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Old 09-28-2010, 11:46 AM   #61
jdrocks OP
Gravel Runner
Joined: Jul 2007
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Originally Posted by bumper1871
Great writing,great pictures
thanks. quebec was wonderful, both country and people.

i did meet a montreal native who spoke no French. i didn't feel quite so bad about my lack of language skills after that.
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Old 09-28-2010, 12:11 PM   #62
jdrocks OP
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Day 8: Saturday 8/28/10-Rupert River to Réserve faunique Ashuapmushuan, QC, 359 miles

I was awake at 5, fully rested. There was a light rain falling again, so I’ll wait an hour and see what happens. I couldn’t have given a hoot that my bed was solid rock. I just don’t care anymore about those minor discomforts if I even recognize them at all. I’ve been carrying a sleeping pad around with me for the past two seasons and haven’t used it, no need to bring it next time. I’d slept on the ground for 60 nights each of the past few years, and when I’d get home from those long trips, I’d felt like sleeping on the floor. My wife wasn’t amused.

The sun that I welcomed yesterday afternoon had disappeared and I was back to gray skies, looking like rain at any minute. I had new neighbors in a tent towards the front of the wayside, late arrivals, I never heard any commotion. Bike packed and I idle out to the road, trying not to wake anyone up. There was some truck traffic, I don’t know why I was worried about noise.

The Route du Nord was well marked and I pulled off at the wayside entrance at the beginning just to check my map and verify the distance to fuel. I had just stopped when I got a visit from the “CreeSchool Board”, three older Cree gentlemen in a white pickup. They wanted to know about everything, and if school was in session, I think they would have dragged me over there as a “show-and-tell” specimen. Maybe they sense that I’m interested in what they have to say, I think they would have been glad to park there and entertain me ‘til noon. I’ve got to get goin’, maybe we’ll meet down the road for coffee.

The North Road is well used on the west end and I expected it to be. The Hydro Quebec traffic would use this end of the road to connect with the Baie-James and their operations north.

On and off drizzle, then light rain, I just can’t shake this weather pattern. Graders were working the road, but even though wet, it was in better riding shape than the Trans Taiga…at least to start.

Fires had burned in the area, keeping the landscape thinned.

Very little traffic this morning and I can motor right along eastbound. The “School Board” passes me, everyone waving, they must have stopped somewhere along the road. I thought about going into Nemaska, but the weather was uncertain, and I was determined not to get caught on this road in a driving rain.

Into the fuel pumps at Relais 290 and it’s bike inspection time when all the younger Hydro guys come over for a look, and to chat about the trip. I still haven’t figured out the fascination with seeing a bike out here, maybe there just aren’t that many that come through each season. The café is back near the entrance, and when I get there, I’m waylaid by the Cree.

Six young Cree men had been in for breakfast and were just about to leave in their crewcab truck when I parked, here we go again. These young men spoke just about perfect English, and I’m beginning to think that they’re English speakers to differentiate themselves from the French, and reinforce the fact that they are a separate people. Strangely, or maybe not, it follows the pattern set by French speaking Quebec relative to the remainder of English speaking Canada. There are nuances and undercurrents here that I’m unaware of, but that’s my guess.

These young guys understood the bike, the hows and whys of the build, and really liked the knobby tires and extra fuel, necessary for travel on their gravel roads. When I tell them I slept on top of the old Cree portage down at the Rupert, the conversation takes a turn. Instead of looking at the bike, now these guys are looking at me…appraisingly. I think they were surprised both that this old bike guy from the States would even know about it, and that I would take the trouble to run down there just to camp on the portage.

They all knew of the Albany River to the west, although none of them had been across the Bay to the Cree village located there. I went on to explain our portage mapping efforts in that area of Ontario. I think they were really taken aback that non native people had worked so hard to preserve a part of their heritage.

The mood grew solemn when the subject of Hydro Quebec came up. Quoting the youngest of the bunch “They have done great damage to our lands”. That group had to go and I was chasing breakfast, we parted with handshakes all the way around. The CreeSchool Board must have had their hands on these guys at one time, they were poised and well spoken.

