November 21, 2015
We’ve been doing a good job of not over-planning our stops. Generally we pull into a town and find a spot to camp or a motel to rest our heads at. It’s something we’re still getting comfortable with as we both tend to like having a destination – but this is all part of how we’re trying to undo what we know.
I’m finding that a lot of the compulsions we have are motivated, somewhat, by fear. “What if we don’t find a room?” “What if the bikes break down?”
More and more it seems like a question that’s become less about curiosity and more about reasons to avoid actually trying something. I’m excited to return that simple question to the idea of possibility. “What if we can do that?”
We’re now north of the Huron and the wind that blows inland is lovely and cool. It’s one of those days where everything that’s going on in your helmet is quiet. There aren’t really any questions just simple observations that are usually focused on the things that are passing you by. I enjoy days like these. Time seems to be both endless and brief and the hours slip by almost unnoticed.
As we move east towards North Bay, we say goodbye to the last of the Great Lakes. The hotel we’re staying at, Inn on the Bay, is one of the few we’ve looked into prior to arrival. I check in, go to our room and it’s a dirty, musty shambles. From what we can see, their website is a complete fabrication. When we ask about the lovely rooms we see on the site, the concierge tells us that only a couple exist and are spoken for. We ask for another room and he takes us to one that’s actually worse than the first and only has two single beds. It’s only when we ask for our money back that he takes us to a third – and much better – room. The restaurant that’s so proudly displayed is closed and the breakfast that’s included looks like a stale bread, curdled-cream and warm-yogurt medley designed especially for regret.
North Bay itself is a great town. We walk around looking for a place to eat and notice something peculiar – there’s no one our age. Everyone seems quite old or quite young. And it’s quiet here. The streets are lined by shops that look interesting but most have already closed for the day. Along the water we grab a drink aboard the Chief Commanda – a ship that’s been converted to a bar and is frequented by late-night college kids. At 7pm, we’re told that we’re about 5 hours early for the action to begin! It seems our eating schedule is more in keeping with the “quite old” crowd.
Sitting on the water, we watch the storms roll in from the east. The town’s been issued a tornado warning after one touched down to the northeast and others are spotted in the corridor between North Bay and Ottawa. However, this storm seems to passing us by and we make our way leisurely back to our room.
In the morning we make our way towards Ottawa and notice the landscape changing. The rocks and dense trees are giving way to fields and farms. The smell of livestock hits us from time to time and the sky is starting to get bigger. It’s not long before we’re into the traffic of Ottawa and soon enough we’re at our motel in the heart of the city. Within walking distance to Parliament and next to the ByWard Market, it’s definitely the most tourist-oriented area we’ve stayed in, but it’s access to great restaurants and it’s general liveliness is awesome!
We hear that people in Ottawa can be a little on the “chilly” side but that’s not our experience at all. Everyone we meet is friendly and helpful – and the service is astounding. We stop at a pub for dinner and a man who is far too handsome to be nice comes to our table and takes our order. I think Nita’s quite happy with the scenery here! Unfortunately for me he’s far to nice to dislike :) It proves what we’ve been discovering day after day – take in what people say about a place, process it and leave yourself open to discovering what it’s like for yourself. For us, Ottawa is awesome.
Since our last day off was six days ago in Vermillion Bay we decide to stay an extra day in Ottawa. We stroll to Parliament and take in the architecture, wander by the Rideau Canal and visit the market that’s packed with people eating, drinking and checking the wares being sold by street-vendors. It’s a beautiful city.
I get a text from my aunt Anne saying she’ll be in the city that night! Serendipity at work again. We meet for a drink and she becomes the first person from home to visit us on the road! Of course we hope that more faces from home will visit us around the globe.
The next stop is Montréal. Since we’ve had Nita’s F650GS twin, we’ve had an ongoing problem with the computer. When she hits 4th gear the display flickers between 4th, 5th and 6th gears. The bike rides fine but having numbers flashing on your dash is distracting. Since we’re leaving the bikes in Montréal while we fly back to Calgary for a wedding, we decide to see if Moto-Internationale can fix the issue while we’re there.
