Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sudbury Ontario to Escanaba Michigan

I was up at 5:00 AM checking with TheWeatherNetwork. After a continual changing forecast all week, the prognostication yesterday promised clear skies for today. No such luck. The hourly forecast told me it was presently raining and would continue to do so until 8:00 AM. The actual report was overcast with no rain. If they can't forecast NOW, why do I keep going to them for the future??

We started loading the last of the gear. It's amazing how we can never seem to remember from year to year the finer details of how this works. I end up getting a bit snappy during this phase, one of my many failings. Fortunately, Sandy usually has great patience and we got through the process unscathed. By 7:00 AM, everything was loaded and we were ready to go. Note the smile.

Departure time was going to be 8:00 AM from a convenient Tim Horton's, but we headed out early leaving time for breakfast. We fueled on the way and pulled in shortly before Leo, who was going to travel as far as the Soo with us just for the ride. It looks like he is enjoying the new (to him) BMW RT we went to Brampton to pick up a couple of weeks ago.

Trailer Tires - An Interlude

I'm going to take a moment out here to talk about trailer tires. Those with no interest should skip ahead to the next paragraph. Our camper trailer runs on 4.80 x 8 tires. It came with Load Range C, the strongest rating. Guy, the man I bought it from, told me the manufacturer said to run 60 PSI but he suggested 50. Mr. Lee, designer of the trailer, suggested 32 PSI when we met him later in the season. The first set lasted over a season. The second and third sets seemed to go quicker. The current set, the third, are significantly worn in the centre despite having good tread on the outer edge, a sure sign of over-inflation. The maximum sidewall pressure on Range C is 90 PSI and I'm overinflated at 32. But the max pressure will carry about 965 pounds and each of mine is only handling about 150. Although I probably should change tires, I'm going to drop the pressure to 20 PSI and see if I can use up some of the outer tread.

The reason I mentioned the tires is that, in the Tim Horton's parking lot, I ran through a puddle and then onto dry asphalt. The tread pattern looks pretty good.

Now Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

Terry and Patsy showed up before 8:00, he on his beautiful '99 Honda Valkyrie and she on her Suzuki Intruder. We hit the road a little ahead of schedule with Terry leading, Patsy riding second, me third and Leo bringing up the rear. I think this was one of the most mellow rides I've seen Terry lead since he usually likes to really eat up the miles. The weather didn't improve, although it did give us a hint of blue sky a couple of times just to taunt us before it dashed our hopes and got worse. We rode through cool air into a still headwind, with overcast skies occasionally giving way to drizzle and spitting rain. It could have been worse but it most certainly could have been better.

As we rode along the North Shore along Highway 17, I tried to look at the scenery with new eyes. I've been traveling around North America admiring the vistas and now, when I really look, our rugged outcrops and rugged vegetation are actually pretty impressive.

I had to stop in the Soo and drop off a book on the 1960's Windfall mining scandal to Mom. She lived it and, although she doesn't like to admit it to outsiders, she actually came out ahead. Living in Timmins at the time, with my father in the exploration business, most of the people described in the book weren't strangers to her. We took a few moments to visit before heading on. From the left, we have Leo, Patsy, Terry and Mom.

Leaving Mom's, I led us to the International Bridge where Leo left us and headed home. The line on the US side wasn't long, but it seemed to be moving slowly. As we finally got close to the Customs booth, agents were there checking to be sure we had our documents and telling us birth certificates were required. This was a first. No problem, we fished ours out and presented them when we got to the booth. A few of the usual questions and we were on our way. Terry and Patsy got through as well. We stopped just off the bridge for gas and a Mickey D's lunch.

Fueled and fed, we started south on I-75 and then headed west on M-28 to Newberry. Periodically,I would check my mirrors,see no Leo and startle myself before remembering he was on his way back to Sudbury. From Newberry, we caught M-117 through Engadine to Highway 2. Back in 1988, on our way to Cody Wyoming, Terry, Leo and I (plus two others) were clocked at 79 in a 55 on this short stretch of highway. The officer gave us a break and cut it down to 60. This time, we had no police trouble but the weather socked in a little more, actually starting to rain. The picture is at the corner of M-117 and US 2.

