Monday 24 July 2023

Guest Post: Wolfe and the IBR Parts 4-6

 The Iron Butt Rally is long distance motorcycling's most challenging endurance event. It runs once every two years in the continental US and Lobo Loco Rally Master, Wolfe Bonham, is a veteran of the event. Wolfe ran the 2023 IBR and has been sharing his ride on Facebook, but he said he's OK with guest posting on TMD, so here is parts 4-6! Eleven thousand miles in eleven days? Enjoy!

Parts 1-3 can be found here.

Part Four - IBR 2023

The Heavens Open up

Heading southbound it isn't long before I encounter my first of many mechanical issues.  I notice my windscreen is getting closer and closer to my cell phone.  I had adjusted it yesterday and it becomes apparent I didn't torque down my Tobinator tight enough.  I jump off at the next exit and waste 10 minutes getting it done right.  This will be one of many roadside repairs in my near future. 

Back on I-79 and it's not long before I realize I'm running short on fuel much sooner than expected.  I check my Garmin for the next available fuel and am once again off the highway.  My auxiliary fuel cell is transferring fuel much slower than anticipated and I make a mental note to turn the transfer valve on sooner.  On the upside this exit has a Jersey Mike's, so I quickly snag a Bingo location while off the highway with a quick iced tea.

My next fuel stop snags the ever present Waffle House chain, but then I see the storms building across my path.  The next 2 days will have me ride through no less than 7 severe thunderstorms.

Crossing on HWY 19 the weather changes. What had been a rather warm afternoon suddenly becomes very cold, and the skies open up.

Prior to the rally I had discovered that my now 6 year old Klim Carlsbad riding suit was no longer shedding water like it used.  I had followed their instructions to re-water proof the outfit, but this would be the first real test.

Eventually the rain was becoming so heavy that my wheels were parting puddles deep enough to send spray up to my knees.  Worried about hydroplaning I spied an upcoming Bojangles on the next exit.   That's when I also noticed I had an oil pressure light glaring at me on the dash.

It looked like a brief break would allow this storm to pass.  I could get an actual meal, dry my gear, and look into my oil situation.  

Under the awning of the gas station next to the restaurant I could see my oil levels were good.  I guessed the only thing to do was continue riding and watch the engine temp.  If it began to rise I'd know that oil wasn't getting to all the needed spots.

Soldiering on I was getting really tight on time to make The Varsity restaurant in Atlanta, GA before they closed at 9pm.  This chain is on the bingo card, but only available in the Atlanta area.  I figured this would likely be my only trip through Atlanta on the rally, so I had to get it today.

This would mean passing up on visiting a Pal's Sudden Service bingo restaurant en route.  I figured I'd be able to find one later in the Rally as they are more common.... spoiler alert... I didn't, and it would cost me blacking out the entire card!  Day 1 decisions can have a cascading effect, like the butterfly that flapped its wings in Central America 3 days ago that is now causing the storms in the southern USA I'm now riding through.

My route to Atlanta only diverged enough to snag the high point value giant peach water tower in Gaffney, SC that was featured on the rally poster.

I called ahead to The Varsity to make sure they didn't have any ideas of closing early, threw away another planned stop at a Whataburger location, hauled ass to downtown Atlanta where Cherrelle was waiting to close with my peach lemonade already poured!  Phew... and it was refreshing too.

Also in the downtown was a metal peach sculpture that proved tricky to find a spot to park to take the photo.  After doing a couple of laps around the nearby stadium I figured using one of the hotel lots was the only real option... and low and behold, I run into Jeffrey Gebler pulling out of one.  He let's me know he had greased the valet with a few dollars to let him park there.  I quickly followed suit.  

On returning to my bike a group of high school students and their teacher were checking out my bike.  They were in town on a skills competition for, of all things, motorcycle and small engine repair.  I took a few moments to chat with them and show them the live tracking.  We wished each other good luck in our competitions and I headed out of Atlanta for Florida. 

This final stretch of the night had me in more thunderstorms and it was becoming quite obvious that my Klim gear was indeed no longer waterproof.  More concerning was the amount of water now pooling in my Sidi Adventure Goretex boots from running down the back of my calves.

