Friday, August 31, 2012

Grayling Michigan to Frankenmuth Michigan

It was a very pleasant morning although it again had the promise of being a scorcher later on. We got a slow start because we only had a couple of hours drive and the check-in time at the end was 3:00 PM. The continental breakfast was good enough although, strangely, they had a row of toasters and butter but no bread. When I asked about it, they confirmed there wasn't any as if it was totally normal.

After checking out about 10:00 AM, we drove south to West Branch where we stopped at a Walmart to grab a few things. Among them, a large case of bottled water, some Slim Jim's and a couple of large boxes of 5 Hour Energy drinks. I also found some G-301 Zebra gel pens, the same kind that you can't find at home any more. Sandy bought a shirt but forgot to get the single serve flavoured coffee creamers she likes.

Happy face in West Branch Michigan

Continuing south, we stopped on the outskirts of Saginaw at a new McDonald's that advertised RV parking. While we were eating in the restaurant, I got a call from Heather telling us they were about an hour away from the hotel. We exited I-75 on Dixie Road (somehow this just doesn't seem like a legitimate Michigan name) and headed into Frankenmuth, Michigan's Little Bavaria. I missed the Fairfield Inn  the first time because the GPS said it was on the left. It wasn't. On the second pass, we found it and a good sized municipal parking lot out behind where we unloaded and unhooked the trailer. I parked the truck and rode the bike around to the main entrance.

Confirming that we had an hour until check-in, we settled in to the air conditioned lobby. Then I went out and met a gentleman named Dave, a retired RCMP officer who asked about the OPPVA sticker on the bike windshield. We spent some time talking until Tom and Heather pulled in on their Suzuki Boulevards. The three of us went in to register. As we waited in line (it was just 3:00 PM and everyone came out of the woodwork), I mentioned the ex-Mountie. Tom went back outside because a friend of theirs father was a retired Mountie. Wonder of small worlds, it was him.

Tom, Mountie Dave and Heather

We hauled our gear up to the room. It had two queen beds but space was a little tight. On the plus side, they covered it with points from Tom's travels to the US on business plus a little top up. Then we headed off to the pool where Dave and his wife Louanne were already relaxing in the whirlpool spa. The pool was a very comfortable temperature and we alternated between there and the hot tub.

After we finished in the pool, we got dressed and headed across the street to the Frankenmuth Brewery where Sandy and I split a club sandwich. Then we took a walk through town to check things out before returning to the hotel and going to bed early.

Memorial at the Fairfield Inn

Frankenmuth Brewery in background

Sandy and a local sculpture

They say dinner here is a must

Competing dinner by a Zehnder cousin

Topiary deer or perhaps llamas?

Bavaria and beer go together

The Bavarian Belle riverboat

Bridge over the Cass River

A line from Cabaret popped into my head

A real flower bed

Today's Route (117 truck miles):

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sudbury Ontario to Grayling Michigan

Departure day had arrived and I still had a lot to do. I was up at 6:00 AM, working on closing off the regular and rally books for the Freedom Riders. I normally have the preliminary rally statements done the day after it is over but I was a tad burned out and the Interlochen trip got in the way. Almost everything got done this morning except for one complicated series of transactions that I packed up in my luggage. I will be able to finish them in some motel room and have all the statements done and sent out before the meeting on September 9th (from which I will be absent).

I had the truck over to Kal Tire at 8:00 AM to have the wheel nuts torqued. I put almost 100 miles on it after the tire change and they said 100 to 150 kms was ideal. They were quick and friendly. Then I fueled the truck at $1.365 per liter. Can't wait to get stateside where even horrendous gas prices look good compared to home.

Sandy had most of her stuff packed but I pretty well started from scratch when I got home. Luckily, packing is pretty much routine although there is a bit more volume due to the anticipated one month duration of the trip. After I got packed, there were still a couple of details that needed tending to.

