Monday, October 20, 2008

A fine fall weekend...

As weekends go, in the realm of 'things accomplished', this past one would be hard to beat. No, it was not filled with pre-winter preparations for vans, gardens or other such concerns. Nor was it a blitz in order to prepare for this coming Halloween. But this past weekend saw the return of Baby, the Queen of the Rockcliffe Parkway, and myself to the local back roads and byways.

Yes... I went out for a ride. Not just on Saturday, but on Sunday as well. True, I am paying for it this Monday morning as I sit writing of this particular exploit, but it was worth any amount of discomfort it might have caused me. It is hard to put into words, the feeling that riding provides me with on a normal day. To have been able to get back in the saddle this weekend, after a 3 month forced hiatus, was beyond words. Mother Nature provided us with the perfect weather, as well as a palette of wonderful colours and all those evocative aromas which are associated with the fall season.

My first ride on Saturday afternoon, for as much as I tried to make it a joint venture with my buddy Ben, turned out to be a solo effort due to circumstances outside our control. I had tried to arrange for a 'safety number' to be with me on this initial outing, but it wasn't to be. I half thought about calling it off, but then decided I simply couldn't. I had built myself up in anticipation of this and I couldn't turn it off. The deal I had made with myself was pretty much: "If you can dress yourself for the ride, you can go...". My little bout of running the bike up and down the driveway had also gone some ways towards convincing me that maybe this was doable. I had been looking at the lid (helmet) I had been wearing when I went down. The visor was pretty much trashed on one side and provided a constant visual reminder of what had transpired that day. I decided a trip out to the dealer's was in order, to replace said offending visor. That would become my mission...

At precisely 1207hrs, I left a message with Ben's answering service and flashed Baby up. Backing her out of the driveway, I could feel the first twinge in my shoulder. It was manageable. I snicked her in gear and we were off. Veering onto Innes Road, it seemed almost like an out-of-body experience. It had been so long since I found myself idling along with traffic. My shoulder had a way of reminding me it was real enough, though. I trundled along with the hordes of Saturday shoppers until we finally came to Mer Bleue, where I wheeled left and left the crowds far behind me. It was now just Baby, me and the back roads. Traffic was practically non-existent as we loped along. I found I could actually relax and enjoy the sights and smells. We poked along and I experimented with various strategies for alleviating the pain in my arm and shoulder. I rapidly discovered that any right-handed turns which caused a hyper-extension of my left arm, caused more pain than anything. Well, except for crossing the train tracks on the Anderson Road, before meeting up with the loop on the 30.

Keeping my speed between 60 and 80kmh, I made my way down Rideau Road. Arriving at the 31, I opted to turn left and make for the McEwans gas station on Route 8, which leads into Manotick Station and finally, Manotick itself. I reckoned I could use some gas as my idiot light had come on and my shoulder needed a break. I stopped at the pumps and took some time getting myself upright off the seat. My shoulder was on fire and with every increment I moved it downwards off the handlebar, it hurt even more. I glanced around to see if anyone had noticed my situation. Nope. Two young Air Cadets were parked outside the doors, collecting donations in exchange for tags. I filled the tank and headed in to settle up. The younger of the two wannabe-aerdales opened the door for me. "Why thank you, Sir!:, I boomed. They both smiled. On the way out, I plunked a toonie in the young feller's can. "Do you want a tag, Sir?", he asked. I answered: "Nope...and don't call me 'Sir', my parents were married...". More smiles from the pair of them.

Gingerly, I got back onto the bike. This had now become an exercise in saving face. I couldn't have those two young future Zoomies see me wince as I headed out. I reckon I managed to pull it off, as I peeled out. I carried on along Route 8 until I came into Manotick proper, where I hung a right at the Tim Horton's and onto the River Road, to begin heading back into town. All the while, I find myself making a conscious effort to register each sight, each aroma, into my memory. Storing for future reference, I suppose. So I could look back and retrieve them, enjoying each one over and over again during those long winter months. Before long, I had made my way to the airport. Running along the edge of the runways, I came to the lights at Hunt Club and Riverside. A short left-hand turn, the run across the bridge, past Prince of Wales and finally, the right hander onto Laser Drive and into the Powersports parking lot. Made it! After I had disembarked, I took a couple of pictures to preserve the moment.

My luck held out, as I managed to locate a replacement visor for my particular make and style of lid. The last one left, as it turned out. All for the princely sum of $7.36. To buy anything motorcycle related, where the dollar price is not at least in the two-digit range, is uncanny. It just doesn't happen normally. I bought a Coke from the machine in the staff's lunchroom and ambled about the riding gear section, looking at some of their newer items. Sure, there were plenty of bikes to look at on the showroom floor... but none that could possibly interest me. Oh sure, there's that sweet little ST 1300 model, but that's only an "if I had too much money" kind of bike. There's no way any bike in there could take my Baby's place.

Finishing my pop, I was anxious to be once more on my way. I had changed my visor on the spot, throwing the old reminder in the garbage where it belonged. I straddled Baby and backed her out of her spot, thumbing her to life as we went. As we idled, I again felt this wave of gratitude wash over me. We pulled out of the parking lot and made the light at the corner. We left in an effortless arc to the left, Baby roaring ever louder as I twisted the wick, leaning her hard over. Crossing Prince of Wales, I shifted over to the right-hand lane and left the building traffic at the River Road. I retraced my way back home, taking my time and trying to extend my time in the saddle, despite the pain it sometimes caused. I stopped twice on the way back, just to rest my shoulder. I made it back home just before 1500hrs. I felt good as I slowly dismounted in my driveway. Vindicated, some might say... Yes, my shoulder was smarting some, but I knew that after a session of physio exercises, I'd have it back in shape soon. My shoulders and neck muscles, that might be another story.

I finally did hook up with Benny on Sunday and we retraced the route I had taken on Saturday. We had to make an unplanned stop coming off the Ramsayville Road onto the Rideau Road, as my shoulder was really giving me Hell. Maybe I was pushing it after yesterday's session. Benny had a smoke while I just chilled and rested my shoulder. Many bikes passed us as we stood there chatting. At last I felt up to leaving again so we headed out once more. We stopped at Tim's in Manotick, for a coffee and a snack. While there, we met up with three fellow riders, one of whom was a retired Air Force type riding a pristine red and black Valkyrie. The man was a true chrome whore, to boot. His buddies were riding a black Wing and a nicely painted H-D Rocker. Good people. We chatted for a bit then wished them well as we mounted up and headed out to join up with Riverside, then Hog's Back and finally Colonel By Drive.

The drive back into town was great. We continued through Sussex and onto the Rockcliffe Parkway, where again at my insistence, we stopped at the Lookoff. The pain of getting off the bike and letting my arm down was incredible. Clearly I was pushing the envelope, but I couldn't very well throw in the towel now. A little rest and we'd be good to go for the final push. The Parkway was not overly crowded, though we kept a sharp eye for Mounties. We're not speed demons by any means, but sometimes as you're cruising along, the bike likes to find it's own speed. It just happens... and it's not normally in the realm of no 60kmh, either...

We made it back to Casabella in fine shape. I was happy to put Baby back in the barn and silently thanked her for such a great weekend of riding. Ben and I then engaged in some serious gaming, ridding the world of terrorists while happily munching away on hot, delicious pizza from Gabriel's. Truly, a great way to close out such a fine fall weekend.

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