Sunday, July 25, 2010


As I think of this ride, several things immediately come to mind:
• Taking an extended trip alone was good
• Mom and pop places are on the old roads
• MTN homes take some planning
• The RT is a great touring machine
• Weather happens
• Don’t count on technology

When I planned this trip, I had some concerns over being gone for an extended period of time alone. As it turned out, going alone was not bad at all. On the positive side, I made all the decisions, good and bad. Luckily, I had no problems (mechanical, health, or accident) where having someone else with me would have made a big difference. I guess you can’t count on never having a problem, though. I still like riding with Gary, my usual riding partner, but now I know I can do it alone when I want to.

I like going to mom and pop places—both for lodging and for meals. They are usually much more interesting, with stories and histories that can’t be found in the chain places. I especially like meals at these places. Sometimes they have something that they have specialized and for which they are “famous” (at least locally). Sometimes it’s the d├ęcor. Sometimes it’s the people there. While Gary will hunt for a place that sells beer, I’m fine without it; many mom and pops places do not sell beer.

On this particular trip, overall I was a little disappointed with the food I encountered. I did have several breakfasts that were terrific (especially the French toast the second morning), but lunches and dinners were not what I wanted them to be. Not sure why, but they weren’t GOOD. They were okay, and none were BAD, but they weren’t delicious like I wanted them to be.

The mom and pop places are usually located on the outskirts of towns, along the old “major” roads. They were built there because that’s where the traffic went. However, when the new roads were built, the chains built along them, and the mom and pop places lost the traffic. But they held on and some still operate. I like them.

Using the Motorcycle Travel Network is good. I’ve now stayed in 3 homes; one near home and two on this trip. Two were great, with hosts that enjoyed talking and sharing stories of rides and bikes. Both went to dinner with me, and both had great breakfasts. One shared no stories nor provided a breakfast—only providing a bed and bathroom. The up side of MTN homes, IMO, is meeting nice people and sharing the stories. The down side is that it takes some planning to line them up for stays, and there’s no “down” time. The sharing takes literally hours, so there’s no time for rest or blogging. I guess there’s no perfect situation.

For serious touring for a rider (only), the RT can’t be beat. Tons of power when wanted. Terrific brakes when needed. Great gas mileage (avg about 48mpg). Runs for hours and hours and just keeps on humming. Great weather protection. Cruise control. Great storage. While there are faster bikes, and while there are cheaper bikes, none compare to the BMW 1200 RT for serious touring.

Every extended trip brings weather issues. Plan on it. This one brought extreme heat on the second day, way up in Illinois! Probably best to always pack the Sahara Vest if it’s even warm, to help cool off. And it can be colder than you’d expect. Up in Canada, when it was cloudy, it got very cool, requiring me to use the heated grips to keep my hands warm. And it can get wet in a hurry. I think I have the best gear available to deal with the weather, but even so, sometimes it gets very uncomfortable. Such is the nature of touring…

Technology.. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. Those who know me well know that I like and use technology a lot. Wireless signals come and go. Data services work and don’t work. Even the GPS that has been rock-solid acted up some times, particularly around the big lakes, showing me off course by big margins, for no reason at all. My point in this rambling is that sometimes technology works to help you do things better or more efficiently; sometimes it is a nuisance.

As I continue to ride the roads of America, I am constantly amazed at the beauty of our nation. We are blessed to have the oceans, the lakes, the mountains, the deserts, the great plains, and the rolling hills that appear as you ride from place to place. I think we take our surroundings for granted, not seeing the beauty of where we are at the moment. Having now ridden 49 states, only missing Hawaii, we have some absolutely fabulous scenery to enjoy.

On this trip, I rode through NC, VA, KY, IN, IL, WI, MN, MI, OH, and WV. And the Province of Ontario, CA. The trip mileage was 4,086, averaging just over 400 miles a day, which was my goal in planning. That’s enough mileage for a day’s ride, unless you’re really trying to make up some time. The bike’s fuel mileage ran from a low of 42.7 to a high of 50.8, and averaging 48.9 over the trip. The highest price for gas was $4.86 per gallon in Canada. Oh, by the way, the bike uses premium, so all the fuel cost more than usual. I spent much more on fuel than anything else. The GPS says I rode 77.5 hours and averaged 52.6 mph on the trip.

So, I’ll close this one out with gratitude that the ride was good and that I had no problems along the way.

Until the next adventure….

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Day Ten—HOME!

I’m home and safe as I write today’s blog. Part of today’s ride was fun; part was pure drudgery. But the good news is that I made the ride safely.

I woke up earlier than I wanted; it was 5:35am when I woke up. I tried to go back to sleep, but when I started thinking about the day’s ride, sleep went away. So, I got up, got dressed, and packed the bike. It was getting daylight, but there was a fair amount of fog in the air.

Went to the lobby to get some breakfast, but it was so meager that I decided to ride and find something along the way. It was 6:45 when I pulled out of the parking lot.

I had decided to have a little fun riding some of the roads in West Virginia before getting serous about going home. A few years ago on a trip through WV in the Civic, I discovered two fun roads off US 60 and 19. Saturday Road and Sunday road make a loop north of 60 that were great in the Civic. The roads total maybe 20 miles in length, and wind through the woods and fields in this area.

When I did the roads earlier in the Civic, they were relatively smooth (just paved?). The pavement is just over one lane wide, with rocky shoulders on both sides of the road, and when cars meet, both move over just a bit so that the outer wheels of both vehicles are on the gravely shoulders. The road surface is too narrow to hold two vehicles at the same time.

I believe I ran the Civic the hardest I’ve ever drove it on those roads. Most of the time I was in second gear, running up to the redline (8,000), and then slam the brakes just before the curve, and then punching the gas as soon as the apex of the curve had been realized. Man, it was fun!!

I imagined then how much fun it would be to do it on the RT. The RT has so much faster acceleration, and the brakes are tremendous; a road like this was made for a bike like the RT. I had looked forward to doing it with the RT since I first discovered them.

Well, today’s ride was a disappointment. The road surface has deteriorated greatly over much of the distance. Big potholes, broken pavement, gravel on the road made it a very poor riding surface. Also, it was raining and parts of the road were wet; parts dry, with no real pattern. In the Civic, I did a lot of the road at 60mph or so. Today I hit 50 once on the bike. The roads are crappy now.

