Tucson to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia
August 28th thru September 23rd 2002
by Pat Walsh

After riding the last 4 Three Flags Classics, I was looking for something a little different this year. As I had not been to the Canadian Maritimes, now seemed like a good time to visit there so I made plans to meet my old riding buddy, Ron Johnson from Minneapolis and do a little sight-seeing.

The ride from Tucson to the Twin Cities was pretty uneventful (the best kind - no negative surprises). A little rain, some wind, road construction delays in the mountains of Colorado, a stop in Sturgis, South Dakota for a new front tire. Glad I arrived at the end of August after the Rally - no crowds, great riding in the Black Hills and a chance to visit relatives there, a slight detour to Bismarck, North Dakota to see an old friend, and on to Minnesota. Having grown up on the Great Plains, I still enjoy riding across the vast expanse of our nation's "Bread Basket". It is not the curvy mountain road type of riding, but nevertheless quite enjoyable an experience.

Spending a few days in the Minneapolis, St. Paul area refreshed my memory of 20 years of living there, and why I now live in Arizona. Needless to say, it is very nice in the summer months, but I will never regret the move to AZ - especially during the winter months. Had several opportunities to visit with old friends, attend the Minnesota State Fair - still a great time - and was very anxious to leave after a new rear tire on the RT, laundry, rest, food, and too much spare time waiting around for Ron to get off of work.

Sept. 7th we departed for Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada. Because of a delayed departure (noon before we left) we didn't quite make our destination that night. Stayed in Newberry, Michigan instead - not starting out according to plan. Well, I guess plans are made to be changed - right? Crossed into Canada the next morning with no problems, continued east on Canada 17 to overnite in Ottowa, Quebec. Only got lost a couple of times trying to find a room in the dark - do not like to ride at night. Speaking of getting lost - have you ever gotten separated from your riding partner in Montreal during rush-hour on the freeway interchanges (oh, did I mention all the signs are in French?). I learned a new meaning of the word "patience" - try "frustration"! Well, I figured Ron had to eventually pass by me on the road out of town - assuming he was still "behind" me???? It worked out OK - he did.
Entering Maine on Hwy 27 was no problem again - I guess two old grey-haired geezers on BMW's don't fit the terrorist profile. Arrived Bar Harbour, Maine that evening - very crowded and lively place - the first of many great fresh seafood meals. After a good nites rest, we boarded "The Cat" catamaran ferry boat to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, a 2 and a half hour (50mph) ferry ride - one fast boat! Rode some coastline, then inland up to the north end of Cape Breton Island to the ferry at North Sydney, Nova Scotia.

Decided to take the first available ferry to Newfoundland rather that wait until the following day because Hurricane Gustav was due to arrive soon. This turned out to be the worst decision of the trip. Boarded the MV Caribou ferry at midnight for a 6-hour trip which ended up taking 24 hours to complete due to the unexpected early arrival of Gustav. I was summoned to the cargo deck below sometime during this storm by the pursuer to pick my motorcycle up off the deck after an unusually big wave put the ferry almost on it's side - things got rough. A lot of seasick people. If you have ever traveled by ferry, you know they put your bike where they want it, not necessarily where you would like to put it. We were also instructed to tie each bike down in 4 places, which we did with great care. Apparently I wasn't careful enough with my own. Marine Atlantic, the owner of the ferry admitted their liability and have promised to pay to repair the damage. Estimates have been forwarded to them as requested since my return home. Now I wait and see? Anyway, we finally arrived at Port-aux-Basque, Newfoundland. No rooms left at the only hotel, so we slept on the floor of the conference room - any port in a storm - right?

Discovered an oil leak from a cracked rocker cover as a result of the storm on the ferry as soon as we started out across Newfoundland. JB Weld and a couple of hours to cure it (sort of) and we were on the road again. Overnite at Gros Morne National Park - what a spectacular place. Reminded us of the fjords of Norway, very mountainous, rugged country, lots of Moose (or so it is said - we never saw one). Another breathtakingly beautiful spot, among many, was Cape St. George near Stephenville. You get a real up-close view of the Gulf of St. Lawrence as it has been for thousands of years - awe-inspiring beauty. There is much to see and experience on this very large island in the North Atlantic. If you have the chance to experience it, don't pass it up. The people are very friendly and small in population - quite a change from the crowded east coast of the U.S.A.

The return trip and ferry ride were without incident - finally. Upon arriving in No. Sydney, Nova Scotia, in the rain - again, we found it necessary to ride to Halifax to the BMW dealer for a new rocker cover to stop the leaks. But, we got to do it in record rainfall. Needless to say, the dealer did not look all that pleased to have a couple of "drowned rats" slosh into his nice new car/bike showroom. But they were kind enough to allow me to pull my bike into the service area in the rear to change the part myself. Can't blame the mechanics for not wanting to touch the RT - it was hard to tell what color it was thru all the grime and wet. What fun! Dried out at a local motel that nite, toured Pier 21 (Nova Scotia's Ellis Island) and Peggy's Cove - another famous lighthouse, like many others there. Learned about and observed the tremendous tides experienced on the Bay of Fundy -28 to 54 feet! When the tide is out, it looks like someone pulled the plug on the bathtub - unbelievable. Ferried back on the Cat again to Bar Harbour.

Left the next morning for Portland to visit an old friend. Rode along the coastline, very scenic but very slow -3 hours to go 100 miles. Missed my friend in Portland - he was in Tucson - how's that for timing? Ron had to head toward Minnesota so we crossed thru Maine, New Hampshire into Brattleboro, Vermont overnite. The next day we continued westerly to Albany, New York where we said our goodbyes and I headed south toward Mississippi to visit my son, Ryan, stationed at Columbus AFB, MS. Attempting to stay dry (for a change) I traveled down 1-81 in between two storm systems. It worked most of the way into Tennessee. Made a slight detour to ride Deals Gap, Hwy 129 on the Tennessee - North Carolina border. This is definitely worth the detour -318 turns in 11 miles! Yahoo - what a piece of road! In 35+ years of riding, I have never ridden anything even close to this madness - what a ride!!!!
Back to some sanity - spent the nite in Chattanooga and met a bunch of (mostly) Harley riders that were there for a charity ride - about 9,000 of them. Hope they had good rain gear as it was pouring once again the next morning when I left to Alabama. Observed quite a few Harleys loaded on trailers heading out of town with me - guess not everybody likes to ride in the rain. Passed through Birmingham and points west arriving in Columbus, Mississippi late afternoon. Spent a very pleasant evening with #1 son getting the tour of his duty station - a pilot training base - very interesting stuff. Thought I was going to be finished with the rain, but the next morning enroute thru Jackson, Mississippi I experienced the worst rain storm of the trip -6 inches in an hour - it just happened to be "the hour" I passed thru town. By this time, not only was I sick of the rain, but I was absolutely soaked thru everything! Even the best rain gear can't stop that much water. The good part was, I had all the way to Abilene, Texas to dry out that day. An 800 mile day is usually enough, but the first 3rd of it in the rain like that was a real memorable experience. It seems the difficult days are the ones you remember most fondly.

I left Abilene at 4:30 AM the next morning and arrived home in Tucson at 4:00PM that day. A 750 mile day to finish - why do I keep doing this to myself? The only answer I keep arriving at is - I just love to ride! And this was a really great trip, 9000 miles in 27 days, lots of great scenery, nice people, new experiences to share, wonderful roads, and no problems with the RT. It gives a guy a lot to be thankful for, we live in a great part of the world - ride out there and enjoy it. Maybe I'll see you somewhere on the road. Ride safe.

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