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
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?
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!
For more info:
On the way to the West Coast of Newfoundland we took a few detours. On purpose, of course. The amazing hospitality and accommodations offered to us by Mark’s parents and their fifth-wheel trailer negated the need for strict distance planning. We thoroughly enjoyed our leisurely pace, and had plenty of time to explore.
We left St. John’s on the morning of August 2nd, and were scheduled to spend the night in Gander. That left oodles of time to pass away, so we decided to head out Route 204 along the shore of South West Arm, through the communities of Queen’s Cove, Hodge’s Cove, Little Heart’s Ease and Gooseberry Cove. Read the rest of this entry
I have to be honest. I never had much interest in icebergs…those massive chunks of ancient ice that break off polar glaciers each year and slowly make their way south to our waters. At worst they are a hazard to ships (Titanic for example!) and oil rigs, and at best they are the main ingredient in Quidi Vidi Brewery’s wonderful Iceberg Beer. Read the rest of this entry
Since it’s almost November I probably should clue up my report on our vacation back in August! I think the older you get, the faster time passes by. This post has more words than pictures, probably because my memory of the trip has faded slightly so I can’t go really in-depth about the places we visited. Note to self: Make more notes next year!
We left Eastport on August 13 and headed for Bonavista, where we had booked a bed & breakfast for the night. Read the rest of this entry