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Stories about motorcycles with a Canadian perspective

Book Overview: The Essential Guide to Motorcycle Travel Planning, Outfitting, and Accessorizing

A revised version of The Essential Guide to Motorcycle Travel has been published and it's well worth a look if you're planning a trip. There's tons of pictures and while some of them appear to be kept from the 2007 version you'll still get the idea. A camera mount for example might have a 2007 edition of a camera - tough to keep up with the technology there but the mounts will still work fine with more modern gear.

Overall we'd say it's a highly useful book if you're interested in motorcycle travel or if you're already motorcycle traveling and want to learn some new tricks. The updates are mostly related to the latest information on using and integrating mobile and Bluetooth communications, GPS navigation, high-efficiency lighting, action cameras, and high-tech materials and fabrics.

Full details here:

Touring on two wheels is one of life’s simple pleasures. And learning how to do it right can help keep it that way. This new 2nd edition of  Dale Coyner’s popular Essential Guide to Motorcycle Travel is full of the collected tips,  tricks, and advice of seasoned travelers and experts from the motorcycling community that help to maximize the ride, while minimizing lessons learned the hard way. In sharing their  broad experiences, along with his own, bestselling author and straight-shooter Dale Coyner  offers up the wisdom riders need to plan their own dream trips, accessorize their bikes, outfit themselves and their passengers, and deal with contingencies as they inevitably arise, whether out for a day-trip on home turf, a riding vacation in another part of the country, or preparing to conquer the far asphalt reaches of the globe.

Coyner leads both newcomers and veterans step by step in the right direction, outlining a template for estimating mileage and expenses, and offering advice for evaluating the many excellent gear and apparel choices veteran riders use to stay warm, cool, and dry in the face of the elements. Small adjustments to ergonomics can also make big differences in comfort. Numerous and versatile luggage options can be mixed and matched to keep gear secure, and trailers can open up new possibilities for camping or hauling necessities.

Since the fun factor decreases when things aren’t fundamentally safe, Coyner also teaches how to manage the variables under every rider’s control, which can include choosing tires and accessory lighting, packing well, performing preventive maintenance, and adding electrical gadgets responsibly. Today’s two-wheeled travelers can easily integrate into their cockpit all the benefits and convenience of smartphones, Bluetooth communication, digital entertainment, GPS navigation, and action cameras, and Coyner shows you how. Knowing what is available and how to install it allows one to make savvy choices that will increase enjoyment on the road.

And, after all, isn’t that the whole point? 

About the Author:

Dale Coyner is an avid, experienced motorcyclist and the owner of Open Road Outfitters, a motorcycle accessory shop in Sterling, Virginia, that specializes in the sale and installation of motorcycle trailers, lighting, and electronics. His first book,Motorcycle Journeys Through the Appalachians, remains a popular guide for motorcyclists planning trips through the mid-Atlantic and his newest touring guide,Motorcycle Journeys Through North America, catalogs and describes the iconic destination highways that have inspired riders over the decades to take to the road.

In 2006, Coyner was appointed to the Governor’s Motorcycle Advisory Council for the  Commonwealth of Virginia to promote motorcycle tourism, safety, and economic development. He speaks frequently at rallies and motorcycle club meetings on motorcycle travel and related technical topics.

Format: 8.25 x 10.5 inches
Pages: 189
Art: approx. 275 color photos and illustrations
Retail price: $27.95 USD
Amazon price: $17.55

Product Preview - MotoTent. A tent for motorcycle adventure

NEW: MotoTent®, a tent for motorcycle adventurers.

A group of young French entrepreneurs, travel and motorcycle enthusiasts, has designed a very innovative tent for motorcyclists fond of adventure. Their goal: to push the boundaries of adventure on a motorcycle, and possibly eliminate the hotel expenses while keeping both comfort and safety!

MotoTent is a tent for motorcycle riders and their motorcycle.

The idea of the MOTOTENT appeared to its founders in 2009, during a trip on motorcycles from Beijing to Paris. When crossing Kazakhstan on bikes, the motorcyclists spent many nights in their tents.

When settling the camp, it was imperative to hide the bikes not to attract attention. Their tents were light but too small: their muddy clothes and belongings did not fit inside. They had to change their clothes outside of their tents. They also had to unload most of the bike’s bags, to hide them inside the tent!

To overcome these problems they decided to build a made-to-measure tent, with enough space to both hide the bike and be able to comfortably change to dry, while standing.

MOTOTENT - Features

• The MOTOTENT is spacious enough to shelter a dual sport bike as big a BMW R1200
GSA with its entire luggage, to have room to work on it, and to be able to stand in the tent.
• The tunnel-shaped design allows a very quick setup of the tent when needed. A simple color coded poles system enables an easy set-up. When exhausted and caught in a downpour, when the rain seeps into your neck, you can now be sheltered, shielded, in the dry and standing in your MOTOTENT while your clothes are drying, all in minutes.

• The tent is designed to be compact and lightweight despite its size. It weighs 5.5 kg (12 lbs) and is less than 60cms long once packed, which is unique for a tent of this size. This required long research efforts and the use of high performance fabrics.

• The MOTOTENT is made of very high quality materials; those selected by the best brands of adventure equipment: the fabrics are treated to resist UV and heavy rains while being extremely light and fine. These are similar to those used for paragliding. The poles and pegs are tempered dural aluminum, one of the best strength/weight ratios.

• The MOTOTENT was designed by adventurers for adventurers: the positioning of pockets, hooks and other practical details have all been designed and tested to meet the requirements of the motorcyclist. The bag is specially made to be attached on a motorcycle.

• The MOTOTENT can fit all types of motorcycle. The garage part of the tent is 2.4 m long, 1.3 m wide, and 1.9 m high. It can fit all dual sport bikes (a BMW R1200GS, a KTM990 Adventure, a Triumph Tiger and other Kawasaki KLR650 with the largest equipment mounted on the bike can easily fit in). Indeed, thanks to its wide front door you can even shelter small side cars (Ural or Royal Enfield).

Technical Specifications

• Fly fabric: Ultra light UV-Resistant, Rip-stop, Fire-Retardant CPAI84, 10 000mm waterproof coating, 210T Polyester
• Inner tent fabric: Breathable Material, Fire-Retardant CPAI84
• Floor fabric: Ultra light, Rip-stop, Fire-Retardant CPAI84,
10 000mm waterproof coating, 190T Nylon
• Poles and Pegs: Aircraft Grade Aluminum 7001-T6
• Weight and; Packed size: 5.5 kg (12 lbs) - 60x20cm (2ft x 9in)

Price and Availability
The MOTOTENT is for sale on LoneRider priced at 469€ / US$599. Delivery: - France and Europe: 5 working days.
- Elsewhere around the World: 15 days.
Delivery price: 21€ / US$33; same price to any country around the Globe.

MotoTent benefits and features:

How to Set Up the MotoTent:

Packing up the MotoTent:

For additional information and to purchase the MotoTent check out the LoneRider website

'Trans Canadian Muskox. A special journey with the Goat, the Bull, and the Muskox.'

You may remember Scott and Wanda from a previous article we did back in January 2011; they bought a BMW motorcycle and did a trans-Canadian trip in 2010. A trip of 22,855 kilometer's is bound to include some adventure and Scott's story telling and enthusiasm make it an enjoyable read.

Since that first contact Scott has put together a book about the journey and is looking for a publisher. The completed manuscript came in at 145,500 words and they've shared the first couple of chapters with us and allowed us to republish it.

Here's the first couple chapters of their book:

Trans Canadian Muskox.
A special journey with the Goat, the Bull and the Muskox by Scott Wilson


The ‘Wreckhouse Winds’ hammered us like invisible rogue waves that rolled in from the forlorn Long Range Mountains. They crested the mountains, channeled in valleys and spilt onto the plain where they gathered force before breaking upon us. They were without doubt the strongest winds I had ever ridden through. The landscape was absent of the usual trappings of life, the wind was too strong for such things. It was barren yet beautiful in its austerity. The road before us was not a tricky one, there were no potholes, no off camber corners, no construction, gravel, or semis to get in the way, only the wind and rain. It was a simple piece of blacktop that ran from Port aux Basques in the south and headed north for three hundred kilometres to Deer Lake where it veered east for another six hundred before arriving in St. John’s Newfoundland. It wasn’t tricky, but is was long.

Setting off from Tofino, British Columbia on July 1, we had been on the road for ninety- five days. A day away lay our goal, to watch the sunrise at Cape Spear, the most easterly point in North America. It was a simple goal to be sure, yet one on the opposite side of this great country we call Canada. As we hammered along that goal was all that mattered. The battle with the wind was wearing on us, the muscles in my shoulders had begun to knot, and my chest was tight. I clenched the gas tank with frozen knees, and clutched the bars with head bent into the wind while Wanda clung fiercely to my waist. Our motorcycle, ‘The Muskox,’ relishing the challenge charged on obediently. This wasn’t the beautiful Sunday ride that motorcyclists endure the week for. This was an unadulterated rodeo of white knuckle madness. The excitement and fear was delicious, the worse it got, the more things tingled. The rain pounded us from a dark malevolent sky in a near horizontal manner as the wind shoved, pulled and bullied us as we barreled through natures garden.

We had been on the road less than an hour and the experience was slowly coalescing into one that I knew instinctually to be a summing up of our trip. There is a time during every endeavour when a moment of clarity presents itself, for good or bad. A moment when the inner acceptance that we will succeed, or fail, is finally acknowledged and the corresponding emotions wash over us. Our moment was approaching on that road in October on ‘The Rock’ as Newfoundland is fondly called. We were fully exposed with nothing to dull the event, as though our clothes had been torn away. We became like the landscape around us, determined, unflinching and unapologetic. It was a simple world, The Goat, The Bull, and The Muskox on a road with the weather. As if in slow motion our moment came and in that moment we became pure of purpose, one singular focus. There was no respite, no shelter, no question of stopping, only a road that led to our goal. All doubts, fears and unanswered questions had been collected up and slid into a drawer out of sight. The fact we had to make the return trip once the goal was attained, that we were almost out of money, that Wanda was still in her journey with health issues, that our relationship was somewhat strained and that we didn’t have a clue to what was waiting for us when we returned home, was all of no consequence.

In that moment, all that mattered was the road ahead and a sunrise at Cape Spear.


The Bull and the Muskox - Nomadic by Nature

On July 1, 2002, I went to a ‘Citizenship Ceremony.’

I was fleshing out an idea for a book on Canada and thought it would be good research. The memory of the ceremony has about the edges but the significance and emotion that filled the room that day will stay with me forever. There’s something to be said about the ‘last step’ of a process. To arrive at the end of something is a sweet thing as it marks completion, but it also marks the beginning of something new. The Citizenship Ceremony was no different. It marked the last step in becoming a Canadian Citizen. It is where the oath of citizenship is taken and the certificate of citizenship is received, and it’s where new citizens begin their journeys as Canadians.

The ceremony was held at Canada Place in Vancouver, British Columbia. It was ‘Canada Day’ so a bit more pomp was laid on as evidenced by Bagpipers piping their way into the room
at the beginning of the ceremony. It was a nostalgic way to set the scene. The room was full of citizens watching from the rear as those about to be sworn in stood at the front. Outside the sun shone as Canada celebrated it’s 135th birthday while inside it welcomed this new collection of people from around the world. The ceremony was a simple event. I watched attentively with my friend Gene as the event unrolled and I studied the faces of those about to take the oath. It was obvious emotion touched everyone in the room. Shoulders trembled, throats were cleared and eyes were dabbed. A sense of focus permeated the gathering. My mind was racing with questions as I wondered what their stories were. Life changing decisions had been made a world away and commitments taken to leave a life behind. Familiar landmarks and events had become memories, schools, mountains, shores, churches, festivals, and neighbors had all been cast adrift in pursuit of a dream. They wanted to be Canadian.


Why had they chosen us? What set us apart? What made us the focus of their dream? Why Canada? It was evident from the dress and skin tones of those in the room that they were a cosmopolitan group. Their points of origin were clearly different, yet they shared a common goal. Why had they chosen to leave their homelands, their jobs and perhaps their families. There were the obvious reasons such as persecution and war, but as I looked around the room it was obvious that some came from countries that offered what we offered, well heeled countries seen as our peers, and yet still they were here.

When the oath was finally taken as a group the mood in the room transformed from nervous anticipation to jubilation as backs were slapped, hands were shook and cheeks kissed.

They were now Canadian and in that moment I’d witnessed their dreams come true.

I will never fully understand what happened in that room on July 1, 2002, how could I? I’d never experienced what our newest citizens had journeyed through to become Canadian. Their journeys were their journeys, each unique in their own way and another reason I’ll never know is because I was born right here, just down the road at Burnaby General. I was already a member of the club, Canadian by birth. I thought about it and came to the realization the closest I’d ever come to that kind of life changing event was when my mother chose to leave Canada when I was ten. In the summer of 72 she’d walked away from the country of her birth, and even though it had been her decision and not mine, I went along for the ride. That had been a life changing decision for her and just as the lives of those at Canada Place had changed on July 1, so had mine when my mother chose to leave Canada.

Until that time we had been a typical Canadian family, living as Canadian families do. We lived on Tecumseh Park Drive in Port Credit, Ontario, in a lovely house on a rather large piece of land. We knew all the neighbors and for better or worse they knew us. I walked or biked to school in the summers, bumper hitched in the winters, and if I had time during lunch break I’d watch the Flinstones. I had a ‘Chopper’ bicycle, an impressive collection of ‘Hot Wheels’ and ‘Dinky toys,’ played in a tree house in the back yard and chucked rocks at passing trains from the park at the end of the road. I was an average kid in an average Canadian neighborhood.

Around my tenth birthday, my mother, who was experiencing some personal turmoil disappeared for a month on holiday. She disappeared a second time a couple of months after that and when she returned the second time a sign went up on the front lawn.


The sign filled my head with questions but as a 10 year old I didn’t have the where-with- all to ask the right ones. Instead I watched and towed the line. Recently, while writing this book I asked my mother why she’d made the decision to leave her beautiful home and life behind.

She’d thought about it for a second then said, “I needed to find solace.” “Why the Isle of Man?” I asked.

“Because I didn’t know anyone there,” she replied.

She didn’t know anyone there...well, either did I. I didn’t know where it was either. Didn’t know where England was for that matter, or Europe, I was 10 years old. All I knew was I had to sell my toys in a garage sale and say goodbye to my friends. I soon learned the Isle of Man was a small island in the Irish Sea lost between England and Ireland and at 32 miles long and 14 wide was big enough to make it onto some maps, but not all.

A plane skipped us across the Atlantic to London, England, then another, a Vickers Viscount prop job took us the last leg to Ronaldsway Airport in the Isle of Man. For a ten year old it seemed like a long way to go and indeed it was. We weren’t ‘relocating’ to another province, we were trading one life for another. My mother was 46 at the time and had decided to move to the Island and take my brother Kevin who was 15 and myself. My two eldest brothers, Tony and George remained in Canada.

As our new adventure began to unfold the first thing I noticed when we arrived on the Island was that everything was different. Everything was older, smaller and seemed more expensive. From the black cab that waited at the airport to take us to our new life, to the way in which the locals talked. ‘Ta,’ meant thank you, ‘Tura,’ was goodbye and ‘Dumbell’s Row,’ was a row of houses sewn together at the hips down in Laxey Valley. The houses were an unusual collection for us Canadians who were used to yards, but normal for the locals. The front ‘whitewashed’ stone wall crowded in on the sidewalk next to the road and rambled into the distance. It was evenly punctuated by vacant windows and doors painted different colours and sitting on their dreary grey slate roofs were chimneys that billowed black smoke into the sky from coal fires below. It was like a steam train convention. Dumbell’s Row sat like a grandstand that looked across the valley toward ‘Lady Isabella,’ a red and white water wheel 72.5 feet in diameter! It had been built in 1854 to pump water from the lead mines and now turned on it’s axle in the summer to give tourists a show. In the winter it was shut down so my buddies and I would jump the barrier and climb inside and run up it as far as we could and grab a spoke and hang on to get her going....and get her going we did, like mice running inside a 72.5 foot water wheel, all because we could!

My mother hadn’t bought a house, she’d bought a cottage, or to be specific, two cottages mortared together on Old Laxey Hill. The ‘newer’ addition was two hundred and fifty years old while the original had a century on that. We lived in the ‘modern’ half and in time it became known as ‘Rose Cottage,’ as my mother’s name was Rose. The older cottage was used as our motorcycle workshop. The stone walls were 18 inches thick and there was a coal burning fireplace in every room except mine. The ceilings were 7 feet tall with exposed black beams supporting white plank flooring above. The persistent rain was kept at bay most of the time by a slate roof though basins peppered the upper landing as a last line of defense. I was given possession of the smallest bedroom. It was the only room in the house without a fireplace, instead, I took possession of my very own water cistern. It hung on the wall like a growth and would talk to me in the middle of the night whenever someone had to use the facilities. There would be a loud long ‘sputshhhheeeeeeee’ that would eventually taper into an uneasy silence punctuated by the occasional drop of water as the float decided whether it was time to call it a night or not. The ‘loo’ was usually up to the job but if we had company there were always the two pull chain toilets in a structure outside next to the coal bunker.

It was damp, puny and an absolute blast, and that was just the inside!

Outside it was still damp but as my mother joyously pointed out on numerous occasions there were palm trees. “Gulf Stream,” she’d say proudly as though she’d had a hand in bringing it to the Island. It used to make me laugh, yes there were palm trees, but any resemblance to Florida and the Gulf Stream ended there. The water was so cold that during our annual Darbyhaven half mile school swim each of us slathered our bodies in a couple pounds of lard to insulate us from the anesthetic shock of the pretty waters offshore. There were Medieval Castles, Viking festivals, roundabouts, weird cars, kippers (smoked herring), Loghtan sheep with 4 or 6 horns, Manx cats with no tails and lots and lots of motorcycles and motorcycle races. We didn’t get forty channels on TV, the Manx had whittled that number down to three which dwindled to naught after midnight. Instead, we had a new landscape full of weird and whacky things to poke the imagination with. Imagine driving to school in Castletown and passing a section of road where the trees from opposite sides leaned toward each other and shook leaves above to form a tunnel. The section, marked by whitewashed rocks on either side, was called the ‘Fairy Bridge.’ This was the place where the ‘Little People’ hung out, the Fairies, and it was custom to bid them a good day on passing by, or, as superstition went, some misfortune might befall you. I happily played along and with a smile would say, “Ee vi vonny veg,” which translated to “Good day little Fairies,” as I passed by the Fairy Bridge. They didn’t get the Flinstones on the Island, they didn’t need them for they had Fairies, witch hunts, and the Moddey Dhoo, a large black dog that had killed a guard and haunted Peel Castle back in the day. The Isle of Man turned out to be a very special place as amongst other things it was a breeding ground for active imaginations.

As our time on the Island progressed I couldn’t help but compare the life I’d left in Canada to life on the Island, there was so much difference it couldn’t be ignored. Life in Canada had been glorious, of that there was no doubt. It had been well laid out and structured with slots where everything fit nicely. From the shows we watched on T.V. to the cars on the road and the construction around us, everything had a uniquely Canadian, or North American form to it. That form had become part of us and as the years rolled by our die had been cast. But the Isle of Man had a very different form and even at ten I was not too young to come to the conclusion that there was more than one die. I realized all things weren’t the same. The Island was old, very old, it had a thousand year old parliament, that’s right, a thousand years. They were implementing laws when Canada was still bush. To move from a house that was twenty years old in Port Credit, to a cottage that was older than Canada is something. To watch a motorcycle race from the same grassy bank on the same public road as spectators have since the days of the Ford Model T is something. To ride on a narrow gauge steam train dating back to 1874 as a regular means of transportation is something. I was experiencing things that I hadn’t or couldn’t in Canada. Why was Rose Cottage built the way it was, or Lady Isabella for that matter. Why was her wheel 72.5 feet in diameter as opposed to 75, why a wheel, why not a steam pump. Why were there cats with no tails and why the hell were those houses called ‘Dumbell’s Row?’ Why not, ‘Ham and Egg Terrace!’ Subliminally the move to the Isle of Man was effecting me in a profound way as it was changing the way I saw things. I started to look at them from more than one angle which in turn led to a greater understanding and appreciation of what I was looking at.

I stopped chucking rocks at trains.

Eight years later I returned to Canada to attend McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. I dropped out a year and a half later, something inside was resisting, I felt like a round peg in a square hole. My mother’s decision in 72 had irrevocably changed my path in life, just as those at Canada Place on July 1 surely had changed. My journey had been disrupted and now there was a restlessness inside me that couldn’t be ignored. I bounced out west and worked in Banff for a while before bouncing back to the Isle of Man to watch my brother race motorcycles. From there I hopped a ferry to France where I signed on for a five year stint in the French Foreign Legion. After that I put my training as a combat diver to use in South East Asia as a deep sea diver for almost a decade. It was there, in Singapore, that a diver buddy told me of a place called Costa Rica.

“It’s going to be the ‘in’ place man,” he said. “You should check it out, land’s cheap I hear.”

