Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sault Ste Marie Ontario to Sudbury Ontario

The ride home was quiet and uneventful. Sandy and Heather had left earlier because she had another 300 miles to go to get back to Waterloo.

Today's Route (203 Miles):

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sault Ste Marie Ontario - Mom's Memorial

Mom left instruction that, when she passed on, there was to be no service. She requested that, at a later date, we could bury her ashes in the family plot with our Dad and brother Doug. The only specific request she had was that John and Jesse (who is brilliant on the violin) play Amazing Grace. We were very pleased and grateful that they made the long trek from London to honour her last wish.

We planned a graveside gathering for 2:00 PM and invited close friends and family. In addition to Heather, Kim, Mike and Jolene made the trek from Cambridge coming up the American side and arriving not long before we were ready to head to the cemetery. Heather's husband Tom wanted to come but couldn't because of a personal commitment back in Waterloo.

Leo rode down from Sudbury and stopped by to pay his respects. Good thing he did because I needed his new high tech tie down straps to secure the container with Mom's ashes to the rear seat of the GoldWing. Mine weren't long enough. Mom always enjoyed her annual ride and we figured she would approve of traveling this way for her final ride.

Mom ready for her final ride

Just as we got ready to leave for the cemetery, the rain that the radar had been showing arrived. Typical. The procession went down Second Line and up People's Road to Greenwood where we met Lisa and her assistant from the funeral home under the awning in front of the chapel. I was concerned about the violin and guitar in the rain and Randy, the cemetery staff guy, opened the chapel so we could have the service inside.

Dave and I spoke of our memories of Mom and then John and Jesse played a beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace. Then friends got up to share their memories and Heather spoke on behalf of herself and Kim. It was short, sweet and I think Mom would have liked it.

Me saying some words
(Photo by Dave Gray)

Dave with the big stick
(Photo by Dave Gray)

Jesse and John playing Amazing Grace
(Photo by Dave Gray)

When it was over, I put Mom back on the bike and we proceeded out to the grave site where we have everyone a chance to say goodbye before I placed her ashes in the ground. Dave added a Crown Royal bag with Mom's teeth, glasses, some whiskey and some cigarettes and then we each placed a shovelful of earth over the container. Not one to leave a job half done, Dave finished filling in the hole. Afterwards, we invited all assembled to join us back at the house.

Me strapping Mom back on the bike
(Photo by Dave Gray)

Vince, me and Dave waiting for the multitude to assemble
(Photo by Dave Gray)

My clan
(Photo by Dave Gray)

Dave pacing the treasured End of the Trail kerchief over Mom
(Photo by Dave Gray)

Getting ready to place Mom in her final resting place
(Photo by Dave Gray)

Back at the house, we reminisced among good friends as we ate and drank. As the sun went down, John and Jesse jammed a bit for us. I know someday soon we will be able to say we knew Jesse "back when".

Sandy, Kim & Heather with some of the food
(Photo by Dave Gray)

Jolene seems to be telling stories as Lorie and Kim look on
(Photo by Dave Gray)

Dave and Sue Gray appesr to be doing Tai Chi
(Photo by Dave Gray)

Mike plays with Jolene as Kim and future sibling watch
(Photo by Dave Gray)

Mike and Jolene
(Photo by Dave Gray)

Looking in from the outside

John & Jesse playing

Sandy, Kim, Rick & Angie

Angie, Lorie and Suechick

Two Daves

The Dash 
     by Linda Ellis

I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
from the the end.

He noted that first came the date of her birth
and spoke of the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time
that she spent alive on earth...
and now only those who loved her
know what that little line is worth.

Midge Robinson 1924 - 2010
Rest in Peace
You led an amazing life and I'm proud to have been your son

Friday, July 23, 2010

Sault Ste Marie Ontario

Dave and I got up late but made it to our lawyer's office for our 10:00 AM meeting. We got all the documentation related to the house sale and Elaine assured us the remaining outstanding items would be cleared up shortly.

After the meeting, we stopped at the Bushplane Heritage Museum and checked the parking lot to see if we could find the sidestand foot Brad had left here earlier in the month. No luck, someone probably picked it up. Then we stopped at Metro to get some groceries. Dave had ordered wrap and dessert trays for after tomorrow's memorial and we would pick them up later.

For lunch, we went by the Burger King where Dave wanted to try the Angry Whopper. Unfortunately, they didn't have the Angry Onion Rings that were supposed to go on the sandwich and tried to give him what amounted to a regular Whopper. When he asked for his money back, the girl behind the counter had the gall to try and argue with him. I don't expect he will be back in BK for some time.

