When I got up early to make sure we got to the ferry landing on time, I discovered it rained last night and was still lightly raining as we packed the bikes and got ready to leave. We suited up for the first (but not last) time this trip, and made the slightly damp 15-minute ride to the catch the Fundy Rose for a 2 1/2 hour ride across the Bay of Fundy. We arrived in plenty of time and joined the queue of cars, trucks and one other motorcycle waiting to load. At precisely 9:00 a.m, all vehicles had been loaded, the motorcycles were strapped to the steel deck and we pulled away from the dock in St John and said goodbye (for now) to New Brunswick.
The Fundy Rose ferries vehicles and people from St. John to Digby, Nova Scotia twice a day, one trip each way. A well-appointed craft, the ferry boasts two cafeteria/snack bars, a lounge and plenty of social-distanced seating. The name honors Rose Fortune, a former slave who settled in Nova Scotia in the 18th century and was a loyalist who sided with the crown in the war against the colonies. She was a successful businesswoman whose life revolved around the Bay of Fund and was also the first female police officer in Canada. She left a lasting impression on the people of the area and the owners of Bay Ferries felt it appropriate to honor her by naming the vessel Fundy Rose.
St John receded into the background as we passed the harbor lighthouse and headed for open sea. The short trip gave me a chance to reflect on my time at sea when Navy ships were made of wood and canvas and on long-distance motorcycle riding. Most passengers stayed secure in the lounge or the seating areas, but I spent a good part of my ride in the brisk open air, taking in the beauty of the Bay of Fundy.
The Bay of Fundy, by the way, every day witnesses the biggest tides in the world. Every six hours the water rises or falls 50 feet, creating currents so strong it forces rivers to run backwards and producing a vortex so powerful the result is a giant whirlpool. The biggest action takes place in the northernmost bays and inlets, but the tide affects every shore and harbor on the Bay of Fundy. All that tidal action also produces what I went to Digby for: The world’s biggest scallops.
We found the small but highly-rated Crow’s Nest restaurant on the main drag along Digby harbor, looked briefly at a menu, and with the help of our delightful server Wendy, ordered the amazing scallops we had taken a $100 ferry ride to enjoy. If you’re ever in Digby, I highly recommend this gem on the waterfront. It’s a piece of Canadiana. Quirky decor, friendly and helpful staff (e.g. Wendy), and, of course, wonderfully prepared scallops. The Crow’s nest could easily expand if they had the space: several parties had to be turned away or were given a reservation later in the lunch period by the accommodating staff. We didn’t have much time after lunch to sight see, but we looked at a display in the center of town and at the fleet resting in the harbor.
We had about 300 miles to ride after lunch to get to today’s destination at Antigonish, Nova Scotia, and we left Digby under partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid-to-low 50s. Unfortunately, the clouds moved in and the temperatures dropped considerably on the ride north. By the time we got to Antigonish at 5:30, the sun was gone, the temperature had dropped to 47° F ( 8° C) and we were definitely feeling the chill, despite adding additional gear during a couple of stops. Unfortunately the weather will go from bad to worse tomorrow with forecasts for light rain and temperatures in the low 40s. I had hoped to introduce Steve to a great ride on the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, but that ride is best saved for a more rider-friendly day. Tomorrow, then, should be a short, cold, wet ride to North Sydney where we’ll catch an 11:30 p.m. overnight ferry to Channel-Port-aux-Basque, NL.
One final note for today’s blog: I calculated the cost of gas after we filled our tanks. $6.50 USD/gallon for premium petrol. Ouch.
After riding about 1,400 miles north out of Maggie Valley, today we crossed into Canada at St. Stephens, New Brunswick from northern Maine. The entry process was easier than I expected, in part because we had completed the online forms known as ArriveCan related to Covid and had submitted our passport information and copies of our Covid vaccination cards through the app. Our first stop after going through the border check was to a bank to convert American dollars into Canadian ones at a rate of $1 USD to 1.225 CAD. That exchange rate helps make Canada’s high prices for gas and lodging a little more palatable.
The only hitch of note today was that I hadn’t considered that New Brunswick might be in another time zone, which it is. As we headed north out of New Hampshire and through Maine, I figured I had an hour’s cushion to make my 2:00 p.m. appointment at the border. But that chronology cushion disappeared completely when I discovered New Brunswick, as well as Nova Scotia, is in the Atlantic Time Zone, which is an hour ahead of EST. Consequently, there were no stops along the way except for gas, and I went through the check point at 2:02 Atlantic Time, leaving my non-existent one-hour cushion in Maine.
