I’ve tried posting a summary of my trip, all my lessons learned and what I will take with me to my next adventure, or just take with me in life. I wrote this blog three weeks after I returned, but I keep learning. I am still getting Emails From people that have found the blog and people that have heard of me. At this point, I realize that this will probably never completely stop.

This is a summary of my lessons learned before, during, and after the trip based on my best and worst memories, interviews and random things I shoulder in my tape recorder while rolling down the highway. There were over five hours of voice non that tape recorder, some interviews and introductions, but mostly my screaming voice over the rushing wind. These are my lessons learned.

Lessons Learned about what our bodies can handle

If you haven’t noticed, there has been a recurring theme throughout my writing on how anyone can do what I’m doing. Something a lot of people have said to me is that their body wouldn’t be able to handle it. Jesus, I only sat all day, that’s not that hard! I’ve had a lot of practice at this throughout my life. It gets uncomfortable sure, but maybe life at home is just a little bit too comfortable. Some talk about how uncomfortable a motorcycle seat is. People do trips this long on bicycles! Have you ever looked at the shape of a bicycle seat? I know those bicycle trips are done by great athletes, but a motorcycle seat is at least as much of an improvement from a bicycle seat as Lance Armstrong’s ass is from the regular flabby ass inhabited by most North Americans. To drive my point home, I just did my trip on a BMW Scarver with its stock seat. It is not exactly intended for long distance highway touring and is well known to be an uncomfortable ride, but I did it and I certainly don’t have Lance Armstrong’s ass.

Lessons Learned about fund raising

I feel certain that the hardest parts of fund raising are as follows:
Finding something you’re passionate about;
Do something big that draws attention to it;
Keep it interesting;
Getting people to come out.

I feel like I did all that well. Thanks to the support of some really interested and thoughtful people, a few things fell in place, in a huge way. I was glad to have been a part of any of that. My biggest fund raising goal was supposed to exist throughout my trip though. I already had people all over the continent, very much interested in riding with me and making donations. Unfortunately, maintaining the logistics was nearly impossible. I wound up canceling nearly all my fund raising group rides. The few that I did have, only existed because of how much effort was put in by a few others. My lesson learned is that logistics on the road are impossible. I’ll need a relations crew back home next time I do something like this. And for those that did take a huge interest, I thank you.
Thanks to:
The various Defenders MC members that showed their support from Saskatchewan to Nova Scotia
The town of SpringHill for the countless things you did for me
The Royal Canadian Legion for spreading the word across the country
CAV MC for riding with me through two provinces and having me at your annual meeting in Napannee
UN Veterans MC for sending out the odd member on their own to ride with me wherever they found me
Greater Moncton Corvette Club for showing up to my big departure
And the various people across 26 US States, 8 Canadian Provinces and even 1 Mexican state who made a contribution
Camp Hill for providing such a worthy cause to pitch to all of the above

Lessons Learned about writing

I’m not a writer. I don’t even read a whole lot. I did however, read the most publicized motorcycle book ever, The Long Way Round. I also read the sequel, The Long Way Down. Ewan Mcgreggor and Charley Boorman wrote their story in a very honest and compelling way. It was my goal to write like they did. I don’t know if I accomplished it, but I have to say, this blog was a huge success for me. I feel honored by how many people have read it, how many people that I’ve never met know about it, and the response emails I’ve received from a wide variety of people. I didn’t learn any lesson about literary writing, but I learned that if you have good enough stories, you don’t need to be (insert a very good writer here)… Or maybe that’s a terrible lesson… I don’t know. I enjoyed writing it and I connected with a lot of people. That’s what it has meant to me. I couldn’t have imaged this blog to have gone any better.

Lessons Learned about brand loyalty

I ride a BMW. As it turns out, I love my bike, not because its a BMW, but because it happened to suit me very well. Everyone I meet says I’m crazy for doing this on such a bike. I repeatedly heard comments from Harley riders such as “where’s the rest of your bike?”
I would often respond with something like “I must have left it somewhere on the 20000kms of road that your bike couldn’t have done.”
People are morons when it comes to brand loyalty. It’s mostly harmless, like a Leafs fan and a Canadians fan in the same room. That’s why I give into it a bit with comments like the one I just mentioned, but quite often, people are so passionate about their brand loyalty that it actually breeds hatred. I received the finger from a biker group in Utah, simply for not riding a Harley (I think. Their message wasn’t really very clear). It’s brand loyalty that has driven the price of Harley Davidson up to the ridiculous and undeserving heights that it’s at. This has subsequently led all the Japanese dime a dozen, but often better quality motorcycles to jack up their prices as well, simply because they can. This isn’t a conspiracy, this is just how supply and demand works in a market so controlled by something as stupid as brand opinion. My lesson learned is to not be so retarded about what sticker is on my bike. And for the good of the road, I urge you all to do the same. If Ikea started making motorcycles that took me where I wanted to go for a comparable cost, sure, I would ride their stupid looking bike that’s probably made of Swedish pressboard.

Lessons learned about bikers and Gear

A big lesson was learned prior to and during this trip, is you must investigate things for yourself. When shopping for gear, you’ve got to ask yourself what knowledge you’re receiving. What I mean is, there are a few categories that nearly everyone who rides a motorcycle fits into.

Category 1: “I want to look sexy” category, “so I’ll buy my ninja, and tight fitting gear with heavy armor, more to make me look like Ironman than for safety. I will probably also buy under body lights and drive in far too low of a gear.”

Category 2: “I am insecure and require as much attention as a teenaged girl” category, “so I’ll buy a bike that is very loud and will attract a lot of attention. It will probably be a Harley and I will probably wear sun glasses and make sure not to look at anyone, as I am sure they will all be looking at me. Thanks to a very popular episode of South Park, the commonly used term for me is a Harley Fag, which has nothing to do with homosexuality.”

Category 3: “I want to hang out with cool guys” category, “so I want a shiny bike and as much leather as I can wear without a skin transplant. I want to be called a biker, but don’t understand the difference between a biker and a rider. I will ride an hour for a three day bike rally, but never three days for a one hour rally. You will often see me at Tim Horton’s”

I’m labeling these categories myself, but almost everyone in any one of these categories recognizes the other two and I would say that 9 of 10 people who own bikes fit in one of these. I don’t mean to talk down about any of them, I am probably a bit of all three categories. I ride a sexy Beamer, I’m in an awesome bike club with some awesome guys and yes, if I see a pretty girl, the caveman in me kicks in and I’ll do what ever I can to attract her attention. But the reason I am bringing it up is because these are the people who drive the motorcycle market, therefore, buying appropriate gear and getting advice for something like the North American Circle is nearly impossible without branching out to the online world for that minority category. As it turns out, 1 in 10 motorcycle riders is still a whole lot of people and there are amazing resources if you just look for it.

Lessons Learned, you don’t need to be Ewan Mcgregor to circle the world on a motorbike

I could tell you what this trip cost me in terms of dollars, but that wouldn’t be fair. It must be put into perspective. When we’re talking about a trip that took 42 days, some comparison to what I would normally be doing anyway is necessary. if you are interested and don’t care about my long explanation, just scroll to the bottom 3 sentences of this section.

Let’s start with the completely consumables. Gas, accommodations, attractions and food are completely consumable goods. Averaged out throughout this trip, you wouldn’t believe what I spent. Gas in the US, for a medium to small size bike, is almost negligible. If you live in the suburbs in the Maritimes, my bike’s daily gas on this trip was comparable to what you probably spend on your daily commute. Accommodations were generally free, due to a willingness to research prior to my trip and willingness to lower my standard of living a little bit. Attractions, which also included my entertainment while on the road (beer) was comparable to what I do on a regular basis back home anyway. Food is a funny one. I discovered that you can eat out at a decent restaurant in the USA for cheaper than you can buy groceries in Canada. All these things considered and averaged over the entire 42 days, I spent less during my 42 days away than I would have spent if I were doing my regular boring thing back home in Halifax. So far, my epic, once in a life time trip has cost me negative dollars. In other words, it has actually saved me money. It is however, impossible to calculate how much I would have spent other wise, so let’s just be generous and say that I broke even.

