2 Weeks, 2 Geeks, 2 Countries: New England to Nova Scotia
I know, I know, yet another RR about New Scotland from New England, but I figured it may be of some interest as we were on small bikes. I didn't think we were on small bikes, but I was told over and over and over that we were (or at least I was). I didn't know I wasn't supposed to leave Rhode Island on anything less than a 650.
My boyfriend and I are scooterists. We've ridden them for years and have only sized up in the last few years. We've taken short, one-week camping trips on both the scoots and the vintage bikes, but this would be our first multi-week trip.
We ordered up Canadian insurance cards from both Progressive and Hagerty. “Why both?” you wonder. Well, we were planning on taking the vintage bikes on this trip; me on the Honda CB350 and he on the BMW R75/5. But the Honda just got running a week before we were leaving.
I reeeeally wanted to do this trip on the old bikes, but the other night the boyfriend sat down, looked at me and said, “How would you feel if we had to abandon the trip because one of the bikes had a catastrophic breakdown?” Well, maybe he wasn’t that dramatic, but you get the point.
I looked at him and said, “I would be very unhappy.” I have been thinking about this trip since last spring (2009!) and I really, really, really need a break. So we decided, not even three nights ago, to forgo the rollicking adventure that would have been a BMW R75/5 and a Honda CB350 for his 2001 BMW F650GS Dakar and my 2007 DR-Z400 SM (aka Elsa).
The only problem …I’m getting a Renazco seat and my build date is during the time we’re away. There actually is something worse than the stock DR-Z400 seat — no seat at all!
The night before our departure, my boyfriend and I wrestled together a new seat out of a wreck of an extra seat I picked up with two inches of foam added beneath a layer of marine grade yellow vinyl. It did the trick for the trip.
Finally, finally, finally the day arrived…June 18th. I ran around on the 17th getting last minute supplies (food and bug repellent) and arranged how I wanted to pack stuff. How we lived in a pre-ZipLoc world I will never know. Actually, having just read the Wikipedia article about Ziploc bags, I never did live in a world pre-Ziploc.
I had ziplocs for:
http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4143/...6acc6dd7b6.jpgElsa & Maxx packed up and ready for the ride to Cape Breton
Friday, June 18th was a warm, sunny morning. We brought the bikes into the back yard and packed them up. As we’re prepping the bikes, my crazy neighbor June starts calling over the fence “Eva, Eva” because of course she thinks that’s my name. Which it isn’t. I ignore her. She starts with “hello, hello” as if I’m not in the middle of packing up the DRZ for over two weeks of touring. I finally look her way and yell over “I’m in the middle of the something here” and she goes away. Too much pot has turned her into a zombie. I cannot have a conversation with her.
I rode out to the street while Erik made last minute adjustments. As I’m idling by the curb, a woman pulls up next to me in a car, rolls down her window and starts to ask me something. I’m wearing a full-face and earplugs and the bike is making its own noise as it’s warming up. I bang on my helmet and yell “I can’t hear you” so, in typical South Providence fashion, she yells back at me. I shake my head and head off.
Erik joins me and off we go! All of a mile to go to the Seaplane Diner for breakfast. After scrambled eggs and blueberry pancakes, we are on our way north!
Canada Day 1: Providence, RI to Freeport, ME (186 miles)
We didn’t really plan this trip. All I knew was I wanted to get the hell out of Providence and end up in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. I’m not very good with spatial relationships, so when I pull out a map, I point and say “We’re here” and “We need to be here” with no reference to the distances between the first here and the second here.
All we had discussed is that we didn’t want to ride on the Interstate. So we headed off on Route 1. It was hot and getting hotter. At one point I looked over and said over the Cardo, “Ummm, I think we’re in Boston…isn’t that Fenway?” Sure enough, we’re in Boston. I hate Boston. Everyone who knows me knows I hate Boston. And here I am, on a bike packed to the gills and wearing full cold-weather gear, sweltering outside Fenway in stop-and-go Friday traffic, trying to figure out how the hell to get out of Boston. I yell over, “We need to find Storrow Drive; that’ll get us out of here!”
http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4137/...66023ce416.jpgMaine...the way life should be (on Route 1)
Like a miraculous vision, a sign appears for Storrow Drive. We hop on and ride over the Tobin Bridge to get the hell outta Dodge. When we enter into Maine, we stop at the Visitor Information booth (yeah, that was fun to find as we were not on I95 but Route 1).
