Hurry up and wait.

July 14, 2010

My Tuesday started out poorly but slowly got better. The weather was good… Too good in fact. As I checked out of the hotel my ex-wife decided she needed to have me sign something so she could travel with the kids the next day. Way to leave it till the last minute Laurie :). I spent the better part of an hour trying to fax, email, sign and keep a good attitude. Eventually, US Immigration got everything they needed but it was aggravation I didn’t need first thing in the morning. Then I buzzed around running a few errands before hitting the ferry terminal to wait to board to Newfoundland. Now… Cape Breton folk don’t use a lot of air conditioning and I understand why. However, on a day where it was 85 and blazing sun you would have thought that they would have at least turned it on for their poor passengers in the terminal. NOPE!

Then, their computer system crashed and this caused the ship to depart an hour late. The good thing about ferries is that the bikes get to go on first and ride off first so to the head of line we went. I wish I had gotten pictures of the ferry but with it being the first time I had ridden the beast onto a real ferry, I was a little distracted trying not to crash and figuring out how to lash my bike to the deck rings with the half-baked straps they gave us. As I hooked the metal hook over my crash bar, one of the other bikers said why didn’t I use the rope so I didn’t scratch my bike. I laughed and told him that where I was going if a scratch was going to bother me then I was seriously in trouble!

I had the pleasure of dining on board with Harley riders Ann and Ron from Minnesota. Ron estimates he has ridden over 500,000 miles in his lifetime. He has ridden in all 50 US states and every Canadian province except Newfoundland… So this crossing was a milestone of sorts. Great couple and a real fine example of two people who share a passion and live their lives. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation with them and the advice they gave me.

The beautiful day gave way to a foggy, cold night and when we rode off the ferry I swear we had landed on another planet! Oh… What have I gotten myself into 🙂


The Cabot Trail

July 14, 2010

So expectations were high on Monday as I took off for the Cabot Trail. The route measures 298 km (185 mi) in length and completes a loop around the northern tip of Cape Breton Island, passing along and through the scenic Cape Breton Highlands. I decided to hop the ferry to Englishtown to cut off about 30 mins of the 5 plus hour adventure. I had to laugh, the “ferry” carried you across the smallest stretch of water I have ever seen. I literally could have hit an eight iron across the gap!

My expectations were high based on the input from Nick but my results were a little less satisfying. The weather had the most to do with this. It ranged from heavy rain and 68 degrees to brilliant sunshine (for about 30 mins) and 80 degrees! A real pain to ride in because I felt like I kept having to stop and disrobe or gear up every 45 mins or so. The trail itself was very beautiful and when the weather is good I can see why it holds such prestige. The shoreline is amazing, the vistas are beautiful and the roads are steep and twisty… just like bikers want them.

As I road the trail past Cheticamp, the GPS was sending me on the shortest route possible. As I flew down the road at 55 miles an hour, the GPS steers me straight ahead at a curve in the road, however, the road wasn’t actually a road it was part of the old Cabot Trail!!! I hit the packed gravel at 40 and breathed a sigh of relief that the “trail” was in good shape. Who knew you could go off road on the Cabot Trail :). Pics are below.


July 11, 2010

Not much excitement today. Made the 4 hour drive in the rain from Halifax to North Sydney. Didn’t think to put on my rain boots until an hour into the trip… not too bright! My hiking/riding boots were a little squishy by that point.

Seeing lots of motorbikes now as the Cabot Trail is a hugely popular biking route. Also, had the pleasure of finally seeing the Martin Marietta Materials quarry at Auld’s Cove. East End has been a client of theirs for 35 years and it was nice to see the operation in all its glory… quite impressive although the pictures don’t do it justice. The scale of the thing is enormous… basically they are blowing up a huge granite hill, crushing the stone and then pouring the stuff over the edge to ships waiting below.

Spent the afternoon cheering on Spain who deservedly won the World Cup! Guy, I bet you thought that Spain might not win it in your lifetime… worry no more my old friend 🙂

Me and my sore butt are going to bed early tonight… the Englishtown ferry and the Cabot Trail beckon tomorrow… all 5 hours of it! Too bad it is supposed to be gray and rainy again tomorrow. It seems a pity to have come all this way to see so little of the scenery. I guess its one place close enough to Bermuda that I could always come back and do it again some day. Right now it’s absolutely pouring with rain so I’m not going anywhere!

I’m really missing my kids who are, for some reason, conspicuously not emailing or calling me despite me emailing and calling them. Facta, non verba… I guess 😦

Rain, rain go away!

