10th of April 2015, he is leaving Waterloo. The place he calls home and where he lived for the last year. Under a cold spring rain, he says goodbye to his parents and his sister. It’s with sadness that he was leaving his family behind again. Washing away his tears, he embarked on his bike and at the same time on his journey.
Some 100 km was separating his hometown from Montréal where he’s going to spend his last night in Québec. His friend Maude invited him for a show. The Cat Empire and Current Swell are playing, a good plan for the last night out. They danced to the rhythm that remembers him the good time he had in Spain a few years back then. After the show, they moved to a pub to enjoy a couple pints with some friends. It was good for him to see all those faces before his ultimate departure.
The morning came, they went for breakfast at the Burgundy Lion, a big English breakfast, with his brother, Maria, and Maude. They had a last chat then it was time for Lepirate to hit the road. Just about 5000 km is waiting for him in the next couple of days. Another hard goodbye, his friends, and family took such a big place in his life. They cheered him up when he was down, helping him out when needed, raise some funds for his incoming journey… He cannot be thankful enough for all they did for him. But, from now, on his own, he goes. Following the road that will bring him back where an idea became a dream and now a reality.
Rolling on the Trans-Canadian HWY, soon enough he figured out that the weather was still a little bit chilly for a motorcycle trip across north America. Every 100/150km, a warming stop was imposing itself. The need of entering a warm place to make sure his toes and fingers don’t fall off. The temperature was somewhere around 0 degree Celsius, but riding at 120 km/h, with the wind and the convection factor… It was probably around minus 15. Good thing, he brought his snowboard mittens…
The 1st stop he made after leaving Montréal was just past the border of Ontario. Weird coincidence, it was exactly the same place that he stopped in 2011 on his way to Golden BC. But this time, he didn’t really have the choice to stop. The engine of The Beast shut off by itself on the highway. It’s always a scary feeling, especially only a few hundred km into a 5000 km trip. Pulled out by the side of the road, check around the bike but everything seems all right, waited a minute then tried to restart it. ‘’The Beast is alive!’’ What a relief, but still, she was running kind of weird so he decided to stop in Castleman to figure out the problem. In the meantime, he decided to top up the tank and the Jerry can. The problem turned out that he ran out of gas. Last summer, he was doing some 400 km with a full tank. Seem that the load on the bike, the cross wind and the new jetting kit in the carburetor make The Beast a little bit thirstier. It was quite an easy fix, didn’t even have to break out the tool kit, just the wallet. At this point, he figured that a coffee will feel great. Nothing like Timmy’s for a good road trip coffee. In the parking lot, 2 other motorcycles are parked. He thought that he’ll be the only one on two wheels on such a cold day. Sitting by the window overlooking his rig, he took the time to enjoy the comforting dark roast. Another motorcycle arrives in the parking lot. A Harley that looks like it just got out of a showroom. The guy was somewhere between mid-forties and has for passenger a cute girl in her early twenties. Walked into the Tim, full patched with a side of his head shaved to show is Hells Angels tattoo on his skull. That guy is a badass that’s for sure. He ordered some coffees, on is way out, stopped next to Lepirate:
Hells Angels: ‘’Pretty windy hey?’’
Lepirate: ‘’ Yeah it’s crazy, I can barely keep my bike on the road’’
Hells Angels: ‘’Where are you heading like that?’’
Lepirate: ‘’Hum, Vancouver Island’’
Hells Angels: ‘’It’s snowed last night in the mountains, you’re pretty badass man, good luck!’’
They fist bump and he was gone again with the pretty girl. That guy has anything that a person need to be called a badass. Tattooed from head to toes, riding a sick bike, a sexy girl on the back, he probably did some jail time and is wearing a leather vest with a full Hells Angels back patch (which is supposed to be prohibited by now?!). Lepirate felt some gain of confidence being called a badass by this guy. ‘’I’m just achieving my dream’’ he thought for himself, but maybe it’s crazier than what people qualified a standard dream or adventure. The rest of his day went well, sunny, windy, and chilly. He managed to roll a good 500 km in 7 hours.
When the day started to fade away, it was time to find a place to rest for the night. With the snow still on the ground, the cold air from the frozen surrounding Great Lakes and the ice sticks in which turned his fingers, camping was not an option. For sure a campsite is a good cheap idea but a bad solution for overnight accommodation at this time of the year in the South part of Ontario. He decided to stop in Mattawa, a small village on the border of a lake on the crossing of a railway. It does look like one of those western movie towns. At 8 o’clock, there was no one in sight outside in the street. He wanted to go for a beer in one of the local pubs, but the warm shower was calling and he knew that tomorrow will be a big one. He reorganized his luggage, charged the camera then straight to bed.
Sault St-Marie, the border between Ontario and Michigan is separated by a straight of water. A long bridge shows the way to the States. At the gate of the country, the man in uniform looked at him like he’s from another planet:
Customs officer: ‘’What the hell are you carrying with you?’’
Lepirate: ‘’All my life and a surfboard’’
Customs officer: ‘’ There is no wave in Michigan, where are you heading like that?’’
Lepirate: ‘’ Vancouver Island in British Columbia.’’
Then on and on with random stupid questions. The officer his really worried that Lepirate is carrying any kind of illicit substances. It ended the same way has one of his crossing in Vermont:
Vermont custom: ‘’ I don’t have much time to spend with you so, do you carry any drugs with you?’’
Lepirate: ‘’Nop’’ (ah yeah that’s going to be an easy border crossing)
Vermont custom: ‘’I’m just gonna search you anyway’’
Lepirate to himself : ''Why the fuck did he asks if he already knows that is gonna search his car?''
