Lawrence Hacking’s Overland Adventure Rally

OAR1When Lawrence Hacking invited me to participate in his newly created Overland Adventure Rally, I couldn’t possibly turn it down. I just needed to ensure I was available that weekend and what bike could I use. Well once the question about scheduling was cleared up, my friend Fiona offered up her Russian Ural (complete with the sidecar) for me to participate in the event. Now the question was, would my son be able to join me as my navigator, which turned out to not be the case since he was heading off to camp that same weekend. Once again Fiona stepped up to the plate and said she would join me. In hindsight this worked out well because had the navigation been up to my son, we would have gotten well and truly lost.

My adventure partner was full of mixed emotions with high doses of both excitement and trepidation over joining me. This was the first time she had ever been off-roading (in any vehicle) and it was also the first time she’d ever participated in a rally style event. Well, truth be told, I’ve never been in a rally either and although I have done some off-roading in the past, I’m hardly ‘experienced’ at it. There was also some concern on both our parts about doing this in a sidecar. Sure the Ural is built like a tank, or more accurately, like a three-wheeled tractor (and needs to be driven as such), but we had to wonder, just how rough was this route really going to be? Could the bike handle it? Could we?? We were about to find out…one way or another.

After arriving on Friday and speaking with Lawrence and Eric (who both designed and tested the route), some of my concerns were put at ease. However there was one section that I was told would be pretty dodgy for our bike to get through. I figured we’d just make a judgement call when we got to that point. There were two other Urals entered in the event so I foolishly figured whatever they could do…we could do too. Well…the problem with that was that they were far more experienced at taking their Ural’s off-road than I was. Actually…I’d never really taken the bike off-road. There was also a heightened sense of self-preservation on my part perhaps thanks to the blood-thinners I’m currently taking. Getting hurt is one thing but getting injured would be quite another and getting proper medical attention would be impossible. Fiona is an experienced nurse but if I got injured badly, she would only be able to buy me some time, but not enough, and I really didn’t like the idea of putting myself in a position where if I crashed badly, it would end up being my final moments.

So this brings us to the morning of the event. I stupidly made the mistake of leaving the cover off my tent thinking it would be too warm to comfortably sleep in but it turned out to be a rather chilly night resulting in a horrible nights sleep. In the morning I felt horrible, I looked horrible and the bags under my eyes were the size of suitcases and I couldn’t even blame it on a late night of partying. Multiple cups of coffee later and I was starting to feel ‘human’ again. After breakfast and the morning meeting, all the riders geared-up and mounted their metal steeds, which was a mixed bag of old and new from various manufactures. BMW, KTM, Ural, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Triumph, and a few others all took to the starting line to begin their adventure. The biggest challenge turned out to not be the off-road sections as so much as reading the pace notes and doing the navigation. It didn’t help that some of the roads were miss-labelled which left many riders, including us, scratching their heads wondering ‘Where the hell are we??’ This was made even more challenging because since the route was last tested, some local construction was started and a bridge that was usable two weeks ago, had become an impassable obstacle. Even those who relied on GPS units had to get creative and adapt to the changes. This is part of the challenge of rallying though and adapting to the changes and finding solutions is deeply satisfying.

We didn’t have a GPS , not even a road map, so we did occasionally have to rely on those who did to find a solution. Strangely though, later in the day, some bikes were following us because despite having extra navigational aids like maps and GPS units, they were having difficulty following the pace notes that were provided to us all at the start of the race. For being her first time doing a rally, Fiona did an amazing job of not only keeping us on course but also at improvising new alternatives when we had to deviate from the laid out route. Case in point was when we came upon the more challenging off-road section. We stopped so I could make a judgement call about taking the risk and in the end decided ‘Nah…ain’t gonna happen’. We knew it would be rough down there and I figured if we got stuck, we would have no room to turn around and backtrack. So we decided against it and improvised a way to side-step that section of the route. This turned out to be the prudent choice (we found out later that one of the other Urals got well and truly stuck in there and they required the assistance of a few more bikers to get them free).

