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Old 07-04-05, 08:18 PM   #1
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Lake Superior Bike Tour Diary Part

06/09/2005 Day One Minneapolis to Hinckley
The bags are packed, I've washed and dried my dishes and put them on the shelf. The garbage went out yesterday carrying anything that might have spoiled. Someone has a set of keys. I'll change the sheets on the bed should they want to stay the night and enjoy the quiet. The mail has been stopped. The association knows I'll be absent. The bike is as ready as it ever will be. I've checked my list. Soon I'll get in the shower and put my cycling togs on for the day 80 mile ride to our first camping spot.
I am so excited I could hardly sleep last night like a little kid before Christmas. I am not insane; this is what I like to do.
Vacation is HERE! Wish us luck. Smell you later...
We are finally on the road. Our first day was 76 miles for me, 85 for Jon. Great weather, no mishaps, nothing significant forgotten. We had lots of good conversation. We had lunch in North Branch after we had to ride along a road instead of on a bike path. All was good until the destination, Hinckley. The campground was closed, and it was a Travel Lodge for us. Dinner was good, I ate too much! Almost six hours of riding, and all OK. Will we be sore tomorrow? Too late!
We start by Jon riding to my house from his in Minneapolis. From there we proceeded a few blocks north to a trail along the road. We used that to ride through my current home city, through Lino Lakes, and to Hugo. Until Hugo, we had gone mostly east. Time to go north, for the rest of the day! In fact, for many days to come we will go north.
We could ride side by side on the trail and talk. That is so much better than riding alone. About what? Everything and nothing. Just the chit chat of friends. Iíve known Jon for years, but we see or talk only about once a month so there is always news that each has missed or forgotten or didnít seem important at the time.
In Forest Lake we stopped for our first bathroom break. I took the time to eat a Clif bar. Then I too used the loo to pee. The day was gorgeous. Not terribly bright, and almost no wind. Next stop was North Branch for lunch at Jimmy's Pizza. Great sub sandwiches, although small At North Branch the bike trail ran out, and so rode Highway 61, the one Bob Dylan made famous. We will pick it up again and follow it to its north conclusion in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada.

From there until our final destination, it will be roadway shoulder riding. There were some places where the talk continued, but often we rode in own world. Thinking time is plentiful on bike trips.
In Pine City, we finally saw what I had been waiting for; Dairy Queen! Also there was a local teenager with her three younger siblings and her boyfriend. Jon got a Blizzard and for me it was a caramel Moolatte: It was delicious! I was frozen, but had a smile on my face. The young woman had lots of questions for us as it was obvious she had never met a cycle tourist. She was impressed, I think. I guess we didn't look that haggard yet.

After the ice cream stop the road was dull. No scenery, no trees, no shade, and enough trucks and two way traffic to make you paranoid. There was one spot that was surveyor straight and nothing to do but pedal. It seemed to take forever to cross. I did not mention the Seney stretch to come. We finally arrived at a junction and verified we were only 4 mile out of Hinckley, only four miles away it had been a long day. When we got to Hinckley we went to a tourist center which was about the great fire of 1894. Only 400 died, but the fire plume was 24,000 feet, and was headlines around the world.

The bad news was, the Hinckley campground was closed. To much abuse by locals drinking, mostly teenagers. Huh. Now what? Well, we didn't feel up for another 12 miles to a state campground so we took her recommendation. She suggested the TravelLodge for $55 a night. Jon paid for this one; we traded paying so it was even over the trip. It was clean, had a good shower. Washed my clothes in the shower and hung them to dry in the closet area. Then we went across the street (Cassidy's) to eat.

They had a pretty good salad bar, which is what Jon chose. I, foolishly got a hot beef and the salad bar. I found the bread really great, but much of the other stuff was lousy, except the wild rice salad. The hot beef was great, but too much food. Totals for the day: 76.61 at 13.01 MPH, 5:53:16 time riding. There are 3844 miles on my odometer.

06/10/2005 Day Two - Hinckley to Duluth Tent and Camp
It was a long day. Started in Hinckley, saw rain, and rode mostly on rail to trail, which was paved. It was quiet, but boring, except for the seven white tail deer we startled. One was a Mom with a spotted fawn on shaky legs. At first the fawn went in the wrong direction, but soon figured things out. The rail trail doesn't make for any big hills, so no land speed records were set. There was a little road riding in Duluth. In fact we rode right downtown in Duluth.
After an hour on the road, we were forced to don the rain gear. It rained for a solid hour and then tapered to a sprinkle. We had started late at about 9 after another meal at Cassidy's. We met another group of cyclist going in as we came out. They caught us after the rain had slowed down. They had no fenders so were muddy and more miserable then we were. Fenders kept us clean and the rain capes kept us dry. Jon relied on his butt to keep his saddle dry, but I used a new Brooks saddle bonnet for mine. I was surprised how I couldnít feel it while riding.

Lunch had been in Kettle River at a little joint called Art's. I had the hot meat loaf and Jon had a chicken fillet sandwich. I had a ton of food and Jon could have used more. Our new pals were already there. They all seemed to be eating the special, a Tuna Melt. And were disappointed. They made up for it, by eating huge pieces of cake. We saw them again at a potty stop and let them go ahead. We were pushing past Duluth and they were going to camp at Spirit Mountain. Into Duluth it was down hill for miles.

While in Duluth we saw a bike shop and they helped us get out of town safely. They weren't much help with eating. I did get a knit hat and brimmed hat at a shop near where we ate. I needed the tuque to sleep in. We ate at Bennet's, a place way out of our dress code, but they didn't have one. It was expensive for us, but we were too hungry to care. They were not our first choice, but they had no waiting and we were hungry. I ordered the swordfish and Jon went for chicken with a side salad.

