Monday, May 19, 2008

Trip - 1B

Leg-1 : Home to Fredericton (May 15th - 341 kms)
I thought my first trip on this bike was cold....well this morning at 6am I hopped on the bike and the thermometer showed -2C. The wind chill from driving on the highway sure woke me up! Although summer is only a month away, there is still patches of snow on the ground on the north shore. With a new tank bag packed with clothes, it makes a nice place for my chin to rest on and tuck behind the windshield. Changing riding positions helps a road trip, especially this morning where I can get a little shelter from the freezing cold.

At this time of day there is little traffic, so in a blink, I'm already in Bathurst to kill most of the first hour. The sun is now shining bright, and a little higher, so it helps to warm my lower back (where my jacket is creeping up from leaning over).

The new fences along the northern N.B. highways make riding at this time of day easier, not having to worry about being surprised by a moose or deer on the road....especially through the portage on highway 8.

An hour and half slide by, and I'm rolling into Miramichi, where kids are in shorts getting on the school bus - even though it's zero must be a warm day forecasted. I roll into the gas station where I pay $1.345 per litre of mid-grade, but.....I get 50+ mpg!! Like the last trip, after I pay for gas and warm up with a hot drink, I hop back on the bike only to start shivering. I guess warming up is not a good thing sometimes, but my muscles settle down after cooling off again as I leave Miramichi, crossing it's mighty river.

Cruising into Blackville, then Doaktown, the sun feels warmer - even though it's still only +3C. The road is rougher here, and I'm playing with the handlebars more - dodging potholes and ruts. After leaving Taymouth, the road gets interesting - nice and twisty. A coat of pavement sure would help though.

Four hours after leaving home, I arrive in Fredericton with the temperature much warmer. I make it to my meeting at the Ramada, just in time for a hot cup of tea and cinammon roll mmmm. My body gets settled into the meeting, but after a big lunch, the afternoon craves for me to take a siesta.

At 3:30, the meeting is done, so I return to where I bought my helmet to see about a vent that has popped off the top. Not surprising that I have to wait till they order the part in and mail it to me.

Leg-2 : Fredericton to Springhill
(May 15th - 267 kms) I leave Fredericton just after 4pm, and the temperature has climbed to 20C, so the trip won't have any cold side effects. The divided Trans Canada Highway #2 is a much faster speed, but a little boring. It doesn't take long till I'm crossing the new bridge at Canning, and faced with an awesome view of the Saint John River. A couple weeks before, this area was flooded badly, and competing with the record flood of 1973, but now, everything is returning to normal.

The traffic moves along this new road quickly, and it's not long that I'm now cruising into Moncton. The temperature drops 5°C and the wind picks up from the effects of the Bay of Fundy. It's business as usual until I approach Sackville and Aulac, and cross the Isthmus of Chignecto, where the wind really increases. This is where N.B. and N.S. are joined by a small strip of land with the Bay of Fundy on one side and Atlantic Ocean on the other - prime real estate for wind turbines spinning nearby.

I cross the border, leave the divided highway, and have a great ride through the twisties and hills from Amherst to Springhill. It's an unusually busy spot today, and after making my way to the top of the town, I turn onto South St., crank the throttle so the Vtec motor kicks in, pop a wheelie, brake hard, then smoke the rear tire as I pull into mum's driveway hehe (note: previous sentence may contain slight exaggeration for mum's benefit).

A beer, good meal and cup of tea await me, then I settle in for the night visiting mum, and watching Philadelphia beat Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup semi-finals.

Leg-3 : Springhill to Halifax (May 16th - 181 kms)
After a good sleep, I'm ready to leave the next morning. Pete shows up to drool over my bike (he's soon on his way to visit Ontario for a possible career change), then I'm off on a cloudy, damp morning. The divided highway continues here, and after passing Oxford (Blueberry Capital of the Universe), it's not long before I'm at the Cobequid Pass section of Trans-Canada Highway. Here the fog is very thick and the road is wet. My face shield has all the signs that I'm driving in rain. A few miles later, the fog clears, and I hit the toll booths. Even though I've dropped $4 into the ol' gal's hand at the booth, she wants to chat up a storm, and tells me I'm the first motorbike of the day. After telling me the weather should get better, I say goodbye, and carry on.

After swinging south to "the only exit to Halifax", Truro is next up. The Bay of Fundy / Minas Basin funnel ends here, so the wind really picks up and I'm getting major buffeting coming up and alongside of trucks. I push on past Stewiacke (claim to fame : "Half way between North Pole and Equator"), then the road widens since the Halifax airport is near. After about an hour and half, I spot the Welcome to Halifax sign, so decide to pull over, but get a surprise when the pavement drops about 6" where it meets the shoulder.

