The Long Road Home

Another storm on the prairies is blowing in from the west.

One of my favourite rides, as a road cyclist, is an approximately 65km (40 mile) loop that I have ridden frequently over the last three decades. The counter-clockwise lasso loop takes roughly two and a half to three hours to complete riding solo. What makes this particular loop enticing is not only the rolling terrain and challenging steep hills, but the unique ecosystem of windswept prairies and lush green valleys. Much of the prevailing weather system here tends to flow from the northwest to the southeast allowing for a brief reprieve from the strong prevailing winds at some point in the ride.

Over the last thirty years or so, I have seen tremendous change, in not only the prairie landscape, but also the increased influx of people (city dwellers) wanting to experience the country life. Many of the affluent want the quietness, fresh air, low taxes, and small community atmosphere of living in the country. Yet, because most people work in the city, a one hour return trip commute is necessary each working day. For those who have moved out West and migrated away from the twelve million people of greater Toronto, this commute is a small price to pay compared to a two hour one-way commute by rail into downtown Toronto.

With this influx of people has come a major increase in housing infrastructure and new support services, including whole new communities situated alongside the manicured green grass of a new golf course within one of the valleys.

Naturally, with this increasing movement of people to the countryside comes a disproportional increase in automobile traffic along both major and secondary highways. This is both a good thing and a not-so-good thing for road cyclists. Increased vehicular traffic means better maintained and/or new road surfaces. Unfortunately, too many motorized vehicles also leads to an exponential increase in noise, pollution, and the other inherent dangers cyclists face when confronted by inattentive and/or dangerous drivers.

Another challenge a solo cyclist faces is being self sufficient on the road. One needs to be prepared for the inevitable bad weather, flat tire(s) and other mechanical issues that crop up more frequently than most of us would like to admit. I carry an old cell phone in my jersey pocket that does not even have a valid sim card in it. The phone is still capable of GPS tracking and dialing out to 911 emergency services, so I do have some recourse in case of a serious accident. Many of my cycling friends think I am insane not to carry a “working” smartphone, but my response to them is that is just the way I roll. I did not have the luxury of a cell phone some thirty years ago, and even if I did, it would have been the size of a large brick in my back pocket.

Personally, I like disconnecting from the ever intrusive electronic world whenever I can – just me, my bike, and the wide open prairie skyline.

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