Archive for G.U.N.S.E


The G.U.N.S.E – Wrappin’ it Up

Posted by: | Comments (0)

Aboard the mv Leif Ericson, returning the Expedition from Port-aux Basques, Rhodefoundland to North Sydney, Rhode Scotia, we went through the now familiar bike tie down routine…

…checked into our spacious, bunk bed lined cabin…

…then saluted what really was the ‘Best Day Ever’ with the traditional toast.

Sitting in the lounge waiting for the ferry to leave, we heard a page. “Would the rider of the Harley Davidson with Rhode Island plates please return to your vehicle?”

Uh oh.

Unleaded jumped up and took off running, with Dark Meat Snack close in tow. Sleeping Beauty asked me if I was going to go too.

“Naah. Whatever happened, I don’t want to see it. I don’t want to know. They’ll handle it.” I sounded calm, but the pit in my stomach grew.

While they were gone, I imagined the worst – that somehow Stormbringer fell into the ocean, or got crushed by a bus. They came back smiling, so I was instantly relieved.

“What happened?”

“The deck hand didn’t like the way I tied the bike down, because the tie down hooks were touching the chrome. He gave me some rope and helped me secure it better so the bike wouldn’t get scratched.”

We toasted the cautious and courteous deckhand, then retired to our bunks for some rest.

Morning came too early, as morning always seems to. Bleary eyed, we went through the now familiar bike untying routine, rolled down another wet and slippery deck back out into the cold fog. Wasn’t this supposed to be summer?

Stopping for breakfast at a donut shop, who else but a policeman rolls up. “Hello. Just checking out the bikes and the riders, seeing who’s riding what.”

After chatting for a while, Keith Buddha-ed the officer. He covered his face, afraid to show up on Facebook.

This response was typical of everyone in Canada. Nobody refused to take a Buddha picture, but nearly every single one would say something like, “This isn’t going to be on Facebook, is it? I don’t want that.”

Keith told him, “Don’t worry. Facebook doesn’t steal your soul. What is the big deal with it, anyway?”

“Well,” he replied, “a lot of times we’ll pick up a drunk and give them a ride home, rather than arresting then and filling the jail with a bunch of drunks. There’s really no sense in that. But lately, those drunks will take out their cell phones, snap a picture of themselves in a police car, then put it of Facebook. If the Captain sees our picture there, he yells at us for not arresting the drunks. It’s bad.”

Cops that bring drunks home? Kudos to you, sir. I could definitely live here. The officer left us with some great tips about riding the Cabot Trail.

The Cabot Trail is supposed to be one of the top motorcycling destinations in the world, and as a reward for hammering yesterday, we planned to take a leisurely ramble through this marvel of scenery and engineering. But, as she always does, Mother Nature ruined those plans. Fog. More cold and damp fog covered everything, making riding an exercise in blind faith, since the road ahead could barely be seen.

We stopped again at a little convenience store to dry off and warm up a bit.

At the stop, Keith Buddha-ed a girl bicyclist that was Gnoming people. This girl was interesting for two reasons. First, she was doing the gnome thing, but secondly, and more interestingly, she had a half full bottle of wine in her water bottle holder. I’m sure she was enjoying her own personal ‘Best Day Ever.’ You just never know who you’ll meet on the road.

Her resolve broken by ours, Mother Nature relented, the fog lifted like a curtain rising, and suddenly we had the best weather we’d had since Maine, which seemed like a year ago.

I decided to take one of my famous detours to see something long, hard and cylindrical sticking up out of the ground.

Things don’t always work out like they should, much to Dark Meat Snack’s delight. On the wrong bikes for the muddy trail to the lighthouse, we decided on the spur of the moment to take a whale watch boat tour, signs for which we’d been passing for miles.

We arrived at three, the next tour didn’t leave until four, so we competed in the first ever ‘Cabot Trail Ocean Stickball’ competition. Just like elementary school, I wasn’t allowed to play for fear that I’d hurt myself.

After that game, people drifted off to enjoy a few minutes of solitude. I thought it was amazing that eight days in we hadn’t had any major or even minor meltdowns, and that the bikes held up so well.

Finally 4 PM arrived, but before we could go out on the small rubber Zodiac fast boat, we had to suit up in the latest fashion craze, a snazzy red Gore Tex with a comfy, snug and well worn wetsuit underneath.

This guy’s job is to go out in a really fast boat and chase down whales. Great work if you can find it.

And, he was very good at his job. On our hour long tour we saw countless minke whales, two seventy ton fin whales spouting twenty feet in the air, and a pod (school? gaggle? mess?) of white-beaked dolphins.

