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Old 01-26-2012, 11:37 PM   #31
Draechon OP
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With nearly five months since my last writing, I suppose it's time for me to finally finish this ride report. With a recent “minor down-sizing” at the company I've worked for for nearly five years, I find myself with a surplus of time on my hands. So far, this has netted me: boring myself of television, finally trying to work on my XT and narrowing out the problem I hoped was causing the non-operational state it finds itself in, re-working my resume, re-thinking a few things of my future, re-working my finances, and with a regret I had not finished writing this story.

I reached a point of complacency in this storyline. After this point in the story, there were new experiences I had, but none that were super-fantabulous-awe-inspiring-I-need-to-take-another-long-journey worthy. But, they are what they are. I hope for thoroughly written stories when I read, so though it may be anti-climactic, this story does NEED AN ENDING.

To get myself into the spirit of this, I'm drinking some Blue Moon and listening to a little Kid Rock (“Born Free” was taped in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the scenery is beautiful therein).

Day 6, Wednesday, 29 June 2011
Topinabee, Michigan to Bruce Mines, Ontario

After feeling like crap the night before, I slept in at the Topinabee Motel until 9, aiming to get the Mackinac Ferry at 10. I rode that way, and stopped for gas and to pick up a little breakfast of Sprite and a cup of chocolate glazed donut holes, yum! There, I received, for the first time ever, a half dollar coin in my change, slightly interesting. At the gas station, I bought a ticket for the ferry. Somewhat noteworthy to a Southerner: all the drinks were in coolers stored outside the gas station, as it usually was not warm enough to warrant storing them in constantly-running refrigerators.

At the ferry, I decided to sit on top. I love a breeze in my hair, and what would be the point of being on a boat if I were trapped in an enclosed space? It was rather windy. A high school group was also on the ferry, and a group of the teens sat behind me and spoke of things like prank calling the Grand Hotel on the island to make fake reservations, and of “seeing dolphins” in the water, haha.

I can't remember how much the ferry was, think $20, but I do remember to ride the jet-boats was $10 more. They didn't go all that much faster than the propeller boats, but did make a nice rooster tail for us cheaper folk.

View of the bridge

A cute little blonde boy of 3 or 4 sat in front of me with his sister and mother. He tried tasting the boat, but was was unhappy with the result of the railing in his mouth. He continued tasting the seat, his jacket, and other things within reach, much to the annoyance of his ten year old sister. He also hated the wind was “messing up his hair,” but whenever his mom suggested going down to an inside level, he would quiet down for a few minutes as he loved being on top of the boat on the way to the island. Haha

Grand Hotel, to the tune of $150/night

Once on the island, I walked around for two hours and summed it up as a stereotypical tourist colonial island town. I walked along the waterfront and thought of renting a bicycle for $5/hour, but didn't want to spend extra time there just to say I had been around the island.

It was cool to see a big barge on a lake

I stopped in the Butterfly House for $9 to see the “Two Dozen” varieties they had on tap.

They also had a quartet of finch and a pair Asian quail to keep the pill bugs and aphids in check. The butterflies were beautiful, but the highlight of this visit was talking to one of the employees, a cute young girl from the suburbs of Chicago. She attends Illinois State, but works on the island in summer-time. She's a biology and Spanish dual major, with hopes being an interpreter. After a fifteen minute conversation, another girl came in to trade posts. Emily apologized and said she wished we could talk more. I told her I understood and was sorry for monopolizing her time. I stayed in the greenhouse for a bit longer, and went to leave. In the “Check Yourself for Butterflies” room, I found this little guy in love with my hat.

I returned to put him down on a plant, but he refused to go for another flower or leaves. I didn't want to scare him off or touch him, as they have warning signs this will rub off the scales of the insects' wings and prevent them from flying. I walked around for five minutes before he eventually left.

