As the season turns from winter to spring, thoughts of bicycling and the many occasions in the past that I have enjoyed that activity come to mind. The younger generations now rely on “throwback Thursdays” to post photos on Facebook to remind family and friends of past events. Because this particular event predated Facebook, there are no photos of this ride on a sun-filled summer day. My memory, generally reliable, will have to suffice.
As a member of a local biking club, I had mastered the ability to ride distances of 15 to 30 miles over the course of an afternoon, with intermittent breaks for food, water or conversation with fellow bikers. These excursions afforded me time as a single parent to expand my circle of adult friends and eventually involve my children in the benefits of biking.
A fundraiser at a fellow biker’s church presented the opportunity to offer an activity for auction: a bike ride to Niagara-on-the-Lake, with all your fantasies fulfilled! As an accomplished cook, she would prepare and bring a gourmet lunch, which would be enjoyed overlooking the confluence of the Niagara River and Lake Ontario. Two gentlemen took up the offer. Would I round out the party as the fourth, she asked?
It was a glorious biking day with perfect conditions as we set out from Niagara Falls, crossed into Canada and headed to our destination. There was no prior test to determine if the auction bidders were up to the challenge of the ride. One gentleman was in good condition and cycled with ease. But his companion soon began to show signs of fatigue. “Why not stop for hors d’oeuvres,” I suggested when we had about 3 more miles to our lunch spot.
This maneuver succeeded in restoring his energy and we arrived in Niagara-on-the-Lake. We found a grassy area where we indulged in the lunch prepared by our leader. As we laughed and congratulated ourselves on our achievement, I glanced over at the less experienced rider and saw panic in his eyes. He was just realizing he had to retrace his “steps” to get back to the starting point.
Not a mile from our departure, he complained of severe leg cramps. The solution: a roadside massage, with our intrepid leader acting as masseuse and the humbled recipient wondering if this was what was meant by “all your fantasies fulfilled.” It was clear that the remaining miles would be more than he was capable of.
No obstacle would deter our leader. Sensing that this was her problem to solve, she sent me and the remaining biker off to complete the ride, which included the most challenging part – ascending the hill up to Brock’s Monument. As he and I reached that point, we sat catching our breath, and in the distance we could see a lone biker ascending the hill. Indeed it was our leader, who had found a good Samaritan in a pickup truck to deliver our compromised companion to his car.
Although I enjoyed many more bike rides with the friend who organized our outing that day, I never had contact with either of the gentlemen who joined us that day. Inspired by the idea, though, I offered the ride at a Parents Without Partners auction. As the winner of the bid and I were getting our bikes secured, my children, leaving for a day with their dad, explained: “See that guy, Dad. He paid 50 cents to go out with Mom!” And that is a story for another day.