Two Weeks Solo On My Bike - Pennsylvania to Newfoundland Ride Report
The general plan for the trip is to travel for two days from home to Newfoundland, then a week and a half to explore the island, then two days to get back home to northeast Pennsylvania. I was originally planning to leave late June or early July… But my schedule happened to open up in early June, so I decided to leave Monday the 4th for two weeks. This is a bare bones trip. I will be camping literally every night (except for nights aboard the ferry and maybe the generosity of others), and most of these nights will be wherever I can find a spot to put the tent; not in a recognized campground.
2009 Suzuki SV650S
Givi 45 L top box
70 L dry bag bolted to rack on rear seat
The first installment of the ride report will be coming shortly. The rest will come as I have internet access... Or when I get home.
Day 1 – Monday June 4th
I set the alarm the night before to go off at 3:30am. I had everything packed up, and even took the bike out for a hundred miles to make sure the load was secure the day before. All I needed to do was get up, brush my teeth, get a quick bite to eat, put my gear on, and go by 4:00am.
I woke up to my wife elbowing me and telling me to get up. I check my clock and it was 3:50am. Oh well, leaving a few minutes late won’t really hurt anything. I checked outside and noticed it had been raining all night, but it wasn’t raining at the moment. Great! I had been checking the weather and it looked like it would be intermittent rain throughout the day. I made the decision to leave without my rain gear on, as I could just put it on when the rain started, if need be. I put my gear on, put my iPod in its waterproof case and plugged it into the charger… and it had no power. The 12V DC to USB adapter was the only part of that equation that was new, so I plugged in something else to see if it was getting power and it was. I took a closer look at the new adapter and saw that it was too short; it wouldn’t reach all the way to the bottom of the port. I took apart one of my el-cheapo LED flashlights and grabbed one of the battery springs and attached that to the bottom of the adapter. Success! I now had power! I said bye to the wife and dog (already said bye to the kids the night before) and took off at 4:45am. Forty five minutes late wasn’t the end of the world.
Precisely 23.2 miles into my trip I noticed that my right toes felt wet. Shit. The spray from the wet road was enough to get my feet wet. As soon as I noticed my feet getting wet, it started raining. By the time I got pulled over, both of my feet were damp and so were my gloves. Nothing like wet hands and feet less than thirty miles into a several thousand mile trip! I pulled under an overpass and got suited up with my cheap Walmart rainsuit that has successfully seen me through countless rain storms during my normal commutes, some new rubber overgloves, and some Nelson Riggs overboots that have only been used twice and for only about ten minutes or so each time.
My first stop was to be in Groton, Connecticut to meet up with my friend Jeff (articam6 from SBN) for a coffee near where he works. It continued to rain… No. Pour… Right until I got to Connecticut. I got a short reprieve from the rain for about an hour and met with Jeff in partly sunny skies. We stopped at Dunkin Donuts and grabbed a coffee (Thanks Jeff!) and shot the shit for about 15 minutes. I then had to head off if I wanted to make it into Canada today, and Jeff had to get back to work anyhow.
Oh, and as a side note: I used to think New Jersey drivers were the worst in the country… Well, I’ve since amended my position on this matter. Connecticut drivers have now slid into first place. They seem to have a penchant for not being able to see motorcycles…
Only a few minutes after leaving, it started raining again. Rain would be my constant companion for the rest of the day. I was making slow progress on account of the weather and drinking too much coffee in the morning, which meant frequent stops into the woods to piss. I was averaging about 50 miles per gallon for the first part of the trip. I did 220 miles until my first gas stop, then 180 miles for my second stop, with gas to spare. From Connecticut up to Maine, there was a really strong headwind I was riding into. This obviously affected my gas mileage, as I ran out of gas at 200 miles. Since I have a 4.8 gallon tank (realistically 4.6 gallons in actual usage), this meant I only got 43 mpg out of that tank. Fortunately, I had two 30oz MSR fuel containers strapped to the bike for the trip. I pulled over on the side of the highway and emptied one of the bottles in the tank, since I my gas exit was coming up in about two miles anyhow. Damn was I glad I had them (of course, I probably wouldn’t have pushed so far between gas stops if I knew I didn’t have them)! That would have been a long two mile walk to the next exit in the cold rain.