Costa Rica. It had a nice ring to it. I looked it up on the map and thought it might be an interesting place to open a dive shop. I flew to Los Angeles to buy a motorcycle and head south to check it out. Apparently there were some sweet deals on Suzuki's in LA but they didn’t pan out so I looked up the local BMW shop. I hopped a cab to Torrence and walked into a small shop and was sucker punched. I’ll never forget that day as it was the day I was handed the keys to a new adventure. When I’d walked through the door a lovely red R100GS sat in the centre of the showroom floor, I’d seen many before but never from the perspective of buying one. It was still ugly and unassuming, just as I knew it would be. Looks aside though, it was a bike I’d hankered after for many years and I knew it’s story well. It was the bike that Belgium rider Gaston Rahier had demolished the competition with and won the famous ‘Paris Dakar Race’ in 84 and 85. Posters of him ripping across the desert in full flight on the GS had stirred my pot for some time. You expect to see camels in the desert, not motorcycles blazing through barren landscapes leaving rooster tails of sand reaching for the sun. They were magnificent posters that would stop me in my tracks every time. Since those victories the R100GS had gone on to conquer every Continent around the globe many times over. This time the bike received my full attention, I could’ve been a doting parent. I poked and prodded and admired it’s functionality for that’s what it was famous for. In all honesty there’d been nothing beautiful about it, it was typically German, all business and efficiency, but what efficiency it had. It was the Swiss Army knife of motorcycles, it could do it all, mud, sand, tarmac, gravel, it didn’t matter what your preference, it would find a way to get you to the other side. I imagined some adventurer tooling through a remote village in Africa on a bike just like that. I closed my eyes for a second and thought about it, a man and his machine in the wild, when I opened them I realized I’d always wanted to be that man. Life was full of adventure, why not on a motorbike. I bought it fifteen minutes later for nine grand cash, the date was December 16, 1994. The nine grand paid for the bike and a BMW promotion gave me seven hundred and fifty dollars toward accessories. I returned the following day to pick her up and wearing a new bright blue Thor Enduro Jacket I rode out the door and headed south without an inkling of what to do or where to go. All I knew was Costa Rica was down there somewhere. I returned two and a half months later with 13,500 miles on the clock. The beginning of a beautiful relationship had been established.

My ‘Beemer,’ as BMW motorcycles are called became my sidekick and friend. We went everywhere together, she never turned down a challenge and more importantly she made sense. She had one purpose, to explore, and that suited me fine. My time in South East Asia was over, I had circled the globe and was now back in North America. I didn’t realize it at the time but subliminally I was slowly gravitating my way back to the beginning. I paused for a while in Los Angeles and wrote a script with aspirations of becoming the next Sylvester Stallone. I shopped it around for a while and a year and a half later piled my unwanted efforts into a dumpster, put my Beemer in storage and left.

That was sixteen years ago and today my Beemer sits in the basement. One of my brothers suggested I sell her, but I couldn’t. It had taken me on that first trip to Costa Rica and subsequently across the States, to the Yukon, Alaska, the Arctic Circle and around town a couple thousand times. The odometer had stopped working at 60,000 miles, we had history and yarns to share. Every time I glanced at her she whimsically took me back to an exotic destination we’d visited together, like the Mayan ruins in Tikal, Guatemala, or the Grand Canyon in Arizona or Diamond Tooth Gerties in Dawson City, Yukon. There was so much history, how could I possibly part with such nostalgia.

At one point our bond had become so strong that an idea had formed in my head. Wouldn’t it be cool to ride across Canada and write a book about the adventure. The idea stuck and the first stages of planning were taken when I applied for and received a personalized Yukon license plate that read ‘MUSKOX.’ I liked the idea of ‘The Muskox,’ there was something about the hairy creatures that roamed the far north that intrigued me. I think it was their upside down horns that first piqued my interest and any animal that could survive in the Arctic deserved a closer look. What a hardy beast, just as my Beemer was! The more I researched them, the more the excitement grew within me. I found out they were not part of the buffalo family as I’d originally thought but were relatives to the goat. The Inuit call them ‘Omingmak,’ or ‘the bearded one,’ because of their shaggy hair. They impressed me, they were cool, dignified and ungainly in an offbeat kind of way....and nomadic by nature....kinda the way I saw my Beemer, and myself for that matter, except for the ‘cool’ part. I pictured riding across Canada on a Muskox. The concept appealed to me. A book about a Bull, (I’m a Taurus, born in May) and a Muskox ripping across Canada. I decided the title of the book would be, ‘Trans Canadian Muskox!’ The pages flew off the press that rattled in my head.

A decade has since passed. The rattle is still there.

The Goat, the Bull, and the Muskox.

"We received an email from Scott - one half of the "Goat and the Bull" and decided that we needed to post a story about these Canadian motorcycle adventurers with you!

The plan was to buy a BMW and do a trans-Canadian trip in the summer of 2011. Those plans changed when health concerns arose with Wanda; they moved the trip up to the summer of 2010.

They've got a message for you!

Get Out and Do It!

The Goat, the Bull, and the Muskox.

On July 1, 2010 we locked the door to the house, saddled up the Muskox and took off for Cape Spear. Everyone has a bucket list and a trip across Canada had been on ours for quite some time. One hundred and fourteen days, 22,855 kms and six time zones later we returned home to Gabriola Island, British Columbia. It had been a sweet blast for Wanda and myself that gave us a true insight into just how great and beautiful this country is.

We often hear folks discuss travel destinations to 'exotic' places abroad...and yet we, as Canadians, probably possess one of the greatest, most exotic travel destinations on the planet.

A good road trip requires 3 basic ingredients, roads that beg for more right wrist, scenery that pries your eyes from where they’re supposed to be and folks that relish swapping stories at the end of the day over a cold beer.

The roads we covered, and there were quite a few, equal anything anywhere, from winding black top through mountain and vineyard in the west all the way to ancient trails that connect fishing villages in the east. There is a road here for every taste, every level of experience and every notch of commitment from the weekend affair to the long distance relationship. One simply chooses the kind of riding they want then consult the map.

As for scenery, a thousand people snapping photos of Lake Louise can’t be wrong and if the throngs crowd in on you, there’s always a camp site at the edge of the world at Meat Cove on Cape Breton Island where you can watch the sun rise in a Zen like state. Somewhere in between are ethereal lakes in Ontario, UNESCO World Heritage sites such as Quebec City and Lunenburg or the peace offered by the wide open Prairies. This is truly a stunning country and there is a landscape for every appetite.

At the end of the day new friends can easily be made, we are Canadian after all. Whether it be in the longest running bar in Western Canada (according to the locals) such as the Woodbine Hotel in Winnipeg where patrons run for cover at the sight of a camera. “You don’t know who’s with who’s wife,” a man explained to me after I put the offending piece of equipment away, or a camp site in Bakers Narrows where the couple across the access trail offered us their axe, paper and kindling to get our fire going.

Canadians are indeed friendly by nature and though we may be mocked by others for that, we quite enjoyed the fact that we didn’t feel any apprehension in approaching others, or in turn being approached by them to share an amusing anecdote or find directions to the nearest Tim Hortons. That is a beautiful thing.

Throw in fascinating history, unpredictable weather, beautiful beaches, good food, cold beer and relatively tolerant police officers during our times of indiscretion and this is, in our humble opinion, the 'chosen land'!

On that note, Wanda and myself would love to invite you to our site, to share in some of our stories, photos and videos from our trip this past summer.

Most of all, we encourage you to 'get out and do it'!

Scott and Wanda aka the Bull and Goat....and yes, our beemer is the Muskox!

P.S. Keep an eye out for the book, ‘Trans Canadian Muskox. A special journey with The Goat, The Bull and The Muskox’.

Here's a few of the fantastic photo's taken on the journey across Canada followed by a video clip!


And a few more photo's for you!

Book Review: One More Day Everywhere / Glen Heggstad

Book Review - One More Day Everywhere
Author: Glen Heggstad
Published By: ECW Press, November of 2009 (A Canadian company by the way - based in Toronto, Canada.)

420 pages, with many color photographs.

Finished reading Glen Heggstad's, One More Day Everywhere a few weeks back and have just gotten the time to do a review.  Having a two-month old around the house has really cut into free time!

Most motorcyclists might better recognize Glen by his nickname, Striking Viking and his posts on the popular adventure rider motorcycle forum ( . One More Day Everywhere is his second book.  The first of course was Two Wheels Through Terror - an edge of your seat account of his journey in South America and capture and torture by rebels. Read it!

One More Day Everywhere is his follow up work and takes place three years after the 2001 South American trip. Glen was searching for meaning and his adventurous spirit took him on the road on a motorcycle looking for it.

Starting in Japan, Glen worked his way through Siberia, Mongolia, Europe, the Middle East, South East Asia, and Africa, stopping in over 30 countries. Glen doesn't follow the easy route through these countries though. So if you're looking for an account of where to visit to see all the tourist sites and five-star hotels this book isn't what you're looking for.

Glen prefers to stay off the beaten path for the most part. In this adventure he battled extreme temperatures, knee-deep mud, bureaucratic roadblocks, health problems, and loneliness, but when the going got rough Glen always found that locals and fellow bikers were never too far away and willing to lend a helping hand to this stranger from California. Everybody seemingly knows at least one famous person from California - "Awwwnold Schwarzenegger."

Heggstad appears to have a positive outlook about most people and seems to try to find the positive in even the most negative or difficult situations. After reading this book there's no doubt that Glen encountered plenty of difficult situations. An experienced world traveler he tries to learn some of the language of the people he's visiting; which seems to go a long way in creating friendships and giving people the sense that he's an okay guy. That's never a bad thing when traveling in far away places.

Glen isn't shy about letting his views on the politics, religion, and culture of the areas he passes through known - at least in the book. You're going to know where he stands on a lot of things after reading this one.

Being a single man on this journey he also talks about some of the women he meets along the way. I wasn't really a big fan of his 1-10 ranking scale of many women he met - whether he had the possibility of some romance with them or not. It's not a big part of the book but it might bother some. I guess most people reading the book will be men and I know that some of the very popular posts he made on ADVRider were ones that he had posted of ladies he'd met during his trip so he was perhaps giving his audience what he thought they wanted.

One thing I didn't expect after reading the book is that all royalties from Glenn's projects are donated to international aid organizations. Impressive!

Having read a good many adventure motorcycling books I can say that this was an enjoyable and easy read. Glen's writing is clear and easy to follow (something that can't be said for all motorcycle adventurers turned authors). Glen is skilled at building suspense and offers vivid descriptions that help you feel like you're a part of the ride. You may not necessarily agree with all his politics but if you're interested in round the world adventure by motorcycle books this is surely one you should have on your bookshelf.

Canadian based readers - buy it here:

Chasing Rally Dreams - Part II

Words by: Mike Buehler
Photo's by: Mike Buehler

So now my bike was on Trevor’s truck and I’d yet to see it actually running, we figured the fuel pump was acting up from sitting for two years: I had confidence. Trevor was going ship it to a shop in San Marcos, California where Don Retundo would pick it up  to take to Nevada. I was flying down to Las Vegas on April 13th to meet it for Rally School starting the next day in the desert. But first I had to go back to work for a few weeks. From there I was chatting with Ronnie Lindley of Power Performance Perfection in San Marcos to see how his once over of my bike was going? Turns out it was a gummed up carburetor that was the culprit so Ronnie took it out and cleaned it up as well as doing an oil change. He was nice enough to fire it up over the phone so I could hear it. Music to my ears! My only downside on that hitch was that the phone system wouldn’t let me connect to Klim headquarters, I’d been talking to them about getting a new Adventure suit for the training and for more adventures to come, but by the time Nate did get back to my emails they were all gone to dealers and the next production run isn’t scheduled until December. Damn! I’m hoping he’s working on an alternative for me, otherwise I’m going to need to rethink new riding duds.

Work was really nice and booked me home after two and a half weeks so I had a 3 day buffer for weather to make my flight; there are plenty of foggy days offshore that prevent the helicopters from flying. My flight was booked and my boss JB DelRizzo was joining me on this training course too so I really didn’t want to get stuck out in the middle of the North Atlantic. Lucky for me I got in on time and spent a whole three days at home before we flew to Vegas. Time enough to fit in one little training ride to get a feel for my new Leatt brace. In my little tipovers in the snow and bog I didn’t even notice it, but it does take getting used to riding on the street and doing shoulder checks.

Three days goes by very quickly when you’ve been away for a couple of weeks and you have a million things to do before you leave. I was charging batteries for my GPS and camera as well as trying to remember all of the other odds and ends I was going to need. Spare gloves? Check. Helmet? Check. Jacket? Check. Riding socks? Check. And on it went, good thing I’d had the presence of mind to write down what I’d sent ahead in the box so I didn’t double up or forget something else. Turns out I forgot my second set of batteries for the GPS and the charger anyway, oh well.

JB and I met at the airport and suddenly we were off; excitement and trepidation in equal measures. Yup, I was going rally riding on my own rally bike, equals excitement. But we were meeting a bunch of unknowns who probably ride a whole lot better than us not to mention Jonah Street was going to be there; he did finish 7th overall in the Dakar this year after all. We were scared of terrain unlike anything we’d ever ridden and of holding everyone else up, equals trepidation. We still traipsed along through the airports, helmets in hand as carryon.

Las Vegas, blight upon the wallets of millions and sucking out the water from lands many miles away. It can be a bit overwhelming and it’s scary to think what the long term consequences of their water debt are going to be. My third time there and I’ve yet to gamble as much as a dime, despite there being slot machines in every place to step into.

We grabbed our rental car and went to find our hotel, then we took the shuttle to the strip to find some food and a beer.

We arrived a day early and had plenty of time to do a little shopping. JB wanted some new gear and I wanted new goggles, we were both under orders to buy something nice for our girls too. In the morning our first stop was at the RAT office there to say hi. Now that it's been sold the new logo is in effect.

On our way across town to the KTM shop JB spotted a sign advertising Ducati, Triumph and Aprillia. I pulled a U-turn to see if they had any GoPro Hero HD cameras. When we went in were we in luck for cameras but they also had some serious machinery to look at. I’ve never seen a Bimota in person and they had 2! These bikes are ultra bling handmade machines.

Gus took us for a tour around the shop and out back where we saw some more fun stuff and met “Irish Mike” the hotshot mechanic who works on most of the real exotics, like this Tesi 2D.

Other rare and wonderful stuff like this little Vertemati, and the Desmosedici RR that he started up for us. That owner was in for about $50K worth of new bodywork from a tipover! But it really needs to be heard to be believed and to appreciate what a real GP bike is made of.

Now where was I? Oh yeah, JB had his Leatt brace and I had my goggles and video camera, it was time to commit some time to the girls in our lives. Not really knowing our way around and not really knowing what we were looking for we went for the one stop shopping at the Outlet Mall where we were mostly successful in our respective quests.

Finally it was time to head west to catch up with Don at the bivouac, but enroute he called to say he was running late. No problem, we’d just go past it to Pahrump for a beer to kill some time.

It didn’t look like much of anything as far as towns are concerned but we managed to find this little gem: welcome to the Silver Saloon. The beer was cold and it was happy hour which provided local draft pints for a dollar, yes I did say ONE dollar for a full pint! It’s been a long time since I’ve had a beer that cheap. Neither of us were tempted by the lottery machines set in the bar either. I didn’t ask the barmaid, who was originally from British Columbia, to see the photo album of vintage pics but I should have, it looked like it might have been interesting.

When we stepped out the sun was starting to set so we booked it back to find Cathedral Canyon Road to the bivouac, I only missed it once due to misread directions from my navigator. The odd looking rock in the directions was easy to spot.

When we rolled up Don was already pretty much set up and our bikes were sitting out in the twilight, mine started right up so I went for a little spin close by. First impressions were really good and the ergonomics felt just fine as far as fit went too. Not hard to see why it’s called “SuperPlushSuspension” either. Of course as soon as JB hopped on for a spin it stalled and we couldn’t start it, hmmmm. Maybe no fuel? I added some gas and we put it on the charger before heading out for another little toodle around.

When the sun went down I had a look at my HID and then it was time to park the bikes and get to know Don a little better over a few beers. If you’re a fan of Obama’s and aren’t ready for a long debate don’t mention politics around Don; I started the ball rolling then bailed out to leave JB to fend for himself, like any friend would.

We headed off to bed at a reasonable hour and barely woke to hear two different vans roll in sometime in the wee hours. When we awoke, Charlie, Phil and Robb had joined the bivouac. Don was getting breakfast starting with coffee for the gang. Charlie runs the show and Robb and Phil were going to fill the roll of instructor for the weekend.

Charlie was running with 4 bikes: his old XR650 that Marcus John from Singapore was going to use, Phil’s 450, Jonah’s 690 from this year’s Dakar and a sweet new WR 450 that was just built for Neil, the South African who was flying in from Lima. Takes all kinds.

Robb had his 450 with him, and it too looked like a stellar build for this countryside

We spent most of the morning unloading bikes, setting up camp, and tinkering. I got my GPS mounted and set to show heading. I’d brought a few decals to personalize it a bit while I think about my own paint scheme and to add to the ridetherock and advrider annals. Charlie was showing off the stylie billet masts he’s got for sale for roadbook mounting to your bars too.

Did I mention that Neil’s new bike looks pretty trick? Here it is all shiny and new before he was there to start beating it up. Renazco gets good business from Charlie and was well represented. I’m now the proud owner of 2 bikes with  the Renazco treatment and I can attest to the comfort and quality.

Well it was getting past time to get out for a ride wasn’t it? We started out into the badlands where JB and I were a little out of our depth in the soft soil and JB’s bike stalled and wouldn’t restart, time to header back to camp for a few quick adjustments including raising my shifter lever so I could get my toe under it. I also gave my helmet mounted camera its first tryout.

Once we were rolling again we pointed towards some easier terrain that was flatter and only occasionally crossed with washes. Phil tipped me off to get good at lofting/unweighting the front wheel to clear washes at speed. I was pretty close to making it over a steep sided one that popped up out of nowhere when I was doing 40 or 50 km/h, the front wheel cleared and then I think I was bucked by the back wheel as the front wheel simultaneously dug into a compression. The result was the first batch of paint missing from the right side of the fairing, the first dent in the Leo Vince pipe and when I got back on to follow the crowd I realized I’d tweaked the steering pretty far to the right. I was moving along hoping they’d stop again before long so I could get them bars back on the straight and narrow. It was a bit of a bummer to put it down that early into the weekend but it also meant that the first one was out of the way too. We kept riding and I tried to practice glancing at my ICO, heading and roadbook while riding.

There had been rain the week before and as a result I’d see patches of colour from time to time. During our stops I looked around to see what I could see, there were some pretty little flowers to add to my collection of flower pics. And the inevitable sharp, pointy cacti waiting to poke holes in you if you weren’t careful; not hard to see why the instructors recommended to always wear a jacket and not just jerseys. Plenty of stuff I had no idea about.

Looking out over the landscape could fool you into believing that the land is flat–it’s definitely not. There are plenty of hidden gems scattered throughout such as washes, holes, sand, and badlands               

By the time we got back to camp there were more people around including a couple of families of Eastern Europeans who drove their RV’s down from Chicago. This crowd has apparently been coming down to train and ride with these guys twice a year for the last 3 years and it shows when they’re out on the trail. Nice bunch of guys who are planning to enter the Dakar for 2011 if I heard correctly. They were riding a couple of factory bikes that they picked up somewhere, and one of them rides a quad and could be seen roaming around with his wee children on board.

I wandered around to see what else was in camp, Dirk Kessler was the Canadian living in San Francisco who entered the Dakar in 2010 and was part of the 50% that didn’t make it through stage 3, and the brutal soft sand filled river bed; Dirk had a serious knee injury to boot. This was the bike he was riding.

Neil took his new bike out for a little spin and you could see the grin on his face right through his helmet.

Then we ate some supper prepared by Don and started to get to know each other, here are Robb, Phil and Dave. Neil, Phil, Dave and Seth are planning to ride the Dos Sertoes Rally in Brazil this August. It’s the second largest motorsports rally in size after the Dakar. I’m sporting one of their t-shirts that finally showed up. Good luck guys! JB took a shot at getting a cactus needle out of his hand, no luck this time but it came out by itself in two parts separately 3 days later, yummy.

After dark Neil was poking around with his bike with Scott and Darren looking on while Marcus and Dirk worked on the XR. Plenty of tale swapping around the fire over a couple of beers too. Don’s trailer is a sweet rig and where he used to work for them it’s totally outfitted with Snap On tools, nice! Scott Whitney was the guy who wrote all of the roadbooks. He’s done a fabulous job of putting good routes together to maximize the training value. These are high quality roadbooks with all the traits of a Dakar roadbook to aid in people learning the French directions. “TDSRP-tout droit sur route principale” for example.

Jonah Street and Mike Shirley had rolled in during the night as well as Seth which pretty much completed the contingent for this year’s session, give Jonah a call if you  need any concrete work done in Washington.

The morning brought the real start of rally school with a lesson in roadbook reading and preparation given, by Charlie. We had pre event studying to do so we were expected to know most of the symbols and the French translations for the letter codes. He explained where the numbers and symbols were on the roadbook and how you put them all together to figure out where you were and where you were going; these training ones even had map coordinates for your GPS as a cheater for when you really needed some help to figure out where the hell you went wrong.  The basics go like this: in the left column is the running mileage tracked by means of your ICO, the big numbers are running total and the little number underneath is the mileage between tulips. The center column is the tulip or symbol of what you’re looking for. It could be the track with a turn or a landmark like a building and there might be extra info like the lines of a wash or a patch of vegetation. The last column has the CAP heading or bearing in digital for direction and there may be more information in a letter code. In French G would be gauche meaning left, TDSPP would be tout droit sur piste principale, straight on main route, and a + or – before a V would be plus ou moin visible, meaning more visible or less visible. There’s a whole long lexicon of them to learn and some of them are really important to know so you don’t ride into something that could kill you at speed.