Next up, semi consumable goods. These are the things that retain some, but not a complete value after my return home. My suspension was the big one. It cost me $850 to get it replaced. It is a performance suspension though, which adds to the value of the bike. Plus, chances are, they were gone before I even left this trip. Let’s say that in all reality of my trip, my new suspension cost me about $400. I replaced my front tire for $180. It still has plenty of life left, but so did my tire before I left, so I will take the entire cost of $180. I may as well double that for my rear tire that was new before I left and is still on the bike right now, but in desperate need of replacing. I went through a brand new set of brakes as well, so that is the full value of about $300. Signal lights need to be replaced, $30. Body damage would be worth about $300, if I decide to have someone do it professionally. My luggage cost about $700 and is scratched to hell, and even had some bear bite marks, but is still fully functional. I will put a retained value of them at $300, making the cost of my trip, $400 in luggage. My gear is a sad story. My helmet and snot soaked jacket are probably at the end of their road. As the most expensive pieces of gear I have, let’s just write off their entire value of about $400. All together, I added all that up to $2190

Finally, non consumable. My motorcycle is a 2004 BMW 650CS. It is nothing fancy. Never in my life, would I ever buy a new motorcycle, at least not for a trip like this. I bought this bike for only $4000 last year. If you are American and reading this, this is a very cheap bike for our standards. Canadian bikes are almost always double what you’d pay in the USA, a significant difference than the 50% difference you see in car prices. If I were to properly spend what I listed above, I am sure I could sell the bike today for at least what I payed for it. All other non consumables such as gear, equipment and everything that came with me, still retains its usefulness and therefore full value to me. All in all, the cost of non consumable goods is $0

To sum everything up, this trip cost me $2190. I’ve seen a week in Cancun cost more than this. Hell, I’ve seen some Navy guys spend more than this on a weekend with strippers in Montreal.

Lessons Learned about fear

Daryl Makk told me about some of his followers, particularly younger women riders. A lot of people are afraid to hit the road. “oh no, Calgary to Crawford BC, I’ve only been riding a few years, I don’t know if that would be safe”
Don’t let the things you see on TV freak you out. Take it all in and accept it with appropriate caution, but don’t let it drive you to not do anything at all. One year before I left on this trip, I had never sat on a street motorcycle in my life. By my departure, the furthest I had ever ridden was Fundy National Park, 5 hours from where I live. I had no mechanical experience worth mentioning. I had no idea where couch surfing was going to take me. I just kept an open mind, a good attitude, a friendly disposition and motivation to keep on track. I made it back with almost no hiccups.

Lessons Learned about navigation

I grew up in the passenger seat of a car. My family did a lot of driving, as both both parents drove for a living and our families were spread throughout Ontario. My dream vacation, the only vacation I knew as a kid, was always when I got to take a USA trip with my dad in his tractor-trailer. I would constantly ensure I knew where we were on the map and figure out where we were going. I am sure that this is the reason that I love maps to this day. Road trips and Topo hiking are among of my favorite things to do as an adult (or 27 year old kid, what ever you want to call me). Despite my love of maps, I decided to do things a bit differently this trip. I chose to let the road tell me where to go and did this whole trip without looking at maps. Was it a good idea? I don’t know. Do I regret it? I don’t know.

I left Halifax on June 29th with no paper maps. I had no GPS. I had an IPad with no data stored and no sim card. I had a phone, who’s 3 inch maps where only useful for when I had cell service in the cities. I left blind, as I always enjoy doing. I will admit that after nearly a year of planning, I have nearly every state, city, site and curve pretty well memorized. I did however, take a lot of unplanned detours, whether on purpose or in an attempt to make a shortcut. During these unplanned detours, I often had some of my best experiences. A strong lesson I learned is how much you can depend on the road itself, or people, if needed.

It is nearly impossible to get lost in North America. The amount of signs, lines, traffic, people, towns, everything makes navigating extremely easy. At times, I said I wanted off the beaten path and just drove ensuring that the sun was on the right place in the sky, and I would never be disappointed with where I found myself.

Canada and America are fantastically hospitable places. Whether you’re in the polygamist mountains of British Columbia, or sheep loving Georgia, people are almost always kind and willing to help. If you need help, the chances are very good that someone would love to.

Lessons learned, there are good people everywhere

Everyone is born good and we are all raised to appreciate the joy that comes from being nice. It doesn’t matter whether you grew up on a farm in PEI, or the ghetto of Detroit, people all just show it differently. Sometimes you just have to throw the experiences with the masses out the window and just think of people as individuals. I had a guy want to pick a fight with me in Vegas because I was blogging while there was a concert going on. I showed him a bit of kindness and all this guy wanted to do was buy me a drink. I was threatened by a bunch of street toughs in Philadelphia, only to discover that they were just a bunch of nice kids who act a bit deferent than what i know. I had experiences like this nearly every day. I’m sure that the difference between the city filled with the most nice folks vs the city with the most wankers is a difference from 1 asshole in 20 vs 1 asshole in 18. I’m not sure if I’m rambling yet, but I want that lesson to be well received. There are good people everywhere! If you say you can’t find them, it’s probably because you’re an asshole.

Lessons Learned about the SIMILARITIES between Canadians and Americans

I have said it many times, when discussing the difference between our countries, “The social and cultural differences from region to region within Canada, or the USA, are far more significant than the differences between Canada as a whole and America as a whole.”
That’s not to say there aren’t differences, I’m just saying it has to be put into some kind of greater reference. It’s like saying “I don’t like America because they’re all fat.” Compared to Canada, sure, they are the fattest country in the world. But you’ve got to think a bit more objectively than that. Canada is the second fattest country in the world, so with the correct reference, the difference is insignificant. Both our countries make up the fattest PLACE in the world. This is just an example, of course, but I think you get my point.
It is easy to hate America, it’s the hip thing thing to do. In fact, several Canadian gave me a hard time before and after my trip for doing most of it in the US. I called America one of the most beautiful countries in the world with some of the most hospitable people, and received hate mail for it. If I had said it about any country that isn’t so close to Canada, my feedback would be all about how fascinating and adventurous it is. But for America, no one wants to admit that there are good qualities. As unbelievable as it may sound, most Americans have the same opinion about America.
I take as an insult to hear someone hate on America. Nearly every thing that makes America a crappy country, pretty much makes Canada a crappy country also. The things that make it great, are usually the same things that make us great. Both countries are make up one fantastic place.

Lessons Learned about the DIFFERENCES between Canadians and Americans

But enough about my pet peeve of America hater, AKA nearly everyone. There are definitely some differences worth mentioning. Most of them are funny minor differences and you’ve probably heard them before, but some of them I think were shocking enough for me to learn, they are definitely worth posting on here.

They wear their shoes inside the house.

A girl in Texas said I sound like I’m from the 80’s when I said ‘sneakers’. Supposedly they’re called ‘tennis shoes’

They have traffic signs that say things like “Obey warning signs. It’s the law”

Different cities have different ways to deal with traffic. For example, Trenton New Jersey has no left turn lanes. Instead, you go right, around a ramp and then straight through the green intersection, resulting in a left turn. Every city seems different, it’s definitely a road variety we don’t have in Canada.

The entire west has flood plains. Riding along the roads through flood plains, there are huge dips to control the flooding. Until I got used to them, I would hit them hard. It’s just funny to me, to drive through an area that has such a huge natural difference than anything I know and how is effects something like how the roads drive.

