[YEAR 7!] Quit our jobs, sold our home, gone riding...

Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/7.html on June 24, 2012

We rode out from the ferry into early morning rain coming down on Sydney, Nova Scotia. We've had such perfect weather for our ride so far, very un-RideDOT.com-like, so we were due for some precipitation! Not a lot of pictures from our ride, since we had to meet friends in Halifax, about 400 kms away.

Neda tries to make the guard smile at the Citadel. Unsuccessfully...

The weather clears up as we enter Halifax and we ride up Citadel Hill to check out Fort George, the latest and largest of many fortifications built to repel attacks from the Indians first and then the Americans later on during their Civil war and the War of 1812.

Tall Ship Silva is a permanent fixture touring around Halifax Harbour, a popular spot for weddings and events

We met our friends Khanh, Ed and Dirk in Halifax harbour, they had just completed a harrowing Iron Butt SaddleSore 1000 from Toronto through torrential rain and pea-soup fog in New Brunswick! It was nice hanging out with folks from home and we took the Alexander Keith brewery tour for some free beers at the end. Oh, and the show was nice as well, if not a bit cheesy...

Alexander Keith brewery. Our second beer tour this week!

The rest of the Toronto riding gang, Will, Mel and Irene pulled in later and we had a great dinner in the harbour, and then checked into a motel (BEDS! LUXURY!) for the evening. While it's great to be on the road and seeing new places and meeting new people all the time, it's nice to hang out with familiar faces again.

Fog creeps over the harbour at Peggy's Cove

The next morning, we all rode out to Peggy's Cove, a very picturesque community on the south shore of Nova Scotia, less than an hour outside of Halifax. It was very foggy, which added to the Maritimes atmosphere, but thankfully the thick blanket burned off while we were walking around the lighthouse and granite rocks at Peggy's Cove.

Arguably the most photographed lighthouse in the world

I'm trying to bump up the stats for "Most photographed lighthouse..."

Irene and Khanh taking in the atmosphere at Peggy's cove

Hangin' out with the hooligans - Dirk and Ed at Peggy's cove

Will looks out into the bay at Peggy's Cove.

We doubled back towards the northern tip of Nova Scotia in the afternoon. This would be our third time doing this route on the trip and co-incidentally we stopped in Antigonish for a third time to gas up. No McLobster this time though. Speaking of, we've been eating a lot of seafood this trip, I'm not normally a big lobster fan, but it tastes so fresh out here!

Sun sets on our bikes at our campsite outside Port Hawkesbury

We rode out to a campsite for the evening just outside Port Hawkesbury, yakking and laughing over dinner, while poking good-natured fun at each other until the sun set on our tents. We're rolling with our own motorcycle gang now!
Update from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/8.html

The Cabot Trail is the jewel of Atlantic Canada's tourism industry, especially if you're a motorcycle rider. It is considered by many to be a destination highway, like the Tail Of The Dragon in NC, Sea-to-Sky highway in BC, and the Stelvio Pass in Italy. We were camped the night before just outside of Cape Breton island and only had a couple of hundred kms to reach the beginning of the Cabot Trail in St Anns, after circumnavigating the south-east section of the island. The decision was to ride the coastal road of the Trail counter-clockwise so we would experience the scenery of the coast to our right.

Back to group riding!

We left most of the planning and ride leading to Khanh, on his custom-painted VFR800, as he led us into the heart of Cape Breton. It was a really big change in rhythm as we rode with 6 other riders and at times we split up into two groups of four to keep things manageable, but the light traffic on the island meant stayed together as a group for the most part. The dynamics of group riding also changed with this many riders, as we had to make changes for different paces, following styles, endurance and also personalities.

Fortunately, we had all ridden with each other before and it was a quick adjustment to find a group order and pace that we were all familiar with. Neda and I met these guys at a group ride last year and we found it very enjoyable and comfortable to hang out and ride with them, and we were really looking forward to spending 10 days in the Maritimes with them. Like dating, finding good riding partners is sometimes hard to do, but over the years we've managed to find some really cool people that we love touring and doing day rides with.

Damn you, Toronto riders. Brought the rain with you...

As predicted by the weather apps (who watches the Weather Network on TV anymore?), the rain started coming down in the afternoon after our lobster lunch in (where else?) Lobster Kettle restaurant in Louisbourg. We head directly to the Cabot Trail and it's too rainy and foggy to see any of the promised sights. Annoyingly, the Pinlock insert on the inside of my visor broke it's seal and water slowly filled up between the fog-resistant plastic and the visor like an aquarium. All I needed was a couple of goldfish swimming around in there to complete the effect! :)

Rain falls overnight on the Cabot Trail

We booked into a 4-bedroom cabin that we found in South Harbour, right in the middle of the Cabot Trail. It's nice to share a whole place like with a bunch of people, besides the social aspect, it's cheaper than what we've been paying for campsites the rest of the trip! With wet riding gear and rainsuits strewn all over the place, we waited out the rain for the night and prayed for better weather tomorrow.

Meat Cove - off the Cabot Trail

Our prayers were answered with a beautiful day on the western leg of the Cabot Trail. We were recommended to take a side-trip up to Meat Cove, with magnificent views off the cliff of the north coast. Meat Cove road is gravel for about the last 10 kms, but our street bike brethren did well!

View of Meat Cove

It's not a race, Neda...