Riding across Highway 2 to Manistique and Escanaba, we noticed quite a few dead deer on the road. We also noticed that we could see clear skies about ten miles south of us over Lake Michigan. Periodically, we would think that we might be headed for it, but it was not to be. One thing I did notice was that on a Saturday night in prime tourist territory, the traffic was light and the vacancy signs were lit. I expect more and more people will stay home with the gas prices the way they are. It won't be a happy time for these businesses.

In Escanaba, we checked into a nice Super 8. Then we headed to WalMart so Patsy could buy a bathing suit to make use of the spa and pool. Somehow, more than bathing suits got looked at. Then we stopped at the Great Northern Buffet for supper. All of us ate too much, so the girls decided to walk the mile and a half back to the hotel while Terry and I stopped at a grocery store to buy some liquor. After we did, we looked for the girls on the way back to the hotel. No sign of them along the way and they weren't in the room either.

It was too soon to be concerned, so we took time to admire the classic cars and hot rods that had appeared in the lot while we were out for supper. It seems that there was a cars show in town. A bit later, ten Vipers, one Ferrari and a Ford GT40 pulled in, too.

The girls showed up in time. It seems they found a K-Mart on the way and had to stop. We made our way down to the spa and pool, which were both overrun with screaming kids. We managed to get some time in before heading back to the room, watching a bit of TV and then passing out.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Ready to Go

The oil is changed. The microphone cord from the Intercom to the GPS has been connected (after some judicious cursing at where the Honda engineers put various components). Things have been (mostly) packed.

Tomorrow morning we head out to Kickstand Lodge, Stecoah, North Carolina. We'll spend the first couple of days riding with our longtime friends, Terry and Patsy (no last names, remember) to the Chicago area to pick up a pop-up Aspen Classic camper trailer. After that, they will head to Americade in Lake George, New York, while we continue south to North Carolina.

Let the season begin.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Waterloo Ontario to Sudbury Ontario

The Road Home

No pictures today.

We got up at 7:00 and watched the season finale of the TV series House. That was a downer. Then I couldn't find my blood pressure medications. Maybe they are in the bike's trunk, Sandy suggested. No, I said, they are probably back at the cabin. So I naturally found them a bit later in the bike trunk.

They forecast rain starting in Sudbury about 2:00 PM. It was cool when we headed out at 9:00. I got off Highway 400 in Barrie and took the short jaunt north to the Midhurst Coffee House to show Sandy. No sooner had I entered than the SAME LADY made a comment about my vest. I told her that she had called me a Hells Angel yesterday. She remembered. Her name is Ruth, she worked for Ontario Hydro as a receptionist before retiring, her ancestral home is Cape Breton and she spends a lot of time in the Midhurst Coffee House:-)

For once we caught a weather break. It wasn't raining when we got to town about 3:00 and it held off long enough for me to mow both our lawn and the one next door. OK, when it comes to yard chores the weather was our friend. BTW, I am finding that bagging my grass clipping (now that the City picks them up again) is much easier on both the mower and I than mulching.

We'll be home for almost two weeks before heading out again. Anybody interested in where we are going next can check out our itinerary, which will be updated from time to time.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Note To The Rookies

I've ridden many miles with many people, but it is a different feeling to look in your mirror and know that a headlight you see is being piloted by one of your children. While there is an indescribable fear that goes with this realization (and even more when they are out riding by themselves), there is also a sense of completion knowing they share something that you value so much.

I was particularly proud of the way Heather and Tom conducted themselves through the trying conditions this weekend. It was very special sharing the road with you and I hope we can do it many more times.

Ride Safe!

Combermere Ontario to Waterloo Ontario

We awoke at 6:00 AM and looked outside. COLD RAIN!!!!! We can't buy a break with the weatherman this weekend. Sandy decided she would go back with Kim and Mike in the new (dry and heated) minivan. As we were walking over to Cabin 26, very large white flakes started to fall. Tom got this snowglobe-like photo of the river.

Kim, Mike and Sandy pulled out as planned at 7:30. We were starting to get the bikes ready shortly after when they called to tell us snow was sticking to the ground down around Maple Leaf, not far south of us. But we were lucky because, just as we were pulling out at 8:20, the rain let up. We found ourselves heading south on a wet Highway 62 at 3C with snow showing on the sides of the road.