While I was disappointed today, I do have wonderful memories of doing them with the Civic.

Leaving that area of US 60, I turned south on Hwy 19 towards Beckley. In a few miles, I crossed the huge New River Gorge Bridge. Billed as the longest arch bridge in the western hemisphere, it is something to see. I didn’t do any lookouts or stops; I’ve seen it twice now, so I didn’t need to see it again.

I rode south on Hwy 19 through Beckley and then south, mostly parallel to I-77. It’s a fun road, with lots of curves and elevation changes to make it interesting. The few vehicles that I came up on were quickly passed and left in the dust from my tires. I enjoyed the ride on 19.

After a while, I needed to make some time, so I jumped on I-77 and rode home on the big roads. Nothing much to report about the ride home except it got hot. Not horribly hot, but hot enough. I checked the tire temperatures along the way, and the hottest they got was 104 front, and120 rear. I don’t know how that compares, except that when I was in Canada, they were 95 and 103 respectiely.

Got home about 4:30pm, hot and tired. But I got home safely.

One more blog to write—a wrap-up for the trip.

Day Nine—Michigan-Ohio-West Virginia

It was a day of riding, working my way south and east. The day started warm and muggy, telling me that it was going to get hot before the day was over. I checked the weather at home, and it was predicted to be 95 with a heat index of 108. Even though I was not going to get home today, I knew it would be pretty warm in the afternoon. And it was.

In truth, the day was nothing but riding. I was off the Interstates most of the day. But I was on big US highways, in many places built just like Interstates, with 4 lanes and speed limits of 70 in many places. On and on, following the little pink line on the GPS. Through Ohio and into West Virginia.

The highlight of the day was finding food for brunch. Around 11am I pulled off the highway and found the Famous Milan Coney Island Restaurant in Milan, MI. I ordered the Hunter’s Breakfast. It was HUGE. Three eggs. Two sausage links. Two pieces of bacon. Two pieces of ham. Toast. American Fries. A plate FULL of fries. Man, they feed you there. I decided to use two slices of toast and put the bacon and ham in it and to eat that for dinner. And I did, and it was very good.

About 4:30, I decided to stop for the day in Parkersburg. I was too tired to work on finding a mom and pop, so I found a cheap Econolodge and stayed there.

Tomorrow—Playing on the roads in West Virginia and Home

Day Eight—Tunnel of Trees

Not much to record for today’s blog. For the most part, it was a fairly boring, long day heading south towards home.

But there was one highlight that was spectacular. Close your eyes and imagine riding down a road where the trees obliterate the skies; where the road is narrow and winding with good elevation changes, where on one side of the road contains homes ranging from shacks to mansions and the other side overlooks Lake Michigan, and where there are almost no other vehicles. That would describe Hwy 119 in northwestern Michigan. It is truly a do-over road.

I considered riding it again, in reverse, just to see it from a different perspective. While the speed limit was 45, I rode it at 30 or less, wanting to savor its twists and turns and scenery just as you would chew thoroughly a delicious steak rather than gobble it down. I could have ridden it all day!

I stayed off the Interstates all day, working south on Hwy 31, designated as a scenic byway. It was a nice road, but it was busier than I wanted, and it had very little in “scenery” as compared with Hwy 119 to the north. Of course, it would take a lot to compare with that road.

The day actually started with a very good breakfast at the 3 Seasons Family Restaurant near the motel. Omelette, American Fries, and toast. Very good. In case you don’t know what “American Fries” are, they are the potatoes that were cut into slices and fried with onions. At home, we call them “Home Fries”.

From there, the ride to the Mackinac Bridge was easy. US Hwy 2 is the road Gary and I rode from Duluth to Glacier National Park on the way to Alaska. It is one of the great American highways, IMO.

Got to the big bridge. Some 5 miles long, and one of the largest suspension bridges in the USA, it is magnificent. High above the water, with no wind, it was good to ride over it. The only problem was that one of the lanes in each direction was closed for maintenance, and I had to ride on the metal grating deck of the bridge for probably a mile or so. I don’t like riding on these surfaces, even when dry. The bike’s tires want to follow the ridges, making it dart left and right as I ride. It went okay, but I didn’t like that part of the ride.

Just south and west of the bridge, I found another lighthouse, the McGulpin Point Lighthouse. It was closed, so I just took a few pics and moved on to find Hwy 119.

Towards the end of the day, I started thinking of lodging for the night. I had decided that somewhere around Muskegon would be a good place to stop for the night. Just north of town, I got on the smaller road to find a mom and pop place. The first place I stopped was actually a few miles north of Muskegon. I stopped in a place in town, a nice looking motel in a residential neighborhood. They had rooms, but at $98 for a room, I declined and rode towards Muskegon.

I noticed that a lot of motels were posted with “No” Vacancy, making me a little uneasy. The first place that had a vacancy sign ended up with them not posting the “No” before I got there. It was full. The next few were also full. The next one I came to that probably had a room, I rode into the parking lot and decided that it was just too rough a neighborhood. The next place was closed. I was getting pretty concerned.

Then I found the Bel Aire Motel on the south side of town. They had space, and it turned out to be a nice place.

I walked to a nearby restaurant for dinner. They had rave reviews, but it was average. However, they had a glassed-in room full of animal trophys the owner had taken from all over the world. A Polar Bear, two Grizzleys, and lots of other animals, some of which I could not identify. I hope the killer ate the meat instead of taking the magnificent animals just for sport.

Tomorrow—South towards Home

Monday, July 19, 2010

Day Seven—Upper Peninsula and Lighthouses

Today was a good ride. No rain! No heat! No traffic! Cool! All of these things are good, particularly on a bike. It was a good day.

The day started with a big surprise. I got up, showered, and had breakfast. Then started loading the bike. On my first run to the bike, as I was going out a door, a guy that looked familiar was coming in. But He lives near Denver, CO, and I decided that the guy just looked like Johnny. I didn’t think any more about it.

