Thursday, July 13, 2006

Newfoundland Trip Days 15-16

Another traveling day. And I seem to be burned out as far as taking pix is concerned. The Gaspe has some beautiful areas, but not after Newfoundland! All of the towns along the North shore (South shore of the St. Lawrence) look the same. I didn’t take a lot of shots.

Route 198 heads inland and passes through endless forest. I was tired and wanted to pull over for a break but was looking for something other than featureless trees. Didn’t find anything, so I pulled over anyway. I didn’t see a car for the whole 10 to 15 minutes I had stopped. The curves were quite interesting but the road surface really sucked. And there seemed to be a pothole or a bump right at the apex of most curves.

Murdochville seems to be a dead town. There are a bunch of houses close together, but nobody around. I read in the paper tonight that many houses are abandoned there. There’s a huge wind farm along the ridges above the town. I don’t understand why the wind generators are so far apart – different mountains! I imagine it would have been quite a task to install them. Most of them were not running and neither were the ones at Ste. Anne des Monts – either there was no wind or they were still being installed.

I intended to take the ferry across the St. Lawrence at Matane, to Baie Como. But the information booth told me it only ran once/day, at 5pm and took 2 hours to cross. That would have cost me way too much time, so I kept going on the South Shore. I made it to Riviere du Loup as planned, in the rain for the last 30-40 km. I’m staying at a motel attached to a St. Hubert BBQ where I had dinner. I am still a little under the weather, as I mentioned yesterday – I had chills again around 6-7 pm but a couple of Tylenol later and I feel OK. I’m about 450 km from my Montreal destination, very do-able tomorrow.

So I'm now home -- the total mileage was 7,833 km according to the odometer, a little less according to the GPS. It was a great trip. Today's ride was uneventful except for one incident: I was riding along the 401 and there was a slow driver in the left lane, doing about 110 or 115. I sat behind him for a while, waiting for him to move over so I could pass.

Finally my brights in hs mirror caught his attention and he moved over. I rolled on the throttle and accelerated to about 150, then I changed to the right lane, using my turn signals as I'm supposed to, and I rolled off, slowing to about 135.

An OPP cruiser went by me on the left. I figured I was toast: 150 in a 100... but he smiled at me and waved! Guess he was impressed that I slowed sown after the pass -- or he was a biker too!

I got home around 2:45, had a swim, bought some groceries, and started downloading the pictures. This is going to take a while...

Newfoundland Trip Day 14

Left Bathurst a little late, I must have needed to catch up on the sleep from the night before. I think I actually hit the road at 9:30am. It was grey and starting to sprinkle so I put the rain gear on under an underpass, not a minute too soon, as the skies opened up. I stayed pretty dry, although I’m in the market for a new pair of rain pants when I get back. The rain kind of followed me until I crossed into Quebec at Campbellton and it stopped about half an hour later.

Route 132 to the Gaspe would have been an enjoyable road, if it weren’t for the construction. I’m getting used to gravel, but mud? One ½-mile long zone was a greasy, slimy mess. I looked at the GPS and saw I was managing all of 15kph through it. The bike is covered in dirt, more fitting of a road trip! Before the rain, the front was covered in bugs but the rain took care of that, and the mud added a different flavour.

I pulled over at a little rest area, there were a couple of women there in an old camper van, one who knew the area. She told me to avoid staying in Perce because it was expensive there, that I should stay in Grande Riviere instead, but that was too close. I decided to ride through Perce and continue to Gaspe where I would find a place.

When I arrived at Perce (that rock is very impressive, check the pix when I can get them up), I stopped at a tourist info place and they pointed me at a $60 motel. I parked the bike, changed to walking shoes and clothes, then decided to ride the few blocks into town. I played Tourist for a while. What a rip-off town! Would you believe having to PAY for parking in a little hick town? Not this cowboy. I parked the bike right under a “no-parking” sign. Dinner was good – excellent in fact, but very expensive.

One observation about the people. OK, two. First of all, they speak French with a gigantic accent. It’s a wonder they understand each other! Second, in Newfoundland I found the people to be poor but I had the impression they were scrupulously honest. Here, I’m not so sure. Perhaps I’m biased against the French-Canadians because I grew up in Montreal, but I don’t think that’s all of it. They have an “anything for a buck” mentality.

I didn’t mention that I am sick. I must have caught a cold a couple of days ago because last night (I’m writing this at 5 am) I had the shivers and bundled myself into bed. I woke up early, took an Advil and will go back to bed for a bit. I’ll get up when I can (soon, I hope) and hit the road – the GPS says I have 1117 km to my parents’ place in Montreal and I want to be there tomorrow afternoon.

Newfoundland Trip Days 12-13

One eventful day, one not so much.

