The Final Leg

We crossed back into Britain after visiting France going from Le Havre to Portsmouth and met fellow biker Nick at the port. We got chatting and discovered he was riding back from Italy having just ridden to the Stella Alpina rally on his Moto Guzzi. We spent a very pleasant journey in his company talking about all manner of motorcycle related goings on and he invited us to bunk at his house for the night as he felt that our plan of finding a campsite in Portsmouth at 10 pm might be a shade unsuccessful. 

A big thank you to Nick and his lovely girlfriend Magda for putting us up

The following morning we set out on our way to explore the South West of the country, riding along narrow, hedge lined country lanes, through little market towns to a wee farm campsite near Luxulyan where we stayed the night with the plan of visiting the Eden Project the following morning. We spent the night  camped next to a young couple who had a fondness for Duran Duran played at high volume but after our training in the campsites of Chile we were quite able to get a full night’s sleep. We were up early the next morning bright eyed and bushy tailed unlike many of the other campers and were at the Eden Project gates for opening time. After we’d been relieved of a not inconsiderable amount of money we pushed our way through the crowds of very excited children and their enthusiastic parents to begin our tour of the site. It was fantastic. The domes in particular delighted us and the day was gone before we knew it. We made our way back to the bikes through the same crowds of children and parents, this time the youngsters were screaming with fatigue and the adults were thin lipped with stretched patience. 


We rode on, stopping to visit Lands End before looking for place to camp for the night. Lands End is just as exposed and wild looking as John O’Groats but did have a little more charm to it. We sneaked a photo at the sign and debated whether or not to pay £5 for a Cornish pasty. With the answer to that as a resounding NO, and the rain beginning to fall we left and returned to Penzance where we had spotted a campsite on the edge of town.


We returned to High Wycombe the next day to celebrate my birthday with family and cake before carrying on to Wales where we were booked in to attend the Firebird Rally run by the Pheonix Knights MCC.


On the way we popped in to the Toutatech shop north of Swansea. We had bought the sat nav bracket for Nom’s bike through their mail order service and wanted to see if they could help out with the lock which had never worked properly. With the promise of a replacement and after a wee photo session we were on the move again.

Ewan McGregor is rumoured to be playing the part of Nom in the film of our epic journey! Does that mean that Charlie Boorman will be donning a black wig to play me?
Our time at the bike rally was just great great fun. Our good friends Ian, Shona and Lesley had ridden down from Scotland to meet us and along with Brian and Keith from the club we had a brilliant time catching up with each others news.

Ian, Shona, Nom and Lesley  enjoying a beer in the evening sunNom with Bryan who had incidentally sold his soul to get the dry weather we enjoyed for the whole weekend! Top job!

Nom, Lesley and Keith

We collected a special award from Bryan as our 41500 miles entered in the sign in book under distance travelled was a wee bit further than the other entries and then packed up the bikes. Our time living in a tent was over (for this trip) and the end of our adventure was a day away. With a stop over in the Borders with my sister Jen and my brother-in-law Willie we headed North towards Aberdeen with the rain threatening but thankfully not delivering. Over the Glens of Foundland and  towards Huntly where a lovely welcoming party was waiting for us at the front gate of my parents’ house, complete with bunting, balloons and waving hands. 

After over a year on the road and moving on to a new place everyday, meeting new friends and seeing new landscapes it’s time to stop for a while and return to the familiar, catch up with old friends and remind ourselves just how beautiful Scotland is!

News fae Nom

Weel,at’s us back hame ti Scotland. It wiz guid ti  hae a tour aboot England and Wales on i wiy back up I road; yi dinna  need ti go far for some great scenery and friendly folk. For us noo it will be back to oor jobs and trying  ti adapt to not moving on to a new place daily. It dis feel a bitty strange, but hey ho! A year on i road is expensive; sacrifices were made and it will taak time to get back ti ‘normal’. But nae regrets! I things wi hiv seen, i challenges wi faced and overcame, and best iv aa i kindness of aa i fowk wi met and spent time wee them will be our best memories of our trip, so a massive thanks to you all !

Bike News                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Last but by no means least, to our two companions for the year, always there to get us through the challenges, never complained or let us down, brought a smile to our faces and so many others all around the world. The Triumphs  made it all possible,  took us all the way with 100% relibility. So, 42000 miles in a year sounds like a hard time for the bikes but I was surprised how things lasted with the  first sets of chain and sprockets getting us to the United States, lasting an incredible 35000 miles. All I did was use a small paint brush and apply engine oil every 3 or 4 days. Both bikes needed only one set of front brake pads for the entire trip. I only put the spare sets in at Canada to save carrying them in the luggage on the plane. We did 7 oil and filter changes using a variety of brands of oil depending on what was available. The engines did not burn or use oil at all and  never needed topped up. I changed the spark plugs 3 times, washed the KandN air filters twice. My Triumph got all the way back to Britain on two sets of tyres with the Michelin Anakees lasting until Australia, then the Heidenaus got me to Britain. The metal mule panniers did the job being totally waterproof and tough with only my rear rack breaking towards the end of the trip. The garmin sat nav was a massive help, especially in big cities, for planning fuel stops and finding accommodation. I think if you are planning a big trip, you don’t need the latest big adventure bike, and loads of fancy gear. The bike and kit you have just now is probably fine, just plan, save and go for it! 

