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East Coast Adventure – My Own Private Highway

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by bkowal, Aug 20, 2018.

  1. bkowal

    bkowal Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 5, 2003
    Oddometer:
    285
    Location:
    Oakville, Ontario, Canada
    This is the story if my little adventure touring the East Coast of Canada with my wife Charmaine on our Ducati Multistrada. The East Coast tour has been on my bucket list for some time, and now it can be successfully ticked off. Me and the wife have never been out East before, and we were both looking forward to it. Some numbers: 14 days, 5700kms, 2 rear tires, 0 speeding tickets. A successful trip! This report will have some details on the good and bad stuff we encountered to help others who might be thinking about a similar adventure.

    The idea was to put some decent miles in everyday, but not push ourselves too hard. We averaged about 450kms a day. We didn’t need to get up early or avoid stopping at interesting places to save time. Most of the trip was planned for fun secondary roads to avoid the drone on major highways and provide a more enjoyable ride. We would be staying in a mix of AirBnB and cheap motels along the way. Start was in Southern Ontario where we would head east, spend a couple days on Prince Edward Island, then head back home through the States.

    First Day had us riding the back roads to Highway 7, then North to Highway 508 through Calabogie which has been described as the best motorcycle road in Ontario. Well it was fun and worth the detour North. A quick rain shower passed and we dried up on our way to the first night in Perth, Ontario, a lovely little town. We stayed in a converted stone church. Our AirBnB host was interesting and accommodating.

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    Second day was a long ride to Quebec City. We took the Northern route East through Quebec, which was quite scenic for a major highway. A bit of warning. The roads around Quebec City are rats nest of ramps, exits, bridges etc. and that along with the French signs make navigation a little tricky. There often is little warning on the GPS for your next turn, so pay close attention. Second night was another AirBnB, a small bungalow just outside the Old City. Again our host was a blast, and we enjoyed a clean room and pleasant conversation. We walked from the house to a random strip mall a couple blocks away to get some food. The restaurant was very nice and exactly what we needed. After taking our order, the waiter didn’t ask us about drinks. He then mentioned this restaurant, they don’t have a liquor license. I would have to go to the Metro grocery store next door, buy a bottle of wine, and bring it back to the restaurant. Great idea, I wish more places were like this. BTW, there was no “uncorking” fee for bring in your own bottle. The food was great.
    We spent the next morning in the Old Quebec City.

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    Yes it’s a tourist trap, but it’s a really cool place to explore. I had a fantastic chicken sandwich and some poutine (of course) for lunch. You want good food? Quebec City is the place to be.

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    Then it was on to Montmorency Falls which is 15 minutes East of Quebec. Very large waterfall, well worth the detour. The mist was very welcome on the hot and humid day after the climb down and back up.

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    Next stop was outside of Grand Falls New Brunswick. We took the Trans Canada highway through Quebec then South down through NB to make some time. This leg of the trip inspired the title of this article, “My Own Private Highway”. Imagine a large, four lane divided highway, 110km speed limit, rolling through bright green forested hills, and not a single vehicle on it. That was New Brunswick, it was surreal. That night was in some crappy motel, then up again and off to Grand Falls for a quick breakfast at Tim Hortons, then onto Highway 108 East which connects Plaster Rock and Mirahichi NB. You want a great road to get your “adventure” fix? This is it. Almost 200kms of nothing but a twisty road through the woods. And I mean nothing, not even a place to pull over. I think we saw four cars the entire length. And a group of seven Harleys pulling trailers. A quick rotation of the throttle hand eliminated that obstacle in our way. That fun ride ended in the town of Miramichi where I decided to go fancy and booked a Howard Johnson’s for the night. We visited the local liquor store for a couple drinks for back at the room, and checking out with four tall boys, the cashier commented “That is not enough for a night in Miramichi”. He was correct, not much going on in that town. But it was fun walking across the abandoned bridge outside our hotel room, watching the local kids jumping off into the river.
    #1
  2. bkowal

    bkowal Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 5, 2003
    Oddometer:
    285
    Location:
    Oakville, Ontario, Canada

    Next day would be an easy ride across the Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island. My nephew had a house in Souris and we would be spending a couple days there. I decided to take the coastal road most of the way, avoided the major highway. It was well worth the extra time to go through the small towns. A stop for lunch and a mandatory lobster roll and we were off again. Not knowing the availability of booze on PEI, we stopped and grabbed a bottle of potato vodka from a local distillery on the way to the bridge.