Meat Cove

Posing on the Cabot Trail

Our motorcycle gang!

The twists and turns were a welcome change from the slabbing we had been doing the last few days. And set against the backdrop of the blue waters of the Gulf of St Lawrence and the clear skies above just made the riding day perfect! Scenic pullouts regularly line the Cabot Trail every few kms, offering picture-taking opportunities of the coastline, but we pass those up, gobbling up the curves with unbroken rhythm!

Irene takes the curves on the Cabot Trail

We ended the day at the Caribou and Munroe's Island Provincial Park, just outside the ferry that would carry us to Prince Edward Island tomorrow morning.
Updatedfrom http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/9.html on June 28, 2012

We woke up early to catch the early ferry across the Northumberland Strait from Caribou, NS to Woods Islands, PEI, about 75 minutes from dock to dock. The only thing I knew about PEI was that we grew a lot of potatoes because of the fertile red earth.

Early morning ferry trip to PEI

We spent most of the day riding around the coast of PEI. Unfortunately, the "scenic" route was a bit inland from the coast so the scenery consisted mainly of road and tree. We broke a bit from the scenery a bit to visit a lighthouse on the north-east corner of the island and to have a quick lunch.

East Point Lighthouse, PEI

During a gas stop, an attendant asked us if we were all here for Atlanticade. We had no idea what that was. Apparently this weekend, over ten thousand bikers would flock to PEI to cross the Confederation Bridge to raise money for MADD. The rally centre was Summerside, just a half hour away from our campsite that we were staying that night on the north shore.

Again, our hectic East Coast schedule prevented us from staying the weekend. This pace was not what we wanted for our real trip and Neda and I agreed that we would take every opportunity to dawdle and lag to our heart's content when we wrapped things up in Toronto.

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After lunch, we rode down to Basin Head, just outside Souris, PEI where we heard the sands sing when you walked along the beach! And they did! A loud squeaking noise as we shuffled our boots up and down the sandy shore. The sound occurs when the quartz sand is very rounded and spherical. As it rubs against each other, it makes a distinctive squeaking noise like you're rubbing two pieces of wet rubber together.

Irene and Mel singin' in the sand - Photo by Ed C.

All this squeaking is making Neda tired

Neda has bad allergies to the mosquito bites at all our campsites, so she's taking Reactin to counter the swelling. Unfortunately, the non-drowsy medication is making her drowsy (happens in a small percentage of people). Not good when you're on a motorcycle!

We set up camp on the north shore just outside Cavendish, as dark rainclouds rolled in. We've never put up our tent in the rain yet, and we were hoping to get the fly up before the waterworks started. As it turned out, we watched the rain fall from the comfort of an all-you-can-eat seafood restaurant, our tents already battened down.

The view from our tentsite: morning sun on the north shores of PEI. Glorious!

On the way out of PEI, I finally see red earth! And mutant giant broccoli on the left! :)

The next morning, we rode out of PEI via Confederation Bridge to New Brunswick. The 13 kms bridge's claim to fame is that it's the longest bridge in the world to cover ice-covered waters, not that there were any on this warm late July day. The Atlanticade motorcycle rally was set to ride this bridge a couple of days from now, and I could just picture 12,000 motorcycles riding back and forth. A lot of tired left arms waving to that many motorcycles!

Our motorcycle gang approaches the curve on Confederation Bridge

We're spending a bit more time in New Brunswick on our way back to Ontario. This is truly the only bilingual province in Canada, almost everyone we meet along the way here speaks both languages fluently. Like PEI, I didn't know much about NB before coming out here, but what we really wanted to see were the Hopewell Rocks located in the Bay of Fundy, the inlet of water that's shared by New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

The Bay of Fundy is home to a unique phenomenon - the largest tides in the world. Over 100 billion tonnes of water flow in and out of the bay during each tide. And the tides happen twice a day, high and low tides occuring every 6 hours and 13 minutes on average! The tide differential may be anywhere between 10 to 14 meters!

Flowerpot rocks at Hopewell

These bizarre rock formations called flowerpot rocks, are created by the erosion of the twice-daily tides. The larger heads of the rocks are the parts untouched by the high tide. During low tide, it is possible to walk on the sea-floor and between the flowerpot rocks. When low tide is not low enough to walk the floor, visitors often rent kayaks and canoes and paddle around the rocks. Very beautiful to see!

A precarious situation at Hopewell Rocks

There are signs posted all over to be back on shore before high tide hits Hopewell. If you find yourself out on the rocks during high tide, the only options are to wait the 6 hours until the tide washes out, or swim back to shore!

Walking along the sea floor

Posing at Hopewell Rocks
Hi Sydney,

About quitting our jobs: It was a tough decision and took a long time. About 7 years, in fact...

A friend of mine forwarded me an email that I sent to him telling him about our plans to leave everything behind and just take off for a year or two. That email was dated 2005!

We had the typical worries, would we be able to pick up where we left off when we came back? How would a multi-year gap in our resumes look to potential employers? We were in our prime earning years, how much of a setback would this cost us?

However, these concerns were balanced out by:

- We REALLY, REALLY wanted to do this trip. And now. Not when we were retired at 65, when our strength and energy would not be the same.
- We don't intend on having children, so our decision impacts only us.
- Our parents are approaching an age where we may need to be present to look after them. The window of opportunity for a trip like this was shrinking with every passing day.

