Thursday, August 30

The road to AEROSTICH

Visiting Aerostich RIDERwearhouse in Duluth, MN was one of the highlights of my recent Lake Superior trip. If you've been riding a motorcycle and surfing the 'net for motorcycle related gear and accessories, you've undoubtedly run across the name Aerostich. Think of any item related to riding, particularly long distance and adventure riding and the folks at Aerostich have thought of your needs. And if you look through their mammoth catalog, you can find it.

Once while riding in a heavy rainstorm, I wondered why no one had thought of a windshield wiper for helmets. I didn't find what I was looking for, but I found the VeeWipe Squeegee, a little do-dad that fits on your thumb or index finger to wipe off rain! Or, the Finger Visor Wipe, a two finger rubber squeezee--very cool!

I sometimes strap an old wristwatch on the handlebar of my bike. I thought this ingenious as I lack a clock on my instrument panel and looking at my wristwatch while riding isn't easy (or safe) with my jacket cuffs strapped down. I pulled out my Aerostich catalog and found "compass/thermometer/clock clips, ranging from $10 to $15 dollars! They snap right onto the handlebar! I'm ordering one soon. Aerostich is one of only two places I've found over-the-fuel-tank panniers that eliminate having to remove your tank bag to gas up. If you trying to do an Iron Butt ride, for example, where minutes counts, this is a neat invention.

So, when I arrive in Duluth , Aerostich was tops on my list. The looks of the place might surprise you. I had been warned that it's an "old warehouse," that has seen better days. It is tucked away in an old industrial part of Duluth. I passed it once, not expecting something so worn. The place has loads of charm. It strikes you as a place where folks labor. Hard.

I never saw a front door to enter, but a side door was open and a few bikes were parked outside. It can look unwelcoming at first as there was nothing that immediately invites you in. But this is Aerostich and I've slept with their catalog--we're on intimate terms! Besides, I've come a long way, surely they will admit me. I park Queenie next to a row of bikes and find my way inside.

It is definitely an old warehouse with people buzzing around engaged in work. I glance inside and could see people packing items. Stuff is ubiquitous! At first glance, the place can appear disorderly but soon your eyes settle in and you feel the form and logic of the space.

Behind a glass counter, a nice woman spoke to me and offered me coffee, soda or water. It was a water morning and I accepted the bottled water she handed me. She left me to drool over all the items I had heretofore only seen in the catalog. A father and teenage son were trying on Italian Sidi boots and I refrained for telling them how much I loved mine.

Peruse Aerostich's catalog at your own risk!

The only problem I see with Aerostich is that there is a high probability that you will experience considerable downward economic mobility! (See, that degree in sociology has not gone to waste--I can still speak the language). I'm convinced it's not possible for most people close the catalog without convincing her/himself that you need something and because prices can range from a few dollars to about $800 (for a Roadcrafter two piece suit) or over a thousand for a GPS, every budget can feel included. They don't just have gear and bike accessories, they feed my other addiction: books on every topic related to motorcycles from personal adventure narratives to instruction. I get through the winter with videos on motorcycle instruction, adventure rides, and a few Hollywood moto movies. You can find it all at Aerostich! Aerostich--my new addiction.

Before leaving, I purchased a couple of tee-shirts--one that proves I "Rode There." But I left with a list of things I will surely order later. I was given a gift for dropping in, which I will not reveal. If you go there, you'll get it too.

Back out on the street, I observe a man who appears to be in his late sixties, looking over Queenie. As is my custom, I size him up and think: I could definitely take him down if he is up to no good. As I approach my bike he kindly greets me and tells me that recently someone recommended he check out the SV. He looks her over and gives his approval. We talk about riding f or a few minutes. He lives in Duluth and hangs out around Aerostich (Aerostich groupie?). Before long, another rider, who looks like he has just stepped from an Aerostich catalog, exits the building and mounts his dualsport. He overhears the older gent telling me the best way to Hwy 2. The dualsport guy says he is going in that direction and offers to lead me. His bike is packed with the soft waterproof luggage, the kind you find in the Aerostich catalogue. Gear is hooked on his bike neatly, with straps more sophisticated than bungee cords. He looks like a serious adventure rider. Yes, I would follow him anywhere.

I say goodbye to my new friend and follow the dualsport guy but first I have to navigate a turn on a bumpy, gravely road in front of some Aerostich workers who appear to be on break. They stand along the warehouse wall, talking and watching the motorcycle tourists. I take it slow, not wanting to be remembered as the woman from IL who dumped her heavily loaded SV. Success!

Safely on the road, I follow the dualsport. Eventually, he toots and motions to my exit; I toot back to signal my thanks.

Order an Aerostich catalog! Even better, visit Aerostich, at 8 South 18th Avenue West, Duluth, MN. They treat you well.

It's an adventure!

Sunday, August 26

Michigan trip--not happening!

I am trying to look on the bright side, but it's difficult. I had made plans to visit and ride with my cousin, Norman, who lives in MI. He owns two motorcycles and I was looking forward to introducing Queenie, meeting his rides, and riding with him. I needed this outing.

Much of last week we've had tornado warnings and torrential-like rains here, which have restricted my riding. Friday night rain continued to Saturday morning, but cleared by the early afternoon. At 1:30, I geared up, hopped on Queenie and headed out. Had a nice ride--just under 100 miles by the end of the day. Temps in the upper 70s, lower 80s--ideal riding conditions. Stayed out late, visiting relatives and just enjoying myself. I left the last house around 9pm. The temperature had dropped only a tad and a cool breeze, a full moon and a dark, clear sky made for a magical night ride home.

At some point, I noticed that the right turn signal didn't flash when I wanted it to. Then I tried the left. It flashed. Later, however, I used the left again and it didn't flash either. Hmmm... Tried it again, it flashed, but continued to work inconsistently the entire way home.

When I arrived home 90 minutes later, I repeatedly tested the signals. The left flashed intermittently; the right, not at all. I admit to being woefully ignorant when it comes to wrenching my bike. I'm learning some basics but still feel lost without detailed instructions. I must read up on everything and follow the directions to a tee. Bulb replacement, I figured, is a simple fix. That both signals were not consistently working made me think something more complex was transpiring. Why would both signals act up at the same time?

Well, if nothing else, I figured I could change the bulbs and see if that solved the problem. I have a rather elaborate Priority Lights set up that was disengaged before the Lake Superior trip because it was misbehaving. Since returning, I haven't had the replacement Priority Lights installed yet. So, changing bulbs on a stock set up would be a breeze, I thought.

Still, I read the "how-to" in the Clymer and Suzuki manuals. Great bedtime reading. Up this morning at 4am to change the bulbs. Things progress according to the book. Then, I open my rear compartment, where I keep all extra bulbs. I'm a nut about that. bulbs. THEY ARE NOT THERE! Stunned!