Our first stop of the day came at the Mickey D's in Bancroft. Heather needed a few minutes to warm up. Unfortunately Polly, the slim blond girl with the English accent behind the counter, told us they didn't make hot chocolate so they settled for tea and I filled my Butler mug with coffee. I was a concerned about Heather and the cold, but she was ready to head out again before too long.

We headed east on Highways 28, and 118. The pavement was alternating wet and dry with light rain, some sun and occasional flurries. The temperature hit a balmy 5C. After an accidental scenic GPS inspired detour around Lake Kasagawigamog (try saying that fast) near Haliburton, we stuck to main secondary roads (if that makes any sense). Our objective was to avoid the cottage country traffic heading back to The Big Smoke (Toronto).

One place we did parallel the popular flow for a few miles was Highway 35 from Minden to Norland. That was a little hectic so we were happy, after fueling in Norland, to turn east on Monck Road (aka Highway 503) towards Orillia. Since I've never travelled this direction before, this was all new to me but it was a nice road with no traffic. In Orillia, the GPS went a little nuts, wanting me to wander around town for five miles before returning to the same place I was. I skipped that jaunt but followed its back streets, avoiding most of the Torontonians. We came out the other side on Old Barrie Road, where we started getting hit by severe cross winds. When I saw some bark being ripped off a tree, I knew it was pretty rough going for my rookies.

Across Highway 400, Tom stopped me. He and Heather have Bluetooth headsets that let them communicate and Heather told him she needed a break. I checked Stella and told them there was a place less than a mile ahead. The Midhurst Coffee Shop did have hot chocolate and it was excellent. Real whipped cream on top. And my grilled cheese sandwich (with ham) was one of the best I ever had. I had to explain to an older lady when we went inside that we weren't Hells Angels, as she jokingly said, but rather Frozen Angels.

I took off my rain gear at Midhurst. It was 10C and there was a lot of blue sky. The kids kept theirs on. They were smart because the temperature started dropping and the cross winds picked up. After heading southwest, we picked up our usual Orangeville/Fergus route home. After Orangeville, there was an SUV tailgating Heather, so I waved the two ahead and dropped back to deal with it. I'm sure there wasn't any malice, but it's amazing when you turn and look the tailgater in the eye, the drop back about 80 feet. The rest of the way home, I had to deal with a few more of these inconsiderate drivers but everybody got the message.

We arrived at Tom's parents house and they showed his mom, Sophia, the ring. She took Heather in for a cup of hot tea while I took Tom to his place to get his car. They keep the bikes at Sophia and Stan's because they have the garage. Then I headed over to Kim and Mike's in Cambridge for the night.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Combermere Day 3

I woke up at 6:00 AM to hear Ken. I figured he was up early but Sandy told me he was just coming in. I found out he was only one of several (including Mike) to be forced to bed by the sunrise. I eventually got up at 8:30, feeling pretty good especially with the blue sky overhead. Maybe we would get the ride in today.

I headed over to the Lodge for the appointed 10:00 AM time but was informed that, after we had left the party last night, they had rescheduled to 11:00. A wise move. As I was heading back to 27, John M. (remember the new BMW RT last week?) arrived from Ottawa and followed me in. I managed to get some unexpected breakfast.

At 11:00, we were all back in front of the Lodge as the riders assembled. We try to give rides to those who don't normally get a chance to ride on a bike and, today, all the takers had seats. Tom and Heather, on the right, weren't carrying anyone on the pillion until they get some more experience.

Brian led the ride out about 11:30. Our route was much shortened from usual, heading up Old Barry's Bay Road to town first. I tried Sherm's technique of taking pictures while riding and have decided I need more practice, but I did get this shot of Heather and Tom on the first leg.

The road to Barry's Bay was in pretty good shape. From town, however, we took a road I didn't know existed around the back side of Kamaniskeg Lake. The road would have been excellent if not for the significant amount of winter sand left on the pavement. This made maneuvering a bit tricky, especially for the rookies, but they took it all in stride (although I hear the running commentary they had going was pretty blue). As if that wasn't enough, light rain started down on us. Near the southwest corner of the lake, the rain picked up and came down hard for a bit just as we crossed the path of destruction left by one of the two tornadoes two years ago. Then the lead bikes called "Hail" over the radio. It would have been a nice time to be wearing a rain suit. And maybe armour.