I will be turning 60 on September 10th and will be eligible for early Canada Pension benefits. I had registered at the beginning of May but had not yet seen any confirmation that the application was accepted. I phoned the Services Canada number yesterday after not seeing anything in my account on their website. The recorded message said they were experiencing high call volumes and to call back later. Wow, never had that happen before. So I called again today and got through. The lady told me everything was complete and I could expect my first payment in October. The reason it hadn't been on the website was because they only completed it two days ago.  Wow again.

The last task before shutting the computer down was to go online and book the motel room for tonight in Grayling, Michigan. This is the qualifying stay that will enable me to get quadruple Wyndham points for the next four stays, provided they are before September 20th. That should be no problem.

The final task was to hook the trailer up and load the bike. I remembered to lower the antennas before riding the bike into the trailer so it all went without any problems. We pulled out of the driveway at 11:30 AM. I decided we should get Subway-to-go for lunch because the store in the Lowes had easy parking. While in the lot, a lady stopped to ask us about the trailer. She and her husband are looking for one to haul their BMW 1200 RT. I gave her my thoughts and suggested a smaller one than the monster we are hauling. As we were getting ready to leave, I realized our US cash was on the bookshelf at home so we had to stop back at the house on the way out. We  finally hit the bypass at 12:15 PM.

The west winds were very strong and the mileage was the worst I have seen so far on a highway trip. We got held up east of Nairn where they were beginning yet one more highway project and stopped at the Spanish River to check the bike. All was well.

The Avalanche is supposed to be a four speed transmission but their seems to be a gear between 3 and D. At 90 KPH, it turns about 1,600 RPM in Drive and 2,300 in 3rd. When in Drive and meeting some resistance, the RPM's will move up to 2,000 but will not give the kick that an automatic or manual downshift to 3rd shows. I'm not sure what is going on and have to ask some questions. In the heavy winds, I selected 3rd and kept the speed down to save fuel and keep the transmission cooler. When we turned north near the Bar River Flats, the tailwind (winds had changed and were now from the south) substantially improved the mileage for a little while. Unfortunately, most of the rest of the trip would be south.

We arrived in the Soo without incident and stopped at McDonald's for a pit stop. I got a coffee and Sandy ordered a peach smoothie. Then we headed for the International Bridge which was only backed up half way across. We worked our way through the truck lane and finally reached the booth where, after some questions about where we were going, we were allowed into the USA without even a look in the trailer. Once again I really like my new relationship with Homeland Security.

The Citgo in Soo, Michigan, which doesn't require prepayment, was next. Fuel price was a hefty $4.189. Then we got hamburgers to go at the adjacent Mickey D's where they screwed up the order. Sandy wanted a hamburger with no pickle while I ordered a double hamburger. She got a burger WITH pickle and I got a double cheeseburger without one. And it seemed like such a simple order.

The drive down I-75 was slow and steady with the wind tugging at us but, considering the strong gusting, the trailer towed quite well. We reached the Mackinac Bridge and found there were high wind warnings up. This is common but they were escorting larger vehicles (the trailer put us in this category), a sign that the winds really were a problem. We lined up and followed the escort at a slow pace. Perhaps because the gusts were predominantly from the south, we didn't have any problem.

The info said there were high winds

Escort In Progress

Nice view of the Big Mac

Straits of Mackinac

The Great Lakes are big

22 MPH following the escort

Fort Michilimackinac which we have never visited

Continuing down I-75, we were listening to one of the XM comedy channels when Jeanne Roberts started telling a tale about having some time to kill in Nanaimo, BC. The young lady at the tourism booth suggested that she and her spouse (both in their 60's) might like driving a little way south and going bungie jumping over the Nanaimo River. Roberts wasn't thrilled but thought they would go and look anyway. The story was hilarious and even mentioned Nude Bungie Jumping Day. The reason this hit close to home is that the one time I jumped was at this very facility.

