Go No Go
The night before I washed and packed my gear. Printed my interview questions as a back up and made room on my zoom mic by deleting the last audio file. The plan was: drive to work, with my bike loaded for the weekend. Leave the rock quarry at 5:00 pm for Montreal, and make it back for the LeVangie interview Saturday night.
My MPQ memories have become vignettes. Rapid style flashbacks fit for vine with six seconds of reel. They are filled with empty concrete sky ways that overlap and fold into long underground tunnels. Filled with the sound of my boxer's bark echoing. They are filled with sunrise roll outs in the city that frosts your visor with morning sharpness.
You know that you are in the process of making a bad decision when you begin bargaining with yourself. Friday morning first thing, I thought it would be safer not to stop for any coffee or a breakfast sandwich at the convenience store. I better just drive to work. Instead of the normal way I'll take the road that has less tar snakes it's less likely to have frozen precipitation on it. The first thing that caught my eye when I exited the door was the spin out that I did on the grass. I slammed my foot down to the glistening green surface to keep the loaded bike from dropping on its first change of direction. That's not normal I thought, how very odd. It didn't do that when it was heavy frost. And yeah as I ran the my finger on the windshield of my wife's van I realized: “hey this all looks green light to me”. I turned the corner out of my gravel driveway and onto a leaf covered gravel road 9/10 to the highway where I waited for traffic to pass knowing they would probably just pass me anyway while we were descending the hill.
As I rode in the ink of early morning frozen fall blackness my memory played cautionary tales over and over like the out takes of an eight millimeter wind up Warren Miller film. Now, in my mind’s eye, I could see one of my Maritime moto friends we will call Liam. I thought about his ride in Arizona and bad decisions. He climbed up the tar highway towards a mountain peak passing the flashing road sign warning cagers of the steep fine for unchained tires. For them, the chain monkeys stood at the side of the road waiting like Danika Patrick's pit crew pocketing $20 for installing all four in what seemed like seconds. Liam and his mate passed a bunch of hotels for one reason or the other he didn't like the look of or the layout of the next one or the posted cost or the parking lot and rode on and up in elevation. Maybe they were full, maybe they weren't and then all of a sudden black ice is underneath them. Down they both went with two freshly rented RT's in the kind of slow motion that made grandfather clocks pendulums halt. The kind of slow motion where you hear the music. Opera music. Not a good sign. They dropped to the ground and flopped like shiny helmeted fish just pulled onto the ice through a day ending 8 inch auger hole.
Now Liam is one tough son of a bitch. Stone cold precision. He put the rock drills on a coal seam in Newfoundland after the engineers and geologists told him where the coal was to no avail. He just did it the old-fashioned way with persistence and common sense. Liam had the boys drilling test holes in growing rings. Just like that, the pile of rock dust in the dust collector of the rock drill went from red to black . Well the coal seam started out small ended up running for 10 miles and so. It was long enough for Liam to retire early.
As I sat across from him at the diner table I had no inclination that that he was as old as he was (eighty). It was as if hard work had sustained his tone and youthfulness instead of weathering him away. What pressure crushed some rocks turned others into gems. Older, wiser, next time would Liam turn his GO to a NO?
Still Friday morning, still going down hill, my clothes fit good under the stitch and everything seem real tight and nice but I really also realized very quickly that visibility was decreasing and the temperature of the tire snakes had approached an unsafe level. Sprinkles of precipitation now bounced from my visor. New England roads get repaired and Vermont roads specifically in cracks from the heaving frost get repaired with this tire snake. No friend of two wheels the snake is sometimes slippery when hot but very slippery when frozen and cold. As I hit the tar snakes not visible by my low beam light the bike slid from side to side upright still OK.
In the helicopter we had this thing where if you heard a noise and felt vibration that was accompanied by a chip light you have three things stacking up against you and it was time to get the ship on the ground safely without delay. You had reached an emergency. My bike would dip and slide into the trough worn by wheel tracks. Here I was with very low visibility slipping on tar snakes and I had that sinking feeling in my gut of impending doom just below my diaphragm. I heard a voice very clearly say: "it will be better if you turn around here right now. ". As I rounded a turn and headed back uphill up in elevation my head hung low like a dog with a cone that had returned from the vets. MPQ will have to wait because this year it's going to be on four wheels. As I climbed the corners I knew the New Haven river was at my right although it was not visible in the inky blackness. Heavy precipitation varied from solids to droplets. Stacks of wet leaves separated me from the guardrail as I continue to climb around the corners. I felt like I wasn't worthy to have my iron butt license plate cover on my bike. It was humiliating to make the no go decision. Like the veteran long distance rider who finally was done in not by a driver drunk or sober or some cell phone idiot but their own hemorrhoids. For the first time in a long time, I was late to work.
I parked my car in the lot across the street from Ron's building. A red bricked concrete structure referred to as the McGill apartments from the number of university students that rent there. Inside, on the 6th floor, Anna had a dirty Stoli martini waiting for me. Their apartment looked out over Rue William north east to the circus tent like spars and sags of Jacques Cartier bridge. Laying in bed I heard a roar from the window. A Ferrari and a Porsche were lined up at a light. My boxer was tucked in for the night 3 hours south. But each failure has an opportunity. Tomorrow I would ride one of Ron's two bikes. “Choose cautiously” He said. “One of them is my mistress”. Just like that the chance to ride a new BMW, Ron’s daily commuter was at hand. What a friend, what a host. Thank you Ron Dawson for making my weekend a GO.
Above: The old Port Photo: Ron Dawson
Ron’s place Photo: Ron Dawson
Green for GO: Happy boy. Photo: Ron Dawson
Dawson's Mistress, Montreal PQ