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Old 06-19-2010, 07:00 PM   #1
ChrisZ OP
Exploring, Not Lost
 
Joined: Apr 2009
Location: New York, NY
Oddometer: 175
New York to Ohio, Via Montana and Canada: 4 Weeks On The Road

New York to Ohio, Via Montana and Canada: 4 Weeks On The Road

19th June 2010
Every journey begins with a few simple words:

Once Upon A Time…

Well, I don’t know that this will be an epic, fairy tale-esque journey, but it’s mine, and it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while.

A little Background:
I had a bike years ago, in the 1990s when I was in my mid 20s. My first trip, once I got my license, was Key West on a new Yamaha Seca II (I actually drove down on the temporary license). Why Key West? Well, it was far away (having never driven myself, it was also my first real road trip) and the bridge over the water looked really cool in the movie True Lies (this was back before YouTube meant you could search pretty much any video of any place on earth you wanted). I liked the ride, I liked the adventure, I liked the new scenery (being from Michigan and New York, the northeast scenery all tends to look the same to me). Flash forward a bit, and I go cross-country and really love Nevada and Utah with the scenery being so very different than the northeast.

Due to youthful indiscretion (yes, thinking with the wrong head), a minor accident totaled my bike in 1996 and fractured my collar bone (no scars, but some bragging rights – I went from the hospital to the Tuesday hang at Ear Inn THAT VERY NIGHT). Foolishly, for personal and financial reasons, I didn’t get another bike, put it off, forgot about it, and time moved on a bit. Due to a variety of gods little challenges, I have limited depth perception so while a car was basically a self-imposed “no no”, bikes (powered and pedaled) really felt fine. It’s boring, but in a nutshell, my right eye is rubbish so trying to judge distance from the front right edge of the hood of a car was never pretty). Motorcycle, it’s basically front to whatever's in front, so much like walking (only faster).

But in the back of my mind, nibbling away: “BMW GS… BMW GS… BMW GS….”

I’ve always liked the look of the GS, and remembered – vaguely – sitting on one in the 90s when they were the new R1100, and had ridden and R1100RT and liked that too. It was different than the Japanese bikes and Harleys I’d ridden.

Back to the Present:
I was turning 40, had gotten way too sedentary, and now had a sort of relatively stressful job that made me appreciate the attraction of a vacation in ways I never previously have. After the usual kvetching about a GS being tall (I’m 5’6”, 29” inseam) including driving my co-workers crazy talking about it, and going to a dealer to sit on the big beast GS-Adventure (which I later found out was taller than the non-Adventure) the verdict was still on. The dealer bike was really tall and disturbingly heavy for me, who hadn’t sat on a bike for more than 10 years. After more kvetching, approaching my 40th, a GS and a road trip(s) seemed a perfectly reasonable start/ending of a midlife crisis. In September 2009 I bought a 1999 R1100GS from a guy in Massachusetts who did a great job enabling my desire by telling me “you’ll be fine” with one foot on the ground being enough to hold up the beast (I’ve ridden big bikes, 1500cc GoldWings, Harley tourers.. they all had the weight down low) . From his house in Mass. on a weeks trip around the sound, and it was love. I really loved this bike. It was big, it was a pig, at slow speeds it felt like it was looking for an excuse to fall over, but it was just still so amazingly odd yet confident yet oddly lovable.

Trip Planning:
Alaska seemed attractive, googling that brought me to advrider.com and also made me realize I wasn’t ready for that trip in terms of money, experience on the beast, or time off. February 4th, 2010 I turned 40, and it was important for me to make the trip BEFORE I turned 41. Not entirely arbitrary, also to serve as motivation to DO IT – to get the bike and take the trip.

Plan B evolved around visiting the northern US states I’d missed on my last cross-country trip, Wyoming, Montana, Dakotas, Minnesota. Checking schedules, I found Vintage Days in Ohio would be happening July 10/11 and the following weekend Honda Superbike races, with a natural break of week to shoot up to Traverse City, Michigan to see my mother and visit the grave of my father who’d recently passed away. Having been to Ohio many times, driving west thru Ohio and the “I” states seemed like covering the same ground I’d already covered, so up thru Canada then back in thru Montana.

So there we are: rough outline, with 4 weeks on the road.


Loaded and ready to roll. The blue Sealine bag has tent, sleeping bag, Thermarest, VERY compact cooking kit. Bagster tank cover and bag, Kermit chair tucked under Sealine.


What I WON’T need for the next 4 weeks.


What I WILL need for the next 4 weeks.


First day nothing fancy, slabbing north, 350-ish miles.


Cheap hotel in Thousand Islands New York area, the driveway is uniquely bad. I saw other motels and businesses around, this driveway was the wildist. Entering Canada toward the evening of a Saturday seemed like a bad idea.


The room: it’s clean, I can park in front, and it’s cheap. I’m travelling solo, so nobody around to complain.


I’ve stayed in a lot of cheap motels, first time I’ve seen this.



Also a nice touch, keep it simple (and cheap).
__________________
1999 BMW R1100GS (with add-ons to make it heavier and more beastly to scare the locals)

NYC, NY (Until 3rd May, anyway)
www.ChristopherZguris.com / New York to Ohio, Via Canada and Montana 2010: 4 Weeks On The Road

ChrisZ screwed with this post 06-27-2010 at 10:30 AM
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Old 06-19-2010, 07:17 PM   #2
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Interesting intro Looking forward to more
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Old 06-23-2010, 02:16 PM   #3
ChrisZ OP
Exploring, Not Lost
 
Joined: Apr 2009
Location: New York, NY
Oddometer: 175
21st June 2010: “We don’t have any bagels.”

Leaving New York State, entering Ontario, Canada, the plan is to go up and over Michigan by way of Canada because the return leg of the trip will be thru states in the US I’ve travele many times.

My pre-conceived notions of Canada are largely based on a childhood quasi-traumatic experience in the late 1970s when I was perhaps 7 or 8 where my sister won tickets from a radio station to some rock concert event in the middle of nowheresville Canada. To this day, I remember driving with my mom, sister and her friend FOREVER in our station wagon, to get to this event in the dark, then driving FOREVER again. That’s the memory: long, endless roads of barren emptiness. That, and experiencing my french fries arrive with gravy. Culturally, Degrassi Junior High and the follow-ons were pretty much it. While I certainly love a lot of British TV so get a lot of the cultural references and humor, far less so with Canada. So going into Ontario, I didn’t know what to expect, but did my best to leave my cultural hangups behind me. I’d done the research: had passport, had the Canadian insurance card my broker sent me.


Border crossing: one lane open, but it moves very quickly. Border agent (a dude: I’ve read the female agents can me more difficult). Covers the list quickly, efficiently and with good demeanor (not hostile, not friendly, but serious). How long are you staying? Are you bringing any alcohol or tobacco? What’s your address? Is that a new bike (well no, it’s 1999!) and I’m on my way.


Smaller bridge leading to bigger bridge, awesome view of the region.


Bigger bridge coming up, then I’m in Canada.


First stop, gas breakfast. It was here were the old fears sort of started to tingle deep in the recesses of my childhood brain. Coffee and a bagel sounds good, the weather in nice, it’s very scenic/rustic/rural the way I like it, and the gas station/coffee shop/bagel shop looks perfect. I’d a like coffee and a bagel,“We don’t have any bagels” the cashier says politely as he proceeds to walk over to the self service coffee bar that I COMPLETELY missed as I did a scan of the room (in my defense, the cups were a different size than I’m used to and dark on dark in a darkish room). Slight confusion sets in on my part wondering why a bagel shop would have no bagels – NONE – at around 9am on a Monday, a muffin works just as well though, and I apologize for not realizing it’s self-service coffee. Payment is made, I am given a 2 Loonie coin as change, it’s a $2 coin. From what I gather Canada phased on paper $1s and $2s? The idea has merit, and it’s a pretty cool looking coin.