I realized I left my camelback by my door before leaving, which was my only water vessel for my trip, other than a coffee mug. I also forgot to bring any coffee filters, so I stopped in Maine to grab a new Camelback and filters. This stop ended up taking me over an hour and a half due to a series of random difficulties. Once I hit Maine, the rain was off and on for the entire distance through the state. Most of the ride thus far was super-slab, as I had a ferry to catch almost 1200 miles from home 40 hours after leaving, so I needed to make good time. After hours and hours on the highway, I turned off onto route 9 through Eastern Maine. This was one of the best roads I’ve ever ridden before. It wasn’t super-technical, but there were enough curves to keep it interesting, road traffic was almost non-existent, and the scenery was amazing. On the downside, I saw my first wild moose on that road. It was standing on the shoulder of the road… Scary. A fox also ran out in front of my bike. That was the first time I had seen a wild fox as well.
One of the few pictures I took the first day.
I hit the Canada border about a half hour before it was getting dark in Callais. Crossing the border was as painless as I could have hoped for. The border patrol agent was very friendly and seemed genuinely interested in my trip (and not just the stuff she needs to be interested in). I told her about the bear spray and she just asked if it was bear spray, not mace or anything. She never checked any of my luggages and the only paperwork she needed to see was my passport. I was in and out in about five minutes or less. Easy peasy.
My first order of business was to get away from town a bit and find a place to put a tent. I rode for about a half an hour down route 1 east before spotting an unfinished section of highway that looked promising. I pulled off and noticed there weren’t any ‘no trespassing’ signs or anything, so I rode down the newly paved highway that turned to stones that then turned into a small four-wheeler trail. I spotted a small clearing just big enough to put my tent. Perfect. I was almost exactly one mile down the trail. I set up the tent, lubed the chain, and passed out… and forgot to take a picture of my campsite.
Total mileage for the day: 735 miles
Day 1 route
Day 2 – Tuesday June 5th
My alarm woke me up at 4:30am Atlantic time, so it felt like 3:30 to me. It had rained all night, so I had the distinct pleasure of packing up a wet tent… And since I will be on the ferry tonight, it will stay in my bag wet and rolled up for two days. I got the tent all put away and the bike packed up before remembering that I actually wanted to take pictures this trip. Oh well, no point in taking a picture of the bare ground. The first day was mostly a wash for taking pictures because I was trying to make big miles for the day and it was cold, rainy, and miserable.
Too bad that today was no different weather-wise… No, actually I lied. It was much, much, much worse. The rain was nonstop, the temperatures were much colder, and the wind through New Brunswick was fierce and it was all I could do to stay in my lane. During gusts, I could see the rain sliding off my helmet visor sideways as I was leaning into it just to keep in a straight line. Earlier in the morning I scraped a small hole in the arm of my raingear top, and the wind turned the small scrape into a pretty large hole, and rain found its way in. I pulled over and duct taped it, and the tape was gone about a mile down the road. It was too wet for the duct tape. I will have to fix that later. My feet were soaked, despite the overboots which should be more accurately labeled as ‘slightly water-resistant,’ not waterproof. My gloves were still damp from the night before. With the cold weather (in the forties) and wet conditions, I was miserable. I needed to do about 450 miles today, which normally wouldn’t be a hard ride, but every mile felt like ten miles today.
I found myself pulling over about every 80 miles or so just to warm up a little… But the plus side is that I actually got a few pictures today, since I was pulling over a lot anyhow. Yeah, yeah, I suck at pictures… But at least I got some. Usually I don’t!
I looked in the mirror and saw this miserable face staring back at me.
Nova Scotia visitors center.
There’s not much of a story to tell today. It was just pure misery going from point A to point B in the cold rain. It was foggy most of the day, so the views weren’t that great for most of the trip either. I had about a thirty minute reprieve from the rain when I hit Cape Breton Island, but then right back to the rain…
Some photos from Cape Breton Island (during the few dry spells I saw all day).
I stopped for lunch along the road and had my first meal of the day (skipped breakfast). Obligatory food porn picture:
Okay… So this is the way too hairy, with bad camera angles, 70’s porn version of food porn… It was about 45 degrees out, and I unwisely packed my stove on the bottom of my dry bag. I decided not to spend the time to get it out and reorganize, which meant my ‘meal’ was also at about that temp. If you thought canned ravioli tasted bad heated up, try tossing a can in the fridge and having a go at it! Lol
About 45 minutes from North Sydney, which is where the ferry to Newfoundland leaves, I finally stopped in and had a meal from Tim Horton’s… I was surprised to find out it was a donut shop. I thought Tim Horton’s was a burger joint all this time. I grabbed a chicken salad sandwich, a donut, and a coffee. That was a damn tasty sandwich and donut. A bit better food porn pic:
I made it to the ferry terminal at about 5pm-ish. That gave me about five hours until the boat left (and from what I heard, they’re always late). I finally got my wet weather gear and leathers off and changed into some dry socks and dry shoes. Wow, what a relief! I briefly contemplated going into town to check it out… But it was still raining, and I was loving the ever-living shit out of being dry. I decided to just stay here. Besides, there’s free internet here. What more could I want?
