7500 km's round trip to the CroMag Campout 2011
I've been sorely lacking in getting my act together to finish writing my RR about my Mongolian Rally experience; I'm not sure why my mind just quit working on the topic. I had an offer to write an article for a print magazine too for a few $$ and I haven't managed to complete a first draft and it's only 1500 words! That's after writing a draft of an introduction article similar in concept to what I've written here. I've even been dragging the paperwork, roadbooks, and videos around the world with me to try to do it while I'm off working. Sigh.
So here's my thought: how about I throw out my ride report from 2 weeks on the road this past September to check out a rally that I first went to 3 years ago? Are you interested? If so read on...
Ok, here goes... all packed up the night before
she looks impressed
I left Suzie's house in Freshwater next to Carbonear, Newfoundland on Wednesday, September 16 in the start of Maria, the latest hurricane to blow through. With my raingear on it wasn't actually bad riding but I made a quick lap back to get the chin bar liner for my helmet and was awfully glad I did. What a difference it makes, I wasn't feeling any rain hit my face at all.
I was just pulling off of Veteran's Memorial route 75 onto the Trans Canada trying to make it to Whitbourne on my low fuel light when I felt the duffel behind me shift and reached around to discover my hydration pack was gone. Dammit! So I turned around and went looking for it. I ran out of gas between the 2 Mackinsons exits, dammit again! It's raining, I'm standing there in my raingear trying to thumb a ride for gas. About the 5th pickup stops and brings me to the closest gas station where they lent me a gas can to go back. I was asking every person who came in if they were headed to the highway. The 4th guy I asked was getting his 9 am case of beer and said he'd give me a ride. Yay, and his wife was driving. He also lives near the gas station and said he'd drop the can back for me too. Thank you very much for the help, sorry I didn't get a name!
Off I went again up the road looking for my hydration pack, all the way back to Freshwater and down to the highway looking in the ditch to no avail. Gone were a few bottles of octane boost for Labrador, breakfast food and coffee, my hand pump, a set of allen keys, zip ties and water. Oh well.
No I was rolling out at 11:30 instead of 8:30 with a long way to go and yes it was still raining. Not bad, my thermometer was saying 18ºC, pretty decent. It wasn't even too windy on the road.
Somewhere before Deer Lake it cooled down to 14º, I stopped there to refuel, put on dry gloves and another layer, thankfully it had also stopped raining. I'd made a reservation at the Dockside Motel in St Barbe so I knew I had a hot shower and bed to look forward to when I got there.
The guy at the gas station warned me about the wind heading north, I wasn't too concerned starting out. Everything was fine all the way up through Gros Morne right until I hit the first of the coastline where I got the full effects of the wind. The bits of headland would make breaks in the wind plus the gusts. It was gusting well over 90 km/h from the left which put me in the riding position of all my weight on the left peg, over the bars pushing down and my helmet mashed into my cheek. Fun. It got even more fun when I felt my front wheel get lifted off the ground by one big one. I managed to run to 20:00 with my tinted goggles and had to pull over to put on clear glasses, my new LED driving lights were excellent and really lit up the road for the last of it.
Finally after 700 km's in and out of rain and 200 of 300 km's in some serious wind I made it to St Barbe and my cozy little room; the bad news upon arrival was that no ferries had run at all that day and the next one wasn't looking too good either.
Here are the stats, no time for more
It was nice to be able to get a hot shower. I set my alarm for 6:30 so I could go check on the boat and my 08:00 scheduled boat reservation. I strolled over there for 07:30 to hear that the boats weren't sailing yet due to wind. Looked good for a boat getting across that night if the winds died down as forecasted. Ok, back to bed for me. I lazed around for too long in front of the idiot box as I had not brought my Kindle or any books with me, dumbass. I guess it didn't really matter with the weather not being very pretty either.
