Around Lake Superior on a Honda 50

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by Bud Tugly, Apr 5, 2010.

  1. Bud Tugly

    Bud Tugly Gnarly old curmudgeon

    Joined:
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    Ishpeming, MI
    I know trip reports are supposed to have pictures, but this journey happened a long time ago and I couldn’t afford a camera back then. If you hate text-only stories then feel free to skip this one. Also, although it happened long ago I kept a journal so the facts are accurate.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
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    It was the summer of 1966 and I was 16 years old. I had bought my first bike that spring with money I had saved up from mowing lawns, shoveling snow, and delivering newspapers. It was a 1965 Honda C-110 and I got it used from a friend for $100.<o:p></o:p>
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    It had the same 50cc 4-stroke engine as the step-through Honda Cub but this model had a gas tank mounted like a “real” bike, a 4-speed transmission, a regular hand-operated clutch, and a high pipe. It was love at first sight.<o:p></o:p>
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    I rode it everywhere on the roads and old logging trails here in the wilds of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, often with my buddy Doug. He was also 16 and had a Suzuki Trail 80 – a 73cc two-stroke with a high pipe. My bike would do 45mph on level ground with a slight tail wind and his would nearly hit 55 under the same conditions. That difference would prove important.<o:p></o:p>
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    Anyway, we hatched a plot to take a trip together when school got out in June. We looked at maps and decided the loop around Lake Superior looked like a challenge since neither of us had ever done anything like it before. We started gathering gear and somehow talked our parents into letting us go. Departure day approached.<o:p></o:p>
    #1
  2. Bud Tugly

    Bud Tugly Gnarly old curmudgeon

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    WTH - I typed this on microsoft word and when I copied and pasted it came out with black trype on gray, which is unreadable. I'm trying to figure out how to switch font color but so far am at a loss. Anybody got any ideas? Do I just have to retype the whole thing?
    #2
  3. Bud Tugly

    Bud Tugly Gnarly old curmudgeon

    Joined:
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    OK, I went back to my Word file and changed the font color from black to white, then recopied my post and it worked.
    #3
  4. Bud Tugly

    Bud Tugly Gnarly old curmudgeon

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    DAY 1 – WEST FROM ISHPEMING, MI<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>

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    Shortly after school got out we were ready to set off. I can’t remember the exact date, but it was in early June. I had an old green canvas Boy Scout backpack tied with rope on top of my gas tank and my sleeping bag tied to the seat behind me. Doug’s bike had an actual luggage rack so he carried another backpack, a sleeping bag, and the 2-man green canvas pup tent all tied to it. No fancy bungee cords or lightweight nylon gear back in those days so we used what we could scrounge up.<o:p></o:p>
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    Inside the backpacks were a couple of changes of clothes, a cooking pot and frying pan, a small folding grill with legs, and various personal items. We each had about $50 cash in our wallets. Seems ridiculous these days but gas was only about $.30/gallon then and we were planning on camping out. We both had done lots of that in the woods around our homes.<o:p></o:p>
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    We set off from Ishpeming on a sunny 70-degree day heading NW on US-41. As we cruised down the highway a few things quickly became apparent. With all the excess weight on the back, Doug’s bike became a bit squirrelly handling as the speed increased while the more even weight distribution on my Honda made it more balanced. The second thing was that my bike was comfortable cruising at 35-40 mph in top gear but to reach 45 I had to twist the throttle to the stop. Doug’s larger engine meant he was cruising along effortlessly at those same speeds.<o:p></o:p>
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    We turned west onto M-28 near Covington and then onto US-2 at Wakefield and headed into Wisconsin. We stopped every hour or two to stretch out and sip some water from the metal military-style canteens we carried on our belts. The traffic was very light in those days and when we saw a car approaching from behind in our mirrors we’d just pull over and ride the shoulder until it passed.<o:p></o:p>
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    When you’re averaging less than 40 mph and making frequent stops travel is pretty leisurely. Just past Ashland, WI the sun was getting low. Somewhere around Iron River, WI we found an old cemetery along the road. We drove to the back corner and pitched our tent. We had brought sandwiches with us so there was no need for meal preparation, and shortly after eating we conked out. We had covered about 200 miles that day, which was to be fairly typical.<o:p></o:p>
    #4
  5. lm248

    lm248 Adventurer

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2009
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    56
    I love it,,,:ear :ear :ear
    To bad there arn't any pictures.
    That would be awesome.
    Thanks,
    Les
    #5
  6. Klay

    Klay dreaming adventurer

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    right here on my thermarest
    :lurk
    #6
  7. Superzoom

