The Barcelona Bike Ride From Hell or How KJ Beat death

It all started on a cool cloudy day in May. We boarded a flight in St. John’s heading to Barcelona, Spain. Our excitement overrode any sense of impending doom and we gleefully headed into the open sky with high expectations and a sprinkle of vacation bliss. Well, most of us. Hubby experienced heightened anxiety right up until the full flight took off and we could stretch out for the night. I guess his sense of impending doom is more advanced than the rest of us.

                Landing in Barcelona the following morning took some determination and willpower. Our urge to find the nearest bed was strong, but we knew if we gave into the temptation, our first day would be ruined. We fought the tiredness with the ambition of a Christmas shopper on Black Friday and made the most of our time in the Spanish city. We changed quickly and headed out into the sunshine for some exploring. And drinks.

                One would think that after so many years on this planet that I would have developed the basic skills needed for survival: keeping my head above water in case the ship I’m on decides to hit an iceberg, staying upright when traversing uneven terrain, slaying and cooking woodland creatures in case of a wanton plane crash or getting lost on a hike (the latter being more plausible). But no. No, I missed all the basic training everyone else seemed to get before hitting adulthood. No, Debbie I can’t hunt and kill wild game and pretty sure I don’t want to; I can’t skate or maintain my balance on slippery surfaces; I have a hard time with heights and pretty sure I can’t navigate my way through a forest with nothing but the sun and the gross moss on trees to guide me. I’d probably pick the poison ivy and bring it home as a centre piece. As for the childhood traumas around double Dutch, (I skinned out my face when I nose dived onto the pavement), swimming lessons (they told me I would never be a swimmer. I am, I love to swim. The only skill I have managed to maintain) and riding a ten-speed bicycle, I thought I had recovered adequately. Maybe not. I never managed to progress to the expert ten-speed guru that all kids my generation had become, which leads me to the first of my European debacles. The Tour De Barcelona. An e-bike event that sounds lovely on the outset. Winding our way through the streets of Barcelona, strolling through the parks on our way to Olympic Stadium, visiting the mountain to take in the panoramic views of the city. Ahhhh….NO. NOPE. More like a terror driven escapade that included playing chicken with oncoming traffic and a physical altercation with a chain-link fence. NOT RELAXING, PEOPLE.

                When the idea of an e-bike tour was first proposed, I thought, erroneously, that it would be a great way to experience the city. A leisurely ride taking in the sights, no stress, no dodging people, or buses, or fences…ugh. We ventured out to our meeting place at the bike shop the next day with our tour guide Mirko waiting there for us. He fit us for our bikes and my first thought was, “how hard can this be? I got this.” Until I didn’t. I fell within the first seconds of trying to pedal. By the time everyone had gone off on their merry way, I was still trying to gain my balance and my dignity. Both were shot. Since our guide was a nice understanding gentleman, he took me back to the shop to refit me with a bike better suited to my special needs. Fat tires, low to the ground and a seat that could fit three of me. There, that’s better. I began to pedal and after a few tries, I managed to not crash into anything so of course, let’s head out onto the busy streets of Barcelona! Sure, why not?! Dying sounds fun.

The bike shop and the lane leading to the bike shop
My special bike with the big seat and fat wheels beside the cool kids’ bikes.

       Barcelona has well-defined bike lanes that wind through all their streets. As beneficial as it sounds, for people like me, it remained terrifying. Traffic whizzed by on my right, scooters and bikes passed me on my left. I was bombarded by traffic on both sides of me and panic took over. I remained transfixed on my party ahead while concentrating heavily on staying upright. Hubby remained behind me lest I lose sight of everyone and end up lost. He was not wrong. He also consistently shouted instructions reminding me to, “pedal! Steer! Watch out for that bus!”  Yeah, that bus almost got me. I crashed into the flimsy barriers they have defining the bike lane from the road and a bus almost took me out. No wonder Hubby promised he would never follow me on bike tours, again. No worries, I think the next e-bike tour suggestion will be met a hard “no” and an alcohol induced rendition of Life in the Fast Lane. I landed on the barrier as he was shouting at me to, “get up!” Do you know how hard it is to hoist a bike from the ground while your leg is still ensconced on the other side of the metal frame while trying desperately to stay alive from all the cars, bikes and scooters careening at you? Gee, that was fun. Almost invigorating as I felt the bus breeze my face when it flew by.

                I managed to get back on the bike and willed myself to be calm. The self-talk was alive and well with me berating myself for not being able to do a simple task like ride a bike. I have a new appreciation for cyclists, and I promise to not give you the finger every time you cut me off when I’m driving my nice safe car. 

