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Happy Trails Blog

  • Canada – Atlantic Coast to Lake Country

    Part 1 of 3 By Alexander Tolchinski

    Trans Canada Highway Trans Canada Highway
    Crossing the world’s second biggest country felt like a daunting task: more than 4000 miles through at least 6 climate zones, the inevitable rain, wind, and snow, and incredible stretches of solitude. This was certainly no “easing into” my journey around the world. But I had to start somewhere, so off to the Great White North I went with the hopes that succeeding would mean a great beginning rather than an end. From Eastport, Maine, the eastern-most point of the United States, I, and my '99 Honda Magna VF-750, caught a ferry to Deer Island, New Brunswick, Canada. It was getting late, and as usual I was planning on catching the last ferry out. I pulled up to the dock just in time to witness the boat pushing back from the dock! I crossed a time zone, a half-hour difference, without knowing it. I had but a moment to be distraught before I witnessed something I never thought happened in the “Screw you, the doors are closed, you cannot get on the plane which is still sitting 30 ft. away” society we live in – the ferry started coming back - for me! I was only a few days into my journey and had yet to learn the magic of the road, and the kindness people have for travelers. The ride was quick and surprisingly painless. This was my first time putting a motorcycle on a boat, and I imagined every wave knocking it over. But the boat was steady and the steel horse didn’t even tremble. By the time we arrived on the island, dusk was upon us in earnest so I made my way to the closest campground. I pitched my tent facing the water and the sun setting over the bay. The time passed easily with whales, porpoises, jumping fish, and whirlpools. It was a stark northern beauty softened by the colorful warmth of the setting sun. It is exactly the kind of place one would come to to write in peace and breathe the crisp, clean, inspiring air of the north. But I was still new at long-term travel and felt eager to get back on the road. Sadly, I could not make myself stay for more than a day.

