Silver Dawn

150mphThere are rods for our backs and for our eyes, and cones for smoking and seeing. Rods distinguish shapes, cones determine colour. In the hour before dawn the rods rule – there are shapes without colour, silver and shadow, steel and coal.

Time for a ride.

I cable-tied the broken headlight bracket on the Moto Guzzi and turned the key. Two stabs on the button and the neighbour’s dogs started barking. Out of Pacific Court and along the drive which skirts the Coral Coast. It’s just light enough to see without the headlight. Engine not yet warm, Staintunes singing, the tide going out and silver breaking waves vanishing into black when they strike the rocks.

Just as there are the Seven Seas, in this part of Australia we know what’s called the Four Galore: the Pacific Ocean, the Coral Sea, Hervey Bay, and Bargara Beach. But I had to leave the coast now, and turn inland. There was a yellow glow to the west – curious, when the sun normally rises in the east. Then I realised it was a cane fire, and the Moto Guzzi turned towards it. A sugarcane fire at night! This was a spectacle. Flames leapt five metres into the air, and the smell of soot was stronger than the aroma of two-stroke fuel at a GP. I stopped, had a cigarette ( no use wasting smoke) and turned back to the sun.

The V50 is wonderful for this sort of riding – ambling along narrow roads through the canefields, relaxed, and still letting you know that you’re riding an Italian bike with soul. Yellow patches in the sky now. The Guzzi turned north again when we hit Evans Head, and then the V50 got it into its head that it had been ambling for a while and now wanted a bit of a gallop. So it was tearing through the dawn when we got back to Pacific Court, and the dogs started barking.

v50I parked the bike and made a coffee. The sun’s not above the horizon yet but colours are defining themselves – the red of the unwelded headlight bracket, the gold of the Vat 69 in the glass, and the rainbow of the lorikeet on the umbrella tree.

In the human eye the rods are more numerous than the cones. There are about 120 million of them, compared with six to seven million cones. So there’s a 20 to 1 chance of being more sensitive to shapes than colour in our lives.

That’s just one reason for ignoring the flashing blue lights of the local police car if you’re caught, very early in the pre-dawn morning, riding without your headlight on, while blating along at 160kph through the Bundaberg backroads.

– Hendrik Gout

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