Canada: Quebec, Gaspé Peninsula
Setting out from Lake George, New York, we arrive a few hours later at the US/Canadian border in North Troy, Vermont. A Canadian officer checks our passports and waves us on with a cheerful "Bon voyage!" Christa and I are on our way to Montmagny, Québec, to begin a tour around the Gaspé Peninsula.
My Triumph Tiger hums sonorously along the shoreline of the Saint Lawrence's stream. Christa hangs back comfortably, shaking her head to and fro in the Electra Glide's cozy seat. A little jealous (my bike isn't providing a radio or CD soundtrack), I warble my own standards and I'm glad no one else can hear me.
The Saint Lawrence River moves slowly, but we don't. Our distant destination is Point-a-la-Croix, 329 miles east of Montmagny. So, we leave the shoreline of the mighty river on a ruler-straight route running south. Now and then the sun blinks through the clouds in the green valleys and soon the road starts winding nicely around Lac Pohenegamook, along the Maine border. A sharp left turn shocks me and all at once I've got all I handle trying not to drop the bike. Frazzled but unscathed, we clatter over the bumpy surface of Highway 232, which bears all the signs of harsh winter damage. The road looks like it's been strafed - the "potholes" are craters. Our ride improves near Cabano, the largest town in the Lac Temiscouata region, where we pull over for gas and some café au lait. Dark clouds are building and bearing down on us from the west.
We continue on 232, enjoying the newer surface and its scenic surroundings. Running beside the Monts Notre Dame, the road smoothly bends over rolling hills and there, amid the grasses, I spot little islands of blue flowers, clustered like sapphires set with emeralds. Lac des Aigles and Lac Ferre sparkle between the hills.
After a short photo session, we turn into a graveled parking lot: It's ice time! Which has nothing to do with hockey. Along with the local ice rink, almost every village in Quebec has another "ice joint" that displays a huge plastic cone topped with an artistic swirl of plastic, vanilla ice cream. At the takeout window, Christa orders our cold delicacies in perfect French and we head for a wooden bench at a table in the sun. Other bikers had the same idea, and even though my French is rudimentary at best, Christa is able to run interference. Soon we're all acquainted and talking amiably. But with those black clouds rolling closer and 85 miles left to ride from Sayabec to Pointe-a-la-Croix, we have to cut our little ice-cream convention short and climb back in the saddles. "Au revoir, mes amis!"
Past Amqui, through the mountains to the south, the road meanders along the Rivere Matapedia, and at day's end, Pointe-a-la-Croix welcomes us with a somber blanket of clouds. The first raindrops are bouncing upon our visors when we hit the driveway of a cozy B&B, La Maison Verte, home for the night.
For dinner, we thought we were bound for something special when we left the province (Quebec) and crossed the steel bridge into Campbellton, New Brunswick - the only province in Canada that's officially bilingual. I readily admit the Upper Deck Steakhouse does serve good food, but in any language, the prices are outrageous: Two steaks, one salmon dish, and five beers set us back $ 115.
Gaspé: South Coast
It's a given: The south doesn't always have better weather than the north. We're being nailed with heavy rain and I'm trying to wipe my visor clear every thirty seconds while huge logging trucks intermittently throw their own huge buckets of laughs our way. What a life! And what I'd give for spending this afternoon in the real South on a Six Flags waterslide! But the Choko rain suits are working fine: we're "dry." The only stops we make fill our fuel tanks, and thereon we keep slicing through the rain and see little more than rippling sheets of water everywhere.