Saturday, July 13, 2019

The Bike Is Ready But.....

The bike got dropped off at Northstar Recreation on Wednesday with 265,399 kilometers on the clock. I was pretty sure it would be more than a one day job and Rob said the GoldWing mechanics were off Friday, so I didn't expect it for the weekend. Still, I did say I would not be unhappy if it was done by then..

Thursday, Rob called to say that the left fork seal was leaking badly. This was a new situation because I checked it before I left for Wawa. We did get  into a lot of grit on the road so anything could have happened. I explained to Rob that the suspension was not stock. It was a Traxxion Dynamics upgrade and took special training to work on. I know from past experience that someone not up to snuff can screw it up quite easily.

A call to Traxxion in Woodstock, Georgia, informed me that the closest certified dealer was Adirondacks & Beyond Motorcycle Specialties in Lake George, New York. This was a 500 mile drive from here by the shortest route. I called and spoke to Barry, the new owner and long time wrench. The Wing is booked in for 8:00 AM Thursday July 18 for a complete front suspension service (including the new fork seal) and new All Balls steering head bearings.

This might seem like a big negative but the front suspension was due for a service anyway. This way we get get the job done and also get to take a road trip on Sandy's birthday.

Today, Paul called and said that the bike was ready.

  • Oil & filter changed
  • New Bridgestone G-709 (front) and G-704 (rear) tires
  • New tire valve stems
  • New final drive installed & oil added
  • New air filter
  • Valves checked and all within specifications
  • New spark plugs
  • Coolant replaced
  • Clutch and both brake hydraulic fluids replaced
  • New rubber O ring on the oil dipstick
Thanks to Dave Bimm of Northstar Recreation and his staff. Rob, Paul and the mechanic (whose name I didn't catch) but who took the time to discuss the work he did.

Of course, just as we were there to pick it up a nasty thunder storm rolled through. I waited a while and then rode home around the back of it.

So now we will haul the trusty steed to Lake George in the trailer. I ride some miles once with a blown seal and it caused my front axle to become severely misaligned. Stay tuned for future developments.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Wawa Ontario to Sudbury Ontario

My watch alarm and Siri (Zeke is an iPhone guy) woke us at 6:00 AM sharp. There was no dew on the bikes but The Weather Network now said that rain would start in Wawa about 9:00 AM and the Soo about an hour later. Oddly, it rained for a couple of minutes as we were loading the bikes. The weather radar showed a storm going through the Soo about now but nothing for when the rain was predicted. My contempt of weather forecasting services remains intact.

The motel offered a hot breakfast, so I had sausages and scrambled eggs. Then we stopped at the Wawa Goose on our way out of town to pay our respects and Zeke checked another thing off his bucket list.

The goose at the Wawa Motor Inn is not landing on Zeke's head

The official Wawa Goose

Zeke and the Goose

The skies were mixed as we hit the road by 7:00 AM sharp. It spit on us from time to time and we got a few miles of real rain around the Montreal River. Moving along at 60-65 MPH, we saw very little traffic and no wildlife. The first vehicle we did catch up to was a VW Westfalia with an obligatory peace sign and a Minnesota licence plate that said RELAAAX. Go, Sodbuster.

We just missed the pilot vehicle at the ongoing tar snake initiative, so we got to talk to the flagger. This was their last day on this job, which was why they were working in the wet. Their next job would be somewhere near Espanola. I went to check my Email on my phone (since the bike was turned off) but there was no signal.

Flagger's last day here

We did stop at Chippewa Falls for a photo op. The plan was to check out the historical plaque about the Trans Canada Highway but I forgot. Rabbi said he would be home and that it was dry in the Soo.

Zeke at Chippewa Falls

We arrived at Rab's place at 9:40 and he put some coffee on. Rabbi got to meet another VROC friend and Zeke got a glimpse into my family. Around 10:45, we left and I escorted Zeke to the International Bridge back to the USA. He was moving on to Manistique, Michigan for the night. I pointed at the bridge plaza and waved goodbye. Later, Zeke texted and told me he made a wrong turn and ended up at the gate of the former Algoma Steel plant. He said he could see the bridge above him and was able to find his way back.

