Out There Somewhere
Biggest Ride Of My Life 3100 miles- Nova Scotia, Quebec, & Home again
Before we begin:
I had a thread here at BMWMOA asking folks for input on this trip, back when it was in the planning stages. LOTS of people posted, and some sent emails and PMs, giving me all manner of great info. I want to offer my sincere thanks to all of you. I really appreciate it. The trip wouldn't have been the same without your help!
June 2012. Almost two weeks and 3100 miles. Pennsylvania, New York State, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Quebec.
Me, my GF Cynthia, AKA The lovely Miss C, my buddy Lannis, and his wife Fay, AKA Miss Fay.
The bikes: Lannis' Moto Guzzi Stelvio, and My 2002 BMW K1200 RS.
Go grab a beer, coffee, scotch, or whatever suits ya, and ride along with us. Enjoy!
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Ya know how sometimes when you're dreaming out loud about something - just trash talking maybe, over a coupla beers? And then the dream comes true, and you find yourself wondering exactly what you've gotten yourself into?
That NEVER happens to me. Tho I'd almost bet it happened to the Lovely Miss C once.
NO, but really. It all began last summer, when some friends were visiting from England. A bunch of us were all dug in at the Country Retreat of some other friends in Pennsylvania, hanging out and having fun. My buddy Lannis and I were going over his "new" Moto Guzzi Stelvio, and he commented about how his wife just LOVED it, and was actually asking him why they can't go on some longer trips.... I was all, "Well, let's ride up to Nova Scotia together then." Lannis responded with positive noises and raised eyebrows, nodding his head with a dreamy look in his eyes. "Could happen. I've always wanted to go to Nova Scotia." (or words to that affect)
And so it began, out of a bit of chit chat. It really sounded so... so... easy. Simple. Painless. FUN even, which it really was. It grew into the epic, 3100 mile adventure that would leave our butt-cheeks screaming NO NOT AGAI... well never mind THAT, let's focus on the positive aspects.
Things like beautiful scenery, good food, fantastic roadways, great motels, and an unexpected Vintage Motorcycle Museum. The shared joys of friendship and sweet running bikes, and well, The Cabot Trail at the zenith of it all... HMMM. Thinking back, the Kancamagus Highway held up to its rep too. And Cadillac Mountain was also pretty fanflippntastic, while we're at it. Sure, there was the mundane woven into the weave as well- like those first hundred miles out of the house- that seemed to take forEVER. The mad two-day dash from Cape Breton Island to Riviere Du Loup in Quebec, that had poor Miss C in tears. The CRAZY 500 + mile run out of Quebec City down to Seneca Falls NY- when I got us "off track".
Yes, dear readers, our heroes were UP! Quite literally- up in the mountains- and yes, they were also DOWN- Again, literally- as in when my flppin GPS routed us over a hill on a dirt road tryin to get into Lunenburg- and Lannis accidentally dropped his bike..... ON HIS FOOT (can you say OUCH)! From the the old, weary mountains of Pennsyltuckey to the shores of Maine. From the splendoriferously abrupt White Mountains in New Hampshire to the docks, waterways, and beaches of Nova Scotia. From the Shores of the St Lawrence River up to the Hotel Frontenac. AND from the grape jelly "Jersey" omelet to endless seafood, from McLobster (I kid you not) to Lobster Rolls, From the Village Diner to Tim Horton's to Toast! restaurant- we were up, down and up and down. Again. Some more. Out of humble beginnings, great things are born.
This, then, is the tale of such. It was great. It was Epic. It was an ADVENTURE. It was, dear readers, all that AND a bag of chips. We have, quite literally, BT&DT. We got the hat (Lannis bought a cap in Quebec), and we got the shirt (I bought a T-shirt at L'Epopee de la Moto), and we all got the saddle sores. Our weather was AMAZING!!! Out of 3000 some-odd miles, I'd estimate a total of 15 minutes of that which resembled rain- but wasn't REALLY what you'd call RAIN- like not proper rain, just a little shower... well TWO little showers. Mostly, it was sunny and fantastic! Well, OK it was fantastically HOT at the end. Could it have been better, though, in all honesty? I can't imagine how.
