Big Great Lakes Loop

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by Jamie Z, Jul 4, 2012.

  1. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z Long timer

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2006
    Oddometer:
    7,888
    Location:
    Denver, more or less.
    Expecting a good night's sleep in a comfortable bed after the sauna, I hardly slept at all. I don't know what was wrong, but I drug myself out of bed when I heard activity in the house. I was greeted at the table with Rick and breakfast.

    [​IMG]

    Hard to see, but the main dish sitting in front of Rick was what I'd call french toast casserole and it was delicious. There was also fresh sliced fruit and pastries. I asked Tuija when she had time to prepare all that. "This morning!" she chirped. Wow. She's awesome.

    While we ate, Rick asked if I'd be interested in going up in his plane. What? Are you kidding? Rick's cabin sits on a lake and he has a floatplane docked out front.

    [​IMG]

    Rick suggested we get on the ball because it was forecast to rain later in the day, so we headed down.

    [​IMG]

    He made the necessary pre-flight checks and explained to me a little about the airplane.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Rick's son-in-law Eric took our photo just before we boarded.

    [​IMG]

    And then a couple minutes later we were in the air!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    We flew up around the town of Chapleau while Rick explained the controls to me.

    [​IMG]

    And then he asked if I wanted to try it. No shit.

    [​IMG]

    This made me far more nervous than I'm almost willing to admit. At one point while Rick was explaining how to bank and showing me the rudder controls, I was too timid to push on the pedal and was tempted to ask him to take the controls back, but he patiently talked me through it assuring me that we wouldn't fall out of the sky. After ten minutes of steady flight, Rick instructed me to turn back toward his house and I made the 180° turn successfully.

    As we came in, he described how it's preferable to have a little wind to stir up some waves on the lake, otherwise it's very difficult to judge elevation when coming in to land. Today was perfectly calm. Here Rick is bringing us in to land.

    [​IMG]

    We came into land on the glasslike surface, you can see the video here:

    <iframe width="853" height="480" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/E8OHtkfWMc4?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

    In reality, the landing was suprisingly smooth, not like the shaky video. What an awesome experience. Rick taxied the plane over to his dock and told me how important it was to pull up just right because as he explained it, "These things don't paddle very well."

    [​IMG]

    Rick owns a company which makes logs to build log homes. We rode over in his truck to see the facility. As a mechanical engineer, I was fascinated with the big machinery.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    He asked if I'd like to see it in action. Of course! He grabbed a couple of logs with a big tractor and dropped them into the hopper.

    [​IMG]

    The first job is to strip the log and turn it into a uniform shape.

    [​IMG]

    The best way to understand is this short video.

    <iframe width="853" height="480" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/Vl2njV3oY1A?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

    The machine cuts a tongue and groove in each log for more solid contruction, and then cuts the notch. Again, a short video shows the work.

    <iframe width="853" height="480" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/TPwh7Wtxers?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

    Each log is cut to length according to the plans so when the kit arrives to the construction site, the contractors merely have to assemble and finish the home. He's looking to sell his business if you're interested.

    The family keeps a couple of golden retrievers, one of whom likes to play.

    [​IMG]

    The other, not so much.

    [​IMG]

    And then there's the puppy.

    [​IMG]

    All this and it wasn't yet noon! I figured I'd better head out, so I packed up my bike. Rick and Tuija had been better hosts than I could have imagined. I had a great time and learned a bunch and enjoyed two excellent meals. One last group shot with Rick, his daughter, and his wife.

    [​IMG]

    Just as I rode into Chapleau, a light rain started. I did a bit of shopping in town, and sent out a couple of post cards.

    [​IMG]

    I really should have eaten here. could hardly pass up that catchline.

    [​IMG]

    I headed west, toward Wawa. I made a stop at Potholes Provincial park to find a geocache. Despite the name, it's a cool stop. The "potholes" were carved in the rock by water, apparently in just a very short time, according to the signs on display.

    [​IMG]

    There's an easy hiking trail and the rain let up for a short time while I was there.

    [​IMG]

    For past two days, traffic had been very light, and I most certainly hadn't seen any motorcycles.

    [​IMG]

    Pulling into Wawa, the rain started coming down hard. To my astonishment, I also started seeing lots of bikes. I was looking for a motorcycle shop in town run by ADV inmate Finndian. I found it on the south end of town and parked my bike and walked inside, dripping everywhere.

    [​IMG]

    Inside, the lady behind the counter told me Finndian was out of the shop for the day. Looks like I'd missed him. Nonetheless I stayed for a bit and chatted with the woman. She asked me if I'd seen a wrecked truck along the road from Chapleau. In fact I had. I also pet the big dog she'd brought to work with her. She also explained the reason for all the motorcycles in town. Wawa was a major intersection on the Great Circle route. Many bikes (and cars) who ride around Lake Superior stop in town for the night or for a meal. I waited for the rain to let up a bit and headed back outside.