I started out from Rocky Harbour heading for Norris Point again, because I had heard from a co-guest at the B&B that she was going ocean kayaking from there, and I thought it would be a good photo op. It was, but I don’t know if I captured what I wanted to. Bright colours, I must say.

Leaving there, I headed along the road towards the cutoff for Trout River. I figured I had lots of time, because the boat didn’t leave until midnight and I was only about 250km away. I rounded a curve and saw what I first took to be a man standing in the middle of the road. Nope! A MOOSE! I brought the bike to a stop about 50 feet away and slowly got off. It (he – a young bull) just stood and watched me as I got the camera out of the trunk. I took one quick snap shot with the 24-120 mounted, then he turned and trotted away. He went another 50 yards or so then stopped and looked back. I quickly mounted the 200mm and took a couple of shots. He turned and moved into the forest. There ARE moose in Newfoundland!

I took the cutoff and headed for Trout River. That’s a misnomer, by the way – it’s a typical ocean fishing outport, nothing to do with Trout. On the way there, I passed through the Tablelands. The rock on the south side of the road – which is nude of all vegetation – is apparently comprised of the same stuff as the ocean floor. Tectonic plates crunching together some 460 million years ago brought these to the surface, apparently it’s quite unique.

Trout River was an interesting town. As is my habit, I followed the paved road as far as I could. It crossed a little bridge out in the barrens and then turned to gravel. I tried a U-turn – it was narrow and sloped up – and dropped my bike. No damage, except to the ears of anyone listening (and there was no one). I couldn’t pick it up. I tried unloading what I could, no use, the damned thing weighs 700 lbs and I couldn’t budge it. Oh, and I hadn’t seen a car or a person since I got there. So I hiked back across the bridge and waited about 10 minutes before I was able to flag someone down to come help.

It was an interesting conversation with the two guys in the truck. I’m sure they understood me, but I couldn’t make out what they were saying, the accents were so heavy!

Back on the road again, I went back into town and shot some pictures of the port. The fishermen were cleaning up their boats in anticipation of the end of the season the next day. This town was less typical in that there were a number of girls there who were reasonably shaped, some quite striking, as opposed to the 300 to 400 pounders elsewhere on the Rock. Wish I had gotten some pictures.

So I left Trout River after waving to the gaggle of a dozen Harleys that had come into town and were parked at the local watering hole. Up on the ‘highway’, I passed a spot where I wanted to take another picture. I turned around, rode until the best spot (on a curve, narrow, uphill but paved) and… you guessed it… dropped the bike again. This time I remodeled the left mirror housing. Again, some help picking it up and some duct tape and I was off. Embarrassed and having second thoughts as to my proficiency as a rider. I vowed, NO MORE U-TURNS, unless it’s level and it’s paved!

Riding through Gros Morne park was awesome. The scenery was spectacular, but I think I was burned out, and I didn’t see any way to get good photos. Steep, wooded or rocky mountains surrounded you. The rest of the long ride down to Port aux Basques was uneventful and a little boring.

I arrived shortly after 6 with the intention to find a good restaurant for dinner. The Tourist Info people pointed me to a little town called Margaree and a seafood restaurant they recommended. As I rode out there, I noticed that the water was completely calm – glasslike – so naturally I stopped for pix. I saw two other bikes there, an Intruder and a big Yamaha cruiser, so I followed them. Locals from Port aux Basques enjoying the beautiful evening. They rode into this little town, I followed them and we dead-ended in a heavily sloped gravel parking lot.

NO, I didn’t. Drop the bike. Almost though. I HATE gravel!

By the time I got back to the restaurant, they were already there, working on their second round of beer. I had dinner (pan fried cod, halibut and ocean perch (the cod is the best) and a nice chef’s salad. Now it’s about 8:30 or 9:00 and I headed back towards the ferry, with a stop for gas and at Tim Horton’s. Who’s sitting at Timmie’s? The same two guys, with some other non-bike friends. I sat at the next table and I have to tell you, I did not understand enough of what they were saying to put a sentence together.

There were 4 other bikes in the parking lot for the ferry. A couple on a Harley (nobody talked to them), a young guy on a Kawi sportbike who was from Alberta and was camping. He had stuff bungeed to the back of the bike, a huge tankbag and a big backpack.

The other two bikes belonged to a couple, Greg and Lucinda, from Raleigh, NC. They were BMWs and they too were camping. She rode an R1150R and he had an older R1100S. We chatted quite a bit and I have their card, so we can compare pictures. They had a little P&S camera but a nice one.

On board, we found airplane type reclining seats, but I had a tough time sleeping. We rode out together, but we separated about 30 minutes later.

This was a travel day. I never even took the camera out. I’m guessing my total mileage was about 750 km (I’ll figure it out from the GPS later…no wait, I’ll do it now. Just a sec…). Close. The map says exactly 700 km but there was a 20 km deviation around Miramichi for an accident.

