Mar 31, 2009

The KLR Project - Got The Bolt and Bearings Out

On Monday, March 30th, I finally was able to get the frame on a hydraulic press to remove the stuck pivot bolt.

Thanks to Inglis Cycle Centre in London, Ontario and Gord Inglis for his help.

It took a lot of force to remove the stuck pivot bolt for the rear shock linkage. But it finally broke free. The sleeve inside the linkage was fused by rust to the bolt.

In the above picture, rust is visible inside the tubes of the frame.

We also used the press to remove all of the bearings from the shock linkage and the swingarm.

The next step will be to strip the swingarm, and thoroughly clean the link so that they can be drilled and grease nipples installed.

Gord had a good idea that may prevent the sleeve from rusting to the pivot bolt in the future. He suggested a grease nipple be installed on the pivot bolt, with a small hole down the middle of the bolt, and a small hole drilled through the radius of the bolt to where it will eject grease underneath the sleeve. In order to get the plastic cap back on the right side where the bolt head is, I may have to remove the grease nipple and install a plug.

Interesting idea that I will discuss with my machinist friend.

Mar 30, 2009

Welcome To The New Silliker.Ca

Welcome to my new website. If you have visited before, you will notice the new layout immediately.

My friend Mike Reid, who introduced me to motorcycling, had been hosting this website on his server for many years. He was very gracious and with his help, I had been able to post of my motorcycling adventures.

My problems were my inability to post often enough. Any additions to the website were being done with an HTML editor, formatting text and photos and then uploading the whole works via FTP and then checking and adjusting the formatting. It was a time consuming process.

Now using the Blogger system, all entries can be made online via any web browser. I am typing this on a small 9" laptop while lying in bed! It is much easier and quicker. It also adds the blog functionality, which I have been interested in trying. This website also does a decent job of categorizing posts.

I will eventually port over all my riding stories. Some have already been brought over. I look forward to exploring all the possibilities this new platform has to offer.

Thanks for logging in!

Mar 21, 2009

Easter 2001 Banzai Blast to Key West

Long weekends are for riding. As spring arrives here in cold Canada, a rider's thoughts turn to warmer weather and putting down the kilometers. The Easter weekend always means the first big ride of the year. While not technically true this time, as I had already taken a long ride in Mexico, it was the first long ride where I left home riding a motorcycle instead of pulling a trailer! During two previous Easter sojourns, I have gone to Canada's east coast. This has always resulted in at least some riding in snow, so in a fit of mature and sensible (not to mention uncharacteristic) thinking, I decided to avoid the snow this time. Well then what's left? Key West!

Now here is a destination I've wanted to hit for some time. It's extreme (it is the southern-most point in the continental U.S.), it's warm, and it's somewhat mysterious and exotic. I didn't know exactly what to expect in Key West. I had in mind a tropical paradise kind of place in the same vein as the Bahamas: beaches, palm trees, resorts, nightlife. Well, it really has all of that, with less emphasis on the beaches, more on the nightlife, with some interesting history thrown into the mix.

I ran this idea past some local riders during a regular "committee" meeting. Important topics such as prepackaged meat, and the planned summer ride were being discussed. Called the MOB (Men On Bikes), surely at least one member would bite. In the end, a rider on the STOC mailing list accepted my offer. Dominic Isabella lives in Philadelphia. He, myself, and two other riders made the trek to the Grand Canyon during WeSTOC 2000 and this small group of riders has been dubbed the Road Dawgz. While these "club" names can be fun, everyone realizes the real fun lies in not just who you ride with, but more importantly where you are going and how you get there.

As Dom and myself live far apart, he in Philly on the east coast, I in London in southwestern Ontario, we arranged a meeting point that still allows us to share a long ride on the way down. That meeting spot is Hillsville, Virginia, near the junction of interstates 77 and 81. Eight hours from Dom's home, 12 from mine, Key West is still over 1200 miles to the south!

I was ready to leave on the morning of Thursday, April 12 at 7AM, directly from work. It was raining, weather I am prepared for and willing to accept as a part of any ride, but it's never pleasant when actually leaving on a trip. Bad karma. This cleared up as I headed west on highway 401 to the Windsor/Detroit border crossing. The absent rain was soon replaced by a ripping south wind, more powerful than I have ever ridden in before.

