Band On The Run - Year 3 (QC / NY / VT)

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by smashley, Feb 15, 2021.

  1. smashley

    smashley Adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
    May 24, 2012
    Oddometer:
    79
    Location:
    Oakville, Ontario
    June 27, 2010 – Budds’ Advanced Rider Training

    Having purchased my bike from Budds’ Motorrad, I was added to their mailing list. Although some of the material was quickly discarded, there were some activities that they advertised that piqued my interest. The first of which was the spring GS Advanced Rider Training session. I signed up and a month later was listening to Hall of Famer John Parker give a morning briefing to about 20 riders.

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    Starting the day on a bed of wood chips

    The focus of the day was dealing with loose surfaces. The plan was to gradually increase the variability while adding new techniques to our arsenal. It started easily enough with a slalom course on a bed of wood chips. From there, we moved to emergency stopping on gravel. Next up were some techniques for riding a motocross style track. Using legs as additional shock absorbers seemed natural, so it wasn’t difficult to deal with the whoops. After the dirt track, we moved to a grass track. It included some uphill and downhill sections, an off-camber corner, and a small jump. Budds’ supplied a quality lunch, which provided a much needed break from the action. We restarted, the afternoon, on a flat track. It was a brand new experience to sit on the edge of the seat, with the bike angled underneath me.

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    Learning flat track techniques

    After the flat track, they led us to a spot that they had been watering down to create a mud pit. This was to be the final instructional piece, with more than a few people ending up sideways. To wrap up the day, we were taken for a ride through the country around the farm. It was then that I discovered just how much I had progressed. There was a point during the ride when we were led off a road and into the field beside it. The field was about a foot below the road surface. At 50 km/h I found myself sliding sideways down to the field and, yet it wasn’t alarming. I had learned a lot in just one day.
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  2. smashley

    smashley Adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
    May 24, 2012
    Oddometer:
    79
    Location:
    Oakville, Ontario
    July 7, 2010 – Rene CormierUniversity of Gravel Roads

    Having enjoyed my day out with Budds’, I decided to attend the talk they arranged with Rene Cormier. So on a Wednesday evening in early July, I made my way to the dealership. Rene was promoting his book, The University of Gravel Roads. It described his trip around the world that ultimately lasted 5 years. Standing beside his 2003 BMW F650GS Dakar, he described the trip in a novel way by answering the most commonly asked questions he receives. He was an engaging speaker and ended with the following – “If you remember only one thing from this talk, it is that people are good.” The descriptions he had previously provided of the kindness he received from strangers definitely supported that sentiment. Ultimately, however, it was the photographs and descriptions of Mongolia that really captured my imagination that evening and transformed the way I thought about my bike. I realized that I wanted to change the way I travel. I wanted to do it on 2 wheels! Soon afterwards I would discover advrider.com and a whole new world.
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  3. smashley

    smashley Adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
    May 24, 2012
    Oddometer:
    79
    Location:
    Oakville, Ontario
    September 12, 2010 – Oakville to Mont-Laurier (693km)

    My first trip out with The Band was scheduled to start early. Trombone had travelled to Oakville from Sarnia on Saturday and stayed overnight with Trumpet. Trumpet and I live in the same neighbourhood, so a couple of hours before dawn I rolled my F650GS out of the garage. The Vario cases had been packed the night before. I probably had too much stuff. No one was stirring as I made my way as quietly as I could to Trumpet’s house. When I arrived, he and Trombone were geared up and waiting. From there a short drive to the QEW got my first ever bike tour started. The early start allowed us to easily cross the top of Toronto and get the bikes headed East on the 401 out of the city. I think many of us are creatures of habit and my touring companions were no exception. As dawn broke, we pulled off the highway in Trenton, to get gas and breakfast at Tim’s. That’s when I realized that my range was more than double theirs. Trumpet’s Monster, and its refueling requirements, were going to become our reason to stop as the trip wore on. A couple more hours of highway boredom, with at least one fuel tank on fumes, we pulled into Winchester to pick up Sax.

    I didn’t really know what the plan was, since I was the tag along, other than we were going to Quebec. Since Sax was the only one with a tank bag with a map pocket, he became the de facto leader. The other three strung out behind in one order or another. He led us into Ottawa, until we got separated at a set of lights. I remember vividly, waiting for the green, pulling away and seeing Sax who was waiting on the verge, drive over the curb and back into the lead. The principal thought going through my mind was that I had never done something like that on my ZX7, but I had the right bike to do it now. It was after we crossed into Quebec that the rain started to fall. It wasn’t bad as we paralleled the Gatineau River, but got worse as we skirted the numerous lakes on the 307. I probably would have enjoyed those roads more but was just getting used to long stretches of riding in the rain. Like many riders, until then I was usually out in fair weather, only occasionally getting caught in a cloud burst.

