All the Ferries

Story by Tim Burke// Photos by Tim Burke
July 2 2024

Crossing bodies of water became the norm while riding to the East Coast.

When my daughter was home during summer break from Dalhousie University, she, for the first time, expressed interest in getting her motorcycle licence. Her opinion of my motorcycles over the years has been somewhat muted, so I was quite surprised and enthusiastic hearing her plan to take a rider training and safety course upon her return to Halifax in the fall. I may have promised to buy her a Vespa if she passes the test and gets her licence. Anyway, the prospect of my daughter becoming a rider prompted me to start planning a trip from the Toronto area to Halifax. I had ridden a similar route with my ex-wife about a decade earlier on an R1200GS and had really enjoyed the green hills of Vermont, the twisty roads through the White Mountains, and the cheap lobster in Maine.
This time around, I’d be riding solo on a Harley-Davidson Road King Special — my first Harley. I’m an air-cooled guy. I learned to ride on a Honda XL250 as a kid, moving up to a Yamaha 550 Maxim when I got my licence, then a Suzuki GSX 1100G — a shaft drive, naked, standard-style bike with a bullet-proof air and oil-cooled DOHC quad-Mikuni 1,127 cc Gixxer engine that would push your eyeballs right to the back of your skull. I have enough gray hairs now to be satisfied with feeling like I’m going fast versus actually going fast. Enter the Road King Special: Comically over-priced with a huge, air-cooled V-twin that could double as an air compressor in a machine shop. Perfect.

Departure Time

With Christmas-in-September enthusiasm I struck out east for the Ogdensburg border crossing. My plan was to ride south into NY, targeting the Essex ferry crossing at the southern end of Lake Champlain, and hang my hat somewhere in the Montpelier area in central Vermont. Having depended on a motorcycle for commuting to work one summer in Timmins, freezing my knuckles off riding to work on frosty mornings, I have insisted on heated grips for any bike I’ve owned since; despite the late summer calendar date, it was quite crisp when I set out and while riding through the Appalachians, so I was happy to have warm hands on the Harley.

I’ve yet to make any other significant changes to the bike (it still has — gasp! — stock exhaust), other than adding a windshield. After spending a lot of time watching various YouTube videos reviewing Harleys etc., I was expecting to really wish I’d upgraded the suspension and seat. Nope: this is the most comfortable long-haul bike I’ve ever ridden, bone stock. No hot spots in the saddle, no major pain points or stiffness if you use the cruise control and shake it out every once in…

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