I MADE IT!!! At 3:45PM I rolled into Madawaska, ME and took the required photo at the Post Office (see attached). I started this trip on May 28th and after a lot miles I have completed my goal.
I thought that the trip from Bangor, ME was going to be easier, however I underestimated the weather and roads. I got a late start and immediately encountered rain. A motorcycle truly can’t get dirty until its been in the rain in the back country. The main road (Rt. 11) is paved, but everything else is dirt or gravel, even the driveways leading into the places of business are dirt. As I had mentioned previously the main industry is timber, which means forests, lots of them! When you have forests you have moose, lots of moose. At the first gas stop the attendant told me to go easy, slow down and keep an eye out for moose and I’d be OK. As I ventured deeper into the forest, the skies turned darker and it was becoming increasingly difficult to see anything beyond the primary road. My eyes continuously scanned both sides of the road to catch a glimpse of any movement whatsoever. An unnatural movement of a branch or flower could signal an animal making an attempt to cross into the roadway. I can’t begin to tell you how many false alarms went off in my head as I made my way north. However, just as it was the darkest part of the afternoon the alarm proved real! There was a full adult moose just 10′ off the main parkway on my left. I jumped on my brakes, but not hard enough to activate the anti-lock braking system. As I slowed to approximately 20 MPH I could see him bound into the forest. I thanked my lucky stars that he decided not to go right vs. left. I know it was the luck of the draw this time. This encounter just confirmed my riding style, never take anything for granted.
Within 1/2 hour of this sighting, the skies cleared and it became sunny and warm. As I approached the northern part of the state I could see signs in both English and French. I recall my second corner, San Ysidro, which is 40 miles south of San Diego. As I got closer to border with Mexico the signs transitioned to Spanish. It’s fun to see how our cultures figure out how to work together and make the transitions.
I pulled up to the Post Office and people immediately recognized me as a Four Corners tourer. They gave me the “thumbs up” and one lady was kind enough to take a picture of me with my camera. A local individual built a park dedicated to the riders of the Four Corners, complete with monument, pavers and a water feature so I took a picture of myself there as well.
What I didn’t realize about this area of our country, is that during the summer solstice the sun comes up at 3:45AM. By 4:30AM I was up and getting organized. By 6:30AM I was back at the Post Office to take some final pictures. After looking at a map I realized the most direct route was through Canada vs. doubling back through Maine, NY, VT., etc. At 7AM I was at the border crossing. By 7:15AM two very attractive young female border agents were tearing my bags apart. I told them I wouldn’t touch some of the stuff in those bags without gloves. I guess business was slow or they just wanted to see the bike. As soon as I entered the Quebec Province, which is strictly a French speaking province, all of my French came back to me! The operative question to ask at this point is; How many years of French did you study?…. The answer, None, zero, nada, rien (french). So for the next couple of days I was basically traveling in a foreign country without a translator! I don’t know if you have been to the Quebec province, but they take their French language very seriously. Very few of them will go out of their way to help a traveler understand the signs, etc. All of the signs are in French, no English anywhere! Getting gas was a major undertaking. I had forgotten to notify Visa that I was going into Canada, so my card didn’t work and I didn’t convert any dollars, figuring I would use my credit cards. I created a major commotion at the first gas station when I had to give them US dollars. In addition, my phone’s GPS stopped working, which was the main system I was using to navigate. If you remember, I started this trip with 3 GPS units. The Magellan failed, now the IPhone wasn’t working which left me with the 7 year old Garmin that came with the bike. I guess the moral to that story is, you can never have too many GPS units!
My travels east took me through Quebec City, Montreal, and Toronto. All I can say is that riding a motorcycle through three major cities, all in the process of major highway reconstruction is a challenge. Throw in the fact that all the construction signs were in French, just put icing on the proverbial cake. I really don’t know how I made it through the various twist and turns, but somehow I came out unscathed. Interestingly, once I crossed into the Ontario Provence the signage immediately changed to both English and French. I felt like kissing the ground!! I rolled into Brockville, Ontario after putting 475 miles or 791 KM on the bike.
Another long day ahead for me included another border crossing into the US. Absolutely nothing of any consequence happened on today’s ride, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I entered at Port Huron. Crossing over the bridge was a “Oh My God” experience. For some reason the bridge is extremely high and the grade is severe. You look down on the St. Clair river below, which is an extremely long way down! Now I’ve ridden over the Alps, both the American and Canadian Rockies and along the California coast on Rt. 1 and have never had this type of reaction to heights. As I was going through the gears I was hyper aware of my position on the bridge and the consequences of a screw up. I can’t describe how wonderful it was to get back into the USA and have everything back to normal: phone, credit cards, internet, signage, etc. It’s always the little things.
A few things that I really enjoyed about being in Canada:
No McCain/Palin bumper stickers
No anti Obama signage, after riding through the back roads of America. I can’t stress this one enough
Both $1 and $2 coins
After 57 days on the road I’m finally heading for home today!!! I took off at the usual time and I got on I-69 South at Lansing, MI. As I merged onto I-94 towards Chicago, my thoughts transitioned from scanning the roadside looking for moose to searching out the Ford F-150 pick up trucks that had its sights set on me. As traffic picked up so did our speed-counter intuitive! Even through I’m quite familiar with the highway system leading into Chicago, it is still an intimidating network of roads. I rolled in around 12:30PM to an empty house, which was a good thing. It gave me the opportunity to get organized, empty everything from the bike and start the first and only load of laundry (remember what I took, which was very little).
I want to thank everyone for following me on my blog these past couple of months. I must say that it helped keep me focused through communicating with friends and family and kept me busy until bedtime each night. It has been a once in a lifetime experience and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, except the trip I’m planning for next year!
Now I have a contest for you. Below are the rules:
AS A THANK YOU FOR FOLLOWING ALONG I WOULD LIKE TO CONDUCT A CONTEST. THE CONTEST CONSISTS OF GUESSING MY TOTAL MILEAGE FOR THE ENTIRE TRIP. FOR THE PERSON WHO GETS CLOSEST, JUDI AND I WILL DONATE $100 IN YOUR NAME TO THE CHARITY OF YOUR CHOICE. PLEASE EMAIL YOUR GUESS TO STEVEG1016@GMAIL.COM. I WILL GIVE EVERYONE UNTIL AUGUST 10TH (MY 59TH BIRTHDAY) TO GET THEIR ANSWERS INTO ME. GOOD LUCK!!
Why you don’t have the second Diet Coke, somewhere in Maine
At the 4th corner and the Park dedicated to the Four Corner Tour
One of the many “French Only” signs in Quebec