It was close to 15:00 when it started to dry up and I decided to go for a spin and try to find a couple of lighthouses and get around the St. Anthony area for my first time. I know, not the best way to achieve this mission but I was game to try. I booted it up the road and pulled off in Eddies Cove to try the old road along the coastal route that a local had told me about. Along the way there was some serious storm surge along the water line in these remote villages.
this surf is bigger than it looks, I was wiping salt spray off my goggles all the time
This sign greeted me, but I was undeterred
looks good to me
It was a nice ride for about 15 or 20 km's and then I came to an impasse, oh well. If I'd had a friend with me and it wasn't the start of a big trip with a timeline I might have tried the go around
No worries, I turned around and made my way back to the main road and continued north in search of the Cape Norman lighthouse the lived just beyond Wild Bight, I was not disappointed.
been awhile since I played this game
From there I gave 'er north to Quirpon and Cape Bauldy looking to snap another one, I went to the ends of the roads around and no such luck, it was looking like the actual lighthouse was tucked around the corner of the point, sigh. Now as time was marching on I really had no choice but to retrace my route back to the motel, it was going to be after dark as it was.:(
I did stop in Saint Lunaire (I think) to grab a pic of this fun little light house along the road, it's got room to get in so it should count on the trophy thread count:)
I booted it back down the coast and passed at least 25 trucks trolling the highway in search of moose and got back to the motel just in time for a sunset shot
Time to pack it in and see what tomorrow brings, word was no boats sailing that night either, dammit. Here was the day's stats
The sign on the door of the ferry office when I went to bed said "next scheduled ferry Sunday 1 pm, office will open at 10:30" so I got up at a reasonable hour to check out the situation. No evening boat on Saturday either obviously. When I hit the front door there was already a sizeable lineup so I joined in chatting with a couple of truck drivers who'd been stranded longer than me. I noticed a couple in riding gear so I started chatting with them.
Turns out Tom and Leah were from Conway New Hampshire and were on a 1200 GS. They'd been toodling around the west coast for a bit and had holed up a little south waiting out the wind. They wanted to spend a week in Labrador taking in the sights. the three of us spent time going back and forth listening to the reservation call outs and getting coffee.
If you're headed to Conway to go to Whitehorse Gear or Mt Washington stop in at their restaurant, Cafe Noche for some tasty Mexican food, right on the main drag next to the Cumberland Farm.;)
The way this ferry company works with cancellations is interesting: if your reservation sailing is cancelled you go on the list, the next scheduled sailing reservations have first priority then they start adding the backlog of previous cancellations. That is combined with the fact they will only add vehicles in order of the list, doesn't matter if they have room or not. The girl's response to my query of fitting a couple of bikes on was: "I can't let you on ahead of someone else." Needless to say the 3 of us were not impressed.
I got a card to get on the 6pm boat, no chance of getting on the 1pm, Tom & Leah got a pass for the 9pm boat. We were standing outside discussing what we were going to do when I look over to see a familiar figure roll in....Tree great to see you! A quick catch up and we filled him in as to the status of sailing.
Tree with DR650
Tree with Tom & Leah
As for me, the math just wasn't going to work, I had to pick up Sue at the airport the morning of the 22nd in Montreal, it was the 18th now and if I took the 6pm boat landing too late to start riding I wasn't going to get moving until the 19th. Knowing with speed limits etc I was going to need 4 days to get there, I couldn't do it, I had to bail. I handed off my 6pm crossing pass to Tree & Tom to decide amongst themselves and hopped on my bike heading south.
The headwind was still brisk which made for a moderately uncomfortable ride south but at least it was still pretty warm.
on the fly Gros Morne was pretty in the afternoon sun.
I gassed up in Wiltondale and kept moving. Wreckhouse was fine and as the hills tapered down near Cape Race I saw my shadow riding beside me in the golden hour light and though it would make a nice picture with the hills in the background.
I was heading up a hill in the left of 2 westbound lanes taking a glance down to my tank bag with one hand reaching for the camera and when I looked up I saw a minivan in my lane passing a car headed right for me! I had a second to wait and see what he was going to do and he moved first swerving to his left going around me in the righthand westbound lane on my right. Not fucking cool! I looked in my mirror and didn't see any vehicles leave the road or any crashes, to hell with him, arsehole! I continued on my way and still got the photo I wanted.
