Monday, September 28, 2015

2015 Blogger to Blogger Tour - Epilogue, and lessons learned

It's been a long time between posts. The main reason is that the past two months have been, by some measures, the best and busiest of our lives. There was the annual conference of the national organization I chair that was, for the first time ever, held in Montreal. As soon as that ended we celebrated the marriage of our eldest son. Sonja and Roland came to visit, then Susan and I went on an amazing trip that took us to Edmonton, Jasper Park, Vancouver, and Maui. Phew.

Along the way, I worked on this post, mostly during our flights. I hope you will find it was worth the long wait. 

I'm getting slightly more experienced with touring. That means I still have a lot to learn.

This article is about the lessons I learned in the 2015 season. If what you were hoping for was a more comprehensive lesson (based on my limited experience, of course) click here for the 2013 Blogger to Blogger Tour epilogue. Then you can come back here and get the 2015 update. If you are leaning towards overseas moto travel, click here to check out the 2014 Blogger to Blogger Tour epilogue as well.

"Geez, it's like a freaking college course" you're thinking. I guess it might look like that. At least I don't take attendance, and bonus... you can't flunk!!!

Lesson one: let's start with the most important lesson I hope I managed to learn: watch your instruments. I pushed my Vespa too hard on the Interstate, in the mountains, wide-open-throttle, on a hot summer day, and it blew its stack! Luckily it just belched ~250-400 ml of coolant out of the reservoir cap, so no engine meltdown happened. I was lucky, able to limp along until I could replenish the antifreeze.
The anxiety and inconvenience it caused could easily have been avoided by keeping a more critical eye on the instrument panel. My mechanic François at Montreal Vespa was smirking in a friendly way as I related the incident to him. "The coolant blew out of the reservoir, right?" Yup, lesson learned.

Lesson two: Carry a litre of coolant just in case you forget lesson one. A water bottle like the type sold for sports hydration should do nicely, or a fuel bottle, and there are many ways to carry it. For the Vespa, my choice would be mounting it under the rear rack using stainless steel belt clamps with large plastic thumb screws which you can find at the hardware store in the plumbing section, or at a store that caters to camping and recreational vehicles, like Canadian Tire, for instance.
Lesson three: If you're going to be camping, carry the best bug repellent money can buy. A can of insecticide should also be on the list. We camped in the heart of the Adirondack mountains. Apparently we were the only unprotected juicy mammals within a ten mile radius and had the mosquitoes, deer flies, horse flies, and black flies all to ourselves. Not much fun. The armoured gear spared us from needing a transfusion.

Lesson four: If the person you're travelling with is a talented artist and professional illustrator, and she is completing a fourteen month solo tour of the contiguous forty-eight States, make the most it and chat with her at every opportunity.
As promised in earlier posts, here is my account of ten topics we discussed:

Topic one: What happens when you reach the 48th State when you get to Lubec, Maine, the fourth 'corner' of America? Is that really your final destination? Of course Stephanie's answer was an easy "no". Fourteen months is a long time, so Stephanie had ample opportunity to ponder the geographic end of the current road trip. That, and there was also a long time before the trip even became a reality to think it through. There had to be a smouldering fire in her gut to propel her on such an epic journey. I'll get to that in a moment. Stephanie Yue is living on a higher plain than me, and most people in my circles. She's a talented commercial artist who's in demand. She's also a serious martial artist with the scars to match that distinction. Oh... and she climbs. I mean *climbs*. Like high up on rock faces. She has a quiet determination and a strong character. This is who she is. Those are the qualities that make a solo road trip like her's possible. In keeping with her character, there is no existential angst associated with the end of the road. Because it isn't, of course. The end of the road, that is. There are plans for life after Lubec.
Copyright - Stephanie Yue
Topic two: After fourteen months on the road, what are your thoughts on the transition to life in one place?  This question betrayed my personal bias.  I think that none of us, or at any rate very few of us, truly lives in only one place. That said, I have sometimes thought of my life like a bright spot of light visible from a point in space where the whole planet is in the field of view. I see my entire life so far in a span of 60 minutes or so. As I travel here and there, my tiny dot of light seems to barely vibrate, minute after minute, at a single point in the new world, a short way upstream from where the Gulf of St-Lawrence ends, and the river begins. Then it hops to England for four seconds, blips to France for a fraction of a second, and then goes back to vibrating in the place it first glowed. Eventually it hops around the United States and Canada. At about the 26 minute mark, give or take, it hops to Europe. Later still, it pops between its rooted little northeast spot and the west coast, and the southeast coast, and Europe again a few more times. It's not a very interesting point of light. I understand life in one place. Stephanie's life-light is much more interesting. It springs to life on the east coast of Asia, flits to North America and flies all over the place. At the 30 minute mark it zigs and zags all over the U.S. Stephanie is used to moving. My question to her forces her to think in unfamiliar terms. "Life in one place? Let's see... might not happen...", is the short answer, delivered with unflinching confidence.

