North to Ontario! (Day One)

In the summer of 2010, after a few months of progressively longer day trips, Barley and I set out to visit some friends in North Bay, Ontario. It was to be a test run for rig, rider and dog, an opportunity to explore the unique character of shared sidecar travel and to figure out what gaps needed to be addressed before we took any truly long trips.Barley's first boat trip

We crossed Lake Champlain via ferry to Plattsburgh, NY, cut across the northern Adirondacks and the farmland just above, aiming for the border crossing at Ogdensburg. Just before the turn that would send us over the bridge crossing the Saint Lawrence Seaway was a sign giving me the option of taking the bridge to Canada…or a shorter route to a psychiatric facility. Despite some inner doubts about my sanity, I took the bridge.

The view from the top was spectacular if a bit windy. Pleasure craft and large freighters shared the water far below, a mix of summer camps and luxury homes dotted the banks…and most of the people in the nearby cars were looking at us rather than the scenery or the road. It began to dawn on me that the rarity of sidecars, coupled with the cute factor of a dog going for a ride, might occasionally put us in harm’s way.

Barley is intensely interested in the world around him. He is not a passive passenger, but rather a student of all he sees and smells. At speed across boring stretches he will lay down for a nap, but should I slow or downshift that furry head pops up in my peripheral vision as he looks around, his nose busily working the scents. I’ve learned to trust his senses, as he often alerts on potential hazards well before I’m aware of them. He also adds an element of joy to our trips, a way of seeing the world through the eyes of a child.

Crossing into Canada with a dog is absolutely simple. Show proof of rabies vaccination and that’s the end of it. Once across, we switched to secondary roads through farm country. It looked a lot like upstate New York, but flatter. I enjoy the slower pace of the back roads, the absence of other vehicles, the verdant scenery. Barley enjoys it in his own way, breathing deeply of the smell of manure as we pass a farm, dreaming of being able to roll in disgusting things.SmithsFallsHotel

A few hours after crossing the border we pulled into the smallish town of Smith’s Falls, Ontario, our goal for the first day. We had made excellent time, and I considered pressing on, but there were threatening clouds in our direction of travel and I wanted the chance to let Barley walk around, to evaluate how he was holding up. So we stopped for the day, checked into a roadside motel, and hauled our stuff into our room. A couple of minutes later the roar of torrential rainfall caught my attention.

Good timing!

The shower passed fairly quickly, so I took Barley outside for some exercise. He chased the ball a couple of times, then squatted for a poop of heroic proportions! We always travel with poop bags and a spade, but this was a two-bagger. I remembered back home he had been munching on pumpkins, no doubt the origin of this monumental deposit.

Note to self: watch his dietary intake during AND before the trip.

DAY TWO

In the summer of 2010, after a few months of progressively longer day trips, Barley and I set out to visit some friends in North Bay, Ontario. It was to be a test run for rig, rider and dog, an opportunity to explore the unique character of shared sidecar travel and to figure out what gaps needed to be addressed before we took any truly long trips.Barley's first boat trip

We crossed Lake Champlain via ferry to Plattsburgh, NY, cut across the northern Adirondacks and the farmland just above, aiming for the border crossing at Ogdensburg. Just before the turn that would send us over the bridge crossing the Saint Lawrence Seaway was a sign giving me the option of taking the bridge to Canada…or a shorter route to a psychiatric facility. Despite some inner doubts about my sanity, I took the bridge.

The view from the top was spectacular if a bit windy. Pleasure craft and large freighters shared the water far below, a mix of summer camps and luxury homes dotted the banks…and most of the people in the nearby cars were looking at us rather than the scenery or the road. It began to dawn on me that the rarity of sidecars, coupled with the cute factor of a dog going for a ride, might occasionally put us in harm’s way.

Barley is intensely interested in the world around him. He is not a passive passenger, but rather a student of all he sees and smells. At speed across boring stretches he will lay down for a nap, but should I slow or downshift that furry head pops up in my peripheral vision as he looks around, his nose busily working the scents. I’ve learned to trust his senses, as he often alerts on potential hazards well before I’m aware of them. He also adds an element of joy to our trips, a way of seeing the world through the eyes of a child.

