Wednesday, September 11, 2013

My first fall, finding a top box & the most unique sleep spot to date!

After such an exciting weekend in Digby at the Wharf Rat Rally last week, I kind of thought we might not have such an eventful week this past week. I was certainly wrong!

Evidence of my first in motion spill.
When we left Digby, it was only slightly raining and this on-and-off again drizzle continued for the rest of our ride that afternoon and into the early evening. Finally, as dusk was falling, we found a hilly field to camp in. (On a side note, Roel believes that any field inhabited by deer is a good place to camp – so far, this logic has held true.) Per usual, Roel rode around the field first to find the best spot to set up our tent and to scope out the level of difficulty of the terrain, etc., for me. Upon finding the perfect spot, he gave me the go-ahead to ride up myself. I was feeling a bit soft and not up for the challenge of negotiating a track up the wet, grassy hillside and begged him to ride up for me. But he insisted it was no more difficult than riding around on my Dad’s lawn and so there I went... High throttle, good clutch control, not too fast… things were going well until I had made it about mid-way up the 70-meter climb and all of the sudden my front wheel simply stopped gaining traction and my rear wheel kept right on going… and going… until my bike had spun around 90 degrees and was at an angle perpendicular to the original climb. And then down the bike and I went. It was my first drop while actually in motion and though my side boxes protected my leg and basically enabled me to hop off the bike mid-fall, thus uninjured, it still didn’t feel good. Upon hearing the commotion and seeing the nice strip of field I had torn up Roel came running and (after surmising I was OK) asked “How the h$ll did you manage to do that!!” Well, you can imagine how well that went over.
This doesn't look quite right :/

The bike was completely fine, but my right side pannier suffered the brunt of the fall and was sitting at a decidedly strange new angle. Thanks to Russ for reinforcing the wall of the box back in Asheville, it’s nothing a bit of a strap can’t sort out for now.

I went to sleep that night, listening to the rain dropping on the tent, feeling quite grim and disappointed in myself. I’d felt like I was really getting somewhere with my riding, like I had really improved, and this just seemed to knock me back on my heels. I was angry at myself for not just admitting to my limitations: two months of riding and tires missing a bit of tread don't make a great combination for climbing a muddy, grassy hill that had been steadily rained on for days. Not to mention that the weather was looking pretty bleak for the next few days and the new angle my box had been forced into definitely meant it would no longer be water proof.

The next morning we awoke to a brief break in the rain. Just long enough for us to get packed up, secure my box to the frame and get on our way to Truro. We had coffee there, checked the weather (more rain) and continued on. And on. 

Now THOSE are some skid marks ;)
The monotony and my remaining grumpiness quickly disappeared when Roel, who has been riding for 10 plus years, in all sorts of terrain and actually has a new front tire managed to take a similar spill to the one I had taken the night before. He had missed a turn off and rather than turning around, decided to cut across an old parking lot that separated the two roads, and was dotted with mud patches. Well, as soon as he hit a mud patch, his bike basically did the same thing mine had the night before, spinning 90 degrees before going down. His pannier was fine but one of the waterproof bags affixed to the front of his bike tore off. I just missed snapping a pic of the bike down before Roel got it up on the kickstand. Pity ;) 

Dumpster diving
Getting route advice from an expert

By the end of the day the rain had become so heavy that as soon as the sun started to set, we were eager to find a place to camp. We happened upon an abandoned camp ground with covered concrete patches (PERFECT!!!), next to the highway, across from a truck stop. In hopes that the rain would abate, we treated ourselves to dinner at the truck stop and spent the evening chatting with some truckers about the nicest roads in the area and across the province. At one point, our dinner was interrupted when two black bears created quite a commotion in the restaurant as they were dumpster-diving out back.  (We spent a fair amount of time ridding all of our bags and packs of food and stringing it up out of bears reach before tucking into our sleeping bags.)
Still a soggy morning :(

We woke up to even more rain the next morning. 4 days in a row! We rode on into Bathurst and immediately found a nice library to spend the day at. While I spent the afternoon online, Roel went out to explore and ended our search for an affordable top box for my bike… at Home Hardware : ) My new top box is a massive tool box made by DeWalt! As Home Hardware was about to close, and we would need to borrow their tools to install my new top box, we resigned ourselves to staying in the area that evening. A nice lady at the checkout station asked where we planned to go and camp, and so we asked her for suggestions in the area. Without hesitation, she pulled out her phone and started calling around for places for us to stay. Shortly, she heard back from a friend of theirs who had spent time traveling around the Province in a horse drawn covered wagon and had decked it out like a studio apartment. He was currently staying with his parents downtown, and we could sleep in the wagon out in the woods. What the heck – it sounded better than spending another watery night in the tent!

We wound up spending the evening chatting with Bonnie (the Home Hardware employee), Dale (her husband) and Glen (the owner of the tinker wagon). Bonnie had whipped up some clam dip and so we sat around the fire next to the wagon discussing organic farming, using horses in place of machinery to farm and log and Glen’s time traveling around in the wagon. And the wagon was amazing – nicely finished and insulated on the inside. We bid our hosts goodnight and within moments of them leaving, the skies opened up again and poured! As the thunder cracked and lightning illuminated everything around us to day glow, we were beyond grateful to be in the wagon  – even though our new tent has held up very well in the rain to this point, it is not Noah’s Ark and we surely would have gotten very wet that evening.

The amazing Tinker Wagon we spent the night in!
The next morning was sunny (yes, I praised every God and Goddess I had prayed to for good weather), and we headed out to visit the local Honda dealer, still in search of a chain and sprockets for Roel. Glen heard that we had left the caravan and tracked us down at Honda to give us fresh tomatoes, apples and parslane that he had picked for us that morning from his garden. Bonnie and Dale met us at Home Hardware later (it was Bonnie’s day off), to help us install my top box and say goodbye. After days of rain, sleeping in a dry caravan, being so well looked-after by locals, AND waking up to a sunny day, we were on top of the world.

Insert appropriate pun about thinking outside of the box :)
That afternoon, we headed in the direction of the Gaspe Peninsula. Many had told us that it was not to be missed, but with questionable weather we went to sleep that night in our dry tent, with the understanding that if we woke up to a clear day, we’d head for Gaspe. But, if the weather was at all questionable, we’d skip the 700 kilometer loop as the weather on the peninsula can get famously nasty.

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