Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Epic Bike Trip Around the Maritimes, Step 8: Fix your bike

And then fix it again
Somewhere around Perth-Andover, my fourth gear stopped working. Then the third gear got funny as well. Pretty soon every gear below five was being uncooperative. I was trekking along the rail trail, so there weren't any hills, but it was still a bit concerning, and unfortunately my two days of bike education had not covered gears and shifters. About the same time, one of my saddlebags ripped. Then a zipper stopped working and the plastic frame cracked. I did some duct tape repair work, but I had no needle and thread. This was not an auspicious beginning.
At Woodstock (New Brunswick's first town, settled by United Empire Loyalists and older than Canada itself - fact courtesy of Dan Stack), I veered off the trail,pushed my bike up to a campground inconveniently located at the top of a hill, set up camp, and then went off to find the first bike shop in 120km.
Steeves Bike Shop is located on Union St. The Steeves live in the house and the bike shop lives in the basement and the garage, where a dozen brand new bicycles were lined up for sale. Mr. Steeve promised to have my bike ready by the following day after dinner, so I let it with him and walked away, a pedestrian.
If you're going to be a pedestrian in any town, Woodstock is a good one because it's small, so everything's close, but it's big enough to have shops which are open. I walked down to Greco's and ate an entire pizza for dinner, and then walked up to the Atlantic superstore and bought myself a sewing kit and a fleece blanket. It's cold at night. Like shiver-me-timbers, nose under the covers kind of cold.
On my day off, I was so disappointed that I could't spend the day biking 50 k that I visited the library book sale to console myself. The librarian refused to let me pay for my book - how do these libraries expect to survive budget cuts if they won't take 25 cents for a paperback? The rest of the day, I alternated between reading, sleeping and eating cherries on various patches of grass and dock around town. Mister Steeve had my bike ready when I dropped by around 7:30. He'd fixed the gears, for which he charged me the ridiculous sum of 10 dollars, but he pointed out that my rear rim was bent. I looked. There was indeed a distinct wobble. Huh. Steeve did not have a new rim for me; I would have to wait until Fredericton.
The next day, I set off boldly, but almost right away, 1 of my saddle bags fell off. I hooked it back on but immediately it fell off again. Turning my pedal wrench into a hammer, I pounded the metal hooks to make them more hook like, and made creative  use of numerous bungee cords to secure it on again. I set it off, not very stylishly, gingerly avoiding every crack in the sidewalk, and the saddle bags grudgingly agreed to come along for the ride.
On the way to Fredericton, I saw an incredible number of trees. There would be nothing in New Brunswick if not for the trees. I camped along the river again, in a campground that charged half price to people arriving by bike (ALL campgrounds should do that!). And I visited Nackawic, New Brunswick's newest town, founded when the government flooded farmland by damming the river and built a paper mill to apologize. The mill makes high quality pulp for photo paper and so not really has seen some tough times recently. I bought an ice cream across from the World's Largest Axe (where the scoops are as big as our axe!) And then sailed in into Fredericton (well not really. There are a lot of hills in New Brunswick. I didn't know about them - my map is very flat.) I searched out the bike shop and nearly wheeled right into the husband of a coworker of my mom. Some of you might remember him from high school gym class- "The war's over, gentlemen!" Running into him was not entirely spontaneous; I had arranged to stay at their camp  (read cottage) for a few days.

I left my injured bicycle with the repair guys, and took another few days off. I sat on the back porch and watched hummingbirds, made some respectable contributions to a 1000 piece puzzle, chalked a rainbow on the deck, floated down the river in a kayak, finished a book and started another, watched a western, won a game of rummy, did an amazing tree obstacle course, zip lined across a river, had ketchup chips and a kit kat for dinner when the van ran out of gas, and on Sunday night, I swam with a beaver. I seriously contemplated abandoning my route and joining a somewhat bohemian, tie-dyed house builder with a cat named Ralph at a music festival a thousand miles away in Antigonish. But then I heard my little brother's voice in my head. He was explaining the manufacturing process of ice cream, and it reminded me of the value of perseverance. I knew he'd never let me live it down if I didn't finish my river route and make it to Saint John.
Picking up my bike Monday morning, astoundingly, all the myriad repairs we'd discussed on Friday came out to ten dollars. I mentioned I needed new saddle bags too, and the owner gave me 30$ off, without me even asking! I have two theories about this: either the bike shops in New Brunswick do not know how to make money by overcharging the most clueless of their clientele, or people feel sorry for me. But what's to feel sorry for? I've got me, I've got my bike, and I'll make it there, eventually.

Another campsite beside the river, with a lawn chair my motherly next-tent-neighbour lent me
The World's Largest Axe!  Think they're compensating for something?


  1. Well well, I didn't realize you were making a trip of such epic proportions to my stomping grounds. If you need any direction or a place to stay, hit me up on fb if you can. I know people ;). Hope you enjoy yourself.

    PS, most places in NB are pretty nice about stuff if they hear your story (much like yours). It's possibly a little bit of pitty, but consider it the kindness of the Maritimes :)

  2. Wow, quite the story so far. I hope the bike store saddle bags hold up better! Just a small nit to pick - you forgot to close the quotes after "The war's over, gentlemen!". Made the rest of the paragraph a little surreal, as I don't remember hims saying the rest of those words on a regular basis. :D