Offhand Transcanadian Moto Tour (PEI-BC)

Note: Over the past several years I’ve noticed a pretty significant decline in my ability to remember details. In response, I’ve decided to begin writing of my activities on this website. I apologize in advance for information that you find uninteresting or unrelated to motorcycling, but I expect they’ll help my recalling past events in the future.

COUSIN’S SHORE & THE KLR650

The trip starts with an invitation to Amy and Christian’s wedding off the north shore of Prince Edward Island, early August of 2019. Six month before the wedding, with Meg persuading me to get it over with, I take fifteen minutes that I’d have likely spent staring into space to purchase a pair of return tickets to Charlottetown, PEI. From there, no more than a month passes and I’ve decided that the tickets were cheap enough to botch a return flight if desired. Fast-forward to June and I am perusing classifieds, searching for dual-sport motorcycles in the Maritimes. Another month and I’ve requested all of August off, citing overtime hours worked and a busy upcoming winter season for which I’d need all my energy. Nathan and Alex, I apologize for requesting a month off work on such short notice and promise to give you more of a heads-up next time.

And so, I’ve got the time off, a couple of Kawasaki KLR650s are up for sale in Nova Scotia and PEI. It’s the night before we fly out of Nanaimo and I am cramming a sleeping pad, hammock, pocket stove, and favourite wool sweater into a thirty litre dry sack. The Shoei helmet and gloves I’ve been holding onto for six years—more to come on that—make the cut, too. Most of the duffel that’s crossing the country is dedicated to a trip that exists only in my head. Looking back, whenever I’d mention the trip to Meg she’d either shake her head in disbelief while forcing out a word of encouragement or just look at me wide-eyed with an uncomfortable smile. “I hope it works out for you,” sounded more like, “I hope your trip doesn’t get too fucked up if and when it ever happens!” But that’s all right, because “If the motorcycle trip doesn’t pan out,” I’d tell myself, “I’ll just sell the bike and fly home, buy a switch rod, and fly fish for Pink all August.”

Meghan and I arrive at the HI Charlottetown hostel roughly 24 hours after departing Nanaimo, BC. It took less than ten minutes for a friendly acquaintance to offer us a ride to the north beaches the following day. We enjoyed a few days of relaxing with friends on the red sands of Cousin’s Shore (a fifteen minute drive west of Cavendish) before I reserved a seat on the City Beach Express. I rode the shuttle from the Cavendish Boardwalk to 7 Mt Edward Road in Charlottetown the morning of August 7th ($17) to check out the only KLR650 for sale on PEI—it was all I could find. And so, I am sitting on this shortbus trying to remember what I had read on the KLR650.net forum; old-timers cutting through all the nitpicky BS with posts like, “If a KLR sounds good and drives, chances are it is good,” and “Working on a KLR is easier than working on a lawnmower.” The truth is that I was sold—and I don’t mean sold to this motorcycle, I mean sold to any motorcycle that wasn’t a bucket of rust. I was stir-crazy and knew it, and hadn’t flown my shit across the country to fly it back without trying.

The mechanic, seller, and I were standing around the beat up 2007 KLR outside the Kawasaki shop. The mechanic fires it up and it is obnoxiously loud, backfiring with a high-flow, aftermarket exhaust that a previous owner had installed; a well-used Gerber machete is strapped to the right side of the seat; a bunch of stickers are plastered on the rear box and side fairing. It was missing the header heat shield and handguards, famed doohickey hadn’t been replaced, had a JB-welded crankcase, nearly all of the body panels were zip-tied on, and there was no indication that it had been well cared for… but it sounded good. I turned to the mechanic, “Do you think it can make it across the country?” He looked a little surprised, turned to the bike and smiled. “I think so,” he looked back at me, “and I am jealous.” His reserved, grumpy demeanour lightened up as he began to explain 4-stroke single maintenance for a couple of minutes. Of course I bought it—paid too much for it, too.

I had to resolve some paperwork before heading back to Cousin’s Shore. I paid for and printed a 30-day binder of insurance from a broker in BC and headed over to Access PEI for a Transit Permit (24-hour temporary registration) before driving northward along the south shore, crossing the Confederation Bridge into New Brunswick, and swinging down to the Access Nova Scotia in Amherst to re-register the vehicle. The KLR offers an upright seating position, making you more sensitive to crosswinds, and all the luggage (e.g., tank bag, dry sack, and tail case) further increases your sail area. Driving over the Confederation Bridge was far windier than I had remembered; strong northward gusts would suddenly push me 1-1.5 meters towards the edge of my lane. Taking roughly fifteen minutes driving at 80 km/h, descending the bridge into New Brunswick was a relief. The stretch of Highway 2 adjacent to the Beausejour Marsh at the NB-NS border was quite windy as well.