Back to the Michigan border, the 2 other officers started to ask him another bunch of questions and look at the bike. They ask him to come inside, he’ll have a full background check done. No worries that weren't including the whole: ‘’drop your pants and bend over’’ procedure. He was kind of worried any way that they will search the bike and take everything apart. It’s a big puzzle to fit all this stuff in the boxes and in the bags. Finally, everything was fine, the officers even followed Lepirate to the bike and ask him some much friendlier questions about his trip, the bike, the whole surfing thing. That day, he made it all the way to Marquette, rolled some 700 km or so. Still, the cold air coming from the frozen Great Lakes pushed him to get another hotel room. Again, he was so tired and cold that he didn’t get to visit the town at night. Too bad, apparently it’s a really nice town.
When he woke up next morning, it was cold and pissing rain. He wasn’t really into doing the whole sight-seeing thing. When you look at the window and all you can see is a gray sky promising rain for the rest of the day. One really needed to kick his ass to gear up, leave a warm cozy shelter and keep rolling west. Ended up that it wasn't too bad. He still made some 700 km between Marquette and Duluth. A serious cross wind combines with the fact that the bike was shaking like hell slowed the pace. Just passed Duluth, he made a mistake reading his paper map. Slightly lost, he ended up north onto the highway 200 which is a secondary road thru a provincial park. It was a nice detour, rolling in the forest, where he had the chance to see a moose feeding next to the road. This highway was following a passage in between crazy amounts of little lakes which offered a really nice scenic view. By the end of the day, the weather was kind of warm and he decided that it would be his first night of camping.
That crazy cross wind blew the whole day, keeping the bike on the road was quite a physical endeavor and he started to feel in his core. He was somewhere close to Detroit Lakes in Michigan. Still pushing the KLR to get the most clicks done on that beautiful day. On the other side of the road, a spot seems promising to set camp. He was rolling too fast to stop, so he stopped on the shoulder to let pass the incoming traffic. The car that was behind him pulled over as well. He thought that maybe it’s just a coincidence. After doing the U-Turn, on the other side of the road, he looked over to the guy in the Legacy that has pulled over behind him. Lepirate decided to stop, maybe there is something wrong with The Beast. The guy screams to him by his window but from the other side of the road, with the helmet and the engine running he couldn’t understand a single world. Seeing he was not getting himself hear, he got out of his car and crossed the street to come talk with Lepirate:
The guy: ‘’ Hey! Everything is good?’’
Lepirate: ‘’Yeah I’m good’’
The guy: ‘’I saw you in my mirror, I was wondering what the hell you were carrying on the side of your bike. I let you overtake me to check your bike when I realize that we have the same motorcycle’’
Lepirate: ‘’It’s a surfboard’’
The guy: ‘’I’ve seen your Québec license plate then I saw you fighting the wind for a while, Damn this guy is a long way from home and might be pretty exhausted.’’
Lepirate: ’’Yeah It’s been a long day, that’s for sure. I’ve got lost just past Duluth that’s why I’m around here. I’m actually done for today. I’ve found a place to camp and catch some rest’’
The guy: ’’Where are you gonna camp?’’
Lepirate: ‘’ Just there, on the last street we just passed’’
The guy: ‘’If you want, you can sleep in my house, I’m living at 5/10 min from here’’
Lepirate: ‘’You’re sure?’’
The guy: ‘’Yeah no problem, I have a brand new house, you'll have a clean warm bed and shower!’’
Lepirate: ‘’Well sure, why not’’
The guy: ‘’Him Craig by the way, I’ll tell my wife that we'll have some visit tonight. I just have to go get my truck on the way, just follow me’’
Lepirate: ‘’Wow Thanks a lot, that is really appreciated’’
He followed the Legacy up to a church parking where Craig jumped in a big Dodge Ram. From there, they went off the main highway toward secondary roads toward a dirt road. They ended up at Craig’s house, a brand new construction by the side of Little Toad Lake. Lepirate parked his bike by the side of the garage. Inside the 2 double garages, a Porsche, a Genesis, and the Ram are parked. He felt a relief from stepping off The Beast. Not that he didn’t like her but that day she was particularly vibrating for an unknown reason. So he felt good to be on solid ground after such an exhausting day. Craig was so mesmerized by the bike, looked at every aspect of it and asked a hundred of questions, where, when, how long, how much etc… It was so nice to meet someone so interested in his adventures. Walking into the house, he was welcome by a cold Coors Light and introduced to Craig’s wife, Mary Beth. They all processed downstairs where his room and shower are. Seem like everything in the house is brand new. The hot shower was a gift from gods, washing off the cold that has invaded his body. Wearing up some clean clothes, he went back upstairs, on the table, a lasagna is awaiting him. They talked around a few beers and a delicious warming meal. Craig is the owner of a photography company for sports teams. Mary Beth has just retired from a 34 years career with a company. After her retirement, they decided to get a new house. They moved in only a few months ago. They also have two daughters that left the family nest not so long ago to study in different towns.
The three of them spent the evening talking about traveling, sports, life experiences, engineering, cars, motorcycles, skiing… They are some very interesting persons, they’ve been around the world and even if they seem to be really wealthy they are pretty grounded and simple, enjoying the little things in this life. Around 11 o’clock, the bed was calling. Babies don’t sleep that well. Next morning, Craig offered Lepirate to use the garage to do an overall check of The Beast. Making sure no bolts were loose and figure out where the vibration was coming from. Lepirate couldn’t really find what was causing the vibration, but there was surely some loose screws here and there… It was time to wrap up the puzzle of gear back on the donkey. They had a cup of coffee then chat for a little while. Craig gave him his phone number just in case he need some help along the way. The only thing Craig asked in return for his hospitality, is a picture of The Beast and Lepirate. He will be able to show it to his friends, a proof for that story of a french Canadian guy on a KLR 650 with a surfboard traveling across north America. Craig wished him farewell for his journey. On the road, toward Fargo, he was on a cloud, amazed by the kindness of his new friends:’’They didn’t have to do that, I’m a total stranger, from another country, I was smelling like shit from riding the whole day. Why would Craig invite me to his place and offer me such hospitality? Because he can! He offered me a roof and food in exchange for my stories and to hear about my experiences. I will never be able to give back to them what they make for me that day. But, along my way, I’ll probably face situations where I’ll be able to make a difference and give back to someone else that is in needs.’’
