Sunday, September 12, 2010

Bethel Maine to Brockville Ontario

It was a grey and cloudy morning, one year to the day from when Sandy had the blood clots in her lung. Now we'll be able to get out of Canada health insurance at a reasonable rate again. We had breakfast with Brother Bear and Laurie in the dining room before packing and loading up.

There was a squall line approaching from the west according to the radar and I figured we would have to meet it somewhere out there. Discretion being the better part of not getting soaked, we put on rain suits before we left Bethel. While I usually travel via Highway 2, Google Maps told me it was 40 miles shorter going via Montreal. Taking into account the fact that Highway 2 led directly to the weather front, I decided to try something different and brave La Belle Province.

We headed north on State Road 26, which turned out to be a very enjoyable route. It twisted and wound its way through Grafton Notch State Park and then crossed into New Hampshire just before Errol. A bit of the road was rough where it was being prepared for resurfacing but it was generally pretty good. We passed through Dixville Notch, the first place in the US to vote in Presidential elections and then passed the spectacular Balsams Grand Resort Hotel on the shores of Lake Gloriette. I checked their website and found January weekday rooms go for $318.00 per night while a June weekday room is $418.00 and Saturday night is $458.00. In their defence, that includes three square meals for two and use of all the facilities including the Donald Ross golf course. Maybe some day.

We continued on to Colebrook where we took US 3 due north along the Vermont border to the Canadian border station at Hereford, Quebec. This is a tiny crossing and the border posts look almost like old fashioned gas stations. We pulled up on the Canadian side and a young lady came out to ask us a few questions. I guess we passed muster because we were allowed back into the country again.

The farms and buildings in this part of the Eastern Townships look affluent and well maintained. All went well until we reached the northbound Route J. Armand Bombardier, which was like a quilt of road patches and could really use some attention. I did note that all the signs are exclusively in French. In Ontario, we bend over backwards to be sure everything is bilingual but I can see that the Quebecois do not feel the need for reciprocal courtesy. It is funny that, while I feel right at home in the USA, this Canadian province feels alien to me. That is probably why I avoid it every chance I get despite the fact I was born there.

As we rolled along, again trying to avoid stressing the front end, I considered the Traxxion Dynamics suspension on the bike. If I had it to do over again, I might skip the dampers and just go with the springs, steering head bearing and fork brace. The whole setup is great but I could probably get 80% of the improvement for 20% of the cost and any Honda shop would be able to do the suspension work.

We reached Autoroute 10 and turned west towards Montreal, with the speed of traffic picking up every mile we travelled. I was fighting a severe crosswind but we didn't see any sign of the weather front until we reached the city. Then, as we ground to a halt due to the three westbound lanes of the Champlain Bridge being reduced to one, it started to spit. Anyone riding a full faired motorcycle knows you can stay pretty dry in the rain as long as you keep moving. We weren't. Luckily, the rain didn't amount to much and, after a 30 minute delay, we were over the bridge and continuing west again.

Leaving Montreal, we stopped at a McDonald's in one of the outlying suburbs where I did my best ordering off the all French menu. Then we continued across the border into Ontario, where the road changed into the familiar 401. I selected Brockville as the day's destination and the weather started to close in on us as we approached. We got into the nice new Comfort Inn (popcorn in the lobby) just before the rain hit and got a ground floor room with opening patio doors. The desk clerk even phoned to check if we found the accommodations satisfactory. A nice touch.

We skipped a formal supper and went to the Food Basics grocery store next door where we picked up some food items to nibble on in the room. The forecast for tomorrow didn't look very good and, tired from the ride today, we turned in early.

Today's Route (312 miles):

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