Family and Friends

Our journey from the airport to the garage for the MOT appointments for the bikes in High Wycombe was a smooth one but I must say we did have to concentrate extra hard when coming out of junctions and entering roundabouts to make sure we were on the correct side of the road. The traffic was pretty much as I remembered it to be: heavy, fast and aggressive but nothing like Lima so it was all good!

A new set of tyres for Nom’s bike to replace the Heidenaus he put on in Australia (and which had covered over 24000 miles) was all that was required for the bikes to pass the MOT and with our insurance and road tax sorted out online we were legal to roam the highways and byways of the U.K. 

We spent time with family catching up on a year’s worth of ‘sister silliness’ and then popped in to ‘Fancy London’ to see a band at the Brixton Academy.

Nom enjoying free beer at a local brewery. The massive jar of pork scratchings were particularly delicious but did contribute to a visit to the dentist for my poor sister.Family get-together….love these guys!

Our ‘Only Fools and Horses’ themed room in a Peckham hotel!

The magically discordant Pixies on stage at the Brixton Academy. All my favourite tunes and space to dance. Top night thanks to Willie and Jenny! X

After our family time we repacked the bikes and set out for Portsmouth. On our way we rode through glorious countryside with rolling hills and stayed the night in a farm campsite next to a picture perfect train station with an occasional steam train puffing through!

Our previous crossing to France was from Dover and the ferry from Portsmouth was equally full of school parties. Our entertainment for the 5 hour sailing was watching the kids running through the public spaces shouting ‘BONJOUR’ at eachother and fighting over who gets to sit on the window seat. That never gets old. I can only hope that it will be the same for the return journey!

Our arrival in France coincided with Bastille Day celebrations and our campsite was filled with jolly French people who were keen to come over and chat whilst we put up the tent. The mood was considerable more sober in the morning as news of the terrible events in Nice spread and 3 days of mourning began. 

We travelled south to Lower Normandy where our friends Moira and Davie live and spent a fabulous time with them chilling out and sightseeing. The weather was scorching and the company was excellent. Our first trip out was to medieval Domfront and then a walk through the very pretty village of Saint Fraimbault.

Mural of Christ in the Byzantine style.
View from the church door in Domfront.Church spire and village apple press in Saint-Fraimbault.Enjoying a lakeside rest.Our 2nd outing took us further south to Oradour Sur Glane, where on the 10th June 1944, the village  in then Nazi-occupied France was destroyed, when 642 of its inhabitants, including women and children, were massacred by a Nazi Waffen-SS company. A new village was built nearby after the war, but French president Charles de Gaulle ordered the original maintained as a permanent memorial and museum. A truly sobering experience to walk through the ruins of this burnt out tragedy.

A sewing machine in the ruinsThe remnants of a child’s toy pram rests in front of the altar
The doctor’s car still outside the surgeryA night camping in the local site with bacon and beans for breakfast then a visit to the motor museum in Le Mans chock full of vehicles which had taken part in the iconic 24 hour race over the course of its 70 year history.

Alfresco dining
Oh the insanity!
With temperatures reaching over 40’C we sweltered our way back to Passais and then prepared the bikes for our journey back to the ferry the following day. 

Saying cheerio to our most dedicated cyber-pillions and all round excellent chums Moira and Davie was a bit of a choker but as always seems the way, time was galloping away from us and we had to go. Another beautiful sunny day of riding on France’s country roads saw us passing through charming villages full of flowers, along narrow tree lined lanes and past thatched farm buildings before reaching Le Havre and our final crossing of the Channel of this trip. One more official border crossing to go before we do our final stretch and reach Bonny  Scotland at the end of the month!

News fae Nom

Biding aff i main motorways his let us see fantastic sights on this trip and i last few days riding through France has been fantastic; very old villages with towering church spires, tree lined streets, France has it aa. A love France. It’s so easy to get to, jist load up i bike and heed oor, dina be feert! 

Back To Blighty!

Our most excellent host for our final few days in Canada was Michael, who we had met 7 months earlier whilst at the Woodford Folk Festival in Australia. He some of the time between leaving Australia and returning to Canada doing some volunteer work in Vietnam and I must admit that his explanations of what he and the group he is involved with along with the photos has certainly given me food for thought.

We installed ourselves in our cabin in the woods which had been readied with great care and attention to detail for our arrival before stripping the bikes of all our kit ready for cleaning and sorting.

                                          

                                           
Washing was done and Nom began the ‘big bike clean’ which lasted for 3 days. Whilst taking the seat off his bike  to scrub away any possible trace of Canadian dust he discovered that all was not well in the rear rack department. 