As we hit Highway 62 and turned north, we rode out of the rain. A few of us stopped at the Lodge, where it started coming down pretty hard again. I think it was the same rain and we just moved back into its path. After it let up, I took the bike back to the cabin.

Tom, Heather and I decided to ride to Wilno, home of Canada's oldest Polish community, for lunch at the Wilno Tavern. There was a buffet on, but we opted to order a la carte. Tom and I had Polish sausage and sauerkraut on a bun while Heather had a Polish sampler that included perogy, cabbage roll and sausage. On the way to the tavern, it spit rain on us and, while we ate, it rained some more. We shared the place with a number of ATV riders who had ridden in from Pembroke. I am seeing more and more groups of these guys.

The BIG News

After lunch, we were outside getting the bikes ready when Tom handed me his camera and asked if I would take a picture of them on the snowmobile bridge across the road. As I walked across the road, it started to rain again so, wondering what this was all about, I stayed on the road and used the zoom. This was what I managed to shoot as Tom, who had asked my permission earlier, got down on one knee and proposed to Heather. Sandy and I are pleased to welcome Tom to the family.

I realized after that I didn't do very well with Tom's camera. I think he would have liked me down on the trail shooting the picture with the Polish Museum in the background, but he never complained when I screwed up. Sorry about that, E.T.

Back To The Regularly Scheduled Programming

We rode back to Combermere, stopping in Barry's Bay to fuel so we'd be ready for tomorrow. At the cabin, I took another nap until it was time to head down to Cabin 18 for supper. Heather, who told me to keep the ring a secret for a while, let the news slip right away. Jay and Kim had, as usual, headed back home while we were out riding.

Dinner tonight included an excellent pork roast, salads and (peaches and cream) corn on the cob. There was a lot of food and it was all very good. As we finished, Brother John stopped by to remind me it was time to report for fireworks duty.

The annual fireworks display has been getting better and better. We usually bury lines in the beach and use the end of a stone dock for the mortar style rounds on plastic bases. I have been handling the dock for years. I asked Tom and John delegated Oliver and Kevin to assist. Good thing because I found that our job had increased significantly this year. The new style of multi-shot packages is taking over. These are nice in that one fuse sets off a co-ordinated series of effects, some with 49 or as many as 100 separate shots. The problem was that we had so many of them and it was pouring rain. We tried to keep them dry as we untaped the fuses and developed a plan of action.

With the heavy rain, we didn't draw the show out. If we had paced ourselves, we could have kept the "oohs" and "aahs" going for at least two hours. As it was, we were launching two and three at a time and it still took us a half hour, with Brian finishing up with a CIL Wobbler. My only downside was when I lit a single shot mortar and it blew up on the dock, peppering me with burning material. Luckily, my skin and clothes were soaked and no damage resulted.

After the show, everyone stopped by the Round House for the final hurrah. We didn't stay long, but said our goodbyes and then headed back to the cabin to pack and hit the sack by 11:00 with hopes of a drier tomorrow.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The New Camera

I'm still playing with the new Panasonic Lumix TZ5 to see what it can do, but I did find one interesting thing. It has a mode called Intelligent Exposure that is supposed to vary the sensitivity of various different areas on the CCD to maintain correct exposure. Anyone who has dealt with back light situations will know all about the exposure problems with automatic digital cameras.

In the course of experimenting, I took this picture of Eric D.

I shot with the sun at his back. Normally, the foreground would be blacked out or, if I manually adjusted for the foreground exposure, the background would be overexposed. With this camera, I just pointed and shot. You'll note that Eric's features are recognizable even with the sun behind his head. I found this to be impressive.

I still have a few other features I'm figuring out, but I expect the TZ5 and I will get along just fine.

Combermere Day 2

I woke up at 6:00 AM feeling much better than I had any right to, considering the JD and the time I went to bed. And there was unforecast clear sky with no rain. Saturday is the day we usually take our group ride and it looked like we might be able to get'r done. The ride was to leave at 11:00. At 10:00, the rain started. The weatherman is still an idiot and the ride was deferred.

Since we wouldn't be riding, we decided we'd get the grub. All eight of us piled into Kim and Mike's van and Jay and Kim's car (the rear van seat had been removed) and headed for Barry's Bay. The main street was blocked off due to the annual Bay Days celebration but we managed to negotiate some side streets to the Valu-Mart parking lot.

