The whole trip
The whole trip
The whole trip
The whole trip
The whole trip
Thursday June 6, 2019
Day two route, 169 KM
It rained through the night but I slept well. In the morning it was still alternating from rain to showers and back and as I was in no hurry I made coffee and thought about where to go today.
I decided to walk a ways into Searsport to see if I could find something for breakfast but didn’t really get far. Searsport seems to be one of those Maine towns that are mostly a collection of houses and random businesses strung along the road without a discernible town centre. There are many more options in nearby Belfast Bay, but that would have been quite a walk. I passed a nearby Irving that I thought would do in a pinch but although it was fully lit up and powered, the pumps were all closed and the buildings were empty. Weird to see the big and well-lit road sign showing all grades of gas at $0.00 and the pump handles all covered. So I walked back to my room, ate a power bar and looked at some route options.
By 10:00 or so I was ready to leave. The weather had settled down and the rain seemed to be finished leaving only occasional showers to deal with. Temps were cool so all my zippers were closed but it was not unpleasant riding.
A few KM down the road I stopped at Belfast Bay and rode through the little town. Stopping at a waterfront park I shot a few photos.
After this I stopped at a Hannaford’s for some groceries. I wanted to try out cooking at my campsite and not relying on freeze dried “Hiker Delight” type meals as I have in the past. I got some dry pasta, tomato sauce and some Italian sausages for supper and bought some sliced turkey breast and 6″ tortillas for a lunch on the road.
I soon carried on along route 1 along the coast and by noon the weather was dry and warming up. It was a really nice day for riding with generally clear skies and some clouds.
Around noon I stopped at a roadside rest stop at Sherman Lake and ate lunch at the nice, covered picnic tables there.
When I pulled into the park there were about a dozen various EMT type vehicles there all sitting with full lights flashing. There were multiple State Troopers, the Sherriff, a firetruck, a couple of ambulances, a SAR vehicle etc. The operators were all just kind of standing around in the parking lot and it was weird idling through between them all. Nobody seemed in a hurry and the one thing missing appeared to be a patient or other emergency.
They were there quite a while and eventually a school bus pulled in and offloaded a dozen or so cheerleaders. The cheerleaders got in several of the vehicles and everybody then hauled a$$ out of the parking lot with lights and sirens. There must be an emergency parade somewhere, I guess. Bizarre.
I hadn’t gone to the bother of ordering cigars in advance as usual and instead had decided to live off the land cigar-wise. I’d picked up some Swisher Sweets Perfectos at a gas station and got 5 for the price I usually pay for 1. They weren’t bad.
I haven’t got reservations anywhere and now it’s after lunch so I started thinking about finding a campground. I had no wifi here but most of my campground apps work offline, just without maps. (I later figured out a way around that).
ioverlander.com was showing a promising State Park campground not too far away and not too far off route one so I decided to head for there.
On my way got back to the bike in the parking lot there was a guy kind of hanging around his nearby car. When I started packing my stuff up he came over and as happens so often, started asking questions about the bike. It turned out he is a long-time BMW rider and has two at the moment – an R1200RT and a R90S. We stood there talking for quite a while about BMWs, other bikes and bike trips. He’s had the R90S for a long time and had lots of stories about mods and restorative work he’s done to it. His wife returned from wherever she’d been part way through the stories and was just sitting in the car like this happens frequently, and it likely does – he was very chatty. Eventually everybody reached a point where it was time to move along and with a wave he drove off.
I have set up a “scenic routes” option on my GPS that will find a route avoiding all highways, toll roads etc. and I used it a lot on this trip. I set the GPS to “meander” mode and off I went soon turning inland and away from Route One.
It was a really nice ride and eventually I arrived at Bradbury Mountain State Park. When I decided to head for here I couldn’t see where it was on the map – my GPS had routed me through a series of country roads and I had not been on route one since lunch time. So I was surprised to find out my campsite was only 7 miles from Freeport, ME. I was even more surprised to find it only about 25% occupied as Freeport is a shopping mecca and usually very crowded and busy.
This turned out to be a new addition to my “favourite places to camp” list and I ended up staying here two nights. It was primative (though my site happened to have running, potable water) and relatively quiet. Most of the noise came from a bit of traffic on the road out in front of the campground. It didn’t bother me but next time I’d likely choose a spot deeper in the campground and further from the road.
