Tag Archive 2009 Kawasaki Versys KLE650

2017 Cabot and Fleur-de-Lis Trail …Part 2

I’m guilty of saving the best part for the last. So sue me, but as I was looking at the shots, it turns out that I crammed most of the ride into Day 4, a very busy one from the moment I let out the clutch at Mira River Provincial Park and headed down the highway for Fortress Louisbourg.

MacKinnon’s Cove, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia

Day 4 – Mira River Provincial Park NS to Trout Brook, Cape Breton Island NS

Before you think less of me for such a short trip to one of Canada’s famous historical sites, let me first say that I’d visited the Fortress back in 2011 when Darlooney and I had just gotten off of the Newfoundland ferry in Sydney NS back from our trip across the Trans Labrador Highway. We spent most of the day there, I got a number of photographs (too many really, but that is how I roll), and shared them in my ride report “I Survived the Trans Labrador Highway”.

As you approach the present town that is there today, you should look at the bush on each side of road, and wonder how the early settlers ever managed to push their way through it. Dense growth of pine trees and brush forbid any direct access, so waterways and game trails would have been the highway of the day. In fact, most of the travel of the period was done via water, and Fortress Louisbourg became a mercantile hub of the New World, shipping an estimated 31 million tonnes of salt fish per year. I had to double check that figure as I thought I had misheard the guide.

The Fortress as seen from the present day wharf

 

The visit was free as it is Canada’s 150th birthday this year, so all National park admissions are free, so after waking up far too early, I sat in the parking lot and chatted with the other visitors while waiting for the attraction to open up. The line up needed three shuttle buses to get us to the Fortress, but once there you head out on foot along it’s gravel pathways. It’s not terribly accessible, so if you have a stroller or wheelchair, you may want to opt for the large “rough terrain” type of wheels, and you should be fine.

The fortress is only 1/4 restored, as much of the stone from the ruins was carted off to serve as foundation material for local homes, but it’s very impressive. I had to look this up… A fort protects a harbour or a town. A fortress encloses the town.

English settlements were completely different as settlers were encouraged to clear the cultivate the land as soon as possible to form a tax base for the new colony, whereas this French settlement was a commercial crown enterprise, and people were forbidden to colonize the surrounding area. One would have thought to see a town grow up on the outside, with farms, orchards, wharves etc, but all the food, fodder and hard goods were imported from France or it’s colonies. All of it. They were not even allowed vegetable gardens from my understanding, all to make them completely reliant upon the largess of the French crown. They did supplement their food stocks with the aid of the local Mic Mauq indians, chiefly caribou meat.

Can you guess what this is? Located next to the gatehouse.
The townspeople have an impromptu gathering in the street
New recruits learn their cannon drill
Can you spot the doe and fawn in the field centre top?
Extreme close up with a point and shoot
And off they go!
The view from the battlements towards the present day town.
This is the gate I will be leaving by
The walls are protected by a ravelin and a moat
Does anyone want to photoshop out the tourist?
This is where all the action takes place
Salt cod. One of the 31 million pounds they produce per year

I couldn’t help but think how much longer I wanted to stay, yet how far I had to go to get to Meat Cove off of the Cabot Trail. I caught a shuttle bus and headed back to the bike and let out the clutch bound for Glace Bay.  Look at the map and note that I totally messed up. I should have headed further East before heading north in order to see more of the coast line to the east of Glace Bay, but that mistake combined with significant construction meant that I was kept back from the coast until much later on and I missed quite a bit of the Glace Bay area, so I’ve yet another “todo” added back to the Cape Breton Island list.

As I was heading through town, I saw this sign and turned back to buy a pint of fresh strawberries. It was by far the absolute best meal I had on the trip, as the strawberries had been picked only yesterday and were in top form. A bit late in the season? Not on the East Coast

$3.75 a pint.
To go? No thanks, I’ll eat in.
Good to the last berry

The approach into Sydney along the coast from Glace Bay was nice enough, but if I had known how busy the traffic would be, I would have happily avoided the whole mess and jumped onto the 105 bound for the Englishtown ferry.

As I rolled past this diner, I couldn’t help but think of my newf friend Tat2 and how we hit only the best of Newfoundlands little gems while riding in that province. I had visions of Crush Pineapple and Spruce Beer as I opened the door to find that they served some of the best deep fried chicken I’ve had. If you like KFC and salt, you will love this chicken! The fries, not so much. Hahaha.

Lick-A-Chick, Sydney NS
Cape Breton Highlands thataway!
Waiting on the Englishtown cable Ferry
Fellow Cabot Trail riders leaving the ferry.

There really is only a short delay at the ferry, and passage is only $7 CDN. I’ve been on this one before, but never heading in this direction.Traffic crossing in my direction was light, with only a pickup truck ahead of me, but I’ve seen this road on a weekend in July, and it can get awfully busy, especially with RVs and trailers trying to carefully ascend the passes, and even more carefully trying to descend the other side under brakes almost the entire way down. I was determined to get ahead by passing safely, but ahead of this lot I wanted to be.

