Saturday, June 9, 2012

Final Thoughts

It was a good trip.  The weather, overall, was good.  Yep, we had a good shower on the first day.  And yes, it got pretty cool at one point during the week.  But neither were really bad; they made riding a bike uncomfortable, as motorcycle riding seems to often be.  Riders will understand that there are very few really good days for riding in a year.  Most days are a bit too hot, too cold, too wet, or too much wind.  We ride anyway and endure the incomfortableness.  But the really good days are few and far apart.  We had one really great day of riding weather on this trip.

The bikes performed very well.  I rode almost 2,700 miles in the 9 days of my trip.  My bike got an average of about 48 miles per gallon of fuel, at an average of about $3.75 per gallon.  Gary's bike, geared differently, and new, got about 46 miles per gallon.  Mine used no engine oil, which is normal for my bike.  The only problem at all was the two times my engine quit on the way home.  Otherwise they were flawless.

While each day had some highlight, I think I enjoyed the trip over to Mackinac Island the most.  It's a very beautiful place, with lots of pretty dwellings and a water background.  I don't particularly want to go back, but it was worth the time and efforts to go there.

The races were good, and I really liked the facilities there.  Convenient toilets, convenient food, and bleachers made this track very unique.  I'm not as fond of the overall layout of the track itself, but the amenities are very good.  I'd like to go back sometime.

I was disappointed that we did not get to ride Hwy 119 in Michigan.  I rode it two years ago, and it's an incredibly beautiful road.  It would not have been nearly as nice under cloudy skies, and going there increased to a certainty that we'd spend the rest of the day riding in the rain.  It was the right decision not to go, but I was looking forward to riding it again.

I did get my boots and hands in the waters of Lakes Huron, Superior, and Michigan.  I've done Lake Erie before, but have never gotten wet with Lake Ontario water.  So, sometime there will be a trip there to expose myself to its waters.  The Great Lakes are awesome--they really look just like an ocean.

Gary got his 49th state, when we rolled into Michigan.  The only remaining state for both of us is Hawaii.  I think he'll go there sometime, primarily to ride a bike there.  I have little interest in going to Hawaii, so I doubt that I'll ever get that 50th state.  That's okay--I've ridden in more states than most people and I'm happy with that.

So, this closes out this ride.  It was a good one, and now I'll start thinking about the next one, which will be to the BMW MOA International rally in Missouri and the Unrally sponsored by the forum in Colorado.  I'll blog it, so be on the lookout for it in about 4 weeks.

Until then, ride safe!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Big Stone Gap, VA to Home

6/5/2012  Well, it's good to be home again!  There's nothing like sleeping in your own bed after more than a week on the road.

The ride home began with a short ride into town (Big Stone Gap) to see what the town looked like.  On the road into town, we found a gas station with non-ethanol gas.  So, for $3.67 a gallon, I filled the tank with premium unleaded non-ethanol gas!  It may be the only tank of that kind of gas the bike has ever gotten.

The weather was perfect.  Coolish (63 degrees or so) but crystal clear and no wind to speak of.  It was one of the few times when the weather was perfect for riding.

Town was neat--it was a typical small town atmosphere, with a combination of vacant buildings and buildings occupied by various local businesses.  Town was clean and neat, and the houses were really nice there.  Not a bad place to be.

Leaving town, we decided to do some riding in the mountains for half a day or so, just to enjoy the twisties and the scenery.  So, we did that until about lunchtime.  I had been on some of the roads on other trips, but we covered several new to me roads in the south west corner of Virginia.  It was fun and easy riding.

We stopped for lunch at a small diner in Volney, VA.  It was familiar to me because it was the same place where I dropped my Vstrom in the parking lot several years earlier.  I was trying to make a U turn to get gas, got off-balance, and dropped it right there in the parking lot.  Broke a front turn signal and left some scratches on the topcase, but otherwise nothing damaged but my pride.  Stupid things happen sometimes.  Anyway, lunch  was good.

Leaving Volney, we started working our way east and south, towards Gary's home.  We took some great roads that neither of us had ever been on--twisty and fun.  A very good ride to Pfafftown.

Got to Gary's house about 3:30pm.  I looked at a windshield that he was selling to see if it would fit me and the bike, but it was too large for me--I would not have been able to see over it even at the lowest height.  So, I passed over the windshield and hit the road to home.

Along the way, in a construction zone near Winston Salem, the engine quit.  It stumbled a couple of times and just quit.  I pulled in the clutch, coasted a little, and keyed the starter.  It started up and ran, although it would not idle on its own.  That scared and bothered me, not knowing why it quit, and whether or not it would do it again, and if it did, would it restart again?   Well, I found out when the engine stopped again on the way home.  So, I've got to find out what's causing that and get it fixed.  While breaking down in Winston would not have been so bad, I've been in many, many places where a dead bike could be big trouble.  I'm taking the bike for service on Tuesday, so hopefully they can find what's causing it and fix it.

