Another observation along our journey cycling across Canada:
Gravel is my friend; it brings strength. We ride road bikes. They don’t have big thick tires. Our bikes handle really well on pavement and not so well on gravel. Loose gravel or sand can put you into a slide. We stay to paved trails and roads and when entering a gravel driveway or parking lot we are extra careful. We took the Trans Canada Hwy and had heard it has been greatly improved in the last ten years. We did run into some narrow shoulders in Saskatchewan that were half gravel but were able to stay on the pavement. We had to take a couple of side access roads (to get to a restaurant/rest stop), but not for a great distance and in Manitoba when the access road was going to be long, we walked the bikes through the ditch back to the highway. We really like to avoid gravel.
Imagine our surprise when after doing 110 km and coming into Portage la Prairie, we hit an all gravel shoulder for about 5 kilometres. Because they were rebuilding the roads in that area, it was fresh loose gravel too, and we had to ride in it. Gripping my handlebars, I was feeling like a mountain bike rider navigating bumpy trails, trying to keep the front wheel on task and both wheels from slipping out from under me all the while the death grip on my handlebars making permanent imprints in the padding. We saw a side access road and opted for that for a couple of kilometres. Who knew the type of road we had avoided a few days earlier would be our road of preference at some point. The side road at least had the tracks in the middle of the road where traffic had pushed aside the gravel a bit, and we were able to ride down one of those less gravelly trails. We ended up back on the shoulder of the highway when that road ended, and we fought the gravel some more, sweating worse than we had all day in the 30˚C heat. At the end of it, we were on some rough pavement, which was then considered a huge blessing in comparison. We got new pavement as we got closer to the city and continued on the portion of highway that was built to go around the city. We found a place to stay along the highway there and the girls had been in town and met us there.
As an aside, we have our support vehicle and the crew goes ahead and stop at scenic places along the way. I will do a post on the support vehicle sometimes soon. We found it was nice to ride to a motel and have them meet us there so the next morning we could get up and go and the girls could take their time to get up and get ready before starting their day, instead of having to all get ready so they could drive us to where we stopped the day before.
The next day, we had a short day to Winnipeg and the roads were good, but we had some stops on gravelled drives. I had confidence going over the gravel; it seemed easy. It was really easy compared to what we had done the day before. Not only that, the few metres we had to travel on the gravel seemed like a cake walk in comparison to what we had done. The work done the day before and other days had given me the strength to hold my balance and I felt so much stronger for having fought the kilometres of gravel before.
We often run into gravel in life; those things that can make our life more difficult or even a bit miserable, and we feel like they are such a pain to endure. We get through, and the next time we realize it isn’t so bad. When we learn a new sport or try a new activity, it can be difficult. We don’t feel comfortable and it feels like it could take forever to get comfortable and have some semblance of control. It may be that first time you try to jog after years of not putting that action into motion, and it feeling totally foreign. Or getting on a bike or skates or skis after a bunch of years and fearing the lack of control before you even start, then navigating through those first shaky moments until you find that long-lost balance and muscle memory.
It could be the gravel we face is a task becoming more difficult; facing obstacles along our journey, dealing with setbacks in our progress or just feeling discouraged. Perhaps the gravel is an uphill battle in our mind; those times when we think we can’t do something, when everything seems sooo… difficult. That is when we need to remember: this will only make me stronger; carry on!