As I’m scarfing down a banana, I ask the gentleman behind the Info desk where the closest state campground is (we’re around Kittery–yeah, didn’t make very good time). We were planning on making Camden Hills, but it was getting late and we really needed to get off the road. I knew we wouldn’t even make Bath before nightfall.
The kindly gentleman behind the desk looks at me and says “Freeport.” I look back at him and say “There’s no state camping in Freeport.” “Bradbury Mountain,” was his reply. “Duh!” I exclaim. I was there as a kid but only on a day hike.
As I turn around, a woman remarks “That’s a bright jacket.” I told her that it was a real sacrifice being safe and fashionable but I don’t think she realized I was joking. Both her and her partner asked me about where we were headed, what were we riding, etc. It felt like Erik wasn’t even there. I thought to myself, these must be the folks in the car with the bumper stickers “Motorcycles are everywhere” and “=”. Sure ’nuff, we walk outside and they’re hanging around their car. I got the feeling they were just sorta hanging out at the rest stop waiting to talk to people on bikes as they were Mainers. Who from Maine goes to the Visitor Information area near Kittery?
Off we rode toward Freeport to stop at Bradbury Mountain. Route 9 was just repaved and a sweet, smooth, and oil-laced roadway. We found the campground entrance and coasted into the grounds. Trying to figure out how to snag a site was another matter. There was a guy in the site “Campground Host” who informed us to just pick any site and someone will be by later to collect the camping fee.
http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4142/...63c334f4c8.jpgElsa (DR-Z400SM) and Maxx (F650GS Dakar) at Bradbury Mountain State Park
The campground was about 1/3 full and quite quiet. There were 3 hot showers(!) and a dishwashing station. Luxxxxxxury. After we got settled, I decided to take a shower and wash out the clothes I wore that day because it had been a long, hot & humid, sticky, nasty day. The shower was really nice. My only complaint about the campground was that Route 9 is a busy road and I could hear traffic throughout the night.
I had cooked up some chicken, brown rice and green beans the night before and froze the meal. When I went to pull out the Ziploc, it was thawed and ready to be reheated over my simple one-burner. We were both very tired from the hot ride and the food tasted delicious. Having access to the dishwashing station made me lazy as I was able to carry the dishes over for a quick rinse. No fire this night as we wanted to get to bed so we could take off early in the morning.
When we awoke, Erik made coffee with the GSI collapsible coffee maker and I boiled up some water for my farina and his apples and cinnamon oatmeal. With a hearty meal in our bellies, we headed off toward Calais, ME and the border crossing.
But would we make it?
Nice pictures. Keep 'em coming. I will await your Canadian experiences.
So far, so good.:D:lurk
Canada Day 2: Freeport, ME to Cobscook Bay, ME (255 miles)
http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4139/...63bea0d099.jpgAt the Miss Wiscasset Diner in Wiscasset, Maine
We got up this morning and cooked up our first breakfast. Farina for me and apples and cinnamon oatmeal for him. I swore off oatmeal having had to eat the yucky plain kind as a kid every Thursday. Give me cream o’ wheat and I’m a happy girl. As we packed up our stuff, I called my Dad in Bath to see if he might want to meet for breakfast at the Miss Brunswick Diner. No answer. Oh well, at least I tried. This was the Saturday before Father’s Day and I haven’t spoken to my Dad in donkey’s yonks. I wonder if he will even retrieve the message?
We got back on Route 1 and were headed toward the border crossing in Calais, Maine. As we’re riding along, I remember that there is a Belted Galloway farm nearby, but I’m not sure where. We stop at the information booth Damariscotta. Let’s just say that the young man behind the table had no freaking clue what I was talking about. He looks up and says, “Do you mean Cowshit Corner?” Classic information center customer service. You go Damariscotta! You will forever be in my heart as a place that shows it all. I laughed and said, “Um, no, but that’s ok. I need to use the bathroom anyway.”
