Ducati: Many Roads of Canada – On the Run

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Ducati: Many Roads of Canada - New Brunswick

On the back roads of New Brunswick, the fall colours are gathering; greens transforming to oranges, yellows and golds. They would make a tremendous backdrop, except right now they’re making a tremendous blur. The road quality is horrendous; we’re diving between potholes, ruts, wallows and severe frost heaves that compress the rear suspension and the human spine. We could slow down and smooth the road out to a mere Quebec back road level of punishment, but the Multistrada and I are on the run… A warm fall day today, but tomorrow the rain hits… and following that, Hurricane Kyle.

Preceding Kyle is a warm wet tropical harbinger of Carolina precipitation pipelining to the Atlantic Provinces. This is the chase scene, set to an internal rhythm of hard fast techno – mainly because I’ve forgotten a set of ear-buds for the iPod.

On a bike you live by the weather channel; weather that’s inconvenient in a car is punishing on a bike. Cold is amplified by wind chill and wet amplifies the cold; it’s an exponential equation of discomfort if you’re unprepared or your gear is poor. You can guess where the accursed Buell Adventure Jacket sits in that equation.

You do everything you can to outguess Mother Nature, and stay in the clear and dry just that little bit longer. Every hotel without wi-fi access to Environment Canada’s radar maps is a psychological blow. The Zumo GPS has an option for an XM satellite receiver, allowing you to subscribe to a weather layer overlaying the GPS functionality. Does it come with a driest route option on the list of avoidances in the trip calculation? It’s missed other motorcycling essentials like the incalculable most scenic, and the all important most twisty route options.

Regardless, you know the weather will always catch you. A global game of cat-and-mouse, except this time the cat has a fire hose. Hurricane Kyle, arriving five years to the day after Juan battered the Maritimes – there is no fight, only flight.

Driven onwards, herded by the weather, I’m also called forwards. This rip the red and yellow leaves from the trees ride has me aiming for Quebec (city) and the pickup of some fresh gear courtesy of Ducati.

The Italians have a word for it – “pompone”; the thunder of horses’ hooves. Ninety-eight of them are charging across New Brunswick, the hwy 108 trampled beneath gripping rear rubber. I love the wandering, the easy days, the discovery of new places… I love this as much.

Twist the throttle in a rage of torque… the front end lifts; exiting the corner the Multistrada kicks up its heels. Finally unfettered by touring concerns and demonstrating the heritage of a company built on racing. We stop at gas stations, refuelling with smooth transitions only allowed a lone rider. No group to cater to, no waiting for another’s pee-break, nothing but the briefest snacks. This is travel with the inconsequential stripped away, it is pure, fast and delightful.

On the back roads my companions are convoys of muddy 4x4s with one of two options in the back; a quad or a dead moose.  The gas stations have been invaded by strike forces of out of shape men with the odour of last night’s drinking still roiling off of them, two days stubble, fatigues and caps so neon orange as to send Kawasaki or KTM scrambling for a colour match for next year’s paint jobs.  The Multistrada and I charge onwards.

Rules are broken and apologies should be made – they won’t be issued. We’ve behaved this trip, but now it’s a symphony of overtakes, corners, and hard accelerated straights. We’re making good time and making good times.

We’ve gained an hour, crossing into Quebec. After the snarl of Quebec traffic, I arrive at the pickup point, Moto Vanier, with hours to spare. Don’t look at their hours, don’t do the math; I’m not proud of every lovely second.

Created by Dianese for Ducati, the Hypermotard Jacket is possibly the coolest looking piece of motorcycle kit I’ve pulled on. The external shoulder armour is a quirky touch, which suddenly has me feeling very BattleStar Galactica (the new series, not the Lorne Green glitter on the jacket version). A quick costume change and the liner is instantly and reassuringly warm. I nearly toss the Buell Jacket in the bin. Instead I pack it away, the Buell Adventure gear is built for any weather as long as it’s warm, so it could be useful in the summer.  If the duct tape over all the venting ever comes off.

The pants are small, just barely fitting. Maybe they will stretch out… or maybe I’m on the verge of becoming castrati. Word of advice, the Multistrada Touring Pants size on the small side, my manly bits will never see me earning royalties off of porn, but this is crushingly ridiculous. The afternoon rush hour is spinning up and the question is whether to stay or press on?

I love Quebec, and by the twists of fate this is my third time visiting this trip. The first time was with the Harley Davidson Best Western “FAM” Tour, and the second was on my way through to Newfoundland. Quebec’s a magnet, and I’m the iron filing continually being drawn back.  The city deserves a feature of its own, and I’ve shot enough footage and collected enough notes on my first two visits to cover its charms. After deliberation and a brief series of calls to check on hotel prices I maintain the theme of the day and continue riding.

I instantly dislike Trois-Rivieres, but it’s too late and I’ve expended myself.  If there’s a heart to this place I’ve missed it on the way in. A freeway town of service exits clogging and smogging its redemptive features.  If there’s a bane of globalization, it’s the smothering of a town’s heart and nature with a wrapping of box stores and restaurants that ensures one off-ramp is as homogenized as the next.

The search for a hotel is a cumbersome ritual. Combine the linear stop-here-stop-the-next-here search pattern of a dog looking for just the right place to do its business, with the need to remove your helmet, gloves and ear plugs… Only to press on in disgust at ghastly high prices for hotels skimming the bottom of tourist desperation.

Since when did Super-8 re-brand as “upscale” and price to match? Insult to injury I miss-hear the price, suffering an extra $40.00 of sticker shock in the morning, and then the drizzle starts… the weather is catching up.

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