As the wind churns up the silt-laden, brackish waters at Rivière-du-Loup, we watch the approaching ferry in the mist and rain as we huddle quietly in our rain gear trying to stay warm and dry. We have been buffeted by crosswinds, smitten by blowing rain, and generally spat upon by the weather gods all the way from Saint-Jean-Port-Joli. The heavy grey clouds hang low over the river, suspended by unseen powers. The distant mountains, enshrouded in shades of grey and white, along with the rain and wind, create a netherworld feeling. As unsettled as the day is, our destination sounds far more appealing, by description at least. The Charlevoix – the name rolls off the tongue like melting French chocolate – is a region of Quebec named after father François Xavier de Charlevoix, a Jesuit priest who was appointed by the King of France as the area’s first historian. The Charlevoix region nestles beautifully between the magnificent Laurentian Mountains and the north shore of the mighty St. Lawrence River. A lovely blend of nature and culture, Charlevoix is renowned for its picture-perfect landscapes. Located just 90 minutes east of Quebec City, the area has been celebrated by painters, writers, poets and musicians from around the world. The ferry docks, but the wind and rain continue. I carefully ride down the oily, wet grating onto the ferry and park the bike, leaving it in gear in the hope that the stormy weather won’t relocate it. The elevator takes us to the upper-deck cafeteria for the hour-and-fifteen- minute crossing. Peering through rivulets of rain cascading down the windows, I search for a beluga or a mighty finback whale, but it is not to be, even though this is one of the best whale-watching areas in the world. I stretch my wet leather gloves, one finger at a time, over my prune-like skin as we approach the dock at Saint-Siméon. The ferry rocks back and forth in the surf, and riding across the wet steel surface is an unnerving experience. We climb the hill into Saint-Siméon, trying to follow the verbal directions from my GPS. Route 362, the River Route, will take us to our final destination of Baie-Saint-Paul. Scientists believe a 15 billion-tonne meteorite impacted the earth here 357 million years ago, give or take, and the resultant crater, some 56 kilometres across, stretches from La Malbaie to Baie-Saint-Paul. Ninety percent of the residents in the Charlevoix region live within the crater. It’s obvious that something catastrophic took place, as evidenced by the very large dent in the earth’s surface. With the blue saline St. Lawrence to the south and the majestic Laurentian Mountains to the north, this area is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site and still undiscovered by many motorcyclists. I gingerly terrace down the wet serpentine highway into the quiet little hamlet of Saint-Irénée, and my mind wanders as I imagine being awakened to the echo of torpedoes and depth charges. The Second World War brought the enemy dangerously close to our shores. German U-boats sank several Canadian supply ships in these very waters without losing a single submarine of their own. The mixture of brackish and fresh water confused the sonar, rendering depth charge attacks ineffective. As we leave Saint-Irénée, we catch fleeting glimpses through the mist of the river far below. The lush green fields are full of wildflowers, and the silhouettes of cattle grazing in the fields reflect the tranquillity of rural Quebec. Every home and outbuilding stands freshly painted and gloriously embellished by manicured lawns and flowerbeds, all proclaiming pride of ownership across the generations. As I coast down from the hills past the tidal flats, a sign welcomes us to Baie-Saint-Paul. We turn right at the asymmetrical twin steeples of the town’s cathedral onto Rue Saint-Jean-Baptiste, a street lined with shops and homes with the ever-popular habitant second-story balconies overlooking the street. Suddenly on our left is our destination, the Auberge La Muse, a beautiful Victorian mansion, resplendent in its delicate fretwork and symmetry. We tread wearily up its freshly painted steps to the welcoming entranceway. The next day dawns rainless but with a forbidding sky, and I peer anxiously at the puddles under my window, free of telltale raindrops. After a hearty breakfast, we walk slowly along Rue Saint-Jean-Baptiste. Next door to La Muse we find the MicroBrasserie Charlevoix, well known for its excellent brews. A stroll through Chocolaterie Cynthia nets me six chocolates, and I exit $11.00 lighter – but the taste is worth it. We pack up and head east out of town. Wild rose bushes adorn the roadside, and their fragrance carried in the air offers a pleasant bouquet to the senses. Just before the town of Les Éboulements, built on top of the rebounding dimple at the centre of the crater, the Route du Port takes us down an 18% grade to the river below and Saint-Joseph-de-la-Rive. This quaint little hamlet has several auberges, B&Bs, a maritime museum and the ferry terminal for Isle-aux-Coudres. As we retrace our path, I see an opening in the trees hiding a street that meanders up a steep hill. We are led through a series of tight uphill twists and turns, a veritable tunnel of trees and greenery. Although short, it’s a great little gem called Côte-à-Godin, which ascends steeply up and out of the valley and back onto Route 362 a few miles west of Route du Port. The weather has cleared a bit, and as we ride through Les Éboulements, I can’t help but notice all the artists’ signs outside their homes. We turn north at yet another chocolaterie onto Rang Sainte-Catherine, and although not challenging, it’s a beautiful road through some