Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mackinaw City Michigan

At O’Reilly’s and the action is already in full swing, that is since having dinner and a few drinks that everyone is starting to get wild wondering why I’m working at this hour. Amanda with her name tag on her sleeve so she doesn’t forget her name because she keeps asking me why I’m working since it’s after midnight and to let you know just how drunk she must be, it’s only 10:50. Ok, just found out my mistake because although I headed far enough west as I thought to enter my central time zone, I’m back in Eastern time just here in Mackinaw City. I guess I’ll get my hour back tomorrow once I get home because although I’m having problems with my bike, which I’ll get to, it’s only about an 8 hour trip from here according to mapquest. Time to get this done so I can join the rest on the other side of the bar, but one thing I already miss, those Canadian women.

Ottawa city turned out to be a blast later at night and with bar time being after 3:00 it can get real crazy. I ended up at one of the other Irish pubs talking to a number of different people and one of them happened to be from Wausau Wisconsin about 45 minutes from where I grew up in Colby Wi. Anyway, he and some of the others were in Ottawa for a day of work so will be heading home tomorrow, but once on the company tab in a foreign city, it’s time to have fun. Don’r remember their names, but that’s not the point, it’s what a small world this is running into someone close to your hometown in a foreign country. Sure it’s just Canada, but remember Canada is foreign to most and Quebec even more foreign. The hostel stay was different since it was a jail cell with 6 beds, but I think I had enough beers to help me sleep well and someone from Ottawa was telling me last night that they have a deal that if you can sleep on the haunted 8th floor for a night by yourself, you get the night free. Apparently no one has been able to do it, but in a solitary confined cell that’s haunted I might even have a problem with that. I did ask on my way out this morning and was informed that they stop doing that a while ago. if only I would have asked when checking in, I might of been able to persuade them otherwise.

There was no problems sleeping last night and just to help out my cell mates, I did make sure to put a breathe rite strip on. For any who have read about some of the other hostels I’ve stayed at in the past, apparently I’ve pissed off a few with my drunken snoring. Well, this morning I did ask one of the other guys in the room, but he was from Quebec so didn’t understand english and for those wondering about that in Canada, Quebecian’s, if I can call them that, don’t speak english and everything in Quebec is French, not bi-lingual like the rest of Canada does for those Quebecian’s. In Quebec there’s no English signs, but the number of French signs in the rest of Canada I’m sure costs their government a cent or two, that and their national health care program. I could tell you more on that from what I heard from so many Canadians talking about it, but I don’t discuss politics and religion, it leads to to many arguments and wars.

I did feel a little uncomfortable once I woke up this morning in the cell crawling out of the top bunk and probably waking up a few, but hey, that’s part of what you get in a hostel. I did meet some of the other cellmates and they were from all over, one guy from Japan and another from Germany as well as the Quebecian I told you about and as for Brian you I met last night, he’s from Ottawa, but apparently his wife is pissed off at him that he’s staying in the hostel instead of heading home to her. It’s a longer story, but he just got back from Afghanistan and is dealing with some of that which has put him into rehab for becoming alcoholic.

Ok, now to the travels. No problems getting things packed and when all I have to pack is my cloths and put them on the bike, it makes things much easier than tearing down a tent and packing the sleeping bag and tent, besides I wouldn’t of been able to enjoy downtown Ottawa like I did. A quick shower and I was on the road earlier than most days, not as early as others, but for me, early and that’s so I can get to Mackinaw city before the day is done. Well, the roads in Canada aren’t the double lane freeways, so although they have a number of double lanes for the uphill sections which allowed me to get around the slower folks, there was a lot of passing, that is until I ran into problems with the bike. On my way to Sudbury with the idea to check out the rock formations so many have told me about, the bike wouldn’t go over 3000 rpm without sounding like it was going to die. That meant I could only do about 70 mph and when I see the signs marked for 90, i just want to open it up. Ok, 90 kph which is apparently close to 55 mph, but it did keep me from being able to hit it hard to pass vehicles in the passing zones. That meant I needed to find a Harley shop before it closed so that’s where I headed to in Sudbury. The mechanic was already working on an out of towner bike that wouldn’t have time to get to mine that I decided to call my personal mechanic at the St Croix shops and after going thru a number of things which included replacing the spark plugs, not luck trying to diagnose over the phone. The mechanic in Sudbury did take my bike for a test drive and he said although it’s having problems, there should no problems limping it home, which is just what I’m doing. As for the spark plug change, before pulling the old ones I bought a new pair for the mechanic to tell me I didn’t need them after all since the on the bike looked ok so I returned them only for find out from my St Croix connection that I should change them anyway, I’m sure the casher wasn’t that happy with me, but she seemed ok with it, maybe it was my smile or better yet, she’s one of those hot Canadian women.