Before leaving, I went by the gift shop in hopes of again seeing my fellow conversationalist. She told me she had been scolding for focusing her attention on one customer for too long. She asked if I were staying on the island that night and if so, would I be interested in hanging out with her and a group of of her friends/island co-workers that evening. I was disappointed to say I was moving on, so she hugged me and said good-bye. *sigh*

Sadly, this is the only picture I have of her

I walked back “into town” and checked out the requisite fudge shops the island was famed for. I sampled a few kinds in Ryba's and decided to buy half a pound for my mom.

I had a burger and fries while in town, and headed back toward the ferry dock. There, I was roped into a conversation with an older lady and middle-aged guy, both from a tour bus group out of Ohio, and both alone. We discussed the demerits of traveling single to places aimed toward families or couples. The man ranted how he should have stayed in the hotel bar or whatever and enjoyed himself more thoroughly. The lady remarked I was traveling the optimal way: with no pre-ordained plan and completely of my own volition and will. She told me of a yesteryear in the 60s wherein she and her then boyfriend rode on his motorcycle from Ohio to California and then to Key West. She got pregnant on that trip, unsurprisingly. They wed, he sold the bike, to her dismay, and never rode again. They had two more kids, but never pursued the life they led before wed-lock.

I got back to riding and headed over the Mackinaw Bridge. It had two lanes on each side, and all the cars and trucks got into the right lane before the ascent began. Cool, free left lane! Carp! I soon learned why all the vehicles were sitting in the right lane as the left lane soon turned to steel grating for the next 3 miles, and a 2-3” split to the right asphalt lane. I stuck it out, though a bit scary at times as big gusts of winds came by. On the other side, I stopped at a rest area and learned my destination was pronounced “Sue Saint Marie” and not “Salt Saint Marie” as I previously thought.

In the bathroom, I had my “You learn something new every day” moment concerning methamphetamines

I rode on through the beautiful countryside of the Upper Peninsula toward Sault Saint Marie. As the daylight wore on, the temperatures were not rising as I headed North and I soon remembered about my air filter as I passed into the desolation that is the Northern Michigan. I pressed on as the Bandit became more and more sluggish. My goal today was to get as far into Canada as I could.

Upon entering the town, I rapidly pulled to the side of the road and whipped out my phone. I searched for motorcycle shops and found a few listings.

I headed to the local Honda shop, who blew me off and would not even check in the computer to see if a universal air filter would fit my bike. As soon as the name “Suzuki” had been uttered, the lady had nothing to say to me. I don't know if all Honda shops are like this, but the one in Charleston also has a scarily similar attitude to Customer Service. I asked about a filter cleaning kit as I have K&N pods, but she was too busy doing other things to bother responding.

I headed over to the Yamaha shop and was told they could have new filters in in two days. I was hoping to just swap my filters out, but decided just servicing them would do me fine, just would mean I could not stay at a camp-site and would have the bike out of commission for at least half a day while the cleaned filters dried out. So, I bought cleaning spray and a filter oil with little hassle.

Around 5, I headed toward the Canadian border. The line was amazingly short, only 5 cars in front of me, and each only took a couple minutes to get through. The American border guard just checked that I had a current Driver's License and passport and waved me through.

Surprisingly, the Canadian border guard decided to hassle me a little. Since I don't have a windshield, I was informed that in Canada, I will be required to constantly wear a helmet. He questioned the usual, what was I doing in his country, how long would I be there, did I own any firearms, did I bring any firearms with me, did I bring any alcohol or fireworks or drugs, and then an odd question. On my passport, he saw that my birthplace was in North Carolina, but I currently live in South Carolina. Apparently, this is a matter worth questioning.

He asked why I had decided to move from one state to another. “Well Officer, I was two and was tired of putting up with my parents, so I decided it was about time for me to be on my own,” and smirked a little. He gave me a frown and went inside his little hut to speak with his supervisor for a couple minutes. I was joking, but don't understand why that was a question worth asking. He came back a few minutes later and asked me about my job and a couple more standard-fare and then allowed me to proceed.

