The Ride Stuff

The adventures of a couple of happy bikers

Ducati

Way back in January 2012, Jess was knocked off her beloved Ducati 848 and the bike was written off. Luckily, she wasn’t!

Ducati 848 Corse

Ducati 848 Corse

At the time I promised her that one day I’d get her another one. Well, that day has finally arrived! It is her birthday this weekend and I surprised her with this little beauty.

Ducati 848 EVO

Ducati 848 EVO

I hope she likes it!

There is one small drawback – she can’t ride it yet as it is at home in the UK. Oh, well, she’ll just have to be patient.

Skully Helmets

I love new tech so that’s why I signed up for the crowd-funding campaign for the Skully AR-1 helmet last year.

It is being billed as the World’s Smartest Motorcycle Helmet for good reason. It is very Top Gun-ish in appearance with the heads-up in-visor display featuring a wide-angle, rear-view camera and almost 180° backward vision which will help to remove blind spots.

The display also features GPS navigation and the visor switches between tinted and un-tinted at a push of a button.

It’s all very new and unproven but I’m looking forward to receiving the helmets soon. Currently, there are only two colour schemes available: black or white, so I’ve ordered a black one for Jess and a white one for myself.

Skully

Skully AR-1In-visor display

You can read more about it here.

Bike ‘n Hike #2

I have been absent from this blog while our bikes have been shut away for the long Newfoundland winter.

Here’s one that I forgot to post last year and since the 62nd anniversary of this event has just recently passed, it seems apt to post it now.

For various reasons, our previous Bike ‘n Hike with our friends Mark and Krista didn’t go too well. This past weekend we decided to do better and rode 220km up to Burgoyne’s Cove via Clarenville to pay our respects at a crashed aircraft site – an American Convair B-36 bomber, also known as The Peacemaker.

The B-36 was a huge aircraft with a wing span of 230 feet and was designed to carry nuclear weapons. It could fly at least 16,000km before requiring refueling. It was powered by an incredible ten engines; six 28-cylinder propeller engines and four jet engines, given it the catch-phrase of Six turnin’ and four burnin’.

On 18 March 1953, RB-36H, 51-13721 was returning from the Azores to its base in South Dakota via Newfoundland and crashed in bad weather, killing all 23 airmen on board.

The flight was a secret mission to test American airspace defenses and to fly in undetected. The plan was to fly low over the ocean and then climb to a higher altitude 20 miles before they reached land.

The aircraft was blown off course and unexpected tailwinds meant that they reached Newfoundland 1 ½ hours earlier than expected. They were flying at low altitude (500 feet) across the sea for optimal range performance. Visibility was less than 1/8 mile as the airplane flew straight and level through sleet, freezing drizzle and fog. At 4:10 am RB-36H struck an 896-foot tall ridge at an elevation of 800 feet. The six whirling propellers chopped the tops off numerous pine trees before the left wing struck the ground, ripping off from the airplane. Spilled fuel ignited a huge fireball. The fuselage and right wing impacted 1,000 feet beyond the left wing. The entire crew was killed on impact and wreckage was strewn for ¾ mile across the hillside.

The crash site isn’t quite as remote now as it would have been at the time and can be accessed via a 5km gravel road from Burgoyne’s Cove to a slate quarry. (Hats off to Jess for completing the gravel section on her Firestorm!) From there it is about a 40 minute (fairly steep) hike up through the woods to the top of the ridge.

The end of the road

The end of the road. From here we walk.

Surprisingly, many parts of the aircraft wreckage are still scattered across the hill top and the tail section is mostly intact and upright. The view from the hill is breath-taking and in stark contrast with the wreckage. The propeller memorial at the high point is a poignant reminder of the tragedy and one can only imagine the horror of that enormous aircraft ploughing into the hill top.

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Looking back from the crash site and the direction the plane came in on.

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Some of the wreckage

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Looking up to the memorial

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The tail section

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The memorial site

The crew

The crew

Whilst we were up there we met the son of one of the first responders to the scene. His father, a young man himself at the time, had been working in a nearby logging camp when the crash occurred and they rushed as quickly they could to the scene but were unable to save anyone.