1 Loonie on left, 2 Loonie on right. Dollar coins in the United States continue to be an ongoing saga.



Also outside the gas station. Haven’t seen on years, they removed them in the states because people kept abusing them, but we’re in Canada where people are nice and know what manners are for a nice change from New York City.


Quick stop to check my GPS: the screen went pure white but it kept talking a reset brought it back. Later on, I would drop it and crack the screen.. woops. I had taken to hiding it in my tankbag at stops (thinking like an American), and got punished for it I suppose. Steel horse, real horse. See the connection?


Traffic stop on 6 on my way to Tobermory to catch the Tobermory-Manitoulin Island ferry


Boring shot perhaps, but the kind of scenery I like. Wide open and empty.


Missed the ferry (like I care, I've got 4 weeks), hunkered down at the Maple Ridge campground, 4510 Highway #6, R.R. #1 Miller Lake, Ontario N0H1Z0. $15 for a spot, the food at the restaurant is very good. Fish and chips, battered mushrooms. The Labatts Blue (5% alcohol by volume) card tempting me, I came up with solid and entirely plausible rationalization: “it’s not in the continental U.S, and I really SHOULD try a REAL Canadian beer in Canada.” Ask for a Labatts, get corrected that’s a “Blue” and it is indeed awesome. Having not had a beer in years, it’s better than good, it’s a guilty little pleasure.

Impressions of Ontario: I love it. I stop at he Grey Roots Museum (www.greyroots.com) or no reason but it being there, looking interesting, and being a foreign culture altogether that looks to be worth exploring a bit. I am impressed with the quality of the exhibits especially the interactive touches (computer-controlled, lots of buttons for kids and adults to push). They are running a Dragons Exhibit for the kids that is also very hands on, and as I wonder the museum it makes me wish I had kids to bring here to see it.

The people are very friendly, even the drivers. While going thru Toronto (even after being cautioned that “you don’t want to Toronto”) the drivers seem to behave themselves around me (not sure if it’s because I’m a motorcycle, foreign, or inherent niceness). Around each other, more aggressive but nowhere near as downright hostile that I’m used to down south in America.

The roads are nice, there is good signage, the back roads I take (and back BACK roads) have me smiling for miles and the overall experience and feeling is “Yeah, I’d like to be Canadian” because it seems like they’ve got things worked out. Even what I believe to perhaps have been a bad part of Toronto (where I stopped for gas), didn’t seem so bad to me. The whole social contract of what a government should be doing sort of clicks for me here (I’m sure there will be detractors). Whereas as an American I pay high taxes for a questionable outcome including the awful health insurance industry, Canadians seem to pay high taxes but get good roads, good signs, health care, and an atmosphere that makes them both happy and proud to be Canadian. I noticed many cemeteries, and they were all well-maintained (including some on farms) with lots of fresh flowers. I noticed kids walking home from school, and cars all stopping – without complaint – for school buses. Yeah – I wouldn’t mind being Canadian.

__________________
1999 BMW R1100GS (with add-ons to make it heavier and more beastly to scare the locals)

NYC, NY (Until 3rd May, anyway)
www.ChristopherZguris.com / New York to Ohio, Via Canada and Montana 2010: 4 Weeks On The Road
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Old 06-23-2010, 07:09 PM   #4
ChrisZ OP
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Joined: Apr 2009
Location: New York, NY
Oddometer: 175
23rd June 2010: “you will need to tie down, but they'll supply the ties”


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8:50am scheduled departure of the Tobermory Ferry ($15.95 for me + $18.15 for the bike), told the day before that motorcycles get to go the front and board first (not unusual, we take up less space so they can cram us into the front nooks of the ship. The only thing is, once you arrive, it feels like EVERY CAR on the ship is behind you ready to roll. I don’t know about other people, but at that point I’m thinking “please God, let me NOT fuckup and drop this beast.” The trick is to put that out of your mind, lest the universe hear your request and grant it with a shuddering thud that blocks 1 to 2 lanes. Packing in the hotel, I’m told “they make you tie down, but they provide the ties.” I mull this over (last big ferry I was on – the Cape May, NJ – Lewes, DE ferry - didn’t require tying down, just park back to the hull, leave in gear, and that ferry moved quite a bit).
Now this is the great lakes, water that killed the Edmond Fitzgerald, so that with a big bike like the GS seemingly with a proclivity for falling over anyway if given the opportunity (something about a pig liking mud I guess).

I repeat in a couple different ways “but they provide the tiedowns?” to confirm I’ve got that right and because it’s not registering that anyone would provide ANYTHING anyway. Get to the ferry, buy ticket, go to the front of a lane with 4 other bikes including a 2005 GoldWing in SPOTLESS condition.

We get to talking, they make a comment about “but you know how to fix it” in regards to the GS. Sadly, less than I’d like. I suppose the bike with it’s big appearance and tons of crap on board suggests the rider must know how to fix it. Or perhaps these Honda owners are former BMW owners and are speaking from experience. Moving on, we board the ferry, we go right to the front, and I’m parked RIGHT next to shiny blue ‘Wing, within falling distance and we are guided to our positions between rings on the deck, one on either side, we park facing bow-stern.

Tie-downs are lengths of hemp rope looped on the wall, we indeed are on our own. My experience tying down a bike entails pushing the front wheel up against something, and compressing the front forks so during bounce it won’t unload and fall over (in the case of the GS, that would be “fall over with glee”). On this ship, I’ve got eye rings roughly above my cylinder heads, and nothing in front or back. The gameplan – because we have to have a gameplan, even if flawed and nonsensical – is to keep it in gear (obviously) to prevent roll, and tie down the left sidestand side tight, and the right less so. We’re going on the theory that fall over would be the bigger concern. Because I’m parked next to a bike beladden in shiny plastic, it’s the REALLY bigger concern. Translation: I don’t want to fuck up and test the patient of (I would find out) a Canadian welder and his buddy. The guy with the ‘Wing looks over a couple times, I’m assuming fear of getting smacked by a GS as high on his mind as it is on mind. In my case, it’s on roughly the same level as having to pick the fully-loaded beast up, with a bunch of angry cars behind me (as angry as the seemingly-always-polite Canadians can get, I don’t want to test this). Being unaware of maritime law or custom, for all I know they might just swivel the GS on its head over the side to clear the deck, like they’d do for aircraft carriers during Vietnam. On closer thought, I rule this out believing there must be Canadian environmental law against burying a gas-laden motorcycle in the great lakes (my seeing vast fields of wind farms the previous day fortifies me on this one).



Bike stowed, the 18-wheeler next to us is RIGHT up to the bow, and fairly close to the guy in front of me. I had “2 ratcheting tie downs” on my list, just not high priority.. I was dumb. With all the other shit I’ve got, tie-downs are a no-brainer.


View from the deck, I’m hanging out with the two GoldWingers, we BS about the havoc the G20 Summit is causing in Toronto (saw it on the news), can’t figure out why they would need to hold it IN THE MIDDLE OF A CITY so that even schools need to be closed. My guess is the delegates wives/husbands/girlfriends like the convenient shopping this provides. Honestly, they could hold that sort of event right around here and inconvenience nobody. I also learn that this lake is closed for a couple months for ice (I thought it was open year around), and that fishing with “live bait” is prohibited. On this point – while I spent some of my formative years on a lake, and did fish – I come across like “cityfolk” I’m sad to say. “What – like worms?” I ask, to which I’m politely and patiently told “no, minnows and other fish” the reason being fear that they’re reproduce like crazy in the lakes. “Ah, like zebra mussels” I exclaim. We go around like that for a while, I learn quite a lot from these guys who live here and know the area.

