Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Sudbury Ontario to Cambridge Ontario

I was once going to take a self improvement course to teach me how not to procrastinate but I kept putting it off. That is why, on departure day, I found myself changing the oil in the bike. And hacksawing awning poles and figuring out how the final trailer stowing plan would work. That's why we didn't get out of town until 1:30. That time included a quick stop at CAA to get some camping guides. That was when we found they had moved. At the new place, we asked for every camping guide they had. I just checked the stack and find that the key book for this trip (Va, WV, Pa) is missing. Looks like we'll hit some welocme centres.

This trip we are headed for a camping weekend at Kickstand Lodge, a motorcycle only campground, in Stecoah NC. Fred and Mo bought this place and rebuilt much of it to fulfill a dream. It seems to be working. Anyway, we'll camp there Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights with an eclectric group of VROCers from far and wide.

After we finally got moving, things proceeded as they should. Weather was warm and sunny, traffic was light. The trailer was towing OK but seemed to be a little twitchy every time it hit an irregularity in the road surface. This happens frequently in Ontario. I had inflated the tires to 60 PSI, the pressure Lee-Sure Lite says the tire people recommend. However, LL also suggests that we might want to run as low as 35 PSI to improve tire life. At the first gas stop, I dropped the pressure to 42 PSI and the towing improved immensely.

So we are here in Camridge at Heather's place. Tomorrow we head out early and will run our usual route down through Pa, WV, Va, Tn and NC. We'll find somewhere along the way to set up the trailer for the night and finally sleep in it for the first time. If we can fine a way to get on-line, I'll fill you in tomorrow. If not, I'll publish the notes as soon as I can.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Intermission - How I Learned To Love Riding Again

I'm waiting for the driveway to dry out after an early morning rain (sounds like a song), so I figured I'd spend a little time (after a conversation with mt brother-in-law's girlfriend, Jan) documenting a challenge that has faced me for the last ten years.

My motorcycling history extends back to the spring of 1970. Actually a little before that if you count the 80cc Suzuki I drove through a weeping willow tree, but it was in 1970 I got my own bike for the first time. After five years I had progressed to a 1000cc GoldWing which Sandy and I rode 100K miles over the next five years. We rode it fast. We rode it well. I would start out on a run tired and stressed from work, drop into a theta state and be more rested and refreshed after a couple of hours than if I had been napping. I spent a lot of time in The Zone. We travelled North America without a second thought.

Motorcycling as I knew it changed in 1981 when our twin girls were born. I had seen others give up riding, ride solo or confine themselves to going down to the coffee shop and back when their progeny arrived. After kicking it around, Sandy and I decided to do none of the above. We bought an 1100 GoldWing Interstate and Motorvation sidecar and kept on riding. By the time our kids were three years old, they had been to both coasts by motorcycle. Between 1982 and 1995 I, exclusively in sidecar mode, had covered over 70K miles on two different outfits.

At this point, I need to take a moment to describe motorcycle riding. There was a long thread on VROC recently arguing about how to make a motorcycle turn. Do you lean or do you countersteer. Personally, I think everyone does the same thing but, like with a golf swing, different people focus on different key moves. The same physics apply to bicycles and, as everyone knows, you never forget how to ride a bicycle. Unless you have exclusively been driving a sidecar outfit for many years. Because sidears don't lean and if you countersteer them you will end up somewhere you don't want to be. So I spent 14 years and many miles schooling myself to do exactly the opposite of what it takes to make a two wheeled bike go around corners.

I'll jump forward to 1995 when I decided to remove the sidear and go back to the freedom of two wheels. Ontario roads aren't too challenging, so the problem didn't become apparent right away. I had a feeling that I wasn't as carefree and aggressive as I had been, a feeling that progressed over time. The '99 and '00 trips to the north Georgia mountains and the twisty roads there put me out of my comfort zone. I started thinking about how to make the bike do what I wanted it to do. I'd done it before easily, so why was it so difficult now. Couple this with acrophobia, and I started triple guessing myself in mountain areas. I got tenser and my riding got shakier. Being of sound mind, I left a lot more room. This continued to progress over the next few years. I didn't stop riding. In fact, from 1998 to 2004 I rode over 100k miles. But I wasn't in The Zone. I couldn't find it. Towards the end, I started to actually feel disoriented while riding, not sure which way was up.

So why am I now a happy rider again? The cure has occurred over several stages.

Last summer as we were riding out west, I was having some severe difficulties. One thing I did notice was that when I was faced by a situation in which I "expected" to be uncomfortable, I would start to tense up. Then I would start to lock up. In my rigid state, I would fight the bike and the turns and be very tentative and jerky. My layman's diagnosis was that I was suffering panic attacks. At bro-in-law Malcolm's place in Vancouver, I did some research and found that panic attacks (and other autonomous nervous system problems) are prevalent in people who suffer from Mitral Valve Proplapse, which is a leaky heart valve. Enough so that the term MVP Syndrome has been coined to describe it. Guess who has MVP? Luckily, Malcolm's very capable and engaging girlfriend, Jan, has a degree in psychology and we talked about things like Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and how one can self treat panic attacks.

Armed with my new insight, we happily headed east. I was able to identify the onset of the panic attacks as I would subconciously stiffen up and slide forward in the seat. I countered with deep breathing and viualizing something pleasant, something other than the conditions which were triggering the stress. I had one particularly successful morning coming out of Golden BC through the HooDoo Canyon. I was even able to look way down at the river as I was navigating the twisty road clinging to the vertical cliff face.