Fortunately, the ride through upstate Maine didn’t require any extensive stops to appreciate the beauty of that heavily forested wild county. The state highway north out Bangor is well maintained with plenty of passing lanes to deal with the occasional slow truck or Mainers going about their business. The weather was pleasant through New Hampshire and Maine, but temperatures dropped almost immediately after we entered Canada and rode east. There the cold ocean air moves inland and the temperature probably dropped 10 degrees in a mile or two. But we only had 110 kilometers (about 70 miles) to ride to our destination in St. John, New Brunswick, and we didn’t stop to add any more gear.
I’ve been asked by several people why I chose a Cross Canada Ride for this 2022 adventure and the answer is pretty simple: I like Canadians and the beautiful land they inhabit. I’ve ridden in Canada a half dozen times and my experience with the people here has been overwhelmingly positive. They’re polite. They’re thoughtful. They’re smart. In fact, Canadians are the most educated people in the world. More than 50% of adults in Canada hold a college degree, a higher percentage than any other country. As a former college teacher, I’m pleased and impressed with that fact. I also like the fact that they’re a little quirky. For example, Canadians use both metric and imperial measuring systems. Distance and speed are measured in meters and kilometers, but a person’s height in marked off in feet. They also use both centigrade and Fahrenheit, the former when talking about air temperatures but the latter when cooking in the kitchen. Here’s one more fact that should stick with you: Canada produces 80% of the world’s maple syrup. Sweet.
While many Americans know that the official language of Quebec is French, few know that New Brunswick is the only province boasting two official languages: French and English. Consequently, all road signs, official notices, and even license plates include both French and English, requiring me to read twice as much when I’m speeding by at over 100 kilometers per hour. One final New Brunswick tidbit: A year after the 13 British colonies to the south officially gained their independence and began trying to form a more perfect union, New Brunswick was named to honor King George III, who also held the title of Duke of Brunswick.
After spending less than a day in this province, we leave New Brunswick tomorrow morning to visit Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island. But we’ll be back in New Brunswick in about ten days after we’ve made our U-turn in St Johns, NL, and motor west for the remainder of the CCR.
Today was going to be an easy ride from Bethlehem to Hampton, New Hampshire, one final step closer to Canada. But for some reason, nothing is ever easy.
I routed the ride on the Google Map GPS using a round-about track that kept us well west and north of Newark and New York City. It was a few miles longer, but avoided whatever city traffic would be out on a Sunday holiday weekend and had fewer tolls. I didn’t really need to see the NYC skyline, which I’ld seen before on a ride that took me through downtown NYC.
So, I dutifully followed the arrow on my Google map app as we left Bethlehem and headed east. But we kept going east beyond what I expected. I thought to myself, “shouldn’t we be going north somewhere along this route,” but the arrow kept taking us east. OK, I thought, “Google GPS knows the route better than I do,” and I was also keeping my eye on the traffic, which continued to build as we went further east through Pennsylvania and into New Jersey. When I saw signs for Newark, the Lincoln Tunnel and the George Washington Bridge, I was pretty sure that we weren’t on the route I expected to be on.
Google Maps apparently thinks it knows what I want better than I do and decided to show me a shorter route, almost into the heart of NYC. On the map image below, the BLUE line is the route I wanted to go. The GRAY line is the route Google Maps imperiously decided we should take instead.
Although it would have been worse if Google had decided to take me into the Lincoln Tunnel instead of over the double-decker George Washington Bridge (of Bridgegate fame a few years ago), we still saw a lot more of NYC and its kamikaze drivers than I expected to see. Steve stayed glued to my tail as I tried to pick the correct lanes that accorded with the ever-updating GPS map on my handlebar-mounted iPhone, even though picking the appropriate lane sometimes meant crossing several other lanes quickly while avoiding swarming drivers bound for various Memorial Day Weekend barbecues, picnics, pig roasts or whatever festivity they had planned. Of course, by the time I got to the New York side of the Hudson River, I knew that, while not lost, I was at least a little confused. Still, I followed the moving arrow, believing that ultimately Google and its smirking, know-it-all, shortcut-seeking engineers would ultimately get us where I wanted to spend the night.
Once the GRAY line joined the BLUE line on the map above I was back in semi-familiar territory and we enjoyed a beautiful ride through the Connecticut countryside on the Merritt Parkway (US 15) before heading into Massachusetts (skirting Boston) and arriving in New Hampshire, butt-puckered from our brush with NYC but safe and sound.