Americans love Canadians. I’m sure we don’t give them the same welcome simply for being from the US.

They can own fully automatic (and loaded) rifles and keep them in their bedrooms, though I only saw this once. I bet if I stayed at as many random Canadians’ homes, I may well have seen the same thing.

A Canadian flying Canadian flags in the US makes people say things like “Yay, go Canada” or “Cool man, good luck”. I saw first hand, that a Mexican doing nearly the exact same thing with Mexican flags makes people say things like “You’re either American or not” or “what’s wrong with flying an American flag?” Maybe I’m just too ignorant to my own culture, but I don’t thing we have these kinds of home culture, protectionist attitudes here.

A lot of places, not only don’t use the word, but won’t even know what you mean when you ask for a ‘bathroom’

The same can be said about the word ‘wifi’ in most of the BlueRidge that I saw. (Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee)

There is way more diversity in how speed limits are regulated, ie 100kph through Pennsylvania, but no less than 150kph through West Texas. On average, I did 30kph faster than I would average for similar roads here.

American bikers often don’t do the two finger motorcycle wave.

They elected George Bush, and not everyone regrets it yet. However, we elected Stephen Harper more than once, so maybe it’s not such a difference.

Hilariously ridiculous billboards on every highway provide constant roadside entertainment. I even made a list of my favorites:
Virginia: “With God, all things are possible” just a giant billboard that says only that.
Alabama: “BP got you down? Call us, we sue BP!” Referring, of course, to the oil spill last year
Oregon: “Pregnant? Abortion? Think again!” with a photo of a very large, intimidating cross
Oregon: “Pregnant? Adoption? Have you thought about abortion?” Pro abortion ad.
Mississippi: “CHRCH… What’s missing?”
New Mexico: “Get your fireworks. Buy one get eleven free”
Texas: Photo of two shameful looking cowboys. “Jesus won’t quit you”. If you don’t get it, watch Brokeback Mountain. This was by far my favorite billboard.
All over America: “We sue Lawyers!”
Oregon: “In despair? Jesus is your only hope 1-800-for-help”
Mississippi: “Smile your mom chose life”
Texas: “The What-a-Burger state. On a diet? Screw that! Eat at What-a-Burger”
New Mexico: “Get a vasectomy. Dr [so and so]”
New Mexico: “Get your vasectomy reversed. Dr [such and such]”
All over America: “Low interest financing” for just about anything you can imagine. My favorite goes to the most illogical thing to spend unhad money on, “RIMZ”
Texas: “Faith begins with cleansing. A Christian Dap Spa”
Georgia: “Motorcycle fatalities [69]” what ever that means???
All over America: “Guns, guns, guns. We’ve got all kinds of guns for what ever you want to kill”
Texas: “Don’t mess with Texas” A government anti littering campaign

In Alabama, wheelies are a $2500 fine. It’s not a national thing, but the huge difference between certain states is a diversity that we don’t have in Canada, so it’s definitely worth mentioning.

Also in Alabama, sex toys are illegal. Sex in any position except for the lord’s missionary position, is illegal. This isn’t one of those ‘it’s illegal to whistle under water’ or ‘released inmates are to be given a rifle and donkey’ sort of laws that aren’t taken seriously. It’s supposedly taught in sex Ed in schools.

I attended 3 parties with a wide variety of people during this trip. Young people, teenagers and young adults, we’re getting drunk, but no one got high. I don’t think I’ve ever been at a party in Canada where the kids weren’t smoking pot. That’s a pretty major difference between pot smoking Canada and the diversity of America. (keep in mind that I didn’t drive through Colorado)

Canada is a far more modern country than America. The roads are safer, the signs are bigger, you’re never far from what we call amenities, and our definition of necessary amenities are very different. This says something about Canada’s wealth, but as discussed in the blog, it also takes away some of what makes an adventure an adventure.

There are no motorcycles in America! Like I said in the blog, I expected to see Peter Fonda riding his chopper through the desert. I saw no such thing. The sky ways had more motorcycles than I’d ever seen, until I got to California, then there were even more, but everywhere in between was barren of motorcycles. I was on the road 9 hours a day, on freeways, byways, back roads in the city, country and suburbs. I rode through Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisianna, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Navada. Through all of this, I saw only about 40 motorcycles. I even went to the largest and busiest Harley Davidson’s I’ve ever seen, but mine was the only bike in the parking lot. Everyone else took their cars. The reasons I’ve been given all kind of sound like crap. It’s too hot in the summer to ride, but I did it 9 hours a day and I’m an overweight unacclimatized Canadian. The recession made everyone get rid of their bikes, but I stand firmly that in a winterless land, there should be at least some proportion of people that use their bike as a primary vehicle, which is way cheaper than a car. I’ve been told that I’m just not driving in the right places, but where the hell could that be, because I’m driving everywhere. Besides, I don’t need to find the right places in Nova Scotia, California, or BC, because every where is the right place.

Hospitality is a concept very different from friendliness. I’m sure the average Canadian is friendlier than Joe America, but hospitality is another story. If you break down on the side of the highway nearly anywhere in America (with obvious exceptions) it would not take long before someone pulls over to help. I, sadly, can’t say the same about Canada. I don’t think that it’s because we’re mean or don’t want to help. I think it has something to do with such a huge, media driven middle class that makes us all a little paranoid of strangers. The same mentality is applied to hosting guests as well. For that reason, I would declare America, a more hospitable country than Canada. Let’s pull up our socks Canada.

Back to the obesity thing. Whether you’re in the healthiest province in the country, Quebec, or the fattest, Newfoundland, the difference in the amount of heavy people isn’t that much. I will be perfectly honest though, the difference between California, where I was the fattest guy in the state, and New England, where I felt like diabetes was contagious, was staggering. This was most clearly personified when I compare Huntington Bikini Beach in LA to Old Orchard McDonald’s eating beach in Maine. That’s all I have to say about that.

America has cleaner air than I’ve ever breathed before. By clean, I don’t mean less smog, I mean less of everything and I only mean in certain places. I’ve never been in a place with no trees before, but in the American desert, there are no trees, pollution, moisture, or anything to throw any kind of pollutants in the air, natural or otherwise. The results were the brightest night skies I’ve ever seen. Not to mention the best fuel milage I’ve ever had, and I had for about half of the US.

Canadians are more patriotic than Americans. I would have never said this until meeting the variety and number of Americans that wouldn’t be possible without doing this trip. We all see the red necks tear up at NASCAR races after the national anthem and we all see the red white and blue bumper stickers, so it always looks like America is all about America. There are certainly different forms of patriotism, and flag flying is much stronger than it is here in Canada, but that is only one form. One thing that almost every American I met can agree on is that there are a lot of problems in America. It’s not untrue, just as its not untrue if a Canadian were to say it, but as a world leader, I think Americans feel that they are failing on their own. As a Canadian, we can always disregard our problems by say “At least it’s not as bad as it is in the States”. This is just an example, but I saw this in a lot of ways.
It was first pointed out to me by my hosts in LA, who had Netflix and asked if I could recommend any Canadian Films. There aren’t a lot to choose from, but I knew I would pick One Week, a story about a guy who rides from Toronto to Tafino on an Old Norton motorcycle. It seemed very fitting. As we watched, I would happily and proudly talk to them about some of the sites shown in the very picturesque film. I was told from someone with an undistorted view of Canadians, that “Every Canadian I’ve ever met is always so certain that they come from the best country in the world and you all make extremely convincing arguments”. My perception of America, as does most of the world’s perception, comes from television. This guy’s perception of Canadians comes only from meeting Canadians. I think he’s on to something. Though we don’t fly our flags like idiots (never mind the flags that I will always fly from the back of my bike, I’m just acknowledging the fact that it alone doesn’t make me patriotic) we all love our country without first thinking about its problems. Americans are often the opposite. If you can’t tell, I’m trying to carefully word this to make the point that neither country is better than the other for its patriotism; it’s just a thing that makes us different.

