Happy Friday! By the end of the day, Daegan and I will have picked up our last few things and packed anything we think we might need for a two week bicycle trip in to four large panniers. Generally speaking we’ll be bringing 3 changes of bike clothes, a couple street clothes outfits, bathing suits, a few simple spare parts and tools, a bunch of maps, a lightweight Chromebook and Daegan will bring his digital camera. Oh, and passports and Canadian Permanent Resident cards – we’ve a border to cross. We’ll bring somewhere between 4-6 water bottles and of course some consumables: energy bars mostly to start but depending on what is on offer when we stop, those may eventually be replaced with anything from bagels to donuts to muffins. And as our trip will be in Quebec and New England, there will, no doubt, be “energy gels” available in the form of maple candy.
Our trip will be mostly freeform. We are pretty certain that Vermont will be included in the trip, and there’s a suspicion that we could end up on a beach in Maine at some point, but beyond that only the first couple of days are truly planned out.
Day one we arrive in Montreal and stay with a friend. The next morning we head south out of Montreal aiming for Plattsburgh. We’ll be taking much the same route as our 2012 trip did because it sticks very much in our mind. Some might think that one’s arrival in New York City at the end of a 1,500 kilometre right would be the most memorable but for some reason this day comes to mind far more often. After taking seemingly forever to leave the suburbs of Montreal including a long stretch of road that passed a seemingly endless line of motels offering rates for “Sieste”. (Right, Naps…) we were in farm country. This song is playing in my memory though we listened to everything from this album to the Grateful Dead to someone’s “Old Hippie Road Trip” mix.
The first weird thing that we noticed was that coming up on the left was a house. But unlike an ordinary house, this one had no foundation. Instead the whole thing was a good six feet off the ground, balanced on piles of cinder blocks. The bottom of the front door was level with the top of my head and you could see the fields behind it through the underside of the house. We stopped to investigate this further. On our side of the road we noticed a rather dilapidated shack hidden in the brush surrounded by trash and old appliances. I prepared to take a picture of the strangely elevated house but by the time I got my phone out I heard the front door of the shack open and then there was the furious barking of a large dog. I tossed my phone in my pocket and we got on our bike and accelerated faster than we’d ever done before. We never saw the dog but in our minds it was enormous. It’s name had to be Cerberus and quite possibly had several heads. (JKC: Andy, knowing my record on such things, may have a different opinion as to what it looked like)
We continued on but before long we were really hot. Fleeing certain death takes a lot out of a person. And so, seeing some trees up ahead we decided to stop there and have a drink and a rest. The shade was wonderful but the sign next to it wasn’t so welcoming. Between this experience and running from the dog I was beginning to think that perhaps we were in a terrifying horror movie. On the other hand, it is entirely possible that Tucker and Dale were trying to catch up to us to offer us lunch and homemade lemonade.
Moving on again we continued for another 30 min or so when we saw a welcome sight: a restaurant with a delightful patio. We sat outside and enjoyed our fish and chips (the official lunch of Daegan and Todd’s bike trips). Not long after we got there a group of bikers rolled up with leather jackets with some sort of insignia on the back of them. Neither of us speaks particularly good French but we understood about 30% of it since that was about the percentage of words that were “Tabarnak”. (For those not familiar with Quebecois slang, this is a pretty rude word on par with dropping an f-bomb in English. Interestingly enough, many of the Quebecois swears are “sacres” – deliberately mispronounced words considered holy in the Catholic church. Very different than the anatomical, scatological, and sexual nature of English curses).
We made it to the border – and to answer the question of many, crossing the border on a bike – even a tandem one is pretty easy. You get asked the same questions but are less likely to be someone smuggling (many) drugs or people. We were asked if we had any drugs and when I said “No” asked if that included Advil. Ooops – no, we have some of those. “How many?” Satisfied that a bottle of Advil was a reasonable thing for two cyclists to carry on a 1500 km journey, we were allowed to pass. Of course the Mullah Nasrudin knows we could’ve still been smugglers – as long as we were smuggling bikes.
Just past the border we were back in the country again – cattle country now. I remember at one point an adolescent cow got really interested in us and ran alongside us on their side of the fence until their pasture ended and we continued on. We passed an old man’s house and seeing us he tried the opening gambit that everyone seemed to use to talk to us while we were on the tandem: “Hey, the guy in back isn’t pedaling!” When we stopped he offered me a beer (Daegan was only 13 – no beer for him) and a place to stay. We already had one, though and so we headed out after a brief chat.
And so Sunday, when we leave, we’re going to pass a lot of those places – this time with Daegan as an adult. Maybe we’ll have time to take a picture of the elevated house (if it’s still there – I’m not sure it is as we couldn’t find it on Google Streetview – or maybe we were in an alternate universe for a bit…). In any case, what I do know is that that round is tremendously pleasant with very little traffic after we get out of the city so that means lots of opportunity to listen to the music in our phones and enjoy each other’s company. Watch for stories… Unless this time they catch us…