I remove the Cruz-Tools kit, the tire plugger kit--no bulbs. I'm guessing that when Queenie was in to resolve the Priority Lights problem, stuff in the rear compartment was removed for easier access to the main fuse. Somehow the bulbs never made it back inside the compartment.

My heart sank. I had so hoped of going to Michigan, traveling along some off the same roads I covered last summer on the Lake Michigan Circle tour. I have Monday time constraints for getting back.

While I had things pulled out, I fiddled with the exposed bulb on the left turn signal. It flashed. Tried it again. Nothing. The right never flashed. I lifted the tangle of wires in the rear compartment and tried the left turn signal again. It consistently flashed this time. Still no activity from the right. I placed the wires back inside the compartment and sometimes a flash, sometimes not from the left signal. Oh, well...looks like I won't be going anywhere. I stand in the garage feeling helpless and with no one around to whine to, I reassemble the light and leave.

My shop won't open again until Tuesday. I know of another shop that will be open on Sunday, but I'd need to take a bus or "the el" there since I no longer keep my car in the city. I don't even know if changing the bulbs will fix the problem. Do I want to race around chasing down bulbs if the issue is something else? Yeah, I'm willing to take that risk but it's not an efficient use of my time.

So, the only wheels I'll be riding today are my inline skates. I'll go along the lakefront and try to enjoy this heavenly weather. But I know that when I see a motorcycle on the street--and today there are bound to me tons--I give myself whiplash trying to track the bike. I'll probably whine a little too; hopefully, I can be mature about it all and know that "this too shall pass." It's not like I don't have a billion things to do that have been terribly neglected lately.

Still, I'm a little bummed!

Thursday, August 23

Raw pics--finally up (sort of...)

Well, I've yet to put the commentary with each picture--don't know when that'll happen--but the raw pics are up if you're interested...

The Pow wow is here...

And, here are most of the others...

The 35mm film pics have yet to be posted.

Wednesday, August 22

“Long Way Down”—McGregor and Boorman are at it again!

By now, most motorcyclists--and some lucky non-motorcyclists-- have watched “Long Way Round,” the 19,000 miles motorcycle adventure of Scottish actor and author, Ewan McGregor and his pal, Charley Boorman. Their epic journey on matching BMW R1150GS Adventure bikes, carried them from London to New York, traveling through Western and Central Europe, Russia, Mongolia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, parts of Siberia and Canada.

Well, they’ve done it again! Recently, the daring duo completed the second installment, "Long Way Down," which will air soon on the BBC. This time the journey, captured by this soundbite: “Two men, two continents in 85 days and 15,000 miles,” transports the two from Scotland to Cape Town, South Africa. If you watched the first adventure, you know that this zany and courageous pair will meet up with incredibly interesting characters and find themselves facing major road, machine, global, and cultural challenges that are not only entertaining but also insightful and informative. I’m eagerly awaiting the television and DVD release.

In the meantime, you can get your fill of “Long Way Down” previews, information, and paraphernalia here.

Friday, August 17

Approximately 2300 miles and 440 pictures

I left Escanaba before 9am Thursday; I arrived home a little past 4pm happily tired after having ridden mostly straight through--with the exception of a yoghurt break, quick lunch and bathroom stops. The day before, I had hoped to ride home from Houghton/Hancock after visiting the Copper Harbor area but when it started to get late, I remembered the deer I saw more than a week prior around this same time that spooked me as I was making tracks to Marquette, MI. I had wanted to see how much seat time I could put in if the ride home had started from Houghton/Hancock. It’s good I didn’t test it and spent the night in Escanaba. By Wednesday’s end, I was exhausted and I don't recall when sleep arrived.

For lots of reasons—the subject of some future blogs—this was a magnificent trip. I hurt no one and didn’t hurt myself. The weather is a winner here (although one person’s win is sometimes another’s lost). The only rain I encountered occurred upon leaving Chicago on August 5th. It delayed my start and reared its head in a few spots along the route to Marquette, my official start point for circumnavigating Lake Superior. The rain, however, was never enough to worry about. In Canada, the weather couldn’t have been more ideal. Cool mornings, seventies in the afternoon, and beautiful evenings. No complaints in the UP--MI area either. My good fortune meant more suffering for the UP area. Chronic arid conditions hurt the environment and increase fire dangers--to mention a couple of things. I recall saying to someone in the Upper Peninsula that “I’ve been lucky, I’ve had great weather…” and the person smiling back and remarking, “But we’re hurting up here—we’ve not had much rain—we really need it.” Much deserved reality check.

Everywhere I rode, I saw Smokey the Bear signs indicating the “Very High” potential for fire. Although I heard that the origin of the fire near Newberry was probably a lightening strike, the fire’s rapid spread and subsequent lost of over 19,000 acres was possible because of the ongoing droughty conditions.

Anyone and I do mean anyone—regardless of vehicle preference—ought to get to Copper Harbor and in route, take some of the side trips too. First, getting to Copper Harbor was a great ride, beautiful, newly paved (in parts) and just heavenly. I must add that getting to Copper Harbor was downright cold and gusty. The ride became colder and more blustery the higher the elevation. This, however, is soon forgotten as one motors through the tree lined, squiggly, curvy roads that never end. The Copper Harbor town is replete with trendy shops, many of which feature the artistic treasure of local artists. I had a nice meal at the Mariner’s, across the street from the Visitors’ Center where one can spend a good chunk of time reading about the history of the area. I talked to the owner of Swedes, a shop on the harbor and learned a few things about this family’s history with the store and in the Cooper Harbor area.

The Brockway Mountain Drive has been written about many times. Tell a motorcyclists that you'll be in the area and Brockway Mountain Drive is the "must-do" that is always strongly recommended. Now that I’ve experienced it, I see why. It’s indescribably resplendent. I’d probably enjoy it in a car too but would miss all the sensory experiences that come with being on two wheels. On a bike, however, there is an added challenge to this northerly trek. The scenery is so compelling that if you don’t watch the road you can get yourself in trouble. Not only is the road up narrow, the people coming down as you go up are watching the views too. Thus, no one is really observing the road that closely. On a couple of ascents, I was surprised to find a car coming down that was way over to my side, which thereafter made me hug my outside edge. In spots, the road is rather bumpy, which adds to your need to pay attention. Alas, it’s just not possible to give full attention to the road, in my humble opinion. I suffered near whiplash looking to my left as I climbed up and this is exactly why one should do the mountain drive more than once. Some locals recommend going up and down the same way, via M26. Then go up again, by taking the Lakeshore side up. Doing so broadens your perspective greatly and you end up seeing things you didn’t on the other trips.

