Monday, 8 September 2014

September Road Trip 09/06/14

There's this guy named Vern Smith who apparently has scads of money. He must because he has a classic car collection that is estimated to be valued at more that $14 million. He lives in a little outport called Swift Current on the Burin Peninsula about 175 kms southwest of St. John's. It is there that he has his antique car musuem . I had often heard of the collection but never took it in until today. Two of my brothers who are avid car enthusiasts were going and mentioned it to me. I saw it as a great opportunity for a road trip on the bike to get in a few additional kms as fall and the approaching end of riding season starts to set in. Both my oldest and youngest brothers went out. My oldest brother has a couple of antiques including a '68 AMX of which he is very proud.

My youngest brother has had more muscle cars than I can count including, a couple of Trans Am's, a Plymouth Cuda, a Pontiac GTO Judge, a couple of big block Chevelles and a '69 Plymouth GTX, which you can see a piece of next to the AMX in the pic above. The copper colour paint from the GTX is the paint code I used when I had the custom paint done on my Magna. Right now his pride and joy is a yellow '68 numbers matching Corvette convertible. with original paint.
Very rare LS 7 Corvette with all original drivetrain, paint and convertible top. Youngest brother's ride.
 Me, my budget runs more to motorcycles but I do dream of someday having that coveted '70 Torino GT.
My preference would be the convertible but they are very rare.

My 2000 Magna V4. I bought it in 2009 when it had 18,000 kms. I have almost 100,000 on it now. It has custom paint job, one-of-a-kind tank & sidecover logos, and handcrafted leather seat, as well as a few other do-dads added over the years.

 The love of cars unites all my brothers and I and is one of the few connections we had with our dad. Growing up, dad always had a new car every two years; big Pontiacs and later Mercury Meteors.  I can recall from a very young age being able to distinguish one model year from the other by the sometimes smallest of details such as the design of the tail lights. This of course was back in the day when cars had style and were not the aerodynamic but sometimes bland models they are today, when they often go several years in a row without any significant styling change.

So, looking forward to a good ride, appreciating some classic cars and the chance to hang out with my brothers, I headed for Swift Current. Fortunately, mother nature cooperated and we had a reasonable day. I say reasonable purposely because truly spectacular days are rare for our climate on this little rock in the North Atlantic. To get a day in September with plus 20 temps, especially considering the drab August we had, was a real bonus.

The day started in a different vein though. I ride with a motorcycle group called CAV (Canadian Army Veterans). Our motto is ride, have fun and support veterans causes. The group is made up of vets as well as people like me, called supporters. Our major fund raising ride, Support The Troops ride took place today. It's a fairly big undertaking with over 120 riders and covering over 180 kms around the Avalon Peninsula. My contribution was to act as a blocker for the highway portion of the ride from St. John's to a secondary highway called Roche's Line. What is a blocker? Well, we don bright safety vest and ride ahead of the pack and pull in at any ramps where traffic could enter the highway and block said traffic so cars do not get mixed in amongst the parade of bikes. Having fulfilled my obligation and helped get the riders safety to the appointed turn-off, I peeled of and headed west on the TCH.

The Support The Troops ride left St. John's in bright sun filled skies. Unfortunately, that didn't continue for my journey out to Swift Current. The Avalon Peninsula,where the bulk of Newfoundlanders reside, is attached to the rest of our rocky island by a narrow isthmus. There is a section of highway along the isthmus known as the Dough Hills, where it is not uncommon to run into thick fog, even on a sunny summer day. I'm not sure where the name came from but I wouldn't be surprised if it is so named because the fog is so dense it can be like dough, thick and white. Anyways, I drove into thick fog at the Dough Hills, about 100 kms west of St. John's and it continued pretty much all the way to Swift Current. This did not deter me, however and I continued on, slightly more chilled. If one is to ride in Newfoundland, flexibility with regards to the weather is a must. Basically we get four kinds of days during riding season. Sunny days are rarest. Overcast but still somewhat warm are more common but we also get what we call RDF (rain drizzle and fog); cooler and with misty rain that varies in intensity from kinda damp to pretty heavy. Lastly is plain 'ol rain, although sometimes there is nothing plain about it as there are days one considers if construction of an ark might be required. Today's RDF was mostly fog with a light mist...a minor inconvenience.