International Bridge and the steel plant

I turned onto Bay Street, the eastbound four-lane thoroughfare that runs counter to downtown Queen Street, and found it was severely torn up by construction crews. An adventure tour rider would have loved it. After fueling up, I got a coffee to go at McDonald's and found there was a phone call from Northstar Recreation in Sudbury. I was going to drop the bike off this evening for some maintenance work tomorrow, but they had a cancellation and wondered if I could bring it in today. I said I'd be there before 3:00 PM

Cruising east, I passed the laid back Westfalia one more time. The temperature got warmer as I moved away from the big lake and I was in a groove that I seldom experience any more. It was necessary to reign in the speed on a few occasions. Once again, my butt was complaining and I figure the only cure will be to ride more.

It was 2:20 PM when I rolled into the Northstar lot. I have dealt with Dave Bimm, the owner, since he was in charge of service at The Shop and I was still riding my GL-1000. It was a happy day when his Kawasaki dealership added Honda to their banner.

Into your hands I commend my motorcycle

Back in the days we used to ride 30+ thousand miles in a five month season, I was anal about routine and preventative maintenance. I'm sure this contributed to no breakdowns on the road over almost 250,000 miles. Since we now cover a whole lot less miles on our day rides and the trailer is always close by, the attention to detail has not been anywhere near as scrupulous.

What the bike did was new tires. Bridgestone Exedra radials have been my choice for many years. I also had a brand new final drive taken off a trike conversion that I paid $120 US for, because this is one item that does fail on the GL 1800. The single swing arm carries the whole bike on one ring gear bearing which typically goes at 100 K miles or less. Mine went at about 82,000 miles, so I wanted it changed as a precaution because the bike was now at twice that. Then there was the air filter (a nasty job that a Honda design engineer should be beaten for) plus changing all the hydraulic fluids and coolant. It was also almost time to check the valves, so this was on the list with a request to advise me of the clearances. The GL 1800 abandoned the hydraulic lifters of the 1200 and 1500 and went to bucket and shim valves. Checking them is recommended every 50,000 kms and I have had it done religiously. So far, they have never needed adjusting. Finally, I normally do the oil and filter changes myself but, since it was going to be in anyway....

This was going to be a big bill but the work should last for a long time.

I took my travel gear out of the bike and Sandy drove over with my oil (Amsoil 10W40) and the final drive, which she had wrestled from the basement to the car. After signing the work order, we drove home.

Today's Route (333 motorcycle miles):

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Sudbury Ontario to Wawa Ontario - Zeke's Ride

My friend Zeke, a fellow VROC member from Springfield, Illinois, had been planning a ride around Lake Superior for a while now. At SEVROC in May, we discussed the possibility of me riding to Wawa and joining him for the ride to Sault Ste. Marie. It sounded like a worthwhile plan.

Last night, Zeke reached Thunder Bay, Ontario and would be traveling Highway 17 today to Wawa. He had booked a room at the Wawa Motor Inn, just down the road from the famous goose statue. This was an interesting day for me since I had not taken an overnight trip actually riding the motorcycle in over five years and had not ridden any distance alone for longer than that.

The bike was fueled and tires and oil were checked yesterday. I was on the road before 8:00 AM this morning on what looked to be a very nice day, weather wise.

Right off the bat I dodged a bullet as I followed a dump truck through a construction zone on the South West Bypass. I wear an HJC CL-33 open face helmet with a pull down face shield that I  usually leave up, a carry over from my smoking days. Because I was following the truck, I pulled he shield down. I heard and felt a solid "whack" sound as a decent sized rock hit the face shield right in front of my eyes. I have no doubt that if my face had been unprotected, my riding day might well have been over.

It had been my intention to stop at Tim's at the Espanola turnoff, about forty miles out, but I felt fine so I rolled right on. The miles rolled by as I settled into a forgotten rhythm. The anxiety I sometimes feel when riding started to creep in a few times but I stopped it with a few deep breaths and some positive thoughts. Near Algoma Mills, I had to pass a line of traffic that was being held up by a GoldWing riding two up. My butt started to feel the seat making me regret not putting the beaded seat cover on.