So, Stay tuned for a bit of photo-documentaion, from A to Z. Of course I'll insert some commentary as I weave the yarn, along the way.
The weapons of choice:
Lannis' Guzzi Stelvio, and my K1200RS, packed, stacked, and ready for the off:
That first day, we rode from our house in South Central PA up to Grafton Vermont. We wound up thru the local mountains, on one of my fave roads, to US hiway 209, which we took all the way up into New York State. Then began a succession of route changes that would boggle the mind- IF one HAD such a thing as a mind... I mean, maybe it's more like mind over matter- If you don't mind, it won't matter? I don't know! Hey, ROLL with me people, ROLL with me.
Along the way we wound thru Pennsylvania towns like Coaldale- where we saw a sign that said "Everbody's Goal Is To Mine More Coal"! Seriously, I mean, you really can't make this stuff up! I think it was the town motto or something. AND we rode thru the famous Delaware Water Gap, coming up along I-84 just west of the PA/NY border- where we found the AMAZING Village Diner. A stop for lunch was a TOTAL no-brainer! We couldn't get off the bikes fast enough.
It was everything one hopes for in a diner. A real, live, actual vintage diner that has been there since the 1950s- no trumped up nuevo wanna-be diner schtick, but pure diner chic- honest-to-goodness, complete with waitresses from New Jersey! Well, except for one girl, who turned over her shoulder and said LOUDLY, "I AIN'T FROM JERSEY!" Snookie would have smacked her sideways, believe me.
Lannis, being the brave and adventurous soul he is, HAD to have the New Jersey Omelette... which featured both American cheese and GRAPE JELLY!
I had a reuben
and I think the girls had breakfast. (I'm really kinda off kilter here, as my pix got COMPLETELY scrambled like so many eggs, when I loaded them into this thumb-drive ) The Village Diner was pretty doggone good- as good as one could expect from a fantastic slice of roadside Americana. Perfick! -in other words, to borrow a phrase from a friend from England whose pen name is The Kent Correspondent. I recommend that f you're ever headed east on I-84 in PA, and you're about to cross into New York, exit off, and button-hook back a few feet to this diner. You won't regret it guys. Have the Jersey Omelette and say hey to the girls. Tell 'em I sent you.
The rest of the afternoon was great, as we found our way up into New York, riding across a big bridge into the Rhinebeck area. We passed many many cool old bikes- so I assumed it was time for the AMCA club's Antique Meet up there, which I know some of our BritBike buds would be at or near- but we were on a mission, so no time to lolly-gag about. We rocked in & out in darn near the same breath, as the weather started to look like showers building. We did get a bit wet as we crossed the very edges of a thunder storm, but it wasn't bad and we kept on going, due north now, towards the NY-Vermont line, and the town of Bennington, on the very southwest corner of Vermont.
From The Vermont line over to our stop for the night it was a hop, a skip, and a jump.... then a BIG LONG STRETCH over the river, thru the woods, and WAY past grandma's house to the sleepy little village of Grafton, where we spent the night at my Girlfriend's folks' place.
The added excitement of the last few miles ON A STATE NUMBERED "HIGHWAY" being DIRT roads (!) made getting off the bikes even sweeter than it would have been otherwise- after 380 some mile of travel- tho it's a wonder that we all didn't have to be pried off the bike seats simply due to the sheer pucker power X 4, after that last stretch, lemme tells ya. Well, I SAY "dirt" roads- but actually it was MUD after all the rain that had passed thru, and that WE had passed thru. Hard-packed, slick LOOKING mud. BUT- we made it without incident. Vermont is great, with all the country charm you'd expect, and Grafton personifies it in pure form. Old school, too with the dirt state "highway". Again, 100 pre-cent Americana, with a Yankee twist.
Here we are the next day, ready to launch- after coffee and fresh-baked muffins at the Grafton Village Store. Folks, it don't get much more real than this! I mean, we actually had to darn near Indian leg-wrestle all the old codgers who came down, just to see who'd get first shot at the coffee and muffins!
