DAWN TILL DUSK: The inaugural ride

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Words: Rob Harris and Zac Kurylyk. Pics: As credited.
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There’s something about pushing the limits of a your bike and yourself. Trouble is, in most cases this can be a rather dangerous combination, but with the conception of the Dawn till Dusk ride, I think we might have the perfect union.

Eager to do something that uses the CMG long term CBR250R as well as build on the original concept of the Mad Bastard Scooter Rally, CMG News Editor Zac Kurylyk and I came up with a sub-250cc ride that covered over 600 kilometres and had to be completed within 12 hours. Unlike most CMG outings, this plan wasn’t hatched over a bottle of Scotch, but it might as well have been.

After all, challenges need to have a goal and having to average 50 km/h on relatively small machines over a 12 hour period requires that you stay on your game, all the while keeping the stops and getting lost to a minimum.

We planned for bikes 250cc or less, because we’d be travelling in a single group and doing some highway, we also stipulated that any machine also needed to be able to pull a 100 km/h. That meant that the CMG Konker KSM 200 would be fine, but I don’t think you’d realistically be able to go much smaller.

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You open the throttle … and stay there.
photo: Janet Pickard

The only other element to throw in the mix was timing and holding it close to the fall equinox in mid September; not only could we bookend the 12 hours with the breaking dawn and falling dusk, but we also had fine September weather to ride it in.

THE LOOP

It was all coming together rather nicely and we spent the summer planning out various loops that covered the all-important 600km but kept it interesting. Zac was given the P.E.I. and New Brunswick sections to plan and I focused on the Nova Scotia section, having spent much of the last two years checking it out.

The result was nigh on perfect (when viewed in Google maps anyway) and saw us starting at the Irving Big Stop (an east coast trucker’s stop) in Aulac, just inside New Brunswick, at the Nova Scotia border. This was not only close to my home in Sackville (always good), but also close enough to Moncton and Halifax so as to appeal to as many riders as possible.

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New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and P.E.I. – all in a day’s ride.

From there we looped down through Nova Scotia’s Cumberland County and the rather luscious coastal road from Advocate Harbour all the way to Truro, where we were to divert north through the Cobequid Mountains (more hills than mountains) and end up in Pictou where we’d catch the ferry to P.E.I.

A quick sprint across P.E.I. would get us to the roads along the north shore before heading for the Confederation bridge and an easy shot down the Trans Canada back to Aulac in time for dinner. Well, if all went to plan anyway.

Actually we had originally planned to do it in the reverse order, hitting P.E.I first via the Confederation bridge but were quickly reminded by local readers that although it’s free to cross into P.E.I. by the bridge or ferry it is actually cheaper to leave by the bridge ($17.25 versus $40 plus for the ferry).
If you want to check out the planned route on Google Maps, click here. Of course, the P.E.I. route shown is not quite as ridden …

DAWN

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Many thanks to Larry Northrup at Toys for Big Boys for the use of the CBR250R for the 1st D2D.
Photo: Rob Harris

Chez ‘Arris was hosting news editor Zac and his pal Glen who had come from St John the night before, bringing with them a Husqvarna 250 (which Zac is currently testing) and a CBR250R which was very kindly supplied by Larry Northrup of Toys For Big Boys in Moncton.

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They lend it to us, we steal bolts. Old habits die hard.
Photo: Rob Harris

Although it wasn’t the actual CMG long termer machine, it meant that I could get my hands on one on the east coast, to try out and write up the next review in the process. Huge thanks and much good karma to Larry for that one.

So, tired, cold, and up long before sunrise, Zac, Glen and myself (on the CMG Konker), headed the short 15 min stint from Sackville to Aulac’s Big Stop to see what other sad souls we would meet up with over breakfast.

Much like the inaugural Mad Bastard ride, we’d put out a call to the CMG readership to see if anyone had wanted to join us in the madness – after all, why keep such a great idea to ourselves?  We received a decent amount of emails promising attendance, providing that this goes well and that doesn’t, etc.

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“Hah, they said I couldn’t do it. I know I can, I know I can, I …”. Murray does all mad bastards proud.
Photo: Janet Pickard

Basically you don’t know who, if anyone, will show until they do, or do not. There was one couple I was certain of though – Murray and Janet Pickard.  Murray was a long-standing fixture of the Mad Bastard rallies and had pondered to various friends whether to make the 1,800-kilometre journey to Aulac from his home in Chatham, Ontario just for the event.

