Sunday, August 24, 2008

Ride to the Wall - The Day After

We accompanied the kids back down to Parry Sound under clear, sunny skies. At Tim's we found Terry and Normie, on a day ride to somewhere. Norm said that I scared off a local rider who had been bending their ear about his exploits. Apparently, i looked rough enough coming in the door that he bolted. I'm not quite sure how to take that.

We visited a bit and then headed our separate ways. Sandy and I considered riding out with Norm and Terry but, in the final analysis, decided to go right home. We accompanied Heather and Tom one more exit south and then came back north on Old Highway 69.

The ride back to Sudbury was pleasant and uneventful. Heather called later in the afternoon to let us know that they got in safely.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Ride to the Wall

Some Freedom Riders decided to gather at a New Sudbury Tim Horton's so we could ride over to the starting point at the Copper Cliff Legion together. We met Biker, Normie, Andrew (fellow S.T.O.P. Officer) and Charlie (Andrew's Dad and longtime snowmobile volunteer). Charlie is a new rider.

We rode over as a group, arriving at the Legion around 9:00 AM. The riders were gathering, as were the four Greater Sudbury Police escort Harleys and one cruiser. Many of the police were the same ones we work with on sled patrols in the winter. We registered inside as more and more bikes arrived. Near departure time, the blockers and police had a quick meeting. Then the group lined up with two police bikes in front, Butch and Cindy next, all the blockers (in orange vests) followed by the cruiser, the regular riders, the SCRC school bus and the other two police bikes.

Tom, Heather, Andrew, Charlie, Gary and Norm wait patiently as the line forms

Finally, at 10:00 AM, the group rolled out. We took a spot near the rear because of the novice riders we were escorting. We left Copper Cliff and headed west on Regional Road 55 before turning onto the by-pass and proceeding back east south of the city. At each intersection, blockers dropped off and held traffic while everybody passed. Then they fell in at the rear.

Some of the group ahead of us on the by-pass

Someone counted and said we had 125 bikes. Seemed like more to me. We continued east of Sudbury on Highway 17, holding the entire highway at about 100 KPH. Blockers kept the other traffic under control all the way. In Sturgeon Fall, we stopped for a comfort/fuel stop while many who rode last year commented on how much better the weather was this time.

Biker, Sandy, Heather & Tom in Sturgeon Falls

From Sturgeon, we continued on to North Bay, where we received an assist by NBPS in getting to the Legion in one piece. We parked across the street in a large lot and walked over.

Riders file in to the Cenotaph

The Wall

North Bay has a very nice Legion and the Cenotaph and Wall are beautiful. After all were assembled, they piped in the colour guard. The Master of ceremonies introduced several speakers, including the Chaplain, we sang O Canada, some wreaths were laid, the bugler played the Last Post and we took a moment of silence to remember the brave souls who sacrificed everything for us.

After the service, we were served a fine lunch of soup, sandwiches and cookies inside the Legion. Then we headed back as a smaller group, some other having already left. The escort stopped again in Sturgeon, where phone calls told us that Sudbury was getting beaten by a severe storm. So much for better than last year.

We continued on but, because the sky suddenly looked very angry, we stopped again in Verner to put on rain suits. All was well until we were about 20 miles out of Sudbury, where the skies opened up on us. Some people stopped at the Kukagami Lake turn-off, but there was no shelter so I continued, following the leaders, and Heather, Tom and Biker followed. I had to keep the speed down, though, and lost contact with the leaders. The rain eased as we got to town.

We could see the leaders as we hit town, but couldn't catch them. Exercising discretion, we went straight home and got on dry clothes. Actually, I didn't need to change because the new Elite II suit worked perfectly. Then we took the van over to the Copper Cliff Legion for hmaburgers and hot dogs. Since the kids were tired, we gave Biker our door prize tickets and went home early to watch the NASCAR night race at Bristol.