I would have covered the 190 miles to the Soo without stopping at all if I had remembered what the increments on the fuel gauge meant in liters. I missed the Driver Information Centre in the car that tells me the remaining fuel range. Funny how things that were well known in the past could be forgotten so completely now. With forty miles to go, the gauge showed about a little over 1/6th fuel remaining but we all know that these things are neither linear nor accurate, so I stopped at the Esso station in Bruce Mines to fuel up.

While stopped, I phoned my brother Rabbi in the Soo to see if he was home. The first call didn't go well because my phone was Bluetoothed to my helmet headset via the Garmin GPS and the helmet was on the seat rather than on my head. After wondering why the phone was not making any noise, I got the GPS shut off just in time to answer Rabbi's call back. He was wondering why I hadn't responded when he answered my call. As I get older, details of how things work seem to get murkier. He was home, so I would stop.

I reached Rab's house (Mom's old home where I lived as a teenager) about 11:30. Over coffee we caught up on the important things including our respective golf games. I said I would stop back tomorrow if he was in.

After fueling at the Esso on the way out of town, I was back on the road by 1:00 PM. It was 25 C with a haze creeping in. I put the beaded seat cover on at the gas station and found one of the plastic cords was broken, allowing some beads to escape. Still, it eased my sore butt a little.

Between Havilland and Batchawana Bays, the road had a lot of sweeping curves and not many passing spots or lanes. I spent most of this stretch stuck behind an ERB semi who could manage the speed limit but not much more. Once I got by him, there was little traffic dwindling to almost none north of Pancake Bay.

I did note a sign for the Salzburgerhof at Batchawana. In 1984, a year after my brother Doug died in a traffic crash, my mother and my Uncle Warren decided that the Pennsylvania and Ontario sections of the family needed a reunion. My grandmother, her two children, the cousins that were their children plus spouses and offspring gathered on the shores of Lake Superior for a week of Bavarian styled frolic.

Woodend/Robinson Clan - Batchawana Bay - 1984

The folks applying the tar snakes when we came through just over a week ago were still there, just a few miles further north. There was a Follow Me escort to lead the traffic through the long one lane stretch.

About fifteen miles south of Wawa, I realized that I had not seen another northbound vehicle in more than forty miles. The southbound traffic was also minimal, mostly big trucks. One thing that bothered me was that about half the motorcycles I met did not return my wave. This was not confined to one type of bike, either. Perhaps riders don't feel the shared spirit as much as we all used to?

I arrived in Wawa at 3:15 and fueled at the famous Young's General Store. Then I went over to Tim's where I planned to wait for Zeke. No sooner was I there than I got a text saying he was in town and had checked into our room at the Wawa Motor Inn, right across from Young's. I hadn't seen his bike there because there was a second part to the motel down a hill in back. I headed over and joined him.

 Wawa Motor Inn - Wawa Ontario

The log cabin wing where we are

Lower level means stairs

Zeke was looking good for a septuagenarian on his first road trip on a motorcycle in a few years. We were both reaching back to create a new future. We decided to walk across the road to Young's General Store so he could get some souvenirs for family. As we were leaving the room, our neighbor Dwayne (a Thomas & Betts Electrical sales guy from Val Caron) gave us free T&B comfort fit hats.

Green Nomad from Quebec - not VROC

Henrietta The Moose

A female moose with antlers?

Zeke checking out the T-shirts

On the way back to the room, we checked out the motel restaurant and figured it would be good for supper a little later. Back at the room, Zeke phoned Hang and I called Sandy to let them know that we were doing just fine.

Zeke phoning home

They stopped by to talk to some CP people

We walked up the stairs to the main building and had supper in the restaurant. I have been following my low carb diet since the beginning of the month and have dropped my morning glucose from 10.0 (180) to 7.3 (131) and my later in the day to less than 6.0 (108). Supper for me was a mushroom/Swiss burger with no bun (they tried for a lettuce bun but I used knife and fork) and what they humorously called a "small" Caesar salad. The salad was good but would have made a meal in itself. Zeke had chicken tenders and fries with gravy. It always amuses me to see my American friends discover brown gravy on fries, a Canadian standard.

Back in the room, we pondered the problems of the world and the issues around getting older. I am now signed up to lead a ride to the Ozone Burger Barn when we get to Eureka Springs, Arkansas in September. After checking the weather and seeing some precipitation forecast for later tomorrow morning, we set the alarms for 6:00 AM and turned in. It felt good to be back on the road on two wheels.