I wasn’t satisfied with the designated pullouts for viewing; I wanted to see it all. It’s breath-taking and I don’t believe it is captured well in pictures because depth is collapsed and one doesn’t get to breath in all that luscious air or feel the incredibly expanse of space there. I really did feel on top of the world as I looked out from the mountain, over all that greenery, water, and treetops that took thousands of years and environmental transformation to create. The mountaintop would be a wonderful spot for sunrises and sunsets. Now, I too have been to the mountaintop.
The trip to Aerostich next...

Wednesday, August 15

Tuesday’ Ride: Another Dispatch on my Lake Superior trek


More gorgeous weather on Wednesday. The ride from MN to WI and then into MI was spectacular. By now, I thought the rolling hills, amazing postcard views and clear air would be routine but that is far from the truth. I can’t get enough of this. All the other things will make you long for home.

Yesterday I began the push towards home. I rode roughly 255 miles of straight through riding. Look at the links, although they don’t do justice to the ride, you can at least see how far north I rode.

I started near Duluth, MN in Proctor, from there back to Duluth—a hop, skip and a jump away. I had to visit the famous Aerostich “wearhouse”—definitely worth the short backtrack. From Duluth, I headed to Hwy 2 until reaching Hwy 13, which I took to Red Cliff, WI, home of the Red Cliff Band of Chippewa Indians. My next ride carried me through the quaint town of Bayfield, WI, where I fought off hunger with a bottle of Energy Sobe and a banana.

From Bayfield one goes through the town of Washburn. I hopped back on Hwy 2 east to Ashland, WI where I continued to Ironwood, which put me back into Michigan. Rode Hwy 2 until a split near Wakefield, WI where I pick up MI state highway 28 and follow it northeasterly to MI-64 north to Silver City. It was an interesting little detour from Bergland, MI, north to Silver City, which allowed for great views. Although this added about an hour to my plans, the peaceful riding was great—talk about a quiet road. From Silver City it is a fine, fine ride to Ontonagon, MI. Highway 26 takes me to my next resting place in Houghton. I arrived tired and decided to settle in at a Best Western hotel in Hancock, MI “across the bridge.” For the most part, I was in the saddle over 9 hours of which more than seven was actual riding. The roads were fun, challenging and diverse enough to keep me alert. Long stretches of total isolation (miles of not seeing another vehicle) and a few miles of construction but nothing major.

Now I long from home…

Something has bitten me and I have an attractive, spreading rash.

Two motorcycle riders, in full “uniform” (shaven head, covered by do-rag, leather vest, portly, tattoos (think Del Fuegos, from the movie “Wild Hogs”) give me a scare but turn out to be really nice

Every time I stretch, I get major charley horses in both leg muscles that bring tears to my eyes and wake me up during the night.

Underwear count, down to two pairs

Tired of slow, iffy wireless Internet connections.

Tired of beds shared by thousands of strangers.

Still, I wouldn’t change a think.

Nevertheless, it’s to start heading home…

Tuesday, August 14

Travel woes and joys--Draft Dispatch

Since when did paying for anything in cash become a problem for hotels and a huge headache for me?! I’ve now had the misfortune of staying at several hotels, the last of which was in Duluth, that think it makes sense to charge me twice for a room I’ve used only one night. I use a debit card with a Visa or MasterCard logo. Some hotels do some sort of pre-authorization of the amount of the room or a $200 standard fee.

Then when I’m preparing to pay in cash the next morning, the hotel clerk says, “It’ll be several days before the money is returned to your account.” “What? I said I would be paying in cash. I gave you the card to hold the room—I explained that? Why was there any money applied to my account?” They typically say, “Oh, that’s fine but we had to apply a $200 pre-authorization fee—that’s our policy when people use debit cards--just so that people don’t walk off without paying.” When this first happened, I said, “I can pay for the room in cash upon checking in.” Evidently, that’s not enough, I guess, because late in the night, I could go nuts and damage the room and then where would they be? This makes no sense given that they have the imprint of my card. Besides, having one’s credit card does not resolve folks from the walking away after damaging a room. They press me by saying, “Do you have a regular credit card? If you have a regular credit card, then we wouldn’t” have to the pre-authorization? Another truly dumb and lame response. I prefer to pay in cash—why am I being hassled? And one would think the hotels would want the cash.

In one hotel, I said at the very beginning. “I will be paying in cash. Are there penalties for doing so?” I was told, “Oh, no.” I asked, “Do you apply a “down payment or pre-authorization to my debit/credit card” (which I had to give to hold the room. “No—we don’t do that to our customers.” But in several other hotels, using cash has been a pain in the gluts! I just don’t get it, particularly given the fee hotels are charged with each credit card transaction. With the debit/credit card, the cash is there and an easy check confirms that the money is available. This means some letter writing when I return home!

Foreign Currency

When I left Sault Ste Marie, MI on my way to Sault Ste Marie, Ontario I would have to be riding with my eyes closed to miss the number of government run currency exchanges for trading my American bills into Canadian dollars. I asked the clerk there if I would be able to do the reverse when I re-entered the good ole USA. She said, “I think so, since you’ll be doing another border crossing. That was her guess but she wasn’t 100% certain.

When I left Thunder Bay, Ontario and saw that I was preparing to crossover, I pulled out of the lane and into the Canadian customs place. I dismounted and went inside. I said I’m just returning from Canada and don’t know the procedures. I failed to ask him about changing money. Frankly, it wasn’t on my mind and I was thinking I would see the signs soon. I was in the wrong place, he told me, “there’s no reason to stop here unless you’re Canadian. He directed to the American side.

There, I was interrogated by a man with a Canadian accent on where I’d been, the nature of my visit, where I was going, did I have anything dangerous or illegal stuff with me. Cars in front of me were searched. My bike was not. Before leaving, the man said, “I like your hair.” Coming at the end of some serious questioning, the comment threw me off guard. I smiled and motored on, forgetting to ask if the currency exchanges were ahead. Moreover, I didn’t think he could change it from his little tollbooth.

I drove and drove and never saw money-exchanging signs. “Definitely,” I thought, I’ll find something in Duluth. I spent a good part of Monday looking for a place to exchange the money in Duluth. Someone told me that Wells Fargo “should—they’re big around here.” Wells Fargo initially told me that they would. Then while at the counter they found out that I wasn’t a customer. If I open an account, however, they would exchange the money. One of the employees actually told me it might be worth it to open an account to get the money traded, that I could always close the account later. Made no sense to me! Besides, I’d have to use some of the money to start the account. I will never have an account with Wells Fargo. I will say that a wonderfully kind young woman in personal banking at Wells Fargo felt badly –and surprised—that Wells wouldn’t exchange the money. When she went to check more, she returned looking rather embarrassed. She then spent a lot of time calling to hotels, which I needed for the night to see if they would take the Canadian money. Hotels that would take the money, had no rooms; those that had rooms, would not take the foreign currency. A popular weekend blues festival that ended late Sunday night in Duluth made hotel availability slim to none. Primacy was given to room availability, which meant the whole cash/pre-authorization deal.

