Journey to Lands' End... A Gaspé Adventure

A Sojourn with Northeastern Motorcycle tours (continued)

Day Three

Sean had arranged for us to take a giant Zodiac out of Percé in search of whales. I have been wale watching before, but never had I seen as many or the variety of whales. Fin, Blue, Right and Humpback, it was overwhelming, especially the Humpbacks whose mighty tails would crash into the sea as they dove.  

Returning back to port, we could see that the tide had gone out exposing enough ground that you could actually walk out to the mighty Perce Rock.  Following a trail along the cliffs, Marty, Shira and I made our way out to the precipice that so long ago broken away from the mainland. Too bad I couldn't get the bikes out there for a picture, it was a truly majestic and awe-inspiring sight, especially from directly below it.  We grabbed lunch at an out of the way little restaurant, chowing down on carrot soup, huge bowls of steamed mussels and salmon paté, all washed down with a hearty dark local Acadian beer.  

Later that day Sean took us on his special Percé Alpen Ride, which brought us high into the mountains that surround the tiny Gaspé town, along some seriously twisty pieces of asphalt.  After that, Mario, Milton and I rode up a gnarly dirt road for a stupendous view of the entire area from atop Mount Saint Anne.

Before heading up the road, Sean warned us to not go any further than the third scenic view site, as the road would become more than just a bit treacherous, and he felt even the GS would have a difficult time coming back down.  We took a look at the road, and both Mario and I felt happy with taking in the view from where we were...not so Milton, who attempted, and I do mean attempted, to ride up the road, only to have his brother Mario helping him back down by holding onto the back of the bike so he wouldn't wash out the front.  Let's just say that it was a noble attempt by the Brazilian, and leave well enough alone.  Always happy to please, Sean took the others to the top of the mountain in Northeastern's chase Suburban, so they would not miss the great vista from the top. That brought us into the evening and yet another fantastic dinner at the same restaurant we had dined the previous night.  The fish never tasted so good, and, for an off-day of riding, we all agreed we had a blast! In fact, I would have to say that, as far as organized tours go, our day in Percé  will be remembered as one of the best.  

Safety is always on Northeastern's mind. With dozens of tours under their belts, and hundreds of riders from around the world, they have had only had one real accident, and that happened on an off-day, without any tour leaders. Sean stresses many competent suggestions, but his #1 rule is simply to keep a space cushion of a minimum of 2 seconds between bikes. Good advice for any group, as you never
know what could be around the next turn or when Mr. Moose will decide to
get in your way. Simple riding tactics, such as this, have made Northeastern Motorcycle Tours one the safest tour companies on the planet. 

Day Four

The riding we had done each day was not of very great mileage, as the Gaspé is not such a huge land mass, but the easy and laid back ride was very enjoyable. I understand that on other Northeastern tours, such as The Best of Mountains tours, the groups average from 170 to 220 miles each day, which might appeal to more hard-core riders. On this trip Shira and I were simply enjoying ourselves.  

On day four we rode through the very ends of the Gaspé, heck, the very ends of the northeast. Huge tidal bays stretched on for what seemed like forever, framed on the sides by towering cliffs and the deep north Atlantic. We stopped the bikes just to drink it all in. As they say in this part of the world... tres bien....very good!  Continuing on around the Peninsula on a counter-clockwise route, we sped to the city of Gaspé, the very place where Jacques Cartier claimed the area for France, regardless of the fact the Spanish and English had been there first. Getting there around lunch, we found our hotel, did a quick tour of the local museum and then followed Sean on a tour of Forillon National Park, which is a stunning combination of high craggy cliffs, magnificent ocean views and superb roads. 

After Forillion, Shira and I headed further along 132, which rose up and down along the shore, its tight turns following the coast. It gave us the chance to give the bikes a much needed stretch. We rode for a time, eventually meeting up with Marty, who had ditched the tour hours earlier to go in search of some private adventure. All three of us continued north and west till we stopped at the little town of Petite-Rivier-au-Renard for some refreshments before doubling back on 132 and taking in Forillon Park once again.  As with the other nights, Northeastern's choice of restaurants was as good as their choices of destinations.  We were quickly getting spoiled by the incredible food, not to mention the joke contest that had seemed to be part of each night.  If Reid ever gives up motorcycle touring he could easily do stand up, he's a funny dude.