We arrived in Grayling and drove straight to our usual Days Inn. The on line reservation was there and we got checked in straight away. Deciding that we didn't need more food, I started work on the blog while Sandy watched TV. We only have 120 miles to go tomorrow to Frankenmuth so I expect it will be a leisurely day. BTW, gas in Grayling was $4.09 this evening, better than in the Upper Peninsula.

Today's Route (347 truck miles):

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Preparing for the September Trek

Fall is almost upon us and one of the maple trees on Hudson Street is already sporting crimson foliage. We will be heading out tomorrow on a trip that should take all month. Last week I got the oil changed in the truck and the fork seal fixed on the bike. Yesterday, I replaced the Goodyear tires on the truck (tread was remaining but there was significant cracking in the treads) with a set of Michelin LTX M/S2's.

We will be heading to Frankenmuth, Michigan to spend Labour Day with Tom and Heather. Then it will be on to Bethel Maine for the NEVROC Maine Ride; Eureka Springs, Arkansas for the VROC Reunion and then on to Williamsburg, Virginia for Wolfman's Wandering Rally 6. Maybe we will drop back to Maggie Valley for a few days before coming home.

We are looking forward to the open road and all the friends we will be crossing paths with over the next few weeks. Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Motorhome Is Sold

Andy and his wife Michelin arrived at noon from Cochrane to see the motorhome. We gave them a tour of the outside and inside and then took a long test drive. I drove out and Andy drove back. They decided they liked it and, after a bit of haggling over the price, they took it home with them.

It is a big relief to have it out of the driveway. I was concerned that, with summer drawing to a close, we would be stuck with it over the winter. This was an expensive experiment but a very interesting one. Maybe some time down the road we will be in a position to go back to the RV lifestyle.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Gananoque Ontario to Sudbury Ontario

We awoke to a picture perfect morning. The sky was clear and the air temperature and humidity were very comfortable although there was the implied promise that it was going to be hotter than blazes later in the day. We skipped the continental breakfast at the motel and got McDonald's breakfast to go. At Mickey D's, we spoke briefly to an older (same age as us) gentleman on an orange Wing who was getting ready for a blitz run to Greenville, South Carolina. We wished him safe travels before we set out on the 401 East.

I wasn't aware that Ontario allowed trucks to haul two 53' trailers. This is common practice on the New York Thruway but I haven't seen it in Ontario before. I suspect it is a special rule for the 401. This is a direct route to Quebec and may reflect what is permitted there.

We turned north on the 416 to Ottawa and then took 417 to Parkdale Road and on down to the Canadian War Museum. Once inside, the signage wasn't the best and we had to hunt for the ticket counter. The overall exhibits were great,with interesting items and very nice presentation, but it didn't go into the same background depth as, say, the War of the Pacific Museum in Fredericksburg, Texas.

There was a special exhibition related to the War of 1812 since this is the 200th anniversary of the start of that conflict. The presentation focused on differing perspectives and presented the points of view of the Canadians, Americans, British and First Nations. I have to say that it made me look at things a little differently than I have up until now, so I guess it was effective. The four regular halls covered different eras, starting from before WW I, WW I, WW II and the Cold war/Peacekeeping/modern conflicts. The LeBreton Gallery had exampled of marge military vehicles and artillery with a CF-101 VooDoo flying cover.

Parking outside the Canadian War Museum (Peace Tower in the background)

The LeBreton Gallery

A piece of the Berlin Wall

Vehicles in the LeBreton Gallery

The bike was supposed to be ready at noon so we left the museum, hitting a McD's and gas station on the way to Kanata. We got there and hooked up to the trailer only to find that Peter the fussy mechanic wasn't in any hurry. Worse, Curtis the service advisor wasn't able to get a firm completion time out of him. We wandered the dealership and killed time until 3:30 when Peter finally finished. Curtis, who is getting married on Sunday and had wanted to leave at noon, was probably as happy to see us go as we were to be out of there. Bike loaded, we were rolling at 4:00 PM.

