The summer I was 15, my friend Ellen and myself came up with the brilliant idea of riding our bikes from Corunna to Alvinston, 35 miles to the east.
My grandparents lived there, and in those days the town of Alvinston was the place to be.
Now, our bikes weren’t like those you see today. They were heavy and had no gears, although we did have horns and baskets and a tire pump.
Ellen’s mother had hopped on a plane for England, leaving behind Ellen and her father to be in charge of her five brothers. Somehow, her family agreed to our departure and Cliff, the eldest brother, helped load our bikes, put air in the tires and adding a sign for good measure: ‘Alvinston or Bust.’
It was already a scorching hot day by the time we hit the 10th line on our way to Petrolia. We figured if we could make it there, the rest would be easy.
We stopped for a quick lunch and then were off again. The pedaling grew harder as the sun got hotter. Before long, we were wishing we were back in Corunna, even if it meant Ellen taking care of her father and brothers.
My grandparents had informed the editor of the local newspaper what we were doing. He just happened to live across from their home on River Street, and was planning a story for the paper.
“Wow!” I said to Ellen. “This could make the front-page news!”
We pushed on, hoping to see the 10th line intersection at Highway 79, where we’d make a right turn and be about four miles from our destination.
We tried to think happy thoughts. We could almost hear the cheers of folks lining the main street (maybe it was heatstroke?)
But then Ellen started to lag behind, and just like that, Alvinston or Bust was just plain bust. One of her tires was flat. We tried to use the pump to add air but the tire wouldn’t cooperate.
“You go on ahead and I’ll walk the rest of the way,” said Ellen, playing the martyr.
I couldn’t arrive in Alvinston on my own. The only irritating alternative was to go to the nearest farmhouse and call for help, and that’s what we did.
Shortly after, Uncle Gord arrived in a car and loaded up the bikes and two weary travellers.
When we reached River Street, all was quiet. No townsfolk, no fanfare like we expected. Even the Grand and Columbia hotels were unusually quiet.
To add to our misery, the editor of the local paper wasn’t home.
Instead, his wife interviewed us, resulting in a 3” x 5” column with no photo, far, far from the front page.
Nadine Wark is a retired office administrator and freelance writer who resides in Sarnia