Tsunami

Looking out over the scenic cove of Port au Bras on a beautiful day now it’s hard to imagine a tsunami roaring in bringing death and destruction but that’s exactly what happened here less than a hundred years ago.

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Port au Bras

Jess and I were doing a bit of touring around the Burin Peninsula last weekend when we discovered a memorial to the tsunami in Port au Bras near Marystown. I normally associate tsunamis with the Pacific coastline, so I was surprised to learn of one happening in Newfoundland.

On Monday 18 November 1929 an offshore earthquake with a magnitude of 7.2 occurred about 20km beneath the sea floor 250 km south of Newfoundland. This in turn triggered an enormous landslide in the sea bed and the resulting tsunami crashed into the South Coast of the Burin Peninsula, drowning 27 people, and causing $2 million in damages.

At about 5.00pm on that fateful day, severe earth tremors were felt throughout Newfoundland. Most people shrugged it off and continued about their daily business. Very few anticipated the impending danger and two and half hours later at 7.30pm three huge waves each measuring 3 to 4 meters high struck the coast at speeds of more than 100 kph.

The waves thundered up narrow channels and into bays over a half-hour period lifting boats 5m high, snapping their anchor chains and tossing the craft onshore or sinking them. Homes were ripped from their foundations; most were destroyed. Others were swept back and forth out to sea by the tide.

It took about two hours for the water levels to return to normal and along with the many lives lost, the tsunami destroyed many homes, fishing equipment and winter provisions, leaving many families destitute.

A gale blew up during the night, dropping temperatures and adding sleet and snow to the survivors’ misery. The telegraph lines were broken and all communication to the outside world was lost.

It wasn’t until three days later when a ship making a scheduled stop at Burin Harbour discovered the extent of the devastation and was finally able to notify authorities.

One of the rescue ships found a house far out at sea. A kerosene lamp was still burning in a top-storey room. Downstairs a mother and her child lay drowned by the swirling waters.

In one settlement a house was found in a pond 300 feet from its original site. The building was smashed and half submerged. On the lower floor a mother and her three children were drowned while upstairs a small baby lay in its cot unharmed.

One man who had been swept out to sea, swam to a floating house only to find that it was his own. The house was later towed back to shore and replaced on its foundation.

The tsunami did irreparable damage along the Burin Peninsular, affecting 10,000 people in over 40 settlements and it was a wonder that more lives were not lost.

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Tsunami Memorial

In Port au Bras where Jess and I visited, seven lives were lost. The town was completely swamped by the waves. Many people were only rescued after they had been adrift on their dwellings for hours, their cries for help attracting rescuers along the shore.

Southern Africa Bike Tour

Right, that’s next year’s holiday sorted!

Jess & I have signed up to do a 30-day / 8-country, bike tour of Southern Africa in August 2015.

We will be starting in Pretoria, South Africa and visiting Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho before eventually returning to Pretoria. We’ll probably cover in excess of 8,000 kms. (5,000 miles)

Most of the countries I didn’t even visit when I lived in South Africa, so this is an ideal opportunity to make amends. It will include visiting Chobe National Park, Victoria Falls, Lake Kariba, Lake Malawi and the Kruger National Park.

I can’t wait!

Route 2

Approximate Route

Bike ‘n Hike #1

Berry Head Arch is a naturally occurring rock sea-arch on the Spurwink Island Path of the East Coast Trail near Port Kirwan, Newfoundland. It is considered to be one of Canada’s best kept secrets and makes many ‘bucket list’ of places to see. In fact, not too many Newfies that I spoke to had even heard of it.

Last weekend our friends, Krista & Mark, arranged a little ‘Bike ‘n Hike’. The plan was to ride the 80km or so to Port Kirwan and then walk the trail to the archway. The trail to the arch is about 6km (one way) and is classified as ‘moderate’ to ‘difficult’ depending on which data you access.  With hindsight I can now see that we weren’t really properly prepared for it. What I thought would be a pleasant walk on a Sunday afternoon turned out to be a bit more challenging than that!

