The Ride to Montreal

Ride to Montreal Driving to Montreal

On Thursday morning 2 September I set out on the six-hour drive from Portland (Maine) for Montreal (Canada). The weather forecast was perhaps too good. Even with a soft wind, driving in 30-32 degree heat wearing full leathers is too much. Shortly into the ride I had to take my gloves off, partially unzip my jacket and lift the front of my helmet up. I was looking forward to the trip as it would take my through some great countryside.

The first striking scenery was the White Forrest Mountain range. This national reserve had fantastic rolling hills, dense forestry where the trees climbed to the peak of the mountains. I’m still puzzelled as to how the roots bed into the rocks…. The views reminded me of a trip in did a few years back from France to Milan via the Mont Blanc. Really breathe taking and fun on the bike climbing the windy roads. Similar to my trip to Bar Harbour, I passed many wide rivers in both Maine and Vermont and through a large reservoir too.

I stopped after three hours in Johnsbury to refuel the bike and myself. Nice little diner called Anthony’s where I devoured a delicious peppered burger. The service was ok. Not sure if the waitress was a little intimidated by the biker wearing a DJ Yoda T shirt or the biker reading the New York Times (see photo). The coffee was good too. By the by, why do New Yorker’s refer to it was caw’fee? It sounds stupid. With the engines full I hit the road again.

Thankfully the temperature cooled to bareable levels as I neared Canada. As I cleared another mountain I saw an ominously dark cloud in the distance. Although I was somewhat sweaty I had a different type of shower in mind. I didn’t fancy finishing the remaining two hours soaked and hoped the cloud would drift in the opposite direction. Soon I could actually smell the moisture in the air and knew it was going to be a bad one. As an open stretch unfolded in front of me, I saw that Saint Christopher (patron Saint of travellers) answered my prayers. I’ve never been so relieved to see a bridge in my life and I made it there just as the first drops fell.

For ten minutes a torrential rain force hit the landscape where the droplets bounced inchs back up off the ground. Then it was over. Another 15 minutes for the roads to dry up enough so I wasn’t soaked by the spray from my bike and other vehicles. That was a close call. Wait until hurricane season really starts.

As I neared Montreal I realised I have clocked up 1,500 KM so far. Less than five percent of the expected trip. With this limited experience I’ve noticed a couple of aspects regarding American road behaviour:
1. They don’t follow that filthy European habit of flicking cigarette butts out the window.
2. Car users are quite motorbike aware and friendly
3. I don’t like that cars have red indicators next red break lights. It’s not as distinct as amber indicators.
4. All motorbikers wave to oncoming bikers
5. New warning signs, Moose, Snowmobiles, herd of Turkeys (yes a herd – if you hit one on a motorbike at 100KM ph you’ll know it’s not a rafter).

In addition, all road users strictly follow the speed limit. I haven’t found out yet if this relates to fear of penalties, accidents and related lawsuits or out of a general civil adherence to the law. I’ve only been overtaken by two cars so far. And generally I’ve stayed on or just above the limit. I don’t want to be pulled over for speeding and then have to deal with questions from the local sheriff about foreign registration plates, visas, insurance etc. As you can imagine, holding back an 1,800 cc motorbike isn’t easy and I’ve had to catch myself a few times. Anyway, while I’m in Montreal I’m going to take the motorbike on the Gilles Villeneuve F-1 track as it’s open to the public.

I arrived on time as expected, including lunch and fuel stops the journey took seven hours. I’ve decided to set six to seven hours as my max journey time if I can help it. At six hours I begin to ache, require more breaks and I start to get tired.

All good.

Al Dempsey

3 September 2010