Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Day 4 Home

Day 4
Tawas, MI  - Goderich, OM
420km    $16.75 for 6 galllons
$3.50 in tolls

As good as it is to be on the road and touring, it is also nice to know home is near too.  We were quite literally across the lake from home, but it is a big enough pass to make.  The most unfortunate part with the day was the wet, rainy weather that would pelt us for the first 80 minutes or so of the ride.  It was full rain gear on.  It didn't stop raining until Bay City.  I was dry and warm under all my gear.

There was a bit of discussion on what to do and where to go.  But since the rain did let up we decided to go to Frankenmuth, MI to walk around and see the sights.  There is the epic Bronner's Christmas store to see too.  Darin had never been and it is neat enough to visit.  Darin had an extra special reason which was his daughter had a baby yesterday, so he became a grandfather.  I told him it would be a perfect place to find a gift.  There is, quite easily, a few million different things in this store.  It is huge.  Sure enough he found a babies first Christmas ornament.  Sorry Walter - no first Christmas piece for you.
 We got a bit turned around and had to drive on the interstate for 10 km or so.  Michigan should not be proud of the condition of their pavement around the greater Flint area.  It isn't in great shape, and much of it seems to be rippled or corrugated.  Anyway it is terrible for riding a motorcycle on.  So we drove a hundred kilometres or so on Lapeer Road, and it turns in Imlay City highway....  It shoulders I-69.

The other thing about today, and much of the trip in general, was how busy the roads seemed to be.  90 percent of the traveling was not done on interstates, but rather highways and county roads.  They always seemed to have more traffic then expected.  Sure there were times were we where the only two on the road for quite sometime, but that seemed like an exception rather then the rule.  I couldn't believe how much traffic was on the road today, and it was just terrible weather, and the roads weren't primary.  There is just more folks in the states the Canada I suppose.

I wanted to take the ferry crossing down at Sombra back into Ontario, but the rain gear was back on.  It would have to wait for another time.  Instead it was to the Bluewater Bridge, another toll paid, and see-you-later Americans, time to head home.  The funny part about getting to the boarder station was that I got in the wrong lane, and going a bit fast, and I weaved out of it and blasted a big old orange pylon, then dragged it 50 feet or more....  It was funny.  The guy at the booth never said anything.  I chuckled and Darin thought it was funny.

The trip was fantastic.  I had been on some of the roads in the past, however I also got on new surfaces and locations too.  It was a trip to ride during, and we did.  I really enjoyed being with Darin and we got on just fine.  We have very similar styles and dispositions, and sometimes that isn't a good thing, but it all worked out swimmingly this time around. 

Day 3 on the Road

Oconto, WI  - Tawas City, MI
640km    $21 in gas for 7.5gallons
Hotel $50.00
$4.00 toll on Mackinac Bridge

A third day of fantastic riding, weather, company, food, fate, and all those things that happen and go on during a trip such as this.  Darin and I weren’t in too much of a hurry, but pushed off by 8:30 or so, but soon stopped at a cool place called Elmer’s in a place in Michigan along Hwy #2 that started with an “M”.  We passed through a number of towns and communities today, and I can’t quite recall where exactly we were, but it was a delicious feed and the service was nothing short of fantastic.
So we basically just plowed over pavement with a determined grind.  30km outside of St. Ignace, MI the terrain gets quite neat, and familiar.  I have passed over this road a number of times.  It hugs the top of Lake Michigan, the lake is always rough, and the wind is strong.  The Mackinaw Bridge gets in sight and a bit of nervousness goes through me.  Not only is the bridge a long passage with heights, but it is always windy and part of the surface is graded steel which is just difficult for me to travel across.  But this road also has a few Paul Bunyan monuments with his Blue ox Babe.
    Nothing epic or extraordinary happened during this kilometrage.  We saw the most police presence, and Darin scarcely missed a partridge or a grouse....  It was close.  I saw it directly in front of him and he indicated he could have reached out and stroked it!  Sunny skies all day for the most part - a bit of rain drops, just a few, met us about 30km from the destination where we find ourselves this evening.

