Sunday, July 26, 2009

How much Planning?

This past Tuesday Denise and me took my bike in to the Kawasaki dealership in Woodstock, to get all the recall work done on it, and hopefully fix the started button problem. I am glad to report that the bike is now fixed, and I'm riding with 4 brand new indicator lights. Apparently replacing all the indicators was one of the recalls.
I must be honest, the starter problem has permanently damaged my confidence in my bike. Although it is fixed now, I have a nervous feeling every time I start the bike. It is hard to describe the sinking feeling you get when you press the starter button on your trusted steed, and nothing happens.

This week we also received the plane tickets for Dominique (my daughter) to fly to Ottawa to visit her grand parents when we are on our trip. Today we went and bought me some new waterproof boots. So we are both ready for any rain mother nature might bring our way. Denise got a new cell phone, for us to take on the trip. We both use BlackBerrys from work everyday, but there is not a chance in hell that we are taking them with on this trip. We want to get away from work, and have no desire to know what happens in our absence.

I also went thru our camping gear today, and for the most part we are ready. We need to buy a few small items and clean out the tent. But with all the rain we had lately it's hard to find a dry day to pitch the tent and clean it out. We are both hoping that the weather is going to change soon. If it stays this rainy, it will make for a wet trip with not much camping. If the weather force us to stay in motels or hostels, instead of camping, the trip cost will go up very fast.

This brings me to the question of, how much planning? The plan with this whole trip is, not to have a plan. Get up every morning if and when we feel like it. Ride to our next unknown destination. Find accommodation when we get there, wherever "there" maybe. Stay a few days if we like, and leave when we feel like it. Two free spirits riding of into the sunset to experience freedom and adventure. Sounds great, doesn't it?
You can not believe how difficult it is for me not to go into planning mode. What do we pack? Will we be able to fit everything on 2 bikes? What if it rains the whole time? What if we have mechanical problems? How much tools should we take with? What if we can not find accommodation or a camp ground? The list goes on and on.
I think there is a distinct difference between planning and preparation. I am just prepared for any eventuality. That is my rationalisation, and I'm sticking to it.

We do have a rough plan of our intended route. On the first day we hope to make it to Gananoque or that area, and spend the night. Then cross into the USA over the 1000 Islands bridge. In the States we will go thru New York and the Adirondack National Park, then go thru Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and then cross back into Canada to Saint John New Brunswick. From Saint John take the ferry to Digby Nova Scotia. From here the routes is not planned at all. We know we want to spend some time in Yarmouth and Halifax. We also want to do the Cabot Trail in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Depending on time and our finances, we would like to go to Prince Edward Island for a few days.
Coming back we would most probably go thru New Brunswith to Quebec. We both would like to see Quebec City.

I hope that by telling you all the places we hope to see, I have sparked your interest to follow my blog. Once the trip starts there will be more pictures, and as they say, "a picture is worth a thousand words".

Feel free to leave comments on the site. That way I know somebody is reading this.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Start Trip Planning

So, this past weekend we started getting things in order for our planned East Coast trip. The first thing we had to do was get Denise a rain suit. We all know what happens at the coast, or any coast for that matter, it rains. And with the crappy weather we had over the summer so far, a good rain suit is a must. We bought her a Rhino suit from Zdenos. I've been using one for a while and it does a great job. I've had mine on in pouring rain, and you stay bone dry in it.

We also got a carry case for our mini laptop. It will be the first time we travel with a laptop, and getting a good bag/case to protect it was needed. We have wireless internet, our email, and Skype on it, so we will be totally connected. I hate to admit it, but we turned into typical North American consumers.

I thought of putting some music on the laptop, so we have something to listen to when we lay in our tent at night, but decided against it. This is the part I'm proud of. We are going old school when it comes to having tunes. We decided to get an old fashioned fm/am radio. This way we can listen to local channels wherever we are, and get the local news and weather.

So off we went to quickly to buy a small fm/am radio. We all had them when we grew up. This should be an easy task. NOT. Every radio out there, has an alarm clock, can play CDs, mp3s, can connect to any household appliance, have docking stations for 7 ipods. And get this, they don't have speakers. You have to buy separate headphones.

Enough of my ranting. We eventually found a great little radio, that uses solar power (yey, we are all going green now), has a dynamo crank on the side to charge the batteries, and takes two penlight batteries as backup. I love it. I feel like a kid when I listen to it and have to tune it every so often to stay on the station.

We also started to work out the budget for the trip. It did not take us long to figure out that this will be an experiment in low budget traveling. And when I say low budget, I mean very low budget. Canada is a very expensive country to travel in, and during the peak summer season, everything is double in price. The gas price did not go as high as it usually does in summer. I think it is due to the depressed economy. But still, we plan to do a 5,000km round trip, and we do it with 2 bikes. So there is already a large chunk of change. Add accommodation, food, ferries and some spending money, and it adds up quickly. I am not going to bore you with the details. I hope that I can adequately describe our travel in the blog, so that you can get an idea of what such a trip in Canada is like and what it costs.