This was Heather and Tom's first experience with severe rain. They need to fine tune their rain gear and figure out how to keep their face shields from fogging (air flow), but they did quite well and learned some important things.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Ride to the Wall - The Day Before

The Southern Cruisers Riding Club (SCRC) Chapter #418 Nickel Centre, under the guidance and leadership of their First Officer, Butch, have organized the Annual Ride to the Wall for several years. The ride proceeds from Sudbury to the Cenotaph and Wall in North Bay.

We have usually been out of town for this in past years. This year we're here. Further, Heather and Tom, members of SCRC #270 in Kitchener, decided to make the ride up here in support of #418. This is their first long distance ride alone.

Sandy and I decided to ride down to Parry Sound, 100 miles south of Sudbury, to meet the kids. It was hot and humid for the ride down and the new Tim's south of PS is the slowest I have ever encountered.

Apropos of nothing, rock cuts around Parry Sound are interesting.

Heather and Tom arrived on time. The last 50 miles had been their first extended ride on a four-lane divided highway. They had lunch and then we stopped at the gas station before we headed out. While they were fueling, I met another group of SCRC in the lot. They were from several chapters in Southern Ontario and were meeting Butch (SCRC First Officer) at the French River Trading Post, 60 miles further north. They headed out first.

Tom set the pace northbound while I brought up the rear. The ride was uneventful except for the part where I got annoyed at a car dogging it along at 90 KPH leading a line of cars (and us). Except for the passing lanes, where he accelerated to about 115 and limited the number of people who could get by. I finally jumped the line and got ahead of him as he hit the next lane. I got in front of him and slowed to 90, allowing all the other traffic to pass. Then I ran hard to catch Heather and Tom, who were at the front of the line that had passed.

At the Trading Post, we pulled in. The other SCRC riders were there as well as Butch (well known from the Freedom Riders) and his Second Officer, Cindy. We hung out with them and then, when it came time to ride, we followed the group back to Sudbury.

Heather (right) and Tom follow the other SCRC riders near Burwash.

When we reached town, Butch led the group into the city while we turned off on the Southeast Bypass and headed home for the night.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

NEXUS and the Watch List

The last time we crossed at the Soo, the Border Agent on the US side let me know that the had established a NEXUS office on the Michigan side. I had been considering NEXUS for a while since, at some crossings, it provides dedicated lanes during busy time. At other times, it is a secure piece of ID that will let the Border Agent know that you have been screened and approved for entry and is a valid alternative to the passport.

So, two evenings ago, I sat down and opened an account each for Sandy and I, filled out the voluminous application forms and submitted them along with our non-refundable payments of $50.00 each. Now we have to sit back and wait for them to let us know if we will be granted and interview, the next step in the approval process.

So, with this in the works, it dismayed me when several VROC friends were good enough to send me the following CNN article. James Robinson on the Terror Watch List? Wow! I wonder how this will affect my NEXUS application. Or, if approved, whether the NEXUS card will make it easier if I fly in the future? Only time will tell.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Frozen North Meet In The Middle Ride

After we got back from the west last month, we were visiting the kids down in the Waterloo area when future son-in-law Tom told me about something his Southern Cruisers Riding Club (SCRC) did. It was called a Meet In The Middle and members from various areas converged on one central spot for a meal and some shared camaraderie. I remembered that Texas VROC does the same thing. Tom though the Ontario Frozen North VROC might like to try the same thing.

I posted the idea on the VROC Newsgroup and got favourable responses. Based on a relatively central location and excellent roads, Minden looked like a good "middle". We were pondering the Tim Horton's there but Guns suggested his home, a few miles north on Twelve Mile Lake. The meeting was set for noon.

Sudbury had a good contingent. After canvassing local VROCers, we ended up with five bikes meeting at the south end Timmy's at 8:00 AM. In addition to the usual culprits, Bob and Irene joined us. Bob and I worked at INCO and were active in USW Local 6600 and then 2020 back in the day. He rides a pretty 2000 Nomad outfitted with Premeux fairing and trunk.

