Thursday, July 30, 2009

My Bad

I’ve been taking some heat since our vacation. There were a few incidences that have set my dear husband on the war path. And while I understand his concerns and the serious ramifications that could result from my actions, I am also secretly feeling a bit proud if not smug as well. Can a person really feel remorse and pride in the same action? It seems so, and I don’t believe I am such an unusual person in my feelings and this is why.

When I was a kid, there was a bully in the neighborhood who tortured me mercilessly. One day walking home from school carrying my prized art project, I was manhandled by this boy who then destroyed my art work. Furious, and for the first time, fighting back (having been told fighting was bad and never having done so) I gave the kid a good swift kick, which landed squarely in his crotch. He dropped like a rock, and being so young, I had no idea what had really happened.

I arrived home full of guilt, so I immediately confessed to my father. He asked me to recount what happened which I did. Upon hearing of the kick to the crotch, he did something I never expected. He seemed to be suppressing laughter. I was confused. He then told me not to worry about it. Yes, it was wrong to fight and one should never throw the first blow, but defending oneself was another matter and perfectly justified.

Fast forward to our vacation and following our fearless leader. Now he tends to like to challenge the speed limits. I have always had a bit of trouble following on the 650. With that bike, I always new when I was pressing the limits. However, Blaze, has no trouble with this at all. Heck, I zip along never realizing that the numbers are climbing. At one stop, Deb reports that when she saw the needle nearing 100 she pulled back.

100 MPH? Surely she was mistaken. She then mentioned that as I passed a few trucks, I did seem to be putting on the speed. Still unbelieving I walked over to my GPS which records maximum speed, and sure enough the number was 103! Wow, I had no idea! Our fearless leader seemed to be proud. My husband; not so much. While I understand the ramifications of such an act, inside, much like my father, on some level I am very proud of Blaze. She got me away from truckers, easily I might add, and never broke a sweat. I’m glad to know she has the power. Yet, I can understand my husband’s furry. I will have to learn to monitor and rein us in. If I have a smug look on my face while doing it, you’ll know why.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Lake Superior

Lake Superior is something felt on the inside rather than experienced with the five senses alone. Riding along the natural beauty of the untamed shores of this majestic lake one comes to appreciate the native stories of the Ojibwa that are handed down through the generations. The skies are a bit overcast this day, and mist shrouds the distant view, but the wild beauty cannot be hidden.

We travel route 17 north from Sault Ste. Marie through Lake Superior Provincial Park. From our saddles we have views of Goulais Bay, Batchawana Bay, and some of the most impressive sights along great stretches of Whitefish Bay. We stop on occasion to peer down into the startling clear waters at the massive stones that riddle the floor beneath. I inspect a long fallen tree, showing us the changes of season in its stark skeletal remains. Yet the flora flourishes in this sometimes harsh environment. At the visitor center, we learn about the fish that inhabit its waters.

We arrive in Wawa, a town with means goose in Ojibwa. Some time is spent at the visitor center learning about the local history. We lunch, turn around, and again are impressed with the views in reverse. Even on this day while she softly laps the shores beneath the mist, Superior commands respect by her sheer size. We stop one last time, and pay her homage. And although she diminishes in our rear view mirror, our souls are filled yet with the wonder of her.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Stranger than Fiction

My blog seems to have dropped off in the middle of our journey. Before I get back to telling of our adventures, I have to relate a story that has had my mind twisting around such concepts as coincidence, odds, fate, and happenstance.

After a days ride along Lake Superior, we return to the Soo to dine at a fine establishment along the River Walk. A concert is playing in the park nearby and after our meal we wander over to enjoy the rest of the performance. At the conclusion, while making our way to the bikes, a gentleman stops us and asks if we are Americans. We say yes, and he points out our motorcycles. He thought that we looked like bikers, he says. Our license plates are clearly broadcasting the fact we are American. Plus I have my riding jacket on.

