My First Time on a Solo Motorbike Tour
I had obtained my motorcycle licence the year before, when I turned 50, and I was so confident I was ready for the solo adventure I decided to take the scenic route through the U.S.
In the early morning of Saturday, August 2 last year, after carefully packing two bathing suits, a beach cover-up, and summer shorts and tops, I set off on my motorcycle, a 750 cc Honda Shadow, to visit some friends in Tabunsintac, New Brunswick.
I had obtained my motorcycle licence the year before, when I turned 50, and I was so confident I was ready for the solo adventure I decided to take the scenic route through the U.S. The day couldn’t have started any better. I crossed the American border at Ogdensburg. The customs agent asked me if I had any drugs with me and when I replied “no,” he told me I should be on drugs to do this trip by myself.
I followed Route 3 then 9N through the Lake Placid area. Many roads were wet (a hint that I should have picked up on), but rain gear was not required. In the ferry parking lot at Port Kent I pulled up behind two men on motorcycles who were removing their very wet clothes after being caught in heavy rain coming down from Ottawa. I felt very smug that I was still dry.
An hour or so later, as the ferry approached Burlington, Vermont, the clouds started to form a swirling black mass. As I rode off the ferry, the sky suddenly opened up and the torrential downpour sent me scurrying in search of a motel room. I was unaware of the “chocolate festival” that made motel rooms in town few and far between. However, just as my boots were starting to make squishy sounds I lucked out, found a room, turned off the air conditioning, put on the heat, had a hot shower, and tried to remind myself it was August.
The second day started out wet, but I dressed in full rain gear and put plastic bags on my feet to keep them dry. I’d learned my lesson, or so I thought. Route 2 to Bangor, Maine winds through the White Mountains (so named, in my opinion, because of the thick white clouds that cover them). I was assured by the locals that the mountains are very beautiful, but due to the low clouds, fog and intermittent heavy rain, I saw very little of them.
I stopped at Walmart to purchase a bottle of wine for my friends (and when the sales clerk asked me to produce identification, I chuckled and kindly suggested that she get herself a “seeing-eye dog.” As ridiculous as her question was, it sort of made my day!)
From Bangor to St. Stephen at the New Brunswick border, there was no shelter from the weather – no towns, no gas stations, not even any bridges to stop under. It poured continually the whole way. By the time I found a room at St. Stephen, my hands were black from the dye seeping out of my wet leather gloves, and my feet were schlopping in water. In my room, I turned off the air conditioner, put on the heat, had a hot shower, opened the wine that was supposed to be a gift, and tried to remind myself it was August.
The third day dawned with no improvement in the weather – in fact it was worse. I still hadn’t dried off completely from the two previous days, so this time I double-bagged my feet and started off toward Tabunsintac into the worst rain imaginable.
I found that I had to drive on the centre hump of the road because there was so much water flowing down either side that I was afraid I would hydroplane. The pace was very slow, the winds were monsoon-like, the scenery was a blur through the slashing rain, and I was sure at any moment hypothermia was going to set in.
At one pit stop I purchased a pair of lined, green rubber gloves. Size XL was my only choice – but fashion was no longer a consideration. At 2 p.m. I finally arrived at the cottage on the Tabunsintac River. The woodstove was lit, I peeled off the drenched clothes (note to self: double bagging doesn’t work), had a hot shower, and tried to remind myself it was August.
I had driven 1,744 kilometres in two-and-a-half days in the wettest and coolest week ever recorded (I made that up, but just try to challenge me).
At last, on Wednesday afternoon, the sun appeared, and we went out in search of fresh fish, lobster and scallops to satisfy the craving that had kept me going through the whole trip down.
Normally you can just buy everything fresh as it comes in off the fishing boats; however, due to the adverse weather conditions, all the fishing boats had been tightly secured in the harbour for over a week. There wasn’t a single fishy thing to be found. It didn’t even smell fishy! We settled for ribs that night.
Thursday morning it was time to head out. Once again I decided to take a scenic tour up through Maine and stay at a friend’s condo at Greenville on Moosehead Lake. Shortly after heading out it started to, yes, rain again!
I arrived at 6 p.m. in the pouring rain, lit the woodstove, peeled off my wet clothes, was positive I saw webbing starting to form between my toes, had a hot shower, and tried to remind myself it was August.
It rained so hard I stayed an extra day there, poking around the trendy little town. Moosehead Lake is a large lake surrounded by mountains, an excellent place for fishing and hunting. I saw postcards of what it looks like on a clear day, so I can tell you, it’s a very beautiful place.
Saturday morning I headed north to Quebec, with extra caution due to the abundance of moose in the area (though I didn’t see one). I crossed the border and took Highway 138 which followed the northern shore of the St. Lawrence River. It was the first day that it didn’t rain!
That night I stayed in Saint-Jérôme after driving around in circles for an hour and a half, looking for someone who could speak English and direct me to a motel.
Sunday, I meandered my way back home through on and off rain showers. I met many, many, really great, kind and friendly people, most of whom went out of their way to help me out. The bathing suits, beach cover-up, shorts and summer tops never ventured out of my bag. The temperature never rose above twenty degrees. I am still trying to remind myself that it was August!
The round trip clocked in at 3,606 kilometres and cost me a mere $167 for fuel. Ask me if I will ever go on a motorcycle road trip again and my answer will be: “Absolutely. I loved it! But next time I’ll do it in the summer!”