Very soon after I was in Port Aux Basques and pulled in for gas, while there I saw an ambulance and fire rescue pickup heading east. Something must have happened? I continued on to get my ferry ticket and with 3 hours to wait headed back to Timmies for a bite to eat. Just as I crossed the overpass I heard a honk behind me and turned around to see a pickup truck, whatever. I pulled into the Tim Horton's parking lot as intended and stopped. The truck stopped by me and the guy walked over pulled out his RCMP badge and asked to talk to me rather curtly. Here we go. He took my license and was chatting back and forth on his radio saying he'd found the bike; then he took me aside and said there'd been an accident where a car had gone into a pond, one person hadn't gotten out and the driver said "an orange dirt bike" had crossed the yellow lines into their lane. Ah... no! I gave him a description of what happened from my perspective and very firmly stated that at no time did I even come close to crossing the center line. His manner changed for the better and he asked what time my ferry was? I guess he could see that I wasn't a kid and was loaded up to travel. He asked me a timeline of events which I gave him and verified it with my gas receipt. With plenty of time to spare he asked me to follow him to the RCMP station to give a statement; no problem.
looking back on my day while waiting for the Sgt
We had a good chat in the interrogation room where everything is now preserved on video which he nicely informed me of before we started. I gave my side of the facts, the description of the minivan as a late model burgundy Chevy and no idea what kind of car he was passing. He asked me if I maintained my bike etc to which I mentioned the full service I'd just done including tires plus details like the LED brake lights. I asked him if he'd noticed them, he replied "those flashing ones?" They work as intended. I also reminded him that I was on my way to pick up my girlfriend so I wanted my bike to be in good working order for that too. We finished up and he mentioned that he rides bikes too and was behind me for a bit in his truck and could see that I rode responsibly and in control, and to keep in touch to see what developed. Nice guy, thanks for that. I returned to Tim's for the soup I was still wanting.
Turns out it was the van that went in the drink and one of 3 occupants didn't get out; when I checked the news in Fredericton there was a report about a 2 vehicle crash and no mention of a motorcycle in the one I read. I phoned Sgt Foote back and queried that there was more to the story? Yup, turns out they were racing, the passengers in the van were witness to speeds up to 160 km/h. The driver of the car was trying to blame it all on me to get out of it, there can't be more than one "orange dirtbike" around and where the hell is it going to go from PAB, the end of the road? Dumbass. When the van passed me he hit the shoulder on his left then overcorrected to the right hitting the car he was racing sending both of them off the road and his into the pond. That explains why he didn't hit the brakes and pull back in behind the car, he stayed on the gas and went around me instead. Lucky for me either way, not so lucky for him as he killed his buddy. It could have been a lot worse killing everyone in the picture.
The local news
On to the ferry lineup where there were a few other bikes waiting and a lot of moose hunters headed home high on having successful hunts. There were trucks from all over as far as Wisconsin and Ontario, I guess Newfoundland is a mecca for more than touring motorcyclists?
Marine Atlantic here I come
first ride on one of the new boats, how bad was it going to be?
Holy crap, this trip is 3 days in, I haven't even gotten off the island, I've ridden almost 2000 km's and events are really piling up. I hope the rest of the trip isn't going to be like this!
W o W, you are one lucky dog!!! That was bad and could easily have been very much more of a bad sceen for you man, all I can say is that you have a guardian angel on your shoulder!
Be safe, have fun, enjoy, ride on...
All the Very Best to you! :beer
Great picts, THANKS for the Great rr. Beautiful country you have there.
Hope to cross paths someday. :clap
So the boat itself is fine except not having any bunks, the vehicle decks are about the same as any other ferry I've been on. The downside was that I put a little too much juice on the ratchet straps and bent my sidestand a little, the resulting angle of dangle will be obvious to you in subsequent photos. The free seats do have a headphone jack so I put in the earphones and slept as well as I could to instrumental music with my feet up on my bag after getting changed out of my riding gear and treating myself to a beer in the bar, it is an adventure after all and what adventure is complete without beer?