Maybe we're screwing our future selves over. I don't know. But 18 months into our trip, it feels like the best decision we've ever made.

We've never lived more in the moment than we are right now.
Update from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/10.html on July 15, 2012

The ride back to Ontario from New Brunswick was a quick affair on the highway and was quite eventful, thanks to a broken master link on Khanh's VFR's chain. We put together two CAA calls to tow us from Perth, and then from Trenton back to Toronto, arriving at an ungodly 2AM. Alas, our test trip to the East Coast was over, now to prepare for the real thing!

123,456 kms on the old girl. Not a bad way to start a trip...

After a hectic couple of days doing a last minute cleanup of our condo, we handed over the keys to the new owner. This was the last major tie to our old life and it felt like such a burden off of our shoulders, even if it meant we were now technically homeless. Thankfully, my parents put us up at their place while we sorted out the last of our affairs. We moved all our mail, bills, and registered our drivers licenses and insurance to their address. Two decades later, and I was back living in my parents basement! :)

Giant Loonie in Sudbury

We left Toronto on July 15th, 2012 after saying sad goodbyes to our good friends and family, and happily severing our relationship with Rogers, Bell, Toronto Hydro and the Municipal Property Tax Collection Agency. This was it, for real now! As we headed north on the overly familiar Highway 400, it still didn't feel real. Still felt like we were on a day ride...

We stopped in Sudbury to take our obligatory picture in front of the giant Loonie outside of the Science North building. We must have 3 different shots of this from 3 different road trips. It was only once we traveled north of Sudbury that we felt like a dog that's broken it's leash, riding into new territory!

Neda gazes at a lily pond on 108, just outside of Elliott Lake, north of Hwy 17

Part of our resolution for this trip is to take all the backroads that we never had time to explore because we had to make a destination for the night. We did learn some lessons from our trip out east though, which was that although we had the luxury of time, we traded for that at the expense of budget. So all the grocery shopping, preparing food, washing dishes and cutlery, setting up/tearing down of tents, etc. actually cost us a bit more time than if we had just checked into a motel at the end of the riding day and ordered a pizza or ate at a restaurant.

Giant Muskoka chair outside the Pinecrest campsite in Thessalon. My theory is that little towns have to compensate by putting up oversize roadside attractions...

We stayed at a great campsite along the northern shores of Lake Huron, the beach was a few feet away from our tent and we relaxed on the shores for the evening and fell asleep to the sound of waves gently lapping the sandy beach. This camping thing is pretty new to me and I'm amazed that folks will park a camper for the summer at a campsite and make it their seasonal cottage! Lots of campers with patio stones, lawn gnomes and furniture outside!

Our campsite at Thessalon

Contemplating the nomadic existence

I relax, Neda hikes. This is a common theme in our trips together. :)

The next morning, we venture out onto new roads. We're bypassing the very scenic Hwy 17 from Sault-Ste Marie to Wawa, since we've done it already, but I'd recommend it to anyone who's riding in the area - the sweeping turns and numerous elevation changes are made all the more spectacular by the sight of Lake Superior off the west side of the road.

Hwy 129 Ontario

Instead, we're now riding Hwy 129 north from Thessalon. It's often called Ontario's Tail of the Dragon, because Tennessee 129 shares the same number. It's nowhere as tight and twisty, but the first 60 kms have amazing fast sweepers, great pavement and lots of 270 degree turns that have you leant over for what feels like an eternity! What a riot! The rest of the road is your normal Northern Ontario scenic route.

Northern section of Hwy 129

As we reach Wawa in the afternoon, a light drizzle begins and darker clouds are approaching us. This is the first rainfall we've had on this trip. And it looks like we might have to put up a tent in the coming downpour...
Update from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/11.html on July 16, 2012

We reached Wawa just as the worst of the downpour started, and we ducked into the local Subway for a late lunch and to see if the deluge would let up before figuring out what to do for the evening. We really didn't want to be putting up a tent in the rain and the thought was, do we really want to be ducking into motels everytime it rains? That's the quickest way to burn through the travel dollars...

As we mulled over our predicament, in strode a rainsuit-clad motorcycle warrior. He cased the joint and made a bee-line towards us.

"Who's the ADV Rider?"

Ah, my sticker on the back of my sidecase...

Jamie Z, fellow ADV Rider from Memphis, TN, chatted with us for a while. He was doing a road trip around the Great Lakes, headed to MN to visit some family. We told him of the great camp sites we had visited in the past few weeks and how cheap they were (compared to the hotels we had been staying with on our other trips). Little did I know we were talking to the author of Budget Travel the Jamie Z Way"! We got a crash course in how to sleep for free, eat on the cheap and different ways to stretch those travel $$$. Jamie told us how he stayed in a luxury cabin the night before and then got a seaplane ride around the lake this morning. ALL FOR FREE! Our meeting could not have come at a better time, at the beginning of this trip.

So, in the spirit of budget travel, and because Jamie seemed like a stand-up guy who wasn't going to make off with our iPhones, GPSs and my favorite pair of Crocs in the middle of the night, we offered to split the cost of a motel with him, seeing as how the rain just wouldn't let up.

Big Goose statue in Wawa. Remember my theory about small towns?