OAR_ridersAfter several more kilometres, the suspension and my testicles were being slammed hard by the rough roads (if you’ve ever ridden a Ural, you will know how much a beating your groin gets even on regular paved roads…and this was getting painful). We eventually found ourselves right back at the same spot and noticed a rider coming out of that area (the one we decided to avoid) and when we asked him why he turned around, he replied with “It was too hard and I don’t have the right tires for it. I don’t want to crash”. After hearing that, we felt a lot better about the choice we had made. While figuring out the next leg of the journey, more riders came along, each of which were all making the same choice ‘try it…or abort’. One poor guy though had a more pressing problem which left him wondering where the nearest gas station was. Yeah…that’s a problem for sure. Fortunately for him though, we had plenty of spare gas packed on the bike. Note to self…Ducati’s are even thirstier for fuel than the Ural is. I always compared the Ural’s thirst for fuel to be like a drunken Russian’s thirst for Vodka…and for this metallic Russian, gasoline was its Vodka and damn it loves to drink! With the Ducati fuelled up though, we all headed on our respective ways.

More paved roads, more dirt roads and more roads that left us thinking ‘what the hell were they thinking when they added this section?!’ Going up steep hills in the Ural isn’t exactly easy because the front wheel tends to lift off the ground leaving you with the inability to steer (it really doesn’t matter how much you stand on the pegs and put weight over the front wheel). Add to that going up steep roads that are chock full of deep ruts and pot holes that made me wonder if it had been shelled by artillery, we found ourselves bouncing all over the place and once again, my manly bits were again taking a serious beating. Time to dig deep, grab a handful of intestinal fortitude and put caution aside…throttle wide open, engine growling like a constipated Siberian Tiger, tire spinning, and manhandling this bike into doing things it really didn’t want to do. This pushed our limits and the limits of the bike but with much persistence and commitment, we made it to the top.

OAR_SteepJust when we thought it couldn’t get worse though…it did. We were faced with another 20% uphill grade but this time it was in soft sand. Facepalm! Time to reach deep again and go hell for leather, but this time, we couldn’t find the momentum required to get our 800pds of wobbly, poor handling Russian motorcycle up the hill. We got stuck…just 1/3 from the top. I heard one of the bikers below us say “Oh that’s not good”. Fiona jumps out and gets ready to push from behind but as soon as I said that wouldn’t work, she instantly ran to the front and sat on the front of the side car. She knew I needed more weight forward on the bike and thanks to her quick thinking, me throwing the bike into 2WD, wicking open the throttle and burning some clutch metal, we started moving. Actually, when the bike finally found traction, Fiona’s legs flew up in the air and she nearly flew clean off the bike. “Get off!” I shouted…and off she flew (although not entirely by choice) as I started getting the needed grip and speed to reach the top of the hill. Try that Charley Boorman!

Once again though I could hear the experienced off-road bikers behind us, but this time they were laughing and saying ‘Well done! I thought for sure we would have to push you.” Actually, I think I will mention that trick to off-road legend and instructor Simon Pavey when I see him later that night.

Shortly later the roads became more subdued and manageable but my hands and butt were in agony. I was starting to feel like I had been molested by an angry gorilla (or rather the aforementioned Siberian Tiger). I was getting tired, cranky, feeling very physically beat up, and once again we were stopped on the side of the road trying to figure out where we were. Are we lost or again cursed by the mistakes in the route notes? Turns out the cursed route notes were again mislabelled and we were both getting frustrated. Fiona took over riding for a while so I could rest in the side car and be the ‘navi-guesser’ for a while.

She was doing great despite needing to stop and contemplate whether or not she could actually tackle some of the gravelly slopes she was presented with. With a bit of encouragement and some determined resolve (aka “stubbornness” and if you know Fi you know exactly what I mean), she mustered on. Although it was only about 10min later that we came to a section of road that she couldn’t handle…and I knew it. It was another nasty, loose gravel, steep uphill grade, with a tight corner near the top. Just the kind of thing that the Ural strongly objects to doing and it was going to need more skill and physical strength than Fiona could throw at it. I was grateful for the rest but it was time to get back to work. Once again our stubborn, wobbly Russian steed needed to be kicked in the proverbial ‘exhaust pipe’ to get up the hill.

