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Old 09-20-2018, 08:01 PM
newc4 newc4 is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2002
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180830 Cape Breton Ride Report

Steve Pratel, LTC/CHC, and I first rode to Camp XSEast in 1998, then XSToronto 1999. Back in the spring, he emailed me that he was riding to Canada. I had just received an extra week so I asked him, “Can I come?” “Sure.” “When we going?” “18AUG for a week.” His ride, a 2014 Moto-Guzzi Norge.

One thing my 2006 Yamaha FJR1300 needed was a comfortable seat. The stock seat caused nerve damage to me posterior after extended rides. In June I ordered a seat from Sepp Lamm, hoping to have it prior to the ride.
Steve and I sat down in July to do some route planning. I think we were being very optimistic with 500 mile days. Brattleboro VT, Bar Harbor ME, Halifax NS, Moncton NB, Rivére-du-Loup NB, Grand Isle VT, Home.

15-17 AUG
My Lamm seat arrived on Thursday and I had it mounted on the FJR immediately. So far so good.

I then pulled some camping gear to have that option if needed. The tent, I didn’t bother to set up or check. I assumed it was good to go. Had a sleeping bag and a self-inflating mat. Wait, the mat nozzle was torn off. 2 days to ship for another one. Scored a Coleman at Walmart. Packed each bit of my camping gear in a plastic bag then into a parachute bag. Wrapped more plastic around the parachute bag to ensure it would remain dry.

I removed my hardbags to pack them and noticed the right side muffler stay bag bracket stay had snapped off. It happened when I dropped the bike on the right side as I was rolling it into my shed out back recently. The damage wasn’t apparent until I removed the bag. Well, that’s what bungie cords are for. I packed my two hardbags to the gills.

18 AUG
Steve was scheduled to arrive by 0700 so I had the bike packed, two hardbags, the Givi rear bag, a tank bag, and my parachute bag across the back seat. I rolled the bike out of the garage and down the driveway. Down the driveway. Karen, my wife, wanted to take a picture. Standing behind the bike I put my hand on the Givi with just enough pressure for the kickstand to collapse and the bike to fall to the left snapping off my foot pedal. And I just happened to have a spare in my tank bag. I was replacing it in the sweltering heat when Steve arrived. As we’re getting ready to leave, Steve points out that my left headlight is out. The high beam works so I’m good to go.
I donned my perforated FirstGear jacket for hot weather travel and we were soon on the road jumping of the Inner Loop at Rt 7, Tyson’s Corner to I-270, RT-15 to Harrisburg.

Our first gas stop was a Dillsburg at a Sheetz on the west side. Coming out of the station there was anti-freeze or something on the road, slick as snot – my back tire was all over the place and when I stepped down with my right foot it skidded out, but I finally managed to gain the road without falling.
We picked up RT-581 at Camp Hill to cross the Susquehanna then pick up I-83 to I-81 to Scranton. Steve was zoning out at the I-83 split continuing east on 322. I roared by him taking the left fork. By the time he stopped he had to push back a 100 yards to make the fork. I waited patiently on the overpass.

Or first destination for the trip was Bill's Old Bike Barn in Bloomsburg PA. This museum was an eclectic mix of motorcycles and all sorts of other stuff from the last 80 years. And to Steve’s delight there were several Moto-Guzzi bikes. Out in the parking lot we met a few locals and asked for a good place to eat and were pointed to Bandit’s Roadhouse a few miles up the road. Lunch was served by an older waitress with only hand.
Back on to I-80 to I-81 to Scranton. Two things were observable on the way.

The sky had clouded up on the way in and now a rain squall was moving across the Scranton valley. Secondly, signs indicated a back-up on I-81 so we jumped onto a very slow moving RT-11. The downpour caught up with us before we cleared Scranton. As I was hot, the cooling effect was welcomed. We were back on I-81 to Binghamton then I-88 to Albany and points east, the roads lightly traveled. We picked up RT-7 north of Albany through Troy. Now, Troy sucks. Traffic, two lanes each way, right though the town and multiple lights. No left turn lanes so the left lane was frequently blocked. But we eventually got through and were east bound to Bennington where we picked up RT-9 to Brattleboro VT. There, I vaguely remembered the motel was stayed for XSEast08 was to the north. We found it, but NO VACANCY. But a Comfort Inn up the street was recommended so we secured lodging there. 99 Restaurants was out front so we settled in for some beer and grub. 516 miles

19 AUG
As we load up outside the Comfort Inn we talked with a guest who had ridden the Trans America, the dirt trail across the country. A new item for the bucket list. We headed for Bar Harbor off interstates for the most part taking Rt 9, 202 to Concord, Rochester, Alfred. We stopped and checked out Alfred for lunch but decided to go a couple miles down the road to and get a bite at Woody’s Sports Grille in Watergoro. Then back on 202 to Buxton, Gray to I-95 to Winslow.