“Can you make change?” for American currency, he wants to know. I don’t carry cash, but Deb has some, and she makes change and receives a $20 dollar bill in exchange. I am skeptical and wonder if the man is a scam artist. I tell Deb to check the bill. The man’s story is that he wants to buy a CD from the folks performing. He doesn’t have the right amount and was told if he had an American $10 they would call it even. OK, it sounds legitimate, but scam artists are good at their trade and believable. Deb takes the $20 anyway. We chat with the man for a few minutes about our travels and his then part ways.

Fast forward two days. We have since traveled from the Soo to Flint Michigan. From Flint we once again enter Canada for about a 100 mile ride back to Niagara. Here we line up to cross the border once again. Border crossings take time. There are long lines, and several of them. Thousands of folks cross the border each day. We have encountered showers along the way so we have on our rain gear. However, the sun is now out and we are roasting. To make matters worse, we are waiting in this long line with the heat from our engines and pipes making things nearly intolerable. I’m wondering if I can make it without fainting when I hear Andy speaking with someone.

I don’t pay much attention to Andy speaking with a stranger behind me. He speaks to strangers at the drop of a hat. But I hear him calling my name, so I turn around. He’s pointing at a motorcyclist behind us. I smile kindly at a fellow biker. But what’s this Andy is telling me? It seems this is the fellow from Sault Saint Marie for whom Deb made change! What are the odds that in all the US/Canadian border crossings we should meet up with the man from South Carolina again! And directly behind us in line! Not to mention the numerous unexpected stops for rain gear, gas, and what-not that would alter our schedule.

I ask his name. He says “Bob.” I dig in my saddle bag and hand him one of my homemade business cards I use to promote my blog. He sees that my e-mail address is on the card and tells me he’s taken our picture and will e-mail it to me. On Monday morning, low and behold, there is a photo in my in-box. We exchange a few more e-mails about where we have been. He mentions that next year he plans an East Coast jaunt and wants to know if it’s OK to look us up. Of course! It would be fun to ride a bit with Bob and show off our great state of New Hampshire. Also, if I had paid attention in Sault Saint Marie, and understood he was a fellow motorcyclist, I would not have been so suspicious. I hope Bob does make it this way. Sounds like a good plan to me.

Enjoy Bob’s photo below.

From Great Lakes

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Espanola to the Soo

It was a half day’s ride from Espanola to Sault Saint Marie. My first impression was that Sault Saint Marie (pronounced Soo) was as a pleasant city, not only to see, but to ride through, in and about. Even construction was tamed and all flowed easily. We checked in at our hotel and relieved ourselves of baggage.

Andy and I took a stroll along the River Walk. This is a revitalization and reclamation of the water front along the Saint Marie River, much like many cities today are doing. We enjoyed the sculptures, and historical markers. We made our way to the locks, which were quiet at the time we arrived. The historical sign told of their early beginnings and also how today all ships have free passage. I think it was a shot to the American side, which we know has plenty of fees to pass through any lock in the country. However, we also know that while the ship does not pay the fee, there are plenty of people who are through taxation.

While the locks play an important part in moving goods up and down the river, as long as the ice is out, the hydro-plant is providing another service; power. The rapids here show how man tames nature and also harnesses nature. This is never more evident that on the Soo. The hydro-plant here is unusual in that the turbines are vertical, not horizontal. From the historical marker here, we learn this is more typical of European design than what is found in North America.

At the end of the River Walk we found the Casino. Now parched and hungry as I had not had lunch, we had a snack and beverage inside. We tried our luck at the slots for a short bit, and then made our way back to the hotel. We ended our evening at a fine Italian restaurant, relaxed a bit in the evening. The weather is forecasted to take a turn for the worst. We may head north along Superior if not too bad, but I fear the remainder of our trip may be in rain gear.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Lake Huron: Toronto to Espanola

We decided as a group, that all of Canada must be under construction. That is how it seems to us anyway. Getting to Toronto was one thing, trying to get out was another. My GPS found the on ramp OK, but shortly after it became bedlam. There were so many lane shifts and interchanges that following Lee left then right then left became nearly impossible. I say nearly as at one point Lee and Debbie swung left at an interchange and I proceeded right. It happened so fast! Fortunately there is a triangular bit of no man’s land where wayward cars can leap back to the direction they want. Add to that the nice little bubble the Good Lord put around me and not one commuter picked me off as I made the switch. I can tell you, I was happy to put Toronto behind me. Lee later said that his new GPS did wonders. He had no idea where the roads were going, but the GPS kept him on track. Mine however, wanted me to drive where no road existed…as they are all torn up and the poor unit nearly fried itself recalculating.