Some of the walk-in sites are very secluded:
Although it was early in the day I decided to stop here and set up. On so many past trips I’d be out droning along on the interstate and swearing at the traffic for hours yet but this felt right for this trip. I enjoyed relaxing around the campsite and talking with the park staff.
I cooked my supper and it all worked out fine, it was nice to be able to put together something for myself that doesn’t cost 12 bucks, doesn’t contain so much salt and isn’t 600 calories. The needs of a backpacking hiker and a guy just sitting on a bike all day are pretty different, convenience seems to be the main point of convergence but now I have lots of time that doesn’t matter as much.
Eventually an R1200RT rider from Petrolia, ON stopped by to say hello and chat. He was on a tour with his truck and trailer rig as his wife won’t ride. His brothers all ride too and we shared some stories. He was kind of focused on the bugs (there were a few but not that many) and talked about how hard it had rained the night before. He complained a lot about the weather, citing the cold and wet not-spring as the reason he wasn’t riding his bike much. He was getting pretty doom-n-gloomy on the topic of climate change – when I finally found out he was a raised on a farm and it all made a lot more sense. He likely grew up with everyone around him cussing on the the weather no matter what kind of weather it was. But yeah, climate change is real and it’s going to be wetter in the East.
Later another rider with a K1600 came by to chat, he is new to BMW coming from the Harley world and so far he is very happy. He “has no idea what most of the buttons do” but knows how to work the GPS and is a seasoned long-haul rider. He’s from Quincy, MA (just outside Boston) and when the bike was five days old rode it to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. He said it was a cold ride at the beginning of March but he loved the ride. He’s was on his way to Laconia, NH the next morning to join in the for Bike week festivities. It was dark when he came in and unfortunately I was still dark when he rolled out in the morning – I regret not having a chance to add him to my Riders I Meet photo gallery.
I don’t often have a campfire, but felt like one this night. The wood was damp but I got a little fire going and managed to keep it burning through the evening.
Day two had been a complete success and I was thoroughly enjoying the trip.
So I was itching to get away on the first real bike trip of 2019. It had been a long, cold and dark winter and my last trip in 2018 hadn’t been truly satisfying what with the cold, wet weather I had encountered.
The 2019 season would also be a kind of personal turning point where I would actually have to begin living the retired lifestyle I’d been thinking about for for so long. I wanted to change up the style of my trips. Until now most of my multi-day trips could be characterized as long, time-limited trips to specific destinations comprised of long, high mileage days and not many roses getting sniffed along the way. Those rides served a purpose and allowed me to tick off a lot of the boxes on my list of “personal destinations I want to ride to” but were losing their satisfaction quotient and becoming kind of tedious.
Beginning this year I wanted to do a different kind of trips. I still have loads of specific places I want to ride to and some of them are even familiar favourite places, but I no longer want to do so many long days and I want to avoid the interstate, travelling instead on the byways and backroads. I hope to explore places more fully, do a lot more photography and meet more interesting people on my travels. I’m looking forward to stopping earlier in the day and doing a lot more relaxing. Having a more flexible attitude about where I’m headed should also allow me to avoid more bad weather and camp more nights – because that really is one of the things I love about this kind of travel and besides, I’m a pensioner now and I need to economize where I can. Camping is a big part of the fun for me and repeatedly setting up and breaking down my camp rarely gets tedious, especially if I’m not trying to hurry to a specific destination or beat the gridlock on Interstate #whatever.
So this trip is an experiment. I need to see if I can actually do it. I want to see if I enjoy a more “meandering” travel style and if I truly can stop to experience more of a places and the people that live there.
To give me the best shot at early success I chose to travel familiar territory and because later this June I have two graduations and one Senior Prom to play Dad at, I had a maximum of 12 days to spend. I wanted to spend most of my time in the back country and could potentially see myself getting as far west as Vermont. Anyway, here’s what I actually ended up doing: I travelled a total of 1,861 KM over 5 days and camped all but one night.
