Wednesday, July 30

Long Way Down

If you're among the lucky few who live near one of the 400 theaters that will show "Long Way Down" on Thursday, July 31st, you should be in for a treat. Ewan McGregor and his sidekick Charley Boorman are at it again. This time their antics and huge BMW R1200 GS Adventure motorcycles take them from Scotland to Capetown, South Africa.

Like "Long Way Round," the duo's first adventure, their new adventure should make for entertaining viewing and a slew of interesting cultural exchanges--and the inevitable faux pas. If you miss this one night only showing, the series will soon air on the BBC, so check your local listings. Better yet, buy the DVD when it comes out. If you live in a region replete with snow, cold and more cold, frequent viewing of the DVD will ward off the winter doldrums. I guarantee it!

The adventure isn't only about fun! Part of their mission is to raise awareness about aids and encourage those of us in better positions to be more charitable toward those less fortunate.

Thursday, July 24

H.O.M.E.S. = Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior

Did everyone learn the Great Lakes with that little acronym? Or, was that just a Midwest thing?

Well, it's that time of year when I motor around one of the Great Lakes. The previous two were easy decisions. Lake Michigan is a stone's through from me and it made sense to go there first. Then, everything I've read about Lake Superior as the "crown jewel" of the Great Lakes, the "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, its wolf-like shape, made going there next easy too.

Three lakes (Erie, Huron, Ontario) are left to complete before I end my Great Circle obsession. It seems simple to just pick one and go. But I rarely make decisions that simply. If I select the Lake Erie Circle Tour, I can go over some familiar ground and visit three states (OH, PA, NY) I've yet to cover on two wheels. That would be a huge bump in expanding my "Where I've traveled" map at the bottom of this blog. Lake Huron adds nothing new but allows me to hang out in Ontario much of the time, which would be absolutely fine with me too. Lake Huron poses another question. Do I have the time to do it justice and go all the way around the lake and Georgian Bay. As William Murphy says in, Motorcycling Across Michigan, about Georgian Bay, "'s sometimes referred to as the sixth Great Lake"--it's that large! If I go that far, I'd want to go around the whole thing! Lake Ontario is out of the question for this summer because I think I'd want more time than I actually have.
If you're interested in the Great Lakes Circle Tours, I highly recommend Murphy's book on Michigan and his book, Motorcycling Across Ohio, not just because he outlines these tours better than anything else I've read, but because each book will detail more trips that you will ever have time to take. Reading about them in the dead of winter gets me through the harsh cold and gray days here. You can trust Murphy's every word--he's traveled these places and knows well the endorphin-releasing roads and the must-see historical sites.

I'd like to put 10,000 miles on my bike, Jesse Owens, before its forced hibernation over the winter. With 3000 miles on it now, I still have many miles to go. At minimum, I'll only add a couple of thousand miles with one of the lake trips, which I'm looking forward to doing. Still to come on the trip wish-list are OH, TN, NC and that ever waning opportunity to go to Nova Scotia this year.

Anyone been around Erie or Huron and can share a preference of one over the other? I can devote about 8 days to the trip. I'm leaning toward Erie but I'm wishy-washy and can be convinced to go elsewhere. I just really want to get on two wheels and go...

Ride safe!

Sunday, July 20

Circling Lake Michigan--Revisited

Somewhere on this blog you can locate the the trip report of my journey around Lake Michigan. Two years ago, I blogged about it in almost daily entries. I'm putting the story here now, in one piece, in one place, to accomodate a request to write something about the trip, what route I took, what "must-see" things exist, etc. Moreover, I've been housebound this weekend (it has just about killed me!) so posting this re-write has made me whine a little less. I apologize for the lack of photos embedded in the text. I recommend a slide show prior to reading the story--the link is below.

Selected photos can be found here:

In January 2006, when I purchased a blue 2001, low mileage (7000 miles) SV650 in pristine condition, I had not been on a motorcycle in more than 20 years. I am female, over 50, and now an avid, solo rider. After completing a safety course, I did the customary parking lot practice and read everything I could on safety, maintenance, and touring. By June, my gal-pal and I were inseparable.

With a Sargent seat on the bike, staying in the saddle was easy. Day trips of 200 miles became customary. Eventually, I longed for a challenging excursion before the summer’s end. Circumnavigating the lake sounded fun. Residing in downtown Chicago, I’m a stone’s throw from Lake Michigan and although I’ve been around it, I yearned to see it from the seat of a motorcycle. I planned an August trip and immediately started collecting maps. The “official” Lake Michigan Circle Tour map required far more Interstate travel than I thought necessary. I wanted to ring the lakeshore as closely as possible. Armed with print maps and a new GPS, I planned a route that looked interesting. Yet, something was lacking.

By sheer happenstance, I came across a book that filled in all the gaps with insider suggestions on where to ride (on and off the beaten path), where to eat, sleep, locate a repair shop and find emergency help. Motorcycling Across Michigan, by William Murphy is the guide for two-wheeling it throughout Michigan. The book anticipates the needs of motorcyclists. With the exception of Lake Ontario, the Great Lakes Circle Tours are expertly mapped with detailed comments on road conditions, alternate routes, and other gems only an insider could share. Murphy provides a people’s history of roads and places and little known facts, like how Michigan got its name and why Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island are spelled differently but pronounced the same.