A new day brings a new goal, today’s mission is to find a new rear tire. Rolling into Fargo, North Dakota, a bike shop with an Indian Motorcycle banner seems like a promising place to find a tire. A second after he pulled in the parking lot, all the guys from the store and the mechanics rushed out to see that stranger and his Beast: ’’What the hell you’re carrying with you son?’’ They were super impressed by his trip and his journey. He talked for a good half an hour with one of them about the route he should take and where he should sleep or not. Insights on some cities, all about the oil money next to Glendive and Miles City, place that he should avoid. Lepirate will keep that in mind when night will come. After all, they didn't have what he was looking for, a tire for the KLR. Those guys had a wide selection of nice rides, Triumph Tigers, BMW 1200Gs, Ducati Multistrada, but no Indians in sight. He left the shop with no tire, but with the indication on where to get one: ‘’I can’t believe how stoked those guys were about my trip. They told me about their own adventures around here and across the continent. They showed me their bikes and tell me about some projects they once had. I’m sure by seeing me today, they felt a bit of nostalgia about their young age when they use to travel on two wheels. I hope that after the day at work they’ll drive their bike home and plan the next adventure.’’
The Kawasaki dealership was only a few blocks away. There is still life in the 7000 km Shinko, but the mountains are getting closer and the weather is preparing him some white surprise… A new tire can make the difference in shifting road condition. A the moment the temperature was around 10 ̊C, sunny but still with a strong south wind. In front of him, a straight line of almost 500 km. It was one hell of a hard day. Many time he had to stop and take breaks to relax his muscles. For those who think it’s easy to ride a motorcycle. It can be, in perfect weather, driving on a flat highway, with an unloaded bike and rolling under 100 km/h. But, when you are a traveler, riding no matter what the weather is doing, with some cross wind, cold temperature, rain, 200 pounds of luggage’s, a surfboard on the side that catch more wind and wearing a pair of wet boots for the last 4/5 days, it’s anything but easy. Every day is a challenge, it really is a sport. He’s comparing gearing up in the morning with putting a damp wetsuit before an early spring surf session. It really sucks at the moment, but once in, you forget the discomfort because your mind is too focus on the road/surf and enjoying the ecstasy that one can bring.
A weird noise that seems to come from the front wheel has started some 200/300km ago. It was kind of coming and going and Lepirate couldn’t figure out what it was. After fuelling up, he was on a shoulder going back on the highway somewhere close to Dickinson, when the ‘’squicking’’ just start to be really loud. So he decided to stop on the shoulder of the road before going back on the highway. There was a slight slope but he decided to pull over anyway. He’s not sure what happened, but a combination of many factors made The Beast drop on the kickstand side. Lepirate is now laying in the dust with The Beast over his leg. He managed to free himself then try to put her back straight. The first attempt didn’t work out. The incline, the loose gravel, the ditch nearby make it really hard to lift the bike back. Some cars passed by without even offering any help. She is heavy, he is not sure how he managed to find enough strength to straight her up but he did. At this point he didn’t care about the noise in the front wheel no more, everything is rolling so might as well just keep on rolling. It is kind of funny that this event happened that day, because in the morning before he left Craig’s home. He ate one of the fortune cookies that his friend Maude gave him before his departure. It was a quote from Albert Einstein: ‘’Life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance, you must keep moving’’. Lessons learned, we shouldn’t let our life stop for little problems, we should always keep moving forward.
Some hundred clicks after that incident, he was rewarded for his efforts of the day… Signs are announcing Theodore Roosevelt State Park. The big cross orange sign that says closed over the forest green sign was like an invitation to a private party. He rolled around the fences and make it to the entrance of the park which was really close. The cattle guard and the gate force him to leave the bike at the entrance. He grabbed a bottle of water, the camera and jump the fence: ’’Not the first time, nor the last that I jumped a fence… haha! ‘’ He ended up on the top of a little hill in a park that looks just like every single rest area he has seen on his way across the States. But while he was heading to the further west point of the rest area, he started overlooking some peaks on a distance. He ended up on the side of a cliff with an amazing view of a canyon that extends north as far as the eyes can see. It’s one of the most impressive creations of the nature that he has seen so far. Especially by the fact that it was unexpected.
He had no clue that there was such a beautiful piece of landscape on his way. He played the tourist for a little while enjoying the view, taking pictures, relaxing and filling his mind with memories of this place. On the way out of the park, he almost stepped in a big cow dung. No cow insight, he was wondering how the hell that ended up here.
Jumping the gate out, he was also asking himself why a cattle guard? Just next to the fence where The Beast is taking a break, there was a sign. It says that Theodore Roosevelt became a president of the United States because of his love for the North Dakota. There was also a huge caution sign talking about the wild bisons in the park and that we shouldn’t get close to them. So it wasn’t cow shit, it was bison shit. This area is internationally renowned for the discovery of dinosaur’s skeletons. It’s also a really historical area for the bison hunting and the whole typical ranch life of the Northwestern. The sun was slowly going down, so he decided to continue his route west in search of a nice camping spot for the night. The road was nice, unrolling at the bottom of the Badlands with the canyons everywhere around. There was herds of wild horses and some kind of goats. He ended up finding a campsite in the National Park of Makoshika in Glendive. Too tired to keep rolling away from Glendive even if the guys from the Indian motorcycle shop told him to avoid this area. Grabbed 6 packs of Stand Down brown lager and set camp while having a few drinks. The weather was good so he decided to sleep under the stars like cowboys were doing back then, just a mattress, a sleeping bag and the sky for ceiling Enjoying the last glimpse of the sun going down behind the hills of the canyon in which is the park.
