My friend Zeke, a fellow VROC member from Springfield, Illinois, had been planning a ride around Lake Superior for a while now. At SEVROC in May, we discussed the possibility of me riding to Wawa and joining him for the ride to Sault Ste. Marie. It sounded like a worthwhile plan.
Last night, Zeke reached Thunder Bay, Ontario and would be traveling Highway 17 today to Wawa. He had booked a room at the Wawa Motor Inn, just down the road from the famous goose statue. This was an interesting day for me since I had not taken an overnight trip actually riding the motorcycle in over five years and had not ridden any distance alone for longer than that.
The bike was fueled and tires and oil were checked yesterday. I was on the road before 8:00 AM this morning on what looked to be a very nice day, weather wise.
Right off the bat I dodged a bullet as I followed a dump truck through a construction zone on the South West Bypass. I wear an HJC CL-33 open face helmet with a pull down face shield that I usually leave up, a carry over from my smoking days. Because I was following the truck, I pulled he shield down. I heard and felt a solid "whack" sound as a decent sized rock hit the face shield right in front of my eyes. I have no doubt that if my face had been unprotected, my riding day might well have been over.
It had been my intention to stop at Tim's at the Espanola turnoff, about forty miles out, but I felt fine so I rolled right on. The miles rolled by as I settled into a forgotten rhythm. The anxiety I sometimes feel when riding started to creep in a few times but I stopped it with a few deep breaths and some positive thoughts. Near Algoma Mills, I had to pass a line of traffic that was being held up by a GoldWing riding two up. My butt started to feel the seat making me regret not putting the beaded seat cover on.
I would have covered the 190 miles to the Soo without stopping at all if I had remembered what the increments on the fuel gauge meant in liters. I missed the Driver Information Centre in the car that tells me the remaining fuel range. Funny how things that were well known in the past could be forgotten so completely now. With forty miles to go, the gauge showed about a little over 1/6th fuel remaining but we all know that these things are neither linear nor accurate, so I stopped at the Esso station in Bruce Mines to fuel up.
While stopped, I phoned my brother Rabbi in the Soo to see if he was home. The first call didn't go well because my phone was Bluetoothed to my helmet headset via the Garmin GPS and the helmet was on the seat rather than on my head. After wondering why the phone was not making any noise, I got the GPS shut off just in time to answer Rabbi's call back. He was wondering why I hadn't responded when he answered my call. As I get older, details of how things work seem to get murkier. He was home, so I would stop.
I reached Rab's house (Mom's old home where I lived as a teenager) about 11:30. Over coffee we caught up on the important things including our respective golf games. I said I would stop back tomorrow if he was in.
After fueling at the Esso on the way out of town, I was back on the road by 1:00 PM. It was 25 C with a haze creeping in. I put the beaded seat cover on at the gas station and found one of the plastic cords was broken, allowing some beads to escape. Still, it eased my sore butt a little.
Between Havilland and Batchawana Bays, the road had a lot of sweeping curves and not many passing spots or lanes. I spent most of this stretch stuck behind an ERB semi who could manage the speed limit but not much more. Once I got by him, there was little traffic dwindling to almost none north of Pancake Bay.
I did note a sign for the Salzburgerhof at Batchawana. In 1984, a year after my brother Doug died in a traffic crash, my mother and my Uncle Warren decided that the Pennsylvania and Ontario sections of the family needed a reunion. My grandmother, her two children, the cousins that were their children plus spouses and offspring gathered on the shores of Lake Superior for a week of Bavarian styled frolic.
The folks applying the tar snakes when we came through just over a week ago were still there, just a few miles further north. There was a Follow Me escort to lead the traffic through the long one lane stretch.
About fifteen miles south of Wawa, I realized that I had not seen another northbound vehicle in more than forty miles. The southbound traffic was also minimal, mostly big trucks. One thing that bothered me was that about half the motorcycles I met did not return my wave. This was not confined to one type of bike, either. Perhaps riders don't feel the shared spirit as much as we all used to?
I arrived in Wawa at 3:15 and fueled at the famous Young's General Store. Then I went over to Tim's where I planned to wait for Zeke. No sooner was I there than I got a text saying he was in town and had checked into our room at the Wawa Motor Inn, right across from Young's. I hadn't seen his bike there because there was a second part to the motel down a hill in back. I headed over and joined him.
Zeke was looking good for a septuagenarian on his first road trip on a motorcycle in a few years. We were both reaching back to create a new future. We decided to walk across the road to Young's General Store so he could get some souvenirs for family. As we were leaving the room, our neighbor Dwayne (a Thomas & Betts Electrical sales guy from Val Caron) gave us free T&B comfort fit hats.
We walked up the stairs to the main building and had supper in the restaurant. I have been following my low carb diet since the beginning of the month and have dropped my morning glucose from 10.0 (180) to 7.3 (131) and my later in the day to less than 6.0 (108). Supper for me was a mushroom/Swiss burger with no bun (they tried for a lettuce bun but I used knife and fork) and what they humorously called a "small" Caesar salad. The salad was good but would have made a meal in itself. Zeke had chicken tenders and fries with gravy. It always amuses me to see my American friends discover brown gravy on fries, a Canadian standard.
Back in the room, we pondered the problems of the world and the issues around getting older. I am now signed up to lead a ride to the Ozone Burger Barn when we get to Eureka Springs, Arkansas in September. After checking the weather and seeing some precipitation forecast for later tomorrow morning, we set the alarms for 6:00 AM and turned in. It felt good to be back on the road on two wheels.
Today's Route (342 motorcycle miles):