There was a break on both sides but never fear, the boys worked together to brace it from the inside using a drumstick Michael got at a concert which may or may not have featured The Who! This temporary fix should see us right until we get home as the fuel and water containers are being sent back by mail as we couldn’t leave them on the bike for the air freight and taking them as part of the aeroplane luggage was not an option either.

Michael lives right on Lac Brome and we were able to go for a morning swim before another spot of bike cleaning and kit sorting. Many excellent eating opportunities also came our way including fruit pie with ice cream and a delicious dinner prepared by Michael’s wife Carole.  


Not only did Carole lay on a top notch spread she let me indulge in something I hadn’t done in a whole year……soak in a candle lit bubble bath. Oh the luxury!

Whilst stay with Michael we popped in to a Canadian institution, Canadian Tyre which is their version of Britain’s B&Q or Australia’s Bunnings. I spotted a possible vehicle for our next trip but Nom was unconvinced!


We also visited a rather unusual garage run by Roch Tardif. Hundreds of bikes are parked in the area around his workshop but it does look unlikely that any of them will run again.


The proprietor told us that since he’d died in the carpark 4 years ago he’d slowed down a bit but he was keen to show us his workshop and photos of bikes he’d worked on. It was a fascinating conversation and a delightful meeting.


We had such a lovely time with Michael and it was a real wrench to leave but time was ticking and we needed to get to Montreal to begin the shipping process. So with our regulation British number plates back on, our streamlined belongings packed into the 2 dry bags and lumps in our throats we said merci et au revoir to Michael and set out on our last ride in Canada. 

 

                                            

                                             
We had contacted Gail at Motorcycle Express several months ago to set up the return journey. She had sent the relevant paperwork to Michael’s house for us to take with us to the Worldwide Flight Services warehouse at Montreal airport to drop the bikes off. For this journey we had to ensure that the bikes had under a gallon of fuel each, the battery terminals were disconnected, the luggage removed and panniers left empty and unlocked. The process took less that half an hour and after saying cheerio to the bikes we were in a taxi with our carefully weighed and significantly streamlined luggage head towards our hotel.

The following day using some excellent instructions from Michael we took public transport into Montreal to wander round the Old Town and experience the delights offered by the performers taking part in the Montreal Jazz Festival. Montreal is a very relaxed city and we enjoyed our time strolling along the river and visiting various landmarks.


Our check in at the airport the following day went smoothly despite my usual travel anxieties (wrong day, wrong time, luggage too heavy, loss of passports, being placed on the no-fly list for not giving the taxi driver a tip etc etc) and as we waited at the gate for the flight to begin boarding imagine my squeak of delight upon seeing the Trumpies arriving by tractor ready to be loaded onto the aeroplane. We watched the whole process with great interest and a measure of relief as we had been told it was not a guarantee that the bikes would be on the same flight as us.


A mere 6 hours, 2 films, 3 meals and no sleep later we touched down in Gatwick airport. We breezed through passport control and headed towards the baggage carousel to pick up our luggage. Sadly the bikes were not circling on the conveyor belt with the suitcases and duffle bags. We would have to go to the cargo terminal for their collection and after a quick phone call to our customs agent (we were not allowed to do this part ourselves in the uk) and payment of their fees (£170) we  organised ourselves with a taxi and headed to the warehouse. During the 10 minute journey our driver caught us up with all that we had missed during our year away and before we knew it we were signing release forms and wheeling the bikes into the carpark to reconnect the batteries and strap on the luggage. 3 1/2 hours after landing and with an enormous sigh of relief we were on our way to our MOT appointment and new tyres for Nom. 


It felt very strange indeed as we left the airport riding on the left with cloudy skies hanging low over our heads. After a year of travelling our time on the road is nearly over. We have lots to pack in to those final days: a week in London with family, a quick jaunt to France to see friends, a visit to Wales for a bike rally, before returning to Scotland and home! 

News fae Nom

Well that’s it deen! Roon i world, a year on the road, every day a new adventure! Random meetings with so many fantastic fowk that would spend time wi us, invite us to bide in their hooses and treating us wi such generosity, we thank you so very much!  It his ti be said that completing i  trip wiz doon t’  i almost 100% reliability o i Triumphs. They attracted so much attention too, bringing a smile to so many faces.  We’ve still a feuw wiks afore wi go back ti Scotland, we a trip oor ti France then in ti Wales for a bike rally.  I bikes baith hid aboot 10000 miles on them fin we left, foo many miles wid ye guess by i time we get back ti Pitmedden? 


The Final Count Down

Our journey round Cape Breton was a very picturesque one. 


The coastal road wound its way by rocky beaches and through little harbour villages where the boats were tied up after a day of fishing for lobsters. The waters around this coast are sprinkled with hundreds of multicoloured buoys marking the spots where lobster pots lie on the sea bed waiting to be hoisted up to the surface by the fishermen hoping for a decent catch. We stopped to watch the boats in action, making their way from marker to marker, snagging the lobster pot’s rope with a hooked pole and hauling it onto the deck. The lobsters were removed, measured and sorted, the trap rebaited and slid overboard with a speed and efficiency of movement that spoke of years of experience. 

