Friday, January 25, 2013

2012 Rolling Over the 100K - Part 10 of 10


2012 Rolling Over the 100K – Part 10 of 10



 Table of Contents




 Part 1: What I Want to Do / T – Minus 48 Hours / Perfect Getaway

 Part 2: The Port Mann Bridge / Hope BC / Christina Lake Park

 Part 3: Southern BC / Nancy Greene / Close to Heaven

 Part 4: The Gravel Patch / Multiple Matchsticks / Still in BC?

 Part 5: Alberta's Welcome / Sixes and Sevens / French Envy

 Part 6: Montana's Magic / The Sportsman Motel MT / Chinese Arithmetic

 Part 7: Hob-nobbing with the Big Shots / Dinosaur Park / Rolling Over the 100K

 Part 8: Ashland Motel WI / Man with No Name / Down Under Lake Superior

 Part 9: You're OK to Go! / Iron Bridge ON / Papa's Welcome Home

 Part 10: Table of Contents

Friday, January 18, 2013

2012 Rolling Over the 100K - Part 9 of 10



2012 Rolling Over the 100K

Part 9 of 10


You're OK to Go!
Iron Bridge, ON
Papa's Welcome Home


You're OK to Go!

It was a nice feeling to see the border crossing into Canada in the far distance. I couldn't help but think of the hard time given to me by the US border guard at Montana about carrying my passport in my front pocket and remembering my BC plate number. I figured I'd be all ready for the Canadian border guard. I pulled over at a rest stop and committed my licence number to memory. “BC Plate SO 6766” . There! ...I just stated it correctly off the top of my head without having to look at it again. I had a problem with my passport though. Firstly, it had gotten wet and then dry again so many times that I was embarrassed to show it to anyone. It looked like it had been dredged-up from the bottom of a Florida swamp. My rain-suit had no front pockets. I couldn't hold it between my fingers as I drove the bike because I needed my left hand to operate the clutch and my right to apply the front brake if necessary. I tried sticking it between my chin-strap and my face but it didn't feel secure enough. I'm sure the wind would have blown it free. I tried sitting on it but if it would have blown free I wouldn't have known about it. Then I'd have a real big problem. I wasn't sure what to do. As I approached the border guard's station he smiled from ear to ear and said “Is that your passport in your teeth?” I nodded my head. He told be not to turn my engine off. He reach over – took my passport from my teeth – flipped through the pages – stuck it back in my teeth and said, “You're OK to Go! Have a nice trip!”



Iron Bridge, ON

It was so nice to get back into Canada and visit the very fabric of Canadian good-living - Tim Horton's. Good food; great coffee; clean washrooms; those hot, thick “Cream of whatever....” soups; those happy smiling faces and unlimited parking. I never passed on the Cream of Broccoli soup because that is my all time favourite. What more could you ask for? I gave some thought to trying to make it to Ottawa non-stop but I was looking at another 800 kilometres in addition to the couple of hundred I'd already done since Ashland,WI. That was going to be too far even in the best of weather. Moreover, I had no doubt that I was still travelling in a weakened condition from the non-stop pounding and soaking I'd suffered from the downpours in Alberta and the mid-western States. I decided to treat myself to an overnight stay at the Red Top motel in Iron Bridge, ON. This beautiful little town is ideally situated. It's located near the half-way point between Sault St. Marie and Sudbury and it's well known for camping and hiking. The junction between the Trans-Canada and HWY 546 North to Mississagi Provincial Park is at Iron Bridge. Lots of rattlers there I'll bet. Later in the evening I ordered six egg rolls with plum sauce at the Motel's restaurant with one bottle of Coors Lite. After that, I had a very good night's sleep.



Papa's Welcome Home

Early the next morning was cool but dry so I took the time to discard anything I wouldn't be needing seeing that I would most likely be cruising the streets of Ottawa that same afternoon. I lightened my load substantially using my de-cluttering rules I invented when I was moving from Ottawa to Burnaby BC. They go like this and they work!

If you need it – keep it
If you don't need it – get rid of it
If you can't decide – get rid of it

I had about 700 kms to go to get to Ottawa and my family. In no time at all I was cruising through the towns of Blind River, Massey, Espanola and Sudbury. I am so familiar with this route I can tell you where every Tim Horton's restaurant; gas station and Canada Post mailbox is located. I could drive the rest of the way with my eyes shut, speaking metaphorically, of course. I was glad to see that it wasn't thunder-storming for a change and that it was starting to warm up. HWY 17 by-passes Sudbury and takes you directly to the City of North Bay on the eastern shore of Lake Nipissing. It's the 200Kms stretch of highway from North Bay to the City of Pembroke I like the best. It shadows the Ottawa river separating Ontario from the beautiful Province of Quebec. You go through Mattawa; Deep River; Chalk River (home of our Atomic Energy Facility); the military town of CFB Petawawa; and the City of Pembroke which makes fabulous pizzas. The scenery never changes - its breathtaking.

I named this concluding part “Papa's Welcome Home”. You'll see why. My ten year old granddaughter saw me as I rode into her driveway. She was playing with friends in her front garden. I shut-off the ignition and parked the bike. I was struggling like mad to remove my knapsack so I could hug this charming bundle of joy. She was bounding towards me with outstretched arms yelling “Papa!...Papa!....Papa!”. With half a moment to spare I threw my knapsack to the ground as she leaped and locked her arms around my neck almost knocking me to the ground. She was jubilant. I was jubilant. WOW!!...what a wonderful welcome home! The wet; the cold; the exhaustion and the minor aches and pains that accompanied them suddenly faded into a distant memory. What a glorious welcome! ..... She made it all worth it!

