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
I’ve owned my TW200 for over a year, so I’m still a novice when it comes to off-road riding. As confidence-inspiring as that bike is, there are still situations where I feel anxious and completely incompetent as a rider.
One of those situations was riding in sand. What better place to conquer that fear than in Musgrave Harbour, with its miles of sandy beaches!
Mark literally grew up riding on the beach, and had these words of instruction: “keep your feet down in the soft sand, then get closer to the water where the sand isn’t as loose.” OK then.
So I managed to get through the soft sand without going down in a pile, and gradually picked up some speed when I got on the firmer sand. Though I *know* that it’s a fact that a bike is easier to control when it’s going faster, there comes a point when that fact gets pushed aside by the thought of “if I’m going any faster than this and crash, it will ruin my entire summer”. So I found a happy balance, puttering down the beach as the waves gently rolled in.
Learning to ride off-road as an adult can be a daunting task, but good instruction, determination and the promise of a soft serve afterwards can do wonders for self-confidence!
I’m old enough to remember the trains in Newfoundland. It’s kind of hard to forget really, when the tracks were less than 150 feet (45m) from the house where I grew up. The daily rumble stopped in 1988 when the railway was officially abandoned for economic reasons, and the rails and ties were removed. In 1997, the trail was “re-purposed”, and the 883 km (549 miles) of railway bed became the T’Railway Provincial Park, a multi-use trail spanning the island from St. John’s to Port-Aux-Basques. Within St. John’s and Conception Bay South the T’Railway is enjoyed by walkers, runners, cyclists and cross-country skiers (motorized vehicles are prohibited), but the rest of the trail is open to ATV’s, dirtbikes, side-by-sides and snowmobiles.
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!
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.
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.
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!
This past Monday morning was nice enough to take the bike to work. I was happily winding my way through the streets that make up my centre city neighbourhood, and was actually stopped at the intersection that marks the start of the Great Fire of 1892 when I noticed police cars and fire trucks on Freshwater Road. I quickly changed the trajectory of the Vstrom and went to take a look.
The fire had broken out in a vacant building, it used to be a business of sorts but had been empty for at least a year or so.
In a place where everything is around 100 years old, made of wood, and most buildings are attached, fires are kind of a big deal. Luckily this fire was so close to the fire hall (I’m actually standing in their parking lot taking the picture) that it didn’t take long for the crews to start fighting it.
After I tweeted a picture and informed drivers to avoid the area, I had to get a move on. I would’ve loved to hang around longer, get closer to the action, get some great pictures. For this “news junkie” motorcyclist, the ultimate dream job would be roving motorcycle reporter! It would be a summer-only gig obviously, but what a gig!
Brush fire? The TW200 could get me closer to the scene than any 4×4. Pile-up on the ORR with traffic at a standstill? I could ride up the median. Fire in the heart of the downtown? I’d employ some creative usage of the sidewalk.
Spring has a bad reputation around here. It’s season of rain, drizzle and fog; interspersed with snowstorms, freezing rain and the rare pleasant day that cumulates in sunburns throughout the entire population.
So why do I love it so much?
Because it’s the season of hope. It’s a time to make plans to pack as much enjoyment as possible into the tiny window of time that we call summer.
Day-long excursions with lunches at tiny out-of-way cafes…the simplicity and satisfaction of motorcycle camping…a cold beer by the fire after a day exploring…hikes to see spectacular oceanside scenery…calm mornings on Quidi Vidi lake…motorcycle commuting…off-road adventures on the TW200…these are the things that I look forward to each spring.
What does spring mean for you?
Each winter, I implore the gods of weather to take pity on this poor little rock in the North Atlantic, and send us an early spring. A “real” spring, like we see on TV. Blue skies, brilliant sunshine, soft breezes…little birds singing to each other while the first crocuses push their way up from their long winters nap. Most years the weather gods laugh at my pseudo-prayers, and blanket the North East Avalon with thick wet fog and bitter winds, occasionally interspersed with a blizzard or ice storm.
But not this year. I’ve been wanting to write up a post since my first 2016 ride on March 27 (MARCH 27!) but I’m superstitious and was afraid that I would jinx it and not get the bike out again until May.