Irene & Bob, Me, Normie, Leo and Gary in Parry Sound
(Sandy behind the camera)

The ride to Parry Sound down Highway 69 was the usual. Straight down the road, nothing special. We stopped at the new Tim's south of town for a bit. Then the roads got more interesting. Horseshoe Lake Road to Old Highway 69 to 169 to 118 to 35 to Red Umbrella Road. The roads twist and wind and have more than their share of 70 and 60 KPH curves, with a few 50 KPH thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately, there were a few slow drivers out and, with limited places to pass, some sections weren't able to be enjoyed as much as they could have been. On one occasion, we met a cruiser right after a round of passing and playing catch-up, but luck was on our side.

The Sudbury contingent on the road

We arrived at Glenn's right on High Noon. Gary V., Marker and Ralph from southwestern Ontario were already there. Then people started to roll in. RCAF from Ottawa, Bob (new guy) from Collingwood, Zever and Donna, ET and Heather and, last but not least, The Mighty Stonewall. Finally, our host Guns (delayed by a meeting in the City) showed up.

It was a good visit. We got a few photos of the gathering. Guns fired up the BBQ and brought out burgers, sausages and corn on the cob which the gang tucked into.

Due to a Freedom Riders engagement back in Sudbury this evening, our crew was forced to leave a little earlier than we would have liked to. The return trip went north on Highway 35 past Dorset to Highway 60, west to Huntsville, down Highway 11 a short way and across Highway 141 to Old 69, stopping at the same Tim's as on the way down. Then we road back up the last 100 miles the same as always.

The loop (not counting Highway 69)

The ride was great. It covered some of my favourite Ontario roads and we got to see some old friends and make a few new ones. It was nice riding with Bob and Irene.

Thank you, Glenn, for opening up your home to all of us.

I can see this becoming a regular Frozen North event in the future.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Interlochen Michigan to Sudbury Ontario

It was dry this morning as we packed up and folded the camper. The only problem with camping at Interlochen is that the sand is pretty much everywhere. We waved goodbye and were on the road early, retracing our route home.

The Big Mac
The border crossing was easy. No line, so we rode right up to the booth. No ID requested. I declared three bottles of root beer. It was the best I could do. Welcome home.

Taken near Blind River, Ontario. 161,034 kilometers appears to be the true equivalent to 100,000 miles, but the 160,000 makes a nice, round number.

OK, it was dry almost all the way home. But, as we followed the by-pass around Sudbury, we knew we would get caught before we got home. Home, BTW, is under that black cloud. And we did.

All in all, it was an excellent weekend with fine companionship.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Interlochen Michigan - Day 2

It rained overnight. It rained again this morning. Some of us put on our rain jackets and walked to Dilbert's, where we found the place packed. After standing around looking lost, a man saving a large table for regulars who weren't showing up gave it up to us. I tried the short stack of blueberry pancakes and Polish sausage today and, unlike Furhead, was able to finish it. It rained hard on us on the way back.

After sitting in the shelter visiting for a while and checking the weather radar on Stewey's phone, Sandy and I took a nap in the camper. By the time I woke up, the rain had moved off to the south. A group of us decided to head over to The Cherry Hut in Beulah for supper.

They set up a table for us in the closed section. Service was excellent. I had a cherry bacon cheeseburger and cherry pie with ice cream. Quite tasty.

On the way back, I led up Crystal Lake Road to M-22 and took M-22 with its curves north to Deadstream again. I was careful on the turn and saw the sand. Not quite sure how black sand got here since all the local stuff is sand coloured.

In Honor, Scotty wanted to check out a lookout and I found my GPS was useless in this village. It twice tried to have me turn onto dirt roads, thinking they were paved. Then it tried to have me turn onto a road that wasn't there. Finally, with a little dirt, we found a high spot and took some photos.

Scotty's lookout

From Honor, we ran straight back to camp. The sunset played off the low-lying clouds, making a pretty picture. We took down the awning before sundown so it would be stored dry and packing up would be easier in the morning.

