Saturday, September 27, 2014

Freedom Riders Colour Run

It was time once again for the Freedom Riders Annual Colour Run. It was a particularly nice day for late September. Vice President Ken had a nice route laid out to Parry Sound and then over to Highway 11 via Highway 124. It was an awesome route, but a few of us were not in the mood for quite that long a ride.

At the club supper last week, John and Janet sat with us and expressed an interest in a shorter jaunt to celebrate the changing of the leaves. Gary and Dianne decided to join us so we all met this morning at the Tim Horton's at the corner of Lasalle Boulevard and Notre Dame Street.

Meeting at Timmy's

We had a little issue with John's bike leaking fuel at the beginning, but he got that sorted out. I led us across to Highway 144 and north past some pretty coloured leaves to the A.Y. Jackson Lookout overlooking High Falls on the Onaping River.

A.Y. Jackson was a founding member of the Group Of Seven, an conic band of painters who described the Canadian landscape during the first half of the 20th Century. The lookout is a popular spot, especially at this time of year. Some of Kilo's ashes were spread here, making it a special VROC site as well. Today, they were having a charity BBQ in the main building, but we weren't hungry yet.

At A.Y. Jackson Lookout with Highway 144 in the background

High Falls

From the Lookout, I took a short jaunt further north so I could ride the curves along the Onaping River. Just before the railway crossing, I turned and rode back. The tar snakes and breaks in the asphalt made it less enjoyable than usual. We rode on back down to Chelmsford where we turned due south on Highway 144 and then took the Municipal Road through Lively, continuing on to Jube's Bar and Grill in Copper Cliff.

The pavement sucks on 144

Some trees don't realize it is fall

Jube's Bar and Grill - Copper Cliff, Ontario

In the shadow of the Superstack

The building housing Jube's used to be Lolas Restaurant, a regular stop for people going to or from work at INCO's (now Vale but I refuse to call it that) Copper Cliff Complex. Sandy and I used to work in the General Office which can be found in a direct line between the camera and the stack in the above photo.

On the evening of May 17, 1971, I pulled out of this very parking lot on my 1970 350cc Yamaha R5 with a young lady named Linda on the back seat. I turned right, headed up the hill and collided with the back end of a parked Plymouth Roadrunner when the bike refused to turn left due to a deployed sidestand. That made the nickname Skid, given by my boss two weeks earlier after my first minor mishap, permanent.

The six of us had a nice lunch and then went our separate ways. It was a great day for the last ride of the season. Last ride? How depressing. I really need to consider becoming a snowbird.

Today's Route (64 motorcycle miles):

Monday, September 22, 2014

Auburn Indiana to Sudbury Ontario

It was the last day of the last road trip of the year, and the first day of Fall to boot. Talk about a depressing confluence of circumstances. Still, things are what they are. It was dark when we departed Auburn at 7:00 AM, and the temperature was a not so balmy 8C (or about 47F for the Celsius challenged). The wind was, of course, out of the north. Shortly after sun-up, the thermometer readout dropped to 6C or 43F. This Fall was taking its job seriously.

Cool Indiana fields

Set the cruise control and go to sleep

Chunk once said that not enough people look at the sky

We got off on Old Highway 27 in Lansing for fuel. The Speedway on the south side was small (never saw one like that before) and all the pumps were blocked by people in buying stuff on the way to work. OK, I don't know for sure that was what they were doing but it seemed probable. The Speedway on the north side was bigger and I fueled up for $3.12 per gallon. That wasn't a bad price for Michigan.

Before continuing, we crossed the road to McDonald's to get some food. The lady who served us said her family came from Arkansas when she was little. I'm not sure how Arkansas came up but it must have been something I said. They tell me I am always saying something, frequently to strangers.

Rather than get back on I-69, we turned north on Old 27 and followed it up and around to an interchange directly onto 127 North. Have I said before that I really my GPS in certain circumstances? As we moved north, more colour appeared in the trees.

Michigan wind farm

The splashes of colour begin

A good beginning

Mother Nature's palette

The best thing about Fall

We stopped at a rest area for a bathroom break right behind a busload of what appeared to be middle school kids. The teacher told them to let adults use the facilities first. Very thoughtful and a great example. They had a memorial to road construction workers who had lost their lives on the job. I've remarked on this spot before but include it again because I have never seen one anywhere else.

MDOT Memorial

Please slow down in construction zones

Consent search?

We found the Mackinac Bridge was still being constructed upon. The traffic wasn't too heavy and the winds were out of the north instead of the west, so it was a good crossing.