Throw a leg over and head back through town toward Route 1 again. Oooh, we’re going to go by Moody’s Diner. All my childhood memories are being ignited on this route. There were a lot of roadworks going on and we were stuck in some stop-and-go traffic outside of Waldoboro.We’ve been seeing lots of bikes, but not anything particularly cool. Until now. What should come inching up in the other direction but an orange stallion with a guy in a ‘stich. A gorgeous KTM 990 Adventure. The rider actually stood up a bit and gave me a salute, hand to helmet and out. Freaking awesome. I never see any adventure-type bikes in Rhode Island (seriously, why would I?).
Someone in the Maine thread gave me a brilliant route, taking us the slow way. It was on peaceful backroads with lots of farmland along the gorgeous St. George river. Scenery comes at a cost, though, and it soon became clear to me as the sun was sinking lower in the sky that we were not going to make the border today.
http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4074/...e9f5ea8676.jpgMaine Street, Belfast ME
In Belfast we stopped at the Hannafords because someone who shall remain nameless forgot the USB cable for the camera; the very cable that not only connects said camera to my netbook so I can pull off pics and blog as we ride, but also charges the battery. No cable + no charging capabilities = dead camera. We find a multi-port hub that should do the trick (and I get some tissues as my allergies are bothering me something fierce) and go to the checkout. The guy in front of us turns and asks what we’re riding, where are we going, etc., etc. He recommends a diner to us in Belfast and gives us wonderful directions. I’m stahving for lunch.
We stopped at Dudley’s Diner, now called the Awesome Diner (seriously?!) and I had a delicious BLT. Erik brought the map in as we’re realizing we’re going to have to plan on where to stop before Calais. Hmmm, how about Cobscook. We stayed there when I was little and all I remember are dead squid. Nasty, foul-smelling dead squid every where.
We head the bikes in that direction and ride along Route 1 through the blueberry flats. The berry bushes in Maine grow very low to the ground and in super-sandy soil. They’re almost like dry cranberry bogs. We passed Blueberry World (closed) as the sun was sinking lower and lower. We finally turned into the Cobscook Bay State Park and arranged our campground. I really wanted to take Erik to see the Quoddy Head lighthouse as it’s the eastern most point in the continental US. We pulled the bags off our bikes and immediately headed back out toward Lubec, Maine.
http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4096/...d3e17f45f6.jpgWest Quoddy Head lighthouse, Lubec Maine
The road out to the lighthouse was sweet. No traffic and calm as could be. It was getting dark and the air was growing colder. I was glad I had added my fleece under my jacket. Another couple visiting at the same time offered to snap our pic (so few pics of us together) and then we wandered the grounds some. “That’s Canada over there!” I shouted and pointed. But I knew we still had to find something to eat and Elsa (the DRZ) needed gas so we headed into the center of Lubec.
We stopped at the only shop we found as the “grocery store” was already closed (it’s before 8:00pm but it’s pretty rural here). I grabbed some ground meat and cheese as that was about all they had (no beer or wine tonight) and thought I’d make some tacos. As we’re riding back to the park, I keep thinking watch for deer, watch for deer, they like to come out at dusk. Fortunately no deer … this time.
http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4095/...8f1c49b81b.jpgCobscook Bay State Park, Maine
Back at the park I picked up some firewood and strapped it to the back of the DRZ. My bike has carried a lot of firewood by the end of this trip. Erik set up the tent as I started a fire to get dinner going. We were really tired (another hot day with no sense of direction) and the tacos could not have been more delicious.
As the darkness falls, I see eyes staring at me from the marsh. I’m convinced it’s a frog; Erik thinks it’s some kind of water weasel thing. Whatever it was, it was freaking me out. As the fire petered out, we crawled into the tent for a well-deserved rest.
Loving this thread! I've not only ridden those exact same roads... I've stopped at the same places! I can't believe you routed THROUGH Boston!! Then again, the highway is no better. Nothing better on a cold January day than re-live a ride through a favored area!
Amazing how New England, for a small geographic area, is surprizingly long to ride through! In a lot of places, the old Maine saying "you can't get theyah from heyah" is true! Rock on.. I'm tuned in :evil
Subscribed! My ass fell off just thinking you sat on that drz for over 800 miles! You've got me considering taking my drz up to nova!