One of the problems with riding Interstates and parkways all day is that there are no good places to pull off and meet goat-hiking women or take pictures of beautiful scenery. There was beautiful scenery in the New England countyside today, but, unfortunately, no pictures.
Our rooms tonight are in Hampton, NH, just south of Portsmouth, in an older but adequate motel on US 1, the main north-south highway from Maine to Florida before the construction of the Interstate 95. The best part about being away from the Interstate is the chance to find local eateries rather than choosing unenthusiastically among cookie-cutter chain restaurants. Tonight we found a local brick-fired pizza restaurant (The Community Oven) with a large craft beer selection. I had a couple of Maine-brewed stouts to wash down one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had, due to the fire-roasted tomatoes and carmelized onions that nicely balanced the spicy sausage. Macy, our server, said it was a good pizza and she was right. Thanks Macy.
Tomorrow we’ll ride the final section of our initial U.S.-based leg of the CCR and cross into Canada at Saint Stephen, New Brunswick. I had hoped for some sight-seeing on the beautiful Maine coast along the way, but Canada has a Covid-related program that requires visitors to pre-set a time to enter the country and I don’t want to be late for our 2:00 p.m. date with the Canadian border authorities.
So, on Memorial Day we’ll enter Canada where we’ll spend the next 30 days figuring out kilometers and kilograms, eh?
Why, yes. Yes I am. In Bethlehem.
Today brought some surprises, like most days on the road on a motorcycle. Some good. Some not so good. And away we go …
As you’ll see from the addition of pictures to this post, I made today’s first order of business getting a dongle to transfer photo files from my camera’s SD card to my laptop. That was good. But because I’m on the road and couldn’t choose from the dozens of inexpensive options on Jeff Bezo’s website, I had to take what I could find at the local Walmart in Staunton at 7:00 a.m. I found only one item that met my needs. And it was twice as expensive as online options. But I have it and it works, so there’s that.
I promised pictures from yesterday’s ride, but since they’re a day old, I’m only going to post two. These two:
Like yesterday, I decided to route this morning’s ride off the Interstate and follow state and U.S. highways north, even though that added a couple hours to today’s ride. From Staunton, we went east until we came to a road leading down (north) the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, a road I have ridden several times before because it’s bucolic and scenic and just fun to ride. Motoring up that wide, fecund valley, it’s easy to see why the United States Army fought so hard in the early 1860s to wrest it from Confederate rebels using its agrarian bounty to prolong the rebellion against the government. Named the Stonewall Jackson Highway, the valley road passes through miles of well-tended farmland, as well as past historic buildings and railroad bridges that attest to its age and the activities it has hosted for northern Virginia families for more than two centuries.
As we got to Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, where the Shenandoah River and the Potomac River join together and where John Brown tried unsuccessfully in 1859 to seize the U.S. Armory and begin an armed uprising of enslaved persons against their enslavers, I tried to reset the GPS mapping program on my phone. My brand new iPhone 13. My brand new expensive iPhone 13. My brand new expensive iPhone 13 that is supposed to guide me across 7,000 miles of Canada. What I got instead of a GPS reset was the Black Screen of Death. Then my face shield fogged up as steam poured out of my ears. (Just kidding about the face shield. Not about the Black Screen of Death.) Being well beyond my teen years, I had no clue what to do about the BSD, and I was more than a little concerned I had somehow fried my phone, my pocket-sized link to the civilized world. But I also suspected that deep within the bowels of the Internet there might be a solution. So, we continued up the highway until we came to a fast food establishment (which shall remain nameless) where I could get something to eat while I mooched their McWifi. Sure enough, I wasn’t the only iPhone user to experience the BSD and the fix turned out to be fairly easy, lowering my no-doubt elevated blood pressure expeditiously. (Write this down: Quickly press the up volume button, followed by a quick press of the down volume button, followed by pressing and holding the power on/off button. The phone resets and comes back to life. Easy peasy.) It’s working fine now and the rejuvenated GPS guided us to our Bethlehem lodging like a modern star in the east.
I’ve said many times that good rides are best measured by unexpected meetings of unusual people. Today included an unexpected meeting of a very unusual person. It’s not often you run across a tattooed woman hiking across America with a goat. In fact, in 74 years I can’t recall that ever happening to me. When I saw a woman wearing bright pink knee-high socks hiking with a goat accompanied by a bearded man hiking with a basset hound, well, I just had to stop to investigate. Here’s the story I learned from her and from her YouTube channel: Three years ago she sold her house, built a tiny house on wheels and set out to hike the major trails in America. While building the tiny house, she lived on a goat ranch, where she rescued a sickly newborn goat she named Little Leaf, who survived against incredible odds with her support and is now a healthy hiking companion. She heartily congratulated us on our planned CCR, saying, “that’s what life is all about.” She’s right. If you want to learn more, check out her YouTube channel at Kate Cloud.