The main stop and walk around was in Mackinaw City.  Again, been there, and done that.  But did it again and despite not seeing anything new or unique, it is worth the hour off the bike to suss out.  I got a t-shirt.  We ate a the local bakery off the main drag.  And talked to some like minded travelers.  It is a must-see for those who haven’t done it.  And even if you have done it, it doesn’t disappoint.
The hotel we are staying in is okay.  The concierge dude is rather intense and has a serious disposition.  It is the first time we have come across such an individual.  Everyone we have met on the trip has had a great, relaxed mood and you could joke around with.  But this feller is not like that.  He is serious about the rules, serious about the towels for the pool, about the check-out time, and about just about everything regarding his job as someone who works at a hotel. 

Day 2 on the Road

Muskegon, MI - Oconto, WI
$12.00 in gas for 3.9 gallons
358 km      Ferry - $110        Hotel $50.00

The Comfort Inn ended up being the Sweat Box Inn.  We never quite figured out the thermostat controls, so the room was quite hot and bothered - because of the heating system of course.  At any rate the lodging was suitable-ish and provided us the necessary rest, and a bit of nourishment needed to continue on this voyage.

The ferry dock was only about 10 km away.  We went a bit early thinking there would be a bit of a walk-around to do and things to see; much like Tobermory.  But no such luck.  Rather it was in an industrious area that provided nothing to look at, or nowhere to go.  Sure enough though, there was a cue of like minded motorcyclists such as ourselves, and everyone was eager to gloat, or grandstand about their particular journey/journeys on two wheels.  Darin and I were no exception.....

So I had enough trouble tying down the bike as usual on the ferry.  A combination of not being in the best spot, plus not having the where-with-all on how to do it properly.  September 2010 was running through my mind when a seamen blew over the loud speak on the Joey and Clara Smallwood that my motorcycle had fallen over 1 hour into the 18 hour sailing and I had to go down and pick it up and reset it.  Nobody even helped if I remember correctly!  Today there was a great guy tied beside me and he game me a had so as to secure it tightly.

As it was the feller was an extensively traveled motorcyclist, business owner, and an Indy Car working man who was all around very nice and personable.  He has his own business outside of Chicago which stamps the electrical connections on virtually all the cars in North America.  On the side he also works extensively with the Dale Coyne Racing team.  He travels with them to most of the races in the season - on a beauty of a 2012 Kawasaki Concourse 1400.  He didn’t have it pimped out per sea, but he had many modifications that suits his style.  As he said, “I am quite a gear head.”  He is turning 60 next week - So I wish him the best.  He took Darin’s address and seemed to think Goderich would be a fine stop whilst up at the next Toronto Indy in 2016.  I hope he makes it.

In Milwaukee we got to the downtown core and parked in the Third Ward.  They had all kinds of old factories which were converted into living space, and a neat market with all kinds of neat stores and places to eat.  We also hiked a bit further into the other downtown areas, but soon turned back as there wasn’t much going on.  It had a Sunday morning type of feel I suppose. 

So after a good sandwich and fresh coffee we headed north.  I was feeling a bit uncomfortable.  Maybe uneasy.  It was about 2:00 in the afternoon, and we hadn’t driven but 20 km.  I was unsettled and nervous.  We got going on Interstate 43 North and it was as busy as the 401 through Toronto.  It didn’t feel good to be on it.  So we cut off of it.  We found a road that was like Orchard Line.  Immediately I will tell you, immediately I felt so good.  All of my uneasiness went away.  We passed quite a few equine farms, and then we got into Wisconsin dairy county.  There were some big operations going on.  One farm had 3 sets of dairy barns that had to of been 30 feet wide by 90 long.  Lots of milkers on that property.  And we also got into seeing lots of antique stores in old school houses and traveled mostly up Lake Michigan.  All the names of the towns had a Native American flair.  4 syllables long and lots of “o”s in them.
At 6:00 we wheeled in Oconto, WI.  Advice on the ferry indicated we should get into a peninsula called Door County.  Despite being great advice I am sure, the day just got away from us and we skipped that part of the journey electing to scoot past Green Bay, and then north on 41/141.  The dwelling is called the Riverside Inn, and we ate a fulfilling meal at Wiseguys.  It was ribs and brown beans.  Delicious!
I just stepped in from outside.  Tonight there is a full lunar eclipse.  The moon is obviously full.  Very full.  I got out when there was only an eight or a sixteenth to go until the earth’s shadow has totally engulfed it.  There was a unique crowd out doing as we did.  All Green Bay Packer fans who have come to go to Monday night’s game.  Two of them were from outside of Saginaw, MI, 2 from New Mexico, and so on and so on. 