Wednesday June 5, 2019
I had a loose plan to ride back roads to MacAdam, NB, cross into the US at Vanceboro, ME and ride route Two with a plan to camp at one of the campgrounds I knew about near Gorham, NH. It would make a fairly long first day, but I was prepared to stop early if I needed to. As it turned out my planning flexibility was put to the test early on the first day.
In keeping with my new, “life in the slow lane” outlook I didn’t get up at dawn, I didn’t skip breakfast and I hadn’t pre-loaded the bike the night before departure. The weather forecast was some showers in the morning and a chance of overnight showers in the area I was headed to but nothing significant. Still, it was likely going to be GoreTex conditions for the first day or two – after that everything looked perfect for at least a week in all directions.
I arrived at my storage garage around 9:30 AM, rolled the bike out and and packed it up with my gear. By 10:20 I was getting into my riding gear and giving the bike a final pre-flight look-over in preparation for departure when I looked at the front tire and thought, geez that looks soft… Sure enough it was flat.
My last ride on this bike was a big NB gravel day trip a few days before and about midway through that trip I had hit a big, pointy rock dead on with the front tire. I stopped at the time and the wheel was fine but it’d been a big hit and I thought a pinch flat was a strong possibility. I’d kept an eye on it throughout the rest of the ride and it held up fine all the way home. I never hit anything big after that one big rock so I guess it just took a little time for all the air to get out.
Nobody wants to start a trip this way. I still wanted to go and I knew I’d need to fix this anyway so I dug my tools out of the cases and got to work. By now the showers have stopped and it’s looking like an awesome day for riding.
In about half an hour I had the wheel off and the tube out. I had the hardest time ever breaking the bead on this tire – I’ve often wondered why there are so many fancy bead-breaking tools out there, it had just never been a problem for me before but this one was a b*tch. Got it done, though with the help of my big rubber mallet. I guess it would have to be a big ugly rock if I was doing this trailside.
I found the hole easy enough and it was, in fact a pinch flat. I was about to patch it when I remembered somewhere in one of these boxes I had at least one unopened 21 inch tube. A new tube is always better than a patch if you have one at hand so I went looking for it. In the end it took a bit of digging in boxes but likely no more time than it would have to patch the tube and things went back together well.
By the time all the unpacking, disassembly, cussing over the bead, digging for the tube, swatting some bugs, cussing some more, reassembly and repacking was done it was about 11:20 and I was about 2 hours behind. It was time to be flexible.
I jettisoned the stop at the car wash on my way out of town idea and determined there would likely be enough rain along the way to clean most of the caked-on muck off the bike automatically. I then deleted most of the back roads portion of the NB leg of the ride – giving in to the simple expedient of taking the TCH to just beyond Fredericton. Still it was looking doubtful I could get to Gorham, NH today as the GPS was suggesting a new best-case arrival there of about 9:30 PM.
I got to MacAdam without incident and it was a fantastic ride. Temps were pretty much ideal at 19 degrees or so and the road was smooth and clear of traffic. It was one of those days that motorcycles were invented for.
I pulled up to the Vanceboro Customs booth at 3:18 and was on my way less than two minutes later. While there the Border Agent and I mostly discussed the cloud of black flies surrounding my head. He didn’t want me to “get chewed up” so didn’t require me to take off my helmet – it’s been years since I haven’t had to de-helmet going into the US.
Down the road a mile or so I stopped for a drink and a snack and the flies swarmed me again. Inside, it’s all anybody was talking about. “Wet spring”, “long winter”, “late hatch”, “warming temps” were some of the reasons they were offering for what was looking like the worst black fly season anybody could remember – and it just started.
Hmmmm, a week of back country travel and camping you say… maybe it will be better further along.
30 minutes later I stopped at a bank I knew of that had an ATM to get some USD. The flies were not better, if anything they might have been a little worse – I literally couldn’t bear to stand at the ATM long enough to get even a single dollar out. In my mind’s eye I’d pictured at least a week of setting up camp early, hanging around, reading, walking in the woods etc – it was definitely time to be flexible again.
The weather on the coast was forecast to be cooler, a bit wetter and windier. The cooler and wetter part had it’s downside for a camping trip but it was only going to be wet the first night. I was betting, though, that the bugs would be a lot less troublesome along the coast. There was more exploring and wandering in the back country and the coast had a lot more of what I didn’t want like traffic, tourism and crowds but in the end the bugs made the call for me and I headed for the coast.