Before leaving, I made two stops. One, to K-Mart to purchase batteries (forgot to charge the rechargeables last night). Before going into the store, I briefly made eye contact with a young man who was looking at my bike, I guess. Five minute later, he came up to me in the store and said, “You left your keys in your bike. I saw the turn signal flashing and I thought it would go off automatically. But it didn’t, then I saw that you had left your keys in the bike.” I thanked him like crazy. In my head I said, “DANG!! Just give the bike away, why don’t ‘cha!” Stupid mistake that would, I bet, get my gal-pal stolen in many places. I think I’m getting tired. When I’m tired, I’m forgetful.

My second stop, I headed to the post office where I met a man who reminded me of Paul Bunyon, I don’t know why, really, he just did. Big and tall, hairy (facial and head). His long wild ponytail was the result of riding a motorcycle without a helmet, I later learned. In line to do his own post office business, the clerk pointed him out as someone who might know where to exchange foreign currency. He said what I thought was Paul-America. Later when he looked it up in the phone directory, I saw that it was actually PawnAmerica. He was confident that they would exchange the money. We talked motorcycles a little and he came out to check out Queenie—he approved. He rode a big Honda cruiser—I think an Aero.

After “Paul Bunyon” left, another man whom I recognized from the PO line pulled up in his car. “Do you know where you’re going?” I told him I thought so and was programming my GPS to find the location for me. He said, “Follow me--I’ll take you there?” Hmmm….been there before. I thanked him as profusely as I could, but he kept saying, “I’m going that way, I don’t mind taking you—no problem.” I continued to say I didn’t want to inconvenience him and that the GPS would get me there...”but thanks so much, you’re very kind.” This went on and on before he finally said, “Well, okay then.”
In my brain, I can’t help think that such offers will result in being slaughtered. I tried not to hold it against him that his car’s interior looked like someone had been murdered in it—my car gets out of hand on occasion too. Even if his car were spotless, I would never follow anyone anywhere no matter how lost I am. Then I recalled those lonely moments out on Hwy 17. Had nightfall come, I don’t know what I would have done.

Before heading for the expressway (I-35), I pulled into a gas station to check something on the GPS. I looked up and saw Western Bank, a small branch-like office. I figured, why not try it since I’m here. Went inside, like at Wells Fargo, the personal banking assistant told me that “Sure, we can do that for ya.” I thought, here we go again, another employee not knowing what her bank does. She told me that someone at the counter would help me. Just like at Wells Fargo. A strikingly blond, friendly young man who looked 15 said he’d be happy to exchange the money. I’m thinking this is his summer job and he’s playing bank teller. I asked, “Are you sure—I’m not a customer…” Why I said that is beyond me. “Oh, we do this all the time.” I told him that WF would too but only if I opened an account. He didn’t seem surprised, and said, “Yeah, I know that they have a hard push for getting new accounts.” He also told me that he is a motorcycle rider (my helmet and jacket are hard to miss). We chatted about my trip and I mentioned that I wanted to ride the Scenic Skyline Parkway. He told me that it’s indeed scenic but very bumpy for a motorcycle. He once rolled a car on it, “so be careful.”

Today is the first day in eight days where the weather is a concern. It was sunny for only a short time. By late afternoon, the clouds had rolled in. The winds were strong and riding the bridge to Superior, WI was not fun but manageable—sort of like riding along Lake Shore Drive in Chicago on a blustery day. When the bike starts feeling like you’re riding sideways, you countersteer. Well, today was a day of countersteering.

I never made it to the Scenic Skyline Parkway; I went to The Depot instead and walked around the area along Michigan Street and 5th. By 5pm, the sky was gray and I felt a marked drop in the temperatures. It was downright cold on I-35 heading south to the hotel. Cold!

I went to dinner at Blackwood Grill & Bar in Proctor, MN where I consumed the best meal thus far. My selection, “Jimmy’s coconut shrimp.” By the time I left, it was drizzling. At 10:30p.m., some three hours later, it was lightening and thundering. I’m hoping it ends before morning when I plan to push the riding and begin making my way to Wisconsin and the Apostle Islands. My emphasis is now on riding, not touring. I’m getting tired of strange beds and missing mine.

Think Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion radio show. It finally hit me that the accents I’ve been hearing in Minnesota from the wait staff, hotel clerks, and friendly strangers, is one I’ve heard many times before and couldn’t put my finger on. It came to me in a restaurant. These are the people made famous (or infamous) by Keillor. I heard a lot of friendly, “Don’t ya know,” and, “Okay then,” and “Be right with ya” “No problem.”

Just when I start believing the world is a rotten place, things start to tip the other way and stuff happens that restores my faith in the basic decency of most humans. Those who really, truly annoy and wear their ignorance like a badge o honor are in the minority. I’ve met a nice bunch of folks along the way and Duluth was right up there with the best...

Tomorrow morning I’m heading for the famous Aerostich, a “wearhouse” catalog of everything motorcycle: gear, gadgets, books, and videos--all related to two wheel travel.

Monday, August 13

Wow! A Pow Wow

Draft--from a longer piece. Enjoy a few of the many pics taken Sunday...)

I haven’t been to a real pow-wow in probably 20 years! I’ve been riding through Native Reservations and have only had the opportunity to stop in one. That’s been a disappointment until Sunday, a day that was supposed to concentrate on getting back to the USA. Another wonderful weather day—I’m almost taking this great weather for granted as I’ve come to expect it each day.

As usual, the roads were quiet, filled with wonderful lake views, cliffs, odd figures sticking out in uniquely named bays…When I reached Grand Portage, just inside the US, a sign said I was entered the Grand Portage Band of the Chippewa Nation. Hmmm… I stopped at a VC to ask about travel information for Duluth, my next big stop about 200 miles from Thunder Bay. I asked the helpful man what the protocol was for visiting the Reservation in Grand Portage. He said, “No problem…in fact, in about 10 minutes they are having their annual Pow Wow—a really large event because they have all the nations from around here there. If you leave now it’ll take you five minutes to drive there and you’ll be there for the big procession.” I made a beeline out of there and when I arrived, the place was packed. I found parking, did a quick change of gear and walked to the grand arena.

