Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

The Great Escape

This time of year always feels like Groundhog Day - go to  work, go to sleep, wake up, do it again.  It becomes so repetitive that it leaks into your mind, filling your thoughts so there is little room for anything else.  This year it's amplified by the negativity surrounding my work.  All that combined with no riding for dark months on end and it's hard not to get jammed.

If I time it right I can sneak out of Ontario on an above zero, dry road day.  You can still find double digital daily highs in Cincinatti and south.  A plugged in electric kit bonzai ride to Cinci and I'm out of the snowbelt.  From there it's a less ragged ride south to New Orleans.  From Cinci I'd angle over to Memphis and follow the Mississipi down to the Big Easy...

After reading books like Todd Blubaugh's Too Far Gone and watching Austin Vince Mondo Enduro the planet, I've often wondered what it would be like to get lost on the road.  Once out of the snowbelt, I'd be in no rush to be somewhere.  Without that very Western time fixation, I wouldn't have to get wound up over deadlines.

If I'm not fixated on a destination the daily goals might not be that linear.  With local knowledge I'd hope to find things off the beaten path as I meander...

Off the top of my head, I'd leave New Orleans along the Gulf, visit Austin and then ride the Twisted Sisters in Texas Hill Country.  Austin's also the home of the only North American MotoGP race, so if I timed my return with the race, I could be passing back through Austin on the way home in early April and catch Marc and the rest of the aliens doing their thing.  The goal on the way south would be to get familiar with Austin's weirdness for the return stop.

After wandering Texas I'd take a run up to the Very Large Array in New Mexico and do my best Jodi Foster immitation.  New Mexico and Arizona have a pile of strange sites to see, so the wandering would get intense.  Norman Reedus did a Ride episode in New Mexico that does a good job of showing what's on hand out there.

Even that far south the mountains can also catch you out with northern temperatures as we found out a couple of years ago in the Superstition Mountains just outside of Phoenix in early January, so not rushing and timing your rides is important when at altitude.  There are pile of old western towns and ruins in the US South West, along with some astonishing pieces of engineering.  Meandering from photo opportunity to photo opportunity would be a nice way to ease into this slow motion ride.

Tuscon is home of the Aeroplane Boneyard where thousands of retired air force planes sit in the desert.   A wander around there at sunset would be a glorious thing.  I've done the Phoenix area a couple of times and travelled from the north end of Arizona from Las Vegas, but haven't travelled as far south as Tuscon.  From there I'd head across to Yuma, another famous western US location, before diving south into the Baja Penninsula.  A desert riding tour would be a pretty cool way of seeing Baja.

Mexico is a whole other world.  Most riding-the-Americas types blitz through it looking for a fast route south,but Mexico (with a final lunge into Belize) is where I'd wrap up this great escape from the never ending Canadian winter.  Some crystal caves, Mesoamerican pyramids and Belize beaches during the deep freeze and then working my way back up to Austin for early April...

Seeing the Ozarks and the Tail of the Dragon during the weeks after the race would be a nice way to wind up this great escape, getting back to the frozen north just as it's not frozen anymore.

Friday, 12 July 2019

A Summer Jaunt into the Adirondacks

I'm getting a bit stir crazy riding to the same places over and over.  Reading about Wolfe's run at the Iron Butt Rally this year makes me want to raise my own long distance game with an eye to eventually taking a run at that event.  Who wouldn't want to pass out in a graveyard for half an hour before hitting the never ending road again?

The Water is Life rally helps provide some alternatives, but what I really want to do is an overnight trip to roads both interesting and new.  The Adirondacks are the nearest thing I have to mountain roads anywhere near me beyond Southern Ontario's flat, industrial farming desert.

Operating out of the Hotel Crittenden, I'd be able to leave luggage behind and travel light on the two loop days designed to explore the twisting roads of the Adirondack Mountains.  Hotel prices tend to spike on peak times like weekends, so a mid-week trip should keep costs minimal.  It's a couple of hundred miles south and east, over the US border into New York State and south through the old mountains of eastern North America to Coudersport on the Allegheny River.

