Goosed

With only four weeks left until the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour, in which I will finally achieve my goal of cycling from Ottawa to Kingson, and back, It is high time that I actually got on my bike and rode.

This has not been a good spring. Colder-than-average temperatures kept snow on the ground well into April—April was the cruelest of months: when it wasn't bitterly cold or the snow wasn't covering the paths, it rained or was too windy to enjoy any ride.

So, I've stayed indoors and trained on spin bikes, and swam at Plant and Walter Baker pools.

I took my bike into a cycle shop in March, optimistically looking for a tuneup: a new chain and fresh brake pads. Everything tightened and aligned. My bike was ready for the roads long before the roads were ready for us.

Until yesterday.

On Wednesdays, I work from home. I use the time to get ahead on work, without the distraction of colleagues. I am often way more productive at home than I am in the office.

Yesterday, as the day went on, I saw the sunshine, heard the weather reports as I listened to CBC Radio One. There was a bit of a breeze, but nothing too taxing.

When the kids returned from school, it was reportedly 15°C, and I said, "That's it, I'm hitting the road." I donned my black MEC biker shorts and an orange, long-sleeved riding shirt, and packed up. A Clif bar. Two water bottles. My smartphone, loaded with Endomondo—the Android replacement to Cyclemeter, and lots of tunes.

Because I've handled spin classes, I felt no need to ease into a ride. With my tire pressure checked, everything seemed good to go on my Cannondale Synapse 6. I hit Start on Endomondo and headed on my classic 50-kilometre route, which takes me from my Barrhaven neighbourhood along the following trek:
  • Fallowfield to Prince of Wales Drive
  • Prince of Wales to Hogs Back
  • Hogs Back Park to Vincent Massey Park
  • The bike path that follows the Rideau River all the way to Sussex Drive
  • Sussex to the National Gallery
  • Across the Alexandra Bridge to the Museum of Civilization (of whatever the Harper Government is calling it), where I stopped for a short break and ate the Clif bar
  • The bike path on the Gatineau side of the Ottawa River to the Portage Bridge
  • Across the Portage Bridge, following the path that leads under Wellington Street and emerges at the Mill Street Brew Pub (sadly, no stopping there)
  • Along the bike path that follows the Ottawa River to Lincoln Heights, before it turns south and continues all the way to Baseline Station
  • Onto Woodroffe Avenue and all the way back to Barrhaven, where I turn into my neighbourhood
For the most part, the ride was uneventful. Traffic was not chaotic. The bike paths had mostly been cleared of debris from winter, although carcasses of felled trees, their fallen trunks and branches, lined many parts of the paths. In a couple of underpasses, water and mud were still pooling from the last of the melted snow. Along the Ottawa River, a small section of pathway was closed due to flooding from the swollen river.

And, construction along Sussex Drive slowed me down where the road was torn up, and cars and bikes had to vie for the narrow detour.

On my first voyage of the season, my ride took just over 2 hours and 13 minutes to cover 49.19 kilometres. Not great, but not bad. Last year, my record for that route was just under 2 hours.

The trip wouldn't have been worth mentioning at all, but for one interesting encounter.

At this time of year, the Canada Geese return to the nation's capital, where they feed and spawn. Hazards along the path include the risk of hitting a goose that is crossing the path or is blocking the way, or riding through the green shit that litters the path, making for a slippery ride or, worse, flying up at you from the spinning wheels.

Luckily, none of that happened on my ride. But I did encounter a goose.

I've encountered geese before. Once, a family was crossing the path, and when I slowed down, the mother (I'm guessing) saw me as a threat and hissed at me. As I tried to get around, she chased me for a short distance.

Yesterday, as I rounded a bend in the path, and as the path dipped, allowing me to speed up, a somewhat large goose had just attempted a take off, presumably to fly to the river, where it would swim in peace. Having left the ground, the bird was committed.

Just as I was fully committed to speeding down this slight drop in the road.

I knew right away that we were on a collision course: the goose couldn't gain altitude any faster than it was already trying. There was not enough room to move. I couldn't hit my brakes because I ran the risk of crashing. So I did the only thing I could do in that split second.

I ducked. I dropped my head and body as close to the frame of my bike as I could. I held the brakes, ready to apply them if needed, after the fact. I prepared myself to unclip my shoes from the pedals. And I closed my eyes.

This was a large bird: a full-grown adult. The sound of the wings beating the air, gaining lift, was considerable. I could feel the fanning of the air. And I could feel the flapping of webbed feet atop my helmet.

I opened my eyes, having only closed them for maybe a second. We hadn't struck each other. From what I felt, it seemed that the goose had cleared my head ever so barely, but had pushed off from my helmet with his feet, to gain a little more height from the ground.

Crisis averted. I continued my ride without incident.

Friday, I cycle to work: fingers crossed that I don't get goosed again.

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