I left Chicago on Tuesday, August 22 at 5:45 a.m. heading southeast on Hwy. 41 toward Gary, IN. Although the ride through this area was rather unspectacular, the diversity and industrial character of the region would serve as a wonderful contrast to the Indiana Dunes area and the summer resort homes that surround it. The smell of the lake was evident and a gentle breeze made riding through the gray industrial region of East Chicago and Gary, IN quite pleasant. I hugged the lakeshore through Long Beach and Michiana but eventually needed to make it inland in reach US 12. Around New Buffalo, I picked up Red Arrow Highway, a historic stretch of road, built prior to I-94 to honor WWII soldiers. Much of this nice, vast road parallels the more preferred I-94, which made Red Arrow Highway fun, fast, scenic, and lightly traveled.

My next big stop was Saugatuck, MI where I searched for Oval Beach that Murphy claims is worth the ride. To me, it was the curly, slithering roads that lead to the beach that created the real thrill. At stops at state beaches, park guards in their little box shelters permitted me a quick ride through without paying. Miles later, I stopped at Muskegon State Park office and loaded up on travel literature. While there, I met a Texan riding a Honda Goldwing. He was completing the Iron Butt National Parks tour and still needed to collect stamps from IL, IN, WI and IA to close the year successfully.

Although I knew intellectually that a Lake trip would mean a lot of sand, I experienced a firsthand sand encounter that stressed the point. A tempting abundance of opportunities to pull off the road for photos existed and one of these impromptu digressions caught me off guard and I forget that I was navigating a fully-loaded bike with a week’s worth of clothes and a computer in the Nelson-Rigg luggage. Trying to uphold a heavier than usual bike will snatch your attention. When the bike tire slide a bit, the weight lifting I practice paid off and I was able to keep the bike from tipping over. Speaking of luggage… My formerly broken wrist still had not allowed me to get the bike on its new SW-Motech center stand. Had I been able to, mounting the luggage properly would have been easier. Even with practice, mounting the luggage on a leaned bike, resulted in a cock-eyed placement. I seemed incapable of compensating for the lean. Thus, when the bike was at its most vertical, the luggage was not. By day three, I had figured out how to mount the luggage correctly on a leaned bike.

I left Muskegon State Park and immediately encountered multiple sweeping curves. A few bumpy spots and a few road fissures did not detract from the overall splendor of the ride. The variations in lake views, bustling water activities, the homes that ranged from small shacks to stately lakefront mansions, created captivating scenery. I made my way to Ludington, MI by alternating among South Scenic Drive, which put me nearest the lake, Old Hwy 31 and newer Hwy 31 that carried me inland. The continual weaving northward provided a delightful experience of the area’s changing landscape, road surfaces and Michigan’s faster highway speeds.

To take this solo excursion, I made some compromises with my family: no camping and no motoring at night. I carried with me an Internet-equipped phone and a small wireless PC and a weapon I prefer not to describe here. Still, friends and family relayed horror tales about wild animals and the Michigan militia. Being fearless, I ignored them but must admit to some edgy moments when not seeing another vehicle for miles seemed spooky. Given that I never knew how much I would ride in a day, I had no pre-arranged hotel plans. My strategy: ride until just before tired or dark, find a hotel, call it and make a reservation.

Although day two started with predictions of rain, when I left the hotel early morning, it seemed perfect-- low 70s, sunny and a few puffy white clouds. I was resolute about finding three of Michigan’s 116 lighthouses after missing four yesterday. I ended up finding two: the White River Light Station in Whitehall, MI and the Little Sable Point Lighthouse, near Silver Lake and surrounded by beautifully wind-sculptured sand dunes—really cool!

I continued following Murphy’s recommendations for venturing off Hwy 31. Consequently, I saw sights I would otherwise have missed following only the official Lake Michigan Circle Tour route. Specifically, Murphy’s route led to incredible county roads, long, sweeping beautiful curves, mixed with tight snake-like twists that climbed and dipped in the most tummy-tickling way. I followed all the speed limit warnings when approaching these twists and although some were challenging, I was able to handle them with little or no braking. For this re-entry “newbie” that was more fun than I thought possible! A major advantage in following Murphy’s recommendations is his unequivocal goal to present the most enjoyable, scenic and least traveled roads, while still riding as close to the shoreline as possible.

By mid-afternoon, the sky had turned gray and eventually it rained bullets. At the time, there was nowhere to pull off the road. So I kept riding. My FirstGear Kilimanjaro jacket and pants kept me dry, as did my waterproof touring boots. I donned yellow rubber household cleaning gloves over my riding gloves, which kept my hands dry and made it easy to clear rain from my visor. The two lane roads turned slick and the few cars and trucks that passed, drenched me and caused momentary blindness. At any speed, this is not fun. At 60 mph, it made me feel vulnerable. After about 30 minutes of riding, I finally saw a rest stop sign and entered the area. I covered the bike with a rain cover (not sure of the point) and sought shelter in a bleak brick hut. I was wet, but remained dry on the inside. The storm ended approximately 45 minutes later and under a darkening sky, I road another 40 miles to reach the hotel.

