We ask Gerard, our innkeeper at the MacDonald’s of Maple Hill B and B here in Mount Stewart, PEI, if we can have breakfast at 7A so we can get an early start. He twinkles, That’ll mean I’ll just have to set the alarm a little earlier.
After nine hours of sleep, we wake to the same wonderful forecast: no rain and temps in the low 60s. Showers are predicted for tomorrow and “serious rain” the day after. We know how lucky we’ve been. We have organized our trip so that after days of biking 70 and 60 miles, we have just 45 miles today.
Though we think Gerard is married, he is the only one we see and he is up to the task. Not given a choice for breakfast, we are delighted with his eggs over easy with toast and three strips of bacon. Hannah wins big time for she knows she’ll get all my bacon this morning. Yogurt and fruit complete the menu and we are ready for the home stretch.
Panniers packed, we ride with no urgency at all. Our room for the night at Points East Beach Motel in North Lake is set so we pedal easily towards Morell (population 336) on red dirt trails. After 15 kilometres we run across this small town with a restaurant, bank, and most importantly a Co-op. This medium size grocery enables us to buy lunch for the day: potato salad, peanut butter for our Ritz crackers, bran muffins, and one of Hannah’s very favorites – crunchy cheese curls. We learn Canadians no longer use pennies. In transactions, they round up or down as the case may be.
The trail heads to the Gulf of St. Lawrence for some seven kilometres of coastal riding; it’s the only time we bike by the ocean water.
It’s our third day of biking. We have no zip, just a resolve to complete the journey to Elmira.
As we ride, Hannah says this has been her best vacation ever. How can you beat all-day exercising…exploring new areas that are within a day’s drive of home… interacting with the locals? We’ve made this trip one of interdependence, not independence. After exercising all day, we slept in comfort and were fed each morning. And to complement that, the two introverts have each other.
Staying at B and Bs has been an inspired choice. Rather than end the biking day at a motel where we would mostly keep to ourselves, B and Bs have us meeting engaging Islanders who show their warmth and beat any feelings of isolation.
On the trail today, we talk about living lives of daring or lives of comfort. What choices do we each make that frame the substance of our lives? We like our routines (e.g., breakfast at home while Hannah writes notes and I read the paper, working out at the gym, or biking country roads). Daring? Do we meander beyond our comfort zone? There isn’t a chance we’d go to Europe. Months in Florida in the winter are just not for us. Yet this trip without the safety net of a car at our constant disposal or the full knowledge we can actually bike 170 miles or what the weather will be has added a positive bit of daring to our lives.
Fini. To me, it is no surprise that we made it. In the months before hitting the Confederation Trail, I wondered how tough biking 7 to 8 miles per hour could really be, even if it is all day. It turned out the ride was all very doable for two reasonablely fit 65 year olds. Maybe we were just lucky? The cool and rain-free weather certainly added to our enjoyment. The Islanders in the right spot at the right time brought us conversations that we sought. I must admit our relative affluence made it all possible.
At the train station in Elmira, Lynne the attendant offers to take our picture at the final sign.
She signs and awards us certificates for our achievement.
No lie, we are glad there is no additional day of biking. We’ve done what we set out to do and no longer have the interest or the drive to do any more.
It’s another five kilometres of biking to the end of the island at North Lake for our final night’s stay on PEI at Points East Beach Motel.
Again there are no services in Elmira (population very few), so we drive twenty kilometres west to Souris (population 1300 – French for mice – The town’s name was provided by early settlers when a plague of mice invaded the area.) to the town Co-op for salads and fruit for our evening meal. A bottle of wine will begin our celebratory evening.
We celebrate Amy and her family tonight and dedicate the third day of our ride to them. It is we who are the fortunate ones: to have the health and resources to make such a ride in support of her family.
Thanks to over 50 family and friends who supported our fundraising ride, we raised over $1600 for the Paquette Family. You will be happy to hear that they are planning a family vacation to Disney World in the near future.
One final note. We hope you will consider reading further about PEI in the children’s classic, Dan of Green Gables.