CMG Life: Trips, taken and not

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Note: Later this week, Editor ‘Arris, myself, and a special guest are headed out to tour Nova Scotia. Those plans got my brain thinking about touring – hence this article.
Every winter, Editor ‘Arris and I sit down and plan a few trips for the upcoming riding season. Naturally, these brainstorms are worthless, as family commitments, budget, and everything else adds up to torpedo all our best-laid plans.

Last year, my big goal was to take my DR650 to Cape Breton and explore the gravel roads and trails in the island’s interior. However, highway commuting combined with scouting for the D2D meant my shiny new Dunlop D606s were soon squared off to a profile of drag bike-like proportions, and without a decent set of off-road tires or the time to use them, I shelved the plan.

This week, I was working on touring ideas again, hoping that this would finally be the year I fit my Cape Breton expedition in. And, it got me thinking about past trips that happened, and didn’t happen.

This relatively clean-looking XS650 hid a very knackered motor. How do you kill an XS650? I'm not sure, but the previous owner started the job, and I finished it.
This relatively clean-looking XS650 hid a very knackered motor. How do you kill an XS650? I’m not sure, but the previous owner started the job, and I finished it.

My introduction to motorcycle touring was rough. I had a 1984 Yamaha XS650 Heritage Special that burned out a piston an hour and a half from home on my first road trip.

Determined to carry on, my buddy and I pushed the bike into the woods just past the exit to Cap Pele, N.B., and I finished the trip riding pillion on his KLR650. We picked up the bike a few days later in his grandmother’s pickup. Considering that machine’s cursed history, I would have been better off leaving it there to rot.

A few years later, I was almost done university, and planning my next move. Instead of landing an internship at a newspaper like I was supposed to, I spent the summer looking out the window while I ran the box line at a potato plant, thinking about escape. If only I could scrape a few grand together, I figured, I could blow that candy stand as soon as I graduated, and head west to BC. south to California, back across the deserts of Nevada and New Mexico, and see where I ended up.

Such pleasant thoughts were usually ended by the realization I had student loans to pay off, or by the clamor of the other workers on the floor, who would crowd around the window to watch the boss’s daughter drive by on a lawnmower. Such was life in Summerside, PEI.

My dad thought this Windjammer fit the Kawasaki well. I ditched it pretty shortly after acquiring the bike from him.
My dad thought this Windjammer fit the Kawasaki well. I ditched it pretty shortly after acquiring the bike from him.

By my final year in university, I’d got my hands on my dad’s old 1981 KZ440 and finally managed to escape the Island on two wheels; in my last semester, I rode to university to hand in a few last-minute papers, then headed over to couchsurf New Brunswick while the UPEI teacher’s union was on strike.

I had no proper touring gear. I was wearing a snowmobile helmet, so the shield wouldn’t fog up, and since I had no fancy Aerostich suit, I threw my grandfather’s old fishing waterproofs over my leathers for insulation.

For luggage, I bungeed a gym bag to my bike’s rack. I managed to get no further than Moncton before losing my keys, and was seconds away from dismantling the ignition with a screwdriver when I had the bright idea to ask the gas station attendant if anyone had picked them up.

About 30 seconds later, I was back on the road, eventually taking a wrong turn and riding into Fredericton along a back road following the St. John River, in the middle of a frigid March night.

Don't have an Aerostich? Granddad's old rain jacket would have to do. Note the two-tone paint on the KZ550, plus fork boots. And. the bungeed-down gym bag. Talk about a classy ride.
Don’t have an Aerostich? Granddad’s old rain jacket would have to do. Note the two-tone paint on the KZ440, plus fork boots. And. the bungeed-down gym bag. Talk about a classy ride.

Obviously, I survived all that, but I was stuck with the touring bug after that. My condition took a turn for the worse a couple years later, when I discovered ADVRider.com and realized other people did this sort of thing, too, and were much better at it than I was. A few months later I sold my unreliable CB550/650 and bought a 200 cc Chinese dual sport on a gamble it would prove more trustworthy (it was), and once again started venturing out, further and further.

I traveled the southern half of New Brunswick on that bike, and realized I’d need something with a little more jam to get much further from home if I only had weekends. A year later I was married, but still managed to sneak home with a Suzuki DR650. Then I was laid off from my newspaper job, picked up work with CMG, and started riding madly off in all directions.

So, the moral of this ramble? Be careful when you leave home for the first time on a motorcycle. You don’t know where it might lead you.

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