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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The End of 'The Big Adventure'

The Back of Simon's Helmet
We've Been All Over!!
Our last week on the road went by quickly. We had a fun lunch in Spokane with Amy (a colleague from a past life) and rode north into Canada. As soon as we crossed the border, we knew we were home. We both felt it, that visceral feeling of recognition, likely both geography and culture. We rode through the beautiful landscape of BC heading toward Castelgar where our nephew, Guillaume, lives. We rode some of the very best roads in North America but Simon loves the roads of BC’s southeast. They have to rate at the top of any list. 

Alone on the road near Cache Creek
It was good to touch base with Guillaume, we felt the need to spend more time in that area of the province and with family. It has been a hard summer for everyone but in particular Guillaume. He, like us, left Ontario to explore the west many years ago; he created a life on his own terms. We are kindred spirits.

As usual we wished for more time to spend together, but the end of our year off is approaching fast and we have a few more stops to do. Diner with two more nephews Jozhel and Adrian in Kelowna was also great. We had lost touch many years ago and it was important to reconnect.  Jozhel - now married with two children, and Adrian -expecting his first child. They are grown men looking to their future with enthusiasm. It was so lovely to see.

The family in Kelowna
We had some minor trouble with the bike as we crossed Kelowna and Vernon. We stopped at a garage for a few hours. Nothing major but it made us think of cutting our trip short. We are both very happy we did not.

Tim and Karen
The two day ride up to Vanderhoof was so worth it. Our dear friends Tim and Karen awaited us there. Karen was the first friend Julie made in Nanaimo many years ago. She and her husband Tim made all the difference in how we felt about this small coastal town. With them we hiked our first mountains and shared lots of laughs. They moved away when their boys were young. We lost contact. But like many others on this trip, we found them through Facebook. Their boys are grown up now and I think we will plan more hiking\mountaineering trips together.

We returned home, grabbed our condo keys and started moving into our new condo. Simon will return to work – starting September 1st (ouch), and Julie will figure out what’s next for her in the next few weeks – part time work, volunteering, etc. It will take a while for this year’s challenges to sink in. What will remain? What have we learned?

Julie found strength she never knew was there. She can face her fears, and push further than she thought possible. We both had opportunities to support each other (even when Julie got grumpy). Our union is the stronger for it.

We both realized how much we love and enjoy each other’s company. It’s hard to quantify. We spent a year together; walking side by side, sleeping under the stars, glued together riding a motorcycle and it just felt right.

We have many amazing friends in our lives. People who’ve influenced us - we send each and every one of you a hug. You welcomed us into your homes and your lives as though we had seen you yesterday – we totally felt at home. We hope to see you soon. Thanks for following us through this journey.

For those in Victoria, our presentation of the AZT (Arizona National Scenic Trail) will be held October 12th at 7pm at Robinson’s Outdoor store. Tickets will likely be available at the store prior to the event, we will post the details as they are released.

Now it’s your turn. Where will YOU go?

Monday, August 15, 2016

Plains and Mountains

Last we blogged, we were in Nashville. Since then we crossed more states: Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming and are now in Montana. Julie felt a bit homesick as we left the hubub of Nashville.
Long Straight Roads of the Prairies
The excitement of this town full of music and friendly people was a high point and the lonely road following felt long. It felt like a job to ride our distance every day. We got to our hotels road weary. As we crossed over to Colorado something changed. The terrain opened up and we were presented with rolling plains, rocky cliffs, and ranch-land dotted with antelope herds.

The Julie and the Jackelope
In Douglas (WY), home of the Jackelope, we saw many of the little critters. Since we had some day light when we arrived we looked for the local museum. It was humble small town and we visited the local museum with all sorts of local history/stuff. Military garments, guns, farming implements, furniture, clothing, and even a great collection of saddles were on display. They also had a room with cool Native American artifacts. We lucked out as well, for the country fair was setting up and we got to see some calf roping and examples of rancher coaches.

