Exotic Eastern Canada-Northern Latitudes 2010. Trans-Taiga, Trans- Labrador & beyond.

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by jdrocks, Sep 15, 2010.

  1. jdrocks

    jdrocks Gravel Runner

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2007
    Oddometer:
    5,013
    EXOTIC EASTERN CANUCKISTAN-THE RETURN TO NORTHERN LATITUDES 2010

    Provinces: Ontario, Quebec, Labrador/Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick

    James Bay, Long Point, Trans Taiga, North Road, Trans Labrador, Viking Trail, Cabot Trail, and others.


    8,142 miles, 2,017 miles on gravel roads

    So after the debacle of getting underway last season where I spent all of a few hours getting the bike ready and packing for a 30 day northern trip, I was determined to do a much better job this time around.

    To get in the proper mindset for my 48th year of ventures across the Canadian border, I've been drinking Crown Royal for the past two weeks. Blue too. >


    The bike is just about ready, and I've actually started to think about packing up the required junk. No problem, I've got three whole days left before departure. Oops, my schedule is all goofed up and I have to work those days. Damn.


    Don't know why the start of these trips has to look like some old black and white photo of a guy getting shot out of a cannon, but when they light the fuse I'm thinkin', Man, I don't want to be missin' that net.


    Here we go, this is the bike, a new build for this ride.

    [​IMG]
    (to be continued)
    #1
  2. WarLlama

    WarLlama belligerent cameloid

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2005
    Oddometer:
    20,892
    Location:
    twixt & tween
    Sweet looking bike! :clap ADV sticker right on the engine? :scratch

    [​IMG]
    #2
  3. jdrocks

    jdrocks Gravel Runner

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2007
    Oddometer:
    5,013
    thanks, bike was built to run the northern gravel. ADV sticker is on a SS plate attached to a tab on the frame.
    #3
  4. jdrocks

    jdrocks Gravel Runner

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2007
    Oddometer:
    5,013
    Day 1: Saturday 8/21/10, Home to Winchester, VA, 199 miles

    I finally jumped on my horse late in the day and started a short ride west by northwest to Winchester. I wanted to leave earlier and the bike was packed and ready to go, but I needed to complete a few things at the office and around the house. Damn, no nice rested start for this trip either. I do like to run up to the kids house and then go on from there because it gives me some miles to get a feel for the loaded bike and make sure it’s running the way it should. It was, no problems.


    The sun was real low and bright in the western sky and I was riding right into it. I had a dull ache between my shoulders, and my eyes were on fire, nearly shut. I don'’t usually wear sunglasses, but I had a new Arai XD3 and the visor was helping some. The dew point was 82d and the air was so hot and thick it was like riding through a thin soup. Light traffic, and many state guys running radar on this stretch so I had to watch the speed. When I reach the first intersection, some people point my direction. It has to be the fuel cans, unusual equipment east of the Mississippi. I give up on reaching I95 before it comes to a standstill at rush hour and stopped for a soft drink. It was only 98d, and I had the liner in my jacket. I needed something real cold, and right now.


    I pull the bike into a convenience mart and do my somewhat awkward dismount. Sorry, but I’m about 150 years old and not as limber as I used to be. Leaning up against the concrete block wall is a guy even older than me, like maybe you might have to carbon date him to find out when he was born. I was in fine shape by comparison, and that thought perked me right up.


    Everything he was wearing was faded. Faded hat, work shirt, khaki pants, and even his boots were now just a dusty sand color. Faded, that is except for his boney face, weathered dark as tree bark and about the same texture. Rail thin and standing there with his cane, it struck me that it might be less painful for him to stand than it was to sit. I nodded to him by way of introduction, but got no reaction in return. Helmut off, then jacket, I left everything on the bike and went in to get my drink. The old guy wasn'’t talkative, but I didn'’t think he would let anyone wander off with my gear.


    When I came back out, the guy was still standing there. I think it was his spot, and if I came back a month from now, he would be standing right there. He was enjoying the cigarette hanging in the corner of his mouth and was one of those smokers who both inhale and exhale with the thing just parked there. He didn'’t look like he was watchin'’, but don'’t kid yourself, those old eyes see everything.