Our veterans are very different. For any American reading this, I will first state what every Canadian knows about the difference, because, like everything else, we all watch American TV. The Canadian Forces is a profession production of people, were we all have a job that is as equivalent as possible to the public service and civilian job equivalent. We have our problems, but it does not compare to what the American boys have to go through. In America, the forces are its own world, a huge world. Men are recruited in what ever way they can, pushed to their limits, and far more often than a Canadian Forces member, they leave without turning it into a profession. Because of the size, cost, quality of living difference, and the geographical spread of the US military, taking care of their soldiers is far more difficult than here in Canada. Remember, there are about as many US veterans as there are Canadian citizens. If you’re lucky enough to retain a veteran status, which I learned is not always easy, than you get to have the right to use VA hospitals. What that provides is a right to free health care.
Think about that…
If you’re reading this as a Canadian, you get it, but if you’re American and haven’t figured it out yet, I’m trying to point out that a soldier that might have his leg blown off in a war is lucky to get what every Canadian citizen gets, health care. I find it so hard to believe that two countries so similar can have such a different treatment of our veterans, who are pretty much fighting for the same thing.

The opinion of our forces is another big difference. Whether you’re right wing Canadian or left wing Canadian, we all pretty much agree that we don’t like the war in Afghanistan, Iraq is not even up for debate, but we all respect military members and still post those stupid support our troops things on the Facebook. Almost everyone knows someone who serves in our relatively tiny military, making us all quite sympathetic.
In the States, the right wing vs left wing vary much more than we do. Almost 1 in 10 Americans join the forces at some point in their lives, yet if I meet a Liberal minded American (despite what it looks like at the Nascar races, liberal minded Americans do make up most Americans) there is a good chance that he doesn’t have a single friend in the forces.
This is my interpretation of what I saw in all my meetings and interviews. There exists pro war, pro military folks. There exists anti war, anti military folks. But the majority lies with the reasonably minded, but apathetic towards all of it because it doesn’t touch home.
This was another shocking discovery to me. I definitely thought the support our troops attitude would exist far more in America. I did this whole thing, tried to raise some money for veterans, wrote about all this, and I’m not even a support our troops bumper sticker type of guy. Here in Canada, especially as a forces member, I am glad that our country’s views are what they are.

Lessons Learned about where to go from here

I enjoy traveling. To be honest, I get almost as much from traveling down the South Shore of Nova Scotia than I do from the South Shore of Louisiana… Almost. I get almost as much fun out of driving a car than I do riding a motorcycle… Almost. Going someplace far from home will automatically introduce some adventure and riding a motorcycle gives a slightly different experience.

Before I went on the North American Circle, I went on vacation in Jamaica. I flew down in the cheapest way possible, with less than 24 hours notice. I got there with no idea where to go or what to do. I rented a car and drove East (If I had the time back, it would have been a motorbike, but I heeded to the warnings of the Internet that said Jamaican roads are the most dangerous in the world, what ever that means) I had complete freedom of where to go and what to do. I couch surfed, airbnb, or hostelworlded where ever I could. I stayed in people’s homes, ate in their kitchens, met their friends and saw different sites. I even went to a place in the Blue Mountains where I was told that a lot of the kids have probably never seen a white guy before me. In the end, I did a circle around the entire island. On the last day, I pulled into the Montego Bay airport, from the west. It was by far, the best vacation of my life.

I was told once that driving a car is like watching a movie and riding a motorcycle is like starring in a movie. I love movies and there is nothing wrong with them, so the Jamaican Circle was me figuring out what genre I liked to watch the best. The North American Circle taught me what I like to star in the best. I want to do it again. Having some kind of a goal and motivation is important, so I have made a goal for myself. I want to complete every continent on Earth on a motorcycle, with the exception of Antarctica, of course. This blog is my declaration of devotion to accomplish this. Here is my plan and I hope I have as much feedback from these as I did from North America.

-North American Circle – 2012 – 44 days – Complete

-Australian Circle – 2013 – 33 days – depending on work, this may not happen until 2014, but 2013 is the goal. I have one partner who is planning with me and will be coming with me. There will be a lot more on this trip posted very soon, as this blog and my Facebook page will shortly change their names.

-European Circle – 2015 – 40 days – hopefully I can take more time, but that’s a long time away. This will be similar to the previous two circles, but with fewer miles and a lot more stops. There will also be a very challenging logistical element added to it.

-South American Circle – 2017 – quite a bit longer – I already know the route I will take and at least one guy who will come with me. This is supposed to be the best place in the world to ride a motorcycle. I will have to gain a lot of dirt experience for this. I am already learning how to speak Spanish, with this exact trip in mind.

-African Circle – 2021 – This is mind boggling to think about this far in advance. I won’t be able to complete this trip until I am eligible to take leave-without-pay from the Forces. My current contract expires in 2021. That’s all I know about this trip so far.

-Asian Circle – 2026 – the year I retire from the Forces. Asia is a pretty big place. I’m following the blog of a guy that took over a year to circle just China. We’ll see about this when I’m 43 years old.

That’s my plan. Keep following my blog, keep following my Facebook Page. Please, let me know what you think of my life’s plan. I know that it’s a pretty long term goal to set for myself, but I feel pretty certain that this is what I want to do. My experience on the road, so far, was amazing and I can’t imagine what else I would rather do.

Thanks for following. You all are what has inspired me to keep this up.

See you from Australia…

Advertisements

I woke up beside Meaghan, both blissfully happy. She had to be up early today and head back to Halifax for work. I stuck around in order to rest up and I was going to head back the following day, which I will also cover in this same blog. She was gone and I just spent the day with her parents. This isn’t unusual. Over the past couple of years, I have spent more time in Rexton than Meaghan has. Just the three of us, Bill, Vivian and I, we had a great day. It was extremely relaxing. Exactly what I needed.

We spend a good chunk of the day out on Bill and Vivian’s boat. I couldn’t have asked for a better time to wind down from my trip.

20120830-143806.jpg

The three of us simply hung out all day while I recuperated. My allergies have subsided and I was feeling good. After completing what I had just completed, I was feeling really good.

Straight into the next day, I woke up late and began my day at an easy pace. I said good bye to my home away from home in Rexton and got ready to ride on toward Nova Scotia. I have 300km to go until I get back to Halifax, and the bike won’t start. My battery is dead. I wired an inverter directly off the battery before I left for this trip in order to charge batteries or what ever I needed. Up until now, it hasn’t been a problem. Unfortunately, even with nothing plugged into it, the inverter has been drawing a small amount of energy. It’s never been a problem because the bike hasn’t sat for an entire day for the whole trip. Thank god this happened here and not somewhere that I didn’t have every tool imaginable in Bill’s four door garage. We gave the bike a boost and I was good to go.

I rode down the coast to Shediac, in order meet the Amherst Chapter of the Defenders, the same chapter that escorted me from Springhill to Fredericton on my first day. They were right where they were supposed to be and in strong numbers. They all seemed excited to see me and wanted to hear about my trip. I was excited to tell them about it, but with limited time before I meet Halifax Chapter in Truro, I will have to ensure another time and I would love nothing more than to talk their ears off. They understood this very well and were extremely supportive to just ride with me. They even arranged a meeting in Springhill with the Amherst newspaper for an interview. That was our first stop, Springhill, just on the Nova Scotian side of my final border crossing of the trip. What a feeling.

20120830-145029.jpg

Once again, I spoke with someone from the paper. I visited Springhill once more, but only shortly, as I knew at that point that I would be late for the Defenders in Truro. We pressed on past Springhill and for the second time ever, the first being my departure, I had perfect weather throughout the the terrible Wentworth Valley pass. Mother Nature must have a thing for epic motorcycle trips, because if you’ve ever driven Nova Scotia, you know it is a rare gift to not hit rain in certain points, namely the Wentworth Valley.

