Blog Archives

Hidden Gems in Notre Dame Bay

This was our fifth vacation spent touring Newfoundland by motorcycle, so when we sat down to plan out this year’s trip we ran into a bit of a quandry. Where hadn’t we been? Or more importantly, where hadn’t we been that is still easily accessible, since we only had one week of holidays? Read the rest of this entry

First Day Trip of 2016

One of the things I miss most during the winter months is day-tripping on the Vstrom. I love leaving town on a weekend morning-before most “Sunday drivers” get out on the go-with no destination other than a good place to grab a bite. I’m really not sure if checking out a new restaurant is an excuse for a bike ride, or the other way around!

I really can’t recall going for a day-trip this early in the season before, but the forecast looked promising. I set up a ride using the NL Adventure Rider Meetup group, and we had seven riders show up. The group is relatively new, with the goal of bringing together riders who enjoy longer trips and riding “off the beaten track”. If that sounds like you, by all means join up!

We set off from St. John’s around 11am, took the CBS bypass to Seal Cove, and continued along the lovely Route 60 with very little traffic. Bliss!

I’m not sure how many layers everyone else was wearing, but I had on four and I needed every one of them when we hit Conception Bay North and the wind was coming off of the water, a dense bank of dark fog hovering ominously. I’ll place the blame squarely on the weather forecasters who foretold a westerly wind. The fog was burning off as it hit land though, and I was just happy to be spending the day on the bike – despite the fact that my heated grips were threatening to ignite my gloves.

Our lunch destination was Crooked Phil’s Cafe in Carbonear. It’s a beautiful, bright little spot with a great menu, incredibly friendly service and very reasonable prices. I had veggie pizza and a salad, and of course about a gallon of hot coffee!

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It’s salad dressing, not molasses. I swear. 

After lunch our companions all headed back to town, either turned off by the cold or having to see to other commitments, leaving just myself and Mark. We headed off in the direction of Heart’s Content, which was a good description of my mood at the time. Nobody to answer to, nowhere to be. Just me and the bike, with the sun shining down on the open road.

This is my eighth summer riding a motorcycle, but there’s still places on the Avalon that I haven’t seen. The Heart’s Content lighthouse was one of those places. It’s not particularly spectacular or remote, but a very pretty spot all the same.

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I love the “barber pole” paint scheme. 

We returned via Route 80, along the coast of Trinity Bay. It was much warmer than the Carbonear side, so we really enjoyed the ride back to meet the TCH at Whitbourne. It was hard to believe that it’s still pre-May 24: the unofficial start of Newfoundland summer.

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Stretch break/photo-op in Whiteway

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A close up of “Shag Rock”. Pretty spectacular rock formations in the bay!

If you know of any other great little restaurants I can use as an excuse for a day trip, I’d love to hear from you!

Motorcycle Camping on the Bonavista Peninsula

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Nothin’ to it sure!

I’m not sure why it comes as such a surprise to many people when I say that I’ve never been camping (I don’t consider staying in a camper “real” camping!). Maybe because I love hiking, trail running and off-road riding people just assume that I’m all about living life outdoors. On the contrary, I’ve never felt the urge to cook, eat and sleep outside…I figured that as a species we’ve evolved past that, and do enjoy the conveniences of hot running water and flushing toilets. However…I DO love to explore Newfoundland, and the frugal side of my personality has gotten a bit hung up on the cost of motels and B&B’s. And so I decided to give this camping thing a go, and myself and Mark spent three nights in Lockston Path Provincial Park on the Bonavista Peninsula. And you know what? I actually ENJOYED it! We researched and were fully prepared, and the trip was a success…even through a night of torrential rain. Setting up the tent was a breeze, and Mark quickly engineered an “awning” of sorts when the rain started to fall on our second evening in the park (note to self: we need a bigger tarp). I put myself in charge of meal preparation, and I actually surprised myself with the somewhat nutritious, mostly vegetarian meals I whipped up on our tiny campstove. I liked the simplicity of tent living, and the park was nicely equipped so that things like hot showers and laundry facilities were readily available. It was a truly fantastic trip, and here are a few highlights: Read the rest of this entry

Gravel Pit Camping…and Riding!

I know it’s oh so cliche, but I did actually spend May 24th weekend “up on the highway in the gravel pit”. And it was absolutely fantastic (thank you again, Ena and Reg!). We were away from the coast just far enough to stay out of the fog, and the trees around the pit made a great windbreak. The weather co-operated beautifully, with three days of blue skies and warmer than average temperatures.

