Journey to Lands' End... A Gaspé Adventure

A Sojourn with Northeastern Motorcycle tours

Reproduced by permission with the addition of new photographs not available when the article was first published in the September 2000 issue of Backroads Magazine.

Once again Shira and I were packing our bags for an extended journey on motorcycles. This time we would be heading to where French, not English, was the most commonly found language, and once again we would be putting ourselves in the hands of a professional tour group. Over the years we have come to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere that guided tours have to offer, and instead of a cab to the airport, this time we hopped on our own bikes and headed north and east. Our final destination, the Gaspé Peninsula of northern Quebec, in the capable hands of Sean Reid and Northeastern Motorcycle Tours

We had heard many wonderful things about Sean and Northeastern's trips, and we were excited to be riding with them to a region that we had never been to before.  If you haven't heard of the Gaspé before, find a map and head a bit east of Quebec City. That oblong, moose-headed peninsular, the one that goes to land's end, is the Gaspé. 

Joining us on this sojourn to the Canadian Maritimes was our friend Marty Trionfo, a longtime riding companion and the same fellow who came up with the name Backroads that we still use on our masthead today.  This Friday morn was Marty's 40th birthday, and to celebrate he would be heading north with us. Why he would want to spend this monumental day with us was beyond me, but I guess a trip as grand as this one would be the perfect way to spend your birthday week.  When we rode into our first tour base, we found ourselves riding in the midst of a procession of cars, full of happy folks laughing and blowing their horns. Hey, they're so glad we finally made it, I thought. The truth was it was a wedding party, and we somehow were now part of it.  Excellent!  

We easily found our hotel for the night, a simply exquisite little place that reeked of romance and had a distinctly European flavor.  There we met the rest of our group, a well-rounded and diverse crew that included two couples from Brazil, Mario and Patricia and Milton and Lia Golombek, and Michael Baumrind, a fellow local rider whom we had met on the Backroads Summer Sojourn we held in Vermont last year. 

Heading the group was Sean and his chase-driving buddy David.  The hotel was simply delicious, an old French-style inn, with incredible food and wine. The first night's accommodations that Northeastern had chosen for us made the whole day seem worth it.  

Today, the tour begins...

Day One

Our first real day with the tour started on a soggy, if not upbeat mode. Everyone was anxious to be off.  Following Sean, on his K1200LT, the group headed north along the western edge of the Gaspe. The rain had decided to stay with us for yet another day, so Shira was the only female on the ride, with both Lia and Patricia grabbing warm, dry seats in Northeastern's chase Suburban.  The coast along the St. Lawrence was an interesting ride, especially some of the tiny towns through which we passed. In each town it seemed that the local church was the center-piece.  Built on the shore, facing the water, it most assuredly was the first thing sailors would see as they made port.  Along one stretch we spied strange figures jutting from the exposed, low-tide sand: rafts with statues upon them.  It seems that a local artist has been using the very tides themselves to enhance his art work.  The tide would come in, the rafts would rise and the other statues would show only their heads sticking out of the sea.  Okay.... I guess it was art.  Further on Sean made a short detour so we could see one of the odder homes on the planet. In a little house on the Gaspé, there is a man that has spent 40 years creating anything and everything out of pieces of wood.  Lavishly painted, and more than slightly bizarre, this would be a place you would expect to find Seymour O'Life living. Yet another Gaspé oddity.  

We grabbed lunch in Cap Chat, and it was there, between the lobster bisque and the crab sandwich, that Marty caught up with us.  Heading to the interior of the peninsula, we rode into the mountains they call the Chic-Chocs, the far northerly beginnings of the Appalachian Mountain Range that so dominates the eastern half of North America.  Rising high above the St. Lawrence, that lay just miles behind, the Chic-Chocs stood in massive, cloud-shrouded silence as our group sped through the giant pines and along coursing streams. A truly magnificent place, hidden where the land ends.  Once again Northeastern outdid themselves as we found ourselves in a primordial wonderland. A land of caribou, moose and mountains.  At that point the skies were lightening, everything seemed well with the world and our little group was beginning to click.  Our mountain top chalets were superb and Shira and I have rarely been in a place so peaceful. 

That afternoon, some went in search of waterfalls along the well-groomed hiking trails, while I continued to buzz the mountain roads in search of a glimpse of the elusive moose and that oh-so-important cover shot.  Still, some others found themselves in the bar enjoying conversation.  Hey, it was a vacation, and with this tour you could do whatever your heart pleased. One thing I love about organized adventures, such as the one we did on this trip with Northeastern Motorcycle Tours, is that all the guess work is done for you.  Sean and company have done all the research, plotted all the roads, made all the reservations. They have you covered, all you have to do is ride and enjoy. The scenery, the food, the company of new friends. Dollar for dollar tours such as the ones Northeastern runs, are worth every penny. Many times I find myself doing all the planning and running around; on this trip it was a joy to have it all taken care off well in advance. 

Day Two

The next morning we rode as a group under brilliant sunshine and puffy white
cumulus clouds, as the Gods of weather had decided we had paid enough. The
road that wound out of the Chic-Chocs followed the Cascapedia river, one of the most famous sport fishing rivers in all of Canada, and took my breath away.  With the mountains looming overhead and the river swiftly rushing by on my right, I felt as if I had died and gone to motorcycle heaven as the bikes easily took on the winding sweepers.  

Our first stop that day was at a small english village, one of the few areas of the Gaspé where you will hear people speaking English, as it was originally settled by British Loyalists who fled the American Revolution.  While there we had a splendid lunch created for us by a Chic-Choc Indian woman named Cora, that was served in a 200 year old loyalist's home, complete with paintings of the Queen.  

From there we stopped by a local motorcycle shop where Michael was going to buy a set of tires, as the last few day's ride had them on the more than used side, and new rubber is always a good idea.  We then took the coast road 132, stopping quickly at an Acadian Museum and then continuing towards our next stop for the night at a coastal town famous for its massive rock that sits right off its shores.  Along the way, my senses we overwhelmed by the strong odor of fish. A real strong odor of fish! To my right, dozens of table stretched towards the sea, atop the tables were hundreds of drying salted cod. The famous Gaspésian dried fish (salted cod).  Pulling over to investigate I was surrounded by a half dozen young boys on ATVs trying to get a closer look at my GS. I wanted to see the fish. "Bien poisson" (nice fish), I badly said in my third grade French.  "Nice bike", came the reply in equally bad English.  Ahhh, communication, it makes the world go round. From there I rode alone to our destination for the night. Once again Northeastern had the most wonderful place for us to stay. With a stunning view of Roche Percé from our balconies, we were being pampered once again. That night's dinner was beyond belief, and made me glad that we would be staying in Percé for two days.  

Continued on page two

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