Sunday, July 29, 2012

Garry V. Comes Through Town

I got an email a few days ago from Garry, a VROC member from southern Ontario. The last few years, he and his wife have wintered in Florida with their full time 5th wheel and returned to Canada for the summer. He rides more miles in a season than anyone I know and said he would be spending the night in Sudbury with his wife as they rode their Voyager back from a gathering in Alberta.

We would loved to have invited them to stay with us but the house was in chaos getting ready for the Freedom Rally next week so they booked a room at the nearby Comfort Inn. When we got a call that they were in, we picked them up in the Avalanche and took them to Casey's, a local roadhouse that started here in 1980 and now boasts 160 franchise locations across Canada operating under several names.

Supper was good and the conversation was interesting. This was the first time we had met Darlene but Garry said she is riding with him more now that he has the Voyager. This bike is a 2009 model and has about 240,000 kms on it. His 2005 Nomad had about the same on it when he traded it on the Voyager and, considering he also rolled high miles on an 800 Drifter between 2002 and 2009, you can see he rides substantially more than twice the mileage Sandy and I do in a given season.

After supper, we went to the Costco mall lot where Cruise Night happens every Sunday evening. I wasn't aware that there were so many fine older cars in Sudbury. We looked around for a while and then took a short tour of the area, ending up at the Big Nickel located at Dynamic Earth.

After sundown, we dropped them back at their hotel. It was nice to finally meet Darlene and we hope to see her again at one of the VROC events down the road.

One of many cars at Cruise Night

There are many classic cars in town

All it needs is a Flux Capacitor

Darlene, Garry and Sandy at the Big Nickel

Sudbury sunset

Monday, July 23, 2012

Day ride to Manitoulin Island

Normie sent me a note a few days back, telling me that Ontario Tourism people would be holding a session at 10 AM this morning in the Anchor Inn in Little Current on Manitoulin Island. They would be explaining the Ontario tourism marketing strategy as it relates to motorcycles and giving pointers to the hospitality operators on how to be motorcycle friendly. I used to deal with tourism and hospitality people back in my snowmobile days and thought I would like to see just what advice the government was giving to the industry.

I left Sudbury on the Wing at 8:00 AM under partly overcast skies. It was damp and clammy but not cold. As I rode west, I could see a large cumulus cloud on the horizon, bearing out the forecast of scattered thunderstorms. In McKerrow, I turned south on Highway 6 and stopped at the Tim's on the south side of Espanola for a breakfast bacon wrap (without the zesty sauce).

Highway 6 is the best in the area. I caught up to some slower cars as the road climbed and dropped while sweeping back and forth through the quartz cliffs of the LaCloche Mountains. I passed the vehicles as I got to them, not too worried about the solid lines which are only advisory here in Ontario. Riding 1820cc of motorcycle does not require much clear view ahead for a safe pass. The nasty clouds were now south of me but I got to The Island before I got to the weather.

Arriving at Little Current at 9:45, I proceeded to the picturesque main street by the harbour and found a parking space right in front of the Anchor Inn. A sign outside directed me to the "motorcycle meeting" on the second floor. The room was warm with one small window air conditioner and seemed to have the right number of seats for the attendees. Coffee and muffins were set out on the bar.

I introduced myself to the presenters, Chris and Bev Hughes of BCHughes who are the expert consultants the province has brought in to help develop a motorcycle tourism marketing strategy. The overall Ontario initiative, Go Ride Ontario, has been going on for a while but they are now working on specific regions. I understand that they have done work with the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs on sled marketing as well. Chris provided a slide presentation showing the areas included in this section encompassing most of Northeastern Ontario, the assets that can be exploited to attract riders and the types of things operators can do to be more motorcycle friendly. Jamie Dallaire from the government also added some perspective. Claude Aumont, who I know from the sled days and was looking forward to seeing again, didn't make it.

The last speaker was Mike Jacobs, who has been touring the northeast this summer on a sixty day trek with a photographer and a videographer. His wander has been done in conjunction with the marketing efforts presented here and he looks like an interesting character.  Check out the The Ultimate Northern Ontario Road Trip.

The audience consisted of area tourism operators, regional government tourism marketing agencies and a couple of members of the Ride Manitoulin organizing committee. The operators listened closely and took notes while sharing their experiences (all positive) with motorcyclists. I found that they were given a lot of good advice but that Hughes description of the target market, upscale older folks with disposable income, resembled the riders BMW often sells when they are planning a rally. One slide said a motorcycle was not a necessity and a few of us pointed out it WAS a necessity for some of us. They described riders travelling with an only optional change of clothes and cash. The hard core riders and the budget riders on fixed income who rough it and stretch a buck weren't recognized. But since the focus of marketing was to attract dollars, these folk may not be part of the equation. In any case, more motorcycle friendly establishments will be welcome.