I go off for a coffee and covert souveniring (stickers and t-shirts – if they’re cool – on the list). The coffee is not bad (“there’s always coffee on a ship, hon” echoing in my head from the crew on the Cape May ferry crew). I throw down a 2-dollar Loonie as if I’m used to dealing with it). Souvenirs are limited (for me), t-shirts are nothing I’d ever wear, I buy a pin with the crest of the ship, and a little sort of miniature bobble head moose magnet. The ‘Wing guys have warned me to beware of moose, so they’re fresh on my mind. I will find the moose crossing signs later on particularly unsettling: a yellow sign with a moose in jumping/charging silhouette. Do they do this? Are they waiting on the side of the road preparing their attack?


Lighthouse – I don’t know which one. The gift shop sells postcards of it though, so it’s important or significant in some way. The ‘Wingers explain that the lighthouses are now mostly automated, which seems a shame to me.


Me on the left, 2005 Wing on the right, we were close enough to share a ring on the deck. He’s on his center stand , I am not. A) I’m not sure that’s any better than on the side stand in gear, b) I didn’t think about it until after I tied the roads and the ship was moving. This is as we’re docking, so no fallovers, bitches. The bright white sign warns us NOT to run our engines; something about gas fumes in a closed space I'd bet.


Scenic shot, it was way more better being there. Leaving the ferry, going up 6, very remote and quiet, liked it a lot.


Heading toward Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. One minute I’m stopped at a gas station drinking a Diet Coke a eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich I made yesterday (we call in the adventure bike community call that thinking ahead), the next minute it’s drizzle followed by downpour. This was the storm the gas station attendant had said an RV coming thru had reported as “really bad.” It was really bad, but it was fairly short-lived because it was going the opposite way I was, thankfully. Like a dork, I forgot to velcro shut the weather strip on my jacket that covers the front zipper. Yep: with the zipper uncovered, that jacket takes on water pretty bad. It wasn’t cold out, so no biggie. Visibility from the mist at times was way too limited than I’d have liked, but stopping on the side of the road on a the narrow shoulder seemed like an epically foolish idea with limited visibility out there.

Weather cleared, jacket dried, and my hands are now dyed black. I’m a hotel now in Sault St. Marie, Ontario eating a delivered pizza that is as bad as you’d expect. No offense to anyone, but I have NEVER EVER had a good Italian food delivery experience on the road. I should have been a realist and just bought more bread for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Oh: and I’ve got a bit of a cough and I’m stuffed up on my right side including my ear, which is mildly annoying. Will need to find some sort of ear cleaner deal at a pharmacy tomorrow or something. I can hear my music thru it, so it’s not life-threatening. I think a co-worker gave me his hacking cough, the bastard. Trapped in a small office with a carrier, the bastard.

Just hit the Coke vending machine, one of the staff here reported a tornado touched down someone "not very close" and took out a Honda dealer's roof. I don't have a weather radio, those radios with the alert tone thing sound cool, but if it went off, what exactly would I do? Does the alarm mean imminent doom, or just possible random doom within 20 (10?) miles?

I'm going to convince myself that the odds are WAY against getting hit by a tornado, much like getting struck by lightening.
__________________
1999 BMW R1100GS (with add-ons to make it heavier and more beastly to scare the locals)

NYC, NY (Until 3rd May, anyway)
www.ChristopherZguris.com / New York to Ohio, Via Canada and Montana 2010: 4 Weeks On The Road
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Old 06-23-2010, 07:45 PM   #5
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Old 06-26-2010, 06:41 AM   #6
ChrisZ OP
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Joined: Apr 2009
Location: New York, NY
Oddometer: 175
24th June 2010: Is that a cop turning his lights on and doing a u-turn to persue me?

Stopped by OPP (Ontario Provincial Police?), while my GPS sometimes said 138 KPH, I’m not saying I was going 138 KPH. But that’s later in the story. Starting from the beginning..


My room in Sault Ste. Marie (yes I took this picture in the morning, no I didn’t make my bed).From the couch to the captains bed complete with a futon-esque “matress” this is what makes stopping at independent (non-franchise) motels cool. I am reminded of a recent Studio 360 radio show on Psycho, check it out here.



Going up 17, to go around Lake Superior with the plan to end up around Thunder Bay more-or-less. It is cool, it is misty (visibility in this shot is good compared to some moments). With my passenger seat off and camping gear placed right on the rack, I have found I cannot get into my saddle bags, where my warm and comfy Aerostich Polarfleece and wamer (and dry) gloves reside. I realized I had packed a smaller Sealine bag within the main blue Sealine bag, so the black one now carries cooking stuff and groceries, strapped to the back. To keep things safe and secure, I strap the blue bag on with 2 Helen2Wheels straps, THEN the black bag on with 2 more straps? Result is great security and a royal pain in the ass to remove should I want to get into my saddle bags. Work in progress, that.



At Wawa, Ontario (well, Wawa was across the road from this weird service area of gas, lodging and food). After BUYING GAS WITH A CREDIT CARD at Esso right down the muddy street, I stop at this place for lunch. It is pack gravel and dirt and less packed dirt, it is an odd parking lot, I am confused, but I enjoy splushing a bit in the muck.



Looking down toward the ESSO at which I’d previously refueled.



Looking the other way, into the parking lot road, whatever. Across the road is Wawa proper (note the sign). I leave, and get out about 5 minutes before passing a cop. I’m not the fastest, the 2 cars in front clearly were. The Cop does a U-turn, and hits his lights. “Ah shit.. “ I mumble. The Cop is WAY back behind, maybe he’s doing something else. Then he gets closer, but not super close on my ass or anything. It’s one-lane in each direction, I’m wearing headphones, so am not sure he’s actually after me. I slow down, he slows down (doesn’t pass me), I pull over, he pulls over. “Ah shit..” I mumble again as a get my helmet and headphones out lest that also be an issue. “We have a report from the [gas station] of a black BMW motorcycle leaving without paying the $17,” I explain that I bought the gas, then went for lunch, so it was like 30 minutes since I refueled. “Do you have a receipt?” at which point it takes me a second to realize I do, which is lucky because I normally don’t (I might be in jail by now). He looks at it, it’s ESSO for $12 and the station that got taken was not the ESSO and NOT for $12.


Cop walks back to his SUV, comes back, I ask “was it a guy in this orange and grey jacket?” (how many of those can there be in the gas-food-lodging industrial stop across from Wawa, Ontario?). “Yep” the cop says, then I’m totally confused. Cop then says “they made a mistake, this has happened before, I’m going to go talk to the gas station.” The actual description of the incident is confusing: it seems the alleged non-payer actually DID pay but the gas station guy got confused . How that confusion lead to a report matching my description (black BMW bike, orange and grey jacket) is the mystery (my guess is I was seen driving by and that was enough). The Cop says they usually check the recording and realize they were wrong. “Okay,” I say and am amazed at this whole situation and find the exact perfect way to put my foot in my mouth. I say “In New York, the Police wouldn’t care about this and wouldn’t respond.” I meant it as a compliment for a Police force that actually “serves and protects” small business too, the Cop takes it as an insult and comments “this is Ontario and that’s theft” then proceeds to move out. I am now probably marked as a suspected gas thief and will never be allowed back into Ontario.



A stop to adjust my headphones, GPS (with crack) and iPod visible. All working well, very happy.