                We continued winding through the streets until we finally hit a section of wide road that led us through parkland. It was quieter and more conducive to my kind of riding. Nothing to crash into or avoid, and wide enough for even me to skirt around pedestrians. I was getting the hang of this. We stopped at an outdoor bar, where we bought water and parked our bikes. We didn’t need the alcohol to add to the whole, I’m-gonna-die-in-the-streets-of-Spain-on-a-fucking-bike thing going on. We crossed the street and headed into the funicular, a gondola ride to the top of the mountain to take in the views of the city. No bikes allowed. Thank, fuck.

The funicular ride to the castle

                After the ride, we headed back to the bikes and the thought struck me. I had to ride back to the bike shop, back through the busy streets and steady traffic. The thoughts of me having to dodge buses and bikes had me feeling stressed. My arms tensed and my hands were sweaty. As I was heading downhill on a dirt road out of the park, we were met with construction. I tried to slow down in the narrow passage between a fence and a dump truck but sped up instead. I had nowhere to go, and I panicked. I veered left and straight into the chain link fence. What was that?! My inability to maintain any sense of balance and direction was frustrating. I backed out of the fence, with the construction dudes looking at me questioningly. I half-smiled and said something like, “Who put that fence there?” and started again. It was a hill and I felt like I was careening to my death. Really, it was a little slope. An incline worthy of a slight speed bump. It was fine. I was fine. But I was still rattled.

I see you, Buddy! Stay in your lane! Ugh.

                Once I navigated my way out of the park, I took a deep breath and eyed the traffic. Fuck. It looked like the Grand Prix had descended upon the city. How am I going to ride my little special needs bike through that?!

I started again and maintained myself until we stopped to look at the cotton trees. Yes, cotton trees brought in for the Olympics. I was half listening, to be honest. I was still panicking over the traffic and my fatal attraction to speeding buses. We started again, only this time the way to the bike shop seemed shorter. We turned a corner, and we were back on the narrow cobblestone street of the shop. How did that happen? I didn’t die?! I didn’t get run over by a bus or suffer traumatic brain injury from getting sideswiped by a runaway scooter?! I had conquered the bike! I was victorious! I couldn’t get that bike away from me fast enough and gladly handed it back over to Mirko who I assured, “would never see me on any of those things again.”  I think he was as relieved as I was.  Virtually unscathed but traumatized, I survived the great Barcelona Bike Ride from Hell. I then went drinking.

The next episode will be my great escape from the hateful trains in France and how they wanted me dead. Or at the very least, maimed. Thanks, France.

 Yay me.

Views from atop the Museum of Natural Art
The relaxing park that led to my introduction to the chain link fence.

The Playoffs are Here, and I Couldn’t Be Happier…For You

Hubby is beside himself with glee over the Leafs finally making it to round two of a playoff series. Too bad they disappointed him with a loss the first game against the Florida Panthers. If all of this is just words to you, I’m with you. I only know this shit because it radiates from my television screen and like osmosis, I have no choice but to absorb the content. Hockey has always been a part of our relationship. From back in the day when we lived in Toronto and would saunter on down to the Maple Leaf Gardens to see if we could get our hands on tickets for a game that evening, to now, a few years later (*cough, cough*) and a few provinces east, to watch his fave team hopefully make a bid for the elusive cup. Finally. After all this time. We have a deal that if the Toronto Maple Leafs ever made it to the Stanley Cup, we would be in Toronto to see that happen. Could it finally be happening? Should I get online and buy the plane tickets? I’ll have to dig out his Eddie O jersey. I’ll have to clean his Tavares jersey. I think he spilled beer on the front during a tense moment. He is crossing his fingers and toes but remains realistic. We have only yet begun to fight. Or something like that.

I would happily trot on down to the Big Smoke to watch a game or get caught up in the hoopla of a win, but watching game after game on the television, just isn’t the same for me. In person, it’s a different ball game…er, hockey game. It’s lively and entertaining. You can hear the skates on the ice and the sweariness of the players. You can cheer with the crowd and feel a part of the game. At home, I fall asleep after the first period.

As a Canadian, I’m failing at our national pastime. I hope I don’t get kicked out of the country or banned from participating in Canadian things. I’ll dress the dog in her hockey jersey and pretend to root for the team…when I’m awake. I’ll drink beer and say ‘eh. I’ll put little Canadian flags in my garden on July 1st and only buy Canadian maple syrup…and stuff. That should guarantee me a place in my country, even if I suck at hockey trivia, right?

