Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sand, Sea and Rock!

PEI beaches, as good as any in the world!

Prince Edward Island is nothing more than a large sand bar really. Sitting out in the bottom portion of the Gulf of St Lawrence, the Northumberland Strait separating us from the mainland. Spanning

not a whole lot more than 200 miles as the seagull flies, the only 'rock' you find is sandstone, composed of, you guessed it, sand.

By its very nature PEI has some fabulous beaches and let me tell you, having been to some doozies over my life, I'm not stretching the truth.  In fact PEI beaches with their fine sand rival Baja beaches, except of course for the language barrier, the isolation, the Mountain ranges, the plethora of fine fishing, the step back in time, the Baja Mille and the cheap palapa's and beer!

I would be leaving the Island and spending some time on the mainland house sitting for newly transplanted Lisa, Rick and little William, whom I affectionately call, 'Prince William.'

They would be leaving on a Western Canadian trip and I'd volunteered to look after the furry creatures.  Of course this meant I had a week to ride one of my bikes on daily trips to points north and south with some east and west thrown in for good measure.

Downtown Hampton

During my previous life living on the coast, I hadn't had much time to explore what with running three MC shops!  I am determined to make up for that now that I am transplanted (again) and retired.

Life sized lobster!

Don't get me wrong, being retired means I have no income from a job but also am still short of time!

I would be riding my Suzuki V Strom 650 for several reasons.  One it has a very good detachable luggage system consisting of the two hard side bags and the huge rack mounted trunk.  It also has longer travel suspension that the typical street bike and especially "cruiser", a six speed gearbox suitable for virtually anything other than trail riding and I wouldn't be doing any of that, plus a 22 L fuel tank, giving me over 500 km of range.

High tide at Hopewell Rocks surrounded by chocolate syrup.

I mounted the GPS unit inside the windshield and although it is too predictable for accuracy, wanting to take me always to the 'highway' I could fool it sometimes by plotting the nearest town.  This of course is tedious as there are towns every dozen miles it seems, and besides... it dilutes the adventure portion of the trip, not knowing where you are actually going to be in an hour or three.

So with bags packed, I headed to Moncton after a stop at Cape Jourimain  for a NB map.

From Moncton I began taking the back roads and added time not necessarily distance to my ride.

The Swiss Army Knife of MC's
I left mid morning and arrived at their home right around 6 pm that evening.  They left early the next morning and once up and about, I began plotting where I may go during the week.  I had arrived via highway 100 by a circuitous route traversing small towns like Petticodiac, Sussex Norton and Hampton and Quispamsis.

I especially wanted to get down to the Fundy coast, riding the little three digit back roads.  I wanted to take photos of Fundy, find as many covered bridges as I could, ride solid gravel roads (we have clay roads on the Island but NB as the rest of the East Coast, is old Appalachian country where hills are gravel) and take advantage of the many ferry's that span the various arms of the ST John river system.  I wanted to eat at little out of the way restaurants, read road side tourist information boards and wave at passing motorcyclists!

The weather forecast was for hot and sunny days on end and for once, by George, the weatherman/woman was right.  Mid to high twenties and sunny days.

Should have bought a lottery ticket!

Monday, July 31, 2017

New Brunswick / Nouveau Brunswick

DL 650 Suzuki V Strom
Most people don't know it but NB is the only CDN province that is actually bilingual!

WAAAAY Back, when the Woolly Mammoth fed the natives, and just slightly younger, my Kamloops buddy, Ron was still in diapers eating Gerbers and going vroom vroom through drooling lips... mother nature was doing its thing to transform the planet.  It took God/nature eons to create the Earth as we see it today. 

Being a history buff, I enjoy watching documentaries, going to museums, and I am in absolute awe, anytime I open my eyes! 

Had did this all happen?!

Another happy Lobster fisherman

Sure, we (not as in 'me') as in Mother Earth went through its acid choking, belching volcanic, tearing continents apart, smashing them back together, dinosaurs that would eat you crush you, collisions with asteroid days that would knock us around on our orbit, ice ages as recently as12-20,000 years ago... and all to get to this stage, timing all that upheaval to give an unworthy guy like me, some place to ride my bike giving back to those dino fossils.

We had to send Liz home... there are only 36,000 pounds of lobster left in here.

Really, am I the luckiest bastard to have ever lived or what!  :)

Take for example a month or so ago.  Niece Liz has landed at our humble abode in PEI, we're over near St John visiting the new house/baby etc and the subject of a wedding comes up in the conversation. 