Do not, under any circumstances stay at the Roadway Inn in Manistee, MI. Had it not been late, had I not been exhausted, I would have left. From the outside, the hotel looked satisfactory. The inside, however, was dreadful. The bed dipped, the sheets looked dingy, and worst of all, the place reeked of human funk, fish gone bad and cheap perfume. The carpet was frightening to walk on and I wrapped a face towel around the remote control to use it. I slept in my clothes--including my shoes. In the morning, I found a hair in the bed that did not belong to me. To depart as fast as possible, I skipped the dirty shower stall and free breakfast. Later, someone told me that that hotel chain was known as a place truckers took “their low flying doves.” That, at least, would explain the vile smell.

From Manistee, there is a small section of US Hwy 31. Follow 31 to M-110, until you can link up with M-22. For the next 115 glorious miles, M-22 will be a constant companion in route to Northport. If you’re not smiling by arrival time, ice water courses through your veins. M-22 is a motorcyclist’s dream. It offers twisties and squigglies (beyond twisties), long sweeping curves, lots of lean opportunities, gorgeous terrain variations, and the most breath-taking views. In route to Northport, M-22 leads through the quaint towns of Empire, Glen Haven and Leland, as well as Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore with its 35 miles of stunning shoreline. At the Dunes visitor’s center, I met a couple on a mammoth, black Harley Davidson. They hailed from Minnesota and were circling the lake “in reverse.” Before departing, they warned me that traffic in Traverse City was a nightmare. The beauty of M-22 is experienced anew when one heads back south along Grand Traverse Bay through the towns of Omena, Peshawbestown, Suttons Bay, and Elmwood-- charming settlements that truly make this southward journey grand.
I braced myself for the traffic nightmare in Traverse City. But when I reached Traverse City, I never found a “nightmare.” I soon realized that the “nightmare” the couple referred to was really about perspective. To them, Traverse City traffic was a nightmare. From a downtown Chicago viewpoint, Traverse City traffic was trivial.

After the awful night at the Roadway Inn, my Traverse City hotel felt luxurious. I parked myself there for two days and caught up on some much-needed sleep. Hung around the “downtown” area bookstores where I met some interesting folks who seemed amazed that I had ridden alone from Chicago. Children and young men seemed curious about the bike, which proved to be an icebreaker everywhere I ventured. At a popular bookstore, a man sat himself at my table, drawn there, he said, by my helmet. He proceeded to talk nonstop about motorcycles. “We don’t’ get many people like you up here” he said. Not sure what he meant; he told me later that he meant “black” people. Initially, I thought I was talking to the town loony but the guy turned out to be quite knowledgeable about many things, especially motorcycles and literature. He called himself ABD, which stands for “all but dissertation” and really means he finished all requirements leading to a doctorate degree in literature but quit before the completing the dissertation. He detested--and ordered me to do likewise—the following: fundamentalists, conservatives, most Republicans, all rednecks and “people who live in Florida but actually originated from Massachusetts.” After three hours and hearing stories about every African American he’s ever known, I said my farewell to this quirky stranger. Despite his cajoling, I passed on going to his farm to see his motorcycles.

On my second day in Traverse City it rained. Not a heavy rain, but an unrelenting drizzle. With the luggage covered, I headed north. Hunger made me stop for breakfast and by the time I finished, it was raining harder. Ten miles later, it was raining buckets. A hefty, hard, pelting rain fell and I again, had no place to pull off. I rode another 10, death-defying miles—at least that was how it felt—before encountering a pull off. Shelter consisted of a concrete slab over which a roof had been erected. A man and woman, whose shiny green Harley Davidson was parked near them, already occupied the one I spotted. After covering my bike, I stood in the rain and contemplated standing under a tree. When the man invited me to share the roof, I accepted. The couple hailed from Petoskey, about 50 miles north. They were heading to Traverse City to celebrate their anniversary. Their matching Harley Davidson outfits were not rain-friendly and the man told his wife that they would “invest” in rain gear next. They said Petoskey was bright and sunny when they left and a call to a relative confirmed that the weather remained clear. We talked for about an hour. I remained another 45 minutes after they departed.

When the rain abated, I headed north and came to the lovely town of Charlevoix, a bustling hamlet of activity with fashionable shops lining the downtown. The rain had long stopped and the temperature was in the low 70s. However, a strange thing happened when I left Charlevoix. At some point, it felt like I had entered a sort of artic-zone. The temperature felt like it dropped 15 degrees! It was an amazing, palpable transition into a mysterious, inexplicable cold space. I still don’t know what caused this dramatic temperature shift. As dramatically as it appeared, it passed and the warmer air returned once again.

I bunked in Petoskey. I wanted to be well-rested—and dry--for tomorrow, for and what Murphy promised would be magnificent ride near Harbor Springs, MI. I wanted also to do some touring before entering the upper peninsula of Michigan, which meant crossing the Mackinac Bridge, a five mile stretch on metal grating that connects lower and upper Michigan. Chicago has its share of metal gratings, but none compares to the Mackinac.