These signs are all over the place, as warned yesterday, Lake Superior is full of moose. This – to me – goes beyond a “deer crossing” sort of sign: this sign indicates a large antlered menace waiting, plotting, in the dense foliage on the side of the road for dusk/dark to come so that they can wreak havoc against all who pass. Why? I don’t know. My feeling is deer wander out because they’re dumb, while moose do it because they want to.



Still working on my skillz taking pictures while riding. The entire 17 around Lake Superior so far is nice roads of sweeping (and mostly empty) turns like this one, often next to Superior and/or other bodies of water, rock, just absolute beauty.



Another picture that DOES NOT do justice to how nice it is in real life.
I find an overpriced crap hotel outside Nipigong near Thunder Bay Ontario with no WiFi and call it a night aware that those moose are getting ready for carnage.


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__________________
1999 BMW R1100GS (with add-ons to make it heavier and more beastly to scare the locals)

NYC, NY (Until 3rd May, anyway)
www.ChristopherZguris.com / New York to Ohio, Via Canada and Montana 2010: 4 Weeks On The Road

ChrisZ screwed with this post 06-26-2010 at 06:46 AM
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Old 06-26-2010, 07:14 PM   #7
ChrisZ OP
Exploring, Not Lost
 
Joined: Apr 2009
Location: New York, NY
Oddometer: 175
25th June 2010: look at those flies!!!



Motel in Manitoba. Manitoba seems very different than Ontario. Where Ontario had hills, sweeping roads, and lakes Manitoba doesn’t. Flat straight roads not as nice as Ontario, and massive black flies!

First stop for gas, it is very… odd. It’s combination gas station, restaurant, and motel with maybe 6 rooms. They are full, I’m told there’s another motel about 7 minutes down the road, but I’m cautioned that the rooms may not be “as modern.” I go to that motel, it is indeed “less modern” as the picture above shows. It is, however clean, and it is the last room. Wierdly, the room is unlocked: I’m cheerily told to just leave it unlocked when I leave. I’m now maybe 100 Ks from Winnipeg.

Googling Manitoba, I find the majority of the population lives in Winnipeg, with a minority living in the rest of the province. While I will need to go thru Winnipeg tomorrow, the good news is once I’m thru it, there shouldn’t be anyone around elsewhere because they’re all in Winnipeg!!
__________________
1999 BMW R1100GS (with add-ons to make it heavier and more beastly to scare the locals)

NYC, NY (Until 3rd May, anyway)
www.ChristopherZguris.com / New York to Ohio, Via Canada and Montana 2010: 4 Weeks On The Road
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Old 06-26-2010, 07:21 PM   #8
ChrisZ OP
Exploring, Not Lost
 
Joined: Apr 2009
Location: New York, NY
Oddometer: 175
26th June 2010: destination Moose Jaw


Gratuitous bike shot from my room in the morning outside the Manitoba motel.


The drive to Winnipeg: very straight, this will be most of what I see in Manitoba. I like Ontario more.

One wrong turn and my GPS aka “Magic Voice” is really unhappy. Correcting my navigational mistake to get back to where Magic Voice wanted me to go, and she will have none of it, she then routes me THRU Winnipeg, which is lovely. I see the train station, government buildings, all very nice. I also almost have an accident when a boy racer in a car smaller than my bike zips in to a merged lane. I am perhaps a foot off his car, but no impact. This asshat move makes the guy behind him (next to me) honk angrily, so it wasn’t just me I suppose.

IF you’ve seen “Long Way ‘Round”, the scene where a local driver in a Canadian town backs up, then keeps backing up, then continues to back up into traffic until he knocks Charley off his bike, it was a situation like that. Just oddly stupid and pointless, small Japanese car revving and zooming short distances for not particularly useful reason beyond perceived skill far short of reality. I envision the othe accident scene in “Long Way ‘Round” where a boy racer in a small car with dark windows plows into the back of Ewan McGregor on the highway as he misses the stopped traffic (including Ewan). Again, oddly randomly stupid.

In my case, the bike is fine, there is no contact, and racer boi is none the wiser, I suppose.

From Manitoba, after Winnipeg, I enter the province of Saskatchewan.


Saskatchewan I like! Wide open, farm country, my guess is this is best described as the open plains. All along the way, there were these sinking utility poles, the ground looks to be spongy, I guess maybe the freeze/thaw cycle thru the seasons is harsh. Winters must be brutal here.

Saskatchewan is wide open, the roads are fairly quiet. Almost all the side roads are gravel and dirt, which is very nice. Stopping for gas, I’m in gravel and dirt and the GS is very happy indeed.

It’s overcast, then goes to rain, I get wet a few times, no big deal, it’s no cold.

All thru Ontario and here in Saskatchewan I’ve seen touring bicyclists on the side of the road with panniers front and back, clearly decked out for some serious distance bicycling.

Stopped for gas, I run into one of these guys and we get to talking, his name is Kevin Glenney (kevinglenney.com). He quit his job to do this bicycle trip for charity, he’s been on the road for 4 months so far. He has GPS, a Netbook to blog, and uploads pictures from his travels. Check out his website, donate for his charity if you’d like.



This picture doesn’t do the “wide open, big sky country” view justice, but it’s meaningful to me. It is AMAZINGLY beautiful here in Saskatchewan.
Regina seems like the big city here, I pass thru it, and it’s very VERY windy. Coming out, on my way to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan it’s even more windy. It feels like the ass end of the bike is getting blown around.
I find a hotel in Moose Jaw, the owner confirms that it’s “very windy,” more so than normal, which is good news for me. I was beginning to worry that this was the norm for the plains, “wind comes sweeping down the plains” ringing in my head, even though I’m not in Oklahoma.



It took me a minute to realize the electrical outlet in front of my room wasn’t unique, all the rooms have them! An outlet for engine heaters for the winter. Good Christ what must winter be like here!?!?


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Old 06-27-2010, 09:47 AM   #9
teachnsurf
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Loving the write-up. Keep it coming, please.
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Old 06-27-2010, 05:27 PM   #10
ChrisZ OP
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27th June 2010: Tattoo Shops: One Closed Sundays, the Other Just CLOSED!!!

NOTE: IF you're family, don't read this, just skip ahead to the next post because this one is about gear and will bore you. In short: I DID NOT get another tattoo, I've still got just the two.
























For NON-family:
It seemed like a good idea: get another tattoo. I’ve got 3 right now, left arm sports a tribal band on my wrist and scorpion further up around my elbow with tail peeking down below my short sleeve cuff. Right arm has a tribal dragon covering most of the forearm. Two on one arm, one on the other hence a "symmetry" issue by any objective standard.

So, new tattoo, something "authentically Saskatchewan" (whatever that may be), a way to remember my time in Canada, have bragging rights and a great conversation starter. The killer moose seemed like a cool idea for a tattoo:

“Oh, that tattoo? I got that in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Yeah.. that’s in Canada. It's a killer moose, because they have them up there, as big as small cars and twice as mean.”

Childish? Perhaps. Foolish? Well that’s relative, obviously.

With that simple premise, and not being entirely sure of what time it is where I am (all my stuff was in Eastern Standard, I suspected I might be in Central so dropped an hour, but the microwave in my hotel showed 2 dropped – should I trust a microwave though?). Yes, I forgot to ask the hotel owner what time it was, and didn't want to call on the phone because I'd have felt like a total knob.

I look in the yellow pages, there are NO listings for “tattoo” or “piercing” (maybe Canada works different listings-wise with the nanny state not wanting to encourage such antics). This is odd to me: this is “Moose Jaw” and I’m thinking rugged plains, mining town roots, that sort of thing. This is based on NOTHING WHATSOEVER of course. You think Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and you think at least they’ve got a got cool t-shirt and some decent tattoo shops, it’s not like I’m in Aspen or Teluride or some other yuppie haven, is it? It's a given that the turn-of-the-century bars and brothels are long gone, but tattoos are a time-honored tradition.

