Sunday, July 10, 2005

Duluth Minnesota to Sault Ste. Marie Ontario

We departed the KOA through patches of fog and made our way to I-35 into Duluth. It was a quiet Sunday morning with little traffic so I have no idea how I missed the exit for Highway 2 East. I did deduce, when I noticed there were no longer Highway 2 signs and downtown Duluth was on my left side, that I was headed for Thunder Bay if I didn’t take some corrective action so we did a flip at one of the interchanges and headed back. After a gas stop, we made our way around at street level until we found the correct road. We did pause for a moment when an ambulance pulled out of a parking lot without looking, but you come to expect those things when you ride a bike.

When we got on the bridge over to Superior, Wisconsin, the fog became so heavy that we couldn’t see the harbour. Actually, it was so thick that the lines on the road and the bridge rail were all we could see, but it dissipated as soon as we were on dry land again.

The trip across 2 to Ashland, where we stopped for breakfast, and on to Michigan where we cut off on Highway 28, was uneventful. As usual, the temperature rose along with the humidity. Gas and water stops were all we did, although we did get a bit of cloud cover and about three drops of rain near Newberry. Eventually, we reached I-75 and turned north for the short hop to Sault Ste. Marie Michigan and the International Bridge.

I wondered what the traffic would be like at the border. Amazingly, as we came down in Canadian Customs, there were no vehicles waiting and we pulled right into an open booth. I guess the security here is different from out west because, after the usual questions, the young fellow let us go without so much as checking our driver’s licences.

We made it to Mom’s house where I discovered that the wiring problem with the trailer signal light had returned. Not sure if this was a problem with the wires or with the isolated wiring harness relays, I shook the plug while Sandy watched the lights. Since it came and went as I shook the plug, I assume that the live sixth wire is making contact with the signal light wire somewhere in the harness. Good. Better that than a problem with the relay unit which would be much more complicated. Something to check when we get home, starting with the plug I wired first. It’s not that I don’t trust my own wiring prowess, it’s just that the guy who wired the other end was a factory professional installer so I’ll go with the oddsJ)

Mom was a bit under the weather due to the heat and the fact that she had fallen a few days before. She assured us that nothing was broken, but she was moving a little slower than usual. We visited for a while before turning in for the night.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Estevan Saskatchewan to Duluth Minnesota

Although the temperature dropped off a bit overnight, it was humid right from first light this morning. We were up, packed and on the road by 6:00 AM Mountain Time. We ran in a light haze down to the border at North Portal passing coal drag lines looking like prehistoric creatures in the fog. The flat terrain had been rendered hilly by these monsters.

As expected, the U.S. border guard was bored silly at North Portal. He asked us every question he could think of and then thought up a few more. Then, a first, he wanted to see inside the trailer. For those who know how the trailer works, you know this is no small feat. I opened the lid about a foot and he was happy.

Once across the border, we took Hwy 52 down to US 2 and then east into Minot. The rest of the day was uneventful as we pushed east into a quartering headwind with the bike letting me know at every fuel stop just how hard it was working. I don’t believe I have ever gotten worse mileage on this bike.

We rolled past Rugby, the geographical center of North America and Great Forks where we crossed into Minnesota. At Crookston I showed Sandy where I acquired my written warning for speeding a few years ago. At Bemdji, I noticed that one of the tail lights on the trailer was on even though the bike was off. A strange situation, but rather than debug it I pulled the very hot bulb and deferred troubleshooting until we stopped for the day.

A few miles down, I wondered if the other light was working so I stopped at a small gas station to check. It was OK but we spent a while there because there was a fellow with a new silver ’05 Wing with only 300 miles on the clock. We talked for a while and answered a bunch of questions he had.

Continuing on, the road went down to two lanes and tree cover blunted the effect of the wind. Gas mileage improved and we arrived at Cloquet (pronounced like croquet) Minnesota where we grabbed a bite and then found the KOA. The tally was 620 miles in 11.5 hours. After setup, we showered and spent some time in the hot tub before returning to our site.

The wiring problem had automatically fixed itself before I could try to troubleshoot it. This means either that it has gone away or that it is intermittent. I hate debugging intermittent problems. Time will tell.

Cloquet is just outside Duluth so we’ll have an easy 400 mile day tomorrow to the Soo.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Fort McLeod Alberta to Estevan Saskatchewan

Before I tell you about today, a short word about Fort McLeod. With the RCMP Museum, Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump, the Frank Slide site, live theater and numerous things I have yet to discover, I’ve put this place in my plans for a three or four day visit sometime in the not too distant future.