Sandy left Sudbury about 2:00 PM with Heather, who had just arrived from Waterloo. This would be a long day for her. Dave did some cleaning and arranging while I sorted out some of the estate paperwork. Debbie, an old flame of Dave's and friend of the family, stopped by and we swapped stories and looked at photos from the many albums.

Sandy and Heather arrived a little after 6:00. We went over to the Comfort Inn and got checked in. Because of the Finn Fest, it was full and a regular room was going for $139. Good thing that, even at that price, I had made reservations. It does amaze me what Canadian hotels get for a room considering a nicer Comfort Inn just across the river goes for $71.

We had supper at Arby's and then went out to Greenwood Cemetery where we found the headstone had been replaced as promised and the hole for the ashes had been dug. Then we went back to the house for a while.

John from London, who is like another brother to us, and his son Jesse stopped by about 10:30. They had started from London this morning but encountered van problems and didn't finally get away until 1:30. Then they got stuck for two hours on the Bluewater Bridge between Sarnia while Homeland Security made sure that they kept the USA safe.

Sandy and Heather had gone back to the hotel earlier so John dropped me off there about midnight as Dave headed to the airport to pick up Suechick, his good friend from the snowboard world. The snowboarders have a forum called Easyloungin', which is very similar cameraderiewise to VROC and Sue flew up to Toronto to offer him support.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sudbury Ontario to Sault Ste Marie Ontario

It's Thursday and we've been home almost a week. I haven't accomplished much of anything and now it's time to head to Sault Ste Marie. Saturday, friends and family will gather to remember Mom as we bury her ashes in the family plot at Greenwood Cemetery and brother Dave and I have a few details to take care of beforehand.

Prior to leaving, I had a few details to take care of regarding both the installation of a new furnace and air conditioner we are having done next week and getting the quote for the repair of the broken GPS to the warranty company. Actually, the fix is to replace it with a refurbished unit for $180 plus shipping and taxes.

I finally left town about 10:00 AM on the bike. Sandy will follow tomorrow in the van with Heather, who will be driving up from Waterloo in the morning while Kim, Mike and Jolene are driving up through Michigan and will arrive Saturday morning. It was 22C and overcast as I hit the highway.

Traffic was busy on Highway 17 with lines following people who thought the 90 KPH speed limit was a good idea. With steady oncoming traffic, passing wasn't an option for cars except in the passing lanes that occur every so often. The bike, however, was able to make use of every little opening in the traffic and I wasn't held up very long by anyone.

Near Cutler, the cell phone rang and, making use of the Bluetooth hands free setup on the bike, I answered. It was a girl from the warranty company telling me that they would be sending me a cheque covering the cost of the refurbished GPS plus the taxes and handling. Now I will have two Zumo 550's and will sell the older one. Maybe I will sell both and get a new 665. We'll see.

I stopped in Blind River for coffee and a muffin. It was also time to put the panels back on the jacket because the chilly damp air through the mesh was getting a little annoying. From Blind River to the Soo, traffic eased up and I cruised along easily at 18 KPH over the limit. I arrived at Dave's house (formerly Mom's) about 1:35 PM.

I did make a run to the ARCH Hospice to make my overdue donation in Mom's memory. Then I checked out the plot at the cemetery where I found the headstone had not been reinstalled yet after being cleaned and having the last date inscribed. A quick stop at Eternal Monuments and I was assured it would be in place by tomorrow afternoon.

Dave and I sat around for quite a while swapping stories before turning in late.

Today's Route (200 Miles):

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Meeting the Kudzu Klan

Drove the van to North Bay today to see Kudzu, Mrs. Kudzu and the three young Kudzus.  We had a nice visit in Tim Hortons.  I would post the group photo here but, as usual, I forgot my camera at home.

Thanks for the coffee, Daniel.  It was good to see you and meet your family.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Trip Summary

Days on the road - 12

Distance traveled - 5,383 Kms (3,345 miles)

Fuel fill ups - 20

US Gallons consumed - 82

MP(US)G - 40.7

Mileage on bike at end of trip - 217,297 Kms (135,028 miles)

Fort Erie Ontario to Sudbury Ontario

We woke up to find that the storm we had been expecting overnight had broken up and passed us by. A small series of showers was imminent and we decided to wait for them to pass before leaving.

