_Captain’s Log, StarDate 2007.10.07-00.23_
(…continued) We got out of Old Quebec City and stopped for fuel. I quickly called up my parents and MDFs (My Dear Friends 😉 ) to facilitate the birthday rites. After that, it was a long drive back to Montreal, on a dark, virtually empty road (everybody else was headed in the opposite direction on the other side of the median and we couldn’t see them because of the trees). The open road ahead, the night sky above, the steering wheel in my hands, driving through woods and through open fields, lounge music playing softly in the background… I couldn’t possibly ask for more at midnight on my birthday!
The sleep soon started catching up, and since we were driving alone through forests in the pitch dark, what better way to stay awake than to swap ghost stories. That woke everyone up! After a few hours of driving with my right foot stuck in one position on the accelerator pedal, I decided to give the cruise control a try (autopilot, if you prefer… basically driving at a set speed without having to keep your foot on the accelerator). It was insane! The speedometer needle was stuck on the set speed, no matter what… curves, upslopes, downslopes… nothing would budge the speed of the car. I could see the tachometer needle moving and feel the brakes engaging as the computer made adjustments. The feeling of not being in control of the car, at that speed, in the dark, especially being in the driver’s seat, was totally crazy! I’m adding cruise control to my list of things that should not have been invented.
After reading the user manual the next morning, I found out that amongst other cool things, the cruise control allowed incrementing/decrementing the set speed of the car “in steps of 1.6 km/h”! I also found (as I had suspected, but not dared experimenting with) that the car is equipped with a manual transmission mode, in which you can use the automatic gear shift lever to tap up and down through gears. For me, it was like being given a World War I airplane and being told that it can fly at supersonic speeds. The best part was that there was no clutch pedal, so (atleast in my imagination) this qualifies as a sequential transmission – every rally driver’s dream come true!
At around 2.30 at night we stopped for coffee and french fries (what else can you expect in hamburger land?). We arrived without incident back at the hotel at about 4 in the morning. The rest of the group headed to their beds immediately, but the F1 Chinese Grand Prix was on live and I watched the last 20 laps or so of it on the plasma TV in the hotel lounge. The perfect way to end a perfect day (night).
I didn’t particularly have any plans for Sunday morning, except that I wanted to visit the Temple, and for that I had kept the car for one more day. I woke up around mid-morning and called up Vic (Victor), something that I had been putting off for too long. I picked him up at the metro station in the evening (yes, I drove on the streets of Montreal alone!). We managed to find our way to the Temple with some difficulty. After that we headed to Jean-Talon for an early and very filling Indian dinner. It took us quite a while to get there, even with printed directions. I was basically zipping through intersections and not giving Vic any time to read the street names or anything 🙂 Infact, he was quite surprised to find that I was driving at all – he had learnt driving in Canada, and his style is accordingly, well, conservative. I learnt about quite a few arcane traffic rules from him as well – these guys think of everything.
We managed to find our way to Vic’s place, which is one bedroom in an old, small, square little house in a quiet locality. There are old, small, square little houses and a lot of parallel-parked cars on either side of the street… and a lot of trees. The house is nice and cozy with wood panel flooring, brick walls, a hatstand and old paintings. Vic’s room was more than a mess than it used to be. They have a couch facing a recess in the wall which neatly accomodates the entertainment center – TV, music system, PS2 and phone. We decided to go to a nearby afterhour club at about 1.30. We killed some time taking photos of the house cat and playing Tekken on his PlayStation2. I beat him 3 times in a row, but overall he must have beat me about 300 times…
When we headed out at night, it was pouring down like crazy. On somebody’s recommendation, we made our way to Aria, only to find that it had been closed down in 2006. I dropped Vic home and actually managed to drive back to the hotel at 3 in the morning, in the driving rain, with occasional glances at the map lying on the passenger’s side seat, thanks to my funky new map-light 😎 It was more than a risk than I would ideally have taken, but there are some things in life you can do only once… and live to talk about next to a warm fire on a winter evening.