We stopped over night in a campsite run by the Murphys who proudly proclaimed their 7th generation Irish heritage and invited us to join the rest of the guests at the site for complimentary mussels that had been collected that morning. Nom encouraged me to eat his share as well as my own as he was unconvinced of their deliciousness. Oh man, they were goooooood!


At a cliff top view point we saw Bob on his Triumph Bonneville and stopped for a chat. Bob had ridden from the US and was on his way to catch the ferry to continue his trip through Canada, heading north to Labrador and New Foundland. Bob commented on the stickers on the panniers and told us he had travelled a similar route on part of a much bigger 2 year trip in 2001 with his other half Sharon, on a couple of Harleys and we spent a great half hour swapping stories. He said that going back home after being on the road was really tricky. When I asked if he had any tips for us he said, ‘nope, just start saving for the next one!’

Many of Cape Breton’s residents have Scottish heritage and Gaelic is proudly spoken here, with bilingual road and shop signs. Those who greeted us with ‘failte’ were a little disappointed that we didn’t speak the language and were flabbergasted when we explained that Gaelic had been on the decline for a very long time in Scotland and only 1% of the population spoke it. 

We spent some time in the company of Marie, the mother of Laurie who we’d met through the charity bike run back at the beginning of our time in Canada. She fed us with excellent homebaking and introduced us to the very complicated card game of cribbage, thrashing us soundly in every game even when her son Ian coached us. We were introduced to Barb and Al who came to visit and we spent a lovely evening in their company before being invited to their house the following morning for breakfast. 

Thank you to Marie, Barb and Al for their company and hospitality. It was a pleasure spending time with them.
Leaving the Cape, we made our way to the ferry which would take us to Prince Edward Island, a place of saphire skies, emerald grass and scarlet earth. Fields of potatoes just beginning to sprout and the first cows we’d seen since entering  the country. As we’d travelled through Canada we had seen acres and acres of the most lush pastures, dotted with buttercups and thick with clover but no animals to graze there. With the Canadaian passion for steak, cheese and ice cream we were surprised at these eirily empty meadows but clearly the beasts are all kept on the island. It was quite a small herd but we can only assume they are very hardworking bovines!

As well as being the centre of operations for the Canadian Cow Corporation, Prince Edward Island is also where a famous (in book groups mainly containing 30 -50 year old women anyway) fictional redhaired orphan lived with Marilla and Matthew in a farmhouse near the Lake of Shining Waters. For those of you have NO idea what I’m talking about, Anne of Green Gables is a book I loved as a youngster and revisit on a regular basis. The author LM Montgomery lived on the island and used the area as inspiration for the story setting. Nom suffered quietly as I got my ‘Anne’ on during a visit to the Green Gables Centre where all employees must have red hair (not really) and I skipped like a lunatic down Lovers Lane and lingered in the farmhouse kitchen with a silly smile on my face. I was not the only one doing this and Nom was not the only chap loitering by the exit pointedly looking at their watch with a long suffering expression on their face!

Our next overnight stop offered us an new experience in the form of a visit to the drive-in. As darkness fell we settled on a canopied garden swing seat, slathered ourselves in insect repellent and stiffed our faces with popcorn. The double feature showing was Independence Day and X Men and frankly it was disappointing that the summer’s big blockbusters were a sequel and a prequel. The mosquitoes were ferocious, biting us through our clothing and the fabric of the seat but despite the discomfort it was a fun evening. 


We left Prince Edward Island via the Confederation Bridge, a very impressive structure stretching 7km onto the mainland and spent the next couple of days making our way towards our final stop near Montreal with Michael. We had a couple of very rainy days on the way but after a year of summer and only 23 wet days in total we really can’t complain.

This coming week will be filled with prepping the bikes for our return to the UK and I can’t deny that it’s an odd feeling being at this stage on our journey. Home is still over a month away but time is rushing past at a frightening a rate!

News fae Nom

Well A cana believe that’s bin a year awa !  It feels a bit strange ti be getting athing ridy ti fly hame and reminds me of fan we were getting set t’ leave – that feeling o the unknown. It’s bin a blast and has become a way of life, but it will be rare ti see abidy back hame and hey a few dizen beers. See yi soon!

Bonjour and Foo Yi Deein?

The thunder of the Falls faded to silence as we left Niagara and skirted the edge of Lake Ontario heading towards Toronto. We had hoped to pop in past and visit a fellow Scot who had a pub there called The Caledonia. We found the place easily enough but it was closed, not due to open until 5 and unfortunately we just couldn’t spare the time to wait. We snapped a quick photo and carried on towards Montreal.


We had been ‘warned’ by many of the Canadians we had spoken to that the French speaking section of the population were unfriendly, bad drivers and generally ‘a bit funny’ but as has been the norm on this trip we found the opposite to be the case. The driving continued to be well mannered and courteous as seems to be the Canadian way and we were watched over by stony sentinels perched on the tops of roadside boulders.


