Come Near At Your Peril - Dual-Sporting "The Rock"
Newfoundland was the last province to enter the Canadian Confederation. The island juts into the Atlantic on Canada's east, at approximately the same latitude as France. It is famous for rugged coastlines, a more rugged interior, icebergs, the wreck of the Titanic, strong tea, stronger rum, hardy cheerful residents, howling winds, lashing rainstorms, moose, big rocks, small rocks, rounded rocks, gravel, sand, sharp rocks, ledges and boulders.
There's a little bit of muddy soil and millions of trees strewn over the surface for visual variety.
The island is likely the first place that Europeans made landfall on the North American continent. An excavated Viking settlement at Anse Aux Meadows on the northern tip attests to this.
Newfoundland is no place for the weak or faint of heart. Simply getting there is a challenge. As it is an island, practically everything must arrive by sea. Four ferries serve Port Aux Basques on the southwest, with a seasonal ferry to Argentia on the southeast. Another ferry connects St. Barbe near the northwestern tip to Labrador. Our trip was nearly scuttled because one of the ferries struck a rock in the Port Aux Basques harbor in early August, sending it to dry-dock in Halifax and throwing the schedule into chaos. Freight has priority on the service. Tourists are a secondary concern.
If one wishes to avoid the ferries, one can fly into various places, but this is not practical for motorcyclists, nor is it particularly cheap. A quick search reveals that a trip from Montreal to the capital, St. Johns, will set one back about $550. There's no rental service on Newfoundland, anyway, so if you want to ride, you have to come ready. The nearest motorcycle rental is outside Halifax, NS, and costs at minimum $150 per day.
I began planning a trip to The Rock nearly a year ago. Although I habitually travel solo, it seemed the better part of wisdom to put a group together for safety and mutual support. It was a good decision.
Initially, it appeared that eight riders would participate. Unfortunately, one broke a leg, another suffered from an injured wrist, and various others had to drop out for scheduling reasons. On the evening of August 18, the following riders met at the ferry dock on North Sydney, Nova Scotia:
Applicant_255, or Adam.
If you were casting a cowboy film, Adam would probably be known as "Slim." From New Brunswick, Canada, Adam is an accomplished rider, a talented photographer, and wastes few words. Although he was riding the heaviest bike, his polished riding skills took him up the roughest trails without a single bike nap. Not so for the rest of us.
AtlasEXP, or Anton
Originally from St. Petersburg, Russia, Anton is cheerfully vulgar, funny, and generous. If you are down in a mud hole, he's the first off his bike to help. His panniers hold a bewildering assortment of hatchets, saws, shovels and other technical gear. For Anton, there is no such thing as a small camp fire. He's a skilled wilderness mechanic. He rides hard, sleeps instantly, and is usually the last to be ready to go in the morning. Packing all that equipment takes time.
8GV, or Rich
From Connecticut, Rich is a pilot and entrepreneur, an inveterate consumer of junk food and fried clams, and often the voice of reason. He's a Swedish sex bomb. For some reason the ladies seem naturally attracted to him. While we were hunkered down for lunch one day, a particularly fine young lady walked over to our group and engaged Rich in conversation for a full 20 minutes, ignoring the rest of us. Us byse felt entirely left out and a bit sullen. Sadly we couldn't find any Icy-Hot to smear in the liner of his sleeping bag that evening.
Canuman, or Tim
Your humble narrator, from Vermont. Route planner, navigator, and documentarian. Thought by some to be a general know-it-all and a PITA. I'm glad that the rest of these guys had the patience and good humor to put up with me for a week. The photo is from another inmate on my RedNEK Rendezvous ride, as I rarely take pictures of myself.
This is a representation of our route. We stuck to the western portion of the island, and planned days from 150 to 200 miles. Although these may seem to be very short segments, it was at times difficult to even make the goal of 150. Conditions on The Rock are all-on.
And so it begins.
Men, hurrah for our own native Isle, Newfoundland,
Not a stranger shall hold one inch of her strand;
Her face turns to Britain, her Back to the Gulf,
Come near at your peril, Canadian Wolf!
From the Anti-Confederation movement, first penned in 1869 and revived in 1947-1949
A recent edit (Jan 9, 2014): As with many ride reports, this one comes with some meat and quite a lot of friendly banter. If you have the stomach to filter out the banter, you'll be rewarded with some world-class photography by other riders on pages 16 and 17. The saga continues.
You know I am so IN on this one!!!:clap
This looks good, I'm in.
Waiting for this one
This should be good! :deal
Could I have some mooore?
As the Moran who broke his leg, I'm anxiously awaiting this RR.
Tim, get on with it boy!
On The Rock, simple and reliable trumps horsepower and fancy bits every time. Looking at my GPS, we averaged about 30 mph including running slab, and were often much slower on rough terrain. There are few places to obtain even basic parts outside of St. Johns and Corner Brook , although there are many quad dealers where things such as spark plugs can be bought. We were blessed with few mechanical difficulties. Rich (I'll use first names here; as it's easier) flooded his DR650's cylinder one day by forgetting to turn off his petcock in the evening. Anton properly diagnosed the situation, and pulled the plug. A few cranks on the magic button had the cylinder clear and everyone drenched with atomized gas. It cut down the urge to smoke.
