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Archive for August, 2011

August 31st, 2011 - Newfoundland & Labrador By Blacks

I’ve really come to appreciate our form of transportation and our way of travel. I knew when we left that a motorcycle could take you places that not everyone could go and expose you to your surroundings in a unique way that not everyone gets to experience. You feel the rain, the sun, the cold, the heat and can read the road below you as if it’s your own form of brail but I had no idea the extent of that experience. You truly form a bond with your motorcycle and it’s this companionship through the elements that creates that unique experience forming life long memories. In a car a drive in the rain is rarely remembered and just seems to disappear in the back of your head with the other hundreds of rainy day drives. On a motorcycle a ride in the rain is rarely forgotten because you are experiencing it and good or bad at the time, you’re creating memories.

Erin and I will never forget the day we rode into St. Johns, NL soaking wet, cold and exhausted. We had spent the previous two days riding a portion of the Irish Loop, a section of roads spanning the Avalon Peninsula on the south east corner of Newfoundland. We had enjoyed sunshine, a beautiful coastal ride with some amazing views and best of all free camping. Standing in St. Johns the water seemed to pour off of us harder that the rain itself and we decided to pay for a campground and enjoy a hot shower. The next day with patches of blue sky trying to break through we rode over to Cape Spear, the most eastern point of Canada. I found myself enjoying these trivial moments as I stared out at the Atlantic Ocean. “This is it.” I thought to myself. “The end of the road.” Erin and I had now crossed the largest country in the world and it felt great.

Our motorcycles seem to attract attention and will often spark some kind of childish curiosity in people who see them. Even if they don’t catch a glimpse of the licence plate they know that we plan to travel the way we are loaded. This is another great attribute to travelling on a motorcycle that you would rarely get driving. I’ve explained our trip to well over a hundred people and I love it every time. I’m living my dream and it feels great to share it with people. They seem so excited for us they will often offer their assistance in some shape or form even if it’s only advice or recommendations.  The people of Newfoundland take this “roadside manor” to a whole new level. Erin and I have received more acts of kindness and hospitality in our 3 weeks in Newfoundland then I would have ever imagined. We have been sheltered, fed, taken out of the rain and given a hot shower, toured around town by car, escorted to amazing camping spots, entertained around a campfire, given clothes and have been loaded up with food for the road. The people of Newfoundland have gone out of their way to help us and have truly touched our hearts. I realised when I started writing this that I could fill pages and pages with the amazing stories of kindness we received from our new friends in Newfoundland. We experienced so much in our short time in Newfoundland that perhaps some of it is better left for the pages of a book.

The riding and the scenery of Newfoundland continued to amaze us as we rode west for the first time since the beginning of our travels. We slowed down and enjoyed our time at the world famous Gros Morne National Park where we were able to set up camp and enjoy a short hike. It felt good to be active and the narrow trail led us to a secluded beach covered in thin flat stones that sounded like cracking shells when walked over them. One of the wonders of Gros Morne is the former fjords of West Brook Pond and Erin and I had a chance to explore the beauty of these towering cliffs. They were a magnificent sight to see, however Erin and I both agreed afterwards that after seeing the Canadian Rockies we were desensitized and did not find them as mind blowing as many of the people around us did.

Since our first day in Newfoundland people have been talking about the icebergs in St. Anthony so with hopes of spotting some ancient floating ice we headed north. As we followed the coast towards St. Anthony the weather took a turn for the worst and the Northern Peninsula was engulfed in fog. With no chance of spotting icebergs in a dense blanket of fog a last minute change of plans put us on a ferry over to Labrador. I’m sure the ferry was twice my age but at $23 for both of us and the bikes the 90 minute ferry ride seemed like a steal of a deal. The landscape of Labrador was fantastic and seemed to encompass all my favorite parts of Canada. With its vast spaces and lack of people it was a perfect place to explore on a motorcycle. However our stay was short lived due to the overwhelming amount of tiny vicious blood thirsty swarms of flies. I know it sounds crazy but I would happily take mosquitoes over these wicked little flies. They surrounded you by the hundreds filling your nose, ears and mouth eating at your flesh and driving you insane. After one night we made a mad dash back to the ferry not even stopping to make breakfast.

When we arrived back in Newfoundland our Labrador detour had worked perfectly, the fog was gone and the sun was shining. We raced off towards St. Anthony and just as we entered the city limits you see them… Like the stars scattered across the night sky the icebergs filled the bays surrounding St. Anthony. As any good adventure seeker would do I ran down to the shore to capture and devour my very own piece of iceberg.