Don wasn’t impressed with the use of his RV as a white board. We all glued the sheets together to make the roll and did our own marking based on whatever we thought would work best for ourselves, there’s Mike Shirley showing his personal marking style.

Once those details were done, we’d marked our roadbooks and everyone had loaded them, all the bikes were lined up for a photo op. I think JB took the best photo of them all but here’s what I got.

Did you catch the sidecar rig? That’s Scott’s “HogWild Racing” machine, a Vrod powered offroad sidecar racing machine. He is a bit of a rocket scientist and it shows both here and on his roadbooks. I hear riding “monkey” is pretty wild and I wanted to give it a shot but I was slow in getting to the new bivouac at Dumont Dunes and missed out. Pretty crazy machinery that’s been to the Dakar to boot.

Well now it was time to get finish getting dressed and move out on our first route of training, I was paired up with Seth and Phil I think, and we went off to start route 1 of 6. I was slow off the start for sure trying to figure out the details, but Phil did a great job of adding tips along the way; then it was just Phil and me as Seth took off on his merry way. As it went Phil had a pretty large getoff and bent the crap out of his nav gear and mount so he sent me on my way where I soon caught JB who was also having trouble with his roadbook; we tagged along together to finish back at camp. Neither JB nor I were worried about time so we took a break to get some paper out of his jammed roadbook then took off to give route 2 a go. To tell how slow we were there were guys finishing route 3 already, but in our defense I think they’d ridden them before.

We didn’t have much to report from route 1 besides some slightly missed turns that only really matter if you’re trying to be efficient and not miss time. We stopped somewhere along the way and I looked at the ground to see 100’s of these bugs running around, they were about an inch long but I have no idea what they were, and I never saw any more of them.

If I’d remembered the camera that rode in my pocket more I would have taken more photo’s. As it was I was trying to shoot video from my new helmet can and had varying degrees of success with that. Besides, when we stopped it was rarely for longer than what it took to reset ICO’s and for JB to hand crank his roadbook along. We were doing just fine on route 2 too before we got a little mixed up by the directions given in the roadbook being thrown off by how many times it said to go uphill and downhill on the PP or “piste principale” and we ended up going back to the top of the ridge we’d just come over then wandered around a bit looking for the wash we were being told to go down on a bearing headed back towards camp. We saw other tracks probably from folks doing the same and bee lined it until we finally emptied out on a main track just like the roadbook said we would. I don’t know if Scott planned it that way when he wrote it but for learning it worked really well because seemingly you could always get back onto a known entity and get home. We laughed a little when we saw Robb wandering in search of us and/or the track we were on; it got funnier a little later when we went through a bit of a badlands kind of section and he went bushwacking down into a deep wash while we looked for a more sensible route down and out with mixed results.

We saw tracks below us and a reasonable slope down to them so I led off and got into the wash headed towards a bank about 2 feet high that I figured I could get up. This worked out fine but what I didn’t know was that 3 feet past it hidden by shrubbery was another 3 foot deep wash with vertical sides, at least I didn’t know until I plowed into it and went over the bars to see my bike still upright front wheel planted in the bank and missing more paint. Good thing fiberglass is flexible.  Did I mention yet how much I like this bike? It’s got to be 100 lbs lighter than my 640 and it really shows in times like this when you’re trying to wrestle it out of somewhere stupid. We were out and headed back to camp with no sign of Robb, he came rolling in sometime after we’d already cracked a beer, I guess that’s why he’s the instructor? And so we ended our first day of rally school with only 2 routes under our belts but we were satisfied with our progress on the learning curve. Tomorrow promised route 3 which was touted as being the nicest ride of the 6 loops. A little prep work, food and a couple of beers and we were headed for bed.

We started out day two riding route 3 with Jonah following behind but it also made for more self consciousness for us. The route ran from camp towards the mountains to the north and once we were above town the landscape started to get interesting.

There were two sections that I really enjoyed: the first was a long wash of deep pea gravel that we followed through a narrow rock chasm that was only big enough to get the bikes through and it was at least 20 feet deep. I totally forgot both of my cameras but I’m pretty sure JB caught it on video. Just as well mine was off as I had a little tipover just heading into it, one of many over the weekend. Once we left the wash the track led up into the mountains in a series on turns. I think I had the best groove I’ve ever had on that section getting over the front wheel with weight on the inside peg and gassing the rear end around the turns, I felt that mental “click” as I figured out another riding trick for awhile. I can’t take all the credit though, the bike is really well set up and seems to be dialed in just right for me too. We kept going up into the hills along ridgelines bordered by big cactus and on into the trees, as in real forest. In front of us at high elevation the was still snow on the ground which seemed pretty amazing considering it was over 80ºF in the lowlands.

After a couple of missed turns and failed first attempt of a steep loose climb we opted to stop and chill out for a little while in the shade and get some food and water into us to combat the 30 mile tipover trend that was evolving for both of us. I’ve been training for awhile and am in decent shape, as well as eating pretty well and drinking as much water as possible so my belief is that we were suffering fatigue from lack of saddle time this year: one hour long offroad ride for me and less for JB. I know from mountain biking how much energy the mental focus and concentration takes to ride long hours offroad. No problem, it helps for planning a training regimen for the next adventure, that’s if work allows the time.

Back on track we left Robb and Jonah sitting under a tree bonding while we headed off to finish the loop. Everything was going great and we both survived a nasty downhill chicane that seemed to sneak up on us as the mileage was a ways off on the roadbook. Down into the foothills all was peachy as we came into the fence indicated and made the left turn along it up to another left. We were looking for another left that just wasn’t appearing at the right ICO reading but other tracks kind of close were showing up, the CAP heading was off but we weren’t seeing anything else. Back to the fence and on down the road until I saw that we were definitely wrong where we turned around to try it again, most indicators seemed to read right so we went around again and tried for a second time going a little farther afield, no luck. Finally we tried for a third and last time to the same conclusion and decided to call it and head towards town then back towards camp. All I got out of that exercise was a picture of another flower.

While putting down the road we were on my rear tanks ran out of fuel so I stopped to switch to the front and of course I didn’t spend enough time kicking fuel through before running the battery down. Thanks JB for the final push that succeeded in the bump start, with both of us sweating profusely and roasted from failed efforts. We spent a bunch of miles just buzzing down the side of the highway droning back to the bivouac and at the turnoff there was a guy with a stand selling cold drinks and all kinds of jerky. Beef, Elk, Bison in all kinds of flavours. We stopped to get some drinks as we were both out of water and ate all the samples he gave us. When we were done socializing we left with packages of jerky in our packs to take home for later.

We finally came to mile 0 and there were Charlie and Jonah hanging out in the shade of his van. Robb was halfway back up route three looking for us to no avail. It got funnier as Jonah was asking JB where the hell we’d gone? “we were only 5 minutes behind you and you disappeared? We spent an hour looking for you?” Well, we were going around in circles trying to find a left turn? Upon looking back at the route Charlie was able to determine the turn we’d missed: a crucial left after the nasty chicane that would have sent us heading towards home and to the same fence but much further along. We should have backtracked further in the roadbook to find it, but our biggest mistake was thinking we were at the right section of fence; getting lost is part of how you learn to navigate.

Back at camp we regrouped, watched the boys drive around with the baby on the ATV and I was feeling a little grumpy, Neil picked up on it and asked what was wrong? I’d really wanted to do at least one more route, we’d only done 3 out of 6 in two days while pretty much everyone else had managed all six. Thanks Neil for encouraging me to go for it and Robb kindly offered to make sure there were steaks kept aside for when we got back.

JB offered to join me and we decided to go for routes 4 and 5 as pretty easy ones rather than #6 which would have meant reloading JB’s roadbook and he was a bit worried about fatigue levels, made sense to me. Marcus was also headed back out and both of the boys were suffering from pretty substantial blisters across their palms from holding the bars hour after hour; they took a stab at taping their hands for the upcoming ride.

Fine by me and we took off. Route 4 was really interesting as it took us to Cathedral Canyon, crossed the first real sand dune we’d seen yet and it made use of a massive grid of ¼ mile squares that had been laid out for a failed housing boom sometime in the past; it failed due to a lack of local water–go figure. The sand was a little anticlimactic even though JB fell over and the grid was deceptively challenging. It consisted of being on the gas then slowing for the 90º turn and going, and turning at seemingly random distances right up until we came to a paved road that certainly was not where we were supposed to be. Due to time constraints we skipped going back to find where we’d screwed up and made it back to camp for the start of route 5.

The start backtracked to camp from mile 0 and we saw Neil jump onto the track ahead of us and disappear in a cloud of dust. We saw him for a short time but then lost him. We were short finding an off piste turn and got turned around a little before picking up the power line to put us back on track and gassed it through some fast sections. When we hit the pavement the first intersection put the chicken Ranch on our left.

In some counties of Nevada , prostitution is legal, this is one of those counties and the Chicken Ranch is one of the brothels. We opted not to stop at the Leghorn bar for a beer. Sure I was curious, who wouldn’t be, but we could see the sun didn’t have long before our tinted lenses were going to be a real handicap. We left the sightseeing and booked it to the gas station shown on the route where we were surprised to see Neil at the pumps.  We figure we’d throw some fuel in for the last day to relieve Don as our fueler and got to it. The whole prepay thing at the pumps in the US can be a pain in the ass, as it asks for your zip code, no they don’t recognize Canadian postal codes. All I wanted was a bit of gas but the girl didn’t speak liters and you have to specify an amount. But how much gas does my bike hold? No idea in gallons and only a vague guess in liters right now. I gave her some cash and filled up more tanks than I needed to before we all took off in the direction of burnt meat and beer. Dusk was setting in fast so we got on the gas pretty hard once we were back on dirt. I was leading, followed by JB, then Neil cruising at about 50 mph, this was prudent to me with slightly reduced visibility and it made the difference when I hit a large wash successfully. I turned on my HID light which worked great to get back to camp, not much longer and we would have been in the total darkness. The best part of that run was the look on JB’s face when Neil showed him the video he shot handheld while right behind him offroad at speed, I’m sure he’ll post it on his "n00b goes rallying" thread on Good on ya!

We actually got back to the bivouac in time for supper which was nice-steak and salad and a few other fixings were a great way to finish the day. My cranky mood was gone and I was happy to have finished 5 out of the 6 loops up on offer. There was a 250 mile loop that a couple of the more experienced guys did on the same day too; for now I’ll just daydream a little about riding long days like that. Our third day of riding came to a close with a feeling of accomplishment at reaching another small skill level. I finished it off with a chat on the phone and a sunset shot of another little flower. It was all coming a little bit easier. Tomorrow was a new day and would mark the end of the school.

Morning came early and started with some more teaching about dune riding and navigation in the dunes. This is mostly done by cap heading alone and visually noting landmarks to be able to stay on the same heading as you pick your route through varied terrain. Everyone was interested in this, especially the folks who’d never been in sand or dunes. The other part of the morning info session included some notes and details about the 70 mile route we would be taking to the new camp setup at Dumont Dunes where we would get into the sand for the rest of the day.

The humour started early as Scott’s dog decided to lift a leg on someone’s wayward helmet left lying on the ground. He said it was only a little on the visor, but he might have been lying? Just goes to show that keeping track of your gear is very important, especially in mixed company. Harharhar.

For the first time JB and I were the first to dressed and on the road out of camp, we both wanted to get as far as we could before the faster guys caught us. Everything was going pretty well off the front with the only stop being JB’s roadbook pulling apart; using gluestick to glue the sheets it’s very important to press hard and ensure a good bond. As short as this stop was it still costs time in the overall, for errors that really have no need of happening. We overshot a turn a little very near the same stop so again lost time for no good reason.

The next section was pretty uneventful and led into the hills. The roadbook indicated downhill, EMP. short for empierre which means rocky or stony. It was fairly obvious when we got on top of it and stopped to scope it out. That’s when we heard the first bike catching up with us and sure enough there was Neil: being all gung ho for Dos Sertoes he jumped right in with us still stopped there observing. About halfway down he was down and right behind us Seth and Dirk rolled up. We all watched Neil wrestling his machine upright and JB took a little walk to find an easier line. Seth wimped out and decided to roll down left of the gully with his engine off and Dirk opted for JB’s line on the right from about a quarter the way down. After getting off to take a few more pictures of some flowers I spotted I headed right from the top and saw Dirk fall over below me that inattention immediately contributed to me rolling on top of a cactus and getting stuck. I too fell over trying to escape the little bugger. When I finally did get free it was clear sailing for the rest of the way down and we were back on track again.

From here we entered a small wash that emptied us onto a well maintained dirt road that started with a short detour to a U-turn and then clear sailing. We were cruising at over 60 mph for a good while towards the hills. I totally missed a crucial turn by failing to watch my ICO for about ¼ km and there again was lost time. Backtrack to the turn and a wee stop to reset nav gear and do a little battery fix on JB's GPS, then Marcus and Phil caught up with us. Now we were there with the final riders. I spotted a cool looking cactus and went to take a picture and I’m glad I did as I also saw a beautiful little cactus in bloom too. Who knew I’d see so many flowers in the desert? I’m counting myself lucky we got there shortly after one of their rare rainfalls.

Marcus also did the GPS taped battery trick Jonah showed me after we’d done JB’s and he hit the gas; roosting the rest of us with gravel. Phil gave us the nudge, time to get a move on.  Now we were last and headed up into the hills again and we watched the scenery unfold below us as we climbed. Just after we rounded a corner I got offline into the rocks again and had another tipover. JB commented about the 30 mile stupids so I took a minute to get a quick bite of food into me. Just around the corner we stopped at an abandoned talc mine where JB realized he had trouble shifting because of a loose shifter. It was all stop while we dug out the tools to do the fix. Nice to have a rally box to keep the basic tool kit in. I saw some more flowers and ate some more before we were getting moving again. Good thing as the white tailing piles were reflecting some serious heat at us.

We were trying to stay on the gas and keep a reasonable pace but we seemed to be a little plagued with stops. At one of the next intersections Seth was waiting for us, I really don’t know why, as our navigating was mostly fine and Phil was pulling sweep behind/with us. We jammed along behind Seth through some ups and downs and I had the pleasure of blowing by him up a loose wash, it made me feel good being faster than at least one person for at least a few minutes. Didn’t last long, he left us behind when one of us stopped for something. Another navigational error due to a little bit of confusion with the roadbook cost us some more time yet again where we went through a narrow pass but that’s how you learn yet again. Another change of terrain and we entered a long sandy roadway only to have to stop to fix the shifter a second time. Now everyone was anxious to turn it up another notch and JB led out at a good rate of speed. This was almost the last video I shot as well having forgotten to charge my camera the night before, I did remember the more important GPS batteries though. 

Back into the mountains awhile later we got onto a neat section of trail that was straight up one side and straight down the other side; attention was very important to avoid a long fall to the valley bottom below. Phil asked JB if he’d seen Dumont dunes off in the distance to which JB said he had eyes only for staying on the road, sensible, I didn’t see them either. When this emptied us out it was into a long section that had been serious mining country at one time as we were riding on old broken pavement interspersed with washouts and potholes. Weird remnants of civilization in the dry and desolate middle of nowhere. This led us into a deep pea gravel wash through a small valley that was pretty cool being hemmed in by steep rock walls that you were trying not to run into. After one particularly sketchy corner I stopped to have a look back and saw JB standing beside his bike and poking at something around the engine, Phil stopped with him and I could see that they were both fine. In my own self interest I decided to keep going and get out of the pressure cooker. I was on my own and having fun in the wash until I got caught in a moment of target fixation that had my eyes glued to a large rock coming at me; I tried to pull my eyes away with no luck and plowed right into it. Down I went for my second crash of the weekend and I distinctly remember looking at my hand and cursing as I saw the fairly large avulsion in the meat of my palm. Dammit! I picked the bike up and dug my first aid kit out of my bag all the while thinking I’d be hearing the boys come along any second. I cleaned out the dirt, did a little patchwork and packed it all away before turning my attention to getting to camp. No sign of the guys either.

I skipped a detour up the valley side that was only going to offer a slight change of scenery and kept going to the next turn up over some sand hills and saw the dunes on my left, but it was not our rendezvous. I was close and gave it the gas as soon as I was on the main road right up until I could see our fleet of vehicles parked in the lot. Yay! I’d made it through the 70 mile route in mostly one piece and quite a bit later than everyone else except our missing boys. I caught up with Charlie first and he immediately told me that Jonah and everyone else had just left for Dune School and I should go find them. Alright, off I went, alone into the sand. It wasn’t bad really, I had one close call dropping into a hole made by the wind but on these little ones it was easy to get a feel for them and the oblique approaches that let you see over them before committing to the other side. I went around the whole area twice before I caught up with them, just in time to hear one of Jonah’s last lessons. Phil came buzzing up to ask Jonah if they could use his truck to drive 8 miles back up the wash to get JB and his bike? Turns out what I had thought was shifter trouble was him punching a hole in one of the engine cases. Jonah replied that his truck wasn’t up to the task and Phil rode away. We kept going trying to follow the last navigation trick that Jonah was telling us. At our next little stop Seth and I both decided to head back when they were going over to the big dunes as we’d both run out of water and I hadn’t had a breather from the day's route yet either.

After taking a bit of break and a beer Charlie suggested I go try out the big dunes, reminding me that it was one of the key things I wanted to learn a bit about. I took the roundabout route as instructed to stay away from the crowds and permits. One place I stopped to have a gander I looked on the ground beside me and low and behold it was a field of flowers. I sized up the biggest dunes from a distance and made my way towards them. In hindsight maybe I should have paid a little more heed to my failure to negotiate the first apex? I fell over  but kept trying to get a run up the dune, after a few attempts I still had only really gotten halfway and had almost eaten it going over a steep lip that I couldn’t see in the flat light until I was already on it.

When my battery started getting weak from blowing sand out of the pipe every time I dropped it I knew it was time to head back. I pointed my bike back the way I’d come and set out for the trucks. I saw a small saddle between bigger dunes pointing the way I’d come and turned off towards it. When I crested the dune I didn’t get on the gas early enough and fell over yet again; only this time I was out of juice. Uh oh. I tried to tickle it to life without luck then tried getting rolling to bump start. This didn’t work either and it put me near the bottom and in a depression. After what was already a pretty long day I was dead tired. On this level in sand I couldn’t get in a position to effectively try kicking the bike over either. I came really close to firing it one last time too. Dammit! Again I tried pushing to get out of the depression and down the last pitch to where the track led out but I was out of gas myself. After what had been almost an hour of failure I finally gave in and phoned Charlie. No answer. I tried Scott’s number too. No answer. I waited a bit before trying Charlie again and he asked what was up? I told him and he asked if I’d tried all my options before saying he’d come get me going. While I waited in the only shade around that I created with my jacket I drank the last of my water and gave my girl a call. She was unsympathetic; her response was that it was what I signed up for. Gee thanks. I stood on top of the rise and when Charlie came around the bend it didn’t take long for him to spot me and gassed it in my direction. I felt marginally better when I watched him take awhile to get it running; he has the advantage of having legs a foot longer than mine which helps. 

It was a quick run back to see that most of the troops had pulled out to head home their separate ways. Now it was just Don packing up and waiting to load my bike, Charlie loading bikes in his rig and Neil, Seth, JB and me riding in our rental to the first bivouac to their cars. It wasn’t long before this that JB realized he’d left his camera and phone in Robb’s van. When Jonah declined his truck they drove Robb’s 4x4 van all the way up the wash to where JB had been snoozing in the shade under a rock while he waited. At least I wasn’t the only one who had to be rescued, and I was pretty close to not having to be rescued. On reflection there are things I’d do differently in the same situation, the first being to turn the bike into the hill so I could stand on the high side to kick the low side; I’m sure if I’d done that I would have been able to get back all on my own. Oh well now I know.

JB had missed the dune session so he took the 690 Jonah rode to a 7th place finish in the 2010 Dakar and went for a scoot in the small dunes. The smile on his face was unmistakable when he got back to finish stuffing the car with all of our gear. He was loving it and I was jealous; no time for me, Don was waiting for me to get the rest of my sh@t out of the trailer and finish packing the box to send with the bike. That all done we hit the road for Baker, California to pick up JB’s stuff at a restaurant where Robb had left it. Only a 50 mile detour to the Mad Greek. While we waited I looked around a little and decided pretty quickly that Baker is nowhere I’d want to live. This sign I spotted might offer hope to those living in the trailer park behind it, but I doubt it. We got gas at the General Store across the road before we turned around to get to the cars. The small dunes we were in looked absolutely miniscule as we drove by.

The cars were still there, and being stopped already and unpacking our car we decided to repack all of our gear to fly right there in the dust. It would make life easier at the hotel when we got back to Vegas. A short time later we were bound for Las Vegas where all of us were flying out from the next day. Neil to Lima, Peru, Seth to Vermont and us to Newfoundland. 

Back into the city of never ending light and excess there’s always something to look at; like this dude we saw on his trike, waiting for a miracle maybe? Neil offered to add us to the room he thought he had reserved at the Palazzo which sounded fine to us. After a long drive down the strip with all kinds of people lining the rails along the road like you were the entertainment we got to the hotel and the three of us ended up in a suite with Seth taking the pullout. The girl at the desk informed us that it was the biggest hotel in the world with 7000 rooms! This is only one hotel of many, makes no wonder there’s no water anywhere, Vegas has taken all the water from who knows how many miles away? I wonder when it’s going to run out and what’s going to happen then? My guess is that the consequences will be further reaching than anyone’s guess.