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Relaxing after a day of riding

The excursion was a well-deserved mini-vacation, and a great opportunity to gain some off-road experience on my TW 200. I found out that gravel pits are wonderful places to learn off-roading skills, and I got a taste of water crossings, deep mud, badly rutted dirt roads, and even sand.

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The fine, powder-like sand of Musgrave Harbour. That’ll take some getting used to.

Thanks to our friend Mandy, the TW and DR made the 400km journey via GMC pick-up. We repaid her by lending her Mark’s 1984 DT 200 for the weekend, and she proved herself a very capable rider on the old two-stroke. The three of us spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday exploring the area between Carmanville and Musgrave Harbour, off-road and on.

Read the rest of this entry

West Coast Trip Part VI: Port Au Port Peninsula

At this point in time I’m very glad that I had the foresight to keep a journal while we were on tour last summer. If it wasn’t for the fact that I spent each evening scribbling down the day’s events there’s no way I’d be able to recall many details of our trip seven months later.

The morning of August 8 was sunny, but the forecast called for a chance of thunder showers. With the Marble Mountain radar station non-functional we couldn’t see where the showers were, but this particular day would be our only chance to see the peninsula so we took the chance and set off around the loop in a clockwise direction.

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Read the rest of this entry

Tips for Riding in Windy Conditions

Travel blogger Shawn Voyage recently published an article in which he lists St. John’s, Newfoundland as one of the windiest cities in the entire world. A great place to live if you have a penchant for flying kites perhaps, but not so great a distinction if you’re a motorcyclist.

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This tractor-trailer blew over on the highway near Holyrood a few weeks ago. Photo credit: cbc.ca

Wind can be scary, particularly a crosswind where the wind is hitting your bike side-on. Of course as luck would have it, the TCH runs roughly east-west across the island and our prevailing wind is south-west so when travelling in Newfoundland we are always dealing with crosswinds. If anyone is authorized to dole out advice about riding in windy conditions, it’s someone from the Rock. So here in no particular order, are some tips to help the novice rider combat the ever-present wind factor.  Read the rest of this entry

Guest Post: 6 Items Every Rider Should Have In Their Saddle Bag

My first guest post on this blog comes from fellow female rider Ania Todua, and contains good advice on things you really should be carrying when you head out on a motorcycle trip. You can find her on Twitter, @ania_todua. The pictures and links contained in the article are hers.

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When you decide to take a trip on your motorcycle, you don’t exactly have a huge trunk where you can just stuff everything you need and then strap some more stuff to the roof. A motorcycle ride is definitely much more exciting and fun than driving in a station wagon, but you have to be smart about it and focus on packing the essentials, since you have limited space. We’re not talking about traveling for months across a continent here though – there are plenty of times when you need to hop on your bike and ride for several days, and it helps if you are prepared. A good saddle bag on each side is more than enough to keep you covered for up to a week on the road, as long as you remember to bring these six essential items.

Read the rest of this entry

My Top 10 Newfoundland Travel Tips

It’s winter…that time of year when many of us start planning our motorcycle trips for the coming season. I don’t know about you, but there’s not much I’d rather do on a snowed-in Saturday evening than sit down with a beer, sizing up maps and planning trips for the warmer months.

I’ve been contacted several times by folks from out-of-province, expressing their desire to visit this beautiful island. It’s a journey completely feasible for almost any rider in North America, but there’s a few things you need to know about this place.

1. As of this point in time, you cannot rent motorcycles here. Though this may change in the next year or so, plan on riding your own bike to Newfoundland. That means, of course, that you will need to take a ferry from either Nova Scotia or Quebec. Bear in mind that the Quebec option entails traveling the Trans Labrador Highway, a road that should not be traversed by inexperienced off-road riders. You will have two options in Nova Scotia: a six-hour sail to Port-Aux-Basques on the island’s south-west tip, or a 12-14 hour cruise to Argentia on the Avalon Peninsula. If you have the time, I would suggest getting to Newfoundland via Argentia, seeing the Avalon and Eastern portion and then traveling westward, taking in the Northern Peninsula and the West Coast before returning via Port-Aux-Basques. Bring your own ratchet straps to tie your bike down on the ferry, never trust that they will be provided!

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Photo credit: tourismlowernorthshore.com

2. There’s thousands of moose here. Though quite tasty, they’re massive and stupid and love to hang out on the highways. Avoid night riding like the plague. Motorcycle/moose collisions happen more often than you can imagine.

