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The Kingdom of Saguenay

5 Dec


It was the French El Dorado. Iroquois legends spoke of blond men rich with gold and furs that lived north of the Saint Lawrence River. Whether it was based on early Norse settlers who arrived in Newfoundland centuries before or a fabrication created to appease early French explorers and traders is unknown, but in 1536 Jacques Cartier discovered the entrance to a great fjord and his interpreter explained that it lead to the Kingdom of Saguenay.

LaViolette Bridge crossing the St. Lawrence River to Trois-Rivieres

LaViolette Bridge crossing the St. Lawrence River to Trois-Rivieres

Fluorescent reds, oranges, and yellows have streamed across my vision for most of a day while riding north through Vermont and the Eastern Townships of Quebec. Immediately after crossing the 1.6-mile long Laviolette Bridge over the Saint Lawrence River into Trois-Riveries it was time to pull into the Coconut Motel so my retinas could rest. Inside, the deep red light punctuated by day-glo blue in the surreal tikki and wicker Polynesian palm-frocked motel bar seemed almost normal in comparison.

The Coconut Motel lounge

The Coconut Motel lounge

The Saguenay is often described as being an oasis in the wilderness, yet it is not difficult to find. One only has to follow Interstate 91 north to the US-Canadian border at Derby Line, Vermont where it becomes Autoroute 55, that eventually becomes two-lane Route 155. When Route 155 ends at on the shore of Lac-Saint-Jean you’re in the Saguenay.

Settled in 1608, Trois-Riveries (Three Rivers) was the second permanent settlement in Quebec, but its importance diminished after a fire destroyed most of the city in 1906. The downtown area of this old mill town has dozens of cafes and restaurants whose tables spill onto the sidewalks of Boulevard des Forges making this a popular weekend destination for regional riders.

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Dreams of Evangeline: The Acadian Coast of New Brunswick

24 Nov

Restigouche Sam, the world's largest salmon

Restigouche Sam, the world’s largest salmon

The J. C. Van Horne Bridge spans the Restigouche River.

The J. C. Van Horne Bridge spans the Restigouche River.

The world’s largest salmon leaps from a concrete pool, its stainless-steel scales glistening in the early morning sun as the dark waters of the Restigouche River flow into Chaleur Bay. Crossing the J. C. Van Horne Bridge from the Gaspé into Campbellton, New Brunswick leaves Quebecois culture behind and I enter that of the Acadian.


The Acadian Coast extends from the mouth of the Restigouche River east along the southern shore of Chaleur Bay to the tip of Miscou Island, then south along the Gulf of St. Lawrence into the Northumberland Strait between the mainland and province of Prince Edward Island. The Acadian Coastal Drive is clearly marked by red signs with a white starfish logo. Most of Route du littoral acadien avoids the main highways favored by truckers and people in a hurry so it’s perfect for motorcycling.


Following a coastline that is almost the mirror image of the southern Gaspé peninsula I reach the city of Bathurst. This is the southernmost point in Chaleur Bay and Miramichi is the westernmost point on the province’s gulf coast. The later lies directly south of the former city with only 43 miles separating them via NB Hwy 8. Everything to the east is the Acadian Peninsula and The Acadian Isles.

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No bones about it: Moto-Foodie Heads South to Cayo Hueso.

23 Nov

Sunset Key

Sunset Key




One does not have to board a plane or boat to experience the Caribbean Islands. Jump on a motorcycle and there’s another 127 miles of highway south of Miami before one runs out of pavement on Cayo Hueso, the Island of Bones.

The Overseas Highway, U.S. Route 1, connects “The Keys” like beads strung on thread that are spaced by 43 bridges. There’s no other stretch of pavement like it, but sometimes the 100-mile conga-line of traffic diminishes what otherwise would be one of the great motorcycle roads in America—and I wouldn’t want to ride it when there are high winds.