(Buffalo) Bill Cody
Next day found us in Cody (WY), home of Buffalo Bill. At the doorstep of Yellowstone N.P., it is a tourist town for sure, with the western history romanticized in novels and movies. Bill Cody was quite the entrepreneur, he was a cattle rustler, rode for the pony express, guided military through Indian country, guided royalty on hunting trips, created the most traveled circus, and founded his own town (Cody). The museum devoted to him was quite something. Loved by all to this day, he was a rich man in experience but died nearly penniless at his ranch along the Shoshone river.

We left early to spend some time in Yellowstone NP. What a place! The road followed rivers in winding valleys, climbed up to high passes and crossed the continental divide. Simon was in heaven. The park was spectacular. We definitely promised ourselves to come back and spend some time exploring this area more. Stretching our legs, we walked around and explored many giesers. We were treated to Old Faithful showing off her power.
Yellowstone at it's best!!

Julie and Simon Happy!
Two more days of ridding finds us here in Missoula Montana. It was a short ride today and we plan on scoping the town out this afternoon. We have about one week of travelling before we get home. We are focusing on these last days, the people we're scheduled to meet and continuing to enjoy this trip to the last drop.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Another Cousin!

Beautiful Twistees in North Carolina
After the Virginia's we meandered through fantastic roads and landscape. North and South Carolina gave us some incredible small roads in the foothills of the Appalachians.

Two days of riding through the hills and visiting another friend took us to Julie's cousin Dee and family.

Knocker Ball Soccer
We dropped in to their son's birthday party at the local indoor soccer arena were the family and friends had a knocker ball outing. An idea worth keeping in mind for anyone wanting supreme fun. BTW - looks well worth the bruises!

Rob, Julie, Dee, Simon ... and Max
We then spent the evening chatting and getting to know each other. A nice walk through the neighbourhood with their two dogs. Can't forget the 'Max' factor... Julie spent time with a young African Grey parrot called Max. it will be difficult for us not to own a parrot in the next few months - the following days have been peppered with 'we should buy a parrot' conversations.

From Dee's place we headed north to Nashville for a day of R&R and more visits. What a great city with nice people. We did put on hold our good eating habits to indulge in the recommendation (from Dee and Rob's daughter Carly) to eat at Biscuit Love - a famous local southern breakfast and brunch eatery.
Food, Music, Art... Nashville!
After a lot of walking and a visit at the Country Music Hall of Fame we finished our day at Jack's BBQ (crazy good stuff) and a good bit of music at the Whiskey Bent Saloon. What a great place to visit... I didn't see PK there!

St Louis from I64
The trip continues with big riding days. Tonight we are just west of St Louis, tomorrow in western Kansas and likely some smaller days with visits with friends in Colorado and Wyoming.

The buns are not really getting used to this, for those who are wondering. The stops are required every 60 to 90 minutes (otherwise I get a head butt). But the routine is good.

As much as this trip seems to be about riding a motorcycle - it isn't. It's all about the visits with friends, the conversations with strangers and the incredible connections that we are making along the way.

Friday, August 5, 2016

My American Cousin

My beautiful sister-in-law convinced us to return to Ottawa after the stop in Montreal. "It's only 2 hours away...", she said. We enjoyed a day with Martine and Pierre. A lunch with Mrs. Lanoix. Simon being his cute self, surprised her at her home. Luckily she has a strong heart. Sunday we had a family dinner with Matt and my father. Needless to say it was a good idea to drop back home for the week-end.

Noah (notice the camel)
We then headed south to Vermont. First a lunch with Noah, a fellow AZT hiker. We had a secret delivery for him. During our lunch together, he stepped away from the table so I placed this small plastic camel on his plate. This little fellow had been changing hands between Noah and another hiker, which we met at the end of the AZT. Hearing we were planning on seeing Noah later in the summer, she asked us to give it to him. Ha! The look on his face. Set and match to you Little Dipper!