We shopped in two parts. Since the two of us were invited to Cabin 18 for supper tonight and tomorrow night and were also in a separate cabin, Sandy and I got a basket of our own. And since we'd also be mooching off cabin 26 from time to time, we also kicked in for a share of their communal bill. Loaded up, we skipped visiting the antique cars and other Bay Days displays because of the rain and headed back to Combermere for lunch.

Lunch was great. President's Choice now has Blue Menu (supposedly healthy) Angus Burgers and they did fine on the giant George Foreman grill. Jay's Kim took time out from our lunch exercise to check out the fine young lady from Port Hope in the latest Playboy magazine. Since Kim is a fitness trainer, I can only surmise that she was professionally checking out the model's level of conditioning.

After eating, we went back to our cabin and took a nap for a few hours. Then we headed way down to Cabin 18 where yet another Wizard game was in progress. Wizard is a great game, played much like Nines.

Eventually, everyone showed up and we sat down to eat. More burgers, this time of the Bambi variety. As any serious biker will tell you, the only good deer is a dead deer and these were downright tasty as well. We won't worry about how fresh venison made its way across the restrictive 49th parallel. After dinner, we watched a DVD of Jeff Dunham, the ventriloquist who has made such an impact recently. I particularly liked his routine with Achmed The Dead Terrorist. Move over, Edgar Bergen.

As Dunham was winding up, Brother Rob (the Rob on the right) dropped by and summoned us to the Round House. It was pretty quiet when we got there, but more and more people started to show up. The usual guitar playing, sing-a-longs and conversations were the order of the evening as well as a few other shenanigans. After watching Juno, I really like that word. Talking to Rob, we decided to try the ride tomorrow at 10:00 AM. Despite people trying to twist our arm, Sandy and I set out to go to bed at 11:00. We actually escaped the Round House about 1:00:-)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Waterloo Ontario to Combermere Ontario

We were up by 6:00 AM. Tom said he hardly slept due to excitement, which I can well understand. The first trip is a major experience. Heather headed to a 7:00 AM chiropractor appointment while Tom and I went over to his parents place to pick up their bikes. We loaded everything up before Heather returned and we were on the road under cool and overcast skies by 9:00 AM. Kim and Mike and their friends Jay and Kim would be traveling up later today in cars.

The first part of the trip retraced our route up the back roads to Fergus, Orangeville and through the Hockley Valley to Bond Head. The first stop was at a Pete's Donuts shop. I've seen a few of these in this area, but this was the first one I had been in. Nothing spectacular, but it was in the right place.

Our objective was to keep moving northeast on secondary roads. From here on, we'd be largely in new territory so I programmed the GPS with two options. One was a direct route and the second was a longer path that went through Algonquin Park. The first part, Stubborn Stella (the GPS) guided us through Bradford and across the Holland River before taking us northeast to Highway 48 around Lake Simcoe and all the way to Coboconk. We fueled here and, while I took 12.3 liters, the Suzi's each took about nine. That is some seriously good mileage. We decided to skip the park and head directly up to Combermere.

This was the point at which I put my faith in Stella. Kinmount, Gooderham, Wilberforce, Highland Grove and the Baptiste Lake Road went by before we arrived at Highway 62. At one point in there, I braked with the intention of stopping and throwing a snapping turtle that was slowly walking across the road into the ditch. Tom didn't notice at first and, when I heard brakes lock up behind me, I braced for impact. Luckily, where some new riders would have thrown the bike away, Tom kept his head and maintained control while getting stopped and avoiding contact. I was both grateful and impressed.

On Highway 62, Stella tried to send us on another "short cut". This is where the art of the GPS comes in. It was obviously narrow, rough and sandy, while our destination was on 62, so a U-turn was in order. While I had to make a three point turn on the Wing, both novices reversed direction in one movement. We rolled into Stevenson's Lodge about 3:30.

The cabin assignments had changed from the last we had heard. The six kids (such as they are) would all be in Cabin 26 (pictured here), while we were in Cabin 27 with Ken and Sandy E. of Timmins. Ken and Sandy haven't been down here in several years.
After unloading, we wandered to the other end of the property to Cabin 18 (they don't all go in numerical order) where we found various miscreants playing a traditional card game called Wizard. Kim called to say they were running a couple of hours late due to getting caught in a virtual parking lot on the 401 through Toronto. This would probably put a crimp in our planned grocery run this afternoon.