So tomorrow we are off to the Kawasaki dealership to get my bike's starter button problem fixed. There are 3 recalls on that model, so I hope when they do the recall work (for free), it will also fix the starter button problem. Only time will tell how much this might cost.
Our nearest Kawasaki dealership is in Woodstock, about 80km from here. So Denise is going with me. As you might remember, I need somebody to help me push start the bike, and I'm not good on counting on the kindness of strangers to help me out.
The dealer estimates the work will take about 2 hours, so it will give us some time to explore Woodstock.

We still have lots of things to do before the trip, but I will write about it when we do it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

July 11-13 Algonquin Area

Motorcycle Trip to Algonquin Park

So after a lot of planning, cancelling, moving dates around, change bookings multiple times, add people, remove people, book kennels, cancel kennel reservations, the trip was finalised. In the end it was Debby, Sjon, Denise and me that were the lucky ones that ended up actually doing the trip.

The plan was to meet at the Tim Hortons near Barrie and then travel together from there to the Wolf Den Bunkhouse near Algonquin park. Debby and Sjon will stay the Saturday night and come back on the Sunday. Denise and me will stay till Monday before returning home.

We woke up early the Saturday morning (always up early before a trip. I guess excited) packed the bikes and were ready to go. Then the heavens opened up and the rain came down in sheets. Have not seen rain like this in a long time. The plan was to meet D&S at Timmies at noon. So we decided we will wait and see if the rain lets up and then leave at the latest at 10am, so we can make it for noon.

We just sat down with fresh coffee to wait out the rain, we get a call from Debby. They are riding up from Toronto, saw the big rain coming, decided to out run the rain and are now 20 minutes away from Barrie. So we gulp down our coffee, put our rain gear on (Denise does not have all the gear she need) and we set off in the rain.

It rained hard all the way to Guelph, but after Guelph it just drizzled and then stopped. The sun came out and we stopped in Alliston to take our rain gear off. Denise was pretty wet and my shoes were filled with water. We rode under nice sunny skies to Barrie were D&S were basking in the sun waiting for us.

We all then set off to our destination. It was about 300Km away, and it was a smooth ride up highway 11. We stopped for lunch about 50km before Huntsville and had the greatest homemade burgers. There is just something great about a burger with real meat, and not the ones made with a plastic patty (that what those patties taste like to me).

Next stop Huntsville to stock up for the night on food and booze. We went to some grocery store to buy food for that evening's planned BBQ. After we packed all the groceries on the bikes, we used up every space on every bike. Now off to the LCBO to buy booze. This is the amazing part. No matter how overloaded your bike is, there is always space to load some more alcoholic beverages. At one point Debby volunteered to put the bottle of wine in the front of her leather jacket. No need for that. We got everything loaded.

Off to the Wolf Den bunkhouse. Here is a link if you wish to check it out.
I can highly recommend it, if you don't have issues with communal living. We stayed in the dorm where you share sleeping quarters with strangers. This is not for everyone, and in retrospect a private room or cabin would have been a better selection.

We had a great BBQ, drank and had an all round great time. Nothing better than having a great time with friends. Round 11:30pm we all turned in for the night. Apart from other guest coming in and out of the room, and having to go to a separate building to use the washroom (all of a sudden going for a pee at night is a job) we had a good night sleep.

The next morning we got up and went for breakfast at the Algonquin Inn, where we all had a great Canadian (or was it English) breakfast. We then went for a ride up highway 60 thru the park. We stopped a few times along the way to enjoy the scenery and just walk around, and since we were all smokers, any stop for a smoke is a good break.

One of the places we stopped at was the Algonquin Art Centre. It's an art gallery where you can buy very nice pieces of art, if you are prepared to take out a second mortgage on your house. Very nice art pieces, but highly overpriced. I for the first time saw a print of a painting that was selling for $65,500. Way to rich for my blood.

One very nice thing was a canoe that was painted like a puzzle. You can then buy one puzzle piece and do your own painting in your spot (leave your mark in the park). We did not do any painting.

We then drove back on hwy60 all the way to Algonquin outfitters to look at the stuff they sell. When we left the outfitter store I experienced a problem with my bike. When I pushed the starter button, I just heard a click and the bike was dead, like in completely dead. It blew the main fuse. Luckily I had a spare fuse, and was able to get the bike running by bump starting it. This was a bit of a pain the rest of the weekend. Every time I stopped the bike, I had to make sure there is space for Denise to push me to start the bike.

We then went to Dorset, where we looked at how the rich people live. Very nice boats everywhere, cottages for sale for $1.5million, and rich kids on daddy's boat. Very much like Plett in SA. D&S had to get going if they wanted to be back in Toronto before dark. We said our good buys, they went home, and me and Denise went back to the WDBH. The rest of the afternoon we just chilled (a term I picked up from my teenage kids). We ate the leftovers from the previous night's BBQ and finished off the rest of the alcohol. We went to bed round 11pm.

