Return of the Clunk: The CX goes looking for the middle of nowhere

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by jlevers, Jul 16, 2019.

  1. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

    Joined:
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    Keith, thanks for the hospitality -- I appreciate it! Sorry for eating all your food ;) also, if you’re ever trying to get rid of one of your CX650E’s, let me know.

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    I stumbled across some of the coolest solar panels I’ve ever seen…

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    While southern Ontario was flat farmland, the landscape started to change almost as soon as I left Keith’s. It turned into rolling hills, with some pretty sweet roads. I stuck to the smallest roads I could find, and was having a BLAST.

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    For the first time since I left home, the temperature was cool enough to be really nice, so I hung out by a lake for an hour or so as I ate lunch. It seems like every little village around here has at least 3 lakes associated with it!

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    I just kept rolling, enjoying the scenery and the roads, while also trying to put down some miles, because I have quite a bit of ground to cover in the next week before my flight. One of my favorite parts of Ontario is that in the three days I’ve been here, I’ve seen a grand total of a single cop, and even that one was about a mile past the border! There must just be too much land and too few people for them to patrol it properly. No complaints here!

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    I eventually got to Algonquin Provincial Park, which, if I had more time, I would love to explore. The canoeing is supposed to be absolutely incredible. As it was, I only stopped at the visitor’s center, because a parking permit for the day was $18, and it just didn’t seem worth it if I wasn’t going to take the time to explore properly. I did meet a couple other riders at the visitor’s center, one of whom was on a KTM 1290 Adventure (drool), and the other one of whom wasn’t on his bike but told me he’d ridden a VFR400 across the country. Now that’s a cool choice of bike.

    The KTM guy told me that there’s something called Crown Lands in Ontario, where wild camping is allowed, and I found an online map of where there’s Crown Lands, but last night as I was looking for somewhere to camp, it was unclear where I could and couldn’t camp. I ended up riding up an embankment into a recently logged pine forest, and setting up my tent there. There was a few-inch-thick layer of pine needles on the ground, and dead wood everywhere, so I figured lighting my gas stove probably wasn’t a good idea...time for another bagel with peanut butter! Number 8 of the trip :lol3

    The woods looked beautiful as the sun went down...I got this picture as fast as possible, because my god, you would not believe what the mosquitoes were like. I’ve never seen anything like it. Even once I was inside my tent, I could hear a consistent humming of the 50+ mosquitoes that were hanging out on the outside the tent at any given time. I’ve never been so grateful for my tent!

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    #61
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  2. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    I woke up bright and early to the sound of mosquitoes buzzing around my tent...or maybe it was a truck downshifting on the road next to me? Not sure ;) It seemed like the cool night had gotten rid of half the mosquitoes, which was awesome.

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    After packing up, I spent a while getting my bike out of the woods. It was pretty stuck, so it took some doing, but after almost dropping it a number of times, I popped out of the woods onto the road as a very surprised semi driver looked on as he passed. Whoops :lol3 I think I’m gonna have to get a proper offroad bike one of these days. I can’t afford one, but I’ve been drooling over this…

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    I ripped through the chilly morning on a small county road (not sure if that’s what they’re called in Canada, but it was the same idea) until I got to Perry Sound.

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    I had some work to do, and I was hoping to get caught up on the RR, so I headed to a Tim Horton’s to grab some wifi and a power outlet. Buuut, they didn’t have any outlets, so I went to McDonald’s, which didn’t have wifi, and finally, to the public library...and the moment I was about to go in, a guy approached me about my bike. We talked for a little bit, and he invited me to his place across the street for a wifi/power outlet hookup and a beer. Sick! Meet Richard.

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    I ended up hanging out at his house until much later than I intended, just talking about this and that, until I finally realized that I wasn’t going to make my campsite for the night if I didn’t get rolling. As I left, Richard gave me a ton of food. Thanks man! He knows where my priorities are :lol2

    I was planning on taking a hike in Killarney Provincial Park the next morning, so I rode in that direction. It turns out that large parts of Ontario are so empty that the only way to get around is on the highway. Bit of a bummer, but I’ve been able to stay off highways to this point, so it’s not a big deal. Now that I think about it, there was probably a way to take logging roads all the way to Killarney, but I would have gotten VERY lost and it might have taken me all day...I’ll have to save further exploration of Canada’s dirt roads for when I do the TCAT some day. I did come across this, which appears to link Algonquin Provincial Park and some other provincial park, and sounds like a lot of fun.

