Well the week of the Fundy Adventure Rally arrived and I had a few options to get there in time for the Thursday afternoon BMW Rider Training course. I could ride up early Thursday morning, catch a ride with someone trailering up, or take the Digby-to-SJ ferry on Wednesday evening and stay overnight in SJ with a buddy. I chose the latter and was pleasantly surprised by the new ferry which lessens the travel time to 2 hours and 15 minutes – not bad. Plus, the ferry is quite nice inside and one of the cafes had Starbucks coffee (especially handy as I was outside of the BMW Latte Drone area).
After a great evening out in SJ, I left at a reasonable hour the next morning knowing that the ride to Adairs wouldn’t be too long. Of course, I had to stop at an Irving Big Stop for a ‘slow down the blood-flow’ breakfast. The ride to Sussex on the main highway was pretty boring, but I was impressed with the Sertao being able to cruise comfortably between 110-120kms. Sussex to Adairs was a different story though as the road got twisty and scenic, which only heightened my excitement. Upon arrival, I was greeted by Courtney and the friendly Rally staff, got my Rally package and signed up for the BMW demo rides without issue. What a great crew! Next step was to find EastCoast Al, who had kindly brought his tent-trailer for our comfort and convenience (sure beats being in a tent when it’s pouring rain).
Once situated, we gathered for the afternoon training session with Clinton Smout, and were we in for a treat. Clinton is hilarious and incredibly knowledgeable. The entire course is done at slow speed and boy does it make you work. All of us became more proficient at controlling our bikes, which would no doubt come in handy for the Rally. Clinton came up with many classic one-liners, but I think my favourite was “Well, sometimes you just gotta ‘light it up!’”. This advice echoed in my head on Saturday and served me well in a number of situations.
The rest of the day was basically spent getting to know the staff and other riders. Not to mention Chris and Tyler, the BMW reps who brought a few demo 800s and a 1200 for our riding pleasure on Friday. We also met up with our third member Captain Shawn and Turncoat Rod (‘4mud’ to you NSDSC forum dwellers), who managed to get himself on a higher skilled team.
On Friday morning, Adamant Al made sure we were front and centre to be first in line for the demo rides, and we weren’t disappointed. Most demo rides I’ve been on are slow-speed highly regulated affairs that are no more than a brief jaunt around a parking lot. But BMW does it differently and we were treated to a real trail ride that lasted well over half an hour. The trail itself wasn’t extreme, but there were enough washouts and hills over rocky terrain to test the off-road capabilities of these beautiful machines and their electronic systems, and they were impressive! The 800GS felt more nimble and lighter than my old KLR and I think Convinced Al and I were about ready to sign on the dotted line when we got back. You gotta hand it to BMW for putting on a true demo ride for these bikes. Hell, that was worth the trip in itself.
After the demos, Enthusiastic Al and I headed on a self-guided tour through Fundy National Park, which would have been great except for the monsoon which hit us halfway through the ride and soaked us to the bone. We spent the evening socializing with our fellow riders while Al’s laundry service took care of our wet gear (i.e. gear hung in trailer with heat cranked – worked well too).
The Rallymaster‘Arris, fine looking fellow that he is, prepped us later that evening at the rider meeting on what to expect for each route. The routes went from A,B to C in increased levels of difficulty. A= Rallymaster’s Rondo could drive it comfortably, B=Rallymaster’s Rondo could make it, but may sustain some minor damage, and C=Rallymaster’s Rondo is ‘totalled’ and only ATVs could haul it out. At least that was my take. Our strategy was simple, do as many ‘C’ routes as possible until we either finish, crash out or have to bail to make it back in time. Al would lead since he had the most reliable GPS, Shawn would sweep as he had the most nimble bike, and I would carry the paper map and try not to do anything stupid while sandwiched between the two – what could go wrong?!
Rally day started early with a hearty breakfast at 5:45am and I was ready to go. I have to admit I was nervous, since I didn’t really know what to expect and Aggressive Al was hell bent on attaining the Gold level at any cost. I got the distinct impression I would be left for dead if I didn’t keep up, or worse, used as grip in dicey conditions. So…. no pressure then. We waited at the starting line and took off on the initial route which would lead us to the first point where we had to decide the level of route to take.
