Sunday, September 25, 2011

Freedom Riders Countdown Ride To Elliot Lake

We enjoyed our Colour Run last weekend so much that Ride Captain Nepper decided we should squeeze at least one more ride in. The forecast for today was excellent so he sent a message out saying that he'd like to lead us to Elliot Lake, about 100 miles west of Sudbury.

The day dawned warmer than last Sunday, 9C versus 4, but it didn't really dawn all  that much. We looked out to see a heavy blanket of fog laying low on the land. Nepper said we should meet at Mr. J's Roadhouse in Lively at 9:30. I wasn't sure whether this meant we would depart at 9:30 or if we would have time to eat first, so I talked to Leo and we decided to arrive early.

Leo arrived at 8:00 AM sharp (the man is punctual) and we headed out through town soon after. Although it was warmer than last week according to the thermometer, it sure didn't feel like it in the damp fog. Sandy had her Gerbing heated liner turned up and I ignored it as best I could.

Riding through the fog to Lively

We were the first to reach the restaurant so we went inside and ordered some food. Sandy just took hot chocolate while Leo and I had ham and egg sandwiches. Soon the others started to arrive, most having coffee or some other type of warm beverage. We agreed that we would ride to Elliot Lake and back but would skip the Deer Trail because of negative reports about the pavement condition. We didn't want a replay of last week's Aspdin Road episode.

Gathering at Mr' J's Roadhouse

We were on the road shortly after the posted time with Nepper in the lead. We followed Municipal Road 55 through Whitefish to where it joined Highway 17. As we prepared to turn left onto the main highway, another group of bikes went by heading west. We fell in behind them and could tell from the patch on the tail end rider that they were the local chapter of the Canadian Motorcycle Cruisers. They were moving at about 10 KPH above the limit so we followed them to Nairn Centre, where they pulled off at the truck stop. We continued on another ten miles to the Tim Horton's at the Espanola turnoff.

Nepper on his Victory Vision leading us through the fog

The CMC riders ahead of us

While stopped at the Tim's, I talked to a few other riders who were planning to join some others for a run through the Deer Trail. One was on a Nomad and another had an immaculate GL1100 Goldwing Interstate painted a pale yellow. I wish I had thought to take a picture. Then another Nomad rolled in and Sandy and were pleasantly surprised to discover it was Heather and Jim, a couple we haven't seen in many years. Jim bought the Nad last fall after not riding for over 35 years. They were also headed for Elliot Lake so I invited them to join us. Roger also arrived from the island with a new rear tire on his Harley.

Nepper led us west again as the fog finally cleared. The trees were much more colourful than last week. Sandy took many photos which I posted in a separate entry just before this one. After we passed some slow traffic, I noted that Jim was holding back a bit. Heather wasn't comfortable with the buffeting at higher speeds, so Leo and I stuck with them. Jim is new to group riding but has learned the first lesson right off the bat. Ride your own ride and don't feel pressured to step outside your comfort zone.

Elliot lake lies about sixteen miles north of Highway 17. That last stretch on Highway 108 is a very nice ride, especially when it is bordered by trees of gold and crimson. When we reached town, we caught up with the lead group and followed them to the Fireside Grill. Imagine our surprise in discovering it was now a Shopper's Drug Mart. A nice local lady directed us to the restaurant's new location. I should mention that there was a middle group that had gotten mislaid but they found us as we were moving to the new location.

Welcome to Elliot Lake

Lunch was very good. I had half a club wrap and lobster bisque while Sandy had a chicken Caesar wrap and acorn squash soup. After lunch, we headed for the Fire Tower Lookout, located on a hill just north of town. From there, you can see all the way across the lakes and colour-tinged hills to Georgian Bay.

Parked at the Fireside Grill

The road to the Lookout

Bear activity included at no extra charge

Nicky surveys the Northern Ontario terrain

More lakes than Minnesota

New rider Heather

Two Jim's

We left Elliot Lake in two groups. Nepper led the first and Jim and Heather led the second. Gary V dropped into the second group with Leo and I but, since Nepper reduced his pace, we were together all the way to Highway 17.