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    I realized halfway to the Killarney Provincial Park access road that there’s no gas on that road, so I rode north past my turnoff until I got to Sudbury, where I gassed up and retraced my steps back to the park.

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    Finding a camping spot was super easy -- there were gravel turnoffs everywhere. The campsite I ended up at was just a concrete platform from some old building in a dirt lot. I took a quick run and hit the hay.
    #62
  3. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

    Joined:
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    The trail I wanted to hike was only a few miles from my campsite, which was convenient. The trail was short but really pretty -- it led up to a white granite ridge that gave amazing views of the surrounding area. From the road, you can’t really tell that any of the beautiful granite ridges or incredibly blue lakes are there. Everything just looks flat, flat, flat. And that’s why I like to get off the bike and go take a hike, because I see things that I definitely wouldn’t see otherwise.

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    I finished the hike by 11 or so, and knew that I needed to make some mileage to get to Minneapolis on time while still having a chance to get some work done, so I decided that I’d get through Ontario into Michigan by the end of the day. As I mentioned in my last post, Ontario has a lot of stretches where the highway’s the only way to go, so that’s what I did. Except, for some reason, no one seems to have told Ontario that highways should have speed limits higher than 90km/hr (54mph), even if they’re 2 lanes each way and in the absolute middle of nowhere. Luckily, the isolation that’s probably prevented that message from getting to them also prevents them from doing any policing to speak of, so it wasn’t a big issue. A few pictures from the ride:

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    I came about as close as possible to running out of gas as you can without actually running out -- I thought I had a 1 gallon/~45mi reserve, but it really was only about 20mi, so my bike died on the highway. I had a 1L fuel bottle with me, so I added that on the side of the highway, expecting to get about 8mi out of it, and 7.5mi later, I made it to a gas station. Whew!

    I then had possibly the dumbest border crossing of all time, as in, I looked like an idiot :lol3. In Sault Ste. Marie, where I crossed, there’s a bridge with a toll that also has customs on it. When I pulled up to the customs booth, I thought I was at the toll booth, so I handed the customs agent my credit card. She looked at me like I’d sprouted tentacles out of my forehead and asked me for ID, so I gave her my driver’s license, somehow still not realizing this was customs. I finally got the message when she asked me if I had any other form of ID, and I pulled out my passport. I think she was about ready to go home for the day at that point :lol2

    Michigan was refreshing after Ontario, with its 75mph highway speed limits, and 55-65mph limits on basically every other road. I jetted to the coast of Lake Superior, and started looking for a campsite...and completely hit the jackpot! I found this spot right off the road, directly on the lake, with lowbush blueberries growing everywhere. Definitely the best night of the trip so far.

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    (There was the biggest wind farm I’d ever seen across the water, which you can kinda see in this picture)

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    #63
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  4. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

    Joined:
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    I enjoyed the sunrise, ate some more blueberries (that’ll never get old), and continued the trend by surprising a bunch of guys on Harleys when I popped out of the bush onto the road at full throttle. Gooooooood morning!!

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    The roads in Michigan are fast. Except for through towns, the slowest speed limit I saw all day was 55mph, and most were 65mph. Cool beans.

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    There are also a ton of dirt roads in the UP, since there’s so much land and so few people up here, but they’re really different from the dirt roads in New England: much sandier and much more washboard. My dirt riding skills aren’t really up to riding these roads at any kind of speed, so I had to keep it really slow.

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    I rode along the shore of Lake Superior on H58, which was one of the most fun roads I’ve been on during this trip -- very few cars, lots of curves, and beautiful scenery.

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    It wound through Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, which is a long, narrow, coastal park along Lake Superior. A friend of mine who spends a lot of time in the UP recommended I check it out, so I stopped and took a hike out to the lakeshore. Very different from hiking in the Northeast -- almost totally flat, with wide, smooth trails, in pretty much 100% deciduous forest. It was awesome.

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    This part of Superior literally looks tropical, even though it’s in Michigan!

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    There was this spectacular, naturally freestanding stone pillar with a tree growing on top of it, which was super cool.