As for the routing through Boston, my boyfriend is in charge of the GPS. I just follow along behind and then yell at him when when we get lost.
did you get off Rt1 for awhile in the mid coast area of ME. and ride some other routes?
I've been through Maine along Route 1 on my way to PEI.
I'm really enjoying the wonderful detail. :)
I love Moodys and Belfast. Great ride report. Thank you:clap
Canada Day 3: Cobscook Bay, ME to Fundy National Park, NB (193 miles)
http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4142/...1bceb20712.jpgCalais, Maine border crossing into St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada
Canada! Finally we crossed the border on the third day through Calais, ME and into St. Stephen, New Brunswick.
Getting through the border was veeeeeery interesting. The ride from Cobscook to Calais was short and uneventful. I had said to Erik that we’re supposed to take the Millstreet crossing because it’s supposedly not as busy. Well, between my ‘no sense of direction’ and his ‘I didn’t look this up ahead of time’, we wound up just following the street signs in Calais which took us to the old crossing. When we got to the bridge, it wasn’t too bad. I figured about 15 minutes to get through. Oh was I so very wrong.
We pull up to the booth when it’s our turn. The guy is very nice and had a cool tat on his arm, sorta a Celtic knot thingey that went all the way around his bicep. We killed the engines and politely handed over our passports. He stuck his head out the window and said, “Is that a DRZ400?” I’m so used to everyone going on and on about Erik’s Dakar, something about that silly blue and white roundel, that I’m usually ignored (or it’s assumed my bike is also a BMW, which I think is very cute). I was so excited to finally get some cred. I had debadged Elsa so I yelled over, “Sure is! How’d you know?” He said he had his own KLX400 but sold it because “the seat was a killer!” and got himself a Versys (which is the bike Erik says I should take a serious look at). He asked if we had alcohol or firearms, to which we answered ‘no’. Erik asked if anyone actually says ‘yes’, and he said plenty of folks have firearms in their cars. Who knew?
He asked when we had last been in Canada, and I had a complete brain fart and said 20 years. Erik said the same thing. I had completely forgot that I was at the University of British Columbia in 2004, but it wouldn’t have mattered as they still would have wanted to run Erik’s credentials. The guy said we had to park and go into the office and see the immigration officer. Little did we know how long this was going to take.
And why did it take so long? Because of some kid named Timmy in a Vanagon camper with Vermont plates and a Phish sticker stupidly told the border guard that he and his friend were going to Canada to teach. Really? And guess what you need to teach in Canada? That’s right…working papers. There was only one guard working and she was consumed with these hippy dippy trippy idiots. Not only were we held up well over an hour, but a couple from Japan travelling throughout North America by public transportation and a retired couple in one of the biggest RVs I’ve ever seen all sat together in the tiny immigration office. The older couple joked with us that they hope they wouldn’t tear apart our saddlebags. What a pain that would have been.
Eventually the guy who was in the booth walked in to the immigration office and said, “You’re still here?” He immediately went behind the desk and had us come over to him. He did something with our passports, wrote something on a piece of paper, and we were free to go. We asked him about the route and he suggested that in order to make up time, as we had lost about an hour and 40 minutes plus the lost hour when crossing into the Atlantic time zone, we should take Route 1. Ugh. I had really wanted to avoid highways. I really wanted some smaller, secondary roads. But it was well after 2pm and we had a ways to go. He wished us a safe trip and off we rode into the cleanest country in North America.
We stopped quickly at the tourist information booth in St. Stephen. I’m glad we did because Adam, the sweet kid working there, really set us up. We told him we were aiming for Fundy National Park and did he think we would make it. I have learned that when asking that question, the answers come with a grain of salt because if one more person told me that we could do it in 3 hours, I would have punched them. I’m on a bike with absolutely no wind protection. I’m all over the road, and one man’s three hours in a car is one woman’s 4.5 hours on an unfaired, no windshield 400.