Bruce and Santia
A good day of ridding found us in New York State, at one of my American cousin's door step. My uncle Chuck lives with Santia, when he answered the door he was somewhat taken aback. I look a lot like my mom apparently. The last time we met I was a teen. Their family would drive up to our cottage for some of their summer holidays. We had such fun then, but needless to say, it's been a while. We were made to feel at home by Santia and her husband Bruce. They have a comfortable home and a great garden. we ate some of the best ribs ever and talked into the late evening. It was as if we had seen each other a few days ago. I hope it won't be another 30 + years before we hug again.
Dave and Barb

Next was an old work mate of Simon and myself. We all worked together in Edmonton in the mid 80's. Dave and Barb now live in Virginia. They had not changed a bit. It was hard to get back on the road after another great visits. But our schedule demands continuous and forward movement, otherwise we won't get back home.

Wilderness of Spotsylvania
A fun discovery for us is the incredible amount of American history. We spent a bit of time driving secondary highways and visiting many battle fields such as the infamous Wilderness Battlefield. On May 5, 1864, the Union Army of the Potomac locked horns with the Army of Northern Virginia in the dense thickets known as the Wilderness of Spotsylvania. Over the course of two days, the two armies fought to a bloody stalemate. We also saw many grand plantation homes. 

Lush vegetation along the roads in S.C.
In the last day or two, the southern accent has definitely become very predominant, it is music to our ears. The heat/humidity combination is incredible and although the storms are many in the area we seem to be missing most of the big ones, getting some rain but mostly variable skies. The bike is doing well in the heat and the roads are beautiful to ride!

We continue our visit with another cousin just north of Atlanta. 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Small Detour...

On the CAT
Julie and I left Nova Scotia on the 27th of July, taking the ferry (The CAT) from Yarmouth to Portland Maine. An interesting side note - this might hit a nerve for those in BC, this style of ferry was bought in BC and never put in use. Whatever the reason (I won't go there...), it was a political/financial fiasco. This crossing was 4.5 hrs and I have to say that the ferry was fabulous with really nice amenities, great comfortable/high-end seating and we went along at 35 knots on calm waters.

perfect riding roads
Gorgeous Portland Maine, a beautiful coastal community with lots of history. We stayed there one day then headed north to Montreal where I made an appointment to service the bike and replace the tires. The drive through small communities in Western Maine and Northern New Hampshire - it was really (really nice). The northern edge of the Appalachian Mountains where the roads are not busy and gorgeous.

We pulled into Montreal and had a few nice visits. We dropped off the bike at the shop early morning and we're given a loaner - a 600cc Sport Scooter (much appreciated). It took no time at all to get to Julie's aunt Michelle where we had a fabulous visit - including seeing cousin Michel and friends. Super nice visit and discussions...

We heard Simon's phone ring a couple of times during the morning and through lunch but didn't want to answer it - until an hour or two later (at 2:30pm) when Simon thought; "what if it's BMW trying to reach me". IT WAS and they had been trying for three hours to reach me.

$90 plastic part - 25 cm x 5 cm
As it turns out they broke a small but critical plastic piece when doing the valve check and although their inventory identified one in stock - they couldn't locate it. When chatting with the manager, he explained that he made many phone calls to other stores in Toronto, Drummondville, etc. No way to get them delivered today and given the incoming long-weekend, no way to get this done before Tuesday or Wednesday - Ouch!

300+ round trip a 600cc BMW Scooter
is not that comfortable
Simon in solution mode kicked-in... We have a loaner, Drummondville is 2 hours away, they are open late, they have the part, the BMW shop and mechanics work until 9pm. YES, the manager likes the plan... Julie and I left Michelle's place (sorry for the quick exit Michelle) and drove through Friday afternoon Montreal traffic. Got to Drummondville at 5pm and back to the Montreal BMW shop at 7pm. The mechanic started working on it right away. I'm leaving a few details aside but the bottom line is - Saturday late morning and we are back in business. NICE!!

Our decision to come back to Montreal for a visit with Michelle and getting the bike serviced made us rethink our plan and we decided to drive two hours back to Ottawa for a quick two day re-visit. Surprising Simon's mother and sister as well as Julie's dad and brother. We're off to Ottawa... We'll continue our journey back, heading south into the USA Monday, first stops Burlington,Vermont and Fishkill, NY.