Tuesday, December 30, 2008

First Snowmobile Ride of the Season

My current sled is a 1998 Skidoo MXZ 440. This used to be Sandy's sled but she didn't ride much. Finally, I took it out some and found I enjoyed riding it on the twisty trails more than I did my larger Skidoo Formula Z 583 liquid cooled machine. Eventually, a couple of years ago, I sold the Formula Z. The 440 isn't powerful compared to most other sleds and tops out between 70 and 80 MPH, but it holds its own on any twisty section. I'm getting too old for raw speed anyway.

With the assistance of Charlie Hinds, we had the sled ready to go in mid-December. The battery was tendered all summer. Charlie replaces some idler bearings, installed new graphite sliders and cleaned the carburetor. He struggled to get the new Kimpex Arrow dual runner skis assembled because the Jagged Edge runners Royal Distributing provided aren't the ones Kimpex makes for those skis. But he got it done and was very impressed by the 360 degree turn the sled made in his asphalt driveway.

December has brought more snow than we have seen in years. Christmas Day, I was knocking down snowbanks along my driveway so that the blower would be able to clear them with the snow. Then it started. Rain. Temperatures in the mid-40's F. More rain. Then, as usual, the temperature dropped leaving us with an ice layer. I estimate we lost about 50% of our snow here. To add insult to injury, a little more snow fell afterward.

Tuesday, December 30th, was a clear day. I was doing some work on the computer when Trevor Shamas, a friend from Toronto, called. He was in town and going riding with Vassie Lumley. Vassie is the wife of snowmobiling legend Don Lumley, once chair of the International Snowmobile Congress and International Snowmobiler of the Year. Right now, he's the big guy recovering from hip replacement surgery. Anyway, Trev wanted to know if I wanted to come along. Is a bear Catholic?

I gathered my gear and loaded the sled on my trailer for the five mile trip to the Sudbury Trail Plan yard. Trev was there and unloaded when I pulled in, but I soon had the little yellow machine unloaded and ready to go. In consultation with STP Operations Director Normie Hein, Trevor had a route planned out but we were warned about one detour due to revocation of permission to use the property and cautioned about water hazards.

We rode from Garson up to Skead on good trail. It was a little choppy but there was a layer of fresh powder on it. The new skis worked great but I plan to dial in a little more ski pressure. These are 30 lbs lighter than the stock skis and are easier to steer, so that looks like the right choice for better bite at high speeds.

From Skead, we headed west on the abandoned rail bed towards Capreol. We didn't quite get to the detour because we found the water in one large swamp on the north side of the trail making its way steadily to the south side. Packed ice on the trail was about 18" thick and the water had cut channels through this. We made it across the first one, and Trev and I crossed the second. After taking a moment to pull Vassie out of the hole she was stuck in, we contemplated the third, and worst, hazard. It was sheer on the other side and it looked like a ski could get caught in the undercut. Discretion is the better part of valour and so we turned around and returned to Skead.

Plan B was to head the other way towards the Sportsman's Lodge. Heading east on the same rail bed, we went off the trail system and crossed the Wahnapitae River on the abandoned railway bridge over the Moose Rapids. This is the bridge that tests my fear of heights, since it is over 100 feet above the river and has no guard rails of any kind. I just look ahead and keep going. We reached STP trail 82, which would take us towards Sportsman. Unfortunately, after getting across one wet spot, we came to another overrun, this one more than 50 feet across and of undetermined depth. Once again, discretion took over and we turned around. We returned to Skead and then to Garson.

At the yard, I loaded up and found my trailer lights weren't working. I headed directly home because the sun was getting low and went at the problem with my multi-meter. The problem finally became apparent. The trailer tongue attaches to the axle and bed by one pivot bolt. Everything is so corroded that the ground doesn't make contact between the bed and the tongue. I cleaned up some rust with a file and, bingo, lights again.

I'm going to hurt tomorrow since we didn't slow down a lot on the rough patches. But the sled works and I am looking forward to hitting the trails after a few cold nights. Here's to a great season.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Jolene Kimberley Koolen

According to the doctor, Kim's due date was December 17th. According to the baby, it was something else. On Monday the 22nd, they attempted to induce labour. Twenty-four hours later, the baby arrived by C-section.

Our first grandchild, Jolene Kimberley Koolen, arrived at 5:54 AM Tuesday December 23rd, weighing in at 9 lbs 4 oz. Proud parents are Kim and Mike Koolen of Cambridge, Ontario.

I had taken Sandy down on the 20th and left her there as I returned to spend Christmas in Sudbury with Mom (who I will pick up in the Soo and bring here.

Jolene and proud papa

Now we will strive to be good grandparents, spoiling little Jolene before sending her home to mom and dad:-)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Storage Day

Snow came early. I was slow.

I have a very small garage, so the reordering of the equipment is an annual tradition. The camper trailer, lawn mower and bike are moved from the front to the back and the snowmobile and snow blower move to the fore.