Cheticamp would be our home for this, the penultimate – say it with me now – ‘Best Day Ever!’

The next installment of the Great Unsponsored Nova Scotia Expedition can be found here.

Categories : Motorcycle
Comments (0)

I woke up early, excited by the prospect of seeing the medium pinnacle iceberg we knew was out there, what we’d come so far to see. And today, if everything went right, we’d see it up close and personal. Yes, an iceberg is just a hunk of floating frozen water, but Iceberg Fever had hit me, and hit me hard.

The fog still blanketed everything, but I had hope. And some time to kill, so I killed it my favorite way, coffee in hand, scanning the front pages of the small town newspapers I’d picked up along the way. It’s always fun to see what constitutes front page news in these smaller, more remote areas.

The hour arrived, and we were pleasantly greeted by Captain Cecil Stockley, the Iceberg Man himself, while his boat, the mv Iceberg Alley idled at the dock, it’s engine chug-chugging away. We were good to go!

Before departure, Unleaded and Sleeping Beauty feel the need to properly gear up for this tour.

A simple rain hat wasn’t enough for Fiona.

All on board, the Iceberg Man revved the engines, and the tiny ship eased out of its slip into the foggy harbor.

Unleaded and Abi (nickname coming soon…) settled in for the voyage.

I struck up a conversation with an older lady on the way out. Her husband decided that for his… get this… eightieth birthday he wanted to see an iceberg. He planned their travel for half a year, and when the time came, they drove from Maine to the ferry, then all the way up to Twillinage, where they’d holed up for a week, waiting for weather good enough to allow tours to go out. A week! Mother Nature might not like me much, but I think she is a fan of stubborn determination. It also makes me happy to think that we’re not putting these things off until we’re too old. Life’s too short to wait until eighty, and there’s still too much to do.

Half an hour later, our stubborn determination was rewarded. We found what we’d been looking for, our medium pinnacle iceberg, floating majestically in a small cove.

The Iceberg Man told us this particular berg had been floating back and forth between two coves for the last five weeks. In that time he estimated it’s lost half it’s size. Little chunks of iceberg, called ‘Bergy Bits’ or ‘Growlers’ depending on their size, had melted and broken away, surrounding the iceberg like little lost children.

With that little mission accomplished, Keith and Abi did their best Sleeping Beauty imitation. I’d say they both fell a bit short.

The inevitable had been avoided and put off as long as possible. It was time. Time to slog 400 miles back to the ferry. But, I have to admit, the extra wait and the upcoming long, high speed ride were worth the views and the experience.

On the way out of Twillingate, we passed this place. I have been absolutely forbidden from making *any* comment about it whatsoever. I will leave the caption up to you, dear reader.

The first half of the ride back to Port-aux-Basques was as cold and miserable as the ride out.

And the roads were just as torn up, wet and bumpy as they were on the way in. The winter took its toll on the roads, and I imagine the road construction season in Newfoundland must be pretty short.

About halfway back to Port-aux -Basques, Mother Nature called another temporary truce, and it went from late fall fog to early spring to the middle of summer, all within fifty miles.

Though we’d been warned numerous times, these were the only moose we saw in Newfoundland.

What’s the big deal anyway? For all the warnings, we were sure we’d see something. We looked and looked and looked for Bullwinkle, to no avail.

By dropping the hammer, the Expedition made the Port-aux-Basques ferry with time to spare, so, as a reward for our 400 mile sprint, we stopped in a small restaurant offering a delicious sounding treat.

And thus, Abi will be forever known as Dark Meat Snack.

Killing time in the ferry line, Fiona surprised me. Not only was she awake, but she jumped on Stormbringer, and she had that *look* in her eye. I could see the wheels were turning in her head. Perhaps the next Expedition, to claim more non-islands for my non-island Kingdom will include a forth bike?

The next installment of the Great Unsponsored Nova Scotia Expedition can be found here.

Categories : Motorcycle
Comments (1)

The G.U.N.S.E. – The Expedition Rests

Posted by: | Comments (1)

A day off.

It means different things to different people. To some, it means catching up on all the meaningless happenings in the world of professional sports, and riding a couch, remote in hand. Couch Potato almost became a nickname for the un-nicknamed Expedition member, but fortunately, a better nickname pops up later in the story. To others, a day off means going for a ride, taking a look around and exploring a new place. To all, it meant sleeping in late, and doing what we’d set out to do, namely taking a boat with Captain Cecil Stockley, the self-proclaimed Iceberg Man, to see a hunk of frozen water.