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    After the hike, I rode to my friend John’s summer cabin farther west down the coast. I’m staying here for two nights, because I have work to do and there’s lots of rain in the forecast. It’s pretty sweet to sleep in a bed and cook real food on a stove. Thanks John, this is a pretty sweet place.

    Also, I thought I’d share my two newly coined laws of riding motorcycles:

    1. Anytime you put up your visor, regardless of how many bugs have hit it in the last half hour, you’re guaranteed to get nailed directly in the eye by an astoundingly large fly.

    2. If you pull over to take a picture on any paved road, you WILL be passed by someone who drives really slowly, even if you haven’t seen anyone for miles.
    #64
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  5. CCitis

    CCitis Been here awhile

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    Yes, those are two universal motorcycle truths. A fly, or better yet a nice big wasp or bumblebee.
    #65
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  6. Sned

    Sned Adventurer

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2011
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    You picked some great roads to traverse the UP! My cabins in the area and all those spot are very familiar. And yes they are a big long washboard when they get dry. Safe travels!
    #66
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  7. Onesong

    Onesong MichaelHilton

    Joined:
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    It's been a week since we've heard from you Jesse - how goes it mate?
    #67
  8. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

    Joined:
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    Been a busy week -- I made it to Minneapolis, worked a bunch, and then flew to Alaska...I spent the last few days in the backcountry in Wrangell-St. Elias NP, the largest national park in the country. I should be able to get some pics up in the next couple days. It's AWESOME up here.
    #68
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  9. AdamChandler

    AdamChandler Ascending n00b Supporter

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    The interns spent all day calling libraries and local animal shelters looking for you. Glad you’re alive.
    #69
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  10. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

    Joined:
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    I ended up staying at John’s another day, because it’s just not that far from Marquette to Minneapolis, and it was such a sweet place to hang out and work. If you’re ever in the UP, try the Blackrocks 51K IPA. It’s absolutely insanely good.

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    During my extra day, I hiked a little local mountain, called Hogsback, that gave me a great view of the area.

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    I left the next morning (somewhat reluctantly), and decided to sleep somewhere in Wisconsin.

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    It was threatening to rain all day, but it never really did. The roads up there seem to mostly be pretty straight and fast, so I made really good time. When I got to Eagle River, WI, at noon, I realized that I had about 9 hours of daylight left, and was already halfway to Minneapolis, so I texted my friend Patrick, and decided to just rip it the rest of the way to Minneapolis. Why not? Wisconsin was pretty damn flat, so I wasn’t all that psyched about the next day’s ride, and I thought there wasn’t a lot of point in taking an extra day if I didn’t have any specific roads I wanted to ride, hikes I wanted to take, etc.

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    A few hours later, I rolled up to Minneapolis. I spent the next couple days just hanging out with Patrick and working, and on the 9th, the beginning section of my trip ended when I flew to AK. After this, there’s gonna be a lot more interesting stuff going on, and a lot less staying in one place and working :)

    My uncle lives in Soldotna, AK, so this isn’t my first time up here, but it’s incredible every time. Even just the flight to Anchorage had some unbelievable views...I definitely want to get down there and climb some of these someday.

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    I met up with my parents in Anchorage, who’d flown in from Massachusetts, and the next day, we drove 7 hours to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, the largest national park in the country. As the park’s website says: “At 13.2 million acres, the park is the same size as Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park, and Switzerland combined.” Wow. That sure puts things in perspective.

    We drove as far as McCarthy, AK, which is really about as far as it’s possible to drive in that direction! The last 60mi to McCarthy were on a tiny dirt road that was originally built to support the nearby Kennicott Mine, which is now closed...but now there’s a ton of adventure tourism in McCarthy in the summer. The town itself is only accessible by footbridge, unless you want to pay $200 to get your car across a river.

    The next morning, we took a tiny bushplane across the Kennicott Glacier to something called the Fosse -- a narrow valley formed by the retreating glacier. The plane landed on a seemingly impossibly small, curved runway...it was one of the coolest experiences I’ve had. I bombarded the pilot with questions the whole way. I REALLY want to get my pilot’s license someday.

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    The Fosse itself was incredible, with massive mountains on one side, and a 200ft tall pile of rocks and dirt separating us from the glacier on the other side. We stayed for two nights, doing some hiking, and lots of reading.