In between is a little tricky with the snow on the ground.

And here we are, ready for winter.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Riding Season Summary

Another riding season has come to an end.

This year, we travelled 42,188 kms (26,216 mi) and the Wing now has 172,642 kms (107,280 mi) on the clock. We burned 849.9 liters of Canuck gas (224.5 USG) and 481.0 USG of American fuel for a total of 705.5 USG. Average gas mileage was 37.16 MPG.

These statistics don't represent how good the season was.

The May ride to Combermere with Heather and Tom was special. I'm proud of the way they are handling themselves.

KSL was fine and we got our annual fix of those priceless North Carolina Roads.

The west trip, Boscobel, Topaz and Aztec were excellent. The time spent with VSP in Stockton and the train ride to San Francisco will stay in our memories. Thanks to Mal for putting us up while we took a mid-trip break in Vancouver. And Oregon Trails was everything a WWR is supposed to be.

Back home, we took in our own Freedom Rally and Interlochen in August. Then we took the fall tour, Cyclefest in Waterloo, NEVROC in Bethel, Maine and then on to Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

We got to make the run from Topaz to Aztec with Sherm, VSP and Slammer. Then we rode from Bethel to Kentucky with Tom Miller. We normally travel alone, but these people are the best and it was a pleasure to ride with them.

So, all-in-all, it was a great season. next year, the WWR is in Kentucky. My original idea was to head for Topaz and come back with the western contingent, but Heather and Tom are riding down so we'll stay here and ride down with them. Then it will be on to Laconia. Total mileage for the year will probably be less than the last few, but we'll be looking at keeping the quality level up.

To all those we saw during the season, thank you for making it such a great summer. To all those we haven't met, I hope we get to do so soon.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Warplane Heritage Museum

With the ladies out perusing dress shops, Tom and I decided we needed something to do. For years I have wanted to attend the Warplane Heritage Museum adjacent to the Hamilton Airport, but never managed to get a Round Tuit.

We drove down Highway 8 and followed the GPS directions to the museum. It was easy to spot with the dramatic mount of this CF-104 Starfighter out front.

After paying the admission, we started working our way through the displays. Here is a small selection of what we saw.

The Silver Dart

The Silver Dart made the first controlled, powered flight in the British Empire in Baddeck, Nova Scotia in 1909 under the hand of John McCurdy. Alexander Graham Bell was heavily involved in its development and, true to Canadian style, it's first flight was made off a frozen lake.

Avro Arrow

One of the greatest planes that never happened, the Avro Arrow had reached the test flight stage when it was suddenly cancelled for political reasons.

This tiger striped CF-104 was an unusual exhibit

Lancaster Bomber

The signature Lancaster overlooks the head table of a wedding reception occurring later in the day. The hall is available for rent for social gatherings and they have their own on-site catering service.

The Lancaster, like most of the prop aircraft in the museum, is airworthy and flies from time to time. This restoration is dedicated to Pilot Officer Andy Mynarski, posthumous recipient of the Victoria Cross in WW II.

F-86 Sabre

When I was a little gaffer, probably ten years old or younger, the Golden Hawks aerobatic team, operated by the RCAF, came to town for an air show. After the show, a local reporter was looking for a kid to put in the cockpit of one of the aircraft for a photo opportunity. Thus I appeared in the Timmins Daily Press sitting in the cockpit of a golden F-86 Sabre wearing a flying helmet while the pilot, named Lang IIRC, looked on.

I wonder if this was the same aircraft or just one of its select few brothers.

Avro Anson

The Avro Anson was a bomber trainer used to train pilots in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan during WW II. The aircraft was constructed entirely out of wood and was the first RAF monoplane with retractable landing gear.

This particular aircraft, a 1944 Anson Mk V, spent its post-war years flying geophysical surveys for Inco as CF-HOT. It was kept airborne by its pilot, Norm Linnington, who rebuilt the wooden airframe several times by hand. With receiving coils wrapped around its wooden fuselage, it was more efficient and cheaper to fly than the other craft, primarily Twin Otters. During the last few years of its exploration job, I was responsible for collecting all the costs associated with it, paying the gas bills and making provisions for reserves for airframe, engine and avionics rebuilds. When Linnington retired, having no understudy, HOT was donated to the museum.

One time, doing survey work in Alice Springs Australia, the aircraft dried out so much that they needed to steam is to prevent the wings from breaking on take-off. Now again, in the hanger environment, it has dried out and is now parked outside in an attempt to moisturize the wood so it can be returned to flying status.



These two photos are of the same aircraft. They show the type of work done by the restoration crews at the museum. There were many more things than what I have shown here and I encourage anyone in the area to drop by for a visit if they can.

Thanks to Tom Gronek for the photos. Sandy had taken my camera (OK, our camera) on the bridal gown hunting exercise.