Watching the tracker I knew most Florida bound riders had pulled off for the night, and I could see they were snug out of the weather in hotels along I-75S.

I was determined to push further and arrived at the Florida welcome center rest area where I curled up on a picnic table under an awning for 2 hours sleep...

Or so I thought...

Part Five - IBR 2023

The Struggle is Real

I wake up to the sound of distant thunder. A quick look at my weather app shows another massive storm about to roll through, and the winds are picking up.  I doubt I'll stay dry under this little park awning so I head for the shelter of the nearby welcome center.  Inside I chat with a very friendly security guard as we watch the rain flying sideways and palm trees bending in the wind.  I hit up the snack machine for dinner/breakfast, then make the call that I might as well be putting on some miles if I'm no longer sleeping.

I make my way through several clusters of storms on the way to Cedar Key in the dark.  It should be just after sunrise when I arrive.

Suddenly my lights pick up movement from the ditch. An armadillo is attempting to cross the road, and given the wet conditions there's very little I can do but brace for impact.  I've always feared hitting one of these after seeing one destroy a wheel well and fender of an RV as a child.  I expect it to be like hitting a rolling bowling ball.  Bam!

In actual fact it was more like a large raccoon.  Sorry little dude. 

I pass by 2 other riders heading back out of of the Key that must've passed me while I napped.  It's quite windy with the nearby storms and i struggle a bit with the rally flag.

From here I'm off to New Orleans.  The morning is chilly and my gear is still soaked. As I get close to Tallahassee it starts to warm up and the sun is out.  I stand up on my pegs to get my gear in the wind to help it dry out.  It's working, except my boots are still swamped.

....OK OK... the clutch.  For the past day all I can smell when at lower speeds is burnt clutch.  I've made the decision to shift the bike to neutral anytime I'm stopped at a light to help preserve it as much as possible.   This goes against everything we teach as motorcycle instructors.  I'm also being as gentle as possible going through the gears when accelerating.  Between it, an oil pressure light, my slow to transfer auxiliary fuel tank, and wet gear, the first 24 hours has kept me on my toes. 

... back to Day 2.

As I get to Mobile the temps soar.  It's over 100F and extremely humid.  I snag a Whataburger for my Bingo card and to cool off.  I've been carefully watching my engine temp, and given how hot it is outside, if my oil pressure sensor warning was accurate the engine should be running extremely hot.  It's not.  In fact, it sounds great at speed,  although now at idle I'm starting to notice a concerning rough vibration throughout the bike.  I probably should have performed a valve adjustment before leaving Canada.   Great!  One more thing to nag at my mind for the next 9 days.

Leaving Mobile they are thunderstorms popping up everywhere due to the heat and humidity.  Coming through Gulfport and Biloxi I'm faced with 2 of the worst.  Visibility becomes almost zero, signs everywhere warn of flash flood areas,  and I'm trying to position myself behind transport trucks so they can part the water as much as possible to keep me from hydroplaning.  I'm standing on the pegs,  hazard lights on, crawling at less than 20 mph.  My mind keeps telling me this is too dangerous, but there really is nowhere to go. My mind also tells me that we're "the World's Toughest Motorcycle Riders".  The words of one of my famous instructors,  Simon Pavey come to mind.  "Have a spoonful of concrete and harden the 'f' up!".  I soldier on towards New Orleans. 

The weather breaks for a bit and I'm able to snag a CookOut, Popeyes, and Sonic, all at the same highway exit. There is another storm front about to descend onto New Orleans, though, and it's a doozy.  The I-70 bridge is so windy I have the bike leaned at almost 45 degrees and I'm getting tossed back and forth in my lane.  Fortunately there aren't a lot of other idiots out here on the bridge in this weather, so I'm not worried about hitting another vehicle.  At worst I'll get to go for a swim over the railing! 

Into the city and I'm trying to stay ahead of the front.  I quickly snag my photo and head west.  Twice the winds in town almost knock the bike over at traffic lights, and several signs are blown off buildings.  I need to get out before this hits.  With some creative moves at traffic lights I'm back on the highway towards Baton Rouge where I have a Weinerschnitzel bingo restaurant as my target.