July 10, 2010

It was raining in Halifax this morning and has been gray all day. I slept in late and then did some route planning for Newfoundland and Labrador. Tried to book a ticket on the ferry to Newfoundland for Tues only to find that the one I wanted was full. Now I have to take the 4pm ferry that gets into Newfoundland at 10:30pm AST. That sucks as no way I am riding at night so I booked a hotel in Port aux Basques and will start out from there on Wed morning. I’m supposed to have a conference call on Friday but I will probably be in far northwestern Newfoundland by then so I will need to switch it around.

When the rain stopped today I made my way to Dalhousie University and rode around checking out the old stomping grounds. Not much has changed in 20 years. The apartment I rented is still there and the campus looks a bit long in the tooth… maybe it was the gray skies that did it.

I spent the afternoon downtown, drinking beer and watching Germany come in 3rd at the World Cup. It was a good game. I have a lot of riding to do tomorrow to make it to North Sydney by 3:30 to watch the final! GO SPAIN!!! VENGA, VENGA!!!

BTW… I try to take the unused 19mm socket back Canadian Tire and they won’t take it without a receipt… which I threw away, of course, since a round-the-world biker dude doesn’t carry unnecessary papers!!! That will be the last $7 they ever get out of me!

OH… now the rain is going to be coming more often and it is going to get COLD!!!! BOO!!!!! We shall see if I am prepared 🙂

Halifax in 20

July 10, 2010

OMG… the day from hell yesterday… it’s been 20 years since I set foot in Halifax and I will be glad if it is another 20 after that!!! I spent the entire day running around becoming more and more frustrated until finally I contemplated throwing myself off the bridge to Dartmouth.

It all started out well… quick bagel before heading off for a short 2.5 hour drive to Halifax. Easy right… WRONG! The drive wasn’t particularly nice with strong winds and temperatures reaching the mid eighties. Then the traffic into Halifax sucked because the only time the Canadians can pave is during the two week summer they have… which is apparently right now 🙂

I foolishly decided it was time to try and see how accurate the “you have this many miles of gas left” indicator was… and by the time I got down to 2 miles I was in a serious panic. Then I meant to get off at one exit but instead missed the turn so had to go another 1.5 miles up the road with 2 miles of gas remaining. Yes… DUMB AS#, I know. I did end up making it to an Irving station and began to fill my 33 litre tank. It only took 28 litres so the gauge must not take into account the 1 gallon reserve… good to know… or maybe bad to know 🙂

Refueled physically and mentally, I decided to tackle the task of acquiring a tool that could remove the front wheel of a BMW without having to drive back to Moncton to the only BMW motorcycle dealer in the maritimes. SO… from my research all I needed was a 19mm socket for my ratchet set and a 19mm nut… and a welder. With directions in hand to the nearest hardware store I sped off. Once at the store I approached clerk number 1 with my reasonable request… or so I thought. Having deciphered all the Canadian road signs in Kilometers I figured that getting a metric size socket and nut would be no problem… Canada is on the metric system right… WRONG AGAIN! They are some half-baked hybrid of metric and imperial and, of course, all their fasteners are in imperial. NO 19mm nut for me. The clerk was so unhelpful and not wanting to deal with the whole 19mm thing that he basically said “I can’t help you”… he couldn’t even give me a place that may possibly sell them.

Feeling undeterred, I typed good old Home Depot into my GPS and whipped off further into Halifax. This time clerk number 2, a knarly old dude with a scraggly beard, tried his best by visiting the bike several times with different size nuts but none would work. Then he took it upon himself to direct me to two places (Home Depot doesn’t sell individual metric sockets) and even called them to find out if they carried what I wanted. Great guy. So off I sped to Canadian Tire where I acquired a 19mm socket from clerk number 3 for the princely sum of $7! Then it was off to Fastenals where clerk number 4 gave me 3 different size zinc hex nuts to try. I took them to my bike and VIOLA… the 16mm hex nut fit perfectly. I took all three nuts back inside and asked if he had the 16mm in stainless steel… YES SIR, WE DO! Awesome… I’m making progress as I ask him if he knows of a welder. Magically, he guides me over the Dartmouth bridge to an industrial park that is home to Rod’s Machine Shop ( I quickly explain that I need the socket welded to the nut and showed the welder what I was trying to accomplish. As I put the stainless steel hex nut into the front wheel opening… IT DIDN’T FIT!!!!! What the heck? I was mad now thinking that the clerk at Fastenals had given me the wrong size stainless hex nut back. It didn’t matter to the welder who said, after measuring the wheel, just go down the street to the metal shop and get two inches of 7/8’s hex rod and then go get a 7/8’s socket and I will weld the two together.