I have never tuned in for info

One lane as usual

At least somebody was working

Short line at the toll plaza

There was more of a quartering headwind as we made our way up the UP to the Soo, causing some buffeting. We stopped at the Krist station (formerly Citgo) to top up with relatively cheaper US gas, although I don't know how they justify $3.53 when we paid $3.12 in Lansing. It is, after all, the same state and the same taxes.

On the International Bridge, we noted that there was no line-up to speak of heading to the USA. We crossed the border at 2:10 and descended to an empty Customs plaza. The agent took our NEXUS cards, asked where we were going (home to Sudbury) and asked the value of things we had acquired in the USA ($200). That was it. Through in under a minute, the fastest border crossing I've ever had.

Crossing the border

Pick a lane, any lane

The rest of the way home along Highway 17 was uneventful. Traffic was moderate and, for once, we had a tail wind. We pulled into the driveway at 6:04 PM and had the bike unloaded, the trailer parked and all the luggage in the house by 6:30.

Nice, but give it a week and it will be spectacular

It was another great Fall wind-up trip. If I remember correctly, this would have been the 14th gathering in Eureka Springs and we have only missed a couple. It was worth the trip alone to see the great folks that have made up our family of choice since retirement. The roads and rides were window dressing.

Now we look forward to winter and planning for next year's travels.

Today's Route (598 Avalanche miles):

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Eureka Springs Arkansas to Auburn Illinois

My alarm watch went off at 5:00 AM and we crawled out of bed. This was followed at 5:15 by the crowing of a demented rooster that sounded like it had a bad night. We packed our overnight bags and headed out to the truck. Our adopted boy, Southern Draw, was leaning on the railing outside his second floor room, drawing me to conclude that it was a North Carolina rooster we had heard. We waved goodbye to him and pulled out on US 62 at 5:26 in the dark.

I was going to stop at McDonald's in Berryville for coffee, but the outside light was still off and the staff were sitting outside smoking, so we concluded it wasn't open yet and we kept on going across 62 to US 65 near Harrison. I made a quick stop in a closed grocery store lot in Green Forest to check the motorcycle tie-downs. A local cop cruised by through the lot as I was doing this, so I nodded and he waved. I guess he concluded that I wasn't there to rob the store.

Turning north on 65, I bypassed the Mickey D's in Branson because Sandy had gone back to sleep and I didn't want to disturb her. Finally, I stopped at another in Ozark, Missouri, just south of Springfield, where a young lady with the nicest smile gave us free coffee along with some food to go.

Missouri sunrise in Ozark

It was daylight when we made the ramp onto I-44 East and the headwind we had fought north on US 65 became an (almost) crosswind. I was still suffering disorientation similar to yesterday despite making sure I was well hydrated. It felt like fatigue despite my adequate sleep last night. I popped a 5 Hour Energy drink but that didn't help. Maybe it is nutritional?

I-44 in Missouri

We stopped in Bourbon, Missouri for fuel and more coffee. Then it was on to St. Louis where we connected with I-70 and crossed the Mississippi River into Illinois.

Gateway Arch

We stopped next at a new Subway that had been built in an Illinois cornfield in the middle of nowhere. We got a ham and provolone sandwich to share as we drove on. I prefer ham and Swiss but, for some reason, U.S. Subways don't carry this type of cheese. I dialed up the NASCAR race from New Hampshire on the satellite radio. I was still in first place in the Fantasy League but Nomad Daddy was just behind me and this race was critical to maintaining my lead. We worked against crosswinds and trucks which were trying to pass other trucks with only marginal success as we listened to the race.

Crossing into Indiana, we encountered several single lane bridges due to construction. Then, getting lined up for one more approaching Terre Haute, the line ground to a halt. I managed to get off at US 41 and go north to US 40, which we followed through Brazil before turning south in Putnamville. We rejoined I-70 after making a quick gas stop.

Traffic jam at Terre Haute

Vigo County Courthouse - Terre Haute Indiana

I got a kick out of this

Back on I-70, we continued northeast to Indianapolis. We normally go around The Circle City to the south on I-465 but it was Sunday afternoon so I decided to go right through the centre. It was more direct but a lot rougher than our usual route We connected with I-69 on the other side and kept going.

I-70 approaching Indianapolis

Fed-Ex DC 10 leaving Ronald Reagan Airport

Naming rights are a big business

As we approached Anderson, Indiana and prepared to swing north, traffic ground to a halt once again. We saw a police car going the other way with lights on. Then it made a U-turn and came up the grass median past us. It was obvious that something had happened up ahead. I took a moment sitting stopped in traffic to phone the Super 8 in Auburn, Indiana and reserve a room. When we got to the first Anderson exit, all traffic was being diverted off the Interstate.

