“What you call dat kinda weird zipper on de side o’ de ‘ighway, brudder?”
“Thierry!! Where did you come from?”
“You tink I jes gonna leave you all alone out ‘ere in de middle o’ nowhere? Watch de road, ostie! You gonna put us in de ditch!”
I am on a narrow bit of pavement between the highway rumble strip and the gravel shoulder. Thierry has surprised me and I briefly veer onto the slippery gravel. Some of the Trans-Canada is like this. But sometimes you get just the rumble strip and, then, you must ride on the highway clinging to the white line like a tight-wire in Cirque du Soleil.
“Rumble strip? Dat sound like a motorcycle gang at one o’ dem titty bar!”
Did I say that out loud? Rumble strip? Thierry has climbed out of my left front pannier and is now perched on the front rack. My low rider. I see he has snitched an almond from my food supplies. He reclines on the dry sack that holds most of my camping gear: tent, inflatable sleeping pad and pillows. Casually, he reaches up and grabs one of the brake cables for security.
“The rumble strip wakes up drivers, Thierry. If they get fatigued and drift off.”
“What dey got to be fatigué about, man? You is de one doin’ all de work pedalling .”
“There’s only one of me but lots of cars and trucks, Thierry. No one builds a highway with bicycles in mind. That would be really expensive.”
And it’s true, I haven’t seen another bicycle tourist since my first day out, ten days ago. But maybe the rain has discouraged them. I am still a little wet from the three downpours I rode through today. And plenty more on previous days.
“Tabarnac de câlisse! What de fuck is dat noise!?”
Several long transport trucks are giving me a wide berth. They cross the rumble strip that sometimes runs down the middle of the highway. The sound is like one of those seaplanes revving up and skimming the harbour before takeoff.
“Those are the sound of tires on the centre line rumble strip, Thierry!”
I have to shout over the noise and the whoosh of wind that gives us a brief boost from behind. Thierry stands, leans out, and pumps his arm to signal the last truck driver to sound his horn. To my surprise, he gives it a quick blast.
“Thierry... I’m really happy to see you... but people are going to think I’m crazy bringing you along on this ride.”
“Dey already tink you is crazy, mon chum. You is ridin’ yer bike on dis Trans-Canada across ‘alf de country. Trust me. You is crazy.”
(If you haven’t read The Little Brudders of Miséricorde, Thierry is Spence’s good friend. He is, of course, a mouse. If you want to get to know this lovable rogue, go to your local bookstore and order the book ;)