The twists and turns were a welcome change from the slabbing we had been doing the last few days. And set against the backdrop of the blue waters of the Gulf of St Lawrence and the clear skies above just made the riding day perfect! Scenic pullouts regularly line the Cabot Trail every few kms, offering picture-taking opportunities of the coastline, but we pass those up, gobbling up the curves with unbroken rhythm!
Irene takes the curves on the Cabot Trail
We ended the day at the Caribou and Munroe's Island Provincial Park, just outside the ferry that would carry us to Prince Edward Island tomorrow morning.
We woke up early to catch the early ferry across the Northumberland Strait from Caribou, NS to Woods Islands, PEI, about 75 minutes from dock to dock. The only thing I knew about PEI was that we grew a lot of potatoes because of the fertile red earth.
Early morning ferry trip to PEI
We spent most of the day riding around the coast of PEI. Unfortunately, the "scenic" route was a bit inland from the coast so the scenery consisted mainly of road and tree. We broke a bit from the scenery a bit to visit a lighthouse on the north-east corner of the island and to have a quick lunch.
East Point Lighthouse, PEI
During a gas stop, an attendant asked us if we were all here for Atlanticade. We had no idea what that was. Apparently this weekend, over ten thousand bikers would flock to PEI to cross the Confederation Bridge to raise money for MADD. The rally centre was Summerside, just a half hour away from our campsite that we were staying that night on the north shore.
Again, our hectic East Coast schedule prevented us from staying the weekend. This pace was not what we wanted for our real trip and Neda and I agreed that we would take every opportunity to dawdle and lag to our heart's content when we wrapped things up in Toronto.
After lunch, we rode down to Basin Head, just outside Souris, PEI where we heard the sands sing when you walked along the beach! And they did! A loud squeaking noise as we shuffled our boots up and down the sandy shore. The sound occurs when the quartz sand is very rounded and spherical. As it rubs against each other, it makes a distinctive squeaking noise like you're rubbing two pieces of wet rubber together.
Irene and Mel singin' in the sand - Photo by Ed C.
All this squeaking is making Neda tired
Neda has bad allergies to the mosquito bites at all our campsites, so she's taking Reactin to counter the swelling. Unfortunately, the non-drowsy medication is making her drowsy (happens in a small percentage of people). Not good when you're on a motorcycle!
We set up camp on the north shore just outside Cavendish, as dark rainclouds rolled in. We've never put up our tent in the rain yet, and we were hoping to get the fly up before the waterworks started. As it turned out, we watched the rain fall from the comfort of an all-you-can-eat seafood restaurant, our tents already battened down.
The view from our tentsite: morning sun on the north shores of PEI. Glorious!
On the way out of PEI, I finally see red earth! And mutant giant broccoli on the left!
The next morning, we rode out of PEI via Confederation Bridge to New Brunswick. The 13 kms bridge's claim to fame is that it's the longest bridge in the world to cover ice-covered waters, not that there were any on this warm late July day. The Atlanticade motorcycle rally was set to ride this bridge a couple of days from now, and I could just picture 12,000 motorcycles riding back and forth. A lot of tired left arms waving to that many motorcycles!
Our motorcycle gang approaches the curve on Confederation Bridge
We're spending a bit more time in New Brunswick on our way back to Ontario. This is truly the only bilingual province in Canada, almost everyone we meet along the way here speaks both languages fluently. Like PEI, I didn't know much about NB before coming out here, but what we really wanted to see were the Hopewell Rocks located in the Bay of Fundy, the inlet of water that's shared by New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
The Bay of Fundy is home to a unique phenomenon - the largest tides in the world. Over 100 billion tonnes of water flow in and out of the bay during each tide. And the tides happen twice a day, high and low tides occuring every 6 hours and 13 minutes on average! The tide differential may be anywhere between 10 to 14 meters!
Flowerpot rocks at Hopewell
These bizarre rock formations called flowerpot rocks, are created by the erosion of the twice-daily tides. The larger heads of the rocks are the parts untouched by the high tide. During low tide, it is possible to walk on the sea-floor and between the flowerpot rocks. When low tide is not low enough to walk the floor, visitors often rent kayaks and canoes and paddle around the rocks. Very beautiful to see!
A precarious situation at Hopewell Rocks
There are signs posted all over to be back on shore before high tide hits Hopewell. If you find yourself out on the rocks during high tide, the only options are to wait the 6 hours until the tide washes out, or swim back to shore!
Nice, love the pics of PEI. I miss that red soil. You drove by my community where I grew up. Also, you missed the best beach in the world, Lakeside. Miles of dunes and sand, and no people. Heaven!! Great report, I followed this on ADVRider too.
The ride back to Ontario from New Brunswick was a quick affair on the highway and was quite eventful, thanks to a broken master link on Khanh's VFR's chain. We put together two CAA calls to tow us from Perth, and then from Trenton back to Toronto, arriving at an ungodly 2AM. Alas, our test trip to the East Coast was over, now to prepare for the real thing!
123,456 kms on the old girl. Not a bad way to start a trip...
