The Dawn 2 Dusk Rally ran on August 9 this year. Instead of the usual survivor’s report from Rob or Zac, we thought we’d ask a newbie how the experience went for him. Here’s Frank Simon’s take on the back road rally.
By the way – we’d like to add our thanks to Larry Northrup and the crew at Toys for Big Boys for their help, as always, and also Honda Canada. Honda’s sponsorship and the loan of a bike for scouting the route made this year much easier.
Dawn to Dusk
It was a dark and stormy night… no really, it was a dark and stormy night… and I was leaving for the 12-hour, 600-plus kilometer back road New Brunswick endurance ride known as the Dawn to Dusk rally, on my 225 Yamaha Serow.
I left the Scenic Motel (scenic view invisible in the cloud, mist and dark) with no rain suit (damn those weather people, they said it would be fine) in pitch blackness, ready to embark with a bunch of other crazies on small bore bikes riding in back woods New Brunswick. The starting point was the legendary Toys For Big Boys in Moncton, where I was promised there would be coffee and doughnuts pre-ride.
Imagine my surprise when I rolled the Serow up to the parking lot, and it was not only dark —except for a faint glow from the signage — but also empty! Very empty!! I checked my time and okay, I was a little early but it was coming up on 6 AM and I thought there would be hordes of eager beaver D2D’ers lined up three deep.
At that point my right brain kicked into gear and reminded me that, really … who in their right mind would get up before the crack of dawn, on a rainy Saturday to ride a long distance motorcycle event on tiddlers!?
I needn’t have worried; soon Larry Northrup and the boys arrived to set up tables of snacks and within 30 minutes, 21 bikes of various types with an eclectic mix of riders had arrived, and were now chowing down on hot coffee, chocolate chip muffins and bananas, waiting for Rally Master ‘Arris to show.
D2D was designed for bikes no larger than 250cc. That’s 15 cubic inches, or about the size of a tea cup. Not exactly the size bike of choice amongst North American riders that have been brain washed to believe “Bigger Is Always Better.” For 2014, in an effort to encourage more riders, the displacement limit was upped to include bikes as large as 500cc, although there were several 650 adventure bikes who somehow slipped by the organizers.
This is the first year of running the event in August; previous D2Ds have been in September, but the reduced daylight and cooler temperatures prompted the change of dates, for which I personally, was glad. It was going to be a long, cool, chilly and wet ride for the Doc if the weather didn’t improve.
Being the social butterfly I am at times, I made the rounds looking over the machinery like any good gearhead. There was an air cooled old café style CBX 250 Honda, a bike I thought was near perfect when it was introduced. Unfortunately, like many small bikes in N.A., the buying public didn’t agree, and they stayed glued to showroom floors at the time.
Other bikes included a Honda Rebel without a cause, a DR 350 that smoked more than Leonard Cohen in his prime, a Yamaha XT 350 all the way from New Hampshire, the CMG Konker 200 Super Moto that was back for its annual thrashing, two versions of Honda’s new 500 twin, a Big Ruckus scooter, several KLR 650’s of various vintages, a BMW 800GS and a Swiss national, Chris, who happened by on his Honda Africa Twin, and happened to be in New Brunswick on the final leg of a six-month, 50,000 km odyssey of the Americas.
I was the second smallest bike and the only Yamaha Serow today.
I introduced myself to Editor ‘ Arris who at 6 foot, 13 inches, towered over me, straining my neck to look him in the eye. He assured me this would be a piece of cake and the weather would improve. Hey, who knows, maybe he has inside information from the Big Guy on these things, I don’t know.
After the usual signing of waivers and listening intently (ho hum) to the pep talk from ‘Arris, we fired up in three groups (Spirited, Regular and Conservative) and headed out close to 7 AM. Our group was the latter of the three and dubbed on the spot as those “wankers on tiddlers,” was going to be led by the illustrious Zac Kurylyk, riding a very zoot scoot, Honda BIG RUCKUS!
We headed out of Moncton towards the Bay of Fundy, which, if you didn’t already know, has the highest tides in the world. About a gazillion gallons of Atlantic Ocean flow in and out of here twice every day, bringing with it the odd Great White shark to boot (bet you didn’t know that). It is really quite amazing to see ocean going trawlers sitting on solid ground at low tide, their masts reaching the wharf they are berthed next to.
Our group snaked along a two-lane that narrowed the farther south we rode. Not far into the ride old Sol made an appearance much to our collective delight! I really don’t know many bikers except for those Iron butt sadists that really don’t appreciate riding in nice, sunny, weather.