The ride to the ferry was much more comfortable. We enjoyed the wind farm and all its majesty. We chuckled at the “Curling Registrations Now Open” to remind us we are in Canada. On cloud did get us wet, but we were in and out of it soon enough and arrived at the ferry at our scheduled time. Andy and I had lunch overlooking the water, and soon it was time to board.

As it is late and I’m over due for bed, I am posting photos of the ferry. A picture is worth a thousand words, right? Let me just say, once off the ferry and on to our hotel, the roads were spectacular! Long sweeps, and road cresting views that delight, the smell of sweet grass heady were a delight!

Good night from Espanola. Enjoy the pictures.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Lake Ontario, Niagara, and Toronto

We left the shores of Oneida, and the multitude of fishing derby enthusiast, for the scenic shores of Lake Ontario. Above us were plenty of dark clouds with patches of blue. And while the sun shone for the most part, the gray clouds overhead were of such size, I thought for sure that at any moment one of them would become a cloud burst. That’s what would happen in New Hampshire anyway. However, as the day wore on the only drops that fell on us were from the spray of Niagara. Such strange giant dark clouds! I decided that these were the clouds that suck up moisture from the lakes and head straight for New Hampshire.

We were impressed with the homes along the shores of the lake, many large and imposing, with beautiful manicured lawns and long drives. Their yards sweeping down to the lake. There were a few parks as well, where we stopped for a moment’s contemplation. At times the wind was brisk and the sails on the waters tacked at a 45 degree angle. At some spots the waters were as green as that of any ocean with the choppy waters showing their white foamed tips. That is when you have to remember that this is a lake. While at times the smell of the breeze off the water reminds one on Hampton Beach on the shores of the Atlantic, this is no ocean.

We passed through customs into Canada to enjoy Niagara from that vantage point. Having been to Niagara on American side a few times, I was interested to see how things looked from here. The first big impression on me was how much more imposing the rapids look from Canada. On the American side, the view is mostly from a shore vantage point, but in Canada you see the rapids coming full force toward the edge and hurtling over. Wow!

After a late lunch with views from our window seat, we hit the slabs for Toronto. What’s in Toronto? It’s there, and we have never been. It’s as good a place to stay the night as any. Tomorrow is our ferry ride day, and I hope all those clouds that sucked up water from the lake are heading east. I want to enjoy every glorious vista tomorrow has to offer.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Quiet and Leisurely Beginning

Our day began in a leisurely way, which is fine with me. It is vacation after all. We headed out a bit later than planned, but it gave the rain clouds a chance to move on out. Starting a motorcycle vacation without rain gear on is a big plus in my book.

The first day for Andy and me was over mostly familiar roads along route 9 into Brattleboro. We stopped here for lunch in a local park, then up and over Hogback Mountain. The skies were clear and the air so clean the views were great. Then on into New York and finally to interstate 90 and to our first night at Lake Oneida.

There were a few small things that can cause a moment’s disconcertion. A small bird flew low across the road, took a somersault and land to my left, deader than a doornail. It was only later that Lee told of it hitting his windshield. Then there was the moment on interstate 90 when Lee suddenly went to the breakdown lane. Then pick up speed again and back to the roadway. He had hit the kill switch by accident.

None of these were of any great concern. We are thankful Lee has a windshield because at those speeds a bird in the face would have hurt like hell. As for the bike heading to the breakdown all of a sudden, we all maneuver expertly and it was but a blip on the radar in the scheme of things. We arrived safe and sound to our destination, ate more than we intended for supper, and made our plans for tomorrow. Now for some sleep, to dream about the shores of Lake Ontario, and viewing the falls from our neighbor’s door. Tout va bien!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Waypoints, Via Points, Signs and Symbols

Lee did a great job of plotting out our route for the Great Lakes Tour on which we are about to embark. In trying to avoid a few uncertainties of last year, I’ve made an extra effort in trying to understand how Lee uses his GPS. This caused me a certain amount of angst last year and a few words between us that bordered on less than civil. I begin my question and answer session as soon as I received the file to be sure I understand fully just where we are going and how we are getting there. It results in a few surprises.

