Photos: Rachel Lasham at wanderonahonda.co.uk
Our last update saw Ed and Rachel being kicked out of Quebec and banned from riding their C90s on that province’s roads – definitely the low point of their trip. Thankfully, things were about to take a turn for the better as they enter the Maritimes area of Canada and hang out at CMG HQ.
Having permanently left Quebec, destined to never return again (it’s a long story … link here), we were now in the Maritimes — New Brunswick to be precise — and were very pleased to be under our own power again. We’d entered the Yukon from Alaska seven months ago and our goal of crossing Canada seemed to be getting close now .It was now April and the snow was starting to melt and turn to wet slush. But being only around freezing or so meant it was warm enough to stand around a fire, so that’s an upside.
Another upside was that we’d finally been able to swap our motocross tires for the summer tires that the Quebec police stopped us collecting, and this meant our bikes no longer handled like a drunken dog with rubber legs. They were a bit thin though, and it wasn’t long before the infamous New Brunswick pot holes claimed my rear inner tube.
It also appeared Canada’s winter had claimed my puncture repair kit, the extreme cold rendering the glue useless. Thankfully, the Canadian love was not far away and it wasn’t long before a friendly local saw us in distress and invited us into his house, offering us his puncture repair kit to use. All across Canada we’d been told about the kindness of Maritimees (not too sure that’s a word, but I like it), and we were now experiencing it firsthand.
The tube had actually split, but we did our best to patch it and hoped it would hold. And it did……
For 10 miles.
The sun had now completely set and over the course of an hour I tried as nearly as many patches as the number of people that stopped to offer assistance to us, including an ambulance that turned its searchlight on to help me see what I was doing.
In the end, nothing would stick to the hole on the inside of the tube. The patches just kept getting pushed off. It was then that in a last ditched effort, I jammed half a pair of underpants into the wheel recess, and hoped it would at least hold the patch on until the next town.
And to our surprise, it actually worked! We rode to the next town exhausted, and rather than hunt for ages for a hidden wild camping spot, we asked a petrol station attendant if she knew of any hidden areas for us. She said the people at the local arena are friendly, so we’d probably be fine round the back of there. So that’s where we went.
In the morning, the owners were indeed friendly. Confused, but definitely friendly. And once we’d drunk the tea they gave us, we hit the road and continued our ride southeast towards Nova Scotia. On the way there we called in to see an incredibly handsome editor called Rob Harris. You may have heard of him as he runs this site, and I’ve heard the website is as good as he is handsome. (Do I get a raise now? Keep sucking up and we’ll see – ‘Arris)
After our lovely stay with Rob it was time to cross the border into Nova Scotia and see the ocean for the first time in five months. We were getting really close to finishing now, but decided to ride around the southern coast of Nova Scotia, and take in all of the little fishing villages and fine camping spots we could find before heading further east.
We’d loved our time in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and were rather surprised when we ran out of land. As the temperature was now around 10C most days we were now able to ride for much longer each day. And with the May days now staying light until past 9 PM, we were doing 150 miles per day with ease, despite spending hours in conversation with intrigued Canadians in car parks.
Yes, we had run out of land, but not out of Canada, because we still had Newfoundland left!
Rach and I were both really looking forward to Newfoundland for many reasons, but the main one was the see if the people really are as friendly as everyone says they are. When we were in Alaska, the friendly Alaskans said to look forward to Canadians being even friendlier. Then as soon as we discovered that Canadians are indeed incredibly friendly, we were told to “wait ’til you get to Newfoundland, as they’re even friendlier”. We found this hard to believe, but wanted to see if it was true.
So we got the Marine Atlantic ferry from Sydney, Nova Scotia to Port Aux Basque, Newfoundland.
Once we were on the ferry, the first thing we noticed was how friendly the staff were. Now this is the first Canadian ferry that I’ve traveled on, so I can’t comment on how different it is, but compared to a UK ferry, the loading crew were angels. I mean they even smiled and helped us with the tie down straps, whereas most English ferry staff are just grumpy and shout at you.
At the end of the seven-hour crossing, Rach and I went on deck just as the boat was pulling into harbour to catch our first glimpse of “The Rock” (that’s a nickname for Newfoundland, and not the actor/wrestler). It was rather nice. Port Aux Basque seemed to have the perfect mix of rugged scenery and cute houses, kind of like coastal Nova Scotia in a way.
