The Spoked Traveller | Melanie Chambers
Trails and advice cycling around the world as solo female cyclist and adventurer
mountain bike, adventure travel, cycling travel, bike tours, outdoor, solo travel, female mountain biking, badass female cycling, female travellers, women travel, adventurous
archive,paged,author,author-melanie-chambers,author-2,paged-9,author-paged-9,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,no_animation_on_touch,qode-theme-ver-10.1.1,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-6.6.0,vc_responsive

Author: Melanie Chambers

"Look at its tiny head!" says Vieve, pointing at the dinosaur's skeleton that spans the entire length of the museums's foyer. vieve day one ROM IMG_1436                           This is Genevieve Sebastian's interpretation of Little Head at the ROM. Perched on top of its body, its head is almost smaller than mine. That's the funny thing with evolution: big heads progress confirming that nerds will eventually take over the planet. Yahoo.   I'm at the Royal Ontario Museum that has been on Bloor and Avenue Road in Toronto since 1914; it's one of North America's largest museums of natural history, culture and art that pulls in over one million visitors a year. Here are a few of my favourites on my first ever visit. But, a bit of background. IMG_1354                   The ROM. Some love it; some hate it, architecturally speaking, of course.

For the last few weeks my head feels like a piñata full of bits and pieces of Toronto. And, in two days it's about to be cracked open! I will be traipsing around Toronto, biking through neighbourhoods like Little Malta, Little Jamaica, and sailing on Lake Ontario, strutting around the nude beach on the islands, and getting punished in a Russian bathhouse in the burbs, in search of a new Toronto adventure--just like I would on any other trip. The July Project (TJP) is the culmination of over four months of reading about Toronto, and constantly asking locals, 'If you had to recommend one place, or one thing to do or see in Toronto, what would you suggest?'

"I feel like I'm on a glacier pad, alone. Then,  someone kicks the pad, launching it into the ocean." This is my mind-set the day before my third mountain bike race; naturally, any sane person would ask: why am I doing this? It's because once you start, something takes over. The competitor comes out and wants to race. So far, I've placed second and then 5th, after a flat tire bumped me off the podium. But I'm learning each race has its own physical and mental challenges; this one would prove to be the hardest in both respects. Despite pre-riding the course at Horseshoe Resort twice, the most I'd ever done, advantageous, but I still had to dismount my bike on some tricky sections. And when my tire flopped around on the trail, I didn't have the aggression or the will to control it. That worried me. But some of my doubt was also from hormones. Yes, that time when whack-mode takes ahold: every emotion you've ever experienced could come hurling out at someone who had the nerve to ask, 'what time is it?'

At the start of my second mountain bike race, I was feeling a different kind of nervous compared to the first race: the first race was fear of the unknown, fear of falling off my bike and never finishing, and fear of competing for the first time. After riding for more than 15 years, my ability wasn't something I had to prove to anyone. Now, here I was putting it out to be measured against others. And, after coming in second in my first race two weeks ago, there was the added pressure to perform. I realize it's not the Olympics or anything, but it still means something to me. race two The fear this time around was riding a technically scarier course; on the last race I could get away with a fast and smooth race, but Kelso Ski hill had some sections that made my heart sink--like the pile of rocks that drops at the end. From above it's hard to see the step below and what you can't see is petrifying. Trust. On a pre-ride a few days earlier, I already had a few spills: after hitting some loose gravel on a sharp fire road turn my handlebars turned 180 and spit me off the bike.

We hugged like we'd known each other for years. We'd never met before. As two who share the love of travel and writing, Sandra Phinney and I met online through an association and then started yakking; what we discovered is that we share so much more. I recall Skyping one time when I needed some ideas where to send a story idea; Sandra suggested some markets I'd never heard of, but what unfolded was profound.  From the get-go she makes me think I can do more: be a better writer, and connect more to my writing. And, this is how it all began with us, this mutual admiration society.

"You looked shell shocked at the start line," says my bike buddy. Yes, waiting with one leg on the pedal, arms on bars, and poised to push off, all I could think: "what am I doing here?" And while the women around me in my 40-something age category tried to reassure me they felt the same way, I was stunned. shocked We're on a wide dirt road. Waiting. Waiting.         Ten second countdown. Heart is pounding outside my chest. Nine. Wow, that woman's legs look strong. Eight. Apparently, other people think you can do this. Seven. I'm 42. Six. Can I puke now? Five. Four. Three. Two. Off we go. I'm last. last