The conversations started easily in Quebec, no doubt because a) the motorbikes and b) we weren’t Canadians and therefore a little farther from home. Or maybe c) folks in Quebec are just super-nice people.
You meet people on every ride, but Quebec was special. In just one neighborhood on the Boulevard Rene Levesque:
Amelie, the young woman piloting the front desk at Auberge Aux Deux Lions, is the most enthusiastic motorcyclist without a motorcycle I’ve encountered. She used to ride with her brothers when she was young but drifted away from bikes after college.
“I used to ride, it was fun,” she tells us. “I miss it.”
Motorcycles, especially insurance, is expensive in Quebec, she says (“Oh! Outrageous! And the smallest accident – poof! The rates go up!”) but she’s still trying to find a way to do it. She asks us all sorts of questions and for recommendations on bikes.
I have no doubt she’ll be on her own bike someday soon. She’s one of the most positive, outgoing, and effervescent people I’ve ever met.
Then there’s Denis Neron, owner of the bookshop across the street, A La Bonne Occasion.
Good grief, what a wonderful store, with books on every topic stacked precariously everywhere. Though most of them are in French, we find the English section, small but not shabby, and I end up getting a biography of Anne Frank.
At checkout, Linda says that the Aux Deux Lions directory lists Mr. Neron’s store prominently, which is how we found him. He asks us where we’re from and we recite our usual litany for this mission – motorcycles, traveling, Washington, Gaspe Peninsula…
“Ah! So far? Marvelous!” he exclaims. “I used to ride a scooter myself. I had so much fun! I put it away when I started a family, though. Sometimes I still miss it. Where else have you gone? How did you like it?”
We talk a little of our travels and he listens to ours and perhaps remembering his, smiling with complete understanding. At the end, he wishes us farewell:
“Perhaps in the next life we will see each other on motorbikes and we will go for a ride together. I would like that. Safe travels for you.”
And the night before we leave, I have an intense 20-minute talk with an anonymous guy in his thirties at a Shell station down the boulevard.
I’m checking the tires on Linda’s Vespa and he comes off the street and asks about motorcycles, saying he was looking at bikes and wanted to buy a Triumph Tiger 800XC, a really nice adventurer like Terra Nova, only a mite smaller.
We talk about owning bikes and I tell him about the troubles I’ve had with Endurance, my BMW, though I still love her and will never give her up, and why I decided to buy a Yamaha.
We talk about styles of bikes, and which would fit his type of riding, and I mention the Suzuki V-Stroms, the 650s and 1000s.
“Have you looked at those?” I ask.
“I did and I found I didn’t like them,” he says. “They don’t really have much character.”
That leads to a discussion of motorcycle character and why some bikes seem to have them and others don’t, and I concede that my BMW seems to have more character than my Yamaha, though I’m unable to say exactly why. It’s an indefinable quality that we can’t measure that night.
We talk about the dangers of riding, and the absolute cluelessness of most car drivers, and I strongly recommend he take some sort of safety course for beginning riders, mentioning some of the crazy things I’ve seen drivers do. He sees the wisdom in that.
And in the end, we shake hands, he wishes me well, and walks off into the night.
People you meet, and talk to, and sometimes wish you could know better. We found them all over Quebec.