Arriving there my weather radar shows a potential tornado, and the staff offer to let me park the bike under their drive-thru shelter. We all watch my radar in hopes it won't be too bad.  It passes on the other side of the river, less than 2 miles from us!

I thank them and soldier on toward Lafayette. It appears the storms are behind me for today.  I snag the Crawfish Capitol sign, and head towards Houston.   Other than the interrupted nap in Florida I've now been riding for 32 hours straight.   I plan to pull my mandatory rest in Houston after snagging another 2 bingo restaurants. 

That night in the hotel room I remove my boots to assess the damage.  36 hours of wet feet and hot, sweaty conditions has led to Trench Foot.  If I can't sort this out I'm afraid I won't make the next 9 days.

Part Six - IBR 2023

Reality Setting In

The alarm goes off far too early and I'm donning still wet gear.  This doesn't bode well for my feet, but there's little I can do at this point. Stepping outside at 4am I'm hit with a wall of hot, humid air. My glasses instantly fog up, as does my visor even with pinlocks.

So far I've had to throw away WVSP - 539 pts, TNGA - 586 pts, and a Pal's bingo restaurant. I realize to safely make the group photo bonus in Kansas by 3pm I'll also now need to throw out TXHU for another 556 pts.  That puts me almost 2000 points off my plan due to weather delays and mechanical concerns.  Leg 1 isn't going to plan... and it's about to get worse.

I get through Houston before most people are up and set my sights just north of Austin for Ding Dong, TX.  Austin traffic slows me down a bit more than expected, along with a missed highway exit.  I'm getting concerned if I'll make the group photo.  At this point I have 30 minutes to spare, but I'll need at least 3 fuel stops, as well as dealing with Dallas and Tulsa traffic.

Apart from a few construction slow downs I get through Dallas in decent time, despite hitting the ring highways at rush hour.  Thankfully there is an HOV system.  But I'm down to less than 15 minutes to spare for the 1632 point group photo.  I'm sweating, both because of the stress and 100+F temperatures.  At least it's not raining any longer, but I can feel my feet continuing to deteriorate in my boots.

As I get closer to Sherman, TX my phone alerts me to a traffic slowdown for construction.  It's going to add 33 minutes.  That's not acceptable. As the slowdown begins I head for the shoulder with hazard lights on.  It's backed up way too far to run the shoulder all the way through it, despite having the excuse of an air cooled bike that will certainly overheat in traffic like this.  Then I see a parallel service road divided from me by a ditch and patch of grass.  Well, I am on a GS...

Even using all these tactics by the time I'm north of the construction my Garmins indicate I'll be 10 minutes late to the group photo.  I doubt I can make that up, and I still need to battle through Tulsa.   It's time for another change of plans.

The RallyMaster Jeff Earls is a genius at making aspects of the rally just barely attainable. Riders going to the group photo in Kansas at 3pm would have very little to do afterwards except ride to the Tulsa checkpoint 2 hours south, arriving 3 hours early.  The bonus- extra rest.  However,  there is a little 702 point location just west of Oklahoma City.  If you run the calculations you *could* immediately leave the group photo, struggle through Tulsa and OKC rush hour traffic, twice, once each direction, and arrive at CP1 10 minutes late.  At 20 points per minute penalty you lose 200 points, but still net 500.  A reasonable gamble... but everyone else would gain 3 hours more rest.

I had planned to make this gamble, but now that I won't even make the group photo, I plug OKER-702 pts into my Garmins and divert away from Kansas.  I'll snag OKC early and head to the checkpoint.  I've now thrown away almost 4000 points.  My thoughts turn from top 10 to just finisher status.  It's a tough pill to swallow this early in the event.

En route I stop by a drug store for some Epsom salts, anti-fungal powder, and medicated creams.  I need to get serious about my feet.  I'm concerned this is turning into a staph infection, and that would certainly mean a DNF.