After a hectic couple of days doing a last minute cleanup of our condo, we handed over the keys to the new owner. This was the last major tie to our old life and it felt like such a burden off of our shoulders, even if it meant we were now technically homeless. Thankfully, my parents put us up at their place while we sorted out the last of our affairs. We moved all our mail, bills, and registered our drivers licenses and insurance to their address. Two decades later, and I was back living in my parents basement!
Giant Loonie in Sudbury
We left Toronto on July 15th, 2012 after saying sad goodbyes to our good friends and family, and happily severing our relationship with Rogers, Bell, Toronto Hydro and the Municipal Property Tax Collection Agency. This was it, for real now! As we headed north on the overly familiar Highway 400, it still didn't feel real. Still felt like we were on a day ride...
We stopped in Sudbury to take our obligatory picture in front of the giant Loonie outside of the Science North building. We must have 3 different shots of this from 3 different road trips. It was only once we traveled north of Sudbury that we felt like a dog that's broken it's leash, riding into new territory!
Neda gazes at a lily pond on 108, just outside of Elliott Lake, north of Hwy 17
Part of our resolution for this trip is to take all the backroads that we never had time to explore because we had to make a destination for the night. We did learn some lessons from our trip out east though, which was that although we had the luxury of time, we traded for that at the expense of budget. So all the grocery shopping, preparing food, washing dishes and cutlery, setting up/tearing down of tents, etc. actually cost us a bit more time than if we had just checked into a motel at the end of the riding day and ordered a pizza or ate at a restaurant.
Giant Muskoka chair outside the Pinecrest campsite in Thessalon. My theory is that little towns have to compensate by putting up oversize roadside attractions...
We stayed at a great campsite along the northern shores of Lake Huron, the beach was a few feet away from our tent and we relaxed on the shores for the evening and fell asleep to the sound of waves gently lapping the sandy beach. This camping thing is pretty new to me and I'm amazed that folks will park a camper for the summer at a campsite and make it their seasonal cottage! Lots of campers with patio stones, lawn gnomes and furniture outside!
Our campsite at Thessalon
Contemplating the nomadic existence
I relax, Neda hikes. This is a common theme in our trips together.
The next morning, we venture out onto new roads. We're bypassing the very scenic Hwy 17 from Sault-Ste Marie to Wawa, since we've done it already, but I'd recommend it to anyone who's riding in the area - the sweeping turns and numerous elevation changes are made all the more spectacular by the sight of Lake Superior off the west side of the road.
Instead, we're now riding Hwy 129 north from Thessalon. It's often called Ontario's Tail of the Dragon, because Tennessee 129 shares the same number. It's nowhere as tight and twisty, but the first 60 kms have amazing fast sweepers, great pavement and lots of 270 degree turns that have you leant over for what feels like an eternity! What a riot! The rest of the road is your normal Northern Ontario scenic route.
Northern section of Hwy 129
As we reach Wawa in the afternoon, a light drizzle begins and darker clouds are approaching us. This is the first rainfall we've had on this trip. And it looks like we might have to put up a tent in the coming downpour...
We reached Wawa just as the worst of the downpour started, and we ducked into the local Subway for a late lunch and to see if the deluge would let up before figuring out what to do for the evening. We really didn't want to be putting up a tent in the rain and the thought was, do we really want to be ducking into motels everytime it rains? That's the quickest way to burn through the travel dollars...
As we mulled over our predicament, in strode a rainsuit-clad motorcycle warrior. He cased the joint and made a bee-line towards us.
"Who's the ADV Rider?"
Ah, my sticker on the back of my sidecase...
Jamie Z, fellow ADV Rider from Memphis, TN, chatted with us for a while. He was doing a road trip around the Great Lakes, headed to MN to visit some family. We told him of the great camp sites we had visited in the past few weeks and how cheap they were (compared to the hotels we had been staying with on our other trips). Little did I know we were talking to the author of Budget Travel the Jamie Z Way"! We got a crash course in how to sleep for free, eat on the cheap and different ways to stretch those travel $$$. Jamie told us how he stayed in a luxury cabin the night before and then got a seaplane ride around the lake this morning. ALL FOR FREE! Our meeting could not have come at a better time, at the beginning of this trip.
So, in the spirit of budget travel, and because Jamie seemed like a stand-up guy who wasn't going to make off with our iPhones, GPSs and my favorite pair of Crocs in the middle of the night, we offered to split the cost of a motel with him, seeing as how the rain just wouldn't let up.
Big Goose statue in Wawa. Remember my theory about small towns?
As you can tell from this picture taken the morning after, we were still friends (after I confirmed that my crocs were still in my tankbag). We've taken a few pictures of the goose over the years and just recently, rust spots have appeared on the wings and body. The town is trying to raise funds to repair the statue. Poor goose! Jamie rode with us for a little ways and dropped back to do some sightseeing on his own, we would meet up with him again later on in the day.
Chain maintenance. For once, it's nice to be shafted!
Somewhere along the way we joined a motorcycle gang. And we all rode across bridges together.It was totally badass...
