by Editor ‘arris
With this in mind, in 2003 for the grand CMG tour we decided to head straight to Moncton, New Brunswick. Using the city as a base meant that we could also check out the three loops provided by CMGer Claude Doucet in his Discover Your Roads submission (currently available in the CMG Touring section).
The riders comprised of the usual suspects – Mr. Seck, myself, and for this one, Mr. DYR himself, Ed White. The bikes were provided by BMW Canada and comprised of the long-term K1200GT, the fat bastard R1200CL (test to follow sometime this year) and the prepubescent raucous Rockster.
So on a sunny July morning, we left the confines of Chez ‘arris in eastern Montreal and headed south for the US border. From here I’ll hand you over to Mr. White to spin the tall tales of CMG’s eastern invasion …
Getting There is Almost Half the Fun
After a quick highway run out of Montreal to the US border, we arrived at a rather under-worked border crossing. You would have thought that this would be an easy obstacle, and it was … until Mr. Seck produced a passport full of Pakistani stamps. After answering an awful lot of questions as to just why someone would spend their winters in such a place when Florida was the more usual choice, the doors to Fortress USA were finally flung open. With no more time to lose, we made a beeline for Bangor via a series of entertaining tertiary roads and the (not so entertaining) main east/west route 2.
After a comfy night at the Charles Inn, we started our journey in bright sunshine and hit some glorious stretches of road cutting across Maine, only to be engulfed in thick fog as we hit the north shore of the Bay of Fundy, entering New Brunswick. The fog negated any side trips to the many coves along the way, so after a seafood lunch at a small restaurant, (which on a sunny day affords an incredible view of New River bay, but today offered only greyness) we made straight for Moncton along highways 1 & 2.
Shortly after check-in at the Beausejour hotel, we were joined by two CMGers who had made the ride up from Halifax – Cathy Merriman on her BMW F650 (who recently moved to Halifax from Toronto) and Claude Doucet who contributed the routes for the original DYR and this tour. Since Moncton is Claude’s hometown we quickly followed his lead to the city’s best brew pub. Our arrival to the city couldn’t be better – good friends and good beer!
Super-Nova Scotia (Parrsboro Run)
For our first day’s ride we decided to embark on the much-discussed Parrsboro run. Cathy joined us with her F650, as we took the long way down to the shores of Chignecto Bay.
Just outside of Amherst we got our first chance to really open the throttles on an arrow-straight portion of the 204. Slowing down as we approached the sleepy town of Oxford, we counted our lucky stars as one of the RCMP’s finest turned the corner onto the 204. One less donut and it would have been licence-losing time for yours truly, and perhaps the whole gang.
|‘arris, Cathy and Ed contemplate the beauty at the end of Blue Sac Road.|
But the fun is not without a price: along the way we learn a couple of photographic related tips. For example, Rob’s Nikon CoolPix is not designed to survive a 100 +++ km/h tumble down the asphalt road, and my Minolta compound lens will disintegrate into multiple pieces after 2 1/2 days of non-stop motorcycle vibrations! Thank goodness we had (the always professional) Mr. Seck along to properly document our travels!
With cameras relegated to the parts bin, we hit the shores of the Minas Basin and begin our trek west. Just past Five Islands, we took a detour on Blue Sac road to check out the famed coastal bays of the area. This is a well recommended side-trip, but just ignore the blatantly false “private road” sign, and you can ride your bike right onto the red-rocky shoreline below.
|Editor ‘arris tries to talk Ed out of ever wearing those pants again. Cathy keeps away.|
Standing on the shore with the limitless view, you realize the tremendous attraction of this part of the country – tranquility. From the huge pebbled tidal beach at the base of the red cliff, the only sounds to be heard were the muffled rhythmic thump of a lobster boat’s engine, miles out in the bay, and the occasional clatter of falling rocks from the continually eroding cliff.
Ok, enough meditation, it was time to put in the earplugs, fire up the bikes and raise a little hell.
