Camping on Two Wheels, con’t

Day 4
Baddeck campground–>Rt. 105 S–>Little Narrows ( Rt. 223)—>South via Castle Bay–>Rt 4 (East Bay)–>South to Soldiers Cove–> Grand River–> Framboise–> Up Rt. 227 out of Forchu–>left on Rt 125 around Sydney–> Rt. 105–> Baddeck campground
210 miles

We were all up by 5 am this morning.
The morning coffee deal was repeated with the addition of a new percolator that Pat purchased at the Co-op in Baddeck.

My Bushbuddy stove is not meant to be used on a wooden picnic table. I noticed a that a smouldering ember had somehow migrated out of the stove. When I zeroed in on the solution ( moving the stove) I was shocked that there was a total circular charred hole almost totally burned through the thick wood on top of the table. I had to pour water over the blackened char to quell the fire and preserve the good stuff left on the table, which would have likely been in ashes had we left for the day.

I was looking forward to exploring new roads today. In 2003, National Geographic Traveler magazine rated Cape Breton Island its #2 worldwide destination (for sustainable tourism) along with New Zealand’s South Island and Chile’s Torres del Paine, with #1 being the Norwegian fjords.

Today’s plan was to motor east over toward the tiny berg of Framboise to attempt to visit the site of the former Sunshine Farm. My friend Clarkie and his brother still own part of the 150 acre spread that they purchased back in the early 1970’s. All that remains now is the land, a well, and an old outhouse. The farmhouse that sat on the property was burned in a fire that occurred sometime in 1974, while the place was occupied one winter.
I reached Clarkie on my cell phone, and he gave me the following info:
“ You have to find Framboise. It is sort of a long ways away from where you are. You go past a stream and there is either an aqua camp or old trailer across the road from an overgrown driveway that goes up through a big field. We bought the property from Patsy and Jimmy McCloud.”
I fired up my GPS and with the assistance of our map, roughly located the area. As the crow flies, our destination was a mere 33 miles away, but the fact that we had three large peninsulas between here and there made the real trip at least 100 miles away.
It was a very interesting ride. We were essentially circumnavigating the whole northern half of Bras D’Or Lake today. We were within view of salt water most of the day. If we didn’t see the ocean, it was due to thick fog obscuring our views.
We gassed up at the First Nation gas station south of Baddeck, then negotiated a very narrow causeway over St. Patrick’s Channel. In Icona we took a tiny ferry through Barra Straight, then went way up and then way down East Bay.

There was no traffic anywhere on these roads. We were hoping to find a place to eat breakfast, but that took us an hour and a half of 50-60 mph travel. A GPS check at the breakfast place told us we had now just 17 miles closer to Framboise. I had the fried bologna along with my eggs and toast. Its a local thing.

More southerly travel to go east, where we took the obscured left hand turn between Soldiers Cove and Barrahead. This was overland, through nonexistent places like Grand river and L’Archeveque. The road deteriorated at this point. It now demanded low speed dodging of potholes, gardens of rocks lifting up through the asphalt, and sharp frequent turns. The temperature dropped, and fog thickened. I’m sorry we missed the gravel road down to Capelin Cove. We were now 10 miles away from Bras D’Or Lake and moving smack dab along the Atlantic Ocean.

We had a difficult time finding Sunshine Farm.
In the end, we never found the aqua camp or trailer. We did locate downtown Framboise, where there was an abandoned store and gas station. There weren’t more than 5 houses there, and most were abandoned. I decided to try and find someone who lived near to ask about the Farm, and took off down the road were I stopped a fellow poking along in a pickup truck. He was a fisherman who didn’t live there, but when I mentioned the name of McCloud, he directed me to a farmhouse down a long dirt road.
I rounded up Steve and Pat who wanted to go with me. Looking back on at the map, I was actually on a dirt road headed toward Stirling.
Eventually we located one white farmhouse set back off the gravel road.

We slid our way up the driveway and I knocked on the door , when I heard the growl , then the scary deep bark of a large dog. Just as I was walking away an elderly lady came to the door , and proceeded to try and help us out. I asked a series of questions. She knew the McCloud’s , and told me that Jimmy had died, and that Patsy was now 90 and in a nursing home in Sydney, “ But she’s still shah’p!”
When I mentioned the words, Sunshine Farm , the lady’s eyes sparked and she said, “ O, you want to go to Sunshine farm? Yes, I know where that is. We all do!”
She directed us back down to the tar road where we retraced our path to a new camp and the big field across the road.

We parked the bikes along the road and walked up the overgrown driveway where we eventually located the well and outhouse.