Me contemplating our last day on the road

Packing the Uni-Go's

Sandy and Judy - BFF's

The rain was gone and we were ready to ride by 9:20. We made a brief stop at the nearby Shoppers Drug Mart so the Americans could acquire some over the counter codeine laced Tylenol. Sometimes it's good to be a Canadian. We took the Niagara Parkway north out of Fort Erie cruising along the banks of the Niagara River towards the Falls. There are some really nice homes along here and also some older, smaller ones. The big ones that front the Parkway are quite pricey but smaller ones a block back appear to be quite reasonable.

As we got closer to The Falls, the cloud of mist became visible letting us know just where they were. Then, as we entered town, a bridge on the Parkway was closed causing us to take a detour. The GPS saved us because the flagman provided no direction and there were no signs indicating which way to go. We had to travel about 3 kilometers along the creek before we found another bridge to cross and then had to navigate some poorly marked roads to get back to the Parkway again.

The skyline above The Falls has changed much in recent years. Where the only high rise landmarks were the Minolta Tower and Skylon in the old days, tall hotels now dominate the entire ridge. And, despite the recession, construction on new ones is continuing. Something lost and something gained, I guess.

Some homes along the Niagara Parkway north of Fort Erie Ontario

The mist from The Falls come into view in the distance

Another high rise hotel being built overlooking Niagara Falls

The parking has changed along The Falls. We got into the big lot across the street from Table Rock, right at The Falls.  Because we were relatively early on a Friday, were able to park quite close to the walkway to the Visitor Centre. Parking was $20 but the lady let Brad and I in on a two for one deal if we parked in the same space. Done.

The layout of the Visitor Centre has been upgraded, too. You need to take the walkway over the street and then you must pass by all the concessions and shops to get to the exit to the edge of The Falls. Good marketing. It is a nice building and the shops are well appointed.

From the walkway over the Niagara Parkway at Table Rock

They have also changed the way they market the tours. A package for $39.99 gets you admission to four main attractions and discounts on most others. It also includes two days of free bus access. The four main attractions were Niagara Fury, the walk behind The Falls, the Maid of the Mist and a boardwalk in the Niagara Gorge. We took this package and got our pass books, tickets and bus stamps right there.

The first thing, right at Table Rock, was Niagara Fury. This is a 4D surround video presentation on how The Falls were created. We stood in the 360 degree theatre and watched an animated presentation with cartoon characters trace the geological history that culminated in one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The floor shook, water sprayed and sounds rattled us. I have never been issued a rain poncho for an indoors movie before, but it was necessary.

Brad complete with disposable rain poncho for Niagara Fury

The second attraction was a long standing tradition, the walk behind The Falls also located at Table Rock. This trip through old tunnels with windows to view the cascade from the back side has been here as long as tourists have. There is also a viewing terrace just below the edge of the drop that gives a unique perspective of looking up. Our ponchos were yellow this time. Before entering the tunnels, we had a bit of time so we headed out to the edge of The Falls to get a view from the top.


Looking downstream at the Niagara Gorge and Rainbow Bridge from Table Rock

Sandy at Table Rock

Judy and the Horseshoe Falls

Sandy with the back side of The Falls behind her

Looking up at The Falls

Returning to the Visitor Centre, we had lunch at Tim Horton's. I will give them credit because, unlike other shops that charge captive audience prices, Timmy's rates were the same as anywhere else. We timed it right because we had no line up. That grew right behind us, helped by a young man who had to be the slowest moving bagel butterer I have ever seen. He was in need of some further instruction by his supervisors. We also cruised the shops where the newbies bought some T-shirts and souvenirs.

Fortunately, the moose was too big to bring home

Another shot of Sandy looking good at The Falls

Our next adventure was to take the Maid of the Mist boat ride to the base of The Falls. This is one of the key Niagara experiences and I haven't done it in years. We opted to walk to the boat dock which was a ways downstream. It didn't look far but, given heat, humidity and the fact that our legs still hurt from the lighthouse yesterday, the trek almost did us in. Once more into plastic rain ponchos, we were on the lower deck and got spots along the ail right near the bow. I have no photos because this spot was wetter than a morning shower. Awesome view of the water thundering down 170 feet from what I could see through my soaked lenses.

The Maid of the Mist

Ron at the boat dock

Back at the dock, I realized my jeans were soaked form the knees down. We took the elevator back up to street level and decided to take advantage of the people mover bus back to Table Rock and the bikes. We skipped the Gorge boardwalk because it was further downstream and we were running late.

My plan had been to ride with the others all the way up the Parkway to Niagara-on-the-Lake stopping at the Spanish Aerocar over the Whirlpool and visiting Brock's Monument to show them where we repelled their invading force during the War of 1812. Unfortunately, I also wanted to get back to Sudbury tonight before it got too dark and, since it was 3:00 PM and I had over 300 miles to go, the plans were scrubbed.

