Sunday, 23 August 2015

Chasing the Ace and Other Adventures

So as August makes a valiant attempt to bring some semblance of summer to our little rock in the north Atlantic, in an effort to erase the truly dreadful July we had, I have been venturing a little further afield on the bike. I have to say, the more frequent appearance of the sun, along with significantly warmer temps into the high teens and mid 20s (compared to frequent 10-12 in July) has helped brighten my mood. The chance to ride a bit more is also a plus.

Our two daughters left for NYC and a One Direction concert on August 3rd, and with only our son at home, we ventured westward, hoping there'd be a house to return to with the boy left in charge. I enjoy riding the central and western parts of the island more so than the Avalon Peninsula and the east coast. I'm not sure why, but it seems the roads are more wide open there. The Avalon with its moonscape terrain and rolling topography makes for roads that don't stretch out for any great length. Plus, there is a greater abundance of and variety of forest out toward central and west and this makes for a more scenic drive. One thing that doesn't change is the state of the roads, which is pretty rough; with potholes, dips and sections where the top surface of the asphalt has just disintegrated.

Sherry and I headed to Grand Falls, about 400 kms west of St. John's. We stayed overnight at my sister's place there and so enjoyed sitting out on the deck until 10:00 PM in shirtsleeves; something we can rarely do in St. John's this summer. The next day we drove about 300 kms west, then north to Rocky Harbour and the gateway to Gros Morne National Park and World Heritage site. I was really looking forward to the ride north because one gets to experience Newfoundland's version of mountainous terrain with climbs and drop offs and some pretty cool turns that one can lean the bike into. We were riding the Sport Tourer and this bike was made for that kind of ride. Unfortunately, literally every bridge ( and there are several over the 60 km stretch from the TCH to Rocky Harbour) was under construction so traffic was backed up and moving at a crawl with limited spots to pass. Still on the couple of occasions the road did open up and I could open up the bike and scraped the pegs where I could. My wife was less than enthusiastic on the back and kept breaking my concentration with knees jammed into my ribs. Rocky Harbour itself is a picturesque little outport on the coast. We ate at a colourful place call the Treasure Box where the proprietor was in fine form giving his best impression of a  Newfoundland Bayman, complete with a genuine example of our unique dialect and accent. Food and ambiance were great. We did plan a hike as the park is full of beautiful nature trails, but the thunder & lightening forecast for later in the evening threatened as we ate lunch with the skies darkening ominously. We decided to skip the hike and head back for Grand Falls. Thankfully the rain held off, or we stayed ahead of it and had another nice night of warm temps and drinks sitting on the deck until well into the really felt like summer. It was Wednesday morning when we headed east for St. John's and again under sunny skies; always makes for a more pleasant and uplifting ride.

We did run into a bit of a crisis later that evening as we received one of those middle of the night phone calls (2:15 AM on Thursday morning) with our youngest daughter distraught reporting that her sister had been struck by a car as they walked through Time Square. After that experience I now fully understand the concept of surreal. Our youngest was naturally frightened as she didn't know how badly injured her sister was, but thank God for the kindness of strangers, even in NYC. The girls had exhausted their cell batteries taking video at the One Direction concert so a young man gave Erin his phone to call us ( he'll have a heck of a roaming charges bill) and Erin was so distraught that she was almost incoherent, so a woman at the scene took the phone and explained to Sherry what was happening. I was a wreck but Sherry kept it together as we could hear police and ambulance sirens in the background. The worst part of the night was the hour or so where Erin had to wait outside the examining room while the doctors assessed Emily's injuries. Thankfully, they were limited to road rash, bruising and swelling, along with a nasty concussion. The girls were due to fly home the next day and again, ran into helpful airport and airline staff, especially with West Jet, that allowed them to make connections passing all the line ups and making it home safe and sound. Emily looked pretty horrible when she got off the plane and the concussion will heal in its own time but we are grateful considering the other more drastic outcomes that could have occurred, Oh, and I didn't mention it was a hit & run. There is a special place in hell for that Bastard.

Life is slowly returning to normal after the drama of the accident, though we continue to monitor both girls closely. Erin was quite traumatized by the experience. We can only visualize what it must have been like but she lived it and then had to take the lead in getting them home. Both Sherry and I stuck close to home and the girls. The next couple of weeks between that and these past few days was hit and miss weather wise, though I did get in a few day trips on the bike.

