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Taking the SMARTrainer to the Quebec club's rally

Tuesday, April 4, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Ron Bogucki #131034

Over the U.S. Independence Day holiday in 2015, I had the pleasure of attending the BMW club of Quebec’s annual rally. My plans for this ride to Quebec started months earlier when Tom Pemberton asked if I would be willing to attend the rally as a SMARTrainer coach. I was a bit apprehensive about going into French-speaking Quebec. I had heard second- and third-hand stories of how rude and unhelpful the French-Canadians were to their English-speaking guests. From first-hand experience, I can wholeheartedly disagree with that opinion.

Almost everywhere I stopped as I rode through upstate New York, someone would ask what would bring a Georgia boy to their part of the country I would tell them I was on my way to Quebec City to attend a rally put on by the BMW club of Quebec. I was almost always told of the dire consequences that awaited me when I crossed the border. I was warned that people would refuse to talk to me unless I spoke fluent French, and “be careful in traffic, those Canadians will try to run you down when they see that Georgia tag.” They warned that the border crossing would take forever because they consider every American to be a criminal. I’m here to say all the above warnings are pure hogwash.

My time at the Canadian border near Plattsburg, N.Y., was a pleasant experience. When I rode up to the immigration booth the guard greeted me in French, but when I answered in English, he quickly switched to English that was better than mine. He asked the usual questions and, satisfied with my answers, he gave me a few tips on how to get along with the police while riding. He advised that I put my radar detector away as they are illegal in Canada and I would be stopped if a policeman saw it on the bike. He also reminded me that I was now in a country that was metric and to bear in mind that it was now kilometers rather than miles per hour. With a smile he said to try not to exceed the posted speed limit by more than five kilometers per hour and I would be fine.

Riding on the Quebec roads was an adventure. Not because of the traffic, but because of my GPS. When I left the border crossing, the GPS started pronouncing the street names I was to turn on in perfect French. That would have been OK except I soon found out when reading the road names, they didn’t sound anything like they looked. I soon took to just watching how close I was to the upcoming turn and made the turn when the distance hit zero. This worked most of the time.

I got myself in the wrong lane in Montreal and missed my exit. I took the next exit to turn around before the GPS could recalculate. That was a mistake, as there was no return ramp going the other way. I stopped in a parking lot and asked a person walking by how to get back on the highway and in English (again better than my own), he gave me directions. Heading northeast out of Montreal I found the drivers on the TransCanada highway to be very courteous, giving me plenty of room to change lanes or enter and exit the highway. Almost all the drivers signaled their intention to change lanes and they almost all would move over to let another vehicle merge into traffic. To say it was a relaxing ride would be an understatement. I wish the drivers in my country paid as much attention to driving as they do in Quebec.

Quebec is a beautiful province with very friendly people. I’d recommend a trip there to any of my fellow BMW riders. The one thing I would advise is even though it was July, the morning temperatures were a bit on the chilly side (60°F) for mesh gear.

I arrived at the rally site a full 24 hours before the rally was to open. The owner of the RV campground that was the rally site made me feel welcome. He opened his restaurant so I could get coffee and a little lunch. When I asked about a hotel for the night, he let me use one of his rental RVs for the day. When I asked him about my big black box he knew I was there to run the SMART trainer. He showed me where it was and when I asked where he wanted it set up in the rec center, adding,” The machine is a very important part of the rally and everyone was talking about it.” He showed me where the highest rally traffic was likely to be and left me alone to assemble the trainer. Once the trainer was assembled and I was calibrating and testing the systems, the owner (who rides a BMW GS) and his daughter came in to see the machine. I let both of them ride a scenario and they both agreed that this was truly needed to teach traffic hazard awareness.

The day of the rally came early when Rally Chair Michel Rosa and club president Louis Linteau dropped by the loaner RV to see if I needed anything. I told them I was all set and had enjoyed a very restful night in the RV. They then told me if this was to my liking, the club would rent the RV for the weekend for me. They also refused to let me pay for any meals from then on.

Before I start describing the reception the SMART trainer and I got from the rally members, I would like to mention an incident I witnessed the first day of the rally. Two gentlemen from Toledo, Ohio, were in the area and stopped by when they learned of the rally. We had a short conversation during lunch when they mentioned they wanted to see Quebec City, but had no hotel and were afraid to leave their gear on their bikes unattended. Several of the club members volunteered to let the Ohio riders leave their gear at the rally site and they would look after it. Two club members volunteered to give up one of their own days at the rally to take the visitors on a guided motorcycle tour of the city and get them to a nearby hotel where they could stay. Those are really great guys and a real credit to their club. I wish I had gotten their names, but at the time I wasn’t even thinking about writing about this adventure.

The SMART trainer was very well received at the Quebec rally. I ran close to 40 people through the program. There were more in line to ride it when we had a power failure that brought an end to the training three hours early. It seemed that every one of the club members was very interested in the trainer and some were disappointed over the loss of power.

One of my concerns when accepting this assignment from Tom Pemberton was my inability to speak French and the rumors about the French Canadians not speaking English. The problem never surfaced. Of the 85 club members in attendance, most were bilingual. I had four riders all weekend that were not comfortable enough with English and they brought their own translators with them. One young lady asked in French if she could try the trainer. I of course said yes. I then found out she had no one to translate for her. After a few minutes I found out she was fluent in Spanish, so with a few clicks of the mouse the trainer was in the Spanish language mode and she had a great time with it. When the ride was over she was very happy with what she learned.

On another ride I learned that this gentleman was brand new on a motorcycle, and he said he really didn’t understand what it was he should be looking for on the road and where in the lane was the best place to be. After telling him that the entire lane was his to use, I explained the best place to be was where he could best be seen by the other traffic and he could see the traffic. The first ride for him on the trainer was a disaster. He missed almost every clue the scenarios provided resulting in several simulated crashes. I suggested that he try again with me coaching to spot the hazards. He agreed and rode it again, this time with me pointing out clues to potential hazard. After that ride was over, he said he now knew what he was supposed to be looking for and asked for a third ride without my help. The third ride was like a light bulb had come on. Using a different scenario, he rode without a single crash and scored a B average, much improved from the D from his first ride. He couldn’t thank me enough and said that volunteers like me, along with the Foundation, probably saved his life by bringing the SMART trainer to Quebec.

After the Quebec rally closed and the trainer was put to bed, I packed myself up and rode west across Quebec and Ontario, crossing back into the U.S. at Sault St. Marie. Getting through U.S. immigration and customs was much harder than getting into Canada. “Passport, driver’s license, registration and insurance papers please. What’s this? Your address on the registration does not match what is in our computer! Please explain.” I explained the address he was seeing was for my credit union as they held the lien on the bike when it was originally purchased. I had paid off the bike years ago but in Georgia a new title is not issued until I sell the bike, and that is probably why the owner’s address was incorrect in his computer. After a phone call to someone higher up, he said I would be allowed in the country. From there I went to the MOA Rally in Billings, Montana – but that’s another story.

For more information about the Quebec BMW motorcycle club, visit their website. (It's in French, but you can use a service like Google Translate to see the page in a basic English translation.)

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