Riding implements

While bicycling – as is my wont – into the depths of St. George Street this morning (a modest deviation intended to prolong the outing) I noticed on more than one lawn an assembly of miniature bicycles and toy cars, things for children to ride about upon. They all had pedals so the propulsion would afford the cyclist or driver a moderate level of exercise. The real advantage naturally was the fun of doing so.  It is this lasting element of vehicular conveyance which captivates me to this day. The once youthful urge for mechanical movement has grown into a full-fledged passion for driving.

I have known those who prefer race cars.  I have regularly seen snowmobilers along the roads and trails. The sharp improvement of the weather has provoked the equally sudden arrival of racing cyclists as well, people (usually middle aged men or younger) in spandex material and colourful, striped jerseys reminiscent of the Tour de France. My own appearance as a cyclist is far less sartorial, being instead strictly convenient and comfortable. There was a time when I wore a stretchy black short with the padded leather interior seat, the whole severally ripped on the right side following a fall and slide along a muddy sidewalk. It was my red badge of courage, ornamented by a metal chain wrapped about my waist with a lock conjoining the two ends. My shirt, if and when I wore one, was probably just a white T-shirt, I can’t recall.

By some standards it was late in life before I regularly began driving an automobile.  Few of us in undergraduate studies drove cars.  There was Bill Mulock and Jamie Sifton – the progeny of two well known Toronto families – who had their own exotic vehicles.  In law school it was only Jock McLeish who had his own car – again a muscle car, an emerald green Pontiac GTO. Apparently his family had money too.  For the rest of us – most of whom lived in residence at university rather than at home with our parents – there was simply no need for a car. Eventually however when studying for the bar admission at Osgoode Hall my father bought me my first car, a 4-cylinder Mustang with standard transmission.

Sir William Mulock, PC PC (Can) KCMG QC (January 19, 1843 – October 1, 1944) was a Canadian lawyer, businessman, educator, farmer, politician, judge, and philanthropist. He served as vice-chancellor of the University of Toronto from 1881 to 1900, negotiating the federation of denominational colleges and professional schools into a modern university.

He was elected to the House of Commons of Canada as a Liberal Member of Parliament and served from 1882 to 1905. Sir Wilfrid Laurier appointed him to the Canadian Cabinet as Postmaster General from 1896 to 1905. In 1900, Mulock established the Department of Labour, bringing William Lyon Mackenzie King into public life as his Deputy Minister.

After being called to the Bar in March of 1975 I spent the next 39 years working for a living. Primarily I ran my own solo law practice because I couldn’t work with others and they couldn’t work with me.  It meant I hadn’t time for the luxury of driving a car.  It was only late in my career when for whatever reason I began feeling more comfortable about things that I developed the habit of getting my car washed at 4:00 am in Stittsville where there was a 24/7 “touchless” car wash. The early adventure gave me the opportunity to drive my car and enjoy the pleasure of getting it cleaned; while at the same time not interrupting my work duties or any other obligations late in the day. The habit lasted until I retired in 2014.  It was among the few last times I drove in the middle of the night when headlamps and automatic high beams were used.

What however markedly changed was my sublime enjoyment of driving.  I soon accentuated the frequency and length of my drives to approximately 1,000 Km per week. This altered when we went south for the winter (because I did not drive as much on Hilton Head Island or Longboat Key) but the distance was maintained because of the drive there and back.

I suspect the character of my driving will change as I age and as electric vehicles become more standard and expected. If we’re not driving long distances, the value of certain types of cars to which we are accustomed will change as well.  For example I see nothing wrong with a Mini Countryman for short-distance use.

The Mini Countryman is a subcompact luxury crossover SUV, the first vehicle of this type to be launched by BMW under the Mini marque. It was launched in 2010 and received a facelift in 2014. The second generation vehicle came out in 2017.

I recall Rev. Geo. Bickley of St. Paul’s Anglican Church was disheartened to learn that for medical reasons he could no longer drive. My late father drove about the neighbourhood where he lived at 5 mph before he finally succumbed to the reality of his incompetence (which was crystallized when he drove into the centre post of the garage). As such I regard the descent to a Mini but a privilege and one which completes the cycle from childhood.