All in all it was another great weather day and the riding was smooth.  It was overcast for the majority of the ride, but the last 80 minutes the setting son was right in the rear view mirrors.  It does feel good to head north and east.

Trip Part 1

Goderich, ON - Muskegon, MI
517 km
$19.40 in gas for 6.3 gallons
$3.50 in tolls and $50.00 for hotel

We wheeled out of Goderich at 1:30 in the afternoon.

Beautiful, sunny, and warm weather met Darin Culbert and me for the entire day.  This included to Hwy. 21 south, then on M25 north, we crossed the state on M46 west, and meandered to Muskegon by 8:00.  We really got hung up at the boarder.  I don’t know why.  We crossed in less then a few minutes after answering the standard silly questions.  Everyone else in front of us weren't so lucky.

Anyway the weather for September 26th couldn’t have been better.  The temperature was well over 25 for the entire ride, and it didn’t really cool down that much after the sun set. Yes, we did arrive in the dark to the hotel which isn’t really a great idea, but we got to a decent Comfort Inn.

There wasn’t anything too epic to report.  Michigan road 46 was very busy with agriculture.  It was nothing unlike anything one would see this time of year in Huron County.  The fellers were hard at the beans.  Lots of combines were going and filling up the wagons.  The corn looked a few weeks past what it does at home.  In the first half of the state it seemed much browner, shorter, and wilted.  Although the further west, it was still quite green and tall. 

The further west we got, the more signs of deer we saw.  Lots of gas stations had bait for sale including huge bags of corn, carrots and apples.  All of the liquor stores had neon orange “Busch” signs indicating, “Hunters Here”.  The other thing I noticed is that a lot of fields were lined with huge fencing, probably 10 feet high or more that would no doubt corral the deer within.  The fencing was posted with signs such as no spotlight shining, and no trespassing.  I don’t know the exact particulars, but it seems like caged hunting.  But on a plus side it does prevent deer from crossing the road ways which minimizes collisions.

Darin and I ate at a place which was only a few hundred metres from the comfort of our Comfort Inn.  I knew Darin was very tired.  He had been up since 12:30 am on Saturday morning.  He of course is the owner of Culbert’s Bakery.  Donuts and bread don’t cook themselves I suppose.  So it must have felt like quite the long day.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Mooo-ve Over

I took another trip downtown.  This time it was going to be to the Canadian Museum of Nature, and a few other points of interest to see.  It would be a funny story if I rode in these, but alas, just a few extra pictures from the war museum.

I ended up getting a flat tire in The Glebe area of Ottawa.  I was just in front of the football field area were the CFL’s Redblacks play.  The good news was that I was only 400m or less from a bike shop.  The bad news was it was 9:20 and it didn’t open until 10:00.  Oh well.  I locked the bike in front of the store and walked the remaining mile or mile and a half to the museum.  I would retrieve my bike later.

The museum was great.  They had a special exhibit titled “Animal Inside Out”.  It included all kinds of animals that had been organized in such a way to see all the different systems of them.  40 metres of caribou intestines, 50 cm of giraffe tongue, 190 bones of cheetah, all kinds of brains and lungs - everything.  It was interesting.  6 or 7 years ago I was at the Body Works exhibit, so it was a bit similar....  But the Body Works was much better.
The museum has a huge rocks section, a significant ocean area, and even a big space section.  It all mostly comes back to Canada and how, where, why....  There is a big dinosaur fossil area too.