Crossing into Canada with a dog is absolutely simple. Show proof of rabies vaccination and that’s the end of it. Once across, we switched to secondary roads through farm country. It looked a lot like upstate New York, but flatter. I enjoy the slower pace of the back roads, the absence of other vehicles, the verdant scenery. Barley enjoys it in his own way, breathing deeply of the smell of manure as we pass a farm, dreaming of being able to roll in disgusting things.SmithsFallsHotel

A few hours after crossing the border we pulled into the smallish town of Smith’s Falls, Ontario, our goal for the first day. We had made excellent time, and I considered pressing on, but there were threatening clouds in our direction of travel and I wanted the chance to let Barley walk around, to evaluate how he was holding up. So we stopped for the day, checked into a roadside motel, and hauled our stuff into our room. A couple of minutes later the roar of torrential rainfall caught my attention.

Good timing!

The shower passed fairly quickly, so I took Barley outside for some exercise. He chased the ball a couple of times, then squatted for a poop of heroic proportions! We always travel with poop bags and a spade, but this was a two-bagger. I remembered back home he had been munching on pumpkins, no doubt the origin of this monumental deposit.

Note to self: watch his dietary intake during AND before the trip.

DAY TWO

We said our goodbyes the following morning, heading south at Charles’ urging to check out the Algonquin Provincial Park. We stopped at an auto parts store in Huntsville to replace a blown fuse which I installed while the parts manager gave Barley a tour of the warehouse that included several treats. We set off again, entered the park, and had a great time exploring a series of dirt roads in the backcountry. By noon we were heading for a small brewery on the north shore of Lake Erie. Unfortunately we had to pass through a tourist town along the way, with traffic so bad the bike started overheating. When rain clouds approached I realized the only way to keep Barley dry would have been to snap the solid cover into place, leaving him in complete darkness. Can’t do that to my dog, so we turned around and outran the storm. The plan was to cross back into the US and ride south to the Finger Lakes region of New York.SnakeCreek

By the time we reached the Thousand Island border crossing the heat and humidity had reached epic proportions. The line of cars was long, and as we waited our turn in the heat I was worried about Barley. The bike was no problem; I simply turned off the engine and pushed the rig ahead, but the poor dog was in direct sunlight with no airflow. All I could do was offer him water and words of encouragement. As we sat there baking I resolved to visit a sail maker and figure out some way of giving him a bit of shade.

We eventually got through customs and were heading south when Barley gave me the look that told me it was time for a break under a shade tree. We exited the Interstate and pulled into a small town, got lunch at Subway, then drove across the street to a McDonald’s that had a shady park in back. The sidecar made a grinding sound and lurched to one side. Not good!

Not knowing what could have caused this, I called Hannigan Motorsports down in Kentucky. Dave K, one of their designers, helped me troubleshoot over the phone and we quickly concluded that the electric camber control had failed. The ECC allows the rider to adjust the camber, or angle of lean at the tub relative to the bike, to compensate for crowned roads, heavy crosswinds, etc. The rig was rideable, but would be very difficult to control. We turned east and limped toward home at a reduced speed.Clouds

As we passed through Fort Drum in the western Adirondacks I realized there was no way we were going to reach home before dark, and I definitely did not want to ride a crippled rig at night. I reached for the cell phone and called Tom and Kelli, a couple living near Saranac Lake with whom we had placed CJ, a rescued golden retriever, years earlier. “You’re both absolutely welcome to stop here,” said Tom. We altered course into the heart of the Adirondacks to visit our old canine friend and to cement a friendship with his humans.

 

CouchSurfer

Tom and Kelli opened their lakeside home to us, fed us, put us up in the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in, and sent us on our way in the morning with instructions for a shortcut only a local would know about. Their kindness was touching, as was the knowledge that CJ the Rescue had found love in a bit of Paradise.Saranac

LESSONS LEARNED