    Halfway through my drink, two Harleys pull in and park right next to me. The bikes were angled away from me and could have been the Jap version of those bikes, I don'’t follow that market too closely. Thirtyish couples, half helmets, short sleeves, cargo shorts, and sneakers. Harleys or not, they thought they were riding Harleys. One bike had a diecut on the fender that said “Head Motherfucker”. Gee, that goes real well with those new white tennies. The girls were jumbo size, but still shopped for size 4. Any of those buttons let loose and innocent bystanders would be killed by shrapnel. They looked at me, then the bike, but never said a word.


    Time to go, this ain'’t my crowd. Jacket back on, and I'’m about to put the helmet on when I glance at the old man. He'’s looking right at me, we make eye contact, he looks over at the Harley crew, and then directly back to me …with a wink, and an almost imperceptible smile. I really have to laugh. The old guy looks to be a day past dead and chooses not to talk, but it doesn’'t mean he'’s blind to certain dynamics or realities. With a smile and another nod to my ancient friend, I’'m gone.


    Back riding, and I'’m heading into I95 mayhem. I know I'’ll find it there, but these things are a matter of degree. In other words, I’'m hoping for at least a slow roll and not a dead stop. Riding up to the ramp, I see a guy in a small white POS car pull off a five lane u-turn in the middle of traffic. Nobody pounding on the horn, this must be an acceptable move these days. Sorta like a new trick at the X-Games. I don'’t get out much, so I wouldn'’t have a clue on how to score it.


    I draw the slow roll card, but I
    '’m not on there long before I exit and shoot off to the northwest. Sunset, and the misty air is cooler. I'’m almost comfortable moving along with all the gear vents open. Switch on the Piaa fogs just to drive the cagers nuts, and maybe help them see me in fading light. I pass about 100 deer in the last fifty miles and am glad to pull into an open garage at my destination. I get a warm welcome, as well as a new bandana from my daughter for this trip.
    [​IMG]

    I'’ll wear it for luck, and as everybody knows, there'’s no such thing as too much luck on these trips.

    I wanted to be a good ways north tomorrow, so I called it quits early. I did check the weather radar, and man, it looks wet where I'’m headed. We'’ll see.


    (I’'m always slow on getting the camera going on these trips. More photos coming, I promise)


    (To be continued...)
    #4
  5. patiodadio

    patiodadio Motorcyclist

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2007
    Oddometer:
    367
    Location:
    Backwoods of Kentucky
    :lurk
    #5
  6. markbvt

    markbvt Long timer

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2007
    Oddometer:
    2,964
    Location:
    Georgia, Vermont (that's one town, not two states)
    :lurk

    This is gonna be good.

    Great meeting you on the road, David!

    --mark
    #6
  7. L.B.S.

    L.B.S. Long timer

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,769
    Awesome work on the bike! What a beauty:D


    Love the writing style :lol3
    #7
  8. jdrocks

    jdrocks Gravel Runner

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2007
    Oddometer:
    5,013
    likewise. PM sent.
    #8
  9. jdrocks

    jdrocks Gravel Runner

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2007
    Oddometer:
    5,013
    for me, the writing is hard work. i'm trying.

    glad you like the bike. it will flat out scoot on that northern gravel.
    #9
  10. jdrocks

    jdrocks Gravel Runner

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2007
    Oddometer:
    5,013
    Day 2: Sunday 8/22/10-Winchester, VA to Oxbow Lake, NY, 487 miles

    I was up early and ready to ride, but slowed down some when it was clear that my wife didn'’t want me to rush out the door. Leaving on a trip like this is always tough on those at home, but there was an extra layer of anxiety this time around after my wreck in western Montana last season as I worked my way back from another trip above the border. I was running solo on this trip, and that didn'’t help either. I had a SPOT in the map window of my tank bag, had set up the tracking link, and tested it the previous day. It'’s surprising how much comfort watching that track march across a digital map can provide. Well worth the cost from where I sit.