Googling, the results are unsettling, when "good tattoo artist in Moose Jaw Canada" only gives the same couple results WITHOUT review or recommendation, this is not a good sign (what? NOBODY who lives here got a good tattoo, or even a tattoo they thought was good?). A couple shops in Moose Jaw, one with a bad review, 2 with NO reviews. Neither have websites, one has ONE picture on FLikr of a hot chick with tats with no details. Is she the owner? Is she the artist? Who knows. It’s worth a shot though, maybe it will lead to a tattoo, or a t-shirt, maybe at least she’ll pose sitting on the bike (it’s not a Harley, so probably 50/50 on that one).

It is Sunday, I’m certain no tattoo shop will be open before 10am or 11am. I’m also in serious need of a shave, having decided as part of my vacation that I would indulge in barbershop shaves. Starting the second week, I’ve only seen ONE barber and didn’t stop, so I’m all scruffy yo. Room booked for another night, GPS navs to tattoo shop plugged in, off I go (yeah, whatever: I get lost easily and have a short attention span). I call ahead to check hours, there is no answering machine, just a generic voicemail message about being unavailable that comes on after many rings.... MANY rings. More rings than I'd normally wait, thus is the level of my commitment to this endeavor. My theory is if you as a business can't work out how to answer the phone within 3 rings, I'm willing to bet you're going to unable to whatever I was trying to get you to do.

I find the tattoo shop, and a banner above the street announcing some sort of bike week charity thing going on. This explains the Harleys I've seen (not a lot like Laconia, but more than I'd expect), all very shiny and clean (one even stalls in front of me at an intersection to give me a chance to admire it while I idle and balance, impressed at how much more nimble the GS is when unloaded with anything but a tankbag).

Downtown of Moose Jaw immediately gives me the yuppie skeeves, and I’m not sure I want a t-shirt or bragging rights, lest I run into someone who knows, sees the shirt, and thinks I’m an asshat. There are also street parking meters EVERYWHERE thus reinforcing my perceptions that this is NOT the “town” I’d expected. There are nicely planted flowers and plants everywhere, lots of street lights, stores that look suspiciously trendy (having seen New York City get progressively more trendy and having used to walk to work thru the trendiest parts, I fucking know trendy).

I park, put a Loonie in the meter because I can't see the street signs anywhere but the last Canadian traffic sign I did see looked way beyond my educational level to interpret (besides, WTF am I going to do with Loonies when I leave Canada?), walk up to the tattoo parlor and sign says:

“Closed Sundays”

Regular hours are 10am-6pm. Huh? A tattoo shop, during a bike week event.. closed? What planet have I teleported to?!?!?!? A tattoo shop that ISN'T open late, and not on weekends. Not being open Friday would make sense, because that's prime time for drunk assholes looking to get ink they can regret getting by Monday(ish).

Gut reaction is these are signs of a place I don’t want a tattoo from (now if I were a cute blonde 19 year old college girl looking for a small rose or Tweety Bird tat for my ankle, perhaps I’d feel differently, but I’m not-- you knew that, right?). Already I have made significant investment, it is time to either cut bait and run, or throw down and maybe stay another day? I do the math and decide to cut bait. There is almost no chance of this turning out as an awesome experience and an awesome tattoo or a good story. First tattoo shop DOWN.

Moving on to the second one, I almost miss it because it is in a sort of strip mall thing, hidden around the corner, next to a Dairy Queen. As I circle around the block (having missed the DQ parking lot turn being unable to wrap my head around a DQ/tattoo shop combo) I’m wondering what the odds are of a good tattoo shop being next to a Dairy Queen and whether I’d want their ink adorning my body for the duration of my life (short of unplanned amputation, obviously), haunting me (and anyone I’d be honest with about its origins). And pulling in to the parking lot, they look closed. Upon closer inspection, the “For Rent” sign dispels any confusion on the subject.

Those two experiences, added to the shiny Harleys (no grime, no dirt), and driving by a tapas bar clinches it that this is NOT a town where a good tattoo will be had. There will be no “yeah.. I got that one in Moose Jaw..” clever or rugged tattoo (a passable Tweety Bird of rose might be pushing it, if I'm honest about me feelings).

The special moment has passed, it is now entering the realm of awkward and forced. Put another way, "the moment" to kiss has passed, in this case NEVER EVER to come back. I’m down a Loonie for parking (the $1, gives me two hours, I had nothing smaller), I got off cheap and I’ve little doubt this town will be pricey for tattoos Tweety Bird, rose or otherwise.

The t-shirt situation is equally off-putting. When asked about Moose Jaw t-shirts (I’m not even that clever and I can think of clever potential designs), the motel owner had suggested Wal-Mart (yeah—I don’t think so). I keep it simple, and try the gas station convenience store: they have generic Canada, but no “Moose Jaw” having apparently long ago come to a conclusion of the place I only recently came to. Maybe there's a business opportunity there: cool t-shirts for bikers for towns they visited designed by people who actually have some design skills (sold to people who VISITED the town, nobody likes someone who has rally shirts for rallies they never went do, that's a Bigus Dickus move).

Avoid Moose Jaw and go to Key West, Florida instead. They have better t-shirts and are just as expensive.

Tomorrow I head back to Montana thru what I have read is the cool town of Loring, where I may find a barbershop (in the United States, the town barber is - unless I'm mistaken - a tradition). Tonight’s agenda includes doing my laundry in my motel room.

Cooking Gear Overview:


Sealine Baja 30HD bag (the boot in the shot is for scale). In addition to the round blue bag full of stuff pictured below, it also holds extra fuel for the pocket stove and whatever food I buy along the way. Right now, it’s got half a box of crackers, more oatmeal, a jar of creamy peanut butter, a jar of jelly, and some bread. A note on the bread: put it in LAST so it’s closest to the top, be careful not to strap it it. I had WonderBread in there a couple days ago (the whole wheat WonderBread.. who knew they did whole wheat?), and it got smooshed. Smooshed WonderBread ain’t pretty, it's doughy-gooey nasty actually.

These Sealine bags, with a roll top, are totally waterproof. This one, loaded with food etc is not all that heavy and it’s strapped on LAST, sort of over the luggage rack. It’s on with two Helen2Wheels straps, so not all the difficult to do/undo as needed to resupply. It's very manly and impressive to be on in a parking lot packing foodstuffs like that... very adventurer even.


Round bag custom made by an inmate on advrider sized to fit inside the Sealine bag.


A couple Teflon pots, cup, some cheapie tin lids from a mess kit I plan to use for a stand for the pocket stove, a Spork (green plastic), a ziplock bag filed with instant oatmeal, some sweeteners and miso cup of soups.


Cheap cutting board from K-Mart I cut down with a Dremel tool to fit inside the round bag, a Rachel Ray knife with sheath (because that’s all I could find.. honestly), an immersion heater to boil water when I’m in a hotel, an Esbit pocket stove with some extra fuel tablets, a spatula with the handle cut down a bit, a handle for the Teflon pots, a foil pouch used to rehydrate stuff filled with freezer bags used to hold stuff to be rehydrated (put stuff like oatmeal in freezer bag, put freezer bag in foil pouch, let sit).
__________________
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NYC, NY (Until 3rd May, anyway)
www.ChristopherZguris.com / New York to Ohio, Via Canada and Montana 2010: 4 Weeks On The Road

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Old 06-30-2010, 06:17 PM   #11
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Joined: Apr 2009
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28th June 2010


Loaded and ready to roll outside the motel in Moose Jaw.



I continue to be impressed by the Bagster tank cover and bag. Here’s the bag clipped in.