About an hour after leaving the Support The Troops ride I arrived in Swift Current and met up with my brothers. The drive out, apart from the fog, was in someways like a step back in time. In addition to the cars in Vern's collection, many antique and classic car owners from around the eastern part of the province drove their wheels out to take part in the show. I was passing cars from the 60's & 70's like a big Chevy Impala, a '70 Plymouth 'Cuda and a 67 Ford Galaxy. When I arrived the parking lot of Vern's huge warehouse, where he displays his collection of over 50 cars, was full. Big old Pontiac station wagons were parked next to Corvettes, a 57 T-Bird, several Chryslers and the aforementioned Impala; a '73 hardtop that turns out was driven by its original owner. There was even a '70 Torino 500 with original paint and, perhaps oddest of all, a K-car station wagon...not exactly my idea of a classic no matter how old it was (but the owner was as proud of his ride as if it where a rare '59 Caddy).

Speaking of 59 Caddy's, a black convertible El Dorado with black & red leather interior was just one of the many stunningly preserved rides in Vern's collection. I've been to lots of classic car shows and I have seen my share of muscle cars but nothing compares to this collection. Each car was in pristine, show room condition; painstakingly restored to factory specs and shining like the day they rolled of the assembly line. I forgot to bring my camera but to get a sense of the individual cars click this link  and you a pretty good idea of what I'm talking about. The pics below show the larger collection and I "borrowed" them from a friends FB page....Thanks Wayne Byrne!

This display of a 50's era drive-in was really cool

what would a classic cars display be without a nod to the King!

Vern has recreated a stretch of route 66 for guests to walk as they view the cars
.By the time I was ready to leave, after close to an hour of drooling over the varied cars, the weather had improved...sort of. The fog had burned off but it seems to be a feature of our weather that with sun often comes increased wind. Again, after over 100,000 kms ridden, I have categorised the wind. Rare is the day when it is dead calm in Newfoundland. Our days go from just breezy, to kind of windy, really windy and finally blow your friggin' head off. I rate the days by their characteristics. Today the wind would get under the lid of my open faced helmet and cause the strap to bite into my chin and, I guess. I kinda looked like a bobble head. At least there were no unplanned lane changes or riding at 45 degrees to the asphalt. These characterise the blow your friggin' head off days and I often  am given pause to consider if I should slow down a tad, not something I like to do. The main problem with today's wind, was the awkward way in which it lifted my helmet and rolled it back on my head exposing part of my forehead. When I ride I wear glasses to protect my eyes and a bandanna to cover the lower part of my face from the wind and bugs. I depend on the helmet to cover above my glasses. On three separate occasions today I was nailed with some sort of bug square on the forehead. When that happens, as much as it might sting, one is reduced to a very minimalist response to the pain. Basically you think to yourself..."Ow, that hurt", but you just keep on riding.

Apart from the odd collision with bugs, I returned home safe and sound. All in all, it was a great day despite the nuisances mother nature put in my path. I enjoyed the ride and the cars and I added another 350 kms to my total for the season, which right now is about 12,000 kms since I took the bike out of storage in May. That's not a terrible season but still about 3000 kms below  a typical season and well below some of my better years, when I have managed to get in nearly 20, 000 kms of rolling therapy. As much as I enjoyed the family vacation in July, it was 10 days lost during the peak of riding season weather. Fogust too was a factor with its less than inviting and extended run of drab, overcast, rainy weather. I am hoping to get another couple of thousand in before November, when the cold and the dreaded salt on the roads bring riding to an end. If we continue to get the kinds of days in September and into October like we had today, that is a realistic goal.

So until another road trip presents itself, all the best! See Ya Out There! Ride On....

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Running Between the Raindrops

I've been cobbling this post together over the past several days. When last I wrote in early August we were cruising along to one heck of a summer, with daily temps in the mid to high 20s and sun a regular visitor. On August 5 someone flipped the switch and St. John's has seen four or five days of sun since then. The outport areas, at least on the avalon and most of the east coast, have not fared much better. Some people have referred to this month by a new and more descriptive name, Fogust. What I have found even more frustrating is the abysmal record of forecasters to offer any kind of reliable weather prediction. They kept posting long-term forecast of extended sun that have yet to materialise, and for me, with school starting next week, summer 2015, at least the back half of it, is a write off ; a write-off weather wise anyways. There have been some positives and that is what I'll chose to focus on here, my attempts to run between the rain drops to find the figurative sunny moments.

