Saturday, June 23, 2012

Freedom Riders South Baymouth Ride

A few days ago, word circulated that Freedom Riders President Rob would be leading a ride to South Baymouth on Manitoulin Island. It would depart this morning at 9:00 AM sharp from Tim Horton's in Chelmsford. Not wanting to be late, Leo came by here and we were on the road by 8:00. The bike handled OK despite the front end not being lowered.

At Tim's, several people were already there.  Dan R. was towing the Kruzer cargo trailer I had sold him but a short circuit in the brake lights kept blowing fuses. Finally, they gave up and he decided to tow it without lights. We got underway at a few minutes past 9:00, heading down 144 and west on Highway 17.

President Rob leading the group

Carol hitching a ride on Leo's Wing

Following my old trailer

We turned south on Highway 6 and made a stop at Tim Horton's on the south side of Espanola. There were other bikes there and one Harley rider gave me some posters for the Manitoulin Rally scheduled for two weeks prior to the Freedom Rally. It turned out that his name was Larry from Gore Bay and I knew him back in the snowmobile days.

Seen at the Espanola Tim Horton's

We headed south on Highway 6 towards Little Current, one of the nicest riding roads in Northern Ontario. The pavement surface is new and the road winds up, down and around as it traverses the white quartz of the LaCloche Mountains before flattening out as it approaches Manitoulin Island. The single lane swing bridge at Little Current, open every hour to permit access to the harbour, was open as usual when we got there so we waited in line for the only road link to The Island to be re-established.

Waiting for the Little Current swing bridge

When the bridge closed, we continued south down Highway 6 to South Baymouth, where the ferry Chi-Cheemaun connects the highway to the Bruce Peninsula and southern Ontario. The last time we were here was when we took the dinner cruise on the ferry from the south end last Labour Day weekend. This time, we stopped at Carol's and Earl's Restaurant. Although they specialize in fish, I had an excellent back bacon on a bun with homemade fries and gravy. (Back bacon is what 'Murricans call Canadian bacon.)

Waiting for food at Carol's and Earl's

Manitoulin Island at a glance

After lunch, I set out ahead of the group with Doug riding Leo's Wing (Carol on the back) and Leo riding Doug's V-Strom. Doug had never ridden a GL-1800 before but was considering one as a more comfortable option for his passenger wife. We rode back up Highway 6 at a leisurely pace and hunted our way around Sheguindah for the Soap Factory, our next scheduled stop. I won't go into the perils of a GoldWing on rutted grass but, suffice to say, no harm was done. The rest of the club arrived soon after.

Sandy and I didn't buy any of the many environmentally and skin friendly soap variations this time but will probably stop by again the future. Leaving here, we fueled in Little Current and then crossed back to the mainland and back to Espanola. One of the interesting things on Highway 6 north on the flats north of The Island was a series of deer warning signs with flashing lights. They are triggered by motion detectors along the roadside. Leo says these are set up in a number of areas but this is the first set I have seen.

Leaving Manitoulin Island

Deer warning warning

Flashing deer warning

Deer warning motion detectors

On the way north, we were riding second behind Rob and fell into a rhythm through the curves and hills leaving the rest of the group behind.  They caught us when we slowed in Espanola at the end of an excellent thirty miles. Rob led us to Highway 17 where we stopped for ice cream at the Northwest Trading Company. While there, we saw a number of police vehicles heading west with sirens and lights going. It turns out that a section of the mall roof in Elliot Lake had collapsed into the food court with an unknown number of people trapped inside, but we didn't find this out until we got home.

For the last forty miles into town, I ended up leading Don, Doug & Carol and Leo. Doug broke off at Highway 144 for The Valley while Don stuck with us through the by-pass to Highway 17 west. It was a good  day.