The southern end of U.S. Rt. 1

The southern end of U.S. Rt. 1

U.S Rt. 1 ends at mile 0. While this is not the westernmost island, it’s as far as the highway goes. The word “key” is actually the Spanish word “cayo” for a low-lying island. Ponce de Leon, of fountain-of-youth fame, discovered Cayo Hueso in 1513 and the imaginative Spaniard named it for the proliferation of human bones discovered here: the Spanish name is pronounced Kéy Wes.

There’s no fountain of magic water on the island—in fact, water is piped in from Florida City 120 miles away—but there’s still plenty to drink. Moto-foodie’s excuse for visiting was to research Key lime pie and margaritas with a bit of the local culinary scene thrown in to balance sugar and alcohol intake.

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Riding the Rideau: A bucolic By-way between capitals

22 Nov

Thousand Islands

Thousand Islands


The 8.5-mile-long bridge system skips across four of the Thousand Islands that choke the headwaters of the St. Lawrence River. New York now lies behind and the beautiful Thousand Islands Parkway leads west along the northern shore of the river to Gananoque, where I pick up Route 2 for the last few miles into Kingston, Ontario.

Strategically placed where Lake Ontario empties into the St. Lawrence River, this small city was Canada’s original capital from 1841 to 1844 and has a history that goes back to the first fort constructed at this site in 1673. Like most places, Kingston has had its ups and downs, but right now it’s definitely up.


A Martello tower in Kingston

The massive walls of Fort Henry dominate the heights above the harbor and four Martello towers protect the entrance to the once strategic Rideau Canal. Constructed between 1832 and 1836, the canal was a military undertaking to connect Lake Ontario to the Ottawa River. During the decades following the War of 1812, the British were concerned that the United States might once again invade Canada to capture the vital St. Lawrence River and cut off supplies to the British naval fleet in the Great Lakes. The canal never was used for military purposes, but until the railroads arrived in the 1850’s it was of vital commercial importance. This is the oldest continuously operated and original canal in North America and was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. I’ve come to ride the land-based roads that follow this historic canal from the old Canadian capital to the new.

My first destination is the Kingston Brewing Co. where I can get a Whitetail Cream or Dragon’s Breath Ale, a Regal or Dunkelnacht Larger, a Guinnes or McAuslans Stout, or any number of bocks, bitters, and brews that I’m not familiar with. They also stock over a 100 different single-malt whiskies. The food is as stupendous as the bar. I settle for some fresh-cut chips, Ghetto Style Dragon Wings, and a Buffalo Burger. The buffalo is raised on a local farm, chicken and pork ribs are smoked in-house, and I haven’t a clue as to where they get the dragon wings. There are other great restaurants in town, but I’m a creature of habit and keep returning to this one.

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Journey to the End of the Road: Following the Cote Nord

10 Jul

The end of the road has become an almost mythical place in our modern collective imagination; the place where a person runs out of options and must turn back or begin anew. The objective truth is that most highways don’t simply stop. Rather, they merge with or junction at other roads so travelers can roll on to their next destination. Yet here I am. The official highway sign says “FIN” and behind it lies a wild untamed river. I’ve been told that Quebec intends to extend the road all the way to Labrador in the future, but for now Route 138 ends at the Natashquan River.End of the road-KJA


It’s my father’s fault. At a very early age he instilled in me an insatiable curiosity about where a road might lead. On Sunday rides he’d spy a road and ask, “Where does this go,” and our family would be off on a minor journey of discovery for the remainder of the day. Route 138 is a familiar highway. It crosses the Mercier Bridge and becomes Rue Sherbrooke, an intimate part of Montreal that’s less than a mile from home, while the Chemin du Roy to Quebec City and even through the Charlevoix Region to the Saguenay River is well-known territory. Eight hundred and sixty miles long, it stretches from the New York border at Trout River to Natashquan on the shores of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and 500 miles of that is east of Tadoussac. But what lies beyond Tadoussac? What will be found at the end of the road? I had to know.

