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Old 06-11-2015, 01:00 PM   #1
AustinW OP
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Austin’s Adventures part 6: Canada and USA 2015

So, at the end of November 2014 I finally got the dream ticket I had applied for 6 times over the previous 5 years and was allowed to leave my job at the Department for Works and Pensions on “voluntary early severance”. Early retirement to everyone else. That meant a modest pay off and a pension in payment immediately albeit at a reduced rate initially. Nevertheless it was enough money to open new horizons for our motorcycle travels, which had for the previous 3 years been restricted to the 6 weeks my wife and I had negotiated with our respective employers as unpaid leave. I know we were lucky to be able to have 6 weeks off at once but now we are even luckier and could travel the world almost limited only by the modest budget and the inclination to get off our backsides and do it. I wouldn't say I have necessarily been one of these dreamers who has always wanted to chuck the lot in and travel, but there are definitely places and people in the world I want to experience that require time and commitment to get to rather than paying a travel agent to get you there. And to my mind a motorcycle, and my motorcycle in particular, is the perfect way to travel.

In January 2015 we came up with version 1 of the plan: my wife would give her notice in to leave her employment towards the end of May and we would spend 3-4 months after that travelling at a very relaxed pace around Scandinavia, northern Europe and Iceland. Part of the plan was to test whether we could cope with long term travel and in particular travel on a more limited budget than we had previously been used to. Staying in Europe meant we wouldn't be more than a few days ride from a ferry and home if we got fed up of the travel.

In February Air Canada announced a special promotion for 2015 where they would ship a motorcycle to/from any of their major hub airports for $1000 Canadian with 30% discount if you also flew with Air Canada. A fantastic deal given that the main UK based bike shippers charge over £1000 one way to/from the East coast of USA. That changed everything as it meant we could get the bike to Canada and USA for little more than we would be paying for ferries in plan version 1. Out came the maps, the guide books and google to research travel in Canada and we soon came up with plan B: the wife would still quit her job, we would ship the bike to/from Montreal, so we see as much of Canada as we can, and ride west then north until we reach the top or run out of time or inclination, or the weather chases us back south. Then keep as close to the Canadian Pacific coast to the USA border and then back across the northern states of the USA, in particular visiting Yellowstone so I get my volcano fix there instead of Iceland. Total trip around 4 months. A tentative enquiry on the ADVRider forum about the planned trip soon developed into a cascade of support, advice, and most surprisingly offers from lots of people I had never met to stay at their homes if I was passing that way. We were completely taken aback by this wave of generosity and it was with some trepidation that we accepted a couple of the offers for the early part of the trip and tentatively accepting some others to be confirmed later when we were further into our trip. I needn't have had any trepidation as the hospitality help and support offered by the three guys we have met to date has been fantastic and beyond anything I expected: thanks to “NIck_Eldo” for hosting us and giving us endless advice before we set off; to “NORTH RIDER” for meeting us then shepherding us into Thunder Bay to a bike shop to get new waterproofs and the very generously giving me a Wolfman dry bag to replace the BMW bag that got a several holes in it when it and the pannier it was attached to came away from the bike just outside Marathon on the north coast of Lake Superior. I am blaming the security or customs guys at Air Canada as they had clearly removed the pannier (for no reason) but not refitted it properly with the clasp locked but not clasping the pannier frame at all. Finally at this stage thanks also to “itspossible" for hosting us for a night in Thunder Bay, giving us a guided tour and sharing some delightful malt whisky with me. I apologise if a I became a whisky bore for the night.

