The Week After New Years: Take 2

If it’s a seven grand proposition to get over to California and rent a bike to ride the Pacific Coast Highway, how cheaply could I do something else?

As if by magic, this popped up across the road from work this week.  If they’re asking between five and six grand, it would be a straight trade for the commuter car I drive to work in the winter. This type of motorcycle transportation system has a cargo carrying capacity of over 3000lbs, so it would comfortably carry a bike or two.  

Tiger to scale
in that van.


The Tiger, a fairly substantial adventure bike, is about 89 inches long, 34 inches wide at the handlebars and 55 inches tall.  The cargo area in this kind of van is 124 inches long, 53 inches wide at the narrowest point of the rear wheel arches and about 53 inches tall.  With the windshield removed, even two tall adventure bikes would fit in the back of this thing with only a bit of handlebar overlap.  Two six hundred pound bikes would barely dent half the load capacity of the van.  It would barely feel a single bike at all.

With the Tiger (and maybe a Super Tenere) loaded in the back, we could make the great escape south on the week after New Years.

It’s an all day trip to Knoxville.


If we left on New Year’s day we could be in Pigeon Forge on the edge of the Smokey mountains that night.

Monday morning we could hit one of a number of local motorcycle friendly routes.  There are so many choices that other than a freak snow storm, we’d be on excellent riding roads, making miles in January.




Best Western Toni has a sale!

Pigeon Forge is nestled right in the middle of it all and their winter temperatures feel downright spring-like compared to what we have up here – hovering around 9°C on average.  It’s cool, but no cooler than riding in the mountains around Phoenix was last New Years.  On warm days we might get right up into the high teens Celsius.  It’s a bit of a chance, but the reward would be getting some beautiful winter rides in while the north is under a blanket of snow.

Compared to the Californian coast, you can get fantastic hotel deals down Knoxville way.  The Best Western in Pigeon Forge has a $74 Canadian a night deal on, and it’s a 4+ star reviewed place with indoor pools and hot tubs and included breakfast; the perfect launching point for a series of rides.

Lots of pretty roads around Pigeon Forge

Being a regular winter work week for most people, the roads would be empty.  The Tail of the Dragon is only 54 twisty miles down the 321 from Pigeon Forge, and at that time of the year it’ll be anything but packed.  The Dragon is just one of many excellent motorcycling roads in the Great Smokey Mountains area.

After exploring the Smokey Mountains from Monday to Thursday, we’d get a good night’s sleep and make the drive back back north into the frozen darkness on Friday (giving us a spare day or two in case of weather).  The costs aren’t anything like trying to get out to California.  With no airfare or motorcycle rental, the most expensive bits aren’t there.  On top of that I’d get to ride a bike I love instead of getting on a rental I’m ambivalent about.

Compared to the seven grand California week, this one comes out to about sixteen hundred bucks depending on how getting my hands on a cargo van goes.  There is more of a chance of weather getting in the way but if it holds out it’s a dramatically cheaper way to ride some fantastic roads in the middle of winter.

Maybe I could get Enterprise Rent-a-van to sponsor the trip…

Cost breakdown:
– swapping out the Mazda2 for a van, I think I can about break even there.  I only use the Mazda for the 10 minute commute to work in the winter – the van could easily do the same thing for not much more in gas because the commute is so short.
– gas down and back (assuming 15mpg) ~1500 miles = 100 gallons of gas ~380 litres @ $1 a litre = ~$400Cdn in gas for the van (gas is cheaper in the States).
– Food & toll costs on the commute, say $100 each way: $200US ($250Cdn)
– Hotel for the week (Sunday night to Friday morning) in Pigeon Forge: $411Cdn
– Daily bike gas & food costs: say $100US ($150Cdn) per day, so for Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu it’d be about $600Cdn

All totalled up, that’s 2 days of travel and four days on two wheels in Tennessee for about $1600 Canadian dollars.  That’s $5400 cheaper than the same amount of time away in California, and with six less airports.

