Early morning riders

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While I won’t for a moment seek to promote the activity as the product exclusively of clean living (for in truth and in keeping with my general psyche it is more in the nature of an obsession), it is one of my personal quirks that at 4:00 o’clock in the morning, before having my breakfast and preparing myself for the office, I regularly take my car to a 24-hour touchless car wash in Stittsville.Two reasons:first (and probably foremost) I like to drive; second, there is seldom a line-up to get through the car wash (a motive which merely nurtures my supreme passion for a clean automobile).Recently I’ve added another perk of slightly lesser appeal to the early morning outing; namely, outstandingly decent and robust black coffee (which today for example was free to the gas station customers).I am always careful to fill only half the cup to avoid spillage in the holder if the car sways on the road.

To those of you who are still sawing the proverbial log at that time of morning, it may astonish you to learn how much traffic there is on the roads at four o’clock in the morning.Predictably much of the circulation is that of transport trucks, especially once I stream onto the four-lane highway from Carleton Place to Ottawa.I have come to learn that the overnight transporters are a hard-working lot and of course they naturally prefer to travel when there is relatively less traffic.Instinctively I never travel above the speed limit and most of the trucks which appear in my rear view mirror are not long in overtaking me.Often the trucks are customized with a plethora of red and yellow lights surrounding the expensive and polished tractor cabs and running the full length of the trailers on both sides.It is easy to appreciate the pride the owner/operators have in their gigantic machines.

Other traffic on the highway appears to be commuters most of whom (normally only one to a car) are apparently in a rush or who imagine that it is far too early to be concerned about a police officer chasing them for speeding.I often speculate what sort of person would be so intent upon heading to work at that time of day.Do they plan to leave the office early?And there are evidently many people in this world who are not constrained by a previous night’s alcoholic indulgence.Like termites there is a world of what is normally unseen activity at four o’clock in the morning.

Before I connect with the four-lane highway I travel from Almonte across the Appleton Side Road, always a pleasant drive even at night.Here, in addition to the encounter of half-ton pickups which clearly find my regulated speed to be plodding and obstructive, I often have to cope with dense fog patches which collect especially in the lower regions of the road.I am obliged to switch to my fog lamps for prudent driving as the high beams merely heighten the already opaque scenery.Then, as suddenly as it appeared, the fog is gone and the clear, dark air is before me again.I amuse myself at this time of day by listening to BBC radio which I find canvasses larger and more insightful views of the world than I have come to expect from the inward-looking reporting of the American radio stations.Occasionally I switch to Bloomberg radio for an update on the universal depressing economic news.After a short while I find that I have heard all the international news there is to hear, and everything thereafter is mere repetition and re-packaging.

Traveling along the Appleton Road is not without its further hazard.There is considerable truth to the observation that deer are particularly prone to wander about at dawn, and always in couples or more.I have conditioned myself to keep a sharp eye for anything which inexplicably irradiates in the distance, usually the eyes of an animal, large or small.

Once I have landed at the gas station where the car wash is, there are routinely many other vehicles already there.Some people are filling their gas tanks; others are getting their java.Most of the denizens are young men, wearing work boots, casually dressed, tousled hair and driving noisy diesel trucks which they cavalierly leave running (and I expect unlocked) while they attend to their personal business inside the store.One needn’t expect much in the way of socialization from these people.At this time of day it’s all about getting there.Agenda and destination are in the air.

The cashier – who is unvaryingly a young man – has obviously been at it all night.He is far too alert and accommodating to have come onto the job only moments ago.His shift is coming to an end.He is always cheery and this morning grins with satisfaction when he tells me the coffee is free today.

Finally I am pointed in the direction of the car wash bay.No one is ahead of me.My prescription is fulfilled.The satellite radio ceases to work inside the bay so I sit back and sip my hot coffee.

Then begins the tour back home.The sky is beginning to lighten.I relish the dry roads, the clean car and the jolt from the coffee.The traffic from Carleton Place into the City has picked up considerably.

That duty is performed.