Into the café for breakfast only to find that they stopped serving at 9, and I had missed by thirty minutes. Hell, I’d been talking my ass off for an hour since I got here, that will teach me. They still had plenty of food out and I ended up with a good breakfast anyway at only $5, cheap by northern standards. Plus my French waitress was…ok, it’s a little early in the day to start that.

I’m backing out when a Hydro truck stops behind me, another bike looker, I might never get out of here. I’m thinking that they’re cooped up out here in the bush and sick of seeing and talking to each other every day of the week. Any new face is like gold. The road right around the turnoff has been watered down with chloride for dust control, one of the few places I’ve seen it used in this area. A grader had started east from the entrance earlier and there are no tracks in the graded surface. At the 20 mile mark the grader is still going east and I decide to take a photo.

Stop, camera out, my foot slips in the freshly graded gravel, and the bike falls over in the road. I heave myself off the bike and land on my elbows, I was trying to keep the camera out of the sand. The bike just missed my right leg and foot. After all I’ve been through on the gravel so far, this is a stupid way for the bike to go down. I had stopped just past the crest of a hill and I was worried that that some maniac coming east might hit me. I hadn’t tried to pick the loaded bike up off the ground yet and wasn’t sure I could do it. Not easy, but not too bad either, and with the appropriate cussing the bike was back up and on the stand. Then I addressed the bike with barrage of “F” words as a reminder not to do that no mo’. If you can’t get your bike up by yourself out there, you have to wait for help to come by, and the wait could be a long one.

I wanted the photo of the graded road running off into the forever, so I got that shot too.

The Poste Albanel transformer station is in front of me as the road takes a hard right.

These facilities are found across the region, the required transmission lines everywhere. I find many locations I would like to photograph, except for the towers and lines in the middle of them.

The Rupert crosses again here, it’s glory stolen by the upstream diversion just three miles away. The Rupert Gorge was once a treasured photo op, the heck with it, I don’t stop. The farther east I ride on the road, the less maintenance I see. I was expecting the road to be equally well maintained the entire length, I was mistaken. I was riding at an easy pace, alone out there, I had the road to myself again. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of these roads, a ribbon of gravel to the horizon.

The surface is getting worse, and it’s finally starting to look like some of those sections above Brisay on the Trans Taiga with no recent grader activity. The surrounding country looks almost like tundra, low brush with scattered small spruce and like everything out here, goes on as far as you can see.

The recreational traffic picks up as I near the east end of the North Road. A westbound pickup towing a trailer chases me to the inside shoulder of a right hand curve. He saw me, but wanted the banking and didn’t care. The surface changes to freshly graded marbles for the last seventy miles, and in that distance I see more vehicles than on the entire Baie-James, Trans Taiga and North Road combined. I find pavement at the intersection with highway 167, back in civilization. I had been on gravel for most of the last four days, and it wasn’t easy. I paused at the intersection and looked at the pavement. I’d rather ride another thousand miles of tough gravel than a single mile of this shit.

Turn south on 167 to Chibougamau, and the name of that town is one I have found a dozen inventive ways to pronounce. I needed fuel, a late lunch, and didn’t plan to stay there. Just a few miles down the road and I see smoke from a big fire ahead. At first I thought forest fire, but then decided the smoke was too dark. When I get close the road is blocked with fire trucks dealing with a large commercial building, totally engulfed, a big event in this small community.

The sun had come out and it looked like every resident of Chibougamau was outside doing something, work or play. Subway is right on the main street, and that’s lunch. There’s a kid in line trying to sing whatever song was being fed through his earbuds. Hate to break the news son, but you couldn’t carry the tune to “Happy Birthday” on a bet. Fuel is another block south, the gasboy said there’s a provincial park 100km down the road. My gasboy was friendly enough, but I get the impression that he thought becoming the gasboy at this station was a monster career move. By then I was ready to get back out of this town. Hoppin’ little place, but it just had too much of everything after being in the bush, including some people standing on the corner who, if asked, would say they were only recreational users.

A little road construction, but then open road through scenic country and the traffic drops off. Lakes are everywhere, and from what I can see, the water is low here too.