Got home about 6:30, tired and glad to walk into my place.  I did 340 miles today.

I'll write one more post in this blog, to summarize the ride.  It should be posted by the weekend.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Mantiowock WI to Road America to Big Stone Gap, VA

6/3-6/4/2012  Another twofer post!

Yesterday started with packing the bikes and going to the track.  The weather was perfect; warm, but not hot.  Sunny.  Breezy.  A really nice day for a race.  This was our first trip to this race track.  Road America appears to be an older track, but it has something that other tracks lack--bleachers.  At Road America, there are bleachers scattered all along the track, with restrooms and concessions located at most of the bleachers.  That makes being able to sit so much easier.  We carried chairs, but left them on the bike because we didn't need them.

The races were good, with good competition for most of the races.  One racer dominated the SuperBike races, but the race for second was very good.  The other races were more competitive, so they were interesting.

After the race, we changed into riding gear and left the track.  Leaving the track with Gary is always an adventure.  I think it's a combination of good bike skills and guts, but even if we're late starting to leave, or in the very back of the place, we get out fast.  Basically, if Gary sees an opening to move forward, he uses it.  And I follow him very successfully.  Usually, people leave by driving in the right lane.  But the left lane is almost never being used because everybody is leaving, not coming.  So, he rides in the left lane, passing everyone in line in the right lane.  If a vehicle does come towards us, we just merge into the right lane until it has passed.  Then back into the left lane.  Often, others follow our lead and get out faster, too.  We're usually out of a race or event in about 5 minutes, whereas I'm sure some take 30-45 minutes.  So, it's a real adventure, and something that I look forward to doing!

We rode several hours south, stopping at Merrillville, IN for the night.  Nothing special there, just a place to stop on the way home.

This morning, we got out, and it was cool and damp, with threatening rain.  We actually ran into some showers and stopped to put on rain gear, knowing that the showers would stop as soon as we changed.  That worked, we had only a few light showers the rest of the day.

We rode about 520 miles today, finally stopping at Big Stone Gap, VA.  We rode the Kentucky Mountain Parkway getting here--a fabulous road--4 lanes, 70mph, and curvy.  It was nice, and there was almost no traffic.  What had been a very boring ride on the Interstates became a very enjoyable ride when we got on the parkway.  it also took us to some mountains that I've never visited before. Very pretty mountains, some that I want to visit again.

We're about 200 miles from Gary's house, and about 340 to my home.  I'm looking forward to getting back home.  Love to travel, but also love to come home.

Speaking of home, I'll be there tomorrow!

ps--I tried posting pics, but for whatever reason, they will not upload.  So, come back; I'll have some posted tomorrow or Wednesday

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Mackinaw City, MI to Mantiowoc, WI and Road America

6/1-6/2/2012  This post is a twofer.  It covers our trip from Mackinaw City to Mantiowoc Wisconsin as well as the first day of racing at the track.

For the most part, the ride was fairly non-eventful.  First, we rode across the big bridge (very low traffic, so it was not at all stressful) and paid our $4 toll at the north end of the bridge.  It was almost too easy, compared to many of the big bridge rides I've done.  Good views from the top, looking at Lake Michigan on our left and Lake Huron on our right.  So much water!  It really looks the same as looking out at the ocean.

The weather was okay, but fairly cool.  Mid 50s in the beginning, and low 60s at the end of the day.  It was cloudy and a little breezy, with rain behind us, but moving in the same direction we were traveling.  It caught up with us a couple of times along the way, but never enough to worry about getting wet.  We really lucked out--we had considered a ride to the south to ride on a fabulous road about 25 miles to the southwest, but with rain moving in our direction, it looked like that ride would have put us in the rain all day.  A good decision, even though it was a shame to miss such a good road.

In the upper peninsula of Michigan, we basically rode north and then west, up to Paradise, MI, on the south side of Lake Superior.  I had been there once before, two years earlier, so I knew a little about the area.  We stopped to get gas and something to warm us.  Met some riders from Jacksonville, FL there and talked with them a little.  They were doing a two week ride and were about half-way through it.

From Paradise, we headed south and west around the top of Lake Michigan, and then south on the west shore of Lake Michigan.  That ride was fairly boring.  While we could see the lake, it wasn't as exciting after seeing lakes for several days.

Around 5pm, we pulled into Mantiowoc, our base for two nights.  We'll be staying here until we leave for home.  The motel is fine; we're here only in the morning and later evening.

One observation--the roads in Michigan and Wisconsin have great, smooth surfaces.  While NC has so many bumps and ridges and uneven surfaces, the roads up here are so much better than our roads.  The suspension on the bike hardly has to work at all, and it has to be so much easier on tires.  It's been nice to ride on good surfaces.

