Day three. A whole day of riding ahead of us; but it is with a twinge of melancholy that we leave Nelson in the brisk morning hours. The weekend, which seemed to stretch out infinitely on Friday night, suddenly feels like it is rapidly ending. It is another beautiful day and I feel like I have been providentially fortunate this weekend-and not just because of the weather. Good company might make a feast from a common meal, and such company undeniably turns a decent road into a great ride.
If you are new to motorcycles and considering any kind of a long distance ride for the first time, here’s a nickel’s worth of free advice: Get boots that fit comfortably, your feet will thank you. By midday, I had taken to removing my boots at fuel stops to stretch my toes. To that end, watch your fuel gauge, or your odometer. Yes, I ran out of gas…again. Actually, twice. I managed to coast into the gas station the first time. Nevertheless, (and try not to laugh too hard) I still ended up pushing the Radian a couple of blocks later on. I would also recommend getting a helmet with a visor. The open-faced with goggles looks great, but over long distances your face will take a bit of a beating. You know how you flinch or cringe when bugs explode on impact and flying rocks chip your windshield? Now imagine that you don’t have a windshield, just your face. Still, you do get to feel pretty tough by the end and, believe me, for an academic that is such a rare feeling that it’s almost worth it.
Speaking of feeling tough, while we were grabbing some food and a coffee in my old hometown of Nakusp (by the way, that road from Kaslo is fantastic-and even better when you’re not following an RCMP highway patrol car), I ran into a gal that I hadn’t seen in years. She initially didn’t recognize me because she thought I looked like a biker. Yeah. That happens to me a lot.
The road from Nakusp to Vernon was like rekindling another old friendship. And this one had really gotten better with age. I must have driven that road in my old Civic a thousand times and I still remembered every curve, contour and corner. After three days on the road, the Radian and I were feeling pretty tight, and so that bit of riding was indulgent and gratifying. I’ve heard Brent talk about being “corner drunk” and now I know what he means. Probably the most fun I’ve had on two wheels.
And all of a sudden we were in Vernon, a mere stone’s throw from home. From here, we’d all be taking different roads home and this particular story was drawing to a close. So we stopped at a pub for a final pint. And at such times, it is always appropriate to reminisce and raise a glass:
James, you truly ride it like you stole it and it was a thrill trying to keep up to you….My brother-in-law, you are a superman and I am glad you could wear the vest, albeit briefly…The man on the Harley actually made the vest look good, and the rest of us a little jealous…BMW, you are a magician, and I gladly learned a spell or two from you…Moto Guzzi, thanks for letting the newbie follow you, I am indebted…The Ducati, she might be a bit of a supermodel, but you are still an Iron Eagle…And, Brent-you are the Motorcycle Whisperer. I have no idea how, among other things, you could possibly hear the small rattle of a loose license plate underneath the din of eight bikes. You are indisputably our guru. Cheers.
In truth, after three days and a thousand kilometers, everyone looked a little different to me, and I found myself continually grateful to be in their company. Not because I felt like a biker (which I kind of did), or even a better rider (which I probably was), but because I felt like a better person (which I might have been). I think that happens when you find that you are a part of something bigger than yourself and unexpectedly invested in lives and in life in ways you weren’t before. The world looks a little different then, too. It feels full of sound and color and depth and wonder…and so do the people in it.
Quite possibly it is, as Salman Rushdie writes, that “these are the occasions when the bolts of the universe fly open, and we are given a glimpse of what is hidden; an eff of the ineffable.”
It’s been a good summer.
David Balfour was born in Regina, Saskatchewan and has since lived in Edmonton, Alberta, as well as British Columbia’s Cariboo and Kootenay regions before settling in the Okanagan. David has had a variety of career tangents through the years: he was a roadie for a rock band in the 1990s, he worked on a mushroom farm, completed a Bachelor of Arts degree, owned a small business and is currently completing his Education degree at the University of British Columbia.
David is new to the world of motorcycles in general and MotoVida in particular. However, a love found later in life is better than a love never found at all. He lives in Kelowna, BC with his wife, Lindsay and their four children, Emma, Annie, Aidan and Cordelia, and the Radian, his motorcycle.