As I'm eastbound on I-44 I see 2 rally bikes hauling ass westbound.  Only 2 brave souls opt to try to snag OKER after the group photo.  I stand on my pegs, salute them as they go by, and give them a heroic fist pump.  Go boys go!

If you're into this (and how could you not be), Wolfe did a full sixteen part breakdown of the incredible long distance rally that is the IBR. You can find him on Facebook here.

If you're looking for a start in long distance rallying, Wolfe rally-masters Lobo Loco Rallies.

Here is Lobo Loco Rally's Facebook page:

Iron Butt did a nod to Wolfe's Lobo Loco (crazy wolf) rallies here.

... and (of course) you can find some Lobo Loco Ralliage on TMD here:

This has me thinking about what it takes to take a run at the IBR, but I suspect it's even more complicated than Wolfe lets on. I'm also curious about what it costs to do the thing. Fuel, hotels and the rest can't be cheap, and I'm also curious about some housekeeping items like: how do you wear ear plugs for weeks at a time without getting ear infections?

There is more to this long distance rally caper than just the willipower to do it. I'll ask and see if I can get any more details out of him.

Monday 17 July 2023

Guest Post: Wolfe and the IBR Parts 1-3

 The Iron Butt Rally is long distance motorcycling's most challenging endurance event. It runs once every two years in the continental US and Lobo Loco Rally Master, Wolfe Bonham, is a veteran of the event. Wolfe ran the 2023 IBR and has been sharing his ride on Facebook, but he said he's OK with guest posting on TMD, so here is parts 1-3! Eleven thousand miles in eleven days? Getting ready for this, let alone doing it, is an epic undertaking... enjoy!

Parts 1-3: Lead Up, Launch Pad & Take Off

words by Wolfe Bonham

Part One
Lead up, and Premonitions of Doom

The Iron Butt Rally is the Superbowl of long distance motorcycle endurance competitions.   In the 11 days of the event riders will cover anything from 9000 to as much as 14000 miles (14-22,500kms!), depending on their routing.  It is a delicate balance of miles vs. rest.  Get it right and you could find glory.  Get it wrong and you could find a hospital bed, or worse.

As entrants into the Iron Butt Rally we know more than a year in advance that we've been accepted into the challenge.   

Most riders begin preparations at least 6 months in advance making sure their motorcycle is up to the task, entering other smaller competitions to practice routing skills, and doing a bunch of progressively longer certification rides to get your body used to what you're about to put it through.

In my case I had been so caught up in new home renovations and building a massive workshop that I wasn't able to do any of this.  In fact, in all of 2022 I didn't do a single long distance certification ride.  And, due to border closures, it had been more than 3 years since I had entered a scavenger hunt style rally.

With a mere 2 weeks before the IBR, I put the final touches on my shop, pulled my motorcycles out of storage, and began the process of building a Rally Bike.

I had three 2003 BMW R1150GS parts bikes, one of which had low kilometers, but clutch issues.  That was to be my competition bike. 

I spent the next 2 weeks twisting wrenches 18+ hours a day, scrambling to get parts ordered and delivered on such short notice.

I ran into clearance issues with my auxiliary fuel tap into my main tank which had me scratching my head for 4 hours.  Turns out my other tank, being plastic, was able to flex just enough to clear the frame.  Filing down the brass fitting as much as I dared got me closer but I still needed about 1/16".  Desperate at 2am, out comes the big sledge hammer.  I'm sure that a 16th of an inch bend in the motorcycle's frame won't matter!

Two days before I need to leave for the start line in Pittsburgh I get my first test ride on the bike.  I get home after 30 minutes with a long list of things that need to still change or be fixed.

Some parts are not available in time or can't be shipped to Canada before I leave so I opt to have them shipped to the hotel in Pittsburgh.  I can do a few last minute installs in the parking lot.  These will include my hydration system and some needed wiring for my heated gear.

I'm packing the bike honestly worried I've bitten off more than I can chew.

The bike is untested.  Other than little 250cc bikes on the teaching lot, I haven't ridden any big bikes AT ALL this year, and hardly any kilometers last year.  Oh, and I'm 20 lbs heavier than I've ever done an IBR in my life, and I'm still recovering from a bad cold/cough with a ton of meds on the bike hoping it all clears up before the start....

