Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Trip Summary

Days on the road - 22

Distance traveled - 10,747 Kms (6,678 miles)

Fuel fill ups - 43

US Gallons consumed - 168

MP(US)G - 40.9 (better than the average 38.9 highway recorded over the life of the bike)

Mileage on bike at end of trip - 211,913 Kms (131,683 miles)

Why am I getting better mileage with the stock air filter than I did with the K&N?

I have finally realized how much I hate Interstate running. Before we turned for home on Sunday, the longest day we had done was 402 miles. Coming back, we averaged over 600 miles per day, but they weren't anywhere near as enjoyable as the slower days. This will affect my future planning as I will leave more time to get anywhere. As my doctor says, I'm retired, what's my hurry?

It was a great trip, though. Saw many old friends and met some new ones. We have a week at home now with Kim and Jolene visiting and then we will be back out again for a couple of weeks with our July gang, Brother Bear, Laurie, Brad and Judy. We still have no idea where we are going but that is half the fun. And I am happy to have a woman I love that I can share this with.

Life is good.

Madison Wisconsin to Sudbury Ontario

We were awakened at 5:15 by the booming of thunder overhead. Looking outside, it was obvious a major boomer was in progress. I turned to the computer to see how bad the radar said it was but the connection to the outside world was down. Obviously, the storm had taken its toll. The TV was reporting more flooding in the area with talk of tornado watches in some adjoining counties. Not a good start for the last day.

We went down for breakfast and found one of the better ones of the trip. In addition to all the continental items including the do-it-yourself waffles, they had biscuits and gravy. We ate well and the Internet came back up briefly giving me just enough time for a NEXRAD overview. While the storm was moving out of Madison, it was a big semi-circular affair hooking back around north of Green Bay. I didn't see how we would avoid it but we needed to get moving because another cell was headed our way from the direction of Cedar Rapids.

I spoke to a pretty lady with pale blue eyes from Northern Minnesota. She and her kids were headed to visit family in Michigan and Ohio. This was her first road trip in eight years and she had explained to the kids how she needed a road atlas to travel by. Then she left it in a restaurant at lunch yesterday and now, one day out, she was on her second one. I wished her luck with the rest of her travels.

It was 22C at 7:45 when I let the GPS guide me out of the parking lot. The first miscue came when it tried to take me to I-39 as a way to get to US 151. Unfortunately, the ramp was closed and I ended up taking an eight mile detour down I-94. As we finally reconnected with 151, some raindrops from the leading edge of the next cell fell on us. The sky was blue ahead and black in the mirror as I poured the coal to it and got out of Dodge.

I pushed the tank and stopped in Rosendale for gas. The sky was changing so fast I suggested we spoil our perfect record and put the rain suits on. Good move because, as we approached Green Bay, the rain started. It was light but steady as we moved up US 41. By Oconto, it had let up but we kept the suits on as we rode to Michigan and followed Michigan 35 to Escanaba and our own time zone. We stopped at McDonalds for lunch and to put the suits away because it was becoming quite hot. The radar showed the Upper Peninsula was a mixed bag of weather and I couldn't predict what would happen.

From Escanaba, we followed US 2. After the 65/70 MPH limits on two lane roads out west, the 55 MPH Michigan roads are positively slow. It seems that states become more chickenshit about their speeds the closer to Ontario they get. Ontario, of course, is the worst of the bunch and has been lowering limits over the years on all the fun places to ride. Near Manistique, the temperature dropped sharply. Then, about 15 miles from our turn on Michigan 117, the road got very wet very quickly. I hoped against hope but we ran right into some severe precipitation. With no place to hide or suit up, we tucked in and I ran very fast until we got through it, just in time to turn north and stop at Engadine.

Clouds over Lake Michigan

Looking north, there was another black cloud so we put the suits on again. By the time we were ready to go, the black cloud was nowehere to be seen. As any rider knows, the best way to avoid rain is to wear a rainsuit. We rode north to Michigan 28 and then east to I-75 and the border. Fueling, we got the papers in order. The bridge toll was $3.00 US which, coincidentally, was all the US cash left in my wallet. We waited at the toll booth because one (very cute) girl was handling traffic both ways. Then we waited at Customs on the Canadian side because they only had one booth open. Then they opened a second one and we managed to be third in line. We would have been second but I lost a game of chicken with a Ram 1500 truck. The agent asked a couple of questions, told me my new GPS was within my personal limits, and we were home.

It was after 6:00 so there was no thought of visiting. We beat feet for Highway 17 East and started the last leg of the journey. About now, my taped up microphone cord rebelled. The mike wire started to make contact with something else and we started hearing a feedback howl so I shut the intercom down and we just listened to music.