When the sun was totally down, he decided to secure all his stuff on the bike. He didn’t want to have his gear flying off during the night due to that constant breeze… that will actually change during the night into some really strong wind. The night was rough, the wind was making a lot of noise and played with his strong imagination. Many time he woke up, at some point, he didn't even know if he was awake or dreaming. He felt like something like a coyote jump over him. He stood out of his sleeping bag screaming to the animal or to his imagination to piss off. He would never know if there was really something or it was only in his head. Still, he really flipped that night. He slept with his glasses on, the headlamp on his forehead and a knife in his hand. He probably just freaked out for no reason. It can be scary sometimes be by yourself in an unknown place. A good thing about it, he had to enjoy a good part of the show the stars were giving that night.
With very few hours of sleep, the sun rising from behind one of the surrounding hill woke him up. If the night was rough, it was just a preparation for how harsh the day will be… His plan was to make it to Yellowstone, but apparently, the park is still close to traffic because of the latest snowstorm. So he’ll be following the highway 90 and make it to Butte which is supposed to be a really nice student town. ‘’Maybe I can find a cheap hostel and enjoy some beers with some young fellows.’’ The last weather reports were predicting a snowstorm in Colorado which will eventually hit the South Dakota. That was the reason for the choice of a much northerly route than what he wanted to take. Rolling off his campsite in the morning, it was sunny and kind of warm for an early takeoff. It wasn’t too windy, which felt great at this moment.
After some fifty kilometers, on the horizon, the dark clouds were promising some rain. Decided to stop and dressed up to be prepared for what’s coming. Within the next 50 km, a big drop of temperature and a little mist of rain. Even with the snowboard mittens on, his hands were frozen. He decided to make his first stop in Miles City to warm up and eat breakies.
The Golden Arches is the place of predilection for fast road trip feeding. How can you beat, a breakfast sandwich, a large coffee, and a chocolate chip muffin for less than 3$?! Food is cheap, coffee is cheap, they have ‘’clean’’ toilet and Wi-Fi for communication, cheap traveler gotta know where to cut and take advantage of some installations. It’s definitely not the healthiest food option and he's aware of that, but like everything with moderation, Clown Shit can be good.
Warming up, he got engaged in a conversation with a group of elderly fellows having their morning coffee at the next table:
Old fellows: ‘’ What is that little thing on your helmet? How does it work? Where is the film? Where are you heading? Where are you from?Do you know it’s snowing 50 miles west from here?’’ (So many questions from all of them, all at the same time, he probably answered 50% of them.)
Lepirate: ‘’ What? It’s snowing?’’
One old man: ‘’Yes it’s snowing in Billings, I left this morning and there was snow on my truck.’’
Lepirate: ‘’Is it snowing like really bad? Do you think I can make it through the storm with the bike?’’
One old man: ‘’ Well, yeah probably if you have balls, haha!’’
Lepirate: ‘’Seem like there is only one way to find out!’’
Chug down the last bit of his coffee then put back all the rain gear, the snowboard mittens and point the bike west. This is how great stories begins, by pushing the limits. Motorcycles are not made for riding in the snow for many reasons and he was about to find out why. The weather degraded really fast from light mist to pissing rain. The temperature which was somewhere around 0 ̊C soon dropped below. The rain slowly got thicker and became wet snow. There is now accumulation on the ground next to the highway, the pavement is wet and can hide patch of ice. The snow became thicker and thicker, he had to wipe off his visor, with the wet mittens.
He can barely see where he’s heading. His boots were drenched, his hands and feet were freezing. His mind was also pretty stormy: ‘’Why am I doing that to myself? I could be back home, dry, warm, safe, enjoying a cup of coffee while chilling in the living room warmed by a comforting fire in the fireplace. Instead, I’m braving a snowstorm on a motorcycle, in crappy cold weather, What the fuck!’’ He had no clue how long that storm will last. On another hand, he’s thinking that if he can roll thru that storm and make it to the other side he would be good to continue his day in some better conditions. He made a good 50 km in that weather. The sunshine was nowhere to be seen.
There was no point of challenging himself to make it pass the storm, it's just a stupidly insane idea: ’’Fuck that, I’m not killing myself today just to make a few more miles.’’ He found a hotel with a big banner that says Grand Opening. He recons that it will probably be the cheapest hotel around because it just opened. Walked in the lobby, he’s soaking wet and dripping all over the place. At the front desk, a beautiful brown hair girl his behind the counter, she was training another girl for this position:
Lepirate: ‘’ Hi, how are you?’’
Front desk: ‘’I’m good, you? You look like you had a rough day?’’
Lepirate: ‘’Yeah, pretty hard, sorry for the dripping. I’m looking for a room for the day.’’
Front desk: ‘’Our daily rate is 84.94$.’’
Lepirate: ‘’Oh! That’s a little bit out of my budget.’’ (Actually, he had no budget for any hotels, he was thinking of camping his way across…)
Front desk: ‘’What is your budget?’’
Lepirate: ‘’I don’t know somewhere around 60$?’’
Front desk: ‘’All right, what about 65$ a night. You look like you need some good rest.’’
Lepirate: ‘’Wow! Thanks a lot!’’