I might be in the minority here, but during the months that I can’t ride, the areas of my brain usually taken up with motorcycle stuff gets sub-let to all sorts of other interests. But after that first ride of the season, the “lease is up”, so to speak. Now my free time is spent perusing the online motorcycle classifieds, studying Google maps to find out -of-the-way destinations, and reading blogs by riders much more adventurous and interesting than myself. It’s good to be back.
Here’s a few pictures from our *early* rides this year. Looking forward to a long riding season!
March 27, 2016. Still looks very much like winter, temps just above freezing. Went for a little ride around the prettier parts of the city.
April 2, 2016. First ride on the Vstrom. Temperature was around 14 C (57F), warm enough for highway riding. Lots of bikes out that day!
On April 20/21, we were hit with a snow storm that dumped 50cm (over 1.5 feet) on us. Thanks to the warmth of the spring sun, we were riding again a couple of days later!
At the time of writing this, a blizzard has shuttered most businesses in St. John’s (yay snow day!) and the fierce north easterly wind is making my old house creak. Winter in Newfoundland stirs primeval urges to curl up by a heat source and eat copious amounts of carbohydrates in an effort to produce an insulating fat layer to keep warm. A few centuries of living on the edge of survival in an incredibly harsh climate tends to warp DNA a little, I figure.
If you live in a place where you can ride your motorcycle all year around, you don’t understand the psychology of the “off-season”. Some people call it “PMS” – Parked Motorcycle Syndrome – characterized by irritability, gloomy attitude, looking longingly out the window, and pervasive thoughts of relocation to warmer climes.
But the off-season doesn’t HAVE to be a bad thing. In sports, the off-season is a time to rest and repair, cross-train and work on deficiencies and weaknesses so that you can be better than last year. Some of you might think it odd that I look at riding in the same light as athletic pursuits, but there are more similarities than differences. Riding a motorcycle exacts a physical and mental toll, and if you’re a good rider you’re always trying to figure out ways to be better. Why not use the winter to prepare for riding season? Read the rest of this entry
I’m a bit of a history buff, so most of the rides that I plan revolve around some sort of historical site. I had long known of the Truxtun & Pollux disaster on the Burin Peninsula, but never had an opportunity to see it first hand. When we decided to go camping in that part of the province in August, the wreck site was the top thing on my list.
It’s hard to believe that summer is officially over…it feels like it only arrived a few weeks ago. Motorcyclists and summer lovers in general were cheated by #Julyuary and its rain, drizzle, fog and cold temps. Nonetheless, the calender presses on and fall has arrived.
The weather gods were kind though, giving us a beautiful weekend to finish off the summer. In a most irresponsible fashion, I put most household chores aside for the full two days, and pretty much spent all waking hours on the bike. Nowhere epic, nothing extravagant. Just riding. It was one of the most enjoyable weekends of the summer.
I hadn’t test-ridden any bikes this summer at all, which is a bit odd for me. I didn’t plan on taking in the BMW test ride day either, but faced with a beautiful Saturday and no plans for an out-of-town ride, we took a spin out to Avalon Motorad to see if anything interesting was available. I managed to hook a ride on the new R1200R, a roadster of sorts with a low seat height and that fantastic boxer engine.
After burning gas that I didn’t pay for and enjoying a post-ride scoff* put off by BMW, we headed off for a leisurely ride around the north east Avalon, stopping here and there for coffee and conversation. It wasn’t until we were on the South Side Road watching darkness descend on the city that I realized I had spent the entire day on two wheels, and didn’t accomplish another thing. Oh well. It was worth it!
Unlike Saturday, I started Sunday with a bit of a plan…head out the highway for lunch somewhere on the east coast of Trinity Bay. We wanted to go to the Dildo Dory Grill (I’m not making this up…”Dildo” is a part of a dory apparently and is an actual town name) but found out that it was closed for the season. We went to the Shag It Cafe instead (again, not making it up. The cafe is named for the “shag rocks” in the bay that the cafe overlooks). It’s a beautiful spot with wonderful coffee and great food. I highly recommend it.
We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the area a little, you never know what what you might see in small towns…
Usually when faced with a beautiful forecast for the weekend I try to plan these epic rides. Sometimes that works out, and other times it just doesn’t. I think I need to have more weekends like this, where very little is planned and I just go where the road takes me.
Summer is over, but I’m hoping for a great fall!
*Scoff: a good meal