Road Lessons: Got to Keep Going

The Strayhorse Station, Hedley, British Columbia

The truth vexes me: I have another day of pedalling ahead of me and my heart is not in it.  My legs are sore, I’m tired out, and I don’t want to leave idyllic Hedley, B.C.  It’s as if the bed itself is seducing me to take the day off – but, I can’t.   Knowing I have to get to Vancouver, I force myself to sit up and get out of bed.

In the cafe below the hostel, I console myself  with a 3 egg omelette, toast, and 2 large cups of coffee.  Chit-chat with Kim, the amiable Strayhorse Station cafe manager, cook, and server gives me a refreshing boost of morale as only a woman can do for a tired man.  “Take the old Hedly Road to Princeton,” she suggests, “it’s beautiful and it’s quiet.  You’ll love it – but watch out for cougars.  We’ve had a lot of them in the valley this summer.   They’ve come down to hunt the white tail deer.”

I am immediately encouraged by her suggestion of the quiet route – until the weight of the comment about cougars hits me. “I’ve got bear spray,” I respond off handily.  Kim looks at me intently, nodding her head, and I realize she she’s thinking the same thing I am; that I’d have one at my neck before I could reach for any can of pepper spray.

It’s time to go and after snapping a few pictures of turn of the century wood houses I ride out to the #3 Crowsnest Highway.  Any enthusiasm I had from my breakfast conversation quickly dissipates as I feel a familiar ache in my legs, and instantaneously my spirit drops.   The truth hangs there as heavy as the pedals I’m pushing: I’m emotionally tired and hating the thought of the ride to Princeton. “Pedal in rhythm.  Feel the pedals go round and round until the energy flows,” I try to encourage myself.

10 kilometres west down the #3, motorcycle riders turn off the Old Hedley Road, the lead man giving me the nod.  In the wilds of British Columbia, I’m pleased by how many bikers flash me a sign as they pass by.  They know their motorcycles pull them high over mountain passes, but bicyclists do their own work.   As I hit the turn, I lean to my right and glide smoothly onto the Old Hedley Road. “Damn it!,” I curse to myself.   The road is worn, cracked, and rough forcing me to turn this way and that to avoid ruts and jarring potholes.  The cycling becomes slower and more effortful than I wanted.

I settle myself down and drink in the scenery.  The Old Hedley Road is quiet, just as Kim said it would be, mountains rising up steeply on either side of the Similiken River Valley.  The quiet of the road, the solitary experience of pedalling alone, combined with my fatigue, makes me think of cougars and bears. Soon every black stump, each grey rock that catches my attention, triggers a fear response to a predatory animal.  “O gawd, I need a day off,” I say to myself.   I count the number of days it’s been since I took a day off and I realize I’ve been on the road for 6 days straight.  I decide to take the next day off in Princeton. Immediately my legs feel lighter.


  1. by Craigo

    On October 27, 2012


    Love your stuff.


  2. by Patrick O'Connor

    On October 28, 2012

    Thank you Craig. I enjoy writing them. Hope the meaning comes through in the telling.

  3. by Celeste

    On November 11, 2012

    This was also overlooked, but glad I am finally catching up with some of the tales from your journey. Patrick it is all pretty amazing. You have accomplished something incredible. When you return a nice long rest and potentially some monk bread and cookies will be rightfully deserved!

  4. by Tammy

    On December 22, 2012

    Your writing is incredible, Pat! I can sense the emotional and spiritual enlightenment that occurred within you as you met the physical demands of this awesome journey! It takes both internal and external stamina to complete such an endeavour and I am impressed with your desire to take on the challenge. I know what this accomplishment must mean to you.


    PS…. Pat, I wanted to catch up on your writing in your blog because I have always enjoyed reading it. It was inspirational! You are such a talented writer! I wanted to acknowledge what you have done as I know how important it must have been for you. I hope you are well and that you have a wonderful year ahead of you.

  5. by Tammy

    On December 25, 2012

    Thank you for your interest, Pat. You can check out some of my photos from my profound Camino experience on my Facebook page. I have not posted all of them because I have nearly 1000 photos!! Watching the entire slide show requires my commentary and a couple of glasses of wine! :-)

    I have not, yet, had the time to transcribe my notes describing my pilgrimage adventure and the emotional and spiritual lessons that the Camino brought to me. But, when I do, I will be sure to let you know.

  6. by Patrick O'Connor

    On December 25, 2012

    Good for you, Tammy. It sounds like you had a transformative pilgrimage. They are never easy, but the rewards are beyond our hearts imagination to desire – that is the gift of suffering on such a journey. Good on you! You are blessed.

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