Joined: Jul 2007
Day 3: Monday 8/23/10-Oxbow Lake, NY to Val-díOr, QC, 498 miles
I never pack an alarm clock, no need. Iíve always believed it best not to let the day start without you, so Iím generally up and involved in something at what most people consider an ungodly hour. The deep lines radiating from the corners of my eyes are as much from squinting into that sun coming up over the horizon as anythingÖlordy, Iíve seen many a sunrise.
Bootcamp haircut and minimal personal items unpacked, it doesnít take much time to get ready. Still a light rain falling this morning, and I take some time to spread the days maps out on the bed and just refresh my memory on the route. Ok, got it, and at the same time I hear the Harley cruiser boys stirring around outside. Now fives bikes there, they were getting into their rain gear for the ride back to western Pennsylvania. They were supposed to be back yesterday, but quit because of the rain. Even though not a HD product, they were interested in the bike and wanted to know all about it, amused that it had a Buell headlight, the lone connection to HD.
Gear still damp from yesterday, but nothing more I can do with it, and Iím northbound again into alternating mist and light rain. Highway 8 is an interesting road with no traffic on it, and I make the ride up to Speculator without seeing another vehicle.
I planned to stop at the first sport shop I came across to hopefully find a different antifog for my shield, the stuff I had with me just wasnít working. Speculator has a boat/atv/snow machine dealer right when you enter town. Looked closed, but when I try the door itís unlocked so I waltz right in and do the ďAnybody home?Ē thing. The owner is there, friendly guy, and when I present the problem, he has what I need. ďWhat all the guys around here use in the winter, good stuff, just a couple drops does it.Ē Good, Iíll take two. I bum a soft piece of toweling and make the first application.
On 30 north now and Iíll ride this road all the way up through TupperLake. Antifog working and I can see where Iím going. I wouldnít mind a bit if the rain would stop, but at least itís not pouring like yesterday. From what I can see on top of the Adirondack summits, itís not over yet.
I had been in the Adirondacks before, but mainly on the east side where my wife had family that had been there for generations. The west side was a little different flavor of the same theme. The small towns I ride through illustrate the steady gentrification of one of the former bastions of hippiedom. You can see it everywhere as old homes are renovated, or remodeled, sometimes undoing ill-conceived modifications that only someone on silly mushrooms would have ever considered. Conversations once dominated by discussions of wood stove efficiency and quilting have been replaced by heated debates on the subjects of Cuban cigars and domestic wines.
Through Tupper Lake, an Adirondack town that has a surprising almost industrial appearance in parts, and west on highway 3 to the intersection with 56, a lonely road this morning. It isnít that early, but I ride most of the distance to the first small community before I see another vehicle. On to Potsdam, a college town, with students everywhere, moving back in for the fall semester. Maybe the scraggly old guy with no shoes standing on the curb at the SUNY campus wasnít a student, but who knows, coulda been.
I did meet a very good looking co-ed who nearly ran into me head on with her convertible while driving the wrong way on a one way street. I said ďHellooooo!Ē and she said ďOh shiiiiit!Ē. Must have been pretty loud, I could hear her with my earplugs in. Close call, but as I slowly ease by her on the right, perched high in the ER6 saddle, Iím thinkiní ďOh baby, your pretty face ainít your best feature, plusÖno braĒ. What she had goes a long way towards making you forget about a head on collision. I should probably get out of this town, and Iím runniní for the border.
North to Messina, then east to the Cornwall turnoff, and Iím parked at the Canada Customs window in no time. There was no one in line, and the young Customs officer was taking his time, probably fighting off boredom. No problem with me, the sun had come out and I was taking a break while enjoying a friendly conversation on this and that. A car came up in line and the guy said ďOff you go, have a good tripĒ, and I was officially back in Canuckistan.
I stop at the visitor center, get a free map of Ontario, but have to pay for a map of Quebec. A free map of Quebec is what I really wanted since I was going to be in Ontario for all of a couple hours. Out the door and riding up 138 across farmland and through some small towns. Stop at Timmies for lunch and fuel. Afterwards, I have a long conversation with a Harley Sportster rider on his way home from his summer place on a lake about 350 miles west. This is my first fuel stop in Canada and an immediate reminder that there are no gas-n-go stops for me up here. I donít know if itís the bike, or they just want to talk to a Yank for a change, but Iím some kind of magnet for the Canuckistanians. Probably a combination of factors, I just canít say for sure.
