A few years back, we invested in a new take on an old love. A 1999 1600 Yamaha Road Star, affectionately nicknamed “Buddy.” From April until October, you’ll rarely find Buddy at home. When we’re not traveling to the next bike rally, you’ll find us doing the tourist thing from Cape Breton to PEI to the Gaspé Coast and more.
Buddy is ideal. He is a cheap and fun mode of transportation. Fully loaded (that’s Michael and myself on the back, saddlebags and trunk packed with full riding gear, usually a change of clothes and extra sweaters, and a small kit bag with toiletries and essentials) Buddy still gets around 50-55 miles to the gallon. We can drive the entire day for $20-30. Granted, you have to plan around the weather a bit, keep your eyes peeled for drivers who may not see you, and riding at night can be a bit hairy watching for moose, but the freedom and exhilaration you feel is incredible.
The bike allows us to experience the road in a way you simply can`t in a car. In the spring and fall, you can always tell when you`re coming to a bridge or causeway, because you’ll feel the temperature suddenly drop about 5 degrees until you cross over the water. One of my favorite things is riding around in the evenings and catching the heady scent of a wild rose bank on the way by. One afternoon we were traveling along and heard a strange noise. Looking up, we discovered we were driving under a nest built on the top of a telephone pole, and a large Bald Eagle had just arrived to feed her chicks. We never would have noticed any of these if we’d been in the car.
There are drawbacks of course. On our way to a rally in St. Stephen one summer, we ran into an unexpected thunderstorm. Apart from the obvious inconvenience of getting soaking wet and it being difficult to see (not many bikes have windshield wipers), suddenly we noticed an unusual smell. It was then that I realized how close the lightning was striking, because what we were smelling was ozone. Considering we were driving through a forested area at the time, stopping and taking shelter under a tree was probably not the smartest option. Nothing to do but keep going.
When we finally drove out of it, we stopped at a gas station and literally poured the water out of our shoes. We wiped off with some paper towels, and continued on. What we didn’t realize was that the road almost turns back on itself, and even though we were still heading to St. Stephen, we drove back into the same thunderstorm. It took a little while to dry out the leathers after that trip.
Other times we’ve been caught unawares by a cold front. This is when you hope you’ve packed everything in the saddlebags, because you’re going to be wearing it all by the time you get home. I’ve seen nights we’ve pulled in that I’ve had so many clothes on, it would take me 15 minutes to get out of them all, and it would still take a hot bath to warm me up.
But I wouldn’t give it up for the world. That moment when you crest a hill, and the unobstructed view that’s laid out before you takes your breath away. The feeling of flying when the bike accelerates beneath you. The camaraderie of the biker community, the biker wave, and the way strangers come up to you to talk about your bike. We’ve met some of the nicest people that way, and some of them didn’t even speak English.
However, it’s getting harder to go farther. We’re not as young as we used to be, and anyone who rides will tell you that you`ll more than feel your age after spending the day on two wheels. By the time you put 500-600 km on in a day, you’re worn out. So unless you’ve got a few days to spare and are willing to shell out for a motel or B&B, you’re too tired to enjoy where you are.
So, we’ve basically outgrown our surroundings. We’ve covered the Maritimes, we’ve been there and seen that, but going farther on the bike is becoming more and more difficult. Now what?
By chance (or the fact that Michael is a Kijiji junkie), we happened across a for sale post last summer. The owner was selling a converted cargo trailer. It had been customized as a camper and fitted with electrical, water tanks, a bathroom, sink and cupboards. But the thing that got our attention was the tie-downs in the floor. It was a toy hauler.
Here was the solution. We could load Buddy into the trailer, hook the truck and travel in comfort to a new area. We would stay for few days and use the trailer as a base camp while we explored the new area on the bike.
It was a perfect plan. Well, everything except how to pay for it. Financial reality can be a bitch.