Bag unclipped at the front, flipped back for VERY easy fueling. That’s the most awesome feature to me: EASY REFUELING.



Closeup of one of the two front clips



Heading toward the border between Canada and Montana USA, it’s windy again, and the road is graded. The grading naturally makes the bike a little more skittery, there’s no rain but there are OFTEN these signs. I have NO IDEA what they are telling me. Graded surface? Uneven surface because of the grading? Nothing other than graded road surface is found though, so that is good.

Closer to the border, the roads are a patchwork, very interesting, very remote, very fun. There are these – what I’m guessing – are prairie dogs that keep running across the road. They run often, I see few dead remains, so I figure they’re fairly good at judging speed and risk. They’re about the size of a large rat or small cat maybe, but they run with their heads held up. Cute little buggers, glad I didn’t hit any.

Still on the Canada side of the border, I come over a hill to see a large set of antlers on a large animal on the side of the road. We are both startled, he nods his head aggressively, I nod mine equally aggressively and yell “fuck YOU, deer!” as loud as I can. The look in his eyes makes clear he really wanted to run out and try to tag me (before I yelled at him).
Later on, I see two deer on the other side of the road, in the grass. I slow down, they look startled and run away.

The camera I’ve been using, the one leashed and velcro’d to the tankbag locked up and killed its battery a while ago, so on-bike pictures are limited.


At the border, a historic marker. I take the opportunity to stop for a lunch (peanut butter and jelly sandwich I made the night before, it tastes VERY good right about now).



Closeup of the plaque on the marker.



The ACTUAL border marker, looking toward the U.S. side.


Markers and U.S. customs.



On the U.S. side, looking toward Canada. I have walked around the marker and thus the borders of these two countries. Honestly, there’s NOTHING going on here, it’s a speck of civilization fairly arbitrarily placed (the border where I entered Canada from New York had a river to define US/Canada). It’s hard to imagine how a border like this is really controlled in any way.



Bugs on the front: tons of bugs around here. Big black flies who – surprisingly – miss the relevance of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich I’ve got.



Driving into Montana, it’s noticeably hotter than Canada. I find an odd room in the very small town of Saco, Montana

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Travel Tip:
Carry an extra camera battery and/or a 12 volt-powered charger that will work off the bike. I’ve got a USB charger adapter with Powerlet plug that works from the GS for my blackberry, iPhone, and iPod, but not for the camera.

Gear Review:
I’ve been using an Olympus Tough camera for most of the pictures here (resized and down-sampled a bit to make them smaller for web viewing), it has stabilization (which is nice for on-bike photos) and is very waterproof (down to a 10 meters I think). What I did is put some Velcro on my tank bag and some on the camera, then added a small leash from a clip on the tank bag back to the camera (the “leash” being a shoelace cut to size with a key ring on the bag side and a quick release on the camera side for when I want to take it off the bike).

This camera has been drenched in Canada several times, dropped off the bike onto pavement once, and slipped out of my hand once to bang against the tank cover (here’s where the leash comes in handy) and it’s still working fine.

The battery seems to last pretty well, and both the camera and AC battery charger are fairly compact at roughly the size of a pack of cigarettes each. I’ve also got a larger, more fancy, camera that never gets used that will be in my “ship home” box.


The Olympus TOUGH camera face down on the Velcro on the tank bag. It has NEVER blown off, it’s on there solidly and leashed just in case. The leash is just long enough for me to get the camera about helmet height, I didn’t want it so long that it would get in the way or allow the camera to fall too far. Side benefit: I think this camera, sitting like this, is low profile enough that I’m fairly comfortable leaving it unattended (within reason). The black box next t o it is the AC battery charger that includes a flip-out recessed plug, the charger is about the same size as the camera, so very compact.


camera face-up with Velcro hastily affixed. The quick release keychain is also visible. The only real downside to this camera is the lens being very close to the top and side. When holding with gloves, you have to be careful to keep your pinky out of the shot, point it up as if you’re drinking tea. The TOUGH has larger buttons because it’s meant to be used wearing gloves, the power button takes a little practice to find, but the shutter button is EASY, big and easy to find. Because it’s so compact, it will easily fit in a jacket pocket when you leave the bike. Zoom is a bit limited though. Awesome camera, though: two thumbs up!!
__________________
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www.ChristopherZguris.com / New York to Ohio, Via Canada and Montana 2010: 4 Weeks On The Road
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Old 06-30-2010, 07:18 PM   #12
ChrisZ OP
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Joined: Apr 2009
Location: New York, NY
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30th June 2010: Montana, heading toward Wyoming

This is going to be short, the cold/flu whatever is kicking my ass. I took some Theraflu and am hoping it will knock my ass out for the night.



Montana big skies, beautiful day.



A scenic spot, buffalo used to roam here. The place really is massive, it must have been something to see back before roads, maps and GPS with buffalo all over the prairies.



Detail of the plaque. It should have also mentioned Fly Country: when I get off the bike, they DESCEND upon me like a cloud. I have insect repellent, I keep neglecting to put it on thinking I’ll probably only needed at a campground. I am wrong.



In Malta, Montana I luck out and find a barber, shave and a haircut? $19. It is worth it, I feel human again. While I’m in the chair (just one chair) a couple other people come in, we BS a bit, we talk again about the BLM and some private charity buying up land to turn a huge swath of Montana into a buffalo preserve. Not for food, just to bring back their numbers. Also, an old-timer explains how lucky I am to see this nice weather, how it’s unseasonably nice. In the past, it was humid, which is bad. Last time it was really humid it lead to tornadoes. Unable to play it cool, I ask “Is this tornado country?” knowing this is the sort of thing locals love to play on travelers. They’re good guys, they give me travel tips. This is NOT tornado country, because it’s too dry. I don’t know if this is true or not, but I DON’T want it to be tornado country, so being told what I want to hear is very comforting.



I thought the sharp lines of the valley looked cool. This was elk-crossing country (sign said so), so I approached those rises a little slower just in case some elk was hiding out up there. Who knows what goes on in the elk brain, really.


This was the SECOND one of these I saw in the same convoy. First I’m passed by a couple escort trucks, the second one actively (I won’t say frantically) waved his orange flag at me, I thinking “holy SHIT, that’s gotta mean something” then that goddamned yellow beast passed by, almost ½ into my laine. I’m on a bike of course so it’s not even close. As he’s passing, I’m thinking “damned… would love a picture of that thing” then ANOTHER escort truck, then.. of in the distance, another truck carrying that beasty.

High Points of the Day:
1) Road work with new black fresh asphalt across both lanes. Signalman says “stay in their tracks, it’ll be more compacted.” Oh, okay, that makes sense. So I’m driving up a hill following a dump truck, then passing the dump truck as he backs up, The dump truck fills almost both lanes, but it’s just the way it is. Elsewhere, they’d shut down ONE lane, so the other would be regular old, but not here. I’m kicking up bits of asphalt riding in the ruts created by the dump truck, and I’m having a blast.

2) almost running out of gas, holy god I was on reserve and there were NO bars on the fuel gauge. Leaving Malta all shaved, I was about 60 miles into a full tank of gas. The policy I’d been going with since Canada was to look for fuel at 100 miles. I should have fueled up in Malta, but I didn’t, foolish me.

Fuel gauge getting lower… lower… lower… then the fuel light comes on… fuh-uh-uh-uh-uck. This is farm country, I’m fairly certain farmers have their own gas supplies on their farms, so that’s plan B. I’m going and going, fuel light on, I’m drawing a blank on the range on fuel light, but going up and down mountains sure can’t help. Coming to a crossroads there is… YES!!... Fuel and a café. Café has “OPEN” signs in big orange lettering. I go to the pump, flip the lever up, stick the nozzle in, squeeze the handle and…. Nothing.