First, we both use the same software, MapSource, which is the software used by Garmin GPS units. I examine the file closely. I see the route; I examine his waypoints and ask my questions. So far so good. Then I transfer the file to my Garmin Quest. I select the route and press the button to “show on map.” Good. The purple line indicating the route is showing nicely. Lee calls to discuss the route.
“You’ll notice how I’ve named the waypoints” he says.
I pick up the Quest, and select waypoints. Nothing! We have a go and back conversation about it, the end of which makes me feel yet again like I’m lacking some brain cells.

Back at the office, I shirk my duties, open the laptop and begin again to download the file. There is the route. Now select waypoints. Still nothing. I repeat this process a few times. Same result. I decide to examine the route option more closely on the GPS unit. When I select the route, a list of “via” points shows in the window. A HA!

I call Lee, and walk him through my finding. Lee’s unit does not respond in this way. He has a Nuvi 550. When the route is downloaded, he can select any waypoint and route to it. I practice with the Quest. I see that I can select a via point and route to it. Why the Quest doesn’t add these to the waypoints selections I have no idea.

We have a few more conversations about our individual GPS units, and one thing has helped tremendously; understanding that GPS units, while of the same make, operate differently model to model. I’m pleased to have this bit of knowledge under my belt as it is one less thing to mess up a good vacation. Lee has quirks with his own GPS he is getting used to. As long as we can both manipulate the devices we own we should be fine. Understanding we each have idiosyncrasies with our GPS units will help keep our heads cool too. (OK, my head.) Now if I could only climb into Lee’s mind to understand the reasons he selects the symbols he does. Or maybe that is a good thing?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Why Traveling by Motorcycle Is Better than in a Car or Van

Due to a twist of fate, Blaze and I spent a wonderful day riding the great roads of New Hampshire with her sister “Jade.” I put Jade’s name in quotes because she has of course been sold. Her new owner may have given her a new name or no name at all, so I will refer to her as “the 650” going forward.

On Sunday, when Andy and I passed through the town in which the 650 now resides, we decided to swing by and see how the new owner was doing. When we arrived, the new owner was seated in the saddle heading out. He was pleased to see us and invited us to ride with him and his new girl. We accepted. The day unfolded nicely and we enjoyed riding with Oliver, Cashel and the 650. This had me thinking how riding motorcycles is so much more enjoyable than when you travel by car.

Here are some reasons why travel by motorcycle is so much better than in the van.

• People who ride motorcycles are friendly and approach each other to talk about their ride.

• I’ve never had anyone say to me “hey, I have that same model” when I arrive with the van.

• No one has ever asked me where I picked up the after-market gizmo on my van.

• When you travel by van/car no one asks how many miles you’ve clocked during the season, or where you have been.

• When I have purchased a pre-owned car, the previous owner has never arrived to see if I want to joy ride for the day.

• If the previous owner of a pre-owned vehicle did show up I might be annoyed instead of pleased.

• Other van owners have never inquired how I like the stock seats.

• I’ve never been asked how much my van weighs.

• No one has ever been amazed at the storage capacity of my trunk.

• In a van you have a destination.

• On a motorcycle it is the journey.

Now that I’ve started the list, I’m sure you have many more reasons to add.

I’m listening!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Chi-Cheemaun Ferry and the Mackinac Bridge

I’ve been doing some reading and exploring maps prior to our departure for the Great Lakes Loop in a few weeks. I seem to be fascinated with two points of interest on our trip. One is the ferry we will take across Lake Huron from Bruce Peninsula (Tobermory) to South Baymouth on the Manitoulin Island.