What more can one do than "stick a feather in your cap and call it macaroni"? Seriously.
What a way to begin another great day of mo-sicklin!
The ride from Grafton To Bar Harbor, with the Kancamagus Highway and (believe it or not) Maine Bar-B-Q!
Last edited by ricochetrider; 06-28-2012 at 04:05 PM.
Dum vivimus vivamus
"A good stick is a good reason
Out There Somewhere
Day 2: Grafton VT to Bar Harbor ME
Grafton VT to Bar Harbor ME
Day 2 dawned and we found we didn't have the means for coffee, so we lolly-gagged about a bit waiting for the Grafton General Store to open. It was your typical small town country store scene- a handful of old codgers came down to sip coffee and much on donuts or whatever, and to solve the World's problems. laughing
We darn near had to fight them for 1st dibs on the coffee the lady was making! I think Cynthia & Fay ran interference while us guys slid in and snagged a couple fresh-baked cranberry muffins...
Anyway, we'd weighed our options for the day's ride, after finding that it was about 340 miles or about 8 hours on secondary roads to get to Bar Harbor, according to Google Maps. We chose to speed the process a bit and do a straight shot up I-91 for about 1 & 1/2 hours, then hop off and pick up VT rte 116 over to RTE 112- the famous Kancamagus Highway, http://www.kancamagushighway.com/ a well known motorcycling road- kind of a must-do since we were riding thru the neighborhood. It was a sunny Saturday, and I guess t'was also the weekend prior to the Laconia Bike Week debacle. In any event, it seemed the ENTIRE motorcycling world were all out enjoying the ride. We had a blast just the same- and the riding was out of this world!
Here are a few pix from this stretch of road:
It truly is a beautiful part of the world. New Hampshire's White Mountains are COOL! And if the truth were to be known, we had a better time on 116 and the western portion of 112- before it turns into the Kancamagus Highway- because we had the road to ourselves. After riding the Kanc for about 3/4 of its length we got stuck behind what I call a "rolling roadblock"- 25 people on Harleys riding in a very loose "group" at below the posted speed limit, all of them spread out like so much debris. We wound up following them into the town of Conway, where they all turned north, and we went straight on thru, onto US hiway 302.
By now we were starting to get hungry. I used to hang out up this way back in the day, and I recalled a slammin Mexican joint that was a bit of a surprise back then- before the Mexican population more or less exploded, and Mexican restaurants became a dime a dozen. This place had fab margaritas and super good food. Since we needed to stop anyway, I thought i might be worthwhile to see if the place was still there, but when we passed a Mexican joint, not only was I not really recognizing it as THE place, it seemed so completely uninspiring that we rode on. In fact, nothing sparked us in Conway, so we thought we'd roll on until we saw something interesting. Maine was a shorty hop up the road, and we knew there was a small town right there at the state line. We figured there was bound to be something to eat there, but had no idea it was going to turn out so well! Lemme tells ya dudes- the small town of Fryeburg Maine has something I would never have guessed in a million years- a Bar-B-Q joint. Now, here's my thing- I am NOT one to go somewhere and have some food-stuff from outside the area- I ain't havin no Philly Cheese Steak in Peoria Illinois, for example, no Key Lime Pie in Toronto, AND I wasn't gonna be havin no Maine Bar-B-Q. I mean, honestly? Who ever heard of such a wanna-be, blasphemin kinda thing as THAT?!
But it was truly fantastic (even tho I had the cheeseburger- no kidding- I'm seriously NOT eating Bar-B-Q in Maine!), and I know this because Lannis and Fay BOTH ordered Bar-B-Q. Being from The South, I figure they're qualified to offer an unadulterated, edumacated opinion- and they both were there to testify! Not only was the food extra special good, but there was what I'd call GOBS of "personality" in the joint as well! Sort of an odd mix of hippy schtick, country-cutesy, and sports bar with a classic rock edge! Figure THAT one out!