Passing over the freeway, we could see many red and blue lights in the distance but couldn't tell what was going on. When we got to the street that paralleled I-69 and led to the next interchange, traffic was backed up again. Consulting Miss Garmin, I turned left and went up another street. This led us through town and out the other side to a farther interchange that was not packed with people trying to get back on the big road.

Going to set up roadblock

Oh Lord, stuck in traffic again....

Forced exit off I-69

Once back on I-69, we made good time. There was quite a bit of traffic and I had to wonder where they were coming from and going to at the end of a weekend. Headwinds were stiff as the sun started to go down. I did get a kick, as we went through Fort Wayne, of the billboards advertising hospital emergency rooms with electronic digits indicating current wait time. Isn't competition wonderful?

Indiana from I-69

We pulled into the Super 8 in Auburn at 8:30. Since Terre Haute, the fatigue had abated and I was feeling just a lot better. After getting settled in our king room with the sticky door, we walked over to the Steak 'n Shake for supper. It was quite cool, well below 50F and I decided that the shorts would get packed tomorrow. The shakes were very thick and the steakburger was tasty. Sandy had three Shooters (sliders) but took two back to the room.

I had planned to either work on the blog or post my receipts, but I was just too tired and went straight to bed when we got back to the room.

Today's Route (701 Avalanche miles):

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Eureka Springs Arkansas - Branson and packing

Sherm slipped quietly out the door at 5:00 AM. He had the Burgy and most of his gear loaded last night, with everything he needed to take this morning on the little round table. This was much like a cat. It makes a big fuss when greeting you but, when it is time to go, just slips away without a backward glance. It was great sharing with him again. It's hard to believe it was a year since the last time. He had a rendezvous planned with Lanny in Amarillo tonight and you can be sure the big left handed guy won't be dawdling.

We heard a number of other bikes fire up before we cracked the door at 7:00 AM. Serious travelers don't waste any daylight when trying to make miles. Still, departure days are sad at the end of a rally. It's hard to believe that we have already spent six nights in this room.

Skies were blue when we finally poked our heads out the door. Breakfast was (you guessed it) biscuits and gravy for me while Sandy had cereal and yogurt. She has a more refined palate, I guess. Then we sat outside talking to Tom M. until a wasp started paying attention to me. Then there was another. This was odd because we hadn't seen any all week. Tom traced them to a gap in the wood of the walkway above us where they must have been just starting a nest. The manager got a spray can of some kind a shot the contents into the crack, after which about seven wasps dropped out and lay twitching on the ground. Good stuff, that spray. Then he stepped on them.

Sherm called before we got doing anything and told us he was almost to Oklahoma City. He wasn't sure if he would skip the Amarillo meet with Lanny and keep going or not.

I had suggested to Zeke last night that we go to Branson for a ride. Neither he nor Han had been there before, so we made that our destination for the day. We left about 10:00 AM. I know there are people who believe in ATGATT (All The Gear All The Time), but it was getting quite warm and I opted to ride in my T-shirt and VROC vest. On the plus side, Sandy didn't have to worry about her malfunctioning Gerbing heat controller.

I led into Berryville where we caught Arkansas 21 north. Along the way, we saw some kind of fire burning but I couldn't tell if it was intentional or not.  We stopped in Blue Eye on the Arkansas/Missouri border for the traditional photo op. A few years back, HotSauce turned me on to the Pat Green song If I Was The Devil, which started:

If I was the devil
I'd hang out in Blue Eye, Missouri
Where the water and the mountain collide
I'd scare all the little children
And rumble around beneath the beds
Tell them all kind of stories
I can't help but get them stuck in their heads

We looked but didn't see any sign of the Devil while we were there.

Something burning on the horizon

Sandy and the Blue Eye novices

How did HE get in there?

Even a post office

We continued on, catching the winding Missouri 86 over to US 65. As we approached the bridge over this end of Table Rock Lake, Sandy got a picture of my favourite house in this whole area. It sits on the south side of the road and the west end of the bridge. If I were to win the lottery........

Missouri 86 with my favourite house at the bend ahead

I could live here

Bridge over this finger of Table Rock Lake

After riding a short way north on US 65, we exited at Missouri 265. I didn't think Saturday would be a good day to get stuck on the main drag through town. We turned onto 165 and stopped at the Dewey Short Visitor Center overlooking Table Rock Dam. Just like the Beaver Dam, this structure was built on the White River by the Corps of Engineers, albeit a few years earlier.

Dewey Short Visitor Center

Zeke and Han relaxing

Table Rock Dam

The rest of Table Rock Dam

We left the visitor center and rode 165 across the dam. It was getting hotter as we turned right and followed the road almost to West 76 Country Boulevard, the main street through town. In the shadow of the Branson water tower, which was having new art applied, we stopped at one of Sandy and my favourite restaurants, the Uptown Cafe, for lunch.

