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Old 10-06-2010, 06:55 PM   #1
shaweetz OP
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Joined: Feb 2010
Location: Ottawa, CDN
Oddometer: 220
6 week 10,000 mile NA Bonneville looptastic

I just returned from a six week, 16,554km (10,286 mile) North American tour on my 2001 Bonneville. For three of those weeks (7000km), my wife joined me on the back.

The route:

- north shore Lake Superior
- prairies!
- Alberta badlands
- Kananaskis Trail
- Jasper Icefields parkway
- Mt. St. Helens
- Oregon Pacific Coast Highway
- Oregon Crater Lake
- Tahoe region
- Nevada Highway 50
- Utah!
- Colorado Rocky Mountains National Park
- Kansas, Missouri, Illinois
- Tennessee and the Country Music Hall of Fame
- Charohala Skyway and Blue Ridge Parkway
- West Virginia
- PA Allegheny forest

Beginning and ending in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. I kept a live blog going for close family and friends, and for a long time I debated whether I would go to the trouble of editing this down and posting it up here for a general, and much more off-road-ish audience. But I know how much enjoyment I get out of reading other people's ride reports, dirt track or not, so I'm going to go ahead and make a contribution even if a lot of the readership here has been there, done that, and much, much more.

This is my first tour of this length and distance, and I've been riding for a little over two years. It was a pleasure getting the bike set up and figuring out how we were going to manage for three weeks 2-up with our camping rig along. In hindsight, there's very little I would change.


shaweetz screwed with this post 02-12-2012 at 12:06 PM
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Old 10-06-2010, 06:57 PM   #2
shaweetz OP
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Packing for two is tricky

Weíve got all this crap pre-packed in the living room so we can stare at it and figure out what has to move and what has to go. There isnít exactly a ton of space left over, which is unsurprising. Solo, it would be a piece of cake, but camping two-up on a Bonneville is tricky. Thankfully, the 55lbs on the panniers is well balanced, and the bike feels great with the weight down low and centered on the rear axle.

I recently installed Ikon shocks on the rear, which handled almost this much loading without issue on pre-load #2. If I have to, I can raise it to #3 but it will make for a stiff ride.

We discovered a couple of problems last night during a dry run around the city, with the fully packed bike: as in, we donít have enough space for all of our crap.

Itís not a question of weight; itís a question of volume, and needing enough cargo space for a worst-case scenario, which is a hot, dry day. Warm and waterproof stuff takes up a lot of space. Our pack list in not significantly different from anyone elseís. But we canít set out already packed to the gills when there has to bit of spare room for unforeseens, snacks, food, artifacts, etc.

Also, it turns out that packing cubes with real clothes in them take up a lot more room. Mrs. Shaweetz has done an incredible job of packing her stuff, but Iím tired, so we end up arguing about her four T-shirts, which is a ridiculous argument in fact. I'm being stupid, and plus, her shirts are like half the size of mine. I'm lucky enough that she's game for this trip, given that most people, you know, fly and rent cars and bring suitcases and stuff.

So time to cull some junk and shuffle some things around.

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Old 10-06-2010, 07:00 PM   #3
shaweetz OP
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My contract is sort of wrapped up and handed off to a colleague. So, now it’s weather-watching, and waiting with nervous anticipation time.

I have a few small things left to do, but the list is getting nice and short. Woo-hoo!

At 3AM I’m woken up by a rain that's coming down pretty hard. I’ve already decided to delay the departure one day, first off because the weather was not great (although not that bad in Ottawa), but mostly because I was feeling pretty crappy after a stressful week of work. I managed to get in a morning slot with my buddy Brian the RMT, who promptly demolished me. No more crappy office chairs for me…

This is both encouraging and discouraging:

(That’s us, Ottawa, to the right of North Bay) Encouraging because I can see the edge; discouraging because the whole thing is swirling on itself and taking its sweet time moving out east where it belongs. Messy low, slow moving, a couple of fronts chasing each other. A wet start to the day, but it should improve. Some craziness is coming over the prairies too; something to contemplate another day. I decide to finish up some exciting accounting that I’d put on the back burner until my return, which usually helps with the sleeping.:)

One more attempt to see if he'll fit:

And I'm off.

Not 20 minutes out of town, the rain broke, the sun started to shine and the pavement dried up, a fabulous start. I snapped this otherwise unremarkable photo to kick things off, in Arnprior as I was shedding my rain gear:

My big rubber overgloves work well, but they’re too tight over my insulated leather gloves. Good to know for next time.

I didn’t stop for many pictures, though I would have liked to snap one of the stretch VW beetle limousine at the side of the road that's a familiar sight to anyone who has done this Hwy 17 stretch to North Bay...

I hit my stride after Mattawa, having fuelled up on caffeine and sugar. The Country Style girl decided on her own to keep the change, which was a bit unusual. The Hwy 17 surface between Mattawa and North Bay is recently surfaced and pristine, which makes my rear very happy. The new sheepskin is helping a lot, but the old saddle is still under there. I didn’t expect day 1 to be a cakewalk.

Rolling in to Sudbury a bit ahead of schedule, I head over for some obligatory tourist shots of the Big Nickel:

My great-uncle and aunt extended some warm hospitality and a place to sleep at their home north of town. My uncle was at the end of the driveway waving me in, and directed me straight into the garage. Service! The evening capped off with a nice visit at my cousins'. A nice way to kick off this trip.

Day 1: rolled from 10:30am and arrived at 7pm, exhausted but stoked!

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Old 10-06-2010, 07:03 PM   #4
shaweetz OP
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Sudbury to Agawa Bay L. Superior

Old house near Iron Bridge:

These places fascinate me, but also creep me out, since you always have the feeling that someone is in there. From the construction, this house has been there for quite some time, and in quite a pretty spot too. Lesser houses would have gone completely back to the earth long ago.

I pass three dudes on bicycles, heading west, and dressed in business casual. And not close to any particular town. And not loaded for touring. Huh?

Later on I pass a crew running for cancer with a chase vehicle:

I grab some quick lunch in the Soo and, looking around the mall parking lot, I realize I’ve hit hair salon pay dirt (three to choose from!), so I head for the sketchiest looking one and walk in for the fastest haircut of my life. She was done in like 4 minutes flat. And, surprisingly, did not too bad a job.

My first ever sighting of Lake Superior is everything it’s made out to be. Traffic is heavy, but it's a beautiful day. The flip side to enjoying all of this pristine blacktop is that now and again you have to wait around while they’re installing it. I nearly melt, twice, in Pancake Bay waiting for the flagman to switch the traffic direction, awesomely decked out in full gear, in the baking sun, on my inferno engine. Shortly afterwards, I’m settling in at Agawa Bay Lake Superior PP where I am recovering from the $36.75 sticker shock camping fee. ***??? To sleep on the ground beside the highway? Clearly I am missing something.

My mood is lifted when I manage to see and photograph the impressive Agawa rock pictographs:

I didn’t see them all, as my touring boots aren’t lug treads and those rocks are as slippery as they look. I wasn’t quite ready for the swim, and despite many warnings of drownings I still manage to slip and just about go ass over tea kettle into the lake anyway. That woke me up fast. As it was, I was very fortunate that the lake was calm and I was able to go down for a closer look. Leaving the site, a light rain finally comes, so I hightailed it back to the campsite about 5 minutes down the road for some dinner and a spectacular sunset.

Garry and Ryan from Michigan are here for the 11th straight summer, camping with their grandfather Larry. They are next door and kindly invite me over for the fire and some snacks. I chat for bit, nice folks, but am pretty tired and ready to hit the sack. They will be the first of many kind strangers who approach and offer their hospitality, a highlight of the trip.

It's starting to rain a little harder now; a bummer since the laundry I did won’t be drying any time soon. Why am I doing laundry on Day 2???

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Old 10-06-2010, 07:06 PM   #5
shaweetz OP
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Agawa Bay to Thunder Bay

After a blustery evening. Superior is frothing up, and it’s going to be one of those buffeting, get beat up kind of days.

At my cousin's recommendation, I grab a photo of the giant Wawa goose. And then another one. And another. These people really like their giant geese mascots! And my uncle was right about the state-of-the-art Tim Horton's. Shiny! Modern! Spacious! Double double!

Sorry about this one:

I have had many agonizing evenings thinking about this stretch of the trip. I am a long distance touring noob, and I've never been to this part of Ontario. I'm worried about fuel, and isolation, and cell phone service. But I needn't have worried, at all. The Wawa to Marathon stretch is long, rolling, and sparsely populated; about as expected. But I have good tunes, and stopping to don and doff rainwear for the frequent microbursts breaks things up nicely.

Old Woman Bay:

Marathon is mostly an unwarranted detour and a waste of 8km of fuel, but I'm sure I really didn't give it its due. A quick snack and I’m back out, into another dark rain shower. For this next stretch I though it might be cool to check out a couple of abandoned rail towns I'd read about. But then I hit reserve about 35-40 kms before I expected! Checking the map, I see absolutely nothing between here and Terrace Bay, zero, and for sure I don’t have enough to make it, and I'm carrying an extra litre. Ar. So I double back to Marathon, which is a 40km round trip detour, through the rain shower I just punched through. And back again.

Three minutes over the hill from where I made my decision to double back, is a gas station, at Neys Provincial Park.


I never did check out those abandoned rail stops.

In several places after Marathon, the highway crests a hill and reveals the most incredible vistas. After checking the mirrors, I slow down to take it in. You can’t stop for everything, but you can go slow if there's nobody around!

The weather has turned for the better, so made it all the way to the enigmatic Thunder Bay International Hostel. There's quite a crew here tonight, though a large number seem to be visiting relatives of the owner. There are some from Columbia, and a threesome of young ladies from Geneva I think, to brighten the place up.

The quirky but fascinating hostel owner shows me my room, in the next breath informing me that the man who stayed here last night was killed in a car crash this morning. Very sad.