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    The Confederation Bridge is 13kms long, quite the feat on engineering. Travel Note: You don’t pay a toll to get onto PEI, you only pay to leave. There must have been some event on the island, since everywhere you turned there were “bikers”. We managed to get behind two Hells Angels bikers who were quite impressive getting there brand new (and quiet) HD’s up to speed. We hung back with them for a while until they started doing some dick-head passing moves, so decided to continue on with our own ride.
    PEI is a little different. They try really hard to cater to tourists. All the roads and well signed, it is very easy to get around the island, but they seem to miss the mark. For example, we would watch the fishing boats leave the harbour and come back with the days catch. But the local restaurants don’t really serve sea food! Ya, you could get some not-so-good fish and chips, but no fresh stuff. Really weird. The Lobster Shack on the beach in Souris was recommended for the sea food, so we decided to give that a try. I ordered a lobster, and was informed it would not be hot, they only sold cold cooked lobster. WTF? How hard is it to cook a lobster? Anyway, I settled for another lobster roll.

    Don’t go to PEI for the lobster, go for the beaches. They have the most beautiful beaches you will find anywhere on the planet. Thanks to global warming, the Atlantic Ocean around the island is quite warm. You can spend the entire day in the waves without a problem. We first went to Basin Head, which is often described as the nicest beach in Canada. The pink sand squeaks and groans as you walk in it, the locals say it talks to you. Yes, it is an outstanding beach. Clean sand, clean clear water, not a scrap of garbage anywhere. I asked a local about the best beaches, he mentioned that Basin Head was the best. He cautioned the water should be “Warm as piss” and that “It would be busy, a couple hundred people there”. There was a couple hundred people there, on the first few hundred meters of beach. The other 100 kilometers were empty, as in nobody there. This is the busy area.

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    The next day, nephew took us to Greenwich Beach. This one is not as busy since it requires you to walk maybe a kilometer from your car to the sand. The walk is quite beautiful, starting out in a nice meadow with wild flowers, then through a cedar forest onto a walkway through the marshes behind the dunes. Then it onto the beach. Simply stunning. We had a perfect day. There might have been a dozen people there. This was “My Own Private Beach”. Want some beach to yourself? How many kilometers do you want? 2, 10, 20? Highly recommended you check it out, the place is a treasure.

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    #2
  3. bkowal

    bkowal Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 5, 2003
    Oddometer:
    285
    Location:
    Oakville, Ontario, Canada
    That evening nephew took us to another beach to have a campfire and look at the stars. While watching the sand fleas do hari-kari into the fire was entertaining, the sky that night was the real enjoyment. Mars was clearly visible above the horizon as a bright red spot. In fact it was so bright that night, that its reflection could be seen in the ocean! It’s not often you can actually see “mars-shine”. I regret not taking up his offer the use his tent and let us spend the night on the beach, it would have been an experience.

    Next day it was off to Baddeck, Nova Scotia, where we would spend the night before our Cabot Trail ride, which was the ultimate destination for this trip. We took the ferry off PEI. I booked a 1:30PM time the day before. You are requested to arrive an hour before. We got there at 11:00AM expecting to spend some time around the ferry and grab a lunch before we left. As I pulled up to the loading area and stopped, the ticket lady asked if I wanted to get on the 11:15AM ferry. Sure, lets do it! Riding a motorcycle, they always have room on a ferry, so we went to the front of the queue and quickly boarded.

    A decent ride up the Trans Canada (Highway 104) until we hit construction and a complete stop. A scan of the GPS showed an older highway 4 running parallel to the 104. I U-Turned, and back-tracked for a couple kilometers to get the exit to 4. Well worth it, shorty we rode right by the stopped traffic above us. In fact, Highway 4 turned out to be a simply superb riding road. I regret not taking it sooner. If you are taking the 104, take 4 instead or you are missing a fantastic ride. We quickly found our motel for the night and headed into town for a bite to eat. Baddeck is a nice little town. I did notice the Alexander Graham Bell museum which we would visit in the morning. It is must see if you are travelling the Cabot Trail. It is amazing all the stuff Mr. Bell was into.