Arriving on the coast I stopped for some coffee and wifi in Searsport where I found two things, that the overnight forecast had worsened to “heavy rain” all night and rain all morning the next day. The other thing I found was a motel for only $20 bucks more than the campsite’s price so I put away my He-Man Card and booked the motel… the Bait’s Motel… ha ha, very clever. I was genuinely disappointed to not be camping but if my new rule was going to be “to be more ready to change my plans” this didn’t seem like a good time to revert to stubbornness.
The wifi didn’t work at the motel so I had to go stand outside the restaurant to get any. But the motel was clean and dry and I was blissfully sleeping as the rain thundered down all night. I would hear about this rainstorm from other campers and riders I’d meet in the days to come. ahhh, my new friend flexibility.
The weather was looking good for the afternoon, cloudy and a high of 20 with no rain in the forecast. Given how this year has gone I was keen to ride but skeptical this forecast would be any more accurate than all those disappointments that have come before today.
I headed out to the Adventure Lair and got there about 11:30. I suited up, made a quick stop for gas and was on my way.
134 km today.
I didn’t have a destination in mind but I wanted to at least get a photograph or two while I was out. Eventually I found myself in Albert County and exploring around the wind farm a bit.
I took a ride over New Ireland Road to the Kent Road junction. Sad to see a lot of development in the area with huge swaths of clear-cut and gigantic utility poles going in. Turns out there’s a new wind farm project going in around there so there’s trucks and heavy equipment all over the place. Too bad, that used to be a place you could quickly go to from the city and feel like you were really out in the boonies. Progress – Ugh!
A little way along NI Rd I came across this spot that seems to have been used for a boondock camping spot. I stopped for a stretch and to take some pics. Waypointing it for future reference.
It’s a nice little spot, if a little close to the road. It has water, a nice firepit and is reasonably flat. Somebody even took the trouble to erect a latrine in the woods nearby – I didn’t explore too closely but there appeared to be a wooden frame to hold the toilet seat and a blue tarp overhead. They hadn’t dug a pit, though and while there was a tipped-over bucket nearby the pile of evidence of the latrine’s use was simply standing there under the seat. Who does that?
Used the stack&blend method to smooth out the water for a faux long-exposure effect on both the following shots. Enhancement done with Luminar Flex, I really like that software BTW.
It’s bittersweet as I will only have the F800 for another month or so. I’ve decided it I can’t afford to keep it in my newly reorganized retirement plan so it has to go back to BMW – likely sometime late June or July. Rides like this are perfect for this bike and remind me how much I like it and will miss it.
I took Kent Road toward home and it wasn’t as much fun as it should have been. That road has always been one of my favourite rides but with the new development it’s getting upgraded again. There was an A-hole in a dump truck I had to get around and a dozer making a real mess I had to contend with. Also a huge pile of gravel in the road that I could just get around on one side.
Once in the wind farm it was more big trucks and they weren’t giving any f_cks at all about anybody else. One blocked me from passing me forcing me to ride in his dusty wake, another pulled out right in front of me. These guys are so used to there not being anybody else around they aren’t even looking. Pretty dangerous and I guess I’ll likely have to avoid the area this summer – shame.
It never did get to 20, in fact 15 was as high as I experienced and I did encounter a shower or two. Luckily I’d been skeptical from the start and had on full WP gear and a warm vest under my jacket. Heated grips on the whole ride.
For years I’ve been exploring the huge network of gravel roads throughout New Brunswick. Many of those are in the Northern parts of the province and are often quite remote. I’ve also heard great things about terrific gravel roads in the interior of the Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec and wanted to ride them.
Using my own research and other routes provided by friends I put together a multi-day ride that would cover some familiar territory as well as lots of places I’ve never been. Due to time constraints, weather and other commitments I had to do the trip in three stages, with a total of 10 days of riding in June and August, 2018.
