passed quickly after classes resumed. Doppel spent his time reading and taking
care of Howie, seldom picking up the phone to call. I chose not to confide in
him about my illness, mainly because I didn't want to disrupt his equilibrium.
There was no reason for me to tell him other than selfish reasons. Other than
my swollen hands there were not yet any outward signs of my sickness. Part of
me was proud I didn't lay it on him but another part cursed at my lack of will.
I now created a need to see him again but I was too weak to travel,
particularly by airplane. The chances of stroke were too great. But my chance
to see Doppel again arose.
following summer in August we were both invited to an old friend's wedding. I
had decided not to go to the wedding but since Doppel was going to be there I
decided to attend. I had called Doppel before to tell me to bring gear to take
a bike trip. I would bring two mountain bikes to Kingston so we could take a
ride together. I told him to bring his "kit." I packed accordingly. The wedding
was fine and the party was festive. At the reception party afterwards, Doppel
was his old self, gregarious and loud, but I was subdued so I suggested that we
take a trip to see our father in Montreal the following day.
"It's better to cycle to
Montreal than drive because of the weather and because we have time," I said.
The weather was perfect, with no rain forecasted. "A bike ride would do me
"You look pale. Are you
"I'm tired that's all. My
hands are sore but I can cycle." He saw it in my eyes. I could never lie to
Doppel and it was plain that I wasn't up to par. "It's something I've wanted to
do since I was an undergraduate here."
"Me too, remember? We used
to talk about biking to Montreal?"
"I do remember that. We were
sitting at the fort. So it's something I want to do before I die, and this
seems like the right time."
"We're here aren't we? I
thought you might suggest an overnighter somewhere, but to Montreal? That's 300
kilometers I bet."
"That's about right." The
tissue-connecting disease I had hardened my limbs, such as my hands and wrist
and knees, so I wondered if I could ride at all. But another side of my was
thrilled to ignore the heavies of my limited time left and cycle like we used
to do as boys. Maybe it would even loosen up my hands.
are some things I want to add to the handbook and you're the only one who knows
it well enough to understand," he said.
I be flattered?" I kept my clawed hands in my pockets.
"I'm not really in to more
socializing after tonight so I was thinking we could leave tomorrow morning. We
can follow the old Heritage Highway along the St. Lawrence River and see those
forts." Since I hadn't seen him since Taipei I thought it was a good
opportunity to talk to him about our trip through Toroko Gorge. And it was
comforting to be in Canada with my brother because it brought back memories of
retired early to my Bed & Breakfast and met Doppel the next morning as
planned at Fort Henry in the exact spot we had spoken about taking this bike
trip 25 years ago. I was sitting on the rocks on the shore of the St. Lawrence
River where the mouth of the St. Lawrence opened up to the open space of
blue-green water and blue sky of Lake Ontario. Sparrows darted in and out of
fluttering branches, poised for prey above the water periodically diving to the
water and swooping their way back to the air. Pelicans tried to blend in with
the seagulls but were too conspicuous. Doppel arrived a bit late but that was
expected. He was, after all, a master of his time.
"The culmination of
opportunity is one of the most inexplicable phenomena that can happen to a man,
and when it does, one wonders if there is a God."
"Like the earthquake?" I
"Perhaps the underlying
symptom of fate is the timing of coincidence." There was more nodding. His hair
was shorter and his beard longer. He pulled out a map and pointed out the path
along the easterly St. Lawrence flow.
"There should be a number of
forts between here and Dad," he said. "In a way, it's the epicenter of Canadian
culture along the St. Lawrence. A long ride, no?"
beautiful ride, my brother. It's maybe 280 kilometers east-northeast." I was
sweating from just being there.
"Man, that's a ride."
"But you have to see Dad.
It's been too long. He's 67 now." Doppel hadn't spoken to our father in over
it's more than another exploit?"
"The best exploits are the
ones with the most meaning." He stood up and sat on his mountain bike. "Good
you brought the bikes."