The stretch from Five Islands to Joggins is absolutely phenomenal! First you get the twists and turns before Parrsboro, after which things flatten out for a short while before turning into a corner-junkies dream. If it’s not a set of compound corners, it’s a single muti-apexed one, and that’s invariably after you fly over a hill, scanning the treetops for a hint of which way the road is going to break.
|“And you can stay there till you’ve thought about what you did”. Mr Seck gets punishment Advocate Harbour style.|
All along, there are continuous elevation changes and fantastic scenery – if you dare to quickly shift your eyes off the road long enough to steal a glance! We finally stopped at Advocate Harbour to catch our collective breath and give ‘arris a chance to rip a strip off Mr. Seck for “riding in a manner likely to bring the good name of CMG into disrepute”. A makeshift jail was commandeered and Mr. Seck was forced to sit there for a series of humiliating photographs.
The road to Joggins lacks the abruptness and elevation changes of the previous run and has a totally different feel with short sweepers continually breaking left and right in a beautiful pattern that allows the bikes and riders to revel in the regularity of the wonderful rhythm. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a slow paced section – the throttles are pretty much wide open as the road allows you to reach and remain in the zone for what seems forever.
We arrived at the crossroads town of Joggins and every rider was at peace with the world thankful that Claude allowed us to share this incredible run. We bid a warm adieu to Cathy as she headed back to Halifax on her F650, muttering something about work and commitments. For us it was time to ride into town for a night of beers, food and tall stories.
Fun at Fundy (St. Martins loop)
|Standing as close to the cliff edge at Cape Enrage.|
The next morning greeted us with a blazing sun as we took off to explore the roads down towards Saint John via a route with an even mix of coastal and interior riding.
The road along the coast from Moncton to Alma is pleasant but not really anything special, although good views and stopping points are dotted along the way. One of the more famous stops is Hopewell Rocks, which dramatically illustrate the enormity of the tidal fluctuations in this region. Unfortunately it’s also way touristy, a little on the expensive side ($8.00) and frankly our riding boots just didn’t hack the meandering pathways that seemed to go on forever.
|The red cliffs of St. Martins.|
So we cut it short and headed down the coast to a far more natural, wild and much cheaper (free) example of the Fundy coast – Cape Enrage. After suitable documentation (getting ‘arris to stand as close to the cliff edge as he dared), we hit the road once more and bore on through the heavily wooded area of Fundy National Park, taking lunch at the enchanting Broadway Café in Sussex (well recommended).
By now a rather intense cross-wind had developed and the approaching storm threatened to ruin a perfect day, forcing us to make some changes to our plans. Since Rob had some work to file for CMG, he opted to take the naked Rockster back to Moncton via the four-laner, while Richard and I decided to throw caution to said wind, and soldiered on with the heavily faired CL and GT.
|Oh dear. Ed tries to dry out his gear at a windy St. Martins.|
So off we flew down the beautiful and suitably twisty route 111 to the picturesque fishing village of Saint Martins. Entering the village is as though it is out of a dream, with not one but two covered bridges. Brightly coloured fishing boats lie angled on the ocean bottom on the out tide, all back-dropped by the red cliffs and the dark hues of the evergreen forests.
We opted to take a rest at the adjoining pebble beach – but the wind was not finished with us yet. Relaxing a little too much I didn’t have time to react as a gust lifted my new Arai helmet, skimmed it unceremoniously down the pebbled beach, before depositing it right into the salty waters of the Bay of Fundy. As if this wasn’t enough, my shirt and jacket followed suit – luckily into a rather shallow spot. For the rest of the day my helmet provided a rather wet, yet pleasantly aromatic confine (eau de sea-breeze, I believe).
|Waiting out the downpour with a group of Quebecers.|
The route back to Moncton proved to be full of surprises. On the pleasant side, Route 860 winds its way through a picturesque series of small lakes and then Route 865 presents an absolutely marble smooth surface and a series of sweepers, on which to thoroughly test the bikes once more. On the unpleasant side, shortly thereafter, the heavens finally opened up, forcing us to head for the nearest gas station for some relief.