It turned hot as I entered New Brunswick. Quite tired, I found John’s Motel, where I had stayed 3 years ago. No air conditioning, but they have a pool and a fan. Another guest here said he was coming back from the Gaspe. There were lots of motels, he said, but they filled up early so I may have some difficulty tomorrow. We’ll see… after a not-very-good steak, I’m almost ready for bed!

Newfoundland Trip Day 11

I rode directly to Scott’s Motorsport in Cornerbrook, with just a short break for breakfast. I arrived at about 10am, to learn that one tire was in stock but the other had been ordered by air and was on a Purolator truck somewhere. It was expected before noon, so they started working on the back wheel – the one they had in stock.

Purolator arrived – with the wrong tire. The waybill was right but the tire was a 19” not an 18” as it was supposed to be. Panic time. Anyway to make a long story short, I have mismatched tires. Both are bias ply, though – the front is a Bridgestone Battlax, the rear is a Dunlop 203 (I think). While they had the back off, they said my brake pads were quite thin, so I told them to go ahead and change them. They took it apart, only to find out they didn’t have the right pads in stock! Grrrr. Ditto the front, but this one they did have.

Bottom line: I got out of there at 2:00, my wallet $629.99 lighter.

The difference is incredible. Even gravel is easy with tires that aren’t square! The bike is “flickable” again – turning before took considerable effort and continuous push steering, now it’s a breeze.

I rode up to Rocky Harbour, found a B&B and went out to shoot some pictures. Got some decent shots, I think. I had some dinner and then decided to go out on the road and get some sunset shots, watching carefully for moose (which I didn’t see any of). I found a great spot called, appropriately, “Photographer’s Lookout” at Norris Point and hiked out to the lookout platform. On the way back, there was great pink light in the sky but no good vantage point to shoot pix. In desperation, I headed for the furthest point, where I got a few pictures and chatted with a Newfie!

I have three observations: perhaps unfair but… (1) Newfie men tend to be scrawny and have bad or no teeth. (2) Newfie women are HUGE. An amazing preponderance of 300-400 pounders. And (3) they all have kids living in Toronto. This guy has one in Etobicoke and one in a suburb called “Sarnia”! OK, their geography is weak. Another woman said her kid lived near Toronto, in Kenora!

As we looked across the bay, we could see the headlights of a few cars stopped on the highway. He said, “probably moose”. Glad I wasn’t out there.

When I got back to the B&B I phoned Marine Atlantic and rebooked my ferry out at midnight tomorrow. That way I can save a hotel night and get back to North Sydney early Sunday morning. So I’ll probably write the Day 12 Blog on the boat…

Newfoundland Trip Day 10

I made it as far as South Brook, on the TCH. I’m a couple of hundred km from Cornerbrook where I have to go for my tires tomorrow.

Today was a travel day, I got started around 9 but had to wait for the Fogo Island ferry. Then I rode up to Twillingate to look around. Great little town – I’m sorry I couldn’t stay. Then I boogied down the 340 to the TCH and I’m here.

Fogo Island was definitely worth a visit. And a couple of interesting people on the ferry.

When I got here, there was a biker from Louisiana here, on a ‘wing with a trailer. He really knew the area, having been here every year since 1986. And he recommended this motel, saying the food was good at the restaurant and the rooms were great. The room is big, all right, but in order to keep the ceiling fan going, the lights have to be on. Going to be hot sleeping here.

So, Cornerbrook tomorrow. Then maybe Rocky Harbour, depending how it goes. Or down towards the ferry and leave a day early. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Newfoundland Trip Day 9

At 6:30am there’s blue sky and some broken cloud overhead. Nice early morning light, but I’m not in a position to take advantage of it since the view isn’t great from the cabin and I’m nowhere near ready to get on the bike yet. I should look for a place with a view in Twillingate.

Oh well, have to do my backup and maybe Photoshop a picture or two. Yesterday I did a composite shot of an old rotten boat – I created the comp quickly but it’s not right yet. Have to do it at home on the big screen. Off I go!

I’m baaack! But now it’s 11:00 pm and I’m at Peg’s B&B in Fogo, on Fogo Island! I rode down from Trinity to Gander then turned North towards Twillingate, but never made it there. Before I tell you about Fogo, I’ll relate what happened in Gander. I stopped for gas and thought, since it’s a large city, perhaps there’s a Honda dealership. I had a rattle coming from the surround in the front wheel well and a couple of screws were missing, so I figured I could get them there. I did find the dealer, he also sells Arctic Cat sleds & quads.