The Wedding Dress Hunt

Daughter Heather and her fiance Tom have set a wedding date in October 2009. This might seem like a long way away, but Heather convinced us that she needed her mother to accompany her on a search of local wedding dress establishments.

Not one to say no, we drove down to Cambridge on Friday and stayed at Tom's overnight. Sandy took the camera with her and captured a couple of moments during the expedition. Beyond those, I have no idea what happened except that they found a couple of possibles but made no final decision on the dress.

Heather and future mother-in-law Zofia

Future mothers-in-law having lunch

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Freedom Riders Colour Run

The more temperate fall weather the last few years has allowed us to get bolder about extending the riding season. At the October meeting, the Freedom Riders decided that, weather permitting, we would hold our final run, The Colour Run, on Saturday, October 18th.

At the Tim Horton's (Levesque) rendezvous, we pulled in to find Dan & Tracey and Luc and Joanne all bundled up against the cool air. After the posted departure time, we decided that no one else was coming so we headed out Highway 17 East to Verner, where we stopped at the O'Ranch Grill for a late breakfast/early lunch. While there, Dan called our President-elect Rob, who said he was suddenly free and was riding to catch up with us. We lingered over coffee.

Rob caught up with us and we headed south on Highway 64 to Noelville and then Alban. The sun was shining but it was crisp and we soon realized that we were a tad late for any kind of show by the leaves.

This was one of the few examples of the little bit of colour we saw on the ride

My usual stop, Yvette's in Alban, was closed, another sign of the times. We stopped at the Petro-Can station at the junction of Highways 64 and 69. Surprisingly, they had a good coffee and snack selection, something I'll have to keep in mind for the future.

Halloween/Harvest display at the Petro-Can

From Alban, we rode north and I led the group right through to Val Caron where we stopped at (you guessed it) Tim Hortons. I got a group photo of the hardy bunch before we turned and headed back to Sudbury.

Sandy, Joanne, Tracey, Luc, Rob and Dan

It was a bittersweet ride because another riding season is pretty well done. There may be a few more days but, soon, Old Man Winter will be knocking and we'll be storing the bikes one more time.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Kim & Mike's Thanksgiving Visit

Daughter Kim and son-in-law Mike of Cambridge, Ontario decided to take a little trip on (Canadian) Thanksgiving weekend. They are expecting our first grandchild in mid-December and figured they might not get the chance again for a while.

They crossed into Michigan down south and worked their way up the coast of Lake Michigan. Day two saw them visiting my Mom in Sault Ste. Marie. Day three saw them in Sudbury where we got this photo of the happy couple with Sandy's parents, Jan & Harry, in the future great-grandparents back yard.

After spending the night with us, the young couple headed homeward down Highway 69.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Kilo's Sudbury Ride

Those of you who follow this Blog know that we lost two good friends on July 22, 2008. One of them, Mark "Kilo" Irwin of Garner, North Carolina had a last request that I have often spoken of. His loving wife, Babe, honoured this request by mailing portions of his ashes to VROC people around the world to be spread in a spirit of remembrance of an outstanding person.

Sandy and I first met Kilo at SEVROC in Suches, Georgia an September, 1999. It was our first VROC gathering and Kilo had ridden as far as we had to get there. Although he was riding from Kansas then, he met his Babe in the Wind in Georgia and soon joined her in North Carolina. Mark and I crossed paths from time to time in Colorado, Suches and Lake Lure and he earned my respect, as well as that of many others, as a wise and thoughtful man.

Sandy and I had already participated in the spreading of Kilo's ashes in Maine and Arkansas last month, but we still had our own little ceremony to perform. Today was an exceptional October day, so Gary "Biker" Lamarche, Sandy and I headed north on Highway 144 to a local landmark, A.Y. Jackson Lookout above Onaping Falls. Jackson was a painter and a member of the Canadian Group of Seven who made Ontario landscapes famous in the first half of the 20th Century.

This is a beautiful spot with highly interesting geological and historical perspectives. I brought Sherm up here last year to give him a flavour of the Pre-Cambrian shield and Northern Ontario.

Gary Leads The Ride Up Highway 144

Traffic was light but there were a few more people at the Lookout than I would have expected for an October weekday. We made our way along the path to the upper lookout deck and I went around the barrier to the edge of the hill. With Sandy and Gary looking on, I said a few words and our thoughts turned to Mark and his family as the wind carried him aloft.

Skid and Kilo's Ashes

After a few quiet moments, we returned to the parking lot and returned to the city.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Gym

I first started going to out local YMCA back in November, 2001. I hadn't been in a gym since high school. Lack of fitness and the fact that I had tipped the scale at a svelte 223.5 made me decide that something was in order. Under the guidance of Trevor Harris and other trainers, I learned to use the cardio machines and the cable weight machines. Over the course of the winter, I got the weight down to 186 and got myself in the best shape I've been in for years. But then spring came and we started riding. Suddenly, the gym wasn't so important any more. And I started to put some weight on.

