|12-16-2013, 04:05 PM||#46|
Joined: Aug 2013
Location: Toronto, Canada
This morning we woke up close to the breakfast ending time and found the main table in the dining room had no more space left. We opted to have breakfast in the lounge instead, where we had tea the night before. This was a blessing in disguise as the guests at the main table were in the middle of a heated discussion about Toronto politics (especially our colourful major, who since then became even more infamous). This was not something we wanted to engage in, so we headed out quickly after the meal for our Zodiac boat tour in Witless Bay.
Before we left, we noticed something stuck in the SV650's rear tire:
It still held air fine and we decided to proceed with caution today, but tomorrow this will be the first bike to get the tire change ;)
Witless Bay is a 30 min ride away from downtown St. John's. The route we took along Topsail Road and Highway 10 was close to the coast and very scenic. It was short compared to most other rides on this trip, so before we knew it, we were donning the bright orange insulated suits that would keep us warm and dry on the open boat.
As we left the small inner bay we started seeing puffins and many other sea birds very close to the boat, and within a couple of minutes we were seeing the first whale for today - a minke. Over the course of the hour and a half tour we got close and personal with about half a dozen humpback whales; some of them teased us by passing right under the boat. A few more were seen further away, often identified by the splashes coming from their blowholes.
On the approach to the bird sanctuary island, we saw lots of puffins up close. This time we had plenty of opportunities to watch how these birds behave in the water, something not easily done in Elliston.
Puffins in Witless Bay Bird Sanctuary
Sea gull chicks
Common Murres and Atlantic Puffins
There is a small tent on the island, apparently for use by the researchers that study the numerous birds at the sanctuary, but no other human-made structures. In the vicinity of the island whales and seabirds roam very close to each other, sharing the abundant resources of the ocean. It's always cool to watch the whales surface, but nothing beats the view of their majestic tails as they dive in.
Humpback whale tail
The whale and the bird sanctuary
Tiny research tent - the only artificial structure on the island
Puffins warming up in the sun
I got a little seasick on the boat and decided to wait a bit before riding off. We had a bite in a nearby cafe and then went back to St. John's. We had another boat tour scheduled and with the extended lunch break we took, we made it with little time to spare. Since it was departing from St. John's harbour, we left the bikes at the B&B and headed there by foot, noting some of Newfoundland's furrier residents.
Our resident cat. Since the streets are so slanted, the ground where we parked was way above the first floor kitchen and patio, hence the shot's downward perspective.
Another street, another cat.
I was hesitant to do the second boat trip because I was afraid to get seasick again, but as it was a much larger boat, I thought to give it a try. It's funny because I've been on quite a few boats before, including another Zodiac, and was feeling just fine, but somehow that day was different. In retrospect, I made a wrong guess. Not only did I promptly get nauseous again, the trip itself was a waste of time. The boat did not depart for another half an hour as they waited to see if more people would come and buy tickets. What followed was a very basic tour of the static landmarks such as the harbour and Cape Spear. It would have been fine if that's what we were looking for, but the tour company based their entire marketing around icebergs, whales and puffins, so we were hoping to see more of that, instead of just the landmarks that are always in season and always easy to find. I can understand lack of icebergs, it was indeed not the time for that, but it was mind boggling that we saw no whales at all considering the luck we had with them earlier in the day. I think they did not even try. On the bright side, we did not crash into an iceberg and arrived safely back to dry land, so there is that.
St. John's waterfront.
Looking towards the Narrows from the inner harbour.
One of the numerous large ships docked in St. John's. Also note the steep incline of the street as you get further from the shore.
The Battery up close. On the right is the spot from which we took many night photos the previous evening.
Lighthouse at the entrance into St. John's harbour.
Cape Spear and its two lighthouses.
Fishermen like to show off their catch!
We usually try to explore different places to eat when travelling, but after a disappointing boat tour, I wanted some certainty. We went back to the Rocket, and had some of their yummy stuff and some extraordinary profiteroles.
With our spirits lifted, we walked around the city streets absorbing its atmosphere and enjoying a relaxing evening.
Toronto to Newfoundland as part of a break in process
Riding and chilling in Curaçao
All travels, on two wheels or otherwise
NonstopBanana screwed with this post 12-29-2013 at 11:30 AM
|12-22-2013, 10:18 PM||#47|
Joined: Aug 2013
Location: Toronto, Canada
Riding around Avalon
Community of Flatrock, Avalon Peninsula, Newfoundland
Our schedule for the morning was very busy: a tire change for one (or both, depending on how efficient the shop is) of our bikes. After that we planned to ride around the peninsula and see what the coast looks like north and south of St. John's.
