Sunday, July 17, 2016

Richmond Kentucky to Sudbury Ontario

It was Sandy's birthday today and we would be spending it on the road. Happy Birthday!

The original plan was to take two days to get home but that changed. It was a little less than 900 miles and I believed we could do that in one. As a result, we didn't wait for the hotel breakfast. Instead, we were northbound by 5:57 AM. The only early rider we saw on the way out was Tbone.

It was still dark and 73F with patches of fog as we started out. It was amazing that the land was so flat around Lexington and yet, just a few miles east, there were the rugged rocky hills we had been traveling through yesterday.

We stopped at a very clean and fast McDonald's in Crittenden, Kentucky. They had chicken & waffles and biscuits & gravy on the menu but I couldn't see eating either of those while I was driving. I had my usual Sausage McMuffin. Sandy had a smoothie with her breakfast, unusual for anyone but her.

Sunrise over Kentucky horse country

As we approached the Ohio line, we needed to make a decision. We could continue north on I-75 back into the heart of Urban Michigan or we could head northeast to Buffalo and the Peace Bridge. It was slightly longer but we picked northeast.

A familiar Kentucky landmark

The Cincinnati skyline

I-71 was under construction just like every other road in Ohio. We followed it through Columbus and got onto I-271, which took us to I-90 east of Cleveland. Something we noticed along the way were three separate snow plow trucks driving north with their distinctive flashing white, amber and green lights. It was a hot summer day, so we had trouble imagining what they were doing until the radio gave us a clue. Cleveland was preparing for the GOP convention to start tomorrow and the plows were going to be used for security barricades to keep vehicles with bombs from getting access to the arena area.

Interesting cement work

On I-90, we stopped at the Angola Service Center to grab lunch to go and top up the gas tank with much cheaper US fuel. As we left the Thruway, an electronic sign said the wait time at the Peace Bridge would be 30 to 60 minutes.

Buffalo New York


We started onto the Peace Bridge at 3:05 amid three lanes of stopped traffic. By 3:12 we were over the border and at 3:20, we were waved into the NEXUS lane. By 3:30, we had been cleared by a remote Border Services officer using an intercom and were underway again.

Home again

We love NEXUS lanes (where they have them)

Does anyone know what this is?

Redrum MC - First Nations motorcycle club

The rest of the trip home was almost uneventful. We took the ETR 407 toll road because it was a summer Sunday and traffic around Toronto was going to be intense. In fact, when we were heading north on Highway 400 away from The Big Smoke (Toronto), southbound traffic was stopped for many miles.

Someone was having a bad day

DeSoto from the tail fin era

Highway 400 North at King

Highway 400 north of Barrie

The reason I said "almost uneventful" was because we stopped at the On Route Service Centre in Barrie and got some Tim Horton's to go. I had a bacon ranch wrap and coffee. Somehow, while I was chewing on the wrap, I punctured my tongue with a molar. Not the edge, mind you, but right in the middle. It bled quite a bit, but stopped after 60 miles or so. Then it started to hurt.


The temperature was dropping as we moved north and light rain started as we approached Horseshoe Lake Road south of Parry Sound. We pulled into our driveway about 9:00 PM at 65F with mild rain after having covered 878 miles. It was a good day to end a good trip.

Today's Route (878 Equinox miles):

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Richmond Kentucky - Natural Bridge

Sandy and I got down to the breakfast room a little after 7:00 AM. A few were already there and others wandered in while I was chowing down on more biscuits, gravy and sausage. I wonder why I can't lose any weight? There was some talk about going to a gorge today but I didn't pay much attention at the time. After we ate, Sandy and I went back to our room so I could look after a few chores. Blogs, bills, that sort of thing.

I guess I lost track of time because, when I looked, it was 10:00 AM and I saw that the bikes were gone. The central hallway acted as an insulator so we didn't notice any departure activity. Now what did they say? A gorge? The only gorge I was aware of near here was the Red River Gorge close to Natural Bridge. We went there during WWR in 2009, so maybe that was it. Regardless, it would be a nice drive.

