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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

First ride - 2010 Can-Am Sypder

My first ride - 2010 Can-Am Sypder

Written by: Dean Parsons

Photos by: Dean Parsons

With all of the recent snowfall and winter storms we've had lately, luckily, today started with a welcomed glimmer of hope. The forecast predicted a partly sunny sky with temperatures just above freezing. I also had a couple hours off in the afternoon.

(A quick stop along the roadside of First Pond (snow and ice covered) behind the Goulds)

Off my side street and onto the main road through the city, I rode on three wheels. The powerful and eager Rotax 998cc power plant in my Spyder hummed, and was more then willing to cruise with a twist of the wrist as I up-shifted.

The afternoon led me through the small towns along the east coat of the Avalon Peninsula, with breathtaking views of the vibrant blue Atlantic, frozen fresh water ponds, and along some nice twists and turns that I'm familiar with. However, this time I'm on three wheels instead of two… and I'm loving it!

Still getting used to the turns on my Spyder, I've been alternated techniques to find what works best for me. So far I like leaning over the seat slightly on the inside of the turn, while pushing my body to the inside by pressing the outside peg. A little more time in the saddle and I hope to be solid with proper body english.

(Nice turns through the hills going into Petty Harbour)

The smiles continued through the coastal towns and to the peak of the point at Cape Spear.

(A photo-op in nice sunlight on the way to Cape Spear)

(My Spyder at Cape Spear - New Lighthouse in the background)

(My Spyder at Cape Spear - St. John’s off in the distance)

From here I trekked into the city once again, through downtown to the top of Signal Hill for a view overlooking the city on one side, and the horizon where the ocean meets the sky on the other. I stopped into an empty parking lot to practice some of the Can-Am suggested Spyder Roadster training techniques; the swerve, engine kill switch, ABS braking and some more turning and hard cornering. VERY different then on two wheels. Then I headed for home, wanting to skip rush-hour before the traffic got too heavy.

(Looking back at Cape Spear from Signal Hill)

Home again, after a mostly sunny sky, the clouds loomed overhead as I pulled in the driveway and got out my garden hose. Shortly after, the clouds cleared again and beams of light cast a glow over my RS. It sat there gleaming in the driveway, wet from a wash-down to rid the salt and winter road dirt and my smile grew a couple more sizes.

The sunlight dropped below the far hills just as I was drying her off, when I noticed ice crystals had formed on the seat from the temperatures which just dropped below freezing. I powered her into the garage and closed the door behind me as I called it a day. A great day and 92 km (60miles) experiencing the "Y" factor, in the middle of Winter, February 10th, 2010; the first real ride on my Spyder.

(Washing off the salt and winter road dirt)

Can-Am Spyder Specs and Details:
- Rotax® 990 V-Twin engine 
- 3 Spoke aluminum wheels
- Multi-function guage display
- Storage
- Mechanical Reverse
- Cylinders - 2
- 106 hp @ 8500 RPM (79 kW @ 8500 RPM)
- Torque 77lb-fit. @ 6250 RPM (104.3 Nm @ 6250 RPM)

Transmission options:
1. Manual 5-speed gearbox, true mechanical reverse (SM5)
2. Semi-automatic finger-trigger shifting (SE5)

Wheels and Tires:
Front tire KR21 165/65R14 (13-17 psi) with aluminum 14x5 wheels
Rear tire KR21 225/50R15 (26-31 psi) with aluminum 15x7 wheel

Foot actuated, fully integrated hydraulic 3-wheel braking system

Front: 4 piston calipers with 10.2 in. x 0.25 in (260 mm x 6 mm) discs.
Rear: Single-piston caliper with 10.2 in. x 0.25 in (260 mm x 6 mm) disc.

Also features Electronic Brake Distribution, Anti-lock braking system, and a mechanical foot actuated parking brake that applies to the rear caliper.

Front: Double A-Arm with anti-roll bar, 5.67 in. (145 mm) of travel.
Rear: Swing-arm with mono-shock, 5.67 in. (145 mm) of travel.

Safety and Security:
VBS - Vehicle Stability System
ABS - Anti-lock Braking System
TCS - Traction Control System
SCS - Stability Control System with roll-over mitigation
DPS - Dynamic Power Steering
DESS Digitally Encoded Security System

Dry vehicle weight: 699 lb (317 Kg)
Front storage capacity: 11.62 US gal (44 l)
Max front load capacity: 30 lb (15.9 kg)
Fuel capacity: 7.13 US Gal (25 l)
Type of gas: Unleaded, 87 octane minimum

Seat (top) height: 29 in. (737 mm)

Spyder RS - $19,299
Spyder RS-S - $21,799

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:

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.