On the next trip, as I was loading some stuff, another familiar face walked by. I was so astounded that I let him pass and walked inside to the lobby. He was talking to a woman—one that I knew. It was Johnny, Bev, and Dennis, all of whom rode with me last year when I organized the Lighthouse Ride. Johnny and Bev are a couple, and Dennis is a friend of theirs who lives in Wyoming. What are the chances of meeting them a year later in the same motel in Sault Ste Marie? Wild!

We talked a bit, catching up with our riding. They were on the same ride as I was doing, but in reverse. They asked me to join them, but I didn’t want to repeat the same ride as I had just done, so I declined. I just can’t imagine the odds of us running into each other like that.

Our mutual friend, Sheila, knew they were doing a ride in that area (but not exactly where) and that I was doing a ride in that general area, but she thought we’d be on different routes, so she did not mention it to either of us.

After talking a bit and looking at their bikes (Dennis and Johnny have new bikes since last year’s ride), I left as they were packing their bikes.

I rode downtown, to see some of it. I had actually been to Sault Ste Marie 10 years earlier, doing a presentation for the Michigan Environmental Health Association on the flooding from Hurricane Floyd. But I flew in and out, so I didn’t see much of town. Town looked better than I thought it would. They have a nice park down by the locks. Glad I rode downtown.

Then headed west into the Upper Peninsula area, in search of lighthouses. I didn’t have to go far to find the first one, the Point Iroqouis Light on Whitefish Bay. It is in a picturesque location and was very nice. I climbed it (as I always do when possible) and took some pics and left to find another one. I’ll post a pic of this light.

Continued driving west on the Whitefish Bay Scenic Road (or something similar). It was a beautiful ride through the trees along the southern shore of Lake Superior. At times the road was within 100 feet or so from the lake; sometimes miles away as the shore undulated and the road weaved through the forest. I saw another animal of note—a fox darted across the road a couple hundred feet in front of the bike. Better than no animals at all!

After a while, I noticed that the gas guage was getting low. So, I started looking for fuel, finding it in Paradise, some 18 or so miles away. The main road went there, so I didn’t have to go way out of the way to get it. Expensive--$319.9 for premium! But that’s what money is for.

About 13 miles west of Paradise was Whitefish Point Lighthouse, a lighthouse still in service. This one was not open to the public. While neat, it looked much more industrial, being made of metal instead brick and mortar. There were several buildings scattered on the premises housing a museum, lighthouse keeper, and gift shop. They also had a raised walkway to a sandy beach on the lake. I walked out to the water, waded in it for a few minutes, dipped my hands into the water, and walked back to the bike.

Since the road ended at the lighthouse, I had to backtrack down the same road to Paradise. Since it was lunchtime, I stopped at the Berry Patch Restaurant and had a chicken sandwich. Got an apple Danish for a dessert later (which became part of dinner tonight). The sandwich was very good. The Danish was a disappointment—it tasted like one you get in a convenience store; nothing special.

With my tummy full, I got back on the bike and took another road that headed south and then west. The ride was easy; very little traffic, but straight for miles at a time. The scenery was trees. And the road was flat, so it was not an exciting ride.

I decided to ride to Munising and just a little further, to Christmas, MI. Since I had seen it on the map, I had to see what it looked like. I got there, rode through it, took a couple of pics to document my presence, and turned around. I noted that it was getting very dark in the skies to the west, I decided to head back south and east to Manistique, on the north shore of Lake Michigan. That ride was uneventful.

I had reserved a mom and pop motel for the night, the Star Motel. It is a 50/60s motel located right on the shores of the lake on US 2, the same road Gary and I rode two years ago from Duluth to Glacier National Park on our way to Alaska. It feels real good to have the windows open and feel a cool breeze coming off Lake Michigan. I’m satisfied with the room.

Checked in, washed some clothes (hope they dry overnight), and did some emails and now blogging. Gotta post some pics for yesterday’s ride. So, if you’ve read last night and it had no pics, look again.

Over 2,700 miles so far. Will be about 4,000 when I get home.

Tomorrow—ride the east shore of Lake Michigan, headed south.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Day Six—Back to the Good Ole USA

Today brought me back to my country, the USA. While I liked being in Canada, for something slightly different, it’s good to be in the USA. Contact in other countries is more difficult. No texting with certainty (works sometimes, sometimes not), no phone email, and phone calls that are roaming (had 5 calls from Greg Fishel, warning me of severe thunderstorm warnings on Saturday!—as if I could do anything about it.

But tonight I’m in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan. When my wheels touched Michigan, I reached one of my goals; I have now ridden in 49 of the 50 states. All this in 8 years of riding is a big accomplishment. I never set it as a “goal” until I got close to doing it, but it’s an accomplishment now. I think I have ridden 135,000 miles on a bile in the eight years I’ve been riding. Have been in several countires (Canada, Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria and a couple countries that won’t come to mind now). I ride a lot!

The day started nicely. Pretty sunrise, cool temperatures (50 degrees), and very minimal traffic were present when I left Thunder Bay this morning. It was a good morning to ride.

The terrain changed from yesterday’s ride to today. Much more hilly, with a lot of ups and downs as the road wound around Lake Superior. I had thought I would see a lot of the big lake, but the road got near the water only a few times. And the biggest surprise is that there are huge coves all along the way. Somehow I had pictured it as being one big lake, like an ocean. Instead, it’s riddled with coves and has lots of islands lining it’s shores.

There were several places where there was a sandy beach, but most of it is rocky where the water meets land. Sometimes big boulders, sometimes fist-sized rocks. Quite a variety.

As I rode east, the sun began hiding behind clouds more and more, with the last five hours being sunless. Clouds thickened and darkened, finally with drops falling on the bike and me. The last 60 miles or so were in the rain. Some fairly heavy, and some light, but pretty constant over the miles. And it stayed cool, with temperatures ranging from 60 in the beginning to almost 70 at its warmest to 58degrees when I arrived in Michigan. But with the bumblebee and long sleeved shirt, I stayed warm.

The last mile was the toughest; crossing the bridge from Sault Ste Marie, ON, CA to Sault Ste Marie, MI, USA. It is a two-span bridge over several bodies of water leading to the USA. At the base of the bridge is the checkpoint to arrive into Michigan. As I said earlier, it was raining. And, traffic was backed up about a half-mile, waiting to go through the checkpoint. So, there I sat on the bike, waiting in traffic, with it pouring down rain!