Hopewell Rocks NB at high tide

Seems Lisa, and Rick with of course Prince William (he's not a real prince, so this is my royal disclaimer... I don't want any of them to sue me for false pretenses)  are flying to British (where the real Princes live) Columbia for somebody's wedding.  As I am petting Jagger (I just call him "Mick" but he's not the real Mick Jagger so don't sue me) the big black furry creature at my feet licking my outstretched hand I ask non nonchalantly...  

"So, who's looking after the house and feeding/walking Jagger and providing Jaxie with a hand to perforate with pin sharp teeth and claws, while you're gone?"

Without waiting for an answer, I say "You know I could ride a bike over and look after the furry part of the family while you're away..." 

Of course, how can they turn me down, right!  In the bargain, I get some of the most amazing and little known terrain to ride on the planet... and I get like real high speed internet!!!

Nuff Said, everybody's head goes through the confirmation nod and we're in.

After Liz personally sent several fisher-persons (?) kid to college for a year, cleaned out virtually all see food within a 50 km radius, I place her on her long flight home to Leduc.

Back in the day, while operating my motorcycles business, I rarely had time to go scooting off the Island, with the exception the Nationals at Shubie near Halifax.

These days, since I've retired, I still don't seem to have much in the way of spare time.  Just this past weekend I planned, sketched and executed an exciting multi purpose make over in my office! 

I have several street legal bikes that would be suitable for such a trip.  I could ride my Triumph Thunderbird which does have a little windshield and leather saddlebags topped by a Givi trunk, suitable for the look of the bike.  It has plenty of power, gets good fuel mileage and I love feeling the pulsations of the triple cylinder mill.  And it's rare.  I get lots of comments about the bike.  Hard to believe for us Gringos over on this side of that ditch known as the Atlantic Ocean, that it was Triumphs best selling model for years.  Only the factory fire in '02 that literally melted the T Bird production line insured it's demise.  In my humble opinion, it is a much nicer looking bike than the New T Bird cruiser.

Pretty and works great too, sounds awesome

Then I have my XT 600, a bike that has seen much varied terrain including a trip to Cabo via the back roads from PHX back in '98.  Unlike PEI which has clay roads, NB has real ground Appalachian gravel covered roadways.  Except for the highway portion, much of which I could manage on tiny ency weensy triple digit back back roads, it would be fine.  I have soft luggage and after all... how much gear did I need?

My trusty XT 600A

Scooters are great 90 mpg

Then of course I have a road going scooter.  My SYM 300 Citicom is just fine on the secondary road system prevalent on the mainland.  It's light and nimble, has built in storage under the seat and in the trunk, and with 21 bhp, I'd have no problem maintaining the 100 kph speeds I'd encounter on the faster sections.  It also delivers around 85-95 mpg!  The 10 L tank would only have to be filled occasionally.

Ultimately I chose to ride my Suzuki DL 650 best known as the baby V Strom.  The bike has fabulous sport touring credentials and can manage a smooth gravel road.  At well over 500 pounds I would leave the sinewy hidden gems (like Trev and I did last year on the 600) for another trip with one of my XT's.  With spacious factory mounted but QD saddlebags and trunk, which btw is HUGE! A 23 L fuel tank, six speed box and mid 70 mpg capability, it made the logical choice.

I had 8 days and planned several day rides from their home in Rothesay.  I would walk Mick in the morning and again in the evening... in the meanwhile I had no particular place to go and no particular time to be there.

Stay tuned for more of this!!!

Okay, I'll explain...

A couple of things came about after my last blog.  I has some comments I will clarify for you.

First Ewan and Charlie... I bought the DVD  right after their trip.  Of course what you or I saw is only the tip of the berg, much edited out in the process. Having watched the vid and seen the television series of same, it was obvious the "boys" were excited prior to departure.  A little apprehensive maybe but still enthusiastic.

This was all before KTM backed out, (an understandable, but poor decision on their parts) Mongolian problems, the mud, the overturned SUV and the Road of Bones.  By the time the team hit the USA in Alaska and south through AB (surprisingly both were 'bumped') by inattentive car drivers in Calgary, confirming what I already knew for years, Cow Town is not a particularly safe place to ride/drive...

The trip to New York state was pretty straight laced.  Mostly freeways and not having to worry about right hand drive, a piece of cake.  You'll notice there is virtually NO footage of the N.A. part of the trip.