Day Five

Northeastern promised our finest day of riding to date on the tour this morn, as we rounded the upper part of the Gaspé and started to head back west. First thing that day Shira, Marty and I departed early and headed back into Forillon and to the fortifications built into the cliffs surrounding Gaspé Bay, under dark skies that opened up and drowned us like rats.  Back in the early days of World War II, the Allies felt that Hitler was making plans to invade North America, and intelligence confirmed this was indeed being considered. Believing that Gaspé would most likely be a landing zone for any invading force, they strung a steel net below the surface of the bay to prevent U-Boats from approaching and mounted huge cannons, built into the clifts, to deter any incursion. Today these big guns stand in mute testimony to a far more difficult era. Personally, we were very happy just to be free and riding these days, even if we were getting soaked, thanks to the heroes of yesteryear. 

We stopped to take in another lighthouse and then Mario found the neatest lunch spot in the town of Mt. St. Pierre, claimed to be the birth place of the sport of Hang Gliding. As we dined a number of gliders and parasailers soared high above, gently descending before landing on the beach across the road from where we were. Now there is a crazy sport!  After lunch we carried on, the road continuing to open up more and more vistas, bringing forth silent oohs and ahhs from the insides of our helmets.  That afternoon we returned to the Chic Chocs, and the now familiar hotel. Once again heading up into the mountains we ran into a deluge, but it was short lived and the sun returned again. One thing about the weather in the Gaspé, she has her own mind.

True to their promise the remainder of the day's ride was stupendous, even the sun returned for most of the day. Each turn brought a new vista. Rolling hills gave way to the sea. Some parts of the day's ride ran just a few feet above the surf, while others went hundreds of feet above looking down. Tree lined gorges ran into the sea and waterfalls cascaded noisily down hundreds of feet into the waiting sea.  Reid was right, this was, by far, our best day's ride!  

That evening, after another wonderfully extravagant meal, David Syrotiak, our faithful and diligent chase driver, sat with us to show off what he really does for work. With laptop in hand, David began clicking through his website, showing page after page of marvelous marionettes. You see, David and family are the proud members of the National MarionetteTheatre, in existence for the past 20 years. They put on such productions as Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, the Sorcerer's Apprentice, and many other well-known fairy tales. I was completely amazed at the detail and beauty of these puppets, as well as the set designs. You owe it to yourself, and your children, to check out David's website and hopefully get to one of his shows. You can see them at

Day Six

This would be our last day on the road as a group. Mario and Patricia, Shira and I left a bit earlier than the rest and headed for the EOLE Windmill, one of the largest vertical axis windmills in the world. 

Dwarfing the surrounding blade-type windmills, it was a major project that stopped running back in the early 90's because of some poor business planning. Regardless, it is still a major achievement in the science of wind power and alternative energy. From there we continued down the western edge of the Gaspé, on the same road we started this tour, although, with the bright sunlight, we could see and enjoy all that the region had to offer. One being the tiny town of Metis-Sur-Mer.  It is rare that Shira and I find a town we could easily live in, yet Metis-Sur-Mer is one for sure; an absolutely charming little seaside village, complete with flowery gardens, beautiful seascapes and smiling townsfolk.  But, in truth, we had come to Metis looking for their renowned Jardins De Metis. True to what we had heard the gardens were wonderful. So was the lunch at their restaurant.  We caught up with the rest of the group at that artist's studio/restaurant with the statues in the sea that Sean had shown us on our first day out, and from there some went back to the gardens while a few of us continued on to a small maritime museum. This museum is dedicated to the tragic sinking of the cruise ship, the Empress of Ireland, back in late May of 1914.  After colliding with another ship, in a deep fog, the mighty ocean liner, bound for England sunk in just 14 minutes with the loss of 1012 lives.  A tragic bit of Gaspé history and the second largest sinking of a passenger liner in modern history; the Titanic is the first.

By dusk that evening we all had returned to our tour base near Rimouski. The last night with a riding group always has mixed emotions. Happy to have all met, but sad to have to say adieu. But, we all agreed on one thing; that Northeastern Motorcycle Tours had come through in a big way. The final two days of the Gaspé adventure was taken up by a southernly charge, stopping in Old Quebec for lunch followed by a soggy ride through the Adirondacks, grabbing a room in Keene Valley and then riding back home through the park and the big roads to our driveway.   

All in all a grand week of motorcycle touring; a golden combination of superb roads, fascinating history, wonderful camaraderie and magnificent accommodations. And, best of all, for us, a tour that we were able to ride our own machines on. A big plus! The Gaspé is a place of stark and raw beauty. It has a rich history and a distinctly French and European feel, yet  is only a few days' ride away from the Backroads area. You could go see it by yourself, but for the money you will never surpass the roads, dining experiences, inns and history that a week in the Gaspe with Northeastern Motorcycle Tours will give you.

- Brian Rathjen, Publisher

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