OK, enough context…… onto the ride report. To a Brit Canada is absolutely huge. Its like someone is playing some sort of practical joke and moving everything apart as you ride along. I have a fairly detailed road atlas open in my tank bag and it takes two days to cross just one page. The speed limits in Ontario are ludicrously low for for such a big unpopulated province. 90kph on a wide open 4 lane dual carriageway (divided highway) with virtually no traffic on it is ridiculous. In the UK it would be 70mph (115kph) and the road would be four lanes solid of fast moving traffic. I know everyone says you will be ok in Canada at up to 110kph ish, but its not right having such a low limit, and in the UK everyone also exceeds the speed limit by 10-15% as well. After a night at Nick’s we followed him for around 2 hours north heading towards Pembroke. Nick took us down some lovely “minor” Ontarian roads where 90kph is both the perfect speed for the roads and for Nick’s lovely classic Guzzi Eldorado. We parted ways about 50 miles south of Pembroke and I carried on at 90kph enjoying the scenery. However at Pembroke we going highway (17??) and this is where the low speed limit is simply ludicrous. On a big trip I am not really someone who blasts through and am quite happy at around 100kph but there are times when you want to or need to make really good progress but feel very constrained by the low speed limit in Canada. The upsides are really good fuel consumption, and time to look around and admire the trees, rocks and lakes. Yes, there’s rather a lot of trees, rocks and lakes in the Canada I have experienced to date - Ontario from East to West really. I cant say I wasn't warned but I took it rather lightly assuming that familiarity had bred contempt and that actually there would be plenty of grand vistas showing off Canada’s landscapes in all its glory. There are some such vistas, but mostly its close ups of trees, trees, trees, some rocks and then a glimpse of a lake.

I think the only day when we had most opportunity to see some the grand vistas was the day it poured down with rain as we rode north and west from Soo. It was like cartoon rain at times coming down in great sheets of water endlessly. As any biker who rides in wet weather knows stopping to get off the bike, removing wet gloves, disturbing those pockets of precious warm air, and allowing the puddles of rain that have collected in your outer layers to run inside is not a pleasant experience so we took no photos and just pressed on until the warmth of a cafe at Wawa beckoned. We thought we could sit out the rain in the Tim Hortons in Wawa but after two hours we got bored and resumed our cold wet ride. All our wet gear was found wanting, mine in particular, as was the various so called dry bags and one of the panniers we were storing all our gear in. The hotel room on Marathon was like a sauna after we turned the blower heater up to max and draped it with all our wet clothes. Despite a night on the blower I still put wet jeans and gloves back on the next day.

Just to recap on the journey so far:
Day 0: Home to Montreal by plane done and on time. Pick up the bike: done in around 20 minutes and apart from within the EU was the easiest border crossing I have ever done.

Day 1: Montreal to Inverary near Kingston On. Along the St Lawrence seaway mostly and a nice easy introduction to Canada. Beer & food with Nick and a chat about bikes and travels with his friend Norm and a fellow ADV’er Drif10 (Jim). Early to bed as we still haven't quite adjusted to Canada time zone.

Day 2: Inverary to Mattawa and a nice campsite by the river, the first 1/3rd with Nick, the rest at stupidly low speeds for the roads and in heavy rain for an hour so.

Day 3: Mattawa to Sault St Marie. Nothing special about the day, but it seemed to last forever and we stopped slightly earlier than planned as we were both tired and were beiginning to argue. The KOA site charged $41. I will not be going there again.

Day 4: Soo to Marathon - heavy rain as before.

Day 5: Marathon to Thunder Bay. Quite an eventful day this. About 6 miles from Marathon the right pannier fell off at, umm, 90kph complete with pannier top bag. We hand not removed or touched the pannier/frame fittings since arriving so it can only have been customs inspecting the bike that had attempted to remove it for some reason and not re-fitted it properly (its easily done). I do recall looking at it a couple of days earlier and thinking it didn't look right but never got round to doing anything about it. The pannier was fine and refitted straight back on but the dry bag on the top had several holes worn in. Some duck tape was a temporary measure but at the next stop had already started unsticking. It wouldn't last a minute in rain. About 2 minutes after we set off from repairing the dry bag a HUGE black bear lolled across the highway right in front of us. Some seriously hard braking with the ABS kicking in briefly on both wheels was needed to avoid impact and by the time I had recovered the bear had disappeared into the forest. A glance in the mirror though showed where the real danger lay as the car that had been about 100metres behind hadn't registered the bear or my emergency stop and only came to a near stop about 10feet behind us.

