No peeking! Writer Clark shoo’s the paparazzi away from his ‘private’ road.. Click image to enlarge
Article and photo by Michael Clark
I want to tell you about this road I found with the Virago. But I can’t.
Please don’t take it the wrong way. It’s nothing you did, or didn’t do. I’ve never been one to keep secrets; being an automotive journalist is more about digging them up than sweeping them under the carpet. There are no gates on this roadway. There isn’t a toll, or hours of operation. This is simply a road that I have never touched before. Not on foot, behind the wheel, or as a passenger. I touched it for the first time aboard the Virago. It’s mine.
I’m sure that these imaginary deeds of ownership exist for other riders. I’ve had the privilege to drive down many of North America’s fabled ribbons of concrete and asphalt. My favourite drive continues to be the Pacific Coast Highway, between San Francisco and Los Angeles. However, I wonder if the ride would be the same. It’s not that the PCH is a bore; you would probably want a return trip as a passenger to drink in the deep blue waters. To go there now, aboard a Virago or any motorcycle, would almost seem weak. Been there, done that, here’s your t-shirt. It’s been done.
Most roads in and around Winnipeg are anything but ‘epiphany’. This opinion was based on the fact that every road that I’ve pointed the Virago down up until this stretch was performed first behind the wheel of a ‘cage’. The slang reserved for cars and trucks is more than appropriate. You are insulated, detached from the experience by climate controls, 11 speakers, and cruise control to allow you to engage in a deep-fried heart attack called ‘fast food’. You’ve probably heard about the beta tests being performed for automated roadways. Most drivers are leery of relinquishing the control of their vehicle to sensors and computer chips. The fact is, most of them already have.
OK, I’ll give you a few hints. The road is near Winnipeg, much nearer than you would think. It’s not exactly a thoroughfare, nor is it bereft of traffic. There are trees in the beginning stages of the fall colour. There are curves, both mild and sharpened. The speed is higher, yet relaxed. That’s all I’m going to tell you.
What makes it special? The best description in my view is to think of a walk. Not your typical walk to the store, or the neighbourhood Super Mailbox. Think of a Robert Frost, two-roads-diverged-in-a-yellow-wood kind of walk. Now think of it as a very brisk, 80 kilometres per hour kind of walk. All the mental, soul-searching benefits of communing with nature and your inner self; without the annoying sweat of cardiovascular activity.
What is strange about a motorcycle ‘walk’ is how you clear your head without losing control. In a yellow wood on foot, your daydreams might lead to a stumble over a tree root, or slippery leaf. As I applied countersteer and lean, I was amazed at how well the brain can do two completely separate functions, without losing focus. I’m not talking about multi-tasking. Throwing in a cell phone or chicken nugget box would have resulted in this chronicle being written with my mouth holding a pencil for the keyboard taps. The grey matter that was taking care of me and the Virago was making quick work of filing my other thoughts. Eat more fruit, get insoles for my sore feet, trap that squirrel in the attic. And don’t call that girl in London; she tore your heart out and danced on it, you moron. Annnnd, downshift to third.
I’ve gone back to that road a couple of more times. The experience isn’t the same as the first encounter, though it is by no means diminished. The questions that I ask myself now are perhaps more mundane. I bought some apples, my feet are ‘gelling’, and I’ve forgotten all about what’s-her-name. Well, most of her anyway.
As I plot a few more blasts before the onset of the Big Chill, I’ve made special note of highways and Provincial Trunk Roads that I have not yet touched. I’ve had suggestions of which ones to take from other riders. It’s not about the curves, or the hills, or the preferred pebbling of the asphalt. It’s about the clarity, the Zen that can only come from the burble of a straddled V-twin. And that has made all the difference.
Read Michael Clark’s entire series!
Learning to ride a motorcycle: