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Old 09-25-2012, 07:00 PM
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A Complete report this time! Riding my XS to Canada

I had been planning on going to the Horizons Unlimited meet in North Carolina. Thoughts of decent sweet tea and pork barbeque drifted through my head as I marked the dates on my calender and warned my employer, nice enough to hire me back after I was gone for a year, that I would be disappearing again.

For those of you who don't know, Horizons Unlimited is a website/community dedicated to long, overland trips. It's mostly directed at motorcycles, but there are areas for four wheel and human powered vehicles too. If you want to know how and where to cross a border, or how to get your bike across an ocean, or what to pack, or anything else really, it's the place to go.

I was wandering around the site one day and noticed there was going to be a new meeting, in Ontario. It was going to be the first one ever there, and just north of Toronto, an area I'd never been. It was a couple weeks later than the NC meet, but that didn't bother me, and thought of pork and tea were chased out of my head by Superior's North Shore and Niagara Falls. I hadn't ever been to the falls, and the Canadian side was supposed to be much better.

I let my bosses know I would be leaving later, meeting a mix of indifference and “Didn't you just come back?” Then I started to prep Curiosity for the ride.

Curiosity is my 1981 Yamaha sr250. I started riding on the same model, and this bike (number 3 that I've owned) took me up to Alaska and south to South America.

It was only a week or so before I was supposed to leave when Curiosity started to spray oil everywhere when it was running. A seal had gone bad, though it took me longer than it should have to sort out the problem. In the mean time I decided to use my old touring bike, a 1981 Yamaha xs1100 (which I named Suffering years ago). Since I had come back from my long trip I have become an advocate for smaller bikes, so taking the big xs11, which weighed even more than a BMW GS, didn't sit completely well in my mind. But it was the big bike or walk, so the big bike it was.

Coming along, of course was my travel bear, Blue.



I told him he wasn't bringing the tux on the trip.

I had off more than a week, and hit the road on a Friday with clear skies and nice temperatures. I spent some time in Wisconsin before heading for Duluth and the Grand Portage Border Crossing.

Stopped on the side of the road I saw a line of these for sale, all on trailers. I don't know what the are, but with Halloween coming I had a few ideas of how they might be used in a slasher film.



On my map was a point of interest called Historyland in Hayward, WI. I didn't know what it was, but made my way there to see.

Hayward is definitely “up north,” where towns are small and bars have snowmobile parking. Historyland was a logging camp, preserved as a reminder of the days when loggers cleared the north woods and sent the logs south on the rivers to the giant mills, like the one still operating in Wisconsin Rapids. The loggers were mostly gone, though, and so was Historyland.

Hayward did have another claim to fame, though. The Fishing Hall of Fame. I am not a fisher, and don't even particularly like fish, but the Fishing Hall of Fame does have an attraction to get non-fishers to stop.


The giant fiberglass fish is one of the stranger roadside attractions I have seen, and I know where there is a giant eyeball. With some clever landscaping, the Hall of Fame has managed to make it impossible to get a good picture of the fish from outside the grounds. It was $6.50 to get in, and I didn't want much other than a good picture of the fish, but I did want that picture so I coughed up the money and headed inside.



Since I was inside now I went to look around the Hall of Fame, but really it wasn't my thing. Blue tried to make some friends -



Neither of us completely understood why there were bigfoots inside the Fishing Hall of Fame, and they wouldn't explain. I poked around some of the displays, which were probably excellent for fisherman.




One other thing I wanted to do while I was there was go inside the fish. There was a door, and a flight of stairs leading up to the open mouth and a view of the surrounding area.




I got back on Suffering and headed for Duluth, stopping just before the city for a giant burger.



It was from a place called Gronks Grill and Bar, and was probably in the top 5 greasiest burgers I have ever had. It wasn't bad, other than that. I got through Duluth and found somewhere to camp in Gooseberry Falls State Park.

I had brought my hammock tent, and set it up, but it was chilly that night and I decided I would use my standard tent from then on. Yeah, I had two tents. I love the hammock, but it is limited when there aren't any trees around, and it can be a little chilly. Since it isn't that big, and Suffering had a lot of luggage space, I tossed it into one of the sidecases.

After breakfast I rode over to the Gooseberry Falls, where I met a couple of Harley riders from Delavan, only about 45 minutes from where I lived in Milwaukee. Dave and Beth were looking at waterfalls, and had tried to time their trip before the colors hit their peak and the area became crowded. There was some color already, but I didn't think the crowds were all that bad. They were also staying in hotels, Dave saying he was too old to be sleeping on the ground. I guess if you think you are, then you are.



The river was very low, and Beth mentioned hearing one of the other visitors, who said they came every year, had never seen it so low. I was in the riverbed for the above picture, and I wasn't the only one walking around down there.

Gooseberry has three waterfalls. Upper, middle and lower. That was the middle, and this the lower.



The upper falls were a short hike, and I was a little sweaty when I reached in, still bundled up for the morning. The upper falls themselves were definitely larger than the lower two, but only just.



I was on the road a little later than planned, talking to Dave and Beth. I took the time to strip off some layers before hitting the road, and then had to stop later and put them back on. Walking was warm, sitting on the bike wasn't.

I reached the Grand Portage National Monument and stopped to look around. I wasn't sure what the monument was about, but that was a good reason to stop.



In fact, the monument was about the beaver pelt trade. The pelts were the gold rush of their day, and beavers were hunted almost to extinction along the north shore. The trappers would use small canoes to reach the Grand Portage area, where the pelts were bought by the company and moved into larger vessels for transport on the Great Lakes.



Blue thought they needed to grow larger claws, but I told him it probably wouldn't have helped.

Like most national monuments it had living displays, and there were people dressed up in ye'oldee clothes and pretending to be in the 18th century. They would break character to explain things to visitors, which was nice. I've been to some where they wouldn't and it got old. Really fast.



I got across the border without any issues, and found camping along the lake. As I was buying some wood for a campfire, the camp staffer (who wasn't actually going to stay onsite over night) told me it was supposed to drop below freezing that night. There where four other campers, in a campground with room for 50. They were all in campers.

I made a hot dinner and drank too much hot tea before getting into my sleeping bag. I was quite toasty in there, though the tea caught up to me and I had to get out in the dark of night. That was cold. In fact getting out of the sleeping bag in the morning wasn't that easy either. It meant another late start, and I was starting to worry about my daily mileages.

It was colder, and there was sleet and hail for a while. I passed on the cold lunch I had planned on, stopping at an A&W. The prices were higher than I was used to in the USA, and I wondered if I should just find a local diner, but the sleet was getting heavier so I took of my coat and got some food.

An older gentleman came over and asked if that was my motorcycle. He had a goldwing, which he had ridden into town for new tires, and to store for the winter. Now he was waiting for friend to pick him up for the ride home. We talked about road trips, and ways to stay warm when it was less than warm out. You know, like it is in Canada. He preferred the snowmobile suit option, but admitted the lack of armor or crash protection.

Another rider came in after parking his V-Strom no where near Suffering. I tried to catch his attention, but he studiously ignored me and my new companion, taking a booth behind me and burying himself in his newspaper.

I splurged on a KOA, which was more expensive by a few dollars but had hot showers and I got twice as much wood. I made a larger fire.

In the morning I could see my breath, and after my hot shower and packing up Suffering wouldn't start. Asking around I got a jump, but the incident was concerning. I had put a lower quality battery in when I took suffering out of storage, and this seemed to be the price I had to pay.

I reached Barrie on Wednesday, and found a hotel. I could have camped again, but decided I wanted a real bed and real shower. It let me recharge all my stuff too, and I was hoping to be on the road around 8 the next morning.

This almost happened, but better news was Suffering started right up in the morning. Getting through Toronto wasn't a problem and I reached the falls around noon.



There was a spray coming off the falls that covered everything in a light layer of water. It wasn't slick, though, which was good. I paid $5 for parking close enough to be in the spray, which was less than I had seen at some places but probably more than if I had gone looking. I walked up and down the little walk for a while.



There were two visitor-center like places on the Canadian side, but most of the things inside had a fee. A few informative pictures were along one of the hallways, leading from the second floor candy shop (Lolly and Pop's) and the second floor gift shop.




I didn't stay inside long, and after another hour or so I figured it was time to get back to Barrie and the start of the HU meet.

Going back through Toronto was still easy, but I decided to take a “short cut” on my map, leading into the HU site from the other direction. The roads were nice, actually, but I was a little worried about remembering all the turns to get back. As it worked out the “right” way was simple, short, and passed a grocery store and gas station.

I reached the site, and had to ride through a rough grassy field to reach the camping. I stopped in the registration area to check in, and met Brian, who I had last seen at the Naskup BC meet, but had first met on a dismal, cold and rainy road heading for Hyder.

I got my tent up, and then got groceries. There was supposed to be some presentations that night, but the promised generator had broken, and it's replacement was still on the way. It didn't matter, and everyone talked and shared stories from the road until late into the evening. I don't know when I went to sleep, but once I did I missed the rain, the coyotes, and the rider who pulled in at 2am.

I woke well rested, made breakfast, and talked to other riders. I hadn't seen a schedule, and was told I would be talking at around 11am. I hadn't known for certain I would be talking at all, but wasn't too worried. In any case it was 11am the next day, so I had even more time.

The first real presentation was a round table about riding in Australia.



Unsurprisingly, no one had the appropriate map with them, so areas were shown on a convenient towel, held up by the lovely Carol. Sorry boys, she's taken.

Once that first talk was out of the way, the rest of the weekend passed by in periods of order and chaos. The weather sometimes forced everyone inside, and some of the talks ran long. Clinton, who was on the schedule to talk about controlled skids in gravel for an hour, went on for more than two covering all sorts of aspects in off road riding. He was pretty funny too.



Most of the attendees exemplified the “cat herding” school, and a lot of time was spent standing outside the main tent and talking about...things...



Some high points for me – learning how to make bread with a camp stove (which I haven't tried yet), meeting Q and Sho, listening to stories from the auzzies, and the owners of the 660 Teneres deal with people looking at their bikes (“What bike is this?” “One you can't have.”)

There was also a personal trainer, who gave a talk (and had a nice pamphlet) on stretches to do to stop from getting sore after a day riding. The stretches were meant to be done with a motorcycle, so the watchers gathered up chairs from the main tent to stand in. It was quickly entertaining.




In case you were worried I was having fun while Blue was stuck in the tent, he got out too and made some new friends.



Sadly, Sunday morning showed up eventually and it was time to go. It had rained again that night, so the tent was wet when I put it away, annoying but just part of the deal. Home was calling and Suffering, my old endurance riding bike, covered the miles between Barrie and Milwaukee in only 13 hours or so, with a nice sit down lunch and dinner on the way. Crossing back into the USA was more of a process than getting out had been. The border guard was from Chicago and like motorcycles, so I caused a delay talking with him a bit.

Now the bike is home, clothes washed, tent dried. Fall is coming, then winter. I have another month or two of good riding weather before the snow and salt gets on the road, but next summer will get here and then I will be back on the road.

Oh, and Curiosity is all fixed too, though it needs a tire. And I have this weekend off. Maybe there's time for another trip....
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Old 09-26-2012, 09:03 AM
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Great report and pics as always!
Nice to see Blue in his tux too!
That is one well dressed (and well traveled bear)

Good to see he made some new friends too... athough, he was a giant among them.

I see the fishing museum lured you right in...
lol
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Old 09-26-2012, 09:19 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wildkat View Post
Great report and pics as always!
I see the fishing museum lured you right in...
lol
Ouch. There needs to be one of the vomit smilies.
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Old 09-26-2012, 09:23 AM
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lol
I'm home sick today... trust me... there's no smiling involved.
(could also explain the bad pun... today anyway)
lol
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Old 09-26-2012, 11:44 AM
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We had a ride out of Hayward a couple weeks ago. Not sure when you were in town but next time your'er in the area give me a message.
Can meet up, join part of the ride or be of help if any needed. That goes for anyone here. By the way I worked at the Fishing Hall of Fame many years ago.
Looks like a great trip.
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Old 09-26-2012, 12:22 PM
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I saw that. The decision to go to Hayward was made the morning of - there was very little planning.

I keep planning to make a Lost Rally, and keep finding something else to do. Or miss the date. Or I break something on the bike.

You know how it goes.
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Old 09-26-2012, 02:28 PM
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We should go ride some afternoon sometime. You can see how I mounted those ammo cans I bought from you too!
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Old 09-27-2012, 05:33 AM
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We should! I am not good at planning that sort of thing though.
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Old 09-27-2012, 08:31 PM
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Just so you know, that second pic.. Those are hay rakes. They fold down and press down on the ground at an angle. As they roll, they shift the hay to a row in the center. Then a baler scoops it up.
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Old 09-28-2012, 02:49 PM
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The clinton!!!!

I read Clinton's Column in my MOJO MAgazine without fail....

very funny guy...
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Old 09-28-2012, 06:25 PM
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Just so you know, that second pic.. Those are hay rakes. They fold down and press down on the ground at an angle. As they roll, they shift the hay to a row in the center. Then a baler scoops it up.

Or they dig trenches to bury naughty children or motorcyclists.

There were several issues of Mojo given away at the event, and Emily (editors daughter, I think) was one of the presenters. She spoke on her solo trip in the Yukon.
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Old 09-28-2012, 06:46 PM
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yeah let people know when and where you wander ,could have met up with some of us Toronto types
Jim
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Old 09-28-2012, 08:19 PM
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I have always been terrible at announcing when I am going to be somewhere, even when I'm not hopping all over the globe.

I am definitely headed back to the Toronto area, since I want to see your needle thing. And I want to spend more time around Niagara. So next time I'll try to plan ahead and let people know.
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