Had a lunch scoff at Eddy’s or maybe it was Fast Eddy’s in the Glebe area.  It was quite good.  Then back to The Cyclery for a $6 repair job.  I was in and out in less then 5 minutes to fix a flat.  Excellent service. 

With a fresh tube, I rode off north and cross into Quebec.  I rode a trail that ran parallel to the Ottawa River.  It is pretty neat because it offers really neat views of the backside of the Parliament Building, Supreme Court, and I suppose you can see the U.S. Embassy too.  It was a spectacular, but very short bike ride.

To add on mileage for the day I biked over to the Rideau Hall area on Sussex Drive.  It is a huge grounds.  It must be over 15 acres.  It has hundreds of trees, obviously, but each tree, or most of them were planted by foreign dignitaries.  So I saw the tree that John F. Kennedy planted back in the 60s, and a recent tree planted by Nelson Mandela.  It was worth the ride over.

Another really neat area is a spot dedicated to the Women's Movement in the late 1930's spearheaded by 5 influential Canadian Women - one being Nellie McClung.  The pioneered the fight that a women be recognized as a person in Canada, thus could be afforded many more rights and opportunities.  It is hard to believe that this movement isn't even 100 years old yet - women being recognized as a "person".

Another stop took me to the Canadian War Memorial.  I just so happen to be there when the had a changing-of-the-guards.  It wasn’t very flamboyant, but it did involve a bag piper, some marching, some yelling of orders, a bit of rifle rearranging.  The monument is quite impressive.  It was a hot day at 30 degree centigrade, so those soldiers must have baked a bit being in the sun so directly.

Scott has a salt water pool at his place.  Since it is still quite warm, the pool has been a refreshing awakening after these past few days of exploration around the city.  It is nice that he keeps it at a very reasonable temperature too.

And on Thursday I drove home - quickly.  I hit the road before 7:30 am with an eager appetite for pavement.  I got some gas outside of Kingston, filled up again in Bowmanville, and viola I was home.  The reset odometre indicated 670km, and it was 2:15 when I pulled into the driveway.  I really used the 6th gear on the 401.  Despite heavy traffic, the outcome also was 3 digits on the speedometre until I rolled past New Hamburg.  Then, I safely cruised it home.

With quick calculations, I suppose I drove 1325 km, on 70 litres of gas, spending about $84 bucks.  It makes sense I suppose.  I never bought gas for more then $1.16.  I spent about 80 bucks in museums, tours, guides and such, $6 on a new tire for the pedal bike, $120 on food, $20 on trinkets?  But all this is possible because of time. 

TIME is the greatest commodity to have which makes this all possible.  So I am super glad I have the time.  I am sooooo happy that I have a spouse who lets me use time in this manner.  I have a job that offers employees to bank money in exchange for time....    I didn't run in Ottawa, but had lots of mileage on the bike.  So far it has been a fun, and safe start to the year off.                   

Trading Rides

In Ottawa one must bike.  It is that simple.

 But these beauties would have done me well too:

On Tuesday morning I got going fairly early and navigated the bike trails with relative ease.  I wove my way downtown, and got to the Byward Market.  There was a bicycle parking stand and lots of activity, so I thought this would be a good place to leave my ride.  After a quick coffee I walked up to the Parliament building and got myself a ticket for a 9:20 walk-through.

The tour was pretty interesting.  It was a guided 50 minute walk around of the main house, including the upper and lower chambers, the library, and we could also go into the Memorial Chamber, and the Peace Tower.  The “House Chamber” was under construction adding 30 new seats to it.  That brings the number of federally elected representatives to 338 for this new parliament being elected in the next month.  The library definitely was the highlight of the tour in terms of the look/disposition of its area.  It really is quite stunning.  But overall the shinny floors, polished railings, and granite walls were in spectacular condition within this building.  There was a lot of portrait works of art of former elected officials, British monarchs, as well as Governor Generals. 

