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Arctic Bound

Travel Day 2: Boston, MA to Island Park, VT – 261 miles, 9 hours

After a fantastic morning (but sad parting) with my friend in Boston, I hit the road north at just after 10AM.  Most of the morning was spent navigating the suburbs of Boston on local highways, but after a few hours I finally made it out into the mountains of New Hampshire.  Red held up great and is running smooth, although the slight vibration at over 40MPH is getting worse – I’m going to look for somewhere to balance the tires and see if that helps.

IMG_0669 Later in the afternoon I ended up on some fairly empty back roads through northern New Hampshire and Vermont, so it was lots of fun to relax and enjoy the scenery and the ride without worrying about people passing me constantly (even when I’m doing 45MPH in a 45 people go crushing past).  Unfortunately right after my final gas stop I ran into my first rain of the trip!  I had to pull over and quickly unpack my rain gear, but everything stayed dry as I putzed around through the rain for the next couple hours until I finally arrived at my destination for the night – Brighton State Park.  Tent is all set up and it’s time to catch some early Z’s I think…  I forgot to bring insect repellant and I’m getting eaten alive here!

Travel Day 3: Island Park, VT to Pac National du Mont-Tremblant, Quebec – 268 miles, 11 hours

An early 7AM start saw me on the road up north while it was still cold and dreary out, a completely worthwhile experience as very little tops being alone on a forest road riding through the morning mist.  Without a map or a plan I simply followed a random northbound highway and within a couple hours I suddenly saw a sign for Canada – when followed, it took me around a corner, over a bridge, and directly up to the border.  This was a bit of a surprise as I had no idea I was that close!

The border was an interesting affair.  The Quebec officers were very polite, however they seemed a bit dubious about this idea of a vagabond riding a scooter “in transit” through their country.  I spent two hours in the immigration office as they took apart all my bags (and as typical failed to put them back together properly) and kept pestering me about the idea.  I showed them one of my flyers and they went so far as to look up my web page and my facebook page, then I even heard them giving the url’s out to the immigration officer over the phone.  Finally they told me they would let me stay in Canada until August 31 and printed me up some extra paperwork to make it easier in case I “got arrested” (wtf?).  Then with a final grin and a wave I was off into Quebec.

IMG_0693 First, um, woops.  Yeah, that’s right, the whole “French thing.”  I knew this intellectually (I’ve been to Montreal before) but somehow it did not at all settle into my psyche that I would be travelling through a very foreign country for awhile.  It’s a good thing I have a rudimentary grasp of French and can thus follow street signs and general warnings, otherwise I’d have been confused and lost a few times.  After driving for a couple hours I finally realized I should get a map and figure out where I was, which I promptly did.  I set a route through Montreal and up towards Mont-Tremblant National Park with the idea of camping there for the night.

It was a confusing ride at times as I mostly avoided the main highways, but eventually I made it here.  Imagine my shock and dismay when I found out that one night of camping would cost me over $40!  Everything in Canada has been expensive ($11 for a combo meal and $4.50 to fill up my tank?!), but this was mind-blowing.  I thought US National Parks were expensive, but at least you can get a year-long entry pass for cheap, apparently here the pass only applies to parks in Quebec.  Not much good to me since I’ll be on my way out of here ASAP…

IMG_0630 Ah well.  Red is holding up great, pushed it pretty hard a couple times today (even saw an indicated 61MPH on a flat when I was getting towed behind a truck) and only needed to add another 500ml of oil.  Depending on how much I make tomorrow I may need to change the gear oil again though.  Either way, she’s purring along and I’m slowly figuring things out!

The highlight of my day was a cute cashier asking me in one of those incredible French accents “Are you sure I can’t get you anything else?” as she gave me a seductive (or sinister) wink.  You French-Canadian women, how you taunt me…

Travel Day 4: Pac National du Mont-Tremblant, Quebec to Val-d’Or, Quebec – 305 miles, 11 hours

Today was vicious, humbling, and frustrating in every direction.  It started with a great night’s sleep, so comfortable that I ended up choosing to sleep in.  When I finally woke up and started to pack up my gear it was a slightly drizzly and overcast morning – meaning I had to pack my tent away wet for the second morning in a row.  I re-sorted my gear once again and eventually set off at 9AM with a new “optimum” deployment.  Shot some footage on the road to begin, narrowly made it out of the park without running out of fuel (a problem), then jumped on the 117 for the big push.


A few hours down the road I started to run into some fairly serious rain, enough that I finally pulled over and ate my first sit-down meal in Canada hoping it would go away.  Unfortunately I checked the weather forecast and found that the entire area was going to be blanketed in rain and thunderstorms for the next two days!  Up north looked clear, so I decided to go for it – keeping in mind that I had to be careful about potentially getting water in the air intake.

It’s hard to summarize what happened next.  I spent many, many hours riding up twisting mountain roads with almost no visibility (goggles don’t have windshield wipers) and barely breaking 25-30MPH.  This meant I had to keep a careful eye on my mirrors and pull onto the shoulder any time someone came up behind me, a technique I got very good at – thankfully the shoulder was almost completely paved and I only had one really close call when I pulled off almost directly into a six inch deep pothole I didn’t see (just clipped it).  Sometime during this mindless ride I realized I had stopped seeing signs for any next towns and by my calculations Val-d’Or was still 150+ miles away – but I had enough fuel in the tank and spare can to get there if I averaged 80+MPG or so (I normally am over 90).

Problem…  climbing up mountains uses more fuel.  I did not get 80MPG, and the tank went empty well earlier than usual.  Instead of getting nervous I shrugged it off, figuring I had enough to worry about.  I got a nice break in the rain for an hour or so, then the rest of the day turned into sun, rain, sun, rain, clouds, rain, etc.  Never knew what was around the next corner – and the entire time it was pretty chilly.  I think the funniest part was when I wrung out my waterproof fleece line gloves and must’ve poured half a liter of water out of them.

I also tried to get some rain footage using the waterproof case on my ContourHD, and while the footage came out okay the sound on both audio sources was bad – too much vibration in the ContourHD and too much rain noise on the Zoom.  Bummer.  Random tidbit of information: when I ride in stressful situations I sing random songs that I make up.  I sung…  a lot.  People driving by must’ve thought I was loony.

As my fuel gauge dropped into E and started to blink, I finally saw a sign that said there was another town in 32km.  Getting closer and closer I realized I wasn’t likely to make it – I was on fumes and it was still 6km away, I was going to have to push.  Just then the forest opened to my right and I stumbled upon a magical clearing with a beautiful gas station shining in the sunlight.  Fuelled up, I rolled into Val-d’Or an hour later and grabbed a (expensive, ugh) motel room for the night.

Closing Thoughts (written 7/22 @ 10AM)

IMG_0693 Canada is really expensive.  This is throwing everything off in my calculations and means the trip is going to cost a lot more than I anticipated.  Ugh.

Today I stopped at Wal Mart in the morning to get some fleece pants and more bungee cords.  It was exciting.  Maybe today I will be warm again? 

Next up is Ontario, hopefully.  We’ll see if their local parks are cheaper to camp in…  otherwise I may have to resort to finding free spots to stay!

Red is holding up great so far. Wicked tight.

I’m having a hard time with photos because it’s such a hassle to stop and pull all the gear out – but I need it to be tucked away to be waterproof.  I’ll figure something out as time goes by.  Yesterday especially I missed out on a lot of photos due to the rain.

Okay, time to pack and hit the road!  Really late start today!


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