Long before the bridge, I located M-119, near Harbor Springs. By that time, I had become accustomed to attractive towns and quaint shops, stately homes, fun twisties and incredible lake views. But I had not yet experienced the 22 miles from Harbor Springs to Cross Village, through the dense “Tunnel of Trees.” This is a twisty—at times, extremely tight—road where the trees butt against the edge of the path. The trees form a canopy all along this narrow route that is devoid of a centerline to separate the two-way traffic. It was a surreal experience. Some of the tight twisties were a bit scary but sufficiently challenging. I heeded Murphy’s warnings and rode sensibly. At times, maneuvering along the path was arduous and difficult to predict because the trees could limit one’s viewpoint. Throughout the twenty plus miles, there were warning signs of narrowing, winding, sharply curving and multiple twist-backs ahead. If you looked closely at some of the trees, they bore signs of cars that had failed to heed these warnings. This spectacular ride from Harbor Springs to Cross Village turned out to be a major highlight of the entire trip!

Before crossing “The Mighty Mackinac Bridge” to St. Ignace, I spent a day in Mackinaw City, where I bought the required fudge and had a fabulous lunch of fish and chips at Scalawags. Ran into a family vacationing on motorcycles. One son rode pillion with the mother; the other son rode on back of his father's bike. Everyone wore matching Harley Davidson uniforms. My plan to ride the slab part of the bridge was thwarted when all traffic was being diverted to the grated metal lane. With head straight ahead and hand steady on the throttle, I made the five mile trek and learned that I could hold my breath an amazingly long time. Once in the UP, I hopped on Hwy 2 and made the long ride west, which was beautiful and striking in its solitude. It was along this solitary stretch that I appreciated having brought the two MSR bottles that I had filled with fuel in case I needed them.

Hwy 2 had some lonely sections. One bright spot was riding parallel to the Hiawatha National Forest. Pressed for time, however, I did not stop but made note to heed warnings I had heard about the wildlife there. In five days, I had fortunately seen none. Hwy. 2 was vast, smooth and sweeping. I pushed ahead hoping to reach Escanaba but when I felt myself getting bored and a little spacey, I settled in Manistique. The two rainstorms and the extra stay in Traverse City had put me a day behind schedule. I resorted to stopping for photo ops only at the most accessible lighthouses. My chats with strangers were cordial but brief. By then, I had become accustomed to people’s curiosity about me. It was impossible and perhaps unimportant to tell whether they were more curious about me being a lone woman, a lone black woman, or a lone black woman from Chicago, as conversations tended to blend these elements together. In any case, every single person I met along the way was kind, helpful, and conversant.

Next stop, Escanaba, MI. While there, workers at a friendly Honda motorcycle shop oiled my chain and key slot, which since the two storms had rendered nearly impossible to easily insert and remove the key. I paid little for the oil and nothing for the labor. They directed me to the lakefront and suggested a place to eat. Motoring toward the lake revealed a town that had seem some hard times. Some of the buildings looked forlorn. The picturesque lakefront, however, was replete with brightly colored boats. In striking contrast to the business strip, this section of town showed large, upscale, rambling homes sitting on a hill near Ludington Park. At a local restaurant, I met a couple who had relatives in Kankakee, IL and they seemed pleased that I had visited Kankakee many times. They both had fond memories of visiting Chicago more than forty years ago.

I caught State Hwy 35 south toward Green Bay, WI. For miles, I traveled without a vehicle in sight. When trucks passed, I experienced some truly disturbing wind buffeting. My little Barracuda windscreen helped some but I was exhausted by the time I reached Marinette, WI, where I stopped briefly at the River Walk. A woman there told me that she and her late husband courted along that very river nearly sixty years ago. Back then, the city organized year ‘round activities for young people. She lamented the days of yore.

I followed Hwy. 41 to Peshtigo, a place that has every reason to be ticked off at Chicago and its mythology about the O’Leary cow kicking over a lantern and causing The Great Fire of 1871. On that very same day, Peshtigo erupted in flames too. Unfortunately, Peshtigo’s fire museum was closed when I arrived, but a historical marker outside honored the 800 lost lives. Peshtigo’s fire is considered the “worst forest fire in recorded North American history…” Death toll, property destruction and resources lost far exceeded the Chicago fire’s damage. Yet, comparatively little is known about Peshtigo’s fire.

By the time I reached Green Bay, I had decided to skip Door County. It is close enough to Chicago that I could easily catch it on a weekend ride. I motored around Green Bay and enjoyed the company of the “heavy” traffic. I found my hotel just as my exhaustion was beginning to show.

I left Green Bay on Tuesday around 6 a.m. The bright, clear, morning was perfect for riding. I stayed on U.S. Hwy. 41 south until I reached I-43, which took me south and closer to the lake. At times, getting to the WI lakeshore seemed more challenging than fun. Often it required considerable riding to the lake and back inland on roads that palled in comparison to Michigan. Thus, the zigzagging was not always worth the effort. Compared to Michigan, Wisconsin’s lakeshore seemed less developed. Alternatively, it could have been that exhaustion corrupted my perspective. Nonetheless, I-43 allowed me to make excellent time. The road was comfortable, open and fast.