Hmmm.

Am I doing this wrong? Nozzle out, lever to ON like the pump says, but no gas. Try the other pump, same fail.

Walk over to the café/store to see if maybe it’s a prepay deal, I notice the VERY small, hand-written sign saying closed thru the 4th of July.

FUH-UH-UH-UH-UCK

Sign says 7 miles to the next town, I chance it, get into town, have to sort of circle around the very small town to find the gas station (It’s not on the main drag). As I pull up, a farmer says they’re got no gas, they’re waiting for the delivery but that the next town 40 miles away might. I say I’m on empty, does he have any gas? Yes he does (“you can use regular?”), it’s in the back of his truck. He clambers up, gives me a black nozzle (industrial gas nozzle), he hand-pumps a few times, and I’m almost topped off. It smells like gas, the hose is clean (I take that as a sign of good maintenance so hopefully clean gas). I’m at more than ¾ of a tank, and am very happy. Off I go to the next town, to top off to confirm a full tank, than town is empty of gas too. I make it to a town WITH gas, and all is well. I can now better-appreciate the attraction of the massive gas tank of the GS-Adventure model.

Outisde of Red Lodge, Montana I find a motel, the plan is to go over Beartooth Pass tomorrow into Wyoming then head for the Devils Tower.

__________________
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www.ChristopherZguris.com / New York to Ohio, Via Canada and Montana 2010: 4 Weeks On The Road
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Old 07-01-2010, 09:03 PM   #13
ChrisZ OP
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Joined: Apr 2009
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1st July 2010: Beartooth Pass, 10,997 feet!

NOTE: the pictures have a tinge, I realized later there was a thumb print on the lens, sorry!

Red Lodge, Montana

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Red Lodge, Montana, I realize at this point I’m at about 5,500 feet. I find a t-shirt actually cool enough to wear at when I see Bone Daddy’s Custom Cycle. The shop is to the left, the store is to the right. There are Harleys all over the front, I decide to park further down the block (mostly because the bike with bags is damned wide and I REALLY don’t want to squeeze between two custom bikes). Their logo is cool, the shirts are cool.



DIRECTLY behind me a couple have been setting up a stall for the hour I’ve been walking around town (and hour of walking around any one place for me is A LOT unless I’m not sober). I pass them a few times going from Bone Daddy’s to the museum, they helpfully suggest that they’ll have a “full leather” shop set up very soon. A biker event is starting soon, they’re getting ready. They are being either very polite or very optimistic looking at me as a potential leather customer (biker leather, not assless chaps in the village leather). Orange jacket, full face helmet, loaded bike, I don’t really have the space to carry leather anyway. If my Firstgear jacket sucks in this heat, leather MUST be worse (even if it’s just assless chaps and a vest).



Another shot of Bone Daddy’s. The truck left, then came back. When he was there before when I was parking, he was closer to the bikes or I would have parked in front of him.



The crap I end up buying: hat, two t-shirts (long sleeved, good quality, $27 each—OUCH!), and do-rag. I’ve been wearing a bandana under my helmet, it’s for comfort and it prevents helmet itch. I don’t know about you, but when I take my helmet off, there’s an intense itching having to do with static or something. The bandana prevents that, also prevents stand-up helmet hair.. and it looks cool.

While they had rally t-shirts, I chose to do the honorable thing and NOT buy them as I was not at the rally. That’s just how I roll, yo.


Yeah, yeah: very Harley? So what. It’s comfy, has the cool logo on it, and American flag, an awesome fashion accessory all around. The badass value of this bit of kit offsets the goofyass value of my taxicab orange/grey Firstgear jacket (now with extra bug bits).



The museum is well done. They have a massive collection of firearms: this is Montana, they’re into that. Just go with it and admire the craftsmanship if you’re not into guns.


Plaque above the urinal in the mens room of the museum. This photo I plan to print out and hang above the urinals at work… I work with animals.



The drug store has these interesting compass things for a couple bucks each, I buy a few thinking they’re good souvenirs for family/friends. Just for reference, they’re about (ah-boot) the size of a $2 Canadian Loonie.



Beartooth Pass (US212 out of Red Lodge, Montana), almost at the top. At this point, I’m at about 9,000 feet. It’s a narrow winding road. As I think I’ve mentioned before, my vision is funky, with no real depth perception. For some reason, looking UP at sheer mountains, and DOWN off a sheer cliff gives me a bit of vertigo. Oh, and my right ear thumping and popping doesn’t help. I wouldn’t say I was afraid, that wasn’t it. But I didn’t enjoy Beartooth Pass in a “ooh lets stop and take more pictures off the sheer drops!” sort of way, I motored on thru it, which is why there aren’t many pictures.


Looking down, you can see a bit of the winding road up. It switchbacks up the mountain to get to the top.


The top….



10,997 feet!



Coming down, obligatory snow shot. The roads are all clear, but the snow poles on either side are approximately 10 feet tall, so it’s snow country.
On the Wyoming-side of the border (at altitude) the roads get ugly. The pavement is good, but there is NO guardrail and they are narrower due to maintenance. Oh fuck…

Off the Beartooth, going right takes you to Yellowstone going left takes you on a scenic road to Cody, Wyoming. I’ve realized I’m running short of days if I’m going to make Mid-Ohio in time for Vintage Days. In addition, I’m not convinced Yellowstone WON’T be crowded as all hell, so bail on that with the plan being to go to Devils Tower, Wyoming then to a BMW dealer on Colorado for fluids and checkup. The bike has been running fine (knock on wood) but oil will need to be changed.


All along the road, signs warned to watch out for “stock” because this was open range. Well, this heffer was on the side of the road. Stopped, turned off engine and snapped two pictures before it started mooing, and looking away from me. Being from Michigan originally, I know cow-moos so wasn’t afraid. I can only speculate that to a cow’s way of thinking, my bike looked like another cow or something (or maybe the orange jacket confused it). The cow was clearly annoyed/confused, but refused to walk away, until an oncoming car came back and the stomped off gracefully.

Before this, a deer ran across my path, I have no picture of the deer. But when I saw the cow, I thought “goddamit, I’m taking that cows picture!”



I didn’t like Cody, Wyoming. Some cities have an “eh” vibe, Cody did. Getting out of Cody, heading towards Devils Tower it’s amazingly friggin hot and amazingly friggin windy again. I find this little hotel in some little town and pull in for the night.


This motel has the COOLEST LAMP EVER!! It's a real leather cowboy boot, with spur, and it's a lamp. The feather on the shade I can take or leave, but the boot lamp itself? Friggin awesome!!!
__________________
1999 BMW R1100GS (with add-ons to make it heavier and more beastly to scare the locals)

NYC, NY (Until 3rd May, anyway)
www.ChristopherZguris.com / New York to Ohio, Via Canada and Montana 2010: 4 Weeks On The Road

ChrisZ screwed with this post 07-02-2010 at 06:58 PM
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Old 07-02-2010, 08:01 PM   #14
ChrisZ OP
Exploring, Not Lost
 
Joined: Apr 2009
Location: New York, NY
Oddometer: 175
2nd July 2010: US12 thru Bighorn National Park WY is Awesome, Sturgis SD is Not


Heading towards Devils Tower National Monument, WY, on US12 thru Bighorn National Forest toward Buckhorn/ Sheridan.



More of US12, simply amazing. My GPS freaks out, can’t figure out where she is, keeps wanting me to make U-turns. I placate her ONCE, then when she requests a U-turn again, she is ignored.


Old-school cowboy-esque mountain pass. The ride thru Bighorn National Forest is amazing, the roads are clear, it is stunningly beautiful.

