We’d decided to take the weekend to go for a ride back to my home town. I hadn’t been there since leaving for school many years earlier and the missus wanted to see where I grew up, why I’m not sure because I didn’t particularly want to see it myself.
Right after work on Friday we headed out, me on a brand new RD350LC that I wanted to stretch the legs on,and her on her trusty CB400F. By about 8 PM we were in Mattawa, hungry, and looking for a place to stay. As I’ll explain later, the memories of that night are somewhat fuzzy, but I seem to recall the place we chose being called the Mattawa Motel though I’ll stand to be corrected on that. Anyway we got a room and had a good dinner in the dining room before heading to the bar for some refreshment.
That’s when the trouble began.
Except for the bartender and an older guy sitting alone at a table the place was empty. We headed for the bar and ordered up. Molson Golden was the tipple of choice in those days and so we had him pop a couple of stubbies for us. Soon enough we’re chatting to the bartender and tell him we’re going up to Temiscaming and why. He says to the guy at the table, “Andre, isn’t that where you’re from?”, and then, to us, “Andre’s the owner, he used to live in Temiscaming.”
With that Andre came over and asked our names. I told him and he said, “Your father’s name Fred?” “Yes.” “Bien maudit, I used to cut your hair. Do you remember me? I was the barber there and your dad used to bring you in when you were just little. Me and your dad, we used to go fishing.” Then he told me his last name which brought the memories into sharper focus.
Now that we were friends with the owner, or more precisely my dad had been friends with the owner, he felt obliged to buy us a round for old time’s sake, and another as we got caught up on all the news from the past 15 or so years.
About 9:30 a group of six or so very big guys came into the bar. One asked the bartender who owned the bikes parked outside. He pointed to us and I thought we were either going to get the crap kicked out of us, or be told they just ran over one of both of the motorcycles in the parking lot.
But no fear. They came and sat at the bar beside us. Being ‘friends’ of the owner, and somewhat a novelty (not too many women rode motorcycles then) we were introduced to each in turn. We found out that they were working on a nearby oil pipeline and were all staying at the motel where the bar had become a sort of home away from home. They ordered up their favourite beers, 2 and 3 at a time, paying in cash from huge wads of bills (Friday was payday) – including a couple more pints for us as well.
It soon became clear that our money was no good in that bar, but in turn we were expected to at least try to keep up. Round after round would appear as the stories of being migrant pipeline workers, hundreds of miles and months away from home, got longer and ever more ridiculous in the telling. We gave it a hell of a shot, but sometime after midnight with 10 or 12 empties in front of each of us (Canadian beer – 5%!) I lost track. It was one of the few times I can recall that I was actually happy the bar closed at 1:00 AM.
At breakfast the next morning we both commented on how we were feeling surprisingly good, all things considered. So we packed up and headed out. But I expect the reason we felt as good as we did was because we were still officially DUI. Fortunately we weren’t stopped, didn’t fall over, and riding and the sun soon burned most of the alcohol out of our systems.
We got into town and parked on the main drag to the curious looks of locals wondering who the strangers were. I recognized no one, and no one recognized me – 15 years can be a long time in the life of a small town. I pointed out some of the sights and hangouts from a misspent youth which took all of about 2 hours (small town, few sights, youth not that misspent) before we turned around and headed back home.
When we hit Mattawa I was actually feeling pretty good, so I suggested we perhaps stop at the Mattawa Motel for a quick pint on the way by. That’s when I got one of those don’t-even-think-about-it-if-you-ever-want-to-have-sex-again looks.
Apparently I had weathered the storm much better than the missus.