Sunday, July 09, 2017

Boscobel/Solvang Trip Summary

This trip was the first journey of over two weeks duration that we have taken in several years.

27 days on the road
Equinox 6,201 miles 14.92 MP(US)G
Approximately 600 motorcycle miles

The Equinox/trailer combination performed well. It also looked well proportioned. But this vehicle is a little small for three people and luggage.

Whether we tow the trailer much in the future is up in the air. The bike is nice but, in many cases, is no longer necessary. We will meditate on this.

Our first long trip in years and we did not have a definite fall back plan. As a result, we arrived home six days before we planned. Have we lost the wanderlust or have we just forgotten how to live in the moment on the road? Again, this will require some serious pondering.

All in all, though, it was a good time. Thanks to Pat for putting us up in Kingman and to Mal and Yvette for sharing their Independence Day weekend with us. Special thanks to Sherm for sharing the road with us one more time. And thanks to the folks who made the effort to share the Boscobel and Solvang experiences.

We will be home for six weeks or so before leaving for WWR XI in Missouri (remember that Missouri loves company) and Eureka Springs. We have the Freedom Rally to work on and, hopefully, a lot of golf to be played before then. I also see visits to grandkids in our future.

So, until the next time, keep your stick on the ice!!

Marquette Michigan to Sudbury Ontario

This was a late morning. I slept until 7:30 and, by the time we got loaded, checked out and grabbed a quick McDonald's breakfast to go, we didn't hit the road until 9:00 AM. It was overcast and 58 F with a light fog in some places. The GPS said we would be home at 5:02 PM.

Through early morning fog I see...

And then some blue skies

Michigan 28 is not known for its curves

There was not much traffic in the UP this Sunday morning. We stopped at the Newberry turn off for fuel and coffee. We also found a cranberry orange muffin at the McDonald's for Sandy, something that is available at all Canadian Mickey D's but is very rare in the USA. This may not be on her favourites list for long because it has gone the way of the Tim Horton's donuts, stodgy instead of light and cake-like with crunchy edges. Efficiency in preparation takes precedence over quality of food one more time.

What does Pure Michigan mean? It has been the state tourism marketing motto since 2008 and I have no idea what they think is pure. I'd understand if it was just the Upper Peninsula but this includes Detroit and Flint.

After one last US fuel stop in Soo, Michigan, we went by a stopped line of US bound cars on the International Bridge and crossed into Canada at 12:20. It was partly cloudy and a very comfortable 67F. The first thing we encountered was a red traffic light on the bridge because it was one lane due to some heavy construction. Then we found the Customs booths were all being rebuilt. The agent asked a couple of questions and welcomed us home. Interestingly, he never even asked what was in the trailer.

US bound cars - no idea what the green was about

Soo Locks - busiest canal in the world based on tonnage

Saint Mary's Rapids (Sault Ste. Marie)

Welcome home - now STOP!

The Customs booths are getting a facelift

Tim's AND Petro-Canada - we are home for sure

And the pavement confirms it

We followed the traffic out of the Soo on four-lane Highway 17. When it turned to two-lane at the St. Joe's Island turn off, the twit towing the bass boat ahead of us (who had been cruising along at 65 MPH) hauled it down to 55. There was nowhere along here for me to get by so I followed him for ten miles before we got to a passing lane.

At the next passing lane, two cars ahead of us went to the left lane despite the fact that they had no hope of catching the vehicles ahead of them. I don't like passing on the right in these places but I did, something that is legal in Ontario if the left lane is congested. I have no idea what makes people like these so clueless.

Also, what imbecile in our Ministry of Transportation thought that allowing bicycles on a two-lane 90 KPH highway and then passing a law that motorized vehicles must give them at least three feet of clearance was a smart idea? A semi can't give them three feet of clearance and stay in its own lane. In a curve, this can be a fatal surprise for an oncoming vehicle. Speed doesn't kill, speed differential does and this is the worst case scenario. Regardless of the Participaction lobby, bicycles have no place on a busy two-lane highway.