We scheduled our appointment with Honda One in Mount Pearl back when we were in Rocky Harbour, so thankfully we did not have to wait for anything too long. The new BT-023 tires were installed on the SV650 within an hour, barely giving us time to check out their store and catch up on writing the trip journals ;)
SV650 getting ready for new shoes
After they were done, the mechanic said that if we leave the other bike in the shop, they might finish it before end of day. We agreed and headed out 2 up along the Irish Loop, towards Ferryland. This gave me an opportunity to whip out the camera and take photos from the back seat as we rode. This sounds like fun and games, but the truth is, it's not so easy to make decent (or even barely passable) shots while going 100+ km/h.
Blooming potato fields on the side of the road. It's a sight I haven't seen in over 10 years. Last time I saw these pale purple flowers was in my grandparents' vegetable garden, where I would occasionally try to catch and kill the much hated Colorado beetles.
Typical Newfoundland field flowers.
We passed several interesting villages with their very familiar by now views of the ocean, fishing houses, boats. We explored a couple of spots in a bit more detail, taking close up shots of the shore and wildlife.
Although Ferryland is only an hour away from St. John's, the time spent going there felt very different than the whole trip up to this point. Without having to account for my TU250, the SV could afford to go much faster than at any other point during the last couple of weeks, which felt faster still when you're on the passenger seat instead of the rider's. Although we had a couple of multi-day 2 up trips before (to Saguenay in Québec and Cape Breton in Nova Scotia), once you try riding a motorbike yourself, a passenger seat feels a lot more insecure and uncertain. Getting my TU back could not happen soon enough.
By the time we got to Ferryland, it was about lunch time and we stopped at a restaurant that claimed to have a million dollar view. It was overlooking the ocean and served seafood, like many of the establishments in Newfoundland. After a couple of days in St. John's this town felt rural again.
The local attraction in Ferryland, like most coastal communities, was the lighthouse. In this case the road to the lighthouse was passing by an archaeological dig and then a short gravel road. This area was in use by fishermen since the 16th century, so the digging was apparently a worthy endeavour to unravel the site's long history. The gravel road was a good test for the newly installed BT-023 tires - it had a few steep ascends and descends, and was quite narrow overall. We could not reach the lighthouse by bike as the last section of the road was marked for pedestrian use only.
Instead of hiking all the way to the lighthouse, we took some photos near the parking lot. The lighthouse was barely visible and we estimated that if we were to hike all the way to it, it would probably take an extra hour for the trip, which could make it hard for us to make it in time to pick up my bike from the shop. I did not want to risk it, and entertained myself with the view from where I was standing and by watching a Québec family take some daring photos. The gist of it was that the boy (about 8 years old or so) was arguing with his mother and finally won. She then held him up by his legs, upside down over the cliff while the father was taking photos of them against the backdrop of the deep blue water and the lighthouse in the distance. The things some people are willing to do for their children :)
The lighthouse is visible near the horizon. The water was clear and inviting, but it was too chilly for a dip.
Although there was still lots to see further south on highway 10, we decided to head north and make sure we get my bike back today. After finally reaching the shop by phone we realized that they greatly exaggerated the likelihood of the tire change being done today. We decided to just come pick it up and figure out the rest of the day as we go along.
Along highway 10, Avalon peninsula.
After picking up my TU we went to St. John's and decided to stop by a downtown café for a little dessert. Hava Java is a spot right on Water Street with a couple of outdoor tables and we parked our bikes right beside it. Just as we were sitting down a police officer came over and started writing us parking tickets. Turned out it was a no parking zone (it was not well marked at all!). SunBandit sprung up to talk to the him and the tickets were avoided, though he still had to re-park the bikes. Since we already ordered the drinks and desserts and the outdoor tables were an even hotter commodity than parking spaces, I stayed at the table while SunBandit handled both our motorcycles. It was a whole lot of trouble for a very small gain to the city - a parking space cost us only 50 cents for the half hour we were there. On-street parking in downtown Toronto will cost you 3-4 times as much, though it is free for motorcycles (for now).
A cup of fancy pants Valencia Hot Chocolate at Hava Java.
After relaxing for a bit at the café we went to check out Signal Hill, this time in daylight. You could see Cape Spear quite well from this elevated vantage point, and there are many plaques on the hill marking various historic occasions. One of those that caught my attention was commemorating the reception of the first transatlantic radio signal in 1901, by an Italian long distance radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi.
Cape Spear visible from Signal Hill.
From Signal Hill you get two general options - north and south, and since we've been south of St. John's earlier, we went north this time. Past Torbay, we stopped by communities of Flatrock and Pouch Cove, until finally we reached the end of the paved highway. It turned into a gravel road, which did not seem so bad in itself, but when the road started to go steeply uphill, our tires gave up and the bikes started to slide down. I was not quite prepared for this and was not sure how to best get out of this sticky situation, but the tip to lean the bike a little until you get a good grip with one leg helped. We made it out of that section just in time: once back on flat road travelling in the opposite direction, we saw a pickup truck going confidently into the blind uphill turn, full speed ahead.