Part Two - IBR 2023

Sitting on the Launch Pad

The ride to Pittsburgh was really my first ride of any distance this year.  As I settled into the
saddle I began to assess potential long term issues.  Relearning how to relax my shoulders, relax my grip,  sit more upright, etc.  Proper body position would become the key to enduring 20+ hours per day on the bike for 11 days in a row.

Arriving at the hotel parking lot in Pittsburgh was a very emotional experience for me.  Most of my life has been lived as a nomad, and as a result my base of friends is spread around the globe.  With all the CoVid lockdowns of the past year not only did that mean I couldn't compete in the 2021 IBR, but it also meant that I had been cut off from so many of my friends.  Seeing them all after so long meant tons of hugs and a few tears.

But I still had work to do on the bike, and the next morning would be the whirlwind of tech inspections and registrations.  I went to the lobby to retrieve 2 important packages that were shipped there in advance... and they were nowhere to be found!

The lobby staff said to check back in the morning.   This was unacceptable to me.  I had tracking numbers that showed both packages had arrived.  The morning wasn't going to make them suddenly appear!

After getting more and more insistent, and involving no less than 5 hotel staff, the packages were finally found.

I proceeded to get my hydration system installed, confirmed the new wiring functioned correctly with my heated gear, and made a few more ergonomic adjustments to the bike that had popped up on the ride down.

After some drinks and an excellent Reuben Sandwich with long missed friends it was time to sleep before the chaos of tech day.

The next morning found all the competitors proceeding through a series of lines and inspections; a mini-rally in and of itself.  The lead up to the start of the competition is 2-3 days and includes things like a 30 mile ride to calibrate everyone's odometers against each others, safety and capacity inspection for the plethora of different auxiliary fuel cell set ups, confirmation of our satellite GPS tracking systems, insurance, medical evacuation confirmations, and the sobering video deposition of death, where we acknowledge the risks of this competition and wave all liabilities to the organization. 

The whole process takes several hours to complete, and my only hurdle was that "Warchild" didn't like the way my fuel cell was vented.  An easy, but necessary fix, as you never want to be on the bad side of Dale Wilson.

The rally poster was put on display beginning the speculation by all the riders as to what the overall theme would be.  There was a prominent chicken in the poster, and I was convinced the final leg "hero run" would be from Denver to Chicken, Alaska, before returning to Pittsburgh.  Running the math it was 6600 miles... just barely doable in the 5.5 days of the final leg if you managed back to back 1200 mile days.

Greg Camp surprised me showing up with Bam Baker, so we all went on an ice cream run after clearing inspection.  We were now off the clock until Sunday's rider meetings.
However, on the ride to the ice cream shop I couldn't help but notice the ever present smell of burning clutch from my bike.  The clutch didn't appear to be slipping at all, but something definitely wasn't right inside.  Would it hold up for 11 days?  Would I have to baby yet another bike to an IBR finish, or would it leave me stranded in some place like Chicken, Alaska?!

Part Three - IBR 2023

Cleared for Launch

Sunday afternoon has our standard rider's meeting, following the rookie rider's meeting.  After that we just have to anxiously await the dinner banquet where we're finally given the Rally Book that will dictate our fates for the next 11 days.

And before you know it we're all opening our Rally Packs, which seem oddly thin.

The theme this year is food, and while there are not a lot of locations to choose from in the first 2.5 day leg, we are all given identical Bingo cards with 25 restaurant chains on them.  To claim each we'll need a photo of our motorcycle with our Rally Flag in front of the restaurant along with a receipt for a purchase inside.  This will prove to be quite a time suck.  A normal photo stop can be done by an experienced rally rider in under 2 minutes, including photo and paperwork... but going inside for a receipt could take 5-10 minutes each.  They aren't worth a lot of points, but if you start to score Bingo rows or columns the points start to add up quickly.  Blacking out the entire card is worth an additional 2000 points.  I think I'll go for it.