Friday, January 11, 2013

2012 Rolling Over the 100K - Part 8 of 10



2012 Rolling Over the 100K

Part 8 of 10


Ashland Motel, WI
Man with No Name
Down Under Lake Superior


Ashland Motel, WI

It was getting late and I was cruising happily along Route 28 East. I could see Lake Superior on my left which felt strange because I usually view this lake from the other side. I can understand why its regarded as the largest lake in the world in terms of surface area. To me – its a sea. To my right I was treated to a very warm and welcoming sight. It was Wyoming's Ashland motel with a parking lot full of Harley Davidson motorcycles. Even more endearing was the sight of Harley guys and gals sitting in lawn chairs outside their rooms leaving their front doors wide-open and drinking beer. Oh!... “My brother's and sisters are here”, I said to myself as I pulled into the parking lot and booked a room for the night. There were bikers to my left and bikers to my right so I did what Harley guys do and I went over to say “Nice bikes”. The group to my left didn't believe that I'd ridden all the way from Vancouver so the biggest guy, the one with the most gold chains and the biggest tattoos, walked over to check my licence plate. “Holy S---!” he yelled to the rest of them. “The Vancouver guy's not kidding. He's got BC plates!” That's when they offered me a beer and a hot dog. The guys to my right were an older and younger brother also from Wyoming. The older brother had gone to bed. The younger brother was looking forward to his driver's test so I told him the story I wrote of the infamous Mr. Green on February 19, 2010. (Scroll way-down and click “Older Posts”. Go to second last story under John's Motorcycle Stories).


Man with No Name

It was still early the next day and I'd just finished breakfast at a McDonald's restaurant. There was no rain and the sky was turning blue indicating that it was going to be a nice
day. I knew from earlier trips that the further east I got on Route 28, the less the frequency of gas stations, so I pulled into a small gas station to fill-up my tank. The
highway was clear and I was surprised to see very little traffic. Frankly, I was trying hard to decided if it was a Monday or a Sunday without looking at my pocket notebook. The exit from the gas station met the entrance to the roadway at an exceptionally acute angle meaning that I had to rubber-neck my head around my left shoulder to see if any vehicles were approaching from my left-rear side. All was clear. What I didn't see was a red fast-moving Dodge Ram SUV coming from the opposite direction; screeching his tires while turning into the gas station exit where I was leaving; and aiming his SUV directly at me! All I could see were those chrome-plated high-rise front-mounted crash-bars and a Michigan plate gunning for me. Yes!....Gunning for me! I don't know what the guy's problem was. Maybe he was on drugs; maybe he was drunk; maybe he just didn't like motorcycles; or maybe he stomped on the gas-pedal instead of the brake. Thank God my reflex reaction was instant. I snapped the throttle on the Harley and I managed to get out of harm's way in the nick of time. He missed my back bumper by about three feet. I dismissed thoughts of reporting him to a police cruiser coming my way. That would have meant going back to get his licence plate number. By the time I'd put some real distance between us I preferred to think of him as simply a man with no name.



Down Under Lake Superior

US Route 28 from Ashland WI to the Canadian border at Sault St. Marie MI is over 700 Kms, roughly the same distance as Winnipeg Thunder Bay. Down under Lake Superior its ruggedly beautiful and the lake-shore is visible for most of the way but there isn't much there in terms of services – especially gas stations. I wasn't too worried because I remember several small gas stations from years ago spaced at reasonable intervals throughout the route. I then discovered that these service stations had since closed but I made it to Newberry MI without having to switch to reserve. After a refreshing McDonald's dinner I filled-up with gas and I asked the attendant a carefully worded question. I was going to ask him whether or not there were any more gas stations before the Canadian border at Sault St. Marie but I didn't want to be blown-off by a dismissive yes or no. I changed my question to say “How many gas stations are there between here and Sault St. Marie?” My plan didn't work. He blew me off by saying bluntly, “None Sir! This is the last gas station!” I didn't believe him for a moment. I took the photos of the stunning wooden elephants for my daughter just before I left Newberry. Ever since she was a little girl she has always like elephants and she always will. I rode hard and fast the rest of the way. I turned North at Interstate 75 towards the Canadian border. There had been four large gas stations since Newberry - all open.


Friday, January 4, 2013

2012 Rolling Over the 100K - Part 7 of 10


2012 Rolling Over the 100K

Part 7 of 10


Hob-nobbing with the Big Shots!
Dinosaur Park, ND
Rolling Over the 100K



Hob-nobbing with the Big Shots!
 
You get a nice feeling when you're wet and cold and hungry and you unexpectedly see a McDonald's restaurant still serving breakfast. An egg McMuffin and a hot coffee was just what I needed to boost my dwindling energy levels. I wasn't sure where I was but as I walked through the front door I looked at the address. I was in Glasgow, MT. My God! This is a big State. No wonder they call it the “Big Sky State”. Since this was a rural town the clientèle were mostly local folks and predominantly farmers. They were a talkative and cheerie lot and everyone seemed to be in good humour except, perhaps, me. I was a little down because I hadn't been totally dry since I left British Columbia and I was getting fed-up with being damp all the time. An old chap accompanied by his wife sitting at the next table struck-up a friendly conversation with me and they cheered me up. He was very interested in BC and in my destination, Ottawa. His wife was saying that she'd like to visit both places sometime as soon as her husband gave up some of his many jobs. I told them stories similar to what you are reading in my blog. They told me local jokes and I was sorry to see them finally get up and leave. The old guy had the courtesy and good manners to help his wife put on her raincoat which totally impressed me. Chivalry isn't dead after all. As they were walking towards the front door, he came back to tell me how he and his wife had enjoyed my company. He was very sincere when he said that the next time I come through their town they would be honoured to invite me to their house for a meal. I was a little overwhelmed and I shook his hand. He reached in his pocket and gave me his card saying, “That's where you can find us.” I put the card in my pocket without looking at it. The next day I was looking in my wallet and I read his card with surprise. It read, "Mayor, City of Glasgow, MT”.



