You know the riding season is underway when 4mud posts the 2016 Dirty Big Bike season opener! I couldn’t wait, since last year was so much fun and the weather left some unfinished business for most of us who bailed early due to the monsoon. 2016 was all about redemption. Saturday morning I headed up to EastCoast Al’s place to meet up with him and sjl250, the other members of the NS Adventure Crew of FAR fame. We were sure our arrival at Tim’s would be greatly anticipated, but nobody seemed to notice. No matter, it was great to see familiar faces and some new ones as well. Unfortunately, last year’s big bike Vstrom contingent were no shows this year. Instead, TagBagger and Reef stepped up in the big girl category with their massive GS’s and since they didn’t see fit to name themselves, I’ll refer to them as Team 1200. It was also great to meet the pipe-smoking, beer-swilling, fishing gear wearing, KLR badass boys from Advocate. There was nothing those guys couldn’t bungee, duct tape, smash, wrench, jimmy or strap into submission, they were our resident MacGyvers on the trip. Young captain.licorice was back again to continue his one-wheeled adventures on a new to-him Husky.
This year Ride Master 4mud, in his infinite wisdom, decided to do the trip in reverse from last year and we headed down the coast instead of the valley. This gave us a chance to ride the section we bailed on last year first. It turned out to be a good call since it was more technical than the valley leg. Better to do that on this first day when we’re still gung ho. We almost lost Poultriss before we even left Bridgewater when his KLR decided it preferred the ditch when exiting the first bridge we crossed. Not the most auspicious start, but no damage to the bike or the rider.
After that, all was going well until one of the Advocate KLR Boys had a puncture. Not a problem for them, they got busy, repaired it in no time using only a paper clip and chewing gum. Every time we hit a technical section, I kept thinking we’d lose Team 1200, but there they were at every stop with grins from ear to ear. I couldn’t believe they were able to wrestle their behemoths through some of the greasy parts.
We were slowed down again by another flat, but this time it was 07-DRZ. I immediately sprang into action and found a rock to balance the bike on. I proudly returned with my rock only to discover He-Man Al had beat me to it with a bigger one. I was crushed, knowing that my severe lack mechanical ability meant the rock was my only chance to be of any use. 07-DRZ kindly placed my Rock on top of Al’s to set his bike higher than it needed to be. I suspect he just felt sorry for me. Problem solved, but only for the short term as the rear tire had to make do with a front tube until that gave way. By that point a proper tube was procured through means too intricate to describe in full detail here. Suffice it to say, we lost a lot of time and were risking a very late arrival in Yarmouth. The thought of eating and, more importantly, drinking beer late was too much for Starving Al to handle and he promptly pinned his 800GS while to rest of us tried in vain to keep up.
Once settled into the hotel and cleaned up we headed to the pub for an overdue meal and beers. TagBagger and Reef wisely refrained from staying out and retired to the hotel. Can’t say I blame them, I don’t think I would’ve been upright if I had to manhandled those beasts all day. At some point, we realized Poultriss was missing. Rumour had it his rear shock gave way and he was left for dead on the trail. Plans were made for a daring late night rescue mission when 4mud, calm and collected as ever, reminded us his wife had come down to meet him and was staying at another hotel. Well great, no need to get off the chair then. We ended up closing the joint…..at 10:30 (so much for the happening night life). Exhausted Al and I almost made it past Dooleys, when the remaining gang pulled us back in. Oh well, I needed some closure from last year’s trauma. That said, it wasn’t as bad as I remember (or I’m just numb to it, like a first responder who’s witnessed too much carnage). After one last unnecessary beer we finally got back to the hotel and quickly fell asleep. Apparently, during the night I managed to lock sjl250 out of the room. I felt bad until it came to light it happened when he was taking our beer to another party. Not that we would be needing them, but it’s the principle of it.
The morning saw a group of us waiting for the in-house restaurant to open, desperate to consume food to soak up the alcohol still in our systems. Topped up with coffee and painkillers, we all gingerly mounted up for the final leg through the valley. 4muds choice of the Valley as the second leg proved less technical than the first day and we were able to travel at a decent clip. It was fairly flat interspersed with plenty of whoops, the odd hill climb/descent, and water crossings. If the trail was smooth the great views would keep it interesting. I misjudged a sandy hill climb and needed to stop to regain my balance, causing 07-DRZ to wipe out. I was sure he would be pissed at me, but his first concern was if I was ok. Typical of the guys on this trip, always looking out for each other.
We made good time with enough rest stops to recharge and give Adolescent Al time to engage in some graffiti art*(*images may offend some readers). The only snag we hit was a missing bridge and we ended up bypassing a section to avoid similar delays. As we got back on the trail, we were pleased to discover many newly built bridges making travel much easier than last year. One final hill-climb to a gas stop and we started to part ways shortly thereafter, with Reef and the badass KLR boys from Advocate all heading for home (I’m going miss those boys).
The scenery was beautiful as we cut across, heading towards Bridgewater. On cue, Impatient Al blasted ahead and we were on the final push until captain.licorice flew back and forth to inform us that 4mud had a flat. I think I’m going to rename him the Pony Express. Immediately, a few guys headed back with a tube to get 4mud sorted and on the way again. Finally, we were truly on the home stretch with 4mud in the lead. We even took the trail right into Bridgewater before we realized motorbikes weren’t allowed (well over halfway in before there were signs). Didn’t matter, all our license plates were covered in mud, so nobody would know who we were anyway. Annoyed Al was disappointed the police weren’t waiting for us on the other side, complaining that he wasn’t getting full value for his tax dollars.
Our arrival in Bridgewater was bittersweet, I was sorry to say goodbye to a great crew. I enjoyed riding and talking to everyone on the trip. There’s nothing like getting together with a good group of guys from different walks of life to share a common passion for adventure motorcycling. Special congrats to TagBagger for being the first ‘behemoth’ to fully complete the ride (with Reef getting an honourable mention), well done my friend! And a very, very, special thank you to 4mud for organizing the annual ride. I could blather on with all kinds of positive things to say about him, but suffice it to say he is simply a true class act. Thank you! I look forward to your next ride.