We were on the road by 6:30 this morning. It was a little cool by a nice morning all told. I checked the tire wear before I left and found the rear Elite 3 is only showing 4/32nds tread left. At this rate it will barely make it home and the tire will be done at about 8,000 miles, which is less than the 12,000 miles the stock D250 gave and well below what I had hoped. Maybe the E3’s are not the answer for me. I have some figuring to do when I get home.

The first tank of fuel took us to Medicine Hat where, as is our style, we stopped for our usual Mickey D breakfast. The Redhill McDonalds was the worst experience I have ever had in that chain. There was only one person ahead of me in line and it still took ten minutes to place the order. And the order was wrong anyway. Many people were milling around in the back, but nobody seemed to be accomplishing anything. I took the time to fill out a comment card.

From Medicine Hat there was not a lot interesting. We traversed several hundred miles of broken down asphalt masquerading as the Trans-Canada Highway. Saskatchewan needs a bigger roads budget. At Moose Jaw, we swung southeast on 39 bound for the US border.

After about 40 kilometers, a grain elevator appeared on the horizon. It took another ten klicks before we reached it. When we did, this was right across the road.

We had found the legendary location where they film the externals to the Canadian TV show Corner Gas. The town of Rouleau Saskatchewan, a wide spot in the road, subs for the fictional town of Dog River as the elevator will attest.

Here I am in gas pumping mode.

This is probably the show that most typifies Canadian humour today. At the start of Episode One, an Ontarian pulls in and comments “Pretty flat around here”. Brett Butt, playing Brett Leroy the proprietor, looks at the linear horizon and replies “Really? I hadn’t noticed”.

The temperatures continued climbing as we continued towards Estevan, where I had reserved a site in a Regional Campground. As we hit town, someone said the humidex was 42C, about 107F. We’re set up here now with the weekend camping crowd and it has cooled of as the sun got lower. The mosquitoes are now out.

Tomorrow, we will cross at North Portal and head down to Minot North Dakota. From there, we will follow US 2 across ND, Minnesota , Wisconsin and will catch 28 in Northern Michigan. This will take us to the Soo, hopefully Sunday evening. From there, it’s a short hop home on Monday.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Oliver BC to Fort McLeod Alberta

It was a pleasant morning. We were folded up and rolling by 7:00 Pacific Time, making our way back down to Osoyoos. We fueled and started to climb. And climb and climb. The town looked very pretty as we looked back.

Highway 3, the Crowsnest Route, is a great way to cross BC. It twists and winds, climbs and drops, across several ranges and through a number of valleys. Saw a bunch of deer including three bucks standing together in a field. They were so perfect that Sandy pulled a Scotty and thought they were artificial until they looked over when I honked the horn.

Got to the Mickey D’s at Castlegar at 10:27. By their clock. SOB’s had already shut breakfast down for the day. All that speeding for nothing. We had an early lunch.

East of Salmo, we saw cattle and burros sharing the same field. The horns on the one here reminded me of a Spanish fighting bull.

Somewhere in here we lost an hour as we switched to Mountain Time.

We crossed the path we did last year going to our Rally in the Rockies but stayed on 3 after Cranbrook. We went way down and ran in a valley for a while before starting the climb to the Crowsnest Pass.

After going through the pass, we skirted a number of very small towns including Lundbreck, home of a very famous VROCer named Jim Siegelaar. We also passed a wind farm larger than the one we saw in West Texas. The locals here say they are adding new windmills all the time.

We reached Fort McLeod about 7:00 PM Mountain and set up in the Daisy Me campground. Free WiFi, but this is the first time we have had mosquitoes to contend with all trip. Tomorrow, we will continue east.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Vancouver to Oliver BC

The rain stopped overnight so we packed, hooked up and were on our way slightly after 8:00 AM. Highway 1 was busy as we left the Vancouver area due to rush hour, but we jumped in the HOV lane (buses, cars with more than one person and motorcycles) and did quite well. It surprised me ho many vehicles had only one person in them.

A word about Vancouver gas prices. The Chevron station next to Mal’s has two prices. During the early evening, gas costs $0.899 per liter. Any other time is $1.019. Mal tells me that there is a 3.5 cent discount, but the cycle is daily. We didn’t fill up in Vancouver. By the time we got to Abbottsford, about 50 miles east, the price was a more manageable $0.799. But, to make up for it, it started to rain. We put on our gear and continued.