The building was quite, quite militarized.  Armed parliament police as well as RCMP were stationed everywhere.  I would not be exaggerating when I write that security, and not like Johnny-Security-Officer, was stationed every fifty feet in all of the halls and areas.  Getting into to parliament was an unnecessary affair too in my opinion.  Empty all pockets, open all bags, take off belts, walk through scanners, turn of cameras to ensure they are cameras, etc....  Totally silly and an over-kill. 

After that I walked a few kilometres to the War Museum of Canada.  It is another massive, massive building.  It has about 6 sections in it.  There was a pre 1812 section, 1812 and Boer War section, a WW!, WW2, Peace Keeping area, and as well as a current section with information and artifacts from the middle east conflict of present day.  So each section had its accompanying artifacts, models, content, pictures and all of that.  It was so much information, but really neat.  What really struck me was the passion, bravery, and strength (reputation) of the Canadian soldiers in the Boer War, and WW1 and 2.  That was highlighted quite a lot.  And it was neat to see the different equipment and supplies throughout the years.  I was there for about 2 hours. 

The other highlight of the day included a later afternoon walk-about in the Gatineau Park.  We headed to an area that was labeled “Waterfall”.  It was only about a kilometre to get there.  Anyway we got there and there was no waterfall whatsoever.  The creek was all dried up and not even a trickle was passing over the rocks.  It wasn’t all that bad because we were about 2 km from the McKenzie King Estate in the park.  It was really nice and well worth the 30 minute drive to get over to it.

That night we had a pizza scoff at a restaurant called The Grand in the Byward Market area of downtown Ottawa.

Off To Ottawa

I was given the green light to hit the road early - I pounced.  I put in 155km.  Leg 1 of the journey was complete.

Earlier in the week I organized a bit of a road trip to Ottawa.  It would be a Monday to Thursday trip and I would hit up my good buddy Scott Cook.  I tried to get Drew Barisdale to come too, but that wasn’t going to happen.  So it was a solo trip.

I ended up leaving on Sunday afternoon and took 150 or so km out of the trip and stopped in Guelph.  The first order of business was a 50 minute run.  Rich had waited, and since he has a fall marathon to do in a few weeks, he was looking forward to the company.

So Guelph was an awesome visit of course.  A good scoff to eat and plenty of drink.  It was great getting caught up with the kids and all of their excitement.  Rich is also on a deferred salary leave this year and has quite an itinerary planned of travel and exploitationing.

We ran again Monday morning, and I was back out on the road by 10:00 am to get to the nation's capital.

On Monday morning, after a run and another decent scoff of course, I hit the road north to Orangeville and I traveled to Ottawa.  It was a 500km day on highways 9, and 7, and of course plenty of county roads.  One of the highlights was traveling north past New Market, then getting to Uxbridge and Port Perry.  From there I basically got to Peterborough and then to Perth.  In Perth I cut down to Smiths Falls.  The final 120km or so was met with a bit more commuter traffic leaving Ottawa, but I had no issues at all. 

I touched down in Ottawa at about 5:00 and it wasn’t but 5:15 that Scott was home from his obligations at work.  It didn’t take too long to say our hellos and get quickly caught up with our events and news from the past 2 years - all is the same, but nothing is the same. 

The rest of the night would include some eats, drinks, and watching some football.  I also insisted we’d play a few games of cribbage, as it was Scott and Drew Barisdale who first taught me to play back at 950 California.  There was also mapping out a plan of attack for the next few days.  We put air in some bike tires, my new mode of transportation, and got a good visual idea of the city and where the next few days would take me.

Molly had her first few days of school and everything was good with that too.  She went to the Western Fair actually with my mom, John and her cousin Darby = She had a wonderful time at it, and telling me about it that night on the telephone.