Posted by: Bob Fisher | May 9, 2009

My Great Laurentian ATV experience

Should I really be doing this?

We are going on an excursion into the boreal forest on all terrain vehicles. (VTT véhicules tout terrains).

Mea maxima culpa. I know. I know. Internal combustion engines … loud and raucous … pissing off the moose and the beaver. But the Laurentians are 22,000 square kilometres. I can rationalize anything these days.

So, on y va!

But first, we go through the robing of the warriors ceremony.

A very large snow suit that might make an astronaut feel right at home. Mega snow mittens almost up to the elbows that make hands and arms look steroidal. And extra extra extra large snow boots that would make Nancy Sinatra swoon.

We/I are/am so cool! ATV cowboys! Mad Maxx eat your heart out.

Is it just my imagination or is that flock of very large Blue Jays snickering?

But I’ve fogotten something. I must don with a certain very cool panache … the casque (helmet) which fits so snugly over my head that I have to take off my wimpy, librarian cord from my reading glasses (can’t take pics without them) and slip them in and over my ears. And then then there’s the visor. (I think I erroneously called it a windshield in French).

Dressed like the Terminator I am so cool.

I mount my noble steed Polaris. Licence number VG98585 … Je me souviens! And don’t you forget it.

The group leader of the pack and guide takes me through the operation of this beast. Got it. Got it. Step on the pedal before putting it into gear. Lights on. The throttle is on the right and you use your thumb to give it gas … so to speak.

OK. We’re ready. I start Polaris. Let’s go man!

I put it in gear… push the throttle with my thumb….


Hmmm … too much pouce (thumb).


Ummm … odd that … and … um … we’re still in the parking lot. The blue jays have gathered to watch but inside my casque I can’t hear them; can only hear my breathing.

Third try. Gotta lay off the pouce. Easy does it. Here we go … OK … this is working … LURCH … BUCK.

OK. I can do this, C’mon … I’m a primate! I have an opposable thumb. I can do up my shoelaces. I can hold a pen.

Fourth try. OK. OK. It’s happening. Slowly … I’m second in line, right behind the leader… like RIGHT behind him. I’m riding up his bum. Need to leave at least two ATV lengths.

We’re now on the flat roads leading through the resort. I can’t see to either side of me; the casque blocks my peripheral vision and besides I’m concentrating on not wiping out our fearless leader. I also can’t look back to see if I’m the only incompetent … which I suspect I am because everyone else is Québécois … and this kind of thing is in their coureur de bois blood. Only the stupid, skinny French teacher with the dysfunctional opposable thumb is having trouble. How humiliating.

C’mon Polaris. Work with me. Let’s do it.

OK. OK. This is starting to feel not unlike riding a horse. OK. OK. Heels down. Shoulders back. Sit deep in the saddle. And … for crying in the sink … go easy on the pouce.

We now head up the hill on the piste (trail) … like UP the hill.

So far so good. A bit lurchy and bucky but I’m making progress. And then the piste starts to get problematic … twists, turns, and worst of all … deep, deep ruts … boggy mud pools. They don’t call Polaris all-terrain for nothing. And the piste … I swear … is deliberately rough and ready to make a fool of a tête carrée from Toronto. (Tête carrée = blockhead = it’s what they call us.)

Up ahead … one particularly boggy bit. Mid-bog I’m on a 30 degree slant. C’mon Polaris … help me out here. That’s a boy … whew!

Head up, heels down, shoulders back … however my opposable pouce still isn’t quite cooperating. What’s in a pouce? A helluva a lot it seems. A pouce is not just a pouce. Like … um … you have the tip of the pouce, the fleshy part of the pouce, and the first joint (bony part) of the pouce.

I experiment using each of the three parts of my pouce on the throttle with varying results. Sometimes the tip is appropriate, especially before going between AIEEEEEEEEE those two trees … with centimetres to spare. Sometimes the fleshy part works on the flat … except … as is the way of all flesh … it tends to take on a life of its own … and Polaris goes faster and faster … and faster….. WHOA!

OK. I’ll try the bony part. Working better. Big rock on the piste coming up… have to ride right over it. Helloooooooooooooo …. the bony part of the pouce depresses the throttle even more when I hit turbulence on the piste. And the tip keeps slipping off the throttle whereupon I come to a dead stop. Back to the fleshy part.

We’ve got two hours of this….

Here comes a very big dip … through the stream and very quickly up the other very rutted side. We do it one at a time. Slowly down the bank into the stream and then …. yeeeeeeeehaaaaaaaaa up the other side, wheels spinning, swirving and fishtailng … avoiding the white birches by just this much … a branch hits me in the casque. Now I know why there is a visor.

And then a flat part. The leader guns it. So do I …. ooooooooooooooooooooooh …. you still with me Polaris? Easy boy.

Is that a paved road coming up?

Was that a paved road we just crossed?

A big bend in the piste … like the curve on a racetrack. OK Polaris. let’s use the gravitational pull of the curve. Think grade 11 Physics. Ooooooom…..

We stop in a circle … like a wagon train, dismount, remove our helmets … like Easy Rider times eight. We walk about … getting the pins and needles out of our bums … I practise my thumb moves. I have to pee… just choose a spot over near the beaver dam. I negotiate three sets of zippers. Darwin would be proud of me.

Half way home … the more difficult halfway home. Big mother-frazzling rocks, ditches, mud pools, intricate manouevres through the best of the boreal … lots of yahoos and ohmygods.

Nature! Ya gotta love it.

Visit the official Laurentians Tourism Website at:;; toll free number: (Canada and the U.S.) 1-800-561-6673

Other Laurentian resources

L’Auberge du lac Morency (Resort, Spa, and Conference Centre)

La Vallée de Saint-Sauveur Tourism

Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur

Ski Mont-Sauveur

Manoir Saint-Sauveur Resort and Convention Centre


Le Centre d’Exposition de Val-David

The Dufresne Regional Park

See also…

Québec’s Laurentians: Sensing the Belle Énergie of the Village


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