Without further ado, ladies & jellybeans, I present:
The 302 West Smokehouse http://www.302west.com/ which is truly worth a stop, if you're ever up that way (and hungry). Fryeburg, Maine. Heading east on US 302, it's just past town center on the left- kinda back in, off the road. Here's a few pix from lunch:
The owner? in effigy:
My burger, which had home-smoked bacon, AND they let me have it on a ciabatta roll!
I'd'a never guessed that such a thing as amazing bar-B-Q could be had so far north of "the border" but wonders never cease, it seems, and it's never too late to amend one's ways of thinkin or lookin at stuff! Pop by next time you're in Fryeburg. WhatEVER you do, do NOT eat before drivng thru.
You DON'T wanna miss the 302 West Smokehouse.
Last edited by ricochetrider; 06-27-2012 at 03:16 AM.
Out There Somewhere
Day 2 Continued
Meanwhile, back at the Bruce Wayne Manor-
We had only made part of the day's journey, and we still had some serious git-along comin. So back onto the bikes and we shot out across Maine's "Lakes Region" (I THINK that's what they called it- region? district?). And I mean, there's a lake, a pond, or a puddle every 10 feet or so. Heck there's even a good bit of SWAMP!
Just beautiful, so it was, but the road seemed to go on forever. And ever. And....so on. Eventually, tho we wound our way further and further east, until we came upon THIS:
The brand-y new B.A.B. (that's the Big @$$ Bridge- if you hadn't guessed yet) at Bucksport, crossing the Penobscot Narrows.
BAM. This ain't no ordinary bridge, no siree, Bob. There's some special stuff goin on here, and simply by clicking on this Wiki linky, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penobsc...nd_Observatory
you can read all about it. Turns out you can actually go up INTO the one tower and "observe" the surroundings. Too bad we didn't have time for that, cuz that's my cuppa tea, dontcha know. Next time.
The road stretched out forever, and I swear those last few miles down to Bar Harbor were THE longest we'd done yet. It wasn't too painful, tho, as we were on holiday and all. So we stuck it out (DUH!) and eventually found our way to our destination for the night- The Highbrook Motel, http://www.highbrookmotel.com/
just on the outskirts of downtown Bar Harbor. I really can't say enough about this little slice-o-paradise. back when I was setting all this stuff up, the nice folks there really went the extra mile in communicating with me by phone and email in order to ensure that our reservations were secure. We were pleasantly pleased to find that the Highbrook Motel is one of the cleanest and nicest motels in the area- AND just as cool as all get-out with a dynamite retro vibe, straight outta the 50s or 60s!
Super large, extra clean, & spacious rooms! Ours was painted a funky color similar to sea-foam green!
The rooms even had screen doors on em! this place is pure class all the way, and no doubt! Bangin, right? I'm tellin you.
When in Maine, ya gotta have lobster, no? Well, heckfreakinYEAH, you do. SO we hopped back on the bikes and rode out the road a ways to a restaurant for exactly that:
AND it's imperative that you ALSO wear "The Bib":
Whether you can see it or not, the bibs have the words, "Let's Get Crackin'" inscribed upon them!
This quickly became our motto for the entire trip.
I had the STUFFED lobster myself
Miss C, who is an old hand at lobster cracking, carefully 'splained the technique to Lannis & Fay, who were noobs to the game, showing off her chops, as she went.
After supper, we rode down into Bar Harbor proper, for Ice Cream!
Needless to say, we all went to bed fat & happy. We was tired and sore, from two solid days of riding. Nighty nite, sleep tight. Boom. Lights out Betty. See ya in the morning. Here's a parting shot of the only moose we saw the entire trip! I'm beginning to think this whole "watch out for Moose" thing is some sort of marketing ploy!!
Out There Somewhere
Bar Harbor Maine is a great little town. And breakfast at 2 Cats Restaurant http://www.2catsbarharbor.com/cafe.html was one of the best meals of the entire trip. We had a gas looking around town, talking to people and enjoying the sights. Really, one of the best things about it was the fact that there really wasn't anyone there... Back when I was doing research for this trip, several people suggested we wait and go in August! Boy were we ever glad we went in mid June. Just about everywhere we went, we had the place virtually to ourselves. In August it would have been an absolute ZOO!
