Meet V-Strom. I purchased this motorcycle a few months before and it was time to break it in on a trip. I originally planned to go for about 4 days around the 4th-of-July holiday weekend to see how it would perform on extended trips. I quickly decided to make it a week because it is easy to rack up miles on this type of bike. This is a ride report of a motorcycle trip from July 2 – 16, 2005.
After being on the road for 4 days, I was having so much fun that I added another week. I made the mistake of reading about the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia right before I left and well… the rest is history. 4500 miles / 7250 kilometers later, it turned out to be an excellent motorcycle for a combination of touring longer distances, carving the twisties and exploring gravel roads. Intrigued? Read on!
Day 1 – Deep River, Ontario – 523 miles / 842 km
The day started out bright and sunny in northern Michigan, which was a welcome change from the continuous rain the day before. At 8:00am, it was time to fire up the engine and head north towards Canada. The Mackinaw bridge was still pretty quiet on this Saturday morning so crossing the 5 mile wide straits between the lower and upper peninsula went very quickly.
The border crossing with Canada was much busier so that took a good 40 minutes. “Any weapons, alcohol, tobacco?” was the standard question from the customs officer. He looked at my motorcycle and decided I probably didn’t have any rocket launchers in my cases so he waived me through. I was glad to finally be on the road again because it was getting hot without much of a breeze. Highway 17 is the Trans Canada highway and covers a lot of ground. I would spend the rest of day on this road so it was safe to remove the tank bag with the map.
Northern Ontario is not very exciting in some places but is a pleasant landscape nonetheless. It’s pretty quiet outside the major towns along the way so that was perfect to rack up some miles. The speed limit is 90 kph but most cars and trucks go at least 120 kph. As the sun was setting, I rolled into the small town of Deep River where I found a small motel. After riding all day on a motorcycle, I think I even fell asleep before my head hit the pillow.
Day 2 – Quebec City, Quebec – 442 miles / 711 km
The next morning, I rode for an hour and arrived in Pembroke. Time to have breakfast. I decided to make a small detour into the province of Quebec. Immediately, all road signs are in French which is a strange experience in North America. I was going to ride through the city of Ottowa but it was already getting late. And it was bloody hot as well which is never good for riding through a city with many traffic lights. So off I went on the highway towards Quebec City.
Passing through Montreal is a challenge on a motorcycle with its narrow highway lanes and busy traffic. The highway from Montreal to Quebec City is straight and really boring but it gets you to your destination quickly. It was already in the evening when I arrived in the city. I stopped in the suburbs and found the Ozone Hotel in the business district. Interesting name with interesting rooms with very large mirrors. On the ceiling and on each side of the bed! If you really enjoy looking at yourself, this is the place to stay in Quebec.
Day 3 – Trois-Pistoles, Quebec – 185 miles / 298 km
After having breakfast at the hotel, it was time to explore the city. The old part of the city (Vieux Quebec) is the only walled city in North America and is a major tourist attraction. Unfortunately, motorcycles are not allowed in this part of town so I had to find parking just outside. It is a nice place to stroll around for a while, look at the wonderful old houses and gaze over the St Lawrence river on the huge boardwalk in front of the Château Frontenac. The river was named ‘kebec’ by the natives so that explains the name of the city and province.
When I got back to my motorcycle, I found a piece of paper and envelope placed between my throttle cables. Only 3 days on the road and already in trouble with the law. I had seen the sign saying something about motorcycles and parking on this street but I figured there was not going to be any police around on this quiet street on a monday morning. Wrong! “Interdit moto dans cette rue”.
On my way out of the city, I stopped by Gaétan Moto because I needed some gloves. ‘Parlez-vous anglais?”, I said hopefull to the girl that helped me. “A leetle beet” she answered like she was really sorry she wasn’t fluent. I told her I was looking for gloves and pointed at my hands. “Mais oui, les gands!”. I found some summer gloves and also bought a pair for colder weather because they were 50% off. Good deal. That’s always the fun thing to do when you don’t speak a language very well. As long as you try to speak the local language, people will always try to help the best they can.
Heading a little bit south and then east, I first followed the highway which is not very exciting. Route 132 follows the shore of the St. Lawrence river and is so much more scenic. All the way, the river lays deep below, trying to find its way to the ocean. There are many beautiful homes and quaint churches along the way which gives the idea of riding through the French countryside. The smell of flowers and fresh-cut grass was rolling down from the hillside meadows and collided with the sweet salty smell of the river. It’s always surprising how many different scents you experience on a motorcycle.
I was going to stop in Rivière-du-Loup but was not really impressed with the town to spend the night there. So I decided to head to Trois-Pistoles, named after a a silver goblet worth three pistoles which was lost by a French sailor here a long time ago. The lady at the Motel La Seigneurie was friendly and, conveniently, spoke very good English.
Continue with part 2: link