    I rode around the town while I decided what to do. Lake Wawa looked ominous.

    [​IMG]

    The rain started again. While I don't mind the rain too much, it doesn't make for good sight-seeing. I debated stopping in town and calling it a day. In front of a local Subway, I spied two BMW bikes loaded up with an ADV sticker behind one of them. I pulled up beside the bikes and went inside.

    I found Gene and Neda inside eating sandwiches. I went to the counter to order lunch, then joined them at their table. They were at the beginning of an open-ended ride through the western hemisphere. Minutes after we met, they both asked if I'd like to split a room with them in town, and though the cost was quite a bit more than I'd spent anywhere else on the ride, I decided to join them. After lunch, I stopped to pick up a 6-pack of beer then met them at the hotel.

    Shortly after we arrived, I suggested a group shot, while we were all there and had our bikes in one place.

    [​IMG]

    The Elvis pose is not on purpose. After aiming the mini-tripod and setting the timer on the camera, I tripped hard on the gravel parking lot running back to get in the shot. I got up and made it into the photo just in time. Neda thought I was trying to act silly, but trust me, I fell hard and it hurt.

    In the evening, Gene showed me their maps and described where they'd been and where they plan to go. I could only listen in awe and envy and ask lots of questions.

    For a day cut short by heavy rain, I sure felt like I'd done a lot. As I lay in bed that night, each time I moved, I could feel pain in my ribs.

    Jamie
    #81
  2. Disco Stu

    Disco Stu Long timer

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2006
    Oddometer:
    5,572
    Location:
    The Center of my Own Universe
    You're an engineer? :amazon

    Great pics. Did you have to do much in the way of processing the images with your new camera
    #82
  3. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z Long timer

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2006
    Oddometer:
    7,888
    Location:
    Denver, more or less.
    Thanks. No post-processing to speak of. I cropped a few of them and straightened a few that were slightly crooked. I also took lots of pictures, so in most cases, you're seeing just the ones that I like. The photos that didn't turn out aren't published. :lol3

    As I like to say, photography is the art of quantity.

    Jamie
    #83
  4. lightcycle

    lightcycle Nomad

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2006
    Oddometer:
    685
    Location:
    No Fixed Address (originally Toronto)
    Hey Jamie! Great photos! So glad to have run into you at Wawa! Hope the ribs healed ok!
    #84
  5. nofate

    nofate what blackflies?

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2005
    Oddometer:
    2,861
    Location:
    Chapleau, ON
    Hey Jamie, great RR. I'm glad I was able to help you experience some new things that might be hard to come by in Memphis. Whats up with the sore ribs?
    #85
  6. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z Long timer

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2006
    Oddometer:
    7,888
    Location:
    Denver, more or less.
    Hey Rick! The sore ribs were terrible. The pain persisted for a couple of months. Not sure what I did, but it didn't seem to be serious, but it wasn't light.

    Sweet! Great to hear from you Gene. I've fallen a bit behind on the ride report from you and Neda. I check to see if you're getting close to Memphis.

    Jamie
    #86
  7. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z Long timer

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2006
    Oddometer:
    7,888
    Location:
    Denver, more or less.
    Considering my injured ribs, I slept moderately well. We all got up in the morning and packed up our bikes. I noticed Neda did not have an ADV sticker on her bike, and since I was carrying a few extra, I offered her one.

    [​IMG]

    I talked to the couple about my injury. Gene suggested I try the cough test. He said that if I cough, I'll know immediately if I've broken a rib or not. I passed the test. He said laughing works the same way.

    We rode up to Wawa's famous goose. Though probably not allowed, Gene led the way and we parked right in front.

    [​IMG]

    Yesterday my lights went out again before I got to town. Clearly there was a correlation with the rain. Today, I replaced the fuse and my lights came back on. Does this mean I can't ride in the rain?

    [​IMG]
    pic stolen from Gene and Neda's smugmug

    I followed the pair out of town.

    [​IMG]

    As we rode off it was clear that their pace was quite a bit faster than my own and I watched them disappear in the distance. You can read their ongoing ride report here: http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=813572

    I thought about following this.

    [​IMG]

    And I stopped for a geocache.

    [​IMG]

    Located along the highway in a place you'd never expect there was a trail going off into the woods.

    [​IMG]

    And then a waterfall!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Standing at the bottom looking up at the falls, I felt incredibly lonely. I really wished I could have reached Gene and Neda somehow to tell them to come back. It was a really amazing place and by the looks of the overgrown trail almost nobody knows about it. Here I was alone, but I wanted to share it with somebody.