I walked into NS Access with a BC Driver’s License, poorly handwritten bill of sale, binder of insurance, signed-over PEI slip, and a PEI Safety Inspection less than 30 days old. “But you don’t live in Nova Scotia, right?” asked the clerk. “No, I don’t, but I’ve spoken to your call centre over the phone numerous times and they’ve assured me that—” His manager who’s been listening gets involved, “You need to have a Nova Scotian residence and a PEI Safety Inspection.” Afraid of getting stranded in rural NS with an unregistered beater, I began paraphrasing relevant bits of the PEI Roads Act that I had read the day before. She stiffens, swivels away from me in her office chair, and picks up the phone. A few minutes pass, the clerk looks up at me apologetically, the manager hangs up and turns towards us, “Alright, well, you don’t need to be Nova Scotian, but you need a PEI Safety.” She had one of those power-tripping smirks on her face. Confused, I tell her that Nova Scotia honours up to 30-day old PEI and New Brunswick vehicle inspections. A couple more phone calls later and the clerk, grinning from ear to ear, hands me the 30-day Temporary Permit.

Equipped with the Nova Scotia 30-day registration, I drove back to Cousin’s Shore with the PEI plate still on the bike. After four hours of getting my face buffeted by wind and cruising at 5100 RPM, I was not convinced this trip was going to go well, but I was convinced that it was going to go somewhere interesting. In fact, I had yet to survive a wedding ceremony and reception. Wearing a suit was awkward and I struggled to make smalltalk with guests but the hors d’oeuvres were good and there was an open bar. Plus, I had the great pleasure of reuniting with a few childhood best friends, making me one of the happiest people within one or two hundred kilometers of the Anne of Green Gables Museum. Dinner began and all went well until the last course, when I was scheduled to give a short speech. Not that it went poorly, but I hadn’t planned on crying into a microphone for two hundred guests as they finished their desserts—I guess that’s life.

Meghan boarded the return flight to Nanaimo the following morning (August 11) and I’d stay for an additional night at the request of the newlyweds. Following a greasy breakfast and an afternoon of recovery on the beach, we had an awesome seafood dinner with Christian’s family at New Glasgow Lobster Suppers (highly recommended!) before quickly retiring for the night—or so I thought. Mark, a good friend of Chris’, had discovered a telescope in Amy’s cottage and wouldn’t be dissuaded from at least trying for a close-up of craters on the moon. Despite it being an old scope we eventually got the moon in focus—it was stunning. I show Mark and he cannot contain his excitement. He wants to try for Jupiter and its moons now. To my surprise, and twenty minutes later, we get Jupiter in the frame—at least four bright and distinct shapes surrounding the planet. We try for Saturn and again, after about twenty minutes, center the planet in the viewfinder. Straining one’s eye you could see a faint outline of its ring—unbelievable. Sure makes in you feel small.

Not wanting to overstay my welcome and with an urge to hit the road, I pack my dry sack while the others are still sleeping the next morning. Amy, who’s been sleeping on the futon by the front door catches me sneaking out to pack the bike. We have coffees and a small breakfast while others begin to wake up. A few goodbyes and an a properly tied fisherman’s knot later, Amy and Chris see me off at roughly 9 AM. The knobby rear tire throws sand as I gun it down Cousin’s Shore Road, heading for Halifax, NS.

PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND TO ITALY CROSSING, NOVA SCOTIA (DAY 1; 0-512 KM)

I took 100-series highways south towards Kensington before joining Highway 2 through New Annan, south on Read Dr., and along the south shore to the bridge—the ride was casual and scenic, as one might expect. The bridge crossing went well and I stuck to back roads as I worked my way southward from Amherst, through the small towns of Nova Scotia. I’d eventually rejoin Highway 2 and the 318 towards Cole Harbour where I’d pick up riding pants and a jacket ($100). The number of lakes surrounding the greater Halifax area is astounding and the roads twisted through lakeside forest and rock escarpments. I arrived at the seller’s house roughly six hours after leaving Amy’s cottage and must have been pretty excited to try on the riding clothes because I’d later realize that I had forgotten my favourite pants and leather belt on Matt’s porch while driving through Bridgewater, roughly 140 km WSW and 2 hours away—fuck. Highways 333, 329, and 3 make for a scenic westward ride through oceanside towns. Note: check out the Cabot Trail if you’re new to touring in the Maritimes. I’d arrive to my aunt and uncle’s lakeside home in Italy Crossing at about 6 PM—just in time to interrupt their dinner party with a backfiring thumper. I hadn’t seen them since my father’s death ten years prior, but everything fell into place and they were nice as ever.