Nearly an hour late, I rolled in to the Tim Horton’s where a huge reception of people were waiting for me. I had Truro, Amherst and my very own Halifax chapters to ride with. Just like day one, the wealth of biking experience that showed up for me left me with this honored feeling I will carry for a very long time.

20120830-143825.jpg

Only one hour to go, I invited everyone out to Durty Nelly’s for drinks, one of my favorite bars in Halifax. A few of the folks from Halifax chapter could make it, but the rest would split off at the Dartmouth turn off. I was glad to have had such a huge escort back to the city. I later found out, that I was driving extremely fast for the Defender’s taste. It is a very safety conscious group and I have definitely been accustomed to the very lawless American standards for motorcycle riding. For my speed, I once again apologize.

We made it to the most motorcycle friendly place in the city, Argyle street and had a great time at Durty Nelly’s. I am glad they came out and was glad to be welcomed home by some of the best folks I know. Thanks for this, and thanks for being the biggest supporters of everything I’ve done on this trip.

20120830-143835.jpg

Of course, we all arrived on bikes, so a night out drinking was out of the question. A slow paced hour or two with the Defenders was all that was reasonable before I met up with my usual drinking buddy who also wanted to welcome me home. I had until midnight before Meaghan arrived from her two days of work. Once she arrived home, it was good night to my friend and home to Meaghan. We had moved to a new apartment while I was away, so I didn’t want to walk in until she was home. God love her, she did the entire move on her own only a week before. I met her at midnight outside of our new place, we walked in and I was home.

My trip was concluded. I am in one piece, the bike was nearly in one piece, Meaghan was glad to see me and I was ecstatic to see her. This was the end of my trip, but not the end of my trip’s effect.

My long time girlfriend and I broke up within days after my return. The reasons had nothing to do with this trip, but I’m sure it wouldn’t have happened, had I not gone on this trip. I am getting over all this wallowing in my sadness and focusing on my new love affair that developed into a heated romance while away on this trip. I love you, you little blue bastard.

20120830-143907.jpg

Stay tuned for a final blog as mentioned earlier. After I post my final conclusion, if you haven’t ‘liked’ my Facebook page, please do. This blog will be shut down and a new one will start for my next venture, the ‘Australian Circle’. Unlike this blog, my Facebook page will not shut down. It will change its name and anyone who ‘likes’ it will continue to receive updates and links to the new blog.

I’d like to start this blog with an apology for the absence. I am okay, and I made it back home safely. I arrived to a whirl wind of chaos that delayed my writing quite a bit. Thanks for your patience and if you read on past this post, all will be made clear…

I’m in Quebec City and it’s my last day of riding before I am reunited with my girlfriend Meaghan. I won’t be making it home today, but to Rexton New Brunswick, Meaghan’s home town. Waiting there will be Meaghan and my dog Bricklin, that’s all I need to consider where ever they are to be my home. On top of them, Meaghan’s family will meet me there, as this will all take place at their home. Meaghan will also be picking up my uncle from Springhill for my return. And if that weren’t enough, her parents have also planned a welcome home party for me, as this is not only the conclusion of my trip, but like the end of Che Guevara’s motorcycle trip, I am concluding things on my birthday.

Perhaps I should not be so quick to compare myself to Che Guevara.

First thing is first, I still have 800kms to tackle. My final Couch surfing hosts of my trip have been fantastic. I have learned a lot from them and will remember my experience at their home, perhaps, more than anyone else’s. I’m sure my Santa Cruz experience in the landfill like setting of the potentially aids infested apartment will definitely not be forgotten, but Quebec’s hosts will be remembered in a bit more of a positive light.

Packing up the bike for the final time of the trip was terrifying. It was beginning to feel like my trip is over. I will definitely miss being on the road once I’m home, but on the other hand, I am quite homesick and want nothing more than to be with Meaghan. I packed quickly and drove off even quicker.

20120830-130929.jpg

It was just after 7am and I was back on the TransCanada, heading for the Maritimes. Since I’ve been back in Canada, I have seen the worst of my trip. A bear attack on my parked bike, a rear ender by a moron in Toronto, midnight wildlife on the roads, mystical creatures trying to kill me, but today, the worst of my fears of this trip came into fruition. While riding 120kph down the highway, in the safety of my enclosed helmet, allergies struck me for the first time on this trip, and struck me hard.

I have been carrying all kinds of pills in case of such a thing. I felt a bit sniffly last night, so I had taken a decent dose of the drowsy ones to keep me clear this morning – they failed. This morning, I took some of the preventative type of pills – they failed. On the road, I decided to pop the quick acting pills – they failed.

I was originally supposed to take the Gaspe route through one of Canada’s most beautiful areas, but considering home homesick, and now allergies sick, I was willing to reroute my trip. I decided to take the dreaded 106 through the middle of New Bruswick to Mirimichi and then follow the coast south to Rexton. I didn’t know anything about the 106, so I called my dad to see what he knew (as a truck driver who has driven nearly every road I’ve seen on this trip)
He tells me that it is paved – check
He tells me that it is 300km between towns or gas stations – X
He tells me that I won’t be doing any more than 80kph – check that nullifies the previous X
He tells me that there is no shoulder and heavy trees – what the hell, I’m going anyway.

By the time I reached the New Brunswick border, my allergies had progressed to a near crippling point. If you find the topic of snot gross, skip the next bit, but I’m mentioning it because it was extremely significant to my travels.

I think the constant wind amplified the affect of the allergies and made things so much worse. I’ve never known what I am allergic to, but what ever it is, doesn’t grow in Nova Scotia, but apparently does in New Brunswick and did when I was a kid in Ontario. Riding through New Brunswick today was the worst I have ever felt. I dealt with it by keeping a wad of paper towel tucked behind a bungee cord by my left hip, the same bungee that is holding my sleeping bag in place. I eventually had 6 different spots to keep paper towels. The reason I kept them there instead of the usual spot inside one of my jacket pockets, is because my nose got the the point that there was no possible way I could have kept up on it with clean paper towel. Flapping in the wind behind a bungee cord, would dry them off and I would have to use them over and over again. In the first portion of my drive through New Brunswick, I must have lost a pound or two in snot. On top of that, it was a 3 hour long sneezing fit. One sneeze about every 15 seconds, FOR THREE HOURS. If it sounds awful to read, imagine trying to control a motorcycle at 120kph like this. And to this point, I’m only describing the first part of my day.

It was just before noon when I reached the 106. The road wasn’t that bad, but it was clear that it used to be a more major route, before they build the new TransCanada. If you’ve ever been to New Bruswick, you have probably been some place close to the edge. The reason for this is because this Austria sized province is almost completely desolate once you get one a few minutes from any of it’s edges. It’s an enormous forest and I rode the one old and semi forgotten about highway that runs through the middle. Though the trees that run so close to the edges of the road could send some furry company out with no warning at all, my concerns still lied with my growing problem of the wide open faucet that is my face.

I was then at the point where I would wipe my face with towel number six, but towel number one was still soaked from only less than a minute before. I was out of solutions. I had taken every kind to pill I had. If it were any other day, I would have stopped, maybe even gone to a hospital, but not today, not only a few hours from everything I’ve been thinking about since I left. I decided to press on and abandon any civility I had left. This is where my modular helmet came in more useful than any other day. That’s right, I don’t think my jacket will ever be the same. I raised, not only my visor, but my full face piece, and with every exhale I blew only out my nose. Originally I tried putting my head to the side to try to blow everything behind me, but with the wind, it was impossible. Finding a way to tilt my head forward so I don’t get it in my mouth, my jacket was the only victim in the most inhuman hours of my life.