The bumblebee is very effective in keeping me dry. I felt two damp places in almost two hours exposure in the rain. When the rain began in earnest, I stopped to put on my three-finger gloves. They fit over regular gloves, and are almost waterproof. While they look funny, they do a good job of keeping hands dry in a pouring rain in cool temperatures.

Finally I got to the checkpoint. All went well, except the guard wanted to know the license plate number, and I don’t keep up with that. At the checkpoint going into Canada, the guard let me roll forward so he could see it and then I rolled back to his “office”. Today, he ordered me to get off the bike and call it out to him. Not wanting to have a problem, I did. But it wasn’t easy because I had pulled over pretty close to the window, leaving little space for me to get off and back on. Also, I was afraid the bike would tip over. The sidestand is too long now since I had the bike lowered, so parking it is tricky. It was almost vertical when I got off; it should be leaning against the stand to keep it up. It didn’t fall, so all was well.

The motel was a mile or so south of the border crossing.

The ride today was good, but the rain kept it from being very good. Most of the day was excellent.

Tomorrow—explore they Upper Penninsula of Michigan.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Day Five—Long, Lonely Road

Cool. It was very cool this morning when I went outside. 50 degrees; it felt wonderful. I’ve been so hot that having weather this cool is excellent.

Had Breakfast at the little place next door; it was very good. Eggs, potatoes, and ham. Lots of all of that stuff. More than I could eat, which is unusual. I almost always eat all of my food, but this morning’s breakfast was just too much.

Got the bike packed, checked out of the Tee Pee Motel, and got on the bike to ride around the town a little before going to Voyagers National Park. It felt good to ride.

The town looks pretty industrial to me. The housing looks like 50s and 60s with a few newer ones scattered around. Most are ranch-style, but a few are two story or story and a half. There were a few nice ones, but most were pretty nondescript. Sorta depressing. Recalling what the owner had told me when I checked in, the town is shrinking in population. Boise, the big papermaker, is the big employer, and other industries are leaving, and, along with them, the youth are going to places they favor. Sad, but true for many small communities in Canada and the USA.

Having seen enough of the town, I rode the 10 miles to Voyagers National Park. Boy was I disappointed. Basically, it consists of a boat ramp. A nice one, yes, but there was nothing there but the boat ramp and a visitor’s center. There’s more stuff at Falls Lake near Raleigh than there was in this park. I guess if you’re into fishing, it’s a great place to be. Rainey Lake apparently has some great fishing.

Turned around and went to the road into Canada. What a MESS! I’ve crossed a number of borders, but none were like this one.

First, you have to pay to cross a bridge to get to the border checkpoint. Only $2, so no big deal. Only, I dropped a glove where you pay. Had to get off the bike to pick it up. Cars and trucks behind me did not appreciate that at all. Got back on the bike and discovered that I could not find the other glove. Got off the bike again, looked back, and it was on the ground about 15 feet before the pay station. Walked back and got it.

Rode 100 yards or so to the border crossing. Waited my turn, and when the light turned green, pulled forward. The officer asked the usual questions about where I was from, what I was doing there, where I was going, etc. No problem. I seemed to pass. But wait, he then told me to pull forward off to the left under the shed. I did, not quite sure why.

Got under the shed with a few other vehicles and waited, wondering what this was about. In about 5 minutes, an officer came to the bike and asked the same questions as asked before. He then asked me to open all the cases on the bike. I did. He then opened each thing to see what was in it. Dirty clothes, Clean clothes. Overnight bag. Gadget bag. Topcase had to be emptied. When all this was done, he simply said, “You may repack and go”.

I guess I somehow looked like a terrorist or something. Never had to do any of this on the bike before, but he got to see everything I had on the bike. Glad I had nothing to hide! But it left me a little unnerved.

From that point on, the only thing I did the rest of the day was ride. The road, Hwy 11, is called the “Trans-Canada Highway” and goes a long way. The speed limit is almost always 90kph, but sometimes drops when going by a community.

I rode for about300 miles on this road, and did not see the first wildlife worth mentioning. Crows and birds. And one field mouse running across the road. Saw a beaver lodge, but no beaver. No Moose. No deer. No rabbits. No eagles. Nothing! And I looked a lot. I don’t understand…

Got to Thunder Bay about 4pm, checked into the motel and unloaded the bike. Got dressed again and got back on the bike. I wanted to see Lake Superior. I had not traveled almost 2,000 miles to not see the big lake. It wasn’t as easy as I hoped it would be. It took 3 different attempts to find the water. I rode mile after mile in huge industrial areas close to the water, but could get only a glimpse every now and then.

Finally, I went down a road that looked promising. It ended in a park on the lake. I got off the bike, took off my riding gear and took a few pics of the water and the bike. Then as I always do when I’m in new waters, I walked down to the water and took a few steps in it and diped my hands in it. Warmer than I thought it would be. So, I’ve now been in Lake Erie (years ago) and Superior.

On the way back to the motel, I noticed that I had been over 280 miles and the fuel light was not on yet. So, I rode around some to see how far I could go before the light came on; maybe a new record?? I came to a weird bridge. It had 3 sets of traffic--one each way for cars and a train in the middle. The car lanes were 3 meters wide, and the place where car wheels rode was metal. Not corrugated, but slick plates of steel! Sorta like the old covered bridges, but metal plates instead of wood. I stopped before going on it, screwed up my courage, and rode across it with no problems. The wild card was that there were speed bumps in several places, so you had to slow down to cross them. After crossing it, I had to do it again because there was no other way back into the city.

Then back to the motel to put the bike up for the night. Came inside with the rest of the bike things, put on my tennis shoes and walked to a nearby restaurant for dinner of nachos and cheese. Only fair; nothing special. I wanted something different, but their choices didn’t look good, and I was too tired to walk somewhere.

Then back to the room to get a shower and blog.

Tomorrow—Back to the USA

Friday, July 16, 2010

Day Four—Excellent!

What a day! I slept well last night, for the first time since Monday night, and that helped a lot. And when I went outside the room, it was almost cool. I think it was 67 degrees when I first went out. That, coupled with cloudless deep blue skies, made the start of the day so good.

