Brossard again. Mile 1448


A glorious sunlit morning and all the more glorious for having no commitments. T and P headed off for the pool while I went into maintenance mode. I adjusted the gears and brakes on my bike for the first time so that now all of them actually work. I also decided to check out Harvey’s plumbing once again. I thought I had fixed the shower leak but I had my doubts, so out with the bathroom cabinet and sure enough there was a tiny drip from one of the new joints. I tightened it and ta-da, it was fixed. Again. For now. It would have been nice if that was the only Harvey-related maintenance concern, but you will have to read on for that…

One stop back up the motorway there was a trail to a massive waterfall we had seen from the road. A churning, angry-looking explosion of muddy water pounding over black rocks. We loaded up and drove back to the park and got the bikes out. The cycle path cut steeply up and down through the trees before arriving at a narrow suspension bridge two people wide. Daylight between the wooden boards revealed glimpses of the brown river three hundred feet below. Above the waterfall was a smooth v-shaped wier with water pouring over it like molten glass before shattering on top of rocky cliffs. We cycled and walked all round the trail and found the turbine house which was disappointingly idle. We had lunch overlooking the falls in one direction and the St Lawrence with the hazy outline of Quebec City in the other. OK Time to move on.

We had to go back to Montreal for Philippa’s second visa appointment so we joined Interstate 20 and began the flat, straight journey south west. Philippa sat in the back, head nodding over an Obama biography. Tom sat in the front with me, losing his own battle with sleep. I set the cruise at 60 and became a passenger too.

After about an hour and a half there was a sudden strange vibration that was impossible to drive through. I slowed down and it stopped. I speeded up and it was there again. It felt to me like a bearing was on the way out, or a wheel had come loose, but it was strange that it had happened all at once. I steered for the exit and we joined a small road into farmland, There was a sign up ahead of us “Mechanique, vehicules poids-lourd”. Amazingly we had pulled off the highway and found a truck mechanic. We circled around the back of what looked like a large hanger, dogs barking and running around us. A clearly mystified mechanic emerged wiping his hands on a rag and looking at us doubtfully.

Now at any other time this had the potential to be merely an irritating delay but this was the one day when it could really mess things up. Philippa had to be at the US Consulate at 7.30 am the next morning. We made a contingency plan. Our satnav showed there was a car rental place in Drummondsville about nine miles away, so Philippa went off to the truckers cafe next door to see what she could organise, while I tried to overcome the language barrier with Monsier le Mechanique. He was a wiry little man with thick glasses and he spoke only French but it was like no French I had ever heard. He would fire off a string of phrases which might as well have been Pashto or Afrikaans, and I would reply along the lines of “Hortense est dans le jardin” and we would look blankly at each other for a bit before we resorted to charades. That did the trick and he had me drive over his inspection pit where they raised up old Harv on one side, wiggled the wheels, took them off, checked the bearings and spoke a bit more Hausa.

They could see nothing wong. “Rien?”. “Ranggg”. So, off for a test drive with the other mechanique, a big round man with a blue boiler suit and a comfortable face. I drove Harvey up to highway speeds, drove fast round corners and…nothing, Pas de problem, rien. My companion rang his sister who spoke good English and she asked if I wanted all the other wheels checked (it was now 5 o’clock). I said yes please, and the mechanic gave an easy shrug and a nod so we drove back and they checked everything out. Once again, no problems, all the bearings were good, the tyres were fine and the requisite number of wheels were in place.

All I could do was thank them for their help and pay them for their time. They wished me a cheery “bongvyaaj”, and no sooner had I pulled round to the front than Philippa appeared in a rental car. She had got a cab to Drummondsville with the help of the girl in the trucker’s cafe, and got a car. I had no idea if Harv would get to Montreal at this stage so we set off in convoy.

Harv motored along as normal on the highway for the next hour, with no hint of any problems. I really don’t know what it was. The road had been through a bad stretch with all kinds of bumps and undulations and it might even have been some errant rumble strip that had been set into the road in the wrong place. But who knows. Maybe its something about Montreal…

On the outskirts of the city we hit some weather straight out of the Old Testament. Wind raced across a flat plain, bending trees over in its path before it smacked into us and pushed Harvey over to the verge a couple of times. Then we found ourselves in the middle of the black sky that had loomed up beside us. Buckets of water smashed into the windscreen and lighting forked all around. It was a dramatic twenty minutes and a relief to find the familiar little carpark in Brossard. That was really enough excitement for one day.

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