I had the most wonderful time! I stayed for 2.5 hours taking pictures, eating the best fry bread I’ve ever had, hand squeeze lemonade and gifts for friends. I didn’t want to leave as the festivities were going to into the night. I was overwhelmed by the day. When I left, I was still more than 2 hours from Duluth but the ride seemed to fly by as I thought of the colors, the people, and the conversations I had at the Grand Portage Band of Chippewa’s Pow wow.
I'm off the explore Duluth, Minnesota.

Sunday, August 12

Saturday’s Dispatch: Thunder Bay (TB)

(Note: Some major issues posting pics...will try later)


I felt the push from yesterday’s ride in my neck and right shoulder (must have been holding on tighter than I thought as I rode up and down the mountains) , so I decided to stay in TB an extra day to heal. I rode around TB taking in some local sights, such as the Terry S. Fox monument. Coming in on Friday markers all along long stretches of Highway 17 were unavoidable. Fox was a young man whose leg was lost to cancer. To bring awareness to cancer and the need for more research, Fox walked around Canada, a more than 5000 miles journey. By the time he reached the Thunder Bay area his cancer had returned and he died shortly thereafter. The monument is tastefully done and emotional to see and read his story.

The Germans

While in the parking lot of the Fox monument, a couple rode up on a BMW 1200GS and we eyed each other, as motorcyclists seem to do. They were dressed identically. We waved. When they dismounted, I detect that their accent sounded German. The wife made a beeline toward the building while the husband fumbled with the bike's gear. He spoke. He commented that my bike had many Italian things (three Givi luggage cases and a Givi windscreen). I wanted to tell him about the Sidi boots, they’re Italian made also.

He asked where I was heading. I told him and said rather proudly that I would probably do around 3000 miles before I returned home. He said he would do probably over 15,000! He had his bike shipped to St. John’s and from there they were riding to British Columbia up to Victoria Island. They are taking more than 8 weeks to complete their vacation. He emphasized that he had a lot of vacation time “unlike Americans, we get lots of vacation.” He added that although he works in Germany for an American company, the company follows the European vacation style. He added that he also works lots of overtime and is rewarded for that as well. He told me I was the first woman he saw traveling alone. I didn’t know if he meant in Canada or in general. From the little bit we talked, it sounded as if he prefers his women riding as passenger—he said, “I take my wife with me.” Nice man. I enjoyed talking with him about bikes and travel.

As we were talking, a couple in a huge RV drove by and stopped. They began speaking to the man in German. Evidently, they had met his wife in the visitor’s center (the clothes make it clear that they are together). The Germans chatted a little. Afterwards, the man told me that the couple is from Germany too. They spend their summers in Canada where they have bought a house. Laughing heartily he said, “No matter where you go, you’ll meet a German—no matter where, you’ve bound to run into a German!” Clearly an insider joke but also suggests that Germans are indeed robust travelers.

Native Canadians/Marina Park, Thunder Bay

From this park, one is able to see the Sleeping Giant, which is a massive formation of mesas that looks like a reclining giant. I took pictures but wasn’t positive I had distinguished one giant from any other massive mound out in the lake. Later when I actually saw the giant from Hillside Park, there was no mistaking the giant. (Sorry you can see the pics yet!). Marina Park is where I met some Native Americans, or rather, Native Canadians, or maybe just Native people?

A man approached me, asked if the bike were mine, and wanted to know where I came from. I told him and he was surprised that I would even consider riding that far. He told me where he came from, which is near TB. The town he mentions is a reservation that I recall passing, perhaps Pays Plat but I’m not positive if this is indeed his community. He told me that he and the others were out taking a walk as part of their drug and alcohol program. He talked briefly about living around TB. “It’s alright.”

One young man, who appeared to be in twenties was at least a full decade younger than the first man I spoke with. In fact, the girls I saw looked to be in their teens. It was nice talking to these guys but sad too to witness evidence of a commonly held fact about some of the struggles of Native people—(i.e. high alcohol and substance abuse) particularly among young people. So young and already struggling with what will become a lifelong battle. We said our good-byes and as he walked away, he looked so young but a really sweet and gentle guy. I wished I had longer to talk.

The Wal-Mart Couple

I was in the parking lot of Wal-Mart looking at a map and checking it against the GPS. A couple walked toward me and the man spoke. “Where you headed, eh, need some help?” They reminded me of the Saturday Night Live couple long ago, played by Gilda Radner and Bill Murphy as Dough and Wendy Winer. They didn’t whine but they wore 50s-ish period clothes and spoke with heavy Canadian accents. The husband was very interested in my bike. He asked where I had come from. The wife said, “All by yourself?” Before I could answer, the husband said, “Eh, she knows how to handle it.” His wife wondered what would happen if I dropped the bike. I said I could pick up the bike myself. The wife said she would still worry if she rode alone. The husband put way too much faith in my skills, telling his wife, “she knows what she is doing—she knows.” He went on to say that he too is considering riding a motorcycle and plans to take the course. I encouraged that route. The requirements for getting a license in Canada are different and more strict than in the USA. Before leaving, the couple told me how to get to Marina Park. I found the park and had a nice time taking photos of the lakeshore. A cute, friendly couple and dead ringers for Doug and Wendy.

Richard, from North of England

What an amazing character! Richard (I loved his distinguished deep-throated British accent!). Like the German couple, Richard had been riding a long time and had thousand of miles yet to go. Again, my little 3000 miles sounded like a short trek around the block, relatively speaking. I wanted to explain my measly miles but that would have been ego talking. I’m thrilled with my adventure. Also like the Germans, Richard believed that one needed to take long trips via motorcycle, see the world, get off into the hinterlands and had no hesitation saying, motorcycle travel is the best way to go.

Richard is a true rider and at 71 years old, he is a role model for everyone. He spoke happily about not having any time constraints or obligations. It also seemed that Richard had no money worries either. He no longer ships his bikes. This time, he flew to Toronto where he keeps his Honda tourer (an 1100cc). From there, he aimed to go around the lake. Richard had 10 weeks or more to go from one end of Canada to the other, then north to Victoria Island, back through British Columbia, and St. John’s. Unlike the Germans, Richard was planning to go to “the States” too, specifically, Michigan, Wisconsin, Louisiana, West Virginia to mention a few. He had traveled to Chicago before, which led to agreement about the city’s traffic.