We showered then headed downstairs to the casino to find some food and ended up in Dos Caminos eating steak and drinking a few beers. We were all beat from a long day and were done and headed to bed before we fell asleep at the table.

JB and I had the earliest flight out and were checking in our rental car by 9am. Touring the duty free pretty much brought us to the end of the trip. All in all I think the Rally School was worth the money and worth the effort to get there. I know for us we learned a ton, not only about how rallies work and navigating, but also a ton in terms of riding skills. I was lucky enough to have been able to show up and ride an almost new bike that I now own and get to know that machine a whole lot better too.

And so ends my story to date, my rally dreams finally having some substance. Right then it was a bit hard to see it as I was only home for a few days before getting back on a plane and flying to Alaska to work for a month; doesn’t mean I didn't have more dreams though. What’s next? Well, I’m still on track for the Rally Mongolia like my last story said, and now that I've been out in the desert and experienced a little bit if what it's like I think I'm ready to make another dream come true; but that's another story.

And the start of that story is rapidly aproaching, it's late July now and I get on a plane on August 4th to head to my first ever International offroad Rally. We'll see how it unfolds.

Additional links of interest:

- To follow Mike's adventures in Mongolia you can keep an eye on his SPOT tracker HERE.  He wasn't sure they'd be allowed to use it but hopefully!

- SSER Org website.  Direct link to the 2010 Mongolia race section

Chasing Rally Dreams - Part 1

Words by: Mike Buehler
Photo's by: Mike Buehler

Where does it all begin? Where do our dreams start? I’m not sure about mine, maybe it was when I bought my new bike, June 2006? It was the first bike I’d had since 1998 and the first offroad bike I’d ever owned.

Off road roaming adventures were calling out to me; my best buddy’s influence talking from as early as ’97 when he bought his BMW F650 and talk of the Trans Labrador Highway? The single episode of Long Way Round I happened across on TV in ’05?

Almost 6 months after I bought my 640 Adventure I joined where I met some interesting folks and went for my first real off road ride to Shoal Bay, this one was an eye opener for sure, and I almost made it up without a tipover from kicking myself into neutral on a tricky section, but that’s what it’s all about.

I soon found myself on the forum all the time chatting about this and that and I distinctly remember Geoff commenting that I could be the first Newfoundlander to enter the Dakar. No way says I, I don’t have those kinds of skills. But memories of seeing rallies on TV as a kid, wide eyed asking my dad what it was, all came back to me; I didn’t know what I was seeing at that young age but it made sense now.

Then came Adventure Rider and a whole new world of like minded lunatics with stories upon stories of riding in exotic places and of course the bloody Dakar always looming there in the background. But we all need distractions and daydreams to occupy our minds from time to time don’t we? Along with the asylum, a guy I knew many years ago in Jasper found me and invited me to check out an Adrider dualsport rally in Maine, the Trans Labrador Highway trip I was supposed to go on with Chief got waylaid the year before by work so I figured this was the perfect opportunity to check that out on my “rally” bike.

Labrador was fun, I barely took any photos ‘cause I was having a hoot jamming down the road as fast as was comfortable watching the trail of dust spin off behind me, feeling like I was in my own personal rally through the middle of nowhere. I was having the time of my life right up until I got a ticket for 41 km/h over the speed limit, good for 4 demerit points on my license and probably a hike on my insurance and then I was pretty bummed for awhile. Then there was the rally, it too was fun and I spent plenty of time jawing with folks who’ve done big adventures I can still only imagine. That trip included a day riding a track in Quebec on a 640E with super moto wheels and a turn on a friend’s Ducati. Well and truly hooked on two wheels now. Hmmm…

Pretty soon I found myself checking out old Dakar pics and stories which led to me finding out that only 5 Canadians had ever finished the ultimate offroad event since 1979. So I started looking for Canadians planning to race the 2008 edition, the search led me to Tod Davidson and his TD2Dakar efforts. A toodle through his blog convinced me to get in touch and offer him a little bit of cash I had sitting in a box. We had fun chatting about his bike that was being built for him and all of the other million details he was working on to get there.

I was living vicariously through his planning and preparation and was watching everything I could find. Just a couple of weeks before the start I heard Tod had crashed and had to withdraw from the rally due to a punctured lung, only to be hit a second time by the cancellation of the 2008 Dakar on New Year’s Eve - the day before the start. I can only imagine what a blow that was to everyone that had made the herculean effort to get there.

Time marched on as it always does and I was still riding when I could between my work away and hanging out with my girlfriend. I think it was about a year later that Tod replied to one of the sporadic messages I sent him on and he told me about what he went through after the crash that prevented him from flying to Lisbon to the Dakar startline. It was a heartrending story that included over a year of preparation and six digits of financial commitment that ended with a simple crash in the desert and another year of heartache. Then Dakar ’09 started and I was watching the highlights every night after work 300km’s offshore of Newfoundland on an oilrig, I was livid when I missed a couple of stages due to the radio operator putting on hockey instead on the available channel, they even had the same game on 2 channels! But by then I was addicted wasn’t I?

In my wanderings on I stumbled on a thread where Bob Bergman’s story was posted; this was his account of riding the Dakar in ’05 where he became the 5th Canadian to finish the grueling event. That story really struck me and Bob’s narrative seemed to sink into me; as he recounted every stage my imagination had me right there in the desert too. Half of it scared the crap out of me, half of it made me want to be there. Some time later while writing an article for Dan and he told me about his conversations with Lawrence Hacking, who happens to be the first Canadian to ever finish the Dakar in 2001, and his review of Lawrence's new book about it called “To Dakar and Back”. It had just released so I ran to grab a copy at my local bookseller. Now I’d immersed myself in two detailed Dakar accounts and looked at other rally ride reports and little ideas started tapping their way into my consciousness.

Now what? It didn’t take long for me to get Lawrence’s email address from Dan, and for me to ask Lawrence one simple question: “do you have any suggestions for a starting point for someone contemplating the Dakar in a 3 to 5 year plan?” I was amazed at how quickly he got back to me with a definitive answer; “enter a rally, try the Mongolia Rally, it’s the cheapest and easiest of the big rallies.” As our conversation continued Lawrence was very generous with his time and knowledge including the address for Teru Sugawara and his rally support services. If you’ve read my last CanadianMotorcycleRider story you’ll know that I had no idea of the Sugawara family Dakar legacy at the time. I was putting in all of the legwork to get there for the 2009 edition until a few months out when my better half reminded me of house renovations and a small dualsport rally I was hosting at my house for the first time that summer too. So I canceled my plans and went with my girl Sue for a week long tour on the bike to see AC/DC in Moncton, New Brunswick and camp by the beach on Prince Edward Island, so at least I got to get out for a decent ride.

My rally exposure took another turn in October when I wound up in Tokyo for a couple of weeks working for Cirque du Soleil. I emailed Teru to see if he wanted to meet; Mongolia was still in my sights. Here I was a total neophyte with absolutely no idea that he and his dad were the HINO rally truck factory team. Yoshi has the world record for the most Dakar’s entered at 27 and the most consecutive finishes at 20. For me that day  was almost as awe inspiring as being on the start line!

The day I spent with them led me to write another article for Dan about my experience and to go on a new hunt for Canadians planning to run the 2010 edition. By December I was offshore working again and following a few threads on advrider where I got onto Patrick Trahan’s thread and saw his post pretty much begging for enough donations to get him over one of his last hurdles: buying his plane ticket. He put up his phone number so I gave him a call and told him I could drum up a little cash if he thought it would be any help? I also posted the details on to encourage more of our members to help out; I know all of the Honda Powerhouse dealers on the island got on board too. I got Susan to mail him a couple of stickers of my logo in hopes he’d put them on his bike, not that I felt my contribution was worth that kind of space but you don’t know until you try? Then there was the Riff Raff: Rally PanAm’s informal band of fans who buy into their Dakar bids supporting privateer Jonah Street; I had already talked to Charlie Rauseo a few times about a “tourist” seat in one of their trucks to get a front row seat of the circus. This year I stepped up to help Jonah out and bought in at the Riff Raff Extreme level and have the stylish Klim jacket to prove it not to mention my name on the arse end of Jonah’s bike. Then Patrick sent me pictures of his bike and my logo was there too! I bought a t-shirt from Rick Hatswell too, he was headed down with Don Hatton from BC. Now I had a little ownership with 3 entries, ooooh fun.

The fun really began with the runup to the start of the 2010 race. I joined in the antics of the discussion thread on advrider and remained glued to my computer everyday for the next 2 weeks flipping between the thread where people from all over the world were giving up to the minute details about the riders we were following, including 7 Canadians, the Dakar site with it’s tracking features, among others like for interviews with riders. When the stages finished, the highlights were quickly available for download too. I didn’t miss much in that 2 weeks except the full day I spent flying out on vacation but it was easy to catch up as I was waking up at 5am anyway which gave me a few hours before my girlfriend dragged her jetlagged butt out of bed. In two weeks that thread generated over 7,000 posts which really was a fun ride from start to finish, especially the days over a few pints in my favourite pub.

Let me backtrack a little to before the start of El Dakaro 2010, even though Mongolia is supposed to be comparatively easy, I knew I needed to go the next step: start getting in shape, start riding more, and learning more. I’d been through the Rally Management Services website any number of times starting with Tod’s bike build and had my eye on their rally school and I got in touch with Charlie again to get dates for the next one. I know, Patrick said not to waste my money on such things but it sounded like a good option to me. As for getting in shape I started to focus on gym time when I was offshore, not a huge gym but it served the purpose and beat hanging out in my cubicle of a room

Back on the beach, as it’s referred to when you go home from the rigs, I went to a local gym that a friend of mine is part owner of and got them to draw up a workout program for me in hopes of fitness helping to make up for my lack of desert and sand riding skills. I was in for training 7 days a week alternating with gym and either exercise bikes offshore or my road bike on my girl's old windtrainer at home. My program had 4 onshore days and 4 offshore days to keep me busy.

What was missing? A bike? One of those little ideas came creeping to the front and in January I sent a message to Tod to see if he still had his 525 sitting in his basement? Was he interested in selling it? It took a little while for him to get back to me and I tried to wait patiently for an answer. I also met with my banker and finance guy multiple times getting some dosh lined up for house renovations. When he did finally answer my PM he gave me a yes, not only for the bike but also all of his spare tires, mousse’s, original plastics and anything else still tucked away in boxes. Well now my brain was on overdrive as I tried to imagine what I’d be able to drum up to pay for it. Sigh. All of this preparation brought us up to our vacation where my girlfriend used a conference as an excuse to check out Maui. We were disappointed with the hospitality and looking forward to getting home by the end but it also brought an opportunity for me to stop in Toronto for a couple of nights to check out the bike with my own two eyes. Tod being the really nice guy he is invited me to stay the night and with a flight change my girl had a 5 hour layover there too. We both went up to his house and over a few beers we went to the basement for a look see and I liked what I saw, as I knew I would.

Basically it’s a brand new KTM 525Rally built for the 2008 Dakar and only ever ridden for 3 days! It had gone to Lisbon for the start and sat lonely with no rider until it came home, it was still sitting lonely and unridden in his basement collecting dust. Maybe it was time for Tod to close the door on that episode of his life? Back upstairs Tod named a price that I could hardly believe, wow. I guess it was partially his way of saying thanks to me for my little contribution to his rally dreams, and to see the bike being ridden the way it was designed to? He told me I was one of only 2 people who contacted him to offer a donation, sad that the Dakar is almost unknown in North America despite being the largest motorsports event in the world thus making it damned near impossible to find sponsorship money. Anyway, Sue looked at me and knew I was going to go for it, there was no way I could pass it up. So I drove her back to the airport for her flight before spending the rest of the night drinking beer and swapping stories while inside I was hopping like a jumping bean. One more night in Toronto for a meeting with a group of individuals planning a little project before I too flew home.

I flew back to Newfoundland with 2.5 hours at home before I was back at the heliport flying offshore again for 3 weeks. Work a 12 hour shift then in the gym every day right after supper, seven days a week.

I was still pestering Charlie by email for dates for the school, late March or early April was still all the response I was getting. Not to worry, there were plenty of other details to work on: Mongolia in August for one, the Skibum Soiree on Labour Day weekend for two. You remember, the eight day rally that sent me down this road in the first place? Lawrence’s connections got me in touch with Byambaa Gantulga, the owner of KTM Tours Mongolia to see about support and rental bikes so I was talking to both of them and then Mike Shirley joined as well. He owns a gym in Reno and had been the title sponsor for Rally PanAm 2010, he’s also driven one of their trucks for them for the last 2 Dakars. Yeah, tell me he doesn’t have any fun? All the logistics of shipping bikes versus rentals plus the myriad of other little details I was trying to find and figure out. And so on, and so on, and so on.

Finally home again and first up was a trip to the bank to get a bank draft, then it was out to see Keith Windsor at the Toy Box to make sure my Leatt neck brace and new Arai moto helmet were ordered. I told my banker I was putting the renovations on hold–indefinitely.

Now I was truly committed, I fired the draft into the mail and waited impatiently for Tod to mail the ownership and bill of sale to me. He sent the tracking number so I could see when it arrived, this got really funny one night when we had some friends over and were drinking a fair bit. For some odd reason I got on the computer to look and see where it was; the way I was reading the screen I thought Tod had mailed it back to himself, oh sh#t. Now my well lubricated paranoia jumped in and I gave him a call. He sounded a little confused so we both looked at our computers to compare. Well, I’m the idiot in this story and he proved it by showing me that it was still in transit and I was reading the whole tracking thing backwards. Whew! A bit of a reminder of things not to do while drinking. It did finally arrive and I rushed off to DMV to register the bike to me. Yay

All right, now we’re cooking with gas. Just days before work was sending me away again I flew back up to Toronto to help him pack up the bike and the other odds and sods.

I got in early and figured I had some time to do a little running around the city before going up to Tod’s in the afternoon. I gave a friend on my flight a ride downtown then kept going east to visit my sister at work; boy was she surprised to see me walk in. Then I meandered back over to Mississauga to stop in at the shop where my 640 came from and where the 525 came from, Dave Grummet at Parker Bros Powersports is a very knowledgeable and helpful guy to know and he answered a few more of my questions. From there I went to find a liquor store and a bite of lunch. I stopped at a strip mall across from Sherway Gardens where I saw an Italian Restaurant right next to the liquor store. Perfect. After picking up some beer and a bottle of yummy Bison Grass infused Polish Vodka I wandered in for a bite of lunch. The wall of Scotch was immediately noticeable, holy sh@t! The bartender informed me that they boast the largest Scotch collection in the world and their wine selection boasts the Wine Spectator “Grand” rating which is top shelf too. at something like 5,000 choices.

Reading the menu I found the “Italian Stallion”, equine tenderloin carpaccio. I don’t think I’ve ever seen horse on a menu anywhere I’ve eaten so I ordered it, just because. Not bad, definitely a more gamey flavour than beef, but tasty with the oh so stinky Tete de Moine cheese as garnish. Worth trying if you ever run across it. This was my day and dammit I was going to enjoy it!

With my detours behind me I headed on up the road to Tod’s enjoying the bright, warm sunny day. Trevor Wideman from Kurtz trucking was going to do an awesome favour and drive to Tod’s to pick up the bike, turns out it was going to be that evening instead of the next morning as we had originally planned. When I got to Tod’s we jumped right in to opening a cold beer and getting all the bits ready to go. All we had to do was separate the stuff that was going in a box with the bike including the body armour, clothes and MX boots I’d brought with me, and a spare set of Michelin Desert with mousses’ shod wheels. That done we gave the two stacks of spare Deserts and 3rd rear wheel the plastic wrap treatment for flying home with me. The rest of the spare plastics fit in my big suitcase and I wrapped up the spare chain, petcock, and shock spring  to take as a second carry-on.

When Becky got home we amused ourselves with more stories, more beer, and email; then I took them out to dinner at the nearby chop house. The steak was good eating too!

I flew back home again the next morning to get ready for another hitch of work. It was good to hang out with Tod some more, and I have to say my thanks again for giving me a leg up and helping me chase these rally dreams.

Stay tuned - Coming soon! Chasing Rally Dreams - Part II

Have Rally, Will Travel

Mike Buehler is a two wheel fan from Newfoundland. He's been riding motorcycles for 15 years and pedally bikes for many many more. He earns a living as an industrial climber among other things and can currently be found recovering from landing on his head. If you can find him at home he's usually riding something fun.

Have Rally, Will Travel

Written by
: Mike Buehler
Photos by: Mike Buehler

I have the dreams that many do, dreams of riding in big rallies like the Dakar. You know, just like I wrote last year, riding through the desert trailing dust clouds behind you in countries you’ve only seen in National Geographic.

Earlier this year I got the go ahead from my girl to chase some of these dreams and I immediately went to work trying to make some headway in that direction. Having read “To Dakar and Back” by Lawrence Hacking and Bob Bergman’s first hand account of their respective experiences in the Dakar I sent Lawrence an email looking for some advice.

“Hey Lawrence, do you have any suggestions for someone looking at trying for the Dakar in a 5 year plan?” To which he replied, “go enter the Rally Mongolia, it’s an 8 day offroad rally and it’s the cheapest and easiest of the big rallies.” Ok, sounds like a plan!

Game on, as they say. I dove into planning and dreaming and finding out the price of a plane ticket to Ulaan Baatar. I’m sure I was driving Lawrence a little crazy with all of my questions, but who else did I know that had been there and knew what it was all about? He put me on to Teru of Japan Racing Management to get a rental bike lined up for the event. Now I was really onto something big.

Teru returned my emails in short order and said he’d let me know about a bike. It didn’t take long before he got back to me again with the offer of a Honda XR 400 or 450 all ready to go. That was followed up with the cost of it all-the bike and the rally. It was looking like I could go racing for less than $10 K, which is cheap in this racing world. The really nice travel agent who got me tickets to Argentina found me flight options for about $2500 too.

But how quickly the dreams get put on hold: the responsibilities of a homeowner to an insurance company to keep the home in good repair; for me that was a new roof. So regretfully I emailed Lawrence and Teru to tell them I was pulling out for the upcoming rally, but that I still had plans of getting there next year.

As the year progressed towards summer I picked up a little sideline of work and my first job for this company was going to take me to Japan–Tokyo, the home of Japan Racing Management and Teru the nice guy on the other end of the emails. I got in touch again to ask if I could meet him while I was over there to talk a little about going racing next year.

He replied saying they were spending a lot of time at the HINO factory getting their vehicles ready. Hmmm...must be their support trucks? Sounds good to me. So when I got to Japan and figured out my schedule a bit I dropped him a note and he said I was close to them and he’d pick me up to go to the factory. As we were talking in the car I was asking him what he does mostly to which he replied that he does fundraising for his dad. Ok…for his dad to do what? “Race trucks” And what else do you do? “Drive trucks.” It was slowly dawning on me that he and his dad race trucks in the Dakar! I was a little taken aback at it all, wondering what the hell I was doing there? So off we go to the HINO factory where they’re in full swing getting ready to ship the trucks to South America for the 2010 Dakar. When we roll into the factory he pointed this out to me, where it was waiting for sponsors’ decals.

Ok, here’s me, rally neophyte, basically a nobody sitting in the car with a Dakar truck racing regular wondering where I fell into a worm hole? We drive on a little further and we wind up at the bay space where his dad’s truck is being worked on by their crew of 5 mechanics and they’re packing spare parts in the metal footlockers we’ve all seen on TV when they show the bivouacs.

Teru popped in a video of truck highlights from the 2009 race for me to see and it was an eye opener of just how difficult last year’s event was. We were joined by the head of the Dakar activities for HINO, Shigeo Matsumoto, and he took us to lunch where all 3000 employees eat. I was the only visitor I could see there, but no-one seemed to mind and the noodles were good. I was given a few little souvenirs too:

including one of the products of his search for sponsorship.

After lunch Teru showed me around his truck and like a kid in a candystore of I got my chance to sit in the driver’s seat and see how that felt, I still remember as a kid seeing the random bits of rally coverage on TV and being glued to the bikes and the trucks with no idea what it was all about except that it was riveting. No, he did not give me the keys for a test drive.

These trucks are not small and there is a lot of technology and information to pay attention to by both the driver and the navigator. I was interested to find out that they can change tire pressures on the fly on any wheel; and they have auxiliary oil pumps for extra cooling on demand too. The round yellow button is for the Sentinal system to warn the bikes they’re on top of them; I had instant visions of scenes from Boorman’s “Race to Dakar.”

There’s nothing extra on these machines for comfort and every effort is made to cut weight wherever they can. In the small truck class these particular HINO’s are now underpowered by quite a bit compared to many of their competitors so they have to be smarter to make up for it. Teru must be one of the wileyest drivers out there to have come second place in category last year; not to mention he's never rolled a truck either.

When he was done what he needed to do at the factory for the day Teru took us on our way back into the city, and he asked me if I wanted to stop in at their office? Of course I did, I still wanted to do some planning for Mongolia.

We pulled up outside a small double garage with the office upstairs and the first thing I noticed was the wall of history starting in 1983. I was speechless.

We go upstairs where I’m introduced to the couple of people inside including Yoshi-san: a vibrant and cheerful man. They were doing a short interview for some media type, I figured I’d piggyback on that one.

