Living my dash …


Now that I’m retired, I spend more time at the cottage on the Trent-Severn Waterway. I love the hot, humid summers and plethora of quiet, scenic rural roads to cycle.

This summer, I was there from June through September. The Trent-Severn Waterway is a recreational waterway traversing southern Ontario joining the eastern end of Lake Ontario with Lake Huron to the north-west. It was originally built as a commercial route to transport logs, lumber, and farm produce to larger markets, but with the advent of railways, the system became obsolete. 

Today, it is a recreational waterway, a unique boating experience enjoyed by adventurers from around the world. It is almost 400 km long, connecting a series of lakes (the Kawartha Lakes), with over 40 locks, and 160 dams. It takes a week, or more, to travel depending on the size, and speed of your boat. People make the trip is all types of vessels including kayaks, canoes, row boats, cruisers, and larger trawlers.

There is a group of boaters that are more adventurous. They are known as “Loopers”, and the Trent-Severn Waterway is just part of a much larger adventure for them. A 10,000 km one. For example, they may begin in Florida, travel up the east coast inland waterway to the St. Laurence River and Lake Ontario, north-west through the Trent-Severn Waterway to Georgian Bay, across Lake Huron, down Lake Michigan to Chicago, into the Mississippi River, south to the Gulf of Mexico, and east back to Florida. 

One big loop.  The Great American Loop.

Most “loopers” take a year to complete the route, and some do it repeatedly.

This summer, I met a “looper” travelling alone on a 35’-40’ trawler while he was moored at the nearby lock. We chatted for awhile. I was interested in how he managed such a large vessel in the locks on his own. It usually requires a crew of least one, and frequently more, to keep the boat safely away from other craft and the lock’s concrete walls.

As I was paddling away, I noticed the name of his boat – Dash Away. I called back to him that I liked the name. He said it was named after the poem by Linda Ellis, and asked if I had ever read it. 

I said, no. 

He replied, Google it. 

I did 😂

The Dash

by Linda Ellis

I read of a man who stood to speak at a funeral of a friend.  He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning…to the end.

He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but said what mattered most of all was the dash between her years.

For that dash represents all the time they spent alive on earth and now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own, the cars..the house…the cash.  What matters is how we lived and loved and how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard; are there things you’d like to change?  For you never know how much time is left that still can be rearranged.

To be less quick to anger and show appreciation more and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile…remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.

So when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say about how you lived your dash?

The man I met this summer is living his dash, doing what he enjoys most – being on his boat.

This got me thinking.

I have been imaging the changes I want to make. I’m not a boater. I’m a cyclist. There is nothing I enjoy more, and hope to continue cycling for years to come. I have just had a bespoke all road bike made. and am having another one of my custom steel bikes repaired, upgraded, and painted.

I want to name the bikes. Riding them is what I want to do most. I have begun thinking of them as Dash for the 1980 Roberts and Dash Too for the 2018 Mariposa. Dash represents 40 years of cycling pleasure – touring, commuting, and training. And Dash Too is my retirement ride taking me on more tours and more adventurous routes. They enable me to live my dash the way I want and enjoy most.

I began this year imagining the changes I wanted to make. Retirement does that. It makes you realize you are in the final act, and now is the time to make the changes you have imagined.

Are you living your dash?

1 thought on “Living my dash …

  1. Not living my dash yet. My partner’s Mom lived in Peterborough and he had a farm for 10 years, we lived in Toronto. So we’ve enjoyed the Kawartha Lakes area a lot. In a way, more convenient than the Muskokas and ..cheaper.

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