A Year of Living Dangerously

Work’s been heavy as of late, and I’ve got the middle-aged itch to do something profound before I’m too old to do anything interesting.  As usual, money and responsibility tie me to the earth, but in my more imaginative moments I wonder what I’d do with a year off and the money to do things that one day I’ll be too old and creaky to manage.

If I finished work at the end of June this year and had a year off I’d be back at work the following September.  That would give me the better part of fifteen months to explore three of my favorite aspects of motorcycling:  road racing, endurance riding and long distance adventure riding.  In chronological order, here’s my year of living dangerously:

It’s seat forward, middle & back,
in ergocycle but it looks like I *really*
like that Daytona.


1… Road Racing:  This spring get my race license, get a bike sorted and complete in the SOAR schedule over the summer.

A 12+ year old Triumph Daytona 600 would be a nice machine that fits into specific age (lost era) and displacement categories and wouldn’t be what everyone else is sitting on.  I also fit on it quite well (see the suggestive gif on the right).


Road racing would sharpen my riding skills and let me wrap my head around some of the more extreme dynamics of motorcycle riding in a controlled environment.  


Familiarity with high speed on a bike wouldn’t hurt for what I’m planning to do next, and racing over the summer would also focus my fitness training which would be helpful in building up to #2.


Costing a road racing season:  ~$20,000 (including race prepping a bike and racing in a local series)

Less than 50% usually finish, it’s
difficult, astonishing and viciously
exhausting, but finishing puts you in
a very small and exceptional group.

2… Race the Dakar:  Happening over New Years and into early 2017, finishing the Dakar would be the kind of thing that not many people manage.  Dreamracer puts into perspective just how difficult this can be.

Leaving work at the end of June I’d be full-on training and preparing for the race.  There are a number of Baja and other sand/desert focused races that would get me ready for the big one.  There are also a lot of off road training courses available well into the fall.  My goal would be to get licensed, certified and experienced in as many aspects of motorcycle racing as possible in the six months leading up to the Dakar.


Doing a Dakar would also be a fantastic fitness focus.  With a clear goal in mind, it would be a lot easier to schedule and organize my fitness.  A personal trainer and a clear targets would have me ready to take my best run at a Dakar, one of the toughest tests of mind and body ever devised.  It would do a fantastic job of scratching that middle-aged urge to do something exceptional.


Costing of a Dakar:  ~$98,000 Cdn

3… Ride Home:  The Dakar raps up mid-January, the perfect time to begin a ride back to Canada!  After resting up from the race I’d head south to Ushuaia at the beginning of February (summer time there) before riding back up the west coast through Chile.

A stop in Peru at Machu Picchu and then up the coast through Ecuador and into Columbia before loading on the Ferry in Cartegena to Panama around the one roadless bit in the Americas.




Once landed in Panama I make my way through Central America before pushing all the way up North America’s West Coast to the Arctic ocean in mid-summer (lots of sunlight!).  The last leg has me finally heading south again and east across Canada and back home.

 
 
The new Tiger would do a sterling
job of taking me the thirty three
thousand kilometres home.

All told it would be just over thirty three thousand kilometres.  Leaving Buenos Aires at the beginning of Februrary, and averaging 500kms a day (less on bad roads, more on good roads), I’d be looking at 68 days on the road straight.  Fortunately, if I wrap up the trip at the end of July I’d have more like 180 days to do it, leaving lots of time to enjoy the magic I’d find along the way.

Cost of a trip like this?  A week on the road is cheaper in South and Central America than North America.  If this is a 160 day trip (with 20 days for potential slowdowns to stay within the 180 day/6 month goal), then the money can be roughly estimated using these approximations:

  • $150/day (gas, food, lodging, expenses)  in South & Central America
  • $250 a day in North America

The raw numbers break down like this:

  • 14,500kms in South America (43% of the trip)  –  69 days = $10,350
  • 5600kms in Central America (17% of the trip)  –  27 days = $4050
  • 13560kms in North America (40% of the trip)   –  64 days = $16,000
For a total of $30,400 for the trip + $15,000+shipping to Argentina for a new Tiger
 
For the low, low price of about $150,000, I’d have a year of unique challenges, once in a lifetime experiences and get a chance to do three things that will only become more and more impossible as I get older.  Some people like the idea of a holiday where they can do nothing, but that isn’t for me.  I’ll take the challenge any day, if only I had the money and the time money gives.
 