I put our fate in the hands of Mr. Garmin, gave the GPS the Natural Bridge State Resort Park as a destination and just followed directions. This can be problematic if you are trying to cover some ground but can also be fun if you are just wandering. The GPS took us east on Kentucky 52 to Irvine, north on Kentucky 82 to Clay City and then southeast on the Bert T Combs Mountain Parkway. After a quick stop in Stanton for fuel, we continued until we exited the Parkway on Kentucky 11. The Natural Bridge access road was a short way up 11.

The Natural Bridge parking lot wasn't very full when we pulled in. However, there weren't any familiar looking motorcycles so we prepared to pull back out and look elsewhere. Just as I put the car in gear, a line of bikes led by a blue sidecar outfit and followed by a red Slingshot appeared and pulled in to park. We found them or they found us. Didn't matter. If they had been five minutes later, we would have missed them altogether.

Look who we found

Looking around the parking lot, we saw one different looking vehicle. It carried the name Global Roamer 2 and had a link to their blog lettered on the side. They are from Australia and spend their time wandering all around the world, as the map and licence plates can attest.

Global Roamer 2

These were only a few of the licence plates

I've been everywhere, man.......

The group decided they wanted to see the Natural Bridge. There were two ways to do this. You could walk up the long, steep trail to the top if you were fit and ambitious. Being neither of those, Sandy and I joined the rest of the crew and bought tickets to ride the Sky Lift to the top. Round trip tickets, since walking down can be as bad as walking up.

Wrong Turn - I think the hat suits him

Sandy and I don't like heights. It's a toss-up as to which of us don't like heights more than the other. But we can sometimes distract ourselves when we need to go somewhere that isn't flat land. Today, we distracted ourselves with just about anything that didn't involve looking down.

Our way to the top

The Sky Lift starts out innocently enough

Goes without saying

Big Dawg ahead of us and Phillip, Jaime and Caleb ahead of them

The grade gets steeper and is almost vertical at the end

The welcoming party

Once we got to the top (it took a while because the Sky Lift kept stopping for short periods of time), we walked over to the top of the Natural Bridge, a large sandstone arch. Some of the group went down below but we waited above. There was another point that offered a view of the arch from the side.

Trail options abound

Standing atop the bridge

The other point

After looking around, we decided to head back down. The Sky Lift left the station and started straight down before leveling out somewhat for the rest of the ride to the lower station.

Sandy and Tbone ready to descend

They mean stuck ON THE CHAIR

The almost perpendicular part

Tbone approaching the bottom

When we all convened back in the parking lot, the consensus was that we were hungry. There was a DQ back in Stanton that everyone agreed that would do the trick. Everyone except Wrong Turn and KT, who were still on the mountain. We left a note on their motorcycle and they caught up to us in Stanton..

The DQ was nice and they had a $5.00 special consisting of burger, fries, drink and a sundae. Then the group headed south on Kentucky 213, which I would put on the list of great Kentucky motorcycle roads. It had the right amount of twists and winds and I even had fun chasing the group in the Equinox. We got to watch Stewey and Cheap B play, dropping back and then riding hard to catch back up again. When we reached Kentucky 52, everyone turned west and returned to Richmond. We arrived just before 4:00 PM.

The road back to Richmond

In the parking lot, we saw a pickup truck with a Kawasaki KLR 650 dual sport motorcycle on a rack across the back. I just had to look and, sure enough, the whole rack and motorcycle were being carried by the hitch receiver. That seemed to be an excessive amount of weight, but it appeared to be working for him.

Interesting motorcycle rack

You can see all that is holding it up

In the room, Sandy discovered that Facebook Messenger now allowed her to phone other Messenger users via WiFi. That is tablet to phone. She did this despite me telling her it wouldn't work. She called KT and then the two of them called Sherm in Arizona to verify the service. Wow, new things every day.

Tomorrow, Sandy will be 65 years old (although you would never know that by looking at her). I had asked Cargo before we left to come down here if we could have a group supper to celebrate since we would be on the road tomorrow. Cargo said sure. This morning, we talked and I decided that Sandy would probably like Olive Garden.

