Behind the Scenes: The Making of a Tour Article

Sep 13, 2016 View Comments by

In my experience, most memorable adventures start with either a bang on the head, a tap on the shoulder, or an unplanned detour during an otherwise well-planned ride.

I have already banged my head yesterday night on the cover of my trailer. Now comes a tap on my shoulder, and this is Christa Neuhauser herself. James T. Parks and Jeff Arpin are coming to my backyard to prepare an article about the Charlevoix and Saguenay areas in Québec.

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As you might know, we do speak French up here, and James’ French lacks a bit. So, Christa tells me, they might appreciate some help in tying the last knots of the planning. And, to put it politely, they might appreciate me filling in as guide and translator if/when needed for that day and a half where they’ll be on their own.

And here comes the detour. Four days of planned riding to get back home and then I would head out and join James and Jeff for that tour! I am ready to embark on the amazing life of the famous RoadRUNNER motojournalists—but in reality, I don’t really have a clue about what I’m getting myself into!

As planned, I show up at Hotel La Ferme in Baie St-Paul where I meet James and Jeff. François Gariépy of the Charlevoix Tourism Office joins us. And here we go!

We ride for about ten minutes. Stop for a few photos by a nice little waterfall. Ten minutes later, we stop again for a few photos of the “downtown” Baie St-Paul. Back on the road. And yes, we stop less than ten minutes later for a few photos from the viewpoint up on the road that leaves Baie St-Paul.

As I am pulling my trailer behind my Gold Wing, I am quickly designated as being the support vehicle. Whenever we stop at a bakery, a cheese place, or any other food and local delicacies related spot, the provisions go into my trailer along with James and Jeff extra stuff as they don’t have much storage on their bikes.

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We catch the ferry to l’Isle Aux Coudres. We visit Boulangerie Bouchard and stuff the trailer with sweets, do some riding, and we visit the Cidrerie et Vergers Pedneault where we fill up on fine liquors and cider. At this point, it is raining so hard that we have to wait before we can leave and just can’t take any good photos.

The amazing part of this job also involves sampling local beers and food, along with a fantastic atmosphere at the end of a day at work. However, we have to get back on the road tomorrow, so at some point the evening has to come to an end.

From the next morning, we are on our own, and I am in charge with a mission. There are a few visits planned for the afternoon, a meeting with local motorcyclists tomorrow morning, and I have to have James and Jeff on time at the whale watching cruise tomorrow afternoon—with a ferry crossing involved before we get there.

For now, I am taking James and Jeff along Route 381 into the wilderness between Charlevoix and Saguenay. We find a perfect spot for a perfect action photo. James is on the camera, Jeff does the ride in and out thing. The poesy of the moment is only interrupted when that logging truck blasts behind Jeff who is going a bit slow for the trucker’s taste.

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To make a long story short, we find and visit the Site de la Nouvelle-France, get to the hotel for the night, have a fantastic evening and meal, meet with the local guys at breakfast, and stop a few times for the sights and views. We really enjoy the pastoral atmosphere and the vastness of the mighty Saguenay river at Sainte-Rose-Du Nord. But we are on a schedule here and at some point I have to rally the boys and get us back on the road.

Now only the three of us, we have to cover a bit of distance in the magnificent mountainous settings of Route 172 toward Tadoussac, and we make it to the ferry across the Saguenay on time. Parking the bikes proves to be a mess but we find the tickets and resolve the communications problems with barely enough time for James and Jeff to have a quick fast food bite—quite a contrast as compared with the high-class feasts we have enjoyed so far. But this is to be expected, this is a job after all.

François Gariépy, the Charlevoix guy, joins James and Jeff on the glorified Zodiac, and they head off the coast for the whale watching thing. As for me, I head out to scout two locations where we might stop further on. One of the spot proves to be not such a good idea. Although I make it to the end of the trail to Baie Des Rochers, up on the pegs and with the trailer bouncing like crazy, there are victims. As we will find out tomorrow, some of the bottles from l’Isle Aux Coudres won’t be tasted, and I will have to clean everything inside the trailer once I get home. On the other hand, l’Anse du Port au Persil is a safe bet and we will enjoy the late afternoon sun setting down on a fantastic day of riding. We end up at the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu where we are welcomed as lords of the Manor.

We start the last day with one more stop five minutes from the Manor. The old village of Murray Bay offers the perfect setting for some more perfect photos with the perfect weather. Jeff holds the camera while James rides in and out of the visor. As the light and the decor are perfect, we spend quite a bit of time here. But François, who knows that we have quite a bit of road ahead with some interesting stops along the way, politely signals us that it is now time to hop on the bikes and hit the road.

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Next stop is only a few minutes away but we will spend quite a bit of time at the Observatoire Astronomique de Charlevoix where we learn everything we can absorb about the famous meteorite that shaped the geography of the surrounding mountains 350 million years ago. There is still a lot more to see today, François leads us on the road to St-Hilarion, and along the way, we experience front row views of the impact of the meteorite.

Some of the roads are not so good, the skies are a bit grayish and the rain feels like a reversed on and off sprinkler. We skip proper lunch and end up enjoying cheese curds and packaged sandwiches that all have seen better days from the local last chance store on the way to Parc National des Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie. Despite the weather and the effects of the lunch, we enjoy fantastic panoramas through the mountains but we have to turn back at some point as the only road is closed.

On the last stretch back we will stop at La Ferme Basque de Charlevoix to enjoy their duck products and the foie gras. Filled with those delicacies, we will take a few more photos and then head toward the hotel back in Baie St-Paul.

We haven’t done that much mileage as compared with what I would usually cover in four days. I have learned that there is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes in order to prepare such interesting articles as we read in every issue of this magazine. Gathering the appropriate documentation beforehand or as one goes, taking those fantastic photos that will make a cover or even a full spread, riding the roads, and visiting interesting sites, as well as coping with the surprises of the road—that’s all part of the job! Whether it starts with a bang on the head, or a tap on the shoulder, or even a simple detour in the planned route, adventure is right around the next corner.

But bringing it to a published story is real work. Where did you say we are going next?

Text and photography by Alain Labadie.

Tags: , , , , Categories: Chronicles, On The Road