They fixed the screws for free. While I was waiting, I had a look at my tires – my gosh, the front one was down to the wear bars. And so was the back! Time for new rubber. To make a long story short (too late!) there are no tires for my bike on the Island. OK, well maybe in St. John’s, but I wasn’t going that way. In the end we phoned Scott’s motorcycle dealership in Cornerbrook where they ordered a set of Bridgstone tires for me, to be air freighted in, to arrive on Friday. God knows what that’s going to cost me!

The bad part is, they’re not open on Saturday. So I have to cut the trip short to be in Cornerbrook on Friday. Logically, I should (and probably will) change my ferry to Friday night or Saturday morning from the original planned Sunday morning. We’ll see how Friday goes.

So I was riding up to Twillingate, and saw a sign for the Fogo Island ferry. What the Hell. I turned, and took the ferry. While I was waiting in line, I met another motorcyclist named Roy Sandland. He’s a (former) Chief Motorcycle Instructor with the Newfoundland and Labrador Safety Council. Apparently he had a falling out with them and quit after 27 years teaching. We had a lot in common and chatted throughout the ferry ride, then rode together for a little while on Fogo. He actually took the 6:30 ferry back, was camping in the Dildo Provincial Park. He rides a Connie and does so really well (I admired his aplomb on gravel).

I was concerned about where I would stay in Fogo, needlessly. I found Peg’s B&B (the only one here) and got a room. I had met one of the other guests before – they were at the bird sanctuary yesterday too, and had been at Cape St. Mary’s the day before me. They’re from Calgary, on a 6 week vacation.

Fogo Island is interesting. The geology looks to be pre-Cambrian, much like Northern Ontario, only extreme. You’ll see what I mean when you see the rock pictures. The land is dotted with hundreds of sloughs (ponds) and millions of rocks. The settlements here were established early in the 18th century, but the population is declining. No one really wants to stay here, and making a living in the fishery is difficult at best. In it’s heyday, the high school had 2,500 students, now there are less than 500. And of course, nobody wants to stay after graduation.

It’s a small place. I rode to the town (Tilting) on the other end, it was only 16 km. The scenery is spectacular, you can’t take a bad picture. There are only 2 restaurants in town, one of the Chinese so I couldn’t eat there. I had my usual salmon and salad at the other place. I’d better be losing weight given how little I’m eating.

Tomorrow I’ll take the ferry back to the mainland (Newfoundland) and wander down in the direction of Cornerbrook. We’ll see how far I get.

Newfoundland Trip Day 8

I finally found the place I mentioned yesterday. But it was towards the end of the day. The place was called “Dungeon”, it’s a provincial park and the name had something to do with a rock formation. Unfortunately I couldn’t go in – it was a dirt road. Actually it was up at Cape Bonavista, right at the tip. I did get a shot or two of the lighthouse there. But I found something better.

Just outside Elliston is a town called Maberly and there’s a bird sanctuary there with lots of Puffins. Took a bit of finding. Just as I pulled up, so did a pair of vans, and they started unloading the most incredible photo gear I’ve ever seen. Turns out there’s a photo expedition run by a professional photographer out of the US who specializes in wildlife – cougars in Montana, bears in Alaska, and birds. He had 5 customers with him and this was a birding trip. They weren’t there to shoot landscapes or anything else – just birds. And boy, were they equipped!

The name of the company is “Shoot the Light” and when I get back and have decent internet access, I’ll Google it. One of the photographers told me the trip cost $4000 for the week, all inclusive except for airfare. They were from all over – Colorado, California, South Dakota… and they all shot Canon equipment except for one girl who had Nikon stuff. Her name was Laura, she was from Custer, SD and I made friends. I convinced her to let me take a few shots with her lens on my camera.

So when they went out to the bird sanctuary, I did too. I underwhelmed them with my 70-200 f/2.8 although the pro said he loved that lens and was very impressed. I think the smallest lens in their group was the Nikon – a 200-400mm with a 1.7x teleconverter, yielding 625mm focal length. After a while, Laura let me shoot through it, and, well, I was NOT impressed. When I process the shots, I doubt that the picture quality will be much better than mine. Certainly not $10,000 better. What she did have that was great was the head and mount for the lens. And the heavy duty Gitzo tripod. That ball head was great, as was the side mount. Her camera was a D2X and the others carried Canon 5D’s. You should hear the 5D rattle off a string of photos at machine gun speeds!

Anyway, the Puffins were on a little island about 100 yards away. Even through the long lenses, they weren’t anywhere near full frame. When I get my pix up, you’ll see. The disadvantage to using such long lenses is that it was impossible to track these guys if they were flying – Puffins fly fast!

So I bided my time, taking pictures of the photographers and the scenery. At one point, someone said, “Chris, look behind you”. A Puffin had landed about 20 yards away on the edge of the cliff. Everyone swung around to shoot it, including me. I got some almost-full-frame shots with my 200mm, and they came out pretty good. Much better than the 100 yard shots with the 625mm.