Topic three: What percentage of nights during your mega tour were spent camping? Stephanie considers herself to be an urban woman. Camping has its moments, particularly in California, but it's a necessity, a means to an end. Like the Vespa. It does the job. Not that she isn't attached to that machine, because she is. Like a cowboy and his horse. I wouldn't be surprised if she talks to it, when it's just Stephanie and the Vespa. Walking on Mount Royal on my way home from law school, in late fall, when I thought I had the mountain to myself, I was cutting along a trail leading to the gravel road they call the Snake. As I neared the road, there was a burly mounted policeman walking along, the bridle trailing loosely in his right hand, the horse walking beside, its head bobbing softly near the cop's shoulder, listening sympathetically, while the policeman was deep in a one-sided conversation with the horse. Not quite like that, but I bet Stephanie does talk to her bike. That said, it's a bike without a name. Stephanie is not a bike-namer. Neither am I. Right, back on track... so the answer... maybe ten, or fifteen, or twenty percent, is her guesstimate. I'm not a camper either, by any means. I feel pretty much the same way as Stephanie. I like how, as different as we are, our Vespas are so similar. Parked next to each other, they are birds of a feather. No-name Italian works of art that fairly scream of adventure on the road. Now that's truly cool. Though I feel like a poser, really. Stephanie is the real deal.
Topic four: Tell me about the San Francisco tuneup and Piaggio's contribution. I remembered that the San Francisco Vespa dealer undertook a massive tune-up. Like about two grand worth or more if memory serves, largely funded by the manufacturer Piaggio, to their credit. Very professional, in some ways. Yet curious in others. The dealership got Stephanie thinking that her bike might be nearing the end of its useful life. When me met she had forty thousand or so miles on the clock. That's a lot, but nowhere even approaching half a well-maintained Vespa's life expectancy. My mechanic François confirmed this later on when I took my own bike in for service. He was stumped as to why a major dealer would say that. There's that, and then there's the mystery of Piaggio's overall marketing chops. I've mentioned this before. People who take Vespas to new heights, who inspire through their accomplishments, like Steve Williams, Stephanie Yue, Michael Strauss, Michael Beattie, Ken Wilson, Jess Devine, Bill Leuthold, and others, present huge marketing opportunities, it seems to me. Their bikes, and their stories, belong in the Pontedera Vespa museum. They should be recognized as brand ambassadors to be sought out, recognized, and enlisted. What could the cost be, in terms of Piaggio's worldwide income statement? More or less nominal. Instead of hiring models with pretty faces to be the exclusive face of the brand, some aspect of the marketing budget should go to real-life brand ambassadors. There, I've said it again. Another voice, not a major voice, speaking in the wilderness. There's a tiny chance that my rant will reach the ears of Piaggio's brass. But it's little more than a shot in the dark, at best.

Topic six: Drawing is what you do for a living. What's it like to do the daily drawing? It doesn't matter what you do, or how much you love it. Imposing a daily dose of your favorite thing on yourself can take a toll. Stephanie confided, not surprisingly, that she invested a lot of energy in the daily drawings, and, late in her tour, she had fallen behind on daily drawings and blog posts. But that's incidental and trivial when you look at her blog from its inception back in the spring of last year. The fact is that the last time I checked, she was catching up at a good rate. When we were having breakfast in Tupper Lake, at the Swiss Kitchen, Stephanie got an e-mail that caused a momentary cloud to drift across her face. "Bad news?" I asked, concerned, with absolutely no intention of prying. She said no, in fact it should be good news. A fresh manuscript was being offered to her for illustration. The cloud lurking around  the silver lining was the timeline for the project.  She would have to hunker down in one spot quite soon, likely in Providence (how poetically fitting, freelance assignments are providential), if she was to get the job done. Not a prospect Stephanie was relishing at that moment. That launched her into sharing some of the deeper motivations for the trip. Believe it or not, Stephanie doesn't think of herself as a gregarious person. After reading her posts for over a year, that came as a surprise. Her natural tendency to be quiet, and the long hours devoted to illustrations on a project schedule, day after day, in her apartment, left her craving the outdoors, open spaces, open roads, and interaction with people. She had to break free. She needed a radical change of pace and scene. When Stephanie finds herself pondering the future, this dichotomy will be somewhere near the core of her thoughts, I think.