We set up in the dry site at a campground that seemed to take forever to get to. The eight miles outside of Duluth felt more like eighteen. It was almost dark when checked in and set up. Finding a site that was dry was the problem. We took the only site nearest the bath/shower/laundry. We needed a shower badly. We set up our tents for the first time this trip and went to see what the shower looked like. They were dingy and semi-gross, but the hot water melted any worry.

Every where you walked it seemed your feet got wet and colder. It was cold enough I slept in the new tuque. I did sleep through the foghorn (earplugs).

06/11/2005 Day 3 Duluth to Tettegouche State Park
I slept in the hat as it was that cold. You could see your breath in the morning. We woke to fog and a light rain. We packed wet tents and ate Clif bars for breakfast then shoved off into the gloom. It is mentally tough to start out in the rain. It is tough to pack up all wet gear. There is only one word that describes the feeling of stuffing cold wet tenting gear into your pannier: ishy. Especially when all your just washed laundry is wet and youíll need to use it tomorrow. It stayed tough all day.

We started in tights and wool and they never came off. I tried all kinds of combos, wishing I had brought a windbreaker. It wasn't terrible, just would have been warmer with. Thicker wool socks would have been great too. Tough. We started in the fog and never really lost it. We got some heavy rain (twice), we saw some headwinds, but we saw no sun. The wind and our overall energy level from yesterday shorted our day. We saw heavy rain, high headwinds, chilling temps, and fog on and off all day.

I have some tightness in my left thigh and knee and my fingers on my right hand are always numb from my carpel tunnel/old broken elbow injury this morning. Just age.

We joined the rat race on the road. We got about six miles in and had a real breakfast. Jon had eggs, hash browns and pancakes. I had an omelet, hash browns, and toast. All was excellent. We returned to the fog. It had rained hard while we ate, we were very grateful to miss it.

Once we got to Two Harbors we were so cold we needed a break. Coffee for me and chai tea for Jon. He also had a scone, while I had a 7 layer brownie. After Two Harbors, it seemed to get gloomier and colder. We weren't warm or dry the rest of the day.

The goal was Lutsen, didn't make it. Eventually we had to face facts and grab what lodging we could, just north of Silver Bay. I had to look up the spelling for the state park we stayed at. It was Tettegouche State Park. While talking to the clerk she mentioned we could order a pizza and we checked in. Trouble was our campsite was really far, far from the showers. No shower for us tonight, yuck. As I'm typing it has begin to rain again. Makes for nice sleeping, unless we hear thunder. If it wasn't for fog we could see Gitchee Gummee from here. The pizza was hot and good so that helped. We were beat with a capital "b". I quit typing at 9 PM and got up at 8 AM making us late.

06/12/2005 Day 4 - Tettegouche to Grand Marais
We woke to some decent weather. I donít remember breakfast as I think the last two days were rather hard on us. After we missed Lutsen, we just weren't into climbing a hill just for food; we managed to get lunch in Tufte. Then it was on to Grand Marais. Once there we found our ability wouldn't get us to the next campground. We chose to stay in the municipal campground in Grand Marais. It actually was really nice with warm showers and a pool. We had a nice trout salad for dinner followed by strawberry-rhubarb pie alamode. We walked there. Jon is in the bath trying to dry his shorts in the hand dryer. I'll be trying that next. Wet shorts suck a lot of heat from you in the morning. So would my wet jersey, wet tights and wet under woolie not to mention my wet wool socks. I worry we took years off the life of the dryer but it helped dry things off.

06/13/2005 Day 5 Grand Marais to Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

Today we woke up to sun. Bright sun! It was actually warm inside the tent before I drug myself out. A Strong enough sun that we went straight to shorts and short sleeves. No tights, no wool, and no hats. The tents were still wet and not a thing we could do about that. We packed up and met two cyclists on their way out of town. They had started from Owatanna and hadn't camped. The father was named Kim and his son was Justin. They went through Taylors Falls and Superior and avoided the MS150. We had breakfast in a little joint that was good but slow with service. Seemed to be the hang out for anyone that smoked.

I slept better except for the seemingly constant need to go pee. I ignored it as much as I could. I turned this thing off about 9:10 and I feel asleep fast. There was one loud motorcycle that kept going by, but after that I don't remember anything. This morning I don't feel too sore, the left knee is stiff and the right index finger and thumb are numb. Now I just noticed the middle finger is numb too. Not a good sign I guess. Fug it, I want to keep going!

There was lots of climbing today and they often left us sweaty, only to freeze with the 10-20 degree temperature drop on the other side. Every time we came near Superior, we froze and debated our clothing choice of shorts and short sleeves. We lunched at the restaurant of the Grand Portage casino. There wasn't much choice in locations. After that we felt chipper enough to shoot for Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. We made decent miles although, we hit some headwinds, and the heat wore us when combined with the repeated climbs. To me the views on the Canadian side make the Minnesota stuff seem bland. Much more interesting bluffs and geological formations. If only I wasn't half brain damaged from oxygen debt. No serious injuries yet, a few spots of insufficient sunscreen (me), a couple of numb finger (me), and a stiff knee at times (Jon). We are concerned with our inability to stay on schedule, but, who knows?

So, guess what. Eh? We're in Canada, eh. Thunder Bay to be exact. We made just short of 80 miles from Grand Marais.

06/14/2005 Day 6 Thunder Bay to Thunder Bay Hostel
Today we awoke in our hotel room late. Stupid time change. To begin with the only room we could get on the first floor was a smoking room and man did it stink. We left the patio door open (no screen) to try to release some of the stink. The sheets were horrid and there were burns on the rug in many places, as well as the tub and sink! We got take out Asian from across the street which had such huge portions neither of us finished. I also bought some fresh puliots from a fruit stand a half block away. They were so good for dessert.