The pro was talking to them about things like, “open up 1/3 stop to avoid blowing out the highlights.” He used a spot meter. He also positioned himself so the lighting was better. This guy knows what he’s doing. If the weather is inclement, I was told he holds seminars and sessions for his people, they all have laptops and compare pictures. Very cool.

I spent 2-3 hours there. For the first time, I actually filled a 1Gb memory card. Then I rode up to Cape Bonavista and back to Trinity Cabins. I stopped at the library to log on to my email and try to upload my Blog pages and some pix. It was really slow dialup, so I only got two pix up. I went back to the same restaurant as last night – the seafood salad was just as good, but I ordered scallops as the main dish. I told them, “salad instead of potatoes” which they did, but they didn’t give me the veggies, saying when they substitute a salad they don’t do the veggies. OK it was good, but I’m hungry. I had brekkie today here, but that’s all. I’d better be losing weight!

The weather was excellent most of the day. When I got back here, it started to sprinkle a bit. Hope tomorrow will be nice for my ride up to Twillingate.

Newfoundland Trip Day 7

Interesting day. A new couple showed up at the B&B last night, from Brampton, ON. I knew they would be interesting to talk to the moment I laid eyes on them – or at least on the camera equipment they were carrying! Each of them had a Canon 20D, hers had a 200mm f/3.5 pro lens (white) on it, but his had a humungous 400mm f/2.8 lens that looked about the same size as a 55-gallon oil drum. It weighed every bit of 12 lbs and I’m going to guess the diameter of the front of the lens was at least 150mm. We talked a lot of photography at breakfast and we went our separate ways. They were heading South and I was going North.

Oddly enough, when I walked into a TCH restaurant for lunch just before the turnoff at Clarenville, there they were! They had indeed gone South, but the fog was so thick that they decided to cut that part of their trip short and head for Grand Falls where they were visiting relatives. For the record, that restaurant was at least 200km from where we started. “Zen Spotting” again.

I left the B&B in the rain. About an hour North, I ran out of it and it cleared a bit only to start again after I stopped. It rained on and off all day. There was a tremendous amount of fog as I rode the TCH , which fortunately lifted as I headed up 230 towards Trinity. But it was touch and go for a while. Oh, and the winds were vicious again, this time gusty, not continuous like yesterday. Tough riding.

I got some pretty good pictures at Cape Spear (the Easternmost point in North America). I almost abandoned going to Signal Hill but when I checked on the GPS it would have only saved me a few km so I went there anyway. I made a cellphone call to Lori from there – I would have been surprised had there been no cellphone signal at the most famous radio transmission spot in the world!

I arrived at Trinity around 6pm and found the cabin. Awesome. Not the prettiest place in the world, but here I sit at the kitchen table drinking a fresh cup of coffee I made, warm and dry in this little 2 bedroom cabin with all the amenities (OK, no air conditioning. But it’s cool outside!) including a stove and fridge. I went to a little grocery store and bought fixin’s for breakfast. I decided to stay here for two nights.

The guy at Trinity Cabins (his name is Glenn) recommended a restaurant in Trinity called “The Docks”. I had the best dinner there this evening of the trip so far. Their seafood platter consisted of cod, salmon and they substituted shrimp for the cod tongues (I suppose I should at least taste them once. The concept turns me off). I asked for a salad in lieu of potatoes, etc and got the BEST salad – it was filled with pieces of shrimp and lobster, not just the odd one but lots of it! I complimented the chef and promised I’d return tomorrow for dinner again! Their lobster was fresh caught and $25, I may have that tomorrow.

There’s supposed to be internet access at the library in Trinity. Wonder if it’s WiFi?

Well, time to finish up working on today’s pictures and doing my backups. Tomorrow I’m going up to Elliston where I remember there is a wildlife sanctuary known for viewing Puffins. If the weather’s good, I’ll visit some out ports as well (also assuming the roads are paved – not a given here!). “Tickle Cove” tickles my fancy. Apparently the Capelin are running (they’re little fish like smelts, and they shoal in the millions), which attracts the whales, so I may get to see some. I may end up on a little boat cruise if I have time – they can’t promise whales, but they do promise eagles and I’m anxious to use my long lens!

Newfoundland Trip Days 5-6

I’ve gotten a day behind. It’s actually Sunday night – I was too tired last night to write.

We arrived at Argentia in a grey drizzle. I thought it would clear up so I rode off the ship without my rain gear on – that lasted about 5 minutes! I stopped at the tourist info place and put it on. It drizzled on and off for a while but never really came down hard.