Sunset on the clouds at Cyclemoore Campground

The evening was subdued. We spent much of the time talking about then upcoming WWR '09 which had just been decided would be in Kentucky next June. There was a lot of enthusiasm and most planned to attend. Then it was off to bed in anticipation of an early departure by most of us tomorrow morning.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Interlochen Michigan - Day 1 - The Leelanau

It seemed to be a slow morning in the campground. Finally, Tomcat, Furhead, Sandy and I rode over to Dilbert's for breakfast. I had a meat lover's omelet with mushrooms added to it. Furhead had a short stack of blueberry pancakes and a Polis sausage. There was so much that he couldn't finish it.

There were no plans for the day so a few of us decided to ride the Leelanau Peninsula counterclockwise and put the word out. When it came time to leave, there were 17 bikes and I was the leader. I took a different route to get to M-22 in Traverse City, avoiding two trick left turn traffic intersections. It worked because the group ended up heading north on 22 without getting split up.

The group in the mirror

Traffic was surprisingly light. The only annoyance happened when we went through Northport on our side trip to Leelanau State Park at the tip of the Peninsula. Line painters had the main street blocked with their truck for no apparent reason, making it difficult to get through town. At the State Park, they hit us up for $6.00 per bike for Michiganders and $8.00 for out of state riders. The lighthouse and park were nice but, in retrospect, we probably could have skipped this stop.

Wrong Turn's new riding garb

Lighthouse sign in Leelanau State Park

The actual lighthouse

Chunk and Jim left us at the park, opting to stop more for photos than we could handle as a larger group. The rest of us took the excellent section of M-22 southwest of Northport and reveled in the 30, 35 and 40 MPH curves. OK, some of us did. I didn't speed but I didn't slow down for the curves, either.

In Glen Arbor, we took SR 109 through Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park. It cost us another $5.00 each to take the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, but this was worth it IMHO. The drive is one-way and winds past several lookouts and picnic spots. Dee, Evan and Paul had done this yesterday, so they took their leave at this point.

View of Glen Lake from Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive

The Lake Michigan Overlook in Sleeping Bear Dunes

From Sleeping Bear Dunes, we moved a couple of miles south and stopped in Empire for a bit to eat. The food was OK but the kitchen at the Empire Village Inn was very slow. Some were still waiting for food when the first of us to order were finished and ready to go. Mouse and William took a shortcut back to get some food for Tomcat, who was watching Ruby the dog for the day. This brought our group down to 10.

I planned to take another shortcut but it looked pretty straight so I followed winding M-22 to an old favourite, Deadstream Road. The left onto Deadstream was about 130 degrees and looked good. There was a car coming but I figured a few of us could make it. I was almost through the turn when the back end suddenly kicked out from under the bike like it hit oil. I'm not sure what I did but my left foot dabbed and I think I steered right (into the skid). The bike came upright and I continued on, slightly shaken. In my mirror, I could see Boomer going wide in the turn.

Boomer later told me that it was a small patch of black sand on the black asphalt that almost gathered me up. It wasn't apparent until he looked closer after I slipped.

The rest of the ride back was pleasant and uneventful. There were a very large number of summer homes along Deadstream that had For Sale signs out front. I guess second homes are being sacrificed in these troubled economic times.

The Ride Map

We kicked in more money for firewood this evening. Maybe we kicked in too much because they ended up starting THREE fires. Nothing like overkill:-)

Stewey arrived from Illinois after dark, telling us about two near misses with deer. He had a new tent that had never been set up before, so a few of us assisted. Red from Bemidji, Minnesota stopped by with a couple of friends on their way to a motel. It was a nice evening.

Around 1:30, Wrong Turn and I found ourselves calling it quits along with a very small group of others. Amazing how the party breaks up so early these days, but I guess it's a sign of the times.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Sudury Ontario to Interlochen Michigan

It was time to leave for Interlochen this morning and my bike chore list wasn't near complete. The trailer tires were in poor shape but hadn't been replaced. The oil wasn't changed. About all I got done was fix the malfunction of the Bushtec trailer plug, where I found a small rock stuck in the bike side plug. The other stuff would have to wait because it was time to go and see the folks in Interlochen, Michigan.

