Our Homecoming Story...
by SpyderTalk member dltang (Deb Tangen)
Wednesday, June 4th, 2008 at 11:30 a.m. We departed our home in Grand Blanc, MI for the first annual Spyder Homecoming. It was drizzly and cloudy so we donned our rain gear in preparation for the potential bad weather. Our first stop was for fuel, then east bound down I-69 towards Port Huron.
In Port Huron we would meet our new friend and riding companion Duane. We had a bit of a wait for Duane, so we didn't get back on the road until about 1:45 p.m. Duane is from the "thumb" area of Michigan. I will make sure and keep him on my good side as he owns a Dairy Queen. It appeared that the weather was clearing up so off came the rain gear as we rode over the Blue Water Bridge and through customs. The lines were long and it was hot and sticky during the wait.
Once we cleared customs at 3:00pm, a quick stop at the currency exchange to get my Canadian cash and we would be off.
Now, I had one very important phone call to make. I had to call "Director" aka Bruce from the SpyderTalk forums. We had planned to meet for lunch in London, Ontario. I let him know we would be there in about an hour. We got to our restaurant about 4:30 p.m. He was a very generous host and we spent well over an hour enjoying lunch and great conversation. Bruce is a great guy and I will be reciprocating when he comes through our neck of the woods.
Leaving the restaurant was a different story. Who knew a couple of miles of construction could take nearly 40 minutes to get back on the highway. We finally got our butts in gear again and all was well. Toronto is a great place to visit, but not to drive through. Thank goodness we didn't get there during rush hour. Even so, it was still a very busy commute through the heart of Toronto. We finally got to the east side of Toronto and decided to stop for the night as it was nearing 9:30p.m. We found a Howard Johnson's that was clean and cheap. It is amazing how long every gas and food stop took. There are hardly any Spyders in Ontario and we got lots of attention.
After breakfast in the hotel we headed out for our next destination which would be Brossard, Quebec. That is where we would be meeting up for the ride into Valcourt. The weather was fantastic on Thursday. The only issues that we ran into was the amount of traffic headed towards Montreal for the Grand Prix. On one of our fuel and food stops we met another Spyder owner headed to Valcourt. His Spyder was stock yellow. He and his significant other were headed to Drummondville for the night and planned on dropping off their Goldwing. They were from Ohio and extremely nice folks. We talked it up for a while in the parking lot before we all headed out. We didn't ride with them from there, but we did see them again at Valcourt and said our hello's.
Can we say Traffic Jam? And we weren't even in the heart of Montreal, passing just south. I think it was rush hour, bumper to bumper slow, hot, sticky traffic. Once we were out of the congestion, it was a breeze into Brossard. One thing I wish I would have done before we got that far was to pull over and get a photo of the Spyder under the welcome to Quebec sign. It truly is like entering France.
Very few signs are in English--this is French all the way. Thank goodness most of the folks also speak English, but my three years of high school French did come in handy, and surprisingly, a lot of it came back.
Once we got to the Comfort Inn in Brossard, it was time for a shower. We all got cleaned up and rested up and went across the street for a nice dinner. Our waitress spoke very little English so it was an adventure. Once back in the room, I checked the forums briefly and then we tucked ourselves in for the night. Morning came all too soon and of course it had been raining and was still drizzling as we packed our Spyders. Rain gear on once again and continental breakfast to tide us over and we were off. It turned out that we were only a mile and a half from our meeting point.
We were the first Spyders in the parking lot at Cineplex Odean. We were a bit concerned that we weren't in the right place. After about 10 minutes two more Spyders showed up. I thought these two were our BRP reps but as it turned out, they were just a couple of local Quebec owners. Very nice gentleman. After that, it just got more and more awesome. Whole groups of Spyders started showing up. It seems a number of dealers had their meeting places at the dealerships and then all came as a group to Brossard. By the time everyone arrived there must have been 150 Spyders. Of all the Spyder owners there, I would say 90 percent were from Quebec and 70% were speaking French only. It was truly a cultural experience.
While we were waiting, a red Spyder pulls up in the middle of the mix and the driver gets off and introduces himself as our "BRP guy". His name is Adrien. He walked right up to me and said you are Debbie, right? I asked him how he knew, he said he reads the forum and he knows who I am. It was kind of neat. It was a little after 11:00a.m. before we all took off as a group for Valcourt. What a beautiful ride. That is what this Spyder is all about. Riding twisting, winding roads, with good friends and wonderful scenery.
I can't even begin to explain the view as you came to the top of a hill and looking down all you see is a winding road of hundreds of Spyders. It was truly Awesome!! They had it timed well. We were the first group to arrive at the factory. As we were parking the next groups started arriving--a never ending line of Spyders. There were a few that had to do their burn outs on the way in, but it was cool.
I got to park up front with my custom paint job. Reps from BRP were out asking very detailed questions about what changes we've made, what we want to make, what we need, what kind of gear did we buy, why did we get this vs. something else, etc.