At 8:20pm they announced that all passengers should go their vehicles to begin boarding the vessel. I was surprised we were boarding so soon (as departure time was 10:30pm), but I wasn’t going to complain. Since I heard motorcycles are loaded on first, I rushed to put my stuff together and get out to my bike. All I had on was my leather jacket and plain clothes, as the rest of my gear was strapped to the bike. I went outside and it was pouring! The wind was blowing, it was cold, and the rain was coming down hard. My only pair of dry shoes and the dry clothes I was wearing were slowly getting drenched.
When I got to the ferry terminal, I was the only motorcycle there. When I got back outside for boarding, I saw that about ten other motorcycles had shown up. There was a husband and wife from New York that were going to ride up the west coast of Newfoundland and then take another ferry into Labrador and then ride the unpaved trans-Labrador Highway. They were planning to take about two weeks to do their trip. There were also three guys from Toronto that were planning to do basically the same trip as I was doing, except they were going to do it in a month, not two weeks, like I was. The married couple and the three guys all had BMW adventure bikes with proper hard luggage. I had immediate bike-penis-envy. All the other guys had really nice waterproof suits, boots, and gloves as well. I had my regular leathers I commute in, a cheap Walmart two-piece rain suit, some rubber overgloves, and some shitty overboots (which seem to do a better job of holding the water in than out). I was definitely outclassed in the bike and gear department!
After about twenty minutes in the freezing rain, I asked one of the dock workers when they were going to board us, as they had been sending a steady stream of cars onto the ferry before us. He told us ‘very soon.’ Well 40 minutes later, ‘very soon’ was finally realized. By this time, I had been out in the rain in a pair of sweat pants, a t-shirt, my dry (not any longer) shoes, and jacket for an hour. I was a bit peeved… But there wasn’t really anything I could do about it at this point.
Once on the ferry, we had to strap down our bikes. I am very glad that I brought my own ratchet straps. I was told that they had straps available, but to bring your own just in case. Well, we were exactly two straps short to get all of our bikes strapped down. Since I had my own two straps, it was a non-issue. I’m sure if I didn’t have them, the crew would have been able to muster us up some, but this saved us (or at least one of us) the hassle. After strapping down the bike, I grabbed my camelback and a book and headed up to the seating area. Once the ferry left port you couldn’t go back down to the cargo deck. I forgot to take pictures of my bike strapped down. I'll have to remember on the ride back.
When reserving a seat on the ferry, you must pay for yourself, your vehicle, and your accommodations. The cost for me was $45 and the cost for my bike was $50. General seating was free and options ranged from $15 for reserved seating (basically chairs that recline all the way) up to about $100 for a single-occupancy cabin. I went the el-cheapo route and got general seating. Literally every other rider on the ferry with me paid for a cabin. Every single person who I had talked to (over the internet) who had taken the ferry said to pay the extra for a cabin… Or at least the reserved seating. Well, I was on a bare bones budget, and any extra for accommodations had to come out of another part of my trip. I decided that the six hour ferry wasn’t worth spending the extra money.
The general seating was about like airplane seating, except there was plenty of leg room… In fact, there was a ton of leg room. The seats did not recline very far, but at least I could stretch my legs.
The vessel left port right at 22:30, as scheduled. I was surprised at how much the boat rocked through the waves. I was expecting a smooth ride, but there was quite a bit of turbulence (or whatever you call it in a boat). Maybe I was unrealistic in my expectations, or maybe it was on account of the storm. Either way, it wasn’t terrible, but it was definitely noticeable. In fact, it was quite difficult to walk around the ship once we left. There were signs all over the general seating area that said sleeping was prohibited. The crew told this as well, and the safety video again mentioned it. With this in mind, I reclined my seat as far as it would go and tried to get some sleep. After about an hour of unsuccessful sleep attempts, I took my book out (Alter of Eden by James Rollins) and read for an hour or two. When I looked around, I noticed there were at least a dozen people around me sleeping on the floor. Many had brought sleeping bags and pillows for the occasion. Well, despite all the signs, I figured when in Rome, do as the Romans do. I was quite cold due to being pretty wet and not having a blanket of any sort. I had put on a dry fleece shirt, so I pulled my arms inside of it, covered my legs with my leather jacket, and used my soaking wet camelback (later I found it was leaking) as a pillow. I fell asleep within minutes of lying down. The rocking of the boat that I wasn’t crazy about earlier in the ride ended up rocking me to sleep. It was actually quite nice!
