And just like that, summer ended.
I watched it fade away in the rearview mirror on my way home from a cottage my family rents in the Kawarthas.
As I drove along the back roads, the crisp, coloured leaves that had fallen from the trees with that last cold snap of weather whipped up along the wheels of my car, as if ushering in a new season, before I was finished with the old one.
The open road opened my mind. I got to thinking about the summer that was, and how some of the best memories I experienced involved driving alongside some truly remarkable characters.
June started with a harness race around Grand River Raceway in a double-seated sulky next to the talented (and slightly insane) driver Bob McClure, which is truly a trip like no other. Seat a woman who has a healthy respect (we call “fear”) next to a daredevil with a propensity to enjoy freaking out his co-pilot, and you have a team that knows sometimes it’s just way more fun to lose. From first place to dead last, it was a blast. Adrenaline and dirt in your teeth; what more can a writer ask for?
July included the epic adventure of Dragon Boat racing at Guelph Lake. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I’d be the drummer at the helm of the boat, cheering on my friends, competing alongside the Carpenter on the hottest day of summer. One really appreciates the sheer power of momentum when people paddle together. I had a profound respect for the 20 paddlers before me, and a renewed crush on my spouse. Awesome.
But one of my favourite moments in August was riding in an antique fire truck alongside my friend Larry Mason. We met in the spring when I did a story on the importance of organ donation. Larry is a heart-transplant recipient and an inspiration of how the gift of the life is best repaid by paying it forward, encouraging other people to consider organ donation.
After I met Larry, I filled in my own organ donation form and told the Carpenter my wishes. I’m glad I did.
Larry shares my love of the automobile, so when he invited me to take a tour around Centre Wellington in a 1934 fire truck, a working piece of Fergus history that he helped to restore and proudly maintains, I was honoured. Larry is a class act and a proud retired volunteer firefighter. He loves that truck and I understand why. I am lucky to have met him, and have the chance to tag along for a ride. Kindred spirits.
There were sentimental moments this summer too; driving down familiar roads, chasing sunsets with my kids, taking my Aunt Dee Dee through the countryside just because it makes her happy. Or riding shotgun with my friend who had never crossed the covered bridge in West Montrose, which everyone should do.
September began with a solo ride in a kayak on a still lake in the early morning. Sacred time.
Life is a ride, that’s for sure. But when the distance fades off in my rearview mirror I am left with the memory of the characters I’ve met and the experiences I’ve shared.
That makes the view ahead all the more worthwhile.