Tuesday, 5 August 2014

24 Marathons in 24 Hours Motorcyle Ride--Cabot Trail Edition

I do a fund raising motorcycle ride each year for The Terry Fox Foundation. It is done in memory of a young girl, Allison Hapgood, who died of osteosarcoma at the age of 12. Please feel free to visit my page to learn about the ride and, if you wish, to offer support. https://secure.e2rm.com/registrant/FundraisingPage.aspx?registrationID=2467243&langPref=en-CA

This year's ride had a bit of a twist and was both enjoyable and exhausting. For the last several years that I have done the ride, which is 1043 kms (the equivalent distance of 24 Marathons) I will ride part way across Newfoundland to a designated turn-a-round and then backtrack. It actually takes about 10 hours , but 24 Marathons in 24 Hours has a nicer ring to it and I do get the ride done inside of the allotted time. This year, I was delayed a day in my departure as both my bikes had mechanical gremlins. The ST was the first one ready and I left at 9:15 Am on July 29. 24 hours later I had ridden 1053 kms, sailed another 150 kms on the gulf Ferry, and was sitting at an Irving Big Stop near the Canso Causeway in Nova Scotia having a hearty breakfast. But, there was more to come! By the time I returned home on July 31 I'd ridden over 2400 kms, plus sailed about 300 kms back & forth across the Gulf of St. Lawrence. As with many of my extended rides, this one came about spontaneously in response to an unexpected opportunity. My friend Frank, a.k.a. Furry G, with whom I often do these long run rides, was heading over to Halifax for a work related trip. After a quick discussion, we decided he'd leave a day early and I would blend my 24 Marathons ride into an excursion that would see us cross Newfoundland (slightly more than 900 kms) on the 29th and then ride Nova Scotia's Cabot Trail on the 30th. Frank's wife Colleen came along with us. The ride got off to an inauspicious start as I clipped the mirror on the ST backing it out of the shed. The whole thing landed on the floor with wires dangling. However a quick pit stop at the Toy Box, where I have all my service work done, had me right as rain in no time. Keith Windsor and his crew have always been helpful anytime I'm in a pinch.

Setting a pace of between 130-140 kms/h Frank took the lead and we set off under sunny skies from St. John's. Sun turned to overcast by Clarenville, about 175 kms to the west, but it was still quite warm. The weather co-operated with us for the whole day, at least until we neared Port Aux Basques where we would catch the Marine Atlantic ferry "Blue Puttees". Just outside PAB we ran into heavy fog and light rain. However, it was only a short ride into town and a stop at a nice pub for overdue supper. Aboard the ferry Frank showed me the dedication plaque mounted on the main passenger deck explaining the ship's name. The company he works with, Newfoundland Bronze Foundry, had done the project.  http://www.morgansculpt.ca/portfolio/marine-atlantic-blue-puttees-plaque/  . We were pretty tired after nearly 10 hours on the road. Riding time was slightly over eight hours to cover the 900 plus kms and we had a few stops for rest/food/gas. After a couple of wind down Cap'N Morgans in the bar aboard the ship we tried too get some rest. We had reserved "day/nighters" huge reclining chairs, to try and get some sleep during the seven hour crossing across the Gulf of St Lawrence to North Sydney on Cape Breton Island. I am not a great sleeper when I am away from home and I really couldn't get comfortable in these chairs. However, I rolled up my riding suit to use as a pillow and grabbed a few hours of broken sleep on the floor next to my rent-a-seat.

Around 7:00 AM we disembarked on the Nova Scotia side. We were lucky enough to be amongst the first vehicles off-loaded so we headed out for the Canso Causeway, about 140 kms from the ferry terminal and ahead of much o f the boat traffic. The two entrances to the Cabot Trail, our riding goal for the day, are on Cape Breton and close to the ferry terminal. However, it was Frank's idea to head for the causeway which links Cape Breton to the mainland of Nova Scotia. We would then take the western shore north and hook into the trail but see a little more of Cape Breton in the process. It was a great idea as it turned out because Inverness County, which we otherwise would not have seen, is a beautiful spot. We were blessed with a gorgeous sunny day for riding and set off after the aforementioned breakfast from Irving.

We weren't quite sure of the route we'd need to take along the shore to hook into the trail but the tourist info staff at the causeway were knowledgeable and really helpful. They recommended we give ourselves six to eight hours to cover the trail. To us that seemed a bit much as the trail is only between 300-400 kms and Frank and I do tend to move at a brisk pace. In the end, the staff proved correct because road and traffic factors along with the need to stop for food and fuel and to just take in the sites did slow us down. As I mentioned, Inverness county is beautiful rolling farm country along the western coast of Cape Breton. There are several small towns with craft stores, pubs and restaurants that Sherry & I will likely take a closer look at on a return trip someday. Once we hooked into the Cabot Trail at Margaree Forks we headed North and stopped for coffee & fuel at Cheticamp, which has a strong French heritage vibe. We continued on into Cape Breton Highlands National Park and toward the small town of Pleasant Bay. The twists and turns as we rode up and down the mountains are a bikers dream. The only negative was the volume of traffic which tended to be more conservative in their approach to the hairpins and switchbacks than Frank and I would have liked. It is the middle of tourist season and it was a beautiful day so, c'est la vie. From Pleasant Bay and the Rusty Anchor restaurant, which has a majestic view of the coast, it was on to Ingonish and south to the end of the trail at the base of Kelly's Mountain on Cape Breton, and only 40 kms back to the ferry terminal.