The people continued to smile, wave and chat to us whenever we stopped. My limited French drew smiles in the petrol stations and coffee shops with none of the tutting and eye rolling that some other travellers had reported. 
We had skirted around the west of Montreal and were heading for Trois Rivieres when a vehicle drew up alongside me in the outside lane and slowed to match my speed. This often happens as people are keen to look at the stickers on the panniers and try to work out where we are from. I gave my customary nod and wave as the vehicle then sped up and did the same to Nom. Then the passenger side window came down and the driver pointed at Nom then made the drinking sign and then pointed to himself. “Come to my house for a coffee?” was Nom’s understanding and off we went, following the car onto the slip road and eventually pulling up outside a very lovely house. Fellow biker Stacey introduced himself along with his wife Melanie and invited us in for some refreshments which then turned in to a dip in the pool, steaks for dinner and an offer of a bed for the night! We spent a delightful time in their company, also meeting their children Donavan and Madisson and Melanie’s parents. 

Our excellent host even went so far as to organise massages for us and after a great night’s sleep we stuffed ourselves with a breakfast of homemade pancakes served with maple syrup. With kink-free muscles, full bellies and a stock of noodles we waved goodbye to this lovely family and we’re back on the road. 

 A massive thank you to Stacey and his wonderful family for the friendship and generosity the showed to complete strangers. Xx

Blue skies continued to follow us and the temperature rose a little. We upped our daily miles a little to ensure we reached Halifax in the time frame we had allotted ourselves and enjoyed the scenery of New Brusnswick then crossing into Nova Scotia where we smiled to ourselves at all the familiar names on the road signs: Glasgow, Truro and Gairloch to name but a few. Everyone we met said, ‘Nova Scotia means New Scotland you know!’ and would proudly tell us of their Scottish heritage. 

We arrived in Halifax and followed the recommendation of several locals and the Scottish friends we had come to visit by visiting Peggy’s Cove and it’s picturesque lighthouse. We treated ourselves to a ‘famous Nova Scotian’ lobster roll (half each) which although very delicious was more roll than lobster so when the lassie selling hot smoked haddock offered us a sample we said yes please and charmed seconds out of her!

  
We chatted to lots of people who had spotted the stickers on the panniers and asked us what we had been up to. We were treated to an up close inspection of a beautiful BSA restored and ridden by a expat Scot!


We spent a fantastic weekend with friends from Scotland Shona and Gilbert and their now very grown up children Ross and Kirsty, catching up on their news and enjoying their Scottish hospitality. Greeted with, ‘Foo yi deeing?’ was enough to make me tear up a little. Hearing their North East accents and sharing a Doric conversation with them was such a treat after being away from home for nearly a year.

 Further treats from Shona and Gilbert in the form of pizza, beer and digestive biscuits – Nom was in heaven!

We visited some of Halifax’s sights including the Citadel overlooking the city which reminded us of Fort George near Inverness and the graveyard where many of those retrieved from the icy waters after the tragedy that was the sinking of the Titanic in graves marked with the date but no name. A visit to the pub for locally brewed beer and then some Canadian snacks: a beaver tail for us  girls and poutine for the boys. Shona and Gilbert shared the history of their adopted home with us and we could certainly see the attractions both of the city itself and Canada. As we strolled along the waterfront I picked out a Glasgow accent from a young couple walking beside us. It turned out that they were there checking the place out with a view to moving over for work. Our group advice was: just do it! 




Another week gone past and our time in Canada nearly at an end, after a quick gorilla tape repair to my boots,  we left Halifax for a tour of the rest of Nova Scotia. The Cabot Trail on Cape Breton was on our list and we were looking forward to seeing the sights in an area so many Nova Scotians had called ‘God’s own country’. 


News fae Nom

A niver used ti get bithered muckle wi cald wither, bit A think spening time in aa i het countries my body his gotten used to being fine n warm while riding along on i bike or lying in i tint at nicht. Although it’s been mestly sunny while we’ve bin in Canada, A’ve hen ti pit on i thermals and thick gloves fin riding and in I tint A’ve hen ti use i sleeping bag wi i liner in, then get inside i bivy bag ti warm up!  Bit A suppose it’s good practice for returning back home ti i Scottish summer.

Room with a View!

Our original idea had been to travel all the way through the Yukon to Alaska and then across Canada but those plans had been made before we sent out on our ‘grand adventure’. As we worked our way up through South and Central America we realised that for us that wasn’t going to be possible….on this trip…..so with our route adjusted we looked to head through the Rockies towards Banff and then across to Halifax on the East coast, with a visit to Niagara Falls, before ending in Montreal for our flights back to the UK.

Revised plan roughed out we said ‘Cheerio!’ to our generous hosts Stephen and Katinka and began to make our way north through British Columbia. Our first stop was Hope, the town used as a backdrop to the film Rambo. Nom was bitterly disappointed that there was no statue of Sylvester Stallone, only a miner and his mule carved from wood.


We took a wander about the centre, stocked up on our food supplies and then popped in to the outdoor shop to pick a very important bit of kit…..bear spray!