"I'm assuming you brought
the required equipment?"
"Yep, you?" I could only
nod. I knew I was fully self-contained with my knapsack full with tools, food,
clothes, the handbook, compass and an assortment of miscellaneous items. My
tent was on the rack above my back wheel, same as Doppel's. I purchased a
4-fluid ounce bottle of Phil's Tenacious Oil for the trip, and had
tightened the toe-clips so that the straps gripped my foot snugger.
"I see you have the same rack
as me. Smart call," he said. "Panniers are overrated and cumbersome. And
anything on the front wheel drastically alters the performance and coordination
of the ride. Putting panniers on your front wheel defeats the purpose of riding
the quality of the ride is diminished."
we left old Fort Henry and the Royal Military College and rode toward
Gananoque, we reached the paved shoulder of the Heritage Highway. Within the
first hour I had settled into a triangular balance between the weight of my
back wheel, the weight on my back, and the weight on my front wheel through my
I stopped to readjust the
height of my seat. It was as if my legs had shortened.
"Biking posture is crucial
over the long run," said Doppel, keen on explaining the mechanics of his new
vehicle. "Finding ones equilibrium takes time. Seat height should be adjusted
to maximize energy output by the rider's legs. In theory it seems plain but
actually finding my geometrical equilibrium in practice will take all afternoon
the first day."
"Yes, ones coordination of
hand and toe diminishes when ones seat is out of kilter."
"Finding your range of
balance is Aristotle's Golden Mean."
"You mean an optimum balance
between too much and too little?"
"Well, yes. To quote
Aristotle, ‘Thus a master of any art avoids excess and defect, but seeks the
intermediate and chooses this - the intermediate in the object but relatively
to us.' Some are taller than others."
as some are more equal than others?" I replied.
"That's funny." It was good
to see that ironic laugh again. Doppel was more stoic than before, almost
resigned. His speed on the bike was slower than I had expected. He was a man
who was not in a rush. I knew I wasn't going to going fast.
We had left at a late hour
so the time to find a place for the night was soon upon us. Using his special
instinct for finding safe places to sleep, Doppel chose a place on the west
side of the river overlooking Wolfe Island in the east. We cycled to the sandy
tip of a small peninsula where we watched the sunset and pitched our tents. It
was a place where sailboats anchored for the night that were passing through to
"That's the same route I
think Robert Pirsig did on his boat," he said, pointing at the waterway going
around Wolfe Island.
"In his second book, yes."
We found an old campfire by a tree on a flat beachfront where you could walk a
hundred meters out and still be standing. The sunset from just beyond the point
from where we were camping was immense.
"The orange ball reminds me
of a Caribbean cantaloupe," he said. The constant breeze from the vastness of
Lake Ontario kept me cool.
"So what are these additions
to your handbook?"
"Just a polishing of it,
that's all. You're scientific approach gave me an idea to round out and balance
my thinking. It's good to see you again brother."
"I wish we could spend more
time together. It's one thing that has really bothered me. So it's good we're
having an adventure. It's exactly what I wanted to do."
"Something always comes up,
"Well, we're here, now."
"True. Howie's with my
neighbor this week. He's been great to have in my life. I genuinely love my
dog. He's grown into a fine doggy."
"My last memory of Howie was
watching him sit on your gas tank as people slowed down to stare at the crazy
foreigner with long hair and a beard and a little puppy on its gas tank. You
had it in top gear the whole way back."
"That was fun."
"It was an amazing
achievement; that's what it was."
"It was a good road trip. I
hope you learned something from it."
"Yes, you could say that.
It's a great memory. As you would say, it was a good exploit."
"Yes. Exploits purify the
will. And philosophy is experience and thought, not passive study and not
enough leg work."
"The biking was a good
"It's the built-in trusted
horse that's always ready to take you where you want to go. The same
Viking-Poet principles apply on a bike as on a motorcycle. In fact the mountain
bike may have the upper hand in touring performance, even long journeys." It
was a moment later that I fell asleep.