Over the ensuing years, I would get into the gym over the winter, although not with the dedication of that first year. And the weight was up around 210. Last year was the worst. I weighed 208 in September, 2007. I didn't get to the gym until late December and, due to eating all the wrong things, I was up to 226 pounds by year-end.

I didn't hit the gym or do much about diet through the first nine months of 2008. The weight was continually over 220 and I didn't feel well at all.

Normally, it takes a while for me to get to the Y. Usually December. But today that will change. Yesterday, I weighed 226.0 pounds and today I started back to the gym. To avoid my usual problem of working too hard, I deliberately started the cardio slowly, but I added more time. Twenty-five minutes on the treadmill, fifteen on the horizontal bike and twenty on the elliptical, making an even hour. We'll leave the strength exercises for a while.

I found that this was the hardest time I have had starting out. As I get older, I realize that I can't be taking these breaks or, one day, I might not be able to get it back.

Stay tuned and I'll keep you posted on how this works out.

Friday, October 03, 2008

The Pediatric Burn-Scar Garment Fund

One of the requirements in the Constitution of the Freedom Riders Motorcycle Association of Northern Ontario is that and excess monies raised must be donated to a local children's charity. For the last few years, we have given funds raised through our Annual Freedom Rally (held every Civic Holiday long weekend in August) to the Pediatric Burn-Scar Garment Fund at the Sudbury Regional Hospital. These pressure garments help in the rehabilitation of people who are badly burned and the government does not cover all the cost. This year, we provided another $2,000 for this cause.

The lady who manages the Fund (I don't recall her name), with her cabbage patch demo doll, and indefatigable Freedom Rider Shirley. Membership Director Gary talks to a hidden Gord. In all, we had four bikes and six people out despite the falling of a few snowflakes on a cold, grey day.

My big challenge, as head and only club bookkeeper, was to come up with a large presentation cheque since we didn't have one for prior years and the publicity photos end up rather unremarkable. I phoned my local bank branch and they didn't know where to get them. Then I phoned the main branch downtown. A fine lady named Natalie told me they had them, had just gotten some new ones in, and she would get one out for me.

Large cheque in hand, I then had to letter it. I checked various stick-on letters after finding the old stencils of my youth were no longer available at Staples. Then I took my trusty Sharpie marker and did the job freehand. Other than spelling Freedom Riders wrong (ouch), it looked OK. You can see my handiwork here in the article published by the Sudbury Star.

We select the following year's charity every fall. I don't know who we'll be supporting next year, but it is nice to know that some kids somewhere will benefit from what the club has done.

After the presentation, we adjourned to Gonga's Grill for lunch, and a fine lunch it was.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Leaf Run

I got an Email from Terry, Freedom Riders President, late last night. He wondered if anybody wanted to go for a ride to Sturgeon Falls for lunch today. It was cool and overcast, but any ride is a good ride.

Sandy and I put on warm gear and headed over to Petrocan at LaSalle and Barrydowne for fuel. Topped up, we were heading for the Tim Horton's at Levesque, the meeting place, when we pulled right out in front of Terry, who was on his way to the rendezvous point.

At Tim's we waited a bit, but it became obvious that we were all that were coming. This would allow for a more spirited ride than we could have with a larger group. I enjoy riding second to Terry because he moves right along and, after nearly thirty years, I am always sure of what he is going to do in any given situation.

We motored 55 miles east on Highway 17 to Sturgeon Falls. We were the first people at the Chinese Buffet, which had just opened for the day. They don't have a really large selection, but what they have is hot and good. I know I ate more than I should have.

After eating, and not willing to call it a day despite the cool and overcast, we decided to ride north on Hwy 64. The photo shows us riding alongside the Sturgeon River coming into the little town of Field. You can see the patch of blue that kept taunting us. We never were able to catch it.

I first rode this north section of Highway 64 back in 1971 on my 350cc Yamaha R5. It wasn't paved back then and, since I earned the first part of my nickname crashing on gravel, I wasn't a big fan. Now it is a very nice piece of road with nice sweeping curves and very little traffic. What traffic there was didn't stay ahead of us very long, since Terry's motto is "Pass first, ask questions later".

You can note in the above photo that: a) the leaves are changing colour, and b) Terry's '99 Valkyrie is one sharp looking bike.

We reached Marten River, where Highway 64 ends when it encounters Highway 11. This used to be a major location in the fur trade, even boasting a trapper's museum, but now it is just an excellent place for outdoors enthusiasts to get away from it all.

From Marten River, we turned south on Highway 11 heading for North Bay. You can see that they've been resurfacing the road and haven't gotten around to painting in the centre line yet. The rock cut, a small one, is typical of Northern Ontario and the leaves continue to change.

I had one pass along here that could have resulted in seizure of the bike if the appropriate authorities had been around. They only allow 50 KPH over the limit before you forfeit your vehicle and licence for a week. Fifty over comes very easily, especially if you are following a fast moving Valk. Working traffic as a pair was enjoyable, though. I think we have more skill at this than most.