Between the BSD and a hiking goat, it’s been quite a day. Tomorrow probably won’t be as exciting.
While the bulk of this blog will describe daily rides in Canada and various adventures and misadventures along the way, first I have to get to Canada, and that requires three and a half days of riding through various states between North Carolina and New Brunswick. Today’s ride went from North Carolina into Virginia and tomorrow’s effort will wind up in Pennsylvania.
I had planned to sleep late and be well rested for today’s ride. But, naturally, I woke at 4:30 and spent the next hour trying to think of things I had forgotten to do or to pack. Eventually I got up earlier than planned, ate a reasonably healthy breakfast, and Steve and I had the bikes packed and ready to go by 8:00. Everything was going smoothly. Dishes washed and put away–check. Lights in the house off–check. Doors locked–check. Bikes out of the garage–check. Packs firmly strapped to the bikes–check. The only thing that remained to be done was to move the cars around so that both Miatas are in the garage and the truck is in the driveway. Uncover the outdoor Miata, get in, turn the key. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Dead battery. Of course, because NOTHING is ever easy or goes as planned. Undeterred and with a slight chuckle, I unpacked my jumper cables. But Steve had a power pack battery jumper he hooked up to the dead battery instead. Except he put in on backwards and may have fried his unit. Back to the jumper cables and finally the little red Miata turned over. Drive the now-running Miata into the garage and park it–check. And we’re FINALLY ready to get on the road. My “to do” list at the end of the CCR now includes “put a new battery in the Miata.”
We could have made today’s ride to Staunton, Virginia, in about five and a half hours if I wanted to spend the entire time on the concrete slab known as the Interstate Highway. But I wanted one more twisting ride through the beautiful Western North Carolina mountains. Consequently, we spent the entire morning on various North Carolina backroads, including several stretches on the iconic Blue Ridge Parkway, and on miles of scenic Virginia roads with wonderful views of neatly organized farms and hundreds of acres of geometrically perfect evergreen nurseries. The sights along the way were well worth the extra two and a half hours of riding time.
But, one might ask, if I went through such great scenery, where are the pictures? Well, they’re still in the camera because my new Panasonic Lumix stores image files on an SD card and my new MacBook Air doesn’t have a slot for an SD card like my old MacBook Pro. I think I knew that as I was planning this trip but failed to buy the appropriate dongle to enable photo transfers to the laptop which is currently in my lap. I hope to remedy that issue in the next few days. In the meantime, I’ll make do with what I can capture using my iPhone.
There are readers who come to hdriderblog.com not to learn of my adventures or to be enlightened about the fascinating places I visit, but, rather, to discover what kind of pie I had each day. For those not familiar with the pie saga, I spent several rides, it seems, living largely on pies of as many varieties as I could find. I still like pie. I still plan to eat pie on this trip. But at the risk of offending pie-crazed followers of the blog, I’m probably not going to make it a daily habit this time. It’s getting harder and harder to keep the pounds off, especially if all I’m doing is sitting on a motorcycle. Nevertheless, at Grayson’s Restaurant in Wytheville, Virginia, I ordered apple pie for desert, which I ate before I ate the outstanding cheeseburger I also ordered. Here it is:
One final chore this evening after arriving at our less-than-luxious Best Western motel was to go online and make sure I had satisfied all the Canadian covid-related requirements to enter the country. I had worked on the ArriveCan app several weeks ago and found the website frustrating, to say the least. Tonight’s experience was also frustrating but I managed to cross all their T’s and dot all their I’s and they sent me a QR code that, upon presentation Monday to the appropriate border authority in Saint Stephen, New Brunswick, should speed my entry into all of Canada. We’ll see.
All-in-all it was a good day. Stayed dry. Had pie. Drank a small glass of Jack Daniels. Have a bed with clean sheets. Hard to ask for much more than that.
Tomorrow, with the raspy-voiced Willie Nelson crooning through my bluetooth helmet speakers, I’ll navigate down my driveway and onto roads that wind through the Western North Carolina mountains. I’ll be “on the road again.” It’s been three years since I saddled up for a long motorcycle ride, and I’m ready to go. Really ready.