I was allowed to wander around the little office and ogle the plethora of Dakar icons and memorabilia scattered about and we talked about the various rallies they’re involved with either as drivers or support. I was in awe of Yoshi-san as I realized he has to be one of the ultimate Dakar personalities and this record proves that he’s second to none when it comes to driving trucks.

This record shows just how good he is on the world stage and how long he’s been that good. Teru is no slouch either when you see it laid out on paper like this.

I took my leave to catch the subway home still in disbelief of where I’d just spent my day. Teru and Yoshi were incredibly generous with their time and I the tourist took plenty of pictures to remind myself that dreams can come true.

I know, you’re asking yourself what this article has to do with motorcycles? Well, not a whole lot really, it’s more about these two men I had the fortune to meet who spend a lot of time and effort fundraising to keep their dreams alive and keep racing. It gives me hope that I can fulfill some of mine riding a motorcycle across the plains of Mongolia when August comes. Lawrence Hacking is the only Canadian to have entered the Mongolia Rally and I hope to be the second, if you want to go too just have a look at the organizer’s website SSER.ORG. Maybe I’ll see you there!

There's the very talented Lawrence Hacking top left above from his run through Mongolia in 2007. He's been making good on his dreams forever and has been kind enough to write about them often for us to live vicariously with more to come; that scenery is calling me like a Siren.

But before I can make good on mine they will be making good on theirs and I’ll be able to see some of it on the paltry half an hour OLN dishes out to us Canadians each day of the event. Join me at the TV for Dakar 2010 in cheering on these two hardcore drivers who were nice enough to share their time and space with some random guy from Canada.

Yoshimasa Sugawara

Teruhito Sugawara

Links of interest:

- Team Sugawara

Trail Tours - Offroading in the Ganaraska Forest

Trail Tours Adventures
- Offroading in the Ganaraska Forest

I'm in Ontario, it's vacation, and I'm up at 6 am. What's wrong with this picture? Nothing at all actually - The early starts is so that I make sure I find my way to Trail Tours; an off-road motorcycle school on the edge of the 11,000 acre Ganaraska forest. This off-road haven is just 20 minutes outside of Peterborough and approximately an hour from where I'm staying in Scarborough. Given my notoriously terrible sense of direction I want to give myself plenty of extra time. There's also the unknown of traffic seeing that's it's Friday and still a workday for most.

7 am - time to hit the road on my borrowed 09 Harley Davidson Fat Bob and get to the highway. Once I hit the road I'm pleased to discover that most of the traffic is coming in the opposite direction and I'm able to motor along at a steady pace. It's also very easy to get to the highway and I don't get lost. Bonus!

Just to skip the chase a little I'll say that Trail Tours is an off-road motorcycle and ATV school - with prices starting at $225 dollars you'll get outfitted in protective gear, get a dirt bike (or ATV), some training, and a have a guide and sweep rider for about 4 hours. That my friends is a great deal! Consider the expense of equipping yourself up for an off-road experience and do the math. It's a heck of a bargain.

The weather's been reasonably good the past few days but warm, and with the heat seems to also come the ever-present threat of thunderstorms and showers. We'd had some rain on Thursday which unbeknownst to me at this point would make for ideal conditions for my day in the woods on Friday - plenty of traction and no dust. Before I arrive at Trail Tours I stop at a gas station to check my directions - I'm a bit early anyway. I spot a nice KTM loaded on a trailer and take a seat on the curb close by. I figure that chances are good that its owner may be going to the same place as me. Turns out I was right - as I started up a conversation with Pat Steed and he's not only going to Trail Tours, he's going to be a sweep rider for the group I end up riding with that day. On top of it he's says that Trail Tours is very close to where we are now, and that I can just follow him in. This day is starting out on a good note for sure!

I ride up the dirt road and we come out in a small clearing at the edge of the forest overlooking a big field with a dirt track. There's some some truck trailers and a portable which serve as the on-site base of operations for Trail Tours. There's also a whole lot of dirt bikes and four wheelers. I can feel the adrenaline start surging with excitement. Oh, yes - this is going to be fun!

After parking the bike I start looking around and checking out the dirt bikes. I chat with Allan, who's been working with Trail Tours for the past 12 years, since he was 14 years old in fact. I also get a chance to talk to the owner, Steve WeyKamp. He's expecting a new addition to the family so, on this day he won't be riding with us, but I enjoy talking with him and he's obviously a great guy who's enthusiastic about what he does.

There's a small group today but I'm told that there's typically anywhere between 20 and 50 riders on a given day. A significant percentage of people who come to Trail Tours are first time riders. Corporate team-building groups are pretty common at Trail Tours too. Most of the people in our group have some road experience on a motorcycle but a minimal amount of dirt bike experience. Trail Tours have the terrain and machinery to accommodate ALL skill levels; from novice to expert.

Time to get the party started!

Everybody gets suited up in the supplied gear; boots, knee protectors, chest and elbow protectors, jersey, goggles, and gloves. There's a discussion of skill level; and whether you've ridden a motorcycle before too. This helps the instructors to group riders with those of a similar skill level.

Steve starts the day off by talking about what's in store for the day, giving the obligatory disclaimers, and a little promotion and thanks to all their sponsors. They're manufacturer supported and get new bikes regularly. The bike I end up on is a Honda CFR 230F. It's a nice air-cooled, single cylinder, 4-stroke mount that's both reliable and just the right size for navigating the trails of the Ganaraska. Sign in starts at 9 am, while the riding starts at 9 am and ends at 3 pm. That's plenty - believe me - it's enough time that you feel that you've gotten your money's worth but not so much that you've ridden beyond the point of extreme fatigue. If you're fatigued, that's when you'll start to make a lot of mistakes. You'll be sleeping fine after a day at Trail Tours. There's a break at noon for lunch (which is typically catered but we end up having some subs and sodas from a nearby sub shop). There's potable water available at the base camp too and you can grab a drink there or fill up a hydration system for the trails.

We start the day of riding off by gathering in field where they've got a circular track set up. An instructor tells us about proper stance on the bike for the various types of terrain we'll encounter. Standing up on the pegs is a typical position that helps you go over rough ground with ease. Through slippery corners, sit down and put your inside leg towards the front of the bike to get your weight forward. We also talk about small objects on the trail like logs, roots, and off-camber terrain and how to deal with them. The instructor watches us as we ride around the track and offers some each of us some personalized tips and advice.

We progress from that to riding, one-by-one, over a small log. We're given tips on throttle control, gearing, and looking ahead. Once we seem to have the basics under control and the instructors are confident - it's off to the woods. There's still some instruction to happen yet though, we practice our straight line braking. First with just the back brake, then with the front brake only, then with the front and rear combined. Stops are long and skids plentiful when using just the back. With the front it's easy to have the front wheel slide out but distances are reduced. Braking with the front and rear combined result in the quickest and most stable stops.

Once we've all given that a shot a few times it's time to practice whoops! Whoops are a series of bumps that are a lot like stationary and rounded waves. That doesn't sound overly fun inducing, but you'll have to believe me - it is definitely a good time! On a high-end and powerful bike such as the KTM the lead instructor was riding you kind of float over the whoops a bit. On our smaller bikes, which have less power and less suspension travel, the bike drops into the whoops a little more. We're told it's best to keep the throttle even throughout the whoop. It does sound like you're getting on the gas a bit harder when the suspension is uncompressed but it's not the case really. Standing is definitely the way to go if you want to have any speed.

Now that we've done a few loops of whoops it's time for the really fun stuff - it's time to be unleashed in the forest! One more quick lesson though - we're told that we'll cross many junctions while riding and it's each person's responsibility to take a quick look back at each junction to see if they can see the person riding behind them; if not, they're to stop at the junction so that the group stays together. If each person does this it saves the lead rider from having to stop the group, double back, and try to find the rest of the group. With hundreds of interconnected trails it can be difficult and time consuming so best to heed the significance of this advice. You'll spend more time riding the trail and less time sitting on it waiting if you do.

On to the good stuff:

The grin on my face is permanently ingrained at this point. I thought the good times had perhaps plateaued, that was before I experienced my first sandy berm. I now know that there are few things as enjoyable as hitting a sandy berm - inside foot extended forward (cranking on the throttle to induce plenty of wheel-spin) and sliding through a corner. I actually let out several "Yeahhhhh's" during these blissful maneuvers. Probably the most fun I've ever had on a motorcycle. I know that I'll return to Trail Tours now that my brain has triggered the endorphin rush that sandy berms provide. I must experience it again!

The Ganaraska forest is huge and the trails are ever-changing - a beaver had blocked our path with his new home at one point during the ride, but these guys know their way around the forest so well it's no issue; they just find another way around. It's shared terrain too and we come across a few other riders, and even a couple people on horseback. The fact that the trails are shared makes it important to pay attention and keep your eyes up, particularly when approaching corners or blind crests. We're told to try to stick to the right hand side of trails and be aware of other users. Good advice.

We ride on some 'easier' terrain in the morning. But after lunch we get into some more difficult and speedy terrain. There's plenty of challenges. There's sandy sections, puddles, mud holes, uphills, downhills, twists and turns, rocks, wide trails, and tough single track that you can just fit your handlebars between the trees. There's no pressure to ride above your limits but if you're quick you'll probably gravitate towards the front. There's no passing and riding is single file but each person gets a chance to take the lead should they want to give it a try.

Another really fun point in the day was a hill climb. Along the route we've taken we come across a relatively steep and sandy hill and we line up and take a shot at getting to the top. It's a bit tougher than it seems and the bike kicks up a huge rooster tail of sand in its wake. The bike floats around in the loose sand. If you look to the sides of the trail, chances are you'll end up there and have to turn around and ride back down for another attempt. Much to my disappointment I didn't make it my first try. I up-shifted near the top of the hill and lost a little momentum, then the front wheel caught a bit of sand and I climbed the bank at the side of the hill and set the bike down gently on its side. Darn! Mere feet from the summit! My next few attempts were successful though. Triumph! It was a really great feeling to get to the top. I experimented with starting in second at the base of the hill and the differences between standing and sitting.

Everybody took a few shots at the hill and most were able to get at least one successful run. It was a little more challenging on the 150cc bikes for sure. Those guys seemed to have a harder time with it.

After a bit more riding around it was starting to become clear that some of us were getting a little tired but we were on our way back to the base camp at this point so we just had to keep our wits about us for a little bit longer. Bikes were dropped and some minor spills occurred but nobody in our group got injured and all the equipment came home in working order too.

When we arrived back at base camp we lined up to be hosed down with the pressure washer. Bikes first - then us! Well, our muddy boots at least. We got the rest of our gear off and returned it to the Trail Tours folks. They take the gear and clean it up on site or send the equipment home for a more thorough cleaning. After it's all cleaned up the gear is put back for the next group of excited adventurers who'd arrive bright and early the next day. We share a few stories about the day and everybody seems to have had a great time and perhaps a little tired from an intense day of riding.

I'll be back!

Without a doubt, my day at Trail Tours was one of the most enjoyable days I've had on a motorcycle. I had a smile on my face from the moment I pulled into the parking lot to the time I left. The instructors were professional and informative, the equipment was well maintained and skill level appropriate, and the terrain is fantastic! Trail Tours and the Ganaraska forest is a short drive for millions of people. They're surely undiscovered gems for most - seriously, what are you waiting for?

Get yourself to Trail Tours - Pronto!

Check out the Trail Tours website HERE.

Here's a slideshow with all the pictures we took. Special thanks to Pat Steed who took the photo's of me. Pat and his wife own and operate Pat's Dual Sport Retreat.

Roads Less Travelled - Touring Ontario: Algoma Country

Roads Less Travelled - Touring Ontario: Algoma Country
By Dustin Woods, photos by Robert Stimpson

Dustin Woods is an automotive and motorcycle journalist and a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). Based in Toronto where residents experience two distinct and equally frustrating seasons; winter and construction, Woods is happiest when the city fades away from view in the mirrors of a two-wheeled machine.


While there are many fair-weather motorcyclists who are content to tear up the same local tarmac week after week, there are others who constantly gaze towards the horizon, ever searching out new roads that will prove more picturesque and challenging than those outside their front door. There are thousands of astoundingly beautiful, scenic routes across this great continent that await those who are willing to take the time to search them out. After all, nothing ventured, nothing gained. One such riding destination exists between Lakes Huron and Superior known as Algoma Country.

Millions of years ago, during the Precambrian era, a multitude of lakes and rivers were carved out of the earth, creating unique rock formations and stunning views amidst the landscape. Much of this incredibly diverse and distinctive geographical entity remains virtually untouched, allowing a co-existence with nature unseen in most of the world.

A total of 11 National parks as well as nature and wildlife preserves span this landscape where it is not uncommon to come across foxes, deer, hawks, moose or beavers during a ride. This isn’t just tourism department PR either, as I was fortunate enough to come across much of the aforementioned wildlife firsthand during my brief experience in the area. Lacking in gridlock, road rage and even streetlights for the most part, this area has become a playground for nature and motorcycle enthusiasts alike.

There are many reasons why riders may avoid venturing too far from home; kids, pets, work obligations, or even the belief that they will have to ‘rough it’ while on the road. While enduring the lack of cleanliness in truck stop restrooms is something that is difficult to avoid during long road trips away from metropolitan centers, there are a variety of options available for lodging in Algoma Country. Whether you want to experience the pristine wilderness firsthand by camping under the stars or enjoy the indulgence of a pool, hot shower, wireless Internet and satellite television, you are likely to find accommodations that suit your needs. You won’t find a Ritz Carlton for hundreds of miles, but you won’t find the exorbitant cost or pretension that often comes with such luxury hotels either. Friendly, down to earth locals offer unsurpassed northern hospitality to the point where it is not uncommon for proprietors to open up their own homes to complete strangers when their motels are filled to the brim during high season.

An active gateway to the north, Algoma Country also offers access to eco-adventures, canoeing, kayaking and some of the finest fishing lodges in the world – that is if you ever want to get off your bike. For riders who wish to combine their two-wheeled touring with sight-seeing or outdoor adventures, there are many great places to be found. Whether you want to wait out a thunderstorm for a day or just indulge your inner tourist, Algoma Country also has many activities no matter what your interest.

The Algoma Central Railway offers year-round tours through 22,000 square miles of wilderness, including the world`s largest natural wildlife game preserve and the Agawa Canyon. Passengers witness some of the most scenic, pristine wildreness in the world, all from the comfortable cabin of a luxury train. After arriving in the Saulte following an eight hour bike ride, I decided to give my butt a break by stopping in to the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre. Home to antique and historic aircraft, interactive displays and simulators, the Heritage Centre spans 25,000 square feet and can easily occupy hours of your time while waiting for rain to pass or fog to lift.

Having only a couple of days to spare in the area, we decided to tackle the Grand Circle Tour, although there are many options for routes depending on how much time you have. We ventured out from Algoma`s Water Tower Inn where we stayed in downtown Saulte Ste. Marie. While travelling by motorcycle can create a multitude of hassles when it comes to washing, storage and safety, the Water Tower Inn is no stranger to motorsport enthusiasts all year round. Located behind the grand hotel is a locking, secure storage and maintenance facility to keep machines away from the elements as well as prying eyes. Ditto for the Lakeview Hotel in Wawa.

Boasted as one of the top ten drives in all of Canada, the trip from Saulte. Ste. Marie to Wawa Ontario follows the coastline of Lake Superior along Highway 17. No two turns are the same with each one offering a new view of the great lake. Our scenic afternoon ride to Wawa (yes, we saw the giant goose) was broken up by lunch at The Voyageurs` Lodge and Cookhouse, as well as a few stops for photo opportunities and restroom facilities. After parking the bikes directly outside our private cabins at the Wawa Motor Inn, we changed out of our riding gear and headed off to the Best Northern Resort for a truly memorable meal.

Bright and early the next morning, we topped ourselves up with Tim Horton`s coffee and our bikes with gas to set out on a totally different day of riding from the day before. Where Highway 17 boasts wide open views of Lake Superior, Highway 101 towards Chapleau darts inland providing tighter turns and an equally impressive backdrop with sparkling rivers and mountain ranges. After topping up the bikes and ourselves in Chapleau, we set off down Highway 129 back towards the Saulte, stopping first in Bruce Mines and then St. Joseph Island. The most western of the Manitoulin Islands, St. Joseph Island resides within the channel between Lakes Huron and Superior and offers a combination of majestic views and small town hospitality. Home to one of the Friday the 13th destinations, the Hilton Beach Inn is often a favored destination for bikers of all kinds.

Regardless of whether you are just starting out on two wheels or are a seasoned veteran, the stunning landscape and smooth roads of Algoma Country will keep you entertained for as much time as you have to invest. The motorcycle-friendly accommodations offer high value with surprisingly little expense, which makes the trip all the more worthwhile during these difficult economic times.

So this summer, instead of doing the same old loop week in and week out, head up to Algoma Country for a change of scenery - you won`t be disappointed.

Mainland Nova Scotia - Motorcycle Road Guide

This article comes by way of reader submission by Dave Cox - avid motorcyclist, and resident of Nova Scotia. He rides a Suzuki 800 Volusia; and ride he does, based on this map he has submitted. 

Dave clearly took some time on and off the motorcycle preparing this map.  On the map he ranks many routes across the mainland portion of Nova Scotia (excludes Cape Breton). If you look closely you can see that many of the exit numbers on the 100 series highways are included.

Dave has graciously provided us with a copy of his hand drawn map so we thought we'd share it with you as a resource you can use to help plan your next Nova Scotia adventure. If you're visiting the province this may greatly assist you in planning some interesting rides and avoiding some potentially disappointing ones. 

The home base of Canadian Motorcycle Rider is Nova Scotia so I know I'll be referring to this map and checking out some of these routes this summer.

In addition to the map itself, Dave mentions that a seemingly often overlooked gem of the mainland is the 245 and 337 that take you around Cape George between New Glasgow and Antigonish. He likens it to a mini-Cabot Trail and that it's probably THE best ride on the mainland. High praise - Might just have to make that one a priority!

Thanks Dave!

Another special thanks for this submission from Dave goes to Motorcycle Mojo to whom Dave first submitted the map to.  Thanks Motorcycle Mojo for also allowing us to publish the map and share it with riders.

Note: The map is large, so rather than post a small single image of it we've broken it down into three pieces that you can enlarge, print, and piece together to have as a reference. Piece them together starting with piece 1, then 2, and finally with 3.

Click the images below to enlarge them to their full size:

Image 1
Image 2Image 3

Some additional resources for motorcyclists in Nova Scotia that you may want to take a look at:

Cabot Trail Motorcycle Retreat - A motorcycle retreat nestled on 100 acres of wooded land in Middle River, Nova Scotia. They've got three guest rooms and are a great spot to stop when exploring the Cabot Trail. CanadianMotorcycleRider readers receive a 15% discount off already reasonable rates. Be sure to mention us when booking!

Motorcycle Tour Guide Nova Scotia - A free tour guide book of Nova Scotia geared specifically towards motorcyclists. A great companion to any motorcycle trip to Nova Scotia.

NS Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal WebCams - the highway camera site of the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal. This site allows motorists to check out road and weather conditions on the Department's highway cameras during daylight hours. These cameras are located next to the highway at specific locations across the province.

NS Tourism Guide - Nova Scotia's official tourism website.  

A Winter Ride from Snow to Palm Trees

Author: Stephen Corke
Photo's: Stephen Corke
*Some photo's are clickable for larger versions

I was a newbie rider and only had one season and one long-haul ride to the Arctic Circle under my belt, so when winter neared I followed suit with my fellow bikers and parked my bike permanently for its hibernation. As the bed sheet settled over the bike and the garage door slowly lowered there was a sense of accomplishment and great memories, yet also uneasiness and a season that shouldn’t and couldn’t be finished yet?

Snow on the ground and over two months gone by without even thinking about motorbikes, my father started the ranting about moving my bike, a very large Suzuki V-Strom 650, out of his already crowded garage. I realized the bike had to be moved to my even smaller outdoor car shelter that was already occupied by my girlfriends car. I started watching the weather forecasts and road conditions, looking for an opening to ride my bike 7 km to my place along the now snow covered streets. I saw one or two days in each week where the road conditions were rideable. Checking the salt covered pavement with my rubber soled sneakers, I found much traction.

The spark was ignited in me and in mid-December my riding season was back in full force. I thought if I could ride 7 km in December why couldn’t I ride 2,900 km in February? With the new holiday ‘Family Day’ on Monday, February 16, 2009, I would only need to take four days off work to create a nine-day motorbike trip. And, I figured if I was planning on going south, I might as well ride to the southern most point of the United States, Key West, Florida, which would more than likely also be the hottest destination.

First thing first was to convince my father that I needed his garage a little longer for getting the bike back in ‘adventure riding’ shape. With a quick assessment, I made a mental note of what parts I needed and what extras I wanted for this trip. Since I had totaled both of my side cases during the summer Arctic Circle ride, I would need a cheap alternative for storing my gear. I didn’t have the cash available to fork out $600 for brand new side cases, so I went online and came upon two aluminum diamond tread tool boxes (24 x 8.25 x 10.25 in). They looked kind of like side cases so I ordered them for under $150. With a little trouble bolting them onto the side-case mounts and after sawing off the handles to stop any vibrating noise, I finally was in business for storing all my gear.