My first curiosity about the ferry is how the heck you pronounce that name. While I’ve been unsuccessful in finding a pronunciation, I have discovered its meaning. Chi-Cheemaun is Ojibwe for “big canoe.” It’s a big canoe all right, at 365 feet long. It can carry 143 automobiles and 638 passengers. It is the largest ship of its kind on the Great Lakes.

We will spend two hours aboard the Chi-Cheemaun. I am counting on a glorious day, as the view coming into South Baymouth is reported to be fantastic. We had to reserve our space and pay extra for that, as it seems the time we wish to cross is also popular with others.

From 2009 season

My other fascination is for the Mackinac Bridge. Here I had more luck with the pronunciation, which is approximately mack-in-awe. The Mackinac spans the Straits of Mackinac. It was dedicated the world's longest suspension bridge between anchorages. By saying "between anchorages", the bridge could be considered longer than the Golden Gate Bridge and also longer than the suspended western section of the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge. (That bridge has a longer total suspension but is a double bridge with an anchorage in the middle.). The Mackinac Bridge is the longest suspension bridge with two towers between anchorages in the Western Hemisphere (source wikipedia)

From 2009 season

The bridge is about 5 miles long and while I’m excited about crossing it, I have a few fears as well. One concern is that I have no idea what kind of decking is on this bridge. I certainly do not want to see the water below my tires with my fear of heights. If the decking is grating, then the tires could slip around on the surface. If you add a strong wind to the day, things could get a bit dicey. However, worry, as a characteristic, usually proves to be unfounded, so for the moment I’m going with that.

Monday, July 6, 2009


I remember my first solo motorcycle ride. The clouds scuttled across the sky and a stiff breeze bent the tall grasses along the roadway. The engine rumbled beneath me, the road twisted ahead in an unending ribbon of mystery in ways I had never seen before. The smell of leather mixed with the heady scents of spring. My emotions were a mixture of exhilaration and fear. My mind occupied with a million rapid fire instructions and distractions causing my knees to jump from the adrenaline rush. The thoughts unfolding in kaleidoscope fashion as neuron transmitters fired this instruction and that.

“Watch where you want the motorcycle to go.”
“Counter steer through that strong gust of wind.”
“Look at the birds returning from their wintering grounds.”
“Smell the sweetness of the spring earth.”
“You control the motorcycle, it does not control you.”

Every instruction I learned in the motorcycle safety course played in an unending loop. After 77 miles I pulled into my drive, exhausted!

How things have changed. In one day over the weekend I traveled more than 300 miles, just to enjoy lunch at a favorite lake in Maine. With gentle Blaze beneath me, we need no self talk, just quiet enjoyment together.

Along the way we stop, I dismount, and together we have a moment of silent reflection, and send a prayer of thanks for the liberties we enjoy that allow such moments as this possible.

From 2009 season

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Great Lakes Loop

I kiss all the babies one last time, hug my daughter and tell her she will be OK on her own and make my way back to New Hampshire. Andy and I are just settling in when the phone rings. It’s Lee, he’s working on our vacation plans and needs input. As the conversation progresses, I can feel the anticipation rise as we discuss this option and that. Our destination this year is to the Great Lakes. Yes, all of them, in one great loop.

We are hammering out the final details. First Lee is constructing a route. The major focus at this moment is time. Time as in the number of days we have to ride, how many hours in a day we want to ride, and the time, distance and obstacles we have to consider that may affect our time, and where we want to budget for more time.

When we are all in agreement about time, we will focus on where and how to spend it. There is Niagara of course, and a curiosity about Toronto where none of us have been. We want to take the ferry to the tip of Bruce Peninsula. We are curious about the area where three of the lakes nearly touch each other. We will spend an extra day here to explore. We want to take our bikes over the longest suspension bridge in the country at over 5 miles long. Why not? After all we went over the highest suspension bridge last year in Colorado. Once over the bridge we will ride for 200 shore miles along Lake Huron.

With all of us in agreement over these major points of interest, our next step is to investigate other possible sight seeing venues that fit into our time management. Here is a rough draft of our route as it stands today. If you know of any points of interest we should not miss, drop me a line. But don’t dally, our departure is mid July, and time, once again, is a factor.

From Great Lakes