Three Days before We Bike the Confederation Trail and One Day Before We Leave for Canada
It’s packing day. Typical of Dan and Hannah, we pack at the last minute.
For starters, we’ll wear biking shorts, light weight socks, comfortable Merrill sandals, and a dry-fit (like Under Armour) shirt. Our son Will has made us fluorescent yellow “Paquette” shirts to highlight the fundraising nature of our ride. Given temperatures near 60F, Hannah will likely wear gloves. Bike helmets are required by law in PEI.
We then need only two more days of gear. In our panniers we’ll have two extra riding shirts and extra socks. We have some toiletries, especially Bag Balm for our baggie butts. A long sleeve tee shirt, a sweatshirt, and biking tights in case of cold weather; ponchos for rain. For the evening after our shower, I’ll pack light shorts, a golfing shirt, and open toed sandals. I will wear a fluorescent yellow vest just because it ramps up my cool factor from 1 to 3 on a scale of 1o.
Two Days before We Bike and Our Leaving for Canada Day
Another sultry night for sleeping with what passes for air conditioning in our house: open windows. A final check of the weather has none of our three biking days with greater than a 30% chance of rain.
With bikes on the rack on the rear of our Hyundai Elantra, we leave by 815A for Fredericton, Canada some 360 miles away for the home of my classmate at University of New Hampshire, Bill Buggie.
Though it’s 300 miles to the Canadian border at Houlton, Maine, the GPS says it only 4+ hours there. This could be why.
With hours side by side in the car, I bring up a quote I recently saw online from Meister Eckhart, a 13th century Catholic theologian. You may call God love. You may call God goodness. But the best name for God is compassion.
God as an action verb. Hmmmm. God is doing good, being loving and compassionate, and, let me add, forgiving. I take another step on my spiritual journey.
Though we wait 25 minutes at customs, it’s basically a six hour trip to Fredericton, Canada, almost entirely on four lane I-95 or Trans-Canada Highway 2.
In the car we talk about a lot of things. I bring up that we’ll be biking for 170 miles. Hannah looks away and says, It’s not helpful talking about the distance. With the ride all too real, we settle into our own thoughts; it does seem like a daunting distance riding on crushed gravel.
Once at Buggie’s by late afternoon, we relax with old friends by their pool with recreational beverages, nicely distracted from what lies ahead. Threatening clouds cluster as the evening ends.
Driving to Prince Edward Island, the Day Before We Bike the Confederation Trail
It’s going to be a long day in Hyundais. We need Bill to follow us in his Hyundai Elantra because Hannah and I are going to park our car at the east end of the Confederation Trail near Elmira, PEI. Then we will load our bikes onto Bill’s car for the 3 to 4 hour ride to the west end of the island at Tignish.
The forecasters have reneged on their promise of fair skies. There’s now a 50% chance of rain for the first morning (Tuesday). 0% for Wednesday. 20% for Thursday.
Along the way Bill and I talk teaching. Bill is a college prof in the Education Department at the University of New Brunswick and has been a teacher, principal, and central administrator throughout his career. I open that I think teachers, not the right test, not the latest technology, are THE crucial element in the success of students. From my vantage point, I don’t feel there are enough good teachers in our public schools. Bill chimes in that mediocre teachers all think they are good.
How do we get exceptional people to teach in the public schools? Decent salaries sure. But I think it is improving the day-to-day working conditions that must change. Meeting the needs of a variety of kids all day is physically and mentally exhausting, especially over the course of a school year. As a teacher, I needed to collaborate with colleagues more; I needed more coaching and training; I needed more of a voice in my school day and conversations with teachers about what was important for students to learn. I needed time to reflect on my craft. For me, teaching was a 180 day headlong sprint of meeting students’ needs with little time to think about what I was doing. Ultimately, we need teachers who spark students to wonder and be curious, not merely pass standardized tests.
After three hours of driving in New Brunswick, we cross the Confederation Bridge into PEI.
Ninety minutes later we take a lunch break near the Confederation Trail in Morell, PEI.
Around three we arrive at the Points East Beach Motel where we will spend the night after completing the trail. A stone’s throw from our lodging is the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Though we have been in the car for nearly six hours, we have three and a half hours more from Elmira to Tignish. Along the way we learn that we should have informed our Visa card company that we were leaving the country. Trying to use our credit card for gas, we find it rejected in Kensington, PEI that afternoon. Again Bill comes to our rescue.
Throughout the drive across PEI, rain falls intermittently but enough to put some doubt over tomorrow’s opening day ride. Overcast skies with fog dominate the view through the front windshield. It’s just a raw day; if we were biking today, we would be enduring, not celebrating the trail.
Pulling in after more than ten hours of driving, we settle into our room at the Murphy Cottages in Tignish. It’s takeout Paninis on the deck for dinner, but first cheese doodles to the rescue.
The innkeeper tells us it’s to rain til early afternoon tomorrow. Throw us a bone, sweetheart. You could have said the forecast is iffy. We head to bed wondering if and when we will hit the Confederation Trail manana. 70 miles in some form of precipitation is a long 70 miles.