Adam rode a late model KLR650, properly outfitted with the best that Princess Auto could afford. We never hit Princess Auto, but it's on my list for the next time through. Adam's KLR is pretty much bog-standard, although he's played with the jetting so he can pop a wheelie in fourth. In the dew and the fog of the early morning, we'd often see him spraying lubricant and speaking soothing words to his steed. For tires, he ran Dunlop 606s, which chunked off on the slab on the way up. Missing knobs aside, he was fine. It's not the bike, it's the rider.
Rich rode a new-to-him DR650, with a Michelin T63 front and a "Golden Boy" on the rear. Rich formerly rode a KLR250, and was just getting used to the larger displacement. Sorry for the rock chips on the paintwork, mate.
For Anton, more is more. His DRZ400 was equipped with a 5.10 Dunlop 606 rear, and a matching tire up front. He went through some trouble fitting the Tubliss system to the bike. It paid off. The sole flat we had was on Red Indian Lake road. Pulling and patching a tube would have sucked heartily. Anton holed his front. Counting the time stripping gear and searching through bags, we were down seven minutes. The actual repair took thirty seconds with a gummy plug, and a quick shot of CO2 brought the tire back up to operating pressure. Although there are some downsides to the Tubliss system, I'm convinced of its worth. We'll get to the shattered windscreen and the bungee cord later.
I cheated and equipped my DRZ400E with trials tires. I came to bikes relatively late, and need to cheat wherever I can. In these conditions, the Pirelli MT43 and DOT IRC Trials front were perfect, although the trials tires chuck rocks like no tomorrow.
A big thanks to the Wolfman for his luggage. The expedition dry bags and the Rolie bags as tank bags kept things dry and safe. That old REI bag on the back is still holding strong after nearly 30 years and tens of thousands of miles on several continents.
The RR is off to a great start Tim. I'm going to enjoy the hell out of this!
We missed the hell outn' you Tom. What a fine big land we saw! You would have been skidding and roosting with the best. We'll go back if we can.
I think you should forgo the 3 days of sleep your body is aching for and continue writing strictly for our entertainment! Seriously, great ride report and I can't wait to see the rest!
This ain't Big Bike Friendly.
Day the first. Onto the ferry and up to Corner Brook.
The ferry loads two hours before embarking, at minimum. Don't piss around, or expect preferential treatment. This is a commercial venture, and they expect you to be there on the numbers. When you see them loading the boat, you'll understand why.
If you're trailering up, there is parking at 15-17 Forrest, North Sydney, NS. You can see the ferry from there, it's only a few hundred yards away from the Marine Atlantic dock. For $15.00 the first day and $7.50 each day thereafter, you can park in a good lot. No one will touch your stuff. If you're paranoid, you can try to contact A&L Parking at 902-561-0011, but they don't answer the phone, nor is there a pen to fill out the form. Luckily, we found a pencil and filled out the papers. Bring a pen and cash. They accept US dollars, which becomes increasingly difficult as one progresses north.
When we got back, the car, van, and trailers were exactly as we left them. The wet tent I'd left in the back of the van had dried out without mold or mildew, give thanks.
Here's how the MS Atlantic Vision appears from Forrest Street, lit up like a pinball machine.
Sorry for the mud on the lens.
We are directed to our berth, which rapidly assumes the odor of a locker room and the cultural character of a frat house.
Although the cabins on the ferry are somewhat pricey, it's good to be able to get some rack time and a fresh start in the morning. If you're riding The Rock, it's far better to take the night run and arrive rested in the morning. We rented a four-berth, which came with a shower and a crapper. When we tucked in for the night, we were mostly shaved, clean-smelling and ready to roll.
As I mentioned before, this run is not initially big bike friendly. Coming off the ferry, one slabs it for about three miles to the beginning of the Trailway, which follows the route of the former Newfoundland rail line. This narrow track runs along the coast. The scenery is spectacular. The riding isn't. Up here, quads are king. I'm generally against quads, but they make sense here. On a motorcycle, one has to choose either the right or left rut, with a large hump of loose gravel in between. The alders have grown into the path, and try to snatch the bars out of your hands if you hesitate for a moment.
This is rough riding. It's relentless, and you have to maintain focus continually. Have real "bark-busters". The sissy little things that come on some bikes will be on the side of the trail within 20 minutes. On the 21st minute, your levers and master cylinder reservoir will be there also, followed by you.
If you need to switch sides, it's best to do it in the numerous pot-holes. There's no gravel in the bottom of the holes, and you can switch sides at will. Riding over the loose central berm will eat your lunch, no matter what tires you're on. There are "up" ruts and "down" ruts. To conserve energy, one has to pick the one with less ballast.
After several miles, Rich spins off the trail and ditches on a particularly bad patch. A local on a quad stops and helps him out. That's how they roll up here. Community is king, neighbors are necessary, and a friend in need is a friend indeed.
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