Dinosaur Park, ND

There were certain landmarks I recognized from earlier trips after I had finally crossed into the beautiful State of N. Dakota. Apart from seeing the welcome sign, it wasn't long before I was passing by the array of windmills with their giant blades rotating gracefully in the gentle breeze. Although not its real name, I found myself driving through Dinosaur Park where entire fields were covered with man-made brontosauruses, tyrannosauruses, tetra-dactyls and other pre-historic beasts that I wouldn't even try to guess the names of. What this did for me was comforting. I'd seen these animals before and it provided me with reassurance that I was making progress and that, indeed, I was now well over half-way towards Ontario's western border. Until now, it had simply been mile after endless mile without markers. I decided to stay at the Northern Lights Inn in Rugby, ND, that night. I wanted to get an early night's sleep in the hope of reaching Duluth, MN, sometime during the following day. I was disappointed with that hotel because someone was using a cordless drill in the next room during the middle of the night. I was angry enough to get the night clerk to knock on the door and ask them to stop. I went with him. It turned out that the room was not booked that night. It was dark and empty. The noise I'd heard was being generated by a maladjusted air-conditioning system that was running ten times more powerfully than it should have been. This resulted in audible high-pitched “whistling” between the snug-fitting doors. Mind you, I am grossly over-sensitive to unwanted noises and I am irritated by them. I just can't help it. Nevertheless, I felt like such a fool.



Rolling Over the 100K
Even though I woke-up to rain once again I resolved that I would reach Duluth, MN, that day. It was much easier that I thought it was going to be because many of the quaint small towns I remembered from the last time I was out this way were now by- passed through extensive reconstruction of Route 2. This was both good and not-so-good. On the one hand I made better time than I had anticipated due to a lesser number of stops. On the downside I missed visiting those small towns because they provided you with a better understanding of life in small-town America. The rain cleared by mid-day and I had covered a great distance in just a few hours. Route 2 had been converted to near Interstate calibre now. I was cruising at 70mph and keeping pace easily with truckers; camper-wagons; domestic automobiles and other motorcycles. The greatest surprise, however, were the powerful pick-up trucks that prevailed west of the State of Minnesota to the Pacific coast. Ninety-nine percent of them carried no load whatsoever. I don't know why they are so popular. I'm convinced it must be a “macho” thing. By now, I was getting excited – 099,992 Kms was displayed now on my odometer. It appeared to be rolling faster than it had before. 099,993 Kms ...099,998 Kms.....099,999 Kms …..and, finally, I rolled over 100,000 Kms as I saw the beautiful City of Duluth, MN, in the far distance. I couldn't pull over and enjoy the moment. There were no shoulders to pull over to; I was surrounded by corrugated steel guard-rails. State Troopers would be on your back instantly if you did anything to stop or even slow down traffic unless it was a life and death emergency. I love Duluth. Its absolutely gorgeous. At the very first opportunity after crossing all the bridges and elevated ramps I stopped at the first Burger-King and I congratulated myself with a whopper-burger and a giant root-beer. Before continuing east on Route 28, I took an hour in the early evening to walk along the shore of Lake Superior and admire it's awesome beauty. I was impressed with a plague mounted by the shore in tribute to the Mariner's that had fallen (photo as shown).







Friday, December 28, 2012

2012 Rolling Over the 100K - Part 6 of 10



2012 Rolling Over the 100K

Part 6 of 10


Montana's Magic
The Sportsman Motel
Chinese Arithmetic

Montana's Magic

Riding through the State of Montana is not much different than riding across the Alberta badlands from Lethbridge to Regina, Saskatchewan – there ain't much there when it comes to the lay of the land. In Montana, however, the string of small towns along route 2, including Chester, Havre, Malta, Glasgow, Wolf Point and Culbertson all carry their own distinctive charm, character and sense of humour. This is exactly what gives Montana its special kind of magic. While staying overnight at the Townhouse Inn in Havre I treated myself to a little luxury. It was pouring rain so hard there was no way I would consider trying to pitch my little MEC tent between the deepening puddles outside. Since I was dripping wet anyway, I decided to continue being all wet by watching the downpour of rain outside, from the relative warmth of the hotel pool - inside. This was followed by a hot meal and a warm dry bed where I got some well deserved sleep. The next morning, however, I awoke to heavy pounding rain on the hotel roof. It was coming down with a vengeance so I immediately asked the front desk to extend my stay one more night. The clerk replied, “I'm sorry Sir. We are fully pre-booked for tonight”. I got dressed in my rain-suit; gritted my teeth; took a deep breath and headed east along Route 2 splashing through the many puddles along the way.


The Sportsman Motel

Not since my “Alaska Sunk” trip in 2010 had I experienced such torrential rain non-stop. Even with my windshield and visor down I was not able to see the road clearly. “Pull over and stop!” you might say, but there was no place to pull over to; no bridges to take shelter; and no gas stations to seek refuge. I was the dumb one here. It didn't take much to realize that I was the only vehicle on the highway. No-one else was in sight. I was wet; I was cold and I became exhausted to the point where I was simply not able to continue riding any more. As soon as I got to Malta I checked into the Sportsman motel even though it was only twelve noon. The room was not the best. The toilet and sink were in the living room with no door but it was reasonably clean and dry. It had a huge TV hanging on the wall. For the cheapie price of $50USD it was good enough for me. I was in no mood to haggle. I dried-off the best I could and I slept for the afternoon right up until suppertime without waking up.