Well, the rest of the trip was interesting getting here, but that’s only because I couldn’t open up like I’d like to make up some lost time, but I did make it while it was still light and a good thing too since all of the hotels/motels are either full or outrageously priced that tonight, I’m tenting it. Have the tent setup a couple of miles down the road that I’m here at O’Reilly’s to have some food and my sleep medicine. beers. That brings me to Klaus and Jordan amongst others around the bar that I’m talking to as well as Amanda about working in the bar. That’s part of how I get my story out here, writing while taking in the surroundings that it’s about time to sign off so I can do a little more partying before snoring myself to sleep.

Ottawa Ontario

At the Dubliner bar in the Market place district which is apparently the place to be in downtown Ottawa. Found a local hostel downtown known as the Hi Ottawa Jail Hostel because get this, we sleep in cells. Yep, an old jailhouse downtown that’s been converted into a hostel and from the tours they were giving for this place, sounds like it might be haunted. I’ll let you know if there are any strange happenings tonight even if it doesn’t involve the jailhouse.

It was tough leaving Tamworth today because it would have been worth staying one more night after all the fun I’ve already had this week, but figured if I still want to make Sturgis before that’s over next weekend I better hit the road, not only that; today is cleaning day that for some odd reason I’m always missing the clean by a day. Some of the others were already leaving today that even though there were a few more people showing up at Tamworth, I’ll get to see them next time I make the trip. So far, if I haven’t already mentioned it, Tamworth has been a trip for me every other year since my first trip around the states in 2006, finishing North America in 2008, that I really better make South America in 2010 because then Tamworth is always part of the travels.

Got a later start than what I might when on the road, but it still would have been before checkout in most hotels. George the 3rd (senior) suggested a route that would take me into Ontario to avoid Montreal and not only because once in Quebec you better be able to speak French, but it being a weekend I would have been going through there close to rush hour that it’s better to avoid than make. I still got to do the Kancamagus trail so that was really the highlight of the trip because after getting off from 112 (Kancamagus) it was a number of stops to check out the map to make sure I was on the right course...that and asking a number of people for directions which I’ll get to in a bit. Although my ride started hot and humid, it gets cold in these them hills that besides my jacket not staying packed as well as it should, I needed it and for some reason it was windier than most days, must be something with heading North into Canada. The route that George suggested took me across Vermont into New York to the border town of Cornwall, that meant a brain bucket as soon as I crossed into Vermont and being that it’s the Canada trail, that will mean helmet until I make Wisconsin or Minnesota. Still haven’t decided which direction to head home, down the Michigan peninsula or around the North side of lake Superior to through the Duluth area, we’ll have to see where the bike decides to take me.

Once at the border the border patrol lady was really friendly making sure I knew how to get to Ottawa since she wasn’t sure that the info desk was still open. Not a worry since it was, but I already had my directions so the only thing I needed help with was a place to stay and that means, finding one of those Canadian hostels which so many travelers stay at, including me. The info guy was really helpful with 4 of them in the Ottawa area that I started with the one with the highest mark only to find out it was full and thought that most others were also full. Well, from there I figured I might as well start at the top of the list and wouldn’t you know it, the next hostel had just gotten a cancellation that they have a bed for me. It’s in a shared room (cell), but I’ve stayed in a number of them that I have no problems with that, the nice thing would have been if it was a shared coed room.

My directions for the hostel wasn’t very good even with a map that I couldn’t begin to tell you how many times I stopped to ask someone for directions, not only asking, but showing them the map. That eventually put me back on the highway that got me here that I decided to hit the first exit that I found and asked the driver in the car next to me how to get to the hostel I was looking for. Not only was it a good thing that he was from town, but knew exactly where the hostel I was looking for was at that I finally had the directions I needed. And now you might be asking how could one, me, get lost even with a printed out map, well, that’s because up on the printed version wasn’t necessarily according to North and South or maybe even more appropriate, not calibrated for the direction I was coming into Ottawa from.

Well, once I did find the hostel not only was the hostess a great hostess, but I did get to meet one of my cell mates, Brian and he made sure I found the place to be on a weekend in downtown Ottawa, the Market place. Once we walked down to the area he pointed me in a general direction of places to eat that wouldn’t you know it, it was bike night that after eying up a steak place across the road, I figured a good piece of meat would be in order that I might as well ask one of the bikers which place is best, hell, if they don’t know the best, they’d at least know the best hole in the wall that most others would be missing out on. With that, he sent me to the Keg around the corner and No only was it a great suggestion since they have great prime rib, but Shannon and Justin made sure I was well taken care of. I mean well in that Shannon served me a full meal even if I hadn’t ordered it, bread included with the extra cheese butter that it was a great piece of meat. From there I Shannon suggested I check out the Market place pub next door, but with the line and cover charge I figured I’d check out the next pub which plans on having a live band the Dubliner. Time to hang this up and party it up that how’bout I let you know tomorrow what stories there might be had from downtown Ottawa?