While parked up front and waiting for my husband from the general parking, I started cleaning up my baby. I couldn't have it entered in a custom paint contest while it was dirty now could I? Many people started flocking around and all the questions and conversations were great. Spyder owners are a fantastic bunch! About this time pinkwidow1941, aka Carol, came over and introduced herself. She was great. We ended up spending a lot of time with Brad (widowmaker2011) and Carol before all was said and done. We saw Lamonster pull in and went over and introduced ourselves to him. He was like a celebrity with many people checking out his mods. One of the advantages of having a custom Spyder and having already posted the photos is that many people already knew who I was. aluvatar, aka Jeremy, and his wife Alice came up and introduced themselves as well. More great folks. We had dinner with them and lots of good conversation. I just kept meeting people. Spyder-dude, Spydergramps, flyjake, jeuchler and his wife Barb, and so many more.
Finally, we decided it was time to go into the factory for the tour. We had spent so much time outside socializing that we missed out on the cookies and treats they had laid out for us. I ended up eating an apple prior to going into the factory. While inside, Marc from SpyderTalk.com came up and handed out name tags with our member names on them. That was a nice touch. It made it easy to identify other forum members. Most of us ended up in a group together for the tour.
We were one of the last groups to go through and it was taking forever. That is one place they could use improvement. I don't have specific ideas but it just took so long. I left early and went out and took video of all the custom Spyders with fewer people around. At this point, most of the crowd had already been bused over to the BBQ. I waited for my husband who finished the whole tour. Most of the group that we had gone in with left the tour early to go get lunch. Being the good wife that I am, I waited for my wonderful husband. I talked to a lot of onlookers just walking around. By this time I was very hungry and a few of the employees at the gate offered me some of their cookies. Everyone was so nice. While I was out there waiting, one of the BRP employees came up to me and gave me what I will say is the ultimate compliment on my Spyder paint job. He told me, "it is a very nice thing you are doing with our product". I wish I had gotten his name.
Finally we boarded a bus for the BBQ. Being so late there was hardly any food left. The pork was good and the cake was great. The presentations that went with lunch were not too long and that made it easy to sit through.
The awards were fantastic, more than any of us expected. Winners getting $1000.00 in accessory money and 2nd & 3rd place getting $500.00. I never would have guessed the prizes would be so generous. I don't know for sure but I have decided that my Spyder was in 4th place and not too far out of the running! LOL. On the way out of the BBQ we all got in line to shake hands with Jose and receive our commemorative pin and with Yves to receive our certificates for a free tank of gas--and we also got gift bags. Of course the lines were long and it gave us time to really get to talk with jeuchler, aka John and his wife Barb. They are really nice people and I wish we had gotten the opportunity to spend more time with them. So many people and so little time.
The BBQ had ended and we all got bused back to our Spyders. Now it gets fun. Who knows how to get to the Chateau Bromont? No one really had a clue. Okay, we have GPS; we'll just enter the address. Not a problem. Our first stop was across the street for free gas. Duane, Brad and Carol, Jeremy and Alice, Shawn (spyder-dude), Tom (spydergramps), Bill (NEXUS), my husband Brian and I all traveled back to the hotel together.
As many of you may know, when you program a GPS for the shortest route, that is what you get, regardless of where it may take you. When the first road we were sent on was dirt, I knew we were in for an adventure. Luckily it was a very good dirt road and it did come out to the main road we were looking for. It was actually a very beautiful ride and very enjoyable. We saw some great countryside and we made it to the hotel which is all that counts. The dirt road did give us all a good reason to pick on my husband once we arrived. Now all we had to do was check in and get cleaned up for dinner.
Boy did that shower feel great.
Dinner was supposed to be at 8:00p.m. Because the factory tour and lunch took so long, it was almost 8:00pm before we even checked into the hotel.
So we didn't get to dinner until after 8:30pm and they were already serving. It was nice, but for $30 we would have liked the option of having our choice of food. We had Coc-au-vin (chicken in wine sauce). The dinner company was the best part. Jeremy and Alice came and joined us for dinner and Brad and Carol joined us all for dessert. It was nice.
After the food was served, Marc Lacroix told us to all check under our chairs. Taped to the bottom of some chairs was a "Y" factor keyx chain that got you a Spyder Reserved Parking sign. Brian got one and so did Jeremy and his wife. They gave one of theirs to Carol and Brad since they only have one Spyder, which was very nice. After dessert everyone cleared out pretty fast because it was going to be an early morning. We made a slight detour and went out on the terrace were saw Venym, aka Kevin, and his friend. We must have stayed out there and talked for half an hour or better. More really nice people.
Spyder folk are just great all around I guess.
The Chateau Bromont has great scenery, great atmosphere and really cushy beds--but I still didn't sleep well. I was up by six and packing for the trip to the museum. Out in the parking lot, it appeared I wasn't the only one up and around early. Many travelers were heading back without the museum stop. Lamonster and his group were getting ready to head out but not before a photo op and some light conversation. Before heading to the museum, we spent a lot of time around Marc (from SpyderTalk) and his loaner Red SE5--checking it out. It was there that I got me a SpyderTalk.com hat. Very nice!