At Hope, where the original Rambo First Blood movie was filmed all those years ago, we branched off on Highway 3, the route to the Crow’s Nest Pass. At the pullout near the beginning, we saw another GL-1800 towing a Bunkhouse camper trailer. We stopped to see if they needed any help, but they were just putting on their Gerbing gear. We followed them up through the rain and cloud and fog at a conservative pace, winding our way up until we came to the visitor center in Manning Provincial Park. We stopped to chat. Rick had a ’02 Wing with 136,000 Kms on it and a dog in a carrier on top of the cooler on the tongue. The dog was somewhat put out since, when Rick rides alone, Woody travels on the back seat.

We continued on and stopped at Rick’s place near Keremeos for coffee.

Then it was on to Osoyoos to visit the Lees-Ure Lite Trailer people. I pulled in and found Nick in the shop assembling a trailer. I told him I needed a roof rack and he asked if I was “That Guy Who….”. I was. He checked out the trailer and got a new roof rack. While he was installing it, owner Rick Lee rolled up in his Hummer. WE talked a bit and then young Amanda, one of the people I had been dealing with on the phone, showed up. Soon, the rack was installed and we were on our way.

We headed north up 97 to Oliver (which bills itself as the Wine Capital of Canada), where we got a site at a very nice KOA just north of town.

After we set up, we went across the road to a pub for supper. Then we came back and I got on-line to check the mail. The setting sun caught the cliff behind us, making it really stand out.

Now comes the question of the day. Which way do we go tomorrow. The Okanagan lies to the north taking us back up through Rogers and Kicking Horse Passes, The Crows Nest Pass and Lethbridge lie to the East and Kalispell Montana and US Highway 2 are south of us. All roads lead to home. I don’t know which way we are going but we will kick the priorities around tonight to see if we can reach a decision by morning.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Still More Vancouver

Mal and Sandy took Jan to the airport yesterday morning. We spent the day in low key mode but managed to find time to watch the entire first season of Corner Gas on DVD. Rouleau Saskatchewan may be on the itinerary on the way home.

We were going to leave today but it rained non-stop and the departure date wasn’t critical. Just laid back for another day.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

More Vancouver

Another day in Wonderland. I spent the morning catching up on my bookkeeping and then we went across the bridge to catch a movie. We settled on Mr. And Mrs. Smith. Not bad, but not quite as good as the hype led me to believe.

We then took a leisurely drive up to the Cypress Point Provincial Park overlook. This is about 2,000 feet up the side of the mountain behind West Vancouver and looks out over the entire delta area. Truly a spectacular vista.

On the way down, we toured a new development of multi-million dollar homes clinging to the side of the mountain. I’m not sure who will live here but they will have an excellent view and possibly a tough time getting home in inclement weather.

When we returned to the apartment, the air had cleared to the south and Mount Baker finally put in an appearance lit by the setting sun.

Although this volcano lies 85 miles away in Washington State, it feels some days that you can reach out and touch it.

It was a quiet evening since Jan will be leaving in the morning for a summer program that will see her train in Southern Ontario and then be doing science fair/teaching at First Nations reserves across Canada.

Saturday, July 02, 2005


I always find a stay in West Vancouver relaxes and revitalizes me. This is my favourite city. Even though the place is overpopulated with Starbucks and there isn’t a Tim Horton’s to be found, the pace is laid back. I spent the first part of the morning sitting on the balcony watching the cruise ships as they made their stately way under the Lions Gate Bridge on their way to Alaska. Sandy and Jan decided to go shopping, so I took advantage of the lull to give myself a long overdue haircut.

When I was presentable, Mal and I jumped in his Miata convertible and went to meet the ladies for coffee. This car strikes me as the direct descendant of the old MGB, a car I loved and revered as a true sports car. Nimble and not overpowered, it just looks for winding roads to play on. Some day. The rendezvous at a Starbucks went well and we all sat outside and had some indescribable caffeine drinks that I like but need a barista interpreter to order.

After coffee, Mal and I returned to his apartment and then took a walk around town looking for a bookstore. The used books place we found on Marine Drive had to be the most cluttered I have ever seen but there was a system. Behind narrow aisles stacked with used magazines and shelves of paperback and hardcover sorted by category and author, I found science fiction and fantasy combined together. I selected Stranger In A Strange Land, which I have a yearning to read yet one more time, and Stardance by Spider & Jeanne Robinson. We had to have the obligatory chat with the owner, an older gentleman sorting books just inside the front door, before we left. On the way back, we walked a bit of the beach and stopped at the liquor store for more wine.

