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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by thedopplereffect, Jul 8, 2021.
Thank you for taking us along! Its been a fantastically well written and photographed trip!
September 9, 2021
I took off early from Joy's place (thank you for the hospitality over the last few days!) and rode the 638 back to the Trans Canada. What a joy that road is to ride! It's not the smoothest so it keeps you engaged while you're picking your line on the best pavement, and it's got some really enjoyable curvy bits as well.
School has started now so when I went through Bruce Mines there were some little kids waiting at the side of the road for the bus. They waved emphatically as I rode by and it brought a great big smile to my face. Hopefully that love of motorcycles carries on!
I backtracked to Thessalon and then went north on the 129. The first 150 kms or so is mostly used by logging traffic and for the most part, it was pure bliss. It was curvy and undulating with a river on one side and cliffs and lakes trading places on the other side. Even the flat sections had these little three metre crests that caused all my innards to lift out of their usual resting places momentarily, kind of the same sensation a person gets when flying high up on a swing set.
At one point I passed a sign that said I was crossing into the Arctic Watershed. I know on my way west I took a picture with the Atlantic Watershed sign so I turned around. In my haste to get my bike in position for a picture it happened to fall over… Nothing dramatic, I just was in the middle of a tight right turn, the front wheel dropped off the pavement and into the shoulder and she went down. More damage to my pride than anything else. It made me realize that bike is too though. It was a bit of a grunt to right it again but within a couple minutes I was back on the road.
I wasn't the only one being surprised by soft shoulders though. Just before I got into Chapleau for fuel I was stopped by a police blockade. A U-Haul with a car carrier had dipped off the pavement and gotten stuck at a precipitous angle. A couple tow trucks worked together and had him back on solid ground within a few minutes.
In Chapleau I got gas and stopped for some handfuls of trail mix. I also met Kelsey from London, ON. He was riding a first generation Versys 650 on a five or six day tour of northern Ontario. We sat and compared for a few minutes before going our seperate ways.
I had been told in Wawa my first time around that the 101 was a "can't miss it" ride. In taking this back way up you miss out on what's certainly the most beautiful section of Lake Superior's North Shore so I feel like it was a toss up as to whether on not it was worth it. The riding was good both ways but the way I went this time certainly had less truck traffic, and much less traffic in general.
After barely dodging a crow with my face, I rolled into Wawa. I stopped for a mouth-watering spicy fried chicken lunch and then it was back on the road.
Shortly after Wawa the bike and I crossed a milestone.
My goal had been Marathon but I arrived without hearing back from the person I was hoping to stay with, and it was only 4:30, so I decided to carry on.
Just after Marathon I pulled into a service station to consider my options. There were some towering cumulonimbus sentinels barring the road ahead, and though it didn't appear to be raining in that moment, with clouds like that things can change pretty quickly. I considered getting a hotel in Marathon to avoid the weather but the idea of spending 14 or 15 hours in a hotel room waiting till I could ride the next morning was not appealing, so I rode on. I could see the sunlight stabbing through the clouds on the other side so I was hopeful that it wouldn't be a suffocating, drenching rain.
I got as far as White River without getting wet at all. I ended up taking a nap on a picnic table there and then once again considered getting a hotel room, but I pressed on.
White River was the original home of the bear Winnie that later ended up in the London Zoo and inspired the Winnie the Pooh character.
Then the rain started. It was relatively steady for about a half hour. But the whole time I could see clear sky or at least very light sky up ahead. The rain gear I bought in Halifax has done a hell of a job, contrary to my first impressions of it. I was actually wearing the rain pants all day just to help keep me warm. It wasn't above ten degrees until Wawa but then even through the rain it was gradually getting warmer.
Around Nipigon the rain stopped. The sky cleared up almost entirely at it was the perfect temperature for riding. There wasn't a breath of wind either and I was very happy that I decided to continue on. I had planned to stay in Thunder Bay the following night but with it only a little over an hour away I decided to make the run for it.
I stopped at an overlook and there was an elderly couple with a camper van that had broken down on them. The gentleman was far more mechanically inclined than I am and they were content to camp for the evening and get a tow in the morning, so hopefully they were able to get things sorted out.