Here are a couple more images from Bar Harbor:
I REALLY liked this boat! Anyway, we had some time to kill on this day- as we didn't have a big distance to cover to get up to Saint John, hence the leisurely bit here- hanging out in town, then the ride into Acadia National Park http://www.nps.gov/acad/index.htmand up to the top of Cadillac Mountain... With its pink granite and absolutely stunning views!
Anyway, soon enough, we figured we'd better get crackin'. So we rolled back down Cadillac Mountain and hit the road outta there, picking up US Hiway 1 North- which turned out to be somewhat anti-climactic after Bar Harbor and the amazing splendor of Acadia Nat'l Park. On a break, we "met a guy"
who told us of a slight detour....
Out There Somewhere
At this stop, we met an older guy who was driving this car, that his dad bought from someone when it was nearly new- this old guy had inherited the car, and drives it around as his regular mode of transportation!
Here is the local M/C rider-type guy we met. He was standing there when we pulled up, so naturally, a conversation ensued:
He was full of info about the area we were riding in, and told us enough to sway us off our intended course. Since we had some extra time anyway, we went for it. The "plan" was to detour off US 1 onto ME 191 > 189- to see those big low frequency towers. If the ferries were running, we'd enter Canada not at Calais, like we'd planned, but out of Lubec, in a series of island/bridge/ferry hops. Turned out the ferries weren't running just yet- guess it's a seasonal thing. We really weren't too far off course, so we bolted back on wide open, empty roads to Calais, where we crossed the border into Canada without any hassle at all. Was detour "worth it"? Sure. I mean after all, we DID see some cool stuff- Like the massive low frequency array that the US Navy uses to communicate with submarines, near Cutler:
And a cool little fishing village with its colorful boats:
We rode thru some amazing countryside, and boy! in case anyone is wondering, Northern Maine is sure enough a remote wilderness! The funny thing about it was, you'd fly past a sign that said something like "such & such Town Line"... only to continue riding thru weeds, woods, and bushes, with no town, house or anything within eye-sight! When you finally DID see a house or three, most every one of them had piles of wire lobster traps in the yard or driveway, stacked up neatly, like so many big metal bricks.
The crossing into Canada was so down-tempo, easy and laid back.
We easily found our way onto Canada's Hiway 1 and had our first taste of the big, open roads up there. We finally came to Saint John and the city was gleaming in the late afternoon sunshine like Oz, or like a city of pure Gold! It seemed amazing to me, as we zigged and zagged our way over the freeways and across the bridge to our exit point. We easily found our way to the "hotel", tho I was busy looking at my [real, actual] GPS, so we rode RIGHT PAST IT(!) and had to circle back around the block... oops! Boy, you can bet we had a laugh or two over that move! Anyway, Chipman Hill Suites http://chipmanhill.com/
is a series of old houses & buildings, that are fixed up into small suites. I guess they cater largely to business travelers who are in Saint John on work stop-overs. Our place was a COOL old house, and we had it to ourselves:
It seemed as if we had the entire city of Saint John to ourselves- as it was Sunday night, and VERY quiet.
We had a target place for supper that was recommended to me from someone off the ADVrider site, and it turned out it was an easy-peasy walk down the hill from our place. Britts, http://www.brittspub.ca/index.html was both good, and friendly. It was also darn near empty- so we had the FULL attention of one of the owners, who yacked our heads off telling us about his small city! While it was WAS all good info and all, he carried on to the point of distraction- his OWN distraction. We no sooner got back to our room, and Cynthia & I were hanging out in the Living Room, when she heard the phone ringing in our suite. When I answered the call, it was a C.H. lady asking< "Did you just have supper at Britts?" I was like "Yyyyeeessss, we sure did." Turned out dude messed up my credit card transaction! so we gathered ourselves and hiked BACK down the hill, to square up. As a reward, the guy gave us some fab Oat Cakes from- I kid you not- The Cape Breton Oat Cake Society! http://www.oatcakesociety.com/photos-and-videos/
Which we enjoyed over coffee the next morning.