But with Mexican wrestling posters and yes, a Hilary Duff pillow, I can't go wrong.

Shortly after arrival, lady rider Cat pulls in on her BMW; now there are two bikes here. She’s up from Texas via Alaska, and we have a lot to chat about over a light dinner of couscous thingy, tea, and some generously offered carrot sticks and some victuals from her stash. A great way to end another day.

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Old 10-06-2010, 07:13 PM   #6
shaweetz OP
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Location: Ottawa, CDN
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Thunder Bay to Sioux Narrows

I woke and rolled out at a good time thanks to not having to break camp. I didnít sleep that well, but it wasnít on account of the creepy story about this room, I don't think. I looked it up: a middle-aged fellow. They figured heíd had a heart attack and driven his pickup straight into a retaining wall at a downtown church. Very sad indeed. I wonder if the strong mothball odour in this room had anything to do with it. It sure makes me a bit light-headed.

I rode into Thunder Bay for coffee with Cat (and got lost), whose rear tire is totally squared off so sheís trying to get a new one from the local Kawasaki dealer. On the way in, we stopped for a moment at this very beautiful monument:

For non-Canadian readers, this is the monument to Terry Fox, a young man who lost his leg to cancer and electrified the nation by trying to run across the country. He never made it, losing his life in 1981. Today millions run in his name to raise funds and awareness for cancer research. He is probably the closest thing we have to a national hero.

1981 seems like a very long time ago.

My new acquaintance, heading, actually, for my hometown:

New friends, great motorcycles. Life is good.

So out of Thunder Bay there is a choice: the direct route via 17, or a detour down 11 that takes you to Fort Frances. A rather glum fellow from Winnipeg on an old Goldwing is not much help when I ask for some local insight about which route I ought to take. I choose 11. I hear Quetico is quite nice.

Now, I know there is a lot more yet to come, but out on 11 to Fort Frances, there is nothing. And more nothing. The tarmac is great, traffic is light, the weather is beautiful. They stick this up to keep you interested:

You know itís bad when thereís a sign announcing the approach of another sign, in 2km. This one (rocking my new $4 haircut):

I meet up with Mr. Goldwing at the Atikokan gas stop. He has little to say. I guess he's falling asleep too.

Och. I catch myself nodding off so nap time is a priority. At an overlook, thereís nowhere near the bike for the hammock I brought, so I lay out in the only shade, a patch of grass next to the bike littered with old butts and other questionable items. Nothing smells funny or is sharp, so it is the perfect spot to nod off.

Tea would be nice. I go into the pannier to get the fixings.

Now, Iím still figuring out that the camera has to be handy, and furthermore you have to remember to reach for it. I open up the pannier to get the stove and am welcomed by a full-on yoghurt explosion. :-(

I picked up some yoghurts this AM and stuffed them in the box, loose, which made good sense at the time, but not so much anymore, now that I squished the lid closed and blew one out. About half of one is all over the gear inside the box. Feck! It's tough to take photos when your hands are covered in yoghurt, so I don't. Blech. I skip tea.

Just past Fort Frances, this:

I met some kids here at the gas bar, and Iím disappointed to say they were not hipster poseurs. Iím sure they are there somewhere, in their healthy safe commune community whatever.

Finally the Lake of the Woods area starts to get interesting and very pretty, but I'm too tired to care. At long last, I arrive at the Sioux Narrows PP, where my exhausted self discovers I have to drive up this

to get to my site: 6 to 8 inches of fluffy brand new road dirt. Road tires don't cut it, and I get stuck even with a good run. One serious rooster tail and a filthy bike later, I get unstuck; not bad. Remember I am an ADV noob. This is really something. The super-nice warden lady feels bad for me, and later gives me more than one lift back to the parkís pay phone (a 10 minute walk) in the park's golf cart, a ride that apparently requires the donning of a helmet.

My aunt was wondering why Iíd sacrifice valuable cargo space to bring a can of Plexus. Hereís why:

Soon enough, I will learn that this is NOTHING

A glorious night, quiet campground, no neighbours, nice temperature and no fly on the tent. Perfection.

The upside of this soft road is that the following morning there is deer sign all over it.

Taking it easy, waiting for some laundry to dry, and hopefully tonight Iíll manage to stay with a friend in Winnipeg. Manitoba.

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Old 06-27-2012, 01:19 PM   #7
Joined: Dec 2007
Location: Belton, Texas
Oddometer: 7

Thanks for sharing, looks like you had a great ride. Contemplating a cross country on my 2007 T100 and am trying to decide on panniers. I currently have the small Triumph bags and they are not nearly large enough. Do you have suggestions after your experiences? Thanks.
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Old 07-08-2013, 10:50 PM   #8
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Laugh Bumpity-bump!

I googled "touring on a Bonneville" and ran into this thread. Thanks Mike for the awesome story, photos and poignant ending.

You are right, life is not Hollywood. Life is life. Thank you for taking the time to remind me.
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