I believe that the Manitoulin Island area, famous for being the largest fresh water island in the world with its sandstone formations, beaches and rich history, will continue to attract riders, particularly the adventure type. The rest of the northeast, not having much to recommend it by the way of interesting roads, will probably never achieve much of a destination status. It does, however, lie right on the path between here and there and I believe they should focus on a program that might attract people passing through to stop for an extra day to see some specific sights/attractions.

All in all, it was an interesting experience and they fed us as well. I headed for home about 1:00 PM. Traffic was a little heavier but, riding alone, I enjoyed working through the slower vehicles. All was fine until I reached the City proper, where I noted that I was on a collision course with a line of black clouds to the north. They had suddenly and unexpectedly appeared and did not look very friendly. I used the hands free cell phone feature of the Garmin Zumo GPS to call Sandy and ask her to open the garage door. I pulled in and backed the bike in about five minutes before the rain struck. Wow, that was close.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Swanton Ohio to Sudbury Ontario

While I was carousing last night, Sandy loaded most of our gear into the truck. I had also taken a few moments out to hook up the trailer as well, so there wasn't a lot to do as the day broke. Boomer had some excellent biscuits and gravy ready to go with the coffee, although Sandy skipped the gravy in favour of jam.

We waved goodbye and rolled out of the driveway. I got about two miles away when I realized I had left my black overnight bag on a chair in the garage so we returned to the estate, grabbed the bag and waved goodbye for the second time. I fueled up at a Speedway in Swanton where 87 octane cost me $3.19 per gallon. Low prices are good because hauling the trailer has reduced my mileage from 20 MP(US)G to the mid 12 range.

We followed Highway 20A to I-475 North and took that to US 23 North. Crossing into Michigan, we saw fuel prices were $3.63 per gallon, a rude jolt after the much better Ohio prices. State taxes account for much of the differences. We stopped at a McDonald's in Fenton where they had a special RV/trailer parking lane. That didn't stop some inconsiderate doorknob in a pickup truck from parking there (probably because it was closer to the door) but we found room anyway. It was interesting that, not only did Michigan Mickey D's not have muffins, the young lady seemed to have never heard of them. Yet they had them in New York as well as Ontario. Oh well, regional variations.

We moved north, joining I-75 just south of Grayling. Then we stopped for fuel again in Indian River, where I saw two Harleys that had passed us were ridden by Warthogs (including a very capable looking lady). We stopped on the way back to the slab at a Burger King where a short and significantly round control freak lady left our order on the warming table while she fiddled with other things and then got snotty when I asked her for our food.

Getting back onto the big road, I noticed a Santara Class C RV with rear duallies plus a tag axle. I have never seen an extra axle on a C before but I Googled it and confirmed I wasn't imagining things. Overkill IMHO.

We continued north, crossing the Mackinac Bridge into the Upper Peninsula. It was interesting to see that one of the candidates for Sheriff of Chippewa County was Paul Rambo. I'll bet he took some awful ribbing growing up. Then we crossed the International Bridge, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and rolled back down onto Canadian soil.

Typical northern Michigan vegetation

Big Mac

Ubiquitous Big Mac construction

Welcome to the U.P.

An I-75 rest area overrun with RV's

The Soo locks

The 50 year old International Bridge

There was no lineup at all at Canadian Customs. We rolled up to the truck booth and declared the purchase of one cargo trailer. The agent sent us inside where we waited in line for a bit as others took care of their business. When it was our turn, our guy decided there should be a race between him and the next booth where another trailer was being processed. He (we) won. After paying for the upcoming inspection by the Registrar of Imported Vehicles and GST on the value of the trailer (less $800 because we were away for a week), they gave us a stack of papers and sent us on our way.

Going from Bay Street to Queen Street to get to Highway 17 was a problem because a section of Queen was torn up, so we took a short detour. We made it, though, and stopped again at McD's to get some supper to go. Sandy wanted a peach smoothie but they were out and she had to settle for banana strawberry. On the way out, we saw a small group of what looked to be traveling HA fueling at a Petrocan station.

On the road, we met many RV's and trucks with car haulers heading west. It turns out this was Drags Weekend in Elliot Lake. Then we met some more HA near Blind River heading west. Turns out they were all heading to Saskatchewan for their National Run. We also noted that there will be a new Robin's Donuts opening in Blind River where the Country Style used to be. This  is a very good development.