A mid-summer weekday wasn’t so bad, not so bad at all, but there are always two ahead and three behind.

 
An FJR mounted rider climbing the hill ahead of me

This was a weekday, yet there was still enough slow cage traffic to hold us up, so the fella ahead and I passed given any safe opportunity, only to get held up in a few of the really interesting sections. This side was repaved not so many years ago, but we would run into some sections up ahead that have gravel bits cut through the pavement, about four feet wide with varying levels of ruts. I think I hit my rim on one of them.

Wreck Cove selfie
Take two just in case
 
 
Oh no! These guys are going to be murder to pass!
Ummm, Nevermind.

They are much more confident riders than I am. I used to be ATGATT, (All The Gear All The Time) but these days I’m SOTGSOTT (Some Of The Gear Some Of The Time) as I’ve taken to dispensing with my gloves on really long hot days, and I stopped wearing riding pants on hot days. What can I say? I ride for fun, not to lose weight, and it’s working! 😛
 

 
Lots of constriction. Sigh.
The Road to Capstick, and consequently, Meat Cove.

Remember I told you that I almost made it the last time I was on the Cabot Trail, but as the bridge had been washed out, they posted a guy to turn tourists back and he was highly effective at his job.

Here is a shot from seven years ago… Prince Edward Island the and Cabot Trail. (Good lord! Has it really been SEVEN years?! It seems like only last year!)

Time for a numbered list to help me focus:

  1. 2006 First go round on a 2001 Bandit 600s
  2. 2010 Second time round on a 2004 Kawasaki KLR 650
  3. 2017 Third go round on a 2009 Versys KLE650

I need to do this on a scooter or a pit bike for fun and giggles.

Close but no cigar!

Right! I was now officially past the turn around point and was able to take new pictures of areas I’d never before seen!

Broad Cove

I found a little provincial park for a wee rest break, but it turned into more of a photo op instead. Can you relate?

 
Cabot’s Landing Provincial Park
Plaques galore!
Meat Cove Rd looking back at Capstick I think.

Whoops, not as far as Capstick yet! Disregard that caption. Post trip guessing. Thank god for a GPS camera!

I’m so excited! I think I’m going to have to stop for another pee!

Seven years in the making… “Did you get out to Meat Cove?” It’s like a secret ADVRider passphrase or something. Nope. Not in the 11 years I’ve been riding through these parts. That’s all gonna change baby!

Thar she blows! That’s it. Mowed lawns and tents.

The gravel roads to get there might have been exciting for a Versys with Conti Trail Attack2 tires had there been a rainstorm and or low visibility and excessive speed or lots of traffic. The rear end stepped out once, and it was more fun than unnerving.  Turns out they left gravel all the easy bits, and paved all the potentially scary bits. Not that I was looking to go rocketing out of a corner and down a three hundred foot drop into the Atlantic Ocean, but there you have it. More on this later on…

Paved down hill. Reminds me of Europe, but with steel guard rails, pretty straight and shorter. In fact, it’s not much like the Alps at all, but it was fun. 
Meat Cove NS
So hurrah! I’d finally made it! To find cars, trailers, an RV and a few bikes. Two riders from Massachusets that had met a friend of mine while stopping in Sackville New Brunswick. 🙂 
 
Another rider from Winnipeg that had rode a scooter there. Yep. Popped my balloon real fast, especially as I’d only had one step out and that because I’d used a bit too much throttle exiting a corner before the bike was fully straight. 
 
So I really should have pitched a tent and spent the night, but I was ready to push on and make some more ground before calling it a day, and I figured I could get into Cheticamp and sit down to a nice cuppa before dark if I got on the bike and got going.
Time to get the lead out and get moving! I was much more confident on the way out as I knew that I only had to watch for oncoming traffic and a few nasty potholes on the first stretch of gravel, so I was able to take a few more pictures on the way back to the Cabot Trail.
 
Cheers Meat Cove! It’s been a slice!

I think the most disappointing part was all the vehicles and tents, and the work you would have to do in order to get shots without all the man made clutter attached. To be frank, I was a bit disappointed and wanted to roll on out and get back to free wheelin’.

It really is a beautiful spot
Bay of St. Lawrence Road heading back out to the Cabot Trail from Meat Cove

Man, the camera doesn’t do this area justice at all, and apparently I was losing my light as these pics didn’t expose as well as I’d like, but they do place wonderful emphasis on the sky.

Heading towards Pleasant Bay on the Trail

My decision to leave rather than stay resulted in a couple of pros:

  1. There was virtually no other traffic on the road. I had everything to myself, at my own pace!
  2. Riding off into the Sunset is an excuse like no other to snap shot after shot

Cons:

  1. Ummm. Don’t people warn you about moose and dear collisions at this time of night? Yep, it gives me a bit of pucker factor. 
  2. Now that you’ve got me a bit nervous, I’m not going to ride this like a race track, especially with all that construction behind me and who knows what lying ahead. Maybe this is a ‘Pro’?
Pleasant Bay, Cape Breton Island Nova Scotia
The classic lookout shot without other tourists and fences in the way.