The goal once I was home and back to daily life would be to collate the notes and media from this year of living dangerously into written and visual mediums.  Being able to produce a video and book(s) out of this experience would be the cherry on top.

Besides a fantastic set of memories, some new skills and the material needed to write an epic tale, I’d also have a race bike ready to compete on again the next summer.  That year of living dangerously might persist.

Winter Dreams: what I’d do the first week in January

Snow is flying outside.  It’s supposed to be -20°C by the end of the week with more snow on the way.  Working on the bike in the garage only gets me so far.  Time for some quality daydreaming…

Goal:  Find a quick bike, ride the Dragon, bring it home to race in the spring.

Looking around online I found a wounded Kawasaki ZX-6R for sale in Clinton, Tennessee for about $3400US.  It happens to be off the interstate right on the way to Knoxville (the city nearest the Smokey Mountains where the Tail of the Dragon is).  I’m a sucker for a wounded motorcycle.  The store selling it says it needs tires and they sell ’em, so I’d arrange them to do it and a tune up and then pick the bike up ready to ride.


Fixing the fairing is a little trickier, but Performance Bikes UK had an article on cheap Chinese replacement fairings which would be perfect for a bike that’s going to be all about track days and quick rides.


The only issue is whether or not I could get the bike road legal for a few days while I was down there in order to ride The Dragon.



A long drive to Clinton and a night in a hotel followed by a morning sorting out the bike and loading it into the van before driving down to Pigeon Forge for a few days riding the Smokey Mountains.


The slog back north into the frozen darkness would be a lot easier to take if I had a few days on two wheels before I had to do it.




Of course, if I’m getting a sports bike I can loose my mind on some sports bike kit.  If I’m on a quick Kawasaki I’d opt for gear that’d do me on track days as well…




Nothing like a little fantasy shopping to make the snow fly by.


Some colour matched gear to go with the new fairings and I’d be ready for race school in the spring.



Carbon fibre bits are also available for this ZX-6R, but if it’s going to be a track bike they seem like a silly expense.

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Wanderlust: A Travel Motorcycle Production Company

I’m at it again.  Wanderlust, but with my trusty production crew this time.

North and West and then back again with the least amount of same roads:


I must have some kind of strange OCD, but I really enjoyed putting this together:

With scheduled production crew meetups and travelling together from Prince Rupert to Vancouver Island and back to Vancouver, it turns into a 41 day ride schedule with a 36 day production schedule.  The production team (Max & Alanna) have 8 flights spread over the 36 days they are on the road.

This would be an opportunity to collect video and develop a cross Canada story from a lot of different angles.  The production team would collect stock footage of the various regions we’re in and save footage and data off the bike at meetups.  They’ll then backup all data including footage and keep it safe.  I also hope they’d maybe develop their own stories in the process.

The goal of the production will to use the latest in digital tools to record the trip, eventually producing a variety of media out of it.  My goal would be a written story of a long distance, cross Canada, endurance motorcycle ride with photography to support a book.  I’d also then look to turn the ride into an episodic travel TV show.

Tools We’d be using


A 360° camera for experiential video.

I used a Ricoh Theta 360° camera a few weeks ago and was impressed with the results.  I’m not sure how we’d integrate this video into a media piece, but it would open the door to exploring virtual reality, which feels like the next big thing.  The lack of a single point of view makes for challenging post production, as does the huge amount of data it collects.  ThetaS: $450  The 360fly could be another choice.

Contour action camera on the bike.

I used this last fall and found its small profile ideal for collecting video from a motorcycle.  The upper scale model allows memory and battery swap-outs, making it ideal for shooting on long days.  I’d have one wired in to the bike so it could keep shooting for footage we could use in high speed video.  When things get really rough up north, this will keep collecting footage when others fail.  Conour+2: $430
The Olympus Tough TG-Tracker might be an interesting alternative.

