Monday, July 22, 2019

Freedom Riders Day Ride: Manitoulin Island

It suddenly hit me this morning that we will be leaving for the VROC Wolfman's Wandering Rally XIII in the North Carolina mountains in about ten days. Time is flying by at an ever increasing pace.

Manitoulin Island, at over 1,000 square miles, is the largest fresh water island in the world. On the north side, Highway 6 is joined to the mainland by a single lane swing bridge that used to accommodate both vehicles and trains. It used to be tricky on a bike navigating both uneven timbers and railway tracks but, these days, the tracks are gone and the timbers have been paved over. The bridge does, however, open for 15 minutes at the top of every daylight hour during the boating season so the taller watercraft craft can access the harbour. On the south side, Highway 6 is connected to the Bruce Peninsula by the MS Chi-Cheemaun, a large car ferry.

Native Manitoulin Islanders are a unique people. Known as Haweaters, they are proud of  The Island and their place on it. And then there are the many people who have weekend places or hunt camps there. Deer bound and abound everywhere, and many hunters keep their freezers filled with venison but driving (particularly at night) at night is a risky business.

Which brings us to Kevin. Although I met Kevin thirty years ago working on snowmobile trails, we were now both members of the Freedom Riders Motorcycle Association. He had forgotten something at his hunt camp the last time he was on The Island and needed to go and get it. He planned to take his '05 GoldWing and asked if anyone in the club wanted to go with him. Leo and I said sure.

We met at 9:30 AM this morning at a nearby Tim's and left with Kevin in the lead. I was really getting to like the second spot. It was about 80 miles to Little Current, with a stop half way at another Tim's in Espanola.

Kevin and Leo ready to roll

Tim Horton's - Espanola Ontario

Waiting for the swing bridge to The Island

I know the main roads and towns on Manitoulin but Kevin's knowledge was a lot more in depth. The shortest route to his camp near Spring Bay was by Highway 540, but that road was gravel due to construction work. Instead, we were introduced to Bidwell Road, a road less known, less traveled and less smooth. Still, it was interesting. Kevin stopped for cheaper reserve gas at a place called Finn's Gas Bar on the M'Chigeeng First Nation (formerly known as West Bay) and then we stopped for lunch at Mum's Restaurant and Bakery in Mindemoya.

Ten Mile Point

Island visible from Ten Mile Point

Someone doesn't like neighbors

Gas was cheaper on the reserve

Kevin fueled up, I didn't

I couldn't have the fries anyway

The baking looked amazing (I wouldn't know for sure)

Waiting to order

From Mindemoya, we rode past Spring Bay to the hunt camp, which was located about a half mile off the paved road. It was a cozy place with room for lots of people, especially if they got along well. Kevin grabbed what he needed and we started back via Providence bay and Manitowaning.

The hunt camp

On Highway 6, we stopped at High Falls. It wasn't very high and not much water was falling at this time of year. Leo used the public bathroom and seemed to be taking a long time. Little did we know that the lock had malfunctioned and he was locked in. Instead of calling for help, he ended up kicking the door open.

Stopped for a break at High Falls

Not really so high

Door kicker Leo

Cleaner than usual

Leo and I stopped for fuel at the Shell in Little Current. I prefer Esso or Mobil for the Optimum Points but we were both pretty close to running on fumes. Then we stopped for some famous Farquhar's ice cream at 3 Cows and a Cone just before the bridge because Kevin needed a fix. I watched him enjoy. I have stuck to the diet religiously for three weeks now and the results are too good for me to cheat.

First/last thing you see on Manitoulin Island

They mean business

This weather forecast is never wrong

All smiles

Leaving the Island, we rode home non-stop. Traffic was a little heavy but we had fun passing cars and trucks. I arrived back in the driveway about 6:00 PM after another good day in the saddle.