    Superzoom Been here awhile

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    Toronto
    Great start. This reminds me of one of the very first two-wheeled travelogues that I read, one about a guy who took a moped from Toronto up to Alaska.

    http://mopedtrip.com/index.html

    Looking forward to the rest of your report.
    #7
  8. GB

    GB . Administrator

    Joined:
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    Some reports are just as good without pics... like this one :thumb

    :lurk
    #8
  9. Bud Tugly

    Bud Tugly Gnarly old curmudgeon

    Joined:
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    DAY 2 – THROUGH DULUTH AND HEADING NE<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
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    We woke up early, ate the last of the food our mom’s had packed for us, and loaded the bikes. Felt a little stiff but we were young and foolish so we just shook it off. It felt like a real adventure already since neither of us had ever left Marquette County without our parents and here we were in Wisconsin on our own! <o:p></o:p>
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    We stopped to gas up, and this was always a pain. My backpack covered the tank so I had to untie it to get at the cap and then tie it back on each time. Doug had a different problem. His bike was a 2-stroke, which meant adding oil to the tank at each fill-up. No fancy injectors back in those days. He’d fill the tank nearly to the top with gas and take note of the amount. Then he’d measure out his 2-stroke oil from a bottle he carried, pour it in the tank, and then rock the bike side to side to mix the oil with the gas. Seems haphazard but it always seemed to do the job.<o:p></o:p>
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    My tank only held about 1-½ gallons but since my bike got over 120 mpg my range was pretty decent. Doug’s bike held close to 2 gallons but being a 2-stroke only got around 80-90 mpg so his bike was usually the first to run low. We would usually fill up at least twice a day and I remember usually paying the attendant less than $.25 at each fill. Crazy by today’s standards and getting gas mileage like I was the cost of fuel for the entire trip was only about 3-4 dollars for me and a little more for Doug.<o:p></o:p>
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    The traffic continued to be very light but we were approaching the “big city” of Duluth, MN. We stopped on the Wisconsin side to study our road maps and make sure we knew the route. This was back in the days when every gas station handed out free maps so we just picked them up along the way. If you remember back that far than you’re approaching curmudgeon-hood just like me.<o:p></o:p>
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    To get into Duluth we had to cross over the bridge and then find the turn onto highway 61 which would take us NE toward Canada. It was a nervous time dealing with the city traffic, but riding my bike WOT most of the time we made it through the city and headed back into the country. To our surprise the traffic was quite a bit heavier on 61 and we were constantly pulling over to let cars and trucks pass. Luckily the shoulders were wide and most people gave us a friendly wave as they whizzed by. I guess road rage hadn’t been invented yet as I don’t recall ever getting the single-finger salute once on the whole trip.<o:p></o:p>
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    We stopped for the night somewhere between Duluth and Grand Marais at a roadside park near a river. We camped way in the back nearly out of sight of the road and no one bothered us. I guess the police were a bit more relaxed about such things back then since I doubt you’d get away with it these days. We gathered up fallen branches and twigs to make a small fire, set up our folding grill, and cooked dinner. We had stopped at a small grocery store and picked up canned stuff we could just heat up, as we did regularly for the rest of the trip. It was mostly things like corned beef hash or spaghetti and meatballs or the like. Not exactly health food, but cheap and simple. <o:p></o:p>
    #9
  10. ScottFla

    ScottFla Been here awhile

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    Very cool, thanks for writing!
    #10
  11. Appraiser

    Appraiser Adventurer

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    Winder GA
    Great story. What would be grand is to do it again after all these years. Keep writing.
    #11
  12. Bud Tugly