Eventually we found ourselves on paved roads again and although I should have once again let Fiona take over, I guess my own stubbornness kicked in. Did I mention I was getting cranky? I wanted to get this over with now and I knew that my comfort level of riding at high speed on dodgy roads was higher than Fiona’s…so I stuck it out.

Finally we crossed the finish line and we were treated with a wonderful steak dinner followed by guest speakers Rene Cormier and Simon Pavey, both of whom regaled us with tales of their own adventures making what we just did today seem like child’s play. Everyone was exhausted and throughout the evening more and more great stories came out of people’s experiences from the day. People crashing (without injury), getting stuck in deep mud and even a fellow I knew suffering some nasty fuel drama. He ran out of gas and forgot the key to his fuel cap back at the campsite. I should mention that he too was on a thirsty Russian Ural. Haha…poor guy. Opps…I shouldn’t laugh…sorry. He had spare fuel, which is great, but it’s useless when you can’t get it into the bike. Simon Pavey came to the rescue on a BMW 1200GS and they hacked together an IV fuel line to pump fuel up into the Ural’s tank. Ahhh…more Vodka! Clever thinking! They had to do it a few times though and along the way, Simon ended up running out of fuel himself because he pumped too much into the other bike. Now that’s funny…although I’m sure they didn’t think so at the time.

The evening carried on to live music, prizes and give-aways and many of us drinking late into night. Fiona and I spent most of the night chatting away with Simon Pavey over a few beers…not just about his off-roading career but just about life in general. We found in each other a friendship that I hope will last quite a while.

This was the first Overland Adventure Rally by Lawrence but certainly not the last. At the end of Saturday night’s presentations, he announced the second rally for next year and I will certainly be there for it. Sometimes you just need to let yourself go and in keeping with the event moto…Live the Dream.

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Lawrence Hacking’s Overland Adventure Rally – Pre-Event

This could quite possibly be the best adventure event of the year in Ontario. Lawrence Hacking, a guy who’s been racing off-road motorcycles since he was 16 and was the first Canadian to complete the famous Dakar Rally back in 2001, has created the Overland Adventure Rally. The event is July 12-14, 2013 and is being held in Campbellville, Ontario.

So what right? Off-road rally’s are held all over the world right? Sure…but not like this one. This one has a class for just about everyone…including cars! This is all about just having fun regardless of what you show up with. Got a vintage bike or car? There’s a class for that. Got a bike from India, Taiwan or China? They have a class for that too. There is also a paved route for the cars or bikes that are really not suited to slippy, bumpy roads which is about 200km long. The more challenging off-road route is 230km and is mostly gravel and dirt roads with a few more challenging sections. Obviously the more challenging bits can’t be too rough or the sidecar class wouldn’t be able to get through. I’m banking on that actually because I will be riding a 2009 Russian Ural with a sidecar loaded with a passenger. For my passenger, aka Monkey (as sidecar passengers are known), aka Navi-guesser…ahem, navigator, this will be her first rally like this. Well…truth be told…it will be my first off-road race too but I have done rally style events before. At least I have some previous experience off-roading in both cars/trucks and motorcycles. Now at the time of writing this, Lawrence tells me that there is only one other bike entered in the sidecar class. I guess that means I’m looking at a 2nd place trophy! LOL

Simon Pavey - Overland Adventure Rally

Simon Pavey

What also makes this event interesting is that thanks to BMW Canada, the rather well known Simon Pavey (7-time Dakar finisher and UK-based BMW GS Training instructor) will be one of the guest speakers. You may also remember him from “The Race to Dakar” documentary which covered the challenges surrounding the Dakar Rally as actor & world motorcycle adventurer Charley Boorman attempted to tackle the race for the first time.