    Click photos for larger image

    . .
    The rain fell steadily, and the fog horns kept me awake for most of the night. In the morning there was a brief lull during which I rushed to pack everything and race around the misty isle, losing my bike cover in the process, to the northern ferry to mainland New Brunswick. And just like the one coming to the island, the ferry, which had already departed, reversed engines and came back for me – saving me from having to wait another hour in the rain. The rain picked up after we arrived on land and stayed with me for the next 8 hours – soaking and chilling me to the bone. I decided to take the shorter route to Montreal by way of Northern Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont (as opposed to riding north and switching back south-west by way of Quebec City). I took the uneventful Highway 1 to Saint Stephen and crossed the border back into Maine, where I caught Highway 9 to Bangor. Fog rolled heavily along hilly, sparse, granite plots of farmland. There was a deep smell of pine from the endless sea of evergreens through which the road cut long, sleepy curves.  It was easy to see why most of the population lives along the coast – where the sea shares its bounty more rapidly than hardened northern soil. I passed few people on the road, there was no hint of traffic, not even in the towns, unlike the coastal road which came to a halt every 30 miles.  The rain I was hoping to escape further inland only continued to intensify the closer I got to Bangor. From Bangor I took Highway 2 to Highway 26 which brought me to tiny Errol, New Hampshire, 300 miles from Deer Island. I was still a few hours out of Montréal, somewhere between the White Mountains and Northern Woods, when I simply had to get off the bike. It was hard to see anything, the road was curvy and slick, and I was wet and freezing. Though it was August, this was not a warm summer rain wet, this was a suck the heat straight from your heart wet. So I pulled into a gas station across from which was a diner, and made my way, if not to warmth, then at least to food and a precipitation free environment. It was already late in the day so I couldn’t afford to stay too long, lest I would have to ride to Montreal in the dark. But as it turned out I would spend the rest of the day and night in Errol, thanks to the kindness of a stranger. You can read that story here. The following morning the rain continued, but thankfully was much lighter than the day before. I kept to HWY 2, which skirts the White Mountains. The slickness kept my speed down, and the mist and clouds kept me from seeing the beautiful mountains. On a clear, autumn day this is one of the most beautiful rides in New Hampshire. Eventually I had to get onto the interstate in order to cross the border back into Canada. Those few minutes on Int. 91 reminded me why I never take interstates: they are straight, impersonal, and with the exception of a few stretches, very ugly. Once past the border, the ride to Montreal, on HWY 10, was a pleasant jaunt through European looking country side – smaller farms, wooden fences, small groups of cows grazing peacefully. There was nothing breathtaking, but also nothing jarring like the sight of massive feedlots. On the approach to the city I was quickly thrust back into the realities of city riding: the final 20 miles took almost as long as the ride from the border. I spent only a day in Montreal, long enough to dry everything that was wet, which was everything I had. I was too eager to keep going and was already late for the couch surfing I had foolishly set up beforehand. I had lined up almost all of the couches I would need before even setting out from New York. I was too novice to know that plans inevitably change, that time takes on a different meaning on the road.
    . .
    To those unfamiliar with Couchsurfing.org, this is an on-line community of over 3 million people across the globe who open their homes to travelers. It is free of cost, and full of gain. The people I have met from Couch surfing have been some of the most incredible in my life, and I am friends with a good number of them to this day. There is no better way to learn about a place, its people, history and culture, than by staying with people, not tourists, and learning from them. Using Couch surfing has changed my journey completely, using the website and becoming part of this community was the single best decision I have made so far. At Montreal I hopped on what would become my guide for most of Canada: the Trans-Canada highway (TCH). This is Canada’s great artery. Though mostly not interesting, it does have its breathtaking stretches, and serves the invaluable purpose of bringing people to the smaller roads which lead to Canada’s great natural bounty. At first, between Montreal and Ottawa, the TCH was as most interstates are in the U.S, long, boring and riddled in traffic. But as you emerge from the ugliness which is city and suburb riding, the grandeur of lake country embraces you into its vast and glorious self.
    . .
    I got off the TCH near Renfrew, and caught Route 60 which cuts through Algonquin National park and heads straight for the shores of Lake Huron where it meets with the Route 69 branch of the TCH. Most of this 300 mile day was spent cruising along the shores of small lakes and swaths of pine forest. The road had few straightaways, the weather was cool and conducive to riding, yet always threatening with ominous clouds in the distance. The following day I began my ride along the shores of Lake Huron and Lake Superior on my way to Sault Ste. Marie. I started on the 69 and then joined the main branch of the TCH, Highway 17, heading east. East of Thunder Bay the Trans Canada is a beautiful road that curves and hugs the landscape. Her wide, windy lanes beg for speed, but the earthly granite sculpture garden, the vaporous heavenly one, the silvery endless waves of the great lakes and the deep green waves of pine and fir, arrest the throttle and calm the growing adrenaline. Time has little meaning along this road. The 350 miles passed quickly, as they always do when you are surrounded by beauty. I wanted to stop frequently to just sit and stare at the great expanse of the lake, but night riding is cruel to the biker and the sky was no less threatening than before. If it were possible, the road from Sault Ste. Marie to Thunder Bay was even more breathtaking:  450 miles of Lake Superior falling away into the horizon to the south, and endless forest, undulating on the wavy hills left by receding glaciers, to the north. The road was in exemplary condition: well-marked, smooth, free of debris and potholes, full of curves from 30mph to 80mph, with plenty of shoulder space and scenic outlooks to stop and gaze. The shore, with countless little, rocky beaches, begged for my tent.
    . .
    As I approached Thunder Bay at dusk I was treated to a fiery performance of the sun’s battle with the cloud’s futile attempt to block its last hurrah. It was one of the most moving and memorable sunsets I have ever seen – the perfect end to 800 miles of awe-inspiring, lake country riding. Trail Dust is a publication of happy-trail.com

  • New Product Announcement Happy Trails SL Rack for Kawasaki KLR650 (all years)

    Congratulations to our Fab team for producing a remarkable product at an even more remarkable price. We're talking about HTP4-1-2M, the new Happy Trails SL Rack for the KLR650 (all years) priced at only $99.99. This rack provides protection for the expensive plastic side panels when running all manner of soft luggage. It is perfectly designed for the Happy Trails Mojave Luggage and works equally well with the Ortlieb Quick Release System, the Wolfman Dry Saddle Bags and the Wolfman Rolie Bags using the "other" straps. The new SL rack is shown on the E model and the A model below.  

