Monday, August 28, 2006

A Long Bike Adventure!

As part of our training for the MS Bike Tour in Toronto, we biked to and back from our Shariah Program class in Etobicoke. I estimated the distance to be about 35km, Sawitri thinks its a maximum of 25km.
I found the hardest part of the bike trip to be...waking up early! Thank god for Sawitri... she turned my bike into a miracle bike by raising the seat up, and disconnecting the dynamo from the front wheel, and then my bike just.. flew! Except for the load @ the bag (why does my backpack always get heavy??).

I'm going to describe my route in detail. Wish I had taken pictures! But I don't have a camera.

College & Spadina
We started @ 7am, went north on Bathurst from College and Spadina, and it was a good decision, because it led us to a gas station where we filled up our bikes. The weather was simply beautiful, and I was glad I didn't get gloves! Dupont seemed like a quiet major street, so we biked East on Dupont, until it ended.

Dundas W, Keele
We would get confused @ every intersection when a street ended. But Alhamdulillah, our decisions worked out great! Keele breaks up through Weston Rd. We also met our first hill. I heard Sawitri say from the back, 'ready for this?' It was nothing compared to what was to come.

Weston Rd to Eglinton
Something really really funny happened when we crossed St Clair Ave W @ Weston Rd. I'll save it for last. Weston Rd forks @ Black Creek Drive. The road becomes really wide, and you can see the highway sighs. It's a very fast and long downhill, and you have to keep left if you dont want to end up on the highway. We stopped to ask some people @ a bus stop as to where on earth we were headed. They said, 'Eglinton's the next major one'. But... Eglinton seemed like forever. I had to get off my bike and walk uphill. In fact, I had to do this for many hills going up. Sawitri has much greater stamina than me, mashallah.

The long road Eglinton
Now when I look at the map, I find it quite embarassing to complain about the distance we covered! It seems so little, but on a bike, every road seems endless, and dangerous. At 8am, Eglinton was quite peaceful, Alhamdulillah. We biked through the Gladhurst park, and the Scarlett Woods golf course. At Jane, the uphill became quite painful. The inclines were very long. It seemed as if you're going uphill forever, only to look back and laugh at the distance you covered. Sawitri reminded me to switch gears- I had never done that, and it definitely helped... a bit! As a biker, I simply can't stop complaining about hills!
Having ridden the subway for 5 years now, I know all the station names. When we hit Royal York, my eyes lit up. We're close to Islington... Kipling next, Martingrove.. Dixon...Belfied...class! wohoooooo! Which actually was still another 45 minutes! We rested a bit, I was totally exhausted.
We noticed the bike path, and decided to use it. It was okay...

Martingrove North
As we biked through the Stone House and the West Grove Park, an old man on his bike breezed past me. *Groan!* I'm so low on stamina!
Alhamdulillah, it was about 8:45 when we touched the intersection. I had cookies in my pocket that I was feeding off of! Sawitri had forgotten her water bottle, but Alhamdulillah we weren't dehydrated. Dixon was so far! I kept biking and biking and prayed so hard that we shouldn't be late to class. I was quite tired!
We got to class @ Vulcan St... chained up our bikes, and walked into class. None of the brothers were there- which was good, enough time to get back the normal colour of my face! Khadijah's chicken tortillas were amazing... and I dug into my bag for salad and a chicken sandwich. I resolved to put my bike into Khadija's car, and get dropped off @ home.
Close to 11:15am, I decided I'm going to bike back with Sawitri- despite my back!
So, the trip back...

Martingrove South
All car drivers hate cyclists on the road, and they are very ruthless if you get in their way. A row of cars starting honking at us, as we tried (again, I was leading) merge into the left lane from the right lane that led to the 401. What's wrong with these people? I stopped my bike on the side, and let all the cars pass. It's quite dangerous under a bridge, because the cars go very very fast. On most roads, cyclists have less than 1m width of space to ride, and when you're going fast, an inch can save, or take away your life.

Eglinton East
We had decided to take the same route back, but this time on the bike path. The route 22 bike path is simply beautiful. There are plants/trees on either side of you, and the ride is very slightly bumpy, but quite enjoyable. You don't feel the altitude as much- in fact, most of the time, you're flying! At one point, the path ahead of me was curving, but I would have risked skidding if I changed directions with the speed I was going at, and not doing exactly that resulted in me just flying off onto the road! That was scary- luckily roads have shoulders. I brought my bike under control, and steered back onto the bike path at the next major intersection, and decided to control my speed more effectively.
The bike path ended before Jane, I think, and we were back onto the road. Another long uphill, I got off my bike and walked, and caught up with Sawitri @ the top.
As we looked past Jane, the road looked very painful. The hills were simply huge! We decided to change the route!

Keele, Old Weston
Keele is a familiar name, so we were en route on Keele, but something really wierd happened, and we found ourselves at a dead end. We decided to follow the cars left. The road was very steep! My knees were hurting real bad by this time! I got off my biked and asked a man how to get back to a major road. So it was going to be Old Weston to St Clair Ave.

St Claire Ave
Not that this is the first time someone has covered such a long distance, but to me, this was totally wild! Of course, I kept asking myself, 'why on earth am I doing this, when I could have gotten a ride to class? Slept another hour or so. Studied for a bit. Had proper lunch before my next class. Worked on my memorisation, read a book...' Thankfully, Sawitri's company would drown those thoughts away. We were doing this for a friend we loved, and inshallah we're going to train as hard as we can!
St Clair was a very dangerous road, I gauged from the short distance we covered on it (of course, it seemed forever when we were on it!). There's a bus that runs on the street car tracks, and the road seems all broken up. The cars go very fast as well, and because of the bus in the middle, they seem very close to you. As soon as I got on, I wanted to get off it! But.. the worst was next...

Dufferin, yea baby!
I was about to turn south on Landsdowne, but the street was under construction. Sawitri encouraged me to brave the next hill. I barely made it. I believe I stopped.. or maybe not. But I was so gonna turn south on Dufferin. Now Dufferin was the wildest ride ever! The hills aren't very high, but they are very close to each other. It was nothing less than a roller coaster ride, total madness! A slight inch to the left would have surely killed a biker. As I realised the road was getting worse, I brought my bike under some control (by braking continually) until we hit bloor!

Finally a familar route! Alhamdulillah! We breezed past Dufferin Mall. Sawitri asked me if I wanted to do groceries @ No Frills. Seriously, now was not the time! Then turned on College... and stopped over @ Sawitri's to get my tools out of her pocket.
We exchanged a sweaty and (probably) smelly hug! Sawitri was going to do her laundry and nap between wash and dry.. I was just going to go home.

Ah yes.. the funny! When we hit St Clair, going north on Weston, there was a bridge ahead of us. I heard Sawitri say from the back, 'I think that's the 401!'


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