By the time I reached IL, I learned that it was raining in the southern suburbs and the Chicagoland area was expecting heavy rain by evening. Sure enough, when I reached North Chicago, it was pouring! I changed into my rain pants and rode through. For the first time on the trip, I encountered impatient and rude drivers who seemed oblivious to the rain and refused to reduce speed. I was forced to pull off somewhere near Lake Forest, IL, where I decided to sit out the madness. After more than two hours and no sign of the rain stopping, I headed toward home in darkness. From Skokie Hwy, I picked up Sheridan Road, which is on the route of the Lake Michigan Circle Tour, an area I frequently ride. It took five hours to travel what should have taken around ninety minutes. Around 10:00 p.m., I arrived home safe, exhausted and wet. As I unloaded the bike, I thought I heard her purr. And to this solo rider, that just about said it all.

Selected photos can be found here

Tuesday, July 15

July 13, 2008--Princeton, IL--A Bridge and Owen Lovejoy, Abolitionist

I left early Sunday morning in hopes of getting to my destination, the Owen Lovejoy Homestead in Princeton, IL, well before lunch. If I could get there early, I'd make a a side trip to one of the nearby state parks. As usual, I always end up taking the long route rather than the shorter, more direct route.  If time is on my side, the one with the greatest saddle time, tends to be the best way to go. 

My route would allow me to travel sections of Rt.66, which begins in Chicago at the corner of Jackson Blvd. and Lake Shore Drive. I leave downtown Chicago and make my way to Ogden Avenue, where I would ride many miles through diverse city neighborhoods of varying economic makeup and continue through some vastly contrasting and fairly affluent suburbs. Lots of traffic lights along this route, but I don't mind much. At8:15 a.m. on this Sunday morning few people are out and about.

As part of my interest in the Underground Railroad stations, I am heading to see the home of Owen Lovejoy and his family and uncover more about the contributions they made to eradicting the United States of that "peculiar" institution called slavery.  The Lovejoys paid the ultimate price for their abolition activities: the oldest brother, Elijah Lovejoy, jounalist, newspaper owner and minister was murdered by an angry white mob in Alton, IL for his anti-slavery views and activities.

The weather was perfect--clear sky, hardly a breeze. The  wind would pick up later and a couple of times I felt Jesse wiggle a bit in the rear at a couple of robust gusts that caught me a bit off guard. 

My unhurried route was perfectly suited to what I needed. I've been stressed by work demands and needed an escape. One of my favorite sections of this day trip was traveling along IL 71--those 15 or so miles were varied, scenic (both in a urban and non-urban way) and lightly traveled.  Jesse leans easily and I am mindful (now) to be careful of too much of a good thing.

A little after 11:00 I arrived at the well-marked Lovejoy Homestead, located off Main Street on Peru Street, where IL-26 and St/US-6 meet.   I wanted to take exterior pics of the home and skidaddle. I knew that the tour started at 1pm but I planned to be long gone by then. Afterward, I wanted to venture to the Red Covered Bridge and snap a few pics and get home in plenty of time to put in a few hours of work before the day ended.

After I pulled into the Lovejoy lot, I got off the bike, removed my helmet and prepared to retrieve my camera. Out of my peripheral vision, I saw a small red car across the street. It had been sitting waiting to turn onto Peru Street, or so I thought.  But there were no cars preventing it from turning. It just sat. Then it happened.

The  car drove straight across the street into the Lovejoy lot. I've said this before. I have a tendency to enter these small, homogeneous towns and soon thereafter someone usually summons the police--or they just happen to show up. When I remove my helmet, "Outsider" is written all over me.

The car drives up to me and the person inside, an ancient little lady with snow white hair, says, "Can I help you?" I tell her "No," that I'm there to take some pictures of the homestead and that I  plan to leave afterwards.  She asks me where I'm from. I tell her. She tells me that the tours begin at 1pm. I tell her I will only take some photos. She says,  "that's too bad" and asks me if I want her to call the tour leader and have her open the place early for me. I tell her that is not necessary. She seems disappointed. I then mention that I might come back. I am lying. Once I leave, there is no coming back.

She tells me that "We want you to see it." She emphasizes the "you" like it is critical for me to know this history.  She is adamant in a nice way. I begin to soften and ask her where the Red Covered Bridge is located. I tell her that I might return after I visit the bridge and have lunch. Before driving off, she reminds of the tour time. 

After picture taking, I head over to the Red Covered Bridge. I am impressed. I especially love the sign above it. I don't know much about single lane bridge etiquette. I parked off the path to the bridge but when cars drove up, they queued up behind me even though I was not on the bike and was simply standing along the road. I wished I had taken a picture of the bike nearer the opening of the bridge. I could have as not many cars came by. But in small towns I obey each and every rule as I have morbid thoughts of being jailed in one of these places for any number of reasons.  I admit to a degree of paranoia. 

I passed over the bridge a couple of times and eventually found a nice gravely spot to park. On foot, I explored the Red Covered Bridge Park, hoping to find a great spot from which to capture some creative photos. I went pretty far on the park's path and when I returned I saw someone on a motorcycle drive off. By the time I reached the bike, this individual had returned. He was riding a really nice black, red, and white Suzuki GSX 650. He gave me a hearty, friendly greeting. 