    A few things about the Cabot Trail. If you ride a motorcycle, you must go there. It is spectacular. You might see pictures and videos but they are nothing compared to the awesomeness of the terrain. Yes you can rip around the roads at high speeds, but you will be missing the experience. Leave plenty of time to stop and see the sights. And make sure you keep the tank topped up. There are sections with no gas for 100kms or more. We chose to ride it counter clockwise for a couple reasons. First is less traffic. Most people coming from the West see the Cabot Trail sign and turn left doing a clockwise loop. Keep going to Baddeck. The other reason is that doing the ride counter-clockwise, you will always have the ocean (and steep cliffs) on your right side. I think it is perfectly reasonable to spend two days doing it, one day each way. I should have planned for that, it is worth it.

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    Keeping with the waterfall theme of the trip, we passed a sign for Mary Ann Falls and decided to give it a try. An exciting 8km dirt road (more great views) lead to a parking area and a great place to cool off or spend a couple hours jumping into the water. After a quick hike, we headed off again to enjoy the scenery.

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    A few photo stops later we found ourselves in Neils Harbour. After a pleasant conversion with the ice-cream lady in the lighthouse (and a fantastic scoop of ice cream), we were off to Meat Cove. We took the costal road and followed it to Meat Cove. Good choice, it was simply a stunning road, a must do. I heard a couple mild screams from the wife on the back as we climbed up and down the rocky coast. When we got to the cove, the skies were grey, but it looked like the rain might pass us by. There is a rocky rutted road that goes down to the beach. The wife declared “We are not going down there!”. Of course I ignored her suggestion and rode down without an issue. And then it rained. Lots of rain. We hid out on a cave while it passed and then I realized that I had to get back up that wet hill on street tires. Wife got off and I ripped up the hill without a problem (it was mostly gravel, not mud).

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    If you are camping, spend the night in the cove. If not, the road into there is well worth the detour off the Cabot Trail.
    #3
  4. bkowal

    bkowal Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 5, 2003
    Oddometer:
    285
    Location:
    Oakville, Ontario, Canada
    The lady at the lighthouse had mentioned that the best of the Cabot Trail had yet to be seen and she was correct. The road continued through the valleys and mountain passes and was breathtaking. If would emerge briefly on the coast then plunge back into the mountains and finally follow the coast again. It was a long and amazing day. We stayed in Margaree Forks for the night in some crappy motel. I recommend you eat and stay at the Salmon Pool Inn and Pub. Great burgers. We ate there and would have preferred to have spent the night there.

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    Next day was a ride to Halifax, I split the route between major highway and costal roads to try to make some time so we could spend a few hours in Halifax. Good choice and we stopped for dinner on the waterfront. Had a decent meal, walked the boardwalk, then it was on to the next AirBnB. With AirBnB, you never know what you will get until you get there. The next stop was just out of town, out in the woods. The place was immaculate, 100% clean and kept up, a beautiful large house with several guest rooms. Yes it was beautiful, but almost too nice. I felt bad putting down my filthy panniers from the bike on the white carpet in the bedroom. We did have a wonderful breakfast with real china in the morning and some great conversation with the other guests, but we never felt comfortable there. Anyway, off we go to Peggy Cove, a tourist trap, but something to see on the way.

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    A spirited rip down the highway, then a quick check of the bike revealed that the back tire, which was new before the trip started, was shredded. The cords were showing through. It was Sunday, with no chance of getting a replacement. I also had a firm reservation time on the ferry from Digby NS to St. John NB. We would have to keep the speeds down and hope it didn’t blow on the way to St. John. We had a few hundred kilometers to ride before we had any hope of getting a tire. Anyway we made it to St John on some wonderful roads without a problem.

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    I booked a place called Chipman Suites, we stayed in the 71 Sydney Street building. It is amazing, a 1890’s Victorian mansion, it is like staying a museum. Highly recommended. Got the gear in the room, it was 8:30PM, I was stressed about the bike, and we were starving.

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    #4
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  5. bkowal

    bkowal Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 5, 2003
    Oddometer:
    285
    Location:
    Oakville, Ontario, Canada
    A walk down the street lead us to Decimal 81 Restaurant. The kitchen was open until 10:00PM, the place was empty, so we sat down for a decent meal, something better than deep fried road food. And we were not disappointed. The trip started with “My Own Private Highway”, onto “My Own Private Beach” and now we have “My Own Private Restaurant”. We were the only ones in the place. The food was some of the best I have ever eaten. We sat in the courtyard, drink excellent craft beer and watched the chef as she prepared our food. It was perfect.

