West and North (Canada incl. Dempster) - 1972 Moto Guzzi (Video added 08/08/2019)

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by nick949eldo, Jul 1, 2019.

  1. nick949eldo

    nick949eldo Long timer

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    My 1972 Guzzi Eldorado has been my main travelling companion for a few years now (Trans Lab, Trans Taiga etc.), but a year or so back she developed gearbox problems. No, wait - let's be honest here - I buggered up her gearbox thinking I was a better mechanic than I am. But to cut to the chase - with a fresh, replacement gearbox, new cylinders and pistons, a new oil pump, and a few shy of 100,000 miles on the clock, she's back on the road, both metaphorically and literally.

    I'm writing this from a rather nice motel in Roblin, Manitoba. This is the end of my fourth day on the road, having left home near Kingston Ontario before 5AM on last Friday morning. I'm generally heading west. To paraphrase Gord Downie in that terrific bike road movie 'One Week', 'I have Direction but not Destination'. The first day was uneventful, except the darn bike was reluctant to idle on both cylinders and would buck and splutter at low speed. Never mind though, there's not much call for idling between home and my mate Ken's home in Webbwood where we spent a pleasant hour being bug bitten while we tried to sort the carbs.

    days1to4.jpg We thought we had it nailed, but as I headed back toward the Trans-Canada highway the Eldorado was spluttering and would only run well if I kept the revs up. 'Oh well, she'll sort herself out when she gets warmed up' I thought. Wrong. I had hardly gone 5 miles when the misfiring got much worse then she died altogether.

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    I pulled onto the soft shoulder. After years of riding old bikes, I'm smart enough to keep a comprehensive tool kit near the top of the pannier. Still thinking it was carb problems I was just about to pull the top off the right-hand Del Orto when I noticed that the capacitor, which is usually bolted to the side of the distributor (what? your bike doesn't have a distributor?), was hanging by a couple of threads of one of the bolts. The other had vanished.
    So I tightened it up. Bike started. Sounded good. Off we go again - for the next 20 miles - until the bike staggered to a stop again. This time the remaining bolt had vibrated free.

    In my bag of spare bits, I had multiple old sets of points (what? your bike doesn't have points?), one of which had the little bolt which, as luck, or great Guzzi forethought would have it, was the size I needed. It's a bit of a fiddle to get the bolt into the little holes. Various carb parts and HT leads are in the way, so of course I dropped the precious bolt.

    Back to my tool kit for the magnet-on-a-stick - you can tell I've been here before. I went fishing for the dropped bolt and came up with two. One of the originals had lodged in a little depression in the crankcase. Eventually I got one bolted in place. I dropped the other in the gravel and despite fishing with the magnet for a while couldn't find it. Oh well, these things happen.

    So the remaining bolt wouldn't go walk-about again, slapped some Gorilla tape over the condenser pressing it firmly down over the nut. That was three days and a couple of thousand kilometres ago. So far it's holding.

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    #1
  2. Dracula

    Dracula afficionado Supporter

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    I love the start of your story.. I am going to follow it. Long time ago, someone mentioned that a potato sliced in two halves, separated by a thin isolator foil, with the wires attached one on each half, could play emergency ignition capacitor role. I have no idea if that is true... Safe and enjoyable travels!
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  3. nick949eldo

    nick949eldo Long timer

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    On the first day, I stopped for a coffee at the Tim's in Mattawa. As I checked my phone messages, through the window I could see a couple of guys inspecting my bike. I'd seen them arrive just before me - two couples on big modern twins, loaded for a big tour. The ladies were taking advantage of the cool air inside, but the Eldorado was working its usual magic as a guy magnet. Outside we chatted about our respective trips. They were heading to Edmonton and the Icefields Parkway, while I was still unsure of my heading. I may have said something about gravel roads north of Highway 11, as I had no real plans and was really just getting used to the refreshed engine.

    People often look at my bike quietly thinking to themselves that they wouldn't trust it around the block. They could be right. The paint is worn and missing in a few places, my gear is held on with a plethora of bungees, and with nice loose tappets, it sounds like two bags of nails being shaken in a bucket. It would be unfair of me to assume that was what they were thinking, but I wouldn't be surprised.

    Two days later I passed them in Kakabecka Falls.