So far we've made it all of 5 miles in driving rain and fierce headwinds. At times I've barely been out of a low enough gear from a dead stop at a light due to the wind. Temp is good at about 12-14 degree C which is about 60 F. It could be worse, but we are rather discouraged this morning. We are eating breakfast in place called Finlandia. Our waitress is a Finn, their specialty is "moiakka" or stew, and the check for breakfast says "keetos" or thank you in Finn. Huge pancakes for us, plus coffee for me and tea for Jon. Well, time to go back to riding in the wet and wind.

This was almost the day that almost wasn't. We woke to rain, hard, high volume rain. The rain was driving, the headwinds ferocious. Average speed for the entire trip plummeted from 11.9 to 9 something. Spent a lot of time in very low gears into the wind or uphill or both. Iím talking granny gears meant for real climbing. Top that with Jon's knee just not getting warm or loose made for a slow going.
We stopped in at Lloyd and Willa's youth hostel after finding out where it was from clerk at the Terry Fox Memorial Monument. She was a beautiful young woman with a fresh tan and commented how yesterday was beautiful. And how today was a day she hardy wanted to get out of bed, much less come to work. The hostel was on lake shore drive which was a blessing in that it had a better shoulder and less traffic.
Yet the rain continued. And the wind grew. The surprise was no one was at the hostel as they were in town while Lloyd had a medical procedure. We waited in the entry way about an hour or so and then picked a room and chose a bed and lay down to wait. Willa woke us, but I quickly fell back asleep. Jon woke me to a dinner of baked frozen pizza, apple juice, and hot chocolate. It tasted wonderful. We also met George and Fabian, hitch hikers from Germany. They are camped in a tent made for one. Itís a cheap Wal-Mart thing and leaks like a sieve. They bought a ten dollar tarp and that helps keep them sort of dry.

As I sit typing this at the community table, Willa and Lloyd are watching the news for information on a late governmental vote. Action will start at about 10 PM, and we arenít waiting for it. Even with a nap, Iím too tired. George and Fabian are sharing a snack. They are slicing onion, tomato, cheese and avocado onto dark hearty bread. I just ate and watching makes me hungry. Fabian is a vegetarian, but George would eat anything. They had the same meal for breakfast. The only reason they came in is to get out of the tent for a bit, and use the utensils as they donít have any.

06/15/2005 Day 7 Thunder Bay Hostel to Nipigon

Today was another day of the tropical storm, but a dry one. That is to say it didn't rain, but did it blow. I tried to be a windshield for Jon and his sore knee, but he had to stay dangerously close for the maximum benefit. The shoulder was about 45 cm or less than half of a meter or typical width of touring handlebars. Almost no margin for travel safety. The wind would easily push you one way or the other because of the extra surface of the front pannier bags to push on. So a few degrees of twitch from the passing logging truck and crunch you were in the gravel.
Not that they didn't give us space when they could, but the traffic is heavy all the time on the Tran Can. The goal was Nipigon and we made that although it took a lot. It was the wind. Because of it, you couldn't relax enough to drink from a water bottle. Because of its sound in your ears you couldn't hear the traffic approach from behind, so it would startle you making you flinch even more.
We got lots of people that honked, most likely in a friendly manner, but each time making you jump because you were already tense. A day that nightmares could be filled of. We reached Nipigon too late to consult at the tourism office, but they had a nice town map with main businesses shown. We set out for the only campground on the exit side or North side of town only to find it long closed. We had a backup, a small motel along the road, nearby. And all the rooms were no smoking! We quickly showered up and went for a walkabout for dinner. We chose the Nipigon Cafť.
They were excellent. Jon had pickerel and I had the BBQ pork chops. Two good scoops of mashed potato and real fresh vegetables. It was a lot of food, but we had burned a lot of calories, so Jon had coconut cream pie and I had blueberry ala mode. Mine looked and tasted home made. I had no trouble finishing everything. After dinner was laundry. Every day you wash the clothes you cycled in so they might be clean (and dry) in the next day when you need them! The wool cool weather gear can take longer to dry so it gets first wash and then dried by rolling up in a towel then hung up. Shorts are next and the pad needs scrubbing and it too takes work to dry. Last are jersey and incidentals. They dry quickly so are less bother.

Together Jon and I have used up at least four disposable cameras. The views on the north side Superior are awesome. Little disposables might not do them justice, but it will prime our memory. One more day in, no new injuries, got some miles in, hoping to be ready for the next day.
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Old 07-04-05, 08:20 PM   #2
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06/16/2005 Day 8 Nipigon to Schreiber
Today we turned south. That is correct, yesterday we reached Nipigon which is our most northern most point. Since we had faced a north wind most yesterday, and that was a headwind, it might be a tailwind today. It was indeed at times a very nice tailwind, sometimes a cross wind, but the wind wasn't the story. No the story today, was height.
As in climbs. I haven't been in the Rockies, but I sure suffered here. Jon had lower gears that let him stay in the saddle and just spin. I tried to spin, but had too high a gearing and would have to shift and stand up frequently, sprint, get a good spin, shift again, and sit. Ouch. At times I could maintain a spin, but it was rare. Now these same climbs (Jon says there were 8 major ones) also led to some awesome vistas. And man by the time you climbed all that rock you were ready to look over a view and rest a little.
Especially of Nipigon Bay. Huge rock outcroppings, with everything covered in green. All morning we had mostly a cloudless sky, but after lunch the clouds really began to increase and by mid afternoon, it was overcast. This wasn't bad because it didn't rain, but on the descent you would get cold after sweating up a storm climbing. We began to refer to the down hills as a "plummet", I hit a max speed of 36 MPH. Later on a longer steeper one, I coasted past Jon at 40, and topped out at 42.7 MPH.
All that without pedaling. Gives you an idea of how steep and long these mountains were. At least one, I felt we spent 20-30 minutes climbing at about 3-4 MPH. When a semi passed, it had shifted own to the point it wasn't that much faster than me. Painfully slow. And that slow non-ideal cadence was punishment for my knees and legs. We were shooting for Terence Bay, but stopped just a few kilometers short in Schreiber. There were several hotels, and a couple of restaurants and we were just beat. We got take out KFC and ate in our room. We did our laundry, and laid there watching junk on TV. Tomorrow is yet another day and more decent weather is expected.