    Time to go, goodbye, and I'’m off adventuring once again. Starting on down the road on a trip like this feels like you kept a flask of adrenaline in your hip pocket just for the occasion, pulled it out, and drank it up in one long pull. All of it. If you'’re not feeling alive at this point, as in absolutely and urgently alive, please consider staying home. I'’m convinced that this heightened state is what allows your return, maybe not unscathed, but certainly alive.

    [​IMG]

    In my younger days, I would turn the ignition key on whatever and 1000 miles later I'’d look around and say “Where the hell am I, and how did I get here so fast?” Not today. I only want to get up near the Canadian border somewhere in New York. I had several possible routes in mind and would just pick one when I got closer. I might end up stopping short if I found rain anything like being reported.


    I had been crossing into Canada since before the United States had a peanut farmer for a President. If you don’'t remember anything about that particular debacle, I’'ve probably been in Canada since before you born. I'’ll be there tomorrow, and hope the Canuckistanians will still let me in. I'’ll try that Red River, and promise not to use Molson instead of milk on my granola cereal.


    I fuel up before the march north on I81, people still kinda eyeing those fuel cans. It must have something to do with the numbers. If I said I needed to run 400km between fuel stops, people would say “Ok, now I understand why ya need them cans”, but if I said I needed to travel 240 miles, they would say “Whatcha need them things fur?” So when people in the States ask, I'’m giving them the metric version and the discussion can move on to the other hot topics. Canuckistanians will take a look at the bike with the extra fuel, automatically ask how far it will go, and almost never ask how fast it will get there.


    Out on I81 and running 80 in moderate traffic. I had quickly gone from partly sunny in Winchester, to cloudy, and then light rain. I would have liked to get farther up the road before the rumba started in earnest, but when I look that direction I know that won'’t happen. Immediately north the sky was shading darker, and beyond that it was already a dark fissured marble color. Buckets, cats ‘n dogs, or enter your own description. It was really freakin'’ coming down.


    In Pennsylvania I stop for fuel. I was soaked from head to toe. My boots were full of water. WTF? There must have been some raucous laughter or snickers at the various factories when they stitched those waterproof labels on my gear. Waterproof? Sure, like a fucking screen door in a cat 5 hurricane. My gear is so soaked I might have to find a wet vac to suck the water out. The guy on the other side of the pumps asks “Where ya goin’?”, and when I say “North, he responds “This crap is solid all the way to upstate New York, just saw the radar at home.” I'’m in trouble now, my tan is going to fade for sure.


    I take a look at the map and decide to run I88 east and then pick a spot to turn north up into the west side of the Adirondacks. Now running 80 east and the wind has picked up, pushing the bike around. Some kind of cruiser bike goes by on the west side with a gal on an odd pillion seat which put her upper body way above the windscreen. Bet she was having a ball. If the guy sitting nice and protected behind that big windscreen had dreams of wild monkey sex that evening, forget the gal on the back. Never happen after that ride.

    North at Oneonta, and I make my way through some small towns, still raining hard. I’'m kind of in the middle of nowhere when the fuel light comes on, a surprise. I'’d burned a lot of fuel running 80 into the wind. Not a drop in the saddle tanks, I didn’'t want the weight. Now I get to see how dumb that decision would turn out to be. I slow down a little, make the next town and find the only open station. Just put 3.96 gallons in my 4.2 gallon tank, no problem …in the rain, on Sunday, roads empty.


    I leave the bike at the pump, and go inside for coffee. A Harley goes by, turns around, and comes back. He makes half a dozen circles around the bike trying to figure out what he’s looking at and then comes in for coffee too. A heavy equipment operator, he was on his way back to
    Vermon. He was in New York for a memorial ride honoring his recently deceased father. Strangely, the ride involved some kind of turkey shoot competition at multiple locations. The Harley guys were going from place to place with their shotguns strapped across the bars until a trooper flagged down the whole group and asked them to cut it out. No laws broken, but they were scaring the heck out of everyone.