I made a routing mistake. I thought I remembered seeing that Route 91 took me the way I wanted to go. Wrong. I should have obeyed the GPS. Route 91 was gravel. Not just ordinary gravel. Big, soft, mucky, wet gravel. Gawd, I was uncomfortable. After about 5 miles, there was a turnoff towards what the GPS said was the Trans-Canada (TCH from now on) and another couple of miles and I was back on pavement. Totally confused, I listened to what the GPS told me and I ended up right back at the Tourist Centre where the ferry landed. Attempt #2…

I followed Route 100 South. It was extremely foggy, at times I couldn’t see more that a few hundred feet. I stopped for brekkie at a town called St. Bride where an older gentleman told me I must go to Cape St. Mary to see the Sea Bird sanctuary. So I did.

The feature at that place is called the “Rock”. There are THOUSANDS of sea birds there. It’s a mile hike in and out again, following the cliffs in the fog. As I topped a rise, I came face to face with a sheep! I was told I’d see lots of birds, and they were right. I was also told it would be difficult to get pix in the fog, right again. I did get a few.

From there, I rode back up the peninsula and headed for the East coast. Route 91 (that road again! But this part was paved!) took me to Bay Bulls, where I turned South in search of a B&B. To make a long story short, I found one, I’m sitting there now – decided to stay 2 nights. It’s a nice place, modern, with all the amenities including a Shiatsu massage chair which I just availed myself of. Everyone should own one of these!

The riding is good in Newfoundland – although wherever you get off the main road, expect gravel. All the lookouts, some of the restaurants, any attraction. The paved roads are spotty – you don’t ride the blocking position here, you ride “the track of least potholes”. I’m starting to get used to it. And making a U-turn on gravel isn’t so scary any more.

So this B&B is in Cape Broyle. When I got here it was nice and sunny and warm. They have a restaurant, so I had dinner there. Pan fried Cod, with a Caesar salad. I’m being good. Unfortunately, I wasn’t specific enough and they fried the fish with batter (which I scraped off) and there were croutons in the salad which I didn’t eat. Told you I’m being good! There were supposed to be “scrunchions” with the fish. I asked why I didn’t get any and anyway what are they? I figured onions or something. Nope. Something about fried pork pieces and they decided if I was on a diet, I didn’t want any!

Oh, and I’ve lost track of the mileage. I know what my odometer said when I left… (35646), so I’ll try to figure from that tomorrow.

Might as well go right into today’s blog…

July 2

Today started out beautiful. Sunny and a bit cool. I headed down the coast targeting Trepassy as my destination. I was told that there were herds of Caribou down there, that you had to stop and wait for thousands of them to cross the road before you could continue. I loaded the 200mm lens on the camera and went forth in search… in vain. Nary a one. I talked to a local and accused them of using caribou as stories for tourists. I was assured that they were indeed there, just not always near the road.

It was WINDY. I’ve never ridden in wind like that. You had to ride partly off the seat with the bike leaned sideways into the wind. Tough, especially when you hit a gravel spot! Still, I survived!

I took a little side trip in search of Caribou, to St. Shott. Nothing. But I did get some good ocean and rock pictures. I actually went past Trepassey to St. Vincent’s before turning back.

The early part of the day was hazy, but it cleared up in the afternoon. I got back to this area and decided to look for one of the publicized boat tours, for Puffins and Whales. No luck. Couldn’t get on one. The weather was spectacular, too bad – and it’s starting to rain tonight.

Oh yeah: I came over a hill and saw a gas station. I decided to fill up so I turned in – yep, gravel. Going WAY too fast, downhill. Yes you can use front brake on gravel, when you have to… it was almost embarrassing. That’s the one aspect of the trip I’m not comfortable with.

Tomorrow, I’m heading North. If it’s not too rainy, I’ll do the obligatory Signal Hill and Cape Spear stuff, then head for Trinity where I reserved a cabin for the night. Gotta program my GPS then go to bed… night night!

Newfoundland Trip Day 4

Today’s total: 266 km (plus the ferry ride, of course).

I’m writing this sitting in the bar on the ferry to Argentia. It’s the only place I found an electrical connection for the laptop, although I understand there are others around. It’s now 6:15 pm Atlantic time, I’ve been sitting here for a few hours working on my pictures, etc.

Interesting people around – sort of! To my right was a guy talking endlessly to two people he had met on board – he claims to be a DJ heading for a party of some kind in Gander. This guy has not shut up for 3 hours. He knows everything and everyone.

To my left was a guy and a girl drinking continuously. She just had a screaming fit and he walked away leaving her sobbing uncontrollably. Interesting people, right? There’s a group of guys laughing and joking who just announced: we just hit an iceberg. Abandon ship!