As you can tell from this picture taken the morning after, we were still friends (after I confirmed that my crocs were still in my tankbag). We've taken a few pictures of the goose over the years and just recently, rust spots have appeared on the wings and body. The town is trying to raise funds to repair the statue. Poor goose! Jamie rode with us for a little ways and dropped back to do some sightseeing on his own, we would meet up with him again later on in the day.

Chain maintenance. For once, it's nice to be shafted!

Somewhere along the way we joined a motorcycle gang. And we all rode across bridges together.It was totally badass...

We took our time riding across the top of Lake Superior on Hwy 17, it was a clear, cool day, great for riding and we stopped to camp at a few provincial parks along the way. It was a leisurely way to say goodbye to our home province.

At a gas stop, Neda makes a friend

This is Cabo, the Mini Parrot. We met a couple (from Montana I think) traveling across Canada by bike as well, and this was their traveling companion! Cabo just started speaking. His first word was, "Noodle!"

On the right hand side panel you'll see Cabo's pillion seat, a tiny box where he can chillax.

Bikes wait impatiently while we take a nap in Nipigon

At Sleeping Giant provincial park, we played beach volleyball with Savannah and the staff of the park. Savannah and her mother Jill were from Winnipeg, and Jill told us to visit Rushing River Provincial Park. So we did! Did I mention we are doing everything the locals recommend?

Chillin in the waters at Rushing River Provincial Park

Our campsite at Rushing River

We got off the main Hwy 17 and took a scenic bypass called Mom's Highway. Neda has this theory that if you name a road, motorcycle and car enthusiasts will come, ie. Tail of the Dragon, Cabot Trail, Sea-to-Sky Highway, etc. Mom's Highway was okay, bit more scenic than Hwy 17, but I'm sure if they called it Jo Momma's Highway, it would have kicked more ***...

Terry Fox Memorial Statue in Thunder Bay overlooking the shores of Lake Superior.

As we approached Thunder Bay, we rode up to the Terry Fox Memorial. One of my first memories of Canada was watching Terry Fox run across the country on TV. I was only 9 years old at the time, and it was only later that I fully understood the magnitude of running a marathon everyday for 143 days straight after losing a leg to cancer. I don't get overly emotional, but my memories of his run, coupled with both of our families history with cancer made this a very special side-trip.

Kakabeka Falls just outside of Kenora

Kenora is one of the last towns on the TransCanada Highway before we leave Ontario. I have to admit, part of the reason why we visited Kakabeka Falls was because of the name. Our new euphemism on this trip for taking a dump is now "I have to visit Kakabeka Falls". I can tell by the look on Neda's face that she's visited Kakabeka Falls. I mean, it's right there in the background, is how I know...

You know those stickers with the stick figure family that you see on the back of minivan windows? Neda got a couple of bike stickers for us. It's bad enough the Harley guys don't wave at me, now they openly mock us... :(

I've lived in Ontario for the last 31 years of my life, and it only took 5 days for us to make it out of the province. I'll miss the place, but most of all the family and friends that we're leaving behind.
Update from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/12.html on July 20, 2012

Crossing over from Ontario into Manitoba on the TransCanada Highway we experienced a drastic change in geography. Gone were the irregular shorelines of Lake of the Woods, which in itself is quite spectacular when seen from an airplane. You can get a sense of this from the map above: the lake covers over 950,000 acres and has over 14,000 islands with over 30,000 kms of forested shoreline!

When we crossed the provincial border, it was like emerging from a forest into a wide open field. A field about 1,500 kms long... We had wandered out into the Canadian Prairies! We call it The Gap, that space between Ontario and the Rockies.

The Market at the Forks

Just the other day, at the Terry Fox memorial in Thunder Bay, we were talking to a guy from Winnipeg and we asked where to go in the city. He replied, "The Forks". Having no idea what that was, we punched it in the GPS and were pleasantly surprised to find a nice little touristy area located in downtown Winnipeg, at the junction of the Assiniboine and Red River - hence "The Forks".

Closeup of one of the structures surrounding Oodena Circle.

At one of the stores in the market, we overheard from the shopkeeper that there was a pow wow happening in the afternoon at the Oodena Celebration Circle, which was an open-air arena just outside the market. It was built by the city to host aboriginal and other cultural celebrations. "Oodena" is Cree for "centre of the city".

Participants in brightly coloured traditional attire!

We stayed for quite a while at the pow wow listening to the drumming and chanting and watching the many different tribes come together and dance around the circle. It was a feast of colours, and Neda remarked that we had lived in Canada for so long, but here in Winnipeg was the first time she's seen First Nations people so interwoven into the city and culture.

I found out later that we had actually visited The Forks on National Aboriginal Day, which was a pretty big event for Winnipeg. Some other shots of the Pow Wow:

The Forks was built on a site that was originally (and still is) a meeting place for the last 6,000 years. It was a popular spot for trading between early aboriginals, European fur traders, Metis buffalo hunters, etc. all the way to current day stores selling curios to nomadic motorcycle riders. :)

Human Rights Museum under construction at The Forks

Walking the Espalanade Riel, a bridge just outside The Forks named after the city's founder, Louis Riel

Thumpin' the doghouse!