    We’re both on our way, and I head for Herkimer, then Poland. Finally I’'m on 8 and into the west side of the Park. I wanted to get to Tupper
    Lake, but with no daylight left, I wasn'’t going to get there. I suppose I could have tried, but with rain and dark, it didn'’t seem like the best idea. I passed a small motel, turned around and went back. There were three cruiser bikes in front and that seemed like a good recommendation. The Oxbow Lake Motel, neat little place, but nobody around. There was a board with keys on it, just pick a key and find your room. Ok.

    Gear off and spread all over the room to dry. TV on and the weather guys says that the 5.25” of rain they had today was an all time record. Much grass, just when I decided to ride in here for a visit. Wet gear everywhere, the room was starting to get a cave like subterranean feel. A long and wet first day on the road. Not a single photo outside Virginia. It would have been like holding the camera underwater while you tried to shoot. Canuckistan in my sights....


    (To be continued…)
    #10
  11. UpST8

    UpST8 turnin gas to noise

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2007
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    7,696
    Location:
    californication
    :*sip* :lurk :*sip*

    Looking forward to this! Saw some teaser pics already, need more..
    #11
  12. jdrocks

    jdrocks Gravel Runner

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2007
    Oddometer:
    5,013
    more coming, stay tuned.
    #12
  13. jdrocks

    jdrocks Gravel Runner

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2007
    Oddometer:
    5,013
    Day 3: Monday 8/23/10-Oxbow Lake, NY to Val-d’Or, QC, 498 miles

    I never pack an alarm clock, no need. I’'ve always believed it best not to let the day start without you, so I'’m generally up and involved in something at what most people consider an ungodly hour. The deep lines radiating from the corners of my eyes are as much from squinting into that sun coming up over the horizon as anything, …lordy, I’'ve seen many a sunrise.

    Bootcamp haircut and minimal personal items unpacked, it doesn'’t take much time to get ready. Still a light rain falling this morning, and I take some time to spread the days maps out on the bed and just refresh my memory on the route. Ok, got it, and at the same time I hear the Harley cruiser boys stirring around outside. Now fives bikes there, they were getting into their rain gear for the ride back to western Pennsylvania. They were supposed to be back yesterday, but quit because of the rain. Even though not a HD product, they were interested in the bike and wanted to know all about it, amused that it had a Buell headlight, the lone connection to HD.

    Gear still damp from yesterday, but nothing more I can do with it, and I’'m northbound again into alternating mist and light rain. Highway 8 is an interesting road with no traffic on it, and I make the ride up to Speculator without seeing another vehicle.

    [​IMG]

    I planned to stop at the first sport shop I came across to hopefully find a different antifog for my shield, the stuff I had with me just wasn'’t working. Speculator has a boat/atv/snow machine dealer right when you enter town. Looked closed, but when I try the door it’s unlocked so I waltz right in and do the “Anybody home?” thing. The owner is there, friendly guy, and when I present the problem, he has what I need. “What all the guys around here use in the winter, good stuff, just a couple drops does it.” Good, I'’ll take two. I bum a soft piece of toweling and make the first application.

    On 30 north now and I'’ll ride this road all the way up through Tupper Lake. Antifog working and I can see where I'’m going. I wouldn'’t mind a bit if the rain would stop, but at least it'’s not pouring like yesterday. From what I can see on top of the Adirondack summits, it’'s not over yet.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    I had been in the Adirondacks before, but mainly on the east side where my wife had family that had been there for generations. The west side was a little different flavor of the same theme. The small towns I ride through illustrate the steady gentrification of one of the former bastions of hippiedom. You can see it everywhere as old homes are renovated, or remodeled, sometimes undoing ill-conceived modifications that only someone on silly mushrooms would have ever considered. Conversations once dominated by discussions of wood stove efficiency and quilting have been replaced by heated debates on the subjects of Cuban cigars and domestic wines.