In Winslow we stopped to see an old college classmate Steve and I ended chatting it up for over an hour. Then it was time to head on out. On one of the country roads, Steve pulled over. Your other headlight is out. The highs still worked but I may need them working to get into Canada.

Steve had made reservations and White Birches which appeared to be a nice enough place but when we came to a three way stop, Steve could see the motel and didn’t like what he saw. Itinerant berry pickers were flocking the place and there was no security for the bikes. I said let’s find a Walmart so I could deal with my light issue. While there, Steve made a call and scored a room at the Eagles Lodge Motel. Steve loves talking to people and was chatting up the clerk; she had a pronounced New England accent. She recommended some places to eat so once we we’re settled in we walked down the hill to some excellent pizza slices at Finelli Pizzeria. Gee, do all the girls sport tattoos up here? 325 miles

20 AUG
Today was motorcycle repair day. To get to the FJR headlights I had to go behind the FJR fairing. I’ve done so in the past to update the electrics and change the battery but it was never fun. Still, I had the bulbs and the tools to do the job. Off came the right side. I could sort of reach the light, and I got the seal then the plug pulled off. Steve helped undo the spring retainer and out came the bulb. Putting it back wasn’t much easier until I removed the second panel that had the headlight adjustment. 45 min for the first light, 15 min for the second. And they worked.

We rode on down Rt-3 to Thompson Island where I got my National Park stamp! There were probably a few more I could’ve gotten as we rode around the island on RT-102, stopping here and there. We veered off Granville Road and parked in an unpaved parking lot to the end to take in the view and snap a few pictures. Our next stop was the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse for some more view and snaps. We started back off the island when Steve pulled off at a small museum, complaining about the bad feel to his Norge. A close examination revealed nothing though he thought he undid his left fork adjuster. I did notice his rear tire looked low but he said he had 40 psi. Still, following him, it looked low, the sidewalls were touching the pavement.

About 20 min later he pulled off at Central Maine Harley-Davidson. I said it’s your back tire. Close examination showed a three pronged puncture. He had a tire repair kit and a mini pump and managed to plug the leak. The Honda dealer was 20 miles down the road but was closed for the day. Google maps revealed two motorcycle shops. We called one, Hancock Cycle and Sled, the name turning out to be more lofty than the enterprise. Back in a wooded lot was one house, one barn and the area between full of motorcycles left in the elements. While Steve spoke with the manager about options I walked around looking at the assortment of bikes. Hey, a XS11 Special. Needed a battery, carb cleaning and giving the front brake handle a squeeze, rebuilt brakes. I remarked to Steve, “We need to get out XSs going and doing some riding.” Anyway, he said they could order tires but didn’t have any in stock. While considering his options I found another place, Gardner Racing Concepts, and gave them a call. “Have you and 180/55-17s?” “No, but I have a 190/55-17.” I gave my phone to Steve for him to see if this would work.

On the way to GRC, a going concern with two Quonsets plus an office. I was in lead, was looking for GRC on the left, saw it on the right, pointed it out to Steve while I missed the turn. By the time I turned around, Steve was wheeling his Norge into one of the Quonsets and on to a motorcycle lift. Stan Gardner, the mechanic, hit the hydraulics and up it went. Oops the kickstand was in the way. Loosen the straps, and I kicked it down while they steadied the bike. The back tire was off. Stan noticed the plug and said “You should get this motorcycle tire plugging tool that he proceeded to show us, the Stop & Go Pocket Tire Plugger Kit. Steve goes ahead and orders one from the Twisted Throttle. The new tire goes on. “Do you want beads?” 2 ounces of tire balancing beads, greatest thing since sliced toast.

2 hours later we were ready to roll. Back through Ellsworth then to Ruth and Wimpy’s for some lobster rolls for lunch. Back on the bike, up 182 to 1 at Cherryfield. We stayed on 1 to Machias then took 191 the coastal road, to 189. I was getting anxious as my tank was down to ¼ tank and we were in rural Maine. We finally hit the Gulf station at Trescott. On to Lubec. We did a little recce, ran back to the motel in Trescott to find there were no lodgings available anywhere. The desk clerk made a call to Owens House and scored us two racks. We were off to Campobello Island in NB, just over the bridge from Lubec, the only land access to and from the island.