Disappointingly, I didn't see any “Welcome to Canada” signs, so this is the closest I could get:

I got a nearby local to take this of me, to which he scowled at my asking

Having only ever been on the roads of the States, this was a cool change of pace

I intended to head as far as Elliot Lake, but was worried about the daylight, and wanted to get the air filter remedied ASAP, so ended up only as far as Bruce Mills. I went to the first lodging I saw, which had a beautiful location with quaint, but rustic, cabins on the water for 70 CAD (Canadian Dollars), to which I said “No, thank you” and went to Bobber's, the local hot spot of town. It was a motel and cafe and had rooms right near the water for 50 CAD.

This was a cool idea

I took off the air filters, washed them out, cleaned them, and hung them in front of a fan to dry overnight, and had dinner at the cafe

and walked around the town of “600” people. I saw a gas station that served Indian food for lunch

and stopped in at The Bavarian, the bar of the town (excluding the veterans' bar) and German restaurant. I had my first beer of Canada

and then a Labatt's Blue, and few others. Had a drink in another country, Check off my bucket list.

I was shocked at the price of gas and beer in Canada, and get to talking with the white lady bartender. Within an hour, I got bored with the news station on TV and start reading their newspaper, which was a sign to the Indian owner that now was the time to chat me up. Sam was a great host.

Shortly thereafter, A Japanese couple came in

Talk about a multi-cultural experience!

Hilariously enough to me, the husband spoke only Japanese. The wife spoke English, but with a very strong accent. Sam was waiting tables and was trying to help them out, but with his strong Hindi accent, there was a gap in communication. Happily, I stepped in to translate Japanese-English to Indian-English. For the first time in my life, I was an American, in Canada, in a German bar, with an Indian owner/cohort/friend, and fellow Japanese customers. While we were involved in this, a heavily-tattooed trucker from Ottawa came in. He had a very strong Canadian Bacon-esque “eh” way of talking. He had been trucking for nearly twenty years of his life and knew no other way. He had lived in the States for a while, but had a love for the open road, logging, and all that “trucker” lifestyle entails. I wish I could have this night recorded for the rest of my life.

I don't know if it was the heavy drinking, the speaking to an Indian man in drunken German, translating English to English, or what, but this will forever be in my top 10 list of all nights.

Sam closed out my tab after a couple hours (whew, glad I stopped there once I saw the bill), and had the bartender pour us a couple drinks. I had been texting a friend back home, and told her to ignore anything more from me that night, as I was at my limit (and yes, I was only walking back a block to my hotel). From this point on, Sam had my bill on the house. This was a free triple of Johnny Walker Black Label. I'm not usually one to drink straight whiskey, but I'm also too polite to turn down a free drink.

Once the Japanese couple left, Sam sent the bartender home and shut off the Open light so he could hang out with the trucker, me, and later a man and his daughter that were staying in his hotel. Sam had moved to Toronto at the age of 13. He started off in car wash at 16, bought it at 20, and had an amazing entrepreneur story every since, including owning gas stations, car lots, and now a hotel. Here's Sam

Later on, a one-armed expatriate Gulf War veteran from Wisconsin came in and we started talking cars and motorcycles. He was a cool gent that owned two of my dream cars: a Corvette Z06 and a Pontiac G8 GXP (although both of these were automatic for obvious reasons). I don't remember going to sleep that night, but think it's best that way.

Draechon screwed with this post 01-27-2012 at 12:23 AM
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Old 01-30-2012, 08:49 PM   #32
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There is a reason I subscribed to this thread, so long ago.
And now new reasons yet, nostalgia for home.

Doing great, kid. Keep up the good work!
"Even though my trip turned out badly, I don't regret the kind of life I chose to live. Adventure!" RIP-Clay Schwartz 9/14/07
The bike never has been, never is, and never will be the limiting factor in my, your, or anyone else's ability to have an adventure. -jake28-
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Old 01-31-2012, 06:31 AM   #33
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dude! I thought you went to detroit and back.. now i see your in Canada...
hate to hear about the job, I know it must be tough.

later this year i'm going over that bridge, but will be turning left before i hit canada......

glad to see your finishing your report......can't wait for the rest.......

hope you been well my friend....