Ken and Sandy showed up with a brand new Honda ST1300 Police Special in the back of his truck. It only had 60 kilometers on it. We helped him get it off the truck, no small feat since we had to pick the rear end up to allow the belly to clear the hump at the top of the ramp. Ken rode a Harley for quite awhile and seems to be looking forward to how this bike will perform.

At 6:30, we headed over to the Lodge for the traditional chili and hot dog feed. They added some soup this year, too. Kim and Mike arrived with Kim and Jay in tow about 7:30. We all decided to skip shopping until tomorrow so I made a solo run into the Barry's Bay liquor store. Because it is a Crown corporation, common sense does not prevail. I was able to buy two small Jack Daniels bottles for less than the price of a larger one due to an ordering error. Unfortunately, I left my special JD glass at home. Both down and back, I took it easy and kept a sharp eye out for Bambi.

We sat and visited in the Lodge, then on the steps and finally in the Round House. Here, son-in-law Mike and cabin-mate Ken settle in by the fire. People kept drifting off to bed. There weren't a whole lot left up when Mike and I headed back to the cabins about 3:00 AM.

Last Names

I was talking to one of our friends who attends this weekend regularly. He is a professional who is currently between positions. As a precaution, he Googled himself (he has an uncommon last name) and found that one of the top ten hits was a Blog entry from last year in which i recounted some of his hijinks. While we have had some wild times, I don't think they need to be shared with just anyone who wants to check us out.

Because of this, I will not be using any last names in any future Blog posts and I will go back and remove the ones that already exist, although the horse is already out of the barn on this one. Sorry about that, folks.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Sudbury Ontario to Waterloo Ontario

Combermere Starts Early

I headed to the gym first thing in the morning to get my workout over and done with. The cardio performance was absolutely atrocious so I knocked off early and headed home.

My next task was to swing by the Canadian Blood Services building for 10:00, where I made my 75th whole blood donation in support of the Bikers For Life Challenge. This was the first time my appointment actually fell within the official challenge week. I do my best to get in every 56 days and am surprised that so few people actually give the Gift of Life. It doesn't take long and it means so much to these who need it. On the minus side, we seemed to have a large number of people passing out or reacting badly this morning. Cold compresses and ice packs were common and the EMT's were coming in as I was leaving.

Instead of riding directly to Combermere for the 20th Annual Fry Guys Weekend, we will head down to Waterloo today and will then ride up with Heather and Tom tomorrow. This will be their first road trip on their new bikes.

I wasn't able to hook the cell phone microphone cords up last night because the plug is buried deeper down in the plastic than I thought. I'll have to get to this when we get back.

Packing was a little rocky as it usually is in the spring before we get into a rhythm. When we were finished, we actually had a lot of space to spare. Everything was stuffed into the bags and trunk and we were on the road shortly after noon. The skies were clear and the temperature was 15C as we made our way down Highway 69 to Parry Sound. After lunch at Mickey D's, we continued south on Highway 400.

I though I had beaten my riding problems completely, but this stretch of road just proves that you can never be sure. I went through a period of disorientation that threw me for a bit, although I managed to avoid the anxiety that usually goes with it. I find that if I start thinking to much, it causes me trouble just like trying to think of a flight of stairs as you are running up them. I have no idea what triggered it, but I was able to manage and things improved before long.

We finished the ride in via Alliston and the Hockley Valley, arriving at Tom's condo in Waterloo about 5:30. Heather was in Hamilton on Association business, so Tom and I rode the two Suzuki's over to their local dealer to pick up a pair of throttle rockers. Then we came back to the condo and practiced tying on their new Kuryakyn Full Dresser tour packs. Then we parked the bikes, picked up pizza and settled in to watch some TV after Heather got home.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Sunday Ride

We were having coffee Sunday morning when Leo called to see if we wanted to go for a ride. John wanted to visit his Mom while Leo wanted to visit Doug, who injured himself last week. We agreed to meet later in Wahnapitae to ride a ways towards Ottawa with John.

The saga of Doug is a sad one. He just recently bought a 1000 cc Suzuki V-Strom and was out riding it last Sunday. When he got home, he was trying to put it on the OPTIONAL centre stand when it somehow got away from him. As he and the bike got tangled, Doug ruptured his Achilles tendon. After surgery Monday night, he was placed in a cast and told not to place any weight on the foot for quite some time.

