GO WEST young man!

July 31, 2010

So… that’s where I have been for a few days, catching up with Guy and his wife and kids and generally taking it easy. I had some maintenance work to do on the bike and it was a bit more involved than I thought. Yesterday, I did manage to change the oil, change the brake fluid and change the transmission fluid without too much fuss but I still have some more things to do. I will save those for California 🙂 I also changed my front tire even though my old one still had plenty of tread. The reduced level of road noise and 15 pounds less of “luggage” more than offset the $100 I spent on the tire. I figure I will start carrying tires with me again when I hit Mexico and beyond. No sense carrying them now.

Got a mass email from my ex this morning. Apparently, Alex’s 5 year cancer checkup went well. I guess his father isn’t important enough to get a phone call yesterday when he actually had his appointment. Anyway, I’m just glad that he is ok and disappointed I couldn’t get to speak with him. Way to go ALEJANDRO!!!

I left Guy’s around 2pm today and again changed the route I had planned to use to get to Colorado. I figured that since I am so close to the Blue Ridge Parkway that I should take advantage of one of the best rides on the east coast. It did not disappoint, with frequent twisty turns, elevation changes and magnificent mountain views. Only rain about 25 miles from Roanoke, VA spoiled the fun. Well, the rain I didn’t mind but the fact that the clouds were so low meant I had to ride THROUGH the rain clouds and that meant I couldn’t see a darn thing. Twisty roads, sheer mountain drop-offs, 10 foot visibilty… you do the math 🙂 I wanted to ride until near dark but I eventually gave up and sought shelter in Roanoke which is were I sit buck naked at this very moment 🙂

With that pleasant thought in your head I bid you good night… or good day depending on where you are 🙂


Change of plans!

July 29, 2010

I met Aengus for breakfast at 8:30 on Monday and we both agreed that crepes were a must given where we were. The funny thing is though… apparently no-one gets up early on a Monday in old Quebec and there are not many restaurants open. It was funny because we kept walking and walking and eventually I had retraced half my walk from the night before. We did find a place to eat on Rue St. Anne and actually had a nice view of the castle while eating.

Aengus is an interesting chap and he is in the film industry… no not THAT film industry 🙂 Part of his journey over the last 9 weeks has been him collecting interviews for a project he is working on. I was lucky enough to be interviewed and the single question that he asks and bases the followup interview questions on is this:

“What is the hardest decision you have ever made in your life?”

I’m not going to tell you what I said but I will be interested to see if anyone guesses.

After leaving Quebec at 11am, I decided to make a detour and completely change my route. My plans for Montreal and Toronto had fallen through and it had been a long time since I had seen one of my best friends, Guy, who lives outside of Richmond, Virginia. Guy has been battling stage IV colon cancer for some time and appears to be winning so I thought that seeing him would be a good thing to do. I had a long way to ride and I set my sights on Scranton, PA (paying homage to the TV show The Office) as my destination that day… some 900km away!

Now, I ended up riding the last 15 mins in the dark which is something I don’t want to do but I made my target and rode for 8 and half hours straight. My backside was screaming as were my shoulders but it was worth it to put myself within 5 hours of Guy’s house the next day. Actually, the drive was quite nice and upstate NY and central PA are quite scenic with little traffic, low mountains and rolling hills.

The next morning I took off and rode hard. The ride was fine until I approached Washington DC… from there the traffic was heavy all the way to Richmond and I did not feel safe having to watch the crazy drivers at all times. I got to Guy’s around 4pm and I thought that’s not bad considering I was in Quebec at 11am yesterday morning.

Oh Québec … ma belle dame!

July 28, 2010

Ainsi le lecteur de Baie-Comeau au Québec n’était pas du tout ce que je m’attendais. C’était un beau mélange de terres agricoles, mignon petites villes et les vues sur l’Océan belle. Il a été accidenté et sinueux et avait même un ferry rapide passage à niveau. Je ne pouvais pas parler la langue de la dame assise sur la Honda à côté de moi que nous avons traversé sur le ferry, mais un seul regard tout ce que nous besoin de partager les connaissances que nous étions tous deux amoureux assis là et de l’équitation nos vélos sous le soleil glorieux!


So the drive from Baie-Comeau to Quebec was not at all what I expected. It was a beautiful mix of farmland, cute little towns and lovely ocean vistas. It was hilly and twisty and even had a quick ferry crossing. I couldn’t speak the language to the lady sitting on the Honda next to me as we crossed on the ferry but one look was all we needed to share the knowledge that we both were loving sitting there and riding our bikes under the glorious sun!

I got to the old village of Quebec around 4pm on Sunday afternoon and checked into the Hôtel des Coutellier. Having sufficiently practiced my French on the ride down, I managed to check in without resorting to English although the lovely young lady at the desk was more than happy to talk in English. The hotel is at the beginning of Rue St. Paul and is in a perfect location to explore the old village. The hotel itself was excellent and reasonably priced. I highly recommend it if anyone is going to visit.