Looks like Iron Bridge is still celebrating Canada Day

Mississaugi River

Near Massey, we saw a dark cloud on the horizon. On the other side of town, we came upon wet pavement and then it started to rain. This was the first precipitation we had driven in since leaving Madison for Boscobel a month ago. But it was short-lived as the cloud moved on the to the south.

Rain clouds ahead

First wet pavement in a month

Now it is raining

We reached what used to be the start of the four-lane at Whitefish but it was still a permanent two lane stretch with no passing all the way to Sudbury. Some stretches of the westbound side were really torn up and they were working on the bridge over the Vermilion River as well. I imagine this project is going to take quite a while to complete.

Highway 17 reduced lanes from Whitefish to Sudbury

Lots of earth moved

Bridge over the Vermilion River

Enhancing the drainage parameters

As we approached Sudbury proper (we had been in the City of Grater Sudbury for thirty miles), we encountered more damp pavement but the rain clouds responsible were off to the south. We arrived  home at 4:30, significantly beating the GPS prediction because it can't handle calculations involving 90 KPH roads, and we were completely unloaded by 5:00.

Active rain moving away from us

My goal was to not fall into my post-trip doldrums and get to work on my extensive to-do list. That, as usual, was a pipe dream but that is another story......

Today's Route (370 Equinox miles):

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Moorhead City Minnesota to Marquette Michigan

I was disappointed that the mileage we got from the tank of "no ethanol" fuel we got yesterday was among one of the worst mileage tanks we had gotten on this whole trip. It might have been due to road conditions but I didn't notice anything significantly different. Perhaps the fuel was not what it was presented to be?

Today was going to be the longest day of the return trip. Imagine considering 500 miles to be a long day? We would also be losing the last hour to the time zone changes as we return to Eastern. Up and moving by 5:15, all our gear was already in the car and we were checked out by the time the hotel breakfast room opened at 6:00 AM. After a quick breakfast of scrambled eggs and sliced sausage for me (Sandy had Raisin Bran and yogurt, not hard to keep her fed in the morning), we were rolling by 6:20. Today was the first morning dew on the car that I have seen in a long time.

After all my preaching about not blindly trusting GPS generated routes, I punched in Marquette, Michigan as a destination and blindly followed the directions. It was no surprise that we did not end up following the roads I thought we would, but we were lucky it worked out OK this time.

The countryside here was very pretty. Rolling hills, green fields and lush trees abounded. It was relaxing to drive along but the scenery lacked the excitement of western vistas. The view hardly ever changed and, ten miles along, it looked pretty much the same. As a result, we didn't take a lot of scenic photos.

Orange barrels are everywhere

Pretty but not breathtaking

More water than the west

We passed a sign for Crookston, Minnesota. After our interaction with Casper's finest the other day, I was reminded that on July 3rd, 2002 a Crookston officer let me go with a written warning after clocking me in town doing 39 in a 30 MPH zone on my 2000 Nomad. That was my last traffic stop in the USA until this trip. Officer discretion is a wonderful thing.

Water towers define the communities

Each one is a little different

Minnesota Reflux and Heartburn Center?

Back on the Great River Road

In the olden days, we used to change the oil in our vehicles at regular mileage intervals. Like most vehicles today, the Equinox is equipped with an Oil Life Monitor System that determines when it should be changed based on a number of driving factors. It expresses oil life remaining as a percentage and provides an alert when this gets close to zero. I guess the idea is to conserve energy by not throwing away lubricant before its time.

So we were on this 6,000 miles trip. Under the old system, I would have had the oil changed somewhere about half way through. Instead, I have been watching the oil life remaining. It started at 100% and is now under 20. I expect about 15% will be left when we get home tomorrow. The one caution is that vehicles still can use a little oil so that, with an extended period between changes, you must keep an eye on the oil level. I have been checking every day. It looked like like we would make it without topping up.

I have no idea why I just went through that whole description. I guess I just wanted to share some of the details that go through my head while we are going down the road. Welcome to my world.