    The geocache was located downstream a bit, and I found it easily.

    [​IMG]

    I made the trek back to my bike and then another stop for a geocache. This one high on a hill near a radio tower and a great view of Superior.

    [​IMG]

    Note that in this whole ride report, this is the first photo of an actual Great Lake.

    [​IMG]

    Not long after, I stopped along the side of the road to mark my most northerly point of the trip. N49°01.417' This is as far north as my bike has ever been.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    And then the Terry Fox monument near Thunder Bay. The location marks the site where Terry Fox, a cancer victim who lost a leg to the disease, ended his goal to run across Canada, completing a marathon distance each day for 143 days. The spread of cancer forced him to stop, and eventually took his life. He is considered a Canadian national hero.

    [​IMG]

    I made camp near Thunder Bay behind a residential golf course. Me, pay for camping? And where else will I find such manicured lawn?

    [​IMG]

    Jamie
    #87
  8. nofate

    nofate what blackflies?

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2005
    Oddometer:
    2,861
    Location:
    Chapleau, ON
    The headframes in the distance are for the gold mines at Hemlo. They really do make yellow bricks down that road. Security is probably pretty tight though. :D
    #88
  9. RAGBrian

    RAGBrian jonesing for a ride

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2008
    Oddometer:
    1,034
    Location:
    Wildwood, MO
    Didn't know about Thurmond back then. But I would like to check it out when I get back East. I remember the bridge because a buddy of mine who I did a long road trip with that summer left his good eye glasses at the overlook by the bridge. : baldy We drove back to the overlook when he discovered them missing but we never found them.

    Enjoying the RR!

    phat fingered on my phone with Tapatalk
    #89
  10. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z Long timer

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2006
    Oddometer:
    7,888
    Location:
    Denver, more or less.
    Heh. I never thought to take the sign literally. Good information.

    Jamie
    #90
  11. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z Long timer

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2006
    Oddometer:
    7,888
    Location:
    Denver, more or less.
    I awoke in the morning to the sound of two people talking and hitting golf balls. Their conversation made no mention of the motorcycle and tent in the grass nearby as if it was a completely normal part of the scenery.

    This is a view from my tent to the tee box just past the shade.

    [​IMG]

    I figured there was half a chance I might run into Gene and Neda because they were planning to visit Thunder Bay today too. I rode out to the big peninsula that makes up Sleeping Giant Provincial Park and made the loop.

    [​IMG]

    A stop at the visitor center and I was told that a vehicle permit to enter the park would cost $14. I passed on the permit and rode into Thunder Bay.

    My first stop was the Madhouse downtown, run by an inmate here. Feliz was working the bar and I introduced myself and ordered the special of the day, a pita pizza and a beer.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    And then another beer of Feliz's recommendation, this time a local brew.

    [​IMG]

    Though they were rather busy, I talked to Feliz for a while about his business, living in Thunder Bay, and what to see and do in town. He gave me some terrible news. My most favorite bar in the world, the Inntowner Palace, was now a parking lot, having been demolished in 2010.

    I walked up to the popular harbor a few blocks away.

    [​IMG]

    A splash pool was filled with kids and parents on this warm July day. More swimming Canadians.

    [​IMG]

    I stepped inside a small casino. None of the customers or workers seemed very happy to be there. It was a very depressing and sad place.

    [​IMG]

    This one is for Neda. Reminds me. I never did run into Gene and Neda again like I figured I would.

    [​IMG]

    And since I'm Polish.

    [​IMG]

    Every week there is a band and festival at Marina Park in Thunder Bay, so I spent a couple hours people-watching and looking out over the lake.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    This week's theme was polka. Here's Captain John and the Polka Pirates.

    <iframe width="853" height="480" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/2rFF0alUl-w?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

    It was near 10pm when the sun set and almost 11pm before it got dark. Feliz had offered me a place to sleep, but now realizing how late it was, I didn't want to risk waking him or his kids. I regretted my poor planning because Feliz was a supremely cool guy, and I looked forward to having a beer with him and chatting more. Around 11pm and in fading light, I headed out of town, looking for a place to sleep.