The hi-light of our summer, at least outside the great 10 day excursion to Ireland &  England  was the visit by our Korean branch of the family. Sherry's brother Matt, his beautiful wife Ji Yeon who is Korean, and our four year old nephew, Rian (great Korean name), visited from Korea from July 28 to August 26. Regrettably, most of their stay was during Fogust and that did put a damper on things but we managed to have many great evenings sitting on the deck (sometimes under the propane heater), enjoying beverages and company. We had an evening of fine dining at a local restaurant where I had the tastiest steak I have ever had ( a 40 oz. $111.00 item that I split with my brother). We had a really fun night downtown where my charming wife utilised all the weapons in her arsenal of wiles to gain our entry into a club where a private party was taking place, so we could hear the Quidi Vidi Dirt Band. During this time we had the pleasure of additional Korean visitors. Our sister-in-law Ji Yeon's sister, husband and nephew visited. They are based in Seoul but are currently in the middle of  a year long world tour to see the globe. They stayed in NL for about 10 days before heading to the U.S. and then they plan an extended travel through several South American countries. The husband, Kwan Ju, left NL with a new appreciation for rum and Wingin'-It wings. Speaking of rum, a lot of that was drunk this summer...that's all I'll say about that.

For me personally, another hi-light from the summer of 2014 was that it marked the occasion of my 50th birthday. Actually Sherry & I have the same birth date and it is on that date we met 27 years ago while each of us was out celebrating. I'm not one for big parties so we marked my milestone event with a family supper, just Sherry, my three kids and the Korean connection, along with my youngest NL nephew and his folks (my brother's family). I got the greatest present any father could ask for, a scrap book done by my kids with a letter from each of them. The memories were precious to look back on and the letters will always be amongst my prized possessions. Those three children will remain the best three things I will ever do in my life.

Here are some pics from that evening.
Me looking...not sure, along with my better half

brother-in-law Matt & I comparing bling

Nephew Rian

Sherry, my oldest, Emily and sister-in-law Ji Yeon

A collage of memories done by my kids

Serving up a tasty turkey dinner

My youngest nephews, Hudson & Rian

My wife created this for the event

My family

Bag of wind

Youngest brother, Des & sister-in-law Colleen

Reading my youngest, Erin.

A birthday hug from Rian

Cool card from the Korean branch of the family

Da B'ys
With the downturn in the weather in August riding opportunities were not as frequent. Later in the month, out of desperation I started suiting up and heading out over the highway in search of sun. Many days I did find it about 30-40 kms to the west. After Sherry's brother and family headed back to Korea on the 25th, we took a short road trip on the Cape Shore, which is about 50 kms east of St. John's, off of the Salmonier Line. One of Newfoundland's greatest tourist attractions is on the Cape Shore, The Cape St. Mary's Bird Sanctuary Sadly, the road has been poorly maintained. We were riding my Magna which is a cruiser. Riding two up, that bike is at it's weight maximum and so hitting potholes that are not marked, at full speed was a bone jarring experience. I had visions of  a popped tire or a broken axel but thankfully we made it without incident and even had time for a stop at one of our favourite restaurants, Philip's cafe in Placentia. The food is freshly made, all natural and the desserts and amazing. We had bread pudding with rum sauce. Next day we did an over night road trip to visit friends in Trinity. Loretta and Kev are two of our favourite people, genuine and easygoing. We stayed overnight at their place and chatted and drank around the fire into the early hours of the morning. Next day we did a coastal hike on the Skerwink trail.  It was a short trip but still one of the hi-lights of our summer. That we got to do it on the bike was even better. We had wanted to go out for our annual birthday trip during the previous week but the rainy weather restricted us to the truck. We still did manage to have a great stay on that trip too, with a nice birthday meal at the Eriksen Premises, as well as taking in a show by Rising Tide Theatre. Later on our friend Kev accompanied us to Rocky's club. The place was alive with visitors from all over participating in square dancing lessons. It was quite the cardio workout. Despite the rain, we had a great time.

Here are a few pics from our evening around the fire and the Skerwink hike. I highly recommend it if you are a hiker and happen to be out around Trinity. As well, if you get to Trinity, take in Kev's Trinity Historical Walking Tours. You will be very glad you did.

Start of Skerwink Trail

A proud Newfoundland Independence flag.

Old Barn

So, that's about all I have to report for this post. Sorry if it has been kinda long but I packed a lot of experiences in there. As I said at the outset, I have been writing this over several days. I began late last week before the Labour Day weekend and now it is the Tuesday of the first week of September. I was back at work for a few hours here and there last week, but today was for real as the new year got underway. No students today, just administrative duties but tomorrow the youngsters show up and I begin my 28th year in earnest. Only two years to retirment after this one but whose counting! I do hope to get some decent riding weather in September. Today would have been ideal, sunny but not too hot, but alas work did call. I'll write more as I figure I have something worth sharing. 

Until then See Ya Out There!  Ride On.....