    Next morning I had to scramble to get a new tire. A quick call to Yamaha dealer Motosport Plus in St. John, confirmed they had two tires on the shelf that would fit the Multistrada. There was some concern that the wheel on the single-sided swingarm would not fit their tire machine. A quick chat with the tech confirmed they could change the tire, they had the adapters for the machine, but didn't have the wrench to get the wheel off. Ah Ha! Keen planning on my part had me stuffing the large special Ducati sprocket in my luggage before we left. We were good to go. One hour later I had a new tire and we were on the road before the 11:00AM check out time at the hotel.

    Next destination was outside of Bangor Maine, to stay in a log cabin in the woods, another AirBnB special. We stopped in Saint Steven NB to check out the Chocolate Museum at the request of the wife, and then it was over the border in Calais. It was an easy day for distance and we got to the destination in decent time, unloaded and headed back to Bangor to check out the city. Back at the cabin we met a well lubricated couple from Indiana and had a fun conversation on the porch. The cabin was a nice place to be. The host was a laid back guy who seemed to enjoy running an AirBnB, completly contrary to the couple in Halifax. We talked about how to build a tree house he could rent out.

    Next morning proved to be the most difficult on the trip. It started raining. We had been in rain a few times, got wet, but then it passed in 15 or 20 minutes, no big deal. This rain just kept getting worse. I put on my rain gear, but for some reason the wife refused, perhaps thinking it would pass. She was cold, wet and miserable when I pulled into the Duncan Donuts to warm and dry up. Things were tense between us, but a check on the weather showed the rain would clear in a hour or so. She wanted to leave now. OK, off we went. The rain did clear, but we decided that our side trip to Mount Washington would be skipped since we were behind schedule because of the weather. Hours later, we pulled into Smuggler Notch Inn, Jeffersonville Vermont for the night. The place was great, rustic charm, nice bed, warm shower and booze at the store across the street. We had a decent meal in the bar on the first floor.

    Up to this point I had seen no traffic, as in none, until we reached Vermont. It seems that Vermont is a series of small towns, connected by winding roads with no passing lanes where everyone feels compelled to drive at the speed limit. It is a beautiful state, but the "traffic" was harshing my buzz a little. A great breakfast in town and we were on our way to New York.

    Lake Placid was the first stop with Syacuse being the final night on the road. Coming across White Face mountain, after skipping Mount Washington, I had to do it. I was an interesting and stunning ride up to the top. I continued the hike to the top on foot, while the wife stayed at the base camp and checked out the stone castle. The parks people closed the trail citing lighting storms in the area. I walked back down, and we got back on the bike just in time to got heavily rained on before we could stop in Lake Placid for lunch.

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    Beggers cant be choosers and we headed for the pizza place across the street from the gas station we stopped at in the rain. A medium meat lovers pie was consumed while the storm passed. On the road again, it seemed we were always at the edge of the storm front. I finally got us again as we rode through Fort Drum. It was a little strange to see Hummvee's on the highway with manned 50 caliber machine guns. We got wet again, but turned away from the storm. Wet and tired we super-slabbed it into Syracuse for the last night of our journey. A dismal meal at the hotel, but a decent sleep left us ready for the last day of our trip.

    The next morning was a bit sad. Everyday was an adventure, and we travelled this far savouring every minute. I half expected that at some point in the trip, I would get tired of the bike, the travel, or the wife, but it just didn't happen. I looked forward to getting back on the red Ducati everyday and seeing what was in store for us. I admit, that I took the long way home through New York. We had no real reason to get home early, so I though I would get in as much back-road adventures as I could. I had intened to follow the southern shore of Lake Ontario on the last day, so I headed slightly North and got on the Lake Ontario State Parkway. That was wierd. At one time it appeared to be a modern highway, but now it seemed all but abandonded. No traffic and weeds growing up thourgh the rough pavement. It was the highway to nowhere. So back on track to the border at Lewiston NY with a stop at the duty free before crossing the bridge.

    And then it was back home, in Canada. And then it was a dead stop in traffic on the QEW. Welcome back to Southern Ontario :(
    A successful journey, a trip of a lifetime. I really can't wait to do it again.
    #5
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  6. BigRedDuc

    BigRedDuc Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2018
    Oddometer:
    73
    Location:
    Uno. KY
    [​IMG]

    Did you thump that guy's head?
    #6
  7. soberjoe

    soberjoe Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2014
    Oddometer:
    404
    Location:
    Ottawa, Ontario
    I’m on PEI now, camping at Red Point PP - heading to Basin Head for a swim and a day off the bike!

    Great RR - I’ll check out 108 east in NB on my way back to Ottawa


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    #7