06/17/2005 Day 9 Schreiber to Marathon
Today was a day of more beauty. More climbs, good amount of sunshine and wind in all direction. The wind seemed to swirl through the many valleys and then the road direction changed so that we not only went south and east, but directly north and somewhat west at times too. I've not a highway planning engineer, but I'd sure like to see the justification for some of the road routes taken. Around some hills and directly over others, leaves me puzzled.
The sights sure are good. We saw two ducks and a beaver in two different ponds. You wouldn't have seen either from a car, you go too fast. The beaver we saw while riding, but the ducks we spotted while um looking for an excuse not to ride momentarily.
We also climbed some rocks that offered a great view of the Lake Superior shoreline we had just come along. We ate a Clif bar while on the rock. We had a good day of riding, made it to Marathon. There was no other destination within our immediate reach. As Jon says after two days of climbing like this any one would be knackered.

06/18/2005 Day 10 Marathon to White River
Today we had a really good day. It started off cold, down around 8 degree C. Later it got warm, around 30, which felt really great after so many days of cold riding. I had the first flat of the trip. I knew I had a leaky tire, but didn't pump it up enough. I ended up replacing the tube in a gas station parking lot. The flat started out from a wire you couldnít see, but you could feel. I pulled it out with the needle nose pliers from my Leatherman.
Today we were in shorts and short sleeves all day. Fewer climbs as we said goodbye to Superior for awhile. The road takes us inland and that got us some flat roads, some very straight stretches where I managed to hold a speed of 18 MPH for several kilometers with Jon able to hide in the draft and conserve energy.
We also hit maybe about 20 kilometer of brand new pavement which also helped us cruise along. There was one stretch of 200 meters of gravel. Since they were doing some paving and had only one lane open, vehicles came through in waves. We hit the gravel as a bunch of vehicles came from the opposite direction. I had cruddy dust filled contacts the rest of the day, yuck.

We also rolled by about 10-15 kilometers of forest that had been burned in a forest fire in 1999. It was still obvious. The only green vegetation was between a meter or two high at most and appeared to be shrubs. The fire had jumped the road in several places so the carnage seemed everywhere. At the peaks of some hills you could see many hills over and the burn had continued as far as the eye could see. We reached a sign that indicated the fire had been human started, were preventable, and had burned 36,000 hectares (whatever that is.)
The rest of the ride included some smaller, but still tough climbs. We reached White River to find no camping facilities existed. We stayed in the Continental motel. We visited the local grocery store for fruit, cheese, crackers, and drink for our supper. We also got some fig and date cookies to supplant our dwindling Cliff bars.
Tonight, after Wawa, we go about 200 kilometers without much for rest stops. We'll basically carry two days of food with us. We've settled into a routine of wake up around 7:30, pack up, go somewhere for breakfast, go back and brush teeth and then check out, and be on the bikes usually by 9:30. Ride with maybe one stop for a drink, or ice cream and then lunch at 12:30 and 1:30. Follow that with 2-3 hours riding until we reach a suitable stop, and get a shower and get dinner. After dinner come back to the room/tents for a half hour of laundry and journaling or TV and journals. Sound like fun?

06/19/2005 Day 11 White River To Wawa
Hey another good day. Started out and stayed cool. Only on the bike, was it cool as there was a good headwind. If you were in the shade in the wind you were cold. In the direct sun, moving, resulted in lots of evaporative cooling so you went through tons of liquid, but felt okay temperature wise.
My arms and my legs are starting to look brown. Even with regular application of sun screen. I've got the classic cyclist tan. Starts at the end of my shirts sleeves and ends at my wrists, and then starts just above my knees and ends at my ankles. I also have the stupid oval tan on the back of my hands from my gloves. My nose and cheeks don't look so bad anymore.
In other news we saw a moose, a real live moose. It was on our side of the road foraging and something spooked him and sent him back into the brush. I saw him first and only had time to tell Jon and all he saw was a fleeting hindquarters. Still, seemed like a rare opportunity during the daylight hours.
It was a pretty dull stretch for towns, villages or population period. There was a few businesses, but most were for same or were already closed. Some had been boarded up long ago, sadly. We did make it to the town planned, Wawa. Tomorrow is the big rush toward the Soo. It will take at least two days if weather and other things are good.
There may be motels, or restaurants along the way, but there isn't anything on the map. The local tourist centre didn't have any information they would stand by meaning that some places go under unexpectedly. We'll take it as it comes. Still having fun, not looking for a bail out yet.
We know we are behind schedule, but there isn't anything we can do without an OJT application of magic. We'll get to where we get and make decisions then. The idea is vacation and I've been far too concerned with "schedule" and just need to let that go. We've put in over 1000 kilometers or over 650 miles so we've done well and worked hard.