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Old 02-01-2012, 11:25 PM   #34
Draechon OP
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Day 7, Thursday, 30 June 2011

From here to home, the days became rather uneventful. I was excited to be in Canada, but shocked at the cost of living increase, so was in a bit of a hurry to get home. I was just starting to get into the hang of “being away from home,” but simultaneously being worried of what that all entailed.

I got up at 9, saw a loaded, ADV-style KLR at the cafe, but never saw the owner in the nearly hour it took to re-oil and install the air filter.

I had never done this procedure before, and ended up over-oiling the filters to make them appear the “normal” K&N style. Luckily, I figured this out before leaving town when the bike kept dying. I stopped in the parking lot of a grocery store for a few hours to re-clean the filters and dry them out.

I ended up trying to leave town about 12:30, but decided to ride a few back roads beforehand in case trouble arose and saw the following sights

Cool looking dune-buggy

In case things didn't work out with the Bandit, this Goldwing was available for $1800

I got back on my way around one and started seeing the beauty that was Southern Canada. There were numerous cool road-signs I tried to take pictures of, but missed quite a few.

Trucks and buses don't stop for intersections:

Humongous dandelion (I wear XXXL gloves for reference)

Gas back home was around $4.15 per gallon at the time

From a quarter mile away, I could smell the weed a few hot chicks were smoking in a park near these bridges. I stopped to investigate, but remembered as soon as I did so, that it was legal here.

In case drivers forgot all their educational training, Canada offers helpful reminders of common rules of the road. I tried to get a picture of each of these as I went along, but know I must have missed at least 20%.

I appreciate the welcome, thank you Muskoka!

I ended up stopping ~100 km from Toronto as campgrounds were becoming scarce and I was getting tired of the day. I stopped at a few campgrounds between 6 and 7 pm, but was turned away at their being. Apparently, July 1 is Canada Day, so everyone from the big cities are out camping and living the “rustic life,” which jacked the normal rate of $25 for a camp-site up to $55. Carp! Oh well, I took what I could get. That night, as I was cooking dinner, I had a trio of 16-17 year old high-school gals come around and sit at my picnic table and chat. I kept things cordial, but was worried of any misperceptions of parental units, so kept things less than my typical friendly and inviting.

Day 8, Friday, 1 July 2011

From this point on, I have no journal entries to go off of, as the days were long and boring. About 15 miles from the campground the next morning, traffic from Toronto started backing up to a pretty ridiculous degree

Outside Toronto, inbound lanes starting backing up too, so I diverted to some local highways and came upon the first Tim Horton's I visited. Oddly, the drive-through and walk-in areas were separated

I was unimpressed by their selection so delayed eating 'til around 11 at a Wendy's. The look of traffic cones in Canada:

Chain of friendly stores

Awesome sculpture in the town of Saint Catharine's

After a long diversion, I got back to the American border. I was again surprised at how quickly this transfer was. From around 10 miles out, the border seemed to back up, but just before Niagara Falls, 95% of the Canadians on the road diverted to the Falls. I only had to wait behind 5 cars to re-enter the States. The Border Guard here also was a bit uptight and didn't appreciate my Carolinas relocation joke (why is the question even asked?). After allowing me passage, I started to ride off to the parking lot to gear up, but was immediately reprimanded when starting my bike before putting my helmet and gloves on. I told him I was just moving 50 feet from the spot to clear his lane, but was told, “If you're going to go to the trouble of wearing all that, I want you to be protected at all times. If I see a guy with a helmet, I want him wearing that helmet in my sight.” Umm, okay, extra 30-45 seconds to zip up my jacket, put on gloves, and helmet, and I'm off. I ride a half mile or so to the parking lot for the Falls, pay XX (a ridiculous amount for how short a period of time I was here), and park. I see the Falls and am a tad depressed to be alone when I see all the happy families. Alone, it's pretty much a BTDT (Been There, Done That) affair that takes 5 minutes before I'm off.

From the Canadian side

From the border bridge

Yay, I'm a fat American!

I paid $10 for this?

Thought about riding down the elevator to take the ferry to the Falls

Whoo, I'm in New York! Where are all the gangsters?

