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Old 07-22-2010, 06:35 PM   #1
greeneggsnoham OP
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16000kms across Canada and still no ham

I took 6 weeks in June and the first half of July to ride from Montreal west and back.

When I left I had no definite plans other than I had to visit relatives and friends in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. I've been a bit of a vagabond and have lived in all of the provinces I was going to visit, so I didn't want to do the same old highways I drove or rode while I lived there. The aim was to get off the trans-Canada and other main highways as much as possible. Other than those things, I was free to explore as much as possible.

Now, I was able to update a blog along the way, which you'll find here:

http://nineinchninja.wordpress.com

so I'm going to try to keep this thread as short on words as possible and focus on pictures.

To start, a little on me. I've been riding off an on since 1993 when a nut in a stolen car wrecked my car and the resulting insurance was not nearly enough to replace to car but was just enough to buy a 1979 Honda CB650. Since then I've done one semi-major trip along the east coast in 1999 on a 1988 Yamaha 750FZ, but this was to be quite different. Not only was I planning on getting off the main roads, but I was hoping to camp most of the way. I haven't been in a tent since I was a kid, which is long enough ago for me to have forgotten how long it was ago.

Next, the ride 2010 R1200GS. I've wanted a GS since I first saw one in the 90s. I finally bit the bullet, traded in my Kawasaki Meanstreak and bought one. When I left on this trip it had about 1200kms on the odometer, and it just hit 17 000 yesterday visiting a friend nearby.

Anyway, I'll get on with it. This is the first leg of the ride


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Old 07-22-2010, 07:48 PM   #2
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I'd never been to Western Ontario before, at least not since I was dragged there on a road trip in the back of a Plymouth Horizon when I was 10 which I've blocked from recollection.

I started loading up the bike on day one to find that it had been christened.



What's most amazing to me looking at this picture now is how spotless my bike was then.

First stop, Gatineau Park to try my hand at camping. I intentionally aimed for short distances for the first few days while I got the hang of camping.

Lac Taylor. Gorgeous "no reservation" camp site, right on the lake.



However, I was tested on my first night. It started raining at about 5AM. That morning I learned the lesson of preparing for breaking camp the night before. Everything was soaked, myself included.

From here I headed the short distance to Algonquin Park.

Ever heard of a moose jam? No, it's not some strange Canadian pancake condiment. It's when a moose decides to stand by the side of the road, like this one did, and every tourist screeches to a halt to take pictures and get out the video camera. Before you know it, the whole road is blocked.





It's mostly a hiking and backwoods park, not really suited for adventure biking. However, there is a little dirt road that leaves the main road that winds up, strangely, here



Arowhon Resort. Great breakfast, pleasant setting, and the woman who runs the place was shocked to see me show up on a bike. She said her brother refused to come visit her because of the dirt road leading to the place. I probably wouldn't have gone there on his Harley bagger either mind you.
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Old 07-22-2010, 07:51 PM   #3
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Old 07-22-2010, 08:15 PM   #4
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At this point I had something of a handle on camping, I thought, and my butt had lost any feeling, so I tried to put a few more miles into a day. No Iron Butts, but at least more like 500+ kms a day.


I can't imagine the conversation that decided to name this lake. "No, it looks nothing like a cow tongue. It's like totally an ox tongue I'm telling you"

The ride from Algonquin to Sudbury was dull. The road was boring, especially the highway north into North Bay, and the endless construction didn't help.

When I finally got to Sudbury I decided to get away from town to camp, and headed to Killarney Provincial Park. Very nice park, but the people running it were new and had no idea what they were doing. I asked for a spot near the showers, as it had been 3 days at this point not counting the rain, and she put me at the opposite side of the campground. The only thing close by was a couple of drop toilets, which I found out were out of order when I nipped there for a 3AM pee. Don't ask me how a drop toilet goes out of order.

But the place was gorgeous, and as all hel... school hadn't let loose yet, it was nearly empty.

