Subject: Finishers Wander 14 - Pembroke, Ontario
Date: Fri, 23 Apr 2004 23:21:01 -0700
The great east west skid.
Another cold morning, electrics at the ready, I started from the motel to get back on Trans Canada 20. Looking for the entry sign I saw Est. Then just as I was passing through the crossroads intersection, I remembered Ouest is west and pulled the clutch as I braked for a turn. Up to now, the lack of the blinky blinky ABS has not been a problem. I am a 'gentle' rider and brake easy. But the tires were still cold, and there was sand in the intersection from spreading on winter snow. The rear locked up and because I was starting a turn it instantly swept out to the left side. In a tiny fraction of the time it takes to describe, and in no time at all to think, I felt the bike beginning to fall into a low-side crash which would happen when the rear came even with the front, sideways. This was already well past the point where the MSF teaches to "stay on the brake in a skid". I wasn't skidding, I was sliding. The back end was out almost to 45 degrees. If it passed that, all was lost. So, tensing for the whiplash, I popped the clutch and rammed the gas. The tire caught, luckily the sand was only in the center of the intersection. As the rear came back around I gave full throttle. The burst of acceleration broke the lateral pull of the snap that was trying to throw me off in a high-side. In a second it was over. I throttled down, braked carefully, and stopped to let the post adrenaline wave of shakes and dizziness pass over me. It took a minute to figure out what had happened and what I actually did in response - no, in reaction. All I could think was "Holy hell, gotta get the ABS fixed."
It has been a little over 5,000 miles since I left home. K bikes need regular service on 6,000 mile intervals, but after Montreal and then Ottawa, there are no dealers on my route for the next 3,000 miles. So I tried calling the dealer in Montreal. Montreal is in Quebec. Quebec is in French. After 5 separate calls and no luck in trying to get a service representative I gave up and headed toward Ottawa. In Ontario. In English.
In most cases, a motorcycle dealer will recognize that travelers can not easily make prior arrangements for service. In most cases, dealers will make allowances for 'quick service' for minimum maintenance for travelers. In all cases, the first face a company presents to a potential customer can decide how that customer will remember the experience and think of the company. The telephone receptionist at the Montreal dealer spoke to me 5 times. She recognized me on each successive call. At one point I told her "I am on the side of the road and need service" - not as though it was an emergency. She continued to connect me to the numbers that would not answer, and then to voice mail, despite my plea to talk to a real person. The "face" of the company she presented was not good. Now while I did not truly have an 'experience' with this company, I would rate them as a negative. They (she) were uncaring, or unable to handle a slightly different customer need. It is for reasons like this I maintain a web page for the motorcycle groups I belong to, to rate experiences with vendors and dealers:
Since entering Canada I wondered what the local custom is for interpreting speed limit signs. The TC (Trans Canada) was signed 100 kph. Most traffic seemed to be doing a sedate 110. My normal routine is "8 to 10 over" in the US ... but how does that translate to metric? The answer came with a large advisory sign listing fines starting at 120 - $100, 130 - $150, 140 - $200. So I motored on comfortably at 115-118 passing provincial police peacefully. Strangely, while the top ambient speed was about 115 in the great openness of backwoods Quebec, when in the city of Montreal I had to do 120 to keep with traffic, and 125 to avoid being passed. Canada is different. Another thing I noticed here is the kilometer markers in Quebec count up going west. Every other place on the continent counts west to east. Quebec is strange.
Motor Sports World, in Nepean (Ottawa) Ontario, gets a positive rating. Thankfully, the BMWMOA Anonymous Book contains GPS coordinates for all the authorized dealers. Plugging that into my unit, I easily found the dealer on a side street with no other map. The service writer, Dan, could not squeeze the schedule for a full service, but took me right in for a oil and filter change. That would do fine. While I waited, Dan told me the best route to take from here through Thunder Bay. Coming to Ottawa meant I would have to forgo the route I planned to take through Val D'Or. Little did I know this would be the beginning of many "reconsiderations". Dan also said the Val D'Or road would have been very rough, so I lucked out. Thanks Dan. This company knows how to face a customer.
With the bike service eating a chunk of the afternoon, I settled into a quaint little motel in Pembroke, run by a woman from England. Ah, from no English to English English. What a jump. Then a surprise on the weather channel reminded me of what the New England forecasters used to refer to as "our cool Canadian friends". The Montreal Express was getting ready to track south again. Snow and cold was predicted for the route Dan gave me. Time to reroute south yet again. If I am lucky and make 600 miles to Michigan and another 500 to Minnesota in two days I just might slip under the storm as it wends south east. (This is when I sent the 'stories will be delayed' message.)
Station Laurier TransCanada20 QC25 QC40 ON417 TransCanada17 Pembroke
Sam Lepore, San Francisco