Following slow traffic on Minnesota two-lane highways

Approaching Duluth and looking at Wisconsin

Highway 2 is an old friend

We crossed the Richard I. Bong Bridge to Wisconsin. I wondered how many people today have any idea who Dick Bong was. A USAAF P-38 pilot during World War II, Bong was an ace with 40 Japanese planes to his credit. Ironically, after being sent home in January and becoming a test pilot for Lockheed, he died in the crash of a P-80 Shooting Star on the same day that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. He was born and raised in Wisconsin and attended teacher's college in Superior.

Richard I Bong Bridge to Wisconsin

Welcome to Wisconsin - again...

Superior Wisconsin knows how to tear up a street

We liked the dog

Back in snowmobile country

Northern Wisconsin

We stopped for fuel and a McDonald's lunch to go in Ashland, Wisconsin. Then we continued until we crossed into Michigan around 1:30 PM. The temperature was a comfortable 76 F, more to our liking than the blistering southwest.

It was summertime in Northern Michigan...

Singing Sweet Home Alabama all summer long

Michigan 28

Short stop for road paving

This was once someone's home

More trees

We noted that there was a lot of construction going on in Ishpeming and Marquette. Industrial parks and big box stores were being built at more than a few locations, indicating that the economy must be doing pretty well. We arrived at the Days Inn at 5:30 Eastern. This wasn't our first or even our second stay here, but it certainly commanded a hefty price on a Saturday night in July. The front desk was friendly and competent and we ended up with two double beds on the second floor. This was the first night since we left Escanaba a month ago that I did not rush to turn the air conditioner on. The temperature probably would have put Sherm into hypothermic shock.

Hudson's Classic Bar and Grill was right next door to the hotel, so we wandered over and got a table. Both of us ordered Monte Cristo sandwiches. Sandy got creamy coleslaw while I got fries, and then we split the sides. Since we were walking, we probably should have tried the $3.00 margaritas.

Hudson's Classic Bar and Grill - Marquette Michigan

Last supper on the road

After supper, we retired to the room. I'm sorry to say that it had seemed like a long day even though this would have been a short distance for us not too long ago. I went through three separate fatigue periods today, each requiring a stop and walk around to clear my head. I don't think Sandy got fatigued because she was actually asleep much of the time. I'm sorry I didn't get to the hot tub that killed my last Timex Expedition watch when we stayed here with Brother Bear, Brad and the ladies.

Our thoughts were turning homeward as we turned in early.

Today's Route (499 Equinox miles):

Friday, July 07, 2017

Glendive Montana to Moorhead City Minnesota

Sandy really liked the sheets at this Days Inn. Luckily, the label gave a website. Sobel T200.

Breakfast was biscuits and gravy for me. You'll never guess what Sandy had:-))

The hotel computer and Internet were down this morning so the lady on the desk said she would email the folio to me. This plus the deterioration of the WiFi last night made me think that Stewey might be right. I could be an Internet jinx.I already know I can wipe out a NASCAR driver just by adding him to my Fantasy team.....

As we headed out on I-94 East at 7:10, it was a refreshing 73 F. The only downside was that the flags, stretched out on the brisk wind, were pointing WEST. The prevailing winds here are from the west but, if I am going east, there is a strong probability that I will be pushing against a head wind. Today was no different. I turned off the Traction Control in the Equinox because, if it senses trailer sway, it starts applying brake to different wheels to try to stabilize it. The trailer tows so well that these robotic efforts are not required and bother me. Plus I suspect this micro braking does not help my fuel mileage.

The first stretch of I-94 was two lane because they were doing some extensive work on the other side. After a few miles, we got both of our eastbound lanes back. If you want to feel alone, drive I-94 in Montana early in the morning.

We saw new railway ties alongside the tracks near the state line. It made me wonder how they change ties on an active rail line. Google has all the answers. It is a neat process.

We left Montana for North Dakota at 7:45 AM. The temperature was 72 F and the speed limit dropped from 80 MPH to 75, not that this mattered while I was pulling a trailer into a headwind with an Equinox. Just as we crossed the state line, our odometer turned over 50,000 miles. Not bad since it only had 14,000 on it when we bought it 22 months ago.