Today's Route (412 motorcycle miles):

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Sudbury Ontario to Kanata Ontario and return

I called Kanata yesterday and found the ordered part had arrived and was being installed.  It was a small part called a Seal Back Up and cost just over $7.00. I had also called Curtis the day before to specify that the front end should be lowered on re-assembly by sliding the forks 10 mm up in the triple tree to offset the increased length due to the heavier Traxxion springs. I was concerned  that this might not have been clear in the instructions, having tried it with the forks in the stock position and found it wasn't as stable.

I had asked Leo if he would go with us as co-driver. We picked him up at 6:00 AM and headed east, stopping at Tim's for breakfast-to-go on the way out of town. We stopped again at Tim's in North Bay before continuing east on Highway 17. The traffic circle in Mattawa was finished although the long one lane stretch east of town was still there.  The flag lady let us go ahead so I was surprised to see a loaded log truck bearing down on us at a good clip as we were moving.  I checked up and avoided him, realizing there had been some mix-up by the flag people.

We stopped in Deep River where Leo took over the driving. Just outside Kanata we stopped at the Carp exit for fuel, noting that the $1.15 per liter prices was way below the $1.25 Sudbury price. Leaving there, we saw many police, fire and emergency vehicles heading towards a plume of smoke south of the highway. We never did figure out what it was.

"She says life is like a windshield
It ain't no rear view mirror
The only way to get where you're goin'
Is find that higher gear"

Burned gas station in Rolphton

Fuel prices in Ottawa

We arrived at Kanata Honda just before noon. I had told Curtis we would be there about 1:00 PM because I thought we were making a delivery to Orleans but that was cancelled. When we got there, he was still at lunch but the bike was in the service area. They had cleaned it up nicely, a pleasant surprise, but a check of the fork tubes showed they had installed them in the stock position, not the one I had specified.

When Curtis arrived, I pointed this out to him. He told me that he had not passed the message on to Peter the mechanic because Peter had the official Traxxion instructions. But he was now on lunch and would not be back until 1:00, so we went to a nearby Subway to eat. It took some effort to find the retaurant because it wasn't where the GPS said it was.

When Peter got back and Curtis called him to come out and talk to us, I found myself facing an older gentleman. My perception of him was that he is methodical, conscientious and precise. He took exception to my telling him that the re-assembly was not as per Traxxion practice and showed the written sheet that said "re-assemble as per Honda instructions". And, given that Curtis had NOT given him my instructions and what the Traxxion guide said, he had every right. It took me some time to find the written directions to alter the fork position on the Traxxion website but I did. The problem now was that Peter wanted to take the whole front end apart to change it and he had a bike on his lift that was unable to be moved. Because it was now 2:00 PM, I said we would get it fixed at RL.

Based on my experience, I would trust Peter working on my bikes. The problem was with Curtis, the service adviser, who thought he knew more than he did and did not pass on the customer's (my) request. Also, as a Honda shop, when he suggested new brake pads without specifying type, I thought he meant OEM Honda pads. Instead, I find I now have EBC pads. Oh well, we'll see how they do.

We hooked the trailer up and loaded the bike. Then we headed northwest into the afternoon sun. There was nothing to note on the way back and we arrived before sundown. I had to move the motorhome and the van out of the driveway so I could back the trailer in and unload the bike. Then I maneuvered the trailer to its resting spot, put the RV back and parked the truck, leaving the van on the street. It was nice to note that backing the trailer up with the truck was much easier than with the van. The last thing was to drop Leo off at home with many thanks for his help today.

Today's Route (569 Avalanche miles):

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Nepean Ontario to Sudbury Ontario

We woke up this morning in no rush. Paul wasn't going to be at the dealership until 10:00 AM so we moved at a leisurely pace. The breakfast room was on the first floor but Sandy was disappointed, considering the room rate, that the selection of items was a little sparse. I did note that this seems to be a popular place for seniors' bus tours.

Back in the room, I caught up another day in the blog before we checked out and headed to Kanata Honda. We arrived about 9:30 and checked in with Curtis, who directed us to a comfortable waiting area with leather seats and a TV. I finished the last of the blog entries using the Rocket Stick since the dealership Guest WiFi wasn't working.