    Through Tupper Lake, an Adirondack town that has a surprising almost industrial appearance in parts, and west on highway 3 to the intersection with 56, a lonely road this morning. It isn'’t that early, but I ride most of the distance to the first small community before I see another vehicle. On to Potsdam, a college town, with students everywhere, moving back in for the fall semester. Maybe the scraggly old guy with no shoes standing on the curb at the SUNY campus wasn'’t a student, but who knows, coulda been.

    I did meet a very good looking co-ed who nearly ran into me head on with her convertible while driving the wrong way on a one way street. I said “Hellooooo!” and she said “Oh shiiiiit!”. Must have been pretty loud, I could hear her with my earplugs in. Close call, but as I slowly ease by her on the right, perched high in the ER6 saddle, I’'m thinkin'’ “Oh baby, your pretty face ain’'t your best feature, plus …no bra”. What she had goes a long way towards making you forget about a head on collision. I should probably get out of this town, and I'’m runnin'’ for the border.

    North to Messina, then east to the Cornwall turnoff, and I'’m parked at the Canada Customs window in no time. There was no one in line, and the young Customs officer was taking his time, probably fighting off boredom. No problem with me, the sun had come out and I was taking a break while enjoying a friendly conversation on this and that. A car came up in line and the guy said “Off you go, have a good trip”, and I was officially back in Canuckistan

    I stop at the visitor center, get a free map of Ontario, but have to pay for a map of Quebec. A free map of Quebec is what I really wanted since I was going to be in Ontario for all of a couple hours. Out the door and riding up 138 across farmland and through some small towns. Stop at Timmies for lunch and fuel. Afterwards, I have a long conversation with a Harley Sportster rider on his way home from his summer place on a lake about 350 miles west. This is my first fuel stop in Canada and an immediate reminder that there are no gas-n-go stops for me up here. I don'’t know if it’s the bike, or they just want to talk to a Yank for a change, but I'’m some kind of magnet for the Canuckistanians. Probably a combination of factors, I just can'’t say for sure.

    The farther north towards the river and the Quebec border I get, the more I see of a French Canadian influence. The architecture is different, the color schemes are different, and the changes are easy to discern if you’re looking. I find highway 8 and, whoa, a whole stretch of sometimes rough gravel road under construction. Not a big challenge for the ER6 and I'’m through and on to the next town. I lose the 8 direction signs at an intersection and stop to ask a very pregnant young lady for directions. She is all smiles, very proud of her belly, and might have talked to me for the rest of the afternoon. My road is right around the corner and I follow it all the way to the obscure ferry landing at Clarence.

    This short ferry takes you across the Ottawa River to Thurso, QC and provides an excellent ride around if you are headed this direction and don'’t feel like riding through Ottawa. The ferry is fast so I’'m quickly on board and we’re headed back across the river.

    [​IMG]

    The ferryman is a pleasant Frenchman with halting English, but a compensating huge smile. Twelve days later in Nova Scotia, I would meet a man who knew him.

    [​IMG]

    Through Thurso, and now I’m running west on highway 148 back towards Buckingham where I’ll connect to 309 and ride north. When I get to the area where the 309 turnoff is located I find road construction and detours, a real mess in heavy traffic. If there was a way to get on 309, I missed it in the confusion and now I know I'’m too far west. I pull over in a business area, a mix of retail and office storefronts, pull out my map and try to figure out where I am. WTF, I don’t have a clue.

    Just then, a BMW pulls in and parks right in front of me. A woman steps out, soft leather briefcase in hand, and… man-o-man was she gorgeous, welcome to Quebec. She goes into an office, but only five minutes later she'’s back out and walking to her car. Hmmm, what are the chances that she can give this lost Yank some directions? I didn'’t think it would be appropriate to yell, so when she was looking at me I waved my Quebec road map a little. I could see a split second of indecision, but then she walked right over.

    She started addressing me in French from a distance of ten feet. I don'’t know enough French to say much of anything, and by the time she was three feet from me, I couldn'’t speak English either. She was doing her best with limited English to explain to me where I needed to go to catch that road north. Me, I was just doing a little pointing and trying not to stare. Ok, we’'re set, I thank her, and she leaves with a smile and a little wave. Only certain women can do that wave, but she was one.