Over the three trips, with some backtracking to and from my home base, I covered a total of 4,131 km of NB and QC with an estimated 30% or better of it on gravel. Here’s what the whole thing looks like:
If you’d like to view high-res versions of the photos in this post, use this link to head on over to the associated Smugmug gallery (all images copyright Doug Smalley):
Aug 04, 2018 Day one
For this leg of the journey I planned to retrace my June, 2018 route north but to push on further to Moose Valley, then take gravel back country trails to Amqui, QC. From Amqui I had more gravel routes for the interior of the Gaspe Peninsula, the Chic Choc Mountains and I planned to visit the Parc Nationale de Gaspesie. I had a week to spend on this, and the weather forecast for the Gaspe region was largely positive for the week ahead with only occasional light showers or rain on a couple of days. Morning rain was forecast for my first day but that was due to end in the early afternoon. Though I considered delaying one day and leaving Sunday to avoid rain on the first day it didn’t sound all that bad and I decided to push on through the weather.
The rain started at Rogersville, about an hour into the trip. It was coming down pretty hard so I decided to just stay on the pavement through Miramichi and over to the Little Southwest Road. By the time I turned onto the gravel at McGraw Brook the rain was intermittent. It would rain hard for a few km then stop for several km more – I’d say for the next 100km or so it only rained 25% of the time.
I’d left fairly late and had planned only to go as far as Serpentine Lake and camp there. As I was getting close it started raining again and it was really coming down. So much for the forecast of light rain in the morning and dry after noon! I didn’t want to take the same ATV trail I’d taken last time and I didn’t like the idea of a lengthy detour around the aforementioned closed bridges at tail end of this route so I decided to stay on Little South West Road and see just how bad the bridges were. Historically there was also a persistent family of beavers set up near the bridges and most times there was a big beaver headpond across this trail. Alyre had told me he’d destroyed the dam and the beavers & their pond were gone but I didn’t know for sure. Here are some pics of this beaver pond in past years:
As the trail narrowed the rain was bucketing down all around me. I didn’t like to get my camera out in this kind of weather but the scene really deserved a picture.
Regardless of what the forecast had been, this didn’t look like something that was going to clear off any time soon. It’s now about 5:30 and I’m getting pretty sick of rain. I’m really hoping I can get past those three bad bridges, if not I’ll need to backtrack about 20km then take a 40 or 50km detour.
I got to the first bridge and it looked pretty sketchy.
I tried it on foot and it felt pretty good. I decided to go for it but really slowly and to use what was left of the right-hand side of the deck. It was tough getting the bike up onto the bridge and I had to be really careful not to put my foot through the spaces between the ties but I gradually made it across.
One sketchy bridge behind me and two more to go. The beaver pond was, in fact, gone and the second bridge was not as bad as the first.
The third bridge had a different sort of problem and it was easy to see why it had been closed. The deck was in pretty good shape but something under the bridge had broken or settled leaving the bridge deck tilted at a steep angle to the side. The right side was about 2 feet lower than the left and in all this rain it was pretty intimidating. In my experience there aren’t many things more slippery than a wooden bridge deck in the rain. I had to be really careful not to spin the rear tire or I’d likely end up sliding off the bridge to the right. I crawled along the extreme left side to give me whatever margin I could and made it safely across. I was feeling equal parts relieved, soaked and frazzled but it should be pretty good riding from here.
Serpentine Lodge was just another few km ahead now and it was likely I could get a dry bed there, but I decided to check out the lakeside wild-camping spot first. When I got there nobody else was around and the rain had let up a bit so I decided to camp.
I’d brought my hammock as well as tent on this trip and in the shelter of the thick trees was able to get it set up. I rigged a second tarp overhead in the trees and was able to get out of the rain and even hang my gear up, though, the humidity was so high even out of the rain nothing was going to dry. Around 8:00 the rain stopped and the clouds began to break up. There was even a bit of a sunset as I set my chair up beside the lake. The day had been stressful at times, miserable at others but overall I was very happy to be where I was. I enjoyed a cigar and the millionaire’s view I had paid nothing for, it was so peaceful I sat there for over an hour as the dark settled around me and I listened to all that silence.
Eventually I got sleepy so I crawled into the hammock and had a pretty good night’s sleep.
If you’d like to view high-res versions of the photos in this post, use this link to head on over to the associated Smugmug gallery (all images copyright Doug Smalley):