    When we reached Mont-Laurier, we decided that it was as good a place as any to shut it down. We picked the Comfort Inn on 117 as our home for the night. I was then introduced to what has become one of my favourite traditions. As one person is getting the room, another heads off to pick up some beer. It is then consumed in the parking lot of the hotel as we perform routine maintenance and BS about the day. Attached to the Inn was La Cage aux Sports which served a perfectly reasonable dinner at the end of a long day. When we eventually retired to the ground floor room, I noticed there was a TV channel dedicated to the security cameras. This allowed us to see on the screen the bikes that were actually sitting just outside the window.
    #3
  4. smashley

    smashley Adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
    May 24, 2012
    Oddometer:
    79
    Location:
    Oakville, Ontario
    September 13, 2010 – Mont-Laurier to Lake Placid (437 km)

    The first thing I noticed when I walked out of the room in the morning was what looked like a very long extension cord that was snaked between the tires of all the bikes. Each end plugged in to what looked like an industrial socket on a post in front of the room. We were informed that the security guards had done it during the night and if one end of the cord was pulled out, an alarm would sound with the night watchman. It’s a popular security feature, especially with snowmobilers in the winter. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen it anywhere else.

    Trombone, who wakes up at an ungodly hour, had already used the hotel computer to determine that if we stayed in Quebec the rain would be with us for the week. The plan was now to head down to Lake Placid and figure it out from there. We grabbed a barely passable continental breakfast from the hotel, gassed up the bikes and headed off.

    This is Saxophone’s backyard, so he “just knew” how to get to Lake Placid. The rest of the band happily followed along as he led us out of Mont-Laurier on Highway 117. It has some nice undulations and scenery, but is really just a way to make time, eventually becoming a divided highway. Luckily we turned off on to QC-323 at Mont-Tremblant and settled back to a more leisurely pace. 180kms after our day began, we rode in to Montebello and took a break at the famous hotel (Chateau Montebello) there.

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    Stopping for some sightseeing at Chateau Montebello

    After the legs were stretched, it was back on the bikes for the push through to the border. Being on the wrong side of the Ottawa river, meant the first order of business was finding the nearest crossing. Sax lead us to the bridge in Grenville, along Highway 148. This route afforded us occasional glimpses of the river on our right but was otherwise unassuming. That actually turned out to be better than the dead straight roads bisecting farmer’s fields that carried us to Alexandria. Here we stopped at Timmie’s for a much welcomed lunch break. I was also starting to realize that Trombone and Trumpet, on the CBR and Monster respectively, could only go so far before needing to dismount (and gas up).

    After lunch it was an easy 50km to our chosen border crossing at Cornwall. This was the first time I had ever crossed a border on a motorcycle, so happily dropped to the back to watch the others go through. Helmet off, gloves off, passport ready, no problems at all. Of course, as soon as we got across the bridge and into the US, we filled up with gas on the Akwesasne lands. NY-95 to Moira was much nicer than the farmlands in Ontario. It was still straight and flat, but I have a personal preference for trees so enjoyed it more. It wasn’t too long after that we started to see the elevation changes associated with entering the Adirondacks. If there was a sign announcing the entrance to the park, I missed it. The time was flying by as we quickly passed through St. Regis Falls, Paul Smiths, and Saranac Lake on our way to our destination for the night, Lake Placid. Since the others had been here just last year, they immediately decided to return to the Best Western Adirondack Inn.


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    Reliving the days ride with friendly neighbours

    With the beer and the bike work done, just like the previous year, dinner was at Grill 211, next door. Steaks, wine and good conversation ended another long day.
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  5. smashley

    smashley Adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
    May 24, 2012
    Oddometer:
    79
    Location:
    Oakville, Ontario
    September 14, 2010 – Lake Placid to Stowe (326 km)

    Oddly enough when initially planning for this trip, we had considered driving in this area, and I had researched some roads to ride. So, with a couple lined up, Trombone mapped a route around the park to link them together. We got a bit of a late start heading back the way we arrived the night before towards Saranac Lake. From there we took the combination of 3, 30 and 28N that create the big loop around the wild interior of the park. The riding on these wide gently undulating roads with the long sweepers is relaxing and lends itself to plenty of sightseeing. If the tree coverage is to be broken, my preference is for something like the causeway just outside of Tupper Lake. Before we got to Minerva we had to stop for fuel, which we then proceeded to waste as we tried to figure out where Hoffman Road started. This was the first of the two that I had researched. It was a little twisty but suffered from some sand and a fair number of driveways. I am glad we rode it, but I am not sure it has to be on future routes in the area.