We got home at 8:30 and just left the truck and trailer out on the street. Tomorrow is another day.

Today's Route (599 truck miles):

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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Swanton Ohio - Boomer's Bash Day Two

Happy 100th Birthday to Woodie Guthrie. This land is your land.......

I got up slowly today. The big urn of coffee was on in the garage, although Boomer had to go through some gyrations to get the power working very early this morning. But he got 'er done and it was good stuff. He made some huge waffles using an iron like those you find in the breakfast nook of a budget motel. I admire those who can use them because my only attempt ended up with waffle pieces seemingly permanently stuck to the surface and the attendant glaring at me as if to suggest I should leave the cooking to others. Ryan's creation suffered no such fate and was an excellent start to the day.

As others gathered for breakfast, I did a little blog work while Flattop, an experienced Android phone user, gave Sandy some pointers on using her Samsung Galaxy Tablet. Scotty and Marlene, who had gone home for the night, rolled in again while Heather Emailed to say she and Tom were on their way from Woodstock.

They don't make them like this any more

The crew prepares to install 30 amp service for Boomer's 5th wheel

I hope the fire insurance policy is current

Camping in the pastoral setting of Boomer's side yard

With the power for the 5th wheel established (and it is a very nice RV), most of those with bikes decided that a group ride  to Defiance was in order. Scotty and Mar opted to stay behind as did we and our host/hostess. Good thing we did because more friends rolled in all afternoon.  Lonnie and Gail arrived by car because he wasn't feeling well. Gearman had a change of plans and was able to make it after all. The elusive Snubs arrived from the Chicago area and, surprisingly, suffered no disasters along the way. Finally, Heather and Tom arrived by car, having gotten away late because Tom needed to get home from working in Pennsylvania first.

Two red/red 1999 Nomads

Leaving for Defiance

Lonnie and Gail

Sandy is into the margaritas while Scotty, Steph and Kevin look on

Gearman and Marlene

Snubs makes it in one piece

The Defiance crew started to wander back a few at a time and joined the socializing already in progress. Shannon has kept samples of the plates and cutlery used over the last four years showing steady progress. The current sort of disposable plates and metal knives and forks are splendid. Maybe next year we will get fine china:-)

Skyking looks a quart low

The Killbuckkid and Skyking smart phoning

The progression of place settings over the years

As suppertime approached, the grills were fired up and the humongous potatoes were set to baking. The more than ample steaks were set to grilling, although grill master Roseman wasn't able to make it due to illness. (We missed you, Rosie.) This was an awesome meal. Simple yet perfect. The steak I pulled out of the pan would not fit on the part of the plate not occupied by the mutant spud so it was kind of propped up over the side. And tender/juicy? Awesome.

Huge potatoes ready for baking

Boomer breaks out the steaks

I'm glad I'm not vegetarian

Thick cuts

Boomer ponders as his guests enjoy

I have no idea what my steak weighed

After supper, they broke out a Ladder Ball set, aka Hillbilly Golf. We saw this being played at Bristol back in March. The bolos each have a golf ball on each end which means they can pack a wallop if they hit you but the point is to wrap it around the ladder and not your opponent. After watching a couple of games, I gave it a try and learned that it is just one more thing with golf balls that I'm not very good at. Still, I think we will probably try building a set since the instructions are pretty easy. BTW, never let Snubs keep score. Of anything.

Look at all those DSLR's

Happy photographers

Ladder ball

Snubs relaxing while Evan and Dee chuckle

Games done, the crew set up around the fire pit and swapped storied until rain (the first rain in weeks) started falling. Some retired while a few of us adjourned to the garage. I ended up talking snowmobiles and trailers with avid sled head Flattop. About 1:00 AM, we called it quits and I watched Boomer set up the big coffee urn. Then it was off to bed.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Swanton Ohio - Boomer's Bash Day One

We woke up after a good night's sleep. Shannon headed out while Boomer cooked an absolutely awesome breakfast scramble and I moved one more step away from my promise to eat light and try to lose some weight.

I worked on some more blog stuff (this is getting very repetitive) and then went out to help Boomer and Brad set up the tent/shelter. The setup was exactly the same as the two we set up at Laconia except a little smaller. Scotty and Marlene rolled in from Adrian, Michigan about the time we were finishing. It was good to catch up with the two of them.