I had to get a selfie in here as well, but to offset that, I added a couple pics of the wear on the tires. Enjoy!

I’m getting smarter in my old age and my chicken strips are in fact “safety zones”.

My nickname used to be ‘Crash’ way back in days I had knee sliders and knew how to use them, and tires scrubbed right to the edge. (In my mind they were to the edge. Lol) After a few close calls involving man and wildlife I now opt for a non license threatening pace, and arriving at my final destination upright and intact as opposed to ambulance and or flatbed. I’ve bad experiences with both.

The front is wearing well

I’ve got the back aired up to forty pounds and the front up to 38, where I usually run about 36-34 as with a loaded bike and long distance touring, I want a slight crown on the tire so I don’t get a horrible flat spot down the center of the tire. So far it’s been working well this trip, although there is now visible shoulder wear on the front tire that is visible while looking down from above.

Great rubber, these Continental Trail Attack2 tires, and I’ve full confidence in them for cornering, and braking, although they aren’t as good as the Michelin Pilot Road 4s in the wet as I ran last season on the bike, they tend to wear better, and I expect more than 10k off of the rear tire.

If shots like this last one are a sign of things to come, I’d better pick up the pace a tad and try to get some kilometres behind me cause I’d be stopping every time I saw a ‘Wow!’ scene that I’d frame into a photo.

Looking back towards Pleasant Bay
 

Right, so I’m booting along a long stretch of road that is under construction, and as there is no other traffic, I mean I’m really going a bit too fast to see any disasterous potholes, but the Versys loves this kind of riding, and I find I’ve twisted my wrist a bit too far when I see a dark shape up ahead on the road. Bullwinkle himself with a full rack! Wow! Slow down or try to get your camera out or both? Why both of course, and in the failing light what you will see is horribly blurry and grainy, but I will always remember him as majestic, disdainful and powerful. Velvet springs to mind. Covering his massive rack, and segueing to a beautiful glossy dark coat.

Ripping it…
Oh bother! Bullwinkle is doing guard duty on the construction equipment!
I had to blow this one up so you could see him.
And this is the one I thought I’d be able to proudly show people in the future when ever I gave out “that” warning…
No moose here, just a beautiful skyline.
Yeah, I might have been going a bit fast.

Did I mention I love these tires? In a straight line on gravel, superb, but you have to drop down to about 60kph for corners or you will find yourself in the ditch on this heavy pig of a street machine. It’s not an offroad bike, and the term best applied to it IMHO is “SUB”. Sport Utility Bike, similar to the ubiquitous SUV driven to shopping malls and found on six lane paved highways. Rule of thumb, if you won’t take your honda civic down that road, neither wilt thou goest with the Versys. 

Roads like these are why people ride bikes. The view and the twisties. Go ride Skyline Drive in Virginia.
A look back. Yes, it was that much fun. Every time I’ve ridden it.
I know I’m getting closer to Cheticamp now.

As I got closer to Cheticamp, I was running into a few more vehicles, and less desire to stop for shots.

Cheticamp River, Cape Breton Nova Scotia

I had to turn back to get these shots from the bridge. It’s so satisfying. 🙂

The other side

Why is it that a phone camera with a crappy sensor takes better shots at times then a dedicated point and shoot? Okay, it’s a gps enabled water and shock proof point and shoot with 28mm aperature. I rather like it.

But the iPhone wins this evening:

 
 
the far shore seen from Cheticamp Harbour
 
 
 
 

If you are an East Coaster, then you probably won’t like these next shots as much as the folks back in Onterrible do, as you’ve been around them all your life.

 

Okey dokey. If you stayed with me thus far, you would know that my next stop should be the Tim Horton’s in Cheticamp, then, if I were a normal person, a camping spot, either legitimate or not somewhere close to town, but if you really knew me, you would understand that when I missed the Tim’s that I knew had to be ahead up on the left hand side of the road (now where the f did they move it to?!) I’d just keep on riding. And riding. It was now about 2030 or so, and I’d be in total darkness in about fifteen to twenty minutes, but I got in behind a couple of cars and followed them south for ages…  Until they turned off, or perhaps I turned off. I had set my GPS to Port Hawkesbury via the shortest distance as opposed to fastest route, as I get like that at times, and I knew that the interior roads in this province are mostly paved and pretty much all of them lead you straight back to the bridge back to the mainland. In this part of the country at any rate.

Crap, it had started to spit rain at me, and the one car ahead of me kept going and as my visibility decreased with my pretty much open visor on the Arai XD-R75 (it has really horrible fog and rain characteristics), I had to pull over and don some rain gear over my leather jacket. A bit of a roadside dance for a few minutes. My speed had dropped away to somewhere faster than 60 and slower than 80, and I knew I had to pull off and get a tent set up for the night, cause this was a one way ticket to an accident, with wildlife or one of the ‘single vehicle’ that I’d never be able to live down should my friends hear of it.