And I probably need to explain the fixation that I seem to have on weather conditions.  When on a bike, you're in the weather, whatever it is.  If hot, you're hot.  If rain, you're in the rain with no windshield wipers.  If cold, you're trying to keep hands and feet warm enough to work when you need them to work.  So, I write about the weather because on a bike, you experience it up close and personal.

We found a place to eat, had dinner, and called it a night.

Today, we went to Road America near Elkhart Lake, WI.  It is a good track, with lots of elevation changes and long straightaways.  One really unique thing about the track is the presence of lots of bleachers for the public. Most motorcycle tracks have a couple of grandstands, but most spectators stand along a fence or sit on the grass on a hillside.  So, having bleachers is nice.  I brought my Kermit chair, but I will not need it.  No problem; actually it's great that a chair is not needed!

The races today were good.  The superbike race was not at all close, so I was a bit disappointed at the lack of competition for the lead.  But otherwise the races were good.

After the race, we rode back home on beautiful roads through the countryside of Wisconsin.  The country is full of dairy farms, with grain silos and barns for milking.  It seemed that everywhere you look is a dairy farm.  (Gotta find some cheese to bring home!).  And the pastures were brilliant green, so it is a picturesque ride.  Just beautiful!

When we got back to the room, we had a beer and went to dinner at Legend Larry's, a local chicken wing place.  The wings were great!

Then back to the room for the night and to finish this entry.

Tomorrow--racing again and then starting home.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Alpena, MI to Mackinaw City

5/31/2012  A good and easy day today.  It turns out that the weather forecast was off by maybe 10 degrees.  It didn't get so cold last night, and the morning broke with blue skies and lots of sunshine.  There was a pretty good breeze, so it was fairly cool, but not cold as I feared.

We had breakfast and packed the bikes and got on the road around 9am.  We wanted to get back on US 23 and follow it to Mackinaw City, on the southern end of the Mackinaw Bridge, tying the lower part of Michigan with the famous upper peninsula.  The ride was only 88 miles long, so it was a very short riding day.

Along the way, we spotted a sign to a lighthouse and pulled off the road to see it.  The 40 Mile Point Lighthouse supposedly is mid way between Alpena and Mackinaw City; hence "40 mile" name.  According to the volunteer lighthouse keeper, they actually mis-figured the 40 mile distance and it's off by two miles!  But after the discovery, they decided to leave it where it was rather than to move it.

We walked down to the water/beach and found an old shipwreck lying in the sand.  All that was left was some wood and iron; much more iron than I thought there would be.  But it was neat.

The climb up the 57 steps to the top was not difficult.  Actually, it was easy compared to NC's lighthouses. But it was worth the stop and the time it took to see the place.

Onward to Mackinaw City, where we bought tickets to the ferry to9 Mackinac Island.  The ride was very smooth and only took about 15 minutes to cover the distance.

The island was pretty neat.  No cars or trucks are allowed, so everything moves by foot, by bicycle, or by horsedrawn vehicles.  Carriages were all over the place.  We walked around for a bit and decided to get lunch and a beer.  Found a place and had a good sandwich and beverage.

After lunch, we set out exploring the island on foot.  A couple of hours later, we were tired and had walked much of the island.  For the most part, it's a tourist trap, IMO, but a beautiful one.  Huge houses, painted in a rainbow of colors.  Huge hotels, old-styloe, mostly of wood and not especially high.  Small shops selling trinkets or fudge.  It was a neat place to visit, but it felt too rich for me.  Glad we went.

Before leaving, we stopped for another beer before getting on the ferry, drank it out on a deck, and then rode the return ferry back to Macinaw City.  Back on the mainland, we rode to our motel a few blocks away and stopped for the night.  After a little rest, we decided to eat dinner.  The plan had been to walk to dinner, but there was nothing close-by to satiate our appetite.  So, checking the Internet, we picked out a place downtown, too far to walk.  So, we took the bikes to the place, only to find it closed.  We believe that it actually had not opened for the season.  So, rather than riding around after dark, we walked across the street to an Italian place.  It was fair at best, but it was convenient.

After dinner, we rode to a small park by the water to see the big bridge in lights.  It was well worth the effort; Mae, thank you for your recommendation!

A very easy day with only a few miles. on the bikes.

Tomorrow--riding some fun roads, doing the bridge, and saying goodbye to Michigan.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Monroe, MI to Alpena, MI

5/30/12  Today's ride was, overall, pretty good.  We didn't cover too many miles, but we sure saw some pretty sights along the way.

We got up, got dressed, and were on the bikes about 8am. Since the breakfast at the motel was very paltry, we decided to go to Denny's for breakfast.  While it was good, it was very slow.  They were shorthanded, and we waited nearly an hour before the food came.  Some wait is acceptable, but it was just very slow.