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    At one point, my dad and I hiked up a big slide just above our campsite, and got up into a glacial cirque, with incredible views and the remaining (large) part of a glacier. We hung out and ate lunch, and then my dad headed down while I tried to summit one of the peaks around us. I got within less than 100 yards of the top, but had to turn around...the last part was 50+ degree scree above a no fall zone, so I reluctantly headed back down. Regardless, it was a ton of fun to get up so high on one of the mountains we’d been sleeping beneath.

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    On the third day, we headed back to the landing strip, and got to watch the plane land from the outside, which was awesome. After a quick flight back, I spent some time shooting the shit with the local airplane mechanic, who had some great stories. I’d also love to buy an old Cessna and fix it up someday.

    After almost running out of gas on the 60mi dirt road out of McCarthy (thanks random construction workers!) and driving the most scenic 9 hour drive I’ve ever seen (I couldn’t actually drive any of it, because I’m not old enough to get on a rental car), we got to my uncle’s house in Soldotna. It’s gonna be nice to stay in one place after the last few days of flying and driving.

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    #70
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  11. ChopperCharles

    ChopperCharles Long timer

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    Can we trade lives? I’ll take yours and your clunky cx and you can have my two new bikes, one vintage cx, 4 project bikes, my job, my debt, my 41 years, and my pudge. Deal??? ;)

    Charles.
    #71
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  12. Thomasrh

    Thomasrh Been here awhile

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    Enjoying the pictures and the story, keep it coming!
    #72
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  13. B10Dave

    B10Dave Long timer

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    Wonderful pictures Jesse. Keep 'em coming.
    #73
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  14. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    Good to see you back on the bike and out on another trip. What did you end up doing for boots?
    #74
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  15. Gedrog

    Gedrog 1000 mile stare a 1000 stories to tell

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    Found this today and I am enjoying it and it triggered a massive nostalgia, Bought my CX500 in November 1991 while I was doing my apprenticeship in Springbok, in Jan 1992 I had to report to Milnerton College for an additional training period, my trip happen to coincide with the Paris Le Cap Dakar Rally, the trip absolutely triggered a bug, and I ended up doing several long distance tours with my CX sleeping rough, and just having a ball, my best trip was leaving Springbok later that year and riding all along the South African coast, and where access and conditions permitted I went diving for a free dinner from the ocean, all the way to Ponta do Ouro Mozambique.
    #75
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  16. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    I went with the Danner Explorer 650 boots...they're solid, except that they're not nearly as waterproof as advertised.

    Wow, that sounds incredible. I'm definitely planning on doing some rides outside the US at some point, and that sounds like it could be the one. Seeing the Dakar would be soooo cool too.
    #76
  17. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

    Joined:
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    Slight change of plans -- I'm cutting off the Pacific Northwest corner, because my cousin Jonah and I decided to do a road trip up from LA to BC and Alberta in early November, so I'll hold off on the PNW until then. What that means for my trip is, I'll be cutting south when I get to Idaho/Montana area, going south through Utah/Wyoming, and probably meeting Jonah in Las Vegas at the end of September for a massive music festival happening there. That'll constrict my timeline a little, probably not too badly...I'll just cruise through North/South Dakota, do some hiking in the Wyoming/Montana/Idaho area, take my time through Utah, and haul down to Las Vegas fast from the Zion area. I might loop up to Death Valley from there, and then head down to LA. I'll probably be done by the beginning of October.

    Ideally I wouldn't have to shorten my trip at all, but I'd rather get to experience the coast with friends, rather than by myself, so I'm willing to shorten the solo trip now to get to extend the non-solo part later.
    #77
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  18. oldtouring B

    oldtouring B Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
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    Jesse, if you find yourself near New Mexico, you have a open invitation at our home.

    Lots of room. Tools and knowledge.

    The best is my wife is a fantastic cook!!

    Give a shout if needed..
    #78
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  19. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    Thanks man! If I end up down that way, I'll definitely hit you up. I appreciate the offer of hospitality :)
    #79
  20. Gedrog

    Gedrog 1000 mile stare a 1000 stories to tell

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    I don't think I will be able to repeat that trip today, wild camping could prove a pretty dangerous undertaking in South Africa in the current climate. I went back to the homeland in 2014/2015 and I had some pretty strange comments from people who heard I wild camped, I guess ignorance is bliss. But with the way things are now escalating over there I would probably think twice about wild camping.
    #80
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