We both did ventured off to do the photo thing and eventually met up at the 'cycles at the same time. He was out enjoying his new bike and the good weather. We talked motorcycles for a bit and before departing, he gave me the address to a sport-touring website with a familiar looking address. I would later learn that I had once registered at that very sight. The other 'cyclist, "Hickey" is his moniker, is from Peoria, IL.  It  is always nice running into another passionate motorcyclist.

I missed lunch but munched on some gorp and had a milk shake, which hit the spot. By then it was  about 15 minutes until tour time.  I headed in toward the homestead and waited in the parking lot. At exactly 1pm, a woman on foot strolled on the Lovejoy grounds and asked if I was there for the tour.  I registered, paid the $3 fee and chatted with the guide. Another woman was in the house too and when a Grandma and her three grandchildren came for the tour, they were led by the other woman. My private tour allowed me to ask many questions about Owen Lovejoy, his brothers, and his family. 

The story of Owen Lovejoy deserves a post on its own. That's the second installment as I have a bit more research to do before I post something about these amazing anti-slavery brothers.

The return trip was delightful. I hopped on I-80 East and enjoyed superslabbing it to I-55, which leads into Rt. 41 North (aka Lake Shore Drive). Doing so, I shaved more than an hour off the trip and arrived in plenty of time to get some work done. 

Observation: I need handle bar risers! My elbows are too straight and there is a bit more of a lean toward the tank than I am WANT.  It's one thing to lean when you want to and another to be fored into that position. After 200 miles I begin to feel the force. While not a sport bike in the truest sense, Jesse is also not a standard, like my beloved Suzuki SV650. It's in that in-between zone, where it's like a sport bike "wannabe" with more \ respect for the lower back. The problem for me is the reach. A reach that locks your elbows is not good. It's like standing with your knees locked, rather than a more relaxed unlocked, more efficient stance. 

I ended this trip as I did my Canada trip, that is, with more ache in my arms and pressure on my wrists than I care to repeat. Twisted Throttle tells me the handlebar risers and pull backs will be here on Friday! Jesse  has more toys than Mattel!

Until next time, ride safe.

Day trip: 265 miles

Tuesday, July 8

Amherstburg, Ontario--July 4th weekend (2008)

(Dear reader, forgive the bad formatting, strange characters (I hope I've removed them all) and poor location of images. By far, this was the worst blogging experience I've had. The switch to Apple has meant the lost of Microsoft's "Live Writer." Getting this--and one other entry posted--was more arduous than giving birth--and I still lost one of the babies).

Finally. I went on a multi-day trip with Jesse Owens. I've been wanting to go to Amherstburg, Ontario for some time after having once visited there about 16 years ago. Back then the
trip was just a brief stop that didn't do this quaint, proud little town any justice. Back then, my family visited The North American Black Historical Museum of Amherstburg to check it out as a stop along the Underground Railroad. Amherstburg is approximately 25 miles south of Windsor, right at the "mouth" of the Detroit River, with Lake

Erie a stone's throw away. Given that all my emails had been returned by the museum and I couldn't get through via phone, I worried that I'd find the place close. It was, at one time, a small operation run primarily by volunteers. Still, I thought the ride would be worth the risk.

I checked out Jesse, loaded him up with the side bags and top case. I struggled with the CorTech tank bag--it's simply too big and blocks an easy reading of the Zumo. So it stayed behind and frankly, I didn't miss it.

I had two choices. I could go the 5 hour, 300 miles route or the 7 hours and 51 minutes, 288 miles route. Instead, I ended up doing neither. It took me 9 hours to reach Amherstburg, Ontario. It seemed to take forever to get out of Chicago. Leaving on the Fourth of July forced me to wait for two parades to do their thing. Even that didn't bother me, however. I traveled via Rt. 41 south. It's a familiar route. One rides along beautiful Lake Shore Drive with its amazing views of Lake Michigan on the right. Rt. 41 snakes its way into Indiana, traveling through the industrial areas of steel and factories and extant smoke stacks. Next comes Gary, Indiana, parts of which are desolate and remind me of rural Mississippi--at least what I've read about rural Mississippi.

The great part of this long way, was riding through the Indiana and Michigan dunes areas. The weather could not have been more perfect. It bordered on being hot but a canopy of trees provide a cooling overhead air conditioner along US Rt. 12 East and it kept me in a cooling breeze and comfortable the whole way. Well, the gas prices didn't keep the dunes visitors
home. They were out in mass, which eventually made traveling along Rt. 12 slow in many spots. It took me 2 hours to travel 70 miles!