Next up, I had decided that since I would be freezing my butt off during this trip, I might as well be as comfortable as possible. I ordered a gel buffalo-haired seat and highway pegs and I must say my legs and butt thanked me for this afterward. A quick change of the oil, tightening of chain and clutch and it started to feel like it was summer again tinkering with the bike on the driveway. Except it wasn’t, instead there was an electric heater on high beside me and I could still see my breath.

Lastly I checked the treads on my tires and realized the front tire had to be replaced. Calling around and trying to order a motorbike tire during winter is not an easy task, I must admit. With much luck, Parker Bros said they could get me a new tire within the week and to bring the bike by on Saturday. I was pumped to think I would be back on the bike and riding again even though it was only going to be for a short 5 km to the shop.

Saturday came fast and when driving over to my folks place to grab the bike, I came to a depressing conclusion that the ice and snow on the road was not going to allow me to ride the bike to the shop. I was very disappointed and worried that this could be the same situation on my departure date in a couple of weeks. I tried not to think about it and shoveled the snow off the trailer and trailered the bike to the motorbike shop.

With a new front tire and the departure date only a week away, the nerves were kicking in and the excitement was building. And so were the jitters since the weather was stormy and friends were not very supportive about me doing this trip. The big question from everyone was “How are you going to ride to Key West Florida in the middle of winter when you can’t even ride your motorbike to the shop?” I didn’t have an answer for this, but I did have a feeling that kept pushing me forward.

Departure Day - Saturday February 14th, 2009

Coincidentally my departure date fell on Valentines Day. This was the first Valentines Day with my girlfriend Jenny, so in order to keep in the good books, I had purchased a dozen roses the day before and made her a beautiful creative card. And, on this card I wrote “11 roses for not just any girl; 1 rose rides to the Key’s to complete the dozen, come get it Babe!” I placed the 11 roses and card in our weight room, for Jenny to find later that day. I then slipped away into the 4:00 AM bitterly cold morning air and drove my car over to the folk’s place where my bike awaited my arrival.

Long underwear pants, a pair of socks, another pair of socks, jeans, rain pants, all weather motorbike pants, long underwear shirt, t-shirt, turtle neck, wool sweater, leather jacket, rain jacket, all weather cordura motorcycle jacket, wool neck guard, bandana, balaclava, thin gloves, deer skin mittens, heated insoles and summer motorcycle boots covered with a modified winter slipper to save some money.

Never have I taken so long to get dressed. I looked like a marshmallow man to say the least and felt like a furnace. I knew the sweat dripping down my forehead and back was not going to feel good once I hit the road. The outside temperature was at minus 8 degrees Celsius, not to mention an unimaginable windchill that would be created once I got on the highway. I was trying not to think about the cold to come. Instead I was extremely relieved that it wasn’t snowing in Toronto and the roads were relatively clear of ice. The stars were shining bright overhead, yet I had thanked the Heavens slightly too soon.

Turning on the computer and viewing the online weather forecast for the Great Lakes region it showed that Windsor and Erie were currently being dumped on with snow! This was now cutting off two of my preferred routes, the I-75 South and the I-79 South. I was not impressed. Both of these routes would have allowed me to cross the Appalachian mountain range in the southern warmer States and been the safest way of travel on a motorbike. Looking over the weather map I finally saw a route that was relatively clear skies with only 20% chance of flurries. Good enough for me! The route was to the Niagara/Buffalo border, southeast through New York to Pennsylvania, south to the I-95 in Virginia, then continuing along the I-95 south to Florida. The only worry of this way was the un-maintained farm roads in New York, not to mention I would be entering the Appalachian mountain range in the northern state of Pennsylvania and inevitably be exposed to colder, icier conditions.

I had come this far and was not turning back now. I put the rose in my jacket pocket and swung my leg over my motorbike. Turning the key the engine ignited instantly as if it had never been in a winter sleep. As the automatic garage door opened, I twisted the throttle and the bike shot out of its resting place and back onto the open road. The exhaust fumes trailed behind with a distinctive nature. It was as though all my worries and tensions had dissipated now that I was riding again. The residential streets were quiet with everyone still sleeping in their warm beds and a feeling of calmness over took me, yet this was short lived.

80, 90, 100, 110, 120 KM/H, I merged onto the highway and was quickly going to see if my many layers of clothing would hold up to the freezing air ripping into me. A heart stopping stream of wind shot through to my neck and up across my face. I couldn’t say that I wasn’t expecting this to a certain extent, yet it really caught me off guard. I estimated that there was ‘only’ 1,000 km of riding before I was above the freezing mark, so I didn’t have time to complain.

As the sun came up over the horizon I arrived at the Canada/USA border just outside of Buffalo. There was a short line-up of vehicles, with many eyes looking at me in shock and wonder. Riding up to the border station, the officer said he needed to check his vision because he hadn’t seen a motorbike in over three months. I laughed and said “You probably won’t see one for another two months.” With a quick explanation of where I was headed, the officer let me pass with a sarcastic “Good luck!”

After almost two hours of riding, I pulled over to call Jenny and let her know I was still breathing and now in the United States. I had to remove my helmet and mittens to use my cell phone. This was a big mistake… The winter air took advantage of my exposed head and ate away at any body heat that I was still producing. The sweat from earlier that morning had made my clothes damp, which now was further stripping me of any warmth I still latched on to. (I know you're thinking, that I brought this on myself.)

Needless to say it was a short conversation with a quick “Hi, I’m alive” and a reminder for Jenny to check the weight room. I put away my cell phone and instantly put back on my helmet and mittens in hopes this would stop me from shivering. Having my legs around the warm engine again made me realize I wasn’t going to be able to stop and site see very much the first day of riding. My objective now was a very determined one; Ride Hard, Ride Long and Ride Fast! I needed to escape the winter temperatures as fast as possible, for I knew my body was now in a constant battle to keep warm.

Glancing westbound I noticed the storm system that had been forecasted and was somewhat relieved to know that every second that passed I rode further away. Following my GPS unit I came upon a variety of two-lane farm roads that meandered throughout a now hilly landscape. While this was the ‘fastest route’ I was starting to question if this was the smartest route. Hay mixed with snow was dragged onto the road where tractors had pulled out from their driveways. Over a foot of snow was less then six feet from either side of my motorbike. I was riding south, yet there was an accumulation of much more snow the further I rode into the state of New York.

Gripping my bike tightly with both hands and legs, the tree line came to an end and the question of, ‘why was I doing this trip?’ got answered. For as long as my eyes could see in all directions were rolling open fields, glazed with a thick layer of powdery untouched snow. Shooting up from the virgin snow were several large motionless windmills that looked surprisingly native to the land. For this moment my intense captivation overshadowed any doubts I was still having about the trip and fueled my mind to press on.

I left the snow behind in my side mirrors as I rode into the state of Pennsylvania and the heart of the Appalachian mountain range. I passed many signs warning that the, ‘Road May Ice in Winter’, which further intensified my focus and awareness of my surroundings. Even though I was now riding south the outside temperature had decreased significantly as a result of the elevation I was gaining, along with the sun hiding behind clouds. Lakes, rivers and waterfalls were all frozen solid.

Mentally and physically at this point I was in bad shape. My toes and fingers had gone from painfully cold to now just numb. The heated insoles had only worked for the first two hours of riding. I was constantly wiping away frost building up on the inside of my helmet visor, caused from my warm breath meeting the freezing air. One mistake or one misjudgment would be catastrophic. There was not much of a safety net on these roads, with only a small guardrail separating me from a rocky cliff.

After many hours of riding I started to notice the mountainous landscape leveling. In the distance I could see an opening in the sky where the sun was shining through, encouraging me to keep riding. Every few kilometers I would feel pockets of warm air masses and this occurrence was getting more frequent the further I rode. Almost at the exact moment that I left the Appalachians, the sun struck my face and the temperature was instantly a few degrees warmer. It was like getting a reward for completing the most difficult part of my journey.

I was now in the state of Virginia and on the I-95 south riding fast. To make better time and keep my legs warm from the engine, I stayed on my bike when fueling up. Checking my side mirror I couldn’t help but smile. A blue sport bike came roaring up my left side, overtaking me and disappeared into the traffic ahead. This was the first motorbike I had seen on the journey and I knew it was not going to be the last.

At around 5 PM I decided to grab a bite and pulled over at a rest stop. As a result of my intense determination to get south fast, I had not eaten anything since 4 AM and I was starting to feel the effects of it. Checking my side cases I got out my dinner; a granola bar and banana. It wasn’t much but it was all I needed to keep me going. There was about an hour left of sunlight and I was not one for riding in an unfamiliar place during the dark, so the pit stop didn’t last long.

My body was in no shape to be camping and luckily my grandfather’s place was only about a 4-hour ride away, in North Carolina, so I pushed forward as the sun set over the pine trees. The thought of a warm bed filled my mind as the temperature began to drop as the darkness came. Going through the motions I road into the night. Frequently looking down at the GPS mounted on my tank bag and watching the kilometers decrease to the final destination for my first day of riding. 300 km, 200 km, 100 km, 0 km, the GPS unit voiced out “You Have Reached Your Destination.”

Pulling into my Grandfathers gravel driveway in Pinehurst, NC was such a relief and victory. I had rode 1,409 km that day and it was the most exhausting and painful day of my motorbiking career. My grandfather was very welcoming even with my surprise arrival and set me up with a much-appreciated warm plate of food and a very comfortable bed. I was fairly certain I had the first signs of hypothermia as I was having much trouble focusing and being coherent. My body ached form head to toe, I was mentally drained and the painful thought of getting on my bike tomorrow quickly faded away as I fell into a deep sleep.

Day 2 - Sunday February 15th, 2009

Morning came fast and I had slept in slightly longer then I would have liked, yet I knew I had needed a good sleep. There was a lot of riding to do today and thankfully it was a beautiful sunny day, and around 8 degrees Celsius outside! With the smell of the pine needles in the air, the birds chirping, and the cherry blossoms in full bloom, I completely forgot about how much pain I was in the previous night. It was like I had fast tracked through winter right into spring. I jammed my all weather motorbike jacket and pants into my back case, and stuffed my winter slippers and mittens into my knapsack. It was great! And finally what I like to call, good riding weather. Saying goodbye to my Grandfather with many thanks, I took off towards South Carolina.

Not far into the day I met some locals at the gas station that were curious about my bike and they felt it was a little too early in the season to bring out their bikes. I smiled and said this weather felt like heaven to me. For the first time on this journey many bugs started splattering on my windshield. I normally would find this to be a nuisance, yet this time I rather enjoyed witnessing it and knowing that the winter weather was behind me.

I road fast alongside farmers fields that were green with new life, saw much wildlife scurrying from the roadside, and shortly re-connected back onto the I-95 south. I had no time to enjoy the sun since I was running behind schedule, so I was riding over-time through South Carolina along the fast interstate. While the landscape was rather flat, the vegetation around me was starting to change

My stomach started to grumble so I pulled over just north of the Florida border. I parked the bike outside of Denny’s and took out the sandwiches my Grandfather had kindly made for me. Enjoying the warmth and homemade lunch, I looked over and saw something that was truly uplifting. A palm tree! I had done it; a winter ride from snow to palm trees. This was the first sign of the tropical climate to come and was a very motivating sight to see.

Riding further and further south I noticed more and more palm trees. I entered into Florida without even realizing it, due to the rainy weather I was encountering. Florida was supposed to be the sunshine state of America, yet it kept raining. But I wasn’t complaining, I would prefer rain any day over snow.

The roads were wet and the night came fast. I was not willing to pitch a tent in a dark wet campsite, so I pulled off the I-95 and into a motel. I was 200 km from Miami and I had rode 1,007 km today. My body needed a bed. I was too comfortable last night to have anything but the same for tonight; especially knowing I would be tenting the entire time in Key West, Florida. I fell asleep in a great mood, knowing I’d be picking Jenny up from the Key West airport tomorrow evening.

Day 3 - Monday February 16th, 2009

I woke up early not even needing my cell phone alarm. It was around 20 degrees Celsius this morning and gorgeous. The clouds had blown over during the night and most of the puddles had evaporated. There was no need to wear any of my winter riding gear today. With my back and side cases already completely full, I had to bungee the remainder of my winter gear to my passenger seat. It felt like summer had arrived. It was a day to take in and enjoy.

Riding onto the Florida Turnpike I came across the first tolls of the journey and reluctantly paid. I had my sunglasses on and my visor up as I anxiously rode on in anticipation of seeing the Ocean. There were palm trees in every direction as I pulled over to check my tire pressure. When I had left Toronto, I had the tire pressure low for better traction on the winter roads. I thought since I was in Florida it would be a good time to increase the pressure to limit the tread loss on the hot asphalt. When I checked the back and front tire pressure I was somewhat stumped. Both tires had increased in pressure by about 5 PSI. How could this be? Well, now I know the answer, so let me explain. When traveling from a really cold to really hot place the air expands and increases the PSI. I’m guessing most of you already knew this, but for me at the time, it was really weird.

I felt like I was on the last lap of the trip as I entered into the north end of the Florida Key’s. There were many bikers on the road now and to my surprise not wearing helmets. I saw that Jenny had text messaged me a few hours prior from Toronto airport. It read ‘I’m at the Airport! Yah! See you soon babe!’ Just to clarify I’m ‘babe’. Everything was starting to come together, yet I had little time to daydream.

I was extremely hot and had to take off even more clothes to minimize the sweating. I loved what felt like 30 degree Celsius weather. And I hate to use this word, but it was AWESOME! I was only a couple hours from Key West. I could smell the ocean before I could see it. But when I rode the bike over the first bridge into the Key’s and saw the Gulf of Mexico to my right and the Atlantic Ocean to my left, I was amazed. The sun reflecting off the salt water producing so many variations and mixes of deep blues and greens that even for myself, though colour blind, was still very impressive. There were shark and crocodile crossing signs along with many very exotic looking birds. I was in the heart of the Florida Keys and enjoying every minute of it.

When I crossed the Seven Mile Bridge with open Ocean on either side of me, I couldn’t help thinking about the scene from ‘True Lies’ with Arnold yelling ‘The Bridge is OUT!!!’ I lost track of how many motorbikes I was seeing now, with most waving or nodding to me with a sign of acceptance. I was almost there and I was doing mini squats on my foot pegs to give my behind a break. There was no time to relax yet, for I had to pick Jenny up at the Key West airport.

I arrived at Boyd’s Campground, Key West Florida one hour before Jenny’s arrival time, and to modestly put it, I was feeling good. Today was a shorter yet very memorable ride of 455 km. The campsite was 5 feet from the ocean and had a million dollar view. Almost from the second I had parked the bike, my camping neighbour was offering me a fresh piece of mahi-mahi that he had caught fishing early that day. I couldn’t have asked for a better setting to finish my journey.

With little time to spare I set up my small two-person tent and took off to the Airport, only a short ride away. I was outside Key West airport waiting for Jenny to arrive and I don’t know why but I was a little nervous. I got out the now withered looking rose and had it ready to give Jenny.

Before I knew it, Jenny was walking out of the airport and I was running over to her.

I had anticipated this one moment for so long and once it occurred time stood still. It was a kiss that was the perfect conclusion to a trip that was so tiring, so painful, so freaking cold, so much work, so mentally strenuous, and finally so satisfying in so many different ways. And yes, she loved the rose and I scored many points.

After a well earned three day vacation in Key West, Jenny flew back to Toronto and I made the return ride back home. A snowstorm throughout the upper States and southern Ontario forced me to store my bike in Knoxville, Tennessee and take a bus back, where I now am eagerly planning my next ride.

Vegas anyone?

Thankfully I videotaped the ride and posted it to view online at otherwise nobody would have believed me.

Cheers & Safe Riding,

A few Newfoundland "Motorcycle Must Ride" Coastal Routes

Content: Geoff Smith & Dan McAfee
Photos by: Geoff Smith unless otherwise noted.
* Click images for larger versions.

For those visiting the fair island of Newfoundland by motorcycle, be sure to include as much 'coastal road' riding as you can. You won't have to look far because the Island of Newfoundland boasts approximately 10,000 km's of coastline, with another 6,000 km's along the shores of Labrador. Even in a country as big as Canada, those are some impressive numbers!

On the coast is where you'll find many of the truly spectacular riding routes. And spectacular they are! It's not uncommon to see moose, icebergs, rocky cliffs, crashing ocean waves, light houses, and plenty of friendly Islanders.

The main highway (Trans Canada Highway [TCH] or Route 1) runs almost entirely inland, and can be somewhat dull, when compared to the wonderful vistas and serpentine roads you'll find along the coastal routes. The TCH is a great way to link the coastal routes though.

Here's small sampling of suggested Island of Newfoundland routes which will not fail to dazzle:

Western Newfoundland
- This region of Newfoundland runs from Port aux Basques to the top of the Great Northern Peninsula. With a 1.25-billion-year-old geological history as old as the planet and a human history going back 4,500 years there's plenty to see and do; both on and off the motorcycle.

1. Deer Lake to Trout River (Route 430 and 431)

Deer Lake has a rich heritage and a history dating back to 1864 when the first settlers arrived. According to the town's website; Deer Lake derived its name from the many Caribou that could be seen crossing the large lake in the area. The Caribou were mistaken for Deer.

Trout River is within one of the Island's treasure's - Gros Morne National Park. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and haven to geologists and nature lovers.

Gros Morne is world renouned, and provides rare insight into the geological evolution of ancient mountain belts. Don't worry though - you certainly don't have to be a geologist to appreciate the stunning sights in this area.

2. Port Au Port Peninsula Loop (Route 460 and 463)

Roughly triangular in shape, the peninsula extends into the Gulf of St. Lawrence and is joined to Newfoundland by an isthmus (a narrow strip of land that connects two larger pieces) connecting at the town of Port au Port.

Offering up a rocky shoreline measuring approximately 130 km in length you'll not be too far from the ocean at any point along this route.

This road offers up some fantastic ocean views. Be sure to stop occasionally to take in a few sights because the road will require your attention.

Stop and smell the roses, or should I say, stop and smell the ocean breezes!

Central Newfoundland

3. Bishop Falls to Harbour Breton (Route 360)

The railway played a big part in the history of Bishop Falls. A trestle in this small Canadian town is the longest of its kind, east of Quebec, at a length of 927 feet.

The town runs along the banks of the Exploits River and is said to offer some of the best salmon fishing on the Island. Maybe you can spare a bit of space in the panniers for a fly fishing rod?

The route takes you from Bishop Falls and on to Harbour Breton. Harbour Breton was founded by early European settlers who relied on the bountiful fish resources in the many bays and inlets that dot the rugged coastline. The traditional fishery is still the mainstay of the town's economy though some are moving into emerging fisheries, aquaculture, and eco-tourism as well.

Eastern Newfoundland

4. Goobies to Fortune (Route 210 and 213 and 220)

Goobies is a small community that provides a great spot to gas up and have a scoff as the locals might say - you'll likely just call it plenty of delicious food!

Another claim to fame is that they've also got a giant moose named Morris, built as a tourist attraction and reminder to motorists to be mindful of these large animals on the roads.

Morris weighs in at about 10 tonnes which is quite a bit larger than the local variety. Moose are the second largest land animal in North America and full grown males can weigh 850–1580 lbs.

Be particularly vigilant for these mighty plant eating beasts if you must ride ride at dusk or dawn. With their dark fur they're near invisible at night so best to avoid riding after dark if you can. They also have tall slender legs and carry their weight high. Collisions with moose are often deadly for motorcyclists and cars alike.

Fortune is a town whose name is thought to come from the Portuguese word "fortuna" meaning "harbour of good fortune." It's also the Newfoundland terminus for the St. Pierre et Miquelon Ferry Service. For this reason Fortune is sometimes referred to as "the gateway to the French Islands."

St Pierre et Miquelon is an archipelago of eight islands and the only remnant of the former colonial empire of New France that remains under French control. A very interesting side trip if you've got the time.

5. Port Blandford, to Bonavista, to Clarenville (Route 233 and 235 and 230)

Port Blandford is a town in eastern Newfoundland which was probably first settled in the late 1870's when lumbering and boat building were the main way folks earned a living here. The first substantial settlement in the area came when the railroad built a line through the town in the 1890's.

Way back in the 1500's a freelance Venetian exlporer by the name of Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot), was contracted by England’s Henry VII to find new lands, and a sea route to the Orient. Cabot set sail from Bristol, England in his ship the Matthew in 1497. When Cabot first saw land he’s reputed to have said "O Buon Vista" (“Oh, Happy Sight!”). And that's how Bonavista came by it's name apparently.

Last but not least, we come to Clarenville. The town of Clarenville is located near the center of three peninsulas: Avalon, Burin, and Bonavista. The date of the first settlement of this town isn't fully known but can be traced back to approximately 1848 when it was home to a sawmill.

Route 1 (the Trans-Canada Highway) and Route 230 pass through the town and link Clarenville to the Bonavista Bay area and to the rest of the provincial road network. Because of this geographic location and the variety of services provided by the area, Clarenville has long been known as "The Hub of The East Coast".

6. Southwest Arm (Route 204)

The Southwest Arm is likely one of the most photographed areas of the Island. This is the stuff of postcards! Better have your camera at the ready.

Two of the main communities in the area are Southport and Little Hearts Ease. That's right! Little Hearts Ease. I challenge you to try and not enjoy yourself riding a motorcycle in a place called Little Hearts Ease!

Early settlers were attracted to Southport because of its proximity to the once plentiful fishing grounds around West Random Head and the entrance to the Southwest Arm. It has a long history, having been used as an alternative anchorage by seventeeth century English ships and eventually being settled in the late 1700's.