We took our time riding across the top of Lake Superior on Hwy 17, it was a clear, cool day, great for riding and we stopped to camp at a few provincial parks along the way. It was a leisurely way to say goodbye to our home province.
At a gas stop, Neda makes a friend
This is Cabo, the Mini Parrot. We met a couple (from Montana I think) traveling across Canada by bike as well, and this was their traveling companion! Cabo just started speaking. His first word was, "Noodle!"
On the right hand side panel you'll see Cabo's pillion seat, a tiny box where he can chillax.
Bikes wait impatiently while we take a nap in Nipigon
At Sleeping Giant provincial park, we played beach volleyball with Savannah and the staff of the park. Savannah and her mother Jill were from Winnipeg, and Jill told us to visit Rushing River Provincial Park. So we did! Did I mention we are doing everything the locals recommend?
Chillin in the waters at Rushing River Provincial Park
Our campsite at Rushing River
We got off the main Hwy 17 and took a scenic bypass called Mom's Highway. Neda has this theory that if you name a road, motorcycle and car enthusiasts will come, ie. Tail of the Dragon, Cabot Trail, Sea-to-Sky Highway, etc. Mom's Highway was okay, bit more scenic than Hwy 17, but I'm sure if they called it Jo Momma's Highway, it would have kicked more ass...
Terry Fox Memorial Statue in Thunder Bay overlooking the shores of Lake Superior.
As we approached Thunder Bay, we rode up to the Terry Fox Memorial. One of my first memories of Canada was watching Terry Fox run across the country on TV. I was only 9 years old at the time, and it was only later that I fully understood the magnitude of running a marathon everyday for 143 days straight after losing a leg to cancer. I don't get overly emotional, but my memories of his run, coupled with both of our families history with cancer made this a very special side-trip.
Kakabeka Falls just outside of Kenora
Kenora is one of the last towns on the TransCanada Highway before we leave Ontario. I have to admit, part of the reason why we visited Kakabeka Falls was because of the name. Our new euphemism on this trip for taking a dump is now "I have to visit Kakabeka Falls". I can tell by the look on Neda's face that she's visited Kakabeka Falls. I mean, it's right there in the background, is how I know...
You know those stickers with the stick figure family that you see on the back of minivan windows? Neda got a couple of bike stickers for us. It's bad enough the Harley guys don't wave at me, now they openly mock us...
I've lived in Ontario for the last 31 years of my life, and it only took 5 days for us to make it out of the province. I'll miss the place, but most of all the family and friends that we're leaving behind.
Crossing over from Ontario into Manitoba on the TransCanada Highway we experienced a drastic change in geography. Gone were the irregular shorelines of Lake of the Woods, which in itself is quite spectacular when seen from an airplane. You can get a sense of this from the map above: the lake covers over 950,000 acres and has over 14,000 islands with over 30,000 kms of forested shoreline!
When we crossed the provincial border, it was like emerging from a forest into a wide open field. A field about 1,500 kms long... We had wandered out into the Canadian Prairies! We call it The Gap, that space between Ontario and the Rockies.
The Market at the Forks
Just the other day, at the Terry Fox memorial in Thunder Bay, we were talking to a guy from Winnipeg and we asked where to go in the city. He replied, "The Forks". Having no idea what that was, we punched it in the GPS and were pleasantly surprised to find a nice little touristy area located in downtown Winnipeg, at the junction of the Assiniboine and Red River - hence "The Forks".
Closeup of one of the structures surrounding Oodena Circle.
At one of the stores in the market, we overheard from the shopkeeper that there was a pow wow happening in the afternoon at the Oodena Celebration Circle, which was an open-air arena just outside the market. It was built by the city to host aboriginal and other cultural celebrations. "Oodena" is Cree for "centre of the city".
Participants in brightly coloured traditional attire!
We stayed for quite a while at the pow wow listening to the drumming and chanting and watching the many different tribes come together and dance around the circle. It was a feast of colours, and Neda remarked that we had lived in Canada for so long, but here in Winnipeg was the first time she's seen First Nations people so interwoven into the city and culture.
I found out later that we had actually visited The Forks on National Aboriginal Day, which was a pretty big event for Winnipeg. Some other shots of the Pow Wow:
The Forks was built on a site that was originally (and still is) a meeting place for the last 6,000 years. It was a popular spot for trading between early aboriginals, European fur traders, Metis buffalo hunters, etc. all the way to current day stores selling curios to nomadic motorcycle riders.
Human Rights Museum under construction at The Forks
Walking the Espalanade Riel, a bridge just outside The Forks named after the city's founder, Louis Riel
Thumpin' the doghouse!
I think what I'll miss most while being on the road is playing music. As far as entertainment goes, we don't watch any TV at all, but we did treat ourselves to an IMAX showing of The Dark Knight Rises. It was ok... I was very sad to hear about the tragedy in Colorado at the movie opening. These days, I get most of the news via social media, as I'm updating our pictures and blog online. Although we're seeing the world one small piece at a time, I'll have to be more diligent on keeping up with what's happening on a broader scale.