Total mileage for the day: 472 miles
It's not about what your wearing, Max, it's about whats between your ears!!
Have a great adventure.:clap
Just the trip I hope to take.
Good stuff - keep it coming. I've got the same trip in mind as well. Been all over the rest of the country, but strangely have not been north.
Subscribed. Best of luck on the Rock!
<!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:DoNotOptimizeForBrowser/> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]-->rough start in wet, cold and dark… risk of frost tonight at Port aux Basques,
Monday looks sunny,
Enjoy the Rock and the people that help make it the special place that it is!
great report !! after also being caught in the rain and cold for like 1100 miles .i bought my first 4 seasons coat, proper rain paints ,however my water proof work boots do still work fine. but i did invest in heated grips (i can deal with wet hands, just not cold wet hands) and heated jacket liner with pants liner. it wasn't cheep but when your on the kind of trip your on that stuff is worth every penny. good luck !:lurk
I'm sitting at home right now with a frosty cold one in my hand. I made it back about an hour ago (9:10pm). I put in about 850 miles today. I'm spent. I'll work on getting the rest of this ride report up as soon as I can. I don't think my dog will let me do anything but pet him for the foreseeable future!
Day 3 – Wednesday, June 6th
I woke up on the ferry’s floor about four hours later when I felt we were no longer rocking. I looked outside and saw it was light and I could see a rocky coastline beside us. Looks like we had reached Newfoundland!
Soon after waking, they announced we would be docking in an hour. Over the night, I had dried out and was no longer damp. I went to the cafeteria and bought a coffee and sipped on it while waiting to dock. Soon thereafter I saw the three guys on bikes from Toronto were in general seating. I went over and talked to them for a bit. One of the guys, who appeared to be the older of the bunch (they looked like they ranged from their late twenties to forties), asked me if I was in the military on account of my high and tight haircut. I told him I was in the army National Guard. He then asked me if I had been deployed. I told him I was in Germany, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He then asked me if I had been to Kandahar. I told him I had passed through, but was actually at FOB Mehtar Lam. Upon hearing this, he said yeah, I know the place. I’ve yet to meet anyone who has heard of that place who wasn’t deployed to Afghanistan. It turned out he was stationed at Kandahar with the Canadian military. He used to be active duty and was now National Guard. He was actually the equivalent of a brigade sergeant major (I forget the Canadian rank equivalent he told me) currently. We shot the shit about the military for twenty minutes or so. It’s amazing how similar our two country’s militaries are.
They called for us to go down on deck to get our vehicles ready. When I got down there, I was the only biker who didn’t already have all his gear on. I scrambled to put my gear on (it’s a slow process with the leathers, then the wet-weather gear on top) and got my bike loaded up. I was warm and dry at this point… However, as soon as I put my nice warm dry feet into my boots, I was immediately reminded of the cold, wet misery of the last two days. My feet were again cold and soaking wet. Ugh, what a start to the ride today! I just got the last piece of gear on as the crewmember waved us off. I headed off the boat behind about four other bikes. As they got off and into the parking lot, they pulled off to regroup. I gave them a quick honk and wave and headed out of the parking lot onto the Trans-Canada Highway, route 1. At least it wasn’t raining… yet.
After setting up my tripod and getting the picture of me in front of the welcome sign, a car pulled up behind me. It was a husband and wife with their teenage son. They had the same idea as me. I offered to take their picture for them, so they could all be in it. After taking their picture, they were quite eager to talk to me. They asked me where I was from and where I was going. The wife was originally from Newfoundland, so she was all too eager to tell me the must-see sights… and I was all too eager to pay close attention, as I didn’t really have a real plan of what I wanted to see, aside from a few places.
At this point I must stop and make a comment about the people of Newfoundland (and move into the present tense, as I’m sitting at a campsite typing this ride report out on Microsoft Word to be posted later). I had heard that Newfoundlers are some of the friendliest people you could ever hope to meet by many sources. I was told that you will be hard-pressed to make a single stop here without at least one person striking up a conversation. Wow! I cannot believe just how true that is. I’ve only been here one day thus far and I have to already wholeheartedly agree. The people here are extremely friendly and love to ask about my bike (and why in the hell I’m out in this weather riding!) and where I’m from. Once they find out I’m from the states and this is my first time here, they are quite excited to give me advice and answer my questions. As beautiful as the scenery is here, thus far the best part of Newfoundland are the people.