Today's Route (279 motorcycle miles):

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Freedom Riders Day Ride: Blind River/Lake Lauzon

A Saturday Ride

At last week's Freedom Riders meeting, President Rob expressed a wish to recognize the long-standing and very generous support the Lake Lauzon Resort in Algoma Mills, about 90 miles west of Sudbury, has shown for our Freedom Rally. VP Ken posted the details for a Saturday ride despite the fact that he would be working at one of his several jobs and would be unable to participate. Likewise, Rob's work got in the way too.

It had been too long since I took a club ride so, as Treasurer, I became the token Executive member on this run. Leo and I rode to the Tim Horton's on Lorne Street, not knowing how many would show up.

The bikes there when we arrived were riding around Lake Superior

The next bikes were going to Elliot Lake for the drag races

Our group starts to roll in

Kickstands up at 9:30

Terry led the ride. He and I started riding together almost forty years ago. In rides these days, I am usually leading or alone. It felt good to take the number two spot behind a rider I trusted implicitly. Some people find close riding to be stressful but I was right at home here as we headed west.

Stop in Naughton to pick up Tommy

Leo and Tom - part of the old sledding community

Garry and Sue talking to Eve, who couldn't come with us

Ken and Terry

We made a brief stop at Tim's in McKerrow

Garry and his very nice trike

We passed Lake Lauzon Resort (which no longer operated a restaurant) and continued another ten miles to Blind (long may you run) River. For the hundreds of times I have been through here, I don't think I have ever turned onto Woodward Street, the main drag. It looked like not many people did.

When I was a teenager living in The Soo, my (Great) Uncle Jim and Aunt Lenore lived in Blind River, where he was the Royal Bank manager. This made them an anomaly, relatives we could drive to visit and return home the same day. On one of these visits, I drove our '64 Pontiac Strato Chief on the highway for the first time under my Learner's Permit. That, and the Neil Young song, immortalized the place for me.

After parking the bikes, we repaired to the 17 Restaurant, where they put a large table together for us in the back room. The service was friendly and the food was good as I continued my salad diet.

Woodward Street - Blind River Ontario

It is a quiet street

Library and cooling station - summer is here

I understand MB - what do all the rest mean?

17 Restaurant - Blind River Ontario

Terry, Dave, Ken and Leo

Tommy, Garry & Sue

After lunch, we rode back to Lake Lauzon Resort where, although there was no restaurant, there was an ice cream stand. Tommy left us here to head straight back for a family christening. As the riders enjoyed their desserts, I (not allowed to enjoy such treats) spoke to the lady doing the serving. On behalf of the Freedom Riders, I thanked her for their generous support. She said they appreciated the work we did in the community. For the record, any profits made by the Freedom Rally are donated to local children's charitable causes which, over the last thirty years, has amounted to over $50,000.

Lake Lauzon Resort - Algoma Mills Ontario

Randy - another friend from the sledding days

Leo - riding, golf and sledding buddy and his Honda CTX700

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream

The glorious white and red

People watching other people enjoying Lake Lauzon

Makes me think of The Group Of Seven

Mission accomplished, we turned towards home and rode back non-stop. Traffic was steady but didn't hold us up much. As we approached Sudbury, the bike display told me the temperature was 32 C (about 90 F) plus whatever the humidex was. Riders peeled off as we rode around town. I pulled into our driveway just before 4:00 PM and made a bee-line for the air conditioned house.

It was a good day ride with some fine folks. I need to get out more often.

Today's Route (214 motorcycle miles):

Friday, July 19, 2019

Massena New York to Sudbury Ontario

Home Safe And Sound

There were heat warnings regarding southern New York for the upcoming weekend. Temperatures were forecast to be in the mid 90's with the humidex exceeding 105 F. They were even canceling the horse racing a Saratoga Springs. A look at the broader map showed that the heat wave was extending across many states.

We left the Super 8 in Massena, New York at 7:30 AM and followed Highway 37 southwest along the shore of the St. Lawrence River to Ogdensburg. I opted to use the Ogdensburg Prescott International Bridge because I prefer Highway 416 route to Highway 17 rather than going through more of Ottawa. Highway 37 is a parkway with pretty scenery and very little traffic.