great scenery. We climb into the mountains, and again the weather turns gray and foggy. We meet up with Route 138, the Mountain Route, at Saint-Hilarion. The rain has settled in, and we take a slow ride on Route 138 back to Baie-Saint-Paul, following logging trucks that are slowly winding their way down the mountain. We have a different place to stay each night, and it’s time to ride east through town, out on Route 362 and to make our way to L’estampilles. On a promontory on the River Route, our room offers a glimpse through the trees of Baie-Saint-Paul. Regis, a world-travelled chef from the south of France, and his wife, Claire, a tourism professional from the Champagne region of France, opened L’estampilles in March 2010. We indulge ourselves with New York steak, done to perfection, and a salad that I’m sure required a building permit from the local municipality. With the windows open wide to the sounds of night and rain, I awake in the darkness to the lingering resonance of a ship’s foghorn in the distance. Eerie and melancholy, it echoes off the cliffs as the ship slowly plies the channel in the heavy morning fog. Later, as the rising sun appears in my window, I pray that this day will bring us fine weather for our visit to Isle-aux-Coudres. Jacques Cartier first set foot on this island during his second voyage in 1535 and named it Coudrier after all the hazelnut trees he found there. I guess he must have run out of names of saints. Isle-aux-Coudres has a 24 kilometre circumference road, and we decide to tour the island counterclockwise. The tide is out as we circumnavigate the island, and the pungent brackish smell of saltwater and seaweed fills our nostrils. We stop a few of the more interesting establishments on the island, like the Moulin Flour Mill, which harnesses the power of water and wind to stone-grind the wheat just as it was done centuries ago. Up to now the weather has co-operated, but some scattered showers catch us by surprise as we complete our island tour and get back on the ferry. We wind through the curves of St-Irénée on our way to La Malbaie at the north end of the crater. In 1608, Champlain ran his ship aground here and subsequently named the place Mal Baie, meaning "bad bay". The name was anglicized to Murray Bay, but later was given its present name, La Malbaie. Just past La Malbaie at Cap-à-l'Aigle is La Pinsonnière. Perched on a cliff overlooking the St. Lawrence, we have an awesome view of La Malbaie. With twelve feet of tide and a width of fifteen miles, it seems more like we are on the ocean. Jean and Lise Authier, the owners of La Pinsonnière, request that we dine with them. Lise, a prominent columnist for Le Soleil, a large Québec newspaper, and Jean, an avid fisherman, prove to be charming hosts, and we spend a wonderful evening getting acquainted over a dinner of fresh walleye. We are even introduced to the wonderful chef who created our meals, Jean François, who has travelled the world mastering his craft. Just north of La Malbaie lies Hautes-Gorges National Park with the highest rock faces east of the Canadian Rockies; one of them, Acropole des Draveurs, stands at 1148 metres. The Malbaie River, far below, was to be our destination for today, but heavy rain and high waters have dashed our hopes. Instead, we decide to take a ride further east to Baie-Sainte-Catherine on the shores of the Saguenay River. We follow Route 138 east with a small detour to Port-au Persil. From here, high atop the cliffs overlooking the river, we can see the ferry rounding Brandy Pot Island as it steams toward Saint-Siméon. A mountain stream tumbles downward over the rocks on its way to the salty water below, presenting a breathtaking scene for the many artists in the Charlevoix. The road winds inland past lakes and through bushland, a different kind of beauty from Charlevoix. It's a wonderful ride to Baie-Sainte_Catherine, where the mighty Saguenay meets the St. Lawrence. Whale-watching excursions start here, and you can even take a Zodiac boat if you want to get up close and personal with a beluga, finback or minke.We look down from above at the ferries traversing the waters of the Saguenay, taking cars and tranports across to Tadousac. The ride west again is nice, in that it isn't raining anymore. In La Malbaie, we take a riding tour through the grounds of the Fairmount Richelieu, a very old hotel with a large gambling casino, and then down to the lower town, where we find local artistswith their work on display. The homes here are immaculate, and immediately behind them the cliffs rise straight up to the plateau above. We take a quick tour of La Malbaie and then we check in at Auberge des 3 Canards. We both wonder why an inn would be called 3 ducks. It turns out that three doctors purchased it 29 years ago. During that time, the inn became known by locals as The Three Docs, as in doctors. That morphed into 3 ducks, or in French, 3 canards, and thus the name today. Our stay at Auberge 3 Canards is blessed once again by splendid cuisine, with filet mignon for dinner and French toast for breakfast. Friday morning, and the sun rises in all its glory in the eastern sky. Go figure! We are about to leave the Charlevoix region and the sun comes out. It's been a wet and wonderful adventure, but most definitely the Charlevoix is Quebec's Petit Bijoux. MMM Ron began in 1965. He is a five-time canadian National Motocross Champion (from 1969 to 1973) and an ISDT Silver medallist «9he only rode it once).He has taught at racing schools across Canada, guided trail tours, and is a member of the Blue Knights and GWWRRA. His crowning glory was being inducted into the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2008.