About 11:30, I noticed that we hadn't heard from Curtis and headed off to find him. He was in a meeting but someone else confirmed that Paul was in the shop and they were plugging away at it. I hate not being able to see what is going on. This proved to be a valid concern because Curtis eventually came out to bring us some unexpected news.  They found the cause of the seal failure.  On dis-assembly, the mechanic found that a part had been left out the last time the fork was put together.  To make matters worse, the only part they were able to find was in Vancouver and would not arrive until Thursday. I wanted to talk to Paul about this but it seems he had already left. Since this was his error, I would have respected him more if he had faced us instead of going out the back door.  On the plus side, this seal has failed three times so I hope this discovery will be the end of the problems.

There was no way we were going to hang around for three days so we told Curtis we would head back to Sudbury and come back down on Friday to retrieve the bike.  This is one benefit of our new WHORE (We haul Our Rides Everywhere) lifestyle. When the  bike is down, we are  not stranded. I will need to re-evaluate who my suspension expert is going to be. Curtis assures me the mechanic at the dealership, Peter, will be able to handle the work in the future.

The trip home was largely uneventful.  Along the four lane 417 out of Ottawa, we found the Avalanche is quite comfortable cruising along at 80+ MPH. From Arnprior, where the two lane starts, to North Bay there are a great number of construction zones with flag persons. Passing through Rolphton, we saw that the Esso station where we had stopped to use the bathroom and I had gotten coffee on the way down, had burned to the ground.  I also saw my first Chevy Volt in Mattawa.

Satellite radio was interesting. This is new for us. It kept my blood pressure going listening to Charles Gibson on Fox News as he advocated that  Chicago adopt the "stop and frisk" initiative New York was already using. It pains me when I hear a so-called conservative who has no concept regarding the protections against arbitrary searches contained in the Constitution. But I'll end the libertarian rant there before I get carried away.

Flag person on Highway 17 looking down on Mattawa

My first Chevy Volt

Electronic deer warnings

As we were leaving Sturgeon Falls, we cane upon the scene of a house fire right along the side of Highway 17. Fire and emergency vehicles had the highway blocked so we  were directed onto a detour. Unfortunately, as has happened before, the side road they directed us onto ended at a stop sign at a through road. The through traffic wasn't stopping and we might still be there if a Sturgeon Falls policeman hadn't arrived and started to direct traffic.

House fire west of Sturgeon Falls

Detoured but stopped

The last fifty miles went smoothly except where we found work crews laying tar snakes in Municipal Road 55 on the east side of the city.  This road was just finished a couple of years ago and I have to wonder what deficiencies in the construction have caused it to come apart so soon. Motorcyclists hate tar snakes because they are slick in both the wet and the heat.  As a taxpayer, I am not impressed.

There was a rude surprise for us when we pulled into the driveway. Someone appeared to have thrown some liquid substance at the motorhome while we were gone.  The container seemed to have hit the windshield and broken open, splattering the glass and the underside of the overhang. It was red and sticky but, luckily, washed off quite easily.

Other than not returning with the motorcycle, the first  trip with the truck towing has been a resounding success. The truck was comfortable and pulled well.  It also appeared to have gotten 19.5 Miles Per (US) Gallon without the trailer, cruising mostly at 10 KPH above the speed limit.  I was happy with this. I am looking forward to covering many miles at the wheel of this vehicle, hauling the Wing to many great riding spots across North America.

Today's Route (293 Avalanche miles):

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Massena New York to Nepean Ontario

It was an overcast but comfortable morning in Massena. We ate continental breakfast without too many people crowded around and then set out for Ogdensburg where we fueled at the Valero. Prices were down about $0.15 per gallon from last week. The bridge crossing was very quiet and the Canadian CBP agent welcomed us home without anything more than a cursory look.