Supper consisted of more pizza and Greek salad, a fine light but sustaining meal, washed down with more wine. Then I found the NASCAR race on Mal’s computer, which masquerades as a TV, and was pretty well lost for the rest of the evening.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Coos Bay Oregon to Vancouver BC

Happy Canada Day.

The trailer had been packed and connected last night so all that remained was to have coffee and head out. Our few days here were great and Pat and Sherm have shown us true Oregon hospitality. They are an example of what makes VROC great.

We headed out about 7:00 AM looking for Highway 101. Just before the turn off Virginia Street, I stopped and waited for a light to change. It took a few minutes to realize that there was NO traffic light at this particular intersection. Luckily no one had come up behind me to wonder what was wrong with this particular Canuck.

Once I figured out the lights, I turned left on Highway 101 and headed north for Florence. This is a very nice road that wanders and curves along the coast. Traffic was light so we relaxed and watched the scenery go by. When we reached Florence, my wildlife radar switched off as we went through town. Bad move since, just past the McDonalds, Sandy grabbed my shoulders and shouted “deer, deer, deer”. Sure enough, a doe and fawn were wandering out on the street ahead of me. We stopped and let them figure out which way they wanted to go.

As we left Florence headed north on 101, it became clear to me that I had missed a turn since we should have left heading east on 126. I stopped and double checked with a local and then went back and found the intersection I had missed. Now headed east, we followed a river and then wound our way up and over the Coastal Range as trees were so thick they hung over the road. There was even a short tunnel at one point. We reached Eugene and found BMW of Western Oregon on 126.

Sandy’s only real complaint on the bike was that she gets cold much faster than I do. At the BMW shop we rectified this as Madeline found a Gerbing heated jacket liner, gloves and silk glove liners that fit her. The liner plugs into a plug from the bike battery and the gloves plug unto the liner. A rheostat that lets the wearer control the amount of heat governs the whole thing. A friendly young man from the service department hooked the cables to the battery since all my tools were buried deep in the trunk. Sandy put on the liner and plugged in. The gear cost a few bucks, but the first priority of any tourer is to keep the passenger happy. I was also pleased to see that Visa Security wanted a call to verify that I was me after the fraud problem back in April.

It was still cool as we jumped on I-5 northbound and my faithful partner was happy with the warmth. The ride to Portland was uneventful except where traffic backed up at one spot. What triggered this was a minor accident on the OTHER side of the Interstate where a pickup and trailer jackknifed. What is it with people that make them slow down and rubberneck causing unnecessary traffic jams?

We passed into Washington and, once we went through Olympia, the idea of traveling during rush our on the Friday of the July 4th weekend didn’t seem like such a good one. It seems the coast from Olympia through Tacoma, Seattle and Everett is like one long city. Traffic south bound was frequently stopped and we were held up several times for accidents and a few more times for reasons that never did become apparent. North of Everett, traffic thinned and we were able to get moving again.

After listening to Vancouver radio, we opted to follow I-5 right to the border. I was surprised on this double holiday weekend that we only had a three-car wait to get to the booth. The female officer took out driver’s licences and then, for the first time I can recall, asked for our birth certificates. She asked a few questions about who we were and then asked about what we bought. I disclosed (always disclose) and then she asked Sandy’s maiden name. She got 90% on that one so the young lady decided we were of sufficient character and standing to be allowed back into the True North Strong and Free.

I had mapped out my route to West Vancouver using a very high level map. As a result, I missed the intended exit. I took another one headed north figuring it would reach Highway 1, AKA The Trans-Canada Highway. It eventually did after a tour of every red traffic light in downtown Surrey. We rocked in on 1 over the Second Narrows Bridge, through North Vancouver and then down 15th street to downtown West Van, a descent that reminds me of San Francisco. Mal has a nice apartment overlooking Ambleside, Stanley Park and the Lion’s Gate Bridge.
He was waiting and we got the trailer unhooked, parked and covered and the bike parked beside it.

Mal had pizza and Greek salad (and some wine) ready and we spent the evening catching up with him and Jan.

Oh, the pillbox I thought I had left in Ely or Eureka with my blood pressure meds turned up, of all places, in the bag I carry the computer, camera and phone cables in.