 


I’m partial to Olympus Cameras.  In addition to the video camera on the bike, I’d also carry an Olympus OM-D E-M1 DSLR for photography.  It’s weatherproof and tough, takes a wide variety of lenses (I’d carry a tele-zoom, 2x teleconverter and super wide angle with me).

Backup batteries and memory cards mean it’ll keep going all day.  

Olympus OM-D E-M1: body & lenses $2800


The production team would carry a pro-quality DSLR camera for shooting highest quality video.  The Canon EOS 70D is generally considered the top DSLR for video.  With proper video LED lighting, tripod and on camera and interview mics this kit would collect top quality video and sound.  Multiple battery and memory cards mean it can keep shooting on long days.

Multiple microphones (on camera and clip on interview), a teleconverter and a wide angle lens along with the 18-135mm lens would cover pretty much every eventuality.

Canon EOS 70D with accessories:  $1700


Another leading edge tool for this trip would be an aerial drone to take fantastic establishing shots.  The DJI Phantom 4 is a Canadian made aerial camera platform that produces astonishing video footage.  Its 28 minute flight time mean it could be used on multiple flights and recharged in the camera truck between flights.
Phantom4 with spare batteries & case: $2300

 


$30k seems like a good price for generating a wide variety of footage that could eventually be made into multiple cross country stories of epic proportions!

Now to find a producer and some corporate support.  My logo-ed dream team would be:



March Break

The dream March Break trip? Load the Tiger into the back of the trusty Ford Transit Van and head south to a place where the weather won’t suck all week; it will here. While snow is flying during the most pointless school break in Ontario, I’d be driving one thousand kilometres south to Virginia to chase the waterfalls my cousin suggested in January. 

The drive down has us doing an eleven hour slog to Roanoke, Virginia on some back roads through the Allegheny Forest and down through the Adirondacks into the Appalachian Mountains before finally landing at the Hampton Inn off Interstate 81 just outside of Roanoke.

Once in Roanoke we’d put our feet up for the night and then take one of three routes over the next three days.







The weather is lovely: mid-high teens all week, rather than the zero degree snow we’ve got going on here all week.


Yeah, it’d be cool, but it wouldn’t be painful, and the roads would be salt free and winding through the mountains.  To top it all off those waterfalls would be plump from all the run off.  It’d be a photography and media making dream.  The mountains would be blooming in early spring and I’d have the cameras on hand to catch that moment on two wheels.


Each day we’d loop back to Roanoke before heading out in a different direction the next day.  Thanks to all the mountain roads there would be virtually no overlap between loops with each offering unique sites.  Having the same base camp also means the bike will be light on gear and ready to explore the mountains.


Leaving on a Monday morning, we’d be in Roanoke Monday night and ready for a Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday of motorcycle riding from waterfall to waterfall before making the ride back north into the snow and darkness on Friday.

It’s not a crazy expensive week.  Under five hundred bucks for hotel then gas and food money.  Two long distance highway days would be all about gas and quick food stops. $200 would feed the van, another $60 would cover the bike.  Five days of food on the road could probably be done for $250.  All in that’s a thousand dollar holiday.   The three days in Virginia would be all about slow lunches and dinners and riding between photogenic waterfalls.


Of course, the ongoing issue is not having the bike delivery system.  Mid-winter isn’t the worst time to be a motorcyclist in Canada.  The worst time is the end of the off season when the snow is fading but the winter weather hangs on week after week, prolonging the caged life.

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Across the Halliburton Highlands

411kms across the Highlands

After a few days of R&R recovering from our ride out to the 1000 Islands and seeing the sights, it was time to pack up and prepare for our return home.  The plan was to travel through the Halliburton Highlands, where it is claimed that Ontario’s best roads reside.

The Tiger morphed from light weight, single rider mode to two-up, full luggage touring mode in about ten minutes.  The rear suspension was tightened up for the extra weight and we were ready to go.

The plan was to cut north west from the Thousand Islands and get onto the twisties as soon as possible.  It worked well.  We soon found ourselves leaning into corners more than we were upright (a rarity in Ontario).  When I’m in corners like that i don’t stiffen up in the saddle and I can ride for hours without fatigue.