Richard owns five motorcycles, including a Suzuki Bergman 650 scooter, which he loves and claims can hold its own against any motorcycle. He stores one bike in Toronto, one in Capetown, South Africa, (an old Goldwing) that has some issues. He complained about the mechanics there. They have all season to do complete the list of “fixes” he leaves but they never seem to start the work until shortly before he arrives at which point most of the stuff can’t be done thoroughly or well. It’s frustrating for a bike with 150,000 miles on it to now be neglected with poor maintenance. He just can’t seem to find decent help. Richard also owns a Yamaha crotch rocket, which he keeps in England with the scooter. I’ve forgotten where he keeps the fifth bike, which is a BMW. Currently, his fav is the Suzuki Bergman, which he loved telling me tales of how he has left fancy sports cars in the dust at signal lights. He said the scooter has a flawless automatic system that makes it nearly impossible to feel the gears when they shift. Oh, I think the fifth bike is housed in Australia.

Richard has ridden the world and feels that the best way to accomplish this is to plant bikes around the world or fly to your starting point and travel from there. Shipping a bike isn’t cheap, so Richard clearly has a few extra pennies. Europeans, far more than Americans are world travelers and it shows in their hands-on knowledge about their travels. He complimented my travels and said “way to go.” We talked bikes, boots and BMWs. He liked my idea of a BMW F800ST and thought the R1200ST was too heavy (I rather agree). We couldn’t help notice that we had similar Givi luggage. His were far better. He had a key made that both opens the luggage and starts the engine! How cool is that?!

We shared a parking space as Richard said, “You don’t mind, do you? This one is right outside my room.” I didn’t mind. Later that evening when I went to buy batteries, I returned and parked in another spot That night I ran into Richard again and he said, “I moved my bike next to yours again because that window is directly in from of my room—no sense in taking up two parking places—so I hope you don’t mind that we are sharing again.” That accent, with me, will work every time! We talked some more. He has amazing stories and knows a lot about how motorcycles are constructed. I could have talked to him all night. What a very very cool person.

Again, apologies for the pics.
The weather remains beautiful!
I'm heading back to the USA today. Happy but a little sad too.

Saturday, August 11

The road to Thunder Bay, Ontario

Last night I called a friend without whom this trip would have been considerably more difficult. I chatted briefly and she mentioned that not since my first entry have I mention my mileage. That made me think about this trip. There is an unavoidable tension between wanting to just ride these luxurious roads or play tourist—not that they are mutually exclusive. The former, to me at least, gives primacy to the roads, mileage, road conditions and challenges. The tourist part, gives emphasis to the sights, sounds, stopping everywhere the heart desires. For the last few days, I think I’ve been stuck in the tourist trap and I have paid little attention to reporting the mileage here, although it’s part of my journals, which I’ve only reported in snippets here.

Yesterday, sometime after leaving Wawa, I watched the trip odometer reach 1000 miles. Since leaving Sunday, one day shy of a week, the GPS reads 1074 miles. I estimate I’ll ride nearly 3000 miles or more by the time I return to Chicago. So, thanks Pat for reminding me to share this little bit of mileage info.

Friday was a day about riding. The weather continues to be a rider’s dream! Cool when riding, a bit hot when stopping but it doesn’t affect you unless your stop-stretch extends beyond 30 minutes, which is all one really needs anyway.

Since it is difficult to stop along the roads, you’ll have to take my word for it: Highway 17 is amazing! One lane in each direction. Mountainous, curvy—magnificently breathe taking. My riding level definitely has been challenged and I’ve learned that you can’t blindly follow the cornering advice you read about. You have to put things together and apply what you’ve learned to the reality at hand. There is standard advice that the proper entry for cornering is outside-in. At times, the outside-in entry is spot on; at other times, a more midline entry is called for—it all depends on the situation, which is why it’s a good idea to read about riding technique from different, credible sources.

Highway 17 is lined with cliffs on each side. At times, massive cliffs with jutting boulders that block vision make the outside entry strategy appropriate. But there are many times when the road banks or angles in odd, unexpected ways or is so tight that it makes no good sense to be near the outside. On coming cars are right there at that outside edge-way too close for comfort—or safety. Still, nothing diluted the pure fun of this road. I rode it over 300 miles Friday and boredom never visited once.

As usual, I met a few characters along the way: two attempted pick-ups, which hasn’t happened to me in a long time. And, one exchange that started well but ended on darn near attempted murder on my part—fortunately I restrained myself for the person did not know that she was treading on dangerous grounds. I’ll recreate two of the conversations as best I remember

Character #1

Somewhere near Marathon, I decided to call to make reservations for a resting spot in Thunder Bay. A man pulled up in a truck.

“Eh, enjoying your vacation?”
“Yes, thank you.”
He makes his call first while I continue to find the magazine with the hotel numbers in it. When he finishes, motioning to the bike, he says, “You come far on that, eh?”
“From Chicago.”
“That right?”
“Where you heading, eh”
“Thunder Bay, if I can get there before dark.”
‘Eh, you can, I’m going there too, why don’t you just follow me, eh—I’ll lead you right there.”
“That’s nice of you, but I have some stops in between and I wouldn’t want to delay you.”
“Eh, no bother, we can pull over and have coffee and then dinner tonight when we get to Thunder Bay, eh?”

I say “no thank you, but thanks.” He doesn’t seem to hear me.
“Have you ever been to Newfoundland, eh? Beautiful country. I can take you there, show you around, take you to my brother’s place, and introduce you to my father, eh. Take you out on the boat—you like fish? You like to eat lobster?”

I tell him I like fish, lobster the works and that I’ve read about Newfoundland and know that it’s a beautiful place.

“You should let me take you or I can meet you there, if you like, eh?”
“That’s nice of you. Hopefully some day I’ll get there.”
“So, can I lead you to Thunder Bay, eh? There’s a hotel there, Victoria Inn, that’s a nice place, eh. You can stay there and we can have a drink.”

I thank him again and say I’ll check out Victoria as a place to stay but that I need Internet access. He doesn’t know if the Vic has Internet—he actually didn’t seem to even know what it was I was asking about; however, according to him the Victoria Inn is THE place. We talk a bit more and he finally decides to leave without me. Before leaving he says, “I’ll be at the Victoria Inn at 9:30, waiting. I wish I could take you to dinner but because you’re married, we can have a drink (I mention several times I don’t drink but he wasn’t talking about drinking, I guess). When I say I probably won’t be able to show, he say, “I’ll be there, eh and hopefully you’ll show up. I’m from Newfoundland, we’re very friendly people, we are open and outgoing and we like to get together. That’s why I want to get to know you, have dinner with you, eh, so maybe you’ll show up at 9:30, eh?”

Character #2

In a restaurant in Marathon, I sit across the aisle from another lone diner. Before I even sit down she says, “You ride a motorcycle?” In my head I say, “No I just dress like this in the summer and carry a helmet around.” But I’m only a smart aleck in my head.

“Yes, I ride a motorcycle.”
“Wow—that’s amazing.”

