Sometimes they make the whole circuit, sometimes not…
My friends and I have been attending the Canadian Super Bike Championships here at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park formerly known as Mosport since 2006, but this was my first time at the Vintage Road Racing Association weekend, and of the two I found the VRRA more interesting, and as there are fewer spectators, much more accessible in terms of camping spots etc. And the sidecar races were spectacular!
Suzi at a campsite in Nouvelle QC checking out the river
I was planning a ride out to Prince Edward Island to visit my family, and when CMGOnline nailed down the date as to 2014 Dawn to Dusk Rally, the 9th of August, I booked my vacation and got ready to go.
August 2 – Whitby ON to Groton VT
I usually stay in a hotel for this ride, but this year I was short of funds, and as I would be taking my dog Suzi along with me, I thought that packing camping gear would be a better option for the trip, but I ran into weight and space problems again, and had to leave behind quite a bit of gear that I originally was going to bring along with me. I over thought what I might need, and had a pile of cups, plates and things that ended up in the discard pile, ounces and ounces of weight that I found I already had on the bike in my small cookset, a pot and a lid that would become a plate, bowl and up over the course of the journey. I did make a mistake in not checking my tent bag, as I had stuffed some para cord and some extra pegs into it, and while I used about six feet of cord for the tent, the other 294 feet made the 5570 kilometre journey as useless weight. In addition I had the stock pegs for my Alps Lynx 2 man tent that I had upgraded to MSR Groundhog like eBay tent pegs, with their triangular aluminium design are much more robust when driven into rocky ground.
Over the course of the trip, I placed all the extraneous gear into one pannier with the intent of dropping it right back into the camping storage bin where I got it from.
You know, I really learned this lesson well when I rode my 2006 Kawasaki KLR 685 across the Trans Labrador highway in 2011, as I had grossly overloaded that bike, and while the wheelies were impressive and easily achieved, over 8,000 kilometres of gravel and road riding put wear and tear on the operator and motorcycle. I like to think I’ve learned a bit since then.
All I need now is the kitchen sink
And we are off to an early start
We left Whitby just after sunrise, spent three boring hours on the 401 playing dodge em, with a gas and breakfast stop to relieve the monotony, then hit the Hill Island border crossing to find the line up backed almost a kilometre from the 401! I just couldn’t see Suzi and I sitting in that holiday traffic lineup that stretched about three or more kilometres from the border! That changed our crossing plans, and I rode a short way up the shoulder to the off ramp that eventually took us back to the 401 and Eastbound towards the next crossing, at Ogdensburg New York.
The bridge over the St. Lawrence river
This may take awhile
Suzi wants to get going even more than I do
We headed over to the Mallory town bridge and waited about 45 minutes before entering the United States and heading south on 56 to hook up with Route 3.
Now the roads began to get a bit more interesting, much more more so than riding superslab, but we still had had a ways to go before we hit the foothills and the roads began to wind there way past lakes, around hills and through the forest. Suzi perked up as did I.
Amish New York
The boys are taking her out for a spin
A gas stop and rest break in NYS
We met a few bikers from Quebec heading home at our first New York State gas stop. Mostly cruisers, but Suzi is a great ice breaker and makes friends much faster than I do.
Riding from the highway onto secondary curving roads, then finally into Saranac Lake where it started raining on us, so we pulled off and donned rain gear for the first time on our trip. Do you ever ride a road, see dark clouds and rain streamers in the distance and pray that the road turns towards the Blue skies? That was us. To be honest, it was part sun shower, so all it did was slow us down as I had to exercise more caution on the rain slick roads, but I have to give two thumbs up to continental tires, for they held traction perfectly the entire ride, which included another cloud burst over top of Camels Hump State Park where Vermont 17 winds its way up and over. That road is getting pretty busted up, and it wasn’t as much fun in the rain with the hair pin corners!
Garmin decided to have its wicked way with us, and told me to turn left into uphill downtown Saranac, but I ignored it at the top of of Hill where it said turn left and went right instead, and found found lovely twisty road that bypasses much of Saranac traffic just to the north, but with the rain I was was bit more circumspect than is my usual riding speed.
I think we just ran into that rain in the forecast
I opted to bypass much of the town of Lake Placid by taking the southern route through, which avoids main street and dumps you right out by the ski jumps, and from there it was a wonderful ride.
