Friday, July 06, 2018

Freedom Riders President's Ride - Day One

Every year, the Freedom Riders Motorcycle Association of Northern Ontario holds The President's Ride. This usually takes place over an extended weekend, but we went all the way to North Carolina over nine days in 2014. This year, President Rob planned a four-day three-night trip starting today to southern Ontario, with overnights in Midland, Guelph and Meaford. Because Sandy's cousin Lorna was visiting from New Zealand and we would be taking her to Cambridge and Woodstock on Sunday/Monday, we would not be able to participate in the whole experience.

I was intrigued by the first day ride from Sudbury to Midland with a wander through the winding roads of Muskoka District, Ontario's best motorcycle routes IMHO. The Wing had not been out of the garage since before our June trip and I needed some seat time, so I decided to ride down and through Muskoka and then return home. Sandy opted not to come along.

This morning, I checked the tire pressures on the Wing and rode over to get fuel. On the way, I encountered Kevin, who would be going for the whole four days, and we rode to the meeting place together. Despite a whole week of over 80 F days and calm, this morning was windy and only 55. This was a little chilly for my mesh jacket but snowmobiling had prepared me to handle the cool without flinching.

The ride was supposed to be Kick Stands Up at 9:00 AM, but we were also going to be presenting a cheque from the Club to the CNIB for $1,000 to help fund a local blind child attend their Lake Joseph Centre summer camp. The Freedom Riders channel any surplus from our  annual Freedom Rally to "local children's charitable causes" in accordance with our bylaws. The CNIB representative had been told a later time for the presentation, so we kicked tires in the Algonquin Road Tim Horton's parking lot while we waited. Several other folks also decided to ride for just the day.

 Kevin, Biker and Nepper

 Jackie's yellow/green vest inflates in a wreck

 Some of us have more patches than others

 The lady from the CNIB is here

 The Club is happy to support local kids

Once the cheque was presented, the Club headed south on Highway 69. Moving a group of motorcycles down the road is easy on a four-lane road. Unfortunately, once we reached the French River, we only had two-lane Highway 69. This whole highway was supposed to be four-laned by 2017 according to our previous Member of Provincial Parliament Rick Bartolucci and his Lying Liberal Government but, after fourteen years, the 100 mile stretch was only half done. Still, we kept the pace up and there were no problems.

Rob's first stop was at Still River, sixty miles south of Sudbury. On the highway, it consisted of an OPP detachment and a number of abandoned buildings. We pulled in to what was once a nice restaurant and motel. I remember riding down from Sudbury in the early 80's for supper. I think the stop was supposed to reflect the original theme of the ride, "ghost towns of Ontario".

 President Rob and Biker

 Don, Leo and Tina

 Ben and Nicky

 Don and Tom

 I like thos photo of Nepper

 Almost ready to roll

Continuing south on Highway 69, we stopped for gas at the Bowes Street Shell station in Parry Sound. Then we took Old Highway 69 to Highway 518. Members Jack and Cathay, who live on 518 in Seguin Township, had a very nice lunch set up for us.

Jack and Cathay's home

After lunch, the Parry Sound contingent led the way while the day riders fell in at the back. With me were Biker, Nepper, Leo and New Guy Dave. The whole group continued a little way along Highway 518 and then turned right on the Tally Ho-Swords Road, which wound through the small community of Swords to Highway 141. A left turn took us to Rosseau, a familiar crossroads. There, we turned right onto Highway 632 towards Port Carling, a road I had never been on before despite many rides through the area. Highway 632 became Muskoka Road 7 along the way and proved to be one of the best riding roads I have encountered in the area. There were 20, 30 and 40 KPH curves and good pavement, so it was fun to ride. If we ever get the Muskoka VROC Rally going, this will be on the must do list.

As the group approached Port Carling, we came to the intersection of Highway 118. This was another good motorcycle road where the main group would be turning east to follow a circuitous route that would eventually lead them to Midland. The five of us waved goodbye and turned west. A couple of miles later, we turned north on Highway 169, following it, Old Highway 69 and Horseshoe Lake Road to the Tim Horton's on Highway 400.

Closeup of Muskoka Loop

After fuel and lunch, we decided to ride straight back to Sudbury and go straight home. It was an uneventful ride, although the gusting headwinds caused a lot of buffeting. It was nice to be a part of the 2018 President's Ride, even if it was just for one day.

Today's Route (290 motorcycle miles):

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Marinette Wisconsin to Sudbury Ontario

As usual near the end of a trip, my sense of urgency to keep the blog up to date started to wane. I didn't even load the photos from the cameras to the computer last night, much less transcribe notes or complete the post. I wonder how long it will take me to finish the post these last two days?

There was moisture on the windshield this morning for the first time in a while. We headed out at 7:00 AM, fueling in Marinette before crossing the bridge to Menominee, Michigan.