Beautiful spot, returning to nature for sure, but with many interesting remnants of a life lived here, albeit a hard one.
The insects were brutal, especially the green heads, a large biting fly. There were also ample black flies and mosquitoes that persistently attacked us. There were crows all around, and I saw one rabbit hopping through the day lilies, and lilacs that marked the perimeter site of the former farmhouse.
We snapped several photos and I had Pat do a video interview of me at the site to send to Clarkie. He doesn’t make it up here often ( twice in the past 35 years).

Where we got back to fire up the bikes and head up toward Sydney, Steve expressed concern that his rear end had been feeling loose over the rough road and he wanted to check things out. The rear end checked out fine, but when we got the bike up on the center stand and lifted the front wheel, I grabbed it and was able to move the fork back and forth almost an inch!


The steering head bearings were shot. We were not sure of how this problem was to be dealt with, but thankfully a few turns on the steering damper tightened things up enough that the bike made it home without any further corrections.

We headed directly north on 227 skirting Sydney on 125 when we finally found a restaurant that was to our liking on the TransCanada (Rt. 105).

Eventually we returned from our big circle ride of a day, to our Adventures East campground where the heat of the afternoon forced us into another cooling stint in the pool. It was an expensive campground at $30 a night or $10 each daily, but we didn’t mind after returning to our campsite – cool , clean, and ready for napping, eating, and kicking tires and spinning new tales of our travels today.
We’re heading back home tomorrow.

Camping on Two Wheels, con’t

Day 3
Baddeck campround–>circumnavigate via Cabot Trail—>Baddeck campground

190 miles

Today was easy. Ride the Cabot Trail, a 280 mile long highway in Northern Cape Breton, a world class ride of spectacular natural beauty.

We left at 8:15, after brewing up some Rock City coffee .

I had a bottle of yogurt drink that I ate before we left.
It was the right decision to turn up the left side of the big island. We didn’t see many cars at all for the first 55 miles, taking us all the way up to the French culture town of Cheticamp. The lack of cars on the way made it especially easy to extend the capabilities of my motorcycle, as I cracked the throttle up the steep hills, and let the bike lean way over in the sweeping turns.
In Cheticamp we checked into the Tim Horton’s coffee/donut shop. I was in a very good place. I had a coffee and toasted bagel with cream cheese. The air was refreshing, probable due to the constant wind, cooled as it passed over the offshore waters.

Cape Breton is an island located in the north of the Province of Nova Scotia, Canada. The Trail winds around the northern shore of Cape Breton passing very close to the shoreline. The ride also includes traveling across through the magnificent highlands of Cape Breton National Park.

On the way back around after passing over the top of the Cape, we stopped at a sort of convenience store somewhere near Ingonish. It was time to grab some food that we would eat later. They didn’t have too much to choose from, and I ended up opening up a cooler and found something that was described as a ground rib sandwich. They had no means for making up sandwiches. I also grabbed a Gatoraid, as it was really getting hot out and I needed to rapidly realign my electrolytes. The sandwich was pretty poor, sort of gritty, cold , and the sauce was probably thinly coated catsup.

Pat collapsed on the grass in the shade outside of the store.

I’ve ridden the Cabot Trail three times before. Those rides had been completed counterclockwise. Most people who ride motorcycles or bicycles prefer that direction because counterclockwise places the rider in the outside travel lane, where you get closer views and allows safer egress for viewing. Or stopping to brew up coffee, which we did at a picnic area on top of Old Smokey ( mountain).

At our brew up, we witnessed a bit of parking lot drama from our picnic table under a open sided shelter. An RV rolled into the lot, and oriented itself closely to the last available picnic table. Just as the elderly couple was taking their time before exiting the RV another small vehicle pulled beside them and a man jumped out of the driver’s side, carrying a cooler, which he plunked down on the table, seating himself assertively. The woman from the RV stopped walking in mid track when she looked up and saw Interlopers! She threw her hands up in the air, frowned, and stomped back to her RV. Then the white RV drove back and forth for a while, blocking everyone’s view, and eventually rumbled off.
Even in the wilderness, where people are obviously on vacation, the “ jerk world” may encroach on your space. My definition of survival extends to these types of scenes, events where you might need to quickly adapt to some sort of situation.

We packed up and rode back toward Baddeck, enjoying the very brief Englishtown Ridge ferry ride on Rt. 312.