Sunset from my cliff side camp site


This little terror drove me nuts all night. For the sake of not repeating the story, I described it in detail here:

http://nineinchninja.wordpress.com/2...-really-exist/





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Old 07-22-2010, 08:29 PM   #5
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I'm in.

Off to a good start!
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Old 07-22-2010, 08:52 PM   #6
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At this point, things started to go bad. I rode on to Sault St Marie (pronounced SOO SAINT MARIE for those not from these parts, or just The Soo) and met some bikers at a Tim Hortons who told me that the weather was going to get nasty overnight and camping was not recommended. So I rode on to Batchawana Bay, where I found and stopped at The Voyageurs' Lodge. I only mention their name because it's small, family run, and provided great service, wholesome food, and simple but sufficient accommodations. And cheap (for Canada). Look em up if you're passing through.

I woke the next morning to white caps on the lake across the road



And it didn't get any better all morning. Lake Superior Park is supposed to be incredible, but I was fighting so hard to keep myself on the road and not blown into oncoming traffic that I didn't see as much as I'd like to have.

I think someone else posted a picture of the same hill. It was sunny in his pic though...


I stopped in Wawa to do laundry and hoped that the weather would pass. I was tempted to just ride through this place





It was not to be however. I'd been told that this was to be the most scenic part of my whole trip, some of the best vistas in all of Canada. All I saw was this



The fog was so thick I wanted to stick my hands out in front like walking in the dark. It never got above 7 degrees celsius (about 45F).

I eventually made it to Thunder Bay, and was so cold and wet that I stayed at a hotel. The next morning it was sunny, and I backtracked a bit to Sleeping Giant Park, and I'm glad I did.

If anyone is heading that way, about halfway into the park you'll come to an intersection that shows picnic tables to the left and to the right. The right side actually takes you on a red mud/dirt road around a large section of the park



There are a few picnic tables at points, and I stopped for a coffee next to a lake. As I was sipping my jo, these little snorts popped up not 10 feet from me.



They snorted at me, splashed around like it was a bath, snorted some more. I offered them some coffee, but they weren't interested. They all then dipped underwater and I never saw them again.

The trail leads right up to a cliff face where you can look out over the whole Thunder Bay.




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Old 07-22-2010, 09:12 PM   #7
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From Sleeping Giant, I was off to Fort Frances. Everyone I talked to asked me why I went this way, rather than the quick way to Dryden and Kenora. The road was completely deserted, other than the odd bear that scooted across the road in front of me. The scenery was nice, but again the rain plagued me.



After about Atikokan, however, it was construction. Miles and f'ing miles of it. The road was torn up and nothing but mud for at least 20kms. Pick up trucks kept blowing past me, spraying mud all over me and completely obscuring my visor. I was told later, when I met someone working on the site at a restaurant, that the constant rain had been preventing them from being able to lay any pavement or tar, so they'd just been tearing up more and more road waiting for it to stop raining.

I may sound like I'm complaining here, but after the first 10 terrifying minutes of sliding around on the mud, I started enjoying it. Besides, I thought, if I slide into the ditch here surely I can sue someone for it, right?

When I reached Fort Frances I was soaked and covered head to toe in mud. I got a warm reception at the hotel, and by warm I mean lots of snarky 'nice day for a ride eh?' comments and giggles.

The next morning? Well, here's the view from the balcony



More white caps, more wind, more rain.

What's even better is that while I was standing there taking that shot the wind blew my balcony door shut, locking me out. I had to shout and throw things at the restaurant window to get someone to let me back in. Not my proudest moment.

A sense of humour is a must when traveling, especially alone.
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Old 07-22-2010, 10:23 PM   #8
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In that rain I continued towards Rainy River, if you can believe that.

I hear everyone leaves this town after they turn 21 years old. Hair dye sales are through the roof though.