Back in my hotel room by 7pm I start the planning process for my route.  We are now on the clock and decisions about time spent planning/routing vs sleeping the night before begin to set in.

The Rally Book is scanned into a .pdf that I can search through while riding.  The points, time limitations, and notes are added to the location codes so that I don't have to look that up later... it all comes up on my Garmins.  Weather is checked and locations are grouped by point values.  It becomes obvious there are 3 distinct routes:  Maine, Florida, and Denver.   Given our required 2nd checkpoint in Denver I discount that one almost immediately.  Maine looks more promising than Florida, but includes several locations in downtown NYC, which always makes me nervous not being from that area.

I opt for the Florida route, with the goal of getting to the daytime only high point Cedar Key location right at sunrise.  That will mean skipping a few lower point locations on the way south, and only getting 1-2 nap on the first night.  But, doing so opens up some options on the 2nd day to scoop up everything along the Gulf Coast and end up with some restaurants in Houston before pulling the first leg mandatory rest on night 2.  Fingers crossed that sets me up to get to the big points group photo just north of the Leg 1 Checkpoint in Tulsa.
I'm happy with my plan, and in bed by 11pm.

The morning comes sooner than expected after a restless night of barely sleeping, laying in bed playing the "what if" game in my head.

Breakfast is shared with fellow riders, some not saying much about where they are headed, and others sharing ideas and concerns. 

Bikes are loaded and we are required to be standing with our bikes from 8am until our final
odometer readings are taken. 

Cory Ure, parked beside me, is nowhere to be seen as rally volunteers are coming down our line.  I look everywhere for him, but it's too late.  They bypass his bike, and now he'll be held from leaving until all other bikes have left.

Following a brief last minute rider's meeting we all mount our bikes and nervously await the start.  Next to me is Lisa Cover Rufo and her daughter Molly, who is calmly sipping on an iced latte!  The luxury of being pillion!

Before we know it we're off!  This is my 3rd IBR, and it still brings me to tears every time I start.  It is such an honour and privilege to be amongst this elite group of riders.

Pulling onto the highway we all start to spread out on our own individual plans and routes.
Who will have the best plan? Who will find glory? Who will struggle just to make the finish, and who won't get back?  Will everyone be safe, or will tragedy strike?

I take the ramp to I-79S on a beautiful sunny morning.  My die is cast.  Little do I know the next 2 days will be some of the toughest, most dangerous riding of my life.

Here's a link to a video of the start.  This is not my video, but enjoy.

That's the end of Parts 1-3. Check out Parts 4-6 so to see how Wolfe gets along on the road! And if you want to find the original story itself, you can find Wolfe on Facebook here.

If you want a taste of long distance riding to get started, Wolfe runs Lobo Loco Rallies, some of which you can run from anywhere in the world (the local ones are based in Ontario, Canada). Check it out here:

Monday 26 June 2023

Empty Algonquin Park

I managed a couple of days out on the bike around my birthday this year. Thanks to being freed from the shackles of the school year, I was able to do it outside of the May long weekend when the roads would be utterly mad with with ravening hordes driving the largest SUVs they could find and hauling every possible motorized toy to their second homes in the near north.

It ended up being just over 800kms over two days. 500kms on day one from home and up through and around Algonquin Park, then 320kms home on day two.  The Map.

The ride down Highway 9 to the 400 north was packed solid with transport trucks, to the point where I missed the turn north on Highway 27 because I was literally surrounded by the bloody things.

Finally on the 400 north (which was moving well on the Thursday morning before the long weekend), I let the Kawasaki fly and we shot up the road, finally clear of the convoy. I had three things going for me when I crested a hill right into the eyes of a waiting OPP cruiser.

#1: I was making time in the middle lane rather than the fast lane and was following another car

#2: The bike is awfully difficult to get a reading from thanks to not a lot of metal to bounce radar off of

#3: You can always count on some citiot blasting up the fast lane in a mega-sized German SUV

The cruiser lit the lights and pulled out only to collect said SUV out of the fast lane. He wasn't going much faster than I was but he can enjoy that ticket.