Anyway, the ride around Cape Breton was awesome. The only negative thing was the quality of the pavement – or the lack thereof. You could ride a lot more securely if you weren’t concerned about hitting potholes or rough heaved pavement in the twisties. Still, there were some excellent sections and the views are unparalleled. Again, there were a lot of places you couldn’t stop, but there were tons of lookouts set up in strategic spots.

North Mountain yielded some excellent vistas. I hope my pictures came out well, it’s hard to tell on the laptop. The weather was variable, with some periods of rain and some beautiful sunshine. It’s the Maritimes, I guess.

I arrived at the ferry terminal a bit early and hung out with the other bikers. I also met an interesting group of ATV riders. They were riding big fancy machines (one guy was a dealer and had a demo quad). These ATV’s are not rated for the road, so I asked what they were up to: they had trucked them to the ferry terminal, were ferrying over to Newfoundland and were going to cross the Rock OFFROAD! Apparently there’s an established trail system (except for one spot, I understand, where they have to truck the ATV’s). They were planning to stay in motels but carried camping gear just in case someone broke down and they had to stay out there. Sounds like a blast!

There was also a guy who had ridden from LA! He was on a cruiser (Yamaha, I think) and said he regretted selling his ST-1100 a couple of years ago. Another retired couple from Colorado were on an 11 week trip. They had an RV which they left at the ferry terminal and came over on an SV-650 for a week on the Rock.

When we loaded the bikes on board, the deckhands would not tie them down for us. I’ll try to get a picture or two when we arrive, it was too much of a rush to do so when we got on. In the end, I pleaded ignorance and they did help me. The decks are supplied with cleats just for that purpose, and they used very heavy duty tiedowns.

Guess I’ll go see what I can find to eat. I heard there’s WiFi access up on deck 7 – I’m going to shut down and see if I can find it. Later…

Newfoundland Trip Day 3

Today’s total: 610 km. I rode all the way to Cape Breton on the Superslab, stopping at the Nova Scotia Tourist Information for a reservation for tonight. That’s a great service, apparently only BC also provides reservation services at the info places. They found me a cabin at “Knotty Pine Cabins” in Ingonish Ferry. I realize that prices have gone up since my trip a few years ago – it was the cheapest place on the system at $65.

The day started damp – a sprinkling of rain here and there and I had to put rain gear on at the New Brunswick/Nova Scotia border, but it soon cleared up. It stayed cool until I entered Cape Breton, when the temperature suddenly rose and by evening it was quite muggy and hot. The sun came out too, making for some good photos.

I started taking a few pictures at the Canso Causeway. Once I entered the Cabot Trail, I stopped regularly for a shot or two. One stop was at a place that advertised Iron Sculptures and Photography. They made metal sculptures, and one of the owners’ wives is a talented and recognized photographer. What set her pictures apart is lighting. I took the same shot (boulders in a lakebed) but hers had dramatic lighting. I have to work on that.

I discovered a distinct disadvantage to traveling by motorcycle. It is difficult to pull over and park to take pictures. I had touch-and-go moments several times – this bike is not easy to park since it stands so vertically on the sidestand. I need a flat surface or cambered to the left or the bike will fall over. Also making a U-turn on sand or gravel with a 700 lb tall bike is not easy. I will have to be careful.

Who says we don’t have great roads in Canada? However, the road surface on the Cabot Trail sucks. Lots of heaves and buckles, even in some of the sharp curves. Thankfully it wasn’t so bad climbing the mountain at Cape Smokey. There’s one spot where you negotiate half-a-dozen chicanes, then a hairpin at the bottom and a series of swoopers climbing back up. I took some shots there, hoping to be able to create a composite panorama. I can’t do it on this computer though – the screen’s too small.

Oh, and the views are spectacular. Nothing like riding up to a cambered hairpin turn marked at 35 kph with nothing but a guardrail and 1000 feet of air to the ocean below. You tend to be a bit careful riding through there and you have to watch the road, not the view. Again, a dearth of safe places to pull over and park for a photo.

I found Knotty Pine Cabins – immaculate rooms that reminded me somehow of Kickstand Lodge at Deal’s Gap. Nice view, but not great. Up the road was a better spot (where I returned and almost dropped the bike in the gravel again). 8 km further was Ingonish Beach where I went for dinner (steak and lobster. ‘way too expensive, I have to start cutting back a bit). I’m true to my diet, no bread, potatoes, rice, pasta…

So I’m writing this at 6:00 am (6:45 now!). Tired last night. I’ve got to get under way so I can make the ferry to Newfoundland tonight!

Newfoundland Trip Day 2

I covered 756 km today according to the GPS. Somehow it was easier than yesterday’s ride, although I admit to a sore butt a couple of times. Again I only stopped for a couple of photo-ops.