Jim and Heather on their 1600 Nomad

Yes, I waved at the motorhome

Leo on his pretty '08 Goldwing

The two groups separated a bit once we started east on Highway 17. There was an unplanned stop in Spanish due to a luggage malfunction on Terry's Valkyrie. Then it was on to the Tim's at the Espanola turnoff again, where we made our final group stop. There, wonder of wonders, we met another couple we haven't seen in a long time. Ted and Helena from Blezard Valley, on another Nomad, are a couple we rode with to the west coast back in 2000. That was a significant trip, the first long ride on our 2000 Nad, where we first met Scorpion, Sherm and other northwest VROC icons.

Terry fixing his saddlebag lid

Ted and Helena

The group rolled out while we were talking with Ted and Helena. Then Jim and Heather left after giving me their Email address so I could send them some info on VROC and more comfortable seats. When I finally left, Ted and Helena were behind us but, in my rush to catch the others and get some more spirited miles on, I lost them as I was cutting through the Sunday afternoon traffic. We did catch Jim and Heather just before Lively.

We rode through town and arrived home thankful for another great day of riding with like-minded friends. With the benign way the autumn has fallen the last few years, there may be time to squeeze a few more in before it is time to hang up the helmets.

Nepper's Ride Report

Today's Route (221 motorcycle miles):

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Countdown Ride - The Colours of Fall

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Freedom Riders Fall Colour Run

Happy 56th Birthday to my brother Dave, aka Rabbi.

Our local riding club, the Freedom Riders, have traditionally waited until late in the season for our Annual Fall Colour Run. It wasn't a deliberate plan, but the last big ride usually found us riding past trees which had lost most of their leaves as the small crew who were brave (read dumb) enough to venture out struggled to avoid frostbite. It does seem possible that we are able to learn from our mistakes, though, because the 2011 Colour Run was scheduled for today. Destination was Parry Sound, 100 miles south of us, plus any optional routes worked out by the riders.

It was a fine morning for a fall ride. The sky was a clear blue and the temperature was 5C (41F) as I ignored the layer of frost and went out to check the bike tires. Due to the cold, the pressure read about 4 PSI low in each tire so I topped them up. I also checked the oil, which was right up and still looking clean. I haven't changed the oil all year but then I have barely ridden enough miles to warrant it.. My hip is only mildly complaining with a dull ache this morning and I was looking forward to breaking in my new Tourmaster Solution 2 boots.

Leo showed up precisely at 8:30 and we headed out together for the rendezvous at the Tim Horton's on the south side of town, filling up at the Canadian Tire gas bar on the way in to avoid then new supposed $5.00 fine for showing up without a full tank of fuel. When we got there, Road Captain Nepper was waiting with his elegant Victory Vision and President Rob had his Victory, back from the shop after being fixed following the July wreck. Don had his pretty blue Harley, Roger his black one and Ken was on his ST1300. Rob's dad, Ray, had his usual and Terry rolled in last on the yellow Valk. Sandy surprised me when she decided to come along but it turned out she was the only lady who did.

I had breakfast (ham breakfast sandwich on an English muffin, hash browns and one of the new extra-large coffees). The coffee was so large that I filled my 20 oz. Butler mug and had enough left over to drink with my food.

Mingling at Tim's before the ride

Group photo (before)
Terry, Ray, Ken, Sandy, Rob, Nepper and Don (missing Roger)

We rode south on Highway 69 with President Rob in the lead and made a stop 40 miles out at the French River Trading Post. Rob tried out a new way of parking when we stopped but, after due consideration, I think most of us will continue to park our bikes upright.

The temperature rises on a bright, sunny day

On the road again

Soaking up sunshine at the French River Trading Post

Then it was on to Parry Sound where we stopped at the Trapper's Choice Restaurant, recommended by members Jack and Cathay, who live in the town. They joined us and Cathay's Sportster, another of the bikes that was involved in the July crash, was back together and looking good. They seated us upstairs at the restaurant and we ordered from a server with nice dimples. Sandy and I both had the special, chicken Parmesan on a bun, but she ordered the salad while I opted for tomato macaroni soup.