The 400 was (incredibly) fully functional and I was around Barrie in no time and moving up Highway 11 at pace. I pulled into Webbers because they have a nice new Starbucks where I got a coffee and stretched. In under two hours I'd covered the 172kms that got me clear of the gravity of the Greater Toronto Area and into the near north.

After a warm up (it was 5°C when I left just past 9am), I was back on the Kawasaki and heading north again. Gravenhurst was (incredibly) efficient and I slipped past what is often a backup without delay. By 11:30 I was grabbing a quick lunch and filling up in Huntsville and then it was Highway 60 into Algonquin Provincial Park.

I stopped at the West Gate to have a chat with the wardens and get my pass as I intended to stop at the Visitor Centre. After a nice chat with the young ladies at the desk I got my pass, set up the 360 camera and then got in motion ASAP because it's blackfly season and boy do they come out of the woodwork when you stop!

Into the park there was very little traffic. The only one I had to make space for was the massive German SUV thundering through one of the most beautiful places in the province at well over 120kms/hr (it's an 80 zone). If you play your cards like that, you're not likely to see anything!

Once clear of the traffic by the gate things got really quiet. An occasional car would pass the other way but there was nothing on the road in front of behind me as I went deeper into nature. It was midday so I wasn't likely to see any big animals (and I didn't), but birds were plentiful with birds of prey over the road and many others in the bush.

It was a glorious ride alone through the park - a place that comes as close to a church for me as anything can be. The bike was the perfect vehicle. I was moving fast enough to stay ahead of the blood sucking insects, but slowly enough to smell the lakes and woods and feel the thermoclines as a dipped into and out of valleys.

The visitor's centre is worth a stop if you're travelling through the park. The lookout off the back is a great view (and high enough up to be relatively bug free!). I would have stayed for a coffee and a snack but the restaurant was closed. It was a good opportunity to clean the bugs off my visor though.

By now it had hit the high of 12°C for the day and though it was sunny it was cool, especially when in motion on the bike. If I stopped I got sweaty and then the flies would come, so best to keep things moving. Out the east gate and then the plan was to ride south around the bottom of the park.

The Concours had been fantastic on the highways and had handled everything I asked of it. The only place I think the Tiger could have done a better job was on Peterson Road, which is your typical poorly maintained Ontario backroad with ruts and potholes that'll knock your teeth out. The sporty suspension on the Kawasaki didn't enjoy that bit of road. The Tiger's longer suspenders would have done the trick, but otherwise the Concours was the right bike for this ride, especially on the highways.

I finally pulled into Wilberforce about 444kms into the ride for a stretch and a drink (and to clean the bugs off the visor again). 

After a quick pit stop I was on my way again. The 118 is one of my favourite roads in the province and I twisted and turned my way down it towards Canarvon and Minden where I was spending the night. Only a long delay in Haliburton for road works slowed the ride down. At least I know the fans are working on the C14. They cycled three times while we sat there wondering what the f*** was going on. It turned out a water pipe had burst across the road holding things up.

I pulled into the Red Umbrella Inn just outside of Minden at about 5pm. After getting cleaned up I rode into town for some of the best Thai I've had at Suwan's Thai Cuisine and picked up a couple of local craft brews from Boshkung Brewing Social (Minden really has everything you need) before filling up and heading back to the inn for a quiet night by the lake.

The next morning I was up early and over to the Mill Pond for breakfast. Great eggs and bacon and then it was an empty ride down the 118 to Bracebridge, Port Carling and finally Bala for a coffee before the last stretch through Wahta Mohawk Territory before popping out at the 400 and getting into the rapid flow south.

I dodged and weaved around Creemore, stopping once to change into lighter gear because the temperature had shot up with the humidity and made it home before the thunderstorms started. A nice way to spend a couple of days on the road. I only wish I'd had more time.

Saturday 24 June 2023

Closer Adirondack Ride Plan

 A shortened Southern Ontario to the Allegany/Adirondacks mountains in New York State. It's about 300kms to get there, then looping back to a central base means I can ride light without luggage during the stay there. 