That's when we experienced the weirdest thing, We walk into the room and it is completely dark, and Denise says to me " great there is no one else here, so I can get dressed". That's when I look around and see this person sitting on his bed in complete darkness, just starring out in front of him, with open eyes. He was sitting in the lotus position so I guess he was meditating. We get into bed, and try to keep quiet not to disturb the tree hugger. But 2 hours later, he has not moved yet, and we can not fall asleep (starting to freak us out).

We decide to get up, and go have a coffee and a siggie. About an hour later we return to the room. He is still sitting in the same position on his bed like a statue. Now I'm starting to think that he might be dead, and is maintaining the upright position because he has a broomstick stuck up his ass. We try to sleep again. Then Denise says "nou het hy a fokken kers, hy gaan die fokken plek afbrand" (he has a candle, he is going to burn down the place). Just at that moment 2 girls from Germany that share the room with us comes in. I can see that they are stunned about the situation. We all try to be nice and keep quiet and sleep. Then I hear the 2 girls snickering. I look, and see that now he is bowing to the candle. Weird.

The next morning when we wake up, he is not in the room anymore. I run into the 2 girls outside and we start talking about the experience of the previous night. That's when I hear he was pouring water from cup to cup at night, and wandering around the room. One girl was completely freaked out because when he was staring or meditating or praying or whatever, he was looking straight at her. The first thing that I think of is, I'm glad S&D is not there.

Well we packed our bags and set of home (after we had to bump start my bike). We had this place in Carnarvon in mind to go for breakfast. When we get there, it is closed on Mondays. What a disappointment. We gas up the bikes. Again bump start my bike and start looking for a Tim Hortons. Luckily we find one in Minden. We have our coffee and start talking to 3 other bikers. They propose to take us around on some nice back roads. We both really wanted to go, but with my bikes starting problems we declined.

The rest of the road home we had to fight against some strong winds. I remember at one point I looked in my mirror and could see Denise leaning her bike over about 20 degrees just to keep going in a straight line and not be blown of the road.

We get home tired, but had an awesome time.

Monday, July 6, 2009

First Post

This is my first post just see what this blogging thing is all about. Hopefully I can put some pictures and some news and stories on here, and share it with friends and family.

I am not sure how secure this is, so things will be of a very general nature.

Here is a few pictures just to get things started.

As the Blog name states, I am motorcycle crazy and there will eventually be lots of pictures of bikes on this blog. This is my bike, a 2008 Kawasaki KLR650, and this will be the first of many pictures of this bike. After I went on a trip, and I download the pictures, I realise that I love this bike. Most of the pictures are of the bike with only the background changing. So seeing this bike, and others, in different settings could turn out to be the theme of this blog, or not.

Here is my son on his bike. It's a 2007 Kawasaki Super Sherpa. He does trips with me on this bike and it is also his daily commuter. This is a great, indestructible, go anywhere bike.

We once did 1200km in 3 days around Georgian Bay, and this bike did fine. Not the most comfortable ride on a long trip, but if your body can handle it, this bike sure can.

On this trip around Georgian Bay, we had a bit of an adventure. Once we got to Tobermorey (late since we watched how Germany lost in the World Cup) we could not find any accommodation. After some frantic searching and phone calls, we thought we had a place. At 10pm that night we started following the GPS to our intended overnight spot. We traveled at night down some dirt roads, blindly following the GPS. At 2am the next morning, the GPS said "arrive at destination". We were at a dead end road, in the middle of nowhere. Forrest all around, and no place to stay. When turn the bikes off, it was so dark that we could not see our hand in front of our face. Needless to say we were royally fucked.

We turned around and started backtracking. About 1km down the road we found a vacation cottage next to the road and thought we would see if they have a spot for us to sleep. In retrospect, I don't know what we were thinking.

Put yourself in this picture. You are the occupant of the cottage (80 year old lady with a shot gun and a cat). Middle of the night two bikers show up at the door. Knock on the door. You don't open or answer. They turn the door knob to gain entry. Door is locked. They start walking around the cottage and peep into the windows. They can not get in, so they make themselves comfortable on the front porch, and get ready to spend the night. You get the picture.

Well, we spend the night on the porch. Nobody surprised us during the night with shot guns. No cops showed up. Apart from sleeping uncomfortable, being eaten by mosquitoes and spiders, we did fine.

The next morning we rode back to Tobermorey to catch the ferry to Manitulin Island. It was pissing with rain and we were soaked when we got to the ferry terminal.

Here he's changing his pant at the ferry terminal staging are to see if we can get it dry while waiting for the ferry.

The rest of the trip went smooth and that afternoon we made sure we have comfortable accommodation by 4 in the afternoon.