by Taylor Berry
When you’re alone and life is making you lonely, you can always go… to Montreal. This past week, I felt in my bones that I had to leave my hometown of Toronto and get back to Montreal, where I’ve spent the past four years at school. Toronto wasn’t cutting it for me this weekend: I needed to be surrounded by my best friends and the skeezy French guys with bottle service that only Montreal can offer. My best guy friend from home just bought a motorcycle, and when I mentioned to him that I wanted to get to la belle province the answer was simple: we’ll take the bike!
If you haven’t been on a motorcycle, it’s an exhilarating feeling for sure. There’s always a bit of a feeling that you’ve taken your life in your hands–you’re doing something more dangerous than the average drive, but going 130 km/h with the wind whipping through your hair is really an unbeatable high. By the same token, riding on a motorcycle in the rain essentially takes all the fun, exciting things about being on a bike (the wind whipping at you, the exposure to the elements) and turns them against you in a terrible, terrible way. This was the situation I found myself in on my way to Montreal.
I left Toronto in skinny jeans, knee-high suede boots, layered sweaters, a leather jacket and a scarf, and felt like I was pretty well-prepared for the trip considering that it was just drizzling a bit when we left. “You’re coming on a bike? That’s so Che,” my friend Jackie had said, and I was really hoping that I was pulling off the badass young revolutionary look. But once we were on the bike, drizzle turned into rain, and rain turned into a bona fide downpour. Before I knew it, I was in Belleville, soaked to the very bone, crouched under a hand dryer and shivering, looking decidedly uncute.
I got inquisitive and pitying looks from ladies entering the public restroom, seeing the puddle that I was forming on the floor just by standing there. Seeing how drenched I was, my friend offered that he could go back on the bike and get his car from Toronto, and we could finish the trip that way–he’d be about two hours going to get the car. I stubbornly refused. We had set out to ride to Montreal on a motorcycle, and that’s what we were going to do, God damn it.
Back on the road, I couldn’t feel most of my body for the cold, and unable to talk to my friend through the roaring of the wind, I slumped against his back to try to hide from the freezing air that was hitting us. Koala’d against his back, I anticipated street signs telling us the distance to Montreal through the rainy blur of my visor.
Every hour or so we would stop at another rest station where I could make love to the hand dryer in the washroom and gain disapproving stares from mothers. “You’re riding in this shit?” a guy about my age asked incredulously as I dripped my way to Tim Hortons. “I would not want to be on a motorcycle in this weather.” I wrung out my wet braid and laughed, albeit a bit nervously. My friend looked at me approvingly and told me that I’m made of tougher stuff than he imagined.
On the last legs of the trip, I was shivering and convinced I was going to perish of pneumonia on the back of the bike, unbeknownst to my friend. I sang Sam Cooke softly into my helmet and recited that Robert Frost poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” Then, just outside of Cornwall, something fantastic happened: the rain stopped.
The last hour of the trip was suddenly clear, and my heart soared like never before as we drove into the lights of Montreal and I saw the cross lit up on Mont-Royal. I was welcomed back to my friends’ apartments with (warm) open arms and depanneur wine–exactly what I needed to fortify my body and soul.
I spent the weekend almost purely with my girlfriends, brunching at Cafeteria and shopping at Boutique EXTC on Prince-Arthur. On Saturday night we dressed up extra flashy and met up with a bachelor party of rugby players at Club Opera. It was a uniquely absurd Montreal setting: bottle service, strobe lights, and “Gasolina” inexplicably pumping–isn’t that song at least four years old?
Everyone woke up Sunday morning in the guys’ hotel room, fully dressed, still drunk. Luckily my driver had gone home early, and we were on our way back to Toronto by noon. This time it didn’t rain, and we enjoyed the fantastic fiery fall colours of the trees on our trip back, and I received approving thumbs up from other drivers on the 401 instead of pitying looks. It felt good to get back to Toronto, but I’m happy to know that Montreal is always there, probably still playing “Gasolina” somewhere.
On the way to Montreal, my friend had told me that we could only pull off this crazy motorcycle trip at our age, and “definitely not at 25.” If that’s the case, I’m glad we took the bike the whole way and finished the trip properly. But now that we can say that we’ve done it, I think next time we should take the car if it’s raining. Ohh, my foolish youth.