Chinese Arithmetic

I woke up hungry. About 100 yards down the street was a Chinese restaurant. Half a dozen egg rolls and two cans of Coors light beer sounded good so I decided to pay them a visit. “I'd like six egg rolls and two cans of Coors Light to go please,” I said to the Chinese cashier who spoke English almost perfectly. “I'm sorry Sir, but I can't give you six egg rolls. We only serve them in groups of two”. What!!!...I couldn't believe my ears. I had to confirm the idiocy of what I'd just heard. “Well,...how many egg rolls would I end up with if I ordered three groups of two – to go?” Her head looked down as she punched buttons on her calculator. She turned to me stone-faced without the slightest hint of a smile and said, “That would give you a total of six, Sir.” “Thank you Miss”, I said. “I'll take three groups of two egg rolls to go”. When she handed me my brown paper bag I thought it wise to check my order. I asked her for some plum sauce with my egg rolls but she said that she only had sweet and sour sauce; honey and mustard sauce; honey and ketchup but no plum sauce. I took the honey and mustard sauce. I reminded her that even though my beers are paid for, I still don't have them. She looked at me expressionless and said that the two beers are waiting for me at my table. When I told her that I had ordered them “To Go” she said that alcoholic drinks could not be taken outside the restaurant. I had to drink them inside the restaurant, at my table. Since I wasn't getting anywhere - I gave up the conversation. I brought my brown paper “To Go” bag to my table; I sat at the table; ate my meal; and drank my beers inside the restaurant. That's the kind of thing I'm talking about when I say that each town has its own special kind of charm, character and humour. The food was great and I thoroughly enjoyed my meal.


Friday, December 14, 2012

2012 Rolling Over the 100K - Part 5 of 10



2012 Rolling Over the 100K

Part 5 of 10

Alberta's Welcome
Sixes and Sevens
French Envy



Alberta's Welcome

I don't know what it is about Alberta but every time I go through that Province I end up feeling like I've been kicked-around a bit. I was leaving BC heading towards the Alberta border when I felt something ominous was about to happen. For those of you who remember the B&W cowboy movies from the old days where stagecoach wheels reversed rotation when they were slowing down and fast-moving cumuli-nimbus clouds moved at breakneck speed across an ugly sky – the latter was all happening now right above my head. They had found me! They unleashed their thousand-gallon loads of heavy rain right on top of me. It was no co-incidence that this occurred just as I was passing the “Welcome to Alberta” sign to my right. There had to be some sinister connection. I stopped to put my rain suit on my already drenched body. There was no shelter. No respite. I had to grin and bear it as I began the long and lonely trek south to the US Border at Montana. It was going to be a long, wet, cold ride with very few, if any, gas stations.



Sixes and Sevens

I was the sole vehicle at the border and the US Border Guard looked like I'd spoiled his morning coffee. There was no friendly greeting - no smile - no wave - no nothing. He held out his hand and said “Passport”. I shut off my engine and started to dismount. He barked “Why are you getting off your bike?” “To get my passport” I said, “Its in my knapsack on my back”. “ It shouldn't be in your knapsack. You should carry it in the front pocket of your rain-suit ready to give to me!” When I handed it to him he asked “What's your licence plate number?” I told him I didn't know. He said “Do you own the motorcycle?” I told him “Yes” to which he said that if I really owned the motorcycle I should be able to tell him my plate number. I was getting a little annoyed at his interrogation so I responded by saying a little too sharply. “Well – its a BC plate with lots of sixes and sevens.” I noticed that he was now concentrating on his monitor so I quietly took a couple of steps backwards and read out loud - BC 6766! He handed me my passport and waved me on my way.



French Envy

If you can close your eyes and imagine travelling through barren land where there is nothing, absolutely nothing, and then even more nothing, you would most likely be travelling the vast barren “deserts” of Southern Alberta and Montana. The lay of the land doesn't change with the political boundaries and neither does the weather. I was getting wetter and wetter and colder and colder when I saw a nice restaurant on US Route 2 just as I was approaching Chester. I pulled in. I was in dire need of a steaming hot coffee and a grilled-cheese sandwich so that's exactly what I ordered. Across from me were two young men who appeared to be in their twenties. They were speaking French. It wasn't hard to understand that they were fascinated with my Harley. I had parked it next to their touring bicycles. The older one asked me, with some difficulty, if it was my motorcycle to which I responded affirmatively in French. They were delighted. I asked them, in French, if they would care to join me and in a moment they were sitting across from me at my table. I was surprised at how well I was getting along in French and whenever I had difficulties they would switch to their broken English. They were here touring on their bicycles from the south of France. They were totally taken with my Harley and explained that Harley Davidsons were far too expensive to buy in France. Not many could afford such luxuries. We spent most of the afternoon talking about life in Canada and America and France until they had to go. As they were leaving, the taller boy came back to my table and said in his very best English “John, I really envy you riding a Harley.”



Friday, December 7, 2012

2012 Rolling Over the 100K - Part 4 of 10



2012 Rolling Over the 100K

Part 4 of 10


The Gravel Patch
A Multitude of Matchsticks
Still in BC?



The Gravel Patch

I continued along the Crowsnest highway through the charming towns of Castlegar, Salmo, Creston, Cranbruck and Fernie until I came within a stones throw of the village of Sparwood. I had foregone more than half-a-dozen opportunities to cross into the United States. My original plan was to head straight towards Lethbridge, Alberta, and then turn due south into Montana. I wanted to stick with it. It had been a terrific day and I was tired and thirsty. As I was trying to decide where I was going to stay for the night I passed the Mountain Shadows Campground on my right and a rather large beer store on my left. It had a red flashing neon sign that said “OPEN”. It was winking at me. How Perfect! Only one small camping spot was still available and it was situated right next to the highway. It was mostly gravel – not grass – and barely large enough to fit my pup-tent and my Harley. I decided to take it anyway because I was quite tired and very thirsty. I parked my Harley and I set-up my tent on the small uneven surface of the gravel patch and I walked across the highway and bought two tall boys of ice-cold Coors light beer. I felt like someone was cutting my throat with a sharp knife as I took my first gulp. Boy were they GOOD! The next morning I knew that something was wrong the moment I opened my eyes. My whole body hurt and I spent the first few minutes trying to decided which part of my body would hurt the least when I tried moved it. I was moving very slowly that morning. My head was clear but everything below my neck would not move without a great deal of effort and pain. The first thing I did when I reached Sparwood was drink several hot coffees and eat a nice breakfast since I'd skipped supper the night before. I was ready to ride a again.