Run by a pair of older ladies, the Owen House Country Inn and Gallery is a large colonial inn built in the 1840’s and retaining furnishings from about the same period. It sets on a headland overlooking Passamaquoddy Bay with a panoramic view of the islands on both sides of the international border and also an ideal place to view whales. We pulled in at dusk, a number of older couples were out watching for whales, they struck us as the tree hugging, whale watching type. We entered the inn and met Jan, the proprietor who gave us a brief run down and asked if we wanted to check out the room first. No, we said, we’ll take it. The rooms were dated but warm reminding one of grandmother’s home. We took of our gear then headed out to the point so Steve could enjoy his cigar; he gave me a run down on the various smokes. The other owner came out and said we could expect some whale activity. Later we could hear them blowing and splashing through the trees. We retired to our room and talked for a bit before retiring.
185 miles

21 AUG
At 0800 Jan knocked on the door to announce breakfast. We sat down with four other couples around the inviting country breakfast table. Fresh fruit and blueberry pancakes. We introduced ourselves and The lady and gent to my right explained how they had sold the home in WV and now lived out of their 41ft RV. They discussed RV living for a bit then noted that Steve looked like he was in the military. “Yes, Army.” The one gent to the left said he was a Vietnam veteran. The one to the right, “I was a Naval Flight Officer.” My ears perked up at that as most of us refer to ourselves first as “backseaters.” Steve asked “What did you fly?” “S-3s.” Steve pointed to me and said so did he. I asked what squadron. “VS-24”. “32” I said. What year? “80-83, how about you?” “81-84, I may recall seeing you around.” An older gent at the other end of the table spoke up and said, “I flew F-11s in VF-51, in 1957.” “Grumman Tigers, wow.” Pete and I spoke of navy guys we both might know when he mentioned flying an ASW mission in the reserve squadron and filling out a Purple. “You were in VS-0174, so was I!” Again, we compared notes and recounted the ancient times. Steve finally said, time to go.

And I had to go. I didn’t trust the antiquated plumbing of Owen House to handle what I needed to deliver so I bee-lined to the Roosevelt Campobello International Park. I’d lost Steve and waited for him to catch up in the parking lot. “Aren’t we going to the Head Harbor Light Station?” I said “I gotta go, now!” He caught on. Once unburdened, I got a stamp in my passport then took a quick walk of the grounds taking some snaps of the Campobello cottage that FDR stayed at. Steve said, “Let’s skip the light house.”

Heading back into the US, I rode over the bridge and up to the CPB station. “Please take your helmet off.” The chubby officer proceeded to impress upon me the importance of observing the red light and not to proceed until beckoned. I thought that we would’ve like the business. Once cleared through, we crossed Lubec then headed south to the West Quoddy Head Lighthouse. More snaps and a discussion with a Manhattanite and Trumpster, there with his boy. He said he held his political affiliation close in NYC. He bought 15 acres to set up a Ham antennae that he could access via server in Manhattan and thus broadcast with a much cheaper though more remote site.

One of the seasons in the Northeast, is Road Repair. We encountered our first significant stop on Hwy-1 north of Whiting. We made our way past Cobscook Bay State Park then up to St Croix Island International Historic Site where I got another stamp. We stopped, topped off on fuel, then crossed the border at Calais. “When was the last time you were in Canada?” “A few hours ago.” She smiled, “Before that.” “Five years or so.” A few more questions and I was through to St Stephen. We picked up 1 and began our run to Nova Scotia. 1 is akin to an interstate but there just wasn’t that much traffic.

We hit the rest stop at New River Beach Provincial Park. Who did we meet walking in? The Vietnam vet couple from our breakfast at Owen House. Steve got some info from the tattooed girl at the information desk, I took some snaps, then we were on our way again. The couple waved from their picnic bench. Steve honked, I waved.

We approached Saint John. Over a rise we were suddenly in a city with traffic, high rises, everything. A couple of miles later, over another rise, we were back in the country.

We followed 1 to Springdale, Cardwell, NB, then turned right on to 114. Not much on this two lane at all. We entered Fundy National Park and the road improved but I seemed to be going through fuel faster and was growing concerned. Finally, the Bay of Fundy was before us and was traveled down the escapement to Alma, where we stopped for fuel and food, enjoying a lobster roll at Butland’s Fish Market. I noticed that wait staff has aprons with substantial leather straps.