If the Leafs manage to pull off some wins, maybe I’ll get more excited. If not for them, but for Hubby. After all, he has cheered for them for more than 32years and will continue to do so even if they suck. I’ve seen him swear at them and cheer for them. It can get pretty sweary and loud at our house during the playoffs. I hope he can see them finally win the big cup.

Let’s Go Leafs!

There. That should do it. They’re practically a shoo-in now!

You. Are. Welcome.  

Go Leafs Go! Mags cheers for anyone who gives her snacks.

Tread Lightly and Carrie Underwood A Big Bat

I’m finally feeling like I’m getting back to myself. For over a year, I was hobbling around with a cane. Existing with pain. Having to measure distances for walking and wondering if I would make it to my destination without ending up on a random sidewalk clamouring around on my hands and knees, destitute and begging for help. “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”  

The day I was able to ditch my cane and walk unaided felt like a triumphant return from the abyss of dependence into which I was drowning. I needed someone to grocery shop with me since I couldn’t push the cart. I needed help getting shit off the shelves because it was either too heavy or I couldn’t stand and pull with one hand. I lumbered along slowly so if anyone was with me, we usually took double the time to do anything. Do you know how low toilet seats are? Yeah. They’re too low. Just sayin’.  I hated it. The only good thing was the return of chivalrous behaviour. Sometimes.

We old timers like a door opened for us every now and again, not slammed in our faces as we reach the doorway. Thanks. Not that the door was opened for me EVERY time, but more so than usual. I suppose looking like an old lady with a cane does make people a little more aware of how accessible things aren’t. Are not.  Nice try, though.  Ramps are few, automatic doors get broken and forget to be fixed, elevators are creepy as hell, (Hello. The Shining), and don’t get me started on the accessible parking spaces. I’ve wanted to butt those asshats out of the spots with the front of my car when I don’t see a permit. I think I shook my cane at an old guy in a truck who was taking a space waiting for wifey to get out of the store. Fuckhead.  Flashes of Carrie Underwood with a bat came barreling through my mind…

Me approaching the elevator from hell…

Walking from the car to the store, or to the mall was a chore.  I measured the distance to each store and if I had enough pain killers in me to make the trek. We take for granted the privilege of movement. We absent-mindedly walk around without thinking how we are getting there. How big is the doorway? How low are the chairs? How steep are the stairs? How many stairs? Is there a handrail? Are there icy conditions? Considerations most of us don’t have to think about. You get up and walk down the hall. You come back and sit down, or walk to another part of the house, mall, office.  You’re not planning your distances or measuring your pain levels.  You’re thinking the best way of getting from point A to point B.  So was I but with more variables.

I’m happy to say that’s behind me now. One hip replacement later, and I’m almost back to my pre-cane self. Fuck the chivalry, I can open my own door. Elevators still creep me out, so I take the stairs. People parking in accessible spots without permits still piss me off. I’m hoping Karma takes good care of them. I’m grateful I have a choice between elevators and stairs, parking spaces far away from the entrance, moving without having to consider how much it will hurt me; it’s a privilege many don’t have. I won’t complain about a distance I have to walk, or another push up I have to do in Bootcamp class. I’ll revel in my newfound freedom and independence.

And remain grateful for every step.  

Got a permit for that spot?!

Better Days

I’m still waiting for the fateful call to have the ever-anticipated hip replacement, but until that blissful day arrives, I languish in renovations and baby-ness. Two totally opposite ends of the spectrum. Kitchen renos are in full swing and have been frustrating and exciting, baffling and exhausting. It’s a roller-coaster ride fit for the amusement park from hell, but we have endless amounts of hope and anticipation of a clean functional space. We also yearn for meals where we don’t have to worry about running the microwave and electric skillet at the same time without blowing a fuse. Which usually happens. It also conks out if the toaster and kettle are running.  Better days, people. Better. Days.

Our skittishness with becoming overly excited with an impending birth in the family is well-founded, but it’s getting increasingly difficult to stem. Everyday the news is better, we hope for a healthy and happy baby girl by Christmas. A little Christmas Elf. Aww. We continue to hope for the best and try not to default to the negative Nelly tugging on our elbows. It’s hard to remain nonchalant about a life-altering event, but here we are. Going about our day-to-day, trying not to buy every baby-gadget on the market or every little fluffy pink tutu out there. Yeah. Sure. I’m calm. Trying not to ask D1 every day how she’s feeling, did the baby kick today, are you eating enough…Nana needs answers! Negative Nelly whispers in my ear every now and then.

