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Friday, June 22, 2012

Big Ride - Day6

L'Epopee, Quebec, and other nun-sense...

Bro was the only one of us who had stayed in a B&B before, and then only once before. I have to say, if many B&B experiences are like staying at the Old Iron Inn, I don't know what anyone would stay at a hotel. Our stay was way too short, as coming home for the evening here really felt like we were coming home each night. Our hosts Kate and Kevin were really great conversationalists, and gracious in nature.
Kevin is and avid collector, of almost everything. The mechanical record and cylinder players were especially cool, and he played a wax cylinder for us on this little windup player.
Kevin's most excellent "Jeepster". Its actually in much better shape than appears here. Kate, however, says the Mercury Montego behind it has to go
After our last breakfast with Kate and Kevin at the Old Iron Inn.
After another stellar breakfast, and after spending over 2 hours afterwards chatting around the table about silicaflagelates, Avro Lancasters, and progressive politics, we had to make ourselves gear up and head out if we were going to get into Quebec at all today.
It was well after 9am when we pulled away, and immediately there was a problem. Dad's throttle ceased to respond at all. The engine was idling just fine, but the throttle had ceased to respond by the first stop sign away from the Inn, meaning he couldn't accelerate at all.
Fortunately, having been to the Harley shop looking for trinkets the day before, we knew it was right around the corner and limped over there to have them take a look.
Their theory, based on the error codes the bike was producing, was that the ECM (onboard computer) had become faulty, and would switch itself off if it couldn't process throttle inputs properly. They didn't have a replacement part in stock, but showed us a reboot procedure that should get us home if the problem repeated itself.
There not being anything else to do at this point, and with the bike responding fine now, we headed off up US1 north to Madawaska.
We had come this way from Madawaska the afternoon before, running just ahead of some serious looking rainclouds, and saw construction signage. Now on the way up, we actually ran into the construction, which slowed us down a bit. And it was quickly getting hot, sitting at the construction stops, on the freshly poured tarmac. At 10am, it was already a sunny 84 degrees and gettin' steamy.

Stopping so often allowed me to get off a few snaps of the surrounding countryside. Problem was, in just about any direction, it all kinda looked the same - wide expanses of open country with potato farms, or deep piney woods lurking with Moose
Just North of Caribou

Even with the construction and the heat, it was a relatively quick ride up to the Madawaska border crossing. At the last moment, I noticed a teeny white sign, I swear no larger than 4x12 inches, that only said "Edmunston, NB" with a little arrow pointing right. Nothing to indicate a major border crossing. As I knew from the map (yeah, the same set of maps that has been in error the whole trip) there was only one bridge, and therefore only one way to Canada from Madawaska, and since New Brunswick was in Canada, this little white sign, pointing down a small side street, MUST be the border crossing. At this point my head about exploded because I was processing all of this in about .9 seconds as I was passing this little sign, in the middle of nowhere, pointing down a small, unpromising side street. I nailed the brakes hard, determined not to make one darned u-turn to backtrack today, hoping that the others were far enough behind and paying attention to not rear end me. And sure enough, that little street led to a bridge crossing and the Canada border. Yay - I got one right, even though the technique wasn't pretty.
On the bridge to Canada

Crossing the border at the checkstation
Welcome to New Brunswick! We need to take the "2" to the right
Crossing into NB, we quickly learned "ouest", "Sud", "Est" and "Nord" for directions, as signs were bilingual. Also as we later slipped into Quebec province, "Traveaux" (more construction ahead), and "Notre Dame du..." as every other town along 2 is named "Notre Dame du Lac" or "du" something. Kevin had told us that there was an Avro Lancaster, a bomber that had actually flown in the war over Berlin, just sitting out at the roadside at the Quebec province crossing. Typically, we saw it AFTER we blew past it, but there was a convenient place to gas up across the highway, so we pulled in there to fill up as we'd not stopped since gassing up in Caribou the night before. This was our first experience dealing with everything in French, as Quebec is officially NOT bilingual. You think pumping gas is simple, till the instructions are all in french, the price is all in cents per litre, the pump won't take your card, and the attendant is giving you instructions over the intercom in french. I thought this was great and was actually having fun getting it all figured out. I do not think Dad shared my point of view on this. At all. But eventually we figured it out and got a bit of education on how things may go for our stay in Quebec.

We then went back across the street to check out the Lancaster.

Its a shame that this has been left outside for so long. The airframe is actually in pretty poor condition, and an aircraft of this historical significance should be treated better. We actually spent a good amount of time here, looking at all that had been modified on the plane over its service life (it was converted to a photo-recon plane at one point for the Korean War).
Soon after, we ran into yet more construction. We guessed they only had 3 months or so of good weather each year so were trying to get everything paved all at once. There were also Moose warning signs every few miles. They were ubiquitous, but the Moose were not. We really wanted to see one at this point, so long as it was not in the road. Sadly, we've not seen one moose our whole trip so far.