We continued on 114 to the Rocks Provincial Park but Steve didn’t want to pay the $10 entry fee, so we were back on the road.
We entered Moncton from the west and went through the city, big mistake, hitting about 20 red lights and having to wait at each before we gained 2 on the east side south of Dieppe. We continue south at a good clip then stopped at the Nova Scotia welcome center to consider lodging options. I called the Hill Crest Inn, a fancy name for a non-descript motel in Pugwash, to get a room for the night. Another 45 minutes on 6 brought us into town. After checking in, we picked up some beer at the local NBC. Steve thought the counter woman in blue had the look and smell of a meth head. Back to the Hill Crest for dinner at their diner next door. Just made it as most establishments seem to close at 8:00 PM. After dinner we sat out front to enjoy some Molson Goldens and cigars, watching a cop coop across the street at the Pugwash Fire Station.
332 miles.

22 AUG
We arose, packed then breakfasted at the diner. Then we were off to Cape Breton and the Cabot Trail under cloudy skies. Taking 6, we stopped at the Wallace Ultramar to top off our tanks then continued on the coastal road to Pictou merging with 106 to cross Pictou Harbor. On to New Glasgow with their windmills on the bluffs then turning onto 104. We were making good time until we encountered the backup just this side of Antigonish. Apparently, the Canadians don’t like to flip their Stop/Slow sign often so we sat for close to ½ hour before traffic started moving.

We were soon skirting the Strait of Canso crossing the Canso Causeway to Cape Breton Island. We stopped at the visitor center so Steve could gather some more information. I called and emailed Howie saying we’d take them up on their offer. Up the road a bit we topped off our tanks, my bike seemed to have an inordinate thirst for Canadian gas, then heading back towards Port Hawkesbury for lunch at the Hearthstone Inn. I got a selfie beneath their moose, the Moose is Loose! Back on the bikes. Tracking north on 105 we soon had Whycocomagh Bay on our right which became Bras d’Or Lake. Much of the scenery reminded one of the Finger Lakes region of New York, except all the water was salt. Stopped at Wagmatcook for another gas stop. Back on the road, we turned left onto the Cabot Trail at Saint Anns at the south end of St. Anne’s Harbour, stopping under the Cabot Trail sign. Right there was St Ann’s Motel. We took their suite, their last room for our night’s lodging.

Back on the road we started up the trail in a counterclockwise circuit. The lake, really an inland sea, was to our right. Soon we were descending down to Ingonish Harbour, rolling through Ingonish Ferry to fall behind a very slow moving pick-up then through South Ingonish Harbour, then Ingonish Beach. As always there were many photo worthy sights we just didn’t stop for. We stopped at the Green Cove Look Off for a lot of looking. The air was cool and crisp as we wandered about the rocks.

We continued on through the interior skirting the north side of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park then we hit the west coast. Climbing into the mountains we encounter some more construction stops. Looks like washouts being repaired, a lot of wet dirt, no pavement. Time to get off the bike and wait. We note another pair of bikes and few car lengths up. Finally, we can proceed. Steve gets ahead of me a bit, a pickup runs up next to me. “You’re losing your cell phone.” I realize it’s just my SPOT tracker communicating.
We eventually clear them but were behind slow movers on a twisty road that doesn’t offer many opportunities to pass. Steve and the other biker were making some ballsy moves passing cars playing chicken with oncoming traffic. I choose to be a little more conservative. My gas gauge is down to 3/8 would should give 50 miles but I always get nervous when there are no stations around. We stop at a scenic site, the other two bikers blow by.

Finally we descend into Chéticamp and a gas station to fill-up. Back on the road we reach Margaree Forks and remain on the trail. Eventually we reach 105 for our rainy run up to Saint Anns. Once there the rain had abated so we walked next door to the Lobster Gallery Restaurant for some beer and dinner. I was tired of lobster rolls at this point so I opted for Seafood Soup, Marinated Herring and a Caesar Salad washed down be several Coors Lights. In the meantime, Howie has responded that a change in their plans made our return visit untenable. Back in the room we chatted a little then caught up in our reading.
400 miles.