Our second event of the day was to visit the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Baddeck.
(From Wikipedia) Alexander Graham Bell (3 March 1847 – 2 August 1922) was an eminent scientist, inventor and innovator who is widely credited with the invention of the telephone. His father, grandfather and brother had all been associated with work on elocution and speech, and both his mother and wife were deaf, profoundly influencing Bell’s life’s work. His research on hearing and speech further led him to experiment with hearing devices that eventually culminated in Bell being awarded the first U.S. patent for the invention of the telephone in 1876.
Many other inventions marked Bell’s later life including groundbreaking work in hydrofoils and aeronautics. In 1888, Alexander Graham Bell became one of the founding members of the National Geographic Society.
In reflection, Bell considered his most famous invention an intrusion on his real work as a scientist and refused to have a telephone in his study.

After we toured the museum, it was on to the local supermarket, where we each gathered up supper and tomorrow’s breakfast items.

We headed back to the campsite, where all we had to do was get into our swim suits and hit the uncrowded pool again.

We started a fire later on, with ample deadwood all around the site. We roasted up hot dogs, and made up a batch of chili-cheese dogs, spooning out chili from a can and topping them with sliced cheese.

Camping on Two Wheels, con’t.

Motorcycle trip Day 2.
Fundy National Park , New Brunswick, CA to Baddeck , Nova Scotia, CA
346 miles

Our second day on the road started out just the way I like it: cold, a bit cloudy and with no mosquitos to speak of. I was up first at 5:30 AM. We took our time packing up. I heated up water for my coffee and ate a “petite dejeuner” of some leftovers from my MRE from yesterday: crackers, peanut butter and raisins.

Our first adventure of the day was to head up to Moncton, where Steve had learned there was a BMW motorcycle dealer who might be able to assist him in solving his lack of front brake problem. Steve had directions from the woman who checked us in at the gate of the campground.

It took about an hour to get there. We rambled around town a bit, after getting some really bad directions from a wrecker driver at a stoplight. Two electrical workers at a stoplight put us right and we eventually reached the Atlantic Motoplex, founded under the name Atlantic Yamaha some 15 years ago with a transition to the name Atlantic Cycle for a few years, then back to Atlantic Yamaha for 6 years. With the addition of BMW Motorcycles, and Ducati motorcycles (exclusive for Atlantic Canada), the final name change has been to Atlantic Motoplex.

It was the biggest motorcycle shop I had ever seen, inside a brand new cavernous room the size of a city block. There were hundreds of motorcycles on display along with an acreage of clothing and accessories.
In the corner was a BMW sign, and I knew it was not good when Steve was still standing there, waiting, some 10 minutes after I wandered through the shop and checked in with him. A really young guy was manning the desk, alone, and he talked to Steve briefly, very briefly. We were soon walking out. Done .
“ They don’t have any slots to take me in. Next opening is in two weeks. No parts.”
The only hopeful news was that , while they wouldn’t even send out a mechanic or let us talk to one, we were told that what Steve had jury rigged is just fine, and that he could function on a single caliper up front. Steve was given a rubber wedge ( free) to jam in between the nonfunctional brake pads. Bye! Thanks, guys.
Yet another example where bigger is not better.

We still had not eaten any real breakfast, and were unable to locate a diner on the two mile access road back to the TransCanada Highway , Rt. 2. That had to wait until 11 AM . We were practically in Nova Scotia where we found an excellent restaurant just before heading into Amherst.
Today morphed into another hot humid one, and once into Nova Scotia, we picked up Route 6 out of Amherst, a secondary coastal route that follows the north shore until it dumped us back into the TransCanada Wighway in Pictou.
I struggled with keeping up a decent attitude with the now 90 degree , record-breaking heat. We gassed up , I drank a big bottle of Gatoraide, bought a bunch of gum and we were again on our way. Gas in Canada is sold by the litre, here for $1. 50 , or approximately $6 a gallon.

No sooner than we hit the open road, we ran into trouble. There was a massive road construction detail smack dab ahead. They sure do things differently in Canada. We had to sit on the broiling hot tarmac for a full half hour before we are allowed to proceed up the way. Of course we didn’t initially know that, so we found ourselves sitting on the bikes, at the ready if the long line ahead of us started to move. I eventually took off my gloves, helmet, and unzipped my protective jacket. I was still miserable in the heat and humidity.

Eventually we rolled on, but for just 1 mile when we were detoured off the TransCanada for more adventures in misery. I asked the flagman what was going on this time. He told me that there was “ a safety emergency” ahead. A tanker truck that was carrying propane had rolled off the TranCanada, but he assured me that we were going to be back on in “ a couple of miles” . The couple turned into 8 miles, and the huge amount of normal traffic, including a large percentage of tractor trailers, was now forced to slowly wind its way over a very narrow road with no shoulders. There was no way the trailers could fit on the asphalt, so they were occasionally churning up the gravel on the sides of the road, throwing up god-awful clouds of dust, grit, and sometimes small stones. As motorcyclists , we were forced to take one of two despicable alternatives; either to close the helmet face shields and squint through the dusty plastic and ride in the oppressive heat, or leave the shields up and cough up dust.