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    #3
  4. nick949eldo

    nick949eldo Long timer

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    I've ridden the Trans-Canada between Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay numerous times. It's an enjoyable ride and very scenic, as long as the mists off the lake aren't shrouding all the hills and filling all the valleys. Where the highway rises over headlands it can be far warmer than back down at lake level where cool air off Lake Superior is hanging about. I had pulled the quilted liner from my leather jacket and stuffed it under the bungees, so alternately wished I was wearing it, and was glad I wasn't.

    If there's any traffic, it's easy to fall into highway-zombie mode where you feel driven along because you don't want to be passed by all the vehicles you just overtook. It's too easy to zip along, never stopping, rarely resting, until suddenly the ride is over and you can barely remember it. I rode around the lake and across to the Manitoba border in highway-zombie mode. For me, just getting through Ontario was the first step. By this time I was starting to have confidence that the Eldo was unlikely to explode beneath me and was beginning to think about the west.

    Ever since I read some of the early explorers accounts, the 'Barren Grounds' have fascinated me. Small steps though. One province at a time. I passed through the Ontario / Manitoba border at about 5PM on Sunday afternoon. Next stop Saskatchewan.

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    #4
  5. nick949eldo

    nick949eldo Long timer

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    I turned off the Trans-Canada Highway within a mile or two of entering Manitoba and was immediately glad I did. Highway 44 - the old Highway 1 - scoots past the touristy area near West Hawk Lake then almost immediately turns into a quiet, roughly paved, twisty road through the Whiteshell Provincial Forest. This wasn't the boring, endlessly flat Manitoba I'd been told to expect. This was nice. This was fun.

    It had been a long day. While I paid for my fuel in the small community of Rennie, I asked the guy behind the cash if there were any motels near by. He pointed to the ratty-looking 'Rennie Hotel' across the street. "It close, and it's cheap".
    The two young guys at the desk weren't sure that the one room available had been cleaned yet. I was just about to offer to use my sleeping bag and to heck with changing the bedding, when they decided that it had, and was mine for $50 for the night. There was a bed, an air conditioner that functioned, even a TV. It was a bit sketchy, but for $50 for the night I could do sketchy - and anyway, there was beer in the bar downstairs. Perfect!

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    #5
  6. holckster

    holckster dougholck Supporter

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  7. nick949eldo

    nick949eldo Long timer

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    It didn't take long before I'd left the delightful part of the road behind and encountered what I'd been expecting: manicured fields extending off into the distant horizon, broad, straight roads and virtually no traffic. I suppose the latter was to be expected as I was back in the saddle by 6AM on the Canada Day long weekend, when most sensible people were still in bed.

    The posted road speed limit was 100kph but I found I preferred to hum along at a steady 90-95. This had nothing to do with the Guzzi which is perfectly capable of cruising at much higher speeds, but I found the lower wind noise relaxing while still making good progress. Very occasionally I'd see a vehicle in my rear view mirror then almost immediately it would whoosh past. Clearly, posted speed limits were regarded as optional in Manitoba.

    I'd been hoping to start the day with a coffee and perhaps a muffin at Beausejour, but I managed to sail past and was in Lockport before I knew it,crossing over the enormous Red River spillway before touching the town. I was on the look-out for a coffee shop but as I crossed the bridge above St. Andrews dam something caught my eye which had me doing a U-turn in the middle of the bridge. In the rapids below the dam were Pelicans - great rafts of them - floating downstream with the flow then getting a ride back in the strong eddies. I parked the bike and headed down to water's edge, watching in delight and amazement as they coordinated their fishing - each bird plunging its head into the water at exactly the same time.

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    It was going to be a bird day. I'd already seen a Bald Eagle in the sky above, and a pair of Sandhill Cranes hunting along a railroad track and there were more to come. In my excitement of seeing the Pelicans I forgot all about finding a coffee so continued heading north-west up the interlakes region between Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba.

    Instead of topping up in Teulon (which was far smaller than the size of text on my map would suggest),I carried on. Although I'd started with a full tank of fuel, it was becoming obvious that finding anywhere open on a holiday Monday was going to be a bit of an issue as the bike started to stumble as I pulled in to Poplarfield. This didn't mean much. The Eldorado drains one side of the fuel tank first,leaving a substantial reserve on the other side. I usually ride until the bike stutters then switch on the right-side fuel tap and carry on.

