The Prairies are, to put it simply, rather big. And the roads across them can be a little, well, straight.
The result of all of this is that you can see what is going to happen for a long way in front of you.
This, I discovered on a trip across Canada on the motorcycle, years ago which, of course, took us across the Prairies.
Now, seeing the future can be fun – after all, driving west toward the Rockies was as beautiful as you might expect, the mountains growing as you drove closer and closer and revealing themselves in all their wild beauty, kilometre by kilometre.
And so, driving west brings its own feast for the eyes, which is great because, did I mention that the roads were straight? If you ever wanted to make a motorcycle tyre square instead of the round it works best as, the roads across the Prairies are a great place to be. Of course, there is beauty and grandeur there, and cops in very fast cars, and, unless you are very careful, a soporific effect.
It’s like this: when mile after mile, or kilometre after kilometre, is the same, with no bends in the road (yes, of course there are bends. Every hundred kilometres or so), you stop being as attentive as you should, and that is dangerous. Always and whatever you are doing.
My driving instructor, way back in the dim and distant past, was, when sitting next to me whilst I drove, always hyper-vigilant, even when (I dare say) I got quite good. I asked him once if he ever relaxed when giving lessons and he told me that he had, just once, when he was giving lessons in Australia. It was a long, straight road and he imagined nothing could happen in the next while, there was nothing there. But it turned out that in the very moment he relaxed the student veered off into the ditch at the side of the road, because, well, who knows. We’ll get to target fixation one day.
Always be attentive then, even on the long straight roads, because those ditches can jump out at you.
So that was driving west and, after many adventures on the west coast, of necessity there’s the drive back east.
East is a different kind of drive altogether. There are no mountains in front of you to stir the attention and the imagination, there’s just road. For many many miles in front of you, there’s road. You can see the future and it’s, well, road.
Except on this occasion it was road and rain. It was relentless, wet, big and you could see that it lasted very, very far into the future. Possibly for days. Still, on we rode and wetter we got. If you’ve ever had to wring out a pair of leather gloves, and then put them back on, you’ll understand how I was feeling.
This was in the days before GPS and so there wasn’t even a clue as to where we might find shelter. So when a settlement popped up I headed off and found a Home Hardware in the hope of getting something to warm my hands.
This is where the rubber gloves came in, because the nice lady behind the counter, and other people in front of it, started chatting with the poor biker (this happens a lot) and someone suggested that we put some rubber gloves on “you know, the kind that you wash dishes with”) underneath our leather gloves. Keep your hands dry, and when your hands are dry much of the misery is at the very least diminished. We bought (and wore) some, thanked everyone profusely and off we went again.
The hands did stay dry, and to this day I carry a pair of rubber gloves wherever I ride.
Still, the rain continued for the foreseeable future.