So things were now better. But the bugbear still remaining was that I continued to have difficulty getting the bike into sweeping turns. The tight twisties were now not bad but the higher speed sweepers were still giving me fits about how to get them started. I know it sounds strange, but try running down a flight of stairs and, midway down, start thinking about what your feet are doing. There's a pretty good chance you will trip. It was the same with the curves. I was thinking too much but couldn't for the life of me, figure out how to stop and still get around the turn. This spring we road Arizona, Texas and then North Carolina in this tentative mode.

The final piece clicked into place between Lexington, Kentucky and Cincinnati, Ohio on a sunny afternoon in May. We were running up I-75 heading back from NC and our stop at Bushtec trailers. I was at a point where the broad curves in the highway were being a problem. I was staving off the panic, but wasn't doing well on getting a cornering line so I had slowed down a bunch. In short, I wasn't having fun. Then, in my mirror, I saw another GL1800 catching up. As it came by, two-up and towing a camper trailer at about 85MPH, I tucked in behind in the right stagger position. I rode behind him from Lexington to Cincinnati holding my line with no thought about how to corner. I just did, running a steady 12 inches from the right side of my lane. Bike going where I wanted without concious thought like it should. In this carefree mode, I reflected on the whys and wherefores of this improvement.

Slowly it dawned on me. I ride well behind someone else. But when I am leading or alone, and when I think I am going to have trouble with a curve, I look at the entry point. I stare at the entry point. I try to figure out what I need to do with my hands and body to get the bike to start turning at that entry point. I FIXATE on that entry point. When I am behind someone else, I ignore the entry point and just follow them. How could something so simple and so elementary have been bothering me for so long? Look through the curve. One of the first things you learn and I knew the words but had forgotten what they meant. When the other GL and I parted company on the south side of Cinci, practising what I had realized put me back in my comfort zone as I rode on alone. I didn't worry about the corners and they just happened all by themselves.

It's been several weeks since then. I got home, led several bikes to Port Dover and back, ran the back roads of Eastern Ontario, rode down south on some interesting roads and then returned hauling the trailer without one single second thought. I'm more relaxed riding, less tired and have even slipped into The Zone a couple of times. Crosswinds are less trouble, too. Towing the trailer would have been hell without knowing this.

I'm sure anyone who has been riding for any length of time will wonder how I could have been so screwed up for so long. Put it own to my ability to think myself into any kind of trouble and to overanalyze any situation. Regardless, I'm back now and looking forward to riding more than ever. I'm even looking forward to that Hogback thing in Utah they've been telling me about. Bring it on!!

BTW, I have seen other riders who, by the way they corner, must be experiencing similar problems. Maybe now, if they are interested in advice, I can be able to provide some insight.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Apology For Late Posting

I have to apologize for taking so long to post the events of the last few weeks. From Port Dover on I have been behind although I have been keeping notes. For some reason, time spent at home during travel season is lazy time and, absent any immediate deadlines, not a lot gets done.

Anyway, things are up to date and I hope to do better in the future. Or not:-))

Friday, May 27, 2005

Figuring Out The New Trailer

We were the talk of the neighborhood last night. To see how it all worked, we set the trailer up on the front lawn and then assembled the awning and add-a-room. I had ordered two awnings; one for the front and one to hang the add-a-room from in the back, but only one was in the trailer. This was fortuitous since it looks like we only need the one covered area so I’ll call Guy and ask for a refund for the second piece.

Today I registered and insured the trailer and we spent time figuring out what would pack where. It looks like everything will fit easily, but we’ll have to wait until we are on the road next week to see how it all comes together.

The one week trip to Kickstand Lodge in Stecoah, North Carolina for a VROC camping weekend will be an excellent shakedown cruise and then we’ll have a week at home to make any changes before we head out on the big trip west about June 15th.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Fixing the New Trailer Wiring

First priority this morning was to get all the lights working. No tail light juice from the bike side indicates the problem is there. The Bushtec harness is isolated meaning that the power for the lights comes directly from the battery and is controlled by relays tapped into the bike wiring. I figure that the main power from the battery is fused and that if it blew none of the lights would work. I then assume that I am looking for a faulty plug somewhere. But I don’t know where. The wiring is all hidden under various wiring panels.

The easy solution to this is to call Bushtec. Larry turns me over to Jason the installer who tells me that each line from the relay box to the hitch plug is fused separately and I am probably looking at a bad fuse. Further, the wiring can be accessed simply by pulling the rear fender. So I pull the drawbar off, unbolt the fender and slide it out of the way. There are all the wires and components. I pull the fuse for the wire in question. Can’t tell by looking at it and no spares so I take a fuse from another circuit and put it in. Hook up the plug, turn on the bike and ZAP. Fuse blows. I check trailer plug with ohmmeter. The plot thickens. There is a short circuit in tail light circuit on trailer.

After tracing down the trailer wiring, I find the nexus in one tail light assembly. A judicious cut and I have split the wiring and find the short is in the other tail light unit. Looking closely, I see where a bare spot on the pigtail is making contact with a spring that also contacts the grounded frame. A little black tape, put it all back together and voila. Lights.

Now I make a run to Crappy Tire for odds and ends. Spare fuses. Install new ones, test the lights and put the fender and drawbar back on. Test the lights again. Connect the plug onto the trailer wires using solder, shrink tube and protective covering. Test the lights one more time.

Thus endeth the saga of the non-working lights.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Sudbury Ontario to Omemee Ontario and Back - Getting the New Trailer

Tuesday was a bad day as I coughed and hacked through the first day of my cold. But the Wednesday forecast was good and I had set a time of noon to pick up the new trailer in Omemee Ontario, about 240 southeast of here. Regardless of condition, I would go.

