I have started to plan a motorcycle adventure across Canada. I want to ride the Cabot Trail, a scenic highway on Cape Breton Island, in Nova Scotia and will plan to get there by riding across Canada, leaving Seattle in September.
Planning the Route
I enjoy planning out a route. It’s when the ride starts to take on a shape and character.
For example, for this ride I will delay the return route planning until I’m on the road and either in or close to Nova Scotia. It will be late enough in the vacation season that I can schedule lodging only a day (or two) in advance, allowing me to optimize my route and layovers for weather conditions.
The big question for now is, “What roads do I want to take to get to Nova Scotia.”
My goal is to maximize the number of great motorcycle roads I experience throughout the journey.
The map above is a tentative route based, in part, on an article from Canadian Angela Murray, entitled “Ride 10 Best Motorcycle Roads in Canada.“
Listed below are some of the places from Angela’s list that I’ve included in planning my route.
Bow Valley Parkway
I will take a northern route across BC and into Alberta to Lake Louise. The Canadian Rockies are beautiful, no doubt. On Day 2 of this trip, I’ll ride a section of the Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy 1A) from Lake Louise south to Banff. Hwy 1A parallels the busy Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy 1).
On my 2018 Ride to the Dalton, I rode Hwy 1 north from just above Lake Louise to Jasper. This year, I’ll have an opportunity to head the other way and use the alternative Hwy 1A!
The Kananaskis Trail
Highway 40, also called the Kananaskis Trail has been added to the ride the day after the Bow Valley Parkway. Located just east of Banff, I’ll head south over Highwood Pass, the highest paved road in Canada.
An image of the pass from wikipedia shows why I’m drawn to ride this highway.
Kenora / Lake Superior Shore – Ontario
According to Angela, ” The stretch of highway along the shore of Lake Superior from Wawa to Sault St. Marie is known as one of the most scenic rides in Canada and will leave you breathless …”
I will be spending considerable time along Lake Superior’s northern and eastern shores this trip.
From Sault Ste. Marie, I will head east, staying in Canada and along the north shore of Lake Huron.
Nova Scotia and The Cabot Trail
I’ll pass through Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City before reaching Nova Scotia. I plan to spend two full days and three nights in the same place so that I can explore the southern and eastern shores of Nova Scotia and ride the Cabot Trail.
The Cabot Trail is on Cape Brenton Island and the loop around it is about 185 miles. I’d love to have a full day to explore and take in the scenery. Scheduling two successive days in place gives me a good chance to see everything.
Here’s a video from the “official” website.
Once the tentative route is settled on, I breakdown the trip into discreet daily chunks.
I will start to call out destinations and make maps for each to determine how far and how long the ride that day might be based on estimates from the map.
The product of this daily breakdown, once I’ve balanced big days with easy days and thrown in at least one day off along the way, is a reasonable guide to how long the entire leg of this journey will take.
Also important is to then find those places that are special and work backwards to make sure I’m not getting there on the weekends or during a festival or other large event.
For example, from the video of Nova Scotia’s Cabot Trail (above), you can see why I’d rather arrive there during the early or middle part of the week and avoid weekend/festival traffic. It sounds terrible but the fewer other people around the better, in general.
Lately, I’ve been working out stuff like daily schedules on a google document. That way, I can share it with friends who’ll be supporting me from home. And it can be organized to print out for the border crossing. It helps to have that info handy.
Here’s an image of my current schedule (work in progress).
There is a festival in the Highlands National Park on the north end of the Cabot Trail that goes through September 22nd. I will have a first opportunity to ride it the next day, if I use the schedule shown above.
This is an aggressive (high-mileage) schedule relative to my past rides. While I average about 300 miles a day for the first section, after the day off, I will be averaging almost 400 miles daily until I arrive in Nova Scotia.
The longest day, according to the maps, will be just under eight hours. I generally add about 25% for photo and meal stops, so these will be finishing up as the sun gets low in the sky. I’ll have to get early starts and keep my stops focused because I don’t like riding at dusk when the animals come out onto the road.
Other riders do long days, I certainly can figure it out. 🙂
Over time, as the schedule firms up, I’ll use this same document to add lodging and any restaurants I might want to try at the different stops.
It has been beneficial to scope out eating and lodging options together for the evenings. It helps make for smooth and relaxed layovers to have my best options handy.
For this first leg of the journey, I will likely reserve everything in advance, as I have on past trips to Canada. It’s less spontaneous but I’ll be more relaxed about arrangements.
I have learned that after weeks on the road, even traveling solo, it is the daily selecting and reserving of lodging (and finding a good meal) that can be an energy sink and large component of burnout.
I will have more energy for making daily arrangements on the way home if I schedule the first two weeks before leaving. Make sense?
While I’m working out twice weekly currently, I have time to add some extra cardio into my schedule before I leave.
I want to get as fit as possible before leaving because, except for light swimming, I have yet to find time to exercise regularly on motorcycle rides. This will be the longest trip for 2019 and I want to be ready.