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A moose being escorted down one of the busiest streets in St. John’s this past summer. Photo credit: cbc.ca/nl

3. Newfoundland is part of Canada, so visitors from the United States and beyond will need a valid passport. The temperature is in Celsius, speeds are in kilometers per hour, and the Queen is on the money. Almost everyone here speaks English, but it’s often disguised by a dialect particular to the region that they come from. Expect everyone to say at least one thing that you don’t understand.

4. Always keep at least a hundred bucks cash on hand, as many small stores in rural areas do not accept debit or credit cards. If your bike absolutely must have supreme fuel, you will need to carry a jerry can as supreme is scarce outside major centres.

5. Don’t assume that the tap water is drinkable. St. John’s has some of the best tap water in the world (according to Russell Crowe) but the water in many rural communities needs to be boiled before you can drink it. The tap water in our parks and campgrounds falls into this category. When in doubt, don’t drink it. Nothing puts a damper on a motorcycle trip quite like gastrointestinal upset.

6. If you’re from a place far from the ocean and you claim that you do not like fish, it’s probably because you’ve never had truly fresh fish. Seafood is tops on the menu in every restaurant, prepared in every way imaginable. Be sure to try the cod tongues.

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Feed of cod tongues! YUM!

7. The best motorcycling weather is usually from the middle of July to the middle of August, but there’s no guarantee. Bring warm clothes that you can layer, especially if you’re going to be staying in a tent. Top quality rain gear and waterproof boots and gloves are a necessity. Motorcycle season coincides with the Atlantic hurricane season, so do keep an ear to weather forecasts. You DON’T want to get caught in a hurricane, believe me. For more information on when to travel to Newfoundland, be sure to read Newfoundland Trip Tips by Ken Sooley, owner/operator of Cape Race Cultural Adventures.

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If you don’t have good rain gear you will end up like this guy…stripped off in a laundromat drying to dry your clothes.

8. Spontaneity is great, but if you’re planning to stay in the capital city of St. John’s it’s important that you book ahead to avoid finding yourself with no place to stay. Because of festivals and conferences, it has happened that there’s no accommodations available in the entire city. When booking a bed and breakfast, be sure to mention that you’re traveling by motorcycle and ask if you will be able to park somewhere secure. This tip is pretty much irrelevant for most of the island, but if you’re staying at a B&B in the downtown it would be nice to have secure off-street parking.

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The “B&B district” of St. John’s

9. Be prepared to get off your bike. Newfoundland is an outdoorsperson’s paradise, so bring your sneakers. There are hiking trails in almost every community, many leading to places with cultural, historical and geographical significance. Ship wrecks, plane wrecks, natural rock arches and sea-stacks; we have it all but you have to put in the effort to see it! If you’re a fan of the water, rent a sea kayak to get up close with whales and icebergs. For the truly adventurous, there’s even scuba tours of underwater caves.

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Hike to the abandoned village of La Manche, part of the East Coast Trail

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Bottle Cove…a gem on the west coast of Newfoundland.

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A short stroll down St. Vincent’s beach can bring you incredibly close to humpback whales.

10. Don’t try to see it all, and don’t keep yourself so tied to an itinerary that you miss out on spur of the moment adventures. I’ve been traveling Newfoundland for the past three summers and I have yet to see everything I set out to see. Most people who travel to Newfoundland say that the best part of their trip was the encounters with locals, so be sure to leave room for that. Newfoundland has a very high concentration of motorcyclists per capita, so be prepared for a chat whenever another rider notices your license plate!

For more info:

http://www.newfoundlandlabrador.com/

http://www.explorenewfoundlandandlabrador.com/

http://www.tripadvisor.ca/Tourism-g154962-Newfoundland_and_Labrador-Vacations.html

West Coast Trip Part IV: Bay of Islands

It’s hard to believe that we’re nearing the end of October and I’ve yet to complete my “West Coast Trip” blog series. I’ve come to realize that fall is the busiest time of year for me. Work, online course, training for a trail ultramarathon and of course trying to squeeze in a ride when the weather cooperates means I don’t have much time to sit down and put together a post. Thanks to hurricane Gonzalo this morning I finally have some time on my hands so here’s an account of our day spent touring Bay of Islands area. Read the rest of this entry

A True ADVenturer

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Guatemala Bound! Photo credit: Ritche Perez

This past Saturday I bid so long to Tammy, a member of the Newfoundland motorcycling community as she left on her loaded-down KLR 650 (with a newly rebuilt motor!) for a solo ride to California, en route to the next chapter of her life in Guatemala. Read the rest of this entry

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