    I did learn a few things from her, and I was very grateful. I found out where I was and how to get to where I needed to go. Secondly, I found out that it was not necessary for a beautiful business woman in Quebec to wear undergarments of any kind, and that a lack of undergarments did not preclude wearing semi sheer clothing. I was in a foreign country and these kinds of cultural distinctions were important to know. Thirdly, I found out that if the molecules from a beautiful Quebec woman'’s perfume happened to land on your riding gear, they are guaranteed to stay stuck there for about 24 hours.

    I have my directions and intersect 309 above Buckingham. Once clear of the city, the road is a pleasant ride north toward Mont-Laurier where I'’ll turn west. Stop for fuel and this time the conversation is with the owner in half French and half English, “I own this place, no, no, the bank owns this place, yes, and I just work here.
    [​IMG]

    When I make the turn west at Mont-Laurier, I stop and look at the map. Man, it’'s still a hike to Val-d'’Or, and I don'’t know if I'’ll make it before dark. I probably shouldn'’t have talked to that French woman down by Gatineau for so long, …naw, I'’ll ride in the dark before 'I’ll trade that away. I get serious about the run up highway 17 as the sun gets lower. The afternoon has been just about perfect for riding and going up 17 you get the feeling that this road is an introduction to the North country. Highway 17 twists through some lake country and it was obvious that the water level was very low, maybe as much as 8’ low on some bodies of water.
    [​IMG]

    I approach a fuel stop that was supposed to be there, but it’s closed, taken private. This is not good, and since I had a fuel mileage index on the last stop I knew that I'’d have trouble making the top of the road. Once again, those little dots on the map don’t mean fuel. I still hadn'’t added extra fuel, only planning to do that after Val-d'’Or. The only thing to do was to keep riding and I slowed way down to stretch it out.

    I stop to ask a trucker that was checking his load, “Oh, not far, not far.” The fuel light had been on for 25 miles when I saw a station ahead. Damn, closed for the day and not a solitary soul around. I circle around the buildings to see if I missed anything, nobody home. I pulled up to the pump and shut the bike off, I’'m not going anywhere. I was there about ten minutes when a guy comes out of one of the buildings and stops to put his boots on. When I walk over and ask if I can buy some fuel, he just points back to the pumps. Does this mean yes or no? It turned out to be yes, and he opened things up so I could get my fuel. Thanks, my friend. By the time I was ready to ride again, it was dark.

    Piaas switched on and I caught another break when I was able to follow a truck all the way into Val-d'’Or. That big truck was my moose catcher and was running 70. Checked into the hotel and had a great meal and a few beers sitting right at the bar. Almost a 500 mile day, but a fine day to be out on the road. An even bigger run north tomorrow and I sure hope the weather holds.

    (To be continued…)
    #13
  14. mpowers

    mpowers Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 29, 2009
    Oddometer:
    740
    Location:
    Va Bch
    :lurk
    #14
  15. jdrocks

    jdrocks Gravel Runner

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2007
    Oddometer:
    5,013
    mpowers and wife just built the bike in front. the bike is hers, a cool hotrod ride, and the fabrication work is outstanding.

    [​IMG]
    #15
  16. UpST8

    UpST8 turnin gas to noise

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2007
    Oddometer:
    7,696
    Location:
    californication
    Great writing! Thanks for putting this together. :thumb
    #16
  17. dave6253

    dave6253 GCBAR Explorer

    Joined:
    May 1, 2006
    Oddometer:
    3,540
    Location:
    Phoenix, Arizona
    Excellent so far! Cool Bike!:thumb
    #17
  18. dljocky

    dljocky Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2008
    Oddometer:
    882
    Location:
    Yorktown, Va
    Great report!
    #18
  19. lakota

    lakota Geeser

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2007
    Oddometer:
    3,415
    Location:
    Annapolis MD
    looking forward to following this
    #19
  20. jdrocks

    jdrocks Gravel Runner

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2007
    Oddometer:
    5,013
    thanks guys, gravel roads coming soon.
    #20