    Bud Tugly Gnarly old curmudgeon

    Joined:
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    DAY 3 – TO SOMEWHERE EAST OF THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
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    Packed up in the morning and got ready to leave. We were starting to develop a routine. Breakfast was usually cereal and milk. We’d buy the little single-serving boxes that you could open up, pour in milk, and eat right out of the box. We’d get a quart of milk the evening before and it was always cold enough at night to still be fresh the next morning. We also carried some peanut butter, jelly, and some bread and we’d make several PB&J sandwiches each morning so we didn’t have to stop to buy lunch. Washing dishes involved using a Brillo pad with a nearby lake or stream for rinsing. Not PC these days, but this was years before the EPA and environmental awareness.<o:p></o:p>
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    Personal cleanliness was starting to be an issue, so we stopped at a gas station and took our backpacks into the restroom with us. We stripped down and took quick sponge baths in the sink, and then rinsed out our grungy socks, underwear, and shirts with soap after changing into fresh ones. We wrung them out as best we could and then tucked them under the ropes holding our packs on. They air-dried quite quickly and this became our regular routine.<o:p></o:p>
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    As we proceeded NE along 61 the traffic dropped off steadily but the air got chillier. We were wearing fairly thin cloth jackets since it was summer, but we were catching breezes off Lake Superior. It’s so large that it never warms up much past 50 degrees even by August and this was early June. We each had thought to bring sweatshirts and we put them on under the jackets, but of course neither of us thought to bring gloves. It was summer, fer cripes sake – who wore gloves in summer? <o:p></o:p>
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    We stopped off at many interesting turnouts to see the sights as we did during the entire trip. I remember lots of lighthouses and waterfalls but don’t recall specific names of most places. This is where a bunch of pictures would make this a heck of a lot better story. We just never thought about it and this was long before the days of cheap disposable cameras. A camera was a big investment and there was no way our parents would have ever trusted us to take one of theirs along.<o:p></o:p>
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    We stopped off at Grand Marais, MN for a break and walked around the town for an hour or so. It’s a cute little town with a gorgeous harbor reminiscent of New England. Little did I know then that I’d pass through here many times in the future on my way to multiple Canadian canoe and fishing adventures, but that’s another story.<o:p></o:p>
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    Heading NE from Grand Marais the terrain got steadily hillier. On upslopes I’d have to shift down to third gear with the throttle pegged just to keep up 35 mph. On the really steep ones it was second gear with the engine screaming at 25 mph. Doug patiently would slow down to match my pace but his bike handled the hills easily. We’d see an occasional Harley or Triumph Bonneville cruise past us and we’d turn green with envy. Imagine being able to effortlessly keep up with traffic on a motorcycle. What luxury!<o:p></o:p>
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    The border crossing was coming up and we started getting nervous. We were two scruffy looking 16-year old kids traveling on tiny motorcycles without adults. What if they turned us back? I was very impressed with my first view of a real Canadian Mountie. Holy cow, they really did wear red coats with those cool hats, weird pants, and black boots just like in the movies. The Mounties checked our driver’s licenses, gave our bikes a quick look-over, asked us where we were going and how long we thought they’d be there, and then wished us luck and waved us through. Somehow I suspect things are a bit different these days.<o:p></o:p>
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    WE WERE IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY!!! The feeling of exoticness (is that a word?) was almost overwhelming. Would the people be friendly? Were the laws the same? What about food and local customs? Would our money be accepted? It was all brand new and exciting.<o:p></o:p>
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    We cruised into Thunder Bay for our first glimpse of a foreign city. Along the way we couldn’t help but notice many obviously Finnish names on mailboxes. When you traveling slowly you can actually see things like that. It was a bit of a shock since both Doug and I have Finnish grandparents and Finnish last names (Tugly is just a pseudonym). Maybe Canadians won’t be so different after all. <o:p></o:p>
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    We stopped to get take-out from a Chinese restaurant. We thought it weird to see a Chinese restaurant in Canada since there were none back home, but we came to find out that was quite common. They took our money without problems but gave us Canadian change. The food was extremely cheap and plentiful and it was the first time I had handled Canadian money. We had hardly spent any money so far and felt we deserved a treat.<o:p></o:p>
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    We stopped at a store to buy our breakfast and lunch supplies and drove several miles NE out of town along highway 17 before finding a wooded spot to pull off and camp. I remember going out along the Sibley Peninsula to see the Sleeping Giant but can’t recall whether it was this day or the next.<o:p></o:p>
    #12
  13. bilgerat

    bilgerat Adventurer

    Joined:
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    Great adventure, and well written. Looking forward to the rest!
    #13
  14. hensons

    hensons Been here awhile

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    +1 <object classid="clsid: D27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000" codebase="http://download.macromedia.com/pub/shockwave/cabs/flash/swflash.cab#version=9,0,0,0" width="16" height="16" id="movie" align=""><param name="movie" value="http://forumsmiles.com/content/5/mov.swf"><param name="bgcolor" value="#ffffff"><param name="allowScriptAccess" value="always" /><embed allowScriptAccess="always" src="http://forumsmiles.com/content/5/mov.swf" quality="high" bgcolor="#ffffff" width="16" height="16" name="movie" align="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" pluginspage="http://www.macromedia.com/go/getflashplayer"</embed></object>
    #14
  15. Bud Tugly