Topic seven: We discussed the tyranny of stuff, the gifts we exchanged, and hobbies on the road. Susan I are at a stage of life where we are downsizing. It's a good thing because lately I have been getting the feeling that all the stuff we've collected over the years owns us, rather than the other way around. Stephanie had to downsize to take on her continental journey. In her case, she basically restricted her daily circumstances to stuff she is able to carry on her Vespa. Now that's truly radical. Yet I don't think that her pared down life has gotten in the way. Quite the reverse really. I think she would say that her daily life during the tour was far richer than if she had spent all that time working out of a large well-furnished home with all the amenities. With that in mind I offered Stephanie a few small gifts that would take up as little space as possible so that she would not be burdened with them: a limited edition patch (the pirate patch, because to me, of all my patches, it came closest to evoking her bravado and amazing accomplishment), and a transparent waterproof map sleeve, useful for making sure that any paper she might carry wouldn't get ruined by water that might leak into her belongings during her travels. She also had a gift for me. Which brings me to the issue of hobbies on the road. Stephanie knits. She knitted me a cup or bottle holder designed to hang from the Vespa's bag hook. It takes up no room and lives happily in my Vespa's glove box. She had mentioned these knitted cup holders on her blog and I had posted a comment. I was very touched that she had remembered.
Topic eight: Parents and home life. I asked Stephanie where home was. I was a little surprised by the answer. Reading her blog, I knew her sister lived in Madison, Wisconsin, and Stephanie related family stories from California and Texas, so I just assumed that her parents lived somewhere in the U.S. which is where home had to be. Wrong, it's Hong Kong. That goes a long way to explaining why Ms. Yue is so well traveled and doesn't shy away from an adventure.

Topic nine: Bikes, and the unexpected wonders of Vespas as touring vehicles. Stephanie has owned a motorcycle, and has driven a variety of them. She shares my view that Vespas are amazing touring bikes. She has even expanded her repertoire from pavement to the pleasures of gravel and loose soil.  A good friend with even more experience with motorcycles confided to me recently in a hushed tone, that she preferred to tour on a Vespa than... shocker alert... the BMW GS!! Yes I know, strange... but true! It's a tale of exceptional ergonomics, storage options galore, all wrapped up in gorgeous sheet metal.

Topic ten: Bourbon. Actually, bourbon, whiskey, scotch, rye and similar pleasures. Please forgive me, but we got to this topic very late in the day. Stephanie offered me some whiskey. She poured some into an empty plastic water bottle and rolled it to me between our tents. I am not by any means a drinker. I only recently made my way through a bottle my very first bottle of single malt Scotch that I received as a thank you in October of last year.  Sip by sip, week by week, I developed an appreciation for that bottle of scotch. I think I'll buy another. Stephanie patiently answered my questions, explaining the difference between the various malt liquors. It was late, and I remember little. Thanks Stephanie, I thoroughly enjoyed the nightcap and the conversation. A delightful way to end a delightful day.

As you can see, I avoided all the topics that most women would have covered in a heartbeat (sorry ladies).

Lesson five: Fasten loads better. I lost a one gallon jug of coolant. Traveling along a gravel backcountry road I felt the load on the pillion saddle shifting. I thought it was just settling a little. then there was a slipping feeling and the antifreeze container hit the dirt.  I circled back to retrieve it. A sharp rock had made a small puncture in one of the bottom corners, and the contents were leaking. I pondered the situation for a minute or so, but there was nothing for it. The situation might have been avoided by threading a ROK strap through the jug's handle for instance, or using some paracord to secure the container to the small rack on the topcase, or making a paracord security tether, or... It wasn't the means to do the job I was lacking, it was attention to detail. I was not proud of myself.

Lesson six: Keeping a travel log. I got so carried away with the immediacy of my trip that I neglected to record the vital statistics, like the time and mileage at departure; the time and mileage at way points; the fuel consumed; the names of places where we stopped; and so on. With the tools at our disposal these days, there are many ways to make up for the absence of a travel log or diary, but nothing substitutes for the precision that scribbling or typing a few timely notes allows. There is no excuse for not just doing it.

