East Coast Day 2: Everything bad
The first day of my trip was just from Toronto to Montreal, and I couldn't have asked for better conditions. 25ºC, no wind, sunny. Got to the hotel as the sun was setting, wasn't too tired. It was everything awesome about riding a motorcycle.
The next day was the opposite. It was brutal.
First of all, apparently I suck at planning trips because I carved out way too ambitious of a schedule. Over 800km to cover, going from Montreal to Fredericton. A bit over 8 hours Google Maps said. Ok.
I left at 8am sharp, assuming that stops should add up to about one hour extra. 9 hours then. Leave at 8am, arrive around 5pm.
First, I forgot that Fredericton is in another time zone. 5pm is actually 6pm.
But worse, the conditions were absolutely terrible.
Here are 3 bad things for motorcycling: 1. Rain 2. Heavy wind 3. Cold temperatures
Day one had none. Day 2 had all 3 in spades. I think I could take 2 of those 3 and manage. But all 3 is absolutely draining.
After I got out of the morning rush hour traffic of Montreal, temperatures dropped from the mid-teens to about 9ºC (well below the forecast) and within half an hour it started to rain. It didn't stop for the next 6 hours.
I layered up as it got colder, going from just my normal jacket (which on more than one occasion almost boiled me alive in Toronto) to adding a base layer jacket, and then an inner liner that came with my jacket.
The jacket (and everything else I have) is water resisitant, but definitely not water proof. I've ridden through rain before and been just fine, but that was 30-60 minutes. Over 6 hours it was inevitable that areas around my collar or cuffs eventually let water in, and that eventually soaked me to about 50%. Below the waist, totally soaked. About 1/3rd of my upper body.
In dry cold I would have been alright, but soaked like this, I was shivering.
Then there was the wind. Never ridden in anything close to that. It was powerful. A crosswind on a motorcycle can push you out of your lane if you don't react in time. If it's a sustained gust of wind, you end up leaning into it to compensate so you can ride straight. On a few occasions I was at a 20º angle just to keep moving forward.
When the road curved to head into the wind a bit more, the wind alternated hitting from the left and the right, keeping things erratic. It felt like the wind was running boxing practice with me, jabbing me here and there with an occasional heavy hit that put me to the edge of my lane before recovering.
I was focusing so hard that my entire body was tense, and I was gripping the handlebars far more than I usually would. I had to stop more frequently to recover, once every hour or two. That ate into my time. Also it didn't dry me out, just made me aware of how wet I was.
Around just after lunch I saw that Edmunston was on my route before Fredericton, and they had an Enterprise rental. I couldn't take it. I decided to throw in the towel.
Edmunston - Canada's Silent Hill
Ok I don't have a great reason for that name, but in my delirious suffering it made me laugh. But I do have a good reason to hate the place. First, no damned cell service (on Rogers anyways). Just "Edge", and that went nowhere. Stopped into a Tim Hortons to warm up and get the phone number for the Enterprise. Their Wifi didn't work. Asked some locals, they pointed me to a McDonalds near by.
Went there, Wifi didn't work again. No damned data anywhere.
If your town doesn't have cell coverage or wifi where it's supposed to, I pretty much equate you with a murderous nightmare town where staying is a death sentence. I mean I can't even tweet about it. Place must be full of monsters.
Anyways the kindly McDonald's girl pointed me in the direction of the Enterprise office just around 5 minutes deeper into town. I saddled up again and went wandering.
I found the tiny Enterprise office, but I could tell there wasn't any activity when I pulled up. Then I walked up to the door.
"Closes at 5:30pm".
Current time? 5:35pm.
So I said screw it. I had a "universe, are you telling me something?" moment and snapped from being disheartened to determined, jumped back on my bike, still soaking wet, and got back on course for Fredericton. 3 hours away according to my GPS.
That was putting me well past sunset in terms of timing, which I had told myself I wouldn't be doing. I didn't want to break schedule on reservations, and I sure as hell didn't want to stay in Edmunston. So I went for it.
About 30 minutes after I was back on the road I realized ther rain had stopped. It was unreal. I didn't think it was possible that day. Fifteen minutes after that the ground was actually dry! It totally changed my perspective. I cruised happily until daylight was gone and as visibility improved I saw some fantastic landscapes. I thought about stopping to get a photo, but the thought of losing daylight was looming so I just kept moving.
Eventually the sun set (I still never actually saw the sun that day, it was totally overcast) and it got dark. Really dark. Pitch black in the middle of New Brunswick.
For safety I got behind a big truck going a decent speed, both for light and just to know that at least someone was around. Also there were a lot of "SLOW DOWN FOR MOOSE AT NIGHT" signs, and I figured it could mostly shield me from potential animal encounters and it'd take a lot less damage that I would.
It was a scary last 1.5 hours, but I got there.
But I'm sore all over from tensing up and compensating for the wind. My hamstring is lightly pulled and I don't even know how.
It's a tough call. It feels like failure (who even fails at vacationing?), but I'm going to rent a car here in Fredericton and continue on with that. I'm also cutting Newfoundland and Gros Morne, because knowing travel time and how things just come up, it would have been a frenzied race and not enjoyable. Gros Morne deserves more time than I was going to put to it. I'll have to come back for it.
I'm going to head to Cape Breton as planned, spend my 2 days at the Cabot Trail, and drive it. Then I'll head to Charlottetown and still cross the Confederation Bridge on the way back to Fredericton where I'll pick up my bike.
None of it's ideal, but the forecast has too much rain potential and temperatures are too low. I can't do another day like today. Not that fast. I'm beat.
Long range forecast says that by the time I get back to Fredericton it's supposed to be 18ºC and sunny. If that maintains, maybe I can have a great ride back to Toronto from here.
But from this point and Eastwards, I'll be driving.