Wanting to explore the old village, I set of with my map sufficiently marked up by the same lovely lady who checked me in. I made my way down Rue St. Paul and hooked a right onto another wonderfully French side street. As I walked admiring the scenes before me, a voice called out from behind me. “Brett… Brett, is that you!”

Now, the world is obviously a small place. An absolute drop dead gorgeous woman is calling me from across the street… NOT 🙂 Do you remember the first day I was on the road and I stopped to take a picture of that bridge in Maine? The very first fellow biker I met on the trip, Aengus, was calling out to me as I strolled around Quebec. I’m surprised he even recognized me as I didn’t have a goatee then… still I guess a freak like me is hard to miss 🙂 Anyway, we caught up for a bit after laughing about our second chance encounter and we agreed to have breakfast the next morning before we both left town.

I continued my exploration of old Quebec and thoroughly enjoyed the parts I saw. I also looked at real estate and it seemed fairly reasonable… of course anything is reasonable by Bermuda standards! I wondered around the town shooting pictures and taking in the sights and sounds. I sat down to a nice beer/dinner on the sidewalk and was pleasantly surprised when my kids called. I managed to catch up with them on Skype a little later and they actually talked to me for a whole 30 mins… and I even got some more things out of them than the usual “good” and “we’re fine” 🙂 As I went to bed that night, the wonderful sound of French ran through my head and I put Quebec City down on my list of places I could live and be happy.

Baie-Comeau… estas

July 27, 2010

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

Groundhog Day

July 26, 2010

So Friday morning I walk out of my hotel to go to the hydro plant tour.  Flat tire AGAIN!!!!  Took off rear wheel.. AGAIN!!!  Couldn’t find leak… AGAIN!!!  This time I got smart and pumped up the wheel and took it upstairs for a bath.  Leak found 🙂  Small little bugger but a leak none the less.  So, back downstairs quickly for the 2.5 hour tour of the plant.  Very interesting stuff but I had a tire to change and I had to be in Labrador City that night.

Managed to change the tire to my spare… good planning to have one… then had lunch before setting off on the four hour drive.  The spare tire wasn’t a true knobby tire but a hybrid (Metzeler Tourance) but it worked fine in the gravel.  Not much else to report :)


July 26, 2010

Alicia, I didn’t get to eat any moose for you but I did get to have some caribou steak while I was in Churchill Falls! Quite good but I hear the caribou sausages are to die for 🙂 Oh well… maybe another time as all the caribou had gone north for the summer. Do you know what a caribou looks like? Look it up on the web and see.

I miss you and Alejandro. October seems like a very long time away 😦

Churchill falls… again!

July 24, 2010

So the next morning I go outside to ride off and hike to the falls as well as see where the water exits the plant at Tailrace. However, my bike had other plans. The rear tire was completely flat! Crap… this is the adventure part I guess! Ok, no big deal… I have spare tires for this exact thing and although I have never changed a tire on this bike, I changed a ton of them in my youth! Be that as it may, I still decided to take a quick look at a tire changing video I had on my PC… just in case there was something special about changing a large tubeless tire. TUBELESS… did I say tubeless? Crap… all my experience has been with tubed tires but you’ve got to figure tubeless must be simpler yeah? Ahhh… maybe 🙂

So good thing I watched the video cause the whole breaking the bead thing was new to me and I had to learn how to use the “bead-breaker” tool. Good tool once you know how to use it 🙂 Feeling sufficiently knowledgeable, I proceeded to remove the back tire and got a good look at the surface of it. Despite scouring every inch of that tire, I couldn’t find a hole or much of anything. Hmmmm…. strange. So, feeling smart, I cranked up my tire pump and put 35psi in the tire. Then I got a bucket of soapy water and proceeded to douse the tire and look for the leak. So here I am in the middle of the supermarket parking lot with tires, tools and soapy water spread all around. No dice though… I still couldn’t find the leak. So, then I thought someone must have been busting my balls and let the air out so I put the tire back on and took a spin down to Tailrace to see the water exiting the plant.

Now, I’m halfway to Tailrace and I realize 2 things. One, my tire is slowly losing air and, two, I am driving down a remote road to a place I’ve never been but it is close to the dump… and BEARS! No-one knows where I am and I have no GPS locator, cell phone or bear spray. Instantly a news headline runs through my mind… BIG BEAR BITES BRETT BAD!

I make it to the bottom and snap a few quick pictures before jumping on my rapidly deflating tire and speeding back to town… bears can’t run faster than 25pmh 🙂

Back in town, I break out the tools again and this time I take the tire completely off the rim. I look at it again inside and out and can’t find any defect. Screw it, I’m lubing up my spare tire about to put it on when over saunters this Argentinian mechanic who happens to be stranded in town waiting for a new fuel pump. He looks at the old tire and can’t find anything wrong either except a lot of dust around the bead. He surmises that somehow dust has worked itself into the bead and is causing a slow leak. Clean up the tire, re-bead it and put it back on and it will be fine he says. Ok, so I do it and by the time all this is over the entire day is over! What a waste of a day.

Off I go to my room for bed because I am leaving town tomorrow morning after the hydro tour.