06/20/2005 Day 12 Wawa To Lake Superior Provincial Park
The day of few stops. This was one of the days we were anxious about. Rumors of monster hills, little or no chance for food, little or no chance water breaks. Yeah there were hills and more headwinds out of the south, but so what. After our Wawa greasy spoon breakfast we saw no active restaurants, because we spent all day in a provincial park of huge size.
We also got to see Superior again in her glory several times. Old Woman Bay was a majestic view for example. With the wind and hills and my loitering around in the morning we barely got 50 miles in. We also spent much time snacking on our granola bars, Fig Newtons, and taking silly pictures under road signs.
Like one that warns of danger from moose on highways at night. We've begun to talk like a cross between the two hosers from SCTV only with French-Canadian accents and less snorting and no beer. Somehow between the accent silliness and the appearance of moose after dark signs we agreed they must be looking for dance partners. Part of it was how the moose looks on the sign, part of it oxygen debt, part sunstroke, and part just seeing one of the blasted signs every kilometer. So you had to be here?
We also got some great service from the many tourist centres and provincial park information stations we stopped at. They gave a wealth of information, all good, were sometimes willing to stay after closing, and we're just the nicest people to visit with. It was obvious that we were there for information and they fawned on us as we found out this is early for the big groups yet. After school lets out in Canada then they will be busy, but for now they were bored and we were willing listeners. Tonight we slept in our tents on the shore of Lake Superior at Lake Superior Provincial Park. It was mostly empty so we got hot showers and a nice warm breeze to dry our clothing. Jon even went for a swim! He was cold and felt a little chilled even after a warm shower. The bugs were pretty bad and we had only! granola bars and stuff for dinner, but we ate it on the shore near sunset. Now this was a cycling vacation!

06/21/2005 Day 13 Lake Superior Provincial Park to Harmony Campground
Today was a wild day. First we got up and it was reasonably warm still although there was dense fog. The fog was there every time we approached Superior.
We dressed lightly in short sleeves and shorts. We paid the price. There were many big hills early and every time we descended to Superior, we froze in the fog. Every time we ascended to a peak we emerged in bright sunshine and sweated profusely, only to become freeze dried on the next descent.
How to dress? Too much clothes and you'd really lather in sweat and still freeze. Danged if you do and danged if you don't. We chose to dress light and alternated between freeze dried and sweat puddles.
The view of the lake would have been awesome and so worth the climbs if only we could see through or blow away the fog. Many of the vistas would have been from a great height and with a big breeze on the lake. We also saw a live bear. It was cub sized which made us worry all the more. It had a lot of hair missing off its left hindquarters and was on our side of the road. Jon alerted me from behind as I was too brain dead to observe him. So we stopped and he came toward us. We took our photo and then grew concerned as to back up, or attempt to scare him. He could have had rabies from his bite or tangle. He might have been hit by a car, but appeared to walk and presumably run fine. We were starting to make noise when a van approached from our direction. They rolled the window down and asked if we got photos, we asked them to keep the vehicle between the bear and us so we could ride away. They bear crossed the road and ambled into the woods and we rode off.
Once again the amount of people and businesses were almost nothing. We had one choice for breakfast and one for lunch. We gave up for the day in Harmony Bay unsure of any more campgrounds or anything. We had gotten 100 clicks in so we felt good about that.
The campground in Harmony has proven anything, but harmonious, with a French couple in two tents arguing in the park after a few hours at the bar. They speak both English and French, but argue LOUDLY in French. You don't need to know a language to know when cynacism, a snide remark, or invective is flung with vigor. There are at least two teenaged groups drinking heavily around campfires. It is obviously a good night to have carried earplugs. Earplugs weren't enough when the subwoofer went on. Jon got them to turn it down and they insisted they had the right to keep it on. Jon got the manager and off they went and the tents moved as far away from us as they could. I slept fine, but I think Jon had a hard time. I was pleased he was such an excellent mediator. Ride on!