Near Flatrock, Newfoundland.
Pouch Cove, Newfoundland
It was past sunset when we got back to St. John's, and having tried the fun activity that is parking in downtown here, we left the bikes at the B&B and went out in search of dinner. The restaurant we originally planned to go to was fully booked, so we went to the Rocket again. They did not disappoint, and the bread pudding suggested by the cashier was tastier than I even hoped for. On the downside, I was hoping to find some kind of interesting piece of handmade jewellery featuring a puffin, but came up with nothing, but bread pudding makes such things seem unimportant.
Building about to be torn down, St. John's.
|12-25-2013, 01:16 PM||#48|
Joined: Aug 2013
Location: Toronto, Canada
St. John's to Grand Falls-Windsor, not the most direct route
On our last morning in St. John's we had a particularly engaging breakfast conversation with fellow travellers. It was a couple from Québec who travelled on a GS1200. Although currently they were on a mellow tour of Newfoundland, the rider shared a more hard core story of going on his bike to James Bay. He travelled there alone and got stuck, but thankfully his wife was able to come to his rescue, after many continuous hours of driving and with lots of spare fuel carried on board, since provisions are hard to come by in that rarely visited section of Northern Québec. There were many stories exchanged, including a friendly note that if you ever ride in India, the elephants always have the right of way. It's easy to get distracted with a good conversation, so we ended up late for our tire change appointment. Still in about 15 minutes my TU250 was perched up on the stand and got some new rubber on. By 10am we were ready to roll west, towards the "perfectly centred" Grand Falls-Windsor.
Ready to go!
We had plenty of time to make it half way across Newfoundland by nightfall, so we took a side trip to Southport, a tiny finishing village at the end of highway 204. It was the birthplace of our Clarenville hostess and she suggested it for its beauty. Located between Bonavista and Avalon peninsulas, this area is full of tiny islands, low mountains, and is prone to rolling fog. The whole route 204 leading up to Southport was quite scenic, but the village itself was indeed worth the detour. Although most coastal communities in Newfoundland have a few boats and fishing houses lining up their shores, the layers of mountains and islands near the horizon made this village look somewhat different than the others we've seen. On the side of the small harbour was a wreckage of an old ship. The whole landscape was enveloped in thin fog and was eerily quiet.
Along hwy 204
The village of Gooseberry Cove, just off route 204
Southport, overlooking Fox Harbour
Southport, with Random Island in the background.
The wreck in Fox Harbour
An apparently abandoned pick up truck in Southport. Many vehicles look very weathered, but according to the locals it's not so much their age, as the rough winters and sea salt that contribute to the rapid decay.
Rolling fog over nearby islands, Queens Cove
Heading back on 204
After exploring the coast along 204 we made it back to the Trans Canada Highway and stopped at the Clarenville Inn for lunch. It would have been cool to have a bite in a small town along 204, but we did not notice a single sign advertising restaurants, diners, or anything of that nature. The food was decent, though the desserts did not come even close to those at The Rocket. Out on the road again we stopped for photos at the scenic lookout near Gambo, a logging town.
Gambo seen from Joey's Lookout.
Overlooking Freshwater Bay
As the sun started to go down we passed a bridge that had a gravel service road running underneath. Sunbandit decided to drop by and stress test his road tires some more (somebody clearly did not have enough dirt on the T'Railway yet). After that, it was a straight shot into the sunset ;)
Setting sun near Norris Arm
Looking west along the TCH
We reached Grand-Falls Windsor while it was still light outside and were met by our B&B hosts. Apparently they used to live in North York (a neighbourhood in Toronto), and the hostess used to work as a librarian at the North York Public Library, a place I have visited quite a few times while in high school ;). There was lots of Toronto themed artwork on the walls and the feeling that we were getting closer to home became very prominent. Our ferry to North Sydney was booked for next evening, and our host mentioned that we should double check that it's on, as there was some incident with a Marine Atlantic ferry in Port aux Basques so delays and cancellations were likely. Apparently a ferry coming out of the port ran aground and damaged a front portion of its hull. While there were no serious injuries, there was now one less ferry in operation, so their schedules were being re-worked. We tried calling, but the lines were all busy, so with a whatever happens, happens mindset we headed out for a walk around the town.
Grand Falls-Windsor town hall
The light was changing colours continuously as the skateboarders and cyclists were practising their tricks
This was a main feature in a local convenience store. Apparently Lay's was running a contest for the best new flavour of chips and this was an entry from a Newfie potato lover. As part of the research for this report I looked up the results and yes, this ended up as the winning flavour across all of Canada!
