Monday, August 20, 2018

DesTinaTion: St. Gabriel de Brandon - Father & Son Motorcycle Trip On a Moto Guzzi V7 Racer - Day 3!

Last Leg of Our 3 Day Trip - 20 minutes outside of St. Gabriel de Brandon
After our visit to L'Épopée de la Moto, we began our journey towards St. Gabriel de Brandon. The road less travelled would take just over five hours to get us there as opposed to three and a half hours by highway. So we decided to compromise and take the back roads as a way of getting to see some of the scenic views that places like Trois-Rivières had to offer but otherwise highways so we could get to our destination quicker. For good measure, we booked a room in advance at La Cache du Lac Motel which is just a stone's throw away from Lac Maskinonge. This final leg of our journey would be bittersweet as it would also be a trip down memory lane for me. Thus, I was looking forward to returning for a variety of reasons, not least of all because I wanted to share this childhood summer hangout with my son.

Grape Crush... mmmmm!
Bella basking in the sun in all her glory after a cool drink of premium petrol.
Sunday was a particularly hot day to be out riding and it wasn't long before we felt like we were swimming in our leather jackets, gloves and helmets. ATGATT is our motto and at this point, our downfall as we stopped and hid under some light shade with a couple of Grape Crushes (so rare to find but so so delicious - think candy in a bottle). Better to be safe than sorry. As for Bella, well, I have nothing but positive things to say. Having owned a Moto Guzzi Nevada, aptly named the Widow Maker, in the Republic of Ireland, I was hesitant to buy another Guzzi. However, as I have mentioned in previous posts, whatever gremlins Moto Guzzi had lurking in their bikes seem to be a thing of the past. This is not to say that I haven't read about other V7 owners having issues, but I tend to agree with the majority who think it's dealer preparation error more than anything else. The 750cc motor has performed flawlessly and whilst it may not be as fast as a vintage Norton, her low down torque is capable of putting a smile on even the most discerning motorcyclist. Part of what has made this experience so exciting for both my son and I has been Bella. Desperate for a swim in Lac Maskinonge we pressed on.

Lac Maskinonge

Handsome little bastard, isn't he?

Family Destination

Joel Braving Lac Maskinonge's refreshing water!

The perfect place to fish, swim, or boat.

Bella Approves of her view after a long day's ride.
By the time we arrived at our little motel in St. Gabriel de Brandon we were down right exhausted and ready for a swim! La Cache du Lac Motel has been in continuous operation longer than I have been alive having changed hands only once in its fifty plus years. The new owners took over just a couple of years ago and renovated the rooms creating a boutique motel with hotel prices.  Whilst the finishings were much nicer than what we had at Motel-341, the room was considerably smaller and we couldn't help but feel as though the motel was trying to be something it wasn't. That being said, however it didn't detract from our excitement at being there. In fact, I specifically chose this motel because one of my fondest memories happened to have occurred here when I was all but nine or ten years old. I stayed at this motel with my mother and my aunt and whilst I don't recall the particulars, I do remember how we went for a swim at dawn one morning. We walked over barefoot to the lake just as the sun began to rise. I thought it only fitting that at the very minimum I could share that experience with my son at dusk. The lake is one of the many highlights of this otherwise little village that has gone from sleepy hideaway to what seems like a popular destination for city folk wanting some country fresh air.

Childhood Memories - Yours Truly With My Grandmother

The View Today Is Overgrown and absent of that gorgeous view.

The Woods Where I Would Lose Myself For Hours

The same woods today, only Joel looks so much cooler than I did in my 80's chic.
The last time I visited St. Gabriel de Brandon was back in 2012 with Serenity, my former Suzuki Intruder 1400. I was feeling very homesick at the time and found myself wondering if I would ever find a sense of peace again as returning to Quebec, Canada was never part of my life plan. It had only been two years since my return after having lived in the Republic of Ireland for just shy of a decade. Like the city of Montreal, St. Gabriel de Brandon felt like a ghost town as all I had were the memories of those loved ones who had since passed away. The original restaurant called "The Zombie" was still standing then, albeit it hadn't served a single hamburger in over a decade. Today, it has been torn down and replaced with a family home and detached garage. The original family chalet that once existed during my childhood has since also been replaced by a newer home. The past was being erased right before my eyes. So bringing Joel there was as much about attempting to create new and lasting memories for him as it was about helping me put the past to rest once and for all. 

Joel - 8 Years Old
Joel - 11 Years Old
What happened to my little boy?
I would be lying to you if I didn't confess that both my son and I felt a little choked up Monday morning as we packed our kit and prepared for our final journey to St. Lambert, Quebec. Instead of going straight home, Joel would be spending a few days with his grandparents. Thus, I would be making the final journey back to Sherbrooke on my own. We didn't say much that morning but I later found out we had both been thinking the same thing. We both wished that we could just keep riding, even for another couple of days. This was the first time in as long as I could remember where I was just genuinely relaxed and worry free. Something true for my son as well as we didn't have time to worry about work, school, or whatever life issues that tend to get in the way of more important things. We had such a wonderful time together that I found myself riding just below the speed limit so that I could somehow prolong our time together. It worked, as we arrived in St. Lambert in the early afternoon. Saying good-bye to my little boy-turned-biker made me feel as though I was tearing a piece of my heart out. Dramatic, I know, especially as I would be picking him up in a few days with the rest of my children and wife. But I can't help but think that as high school begins, how many more times will my boy want to spend time with me? How much more time before I go from being the kind of dad that he can't get enough of to suddenly not wanting to hang out with an old man? I'm a sensitive old bastard, I know, so don't mind me.

You Meet The Nicest People On A Honda Norton!
Luckily, on my way home, alone and missing my little riding companion, I came across a lovely ol' chap on a Norton. I had seen him up ahead of me and wondered what he was riding. Thinking it was a smaller displacement bike, I was pleasantly surprised when I pulled along side him and saw it was a Norton Commando. He admired my Moto Guzzi as I admired his Norton. One thing led to another and soon we found ourselves on the side of the highway chatting about our respective motorcycles. He wanted a sit on my Bella, which she happily obliged as I managed to get a picture of his lovely Norton. Did I mention how lovely I think his Norton was? It was just the pick me up an old fart like me needed after leaving my little riding buddy behind in St. Lambert. We ended up riding together for nearly twenty minutes or so until he pulled away and went his own way. Chance encounters like this is really what motorcycling is all about and I found myself craving more. As the summer winds to an end there will undoubtedly be some day rides speckled in there for good measure with both Joel and my youngest son. Eventually my young daughter will also be old enough to go riding with me as well and who knows, with any luck, we will all be riding together on our respective bikes in twenty years. One can only wish and hope.

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