NORTH BY NORTHEAST

As I say, I never developed any real affection for the KZ400. All the same, it was what I had, in the summer of '85, and when the time came that I needed to see some people in Pennsylvania and New Jersey - a couple of editors and an agent, professional business - I loaded up the little Kawasaki and went.

And once I was there, and my business concluded, I figured I might as well have a look at the other side of the mountain....

Which was how I found myself, once again, a long way from home on an undersized and unsuitable bike; and this time in another country as well.

It had been a fairly enjoyable day's ride, north on I-87 through upstate New York; the Adirondacks looked fine in their summer foliage and the air was nice and cool after the previous night's rain, which helped keep down the KZ's tendency to ping. Now here I was at the Canadian border, wondering what I was trying to prove.

Southern Quebec was pretty enough country, anyway, what little of it I saw.

I stopped in an attractive little town named Lacolle and considered what next. I was tempted to stay a day or two and see more of the area, but there didn't seem to be any campgrounds nearby - or I wasn't able to find out, in my pidgin French - and I wasn't all that well off for money anyway. Reluctantly I headed back down the freeway, back to the United States.

It was dark by the time I took the ferry across Lake Champlain. I rode about halfway across Vermont, much of it in the rain, before finding a state park with a campground. Next morning it took me less than an hour to reach the New Hampshire line. So this was New England; I'd been hearing about it all my life, never been here before. My primary impression was that they had awfully small states. Where I'm from, when you ride clear across a state you've been somewhere. Up here, you had just about enough time to work your way up through the gears and get the engine warmed up.

New Hampshire turned out to have some pretty wild country, though. I'd always pictured New England as very tame and civilized; I hadn't realized they still had anything like this.

In particular, the Kancamagus Highway, across the White Mountains, has some fantastic views, as well as some stretches of mountain road squiggly enough to keep any bike rider happy. I'd heard that a good many hikers got in trouble in these mountains every year; now, it was easy to believe.

I had an interesting encounter with a local, too. I stopped to stare and snap a picture - I'd never seen a wild moose before; never seen a live one at all - and she suddenly lumbered out of the woods and onto the highway, where she stood staring at me in that nearsighted way you see on stuffed moose heads ("Gee, is that a gun?") I sat very still, ready to swing around and retreat if necessary. I hadn't realized they were that big. Later on I realized that this one wasn't even full grown.

Maine, on the other hand, was a disappointment. Not that I got to see any of it, to speak of; but when I stopped at the state information center in Fryeburg, they wanted a buck for a road map! The hell with that; the cheap bastards could keep their state. I turned around and went back to New Hampshire; and, next morning, started the long haul back home.

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