    Jamie
    #91
  12. lightcycle

    lightcycle Nomad

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2006
    Oddometer:
    685
    Location:
    No Fixed Address (originally Toronto)
    Haha, Neda says, "That building looks very.... sad." She didn't even read your comment above about the casino workers! :)

    The reason why you never ran into us is that despite repeated and documented pieces of contrary evidence, my wife still believes she is invisible to police radar. :hmmmmm
    #92
  13. MizzouRider

    MizzouRider Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,824
    Location:
    Fly over zone
    Jamie,
    Still loving this report. I'm going to visit the tent space thread, and get involved. What an adventure, nice.. Flying the floatplane!
    Couple of things; we just paid $33.00 a night for a campsite in Arkansas, near Eureka Springs, in a state park! With a fire ban in place, and most everything (pool) closed, I was surprised they would charge so much..
    Second, when we camped up in Sleeping Giant, we made the hike up to the top.. Great view, but my wife wasn't too keen on the distance, and elevation changes... Ha. Here's the view from the top.
    [​IMG]

    Jeff
    #93
  14. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z Long timer

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2006
    Oddometer:
    7,888
    Location:
    Denver, more or less.
    No wonder that wasn't in your ride report. :lol3

    Jeff, I encourage you to sign up for the Tent Space list if you're up for it. It's a lot of fun.

    Thanks for the Sleeping Giant pic. Very nice. I've been to Thunder Bay quite a few times, and I'm sure I've been up there at least once quite a long time ago, but I'm not certain.

    Jamie
    #94
  15. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z Long timer

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2006
    Oddometer:
    7,888
    Location:
    Denver, more or less.
    I left Thunder Bay last night in the dark, quite irritated with myself that I skipped Feliz's offer to drink a couple beers and crash at his place. In my defense, in this northern Eastern Time Zone city, it wasn't dark until well after 10pm and I didn't realize what time it was.

    Finding a stealth campsite in the dark is not easy. I checked several potential places and then I found the jackpot. Kakabeka Curling Club.

    [​IMG]

    There was a nice grassy spot right out back. Right next to the attached Chinese restaurant. You can't make this stuff up.

    [​IMG]

    The restaurant appeared to be shuttered, but I hoped someone would show up bright and early to the Curling Club. Maybe they'd show me how to play! I've been fascinated with the sport ever since the 2010 Winter Olympics. Alas, the parking lot was empty when I woke up.

    My plan was to cross back into the US today, but rather than take highway 61 like everyone else, I took a more circuitous route involving more scenic roads that I found online, namely, highway 593.

    The first stop was one of the most interesting geocaches I've ever found, based on the NHL Stanley Cup. The cache itself was hidden inside this hollowed-out log.

    [​IMG]

    And in order to "sign" the cache, you had to use the Dremel to etch your name on the cup. Get it? The Cup?

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Pretty awesome, I thought.

    I like clever mailboxes.

    [​IMG]

    I think I picked the right road, too.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Where the highway turned west to follow the Pigeon River, there was another road marked "Old Border Road." I couldn't pass it up.

    [​IMG]

    As expected, the road dead-ended at the Pigeon River with the US on the other side, the old bridge long-since removed. There was no remnants of any buildings or signs or any other border controls. I intended to check out the opposite side once I crossed the other border.

    [​IMG]

    Highway 593 provided a beautiful view of Pigeon river.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    And then I found another waterfall!

    [​IMG]

    This one was more accessible--right along the highway--but the infrastructure here was long abandoned. There looked to be some sort of wading pool.

    [​IMG]

    And a grown-over parking lot with the paint still visible in some places.

    [​IMG]

    The entrance was blocked off. I'm curious when this part of the nearby Pigeon River Provincial Park was open.

    [​IMG]

    Down near the river, I found something curious. At first, I thought I happened upon another geocache.

    [​IMG]

    It was a coffee can in pristine condition. Clearly it had not been out in the elements at all. Inside was perhaps a hundred or more small envelopes, all in perfect condition.

    [​IMG]

    Each envelope contained half of a card showing a cartoon character.

    [​IMG]

    Looked like some sort of prop for a poker run, but there was no other information inside. Anyone know anything about this?

    Anyway, back to those falls!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The cool part is that the Pigeon River forms the northern boundary between Canada and the US, so the rocks on the other side are the United States.

    [​IMG]

    After climbing all over the falls and taking lots of pictures, I walked back to my bike.

    [​IMG]

    On highway 61 right next to the border is the modern Pigeon River Provincial Park. They have a nice walking trail.

    [​IMG]

    And then it gets a little hairy.

    [​IMG]

    The trail leads to the High Falls of the Pigeon River.

    [​IMG]

    And there weren't any fences or any other safety devices. Sure Jamie, just go right out there.

    [​IMG]

    Considered the tallest waterfall "in" Minnesota, High Falls are 120 feet high, and I was standing at the brink.

    [​IMG]

    I spent about 30 minutes climbing up and down and all around the gigantic boulders beside the falls.

    But wait a second. Look closer. What's that?

