Count On It

Long Sault Parkway, Long Sault, Ontario

I counted the number of islands we covered in our ride on the Long Sault Parkway because the wind, which I didn’t count on pushing against me so vigorously, whispered “Quit. Sit.”

“You shit,” I said. This is my BIG day. My longest ride of the summer – 28 kilometres. So, no. I’m not quitting.”

I hadn’t counted on being so adamant about this ride, about getting out of Ottawa for a day, about seeing and doing something new, about being excited, period. I’ve come to count on a bland existence, the same walks, the same thoughts, the same news. Honest to God, it’s like Groundhog Day out there. I don’t even need to turn on the TV news because I know what they’re going to say. I could write the goddam script. So, I counted on some new stuff as we rode along a portion of a bike trail that follows the St. Lawrence River, just across the border from Upstate New York – like the great blue herons fishing in channels and bays. Six.

There was too much goose poop on the road to count or dodge, but my bicycle tires and butt registered the bumps that looked like cocktail weenies. Likewise, I couldn’t count the constantly changing clouds that joined like white puddles threatening to flood the sky. But there was no flood of grey and white. Blue sky prevailed.

There was the one and only egret in a shallow bay and not too far away another great blue heron kept her company. I can’t recall if this was halfway into the ride, but they kept me going, those heron markers. Be patient, they said. Press on. I hadn’t counted on their wise counsel.

I lost count of the number of times my husband’s head swiveled at passing cyclists to admire their equipment. He called to me “Nice Shimano Dura-ace derailleur.” Or “That’s an old Miyata. Great bike.”

There were countless bulrush fringed bays, innumerable gulls, and a handful of elegant pines among the frowsy, blousy hardwoods. Plus, there was the singular green summer smell of the St. Lawrence River.

Then there were the dozen or more turkeys on Van Koughnet Island. I said, “They sure are ugly” and my husband said, “They sure are tasty.” I changed my mind as we rolled by them and enjoyed the shimmer of their iridescent feathers.

When the wind sucked my wind, I screamed “We must be almost at the end?!” and sure enough as we crossed the last causeway, the gate appeared ahead.

My husband shouted, “You did it!” His enthusiasm and the wind sailed us back to where we started where I didn’t count the calories of the fish tacos and fries at Captain George’s in Cornwall.

At home I didn’t watch or read any news. It will be there tomorrow, same as yesterday. I can count on it. Most importantly, I needed no sheep to lull me to sleep. Zero.

42 thoughts on “Count On It

  1. Your beautiful writing about this cycling experience on Long Sault ‘almost’ makes me want to do it again. From the way you are dressed though, it appears we had very different weather (I went 2 summers ago). Wind – yes, but I had sweltering heat where I seriously questioned my sanity.

    Kudos on a ride I considered much harder than I had been expecting (not counting the heat). Your fish tacos were well deserved!

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  2. Susanne! This is totally bold and sold. I agree with our fellow writers – thanks a bunch for setting the stage to “get out and keep it going”! Breaking the monotony is needed in today’s circumstances. It’s screen time for everyone at home, and even more, the me-time is on the rise. The demand and supply of “being present” mentally versus physically is draining all the energy that we have preserved – if at all! This is such an awesome step, and am going to not just re-read your journey, but going to mentally map it out to the one self-planned! Bikes are waiting to be paddled! 💐

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  3. Loved this piece, especially this wonderful concluding comment: “At home I didn’t watch or read any news. It will be there tomorrow, same as yesterday. I can count on it.” Nicely done!

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  4. How fun to tag along on this ride with you! I’m so glad you persevered. I know what you mean about every day seeming the same ground hog special. It’s so nice when we can bread away. I’m going to need to do that soon too!

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    • We’re trying to plan local outings at least once a week to break the monotony of staying at home or very close to home. This one was really special because of the gorgeous ride AND the restaurant food at the end, though we got take-out rather than eating inside. It felt really good to get away from the computer screen, the TV news and the same ol, same ol.

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  5. I am much impressed. Every time I halfway decide to incorporate a new time of exercise into this new daily existence, it rains. Or threatens to rain. Or hurricanes. Or I’m too tired from worrying about a hurricane that never came. Excuses, really, for such a low energy feeling that would be much improved if I would just get up and begin. Again. Thanks for the inspiration.

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    • I think if I lived in a place where hurricanes occurred I would find it difficult to go outside in the summer, too. Plus the heat. At this moment in the world’s history, I MUST go outside and see people and exercise because its as much for my mental health as physical. Keep trying, Ellen. Something will stick eventually.

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    • I can’t believe I’ve lived in Ottawa for 41 years and never been on that road which is only an hour drive away. It was well worth the trip for the mental stimulation and the physical exertion. quite a tonic.

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    • Mmm. The fish tacos were not gourmet things. They were hearty and filling and delicious! Its taken me a long time to build up to riding 28 km and I’m pleased with myself for doing it but my butt complained a lot and I needed to do a whole lotta stretching afterwards!

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  6. Thanks for taking me alone on a brutal but interesting ride. I do know what you mean about groundhog day. I feel it too. I watch the first 5 minutes of the news intro and if there is nothing new I need to see, it’s deleted. I always record it so I can stop where there is something I need to know but the sound is usually off with captioning below so I don’t get sucked into the drama. I love your writing style. It never occurred to me that geese left poop all over the road! That couldn’t be fun flying back up at you off the tires. ;( Men and women see the same thing so differently. Now back to the groundhog. ;(

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  7. Glad you counted your way through the whole 28K! Nothing worse than biking into a strong headwind, unless perhaps missing the opportunities to air out the nooks and crannies. Sounds like you truly enjoyed the effort. Kudos!

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    • The first half of the ride was brutal and I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to stop and turn around. Plus, on a trail I’d thought was flat looking at the map, there were a surprising number of hills. But the return trip was a hoot.

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    • I’ve been building up all summer so I could take a longer ride, starting back in late May with only 15 minutes and then adding about 5 minutes more each week. That really helped the back, hips and butt adjust and reduced the chance of injury. My husband told me how far in terms of distance we’d gone afterwards. My criteria for the ride was that it couldn’t be more than 1 hr/45 minutes and I didn’t give a fig about the distance. But I still feel pretty proud of going that far given my injury history.

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"The river flows both ways." (Margaret Laurence)

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