To Mother Nature, our day off meant she could inflict some really foul weather on the Expedition. Thanks to her nasty whim, our day of rest was cold, windy, raw, and worst of all, foggy. Perfect for sleeping in, not so great for iceberg viewing. Captain Cecil, the Iceberg Man of Twillingate couldn’t be persuaded to go out in the horrible conditions, no matter how hard I tried. I guess he’s seen the movie Titanic.

The Iceberg Man felt the fog would eventually lift, and told us to come back later in the day. Considering this day off was our only opportunity to see the frozen, floating gifts sent from Greenland with love, (Hmm… Greenland is an island too… Rhode Greenland?? Someday!) anyway, considering we had to head back to the ferry in Port-aux-Basques the next day, which would likely take the same ten hours it took for us to reach Twillingate, it was now or never. For this Expedition, never wasn’t an option.

So, we tried to find ways to entertain ourselves until later in the day. Unleaded, who is diabetic, had his blood sugar test kit handy, so we held the ‘First Annual Twillingate Blood Sugar Olympics.’ It wasn’t even close. I won with a low blood sugar score of 75. Abi came in second with an 86, and Sleeping Beauty was off the charts with a score of 112. We disqualified Unleaded for using performance enhancing blood sugar control drugs.

Bored with that, I wandered down to the ocean to take a few pictures.

Lacking enclosed four-wheel transportation, we wriggled back into our damp rain gear and putted over to the Harbourview restaurant for lunch, right across the street from the Iceberg Man. I had a local delicacy, called Fisherman’s Brewis – fish, salt, hard bread and other assorted deliciousness, all conveniently mushed together and served in a bowl.

Yum! Delicious! Our fine hosts, Cal and Mary were so friendly and so gracious; they made us want to stay in Twillingate forever. I wanted them to adopt me as their grandson. They rule!

Cal, who runs the Harbourview, told us what we needed to do. “Go down to St Johns. It’s only about three hours from here, see? Stay there for a few days, and check out George Street. There are more bars per capita on George Street than anywhere in the world! Believe me! I’m from there, and I’ve been in every single one. Anyway, once you leave there, then head over to the easternmost point in all of North America. Some people say that point is really in Greenland, but it isn’t. Greenland doesn’t count, see? Then, what you do is this. Get yourself a Mason jar from the store, and fill it with sea water. If you don’t want to carry it, you can just ship it home, see? Then, you have water from the easternmost point in North America, and you can take some smaller jars, write where the water is from on the label, and give that water away as a nice, cheap gift, see?”

Uhh… sure. But Grampa Cal, just so you know, I expect my adopted grandparents to give me better presents than water, see?

They let me use their phone three times, calling the Port-aux-Basques ferry port to explore alternate return options, in case we had to stay in Twillingate longer, if, say, the Iceberg Man developed cold feet and canceled his tours for the day.

Which, a half hour later, he did. Cecil walked in the Harbourview and informed us, “A strong wind is blowin’ from the North, it’d be way too choppy today, and ya have to respect the sea. Try tomorrow if ya can.”

Well, can we? We sat and tried to figure it out. “If we take the 9:30 tour tomorrow, then hammer hard all day, we *might* make the ferry, scheduled to leave at 11:45 PM. If not, I found out when I called that they can usually cram a few extra motorcycles in, so we could take the ferry the next morning. If that happens, to stay on schedule for the rest of the Expedition, we can just cut out the Cabot Trail. ”

But wait. Cut out the Cabot Trail? What did I just say? I’d rather cut off my… err… my… err… my favorite part of me than miss the Cabot Trail! It’s only one of the top five ranked motorcycling roads in the world. Fiona wholeheartedly agreed, no cutting out or off of anything. With that, it was settled. We’d try for the tour in the morning. We’d make that evening’s ferry, no matter what. We headed back to the cabins for some much needed post-decision day-off down time.

I work in television, so that’s probably why I hate it so much. I never watch it, figuring that when I’m old, feeble and doddering around in diapers, the reruns will be new to me. Until then I’ve got other stuff to do, like see icebergs. A few hours after lunch, sitting in our cabin watching bad TV when suddenly, the worst program of all came on. A ridiculous program called Celebrity Rehab or something… whatever it was, I nearly picked up my chair and smashed the idiot box.

Sensing my mounting frustration, Fiona looked outside, and noticed that it was raining harder. But, like magic, the rain had made the fog lift. “C’mon. Let’s go find an iceberg.”

I didn’t need to be told twice, though Abi, comfy and cozy on the cabin couch, arms folded tightly across his chest, did. In the end, after some persuasion, he geared up with the rest of us, and we headed out into the gloom to where I figured our best chance of seeing an iceberg would be, a place not too far away called Long Point.