Regional Road 15 got interesting almost immediately, weaving around lakes and pieces of the Canadian Shield peaking through the earth.  As we travelled north those rock outcroppings became the norm rather than the exception and the roads only got better.  38 up to Highway 7 was a lovely ride with constant bends and big elevation changes as we bounced in and out of river valleys that had cut their way through the rock.  If this road was a sign of things to come, then the riding the highlands was going to be special.

We stopped at Fall River Restaurant on  Highway 7 because I figured it would be the last place with a busy enough road to warrant an open business, except it didn’t.  This turned into a theme on this ride:  don’t depend on the tourist trade to keep a business open, instead look to a stable community to keep a business open.

The lady from the post office came out and told us only the post office is open, the general store, ice cream and restaurant are all closed and only open on the weekend.  There wasn’t even a toilet available.  Three vehicles pulled in looking for a stop while we were there, but were turned away.  We drank our own water and stretched in the empty parking lot before hoping on the bike and continuing up the winding country road 38.

In Elphin the plan was to turn with the 38 and continue west, and even though Elphin is a tiny place with only one major turn, we missed it.  This spoke to another thing we learned on this ride; you’ll see signs for corners and bumps everywhere even though these things are self evident, but navigational signs are small, missing or incorrect.  I guess most people follow a screen telling them what to do nowadays, but for the rest of us, some accurate navigational signage would be appreciated.

When I saw a second sign for regional road 12 which we weren’t supposed to be on, I pulled over at the Mississippi River (when I take a wrong turn, I don’t mess around!).  It was a beautiful, shady spot and we had a good stretch and watched the kingfishers getting their breakfast before saddling up again and u-turning back to Elphin.


Back on the 38 again, we wound around lakes before finding the 509 I turned left toward Ompah, but it turns out that should have been a right (turning signs around is fun!).  When we arrived back at Highway 7 I just shook my head and made a right turn, figuring I could angle north again on either Kaladar or Madoc.  By now the heat was back and moving at speed down Highway 7 was a nice way to cool off.  This was the prettiest part of 7, with few towns and no reduced speeds, so everyone was clipping along nicely.  We stopped in Kaladar for gas even though we didn’t really need it and got sports drinks.  By the time we got to Madoc it was wicked hot and we sought air conditioning in the only open restaurant we’d seen so far – a McDonalds.  I was beginning to despair for local food in the Highlands.

Coe Hill Cafe – cool ceiling, good
bakery and coffee.

After a much needed cool down and hydration we hopped back on the bike and hiked up highway 62 to Coe Hill, which is where we learned that you’ll find local businesses, but only in small towns where people live year round.  The cottage crowd and travellers are too fickle and passing to support a business up here.

The ride up 62 had us stopping at various bridges for up to five minutes at a time due to construction, so we got into Coe Hill ready to get out of the sun for a few minutes again.  Fortunately, the Coe Hill Cafe was open and got us sorted out even though we were looking a bit ragged.  It’s amazing what a good cup of coffee in a cool shady place can do to get you back on your feet.

I missed the poor signage for Lower Faraday Road (the reason we’d come this way in the first place), and then missed another turn thirty seconds later.  I cannot over state how random the road signage is up this way.  I really wish the MoT would take the money put into redundant cornering signage and apply it to identifying the roads themselves.

They show a couple of sports bikes riding down Lower Faraday on the website, but the section they’re showing is the last mile up to Ontario 28.  While this road is indeed twisty, much of the surface is atrocious with big pot holes and gravel everywhere from the many driveways that feed onto it.  You’d find it frustrating trying to explore any section of this road on a sports bike.

Even with the big shocks on the Tiger it was a rough, perilous ride.  You couldn’t push any corners because of the debris, quality of the road and traffic.  Lower Faraday has no centre line for much of it and every vehicle coming the other way was the largest possible pickup truck you’ve ever seen moving well above the speed limit in the middle of the road, and this was on a Tuesday afternoon.  We road out of our way to see this ‘ten best’ road, and it wasn’t.

