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Musings about bikes and such

Around The Lakes - July 2010

With the Long weekend coming up, and no real plans, I decided to head out Thursday morning (Canada Day) for a blast around Lakes Superior and Huron - roughly 2000 miles.  Not a lot of pictures taken, but scenery was great.  Here are my tracks as recorded by my Zumo 550 and displayed on Google Earth.  Right at 2000 miles over the three days.

I considered taking the FXR, but 2000 miles in three days is a bit much on that bike I the Uly was the choice.  Besides there were a few dirt roads I wanted to explore and the Buell can handle those faster.

Day 1 - July 1

I left the house at sunrise ~0600, and crossed the bridge at Sarnia into America.  There was a bit of a back up and it was the first time that a border guard wanted to look in my saddle bags.  Still pretty quick.  I took the interstate though much of the lower peninsula as it's not that exciting of a ride anyway.  At my second fuel stop for day, I noticed that the bike was leaning over way to much when I put it on the side stand so after fueling , I found a  place to lean it against and investigated.  Fortunately it was just that the two bolts holding the side stand to the crankcase had just worked themselves loose.  No damage and a few turns with a 7/16  did the trick.  Here's where I leaned it for the repair.

 About a hundred miles south of the Mackinaw Bridge I got off the motorway, crossed into the UP at Mackinaw and took a bunch of minor dirt and poorly paved roads across to the shores of lake Superior.  I then headed west along an unpaved forest road for ~30 miles.  Very pretty but going was a bit slow as it was sandy.  Not so bad but did have a squirmy front wheel in a few spots.  Many of the side roads were way too sandy too attempt with this bike on PR2s though! I think that the FXR would actually be better at crossing the thick sand areas because it's so easy to put both feet down ad duck waddle it...can't do that on the Uly.  Here's a shot of the bike on the maintained dirt road along the lake.

 The park road ended in a closed for construction area so I had to back track.  I tried and alternate dirt path for a bit but the sand was so deep that I decided it would be best to avoid and instead took the route around the forest.  Spent the night in Marquette and ran into 3 older women who pulled up while I was checking in.  They rode two Goldwings and a Softail - all purple - heading to Sudbury.  Should have taken a picture, but their giant rigs dwarfed my little Buell as we commandeered the parking under the hotel awning.

Day 2 - July 2

Got on the Road early in the morning and took the back roads towards Duluth.   Crossed into Wisconsin and realized it was the first time the that Uly had been there since it was shipped from the factory...a homecoming of sorts.  I was pulled over by a Wisconsin Sheriff who said I was going 68 in a 55.  He was a nice guy though and let me go with a stern verbal warning.....He was concerned that I couldn't convert from Kilometers correctly.  I did slow it down from there least in Wisconsin.

Passing through Duluth, I had to make the Hajj to the Motorcycle Accessory Mecca .... Aerostich......

It is a must see and they welcome a lot of people, but it really isn't set up for it.  Though, as I was wearing my Darien and CTB's it was like coming home :-)  The catalogue  showroom is a small room and browsing all the gadgets really isn't possible. It is THE place to try on a suit before you buy though and a customer care specialist (something like that) will help.  They even insist on you wearing it out to your bike so you can get an idea how it fits while riding. I was looking at the one piece Roadcrafters and definitely wanted to try it on before I bought.  Turns out a 42R with no mods fits about perfect.  I was going to buy a grey suit with black ballistics if they had one in stock...they didn't so I ordered this and got the walk-in discount:

The orange ballistics are semi-custom, otherwise it's a stock suit.  It should be completed in 4 weeks as they have a 60 suit backlog.  My math says that means 15 suits a week (700 a year) is their total output......Hard to believe...more on that later.

I took the tour....they just grab a random, long-term employee (in my case the web-order stock picker) and off you go.  It is an old warehouse that they've used from the beginning of the company.  The ground floor is the catalog showroom, shipping and receiving...and a madhouse of activity.  Next floor up is sewing, where all of the suits, courier bags and stuff like that are made.  Instead of an assembly line, they use a unit construction process where a single worker sews an entire suit.  For a Roadcrafter, this amounts to 10-12 hours as there are over 100 components.  These are the same workers that handle the repair work as well.  I asked about their output... how many suits they could make and no one really seemed to have that figure on hand, though they did mention the current backlog and how long it would take to complete so I guess 15 a week is about right.

 The next floor up is where they cut the material from the patterns and make the armor pads.  Also up here is the "catalog design department" which consists of one young guy in a cubicle with a PC working away.  It also has the "office":  4 desks  - Andy (founder - not there), Kim (General Manager) + accounting & payroll.  Also on this floor is the design department where they create the patterns and try new things.  That's it. Everyone was really friendly and I think they like the attention from customers.  It's always cool to see where and how a world famous product like this is made.

I had lunch at a restaurant by the lake and continued up into Ontario.  Beautiful scenery the entire way and I didn't capture it effectively, but worth the ride just for the 1000 miles of vistas.

The border crossing was quick and painless.  I continued up 61 (Highway 61 Revisited?) to Thunder Bay and then followed the Trans-Canadian Highway North and East.  Was getting tired around 1900 so pulled up in Rossport. I checked into a very nice B&B, cleaned up for dinner and headed to the only restaurant in town.  It was unusually busy I was squeezed into a large table with other single diners... European style.  Had local trout and a couple beers while I enjoyed the conversation with locals and other blues as well.  Rossport was quite the find.

Day 3 - July 3

Up early again and out.  Beautiful riding, but not challenging so I decided to take the 667 off of the 129 and then down the "Sultan Industrial road" on my to the 114.  The Sultan road is not scenic and is 40 miles of partially graded gravel with dust and an occasional truck.  I averaged about 30 MPH and acquired a nice grit layer on everything.  I would probably avoid it on such a trip in the future, but did add some "challenge" and practice for this kind of riding on a road bike.  I did stop along the way to have a lunch of canned tuna and crackers I was packing:

I got home around 2100, but this time of year there's light until 2200 or so.  I was tired, but that's to be expected after 3 consecutive 700 miles days plus stops.

For next trip remember to bring toilet paper, eating utensils.