Friday, August 17, 2018

DesTinaTion: L'Épopée de la Moto - Father & Son Motorcycle Trip On a Moto Guzzi V7 Racer - Day 2!

What better way to arrive to a motorcycle museum than on one!
With over 350+ kilometers under our belt after day one, we found ourselves awake bright and early and ready to tackle whatever the open road had planned for us that day. L'Épopée de la Moto was just an hour away from Motel-341 by highway but we decided to take the backroads instead that bordered the St Lawerence river. The scene couldn't have been more idyllic and what better mode of transportation than a Moto Guzzi V7 Racer to carry us towards our impending destination. We could have stopped for photographs, but somehow, it would have felt like we were ruining the moment. There is something serene about riding along a backroad on a motorcycle. Its engine note is intoxicating yet relaxing along these country roads. Topping the cherry on the cake was having my son sitting behind me as he effortlessly leaned into some twisties with me. A natural born biker he is.

The Bel-Air in 1985
We soon found ourselves in the town of Montmagny, Quebec where we decided to stop and eat at another mom and pops diner called the Bel-Air. The restaurant seems to have missed an opportunity to exploit their history as it has been serving customers since 1954, if I recall correctly. In case you haven't already guessed, the owner who opened it named the restaurant after his Chevrolet Bel-Air. The food was fine and undoubtedly healthier than anything that McDonald's could serve up. Still, it struck me just how this little time capsule was still standing and serving the same clients who had literally spent their entire lives eating there. The history lover in me found it especially appealing to be there with my son and for a moment I allowed myself to wonder if he would one day be sitting at the Bel-Air with his own son or daughter on their own motorcycle adventure. In a way we had become a minuscule part of its history but one that may have special meaning to him one day.

L'Épopée de la Moto
What was supposed to be an hour from the motorcycle museum easily turned into two as we found ourselves getting lost in all the sights that the road to Rivière-du-Loup had to offer. The museum is a must for any motorcycle lover and even for those interested in antiquities. The road was littered with a variety of antique shops, museums and spots for a picnic perfect for two or a family to enjoy. L'Épopée de la Moto was easy enough to spot as they have two vintage motorcycles as part of their signage/advertising outside the museum. I couldn't help but feel sorry for the two bikes as even the Jawa (see below) seemed to be begging for a warm living room to sit in whilst listening or watching the Long Way Around with Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman. However, using defunct classic cars and motorcycles as advertising to draw the public in seems to be a common theme here in Quebec. The museum caters to both souvenir collectors and motorcycle enthusiasts. For $8.00 per person (children under 12 enter for free!), it was probably the cheapest museum I had ever attended. The treasures inside, however, are priceless.

Noticeably absent was Royal Enfield (RE). Given that the latter is the oldest running motorcycle company in the world, I was rather disappointed. Not least of all because I find the RE Bullet Classic 500 to be amongst one of the most beautiful motorcycles ever made. Interestingly, the owners of the museum had some machines in the Italian room (pictured above) still in their original crates. The latter included a Laverda, Ducati, Bimoto and Moto Guzzi. The owner had purchased them and set them aside and there they sit to this day. More time capsules. When I purchased Bella, I was one of many trying to get my hands on one of the last five speed V7 Racers being sold in North America. Unlike in Europe, the new six speed V7 Racers sold here come with a matt black/grey Harley-esque paint scheme which is a mistake in my opinion. Thus, many folks purchased the same bike as mine only to keep them locked away in their crates. Like their distant relatives above, there they will remain until the day they will find themselves in a motorcycle museum similar to or perhaps even the same one that we visited. I can see the allure of keeping something mint. However, a motorcycle needs to live on the open road as much as we need air to breathe. That being said, I know I have babied Bella in hopes of ensuring she stays forever young.

Overall the museum was worth the trip. It's something that I have personally wanted to do since first learning about it back in 2012. The experience was enriched by being able to have gone with my son on this epic little vacation. Though my son found himself particularly drawn to a Yamaha and an Indian, he especially liked the Whizzer (that's my boy)! I did find the souvenir shop to be rather pricey, but then, given how cheap it is to see the exhibit, I think its a fair trade. Whilst the museum's collection isn't as nearly as impressive as Jay Leno's Garage, let alone The Art of the Motorcycle exhibit at the Guggenheim, it is still an exciting and engaging experience. The history behind the motorcycles themselves and the people who not only created them, but who lived alongside these machines is enough to draw in even the most discerning critic. Our next port of call would take us south-west to a place that had played a special part in my own childhood. Ironically, along the way I saw a teal coloured Royal Enfield Bullet Classic EFI motorcycle in the wild just a few hours afterwards as we headed towards St. Gabriel De Brandon.

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