energy to push forward, rather than sweat to cool our bodies.
Getting one hour, then two hours behind us fills our emotional tank and makes the 70 miles seem very doable. With picture taking and gabbing as we ride side by side, we average 8 to 9 miles per hour. Riding beside Hannah, I am reminded of the poster of 20 ways to be happy that I once stared up at on the ceiling as I reclined in our dental hygienist’s chair. It said: #1 – Marry well. 95% of your happiness is based on that one decision.
Funny how time on the trail goes so quickly with Hannah.
A little before noon after three plus hours of biking, we arrive in O’Leary, home to 860 people and whose economy is tied to potato farming. We have biked 45 kilometres of our 110 today; we are on target for a late afternoon arrival in Summerside, PEI. Finding a picnic table, I feast on two blueberry banana muffins from breakfast and some salty gorp. While I look for any shade, Hannah lies out in the sun. Fully extended legs recharge her body for the afternoon of riding.
Cognizant of the stories that our butts and thighs will be what will ache the most, a kilometre down the trail I apply extra Bag Balm. Love the Bag Balm.
Shortly after lunch, Hannah comments on how slow going things seem to be as she struggles to keep up. At kilometre 56 (about 35 miles in), she pulls over with a back tire which is as flat as Parisian crepe. Really! We haven’t had a flat in ten years of biking at home; fact is, biking in York we never rode with a spare tube or had a bike pump. The girl and boy scout in us would not let us be so cavalier on this trip. Mama didn’t raise no fool. I jump into action, becoming the knight for my damsel in tire distress.
Truth be told, I really didn’t believe we’d get a flat, but a flat we have. Those of you who have changed tires know the back one is a greasy mess with a grimy chain and oily back gears. Flipping her bike upside down, I pry off the tire and pull out the tube to replace it with a new one. Checking the tire itself to see if anything sharp is still within it, we find nothing and pedal for Ellerslie (pronounced El-er-schlee) 15 kilometres away.
But now there is an edge to our ride. Hannah has no spare tube. We are still 54 kilometres from our paid-for reservations at the Willow Green Farm B and B in Summerside. We have no safety net; our Hyundai is in Elmira at the other end of the island, 217 kilometres away. My sense of urgency starts to mess with our ride as I push the pace; and after five “never quite keeping up” kilometres Hannah speaks up and says it feels like a sprint. Her eyes say, Slow down big fella. I slow down and stop acting like a douche bag.
As we pedal to Ellerslie (population 470), Hannah’s thighs become tender to the touch, but her left tibia (fractured ten months ago while water skiing) is as solid as Gibraltar. For me, years of exercising are catching up with my right knee. It creaks and quietly complains; but biking 70 miles is not for sissies.
We’ll take a break at Ellerslie and then push on for our last 38 kilometres. But…
…at the Ellerslie crossing, Hannah’s tire is flat again. Clearly, we had not removed the sharp object from her tire that had caused the first tube to deflate. With 25 miles before we sleep and no spare tube to replace this flat one, we check our guide book to see that the entire island has three bike shops. There are none between here and Summerside.
While Hannah refuels with gorp for our final push, I wonder if we can just pump her tire up every few kilometres to make it to Summerside for the night. I walk across the road to the Rite Stop, a convenience store. I ask a question I already know the answer to, Is there a bike shop in town? He says no, but in typical Canadian fashion he cheerfully offers to fill my water bottles; he runs the water for sixty seconds to get the water cold for us.
We shoot the breeze and I consider our options 38 kilometres from our B and B in Summerside. What do we do with two punctured tubes? Hitchhike?