I was heading East out to Prince Edward Island on my Kawasaki KLR650 to see my sister Wendy, but this time I was going to have a passenger, my puppy Suzi Bandit, a 7 month old Cocker Spaniel – Poodle mix. She’d been riding on my KLR for some time, but this was to be our first tour together, so I was a wee bit worried on how it would pan out, and what a border crossing might be like.
Preparation is the worst part of the trip for me…
… as I tend to pack like a pessimist, then ride like an optimist, which means you pack rain gear, but don’t put it on until just AFTER you figure out that this rain is not going to let up any time soon. Well, I needed to include Suzi in that mix, so I procured a fullbody rainsuit for her from Neo Paws in Toronto, as well as a pair of Doggles for her. I was most concerned about her eyes exposed to the wind as she’d be riding up front with me in a Dog carrier suggested by Liz Metcalfe that strapped over my shoulders giving her a stable platform up front for her to ride in. I think we were pretty set for this… Now were we going to be able to find hotels that would accept dogs or should we camp our way out? I brought all the gear we’d need for either option, although I also made the mistake of bringing food which bulked a bit too heavy. The bike was loaded down pretty heavily. 🙁
Ready to roll
I was scrambling for last minute items to cram into my tank bag, and stuff into my luggage as was my usual habit at the time. It still is for that matter, lol.
I was about 21km into a journey that was going to top the 5,000km mark, riding east on Elgin Mills, getting used to the weight and handling of the loaded touring bike, when suddenly my rear tire blew right off the rim, and I found myself hurtling down the road with the rear end trying to beat me to the stop light ahead. Thanks to my experience in the dirt, I was able to ride it out safely and get the bike over onto the shoulder without trouble, but was unable to get it onto the kickstand as the back end was considerably lower than it normally was.
The bead on the tire was broken, the tube had a shredded hole slightly smaller than a credit card, and I’d no spares or tools to fix a roadside flat. Bugger!
Suzi was content to check out the grass on the side of the road while I examined my options… I knew my friend Mark was at home, so I called him and asked him to bring my car to collect Suzi and I, and when he arrived I unloaded the bike and stuffed everything into the trunk of the car and gave Mark a ride home after thanking him profusely for collecting us. Meanwhile the KLR was chained to a post by the side of the road.
11:35 AM Houston, we have a problem
I phoned around a few places, and found that Royal Distributing in Innisfil stocked a Kenda 270 rear, but didn’t have the right sized tube for the job. I headed up there Saturday afternoon, stopping in Newmarket to pick up my friend Willie who was going to accompany me. Tire acquired, but what was I to do about a tube? We stopped into Northern Motorsports in Bradford where they stocked the same light/medium duty tube that I’d just blown up! I bought one, but was extremely reluctant to mount it after my recent experience, so I called a fellow KLR Enthusiast, Dan, who gave me the code to the garage and told me to grab his new spare heavy duty tube off of the wall and enjoy the use of it.
Willie went out of his way and followed me back down to Richmond Hill, helped me pull the rim off the bike, and get the tire sorted out so I could ride the bike back home and reload it to try to start out once more the following day.
I gotta tell you, I was really touched on how many people were willing to lend their time and help to get us back on our way.
Saturday was a write off now, so I opted to start my journey afresh the following morning…
And once more… We were off!
Day 1 – Richmond Hill ON to Cornwall ON
After yesterday’s flat, I decided I’d stick to the sideroads, and we found ourselves on Highway 7 for much of the trip, until I realized that I’d better get some miles behind us before sunset, so we dropped down to the 401 and booted on up the highway until six pm, when I checked my Garmin Nuvi 265W and looked for lodging. A motel in Cornwall said they took dogs and offered a reasonable rate, so rather than ride into the sunset and evening I opted to park it and take the room for the night, and while inexpensive, it was so old and musty that when Suzi jumped up into bed to curl up with me, she reeked of dirty carpet. That was the lowest we’ve sunk in accommodations so far, next time we’ll hazard a tent by the roadside before we do that again.
This is what Suzi thinks of superslab… I do too, but I can’t curl up and sleep.
Day 2 – Cornwall ON to Rimouski QC
The rest stops in Quebec were a rest for me, playtime for Suzi and her new friends.