According to the Rallymaster, one of the first ‘C’ routes was ‘The Route’ of the Rally as it had it all – mud, puddles, water crossing, stony climbs and so on. It even had draft horses on the trail at one point. It was a blast and I was thrilled at how the Sertao handled everything that was thrown at it. The Sertao was making me look good (or maybe it was just newly honed skills thanks to Clinton). Unfortunately, the water crossings were a no-go due to the monsoon of the day before and we scrambled to find the alternate routes. We did make it through one crossing at a beaver dam. But I almost lost it when I strayed off the suggested line another team was kind enough to give us a heads-up on.
At one crossing, a team of two had taken one of their bikes across chest deep water and were nearly swept away, not sure what they were thinking. Nevertheless, we helped the one with the bike still on our side extricate himself from the riverbank and get back to the main road. From there Intrepid Al found a route to connect the two on the other side of the river. Job done, but we had lost over an hour of valuable time. We arrived at the Salisbury Irving for a required half-hour lunch break much later in the day than planned. From then on we had to ‘book it’ to get in as many kms as possible. Despite our set back we managed to reach Alma and gas up before the 5pm cut-off.
Exiting Alma, we had to endure a long boulder strewn hill climb, which we attacked without incident until I ran into a descending vehicle blocking my chosen line. I swear it was the Rallymaster’s Rondo, but in my exhaustive haze I can’t be sure. After that, it was crank the throttle and continue on the ‘C’ routes back to Rally HQ. Except, the twisty gnarled route over endless boulders and mud NEVER seemed to ennnnnd! We were all running out of steam, Captain Shawn and myself were secretly convinced Out of Control Al had lost it and was just running amuck. Little did we know it was actually the diabolical plan of the twisted Rallymaster toying with us on the final stage (cue evil laughter). Every time we thought we were getting close to Adairs we’d get sent up yet another painful trail with our 12 hour limit nearly up.
Finally, we hit an intersection I recognized from the BMW demo ride (which was awesome by the way – have I mentioned that?), and I prayed we were heading left to the main road. The GPS send us left and Vindicated Al led us at a frantic pace to the finish. Even Captain Shawn outpaced me on a paved road with his little CRF in sheer desperation. We did it with 2 minutes to spare!
Elated, we peeled off our stanky gear and cleaned up to enjoy the festivities. The Rallymaster, in his infinite wisdom, didn’t schedule any ceremonies until brunch the next morning. Brilliant move, as it left all of us free to enjoy the camaraderie of all the riders over drinks and a bonfire. The stories got better as the night wore on. I slept well that night.
I awoke surprisingly early on Sunday with a sense of accomplishment and some relief that I had made it through without incident. Upon reflection, we were traveling at speed through some rough terrain where anything can go wrong. And by in large, it didn’t, considering the amount of riders taking part. If I’m not mistaken, I think drowned bikes and the odd flat tire were the only casualties of the Rally.
The ‘Brunch banquet’ had a great, but relaxed vibe to it. Raffles were held, prizes were given away, and ranking levels were released. Where did the Scotia Adventure Crew place? We got Silver despite our lengthy detour and only one team achieved Gold (damn that 4mud and his fast friends). We were thrilled with the result, but then I got a surprise. BMW gave me an award (replica 1200GS model) for being the BMW rider who clocked the most kms! It was a testament to the never say die attitude of Adventurous Al and Captain Shawn’s calm in the face of adversity that allowed us to complete as much of the Rally as we did. Thanks guys! Next year I’ll have a GPS and do my share of leading.
After helping Contented Al pack up the tent trailer and saying my goodbyes to new friends, I hit the road towards Alma and the coast. The plan was to head up the Fundy coast towards Moncton and stay overnight as I had a service booked for the Sertao at Motoplex (yet another great sponsor) on Monday morning. The crew at Motoplex took good care of me while I waited for the service work to be done, and well, there are worse places to kill time. I loved seeing all the ‘Scramblers’ and swapping war stories with some of the staff who had attended the Rally. Everyone was so hyped, I can’t wait until next year!
Service complete, it was time to head home to SWMBO and the little people and I couldn’t wait. But after riding off-road for 3 days I just couldn’t stomach the thought of taking a four lane highway, so I took every back road I could that would eventually get me back to the South Shore safe and sound. See everyone next year.
See video here: EastCoast Al’s video
*Special thanks to canadamotoguide.com for a few of the pics!