Print Edition: June 17, 2015
Lawrence was from Belgium. He smoked these miniature cigarettes that he purchased while cycling through Iran, and he had an amazing story to tell. But it is his story, and I can only tell you what I learned from listening to him.
We met in Bangkok when I traded him my spare mosquito net for his machete and wok pan. Lawrence had been travelling by bicycle for three years. He had been around Europe, through the Middle East into Mongolia, down through China, and pedalled through Vietnam. This trip of his stemmed from needing a break after his master’s degree in physics, but he never imagined such an adventure. After drinking good beer and hearing about his time in the Middle East and China, my view of cycling changed forever.
It is often hard to take the time out of our busy lives to just enjoy the here and now. We tend to let our routines shape our perspectives of the world and how we live our lives. Most people drive their cars or ride the bus to school or work, but I awoke one day and this routine felt wrong.
The sun shone — it was a bluebird of a day. I woke up groggy, grumpy, and hungry. I wanted to escape the routine of eating a quick breakfast and rushing out the door to the CEP shuttle bus stop. The shuttle bus is a great and cheap way to get to school, but every time I ride it, I feel like a goat being herded onto a cattle car. Instead, I made spaghetti Bolognese and eggs, washed it down with some Tropicana, threw on my cycling shorts, slung my school bag on my back, and began pedalling from CEP to the Abbotsford campus.
I left at 8:33 a.m. Having glanced over the route, I knew it would take roughly an hour and 45 minutes. Besides that, I didn’t know what to expect. After about 18 minutes of pedalling I arrived at the Keith Wilson Bridge, where I decided to try to overtake a woman walking her Mastiff. This ended up being useless, as the dog turned around and began growling and barking at me in a fit of rage. Nevertheless, I reached the end of No. 3 Rd. and began the long ride down the South Parallel Rd. at about 9:00.
When you ride down the parallel road toward Abbotsford you are able to glimpse the people inside passing vehicles on Hwy 1: blank-faced drivers, passengers absorbed in their smart-phones, and back-seat sleepers. As I pedalled onward — clocking in at 55 minutes as Whatcom Rd. passed by — the sweat soaked my shirt and my legs started to ache. Yet I felt as if nothing this day had in store for me could weaken my spirit.
After a smooth ride into Abby, I was feeling confident. My time was stellar: I only had about 15 km to go, and it looked like I would to be early for class. However, as I turned right off of Sumas and onto Vye Rd., I was faced with a few problems.
The first was a truck filled with manure, which gave off a horrible odour; the second was the train that trapped me behind this rancid-smelling truck, and the third was the steep hill that would send pebble-sized specks of manure into my face.
The train passed, and I trudged onward. With focus, determination, and a face full of shit, I had missed the road to get to the campus by 7 km. I found myself at the airport asking directions from a man selling strawberries and a homeless fellow who was also on a bike; he offered to show me the way, so we rode together until we reached King Rd. He turned left and I right, and eventually I arrived at the campus.
Despite the detour, I felt ready for the day, and was only 15 minutes late. I changed quickly and went to class. As soon as I arrived, I broke into the assignment of the day, but by the break, I was absolutely exhausted and needed sleep. I wandered around until I found a sofa and I put my feet up and slept for the remainder of class.
Biking between campuses each day is not for everyone, and I don’t think I would do it every day either. But it is important to take a break sometimes, and to explore something different — we are blessed here in BC, where we can explore something new and exciting each day. So break away for a day and see what you find, because the moment we stop changing is the moment we stop living.