It was clear Wednesday and a little cool at the start. This wouldn’t be the case for long. About 7:30 I headed south on Highway 69 at a steady 120 KPH, about the upper limit of what I could hope the gendarmes would let me get away with. Stopped for water I Parry Sound and then took Old Highway 69 to Foot’s bay and Highway 169 to Gravenhurst. Old 69, recently replaced with a four lane divided highway, felt familiar but didn’t have hardly any traffic. Highway 169 is a scenic road that twists and turns through cottage country where the unfortunate denizens of southern Ontario cities escape for the weekends. From Gravenhurst, four lane Highway 11 and then more 169, 12 and 7 were relatively flat and straight. For some reason, Highway 12 seems to be the dump truck capital of Ontario. I hate dump trucks.

I arrived in Omemee a little early. After fueling up (I had 405 km’s on the tank, a new high), I found L&L Trailers and Guy waiting for me. He showed me some trailer things and wired the plug I got from Bushtec to the trailer harness. After adjusting the bulbs for a five-wire configuration, we turned it all on. Everything worked except the tail lights. The test light showed no juice from the bike so I assumed a problem in the wiring Bushtec had done. No big deal since I would be returning home in daylight. We attached the licence plate off my cargo trailer, not a legal practice but an expedient one, tied up the safety chains and I was on my way.

I headed home the exact reverse route. The trailer towed well all the way home and I was able to maintain about the same speed as I did going down. There was a headwind most of the way and, although I could tell by the fuel consumption, the bike didn’t complain at all. I got in about 5:30 having covered 480 miles and spent an hour getting the trailer in a ten-hour period. By this time I was pretty wiped out and went to bed early.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Combermere Ontario to Sudbury Ontario

Monday morning dawned cool and damp. We loaded the van and Mike’s car. The kids headed out before 8:00 AM and we were soon following. Light rain off and on dogged us across the park to Huntsville, but traffic was light and we made good time. I only saw one moose this time. We headed north on Highway 11 and back home through North Bay this time. Not a pretty or interesting, but faster. Sandy hooked up with a fast draft on 11 and I found myself following her at a pretty steady 120~130 KPH. She’s a much better driver than she gives herself credit for.

We got in about 1:30 PM and I mowed the lawn. Then I called Guy at L&L trailers to arrange to pick ours up Wednesday. Later that evening I realized I had caught a chest cold, probably related to being up so late, smoking too many cigars and hanging out with some sick people. But it was a fun weekend one more time.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Combermere Ontario - Fry Guys Weekend Sunday

Sunday started slowly. Lots of coffee and water for Mike and I. Kim and Mike decided to take a drive through Algonquin Park. Sandy and Heather elected to remain at the cabin. The weatherman, who had promised warm and sunny all weekend, was not our favourite person as the weather slid into typical Combermere mode. Cool, overcast, periods of drizzle and rain.

I had to report to the schoolyard down the road where the traditional softball game started at noon to set up one of the kids field events to be held immediately following. Since the weekend was Harry Potter themed, I was to construct a wizard’s maze around the Jungle Jim and swing sets using a long rope. Blindfolded kids, directed by their grown partners, would supposedly navigate their way through this course. Brother Rob, architect of the games, said make it complicated. Right. The rope went up, down, around and around. Eric Avon decided that he would run the course instead of committing his young daughter to it. With his wife’s help, he survived and we immediately shortened the route for other competitors. Then we shortened it again, but it was still a challenge.

Games over, the gang adjourned back to the lodge for do it yourself ice cream sundaes. I hooked back up with Sandy and Heather here. Then we went back to the cabin, where Kim and Mike had returned from the park, for supper and more naps.

As early evening approached, I headed down to the beach to check out the fireworks preparations. They had the younger adults busy digging trenches for the rows of fireworks to be launched from the beach. Eric had gotten something new this year with racks of mortars and other devices attached to boards and fused together in sequence. He traditional solid base mortars were to be fired from the concrete dock. This is usually my job and this year Brother Dave would be working with me. Brian had come up with propane torches for lighting fuses instead of our usual molten material spewing road flares. This would prove to substantially reduce my burns frequency.

At 9:30, we had sounded the appropriate warnings and everyone had gathered behind the safety rope. Our gang, neighbors, people who drive in just to watch the show. Launchers were in position. We were ready. I don’t really know what the display looks like. I’ve never seen it because I am always setting up, firing off, knocking down and setting up again with the mortars. This goes on for over twenty minutes. The types I handle go straight up a long way and explode in a variety of shapes and colours. This year, in a new wrinkle, I had four smaller ones of the same type, designed to explode in a shower of red and green balls, blow up un the dock. That kept things interesting. We managed to hit our finale at the same time as the crew on the beach. As the show came to an end, Brian’s special secret show closer went of echoing up and down the river and taking most of the fans by surprise. Then it was all over except for the cleanup.

Afterwards, we went to the Round House for a short time and said some goodbyes. We usually leave Monday morning before the rest of the gang gets up. Then it was back to the cabin and bed.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Combermere Ontario - Fry Guys Weekend Saturday

Saturday morning was clear and cool. Mike cooked scrambled eggs and bacon while Sandy made toast. Breakfast done, we hustled up to the Value-Mart in Barry’s Bay to gather provisions for the rest of the weekend. Heather road pillion on Quicksilver, her first ride on the new machine. We were back in plenty of time to be ready for the annual bike ride at 11:00 AM.