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    Taking a break at the end of Hoffman Road

    Hoffman road drops out in Schroon. It was already lunch time, so we decided to look for a place to eat. Following the advice that you should look for the place with the most seniors in it, we found a nice spot with good food at a very reasonable price. Staying off the nearby interstate a short 30km ride on US-9 and we were at the start of Tracy Road. This is a road that you make sure you ride every time you’re in the area. It is 12km of perfect pavement with no places to enter or exit, so you can just focus on the twists and turns. What a great way to say goodbye to New York as we headed for Vermont. We used a free ferry to cross Lake Champlain and spent a few moments on the short ferry ride looking at the bridge they were building to make the crossing a little faster. VT-17 carried us east through undulating farmland until we arrived at the Bristol Bakery & Cafe for a mid-afternoon drink and snack. A sunny early Fall afternoon sitting in the Adirondack chairs on the sidewalk in front of the cafe is a great way to pass time. Obviously looking like the owners of the bikes parked in front of us, a passerby asked us who owned the Ducati. Trumpet quickly acknowledged it was him. The stranger was interested in where Trumpet got the saddlebags, to which he replied from his local dealer. The stranger thanked him and said he was looking for something just like that for his wife’s bike. Needless to say, as guys do when together, for the rest of the trip we kept asking Trumpet when he had to return his wife’s bike to her.

    I don’t know how far we really expected to get in the rest of the day, as it felt like the afternoon was already slipping away, so we mounted up and continued east on VT-17. Before you know it, it becomes a mountain pass. And before I knew it, Saxophone in front had spied the twisty road sign and wound up the KLR with everything it had. Second in line, I was caught off guard and immediately accelerated to catch up, with Trumpet and Trombone in order behind me. My warning to all, that first corner ridden from west to east is diminishing radius and I quickly found myself on the wrong side of the double yellow line. With nothing coming the other way, I counted my blessings, gathered myself up and powered on. The memorable run up over the top and down the other side was otherwise uneventful, but tremendous fun despite the drizzle on the way down. Sax was waiting at the bottom, and shortly after I pulled up so did the other two. Trombone was the first to realize that it was the road that they had remembered from the year before, and then he admitted he had previously been a little tentative about riding it again. Now it was all smiles.

    With the light fading, the decision was made to push the 40km on to Stowe for the evening. The pattern this trip of leaving it really late in the day to find a place to stay and not being able to really enjoy the last road of the day continued. As pleasant as VT-100 is, I don’t remember much of it. For this night’s accommodation, we settled on the slightly more upscale Green Mountain Inn on Stowe’s main street. A short stroll and we found Frida’s Taqueria and Grill. Tasty margaritas and an exceptional guacamole dip, made at the table to order, were the highlights of the dinner that night.

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    Enjoying drinks at Frida’s
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  6. smashley

    smashley Adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
    May 24, 2012
    Oddometer:
    79
    Location:
    Oakville, Ontario
    September 15, 2010 – Stowe to Waitsfield (253 km)

    We got rolling even later the next morning. A slight jog out of the driveway was all it took to get on to Mountain Road (VT-108). There are lots of photos of this road on the internet. Especially the section, barely two lanes wide, with large boulders on both sides. On a weekday morning we had the road to ourselves, but I understand it can get quite busy. This is one of the more enjoyable roads in the area.

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    Morning break at Smuggler’s Notch, only 15km into the day’s ride

    The rest of morning’s ride was not particularly memorable. We had continued up VT-108 & VT-105 all the way to within a few kilometers of the Canadian Border before stopping for fuel in Richford. Continuing East on VT-105 was a pleasant ride right through to the T-junction with VT-101. We were well passed lunch time, so took a break at Jay Village Inn & Restaurant. After lunch, we headed back West towards Jay Peak. Less than an hour later, after more pleasant, but forgettable, riding, the boys spotted Lovin’ Cup Cafe in Johnson. Apparently, this was a spot they had stopped at the previous year, so a mid-afternoon coffee break was in order. While there, the barista suggested we check out Hog Back Road, not far out of town. We did ride it, but didn’t add it to the “must ride again” list. At the end of the road, We doubled back on VT-15 to Johnson and headed South from there. Eventually riding again through Stowe and south on VT-100. With darkness descending, we had to find a place to stay. We drove back and forth over several kilometers on either side of Waitsfield, before finally settling on the Waitsfield Inn. This turned out to be an excellent choice. It was owned by a lawyer from California, who was looking for a completely different life, so he opened a B&B in Vermont. He directed us a short walk down the street, to Ake’s Den, where his daughter worked. The meal helped ease to an end a day largely forgotten, because of the stress of finding a place to stay at the end of it.
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  7. smashley

    smashley Adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
    May 24, 2012
    Oddometer:
    79
    Location:
    Oakville, Ontario
    September 16, 2010 – Waitsfield to Long Lake (261 km)

    We were the only guests in the B&B that night, so had the breakfast area to ourselves in the morning. While I, personally if given the choice, would not have ordered much of what was served (like the quiche), it was outstanding. I can’t say enough good things about the hosts and food. Since VT-17 was almost literally just outside the door, we decided to run it one more time.