After hours of misery and no sign of getting healthier, I arrived to Mirimichi. Shortly after, I arrived to the Atlantic Ocean. Much like the Welcome to Ontario sign, Welcome to New Bruswick sign, or even just being back in Canada, the Atlantic ocean meant I was only a small jaunt away from home.

20120830-131027.jpg

I stopped for my final gas stop before Rexton at Mirimichi. While there, a man came over to me and wanted to ask about the bike. I told him what I was doing, gave him one of my cards, and he seemed impressed with how near I was to completion. Wanting to make conversation, he points out the mess on my jacket and says “You must have been riding through some heavy bug country!”
I was blowing my nose with some relieving clean paper towel when he mentioned bugs, so I hesitated before I answered “Yeah, heavy bugs. That’s what that is on my jacket just below my nose, lots and lots of bug guts”

So, stranger from Mirimichi, if you’re reading this, I hope you understand my lie. Instead of telling you then, I chose to save myself the embarrassment and write it here for 20000 people to read. Somewhere in my brain, this makes sense.

I anxiously cut our conversation short and headed back on the road. There is less than an hour before I get back to Meaghan, Bricklin and family. The highway sign that said Welcome to Rexton got me so excited that I threw both my hand in the air and shook them together, side to side, causing the bike to follow suit. I’m sure that Ford Focus behind me thought I was attempting suicide.

I rode into town and up to Bill and Vivian’s (Meaghan’s parents) drive way. No one was there, but if I know Meaghan, she is on the patio with sharp ears, just not sharp enough for my tiny little BMW engine. I pulled the throttle back to alert her of my arrival. I did this without thinking; I hadn’t even stopped yet. Still before I came to a complete stop, she had rushed out with tears all over her face and gave me the tightest hug I’d ever received. She must have been doing bicep curls while I was away. I have never seen anyone so happy to see me, which made my happiness to see her even stronger. I decided against informing her that she may not be able to let go due to the glue like paste that has formed all over the front of my jacket. It was good to be back. It felt like ten minutes had gone by before I noticed Bricklin, my uncle, Bill and Vivian also standing before me.

They walked me to their patio, where I didn’t even notice the Happy Birthday banners because I was just focused on getting to some clean paper towel. After some strong attempts to clear my face, I wondered back out into the most elaborate birthday party anyone’s ever thrown for me. My favorite food, chicken wings and crab legs were all waiting for me. A beer machine, fully stocked with my favorite beer was waiting right beside the table. Before the end of the night, nearly everyone I know from Rexton had come out to wish me happy birthday. I even accepted a final donation from some good friends in Rexton. Meaghan and I both put on the T shirts made by my sister-in-law from Ontario and we had a great time.

20120830-131000.jpg

Unfortunately, the allergies didn’t let up throughout the night. I went through an entire box of Kleenex, three rolls of toilet paper, and god knows how many napkins. My eyes were glazing over. I was sick and only getting sicker. I am never the type to leave a party early, but I honestly couldn’t handle it anymore. It was especially hard considering it was a party for me. On top of the actual sickness, I had been taking every kind of pill I had to try and kill these allergies, so I was drowsy and probably a little stoned. The beer I did have probably didn’t help. Sick as a dog, tired as hell, but happy to be home, I went to bed in Rexton.

I left my gramma’s house this morning with a feeling of being nearly home. I met a lot of great people a few days before at the CAV meeting and have several people who want to escort me from Kingston to Ottawa. I met them early and we were on our our way.

I was born in Kingston and have spent a great deal of my life visiting family in the area. Like anyone, I rarely take the time to appreciate how great the scenery can be in my own back yard. CAV Kingston took me on the scenic ride along the Thousand Island Parkway. Kingston is at the end point of the Great Lakes, where everything feeds into the enormous Saint Lawrence River. At the base of the river is the nicest cottage country, reserved only for the wealthy, called a thousand Islands. It’s actually something like 7000 islands, but when they named them, I’m sure their abacus only went up to 999. It is a culmination of everything that is scenic in Ontario, a really great ride. It is however, very short. Just after we took our photo together, that didn’t show any bit of the scenery of the river beside, we hit the 401, Canada’s busiest highway.

20120810-113708.jpg

The 401 is a terribly dull and busy highway to drive on. It actually makes up the entirety of the highway of heroes that I did three days ago, but I had other things on my mind to think about the 401. Considering that over one third of the country lives in Southern Ontario along the 401 that connects to Montreal, it is no surprise that it is so busy. If you consider the Quebec portion of the continuation of the 401, nearly half of Canada lives on the stretch of highway that is only as long as a single day’s drive. I heard once that the Winsor (Detroit-Canadian border) to Montreal is the most travelled corridor in the world. I won’t ever begin to understand what defines a corridor, but it definitely tells me that it is a busy place, and I believe it. That’s why I get off the 401 every chance I get. In today’s case, it gave me a good excuse to include the detour to Ottawa.

As far as major Canadian cities go, here’s how I see it.
Toronto is our big city with everything in it. It is our New York
Montreal is our previously wealthy healthy city, whose significance isn’t what it used to be. It is our Chicago.
Vancouver is a city with wealth to match it beauty, built on a comparatively harmless illegal economy. It is our Miami, with a twist of Seattle.
Edmonton and Calgary are our oil boomers. Richer than they know what to do with and are making Alberta the new Ontario as they continue to grow faster than their oil is being depleted. They are our Houston and Dallas.

I don’t know what to think of Ottawa. It’s the Capitol city of Canada, but it is definitely nothing like Washington DC. It is a city built in rich farmland, like Toronto, but it never exploded in size like Toronto did. It thrives on government money, as the Capitol, and is just the cleanest, tidiest place I know. The people of Ottawa are usually yuppies with a lot of money and education. Being unlike any American city I know of. With bone chilling winters and friendly happy people, it seems like its the most Canadian city I know. Having a population of nearly all rich yuppies, it takes a lot away from the back woods stereotypes that Canada represents. I don’t know, what do you think. Leave a comment about what you think is the most ‘Canadian’ city.

The city is just big enough to have all major highways from every direction, making it a dull ride in, but I was looking forward to getting there. I left most of the CAV folks at the edge of town, but was escorted all the way to Parliament by two members who wanted to show me around a bit. It was a detour that added nearly two hours to my second last big day of driving, but including parliament was definitely a must for this North American tour.

20120810-115926.jpg

Uploading that photo reminded me of the guy in the background wearing the Newfoundland robes. Just like outside of the white house, parliament square is a forum for protesters and nut cases. This guy was hollering for the liberation of Newfoundland to succeed from the tyranny of the Canadian government. For those Americans reading, or Ontario folks that don’t follow the Newfy news, Newfoundland is a pretty poor place with as much oil as Alberta, but unlike Alberta, the federal government takes Newfoundland’s profits instead of the province. The result is a man on parliament, wearing a newfoundland flag robe, convincing the nation that only crazy people live in Newfoundland. I’m sure that this only makes Canada feel less bad about what we’re doing to our east coast island.

I was sure to make a stop at the unknown soldier’s tomb at the Canadian national war memorial. I just happen to get there for the changing of the guard. The guard just happened to be all Navy.

20120810-123134.jpg

My CAV escort left me at the highway. I rode east toward Quebec. More big highways, more heavy traffic, more lack of scenery or good roads. The one thing that any Canadian who drives can tell you, Quebec has the worst road quality in the country.

20120810-123509.jpg

First thing on my Quebec ride is Montreal. As discussed before, a lot of people hate driving in Montreal because it can be very intimidating. The drivers have a very European style of fast and lawless, but on American types roads in typical large Canadian cars. Statistically, fewer accidents per capita occur in Montreal than Toronto, which makes it a safer city to drive. I assume they have fewer accidents, but when they do, they’re probably huge. Either way, it just takes a different type of attention and driving through Montreal is quite good. There are rarely traffic jams, so all you need to do is keep the throttle open and eyes moving.