    Of course the gas station in Poplarfield was shut. I pulled into the parking area and was just reaching for the 10 litre fuel jug on my rear rack when a young guy pulled up in a pick-up. He was polite enough, but gave me one of those ' what are you up to' looks. I wondered whether he was an off-duty cop, or just a nosy - no, curious - local. With my reserve supply in the tank I was feeling a bit less insecure, especially when he told me that the gas station / restaurant 'at the highway' was a mere 39kms to the west. The gas station was open. It was 11.47 when I sat down for my first food and drink of the day.
    #7
  8. nick949eldo

    nick949eldo Long timer

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    Manitoba turned out to be exactly as described: mostly flat farmland, endlessly straight, beautifully surfaced roads, and incredibly sparsely populated. Once in a while I'd pass a farm or a bungalow set well back from the road, but usually there were just miles and miles of open farm fields and the occasional group of cows.

    I hadn't given much thought to the bike for ages. It continued to sing a happy song as the miles passed under our wheels. Hours went by without a single gear change or variation in speed. This part of Manitoba - indeed much of northwestern Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan - lie within the lake bed of a massive post-glacial lake which lay trapped between ice to the north and higher land to the south. Despite their gargantuan sizes, the lakes that dominate central Manitoba - Lake Winnipeg, Lake Manitoba and Lake Winnipegosis - are mere puddles compared to what used to be here.

    Crossing the Narrows of Lake Manitoba DSCN5709.JPG
    #8
  9. nick949eldo

    nick949eldo Long timer

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    This is a big country. I've said it before and will probably say it again before I lay my head in my own bed once more. Today's ride dispensed with Manitoba, crossed the entire province of Saskatchewan and ended in Viking, Alberta - a total of 823 grinding kilometers (511 miles). That's not a record shattering distance - I've ridden many longer days - but this one was into a strong, constant headwind that ground this rider to a pulp and turned the poor Eldorado into a total gas hog. Under normal circumstance I can rely on getting about 300 kilometers to a full tank. Today, we were lucky to see 200 which became a bit of an issue as fuel stops are few and far between. I had to resort to my spare can a couple of times. While the bike's huge fairing gave me some relief, the poor thing took a terrific buffeting every time a truck went by and was constantly under strain.

    Even without a persistent headwind, there's no doubt that riding across the prairies is an exercise in endurance. Straight roads go on for so many miles that they would make the Romans proud, although even the Romans would have been aching for an excuse to throw in a bend or two. While the scenery does change, the transitions are decidedly gradual. It's tempting, after a single pass-through, to think, 'Well, that's all I need to see of the prairies', and it's true that I'll be happy not to ride the same route again. But I kept seeing appealing little roads heading off into the distance, especially in western Saskatchewan, which had far more topography than I expected. Its low ridges, swales, sloughs and ponds mixed with massive farm fields and the occasional grain elevator thrown in for good measure, were surprisingly charming.

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    If you took the English county of Norfolk, removed everything built before 1900, eliminated half the villages, grabbed it by the corners and stretched it until it covered an area the size of the Iberian peninsula, then dropped it down in the middle of North America, you'd have an approximation of the prairies. Distances between even the smallest, most insignificant communities are huge,and when you get there there's no darn gas pump, or if there is, it's a Cardlock system and you don't have the magic key.

    Larger communities are better served. Whether they have fuel for desperate travelers is moot, but you can be almost certain that they will have an immense farm machinery dealership, with countless millions of dollars worth of shiny machines lined up row upon row like an outsized suburban Chevy dealership. I saw one called 'Combine World' (I kid you not). You can just imagine the brash TV ad-men telling you that the savings are 'Huge'!

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    You have a lot of time to think on these roads as the riding isn't exactly demanding. Oh look, there's a corner coming. You probably spotted it from a couple of kilometers away. Most are vast, sweeping bends where the road takes a ninety degree turn over the course of half a county.

    And yet.........I liked it.

    Little things please me: the Elk grazing contentedly in a field just on the outskirts of a small town, the endless ducks, Sooty Terns, Cattle Egrets and Pelicans I saw going about their business in the many sloughs, and the generally excellent condition of the roads and total absence of roadside garbage. I know there are few enough people to make a mess, but it seems, they just don't do it.