It seems like people are really empathic with what he has been thru today. He ended up spending 30 minutes talking in front of the elevator with an old man from Alaska who was driving toward Michigan. He told him a bunch of crazy hunting stories. He was also telling him that he went on some similar adventure on a motorcycle in his younger years.
Almost every time that Lepirate stops somewhere, there is someone who comes to talk with him, cheering him up or ask about his adventure. He always take the time to listen to people, they all have some really nice stories to share and there are thankfulI when he shares his too. It’s truly worth the time to meet these strangers. The road is a big part of the adventure but the people you meet upon that road are also part of that adventure. They bring another aspect, the social and cultural one. You get to discover a place better by the people that inhabit it.
The hot shower never felt that good. Thanks to the electric heater for drying boots, socks, and mittens. Even if he rolled only some 200 kilometers that day, he’s happy with what he accomplished. It was a humbling day, he respected and followed his instinct. The road was telling him to take it easy and slow down. He took the right decision to stop instead of going against the odds. Maybe he would’ve make it through the storm with no problem. But who knows, maybe the road would’ve get worst and the temperature colder… With less than 5 hours of sleep the night before, his riding and focus were not as sharp as usual.
Next morning, a good part of the snow has melt, the sun was shining and the temperature was just above 0 ̊C. Today, he’ll reach the mountains! From here, if everything goes well, he should reach Nelson BC in 2 days. The valleys of Montana are dotted with ranch and large properties. You know those western movies where the cowboy enter a ranch and they pass through a wooden arch into a fenced field, this is Montana. Driving his motorcycle on the interstate, racing with a cowgirl on a horse in the field next to it. Livestock here and there at the bottom of the valleys. Montana is absolutely stunning. Even if the weather is much better, the temperature is still chilly.
He took a break after some 150 km to warm up and grab a bite. He got some rest at the Country Skillet with a classic breakfast of eggs, sausages, toast and hash browns. The restaurant has a view of the Crazy Mountains. The first mountain range since his departure. He really feels that he’s getting closer to his destination. But, it mean he’ll probably gonna have some really bad road conditions ahead. He thinks he should get his tire change soon. If he’s to be riding some twisty mountain roads on wet pavement, snow or ice, he rather have a new tire. Sliding off with his donkey loaded like that is not an option.
Walking outside of the restaurant, he felt that the air got warmer and embrace the view and the day. It was a magnificent day for riding a motorcycle:’’Let’s make the most out of it.’’ Jumped back on The Beast and throttle out to the highway. The annoying noise in the front wheel was still pretty loud but suddenly stopped. Maybe it was only a rock he thought, but pushing The Beast to her cruising speed, he found out that the speedometer has stopped working. All this time it was just the speedo cable that was making that noise.
Mechanic note: Stopped at a gas station to check out the cable, but is fine, maybe it’s the speedo itself. Further investigation will bring to the conclusion that the guy whom took off the front wheel to change the fork seals haven’t properly re-install the transmission washer from the wheel to the cable. It causes it to rub against the housing, slowly bending then enough to disengage in a matter that the connection between the wheel and the cable was lost. It took him quite a bit of time to actually open the housing up because of bad weather but mostly due to laziness. But one day after he ran out of gas for the 3rd or 4th time he decided that it was enough and that he should fix the speedo.
At 3274 km from home, his journey continues, with no idea of the distance he roll every day and neither the speed he's doing it. His next stop was Bozeman where it was time to find a motorsport garage to finally get the new tire installed. The guys from Blitz Motorsport were super stoked about his story and The Beast. While waiting, he chats with the guy in charge of the parts department. The clerk was sharing with Lepirate tales of some of his adventures, surf trip, backcountry snowboarding, and travels. The two mechanics on duty that day so impressed by the bike and how Lepirate managed to carry a surfboard with him that whole time. They asked him to put a sticker from the shop on The Beast. It’s the first decoration on it so far. Thankful for their help and quick work, he rolled off from the shop and hit the road to pull the best out of that warm sunny day.
Just outside of Butte, a sign is announcing a ghost town. It’s on a historic highway reconnecting to the interstate 90 some 200 further west. He rolled on highway 1 into small villages, provincial parks, ranches and pass numerous historic points. The time has stopped here some 75 years ago. The stress of life doesn’t seem to have affected that region of the states yet. An old man driving is pick-up truck with a cannon. Yes, a real cannon strapped on the roof of the cabin. He’s smoking a pipe and giving absolutely no fuck about the line up of car following because he’s rolling at 30 miles and hours in a zone of 50. It’s definitely different here, going off the main highway reveals the authentic face of the country and the people. It finally took him more time that he expected to reach the ghost town. In Phillipsburg, he followed the signs toward Granite (The Ghost Town). From tarmac to dirt, the road was heading in the mountains.
Before it started to get rougher toward the lost civilization, there was a big sign, 6 miles, Drive at your own risks! ‘’Well, I’m always driving at my own risks so what’s the difference.’’ It’s ON!, 6 miles of mountain road to reach an old silver mining town. The road was rough, loose rocks, mud, dust, a bit of slush, some patch of snow. It was his first real off-road experience on a motorcycle. For a good 15 minutes, he did well, climbing the mountain at a good speed following the side of a cliff overlooking a ski resort. The day before, he was stuck in a snow storm in Billings which also hit that area.