There are some incredible views of the city from both the bridge or the tunnel that take you to the Transcanada, but this was my first time I’d ever take the 40. It runs parallel to the Transcanada, but 20 miles north on the other side of the river. I took it because I’m headed to Quebec city for tonight, not continuing through directly like I usually do. This north of the river highway, unfortunately means, no down town, no views and no place to stop and enjoy Montreal. I didn’t expect that, so I sadly had to press on with no photos and no good times in Montreal. Oh well, I’ll make up for it when I get to my destination, one of my favorite places in the world, Quebec city.

Most Canadians hate Quebec, similarly to the way most people everywhere hate France. I’ve never fully understood it though.
“Quebecers are so rude”
“Quebecers all speak English, they just choose not to when English people are around”
“Quebecers have conversations in French while English people are present”
The list goes on about what people complain about them for. And after sailing for two years on Canada’s only French Navy ship, I discovered something about the French. No one hates the French, more than the French.

I have never understood this attitude. I have spent more time in Quebec than most, I don’t speak a lick of French, and I’ve never experienced any unique rudeness or been given an unwelcome feeling. Arriving to Quebec city, I felt the as I do every time I get to Quebec.

As the only city in North America that still has a city wall built around it and cobblestone streets you get the feeling of being in Europe, without being in Europe. The city is bustling with tourists, as always. There are buskers, each with 50 spectators, but there isn’t a buskers festival, this is just every day living in Quebec. I really love Quebec City.

20120810-221228.jpg

I was supposed to meet my couch surfing host, the final couch surfers for my trip, but they weren’t home yet, so I took myself out to dinner. Quebec, much like France, is famous for good food, so I went out to dinner at the gitchiest place I could find. I had some good food, but it was nothing special. I would like to add this to my point that the most noteworthy thing about a city is usually not easy to find without having an in-depth knowledge. Quebec has good food, every one knows this. Most people are stupid, so everyone in the city sells their food expecting people to think its great. I had the restaurant’s signature dish, as I usually do, and it was good, but nothing special. For all I know, it came out of a Chef Boyardee Can. And if my disappointment in expensive food, which is more often than not, weren’t enough, it started raining while I was eating. I was on the patio, eating while I wrote my blog and the rain became too much for my wee umbrella to defend. By the point I was willing to forfeit to the rain, every other table was moved inside. Every table inside was full, there was no where for me to go. I understand, it’s all the restaurant could do. I put all the electronics away, pulled all my rain gear over my packs and ate my increasingly disappointing, potentially canned food in the heavy rain. I was understanding enough to continue my meal, but I expected some kind of restitution. My bill came to 40 bucks. I have very little grounds to demand a discount, considering I ate my meal with a big smile on my face, like I always do. So I payed, and that was that. Perhaps this is the rudeness that everyone hates the French for? Either way, I still love Quebec City.

20120810-223553.jpg

My hosts just got home and are ready for me. The drive across town in the heaviest rain I may have ever seen was miserable. But when I got to their place, I had the best couch surfing experience yet. The 40ish couple dried my cloths, offered me a washer, gave me beer and we relaxed in their newly built jicuzzi and talked about each others travels. He instantly became my hero.

They have five kids that they are obviously proud of. He has a job that sends him around the world. His wife was, by far, the most amazing looking 40ish year old I’ve ever seen. He rides his motorcycle in ways that make my 20000km look like nothing. He rode from Quebec city to Nevada last year, without taking any roads, only off road trails. I didn’t even know that was possible. Within the decade, he plans on selling everything he owns and moving to Columbia with his smoking hot wife and just living an honest and luxurious life down in jungle.

Any of us can only hope to be as awesome as this guy. I’m still not convinced he wasn’t Kevin spacey doing a Frenchman accent. I think Kevin spacey could pull this off.

20120810-225331.jpg

I don’t get back home as often as I’d like, so I had a very relaxing day with the family. Now consisting of two new members, I am glad I scheduled this time here with the family.

20120809-232950.jpg

I spent the entire day with my family doing nothing but spending time with them. The following day I pretty much did the same amount of nothing, but with my nephew at the family cottage. I don’t mean to spend too much time talking about my family, but look at the rainbow. It was a double rainbow.

20120809-234404.jpg

After going fishing and playing card games with my aunt and uncle at the trailer, I rested up for the following day to leave Campbellford.

20120809-234621.jpg

My only plan for my third day was to leave Campbellford and head south east, two hours to Kingston. There’s nothing much to say about the drive, I suppose that’s because I just did nearly the entire thing three days ago. I also grew up driving this route all the time to where much of my family lives. I was going to visit my 88 year old, war bride grandmother. I see her every chance I get back to Ontario, but in all honesty, she’s probably in better health than I am. I was lucky that my different aunt and uncle were in town. The four of us went out for dinner. This was it before my last two big driving days come. Tomorrow I ride to Quebec city, stay tuned…

First thing this morning, I met a CAV member from Barrie. He was the president of Barrie’s chapter and offered to escort me from Barrie to Toronto, ride the length of the highway of heroes, past my home town and finish in Napannee, where the annual CAV general meeting will be. I have been invited to attend.

Riding to Toronto is nothing special to me, but for the sake of this trip and it’s photos, I would have loved to have seen down town. Unfortunately, the smog was so thick, that the only way I was seeing Toronto was by going right to the city centre. Unfortunately also, the city’s Caribanna festival was going on. You either love Caribanna because it’s the country’s biggest slutfest party where you have a great time, or you hate it because it jams up the city so much that everything else is impossible. So unfortunately, down town Hogtown was not seen on my journey. I’m not too disappointed.

We rode the highway of heroes from end to end. For those of you that don’t know, the country is covered in different highways dedicated to lost veterans of Afghanistan. I have ridden 5 of them in Canada so far. This one however, is special. Every fallen soldier in Afghanistan returns to Canada at the same major air force base in Trenton Ontario. They then are ceremoniously driven from Trenton to the major airport in Toronto to fly to their next of kin.

In honor of the many years of the highway of heroes, Trenton is building some kind of monument at the base of the highway. Unfortunately, they are not finished yet, as they have not received enough donations, but I included a visit to the construction site.

20120809-105222.jpg

Leaving Trenton, we rode on to Napannee. I was escorted the entire way by the patient and interested president of Barrie CAV all the way to the CAV convention. It was weird to ride past my home town’s turn off, but it won’t be long after this meeting until I get to head home.

20120809-165617.jpg

At the meeting, I walked into a speech being made by an old man about his experiences in Africa. He was talking about the individuals he has known and lost in the different situations around the world, both with the forces and after as a volunteer. His speaking was followed by Trapper, the national president of CAV, who made an extremely powerful speech about why the organization exists and what they raise money through their not-for-profit group. Toward the end of this speech, he began telling a story about a woman from Halifax who sent a newspaper story to him about a guy he should bring up at this meeting. I realized far too late in his speech, that he was talking about me. Just after a long talk about these inspirational heroes who are saving lives and building communities, he mentions me. It was definitely the most anyone has ever built me up before. I’m just a guy that likes to ride a bike, but Trapper made me sound like a super hero. I tried to be modest when he called me up to make a speech about what I was doing. I either didn’t get any good pictures of my speech, or I always look this stupid when public speaking, I don’t know, but I feel like it all went very well.

20120809-195506.jpg

Following my speech, I gave out my helmet and asked if anyone wanted to choose my charity among the others being promoted at this meeting, than to go ahead. My first donation today came from Trapper himself.

20120809-200353.jpg

I was honored to be a part of their meeting. I was especially honored to be introduced by Trapper in the way he did. Thanks to all CAV that made all this possible.