As the rain began to abate and fizzle out, I passed a couple of likely spots until I found a Nova Scotian picnic area on the right that looked good, or rather TGTBT at the time, and the ground was rocky and wet. Bog wet in some places, but with a flashlight and time I found a hard spot that while it would take the tent, not the pegs. I was only able to drive in about four stakes, and a couple of those were very iffy, but I made a good choice in tents, and my Alps  Mountaineering Lynx 2 is free standing with a buckle on fly, so I spent the rest of the night that included another brief shower in a tent no ten metres from the road where I slept like a baby.

Mmmm! Chef Boyardee ravioli with Indian Mutter Paneer curry.

Okay, this wasn’t cordon bleu, but it was hot and hit the spot before bed, along with plenty of water to wash it down. All for under four dollars.

 

 

Day 5 – Trout Brook, Cape Breton Island NS to Borden-Carelton PE

Day 5 – Trout Brook, Cape Breton Island NS to Borden-Carelton PE

A cranky baby that woke up at 6am. I’m starting to hate camping as I’m up so early in the mornings that at times I don’t feel all that well rested, and frankly, I want people to stand a bit upwind of me at the moment. Time for a change after I brush my teeth and make some tea.

You know what? Screw the tea, the pot is still a bit off with the curry residue in it, and I washed it out in a puddle of dirty water, then rinsed it with clean. I’m in no mood for yet another ginger flavoured orange pekoe, so I pack up the damp tent and off I ride into the morning mist only to find I was about 2 kilometres north of a proper campground. *Sigh.*

Trout River Provincial Park, Cape Breton Nova Scotia

 

A short ride and I’m back in civilization and I can order a nice large cuppa and something other than instant oatmeal for breakfast! I’m enjoying this as I sit at the curb and savour the moment. Especially the morning mist that makes me think I’m in the Great Smokey Mountains down in North Carolina. It’s cool for a change, and a beautiful morning. That hot sun is going to burn off this mist, and the real day will begin.

 
First real cuppa in days
That winch is used to haul moose up into the bed of  his truck

This gentleman stopped by to chat and was really friendly. He’s been around, and worked on Prince Edward Island for a while, but was happy to be back home. He was also proud of his cage and winch set up for hauling moose up into the bed, and let me tell you that cage must have weighed in at over 200lbs easily!

Back on the highway, destination Port Hawkesbury.

Farewell to Cape Breton Island!

I’ve done highways before, and they all seem much the same, so I opted to return via the Sunrise trail, but I think I missed part of it, but never mind as I found myself on a secondary road headed in the direction I wanted to go, towards Antigonish, which turns out to be the Sunrise Trail. 😀 Lucky me. I’m running a bit low on gas, down to three bars but I’m not worried, I should be fine for another 100k before I need to start panicking.

I decide I’m going to ride out to Monks Head Nova Scotia and see what there is to be seen…

Linwood Harbour NS
Ummm. Sunrise Trail, in spots its the Sunrise Trail, Suspension Surprise that is

I rode out to this little dead end jetty where I found this dude packing up from his campsite of the previous evening, and it turns out he’s from Onterrible and doing a tour of the East Coast the budget car camping way, and as he’d already been to PEI, all I could do was show him the highlights of Cape Breton on my tourist map, and handed it over to him as he was on his way there that very day.

I love chatting with people. You meet such interesting people at home and abroad.

Next stop, Cape Breton Island!
 
 
Pomquet Point NS
The view from Monks Head Road.

So I totally missed the Monks Head bit, but to make up for it, there was plenty of construction just ahead, and i had to stop long enough to convince the flagman to get a dual sport instead of the cbr250 he was planning on buying. Turns out he was originally from PEI and was working road crew in Nova Scotia because that was where the money was.

Right, now I needed gas and I was just starting to panic a bit until I made it into Antigonish with plenty left, only down to a single bar, not even flashing merrily at me yet. It’s a healthy fear, ask my buddy Zac. 😉

I’m still on the Sunrise Trail, this time aiming for Cape George Lighthouse, where Rob Harris and Zac had taken me years earlier on the Dawn to Dusk rally. A brilliant little scoot that starts off at O’dark:thirty (Army for stoopid early) until the sun sets, or in some cases with Rob and Zac, until the repair is finished and the bike is able to limp you home.

Anyhow, the road was in much better shape, and once I’d passed a couple of cages, I was in sole possession of the blacktop and happy for it to be that way. Once again I don’t ride at a license threatening pace anymore, but I was working the bike and maybe wicking it up in the corners just because it felt good to apex and throttle wide on the exit. Fun fun.

Things were going great until I saw this roadside gem, a portable saw mill, well semi-portable I suppose, essentially the timber sits or moves on a railway, and a band saw is manoeuvred through it, leaving an almost finished grade of cut. So smooth that one could hand sand it down. I had to stop and ask permission to take some pictures of this for my dad who I know will appreciate it and say “Neato! I wish I had one like that!” or “I’ve used Charlie’s once or twice, and while it is nice, I’d prefer to have a BLANK.”

Weight is placed on top post cut to prevent the wood from twisting as it dries out.

There you go dad, I hope you like these as much as I enjoyed taking them for you.

