Day 9
August 22, 2002
Graves Provincial Park
Western Shore, Nova Scotia

Another beautiful day dawned, and I was anxious to get riding.  The morning sun brightened the hill top, and reflected off the water below.
I noticed a Harley rider at the far end of the campground loading when I idled by.  From the looks of things he was almost finished.  

I went around the security gate and saw a tent in the adjoining field near the entrance.  A worn out red car was parked alongside.  A man with a scraggly beard was striking camp.  I don't know if he was too late to check in, or just decided to sleep in the field, to save a few bucks.

I take 103 south out of the park.  The bright morning sun casts my shadow to my right, and traffic is low this early in the day.  The object of my desires is the ferry at Yarmouth.  I will use the CAT Ferry to cross the Bay of Maine, and when I touch down, ride east to Conway, Hew Hampshire to meet ChrisK.

The highway takes me past more Christmas Trees.  Millions of them.  One thing about Canada, they keep the tree line trimmed far from the road, exposing deer and moose.  Route 103 is more bumps, but not as bad as yesterday.

STs are quiet bikes.  Some ridicule the sound of the ST, or lack of it.  The whirling sounds of the V4s motor reminds me of a quiet turbine.  The engine so quiet I can hear the whisper of the efficient cooling system funneling water  through hoses and around the motor.  On this peaceful morning, the throaty whine of one of motorcycling's finest touring motors, configured especially for long riders, spins effortlessly under me.  When the guys at Honda designed the ST, that had my bio on file.  They knew I liked sleek, fast, quiet, and good handling motorcycles, and it had to do all of the above with minimal fuss.  I love ALL sport touring bikes, and when long riders look back to the early  21 st century they will say, this was their/our finest hour.

Riding along in the bright morning sun, I ask myself what day is this?  Monday? Thursday? maybe even Sunday? What assigned day of the month is it?  I know I left Prattville on the 14th, so that makes today the 20th? 21st?  I have lost all concept of time.  Days mean nothing to me when I am on a trip.  Every day is fun.  Every day is some place new, and different.  I have no deadlines, no appointments.  Even when not on a trip my life is about as low pressure as you can get.  My nest has been empty over 4 years, my home almost paid for, and one more year to work. 

 I leave my work when I go home.  Unlike CEOs or cubicle folks, someone relieves me of my duty promptly at the end of my tour.  He takes over my office, and the next 24 hours are his, and the next 48 are mine.  Now, alone on this Nova Scotia road, I only had myself to answer to.
  
I think about many things concerning my life on this fine morning, as I move around to pass a lady in old pick up truck.  I thought about the struggles it took to get me to this point in my life, the support my wife and son give me, that allow me to live my life at its fullest, and to do the things I always dreamed of.  Insisting I not ride would  make me a half person, an empty shell, and over time I would be subdued and not as much fun. I would be like a caged lion.  He is cared for, loved, and assured a long life, but he is not free, he is only a resemblance of the proud lions roaming the Serengetti, not knowing where their next meal is coming from, but that is the joy of their lives.

Nothing is sadder then the broken spirit of a Long Rider.  Even when I was bikeless, I always knew I would find myself in this very spot.  I have played this movie in my head a thousand times- riding a sleek and powerful motorcycle, on a postcard morning, in a place I only dreamed about.
So much philosophical thinking makes me hungry, and so is the ST, the light is on, and I don't even know for how long.  I come off the highway into Shelburne for gas.  After filling my tank, I went to a Tim Hortons for donuts and Coke.  I used the last of my Canadian money, and will land in Maine with only a few nickels and pennies.

It has been a cool ride this morning, and the sun shining in the windows of the donut shop feels good.  I'm engaged  in a chat with a friendly local, and soon I am surrounded by folks who want to know what Alabama is like.  The mother of a young child wants to me to pay the geography class of her little girl a visit, but I tell her I am just passing through.

"besides, what would I talk about m'am?"

"just speak about life in Alabama"

"but its NOT that interesting"

I left each my card, later the mother emailed me, and said the class visits my web site often.

I took too long a break in Shelburne, but who cares.

It was more of the same the remaining miles to Yarmouth.  Lots of quiet, restful miles.

In Yarmouth I follow the signs to the ferry.  I parked at the terminal and was relieved to find out I got the last walk in space for the 1pm.  Total cost 118 bucks.

"Its 55 per vehicle, and 45 for you plus tax"

"you mean the price is not inclusive??"

"no"

"so do y'all have many cars riding to Maine unattended?  Is it common for some guy just to walk up and put his car on the ferry and leave?  In fact have y'all EVER collected just a vehicle fee"

What about a guy in a min van with 3-4 kids?  He could drop 500 bucks making this crossing.  My advice if you are in that situation?  Get up early and make the drive around.