With deluge done, there’s another hour of riding through valleys of lush dairy farms. Returning to our hotel, we found a rather rumpled and sleepy looking Mr. ‘arris. I guess the important CMG work could wait – ah well, it is supposed to be a vacation.
Northumberland Cruise (Buctouche Loop)
|Ed struts his stuff at Parlee Beach.|
Our last day of touring out of Moncton took us north to the more tranquil Acadian coast along the Northumberland Strait. This area boasts the warmest waters north of Virginia Beach and our first stop was Shediac, home to Parlee Beach – one of the area’s main tourist venues, attracting crowds from all over the Maritimes and Quebec. It’s also home to a huge lobster statue, proudly proclaiming Shediac to be the “Lobster Capital of the World”.
The coastal road north proves to be a very pleasant ride – hugging the coast and meandering through numerous fishing villages. However, we had a dinner date aboard a lobster boat to keep and a rendezvous with our host for the trip, Charlene Fox – from the Moncton Tourist Board – back at the hotel at 4:30pm.
By the way, the “we” did not include Rob as lobsters have an anus and therefore is of no interest to our vegetarian colleague. He opted instead to remain back at the hotel to do some more “CMG work”.
As our luck would have it, we rode no more than ten kilometers out of town when the heavens opened up – and I’m talking rain! We couldn’t see 50 metres ahead and the conditions were ripe for some serious aquaplaning – although Charlene (her first time on a bike) seemed to be having a blast.
|“Hey little fella, don’t worry, I’m not going to eat you”.|
Arriving at the wharf in Shediac a little behind schedule, we quickly changed, jumped on the boat and headed out into Shediac Bay. It was a hoot. After listening to our captain Erique Leblanc explain everything you’d ever want to know about lobster (and some more besides), we got down to feasting, drinking and socializing. All in all, a highly recommended way to pass an evening.
However it seems once more that no fun is gained without some cost, and mine came in the form of a speeding ticket as I approached the outskirts of Moncton given to me by one of our own infamous Mounties. Of course, he didn’t seem to give a rat’s arse that I was in Moncton to promote the city through the pages of Canada’s self-proclaimed largest motorcycle ‘zine. $98.00 and have a good night sir! My foul mood wasn’t improved either by Richard ‘speedmeister’ Seck zooming by as I was discussing matters with the officer.
Maybe not the best ending for our time in Moncton, but it would take more than a ticket to dampen my enthusiasm of our time in the city – the roads, the new friends and the seafood added up to memorable time. Unfortunately, many riders pass this area by, either on their way to the more popular areas of Cape Breton, PEI and Halifax. But do yourself a favour, book a couple of nights in Moncton and enjoy one of Canada’s hidden pleasures.
The trip was both delightful and relaxing, and oddly the usual large doses of CMG chaos were missing – a testament to the get-down/laid-back environment of the Maritimes.
It’s contagious – you’ll enjoy it.
Moncton Tourist Board (Charlene Fox) – for making the stay in Moncton an eminently enjoyable one.
The Beausejour Hotel, 750 Main St., Moncton – for generously supplying the accommodation for our extended stay in there. Tel: 506-854-4344 or 1-800-268-1133
Claude Ducet – for not only submitting such a fine series of routes, but for coming into Moncton to show us the available night life too.
Kevin Craft – for the route tips to Bangor (a series of entertaining tertiary roads and a gorgeous stretch of highway 26).
Moto Internationale – Particularly Nancy the service rep., for prepping the BMWs for the tour and then taking them back afterwards, diplomatically not noticing the numerous scratches, scuffs and broken bits of the abused CL.
BMW Canada – for supplying the bikes and understanding that Editor ‘arris can be a forgetful knob when it comes to setting off with the lock still on the front wheel of the CL.