A Multitude of Matchsticks

Continuing East from Sparwood I noticed a substantial increase in commercial truck traffic, especially the huge logging trucks carrying tons and tons of lumber. Never in the world have I seen trucks so huge and carrying such massive loads. Sometimes, I saw them travelling in convoys. They were good drivers. They kept to the speed limit; they were courteous to other vehicles including me and they always left ample space between trucks to allow you to get past safely. I let my imagination run rampant as I tried to count the uses of that lumber. Of course, the vast majority of it would be used in the construction industry, I presumed. After a while, I began to remember when I used to smoke cigarettes and I couldn't help but think of the multitude of wooden matchsticks I went through over the years. Then, as a real mind-bender, I tried to calculate how many matchsticks could be made out of the load on the truck in front of me. Surely several billions. I never did, however, come up with an actual figure but I had no doubt it would have been a huge multitude of matchsticks.


Still in BC?

Its not hard to lose track of the days when you're on the road with a bike and a tent and you're having a real good time. That's how I felt today. I wanted to stay in south-eastern BC because it was so beautiful and the towns and villages were so very quaint and interesting but I figured it was about time I left BC. I began to count. OK, I left Vancouver last Tuesday morning and camped overnight at the Christina Lake Campground. That was Day one. The next day was following the Crowsnest highway all the way to Sparwood where I camped overnight. That was Day two. Hey! .....I'm already in Day three and where's Alberta? It takes four days to get out of Ontario from Ottawa but it normally takes only two days to get out of BC travelling east. I pulled-over to take a look at my road map. It had seen better days. It was torn and tattered and I don't remember ever seeing it completely dry. Good value for $3.95 though. Oh! I saw two major factors which explained why I was still in BC. Firstly, Southern BC pushes the Alberta border considerably further east than does the northern part of the Province. Secondly, the highways in Southern BC were not built as east-west direct routes. Hwy 3, for example, loops up and down like an angry serpent taking a hissy-fit. Consequently, you eat-up hundreds of kilometres travelling north and south as opposed to going west in a straight line. That explained things. Ah Well! Alberta here I come! Its not my most favourite Province.

Friday, November 30, 2012

2012 Rolling Over the 100K - Part 3 of 10



2012 Rolling Over the 100K

Part 3 of 10


Southern BC
Nancy Greene
Close to Heaven



Southern BC

From Christina Lake to Castlegar in the very heart of Southern BC the highways were a motorcyclists dream. It was my highway. I was all alone. There were no trucks or camper-wagons to slow me down. It was warm and dry with newly paved surfaces. The curves were challenging, exhilarating and just a little bit scary. I felt like I was the luckiest guy in the world. My Harley was performing so responsively that I began to hammer her really hard. In my fifty years of riding I have found that riding your bike hard, as long as the road quality is good, and there's no other traffic around or nearby intersections, makes them run even better. On this occasion, however, there was an unfortunate incident that turned out to be minor in nature but it could have been more serious. I heard a mysterious tinkle coming from my back-end so I instantly disengaged the clutch and slowed right down. I rubber-necked to see what was wrong but I couldn't find anything. The tinkling had stopped. The bike was fine so I continued on. The next time I took a rest-stop I got off the bike and I carefully inspected the back of the bike around the rear-wheel. One saddlebag strap was missing. I checked the remaining strap on the other side and it was fine. I continued heading east.


Nancy Greene

Surprise! Surprise!....I was roaring along Highway 3 when all of a sudden I came across a name I recognized instantly. I never expected to see a BC Provincial Park named after that very famous Olympic athlete, Nancy Greene. For those of you who may not be familiar with the name, Nancy Greene had an absolutely spectacular career in Alpine Skiing. Her achievements were out of this world. She's an Olympic Gold and Silver Medallist. She was named as the Olympic Ambassador for the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, and if that's not enough, Nancy Greene was honoured as Canada's “Female Athlete of the 20th Century”. She is now sitting as a Senator in Mr. Harper's Government. I stopped at the entrance to the Park and I took a look around. It was very early in the morning and the wrong time of day to think about staying over but the next time I'm out this way I'll make a point of camping here for a couple of days. Although I didn't realize it at the time, I found out more recently that she was actually born in Ottawa before she moved to BC as a child. I salute Nancy Greene for her impressive career in Canadian Skiing and for her outstanding achievements.



Close to Heaven

The rest of the day was motorcycle-touring at its very best. It was warm and sunny. The highway was dry and full of white-knuckle hairpin bends. It was as if the Harley and I had blended into a single unit. Her handling and manoeuvrability was excellent and rivalled the 750cc Triumph Bonneville I used to own. I called her “The Great Performer” My Bonnie was the all-time champion of great handling, but today, the Harley was a very close second. Once again, I had the empty highway all to myself. To the right of the highway there was a single train track where now and then a diesel freight-train could be seen at intervals through the patches of heavy under-brush. Each time I saw a gap in the trees I calculated that the train and I were going the same speed so I stood high on my mid-pedals and waved frantically at the engineer. As soon as he saw me he gave me a wave back and a blast of his whistle. I couldn't have been happier. Motorcycles, Trains and Ocean-going Ships, not little boats, have always fascinated me . I have to admit that I've always lamented the demise of the old steam trains which I spent many hours as a kid admiring by sitting at the side of the tracks and collecting their numbers. Having a powerful motorcycle between my legs; a speeding locomotive to my right; a clear dry road ahead and the sun high in the sky was about as close to heaven as I could possibly get in this life. Furthermore, I was spell-bound by the striking similarities between the countryside here in southern BC and that of Alaska in the summertime. There were fast-flowing shallow rivers weaving their way around rock-formations; wide-pebbled shores ideal for parking a camper-trailer for an overnight stay and an abundance of deer. It was breathtakingly beautiful. What more could I possibly ask for? ...This is why I do it – you know.