06/22/2005 Day 14 Harmony Bay, Ontario Canada to Brimley, Michigan, USA

I woke early and since I am always the slowdown in the morning, I try to get a move on right away. I'm a morning person, but I enjoy my morning and tend to dawdle, while Jon is more efficient. I was more than half ready before Jon began to stir. I did let him sleep and once he woke and described all the fun he had the last night with getting the noisy teenagers to quiet down, I'm really glad I did. Besides, he sure has done his share of waiting for me. So we get going and get to a restaurant for breakfast. We've just ordered when in walks maybe six girls and two guys that had to move their campsite the night before.
I acknowledge them with a "Fancy meeting you here..." I don't think they appreciated it. Later a Officer of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) stopped by to drop off some free gear to help warn folks about the danger of moose at night. As soon as he left, the waitress said, "Youse kids thought he was after you, eh?" I know they did because they went absolutely silent!
I rubbed it in, and said, "I could hear you sweating from here." The whining began about the night before. We just let them. We didnít hate them or even want to break up their fun, its just they were inconsiderate of others. We went back to eating and left as they were just getting their food. Later they passed us in their cars and the guys did nothing, while the girls all hung their arms out and showed us that their middle fingers worked. I blew them a kiss in return.
The road today had some big and some long climbs on our way out of Canada. About half the forty kilometers to Sault Ste. Marie were climbs, while half were a gradual decline into town where we could really cruise. Near perfect temperatures, light winds, and low humidity made it a quick run into town. Driving through town was as awful as any other urban commute only heavy with tourist traffic. At one point a car beeped and signaled it was going to push us over so it could have the lane I move closer to the car (always act like you belong) and screeched, "We, belong here, move over!" They did after the passenger showed that her finger worked.
Then we had a slight wait at the boarder and regardless of all your hopes, pleadings and bribes, they let us in! Yes, we are back in the USA. We rode highway 129 out of town and picked M28 west for the rest of the day which was hot and had some traffic. We were dusted by Brimley and checked into a motel. We couldn't bring our bikes in the room, but there was a nice railing that obscured them from view and allowed us to lock them up too. They were safe for the night. We were also able to finally dry out our ground covers, rain flies, and tents. It was pizza in our room and lots of relaxing. Another great day in.
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Old 07-04-05, 08:22 PM   #3
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06/23/2005 Day 15 Brimley to Newberry
We woke up to gray overcast skies and Jon had slept poorly. Maybe a couple of hours he thinks. It doesn't bode well. The weather channel in the motel says 30% chance of thunderstorms, but the radar also suggests 100% for us. Rats, I had to be optimistic yesterday. Oy.
By Raco (three miles out of Brimley?) the rain began. Soon it grew in intensity to a super soaker. Not brutal, just one that makes sure everything gets a good thorough soaking. We rode about 15 miles or more of this until outside of Strongs we saw a restaurant and better yet, one with a six foot or wider overhang to hide the bikes away from any more rain. We got inside Roxanne's Diner, and we would periodically step back out and squeeze some of the water out of gloves and so on. Although we normally don't do caffeine after breakfast Jon had his tea and me coffee to fight off the chill. Jon also got a bowl of soup while we both picked the special of the day, "pasties."
Jon didn't know any better and had his with gravy, hey pal, just order a pot pie, will yah? I had mine in true Yooper fashion, with catsup or ketchup. Hey, wanna explain the difference to me sometime? Okay, so we were still pretty damp, but warm inside and had a much better disposion. We stepped outside to realize the rain had stopped, and blue skies could be seen toward the north. Hooray! It still felt cold what with wet gloves, wet helmet pads (double yuck), and damp tops.
Once moving of course felt worse. We hit a 9.5 mile stretch of road construction, which turned out to be a blessing. They had a long section of one lane, but four to six feet of safety space between the real work and the safety cones. They told us to ride that area, creating an easy avenue for us, yet no hassle for anyone car or worker!

Otherwise M28 alternated between great smooth shoulders to crusty beaten to bits almost invisible shoulders. At one point I was leading and there was a hole to the left and big two-three inch chunks of busted concrete on the right, I didn't give Jon clear warning, and blam! he hit one hard enough to hear the ping of the rim strike rock. No flat, but it might be a flat spot on his rim. Sorry, Jon.
Soon, we stopped to shuck our wet long sleeve wool gear in favor or quick drying short sleeves. The wind was picking up and held to twenty to thirty MPH all afternoon. The road, M28, was directly into the wind and is pretty flat and mostly curve free. Even with the wind we were able to maintain a decent speed. The wind and sun seemed to really suck the moisture out of you. In the afternoon two or three hours of riding and I went through about 60 ounces of fluids or more without needing to stop and water any plants. 8-)

Its not the heat, itís the stupidity?
I forgot to mention that yesterday I got a rare sunburn. I applied my usual dose of suntan lotion (35 SPF) which seems to have worked until now. With the heat, I may have sweated it off, because my forearms are a pleasing cherry red. Like you could toast marshmallows or toast hot dog buns with them. D'oh!
Well, we had hoped to make it past Newberry today, but we settled into the Comfort Inn in Newberry, right along M28. The wind and sun and energy-using-rain had us "knackered" (in Jon's parlance) early today. We are running out of days and work has begun to hang over our heads. Don't yet know what we'll do, but we'll figure something out. And we're still having fun. So don't take my whining too seriously, I'd still rather be here testing myself then going to work daily and just dreaming. And I've gone through almost five cameras at 27 exposures each, so I must have seen something I want to remember, show off about (you climbed that?), or amusing to tell about. Oh, and my niece Shannon, says that a hectare is 1,000th of a square kilometer, so that burn area covered 360 square kilometer! Imagine a burn area 60 kilometers on a side! And it was instantly recognizable after six years, even by a black thumb like me. oh, and keep those cards and letters coming, I'm trying to answer them all! It's great to know someone is reading. Time to do laundry...

06/24/2005 Day 16 Newberry to Munising
We left Newberry and prepared for the Seney "stretch" or "Death Valley" as Jon came to call it. To anyone that hasn't been there, it is somewhat hard to explain. It just doesn't sound like any big deal until you get there. It is a stretch of 25 miles of road without any curve except for that of the earth. I'm talking as straight a road as I've ever known or scene. Once in it, it continues until it disappears into the perspective or a mirage at the horizon, which ever you choose.
While riding you continue to squint into the distance waiting for the endless grove of trees to cross the highway telling you that the curve to the north has arrived (when traveling west.) Most times you "think" you see it only to go a mile or two or cross yet another bridge over a stream, or how many of sips from your now tastelessly warm water bottle you use to mark time and note you're still not there. Much like whiny little kids we rode the Seney all the time wondering "are we there yet?"
In just over two hours, we crossed it, resolving never to look at the time because we knew how slow it would feel. It started hot, over 70 and reports of a hot day to come, which it soon was. We were in the Seney when it began to get overcast and dark. The temperature did drop, for a while, but not significantly, and we saw no rain this time.
We did buck the wind all day one more time, but not such that we despaired. At one of the bridges over a stream (in Yooper itís a "crick" not to be confused with the pain you get in your neck when you've slept in an odd position, properly spelled "creek") we took a water break and observed a hubcap sized turtle sunning himself on a rock.
The hardest part of the Seney really wasn't the wind, sun, or lack of change from one mile to the next; it was the combination of traffic and awful shoulder. A good section of shoulder was no more than ten to fifteen feet in length. Most of the time it was hundreds of feet of cracked and broken narrow shoulder. Cracked and broken so that there simply wasn't a decent "line" to ride though. Your hands butt, and even feet took a beating. I have enough carpel tunnel wrist problems, but this was worse than riding a mountain bike.

