Saturday, October 6, 2018

The far east!

Beyond those islands, is Portugal

Yeah yeah... I know it's not Asia, but it's about as far east in Canada and in fact North America as one can go without flippers!

Standing on the dock in Canso reminded me of a similar experience almost 10 years ago...

Having ridden well over two dozen countries in Europe on the trusty Diversion 600, I had my hand and feet in the Atlantic ocean, looking out over a vast sea of dark green.  I thought that day that waaaay out there was my home of Canada. I was in Portugal at the time and then too... I couldn't get any farther without, yup... flippers!

Old post office in Sherbrooke

I've had some difficult times in my life, we were refuges from Hungary where before my 2nd birthday, old rifles crackled, Molotov cocktails took on T 54's and highly sprung spirits were rebelling against the Communist rule Hungary found itself in, in the aftermath of WW II.

So serene... 

From there to Canada, my adopted home, school where I learned to talk English, being picked on for being different, that is until the grade 5 and 6 kids found out that this puny small little D.P. boy could outrun the wind. 

Coastal highway passes through many lovely villages and hamlets.

I was a sprinter right through my school years.  I went from being the kid nobody wanted on their team, to money changing hands (joking) because of my speed.  I was so fast eventually holding several city provincial records at the track meet.  40/60 yards/ 100... 220 and eventually anchoring the 4 x 110 relay.  My fastest time in the hundred was 10.98 seconds set in grade 11.

Small town yet elaborate church

I may have had a career in track and field.  Who knows?

Then we moved to a little burg up north in the bush named Fort Mac Murray, where the only athletics were hockey in the wintertime on an outdoor rink, or swimming in the summertime when the ice melted. (I'm joking, we did have an indoor pool across the street of Peter Pond school. Having terrible vision, I could do neither, and my T&F dreams vanished into the night like a thief!

This building served Canso well over the decades

Everyone has stress and strife in their lives, I have been no different, but as I get older I'm increasingly more grateful with mine.  First of all, the folks had no problem with my having a motorbike at 13. 

Metro Canso

There was not a single other bike at Wellington Jr High.  In fact Mr. (J.D.) Marles made it clear to me in the 8th grade that I was to "take that thing home and never bring it back to school again."  The reason given to me was, and I kid you not... he didn't want "that kind of influence at his school." 

Enough of that, getting back to the present.  After a breakfast of coffee and sweet things from our store visit the day before and loading up the V Strom once again for the road, trying to load Canso into the Tom Tom... which of course I have found pretty much useless riding the east coast, there are gazillions of roads that in general will get you there where'as the GPS unit, and my sweetheart girl Brandi, is always telling me to "turn around when possible" !  

Our route was going to hug the wee little coastline highway 316, through whichever little hamlet came next. There was some obvious poverty and certainly little in the way of funds at many of these communities but people were downright friendly and far from being hostile to, and genuinely intrigued as to us helmet clad rider and passenger traveling by this big orange bike.  Long gone were the days when I arrived in Penticton in the summer of 1974 with my Bavarian Motor Works model 600/5 and being refused accommodation or meals because I was riding on two wheels.  Sure there were plenty of bike gangs/clubs back then, choppers based on Harley's were almost as loud as the the fights that often accompanied them to whatever town or city was invaded for the weekend.

Gravel carrier docked across the Canso strait in Port Hawkesbury


A far cry from the warmth of people and their acceptance of us and our mode of travel. 

I know at some point in my life, I would eventually have to give up my riding, but just as I am aware of that, I am also going to sit in the saddle, twisting the throttle for as long as I can.

The first day was on roads in poor conditions but this day proved the opposite.  Upon reaching major route 16 (A long way from that other oft traveled highway 16, the Yellowhead) I took a right and headed to the lovely and famous little town of Canso.  Brenda and I parked the bike and went 'walk-about' for a couple of hours taking in a guided tour and a spot of lunch, a nice break from the 30 plus C heat of the afternoon. Retracing our 15 km to the junction we headed north looking once again for the tiny lines on the map, in this case highway number 344.  This would take us leisurely to Auld's Cove with a view of Port Hawkesbury on the Island of Cape Breton just across the strait from us.  I absolutely LOVE these tiny roads where only locals tread or the odd motorcyclists.

Seemingly abandoned home

Why is it that of the hundreds of ADV or otherwise large displacement motorcycles, so many stick so much to the major routes?