Near Desbarats, we passed an OPP SUV headed west followed by another SUV towing an enclosed trailer. The second vehicle either had high beams on or the headlights werent't adjusted for the tongue load so I flashed him. Then there was another OPP SUV, a second enclosed trailer hauler and another SUV towing a boat. It appears I probably flashed a member of the OPP SAVE (Snowmoble, ATV, Vessel) Team heading for the Soo for the weekend.

The pavement was wet east of Iron Bridge but the Mississaugi River was very low, unlike the Platte in Nebraska. We stopped at tthe picnic area before Blind River for the mandatory four minutes, and then again at the one beside the Spanish River.

The last rest stop - near the Spanish River Ontario

The skies were darkening as we made the final run for home at 19 KPH over the limit. On the Southwest Bypass, an OPP cruiser made a U-turn in front of me and pulled over a truck. The new lights on the cruiser looked pink and blue in the evening light, not a very intimidating sight. We pulled into the driveway at 9:40 and the bike was unloaded and in the garage within ten minutes. Boy is the grass in my lawn ever long.

Today's Route (631 Miles):

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Kearney Nebraska to Madison Wisconsin

Awake at 5:15, I checked the radar and saw a second thunderstorm had just passed over Kearney and was traveling along I-80, standing between us and our destination. On the plus side, it was moving quite fast so maybe we could just hang back a little and stay dry. We lingered over a minimal Super 8 breakfast and got the bike ready. The sidestand foot I put down after the stand sank in the asphalt had also sunk a little way into the pavement. So had the front tire. I've never seen a commercial parking lot this bad. I did add a couple of pounds of air to the tires to make up for our significant decrease in altitude.

We left Kearney at 8:15, sliding under the famous Archway Monument that spans the mid-point of I-80. The late start would be partly offset by not changing time zones today. We could see the storm off ahead of us as we moved along into a strong headwind. Prevailing winds are supposed to be out of the west but I usually don't have the benefit. The excess precipitation had flooded cornfields along the highway, the opposite of the low water levels at home. We stopped in York at McDonalds for breakfast and to use the free WiFi to check the weather. The new NEXRAD capable Garmin Zumo 665 GPS is looking better all the time.

The Archway Monument near Kearney Nebraska

Flooded cornfields near York Nebraska

The colourful York water tower

The very thing we are trying to avoid

Yours truly checking the NEXRAD at a McDonalds

The storm was reaching Omaha as we left York. Along the way, we could see a new cell spawning north of us and following the original one. We stopped in Gretna Nebraska, a little west of Omaha, to check again. The first cell crossed into Iowa and moved south of I-80, but the second, new one was strengthening as it hit the city. We waited a bit and then moved on, taking I-680 north around the city to avoid both the rain and road construction. By the time we reached Iowa, we were clear of it. In an Iowa parking area (like a rest area but with no services), we met a couple from New Zealand in a rented Class C RV. They were heading east, would fly to Barcelona and back and then return west by a more southerly route. Those Kiwis sure get around.

East of Omaha, this looks more like it

More wind turbines at a rest area in Iowa

The Adair Iowa happy face water tower

The old storm moving away to the southeast

Iowa slowed us down because the Interstate speed limit was only 70, compared to 75 in the western states. My objective of holding to 5 MPH over the limit cut our speed from 80 to 75. We stopped for gas in Des Moines and were reminded again that "it ain't the heat, it's the humidity". After the dry of the west, having air humid enough to cut with a knife wasn't very comfortable. We rode on and exited towards Cedar Rapids where we caught US 151 northeast. On the way out, I have to marvel at the thought processes of someone who would put a four-way stop at the intersection of two four lane roads. At rush hour, it was a little spot of madness in an otherwise rational day.

It was too late to stop at J&P Cycles in Anamosa. I had hoped we would get a chance to try on Tourmaster Solution riding boots. They are totally waterproof and would eliminate the need for carrying rain totes. In addition to reduced packing space, they would simplify the process of getting suited up in a hurry. I won't buy footgear without trying it on, so I guess we may have to make a trip to Whitehorse in North Conway, New Hampshire for fitting.

At a gas station near Anamosa, I found they were charging $0.30/gallon less for 89 octane 10% ethanol gas than they were for 87 octane pure gasoline. It looks once again like the public isn't very accepting of the poorer performing fuel. I paid more for the regular.

We rode through Dubuque and crossed into Wisconsin at 6:30. It was till 30C but felt cooler because the sun was getting lower in the sky. The sky was clear and I knew how a pitcher must feel with a no-hitter going into the bottom of the 9th inning. Twenty-one days on the road with one to go and still no rain suits.

The old Dubuque Iowa train station

Wisconsin sedimentary rock

We stopped at a BP service station near Belmont and split a Subway meal deal. They had this fountain that let us know that we had to be in Wisconsin. Then we continued on to Madison where I had called earlier to reserve a room at the Days Inn. I called at 3:50 and the young lady had informed me I had until 4:00 to cancel the reservation without charge. We both got a chuckle out of that.