BAH HUMBUG, I said, knowing better and wanting to use my hex nut solution. This welder had no idea about bikes! I went back inside Rob’s Machine Shop to talk to the office manager who then informed me to just take the nut back to Fastenals. No way I am going back over the bridge I said, only to be informed that a Fastenals was in fact about 400 yards down the street. I tore off there to speak with clerk number 5 and explained that his mate at the other store had messed up. Looking at me as though I had horns, clerk number 5 calls clerk number 4 who swears up and down that he gave me the right size stainless hex nut. So, feeling a bit dumb, I went outside and tried it again and sure enough… IT STILL DIDN’T FIT! I went back inside and told clerk number 5 who then proceeded to tell me I am crazy… yes, he literally implied I had a mental defect… who told him I wonder 🙂

Now I am really confused, how did the nut fit at one store but not at the other? Then it hits me… I ask the clerk for a 16mm ZINC hex nut and compare it to the 16mm stainless hex nut… the zinc one looks smaller to me. The clerk grabs them both from me and proclaims again that I am crazy and that both are the same size. Now, I’m starting to get irritated. I take the zinc nut out there and VIOLA… it fits. So, apparently the same size nut in zinc and stainless steel are in fact slightly different.

Feeling vindicated, I return to the welder with zinc nut and 19mm socket in hand and thrust them toward him. DUDE… I told you that these won’t work, there isn’t enough metal to weld… go get the two inch piece of 7/8’s steel hex rod and the 7/8’s socket like I told you! CRAP… feeling humbled I tore off down the road to the metal shop. Metal graveyard is more like it but who knew there was so much money in scrap metal… maybe East End should go into the business.

As I stand in line, I realize how lucky I am… the guy in front of me has a face like caramelized onions. He has burns over 90 percent of his face and probably elsewhere since its almost 90 degrees and he is wearing long clothing. It doesn’t faze me as I ask him how his day is going and he instinctively puts his hand up to his face and looks away… amazing unconscious reaction to a stranger talking to him and I empathize with him because I sometimes do the same thing with my small blind eye. Funny what the human brain will do without thinking about it.

Anyway, I ask clerk number 6 for 7/8’s hex and after much hunting and clanging, he pulls out an 8 foot rod of 7/8’s hex. “How much do you need sir?” Two inches I mumble… he shoots me a look similar to the one I got from clerk number 5. Here the day brightens slightly because Canadians (except Jamie) are such nice people… NO CHARGE for a two inch piece of hex… apparently they don’t sell it by the inch 🙂

Hex in hand I tear off out to my bike and foolishly try it in my front wheel… of course… IT DOESN’T FIT!!!! Head hung low I get back in line at the metal shop and explain my dilemma to the clerk. Simple, I will come out and measure it, he says. Calipers in hand he proceeds to my bike and proudly announces that the fit is “a hair” under 7/8’s. Now I am pissed at the welder for not measuring properly but really more mad at myself for not measuring it myself. No problem says clerk number 6… just get the welder to grind the hex down until it fits. Ok.. simple enough.

Off I whip to visit clerk number 7 for the day. Princess Auto in Dartmouth sell a very nice single 7/8’s socket for $3… why Canadian Tire sells the same thing for $7 is a mystery. Back at Rod’s Machine Shop, I pull into the parking lot and park next to… the Canadian Border Patrol truck that has conveniently appeared. Out come two agents who ask me where I am going. OMG… images of handcuffs and deportation dance through my head as one agent goes on one side of the bike and the other moves in front of me. Turns out that one of them has a BMW 650 and was checking out the bike. After exchanging pleasantries, off they roar and into the machine shop I go.

The welder grunts as I give him the hex and explain to him that he needs to grind it down to fit. 5 mins and several trips to the bike later, the welder hands me the tool… NO CHARGE he says… have a good trip. Did I mention how nice Canadians (not Jamie) are?

Heading off, I contemplate going to the campground but given the hour and the fact that rain is due tomorrow, I decide to hotel it. So, it takes 5 mins to book a hotel on Expedia right?WRONG!!!! I fight with my blackberry outside the hotel for 20 mins but neither Expedia nor Travelocity will let me complete the booking. Ok, I call the 800 number on both my US and Bermuda phones… NOPE. Neither will do 800 calls… why, who knows. Another 10 mins of frustration. Brilliant idea number 3 is me going into the hotel lobby and asking if they have WiFi in the lobby. YES SIR, WE DO. So, password in hand, I fire up the iPad and proceed to Expedia to make a booking. All is going well until the last button push when the whole thing bombs out. Apple and it’s software STILL DO NOT FUNCTION PROPERLY IN THE INTERNET/PC WORLD!!! GET A CLUE STEVE JOBS!!!!! As much as I love the iPad, its idiosyncrasies are annoying… poor quality control on app development.