In the immortal words of Eric Von Zipper, "Why me? Why me all the time?"

I know you read this, Doug. Get well soon, my friend.

After visiting with Doug and signing his cast, we headed for town where we met Ken Silver on his Honda ST1300. The three of us proceeded east to Wahnapitae where John was waiting on the new RT. The four bikes continued east on Highway 17 to Verner, where we stopped for a moment to get a group photo.

John continued east while the three of us headed south and then west on Highway 64, down through the scenic French River. In Alban, we stopped for lunch and then headed back up to Sudbury and home. It was a pleasant ride and was much better than sitting at home while the bike was in the shop.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mall Display Redux

John, Sandy and I headed for the Mall in the AM. After a quick breakfast at Timmy's, we joined the crew. In the picture, Gary Venturi and Henri Belanger guard the display while Shirley supervises from behind the table.

We spent most of the day talking to the public, who seemed both interested and receptive. Hopefully, they will look twice when driving.

I did go over and check out the Mining Week displays. A very pretty young lady working the Vale Inco booth turned out to be an Environmental Analyst who makes frequent use of the mainframe computer system Donna Halverson and I built back in 1985. Care and feeding of this system kept me busy until I retired and I'm pleased that it is still providing service even though I may be forgotten:-)

The Mall closed at 6:00 and, shortly after, we had the complete display torn down and loaded onto Gord's trailer. Done for another year, although the turntable will form the main part of a merry-go-round on or Santa Claus Parade float in November.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Sudbury to Brampton to Wasaga Beach to Sudbury

Today, we had a dual quest.

First, Leo needed to deliver his 2002 BMW R1150RS to Classic Honda in Brampton and pick up his new (to him) 2002 BMR1150RT. For those not familiar with the Beemer lineup, the RS is a sport bike and has a forward leaning position that causes the rider pain on long days. This is the bike he took to Atlanta with me last year. The RT is a touring configuration, more upright with a larger fairing and saddlebags. Second, we needed to swing by J&R Cycle in Wasaga Beach and pick up the repaired Wing.

The plan was very straightforward. We would take Leo and Diane's Toyota rather than our van because it got better fuel mileage. I'd drive the car with the ladies while Leo would follow on the RS. In Brampton, we'd swap BMW's and Leo would follow us to Wasaga Beach on the RT. Then Leo and I would ride home while Sandy drove the car. And that's pretty much the way it went.

We left Sudbury about 7:15 under clear but cool skies. Leo hung on just fine for the 110 miles it too to the new Tim Horton's down by the Seguin Trail. He requested a brief warm-up break before we continued. Then we made the approximately 140 mile run to Classic Honda in Brampton non-stop. The only mishap occurred when a container of veggies (as per their new diet) Diane had placed on the rest between the front seats got knocked over by my clumsy elbow as I reached for my camera in the belt holster. That was pretty much it for the diet for the day. Sorry, Di........

We arrived at Classic Honda at 11:30. This is one of the new Honda superstores, with cars, bikes and anything else that Honda makes. Infamous VROCer Gord "The Mighty Stonewall" Friedrich (remember him from Newmarket a couple of weeks ago) arrived just before us to say hello. Here Leo and Gord mug for the camera. Gord is heading for SEVROC in Maggie Valley North Carolina on Sunday and, for once, I am envious.

We had expected the ownership transfer to take an hour. We killed three hours talking to Gord, having lunch at the adjacent Wendy's, talking to Bob the sales guy (who has an '05 Wing) and looking at bikes while the paperwork ground its way through the system. We were finally cleared to go about 2:30.

Just before we left, I got a phone call from Rhonda at J&R. She said someone had been waiting for us since yesterday. Turns out it was John Murphy from Ottawa, who some of you may remember from my account of our trip to Traxxion in Georgia a year ago. John had been in Toronto to pick up a new BMW RT to replace the GS he lost in an accident last year. I had been going to ride with him when he picked it up before my bike was downed with the problem. I told them to hang tight, we were on our way.