Rene Cormier - Overland Adventure Rally

Rene Cormier

Another guest speaker is less well known globally but his accomplishes are vast as another who crossed the world (in nearly every direction) on a motorcycle. Perhaps he will tell about the times he was shot at while sleeping under his motorcycle in the USA (he woke to the sound of gun shots and gas pouring on him thanks to a bullet piercing his fuel tank) and the time he took gun fire from shady guards at a check point in Africa. Ya…really!

If you’re interested in a copy of the flyer, just click this link.

If you want the full details of the event, click here.

Actually…just register by clicking here.

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Vital ID Could Save Your Life

Every once in a while, someone asks me to review or promote their product and every once in a while, something comes across my desk that is worth more than it costs and in this case it’s the Vital ID Motorcycle kit and Medical ID bracelet.

Medical ID bracelets aren’t new, in fact they have been around for decades but they’ve usually been some bland piece of metal worn as a bracelet or necklace. They’ve never been aesthetically pleasing and often got snagged or caught on things, which meant they weren’t practical to wear and often people wouldn’t bother, thus defeating the point of even having one.

Recently I was contacted by someone affiliated from asking me to help spread the word about their products and after looking at their wide range of products online, I wanted to learn more and see how practical this stuff really was. They sent me some of their Medical ID bracelets and a couple of their Motorcycle Rider ID kits and I must say they are amazing.

As a motorcyclist, I know full well that if I get involved in a crash, the odds of me being injured are much higher than if I was involved in a crash while in a vehicle. Let’s face it…no safety cage, airbags or crumple zones. Paramedic’s first priority is to assess and stabilize your injuries. Looking for your wallet is also a priority (which is why I always keep it in my jacket pocket and not in a tank bag) but this wastes precious time and doesn’t usually contain any information about you medically.

When a rider crashes, getting the helmet off is a two person job and once done, the helmet goes along with the patient in the ambulance so that it can be looked at by the trauma team in the ER (it often provides clues as to where head injuries may be and how bad). With the Rider ID kit attached to your helmet, they can easily pull the info card out of the reflective sleeve and not only find out basic information about you, but also learn if you have any medical conditions, other than the obvious injuries from your crash, that may assist them in how they treat you clinically. For example, if you are taking blood thinners, the risk of you dying from excessive blood loss is quite high, however if that information is on your Rider ID card, they would know to give you a Vitamin K shot (the ‘antidote’ for Warfarin), which would quickly coagulate your blood and improve your odds. It would also be good for them to know if you have any allergies to drugs.

The Rider ID kit comes with a reflective sleeve that sticks to your helmet with a tri-fold card that you put all your information on and folds up and is stored in the sleeve. Both the reflective sleeve and tri-fold insert are waterproof – just be sure to use a waterproof marker when filling it out. It also comes with a wallet card which can contain the same information along with other important details, like who to contact in the event of an emergency.

If you aren’t a motorcyclist, the Medical ID bracelet accomplishes the same goal and can be used by anybody. It’s a Velcro arm band with a sleeve that again contains a tri-fold information card with all your important medical information. It clearly states right on it what it is for and paramedics and trauma staff are trained to look for such items. Again the arm band and information card is water proof and you can also easily attach a wrist watch to it making it practical for everyday use.

I’ve shown both products to various people in the medical and first responder community and they all agree that these products could save your life and they wish that people who need them, wear them. Some further went on to say that even if you don’t have any pre-existing medical conditions, using products like this could save time should you need medical attention and make it easier to contact your family should you end up in hospital and unable to speak or communicate in someway.

Many trauma victims can spend days in critical care as “John/Jane Doe” because their wallet/purse could not be located at the scene. Think about the stress your family would experience, not knowing where you are for several days. Calling around to hospitals would be useless because they would be asking for you by name and since they don’t know your name, they would say “No…he/she’s not here”. Then what? They would have to call the police and file a ‘Missing Person’ report followed by days of waiting as they call to hospitals asking for unidentified patients fitting your description. provides an impressive selection of products and I would suggest you check them out. Their products are indeed worth far more than they cost.