We headed in to Bancroft after the disappointing Faraday experience and stopped at the information tourism building.  They have an excellent little mineral exhibit showing the various mining that goes on in the area, as well as being a cooling centre.  Half an hour in the air conditioning with cold water and some cool rocks got us ready to ride again.

Some of the best roads of the day were ahead of us.  We took 62 north out of Bancroft and then cut across toward Highland Grove.  This roller-coaster of a road was well marked, clean and had a consistent surface.  Corners varied from tight switchbacks to long sweepers with big elevation changes, what a joy!  We followed the 648 around to the 118, passing Old Ridge Authentic BBQ (closed) where I’d hoped to have dinner.

The bike looks fine, we were
exhausted!

We quickly discovered that the 118 is no boring connecting road, with beautiful scenery and engaging corners all the way in to Haliburton.  Even though it was heading towards evening the air temperature was still well in the thirties and humidity was high.  We’d done over 400kms entirely on twisty back roads and were wiped.  We limped in to Pinestone Resort just south of Haliburton and parked it up.

The Pinestone offered a quiet room with good beds for a reasonable price.  We went for a swim (salt water indoor and outdoor pools) and then had an excellent dinner at Stone 21, the onsite restaurant.  By the end of the evening we were back on our feet again.

I had us up early the next morning, hoping to beat the heat.  I’d looked up good local breakfasts and found The Millpond Restaurant in Carnarvon, right on our way to Bracebridge.  It was a short hop over there on very windy, but rough backroad for an excellent breakfast.  Great price, great food, great service.  If you’re anywhere around Haliburton, give the Millpond a go, you won’t be disappointed.

The most perfect 100kms of the trip.

Outside afterwards the hydro line-men who were there for breakfast were curious about the bike.  For the fifth time this trip I explained the resurrection of Triumph and how they are building new bikes.  The general public seems to recognize the brand as historical, but our post-modern/art-deco Tiger raises a lot of questions.

It was only just past 9am at this point, we were well fed, well rested and it was a perfect 20°C under a cloudless sky.  We pulled on to an empty 118 and rode the weaving, smooth pavement in bliss.  No sweat, no traffic, beautiful scenery, this was the moment we’d been searching for.

We passed through Bracebridge and got into Port Carling about 10:30am.  Traffic had picked up once we were into the Muskokas, so we pulled over at the information/tourism place for a stretch and a heads up on where to get a coffee.  Stopping at the info/tourism spots on this trip was never a disappointment.


 Port Carling is a pretty little place.  We were told it was a short walk to the Camp Muskoka Coffeehouse which helps support a camp that teaches leadership to students.  The coffee was excellent and the walk into town offered a good stretch.

Back up at the info-stop we bumped into a fellow from Barbados who was puzzled at our very modern looking Triumph.  He said there are lots of old Triumphs on the island, but they’re very expensive.  Once again I told the phoenix like story of Hinckley Triumph and how they are building some of the most modern bikes on the planet.  He had no idea, but thought there would be a huge market for a modern, small Triumph (they have cc limits in Barbados).  Perhaps he’ll contact Hinckley and see about the 250cc little Triumph that hasn’t happened yet.

We saddled up and left the shade of the info stop.  The sun was blistering now, but we were nearing the end of our Highlands road ride.  We quickly got to Bala, but I missed the poorly marked turn out to the 400 (surprise, surprise).  No worries, we just stayed on the 169 down the Gravenhurst.  A couple of ten minute stops at bridge construction had us both sweating heavily by the time we got into Gravenhurst.  I’d only ever seen the highway side of Gravenhurst, so I was surprised that it took us 15 minutes of traffic lights to get through it.

Ahhh…. air conditioning!

Once clear I hopped on 11 South and made time.  We pushed through the heat and steady but fast moving traffic all the way past Barrie before stopping at an ONroute for gas, lunch and a cool down.  I’d been getting over 49mpg solo without luggage.  The astonishing Tiger was still getting 47.2mpg two up with luggage.  We’d done over 430kms since our last fill up the day before in Madoc.