23 AUG
Alas, it was time to begin our return trip. We enjoyed breakfast at the Lobster Gallery then mounted up. We made a left then a left top pick up 105 to Sydney crossing over the Bras d’Or. At North Sydney we jumped on to 125 to Sydney than ran southwest on 4. Now we had the greater Bras d’Or to our right all the way down to St Peter’s were we had a 20 min stop at this swing bridge at St. Peters Canal. The sky began clearing up but we had a 90 min stop for the swing bridge in Port Hawkesbury on the Canso Causeway. After sitting for 30 minutes we pulled out of line to wait it out at Tim Horton’s. By 1300 traffic appeared to be moving so I said we gotta go. Before we mounted I said let’s bypass the backup at Antigonish. We got around on a nice back road and popped out where the eastbound traffic was queued. Nearly a two mile backup. I’m surprised more people didn’t use take the detour.

Running on 104 we pull off at Coalburn to fuel up. We continue on 104 to Glenholme were we take a longcut on 4 to Wentworth. The cops are out and aggressive. Westbound on 4 just before 104 we stop to assist some stop bikers along the road. They were the same two we encountered way back on Cape Breton. Back on 104 we were putting miles behind us. At Amherst we picked up 2 to Moncton, then 1 at River Glade towards Saint John. We were rode out as we stopped at a Comfort Inn for the night. A smoking room was the only one available but it was manageable. We walked next door to the Pita Pit for dinner and picked up some Molson Goldens for a nightcap.
425 miles.

24 AUG
We arose refreshed, had breakfast at the Comfort Inn than began the retrograde home. We stayed on 1 to Saint Stephens and crossed the border into the US. Border entry into the US was unremarkable. A gas station was right there so I filled up. We took 9 towards Bangor, some 90 miles of remoteness. Watching my gas I seemed to be getting better mileage, about 7 mpg better. Is there a difference between the US and Canadian blends. There’s a whole lot of nothing between Saint Stephens and Bangor and once again I was becoming concerned about gas but finally signs of civilization grew, we stopped near Clifton to fill up.

We took I-95 from Bangor to Augusta then started through the back country of New England. 202 to Wayne ME where we took a navigation stop, 219 to Trap Corner, 26 to Bethel, 2 to 115 to 3 to Carroll. Another gas and soda stop at an old grocery store. Then on 302 to I-93 north. A navigation stop at the NH-VT border to confirm where we were bound. Once I see a map and can quickly encode the directions and route of march. Steve wanted to overnight in Newburgh. I said I have a cousin in Poughkeepsie, Virginia, so I sent her a text asking if we could overnight with her.

Picked up I-91 south from St Johnsbury through some truly beautiful country, rolling hills and mountains covered in verdant greenery. 11 west from Springfield to 30 to 7 to Bennington to Troy, more light waiting, then 787 to 87 south. Steve pulled into a rest area, “Want to eat,” “I’d rather eat elsewhere,” “Why did you want to stop here?” “I didn’t” When I want to get his attention to stop I usually pull up next to him. With the lateness of the hour, I was getting tired and my speed control was a little sloppy. But in another 20 miles I needed gas so we did stop. At New Platz we turned east onto 199. To 9W to the Mid-Hudson Bridge to Poughkeepsie and cousin's abode.

663 miles.

25 AUG
My cousin had breakfast for us so I enjoyed some last familial moments. Steve got directions to the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge and knew the rest of the way. We crossed the Hudson on I-84, a bright and sunny morning. As we neared the Delaware River valley we could see that it was covered in cloud. We descended into the fog, crossed the river and saw a sign for Dingmans Ferry, site of our first XS camp back in 1998 where I first met Steve.

We rose out of the valley and were once again in the sun. We pulled in at a rest stop - a breeder had stopped with eight Blue Great Dane puppies in a temporary pen to give them a break from their car. As puppies do they were charming, cuddly and playful. Realize they grow to be 200 lbs.

On our way again to Scranton for another gas stop then south-west om I-81 to Harrisburg then I-83 to 581 then 15. We did a quick stop in Dillsburg for corn but they were out. One more stop at Gettysburg for my national park stamp but the place was mobbed. One more stop before 15 to shake hands and bid farewell, then on to Frederick. We passed a sign for Monocacy Natl Battlefield – I’ll have to stop back there.

Outer loop was moving slowly, but moving. Steve left me at the GW Parkway, I continued on home, pulled in around 1410.
353 miles.

26 AUG
3,507 miles.
It’s 0800 and it feels like I should be getting on the bike. Alas, this trip has concluded.
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Old 10-03-2018, 06:48 AM
JeffH JeffH is offline
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Join Date: Dec 2011
Location: Atlanta, GA.
Posts: 1,135
THANKS for the great ride report.

Nova Scotia & Cape Breton sure is a bucket list ride, but to be able to do it on a motorcycle is awesome.

A great experience. Good seafood eats too. Thanks for sharing.

Jeff
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