You can see that, coming back to Sudbury on Highway 17, the blue sky was nowhere to be seen. It started getting ominous there for a while, but we got home dry.

I don't know how much more of the season we will be able to get out for day rides, but this was an enjoyable jaunt and we'll take as many more as we can get.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Trip Summary - September 11 to 23, 2008

We were only on the road thirteen days, but it seemed longer as we covered a lot of ground. Now we'll dial down to local riding for the rest of the season, however long that might be.

It was interesting posting the credit card charges. The trip started with $1.00 Canadian being worth $.905 US. As we got near the end and the US markets fell apart, we got up to $.94 for a Loonie.

So, dollar up, gas prices down and they just raised the limit on my main Visa card one more time. Strange markers as the economic world goes to Hell in a handbasket.

Trip Statistics

Direct route miles - 3,671
Total miles including side trips - 4,249
Total fuel - 119.42 US Gallons
Overall average MPG(US) - 37.67
Total kilometers on bike at end of trip - 170,943 (106,224 miles)

Trip Map

Grayling Michigan to Sudbury Ontario

We got up a little later this morning. Just over 300 miles to get home and the last day of the season. We had the continental breakfast in the large breakfast area and then packed up in a leisurely fashion.

The Weather Channel said it was near freezing in parts of New England, but we had a balmy 8C as we started north about 8:20. I was glad the beaded seat cover was in the saddlebag, avoiding the chilly breeze under my private parts. My microphone stopped working soon after we started out, so I didn't have much to say as we rolled along at five over the 70 MPH limit.

We made a gas stop at the BP in Indian River and I put Deoxit in all my headset connections. And I was back. Unfortunately, the lower plug that connects to the bike harness has been falling out lately and seemed to be even slicker after the treatment. We fixed this by wrapping a Band-Aid around the connection and I used the middle connection to unhook from the bike. I'll need to find a proper fix before next season.

As we approached the Mackinac Bridge, I didn't feel any of the twinges or trepidation like I usually do. Instead, I was actually looking forward to the crossing. I'm not sure why it was different this time but I sure did enjoy the sensation. When we got there, the wind was behind us, leading to a peaceful transit but I was ready for the wind. The right lane was being worked on and they moved us to the centre grated lane. No problem. I got playing on the grate using the patented Craig Scott weave and, when the paved lane opened up, I stayed on the grating. No tension, no worry about the height. I wonder if this was an anomaly or if I've turned a corner?

The right lane is blocked as we start to climb the Big Mac

Looking down through the grating

One of the awesome bridge towers

In the Upper Peninsula, the road is very straight. Almost like Nebraska. About the only interest we had was looking at the foliage starting to change. In a couple of weeks, this will be awesome.

Some fall colours starting along I-75

We took on fuel in the Soo at $4.09 per gallon. Pricey, but after hearing on the radio that they were encountering gas shortages in the southeast, we're happy to have it. The Canadian Customs booths were backed up as they seemed to be spending extra time questioning people and a high number of vehicles were being pulled into inspection. There was a Natural Resources Conservation Officer checking US bound cars and a large number of Border Officers inspecting cars and trucks. Something was afoot.

Of course, being on the US Watch List causes me no problem on the Canuck side. Sandy gave the officer our Nexus cards, he asked about things we had acquired (about $150 worth, all from the raffle) and then he welcomed us home.

We stopped to see Mom and she made grilled cheese sandwiches and vegetable soup. We had a nice visit and an excellent lunch. Then we headed on east.

When we started this morning, we had a temporary tailwind, but that changed and we again were, as Seger says, against the wind. This beats all statistical probability but we're used to it. The poor fuel mileage on this run might be attributed to wind, temperature and speed but I'm starting to wonder if there might not be a problem with one of the FI sensors, possibly the O2 sensors in the exhaust. At over $150 each, I'll want to check them out carefully before doing anything drastic.

The last three hours home was pretty typical. We passed slower traffic and not much passed us.

Hauling Howitzers near Espanola, Ontario

Trees changing on the Pre-Cambrian Shield

Sudbury looked the same. Despite increased fuel prices and shortages in the US, I paid $1.259 per liter in town, down from when we left. For those who were concerned, the grass had been mowed recently so I guess Rory was here.

Thus endeth the last motorcycle trip of 2008.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Terre Haute Indiana to Grayling Michigan

We got up at 5:30 and had an early continental breakfast. TWC called for early fog but forecast highs in the unseasonable 80's for later in the day. We were on the road by 7:00 AM, still in the dark because it was only 6:00 AM ten miles west of us.

Daybreak over the fog on I-70

As the sun rose, I reached into my jacket for my clip-on sunglasses. These are now somewhere along the side of I-70 because I didn't get them clipped solidly the first time. I am wearing a clip from my old glasses, which are way too big but I bent to fit.