 
 
Cape George Lighthouse, Nova Scotia

And now the lighthouse. It is so secluded with the offshore fog, I’m alone and the last time I was here was with a crowd of talkative bikers, almost a travelling circus act in comparison to the solitude…
It’s not a lasting impression as the sewage truck climbs the hill to service the site, and a couple of other visitors arrive, and as my reverie has been shattered, I don helmet and set my course for Pictou Nova Scotia.

I still haven’t decided whether it’s going to be the bridge or the ferry… Hmmmm.

 
The Versys has turned into a wonderfully sorted touring bike.
 

I have to say that this setup is pretty well sorted for touring. With quick release side racks and a canoe bag holding my tent, I can be ready to tour in minutes as opposed to hours, and it’s still a joy to ride through the twisties unlike my Bandit 600s which I had to wrestle in the transitions from left to right and back again.

These are pretty easy to get round.

Right, you have all seen the farm equipment right? They don’t post much of a threat if you are alert, it’s the ones behind that will get you. One person pulls out to pass becomes two, three even and suddenly you are playing chicken with two tonnes of metal hurtling you in your lane. Slow down, pull to the right side of your lane and look beyond for cagers itching to pass. Be especially wary on hills. YOLO

 
 
 
Cheddar Cheese!

I had to stop. The dairy farm makes their own cheddar cheese, and no, it does not come out orange!

There is a little sign saying to pick what you want out of the fridge, and leave the money in the jar on the table. I love the East Coast and it’s refreshing honesty and sense of honour. It’s why I like to call it home these days. That, and THEY MAKE FRESH CHEESE!!! You know you can trust a guy who goes to your church and makes your cheese. If he feeds you bad cheese and kills your whole family, you light the torches, get some rope and some like minded friends…

There used to be “The Cheese Lady” on Prince Edward Island who made her own gouda for sale, and her introduction of that lovely cheese to me has changed forever my perception of how a creamy young gouda should taste. It should not taste of plastic or wax for example. 😀 Right, let’s get back to the story at hand…

I had a brief chat with the Cheesemaker, a Scots who had settled from Glasgow to Nova Scotia years ago that his accent was a bit hard to trace. Could have been the UK, might have been South Africa or New Zealand. He told me to have a look in the fridge while he checked the back for some 18 month old cheddar aka “Old cheddar”. Cheddar that has aged as opposed to cheddar that has ripened in the plastic while in the transport truck on it’s way to your local supermarket. I found that the curd I wanted was going to cost me six dollars, so I wouldn’t have enough left for anything else, but when he returned with the sample of old cheddar, he would only take five for it as it had sat there since Friday, and when asked what the rest of my ten dollars (now five) would get, he smiled and handed me a block of the old cheddar and wished me well saying he had to get back inside to add the rennet to the milk.

It was just a wonderfully satisfying experience that made me happy I was on a bike in that place at that moment with some lovely cheese to share when I got home later that day.

It is a very lovely cheese
More Constriction! It’s everywhere!

Now I’m back out on the highway heading in towards Pictou NS when I decide that it’s early enough in the day that I’m going to the Lobster Trap via the ferry. Prince Edward Island is called the lobster trap, as once you climb in you can’t climb back out unless you pay your dues. Bridge and Ferry is free one way, to the Island. You have to pay to get off.

 

While waiting for the ferry I met the nicest couple from Brampton Onterrible, Paul and Viv. They’d been riding for a while and had just done the Cabot Trail and were on their way to ride PEI for a couple of days, and we talked so much that I didn’t even really appreciate the ferry ride. lol.

One thing I’ve learned about ferries, bring your own strap if you plan on taking them over and over.

Anyhow, it was early in the afternoon, and I’d be home by supper, so I offered to take them up to Cape Bear Lighthouse where they could add the “Red cliffs” to their list of “been there, done that” so we set off up the road, only to find that they had finally gotten around to moving the lighthouse and while wonderful, my carefully framed shot of the quintessential lighthouse was no more.

While they visited the museum I got to chat with a local who chaired the committee for the preservation of the lighthouse, and I was able to offer my thanks and appreciation for their efforts, he in turn thanked me for “drumming up business on the ferry” for them. 😀

Cape Bear PE
Cape Bear PE
Cape Bear Lighthouse and Marconi Museum
 

We headed back into Cornwall where I left them at Cows enjoying a ice cream cone before check-in at their hotel.

Life is pretty good when you meet such wonderful people while on two wheels.

Welcome back to the Island Ron!

Ooh! Remember I spoke about farm equipment? I opted not to pass this one until he cleared the brow of the hill and I could see further past him.

I hope you enjoyed reading along. Drop me a comment or a question. You’re gauranteed an answer

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2017 Riding the Cabot and Fleur-de-lis Trails …Part1

Cheticamp River, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia

 
I’ve been looking for a job after graduating from college recently, and put any riding plans on hold until I saw a facebook post announcing that the Canadian Superbike CSBK was at Shubenacadie this coming weekend! It spurred me into thinking that I had to dust off the bike and get it out of the garage in time to attend at least one day of the race, then head up to Cape Breton Island and do the Cabot Trail for the 3rd (and best) time.