From the motel, we caught US 23 that runs close to the shore of Lake Huron and followed it northward for a good part of the day.  The weather was pleasant; mid 70s and variably cloudy, becoming sunny, then cloudy again.  Traffic was not bad anywhere along the way, including riding through Detroit.  This area is a huge industrial complex with car manufacturing, oil refineries, shipping, and usual business.  Lots of history in the area.

US 23 is a pleasant road to ride; good road surface and speeds from 55 to 32 mph, depending on where you are at the moment.  Lots of small villages or towns along the way, each looking like a seaside town of years ago.  Lake Huron is huge; it looks like you're looking at the Atlantic ocean, with waves, white sand, and cottages along the way.  Most of the actual shoreline is developed, with places ranging from trailers to mansions.  Some are huge and beautiful, and a few are run-down shacks, but most are pretty and in good condition.

Along the way, we stopped in one of the small villages to walk on a boardwalk along the shore.  Palmer Park is the name of the park; one of many, many waterside parks along the way.  Many of the villages had their version of a waterside park.  They were all very pretty and green with shade trees as well.

We stopped for lunch at a small pizza/tavern place in Port Sanilac.  Had a Reubin sub with a beer.  Reubin was WAY too big; I ate half of it and saved the other half for another time or the garbage.  Probably the latter!  It was good and the beer was very good.

Before we stopped, we noted that the temperature was falling.  While earlier it had been in the mid-70s, it had dropped to 63 degrees.  When we came out from lunch, it was 57 degrees!  Cooling pretty rapidly!  Since I didn't bring warm clothes, the temperature falling that much, coupled with frost and freeze warnings for tonight, I was beginning to worry about being cold.

Since we needed to make some time, we decided to cut westward through the state over to Saginaw on Hwy 46, a two-lane road that ran 45 miles straight as an arrow due west.  BORING!!  Land, for the most part, was flat as a flitter, and with no curves at all, it was boring.  Traffic was light, so we could have run fast, but with a 55 mph speed limit, we stayed under 60.

As we went inward away from the lake, it warmed up into the mid-60s.  But the wind picked up, so we weren't cold, but had to fight the wind to stay in our lane of traffic.  No problems, just tiring riding when it's blowing hard.

In Saginaw, we went back north and caught up with our old friend, US 23 and continued northward.  Finally, at around 6:30 we stopped in Alpena, a small town by the water.  Found a motel and stopped for the night.

Dinner was at a Chinese place across the parking lot from the motel.  The clerk at the front desk told us it was rated in the top 100 Chinese places in the country, so we decided to try.  It was very good, but now I wonder if she meant within the top 100 places in Alpena!  No, I'm being a bit hard on the place; it was pretty good.

After dinner, we walked across the street to Wallyworld so I could buy some warmer clothes.  Got a sweatshirt and a pair of blue jeans so I won't freeze!

Tomorrow, we'll get back on US 23 and follow it northward to the Mackinac Bridge and Macinac Island.  We hope to see the island.

About 365 miles for the day...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pfafftown to Monroe, MI

5/29/12  Long day on the road!  But not too hard a ride today.  We left Gary's home at about 8:45am and rode through the country to US 52 headed north.  Traffic was not heavy, and the weather was very pleasant.  A good ride.

In a few miles, we passed Pilot Mountain, which was half-covered in fog, hiding the knob at the top.  We decided to take US 52 north, just to have a few twisties early in the day.  Unfortunately, we got behind an old woman doing about 35mph, and so we did only a few twisties after she finally turned into a side road.  

A while later, we crossed over to I-77 and made some good time, for a while.  Somewhere around mile marker 60, the traffic stopped.  We learned that they apparently had one of the routes closed through a tunnel and were alternating northbound and southbound traffic.  It was slow going and hot (about 90 degrees).  Finally, it was our turn to move, so we got off at the first exit and got onto US 52 again, figuring even though it was longer, it was better than sitting still.  A few minutes after getting off the Interstate, we could see it stopped again.  A good decision.

We followed US 52 to Hwy 19 and took 19 north.  It sorta parallels the Interstate, but with lots of good curves and fun riding.  I enjoy doing hwy 19; not much traffic on the road and it has good sweeping curves.

After a while, we jumped back on I-77 and mo ved along pretty well for a while.
So, 549 miles today, one rainstorm.  Several delays in traffic.  But we made it to Michigan safely.  Now, Gary has caught up with me by riding in 49 states.  Yooo Hooo!

Even though I promised pics, I'll have to post them later.  Can't get Internet except through the phone, and it's 11:10 pm, and I'm tired.  So, I'll quit for now.

Tomorrow... Michigan!