So, it turns out that I chose the wettest spring/summer in memory to do this trip. I was told by farmers and people in the rural communities that it was going to be a very hard year for many people. Fields were flooded everywhere, and many people hadn't been able to get their crops in before the crop insurance deadline, and so would do nothing. One guy said that he'd been farming more than 40 years and had never missed planting once until this year.

The Red River banks near Morris. They were more like islands than banks this year.



I spent most of my childhood in the prairies, living in Winnipeg, Regina, and Edmonton, but I hadn't been back since 1993. I wanted to avoid the main roads, but also see some friends in Regina. I meandered around a lot, picking up gravel roads when I had the courage.


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I'd forgotten how much I love the big open sky. There really isn't anything like it, and no photograph can do it justice.






The communities are different from anywhere else. I can't imagine living somewhere that to buy anything other than basic sundries requires 1-2 hours on the highway.




Would you believe that this



actually turned out to be a cool little restaurant? I was in Codere, which is a grain elevator and about 4 houses, and I was exhausted after a road that the map showed as paved had gradually fallen apart and turned to 3 inch deep well groomed, unpacked gravel (ie my worst nightmare). I stopped in town and saw that pick up pull in and the driver go inside.



I talked for close to an hour with some local farmers about the weather, farming in general, and my whacky german bike. They were very open and friendly, if a little frustrated and depressed about the weather and what it was doing to their living.

The weather for the 7 days I spent on the prairies was awful. You can see on the map that one day I went all the way from Maple Creek to Taber, a distance of 220kms or 140 miles. It was pouring the whole time, and eventually the wind reached a steady 50km/hour or 30 miles an hour, gusting to over 60 kms, or close to 40 miles an hour. I was only able to get to 60kms/hour, I was hydroplaning in the 2 inches of water on the roads, my rain cover for my tail bag kept blowing off into the soggy fields, and I was leaning into the wind at what felt like a 45 degree angle. It was at that point that I remembered that I was on vacation and not a suicide mission and stopped for the night.

I stopped first in Grassy Lake, which is a Mennonite town. They have a great little restaurant there called the Dew Drop Inn. I think I've seen a hundred called the same, but the food there was fantastic. The odd thing was that their primary menu was mexican. It was even written in spanish. I decided that I could probably trust grandma's home made perogies and sausage and I was glad I did.

The next day the trans-canada east of Medicine Hat was completely washed out and shut down.

But this didn't prevent me from enjoying the time I spent in the south prairies.

The moose in Saskatchewan are huge but pretty tame.



Moose Jaw was a pretty important town historically, despite its ridiculous name




On the 363 from Moose Jaw. The road gradually falls apart the farther west you go.

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greeneggsnoham screwed with this post 07-23-2010 at 09:03 AM
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Old 07-23-2010, 06:25 AM   #9
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Alberta has to be the most interesting province in Western Canada, geographically speaking anyway. There is such variety in the landscape, from the badlands in the centre, the prairies in the south east, the Rockies in the west, and the forests in the North.

Oh, and the Vulcan. Apparently Mr Nimoy came to visit just before I passed though.



I stayed in Calgary with my aunt for a few days. I had my bike checked over while I was there, and I was told that the mechanic had found a screw missing on the right fuel tank cover. I thought this odd, as I'd washed the bike the day before and hadn't noticed anything, but didn't think too much of it. The 2010 vibrates, and combined with the gravel roads I'd been on I guessed it had shaken loose. More on this later.

My next appointment was with my sister in Edmonton, but the direct route there from Calgary I had done many times, and it isn't particularly interesting. So, I took the 1A out of Calgary to the west, planning to follow the Bow Valley and then pass through the ice fields.

And I'm so glad I did



The 1A is a much more interesting road, both in scenery and in riding fun.






I have no idea why anyone would want to live in Canmore. Those looming mountains would give me nightmares... :p




The elk are bashful this time of year.