In my haste to escape the boob tube, I might have forgotten to mention the lighthouse on the tip of Long Point to Abi. Ooops!

Though it had lifted by the cabins, the fog had evidently all moved over to Long Point, covering everything in a ghostly white veil. Icebergs are the same color as fog, which would make them almost impossible to spot. Unfazed by this, we strode to the edge of a dangerous cliff to have a look.

The fog blanketed everything. We couldn’t see squat. The realization hit that if the tour was canceled again tomorrow, we might not accomplish our Expedition Iceberg Mandate. Disappointed, we turned around and headed back for more mind-numbing Celebrity Rehab.

Suddenly, Sleeping Beauty started banging on my back. I figured she was just having a nightmare back there, but decided to stop anyway.

“Look! Look!” She jumped up and down, pointing wildly at the horizon. “It’s an iceberg!! LOOK!”

We all looked. In the fog, it was hard to tell if what we were looking at was an iceberg, just the fog, or an island. Unleaded climbed a hill for a better look.

“Hate to say it, but that’s not an iceberg, kids.”

All the while, to our left, where we weren’t yet looking, silently staring back at us out in the cove was this:

It’s hard to see, but it’s there, and it’s most definitely an iceberg.

And to think something as stupid as Celebrity Rehab nearly caused us to miss this incredible sight that we’d traveled so far to see.

Completely thrilled that we actually saw a medium pinnacle ‘berg, we rushed back to the cabins and, since the iceberg was too far out to cube up and put in our drinks, hoisted an unfortunately neat toast to what was the honest to goodness ‘Best Day Ever’ of the trip.

Unless the Iceberg Man came through for us the next day that is.

The next installment of the Great Unsponsored Nova Scotia Expedition can be found here.

Categories : Motorcycle
Comments (1)

The G.U.N.S.E. – Rhodefoundland

Posted by: | Comments (0)

“Ladies and gentlemen, due to engine trouble during the night, the ferry will dock one hour later than expected. Apologies for the delay.”

Abi grumbled, “Would’ve been nice to know that earlier.”

Keith replied, “I’d rather have engine trouble on a boat than a plane. In a boat, you just float around…”

“Good point.”

Making our way to the front of the broken but still running ferry, Fiona and I took in our first sighting of Newfoundland.

Two things are obvious from these pictures, one isn’t. The obvious things: Newfoundland is beautiful, and Mother Nature forgot her Midol, because the weather sucks. The not obvious thing is, while the weather may be lousy, at least it’s cold too.

The good news, according to Steve, the new Buell Owner is the weather forecast had been upgraded from “really shitty to partial crap.”

In the interest of keeping her on my side, on the expedition, and in my life, I gave Fiona my electric vest. Most people go to an island for vacation, can I help it if I’m genetically programmed to seek out the cold, miserable ones? As I said in the beginning, this may have been one of my stupider ideas, but what adventure has ever come from an un-stupid idea? None. And besides, the stupid things are always the most memorable. That’s what I tell myself when I am faced with a 400 mile ride in 46 degree rain. That’s also what I told Fiona. Abi already knows about my genetic miswiring, and Keith was having too much fun to realize the weather was crap anyway.

Everyone took the cold in stride as we rolled down the slippery deck and out in to the Newfoundland drizzle. My iPod mocked me, serving up Led Zeppelin’s Fool in the Rain.

Newfoundland! We made it! Only 400 miles to Twillingate, and a much deserved day off.

But first, the whole island-claiming business required attended to.

Welcome to the Kingdom, Rhodefoundland!

We planned to blitz all the way up Rhodefoundland’s Route 1, but first we heeded some sage advice: if you see an open gas station, fill up! You never knw where the next open one might be. I bought a map and took it over to show Keith as he was filling Stormbringer, managing to distract him enough that he pumped about two liters of gas all over the bike. The tank, the seat, the whole damn thing was now primed for a spectacular pyrotechnics display.

“Dammit, Frenchy! I’m easily distracted! Don’t do that!” Then, in a quieter voice he continued, “Well… actually, that’s not the first time that’s happened, it’s just the first time you’ve been around to see it.”

Fortunately for me, Abi was right there to get a picture this time. For that little incident, Keith will forever be known as Unleaded.

With all our tanks – and Unleaded’s seat – full of fuel, we blazed up Route 1 though the rain, heading for the Twillingate cutoff. About an hour later, I reached back to lovingly pat Fiona on the leg, and I startled her awake. Yes, though it was raining, and we were traveling at a fairly high rate of speed, she’d somehow managed to fall asleep, snug, dry and cozy in the electric vest.

