July 2, 2010

Chasing Shadows

I put the key in the ignition and smile. I managed to finish work much earlier, the sun is out and I have nothing but free time ahead of me. I’m anxious to get on the open road, so I strap my helmet on and head for the quickest way out of the city.

The traffic is heavy but manageable. I apprehended much worse. As soon as I exit the bridge out of Montreal, the flow of vehicles gets lighter and lighter. I pick a comfy spot between two cars loosely following each other on the highway.

Only a couple minutes are enough to clear my head of my week’s troubles. With my visor open, I soak in the warm sun rays and the fresh air from the surrounding fields. The bike is purring under me, stable and confident. It’s such a beautiful machine.

I catch myself thinking back of my first solo trip with my Triumph, two years ago. Three huge 14-hour stretches from Montreal to reach Edmonton and my friend Dan. Three days of pure exaltation and that sweet traveling solitude. It makes me smile.

I change lanes every now and then to pass a slower car or a vacationing family in their minivan. But other than that, the road is open, vast and quiet. It’s perfect.

A huge exit from the highway leads to the open road that goes to La Tuque and Lac-St-Jean. I downshift two gears and get the revolutions high, just enough to slow me down before the curve while maintaining a perfect grip for the acceleration I’m planning. I get my knee out, tilt the bike down and get sucked in the perfectly-slanted curve. My jaws clench with adrenaline as I twist the throttle and feel the powerful torque throw my bike further along the curve. I’m so low that I squeeze my knee back into the bike to avoid touching the ground. The curve ends. The bike roars.

I upshift once, get the bike back up and then I shift another time. Shivers starting in my feet run all along my body and up into my brain. I’m free. And profoundly happy. As I leave the highway for good, I notice there’s almost no one around. The sun’s shining bright, the road is dry and even. If it stays like this, I won’t even have to worry about my speed...

The twisted band of asphalt plays along the riverside, up and down hills, into and out of happy little villages. I smile wide and take deep breaths of warm summer air. At my last gas stop, I put on a warmer coat, full-length riding gloves and got my MP3 player out. I am now enjoying a full playlist of Disturbed, Rise Against, Papa Roach, Offspring, Three Days Grace and many others. There’s really something about opening up the gas throttle on a powerful motorcycle to overcome a slower car with heavy music blaring in your ears...

Before I knew it, I was in La Tuque already, filling up for the last stretch to Lac-St-Jean. By then I knew the road would be empty of cars on both sides. I’d have it almost to myself.

This is every rider’s dream. An open road, a sunny day, perfect asphalt and no cops in sight. As soon as the last houses were behind me, I started accelerating to get to the first curves. 90, then 120, then 140. The roar of the engine under me, the sound of the music in my ears and the feeling of the wind on my face made me ecstatic. 160. The bike was at its full potential on the winding road, twisting and dancing at my every move. 180. Gripping in the curves like a cheetah. I move over the seat at every change in the road, throwing the bike left and right, knees out with my chest glued to the tank. I don’t know where my arms end and where the handles begin. I am the motorcycle.

I kept at this for over an hour, chasing my own shadow down a deserted road in a wild forest. The air smelled of moss and cedar trees and I was in biker heaven.

The sun had slowly started to come down in the early evening and I knew my trip was closing its end. As I climbed the last great hills before Chambord, I was welcomed by a gorgeous sight: large orange rays of setting sun were splashing across the sky and down onto Lac St-Jean, faraway in the distance.

I took a deep breath and even closed my eyes for a split second. “This moment is perfect”, I thought. “I’m free, I’m alive and I’m exalted.”

“I am right now.”

I took the last turn onto the regional road that leads to St-FĂ©licien, knowing I was now only a couple minutes away from friendly hugs, travel stories and cold beer.

Yet a part of me yearned to stay atop that hill into the sunset forever.

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