Got some coffee and two doughnuts (skimpy continental breakfast) at the office, brought them back to the room to eat, and packed the bike while I downed the coffee and doughnuts. Packing the bike gets faster and easier after a few days of it, so it took only a few minutes to get ready to go.

Hit the road at 7:30am. Still cool and no traffic; the going was great. Hwy 53 is a 4 lane road built like an Interstate, but not one. It runs southeast/northwest across the state, going to Duluth and then heading northwest to International Falls. I spent the day on Hwy 53.

Around 10am I was feeling hunger pains, and decided to find some grub for a real breakfast. Also decided since I was in Wisconsin, and since Wisconsin is famous for it’s cheese, I had to find some Wisconsin cheese along the way.

I was riding along, thinking that I had not seen any wildlife on the ride and wondering why, when I saw a black animal cross the road about 150 yards in front of me. It was bigger than a dog, but not as big as a big bear. It was running on all 4 legs. I decided it was a black bear. About 15 seconds later, an eight point buck crossed the road at the same place as the bear!! So, I finally saw some wildlife...

So, I asked Garmin to find a place to eat, and she did a great job. In Solon Springs, I found the one she was guiding me to, and it was the kind of place that I’ve been looking for. A real mom and pop restaurant. I ordered coffee (50 cents!), a (real Wisconsin) cheese omelette, and hash browns. Delicious! It was what I had been looking for but had not found.

After breakfast, I walked up the street to the IGA store and found the cheese I wanted. Well, it wasn’t exactly what I wanted (not cut right in front of me as I had envisioned), but wrapped like the Kraft cheese in all of our stores. But it was genuine Wisconsin cheese. Don’t know when I’ll eat it, but with no refrigeration, it will need to be eaten soon.

On a lark, I walked into a souvenir shop, just to look around. I found a treasure hanging on the wall, a real oil painting, in a real wood frame for $5. The painting is a seashore kind of scene with a lighthouse, water, and some trees. It’s actually very nice, and a steal at that price.

About 35 miles later, I rolled into Superior, the last big town in Wisconsin. It sits on the edge of Lake Superior and has a lot of ships, boats, and watercraft of all varieties.

Up over a big bridge (which was not easy; the wind was howling from the side, making riding tricky) and down into Duluth, home of Aerostich.

For those not in the know, Aerostich is THE motocycle outfitting store for serious motorcyclist. Home of the bumblebee (my waterproof riding outfit you see in my avatar), it carries hundreds of high-quality motorcycling stuff.

Prior to the trip, I spent hours going through their catalogs, picking out some things I wanted or needed (actually “need” is a misnomer—there’s very little I need anymore). When I found an item, I circled it and tore the page out as an easy way to present a “shopping” list. They give a 10% discount for walk-ins to their store (the vast majority of their sales is through catalogues), so I decided that since I was going to be close to Duluth, I’d do some shopping and save money on price and shipping fees. I think I picked out 6 items I wanted to look at.

The “store” is in a nondescript brick building in an industrial section of town near the big bridge. It has no front door; you enter through a side door and walk down two corridors to the “shop”. The shop is about the size of my bedroom (I have a very large bedroom), with a glass topped case and Roadcrafter suits lining the opposite wall. They have only a few items on display; their business is through catalogues.

I gave my list to the saleslady and she retrieved the items. After looking them over, I kept only 4 (ear plugs, plastic film, heavy duty Velcro, and some bifocal sunglasses). I called Gary to see if he needed anything since I was there, but he said he didn’t need anything. So, I paid for the items and hit the road towards International Falls.

The ride north was uneventful. Just miles of 4 lane road.

Got to Duluth about 4pm and found the Tee Pee Motel, where I had a reservation. I had looked on the Internet last night to see if rooms were generally available, and was shocked when it appeared there were no rooms available in town. So, I called one place, just to satisfy myself, and yes, they were full. The operator told me that Friday nights were very busy because the fishermen flocked into town to fish on Saturday. He said he was booked up every Friday night through the summer. Dang! I had no idea. So, I decided to call another place that sounded interesting, the Tee Pee Motel. Luckily, they had rooms, so I booked one.

The motel was fine. Clean and inexpensive. Even has a small refrigerator for the cheese and what’s left of the Gatoraid.

Walked downtown to see what was there (not much) and then walked back to the motel. Asked about places to eat, and the owner told me that the best Walleye fish was in the little restaurant next door.

Next door was a good place; I had a good salad, a big slab of fresh Walleye (white, sweet fish, similar to founder), and fresh French fries. Delicious; the best dinner meal of the trip.

Then back to the room to clean the bike’s windshield and blog.

So, today I realized another of my dreams; to go to International Falls. I know I’m weird, but ever since I was a boy listening to the weather, the coldest place in the lower 48 was very often International Falls. Somehow it fascinated me, and I wanted to go to that frigid place. Well, today I did! Not a Bucket List thing, but definitely something I wanted to do.

Tomorrow—Visit Voyagers National Park, cruise around the town on the bike, and cross into Canada to visit Thunder Bay.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Day Three—Good Day

The day started hot (80 degrees) with overcast skies and an occasional drop of water from the skies. Very muggy, like it feels at the beach on a hot morning when there’s no breeze.

As I mentioned in my blog from yesterday, breakfast was wonderful. Surprisingly filling and delicious. I ate two pieces and was full as a tick!

I got on the road about 7:45, headed north towards Duluth. We had talked about several alternative routes to take to get into Wisconsin, but I didn’t like the thought of Interstate. So, I let Garmin have her way. And I’m glad I did.

Basically, in that region of the state, the roads are laid out in a grid; north-south and east-west. And straight as an arrow, for the most part. Major roads (state highways) and the county roads. Almost immediately, she took me on a county road headed north. The roads are so different from the roads in my part of the world. Crops as far as you can see in every direction. Mostly corn, but hay, wheat, and soybeans. Mile after mile after mile of crops. Dotted along the way are homes, usually with a host of supporting structures; silos, old and new, barns, sheds, and other structures to support the farming operation. I believe that’s what life is about in this area—farming. A noble thing to do; we all like to eat, but not something I’m interested in doing. I’m too lazy….