    The new Happy Trails SL rack pictured on the E model KLR650.
     
    The new Happy Trails SL Rack shown on the A model KLR650.
      Trail Dust is a publication of happy-trail.com

  • Happy Trails Sahara Soft Side Bags, A New Journey ...

    By Ed Hiatt

    (Click on any photo for a larger image)

    Amazing fall colors near Jarbidge Nevada

    The  perennial question do I ride with hard or soft luggage! This year I decided to try something a little different. On this trip my camping spot would be a bed in the home of a good friend. Without the need to pack for camping this might be a good time to test Happy Trails' new Sahara Soft Luggage Side Bags. Tim hooked me up with Mojave bags and the new Soft Luggage Rack to match. This was a big step for me—I've been using and selling hard luggage almost as long as I've been riding Dual Sport.

    Every year as we head into fall I start planning my October trip to Jarbidge NV, a small mining town on the Nevada - Idaho border. It has a neat history and some really great prime rib on Friday and Saturday nights.

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  • ODYSSEY® Battery Kit the cure for battery failure

     

    Nothing is worse than getting stranded with a battery failure 20 miles from nowhere. Yet there are many reasons for possible battery failure. The battery might be weak to start with. Or maybe you find yourself in conditions you didn’t expect (like snow and 20° weather when you started out at 80°!) then the cold forces a failure. Dropping your bike can can mean a worn down battery as you try to clear a wet bike or get the bike started after flooding.

     

    klr650_08_odyssey Happy Trails Odyssey Battery kit for your KLR

    We love the ODYSSEY® battery for worry-free adventure touring, and we’ve fabricated a perfect Odyssey fit for both the KLR650A 87-07 and the KLR650E 08+.

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  • Daily Grind, Somebody Has To Do It

    Dateline: Virginia to Washington, D.C. By “moto” photojournalist Douglas Graham

    Click on photos for larger images

    Versys parked on Dutchman’s Creek Road north of Lovettsville, Virginia

    Although I travel a lot, as a photojournalist covering national politics I also spend a lot of time in Washington. Sometimes weeks at a time bouncing from the White House, U.S. Capitol, State Department, Pentagon, Smithsonian, etc.

    I thought I'd give a glimpse of my daily commute, because I found myself marveling at what a nice trip I've had to get to work this past week. Its an adventure ride each day! Most people heading to Washington get into their car and sit in traffic for up to two hours on a good day. I’m pretty lucky as you can see from the photos.

    Views to the north west across the blue ridge into West Virginia along U.S. route 690 north of Hillsboro Virginia

    Tollhouse Road almost into Maryland

    From my house in the blue ridge mountains of Virginia I take about 15 miles of dirt roads up and across the mountain and then north down the toe into Maryland and across the Potomac River. The road is a mixed bag of fire road, improved dirt and a touch of one lane asphalt. Sometimes I take a little longer route and follow the Shenandoah River north to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia across the Potomac and into Maryland. Once in Maryland I take the MARC train from the Brunswick Station to Union Station in downtown Washington.

    Stoneybrook Farmers Market in Hillsboro has the best coffee and the nicest people you will ever meet

    The whole trip takes about 1.5 hours door to door and I always leave really early so I can relax and shoot photos along the way if I feel the need. I also stop at the farmers market in Hillsboro, Virginia, to have coffee and breakfast. Nicest people on the planet run the market called Stonybrook Farms and they have the best coffee, hands down, on the East Coast. You can’t often enter a store and hear your name from the proprietor and know they really are glad to see you.

    Brunswick Maryland train station with the MARC train pulling in to pick up passengers headed for points east terminating in Washington, D. C. at Union Station 

    I’m pretty lucky as far as being a D.C. commuter, since I never really have to deal with the traffic gridlock because of the train. Yes, it can be a long day if I’m working downtown but as a newspaper photographer every day is a long day. Its just part of the job and no day ever repeats itself.

  • Pannier Questions

    Pannier questions....Tim received extensive feedback from a customer who rode 5,200 miles of dirt roads across America with Happy-Trail panniers. For Tim it was a good experience answer pannier questions and a beneficial exchange. There were many things the customer liked about his panniers. He liked the finished look they gave his bike, found them surprisingly waterproof in the worst of downpours, easy to pack with excellent loading capacity, light ... and great to use as a table when he wanted to stand and eat along the side of the trail!