I think what I'll miss most while being on the road is playing music. As far as entertainment goes, we don't watch any TV at all, but we did treat ourselves to an IMAX showing of The Dark Knight Rises. It was ok... I was very sad to hear about the tragedy in Colorado at the movie opening. These days, I get most of the news via social media, as I'm updating our pictures and blog online. Although we're seeing the world one small piece at a time, I'll have to be more diligent on keeping up with what's happening on a broader scale.
Update from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/13.html on July 23, 2012

Our route through the interior provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. We tried to stray off the main TransCanada Highway often, or we would have died of boredom! The fierce headwinds of the prairies really affected our fuel economy. With our large panniers and my huge Aeroflow windshield, our frontal surface area resembled the shape of a brick, and our range plummeted from about 350 kms/tank to 250 kms! Speed limits on the prairies are 110 km/h, which also contributed to our poor fuel mileage... :)

Saskatchewan's license plate reads, "Land of living skies"

We took a break off the boring flatlands of the Prairies and headed south towards the US border to an area called the Big Muddy Badlands. The town of Coronach runs a van tour that hits most of the touristy areas, but since we were mobile, we just visited them on our own. Most of the places on their web site are not that interesting anyway, and we saved ourselves $75!

Taking a break on the gravel roads of the Big Muddy Badlands

The Big Muddy Badlands are these outcroppings of rock that look like they belong in a cowboy movie. You know the ones where the outlaw is running away from the US Marshalls, takes refuge in a cave in the hills and is in turn ambushed by Indians, and then all of them are chased by alien bounty hunters that look like Olivia Wilde...

Castle Butte in the background

We spent most of the afternoon walking around Castle Butte, a large outcropping of sandstone and clay in the Big Muddy Badlands. It's the largest structure in the valley and was used by early settlers as a navigation landmark.

Bikes in front of Castle Butte

Exploring the spooky caves at Castle Butte. This one reminded me of the movie The Descent. Scary!

The badlands extend south into Montana, which boasts more desert landscapes, and is more typical of Western movies. Saskatchewan only has a tiny area of badlands north of the Canada/US border.

Neda's butt walking around Castle Butte

Neda surveying the view on top of Castle Butte

Walking along the spine of Castle Butte

Bikes in the background below

GQ, here I come!

Leaving Castle Butte
Update from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/14.html on July 23, 2012

This is how it all starts

In Michael Crichton's book "Airframe", about an airplane crash, he documents that a disaster like that is never dependent on one single cause or event. Rather, a sequence of events have to occur to contribute to a crash. Here's my sequence of events:

Somewhere in Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia, my air compressor stopped working. It was one of those large 12-volt jobbies with the light, the attachments for volleyballs, air mattresses, inflatable dolls, etc., but the part that screwed into the valve stem started leaking so I junked it. I decided we needed something a bit smaller and less dependent on electricity, in case something went wrong with the electricals. So at a Walmart, $9.99 later, I picked up a foot operated pump.

Which promptly FAILED the first time I stepped on it... So we were now without an air compressor. Event #1.

Just taking a nap... after having the wind knocked out of me...after a huge speed wobble and lowside in deep gravel

After visiting Castle Butte, we headed out to find the Sand Hill of Saskatchewan. We had been doing fine on street pressures in the lightly graveled road of the Bug Muddy Badlands, so we were feeling over-confident that we didn't have to let out the pressures since we were without our own air compressor and gas stations were few and far between. Event #2.

I check the Google, online maps and my GPS and can't figure out a way to get to the Sand Hills. so I opt for the most direct route and force the GPS through several unpaved roads. Normally this yields good results. Not this time, though. The road turns from unpaved to deeper and deeper gravel. I'm sure the Sand Hills are just a few kms away. We don't turn back. Event #3.

We're traveling at 70km/h, much too fast for the road conditions, and waaay to fast considering we didn't let the air pressure out of our tires since our stupid Walmart foot pump broke. In my rear mirror, I see Neda slow down by a lot, and then the speed wobble hit my bike. The handlebars violently shake left and right, wrenching my arms in both directions. The motorcycle starts to weave left and right, as the front wheel moves side-to-side, each oscillation getting worse in amplitude. Logically, I know what needs to be done: I need to relax my grip on the handlebars, grip the bike with my knees, and roll off the throttle slowly. But my natural instincts kick in and I do none of that. In fact, I do the exact opposite, and that is the final event that led to this:

Aeroflow windscreen is not flowing air too well anymore

The motorcycle slides into the left ditch, resting on it's right side at a 45 degree angle, and I get bucked off into the middle of the road, I put my arms out to brace myself on impact and feel a searing pain in my right shoulder and my left ankle. It takes me a second, but I get up and signal to Neda that I'm relatively ok, I don't want her to worry too much, but she comes on over the intercom, and her voice is shaking with concern and fear anyway.

Although the bike is not laying entirely on it's side, the ditch is about 4 feet lower than the road, so we have to get it upright and ride it back up. That's when I notice I can't raise my right arm more than a few inches. This is not good. Neda struggles with the bike while I can only stand by helpless. Somehow, she manages to get the 600lb bike upright, almost all by herself and I can get on the bike in the ditch. Using my left hand, I grab my right hand and place it on the throttle and start the bike up. It fires up without a problem and I ride it up and out of the ditch. There is considerable pain in my right shoulder but I still am able to handle the controls properly.

Maybe I should get engine guards... On a ride, Gadgetboy from ADV once looked at my guardless jugs and asked me, "What are you, some kind of tough guy?". I don't feel like one anymore...