After leaving the welcome sign I headed about a quarter mile up the road and stopped off at the welcome center to pick up a map and travel guide. As soon as I pulled in, the rain started up again. It was also very cold; much colder than it had been the last two days. At the welcome center, the woman behind the counter told me it was currently 4 degrees C (39.2 F) and they were calling for a high of 6 C (42.8 F). To top it off, the wind was terrifyingly strong on the bike. Although it had started to sprinkle and it was cold, the scenery was beautiful.
When I got off the bike at the welcome center, I forgot to unplug my heated gloves (which are routed through my jacket and plug in behind my seat). I do this all the time and it just unplugs itself… But today it pulled the controller from the double sided tape on my rear fairings. No big deal. I zip tied it to my rack I have my waterproof bag mounted to. I should say that up until this point, I hadn’t used the heated gloves because my waterproof overgloves won’t fit over them. However, it was so brutally cold that I forced the overgloves over them. They were so tight that my hands started aching… But the aching beats losing feeling in my fingers from the cold… Well, it turns out that when I pulled the controller off of the double-sided tape that I broke it. It could no longer turn it on and I had no heat. So now my hands were cold and aching from the overgloves being too tight. It was absolutely pouring outside and the wind was blowing me all over my lane. I was only able to go about twenty to thirty miles at a time before my hands and soaking wet feet were too numb and painful to continue. I would then pull into a gas station and fill up (well, top off) and then hang out inside for twenty minutes. I also pulled into two Tim Hortons and one McDonalds to get coffee. I was absolutely miserable. I thought I was miserable the first two days… But they were nothing compared to this day.
My goal was to make it to Gros Morne provincial park by the end of the day. This should have been an easy task, as it was only about 200 miles from Port Aux Basques (where the ferry landed) to Gros Morne… But I had been on the road for three hours and only made it less than 100 miles. I was seriously considering pulling off the highway and finding a place to put my tent for the night. I wasn’t sure if I could make it another hundred-plus miles today. I just kept with my short bursts and then long rests schedule until I had finally made it to the park. Between the rain, cold temps, and moose warnings, I kept my speeds pretty slow, which meant slow getting there.
As soon as I got to the park, the rain stopped and the roads were even dry! It didn’t really help me much though, because I was already wet, and I wasn’t exactly drying off quickly. I discovered that many of Canada’s provincial parks aren’t free to enter. Gros Morne costs about $10 for one day. For $46 you can get the Viking pass which gives you entrance into five or six parks/historic sites up the northern peninsula for a week. I was just about to get this one when the park ranger told me that I could buy a one year pass for $68 that would be good for any park or historic site in Canada for an entire year and I would get the discounted rate on campsites with showers (which would then basically cost the same as the ones without showers). To me, this was a no-brainer. I bought the year pass and then headed to the closest campsite in the park with showers (and I made sure to ask if they had hot water!).
I got to the camping area and set up my tent, lubed my chain, and tried to trouble-shoot my heat troller. I took off the seat and immediately found the problem. I hadn’t broken the controller… I had just unplugged it from underneath the seat! Great news! That was a quick ‘fix.’ I only wish I had decided to take the time to do this while on the road. After this was all done, I finally headed to the shower. It had been three long, cold, wet, miserable days with no shower. I literally spent about forty minutes in the shower under the hot water.
The camping area was almost empty. I saw one other tent on the other side of the area. Sounds good to me! I hate busy campsites with a bunch of noise and screaming kids. When it’s that busy, I feel like I might as well just stay in a hotel, because it feels just about as wild as a crowded campground.
Some ominous clouds
After the shower I came back to the picnic table and started working on writing this damn ride report! I also decided to have a few drinks. I bought a bottle of KRU vodka before leaving. I was looking for any vodka that wasn’t in a glass container. The only reason I went with this vodka is because of the cool container it came in.
The bottle cost $15 and the aluminum bottle itself is very well built. It’s not like those thin aluminum beer bottles. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought this was a purpose-built drinking vessel retailing for $10 or $15. After preparing a tang and vodka mixer, I boiled up some shells for ‘shells and cheese’ for dinner.
The campground didn’t have any potable water, so any water out of the faucets or water pump had to be boiled before drinking. This was no problem though because I brought along my Katadyn water filter. I found a pool of water close to my campsite (looked like fresh rain runoff) and pumped out a couple of liters of water… I needed something to make my tang vodka mixers with! (I need to come up with a fancy mixed drink name for this. It’s actually quite good and packs well)
Total mileage for the day: 212 miles (though this felt more like 2012 miles)
Day 3 route:
Sounds like the weather really gave you hell the first few days, hoping it got better for you!
Way to go Iron Man. The Rock can be "evil" in the early summer. You were right though. The people make up for it. Can't wait to read the rest of the adventure as you cross the island.
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