Lesson 7: There is never enough time to go slow, it seems. It's the economy of road trips. Even though it's a leisure trip, there are still places you need to be at a given time. And yet I could have managed my time better and enjoyed the trip more. For instance, less speed on the Interstate might have been more than compensated by less time dealing the coolant issues. Instead of waiting for Stephanie to arrive for the better part of an hour and a half or two hours sitting in a parking lot, chasing the shade and watching traffic, I could have stopped at a few of the many scenic viewpoints along the way to admire the scenery, shoot some pictures, and make some notes in a travel diary. I would still have gotten to the destination with time to spare to greet Stephanie.
I think that's all I've got.

My final thoughts are with you, the readers.

Many of you are far more experienced than me. I'm thinking of Bob, Karen, Richard, Ken, Dom, Sonja, Dave, Bill, Peter, and others. I have little to offer you other than a heartfelt thank you for inspiring me to get out and ride. To the readers who haven't yet embraced the joys riding and touring on two wheels, if I can do it, anyone can, and so can you. There is a chance that you will be inspired to venture out on your own two-wheeled adventure.

Thanks for reading, now go and chase your dreams and desires.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Toying with Templates; Flirting with Failure

I've dropped hints about wanting to make changes to the way this ongoing story is presented.

The choices are unfortunately unlimited.

It's like shopping for a BMW vehicle with an unlimited budget. Sedan? SUV? Limousine? No problem. Suede headliner? 100,000 LED mood-lit interior? Built-in cigar humidor in the console? No problem. No kidding. I was chatting with Billy at Canbec BMW just the other day. Got millions to piss away to annoy your siblings and leave your heirs breathless and nervous? No better place to start than by ordering a custom seven series sedan with oodles and oodles of options and doo-dads.
The good news, is that for us mere mortals, re-designing a blog interface offers milions, and millions, and millions of choices. Fortunately, the only thing you're likely to waste is time, the result will definitely not depreciate, and you won't be a penny worse off.

For instance... while I explore my millions of options, you can explore an alternative experience of my ramblings just by clicking here. To return from the other side of the looking glass click here, or just close this window. Once you're through the mirror and on the other side, on your way down the web driven rabbit hole, check out the menu option in the top left corner and mess with the layout to your heart's content. It's interactive, baby!! You can even do this to other peoples' blogs. In this example, I invite you to mess with Michael's blog by clicking here. Ha ha ha ha!!! It's diabolical, I feel like a comic book vilain, the Riddler, maybe.

Have fun being Alice in a life on two wheels.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Project report - Installing heated grips on a Honda Shadow VT750 ACE

The Honda Shadow is a shared bike. One day I'll get around to explaining in detail how Sonja and I came to co-own the Honda Shadow, which we now call Thunderbird.

Thunderbird is new to us, it's a gently used 2003 motorcycle. True to its roots, Thunderbird was fitted with a bunch of aftermarket accessories installed with thoughts of cruising down the boulevard with the sun glinting off as much chrome as possible, to the tune of very loud aftermarket Cobra exhaust pipes.

Sonja had other things in mind, like extensive touring on the east coast in Canada and the U.S. With that mission in mind, Thunderbird had to adapt. Among the changes planned was the installation of heated grips. Sonja's inaugural tour included the Canadian maritime provinces for the better part of the month of September. The prospect of some cool weather, and potentially downright cold weather, meant that Thunderbird really needed heated grips.
Here is a step by step description of the project.

Oxford heated grips for 1" handlebars
Methyl hydrate (rubbing alcohol)
Super glue (supplied with the Oxford grips)

Socket wrench set
Metric hex wench set
Multi-bit screw driver
Box cutter or Dremel tool with a cutting disk
Emery paper

1.  In keeping with its former mission, Thunderbird had some pretty fancy chrome Kuryakyn ISO flame grips (no doubt to match the flame paint job that Sonja and I totally disliked but that is gradually growing on us);

2.  The hefty grips became a casualty early in the game. A good way to remove motorcycle grips is to insert a long slim electrician's screw driver between the grip and the handlebar, pry open a gap, and spray some lubricant in. Do that a few times and the grip will come free with a little wrestling. Another way is to use a box cutter, slit the grip and peel it off. Neither of those methods work with Kuryakyn ISO grips. The metal body of the grips is very thick, and partially encloses the end of the handlebar. Removing the decorative chrome end caps does nothing to provide access to insert a screwdriver between the grip and the handlebar;