I called Paul from the Canadian side and he said he hadn't spoken to the dealership yet so we went on up to his house near Merrickville. Getting off the 416 at Kemptville, I was very impressed by the growth.  A Walmart, Staples, Canadian Tire, two Tim Horton's and three traffic circles.  Wow. We continued on to Paul's and found he had made the arrangements with Kanata Honda for tomorrow.

We drove to Kanata and found the dealership, located on a little circle next to Scotiabank Place. This was built just for the numerous dealerships that dot its perimeter. There we met Curtis, the service adviser Paul had been speaking to.  I unloaded the bike and moved it into the building and then unhooked the trailer and left it in the lot. Since I was planning on a new tire anyway, we decided they should install it now because their price was good and the labour would be negligible.

A man there had a 2000 GL1500 GoldWing for sale. It was a low mileage unit and he was asking $10,500. I think he is realizing that he needs to be more flexible.

Kanata Honda - cars, bikes and anything else Honda makes

2000 GL1500 for sale
48,900 Kms call 613-429-0329

We left the dealership and, after one false start, found a McDonald's in Nepean. It was undergoing some renovations but we got a table and hooked up to WiFi. After lunch, we explored McFlurry's and found they were pretty good. We called Diane, a friend who lives here, and left a voice mail. Then we went to the Days Inn across the street and booked a room, even though we wouldn't be able to check in for another hour. I did remember that I usually avoid Ottawa due to outrageous hotel prioces.

Driving around, we found Parliament Hill and the Canadian War Museum. Although we pass through Ottawa regularly, I can't remember the last time we have stopped to explore the landmarks and the seat of Canadian government. Some day, we will have to do just that. We followed the Ottawa River Parkway along for a ways before deciding it would be after 3:00 PM by the time we got back to the hotel. Curtis had called  to say that the front brake pads were getting low on the bike and we could change them without any labour cost. I called back and said to go ahead.

Approaching Parliament Hill

Chateau Laurier

Parliament Buildings & Peace Tower

Canadian War Museum

Ottawa River

Back at the hotel, we got checked in. Our room, once part of a suite, was on the 6th floor and had a Jacuzzi tub. I worked on blog entries and photos for a while until Diane called and we agreed to go out to supper. I also called Tom at PROLine and ordered the 7 1/2 x 14 trailer with a planned pickup date of July 9th.

Diane came up to our room and we visited for a while until we felt hunger pangs.  Then she directed me to a mall where a restaurant named Chances R was hidden in a corner.  Casual but classy, it was a nice place to eat.

Sandy and Diane in our hotel room

A good place to eat in Nepean

After supper, we went back to the hotel and visited for a while more before Diane had to leave. I didn't stay awake for very long after that. I hope we can get everything done and get home tomorrow.

Today's Route (115 Avalanche miles):

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Pembroke New Hampshire to Massena New York

It was another clear, sunny morning, extending the streak of unusual June skies in southern New Hampshire. Karen made eggs and toast for breakfast before we went out, hooked up the trailer and loaded the bike. We said our goodbyes and were rolling by 8:45. Many thanks to Joe and Karen for taking us in for the duration. Next year, we will either have a camping strategy in place or a motel reserved but it sure helped us out in a pinch.

I opted to go north to the Epson Circle and take Highway 4 to I-393 to I-93 to I-89 as the simplest route to the road north. We cruised along without anything special happening although we did stop at a Rest Area near Lebanon so I could call the Massena Super 8 and reserve another room.

New Hampshire State Capitol Dome in the distance

White River

Interesting Vermont Interstates

We finally decided to stop at a McDonald's in northern Vermont for lunch. I had it programmed into the GPS as a Via Point so we got off I-89 at exit 21 in Swanton.  The Mickey D's lot wasn't very big but I found a place to leave the rig. After lunch, we got back on I-89 north and discovered that the restaurant Via Point had masked the fact that this was the exit I wanted to take to get to New York.  We drove all the way to the Quebec border before there was another exit where we could get off and head back south.