We spent the next three days camped in the nearby town of St. Lunaire and with a front row seat we watched the icebergs deteriorate from pieces the size of a house to nothing more than ice cubes on our shore. These icebergs had traveled as part of a massive ice island that had broken off a glacier in Greenland and had spent the last year and a half traveling down to Newfoundland. As the island floats off the coast of Newfoundland pieces are breaking off and filling many of the northern bays and some of those pieces measure over a kilometre long. I found it pretty cool that I ate potentially millions of year old ice that traveled all the way from Greenland to my mouth. People that have lived in this area their whole lives said they have never seen the abundance of icebergs they have this year and especially this late in the season.

In between our iceberg watching we managed to fit in some short rides around the area. We rode up to L’Anse aux Meadows, a National Historic site that preserves and re-enacts a Viking settlement. It was one of the more interesting and well presented historic sites we have visited and one that I would recommend visiting. We squeezed in another ride with our new friend and host in St. Lunaire and managed to turn him into an adventure rider as he led us on a rough gravel road into an Ecological Preserve riding his 1976 Harley Davidson. Erin and I really enjoyed our time in St. Lunaire and like any place you feel comfortable it was hard to leave.

Even as we made our way down to Port aux Basque to catch the ferry, Newfoundland seemed to find a way to keep us there longer. It was as if the island knew that I didn’t want to leave but after a final night of fireside hospitality we were given a handful of snacks for the ferry and we made a run for it. The weather was perfect so we rode solid, no stops for 300kms, all the way to the ferry terminal and purchased two tickets for the next ferry. As we sat in the terminal I had a weird feeling almost like butterflies in my stomach. It felt wrong to leave Newfoundland, a place I had so easily fell in love with but at the same time I was excited to finally head south and start exploring the United States. Erin and I would like to thank all our new friends in Newfoundland who made us feel so at home and we look forward to the day we can visit with you all again.


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August 31st, 2011 - Coeur D’Alene. Idaho By GP

Coeur D’Alene is listed in the book “1000 places to see before you die, so I decided to make a point of stopping and checking it out. It wasn’t worth it. Coeur D’Alene is a nice town on a great lake, and that’s all. I could have died without seeing this place and still died a happy man.  I walked around, had an overpriced hotdog and checked out the boardwalk. Things I could have lived without.

However, the road around the lake, highway 97, was another story! I get over how amazing the roads have been over the past few days.  Highway 97 hugged the shore of Coeur D’Alene Lake, passed over some mountains and much to my excitement had few barriers preventing someone from flying right off some of those hair pin turns.

An excellent couple of days of riding, life is good.

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Squamish, British Columbia to Twisp Washington

Waking up early to cool air and grey skies in Squamish BC, I decided to get an early start and head south. Breaking camp was easy and I quickly had the bike packed and ready, I just really needed a shower, which the campground provided.

Returning from the shower I hear a voice calling me “Would you like a coffee?” It was my new neighbour across from my tent at the campground. Being the friendly guy that I am and not one to refuse a free coffee I took him up on his offer.  My new neighbour, Trevor, was as tall as he was round, had bright red hair and a black cat named Coal. The coffee was good and the conversation soon turned to hockey. I told him about my prize possession, a personalized autographed jersey from Vladislov Tretiak, so much for my early start. After 90 minutes of talking hockey I managed to get on the bike and head for the USA. Trevor as a local guy and gave me great directions to the quickest crossing. The quickest crossing turned out to take one hour and fifteen minutes.

Once across into the US I start down Interstate #5 and decided to head for highway 20 towards Coeur D’Alene in Idaho (one of the 1000 Places I should see before I die). Highway 20 was an amazing ride! It had twists and turns, tunnels and bridges, over the mountains, through the valleys, past rivers and lakes and best of all, not a cop in sight. My heart was racing from the excitement of this road! The sun was shining, there was no rain and also no traffic, most of the time I had the road to myself, all 226 kilometers (141 miles) of it. I did not want it to end, but sadly all good things must, and I finished with Ice Cream and motorcycle conversation in a town called Windthrop Washington. Windthrop is set up like a western saloon style town and I was not sure if I should park my bike or tie it to a post like a trusty old steed.  The only thing slowing me down was a fake police car with two dummies inside.This is a road my Harley friend David would have loved, and if he as here, I would have rode it faster.

I am over budget so I continued to Twisp and found a cheap Motel and even cheaper wine (The Glenlivet is out of my price range for a while). I would have camped tonight but I lost my pillow and when you have a neck like mine, pillows are important. There is an outdoor store in Twisp, maybe they have inflatable pillows.