Travel around Indianapolis was uneventful and we found ourselves stopping at a familiar exit up in Warren, Indiana. I was happy yesterday to spend $3.39/gallon on gas in Missouri. Today, Terre Haute was $3.89 and Warren was $3.99. So much for my optimism about prices. Moving from the Mickey D's to the Marathon station, Sandy walked and I dropped her sheepskin seat cover out on the road. She retrieved it before a semi could run over it.

We continued on up to Lansing, Michigan and north on US 127. I scanned ahead with the GPS for a WalMart to get new sunglasses and maybe a seat cushion. It came up blank. No WalMart. Unheard of in civilized America.

This will be the last trip of the season. Although we are ready to go home, I know that a month or two from now the urge to head out on the road on two wheels will take hold and we won't be able to do anything about it until spring. The season was underscored by the maple trees, which have broken out in bright red hues.

Trees near Grayling, Michigan

We stopped in Grayling at our favourite Days Inn. Nice rooms, great WiFi and friendly service for just over $50.00. The moose restaurant next door has new management, is now called the Canadian Steak & Fish Company and is open Mondays. Sandy had lemon garlic chicken with fruit and vegetables from the healthy menu while I had a steak sandwich with 3/4 pound of Angus beef. Very good.

The rear tire is down to 5/32nds after only 7,000 miles, reaffirming my belief that it will not be a high mileage tire. Unless, that is, it wears like an Elite 3 and gets tough down near the end. I won't bet on it, given the way other Avon's wear. The front is doing fine, though, and I can see a Bridgestone rear/Cobra front combination as a distinct possibility.

Sherm posted that he had a flat tire in New Mexico. He got the bike to Albuquerque to a dealership where they refused to sell him a 70 Series tire even though they had one in stock. They did mount an OEM sized 60 Series. Fear of litigation sometimes means the customer isn't always right.

I need to try to be more like Sherm with the camera. He looks at everything in terms of what he can put in his blog, so his photos document where he has been and what he has done. I often forget the camera and miss many opportunities, leaving our blog lacking. Next year. I will try to do better.

Norm posted that Barry Lacarte of Tri-town, STOP Officer of the Year, collapsed at the OFSC convention with a cardiac arrest and, revived by EMT's in the audience, is in serious condition in hospital in Toronto. If you can spare a thought or a prayer, it wouldn't hurt.

Jarvis pointed out it is the Autumnal Equinox. Tomorrow will be shorter than today and so it will go until almost Christmas. We settled in and watched the opening show of Dancing With The Stars. Still sorting out the contestants, but I have to give Cloris Leachman credit for trying out at 82 years old.

I've noticed that my right foot and toe have started to hurt again, just like they did at this time last year. It improved over the winter last time, so I'm not alarmed. Just curious as to whether this is a riding thing or a seasonal thing. I'm not a big fan of getting older and need to get back in the gym as soon as I get home. I told Rainman that I could drop 20 pounds by New Years.

Last day tomorrow. An easy one, so we won't get on the road to early. I wonder if Rory mowed the lawn?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Eureka Springs Arkansas to Terre Haute Indiana

We were up fairly early and packed while it was still dark. There was a heavy fog hanging in the air so we went slowly when we pulled out about 6:50 AM, after bidding Sherm and a few other early risers goodbye.

The fog started to break near Branson and things went uneventfully until we stopped on I-44 at the Fort Leonard Wood exit. First, the good thing. The Colt's gas station pumps said they asked for Zip codes for pay-at-the pump. It didn't, so maybe they have a system that recognizes Canadian cards.

Now the bad. When I hit the starter button, all I got was the solenoid click as all the electronics reset themselves due to a break in the electrical supply. Ouch. This happened at Sherm's back in June and we jump started it. No cables here, so I gave it some time and tried it again. Several times. Luckily, it restarted. We moved over to McDonalds for breakfast and my Butler mug, the one that hangs from my handlebars, spewed a coffee geyser all over the table when I snapped the lid down. Spurts are common, but this went on for much longer than usual.

After breakfast, the bike refused to start again. I loosened and re-tightened the battery connections without success and then, suddenly, it fired right up. It occurs to me that both times this happened, Sandy was on the bike and her electric jacket was plugged in. Regardless, when we get home the battery will get load tested and all the connections will get cleaned.

As usual, while we were heading east on I-44 the wind was out of the east, despite the fact that there are usually west winds in this part of the country. Head winds. Always. I started to get really fatigued (probably the two late nights catching up with me) and stopped at a big Shell station for some energy boosters. It took some time because someone who had fueled a fleet of trucks at various pumps was arguing about how much he owed.

We had an idea that we might push through to Auburn Indiana, which would get us home tomorrow. As we rode, and as they forecast storm fronts east of Indianapolis, we decided not to rush it. We stopped at a Super 8 in Terre Haute, just over both the Indiana and Eastern Time Zone borders. We had our hour back even though we had covered just 497 miles.