    That's an observation deck with people on it. People across the river in Minnesota. Wow, I had no idea that was there.

    [​IMG]

    And then I had an epiphany. No doubt most of those people over there were taking pictures of the falls. I was climbing all over the falls. I wonder if I could somehow get those pictures, with me in them. That'd be awesome. I made it my goal to get over the US side as quickly as I could and see if I could find people who might have pictures of me on the falls.

    But not before a couple more shots of the beauty from farther away.

    [​IMG]

    And a view of the international bridge.

    [​IMG]

    I jogged back to my bike and headed for the border, hoping to find someone with pictures of me climbing on the rocks.

    Remember my crossing into Canada at the Peace Bridge near Toronto? The Canadian border offical was smiling and friendly and gave me a mint. The crossing took about 20 seconds.

    Here, at Grand Portage, a remote crossing not near anything, the US border agent was stern and lectured me for not stopping my bike precisely where he wanted me to. As I was unbuckling my helmet he scolded me "You'll have to take that helmet off."

    Then came a barrage of questions about where I'm from, where I'm going, where I'm coming from. I told him I'm from Memphis. He asked why, if I'm from Memphis, do I have Mississippi plates on my bike, and why am I coming through Canada to get to Minnesota. He wanted to know why I was visiting Minnesota. I told him I grew up in Minnesota and was coming to visit family. What town did I grow up in? What high school did I attend? What, really? My high school?

    He looked through my passport. Why are there so many stamps in here? Do you have a job requiring international travel? No, I'm a student, or was a student and participated in some study abroad programs. After a long pause, he handed the passport back to me and told me I could go. Sheesh.

    [​IMG]

    Almost immediately, I pulled into the newly built Grand Portage State Park welcome center.

    [​IMG]

    I wasn't sure if this was the right place to see the High Falls. I asked a young couple in the parking lot if they knew if there was a trail leading back to the falls. The guy says "Yeah, we just came from there." Oh, you did?

    Did you take any pictures? He said he did. I asked if he saw anyone on the falls. He told me there was a guy wearing jeans and a black T-shirt over there. That was me! Awesome. I unzipped my riding suit to show him my dark shirt. I asked, do you think I could get the pictures from you? He shrugged and held his fingers up with a tiny space between them. You can't see anything. You're only about this big in the photos. I nodded eagerly. Yeah, that'd be neat to have. I'd like to see them. He shrugged and shook his head. "It's not really worth it."

    Well screw you too.

    What the hell, dude? Anyway, what could I do? Grab his camera and run? I mean, how hard would it be to exchange email addresses and send me the pics? Some people suck and my welcome into the US hadn't been so welcome so far.

    Well anyway, the US side is a whole lot different from Canada. Here, there is a paved trail with a fence.

    [​IMG]

    And then a fancy boardwalk with rails. There was no trails to climb out onto the falls.

    [​IMG]

    You get to see the falls from viewing platforms far from the water.

    [​IMG]

    Though I have to admit, the US has a better viewing angle. Anyone want to photoshop a picture of me standing on the falls?

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    This is Grand Portage National Monument. I've been quite a number of times, but they've made some major changes since I've last seen it. Before, you used to park right in front of the lodge.

    [​IMG]

    I had intended to follow old highway 61 up to the old border crossing on the Minnesota side, but I completely forgot. Looking at the map later on Google, I realized I missed a neat ride.

    To get my mind off the border official and the jackass at the welcome center, I stopped for a geocache along the shore of Lake Superior.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I had made contact with FotoTEX before the trip and he invited me to stop by his winter home in Two Harbors, Minnesota. I had the address to his camp and showed up unannounced. He was sitting out front of his Airstream in a Texas-flag lawn chair. His wife offered a beer.

    [​IMG]

    Donovan wanted to show me around the lake a bit, so we walked up the beach. For the record, that's some cold water.

    [​IMG]

    I got a shot of him and his wife Rebecca, and then she took a picture of the two of us.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    And then we walked over to a woodworking school nearby. There was a fellow inside working, and he showed us a few things and told us about the classes.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Donovan offered a place to set up my tent, but since it was only early evening, I decided to get on the road for a few more miles before the late sunset. I made a stop at Temperence River State Park, one of my favorite rivers.

    [​IMG]

    And then headed back north on highway 1, considered one of the most scenic in the state.

    [​IMG]

    Around nightfall, I found myself coming into the small town of Isabella, Minnesota. There was a large sign for a motel, with a smaller campground sign nearby. I decided to stop.

    [​IMG]

    The thing is, there was nobody there. A sign on the building had a phone number, but half the numbers were gone.

    [​IMG]

    And what appeared to be the office/camp store was gutted.