So next I search the internet for the non-800 number for Expedia and end up calling an Atlanta area code… only to speak with “Joe” who has a funny name for an Indian dude. 20 mins of fighting with him and I have a hotel room booked… the whole thing took the better part of an hour after the crappy day I already had. Absolutely exhausted, I go to the front desk to check in and they inform me that both my rooms are ready. Both? Ahhhh… no, one room unless the beast booked one as well. No sir, we have 2 Expedia reservations for you. ARRRGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!! Another 20 mins on the phone with Expedia and I am finally checked in although the insane asylum is probably where I belong 🙂

OH YEAH… so I typed all this into my iPad last night at dinner while listening to a beautiful woman with a beautiful voice play guitar and sing at a Celtic pub. The WordPress app on my iPad then decided to crash when I inserted a picture… all my typing GONE… even after saving it as a local draft multiple times!!!!! See what I mean about it being a bad day?

ANYWHO… drum roll please… below we have the most frustrating, aggravating, annoying $3 tool known to man… and one that only took 5 hours and 7 trips to 7 different stores to make. I should have bought one from Amazon 🙂

What was that sound?

July 9, 2010

So I got up early yesterday to hit the road out of Bar Harbor but again the beast had other plans. The day before I had been parking the bike and putting away my keys when I heard what sounded like a coin dropping. Since I had a pocket full of coins it didn’t think anything of it until I went to strap down all my luggage to the luggage rack in the morning and found that it was disturbingly loose! Apparently, that sound the day before was the bottom part of a bracket falling off. Now, the luggage rack has the most obscure, half-witted brackets that are completely impossible to find anywhere but from a BMW dealer. Since I didn’t have one of those in my back pocket I had to improvise and ended up using a small bolt with a spacer, washer, new nut and plenty of loctite. It worked temporarily and on my way out of Maine I stopped at an ACE hardware and picked up some more big flat washers, lock washers and such. My plan is to make more permanent repairs today before I hit the road.

So the ride yesterday took me to Quoddy Head, Maine. Two things that stood out. The most wonderful smell of the Christmas trees that surround you and the road as you ride through northern Maine. It made me miss my kids! The other most amazing thing was the weather change about a mile from the lighthouse. In the space of about 500 yards, it went from brilliant sunshine and 75 degrees to thick fog and 61 degrees!!! It was surreal. Anyway, I had a good chat with the fine gentlemen that manned the lighthouse at the easternmost most point in the USA. See below. When they heard I was headed to Newfoundland, they advised not driving around to cross at Calais but to drive onto Campobello Island and take the ferry to Deer Island and then ride the length of Deer Island to take another ferry to mainland New Brunswick. It turned out to be a great idea and it cut time off the trip while allowing my sore butt to rest :).

From there it was purely putting miles under my belt and my previous days plan of getting to St. John was too conservative. I felt great and the open road and crisp air made me want to push on to Moncton. About 10 mins before Moncton is a huge truck stop in Salsbury and I pulled in to grab dinner as it was after 6. As I looked for a parking spot I saw another BMW 1200GS that had all the signs of being a wandering soul. I parked next to it and 5 mins later was conversing with a guy from Long Island who was on his way back home after doing the Trans-Labrador highway in the opposite direction as I am planning. He gave me some good tips and shared a few stories from the road… The best being the statement “I hope you like gravel!”

After eating and getting back on the bike, I had another hour and a half of daylight left and I felt so good that I decided to just ride until the light was fading. I blew through Moncton and made it Sackville. I took a quick ride through town and saw the campus of Mount Allison University. It was nice because even though I went to college in Halifax and met plenty of girls from “the Mount” I never had the chance to go to their campus. It was small but pretty and I can see why it appeals to some… Samantha, I’m sorry I never got the chance to come visit you 🙂

There be whales, Captain

July 8, 2010

So my grand plan for the day (after a dreadfully boring meeting) comprised of deciding to stay another night in Bar Harbor and spend the day whale watching and exploring Acadia National Park on my bike. After taking a breakfast recommendation from the lovely Spanish girl at the front desk, I whipped off to Two Cats for some absolutely delicious banana and strawberry pancakes. I highly recommend this place and not because it seemed to be entirely run by beautiful young women… But that didn’t hurt 🙂

Then it was off to watch whales only to find that the 1pm trip was sold out. Not to worry though… The 4:30 sunset trip had space and allowed me to jump on the beast and head into the park. Five dollars was a bargain for the beautiful scenes throughout the entire park. The cool temperatures were perfect for the motorcycle and I got a few good shots… You know the drill… See below! One is from the top of Champlain Mountain which is the highest point on the eastern seaboard north of Brazil.

After a few hours in the park I made my way to the whale watch only to find it had been cancelled due to fog! GGGRRRRrrrrrr… Perhaps it was not meant to be. So I made a a last minute run back into the park and enjoyed some of the roads I had missed earlier.

Now I am just missing my kids and getting ready for an early departure tomorrow. I have too much crap… What can I leave behind 🙂

My goal tomorrow is to visit the most eastern point in USA and to make it to St. John, New Brunswick in Canada so I can drop in to Steamers for dinner… Thanks for the recommendation Ralph.