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Monday, 28 September 2015

Fundy Adventure Rally Part Deux

Tropical Depression Henri, and I think they call it a depression, because all the rain it dumps on you is depressing, had moved on throughout the night. This was a welcome relief to rally organizers as well as riders. Their worries now were concerns about what damage the heavy rains had done to the course, and how this could change a relatively easy B route to possibly a more difficult C route. The first team departing a 0700 would soon find out.

Unlike last year were all riders followed the exact same route, rally master ‘Arris put in a liaison stage to split everyone up. Teams would alternate riding a north and a south route to begin the first A stage route to start the rally. 

The first team pulled away right at seven o’clock, drizzle was still falling from the sky, and brightness of the new day was struggling to light up sky under the heavy cloud.

My team, the Rally Yobos was one of the last teams to start, at 0745, so I had time to get some video of the start, wolf down some breakfast, and get geared up for what would be a long day. 

My plan was to follow the Yobos until the mandatory 30min stop in Salisbury and then head off on my own and get some extra video.

All suited up and ready to go, the unlikely team of three guys from Ottawa,ON, Saint John, NB, and Flat Rock, NF, who never knew each other before, headed off into the mist followed by me and my trusty cameras. My day would involve, stopping, filming, and trying to catch back up. Hopefully these guys didn’t ride too fast. The one thing I had going for me was the 115hp of the big GS. If I couldn’t catch a DR, KLR, and an XT250 on a dirt road I was in trouble.

The first part of the rally was pretty easy, basic dirt roads with a mix of pavement. No dust to worry about this year. Last year we had dusty roads with fog, which lead to a dirt filled mist that made seeing through goggles or a face shield almost impossible. 

The Yobos kept a relatively moderate pace to start out, why push hard with 500km of unknown terrain to come. The boys were playing it safe. 

The Yobos elected to skip the first water crossing at 2C, and stay on the 2B route, other than some slick sections it was pretty easy going. 

Some riders on the other hand thought the water crossing at 2C would be a good idea, that’s of course, if your idea of fun, is wading across chest deep water with a nice current, and then sucking the water out of your engine. The lucky ones made it across without issue, the unlucky ones pushed their bikes across, the real unlucky ones tried to ride across before ingesting so much water they hydro locked the engines. Apparently cylinders that are used to pushing air, don’t do so well when replaced with H2O.

I parted way with the Yobos after leg 2B, they decided to try 3C, and I figured a deep water crossing on a big GS that didn’t belong to me was a bad idea. Seeing how I didn’t have a spare $20K lying around to pay for I elected to run 3A with my friend Chris and his teammate, who we lost within the first two kilometres. 

Sean disappeared off the radar somehow, one minute he was in my rearview mirror, the next nadda, nothing. Chris and I pulled over on the side of the dirt road and waited……waited some more, and then decided to backtrack. 

Riding with people you’ve never met before brings a certain element of mystery. Riding skill level is different, and what one person can handle easily, another may have trouble. So my concern was maybe Sean ended up in the weeds trying to catch up to us. His DR650 was outgunned on the paved and dirt roads by the 1200’s Chris and I were on.

Chris and I hauled ass backtracking to where the dirt road met the pavement and waited. Other riders passed by, and Sean was nowhere to be seen,and no one remembered seeing him back at the previous gas stop. We figured he missed the turn to the dirt road and continued on, so we made the executive decision to carry on without him, hoping to meet up with him Salisbury.

We turned around again, and blasted down the dirt road taking us through route 3A. We rode well together, the 1200GS matching his Guzzi Stelvio nicely. Half of 3A was nice, because the paved section towards the end was miserable. I’m guessing it had to be a Conservative riding, because it was rougher than most of the dirt roads we had been on.

Next stop was the Salisbury Big Stop, which was being invaded by a hord of dirty bikers. The odd polished chromed, black leather clad Harley rider giving us a look of disgust. If only they knew how much fun getting dirty was.

Salisbury was a mandatory 30min rest stop, to refuel both bodies and bikes. Chris and I elected to go have a nice sit down meal, and be damned with the 30mins. I think I was there over an hour. For me it was a good chance to interview some riders.