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Mt. Washington Trip – The Journey Home

Our trip Mascot, Gomer was always ready to ride!

After three days of great weather, my rain curse made itself known and Monday night a massive storm rolled in. The sky lit up with lightening and everything shook from the thunder that followed, while strong winds tried to pull the tent pegs from the ground. The worst of the storm only lasted a few hours but the rain continued throughout the night.

In the morning, we woke to a soaked tent and damp sleeping bags. I wasn’t looking forward to packing everything up in the rain to say the least. Susie brought all our riding gear up to the registration office and waited for me to pack up all the gear and strap it to the bike. Just before I finished, the rain finally stopped but left us with some very cold, damp riding conditions. I wondered at this point if Chris went through the same thing or if he opted for a motel room somewhere.

Back on the bike, we left the campground around 10am in New Hampshire and headed back towards the Lake Placid area. I wanted to do some more touring through the Adirondack Park again, even if it was on many of the same roads. Our first stop was in Plainfield, Vermont where I had, what turned out to be, the worst breakfast in history! I swear it tried to slowly kill me for the next two days. If you ever happen to roll through there…don’t stop!

Once we rolled through Montpelier with their suspension killing potholes again, we jumped on the I-89 and headed towards Lake Champlain and crossing into New York State once again. After some insane crosswinds, our necks began to get fatigued from all the wind buffeting. I decided that it was time to get off the main roads and needed a bit of a break, so I decided that taking the ferry across the lake was a good idea.

This ferry crossing was the first I actually used my tie-down straps. The chop on the water would have been too much for the kickstand to support the bike and it would have surely fallen over. Even though I was sitting on it, it would have been too much to hold on too. If you look carefully, you can make out the red strap around the green plate part along the side of the ferry.

After crossing Lake Champlain, it was a reasonably short ride back to Wilmington, NY area. Considering all our gear was wet, we looked for a local motel and ended up at a great Bed & Breakfast ( In hind sight it was a good idea. The temps dropped to 3 degrees celcius and considering all our gear was wet, it would have made camping rather miserable. Instead we had a nice warm bed and a terrific view of White Face Mountain from our bedroom window.

Wednesday morning we started our final push home through the Dacks, along some great country roads, across the ferry and finally the least entertaining section across the 401 home. Once again, my tie-down strap came in handy on the Ferry across to Kingston and once all was said and done, we had traveled 1800km over 5 days.

Props must go to my traveling partner Susie. Prior to this trip, she hadn’t spent more then 1.5hrs on the back of a bike. Nor had she ever been camping! This trip was full of “first time” experiences for her and she did great.

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Mt. Washington Trip – Mountains Galore!

We started off by meeting Chris at a gas station not far from where I live. He was coming in from Oakville and needed to fill up anyway. From there we headed east and had our first break at a service station just west of Bellville.

From there we continued to Kingston and waited for the ferry crossings to Wolfe Island and then a second to the US border crossing. Once we crossed the border (which was the fastest chat with US Customs and Immigration that I have ever had), we started making our way towards the Adirondack Park. Our butts became numb, our necks sore and we loved it as the miles clicked away on the odometer.

Once we stopped for dinner in Gouvernour, we entered the park and we were treated to some simply awesome riding roads and spectacular views of the forest, rivers and lakes that we passed through. It’s no wonder this is such a popular place for camping. The miles climbed and the sun began to set as we made our way through Lake Placid, finally arriving at our KOA campsite just north of there near Wilmington, NY. The next morning we decided that since we were so close to White Face Mountain, that it would be a shame to not ride to the summit. So we packed up our site, had a hardy breakfast in Lake Placid and headed for White Face.

When we arrived at the bottom, we were advised that visibility was zero and that it was chilly at the top. Whatever…upward we rode and stopped to take some great pictures along the way.

The view was simply breathtaking once the clouds moved off a little but the best view was just below the clouds, where we were able to overlook the mountain ranges, lakes and valleys off in the distance.