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  • Preparing for Adventure Team RawHyde, Dakar 2011 Update 12/30/10

    To all of our adventure oriented friends, The Dakar rally - eagerly awaited by the world; and especially by 20 anxious RawHyde Adventurers is nearly at hand.   Over the next two and a half weeks we'll be updating you all as much as we can from Argentina and Chile as we follow the worlds greatest motorsports event.  What "Mt. Everest" is to mountain climbers... The Dakar is to motorsports enthusiasts. its simply the "Ultimate" thing to do....   We are thrilled to be here and we hope you'll enjoy coming along for the ride. Five members of Team RawHyde are now in Argentina and more are arriving daily. The RawHyde "Advance crew"  has been in country for the last 3 days and have been involved in staggering amounts of paperwork and bureaucracy and delays and B.S. As many of you know we have shipped our own support truck from California to Buenos Aires - and the process of doing so has been a collosal pain in the butt.  We learned today that although the truck has arrived in Buenos Aires area, its still in the ship... and the ship is anchored in the Rio Platte (two miles away)  and won't be brought to the pier for another three or four days.  It's a frustrating delay but certainly not the end of the world. We have spent the last two days working with the freight forwarder, customs broker, shipping line, and other bureaucrats to try and get our truck "off the boat".   We are learning that the word "Adventure" can have many definitions, and one of them is dealing with Customs agents" in a foreign country.  Anyway more on that later. In the few idle hours that have been available to us we've prowled the streets of Buenos Aires checking out the preparations for Dakar which are happening all over town.  The picture above shows the construction of the starting podium over which all of the competitors will ride on the morning of January 1st.    More on the pomp and circumstance later as well. Now for a quick change of topic - the title of this e-mail is "preparing for adventure" and the crew has been talking among themselves about how our packing lists have changed in just the last few years.  It used to be that leaving on an "adventure" required precious little.  We would bring clothes, maps, guide book, camera & film.  That was about all we used to need.  Now  it seems that our electronics outweigh all the rest of our gear combined.  One member of our party (a man and wife) admit that between them they have 27 pounds of clothing and 32 pounds of electronics. The photo at the very bottom of this e-mail shows the collection of electronics that just one other member of the crew (Kevan) and I have brought with us.  Computers, GPS units, Short Wave radios, video cameras, ipods, ipads, iphones etc etc - not to mention all the chargers for these devices....  funny how things we didn't even know about a few years ago are now indispensable parts of our adventures. One note... we have radios for some of our crew in this photo... OK -   You'll hear from us soon...  till then Happy New Year. Jim Hyde

  • Italian Police Motorcyle Drill Team

    Check this out! It was 1950, a gentler time when suits and ties were the norm at an event like this. Not to mention amazing riding... how long did it take them to practice this!

    Click to watch

     

    XX

  • Big Nasty Hill Climb Dual Sport Ride sponsored by Happy Trails

    Route from Boise to Big Nasty Hill Climb

    This was a ride we did in 2010 from Boise to watch  Big Nasty Hill Climb.......Welcome to the Big Nasty Dual Sport Ride sponsored by Happy Trails products at www.happy-trail.com.

    This ride is for Dual Sport and Adventure Bikes only. On the ride you will encounter city streets, dirt roads, two track roads and paved roads. Please be advised that this is an enjoyable ride and not a race. You need to ride with caution and be expecting oncoming traffic at all times.

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  • Follow Ken Hunter on the Trans America Trail ...

    Re: My trip from Elko Got about 1000 miles so far. I'm just south of Memphis were I will be visiting a friend tomorrow. Rode through an area hit by a tornado a couple of days ago. No houses destroyed but lots of trees down, roads and bridges washed out. Got around them all and had a little excitement crossing one flooded area. Ever try standing on the seat in the middle of a muddy washout while moving? That's what I tried to do when confronted by a water moccasin making the same crossing at the same time. It certainly increases your intensity as well as your speed. Motorcycle boots are snake proof...............right??????????? (Ken's SPOT on June 2)

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