Monday, September 28, 2015

The New Car

Before we left for Arkansas, I mentioned that I had my eye on another vehicle. The Avalanche had well over 90,000 miles on it and had some issues after the warranty ran out. Plus its 5.3L V8 would pass everything except a gas station. We no longer needed the 8,000 pound plus towing capacity.

I had originally been interested in a Chev Traverse or GMC Acadia. These 7 seat crossovers have a 3.6L V6 rated at about 300 HP and almost as many foot pounds of torque and are rated to tow 5,200 pounds. The I realized that the 6 cylinder version of the smaller 5 seat Equinox had the same engine. It was only rated to tow 3,500 pounds due to the frame, but our trailer and bike come in at less than 2,000 pounds loaded.

I had seen a 2014 6 cylinder Equinox at Crosstown Chev before we left on the trip. It was still there when we got back so Sandy and I took it for a test drive last Thursday. This unit had 24,000 kms on the clock. That year had two LT build levels and this one fell in the middle. It had heated seats, 8 way power driver seat and climate control of the LT2 but was missing the fog lamps. In addition, it had a power sun roof, something we didn't really need. It needed a trailer hitch.

The test drive went well. It was comfortable and easy to drive. The Driver Information Centre showed good fuel mileage characteristics and the 303 BHP really moved it out when I put my foot down.

When we got back to the dealership, they offered me more on a trade for the Avi than I expected. I made a counter on the net deal they proposed and they accepted. We cleaned the truck out over the weekend and traded vehicles today. Next, it will be off to Larry's to have a Class III hitch installed (I could have gotten away with Class II but the heavier unit looks better) and we'll order some winter floor mats.

The new Equinox

Stay tuned for our reports on how this works for us.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Auburn Indiana to Sudbury Ontario

As expected, we slept very well on the excellent Hampton Inn mattresses and pillows. I don't know how they do it but they are always the best. We enjoyed the hot breakfast just after the 6:00 AM start time. Sandy just had cereal and yogurt anyway, but I tried what they call a bagel topper; egg, cheese and bacon on bread plus some sausage links. Then we loaded the gear in the truck and headed across the way to the Super 8 to settle the bill.

It looked like the desk clerk's kids lived there because the school bus was picking them up at the front door as we arrived. The manager didn't come in during the night as promised, leading me to believe this place is being poorly run and may well be on its last legs. No problem because we now know where the Hampton is. The desk clerk, still very apologetic, had asked someone and was able to run the refund on my credit card. And then we were out of there, northbound at 7:10 in the 11C air.

(Note to Jamey T. Sudbury is at 46.4900 North Latitude while Lead, SD is at 44.3508.)

Smoke on the water..... in the sky.

We crossed the Michigan state line about 7:40 and the temperature almost immediately dropped from 11C to 8C. That's about 47 F for you metrically challenged folks. We stopped at a McDonald's on the north side of Lansing for a bathroom break and coffee, and then continued north on US 127. The truck was showing 15+ MPG due to a stiff tailwind.

Mount Pleasant, Michigan

Sparkly bass boats remind me of a certain motorcycle

We stopped again at a Citgo near Roscommon for fuel. I was surprised to see the price was $2.145, much lower than we had seen so far this morning. Things were uneventful until we reached Grayling, where I-75 was down to one lane north all the way to Gaylord. In that thirty mile stretch, we saw one crew ripping up asphalt and another paving. The whole construction operation was spread over a mile or so. I guess they figured shutting it all down was more convenient for them.

Miles and miles of orange barrels

Usually at this time of year, the trees are starting to colour nicely but we saw vary few changing. It was the beginning of Fall today but perhaps this was a sign that Winter would be late this time. We can always hope.

Just a hint of colour

North of Indian River, we found more single lane highway. This time, they didn't use the infernal barrels. Rather, they used the thin poles. A crew here was fixing cracks with reams of tar snakes. I hate tar snakes.

Making snakes of tar

There was more construction than usual on the Mackinac Bridge. We were held up near the far side as the removed some grating so that a worker could climb down under the paved surface. That doesn't look like a job I would line up for.

Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island 

Orange barrels on the Big Mac

Lake boat in the Strait

In the land of the Yoopers

We arrived in the Soo and, as usual, fueled at the Krist station before approaching the border. There was a line up for the single toll booth lane because the other lanes were under construction. Someone ahead of us in a white Hyundai with Quebec plates gave the toll taker a long song and dance. When I got to the window, the fellow wasn't very amused.

Merging into a non-moving line

This guy took more than his share of toll booth time

Before we started up on the bridge, we were stopped by a crew of US Customs and Border Protection officers with Police marked on their vests. I've never seen those patches on CBP agents or officers before. They were looking in some vehicles, including the trunk of the Hyundai. I told them where we had been and that we had a motorcycle in the trailer. They passed us through without further inspection.

The Canadian border

There was no line up on the Canadian side and my exchange with our agent was perfunctory. Three questions and we were on our way. The whole bridge approach on the Canadian side is problematic because Huron Street is now almost totally torn up.

We made a brief stop at McDonald's before heading east out of town into a solid headwind. The GPS said we'd be home by 6:50 but, due to a quirk in its handling of 90 KPH zones, I knew we would beat that by a lot. The other side of Echo Bay, we saw a Jamie Davis size recovery operation underway to get a semi back on the road. It had gone off a straight stretch of road.

Multi-wrecker recovery

Although we had clear skies all day, as we approached the Nickel Belt clouds started to gather on the horizon. Our final stop was a bathroom break at the McKerrow Tim's.

Clouds hang over home

On the last leg approaching Lively on the four-lane Highway 17, we caught up to a car hauling a U-Haul that was swaying all over the road. It looked like the trailer had been packed light in the tongue, resulting in an accident looking for a place to happen. We slipped past and kept going.

Arrival time was 6:20 PM, a half hour better then the GPS guess plus the amount of time we stopped in McKerrow. I really don't know why the Garmin is so far off on this type of road but that has been consistent for my last three units.

The bike was unloaded, the trailer disconnected and the luggage brought in within a half hour. I took the truck out to top it up since I didn't expect the $1.006 price to last for long. Today was either the last day where daylight was longer than night, or the first where it was the other way around. Either way, it will be hard to say goodbye to summer and get into winter mode. Actually, winter is fine. It is the interminable in between seasons that wear me down.

In any case, it has been another good trip.

Today's Route (614 Avalanche miles):

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Eureka Springs Arkansas to Auburn Indiana

It was time to head for home after a great week in the Ozarks. Again, thanks to Condi and JR for the organizing and to Scott, Margot and friends for the BBQ. Special thanks to everyone who came and made it one more reunion to remember.

For once, we beat Sherm out of the parking lot. Zeke and Han pulled out first, but we were rolling in the dark at 6:10 AM. Sherm was waiting for Lanny so they could travel together despite their different number of wheels.

On the road to Berryville, we passed Zeke and Han but they followed us into the McDonald's. We got our usual breakfast to go. Zeke said they were going to follow US 62 all the way to US 65 before turning north, while I opted to take the diagonal winding route through Blue Eye. The little trailer tows so well I don't worry about the twists and turns. We said goodbye to these very special folks and headed out.

Zeke and Han in the early morning hours

Sun starting to rise over Arkansas 21

Making the turn in Blue Eye

As soon as we crossed the Missouri border, we were on wet pavement, but encountered very little active rain. We were pleased to see that as we traveled north on US 65 toward Springlfield, road construction would be starting here tomorrow.

On I-44, we once again were running against a headwind. The prevailing winds here are out of the west, but most of the time I am traveling east here they reverse themselves. We stopped at a Sinclair station for a bathroom break and got some snacks as well.

One place that did catch my eye was the Uranus Fudge Factory in (you guessed it) Uranus, Missouri, a waypoint on the Mother Road. It looks like we just missed the First Annual Uranus Fest. This looks like a place that will warrant a stop on our next trip through.

John Caparulo, a comedian with northeastern overtones, was expounding on the Blue Collar Comedy Channel (or whatever they call it now) about getting a speeding ticket in Missouri. I couldn't help but think of Mitch and Tony D yesterday.