It was at this point in the trip that I seriously began to question my whole relationship with this motorcycle touring thing. What made it worse is when I glanced over at the side of the road and saw a pristine stream moving through the woods, bubbling over some rocks. I began fantasizing about walking in the wilderness, and a whole negative cascade of thoughts started flowing.
“Why am I doing this? I could have taken this week and gone backpacking. If I was hot, I could just go for a swim! “
“Why are the three of us each riding a separate vehicle, each paying $25 every time we fill up? Maybe we should have taken a van, towed one motorcycle and taken turns riding it!!??”
“ I just want to be hiking, and sleeping in the shade under a tree!”

Eventually were routed back onto the the TransCanada, and my attitude was re-adjusted. The afternoon moved along, and temperatures cooled as we rolled over the Canso Causeway onto Cape Breton as we approached our final destination of Baddeck.

We pulled into the Adventures East Campground off Route 105. It was primarily an RV facility, but we did have our choice of any of the 10 unserviced tent sites. They also had modern heated washrooms, picnic tables with fire rings on all sites, free (hot) showers, and best of a swimming pool! It was hot again, and our first priority after snagging a shaded tent site was to lay in the pool and get our body temperatures down.

We saw a luna moth on the door of the wash house.

The place was a bit expensive as campgrounds go ($26.00 plus 13% tax), but we ended up staying there for three nights anyways, as the location was perfect for our purposes, and they did have that pool.
The place was empty. Aside from one other night where there was a couple tenting, we were alone in the tent loop. The RV section was nearly empty as well.

After the pool soak, I showered, and we went back to the site to cook up supper. Another MRE for me, but I did fire up the wood stove to boil water. After the water was hot, I added enough damp material that the fire produced a good smolder, which helped us in deal with the mosquitoes.

Camping on Two Wheels

Motorcycle trip day 1
July 6, 2008
Lincolnville, ME to Alma, New Brunswick

Pat, Steve, and I rolled out of Lincolnville, Maine, each on our big twin cylinder BMW motorcycles, on 7 AM on a clear Sunday July morning. The bikes were amply packed for camping and adventure. A year ago, the three of us talked about taking a whole month month to head out to Montana, but that sure isn’t happening. Six days of freedom is what we’ve got. We’re going to Canada.
Gas is now an all time high of close to $5 a gallon, and the first inkling of the economic effects of that big cha-ching were the near-empty motel parking lots that we passed through Belfast, ME. It didn’t get much busier in Canada, where the norm was nearly empty campgrounds and sweatless border crossings.
Steve, Pat and I have done many motorcycle trips together over the years. We knew what to do.
It should have been easy for me to gather up the necessary gear and just go, but it wasn’t. I found that I needed a whole day to pack my stuff. Maybe it was the anticipation, but my packing seemed never ending. I was out of practice for rounding up this specific set of gear. Some of my stuff was out in the garage, some of it was in my “gear room” upstairs, some of it was on another motorcycle, and some of it, I had no clue. I looked in a lot of places for things. I was up and down a lot of stairs. It was exhausting just getting both myself and the motorcycle to the place where I could just go.

We took Route 1 all the way up the coast, skirting Ellsworth briefly and that magnetic turn down to the enchanting Acadia National Park. This time we’re running Down East, and crossing into Canada from Lubec into New Brunswick. After stopping for coffee and a Canadian bacon egg muffin at the Riverfront Cafe, we pulled down onto the beach in “downtown” Lubec few hours later just in time to roll across the sand onto the diminutive ferry, powered by a big lobster boat lashed to the side of a small barge .

The tides here in Fundy Bay are among the highest in the world and for our $5 we were treated to a virtually empty passage, skirting the edge of the Old Sow, normally a sucking vortex of whirlpool, but today a relatively mild drain.

After leaving the baby ferry, we rolled onto Canada where we rode across Deer Island for few short miles where we waited on the north side a bit to ride on a real vehicle ferry, free this time. We were in no rush, and enjoyed the sea air, gull sounds, and distinctive smell of the salt water shore, threading our way around tiny coastal islands and half-submerged rocks where we eventually reached the coastal town of St. George. A short while later , we were back on Rt 1 in Canada heading to the city of St. John. As we approached the rest area just before the city limits, the fog grew thick, temperature dropped like a sinker, and we were relieved to get off the bikes again and take a pit stop to discharge and take on liquids. I ate an energy bar.

