Nancy disregards grim warnings while on winter vacation, and reaffirms her faith that people are just people, no matter where you go.
How I Survived Winter 2014
It is now spring, the dawning of a new riding season, and I find myself reflecting. I learned things this winter that I never knew before. I stepped outside my area of comfort to explore and found myself meeting other adventurous types. My off-season activities took me to mountain slopes and coral reefs—I met other riders too!
This year I ‘needed’ to have fun. I found myself setting up adventures like stepping-stones before I knew it would be the longest winter imaginable. I was re-introduced to skiing last winter by another rider. I learned I could still ski after a 30-year hiatus. I enjoyed the Blues and Blacks at Holiday Valley. This winter I added Mont Tremblant, Quebec and then later visited my fabulous sister Cathy Straume and amazing newfound family out in Greenwood, BC. They took me to Big White, Phoenix and Red Mountain. There I could only ski the Greens and Blues (which are like Black runs here).
The runs are so much longer, and mountain views spectacular. Those of you who live in BC really have it all. And for those who don’t know, I was not the only biker on the slopes. Even our publisher is a skier!
I couldn’t help but notice the similarity between downhill skiing and dirt biking. For me, the combination of fear and excitement translates into endorphins. Both require skill, involve speed, which must be physically controlled, and in both cases trees can get in the way.
I found myself wonderfully distracted this winter while flying down mountain slopes with planks strapped to my boots. I was excited the day before, eyes wide open the day of, and then still really happy the day after. It really helps get through the dark days of winter.
I did something else unusual this winter. I signed up with Water Sports and took half a scuba diving course in a Toronto swimming pool, and the second half in the Bahamas.
I booked a week on a sailboat in the Bahamas at the end of winter. I managed 14 dives in one week on a BlackBeard Cruise! It was an amazing adventure. Dive Master Christy Weaver so inspired me that I took not only the Open Water but the Advanced Certification too! In one week I went from novice to going 105 feet deep, swimming around sharks, barracudas, in and around coral reefs, learned to identify a number of colourful fish and interesting sea sponges. I saw a huge Moray eel that lived inside a wreck. It looked prehistoric.
I tried to lose my fear of jumping off a boat with 16 pounds of weight strapped around my waist and a big heavy tank of air strapped to my back. My longest dive underwater was 72 minutes.
I learned there were scooters for rent and after our 65-foot sailboat docked I set out to find them. I wasn’t the only biker on the boat. A fellow rider/diver informed me that I could not ride a scooter outside the tourist zone, that it was completely unsafe, that “They will jump you.”
I was so surprised by this that for a moment I listened, aghast, as I tried to comprehend that Nassau in the Bahamas was so unsafe that an obvious tourist would be attacked by a group the moment I left the safety of the three-block tourist zone. “They will jump you,” the biker repeated again and again. It made no sense. I didn’t buy it. Instead, I rented a scooter where massive cruise ships that hold 5,000 dock, and set out to see the island for myself.
It was fun riding on the left. I learned from my time riding a Burgman to concentrate on using only my right hand for the brake—the left side lever is not a clutch but the front brake. And there were traffic circles that we rarely have at home, all driving on the left. This was a challenge but I managed smoothly enough.
I saw mansions, monster homes and gated communities all along the water. But I wanted to see how the other people live—those who aren’t seeking tax shelters or movie stars living in one of their many homes. I went to the backside of the island, to a place called Adelaide Village, and was surprised by a road called African Liberation Way.
I learned that this beach was where the slaves were brought in.
Inland on Carmichael Street I ended up in what seemed like rush hour traffic. One school after another was letting out and I got to see students wearing all the different English style uniforms. Later I made my way to East Street near Soldier Road, which is known as The Ghetto, where one-room shacks are people’s houses, though further east houses are bigger and wealthier.
Still, many people had cars—and many of those stopped to check on me when I paused to consult a map, offering help with directions. One man in particular made me laugh. He slowed long enough to say, “You’re getting a real tour of Nassau!”
In fact, people were extremely courteous. They saw a scooter trying to cut in and they stopped traffic to give me entrance. If my skin colour didn’t give me away, the tourist scooter did. People are never so kind to motorcyclists at home.
In the end I spent four or five hours driving around the island. I saw people who wake in the morning and eat breakfast like the rest of us. They are the workers I see in hotels, and in shops. They are teachers at school, they are mechanics and more—just like everywhere else. Everyone was friendly, no different than I would have expected.
Having survived the trip like so many others where I’ve ventured into another culture where my skin colour or language might not match the neighbourhood, I wish whoever started the vicious rumour would please stop. Racism hurts us all, but it hurts the underprivileged most. It hurt me because it was meant to keep me afraid, ignorant and in my place, whatever that is. (I rebelled by offering a lone man carrying a load a ride down a long stretch of road on a hot day. Before getting on the back he said, “Yes Please.”)
I’m back in Toronto and the sun is shining. I’ve seen a few bikes on the road and mine will join them soon. The hardest winter in memory is over. The future looks bright.
This June is both Friday the 13th and the Paris Ontario Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Rally. Expect a lot of antiques in Port Dover!