Friday, November 23, 2012

2012 Rolling Over the 100K - Part 2 of 10

2012 Rolling Over the 100K

Part 2 of 10


The Port Mann Bridge
Hope BC
Christina Lake Park


The Port Mann Bridge

Cruising east along the Trans-Canada highway out of Vancouver and into the lower mainland brings you through the growing cities of Surrey, Langley, Abbottsford and Chilliwack. For the most part its rather uneventful as would driving along any Canadian or American Interstate, except for one thing, the majestic three billion dollar Port Mann Bridge spanning the Fraser River. I have to catch my breath every time I cross that unfinished bridge due to its towering height and strikingly beautiful architecture. It is very nearly completed. Tolls will help pay the cost. The Port Mann bridge rivals the great Sunshine Causeway connecting St. Petersburg to Sarasota on Florida's west coast. It is truly magnificent.


Hope, BC

Hope BC is a hub connecting arterial highways going north, east, west and south. Its a very pretty place nestled between rivers and mountains. Its where Sylvester Stallone was filmed in the making of First Blood. From what I've read about this, he made quite an impression on the local folks and he was very friendly with them. I have often taken the wrong highway leading out of Hope ending up being in places I didn't plan to be. This time however I was prepared. I committed Highway signposts like Princeton, Osoyoos and Grand Forks to memory to make sure I didn't end up too far north in Penticton or Kilowna by mistake. Highway 3 was the key to getting East. Osoyoos always amazes me. It straddles a lake at the bottom of a valley. I stopped briefly at a Safeway supermarket for a chicken salad sandwich and a soft drink and before you know it I was all refreshed again and ready to continue. When climbing out of the town I stopped to take a photo from a posted viewpoint where I met some visitors from Northern England. Being from there myself they were amazed at how well I knew the area where they were from. We even talked a little about the escapades of the Coronation Street gang before I headed-off. When they asked where I was going, I said “Ottawa, Ontario”. One of my former countrymen said, “Blimey Lad! Your crazy! That's a hell of a long way!”. I agreed with them and snapped the throttle of my Harley to continue climbing the steep incline.


Christina Lake Park

I made good time that day and I decided to rest for the night at Christina Lake RV Park. I made it very clear to the part-time person in the office that I wanted no snacks, no camp-fire, no laundry facilities and no noise. All I wanted was a quiet out-of-the way spot where I could set up my tent and get some sleep. Nothing more! I'd worry about getting some breakfast on the road the next morning. “No Problem” she assured me and she pointed to a vacant camping spot with no-one on either side of me. Behind me was a thin wire fence with some vacant benches and what looked like a giant fire place that was not used. How nice! At midnight, however, I was awakened by soft singing. About a dozen boys and girls had lit a giant campfire and were having a sing-song not twenty feet on the other side of the thin wire fence. Some songs were religious in nature. If I hadn't have been so tired I would have probably enjoyed it but there was no way I could get back to sleep. They left about 2:00am but about four of then stayed behind talking amongst themselves until around 4:00am. I fell asleep around 5:00am. I woke up at 6:00am and promptly left the camp-ground not too quietly.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

2012 Rolling Over the 100K - Part 1 of 10

2012 Rolling Over the 100K

Part 1 of 10


What I Want to Do!
T minus 48 hours
Perfect Getaway



What I Want to Do!

I am making arrangements to go to Ottawa to visit my family this year. I love to do this by motorcycle and I plan to write this blog about the adventures I will no doubt encounter along the way. Unlike the disastrous trip I had in “Alaska Sunk” in 2010, I am expecting this trip to be a breeze. Uneventful at best. My secondary goal is to roll-over the 100,000 kilometres reading on my Harley Davidson odometer. Considering that I am her original owner and all those “clicks” have been put on by yours truly, I will consider that quite an achievement. I currently read 96,877 kilometres. To make my trip even more pleasant I bought myself a brand new Mountain Equipment Coop tent. I really didn't have much choice since my last tent was totally destroyed by catastrophic weather conditions in my 2010 Alaska Sunk trip.

T Minus 48 hours

Two days before I was scheduled to leave on my journey I stopped momentarily at a downtown Safeway store to buy a few last minute groceries. It was such a warm, sunny day and I was riding in a short-sleeved shirt and a pair of jeans. Some people insist on riding in full leathers downtown on hot days which is a practice I don't subscribe to. When you're hot and sweaty you are distracted and your reflexes are impeded. After leaving the store I found myself cruising down Kingsway in the heart of the City of Burnaby without my helmet. I hadn't noticed this. Neither had two policemen in a police cruiser riding alongside me in the outer lane of traffic. I turned-off at the first side-street I came across and made my way through the back-streets back to the store while remembering exactly where I had left my helmet. I'd left it right beside the cashier's register in isle number 6. When I got there, however, it had disappeared. It was gone. No-one had seen anyone take it. The manager made an announcement over the voice communication system but to no avail. It had been stolen. I had to take a bus home to pick up my spare helmet while wondering whether or not this was some kind of “Omen” for what was about to come. I bought a new Harley helmet at T Minus 24 hours.


Perfect Getaway

I can never sleep well before I leave on one of my adventures and this time was no exception. I was all set to go at some indecent early hour. I have packed my motorcycle well. I had carefully secured my new tent and sleeping bag; made sure that I had not packed too much stuff and I was gassed-up and ready to go. I had been monitoring the weather across the country for the last two months and it was good. Ottawa, especially, and throughout Ontario had been consistently sunny with above average temperatures. Many days had seen temperatures in the thirties. How wonderful! I wouldn't be needing my rain-suit this trip but I'd packed it anyway. My friends Perry and Carol had come to wish me well. I started the mighty Harley. She huffed and she puffed and spluttered with  anticipation and suddenly, in a deafening roar of pure Harley power - I was gone!