If I remained on 12, I would be later than the parades had already made me. If it took me 2 hours to progress 70 miles, the 118 miles I needed to do on Rt. 12 alone, would add considerable time to the journey. Thus, somewhere near Sturgis, I hopped on the interstate and tried to make
up time. Lots of law enforcement on the roads. Still the time was great, easily managing 75-80 (the speed limit is 70mph along long stretches of road). I remained on Interstate 94 until the Detroit area and then tried to follow the signs to the Ambassador Bridge. Locating the exact spot for border crossing was confusing--not at all like other border crossing I've made into Canada. Signs to follow I-75 South led me to several blocked entry points. I motored around Detroit, along some rather bleak streets. I had no fear but I did seem to draw some unwanted attention. Even the GPS led me to a area where someone had erected a barricade. Eventually, I found the way in and after some questioning by the border patrol (is that what they are called) I was given the okay. (As an aside, getting in Canada was easier then getting back into the US! I almost felt a strip search about to happen leaving Canada! What's up with that?!)

It only takes about 10 minutes after leaving Detroit to reach Windsor, Ontario. From there it's another 20 miles or so to Amherstburg. Each time I visit Canada, I literally feel myself relax when I reach Canadian soil. Perhaps it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. A situation doesn't have to be true, it just has to be believed and then it becomes true in reality. Whatever. I love Canada and I've always had a great, relaxing time there. This past weekend was no exception.

Jesse performed flawlessly. I wore bicycle shorts under my protective pants after reading that they can help cushion the ride. I'm not certain if the shorts made a significant difference but I think they were definitely cooler, as in keeping the lower region drier (TMI, I know). For that alone, I'll not hesitate to don them again.

Not only was I planning to visit Amherstburg, this trip would mark another special event for it would be the first time I would met in person someone who has become a dear friend. Together we've talked on the phone, chatted about spouses, written more emails than either of
us can count and shared motorcycle stories, encouraged each other to try new things, challenged each other on many topics. We've been motorcycle ride-buddies without ever riding a single shared mile. My friend knows that I do not fancy riding with others, especially groups. "Solo" is thy middle name. But there are times for exceptions and for being receptive to change. So after long emails, seasons of planning, at least one failed attempt, the schedules finally synched.

My friend, Lucas, is not new to this site. He was a guess blogger a couple of years back. He's added many miles to his riding resume. He and his spouse reside at the opposite end of Amherstburg, near Niagara Falls in a community he swears is like the other bookend to Amherstburg. He detailed the matches: the water, the forts and ports and the visual similarities of the two communities.

After nine hours of riding, I arrived in Amherstburg, tired but feeling fine. Lucas had arrived and was sitting in the lush backyard of the Bondy House. It was like meeting an old friend. We greeted and immediately started chatting about bikes. Lucas has a spanking new, beautiful blue Kawasaki Versys with the neatest, adjustable windscreen I've seen. His Givi sidebags, the same one favored by the BMW F800 crowd, look smart on his bike. On the back of his bags are two wide width reflectors that are highly visible. Before heading home, Lucas installed amber lights inside and adjacent to his headlight unit, which enhanced the entire front face of his bike-
-and increased its visibility. In addition, it just looks cool.

Friday evening was long. Carolyn Davies, the owner of the Bondy House, had lots of stories to share with us about the house, politics, family, the US, and her former motorcycle riding days. I've never stayed at a B&B and this was an excellent home that allayed all my brooding. Carolyn gave me a theme room dedicated to the history of the abolition of slavery. The entire
experience of
staying with Carolyn was magnificent. The breakfast meals were sensational (and I can be a picky e
ater). They were so good I forgot to take any food pictures--I just dived in...Too bad we missed her other half, he must be a hoot!

Saturday, we had a great ride along the southern shores of Lake
Erie. We pushed pass luscious farmland, whipping by old cemeteries, marvelous marinas, and farm stands that made
me want to stop frequently for the strawberries and blueberries they advertised. But riding prevailed. The roads were long and sweeping in spots. Most of the curves were clear and clean but like every ride I've done near a lake, there can have dangerous curves where wind has bl
own sand or the shoulders are sandy by nature. In a couple of spots, small pebbles required careful motoring.

In Leamington, Ontario not only was an art fair and festival occurring, Elvis was "in the house!"
The guy had a rather nice voice but like many of the impersonators I've seen they always look like caricatures mocking Elvis in his last days. This area along Lake Erie
is nicely presented, beautiful walkways, ample bird life and lots of
bench seating to observe ships arriving and departing. The water, a clear beautiful bluish-green, made gentle, quiet waves and I wished I could be there during a sunrise.

Lucas led out to Leamington. I led back. I can see how easily it is to get fixated on the rider ahead of you. My strategy while following was to just ride my own ride. Having never ridden with anyone before for any great distance, it was a bit strange at first. I kept him in my sight, but I deliberately concentrated on what I was doing. I was able to scan the road surfaces, keep the other bike within a comfortable distance, and keep a 360 degree check around me.
For me, the biggest thing required to ride with someone else was a mental adjustment that basically told me you're riding with someone else but for the most part ignore the person. Not in the sense that I disregarded Lucas entirely. I didn't miss any signals he gave and I caught all the sights he pointed out. But when it came to watching his riding at the expense of watching my own, I ignored him and concentrated on my own perfor-
mance, as if I were riding alone. In riding back to Amherstburg, I tried to be careful not to make any sudden turns or signal too late. I think I missed on both accounts a couple of times. Leading does require being more aware of who is behind you as you don't want to surprise the rider. I followed the GPS back, which meant we returned via a different, less scenic route. But less scenic was still picturesque to me and because we went through fewer of the small town centerss, our speed was a bit faster (or was I just riding faster?). It was a spirited ride that was totally fun. I have few pics of spots along the ride route as there were few safe places to pull over for photos.