    What capped the day for me was seeing not one, but two separate Pronghorn Antelope. Much of the prairie may have been converted to farmland , but it seems there is still room for some wildlife.

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    #9
  10. jeckyll

    jeckyll Kneedragger

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    Your comments about rushing ahead of traffic and not wanting to get re-passed really rang true. I often find myself in that situation, especially on twisty roads where it could rob me of some fun corner-carving. But then the views pass by without my stopping and taking it all in.

    Looking forward to the next chapter.
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  11. borscht zanetti

    borscht zanetti Pura Vida ! ... eh?

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    I’m in !
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  12. Dracula

    Dracula afficionado Supporter

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    I enjoy the well taken pictures, they really help tell the story. Thank you for sharing.
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  13. nick949eldo

    nick949eldo Long timer

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    My first act after crossing into Alberta was to take a pee. Now before anyone starts accusing me of being a snotty Easterner making a political statement, I wasn't. I had stopped to take the obligatory 'bike by provincial sign' picture and as soon as I stopped, my bladder, which I had subconsciously been suppressing for miles, suddenly manifested its need vociferously. I parked the bike strategically close to the sign then ducked into the little stand of poplar bushes.

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    Could I detect and differences between eastern Alberta and western Saskatchewan? Not really. Not at first anyway. The road surface was a little rougher for the first few miles, but after Wainright, Highway 14 was in the process of being repaved, so no room for complaints there. Anyway,by this point in the day I was so beaten by the wind that I didn't have much energy for sight-seeing or creative observation. I just need a place to stop, a shower and a bed.

    Viking - named after a couple of Norwegians who settled here in 1909 - serviced those needs at the rambling Caledonian Motor Inn.

    As I'd been riding along I'd been trying to trouble-shoot my idling problem. I wondered whether the condenser was arcing against the distributor body, so for good measure I swapped it for one in my spares bag, adjusted the points again and spent a fruitless half-hour playing around with the carbs, trying to find that sweet place where both cylinders chime in. Eventually I gave up. The bike runs. Good enough.

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    #13
  14. backfill

    backfill Adventurer

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    Hi Nick,
    Excellent story so far. Ride safe.
    Phil
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  15. Little Bike

    Little Bike Air/Clutz Sue Supporter

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    That is the coolest looking bike!
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  16. nick949eldo

    nick949eldo Long timer

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    There are people in this world who are wonderful. I met another one today. Bikes seem to bring out the best in people anyway, but I suspect this individual is just special all the time. Without giving too much away or causing him embarrassment, let's just say I spent a happy morning watching a true expert go through my bike, throwing good parts at it, which he stole from one of the bikes in his own magnificent collection.

    My Eldorado is now sporting a completely new cap-and-plug lead set, a new condenser and two shiny, fully functioning carbs. Needless to say, it idles smoothly and runs like a train.

    Of course, all this didn't come without a cost. I'll be replacing some of the items once I get home, but more importantly, I made promise (or at least a committment) to ride the old Eldorado to Dawson. So that's the plan - for now anyway.

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    And since my rear tyre is starting to show a little wear

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    #16
  17. glasshousebc

    glasshousebc Adventurer

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    Brilliant story and photos so far... superb bike.

    This reminds me of a book I bought the other year and thoroughly enjoyed... Beyond the coffee shop... stellar read.

    Safe travels matey.

    Edit:
    Doh!! Don’t I feel the idiot. Just noticed the name tag on here... you’re the author... do I feel a feckin Idiot.

    Oh well... thoroughly enjoyed the book, and now I get to follow your further adventures (should have realised from your Norfolk comment you were an ex-Brit.)

    Have a great one,
    Steve
    Ex-Brit living in SE BC
    #17
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  18. JayDee24ca

    JayDee24ca Adventurer

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    Nick, if you are going through Grand Forks on #33, stop in for coffee, we can swap notes on Eldorados, Converts and Quotas, three bike we seem to have shared in common. I suppose though your route will take you north of us, up #16 to #97 then north?
    JD
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  19. nick949eldo

    nick949eldo Long timer

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    Got me laughing there....thanks:imaposer
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  20. nick949eldo

    nick949eldo Long timer

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    Im heading through Grand Prairie this morning but thanks for the kind offer. Too bad - that would have been great.
    #20