The park I’m looking for is Réserve faunique Ashuapmushuan and I find it west of the road, but well beyond the 100km mark. Down the gravel entrance road that winds through the “chalet” and camping areas, I find the office but it looks closed. When I look in the window, the park attendant is there and hadn’t seen me ride up. This is one of the very few young people I have met so far who doesn’t speak any English. After pointing at the brochure, writing down some numbers, he tries to run my card but his freakin’ system is down. I said in English “I’m really tired. If we don’t complete this transaction like immediately, I’m going to spontaneously combust right here and burn this whole damn place down”. He just nodded, smiled, and looked back at the computer screen. I reached for cash, it speaks it’s own language and we get squared away. I should have done that in the first place and saved some time.

Not many people around, as a matter of fact, I’m one of the few in this end of the park. Quiet, suits me, and I quickly set up the tent.

The lake is right next to the site, sand beach, and a cool breeze. I make some journal entries while I have light, and I’m about to call it a day. I started to lube the chain and found the chain guard hanging by one loose bolt, the other long gone. WTF? Tools out, I find a spare bolt, and loctite the whole thing back together just as it gets full dark.

On the pavement all day tomorrow, traffic lights, stop signs, road rage…all the things I didn’t miss.

(To be continued…)
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Old 09-28-2010, 12:39 PM   #63
Francis P Monaco
Joined: Sep 2010
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Originally Posted by jdrocks
what a great post!

i've wondered myself what the non riding public would think about these ride reports. far from being about motorcycles, the reports are a rolling travel directory, full of adventure, drama, and insight into the human condition. a pleasure to read, beats wasting any time with TV.

there's only one thing for you to do and that's to plan a trip. Canada has to be one of the best places on earth to tour, a vast country, and the people unfailingly friendly and helpful. an SUV or pickup would work better on those big gravel roads.

across the north there are few roads and few people. to see someone walking on a bush road far from any known shelter was unusual enough for me to make a note, and then later include in my report. to have throttlemeister come along and identify this guy for me a year after seeing him, now that is bizarre.
The thing is, I have been pretty lucky in my life, as my father loved to drive around the country and visit many different places. By the time I graduated high school, I had been in all 50 states. Believe it or not, in an old GMC van, the family and I drove up to Alaska from Illinois! No kidding. It was a really long journey that of course had one flat tire, but while I wish I had better memories of it, what I do remember is pretty great. That van would not have survived the Dempster and/or the Dalton, so that's why that didn't happen.

Anyway, back on topic... I'm still enjoying this trip report and the mentions of the interesting local characters you come across in rural Quebec.
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Old 09-28-2010, 02:00 PM   #64
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Hey JD,
You seem to pick up on the local under-currents pretty accurately.
Several years ago, Quebec was talking pretty seriously about separating from the rest of Canada. They even had a vote on it.
The Cree Nation made a bold statement that resonated with the rest of us Canadians.
They proclaimed their desire to remain as part of Canada, in no uncertain terms, and they and their lands would not be part of the separation.
Suffice to say, the rest of Canada was pleased the vote did not pass; although it should be noted that Newfoundlanders were a bit disappointed.
They liked the idea of Quebec separating, thereby cutting several hours off the trip to Toronto.
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Old 09-28-2010, 05:19 PM   #65
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Just for the river's sake: Rubert River where it crosses the North Rd, circa Sept 2009, this is with some diversion going on at this point. It once was a mighty river:

Farther down stream from the major fall:
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Old 09-28-2010, 05:44 PM   #66
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Originally Posted by jdrocks
i really liked quebec too, and i think the people liked me. they liked me even better when i didn't try to speak French.
yes , and i have a great short story I will share about that.

on one bike trip up threw Quebec, I had to travel threw montreal.
I had some time to kill befor a met my pal about 2hrs northwest of Montreal.
So I stop on ST Catherine Street at one of the many sidewalk cafe and had lunch while I watch the people(women)of Montreal walk bye.
the hostes sat me next to two insanely hot girls who while overheard me struggel with giving my order to the waitress, as the tables and chair are mere inches from each other, one of the girls help translate my order to waitress. I thanked them and smiled. they went back to talk to each other in french and went back to doing my thing and looking at some maps on my blackberry.
then about 2 or 3 minutes later, one of the girls turns to me and asked "do you mind if we pratice our english with you"