Walking back to our B&B, we were entering our last night in Newfoundland.
|12-27-2013, 05:43 AM||#49|
Joined: Oct 2007
Location: Matthews NC
Wonderful trip report and great pics. Thank you for showing the rest of the new or budget minded riders out there that it's ok to choose a 250cc motorcycle for your first bike and take it on a long distance tour. Looks like it performed quite well.
So many new riders are shamed into, or given bad advice on, buying a much larger bike than they should have.
"I don't like repeat offenders, I like dead offenders.." Ted Nugent
13 BMW GTL, 10 BMW RT, 09 Suz Vstrom 650A,
02 BMW LTc, 92 BMW R100R (wish I still had it)
|12-27-2013, 08:23 AM||#50|
Joined: Jan 2011
Location: South Florida
What a great road report. I started reading the first page but quickly found myself scanning forward. I just couldn't wait to see the next picture. Now that I have seen all the pictures I want to go back and read the report.
I have always wanted to visit NS. Now I have added Newfoundland to the list.
|12-28-2013, 07:38 AM||#51|
Joined: Aug 2012
Location: Southeast Lower Carolina
Very picturesque and informative. Used Gander many times as a fuel stop on Trans-Atlantic flights but unfortunately never seen much of the rest of Newfoundland. Thanks for the tour and travel tips.
2009 BeeMWhua G650
Family, Friends, and Felons in Florida
Riding While Peached; Under the Influence of Georgia
|12-29-2013, 11:57 AM||#52|
Joined: Sep 2007
Started this report yesterday.
Great ride and pictures and it must
be so great for you two to ride together.
What a vacation.
2008 KLR rider
Lets ride !
"The poets down here don't write nuthin' at all
They just stand back and let it all be." Springsteen
|12-29-2013, 12:52 PM||#53|
Joined: Aug 2013
Location: Toronto, Canada
Leaving Newfoundland and Entering the United States
Leaving Newfoundland, sunset over Channel-Port aux Basques Lighthouse
This entry will be long and painful. It spans 3 days and does not have nearly as many awesome photos as it should, because sometimes the road is not throwing exciting things at you all the time, and sometimes you just get dog tired of it. And sometimes you just need a break so you can go for that last stretch with a refreshed mind.
Our last morning in Newfoundland was marked by some friendly conversation with a few Québecois travellers at the breakfast table and a hearty meal. Despite being from Gaspe, they nevertheless have not visited the Gaspesie National Park. It still keeps surprising me: not a single person we've met on our several trips visited that beautiful part of Québec. Oh well, I guess it will be our open secret.
The ride to Channel-Port aux Basques is about 500km, which is not too much, but not a joy ride either. We tried getting some information about our ferry, but still could not reach anyone. Our ferry was scheduled for 1:30 am, so we planned to explore the side roads as much as daylight allowed, and then just wait at the Tim Hortons near the port. The notice on the Marine Atlantic website said that passengers would be notified of any changes, and so far no one contacted us, so we went off to TCH and pushed on until Corner Brook. There we decided to stop for a lunch break, having gotten tired after almost 3 hours of boring highway travel. Few things are as bland as the inner section of the Trans Canada Highway in Newfoundland, especially considering how colourful their coastal roads are.
At first we wanted to get some sushi, but the place we found was too busy at lunchtime, so we circled the town a bit more until we found a small Italian restaurant that was quiet and almost empty. Their food was the first thing that day notable enough for a photo, so here goes.
We spent a really long time in that restaurant, resting and considering our immediate plans. We still could not find any updated information about the ferry, so we thought it best to just get to Port Aux Basques as soon as possible, and then explore highway 470 for as long as we had time. This highway goes east from the port, along the southern shores to communities with romantic names such as Isle Aux Morts, Burnt Islands and Rose Blanche-Harbour le Cou. The whole road is barely over 40km in length so it seemed like a nice last side trip to make.
After another boring stretch of the TCH we entered the Codroy Valley, a rather beautiful part of the southwestern Newfoundland. This is the area that woke us up upon arrival to the island, as it's quite close to Port Aux Basques. The weather was remarkably pleasant, blue skies and bright sunshine all around. The gulf on the west was reflecting the sunlight like a mirror, and the mountains on the east were rising majestically above ponds and wetlands. Sunbandit took out the GoPro and the monopod and shot some videos, which still need to be edited, but some screenshots make worthy snaps.