Welcome to Marinette Wisconsin

A downtown waterfront is a good thing here

Last state of the trip

At 7:47 AM Central, as we drove along the shore of Lake Michigan towards Escanaba, the clock jumped to 8:47 Eastern Time. Our home time zone. I found myself starting to get tired after just one hour on the road. Sad, but an indicator that I need to improve my fitness levels.

Lake Michigan

There was some major road work going on as we went through Escanaba.

Escanaba Michigan

Little Bay de Noc

Highway 2 was fairly quiet, as was Michigan 117 through Engadine to Michigan 28. We stopped to pick up food at the McDonald's by the Newberry turnoff. It was hot and dry again and the Golden Arches was packed.

Busy McDonald's - Newberry Michigan

Upper Michigan foliage - Highway 28

As we reached Sault Ste. Marie Michigan, an electronic sign informed us that this was the day of the annual International Bridge Walk and that the bridge to Canada had been closed until 10:15. Lucky for us, we didn't get to the Soo until 12:40.

After a final top-up of relatively cheap fuel at the Krist station, we paid the toll and headed across the river to our home and native land. After passing a long line of US bound vehicles, we were surprised to find that there was no wait whatsoever at Canadian customs. After presenting our NEXUS cards and declaring $60 worth of goods, we were cleared and welcomed home in about thirty seconds.

Out traditional last stop in the USA

I wish they took E-ZPass

Long US bound line

The actual border

St. Mary's Rapids (Sault Ste. Marie)

I wish it was always like this

My brother Dave was golfing so we didn't stop in Soo, Ontario.

Willie and Carlene will remember this

Traffic was relatively light on Highway 17. We stopped for a bathroom break and I got a coffee in Blind River. In Cutler, they had converted the long passing lane to a centre turn lane and reduced the speed limit to 70 KPH. The four lane approaching Sudbury was still only two lanes, but it was the other two lanes this time. Hopefully, the end of this project is in sight.

Highway 17 - two lanes, no passing

The Superstack - the signature Sudbury landmark (for now)

Seen on The Kingsway

We pulled into the driveway just after 4:00 PM, having covered 6,727 miles in 22 days. We saw sights and friends. It was a good trip even if we didn't take the bike. After unloading the car, we headed out and bought groceries.

Today's Route (434 Equinox miles):

Friday, June 22, 2018

Sioux Falls South Dakota to Marinette Wisconsin

We left the Super 8 in Sioux Falls at 7:20 Central Time, stopping at a BP station for fuel. The pump had two 87 octane selections, with and without ethanol. The premium for pure gasoline was 45 cents per gallon. I gave it a try and, for the price, was not impressed. I wonder how long before the ethanol lobby runs out of steam?

 Ethanol choice at a price

We stopped at a McDonald's off I-90 for breakfast to go (I really need to get back on my diet). It started spitting rain as we approached the Minnesota border, which we crossed just after 8:00 AM. The Interstate was closed near here yesterday due to flooding from heavy rains, but all we saw was about eighty miles of water standing in the fields.

At the state line, the speed limit dropped from 80 MPH to 70, which felt like a crawl. Several wind farms were idle. I thought it might not be windy enough, but then we saw them being allowed to start one at a time. Perhaps they had been shut down due to a surplus of electricity? There were hundreds and still more being constructed.

 New wind turbine being built

 Sharp looking truck

 Sharp looking horns

 This was something we hadn't seen before

 The speck right of the highway...

 ...was a crop dusting helicopter

 Important to understand

 Crossing the Mississippi River into Wisconsin

I-90 was not the most interesting road to travel in this part of the country. We departed 90 when we got to Tomah, Wisconsin and drove up through town to a very busy McDonald's for lunch. The overcast we had started under was gone and it was now sunny and hot.

Heading east from Tomah on Wisconsin 21, we found ourselves on a two lane highway. After passing a couple of big trucks, we were able to hum along at 60 MPH. If you look closely at the map, you will see that I didn't look closely when I gave the GPS the destination. Those who follow our travels will be aware that this is a bad habit of mine. This time, instead of staying on 21 to Oshkosh, we made a loop to the north before getting to I-41 at Appleton.


 ...and trees

 Orange barrels on Alt 41

 Water tower painting near Appleton Wisconsin

Once we reached US 41 at Green Bay, it was just straight on to Marinette, Wisconsin. I remember when most of this road was two lane but it is now four lane all the way. We arrived at The Baymont Inn in Marinette at 5:00 PM Central. Getting into the parking lot was a bit tricky, but the room was nice and there was an attached Subway.

We have never stayed at a Baymont Inn before. It is part of the Wyndham chain, so we accrued some points. When we checked in, the clerk had us initial a list of rules but I had no problem because they were all directed to respecting the rights of the other guests. Good for us but it probably not for one of our motorcycle clubs.

 Our home for the night


After getting the bags in the room, we went next door and got a 10% discount on our shared ham/provolone sandwich deal and then went to bed early. Tomorrow morning, we would be crossing the last time zone and tomorrow night we would sleep in our own bed.

Today's Route (547 Equinox miles):