It was supposed to be an easy two-hour bike ride along the lovely Le Sentier du Paysan (“the farmer’s trail”), a bike path through fields of southern Quebec, just a stone’s throw from the U.S. border where Vermont and New York meet.
But things didn’t go precisely as planned.
We were with our friends Marc and Francoise of Noyan. It was a little after 10 a.m. by the time we parked our respective cars at the trailhead and unloaded our bikes.
We started pedaling. It’s a delightful trail, paved, running diagonally across acres and acres of corn, soybeans and other crops we weren’t sure we could identify. The temperature was perfect, warm with a cool breeze. Francoise pointed out a white-blossomed plant that lined much of the bikeway. It looks so innocent, but the liquid in the stem burns the skin so she warned us not to touch….
We stopped about 15 kilometers in for a brief rest under a ramada. I noticed on my phone that I’d missed a call from Beloved Housesitter. We called her back. The kitchen faucet had been leaking and the plumber was on site; Bonnie wanted to clear the repair with us.
It wasn’t going to be an easy fix. The leak was coming from a small part, but of course that particular small part has been discontinued. The entire faucet must be replaced.
So be it.
We resumed our bike ride. Such a pleasant trail, and we had it all to ourselves. In an hour and a half, we saw only one other cyclist. Francoise and I rode side by side and chatted about family, love, children and travel. Behind us were Marc and Georges, reminiscing about the motorcycles, go-carts and the cars that monopolized their youth…. Another 12-15 kilometers flew by.
Suddenly, pop! Whoosh!
Marc had a flat.
No problem, G has a portable pump and a repair kit on his bike. We’ll just repair the leak and re-inflate the tire and we’ll be on our way, just as we’ve done many times before….
Except the pump doesn’t work. We managed to patch the hole in the tire, but we can’t get the pump to bite the valve properly. (Plus, we see a dozen other potential leaks in Marc’s very-worn tire and we’re down to our last patch….)
We spend at least 30 minutes futzing with that connector. It was as stubborn as a mule in March. Plenty of air, but not in the tire.
Finally, Francoise and I get on our bikes to pedal back to the cars. Then we’ll come pick the guys up. In the meantime, they can walk their bikes back to the massive greenhouse we passed about a mile ago – the only evidence of civilization along the entire ride – and wait for us there.
Seems easy enough.
Except it takes us nearly two hours to pedal back to the cars. And it’s hot (a real heatwave in Quebec, in the 90s), the morning’s cool breeze having evaporated like a mouthful of cotton candy.
And we are tired. Francoise hasn’t been on a bike in years (Marc had promised her it would be a courte et facile ride) and the miles took a toll on her derrière. I felt fine until the last mile or two. We’d run out of water by then and I was overheating. When we finally got to a water fountain about a mile from the cars, I drank too much too fast and, well, you can probably guess what happened next.
Let’s just say the water didn’t stay with me.
Once my stomach settled, we steadied ourselves, loaded the bikes and set off to rescue our guys.
They’d spent nearly two hours looking for shade, finally taking cover next to one of the huge hydroponic greenhouses. We’d not been able to text them our progress until we were headed their way, so they’d begun to worry….
And not without cause. Five minutes into the drive back to the guys the tire on Francoise’s bike, loaded in the back of their white van, popped.
Talk about lucky. Thank goodness her tire didn’t pop before we got to the cars or it really would have become the bike path from hell. What would we have done? Stayed together and walked? Sent me on to the car, leaving her alone in the heat? Died of dehydration?
Yeegads – a dilemma we didn’t need….
Later, we learned of another plumbing-related problem at home – a gas leak in the attic. And we eventually got the bill for it all – all $900-plus of it….
Flat tires and plumbing bills aren’t exactly the stuff of idyllic vacations on the road….
But as G always says, it beats a broken leg.
We got back to Marc and Francoise’s home by 4 p.m. What was supposed to be a 2-3 hour bike ride had turned into a six-hour odyssey…. A 36-mile bike ride for Francoise and me, something closer to an 18-mile bike ride for the guys.
We were all hot and thirsty. And hungry. G made a wonderfully robust salad for “lunch.”
Then we took a break, showered, G watched some of the Tour de France on the TV downstairs, and I wrote in my journal. Soon, G started puttering in the kitchen.
Dinner wasn’t before 8 p.m. The salmon and Camembert was outstanding, not over-cooked and oh-so-moist. He served it over rice with fresh asparagus.
And this was dessert, with Quebec’s famous sirop d’erable (maple) ice cream.
Life is good again.