While waiting for Summerside Bike Works (SBW) to open at 8A, we feast on breakfast at Willow Green Farm B and B. As a cereal guy from way back, I love that they have Corn Flakes, a current personal favorite, on the side table. Surprisingly, we get a little of old Tempe, Arizona (the town where Hannah and I lived for the first ten years of our marriage) with huevos rancheros wraps (scrambled eggs served in hot corn tortillas smothered in salsa). With first and seconds of homemade oatmeal raisin bread toast, we are amply fueled for our 90 kilometre ride to Mount Stewart, PEI.
Off to SBW, one of only three bicycle shops on the entire island of Prince Edward, for a replacement tire and tube for Hannah’s hybrid bicycle, I once again pump up Hannah’s deflated rear tire. As we approach, we see a small sign on the door labeled Summerside Bike Works on what is no more than a glorified two-car garage. Riding up to the front door that seems surprisingly quiet for the start of a business day, we are stunned to read on this Wednesday that shop hours are 8A to 4P Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday!
We just smile. Our sure thing just dissolved. It’s 70 kilometres to the nearest bike shop in Charlottetown. If pumping her tire every few kilometres is what it takes to get to Mount Stewart, we’ll do it. Then again, today might just be our day to hitchhike.
Remembering having passed the Summerside Dodge dealership on the way to SBW, we reverse direction, ever hopeful, but with a touch of desperation. We ask the lady at the counter if anyone can repair bike tires. Without hesitation, she points us to the garage, and Nathan appears.
Having no patch kits for bicycles, Nathan puts Andrew’s (from Dennis Motors yesterday) patched tube back on Hannah’s rear tire. In the process he finds stones in the tire itself and thinks that they may have been the source of the slow leak. The stones could have come from our tube changing on the trail outside of O’Leary, PEI yesterday. Pumping it up to 65 PSI, he gives us a rocking solid tire. When I go to pay for his 30 minutes of work, the counter lady says, No charge. We hurry to find Nathan and slip him $10 American.
We have another beautiful day in paradise with not a bit of rain in the forecast. It’s blue skies with cumulous clouds and temps near 60F this first week of June lie before us. There will be hills today, but, as a one-time railroad bed, the trail will be no greater than a 2% grade. The knowledge that we’ve done 110 kilometres yesterday gives us the confidence we can handle today’s 90 kilometres, no problemo.
We cross our fingers, pack our panniers at Willow Green Farm, press our thumbs to Hannah’s back tire for reassurance that it is still holding air (she again has no spare tube), and head for Confederation Trail.
A gentle 15 kilometres to Kensington passing potato fields and single family homes kicks off our day. Gun-shy, I can’t not look over at Hannah’s back tire every few minutes; to my unobservant eye it seems fine.
Stopping in Kensington, still wondering if her tire will hold air this time, we press it and find it as solid as a pair of six pack abs.
In no hurry and bursting with confidence in Hannah’s back tire, we are 15 kilometres down with 75 to go. Brimming with confidence, we head to the Hunter River hills.
With two more hours of biking to our lunch stop at Hunter River, we take the trail through Freetown, Emerald and Fredericton, which have more cows than people. We are coming to the hills and sense the climb ahead. The satisfaction of one day of biking under our belts literally energizes our legs. Our plan to bike the trail in three days seems well within reach.
Beginning our six kilometre climb, we still can talk side by side; distracted by the fields, forests, and hills, we totally forget about Hannah’s back tire.
The grade is not so steep that we have to get out of our bike seats to pump standing up, but the climb is steady, Eddie. But we are ready, Freddy. For bikers, there’s nothing truer than what goes up must come down. We will soon be paid back in full with some serious downhill coasting.
At Hunter River (population 319) we break for a 30 minute lunch. Ever so confident, we press our thumbs to Hannah’s back tire; Nathan has worked his magic in a big way as we are now 45 kilometres into our 90 for today. Cooling down, we pull on our sweatshirts at the picnic table to eat half of our Subways subs as we look over the Hunter River Valley.
Before we left Maine, I just didn’t think about the fact that we’d be biking all day. If we have no incidents, we’ll be in the saddle for 7 to 8 hours today. We are not pressing to make miles; we talk, take pictures, and look forward to a cold recreational beverage in the evening as just reward for a job well done.
Riding the ridge, I find it stunning how railroad architects “smoothed” out the hills and weaved the trail around the modest “peaks” of PEI.
By 5P we arrive in Mount Stewart (population 312) with a plan to find a Co-op to buy fixings to make green salads with cottage cheese and a side of potato salad for dinner tonight. We’ll treat ourselves with some barbecue chips to go with a bottle of fine local wine. Pulling off the red dirt Confederation Trail on Route 22, we see first one restaurant boarded up, then two more closed for good. Without even the most miniscule of grocery stores or gas station/convenience stores in town, we have no choice but to ride on to the MacDonald’s of Maple Hill B and B to get the scoop on Mount Stewart. We later learn that folks routinely shop in the capital, Charlottetown, PEI, 25 minutes away by car. Bummed, we connect the dots and realize that there will be no celebratory glass of wine tonight.
Our Innkeeper Gerard welcomes us to his home, which is the B and B. A retired high school science teacher, he warms to conversation and enjoys his guests.
With her gentle voice that belies her formidable personality, Hannah asks, Is there any place where we can get some wine or beer? He smiles and says, Wine is going to be a problem, but I have a couple of beers for you. We’ll pay. But he says, I can’t charge you because I’d need a liquor license to do so. You are welcome to the beer; I’ve had it in the fridge since Christmas. Canadians!
We shower and return to his living room for cold beer. After eight hours on the Confederation Trail, it tastes so sweet. Gerard is an extrovert and fills us in with details of his MacDonald heritage and the fact that high school grads can’t find jobs in the country towns; they go to Charlottetown or to Canada’s western provinces to make the big money working the tar sands.
And then Hannah steps to the plate once again.
Gerard says he’s off to a church meeting, but before he goes, Hannah says, By any chance could I talk you out of another beer? He smiles and says, In fact I have two more. He leaves and we sip the second beer ever so slowly. Hannah smiles and says, That was the best “second beer” of my life. We’ll leave a tip on the bedside table when we set sail tomorrow.
Retiring to the queen room, we are in bed at 830A with my right knee barking ever so softly but fully committed to the 45 miles of biking we have to the end of the Confederation Trail in Elmira tomorrow.
We dedicate our ride on Day 2 to two Islanders, Nathan and Gerard. Thank you, Nathan, we made it the 90 kilometres to Mount Stewart today because of you. And Gerard, once we arrived you were the right person at the right time for us to celebrate 200 kilometres down and 73 to go.