The mountain range had received some 9’’ of snow in the last 24 hours. At sight of the very first house of the town, there was a stretch of maybe 50 meters of snow with wheels track from the last truck. He was stuck in one of these tracks. Taking a look at the beaten house on his right, he made a false manoeuvre then lost control of The Beast. They slid, The Beast and him on the left side until the front wheel of the bike stopped in the ditch. Turn the engine off and start cursing his stupid idea of riding his bike through the mountain and especially into the snow. Now, here he is, some 6-7 km deep on a mountain road with no one in sight to help him out. ‘’Alright, man up dude, you can do this.’’ Pull on the back rack to get the front end back on the ‘’Road’’. Easier to say than done. The bike naked weight some 400 pounds without the luggage’s, tools, extra racks and guard, surfboard, extra gas tank etc… Every loaded ammo boxes weight some 50 pounds. He estimates the whole thing somewhere around 600 pounds. A couple of minutes and some sweaty swearing, she was back on track. No real damage except a small dent in the left ammo box, nothing that can’t be fixed. He decided that he won’t risk of going any further. The road was not getting any better, mostly snow till the end. At least, he saw the first building and have in view the rest of the village. It's crazy how time and nature can take over the vestiges of civilization. In mind, the famous pictures of Chernobyl where nature is engulfing human creations and swallowing buildings, roads and infrastructures. When beautiful human behavior will bring to an extinction of the race, nature will take over what have been left behind. Years will pass and slowly the landscape will go back to his original state before human started is the unstoppable destruction of the most beautiful and priceless creation.
He took the time to enjoy, embrace the view and think about what happened here. A town where once people were moving, dreaming of what finding some shiny stones can bring them. It was quite a relaxing place despite the desolation of that faded dream which silver rush once was. Rolling down of his cloud back to civilization, he continues his route toward Coeur d’Alène. That night, he ended up setting camp in St-Regis just before the entrance to the Pacific Time zone. Looking at The Beast cover with mud, thinking of his day, he felt like having a few beers. He went to the gas station blasting on the bike without a helmet, AMERICA FUCK YEAH!!! Bought a 12 pack of Pabst that actually fit perfectly on his custom top rack. Great designed, he didn't even think of that when welding those pieces of metal together some 6 months ago. He spent the evening unwinding, drinking and listening to some tunes. He felt good to be out there. It took him a while to realize that he was actually doing it, pursuing his dream… Leaving home on a motorcycle in quest of adventures, fun and a lot of waves. He needed sometimes like that to ground himself and to realize what he’s actually living right here, right now. Living a dream that he has been cherishing for the last three years. While rolling on The Beast, the wind on his face, his lips burning from the sun, the vibration from the engine in his hands and legs. ‘’I feel like I’m dreaming, it can’t be real. Am I really living it or it’s still in my imagination?’’ Sitting at his picnic table in St-Regis, watching the sun fading behind the mountains: ‘’It's real man, you are here, almost 4000 km from home. You are living your dream and following your own path. Damn it feels great to be a free man!’’
Next morning, he wrapped up his tent, put his boots back on and fired up The Beast. ‘’My friend we are heading to Canada!’’ He woke up that morning with the feeling that it’s going to be a great day. The fresh air and the last drop of alcohol in his blood made him feel good and alive. He drove just about an hour before the daily morning warming break. He found a little village named Wallace, at the bottom of a creek. The streets were desert of human life with only a few cars parked in and there. The town is decorated with some old mining artifacts, trolleys and machinery. He was looking for a Dunkin Donut or something like that. But it’s not happening, not here. He rolled pass an old garage all painted in red with some advertisements about food and coffee. This place was a museum in itself and the people inside were legends. The ceiling was decorated with car license plates from everywhere, hundreds of them. There was some old music instruments, piano, jukebox, trombone, guitar… there was a mirror from a freak house, a full size bath, old toys, a mining chariot, rail road’s sections… There was a lot going on. He took a table and ordered a breakfast burrito with a coffee while peeling off his riding gear. An old man and his wife came to see him. They ask where he was coming from and where he was heading. They told him about some of their riding adventures across the states. People have some amazing stories, you just need to take the time to listen to them. They left and soon be replaced by a burrito, which didn’t last long. It was without a doubt, the best breakfast burrito he ever had.
He spends a bit of time in the Red Light Garage, warming up, taking pictures and chatting with an old timer named Wild. That guy is pretty bad ass, by the way, he looks, the way he acts and the way he lives. He gives zero fuck about what people think of him and you can see it, by the way he dresses. He drives some crazy rides that he built himself. Self-proclaimed, The Mechanic, all his life, he was the last one of the riding group making sure no one is left behind. He was fixing bikes and taking care of his fellow riders. He’s a Vietnam veteran, he had some incredible stories to tell about his adventures. Every single thing that was part of his outfit has a story, war medals, to award, old gold digger hat, hunting knife, jewelry. They spoke for a good half an hour at least, Lepirate was mesmerize by that guy. He was saying how he followed all is life is own way of living. The discussion close on an agreement that one should live his life his own way: ‘’It’s my way or no way’’ We can spend our whole life living the life of someone else’s or what society tell us to do without really following what really drives us. By being here right now Lepirate his living, following his own path and code. On the road, stopping when and where he feels like it. Wild wished him good luck for the rest of his journey and his life. He also warned him about the numerous cops on the highway for the next 200 km. This will be the last stretch of road west before starting to make his way north. Coeur d’Alène was rapidly and easily reached, following the creek all the way to a massive lake. The view from the highway was amazing, on the side of a cliff overlooking the lake stretching on a good length of the road. Warm and sunny afternoon, he decides to take a break at Sandpoint, a beautiful, friendly little town by the side of Pend Oreille Lake. He felt lucky to have such a nice weather to be able to sit in the park under the sun. The lake was offering an almost perfect reflection of the mountains.