When we finally reached Port Aux Basques it was around 6:30 pm and we leisurely rode into a gas station to refuel. Kind of missed the exit at first, so had to take a shortcut over a lawn to get to it . That's where I finally took out my phone to check mail, only to find a fresh notification that out ferry is now rescheduled for 8:30 am. While this would leave us plenty of time to explore the area, it also would create two significant problems. 1) we would not be able to make it to our next destination from North Sydney before nightfall (we had a hotel booked in Saint John, NB) and a much bigger problem 2) where would we spend the night? The most recent info on their website stated there was a ferry leaving at 8pm, so we scrambled to the port to see if we could take it instead.
Isle aux Morts and Rose Blanche are now on the long list of things we did not visit, but after about half an hour of riding around the port and talking to various employees of Marine Atlantic we had our boarding passes for this earlier ferry. The last control booth was the funniest one - they asked if we were carrying any potatoes. Cleared of any concerns, we headed into the ship's belly to grab the last two tiny spots available on the vehicle deck. We would not have been able to fit if we were on a full sized car, they literally had just those two spots left, only big enough for bikes! There was plenty of room on the passenger decks, but clearly it's the vehicular cargo capacity that is the bottleneck on this route. The boat started moving just as we were walking up to our seats - a full hour ahead of the time posted online. It was one of the closest cuts we've ever made! As the boat started coming out of the harbour I went outside to snap a few last photos of Newfoundland under the setting summer sun.
One of the many decks of the Marina Atlantic ferry.
The ferry on/off ramps merge seamlessly with the highway. In fact, the ferry is designated as an official part of the Trans Canada Highway system.
The damage done by another ferry. Mild, but enough to mess a lot of schedules up.
Last glimpse of Newfoundland.
This time we got even less rest than on the trip to the island. The sun has just set and it was too early to try and sleep. When we arrived at North Sydney it was not even 3:30am, complete darkness all around and the whole town was empty and silent. The cars coming off the ferry quickly took off and left North Sydney, but we were not up for riding through the night. We picked up some snacks and beverages from a convenience store in a gas station and wondered if anything else would be open at this hour. There was a 24 hour Tim Hortons nearby and we decided to go there and wait until sunrise.
About to disembark from the ferry.
When we found it, turned out the 24 hour schedule applies only to the drive through, the rest of it opens at 5am. So we hung around the parking lot until it finally opened, at which point we came inside and I got a cup of hot tea and a panini. Maybe it was the lack of sleep, or maybe they really do make some of the most tasteless food around :(.
Tim Hortons parking lot in North Sydney. Warming up with doughnut holes and pineapple juice. Yes, it was a weird night.
Somewhere around 5:30am we headed out aiming to reach Saint John as quickly as possible. That did not mean going particularly fast, but rather stopping less and not taking any side trips. It was a rather miserable morning, cold and foggy, and the roads getting out of Cape Breton were frequently reduced to one way traffic due to construction. We definitely had plenty of time due to our early morning start, and even considered passing Saint John and continuing on, but had to let go of that idea since we realized how tired and prone to mistakes we were. We stopped for lunch in Truro, a town on Trans Canada Highway midway between North Sydney and Saint John. It was a funny detour as we accidentally turned the wrong way on a one way street, to the amusement of the locals travelling towards us.
The cook at the cafe bakery we stopped at was very friendly and even told us some stories about Newfies passing by through the town on the way to explore the rest of the continent. I suppose many choose this town as a stop over after a draining ferry ride .
We were on track to get to Saint John way ahead of schedule, so I called the hotel to make sure our room could be ready even if we get there before official check in time. They had no problem with that, and as soon as we got there, we were promptly checked in, parked our bikes by the entrance and headed up to relax.
In retrospect, it was the best possible choice of a hotel, though I certainly did not expect it to be that appropriate at the time of booking. Although it was an upscale Hilton, it was actually one of the cheapest rooms we got during the trip. Not because it was cheap in itself, but because Newfoundland is much more on the expensive side :-/. Spacious room, big soft bed, it was a perfect place for the 10 hour nap we so desperately needed.
I was half expecting to wake up around sunset and maybe go for a walk around the city, but when I did finally wake up, it was past midnight. We made some tea and coffee using the hotel's supplies and then Sunbandit managed to convince me to go downstairs and lube the bikes' chains (it was all under the pretences of retrieving the USB charger we accidentally left there, didn't want it getting damaged in the possible rain). With not much else to do, we went back to sleep afterwards, dozing off just as quickly as the first time.
I'm not 100% sure if the hotel really did not offer complimentary breakfast, or if they just did not advertise it, but after spending so much time sleeping we wanted to go out and see at least a little bit of this new city. We found an Italian sandwich place that only serves breakfast on Saturdays, and voilà, this was Saturday.
The sandwiches were very good, that's why not shown
After a short stroll around the downtown and the harbour, it was time to pack up and go. All said and done we left around noon, after spending 21 hours in the hotel
One of these is not like the others.
Wait what? Let's zoom in:
Going for the morning shift?
Nope, couldn't steal it.