I already had one of my cases loaded with camping gear, so all I had to worry about was some spare clothes, electronics, food and water, so Saturday afternoon I let out the clutch and headed out to the track via Confederation Bridge and towards Atlantic Motorsport Park via the most direct route that my Garmin plotted.

The Grand Tour

I only had a loose plan formulated limited only by my desire to ride and the cash in my wallet, about $240 dollars. Let’s see… I had to hit Meat Cove, Fortress Louisbourg (it was free this year), and I sort of wanted to see Halifax and ride round the Southwest side of it, but it was a bit too ambitious to fit all that in on this trip, so something would have to be cut.

Day 1 – Borden – Carelton PE to Atlantic Motorsports Park, Shubenacadie NS

Day 1 – Borden – Carelton PE to Atlantic Motorsports Park, Shubenacadie NS

The trouble was that Garmin didn’t really have a clue where the park was located, and when I plugged in the address, it provided me with a route off the highway that looked like it would backtrack around for about thirty kilometres before I arrived at the racetrack, and by the time I was close, of course I was down to about two bars on the fuel gauge which leads me to think that I can do about 50 more kilometres before getting really nervous. To make matters worse, I was looking for signs on the highway that advertise the track, and as a result I shot past a couple before I twigged to the fact that I’d ridden well past the coordinates that I’d plotted as the end point. *sigh* Doubling back I headed for the town of Shubenacadie NS, where to my relief I saw signs for the track in the town itself, and managed to find my way down to the track after some a few kilometres of gravel, arrived at the gate where I got my wristband and found a spot inside the track to set up the tent.

Have tent will travel

That ground doesn’t show you how soft it actually is…  My newly installed “big foot” wasn’t up to the task of keeping the loaded bike on an even plane, so I had to resort to placing the kickstand puck down as well to keep the bike from falling over onto one of  the sidecases.

I found that my friend Zac was on his way to the track to cover the event for Canada Moto Guide and we back and forthed a bit on messenger, then late that night he walked up with a mutual friend, Eric from the Fundy Adventure Rally and we talked for awhile about bikes, the scouting for the upcoming rally, friends and my plans for the trip, with Zac giving me some great tips for the ride I’d be doing following the races that would end Sunday afternoon around five.

Day 2 – Shubenacadie NS to Murphy’s Cove NS

 
Day 2 – Shubenacadie NS to Murphy’s Cove NS

Yesterday I’d arrived after six pm with a part tank of gas and enough water in my camel-back to get me through supper and breakfast but not much more. I asked around to find that while people were willing to give me some of their water, I should under no circumstances use the water at the wash rooms and that the only reliable source was a food vendor that had not yet arrived on the grounds and was expected near noon. As the morning was scheduled for practice laps I opted to head into town to gas up, get four litres of water, and to buy a bit of food for lunch and supper that night. Hot dogs and potato chips. 😀

Breakfast of champions: Instant Oatmeal and Tea
I was camped between turns 9 and 10 on the inside track. 
“We play in traffic”
 
Don’t touch the bike, son.
 
One of the things I love about race day is the spectators you meet. Motorcycle nuts all, and with great stories and tips. The ultimate motorcycle meet.
Jordan Szoke takes the Superbike Podium
 
Zac was quite taken with this customized Yamaha XS650, as was I. 
Tomas Casas takes the sport bike podium.
 
 
Now that the race was over, Zac and I seemed to be headed in the same direction, towards the coast of Nova Scotia. He was headed to Halifax to spend the night with his brother, and I really had no clue where I’d be staying or what direction to take other than my goal of riding north on Route 7 along the coast.
 
We parted at Musquodoboit Harbour, where he recommended a place that serves great fish and chips while he continued south looking for fuel on his way towards Halifax. He’d hit reserve on his Suzuki Savage a while back but neither of us thought it an issue as we’d arrived in a fairly urban area and I assumed there would be a gas station just around the corner. 

The fish was pretty good, but I was disappointed when the fries on the plate had come out of a bag and into the deep fryer. I love fresh cut fries with a passion, and the absolute best fish and chips is had on the East Coast was in Alma New Brunswick at the Alma Boathouse. Sorry Zac, s’truth. 

 
When we left the race track it had been uncomfortably warm, hot in fact, and I was suffering in my leather jacket, but it dropped what seemed like five degrees out by the ocean, and as I rode North up towards Sheet Harbour NS I found myself riding into a nice cool fog. Not exactly what I’d planned, but much preferred to rain even though it meant that I didn’t snap many shots. There were a few that I felt worth stopping for, this one was taken on the side road out to Murphy’s by the Ocean camp ground. 
 
 
I’d arrived just around 8pm to the campground to find a nice spot available just back from the water. The thought of a nice warm shower to wash away to dirt and smell of Shubenacadie was a wonderful thought as I paid the $35 dollar registration fee, but if all the camping was going to be as pricey as this, it meant that my ride was going to come to an end prematurely, or so I thought. 
Home for another night – Murphy’s Cove NS
 
I had the tent up quickly as I’ve been using this setup for a few years now, so thoughts turned towards the shower and perhaps a wee snack afterwards if the office sold chips and chocolate. 
 