3.  After Googling to no avail, and scratching my noggin for a while, I decide to exploit the only obvious weakness. I plowed my long screwdriver into the exposed rubber sections of the grip. This destroyed the rubber and allowed me to inject some lubricant. That worked well, and I got the grips off in pretty short order. Unfortunately the rubber is now so compromised that the grips are toast. I did read some comments during my Google search that suggested that Kuruyakyn sells replacement rubber inserts, but I didn't actually see any on their website. Oh well, I wasn't planning to re-install them anyway. The grip on the right is the one from the clutch side. The rubber seems intact but chunks tore away. The other grip is the throttle side. The rubber on that side was removed piece by piece;
4.  Once the grips are removed, use a box cutter to scrape any remaining rubber and glue from the handlebar and throttle tube. Use the emery paper to remove any remaining glue, then wipe the handlebar and throttle tube with a rag and the rubbing alcohol to clean the handlebar and throttle tube very thoroughly. In the photo below, the throttle control was partially dismantled and the throttle tube disengaged from the housing, revealing the way that the throttle cables are connected to the throttle tube. A similar throttle tube replacement is provided with the Oxford grips and I thought it might be necessary to swap the Honda throttle tube for the Oxford one. A closer reading of the instructions showed clearly that the plain throttle tube insert supplied by Oxford was the right one for the Honda Shadow, nicely avoiding the need to mess any further with the throttle cables;
5.  The bike is now ready for the installation of the heated grips;

6.  In order to provide access to install the wiring, remove the pillion saddle, and main saddle, the instrument cluster, and the gas tank. It sounds rather extreme, but in fact it's really quite easy. Each of the saddles and the gas tank is held on with a single screw located at the rear of the saddle, and at the rear of the gas tank: that's three screws in total. To remove the pillion saddle, remove the screw, then push the saddle forward then tilt it up to release it from the main saddle.  The pillion saddle has a keyhole attachment at the front that fits over the main saddle bolt. When the pillion saddle is pushed forward, the open portion of the keyhole aligns with the bolt and the saddle is released;
7.  Once the bolt retaining the main saddle is removed, the saddle simply lifts up and pulls away from the gas tank;
8.  Before removing the gas tank, switch the petcock to the off position (horizontal), then remove the fuel line. Have a rag in your hand to absorb the small amount of gasoline that will leak out. Then remove the vapour hose on the right side at the rear of the tank. Both the gas line and the vapour hose come free with a little wiggling and tugging;

9.  Now remove the four hex screws that hold the instrument cluster on the gas tank.  With the screws removed, carefully release the cluster. You can let it dangle free on the left side of the bike.
10.  Now remove the single screw holding the gas tank to the bike's frame at the rear of the tank. Raise the tank from the back and slide it backwards to pull it free from the rubber covered frame lugs.  Set the gas tank down out of the way;
11.  Now you have a much more naked bike;
12.  Read the instructions for the heated grips from end to end;

13.  Dry-fit the left grip. The left grip is clearly labeled at the end of its wire.
14.  Now dry fit the throttle side. Use the supplied plain adapter sleeve (the one without the slots for the throttle cables) as suggested in the instructions. Pay attention to the orientation of the wires. It is important to ensure that the wires will not interfere with the controls once the grips are installed. I opted to rotate the grips so that the wire points to the rear of the bike, at a slight downward angle. That allows the wire to exit ever so slightly below the horn button on the clutch side and the starter button on the throttle side. Make sure that you leave a gentle loop of free wire on the throttle side so that twisting the throttle minimizes any binding of the grip cable;
15.  With the handgrips still dry-fitted, it's time to attend to the wiring;

16.  The Shadow's battery sits under the main saddle. To access it, you need to remove the rectangular control module box by simply prying it loose from the retaining clips built into the battery cover. There is no need to unplug the control module. With that out of the way, remove the screws holding the battery cover and set that aside. If the Honda Shadow is stock, simply connect the heated grips wiring harness to the battery terminals, making sure to connect the lead that has the fuse holder attached to the positive terminal. Route the fuse holder so that it will be accessible by removing the left side cover;
17.  In my case, I had already installed a new circuit to power dual 12 volt outlets for a GPS and cell phone. That circuit is connected to a relay and is protected by a 15 amp fuse. I chose to tap into that circuit after the relay and the fuse. With that setup, the heated grips will positively switch off when the ignition is switched off. Strictly speaking, that is an unnecessary precaution because the controller for the Oxford grips is supposed to monitor the electrical flow and detect when the engine is not running so that it immediately goes into standby mode. I tested that theory with the kill switch and it seems to work, but I had the option of wiring the grips with the positive cutoff, and I felt sure that by going that route, there could never be a concern with inadvertently depleting the battery by leaving the grips running;