Adam called ahead to Fundy to ask if campground spots were available as only one campground was open (we were a little bit before season). He also told us where there was a Sobey’s grocery store on our way to the highway, and how the liquor stores work. Each province has their own liquor stores, so just look for the province’s initials and LC (so we were looking for NBLC). Happily it was right next door to the Sobey’s. I picked up some baking potatoes and steaks for dinner, and a nice bottle of red wine to wash it down. I was very excited because the Sobey’s purchase ended in a penny and the checkout person asked Erik if he had a penny. I exclaimed, “Oh, I do! It’s been sitting in a box at home for 20 years!”
Finally we got on Route 1. It was one of those highways that makes you wonder, why did they build such a big dual carriageway in a place where the volume of traffic doesn’t seem to warrant it? The DRZ was pretty happy cruising around 65 indicated. The weather was sunny. But as we got closer to St. John, the sky became very grey. I was getting cold but still puttering along behind the BMW. Eventually Erik pulls over into a gas station and yells over, “I thought you might be getting cold and would want to zip up your vents.” I sure was! After zip, zip, zip, zip and reconfiguring some velcro, we headed off again.
By the time we got to St. John, I thought my hands would need to be amputated. I was FREEEEEEEZING. It was going to start raining any second. We first stopped to try to find a connector cable for our camera (still no luck), and then headed to get gas. After fueling up, I pushed the bike over to the side and ripped into my side bags. Where is my fleece? Where are my Rev’It winter gloves? Will I ever get feeling in the tips of my middle fingers again?
I was actually so cold that I put on my fleece and my rain jacket/windbreaker. I now was wearing four layers. I pulled on my Rev’It Fahrenheits in the vain hope they would actually warm up my fingers.
We pointed the bikes toward Route 1 again, and not less than 2 miles (or 4 kilometers because we had entered the land of measurement from the moon), there was a toll. It would have been nice if there was some sort of warning (maybe there was but we were both so frozen our eyes could no longer transmit text to our brains?). Erik pulled up to the booth and fumbled around for change. There’s nothing like having to pay a 50 cent toll with fingers that can’t feel anything and using money that makes no sense.
I will say, Canadian highways are well signed. We exited onto Route 114, which shouldn’t even really be called a route because it was one step up from a poorly paved street in Providence. What I really enjoyed was the lack of anything. No shops, no traffic, no street lights. There was a house every now and again, but it felt very rural.
We entered into the park and continued to head for North Chignecto campground. Because we were travelling before regular season, the other two campgrounds were not yet open. The forest in the park was beautiful. Everywhere you look, fir trees. And the smell…INTOXICATING. It was like Christmas!
http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4123/...db99f45e51.jpgNorth Chignecto Campground, site #23 ... I got the campfire started to warm us up and cook up some juicy steaks and baked potatoes
We pulled into the campground and the ranger assigned us spot #23. It was quiet and private. Just far enough away from the showers and the RV sites. My favorite thing about this park was that you paid for a burlap bag and could fill it with as much wood as you could fit in it for your camp fire. Well, don’t put an offer like this in front of me.
Into the site we rode and started to unload the bikes. And the skys opened up. Drenching rain. Cats and dogs were falling from the sky. When I had the cooler and duffel off the back of the DRZ, I rode back to the ranger station to get wood. I carefully loaded the burlap sack with bigger pieces on the bottom and smaller, kindling sized wood toward the top. I even scooped up some wood chips for starter wood. What’s some rain?
Well, it was a lot of rain. While I was getting the wood, Erik set up the tarp. When I got back to the site, I put the wood under the tarp and we both headed to the community house. Some Canadian parks have buildings with picnic tables and a wood burning stove where campers can gather. We sat in there until the rain subsided.
After setting up camp, I got the fire started. I cooked up the steaks and baked potatoes over the licking flames and we feasted. It was cold but the fire warmed us. We were both pretty tired, but we stayed up late into the night. The sky was clear and we felt close to the stars.
Our first night in Canada, despite the immigration delay, the freezing cold, and the torrential downpour, was bliss.
Canada Day 4: Fundy National Park, NB to Alma, NB (21 miles)
Scrambled eggs & home fries in Chignecto North campground
Our first morning waking up in Canada! I made an extra baked potato last night and mashed that into delicious home fries this morning along with scrambled eggs. Man, Canada is cold.