Day 1:  Ride to Coudersport:  352kms

Hotel Crittenden:

Interesting Adirondacks roads:

Day 2:  Snow Shoe Haneyville Loop:  352kms

Day 3:  Hollerback Loop:  384kms

Day 4:  Ride Home:  409kms

1497kms (930 miles) in 4 days / 3 nights.
Monday - Thursday (cheapest hotel room rates)
Hotel nights:  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday
August 19-22:  USD $238.50 / CAD $313 Single King Room /3 nights
Our King suite is large, nearly 450 square feet. Each of our rooms is uniquely decorated and appointed with a classic theme. Relax on our premium quality king sized mattress and enjoy the historic surroundings. All rooms include a flat screen television, Coffee maker, and free WI-FI. The Bathroom features a Stand up shower with complimentary toiletries and a hair dryer.

Amenities on site (restaurant, bar) and a great downtown location near many other eating options means no need to ride at the end of a long day exploring twisty mountain roads.

The same area is great for autumn colours:

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Riding in Style Out of the Rust Belt

How best to drive south out of the snow and salt?  A limo styled Benz!  They're asking about forty-seven grand for it out of a place in Toronto, and it has almost no miles on it.  The Metris gets the highest reviews in terms of work vans, and this one has been blinged up to make it a comfortable mile muncher.

How disco is it?  Built in TV, tall roof and power everything.  It'll easily swallow the Tiger along with the family and then make for a comfortable and pretty thrifty ride.

A good first escape out of the snow would be Louisiana over the new years.  It's two thousand kilometres and twenty hours south.  With a stop between Louisville and Nashville, we'd be in the Mississippi Delta in two days, then the bike can come out the back and I'd have a couple of days discovering the roads of the lowlands at a time of year when I'm as far from two wheels as I ever get.

Mississippi Loop: From the Gulfport coast up the shores of the Mississippi before looping back around.  355 miles all in:

Louisiana South: Through New Orleans and to the ends of the Delta.  436 miles:

How I found those routes:

Two days down, two days on the bike, two days hanging out in New Orleans and then a couple of days back means we could squeeze this all in before going back to work.

Leave Friday, Dec 28th and get back home Saturday, Jan 5th.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Sabbatical Rides: Riding the Americas

Previously I've thought about various ways I could do a four years pay over five years and then take a sabbatical year off work and still get paid.  From circumnavigating North America to tracing my grandfather's route through occupied France in 1940 during World War Two, there are a lot of interesting ways I could take a year off with an epic motorcycle ride included.

One of the first motorcycle travel ideas I had was to do the Pan-American trip from Prudhoe Bay in Alaska to Ushuaia in Argentina, from the top to the bottom of the Americas.  This ride is an even more extreme version of the North American circumnavigation as the mileage is mega; over 56,000kms!  At a 400km a day average that works out to 141 days or over 20 weeks making miles every day.  With a day off every week that adds another 3 weeks to the trip.  Fitting it into 24 weeks would mean some rest days and some extra time to cover the border crossings and rougher sections of the trip.

Another way to look at this might be from a Nick Sanders angle.  He did Prudhoe Bay to Ushuaia and back again in an astonishing 46 days.  That's 23,464kms x 2, so 46,928kms in 46 days, or an astonishing 1020kms average per day, including stops for flights over the Darien Gap between Columbia and Panama two times.  That approach (I imagine) gets pretty psychedelic and I might not really get the sense that I'm anywhere doing it that way, but there are certainly ways to tighten up the schedule and move with more purpose if needed.

The actual number of days needed if I ran it over 24 weeks would be 168.  The best time to hit Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic Ocean coast of Alaska is obviously during the long days of the northern summer.  If I left home mid-July I'd be up Prudhoe way eighteen days later at 400kms/day.  If I push on tarmac I should be able to get up there by the beginning of August and then begin the long ride south.

A good tie-up in South America would be to follow a bit of the Dakar Rally - this year running in Peru from January 6th to 17th.  After that it would be down south to the tip of South America in their late summer before heading back north.

