I reached the top of the mountain.
After 31 days on the road, I finally made it to Cape Spear, Newfoundland in time to watch the sun go down on the last day of the Canadian summer, and the end of my Canadian cycle adventure. An immense feeling of pride swept over me as I cycled around the last bend. My bike had been through the wars. The back wheel was tubeless and was being held together with Gorilla Tape. The shaft had also broken which was causing the wheel to wobble furiously from side to side. I sounded more like a train coming over the final hills as the wheel battered into the frame of the bike with each rotation. I had been to the bike shop that day and I was warned that the wheel could fall off at any moment. But without any money left to buy a new one, and with only 20 km to go to reach Cape Spear, I decided to take the risk. I saw it as my final test.
Putting myself in physically dangerous situations is not something I do often. Yet it calls to my sense of manliness somehow, stemming from an old warrior mindset. Putting myself at risk also makes me feel alive. My senses are heightened and a new level of focus kicks in. Going up the final hills with the flat tire was physically tough. But going down the hills was the scary part. I tried to hang tight to the right edge of the road as I barreled my way down. As cars whizzed passed me on the left, I made sure my emergency plan was in place for when the back wheel inevitably decided to go on a journey of its own. This “plan” consisted of throwing myself to the right and into the ditch to avoid any cars on the left. What could go wrong?
Another factor that made the descent a bit more intense was that my brakes hadn’t been tightened properly. This caused them to have a reaction time similar to the one Irish people have to fire alarms. It felt as if they were waiting to feel the heat of the fire before they thought it was necessary to kick into action. Now I’m not suggesting that this was a huge life-threatening situation. The chances of getting seriously hurt were probably slim, but they were still present enough to push my mind and body into survival mode. For those few moments, all of my everyday concerns fell away and the bigger questions became relevant. In my mind’s eye, I saw a glimpse of myself falling off the bike and getting slammed by an oncoming car. “What if I actually died? My mam would kill me for cycling like this.”
I start to contemplate my own mortality and how short my life can be cut in an instant. One mistake and it could be all over. And it may not even be my own mistake. A driver could be blinded by the sun as it sits low in the sky. They may not even see the bike in front of them.