Cargo called and found Olive Gardens didn't take reservations. He went over before 6:30 and asked for a table for 22. We followed a little while later and they were still setting up. The staff had good senses of humour as we joked with them. The manager, a middle aged lady, was particularly friendly.

Rainman explaining how good it feels to be out of the "institution"

Eventually, we were escorted to a large table. Still, they miscounted and we needed a second small table. Sandy got to sit at the head of the big table and hold court. After the entrees, the staff brought out a birthday cake that Phillip, Jaime and Caleb had gotten. It had a personalized birthday greeting and a picture of a motorcycle on it.

All in all, it was a memorable way to spend a milestone birthday. Many thanks to Cargo for the planning, Phillip, Jaime and Caleb for the cake, KT and Wrong Turn for the meal and everyone else for sharing the celebration.

Long table of scary people

The birthday girl

Cutting the cake

The overflow table

After supper, we returned to the hotel and hung out in the parking lot. Some of us had long drives tomorrow so we didn't stay up too late. The one notable moment was when a large white rooster (about six feet tall and dressed in a white T-shirt and shorts) made a quick run around the group crowing loudly. It got away due to the surprise factor, but there were promises that if it retunrs in the future, it will end up deep fried.

Sandy and I packed our bags and put some of them in the car before we turned in for the night.

Today's Route (105 Equinox miles):

Friday, July 15, 2016

Richmond Kentucky - The Bourbon Trail

Today, we planned to trek the Bourbon Trail. But before that, we hit the hot breakfast buffet provided by the hotel. I had biscuits and gravy, sausage patties, apple juice and coffee. It hit the spot and the price was right.

I haven't mentioned the heat down here. OK, it was had been very hot and somewhat humid since we got here and this morning was no different. We were set to depart at 8:00 AM, so I had the car running at 7:50 to begin cooling it down. At 8:00 AM sharp, we were looking for Bass Man who was staying off-site. A few minutes later, he rolled in and we rolled out.

Getting ready to set out

The locals are ready

Cargo models the latest in cool biker attire

Our first stop was going to be the legendary Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort. While no longer part of the official Bourbon Trail, it still offers a memorable visitor experience. Buffalo Trace is the home of some legendary marques, including the extremely rare and expensive Pappy Van Winkel 23.

Cargo led us north on I-75 and then west on I-64 to Frankfort, where we exited and followed the GPS to the distillery. After parking in the visitor lot, we walked the short distance to the Visitor Center and signed up for a tasting session. The grounds were extremely picturesque and the ambiance smacked of Disney World.

Approaching Frankfort Kentucky

Good looking group

The famous water tower

Buffalo Trace oozes ambiance

As our appointed tasting time approached, we worked our way upstairs. Poor Caleb was given a non-alcoholic treat and exiled to a corner to watch the grownups sample the goods. Our host, Jeff, put a series of bottles on the bar and said he could only give us two samples per person. He suggested we could pair up with someone who chose two other products and be able to get four different tastes.

One interesting new product was Kentucky vodka. I'm not a vodka drinker so I skipped that, but did find a bourbon called Eagle Rare that stroked my palate. We did learn that when smelling bourbon, we should keep our mouths open to allow the vapour to play along our tongues. The alcohol samples were underscored with Rebecca Ruth bourbon candies.

Jeff explained that bourbon was more corn than anything else. Moonshine, on the other hand, was usually ALL corn.

There was a bottle of Pappy 23 in the display case behind Jeff. I asked if he could take it out so I could take a picture of him holding it. He said he couldn't because they wouldn't give him a key to that cabinet. A 750 ml bottle of Pappy 23 is going for at least several thousand dollars according to current Google searches, while Old Rip Van Winkle 23 Year Old is in the $10,000 range. I remember us trying to win an LCBO lottery to get Heather's boss a bottle of Old Rip 10 year old.

