Thursday, May 20, 2010

Speed: distance over time

One of the things I love about my scooter is the freedom it affords.

I can go anywhere my car would take me, and then much more.

Why much more?
  • Because I can stop and park in places my car won't let me. In fact, parking is available pretty much anywhere I care to stop.
  • I can roam and roam with hardly a concern for the rising cost of gas.
  • Riding twisting roads on the scooter is just plain fun.
  • Even stops signs and red lights are fun, since I get to glide to a stop, then glide off again. A little like landing, and taking off, over and over.
  • Riding focuses my mind in ways driving doesn't. Fewer distractions, more to concentrate on, more to experience.
Basically, it's all about distance and time and the way the scooter changes the way I experience them.

In the past lunch hour used to mean choosing which food court to walk to.

All last summer, BIXI bikes expanded my range. Old Montreal, the Plateau, the Atwater Market became lunch venues. Life on two wheels was just beginning. This year, my Vespa blows most roaming limits away. I can cover substantial distances in no time.

So last Thursday I zipped down to St-Helen's Island and Ile Notre Dame on my lunch hour.

The view of the downtown skyline from the north side of St-Helen's Island is completely unobstructed. One of man's great tributes to distance and speed is the Grand Prix circuit. Montreal is once again on the circuit and the F1 race will be held on the course at Ile Notre Dame in a few short weeks.

Time and distance are relative. The earth travels around the sun at more than 66,000 miles an hour and at Montreal's latitude the speed of rotation at the surface is approximately 700 miles an hour and yet we don't really have any way to experience all that speed. My average speed on the Vespa is perhaps 30 miles an hour, yet when I ride I feel like I'm flying.

Riding my Vespa around the the F1 circuit on my lunch hour: priceless. Friday evening I experienced another dimension of time and distance.

The town of Beaconsfield where I live is home to Canada's only true military cemetery. It's a few miles from my home. I've been going there off and on since I can remember. My grandfather who fought in World War I is buried there. I remember going to the Armistice ceremony with my parents and my grandmother when I was three or four years old.11:00 a.m., November 11. Unfailingly the coldest, dampest, dreariest most mournful day of any given year. Standing there as a child, the chill wind very uncomfortable, me holding my mother's hand. The lone bugler playing the last post. Slowly. So slow. So lonely. So sad. Time seemed to stand still. Until the rifles fired the twenty-one gun salute and the ceremony crawled to an end.

That military cemetery is today almost exactly as it was when I was four.

I rode over on the Vespa last evening. I was the only one there. Fitting.
The modest tombstones are set into the ground. Like the dead on a battlefield. A fittingly humble tribute to men and women who sacrificed life most precious for the greater good.
Being there makes me feel like a time traveller. Me as a young child, as a teen, as an adult, as a father, and now evenutally approaching retirement.
I, always growing... older, and this place, frozen in time.

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The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.