The frame is a 1975 but the engine looks newer

Skinny tires

As we cruised the 417 westbound towards Arnprior into a headwind, watching the fuel consumption numbers with dread, I got a call from a friend who shall remain nameless offering to buy me lunch next week in exchange for some historical remembering. After all these years, someone still values my knowledge and opinions. Of course I agreed.

Leaving the Eternal Arnprior Construction Zone, there was an electronic sign advising that Highway 17 was closed east of Renfrew but that a detour was in place. And so it came to pass. We were steered onto a side road by not one but two OPP constables and cruisers. I proceeded carefully because the road wasn't in the best shape and I'm sure the people following weren't thrilled. No matter because, after being directed onto another road by yet one more cop, we came to a halt in a line of stopped/very slow traffic. Eventually we made it back to 17 where the shortest male OPP constable I have ever seen directed us back onto the main road.

Highway 17 detour

Line of almost stopped vehicles

One short cop

Once past the detour, all went well. Andy from Cochrane, who was coming to Sudbury tomorrow to check out the motorhome, called to confirm our noon appointment. Sandy and I ate what was left of the side ribs from last night (one good reason to have them dry). I stopped for coffee in Deep River and talked to a young man who was raving about his Ford EcoBoost truck.  The construction zone between Stonecliff and Bissett Creek was shut down for the weekend but we were impressed with how much had been done in the short time since we were by yesterday morning.

Pavement ends

It doesn't look like much now but it will soon

Looking across the Ottawa River to Quebec

Sun getting low in my eyes

Sunset over Mattawa Ontario

Time to start watching for moose

The rest of the trip was uneventful except for one amusing sight. They had just finished a wood post guardrail outside Mattawa and lopped the tops off the posts evenly. A man was collecting the ends in his pickup truck, probably for firewood. We use every part of the buffalo up here:-))

We stopped at Walmart in North Bay for a comfort break. Walmart has large parking lots suitable for trailers. There was a 30' Majestic RV like ours, flat towing a large jeep, parked for the night. We did determine that the stretch of Highway 17 between the Bonfield and Corbeil turnoffs is now the worst stretch east of the Soo and I hope they get to work on this soon. We arrived home just after 10:00 PM and left everything parked on the street for the night.

Today's Route (387 truck miles):

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Rockport Ontario to Gananoque Ontario

Cruise complete, we drove on down the 1000 Islands Parkway to the thriving community of Gananoque (pronounced GannonOCKway). I had reserved a room at the Howard Johnson Inn, the most reasonable rate I could find in town. It wasn't a luxury place but was adequate. The only problem was that the GPS said it was on the left side of the road so I almost missed the driveway on the right. Not unusual.

After getting settled in the room, we headed downtown to the Iron Pig BBQ, advertised as featuring Memphis style BBQ. I have not had the opportunity to try Memphis style, having mostly experienced Carolina or Texas styles in our travels. The place looked pretty beat up just like many of the great places we have tried down in the US. They were out of back ribs so we ordered side ribs and a pound of brisket. The rib sauce on the side had a peculiar flavour that neither of us liked so we ate them dry (the way I usually prefer). The brisket came with a nice, tangy horseradish sauce on the side. It was good but there was way too much and we had the leftovers (sans rib sauce) packaged up to go.

How about this, Scotty......

Canuckian Memphis style BBQ

Lemonade in a mason jar

A very generous pound of brisket

And a pound of side ribs

But it is obviously still in Canadia

That sums it up

Leaving the BBQ spot, we walked across the street and checked out Centennial Park and the flea market in front of the town hall. This is a friendly little place and seems to have a lot going on. I wish Sudbury  downtown could figure out how to have a similar ambiance.

Centennial Park, Gananoque Ontario


Hiding under the corner of the sculpture


Park in front of town hall

Even the fire hydrants have personality


Old building

New bas-relief on old building

Our short walking tour done, we drove back to the motel and settled in. Sandy watched the large flat screen TV for a while as I sorted through the many pictures of the day and tried to get some blog work done before turning in for the night.

This Segment Of Today's Route (14 Avalanche miles):

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