We said our goodbyes after a dozen days of traveling together and hit the road at 3:10 sharp. The others would cross back to the US and planned to make it to Rochester, New York for the night. It was strange to ride through traffic without having to keep an eye out to see where the rest of the group was.

We fueled in St Catherines and then hauled along the Queen Elizabeth Way in moderate traffic. Near Hamilton, the opposing Niagara bound QEW was pretty well at a dead stop as the lemmings tried to escape the Greater Toronto Area on a Friday afternoon. Google Maps seems to think that you can't go from the QEW to the 407 Express Toll Route in Burlington but the ramp is there. We got up on the pay road and made good time until we got to the 400 northbound. Then we joined the lemmings.

Traffic was gridlocked on the 400 as it shrank from eight lanes northbound to three within several miles. I should have caught the collector lanes because they moved fastest. The rightmost of the express lanes crawled a little faster than the left ones, a phenomenon that made no sense to me whatsoever since the 'fast' lanes should have the least impediments. In any case, we crawled to the service centre at King and stopped for a quick coffee to go.

Northbound Highway 400 traffic at a slow crawl

North of the service centre, things started to move but ground to a halt ever time we reached another exchange. True to my new observation, the right lanes moved the fastest most of the time but I was aggressive in switching to whichever one as progressing best. It is easier to do this on a bike which can slip into small gaps and would be virtually impossible with more than one. On the other hand, if this was California, I would have been long gone after splitting lanes.

Sandy took lots of pictures of white weeds along the roadside. There are reports out of Sudbury that giant hogweed, an invasive, noxious and dangerous weed, has been found in town and she wondered if any of the white flowers we saw were the same thing. I personally think these are way too short.

Unknown white weeds along the roadside

North of Barrie, traffic thinned out quite a bit as most of the GTA escapees headed up Highway 11 to cottage country. I set the cruise at 19 over and found most of the vehicles going by me. We stopped at Waubaushene for our last bit of fuel, a protein bar and a 5 Hour Energy shot. Then we stopped again at Pointe Au Baril for a comfort stop for Sandy. It was cooling and the shadows were getting longer so I kept the pace down as I watched for moose, deer and bear. None were seen.

Some day soon we may take this new road

Red sky at night

We reached the Greater Sudbury city limits at 9:02 and were in our driveway by 9:25. Not a bad run. I got a note from Ron that said they reached Rochester by 8:30 after a long holdup on the bridge to the USA and a rough ride along the road bordering Lake Ontario.

It was sad to see another trip to come to an end but we had memories of a good time and good company. Plus we'll be seeing the crew again in Maine before too many weeks go by. Thanks Ron, Laurie, Brad and Judy for sharing the road with us.

Today's Route (343 Miles):

Note that Google Maps seems to think that there is no ramp from the Toronto bound Queen Elizabeth Way to the Eastbound 407 ETR. In fact, there is.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Port Huron Michigan to Fort Erie Ontario

Sandy and I woke up about 6:00 AM. A quick check of the weather radar showed a fairly intense cell working its way across Michigan towards us. There was also some light rain in the Windsor/Chatham area of Ontario but it looked like it just grew in place and wasn't going anywhere. It looked like we would be ahead of the bigger stuff and go around the lighter.

I checked the tires. The fast wearing rear was still at 4/32nds, where it has been most of this trip. I am totally stymied as to what is going on with this particular rubber. First it goes very quickly and then it stops wearing. We'll see what it does next.

Ron was leading again today and took us to the Bluewater Bridge to Canada. I was surprised to see that the toll was $3.00 US and also $3.00 Canadian. This is the first time this year that I have seen it at par, making it a better choice to use Loonies to pay. Unfortunately, I had already given Sandy American cash so we took a $0.15 beating on the exchange. I think we'll survive. There was no traffic going our way so we cleared Customs with no fuss, muss or bother. It's nice that the Canadian side doesn't worry about that list I am on. Ron got a question about how we, being from different side of the border, know each other and had to explain the wonder of VROC to the agent.

We cruised down the 402 almost to London and got off southbound on Highway 4. Crossing the 401, we stopped at an UltraMar station we the oldest pumps I have seen on a major station in years. But, as one local pointed out, he doesn't care about the pumps as long as they keep their prices low. We had to take a few minutes to fix Ron's handlebar risers. The right one had worked itself loose and, because it was the lower bolts, we had to pull the bar right off to tighten it. But riding with a loose bar is disconcerting as well as unsafe so it was worth the effort.