I learned a neat trick for estimating remaining daylight a while ago. If you hold your hand out at arm's length, then each finger's width that the sun is above the horizon is about 15 minutes.
I made it into Thunder Bay just as the sun was setting. I'm staying here for the night with Alex, who I stayed with on the way through the first time.
All in all it was a long day, but I felt great the whole ride, even in the rain. 865 kms and my longest day by I think a whole tank of gas.
Did you stop into Canadian tire in Grand Falls-Windsor by any chance? I think I parked next to your bike.
I think the only Canadian Tire I've stopped at was the one in Gander, NL when I was fixing my windscreen
Enjoying your trip immensely. Question for you. When you make contact with "Bunk a Biker" hosts; do you call, text or email and how far in advance do you start trying to make contact. Thanks.....Dave
Ok, someone else with a yellow versys from alb. ha ha! I miss my Versys as well. great bikes for touring!
It has varied quite a bit but generally it's the same day. Usually I have had a half baked idea of the general direction I'm going to go for the day. But I haven't always had a good idea of how many stops I'll be making or how much there is to see along the way. So usually I stop in the early afternoon to grab something to eat and try to map out where I'll be in two or three hours of riding.
And I generally like to call people because I think you can get a better feel for them that way, but I have stayed with some folks that communicated with only over text because they either didn't pick up or they had said that was their preference.
September 10, 2021
I slept in and then left late from Alex's house in Thunder Bay. I was planning to go through Fort Frances again and stop in at Karl's house but he informed me that they had some illness at their house so that wasn't going to work. I still debated going that direction but ultimately I decided to take the more direct highway 17 to Kenora.
Unfortunately, that may have been a mistake. It saved me a few hours of riding but wow is that ever a road I hope I never ride again. Lots of big trucks, just enough hills that you can't really use a throttle lock, and endless trees on both sides of the road. Eventually towards Kenora there were lakes as well, but it was a slog.
In Dryden they had this life size moose sculpture. You can see why they're such a menace to motorists.
I stopped for supper in Kenora at Bob's Burger Bar and actually ended up having a chat with Bob himself. Like everywhere else in the country, Kenora's restaurants have really been struggling over this last year. It was a really homey spot though so, Bob, if you read this, I hope you're busy this winter!
I did a longer day yesterday so I decided to cut today a little shorter. I'm staying at the Wild Woods Hideaway, right outside of Kenora. It's a glamping resort so I'm staying in what's called a prospector's tent. Included with the whole package was free access to the canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards that they had on hand. So I went for a really enjoyable canoe ride just now, as the sun was setting. And now I'm writing this from inside of one of the saunas that they also make available to guests. It's a totally wood fired experience so you get the joy of making the fire and the pleasure of sitting in the sauna! The folks running the place are also very friendly so I really can't recommend it enough if you're passing through.
There was a bald eagle sitting up in the tree above this little waterfall.
Pretty cool to see the rocks wall on the side of the lake just plunge down into the water.
This little estuary was connected to the Winnipeg river by this tunnel that I was gravely warned not to get too close to.
I don't have much of a plan for tomorrow but I'm thinking of looping north once I'm over the Manitoba border and then settling back down for the night somewhere near Winnipeg.
September 11, 2021
Pigs really can fly. I was rolling out of the access to Wild Woods Hideaway and there was a perfect little bump in the road. I was in first gear and with a little blip the little Versys sailed! Not very far but she landed more gracefully than she had any right to. Next I'll have to work on my tail whips…
This is what a prospector's tent looks like as well by the way.
I crossed into Manitoba while following a group of 10ish cruisers, and they made an interesting move. Highway 17 west out of Kenora is a two lane highway that occasionally has passing lanes. Upon approaching one of these passing lanes the group split to cover both lanes so no one could pass. Now I understand why they would do that. If you're riding with a group then you don't really want to have vehicles end up between everyone and fragment the formation. But they were doing five less than the speed limit and had a massive train of traffic behind them so it came off as being more than a little bit of a dick move. Just curious what everyone's thoughts are on that…
I turned north on Manitoba highway 44 which wound its way through a bog on the way up to Lac du Bonnet. From Lac du Bonnet I went east again on the 313 and then north on the 315, towards the Nopiming Provincial Park.
