I loaded my gear into the saddlebags, zipped my jacket and a threw a leg over the saddle. It was time to get out of this place. I thumbed the starter and we were off. Traffic was light and I didn't even have to wait before filing onto Sussex Drive. I bypassed three slower curb-huggers, two dawdlers in the passing lane and zipped by the DFAIT building. I actually made the light at King Edward and lost none of my forward momentum. We arched gracefully over the bridge and sprinted for the Prime Minister's residence.
As we neared the roundabout, I downshifted until we reached second, banking to the right, throttle, then the left, more throttle, upshift to third, bank to the right. Away we went towards the second roundabout... The night air was filled with this wonderful, earthy smell. I remained alert for any sign of scampering rodents or prowling foxes and raccoons. So far, so good. We rounded the second rotary and sailed uphill towards the paths, then downhill, sweeping through the right-hander, then the left-hander, downhill past the entrance to Rockcliffe Park, then uphill yet again as we slowed for the carousel turn at The Lookoff.
I had no traffic ahead of me as we roared past the US Ambassador's residence. I banked Baby into the downhill s-turn, leading to the tennis courts. Finally onto the cruising section of the Parkway itself, we settled into a casual lope. As we neared the airport, I could see many flashing taillights as local pilots took advantage of the fine evening weather and light winds, to work on qualifying for their IFR ratings.
Turning right, we engaged the newly paved section which is a dream to ride on. Or, as I have been known to opine: "It's as smooth as a prom queen's thigh...". We crossed the overpass for the Aviation Parkway and sailed on. The moon was out and provided abundant light. I had flashed up Baby's passing lamps as well, just to be on the safe side. They would allow me to pick up any 'eye-shine' at a great distance. The bugs were drawn to us in hordes and I knew that I would have some cleaning to do the following morning. I kept her under ninety klicks as we ghosted along, all alone on this wonderful moonlit night. I kind of wished I had somewhere further to go...
As we approached an area I refer to as 'Earth-pig Acres', I noticed some ground fog materializing. The scent from the river was strong here and mingled with the aroma of earth and trees. We trundled along towards the last parking spot, which marked the beginning of 'Deer Alley'. Oddly enough though, I had not seen any deer in this area, since just before the paving project began. I was starting to wonder if they would ever return. Time will tell, I suppose...
We negotiated Deer Alley without incident, meeting a cruiser coming the other way as we began the carousel turn which would lead us over the 174 and onto St.Joseph. At the lights, we were joined by 2 cars which had been following us some distance behind. The driver who stopped next to us rolled down his window and stated: "That's one very good looking bike you have there...". "Yes... yes, she is... Thank you!", I replied. "Is that a Harley?", he asked hesitantly. "Ummm...no. This here critter eats Harleys for breakfast", I grinned. The light changed and we wheeled left along St. Joseph. Our new admirer carried on straight ahead, into the depths of Black-Burnt-Omelet (Blackburn Hamlet).
Such a shame. Baby had almost received a compliment. Not that it mattered anyway, but still. Had we been addressed by someone that knew anything about bikes, I suppose the compliment would have meant something. The fact that he had no idea what he was looking at, kind of took the shine off the moment. Am I being a snob here? I mean, it's like pulling up somewhere in a Maserati Grancabrio and having the valet say: "Boy... Nice Volvo!" I dunno... maybe I'm being uber-sensitive here. Whatever... It was nice of him to say so, I guess.
I decided to curtail my ruminating as we were on the downhill run towards Youville. Time to be sharp. We made the light and sailed through, heading towards Jeanne D'Arc. The air felt impossibly nice. Even though I had my Joe Rocket ballistic nylon jacket on, I was not overly warm. True, I was only wearing a t-shirt underneath and I did have the vents unzipped as well. Thank God for ventilation. I tipped Baby to the right and we began our ascent of Jeanne D'Arc. This hill has a good grade to it, but Baby and I flew up to the crest with ease. She wasn't even breathing hard...
Evening riding is a special world all of it's own. It's mysterious, almost magical. The glow from the speedo and the idiot lights on the dash, provide a comforting presence in the dark. Speed is never an issue, as you never want to go faster than your headlight can see. It's relaxing, rejuvenating. Yet some riders would never think of riding after sunset. Why? I really can't say. It demands a different riding style, yes. There are certain considerations to entertain. Wildlife, for one. Many animals are nocturnal by nature. They tend to amble around after dark and have a way of materializing, seemingly out of nowhere. One also has to be more aware of and attentive with regards to spotting drunk drivers. They also tend to come out at night.
But for those who are willing to adapt, night riding has many rewards. It adds yet another dimension to this passion of ours which is riding.