My wife Rebecca and I have a cabin in Keels on Newfoundland’s Bonavista Peninsula. I try to return to this wonderful place (that I consider my second home) for at least a few weeks a year, usually flying one way and driving the other with a friend. But this time I’ve decided to do something I haven’t done in more than 30 years — a long distance motorcycle tour. Friends and family think I’m nuts, all is not well between my ears. Such sentiments only serve to strengthen my resolve to get a leg over the bike and go for it.
I leave my home in Waterloo, Ontario, at 5 a.m. after a big goodbye hug from my wife. “Safe journey,” she says. “Call regularly. Oh, and where is your life insurance file?” After grinding out 16 hours and 1,200 km on boring four-lane roads, made worse by the excruciating seat on my 2005 KTM Adventure, I end up in Edmonston, New Brunswick. Why am I doing this? The answer comes when I check into the motel and become fast friends with the owner, a fellow motorcyclist. We could talk for hours, but I need sleep.
I’m rested from a quiet night, but not fully healed, and that KTM seat is uncomfortable within an hour. Another day of boredom and hot, hot weather — where is the touring bliss I remember? There are, however, a few highlights, including lunch at a favourite coffee bar in Sackville and a refreshing 20-minute rain shower. Best of all is the feeling of excitement when crossing the causeway that joins Nova Scotia and Cape Breton. Still, I’m happy to stop at dusk near Baddeck after a 900 km day.
The next day it’s decision time: do I head directly to Sydney and catch an early ferry, or go out of my way to experience the Cabot Trail? I opt for the Trail, though the day starts out gloomy with overcast skies and heavy mist. Then, just when I’m thinking the weather will dampen my craving for corner carving, I reach the coast. Full sun, dry roads and — mercy me — bends and switchbacks, ups and downs; I’m in my element and it’s glorious. I even ride some sections twice to improve my lines through tighter turns. The KTM is brilliant — who cares about a bit of discomfort? I have just one scare when I overcook a corner entrance, but — thank goodness — I’m riding the trail clockwise and there’s no oncoming traffic.
Later, in Sydney, I grab the long ferry to Argentia. It’s 15 hours, but that just means lots of time to read and relax. It’s been the most enjoyable day of the trip so far. I don’t mix with any travellers on this crossing, which is unusual because people are always so curious about motorcyclists, our motivations and stories. Maybe it’s because I seem grumpy (I’m not). Maybe it’s my bedraggled appearance (more likely).
After the ferry, it’s an easy three hours and 250 km to my destination. It’s not challenging, but it’s exciting because I’m on The Rock and close to my home away from home. I arrive in the wee village of Keels (population 60 — now 61) around noon.
My friend John is at the Mesh General Store as I come in. He and store owner Selby Mesh provide a great welcome and a free ice cream bar. There’s a bit of rough road and off-road leading to our cabin, but the ride is a doodle on the KTM.
I made it! No drama, some whining (from me, not the bike), with mostly hot and sunny conditions and the bike performing flawlessly. Long distance highway cruising, aggressive corner blasting, rutted lanes and even some off-roading — the KTM handled it all without issue. It’s pretty amazing how effortless motorcycling is today compared to my explorations of 30 years ago. I store the bike in our Newfoundland cabin and drive home to Ontario with my friend John. On the drive I’m already making plans to return the following year to do the ride in reverse. But that, as they say, is a completely different story.