So we watched the ad for a week or two, still talking, still dreaming, still trying to figure out where the money would come from. Neither of us wanted to go farther into debt for something most would consider a toy. We started saving up, but the money pile was not building too rapidly.
The long weekend in August started with an absolutely beautiful Saturday morning. Itchy feet had hit once again, and by 9am we were geared up and heading south on Buddy. Mid-afternoon, we were at Peggy`s Cove, enjoying a beautiful summer afternoon watching the surf pound onto the rocks.
“Having fun?” Mike asks.
“Absolutely,” I say.
“Would you mind if we didn’t go home tonight?” he asks. I love it when he does this, and he knows it. “I thought we could continue up to Yarmouth and stay in that little campground again. The cabins were nice.” As if I need convincing.
Of course I agree. This is what we live for. The impromptu road trip, the spontaneity. So off we go.
Except we hadn’t counted on the long weekend, even though it isn’t technically a long weekend in Nova Scotia. We got to Yarmouth just after dark, only to discover that there wasn’t a campground, motel or B&B from Halifax to Digby with available lodgings. Yikes.
Not having much of a choice, we decide to continue on to Digby in hopes of finding something. A fog starts to roll in with a cold front, and it’s starting to get uncomfortably cool. The combination of damp and cold start working on our muscles, and we have to stop more and more frequently to get off the bike and take a break, even if it’s only for a few minutes. It’s after 1am by the time we pull in to Digby, grateful that the Tim Horton’s is 24 hours. We grab something warm to drink and whip out the smart phones to find a room.
Still nothing. Unbelievable. In a province that prides itself on tourism, it has an astounding lack of accommodations. A nice man we spoke with at one of the motels told us he had tried to find something for a potential guest earlier in the evening, and there was nothing until at least Wolfville. Cripes, that was still an hour and a half away. And it was getting colder. By this time we had put on every bit of gear that we had with us, and the dampness was still seeping in. It was going to be a very long night.
And it was. We basically went from Tim Horton’s to Tim Horton’s, stopping long enough to get warm and down another coffee to stay awake. By the time we made Kentville, dawn was starting to break, and we stopped for breakfast. 9am found us in Truro, where we stopped for an hour or so, and Mike caught a 10 minute nap on a picnic table in a park. We stopped a few more times on the way home just so we could get off the bike and move around a little, trying to stay awake. It wasn’t smart, it wasn’t safe, and we weren’t happy.
It was around 4pm Sunday afternoon by the time we finally made it home. We covered up the bike and fell into bed, exhausted.
10am Monday, we called the guy with the trailer and made an offer.
Enough was enough. Within a week, we had sold our second car, my motorcycle and our cargo trailer, all things we either weren’t using or wouldn’t miss, and came up with exactly enough to pay for the trailer.
Since then we’ve had the trailer on a short hop to Moncton, and a week to Maine. It pulls beautifully, and even though it’s only 7’x16’, we both found it to be very comfortable. It has an awning that provides shade and protection for Buddy, and the back barn doors open to reveal a full screen covering that allows air to circulate very well. All the windows open, and it has a Max Air vent as well.
We even found out that if we untie Buddy and maneuver him forward between the kitchen cabinets, we can still manage to find room for the bed on the floor behind him without having to put him outside. We discovered this after we hit an incredible thunderstorm in Houlton and stopped for the night at the Wal-Mart there. I teased Michael that his fondest wish had finally come true, he had got to sleep with his damn motorcycle.
We’ve been spending the winter picking up gadgets and doodads to customize it for our needs and making plans. As of right now, we have a queen-sized mattress that rests right on the floor, but we’ve found a pattern on line for a folding bed frame that should be ideal. Although it has an RV battery, the trailer seems to have been intended to run mostly on an electrical hookup. We’re in the process of changing that over to DC power (and hopefully solar one day), since we like to travel on the cheap and will probably end up boondocking more that paying for campgrounds and sites.
But the very best part is what we’ve got planned. To be revealed in the next post. Stay tuned.
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