18.  Once the battery side of the wiring harness for the grips is connected, connect the grips using the idiot-proof quick connectors and test to make sure that the grips work;
19.  Now you know that the grips work, it's time to make the installation permanent;

20.  Next up, install the controller on the handlebars. There are two options: use the supplied metal bracket and bolts to mount the controller to the clutch assembly, or use the mounting hardware to install the controller on the handlebars. I went that latter route. The placement is not quite as convenient, but I preferred the look.
21.  Reinstall the battery cover and clip the rectangular control module back on.  Make sure that the leads for the heated grips don't get pinched by the battery cover. If necessary, use the box cutter or a Dremel cutting wheel to make a slot in the side of the cover to run the wires out. The cutout I made is shown right where my thumb is in the photo;
22.  Disconnect all the quick-connect plugs and remove the grips from the handlebars;
23.  Beginning with the left clutch-side grip, clean the handlebar using the rubbing alcohol and dry it carefully with a clean rag. Now apply the supplied super glue to the handlebar all around, and promptly install the grip, making sure to rotate the grip so that the wire lead is oriented properly, which in my case was pointing rearward, and at a slight downward angle. The glue sets very fast so work quickly.

24.  For the right grip it's a two step process. First apply super glue to the supplied throttle tube adapter cylinder and insert that into the right grip. Once the glue has set, apply super glue to the Honda's throttle tube and slide the grip on, once more making sure that the wire is properly oriented.
25.  Beginning at the grips, route the wires for the grips and the controller so that they go behind the neck cover, and out of the left neck cover towards the rear of the bike.  Route the wire from the battery wiring harness following the bike's frame along the existing Honda wiring harness. Then route the battery wire with the connector under and through the frame so that it joins the other wires protruding from behind the left neck cover. Re-connect the quick connectors, bundle up the excess wire coming from the grips and the controller with a wire tie, then wrap the bundle including the connectors with electrical tape and tuck the bundle in behind the left neck cover. If it's necessary to open the neck covers a little to get everything stashed away, remove the rectangular clip that joins the left and right neck covers.
26.  Now gather the excess wire from the battery harness back at the battery, and secure the bundle with a wire tie, making sure that wire is not bunched along the frame and is tucked in with the existing Honda wiring harness. Tuck that bundle into place under the saddle making sure that it won't interfere with the placement of the saddle;
27.  To be on the safe side, switch on the ignition an re-test to make sure that the grips are working;

28.  And that's all there is to it;

29.  Re-install the gas tank, reconnect the vapor tube and the fuel line, making sure that the spring clip is in place and that both lines are properly seated, re-install the instrument cluster and the two saddles, flip the gas line petcock to the normal vertical position, and the job is done;

30.  This was the last step in preparing the Honda Shadow for its new life as a proper touring vehicle.

As soon as the job was done, I did a road test. The grips heated up nicely.  They should supply all the heat one might want for spring and fall touring.

Monday, September 7, 2015

2015 Blogger to Blogger Tour: Safe travels

Sonja and Roland returned this past Thursday from their Ontario trip with Sonja under the weather.  Apparently traveling makes Sonja sick. Her love of travel is so deep, that she considers a predictable head cold to be a small price to pay for adventure.

On Friday I resumed my tour guide duties and took the traveling dynamic duo to see the remaining must-see sights of Montreal.

We had seen the southern and eastern sides of the city from the three drive-to lookouts on Mount Royal.

To see the city to the west and north requires a little more effort. The perfect lookout is just below the doors to St-Joseph's Oratory, another of Montreal's must-see sights.
None of us felt the pilgrim's zeal, so we drove as far up as we could, then walked up the long, long stairways, if not to heaven, at least to a decent view of God's green earth.
Roland could not believe that pilgrims to the shrine would climb the countless steps on their knees. And yet we did witness a few hardy souls doing just that. I hope they received the blessings and indulgences that they sought.