Scotty and Marlene arrive

Shannon set up the camera on a tripod to capture the arrivals. Evan and Dee came in from Sarnia towing their Nomad on an open trailer behind a Dodge Ram pickup. Throughout the afternoon, more people arrived including Chris2Tall from St. Louis, Michigan; John Wilson and Jamie from Angola, Indiana; Chuckster from Jackson, Michigan; Daddy Red from Columbus, Ohio; KillbuckKid from Killbuck, Ohio; Skyking from Stryker, Ohio and Nickels and BillyBob from Pennsylvania. Lunch was hamburgers and trimmings plus french fries. We killed the afternoon hanging out and catching up until supper, which was pulled pork and some side dishes. As with the others, it was excellent.

Assembling the tent

Boomer stocking a beer cooler

Mike, Boomer and Scotty with Sandy, Marlene and Shannon in the background

Scotty entertaining Boomer, Evan, Dee and Shannon

Mike assembling his home built kitchen/dining room trailer

Sandy and pulled pork

Evan and Dee and more pulled pork

KillbuckKid, Nickels, Scotty, Skyking and BillyBob

As the sun went down, we adjourned to the side yard where everyone was set up for the night and the fire ring was located. It got very comfortable as the sun went down and everyone sat around telling tales. The last of us turned in just before midnight.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Rochester New York to Swanton Ohio

We were up at 6:00 AM and I plugged away at some blog information as Sandy talked to our friend Bob on Skype. This whole blog thing takes a lot of time but, when I want to go back and relive an experience or remember a detail, it does seem worth it.

Last night, as we sat outside waiting for Pat and Shelley, we watched UPS trucks going down the road one after another. We figured their depot wasn't far away. This morning as we left the hotel, we saw a parade of UPS trucks going the other way as they set out on their daily missions. Interspersed with them were a number of Fedex trucks, indicating that this was the nexus of Rochester courier activities. It makes sense being right next to the Thruway as well as the main route into the city.

As we cruised west on the Thruway, I noticed that about 75% of the trucks I flashed my lights at to indicate they were past me and could pull back in acknowledged with a flash of their tail lights. That compares with about 5% when I do the same thing with the motorhome. I'm not sure why but the bias is clearly there.

We were listening to the Blue Collar Comedy channel when an ad came on. Ice road trucker Alex Debogorski was recommending some backup starting unit for big trucks. You know you have finally made it when you get an endorsement contract. I like Alex and am happy to see he is getting some deals.

The toll booths on the Thruway are tricky with an eight foot wide trailer. There is about three inches on either side of the tires and I go through so I watch  my mirrors instead of what is ahead of us. We fueled east of Buffalo and stopped again west of the city at the Angola Service Center where I got a coffee at McDonald's and we picked up a Subway sandwich for later. The Subway counter was slow as two young Japanese boys, about eleven and eight, tried to order a sandwich while speaking no English. Marcel Marceau would have been proud of the pantomime the staff went through. They were exceptionally patient and professional. The father, who appeared to speak a little English, didn't help. I was amused by his shirt with Elvis emblazoned on the turned up collar.

In Erie, we stopped at Walmart for some pop (including Diet Cherry Coke Zero for Norm) and locks for the trailer. In Ohio, I tried to stop at a lone BP station but the lot was full of utility trucks and I couldn't even pull in. This resulted in going around a five mile block trying to get back to I-90.

I-90 through Cleveland isn't much fun. The  traffic is busy and the lanes are tight. That said, we made it without incident.

Cleveland wind farm

Cleveland skyline

Progressive Field - Cleveland Ohio

West of Cleveland, I-80 and I-90 merged into the Ohio Turnpike and we were once again in E-Z Pass territory. There was a lot of construction and, for quite a while, we were limited to two lanes with the right two stripped for resurfacing. Somewhere near Sandusky we were passed by a group of motorcycles riding hard two abreast flying Warthog colours. I wasn't familiar with the patch but was surprised, due to the M/C look, to find out that they were police and firefighters who have many chapters in this part of the country.

Right side of trailer with door and window

Dwarfed by the big trucks

Warthogs M/C

We crossed the familiar I-75 and then exited the Turnpike near Swanton, following the GPS through several turns to Heartwood Place. I was expecting a street but found something more like a driveway. It took a phone call to the house to convince me that I wasn't heading into a hopeless dead end and we soon came to Boomer and Shannon's beautiful house on six acres of mostly cleared land. Give me six acres and I can definitely turn this rig around.

Shannon made supper for us, a new type of chicken recipe that was awesome plus pasta and green beans. We watched TV for a bit and then turned in for the night.

Today's Route (381 truck miles):

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