The 2019 MotoGP season lands in Texas the weekend of April 12-14, making a nice stop before the final leg home in the spring.  Two weeks before that they are in Argentina.  Trying to connect the two races overland would be an interesting challenge.  It's just over six thousand kilometres north to Cartegena, Columbia and the boat around the Darien Gap, or just over seven thousand heading through the Amazon.  Then another forty-five hundred kilometres through Central America to Texas for the next race.  In a straight run that'd be almost eleven thousand kilometres across thirteen countries in eleven days if I managed to get to Texas for the pre-qualifying.  That'd be a Nick Sanders worthy feat. 

The PanAmerican Trip Tip to Toe and back again in sections:

North America to Prudhoe Bay:
19,571kms July-August to Prudhoe Bay, August-November to Colon:

South America South:

11,106kms  Nov-Jan to Peru for Dakar, Jan to Mar to Ushuai

South America North:

11,057kms  Via Circuit De Rio Hondo MotoGP race in March.

North America North:


56,357kms.  @400kms/day average that's 141 days continuously on the road.

Leave July, Prudhoe Bay by end of July, Dakar in January in Peru, Ushuaia in February, Circuit de Rio Hondo for the MotoGP race at the end of March then a hard 11 days north through the Amazon to Austin Texas for the next race in mid-April.  Home by the end of April.   And I'd still have May-August to write about what happened and publish.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Sabbatical Rides: North America

The idea of a year's sabbatical has come up a few times recently.  I'm ten years away from my retirement date.  My job has a four out of five option where my salary is stretched over five years while I'm only paid for four.  It means a slightly smaller paycheque, but then a paid year off at the end of it.

My wife has ideas of going back to school in that year off, but I'm disinclined to take a year off teaching in school to go to school.  What I'd really like to do is the EPIC MOTORCYCLING TRIP with the intent of writing and producing art and photography out of it.  When people do this they typically line up the RTW ('round the world) ride and then spend a lot of time in poor countries making unintentionally Western-superiority statements about how hardy they are and how backwards non-Europeans are.   I'm reluctant to follow that pattern.

We recently spent a summer driving most of the way across North America and back again.  I had a number of moments when I saw North America for what it is:  a place that has almost no human history in it.  At the Canadian Museum of Human Rights I started thinking about how native aboriginal people are to North America (there were lots of displays on how poorly Europeans integrated with the first immigrants to this place).  A few days later at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller I discovered that most of North America's mega-fauna disappeared right after humans first arrived; we're an environmental scurge no matter where we go.  It got me thinking about how North America must have looked before we got here and unbalanced it all.

The Americas were blissfully free of human beings for all bit a trivially small, recent moment in time.  They separated from the massive Pangea landmass between two hundred and a hundred and seventy million years ago, long before anything remotely human walked the earth.  For millenia upon millenia North and South America were unique ecosystems with animals not found anywhere else, all of it safe from the human migration out of Africa two to three million years ago.  Earliest estimates now have humans crossing the northern ice bridge during an ice age about fifteen thousand years ago.  That means that, conservatively, humans (aboriginal and later settlers) have claimed North America as theirs for less than 0.0086% of its existence.

One of the few mega-fauna left after the humans got here.
It's hard not to see a tragic species memory in those eyes.
This framed much of that trip for me.  I kept trying to see the lands we were travelling through without the recent influx of foreign species.  Humans appeared and immediately started filling this place with invasive species from where they came from.  This became especially evident when I was looking into the eyes of a truly native species in Yellowstone Park.

This human free view of the Americas is something we tend to ignore as we're all so busy justifying the pieces of it we divide up between ourselves.  Most of North America's history had nothing to do with us.  There are other parts of the world that have had humans living in them for hundreds of thousands of years, but those places aren't here.

This sabbatical ride would be to circumnavigate North America and try to see the place itself without its invasive and destructive recent history.

The trick would be to time this ride with the weather.  I'd be off work beginning in July and then have until the end of the following August.  Heading east to Cape Spear (North America's easternmost point) would mean avoiding the early winters that hit Newfoundland.  Spending a summer at home would be a nice way to start the sabbatical, then, as my wife heads off to school, I hit the road.  We could arrange meetups when she's off school through the fall.