 Bitch, fly!

The ‘hood continues to regale us with unending episodes of wayward pirate cats shitting on patios and meowing until dawn. I fucking love it. The peeps are not impressed with the stray cat strut happening and decide to post every incident of feline rebellion they witness. It’s a little over-the-top but makes for great fodder. I choose not to comment, but it takes immense restraint not to. I’m still holding out for the nicky-nine door extravaganza, but the summer came and went with no such news of the heathens out to wake the ‘hood. At least the hoodlums managed to keep their pants on in front of grandma…which, could be me next year. Watch out, youngins’ I’ll walk very fast after you! Or I’ll whip out my phone and get a pic! Hubby says I’m not allowed to plaster that on FB, but I wonder if printing out the photo and pasting them around the ‘hood would be, ok? Hmmmm….

Nana is on it!

Fall is knocking louder at the door and I’m anxious to let her in with all the pumpkin spiciness I can muster. Get a sweater it’s chilly out there. Apple cider candles, the warmth of a fire, cozy blankets and oh, the fall Hallmark movies that will drip with cheesy romantic flannel shirts. Bring. It. On.

There is so much to look forward to! Survival is key here. I’ll need wine and chocolate…and a pirate cat to keep me entertained. Now if the power will just stay on so I can heat up my chicken fingers and toast some bread…

Mommy Is on Vacation

The summer is coming to an end. I felt the breeze it left in its wake as it flew out the door. This summer was like no other in this fair province. The blazing sun, the above-average warm temperatures and humidity. We had dry spells for weeks, and wind was surprisingly low. It was the summers of my youth in Southwestern Ontario spent outside in the heat and trudging over the dykes to the Jaycee pool. I practically died from heat exhaustion on those treks. But we were young and more resilient. An afternoon splashing in the cool waters of the pool made us forget about the long walk to get there, or the walk back home.  

The blazing sun back then seemed brighter. Hotter, somehow. The summers were longer, I swear. Days and days spent out in someone’s yard listening to the radio or throwing crab apples around. Climbing trees, double-dutch tournaments and road hockey I wasn’t allowed to play. Riding our bikes to the corner store to get a 25-cent coke. Days at the cottage in Rondeau, running from flies and swimming in Lake Erie.

My new favourite Barbie

Ahh. Do kids nowadays understand what summers before Instagram and TikTok were like? I’m not sure. I hope so.

We had freedom and responsibility at the same time. We had the freedom to go to the park, to trek to the pool, to play in backyards and playgrounds, with the expectation to be home before dark. The responsibility came with looking after yourself. You were responsible to make sure you went home for lunch, or you had a key for the house to get in. If you went to the pool, you had everything you needed with you because mom and dad weren’t going to drive over there to drop it off to you. We were made to be independent at a young age. Look after your own shit because no one else is doing that for you, kid. Do kids do that now? Do they look after their own shit? I wonder.

Maybe that’s the struggle new parents have. The ever-present guilt of having to put too much on the shoulders of their children, so instead, they end up doing everything. A bit of struggle is not a bad thing. A bit of responsibility is okay. No one ever said mom must do everything, drive everywhere and be everything to everyone forever. It’s impossible. Putting the onus back on the child to look after themselves is the only way to garner some independence, to ensure an inkling of understanding what it means to take care of yourself. If mom comes to the rescue every time, it negates their responsibility. Their sense of being their own savior. Mommy is on vacation, kid. Save your own damn self.

Remember in the 80’s we had latchkey kids? Kids were given a key to the house to let themselves in while mom and dad were at work. Kids were responsible for getting a snack, doing their homework, and taking care of shit before mom and dad could make it home. It was a big generational trend back then and maybe it left some trauma for those kids. Maybe they grew up and said they weren’t doing that to their kids, so things changed. Maybe?   

Somewhere along the line, things shifted, and kids are relieved of responsibility. But, there goes freedom, too. Freedom from social media knowing every step you take, every bit of food you eat and what underwear you’re wearing. Mom and dad have you tracked on your phone and can find out if you went to that field party or if you have a crush on the guy from math class. They see you and so does everyone else. Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok…the peering eyes of society want to know where you live and how you cope with life, because we need to see how others live to dictate how we should live.


I’m glad I had the chance to grow up unhindered by peering eyes.  And the chance to take care of my own shit.  

Now if summer could just stay around a little longer….