I don't understand this??

You ain't gonna' find no history or color or experiences riding the Trans Canada highway for hundreds of miles bypassing the color of the land and communities you only see from an exit ramp to get fuel!

That's Cape Breton Island a short swim away

Using my usual stop at the local Petro Can with the causeway in sight, I fueled up the big tank while Brenda sat in the Tim Hortons and ordered us the usual. Here again other riders are asking me for details of the highway and upon suggesting that they may wish to stay the F away from them and explore the slower pace of the back woods, they may actually like what they see or learn.  The opaque in their eyes and horror when I mention the G** word is obvious to me.

The refurbed Holidy Island at Pictou heading to PEI

The V will easily do 500 km on a fill.  My days of traveling 600 miles in a day through rain or hail or wind, were thankfully long gone.  As it was, this was what I call, a "long ass day" !

We bypassed lovely Antigonish, New Glasgow and headed to Pictou to ride the NFL ferry back to our Island.  By the end of the day/trip, we had traveled 906.6 km plus the strait crossing and arrived home in the gathering dusk with raindrops as big as bumble bee's flattening themselves against the small DL windscreen.

It was a fabulous trip.  I didn't fall over but became convinced to look further into a way to lower the bile (more on that later) The sights, places and people we met were a joy, the history an added bonus. 

The Confederation doing her thing

The little discomfort I feel now while riding, especially longer distances, pale when compared to the life experience it provides.  As far as we know, we still only live once.

Get out there and make some memories of your own and don't be afraid of the G* word, it's all part of the game.  Embrace it and what it offers if you are willing to take a chance and get off the merry go round of work, work and work and slow down to smell the roses, or in our case this trip, the salt ocean!

We are so fortunate to have the Maritime's as both our front and back yards, I can't tell you how lucky you and I are.

* Three of us, two on new 1984 Venture Royale models and a third on an new Aspencade stopped in New England at a little cafe/diner.  I was by far the youngest of the group the other two were both life insurance salesmen and older than I. We waited and waited and eventually sat down having gotten tired of waiting.  Catching the waitress who was obviously ignoring us, she said, and I quote;

"We don't serve those in black leather."  

Say what?!  It was 1984 for heavens sake. We had a little confab, went out and peeled off our leather gear and reentered. She sat us immediately and asked what we would like to order.  We three stood up as one and as loudly as possible we said as a unit;

"WE Don't eat at places that don't accept leather as our choice of protective clothing."

** Gravel

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Eastern Shore part 2

Beautiful as the scenery is, there's lots of this on the back roads
IT had been a long day...

Having now covered several hours from our home on Prince Edward Island, along first, the back roads leading to Borden and the Confederation Bridge, followed by a short stint South through Port Elgin and feeling like we were sneaking into Nova Scotia by some illegal route, at Tidnish Cross Roads...

Several derelict hulls in Spanish Ship Bay 

Temperatures hovered in the low thirties (That's eighties for my American readers) as we passed through Northport, Port Howe, carrying on to picturesque Pugwash, Wallace and the remainder of the Sunrise Trail via Tatamagouche, Seafoam and the massive roundabout in Pictou... pointing South to the TCH.  After a very short stint on the highway, we had no problem finding our turnoff onto 374 at Stellerton.  I am amazed at the construction jobs added or upgrading highways, building sub divisions for both industrial and residential use, there seems to be  a very large amount of currency being spent in Eastern Canada.


Route 374 is in very good shape, gentile climbs, forests, rivers, gorgeous sweepers... the kind that you can enter at any reasonable speed, lay the bike into an arc, and roll the power on from gear to gear, and NO people.

So rocky, Sly would have been proud!

I don't think I saw more than 6 cars once clear of Riverton until the gas stop at Sheet Harbor.  At the T intersection giving us the choice of Sheet Hbr to the right and Canso to the left and seeing few dots on the map, I played it safe and rode the undulating coastal highway into the village.  With nearly 375 km on the trip meter, I still had another 175 or so between my legs.  The V Strom certainly has long legs even though I do not!

Epic countryside

I nearly dropped the bike to the right at the T, thus once again pointing out to me that the V Strom, even with a lowering kit, was still too tall and heavy for me.  In fact I became even more motivated to look into a further lowering.  The compromise is narrow, as getting the bike down means we are more than likely to bottom out given the undulations, pot holes and broken pavement I often encounter on my rides.  This is the real world right... not the world of Austrian Autobahns!