A group of Harleys with Ontario plates obviously heading back from Laconia was ahead of us. It was a great day for riding and they seemed to be enjoying themselves.  The bridge to New York across Lake Champlain was still a challenge due to construction. 

Sandy got a good picture of Fort Montgomery on the New York shore. This was the second fort built on this location to protect the United States from Canada (Britain).  The first, in 1816, was found to be on the Canadian side of the border and was abandoned.  After this point of land was ceded to the US in 1842, this second structure was built. It was named for General Richard Montgomery, who was killed in 1775 at Quebec City during the Invasion of Canada.

Bridge from Vermont to New York

Fort Montgomery - Lake Champlain NY

Lake Champlain Navy at anchor

I started to get very tired as we drove across New York. This is getting more common and I will be mentioning it to the doctor when I next see him. We arrived at the hotel and got parked without any problems. We ordered a thin crust Domino's pizza, some bread sticks and a couple of chocolate lava cakes for delivery and settled in to watch the NASCAR race from Michigan. The pizza was good but I should have specified that they go light on the sauce. Dale Jr. won the race breaking a very long dry spell and I had my best showing of the year in our fantasy league.  Up six places on the year-to-date standings.

I managed to get one blog day done but ended up too beat to do any more. I fell asleep watching something (I can't remember what) on the TV.

Today's Route (320 Avalanche miles):

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Saturday, June 16, 2012

NEVROC Laconia Day 3 - Maine Coast

Yesterday, Bobcat spread the word that he would be leading a ride to the Maine coast this morning.  His plan was to be side-stands up at 9:30. We planned to go, as did Joe, so we wound our way to The Circle for 8:00 AM.  Some of the campground crowd was already there and others rolled in as we ate.

Up at the campground, the group assembled itself.  It was smaller than yesterday because some key players opted to take a different ride or (in some cases) get over their hangovers in peace.

Maine ride leader Bobcat

I think it's a hippo

We were again designated to ride sweep but our partner, Lucky Al, was having a typical moment.  He had left his headset cord draped over the handlebars when he rode to The Circle for breakfast and fuel.  When he  got back, the upper cord, about18" long, was missing.  So while the group turned north on 28, I followed Al south as we rode the shoulder back to The Circle looking for a small black cord.  He checked the restaurant and then we moved on to the gas station.  Amazingly, we found it lying in the middle of the road in the traffic circle itself. Not unexpectedly, it had been run over so many times that it was destroyed.  I loaned a sadder but wiser Al my spare cords and we motored on.

Rather than chase the group back up 28 and across the back roads, I considered Bobcat's comments about the route and we took a shortcut across Highway 4 and then up 9 to Barrington where we waited for them at an Irving station.  Before too long, there they were.  I had planned to fall in behind but Bobcat saw us and pulled the group into the lot.

I think they took some liberties with the restoration

The pipes on this thing were obnoxious

Rolling on, we passed through Dover and stuck to the back roads as we crossed into Maine.  The temperature had started dropping when we ran into overcast skies and kept going down as the chilly wind off the ocean got stronger.  Through York, we could see people sitting on the beach, determined to make the most of their vacation no matter what the weather. Bobcat stopped us at Sohier Park, adjacent to the Nubble Lighthouse.  We could see the light today (unlike foggy days in the past) but we didn't stay too long.

York Maine

Sohier Park

Nubble Lighthouse

Crashing surf

No scuba diving on Sundays?

From the Nubble, we continued along the shore to Short Sands Beach where we parked the bikes two and three to a spot.  The meters required $1.00 per hour so we ponied up enough coin for an hour.  It was still very chilly as the wind clawed at us.  I'm not sure what the water temperature was but a group of bikini clad teenagers were splashing in it. They have tough kids down here. Some of us walked around town while the rest waited by the beach.  

We had a nice chat with a York bicycle cop who was giving tickets for expired meters.  He said we could put as many bikes as would fit in a spot but, if the meter expired, we would each get our own ticket. We also talked to two couples from Quebec City on GW trikes.  It was a short conversation because they didn't speak much English.