I came across one surprise--US Hwy 52! It was at one of the intersections maybe 50 miles north from my start. I turned west on it and rode about 5 miles, just to spend a little time with my old friend. I know it's weird, but I have a special fondness for Hwy 52. It runs through the city of my birth, Albemarle, and through the town in which I grew up, Salisbury. So, it is somewhat special to me. I knew it was up in this area; I had followed it on maps, but didn't know exactly where it might cross my path. Neat!

I think the second road headed north, a county road, runs for 56 miles! Unfortunately after about 5 miles, it turned to gravel and since I don’t like gravel roads, I turned East at that intersection and north at the next intersection. This went on for a couple of hours.

I found the Great River Road and followed it a long way. It is a highway that runs beside the Mississippi River as it flows through Wisconsin. While the river was not always in view, there were lots of places where the river was visible. At one point, I saw a tugboat pushing a line of barges probably a half mile long slowly up the river. I had not seen that before, so it was interesting. I wonder how they turn the line when it needs turning?

Lunch was in Prarie de Chien in Wisconsin. I found the Huckleberry Restaurant along the way. The name sounded inviting, so I tried it. Average. It wasn’t bad; just not good. Foiled again in my search for good food.

It was getting time to get serious about moving north. So, I told Garmin to head for Duluth in the fastest route. Jumped on Hwy 53 and made a lot of miles over the next few hours. Not a bad ride, but it was somewhat boring. The good thing is that there was almost no traffic, so the riding was easy.

About 4:30 I pulled into Eau Claire and started looking for a motel for the night. Went to one, but it had no wireless Internet. So, I tried across the street, at the Antlers Motel. Not only did they have a room with wireless; it was also very inexpensive. Got a AARP discount on top of that! And the room was just fine.

Did some bike cleanup; it was filthy from bugs and dirt. It took a while, but it looked much better when I was finished. I noticed that the flies went away when I got all the bug stuff off the windscreen! Yuuuk… I discovered that I have some oil seeping from the swing arm area at the boot. I don’t know if it’s anything to be concerned about, but I’ll keep watching it. Don’t need to fry a rear end and be in the shop for days. Also added some air to the rear tire.

Wasn’t very hungry, so I walked to the convenience store up the street and bought a quart of Gatoraid and a burger. While not great, it filled me up, and I had Gatoraid left over for the next day.

So, a good day. So much cooler, and an assortment of roads.

Tomorrow—Duluth and International Falls

Day Two—HOT!

Well, the title says it all. It was HOT in the afternoon. When I got to my host’s home in Chillicothe, IL, it was 95 degrees. With the humidity, the heat index was 107. I knew I felt pretty hot on the last couple of hours of riding, but I didn’t know it was that hot.

The day started early, at 5am. I couldn’t sleep; slept poorly, waking up every 30 minutes or so. The window air conditioner unit made a lot of noise, but only a little cooling. I wasn’t hot, but just not comfortable. So, I got up, got dressed and finished the blog for Tuesday. I had not been able to post it (couldn’t get to the Internet). So, I finished it and then successfully posted the blog.

I’m writing this one on Thursday morning. I woke up early (after waking up every 30 minutes again all night) and decided to write. Last night, I was just too tired, so I didn’t even try. I think the heat just exhausted me.

The ride was mixed yesterday. A bacon-egg-cheese biscuit at McDonalds started the morning after leaving the MTN home at 7am. I put the next host location in the gps and started riding after getting gas. Even though I’m boycotting BP, it was handy and available, I bought it anyway.

The first couple of hours of riding was very good. The countryside was rolling foothills. The roads were secondary, and the views were very scenic. I enjoyed those roads very much. Parts of the roads were fairly narrow, with no shoulders, and tall vegetation growing to the very edge of the road. Looked a little like driving through a tunnel in places. Lots of farming—hay, corn, soybeans in fields along the way. Very picturesque and serene. Almost no traffic, too, so no problem with cars and trucks.

After a bit, I came to the south side of Louisville, KY. Bye-bye to the good roads. Had to get on Interstates and ride until I could get around the congestion and on to smaller roads again. Somewhere north of Louisville, I found US 31, the old road that was later replaced by Interstate 65. It paralleled the Interstate, often in sight of the big road, and was a good road to ride. Good surfaces, light traffic, and pleasant. While it went through a fair number of small towns, they rarely had a stoplight, and usually required no stopping. Slowing down, yes, but not stopping.

The process was ride at 55, slow down to 45 for a half mile or so, then slow to 35 for a half mile, then back to 45, then 55. Sometimes modified by dropping to 40, then 30, then 40, then 55, but the overall process was very uniform. While I didn’t see any police, these small towns would make great speed traps if a town wanted to do it. Fortunately for me, they weren’t doing it when I went through.

As the day wore on, I had to change my tactics and take faster roads, 4 lanes and Interstates. The ride got HOT.

About an hour from my destination, I stopped in Champaign, IL for gas and something to drink. The bike got great gas mileage on this leg, setting a new record for the number of miles I went before the gas light came on. 292 miles! Usually it comes on somewhere around 260 or so miles, but once before I went 289. So a new record. The fuel economy worked out to 49.9mpg, not bad.

Got a icee type drink, drank a little, and figured out a way to put it in the tankbag so I could drink it along the way safely. A brilliant idea; it helped. If I had realized how hot it had gotten, I would have wet down the Sahara vest; that would have helped a lot.

Got to the hosts’ home right on time—just after 5:30. Went inside as he had asked, and looked at the clock and realized it was 4:40. Central time. Dummy!! So I was early, but it was cool and I unloaded the bike and rested until Wayne came in to check on me.

He showed me my room, asked if I wanted to get a shower, and of course, I did. I was grimy and smelly, so a shower was great.

Soon, he came back into the room I was in and asked where I’d like to have dinner. We talked about several places, and Tim and Shelly’s 2nd Street Bar and Grill sounded interesting. We loaded up in his truck and went to the restaurant. It didn’t have the atmosphere I was expecting—instead, it was a pretty regular restaurant. We each ordered a special, and mine was ok. Not good; not bad, but ok. Actually, on this trip I haven’t had a GOOD meal yet. Not sure what’s going on with the food, but nothing special so far.

Food took a long time to arrive, so we talked about bikes and adventures. He rides a BMW LT, the big luxury touring bike, comparable to a Gold Wing. His wife, Pam, loves to ride, so they do some sports touring. But because both are still working, time to travel is not what they want.