They could call this “Mosquitoes By the Ocean”. The little buggers had put me on the menu as Hot and Fresh off the bike. 
Murphy’s Cove NS
 
With all that fog this was about the best view I was going to get of Murphy’s Cove. Time to go grab that shower and wash the shirt and underwear that I was in. I’d packed three sets of shirts, shorts and socks, but the feeling was that I’d be at this longer than three days as this was the end of my second day already. Sadly by the time I’d arrived at the shower, the nearby office was closed and my dream of midnight munchies was a shattered dream. I’d make up for that tomorrow night, you bet.
Do you like my 650cc clothesline?
 
 

Day 3 – Murphy’s Cove NS to Mira River Provincial Park NS

Day 3 – Murphy’s Cove NS to Mira River Provincial Park NS
Sometimes the fog can be a beautiful thing – Murphy’s Cove NS
 
After (yet another) breakfast of instant oatmeal and tea, I had the bike packed up and was on the road just after 7. Yep, 7am.
 
Camping and riding for the sake of the ride can be distraction free. Once I got all my bits charged up for the night and read my EBook for an hour or two, it was lights out and I didn’t wake until nature called, and cawed, and chirped and whistled. 
 
 

Further on up the highway from Murphy’s Cove along Route 7 you will find Sheet Harbour, which I’d been through a few years ago while riding with the family. We had stayed over night at Liscombe Lodge up the road, then I carried on alone from there to Cape Breton Island, yet this was the first time through the town, and when I saw the river from the bridge I had to swing back to take a couple of shots. Especially all that hard work done by the spider…

 
 

Further up that lovely, twisting road I came across a harbour that had seen better times, and I was captivated by the boats left to rot along the shore, including a steel hulled ship that lay just beyond a hedge of wild roses.

 

By this time the fog had burned away and with the directions I’d received from some friendly locals I headed off of Route 7 and towards the coast on what would become “Marine Drive” according to the signs posted. I had a ferry crossing to get to, and with luck, Canso NS later on that day.

These roads were certainly a lot of fun, but I was finding that as Zac had told me yesterday, that they truly tested the suspension of a modern “adventure bike” like the Versys. They not only provided entertainment with seemingly endless twisties, but kept you awake with pressure cracks and frost heaves here and there. I’ve been on worse. Much much worse.
Waiting on the Country Harbour ferry

As you can no doubt tell I don’t get to ride on too many ferries, so each one is exciting to this Ontario boy. And as I only have two wheels, I’m especially careful when I cross onto the steel decking for puddles of liquid, and other bits that would absolutely ruin my day or bruise my ego, nearly having dumped my bike on the Pictou ferry at Wood Island PE a number of years ago.

It turned out one of the ferry operators rode a KLR and we spoke a great deal about the riding and the ferry itself. It’s been in continuous operation since ’77 when you would have had to drive a couple hours up and around the inlet in order to get to the other side. For a $7 fare I figure it was worth it, and I was a happy passenger.

I still don’t know what this building was. Anyone?

One of the few stone buildings I’ve seen other than in the larger towns. If you told me Government I’d beleive you, railroad perhaps but I’d not seen any tracks out this way. What about shipping? I really have no idea so if you recognize it, do us a favour and tell me what it was built for? Thanks.

Now I was in Canso NS and I’d seen a sign advertising a bakery up ahead, and it shared space with the post office. I would imagine that the postal service slowing down as it was, that there was surplus space to rent, and it became a bakery. I bought a couple of buns for tonight’s dinner and sat down to a lunch of fish and chips. Yep. It seems I was on a theme. The fries weren’t much better than the last stop, but the fish was nice if a bit overcooked. I forgot to ask for some butter for the buns, darn it!

The road I was on led out to a gravel road and just kept on going out to the point, and if I’d been on my old KLR or DR650E I’d have been able to keep going to the south, but the Versys usually doesn’t go down roads that you wouldn’t take a honda civic down. 😛

Canso NS
Looking back towards the town.
Heading away from town out to the point – Canso NS

I was getting a wee bit nervous about gas as I had about 100km to go to and two bars of fuel on the tan left. It will run me about 300km and more if I’m well behaved, but unlike Zac I had no desire to see how far the vapour would get me and was relieved when passed a pickup truck only to find a fuel stop just around the next corner. Do you feel guilty watching them pass by while you top off the tank? I sorta did that afternoon. 

 
 

I stopped for a butt break at an Irving/Tim Horton’s where I met a trio of riders up from New Hampshire on a real mix of bikes. A Kawasaki ZX10, a Triumph Street Triple, and some sort of low riding Harley freight train with black and shiny chrome stuff. They were a father and son, along with a friend who was just getting back into riding, but one of the bikes had it’s rear fairing pulled off and they were working with an epoxy paste on the plastic gas tank. “Oh no!” thought I, they were in a hell of a pickle a long way from home. It appears that the son had used a longer bolt to secure the fairing on at some time in the past, and over time and load it had rubbed a hole through the gas tank, and the first he knew of it, it was leaking a slow trail of gasoline down the bike while at the fuel station. Here the three of them were with the Dad hard at work trying to get the epoxy to cure before the gasoline would dissolve it and bulge out through the side. We talked and chatted while they worked on the bike and I drank a small coffee. Double cream and one sugar please, cause I’m not sweet enough.