Easy and plentiful motorcycle parking
We crossed the United States border at Saint Stephen. The border guard was much friendlier than the ones we met in Niagara Falls and Buffalo over numerous previous crossings, didn't even ask us to take off our helmets and waved us both to come in at the same time. He didn't ask us to recite our plate numbers and instead just stepped out of the booth and looked at them himself. Seems like a small thing, but when I bought my bike in Ohio just a few months ago and was crossing the border into Canada with a freshly minted temporary plate, the question "What's your plate number?" from the Canadian border official left me deeply puzzled . We stopped for lunch somewhere in Maine, and continued on to New Hampshire. We took secondary roads towards White Mountain National Forest, hoping to make it to Mt Washington, but seeing lots of other cool things along the way.
First glimpse of the mountains.
White Mountain National Forest.
By the time we got to Mt Washington it was past 7pm, and apparently they only accept visitors until about 4:30. As we were turning around to head back, we noticed something strange. A few Tesla Model S cars pulled in, attempting to gain entrance, unsuccessfully. They were soon joined by a few more, and within minutes there were a couple dozen of them, stretching in front of the park gates. Hey, it's tough to make it on time when you are in a group of 20+ cars, and have to wait for that one guy that has to pee every 20 minutes
The Teslas and the closed gates of Mount Washington Road.
We continued south on route 16 that passes through the forest, and then took another scenic road, 302, on our way to Lincoln, NH. Although it's not that close to anything specific we wanted to see, it was one of the few motels that showed up online as available. As we rode through the area though, we saw lots more hotels and resorts of all kinds. It's a pity we did not know about them ahead of time, but the one we stayed in was passable, although it was completely dark by the time we got to it.
Toronto to Newfoundland as part of a break in process
Riding and chilling in Curaçao
All travels, on two wheels or otherwise
NonstopBanana screwed with this post 12-30-2013 at 07:36 AM
|12-30-2013, 06:48 AM||#54|
Joined: Aug 2013
Location: Toronto, Canada
Mount Washington, New Hampshire
The day was sunny and cool, seemed like a perfect day for a ride up Mount Washington! Not wanting to waste any time, we had a quick breakfast in the hotel and headed back by the familiar roads towards the mountain.
Before reaching the mountain, we made a few stops to take photos, including a few scenic lookouts over the mountains, novelties such as a gift shop set up on a covered bridge,*and a family of turkeys, that sat by the road and scattered in the nearby woods when we approached them.
At the gate to Mt Washington road the attendant informed us that visibility at the summit is 50 ft (does not seem like much, and converted to 15 meters it seems even less). Since we were only here for a day, we went up anyway. The ticket to access the road comes bundled with one of those "This bike climbed Mt Washington" stickers, which looks like it was designed by someone's nephew, so it won't be sticking around on my bike ;) All the way until about 1500 m it was a beautiful ride, the air crisp and clear, the views growing more and more magnificent. We stopped a couple of times for pictures, and so far it was not excessively challenging.
Typical view from Mt Washington road
My TU250 basking in the sun.
The clouds over the peaks are starting to look suspicious.
On the way up, the extra spaces along the road seem to be lookout points. On the way down, the true meaning emerges: to allow people who ride down on their brakes to cool them off.
On our last stop before the summit, at a little over 1500 m elevation, the clouds descended and engulfed everything in thick grey mist.
When the landscape got covered by the clouds, we stopped at one of the rest points, took a few pictures and considered waiting a bit to see if it would clear up soon. Sunbandit ventured off along a hiking trail to check out the fragile alpine environment of the mountain, towering over a few other visitors in his helmet and oversized bright red rain jacket. He quickly disappeared into the fog and soon afterwards the Bluetooth comms units got disconnected as well. It felt very disorienting and the few minutes it took for the hikers to re-emerge near the road seemed very long. At one point the fog was so thick, the visibility was only about 10 m, but it improved a little and we continued up towards the summit.
The fog turned into a light drizzle and the road turned from freshly paved asphalt into hard packed dirt. That in itself would not have been a big deal, but the cars travelling ahead of us slowed down way below the posted limit of 20 mph to something like 6-7 mph. Passing is not permitted on this road, by if I kept going at such low speed on these steep slopes, I would stall within a minute, and the thought of trying to start up from zero on the uphill in slippery dirt helped me pass them*swiftly.
Once we reached the top, the drizzle stopped, but the fog persisted. At some point we saw a train car higher up near the summit, but after we climbed up the stairs to the true summit the fog thickened and I could no longer even find that train. A sign pointing to the "Observation Deck" seemed like a mean joke, as did the info plaque promising to help you identify the other mountains in the "Presidential Range". I did not even know that they named a whole range of mountains after different presidents, but hey, at least I learned something, even if I did not get to see them.