Having traveled long distances myself over my riding career, (like twenty two countries in Europe over 7 months in '08-'09) you usually go through phases.  There is the route planning of course, the actual road/trail portion.  There's the packing, rethinking then repacking... for example.  Can't rule out it's many Murphy moments, and of course there is the downer of heading home, the final leg usually where you get hit with the unexpected killer tornado/snow storm/apocalypse etc etc to deal with.

Maybe your Harley broke down (I'm kidding!!) Maybe your BMW GS ADV anvil  fell over and you suffered a hernia picking it up.

I find that the last day or so, maybe the last week if its an especially long trip, that's when your concentration lapses, where you let your guard down a wee bit, your back is aching, your wrist feels like is welded into one position... maybe you just want Scotty to beam you  home.

WHEN we met the boys, they were way past their euphoria state, their butts hurt... and if a Scotsman happened by, they would have ganged him!

It was pretty obvious to me especially having spent long miles in the saddle, they were ready to leave the bikes and fly to NYC.  Rock bugging the shit outa them, they were either too tired or too polite (A couple of Brits?  Nah... I don't think so) to say so.  They were ready for a soft North American hotel experience.

Sure at the end of the flic with the fam damily, the publicity, the JOY of it being over, they were back in control and pumped.  When we met them , they were more deflated.

The other comments were on my idea of a multi use sidecar.

I had an actual side hack in the 80's when my kids were small enough to both fit in there.  My Round the world trip wouldn't have been with a Velorex bolted on though, nope... what I had in mind was a tubular framed bolted welded/together steel open unit that would have light weight modular box storage for what you could expect to deal with on such an epic ride.  The uniqueness would have been its ability to change the hack from right to left and even behind by undoing a few nuts and bolts.  By my estimation the unit empty of gear, would have weighed under a hundred and twenty five pounds.  High tensile chrome moly would have been tough enough and of course in the event of a mishap, could be welded even in remote locations.

I wish I would have kept my drawings but the again... I'm no engineer or artist (but I do have on my wall a Red Seal Machinists ticket) To my knowledge nobody has ever down this.

Okay enough...

On to New Brunswick, something a little closer to home...

Wednesday, July 19, 2017


More "Sport Touring" than Adventure if you were to ask me

... and 81 nights

WELL, that's not going to happen, but at least I am prepping for an exploration of southern New Brunswick back roads and sights.

There was a time, when I was in my late 30's early 40's that I had been planning for a round the world solo ride.  Back then there were fewer than 100 people that had done that.  I researched bikes and came to the conclusion that the KLR 650 Kawasaki was the bike of choice to do this.  I had designed a cargo sidecar that could be mounted on either side of the bike or towed inline.  This rig would be rugged, durable and practical.

I'm no hero, so my route bypassed all the known politically dangerous hot-spots of the day.  I was pretty sure I would have plenty of adventure that I didn't need to go looking for buried landmines, machete/AK wielding warring tribes, dictatorships, civil wars or that lost jungle tribe of Amazon women!  Well , maybe the last one.

In my early forties, I was on the cusp of relationship problems once again (remember, I have *D.I.D.s right), maybe a tribe of scantily clad women would have done me good, but I digress...

Relationships can be difficult and sometimes riding your motorcycle around the world has a certain appeal.

It didn't happen.

No tubular steel side hack, no AK's and no Amazons either.  What I did get was a rear ender that ruined 10 of 12 thoracic ligaments, gave me a bum shoulder with impingement syndrome and one fine sunny Sunday in August 2002, ended my thoughts of being the 101st or so rider to do it.

This of course was before Ewan and Charley rode the long way round on the wrong motorcycles (I still maintain the GS 650 would have been a far better choice) By the way, while over-weekending in Great Falls Montana, we met them pulling into the hotel.  Rock would not leave them alone and I felt he was wearing out their good nature.  Of course by then Mongolia, the Road of Bones and both getting hit in Calgary was behind them.  To me it was obvious they wanted to teleport themselves and their big GS's to New York rather than ride the remaining distance.

I'M  loading the not so Wee Strom, for a week long trip south.  I will be house/cat/and dog sitting while Lisa and family are away out west.  I sure raised a couple of globe trotting daughters haven't I!!

Weather report is most excellent, I will have a leisurely ride to get there tomorrow, and then take daily day trips from their home in Rothesay.  My plan is to leave the side bags in my bedroom (**No I didn't get the loft suite over the garage, but I do have a basement bedroom with attached bath)

It's going to be the triple digit back roads, some paved, some not and I will not shy away from graded gravel.  I will however dispense with trails such as Stretch and I covered last year while riding my XT 600, which unlike the V Strom, is actually trail-able.