Caleb watching the shenanigans

Jeff explaining how to taste bourbon

Bourbon is aged in barrels

The next stop on our path of discovery was Woodford Reserve in Versailles (pronounced VerSALES). To get there, we had to follow a road out through some prime horse farm country. Triple Crown winner American Pharoah is quartered near here. Someone pointed out that the water in Kentucky, imbued with calcium due to the underlying limestone strata, is why they have such excellent horses as well as such fine bourbon.

Riding through horse country

Arriving at Woodford Reserve Distillery

The Woodford reserve tour was highly recommended so we booked ourselves in for the next available group. That turned out to be the very next group, departing shortly. Although there has been a distillery on this spot since 1780 and the buildings are the oldest of their kind in Kentucky, production was mothballed in 1971 and was only refurbished by new owners in 1993. Woodford Reserve is now the "Official Bourbon of the Kentucky Derby".

It wasn't long before a bus came for our group and our guide. It was a short drive down the hill to the production area where we debarked and started through the stone buildings which were almost 200 years old.

First we looked at the feed stocks they use. Corn was the major component, mixed with lesser quantities of rye and, the last 10%, hops. Then we moved on to the wooden fermentation vessels, the copper stills and barreling. Next, we walked to another building where barrels were stacked to the ceiling for aging. The inside of the oak barrels are charred to impart flavour to the bourbon they contain. At the appropriate time, they are moved to yet another building where the proof is adjusted and the product is bottled. The bottling line was shut down when we were there as they scrapped a batch of off-spec bottles.

Visitor Center - Woodford Reserve Distillery

Cargo waiting for our tour to begin

Educational decorations

Wooden fermentation vessels

Makes me think of a pressure cooker

Copper stills



Scale House

The Tax Man's House

After we finished in bottling, we got back on the bus and went back up the hill to the Visitor Center. We were escorted into a different door where each place at the table had two samples of the product. Unlike the wide variety at Buffalo Trace, Woodford Reserve has a much narrower product line. Our guide took us through the tasting, again augmented by Rebecca Ruth bourbon candies.

Samples laid out for tasting

Caleb, Phillip and Jaime

Caleb feeling pugnacious

The tour completed, we headed back to Frankfort for lunch a Buffalo Wild Wings where Latoya took our orders. Sandy and I both started with Caesar salads after which I had a cheeseburger and Sandy had a pulled pork sandwich.

Leaving Woodford Reserve

What's wrong with this picture?

Another fancy horse farm

One table at Buffalo Wild Wings

Latoya taking Bass Man's order

Sandy is looking cheerful

The last visit of the day was to the Wild Turkey Distillery near Lawrenceburg. On the way in, we could see an impressive bungee jumping operation off a railway bridge adjacent to the road.

Young's High Bridge

283 feet is a long drop

The last distillery of the day

Bus tours stop here too

Once again, we just signed up for tasting. Our session started soon after in a room at the far end of the Visitor Center and, as expected, we each got two samples. There is a strong family component at Wild Turkey and the young lady who guided us through the tasting was a relative. The one flavour that stood out for Sandy and I was American Honey Sting.

Bourbon on the bar

Bass Man appears to be enjoying himself

Our route back to Richmond consisted of taking US 127 south to Danville and then going east to Hyattsville on Kentucky 52 and then on through Kirksville on 1295. This last stretch of road was fast enough and yet twisty enough that I couldn't keep up with the bikes. The fact that I was tired might have also contributed to this. We arrived back at the hotel, after a stop at Walmart for water, at 5:00 PM and found still more people had arrived.

Southbound on US 127

Bass Man greets Cheap B and Big Dawg

The group decided to go to Hooters for supper. It was still within walking distance but we had to cross the main road. There was a short wait while they cleared out their back room for us. Spirits were high as we got settled and ordered.

Why did the riders cross the road?

To get to Hooters, of course

We had to wait a short while for them to clear out the back room for us, but spirits were high while we got seated and placed our orders. The food was good and the servers were pretty.

Beating the rain back to the hotel

Back at the hotel, we moved back into the breakfast room for socializing and secondary bourbon tasting before heading off to bed.

Today's Route (153 Equinox miles):