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Tamworth New Hampshire

I’m home, at least home for the week and made it in 3 days of hard riding saving the best for last. I took freeway and toll ways as far as was worth it without going too far out of my way, but once I made it to Albany NY, it was time to get off the fast pavement and travel the scenic roads of Vermont and New Hampshire which are great roads for a bike ride. For the third day in a row I woke up to what looked like rain and according to the forecast that’s just what can be expected in the East. Well, I decided to think positive so packed up the rain gear and strapped it to the bike instead of putting it on and it turned out to be a good call. I left just late enough that what ever was suppose to have gone through to the East was long gone by the time I got there.

Ok, how’bout I start by finishing off what happened last night at Jos’e with the band and crowd. After finishing my story I packed up the computer so I could enjoy meeting people and there were plenty of things I learned about Canandaigua that I never would have known, that it’s one of the finger lakes of New York, something which the state is known for (other than the Empire state) which I’ve never heard and my only question was, are the lakes connected to look like a hand or was it someone coming up with a catchy phrase to advertise the area and I do believe the second is true, they are not connected but someone thought they looked like 5 fingers on a hand that they called them the finger lakes. I did make it to bar time and I know it’s not something to brag about, but now I see how all of those old time bikers can drink as much as they do and get on a bike and still ride...it’s a sobering experience when you only have 2 wheels to depend on and I’m sure the years and miles of riding help somewhat. For me, it’s making sure I stop drinkin alcohol far enough in advance to sober up before the ride, depending on the distance.

As for the ride today I got an early enough start after a late night and there was a Dunkin Donut next door that I had to have a little something in my tummy before hitting the road. The one thing I don’t do a very good job of while riding is making stops to eat or drink, especially when I have a destination to make and I’d really like to get to Tamworth before the day is out. Good company and a bed I can call mine for a week. Well the toll road wasn’t much to write about, but once again my cruise was set faster than most and I cannot believe how many of the slower traffic refuse to move over into the slow lane, especially with all of the signs suggesting otherwise, but there was this one chick who couldn’t decide how fast to go that she finally pissed me off enough that I had to put some distance between me and her. I have no problems following someone who is going faster than me and keeps the distance but when there speed is up and down, I need my fresh air.

Now for the best part saved for last, the roads of Vermont, hwy 7 and New Hampshire 9 that is marked in the Harley Davidson Atlas as roads in the states worth riding and they are very beautiful rides through the Andarandack mountains of the region. This route takes a little longer than finding freeways, but it is more direct and twisty turny roads with brooks and streams running along the roads and the one thing with my bike, I think it gets much better gas mileage in the mountains than the plains of the Midwest. I was a little disappointed that the city of Bennington which I had passed through a couple of years ago didn’t have all of the statue figures on the streets. At the time it looked like people working or walking the streets of downtown Bennington that it was pretty funny to see. This year they had decorated Moose on some of the street corners and sorry to say, no pictures of those this year. Maybe I’ll have to post my pictures from the previous trip so you can see what I missed.

I did happen to make a stop for a snack once I realized there was no problem getting to my destination before it got dark, but it was only for an ice cream cone in Vermont. Not that their ice cream is any better than back home, but it just sounded good at the time. From there it was off to Concord where I did catch some freeway 93 heading North and I knew which route I wanted to take, but the gas attendant at my stop for gas in Concord suggested a different route. Well, I was determined to take mine since according to the HD Atlas (remember, scenic roads to ride) had my path marked and not his. I should have looked at the map closer and what exist I wanted to take because the road I needed wasn’t the one I’d exit onto so I ended up about 15 miles North of my mark before pulling off and rechecking the map, that was with asking someone about directions too, which someone has already mentioned to me how guys never stop to ask for directions, well, I’m not most guys and will if I need them, especially depending on who might be giving them.

I hit’er hard back the 15 extra miles and the route I had chosen was definitely a beautiful ride along the mountain lakes of New Hampshire. More twisty turny roads through the woods and this time instead of brooks and streams it was a lake chain to ride next too. I did find the place I stopped at a couple years back, the Smoke House for some grub cuz it was about dinner time and needed something before getting to the cabin and relaxing for the week. Oh, and I know how to get to the cabin from the Smoke House better than other traveling markers along the way. Some good baby backs and it was off to the cabin (family summer home) and great to be greeted by most while driving up the driveway. If I can get pictures posted you’ll see the place I’m talking about and maybe, some old pictures from previous visits might be worth seeing.