“They all said I couldn’t do it” Murray had told me over pizza the night before, “which meant that I was determined to”. I had thought of challenging him to give me a thousand dollars to see if it would make him determined to do so, but didn’t dare just in case he actually did and then I would find myself in the embarrassing position of trying to give it back.

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Don gets into the CMG spirit of things fixing his shifter bolt 10 minutes before departure.
Photo: Rob Harris

Another benefit of such determination/stupidity (it’s a fine line, but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt) is that he came with a pick-up truck (you see, determined to get here, but not stupid enough to actually ride the 250 Marauder in the process) and wife Janet who was more than happy to follow the group around with it, thus providing a chase truck into the bargain.

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And away we went across the Tantramar marshes to Nova Scotia.
Photo: Janet Pickard

The first guest rider to show up was Don Lockhart from Port Elgin on a Ninja 250, and in true CMG fashion, he had limped the last 100 yards with a dangling shift lever. The bolt had worked lose and dropped off into the darkness, so we spent the first half of breakfast working out how to find a replacement.

The Ninja’s saviour came in the form of the loaner CBR that had the perfect bolt holding on the pipe. This in turn was replaced with a smaller diameter spare bolt we’d found, that when torqued to 500 ft-lbs was sufficient to hold the exhaust solidly.

Then, just as we thought we were five plus one truck driver, Mike Layden and Sandra Arseneault pulled up on a pair of Yamaha XT225s, with just enough time for a smoke and fill up before we hit the highway at 7:15 in the brilliant early morning sun.

WIDE OPEN THROTTLE

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The road from Advocate to Parsboro is all whoops and whoos.
Photo: Janet Pickard

Being able to pull rank meant that I was now on the CBR250R, which was fortuitous as the road that snakes around the Cumberland peninsula is tailor-made for such a machine at wide open throttle.

I was a little worried about the chance of a moose galloping into my path, but it was the CBR’s licence plate that proved to be the first casualty, having dropped off somewhere shortly after Aulac.

Apparently it had been seen hanging by a single bolt, but if everyone is going flat-out, and the CBR was pretty much the fastest bike, then there’s not much chance of catching up to inform me and save the plate.

Never mind; at the café/hardware/gas stop in Advocate Harbour they kindly supplied me with an old election board made out of corrugated plastic, a box cutter and black marker pen and by the time we hit the road again I had two new plates on the back (so if one fell off, I still had the other) and three spares under the seat.

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“Sorry officer, is there a problem?”. In many provinces it would be, but we didn’t see one police officer in our 12 hours on the road. Gotta love the Maritimes.
Photo: Janet Pickard

The next section between Advocate and Parrsboro is one of my favourite Maritime roads, with its roller-coaster route along the hills that butt up to the Bay of Fundy. You can choose to catch the views, but you’d be wasting your chance to ingest the road, which is best taken as fast as it  — and your nerves — allow.

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It was destined to go all horribly CMG. ‘Arris was not disappointed.
Photo: Janet Pickard

Zac provided comic relief at the next stop after Murray had pointed out that the Husky was smoking somewhat and we checked the oil level to find it a good quarter of a litre or so too full. Zac, in an attempt to be a good journalist (that never works out well) had taken it upon himself to change the Husky’s oil as per the instructions and had managed to somehow add a tad too much.

Opting to fix the problem on the spot we searched for containers and watched with horror and laughs as the commissioned Wendy’s cup overfloweth with hot 10W40 and Zac bravely attempted to reinsert the drain plug. Of course, hot oil and a small hole are always tricky and Zac only succeeded in making a small oil slick big and burning his hands in the process.

The next entertaining episode also came courtesy of Zac, albeit due to someone else’s actions. Stopping in the Cobequid Mountains to regroup and check directions, a rather aggravated motorist and embarrassed wifey pulled over and called Zac over to give him a tongue-lashing.

It appears that some errant motorcyclist had decided to pass said aggravated motorist on a double yellow (though in all fairness, this was really the only option, thanks to some overly cautious markings by Nova Scotia’s department of transportation).

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The tension mounts as we race toward the 1 pm ferry.
Photo: Janet Pickard

After the motorist had departed in a cloud of angst, Glen confessed that it was maybe he who had done the deed, while Zac got the verbal beating.

By this time it was clear that we were making good time and would be able to make the P.E.I. ferry in time for the 1 p.m. crossing (failing that would have meant a 1 ¾ hour wait which would have blown all hopes of finishing in our allotted time), and sure enough we pulled into the terminal with a good 45 minutes to spare.