The ride consisted of all ten bikes in attendance. Some of the guests who don’t usually get a chance to ride found empty passenger seats, while Kim joined me for the run. After fueling up and following Brother John through the traditional wrong turn, lodge owner Brian Stevenson took the point and took us along the narrow winding roads through the familiar towns like Palmer Rapids, Quadeville, Brudenell, Wilno and back to Barry’s Bay. The road surfaces went from pristine to “watch out for the holes”, but it was a fun time. By the time we got back to Barry’s Bay and parked by the old familiar chip stand, the street fair was in full swing. Old cars, street rods, vehicles and people of every description dotted Highway 60 through town. As we waited for our food orders, we watched the dark clouds, the very same ones that had been no part of the weekend weather forecast, roll in. Kim and I opted to skip the tour of the street and headed back down to Combermere at a good pace.

Back at the cabin, everyone kicked back and some took naps. After supper, topped off by strawberry/rhubarb pie, we loaded the cooler and headed for the Round House. This is an enclosed building with benches around the walls and a huge fireplace in the middle. Dave brought in a new addition, a Karaoke machine and we got it working. Soon enough people had arrived to fill all the benches and some were making the first attempts at singing the oldies tunes that came with the music machine. Songs were sung and alcohol was drunk and soon so were many of the people. Then we shut down the Karaoke machine and Dave brought out his trusty guitar to accompany the singers. Eventually people started to drift off starting, unusually, with the younger crowd. Future son-in-law Mike, pretty trashed, was the last of the kids to go leaving a few of us old timers still going. By 3:30, it was just Brother Dave and I discussing life, the Universe and everything so we packed it in. It took what was left of my Southern Comfort bottle (not a lot) and started back the quarter mile walk along the lakeshore to cabin 26. With no flashlight! I did eventually make it safely and crawled into bed.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Sudbury Ontario to Combermere Ontario

We celebrate a holiday in Canada called Victoria Day, which is a Monday later in May. It is also called May 24th weekend, but isn’t often on the 24th. In any case, a group of people we used to rally with years ago, spearheaded by the three Fry brothers, have been gathering at Stevenson Lodge in Combermere Ontario. Combermere is a village south of Barry’s Bay just east of Algonquin Park. People come from far and wide for this. The Fry’s, John and Bev, Rob and Kirsti and Dave and their friends are from the Toronto area, Eric Avon and family comes from Quebec, Marc Souliere from Ottawa and Rob and Jan Hooks come all the way from the Cleveland area.

This year Heather, Kim and Mike took the Friday off so that they would be able to arrive from Cambridge in daylight. Sandy opted to take the van from Sudbury to carry all the amenities she is used to for the housekeeping cabin we stay in. I took the bike, sometimes leading and more often following. We took Highway 69 down to south of Parry Sound and then cut east on Highway 141 through Rosseau and over to Highway 11. This is one of my favourite roads, especially the stretch from Rosseau to Ullswater. Then we went north on 11 and caught Highway 60 at Huntsville. Going east, 60 goes thorugh Algonquin Park. Unfortunately, the road was closed inside the park while O.P.P. investigated a fatal motorcycle accident. A group of eastbound cruiser bikes crested a blind hill and met a deer. In the ensuing melee, four bikes were wrecked and one rider and the deer died. A second rider was airlifted to hospital. The closure held us up for about an hour and then traffic was slow the rest of the day.

At the lodge, a number of people had already arrived so we said our hellos and then headed for Cabin 26 to stow the gear. I received a cell phone call from Heather, which surprised me since we have never had cell service down here before. They arrived soon after we did. After everyone had unpacked, we headed back to the main lodge to visit. There was time spent admiring Rob’s new BMW sports car. The Lott brothers arrived and immediately washed down their GL1800’s. I avoided this since I had only wiped the bugs off the windshield and this behaviour of theirs would only make me look bad.

After a feed of chili and hot dogs, everyone in our group was tired so we returned to the cabin about 9:30 and everybody was in bed shortly after.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Port Dover Ontario – Friday the 13th

Port Dover is a small Ontario town on the shores of Lake Erie. For years now, bikers have been converging there every Friday the 13th in a relatively unorganized celebration of the two wheel experience. Friday May 13th, 2005 was no exception.

A small contingent of Sudbury VROC decided to put in an appearance. Ted and Helena Boyd on their trusty 1999 Nomad indicated an interest. We traveled west with them back in 2000 on the maiden voyage of our trusty 00 Nomad, which was known as The Haze because of its purple colour. They are excellent traveling companions. And Leo decided to fire up his Nomad and join in.

Thursday the 12th was cold and clear. By cold, I mean that the morning temperature was –4C. I took the bike down to the blood clinic to donate since it was motorcycle week there, and had to sit and wait for fifteen minutes until my body temperature warmed up enough to pass the screening. Leo joined me there and when we got back home Ted and Helena were waiting to go. We donned the cold weather gear and headed south about noon.

We grabbed a quick lunch in Parry Sound and headed south on the superslab until we got to what used to be Highway 89. From there, I lead through back roads down and across the Hockley Valley to Orangeville and then cut across through Forks of the Credit. These roads provide some interesting scenery and challenging twists and turns. We then got back on Highway 24 for the run into Cambridge.

Ted and Helena got a room at the Super 8 while Leo came with us to Heather’s apartment. We reconvened, along with our daughters, at the Mongolian Grill for supper. The Grill is a different dining experience where you pick you selection of meats, veggies and sauces and they cook it for you on a large, common cooking surface. We then returned to our various rooms and caught some sleep.