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The trail starts off easily enough but it soon becomes undulating with lots of fairly steep hills and descents and the odd fallen tree to climb over and a few streams to cross. It was also a bit boggy in places and the mud sucked at our shoes. The biting Black Flies at times didn’t help either! [Note: The female of the species is more deadly than the male!]

The trail itself meanders along the magnificent Newfoundland coast line and offers some spectacular scenery and while we were feeling fresh it was still very manageable and we stopped frequently for water breaks and photo opportunities.

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After a while we began to realise that for every uphill and downhill that we walked we would have to repeat the process in reverse to get back to our bikes. On meandering trails like this you have no concept of distance traveled and the trail didn’t have any distance markers (and nor did we have a map) so it was difficult to tell exactly how far we had actually walked.

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Jess and I are not fit at all and we were tiring and conscious that we had to retrace our steps as well, so after a while we decided to call it a day and head back. We also felt that we were holding Mark & Krista up as they are much fitter but they rather kindly turned back with us. I hope that we didn’t spoil the day for them!

As it turned out we got pretty close to the arch – within about 1km or so – but we didn’t know it at the time.

So close and yet so far!

The trail itself is quite spectacular and well worth it for the sea views alone – we just need to get ourselves fitter and be better prepared!

Needless to say, I didn’t get to photograph the arch but if you really want to see a photo of it, you can view it here. (It’s No.14 on the list) For now it will have to remain on my bucket list.

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I have a new rule for future Bike ’n Hikes: If I can’t see my bike, I’ve hiked too far!

Firestorm

Hmm, I think that I just bought Jess a new bike!

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Honda Firestorm

Brigus

Brigus is a small fishing community in Conception Bay, Newfoundland dating back to 1612 and is famous for its sea captains and ice explorers. The name is derived from ‘Brickhouse’, an old English town.

Yesterday we spent a lovely day exploring this now historical site with fellow blogger, Krista and her partner, Mark. These days the town is more famous for its Blueberry Festival in summer but it it still a popular tourist spot and is steeped in history. We spent a very enjoyable few hours exploring the town and sightseeing.

The Tunnel

The Tunnel

The Tunnel was built in 1860 to provide access to Abram Bartlett’s wharf. Blasting holes were formed by steel spikes that were driven into the solid rock and filled with black gun power. The resulting passageway measures approximately 80 feet long, 8 feet high and 8 feet wide.

The Wharf

The old wharf site at the end of the tunnel

 

1959 was a good year!

1959 was a good year!

 

Local Knowledge

A local gives us a brief history lesson of the town

 

By George!

A local craftsman displays his woodworking skills

 

Jess

Jess

 

Mark & Krista

Mark & Krista

 

Overlooking the town

Overlooking the town

 

Kent Cottage

Kent Cottage

Kent Cottage is a Heritage Site and was built in the late 1700s or early 1800s. It has hosted an interesting collection of residents over the years, most notably Rockwell Kent a famous American artist, writer and adventurer.

Kent Cottage

Inside Kent Cottage

 

Kent Cottage

Inside Kent Cottage

 

Kent Cottage

Inside Kent Cottage

 

Kent Cottage

Inside Kent Cottage

 

Kent Cottage

Inside Kent Cottage

 

Kent Cottage

Inside Kent Cottage

 

 

We’re mobile again…

My work contract in Newfoundland has been extended until the end of the year and we didn’t want to miss out on another summer of riding, so we have ‘splashed the cash’  and bought a new motorcycle. It’s a Yamaha Super Tenere, a bike that I’m familiar with, having ridden one on two tours of South Africa and it is big enough to carry both Jess and myself comfortably. It’s my first shaft-drive too, so no chain maintenance to worry about!

We took delivery of it last Saturday and the first thing that we did was to go iceberg spotting.

Iceberg Spotting

A small iceberg off Cape Spear

March

In like a lamb, out like a lion

That’s a local proverb here describing the weather for March and it’s certainly holding up. It has barely stopped snowing here in St. John’s since December. Here we are at the end of March and it’s still not showing any signs of improving. I thought that we were supposed to be into Spring by now! The latest weather report is snow, blowing snow, ice pellets and freezing rain expected for today and Tuesday. We are to expect 30-45 cm of snow this morning through until tomorrow night. Brr!

 March

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