They were great hosts. The house was very nice; my bedroom was great. Air conditioned! And breakfast was delicious—French Toast fixed a way I’ve never had before. Very filling and very, very good. It broke my string of mediocre meals, thank goodness.

This blog is being finished on the night of Day 3. I was too tired to write last night.

So, today I’m off to the great North, destination unknown….

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Day One; Lebanon, KY

The day started early. I had the alarm set for 6:30, but I woke up at 6:00, wide awake and raring to go. Got up, took my pills (way too many of them anymore), did my stretches, and got dressed (pretty much my daily routine). Went downstairs to finish packing the bike.

I had packed my clothes yesterday and put them on the bike. But I still had my computer, electronics, overnight kit, and shoes to pack. So, I found suitable places for them and then strapped on the duffel bag with the bumblebee inside it. The bike was ready when I attached the tank bag.

Then some cereal for breakfast, brushed my teeth, and put on my riding gear. I was ready to roll at 6:50am, ten minutes earlier than planned.
It was a gray, misty morning. Not cool, but not hot. Muggy though. But the good news was that it was not HOT! Good news indeed.

I had played with routes for several hours in the preceding weeks, but I was not satisfied with any of them. So, I told the GPS to be quiet and I rode Interstates to US 52 in Winston Salem. Before getting there, I thought I’d run out of gas, wanting to make it to Mebane, where they have the cheapest gas around. I made it with 0.6 gallons left! Unfortunately, the gas was more expensive there than in Clayton. So much for saving money on gas!
Up US 52 North. I turned on the routing, with instructions to prefer the medium sized roads, but allow small roads and big roads. I had thought that it would then keep me on US 52. Much to my dismay, it did. OLD US 52, which winds parallel to the new 52, but through every little village along the way.

After a little of that, I got back on new 52 and went around Mt. Airy and on to Hillsville, VA. Actually once past Mt. Airy, it was a fun road, with enough curves to be interesting and not much in the way of towns.

Had lunch at a little Italian place in Tazewell, VA. A meatball sub that was very good. Tazewell is near Burke's Garden, a neat community off the beaten path. Gary and I rode there a couple of years ago, and it is very unique.

I got to a point where the road was a lot of fun, but sensed the need to turn west towards my destination for the night. When I turned the routing on again, I learned that I had turned the wrong way somewhere along the way and was on a secondary road headed southeast! Towards home!! Damn… So I backtracked about 15 miles (still a lot of fun on that road) and found my way again.

The ride was pretty uneventful, except for some hard rain along the way. I went through 3 spells of rain, but one was prolonged and it POURED part of the way. It was the kind of rain where cars were pulling over to stop because they couldn’t see. I kept going, albeit a little slower than usual. I didn’t stop; I had the waterproof bumblebee in the bag, but didn’t want to stop to put it on. So, I got a little wet (arms, some chest, and legs). But the hard rain lasted only about 30 minutes, and in an hour I was dry.

Found my way to Lebanon, KY, where I’m staying in Anne’s Chateau. Mary Ann and Blake Ohsol are Motorcycle Travel Network folks, and have graciously allowed me to stay with them tonight. Mary Ann rides a Honda Shadow, and Blake has a BMW GS 1100. Both are pretty bikes. Blake says he can take or leave riding, but says Mary Ann rides every chance she has!

The house is an old, 1890 house with multiple additions over the years. Very unique. I have my own private room and bathroom, a clean bed, and that’s all I need for the night.

Walked downtown for dinner at a Mexican place. Pretty good, and very reasonable. Had a combination plate with a Margarita for under $12. Pretty good, too. Then walked a few blocks around town to get a little feel for the town. It felt good; comfortable. Then back to the house for the night.

It was a good day, with 587 miles on the odometer. More than I wanted, but necessary due to the logistics.

Tomorrow—going north to Chillicothe, IL.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Ride's Eve

Well, tonight is the last night at home for a while, and I'm about as ready to go as I'll be. Getting ready for a trip like this takes a lot of thought and preparation; the bike, the gear, household things (dealing with bills, newspapers, etc), and then planning the trip itself. When you live by yourself, there's just more details to deal with than living with someone else who can pick up where you left off.

Got the new tire installed Thursday morning. Everything worked out well; rode to Wilson, took off the rear wheel, took it inside with the new tire, picked up a new front tire (for later use), got the tire installed, reinstalled it on the bike, and rode home. A piece of cake! The folks at Cyclemax do a good job and have tires at the best price I've found (including the Internet). Even with taxes added! And they install the tires they sell at a reasonable charge (some dealers will not install tires on non-sold bikes at all, or if they do, they charge a lot to do it. These folks are good.

Changed oil and filter earlier today. No problem, and it took only a little while.

Got everything packed and in the cases or ready to put on the bike. Since my last post, I've thought of some other things earlier forgotten that need to go (maps, spare headlight bulb, waterproof liner, paper maps, etc). I think I have all I need now.

I hope to hit the road about 7am and to end up in Lebanon, KY tomorrow afternoon. There's a Motorcycle Travel Network home there that I plan to stay in. Hopefully it will work out; 509 miles from here to there, so it's not close. I plan for this to be the longest leg of the trip; I've traveled nearly all the way there once before, so there's nothing along the way to stop and spend time doing. But I hope to have most days at about 400 miles maximum so I can see a few things along the way.

Have changed my mind about carrying camping gear. I decided to still carry the duffel bag, but to stuff the bumblebee in it instead of camping gear. That will leave one side case with only a few things (computer, electronics, extra shoes and electronics). That will leave the top case almost empty, making the bike just a little less top-heavy and easier to manage.

Have gone to the bike to pick up some cash. Have packed all the clothes. And done my final check for the umteenth time. I think the bike and I are ready to go.

I'm excited! This will be my longest solo ride; I'm hoping it will be what I want it to be--an adventure where I see what I want to see and go where I want to go. Without trouble, hopefully.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Tonight's post will chronicle my packing. I guess I'm bored to be writing about something as mundane as packing. But I'll do a small post anyway.

Decided to take the camping gear, just in case, and to act as a backrest while I'm riding. I have a waterproof duffle bag that holds everything (tent, sleeping mat, ground cloth, pillowcase, sleeping bag and liner, and a couple of lights. They fit pretty well, and there's actually room to spare. The bag should feel good when my back is getting tired from sitting and riding.