Key time the next morning was to leave Cambridge at 7:45 to make our 9:00 AM rendezvous in Hamilton with more of the Frozen North crew. It was slightly warmer than the day before. Slightly. I expected we would be early, but we actually pulled in right on time. Ace and Guns were already there and Rob from Port Hope pulled in on his new Harley right after. After coffee and a muffin, we left at 9:30 and joined the columns of bikes moving down Highway 6. Backups at traffic lights further along let us see how heavy the two-wheeled traffic was. When we got to PD, the access to Main Street was already shut down. We followed the back street we were direct to until Ace took a turn past a closed street sign and parked in a no parking area of the curb close to an intersection. Ace is our hero.

We walked down Main Street where parked bikes and people covered every available square foot. I don't ever remember seeing this many people here this early. We then went to the foot of the pier and paid our respects to the memorial to the local fishermen lost on the lake. Since the five of us were heading the 350 miles back to Sudbury, we bid adieu to Ace, Guns and Rob and hiked back up the hill to the bikes. We were rolling at noon and cleared town not too much later after threading our way through a phalanx of leather clad pedestrians.

The lineup of bikes trying to get into town was huge. As we went north, more and more were heading south into the biggest two-wheeled traffic jam in Ontario. If you go to PD, go early.

After we fueled in Hagersville, just north of PD, there was a honk when I stopped for a traffic light. There was Rob on his trusty iron steed. He fell in behind us and followed as we threaded the superslab (403/401) through Hamilton, Burlington, Oakville, Mississauga and the north side of Toronto. He waved and continued east when we turned north on the 400. We stopped at the service centre on the 400 for lunch and I talked to a GL-1800 rider from Barrie who had tried to get into Port Dover but given up after getting stuck in the jam.

The ride back was uneventful except for the aforementioned rain and cold. Cold started about Toronto and the rain was off and on after Barrie. It didn't get really nasty, though, until we reached Sudbury.

So another Friday the 13th is in the record books. Why do we do it?
I don't know. Maybe just because it is there.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Sudbury Ontario

It’s easy to tell we are home. The temperature has dropped and a north wind is blowing. They are forecasting -4C (25F) overnight. I expect to be ordered out of town soon by the same people who ordered me to leave last time.

Spoke to Ted Boyd last night. He and Helena are still on for Port Dover and I have a call in to Leo to see if he is still coming with us. We’ll leave tomorrow after my 10:00 AM appointment to donate blood.

I’d like to wash the bike today but it is quite cold so I don’t know if I’ll get it done. I have bills to post and papers to read. If I get time, I’ll reorganize the garage to put the sleds and snow blower at the back and sharpen the lawnmower blades.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Mentor Ohio to Sudbury Ontario

The weather channel this morning showed a line of rain along the south side of Lake Erie. The funny thing was that, when I stepped outside, the skies were blue. Go figure. We loaded up, got gas ($1.95 per gallon) and jumped on I-90 headed for Buffalo.

We traveled the NY Thruway and Sandy noted as we got off that the tolls were increasing on May 15. That’s going to be strange since we have been paying $2.10 for the stretch from Buffalo to Pennsylvania as long as I can remember. Then we proceeded to the Peace Bridge where the tollgates on the US side seemed to be missing. A free bridge. How nice.

Traffic was light at customs so I chose one of several lanes that had only one car waiting. With my unique knack of choosing wrong, we watched the fellow in the booth have a protracted discussion with the officer. Then documents were passed over and the talk continued as car after car went through the adjoining lanes. Finally, he was sent to impound and it was our turn. I declared the hitch and explained about the cut tire replacement. This may seem naïve but I survived an RCMP investigation into motorcycle accessory smuggling years ago because I had been above board and declared all my purchases. This was when my lawyer explained to me that, with customs and taxes, you are guilty until you prove yourself innocent. Anyway, the pretty young lady welcomed us home and released us. This was when I discovered where the new tollbooths were.

We headed up the QEW to Hamilton and, not willing to pay the exorbitant toll on the 407, jumped on the 403 through Oakville. It’s been a long time since I went through here and even longer since I ran it right through to the 401 in Toronto. There have been many changes along the route. We caught the 400 north off the 401 and stopped at the service centre just north of Canada’s Wonderland for lunch and gas.

As we headed north of Barrie, a large black cloud was threatening from the west. We headed at it for a while and finally started catching some light rain near Waubaushene. It quit, but we encountered the same thing again near Parry Sound. If we had been a little later, it looks like we would have had a much worse time. Finally, we reached Sudbury without having to fuel again. This tank covered 363 kilometers and it took 23.5 liters when I topped it up.

The new credit cards arrived while we were away. The grass is green and long and needs to be mowed. After I sharpen the blades. Tomorrow is a chore day since we leave again Thursday for Port Dover.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Lake City Tennessee to Mentor Ohio

OK, so Erie was a little optimistic. You can see by the previous post that we made it to Bushtec in Jacksboro for our 9:00 AM appointment for the hitch install. By the time the bike was back to us and the bill was paid, it was nearly noon.

If you ever have time to visit the Bushtec facility, do it. We toured the plant and saw the entire manufacturing process from raw steel to frame and from virgin fiberglass to finished, painted trailer body. High tech and high quality. The waiting room has couches, big screen TV, coffee, tables and even a cyber café.

Anyway, it was noon when we hit I-75 north. After watching the storm front, which seemed to be stalled over Chicago, we chose to exercise some discretion and cut northeast on I-71 from Cincinnati. From Lexington to there we rode second to a GL1800 towing a camper trailer. He was rocking along at 80 MPH and I could visualize myself doing that very shortly. He also had a very nice back seat coverJ)

The weather was hot all the way, pushing 90 degrees for most of the afternoon. I pulled the panels off the jacket and was very happy to be in mesh.