Our first stop was Cape Enrage, a short detour from Route 114. A rugged rocky promontory jutting out into the Bay with a lighthouse perched atop and a view of Chignecto Bay that was pretty frigging stunning if I say so myself.
By the time we’d hit Fundy National Park our initial group of nine had been reduced to six, some opting to leap frog into a faster group. No problem for moi, I adhere to the less is more categories anyway, after all … look what I was riding. On the other hand, Swiss Chris on his 750 Honda was determined to stick with us little guys, and he did the entire day.
It’s important to understand that the D2D is not a race. After all, it’s held on public roads that for the most part are in a shape not conducive to “RR” types of rockets with throttles twisted towards astronomical redlines.
That’s not to say we weren’t cruising along. I’ve ridden plenty of such rides in my career and you don’t have a lot of time to waste if you wish to complete the route before the arbitrary deadline. I had the little Serow pretty much pinned the entire 600 kM. My bike, which I have owned since new in 1992, has a realistic cruising speed of 90 kph. At 100 she starts getting nervous, at 110 a bit frantic, and sustaining anything beyond is inviting valve float and imminent destruction!
We crossed under the Trans Can at Norton, just in time for a torrential downpour – a bit of a theme to the day, though maybe with more sol than rain overall. On the bright side it only lasted 15 minutes, which gave us all a breather huddling under the trees and fix up some of the bikes.
I led a small group to Hampton and lunch at Kredl’s corner market. Kredl’s is delightful, interesting and busy. Lunch allowed me to chew the fat with a few of the riders I’d not had an opportunity to at the start, I found out Karl had trucked his 350 up from New England to ride the event, Bogdan and his girlfriend riding a WR and XT 250 respectively came from Toronto, and Darrel had put 70,000 kilometers on a Burgman 400 scooter prior to picking up his modern CBR 250.
This is the real hidden gem of the event, riding with enthusiasts in a tight knit group such as D2D attracts. You get real people with real stories to listen to.
Wrapping up the day
Once we left Hampton, our group was now down to four which included the illustrious (Big Ruck-ass) Zac, (Sherpa) Vince, Swiss (Africa Twin) Chris and (Sorry, umm… Serow) Frank.
The St John River provides fabulous views of its various inlets and deltas as it heads to the Bay of Fundy at the city of the same name (but with different spelling – what’s up with that?). Several times we crossed from one side to the other on a small cable ferry or even more fun for me, a fabled covered bridge. Out here, the smells are fresh and natural, no polyester artificial flavor, 57 varieties, food colored scenery uh-uh… nope, just water, newly cut grass and cow shit. Oops, I meant poop, cow poop.
These back roads are what once created community, before the influx into modern living and cities during WWII. Out here don’t be surprised to find old Cadillacs or Farm-alls rusting in back yards, swing sets that kids actually swing on, and easy conversation at the local grocery/gas/post office/hardware/variety store. In fact… you may even find dueling banjo’s if you looked hard enough.
Riding the 800-series routes through NB takes you back in time, literally. There is no hurry here. You can actually “talk” to someone at the gas station/corner store about rebuilding a V8 engine, what the trout fishing is like in the local stream, and how the weather sucks. Even though we’d spend the day very close to the Trans Canada highway and cities like Saint John and Moncton, you’d swear you were back in the fifties. Sure, sure … you can ride your Big Twin cruiser from Fredericton to St John in an hour, but thinking in those terms, you’d miss the point doing it.
The day was getting late and the shadows long as we headed towards the finish line and dinner at an Irving Big Stop. By the time email addresses had been exchanged, coffees cups emptied, farewells had been said and I fired up the 225 for the final leg “home”… I had made great new friends, was now a Dawn to Dusk convert, and had completed 625 kilometers of the finest two-wheeled recreational motorcycle riding the world has ever known.
I will say this however, next year I think I will ride a bigger bike, yup… maybe a full blown 250!
So… what’s the best part of the Dawn to Dusk you ask? Well it’s certainly small on cubic centimeters but BIG on fun!
It takes me back to my roots in the early riding days of the late sixties when I had at first a 90cc Honda, followed by a 100cc Suzuki and then a 250cc Hustler. Because of the basic nature and smallness of those bikes, we were forced onto the back roads that wound around, up and over hills instead of through them. Our limited top speed allowed us to actually see sights and feel roads and experience the ride instead of motoring by them obliviously, enveloped in a cocoon of ignorant bliss.
But really, in the final tally, it’s the friendships of like minded and good hearted people. Vince who’s gone through some terrific life changing experiences, Swiss Chris is living his dream right now before life gets too serious, Rob, who has more energy than the famous bunny, Kirk and Ryan as father and son building their relationship, Karl, Matt, Bogdan, Ron and Ed… all of them.
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.