I saw a picture in a dual sport and adv Facebook group a while ago of a guy standing in front of a sign that said "Steep Hills Sharp Curves Next 74 Kms". That sounded like a lot of fun so I thought I would check it out.
I've come to understand that the same words can mean very different things across different provinces. Some examples of that would be "nice lake", "point of interest", "historic site", and "steep hills". It's all a matter of perspective I suppose. If it's better/more interesting/more historic/steeper and hillier than what you're used to then I guess it would justify having those kinds of labels.
Take this location for example. I was tantalized by a "Historic Site" sign that pointed me to this location. It was in this exact spot in the 1950's that a lithium mine almost happened. They dug a shaft and produced no lithium at all so they decided that maybe this wasn't a good spot. After reading down all the buildings to their foundations they cemented over the entry to the shaft to ensure that nothing too interesting would happen here in the future.
Either way, it wasn't very hilly, but it was very curvy. If the road was paved it would be a motorcycle destination for people across the country. It was the same kind of well maintained gravel as the Forestry Trunk Road is back in Alberta. I turned down a couple little off shoots just to see what there was to see. There were some nice little lakes here and there and at one point there was a very informative, if a bit faded, exhibit on woodland caribou. The park is home to the furthest south ranging herd in Canada, although I didn't see any unfortunately.
I wasn't able to find out for sure if there was any gas available on the north end of the park so I turned around about 50 kms into it. On the way back I did see a small black bear in the brush on the side of the road, but other than that I just enjoyed the dynamic sky and crisp September air.
This interesting mansion was near the entry to the park. It might be hard to tell from my picture but it was complete with parapets and towers and stonework that was made to look old.
I made my way to Selkirk and had dinner there while watching some CFL football. I haven't watched much for sports on this trip so it was kind of nice to sit in the restaurant among all the local people and watch a game.
And now tonight I'm staying with Tina and Guy. They actually went to the Bombers game yesterday down in Winnipeg and watched them beat the Roughriders to take the Banjo Bowl. Try saying that sentence to someone who doesn't know anything about sports.
Tomorrow I'm going to just try to make it as far towards home as I can. Only a few thousand kms to go...
Still waiting for the pictures of Alex, Karen, and the sea-doo chicks.
Life sized Moose
Actually, the furthest South herd of Woodland Caribou is in Pukaskwa National Park IIRC.
Regarding the 'rolling roadblock' style of group riding, I pass them as a group or in chunks European-style and let them experience what a proper V-twin sounds like!
Get a parade permit if you want others to let you hold up traffic.
Looks like you are correct! I guess the caribou exhibit I was at needed a little extra clout
That's what I would say too. Obviously better to be able to pass the whole group. It I had never seen that before so it just seemed very strange. It they were all Angels or something then maybe they'd get away with it but the only time I've seen them they were riding quite a bit faster than traffic.
September 12, 2021
I left Tina and Guy's house shortly after nine. Tina was kind enough to make me a fantastic breakfast sandwich before I took off, so that was very appreciated.
It was a crisp, clear morning that felt very much like fall. I stopped before too long and threw on my rain gear for a little extra wind protection. It felt good to be firmly planted on the prairies again though.
I stopped for gas a couple times but the first real stop that I made was in Souris at the swinging bridge. The original swinging bridge was constructed by a rich Souris resident that had property on both sides of the river and wished to have easier access to both sides. The current bridge has gone through a few iterations due to floods. It was last rebuilt in 2013 and has all the charm and whimsy you'd expect it to have. At 604 feet long it is the longest suspension footbridge in Canada.
It does still swing a little if you try really hard. It's more of a twisting motion though and you should take care to use your discretion as to whether or not the other folks on the bridge would see the good humor in trying.