Cape Breton Island NS

I’d been up to the Cabot Trail a couple of times before, and as I wanted to visit Fortress Louisbourg, I knew I had to follow the Fleur-de-Lis trail over on the eastern side, but getting the highways, maps and my gps to coordinate was a bit more than I was capable of at the time. It seems I’d made a mistake and was about to follow the trail down onto a loop on an island to the south east, and as I still had a ways to go before finding a camp site , I opted to skip that bit although I did find a Motorcycle dealer that had a nice can of tha Maxima Chain wax that I prefer to use, so that worked out quite well. As the small can I had in my top box would be empty with the next use, and riding gravel roads always strips the lube off of the chain and leaves it liable to heat up and stretch on me. I’ve done some of my worst damage to a chain and sprockets that way, and while  really quite good at replacing them, I’d rather not, thanks.

Around a corner, up a hill and there were three pickup trucks hauling lobster traps stopped by the side of the road, but not completely off onto the shoulder, so I slowed down, waved and took a pic or two.

The road was absolutely lovely and I think might have seen three or four other vehicles on it that day. What a fabulous thing to be on a bike in an area you’ve never ridden before. Parts of it were like northern Labrador with wind swept stunted pines and low lying green foliage. I was certain I’d run across a moose or deer before long, but all I met on the road that day was a fox. He stayed in his lane, and I in mine.

I was riding in and out of the edge of a fog bank, and it was like a game where the visibility would drop and then I’d turn a corner or drop down into a valley and it would disappear.

Fog sweeping across the road – Fleur-de-Lis Trail CBI NS
 
Taking pictures into the sun doesn’t always work.

I was this side of Marion Bridge NS and I was beginning to lose my light and started looking for places that I could use as a camping spot for the night. Just looking as I knew there was camping close to the Fortress, but not entirely sure where exactly. The shadows were making any picture opportunities a bit chancy especially with the iPhone as it likes its objective well lit.

I decided to find a camping spot in the general direction I was headed with my GPS and it found a provincial park not too far down the road that I’d arrive at in plenty of time to get a site, and if it were fully booked, I had enough light to continue to look for another hour or so before I got desperate.

Mira River Provincial Park was my destination, and I arrived about 8 pm and was able to secure a spot for the night. although the clerk had me a bit scared as their computer system was down and she was loathe to allow me to camp in a spot that might have been reserved online, but I assured her that I could up pegs and move my tent in no time flat if that were the case, and that I could have that tent up in five minutes if she took a chance and let me go. 🙂

A couple of hours later I returned to pay the $26 dollars and have a great chat with a couple of other campers in the area, one that planned to take the family across to PEI tomorrow. I got invited to the campfire for marshmallows, but wasn’t feeling up to it at the time and politely declined as I headed back to my camp to make a meal out of boiled hot dogs and some rolls without butter. *sniff* There was more, as I’d picked up a wee bag of hickory sticks and had some mountain dew and a choco bar, so it turned into quite the feast, even if I was running a bit low on water, and the water in the taps was grey although they claimed it was potable, it just didn’t look appetizing at all. 

Mira River Provincial Park NS

Note the laundry… I’d had it strapped to my tent in a mesh bag, but the bag was so small it needed a few minutes to completely air dry. The shorts were still a bit damp in the morning, but I still had a day or two before I needed them again.

SVEA123R A 50 year old design that keeps rocking

When I first bought this stove, I assumed that it was the standard pressurized type so I bought a cap and pump but it turns out you only need those for the extreme cold, and the easy way to pressurize this setup is to simply dribble some fuel into the little dimple around the “generator” and once the cap is securely tightened, to set the fuel on fire, which then preheats the atomizer and builds pressure in the tank. You crack the valve a bit before the flames die out, and whoosh! it’s alive! It can be a bit of an exciting fireball for a minute or two, at least to those who have never seen on in operation before. I’d had some really old fuel found in Kirk’s garage that I was using on the trip, and I expect it might have been older than my nephews, 21 and 19. 😛

 
Now that’s a fire! It’s still preheating when you see yellow flame like that.
Best camping shoes for motorcycle trips ever!

I had to throw this in here as I always used to carry a pair of flip flops for getting those clunky riding boots off of my feet at the end of the day, but once I spent a week wearing only flip flops in Brunico Ita. so I started to carry Crocs instead, but they deform quite a bit when stuffed into my side case, while these may be a bit heavier, they can be worn as sandals, or with socks, as shoes, and in a pinch you can even ride with them. Willie showed me the light and gave me my first pair. Thanks dude. 😀

Stay tuned for Part 2…

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The Versys has new shoes

I put a new rear tire onto the Versys over the weekend as the old tire was bald at 14, 000 km, much of which was comprised of two return trips to Ontario.

Let’s hope I can get another 14k off of this one.

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