Day 1: Home to Adirondack base, 291kms:

Day 2: Watkins Glen Loop 393kms:

Day 3: Allegany Loop, 666, 395kms: 

Day 4: South Loop, 381kms:

Day 5: Back home: 293kms:

That's 1753kms over five days. The nice thing about the loops is they are just an outline. If I don't feel like a high mileage day on any of them, I can cut corners and shorten the loop.

Fall would be the best time to go - end of September/beginning of October seem to offer the best chance of seeing the trees change colour.

Wednesday 17 May 2023

Riding Versus Flying to BC for Work...

I've got a work thing in Vancouver next month which got me thinking about incorporating a ride to the west coast and back. Turns out flying is much cheaper (even with car rental) than riding...

Cost of flying/ ($200 return) + renting a car for the week (inc. gas + taxes = $1100): ~$1300 total.

Total mileage riding out and back: ~8800kms. at 0.58 cents/kms = ~$5100 (not counting hotels enroute). Flying is way cheaper! I'd save on having to rent a car while out there, but the costs of moving myself there (as opposed to being luggage on a plane) are significant.

If I took the week off before the week I needed to be in Vancouver, could I ride out there in that time? It's about 4400kms to get there. Saturday to the following Sunday is nine days on the road, which works out to under 500kms/day. Intense but certainly doable.

4400kms out at 500kms/day = 9 days (8 nights of hotel). Going cross-Canada on the way out: = 4436kms. 9 days on the road at 500kms per day = 4500kms.

After the week on the ground in Vancouver, I'd take 2 weeks off to come back through the States, hitting key points like Yellowstone National Park. The way back through the US, even with the detour down to Yellowstone, is 4462kms:

It would probably be wise to factor in a tire change at some point on this 10k odyssey. I imagine they're cheaper and easier to find in the States, so I'd throw on some new shoes and get an oil change and service once south of the border.

Riding out would chew up 3 weeks of vacation but would offer a chance to cross most of the continent on two wheels. In a perfect world I could find work related stops on the way out across Canada and get that week covered (mileage and hotels), then use 2 weeks of holiday for the return through the US.

Motels in Canada on the way out look to be between $120-150 a night (x 8 nights = $1200 in not fancy housing). If I stayed out of cities (where hotel pricing seems to have lost its mind), I could come in under budget if I was aiming at $150/night (taxes in) on average. Hotel prices in the States look similar.

Budget (assuming I covered all costs)

Hotel stays going out (8 nights @ $150/night avg taxes in) = $1200

Hotel stays coming back (12 nights @ $150/night avg taxes in) = $1800

Gas/day = $60* (= 2 tankfulls and ~700kms range/day on the C14) x 20 days on the road = $1200

Tires & Service: Bellevue Kawasaki in Seattle on the way back $1000

Travel eating: breakfast**: $10, Lunch: $20, Dinner: $30 = $60/day avg. x  20 days = $1200

Estimated total cost for a 3 week cross continent 2-wheeled odyssey: $6400

*  Well over what I'd need/day mileage wise and will be cheaper in the US
** If I'm staying a breakfast included hotel then I can save there

That budget isn't being overly stingy and I should be able to come in ahead on it. It might also be possible to shave days off if I get into a groove (say, on the Praries) and do a couple of big mileage highway days. If I got good at a last minute booking app like HotelTonight I could probably save a bit on the hotel stays too. Another alternative might be to stay at the same chain all the way across and save that way.

We did it by car preCOVID and it was an epic trip. Riding would make it even better!

Tuesday 9 May 2023

Lots of 8s


I've been on the road for work for the past couple of weeks (Newfoundland is spectacular!) The weather from there followed us back and we haven't seen the sun for many days, until this weekend! It finally broke and I've gotten some riding in.

I was hoping to get the old Tiger to 100k this year in its 20th year on the road. On the way to that I managed to hit eighty-eight thousand, eight hundred and eighty-eight kilometres! Very satisfying, and the bike looked great doing it:

I pushed my luck the next day and took Connie out for a couple of hours to Hockley Valley and back...

Weather's been good this week too, maybe we're finally into spring time! I had the C14 out again for a ride over to the Forks of the Credit after work today... time to make some miles!