    Bud Tugly Gnarly old curmudgeon

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    241
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    Ishpeming, MI
    DAY 4 – TO SCHREIBER, ONTARIO<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
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    The next day we continued eastward on highway 17. I recall seeing our first of many moose alongside the road during this stretch. We stopped for our usual lunch of PB&J sandwiches at the Nipigon River and wished we had brought fishing poles. I would have loved to take a side trip up to see Lake Nipigon but we had told our folks to expect us back in a week and didn’t want to spare the time. Looking back, I wish we had gone up there since I’ve still never seen it to this day. If you look at it on a map it almost deserves to be counted as another of the Great Lakes.<o:p></o:p>
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    The scenery was getting more and more spectacular but the hills were getting bigger and steeper. I was flogging the poor little 50cc motor mercilessly going up them and was over-revving to the point of hitting 50 mph coming down the other side. It’s amazing how that thing tolerated running absolutely full throttle with a heavy load for hours at a time without missing a beat. It probably put out no more than 3-4 HP while Doug’s bike made at least 6 so his was always loafing in comparison. Still, we were having a ball and Doug never complained a bit about me holding him back or anything else. He’s a great guy but sadly he got married and moved away about 5 years after this trip and I’ve lost contact with him. <o:p></o:p>
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    We got to the town of Schreiber late that afternoon and stopped at a store to get food supplies. While we were there a group of guys about our age saw our bikes and came over to talk to us. They were very excited to hear about our trip and one of them asked if we would want to camp out in their yard. He rushed home to check with his folks and came back shortly to tell us they agreed. We followed him back home and pitched our tent in their back yard. His folks invited us in for dinner and were amazed to hear about our trip. We talked for hours until late before crashing in our tent. <o:p></o:p>
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    I couldn’t help but notice an old beat up Honda step-through without plates parked in the back yard. Turns out it belonged to a 12-year old brother who just used it to putt around some area trails, but it was pretty battered. Little did we know that it would prove to be very important to our trip the next day.<o:p></o:p>
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    #15
  16. Bud Tugly

    Bud Tugly Gnarly old curmudgeon

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    241
    Location:
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    DAY 5 – BACK TO SCHREIBER AND BEYOND<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
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    The next morning we went through our usual routine of breaking down the tent and loading the packs. We checked our chain adjustments and oiled the chains as we did every morning. I remember my chain was a touch loose so I tightened it up. We said goodbye to our new friends and hoped they might come through the States sometime so we could return their kindness. We headed off east down highway 17 and Schreiber disappeared behind.<o:p></o:p>
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    A few miles out of town the highway turned to gravel. Farther along we found out why. There were bulldozers, road graders, and other heavy equipment reshaping the entire road. It looked like they were smoothing out curves and widening the road in preparation for repaving. We slowed down a bit due to the loose gravel but were able to keep going, although we bounced around at times.<o:p></o:p>
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    All of a sudden my bike started swerving around and I almost lost control and crashed. Luckily I was only going about 25 mph so I was able to pull over safely. My first thought was a flat tire but when I checked both were fine. Then I looked at the rear axle. The axle nut and, worse yet, the chain adjuster were gone from one side of the rear wheel. Whether I hadn’t tightened the nut enough that morning or the vibration from the gravel road had loosened it, it had worked loose and fallen off.<o:p></o:p>
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    We parked the bikes well off the road and walked back over the last mile or so we had covered. Some of the road construction workers even noticed and came over to help. We searched that road for a good two hours with no luck and finally gave it up. What do we do now?<o:p></o:p>
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    I decided the only hope was to go back to Schreiber since it was only about 10 miles back. I removed the nut and adjuster from the other side of the bike and put them in my pocket. Doug suggested I ride his bike back to town while he stayed to watch my bike and all our gear. He had water, sandwiches, and a book to read so he said he’d be fine. I raced back the way we had come at full throttle.<o:p></o:p>
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    There was a small hardware store in Schreiber that also did small engine repair and I showed them the pieces I needed. The nut was, of course, metric and Canada hadn’t converted yet so all he had was standard size nuts. He had a small box of miscellaneous metric parts but there was nothing there that was close either. The nearest Honda dealership was way over in Sault Ste. Marie and how was I going to get there to get the parts?<o:p></o:p>
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    Then I remembered the old beat-up Honda at the house we had stayed. I raced over there and explained the situation and then looked at the old bike. The nut and chain adjuster were exactly the same as mine! I asked the 12-year old if he would consider selling me the parts. He immediately agreed and said his folks were going over to Sault Ste. Marie in a week or so and could pick up replacements then. I tried to give him $10 for his trouble and he refused, saying he was glad to help me out. The stereotype of Canadians being kind and generous folks sure proved true in this case!<o:p></o:p>
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    Before leaving I noted the house address and later sent him $10 through the mail with no return address so he’d have to take it regardless. Parts in hand I raced back to Doug and got my bike back together in no time. Doug had been waiting for about 2 hours but it turned out he spent most of the time telling jokes with the road construction workers. It was afternoon by now but we were finally back under way.<o:p></o:p>
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    The road improved shortly so we hammered it until near dark. We covered quite a distance and came to a river with a 2-track road running north along it. We went about a half-mile up the road until we came to a clearing with a large pole nailed between two trees. We figured it was likely used by moose hunters and was a great spot with a nice view of the river so we set up camp, made dinner, and went to sleep after a hectic day.<o:p></o:p>
    #16
  17. helidude