We rest at the side of the road and I lie down, exhausted by the effort and adrenalin is starting to leave my body, leaving me lightheaded. My pain in my ankle is actually a bruise right on a spider bite I got the night before, lot of pain but nothing serious. I still can't raise my right arm though which is worrisome. Neda does a survey of the bike, the Aeroflow windscreen is toast, the handguard's mount is broken, so is the right front turn signal but other than that, the bike is still rideable. A few trucks (carrying fresh gravel!!!) stop to make sure we're okay, and when we tell them where we were headed, they all look at us puzzled, "We've never heard of no Sand Hills around here...", and "We're bringing fresh gravel to the end of this road, it goes nowhere right now...". Crap! All this for nothing...

We let the air of our tires for the ride back, it felt much more stable. As it turns out, the riding position (after I manually put my right hand on the throttle) is the most comfortable one for my shoulder, as we ride away from our aborted mission to find the Sand Hills of Saskatchewan. I know the first thing I want to do right now is buy a large electrical air compressor, you know: one of the 12-volt jobbies with the light, the attachments for volleyballs, air mattresses and inflatable dolls...

I'm guessing I'll need a few days to fix the bike and figure out what's wrong with my shoulder, so we stop at Cypress Hills provincial park for the night. Two extra strength Advil dulls the pain as I feel sorry for myself in the tent for messing up our trip, and right at the beginning as well!
Update from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/15.html on July 26, 2012

We had planned to visit our good friends, Paul and Karen for the weekend in Calgary, but after my unfortunate accident, I called Paul at work and asked if we could come a couple of days early. Did I mentioned they were really good friends? :)

Saamis teepee in Medicine Hat, AB

The next morning, my shoulder still felt the same. Pain when I moved it, and no mobility save for a few inches to my side. Neda poured me onto the bike and I manually, but gingerly, placed my right hand on the throttle and we were off to Calgary. We passed through Medicine Hat and took a break at the Saamis teepee just off the TransCanada Highway. It's a monument built for the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. Saamis is the Blackfoot word for eagle tail feather headress (or the hat worn by the Medicine Man)

Close up of Saamis teepee

There are informational plaques all over the teepee, and I read up on the history of the First Nations tribes in Canada. All of their stories and traditions centre strongly around dreams, and I found it interesting how devoid it was of the overt moralism and story-telling structure of the fables and folklore of Western culture. In other words, it made absolutely no sense to me...

Paul and Karen and their boys, Kai and Ewan. Yes, Ewan. And a GS...

We approached Calgary in a thunderstorm. Through the pain of putting on my rainsuit over a bum shoulder, I thought how unfortunate it would be to also get struck by lightning now -- seeing how my 1.5m GS was the tallest thing on the open Prairie highway by about... 1.5m...

Paul and Karen moved to Calgary from Toronto over a year ago and it was good to see them again, even though we just saw them in Toronto a few weeks earlier when they came to visit. That afternoon, we rode my GS into Blackfoot Motorsports to see what they could do for me. 2.5 hours and one used GS windscreen later, I rode out with my bike all patched up! Unfortunately they were out of stock of spare rotator cuffs...

Although I loved my big-***, ugly old Aeroflow windscreen, it was always doomed to shatter in any tipover or crash because of how far it sticks out at the sides. The stock GS windshield is terrible but at least it's out of the way in any fall unless the bike lands upside-down. *knock on wood*

Horse sculptures in the Courthouse Park in downtown Calgary

We spent a lot of time catching up with P&K and playing with their kids. While they were at work during the day, Neda and I rode over to downtown Calgary to walk around the Eau Claire market and do some shopping. We wandered around aimlessly around the Eaton Centre (not sure if it's called that anymore) for a while before we realized that we needed and wanted nothing that the stores had to offer. We weren't interested in any clothing, furniture, household items, or electrical gadgets. They didn't really fit on the motorcycle and besides we didn't have a home to store them in anyhow... We spent more time in the Mountain Equipment Co-Op perusing camping equipment, and even then noticed that we had everything we needed already!

Hiking in Kananaskis Park

Karen took an afternoon off to take Neda and the kids hiking in Kananaskis Park, just west of the city. I heard the word "hike" and suddenly the pain in my shoulder flared up again and I begged off to stay at home to work on the blog... :) I did end up seeing a walk-in clinic, they confirmed my Googled self-diagnosis, I had severely strained the soft tissue in my rotator cuff and it would take a few weeks to heal.

Neda is skilled in all manner of two-wheeled vehicles

Paul makes sure the car is locked before we head into the rodeo

On the weekend, we all visited a rodeo in nearby Rockyford, about an hour east of Calgary. We had missed Stampede (Calgary's largest rodeo party) by about a couple of weeks, but Rockyford's rodeo billed itself as the "biggest little show in Alberta".

Buckin' bronco! 8 seconds never seemed longer!

Rodeo clown tells bad jokes between events

Not sure who let these hockey players into the rodeo...

Calgary Ground Pilots and fellow adventurers, Jill and Curtis

I've visited Calgary a couple of times before on a motorcycle over the years, and I've kept in touch with the local motorcycle scene via CGP forum. Curtis and I have exchanged messages on there a few times and we finally get to meet in person! We had a late dinner at Wurst, and had a great time chatting away about bikes and travel. They are also two adventurous spirits and we hope to see them again on our travels.

At Wurst, these guys come out to play Happy Birthday to the customers.
Seems there was a birthday party at every single table that evening!