I'd had the forethought to gas up the night before to save time in the am, after looking at a map on the boat I knew I wanted route 223 out of Sydney to run along the top of Bras D'Or Lakes and thus eliminate a good stretch of slab. It's a nice little bike road with minimal traffic. At little narrows I paid my $5.25 for the 5 minute ferry bringing me up to 2 ferry rides in 4 days. (this might be a theme)
nice folks on the ferry
I stopped at the info center in Antigonish to thaw out a little, make a couple of phone calls and look at a map to see where to pick up route 6 along the north coast. Take the exit off the roundabout in Glasgow and giv 'er. I was outside Pugwash looping north on 366 when my low fuel light went on, my mileage has been crap since my first tank of low octane on the rock. Not wanting a repeat of day 1 I turned around and went back knowing there was fuel in Pugwash. Dresda caught this on my Spot tracking page, nice to know there are friends looking out for you-thanks a bunch!
I crossed into New Brunswick near Baie Verte, hmmmm...time warp. Then followed the signs to Shediac where a couple I knew from Jasper owned a restaurant, but they'd sold out the year before. I called another buddy from my seasons in Jasper and made a hasty decision to boot it up to Miramichi to see him and his wife jamming it on route 11; I hadn't seen Rob and Karen in a few years since my little ski trip through Smithers. They have a beautiful property where they grow most of their own veggies etc and lots of grapes. Google a chicken tractor sometime, interesting bit of work.
Rob & Karen outside the chicken coop
I talked to Gregster and we agreed to meet on the road, route 8 is a nice ride that follows the Miramichi River for aways before turning south to Fredericton. I had taken the long detours because I thought Gregster was getting home from work between 5:30 and 6 but I later learned he'd stayed in town working, jeez, I would have headed straight there by the most direct route if I'd known instead of adding an extra 300 km's to my day? Oh well we were going to the same place for the weekend anyways and would have time to drink more beer later. We met up at a gas station on the edge of town then went on a beer run before pulling my bike into his shed to clean my air filter that I'd forgotten to do and we realized my beer opener was hampered by the panniers so did an emergency relocation narrowly avoiding certain disaster!
the warm glow of a nice shed after a longish day
disaster averted * photo: 2twisted
We had a little supper, checking in online on the CroMag threads, and finished the beer before crawling into bed; tomorrow was going to be another full day in the saddle.
What a freaking nightmare!!:eek1 Glad you weren't a bug splat on that asshat's windshield... Hopefully the rest of the journey was uneventful.. :lurk
I was out at my house last night with no internet-that put me up to 18 nights in my own house since December. Hopefully getting my new beam in the living room in place tomorrow!
So day 5 started with a nice breakfast at Gregster's cooked by himself. Thanks buddy, nice to have some decent fuel for the start at a whopping 14ºC. He led me out to get me headed in the right direction on the right road route 640 to 3. I did have a NB map he gave me so at least I could get to the border. A little memorization was going to put me on the right road in Maine. My plan was to take route 6 from Vanceboro to route 2 across the Newry then up through Grafton Notch and the couple of jogs through a little of New Hampshire and a corner of Vermont into Quebec through Magog and then the 10 slab to the Champlain Bridge and Montreal where I'd pick up the 20 west to Ste. Anne de Bellevue where one of my dearest friends lives. Nothing to it, what could possibly go wrong?
I crossed the border with hardly a question and stopped for gas on the other side. Dude in the station started talking about his brother who's birthday in 09/11, I have no idea how that happened but I wasn't about to stay for the end of it and split pretty quick. Time to settle in for the day....I hit route 2 in Lincoln and turned right towards Bangor; something twigged in my head and I turned around to pull into the fire/police station to double check I was on the right track. The nice fireman informed me I wanted to go left instead and off I went without driving for miles in the wrong direction. From Bangor I was on familiar ground, at least I'd last driven it about 8 years ago. For some reason these roads seemed smaller and less travelled than I remembered? I stopped for gas in Rumford and continued the little way to Newry where it was a right turn north on 26. These were kind of old stomping grounds, I'd worked 5 seasons at Sunday River Ski Resort just a few miles up the road. I'd ridden my old 750 Interceptor across this route 3 times before too, once with a pretty girl from Montreal to home many years ago on a ride from Jasper to Newfoundland; only last January we sat up late one night while I was visiting reminiscing about that ride. Good memories to be had here, I rode with a smile on my face.