I'd start in Newfoundland in September and then head down the East Coast to Key West before riding around the Gulf of Mexico to Cancun and then crossing the continent at its narrowest point before making my way up the West Coast.  I'd try to time my pause for the holiday break, servicing and then parking up the bike in storage for a few months in California.

I'd fly back out and release the bike from storage in the late spring and aim to be taking the long road to the Arctic Ocean as the days become infinite over the Tundra.  Ideally I'd be back home by mid-July.

From tropical rain forests to mountains, plains and tundra, this ride would show the staggering range of geography to be found in North America.  At well over thirty-three thousand kilometres, this would also be an epic ride in terms of distance (RTW rides are typically 20-30,000kms).

The only downside would be the cost of travel in the USA and Canada, but there are ways to manage that without breaking the bank.  With the idea of getting to know the North America under the human migration, wild camping as often as possible would be a nice way to get closer to the land and to meet the people from all over Turtle Island who now call it home.

Taking my old Tiger on a North American circumnavigation
would be brilliant!  This old thing would be long distance
ready with only a few upgrades.
With a dearth of freeway travel on this trip, it would be about a lot of coastal roads and staying to the edge of the continent.  With potentially rough roads in the far south and north of the trip, something that is capable both on and off road would be ideal.  It wouldn't need to be a high speed touring cable unit, but it would have to carry the gear for at least occasional wild camping.  There are a number of mid-sized adventure bikes that would fit this need, though I'd be just at tempted to take my current Tiger.  Perhaps I could customize it as a sabre-toothed Tiger in relation to the America's apex predator (made extinct when humans showed up).

Riding tens of thousands of kilometres in a relatively short period of time means some challenging logistics, especially if I want to spend breaks with my significant other.  The ride out to Cape Spear on the easternmost coast is a thirty-two hundred kilometre all-Canadian opening to the trip.  All told, the ride out to Newfoundland and then back to the US border to head south down the Eastern Seaboard is nearly five thousand kilometres.  Breaking the trip into pieces is how I've blocked out the timing of it.

Canada East:  Elora to Cape Spear, Newfoundland and back to St. John, New Brunswick.  Mid-September.  About five thousand kilometres.  With potentially interesting weather (this year the east coast of Canada has been hammered by the remains of hurricanes) even this opening section might be challenging.  With ferries involved, doing an average of 400kms a day seems like an eminently doable thing that would also give me reasonable stopping time so I'm not always rushing past moments of insight.  Five thousand kilometres at four hundred a day works out to twelve days on the road.  Giving myself a fortnight to do that would mean being able to spend a bit of extra time where necessary (hopefully on Newfoundland).

The East Coast:  New Brunswick to Key West.  End of September/early October.  This four thousand kilometre jaunt down the East Coast would be happening in the fall, while dodging hurricanes.  Sticking to the coast would be occasionally tricky in a road system designed to put you onto an interstate, but I'd stubbornly cling to it.  Four thousand kilometres at four hundred a day average is ten days riding south.  I could easily compress that by doing it on freeways, but that's not the point.  Being on back roads gives me a better chance of seeing the place for what it is instead of just seeing the travel industry.  I'd be aiming to get to Key West still fairly early in October and then start my circumnavigation of the Gulf of Mexico.

The Gulf of Mexico:  Key West, Florida to Cancun, Mexico.  From early October for the month.  The Gulf coast means I'm travelling through some culturally unique places.  New Orleans has long been a desired destination, and Texas is often described as a country in and of itself.  Crossing into Mexico puts this trip well into an adventure mind-set as I'd have to find my way through a unique culture in a language I'm not familiar with.  The fifty-three hundred kilometres of this leg of the trip should take roughly two weeks, but with borders and other hold ups it would probably be better to settle on an end of October arrival in Cancun (giving me 5-6 days of padding in there to let things run at Mexican speed).