    [​IMG]

    In any case, the campground out back was mowed and had picnic tables. Looked good to me. And the price was right.

    [​IMG]

    Before dark, I took a few minutes to explore. The "motel" consisted of a double-long mobile home, divided into four rooms and a utility closet. There were signs asking snowmobilers to keep wet gear off the furniture.

    [​IMG]

    Two of the rooms were unlocked. Inside the beds were made up and everything seemed to be in place, though there was no power or running water. It was as if the owners simply got up one morning and walked away. I briefly considered staying in one of the rooms. The beds looked more inviting than the cold and mosquitoes outside. The musty odor inside made me reconsider.

    So, I made dinner back near my tent.

    [​IMG]

    And crawled inside my tent to get away from the mosquitoes.

    [​IMG]

    Jamie
    #95
  16. malibu_dan

    malibu_dan Adventuring Mystic

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2008
    Oddometer:
    1,604
    Location:
    Middle Tennessee
    Got ya covered, Jamie. Although, the falls look like they're smaller than you described... :linzi

    [​IMG]

    The reason, I'm guessing, that 'dude' didn't want to send you the pics are because he was pissed at you for ruining all his pictures of the falls by climbing all over while he was taking them.... :lurk
    #96
  17. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z Long timer

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2006
    Oddometer:
    7,888
    Location:
    Denver, more or less.
    :rofl:clap

    Funny. They look bigger in person.

    Jamie
    #97
  18. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z Long timer

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2006
    Oddometer:
    7,888
    Location:
    Denver, more or less.
    I woke to a light rain and my ribs shot pain through my abdomen when I tried to sit up out of bed. My riding gloves were sitting on the picnic table and soaked but I packed up quickly and warmed up some oatmeal for breakfast.

    Just on the other side of town was a small restaurant and I was surprised to see it open. The rain had cleared up.

    [​IMG]

    Mostly I just wanted to talk to someone and ask about the motel. I thought I might order a cup of coffee until I saw this.

    [​IMG]

    How could I pass up a breakfast malt?

    [​IMG]

    I talked to Tom the owner for a short time. He wasn't sure how long the restaurant had been open. An older fellow, he and his wife bought it 26 years ago and it had been open some time before that. He said the motel next door had shut down three years ago. He seemed unaware that I camped the night before. On the entire ride, this guy was the only one who asked me how fast my bike would go. I shrugged and told him it wasn't very fast at all. He went on to tell me about how he hears guys speed past on the country road out front on "one of those things." Again I shrugged and told him I'd never ridden a sport bike, so I don't know. I'm not sure he was listening and he continued to tell me about how "those kinds of bikes" will go 150 mph. If it has plastic, it must be a crotch rocket.

    When I asked what I owed him, he thought for a few seconds and pulled the price out of the air. "Five bucks and we'll call it even." Is that the Canadian price? Sheesh.

    An older worker wearing overalls and driving a logging truck pulled up just as I was heading out.

    I continued to follow highway 1.

    [​IMG]

    Road construction forced me onto some hardpack gravel.

    [​IMG]

    And into the town of Babbitt, where there was a great display of retired mining equipment.

    [​IMG]

    This part of Minnesota is known as the Iron Range because of the iron ore deposits. The equipment here is gigantic.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    My next stop was in the town of Ely, pronounced EEE-lee, and the Dorothy Molter museum.

    Dorothy Molter, known as the Root Beer Lady, was the last resident of the one-million acre Boundary Waters Canoe Area. The Forest Service attempted to remove her several times, but they were stymied each time by her resiliance and popularity. In the end, they made her a Forest Service "volunteer" to report the conditions inside the park. I encourage you to read about her: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Molter

    At the museum, first a little movie and introduction from a tour guide.

    [​IMG]

    And then to her cabin, which was disassembled and moved from its location in the Boundary Waters to Ely after her death in 1986.

    [​IMG]

    Inside, as repeated by our guide over and over, everything was exactly as left by Dorothy. Everything in the house was authentic and belonged to her. Got that? 100% authentic. Just how Dorothy lived.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    When I was young, my mom gave me a book about Dorothy, I thought about the book and bought a postcard to send to my mom.

    [​IMG]

    I headed north out of Ely onto country road 116, known as the Echo Trail, a former logging road which today provides access to the Boundary Waters Canoe area.

    [​IMG]

    The perfect pavement soon turned to rough pavement which soon turned to freshly graded gravel. The loose rocks made for a harrowing and slow ride.

    [​IMG]

    I soon found the source of my riding woes.

    [​IMG]

    And the teeth on the plow made the rocks loose and the riding hard.

    [​IMG]

    Fortunately, they must have graded the road and parked the grader because after that point, the road was hardpack gravel on which I could ride comfortably.

