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!
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!
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.
Our road system in Newfoundland isn’t exactly awe-inspiring. Communities on the island are clustered around bays and sprawled out along peninsulas, a legacy of our sea-faring history. Overland travel is relatively new, made possible by the railway system in the late 19th century and the Trans Canada Highway in the 1960’s. The TCH remains the only feasible way to get from east to west, and that consists of 900km (560 miles) of highway droning. *yawn*. That being said, there are certain roads on this island that are awfully fun to ride on a motorcycle. Here are some of my favourites.
***Disclaimer: Always exercise caution on roads that you don’t know, and obey posted speed limits. The author takes no responsibility for incidents occurring as a result of recommendations.
Route 60: The “Old Way” from Holyrood to Brigus. Every motorcyclist on the north east Avalon is familiar with this road. It’s a beautifully curvy stretch of pavement winding along the shore of Conception Bay, linking communities hundreds of years old. The scenery is beautiful, but don’t take your eyes off the road for long. If you fail to navigate some of the sharp turns you will find yourself at the bottom of a cliff.
Route 70 between Salmon Cove and Kingston. The Baccalieu Trail is a lovely daytrip for riders from the North East Avalon, and I highly recommend stopping for a break at the beautiful Salmon Cove Sands. When you hit the road again travelling north you’ll cruise through one of my favourite sections of road, as the highway twists and turns before rewarding riders with a gorgeous view of Spout Cove.
Route 10 between Tors Cove and LaManche. This section of the Southern Shore highway is relatively new and in great condition. From St. John’s to Witless Bay is ho-hum, but after Tors Cove you can have a great time on the big sweeping turns. Just watch out for moose.
Route 341 from Brown’s Arm to Laurenceton. You can’t tell how fun this road is from looking at it on a map, which is why we were so pleasantly surprised by it. You just can’t beat an unexpected good time. Great pavement, lots of twists and turns, and the dirt road at the end of the community leads to Sandy Point, a great place to stop for a break.
Road from Jacques Fontaine to Harbour Mille. Located on the Burin Peninsula, this one is a bit of a trek from St. John’s but completely doable in a day if you’re on the road before mid-morning. Though the pavement was at its best probably 10 years ago, it’s still good enough to be very fun. The road is incredibly twisty and the views beautiful.
Road to Petite Forte. When friends who have ridden throughout southern Africa and all through the UK say “You HAVE to ride this road”, well, you kinda have to. The pavement is near perfect, and the road is like a rollercoaster. We rode this on our trip this past summer, and even though the Vstrom was loaded down with gear and the rear tire was completely square, I still really enjoyed it (though I really wished for my YZF600R). This road is also on the Burin Peninsula, but farther down towards Marystown. If you’re out from St. John’s I’d recommend calling ahead and booking lodging in the area for the night, as you’ll probably want to do a couple of passes on this road. It’s that good.
Route 470: Port aux Basques to Rose Blanche. One of the best roads in Newfoundland is located in the south west corner of the island, so if you’re planning to catch the ferry in Port Aux Basques be sure to give yourself time to check this out. The road twists along the coast, and each community along the route is worthy of a visit. Rose Blanche is home to a 19th century granite lighthouse, restored from ruins in 1999. Park the bike and take a walk out to it, you won’t regret it. The only caveat on this road is the steel grate bridge over the Isle Aux Morts River, which can be quite disconcerting if you’re not expecting it.
Route 431: Wiltondale to Trout River. I could just say “the entire area taken in by Gros Morne National Park”, but I’ll narrow it down to the Tablelands area. The road itself it nothing spectacular, but it’s the scenery that will blow you away. It’s like nothing else in Newfoundland. We rode through the area in 2014 and I can’t wait to return there.
Are there any other roads in Newfoundland that you really enjoy? What makes a particular road stand out in your mind?
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’m a true morning person, perhaps because I’m a loner by nature. My favourite time of the day is pre-7am, when most people are still in bed.
The other morning I was up at 5, looking forward to a morning row on Quidi Vidi lake. As I was flailing about the house getting ready I realized that I had neglected to check my text messages from the evening before. Sure enough, schedules had conflicted and rowing was cancelled. What to do? Go for a ride, of course!
The air had that distinct spring morning chill, but it didn’t bother me. I fired up the Vstrom and zig-zagged my way through the narrow, crooked streets of the old city. Water Street and Duckworth Street – normally so congested – were completely empty. I caught glimpses of myself in the glass of shop windows and allowed my imagination to wander. I felt as though I was in a movie, a lone motorcyclist riding clandestinely through an empty city.
I somehow felt that I was doing something very secretive, and I guess it was, in a way. Seen by no one, heard by no one, showing up at work at my usual time with no one any the wiser.What a wonderful way to start the day.
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.
It’s been a poor winter for snow-lovers here in St. John’s. We had over 100cm (39″) of snow in January, but it was usually followed by mild temperatures and rain so it didn’t stick around long. Today, February 1st, the temperatures reached to almost 10 degrees C (50 F) so of course we spent the balmy Sunday afternoon on the bikes. The task of washing the salt and grime off afterwards was completely justified by the looks of disbelief and envy we got from just about everyone!
It’s the first time I’ve ever ridden a motorcycle in February, which is usually our snowiest month of the year. The forecast for tomorrow calls for a high of -7 degrees C (19 F) so I think it’s safe to say that today was an anomaly. It sure breaks up the winter though!