We made an early start, got through Montreal unscathed, and emerged on the eastern side to stop for a pee break at the first rest area we came to where Suzi made some new friends and had a wonderful time running around the park.
Once we left the Trans Canada Highway, and got North of Riviere Du Loup, Suzi perked up to the smell of the farms along the side of Route 132 in Quebec, and when she first smelt the Saint Lawrence river, it was a veritable orgy of sniffing for her. We would ride past a dairy farm, the cows grazing in the field beside us, but she would be sniffing the wind, looking for the source of the smells downwind of the farm, and I tried to point out the source of the aroma with limited success, but once we were north of Rimouski and the shadows began to lengthen, we stopped in at a motel along Route 132, and once the owner assured us that they did indeed admit dogs, and were shown the room, Suzi and I went down to the shore to explore a small section of the coast. I think I spent more time watching her explore the beach than anything else, for even her body position as she sniffed tidal pools for the first time showed she was ready for instant flight if need be.
Sunset over the St. Lawrence Seaway
Cautiously determining the source of that fishy smell
Time for bed
Day 3 – Rimouski QC to Kelly’s Cross PE
In the morning I awoke, loaded up the bike and took Suzi for a brief walk on the beach, and when we returned, it appeared that we had yet another biker wannabe.
Is there room for one more?
Route 132 follows the coastline loosely, and I found I was pulling my camera out again and again to capture shots of the coastline. While not as beautiful as the Cabot Trail, it certainly was worth the trip and extra distance on this tour to see the Gaspe Peninsula.
Yes, you will see this more than a few times, as the winter’s frost heaves the roads, leaving cracks upon cracks which are patched, and eventually the road is resurfaced, so if you aren’t on a long travel suspension adventure bike similar to the KLR, then you may want to soften up your suspension settings and be prepared to ride on a bit of gravel through some of the sections.
Parc National Forillon, Gaspé, QC, Canada
Okay, the day is moving on, Suzi and I are beginning to get a bit tired, and I was wondering how much longer it was going to take to get to my sister’s place on Prince Edward Island, as well as dreading spending a third night on the road as my funds were rather limited, as accommodations and meals dig deeper into ones pocket than any other expense on a trip like this. I recalculated the route on the GPS to fastest route to find that if I took it, I would arrive in her driveway sometime before midnight, so if I continued on this very lovely scenic drive after arriving in the town of Gaspe, I thought I had better take the most direct route, and let Garmin lead me inland towards the town of Murdochville QC
Murdochville is a mining town, one of the few inland communities in this part of Quebec, and it was started after the discovery copper ore back in 1921. The tailings from it’s open pit mine form a huge mountain of gravel that dominates the skyline around the town, a curiosity that had me exercise my execrable french in a boulangerie in this almost ghost town. The current population is about 821 souls, down from it’s hey day of 5000 souls back in the 1950’s as a working mine, so many of the buildings are unoccupied, or run down. Suzi and I had a smoked meat platter with poutine and really enjoyed this little rest stop, talking to the owner and chief cook and bottle washer while sharing a smoke break together. Fortunately her English is better than my French and we were able to communicate after a bit of scrabble.
I made absolutely sure to gas up the bike before leaving as I had no idea where the next station would be, and if it would be closed before I arrived. I set off on Route 198, led by an optimistic Garmin that put me onto a graveled road not ten kilometers from the town. Well, it was an adventure bike with knobby tires, a full tank of gas on a beautiful dry day, so what could go wrong? I’d ride this for 150km, and if I hit a dead end or something, I could always turn back to Murdochville to spend the night and refuel, worst case.
Route du Lac Sainte Anne
Which way do I go?
I found myself heading south following an incredible windy fast flowing road, Route 299 that would take us back to the coast and to Richmond QC where I was sure I could top up for the next portion of the trip.
The road winds its way along the coast of the Baie des Chaleurs, the naming of which is attributed to explorer Jacques Cartier (Baie des Chaleurs). It translates into English as “bay of warmth” or “bay of torrid weather”. Light was dropping, and while I took many pictures on the ride, they weren’t properly lit and as a result hit the cutting room floor.