Nowadays though the popoulation is very small, ie: less than 50 inhabitants as of 2007, because of the lack of industry. Most have had to move elsewhere to make a living.

One thing Southport still does have in abundance is beautiful scenery. Close your eyes, breathe in the fresh salty air, and it's not hard to imagine what it may have been like living here hundreds of years ago, trying to make a living from the sea.

Surely not a spot to miss if you're planning to be near this part of the Island.

7. The Cape Spear highway, (Route 11)

Cape Spear is located on the Avalon Peninsula near St. John's, Newfoundland. The Cape Spear highway takes you to the Cape Spear National Historic Site, which is the most easterly point in North America* and has Newfoundland's oldest still existing lighthouse. Dating from 1836 it was in operation until 1955 and is now a museum.

*There's actually a bit of debate about this, with Nordost Rundingen, Greenland or Semisopochnoi Island, Alaska also laying claim to the title. Most people won't question you on it if you quote it as being such I imagine.

History and WWII buffs may be interested to check out the massive guns that remain on site, each weighing 30 tons and had a range of 13 km. The guns are remnants from the Second World War when the site was a coastal defence battery.

In 1955 a new concrete building was constructed to house the lighthouse. The original lighthouse building and lightkeeper's house have been restored though.

Some useful resources if you're planning a trip to Newfoundland:

Dakar 2009 - The Canadians are coming!

Article by: Mike Buehler

Mike Buehler is a two wheel fan from Portugal Cove, Newfoundland. He's been riding motorcycles for 15 years and pedally bikes for many many more. He earns a living as an Abseiler and can currently be found in the middle of the North Atlantic. If you can find him at home he's usually riding something fun.

Dakar! For most motorcycle enthusiasts just the word instills visions of big offroad rally bikes hammering across the desert and dunes of western Africa trailing plumes of dust.

Image from BBC Sport

The deserts of Africa are full of mystery and romance for most of us who’ve never been there to see the reality of the harsh conditions they can dish out and the beauty that you will not find exactly the same anywhere else. As far as the Dakar is concerned it’s the opportunity for competitors to pit themselves and their machines against some of the most challenging terrain and conditions they are likely to face in any other aspect of their lives.

Television coverage of the event always seems to show bikes stuck in sand sinkholes or smashed bikes from an unfortunate trip into the rocks. Sometimes we’ll get to see them wide open across a chott or dry lakebed and fantasize that we could be that person on that bike. Every once in awhile viewers get a glimpse of some of the local cultures the circus trundles through on its mission to the seaside city of Dakar. Long days in the saddle through rugged terrain take their toll; breaking down the the machines and bodies of competitiors over the course of the three weeks it takes to complete. Entry in the Dakar by no means guarantees that you'll get to complete it. Most don't finish at all!

The first edition of the Dakar was held in 1979, called the Paris-Dakar because of its start and end cities. Out of 170 competitors, less than half finished the inaugural brainchild of Thierry Sabine. Considering Sabine was French and the route left from Paris it may come as no surprise that a Frenchman, Cyril Neveu, won the first event. Neveu recorded the first victory on a Yamaha. Many years have come and gone since the rally’s inception but the French have continued to dominate the winners podium t aking the top spot in 19 out of 29 years. The rally has been won exclusively by Europeans with no other parts of the world represented as of yet.

1986 marked a sad mid-point of the history of the Dakar when a tragic event took the life of its founder. Sabine was killed during the Dakar that year when the helicopter he was in crashed in a sudden sand storm. All five on board died in the accident.

After the loss of Sabine, the Dakar persevered despite many hardships; in 1994 two time winner Hubert Oriol ran the show until he stepped down in 2004. Now the rally is in the hands of Patrick Zaniroli.

Image - Thierry Sabine

In the 29 years since the first Dakar there have been few North Americans on the start list, and none that have had the right mix of skill and luck to make it to the finish line first. When you get even more specific there have only been a handful of Canadians to give it a try at all.

The first Canadians to attempt the Dakar were defeated by the rally and had to pull out before the finish. It wasn’t until 2001 that Lawrence Hacking made the finishers podium and became the first Canadian to stand upon it.

Image - Lawrence Hacking 2001

The second Canadian to make it to the finish was Guy Giroux who went for it in 2002 and pulled off a 16th place finish out of 175 motorcycle competitors. Truly impressive!

Shawn Price ran the rally in ’03 and was described as an American with a Canadian passport, so I’m not 100% sure to fully count him as a Canadian who has made it to the finish.

The next Canadian finisher was Bob Bergman who was bitten by the Dakar dream and got himself there in 2005. He finished what many touted as one of the hardest Dakars in memory.

There are many reasons why Bob’s feat is all the more impressive: it was his first attempt, he ran solo as a privateer, he largely paid his own way, and he finished in one of the hardest years.

Bob was kind enough to lend me some of his time to informally interview him on the phone to get a little bit of his background and motivation to race the Dakar.

He was a roadracer in the 80’s but didn’t have much offroad experience. In 2001 Bob started riding in the dirt and when he started racing a few enduros the idea of racing the Dakar blossomed.

Image - Bob Bergman 2005

For three years he followed the event and studied the rules all the while putting together a plan to get himself into the race as a competitor. When race year came around the training regimen ramped up quite a bit to include longer and longer motorcycle rides along with increasingly longer runs to build endurance.

With the physical side under control Bob still needed a machine to race on and to take care of all the other myriad of logistics it takes to get to Africa.

His first thought was to use a reworked KTM 640 Adventure but came to the conclusion that it wouldn’t be cost effective nor would it end up being exactly what he needed. Guy Giroux, yup the same Guy Giroux who finished in 2002, came up with the solution of selling Bob the same KTM 660 Rally that he rode in ’02. It’s really a totally different animal than a regular KTM 640 Adventure, purpose built to excel in the Dakar. Not to mention the extra fuel tanks and electronics such as the roadbook and the event GPS, another difference is the very high seat built to reduce the distance from sitting to standing to help reduce fatigue from switching from one to the other for weeks on end.

Decisions like this helped keep the total cost down to a manageable level to the point where Bob didn’t even go looking for any major sponsors besides his shop sponsor: Cycle Improvements. He proved that it is possible to go on a comparative shoestring and succeed; coming from Canada really made him a true underdog compared to the dominant European contingent in the event.

Bob wrote an excellent ride report about his experience that can now be found on a dedicated thread on ridetherock that really gives the reader a front row seat to the event. This is a great read and is a shorter viewpoint than Lawrence Hacking’s superb book “To Dakar and Back” that is readily available in major bookstores and at a discount in the CMR bookstore. (It's in the 'Adventure' category) If you think you know what the Dakar is like–think again; after reading these you’ll know it’s even harder than you thought.

The landmark 2008 Dakar had two Canadian hopefuls that were putting in their paces to make a bid. Tod Davidson from Ontario was working hard to train while using up his savings and hunting for corporate sponsorship. Everything was coming together including a stellar KTM 525 with the full Rally build when he crashed while sand training in California 3 weeks before the scheduled start. The results of that crash included broken ribs and a punctured lung. Unlucky! By the time he was a week from the race start Tod made the decision not to go despite a thumbs up from his doctor. I guess it didn’t matter anyway as the Race was cancelled in the 12th hour due to the murder of several French tourists in Mauritania. The event organizers were worried that the rally itself would be targeted. Untold millions of dollars and dreams went up in smoke as a result. It was the first time in the history of the event that it had been cancelled, despite previous threats to competitors.

Images - Don Hatton

Another Canadian looking for his own glory in 2008 was Don Hatton. I made several attempts to contact him through his website to no avail. I was able to get in contact with Don after finding his thread on ADVrider though! It turns out that Don is again on the roster for Dakar ’09, which is great. We now have two Canadians to support and cheer for! Is this a first in the history of the Dakar?

2009 Dakar - The Route

Dakar 2009 will make history yet again as it moves from the African Continent to South America where the course will cover every kind of terrain as it wanders through the Argentina and Chile landscapes. The route is made up of a near 6,000 km round trip to Buenos Aires, via Valparaiso. Starting on January 3rd and finishing up on the 18th, there is only a single rest day scheduled!

This year there are 530 teams registered to compete in the event. 230 of those entrants are motorcyclists. The longest day appears to be Stage 10 which falls on Tuesday, January 13. The special stage is 666 km that day! I wonder if that's some kind of joke!

I looked into buying a “tourist” seat in a team pickup truck but my meager resources couldn’t make the entry fees for that. Oh well. But all is not lost–a new Canadian contender has surfaced and we now have someone to cheer for!

Image - Pierre Navarro

Another Canadian looking to test themselves by attempting the Dakar in 2009 is Pierre Navarro is from Quebec. He'll be racing on a rally modified Yamaha. You should go to his website and order a t-shirt to help out a little bit and show your support for the latest Canadian to make his bid to stand atop the podium at the Dakar finish line and go home with a finisher’s medal.

Get ready for it!

The 2009 Dakar will be airing exclusively on the OLN network in Canada. It will premiere on January 3rd and air weekdays at 4:30 & 7:30 pm and on weekends at 4 & 7 pm.

Here's a couple of related websites you may also be interested in checking out:

- Don Hatton's website
- Pierre Navarro's website

Tales from the Bikes of Lighthouse Hunters - Part II - Going Off Half Cocked

Mike Buehler is a two wheel fan from Portugal Cove, Newfoundland. He's been riding motorcycles for 15 years and pedally bikes for many many more. He earns a living as an Industrial Rope Access Technician and can currently be found hanging off of wind turbines in Pennsylvania. If you can find him at home he's usually riding something fun.

Written by: Mike Buehler
Editing: Dan McAfee
Photo's by: Mike Buehler unless otherwise noted

Tales From the Bikes of Lighthouse Hunters - Part II - Going Off Half Cocked

This past year I endured a riding season with far less bike time than I wanted. My lack of riding time was largely due to a busy job schedule that kept me far from home for much of the year. I even had to pass up a 10 day trip to Labrador that a buddy and I had planned for months!

When I got a call from work in late October saying that I’d be heading to Nova Scotia for another job at the end of the week, I knew I wouldn’t get much more riding in if I didn’t plan something, and quick! The time to make a break was now, so I lifted my spirits and got on with the planning. I had been a little down, due to the lack of riding, and almost as if to rub salt in the wound, a speeding ticket on Thanksgiving the week before. Up to 6 points now!

So it’s Tuesday and I was scheduled to fly on the weekend, what to do? My time constraints were many, between having to take some time to care for my mom's animals while she was away, and making sure I was home in time to pack and catch a flight, all the while dodging the less than ideal weather we'd been having.

The week before, my friend Geoff posted an invitation to make a run to Tides Cove Point down on the Burin Peninsula, about 350 km from St. John's but  it might be less from my house? Which got me thinking that I hadn’t really been lighthouse hunting since May and he'd probably given up on anyone still playing the lighthouse photo game and thought he’d walk away with the trophy.  Not if I could help it!

So I started hatching another ‘hare’ run plan to balance Geoff’s ‘tortoise’ approach all season. I wondered how many lighthouses I could photograph? If I rode down the Burin Peninsula I could grab Tides Cove Point, St. Lawrence Head, the same 3 lighthouses that Geoff and Bill visited on the west side of the peninsula and just maybe I'd get lucky and Burin Island would be visible from shore? From there I'd boot up to Bay L'Argent, catch the southern coast boat over to Poole's Cove and grab Belleoram and English Harbour West while hoping to see St. Jaques Island too. Twillingate maybe? A long run home but doable if all of the cards were in my favour.

Okay, a possible schedule emerged: spend Tuesday night at my girl’s house, Wednesday night after a class, head out to my house in New Melbourne to prep my gear and get the bike out of the basement. Thursday ride down the Burin Peninsula, do the loop around the bottom and camp somewhere by Bay L'Argent, near St. Benards to catch the ferry on Friday morning. Friday I’d grab the Connaigre Peninsula lighthouses and if I wasn't flying out until Sunday I could ride way north 325 km to Twillingate too, then settle in for a long 450 km ride home on Saturday. Could be fun? My fingers were crossed…

Foiled! I had to stay home to make sure the dog was covered for her morning walk on Thursday, timing it for the pet sitter to take her out at 3:30 pm, not to mention I was booked on a plane on Saturday - not Sunday. I rolled out of the driveway at mom’s house near St. John’s at 10:12 am Thursday – destination: New Melbourne, almost two hours away. Curses! Ok, leave Portugal Cove and hit highway one, the Trans Canada, and boot it 55 km or so to the new highway 75; take the 75 as far as Victoria and switch to the 74 which takes you across the peninsula and on to the 80, then take the 80 up the coast 30 km past Heart's Content to my house in New Melbourne. That equates to an hour and 50 minutes riding time at 8 kilometers over the limit. Sigh…

Getting my bike out of the basement by myself proved to be a treat! There’s a short ramp, to one tall step up the inside, to one step down and four steps up the outside which is tricky enough that I had to run it out under power using some (what I thought were spoiled and solid) bags of concrete powder as makeshift steps inside. I did manage to extricate the bike from its resting place after a short and painful struggle that sent concrete powder flying. A bit of concrete powder cleanup and wincing through the pain of a charley horse, just above my right knee, and I'd be ready. The charley horse was from the footpeg hitting me on a rollback during one failed attempt. But of course I still needed to look after a few more details around the house… after the usual delays, chats, and packing I was finally good to roll out at 3:30 pm.  Hmmm...Can I still pull this off with such a late start?

I detest the Department of Motor Vehicle point system, and having to let my speedometer and fear of speeding tickets dictate my pace rather than the road! I was determined to have fun despite my lack of pace. On the road down highway 80 all the way back to the Trans Canada, west as far as Goobies to catch 210 south towards Marystown. After riding very close to the speed limit the whole way I rolled into the town of Burin at late dusk, around 7 pm.

I took a brief spin around town with my eyes open for Little Burin Island, but with no luck, I rode on to Fox Cove and then out the Tides Cove Road to capture my first lighthouse of the trip.  All the while, I was hoping to see a spot where I could pitch my tent in relative privacy and comfort. In the dark, I arrived at the first lighthouse and spent a little time searching for a piece of flat ground. I settled on a spot with just enough level grass beside the helicopter pad. I was a little sheltered from the wind and below the ever present revolving light. Yay!

I checked my phone for coverage, still a few bars, and with that small blessing I made the appropriate "I'm safe and sound" calls before settling in to pitch my tent and make some dinner & coffee.

Rats!  Here's where I realize most of the things I'd forgotten in my rush to get on the road: all of my eating utensils, my can opener, my book, of course my toothbrush and toothpaste, and my headlamp - it was still in my work bag, but I did remember to grab my raingear. I’m an idiot!  I promptly came to the conclusion that I’d run off 'half cocked'. Fortunately I did remember a knife so I ‘made’ supper of cheese and salami and lamented not having a book.

With nothing else to read I looked over my map, checked some distances and came to the conclusion that I'd probably need to be rolling by 6 am to have any hope of making the boat at 9:15 in the morning. With that I set my watch alarms for 5:30 am, 5:45 am, and 6 am to be able to check daylight. Bedtime 9:30 pm, sleep was mostly good, I still didn't need to zip up my sleeping bag, but every time I tossed & turned and tried to stretch my legs my charley horse woke me up a little more. Perfect!

I woke up to predawn light and surprise at the time being 7:15 am. Oops, I guess I was tired? Obviously I wasn't going to get any useable photos any earlier so I might as well take my time and just change my plans. Now I can make a day of riding the Burin Peninsula and forget the boat. Relax, I have plenty of time to enjoy coffee now...

Not long after I took that shot the lighthouse keeper rolled up to unlock the gate below me and start his day; I said hi and he invited me in for a visit to which I replied that I would be happy to and would be there right after I packed up.

Lighthouse keeper, Barry Hollet, drank a cup of coffee with me and gave a great history lesson about the lighthouses around the Burin Peninsula and where I could see the ones on islands from land. I left him with the news that one of my riding buddies might show up later in the day and a request not to give him (Geoff) any extra lighthouse information unless he specifically asked. Sorry Geoff, that was low of me, but I needed all the breaks I could get, ha ha ha, sneaky bugger!

The road back into the town of Burin is fun and scenic with lots of small roads through tiny coves that bring you back to an earlier time when it was hard to eke out a living, but probably a lot less complicated than today in many ways. Then it was back onto the main road route 220 towards Little Burin, St. Lawrence Head, then on around the bottom of the peninsula.

Now the lighthouse hunt was on in earnest! I had my first one in the bag and more to come:

My map showed a secondary road between Lawn and Lord's Cove right off of the main road that I was already on; it was nearer the water and proved to be a scenic and pleasurable ride on my dual sport. Most street bikes would not be suitable for riding on this section due to the poor condition of the road. It was full of very loose dirt/gravel and plenty of large eroded rain ruts.

Barry, the friendly lighthouse keeper, had another surprise for me, which was the scoop on Allan's Island lighthouse that I knew nothing about.

There are a number of lighthouses that are not identified on the lighthouse link Geoff had posted on our web forum. Another good resource is the government of Canada, Fisheries and Ocean's website (see end of story for link) where you can access the current Newfoundland and Labrador list of navigational signals and lights. There is usually a brief description that will tell you what kind of structure it is. Be forewarned that you will need a decent map to go along with it and will still have a tricky time figuring out what’s worth riding to for the photo value, unless of course you just want to ride.

I met Peter, the Allan’s Island lighthouse keeper, halfway out the road on his way to lunch. I was sorry I didn't get to look around inside his freshly painted premises.

Barry told me where I could see Little Burin Island light and Green Island light from the road. I rode out as far as I could along a small spit of land and took a shot with the optical and digital zooms maxed out on my camera. The lighthouse was barely visible in the photo, but it still counted for a point in our game.

Miquelon and its sister island St. Pierre are not well known, but they are very interesting in that they do not belong to Newfoundland, or for that matter, Canada, they belong to France. If you go there don’t forget your passport; it is a trip that is well worth the short passenger ferry ride just to experience the French culture and cuisine, and so close to home. Better check ahead to see if they allow bikes on the ferry from Fortune though.

I rode through an ATV path along the shore to see if I could get a better shot of Green Island with St. Pierre in the background. I was pleasantly surprised at how my cheap Korean Shinko tires performed in all the rocky/wet/muddy/grassy terrain and how well the trusty KTM 640 Adventure performed off road even with my bags loaded with gear.

It’s another 10 kilometer dirt road ride out to Fortune Head where I stopped for a quick chat with Gordon Price, the lighthouse keeper there; all the time amazed that there were lighthouse keepers still manning their posts out here.

Grand Bank lighthouse is the easiest lighthouse to get to anywhere that I can think of: it sits on the end of the town wharf.

I was't surprised to find that nobody sells premium gas in Grand Bank so I pulled up to a pump at the local gas station and took off my bags, the seat, and then a side cover to get at the little wire I needed to unplug to change the fuel map for low octane. Sigh. You’d think they’d make it a little easier on a bike designed for riding far off the beaten path wouldn’t you? The little wire above my finger is the one in question.

Garnish lighthouse is nothing special to look at and apparently was built by the community more for scenic rather than safety value. In our game it still counts because you can climb up in there if you wanted to (at least I think those are the rules?).

It was 3:30 pm and time to head home. My little lighthouse run was far more successful than I expected when I got up that morning - 8 lighthouses! I had no regrets about the change of plans. I think the boat route would be a nice one to take to Harbour Breton for the ‘Come Home Year’ celebrations scheduled for late July 2008 (I’ve been told I’m going and that it’s going to be quite the party!).

Sunset over a fishing boat near Heart's Delight on route 80 and still close to an hour from my house.

Not long after I took this shot I was in pretty much in full darkness near Heart's Desire when my low fuel light came on after just 344 km – at least 50 less than usual! When I reached down to switch over to reserve I found to my horror that I'd forgotten to switch it back in Grand Bank! Anxiously, I tucked down behind the fairing and thought nice thoughts all the way into the gas station in Heart's Content, whew!

Recharged and not feeling too awfully cold I enjoyed the last 30 km to New Melbourne. I arrived at 7:30 pm and the temperature was 0º C and I happily put the bike back in the basement with much less effort than it took to get it out.

It only took a 1/2 hour to drain down the pipes in my house so they wouldn’t freeze, unpack the bike and hit the road to St. John's. Six minutes shy of 36 hours after leaving mom’s house in Portugal Cove I rolled back down the same driveway at 10:06 pm with 366 km on my car odometer. Of course I forgot to look at the odometer at home but it showed 900 km in Heart's Content for a round trip of  930 km on my bike and a total of about 1300 km of driving in a day and a half. Yes, I stayed very close to the speed limit for just about all of it.

My final task was to get on a computer and see if Geoff had also made the run to Tides Cove Point? Then of course I had to post my own ride report to throw out the new tally.

In May I rode 3,500 km when I made the first bid to beat my fellow members in the start of the lighthouse photo trophy game. In the 5 months following May I only managed to put on another 3,500 km total and Geoff took a substantial lead against all comers. This little jaunt gave me 8 more points and tied me for the lead, our tie and the tie for second place made the decision to continue the fun next season a no brainer!

Here is a link of interest associated to the lighthouse adventure:

- Lighthouse Friends  website
- Canada Fisheries and Ocean's website.

Want to check out Part I of this article? Here's the link to Part I - Into the Light.

