2011 Tip2Tip blog written by Dr Desmond Colohan:
From Tignish to Elmira, the ride is over! As I peddled into Elmira yesterday afternoon, many different thoughts swirled through my mind. I had made it; it was a glorious Fall day; the bike had stayed in one piece; my butt and legs were killing me; everyone seemed so happy. Already, riders were making plans for next year’s ride while all I wanted to do was to sink into a steaming hot Epsom salts-infused bath.
We left Charlottetown in the dark on Saturday morning for the 2 ½ hour drive to Tignish, our starting point at the western tip of PEI. By 9:00 AM, all 24 riders were eagerly gathered at mile zero of our Confederation Trail journey. There were college students, serious bikers of all ages, and a few old fogies like me. What on earth had I gotten myself into? After the obligatory group photos and to a chorus of cheers and shouts of bon voyage we set out for Elmsdale, our first rest stop. It became apparent very quickly that some of our group were highly competitive as they quickly disappeared into the distance, leaving some of us to proceed at a more leisurely and prudent pace. 27 kilometres later, after battling a stiff head wind much of the way, as I peddled into Elmsdale it became painfully obvious that I was going to be one of the slower, if not the slowest, riders. Many of the others had already finished their snack and were headed off to O’Leary for lunch. Oh well, every excursion has its turtles and its hares, I rationalized. Besides, I was rather enjoying the scenery and the solitude and my occasional chats with other riders as they pulled alongside, checked to see how I was doing and then resumed their original pace and quickly peddled out of sight. By mid-morning I had attracted a minder, one of the trip support riders assigned to make sure that none of us stragglers was getting into trouble. Alan is a serious triathlon competitor who rides effortlessly and can carry on an animated conversation without getting short of breath. He was like the energizer bunny and quite an inspiration. He kept me going with his continuous encouragement.
By early afternoon the entire group had made it to the Canadian Legion in O’Leary and enjoyed a great lunch of beef vegetable soup and homemade desserts, prepared by the local ladies of the Legion. There were still 60 kilometres to go to Summerside, and more experienced riders were cautioning us rookies that this would be the most demanding part of the trip. It was! After short breaks in Ellerslie and Miscouche, exhausted riders limped their way into the Quality Inn in Summerside, were handed baggies containing Epsom salts and headed for the bathtubs in their rooms. After a brief respite, everyone gathered to enjoy an excellent meal, catered by Bruce MacPherson’s Sizzler B-B-Q Catering Company. It wasn’t very long before most of the participants were snug in their beds, resting up for the long day ahead.
The following morning dawned bright and clear, and unusually warm for October. After a satisfying breakfast, it was back on the bikes and off to Kensington. My bike had started to make all kinds of ominous creaks and groans as the previous day progressed, no doubt tiring from the significant strain I was putting on it, so I decided to switch bikes and was offered a mount which was very different than the bike I was used to riding. I quickly discovered that the new saddle applied pressure in different places and, by the end of the day, I would have four sore spots instead of two. The ride from Summerside to Hunter River through the “gently rolling hills” of central PEI was more like a continuous upgrade peddle which went on forever. It wasn’t until we got to Fredericton that we enjoyed our first prolonged down slope and could cruise the last seven and a half kilometers into Hunter River for lunch. We were treated to a nourishing and much appreciated meal of soup/chili /cookies by the auxiliary of the Central Queen’s United Church, and were soon back on our way towards Mount Stewart, our final destination of the day. After a vigorous and seemingly endless peddle uphill to Darlington, the topography leveled out and we were able to better appreciate the splendor of a magnificent Fall afternoon in the woods of PEI. The fact that the mercury climbed to 25 degrees was both a boon and a challenge. It was very hot on the bike! Everyone had stripped down to bike shirts. It was nearly suppertime by the time we straggled into Mount Stewart, after a scenic peddle along the Hillsboro River. Everyone was delighted to fall of their bikes, store them at the Trailside Café, crawl into the waiting buses, and relax as we wended our way back to the Quality Inn in Charlottetown for a quick soak and a real Thanksgiving turkey dinner. That evening we had a chance to enjoy a great meal, participate in a silent auction whose proceeds would be donated to the Mikinduri Children of Hope Foundation and the Townships Project of South Africa, co-sponsors of our ride, and enjoy some excellent live music.
Day Three arrived way too early. Only 73 kilometres to the finish! After another great breakfast, and a rather subdued ride back to Mount Stewart, we were on the bikes by 9:00 AM and off to Elmira, the eastern terminus of the Confederation Trail. Except for me! When I switched bikes in Summerside, my new bike didn’t have saddle bags, so I had to put my camera, phone and other essentials in a fanny pack, which I inadvertently left at the hotel in Charlottetown. After a frantic phone call to Leanne, she most graciously drove all the way to Mount Stewart to deliver my stuff. Hence I was late leaving Mount Stewart, but caught up with some of the group in Morell. The ride from Morell to St. Peters is not to be missed. We stopped at the Visitor Information Centre for a snack and the kind lady on duty went out of her way to make us coffee. On to Harmony Junction, where we had another great lunch, generously supplied by the kind folks from the Souris IGA. Now we only had 16 kilometres to go. Nobody was sure what condition the last leg of the trail was in. It had been under construction last year. Not to worry. It was just fine, which made the last leg of the trip so much easier. By 3:00 PM we had all arrived in Elmira, done our celebrating, taken our group photos and settled in for the bus trip back to Charlottetown. We were done, in more ways than one.
That final hour together gave us an opportunity to reflect on the good work done by the Mikinduri Foundation in Kenya and the Townships Project in South Africa. We are blessed to be living in a society with bountiful resources. It is sobering to realize that, in many parts of the world, this is not the case, and that people do without most of the time, and then they die, prematurely. While the challenge seems overwhelming, each of us can make a difference. All we have to do is get off our inertias and just do it.