The route to Wasaga was easy, Hurontario to 24 to Airport Road. We pulled in just before 4:00 and found Pogo sitting out front ready to go. John was also there lazying on a ZTR mower. Rhonda showed me the bearings. Ugly. But the total cost was five hours labour plus about $250 in parts. All the bearings were replaced, not just the bad ones. All in all, not too bad a cost. I took a moment to thank Ed and then we were northbound and down, the same three riders as the Traxxion adventure but only one with the same bike.

We headed for 400 via Elmvale, Waverley and Vasey and then stopped at Waubaushene for gas. The ride was nice except I think they had been doing a lot of fertilizing with sheep manure. The sinuses cleared right up. Finishing the remaining 150 miles to Sudbury was uneventful except for a large bear we saw in a field near Britt and the black clouds that were hanging right over Sudbury. Lucky for us, the clouds were all threat and no wet.

After getting to Leo and Diane's house, we recovered our van and Sandy, John and I headed for the Mall to see how the display was doing. We arrived about 8:00 and found Gord and Shirley had manned the booth mostly by themselves all day. Some woman had tried to steal a teddy bear off the turntable but it was fastened down. Some people. We promised we'd help tomorrow and then headed home, stopping only to pick up some Little Caesar's Hot and Ready pizzas. John set up in the guest room, we watched a little TV and then hit the sack.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Annual Mall Display

To promote Motorcycle Awareness Week, the Freedom Riders Motorcycle Association traditionally sets up a display in the New Sudbury Shopping Centre. We don't sell anything or raise funds. The whole purpose is to remind the public that motorcycles are back on the road and ask people to look twice so they don't run over us.

For those who ride, we hope to make them aware of the club and the benefits of being a member.

Tonight, we set the display up after the mall closed. The crew worked like a well oiled machine. The bike is Rob Lemieux's 1100 Yamaha V-Star and the shiny diamond plate it is sitting on is a rotating turntable built by our resident mechanical genius, Gord Bailey.

The display will operate Friday and Saturday, during which time we expect to speak to many interested passers-by. Sandy and I won't be there tomorrow since we will be on a quest to retrieve the Wing from Wasaga Beach, but we will be working the display on Saturday.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Bike Is Ready

I called Rhonda to be sure the bike would be ready on Friday. She said it was.

It seems the culprit was the ring gear bearing in the final drive. There are actually two of them and they are what the rear wheel turns on. A search of the GoldWing forum shows I am the 51st person to report a failure, although I was a lower mileage than most. Honda USA was blaming trailer towing but 38% of our reported failures had never towed a trailer.

This looks like a regular rebuild item due to a design weakness. I would rather fix it before it fails next time, since you can't choose where your breakdown will happen. Some are buying brand new cast-off final drives from trike installers, since they don't use those parts on the three wheeled vehicles. Warranty covered this one and maybe the next, too, but the total cost was about $700. That's not bad for once ever three years.

So we'll be off Friday to pick the bike up, probably making a loop through Brampton so Leo can swap his 2002 BMW R1150 RS for and equivalent RT.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Driving For Dollars

I got a call last night saying that Cambrian Ford needed an extra driver today to ferry a vehicle up from southern Ontario. It doesn't pay much, but I love to drive, it will be a new vehicle and someone else pays the gas. Not long ago, one of the drivers got to bring back a Roush Mustang. I was told I would get my vehicle in Bradford and we would be leaving at 5:30 AM.

The ride down was uneventful. Three of us were stuffed into a 5 speed Fusion. South of Parry Sound, I went to put my dealership's address in the Zumo. Lo and behold, it wasn't Bradford (200 miles), it was Brantford (320 miles). More driving and more pay. Wahoo!!!!

We went through Toronto and Hamilton, arriving at the Ford dealer in Brantford at a respectable 10:30. Amazing that the stretch of the QEW through Oakville is STILL under construction. Thirty tears and counting. My vehicle was going to be a new F-150 pickup, shown here being filled up. It was a bottom end model with nothing automatic and no cruise control, but it did have a V-8. The other guys took off to Burlington and Uxbridge while I headed north from Hamilton on Highway 6 to the 401 to by-pass Oakville.

The truck drove well and I was back at Cambrian Ford here by 4:30 PM.

On the way home, I called Rhonda about the bike. She said they had finished the regular service and had determined that the failure wasn't in the drive shaft universal joint but rather in the bearings in the final drive. The new bearings and seals were in and they'd get to work on it early next week. I asked if we could pick it up next Friday and she said that seemed likely. The plan is coming together.