Last week, I told the story of the mice in the hut on the Charlevoix leg of our journey as Woods Explorers. Today, I’m recapping the second half of our Quebec trip, which took place in Gatineau.
Our Woods Explorer adventure consisted of 14 different legs, but we only picked up 12 Christmas ornaments. We doubled up in PEI, because both our trips there were very close together, and for some reason we decided to double up in Quebec, too. I’m not sure why we did, because Charlevoix and Gatineau felt completely different from one another.
Since I usually centre my Woods Explorer recaps around the story that inspired the ornament, I’m not sure what Gatineau story I should tell. It was an interesting leg – we spent Canada Day on Parliament Hill, we explored a cool cave, we talked a lot about fantasy baseball – but no one story really stands out to me.
For our time in Gatineau, the powers that be had reserved a pair of mountain bikes for us. Cedric was excited about this. I was … hesitant.
For the vast majority of my life, I have enjoyed biking. I haven’t done a ton of it, but I did the whole training wheels thing and happily biked to my summer jobs in high school and university. When I lived in Vancouver, I bought this gorgeous red Peugeot that is probably at least as old as I am. I 100% bought it for looks and not for its technical abilities, and I struggled like CRAZY to bike from my house in Kits up the hill to my softball games at UBC (though the ride back home was awesome). The red bike came to Whistler with me, and I used it is a valley hill cruiser. I still have my red bike.
My first non-fabulous biking adventure happened a few years ago (2013 I think) when I decided I would try downhill mountain biking at the women’s ride nights hosted by Whistler Blackcomb. (I should clarify that the program is actually amazing and I highly recommend it.)
I desperately wanted to love downhill mountain biking. I never really knew any girls who were into it until I met Cedric’s roommates. A few of his girl roommates, and their friends, were super passionate about mountain biking. They spoke excitedly of learning new skills, conquering awesome trails, and having such a great time exploring Whistler. I wanted to have as much fun as they were having, so I signed up for the ladies’ night.
As we sorted ourselves into groups, I told the coordinators that I have absolutely zero experience mountain biking – but that I was a “quick learner”. I have NO IDEA why I said that. I love being active, but I have never been naturally athletic. I am a quick learner at, say, board games – NOT at new sports.
I failed at loading my bike onto the chairlift, even though the very first thing we were taught was how to load the bike onto the chairlift. Somehow, I made it to the top (and so did the bike). We went into a little side area to learn some basic skills.
The instructor informed us that in downhill mountain biking, you spend very little time actually sitting on the bike sit. As soon as he said that, I remembered how I have NEVER mastered the art of biking standing up. (I also never mastered the art of riding with no hands.) This was unsettling, to say the least. I practiced a bit and it seemed okay. We got ready for our first run.
IT WAS TERRIFYING!!!!!!!!
I couldn’t keep my hands off the brakes. I knew that I needed to let go – but I physically could not force myself to loosen my death grip. The worst part is that my brakes squeaked, so the instructor could obviously tell that I was braking the whole time. He’d say all the right things – how it would actually be easier if I just released the brakes – and I’d nod in agreement, but still, I couldn’t stop. Luckily, there was one girl who was slightly worse than I was. I’m pretty sure she just had a shoddy bike, but it helped me feel a little better.
We made it to the bottom and got ready for our second run. My hands were cramping hard – but I thought I would probably have the hang of it for the second run. Spoiler alert: I did not. The instructor had warned us that pumping the brakes would actually make us more likely to fall than just letting it go. I knew he was right. I believed him 100%. BUT I COULDN’T STOP BRAKING. And I fell.
It was not a hard fall (because I was going slow, because I was non stop braking), but it rattled me. The girl who had been worse than me on the previous run was now better than me. There was also a girl in our group who was doing amazing, despite it being her first time on a mountain bike. She actually was a fast learner. I was not.
I had fun – but not enough fun to want to do it again (plus it’s a little bit expensive, especially with rentals).
My second time on a mountain bike had been just a few weeks earlier in Cape Breton. We were biking on a pretty flat dirt trail. The bikes weren’t fancy, but they didn’t need to be. Happily, I did not fall – but my knee went bezerk. I don’t know what happened, but it hurt so bad I wanted to puke. It was not an awful experience – the trail was beautiful – but it did not excite me about an entire leg that revolved around mountain biking.
Here we were in Gatineau Park, ready for some mountain biking adventures. Third time’s a charm, right?
Gatineau Park had two things going for it: we’d be doing cross country, not downhill, mountain biking, and the level of difficulty there is considerably less challenging than it is in the Sea to Sky corridor. I was cruising blues and actually enjoying myself, though my knee would throb a bit on the uphills.
Looking at this picture makes me laugh. What is my body doing? Why is my back so hunched? Why is it impossible for me to stand up on a bike? Why are my shorts so short?
I sometimes think I would enjoy XC mountain biking here in Squamish. Cedric enjoys it and so do a lot of my friends. I’m reluctant about giving it another go. I’m afraid I’ll suck again. I’m afraid I’ll love it and I’ll need to spend all my money on a fancy bike. I’m afraid I’ll smash my fancy bike and need to replace its fancy pieces. I’m also afraid I’ll smash my hands and not be able to work. With mountain biking, it seems like it’s not a question of if you’ll hurt yourself, but when you’ll hurt yourself.
I’m happy I’ve found a way to enjoy the local trails – on foot, not on bike. Maybe I will give it a solid go one day. For now, you can catch me on the pavement on my speedy and incredibly inefficient Peugeot.