Some riders reported trying 3C, and said it was totally impassable. The water crossing was way too deep. Well one team tried. The previous year’s winners, Team Maribel. They made it across, and spent two hours trying to get a flooded bike going. Nuts.

Eventually Sean showed up, no worst for wear, he had turned back to the gas stop and then missed the turn to the dirt road on the previous leg. He and Chris paired up again and continued on.

I spoke to ‘Arris on the phone, and he directed me to the mud hole at Synton Road, we thought that might be worthy of some video, and it didn’t disappoint. 

I followed a large group of riders out of the Big Stop on leg 4. I remember Synton Road from last year, slippery muck and some mud puddles, and that was a dry year. 

Arriving at the first mud hole, there were bikes going every which way, some coming out, some going in, some pointing sideways across the road. It made an awesome video and photo opportunity.

After a morning of deep water crossings, and stories of drowned bikes overheard at the rest stop, some riders had had enough, and a large group turned tail and buggered out, opting to take the road more traveled instead. 

I confess, I did the same thing, however it was to pair up with Tammy and Eric to high speed it to Fundy to catch riders on the last C section of the day. With a heavy heart I turned around and left the mud behind. 

The three of us slabbed it to the town of Alma on the Fundy Coast, and promptly proceeded to get lost, even with two GPS’s. Some minor confusion on what leg the last C route was required a call to ‘Arris at HQ. 

Section 6C is a rather long, rock strewn, and sometimes steep climb that winds it’s way up the side of the big hills outside of Alma. The smart media crew would have ridden up to it from below and positioned themselves to shoot video, and then there was my crew. We somehow ended up at the top, and had to pick our way down through it, with the ever present fear that teams would be flying up in the opposite direction on the rather narrow ATV path.

It was hard going on the big GS, but with Clinton’s words of “use the front brake only on steep descents” echoing in my head I coaxed the large machine down over the boulder strewn hill.

At one point we came across a dumbfounded couple on an ATV, wondering what the hell we were dong in here on BMW’s. I told him to go ahead of us, but he was insistent on watching my cat-like reflexes and wannabe trials riding skills take the 238kg machine down the steep, narrow trail.

We positioned ourselves in a perfect spot, and were able to get some great video. I even ran into the Yobos and got their ascent of the hill in all it’s glory. If glory is dropped bikes and traffic jam of two-wheelers at the halfway point. It was awesome.

Of course there are always the riders that make a difficult hill climb look ridiculously easy, like the two guys on the Husabergs, and Matt on his KLR, who basically flew up the hill. Damn you, that’s boring video.

The day was getting late, and a quick call to ‘Arris revealed no more teams would make the 4pm Alma cut-off so we headed for the finish along one of the bail out routes. Nice high speed gravel roads. The sun was finally poking it’s head out from the clouds, as we raced (OK, it’s not a race) into the setting sun. It was a beautiful way to end off the day.

The three of us arrived back at Adair’s before the majority of teams had finished, that gave us an opportunity to catch a breather before pulling out the cameras again.

Teams slowly began to filter in and each rider looked the same, filthy dirty, with a large smile on an exhausted face.

The 2015 Fundy Adventure Rally could be summed up as the “wet one”. Stories all night around the campfire consisted of drowned bikes, large mud holes, soaking wet boots, and fun times. Stories that will be retold and exaggerated for next years rally.

Courtney, Rob, Zac and the rest of the volunteers put off another incredible event, their hard work enable us to have an amazing time in an amazing part of the country. 

Tim Shields from Massachusetts said it best “the trails go on forever, it’s incredible riding”

Thanks to ‘Arris and Courtney for inviting me back again this year to video the event, it’s the riding highlight of my year.

 Thank-you to BMW for allowing me to flog a new R1200GS. It’s an awesome bike. I’d have one in the garage next to the Guzzi if it wasn’t for the price tag.

Now the real work begins, filtering through the endless video, and create something worthwhile with it. First up will be the promo video for CMR, then the documentary, which I think won't be out until next years rally.

 I figure, what a perfect venue to screen it, at the 2016 Rally. We can lure everyone into the hall with food, lock the doors and force everyone to watch it.

Picture Credits, Tammy Perry and Jason Summers.

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