The ride today was from White River Junction, VT to Sussex, NB. There were no real twisties, but some beautiful sweeping roads, and some beautiful scenery, especially in Vermont and New Hampshire.

I got a bit of a later start than I anticipated. The GPS was acting up and I had to sit for a while in a parking lot until it acquired the satellites. Also, my computer battery or it’s connection died. So this thing only works when I’m plugged into the mains.

There are some echoes from the past: our ride to SEVROC back in 2003 was deemed “Ride through the Red Zone” because every night on the weather channel, there were dire predictions of violent weather wherever we were but none of it came true. Last night, the Weather Channel talked about massive rain storms, dumping up to 12” of rain. For what It’s worth, I did put the rainsuit on yesterday – for about 30 minutes and it just sprinkled.

I got some good pictures of a roadside waterfall near Lisbon, NH. My route took me past Franconia Notch and through the Mount Whiteface valley. I didn’t stop – it was still a “get there” day. I spotted some people training with cross-country ski simulators. Their coach was yelling at them in Parisian French. Unfortunately I got there a bit late and only got a couple of shots. Just down the road was a beautiful vista, where I stopped for some more pix.

As soon as I crossed into Canada, the temperature dropped and it became very foggy. I stopped to put on a denim shirt, then again for my JR liner and warmer gloves. After a couple more pictures, I got back on the road.

When I came into Sussex, I stopped at a tourist info place to find a motel. They were decidedly un-helpful. I found one myself. Prices are higher than I expected – looks like I’ll be paying $60 to $70 per night. And dinner was a problem again. It was tasty enough (baked haddock and Caesar salad) but cost a lot for such a small meal. Oh and no WiFi here: when I asked, the clerk said, “WiFi? What’s that?”. I knew I was in trouble!

Newfoundland Trip Day 1

mileage at start: 35646 km

The day started inauspiciously. I left at 7am as planned in a light rain. I had put my Frogg Toggs pants on under my riding pants, anticipating that it was going to be wet. I definitely wasn’t disappointed – it rained like Hell for 2 hours solid. As I rode along the 401 I started to feel a bit damp down below, especially in the crotch area. I stopped for gas at the service centre around Bowmanville and when I got off the bike, my fears were confirmed. So much for the waterproof Frogg Toggs. I was completely soaked to the skin.

Fortunately it was warm – so I put my other rain pants over top and carried on. By the way, a good trick is to tuck the top inside the pants instead of outside – it prevents the water from running up inside it.

By the time I reached Cobourg, I’d ridden out of the rain. Other than a few sprinkles in the mountains around Lake Placid, that was it for the rain today. I stripped off the rain gear at the border crossing at Hill Island (Kingston). They had an interesting sign made of plants and I took a couple of pictures. Then I stopped at the bridge and took a couple more shots, including the nasty OPP radar guy.

I knew the route through Watertown, but I decided to follow the GPS. It took me down some different roads which avoided the military base and came out on Route 3 at Gouverneur. I should have stopped there for gas, but I carried on and put 5.5 Gal in when I finally found another gas station.

It did get a bit cooler in the higher elevations, I put a shirt on which I had to remove when I got into Vermont – it was quite hot. Again, I followed the GPS, which came in handy navigating through the maze called Middlebury, VT. Interestingly, it led me on some great roads! Rte 125 is awesome, reminded me of the Blue Ridge Parkway but with some tighter turns here and there. Then it took me on some roads I never would have found like the Bethel Mountain pass which was great! We have to return to Vermont and spend some time exploring there.

Around 5:00 pm I decided enough was enough and I looked for a motel. At a rest area they had a telephone link to accommodations, and I picked the Super 8 motel in White River Junction. Good choice – they had a swimming pool (cold, but swimmable), and WiFi! I logged on, picked up my email, then logged off to go for a swim and a bite to eat. When I got back, I couldn’t log on again, I don’t know why. So this will have to wait until I can log back on to post it.

Dinner sucked. As long as I’m on this diet, meals are just refueling. I managed to stick with it today, but I don’t know what I’m going to do about lunches. The doc suggested buying a sandwich and throwing away most of the bread. I haven’t had ANY bread yet, but I suppose I’ll have to.

It’s taking me a while to get back into “the rhythm of the road”. I’m riding a bit uncomfortably, not doing as well in the twisties as I’d like. I have to re-learn to trust the bike.

I covered 465.3 miles (749 km) today according to the GPS: in 7:52 of actual driving time (not including stops). That’s an average of 59 mph. I was doing 80 a lot of the time, slower in Vermont. The GPS had some trouble calculating, because of the giant route I had put in. I’m going to cut it up into more manageable sections for tomorrow.

I only took a few pictures – mostly out of guilt. These first few days are “get there”. Once I arrive in Cape Breton I can slow down and take more. Wait for it…