When my food came, we ate in silence at our respective tables. As she was leaving, I asked her if she was familiar with Marathon and she took that as an invitation to sit down in my booth! She said she has been living in Marathon since February and she can tell me it’s an “awfully boring place.” She says, “I’m from Thunder Bay.” I can’t believe my luck.

“I’m heading now for Thunder Bay—know any good places to stay?”
“Yes, there’s a brand new Days Inn right near my house—it’s real nice—only been open about four months.”

I ask about other things to do in Thunder Bay and Penny tells me that she didn’t go out much but that I’ll find a lot of things there to do. I ask what brought her to Marathon. She tells me that her husband of almost 31 years works in Marathon and has been doing so most of their marriage. I didn’t ask what he does but she kept referring to it as “works in the bush,” which sounded grueling.

Penny tells me that she ran a day care business until “frozen shoulders” forced her to close. She recently learned that she’s on “My Space,” because of positive memories one of her former “children” posted about her day care experience. Penny’s didn’t look like she had taken in much sun this summer and her strikingly dyed black hair made her already pale face appear anemic and drained of all color. When she talked about her day care business, however, her cheeks became rosy and round and she talked with an animation that was lacking when she talked about Marathon. Since February, she’s not met anyone in Marathon and her two-bedroom apartment is “small and crappy” in contrast to her four-bedroom house in Thunder Bay.

“If I were in Thunder Bay now, you could stay with me—better than staying in a hotel. I live near that new Days Inn, if you stay there go on over and say hi to my house. It’s on Rainbow Street.” She considers “Rainbow” street to be highly symbolic given that her husband is searching for his “pot of gold.”

Penny gives me her address. Even though she is in Marathon to be with her husband, she doesn’t see him much still. His hours sound insane and he comes home tired, but now that she no longer has a business and she’s conquered “frozen shoulders”—a real medical condition—they thought it was time to be together due to her other medical issues. We continue to talk. We’re having a nice conversation. Then things change abruptly, for me at least, and with five words, I am ready to kill Penny.

“You look like Whoopie Goldberg.” Murderous words to my ears. I am forced to behave as if I didn’t hear her. If I did not, I would have grabbed her throat and ended her medical issues forever. Those who know me well know how much I detest this reference given that it is only the hair that people are commenting on. In any case, I didn’t hold the comment against Penny. This was difficult for me. Very. After getting to know Penny for these relatively brief moments, I liked her and felt a little sorry for her. Therefore, I overlooked her mistake. After all, she did give me the name of a new place to stay, which had one availability left when I called.

In route to reaching the Days Inn, I pass Rainbow Street and think of Penny.

I also passed a sign leading to the Victoria Inn and thought of Robert from Thunder Bay, formerly from New Foundland.

Day’s mileage: 335 miles

Friday, August 10

Drama Galore...

Just a quick, off the cuff, note today.

If I wrote out the details of yesterday, the above title would be most fitting. All is well now but Thursday had more drama/adventure than I really needed, including running out of gas on a remote road that warned of “Night Dangers,” when Moose and bear roam the area. One gas station that was on the “fill” list was abandoned, which threw me and many people off. I wrote lengthy notes about it but have no time to share it all. Instead, here are two amusing communication glitches with Canadians.

Permit me to first say this: the roads are absolutely magnificent! Majestic is the only word to describe the 200 plus miles of Highway 17 I rode yesterday. Rolling hills characterize this long journey. The weather was in the upper 70s, perhaps low 80s. The sky was blue, sprinkled with puffy white clouds. Some of the hills were so high that I imagined Queenie flipping over backwards during the ascents. Lots of deep and angled curves, (blind curves too). The way is lined with amazing vistas, rock formations, and scenic lookouts and not surprisingly, Highway 17 is relatively isolated. For the most part, I’ll take Highway 17 all the way to Thunder Bay, some 675 miles from the International Bridge in Sault Ste. Marie. Signs abound warning travelers of wildlife and night dangers. NO GAS stations for many miles (e.g., 50 plus) If one is closed, perhaps no gas station for more than 100 miles.

Communication glitch #1Two motorcyclists enter a scenic lookout. We do the requisite wave. I never ask people to take pictures of me. Never. However, this time I wanted one of me and the bike in front of the typical rock formation that lines Highway 17. I walk up to the woman and ask as I’m extending my digital camera. She nodded affirmatively, took the camera and snapped the pic of Queenie and me in front of the rocks.

Afterwards, I thanked her and her male companion came over to join us. We chatted and I immediately recognized their accent as French. Their English was definitely better than my nonexistent French was. She told me they were from Montreal and circling Lake Superior. It sounded like she said they either had gone around it ten times or were planning to.

“How any times you go around?”
I respond, “Just once.”
“No, how many times you go around?” She repeats herself only this time she emphasizes each word.
I emphasize my response, “One time. I’m going around one time.” That’s when she tells me they are going around about 10 times. I am confused as she presses me for a different response. She looks to her male companion. He says, using his finger to make the universal sign for circle, “How many..? We go about ten to twelve.”

It then dawns on me that they are asking me how LONG it will take me to go around the lake or how much time was I allowing myself to circle the lake.
“Oh, you mean how many days will I take to circle the lake?”

Their faces brighten, they smile and nod affirmatively.
“I’m taking 7 to 10 days.” We all laugh, chat some more and finally wish each other safe travels and leave.

Communication glitch #2

I call a hotel in Wawa, Ontario. Only two in a magazine state, “Hi Speed Internet Access,” making the choices slim. At the first number, the man tells me he as two rooms left. One room is slightly higher prices because it has been newly renovated. My stay is one night; I go for the undecorated room. I think he says this: “It is nice too but not clean. The renovated room is very nice, clean has one bed…”

I respond, “Isn’t the other room clean?”
“No, but it’s nice too—but no clean.”
“Well I want the room to be clean.”
“It’s okay for you—but it’s real nice.”

The conversation continues like that for what seemed like a long time but was actually only a minute or so. Finally, I asked about the room again and this time I spell the word “clean.”
He quickly states, “Yes, it’s clean, very clean but there is no Queen bed.”
He said Queen and assumed I heard Queen. What I heard was a guy overtly telling me the room wasn’t clean.

The room is extremely clean. The host is an interesting person, who is a Polish immigrant. He gave me a special place to park Queenie.

All is well…until next time...

Thursday, August 9

Curly Rides

Like the waters yesterday, this is rough...

Wednesday was a great riding day! Perfect weather, azure skies and just enough wind to keep things interesting.