He told his friend Andreanne that he will meet her that day somewhere around Nelson BC. He better hurry up, he still has a couple hours of riding before getting there. The border crossing wasn’t too bad. The customs officer was not sure what his story was all about but she let him in right away. He’s back in Canada! It’s his first time in the Kootenay’s. He had no clue about this section of BC even if he lived in that province a few years ago. It’s just a stunning area. The multiple passes thru the mountains on highway 3 are breathtaking. This is from far the nicest highway in Canada. Starting from the bottom of a valley and going up on the windy road to an altitude of almost 1800 meters. The carburetor of the KLR was screaming for air and backfiring on compression. If he would’ve go any higher, he would've to re-adjust the air/gas mixture. On the top of the pass, there was still a lot of snow. Some people with full-size pick-up carrying sleds to go shred the backcountry. It seemed like it just snowed the night before or the day before, there was snow on the side of the road, some icy spot, the temperature was under 0 ̊C. It was freezing, but the sun was shining so it warmed up his black riding jacket. He finally ended up in Nelson after a really big day of riding. It’s now time for him to find a campground.
Like expected, he’s kind of early in the season for camping, most of the sites were closed or really far from Nelson. He finally found a national park which the campground was still close but the gates were open and he can camp for free: ‘’I love free, free is good for me!’’ So he called Andreanne to tell her to come meet him up there. They reward themselves with some Alfredo sauce pasta, Nelson Brewery Winter Ale and an amazing perfect reflection of the mountains on the Kootenay Creek lake. They sat around a fire, chatting the night away while having beers. It was great to see her on her way back to Quebec after she spent the last 4-5 months out in Whistler. She had some nice stories to tell. It's crazy how going out of your comfort zone brings you some experience that takes you apart from the mass. She will never be the same after that trip west. It’s an eye-opening experience that’s for sure.
Morning arising and their roads were splitting, she’s going on the path he just went on toward Quebec and his going on her's toward the west coast. But, before he goes any further west, he had to see an old friend in Nelson. Without announcing himself, he parked in front of Robyn’s house. Knock on the door, a guy that he doesn't know answered:
Lepirate: ‘’Hi! Is there a girl named Robyn living here?’’
Kyle: ‘’ Yeah she is sleeping’’
He walks back into the house to go wake her up.
Kyle: ‘’Hey Robyn, ROBYN!
Robyn: ‘’Hum, what?’’
Kyle: ‘’A French guy on a motorcycle at the door for you’’
She ran into the living room half naked and jumped in Lepirate’s arms. She is still as beautiful and natural has 3 years ago when he first met her. It’s crazy how a connection between some persons stays even thru time and distance. It's been 3 years since the last times they saw each other in a random Albertan parking lot on his way back to Quebec. They talk every once in a while but not that much. To be here with her again in this paradise called the Kootenay’s makes him feel pretty good. They spent the rest of the day chatting, drinking. They went to the beach, met a bunch of guys from Sutton (30 minutes from Lepirate’s hometown in Québec) small world. Some slack lining attempt at the beach which turned out to be much harder than it looks like. They made their way back to her house to have lunch and get day drunk on the front lawn. Good life what? They spent the whole afternoon chilling at the picnic table, chatting about all those years one away from the other while Kyle was taking care of the garden. At some point, they were planning on going out to see a DJ at the Spirit Bar in town. But he started to feel his energy slowly fading away. The adrenaline from the last 8 days was going down. They had the idea of throwing a bed mattress on the front lawn and lay there while looking at the day fading away. The sun went all the way down and left the place to the moon and her thousands of stars. He felt nice to be here with his old friend with whom he had such a good time back then. Looking into her eyes, cuddling under a blanket, he remembered the feeling he had for her during his Golden winter. The smile on her lips can’t lie, she is feeling the same way… they kissed.
Just when they were about to call it the night and bring everything inside, two friends of Robyn showed up in a Vanguard from the seventy’s.
Clynton and Nick aboard of the Clynt Mobil are traveling from another planet. They landed their vessel on Richard street on behalf of their people to recruit some fellow travelers to join them on their mission. A journey toward another galaxy where the beer flows and music is booming. They ended up following that funky bunch to the bar. It ended up being a good night out, dancing on some electronic music. Like nothing has changed since he left BC.
The next couple of day was really nice and relaxing, enjoying the sun, walking around town, visiting the area, getting day drunk, fixing The Beast. He felt like he could call this place home one day, nice people, really cultural, awesome view all round, lots of outdoor sports… Loved it! But his goal is to reach Vancouver Island to spend the summer getting back into surfing.
On the morning of the 21st of April, another goodbye to Robyn promising her to see each other again before he continues his journey south. She gave him a necklace that she made. The same condition is applying than the one she gave him when he left from Golden to Tofino in 2012, ‘’I want it back’’. So here he is, back on the road, a stretch of about 800-900 km between Nelson and North Vancouver where another friend is awaiting for him. The whole highway 3 was absolutely amazing, from high altitude passes to deep valley’s, sharp turns, from snow to desert, from cold to really warm. He saw probably 6-7 different range of temperature in one day. He went thru Bonanza pass and Phoenix Mountain summit with snow on the border of the road, all the way down to Osoyoos where the fields were already green and the temperature somewhere close to 20 ̊C. The smell of the grapes in the air and some flavor of vanilla. There were so many fruits growing in this area the air almost had a taste of fruit punch with a mix of flowers. Osoyoos is a paradise Valley lost in the mountains.
The highway 3 direction west just before Osoyoos is as windy as it gets, about 20 switchbacks following the steep side of the mountain. The vegetation switch from pine to cactus, from cold to desert warm. It’s a perfect place to grow grape as he could see. He never witnessed such big vineyards in his life, the whole valley was grape and fruit trees. On the other side of the town, another hill was awaiting him. On his way, he had two other passes to climb, Sunday Summit and Allison Pass, which were much easier than the previous ones. At the junction of highway 3 and 5, there is the town of Hope. In 1965, the biggest landslide recorded in Canada had occurred, starting from 2000 m of altitude due to an earthquake. The Hope slide left some 70 m of rock and dust at the bottom of the mountain, covering a lake, the road, and many cars. Some victims have never been recovered. He tried to imagine be down there and seeing half of a mountain sliding toward him helpless on a motorcycle. Just looking at the scar left by the slide on the side of the mountain it’s absolutely horrifying.
