“Come to New Brunswick” they said.
“You’ll have fun” they said.
It all started with a rather innocent, if somewhat enticing email from one of the rally sponsors, Kimpex.
“Would you be interested in attending the 2015 Fundy Adventure Rally?”
I had written some product reviews and submitted some contributions to their blog, and this was Kimpex saying ‘thank you’ for my efforts.
Who was I to look a gift horse in the mouth?
“Of course, I’d love to attend the Fundy Adventure Rally” I responded. Without giving any thought to the fact that I knew nothing about said rally.
Or the fact that I had never ridden in a rally before.
Or the fact that, childhood dirt-bike riding notwithstanding, I only began to ride anything remotely like off-road within the previous 12 months.
Ah, ignorance is bliss.
In truth, at that point – and this was in early June – I was very much concentrating on preparing for my upcoming Epic East Coast and Trans-Lab Adventure.
An 8,500km adventure motorcycle journey through Canada’s east coast and along the iconic Trans Labrador Highway.
Little did I know at the time that one would largely impact the other. You see, it was on the first day of said adventure that I met another ADV rider , known on the forums as Flagman, who just happened to be the owner of a pristine 2003 Suzuki DR650.
Which he was interested in selling.
Now, truth be told, I did not consciously consider buying that bike at the time. I actually shared a photo or two on several FB groups, trying to help Flagman sell his bike.
Over the next 8,000+ kilometers though, I spent a lot of time in my helmet, thinking about the upcoming rally, and that sweet, somewhat modified DR650.
Twenty-one days and several internal arguments later, she was mine.
So, that part of the equation out of the way, it was time to start actually preparing for the rally. Which meant doing things like, you know, researching exactly what might be involved.
I found a couple of videos online that had been shot during last year’s FAR. All in all, it looked pretty tame, with lots of gravel road and some manageable twin-track stuff, the odd shallow water crossing tossed in for good measure.
This was going to be a walk in the park, I told myself, and pretty much put the technical aspect of the rally out of my mind.
It was time to focus on the important stuff, like forming a team, and designing jerseys. After all, the first place finishers need to look professional, right?
I borrowed the name for our team from a riding buddy, Ryan Carman. He had coined the Rally Yobos for a previous rally in eastern Ontario a couple of years prior, and having joined their Thursday evening DQ meet and greets, I was more than welcome to ride the Fundy Adventure Rally representing the Rally Yobos.
Now I needed team mates. There were several iterations to the team, and a story or two could be told about that, but suffice to say that by the time that the rally was less than 2 weeks away, I had 2 new rally-mates all raring to go as members of the Rally Yobos.
Matt LeBlanc, a KLR 650 rider from New Brunswick, and Jason Summers on a Yamaha XT250 from Newfoundland were both looking to join a team in order to run the ‘B’ options. The rally organizers, putting safety first above all else, had mandated that solo riders could ride the ‘A’ option only, this being the only portion of the rally course to be swept by a support vehicle. Riding the trickier ‘B’ options required a team of at least 2 riders, able to help each other out of a jam if it became necessary.
Eager to ride ‘B’ options myself, we three merry men quickly formed an alliance.
We had never met face-to-face before. The shrinking planet driven by Facebook brought us together. Having a common goal – finishing the rally in one piece – meant that we already shared a bond. I hoped.
I then got to work on the jerseys. I did this by calling my web-tech-and-camera guy, James.
“Hey James, we need 3 jerseys for the rally. Make sure they look good.”
Phew, another item off the checklist.
And then, slowly over the next few weeks, some video footage and information about this years rally began to trickle down from the CMG Fundy Adventure Rally website.
It seemed that the layout designers had decided to spice things up a bit and add some slightly more technical routes, or ‘C’ legs, to this years rally.
Meh. Still looked pretty manageable to me. ‘Cause, you know that hastily shot video from an action cam always provides an accurate representation of the terrain, right?