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    Getting the souvenir picture at the Appalachian Gap lookout on VT-17

    After grabbing a picture at the top we stopped again at the bottom to figure out what to do with the rest of the day. Trombone was really interested in turning around and running VT-17 again. The maps showed an alternate, that would involve some gravel, so the decision was made to split up. Sax and I would use the Lincoln Gap Road to return over the ridge and meet the other two where it ended at VT-100. This is a completely different road compared to VT-17. It is not particularly twisty, but is quite steep, gravel on one side of the peak and paved on the other. The paved section is heavily tree covered and the asphalt seemed covered in a green slimy substance, although on that dry day it did not seem to affect grip. Sax and I had arrived ahead of the others, so we had time to talk. Saxophone admitted that he had been considering selling the KLR, but this run had reminded him of why he owned it. He remembered his time in BC when he could go wherever he pleased without concern for what the road might turn in to. This brief 20 kilometers had convinced him to keep the bike.

    We were however, once again, on the wrong side of the ridge, for heading home. We turned south on VT-100 looking for a different way back. I don’t know why we skipped our first option, but Brandon Mountain Road (VT-73) was a nice change of pace. This road meandered between peaks and didn’t climb to the same heights as the other two, eventually dropping us in to Brandon just when we were getting hungry. We found a bookstore that had a café, but it only sold coffee and tea. They were nice enough to recommend a place around the corner, which they claimed was run by one of the top 3 chefs in Vermont. It put a weight of expectation on Café Provence, but they lived up to it. We did have to sit on the patio, even though it was a cool afternoon, because they were running a special class that took up the entire interior. I didn’t mind once the very tasty Butternut Squash soup arrived to warm me up from the inside.

    Less than an hour after the meal was done, we arrived back at the Crown Point ferry we had been on a couple of days earlier. While crossing Lake Champlain, our day took a turn for the worse, as the first drops of rain started to fall. Backtracking for 50 kilometers over Tuesday’s route, did allow us to ride Tracy Road again, but with the drops of rain turned in to a steady drizzle we didn’t attack it with the same aggressiveness. We thought Blue Ridge Road would be a scenic ride across the park. Unfortunately, the rain was coming down in sheets and not much could be seen on either side of the road. However, it did teach me something about group riding. Ride based on conditions, adding space between riders is beneficial, and ride a good line. I was last in a group of four so was riding on the outside edge of the road. I took a left hander a little wide, hit the painted line and slid sideways. Suddenly, I was riding in the very narrow space between the white paint and the guardrail. I figured the best course of action was to finish the corner on the line I was on and on the next straight cross back on to the road. Lesson learned.

    When we reached the East end of Blue Ridge Road, we realized our next problem was going to be gas. Thinking ahead, we paired up. Sax would follow Trombone, and I would follow Trumpet. If there were gas issues we would stick to our pairs. Heading towards Long Lake on NY-28N, the Monster was the first to sputter out. Conveniently we were at a grassy area and were able to pull well off the road. I was concerned about visibility with the rain still falling and wanted to ensure that cars wouldn’t pose a danger. I don’t remember why Trumpet had a short stretch of tubing, but he did. Since it was his bike out of gas, he was the one to try and suck gas out of my gas tank in an effort to refuel him. The process was neither pleasant nor successful. On the bright side, the rain had tapered to a drizzle. Eventually, Sax returned. Trombone had also run out of gas, but Sax had been able to refuel him from the 23 liter tank on the KLR, and escort him to a gas station. Sax was able to disconnect his fuel line between tank and carburetor, and by pressing the starter button pump gas into a small bottle. Eventually, he transferred enough gas to the Ducati to get it to the gas station where Trombone was waiting. Night had fallen and we were willing to take any port in a storm. The Adirondack Hotel in Long Lake was it. Conveniently the hotel had a restaurant that was open and provided us with fans that we ran overnight to mostly dry out our gear.
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  8. GAS GUY

    GAS GUY MILE EATER

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2007
    Oddometer:
    7,322
    Location:
    Garden City, Michigan
    Quite the diverse assortment of bikes ... and characters.
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  9. smashley

    smashley Adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
    May 24, 2012
    Oddometer:
    79
    Location:
    Oakville, Ontario
    Hang on for a few posts and the diverse assortment of bikes takes a turn for the homogeneous. :-)
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  10. B10Dave

    B10Dave Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2012
    Oddometer:
    2,499
    Location:
    Kingsmill Corner Ont.
    That was interesting. Awaiting more.
    #10