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August 30th, 2011 - Last Night in Canada By GP

Tonight will be the last night that I spend in Canada for a long time. I will leave in the morning from Squamish BC and continue  south, until I reach Ushuaia, Argentina. My plan is to zip zag through the western United States until I reach Mexico. I don’t have a defined route, I use and the book “1000 Places to see before you Die” as my guides (and no I am not dying). As long as I am south of where I was the night before, I will eventually reach Ushuaia, Argentina.

I spent the last couple of days in Squamish British Columbia and did very little riding. I took the time to do some hiking around Shannon Falls, explored the town on foot, relaxed with a book around my campsite and ran a few last minute errands in Vancouver. I did some riding and the roads here, highway 99 is lots of fun, the Cassiar was a great road, just watch out for the bears!

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August 27th, 2011 - Salta, The Beautiful

We left Dragones and all its glories behind and headed west again towards Salta, the Capital of Salta province. The first thing I did was to find an empty jug and fill it up with extra gas just in case. The next was finding a shoe store to fix Lourdes’s boots, but we never managed to find any; they were either closed or the locals sent us on a wild goose chase. In northern Salta, we had to turn south at a junction that split the road in three. One went to Bolivia, one to Chile and the one we took went south for the wine country, a 2000km Read the rest of the story…

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August 27th, 2011 - Miracle on 3rd Ave By GP

I believe that I have experienced a miracle, let me share with you my story.

I was heading along the Alaskan Highway back towards Whitehorse, enjoying the roller coaster style road created by the frost heaves. Suddenly a pot hole the size of small car appeared in the road before me. I had no time to move out of the way and hit the pothole at full speed, hitting the pot hole with such force that it was only through the grace of God that I was able to keep the bike upright. I pulled over to the side of the highway to inspect the motorcycle. It was not leaking fluid, the tires were not flat, there was no visible damage, however, it now sounded like a Harley. I obviously damaged the exhaust, but other than minor exhaust damage the bike was still running perfectly. This friends, is not the miracle!

Once I got near a telephone I called Carter Motorsports in Vancouver and made a service appointment for Friday, I was then transferred to parts to see about tires. I needed new tires anyway; it was time for an oil change and now the exhaust. I spoke to a very helpful guy in parts and was able to secure me the tires I wanted and I asked him to also speak to Service to confirm that I would be changing tires on Friday as well.

Now, for us in North America I think we would all agree “service” is either lacking or non-existent in most businesses. It does not seem to matter if your drive a Honda, a Harley, a BMW, a Ford or Lexus. It does not seem to matter if you are staying in an expensive hotel or at the Super 8, fine dining or McDonalds, service in North America and in particular Canada leaves much to be desired.
I arrived at Carter Motorsports and was greeted by Sarah in service, who I must say, is very easy on the eyes. I introduced myself, explained that I had a 9am appointment and waited while she checked her computer. This is when the miracle occurred! The Parts department had spoken to the Service department! Service was aware of my issues, the tires were ready, the exhaust issue was documented and they were ready for me! Sarah began asking informed; intelligent questions about my issues so that she could get all the details that the technicians would require. Sarah had patience; I was getting service, being treated like a customer. Another service advisor, Miles, came by and introduced himself, just for the sake of being friendly. Wow, how often does that happen?
I was asked to come back in two hours while they worked on my bike. I explained to Sarah and Miles about my journey and asked for the bike to be given a full inspection. Two hours later I returned to the service department to find that the tires were already on, I needed new rear brakes and the parts were in stock but the gaskets needed for my exhaust were not in stock. Miles and Sarah were both working super hard to source these gaskets and we agreed that I would come back in the morning. Miles assured me they would find a solution.

Another miracle! When I returned in the morning not only was my motorcycle ready, in perfect running order, but there was Miles, washing my motorcycle. By the time Miles was done it looked as if it has been professionally detailed, I could have served a meal off the wheels, licked the engine without fear of getting sick. It felt great to be treated like a real customer and to have all of my issues resolved. I cannot say enough positive things about my experience at Carter Motorsports. I have decided to relax in Squamish BC for a couple of days while I plan my route through US towards Mexico.

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We woke up to a strong orange light shining through the tent’s rain-fly and we were baking already. The anticipated cold weather was definitely not the case, and our mound of winter gear was just dead weight. We packed up and left the ranch heading west again. I kept a steady speed of 55mph to calculate our gas mileage, and I was pleased with how little the consumption was; we were getting 43mpg out of an 1100 pound motorcycle with aerodynamic of a brick. One full tank of gas carried us an average of 250 miles, Read the rest of the story…

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