On Sunday, the 16th I was comfortable enough to go off for a couple of days with a couple of friends who were again heading over to the province's west coast. It was just meant to be a chance for a nice road trip, taking advantage of a rare string of three or four forecast sunny days. However, since we were going to be in the neighbourhood, we decided to head for a small outport community called Lourdes, on the provinces Port Au Port peninsula. This was the location for Chase the Ace. My two riding partners, Ed, & Chris left on Saturday and over-nighted in Grand Falls. I met up with them on Sunday and we drove the additional 350 kms to Lourdes. It was a different kind of ride for me as the boys tend to cruise around 110 and like to take in the scenery and stop for a break now and then. My typical ride experience is at a higher rate of speed and I'm more focused on the sensation of the ride, opening up on the straight aways, leaning into the curves. However, I really did enjoy this ride too. I took in more of the scenery than I usually do and stopping for a chat and a coffee now and then was good too. There are a lot of different ways to appreciate a motorcycle ride.

Ed & Chris on a cigar break

Ed recently went from two wheels to three

At Deer Lake Big Stop Irving, home of the best coconut  cream pie in the province

Enjoying Ed's Cuban cigars in Stephenville

The actual Chase the Ace experience was  a bit wild. Lourdes is a small community of perhaps a few hundred people. On this night the sides of the roads as well as all the parking lots around the church, school & community centre were filled with cars and the people numbered in the thousands, all vying for an opportunity to split the deck of cards and draw the ace of spades, which would entitle one to the jack pot. Basically what started as a fundraiser for the parish turned into a gold mine, going on for over 40 weeks as each week, another card was drawn from the deck and then discarded. By the time we arrived there were only nine cards left in the deck. We bought 180 tickets between the three of us and these went into a drum. One ticket would be drawn with that ticket holder gaining the right to split the deck. We didn't win but the jackpot, which had grown to nearly $400,000, did go that night. Someone's life was changed.

By the time the day was done I'd ridden over 800 kms.  and was looking forward to a relaxing night at the hotel. We sat in the church parking lot for close to an hour just waiting for the traffic to clear out and then headed back to our hotel in Stephenville, about 50 kms away. The traffic on the single two-lane road was bumper to bumper and it took well over an hour to get back. Unfortunately, in this small town hotel the bar closed at 11:00 PM and by the time we checked in it was too late to have that relaxing rum & coke there. Fortunately I did have a flask on board and Ed went to a corner store for beer & munchies. We'd just settled into the room when the fire alarm sounded sending all guests into the parking lot. Ah well, good fortune was smiling on us still as it was a warm night so we just sat on the bikes and enjoyed our drinks. Thankfully the hotel didn't burn down.

For me it was a quick turn-around as next morning we hit the road heading back to Grand Falls. It was an incredibly hot day, well over 30 degrees, and Chris decided to pull off and take a dip in a river along the highway. The trip back was uneventful and we spent a relaxing evening on the deck of my sister's house having a few sociables, smoking some of Ed's Cuban cigars and eating a pretty good pizza from a local pizza joint. If you're in Grand Falls I can recommend Donini's pizza.

Ed & I at my sister's place in Grand Falls

Donini's...great pizza

Chris taking a dip in Barachois Brook near Stephenville

Three Amigos

Had to get in a pic of the bikes

Ed & Chris left in the morning an hour or two ahead of me, with Chris having to cover the 400 kms to St John's before 3:00 to make an appointment. I left around 10:00 again under brilliant, sunny, warm skies and cruised along at my more familiar 130 km/h. There is something about the sun that infuses one with positive energy.  I often refer to my motorcycle rides as rolling therapy. It's like a switch is flipped and for the period of time I ride a sense of tranquillity sets in. I wish I could figure out how to maintain that after the ride is over. The sunshine stayed with me all the way back home to St. John's with, of course, the exception of an area of 30 kms or so around Placentia Bay which has to hold the record for the most foggy days in the province. No matter how beautiful a day it is anywhere else you're just as likely as not to run into pea soup fog driving through there. It didn't last long, though, and by the time I reached Whitbourne, about 75 kms west of St. John's I'd broken out into sun again. I did enjoy the couple of days of riding but after travelling over 1600 kms in a little over two days I was happy enough to get off the bike. Indeed, the Magna, my cruiser which I had chosen to ride this particular trip, was in bad need of a rear tire after this trip as well as being overdue for it's oil change.  I actually dropped it off at the ToyBox, where I have all my servicing done. They had me ready to roll for the next afternoon, when it was back on the road again, this time with my wife Sherry tagging along, as we headed north east to Trinity on the Bonavista peninsula, about 250 kms northeast. That's a story for another blog perhaps.

So August has been a much better month than July and afforded me the opportunity for some extended road trips. As I write this I'm at over 13,000 kms for the season, including the 1200 kms or so I rode in April & early May when the winter bike was still out. Until next time then, See You Out There...Ride On!


  1. Sounds like "rolling therapy" indeed. Great post! You're making me want to buy a motorcycle! A big "ouch" regarding your daughters, however! What a panic that must've been, for all of you. Thankfully there was no MAJOR injuries.

  2. Glad you've been able to get out for a bit of fun.

    Sooo glad your daughter is okay with just some bumps and bruises. Karma will take care of the ass-hat who hit her.

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