"I went to Missouri. I got a speeding ticket for $130. That’s a bunch of crap. Rent’s not $130 in Missouri…"

The officer asked why he was going so fast. He said he was trying to get out of the state:-))

We were cruising along at 65 MPH when, just after St. James (free association moment - anyone remember MacMillan and Wife?) , Zeke and Han blew by us at a steady 70.

Zeke and Han take the lead

Usually, we go right through St. Louis on I-44 and catch I-70 downtown, right by the river. Today, I decided to try the south by-pass by taking I-270/I-255. Once I corrected my direction error, caused by making an assumption instead of reading the signs, we zipped right across the river and into Illinois about 11:30.

Didn't we just see this bridge last weekend?

Leaving Missouri without a speeding ticket

We stopped at a McDonald's in Troy, just over the Illinois line, Before we got food to go, I took my laptop and got on line to change my active drivers in our NASCAR Fantasy League. I had forgotten to do this after they qualified and needed to make adjustments before the race started at 1:00 PM Central Time. It was good I did because changes were needed and, later in the day, my revisions resulted in me winning our league for this race.

The McDonald's was very slow. U.S/ Mickey D's has a system using numbers to identify which order goes where. The relaxed young lady delivering the orders to the counter didn't seem to be aware of this and the manager working with her didn't try to educate her. Oh well, it takes all kinds. We also stopped for fuel, where I noticed someone had written "Wash Me" in the dust on the side of the trailer. It must have been someone who doesn't know me.......

Wash Me

Just past Troy, I-70 split from I-55. This was the interchange where, in 1978, Sandy didn't tell me about the sign for Indianapolis, which I missed because I was passing a grit churning tank truck. The result was that we went ten miles up the road to Chicago before I could get turned around. We had a long conversation about sharing observations and not making assumptions, but I don't nag things like this too long. Then again, it's only been 37 years so it's still fresh in my mind.

This may be a good time for a little ramble on old versus new navigation. Back in the day, we used maps. If we were going cross country, we probably used map atlases with only moderate levels of detail. You would need to decide your route for the day and remember some highway numbers. Maybe write them down. Now we use GPS, something that would have seemed like science fiction back in 1978. GPS gives you a micro view of your journey, although it can also lead you astray if you don't realize using it is an art and not a science. The reason for this is that you lose the overview that the maps provided, a sense of where places exist relative to each other. Good navigators will use a map when laying out their course. I sometimes remember to do this.

I-70 across Illinois was relatively uneventful, except for one area where traffic was stopped and backed up for a couple of miles. When we got to the bottleneck, it was one police cruiser stopped on the side of the road with a broken down school bus. Rubberneck syndrome struck again.

Seen near Terre Haute

Another oldie but a goodie up on the left

We stopped briefly at the Indiana Welcome Center. I'm not sure if I was reassured to find that the inner rest rooms doubled as storm shelters.

Safe haven?
We continued on to Indianapolis, where the GPS had a different opinion of how to deal with the city. It, as usual, wanted me to bomb right through the middle. I prefer to follow I-465 south around the city to catch I-69. Things were tense for a ways as the Australian lady who lives in the little box on my windshield kept saying "recalculating", sounding more and more exasperated each time.

As we made our way around the city, a lady driving a Red Wing Shoes ten ton truck mistook us for an open space in traffic and tried to change lanes. The Avalanche has a fine horn which I demonstrated for her. From her expression, she seemed to think it was my fault that we were in the spot she wanted to occupy.

North of Muncie, we stopped at a Petro truck stop in the middle of nowhere for fuel and a sandwich. The Subway has a limited election of meat and the toaster wasn't working but the buns were really fresh. We were able to get a ham and provolone (why can't US Subways carry Swiss?) on 9 grain to split, which suited us just fine. I called ahead to our usual Super 8 in Auburn for a room and was told there were lots.

Me and my shadow.......

Sundown over Indiana cornfields

It was freshly dark when we pulled into Auburn. First stop was at Dairy Queen, where Sandy wanted to try their pumpkin pie blizzard. I passed. Soon Sandy wished she had too.