PRINCE EDWARD AND HIS SHITTY SIGNAGE

by Zac Kurylyk


Since Zac was essentially in charge of the latter half of the route, I’m going to hand the story over to him  …

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“Who’s barfing in the toilet?” ‘Arris and Zac start to feel a little green.
Photo: Janet Pickard

After the local dockhands finally figured out the seemingly brain-bending (at least for them) task of fitting our bikes on the ferry, we set sail for P.E.I..

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Getting lost in P.E.I. means the odd dirt excursion.
Photo: Janet Pickard

Our group took advantage of the hour-long break to grab lunch, but some of the other bikers on board didn’t get that far – the wind gave us a bit of a rough crossing, and one Harley rider spent the entire trip curled up over a toilet, seasick. You’d think someone dressed like a pirate would be able to handle the open seas …

Rolling off the ferry, we were faced with a new problem: P.E.I.’s confusing signage. Before the ride, I’d checked out the intersections I needed to turn at on the map. We needed to head for Route 23 right off the boat. But when we got there, the road was mysteriously labeled Route 307, and people were saying they needed gas. No problem, we’d just head west, stop and get gas, then cut north through to Mount Stewart.

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The Husky had the smallest tank and made some additional roadside stops.
Photo: Janet Pickard

Except, gas was a long way away. We zipped up and down P.E.I. back roads but couldn’t find any fuel stations, and we were getting further and further away from Mount Stewart and the northerly Route 6, where we wanted to ultimately head for.

Finally, we found fuel just outside Stratford, but it was too late, ‘Arris had already run the Husky dry. After he filled up roadside from the chase truck’s jerry can, the rest of us filled up at an Irving where we didn’t figure there’d be time for the Route 6 run, opting to cut around Charlottetown, and head down through farm country along P.E.I.’s south shore.

But once we got to the Confederation Bridge, we realized that wasn’t true. We were well ahead of schedule, and now we wanted to add miles to the trip, so we didn’t arrive back in Aulac too early and short of the 600 km target.

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‘Arris had been looking forward to ice cream at P.E.I.’s aptly named Cows ice creamery. Sadly they closed when they saw us park up outside.
Photo: Janet Pickard

While ‘Arris stalked the streets of Gateway Village in a fruitless attempt to find some ice cream, Don told us he could take us through some back roads around Port Elgin that would add some miles on to our route. So, we crossed the Confederation Bridge with Don leading the charge.

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Once we got to the Confederation bridge we realized that we needed to log some additional kms.
Photo: Janet Pickard

We were all racing the clock at this point to extend our ride before the cut-off time, but some of us were racing faster than others. Taking pity on Glen, I’d swapped the Husky TE250 to him for the Konker KSM200 back in P.E.I., and now I was paying for it.

Lying flat on the tank, throttle pinned in fifth gear, the fastest I could get to was about 100 km/h, depending on the grade. Even Murray’s Marauder was faster than I was, although we had some fun at the end of the line – almost passing him after sneaking up behind him and drafting him. Sadly he caught sight of me in his rear-view mirror and tucked in behind his windshield to pull away.

Who says small bikes aren’t fun?

Don took us through back roads through New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, finally leading us back to Aulac just before sunset at 7 PM, with 15 minutes to spare. We’d hoped to see more than 600 kilometres on the clocks but even the most optimistic odometer showed us 15 kilometres short of our stated goal.

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Zig-zagging through New Brunswick’s backroads.
Photo: Janet Pickard

Although the Irving restaurant was busy — apparently there isn’t much to do in Aulac on a Saturday night — we managed to grab two tables, and over dinner, tried to work out how we’d managed to come so short.

Of course, the P.E.I. diversion cut a chunk out but still, there was something not quite adding up, and then we saw it. The mapped route included the ferry, which the odometers did not. A quick check in Google and we gained another 29 killometres (and that doesn’t include the up and down factor of the crossing)!

That was good enough for us – a total of 614 kilometres (as measured by the Ninja’s odo), and all in 11 hours and 45 minutes. Job done, congratulations to all.

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Success and plenty of relief as we park up in the Big Stop in Aulac. From left to right: Don Lockhart, Murray Pickard, Zac Kurylyk, Sandra Arseneault, Mike Layden, Glen Howatt and ‘Arris.