Today's Route (342 motorcycle miles):

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Thunder Bay Ontario to Sudbury Ontario

One more time, the alarm went off at 5:30 AM and we rolled out of bed. This time, however, we were back in our own Eastern Time Zone. After loading our luggage in the car, we visited the breakfast room and found little low-carb fare. I would have had toast but a very slow lady was feeding bread into an even slower toaster, so we agreed that the Golden Arches just down the street would do the trick.

Checking out, a red haired Irish girl named Michelle explained that the odd construction of the building was the result of several additions over a period of time and that the place is scheduled for a renovation in the near future. She also explained that Thunder Bay hotels are usually busy during the week due to its location as the only stop on several long highways as well as being the referral centre for the entire population of Northwestern Ontario. Apparently, unlike most other places, weekends here are not as hectic. Finally, she and I acknowledged a shared Orange Hall ancestral heritage.

After a quick stop at McDonald's and Shell (another gift card), we headed east on Highway 17 into the rising sun. It was 6:45 and 60 F under a cloudless sky. The first stretch was four lane but, before long, we were on typical Northern Ontario two lane pavement. We saw one deer looking longingly across the road but the Equinox horn sent it bounding away. Oddly, other than this and one small moose on the way out, we had not seen any large wildlife. Then again, I always say southerners drive around up here hoping to see a moose while we drive around hoping we WON'T see one.

Near Red Rock, we stopped at a Husky station to use the facilities. Then it was a non-stop drive to Wawa. There were periods of fog from time to time and sections of flaggers and traffic lights due to road and bridge work. Cell service was often "Emergency Only" (not sure what happened to roaming) or "No Service". The sky went from blue to cloudy back to blue. The highway had no rumble strip in the centre much of the way. However, after White River, what looked like good pavement set up a tire hum that I was afraid might be the vehicle. Luckily, it was the road.

Scenes North of Superior

Farewell, Sleeping Giant

Slow for road work on the four lane

Dog at Schreiber

The infamous Nipigon River Bridge

Finally, the goose

We hit the Tim's in Wawa right at noon and the small parking lot was almost full. It was strange that they had the Ladies rest room closed for cleaning at a busy time like this. Sandy had not been out of the car since Red Rock, so I guarded the door while she used the men's room. We got lunch to go and managed to squeeze out of the parking lot without getting hit.

My friend Don said his uncle had been reeve of the township when the first Wawa Goose was installed and his name had been on the dedication plaque. We stopped and I checked all four plaques but could not find his name. These were obviously more recent iterations.

I should be back here on the bike in a couple of weeks to meet Zeke on his Lake Superior Circle Tour. Less fog and more warm would be nice.

The drive down the east side of Superior was uneventful. Traffic was relatively light and there were only a few work zones. We were in and out of clouds once again.

Scenes from Lake Superior's Eastern Shore

Old Woman Bay

He wasn't interested in us

Montreal River

Single lane at Batchawana Bay

They were crack filling

The Mile Hill is ahead

In Sault Ste. Marie, I missed the only Esso station on our path and had to fuel at the Husky heading out of town.

Seen at the Husky in the Soo

We began the last leg of our day at 3:00 PM. Although we were under blue skies, we saw some storm cells to the south but avoided them as the highway swung east. Traffic was heavier here and the big trucks were slower. One float hauling a loader was a particular dick in a passing lane before Blind River. He passed a slower truck ahead of him and then did not move to the right. Not wishing to be bombarded with road grit until the next passing lane, I had to get by him on the right.

Scenes Along The North Shore

One nasty looking cell

We reached the grocery store in Sudbury at 6:10 PM. It was 80 F indicating that maybe summer was finally here. After getting some ham and picking up some prescriptions, we pulled into the driveway at 6:45.

Fatigue was a problem for me all day. This has become common in the last few years. I do believe improved fitness will be the cure so look out for me around the YMCA starting next week. I hope this promise to myself works out better than the one about keeping the blog up to date.

This trip was a whirlwind but we got to spend some time with Jan and see a little bit of her world in Saskatchewan. Mission accomplished.

Today's Route (629 Equinox miles):