Friday, December 9, 2011

2010 Alaska Sunk - Part 15 of 15


2010 AlaskaSunk

Part 15 of 15


Index


Part 1: My Dream / My Planning / Ready to Go!

Part 2: Rain Rain Go Away / Love at First Sight / Campfire Music

Part 3: Going My Way? / Obotonga / The Seniors' Breakfast

Part 4: Davy Lake / Wolf Man / Biker Nerd

Part 5: Manitoba Horror / More Rain, ….even More Rain / Flea Bag Motel

Part 6: Pense / Weather Turns Catastrophic / The Comfort Inn

Part 7: Hanlon Hospitality / Alaska Sunk ! / Bow River

Part 8: Riding the Rockies / Coffee Cravings / The Reunion

Part 9: Campbell River / Osoyoos / Wrong Border Crossing

Part 10: Rain Suit Incident / Montana's Finest / Mississippi Cyclists

Part 11: I'm On Lunch / Dinosaur Bugs / N. Dakota Windmills

Part 12: Beautiful Duluth / Which Border? / Wisconsin Hospitality

Part 13: Canada Here I Come! / Drowned in Espanola / La Golondrina

Part 14: Epilogue: It was the Weather! / RailwayLines / The CAA / Lessons Learned / The Finish

Part15: Index


2010 Alaska Sunk – Part 14 of 15



2010 Alaska Sunk – Part 14 of 15

Epilogue

It was the Weather!
Railway Lines
The CAA
Lessons Learned
The Finish

It was the Weather!

I would have no doubt made it to Alaska had it not been for the catastrophic weather conditions in the mid-west and the temporary collapse of the Top of the World Highway between Toc, AK and Dawson City, YK. Even though I had some initial reservations about whether or not I could travel the vast distances from gas station to gas station I had planned to buy a spare container of gas and fasten it to my bike after leaving the American Ferry at Whittier.

Railway lines

I posted the best photos I had at the time to illustrate the severity of the catastrophic weather I had encountered in the vicinity of Maple Creek, Sask. Following my trip, I received some photographs showing uprooted railway lines caused by the storm. The photos were taken during the same time that I was caught there. They illustrate the damage done very effectively.

The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) – Disappointing

My trip almost didn't happen at all because the CAA told me that there were no Canadian or American Ferries from Prince Rupert BC to Anchorage Alaska. I found an American Ferry the next day leaving Prince Rupert BC to Whittier Alaska on July 5, 2010 – exactly the time I wanted to be there. Whittier is a half-hour ride from Anchorage. They also dumped a box of travel books on me that I didn't request and really didn't want. The few that were applicable to my trip I took with me. They turned into bricks of stone after the first rain storm. I was not able to make a claim on my trip cancellation insurance because I was not able to satisfy their requirement for a Doctor's note substantiating my condition. Where on earth would I find a doctor in a 300 kms radius of no-man's land during a state of emergency declared by the Premier of Saskatchewan? CAA insisted that I'd simply had a changed of mind. They did, however, treat me to a PDF file of 30 or more pages of fine print explaining the nuances of their policy. I was in no mood to read it.

Lessons Learned

  1. Don't be cheap – spend more money!
  1. Make a list of the things you think you need to take with you. Then, tear the list in half and throw one-half away. Remember, your passport; driver's license, ownership and insurance papers are the basic essentials. Put your credit card at the top of the list!
  1. Always use your credit card to buy gas (you almost have to these days). Your monthly credit card statement reminds you of the places you've visited, and when. I developed the habit of always double-checking to make absolutely sure my credit card was in my wallet before leaving each gas station. You should do the same! I adopted this habit after noticing that my credit card was missing after getting gas in Montana. I did the twenty-mile trip back to the gas station only to find my credit card in my pants pocket instead of my wallet, where it should have been.
  1. Get well-dressed. Buy an expensive rainsuit that will keep you reasonably dry in inclement weather and leak-proof saddlebags if you don't already have them. Buy a heated vest and gloves. Buy leather chaps to cut-out the wind. Buy good quality leather boots (Reference: Item 1)
  1. Don't plan on camping every night. Stay at good hotels or motels especially when the weather looks bad. Some hotels offer a “free” buffet breakfast with your room. This is a good deal because they don't mind at all if you take some extra food with you that might serve as your lunch and/or supper. That has been my experience. (Reference Item 1)
  1. Resist the inherent temptation to ...“Get There!” Stop to smell the roses along the way! Don't turn your trip into an endurance marathon. Plan no more than 600 kms per day and take a half-day or more to explore a new town or village whenever if you feel like it.
  1. Take lots of pictures unless you still carry a Kodak Brownie - God Forbid. Digital cameras are great because you can simply take as many pictures as you like and just erase the ones you don't like. You are going to lose twenty minutes or more by stopping to take a picture of something. Live with it! - you may never get the chance to see it again.
  1. Don't be shy! Walk up to other travellers and start talking to them. You never know what nice people you meet along the way. If I didn't do that – I wouldn't have a blog to share with you. Opening a conversation with other motorcyclists is especially easy. All you need to say is ...“Nice Bike!”

The Finish

I'd promised my grandkids a picture of me with a bear. Although I had seen two great big live grizzly bears on my trip, one in Alberta and one in BC, they wouldn't accept my invitation to stay still while I set my camera on time-delay so I could stand beside them. It might have been because I'd mumbled it softly under my breath. However, when one promises to do something for his grandkids – dangerous or not - not doing it is not an option.

See Papa with a black bear in the photo. What a way to finish this blog – me with a buddy and a smile... I'd call this a happy ending! ….Wouldn't you?


Friday, December 2, 2011

2010 Alaska Sunk - Part 13 of 15



2010 Alaska Sunk - Part 13 of 15

Canada Here I Come!
Stuck in Espanola
La Golondrina

Canada Here I Come!