Pacific Mexico:  Cancun through Baja to San Diego, California.  This six thousand kilometre leg up the west coast of Mexico and the Baja Peninsula will eventually lead me back to the USA.  If I'm beginning this leg in early November, it should take me fifteen days at my 400/day average to make my way north.  Giving myself the month means extra days, hopefully with a reading week meetup with Alanna somewhere in Mexico for a few days off together in the warm.  Even with that relaxed schedule I should be able to make my way to San Diego, service the bike and put it into storage for a few months before making my way home for the holidays.  A handy winter break means I could collate my photos and notes from part one of the trip.  

West Coast to the Arctic Ocean:  San Diego to Tuktoyaktuk.  This seven thousand kilometre ride to the northern edge of North America would take 18 days, but with multiple ferries, borders and coastal barriers I'd pad some extra time in there.  I'd be aiming for a late June/early July (midsummer, midnight sun) arrival in Tuktoyaktuk on Canada's Arctic coast.  A month back from that would mean flying back into San Diego around the beginning of June and then riding north for many weeks.

From Vancouver Island on north this would be a rough and tumble ride with hundreds of kilometres of gravel roads.  The bike would need to be sorted and ready to take on that kind of abuse.

The Long Way Home:  Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories to Elora, Ontario.  It's nearly seven thousand kilometres diagonally across Canada back home again to finish this trip.  That's another 18 days at 400kms/day.

I'd try to be home by mid-July and enjoy some downtime before getting ready to go back into the classroom.  The first nine hundred kilometres of this trip would be long days on permafrost and gravel, but from the Dawson Highway south it would be back on tarmac and I would be able to make better time.  There is no over land passage that traces the northern coast of Canada through the tundra, so a diagonal slash south and east would be the final leg of this trip.

Wrapping my head around this continent on which I live would not only give me great material for writing, but it would also let me tick off a bucket list item:  complete a truly epic motorcycle journey before I'm too old to manage it.

Thursday, 6 September 2018


It's that time of year again.  Dreams of escape surround me.  If I left right now I could get in and out of Tuktoyaktuk on Canada's north shore before the snows arrive (just).  I might have to bomb up there in a van just to get out in time, but then it'd be heading south across the Americas for months, chasing the summer.

The west coast as autumn falls would be glorious.  As the snows start to fly in Canada, I'd be into Mexico and Central America.  An unrushed few weeks working my down through the many border crossings would be much less stressful if I didn't have to be somewhere somewhen.  Crossing the Darien Gap from Panama to Columbia is five days on a boat and a chance to take a break from the saddle.

The boat lands in Columbia.  Once in South America I'd find somewhere to bed down over the holidays in Colombia or Ecuador before rolling south into the South American summer.  Spending Christmas on an empty Andean shoreline facing the never ending Pacific would be glorious.

I'd push south and see Machu Picchu after the holidays and then try and catch at least one stage of the Dakar Rally as it thunders around Peru in January.  A Peruvian desert stage would be awesome.

As summer wore on in the southern hemisphere, I'd continue south to Ushuaia on the southern end of Argentina.  After going from arctic to antarctic, I'd work my way back up to Buenos Aires and start the process of packing up the bike for a trans-Atlantic crossing to Cape Town.
...for what it feels like to peer over the edge into a never ending ride.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Kawartha Highlands Circumnavigation

A July ride in the Haliburton Highlands:  the plan is to take a few days at the end of next week and head up to the in-law's cottage.  It's just outside Bobcaygeon, Ontario and makes a great base for riding into the Canadian Shield in Haliburton.

The way into the lake is a fire road. all gravel and twisty like a rally stage.  I'm actually looking forward to it now that I've done the SMART training; time to see if I can apply some of those off road skills so that the whole way in isn't a nervous ride on a loose surface.

The next day I'll take the Tiger out for a lap around the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park.  I did the Haliburton Highlands last spring on a birthday ride.  Weaving through Canadian Shield lakes, woods and massive rock outcroppings is never a bad thing.  Because of all those geographical features, Haliburton is one of the few places in Ontario where the roads have some character; you spend very little time on the crown of your tire.

If I'm finding the ride going by quickly there are a lot of alternative routes built in.  The 504 looks like it would be fun to ride both ways.

10 North off the 648 up by Tory Hill also looks like it would be a good two way ride.  It'd be easy to add some additional pieces on the day if time permits.