I reflected on days gone by when it made me happy to settle into the driver's seat with 1,000 miles ahead of me and a box of McNuggets within easy reach. Or to ride the bike all day and end up feeling more rested and relaxed when I was done than when I started out. I am starting to realize that those days are gone and we need to adapt to who we are and what we can handle today.

I mentioned yesterday that I preferred I-94 because it was more interesting. The Little Missouri Grassland, Theodore Roosevelt National Park and Painted Canyon were examples of the beauty to be found along this road less traveled.

Camel Hump Lake?

Painted Canyon

I was listening to an ad on XM Radio for Credit Associates. They said that people who owed a lot of money on plastic should not let the credit card companies trick them into thinking that they have to pay all that money back. Trick them? They should have said that they will help deadbeats who do not honour their commitments weasel out from under debt they legitimately owe without declaring bankruptcy. I wonder how many people subscribe to this kind of dishonourable tactic?

Still more interesting than I-90

We approached Dickinson, one of the fastest growing cities in the USA. We fueled up and stopped Mickey D's for a smoothie for the boss and a sausage McMuffin breakfast for me. This store had the absolute fastest service I have ever seen. By the time I walked from the cash to the pickup counter, my breakfast was there. It took a few moments before the smoothie appeared, but I was impressed.

I noted something at Dickinson that I saw a few times before. Cenex must have realized that people prefer to gas up on the same side if the Interstate that they get off. This was another location with two Cenex stations, one on each side of the big highway.

Oil wells near Dickinson ND

Water tower - Dickinson ND

No idea what the shiny dome is

We did not take the Enchanted Highway at Exit 72. I wasn't about to go 32 miles out of our way but Sandy did get a nice photo of Geese In Flight.

Geese In Flight (2001) - Enchanted Highway ND

We passed a large wind farm. Despite the strong breeze, now out of the north, the turbines were idled. We saw the same thing later on at another location. Too much electricity, perhaps?

Idle wind turbines

We left the Mountain Time Zone at 9:51 and it was instantly an hour later.

Salem Sue, the world's largest Holstein cow

Her presence shows that New Salem grows
With milk-producers' yields;
We've got the cow, world's largest cow
That looks across our fields.

Lees-ure Lite motorcycle camper trailer

Subaru with canoe and mountain bikes - I bet he wears Weejuns

20 MPH in the fast lane - do they get danger pay?

There was a lot of road work through Bismarck. It was a single eastbound lane until we got out of town.

I thought the motorcycle rack was supposed to be level

Erector set?


Our exit?

This end of the state got all the water

They said it again

All the cows were congregating

We stopped in Jamestown at a busy Dairy Queen. A very pretty girl served us (I have been lucky this way recently). Sandy ordered a turkey BLT while I had a mushroom Swiss burger, fries and Diet Coke.

On the way back out, we saw four Sno-Bears at a used car dealership. Despite my history with snowmobiling, I had never heard of this conveyance. It looked to me like a modern version of J. Armand Bombardier's early over-the-snow vehicles.


I stopped at an Exxon station for fuel and found there were two 87 octane offerings. One was with the usual 10% ethanol and the other was ethanol free but commanded a $0.25 premium. It was nice to be offered a choice. I opted for the alcohol free version.

Choices are nice

It was busy when we arrived in Fargo just in time for Friday rush hour, but we stayed on I-94 until we crossed the Red River into Minnesota. There, we took Moorhead City Exit 1A, even before we passed the Welcome to Minnesota sign.

Welcome to Minnesota

The Microtel was not far from the highway and had lots of parking space. The girl at the desk said I could park wherever I wanted to. Sandy decided we didn't need supper after our DQ feast, but we finished the Sargiento snacks we got from WalMart a while back. I worked on the blog and am happy to say that this post will be up before we go to bed.

Tomorrow will be 100 miles further than the last few days and we will lose another hour on our way to Marquette, Michigan, so we will be leaving earlier than usual.

Today's Route (389 Equinox miles):