I reply "yes, YES YOU CAN"

That was a great lunch. (not sure what i got or even if I eated it)
but that was agreat lunch

sailer screwed with this post 09-28-2010 at 07:34 PM
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Old 09-28-2010, 06:10 PM   #67
jdrocks OP
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Originally Posted by Francis P Monaco
...I had been in all 50 states...
time to start in on the list of provinces. you can't go wrong.
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Old 09-28-2010, 06:15 PM   #68
jdrocks OP
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Originally Posted by Vikingtazz
The Cree Nation made a bold statement that resonated with the rest of us Canadians.
They proclaimed their desire to remain as part of Canada, in no uncertain terms, and they and their lands would not be part of the separation.
a good guess after all.

the Maritimes talked about joining the States if Quebec left, if i recall correctly.

sanity prevailed.
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Old 09-28-2010, 06:19 PM   #69
jdrocks OP
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Originally Posted by Throttlemeister
Just for the river's sake...It once was a mighty river:
the Nile of the North no longer. i didn't want a photo of what i saw in august.
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Old 09-28-2010, 06:29 PM   #70
jdrocks OP
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Originally Posted by sailer
...sat me next to two insanely hot girls...
the last two times i've been to montreal, my wife was with me. i was careful where i looked.

enjoyed your story.
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Old 09-30-2010, 12:17 PM   #71
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Day 9: Sunday 8/29/10-Réserve faunique Ashuapmushuan, QC, to Manic 5, QC. 501 miles

Up early again, what a gorgeous day. Sunny, cool, and dry, not even dew on the tent fly. I was looking forward to a big breakfast on down the road somewhere and didn’t waste time packing up. South on 167, traffic is nonexistent. The hard partying French must be sleeping in after Saturday night. The land gradually turned from forested to agricultural, the farms large and well kept, with a prosperous look about them. Some of the architecture was distinctly European. The first breakfast opportunity is down by La Dore, a combination café, fuel stop, and fishing bait emporium. Fuel first, then breakfast.

The café was half full of locals, and a single waitress, French, no English. It didn’t matter, she was standing right next to me as I pointed to my breakfast selections. I had started with French, but she got such a pained expression on her face that I quit. When I was done, I looked up at her and got the “Are you freakin’ kiddin’ me”? look, no translation needed. Big deal, just because I picked half the menu. I could have just covered the lower half with a napkin and said “Gimme this”. We’ll see what shows up, I wasn’t 100% sure what some of those words meant. My waitress had seen some years go by, but still wore a little mini skirt to show off a swell set of those French branded wheels. Good show, and when she knew they were being appreciated, she turned the voltage up a notch.

It took two trips to the kitchen to bring out all the plates, then I settled in and ate, I love a big breakfast. People were staring a little, but the waitress was clearing the plates away and pretty soon it looked like a regular meal. Heck, got some miles to go, need to run. I left a good tip, it was worth it. Geared up, into the saddle, and the bike was pointed towards the road. I had the map out and was making some notes for a route around Saguenay when my left foot slipped in some fine gravel and the bike started over. I caught it but just couldn’t get it back up. Every time I got close, my foot would slip again. I had to let it go, and there I was on Sunday morning with the bike on the ground again. That’s one poorly trained bike. This was embarrassing with all the people in the café looking out the window, so I wasted no time getting that thing back on it’s feet, and rode nonchalantly out of the parking lot. Geeez, I need to cut that out.

Traffic picked up and I think every motorcycle in Quebec is on the road. I start through a series of small towns at Saint-Felicien and come slowly around Lac Saint-Jean. At Saint-Felicien I come up on a gaggle of young women bicycle riders out for a training run. The speed limit was low and they were moving almost as fast as I was. I was idling along behind them casually studying the mechanics of locomotion when I get an impatient wave, I guess she wants me to pass. Don’t know why, maybe the needle on her perv-o-meter had swung into the red.