    [​IMG]

    The scenery was beautiful and desolate.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Desolate until I pulled into a BWCA put-in.

    [​IMG]

    There must have been 40 vehicles crammed into eavey little corner. What I thought I had to myself was actually a metropolis.

    The Echo Trail leads to the community of Buyck, which is immediately pronouncable.

    [​IMG]

    Just beyond Buyck I saw three girls behind a lemonade stand, so I stopped. Just after I gave them a buck for a cup, the wind picked up and a cold front passed. The dark clouds coming in foretold rain was on the way, so the girls scurried to pack up their stand. Just before I left, I stood back and asked if I could take a picture.

    [​IMG]

    I stopped in Orr for gas while rain started falling.

    [​IMG]

    I've got a clever idea for a prop they could attach to the sign to help with pronunciation here, too.

    [​IMG]

    Just outside Orr is the Mickey Elverum Bog Walk. There's a geocache there. I had to stop.

    [​IMG]

    It's a neat walk through the woods.

    [​IMG]

    And into the bog.

    [​IMG]

    I did find the cache here.

    The purpose of this whole ride was to visit my family who mostly live around the Twin Cities in Minnesota. When I'd called my mom a month earlier to tell her about my plans and that I might come down through Canada, she retold a story about my dad and her taking a trip to the border town of International Falls when they were first married in the mid-60s. She asked me, isn't there a highway 65 that runs down through there?

    I looked at my map. She was right!

    [​IMG]

    She described it as an especially scenic route through the forest, without any traffic at all. She was right!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    She said, "There was even grass growing up in the middle of the road." I chuckled at her memory from 50 years ago. But she was right about that, too.

    [​IMG]

    Along the 40 miles or so I stayed on highway 65, I didn't pass another vehicle.

    But I did find one of my favorite placenames.

    [​IMG]

    I rode into Effie, Minnesota on highway 1, heading west. I altered my route slightly when I saw this sign marking the northern end of the Edge of the Wilderness National Scenic Byway. I turned south and followed it.

    [​IMG]

    I stopped in the town of Bigfork. Used to have a friend who lived here a few years back. I stopped at an Edge of the Wilderness interpretive center around sunset.

    [​IMG]

    Don't think I didn't consider bunking in that flatboat on display. I needed to find a place to crash before dark but I'm sure some official would come by in the evening to lock up.

    I located a state forest campground along my route and rode the narrow gravel to find it. To my dismay, it was filled almost to capacity, and the campground fee was bumping up against $20.

    So, I followed an ATV trail back to a clearing about a mile away and pitched my tent.

    [​IMG]

    I used to live in Minnesota and forgot about deer flies. Holy crap. Buzzing around my face, hair, and ears all the while I was trying to set up my tent. I pulled a stocking cap down over my head to keep them from driving me crazy. I opted out of sitting outside to make dinner and instead took some crackers and granola bars into my tent before bed and fell asleep listening to an owl nearby.

    Jamie
    #98
  19. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z Long timer

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2006
    Oddometer:
    7,888
    Location:
    Denver, more or less.
    I woke up and continued south on highway 38, the Edge of the Wilderness Scenic Byway. Along the way I crossed the Laurentian Divide. The water north of here flows into Hudson Bay (although curiously, the sign uses the old "Hudsons Bay" name).

    [​IMG]

    And for my Finnish friends.

    [​IMG]

    I rode around looking for the party. Never did see it.

    [​IMG]

    I found a couple of geocaches along the way and found this little buddy.

    [​IMG]

    I've got a friend from this area who I haven't seen or talked to in about ten years. I stopped to watch a Little League game and found a number for her dad who in turn gave me her number. I gave her a call.

    [​IMG]

    Amanda was excited to hear from me. Turns out she lives in St. Paul now and asked if I was coming down that way. We made some tentative plans and she offered that I could stay with her and her boyfriend if I needed when I go through that area in a few days. I told her that would work out great!

    The Edge of the Wilderness Scenic Byway ends in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, hometown of Judy Garland. Urbanspoon on my smartphone recommended a little place to eat called Pasties Plus. What the heck, I'll try it. It's a tiny place.

    [​IMG]

    Inside it's small. Like a little bakery, which I guess is what it is. I went to the counter and explained that I was a rookie. I didn't have a clue what a pasty is.

    [​IMG]

    Turns out I wasn't even saying it properly. It doesn't rhyme with tasty. The cook on duty explained they only serve two varieties. With, or without rutabega. I chose without, but with a side of gravy, and could I have a glass of water, too?

    [​IMG]

    Damn, it was good.