Tales from the Bikes of Lighthouse Hunters - Part I - Into the Light

Geoff Smith is a motorcycle enthusiast hailing from St. John's, Newfoundland. With 30 years of motorcycle experience he's ridden most of the roads in Newfoundland and a lot of the off-road trails as well. And, in a stroke of luck for us, he always brings a camera too!

Written by: Geoff Smith
Editing: Dan McAfee
Photo's by: Geoff Smith unless otherwise noted

Tales From the Bikes of Lighthouse Hunters - Part I - Into the Light

I am always drawn to riding destinations that offer a mix of history, scenic views, interesting structures or buildings, and include an element of challenge to reach. Early in the 2007 riding season, I suggested to a group of my adventure riding buddies that it might be a lot of fun to all take part in a friendly competition of sorts.

My idea was based around the premise that the historic lighthouses of Newfoundland & Labrador, are perfect destinations for bikers who share my idea of what a great adventure ride must include. The plan was to see who could shoot the most photos of their bikes with Newfoundland or Labrador lighthouses, during 2007. Each participant would score one point for each ‘lighthouse trophy photo’, and the winner would be crowned at the end of the year. We posted the idea on our local NL adventure riding web forum (, and many riders immediately began posting their photos within our photo contest thread.

I must admit that I became very addicted to planning rides around the island, based on the locations of lighthouses that I wanted to visit and photograph. Some I would travel to on my Suzuki DL650 V-Strom and others on my Suzuki DRZ400S. Pretty soon there was some very heated competition among our ranks, with clusters of riders all holding similar numbers of points in our game.

My good friend Mike Buehler became my ‘arch enemy’ in the game. Mike and I pulled out to the front of the pack early in the riding season, and continued to have close scores throughout the year. Sometimes Mike and I would ride to lighthouse locations together, to gain a point each.

I think we’d both admit that we had the most fun when we’d visit our web forum, only to find out the other guy had once again moved ahead in the points, without our knowledge. The combination of the friendly competitive nature of the game, and the joy of exploring remote areas of our province’s coastal regions, was an intoxicating combination for a couple of guys who are basically just forty-something kids at heart. I don’t think I’d ever laughed so hard, as the time I rode to a remote lighthouse on the Burin Peninsula, known as ‘Tides Cove Point’. The lighthouse keeper’s first words to me were “Another one of you guys?!...That’s two in one day.” Further discussions with the friendly lighthouse keeper, revealed that Mike had visited the very same location the night before, pitched a tent, and had coffee with the lighthouse keeper that same morning.

Another reason why I like the idea of capturing images of Newfoundland and Labrador lighthouses is that they are a dying breed, so to speak. New, more efficient, and less expensive technologies are replacing the historic navigational structures which once stood proudly all along the coastal regions of the world. Our region is no exception, with many of our lighthouses replaced by small but powerful navigational lights, mounted upon steel skeletal towers. In some cases the older structures have fallen into a state of disrepair and neglect, and in other cases the points of land where they were originally erected have been eroded away by the pounding seas around them.

The Cape Race lighthouse is the tallest on the Island of Newfoundland; it sits on the most south-easterly point in the province. Standing 29 metres tall (96ft.), it uses one of the three largest hyperradiant fresnel lens arrays every made.

The lens was crafted by the Chance Brothers of Birmingham, England, in the late 1800s, and rotates floating in a bath of liquid mercury.

To get to the Cape Race lighthouse a rider is required to navigate a rough 20 km dirt road, accessible from the community of Portugal Cove South, from Route 10 on the Avalon Peninsula. This same dirt road will take you past one of the most prolific and ancient fossil discoveries in the world, at a location along the coast known as ‘Mistaken Point’.

Mistaken Point is so named because of the navigational hazard it poses to sea going vessels at the often-foggy southeastern tip of Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula. It’s also an ecological reserve where you can see examples of the oldest complex life forms found anywhere on Earth. An entire story could be written on this site alone but I’ll save the additional research for you and give you a link at the end of the story.

Cape Pine lighthouse

The Cape Pine lighthouse is the most southerly lighthouse on the Island of Newfoundland. The winds are so strong in this area, that the lighthouse and adjoining buildings have been designated as unfit for human habitation. The Cape Pine lighthouse can be reached from Route 10, then from a very rough dirt road that branches off the main dirt road, leading to the community of St. Shotts.

The Cape Spear lighthouse is the most easterly in all of North America. The tides and undertow currents are so powerful in this area that several unlucky people are washed off the rocks and drown in the surrounding waters each year, despite the many posted warning signs. Best not to let your curiosity get the better of you when you visit.

The Cape Spear lighthouse can be reached from Route 11. Access is via paved roads all the way to the Cape Spear Park area. The older, now defunct, lighthouse still stands on the hill behind its more modern cousin.

The Bull Head lighthouse is one of the more inaccessible lighthouses on the East Coast. You would be wise not to try to ride up the trail to this location, unless you have knobby tires, a lightweight dual sport, or an off road motorcycle, and a fair amount of technical off road riding experience. The trail leading to the Bull Head lighthouse can be reached from the community of Bay Bulls, which lies along Route 10.

The Ferryland Head lighthouse is near the “Colony of Avalon” archaeological site (one of the earliest European colonies in North America), and requires the rider to navigate a fairly technical trail. There is a dirt parking lot about halfway along the trail, where most four wheel traffic must stop to avoid the steep climb up a very narrow section of the trail. This section drops off steeply toward the ocean below on both sides. Leaving your bike at the parking lot may be wise, unless you have respectable rocky trail riding skills.

There is a unique dining experience available once you reach the Ferryland Head lighthouse. A fine dining ‘picnic’ is served to patrons on blankets, among the grasses and wildflowers which surround the lighthouse. A very unique and enjoyable dining experience awaits those who book a ‘blanket’. The Ferryland Head lighthouse can be reached from Route 10.

Cape Bonavista lighthouse is one of the most easily accessed on the tour so far, and has the added benefit of requiring you to ride through one of the most scenic regions of the province to get there.

A replica of Cabot’s ship ‘The Matthew’, now sits docked in nearby Bonavista Harbour. This beautiful square-rigged vessel made a commemorative journey from Bristol England to the town of Bonavista, in 1997. Cape Bonavista lighthouse can be reached by taking Route 230 to Route 235 and continuing all the way to its end.

By the end of 2007, twenty people had participated in our lighthouse trophy photo game. Mike and I ended up tied for first place, with 30 lighthouse trophy photos each to our credit. Coincidentally, the second place finishers (Doug and Jamie) were also locked in a dead-heat tie, with 14 points each.

We had riders participate who had traveled to Newfoundland from as far away as Toronto Ontario and the state of Indiana. In light of the fact that the first and second place finishers ended up locked in a tie, we decided not to announce a winner in 2007. We decided we would instead extend the game for at least another year. This seemed to be a good idea also, based on how much fun we all had with the game during the year. Why put an end to a good thing?

I fully expect to revisit the pleasure of logging on to my local online adventure riding web forum during 2008, only to find many more posted photos of my arch enemy (Mike) and his trusty bright orange KTM 640 Adventure, as he poses in front of more remote lighthouses with a satisfied Cheshire grin on his face. I will accept that dropped gauntlet as a challenge to hop on my V-Strom and seek out as many more lighthouses as I can find, with my camera close at hand.

For a more detailed look at the history of the lighthouses of Newfoundland & Labrador, the specific details of the structures, and directions to find the many dozens of lighthouses strung all along the rugged coastline of our region, I recommend this online educational resource. It was invaluable to me as I researched and investigated the lighthouses of my home province.

Some links of interest associated to the lighthouse adventure:

- Cape Race Hyper-Radiant Fresnel Lens info can be found here.
- Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve information can be found here.
- The Colony of Avalon website can be found here.
Newfoundland & Labrador Adventure Rider
- Ride the Rock website.

Be sure to catch next week's follow up first person account from Geoff's key competitor Mike Buehler!

A Review of "To Dakar and Back - 21 Days Across North Africa By Motorcycle”

Written by: Dan M

A Bit of Background

I got a copy of Lawrence Hacking’s new book, “To Dakar and Back – 21 Days Across North Africa By Motorcycle” a little over a week ago and couldn’t put it down until it was done. If you have even a passing interest in the Dakar you should take a look at this book!

Now, you don’t need to know who Lawrence Hacking is to truly enjoy this book but once you’ve read it it’s hard not to talk about the man behind the book when talking about his Dakar story. He’s what you might call the “Wayne Gretzky” of the sport of off-road bikes in Canada. His resume is impressive to say the least.

A Short List of some of Lawrence’s Achievements:

- Competed for the Canadian National Team in the International Six Days Enduro (ISDE) World Championship in 1985 (Spain), ’86 (Italy), ‘90 (Sweden), ’91 (Czechoslovakia), ‘92 (Australia) and 2002 (Czech Republic). He finished each time, earning Silver and Bronze medals from the FIM.
- Worked for Yamaha Motor Canada and Yamaha Motor Europe between 1980 and 1990 in their marketing and racing departments. Since then, he has worked as a consultant to other manufacturers including Honda, Kawasaki and Triumph, and to the Parts Canada Superbike Championship.
- In January 2001, became the first Canadian to complete the Paris to Dakar rally. He finished 58th overall and 13th place overall in the first-timer classification.
- In 2005 and 2007 he entered the Beijing to Ulan Bataar International Rally across the Chinese Gobi desert and won the 250-cc class.
Was one of the key organizers of the 2007 FIM World Enduro Championship, held in Canada for the first time.
- His motorcycle exploits have been featured in various media outlets such as CBC, CNN International, CityTV, Moto Verde (Spain), Moto Vert (France), The National Post, Speed Channel, TSN, TV5 (France) and The Toronto Star.
- Participated in the Targa Newfoundland.

On To Dakar!

Hacking competed in the Paris-Dakar Rally in 2001 and, on his first attempt, he finished it, thus securing his place in the history books as being the first Canadian to ever finish the event. I might add he did it at the age of 46 too and as a privateer without a support crew to help him out along the way. Sponsors supported him partly but they weren’t there in a truck following along with the rally like the professional teams. He didn’t have a mechanic waiting for him at each bivouac to fix his bike at the end of the day so he could relax and prepare for the next grueling day. He had to fix any damage to his bike each night after travelling distances of up to 900 km in a single day.

He spent a year preparing for Dakar, nine months of which was full time work dedicated to working out, travelling to Europe, researching the race, securing sponsorship, and bike preparation among a myriad of other things. His bike of choice was a custom prepared Honda XR650. He thought the bike was a great product, and it was. He could have chosen several other bikes but was impressed with the Honda. The bike was new at the time and had just won at Baja. It also had a kick start in addition to the electric start, a feature lacking on the KTM’s. He worried about an electrical problem in the desert and getting stuck, so having a kick start as a backup was a logical thing to have. He kept the swingarm, frame, and engine stock but changed most of the other pieces to meet his requirements and the Dakar specifications. The big main fuel tank and rear auxiliary tank were key requirements of the Rally. His XR was fitted with a 54 litre tank, which when full held about a hundred lbs of fuel. That much weight in those types of conditions would have to be a real handful to say the least but essential because of the huge distances covered.

In 2001 the Dakar covered nearly 10,000 km’s of mostly off-road riding. It travelled through six countries in some of the most challenging terrain in the world in its 21 days. Approximately 6,000 of the kilometers were special stages (otherwise known as competition stages). Given these facts it's no surprise that it is billed by some to be one of the world’s top five adventures; right up there with climbing Mt. Everest. It’s a race where as many as half the competitors don’t make it to the finish line. The race has even claimed the lives of 48 of its competitors and some spectators as well.

Getting to the Nitty-Gritty

I may be a little biased as I’ve admittedly been fascinated by the Paris Dakar Rally since I learned about its existence in the early 80’s when the ferociously fast Group B rally cars had their short lived heyday. They were just too fast and dangerous and were only around for four years. Sadly I do not have the skills or abilities that Lawrence Hacking has. But I jumped at the chance to pick up the book and read about a Canadian’s experience with the Dakar.

If you look at the list of competitors and their placement in rally's gone by on ASO’s website (TSO was the organizing body at the time of Hacking's 2001 race) you’ll see where everybody finished but that by itself is a little dull. The list of who won and their times doesn’t tell all the stories about the preparation, trials and tribulations, near disasters, sleepless nights, sand and grit, the desert, dunes, rocks, and all the amazing sights you pass though in the 21 days of the Dakar and the days leading up to it. To Dakar and Back tells that story from one man’s perspective. For 274 pages you’re with him on the bike throughout it all; experiencing in some small way, all the highs and the lows.

The first thing I noticed when I got the book and thumbed through it was the little symbols that appear alongside the page numbers. While not explained in the book these are very important symbols in the Dakar; they are a piece of information that appears on the road-book that participants get and remain secret until given to the riders. If you don’t follow the road book and stop at the checkpoints you’ll be given penalties up to an including exclusion from the race. The symbol is one piece of the information that appears and indicates the trail, terrain, and landmarks for a particular section. These little hieroglyphics are called tulips and they’re something that every rally participant needs to become very familiar with. Why are they called tulips you may ask? It dates back to the Tulip Rally (Tulpen rally) of the 1950’s.

I won’t wreck it for those who decide to get the book, but Hacking’s 21 days weren’t without drama. The book is full of unexpected events and challenges that need to be faced - all under the pressure of sticking to the rules and keeping within the allowable time. There were several incidents that threatened to end his rally before the finish line. His perseverance, preparation, and perhaps a little bit of luck all combined to get him to the finish line.

Final Thoughts:

I’ve already said that I enjoyed the book. I really did, it’s a great read in my opinion and very reasonably priced at $17.95. The writing is clear and easy to follow, no doubt aided by the efforts of Wil De Clercq whom Hacking credits with turning his pile of notes into a story that "accurately conveys the message." The writing includes a fairly detailed account of each days race events; who won in each category, what their times were, and some of the major events of the day. Some readers may not find that element quite as interesting as Hacking's personal story in the race. He has an eye for detail and recalls the types of vehicles, names of riders he has conversations with, dates, and places. Something I really appreciated.

Even the typesetting of the book adds to its personality and enjoyment. If you have an interest in the Dakar rally this book gives a real perspective of what it’s like to be there. In terms of things I didn’t like about the book there are really only a couple of minor things that would have increased my personal enjoyment of the book. would have liked to have seen a more detailed account of what Hacking brought along with him. Chapter 3 reviews some of his preparations including what he did to prepare the bike. This was really interesting material that I would have liked expanded to include details on all the items he took. Maybe it could have been included in an appendix? And, though noted in some cases, I would have appreciated knowing each day’s start time throughout the 21 days. Those are minor points though and you may not even miss them.

On a side note – Hacking, who’s 53 years old, is planning on doing the Dakar again and was going to follow the 2008 race from Lisbon in a rented car as part of his preparation. Hmm, I wonder if the rental company knew about that plan? But as you may know, the 2008 running of the Dakar - which was its 30th anniversary, was cancelled for the first time in its history because of terrorist threats. I’ll certainly be watching closely to see how that story unfolds. With the Dakar being held in South America in 2009 and the 2010 running through Mauritania still questionable it'll be interesting to see what Hacking does. He was hoping to use the 2008 race as part of his methodical pre-planning. The event in South America will be a whole new challenge and with a relatively shortened time to prepare and plan.

Where Can I Get a Copy and How Much is It?

To Dakar and Back is published by ECW Press and can be purchased at major booksellers everywhere. Price as indicated on the back cover is $17.95

You can get it via Amazon Canada here:

Some other interesting links:

Official Dakar website.
Robby Gordon - Dakar Dictionary site.

Dakar Rally - One of the World's Greatest Adventures

Mark your calendars folks, the Dakar rally, a grueling (approximately 5,700 mile race) starts on January 5th and runs until January 20th. There’s only one rest day scheduled during that time. 2008 marks the 30th running of the Dakar. It is billed by some to be one of the world’s top five adventures; right up there with climbing Mt Everest! It has been challenged by some 3,000 people! Only about 40% of the participants get to the finish line, the other 60% don’t make it for many reasons – many get lost or can’t finish the race because of exhaustion, mechanical failure, injury, or even death. The race has claimed the lives of upwards of 48 participants and several spectators during its history.

Quick facts:
- Over 570 teams with people from 50+ countries.
- Over 5700 miles (9273 km's) of racing through 5 countries.
- Fewer than half of the participants are expected to get to the finish line.
- Organized by the Amaury Sport Organization.
- Riders are required to post their blood type on their bike and helmet!

In 2008 the race will start in Lisbon (Portugal) and run through Spain, Morocco, Mauritania, and finally end in Dakar, the capital of Senegal. It's open to amateurs and professionals; with amateur's making up the majority of participants (~80%). You need some deep pockets though because entry isn't cheap! There are three major competitive groups who take part in the Dakar; those being, the bike class, the car class, and the truck class. I’ll focus in on the bike class but all the racers are pretty exciting to watch. There are approximately 245 motorcycle participants scheduled for 2008.

Canada made its mark in the history books in 2001 when Lawrence Hacking (a motorcycle racer, journalist, and author) became the first Canadian to finish the Dakar – incidentally a book is scheduled to be released on the adventure in February 2008.

There are speed limits in place for motorcyclists this year and they cannot exceed 95 mph and 30 mph through villages. The route this year will involve skillful navigation and dealing with a lot of sand.

The motorcycle brand of choice for the majority of the top placing riders in recent years has been KTM. They’ve recorded 7 victories so far. Yamaha still leads the way with 9. BMW has 6, Honda 5, and Caviga 2.

Our neighbors to the south may be wondering about Chris Blais who appears to be absent from the list of participants this year. Chris is an American born racer, who finished 3rd place overall in 2007. There has been a serious and unfortunate turn of events in 2007 for Blais. It's not a mistake that he's not on the participant list this year as he won't be able to compete this year because of a series crash and resulting injuries he experienced pre- running the Vegas to Reno race on Sunday August 5, 2007. He crushed his T-7 vertebra (middle of back) and a broken collar bone and has been in recovery since that time. You can check his progress on his website. It’s another somber reminder of the dangers of this sport and the risks these guys take every time they ride.

Don’t forget to tune in the Dakar in January!

Here's a couple more interesting links you may want to take a look at:

- Official Dakar Rally Website
- Here’s a video of the route – runs approximately 1 min

To Africa - The Long Way Down

In 2004, Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman and cameraman Claudio von Planta went on a motorbike ride on a couple of BMW R1150GS Adventure's that covered 20,000 miles; from London to New York - the long way round as they say. They went east through Europe and Asia, flew into Alaska and yes - they even came to Canada! They called that journey "Long Way Round". A support team came along as well but generally followed behind to help if it was needed. The journey was documented via some small camera's they brought along with them and Claudio bought along some more advanced gear. A book was written, a TV series was produced and you can now buy an extended edition DVD. I must say that I really enjoyed the series and bought the book as well.

Well the boys have been at it again and this time they dubbed the journey "Long Way Down". If you were a fan of the Long Way Round I suspect you'll be interested in Long Way Down. If you haven't seen or heard of Long Way Round then I would encourage you to check it out.

In Long Way Down, Ewan and Charley travel from John o'Groats in northern Scotland to Cape Town, South Africa. As in Long Way Round, visiting and attempting to increase awareness for UNICEF projects was an integral part of the journey. Charley even had a gig in between filming Long Way Round and Long Way Down called Race To Dakar. In 2006 he entered the Lisbon-Dakar Rally, which is actually an off-road endurance race considered by some to be the toughest race in the world. It does have a really different feel but will appeal to those interested in off-road riding and the world of off-road endurance racing.

For Long Way Down they started on May 12th, 2007 and finished on August 4th, 2007. That's 85 days and roughly 15,000 miles! They took Claudio along for the trip again this time and went on some shiny new BMW R1200GS Adventure's that were what you can buy at your local BMW shop plus some extra's add-on's (or farkle's as they are commonly referred to) to make the journey just a little bit more comfortable. No disputing about whether to go with a KTM this time around, it was all BMW!

There is a television series that has been produced from the epic adventure but I don't know when we'll see it in Canada. Hopefully OLN will pick it up like they did Long Way Round. Six episodes have just finished airing on BBC 2 from Oct 28th - December 2, 2007.

Here's a list of extra equipment on the bikes (provided by Long Way Round website):

- Touratech Zega Pannier kit
- Touratech Oil Can
- Pillion (passenger) seat has been replaced with a luggage rack for tents, sleeping bags, bedrolls, etc.
- Michelin tires - road tires for Europe and knobbies for Africa.
- Touratech rear hub cap cover.
- Anodized Aluminum Brake Fluid Reservoir cover.
- Stainless steel heel guard (protects rear master cylinder from boots).
- Ohlins suspension - front and rear.
- Canvas covered seat
- Touratach Tank bag for maps, camera's, etc.
- Touratech Cylinder guard
- Touratech Engine Guard
- Non-rusting stainless steel crash bars
- Touratech side bags - smaller tools and puncture repair kits were kept here.
- Slightly raised front mud guard
- Auxiliary Xenon headlight
- bespoke (which is British speak for custom made I believe) wire mesh headlight guard
- Extra large plate on bike stand to provide extra support on soft ground
- Extra LED brake light indicators
- Aerial for onboard communications system (seems to be mounted to the pannier on left side of bike).

There are two websites associated with the trip. One official website and another from BBC. Here's the links:

So with that - keep an eye out for news on the TV Documentary series! I haven't found any news on when or if it will air in Canada but I'd bet that OLN will air it eventually.

I think this book will be on my wish list for the holidays! It's available at several online retailers. The DVD doesn't appear to be available yet though.