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Moto-Foodie in Milwaukee

17 Sep


I could dimly see through the blacked-out windows of the van as our driver rolled slowly down the narrow alley past a line of overflowing trash bins.  I could smell the river when we stopped at a non-descript doorway. This late in the evening the dim glow of the lamp mounted on the yellow brick wall barely illuminated the small bronze plaque that read, International Exports, Ltd. / 779 Front St. / Estab. 1968. Clad in a London Fog trench coat, our driver merely indicated the heavy door and we quickly stepped through into a small room. Two women barred our way and demanded the password. We had arrived at the Safe House.

This wasn’t London, nor was it a James Bond film, but it might as well have been. This was my first night in Milwaukee and while I could find people who admitted knowing about this long-established watering hole, not a soul would tell me more or divulge the password. Even our driver claimed that he wasn’t privy to it.

Safe House-72

However, it’s no secret that Milwaukee is a motorcycle-friendly town or that was once known as the “beer capital of the world.”  Most of us are on a first-name basis with Miller, Schlitz, Pabst, and Blatz, but the renaissance of craft beer and the amazing foodie scene in Wisconsin’s largest city were excuse enough to linger a couple of extra days before heading home. Continue reading

Best Western, Mid-Western Ride

10 Sep

On a dreary spring morning I received an email invitation to join a promotional tour that promised free food and three days of riding with other moto-journalists—so, without reluctance, my gear was packed and I flew to Kansas.  Two things motivated my decision to fly-and-ride: I needed a get-outta-town-free card and wanted to see what Best Western and Harley-Davidson were up to.

For decades there have been numerous small businesses that have welcomed motorcyclists, but seven years ago, Best Western Hotels and Harley-Davidson created the first corporate partnership that specifically promoted motorcycle tourism. Extremely successful with over 110,000 Harley owners in the Rider Rewards program it came as no surprise that they wanted to announce that this partnership has been extended for another three years.  However, Best Western had something else on their agenda.

Picking up my bike at Worth’s Harley-Davidson in Kansas City I followed what would become the group’s chase van to the KC Speedway Inn. Outside it looked like a nice Best Western property but inside it definitely was a boutique hotel.  The fact that the open, elegant bar was being thoroughly enjoyed by a group of riders merely added to the ambiance.  Aparently, not all Best Western hotels are created equal.

_KJA8712-72 copy

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Absinthe Cafe

29 Jul

Marble sculptures of fire hydrants topped with vegetables decorate corners along Wellington St. West in a neighborhood called Wellington Village. It’s an area in transition from a staid to hip, offers interesting private boutiques, a few specialty bars, nouveau-hippie stores, and reputedly great restaurants. One of these is the Absinthe Café.

The restaurant has a very unpretentious storefront with large windows facing the street, and the neat, but understated, décor is infused with great vibes. As a member of Savour Ottawa, the owners are committed to locally sourced ingredients and their community involvement includes donating a dollar to Cornerstone Housing for Women for each Benevolent Burger
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Cafe At The Plaza

26 Jul

It’s not a place you’re likely to stumble across when wandering around Milwaukee during Harley-Davidson’s 110th Anniversary Celebration. Located in a vintage luxury hotel just off East State Street and very close to Veterans’ Park where many of the official H-D venues are taking place, the Café At The Plaza is one of those secret places the locals are reluctant to share.

Art-Deco elegance and friendly diner atmosphere.

Art-Deco elegance and friendly diner atmosphere.

Open kitchen means there is nothing to hide.

Open kitchen means there is nothing to hide.

Don’t expect to find a big sign outside this small restaurant, instead, enter the lobby of the Plaza Hotel, turn right, up three steps and proceed down the hall. The original 1920’s Art Deco details, gorgeous 1950’s styled curved lunch counter, and recently renovated open kitchen blend together in harmonious synergy to create a gentle elegance without pretention. The outside garden patio was another tempting setting, but I chose to sit at the counter where I would have the opportunity to chat with chef Christopher Stoye Continue reading

The Fastest Man Alive: the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum

4 Mar

If he hadn’t been seduced by speed the history of motorcycling would read differently. He was known as the “the fastest man alive,” but that just wasn’t fast enough and so he took to the skies. If not already known as “the father of naval aviation” Glenn H. Curtiss would be proclaimed as America’s motorcycle pioneer. Continue reading

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