Sandy had the trailer packed yesterday so all that needed to be done this morning was to hook it up and leave. This put us on the road before 8:00 AM, running ahead of an east wind. Despite the tail wind, I have never been a fan of east winds because they always seem to bring bad weather.

We got to The Soo dry. When I phoned Mom, she suggested we stop in on the way back so we headed straight to the bridge. Wellington Street remains torn up and impassable, so I took side streets down to Queen. I was surprised to see that secondary streets in the Soo are substantially worse that those in Sudbury.

The border crossing took about 45 minutes. The line-up on the bridge extended back across the border, almost to the second peak. When we did get to the booth, the officer spent an exceptional amount of time punching things into the computer even though he didn't ask many questions. He did give us a document detailing the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative and what US ID is acceptable at the border (not much use to us). He also gave us information on NEXUS, which is now in place at this crossing and has a new office here. It looks like it's time to enroll.

The ride to St. Ignace was interesting. There were two storms on the horizon ahead of us. Looking at the GPS vector, it was clear we would miss the one to the right but the one to the left was coming in from the west and looked like it might get to the Big Mac (Mackinac Bridge) about the same time we did. I checked out places we could hold up in St. Ignace for a while so it could pass, but we beat it there. Not by much, though.

Rain moves towards the Big Mac as we beat it across

We caught a few drops as we reached the south shore and opted to skip US 31 in favour of riding straight south on I-75 to give the rain a wider berth. As we proceeded the 60 miles to Gaylord, another cell came into view. This one looked worse with all the manifestation of a severe thunderstorm. We slid by it on the west side, wet pavement and the smell of wet vegetation testifying to its recent passage.

Storm cell east of I-75

After a quick bite in Gaylord, we headed west and southwest to Interlochen. We did get a few miles of solid rain from a cloud I didn't even suspect between Mancelona and Kalkaska on US 131, but otherwise got to the campground just fine. As we stopped at the one Interlochen traffic light, a red 800 Vulcan pulled up to the light from the south. Scotty! Good timing.

The campground had been rained on recently but the sand soaks it up immediately. There was a good crew there already when we rolled in and set up the camper. One very pleasant surprise was Jim (Wrong Turn), who decided to make the trip up from West (By God) Virginia at the last minute.. This was when we learned that Grandma's Kitchen, our usual breakfast stop, had closed down. Fortunately, Dilbert's Cafe opened up almost right next door to the campground. This was where we had supper before making a booze run to Ric's back at the intersection.

Another surprise when Chunk arrived from West Virginia. Jim and I helped him set up in the failing light. The bonfire was well laid out and the stars overhead were bright as we sat around and swapped tales. Many regulars and a few new faces. Sandy turned in earlier and I made my way to bed about 1:00 AM after Jim, Flip and I found ourselves to be the last ones up.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Freedom Rally

The 15th Annual Freedom Rally, hosted by the Freedom Riders Motorcycle Association of Northern Ontario, has just wound up. Approximately 150 riders from around Ontario, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Vermont camped in the Mine/Mill Campground by the shores of Richard Lake, just south of Sudbury for the long weekend. In fact, many showed up on Thursday, a day early.

Daytime rides and field events were complimented by nightly music provided gratis by Shirley and Mark of Spyder's Web. Food included a modified continental breakfast laid out by the club, free hot dogs every night and a Sunday dinner served under the Big Top by Classic Catering. No one went away hungry. Throughout the day, food was also available from the concession.

Many thanks to Rally Chair Shirley Bailey for pulling this all together. The Club members worked as a team and work shared was work halved. Unfortunately, Shirley was afflicted Sunday night by a kidney stone attack and was not able to share the victorious moments as we finished up on Monday morning.

Proceeds from the Rally will be donated to the Sudbury Burn Scar Garment Fund for the third consecutive year.

If you are anywhere near Sudbury on the Civic Holiday Weekend (first Monday in August) next year, please feel free to join us.