Regardless of what the newspapers would have you believe, strangers are a continuous source of kindness and generosity.
This is a theme I’ve touched on before and I don’t want to get repetitive, but it’s important. And Canadians keep astounding me.
Today one of my favourite terrain features – the occasional mile or so of flat land you get at the top of a big hill where you ride on a plateau rather than descending straight away – was bolstered by Dave and Shelly who, after the climb, pulled up on the shoulder ahead of us, waved us down (“we’ve got a beer for you!”), and handed us two ice-cold, award-winning cans of Open Road.
The beer, brewed local to their home in Red Deer, has perhaps the most perfect blurb on the can:
“Sun on your back and wind in your hair. Nowhere to be and no rush to get there. Freedom. Whether it’s on two wheels or four, a big ol’ motor between your legs or pedals under your feet, there is nothing quite like that feeling of cruising down the open road. So when you get to where you’re going, don’t forget to pause and celebrate the journey. Raise a glass to following your bliss.”
Never has beer articulated so perfectly what I’m feeling.
Buoyed by cold beer, excellent conversation and a flat mile before a big downhill, we pushed onward to the next rest stop at Ashburton Bay. It was bare in facilities (one picnic table, no toilets) but rich in views and company: a stream of vehicles and occupants rolled in, each bringing different conversation.
(If you’re mentioned here and I forgot to ask your name, email to let me know!)
The train-anorak biker gang took photos of the mile-long cargo train trudging along below, debating whether it was CN or Canadian Pacific. They told us stories of driving trains cross-province and congratulated us on using our legs to power our bikes rather than gas.
The Scandinavian chap stroking a tabby cat on a leash told us of his cycle adventures around Norway and Finland in the 90s and his hikes in the Yukon. He asked about mileage, number of punctures, number of broken spokes, and various other questions more intricate than we usually get. It was nice to converse with someone who knows the beast, and interesting to get his Maverick approach to gears (“do you guys use the lower gears when you climb hills? I never did”).
We felt enriched and ready to leave when Jesse asked “fancy a cup of coffee?” – a question it’s impossible to say no to (and a question I’d already been asked earlier in the day by a chatty motel attendant: two free coffees in a day!).
While I drank the strong and rejuvenating cup he told us of his trumpet and accordion duet, jazz bars and swing dance nights in Montreal, his various criss-crossings of Canada, and things to see in New Brunswick. We compared tiny stoves, then set off on our way, further enriched and ready to leave.
For the next stretch I felt buzzing from caffiene and conversation.
I am so grateful for the constant reminders that seemingly everyone has something to say, questions to ask, and something they are interested in or proud of and would like to share.
And if a grimy, topless, dreadlocked man eating plain rice at a picnic table 20 miles from the nearest town can attract this type of conversation, I feel like anyone can.
So go say hi to someone and see what they have to share.