The woman behind the counter talked us through the options and Nom was drawn to the can with the ‘glow in the dark’ safety trigger – for night time attacks! We also stocked up on our mosquito repellent as our supplies were getting a little on the low side. As our purchases were packed away in a plastic bag the sales assistant’s parting piece of advice was ‘don’t get them mixed up now!’ Now there was a rather worrying thought!

Leaving Hope behind us we rode on between towering mountains still wearing their snowy winter hats, following the Fraser River passing sleepy little towns built on fur trading and the gold rush back in the 1800’s. 


The weather was sunny and dry for the most part but chilly, particularly at night. We continued North until Cache Creek then a right turn pointed us East aiming for Banff. The sky had become crowded with clouds so heavy with moisture they were resting on the mountain tops. 


We arrived at our campsite dry but the evening wasn’t looking good. We pitched up with warnings of bear activity and word of a wolf ‘walk through’ ringing in our ears. I stowed all our food, cooking equipment and toiletries in the metal lockers provided. Nom collected an enormous pile of stones, sharpened a couple of sticks and reread  the instructions on the tin of bear spray, muttering darkly under his breath ‘could have done with this in Panama!’

After making our preparations we took a trip to the hot springs the town is famous for just as the heavens opened and we were well watered. As we were drenched anyway we carried on with our plans to visit the outdoor hot springs and just as well we did. Between paying our entry fee to pushing our way through the swing doors exiting the changing rooms the rain had cleared and the skies were blue. We soaked our travel weary bodies in the steaming water until our fingers were pruning. We left feeling rejuvenated and smelling only slightly sulphurous.


Whilst in one of the MANY souvineer shops in Banff we found some stickers of the Canadian flag for the panniers and this little fellow….

Steve the Mountie Moose now shelters behind my bike screen with Svetlana the meerkat and Kevin the koala. 

Nom also invested in a thick fleecy shirt to add to his cold weather wardrobe as his original fleece was enough to keep him from shivering. 


After 4 days of riding through gorgeous mountain scenery it was certainly a big change when we crossed Alberta, briefly meeting Mick who gave us a heads up for a route skirting the foothills of the Rockies rather than going straight into the flat terrain of Saskachewan and then Manitoba. 


This was prairie country and the sky was enormous. We were again blessed with clear skies for the most part and calm weather. We had heard tails of strong winds sweeping across the area but thankfully the worst we got was an occasional pleasant little breeze which kept the mosquitos from stripping us to the bone. These creatures were the worst we had encountered on the whole trip. They thumbed their noses at the Central American repellent and swarmed us in a ferocious cloud. We broke out the new Canadian spray which did a better job at keeping them at bay but they were determined to feast on our delicious Scottish blood and began biting us through our clothes until we sprayed that too. After reading the label on the bottle I was a little concerned that the fabric might dissolve but frankly, we were willing to risk it to escape from the flying jaws of itch!


We passed lots of cyclists on this stretch of the journey, many of them going coast to coast and they were equally delighted by the lack of wind. One chap we met at a campsite was 3 weeks into his Trans Canada epic and had been finding his seat was pushing his weight forward leaving him with sore hands and wrists at the end of the day. He had invested in an ergonomically designed gel-filled piece of fanciness which had solved the problem. Hooray? Nope, as now he has actual saddlesores, on his actual bottom.  As we left the following morning I spotted him heading to the toilet block with his first aid kit in hand, ready to dress his wounds in preparation for another torturous day in the saddle. Good luck Joe!

The landscape changed again on our entry to Onatio, this time forests and lakes were the order of the day. The weather continued sunny and clear and as we rode we were treated to glimpses of sparkling sapphire water between the slender silver trunks of birch groves. Glorious!


As a mid morning stop for some coffe and hot chocolate to heat us up we met George who came over to welcome us to Canada and present us with maple leaf pins.  George was on his way to buy a sheepskin cover for his bike at a place just up the road and Nom pricked up his ears. Nom had complained in the past about his reduction in padding affecting his comfort levels so we followed George to the shop and picked out a cover for Nom. Cheaper than an Airhawk and soooooo soft and fluffy. I wait with interest for the feedback as to how much it helps! 


The Canadian wildlife we’d seen this far had consisted of squirrels, gophers, birds and mosquitos. Anything larger had either been stuffed and mounted or roadkill. Imagine the squeals of Scottish delight when we saw a black bear at our lunch time stop. 

We had pulled in at the Hungry Moose drawn by the sign that said ‘free wifi’. Emails and a small black coffee followed by sandwiches in the carpark was the plan but turned into a bottomless cup of coffee, a grilled cheese sandwich and our first taste of the Canadian delicacy ‘poutine’ – to those not in the know: chips, cheese and gravy!