Amherstburg is a small, friendly village with many excellent dining establishments. Didn't have one bad meal there. If you go there, try Duffy's, and Caldwell's Grant. Evidently, Amherstburg is also a place to go to listen to impersonators. Saturday evening, Carolyn our B&B host, suggested we head down to Uncle Vito's Rhythm Kitchen, a restaurant/tavern/live entertainment hangout. Earlier, I had seen the marquee and knew that Buddy Holly was showing up. Well, a really cool and believable Buddy Holly impersonator did show up and thrilled the crowd. I was so taken that I returned to the house to retrieve my camera. The place was rather dark but wonderfully moody and picture worthy. Carolyn later informed the artist that I'd taken photos of him and he later came to our table to see what I'd captured. I've promised to send the photos to him. He was really really good and looked a lot like Holly. Carolyn, Lucas and I all thought that he needed even bigger glasses. Still, his voice made him convincing and a huge hit with the crowd.

Sunday, departure day. A couple stayed at the B&B Saturday night and we all ate breakfast together. It was too funny trying to convince them that Lucas and I were not a couple, that we were both married, that we didn't come to the
B&B for a rendezvous. They were clearly a rather straight lace, traditional pair who just thought, two motorcycles, two people, they must be "together." By the time they got it straight, we all had a good laugh about it.

Throughout the weekend, Lucas occasionally brought out his really cool traveler guitar. It made me both happy and sad. Happy that he's found the joy in learning to play and he is getting better and better. Sad in that I played classical guitar for many years and always regretted that I quit. But there's a saying, "It's never too late to be what you could have been." It might be one of those things I try to re-discover in due time.
Before leaving, Lucas checked out my bike and gave me great feedback on it. For that I'm grateful. I could have ridden Ocean, Lucas' bike. Only one problem. It's not for the vertically challenged. I used the foot peg to mount it and while I sat comfortably in the saddle, we both cracked up at how much my feet dangled above the ground.
We said our goodbyes but not before agreeing that each year, we'll have an annual meeting spot to ride and celebrate our friendship.

The ride home took nearly nine hours. I thought I'd take the interstate much of the way but construction zones of bumper to bumper traffic created a lot of crazy-making drivers. I hate being bunched up with cars all around me, itching to gain one car length over someone else and overly zealous about protecting their space. I also resented the slow pokes who wanted to ride adjacent to me to look at Jesse. Yeah, it's a beautiful bike, but the slowing down was risky as others tried to jump lanes for tiny lane openings. For many miles, in some spots, it was like watching a game of auto-Pac Man. I persevered until I couldn't take another driver stopping virtually on my tail! Thank goodness for the vario-levers as there was considerable stop and go in first and second gear and my hands didn't cry out in pain as they would have before the change in levers. Ended up that about half of the return trip was interstate and the other half non interstate, which is pretty much how the trip began.

I went to Amherstburg to do more research on the underground railroad, which I accomplished. I departed Amherstburg with a lot more than I expected. I gained new friends, found a great place to stay when I return, saw two dead entertainers brought back to life, and made the long-awaited connection with a kindred spirit.

I will write later about my ongoing research on the underground railroad stations in the US and in Canada. Hopefully by then I will have made the transition from PC to Mac without too much weeping and gnashing...

Until then, ride safe and smart.

Searching for a "Live Writer" equivalent...

The last post was so unpleasant to create that I figured I'd better continue my search for something as nice as Microsoft's Live Writer. Interesting that during my research, I discovered tons of posts, discussion forum threads and blogs of other macbook users praising Live Writer and wishing that Microsoft would make it available to mac users.  I can't see that happening but stranger things have...

Many people talked favorably about Ecto but it's not free. Live Writer has spoiled me. I want it or something akin to it and I want it free. That's what's led me to Qumana. It's free and some say the next best thing to "Live Writer."  What better way to test that out than to use it.

So, ignore this test post. I just need to see that it works, is easy and will not lead to the lost of any more of my precious brain cells--'cause the last post easily wiped out a couple of billion cells. Seriously.

So here goes...

Ok, what I expected to happen didn't.  So already I've found an major issue. Live Writer allows insertion of images directly on Live Writer's work page. Looks like Qumana doesn't?  When I tried I received a message saying that I was inserting an image stored on my computer and that it would not be visible on the blog--then what is the freaking point?! For the most part, my images are stored on my computer!  Maybe I'm missing something...Dang!

Qumana is on the chopping block and the search continues...


Here is yet another attempt to figure out new blogging steps for the mac. I am not having fun. The Qumana, or whatever it's called had a problem with inserting pics--something about them not being visible. And sure enough I can't see them. So, I downloaded some sort of mac widget that is supposed to make things easier.  I was told to use this space for the first post. So here it is.  Now does that mean that every subsequent post should work effortlessly?

No, it isn't effortless. Still the photo insertion is awful! EEEEKKKK!