Lac Saint-Jean is a big lake and I got out of the traffic to take a look. Must be too windy for boats, nothing out there.

I take a series of roads around the lake, and now I’m in Alma, heading for a connection with with 172 across the Riviere Saguenay. I pull up to a stop light in the right hand lane, and three sportbikes arrive next to me in the left lane. The lead bike happened to be a Ninja 650R, and the rider looked over briefly and then back. I was 8’ from him and he had no clue that we were both riding the same bike, my sleeper camo job must be working.

I was only another mile through town when that experience was topped. Coming towards me was a rider on a chopper, Indian Larry old school, and he was wearing a military helmet to protect his noggin. Nothing unusual there except that the helmet he chose was one of those old WWI dough boy helmets and he looked like he had a childs freakin’ flying saucer strapped to his head. His friends must have all been jabbin’ each other in the ribs when they told him how cool he looked, or there might not be any mirrors still intact at chopper headquarters.

I make the turn at 172, damn it wasn’t easy getting over here, but I wanted to be on this side of the river down to 138 near Tadoussac. Traffic thins, and this road turns out to be a real good choice. Little traffic, but what was out there turned the road into track day, man, the sporty cars and sporty bikes were flying, no enforcement around. I wasn’t going slow, but got passed on the double yellow frequently. The scenery was beautiful on this sunny day and I stopped for a photo when I could find a place where I wouldn’t be run over.

Much of the land along this river is included in the Parc du Saguenay, so there is almost no development and the river appears clean and clear.

I stop again for fuel at L’Anse de Roche, and had a friendly chat with the young people running the store. The place was busy with the attached café and I think plenty of people had come down the road to air out their vehicles and now were going to run back north just as fast. A classic Corvette convertible pulled up to the pumps while I was eating my ice cream bar, and the young woman that got out…well, the gasboy nearly broke the hinges off the door sprinting out there to put gas in that Corvette. I like those Corvettes too, might be the headlights.

Down to 138, and east towards Baie-Comeau along the Fleuve Saint-Laurent, a really nice ride. I was only 10 miles east when the temperature dropped 30 degrees in only a quarter mile. This phenomenon would be repeated many times between here and Baie-Comeau, dependent on sudden wind shifts. The tide is out, exposing the flats along the coastline.

The towns are small and picturesque, hugging the Saint-Laurent, with evidence of commercial fishing activity scattered around. I find a large Ducks Unlimited project along the coastal marshlands, either a nesting or staging site. The often photographed metal sculpture of the wheelie bike is on my right, boy, there’s a work of art. I pass on that one.

The coast is misty, but I really liking my lazy ride, plenty to see.

The same group of four Harley riders pass for the fourth time. No waves, except that this time the last rider in line pulls up next to me. A tiny woman in all black leather, blond pony tail streaming, wheeling that big bike with confidence. She looked once, then again, and once more with the low peace, before roaring off to catch up with her buds. Man, it was the same as being blessed by the Pope, and did this old guy ever feel cool now. Oh yeah.

Baie-Comeau was bigger than I expected. I had plenty of daylight and didn’t need anything in town except fuel, so I decided to run up 389 towards Manic 5, a large dam. I stopped at the first station for fuel, then went in for a cold drink. Besides the young lady at the counter, I was the only one there. When I pay for the drink, we start laughing about my atrocious French, and she says “I am going to teach you six French words right now”, and I say “Great, don’t make them too easy, I already know oui”. Here we go, I get my six words and she says “Repeat”. I’m up to word number four when I hear a sound like someone stepped on the cat’s tail. She has her hands over her ears and says “Stop”. Naturally I don’t stop, and complete my assignment of all six words. Now she has her hand on her forehead and says “I have a migraine, I think I should go home”. Huh, I thought I did real well, sounded good to me. Maybe the problem was that I had to say those six words four or five times each ‘til they sounded just right. Heck, this French ain’t that hard, I might get the hang of it yet. Thanks to my French tutor, and I was out the door. A weak smile, she just waved.

