Thursday, July 26, 2001, 7:30 AM, I’m up and doing a final re-check on the bike. My sleeping bag, food, and other items that need weather protection, are in the Givi top case and side bags. Items I might need quickly, like rain gloves, hat, sunscreen, camera, are in the big magnetic tank bag in front of me. And tied to the passenger seat is:
- An old tail pack containing a gallon of spare gas and a litre of naptha.
- Thermarest mattress
Following some advice from Iron Butt, these externals are fastened on with rope, not bungees. It’s more positive and secure, eliminates the fear of being bungy-whacked while riding, and the rope is useful for other things on arrival. I’m particularly pleased to have found that cubical jerry can for gas, that fits so well inside the old tail pack. I know I have to go a 400Km stretch between gas stations and, while Connie can do this range, it’s nice to know I have backup in case of a wrong turn or a closed gas station.
The bike also has the collection of traveling modifications I’ve made over the years. Handlebar risers, highway pegs, taller wind screen, throttle lock, GPS. Each of these things has been a godsend on a previous trip, so I’m glad to have them along.
Ok, we’re all set. It’s about 7:40 AM, warm and sunny, and a good forecast. I’m thrilled and excited to be doing this trip after thinking about it for so long, and a little nervous about riding into the unknown. Although I went to bed early last night, I must admit I didn’t sleep very well with the excitement.
The first challenge will be to get clear of Ottawa/Hull, and northbound on the Quebec highways to the north. I’m not looking forward to crossing the city, especially the bridge, during rush hour, but I can’t think of any way around it other than leaving too early (deer problem) or too late (distance problem).
It ends up taking about an hour to go down the Ottawa river parkway, cross into Hull, and work my way up to Northbound highway 105. Slow frustrating traffic. By the time I clear Hull I’m tired just from the tension of being alert and the frustration of creeping along.
At about Km 83 I come across a roadside rest area with washrooms so I stop for a stretch and to check how the bag tie-downs are holding up. Strangely, despite being late July, the washrooms are locked up, too bad. Once I cleared the traffic, 105 became a nice road, twisty, with a good surface, following the river. It’s 14 degrees, and I’ve closed the zipper vents on my suit as it’s a bit chilly. Expecting it to get much chillier, I don’t start my electric vest. Off again at 9:00.
I try to make a habit of stopping about every hour when traveling distance. 10:00, Km 159, stop for gas in Maniwaki. It’s cold out, and I’m tempted to put on the electric vest, but resolve to put it off for one more stop. That turns out to be quite soon, as I come to the town of Grand-Remous sooner than expected, and pull into a no-name truck stop / restaurant for breakfast at Rand Point.
So far the roads have been good. Some construction but never a traffic problem. I’m traveling a comfortable 110 on open road under bright blue sky. Clouds are just starting to gather on the horizon to the North and West.
Breakfast is an adventure. I’m surprised how little I remember of my French, and make a small translation error when looking at the menu. I order the trucker’s special, and am surprised when the waitress doesn’t ask me my choice of (according to the menu) ham or bacon or sausage or creton or pancake. Oops. It turns out I get all those things, not a choice of those things, with the special. When I finally waddle out of the restaurant I am pretty sure I won’t need to eat again for the rest of the trip. Remembering how cold it was getting, and that I don’t have another planned stop for a while, I put my electric vest on under the suit before pulling away at 11:00.