I think my favorite road sign in french so far is "dynamitage". I loved seeing dynamite as an adjective, kinda like those 80's sayings where we put "-age" on the end of doing anything cool ("way to put some croppage on that photo, dude") Yeah, Dynamitage is way better. Great signage, dude.
No Translation needed

After getting on 20 west heading to Quebec, Dad started suffering the same throttle ills again, one time taking about 20 mins before the computer would reset and allow him to use the throttle. We stopped and started this way down 20 for a bit till it seemed to clear itself up.

Even though I hated to risk encountering the throttle problem again with Dad's bike, we had planned to stop by a small motorcycle museum (L'Epopee de la Moto) as a way to break up the trip and get out of the saddle a bit. The museum was very well run, with interesting exhibits, and we enjoyed seeing all the bikes, watching a movie about the history of motorcycling in French, and just getting of the hot highway for awhile, having been in the high 80's and low 90's all day.

Keeping an eye on Dad's bike in the rearview mirror, we hopped back on the 20 for the last 50 miles to find Quebec's city center. I had studied several maps upside down and backwards the night before, cramming for this section of the trip - crossing north over the St Lawrence Seaway, and navigating the streets of Quebec City into the old city to our hotel at the city center, which was in the middle of a pedestrian-only street at the end of a one-way alley. And all the signs are in French only.

We make it to the proper exit (yay) and find the bridge (yay) looking for the street that will connect me to the Grand Alee only to run into a bloody detour, which elicited very loud profanities when the detour took us across several lanes of traffic both exiting and entering onto the bridge, and finding that the detour on-ramp actually crossed the other folks off-ramp. I cannot believe Dad and Bro were able to stick with me thru the fast moving morass, but we were now off my map and purely relegated to following the detour signs (thankfully, "detour" is already in french). We were eventually funneled onto the Grand Alee and were to our hotel in short order. We even navigated the smaller streets (Rue de Jardin and Sainte-Anne) right to the corner adjacent our pedestrian-street located Hotel. I cannot convey what a big success this feels like, and I'm happy that it went so well.

Getting into the parking deck around the corner was still a bit tricky, since the unattended entryway necessitated the use of a credit card in an unfamiliar contraption, and as none of us knew right off what "Niveau" meant (level). But we quickly figured it out after seeing a "Niveau A-B-C" sign pointing around the blind, tight, downhill corner we were initially nervous to go down. Before that we thought this huge underground garage only had one level holding about 50 spots, all of them were full, and we couldn't find a way out. While I knew were were navigating the French fine so far, having to figure it out on the fly made me feel about as smart as one of the Clampett's, perpetually looking for the Cement Pond.

Once checked into the Hotel Sainte-Anne (very nice, well appointed, spacious rooms in the center of the old city and walkable to everything) we went out exploring the immediate area and in search of food.

Bro and I actually tried to use more French as the night went on, timid but trying a few simple words in an effort to not be ugly Americans (Bonjour, Bonne Soiree, Merci, Si Vous Plait, table pour trois). Amusingly, our attempts immediately elicited an english response from most people we encountered (eg - a waitress would greet us in french, but when we'd say "bonjour" back, he/she'd quickly switch to "hello, welcome to ..."). Thankfully, everyone this evening is very gracious, friendly and happy to be bilingual with us.

We thought the vending machine selections around town very french...

There were several places around that showed through to the historic remnants of old city below the street

Our hotel is in what's called the upper town of the old city. This is looking down on, appropriately, the lower town. There's a set of steps called "break neck stairs" that will take you down there, or you can take this funicular in the lower left for 2 dollars. Its as steep as it appears here.

This is one view of the massive Chateau Frontenac Hotel, just one block from ours.

The last, widest bit of breakneck stairs

Looking down Petit-Champlain in lower town, the oldest street in Quebec

Looking back up to the Chateau

Stopping for a late dinner and some local Quebec brew. Looks like we're just a little tired.

The slice of pie behind the Creme Brulee is something called sugar pie. Its considered very Quebecois, and not like anything any of us have had before. Its very smooth in consistency and pretty darned awesome.

As in many touristy large cities, many plazas and corners contain street acts hamming it up for some change. Unlike everywhere else I've been, however, the acts we encountered were all talented and entertaining.
Since rolling in this afternoon, we'll be taking the wheels off for just a tiny bit, and not needing the bikes again at all till Friday morning when we pull out. It'll be nice to be a pedestrian for a bit since all the time we've put in the saddle (about 1,800 miles so far)

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