We spent almost a week in Calgary and we have to thank Paul and Karen for having us over, they were such gracious hosts! The shoulder seems to be getting a bit better, but for now Neda is still hiking up my R1200GS onto the center-stand at every gas stop, bless her soul!
Update from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/16.html on July 29

After our much-needed break in Calgary, it was good to be on the road again. We're headed west towards Banff National Park where we'll spend a couple of nights in the National Park to do some sightseeing and ride the amazing roads in the area.

Neda spots wildlife again on the Bow Valley Trail

From Calgary, we bypassed the main TransCanada Highway and took the smaller, more scenic Bow Valley Trail, which follows the Bow River all the way to Canmore. We saw tons of motorcyclists, mainly sportbikes, zoom by on the twisty road, taking advantage of the beautiful, sunny Albertan weekend-weather.

Rocky Mountains loom ahead on Bow Valley Trail

Posing on the main strip, Banff Ave

In Banff, we parked next to two Ontario GSes! One with an RTI sticker (where we used to teach)!

We've visited Banff many times over the years, mainly to go snowboarding in the amazing resorts in the area. It's a classic alpine tourist trap, very pretty, overpriced storefronts selling the latest Arcteryx fashions to Starbucks-sipping vacationers with permanent Oakley tan-lines on their face. We know, because we used to be one of them back when we had jobs. And snowboards. And a home to store all that stuff in... :)

Posing on the main strip

Ride back to our campsite on Bow Valley Parkway

Once again, Neda's keen eye spots more wildlife

Waitin' on a train. Please use your imagination. Or Google Image "Morant's Curve"...

Paul told me that there was a famous spot in Banff National Park called Morant's Curve where people camp out for hours in front of the S-shaped turn waiting for the eastbound Canadian Pacific trains to pass by with the picturesque Bow River and (usually) snow-capped Rocky Mountains in the background. Sure enough when we arrived, a dozen photographers had set up tripods to capture the event. So we broke out our groceries and proceeded to make lunch while waiting for the train. The CP rail schedule is about as reliable as a chocolate camshaft, and over the NEXT TWO HOURS, one-by-one the photographers got fed up and left, as new ones arrived to take their place. We couldn't wait any longer - we wanted to ride. So, empty-handed (empty SD-card?), we rode towards Lake Louise.

While I waited for the train, Neda went hiking and took some pictures

Rental canoes on Lake Louise

Next stop, Lake Louise, the site of the most photographed lake in the world. We arrived in the pouring rain, so we hid out in the very posh Chateau Lake Louise, waiting for a chance to dash out to hike around the area. Once again, we were inundated by tourists of all nationalities. Tour buses swarm the Banff/Lake Louise area like GS-owners to the latest Touratech catalog. We really needed to "Get to da choppa!" and just ride where other people weren't...

Riding through the rocks at Radium, BC

So we did my favorite loop (er triangle?) in the Calgary-area: Banff->Golden->Radium->Banff. Kilometers of twisty roads, most of it with very little traffic south of Golden, and all of it with the majestic Rocky Mountains surrounding us!

Relaxing in the hot springs at Radium

The loop takes us into Eastern BC for a while, and we stopped at the hot springs at Radium to dip into the naturally heated wading pools to relax our riding muscles (posteriors) before the trip back to our campsite in Banff.

Kootenay Highway at dusk

The Kootenay Highway runs from Radium, BC through the Kootenay National Park, all the way back into Banff National Park. Although not as famous as Deals Gap, Sea-To-Sky or Cabot Trail, it's a destination highway for many motorists as well, and we hit it at just the right time, as the sun was low in the horizon. The colours took on a beautiful, lazy hue lit by the setting sun and for the first time on this trip, I felt that zen-like feeling, when all the turns in the road come to you telepathically and everything is right in the world. It was such a magical ride on that road that I didn't want it to end. Neda chimed in over the intercom telling me she was feeling exactly the same way and it was wonderful sharing the ride with her that way.


Riding into the setting Alberta sun

This was such a great riding day, and I felt I really needed it after the eventful week I've been having.
Update from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/17.html on August 1, 2012

Banff to Jasper. With terrain like this, how can a motorcyclist not drool?

Pretty stream in Banff National Park

Neda took advantage of the beautiful hiking weather to snap some pictures of Banff National Park in the morning. I took advantage of the beautiful hiking weather to work on the blog...

The trails in Banff are marked for different-sized groups depending on the bear activity in the area. There are trails suitable for solo hiking, and others that require a group of 3 people or more to hike together. The thinking is that if you hike solo in bear country, you are bear-food for sure. But if you are hiking with at least two other people, you just have to be faster than one of them, so the odds are in your favour.

Good thing Neda bought a bear bell while we were in Calgary. Not sure why all the other hikers laughed at her bear-bell, I'm sure I heard one of them call it a "dinner bell"...

Neda's bear bell comes with a built-in silencer so you can turn it off and on. Handy, because I'm sure all the movie theaters in Banff require you to silence your cellphones, pagers and bear bells before the movie begins.

Ink pots at Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon was just across the way from our campsite, so Neda took a 3.5 hour hike to visit the famous Ink Pots, which are 6 blue-green pools fed by underground springs. The colour is from glacial sediments suspended in the water.