Photo: Janet Pickard

Everybody seemed to enjoy themselves through the ride, and said they’d like to run it again. Of course, we were lucky to have a warm, sunny day, even if it was a bit windy, but I know I had a great time and can’t wait to do it again.

Maybe quarter-litre madness isn’t quite such a mad idea after all…

D2D Ontario 2012 anyone?

29 thoughts on “DAWN TILL DUSK: The inaugural ride”

  1. Canadian Tire has portable gasoline containers that resemble Thermos bottles only in red, strictly legal for gasoline and they will fit in your jacket or saddlebags quite nicely.

    They are ideal for those poeple who have bikes with small tanks and in an emergency can get you to the next gas station.
    mred

  2. 🙂

    I’m in for a D2D Ontario 2012. I’ll have to steal/beg/borrow my wife’s Ninjette though. That thing is a blast to ride! Smaller bikes are indeed fun to ride.

  3. D2D Ontario? I’m in. Would’ve done this one except no time off. Small bikes are a blast. I can’t believe I went so long without one.

  4. It was soooo much fum riding with the CMG guys, road racing and kicking Zack’s butt. Can’t wait until we all hook up and do it again. Might have to grab a ninja to keep up with ‘Arris.

  5. I am interested to buy a Husqvarna TE250 only for road use (commuting 65 km a day), so the CMG evaluation during the D2D ride for this model would be appreciated. Thank you.

  6. This summer I rode 600 km in under 12 hours down to Pennsylania on my WR250R. It was fun tucking to cheat the wind and changing gears to stay in the powerband up and down hills. I enjoyed the ride more than the BMW 800 riders accompanying me. I wanted to join this trip too but couldn’t make it this time. Small bikes are a blast at legalish speeds where big bores are well – big bores.

  7. It is if the roads are straight, crumbling, and boring (like they are in southeast PEI).

    The northern side of the Island is more interesting, but you have to play tic-tac-toe through some boring stuff to get there.

  8. It was more of a case of not being able to find gas, than being actually lost. In any case, if we run PEI again, we’ll take a more direct route. Trouble is, there are no really direct routes in eastern PEI.

  9. I was in PEI this summer (not on a bike, unfortunately), and I have to agree that PEI’s road signage can be a little confusing. In their defense, for a place with such a limited population and area, their is a surprisingly dense network of roads. And even the minor dirt roads have numbers and show up on provincial maps, the scale of the map being so large compared to even Nova Scotia’s.

  10. I considered coming out with my XT225, but already had plans to take the BMW up to see my parents that weekend.

    If there’s an Ontario one, I’m pretty sure I’d participate.

    My suggestion? Keep everyone to 12 hours, but add optional loops for some bikes – and hopefully come up with a good list of gas stations for those little tanks.

  11. Doing 750 kms on a 50 cc scooter within 24 hours is a bigger and goofier challenge than a 12 hour ride on a 250. So obviously they are entirely different ideas. For example, dressing up and acting stupid seems to work really well on a 50 cc ha ha ha, but wouldn’t work (for me) on a 250.
    However creating an event for small bikes (and thereby celebrating smallness of one’s piston) is certainly interesting to me.
    I’m not sure you need to have a winner … maybe make it like a bike rally where prizes are handed out for things like age of machine, age of rider, longest distance ridden to get to rally, various mods … that kind of thing. Except this rally would be more than hanging out, it would involve a substantial ride through an interesting area on neat roads. Does it need to be a 12 hour ride? Do you need classes? If the riders know in advance roughly how long the route will be, they will select a suitable machine and if it takes them longer to complete the distance, so what?
    These are thoughts that I may regret as soon as I press send.

  12. Yeah, I think this has real potential. I was working on trying to do a Mad bastard lite in the intervening years of the main MBSR but couldn’t quite get it to make sense.

    The D2D Maritimes run was a proof of concept and it worked out well and I don’t see why it couldn’t be ramped up into a sub 250cc 12 hour rally with maybe some scavenger hunt aspects thrown in for good measure. I could even reuse some of the old MBSR routes that are ready to go.

    Question is, do you do different classes for cc size and if so is it everyone at 12 hours with different distances or the same distance and different times for completion? I’m erring toward the former as the later is too close to MBSR.

    Interesting though, and it’s certainly got me pondering.

  13. yup …

    I’m bored with normal riding. The MBSR has shown me that small and slow is more of a giggle … ‘cept I would need to procure yet another machine :upset

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