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Common Tread

Quebec? You bet!

Nov 17, 2014

My everyday tasks as a Gear Geek Team Lead include providing shipping quotes for our international customers, so I frequently interact with our Canadian friends. Many times, those interactions included a tale of an awesome ride or an encounter with a moose. I started getting interested.

Then I talked to a guy who rented a Harley and just took off riding through Canada for a week. He told me of breathtaking views and smooth winding roads that go on forever. I was sold.

Two weeks later, my friend, Ben, and I rode out of the Philly area in the rain on our way to Montreal. Luckily, the rain didn’t last and our ride was amazing before we even got to Canada. Heading north through Vermont provided some beautiful scenery, especially on a perfect, late-summer day.

on the road to Canada
A rare instance of the KLR being ahead of the Gold Wing. Photo by Dan McBrearty.
If I told you there were seven cylinders firing beneath us as we headed north to Canada, you might guess we were riding something like a Triumph Tiger triple and a Yamaha FJR1300, for example. It’s not that simple. Ben and I have traveled together before, but we take different approaches. I was riding my faithful and dependable Kawasaki KLR650 thumper and Ben was on a Honda Gold Wing. We were ready for everything from a dirt road to a long highway stretch. Just not both of us at the same time.

The Gold Wing versus KLR factor came into play when we arrived in Montreal right about rush hour and hit some traffic. Ben was whipping through traffic on his Wing like we were splitting traffic in Cali. As torquey as the big single-cylinder KLR is, the Wing’s flat six blew me away like I was on a bicycle and Ben was gone. Great. I’m lost in a foreign country in rush-hour traffic. Luckily, I had outfitted both of our helmets with Sena intercoms before we left. I gave Ben a quick shout to wait up, and eventually found him waiting on the side of the road with his Schuberth C3 open and a big smile on his face.

“Man, you gotta keep up!” he told me.

Montreal is a mix of modern and historic. Photo by Dan McBrearty.

Montreal is an amazing city with history and culture that almost makes it feel like you’re in Europe instead of the Americas. I had heard stories about French Canadians refusing to speak English to visitors, but I experienced the complete opposite. Everyone was outgoing, friendly and helpful! Even as we were just riding down the street to and from our hotel, Canadian bikers asked us where we were headed and if we needed help getting there. It was truly unbelievable and a great experience for my first time in Canada. I loved Montreal and plan on heading back there again to spend a bit more time exploring the city, since I was only there for one night on this trip.

Quebec signs
Gotta watch for those enfants, now that we're in Quebec. Photo by Ben Echegoyen.
Leaving for our next stop in Quebec City, we made a quick pit stop in a village for some gas and got a few pictures. That’s when we discovered that our GPS had ceased functioning. Fortunately, Quebec City is fairly easy to navigate and we found our hotel without issue.

A huge bonus and pleasant surprise is that the parking garage had a motorcycle-only section! Why can’t we get this in Philly? O Canada, America’s hat and parking intelligence leader!

Quebec City
The old part of Quebec City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Photo by Dan McBrearty.

More than 400 years old, Quebec City has even more history than Montreal. Its old city walls and historic district are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We found a street festival and grabbed an outdoor table at a nearby bar for some drinks, live music and most importantly, poutine.

trying poutine
Poutine. Yes, it is. Photo by Ben Echegoyen.
Everyone at RevZilla had been telling me to make sure I get some poutine, so I did. How many forms of animal and vegetable fats can you put into one plate of food? It was not my cup of tea, and I will leave it at that.

Once again, the nice folks of Quebec City were much more courteous and pleasant than I was lead to believe they would be! There was the one fellow we talked to who mumbled something about “Yanks,” but he was well into an evening of drinking by then, so I didn’t pay much attention.

Looking at a map of Canada really drives home just what a tiny taste of this huge country we experienced. Our quick tour focused on two historic cities, but Canada has other whole worlds of coasts and mountains and plains. There’s so much more to see, but time off has its limits, so we had to start for home.

We had hoped to ride the Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire on the way home, but time didn’t allow it. Even riding Interstate 93 to Boston gave us a look at the beautiful New Hampshire landscape.

Kawasaki KLR650
On the road aboard the "Killer." Photo by Ben Echegoyen.
The highway miles were not kind to me and my “Killer” 650. It was really struggling up some of the mountains in New Hampshire, with the additional weight of my luggage. I think Ben got a little annoyed at waiting for me as his Wing was eating up the elevation changes with ease. At one point, I saw he had one leg crossed over his gas tank with his cruise control set, while I struggled along in his wake. I pinged him on the Sena, told him to let it rip, and that I would catch up with him further down the road. Within a minute, he was gone and I was jealous!

After a chill night in Boston, the ride home to Philly was just about unbearable. I was using an Airhawk DS seat pad, but even that can only do so much. The last 15 miles on the Pennsylvania Turnpike were the worst. I was so close, but so far. When I pulled into my driveway, the skies opened up with a crack of thunder, and the rain poured down. I left my bike out in the rain for a while, hoping some of the bugs would be washed away. It was good to be home with a rider's high from an international adventure.