20120809-201345.jpg

Just as I was about to leave, the assorted groups of CAV chapters all went for a group ride. Anxious to get to my home town, I rode with them out of the parking lot, but I was headed west to Campbellford on my own.

20120809-202913.jpg

After an hour and a half back toward Campbellford, I rerealized how nice my home town area is. I’m not sure if it was being away or if it was an appreciation to be on the road after some inspirational stories, but I felt happier to be to be heading home than ever before. The drive from Belleville to Campbellford is one that I’ve done at least once a week since I was seven. I could do it with my eyes closed, but this was the first time I’d ever done it on a bike. Strolling into town to see my family four days before I get to my current home in Halifax gave me a great feeling of false completion. I’ve still got a pretty big distance to go, but it was good to see the welcome to Campbellford sign.

20120809-210142.jpg

When I got to my parent’s home on Doxsee street, I saw my parents, my brother, his wife, my twin 3 month old nephews I had not yet met, and my 3 year old nephew/god son Connor, all wearing shirts that had an emblem of my bike on it. They were all sitting out supporting Connor as he was selling lemonade as a fund raiser for CampHill. He had a sign and was screaming at every car or walker that went by “Lemonade for the Veterans!”

20120809-210657.jpg

If this weren’t already an awesome enough day, it just happened to be Campbellford’s waterfront festival. I went and had a relaxing night watching the fireworks. It was good to be home.

20120809-211837.jpg

After a few really long days, it was nice have a short one. Sault Ste Marie to Barrie is only a five hour drive. I am really looking forward to getting back to familiar roads.

From Sault Ste Marie on, things look much more like southern Ontario, kind of where I’m from. Civilization has sprouted up all over the highway and not long into today’s drive, there were even farms. The drive is very similar to my home town’s area, except the Georgian Bay that is just as beautiful as Lake Superior.

20120807-192708.jpg

Looking at that photo, I can tell that it is unmistakably Ontario, a very good feeling to have.

Coming back to the comment I made about driving culture, I am definitely in my element here in Ontario. People in Ontario drive very much the way I drive. I think I take a lot of pride in the way I drive. I follow certain rules of my own, such as right lane always unless I’m passing. One lane, two lanes, ten lanes, it doesn’t matter, the right lane is always the driving lane. I keep my signal light on throughout a ramp all the way until the white line turns to yellow. I ensure two seconds between the car ahead. All these things are the law everywhere, but different places commonly follow different laws than others. My rules I follow are very similar to the way people in Ontario in general drive. I have noticed this since I’ve been here. Unfortunately, all of this culture goes out the window in Toronto.

Toronto is Canada’s most hated city, however, much like the Toronto Maple Leafs, it is probably also the most loved city in the country. They even made a documentary called ‘Let’s all Hate Toronto” and my actress cousin just starred in a film called “I Hate Toronto, a love story”. Usually, people from Toronto even hate their city. Personally, I love Toronto, but I definitely understand why it is hated so much. It has a lot of the same qualities that big American cities have. First of all, its huge. Right behind Chicago, Toronto is the fourth largest Anglo American city. Toronto has racially divided slums. It has shootings. It has major smog issues. It has sprawling suburbs. Compared to the big American cities however, the problems barely even register. In my opinion, that makes Toronto a very nice, clean version of a typical American metropolis, with a Canadian spirit to it.
If are visiting Canada and want to see a clean, friendly city that has everything to do, go ahead and visit Toronto, but if you are here to get the Canadian experience, Toronto would be the last place I’d recommend. (or Moncton, don’t go to Moncton)

The reason I went on that tangent is because I want to describe how I see Toronto. It extends for hundreds of miles past it’s boundaries. All the cities around it exist only to serve the great beast that is Toronto. It’s culture of driving extends to those places as well. As far as I am concerned, Toronto starts in Cobourg Ontario and extends all the way to Detroit. The drivers in this region all have a very foreign type of driving without regard for common standards. It makes sense. Next to London England, Toronto is the most culturally diverse city in the world. But the madness of different people bringing their own county’s culture to the road wouldn’t be very bad, much like driving in Montreal, but coupled with the other half of the city consisting of white suburban soccer moms and dads who are so used to letting the road and the car do all the driving for them, with their SUVs, GPSs, DVDs and what ever other acronyms make stupid people dumber, they become paranoid and drive with their brakes always on. One more thing that I am always conscious of while driving, is to never brake on the highway. There is no reason to. Keep your eyes ahead, have use some foresight and adjust your speed and there is never a need to brake unless there’s an emergency or deadlocked traffic. I even have a verb for braking on the highway, I call it Torontoing. I don’t know where it came from, probably my dad, which probably means its a common trucker term, I have no idea.

Back to the bit about suburban folks letting the road drive for them. I have noticed in the past, and confirmed it on the trip, that no where outside of the eastern half of Canada, do they sign as much as here. I’m talking about road signs, ridiculous ones. Everything here has a sign on it.

‘Don’t drive on paved shoulder’ – when the hell can you drive on the paved shoulder?
‘This road does not have a white line’ – I’ve never even noticed this one before, but it is at every new construction where they haven’t painted the line yet.
‘Yield centre lane to oncoming traffic’ – Of course! If you have your license, you should know that anyway.
Every single guard rail has to have a yellow black striped sign, the size of the guard rail itself. If that weren’t enough, each yellow black sign must have a white green diamond on top to point out the sign that points out the guard rail.
We’re only one step away from having signs that say “Don’t be a moron”

This overly burdenous, extremely safety conscious system of roads should make it the safest place in the world to drive. To be fair, for the number of vehicles in Ontario, it probably is one of the worlds most efficient highway systems, but at what cost. When you make every thing so easy, there is no need to refine your basic driving skills. I feel that this is a major contributor to the driving influences that led this 18 year old kid to ram into the back of my bike while traveling on the highway.

I was cruising along on the 400, just north of Barrie (the beginning of Toronto). With a traffic slow down ahead, we all began to brake and I slowed to about 30. I wasn’t paying close enough attention to my mirrors and didn’t see him coming. He obviously wasn’t paying close enough attention to his windshield. He hit me straight from behind at maybe 20kph faster than I was going. With a crash, I was thrown forward hard enough to throw my hands from my handle bars. My wheel turned left and I careened into the grassy median between the highway divide. Miraculously, I held on and didn’t fall of the bike. It was raining slightly, so the 4 foot tall grass was soaked. The kid driving the car did the right thing and came to see if I were ok. He even helped me get the bike back to the road. Upon inspection, there was little damage. The metal frame built on the back of the bike took the entire impact and held up without a scratch. The two auxiliary signal lights were smashed, but for 2.99 at Canadian tire, a repair wasn’t hard. The tall grass also did some damage to my right front signal light. Oh well, it now matched the left bear damaged signal light. As he went to give me his insurance info, I saw that the front bumper was damaged beyond repair. If I were just a little bit more tasteless, I would have loved to take a photo of it, but alas, I am a sweet sensitive individual.

I made it to Barrie, shortly after replacing my signal lights. I was to stay at my Aunt Jeri’s house in one of these serial killer/cookie cutter neighborhoods. I’ve been to Toronto a million times, but in the spirit of this trip of discovering local stereotypes, I have am taking a different perspective. Being senselessly rear ended seems like a very Toronto type of thing to happen. My Aunt’s house in this kind of neighborhood is also a stereotype. I’ve been there a few times before, but I actually went to the wrong house. It turns out that it was the exact same as my aunts, only three doors away. When I asked if they know the Walkers, they had no clue. Once again, not knowing your neighbors, three doors down is definitely a Toronto stereotype. When I saw their very old, barely road legal, very not typical of this perfect cute neighborhood car sitting in the driveway three doors down, I found my place for the night.

Still shaken up a bit about the rear ender, I went to bed right away and got some rest for my return to my home town of Campbellford the following day.