The ride back to the museum didn't feel any faster than Brian's "scenic" trip to the hotel the night before. I think they just took more main roads instead of back roads. We had a continental breakfast in a large tent set up for us at the museum. We spent quite a bit of time once again talking to all the other owners and just checking out the other Spyders and their mods. We finally got our butts into the museum and it was pretty cool.
Some of those machines are amazing. A group of us from SpyderTalk gathered in front of the original garage for a photo. We grabbed as many as we could find in the vicinity.
By now, we are all getting ready to leave and feeling the need to get on the road. Of course, my husband fell in love with the Givi bags and rack that Brad got and he wanted a set too. So back over to the dealership across from the factory to get Brian's new set up. It was there that I learned our newfound friends had decided we should go to Americade on our way home--keeping in mind that Americade is not on our way back to Michigan. What the heck, it's our vacation right? Everyone waited for quite a while for Brian to get his bags. Most of the group headed out and we told them we would see them in Lake George. Brad and Carol hung with us and Brad helped install the rack on Brian's Spyder.
Once again we are on our way.
Shawn from Thibault sent us north to go south. I think he was trying to keep us on main roads but it added time to our ride. The ride through the Adirondacks was fantastic. Great scenery and a pretty nice ride overall. We stopped a few times to rest our tushies and get some hydrations and fuel--and a few photos as well. We got a tiny bit of rain once or twice but other than that, we had pretty nice weather with the exception of very high winds. We pulled into the north end of Lake George and had to drive through everything. It was hot and crowded and so very cool. People and bikes everywhere. We got a lot of comments with 5 Spyders coming through.
As we got to the end of the line, we had a voice mail telling us where some of our other Spyder friends had found a room so off we went to make sure we had a place to stay. The Country Hearth Inn it was.
Once we were all checked in, we gathered in the parking lot and were discussing plans for dinner. We decided that going back into the thick of things would not be a wise choice, so off to the south we went. Somehow I was put in the lead and in charge of finding a place to eat. I had a pizza joint on the mind but I saw a steak and seafood restaurant and it had room to park all eight of our Spyders. I turned in quickly and the decision was made. The service was a little slow but that gave us lots of time to get to know each other better and discuss all things Spyder.
After dinner, everyone was pooped and wanted to head back to the hotel. I wanted to head back into town and check it out. The air was steaming with excitement. So Spyder-dude (Shawn) and Spydergramps (Tom) and I headed back into town. What a great cruise. More bikes than I'd ever seen in one place and many of them were so decked out. We drove along the water and back down main street. So many things were still open and the town was rocking. Got back to the hotel and told hubby about stores being open and asked if he wanted to go back out and he did. When we got to the parking lot, Shawn was still there so we asked if he wanted one more cruise into town. He was up for it so off we went. This time we parked the Spyders and took a walk through all the action. The only thing we ended up buying was some new sunglasses for Brian. Now I can say I officially earned my Americade pin from the Homecoming.
Sunday morning is upon us and the ride home lurks in the distance. What seemed like a great idea now was an added 5 hours to our ride. Don't get me wrong, we are glad we did it and wouldn't change a thing. We said all our good-byes, many times as a matter of fact, and headed out for fuel and to hit the road by 8:30a.m. Our goal was to get to Niagara Falls in Canada so that we could get photos of the Spyders at the Falls. We took a scenic drive just north of Albany and it was very nice and then headed west toward Niagara Falls.
Had we known that it would take almost an hour for our photo at the falls, we may not have done it. But once again, we are glad we did. We got through customs at Niagara and got into Canada. We couldn't find a good spot to park the Spyders with the Falls in the background. We ended up parking on the sidewalk and had many onlookers and folks taking pictures.
A bicycle cop told us we couldn't stay there but we couldn't get away from the crowd that easily. It was just crazy. We had our own paparazzi.
Finally, we are on our final leg home. Just outside of Toronto the weather started to get a little scary though. We saw lightening and dark skies. It was time for rain gear for sure. We drove through some really bad weather and heavy rains--driving through deep puddles on the expressway. We drove in and out of that type of weather 3 or 4 times. We stopped just outside of London, Ontario. We sat and had dinner for about an hour while we waited out a thunderstorm and possible tornado that was spotted in London. Once that all blew over, it was clear sailing the rest of the way home.
At the US border,we had to clear customs once again. It is so funny; those guys are more interested in the Spyder than if you bought anything or have any weapons or whatever. One guy kept our traveling buddy, Duane, talking forever. I felt sorry for the cars behind him. Once we got through Sarnia, we parted ways with Duane in Port Huron. He was headed to Sandusky, MI and we had Grand Blanc in our sights. One last hour. We were both so ready to get home that when we got off at the exit and the gas lights came on both of our Spyders, we did not even stop to fill up. Only 5 miles to go, we could get to a gas station the next day.
HOME!!! Yeah!! As much as I loved this whole experience and this trip, home was so nice. So what did we do, got on line and checked the forums. Go figure. Finally, I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer and off to bed I went. I don't even remember falling asleep. Would I do it again? You bet!!