    [​IMG]

    The pasty comes from Britain, and the best guess is that originated in Cornwall's mining communities. The miners would eat pasties for lunch. They're simple, easy to carry, and provide a hearty meal. No surprise they're popular in this region of the state.

    I rode over to Itasca State Park, headwaters of the Mississippi River.

    [​IMG]

    I've been here a number of times before, and I always stop when I'm near. They've made some big changes since I was last here, most notably the visitor center near the headwaters. It didn't exist a few years ago.

    Here is the famous sign and the traditional beginning of the river.

    [​IMG]

    What's funny is none of this is natural. Lake Itasca State Park is Minnesota's oldest state park and was formed in the days of the Civilian Conservation Corps. This rock dam and channeling of the upper reaches of the Mississippi were one of the projects. They filled in the swamp and constructed the first few hundred yards of the river into a rocky creek in an attempt to beautify the source.

    And it was quite busy today. More people than I've ever seen here.

    [​IMG]

    Most incredibly, a wedding party showed up.

    [​IMG]

    And they all lined up along the log bridge.

    [​IMG]

    The river flows out of the park under a handful of walking bridges.

    [​IMG]

    At the visitor center, along with bathrooms, a gift shop, and an expensive restaurant, they have a neat model on display.

    [​IMG]

    This bridge is also new. It used to be an eight-foot culvert. I've been through it.

    [​IMG]

    And then the river flows out of the park.

    [​IMG]

    I followed the Mississippi River Trail, a designated bike route which follows the river, as best I could. Trouble is, unlike other states, the MRT route isn't signed in Minnesota so I relied on the GPS route I pieced together at home.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    And rode back through a field to what is purported to be the site of the oldest bridge across the Mississippi River. The current bridge is a reconstruction by a descendent of the original bridge builder.

    [​IMG]

    There was a geocache located here, and it took me a long time to find it.

    [​IMG]

    It was hot and stifling.

    [​IMG]

    And then I continued along the MRT as best I could.

    [​IMG]

    Stopped at Coffee Pot landing where I've camped a couple times in the past. The bridge is for pedestrians or snowmobiles only.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    In Bemidji, I got a picture with Paul Bunyan.

    [​IMG]

    And continued east following the river.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I started seeing signs of heavy wind damage.

    [​IMG]

    Nearing sunset, I stopped at the Winnibigoshish Dam. A posted sign explained the downed trees.

    [​IMG]

    It was nearing sunset. An Indian family was fishing and I talked to one of the old men while his sons fished.

    [​IMG]

    While at the dam, I checked my Facebook. I was surprised to see that I had three messages from a childhood friend who I hadn't seen in almost 25 years. I had made contact with him through Facebook a while back and noticed that he also rode motorcycles. About a month before this trip I suggested to him that we could meet near Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota and ride together for a day or two. He owns his own business today and told me he'd look into it. He's got a wife, a kid, a business. Didn't look like it was going to work out.

    The three messages were from Zack. The first was, "I'm thinking of meeting you." The next was his phone number. And the last one was simply, "I'm on the way," and the timestamp was from two hours earlier.

    On the way where? Shit, we hadn't made any plans yet. Awesome.

    I called his phone and left a message. I was turning around and heading to the small town of Walker, which I figured was roughly between where I was and where I figured he was headed.

    I rode into town and found a cheap motel. I wasn't sure if Zack was a camping type or not. I called and left another message for him telling him where I would be. He showed up about 45 minutes later.

    [​IMG]

    The first thing I noticed is that even though Zack and I had pretty much been best friends from about the ages of five to around twelve, I wouldn't have recognized him today. He's a big guy. Several inches taller and much more muscular than I am. We walked to what appeared to be the only open eating establishment in town and sat down at the bar.

    [​IMG]

    But aside from our physical differences, we had a lot in common. It was a weird sensation. I was talking to a "stranger" with whom I shared many childhood memories. We talked about Christmas at his grandparents. We laughed about the small business we opened up as kids, "Jamie and Zack's Kool-Aid and Snacks." And he told me that the influence of my dad probably led to his passion for motorcycles today.

    The kitchen at the bar was closed. They sell pizza by the slice, but the bartender took the whole thing and slid it in front of us.

    [​IMG]

    And when the barkeep found himself with half a can of Red Bull at the end of the evening, Jäger Bomb shots for everyone, on the house.

    [​IMG]

    Zack and I walked back to the room and stayed up for another hour or so reminiscing. I told him he's the only son of a bitch I know that would ride up to meet me without even knowing where I was headed.

    Jamie
    #99
  20. camgregus

    camgregus riding gently now

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2006
    Oddometer:
    3,014
    Location:
    on the banks of the mighty mississippi, AR side
    cool