Ron tightening the handlebar riser

We followed Highway 4, Colonel Talbot Road south towards Port Stanley. Sandy noted that the area south of St. Thomas looked like a very nice place to live. We may have to look into this in the future if we decide to move south. From Port Stanley, we rode east and stopped at the Port Burwell Marine Museum. They have some outside exhibits, an indoor museum and a lighthouse you can climb for a small fee.  Be warned that the pitch of the stairs leading up inside the lighthouse caused most of us (except the super fit Judy) to experience pains in the fronts of our thighs when walking, sitting down, standing up or generally moving in any other way for the rest of the day.

Port Burwell Marine Museum lighthouse

Lifeboat from the SS Henry Steinbrenner, named for George's father

Plaque on the Steinbrenner lifeboat

View from the top of the lighthouse

The heat was building again as we left Port Burwell continuing east on the back roads. We had a slight detour due to a road closure and got a close-up view of a few of the turbines from the Erie Shores Wind Farm. The area around Port Burwell is dotted with them. This project cost $186 million and will see 100 turbines in place by the end of Phase II, generating 99 MW for the Ontario power grid.

Ron and Laurie in front of a wind turbine

This was tobacco country. While we still saw some fields planted in tobacco, many of the sheds are run down or have collapsed while the fields around them are now planted in corn. It's good to see the farmers being flexible. I can only wonder if the corn is for eating or is being grown to feed the new ethanol fad.

These tobacco sheds have seen better days

We took a short detour to run out to Long Point. After passing through the wildlife/turtle crossing without seeing any wildlife or turtles, we came to The Causeway Restaurant. Sandy and I, mindful of our excesses lately, split a BLT sandwich and fries. They do have one item on the menu, though, that serves as a challenge. Nobody at our table ordered the seven decker sandwich but a young man at the next table did. As we left, he was trying to figure out just how he was going to eat it.

The Causeway Restaurant - Long Point Ontario

One intimidating sandwich

We connected with Highway 3 and proceeded to follow it to the end,taking a detour through Port Dover so the gang could see what the biggest motorcycle destination in Ontario looks like. Not being Friday the 13th, it was fairly quiet although more normal tourists were all over. We also passed Nanticoke with it's coal fired power station and large Esso oil refinery. In Cayuga, we took a break from the heat and noted that, through town, the road surface was as bad as anything we have seen to date. I'm sure we can blame this on Mike Harris and his downloading. Brad rescued a Monarch butterfly from his BMW mirror and set it up on a phone booth to see if it could recover. Sandy also managed to get a picture of an elk on a farm as we rode along. Finally, we passed through Port Colborne, former home of the INCO Electro-Nickel Refinery and present location of the Vale Precious Metals and Electro-Cobalt refining operations, the great INCO being nothing but a memory. We also crossed the Welland Canal which links Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, avoiding Niagara Falls.

Downtown Port Dover on a non-motorcycle day

Power lines flowing from Nanticoke

Esso Nanticoke oil refinery

Rescued butterfly

Domestic elk

Port Colborne Ontario

The Welland Canal

It's probably a good time to talk about the Uni-Go trailers that Ron and Brad tow. They originated in New Zealand and are now sold by an outfit in Ohio. My first impression was that they don't hold very much but, when touring, every little bit helps. And they do carry as much as the Wing trunk and saddlebags put together so it is a very useful capacity. The impressive thing is the way they track behind the bike and the fact that they have negligible impact on the fuel economy. Ron's gas consumption was only slightly higher than mine throughout the trip. My one concern was the specialized hitch because I still need the ball hitch for the camper trailer. I now find out that Ron also has a Bushtec hitch like mine and the Uni-Go hitch is mounted to a draw bar that slides right into the Bushtec receiver. If I can get my mind around the not insignificant price, there might be one of these in our future.

Ron's Uni-Go trailer

As we entered Fort Erie, we saw a sign marking the Ridgeway Battlefield. I assumed this was another place we had met the Yanks in the War of 1812 but subsequent research proved me wrong. This was where, in 1866, a group of Irish veterans of the US Civil War calling themselves Fenians attacked the British in support of Irish independence. We beat them back after the US Navy intervened and prevented the main force from crossing the river.

The Comfort Inn in Fort Erie is pretty isolated even though it sits next to the Queen Elizabeth Way. On the plus side, the rooms open up into the parking lot so the bikes were right there. We ordered Chinese food delivered from Happy Jack's and set up a buffet in the hotel's breakfast nook. The radar showed a storm heading our way and we hoped it would get here and be gone by morning.

Today's Route (226 Miles):

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