This piece first appeared August 2018 in Nr.39 of International Sidecar Traveller

night ride

 

The sun has already set when I reach Lost Lake Road. I pass through Dee as the light fades away. The old school house looms at the corner, then it is gone. I turn south, past the fire station. Mt. Hood floats above the orchards, a lighter smudge in the darkening night sky. The road goes west again and drops into a forested canyon, the trees closing in above.

There is a rhythm to the road. It twists and turns, and I dance with it. As each corner approaches I roll off the throttle and I brake to slow, sometimes more, sometimes less, depending upon the turn, my line of sight, the road surface. The big twin burbles with compression. I drag some front brake into the turn, even as I begin to twist the throttle. I pass the apex and the road opens up in front me. I open the throttle wide, releasing the front brake. The bike leaps forward with a joyful roar; I clutch and shift into fourth, picking up speed. I dim my headlight as several cars approach, stragglers leaving Lost Lake for town. Then I am alone again. Corners come and go. I shift down and brake, accelerate out and shift up again for each turn of the road. My engine sings in the night and my heart keeps beat with the song. There is a rhythm to the road!

Almost without warning the faint light of dusk is extinguished, leaving me enveloped by a dark, moonless night. My headlight pierces the blackness. The beam forms a moving tunnel of light. The road directly in front of me is visible, sometimes for hundreds of yards, sometimes only a short distance before it twists out of the light. Along the edges trees flash by, those closest to me lit in sharp detail, those farther out blurred and indistinct, shadows of the forest I cannot see.

I turn off the lake road onto a narrow, one lane strip of pavement, more like a go-cart track than a road. I am alone on this winding path climbing into the mountains. Backing off the throttle the tempo slows. The corners are closer together, the forest denser. It is black, black, black out tonight. Moths flutter in great swarms, each individual discrete and brilliant white in my lights. They seem to streak past my visor, but it is I who am hurtling through this cloud of insects. Night birds and bats dive down to prey upon the moths. I see them arc and loop in front of me, swooping out of my path at the last moment to disappear into the opaque void which surrounds me.

There is movement in the shadows, just at the boundary of my view, and I slow. A doe steps out of the trees and pauses in the road, looking towards me before crossing, stately and unhurried, into the woods and out of sight.

My senses are alive. I feel each pocket of warmth, each pool of cold air as I push the bike through the night. I round a bend and I smell fresh cut firs and pass huge logging machinery, hulking shadows at the side of the road. I fill my lungs with the spiced air and then it is gone, only the road and the shadowy forest remains.

I swing around a downed tree laying across the pavement and turn left onto an old spur road. Finally, I am approaching my camp.downed tree

The lights flash across white canvas, then go out as I switch off the ignition and park the bike in a small clearing. I have arrived. I dismount and feel my way to the ring of rocks where I left a pile of tinder. I strike a match and hold it to the nest of twigs and Spanish moss. Flame leaps joyfully through the sticks and I pile on slightly larger branches until the fire is established and burning well. Amber light flickers along massive tree trunks and I let my gaze drift up to the sky above me, filled with stars.

But here, where I sit, there is only this circle of light cast by the campfire. Beyond it is nothing, only black, black, black. My motorcycle is parked just at the edge of the light, invisible but for the chrome, glinting and reflecting the firelight. The rhythm of the ride fades with the ticking of the engine cooling in the dark. Somewhere, not far, I hear an owl. I ease into the rhythm of the night.     Flame leaps joyfully through the sticks

 

 

 

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