This year’s adventure will be a butt-numbing, bugs-in-my-teeth, wind-in-my-face, six-week celebration of my 75th trip around the sun. And, of course, it’s going to be another fantastic opportunity to investigate new places, meet interesting people, and create indelible memories of singular scenery. I appreciate how fortunate I am to still be able to add another 11,000 miles of asphalt to the nearly 300,000 miles I’ve logged on two wheels in the past 20 years. And, I’m anxious to again share this year’s adventure through daily blog posts for all who want to follow along.
This year’s route will take me to Canada. Again. I’ve ridden in all ten Canadian provinces (and one territory) during the past two decades, but I’ve never explored all ten in a single trip. That’s this year’s goal: To watch a golden sunrise bless the Atlantic Ocean at the eastern most point of North America near St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, and, after following a circuitous route through the expansive Canadian interior, watch Sol sink slowly into the Pacific waters from the rocky shores of Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
Over the years, I’ve ridden solo; I’ve ridden with a partner; I’ve ridden with a crew of a dozen twisted but very talented riding fools. In the early planning stage, this cross-Canada trek was designed as a solo adventure. But a long-time riding buddy expressed an interest in this year’s outing; I immediately accepted his offer to join me.
Steve Lee and I met through a Harley Owner’s Group (HOG) chapter in Jacksonville 20 years ago and he and wife Ruth have been good riding partners and even better friends ever since. We’ve enjoyed week-long adventures cruising the Appalachian mountains and navigating along Atlantic beaches searching for great roads, unusual lighthouses and unique eateries. Steve and Ruth are retired U. S. Air Force veterans, and last year they both finally retired from their post-military civilian jobs. Now they’re ready to ride like retirees should ride.
Steve’s plans to join me in Maggie Valley for tomorrow’s departure were nearly derailed by a late spring storm that dumped ten inches of heavy snow on his RV home base near Colorado Springs last Friday. Fortunately, the snow melted nearly as fast as it came down, and by Sunday he headed east to North Carolina despite temperatures in the upper 30s.
While I have a general idea where I’m going during this incredible iron horse rodeo and approximately when I’ll be there, nothing is set in stone. I expect detours, delays and downtimes along the way. I not only expect them, I want them. Serendipitous surprises, after all, convert a jejune sight-seeing vacation into a blog-worthy, two-wheel adventure. If this ride is anything like multiple trips to Alaska, a circumnavigation of the Rocky Mountains, a journey in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark, an extended exploration of Newfoundland and Labrador, a tour of Civil War battlefields, and roaring through canyons and passes in the southern Rockies and the Sierra Nevada mountains, it will be as enjoyable and as memorable.
This trip will differ from my previous motorcycle trips in several ways. In the past, 500+ miles a day was not unusual as I too often hurried from point A to point B to point C to ….. Not this time. Going a little slower and usually covering only 300-350 miles a day, I’ll take time to appreciate more deeply the ever-changing scenery that is my 360-degree view from the saddle. I’ll go fewer miles each day, giving these aging bones a chance to rest a little in the afternoon while exploring that day’s destination. I expect to learn more about Canada and the province I’m in each day, making this an educational trip of sorts that I’ll share on the blog. I hope to wander frequently through city streets and small town museums, absorbing the sights, sounds and tastes our northern neighbor has to offer.
One more change, for those who have followed along earlier rides, is a different bike. For most of my two-wheel tours during the past 15 years, I straddled a Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic, complete with large, wind-diverting fairing, built in radio/CD/CB, large saddlebags and a tour pack for extra gear. I had three Ultras (2007, 2010, 2013) and two of them carried me 100,000 miles each while the third logged nearly 50,000 miles. Last fall, I traded in my aging black 2013 Ultra Classic and bought a 2019 Harley Softail Heritage Classic with only 500 miles on the odometer. It sports an upgraded transmission and larger motor, but because it lacks many accoutrements found on the Ultra, it weighs 200 pounds less, tipping the scales at slightly more than 700 pounds. It may be a little less comfortable as the miles roll by each day and a little more open to the elements, but if I happen to lay it down, I’m far more likely to be able to get it upright again.
I’m packed, probably with more gear than I need. The bike is ready, including a new dose of synthetic oil and a couple of added accessories. Steve and his bike are also ready. Another great adventure is about to begin. Thanks for coming along on this year’s celebratory circuit. I hope I can make the blog as interesting and exciting as the ride will no doubt be in person. As always, please feel free to use the blog’s comment feature. It’ll be nice to know that someone other than Marilyn and Ruth is joining us—at least in spirit.
I really can’t wait to get on the road again.