Fast forward to departure day. I loaded the DR650 onto a borrowed trailer (thanks Dave) and hooked that to a borrowed Subaru (thanks James) and hit the road, bound for glory.
Actually, bound for rain. Road flooding, make me rethink everything that I am doing, research plans for building an ark kind of rain.
The tail end of tropical storm Henri had unleashed a torrent of water on New Brunswick. So much so that in the rally host town of Sussex there were cars caught in flooded intersections, water approaching the windows.
I arrived at the rally headquarters, better known as Adair’s Wilderness Lodge, late on Friday afternoon.
I had missed the Clinton Smout Rider Training course held on Thursday, as well as the BMW Motoraad demo rides held earlier on Friday, but I had made it, and that was good enough for me.
I checked in, signed up, got my room key, unpacked and headed over to the lodge to meet my teammates and have some dinner with the other 95-or-so slightly wet and down-trodden rally adventurists.
Within 30 minutes, I felt like this was going to be the best weekend I had experienced in a long time. The atmosphere was alive with laughter and excitement and I realized very quickly that this event, more than anything else, was about having fun!
This fact was further highlighted when the rally master and editor of CMG Rob Harris got up to give us his presentation about the next day’s rally, and what we could expect.
It seemed the rain had changed just about everything, making the originally docile ‘A’ legs a little more like ‘B’ legs; the expected challenge of original ‘B’ legs becoming ‘holy-crap-I-hope-I-make-it-through-this’ kinda ‘C’ legs, and the planned technical, experienced-rider-only ‘C’ legs had become, as we would learn on Saturday, virtually impassible in some areas.
So, I have already written over 1,000 words, and we aren’t even riding yet. Maybe the old adage rings true, and a picture is worth 1,000 words. Let’s hope so, because the next portion of this write up is in jpeg format.
Every Picture Tells A Story:
Needless to say, as the pictures show, the Rally Yobos managed to complete the rally. What the pictures come close, but can’t quite show, is just how much fun we all had.
We rode through terrain that I never would have considered riding on my own, and my limits were stretched beyond that which I thought possible.
We missed some turns; we dropped our bikes (well, not everyone – but I sure did!); we found ourselves exhausted, and exhilarated, and wondering ‘what-the-hell-am-I-doing here’ while laughing out loud at the sheer awesomeness of it all.
Each and every one of us pushed ourselves passed our usual riding limits – well, maybe a couple of the KTM riders might have been entirely within their normal comfort zones – but I am pretty sure that most of the 98 entrants felt like they had ridden a great ride, pushed their limits and conquered the FAR course.
A few even completed all of the most difficult ‘C’ sections . . . errrr . . . okay that doesn’t sound right . . . ’C’ options including those really deep water crossings that led to this WR250R getting flooded (video by aproape).
The Rally Yobos were also fortunate enough to have Terry Burt of the Big Land Adventure Films along as an honorary member of the team, and if we are really lucky we may become a part of a documentary that Terry is working on about the Fundy Adventure Rally.
Lord knows we offered some footage worth a chuckle, from my falling on the rockiest hill climb of the rally, to taking 4 swings to get my leg across my seat, to Matt’s super-moto style of gnarly rock climbing on his KLR, there was no shortage of entertainment.
I cannot say enough about how well organized, and managed this event was. Even Tropical Storm Henri was no match for ‘Arris and his band of merry rally makers!
The owners of the host lodge, mister and missus Adair, were gracious hosts that obviously love being a part of the various adventures that start and end at their lodge, and the rally sponsors provided some wonderful prizes that were given away at the end of the ‘awards’ ceremony on Saturday evening.
All in all it was a spectacular weekend, and it all came into being for me due to a simple little email from one of the rally sponsors, Kimpex.
Thank you Evens! – let’s do it again next year!
In the meantime, here’s a few more videos and a link to some pics on the FAR Smugmug page. Many thanks to the FAR organizers for setting up a photo sharing page – the source for many of these photos.