We stopped again for gas another hour up the road, and when we were pulling in, Fiona yawned, then asked, “Whaa…. Are we stopping so soon? Why? How long were we riding? Two hours? It seemed like just fifteen minutes. I must’ve dozed off.”

Later in that same ride, she nodded off so hard her helmet slammed into my back. I started thinking about putting some Velcro on my back and her helmet, to keep her from falling off. For her narcolepsy, Fiona will be forever known as Sleeping Beauty.

Abi is the only Expedition member left in need of a nickname.

The weather tested everyone’s resolve, as the temperature dropped as low as 39 degrees. Mother Nature threw it all at us, rain, fog, wind, just about everything but a tornado hit us on the ten hour ride to Twillingate.

Why Twillingate? Simple. Twillingate is the self-proclaimed Iceberg Capital of the World, and we wanted our ‘Best Day Ever’ toast on the rocks that night, or at least see one of the floating chunks of glacier out in the ocean.

But that almost didn’t happen at all.

The next installment of the Great Unsponsored Nova Scotia Expedition can be found here.

Categories : Motorcycle
Comments (0)

The G.U.N.S.E. – Deeper and Deeper

Posted by: | Comments (0)

Four days in, it felt as though the Expedition would stretch on forever. Not one, but two ferries were on today’s ‘make-it-up-as-we-go’ plan.

Just like Abi and I found in Scotland earlier this year, Canada has Secret Cloud Factories too. And just like in Scotland, the Canadian Cloud Factory had been working overtime to make the skies dark, damp, and threatening.

Scottish Cloud Factory

Canadian Cloud Factory

Undaunted by this cold, wet, awful weather, once again everyone geared up to face the cold, wet, morning awfulness, then sped across the Prince’s still unclaimed island for the ferry to Nova Scotia.

Just outside the mv Confederation ferry terminal, I spotted another photographic gem, and quickly diverted, no doubt thrilling Abi, who’d no doubt seen it too. The Wood Island lighthouse, billed in a secret code as ‘La Pointe La Plus Au Sud De L’ Î-P-É’ which, after some careful deduction we cracked to mean ‘Southernmost Tip of PEI’, made me, Keith and Fiona smile and Abi sit there and sulk.

We rode up our first ferry ramp of the Expedition, and secured the bikes to the deck.

Keith and Abi switched themselves off to conserve their batteries, while Fiona and I went exploring.

As we approached Nova Scotia, we saw a beacon welcoming us to this new land. I’m sure Abi was sorry to have slept through that greeting.

A quick 75 minutes later, the Great Nova Scotia Expedition had finally made it to Nova Scotia! Much celebration ensued, and minutes after leaving the ferry, I claimed Nova Scotia for the good people of the Kingdom of Rhode Island. Rhode Scotia joins Rhode Scotland on the ever-growing list of territories I’ve claimed for the Kingdom.

(As has been pointed out to me by some of my less geographically challenged friends, Nova Scotia is technically not an island. But then again, the Kingdom of Rhode Island isn’t either, so it’s a wash in my book.)

From the looks of things, Rhode Scotians heralded my arrival by naming many places after me:

We couldn’t afford to waste too much time celebrating, as the North Sydney ferry terminal lay over 200 miles to our east. As this point, four days in, I was a little disappointed in the roads and scenery, which reminded me of Connecticut. Of course the temperature in Connecticut was much warmer, and not raining, but that’s just because Mother Nature has it in for me. I also didn’t like the pace – Rush! Rush! Rush! – but that was inevitable, because in only ten days, in addition to seeing Nova Scotia, we were trying to jam in an 800 mile round trip iceberg-viewing excursion to Newfoundland.

So hustle we did, and we made it to our next Love Boat ride with plenty of time to spare. While strapping the bikes to the mv Caribou ferry deck, we met brothers Robert on a BMW RT touring bike and Steve on his brand new Buell Lightning. Steve accompanied his brother Robert to Toronto to buy the BMW, and ended up impulse buying himself the Buell. They were going to ride from Port-aux-Basques all the way to Saint Johns, at least a ten hour trip! The smile on Steve’s face told me that he didn’t care at all that the weather was forecast to be colder and wetter still..

Our cabin on the ferry was cramped but cozy, and after toasting the addition of Rhode Scotia to the Kingdom as the ‘Best Day Ever’, we set our alarms for waaay too early the next morning, when a new adventure would begin on the shores of Newfoundland.

The next installment of the Great Unsponsored Nova Scotia Expedition can be found here.

Categories : Motorcycle
Comments (0)