Road miles to date: 8,905
The intention behind our next stop had been conceived ten years ago during a series of drink fuelled conversations in Edinburgh watering holes when Byron befriended a group of Québécois and made a promise to visit them one day. Since that day Byron had kept in contact with Jean Francois and Boris the Blade and it was JF that we were now on our way to see after his generous offer to put us up and show us the sites.
The three day ride east took us alongside the beautiful shore of Lake Huron and the North Channel then deep into the forests of Ontario. The first day back on Canadian soil ended in Chutes National Park where we spent a late afternoon on a hidden riverside beach at the foot of a series of waterfalls, getting more than a little excited at the sight of small glints of metal in the dark riverbed. Envisioning a prosperous future ahead of us as we sifted enough gold to keep us in pocket for a good few years, the image disappeared as quickly as it came when they turned out to be...well not gold.
next day was not as short and sweet in the saddle as we had hoped and we ended up blasting on for miles in baking heat before eventually stopping at the scenic Black Bear Beach on the shore of the Ottawa River in the Canadian Forces Base of Petawawa. This would be our first sandy surface campground where unfortunately we arrived too late to sunbathe but just in time for a spectacular sunset followed by an early swim the next morning in surprisingly warm water.
Having made good progress the day before and deciding that an afternoon in the sun was in order, we agreed to stop at the first campsite we saw after lunch. In the spirit of adventure, we've kept the search for a place to sleep each night to a daily game of chance. This day was no different so we followed the first sign that we saw for a campsite and ended up on a lengthy, winding trek far from the main road that took us down a long, secluded gravel drive to a closed gate. We slowly clocked what was going on as we read the small print on the sign and looked over
the gate to see a few birthday suits going about their business. In short, our game of chance had taken us to a naturist campsite. Although the opportunity to get some good tanning coverage was tempting, having to share it with other people doing the same thing wasn't too appealing. So with a quick twist of the wrist and a spin of wheels we scrambled double quick, leaving the welcome party none the wiser.
A little further down the road in Borges we found an alternative campsite where clothing was compulsory and joined a fair few permanent residents for the night. More than a couple had been on the shandies and one in particular left us tasting the fumes of forty cigs, just from speaking to him. By now we were firmly in the Province of Quebec where the landscape is a lot like France, the people speak French as a first language and they drive like they're not looking. This is the only province of Canada where the road signs aren't bilingual; a reflection of the general populous and an indication of their insistence at remaining culturally different from English-speaking Canada.
After spending the first evening getting
acquainted with regional beer, local expletives and the general ways of Quebec with JF and a group of his friends in the City, he and his fiancé, Genevieve cooked us a delicious traditional breakfast the next morning, complete with compulsory lashings of family made maple syrup. We timed our arrival well for the tail end of the Festival d'Ete de Quebec - a two week long festival that is subsidised by the City (UK Government take note!) with world famous bands and artists performing everyday at sites across the City. Knowing we would be coming, JF had got hold of some tickets for us to join him on the Saturday when Offspring was headlining. Before this revival of American punk music to our ears, we had a fantastic day touring the sights of this old and boisterous city.
Quebec City celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2008 making it the oldest city in North America. Despite the location, its architecture, culture and food are positively European, which was quite a shock after spending the last couple of months riding across the polar-opposite vast expanse of the American North East and mid-West.
After a delicious meal at Cochon Dingue (Crazy
Pig), one of a chain of Québécois restaurants that would go down a storm in the UK, we joined over 150,000 French Canadians on the Plains of Abraham. JF, Genevieve and Boris the Blade's friends made us feel right at home and before long the beer was flowing again. Berube in particular kept the crowd entertained with his infectious outbursts of cheesy pop and party trick of sticking large objects in his mouth, including his own fist and whole beer cans, egged on by the crowd. These feats of achievement prompted the anecdote that he had once had to have his jaw dislocated at hospital to have his own fist removed from his mouth.
We didn't get too far out of the City once we had left the guys behind after another delicious Québécois meal, before calling it a day to recover from the weekend. The plan to move on the next morning didn't quite work out as Isabel had spent the whole night with chronic chest pains and eventually being unable to move, she woke Byron up to get a doctor. For the second time on this trip Byron leapt to life, accompanied by with the Baywatch theme
tune, ran to the nearest phone and summoned an ambulance in his impeccable French (loud English in a heavy French accent).
