I wanted to establish my personal biking cred since bicycling figures prominently in my second mystery novel, So Many Windings, available imminently at a bookstore near you. (Click on the Charles Lauchlan Mystery tab for further details and sign up for the zoom launch of So Many Windings on May 27.)
I bought an electric-green Jeunet 10 speed with dropped handlebars and a Simplex derailleur with the income tax refund from the first year of my first real job. French bikes were de rigeuer then and my Jeunet was right up to date. This was some time ago. In fact, it was in that dark time before spandex biking shorts.
I’ve always liked bike riding, but not the breakneck leg-pumping of the fitness-obsessed. When I get on a bike, I like to ramble. I like to see the world from the relaxed vantage point of two wheels. Which is why long-distance touring by bike really appealed to me during the era of my shiny Jeunet 10 speed. I can only claim one such trip but it lives very happily in my memory. (For more than one reason; it was my and my husband’s honeymoon).
We biked from Fredericton to Charlottetown with, in retrospect, an amazingly small amount of gear. Greg bought two army surplus canvas bags that we sewed together and hung over the carrier of my bike. Those carried our sleeping bags and tent plus some other gear on top of the carrier. Greg had pannier bags on his bike that were bought at Fresh Air Experience, a Winnipeg store that was so much of its era that I get nostalgic just thinking about it. These bags carried our clothes, cameras, toiletries etc. Here’s what the loaded bikes looked like.
We were on the road for 10 days in early fall, alternately tenting and staying in bed and breakfasts and guest houses along the route. Each day was different. We slogged on during pouring rain in our wet blue jeans; picnicked in the beautiful St. John River valley; slept one night in the mayor of Gagetown’s car; saw an enchanted flock of goats; photographed ourselves among the towering rock formation on the coast of the Bay of Fundy; had an amazing dinner at the Marshlands Inn in Sackville; and got blown across PEI by a mighty wind and hardly had to peddle. You really take things in more intensely when you’re on a bike, which is why these images are still so clear in my mind.
Here I am toiling up one of the numerous hills in New Brunswick.
Fifteen or so years later, the Jeunet was trundled off to a neighbourhood rummage sale. Its paint was faded and a bit chipped and I never did like the dropped handlebars—too uncomfortable for someone as short as me with short arms to match. I went on to a mountain bike with standard handlebars. And now I ride a sedate bike with a wide, comfortable seat, the kind of bike that would have a wire basket mounted on the handlebars if I cared to install one. But I still think of my Jeunet and the adventure we went on together.