We had also arranged to meet “NORTH RIDER” somewhere along highway 17 near Thunder Bay. Every bike coming the other way got a closer than usual inspection and a cheerier wave than usual until a bike crested a brow and with lots of lights flashing and exuberant waving it was clearly NR (Feliz for real). After a quick chat at the side of the road we shot along to the nearest Tim Hortons at ???????? for a longer chat and an opportunity to inspect his very cool Honda Africa Twin. Feliz agreed to lead us into TB and to a bike shop so I could get some new waterproofs - Frogg Toggs not available in the UK but about which I have read good things and as Excalibur Motorcycles did not have any dry bags Feliz said he would give me a Wolfman dry bag he had spare and said he would never use. This was very generous of him and I hope I can return the favour to him or another fellow Canadian at some point in the future. After inspecting Feliz’s garage full of bikes he lead us to “Itspossible’s” (Ron and Kaths’s) on the outskirts of TB. Ron’s hospitality was exemplary, he had even gone to the trouble of getting some malt whisky in as he read I liked it, although as his wife plays bagpipes it may not have needed such an excuse. They really are the perfect hosts and we were well fed and watered and given a guided tour of TB as well and it was with some reluctance that we left the next day. Ron and Kath have hosted many ADV’ers and they really are a generous couple who lead a life many would envy.

Day 6: Thunder Bay to Falcon Beach campsite on the recommendation of Ron, partly because it is just in Manitoba and the camping a whole lot cheaper. The campsite office was closed when we got there and closed in the morning so certainly a whole lots cheaper as t was effectively free. About 300 miles and long day for us in almost perfect biking weather apart from a few big spots of rain as we passed under a developing storm cloud. Nothing to even bother with waterproofs though. I think the only thing of note this day was that we saw our first Moose. The scenery though is definitely changing with the forest loosing density and more broadleaf trees. If we were in Europe it felt like part of central France or the plains of Germany.

Day 7: Falcon Lake to Russel, virtually clear across Manitoba in a day. Speed limits now up to 100kph and 110 on dual carriageway (divided highway). Fuel consumption decidedly down though for just an extra 10mph on the average speed. We got bored of highway 17 and turned onto the Yellowhead highway heading for Saskatoon. At Russell we decided we had had enough for the day (another 300+ miles day and long enough for us) and saw a sign for a campsite. Another free one.!!! Properly free though this time, a small field provided by the township with electric hook ups for this that need it, some shelters, tables and basic toilet facilities but no showers or hot water. We washed each other’s hair under the cold water tap to freshen up and cool down. I think it was the best moment of the day.

and thats it to date. I am writing this in the sun in the camping field with NO BUGS and will post on the forum when I get a good wifi connection (Tim Hortons probably). Lets see what tomorrow brings. Oh, and we are definitely in the Prairies now: its big, its flat and it goes on forever. I cant believe there’s some huge mountains to come.

Oh, and don't worry, I am not really going to give you a day-by-day, blow-by blow account of our trip. From now on just some highlights and pictures when I get round to uploading them from my camera.
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Old 06-11-2015, 01:05 PM   #2
AustinW OP
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oh and someone in the UK is encouraging me with this photo. (read to the end!)

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Old 06-11-2015, 02:30 PM   #3
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Rocks and trees, trees and rocks...:-)

Have fun, good meeting you both.
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Old 06-11-2015, 02:57 PM   #4
nick949eldo
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AustinW View Post
......................
Oh, and don't worry, I am not really going to give you a day-by-day, blow-by blow account of our trip. From now on just some highlights and pictures when I get round to uploading them from my camera.
No really, you should, even if it's just brief highlights. How else am I going to get through the day?

Happy travels.