True to form, it was only a matter of time before Isabel-abroad had a visit to the local hospital, which turned out to be some sixty miles away. No sooner had we arrived than whatever the pain had been began to ease, but taking no chances, the hospital undertook every kind of check that would take at least a four month wait back home. The all clear was given after a diagnosis of probable heart burn and too much in the intestines; not especially worthy of an ambulance ride! It was then that we saw the other side of a thorough medical service when we got the bill for over a thousand dollars. Luckily our insurance had us covered, but for the budget busting taxi ride back and Byron's two hospital lunches.
The exposure of our shaky French in Canada had us realising that some serious revision of our equally dodgy Spanish is needed before we cross into Latin America. As we left French-speaking Canada behind we spent a few days meandering through the states of Maine,
New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, finally reaching Connecticut where we would stay with Isabel's aunt and uncle, Rita and Rolf.
Our arrival in Connecticut was timed to coincide with Rolf's eightieth birthday. Not content with candles and cake, Rolf was planning to mark the occasion by jumping out of an aeroplane. This perfectly executed skydive by an eighty year old created such a buzz that it even made the local Fox news (see the link below)!
Meanwhile, during the lead up to Rolf's skydive, Isabel's cousin Lucas had been experiencing chest pains. By now a leading expert in similar pains, Isabel suggested antacid would do the trick. Exposed to be not quite so leading an expert, the next morning we awoke to find Lucas had taken himself to hospital with a collapsed lung. Luckily he hadn't waited to take his flight back to San Diego but not so luckily he ended up staying in hospital for over two weeks.
Seizing the opportunity to use a garage, Byron did some maintenance on the bike which despite a few minor problems had been running well. A close inspection of the used oil from the final drive revealed some metal shards
in there, a sure sign of impending trouble. Pre-empting a break down, he put a message out online to some local motorcycle clubs and was immediately inundated with offers of help and donations of parts. The only problem was that the offers were given through a forum to which we didn't have access so couldn't reply to and so after more searching we contacted a recommended expert in Chicago. Unfortunately he was about to have surgery but he passed us on to another specialist in Pennsylvania - Tom Cutter of the Rubber Chicken Racing Garage who could see us the next week. The network of people willing to help and recommend has been fantastic here and way above what we ever expected.
After a great week with Rita and Rolf, being treated to boat rides in Long Island Sound and a proper bed, memories of staying in a tent and riding miles everyday on a bike were starting to fade. So we decided to up sticks and take a trip to New York before we got too comfy. New York was hot and stormy but we got some quality days of exploring in, trekking across the city, visiting Liberty
Island, the 911 memorial, Fifth Avenue, Times Square and everything else in between.
On our last morning we went for a run in Central Park where the number of New Yorkers doing the same thing seemed very impressive. We joined the flow and it wasn't long before we noticed the mile markers and then a water station that we realised we had inadvertently joined an organised race. We stuck with it for a good hour until one exhausted guy asked if we were at mile nineteen or twenty that we thought we should probably stop being impostors and leave the hardcore runners to it. As Byron went ahead, Isabel nearly collided with a guy emerging from the undergrowth asking if this was north of the city as he didn't know where he was, having been in the bushes for two days. The image of this homeless guy asking a clueless tourist where he was in this beautiful haven while hundreds of runners flew past in the middle of a constantly moving city just about summed up the craziness of New York!
Our stay in New York ended with an obligatory ride right through the city, past Times Square
and over the Brooklyn Bridge before heading back to Stamford. A day later we went North to Hammonasset State Park where we camped by a beautiful beach and hid from the rain for two days, introducing our newly acquired Alaskan sheepskin seat cover as a rug to the tent.
The weather turned again and we made our way to Boston to stay with Becky (Isabel's partner in crime from Brixton) and her boyfriend Rich. They took us on an expertly guided tour all over Boston on a beautiful sunny day. We followed the Freedom Trail, climbed the Bunker Hill Monument in searing heat, ate our first frozen yoghurt, walked through Boston Common, past Boston State House, through Quincey Market and ended with a delicious meal. The next day we hit the beach in Ipswich where hundreds of other people had the same idea. After a swim in the Atlantic, despite a seal sighting and tales of sharks, the wind suddenly picked up, whipping us with sand as some enormous storm clouds closed in. With no time to spare we made a dash for the car a little too late and got totally drenched. We dried off watching The Departed,
a movie based and filmed at the sites we'd seen the day before, starring some local Bostonians we unfortunately didn't see the day before.
After nearly a month of catching up with friends and family and enjoying some hugely appreciated hospitality across the east coast, we would spend one more night back in Stamford before waving goodbye to Rita and Rolf and getting back on the road, this time west via a quick stop south at the Rubber Chicken Racing Garage to assess the damage to the bike's final drive and drive shaft. Link to local CT Fox News 'sky dive celebration of 80th birthday' story
(Scroll down to see more photos)
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