Heading through the twisties in the rain. *sigh*
On our way through the Adirondaks
Suzi will be happier when the rain finally stops, as will I
You know, as many times as I’ve ridden this road, this was the first time I did it in the rain
So I’m riding along the road thinking that I’ll stop at the next good restaurant or diner, and all the while I’m getting hungrier and the day is wearing on as we leave Lake Placid and head south east towards the Lake Champlain bridge and our crossing into Vermont. I’d plotted this bit on a challenging road that reminded me very much of Southwood Road in Muskoka, only this one was in slightly better shape. “WAIT A MINUTE!” I thought to myself, “What about all that camping food and the stove I have on the bike? Any spot is a lunch spot!” So out came the SVEA123R and my potset, and the rest is history.
My coleman pot set on top of my SVEA123R
Mmmm! Four year old chicken with dumplings! Maybe not so great after all.
At least it gave us a chance to ditch all that sweaty rain gear and make tracks for the Champlain bridge into Vermont.
Yep, I’m bored again
Vermont as it appears from the shore of Lake Champlain
And that’s why we headed this way…
When I was a child, I was the owner and operator of a lemonade stand on hot summer days, and I remember how much I appreciated the business, so my rule is, I brake for all lemonade stands. Suzi loved scoping out the yard and their chipmunks.
A capitalist in the making
He made me take a picture of the other side of the sign as well.
Ooh! We’re getting closer!
So here is yet another cloud on the horizon waiting to rain on us, and yet again, right over the fun spot that I’d been aiming for, Camel’s Hump State Park where Vermont Route 17 would take us. Are we ever going to catch a break?
A car that we’d been following waved us past, as he recognized that we’d be travelling faster than he would, and I didn’t really have the heart to disappoint him, even though riding quickly up a mountain and down the other side on a heavily loaded bike was a bit of a disaster waiting to happen. What did happen, is I preceded him at a moderate pace up through the hairpins, spurred on by his kindness and not wanting to appear the slow coach… Every time I was on a straight, I wicked it up a bit until the next turn where I brought my speed under control and carefully negotiated the turn on wet tyres until the next straight away.
Gaining the summit and having a couple of cars ahead of me gave me the excuse I needed to back off, drop a couple of gears and let engine braking do what it could to slow my descent. I don’t know about you, but I’m supremely more confident on the ascent then on the descent, most likely because I feel more in control with throttle and engine braking while going up. Going down seems to be a question of the correct speed, and the choosing wisely when to apply brakes before entering the corner, for if you get the speed wrong, applying brakes mid corner is not a good thing to do.
Down the other side, and having ridden out of the rain, we stopped for gas and eats at the Local Smoke house and let me recommend their pulled pork sandwich. Suzi and I hoovered it down. I smelled their smoker from the gas stop across the road, and had to order something.
We’re back on the road again and making our way over to Vermont 302 that will take us to the Kancamagus Highway
Suzi smells a manure pile I think.
Well, that supper stop took us longer than I had originally thought, though the pulled pork sandwich that Suzi and I scarfed down was pretty darned good! I think it made a big difference that it wasn’t soaked in someone’s misguided attempt at producing an award winning BBQ sauce. Less is more folks.Alright, lets get back on the bike and make some more time heading East!
My rule of thumb is to watch the sunset, and in this area it was supposed to set around 9pm that evening, so around 7pm I began looking for a place to camp the night, and when I saw a sign saying a State Park was a couple of miles to the north of us, I deviated from the course and went in search of a camp site. We ended up getting turned away by the first one, but they directed us a few miles further north where we saw this lovely sight below. Take note of the mountain in the shot, as you won’t see it tomorrow, as the fog completely obscured it from view.
In the morning, that hill to the right is obscured with fog.
We pulled off the 302 near Groton Vermont and stayed at Big Deer State Park for $20, and an extra $1 for a dog, we got a great little site with access to toilets and showers. Let me tell you, the camping gear with food weighed a ton, and was felt every time I had to transition the bike through a chicane. And there were quite a few on the roads I’d routed us on…
Suzi is on chippie patrol while I cook dinner
7 year old fuel works great in this old brassy
It’s the first ever real use of my Alps Lynx 2 and I’m a bit chuffed at how easy it was to deploy for the night
Mmmm! What’s in store for the evening?
Could it be Chilli with beans followed by cocoa beverage powder?
In some ways this reminds me of my time in the army, although they didn’t let me ride a motorcycle or bring a dog along with me.