Once the ferry had docked, we rode off into town to get our bearings and devise a plan. We quickly discovered that Newfoundlanders are indeed friendly, and if you stop anywhere on a Honda 90, prepare to make friends very quickly and say “No, I don’t need any help, but thanks a lot”.
Rach and I had decided to wild camp for the night and asked a few of our new friends if they knew of any hidden places to camp. “Hidden?” they’d reply, “Why would you want to hide? Just camp anywhere, no-one will mind”. This was a strange concept to us, but enough locals said it that we eventually believed it, and rode off to find a random place to camp and my bike promptly sunk up to the axles in mud, or chocolate fudge cake …. I’m not sure which.
We did manage to pull little 90 out of the mud without too much grief though, and we found a lovely little spot looking out over the bay. Once the tent was up we realized just how much fun wild camping is when you’re not scared of being discovered. It’s a nice feeling to know that all of the locals have the mentality of “Well, if it’s not hurting anyone, then who cares?”Something that I had assumed, in the western world at least, had nearly died out.
This was further reinforced when I discovered that some children on Newfoundland actually ride unregistered motocross bikes to school. This made me very happy; it meant that the spirit of “if it isn’t hurting anyone, then who cares?” was actually ingrained in the culture.
If kids did that in England there would be uproar and arrests, and that is what’s gone wrong with my homeland in recent years. The UK (and most western countries) is now obsessed with being as dull and safe as possible, and hasn’t realized that life isn’t about living a long time, it’s about having a good life.
Maybe I’m just a bit too old-school, but my motto has always been “I’m more scared of not living than of dying.” And on Newfoundland, they definitely live, so maybe there’s hope for the human race after all and not every fun thing will be banned until we only knit and watch TV. Or I’ll have to move to Newfoundland; either way, I’m happy.
I will now have to admit that I don’t have a hope in hell of conveying all that we did in Newfoundland. We spent just over three weeks there and had a lovely time for the entire duration.
Another thing to be happy about was surviving long enough to reach another birthday, my 28th to be precise. Rach had thought long and hard about what present to give me, and eventually she decided on embarrassment. Which I discovered as I emerged from the tent and then had to ride my bike that now looked like this.
With my children’s balloons flapping in the wind as we rode east, we eventually got to the capital of Newfoundland, St. Johns. The houses here were very brightly coloured and the city was one of the nicest I’ve visited. Very friendly and very Newfoundland.
After a fair amount of exploring the city we carried on our ride, and as we meandered along the coast, we made it to a very special location. We had made it to Cape Spear – the easternmost point of Canada!
We had actually done it. Rach and I had entered Canada from Alaska some eight months previous. We’d then dropped down to Vancouver, and battled our way through the cold (both in terms of weather and Quebec police attitude) across the entire width of Canada. This location felt like way more than just a physical location; this signified the end of an emotional journey too.
I feel very, very privileged to have seen as much of your country as physically possible. What started out as a winter challenge turned into much more for us. Many adventure riders just ride through Western Canada simply because it’s on the route to Alaska, and that saddens me a bit. I’m glad Rach and I decided to see what crossing Canada in the winter is like, and although we didn’t actually make it all the way across before winter finished, it was for a good reason – we spent so much time staying with people we met on the road. I’ve run the numbers and we spent over half of the days of this trip in friends’ houses instead of riding.
And that’s the main thing I’ll take away from Canada, it’s the strangers that became friends so quickly. I hope you guys have enjoyed reading my articles, and I hope that all the people who took us in off the street will eventually know just how much they did, whether it was dragging us out of our tent at -25 C and into their house, secretly paying our bill at a restaurant or just chatting to us in car parks.
From the bottom of our hearts, Rach and I would like to say a very big thank-you to every friendly Canadian we met (well, save for a certain police officer in Quebec). We had a blast and are so glad we added a 30,000 km detour onto our trip to see your country, it’s been brilliant.
I should probably stop being all emotional now and finish with a photo, so here it is: the culmination of eight months crossing Canada. Thanks guys, you rock.
Check out all the pics that go with this story! Click on the main sized pic to transition to the next or just press play to show in a slideshow.