For my last night in the United States I treated myself to a stay at the Comfort Inn at Newberry, Michigan. I sure wasn't the only Canadian biker there. I must have counted fifteen or more couples riding touring bikes and tricycles from Michigan to Ontario. It was party-time for most of them but I spent the evening preparing for my last stretch of highway out of Michigan and into Ontario. That would include crossing the border from Sault St. Marie Michigan to Sault St. Marie Ontario. Why do they have the same name?...I've no idea. I wasn't concerned about customs because I had nothing to declare anyway. The next stop I made was at a country store at Watter, Mi, to get gas. There was a great big sign on the door which said, “ Motorcycle helmets must be removed before entering this store!” I removed my helmet and I went to pay for my gas. “Why no helmets?”, I asked. “Because bikers come in here leaving their visors down. Then they rob us at gunpoint” she responded. She went on to say “You can put your's back on because you have an open-faced helmet”. I could see her point. Her store was at the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. There was nothing for thirty miles in either direction and I left with the impression that she was robbed often.

I'm such a lucky Guy. The Canadian border guard said, “I love your Harley. I ride a Softail-Classic. Welcome home brother!” ...As he said that my heart sunk. All I could see far ahead were the same heavy storm clouds that I had faced several weeks ago - and this time I had no rain suits left!

Stuck in Espanola

I had no doubts at all that I was going to get soaked to death no matter what I did so I thought about the options I had regarding the best way to get home. Firstly, I knew the road very well and I could probably get there blindfolded. Secondly, I estimated that I was looking at twelve hours of riding and possibly more. Thirdly, it didn't matter what time I got home. I could crash-out for as long as I wanted once I got there. Consequently, my decision was to try to make it all the way home stopping only for food, gas and bathroom breaks. Considering that I'd crossed the border about 11:00am, I saw no reason why I couldn't be home by about 2:00 o'clock the next morning. For that brilliant piece of reason and logic I should be given an award for “idiot of the month” as you will soon find out.

The rain was steady but manageable. I made good time riding along the north coast of the Georgian Bay until I reached the town of Massey and Chute's Provincial Park. There, the heavens opened-up and the torrential rain came down with a vengeance once again. The heavy raindrops were hitting the asphalt and bouncing back up twelve inches or more . It was hard to see were I was going. Large and small vehicles were starting to pull over. I knew that if I could keep going for another ten minutes I would get to the Wendy's/Tim Horton's restaurants at the Trucker's Corner located at the Espanola intersection. I spent the next two hours sitting at a corner table watching the rain come down in sheets. Other travellers were doing the same. Some time later it seemed to lighten up a bit so I jumped on the Harley hoping that I might be able to drive out of it. Then, suddenly, everything went black. There was a power-cut knocking-out hydro to traffic lights, street lights, and lights in nearby restaurants and bars. The torrential rain started up again so I stopped at a small family restaurant to rest. The staff were sitting together at a large table talking about the weather . One waitress came over and explained that the restaurant was closed due to the power outage and they were not able to serve anything. I ask her could I just sit in a corner for a while until the power came back on. Three hours later, I left the restaurant in the heavy rain and continued towards Ottawa. It was now nightime. I made it through Sudbury, North Bay and Mattawa until I reached Deep River bordering the Ottawa river. It had a motel with a vacancy sign out front. I couldn't have lasted two more minutes riding the Harley because I was dripping-wet, cold and totally exhausted. I knew I still had several hours to go. I don't remember turning into that motel parking lot and shutting off the engine. I think my unknown Angel may have done that for me. That's why I deserved the “idiot of the month” award.

La Golondrina

The next morning I woke-up on top of the bed. I hadn't even got under the covers. My first thought was “Three Hours To Go!” ...and I'd be back home again. I really wanted to get back now so I didn't shower or shave. I could do that a lot more comfortably at home. The rain had stopped but the road was still wet so I decided to leave Deep River. A late model Ducati Sports bike had parked next to me during the night. Although those Ducatis are strikingly attractive and powerful they make a rattling noise sounding like nuts and bolts shaking in a tin bucket. Notwithstanding, the point I was about to make is that I never heard him arrive so I must have slept very deeply during the night. Ever since I found out that Tom Cruise had bought himself a Ducati I've always wanted to take one for a test drive - but I never got the chance - not yet anyway!

When I was going through Canadian Forces Base Petawawa I was glad I'd stopped at Deep River because I know from past experience that the distance from Petawawa to my home in Ottawa is exactly three hours easy riding. The only reason I stopped that morning was to get gas. After that, cruising through Pembroke; Cobden; Renfrew; Arnprior and Ottawa was a breeze. I couldn't help thinking about the difficulties I'd had; the inclement weather; the running out of gas; dropping the bike in the mud; and the unrelenting cold - compared against the thrills; the adventures and the good times I'd experienced. I asked myself the question, “ Given the choice, would I do it all again?” My answer was “Yes of course – I'd do it all again a heartbeat!”

I have a personal “thing” I like to do. It would mean nothing to you. It means something to me. I have a single favourite piece of music called La Golondrina. It was written by a Mexican doctor/composer in 1883. In Spanish it means “The Swallow” and it's about invoking sentiments of longing for home. This is a sentiment to which I, personally, am highly sensitive for reasons that will remain private. I like to play it each time I leave and return from a very long motorcycle trip. In Mexico, it is sung each time someone leaves someone or something. I think in my old age, I might be turning into an emotional basket-case just in case you didn't know. Nevertheless, I stopped in a parking lot on the east side of Ottawa and I put on my mp3 player. I placed the headphones under my helmet. I rode the rest of the way home listening to Dr. Narcisco Serradell Sevilla's La Golondrina sung by Nana Mouskouri in Spanish. Its one of the most beautiful pieces of music I know.


I parked my Harley in my garage and closed the door. I stripped-off everything damp. That meant absolutely everything. I walked naked into my scalding-hot shower and scrubbed myself clean. After I'd dried myself-off I fell into bed and crawled under the covers.

I don't know when I woke-up.