Campbellton NB, the bridge over the Riviere Matapedia
Right, now I found myself back on the slab trying to make up time through New Brunswick, the Garmin now estimating my arrival sometime after midnight. I needed one more fuel stop to be sure that I’d make Borden-Carleton PE where the Island features a 24 hour Esso station just on the other side of the 11km long Confederation Bridge, but the temperature was dropping and fatigue was setting in, so I put Suzi in her rain jacket to spare her the wind and conserve body heat while I added another layer under my riding jacket.
Do I really have to wear this thing?
So what does a moose look like at night? Black is the answer, and while I tried to be cautious and keep my speed down, I realized that I needed to upgrade my headlight so I could see what I was about to hit. At one point while riding down Route 134 south of Bathurst NB, the gray worn asphalt is patched with a much darker, black asphalt, and I’d see dark patch, dark patch, dark patch, hairy dark patch with legs… Whoa! We almost ran over a badger, or skunk, or possum! Time to slow it down and exercise more caution! That kind of riding is terribly fatiguing, as it’s just so hard to stay on the knife edge of alertness, that when telling people about touring, I advise them to get off the road at sunset, for not only do you greatly increase the risk of a collision, you miss all the scenery as well!
Here it was in August, with day time temperatures well over 25 degrees Celsius, but with night time falling, Suzi and I found ourselves in Port Elgin NB at the roundabout, and I was freezing! I pulled on a thick woolen sweater, cold weather gloves and a neck warmer before I was able to complete the ride and roll into my sister’s driveway to be greeted by the pack. Now I ride with a heated vest in all seasons when touring, and stay mindful of weather patterns and night time temperatures. I suppose I learn the hard way.
You rode 1800 kilometers in that thing?!
And Suzi hangs out with her pack. Jealous little girl, isn’t she?
Zippy the Jerk Russell Terrorist
A KLR makes a trip for a haircut in Cornwall exciting on the Island clay roads
Sunrise over Kelly’s Cross PE
My brother-in-law Kirk rides, as do my nephews Ryan and Tyler, so when he suggested day tripping into New Brunswick with his friend Mike on his DLR1000 Suzuki V-Strom, I said “Sure thing, let’s do it.” and away we went, riding two up with Ryan on my KLR and Tyler on Kirk’s DL650 Suzuki V-Strom.
Confederation Bridge – They charge you to get off the Island, not to get on.
Day Trippin’ to the Bay of Fundy NB and return
Mike added a home made foot rest to his DL-1000
Ryan enjoying the ride.
Cape Tormentine as seen from the Confederation Bridge
This is largely an inland ride until you get into Moncton and across the Petitcodiac aka Chocolate River, so named because of the immense tidal bore. The river rises and falls as high as 2 metres, with currents up to 13kph! At low tide, it really is simple to see why they would call it the Chocolate River.
Just outside of Moncton you head south on Route 114, following the banks of the river as it winds its way into the Bay of Fundy. The tributaries joining the Petitcodiac are amazing, and worth some pictures at low tide if you time your ride correctly.
Just past Hopewell Rocks Provincial Parks (Check the tide tables before visiting!) along Route 114, there is a a covered bridge across the Shepody River, just on the outskirts of Germantown NB, as seen from the road.
Shepody Bridge, Germantown NB
Why covered bridges? At one point in the past, the roads were laboriously plowed by horses drawing snow plows. In fact, it was often easier to switch from a cart to a sleigh in the winter months, and with snow accumulation in the winter months, you had all the weight of the snow on the bridge plus the weight of the sleigh attempting to cross it, so a covering the bridges made sense to keep the route clear and prevent a premature collapse of the bridge. Today, modern engineering and snow removal methods are doing away with these architectural windows into an order era. New Brunswick has over 61 of these marvelous structures such as the Hartland Bridge in St. John that was built in 1898.
We were bound for lunch in a little cafe in Alma NB, the Harbour View Market if I recall correctly, which Mike told us we would get a good meal at a decent price, and he was certainly correct there.
After lunch we took a couple of pictures before heading back, and yes, there was only the one road, straight back up Route 114 back into Moncton and back onto the slab bound for the Island.