Once getting off 26 there are a couple of turns that need to be made and I got lucky when I was running close to the speed limit and I saw a State Trooper pulled off; I stopped by him to double check my route. He was super nice and told me all the turns I needed to make to get to the border. I was off again and made the first one past Errol just fine onto route 3. There I wasn't 100% so I stopped at a garage with a few old timers and asked the way to Montreal–they all pointed in the same direction and I was on the gas. From there follow the signs to hit 114 west along the border then hook a quick right onto 147 north across the border.
On this ride up into the mountains I hit a little fog and drizzle, just like home. Dixville Notch passed by too and then the view of the Balsams Resort, a fancy place with spectacular views in the mountains of New Hampshire. Heading north you come down out of the clouds and the resort stares at you from across the lake like a time warp from a bygone era of subdued luxury. I have no doubt it's a nice place but I've never stopped to find out.
go ahead, check it out
Once you hit route 10 it's a pretty mindless drone into the city. You can find a little diversion looking at the exits for wee ski hills and the national training center that also boasts its own velodrome. other than that you'd have to take a litle side trip to check out Unibroue in Chambly-you might want to as this brewery offers some of my absolute favourite Canadian beers. Yay! My only reservation there is that they were bought out by Sleemans a number of years ago, but at least they seem to be staying with the same philosophies of the original brewery. I love their sense of humour and their willingness to pump out full on high zoot brews in the tradition of the best Trappist beers from Belgium and soooo much more. For those of you who live in the Newfoundland majority of 65% light beer drinkers be warned, many of these come with an alcohol content by volume of 8, 9, or 10% alcohol. They will knock you on your ass! Anyone who does stop in is welcome to bring me presents.
amazing Canadian beer
Once I hit the Champlain Bridge the sun came out and the temps climbed above 16ºc for the first time that day. I was loving the 20º+ environment as I rolled west to Lizzy's house. We've been very close friends since 1985 and don't get to visit very often; for those of you who were in attendance at the Skibum Soiree 2009 Lizzy and her beau Billy and their respective kids were my friends who were vacationing and staying at my house through it all. This was a good week to stop in as Billy had won his vintage race the weekend before I got there. He's been club racing etc for many years and this was the first time he'd managed to actually win instead of settling for second. Congratulations my friend, well done!
By the time I rolled into the driveway my eyes were totally decimated to the point I couldn't see the road looking into the sun, but at least I was here in one piece. Lizzy came out to give me a big hug and offer me a beer; she knows me well and was kind enough to put a case in the fridge for my arrival.
Lizzy coming out to see me:)
Another full day in the rearview mirror
We made supper, or I should say I helped as much as she'd let me then we spent some time catching up. Her son Angus has recently fled the coop to live with his dad in Toronto so it was quiet until Bill dropped in after his work as an Air Canada jet engine mechanic and we set to bike talk. Somehow the case of beer was empty by the time I went upstairs to the bed Angus so generously offered me. Many thank you's to Lizzy for being such a dear friend for so many years and always offering me a place to lay my head when my travels have led me by her home. Tomorrow brings an oil change and more visiting.
Glad to meet you both there & ride with you offroad. It'll be a miracle, but I'm hoping to see you at Roaming Rally - Ontario. Happy Trails!
I'll write what I can before I have to go out this evening.
Slept in a little, nice not to have to worry about being anywhere and a hot shower felt great. Lizzy & billy were out with the dogs so I puttered around and wrangled up some coffee and breakfast. She bought bacon as a treat so I made sure I had some.
When Billy got back we went out to a nearby Honda dealer to get some oil to do and oil change on my bike. Wouldn't you know Honda doesn't have a single thing that runs on 20/50? No luck there so we darted over to Canadian Tire and as luck would have it they had Amsoil 20/50 which is what my bike was running anyway.
my tour guide
what's wrong with this picture? Look close...