After buttoning up wallet, gear and gas cap, we retrace our steps to the road we just left... one we had become pretty intimate in over the last hour or so and began following the coast road towards Fort Dufferin to points east.  The road is punctuated by steep blind hills, the outlying barrier Islands to our right, and many little settlements.

I love the names of Maritime villages!

There's East Quaddy and Moosehead.  Then there's Ecum Secum, Liscomb Mills and Goldenville , I wonder if that's where Lisa's husbands ancestors came from, he being a Golden ?  (just kidding)

Further up the road is Stillwater, Seal Harbor (which has an exclusive subdivision just for seals I'm told?!) and Larry's River.  I did not know a person could own a whole river?!

My favorite on this leg being, Spanish Ship Bay.  Did Spaniards discover this?

Just past the 374 turnoff we come flying over the hill looking well ahead to a stoppage in traffic on the highway, something we'd be doing often that day.  Remembering there are two seasons in Canada, winter and construction, I'm not particularly  concerned, most delays are measured in minutes not hours.

If there is one thing Nova Scotians have in abundance (that PEI doesn't) is gravel.  We are looking here at mountains of gravel, so much so that later riding the Canso Strait where Chedabucto Bay narrows for it's Atlantic dash towards the Northumberland Strait separating PEI from the Ocean great heaps are being removed and gladly being sold onto the Island!  Gravel means rock and this land I am traversing is rocky to say the least!

I'M getting tired.  We've ridden for several hours, covered close to 500 km and I let Brenda know we should be on the look out for a home for the night, preferably one that won't break the bank.

Overpriced but it delivered.

There is a thriving tourist season out here and during the off months, rates drop substantially, but this is not an off time, this is full on 30C plus, drop dead views and few choices. Coming around a bend and over a short rise, we find ourselves passing a pretty little motel roadside in Sherbrooke. On my right is a large empty highways department gravel lot... I'm hard on the brakes and into the gravel, stopped.  We have a brief confab and decide, this is as good as any.  I remembered having seen this place online, and it was motorcycle friendly.  A quick U turn and we pull up onto the hillside, park and enter.

Parked right out the door of our room.

It was

This could be a motel in the Kootenays by the design of it, much the same as many such commercial buildings you'll find anywhere.

Steep at $125 plus taxes but quaint, well kept and has a room available where I can park the Wee and keep an eye on her.  All my traveling life I have been very cautious in this regard.  I am always cautious of the view I have for my bike and gear.  I'm too old to change now!

It's still pretty early, early enough that once situated, we strip (stop that:) from riding gear into shorts and t-shirt... like actual tourists are dressed.  With some instruction from the gal at the front desk, armed with my camera, we walk the kilometer or so into town.

Man... what a pretty little burg Sherbrooke turns out to be.  Tiny, but with a gas station, a decent grocery store and a real live well kept restored museum in the shape of a walk about old town along the like's of say... Fort Steele in southern B.C.

Inside view
Having had our walkabout we swing by the food store, pick up a few sweet sticky buns as my buddy Ron labels them, for the morning before departure.

Old Courthouse at Heritage village in Sherbrooke
We drop our stuff off in the room and then back to the lobby from where we get a sit down home cooked meal.

Just plain pretty!

Bellies full, bed soft, bike secured... it's not long before we are off in la-la land of dreams.  In my dream that night I dream of another V Strom arriving from Ontario and taking the room next door.

First BMW 310 I'd seen anywhere!
Of course when I wake in the morning, I find a V Strom 650 complete with aluminum panniers packed, for travel and an Ontario plate attached to the fender!

Boy, the thing you dream up after a hot day on the trail...

What are the chances?  Meeting a 2nd DL 650 from Ont in NS?!

Nova Scotia's Eastern Shore

SUZUKI DL 650, sitting on the wharf at Canso N.S. This is the easternmost (non Island) point in mainland North America

GOSH, I hate repeating myself... it's not that I like the sound of my voice and in any case, I'm not talking, just thinking.

I first came to the eastern provinces in 1975.  I was twenty, making good money as a machinist in Fort Mac Murray and riding a BMW R 60/5 loaded with camping gear and solo.