    helidude defy gravity

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2006
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    142
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    southern ontario
    thanks for sharing...

    looking forward to reading more.:clap
    #17
  18. Bud Tugly

    Bud Tugly Gnarly old curmudgeon

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2007
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    241
    Location:
    Ishpeming, MI
    DAY 6 – TO WHITE RIVER AND WAWA<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
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    A few comments about our camping gear. Our tent was an old-fashioned Boy Scout style canvas pup tent. It had to be pegged down and there was a short pole in the middle of each end. That meant you had to crawl around that pole to get in and out. The whole thing was only about 6 ½ feet long and barely 3 feet wide and tall when pitched. It was awfully crowded for the two of us. It’s a good thing we were skinny kids.<o:p></o:p>
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    Our sleeping bags were crap by modern standards. They were made of cloth with some kind of shredded wool stuffing. Very little loft compared to modern bags and not very warm. We also just slept right on the ground since the tent had no floor and we had no sleeping pads or mattresses under us. We used our rolled up jackets for pillows. Somehow we made do, but back then we didn’t know any better. We had camped out in the woods near our homes with the same set-up for several years before.<o:p></o:p>
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    In the morning we had breakfast, rolled up the tent, and got the packs ready. We were just about to start lashing things onto the bikes when we heard a noise in the woods. A huge black bear came ambling out of the bush about 100 feet away and just stopped and stared when he saw us. We quickly jumped on the bikes, fired them up, and revved the engines thinking it would scare him away. It had the opposite effect as he immediately started loping right toward us. <o:p></o:p>
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    We popped the bikes in gear and blasted away down the two-track road a bit and then glanced back. The bear was ignoring us but was now sniffing at our packs and tent. Luckily we had no food in them and knew enough to always keep an extremely clean camp. He batted the packs a few times and then lost interest and wandered back into the bush. We scooted back, grabbed our gear, and hustled back by the main road where we finally took the time to lash things down. I had seen bears back home several times while out fishing but they always ran like crazy at the sight of people. Apparently Canadian bears see things differently than ours.<o:p></o:p>
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    We set off down the road but it was a very chilly day with a brisk SW wind. Back home those winds generally bring warmth, but here it was blowing right across icy Lake Superior so it had a bite to it. It must have been 50 degrees or less and our cloth jackets and sweatshirts were less than ideal. We rode on but would start shivering so badly we could hardly keep our bikes going in a straight line. We would stop every hour or so in places sheltered from the wind and do jumping jacks until we were warmed enough to go again. <o:p></o:p>
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    We got to White River in the afternoon and decided to duck into a restaurant to get some hot coffee and warm up. While there we noticed they had a special of a fried chicken basket and the price was ridiculously low, even for those days. We had plenty of money left so decided to give it a try. They brought us each a basket with about 6 pieces of fried chicken and a huge pile of French fries. Being teenagers we wolfed it down even though we had eaten our sandwiches just an hour or two before. Washing it all down with hot coffee warmed us up nicely.<o:p></o:p>
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    When we got out of the restaurant the wind had died down significantly and we pushed on just south of Wawa, where we again camped on a side road. We usually kept the packs with our cereal and milk far from the tent at night, but we were especially careful this time.<o:p></o:p>
    #18
  19. Krabill

    Krabill Long timer

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2005
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    4,901
    Location:
    Tulsa, OK
    I've always wanted to do a Lake Superior loop, but have yet to find the time. Thank you for sharing your story :clap

    I've got a few friends doing the loop this summer. I just might have to try to find the time to join them . . .
    #19
  20. Klay

    Klay dreaming adventurer

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2005
    Oddometer:
    103,239
    Location:
    right here on my thermarest
    Great story. :lurk
    #20