Our goal today was to ride into the town Alma, which appeared to be the center of the universe according to the signs along the roadside riding toward the park. “Pizza!” screamed one. “Lobster!” screamed another. I was looking forward to a stroll through town and my first glimpse of the famous Fundy bay.
I really don’t know what I was expecting. I grew up in a small town, but Alma, sheesh, it’s a very small town. It does have a post office which is more than my hometown can claim. We gassed up and went into the attached shop to pick up some food to cook up for dinner.
It was also a liquor store and they actually had Strongbow cider! And Bounty bars! Sign me up, Canada, I’m ready to never leave. As we are finishing checking out, having had a nice chat with the woman behind the counter, a guy comes in and starts grabbing the owner’s daughter (who appears to be a teenager or maybe in her early twenties). The girl, dressed all in black a la depressed goth, starts screaming and the guy responds by screaming back. At the very first, we thought they were playing around, but then the mom starts screaming and shoves the daughter toward the bathroom because it has a locked door.
Alma, New Brunswick, Canada
We’re both dressed in full gear, but I still go to stand behind one of the aisle displays and push my boyfriend out in front of me. Like what is he going to do? I figure, well, it’s Canada, they don’t have guns here. The girl finally makes it into the bathroom and the mom pushes the guy out of the shop door and locks it. Then she remembers that we are still in the shop. She looks over and I nod, and she unlocks the door so we can leave. I avert my eyes because, well, it has to be a bit embarrassing, but we all have our troubles. I just hope the girl gets her act together and gets rid of the guy.
It has started to rain, just a little bit, a little mist, so we walked down to the bakery which supposedly sells the best sticky buns in all of New Brunswick. The woman behind the counter had on a hair net and drawn on make-up, as if she spent too much time trying to emulate Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra. It was classic 1960′s. I’m starting to really love little Alma.
The famous Fundy Bay tide
We sat on a bench outside of the shop and scarfed down the buns. Mmmmm. We’re walked the town twice now, and we’re ready to head back into the national park for some hiking. I had seen a short trail that leads to a waterfall on one of the hiking maps.
View down the main street in Alma, New Brunswick, Canada
We head back into the Fundy National Park and take the Laverty Auto Trail, which is a nicely groomed, gravel road to hike to Laverty Falls. It was grey and misty out, but we didn’t know what the weather forecast was. We parked the bikes and left our helmets attached to the bikes (along with that evening’s dinner and drinks) before heading into the woods.
Laverty Auto Road, Fundy National Park
The hike was listed as a couple of kilometers to the falls. We were about 10 to 15 minutes into the walk and it started to rain, just a light drizzle. Nothing to turn us back. We kept walking. And walking. The rain got heavier. The trail turned into a muddy track for the rain to stream down. We kept walking. I may not know what a kilometer is, but there is no way it was only 2.4 kms to the falls. We must have walked 40 minute and still no falls. But we were so wet, drenched, that we continued, begrudgingly, trudging toward the falls.
Laverty Falls, Fundy National Park
We finally got to the falls, but we were so wet, and so cold, and the rocks were so slippy, that we took a look, said, “Ohhhhhh” and then turned around. We hiked the muddy route back out to the parking lot. My helmet was soaked. His helmet was soaked. My jacket and pants and boots were soaked. And so were his. Because it was hot hiking, we didn’t have everything zipped up tightly.
At this point we just wanted to get back to the campsite and get into the little house thing that campgrounds in Canada have.
One picture = a thousand words
We get back to the campsite and the boyfriend decides he wants to do the laundry so he can dry stuff. I bring all my wet gear into the communal building. A couple have built a fire in the stove and it’s toasty warm. I stretch my stuff all over the place, asking if it’s ok with the fire couple and the family with the most beautiful children I have ever seen. Everything says it’s fine. I think they feel sorry for us.
I join the boyfriend in the laundry room and there’s another guy in there. Men who do their own laundry…gotta love Canada! Turns out he just bought a KLR650 so he was excited that we were moto-camping. The lint filter on the dryer was clean. There are so many wonderful things about this country.
I rode out and picked up some more firewood as the rain subsided as it grew darker. I left all my gear in the communal room overnight so it would dry out for tomorrow’s ride out of New Brunswick and into Nova Scotia.
Combat Touring boots are not waterproof
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