Since we left so late, Erie was not going to be in the cards. We rolled into Mentor on I-90 about 7:30 and called it a night. We had covered 495 miles in 7 hours and 34 minutes, so I was happy with the progress. We have about the same to do tomorrow, so we should be home by mid-afternoon.

Jacksboro Tennessee - Bushtec Trailers

I'm posting this from the cyber cafe in the luxuriously appointed waiting roon at Bushtec Trailers here in Jacksboro. They are just finishing up the installation of my trailer hitch and soon we will be running northeast trying to beat the weather front that should be assaulting Chicago about now.

We toured the production facility here. I have always considered Bushtec to be top of the line and am even more impressed now that I have seen how they are made. There are two HD riders here from NY and three Wings just arrived carrying some Alberta and BC folk. They are all 2005's and were bought down here in Ohio.

We'll try to make Erie Pennsylvania tonight although that may be a stretch.

BTW Sherm, if you read this (and I know you will), John isn't here but his son says to tell you that Bushtec says hi.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Lake Lure North Carolina to Lake City Tennessee

There was no point in leaving too early this morning since we have an appointment in Jacksboro Tennessee, less than two hundred miles away, tomorrow morning. We packed and hung out waving goodbye to others as they left.

Charlie Ruddock was going to ride over to Kickstand Lodge in far western North Carolina. KSL is a motorcycle camping facility owned by Fred and Mo, longstanding VROCers who made a dream come true. Their facility sits at the foot of The Dragon, a famous stretch of highway between NC and Tennessee that has 318 turns in eleven miles and attracts motorcyclists from all over. We’ve never ridden The Dragon so we opted to ride along.

Things being what they are, by the time we were ready to get off I-40 to head to Fred’s, our priorities had changed so we bid Charlie a fond farewell and continued on to Knoxville by the most direct route. This put us in Lake City, Tennessee, which is about 30 miles north of Knoxville and right next to Jacksboro by mid-afternoon. There was one construction zone just before Lake City that resulted in a traffic backup northbound.

We are now in a Days Inn catching up on Email and updating the blog and the books. We’ll get the hitch on tomorrow morning and then hotfoot it homeward. The only concern now is a nasty weather front coming in from the west. We’ll see where it is tomorrow and then decide how to attack it.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Lake Lure North Carolina - Three Days of SEVROC

The SouthEast VROC Rally has been a VROC fixture since 1999. In 2001, we relocated it from Suches Georgia to Lake Lure. This year, the attendance was down a little bit but this gave us a chance to meet some new people while enjoying the company of old friends. People came from as far away as New Hampshire, Michigan and Nevada (not to mention Ontario) this year. The weather was cool and wet on Thursday became sunny and warm for Friday and Saturday.

Friday morning, as some people were checking out the GoldWing, my old friend Tomcat noticed a cut across the tread of my front tire. Although not cut right into the tire carcass, it was disturbing. I couldn’t tell if it would be dangerous or not, so the next day a few of us took a run back through the twisties on 74A. It looked to me like that made it worse so we headed off to Hendersonville to find the Honda dealer. I expected a small dealership that would have to order a tire and disrupt out schedule. Instead, we found the largest GoldWing dealer in the world and we were back on the road with a new front tire within an hour. We then invested some time helping Flip, from southern Michigan, try to find his missing tail light assembly and licence plate somewhere along the Eastern Continental Divide on Highway 64. No luck there.

Thursday dinner consisted of a deep fried turkey dinner created by organizer Scott (Hot Sauce) Sprankle and friends. If you have never had turkey prepared this way, you don’t know what you are missing. The ladies took up a collection and arrived with several golf cart loads of firewood, so the socializing took place around the fire for the rest of the evening. Friday night, we opted to try out a brand new Italian restaurant in Lake Lure. You think I would know better than that. They have some bugs to iron out. Saturday there was a catered dinner featuring BBQ pig. It was excellent and the gentlemen doing the catering were very personable. While we had another active bonfire Friday night, Saturday was somewhat subdued as people started getting ready to leave in the morning.

These are the type of gatherings that Sandy and I have decided to make the focus of our motorcycle riding. Although goodbyes were said, they almost always included where people would be in the future. We’ll see some of them this Friday in Port Dover Ontario, others in five weeks in Wisconsin and/or six weeks in Utah, some not until the fall in Arkansas, but it won’t be long until we are together again.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Waynesburg Pennsylvania to Lake Lure North Carolina

It was cold this morning. The frost on the bike windshield and the frozen droplets on the body parts were a dead giveaway. We donned our full cold weather gear and rolled up onto I-77 South just after 8:00 AM, keeping an eye on shaded areas on the road in case they were slippery. The temperature slowly rose as we crossed into West (BG) Virginia, but remained on the quite cool side.

Over the next miles, we were given time to reflect on how beautiful West Virginia is. The Interstate stays up high most of the time but you can look down into the hollows and see small cabins that have been there for generations. I like to try to imagine what it was like to live there before the highways connected everything.

We left I-79 and took US19, which is a 60 mile shortcut to I-77. The main town along this route, Summersville, lies just over Powell Mountain is the worst speed trap I have ever encountered in my travels. The speed limit on the four lane highway is 50 MPH and there are usually several cruisers out there stopping those travelers who are a few miles over the limit. I have heard they use these revenues to augment their local taxes and there are awards for the police officer who writes the most tickets.

South of Summersville, we crossed the New River Gorge bridge, over 3,000 feet long and 850 feet above the river. It is an awesome structure but you can almost miss it if you just drive over it without stopping at the visitor center. Coffee and fuel in Beckley and then we continued south into Virginia through the impressive East River and Big Walker Mountain tunnels. At Wytheville, we turned southwest on I-81 and stopped at Abingdon Virginia for lunch. The temperature finally warmed up and we took off our cold weather gear.