Our luggage was constantly in motion adding to the noise and making steering with tingling fingers just that much better. At times we'd ride on the edge of the traffic lane to avoid the bumps, when there wasn't traffic of course. This of course made you paranoid.
Combine that with continuous traffic in our direction (trolls coming out from under the bridge for fun among the Yoopers) with just enough in the other direction to keep them from passing. Note there is no, "no passing" zones on the Seney. At the start the speed seemed within reason, but I thought the traffic was speeding up as we went along. At about halfway, Jon said te exact thing, and I knew I wasn't imagining it. Boredom gets to everyone.
Very early on we saw a Sheriffsí car pass eastbound. We discussed that in Canada we had seen all of ONE moving OPP. We had noted two dark blue Michigan State Patrol (MSP) squad cars in the Soo which is short hand for Sault Ste. Marie. After the Sheriff, we soon saw a MSP squad pull over just as we approached. Behind it a second one pulled over and they rolled their windows down and I heard some salutation, "Hey! How you..." before I was out of ear shot. Think of it, two MSP and not a donut nor coffee shop for fifty miles! It gets better. Before we were done with the rotten pavement and heavy traffic, we saw at least seven MSP squads. We couldn't tell if they were circling or using a bunch to do fly-bys, but it felt like they "could" be looking out for us. Then it could just be heavy patrols for Friday traffic.
There were a large number of logging trucks and the debris that would come off some would unnerve you alone. Speaking of debris, we had a cadre of horseflies cross the Seney with us too. They didn't land it was more like they had "first dibs" and were waiting for us to hurry up and die already. Jon has a unique helmet from England that has three mirrors set up like a periscope. He can glance up and see traffic and other things behind him. He once looked up to find he was staring down a horsefly stuck in the tail mirror. He was able to shake him out without much trouble, but you tend to forget your piloting responsibilities under those conditions.

During the passing of one of the lumber trucks, I turned my head to the right to avoid the debris facial and received a horsefly in the left ear. The close quarter buzzing got me to snap my head back forward and he was free to simply pester instead. They would circle between us almost like playing, unless a big windy truck would pass and they'd disappear for a few hundred yards, only to return, or be replaced by others of their ilk.
We were beat by Munising and chose a hotel as it was really hot. Nothing. First time we'd found someplace full, hmmm minor concern. Second place, YES! But our AC is out. Yipes! Third place, nope, no two bed rooms, but have one with a bed and a couch and the couch pulls out. Okay, does the AC work? Yes! Deal done.
It was Jon's turn to pay, so he got the bed. While Jon showered, did his laundry, and even wrote his journal (on paper) entry, I was asleep. I had lain on the couch (un-opened) waiting my turn not planning to fall asleep. Woke up over an hour later groggy as all get out. Must have been a tough day for me.
We dined at a place called Sidney's next door. Jon had the all you can eat buffet sea food bar while went with Chicken Alfredo. It was okay. Jon went out for a walkabout while I did my laundry and came back with root beer floats from the A&W up the street. Now that is a great day! Sunshine, no rain, no hits, no runs, and no errors. Plus ice cream twice!
At the end of the Seney we came to Singleton and I said, "I smell ice cream!" Jon said, "Hey, I thought only Melanie (his wife) could do that!" I was right too, one of the convenience stores had hand dipped quality hard ice cream with delicious waffle cones. We stood outside (or maybe I should say dripped outside?) and ate our doubles like an advertisement. A woman next door weeding her garden asked if I was afraid she'd attack me for the cone? I explained that A) she'd have to catch me on my bike first, and B) after riding it across the Seney just how hard might I fight her for it? "Alright, I'll buy my own." Doesn't that sound like fun?

06/25/2005 Day 17 Munising to Negaunee
We woke up in Munising with a AC unit working hard to keep us cool. It was great sleeping in the cold and we both needed it. We went to the Dogpatch for their "legendary" breakfast buffet. Of course it wasn't. The French toast sticks resembled wooden Lincoln Logs and accepted the same amount of syrup. The sausage and really thick slices of ham were awesome though. We filled up on tiny bagels and jam, country biscuits and jam, and some of the home fries, and scrambled eggs. They fries were hard enough to be difficult to spear with a fork. Breakfast is our best fuel source so we really look forward to it and often order big and rarely leave anything. Lunch isn't always important, but then we always are hungry after we clean up at night and again eat big and rarely leave anything behind.
We have eaten at only two chain joints, both Subway since you can get lots of good veggies and its reasonably priced. Everywhere else has been one of a kind restaurants. We set out after looking at the map. The most frequent dish? Hot beef or hot pork; my late father, Elmer, would be so proud.
I had mentioned that Marquette is scenic, but adds miles. If we took the back roads we would miss both scenery, as well as traffic. Jon chose to ignore the vista for the goal of trying to make it to my eldest brother's house. Ted wasn't going to be home, in fact he was visiting another brother in Elk River!
But he had offered lodging and left a way for us to get in. The only trouble with our non-scenic route was the lack of restaurants. We eventually settled for (drum roll, please) microwave sandwiches and Little Debbie treats. Ouch. It rates as our single worst meal and latter we ran out of gas well short of anything. We did make it to Ted's. As I said in my note, we came; we collapsed, showered, laundered, ate, watched TV, slept and fled. It was a simple night, but a great ending to another fine day.