The farther north towards the river and the Quebec border I get, I more I see of a French Canadian influence. The architecture is different, the color schemes are different, and the changes are easy to discern if youíre looking. I find highway 8 and, whoa, a whole stretch of sometimes rough gravel road under construction. Not a big challenge for the ER6 and Iím through and on to the next town. I lose the 8 direction signs at an intersection and stop to ask a very pregnant young lady for directions. She is all smiles, very proud of her belly, and might have talked to me for the rest of the afternoon. My road is right around the corner and I follow it all the way to the obscure ferry landing at Clarence.
This short ferry takes you across the Ottawa river to Thurso, QC and provides an excellent ride around if you are headed this direction and donít feel like riding through Ottawa. The ferry is fast so Iím quickly on board and weíre headed back across the river.
The ferryman is a pleasant Frenchman with halting English, but a compensating huge smile. Twelve days later in Nova Scotia, I would meet a man who knew him.
Through Thurso, and now Iím running west on highway 148 back towards Buckingham where Iíll connect to 309 and ride north. When I get to the area where the 309 turnoff is located I find road construction and detours, a real mess in heavy traffic. If there was a way to get on 309, I missed it in the confusion and now I know Iím too far west. I pull over in a business area, a mix of retail and office storefronts, pull out my map and try to figure out where I am. WTF, I donít have a clue.
Just then, a BMW pulls in and parks right in front of me. A woman steps out, soft leather briefcase in hand, andÖman-o-man was she gorgeous, welcome to Quebec. She goes into an office, but only five minutes later sheís back out and walking to her car. Hmmm, what are the chances that she can give this lost Yank some directions? I didnít think it would be appropriate to yell, so when she was looking at me I waved my Quebec road map a little. I could see a split second of indecision, but then she walked right over.
She started addressing me in French from a distance of ten feet. I donít know enough French to say much of anything, and by the time she was three feet from me, I couldnít speak English either. She was doing her best with limited English to explain to me where I needed to go to catch that road north. Me, I was just doing a little pointing and trying not to stare. Ok, weíre set, I thank her, and she leaves with a smile and a little wave. Only certain women can do that wave, but she was one.
I did learn a few things from her and I was very grateful. I found out where I was and how to get to where I needed to go. Secondly, I found out that it was not necessary for a beautiful business woman in Quebec to wear undergarments of any kind, and that a lack of undergarments did not preclude wearing semi sheer clothing. I was in a foreign country and these kinds of cultural distinctions were important to know. Thirdly, I found out that if the molecules from a beautiful Quebec womanís perfume happened to land on your riding gear, they are guaranteed to stay stuck there for about 24 hours.
I have my directions and intersect 309 above Buckingham. Once clear of the city, the road is a pleasant ride north toward Mont-Laurier where Iíll turn west. Stop for fuel and this time the conversation is with the owner in half French and half English, ďI own this place, no, no, the bank owns this place, yes, and I just work here.Ē
When I make the turn west at Mont-Laurier, I stop and look at the map. Man, itís still a hike to Val-díOr, and I donít know if Iíll make it before dark. I probably shouldnít have talked to that French woman down by Gatineau for so longÖnaw, Iíll ride in the dark before Iíll trade that away. I get serious about the run up highway 17 as the sun gets lower. The afternoon has been just about perfect for riding and going up 17 you get the feeling that this road is an introduction to the North country. Highway 17 twists through some lake country and it was obvious that the water level was very low, maybe as much as 8í low on some bodies of water.
I approach a fuel stop that was supposed to be there, but itís closed, taken private. This is not good, and since I had a fuel mileage index on the last stop I knew that Iíd have trouble making the top of the road. Once again, those little dots on the map donít mean fuel. I still hadnít added extra fuel, only planning to do that after Val-díOr. The only thing to do was to keep riding and I slowed way down to stretch it out.
I stop to ask a trucker that was checking his load, ďOh, not far, not far.Ē The fuel light had been on for 25 miles when I saw a station ahead. Damn, closed for the day and not a solitary soul around. I circle around the buildings to see if I missed anything, nobody home. I pulled up to the pump and shut the bike off, Iím not going anywhere. I was there about ten minutes when a guy comes out of one of the buildings and stops to put his boots on. When I walk over and ask if I can buy some fuel, he just points back to the pumps. Does this mean yes or no? It turned out to be yes, and he opened things up so I could get my fuel. Thanks, my friend. By the time I was ready to ride again, it was dark.
Piaas switched on and I caught another break when I was able to follow a truck all the way into Val-díOr. That big truck was my moose catcher and was running 70. Checked into the hotel and had a great meal and a few beers sitting right at the bar. Almost a 500 mile day, but a fine day to be out on the road. An even bigger run north tomorrow and I sure hope the weather holds.
(To be continuedÖ)