Since those early days, I have been back to the Island twice to live.

Try as I may, I cannot give justice in words to the scenery, the local culture or the history found here.

Scenes like this are a dozen to the mile

Unlike riding the west, which of course I have done for decades, it's an all day high speed journey to get "anywhere" By contrast there is no where in the three provinces (NB/NS/PEI) that cannot be reached in a fairly leisurely day ride.  You have choices of 'Freeway' style mileage making, or as I prefer the smaller slower and far more interesting back road routes .  If, like myself, you enjoy both pavement and non pavement riding, you will find any number of three digit roads to explore.  Heck you can even spend much of your day off road is you wish.

BACK in the day when I had three motorcycle shops to run, in the 1980's... finding time between work, raising kids, and the myriad of other things occupying my time made touring a rare thing.  Since my retirement in 2012, I have found time to explore much of the Maritime provinces but relish the thoughts of continuing for as long as I am physically able.  Sure this isn't as exotic as the South of France, or the mountains of Baja, but it is my home and I am dam proud of it!

There is still a teen in the family and although she is flexing her wings regularly (nuff said about that) it is difficult with three felines, all with different eating habits and various ailments, to leave the house for a few days much less a week.

Without the luggage system, the V is narrow and manageable 

Besides those handicaps, Brenda as vice president of FairVote Canada, is very heavily involved in doing what she can to change the way we elect our politicians.  This makes her time limited, so as I have done most of my life... I find myself on the road solo.

As Canadian Biker editor John Campbell had stated in his editorial;

("In praise of the lone rider") for the April 2005 issue, I ride alone by choice.   Besides contrary to what some of my long time friends call me... I'm not some anti social "cranky misfit", as JC so eloquently pointed out in same editorial.

Much of the time I couldn't find a riding partner who could spend 8 weeks on a Baja beach with nothing more than a JEEP, kayak, tent trailer and Serow!

On those rare occasions when I do have a riding partner, either on their own wheels or sitting pillion on one of mine, I like to share the experience.

LAST year the wife and I found time for a tour of the Sunrise Trail and the Strait of Northumberland and beyond to Fundy's north shore, eventually over-nighting in Oxford Nova Scotia.  (Blueberry Capital of the World apparently)  That trip was on my SYM Citicom 300i which surprisingly makes a very good touring machine.  Nimble, and comfortable with plenty of storage for a several day trip (should I be so lucky) and fast enough to ride the Trans Canada highway if required (boring as it is) Getting near 100 mpg doesn't hurt either!

Last year while researching riding in southern New Brunswick for my story on "Finding Utopia" (CB September/October 2017) I covered a lot of ground, taken countless photos of covered bridges, rode on and off a dozen ferry's and generally had myself a wonderful time!

Maybe I should do a blog using fewer words but more photos?

This year I was looking at maps, comparing destinations that could be within a day ride to home, counting and then discounting several options given our limited time frame.  Prime criteria was something I had not seen before and it had to be within a not too long a jog on the TCH if there was an emergency at home.  As I have mentioned our three rescue cats are always front and center in my mind.

Choices, choices...

After scouring the various maps and regions I decided on a trip to the Eastern shore of NS.  By utilizing my Suzuki DL 650 V Strom, which of course falls into the "Adventure" bike category (isn't every bike an Adventure bike??)

I'd never done the eastern shore but as I was reading about the history of U Boats operating in CDN waters during both world wars at the time, I was keen to see for myself what they were seeing.  Not through a periscope mind you, but certainly through the face shield on my helmet.

I have several tour-able motorcycles besides the VS... there is the aforementioned Citicom, but also my Triumph Thunderbird 900 triple, or my Yamaha XT 600 dualie. Even my Serow has done some travelling when required! 

 Typical channel ferry, this one near Gegogan Harbour

He has relatives living on PEI, not a surprise!

One SUZUKI and two passengers, the only ones on this crossing.

Excellent working multi surface touring bike. 

Each of these bikes is imminently capable and offer different souls to command. Because the roads we would be travelling were likely rough and perhaps even gravel sections, I felt the Suzuki would be the logical choice.  Now I must add that this is a BIG heavy and when fully loaded with gear, tippy bike, and more so when the tank is full (23L) it also had luggage capacity including three detachable suitcases, more suspension than my Citi or T Bird but also could run over 500 km on a single tank of gas if needed.