Part way thru, construction signs warn of construction, they are right: the pavement is all gone, it's all dirt and rocky gravel for a mile or two. I am now standing on the pegs (PivotPegz), the GS is as happy as a pig in mud. I’m actually having a blast with the beast on this (lack of) road that also goes at odd angles so is neither straight nor flat.

Fairly quickly I close on two guys on cruisers, they’re clearly not having as much fun as I am. I back off to give them room (I see their brake lights going on, that can’t be good on dirt/gravel), impressed with myself and this bug-spattered bike, grinning like an idiot inside my bug-spattered helmet.



Heading toward Devils Tower—that’s Devils Tower off in the distance (hint: it’s the tower-shaped thing). I'm not claiming conspiracy, but the buildup to getting there is insane: it's like 30 miles, goes on and on, and you don't see the thing. "Where are they hiding this giant tower-shaped rock?" you wonder, then all of the sudden there it is. The folks who discovered it, back before roads, must have been awestruck by this odd thing out there.


View Larger Map


Alright, I’m getting bored, this is as close to Devils Tower as I get. It’s a big rock, it’s amazing, I’ve seen it, moving on.

If I was going to climb it or meet space aliens, I’d stay. Strangely, for the duration of the day I have this odd urge to shape mashed potatoes into this shape I’m seeing in my minds eye.. weird.

Re-working my plans (this is a vacation, I'm having fun) Colorado dealer by tomorrow unlikely, and they're closed Sunday, which means service Monday, which I CANNOT afford to give up if I"m going to make Vintage Motorcycle Days in Ohio next weekend (I have a firm commitment to see my mom in Traverse City, MI on Tuesday after Vintage Days, so in addition to having already bought the tickets, there's that), Sturgis Yamaha BMW Suzuki dealer in Sturgis, SD shows as close on my GPS, that’s the plan. South Dakota's going to be nice, I've never been there before.



About 30 miles from Sturgis, I stop for gas, and to mail a $10.70 flat-rate box of crap home. There’s an actual post office (a real USPS one) in the gas station place, she assures me I saved about $7 on this 6 pounds of junk by using this flat-rate “as much as you can stuff in it” box.
Arriving at Sturgis, I confirm with the dealer that I can get a checkup and fluid change tomorrow at 11am. I nervously mention that the bike is VERY dirty, it’s not like a polished Harley they may be used to. The response puts me and ease: “means you’re riding it right” with a clarification that this is mud country, they won’t be bothered.

I'd like to point out it's INSANELY warm now, i'm being a good boy and wearing my jacket and gloves, and it's windy which blows the bike around, but it's hot wind. The bike was actually hot to the touch in this picture, just from sitting outside in the sun. A few droplets of rain fall suddenly then stop just as suddenly. It's odd because there are NO rain clouds to be seen as far as the eye can see (the rain fell all over, so it wasn't someone pissing on me or anything).


Heading downtown to “Main Street”, it’s empty. I’m the only BMW, and there aren’t a lot of bikes to begin with. Keep in mind this is 5pm local time, on a FRIDAY. Where the hell is everyone?!?!?! I mean, Friday 5pm in ANY town, anywhere in the United States (and Canada) you'd think there'd be SOMETHING). It is now 90 degrees out, the bike is hot just from being previously parked at the motel.

I check out the tattoo shops while mulling over the lifelong reality of having to say "I got that tattoo in Sturgis" and the politics that might entail, I find ONE out of the five Main Street area tattoo shops open.

I find nothing impressive or inspiring, just flash (clip art) that everyone has. Thinking about it further: if you’re the ONE shop open on a Friday at 5pm, in Sturgis, you’re probably not the best artist, and you’ll be pricey (because it’s Sturgis, woo-hoo). In one of my rare moments of maturity, I thank the guy and move on without getting a tattoo. This is something that will be on my body FOR LIFE, and it will be seen. For me, there should be a meaning and/or symbolism to it: I can think of no good symbolism or meaning connected to Sturgis.

Flash I can get in NYC, by an artist I like.

ALSO NOTE: my helmet is clipped to the bike. Yes, I wore a helmet even though I don’t legally have to in South Dakota. Jacket and gloves I didn’t bring for this 1 mile ride, thru town, in 90 friggin degrees.


Filthy and beautiful: she’s a dirty girl. Not a polished and preening drama queen pain in the ass. Tequila shots, camping, s'mores, cutoff jeans shorts and a t-shirt, THAT'S what we're talking about. A visit to car wash is, I admit, in the near future. Although I doubt I'd have a shot at getting in to the ones here in town, they're all full, you see.

Seeing my New York license plate, grimy jeans, and grimy bike, it's clear we didn't come on a trailer (who the hell would trailer a BMW GS to a rally anyway? A psychotic individual, that's who: that person will have severed heads - human or otherwise - in the saddle bags. factory bags: right case, you can't get anything larger than a chipmunk head in the stupid high-pipe-cutout left bag, "it'll fit a full face helmet" my grimy jeans).


The shirts I bought, the red one is “Ride It Like You Stole It” on the front and Sturgis 2010 on the back. Doesn’t mention the rally, just the year. A Sturgis shirt is the minimum, i think.

Impressions of Sturgis:
"Eh" to "Ugh."

Even the town motorcycle museum was closed at 5pm!!!

Where Red Lodge, MT was authentically cool, Sturgis, SD seems like a marketing gimmick to fleece the rubes with overpriced t-shirts of every style, and Harley-branded junk of every kind imaginable. I'm not bashing Harley here, it was ALL Harley-branded stuff is all I'm saying. I've been to other rallies, I got a cool vibe at those that I do not get here.

Not my scene to begin with, and the “official” rally doesn’t even start until August (although you can buy your rally shirts now), I’d have thought there’d be SOMETHING in town now other than t-shirt hawkers. 5pm Friday, most places are locked up tight (on a Friday? Huh?).

Across from my room, there is an “authentic Mexican” place in the Best Western hotel. I check out a menu, mention that I’m vegetarian so want to see if there’s anything I can eat, spinach something is suggested multiple times (I hate spinach), all I see is a veggie burrito for $10.30. Now that plus appetizer, we’re talking $20 easy for a dinner that, let’s face it, in all likelihood will both suck and make me sick. Sturgis SD CANNOT be a good place for food at a Mexican restaurant in the Best Western off the interstate.

I buy a couple egg salad sandwiches from the convenience store next door (this is beef country, there is no tuna: it’s egg salad or meat, pork, beef, chicken) for $2.30 each and tuck in to my air-conditioned room (did I mention it’s friggin 90 degrees out!??!?). I have peanut butter and jelly in reserve, of course.

I see other bikes driving around including a good percentage of non-Harleys, and the riders all seem to have the same “this is IT!?!?” confused looks on their faces as I do.

If you’re thinking of doing the Sturgis Rally, you’re going to ignore what I write anyway. But I would suggest mail-ordering a shirt and spending the money you save on touring NICE places. Montana, Wyoming and (I assume) South Dakota are full of towns that are awesome in ways Sturgis will probably never be. If you’re looking to trailer your bike in, polish then pose it and yourself on Main Street in 100 degree temps, Sturgis is absolutely for you. Otherwise, if you're going any distance SPECIFICALLY to see Sturgis, you will be disappointed and quite a bit poorer. Go to Red Lodge, MT instead.
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1999 BMW R1100GS (with add-ons to make it heavier and more beastly to scare the locals)

NYC, NY (Until 3rd May, anyway)
www.ChristopherZguris.com / New York to Ohio, Via Canada and Montana 2010: 4 Weeks On The Road

ChrisZ screwed with this post 07-02-2010 at 08:06 PM
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Old 07-02-2010, 08:42 PM   #15
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