The Strom and others of it's ilk, contrary to what you see in the ADV ads (The muscular 6 plus footer with the chiselled from granite features, wearing the Hein Gericke ensemble that costs more than any three of my bikes together.) is not a dirt bike.  At well over 600 lbs wet plus whatever you cram in the bags, and a seat height that even lowered for my instep, is still tip toe for my 5'4" frame.

Nope, this trip will be very leisurely, lots of photo op's, covered bridges, uncovered bridges, ferries and a map only in case I get lost (not likely but is possible)

So that's the plan.

Maybe I didn't get to ride a KLR around the world, but what I did get was several visits to Baja CA, the American SW and now the wilds of the Maritimes.

And for that, the DL 650 works well.

Life is good... Doc

*Damsels in Distress Syndrome

**Deal was when my daughters buy homes, I get a loft Dad suite over the garage and a place to park my bike.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Burgers take on the Island!

I took some time out a couple of weeks ago to wander the Island a bit with some westerners, one of which has replanted himself on the east coast.

Well suited to touring the coast.

Ted and Greg ride 650 Suzuki Burgman's, the twin cylinder, muscular and very popular scooters from Japan. In keeping with the automatic theme, I rode my own  clutch-less wonder, the Citicom 300i.

I've never met any of them before, but Ted at least... came with a reference, you see he is the originator of the Jurassic Riders, of which my long time friend Ron, is a member of.  It has something to do with motorcycling 150 million years ago.  How they managed that without roads... (or even people)  I have no idea.  No doubt I must be missing something.

Early summer can be a hodgepodge of sun, heat, wind and or rain on the Island.  Sometimes all on the same day!

St Mary's Church

We actually lucked out and apart from a bit of breeze, she was a pretty good scootering day on the Island.

Looking across the bay to C'Town from Fort Amherst, a Canada National historic park

Greg rode two up with wife Tannis while Ted and I were solo.  I would have liked to take Brenda along but of course as often happens around here, she was otherwise engaged.

Shore don't get much purdier than this !

Neither rider had been to the Island previously, and it's easy for those of us that live here to take for granted what tourists see in this wee place.  Having been a visiting motorcyclist back in '75, I at least first saw the little red gem from a touring rider's p.o.v.

Latest from Prexport in all weather footwear, so I'm told.
Greg was quick to show off his multi-purpose riding foot wear.  Light weight, will never rust, is ventilated for those really hot days, pull on socks on cooler afternoons and a couple of Sobey's bags easily stored for rainy rides.  Must say... I was impressed!

Green lawns, pretty hills, red roads and of course more little bays and inlets than those Carter guys had pills... it always impresses me to hear those from "away" their reactions and thoughts.

We had no problems with the local constabulary.

PEI actually makes a pretty good motorcycle destination.  These days* bikes are everywhere and widely held in high regard, no doubt helped by the dollars spent here.  Whether you camp, B&B or motel it, it's an attractive destination.

Greg and Tannis shipped their AN 650 from B.C. to Moncton NB and have toured the Maritimes over the preceding weeks.  Ted, as I had mentioned, has been transplanted such as myself.

Must stop, "I was there" moment.

During our day on the sandbar, we had no particular agenda or schedule to adhere to.  I thought I'd pick them up in Summerside and basically go where we wanted.  I chose Queen's county simply because I consider it to be the nicest part of the island and it fit in nicely with our time frame.  This wasn't going to be a road dash by any means.  The top speed on the Island is 90kph, and that for only brief stretches of highway, so by itself, we'd... as I'd joked with Ted, 'rarely get out of first gear!'**

With co-operative weather, we spent a lazy day taking photos, see some sights and generally behaving like, well... Jurassic Riders!

One more and we'd be a Gang!

I bid the threesome well, once back in Summerside and hopefully, they'll have pleasant memories of our little red Island in the Gulf.

Who know... I came back first to open a business (Freedom Cycle Inc) and then later, to retire. 

* Most definitely a boom had occurred since my first long distance foray.

**The transmissions are 'automatic'

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Prince Edward Island

Winter damage, fallen tree.

PEI as we call her for short, is Canada's smallest province and in reality is tiny. 

... and another.

As the crow fly's (or gets windblown on some days) we're barely 250 miles from North Cape east to East Point.  Much of the Island is agricultural but there is also a thriving fishing industry, tourism is strong and there is even some hi tech repair and manufacturing.

Yet another!