Short Sands Maine

Historic buildings in the background

Lost Bob doesn't care about the cold

Teenagers in the surf....

....while we are bundled up

Must be locals

Karen and Sandy wondering when we'll be leaving

Friendly York police officer

Bob putting his pants back on

When our hour was up, we rolled out of town following our leader to Portsmouth and then back to Dover NH.  Coming out of Portsmouth, we were held up for a bit due to an accident.  We had a clear lane but everyone had to rubberneck.  I'm not sure how someone T-bones someone else when all three lanes are going the same way, but it happened. Then, as we were exiting the highway to catch Highway 4 near Dover, a Volkswagen decided it wanted to exit there as well and moved right with utter disregard for the bikes. There are some odd drivers around here.

We stopped at Newick's in Dover for late lunch.  It got later because the young lady serving us was very slow and not very attentive.  Sandy and I had thick clam chowder, lobster rolls and homemade potato chips. Unfortunately, we had seen our meals sitting on the board in the kitchen for fifteen minutes before they were brought to us. But it was so good it took the edge off our complaints about the service.

After we finished, we joined Joe and Karen for a ride directly back to their place. The skies cleared again as we moved west.  In Northwood, another car accident was being investigated by the Nottingham Police.  I wonder how many sheriff jokes they have to endure?

One thing I still have trouble with is the convention of not waving at other bikes during bike week. There are so many that you would have your arm out steady so it just isn't done. But I often wave automatically anyway before I can catch myself.

At the house, we packed our riding gear and big suitcase and put them into the back of the truck.  Then we took the truck to the campground.  The first thing we saw there was a yellow 800 Vulcan with a Ukrainian Dnepr sidecar attached.  This unique outfit belonged to Matthew (aka papasurf).  He has had it for about four years and you can tell he marches to the beat of a different drummer.  I was impressed.  He also passed on this interesting link on Hubert Kriegel and Ten Years on the Road.

Matthew's outfit

Supper tonight included hot dogs and hamburgers Steve cooked on the grill along with leftover pork from yesterday done in the crock pot.  It was great but we had just eaten a few hours before.  Still, I did my best to make sure there were no leftovers.  After supper, we took down the shelters and got them stowed.  Then U-Turn and I started a libertarian discussion.  B Bear chimed in with some interesting points and then others joined the fray. About  this time, Sandy and I opted to leave and said our goodbyes to everyone, fading off into the setting sun.

There has been talk about the future of this rally.  There is a lot of work done by very few people and they are getting tired.  Joe handed it off to Steve who is looking for someone to take over but no one has stepped up to assume overall responsibility. Many of us pointed out that the workload and complexity can be reduced by cutting out some of the features.  All we really need is a location and a date.  We can look after ourselves for the rest.  Interlochen is a fine example of just this type of gathering.

In any case, thanks to Steve and Dee for ramrodding this, U-Turn for doing the paperwork, Joe and Karen for being there, Bobcat for assistance and all the other who pitched in.  Our whole travel schedule is based on being where VROC gathers and this is one we really enjoy.  Let's hope we can find a way to keep it going.

One wrinkle that developed this weekend was a leak in the left fork seal.  I think it happened on the road after the Hurricane Mountain adventure, but who knows for sure.  The problem is that not just anyone can work on the Traxxion front end.  My shop looked at the instructions and the special tools required and suggested I should take it to a pro.  There is only one in Ontario, Paul Hilliard in Merrickville.  I put in a call to Paul and found he has been quite sick since February and is unable to do the work.  He referred me to Mark in Lake George who got right back to me.  He was leaving tomorrow for a ten day vacation so that was out. Then Paul called back and said his Honda dealership could do it if Paul brought the special tools and supervised. So we have a plan. On a side note, as much as I love the Traxxion, I will never put anything on a bike again that a regular dealership can't fix.

Today's Route (118 motorcycle miles):

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