Trapper's Choice Restaurant - Parry Sound

Terry orders while Nepper makes a point

A fine looking couple

A hungry Ken patiently waiting for food

Chicken Parmesan on a bun with tomato macaroni soup (for Sherm)

The 100 miles to Parry Sound was just to get us to some good riding roads. After lunch, we fueled up and left town heading south on Old Highway 69, jumping on the divided 400 for a few miles before getting off on Old 69 again and then turning left on Highway 141. Jack, Cathay and Terry peeled off a short way later because they had other commitments later in the day.  Although the trees were starting to change colour nicely in Sudbury, south of the French River most of them were still green with the odd flash of red, orange or yellow. But then the Colour Run isn't as much about the colours as it is about the run.

A small splash of colour in a sea of green

A few more colours

Highway 141 is one of my favourites, especially east of Rosseau. Unfortunately, leader Rob saw the Huntsville sign in Rosseau and turned left on Muskoka County 3, aka the Aspdin Road. I haven't been on this road in 25 years. The road surface wasn't much back then and I'm sorry to say that it was in the same condition today. None of us were sorry when we reached Highway 11 at Huntsville, where Rob took us a short ways north on Highway 11 before exiting at Highway 60 and finding a Dairy Queen.

Hunter's Bay - Huntsville, Ontario

Some had ice cream at the DQ but I passed because the diet I started Monday has seen me loose five pounds in six days. It's too soon to start backsliding. As they ate, we talked about options for the return trip. Rather then ride north on the relatively boring Highway 11, I suggested that we head back across the excellent stretch of Highway 141 that we had missed and return via Highway 69. With no objections, I led the way through town on a new road I had never seen before, We had to stop briefly and wait for Ray and Roger because Ray had to reattach a spark plug wire. We caught Brunel Road, or Muskoka 2, south out of town. The corner in town was under construction but, after a hairy turn and several hundred yards of gravel, we were home free.

Home free didn't last long. The road was very nice, rising, falling and sweeping. We took an almost hidden turn to the right (I wish the MTO would do something about signs obscured by trees) on Port Sydney Road (Muskoka 10) and continued rising, falling and sweeping until we made a sharp turn and crossed a bridge in the hamlet of Port Sydney. That was where I was able to see back more than a couple of bikes and realized there were only three headlights behind me. Stop and confer. Nepper and I went back looking and found them on the side of the road. It seems Roger's rear tire had decided it was tired of holding air any more. I phoned Rob and he and Leo came back to us.

Stopped on Muskoka Road 10 for a flat tire

I don't think my plug kit would fix this

Roger phoned his brother in Val Caron and asked him to come down with a trailer to get him. He moved the bike to a shaded wide spot in the shoulder to wait and, after making sure there wasn't any more than we could do, we headed out. Almost at once, we noticed that several bikes were still missing and stopped again. Ray's plug wires were still acting up. After trying some quick fixes unsuccessfully, Rob sent us on our way.

I led an enjoyable ride over Highway 141, marred for part of it by a lady in a golf visor driving a white Ford Flex. I could have accepted doing the speed limit but she felt ten under was appropriate and, on a road like this, there are virtually no places with dotted centre lines. Alone, I would have taken her in any of a number of spots (solid line passing is legal in Ontario if you have a clear view) but I was leading a group and restrained myself. Most of us did get by in one short stretch before Rosseau.

We continued on and fueled at the Petrocan south of Parry Sound. It was 120 miles home from here and there was a brief discussion about whether we would stop to eat on the way back since it was after 5:00 PM. The consensus was to ride right through so we set out. Nepper led and I took the rear position, proud of the way the five bikes moved along with no one more than a couple of feet out of position. I got a call from Rob as we were about 40 miles out (hands free cell via Bluetooth and Zumo GPS) advising Ray's problem was the plug wire at the coil and they were in North Bay, well on the way to getting home.  The sun was setting as we pulled into the same Tim's from whence we had started and said our goodbyes. It wasn't an uneventful ride but it was fun.  But this isn't the end. We agreed to try and get at least one more good ride in before the season is done.

Group photo (after)
Ken, Don, Sandy, Nepper & Leo

Sandy and I rode home and put the bike to bed. The new boots worked very well. One difference wearing these is that I can't ride with my toes pointed down because of the rigidity in the ankles, but they provide enough support that I was comfortable. Once I got the feel of working the stiffer ankles around the shift lever and rear brake, they were great. Anybody want to buy some rain totes?

The official Freedom Riders Ride Report

Today's Route (300 motorcycle miles):

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