As always, my intentions had been lofty: I would ride my cycle every day to school and thus maintain a modicum of fitness. As a rather mature student (age 57) trying to complete a 12 week Waterworks Technology Certificate course in Victoria BC, this was a laudable goal – I had rented a room in a house at the bottom of Mount Tolmie and shared the facilities with some students of the University of Victoria who were younger than my 22 year old son!
My lofty intentions fell by the wayside after the first day when I cycled back from school and took the wrong turn. The road went uphill and I ended up on the top of Mount Tolmie huffing and puffing and completely winded. From the top I could see the contours of another small hill – Mount Douglas. I made up my mind that I would cycle to Mount Douglas the next day.
Conserving my energy for the planned ride, I took the bus to school the next day. Later that September evening found me coasting down Cedar Hill Cross Road down to the junction with Shelbourne Street where I turned right and pedaled north to Mount Douglas Park. Entering the park I began to go up the gradually increasing slope of the road. A few hundred yards from the top my muscles began to protest and I dismounted and pushed my bike the rest of the way.
There was a lookout point with a grand view all around and I took this opportunity to regain my breath and allowed the cool breeze coming off Cordova Bay to dry the sweat from my brows. I noticed a lady talking to an elderly woman and I could not help overhearing their conversation. I was intrigued.
When the younger woman had left, I approached the one that was now left standing and said, “Pardon my intrusion, but I heard you tell the other lady that you walk up here every single day!”
Her wrinkled face broke into a grin and she said slowly,”Yes, I do. I have been doing it every day for the last 30 years!”
I grinned back at her and, ignoring the rules of propriety, took a chance. “If you don’t mind me asking, how old are you?” I said. In my limited experience, this question is never considered cheeky if the woman you are addressing appears to be over 60: at this age, maturity seems to replace vanity in the female of the species!
“I am 87 years old”, she said proudly.
“Wow!” I exclaimed, “I am so pleased to meet you. I am truly impressed!”
She told me her name was Dorian and that her little foray paled before her 92 year old friend’s who walked to the top of Mount Douglas from even further away than she did; all the way from sea level. Mount Douglas is not a big hill by any stretch of the imagination, having an altitude of only 228 meters, or approximately 750 feet. From the parking lot at the bottom of the hill to the top involved a modest height gain of around 460 feet and Dorian would accomplish this over the approximately 1.5 km contour that the road was built on.
“And you have never skipped a single day in these last 30 years?” I wanted to know.
“Once,” she admitted and looked apologetic. “I was sick”.
I passed Dorian again on the way down and as I waved to her she lifted one walking pole in a gesture of acknowledgement.
Once again, a complete stranger thirty years older than me had set an example worthy of emulating!