06/26/2005 Day 18 Negaunee to Trout Creek
We woke up, packed up, and left the cozy confines of Ted's house. Mission - breakfast. I led Jon through the back roads of Negaunee only to find nothing open. We continued on to Ishpeming where I guessed Buck's would be open. We went big and both had the Lumberjack: pancakes, sausage, eggs, home fries, and home made toast. A veritable mountain of food. With coffee and tea, we were good to go.
We followed the back roads as long as we could and then joined the traffic on M41. Traffic was really pretty good and the shoulder reasonable. We also had our first honest tailwind. We made excellent time and soon were in the Michigamme area.
Along the way we kept seeing very cherry old cars. Stuff from the 40s, 50s, and more. Notable was 54 Ford in pink, a late 20s Ford pickup in pretty blue on a trailer, and many more being driven.
I was surprised to find the restaurant Mt. Shasta open. it was a little early for lunch but in we went. They have many photos from the movie "Anatomy Of A Murder." The restaurant was used by Otto Preminger as the setting of the bar or tavern in the movie. It is owned in the movie by the individual that is murdered. After our early lunch, we cruised on. At the Covington junction of M28 and M141, we had a decision, go easy to L'anse, or press on toward Ironwood where there may not be lodging in our typical distance range. We agreed to go the unknown route. It's an adventure for crying out loud! We did hit the Covington convenience store hoping for ice cream. No such luck.
We settled for gigantic bottles of SoBe. I think I drank mine in about two minutes. Okay, maybe less. Still with a tailwind we carried on until Sidnaw where Jon spied a Ford 9N tractor for sale. It included a new engine rebuild, new paint, and new rubber all the way around. I'd never seen rear tires with the little nubs before. He got the name and email address.
We carried on to Kenton where we stopped to munch some peanuts and cashews we had bought for emergency food. After about a mile we noted that the former Soo railroad line had been converted to a snowmobile and four wheeler use. We found it to be mostly smooth so we road it most of the way into Trout Creek, where I grew up. When we were able to get on "old" M28 which was paved. We then rode by the little church I attended as a kid. Jon also took photos of the railroad depot in TC. We then had dinner at The Little Red Schoolhouse, which formerly was on the local school property. It was the building used for Kindergarten when I went there. While there they told us that the motel I was aiming for may not be open. They lent us a phone (my cell didn't have service) to call an alterative.

So tonight we are staying in a place called Two Rivers. It is a very rustic cabin made, mostly of logs. No AC, no phone, all of 3 stations on the tiny TV, but we couldn't be happier. Today we made an honest 80 miles and that is our second longest day. THAT is what a tailwind can do for you. Tomorrow we plan to hit the Schoolhouse for breakfast. It is really warm and won't be the most comfortable, but we'll sleep the sleep of the exhausted.

06/27/2005 Day 19 Trout Creek, Michigan to St. Paul, Minnesota
Today we awoke to rather warm and humid temperatures. Overcast, but not gray, so much as a high fog. Being completely out of food, we got going quickly and as I returned from turning in the cabin key a surprise pulled in. My brother John had come to bail us out with his "School Bus", a red '87 Suburban.
Okay, so he had mentioned he could do this on Saturday and I kind of neglected to write about it. Gee, can't a guy cling to his fantasy as long as possible without reality intruding? Truly we had expected to make it at least to the Red Schoolhouse for breakfast and possibly beyond before he arrived. Tough.
We took some ride end photos both with his camera and the last of the disposables, changed back to street clothes, pilled the bikes and gear in, jumped in and left. After breakfast at the Red Schoolhouse, lunch in Grantsburg, we dropped Jon off, followed by me. We had made 1,105 miles for Jon and 1,095 for me.

Lessons learned. It can always be colder than you plan. A windbreaker, a tuque, and extra thick wool socks were items I should not have deleted from my packing list just because I had never used them on previous trips.
Three pair of cycling shorts is a must for me, only two of everything else is. Shopping list includes new gloves (mine are ten years old), leg warmers (way faster than tights to put on when you are already cold and or soaked, wool tights (to sleep in if needed), and black wool jersey (if you end up wearing a white one three days in a row, it will never be white again).

Planning should include a primary and at least a backup distance for each day. You should have lodging written down for more than one possibility. Throwing caution to the wind is fine in great weather, having no idea how far it is after a 25 miles in three hour slog is just one more stress factor to detract from it being a vacation. Pick your partner well, I'll take that "A" for my choice, you'll have to ask Jon about his view on me. Plan for that backup! Brothers with Suburban aren't always available. One way car rentals might not happen either. Think ahead!

Conclusion: I'd do it again in a heartbeat. It was a goal, but the truth is the journey was just as important. To spend each day under pressure to make schedule isn't fun. I did let that detract from my fun.

Will I do it again? Durn tootin', wanna come? Get training, I already have a head start, and you have a year to catch up. 8-)
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Old 07-05-05, 02:08 PM   #4
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Thank you very much for posting this tour report. As someone who has circled two of the great lakes already (Erie and Huron) and who is about to go around another one (Michigan) I am looking forward to going around Superior in the future.

Your log has helped to increase my anticipation even more!

~Jamie N
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Old 07-16-05, 08:59 PM   #5
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AWESOME! I just took a trek out from Sault Ste. Marie, MI to Brimley, MI today. Went to a Monical Lake and took a swim and headed home, overall 42 miles on a super hot day - but lots of fun!

You'll have to let me know when you come through this way again.

- Mike
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Old 07-17-05, 07:29 PM   #6
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Good trip report! Did that ride back in 2001 with 5 others. We wimped out, however and did motels. I remember that stretch up into Nipigon! Horrible!

We had crossed back into the US just 3 days before 9/11 struck. I will always remember whereI was.
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Old 07-20-05, 08:54 PM   #7
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What a terrific report... I'm doing the Tour Da UP in two weeks. Hope those horseflies have died off.
Thanks for sharing your adventure. Read it all at one sitting.

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