-by David A.Robinson (read Chapter I here)

Just want to go back a couple weeks here... It's a sunny day. I'm exploring the Waterfront Trail, out of Toronto. As expected, it meanders, sends you along roads parallel to the shore, directs you back to lovely sections of bike path by the beach. It's great; takes twice as long as the old highway 2 but, I promised myself not to hurry, this time.

So, I get to the conclusion of one very winding, crushed stone section that passes under a major hydro right of way, and emerge beside a south service road, next to the freeway, about halfway between Courtice, and Bowmanville. It's one of those hazy days, when you need sunscreen, and you overheat and chill at the same time. The familiar gateway between the fence is there, but--what's this?

I clearly can't get through here. There is a giant, heavy duty fence all around the entry. A giant gate, chained and padlocked. And, in between gate and fence, two, super skinny spaces, divided by a steel pipe filled with cement that comes up five feet. I am trapped. No way through, no way around, nobody else around. I can't lift my gear. My back, well, it's getting better from the box-moving day muscle tear in the ribs before I left. I look at the situation, and it screams governmental stupidity. What if I were a special needs guy on a big trike? What if I'm a parent pulling a kid in a trailer? Why do the authorities think everybody can slide through fourteen inches? I won't stand for this. Somebody has to do something here. I take out my pliers and snips, willing to cut the fence away. No go. I try jostling the padlocked gate. Useless. How far would I have to back track in order to find a way out? Forget it. It's not fair and it's a risk for lots of other people too, so I do it.

I phone 911. The first thing I say is, " okay, I'm alright but I'm trapped at a bike path gate here. About halfway between Courtice, and..." The woman is patient, hears my plight. We discuss. I say " you know if you could send a police car with some bolt cutters, then later the municipality can do something about this!" She answers that police officers do not carry bolt cutters, sir...(they don't?!)

And that I'll have to go back-- "No! I'm not turning around here!. You need to know this is a mistake in design. This isn't safe. I needeastofcourtice help. I'm like an elephant trying to get through a mouse hole here..." but I'm losing the argument with her. If there's no blood, no breathing passage blocked, I'm getting no service vehicle. I tell her, calmly, confidently that the authorities have something stupid here, and she needs to tell her people, and do something, and goodbye and thanks for nothing.

I hang up, unsure of what to do. Dis-assemble EVERYTHING?
Presently a red sedan slowly pulls up and parks at the little driveway area where I'm stuck. I think "oh she must have mentioned something at the 911 hang out, and here's some kind soul, finished their shift, with bolt cutters!" A lady, mid eighties, and her dog slowly get out. I say hello, meet the dog, Katie, and briefly outline my plight. Her name is Carrie. She has a Dutch accent. "You need to call O.P.G."... She's out for a walk with Katie. Down the path where I rode up. Nice lady. Calm. Smart. I guess I can take my seat off. Okay, it slides off. I'm not into this. It's looking like the rest of the afternoon, futzing with trailer, zip ties, wires, tight fittings, details you don't want to know about.
I look around and decide to do a sketch of the factory in the distance, all grey in the haze, sloping shafts, silos for something, hydro towers nearby, all seen through the intersecting lines of the chain link fence. It's a good drawing. A keeper. Probably a future painting. But I'm still stuck, and only my seat has made it through this barricade.
Carrie re-enters from her walk with Katie. I say hi, show her my drawing, she says "Oh, you know, I always have travelled in artistic circles. My good friend was Girt Stintins, the Latvian painter who did backdrops for CBC television shows".
I have an idea. Carrie seems game. I ask her, as politely as possible, if she can take the handlebars and just steer the bike if I lift it, and maybe, the two of us can get over this damnable pipe. "Yah, okay," she says. I worry for her. Is this fair, nice, right? I make a promise to myself to let everything crash on my head if this maneuver goes south at any moment.
Carrie takes the bars. A natural; she's Dutch...Katie watches attentively from the back seat, head out of the window, tongue hanging, panting, smiling. I carefully lift back end plus loaded trailer up, up, over... "Okay, okay,..." Carrie is saying gently but firmly. I hasten to bring it all down on the other side, rush to grab the bars to relieve her... It's done!
I start thanking Carrie profusely, telling her that I will write about this, about her. She giggles, goes to the trunk of her car, and hands me a gallon-sized plastic water jug half full. She says "keep it for your trip".
She's the best. All 98 or so pounds of her, and her strength and understanding, on this, hey, it's Mother's Day.
We talk a bit longer, and I shake her hand, thanking her again. She drives away as slowly as she'd arrived. Angel in a red car. Who needs the cops anyway?. I slide the seat back on. We're good to go. Phew. The miracles you have to witness just to go on a bike trip.
Later that day I pull into Coburg. I like this town, and find the boardwalk by the lake again. A spit reaches out to the rocks of a breakwater. There's a lighthouse across a short gap. Lake Ontario is so high, that the water laps up around the tree trunks, amidst the rocks. I find a spot where the hammock can swing over the waves. They can't kick you off the lake, can they?
Nearer the beach, I see a makeshift teepee, built from stray driftwood. At the opening of the hut sits, or rather slumps, a young skinny male figure, on an out of place black and chrome office chair. Next to him is a big orange and black striped traffic cone. He looks like he's camped for the night. Well, if it's okay for him to sleep out here... But we don't talk. He's got his hooded head in his hands. I hope this is safe.
Later, after dark, and dog walkers and kids taking evening constitutionals out to the end of the spit, I'm lying in my trusty hammock, listening to the century-high waves slosh the sharp rocks beneath me. I start to hear a wailing voice. Someone is calling their dog. Then silence. Waves, wind, and later , sounds like "Chloe!!"
Ten minutes later, I hear it again. Could be the name Chloe, maybe Zoey, Maureen? I don't know.
But I figure out it's him. Young guy at the teepee. Seems to me he's gutting out some heartbreak or loss of some sort, by crying someone's name out to the waves. I'm not scared or nervous about this kid. I just want to be the feeling witness to this. Should I go over? Offer what's left of my mickey of tequila? I fall asleep instead.

Next morning is bright and windy. After packing up the bike, I'm on my way to some breakfast, when I cross paths with young Mr. Lonely. He's walking, from a porta-potty back to his encampment, his black chair, hands clasped together, knuckles visible under his hoody, pushing out from his abdomen like alien about to be born. Ball cap, hood over the head, goatee growth hiding the visible part of his face. "Good morning!" I say to him. "G'morning." I'm not sure if he knows I was his hotel neighbour a few trees down the spit. But he seems okay. I hope he makes it through his heart break somehow. It may take another night on the high waves of the lake. We all need to get through those tough times. If we're lucky we get a witness. Sometimes an angel.

Dave Robinson is a retired Bluewater teacher and avid cyclist. This year's journey will take him from his home in Kimberley to Nova Scotia. You can follow his journey with



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