The Uptown is well done in a 50's theme. Once again, Sandy and I split lunch. This time, it was a smoked ham croissant and fries while she had a root beer float and I had water and coffee. Zeke had breaded fish of some sort.

Missouri 165 showing the sedimentary rock

Uptown Cafe and the Hudson taxi

Painting the water tower

This was hanging over the cash register

It was 86F when we left the restaurant and took the Yellow Route west, which parallels 76 but without all the traffic and lights. It joined Country Boulevard at the west end of town where Shepherd of the Hill Expressway begins. We turned left and, with Branson in our rear view mirrors, rode through some very nice sweeping curves. They would have been nicer if we hadn't been stuck behind a minivan from Kansas who wasn't sure how to negotiate them

A word here about riding. Up until today, I had been comfortable on the winding roads. Relaxed, with the bike responding easily and a sense that I was in control. Today, my old nemesis vertigo reared its ugly head. I was tense and easily disoriented  when we rode anything but straight lines. This happens from time to time but much less than I used to. Still, I had to go easy and it reduced my enjoyment of the ride. I am sure Zeke could see the tentativeness. I speculated that perhaps it was a result of dehydration, so had started socking water back at the visitor center, but it didn't improve. Some day I'll figure out why this happens, because I'm tired of feeling like someone has wrapped my brain in a Baggie.

Irish Tenors and Celtic Ladies sounds like my kind of show

Some day I will zip-line Branson

Zeke's GL-1500

After following 76 out of town, we turned left on Missouri 13 towards Kimberling City and another bridge over a narrow part of Table Rock Lake. This bridge looked very much like the other one. We continued south until we came back to Missouri 86. Instead of heading on to Blue Eye, we rode due west across the south part of the state. This road is pretty open and relatively straight and is parallels the Arkansas state line.

The bridge at Kimberling City

When 86 reached the nondescript County Road P, we stopped at a gas station so Zeke could get some fuel. Then we rode south on P for a short ways before it turned to Arkansas 23 as soon as we crossed the state line. The straighter character of the recent road ended and we started winding our way towards downtown Eureka Springs.

Rather than ride back through the most likely congested downtown on a Saturday, the GPS had us branch off on Magnetic Drive, which took us across to Passion Play Road and then to US 62 right near our motel. We pulled into the parking lot at about 2:30.

We have ridden more with Zeke this week than we have at any past rally and I just want to say here that it has been a real pleasure. It was also nice to meet Han. And Sandy still thinks you sound like Billy Bob Thornton:-)

Eureka Springs and North Arkansas Railway

Magnetic Drive

It was finally time to prepare for tomorrow's departure. We packed our big suitcases and the large riding gear bag. I brought the truck over and stowed the bags in the box. Then I hooked the trailer up and pulled the rig into a double spot in the lot. Loading the bike went smoothly, although a well known VROCer (who shall remain nameless) was reported as saying that he worried when I loaded motorcycles in a trailer. Hey, I' haven't hit anything I wasn't supposed to yet!!

Loaded and ready to go

Flash and kopperhed zipping up the Jeep

Southern Draw loading Jason's Harley

There was an Email from Sherm. He had decided to stop in Amarillo and was waiting for Lanny, who had taken a detour on the way so that he could say he had ridden in Kansas. If he gets this done, he won't ever have to do it again. I don't really mean that the way it sounds. I like Kansas. It keeps Missouri and Colorado from colliding.

It was chili night at Chez HotSauce. He used leftovers to make the chili, which was nice because it allowed us to get packed and not have to worry about going out for supper. The chili wasn't as hot as the infamous batch at Suches, Georgia in 1999 that earned him his nickname but it did have substantial bite. Mr. Sauce's motto is "If you ain't sweatin', you ain't eatin'". I had some with shredded cheese and crackers and washed it down with a protein shake, a V-8 and some water. A quart of milk would have been nice. But the frozen cream puffs and key lime pie took some of the edge off. This Canadian boy isn't a big fan of heat and Sandy can't handle it at all, but when in the south..........

Milk, that's the ticket

Ice Cream and Sharon made a quick visit

We spent the rest of the evening quietly visiting with the reduced crowd. Again we wondered where the week had gone. But we are booked back here for the same time next year. The motel people were great except for the WiFi, which we hope they will get that sorted out over the next twelve months. We said our thanks to Condi and JR for the great job they did organizing this again. And to HotSauce for feeding us one more time. By the way, the pain in my knee is almost completely gone.

After our final round of farewells, we retreated to our room about 9:30. I had a bit of time to blog but, no surprise, the WiFi was down so I read a few Kindle pages and hit the sack.

Today's Route (107 motorcycle miles):