Upon returning to my bike after walking the bridge, there were perhaps two dozen wasps on or around it. I have read that when wasps are crushed they give off a pheromone that informs the hive of their demise and calls for aid. I might have to try to wash away all their dead brethren pretty soon here just to keep them at bay…
I didn't really make any more tourist type stops for the rest of the day. I pulled into a historic site that I visited on the way east, the former town of Forward, and found a very large spider though. I had no idea Canada had native spiders that large. Google tells me that it's a banded orb weaver, which is actually even mildly venomous. Fortunately I had the good sense to put my hand right beside it.
I also tried to capture some of the beautiful southern Manitoba and southern Saskatchewan landscapes. The Saskatchewan license plates say, "Land of Living Skies" on them, and I couldn't agree more. The sunset in particular was breathtaking, but I didn't stop for any photos because I was racing the last light to Swift current.
A lot of the day was very grey and dark. It was only in the latter part of the afternoon that the sun really broke through.
It's hard to see but this the northern reaches of the Big Muddy Valley. A few kms west from where this picture was taken is the turn off for Willow Bunch and Coronach.
A random coulee. In person there was a pretty significant haze, which I'm guessing is from all the smoke. It created a very cool visual effect for the windmills.
I got into Swift Current just in time to get stuck for a half hour behind a couple trains, but eventually I made my way to a hotel for the night. And tomorrow I have every intention of finding my way home
I was camping in Glenrock and Coronach last week, I enjoyed riding highway 18!
Such a beautiful area! Not the twistiest of course but the scenery is top notch. Did you end up going to Castle Butte?
September 13, 2021
I took my time getting going in the morning and savoured my time in the still COVID restriction free Saskatchewan. It was almost strange to walk around the hotel without a mask, and serve myself at the continental breakfast. And at the same time, a little strange that it felt strange.
It was cold again in the morning so I donned my rain gear right from the get him it's convenient that it practically doubles as bee-keeping garb because the wasps were out in full force around my bike. Hopefully a good proper clean keeps them at bay.
There was a strong wind out of the north west for the whole day. I was actually nearly blown off the road near Leader, Saskatchewan. Google maps had decided to send me down a gravel road and I was following a more worn section just slightly to the right of the centre of the road. A gust blew me into the deeper gravel to my right and I may have been going a touch fast because the sudden change of road texture sent me into a bit of a wobble. Thankfully I didn't panic brake and the rubber side stayed down.
The wind was stirring up the clouds all day though, which made for some very picturesque little cotton puffs dotting the sky to the horizon.
It was also striking to me how different the landscape is now that the harvest is in full swing. Most of the fields are bare and those that aren't have bales or swaths on them. When I went east through the prairies the canola was in full bloom and there were wildflowers in the ditch, but now things are golden brown in every direction.
I decided to ride through the Red Deer River Valley by Drumheller again. It's such a striking landscape and with it being sheltered from the wind it was probably five degrees warmer on the valley floor.
I stopped in at the Last Chance Saloon in Wayne, hoping for a cold beverage and a lively atmosphere, but it was already closed for the season. Bummer. Next summer I guess.
I ended up stopping for some supper in Drumheller but other than that I just rode home.
I arrived back at my basement suite, pulled my keys out of my pocket to unlock the door, and walked in. And just like that, two months have come and gone. It was a surreal experience to see all things I left still sitting there, undisturbed in my absence, almost as if I hadn't been gone at all. The only thing I saw that indicated that I hadn't been there in a while was the water in the toilet bowl had almost all evaporated.
But, it was excellent to sleep in my own bed last night! This adventure may have come to a close, but I think I'll feel the effects of it for a long time to come. Or at least I hope so. And I know there will be others in the future.
Thank you all for following along! Thank you to everyone I met who played a role in making the journey what it was. It exceeded my expectations in almost every way. 21500 kms in 63 days, all but one of the Canadian provinces, and I still feel like I have so much to see.
For those who are interested, I'm going to crunch some numbers and give an idea of my budget for the trip as well as put together a short editorial on moto touring.
An awesome journey, and a great ride report, so glad you made it home safe and sound. If ever out East again, be sure to look me up!!
Thank you for inviting us along on this trip of a lifetime! Please don't be a stranger to this forum . . .