Billy's owned a KTM 640 Enduro for years, you may recall I was riding it at a track day with him 3 years ago when I last went to CroMag, so he knew a Subaru Justy oil filter would fit the bike too. Spin on covered the cartridge filter can wait until I get home.
I popped by the house to hang out my laundry then back over to Billy's to do the oil change in his driveway, no issues it went pretty smooth. As my front tire was already hurting and I'd burned up almost half my rear he offered me a set of new 80/20 street/trail tires but I couldn't face getting into changing them so decided to keep running what I had until the end.
In the meantime I'd been talking to the folks who call me for Cirque du Soleil jobs and they invited me to stop in to puts names with faces, being a nice day with nothing else on my agenda I got on the 40 headed east. Should be an easy spin over and the offices are right beside the autoroute, sweet.
Not long into my ride I hit some serious traffic and it was getting hot out; I was watching my temp gauge climb and realized my cooling fan wasn't coming on either. Dammit! Ok, I really needed to get off this road before my bike blew up. The first exit I could get to was to get off right by the 15 south interchange, good by me so I could get some air through the rads. The 15 is the main route south across the Champlain Bridge and then to the US border. (this becomes important later) I happily rode across the bridge when I saw the traffic building on the 570 through downtown and watched the temperature go back down to a happy place and turned east on the 20 on the south side of the river. For anyone who hasn't been across any of the Montreal Bridges they're pretty long spans with nice views. Not that I was using a map or GPS to find my way around, I figured I could just wing it and Katty at the office had suggested Lorimier Street if I needed to head north which I knew was east of me. There are more bridges to get back on so I took the first one I saw–the Victoria Bridge. When I took the exit and came around in line with the bridge a terrifying sight greeted me, with no way out. Oh shit...
Sent from my phone, so this probably isn't what I meant to type.
day 6 continued
The sight that greeted me once I straightened out from the onramp was a never ending lane of steel grating! I don't know what you think of those bridges but I know they scare the crap out of me! I always have visions of going down and my fingers going through the grates and tearing off. I know, that's pretty unlikely but then again most irrational fears are. Cruising along at 60 km/h I concentrated on trying to relax and let the bike go, no problem as I felt my shoulders get tighter and tighter every foot I rode to the point of physical pain by the time I got to the end where I was so tense I was wandering a little in my lane; I'm sure this bridge is more than a kilometer long. Then the flood of relief as I hit the offramp and pavement.
Ok, now that I was past that terror I found myself on the Villa Maria Expressway, for most of the people reading this it means nothing–for anyone from Montreal it means: "run away!" Last year a bunch of sections of concrete fell out of the roof in the tunnel and killed several people. All of the bridges and overpasses around the city are deteriorating badly and you can see the evidence of patchwork all over the place cruising around. The last thing Lizzy said to me as I left the house was to steer clear of the tunnel and here I was headed right for it! Dammit! As you can imagine my eyes were glued to the ceiling scanning for any signs of falling debris. Another wave of relief as I exited that deathtrap.
Happily in the open air on real pavement I rode right up on Lorimier Street and headed north towards the 40 gassing it around the slower cars in the race between traffic lights. I found the address I was looking for without any trouble and stopped in to meet the folks who run the fly-in department for Cirque du Soleil and put faces to names of the people I talk to on the phone. After a nice little visit and forgetting to take a photo I got back on my bike to head back out to the west island.
This was pretty uneventful and there weren't any traffic clogs all the way back. My only incident was some jackass not originally from North America with his whole family in the car who decided to pass me on the right in my own lane! I rode up to him again and simultaneously gave him the horn and a "WTF?" gesture as I left him in my dust. Some days I wonder how people get driver's licenses in this country but then I remember the scandal in British Columbia where it was found out the people who hand them out were taking bribes from drivers who failed their driving tests. Go figure...
Back at Lizzy's it was time to relax and have a beer as I got all of my gear together and mostly packed for a quick exit in the am. A couple of her girlfriends came over in the evening and we had fun trying a few new beers over plenty of ribald conversation and laughter. Before it got too late it was time to get to bed, tomorrow was going to be fun with my first stop being the airport.
my shortest day yet
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