I used every trick in the book to cool off, soaking my head and arms to let the water evaporate and drinking a lot of fluids.  We took our time before stepping back out into the oven.  It was over 40°C with humidity when we finally left.

We bombed down the 400 and turned toward Orangeville on Highway 9, which was chockablock with traffic on a Wednesday afternoon.  Aggressive drivers on the highway were lane changing without indicating around typically poor Canadian lane discipline (you’re supposed to pass on the left).  We got cut off a couple of times, once badly enough to prompt a salute from me.  On Highway 9 with eighteen wheelers spitting hot gravel at us and cars sitting at green lights while staring at their smartphones, I was at the end of my patience.  We finally got around Orangeville only to almost get hit by a car passing a line of traffic coming right at us on the Fergus Road.  This was as far from the 118 on a cool, quiet morning as we could possibly get.

We rolled in to Elora mid-afternoon.  Once parked I pulled out the laser temperature tester from the garage.  The driveway was over 50°C.  A cold shower and feet up on the couch ended our 750+km ride through the Haliburton Highlands.  The last leg back into Southern Ontario was the most dangerous part of the whole trip, and made me wish those sublime Ontario Highland roads weren’t so far away on the other side of these overcrowded, frustrating and tedious Southern Ontario roads.


The whole shebang – including the boring straight bits at the end.
Top of the tower in 1000 Islands
Canadian rider…

Riding through the Canadian Shield… literally!

The beginning of the big bake-off to get home

Dipping a Toe in Georgian Bay

The plan:








The execution:

Why you going looking for the Niagara Escarpment: it’s the only place where you’re not riding on the crown of your tire all the time in Southern Ontario.

A bit windy, but otherwise perfect weather.  24°C in Elora down to 18°C on Georgian Bay in Thornbury; comfortable without ever being sweaty.  The 360° shots are from a Ricoh Theta 360° Camera, the rest are taken from my Samsung S5 smartphone.  Videos are at the bottom.

Getting ready for liftoff.




The wind fields of Shelburne


The look on my face when I’m about to ride up River Road out of Hornings Mills.



A thumbs up from Max, he likes the twisties.


A pheasant and baby!  But you can’t see it due to poor resolution and lens distortion.  The Theta is an interesting idea,
but even with giant, unwieldy files, it still has poor image quality.


Thornbury Harbour


Thornbury


Big sky on the never ending farm field ride home.







Another Tiger double take.  There is another!




Smartphone pics:



Creemore for lunch at The Old Mill House Pub (never had a bad meal there)


The new adventurers (a Kawasaki Versys & Suzuki V-Strom), along with the Tiger
that has always been (mine’s 13 years older – made back before Ewan & Charlie did that thing)





A map of the good bits:  goo.gl/maps/zpdGaSLMuy82





The Motorbike Show & Wild Camping

I’ve been consuming motorcycle media at a voracious rate while we’re buried alive in snow.  You probably know about the obvious stuff like Long Way Round, but I’ve been trying to find less known (in North America) faire.  Here is a quick list of some off-the-beaten track stuff that you might not have seen from Great Britain:

ITV’s The Motorbike Show:  Henry Cole of World’s Greatest Motorcycle Rides fame does reviews of motorcycle culture focusing on racing, restoring and interviewing people involved in motorbiking.  I’ve really enjoyed this show, I wish it got more attention here in North America.


Wild Camping by Jo Sinnott is an epic journey from Ireland to Portugal through the best parts of Europe.  Jo takes you wild camping while travelling on her Triumph Bonneville.  If you’re interested in long distance riding, Jo not only shows you through the rough camping ethos but also looks into the mindset you need to survive a long road trip.

ITV and Travel Channel UK represent motorcycle and travel culture on the leading edge. I only wish they were more available in North America.  OLN?  Speed Channel? Pick these up!

 

Scotland and Shetland On Two Wheels

Another piece of fantasy trip planning so I’m ready to go when I become pointlessly rich…  this time Scotland and into the North Sea!