As usual my place in the dungeon (basement cots and beds) are awaiting me and apparently there will need to be a family vote later this week to see whether I get to venture to the second or third levels of this house. Hey, for the time being I have no problems with a bed in the basement and a cold beer to help me sleep...and that’s why it feels like home, at least for a week. Next blog may be the adventures of the week, one of which I’m sure will involve a climb of Mount Chocura and it it’s anything like a couple of years ago, I’ll be a hurtin unit when it’s all said and done.

Canandaigua New York

And I have no idea how to spell it, but the chick at Jos’e bar just typed it in for me, thanks. I guess this is the biker bar to be at and it’s hopping with a pretty good band kickin the kinda music ‘Us kind’ like to listen to. And as long as you might be asking what I mean by, ‘Us kind’ it’s the usual biker music with a little blues and hard rock.

To finish last night out, Corby’s was definitely the place to be and it got busy early. Fortunate for me I got there in time to get a good viewing spot and there was plenty of viewing to be had. Those Catholic girls know how to dress and I”m wondering it it’s the Notre Dame way not only for the women, but the guys too with their button up shirts and a proper white tshirt underneath. Anyway, the guys I was sitting next too kept talking me in to getting more beer and staying for the entertainment and it was very good viewing only problem I was one of the older ones in the joint.

Today’s travels started out wet once again and I don’t know what it is with me and where I’m starting out from because both yesterday and today started wet. I figured I’d wait to see if things cleared up and although it was a lighter mist than when I left yesterday from home, put the rain pants so I can at least get another days ride out of these jeans. They get so dirty on the road, at least the part that’s not covered and I should be able to get a three day ride out of one pair. Well, once again a few miles up the road and it was dry so there wouldn’t of been the need for the rain pants, but things still looked gloomy I figured I should keep them on, that was until I at least got closer to Cleveland. At that point it was pretty warm and no sign of rain that I might as well dress for my visit to the Rock and Roll hall of fame, the normal look of jeans, boots and a tshirt.

Today was also another day of hard riding the fast pavement and toll roads, even after Cleveland I decided to stay on the toll road than the other route along the river I’ve taken my last two visits to the area, which has me thinkin - this has been an every other year trip for me with my travels of the 49 states in 06, finishing North America in 08 and this year, the hope of extending my travels to South America...Stay tune and we’ll see what happens.

Back to today, I had to make a stop at the Rock and Roll hall of fame to see who was highlighted and it was another band, or at least artist from my years, Bruce Springsteen. Not a band worth me paying the cover charge to go thru the place and besides that, I’ve had my mind on Anchor bar in Buffalo all day and figured I have to make sure I get there for the original Buffalo wings. I did catch a quick Polish dog at one of the street stands in Cleveland it was time to high tail it to Buffalo and besides that, I lost an hour somewhere along the way.

I did make it to the Anchor bar for the wings and before I get to the wings and finding a place to stay, had an interesting talk with a guy in town for the Dark Star Orchestra concert and if you’re wondering what kind of band that is, this guy looked like a Grateful Dead dead head to give you a hint and he had even made the trip to Minneapolis just to see the band. His only trip to Minnesota because he didn’t have any other need to visit. Pretty cool guy to talk to and it’s very true, you cannot always judge a book by it’s ocver, hell, look at me, you’d never guess I’m just a wanna be biker...that’s according to some of my friends who I have to ask, what is it gonna take to prove to you that there’s no more wanna be, but am.

Ok, while I’m wording on this story sitting in Jose’s the way the bartenders deal with the money sitting on the bar if far different than what I experienced last night with the good looking young blonde waitress that I had to set straight on the money sitting on the bar. Not realizing all the beers I was having last night were 6 bucks, I ordered a different kind of beer and put 8 bucks on the table figuring she’d take what was needed for the beer and leave the rest on the bar, well instead she put the 6 bills into the cash register and the other 2 in the tip jar. I asked her what she would have done had I left a 20 on the bar and she said she would have given me change of 14 bucks without a tip to which I told her how we do it back home, that is back in Wisconsin where you leave the money on the bar, the bartender takes the money for the cost of the drinks and at the end of the night you’ll leave them a tip if you hadn’t tipped them per drink earlier. Anyway, these bartenders, even the new girl tonight knows how that works, only take the cost of the drink out of the money.