Nick
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Old 06-11-2015, 03:27 PM   #5
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Austin's Adventures - Rendeezvous 2015 Macklin SK

Safe travel you two, and looking forward to meeting up in Macklin SK.
If you need anything, let "us" know.
Cheers!
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Old 06-11-2015, 06:04 PM   #6
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and time to look around and admire the trees, rocks and lakes.
You'll miss those soon.
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Old 06-11-2015, 06:10 PM   #7
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Are you going to be in Macklin on Friday and/or Saturday?
I won't get up there until Sat. pm.
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Old 06-11-2015, 10:52 PM   #8
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Hi Austin

I know your plans are fluid but in your timeline what dates do you expect to be in the Vancouver area?

Cheers,
Dan
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Old 06-12-2015, 12:40 AM   #9
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Nice one Austin. How is the Panzer keeping up? I imagine with that sort of size country the fuel range comes in handy sometimes.
Say Hi to your better half please and ride safe
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Old 06-12-2015, 09:33 AM   #10
AustinW OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by squiffynimrod View Post
Are you going to be in Macklin on Friday and/or Saturday?
I won't get up there until Sat. pm.
We should be in Macklin in about 3 hours :)


Quote:
Originally Posted by Hoop71 View Post
Hi Austin

I know your plans are fluid but in your timeline what dates do you expect to be in the Vancouver area?

Cheers,
Dan
I expect Vancouver will be around early August. Latest though (as suggested by someone was to get a boat from prince rupert to Vancouver island. But it looks to be expensive so we might not go that. If not we may go to the HU BC meet.

We spent last night on a lovely campsite at Eagle Creek park just west of Saskatoon. Lovely guy running it couldn't have been more helpful and gave us a huge (and I mean big) discount in return for a promise that we email him dome pictures of our ride. I love Canada. We also experienced our first prairie thunderstorm. A small one apparently but like all things Canadian on a much bigger scale than anything at home.

And Pete (Vader) ze Panzer is doing just great. The big tank is good and bad as there is no excuse to stop. I haven't seen another GS out here yet either.
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Old 06-12-2015, 03:43 PM   #11
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Austin, great stuff there, you and Anne will just love it and you know we all will look forward to your reports with just a hint of jealousy.


Andy.
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Old 06-13-2015, 05:10 PM   #12
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If you are passing through Michigan, send me a PM.
Enjoy your adventures.
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Old 06-16-2015, 07:14 PM   #13
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We are now in Jasper camping at whistlers campground and this is the first place we have had to camp bear aware. We are diligently putting everything in the bear proof lockers but have noticed most people are far more relaxed than we are. We did see two bear cubs in the undergrowth at the side of a road not far from Jasper but didn't stop for photos as I figured mum wouldn't be far away and I didn't want to argue with her.

On the way to Jasper we were hosted by the Albertan and Saskatchewan dual sport riders annual rendezvous rally. We had a great weekend with a great bunch of guys (and gal). It got even better when Gary offered us a bed for the night on Sunday - much needed after 300km in the wet and cold with a mild hangover. Thanks Gary, and Esther, Canadian hospitality once again. It also made it our 8th consecutive night where we hadn't had to pay for camping or Accommodation. Great stuff.

I am very impressed by these monster trucks


I also like the prairie roads


Tyre changing - one person doing the work about 10 of us offering advice


But this little tool made fitting a tyre so easy


Rallies in the uk usually involve sitting around in a field talking bikes and drinking beer. Same in Canada.






Sent from my iPhone with a smile :)
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Old 06-17-2015, 07:37 AM   #14
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Glad to hear you enjoyed the weekend. Was a pleasure to meet you, and thanks for the Scotch :)

Have a safe and enjoyable remainder of your journey there Austin.


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Old 06-17-2015, 09:09 AM   #15
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on the road

Great to hear you and Anne are having a good time and that things are working out. I was in the Soo and Wawa yesterday then headed inland for some Eldo ADV. 30 miles in on a logging road I stopped to take a pic at a bridge. When i started off, my clutch cable snapped. I have a spare.......but it was one for the Falcone! Oh well, with a bit of creative jiggering I rode off, just as a large bear loped across the road ahead. In 60 miles of gravel i saw zero vehicles. Perfect!

Have fun.

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