Chris originally was just planning on camping and riding around Adirondack Park for four days, but decided that he would join us to see Mt. Washington. So with that, the three of us headed off towards our second campground in New Hampshire. We crossed Lake Champlain via the ferry into Charlotte, Vermont and headed south to Bristol for another break. From there we headed up RT17 through Buel’s Gore, which is an extremely twisty and technical section of road. I’ll admit that I was nervous in some spots considering how heavy the bike was and how poorly it handled.

Onward we rode through Montpelier, which is the capital of Vermont and I must say that it was here that we encountered by FAR the worst roads on our entire trip! Although, the road climbing White Face was rough…the roads in Montpelier were way worse and our bikes took a serious beating. After a short stop to put on some warmer clothes and rest our pothole-beaten butts, we pushed hard into New Hampshire towards our next campsite, which is not far from Mt. Washington. Once again though, we arrived after sunset and had to setup our site using flashlights to see. This was becoming a pattern that needed to be broken.

Another hardy morning breakfast to start our day before riding to Mt. Washington. This was to be the shortest riding day of the trip. Well at least for Susie and me anyway.

Now for the purpose of the trip: Mt.Washington!
I stripped the bike of all the cases and un-needed gear with the exception of rain gear in case we needed it and some warmer clothes that we certainly would. We reached the base and began our ascent up the mountain with Susie on the back and Chris following behind. The road was actually pretty easy to ride since most of it was paved but what makes it nerve-racking is that it’s only a lane and a half wide and there are no guardrails. This made passing cars coming down the mountain more interesting since there was very little space to get by and in some spots it would have been impossible for two cars to pass by each other. Seeing nature so up close made me think about how I treat my body, and other people as well. Not everyone looks after their health as well as they should. I try to watch what I eat, and exercise when I can. I even take a natural health supplement called kratom masters which has been very effective for me. I have found myself recommending it in casual conversation actually. If you are in the market for one, you should check this one out.

Part way up the climb, the asphalt gives way to dirt and gravel, then back to asphalt again, making that rougher section just a little more interesting and soon we face a new challenge as we climb into the clouds with strong gusting winds. Visability is now only 20ft in front of us and we crawl up the hill trying to ensure that we don’t over-shoot a tight turn and fall off the mountain or get blown off by a wind gust!

Finally we reach the top and although we feel a sense of satisfaction from the climb, it is quickly replaced with some disappointment from the complete lack of visability through the clouds. We stayed at the summit for a while checking out the gift shop and the cog train that climbs the mountian.

The train is for those who want to travel to the summit but either can’t hike up or don’t have the intestinal fortitude to drive up themselves. This is obviously a common choice for seniors or for those who have a fear of heights and may panic behind the wheel. The train is steam driven and fueled by a coal burning fire. You can see the coal cart from where the engineers have to shovel the coal by hand into the fire.

Finally the clouds passed and we were treated with a breathtaking view of the Appalachian mountains as far as the eye could see.

Now for the decent. Personally going back down was far less intimidating since I already had an idea what to expect for road conditions and with the clouds gone, I could actually see where I was going. Many people get more nervous going down simply because of the visual effect of looking down the mountain and out over the ranges. You get an idea in this image of how steep sections of the road are.

Our only issue was at one point nearly being run off the side by a small SUV that was taking up too much of the road and not watching for oncoming traffic. I had to swerve towards the edge to avoid being hit head-on and my tires came about 1.5ft from the edge! Talk about a pucker moment. My sphincter didn’t relax again until I reached the bottom.

Without a doubt, our tour of the mountains was a great experience. After successfully negotiating the Mt. Washington Auto Road, we headed back to our campsite for a relaxing remainder of the day…for Susie and me at least.

Chris wanted to head back to Adirondack Park to check out Lake George. So after packing up his tent and gear, we said our fairwells and Chris continued his adventure on his own. As for us…we lazed around the campsite late into the night until the rain rolled in.

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