Departing Labrador City on Saturday, I was full of hope and determination for what was going to be the longest day of riding so far. The ride from Lab City to Baie-Comeau in Quebec is roughly 8 hours and my backside was not looking forward to it as much as my brain was. Fortunately, there was some pavement to ride on until a little past Mont-Wright where you come to a mining area and the gravel starts. Now here is where the road gets interesting.
There is a lot of gravel on this part of the road and pockets of deep loose gravel at the edges of the road. After 5 mins or so on this part of the road, I was being closely trailed by a car who obviously wanted to pass me so, being the fine fellow that I am, I started to angle the bike to the side of the road to let him pass. However, he didn’t take the hint and so I looked in my mirror and began to wave him by. Looking in my mirror meant that I wasn’t looking at the road and the large pile of loose gravel on the side of the road that I was about to drive over with one hand on the handlebars! As the car roared by in a cloud of dust, I hit the gravel and the front wheel started to slide out. Grabbing the handlebars and kicking my left foot out to stop the bike from going down, I managed to regain control of the bike long enough to realize that I was now OUT OF ROAD!!!
Off the road and into the bushes I went doing about 20mph, at that point. St. Christopher was obviously watching over me because that part of the road had no 5 or 6 foot drop off like most of the Trans Lab Hwy and there were no large rocks or boulders hidden in the bushes for me to hit. Actually, the bushes that I hit were a typical one for that part of the country and they were about 5 feet tall and very thick, with branches that were flexible yet strong. Basically, they acted like a net to catch me so that, and the copious use of brakes, stopped me from going more than 6 or 7 feet into the bushes. As, I sat on the bike surrounded by bushes, you could just see my head sticking out over the tops of the bushes. It was kind of comical actually and I wish I had taken a picture but I was a bit shaken. Two more cars passed right by me and didn’t even see me in the bushes… kept on driving… maybe they thought I was part of the wildlife!!!
Anyway, I managed to force my way back on the road thanking BMW for the horsepower it gave the beast. Now, the French – Canadian engineer who designed the next 50 miles of road was drunk when he did it… of this I have no doubt. The gravel road was in fair condition but the constant twisty turns and crowning of hills only to have another hairpin turn right away made the ride less than fun. Maybe my earlier mishap had sapped my confidence but the bike got real loose a few times and I reduced my speed significantly for fear of going off the road again. When I reached Manic-Cinq and pavement I was ecstatic!
Manic-Cinq is home to the largest buttress-arch dam in the world but more importantly it has pavement all the way to Baie-Comeau!! Thank you, God!!!! After more than 1400km of gravel and enough dust to last a lifetime, I was ready for smooth riding. As I walked into the hotel lobby covered in dust (and bushes) I smiled politely to the young lady at the front desk as she calmly asked me do I have a reservation… IN FRENCH!!!
Oh yeah, I’m in Quebec now… DUH! 5 years of high school French came flooding back to me… all three words I remembered anyway 🙂 I mumbled my way through with a few Oui’s and merci’s and was soon checked in and headed across the street to a brasserie (brewery). Now, the French aren’t known for their tolerance of non-French speaking people and my lovely waitress was no exception. The thing is that they don’t realize that if you just give us a chance to try to speak French we will but intimidation and a bad attitude doesn’t help 🙂 Eventually, I managed to stumble through and order something… that turned out to be steak kabobs and rice… who knew I could do it… I actually thought I had ordered a Greek salad and some pork chops but it was all good 🙂
Tomorrow I was off to Quebec City where even more French speaking xenophobes lived… joy! I’m kidding… I was looking forward to practicing my French… there is something very sexy about that language. Not when it comes out of my mouth of course but I was looking forward to hearing it spoken properly again… preferably by a beautiful, chain smoking hussy 🙂
Largest multiple arch dam in the world