As we were chatting to the owner, the waitress came over to let us know there was a bear in the woods behind the cafe. Cue squealing (from me). He disappeared from view but I was lead outside to the empty lot beside the carpark where he has stretched himself out in the sun for a bit of a bask! I managed to snap a photo of him before he spotted us and scampered off back into the forest. Colour us delighted! The locals informed us that he was a young bear, one of last year’s babies and was on his own now. He’d been trying to get in at the cafe’s kitchen window and a board spiked with nails had been put up to deter him. The recent mild winters have seen an increase in the population surviving into Spring. They are having shorter spells of hibernation,  are eating for more of the year and consequently getting bigger! There is word of a cull!


We stopped for fuel and the young chap behind  the counter cautioned us to be ‘moose aware’. There had been lots of road signs warning us of the potential for them to be on the road, particularly in the evening and at night. About 10 km down the road Nom spotted one standing in a marshy area in the trees at the side of the road. Nowhere safe for us to stop so there was no photo but Nom’s description of it was ‘a tank with antlers’. 

We were well across the country by this time and as we skirted Lake Superior the glorious scenery continued – Niagara was only a day away.

Another fuel stop and a new friend was made. Chris had spotted our foreign number plates and instead of just giving us a wave he followed us in to the petrol station for a chat. He told us about a friend of his who had a collection of old British bikes and wondered if we’d like to see them. Yes please! 


We followed Chris round the corner to his house so he could pick up his bike, a rather splendid Victory, and then a lunch time visit to Tim Horton’s where we met Karen and Denis, Chris’s fellow members of the ‘White Knights’, who very generously presented us with stickers for the bikes and an EMS White Knights supporter patch to add to our collection. We appreciate that these are not given out to all and sundry and we felt honoured to be lucky recipients. Thank you!


A quick ride later and we were drawing in to Ken and Hazel’s drive. Ken Hodge has a lifetime of passion for bikes under his belt both as a racer and restorer of old British bikes. His collection was fantastic, doubly so as many of his machines came to him in very bad shape and Ken loving brought them back from being a jumble of pieces in a cardboard box to shining examples of British biking history. We spent a lovely afternoon with Ken, Hazel and their family admiring the bikes and hearing the stories of their restoration. The highlight for me being the moment the Ariel Square Four started, first kick!


Another round of ‘cheerios’ (our journey seems to be full of them) and as we set off towards our campsite for the night, Chris had another treat for us up his sleeve. He had booked us in to a room in a hotel in Niagara for the following night. What a lovely thing to do. We exchanged contact details so we could keep in touch and off we went.

It was a short ride to Niagara the following day and we found the hotel Chris had booked us in to….the very fancy Sheraton On The Falls. As we were getting our gear off the bikes in the carpark a chap leapt out of a delivery lorry and came over to say hello. Don had seen photos of us on Facebook and had recognised the bikes. Hands were shaken and photographs were taken. We were feeling a bit like rock stars! This feeling continued when we went to check in. ‘Yes, yes, we’ve been expecting you, this way sir, madame!’ 

As the door to our room swung open, our jaws hit the floor. It was enormous, with 2 gigantic beds, a sofa, a fireplace and a super fancy bathroom with 18 towels (Yes, I counted them!) and lovely products for me (not Norman) to use. But it was the view that was the cherry on our cake. With no Trump Towers to marr our experience this time, this is was what we saw from our 15 floor window…..


The Falls were spectacular and we spent the afternoon taking in the sights. As evening fell we retired to the luxury of our room only to be further delighted by the fact that the Falls were illuminated at night!


We met with Chris for lunch the following day and had the opportunity to meet and ride with a fantastic group of folks Chris also rides with. A massive thank you to Chris for his amazing generosity and giving us the chance to meet and chat with such lovely people all linked by their love of 2 wheels!


New fae Nom

There’s a lot o warnings aboot bears in Canada and A must admit fin yer lying in yer tint at nicht ony soone ye hear ye winer ti yersel ‘is at a big muckle hungry bear coming ti rip i tint clean awa ti see fits for supper?’ I advice is ti stay calm, dina try ti run, maak yersel look as big as ye can and maak lots o noise as ye back awa. If it attacks A’ve bin telt twa affa different bits o advice: 1. play deed! (Is i bear gan to wiry if he’s starving?) or 2. (i mest worrying) hey a fecht wee i bear! Noo A jist winer foo mony folk hiv put that een ti i test, ein survived? 

                                                                          

                                                                  Fecht? Gow’an ‘en! (Photo courtesy go Google Images)

Canadian Hospitality

After a rainy start to the day we reached Sumas and joined the queue to cross the border. Our final ‘big’ crossing from the US to Canada was just meters away and the traffic moved in a very sedate and ordered fashion. Nom was very concerned that there didn’t seem to be any exit procedure and I was encouraged to park up, go to the official looking building across from us and enquire whilst he kept’our place in the queue’ – mmmm! He had been unconvinced when I had said that nothing was required to leave and an official statement was needed. I waited my turn to be seen by the border staff and confirmed with them that we could in fact just leave. Nothing to return, no stamps or stickers required, just go! I returned to Norman who had done a super job of keeping our place in the queue (the traffic had not moved at all) and repeated what I had already told him. I further soothed him by sharing our final piece of American deliciousness, a Butterfinger, with him. Now should anyone ever want to buy me a gift as a reward for any good behaviour on my part, a box of these peanutty delights would be just the thing! 

