The Guardian (Charlottetown)
Tuesday, May 24, 2005, p. A1

Aching limbs and long days fail to dampen these cyclists
Group raising money for African cause reaches its destination after over 300 kilometres along trail.

MacKay, Mary

It was the best of times. It was the worst of May weather.

Despite reams of rain and some nasty wind, as the Tip to Tip for Africa team of cyclists dashed or dribbled into the last pit stop of the four-day cross-Island adventure, it all came down to these few words.

"OK, everybody, to the point,'' shouted Martha Deacon, before the crew of Tip to Tip for Africa cyclists streamed out from the end of the Confederation Trail at the Elmira Railway Museum site to complete the final few kilometres to the East Point Lighthouse.

This moment was a long time coming for bikers of lesser leg power, namely me, who had tried to get into some semblance of shape before this 300-plus kilometre tip to tip ride to raise funds for the Townships Project, which provides small loans to poor people in South Africa so they can form businesses and improve their lives.

True to filled-out body form, on the second day I was first in line for the pancake breakfast that was provided by the O'Leary Lions Club.

Fortunately my keen stomach sense and fellow Clyde River cyclist Maxine Mallett's drive for correct direction led us to our morning meal. Many, however, initially skimmed by this breakfast nook, including Sheri Chislet of Stratford, who had her nose to the ground and eye on only the biking backs ahead of her.

"If somebody jumped off a bridge I'd be right behind them,'' she said, laughing as the pancakes were ladled out to the salivating crowd.

Carl Harper could commiserate.

On the very first day, the Fort Augustus man and Annie Wagener of Charlottetown were keeping a close eye on a threatening dog to one side of them while the beginning of the Confederation Trail in Tignish slid by on the other. Their return trek added almost 15 kilometres to their already long day's ride.

"And I'm with the trail police,'' Harper said, laughing at his directional distress.

Muscle distress plagued some cyclists, including me, from the start.

On the first day something inside my left knee started and quickly moved into a painful stabbing clink every time I twisted my bike pedal around its metal cog. On our second day, that clinking turned into clunking and my wincing turned to whining.

Of course, favouring it with my right leg, I looked like Quasimodo on wheels, lumbering along a one-sided pace so pitiful that Dan Steele and Mark Creamer with the Brookvale Ski Patrol, Canadian Ski Patrol Association, were compelled into aid action.

One of their volunteer jobs on this spring stint was to shepherd the wayward of the Tip to Tip for Africa flock like me back into the faster-moving fold.

"It looks like your seat needs to be adjusted,'' Steele said and promptly popped my bicycle's rear rest in another place and sent me on my way.

Ski patrol volunteer Ron Hately was another of the many ski patrol members who filled six ski patrol volunteer spots on the trail at all Tip to Tip for Africa times, monitoring the group from the front of the rapid pack to the stragglers like little old wounded-knee me.

As an avid cyclist, Hately, who hails from St. Eleanor's, is keenly interested in the trail but he does have a particular personal connection. In the late 1980s he was working on the conversion of an abandoned rail line to trails in the Cape Cod area.

"I really liked the concept. I heard from my parents that CN was abandoning the rail lines on P.E.I. I thought it was an awesome opportunity because that's what had happened (in Cape Cod) - the rail lines had (been) abandoned. It was perfect for P.E.I.''

Hately sent the information to CNR and provincial officials but nothing came of it. When he returned home in the summer of 1989 he stopped at MacQueen's Bike shop in Charlottetown to buy a bike to cycle the eastern end of the Island.

"(Owner) Gordon MacQueen and I got talking and I kind of explained my concept to him,'' Hately said.

MacQueen and Hately shared the information with Ian Scott who was with provincial Tourism.

"That was on a Monday. On Tuesday we put an ad in The Guardian for a public meeting for Thursday. It was standing room only,'' MacQueen remembers.

The man who would be known as "Poppa Trail'', the late Donald Deacon of Charlottetown, immediately came onboard.

"He was actually nominated that night as the president for Rails to Trails P.E.I.,'' Hately recalls.

"And the rest is history.''

Back on the trail, another historic moment was being made. Even with my serious seat adjustment earlier in the day, I was the final biker of the shepherded flock to end my day's ride in Summerside instead of the plotted destination of Emerald.

Under the extra stress, my right knee was going, going, and my left knee was gone. But for a former couch potato and recently reformed pack-a-day-smoker, it was a monumental moment.

It was my first sports-related injury.

Category: Front Page; News
Uniform subject(s): Sports and leisure; Railways, railway stations and related services
Length: Medium, 688 words

2005 The Guardian (Charlottetown). All rights reserved.