The Super 8 was almost empty. The girl working the desk had her kids there, an unusual situation. We checked in and I did some work with the photos of the day and the map before climbing into bed. That was when I found a little flat bug crawling across my sheet and killed it. Soon after, there was a second one. In all our years of travels, we have never encountered bedbugs. We gathered our few things together and I took the second carcass to the desk, where I told the girl we were leaving. She wasn't able to give me a credit on my card but said her manager was coming in at 1:00 AM and would be able to give me a refund in the morning.

There are a lot of other motels in Auburn, but hidden on the other side of I-69 is a delightful Hampton Inn. The desk clerk was both pretty and professional and the hotel was wall appointed and immaculate. It costs half again what the Super 8 cost but, in this case, you get way more than you pay for.

Before we got to sleep on the awesome Hampton mattresses and pillows, I got confirmation that I have probably never encountered a bedbug before. I had broken out in hives, large angry red welts all over my upper body. Research tells me that this is a histamine reaction some people get when they are bitten by the little parasites. The rash only lasted an hour and then they were gone, leaving me a few red bites in two separate locations. I am thankful we got out of there when we did. They won't get a good review on TripAdvisor.

Today's Route (700 Avalanche miles):

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Eureka Springs Arkansas - Branson

We awoke about 6:00 AM to the sound of the first motorcycles departing. As the morning wore on, the parking lot became much less crowded. The skies were overcast and the day was cool, a pleasant change from the sauna-like conditions of yesterday evening. Radar showed the rain would be staying south of us.

Sherm capturing Boomer and Shannon 

Kay, Vickie and Debbie ready to head out

Big Jim saying goodbye to Jamey T (aka Rocky)

Tim and Big Jim getting ready to roll back to Indiana

These folks are not leaving until tomorrow

Shannon and Boomer - A long way to go....

We had planned to go to Branson for lunch. Some had second thoughts because it was cool, but Linda and BillyBob had never been to Branson before and are of hardy Pennsylvania stock. We headed out a little after 10:00 AM, stopping in Blue Eye for their first state line photo.

Across state lines

We rode north on 13 through Kimberling City to West Branson and then followed 76 into town. It was quiet at the Uptown Cafe where we had lunch.

Turn off to Silver Dollar City

 Zip line, anyone

The quintessential play

An old wooden coaster

Linda looks happy

A famous Branson act
They painted the plane

Uptown Cafe

From there, we continued east through town and then cut back on the Yellow Route and some back roads to 165. After crossing Table Rock Dam, we stopped at the Dewey Short Visitor Center.

Us in Branson (courtesy of Zeke and Han)

Some day, we'll take another Duck ride

Table Rock Dam

U.S, Army Corps of Engineers

Parked at Dewey Short

This is a very nice spot - and free

Linda brought out the big lens

Branson Belle

We headed on to US 65 and went south a few miles, then back to Berryville via 86, 13 and 21. I was starting to get tired so, after a stop at Walmart for a few essentials and a watch battery for Sandy, we came directly back to the motel.

Table Rock Lake

Typical Arkansas tree

Back at the motel, I tried to get some photos uploaded but the WiFi was stubborn. Sandy was packing and I took some cases to the truck. That was when I noticed my trailer hitch drawbar and ball were missing. Last Sunday, after I unhooked the trailer and put the drawbar in the back of the truck, we drove through town with the tailgate down. My bad. Sherm and I drove to Walmart and bought a new one for $19.98.

With the new ball attached, Jayhawk helped me hook the trailer up and then I got the bike loaded and tied down. The big loading was complete.

Mitch, Tony D and Lanny had gone for a ride today. As usual, Lanny did NOT get a speeding ticket.

Mitch and Tony D got papered

HotSauce made chili out of the leftover meat. It was too hot for Sandy but I found it tasty and tolerable.

HotSauce and his chili

Freya wanted chili but Grandpa said no

The WiFi was suddenly cooperating so I rushed to catch the blog up. There were many goodbyes since some of us would be leaving early. Sherm will be traveling back with Lanny. He has about 40 miles more than we do, considering the shortest routes.

This has been the best ES weather I can remember and the turnout was excellent. The motel promises that the WiFi will be fixed for next year and we've made our reservations. Thanks to JR and Condi for the years that they organized this. Others will be assuming the mantle next year.

Today's route (110 motorcycle miles):