Leaving the Interstate, we proceeded south on a little road I found years ago while attending a NASCAR race at Bristol Motor Speedway. It rolled and wound through the countryside as we crossed into Tennessee, passed the Speedway and the took us to Johnson City where we caught the new I-26. This took us over the North Carolina state line and on to Asheville where we caught Highway 74A and the last leg of our outward journey.

74A crosses the Eastern Continental Divide after climbing a series of twists, turns and switchback curves. It’s an interesting road and is typical of most of the roads in this part of the Smokey Mountains. It levels off in Bat Cave and we proceed on to Chimney Rock and Lake Lure where the early arrivals are standing out front of the Geneva Inn, our headquarters.

After getting registered, we unpack our gear and grab a bite at the Tiki Bar behind the Inn. Chimney Rock towers over us. Anyone who has seen the movie Last of the Mohicans with Daniel Day Lewis will remember the closing sequence at the end with the towering cliffs. This was filmed on Chimney Rock. I found out this trip that Dirty Dancing was filmed in Lake Lure as well.

VROCers continued to roll in throughout the evening as the temperature quickly started to cool off. The greetings are one of the best parts of these gatherings. Phil Thompson, AKA Gunslinger of Martinsville Virginia, and I finally were the last ones up as usual, along with Russ Argo (Cargo). We turned in about 1:00 AM.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Cambridge Ontario to Waynesburg Pennsylvania

It wasn’t raining or snowing this morning but the thermometer was right on the freezing mark and the sky was overcast. We put on all the cold weather gear and started down Highway 8 for Hamilton just after 8:00 AM.

We ran 8 right through Hamilton and connected with the QEW in Stoney Creek, following it all the way down to where it ends at the Peace Bridge between Fort Erie and Buffalo. At Fort Erie, we stopped at a McDonalds for some heat and coffee even though it was long before our planned first stop. This was to become the pattern for the day.

The border crossing was easy as usual. Sandy had to take her patented Harley Davidson face mask off before we arrived so that they wouldn’t get any wrong ideas. I had to stop after we cleared customs to give her a chance to put it back on. Then we proceeded down I-190 and caught the Thruway west towards Erie.

There was a major squall line running along the south side of Lake Erie but it seemed to stay just south of the highway until we hit the Pennsylvania line. In North East (a place, not a direction), we stopped again for more coffee. We were talking to a gentleman there who warned us about wild turkeys on I-79. We had to tell him the story since this is where we were hit by the turkey two years ago. It seems he lost an entire windshield in a Yukon to one of that bird’s stupid cousins.

Coming out of North East, I put on the rain totes and gloves. This proved again to be fortuitous since we hit rain within the next few miles. It rained a bit here and there all the way to Pittsburgh where it partially cleared. This was our third coffee stop of the day. After we headed on again, we got caught in a traffic jam at the south I-279 where they are building bridges. From all the construction I saw on 79, I have to figure that Pennsylvania found a lot of road rebuilding money somewhere. We also saw a pair of C-130’s passing low overhead in formation.

As we dragged our feet with repeated stops, the initial target of Beckley West (BG) Virginia became Summersville, which then became Morgantown and finally we settled for Waynesburg Pennsylvania, about twenty miles short of the state line. This will make for a longer day tomorrow, but it is supposed to be sunny and a little warmer. Not at first, mind you. We couldn’t be that lucky.

For supper, we had the Tuesday country fried steak special at the KFC near our hotel. It wasn’t Cracker Barrel but both of us ate for $6.48 total, which helped the budget line. Then we adjourned back to the room (after a brief stop at the Dairy Queen that fate put between the Super 8 and the KFC) to watch Gilmore Girls and The Amazing Race.

The bike continues to run well, but all the cleaning I did before I left home was for naught. It is absolutely filthy, even by my standards. I’ll have to clean it again when we reach Lake Lure.

There is neither high speed access nor a local AOL number here, so I bought a phone card and taught the computer how to use it. I am not sure about Internet access from Lake Lure since we don’t have phones in our rooms. If there is nothing for a few days, trust that I am still writing and will post as soon as I find access. If I am lucky enough to get on-line, please disregard this.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Sudbury to Cambridge Ontario

Up early to pack and then visit the dental surgeon fellow. He gave me a thumbs up and a syringe and told me it was my new best friend. Then I was off to the bank to deposit a few cheques. On the way, I called Bell Mobility to see about changing the payment method since the regular credit card is toast. Came home, loaded the bike, transferred files to the notebook and declared us ready.

I also took time to call Bushtec to see why they hadn’t charged my credit card for the trailer hitch. Seems the hitch is still sitting there for some reason. Best outcome, actually, because we now have an appointment next Monday morning at the factory in Jacksboro Tennessee to get it installed by the pro’s.

I should point out that it was 0C when I arose this fine day. Leo Laframboise, a riding buddy for almost 30 years now and relatively new Nomad owner, figured it was too cold to play golf this morning and had called to see if he could ride the first hundred miles to Parry Sound with us. Misery loves company, right?

After bidding the in-laws adieu, we set out under partly cloudy skies. The temperature had risen a bit, but 7C is only 45F. The ride to Parry Sound was uneventful and it only spit a little rain and light snow at us on the way.

We stopped at Tim Horton’s in Parry Sound for lunch where Sandy and I got the last sandwich due to bun insufficiency. Leo settled for a muffin. Sandy figures this squares things for the time he took the last Egg McMuffin in a McDonalds in Barron Wisconsin in 1981. She ordered first, but his server was faster and she has never forgotten.

