Sunday, September 30, 2012

Freedom Riders Colour Run

The Freedom Riders Colour Run has always been an interesting experience. We have ridden through cold temperatures, rain and even snow. Some years, we have hardly seen any colours at all. This year was different.

We were up at 7:00 AM. I only got to sleep at 4:30 because I had become wound up working on the blogs from our trip. We started off with a cool morning, as usual. The Weather Network said it was 5 C (41 F) but felt like 2. But the skies were clear and the radar showed that no precipitation of any form was likely. Years ago, the manufacturers of Irish Spring soap developed that product in response to a survey showing there was a section of the populace who actually enjoyed the experience of showering outdoors on a crisp morning. They would have felt right at home today.

Leaving the driveway at 8:30, we stopped for fuel (I should have filled with cheaper Virginia gas in Williamsburg but didn't get a round tuit) and were at the Tim Horton's on Levesque Street well before the 9:00 AM departure time. We found President Rob, VP Dan, Past President Terry, Rob's dad Ray, new guy Don and the ever faithful Roger (who had already ridden in from Manitoulin Island this morning). No passengers except for Sandy and no one showed up after us. Ray had decided that he was just there to wave goodbye to us so the remaining six bikes headed east on Highway 17 just after the key time.

The group gathered at Tim's

Not long after we got started, Sandy told me that her Gerbing heated jacket wasn't working. Then, near Hagar, we ran into clouds and, while the temperature didn't drop much, it felt a lot colder. We soldiered on to Sturgeon Falls and the Sturgeon River Inn, where the brunch buffet was the first thing on our agenda. The colours were pretty good along this stretch.

As we rode along, my mind started to wax a bit poetic. I considered what it is that gives us such joy riding along with the harsh pavement six inches below our feet. We find such pleasure being in the air and in the scene instead of observing it from inside the walls of a cage, enjoying the visceral satisfaction of leaning into a curve and  feeling the tires bite as the bike responds to Newton's Laws. Then I pondered the ballet of a group of like minded friends all going through the same experience as they move in unison down the open road. The love of this sets us apart from the general populace and, if I had to explain it, they wouldn't understand. I was pretty much in The Zone this morning.

Highway 17

The colours are starting

At the Inn, Rob stayed to help Sandy and I debug the jacket wiring while the rest headed in to get a table. I carry a multimeter with my tools and we determined that the in line fuse was OK and power was getting to the plug. It looked like the plug itself, which does not have a cap to cover it when not in use, was corroded. I used some Deoxit from a little spray bottle to clean it up and then Sandy started to get heat. That done (thanks Rob), we went in and the nice lady at the buffet made us omelets to go with the bacon, sausage, home fries and toast. I was a good boy and skipped the Nanaimos and other dessert items.

Sturgeon River Inn

Continuing east on 17, we  started to encounter a few patches of blue sky on the way to North Bay. Turning north on Highway 11, we started into what had to be the absolute best display of fall colours I have ever seen. It was like every tree had decided to change at the same time and none had fallen yet. Reds, oranges and yellows abounded and, when the sun shone on them, they seemed almost illuminated. Sandy did a great job capturing them in the pixels of her Panasonic camera, except for one awesome stretch where she was changing batteries.

Suddenly, north of Tilden Lake, the colours abated. Many of the trees here hadn't changed yet, reflecting the vagaries of temperature, frost and other variables that tell them when to start the fall process.

Our kind of custom shop

Highway 11

The rest of the group

The trees suddenly exploded with colour

Awesome corridor

Rob slows for construction

Near Marten River, we caught up to a moose hunter towing a trailer behind his pickup/camper. These outfits are common up here in the fall, with the trailers and hardware often dug out just once a year to go and hunt Bullwinkle in the Frozen North. Rob saw a trailer axle behaving badly and, when we all pulled into the Trading Post, warned the driver. An older man, he just gave it a cursory look and then headed on up the road without doing anything about it.

The fuel price at the Post, $1.459 per liter for regular, was pretty steep but then in the smaller spots in Northern Ontario, they have a captive market.

Home made moose wagon

Checking the axle

We skipped buying gas

Planning the next leg

Leaving the Trading Post, we turned southwest on Highway 64 and, after a bit, the colours returned. The road had some curves as well, enhancing the ride. In Field, Rob led us onto Highway 575 with even more colours and curves. We stopped in Verner where some fueled up and Roger left us for the long solo ride back to The Island.

Highway 64 SW of Marten River

Saying goodbye to Roger in Verner

From Verner, we reconnected with Highway 64 and went south through Lavigne to Alban. Past Noelville, the road straightened out and passed through a lot of farmland.  Still, there were brilliant splashes of colour here and there. The best were the sugar maples that turn both yellow and red at the same time.

We stopped at what used to be Yvette's Restaurant in Alban. It was closed but they were operating a small store/coffee shop out of the back and Rob treated us. There was a red 2004 GL1800 outside and the owner, Moe, turned out to be a neighbor of Sandy's cousin Marie (who lives a couple of miles from here on Ranger Bay). Once again, it's a small world.

Ranger Bay - French River

Highway 64 approaching Alban

Moe and Sandy

Moe's 2004 GoldWing (the rare red colour)

The last stretch involved riding north on Highway 69. The first stretch was two-lane that is under construction where they have the passing lanes blocked off. This part of the four-laning project is supposed to be complete by 2015. They have stripped the overburden and are ready to blast a stretch here.

Then it was onto the new four-lane for the rest of the ride in. I know I was getting tired because I fell out of The Zone here. The buffeting crosswinds as we cruised along at 75 MPH were bothering me and I was suddenly overly tense trying to respond to them. We stopped at the south end Tim's to say our goodbyes before heading home.

Construction on Highway 69 north of Alban

Over two years of this to go

Final stop at south end Tim's

This was an excellent Colour Run. The group was small but we had decent weather and amazing colours. Sandy took 226 photos and some of them can be seen in the next post. Still, I look forward to a few more rides before the season is over.

Today's Route (231 motorcycle miles):

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