After snapping a photo, I have to drive along the dirt shoulder a bit so the pavement drop off allows me to get back on the highway. Traffic picks up, I exit onto Hwy 118 into Dartmouth, then through the toll booth, and across the Angus L. Macdonald (you remember that guy) bridge. I finally pull into the Holiday Inn and find Donna to give her a big hug (I'm here because I haven't seen my wife for a week, and her mom is in the hospital).

Leg-4 : Halifax to Home (May 18th - 576kms)
I spend a couple days in Halifax visiting Donna and her mother Louise, then it was time to head home. Donna and I first make quick visits to see the horses by the museum, then walk through the great Public Gardens.

The hard rain the previous day broke into a nice sunny day for the trip, but the storm still had its hold on the weather - winds were nasty. As soon as I pulled out of Halifax, I could feel the crosswinds affecting the bike steering. By the time I hit Stewiacke, I not only was throttling back on my speed during gusts, but I was thankful for the full width of the lane. As I approached Truro, the winds turned nastier, and I had to reduce speed by 30kph at times just to keep control of the bike.

The wind never let up, and it was so bad, that by the time I hit Oxford, I decided to leave the Trans-Canada Highway, and take the old back road through River Philip to Springhill. Turning onto this old road, I was immediately faced with a motorbike-specific sign showing that the road ahead was not good. It turned out to be bumpy, tore up, and windy, but luckily only 19kms long. This back route into Springhill passes by the cemetery where my father was buried in 1989, so memories instantly hit me....he was a great dad.

I finally turn onto Mechanic St., and on the upper end, I dodge the pot holes and mud, before turning into mum's place. My sister Cathy is visiting mum with her friend Eileen for their ritual Victoria Day weekend, so it's good to see her after about a year.

It was lunchtime, and flounder was on the menu, along with broccoli salad, chocolate pie, and a cup of tea mmmm. After eating, then seeing Canada go ahead of Russia in the 1st period of the World Hockey tournament, I was off to try to make it to Miramichi to see the end of the game.

Heading up the old #2 highway to Amherst, it was as enjoyable as the trip down 2 days before. The woods protected the wind gusts, and the sun was holding the temperature about 15°C. Soon I was in Amherst - heading out onto the divided Trans-Canada Highway, and quickly hit by strong winds. I was surprised that the RCMP Station wind turbine wasn't turning. I knew this section was going to be windy (like it usually is), but my experience of driving in the high winds on this trip did not prepare me for the N.S./N.B. border section! I quickly dropped my speed to 100... 90... 80... but was still being blown around and fighting to keep the bike upright. I finally was forced to slow to 60kph and pull over to the shoulder of the road for the remainder of the Aulac/Tantramar flats. After crossing this bad stretch and getting back up to near highway speed, I still had to be extra careful in the strong wind, and slow quickly when a gust tried to throw me into the ditch.

I soon found my throttle fingers going numb from holding on so tight. This continued until I finally made it to Moncton. No way was I going to take the coastal Hwy. #11, so instead, I took the old #126 up through Rogersville to be protected by the woods. I finally had the feeling come back to my fingers, since I no longer was fighting the wind.

Even though the road was not that great, it sure beat the high winds. By the time I hit Harcourt, the dark clouds started spitting rain. Although my face shield showed I was driving through rain, my body didn't feel wet - I guess the small fairing was doing its job. This continued for about 20 mins. until I drove through the small acadian village of Rogersville where the red/white/blue flags are proudly hung.

The sun came out, the roads dried, and I had a good cruise through the twisting end of this road. Crossing the new bridge over the Miramichi River, the sun was shining, and the water was calm. Here I stopped in to see my son Jeff, who doesn't have TV, but he was able to tune in to the ending of the Canada-Russia gold medal game on the internet (too bad they lost).

Before long, I gassed up, then enjoyed the nice weather through the portage section of Hwy. 8 past the famous La Bonne Route restaurant/truck stop. At Bathurst, I swung onto Hwy. 11, and stretched out on the bike with my feet on the passenger pegs and chin on the tank bag for the final hour drive.

Before going home, I dropped in to see Bedou, have a cold beer, and tell him about his wife Louise in the Halifax hospital. Next stop was to pick up my house key from Dave who was nice enough to watch my dogs while I was away. Finally,
after 1365 kms, I'm back home, the key opens the door, and the dogs are hopping! I immediately scoop them up, walk down the stairs to our beach and enjoy the view!