The summit of Mt. Washington. According to the sign, the winds here can reach up to 372 km/h! That's the second highest ever observed on Earth.
It did not look like the fog would clear up any time soon, it actually started to drizzle again, so we headed back down. Once we were below the clouds, the views opened up in all their majestic glory. We made a few more photos before the rain intensified, and then it was a straight ride down to the base of the mountain. And by straight, I mean it was twisty, wet, slippery, and full of passing slow cars in blind turns.
Mount Washington, after the rain
Light and darkness, infrared
Clouds and road, infrared
Rock formations on Mt. Washington
Panoramic view from Mt. Washington road
The rain kept pouring. We waited inside the gift shop at the base of the mountain, but there was no end in sight to the wet weather. We headed out in the direction of New York until lunch time, when the weather cleared up and we stopped in a small town for a pizza. We passed Vermont and caught a beautiful light display over the mountains near Lake Champlain. Over the bridge, and we were in New York, enjoying the golden sunlight over the lake and the historic lighthouse.
Views in Vermont, looking out towards Adirondack mountains.
Lake Champlain Bridge (freshly opened in 2011)
New York route 22 on the shore of Lake Champlain.
Our target for the night was Lake Placid. The ride was supposed to be quite scenic along highway 73, but it was getting dark fast, for the last hour of riding we could not see anything not lit by the headlights. After a couple of wrong turns and necessary backtracking we finally made it to Lake Placid, our last stop on the trip.
|12-31-2013, 11:07 AM||#55|
Joined: Jan 2007
Location: Sin Jawns NL Canada...otherwise known as The Rock
I live on this godforsaken Rock stuck out in the North Atlantic and have ridden to many places around the island as well as having the great pleasure of sailing all around it.
You have a great report here. Loved the narrative and the pictures.
Im always fascinated to read about the experiences others have when they come to visit and wonder what they must think about the place as well as the people.
Ride Safe.......and Happy New Year to you!
|12-31-2013, 09:08 PM||#57|
Joined: Aug 2013
Location: Toronto, Canada
Lake Placid, and finally, home!
View from Whiteface Mountain
The last morning of our trip started rather lazily. We did not have any immediate plans and did not really do much research about the Lake Placid area, aside from knowing that it's nestled in the middle of Adirondacks so it should be pretty when served the right way. We started out by slowly riding through the town in search of a good breakfast.
The slow ride was necessitated not as much by our desire to scout local food joints, but by the heavy tourist traffic of the village. The day was beautiful, everyone was try to go somewhere, nobody was going very far. We stopped at a cafe that served several dozens kinds of crepes and sandwiches. It took a while to decide which of the 100+ items on the menu we would like to have, but it took even longer to wait in line to finally place the order. Despite the long wait, the food was on par with what you would find in decent Québec creperies, so it was quite worth it.
There are many beautiful places to visit in the Adirondacks, but the most prominent attraction seemed to be the Whiteface Mountain, so we decided to check it out and hopefully have a clear panoramic summit view this time around. The weather forecast was sunny, so that was in our favour.
The road leading to the mountain was picturesque and studded with numerous lakes. Route 431, which leads almost all the way to the summit was uncharacteristically straight for a mountain road, except for a couple of hairpin turns close to the top. Mount Washington road on the other hand had too many hairpin turns to count.
There is a toll booth at the mountain's base, at the start of the Veteran's Memorial Highway, which is responsible for a bit of congestion trying to go up. While waiting to get in we noticed that although the weather at the base was warm and sunny, the summit promised to be much cooler and windier. A couple of riders ahead of us stopped right after the toll booth and were putting on more clothes. We followed their lead and brought out our rain jackets to keep the wind at bay.
Panoramic view from the top of the Whiteface Mountain
There were great views along the way and even a few places to stop on the side of the road - complete with picnic tables. At the end of the paved road we took the hike up to the actual summit. There is an elevator to take you there with less struggle, but it was not working at the time, so the only way up was by foot. The hike started off as just walking up a staircase, but soon turned into a rock covered mountain trail, with metal guardrails running along the ridge. Many of the large rocks were very slippery, having been smoothed out by thousands of footsteps over the years. There was definitely more traffic here than at Mount Xalibu in Gaspésie National Park.
The path to the mountain elevator, not operational.
Veteran's Memorial Highway snaking through the Adirondacks.
The path to the summit is on a narrow ridge, flanked by steep slopes on either side. The steep angles make this area very fragile and susceptible to landslides when combined with excessive rain. The exposed rock trails seen in the photo are the signs of such landslides. Some notable ones occurred after heavy rainfalls in 1971 and 2011, and by all indications, there will be more in the future.
Trail to the summit is surrounded by unobstructed views of the Adirondack mountains, valleys, and lakes.