It felt great to be on the road. Canada rocks, with excellent high speed roads, frequent passing lanes, and cleanliness.

I hate stopping for tolls when I am on my motorcycle. After years of rushing, fumbling, dropping gloves or coins as I often struggle to deal with cold hands, I now refuse to get frantic. I roll beside the toll booth, shut off the engine, take a big breath, remove my gloves, find the cash, put the gloves back on, start ‘er up and go. Works for me.

After the $.50 toll we cracked the throttles up the big hill out of town and we started working our way through the increasing heat and humidity as we winged toward Sussex.

This is rolling farm country, with a big valley out stage left that extends or miles up toward Sussex, New Brunswick. We were passing everything in sight with Steve pulling strong in front when out in the middle of nowhere I noticed his R80 RT slowing down and then pulling over as we were cresting one of the big hills. Not good. Now we were all on the shoulder. I smelled brake linings. Uphill?

“What’s up?” I asked him.
“Something’s not right. I might have a transmission problem or something. I can’t roll the bike in neutral even now,“ said Steve.

We collectively scratched our heads for a while until we put his bike up on the centerstand and attempted to spin the front wheel. Stuck. No amount of strength grunting on the wheel moved it even a micrometer. The bike has twin disc brakes on the front, and letting things cool down for a while released the calipers enough for us to see that his right caliper was screwed up.

Without excessively bashing him, Steve does have a remarkably long history of experiencing these sort of episodes on our motorcycle camping adventures. I think this was the seventh or eighth time.

All have been related to wheel or tire issues! Now our collective trip was taking that all too familiar shift from the free-and-easy-life-on-the-open-road place to the “ Shit Happens” place and all the tribulation that world brings to our plates.

Steve is a smart guy, and an excellent problem solver. No matter, he’s always managed to work these things out creatively or otherwise. This time we freed up the wheel, pulled it off, and Steve remounted the nonfunctional caliper, temporarily skirting the problem by installing it backwards, so that the unit was not gripping the right rotor at all. He now had a single disk brake front end. It worked enough to get us down the turn to Funday National Park, our destination for the day.

We wanted to camp close to a place where there some supplies to cook up for supper. I was all set, but Steve and Pat ended going to the tiny burg of Alma, where they found a small convenience store that had some canned goods and some Ramen noodles.

The closest campground to the ocean was practically empty, with only a quarter of the Headquarters campground even occupied. We chose a nice spot near a covered cooking eating kiosk where Steve and Pat set up their tent and I mine.

After I changed out of my riding clothes and boots into my camp wear, I became increasingly relaxed. I was now back in my element, camping.

Tent, up. Big Agnes Air Core mattress filled. Sleeping bag shaken out and into the tent. Petzl headlamp around my neck, at the ready. This is it, the old routine.
I’m usually the last to eat, as my little home made Bushbuddy wood burning stove takes care and tending. For that, I always have time. Gathering dry wood is what I do, breaking thin sticks down, stockpiling a little pile near the stove that I feed to get the water boiling.

Only this time I didn’t need to stove to heat up my supper. I have had a few MRE’s around the house that I don’t take back packing because they are just too heavy. The individual meals weigh over a pound and a half, which is usually what I take for one whole day’s food when I am on the trail. I threw a couple of them in my saddlebag this trip. Tonight was fairly decent Penne with Sauce, but the real surprise was the heating packet. When I added just a quarter cup of water in a plastic bag holding another white envelope, the whole thing got so immediately hot that it was burning flesh on my hand.  I  dropped it on the picnic table.  I removed my bandana, used it as a pot holder, placed the heating unit against the meal packet, inserted both into the cardboard packing material, waited 10 minutes, and the meal was piping hot. There was also all kinds of extra goodies in the MRE, like a squeeze packet of peanut butter, raisins, two big crackers, hot drink mix ( apple cider) , electrolyte powder mix, toilet paper, and even chewing gum. Unfreakingbelievable.

Motorcycle camping is backpacking on wheels. But, there are never any problems with having to cut down on gear. I needed some sunblock for the trip. It gets really hot and blistery riding into the rising or setting sun, which burns my face. All I could find in the house was a big aerosol can of liquid sunblock. Pitch it in the tank bag, no problem.

We went to bed early, and I wrote and read a bit in the tent. I opened half of the tent up to the open evening, and as the trip went on, I eventually ditched the fly altogether, possible thunderstorms be dammed. I had this strong need to be closer to the trees, sky, and stars. Any rain that we did have never came at night.

I thought we did pretty well together today.