Over to the information center, I was hoping for a decent map or two. The Sunday staff didn’t speak a single word of English, what kind of information center is this anyway? I was more confident of my French now, but decided against letting loose, someone might need to be hospitalized, don’t want that. A phone call is placed to a staff member who does speak a little English and now we have a wild three way conversation going with lots of animated sign language thrown into the mix. There’s no AC in the building, it might have been five degrees below sauna.

Everyone is running around getting all the brochures they thought I might need and the pile in front of me has grown to bushel basket size. What am I going to do with all this crap?, I already found what I wanted. I couldn’t get them to stop. Let’s see, they have no English, I have no French, only one thing left to do…resort to Spanish, so I said “No mas”…like a complete freakin’ idiot. Somehow that got their attention, maybe those words sound like something else in French, no clue, but they sure put the brakes on. I better get out of here, they weren’t smiling quite so much anymore.

I find the start of highway 389, northbound again. This road starts out paved up to Manic 5, and then a combination of gravel and pavement beyond that up to LabradorCity. The road surface has the typical frost heaves and pavement breaks found on these roads, but because of the topography, the start of this road does not have the long views found later. I did notice right away that the crack patch material used here is very slick, the front end will jump if cross at an angle. At least 90% of the traffic is southbound and flying, you need to be careful of these vehicles. Lakes along the road, the people heading south must be coming back from their camps out in the bush.

A F800GS with panniers goes by south, the first ADV bike I had seen. I had expected to see quite a few. There is supposed to be a campground at Manic 2, but when I stop the joint looks closed, and by the appearance, not a place I’d be interested in anyway. An SUV from Newfoundland stopped while I was there, so I got a full road report on both the Trans Labrador and 389. Trans lab in good shape and fast, 389 in poor shape and slow, but I know 4 wheel drivers and 2 wheel riders have different criteria, we’ll see.

I push on to Manic 5, the new plan is to stay there at the motel, the Motel de l'Énergie, and I know there’s fuel, food, and beer there too. I get my room, and when I push the bike over there I get surrounded by a bunch of young guys, pipefitters working at the dam. Show and tell time again, but I need to get into the restaurant before it closes at 8, so I have to go, and leave them still looking over the bike.

No English here either, but I get a big plate of the beef whatever special and it turned out to be good. I need my pie fix, and get that too. The drama started when the gal running the place came over with my bill. She was addressing me in French as fast as she could go, knowing I spoke no English. Ah, the immersion process again, been there. This went on and on, she was hammering on my skull with all that French, determined that I be fluent in about 15 minutes. Finally she stopped, held out her hand and said the magic word, “VISA”. Now I get it, her machine couldn’t read my AMEX card. Geez, why didn’t ya say so? Actually she did say so, around a thousand times in French.

I drank up some beers with the pipefitters, a good bunch of guys, mainly from Baie-Comeau. Most of the guys had gone to bed, only one remaining on the porch. When I see the cute little waitress from the restaurant walking my direction, I knew she wasn’t coming over to say hello to me. Time to get out of the way, love was in the air, and I could work on my journal somewhere else.

Another wonderful day of riding through Quebec, I’m back on the gravel tomorrow.

(To be continued…)
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Old 09-30-2010, 12:52 PM   #72
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Great RR

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Old 09-30-2010, 01:40 PM   #73
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just loving the way you write this
waiting for more

and if you do have, please post more photos for that cool beast of yours
my mini ride reports
"parts made of unobtanium"
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Old 09-30-2010, 03:34 PM   #74
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the day 9 summary, was some very funny stuff.

loking forward to hear about the next leg as i am planning on doing it sept 2011. so details about fuel and camping stops, if I may make a request.

as well as the humor, I go to quebec at least once a year for a ride and dealing with the french/canadains is half the fun of the trip. lol
I would have love to have seen a pic of the middle(plus) aged, breakfast waitress with the mini skrit. but a guess that if you had taken a pic of that it would have really sent the per-vert meter in to the red with the local dinners. lol
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Old 09-30-2010, 03:37 PM   #75
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Nice RR

You had me hooked with the picture of your bike...

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