I bought a new camera for the trip last night. It's a Nikon point and shoot model, one highly rated by Consumer Reports. It has a 10X optical zoom, with the anti-vibration thing, so it should take pretty good pictures. My old Sony, now 6 years old, takes very good pictures now, but it's been abused enough to the point that it malfunctions whenever you zoom out and then back in again. It has to be turned off and then re-opened before another pic can be taken. I hate that it had to be replaced, but too many drops have done it in, I guess. Also, the battery had become exhausted and was good for maybe 50 pictures between recharges. So, the camera and charger will hit the road with me.

Will take my netbook and charger, too, so I can write these blogs. I figured out how to tether it to my phone so that I have high speed Internet whenever I have a phone signal. I've played with the tethering, and it works remarkedly well; almost as fast as my wireless connection at home.

Usual clothes; basically all I own of the polyester/quick drying variety. They work very well to wash and partially dry in the room overnight.

Usual toiletries.


Binoculars (although I take them on virtually every trip, I rarely use them. I bet they have 100,000 miles on them).

Shopping list for Aerostich. As mentioned in an earlier post, I am going by their store to pick up a few items.

Bumblebee. Actually the Aerostich Roadcrafter (which I call the bumblebee). It's my riding garment of choice in cool to warm weather. Waterproof (well, almost), windproof, and very protective, in a package that is actually comfortable on the bike. I plan to wear it sometimes, particularly in the rain.

Olympia Phantom mesh suit for hot weather. It's a good suit, but not as comfortable as the Bumblebee, and I don't think it's anywhere as protective as the bumblebee. But it's cooler, so I'll wear it a lot, particularly until I find cooler places.

Swimsuit (probably won't use it, but then who knows...)

Sahara Vest. It's a vest that is soaked in water, and then worn in really hot conditions. As the water evaporates, it has a cooling effect. Actually works very well; I've used it on several rides, and it has made otherwise unbearable heat bearable (but still pretty darned uncomfortable.)

Jumper cables, if I can find them. Hopefully not needed, but invaluable if needed.

That's most of the stuff I'm taking.

Also purchased a membership in MedJetAssist, a service that will "repatriate" me if I were to become injured or sick and in a hospital. It covers the cost to transport me to the hospital I want to go to in appropriate plane (with medical support people in the plane). It also pays to transport my bike back home. All at no additional cost. I hope I never need it, but if I did, it would make getting home so much easier and cheaper.

I guess this is enough for tonight.

Friday, July 2, 2010


I'm getting the gear ready to hit the road. First and foremost is the bike itself. This past winter, I had new Hyperpro shocks installed. The electronic suspension adjustment (ESA) that came with the bike had failed, leaving me with several expensive options. Replacing it with original BMW parts was hyperexpensive, over $4,000! Couldn't do that, especially to spend that kind of money and even when done, have mediocre quality shocks. So, long, long story and some $1,500 later, the Hyperpros were installed. I like them, and they should last a long time. They're very high quality, on a par with the very best aftermarket shocks and a little cheaper.

I installed highway pegs on the RT a few days ago. Highway pegs (for non riders) are footpegs that mount forward of the normal foot pegs, giving the feet a different resting place so legs can be straightened out from time to time. There's another benefit of having wind rush up the pants leg, cooling more than when the feet are directly below your hips. However, I'm not satisfied with them for two reasons--1) They make the bike very wide because they mount on the valve covers on the heads of both cylinders. The cylinders were already the widest part of the bike, and now wider. And 2) The fairings on the bike are constructed with a sharp edge that hits your calf near the knee when feet are on the highway pegs. Not comfortable for long rests. I'm just hoping they'll let my legs rest some and help with cooling.

The last major servicing of the bike was done at 70,000 miles, so nothing major has to be done to it. The rear tire has some 7,000 miles on it, which is about 70% of the normal mileage I get with a rear tire. Since I estimate the trip to be between 3,500 and 4,000 miles, I'm not sure there's enough tread on the tire to make the trip. So, I'll have a new one installed before leaving town. Hate to take off a good tire, but it's not good enough to make the trip.

Need to change oil and filter, and that should do it for the bike. Doing that is an easy job, so the bike is ready when that's done. I may wash it, just to get some of the grime off it, but otherwise it will be ready.

I don't need to buy any additional riding gear. I'll wear my Olympia Phantom mesh suit most of the time, but take my faithful yellow bumblebee for cooler (hopefully) times and for rain. Most likely it will stay stowed away most of the time.

I have all the polyester riding clothes I need. I like them because they're almost entirely wash N wear, even overnight in a motel room. I'll have to wash some every few days, but it's no real hassle once you get the hang of it. The biggest issue is that I'm tired at night, and washing smelly clothes is not a fun thing when all you want to do is to get horizontal and rest. But it's a part of the ride.

I haven't decided whether to pack for camping. Right now, I'm leaning towards taking the stuff, partly because when packed, it makes a good backrest. If yes, it will also give me an option to camp if I need or want to. Camping is fun in a way, but it is work and takes time to set up and to tear down the next morning. If I rested better overnight, I'd like it better, but I never sleep well camping. We'll see...

I've looked at routing so much I'm sick of it. I read in forums and blogs that people do intricate route planning, picking out very detailed and specific routes. I've done it on the computer, but have found that I don't use them. So, I plan to wing it, doing a mix of Interstate when I need to make distance, highways when it makes sense, and my favorites, the small "county" roads. I love the county roads; they always find interesting things, and they're fun to ride. But you can't make any time with them. Most wander around, ending in another road that doesn't go where you're headed, so you end up meandering around, putting a lot of miles on the bike, but not making any progress towards where you're headed.

I am considering getting on US 52 and riding it as far north as I can. It goes through the town I was born in and the town I grew up in, so it's a road with which I have roots. And it goes almost exactly where I want to go. The major problem is that it does a lot of meandering and goes through every town between here and Canada (or at least looks like it is going through most of them). So, I may do pieces of 52, and skip it some. I haven't decided.

Ok, enough of this discussion for tonight. Maybe one more post before leaving town in less than two weeks.