I don't remember this from the movies

Outside Buffalo, it got pretty

Especially as I got into the Pennsylvania area

I have not written down the mileages for each day, but ended up stopping in a nice campground near Eerie, Pennsylvania.

Day 9, Saturday, 2 July 2011

I got up about 8, with a long day ahead of me, ~700 miles. So far, I my bike had stayed up the entire trip. Upon leaving the campground, I stopped off at the dumpster to throw away a soda bottle from the night before. After 2500 idiot-free miles, I forgot to put the kickstand down, and felt the Bandit falling onto my leg as I stepped away and heard a crunch as she reached the pavement. Luckily for both of us, only the mirror mount was bent, which I tightened up and we were on our way.

West Virginia was similarly gorgeous. I didn't know I would be going over the huge bridge that I can't quite recall the name of right now.

I was greatly satisfied by this scene at a gas station in West Virginia

After this, nothing major happened. I tried calling a few friends in Columbia to meet up for dinner, but they had already eaten. While stopped at a gas station outside Charlotte at about 6:30 pm, I noticed my headlight bulbs had worn out on me, so ended up having to ride the last 100 miles from Charlotte to home in the dark tailgating semis or other large vehicles to use their lights as my way home, haha. I don't remember if I ever told that to anyone, as I knew I would get scolded. It was around 8:30 when I got to Columbia. I was not going to stop for the night 100 miles from home.

This is the last picture of my trip. I don't know how the GPS recorded all mileage after it started as it was turned off for significant portions, but I guess it measured from the last known location. As for my total mileage of 3200 miles, 250 miles need to be added to the figure shown here as the GPS was not turned on until I was already in North Carolina.

Obligation to Gerald filled! Whoo! Notice that top speed? Yea, let's see you beat that!

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Old 02-02-2012, 05:59 AM   #35
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Good job man...........
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Old 02-10-2012, 06:01 AM   #36
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Like I told kalonji at dinner the other night, sometime you guys are to subtle-I missed the tag line that you finished this.

Good read and great pics!

Time to break in the "new" bike with a similar journey.............I look forward to seeing more of your ride reports.
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Old 03-27-2012, 06:46 PM   #37
where's Laura0107?
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Awesome report, Draechon! The night in the German bar was my favorite part.
Sandlapper Braaaappper - Savannah River Rambling - SC Dirt! - On a perpetual dirty road tour in the land of Hicks and Nothing - Twitter: @wawarides - Instagram: @wawarides
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Old 03-28-2012, 03:18 PM   #38
Draechon OP
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Originally Posted by Laura0107 View Post
Awesome report, Draechon! The night in the German bar was my favorite part.
Thanks Laura. It's the part of the trip that still stands out most vividly.

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Old 03-29-2012, 03:36 AM   #39
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Thanks Draechon for the very indepth and entertaining report. The pictures were great and from your report I gathered that you had a fantastic trip.
It's always good to go to new places and meet new people. Somehow I have always found it easier to meet others if you are riding a motorcycle and alone.
Safe riding and stop eating Pretzels and Macca's otherwise you may finish up looking like the example at the servo!

Best regards
Glenn (Australia)
May we still be riding when the sun sets!
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Old 10-06-2013, 06:40 AM   #40
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Great story

I stumbled upon your post by accident and ended up reading it non-stop. I read lots of travelogues and yours is a good as many of the published books I've read. Great job. I hope all is well and you are still riding.
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Old 10-07-2013, 08:18 AM   #41
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Originally Posted by Titlerider View Post
I stumbled upon your post by accident and ended up reading it non-stop. I read lots of travelogues and yours is a good as many of the published books I've read. Great job. I hope all is well and you are still riding.
Thank you very much! I've been itching to do another long trip, but will probably be on the DR next time.

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Old 10-10-2013, 09:13 AM   #42
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Lots of places to ride a DR out here.
You will always have couches to crash on in Utah.
"Even though my trip turned out badly, I don't regret the kind of life I chose to live. Adventure!" RIP-Clay Schwartz 9/14/07
The bike never has been, never is, and never will be the limiting factor in my, your, or anyone else's ability to have an adventure. -jake28-
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