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 Two days on the mainland working our way north to the ferry port in Thurso…



TWO WEEKS:  SCOTLAND AND INTO THE NORTH SEA

Day 1:  Ediburgh to Inverbroom Lodge
Day 2: Inverbroom Lodge to Thurso
Day 3: Ferry to Orknies
Day 4: Orkneys day 2
Day 5: Ferry to Shetlands
Day 6-10: Shetlands
Day 11: Ferry back to Aberdeen
Day 12: Aberdeen to Edinburgh
Day 13: Edinburgh


FERRY INFORMATION

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Thurso to Orkney Islands: 90 minute crossing: £112

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Kirkwall, Orkney Islands to Shetlands: 7 hour crossing: £225

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Shetlands to Aberdeen: 12 hour crossing: £289


ORKNEY ISLANDS

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Two nights and two full days on the Orkney Islands… Scara Brae!
 

SHETLAND ISLANDS

 
The whole thing on Furkot:

Journey To The End of the Earth

Two weeks beyond John O’Groats…

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Daydreaming: Winter Road Trip to New Orleans & Key West

It’s an 11 hour drive down to Knoxville, Tennessee from here.  If I took the bike that far south in a van to dodge the snowline, I could then do this!

With two weeks off over Christmas it’d break down like this:

Dec 24th: (van) Elora to Knoxville in the van 1147kms
Dec 25th: Knoxville to Talledega 271 miles the interesting way
Dec 26th: Talledega to New Orleans 420 miles
Dec 27th: New Orleans!
Dec 28th: New Orleans!
Dec 29th: New Orleans to Panama City 304 miles
Dec 30th: Panama City to Tampa  339 miles
Dec 31st: Tampa to Miami   252 miles
Jan 1st:   Miami!
Jan 2nd:  Miami to Key West to Miami   155 miles there and back
Jan 3rd:   Miami to Jacksonville via Daytona Beach 346 miles
Jan 5th:   Jacksonville to Greenville 388 miles
Jan 6th:  Greenville to Knoxville 212 miles via Deals Gap
Jan 6th:  (van) Knoxville to Dayton 304 miles 1/2 day
Jan 7th:  (van) Dayton to Elora 410 miles home mid-afternoon
Jan 8th:   chill out day before going back to work

Van mileage:  2300kms / 1440 miles
Bile mileage: 4500kms / 2812 miles

I could probably arrange with our Knoxville hotel to park the van somewhere safe and then head south on two wheels.  The Tiger could totally handle the job one or two up, but there would be more specialized tools I’d select if given a choice from the new 2017 bikes:

One Up 2017 Minimalist Bike Choice



Kawasaki’s new Z900 looks like a lovely, light weight device to explore some corners with.  It’s an upright bike that would be easy to sit on for long periods of time.  It’s a minimal machine but that would be ideal for riding into the sub tropical climates down there.






It’s a brand new machine but the Z650 it shares parts with already has some luggage bits that might work.  Keeping with the minimalist vibe, I’d try and do the whole 3000 mile / two week odyssey using only those two expandable panniers.  If I have to expand half way through I could always throw a tie down duffel bag on the back seat.




One Up 2017 not-remotely minimalist Bike Choice

The opposite of the tiny, lithe, naked Z900 is the absurd, over the top and abundantly present Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Flying Fortress.  It comes with its own panniers so that’s not a worry.  It’s also the kind of bike that would swallow many high mileage days in a row without batting an eyelash.  And it’s so pretty.




Two Up Touring Preference

A large, comfortable bike that Max and I could ride the southern triangle on would be the goal here.  My default is always a Kawasaki Concours 14.  We rented a last gen model last year in Arizona and it was a rocket ship that was also big and comfortable for both of us.  The fact that it comes in candy imperial blue this year only encourages me to put it back at the top of the list again.



A more touring focused choice would be the Goldwing F6B which is a more stripped down version of the full on bells and whistles Goldwing.  It’s a big, comfortable bike that is surprisingly nimble for what it is and comes with built in panniers.  It’d cover the miles with ease while keeping us both in excellent shape for when we arrived at each stop.

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