One thing's for sure, that night around the campfire at the cottage is going to feel good...

The short route - 261kms. The longer route (318kms below) also covers the twisty 10 north of Highland Grove...

With that done and after a couple of days in the woods, it's off to the Atlak Tour meeting in Torrance, Ontario at the Clear Water Brewery.  It's only a couple of hours along more twisty Haliburton Highlands roads before a 2pm start, so I even get to sleep in.

I'll bring my fifteen year old/seventy-thousand kilometre old Tiger up there and see what the new ones have to offer.  One thing I think they're missing are the striking style of my '03 model.  At some point Triumph went BMW GS with their adventure bikes and started chasing the military look.  My whimsical Tiger strikes up all sorts of conversations wherever I go, I'm not sure that the newer models have the same curb-side appeal, but I'll find out soon enough.

It's two hours out to the Triumph event and then two and a half hours home afterwards, but on a Saturday evening on a summer weekend it'll be an empty highway that meets me; I can get home in less than two and a half hours.

It's a busy few days, but on these kinds of roads they'll be anything but dull.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Summer 2018: Things to do list: Horizons Unlimited Ontario Meeting

HU Ontario 2018Horizons Unlimited is having a big meeting in central Ontario in May and it'd be nice to go.  It's a three hour ride from home but only about an hour and a half from the inlaw's cottage.  I looked into staying over but it's a pretty penny.  Staying at the resort it's at is north of eight hundred bucks for the cheapest condo type place available.  Even assuming I could find some people to divide the cost with, that's more than I'm willing to pay.

Heading up Friday I could do a loop around the Kawartha Highlands on some twisty, Canadian Shield roads before landing at the cottage.  The whole thing would be about 850kms over a long weekend.  A day of riding up there, a day at Horizons and then a ride home on Sunday - entirely doable.

The ride around Kawartha
They structure the pricing to get you there for the whole weekend, so even if I just went for the day it's still seventy five bucks, but then I guess I could always go back Sunday if it really did the business.  I've had friends attend before and really enjoy it.  If there were wild camping opportunities in a less resorty location, I'd be more willing to commit, but refugee camping (in rows, on a site) isn't my cup of tea, and the alternative staying in a building ends up being money I'd rather spend elsewhere.

Still, for seventy five bucks, it might be a good way to get a sense of the overlander adventure club, I just wish they offered a first time taster's package.  They say 'come to an HU event and find your tribe' - but I tend toward a tribe of one.  I want to believe, and I want to go, but I don't want to end up spending a mint on something that ends up not being a fit.  The aspie in me wants me to just go for a long ride in the Haliburton Highlands - I'm trying to use that to convince him to go and meet people... something he really isn't fond of.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Another Lousy Weather Long Weekend Daydream

With hail hitting the windows, here's another load-up-the-van daydream, this time over the Easter long weekend...

It's up in the teens Celsius in Cincinnati, and it's close by, less than eight hours away.  If I'd have gone to work on Thursday with the bike loaded up in the van, I could have been on my way by 3:30pm and feet up in a hotel on the Ohio River before midnight.  The next morning I'd be exploring what looks like a plethora of interesting routes up and down the River on the Kentucky side, all in mid-teens temperatures.

Spoiled for choice:

Cincinnati is so close I could finish up with a short ride Monday morning and be on the road about noon, which would get me back up into the still frozen north by eight in the evening.

Another angle might be to aim just east of Columbus, Ohio.  There are a large number of motorbike roads out that way on the edge of the Appalachians.  Zanesville, Ohio would be a great launching point to dozens of rides, and it's less than seven hours away.  Due south of town is the Triple Nickel, along with a pile of other very twisty roads.  Temperatures out in eastern Ohio are similar to those in Cinci.

Flirting with the West Virginia border means wandering onto the foot hills of the Appalachians.  Every road in the area is twisty, even the ones leading to the riding roads.  This is even closer than the Cinci plan, and twistier too.

The weather's getting better everywhere else but here.  With above zero temperatures still weeks away, I remain reduced to daydreaming about rides out of reach.