Whilst I was savouring the last of my ‘farewell America’ treat the passenger from the ENORMOUS truck behind me came over and introduced herself. Katinka had spotted the foreign registration plates and as she was a biker herself was keen to find our what we were up to. After a very lovely chat she asked us whether we would like to stay at her house for a couple of days. How very splendid and a big ‘yes please’ to her invitation. 

The queue moved along and Norman was called to the border barrier. I could see him talking to the uniformed man in the booth, passing his passport over, more chatting then getting his passport returned and waved through all in less than 5 minutes. My turn to be called. I drew up to the window and presented my passport. I was asked if I had a gun (I said no but did worry that perhaps it was a requirement and I would be refused entry for not having one),  my passport was stamped and I was waved through. Less than 2 minutes! Apparently having your husband go through first and answering all the other question means the little wife must be fine too! Excellent.

We waited for Katinka and her chap Stephen to pass through the border too and then followed them through the rain, back to their house where we were greeted by 3 gorgeous dogs. We were then fed with steak, wine and cheesey snacks before being shown to our room. We had only been in the country 5 minutes and we were feeling like we never wanted to leave!

 Raven, Mac and Bailey

It turned out that Kat is a paramedic and Stephen is a officer in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police……an actual real live Mountie! Norman nearly exploded with delight. ‘I used to have the Mountie uniform for my Action Man! So cool!’ he whispered. 

After a very delicious breakfast of Dutch pancakes cooked up by Kat, we set out to help prepare for a charity motorcycle ride Kat was organising. Nom and Kat gamely braved the torrential rain to put up direction signs, whilst Stephen and I cheered them on from inside the nice dry truck! Nom’s assistance and my support was rewarded by a visit to a coffee shop for further treats and a meet with Stephen’s parents. His dad’s family originated from Brechin, Scotland so clearly a very excellent chap!

Next on the agenda was attending the annual review of the local regiment of the Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps. Both Kat and Stephen along with Krista and Justin, Kat’s children are involved in the Air Cadet Corps and we were impressed with the opportunities the young people have and the skills they develop through their participation in these groups.


The evening was spent at the very lovely Laurie’s house. She was working with Kat to organise the charity run and along with  Myranda, Lee and Krista we pitched in to put together the registration packs for the event the following day. 

Some of the prep team: Laurie, Myranda, Kat and me
The forecast was for the persistent and heavy rain of the last couple of days to lift leading to a sunny, dry spell. I have to say I had my doubts but the following morning dawned and the clouds had indeed exhausted themselves and over the course of the morning the sun made a very welcome appearance.


The turnout for the run was good and as we waited for the start, the mayor came over to introduce herself. After a blessing and a rendition of the Canadian national anthem we were off. As we had no idea where we were going or what we were supposed to be doing we stuck with the front riders and in particular the honorary road captain who, as it turns out wasn’t entirely sure of the route himself. We arrived at a junction, some turned left and some turned right. What to do? We followed the group who turned left and it turns out they weren’t part of the ride. Doh! After some map pondering we arrived at the final stop just in time for the raffles and prizes. We met Lee who was there on his RCMP Harley Davidson and he very kindly agreed to get the bikes together for photos – ‘lights on or off?’ he enquired……ON of course!


Whilst the guys stood chatting and admiring the bikes, Lee asked if Nom would like a seat on the police bike. I have to admit I did giggle at Nom’s excited and rather breathy ‘yes please!’ and chortled up my sleeve at the equally delighted Lee when he was asked if he wanted to sit on the Triumph. 

With Kat’s organisational duties over we met and headed back to the house, stopping on the way for a photo opportunity outside the infamous Bates Motel. This was the one built for the tv series but as the Norman standing outside was not the original either we felt it fit rather nicely.
Being introduced to Canadian news anchor Chris Gailus.  Notice how riveted everyone is! Clearly I am fascinating!
Psycho?

Back at the house Nom was treated to a look through Stephen’s gun collection which ranged from hunting rifles to a rather rare old Colt pistol. His face was a picture! 

Notice how Norman’s finger is away from the trigger. 
We took our leave of this delightful family the next day with a jar of Nutella and a packet of Hawkins Cheezies added to our supplies and we would like to take this opportunity to say an enormous’thank you’ once again for the generous hospitality they lavished us with. We can only hope we were entertaining enough to have made their kindness to complete strangers worthwhile!


Our introduction to Canada had been  fantastic and we were excited to see what was ahead.

News fae Nom

Meeting ither bikers on oor trip his bin een o i best things: iye a waarm friendly welcome, nae metter fit they ride. Being invited to take part in a big charity bike ride wis an offer we could na refuse. Getting i chance ti hae a seet on a police Harley wiz the cherry on i cake and jist made ma day. We wid jist hope if any o i bikers we have met find themselves touring Scotland, that they get in touch and we can show them some  Scottish hospitality!