Next on the tour was the legendary underground city.

I know the underground very, very well. I have made it my business to explore every new ramification of the underground city pretty much since its inception in the 1960's. In my professional opinion, we covered more than 75% of the accessible underground (like the dark web, Montreal's underground city extends in a few places, though only for those with special access).
The underground is cavernous, so the tour took time.

We emerged to travel on the surface on a couple of occasions so that Roland could hunt for a Montreal Jazz Festival T-shirt, and again to stroll through the heart of Chinatown.
Regrettably, the Jazz Festival boutique was down to slim pickins this late in the season, and Roland had no choice but to leave empty-handed. Ironically, the guy manning the festival's boutique, suggested with much ennui (of almost Parisian proportions) that Roland might have better luck on the festival's web store. Thank heavens Roland hadn't traveled here from the Black Forest with only that quest in mind.

I made sure to take my German guests to the large section of der Mauer, a gift from the City of Berlin to the City of Montreal, now enshrined in the atrium of Montreal's World Trade Centre.
I value this monument because it speaks eloquently to the value we rightly ought to place on the human spirit and freedom. Sonja and Roland actually brought me a chunk of the Wall with its own certificate of authenticity. Talk about the perfect gift.

The afternoon was coming to its inevitable end. Like the mad tour guide I can be, I had one more must-see location in my sights: a view of the metropolis from Ste-Helen's Island in the middle of the mighty St-Lawrence. Getting there from downtown stretched my city driving skills to the limit, as we faced one traffic snarl after another on a myriad of back streets in Griffintown. I flailed around, dodging one tie-up artfully, only to come to a crawl in another. The cause was the Friday afternoon rush hour with hundreds and hundreds of commuters in cars trying to find an alternate side-street route to the Victoria bridge, combined with hundreds and hundreds of bloody orange construction cones closing and narrowing streets as a result of burgeoning construction.

Roland's patience was wearing ever so slightly thin. He felt, no doubt, that he might become so ensnared in the web of traffic chaos that missing his flight might be a real possibility. My assurances that everything was well under control had less and less effect each time we turned a corner after breaking free, only to hit another Gordian knot of bumper-to-bumper madness.

Never giving up, I finally managed to weave our way east and away from the Victoria bridge debacle, hopping over the Lachine Canal in the old port, then threading around more construction mayhem near the grain elevators and under the Bonaventure expressway, until we made it onto the Bickerdyke pier and the Cité du Havre, and on to the Concordia bridge leading to Ste-Helen's Island. We looped around the Island as I pointed out landmarks among the remnants of the Expo 67 World's Fair pavilions, and related dusty, grainy anecdotes from the days of my youth.

At length, after twisting past a last barricade that did its best to block our progress, with Sonja egging on my scofflaw alter ego to ignore the prominent "do not enter" signs by briefly driving on the wrong side of the road, and entering via the exit (an inspiration no doubt rooted in her travels down-under), we made it to within strolling distance from the rather hard-to-find unique view of downtown Montreal seen from the river.
From there we made a bee-line to meet Susan for dinner on the West Island, arriving within five minutes of our ETA.

After dinner, during which Roland periodically stole casual glances at his wristwatch, Sonja and Roland said their goodbyes. Sonja drove off home with Susan, while Roland and I headed to the airport. By then Roland was stealing calm-ish gazes at his wristwatch, more frequently now, so I took the back road to the airport in order to avoid the last of the rush hour traffic at the Dorval traffic circle.

Yes folks, we were forced to take a maddening, meandering, impromptu sight-seeing detour through the nether regions of the city of Dorval because Cardinal avenue that goes straight along the railroad tracks to the airport was... wait for it... closed to traffic in the direction of Pierre Trudeau International. While it did not add more than five minutes to the ten or fifteen minute ride to the airport from our dinner venue, Roland could surely hear his watch ticking and felt that the city's tentacles and vicious web of inefficiency and indirection were making one last-ditch attempt to prevent him from escaping.

Sonja woke bright and early on Sunday morning to the news that Roland was once more safe and sound in Frankfurt.

Reassured that Roland was well and safely on his way home, Sonja lost no time rigging the shiny Honda for the solo leg of her Canadian tour.
In no time Sonja was geared up and ready to ride.
I rode with Sonja to on-ramp to Autoroute 40 where she sailed off towards Quebec City with a farewell honk of my horn.
Safe travels Sonja. The blogosphere awaits news of your adventures.
The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.