I call to see if we can leave the bikes and our gear with them while we return to Calgary for a wedding and the answer is a definitive yes. We leave Ottawa and head straight to the shop – and what a shop it is! Moto-Internationale is not only the BMW dealer, it’s also the Touratech Canada distributor, the Harley dealer, the Triumph dealer and REV’IT! dealer! It’s a great shop and the folks in service are incredibly kind to us. We spend the better part of three hours dominating their space and attention as we change, wrap up gear, throw things in lockers and go over everything that needs to be done and it’s all managed without any fuss. Once everything is set, we give our thanks to Brad, Sergio and Liette and cab into Montréal.
Montréal has *a lot* of swagger! I love it here. Admittedly, my French is horrendous but nobody seems to mind my attempts to communicate, and when the ability to talk is replaced by a look of confusion as I try to find a word, the people happily start talking to me in English. If I could go back in time, I’d spend more time learning Spanish and French. Being multilingual is a gift I’ll work on.
But back to the swagger. It’s a city filled with beautiful people of all ages, where everyone seems to have their own style that’s worn with a rare confidence. People look at you in the eye and let you know that they’re looking at you. There seems to be little that’s shy about this city and it’s wonderful to be in it.
We check in at our home for a few days – Auberge du Carré St-Louis a nice little spot nestled in the Latin Quarter. We spend our day walking the city and getting to know it a little. Parts of St. Catherines are closed for the Just for Laughs Festival and the streets are crowded with folks taking in the events. Brass bands and street performers monopolize peoples attention and smiles are abundant. It feels nice to disappear into the crowd for a while and watch people go about their business.
While the vibrancy of Montréal is all around in festivals and mile-long art installations, there’s also a grittiness that makes it feel like a proper city. Our first night sees protesters marching past our hotel banging drums to a police escort. Walking in the city is frequented by young men asking us for money. Some of them even tell us it’s for beer – at least they’re honest. An impromptu sit-in at a local school has us enjoying an incredible beat-boxer while being surrounded by mohawks, patchouli and folks who haven’t seen a shower for some time. But somehow, here, you just take it in. And it’s all mostly delivered without any trace of aggression.
The time arrives for us to fly back to Calgary for Stephanie and Nathan’s wedding. They’re an amazing couple and we’re proud to be a part of such a wonderful moment in their lives. As the plane takes off from Montréal we say goodbye to our bikes for the first time on the trip. It’s a strange feeling to leave your bikes somewhere – though we know they’ll be looked after. After a couple of days in Calgary visiting with family, we drive to Golden, BC for the main event.
I have to say, if you only ever drive through Golden on the Trans-Canada you’re missing a great town! We spend three nights at the Tschurtschenthaler Lodge and it’s host Brandy Tschurtschenthaler (pronounced “Church-en-taller” – I had to ask) came out of the stay more a friend than B&B owner. The restaurants in Golden offer some amazing food and we take the gondola to the top of Kicking Horse for some breathtaking views. One of the best views we see is Boo, a grizzly bear, playfully chewing on a log while relaxing in a pool of water. Apparently, Boo and his brother Cari were orphaned when a poacher shot their mother. There was a call to put them down since their chances of survival we slim – but instead the town built a 22 acre preserve to protect them. Cari didn’t make it through the first winter but Boo has thrived and is comfortably king of the mountain. Rumour has it he breaks out during mating season to find some lovin’…
All to soon, we say our congratulations to the newlyweds and head back to Calgary for a final day with family.
Leaving Calgary seems harder on our parents this time around than the first and it takes us both off-guard. We know they’re excited for us, but the prospect of us being unavailable for extended periods of time makes this departure difficult. It seems adventure can be hard far beyond foreign lands and harsh roads. We say our goodbyes and catch our red-eye back to Montréal filled with excitement, nerves and heavy hearts.