With a few hours to kill I headed into Sydney with Frank and Colleen. They ere staying at a hotel there and continuing on to Halifax while I was catching the ferry back to NL. We had wings at a nice pub called the Old Triangle. Food was great and servers pleasant enough but on a sunny Wednesday evening the service was slow, so it was close to check-in time when I got to the ferry terminal. Check-in went smoothly enough and soon they loaded the bikes first and I was settled away in the pub for a couple of Cap'N Morgans before finding a spot to rest for the next day's return trek across Newfoundland. I had run into a few fellow riders from Ontario and Pennsylvania while waiting in the parking lot and spent some time chatting with them but not long as I was pretty tired. Having determined the rent-a-chair wasn't going to cut it, I sought out a couch in a quiet corner. They do announce that sleeping on the floor or couches or other non designated sleeping areas is prohibited, but the crew typically do not bother those seeking to snooze away the crossing. I found a spot just outside the room with the chair I had paid for and slept quite well until the one hour warning they announce in advance of the ship's docking.

Having checked the forecast while awaiting the return crossing, I had put on my waterproof riding suit, complete with booties to cover my leather riding boots. I did need it heading out of Port-Aux Basques where it was foggy and drizzling when we docked. However, by the time I reach the Codroy Valley less that 20 minutes away, the roads were dry and blue sky was peeking through. The forecast had predicted Thunder Showers in the central part o f the island, so I left the suit on but it proved unnecessary as I had brilliant blue skies and sun all the way for the return trip across the rock. Indeed when I stopped at Grand Falls to buy a charging cord for my phone, so I could continue to have music, the temp on the bike's dash read 39 degrees. The return trip, like the first leg on Tuesday, went pretty smoothly. I wasn't as fortunate it disembarking early as was the case when we'd gotten out ahead of the traffic in Nova Scotia. However, the ST is very quick and this acceleration allows me to turn very short stretches of road into passing lanes, so I soon had open highway and beautiful blue skies. The ride was peaceful and invigorating at the same time. I had planned only a short stop in Deer Lake for fuel and a coffee/breakfast sandwich at Tim Horton's. I knew I'd probably be stopping somewhere to pick up the aforementioned charging cord, plus a lunch stop and I had a target time I wanted to make St. John'. Sherry & I had tickets to check out Jacob Dylan & The Wall Flowers at the George Street Festival.  However Tim's seemed short staffed and not ready to accommodate the influx of boat traffic. I opted to sit down for breakfast at Deer Lake Irving rather than wait in a slow moving line at Tim Horton's. The Irving is always efficient and food is great, even if the time may be a bit longer.

The rest of the day's ride went on without incident and I did make it back to St. Johns before six o'clock. Riding time was again in the range of eight hours plus stops for gas, fuel and to rest my neck and back which continue to seize up since the car accident I had in May. The ST's lean forward riding position does tend to aggravate this and it will likely take several more months of massage therapy before I can ride relatively pain free again.

All-in-all, it was a great three days of riding; about 2400 kms actually in the saddle and another 300 crossing the water back & forth. Cabot Trail was magnificent both from a riding and site seeing perspective. I am looking forward to going back with my wife Sherry and perhaps taking a couple of days to do the route and stop to take in some of the attractions of the place. As for 24 marathons in 24 Hours, this years initiative was the most successful yet from a fund raising point of view with nearly $1800.00 raised to date and the possibility of some late contributors if anyone chooses to click the link above to add to the cause. I can assure you the Terry Fox foundation uses contributions very efficiently. It is largely a volunteer driven organisation and so about 85 cents of every dollar goes directly to research. There isn't nearly as much spent on administrative overhead as with comparable charitable organisations.

The Blue Frog created by Newfoundland Bronze Foundry
and installed near a highway in Halifax.
This was the initial reason for Frank's business trip
So there you have it folks, my latest adventure. This beautiful summer that Newfoundland enjoyed in July is slated to continue as we enter August and I am looking forward to more rides, though closer to home, and more tales to blog about. Until then, see Ya Out There...Ride On!
The next couple are of me riding the Cabot Trail.
Frank's wife Colleen was on the back of his bike and snapping these.

Glenora Scotch Distillery in Cape Breton

Just outside Cheticamp, the French region of the Cabot Trail

Gotta have some music for the long rides...getting the headphones in.

This guy dropped in during one of our rest stops & Frank took a pic.

The trail from the vantage pike of a motorcycle rider.

A pit stop in Pleasant Bay. 

Sometimes the traffic moved very slowly on the trail,
 however I don't need much space to pass.

The curves made for a fun ride on the bikes.

End of the Cabot Trail

Bridge at the base of Kelly's Mountain