We walked over to Bob Evans for supper and then came back to the room, relaxed and watched TV. I spent a little time on the newsgroup in a discussion about what a VROC World Reunion looks like and reviewing the details of the new Kawasaki Vulcan Voyager 1700 touring bike announced yesterday. Then we turned in fairly early.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

More Eureka Springs Reunion

The day dawned overcast and foggy with a somber grey drizzle setting the tone for the memorial service. It was delayed due to concerns about the fog affecting the memorial ride afterwards, but got underway about 9:00 AM. Moon kept it light on the religious side as we took a moment to remember all the members who have passed on. The addition of X, CYborg, Chuck Burt and Kilo this year made it particularly sad.

To finish the memorial, we climbed on our bikes and, led by a Sheriff's car, rode to Berryville and up a hill overlooking the countryside. In this special setting, Moon said a few words and they cast some of Kilo's ashes to the wind as Southern Draw sang a haunting song. It was extremely moving.

Coming back down, a few of us bypassed the IHS and headed on through Eureka Springs to the Smokehouse Restaurant. Teri Conrad (of Kawasaki) rode with Sherm and we were joined by Stewey, Cheap B and CC Rider. The Smokehouse has huge biscuits, one per diner, and gravy. Many of us opted for country ham, and the lady serving us, 71 years old, is the same one who has family in Chatham, Ontario and who washed my glasses last time I was here. Note to self: bring and old Ontario licence plate next time to hang on the wall.

After breakfast, the others headed back to town while Sherm, Teri, Sandy and I made another loop out by Beaver Dam. We stopped at the dam site overlook and also at the beautiful Thorncrown Glass Chapel. Then we returned to the Stables, having maintained a stately pace the whole time.

Teri Conrad has Lucky Al's attention while Sherm borrows WiFi and Sandy looks on

One of the strangest machines I have ever seen wandered through the IHS parking lot this afternoon.

The original bike was a 1976 Honda GL1000 GoldWing (it was one of the LTD models) with a GL1100 motor put in. The outriggers use two separate motorcycle swingarms and the wheels are newer (1981 vintage) Comstars. The pipes are from a Harley with glass packs and have a unique rumble. Driven from the left, the throttle and brakes are floor pedals while the shifter is a lever with the clutch lever attached to it. There is a tiller for steering. All in all, this is quite the conversation piece.

Ron and Wild Rose arrived from Georgia in their truck to pick up the Lees-ure Lite trailer they had bought from a man in Oregon. Sherm and Chunk both had parts in delivering it to Arkansas. While Sherm worked on wiring the electrical plug, I gave Cheryl a quick demo on setup and teardown. Then they hooked it to the truck and we all adjourned to the Sheridan Ozark Buffet for supper.

After supper, we said goodbye to Slammer and Stewey, who were heading back to their respective hotels and would be departing in the morning. At the IHS, we spent the rest of the evening chatting, subdued because this is the last gathering of the year for many of us. I visited with Kiwi Don for a while. He's a neighbor of Jazzman back in New Zealand and is on a several month long trek across North America. On a previous trip, he rode north all the way to Deadhorse and Inuvik all by himself. Although he appears unassuming, there is a lot more to Don than meets the eye.

We also spent some time admiring the huge Arkansas spiders building webs around various parts of the buildings. Scary looking, these are harmless while the deadly brown recluse doesn't look threatening at all.

I turned in relatively early, hitting the sack about 10:30 in anticipation of an early departure tomorrow.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Eureka Springs Reunion

The WiFi at the Iron Horse reported by Lucky Al was, like Mark Twain's demise, greatly exaggerated. It turns out that he was connecting to an access point in a building across the street. If we sat out at the end of the motel, we could connect sporadically but this wasn't very blog friendly.

First thing this morning, Sherm headed out to Springdale to see if the Honda dealer there could do anything with his FI (fuel injection) warning light. Sandy and I had breakfast at the Silver Spoke Grill on site and then did a turn from 9:00 until 11:00 AM at the registration table.

About the time we were finishing up our registration shift, Sherm got back from Springdale with the word that it would take hours to diagnose the problem, which would have been cost prohibitive even if the shop had time to address it. They did state that, if the bike was running OK, the problem was likely in the heater and not the sensor and would not pose a problem.

Taking advantage of a window with nothing scheduled, Sherm and I headed into Berryville in search of the public library and a WiFi access point. We found it and the librarian, who was having a birthday, welcomed us. These are usually good places to get on line if you're on the road. I did get some bad news. Biker sent an Email telling me the Steelworkers Hall in Sudbury was on fire. This is (or was) a major local landmark.

Sherm blogs in the Berryville Library

Completing our business, we headed on back to the IHS where Sandy joined us for lunch at the Silver Spoke. We were under orders not to eat anything until we collected her. My bacon cheeseburger had a real beef patty and was excellent. Sandy and Sherm had toasted BLT's.

