Usually whenever I get up in the four o'clock am period of the day, it's to catch an early morning flight to somewhere whenever I rarely go on vacation. Take last year, late August. I had to get up at such a time to catch a plane to San Diego, my first international vacation somewhere. Aerial photos of that early morning plane flight on Flickr.
This morning, it was for school. On a beautiful Sunday, May 24 2009.
No, I didn't have school that day. I was awfully far in my community involvement hours, and the Ottawa Marathon provided a perfect opportunity to gain those missing diploma achievers. Unfortunately it meant I had to get up that early to be at school to get ready so I could be at the proper location at 6 am.
At the time, I'd gotten into the habit of riding my bike to school. I'd ride up to Fallowfield, then get to Woodroffe and head straight to Norice Street, which connected to Viewmount and school. This morning, however, was different.
I got on a bike donated to me by my best friend Duncan, which was a fast street bike. I was able to virtually ride down the middle of the deserted Greenbank Road to Fallowfield with no traffic, it being five o'clock and the sun barely rising. The sky was a marine-blue color, not black but brightening. I had a backpack and camera with me. I sailed down the empty Fallowfield Road and turned onto Woodroffe, easily using the turning lane reserved for motor vehicles. This is where I got an idea to use a shortcut.
This Sunday marked the day I decided to use a completely different bike route altogether. It marked the first day for me to use this route. Actually, it was the first day for me to use a part of this route and then use it properly later on. Heading up Woodroffe, I noticed this dirt road. I'd seen it hundreds of times but never thought of where it led. Of course it obviously led toward the community that was nestled within the woods, but I'd never been through it before. Thinking it would get me to Merivale Road quicker, curiosity got me and I peddled my finely-tuned street bike onto the dirt road. Noticing an old brick house sitting within the trees, I then entered this grassy path that went straight ahead. Dawn was just barely breaking. My bike wasn't exactly made for the lumpy, grassy ground, and bugs buzzed around me. The wet marsh made it humid. Eventually, though, I came onto this clean street. My street bike was on the ground it was named after. A park appeared to my right.
It was like that scene in the movie Big Fish, where the main character goes through a harsh woods complete with huge spiders to then suddenly come upon this hidden, beautiful town called Spectre. Except the power lines in my instance weren't supporting dozens of shoes.
In my case I'd obviously entered a sequestered community called Grenfell Glen, and I was on a street called Burnbank. But then, why didn't I go down the street called Grenfell? It actually began at Woodroffe! This is why I said earlier that I would later use this new found, quicker route properly.
I quickly made it down to the aforementioned Grenfell street and it got me to Merivale in two minutes. My teacher friends had told me prior that one of my previous teachers lived on the street I'd come onto. But I didn't stop because it would be quite rude of me to wake him up at quarter after five in the morning. I got to Merivale and continued northward, riding in the middle of the northbound lane. It was quite peaceful. Before passing the Merivale Arena, I stopped to take a few photos of the rising sun:
I finally arrived at school to find a small crowd of people at the front. Some I knew, most I actually didn't (not usual). I think the reason for that was because 80% of them were grade nines eager to get a head start on getting their hours. Where was I in grade nine? Peacefully sleeping in, no doubt. I got my name checked while feeling a certain scrutiny from a girl I did know (same one mentioned in the General Bus story). The teacher in charge of organizing this whole thing opened her trunk to reveal hundreds of donuts, but I took none. I had my own packed in my bag.
The three other people I was going to be with at my location were getting a car ride from the parents of one of them. I was going to obviously take my handy street bike that had served me so well on the roads and the misty trail that had connected me with Woodroffe and Grenfell Glen (kind of). It was a great opportunity for me to do a few other things. I continued up Viewmount drive in the early morning sunshine and took this opportunity to do something I hadn't done since I was a young child: I took the route I took home that I used to take when I went to elementary school.
I continued up Chesterton, entered General Burns park, and came to Benson Street. This was the famously rough street I walked/rode up everyday from grade three to grade six. I should mention that if my bike had a conscious, it would recognize the scenery too; Duncan used to ride near here to get to school back then too.
Soon, after heading up Inverness Avenue to Wigan, I entered the parking lot. This was parking lot intended for the tenants of the apartment buildings and townhouses, of which I used to live. Entering a familiar courtyard, I stopped to look at my old unit. The ol' unit 14. If it had been nine years ago, I would have been just getting up to come out and ride my bike around in the morning dewy grass. Reliving those memories for a second, I paused before continuing onwards toward Fisher Avenue. My destination was the intersection of Hog's Back Road and Colonel By Drive. My friends were heading there too, in a vehicle. I rode eastward until I came to the traffic island, then parked my bike against a traffic light post. A minute later the car carrying my comrades arrived. Road barriers were piled nearby, and we soon put them up.
The rest of the immediate day was spent at that traffic island with those people. Official trucks drove by, runners passed us, and more than dozens of civilians asked us if this was the halfway point, of which we never knew. I spent most of the time reading. One or two camera vans drove by. If I was caught on TV, I would have been sitting there with a book in my lap, looking furious. It wasn't my fault the sun was in my face and I had to squint. I was protected by a hat and dark sun shades that attached to my glasses. This wasn't beneficial to my father's friend when I recognized him and he wondered what the adolescent was doing staring at him. I was trying to see if he was indeed someone I properly recognized.
It all ended at around 1 or 2 pm. Twenty after anyway. I rode my bike homeward, taking the exact same route (well I went down Grenfell but it was direct enough). It was weird afterward, because I felt that the day was mostly done with, when it was only partly way through. The early morning wake-up call and sightseeing really took my sense of time away. It was actually quite nice. I liked seeing the sun come up, riding my bike down empty roads, discovering new sights (except the woody trail, but even that was interesting) and being part of the major event. I took many photos (lots on Flickr) and overall the experience was cool. All on a Sunday morning. Reminds me of the Madness song:
Sunday School and Sunday roast
Sunday papers Sunday post
Sunday morning Sunday rest
Sunday sermon Sunday best
It was the day of many firsts for me - the first time I took part in that kind of event; the first time I took a shortcut and improved my time; the longest distance I'd ridden that bike; the first time I'd been a few places like my old house and taken my old route in a long time; and the longest time I ever spent on a traffic island. Plus it was the earliest I'd gotten up on a Sunday. For school.
It's not a bad story and it's why I'm putting it here. I have some good memories of it. It was a beautiful day, and I loved the morning. I wish I got up earlier like that everyday. I used to get up at six a.m. for school each day, but now in college I get up a lot later.
We were on that island from 6 am to 1 pm. The girl at the right stood the entire time
Good times it was.