As I digress, back to Anchor bar and of course the wings are as good as ever, and instead of root beer, remember, this place only serves birch beer, which of course I had to have. I did ask the bartender if there were any cheap places in town to find place to sleep for the night, including a shelter down by the lake, but the only thing she thought of was a travel lodge up the road. Well, I did talk to the guys in back, the ones that help me park my bike and the cooks what they thought of sleeping under the shelter down by the lake and they said not a good idea in Buffalo, not a very safe place to be just laying out that I’m either better off heading to Niagara Falls or finding a hotel. Well, the Travel Lodge was a dive and the guy was asking for 60 buck cash for the night that it wasn’t worth it for this place, even if it was close to the Anchor. Well, you can guess what I did, hit the road and headed East and now how I ended up in Canandaigua? well, I got off the toll road one exit before because it’s getting late, remember that hour that I lost and as long as it was pushing 9:00, the deer are on the run that I sure the hell don’t need to hit one that it’s time to find a place to stay. I can tell you, it’s even harder finding a place in the dark because I only saw one hotel at the last stop and it wasn’t a cheap one, that I got back on the toll road and headed to the next exit to find something cheaper which put me at the Americinn and good directions to the biker bar in town, 8 miles up the road to Jose’s. Time to party!

South Bend Indiana

I figured as long as I’m Catholic I might as well make a stop at South Bend Indiana to see what I can find on the Notre Dame campus, and it’s put me here, Between the buns. A local sports bar that is worth the eats. From here it sounds as though Corby’s is the dive bar in town to visit according to Karen the bartender helping me out. She already complained about downtown Mpls visiting the bars where she was looking for a dive bar in the cities to visit, but everyone sent her to the pickup joints of downtown Mpls, she’s gonna make sure I don’t make the same mistake.

Ok, as for the travels today, freeway all the way here. I was hoping to get an earlier start, but woke up to rain so finally decided once it was a little lighter it was time to throw on the gators (knee high rain boots) and a jacket to hit the road. Just a few miles North and it was dry so I swear it was just raining on my place keeping me from getting an early start. Good thing I did have the gators and jacket on though cuz got spit on too many times to count so was able to get away with only my knees getting wet and the rest of me dry. The trip was pretty much non eventful so to spice it up a little, had the cruise set weaving in and out of traffic. Almost thought about pulling a white liner (remember California), but did have to slow for all the slow people on the road and too many hanging in the fast lane trying to patrol the speed limit themselves. I did have some older guy and his wife not too happy with me when I passed them on the right and pulled in to the fast left lane...i thought for sure the guy was gonna run me over because all of a sudden he found the accelerator and pulled within inches, how I wish I had that stone or better yet, a spark plug to toss over the shoulder.

This trip wouldn’t be the same without a stop at Janesville to visit the crew at Kutter’s Harley Davidson. Sorry to say Jame’s (service manager who put me up for the night through a couple years ago) wasn’t there anymore, I did get to see Aaron and Lucy and once again, I got to walk out of there with a free tshirt...thanks much Lucy and you know you’ll always have my business. From there the rest of the service guys told me my best beat to get around Chicago was the long way, 39 down to Interstate 80 east and it wasn’t too bad until I got closer to Chicago because it was stop and go traffic quite a while. I didn’t hit the open full throttle road until getting well into Indiana on the toll road which doesn’t cost you to get one, but costs you once you exit. There’s a ticket you pickup when you get on the toll road so once you get off they decide how much to charge. Not sure if it’s distance or what it is, but I do know it cost me over $3 to get off as South Bend. That reminds me of one other incident while on the toll way, whether I could pull off to get gas or not. Well, I was gonna ask someone in the stop and go traffic, but figured I’d take my chances and pull off on an exit just for the gas and I was able too without paying another toll. This was before I got to the ticket toll, but still had me questioning whether to keep going for one of the gas stops on the toll road and possible run out of gas getting there or playing it safe and getting gas when I need it. It is different once you get on the ticketed toll road cuz they do have the plaza stops along the way and will warn you how far to the next one so I am fortunate to say, NO running out of gas today.

Back to South Bend and after taking a few pictures of Notre Dame it was off to find a place to stay and even though I tried, couldn’t find any cheap stay for the night on campus, and believe me I did try. I did end up at the other end of town in a Motel 6 and although the sign out front had a higher rate, I got a deal and got the freeway rate. All ya gotta do is ask, now I’m just hoping there aren’t any bed bugs after seeing the story on the news on how bed bug problems are up throughout the nation. Oh well, at least its a bed and shower in the morning.

Here’s to a dry warm day for riding tomorrow and we’ll see where the bike ends up.