Saturday, May 23, 2009

Freedom Riders Manitoulin Ride

We received an Email Gord and Shirley sent the club inviting everyone on a ride to Little Current on Manitoulin Island for fish and chips today. It sounded like a plan and, along with Leo, we arrived at what we call the 'Little' Tim's early so we could have breakfast. We call it Little Tim's to denote it from the other, larger Lorne Street Tim Horton's where most motorcycles meet.

The group lined up in Timmy's lot

Quite a crew had arrived by the posted 10:00 AM departure time. For a change, we departed on time with President Rob in the lead. This left Daniel, Gloria and their friends having to catch up with us on the road. Leo took the rear on his R1150RT with Doug & Carol on their V-Strom just ahead. I was just ahead of that as we rode out MR 55 and caught the Hwy 17 four lane west to the Espanola turnoff. We rode through the town of Espanola and stopped at the Tim's on the south end.

The group riding through downtown Espanola

Doug & Carol caught at a traffic light

When we left Tim's, things got a little confused. Three bikes that were not with us but stopped at the same Tim's pulled out in the middle of our group. The lead bike was a Harley with Voyager outrigger wheels piloted by a lady. Daniel, at the front of our second section, didn't realize the three weren't ours, so he held his position despite the fact that the Voyager Harley was having trouble with the great sweeping curves on Hwy 6. This lasted for quite awhile and none of us wanted to break formation to pass until we finally came to the single southbound passing lane. At that point, Lea and I stepped out and motored on ahead with most of our stragglers in tow.

No big deal because, when we got to Little Current, the bridge was open to allow boat traffic to pass. The bridge is a single lane structure which used to have railway tracks down the middle as well. It opens at the top of every hour to allow boat traffic into the harbour.

Leo had some words with the other three riders. It turns out the lady on the quad Harley had only been riding for three days. He suggested that she ride her own ride and not feel pressured by faster traffic. He also discovered that the 1984 GL1200 riding with her was the very same one he sold several years ago. Small world.

The Little Current Bridge opening

Terry and I notice the bridge is closing

Across the bridge, we pulled in at the fish and chips stand for a bite to eat.

While waiting for our food, Lea and I discuss the finer points of the ride down as Nicky and Dan's friend look on

Gord & Shirley and Terry left us at this point to attend to other affairs. After some food and using the magic trunk compressor from Pogo to adjust Rob's tires, it was time to leave. First, Daniel's HD needed some help getting started due to a bad battery. He had left the battery on a tender all winter but had not turned the tender on.

The auxiliary Harley starting crew in action

We left on what I thought was a ride to Six Mile Point and Bridal Veil Falls at Kagawong. We motored south on Highway 6 but rode right past the Point, continuing on until we turned right on the road through Sandfield. OK, we were going right on to Kagawong. Surprisingly, our fearless leader (an Island novice) missed the turn in Mindemoya and continued on towards Providence Bay. Good followers that we were, we stuck with him.

Near Providence Bay, we encountered a mile or so of washboard gravel. When we hit the pavement again, I looked in my mirror expecting to see two bikes. There was only one, Doug. We made a U-turn and went back looking for Leo, fearing the worst. Luckily, it wasn't. In true BMW tradition, his mirror had fallen off on the washboard. Luckily, it had the requisite tether cord attached to it.

Leo and I work on the mirror

The mirror was impossible to get re-installed so we disconnected the tether and threw the mirror in the trunk as cars went by in the gravel at high rates of speed. Since the rest of the group hadn't waited, we hoped they were circumnavigating the island and not stopping in Providence Bay and so we motored on to Gore Bay. I just missed a bird and Doug hit one, so we figure there was a Kamikaze movement afoot.

From Gore Bay, we headed east to Kagawong where we found Dan's Harley parked at the top of a slope and the gang enjoying the view of Bridal Veil Falls.

Bridal Veil Falls, Kagawong

As the skies started to close in, we made our run back to Little Current where we stopped for fuel. As we were stopped, a fire engine headed south on Hwy 6 with lights and siren going. (More on this later.) Then we rode back up Highway 6 to Espanola.

Highway 6 near Willisville

Highway 6 near Espanola

When we arrived in Espanola, Leo didn't stop because he was late for a family BBQ in Sudbury. Doug and I decided to go with him and, after a spirited run, caught him on Highway 17. Doug and Carol broke off north at Highway 144 and we rode into town with Leo. On the last bit home, the temperature gauge on the Wing as slightly elevated. I know everything that will cause the engine to heat up and there was no visible reason for this. At home, I found the coolant overflow was almost empty so maybe the faint coolant smell I get from time to time means I have a minor leak somewhere. We'll check it out.

After getting the bike home, we took the van over to Doug and Carol's where they treated us to a fine steak dinner cooked on the grill after which we played some cards until it was time to go home.

A Sad Postscript

On May 29th, I received this article from the Manitoulin Expositor.

If you look closely at the photo of the bike being hoisted, it is a Harley with a Voyager kit. The same one that we followed most of the way to Little Current. It seems that at about 4:00 PM the lady was trying to turn the bike around in the parking lot at Six Mile Point and accidentally went over a 150 foot cliff. It's hard to visualize this happening unless the clutch slipped and she froze. Anyway, this has to be where the fire engine we saw was headed. Luckily she survived although she has leg fractures and needs knee surgery. Apparently the rescue and vehicle recovery were quite a challenge.

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Note that these Google Maps are interactive so you can zoom in on them to get more detail on specific sections.

1 comment:

Marc Lacroix said...

Greetings, Jim. Long time no hear. I'm delighted to learn more about your rides/adventures through your blog. Yesterday, I had a meeting with Fred Rau and Marc Soulières in Valcourt. Marc mentioned your name - small world!!! Drop me a line at

Marc Lacroix
Sherbrooke QC