A cow fountain? Yes, it is Wisconsin for sure

We reflected on how this part of Wisconsin is pretty enough to rival central Virginia, which I had always thought belonged on the pastoral scenes one sees on postcards.

Pretty countryside

Me and my shadow........

Riding through Madison, the GPS guided us directly to the hotel. When we got there, we found all the entrances to the parking lot were blocked by yellow tape and there were a Sheriff's car and a State Trooper vehicle parked on the grass out front. Somewhat concerned, I called the desk and found the lot was blocked because they would be resurfacing it overnight. The police vehicles were there because they were dropping off a young lady who had a room there. They said we should just park in the back lot.

Police at the Days Inn - Madison Wisconsin

This is a very nice Days Inn, one of the best I have seen. We were on the 3rd floor but they had an elevator. They also had an indoor pool and hot tub, but we were too tired to even think about them. The price was competitive as well and they had very fast Internet access. I will put this place on my list of preferred places to stay. The young man on the desk said that the storm they had yesterday had flooded the street out front so it's a good thing we're a day later than the weather.

We turned in fairly early in anticipation of being home tomorrow night.

Today's Route (617 Miles):

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Evanston Wyoming to Kearney Nebraska

Today was the first day of summer. told me that the forecast thunderstorms for the Cheyenne area had been cancelled and a big storm was just leaving central Nebraska heading east. We were packed and loaded before the continental breakfast started at 6:00 AM. After a quick bowl of raisin bran and half a banana, we were rolling by 6:15 in the still 6C Wyoming air.

The first 28 miles were under construction. In this area, they use very fine rain grooves to promote wet weather traction, which can have an unsettling feel to ride on. As we are seeing more and more, the once empty horizon was dotted with yet one more wind farm.

Wind farm near Evanston Wyoming

Green River, Wyoming is a very pretty place. It sits in a valley surrounded by all kinds of interesting rock formations.

Butte near Green River, Wyoming

Green River formations

About 8:45, I was starting to feel the round of daily fatigue way too early. I think the mind numbing 80 MPH haul across I-80, certainly not the most interesting of highways, is a major factor. Up here in the Wyoming high country, there is very little to break the monotony as mile after mile drone by under your tires. In any case, the trusty 5 Hour Energy bottle got me back on track for the time being.

Sinclair Refinery - Rawlins Wyoming

From Rawlins to Laramie, the signs kept warning that high winds were possible. We know this to be true because we got beaten up pretty badly out here on the last trip across 80. Today, however, they were relatively benign. There was snow not far from the road as we rolled along at nearly 8,000 feet. We stopped at the Elk Mountain Conoco for gas. The GPS shows Elk Mountain as a location but, in reality, it is just a Conoco station.

Elk Mountain

We had an early lunch at a Laramie McDonalds. I phoned RL in Verner and added a new headset for Sandy to the list of things I'll pick up when I get back. Then we continued east, crossing the highest point on I-80 at the Lincoln rest area. It is hard to believe you are 8,688 feet up when everything around you is flat. After the summit, it was confusing because the angle of the land made me believe I was still climbing but the GPS and bike overruled my confused senses and confirmed we were descending.

8,000 feet up and flat

Another wind farm

The Hoodoos

Interesting rocks up here (2 photos)

We continued through Cheyenne to Pine Bluff where we took on more fuel. We talked with two local riders, Eric and Marty. Marty has an '04 red/black Vulcan Classic and I steered him towards VROC for advice on how to modify his ride. Sandy put water from my mug in hers, a big mistake because I often have coffee in mine and it imparts a distinct taste to the H2O. I don't mind it but we needed to buy some more water to fix hers.

We left Pine Bluffs and rode for over 100 miles wondering when we were going to reach Nebraska. We actually did immediately after leaving Pine Bluffs and we'd been in the Nebraska panhandle all along. The Cabelas world headquarters with its awesome fighting elk bronze out front is in Sidney Nebrasaka, not Sidney Wyoming.

Not far from the I-76 junction, we stopped at a scenic lookout. It was getting progressively warmer and mesh jackets were called for. Continuing east, we amused ourselves by trying to photograph our reflection in passing tankers. Nebraska also refreshed our memories on the smell of an upwind feed lot on a hot day.

Looking out on eastbound I-80 near Big Springs Nebraska

Attempted self portrait

I picked Kearney as the target for the day. As we got close, we could see the river south of the highway had overflowed its banks. The storm on the radar this morning had looked severe and here was the evidence. In Kearney, we checked into the Super 8. This chain comes in all shapes and sizes and this one was at the lower end of the scale. After we ate at the nearby Perkins, we returned to find the bike sidestand had sunk into the asphalt parking lot. I can't understand a hotel having a residential grade paving job where the summer temperatures often break 100 degrees. On the plus side, the tornado procedures were prominently posted at the front desk.