Arriving in Ogdensburg, we stopped for final US gas at a Valero station I remembered using on a previous trip. After fueling the Equinox, I moved up so the trailer door was even with the gas pump. The bike tank was quite empty after the ride in from the Soo last week, so I was happy that the hose was long enough to reach inside.

Filling the bike - don't spill

There were some older cars with Ontario plates filling up next to us. Both drivers were stymied by the pump asking for their Zip Code before allowing them to use their credit cards. I shared the Postal Code 3 digits plus 00 trick and they were able to pay at the pump. I don't know why they don't post this gem at the pumps, especially near the border. The drivers were heading for the Syracuse Nationals and the gentleman with the Chevy told me he painted motorcycles for the dealerships in Ottawa.

The US bridge plaza was deserted as we started across the 1.5 miles of badly aligned steel grating. It was even more deserted, if possible, on the Canadian side. I pulled into the lane with the only green light and had to wait while the agent left whatever he was doing and came to the window. I declared an estimated $100 in parts used to service the bike and another $80 of 5 Hour Energy drinks (I use a lot and they are cheaper in the USA). That satisfied him and he welcomed us home. I worry at these quiet crossings that they might be bored and want to search travelers just for something to do, but this was a good day.

Probably Syracuse bound

Now we are "open for business"

There was little traffic on Highway 416. There was not much of anything so, when Sandy asked about a bathroom break, I was watching. It was a while before a sign said there was an Ultramar gas station at Exit 57. After I took the off ramp, I was presented with the following sign:

My interpretation was that there were several gas stations to the right and one of them was an Ultramar. After proceeding several miles down a two lane road, we came to an intersection with traffic lights. There, the sign we saw was:

Left turn or straight ahead? There was oncoming traffic so I went straight and ended up in the village of Manotick. This was a quaint place with a lot of new development around it. What it did not have was a gas station. Or a fast food place or anywhere else that might conceivably have a public rest room. Realizing that my reliance on signage had been misplaced, I queried the trusty Zumo and found I should have gone left at the traffic light. We finally negotiated our way to the Ultramar while I roundly questioned the parentage of whoever was responsible for signs in what turned out to be Nepean.

After the Ultramar, I made my second mistake. I asked the GPS, which was one for one this morning, to take us home. What I should have done was return to Highway 416 at Exit 57. Instead, the infernal Garmin took me (along with a great amount of other traffic) through a lot of road construction past new homes and a nice looking golf course to a mall. This was  next to 416 ONLY a couple of exits up from where we got off. There were many stores there including A Tim Horton's, where we made one more stop before resuming our interrupted journey.

Highway 416 is the straight road I did not take

Road construction in Nepean

This is probably the smallest 5th wheel I have ever seen

Zeke, Ontario isn't all hard rock

Turning northwest on Highway 17, we encountered a stiff headwind. The car was working in 5th and sometimes 4th gear to keep up the speed, especially when we started to encounter the steep hills. The rest of the trip was uneventful.

Bridge work between Arnprior and Renfrew

Champlain Astrolabe marker (remember our first bike trip together)

Normie's birthplace

Rumour has it my great grandfather married an Irving

Coffee refill was a buck, Sherm

Fueled up in Deep River

In Mackey, are they called cottages or camps?

We arrived just as the light turned green

As straight as Saskatchewan but not as flat

The Upper Ottawa River

Looking across at Quebec

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

The abutment we almost hit in 1976

North Bay traffic lights again

Some day, this might be us

At 3:20 PM on a Friday, all was shut down (no flaggers)

It was 91 F as we pulled into our driveway at 3:45. After unloading the gear and the bike, plus tightening the lock coupler on the hitch to eliminate the rattle next time around, I worked up a decent sweat. Lucky the house A/C was working fine.

The mission was accomplished and every maintenance item in my GoldWing service log had been attended to. At the rate we ride these days, I should have years of happy motorcycling ahead of me. Of course, the way I felt on the Wawa ride, the rate of travel might increase in the future.

Today's Route (378 Equinox/trailer miles):