The CAT is awesome.  A catamaran thing.  Fast, sleek and quiet.  It does a good job, but the crew is another matter.

I spent 90 minutes hanging around the lobby for the CAT to return from the morning run to Bar Harbor.

Waiting for the ferry near the bikes I met a Mr. and Mrs. Bob Thistle, a Harley couple from Boston.  Nice folks returning to New England after a few days riding in the Maritimes.





















            Queuing up for the ferry in Yarmouth


Bob is 34 year veteran of the Boston PD.  About 15 bikes are gathered in the staging area.

The ferry docks and the crew starts directing folks.  Walk ons are allowed to walk on ahead of the cars, but pillions for bikes are not allowed to walk with them.  They can ride on the rear seat, or they can walk with the bike as it idles to the ramp, but they can't walk with the foot only passengers.  Mrs. Thistle comes back scratching her head, so I quizzed a young crew man.

"why kind of rule is that?"

"we can't be responsible for passengers unless they are with their bikes."

Bob and I are in the first wave of bikes to board.  Several Harley riders from Quebec are also making the trip, their credit cards scorched at the 60% exchanged rate levied on them by the ferry company.

I quizzed a crewman entering the ramp about tying my bike down.

"we have webbing and pulleys available"

"well thats good, but I ain't ever done this before"

"we don't assist sir, can't be responsible"

"just what the hell can y'all be responsible for?"

Do they have no more confidence in the people they hire then to make such dumb ass rules?  You mean they watch 1000s of bikes file on each week, and don't know enough to secure one?  Hire people, train them, and know when the time comes, they will do what they are suppose to do.  I guess I've been in the fire department too long.  I can see the chiefs telling me, "get the ladders up, but don't assist anyone coming down, they're on their own, if they fall we don't want em suing us" "Chief I can assure YOU my men are NOT going to let people fall off ladders."  Same here.  Teach the damn crew how to secure bikes, so unless the damn thing sinks, they won't fall over.

Many riders fumbled with the webbing and ratchets.  We had NO idea how any of the stuff worked, and the crew was too damn scared to help.  Bob figured it out, and assisted me. I ran webbing around the forks, and tightened down, I ran another across the seat.  I also blocked the wheel, and made sure the ST was in gear.

Finished with that we went upstairs.  Another mess.  They had one guy at the snack counter waiting on hundreds of people.  Getting anything to eat was impossible, so I found a quiet place to nap.  I called RobH and reported my situation.  The CAT pulled out on time, and I was off to Maine.
The CAT cleared the harbor and was soon up to speed, churning across the Gulf of Maine.  The CAT saves 600 miles of drive time.  The ride is quiet and the passengers are isolated from most of the waves.  

The day has turned dark and cloudy.

I slept the first hour and then got up to walk around.  I went to the stern, and looked at the wakes.  Then I walked to the bow.  They don't let anyone out on the bow- can't be responsible.  
 
The gift shop was doing a brisk business.  I passed, don't need a t shirt to prove I was on the CAT, but many people do, to impress those back home.  WHO the hell CARES??

In a bad mood, I went back to my seat in the stern.  I was sitting there reading a magazine when I noticed a guy in his 60s staggering and looking green.  The water had been a little choppy the last 30 minutes, but nothing like the roads of Nova Scotia.  This guys has motion sickness, and leans over a chair 4 places up from me.  I jumped and ran to the bow where I saw a couple of stewards earlier-

I hollered out to them- "HEY!! Some joker in the stern is fixing to barf!! And if he gets sick y'all are gonna have 2 messes to clean up, mine and HIS!!"
A female crewman screams- OH MY GOD!!  Quick!! get Stanley!!"

They dash down the hall and find the offender still slumped over the back of the chair.  They grab him, and with feet dragging, take him to the washroom.  They got him in time.

Bar Harbor comes into view.  The clouds hang think around Arcadia.

Preparing for departure I run into the Thistles again, and we talk about how messed up politics are in Mass.  We got lost trying to find the right passageways to our bikes, we dared not ask a crewman, they can't be responsible.  Instead, we relied on Mrs. Thistle who does a helluva job of getting us around the maze of cars.

I took this picture of the Thistles just before we cranked up.  Don't believe all you here about rude and loud folks in the big cities of the Northeast.


















  


                              The Thistles of Boston, Mass.  

At 3:15pm the ramp drops and we ride off, the bikes go out near the front.  

I fall in behind the Quebec riders.

It takes 45 minutes to clear the customs booth.  They checked my ID and nothing else.  They entered my tag number in the computer.  Recording where I entered the USA and other stats.



















USA-Canada border, Bar Harbor, Maine.  Notice the 4,500 miles of bugs, etc on my windscreen.