Suzi travels so well, and met a few other campers
One of the aspects of motorcycle touring that I enjoy is the social meetings that occur, fellow riders at the end of day hotel who discuss modifications made or their bikes, older people who used to ride and want to talk about where you are bound or to relive their glory days when they too were alive and thrilling to the two wheeled experience.
What I found novel about moto camping is the interaction with other campers. I suppose the absence of media makes us look for entertainment in other areas, sort of a return to older days when gossip or strangers in the community became the prime source of information and entertainment.
Suzi is an ice breaker and wanted to meet everyone and get some good petting in, and I always have have a bag of treats along with me so she can show off her skills and give the kids an enjoyable experience to have them
No chipmunks, sorry baby
It’s a cozy little spot
There isn’t a whole lot to do when the sun goes down and all you have is a flashlight and a cellphone, so we were asleep by ten o’clock, lights out and good night.
August 3 – Groton VT to Borden-Carleton PE
We woke shortly after sunrise and I fired up my brassie to boil up some instant oatmeal, the breakfast of champions and bikers apparently, after which the tent came down, the gear got packed up and we rolled on out of the park at, Lord above! 7:30am!
And here I thought moto camping was going to cut into my travel time!
Note that hill is gone?
It’s a rather cool morning with fog, weather I hadn’t been expecting this time of the year, but I was prepared for it, and had zipped the waterproof outer shell of my jacket back on, as well as covered the mesh panels in my riding pants, for if I’ve learned one thing in all my miles of touring, it’s to expect the unexpected and wear gear that does double duty for hot and cold riding.
Route 302 is awesome, and I’d highly recommend it, as well as the Kancamagus highway.
Vermont morning fog
The breakdown: Top case contains my rain gear, spare gloves, heated vest, Suzi’s rain jacket, clear visor, rotor lock, trail side jack, chain wax and 4 litres of water
Left pannier holds my stove and wee pot set, fuel, food
Right Pannier holds her food, toys, treats etc, first aid kit, solar panel and battery pack, and some other odd bits.
45 litre yellow canoe bag holds 2man tent, air mattress, sleeping bag and ground sheet.
20 litre red canoe bag holds clothes and under garments for about four days, and a pair of crocs as well as shave kit.
I’ve tried to arrange things so that I won’t need to cover the panniers in the event of rain. Man do I miss my sw-motech racks and givi e41s!
My bike is set up for touring, with an older model Garmin 60cx gps, taller windscreen, barkbusters with a kaoko throttle lock, Oxford Heaterz touring grips, and a battery tender cable that I use with an extension to power my tank bag or top box, or plug my heated vest into.
401 to Hill Island, a boring three hours, then into the States through the Adirondaks, across the bridge onto Vermont 17 across Camel Hump State Park, then I wind my way over to 302 and onto the Kancamangus highway to North Conway and then into Maine and a wee bit of interstate to bypass Bangor over to US 1 if I want to be slowed down by all the coastal sightseeing cagers, cross at St. Stephens and blast up through New Brunswick and out to the Island, mostly slab.
On the way back I stole a wee bit from Shane’s route and head much further north into Maine and over NH and into Vermont then Rouse’s point and cross back at Cornwall or Ganonoque depending on how I’m feeling.
I’ve only done this about six times, so finding cool roads that I’ve never been on tend to slow me down. I’ve usually done two days in the past with hotel, but am packing camping gear and want to take an extra day for sightseeing, perhaps ride up Mt. Washington.
I invited Jesus to spend a night on Prince Edward Island at my sister’s place, and when I found out he was riding with three other guys, Eric, Azeem and John, along with two dogs, Panda and Misha, invited then as well.
Jesus aka Jessie said they would arrive at 1800, but what he failed to mention was that he was still behind an hour on Eastern DST as opposed to Atlantic time, so they rolled up the driveway right on time (if we’d all been back in Ontario) and about an hour late, and it was all I could do to keep my sister Wendy on her leash and prevent her from starting dinner too early. ￼
My Island family are all bikers, as are Mike and Nichole, who had just sold his 2006 Kawasaki KLR 650 to my nephew Ryan, over to join in the fun and grab some steak before it was all gone.
Make sure the steaks were cut the order and served on paper plates cuz these guys are good messy bikers
After dinner Ryan and his friend Nathan put on a wheelie jump show for an appreciative audience of course jesse had to get in on the fun end trace hand at riding off road on is an ex C 650 Honda but as it was his first time off road in Canada on that bike he was reluctant to take it out of second gear, but we did manage to convince him to go over the jump