After lunch, we relaxed in the room for a while. Flamekiller, Rem and Lucky Al were working on a token of appreciation for Moon, who was winding up three years of organizing the ES Reunion. One feature was getting the attendees to sign the VROC banner.

Sherm gets rousted out of the shower to sign the banner as Rem looks on

The banquet at the Best Western Inn of the Ozarks began at 6:00, but the group photo was scheduled for 5:30. We arrived about 5:00 just to be safe and found many there already. Because the photo was going to be used by Kawasaki PR, we moved the Tupperware off to a separate location.

GoldWings and a Weedeater sit off by themselves during the group photo

Before the meal began, Lucky Al and I commandeered the podium to pay tribute to Moon. After briefly (remember, supper was waiting) recounting ES history and Moon's contribution, Al asked people to sign the banner and Flamekiller presented her with a plaque. In her words afterwards, Moon acknowledged that she might only be 'mostly' retired.

Supper was great. There were many salads and veggies, southern fried chicken, pork and roast beef followed by a variety of desserts. The staff at the Best Western are very competent and cheerful, which added to the experience. Teri Conrad of Riders of Kawasaki, sponsoring the banquet, sat at our table.

The travelers' table

Our table was interesting. We were a crew of close friends and, other than Sandy and I, nobody was from the same jurisdiction. In the photo, we have Slammer (North Carolina), Coyote (Texas), Wrong Turn (West (By God) Virginia), Cheap Bastard (Alabama), CC Rider (Mississippi), Sherm (Oregon) and Sandy (Ontario). Missing is Teri (California).

After dinner, we started into the draws. We do need a way to streamline this because it cut into our party time. On the other hand, one of the reasons it went on was because there were so many things to give away.

Sherm keeps an eye on his tickets of many colours

My winnings

Sherm, for all the tickets he had laid out there, only won one can of Kawasaki Wipe Down Cleaner. My haul looks good and I did win the Kuryakyn ISO grips, a very nice prize, but I was given the Wipe Down and the Cherry Power washing soap by the raffle officials. I think they are trying to tell me something. Sandy won a Kawasaki Buff, similar to what they wear on the TV show Survivor.

After the drawing was over, we headed back to IHS in the dark. There, people mingled and talked while Karaoke was committed up on the deck. Eventually, people wandered off with CC Rider, Shelby and I hanging on until the bitter end, just before 3:00 AM. Still, this was awfully early compared to the good old days.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Branson Missouri to Eureka Springs Arkansas

We had a fine full breakfast buffet at the Ramada this morning. We'll recommend this as a place to stay when we're in town, a bit more expensive than some but the service and food were also above average. We upgraded the Zumo software on both units last night to the latest operating systems and are good to go for awhile.

Sherm in front of the Ramada in Branson

The long 54 mile ride down through Blue Eye to the Iron Horse Stables between Berryville and Eureka Springs was quite pleasant. There were many familiar faces when we pulled in, which is a good part of the fun associated with our gatherings. On the way down, Sherm's FI light came on again but the bike continues to run just fine.

Stewey shows Sherm a picture on his fancy camera

After getting our gear into Room 2 and waving goodbye to the 'official' ride of the day led by Lucky Al, we headed out accompanied by Coyote (from Texas) on his new Kawasaki Concourse 14, a real serious sport touring bike, in search of Cycle Gadgets. They are a mail order house up on SR 187. The roads were a lot of fun getting there, sweeping corners punctuated by tighter turns. We found the place right next to a KOA campground.

Cycle Gadgets have a small showroom but we were invited to wander their warehouse. I found an upper J&M cord to replace the one I have with a broken right speaker wire. Coyote found a pair of rain gloves. Sherm bought some Plexus plastic cleaner for Shelby,and then he talked communications gear with some scooter riders who pulled in. This year, instead of Corvettes, ES is infested with Burgman and Silverwing riders here for their Scooters in the Ozarks rally. Then another VROCer, Duck from Illinois, pulled in on his GoldWing.

Sherm discusses scooters at Cycle Gadgets

On the ride back, we stopped at the Beaver Dam overlook. They have some serious beavers here. Then we hauled along more of the same kind of roads back to town, grinning all the way.

Skid at the 'Beaver Dam' overlook

Back at the IHS, we realized that we had missed our ice cream stop, so a few of us rode back into town and had ice cream. Then we went back to The Stables, via Walmart, and visited until it was time for the supper BBQ. Things weren't quite perfect because the cook quit during the BBQ phase and a large quantity of the pulled pork and beef were lost.

More visiting and then Rainman and Six Pack convinced Sandy we needed another ice cream run in the dark and shamed me into leading the way. Sherm and Chaz joined us, with Chaz continuing on home for the night.

Six Pack Jack and Sandy at the ice cream shop

After we had ice cream and/or cobbler, Sherm led us back to the Iron Horse where we visited some more with old friends and new, with people eventually wandering off to bed. Flip and I were the last to to turn in about 1:00 AM.