We waved goodbye to Leo and headed south again on the now four-lane divided highway. Down the road, ugly looking local storm systems started developing so I stopped to put on my full rain gear after about 60 miles. Good thing because solid rain and then big, white, fluffy snowflakes started falling within the next five miles. Luckily, the snow melted on contact. This must be a new me, because usually I wait until I get caught in the rain before suiting up, by which time it is too late.

South of Barrie, it cleared up somewhat, although there was a particularly nasty looking cell to the east. Since they were coming from the west, our interest was purely academic but we saw the effect of its passing when we got to the Holland Marsh. Emergency vehicles were assisting a number of cars off the road and the fields were littered with hail. At that point, I was happy we had taken our time with lunch.

From this point, we completed the trip to Cambridge on two lane highways. It stayed dry until we hit town and the Wing made short work of the dawdling local drivers who clog these roads and usually hold up my van.

In Cambridge, the rain started again and, as I was getting the luggage out of the bike at Heather’s, more flurries.

After an evening of dinner and visiting with both daughters and future son-in-law, we returned to Heather’s where I caught up on the mail and newsgroup and it was time to turn in.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

A week and a half at home

So it has been eleven days since we returned from the Arizona/Texas trip and I here I sit on the eve of our next departure for North Carolina.

As typically happens, I am not very motivated after I return home and I pretty much just sat around for the first week. Not that there weren't things to do, but I have an innate ability to ignore tasks I am not interested in doing.

One thing I did do was call Bushtec Trailers in Tennessee to order a trailer hitch for the bike. It was to be sent to my dealer, J&R, in Stayner Ontario. I will need this before I can pick up the trailer in Omemee, which we need for the beginning of June.

We went out to The Shop in Copper Cliff on Tuesday looking for new textile jackets to replace our heavy leather. We found a new design, the Joe Rocket Alter Ego jacket, which consists of a Dry-Tech rain liner and ballistic material outer layer. The unique thing about this is that a large portion of the outer layer unzips leaving a mesh jacket similar to their Phoenix design. We bought one each, although mine had to be ordered and was picked up on Friday.

Last Wednesday was the date with Dr. Villa, the maxillo-facial surgeon to get my two remaining wisdom teeth out. We arrived at his office at 8:20 and was immediately given a dose of Halcion, a sedative I had opted to be given to ease the process. I was then sent back to the waiting room with to sit with Sandy, my designated driver, while the meds took hold. At 9:20, I was in the chair although, thanks to the wonders of modern drugs, things were somewhat hazy. I remember the doc making cuts along the gumline on the first one and then a shiny pair of bent pliers. Pop, and the first tooth came free. Then the second. No breaks, no problems. They packed the wounds and sent me home. On the way, we stopped at Blockbuster for some DVD's and the grocery store/pharmacy to fill a Tylenol 3 prescription and get some nutritios fluids. I really don't remember those stops at all. I came home and immediately fell asleep for several hours. Later that day, we attended an OPP Veterans Assoiation dinner and, while I didn't eat, I was in remarkably good shape. To-date, there has been no bruising or excessive bleeding although I do experience the odd twinge in my jaw. I have an appointment with Dr. Villa tomorrow morning for a follow-up exam and I expect I will be able to start eating real food (which I have been avoiding out of a paranoid concern about contaminating the sockets) very soon. On the plus side, I was 213.6 pounds the day of the procedure and I am now 204.7 pounds.

Friday, Leo Laframboise came over to help me service the GoldWing. Oils and filter changes were easy and we checked the crankcase vent tube as per the manual but found nothing in it. To access this tube, it was necessary to remove the left side cruising pegs and head cover but we rerouted the tube a bit so it is now accessible without removing anything. We also adjusted the angle on the Ergo cruising pegs I bought in Tempe from Mel. After adjusting them the way I was told to, I found the pegs were not even and discovered an easier way to adjust them in future that allows me to make them even and can be done with tools in the Wing kit.

Saturday, I used the trailer to help Norm Hein move his 1978 Harley Sportster from storage back to his house. Maybe someday this bike will run again, but I'm not betting money on it. Then I came home and washed the bike.

Friday and Saturday I also posted all my bills from the last trip in Quickbooks, paid my current bills, Netfiled our income tax returns and paid the government what we owed them. Money is now officially tight again.

With all going so well, I knew that there would be a monkey wrench somewhere. While checking my bank stuff on line, I noticed an entry posted on April 28 from a car repair company for $648.70. I was pretty sure I never incurred this, so I called Visa security who informed me that there were several more unposted transactions I did not do. It is obvious someone has obtained the numbers and is making a fradulent living out there somewhere. My main credit card is now cancelled and they can't get me a new card until Wednesday, by which time we will be in North Carolina. Luckily, we have backup cards. I don't expect to be out of pocket for these charges in the long run, but the inconvenience factor is substantial. I also have to call anyone like Bell Mobility who charge bills to the card automatically and make them aware of the situation. I believe I will review my credit card strategy and will get a separate, low limit card for on-line and phone purchases. Of course, this might not have had anything to do with on-line purchases, but every little bit helps.

The other wrench is that I did not see a charge from the hitch company. This is critical, so I will call them tomorrow and see if there was a problem. If the hitch hasn't been shipped, we will be in their vicinity next week and can possibly drop in and have the hitch installed there.

So we are leaving tomorrow for Heather's in Cambridge and will head south Tuesday morning. I expect we can make Beckley, West (By God) Virginia Tuesday night and should roll into the SEVROC spring reunion in Lake Lure, North Carolina midday Wednesday. Stay tuned to see how this works out.