My research showed that this area is rather remote and towns maybe and were , distant from one another.

THE weather has been exceptional this year, best summer I think I have ever seen or felt living here now a total of 16 years.  I began putting into play what was essential for equipment, servicing the bike and dealing with those things required for the felines.

As it turned out, with my magnetic tank bag and the voluminous rear top case, the saddlebags would stay home.

To say I was excited, would certainly be the same as saying the Titanic ran into an ice cube!  I had the gear, I had the passenger and I had the bike ready to go on the outgoing tide (so to speak).

What is it about mountains and water that beckons... ?

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Scenes from the saddle

THERE was a great expansion of photography with the digital age.  I remember taking pics with the little 110 cameras then moving along to 35 mil and then SLR's in both 110 and 35.  Yes it's true there was an SLR 110 film camera, and I have one.  It wasn't one of those cheapo models you picked up for 20 bucks, no sir... this was a pocket sized SLR with interchangeable lenses filters and even had a motor drive.  Who made it?  Well PENTAX of course.  I still have many of my old film cameras around the house, not for use of course but for the memories.

When we were using film, we were careful for light and shutter speed and focus. Film and it's development was expensive, you didn't want to waste a shot of that 12 point buck across the trail.  Of course the digital age changed all that... now when I go out with my camera or telephone, I still try to do well but of course if you take a hundred snaps, you're less careful but bound to hit some decent shots.

Ahhh, new pavement

I personally love digital photography, some argue it's not the purist way, but I don't give a flying hoot about that point of view.  I'm not getting any younger and I'm happy to snap away in great volumes.  It's a testament to the quality of cameras available out there that will give you a pretty good pic.  Besides that, they are compact reliable and cheap too!

I'm doing a workup on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia Canada, a first for me, but in the meantime, here are some recent (and not so recent) pics to percolate in  your mind.

1998 2 XT 600's at Mike's Sky Ranch Baja CA Norte

Southern Alberta seeing double?

On the shores of Bahia Conception BAJA CA

Same bike twenty years later, PEI Canada

Twenty years ago 1998

Almost high enough to ride under!

Placid New Brunswick river

No idea but a relaxing day nonetheless 

Boo patrolling the fence

I never get tired of this.

In our yard on PEI

Always moving the Columbia river... Revelstoke British Columbia

Pretty village of Field B.C.

The Rockies of Alberta/British Columbia Looking West

Old dam in rural New Brunswick

Another way to cross the river

Assorted ancient camera gear

For years this was my camera travel kit  110 film SLR

U/W use

Two of my inherited 35's

Lupines, short season but pretty.

Me and my best pal, Einstein.  With me for 19 years after being abandoned.

Lisa's little Mazda/Ford

Brenda's Turbo PT

My MGB Southern Alberta Cypress Hills

Not one to miss and opportunity when presented

DT 50 L/C in Baja California Sur.

Sun rise over Playa Los Cocos

Home sweet home... 

Somewhere in the Rockies

Just sittin' on a boulder...

Yes. it was that close, not more than 10'


My very long time Japanese friend Kazue riding my DT 50 on the Powder Face Trail

Me, on my sterling service XT 600A Indian Graves, in the southern Alberta Rockies

Mid June, my friends Bandit 400 and my Fire Storm

Gorge Creek trail (Rockies) my Yamaha XT 600... this same bike is still going strong

Sitting on another boulder, this one in Baja CA

Sierra Giganta mountains, Baja CA Sur

Castle Hot Springs road AZ.

My cousin and the Little Red bike I got for her.  (little girl from next door)

Charlie the chicken!

The Adriatic coast

Of course you did expect to see a cat or two.  This one in Gradac Croatia

Come on, it really doesn't get better, of course there is a curvaceous mountain road to get here.  Gradac Croatia

Sunset to the west

DYI BIG TIME  The Parthenon. 

SHELL service help in Greece

My cousins having some fun with the dancing fountains Szolnok HU.

Typical country village HU

The Riding experience of a lifetime, A Diversion in Europe 08-09

Well done

Two very cool 50 cc Simsons

Hungarian Thermal hot springs bath

Fishing boats on the Tisza river HU

Two XT 600's in Baja 1998.  Mine still sitting in my garage.

Sometimes, you do come upon the proverbial Brick Wall.  Riding the KVR