Actually, I was later told to stay well away from the elk, as it is rutting season and they're not picky about who or what they shove their antlers at.

I spent a wet but glorious two days riding through the ice fields. It was a cold camp that night, but it was so worth it.

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Old 07-23-2010, 07:35 AM   #10
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More ice fields glory




Beauty in all directions. You could only take a bad photo here if your finger covered the lens.




While perusing a map in Jasper, I saw a campground just down the 40 from the main highway between Jasper and Edmonton. It looked like it was just in the mountains, but kind of isolated, so I headed there.

Jasper, another town haunted by mountains.



The 40 becomes a well packed mining road



With some excellent scenery.



and fauna



This moose was casually standing in the middle of the road, taunting me. A chicken playing moose. It lost interest when it saw me go for my camera.

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Old 07-23-2010, 07:50 AM   #11
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The campground, it turned out, was right next to a piece of major highway construction, so I went back and camped near Jasper.

The Economic Stimulus package has a new slogan - Canada's Economic Action Plan - Tearing up every highway near you.

On my way back to Jasper I had a little incident. If you've been reading, and not just looking at pictures like I usually do with ride reports, you'll remember that the mechanic in Calgary claimed that a screw was missing. I guess he either didn't replace it or he didn't tighten it.

I was riding through Jasper National Park, getting beaten by crosswinds, when suddenly something smashed against my knee. Fortunately, I was wearing knee pads. At the time I thought I'd hit a bird, which had actually happened in Saskatchewan.

When I stopped for gas, however, I noticed this:



A crosswind had snapped the right fuel tank cover right off. I was kind of up the creek here, because that cover protects the air intake. The filter would keep most out, but at highways speeds in prairie rain storms I'd soon run into problems.

Another little plug here - Argyll Motorsports in Edmonton were fantastic about this. After asking me several times whether I'd broken it by dropping the bike, they replaced the part under warranty. In fact, because there wasn't a replacement part in all of Canada and I couldn't really wait up to 2 weeks for a part to be shipped from Germany, they took the part off their demo bike.
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Old 07-23-2010, 07:56 AM   #12
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Beautiful!

The ride north of Lake Superior is a great one if you get the weather for it, but its a crap shoot as to what you get.
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Old 07-23-2010, 09:26 AM   #13
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Thanks WarLlama. I bet you can guess what my desktop looks like at the moment :p

After Jasper, I headed down the oh-so-(not)-scenic 16 to Edmonton to spend some time with my sister and her family. While I was there, her husband foolishly invited me to visit his parents in Prince George. I decided then that I was going to reach the west coast, Prince Rupert to be exact.

The ride from Edmonton to Prince George happened in one day, about 750kms, and I didn't take any pictures. There wasn't much to see after Jasper anyway, other than a brown black bear trying to cross the highway.

I have a rule, by the way. I don't stop to take pictures of bears. I'm sure they're very photogenic, but I'm also sure that I'd be a pretty tasty snack.

From Prince George to Prince Rupert is absolutely stunning. From Smithers to Prince Rupert, the road looks like this.



and this



Oh, and this too



Anyone passing through the area, I'd highly recommend this road. Between Prince George and Smithers isn't anything special, but from that point on...

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Old 07-23-2010, 10:43 AM   #14
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Hey, good to see you posting the RR. We met you along 17 somewhere between Selim and Nipigon. I was on the GS and the other guy was on a Uly. Great pictures!!! We wish we'd had more time to go off exploring like you but were on a tight schedule.


It was nice meeting you. :)
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Old 07-23-2010, 12:49 PM   #15
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I recently did a ride from Toronto to BC. Didn't go to the coast, wanted to stay in the mountains.

You MUST go to the Going to the Sun Road in Montana. It's the Glacier National Park. U take the road up to the summit and the view is unbelievable, then you come down the other side. There's a lot of tourist and the road is partially under construction but it is well worth it. It's just across the border from Pincher Creek.
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