Roads can vary from pavement as in the Trans Canada, small secondary roads and even some red clay back roads, my favorite.  There is something very peaceful and tranquil about meandering along at a low speed under a canopy of tall trees, knowing there is literally NO way to get lost but also in having the option to pick up a numbered highway or just putter away on 1 lane farm roads. You might come out onto a broad blue bay, or a new subdivision or perhaps a scenic overlook!

Quiet little back road trail crosses a stream.
Steep climb out.

A few minutes to rest...
I ride these clay roads sometimes for hours, hardly putting on big mileage but enjoying every nuance of the route, which may include wash outs, fallen trees, late spring snow or even the odd bike going in the other direction.

There is no "public land" on the Island so be aware of crossing on private property, often posted but sometimes not.  Typically for these back road rides, I choose my XT 225.  It is quiet, light of weight and easy to handle, has enough power channeled through a 6 speed gearbox to allow me to run at the Islands posted maximum of 90 kph (~55mph) My smallish fuel tank lasts all day, the engine hardly working hard delivering up to 100 mpg.

Steep and slimy too!  The Serow can handle it...

Hard to see but this pool had about 50 + trout laying in it.

I check out the various 'fishing holes' locally and although I don't fish anymore, I still enjoy seeing schools of brook trout in the clear fresh water.

Not exactly the Arizona desert but has it's own hazards.

A typical ride for me is across country away from route 2 the "All weather highway" as it's known locally and I avoid the TC1 sticking to the higher numbered routes.  Sure I may only run up 100-200 kilometers but that often takes me all day.

Deep ruts, wash outs.

RIDING the Island does not present the death defying treks I have down in Baja or the deserts of Arizona, but nevertheless I enjoy myself immensely, riding the red dirt on a bright sunny day. 

The lupines come out for a brief couple of weeks each year.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Sea food... eat food!

How pretty is this?

My eldest niece Liz, has left for home in Alberta after a two week visit to the east coast.  She was last here for barely a stopover while in her teens.  A return visit was long overdue.

Obligatory Bridge shot

Even though the Maritimes is small and PEI even smaller, two weeks is barely enough time to get over the jet lag.  Work and other obligations kept her stay short.

More seafood.

Number one on her agenda (besides seeing family of course, I think) was to gobble up as much  variety and amount of sea food as she could lay her lips on.

We're not talking Captain Highliner here folks, nope this had to be the real McCoy, the genuine article, in the flesh scallops, clams, mussels and of course Lobster.  Now I just want to say one thing about lobster and if you're in the biz, no offense intended.  Lobster is to sea food as Harley Davidson was to motorcycles.  There was a time when these odd crustaceans were used as fertilizer.  Cod, Haddock and other fish species were the catch, but of course over fishing pretty much did all that industry in.

Even more Sea food!

Good Old Fred's... in Cap Pele NB

Using cunning and stealth, somehow, the unworthy overlooked bottom dwelling lobster became the hot ticket on restaurant menu's everywhere.

Rocky and Bullwinkle?!

It's not unusual to walk into a mid level eatery and pay a kings ransom for a lobster plate.  How did that happen? Look at HD.  Run into the ground or at the very least, poorly managed by AMF, near bankruptcy, unreliable, imagine poor HD, has become... through slick advertising, capitalizing on the "Bad Ass MF H-A" image, into one of the most recognizable brands in the world.  I'd venture to say right up there with giants Coca Cola, John Deere and Mercedes Benz among others.  Let's face it, lobster became in the 90's what HD had become.

Anyway... back to the 'kid's' visit.  Barely had she dropped her back pack when we were off to New Brunswick to visit Lisa, Rick and of course William.

Between tides at Alma NB Bay of Fundy
Already learning to drive...

I had thought of us riding two bikes but in her own words, "my legs are too dam short" for the bikes I have.  I could have ridden over with her as pillion but driving the R/T allowed us to gab and catch up on things.

We took the scenic route through Moncton, Riverview and with stops at Hopewell Rocks*, Alma, Norton and Hampton, we arrived duly at 7 in the evening at Rothesay NB.

NB Well known for covered bridges.

Once returned home to the Island the real sea food experience began.

High tide, much more interesting at low tide

I won't say Liz single hand idly endanger the lobster stocks but I'm sure the little beggars are glad shes moved on.

It was a good visit.  We didn't sit around much and if she ever comes back again, we'll en-devour to travel a bit farther afield to view some of the hundreds years old history the Maritimes are.

And she thought Jonny Deep (:) was going to save her...

* Try and arrive at low tide, much more interesting and with the ability to meander on the floor of the ocean being a real treat.

How many people want to do this, wander a cool sandy beach all to oneself.