ATGATT *especially* when hiking in bear country

In the afternoon, we rode the famous Icefields Parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper to take in the view of the Canadian Rocky Mountains all around us. We pass by a couple of beautiful-looking glaciers along the way.

Cold! Gerbings to the rescue!

R12GS needs some love too

I've noticed Neda's F650GS gets the lions share of attention on this blog. I know it's a newer bike, but now that my 12GS has shed it's ugly Aeroflow windscreen, I think it deserves a bit more screen time as well. I'm proud to say that the only Touratech item I've installed are the handguard spoilers...

Checking out the Athabaska Glacier at Columbia Icefields

Touratech commercial. When do you get the cheque, Neda?

Skies are roiling on the way to Jasper

As we venture into Jasper National Park, the skies darken, so the first thing we do is immediately set up our tent before the rain begins, which is imminent. The park has provided bear lockers where campers can store their food away from their tents. So we raid the other lockers for some free food before we head out to hike around the area.

Just kidding.


Shoutout to Neda's old hometown

Jasper Tramways operates a cable car that takes you up to the top of Whistlers Mountain just outside the town of Jasper. At the bottom, is a pinboard atlas where tourists can pinpoint where they came from. Tons of pins around Toronto, so I don't even try, but Neda notices not a lot of folks from the town where she was born.

That triangle down there is the town of Jasper

We continued to climb at the top of the tram to the summit of Whistler's Mountain. The views of Jasper and the surrounding rivers below were amazing, and even the light drizzle didn't dampen my enthusiasm to climb higher.

Some hike all the way up here to contemplate the meaning of life. Others just hog all the good seats...

Up at the top, we find snow!

Me and my new buddy Inukshuk check out the view together

In the evening, we ride into Jasper to get some Interwebbing and blogging done in a coffee shop. I don't know how these places make money when you can hog a table for hours and only pay a couple of dollars for coffee. We're kicked out at closing into the pouring rain, but when we ride back to the park, we're greeted with a warm and dry tent. Well, a dry tent, at least...

Singin' in the rain - Gene Kelly-stylez in Jasper
Update from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/18.html on August 5, 2012

From Jasper, we rode Hwy 5 through Kamloops with a quick detour through 5A, the Princeton-Kamloops Highway, a very scenic twisty ride past a series of pretty lakes in the valley, to end up in Merritt. We met Veronica, another ADVer outside the Starbucks at Merritt. She was covered head to toe in dust, and with her dirtbike gear and astride her Suzuki DR, she looked completely hardcore. We talked for a while and on her map, she showed us some great dual-sport roads in the area. We hope to visit them in the next few days.

Princeton-Kamloops Highway

We had made arrangements to meet Kevin and Manon in Vancouver for the long weekend. Yes, Kevin and Manon from Ottawa (from our very first blog entry are now Kevin and Manon from Vancouver! They've moved clear across the country just to provide us with a place to stay for the weekend!

Beating the heatwave in Vancouver with Kevin and Manon

It was so nice having a real bed to sleep in, and a couch, and a wide-screen TV, and a fridge, etc. We caught up with all the MotoGP races we had missed and ate pizza and drank Cherry Pepsi and it was all so decadent! K&M spoiled us to bits and we let them! Vancouver was having a heatwave, so we spent some time in the park next to their new condo to cool down.

Thanks Manon for the picture!

We spent an (extra) long weekend with them, parking the bikes for a few days and doing nothing but watching the Olympics on TV, eating and sleeping. It was amazing to spend time relaxing with good friends after being on the road for only just a few weeks.

Sasha Koop from Funhouse Tattoo

So, to commemorate traveling all the way from the east coast to the west coast of Canada, Neda decides to get inked! Actually, she had been planning this for quite some time, having had to change tattoo artists from Toronto because of timing, and arranging an appointment with a Vancouver artist while we were on the road. Sasha Koop from Funhouse Tattoo came highly recommended and we all came to watch the action and provide support.

A future tattoo artist looks on while Neda gets inked

"Take the road less travelled"

Neda explains the meaning behind the tatto:

"The blue heron feathers are a style mash-up. The inside of the feathers is done in Haida First Nations-style, and the outside is a more realistic feather to soften the design. The beads represent Gene and I. Blue is Gene, red is me, and yellow represents my bike and the sun."

Personally, I'm not into tattoos for myself (more a fan of making new holes in my body), but I think the design is cool and the tattoo turned out awesome. Neda was ecstatic!

Suspension bridge at Lynn Canyon

Because everyone knows how much I *love* hiking (not), Kevin, Manon and Neda drag me out to Lynn Canyon. Since K&M are still new to Vancouver, they had to TripAdvisor where to take us. Right now, they're still "Kevin-and-Manon-*IN*-Vancouver", and they've got a long way to go before they become "Kevin-and-Manon-*FROM*-Vancouver"...

Lynn Canyon

Hikers in Lynn Canyon

So, seeing how I've probably visited Vancouver more often than K&M, I lead "Kevin-in-Vancouver" to the Gastown district downtown to take some touristy shots of the area.

A gaggle of GSes stop traffic in Gastown...

Gastown Steamclock

I was dismayed to find out recently that the Gastown Steamclock does not run entirely on steam! It is actually electrically powered and the only time steam is utilized is every 15 minutes when the clock gives a little show and plays a tune. Felt *so* totally ripped off...

Walking around Gastown

And of course, rain in Vancouver