On that dark note, the sky turns to gray, leaving the sun in the mountains. The wind is building up and the rain is on the horizon. He decided to take a break in Chilliwack. The wind is quickly building in intensity. He filled up The Beast and went to Burger King to enjoy some of those 2 chicken sandwiches for 5 bucks. Looking at his mail on his phone, he heard a boom but didn’t pay too much attention. Until a guy came in: ‘’Hey! Your bike has felt’’. Not again, that’s the third time so far. But this time it felt on the surfboard side. The wind was so strong that it pushed the whole bike toward the right side. The surf rack took a big part of the impact. It bent a bit but did save the board. All the time spent designing that thing paid off, no a single ding on the board. The rain is now rolling in, waterproof gear on, let’s finish that last stretch before the coast. He ended trapped in the traffic under the rain for about an hour or so. Traffic is annoying, traffic suck on a motorcycle and traffic really suck on a motorcycle under the rain.
He finally found his way thru the city toward North Vancouver where his friend Catherine and her boyfriend Quinn are living. He didn’t have their address and Cath don’t respond to his texts. So he ended up taking another break under the GOLD ARCHES, have a coffee and tries to join them by email. Just when he’s about to just let go and go take a ferry toward the island, he received a message from Quinn’s cell phone telling him their address. Seem like Catherine cell phone was broken as usual… They have a nice home just at the bottom of Grouse Mountain. All the roomies are mountain bikers. The garage is filled with some 14-15 bike from a street bike, freeride, BMX to full on downhill rides. He had a nice shelter for him and his motorcycle. They welcome him with a homemade pizza, a beer, some tea and a warm bed. They chat for a little while but he went to bed early, so exhausted from his last days of riding.
On the 22nd of April, he is almost at his first final destination, Tofino! From Catherine’s and Quinn’s place, he has a 30 minutes drive to Horse Shoe Bay to catch a ferry toward Vancouver Island. Before he gets to Tofino, he had a little thing to do for The Beast, getting her an oil change. She’s overdue, some 6000 km or just about since her last one at the end of the last summer. She does really deserve it. He had to find a place before Tofino because there will be no chance to have it done once out there. Ended up finding a motorcycle garage next to Parksville but the guy didn’t have the time to do it. So Lepirate just bought the oil and figured that he’ll do it himself once he’s installed by the side of the sea.
He only had some 150 km to go. Just after Cathedral Grove in Port Alberni, while going downhill, the engine just shut off (AGAIN). Couldn’t find what was the problem, it wasn’t feeling like she ran out of gas. He shook her up to send some gas on the side of the gas outlet, turn the valve onto the reserve, wait a minute and she start right up. Ended up that he ran out of gas again, at least this time he had a full jerry can and was just 5 minutes from town. It’s hard to know how much gas you have when you have no gauge and no odometer to know what distance you made since the last gas fill. Port Alberni, just about 100 km from Tofino. He knew the very last stretch of road left is an exciting one, windy, narrow, up and down, following lakes and rivers, going up a pass, all this on some 85 km then another 20 km or so following the beach north toward the end of the Trans-Canadian highway. On his way, he followed a guy on an old Suzuki, his bike is loaded with camping gear. He saw him before on his way out of BC Ferry in Nanaimo but didn’t pay much attention.
They stopped because of the construction and Lepirate went to park next to him. They discuss for a while, he’s living in Ucluelet, the surfs and also have a surf rack for his bike. From there, they exchange the lead of the road till the junction of highway 4. They stop to exchange phone numbers, Greg is continuing his road south and Lepirate north. He can’t believe it, only a few kilometers and he’s back where he paused his adventure 3 years ago. He felt so much euphoria at that moment, to have achieved such a big goal and step in his life.
From that night of beer drinking with his good friend Danny in Tofino back in 2012, where they discussed of going on a big adventure. What a crazy plan it was. Totally out of their mind, buzzed by the excess of alcohol, talking about modifying Lepirate’s old Suzuki Samurai into an adventure ready rig to roll down to South America. The idea changed into a seed. Which implant itself and became a dream. It eventually became a motivation, it was the reason why he decided to go back to Québec at the end of the summer. He needed to turn the last page on the school chapter of his life. To do such an adventure, he wanted to be a free man, no more school, a diploma in his pocket, debt free and get rid of some material attachments. That dream was becoming more and more reality has time was going by. Like a raw piece of wood into the hands of a sculptor, Lepirate carved his dream, from a jeep adventure to a motorcycle adventure. From just a trip down south to a different way to live his life. With a lot of pride, he rolled in at Incinerator Rock parking lot in the Pacific Rim National Park. He just can’t believe that he finally made it. Following his road, his dream and be the author of his own book called ‘’My life’’. It would’ve been so easy to stay in Québec and follow the standard pattern. But patterns are not made for everyone. Why try to fit into ‘’The mold’' to look and act like the majority? We are all different persons with different personality and aspiration. We should follow our instinct, belief in life, pursuing our dreams and living our life at the fuller expression. So many persons along his way told him how lucky he is to be able to live such an adventure. How many persons told him about their own dream. He is not a lucky person, he just made the choice in his life to be happy and follow his dream. If one and the only thing is sure with our time in this world, it’s that we have only one chance, one life, one opportunity to live and be who we want to be and do what we want to do. We might as well make it count, now it’s the good time to start living and follow your dream. As an artist, he took a pencil, sharpened it and started to write a new chapter in his book called My Life.
More photos in Gallery under Heading West