Those bug-eyed gaukers who populated the restaurant Tuesday night had to be tourists and not representative of the residents in Paradise. On Wednesday morn, while mailing some items home, I met the friendliest people in Paradise, many of them in the Post Office and some who happen to be walking along the road as I was fiddling with the straps anchoring my gear. I’ll remember the woman who appeared in her late 80s, barely able to walk with her cane, who said—with an unmistakable twinkle in her eyes, “Now that looks like fun…are you going far?” We chatted for a bit. When we finished our conversation, another woman pulled up in her truck along side the road (it’s so clear that I’m from out of town) and said, “How are you?” She wanted to know where I was headed. She went on to say, “What a great way to have an adventure…you’ll remember this for the rest of your life. Good for you.” She sounded as if she too longed for an adventure of her own. Others wanted to know how was my stay in Paradise. I left Paradise feeling refreshed, welcomed and lighter—I mailed the camping gear home—it’s not happening on this trip; I have no regrets about that. Have none for me.

The roads from Paradise to Whitefish Point require a detour to the Upper and Lower Tahquamenon Falls in the State Park by the same name. This is a gorgeous park of 38,500 acres that stretch over 13 miles of unspoiled woodland. The red water from the falls is the result of tannin from the various trees in the park (e.g., hemlock, spruce and cedar). Wonderful stop, breath-taking scenery and lots of hiking, exploring, and enjoying nature’s beauty.

An hour or so away is Whitefish Point, a place I’ve long to go. It is a beautiful ride. One can travel for a few miles without following another vehicle or having one follow you. I’m accustomed to the road isolation now. Admittedly, there were a couple of times I wondered where was the rest of the world. I can’t help thinking about the crotch-rocket bikers in the big city—they would tear up these roads! The twisties are abundant; the challenges to one’s skills are omnipresent.

At Whitefish Point, (please get out a map and find the area—it is directly north of Paradise. Its tip juts out into Whitefish Bay. Although this is a beautiful, scenic area, it is also the sight of many shipwrecks. There, I visited the Shipwreck Museum, which is tasteful—not tacky- tourist and replete with the amazing history of the ships that have wrecked in this area. The 80-mile stretch of road from Picture Rocks to Whitefish Point is called, “Lake Superior’s Shipwreck Coast.” Reading the history of ships lost was emotional as in the background one could hear among the music played, the voice of Gordon Lightfoot singing is heart-wrenching ballad, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” which I’m listening to on my Ipod as I draft this entry. The lives of these men as well as the lives of the lighthouse keepers and their families were moving tributes to the harsh realities of transporting heavy metal along the lake. Lake Superior is unpredictable, able to change disposition on a dime. The gales of November are particularly brutal and the legend goes that the lake does most of its murderous work then.

One of the most moving experiences at this museum was the video of the retrieval of the Edmund Fitzgerald’s bell. I don’t want to give the impression that the museum is all about the Edmund Fitzgerald because it is not. It is a history of this region’s ship history--the ships lost at and near Whitefish Point. It is also a history of living on this Point. My fascination (probably not the best word) with the E. Fitzgerald is a result of remembering this happening in 1975 as well as the Lightfoot song, which led me to do my own research on the ship and watch every public television show I could on the ship and its crew. Back to the moving experience… In a 15 minute video one witnesses the retrieving of the bell, which brought emotional closure to many of the families whose loved one were never found. Now they have the bell to symbolize this tragic voyage and it is at the museum. Another, duplicate bell was then laid submerged where the ship sank to stand as a permanent headstone for the crew. The video brought together the families of the crew and it’s a good thing the video ended when it did because I think the whole place was ready to cry—at least I was.

I spent a lot of time at the Shipwreck Museum and the grounds surrounding it, which are devoted to living on this land, so near the lake and so far from any life outside of surviving the lake effects. I departed with a deep sense of how the families of the lighthouse keepers lived. Yet, I left Whitefish Point way too early. I missed spending any time at the Whitefish Bird Observatory, which I really wanted to do. Before pulling out, I met a 19 month old little girl—possibly a future motorcycle rider—she and her Dad were checking out the bikes. She patiently watched me prepare to leave, did not flinch when the engine started—in fact, she smiled and gave me an enthusiastic motorcycle wave!

I wanted to get to the Bay Mills Indian Reservation near Brimley.

Any road with the name Curly Lewis has to be great. And the Curly Lewis Memorial Highway did not disappoint. Rather than take M123 south back to M28 and head east to Brimley, I wondered about a little gray line on the map. I asked one of the museum workers about the road, which I’ve heard conflicting information. Some said it was paved, others said it used to be paved and now wasn’t, and the map shows it as paved. This woman told me emphatically that it is not only paved, but if I was planning to go to Brimley, it is THE way to go because it is a wonderful, lightly used route. Oh my goodness! It is all that and a slice of sweet potato pie!

As I said, I’m accustomed to the isolation on the roads. This takes being alone out there up several notches. Curly Lewis is serene, twisty-squiggly, tight in spots and sweeping in others. The trees along each side of the road provide a gentle breeze and the rustling keeps you on the alert for wildlife—this vigilance doesn’t detract one from just sitting back and enjoying the ride. I admit to seeing how fast Queenie wanted to go. We tested 85 mph in a few spots but settled in at 60 but when the signs warned of curves ahead and recommended a drop to 45mph or slower, we obeyed—most of the time. I can only imagine what this must feel like with a naked bike.

Finally reached the Bay Mills Indian Reservation. Didn’t have time to check out the place thoroughly but I’m glad I paused. Some new housing structures, a community college, a headstart program and an elder center. One also can’t miss the large Casino not too far from the Reservation. I also saw an Old Indian Burial Ground but didn’t want to go inside or take pictures to avoid potentially disrespecting another’s sacred symbols. Before leaving Bay Mills, I met a teacher at the community college. He “loves” the people and the town. He’s an “outsider” who lives three hours away but says the commute is wonderful because it is not daily and it allows him to camp out and play tourist too.

From Bay Mills I hopped on M221 south to get on M28, which carried me east to I-75. This was an extremely windy ride that even with a fully loaded bike, I felt as if I were riding on the left edges of the tires the whole way! The ride to Sault Ste Marie, Ontario ended at Sault Ste Marie, MI and a visit to the Soo Locks there. I’m talking three miles that separates the two Ste. Maries but the same chain hotel was twice the price in Canada, so guess where I rested my head last night?

I’m off now to our friends to the North. However, I can’t close this entry without thanking all the motorcyclists I met yesterday, especially the couple from Chicago who are touring parts of Lake Superior and told me to expect long lines getting into Canada because of construction. I thank also the “aging” motorcyclist who dug out his reading glasses to show me a rode on his map. He’s a serious Harley rider who may be crossing over. He’s wants to get a Suzuki V-Strom. I was impressed. I also thank the many women riders I encountered today. Not one solo rider in the bunch, however.

Until next time…