Thursday, 7 July 2011

June 23: Red Deer to Calgary

   I had to force myself out of bed. It would have been ever so easy to sleep in, but I could tell by the commotion that was going on upstairs that the Catelliers were already out and about.
   My foot fell out of bed, and was followed by my leg, and then by my tired body. After I managed to stand up and rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, I headed upstairs into the morning light.
   Doris Catellier busied herself in the kitchen making Downey and I another incredible meal. The Catellier kids were getting ready to head out for school and Ron was leaving for work. After the proper goodbyes to Ron and the kids, they were off. Downey and I were left with Dorris for breakfast.
   Maybe French Canadian families are all very similar, but having breakfast with Doris made me feel as though I was back home having breakfast with my own mother. Dorris was so kind and concerned. She made sure we would be having a safe journey and asked all the questions a concerned mother would ask. When it was finally time to leave I found myself wanting to stay because it felt like home.
   Downey and I were on the number 2 highway from Red Deer to Calgary for about ten minutes when my bike stared to break down. The first bike malfunction of the day was one of my rear spokes snapping. It turns out the extra weight from the food that had been given to us by the Marchands and Catelliers had been just a tad too much strain. Therefore, we found ourselves not only repairing our bikes, but also repacking bags and looking for ways to shed weight that wouldn't include leaving our precious "Pop Tarts" behind.
   About half an hour after our first set of repairs came a blown out back tire. The back rear tire was punctured by a staple.
   An hour after that repair came another broken spoke, after that another blown out back tire due to a pin (who throws this stuff on the highway?) and finally another broken spoke.
   My back tire was now rolling in such a wavy uneasy way that I had to take off the back brake just to continue moving forward. With our repair kits becoming depleted and my spokes constantly snapping, I decided it would only be a matter of time before my back tire would become completly useless and I would have no choice but to thumb a ride. Time was not on my side, so I opted to leave Downey in the wake of my dusty trail and peddle as fast as I could to Calgary.
   At some point in the day, the Alberta sky changed from burning hot sun to pelting hail. The change must have taken place within the span of half an hour, and ended just as fast. I was suprised at the speed of change in weather. It had not been like this since our journey between Lake Louise and High Beauty Creek, and that was in the heart of the Rockies. When the hail hit, I found myself on the highway with nothing but fields in sight, no bridges... no cover. There was no other option available to me, so I was forced to bike through the hail. All I could do was shrivel up into a tiny human squiggly ball and try to protect as much of myself as possible while mother nature pulverised me with penny-sized balls of ice. The quickness of the changes in wheather, and the change in the mood of our environment is proof enough to me that nature is a woman.
   Downey was lucky enough to be near a farm-like building when the hail hit. He biked over to the house on the property, ran over to their front door and knocked. It was answered by a man in cowboy boots who had spent his share of years on this earth. Downey asked him if it would be alright if he grabbed his bike and waited out the foul weather in the farm's building near the highway. The man just looked at Downey blankly and without breaking the slightest smile or batting an eyelash said:

   "You can stay in the shed. But if you steal anything... I'll kill you."

    So Downey uneasily grabbed his bike and made his way to the shed. He mentality made note not to pick anything up in the shed or disturb any object regardless of its interest.
    Downey did not know it yet, but this farm existed for a rather intersting reason. By impregnating horses, collecting the urine from pregnant horses, and then selling that urine for a profit to pharmaceutical  companies, Downey had ended up on a PMU farm. Most interresting of all is the part of the farm that Downey ended up in. Of all places, Michael "the city slicker" Downey, ended up in the place where they artificially inseminate horses. Downey can't recal all of what he saw in that shed, nor does he want too, but by what I can gather about the tools they used in that shed, I don't think the temptation of theft would have come over anyone.
   While Downey waited out the hail in the horse love shack, I continued to peddle. Downey and I got seperated by so many miles that we did not see each other until 11pm that night. I managed to push myself and my dilapitated bike to my final destination in Calgary. In the heart of the city was the home of Roger and his family.
   Roger has been a number of things in his lifetime. He has been a long distance trucker, an ice road trucker, he has logged lumber and moved all kinds of cargo. He is a father, a husband and this year he was the ALS embasador at the annual ALS walk.
   Roger was diagnosed with ALS about two years ago. He gets around in a wheelchair but his personality is in great shape. Roger is such a nice man with such a beautiful family that I was pained to hear that he was a rough riders fan. Its a shame, but I suppose nobody is perfect.
   Roger and his wife got some great greek food for Downey and I. They asked me where Downey was and I told them I had no idea, the last time I saw him was hours ago before the hail storm hit. Of all the emotions I was feeling at that moment, I definatly did not feel disapointment that Downey would not be joining us. All I felt was excitment that there would be more food for me.
   After supper, Roger's seven year old son decided he would try and teach me how to play Nintendo Wii. After spending the next half an hour losing game after game to a seven year old, I think I had learned a new level of humility and decided to retire my gaming career.
   At around 11pm Downey rolled on in. After Roger and his wife gave Michael and I a couple of their specially blended drink called "Irish blueberry tea" Downey and I woosily retreated to our rooms an fell into a deep sleep.

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