I worked on some blog/bill stuff and then went outside for a few moments. At 10:10, lightning was visible off to the west. By 11:00, a severe storm passed just south of us with Kearney only getting light rainfall. Right after that, I went to bed.

Today's Route (672 Miles):

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Topaz Lake Nevada to Evanston Wyoming

We were up and ready to go at 6:00 AM. There was a sizable group getting ready and we said our goodbyes. Sherm and the faithful truck/Harley combo were off to Yuma Arizona to drop off some things at their winter place. We've been sharing a room for a week and a half and it has been a memorable time. Sherm, as always, is our favourite traveling companion. Thanks for the memories and we'll see you next time around.

In addition to the VROCers, the Arab speaking crowd was up and loading their camo packs and prayer rugs in their vehicles for another day of what the front desk called "war games" in the desert. I know profiling isn't allowed but I hope someone called the FBI to have these guys checked out.

We rolled out of the lot at 6:03 under clear skies and in 7C air. Heading east has the double challenge of fighting the morning sun in your eyes and losing time to the zones. We took Nevada 208 at Holbrook Junction, cruised through Wilson Canyon without seeing any deer and rolled up US 95 through Silver Springs to where we caught I-80 in Fernley.

I swapped Sandy's upper headset cord for the spare in the trunk. Hers is a different type than mine and I wanted to get her fixed for the trip home. To keep from mistaking bad cords for good, I threw all the old cords away. It seems I should have done this sooner because the cord I installed was worse than the one she had before. Unfortunately, I threw the other one away. My bad. I am now going to order her a whole new headset to get things current. Mine, however, is better because I taped the upper cord to the helmet to reduce play in the bad connection.

Headed east on I-80, we stopped for gas and breakfast in Lovelock. I took my sweater off. By 9:30, I was starting to get drowsy so we took our four minute stop in Winnemucca where I had a 5 Hour Energy drink and put my sweater back on. It was staying cool. We kept meeting large numbers of westbound motorcycles I figured were coming from the Elko rally.

Winnemucca Nevada welcomes us

The ride was uneventful until our gas stop in Carlin. We were at a Texaco station and Sandy went in to use the facilities. When she came out, I went in and got a coffee. When I came back out, Sandy was excited and shouting at me about dusters. It seems that a larger one came right over her, with the dust and dirt all over the bike as evidence. I could see where it was continuing on its merry way.

The duster in Carlin Nevada

Hoodoos somewhere in Nevada

As we headed east with a tailwind, there was a large line of cumulus clouds building to the north. No problem for us because we weren't going that way. Once we passed Elko, the motorcycles were going our way. At Wells, an Idaho rider told me they had estimated 30,000 people in Elko for the weekend.

Clouds north of us

I-80 has a few curves over ranges but is mostly straight, like a wider version of US 50.

Looks like an interesting road

Until you see what's on the other side

Between Wells and Wendover, the temperature finally started to climb. We crossed the Utah state line and gave back an hour as we started across the salt flats. The temperature hit 32C as we crossed, a far cry from the 40+ we have seen here in the past. The tailwind, however, became a strong crosswind from the south. We did note that the Tree of Utah has now been fenced in.

Approaching the Salt Flats

The Salt Flats

The Tree of Utah is now fenced in

Across the flats, we stopped at a McDonalds in Lakepoint, Utah. This one had a trash can that opened automatically and thanked you for the deposit. I really wasn't ready for talking trash cans. From there, we rode uneventfully through Salt Lake City and started up the mountains east of town. We reached Parley's Summit at 7,010 feet, before descending a little. The road from there was grades and descents with a lot of 45 MPH curves. We stopped at an overlook beside the Echo Reservoir for our last break of the day.

Great Salt Lake

Mountains behind Salt Lake City

I-80 climbing out of SLC

Still climbing to Parley's Summit

Echo Reservoir

I-80 I-84 junction

The climb up to Evanston, our stop for the evening, was bordered by beautiful red rock formations.

Red rock climbing to Evanston Wyoming

Arriving in Evanston, I fueled before heading for the Comfort Inn. At the pumps, we saw an old Ford Model A fueling up. This was an unusual thing, or so we thought. Imagine our surprise when we pulled into our hotel and found about fifteen of them. It seems the Model A Car Club of California was following the route of the Pony Express eastwards. Another group left St. Joe Missouri heading west and they would meet in Casper Wyoming.

Model A at the gas pumps - how rare is that?

Not really - our hotel lot

We walked to Lotty's Liquor Store, Lounge and Restaurant for supper. It looks like they are remodeling to a 50's theme. The meatballs in our sandwich were OK but the hoagie roll, hand cut fries and home made chips were excellent. Soon after, we turned in.

Today's Ride (650 Miles):

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