It is after 4pm when I finally get on the road.  I pull into a gas mart to study my options.  I check the routes to Conway, and resign myself to a late night ride to make contact with ChrisK.  I called him at the number he left, but he is not there.   I should get there around 11 if I don't have any problems.

Traffic was horrible in Bar Harbor.  It took another 45 minutes to get to Ellsworth, only 20 miles away. 

Just east of Bar Harbor it begins to rain, a steady rain.  I pull into a closed down antique store and call the fire department back home for weather info.  No answer.  It will soon be dark.  Again, its time to decide.  There is no easy way to Conway from here.  It will be dark, raining, with lots of traffic, on unknown roads.  A tough 200 miles in anyone's book.  Am I up to it?  No, I am not.  I don't have a good feeling about continuing. 
Something tells me not to try it.  "It's too risky."  I owe it to those that love me to come home in one piece.  I promise them I am always careful, and won't take chances.  I turn around and go back to Bar Harbor to lay up.  I don't have a good feeling about this at all.  Nothing like the feeling, prior to the 175 miles to Amarillo in the dark, last June.

I made a u turn and rode back to the KOA in Bar Harbor.  A light drizzle was falling in the fading light, when I found my way to the office.

"I need a place to put my tent tonight"

"26 dollars"

"man, y'all are awesome"

"its Bar Harbor in August, the Days Inn down the street is 200 a night"

"I'll take it, but y'all ain't doin me right"

I find site number 14.  Nothing fancy.  You would think for 26 bucks I would get 73 virgins like in the Koran.

I unload the ST and as soon as I get finished setting up my tent, my phone rings.  Its RobH.

"where ya at?"

"Bar Harbor, done for the day after 212 miles, place is a zoo.  Customs, traffic, rain.'

"you did the right thing laying up"

"yeah but it changes plans, I just had a bad feeling about continuing"

"take it from a veteran long rider, never dismiss such feelings."

I don't feel bad.  I seldom ride just to get somewhere.  Some days are good for riding, some are bad.  I am dealing with the latter right now.  And how did I do that?  I reminded myself tomorrow is another day, the sun will be out, the roads will be good, and I have ALL day to ride 300 miles through New England.  I will also eat a BIG lobster tonight and sleep like a baby in my tent.  I feel bad about missing ChrisK for the second trip in a row, but he's a brother long rider, and will understand.

My phone is almost dead, and on the way to supper I leave  it in the office for a charge, recouping some of my 26 dollars.

I rode the 10 miles back to Bar Harbor in the drizzling rain.  Still not raining as hard as Ellsworth, but its coming this way.

Bar Harbor is a quagmire.  I remember the Route 66 for good food and atmosphere from a 1999 Prelude trip and return to it.  It is decorated with old vestiges from the Mother Road.  Signs, pictures, and trinkets.  A great atmosphere for a long rider on a trip. 
 
My string of consecutive sexy waitresses ends.  My server is a 60ish lady that moves sloooooooow.  It was helluva run however.

"Watcha gonna have?"

"sweetie bring me the best lobster ya got outta that tank from rat yonder"

The Lobster was great, paid for with the Visa check card that some guy said was not valid.  What was NOT valid was him,  I bet that guy ain't paid his merchants fees or something.

I rode by the KOA to Wal Mart to pick up a few things.  I needed batteries, and red Twizzlers.  I remember stopping here in 1999 for a sweatshirt.  It was June and I was freezing.

I left the ST idling and quickly went in the office to retrieve my phone.  Two hours of charge time had it back on 3 bars.

My tent was sitting quietly in the dark when I returned.

It was a long walk to the wash house for a shower.  While there I charged my phone some more and chatted with a Italian guy who was on his 3rd road trip to America.  He rented a RV each summer, and explored the country.  This was his first trip to the Northeast.  He was very talkative, but hard to understand.

"the pace of life seems quicker here then anywhere else in the U.S."

"yeah, that's just how yankees are, they're good hard working folks, main thing is gettin use to their sense of humor.  And remember if they get to tawkin too fast just tell em to slow down, that's what I do"

"I shall remember that"

I finished my shower and washed a load of clothes.  I spent the drying time talking to my wife and a few old friends.

I made it back to the tent about 10:30pm and got ready for bed.  I got out my tv and watched a Nightline show about the mandatory sentencing when you get busted for cocaine.  I was watching TV, and eating Twizzlers when the rain picked up.  I was content.  The soft light of my tv, and the sound of the rain outside made me sleepy.  I dozed off, with thoughts of how much fun this was.  I mean here I am, dry and comfortable in my tent, watching tv, with a storm right outside. 

The weatherman said the rain will blow in, then move out late tonight, making a good day tomorrow.  No severe weather, just a steady rain.  I can live with that. 

I fell asleep with the TV on, but woke up later to turn it off.  I don't know what time it quit raining.