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
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!
For the past three years, our summer vacations have consisted of travelling Newfoundland by motorcycle, staying with Mark’s folks in their camper or sometimes in B&B’s along the way. This year, since we had such a good experience on the Bonavista Peninsula back in July, we decided to pack up the camping gear again and give it another go. With the forecast looking half decent for two days at least, we booked a camp site in Frenchman’s Cove Provincial Park on the Burin Peninsula for two nights and figured we’d “play it by ear” for the rest of the trip.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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Our travels up to this point had been in near perfect conditions. Temperatures in the mid-20’s, mostly clear skies with a slight shower here and there. But this is Newfoundland after all, and the weather changes quickly and unpredictably.
The morning of August 7 was grey and cool. Our plan for the day was only to ride the 130km from Deer Lake to Stephenville, so we had plenty of time to pass away. We spent the morning at the Newfoundland Insectarium in Deer Lake. It was amazing. They have the largest butterfly garden in Eastern North America; a greenhouse-like building kept at a tropical temperature where butterflies from Costa Rica and the Philippines flutter around and even land on you. It was pure magic. Read the rest of this entry
A hill top near Burgoyne’s Cove, Newfoundland is the final resting place of a US military Convair B-36 bomber which crashed on March 18, 1953, killing all 23 men on board. It’s not a well-known fact of local history, and I would not have known anything about it if it had not been for an article in the Telegram a couple of years ago. Read the rest of this entry