Once past the tree line, Lake Placid dominates the view from Whiteface Mountain. On a beautiful day like today the summit is filled with people enjoying the spectacular vistas. It's quite spacious up here, with lots of room to sit on the rocks in the sun and look meditatively into the distance. As busy as it seems, this is definitely a place where one can sit for hours relaxing and embracing the landscape.
Prime view of the lake from the very top of the mountain
Walking around the summit you can read up some interesting things about the ancient history of this mountain range. Geologically, Adirondacks are related to the Laurentian mountains in Canada, not the nearby Appalachian range. Newfoundland's Long Range Mountains on the other hand, are part of the Appalachians. Mountains know no political borders ;). More curiously, during the last ice age the valley was under a 2 mile thick layer of ice, so heavy it caused it to sink below sea level. As the ice retreated, the sea water flooded the valley and turned it into a part of the Atlantic ocean for over 1000 years, complete with at least 5 species of whales and other sea creatures. Their fossils are commonly found by the archeologists. That explains the whale tale sculpture we saw as we crossed Lake Champlain Bridge!
Before heading back we made a short stop at one of the picnic areas and had a small snack. The peaceful lunch was interrupted by a funny guy in a passing car, who stuck his head out and shouted "VStrom rulez!" in our direction before disappearing in a corner. People like that present a choking hazard!
Following a series of country roads we were going further west and north. We couldn't help noticing that the landscape looked more and more like Ontario. One interesting distraction was provided by a red tailed hawk that sat by the side of the road and did not seem to care at all when we approached to take photos. He eventually moved a little closer to the trees and bushes away from the road, found something to snack on, got bored and finally flew into the woods.
Amish baling hay, near route 26.
Eventually we made it to the border crossing near 1000 Islands. The border officer was of the less friendly variety and asked us to recite our plate numbers and warned us to come in one at a time next time . Instead of going directly for the 401, we took the 1000 Islands Parkway to be able to stop for photos in this scenic part of the route.
Making some Canadian honey
Lake Ontario turning into St. Lawrence river, 1000 Islands.
Another bird find: ospreys nesting along the parkway.
Before switching to highway 401 completely, we dropped by Kingston, which I have never visited before. Did not see much during the 15 minutes we spent there, except for the fun sign marking the Tragically Hip Way, in honour of the music band that originated in this city.
We stopped at a cute Hungarian restaurant in*Gananoque, called Maple Leaf. Re-energised, we continued by the Waterfront trail westbound.*Sunbandit was hoping to take the Waterfront trail all the way to Toronto, but considering it was around 6:30 pm when we got to Kingston, there was no way we would make it home before nightfall, and travelling by unlit rural Ontario roads in the dark is only a good idea if you don't mind the occasional deer coming out in front of you. We stopped for gas and came to terms with the fact that it would be the very boring 401 all the way from here on. It wasn't too bad for a while, but as we got a little closer to the GTA area (when there was still about 100 km to go to Toronto), the traffic got denser and faster. In many ways a 250cc bike is just fine for travelling, but even going full throttle I was getting passed by every clunker in sight. It's a long flat road and nobody is doing the speed limit. And if someone is doing the speed limit, you certainly don't want to be near that crazy person. This is very frustrating, trying to pass a sketchy car when all you can muster is a 10 km/h speed difference. It's an ungratifying experience, going at top speed of the TU250. On one hand, yes, it can do 120 km/h on a flat stretch for as long as it has fuel. On the other hand, going at 120 km/h as opposed to say, 110 km/h, results in a 25% higher fuel consumption. So whatever time you might have gained by going faster (not much) you will waste refuelling more often . All this was very frustrating for Sunbandit, whose SV650 has a top speed that he never dared to even try and figure out.
When we got to Toronto it suddenly became warmer, both due to its great ability to collect heat and because everything was just so awfully familiar about it. It was already night, but it's never really dark in the city, and every street light seemed to carve out an inviting path to our home. There it all was, 10,000 km later.
All of this started with only 1800 miles on the odometer. I think we can consider this bike broken in.
|12-31-2013, 09:11 PM||#58|
Joined: Aug 2013
Location: Toronto, Canada
And thus the narrative comes to an end, though in the upcoming year I might edit the GoPro videos into something interesting and post them up.
Happy New Year to all fellow Adventure Riders! To many amazing adventures!
|01-01-2014, 05:25 PM||#60|
Joined: Mar 2013
Location: Montreal, Canada
Very nice report and pictures. Newfoundlans is on my to do list. I quit doing some motorcycle trips since i sold my V-Strom 1000. I own a WR250X. Since las summer, i did some short trips. Maybe this little 250 will go outside of the province of Quebec.
Thanks a lot for taking the time to write this report.
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