After crossing over to Detroit, I headed south to Toledo, Ohio, then turned east heading to Cleveland where I would turn south on I77. On the southern shores of Erie heading to Cleveland, I thought less about making Hillsville, and a lot more about merely surviving another mile of the tortuous wind. If it were just the wind, I would have been fine with it. Combine the brisk wind, the occasional gust (which the news reported at nearly 100 km/h!), and traffic on a busy interstate highway and what you have is palpable danger!

Many times I was sent reeling, either by gusts or the sudden lack of any cross wind such as when passing a semi truck. And what happens when you are passing a truck, leaned over hard to the right in an effort to ride in a straight line, and suddenly you enter calm still air? You careen to the right, directly into the path of the trailer's wheels!

I pulled over into a rest stop.

I called my partner Jane, I called Dom, not exactly sure whether or not I would continue on. I contemplated stopping in Cleveland, visiting the Rock and Roll hall of fame, staying the night, and turning around. However, Dom assured me the wind speeds would lessen as I went south from Cleveland. I got back on the road hoping like hell he was right. He was indeed right, bless the weather channel and it's pocket protector-wearing cadre of weather experts! I settled into the rhythm of a typical highway drone.

Things got a little more interesting as I approached the West Virginia border. The roads on the map go from something resembling straight uncooked spaghetti to the cooked variety. And just like cooked spaghetti, these roads were a little more tasty. And I do mean a little more, the interstate experience rarely rises much above the bland level. At least the Appalachians were pleasing to look at, interrupting the monotonous horizon I had been used to.

Late evening saw this Canadian rider sitting down to a Chinese food dinner in Hillsville, Virginia with a guy from Philadelphia. We had a good talk. The last time I saw Dom was in Massachusetts in the fall at another gathering of the STOC clan called FallSTOC. Dom, two other riders and myself were the recipients of written warnings from county police in western Mass. Dom filled me in on his plans to attempt an Iron Butt Association SS1000 on our ride to Florida. We reviewed the paperwork he had prepared. It's still warm when we press on, back on I77 south.

We were soon out of the narrow wedge at the western reaches of Virginia state and into the also-narrow western side of North Carolina. At South Carolina we were officially in the deep south and the temperatures were quite comfortable. I didn't see any banjo-playing hillbillies, but I did catch a glimpse of the insides of my eyelids once or twice. Yes, I was getting tired. I worked the night before, and here I was hoping to ride through the next without so much as a minute's snooze. It ain't happnin'.

Not being an experienced Iron Butt rider, Dom has never before slept in the Iron Butt motel. We pulled in to a rest stop, parked the bikes, and I explained my own strategies for choosing an ideal location to check in. If you want to know what those are, just plan a long ride with me and I'd be happy to explain them to you!

Helmets serving as pillows, jackets as blankets, we reposed upon the seats of a picnic table. I slept very well, but woke up sweating. I walked back to the bikes as Dom slept on. In the dimness of a gas light obscured by the many encroaching trees, I stripped off my jacket and helmet. Rumbling low nearby, the semi trucks were parked in a diagonal row. I barely noticed the incessant scream of a trailer-mounted reefer as I walked about to cool off. It was indeed very warm, even at this wee hour. I threw my long sleeve T to the ground and faced bare-chested into the slight breeze to cool off.

Dom was soon awake. We had water and snacked on junk food, and got back on the road. That wasn't the last stop for rest. Twice more I became tired enough to force us to stop, sleeping well each time up to an hour. I don't know what it is, but I enjoy these stays in the Iron Butt Motel. I think it's the solitude and peace of the rest stop devoid of screaming kids and bustling hordes. Or maybe it's the lack of any line-ups in the washrooms and at the vending machines!

We eventually ride through Georgia and are finally into Florida, still many miles to go in this elongated state filled with Snowbirds and others who would waste ballots. With Florida also came the flat terrain once again. It's a straight shot down I95 all the way to the Miami miasma of tollways that would take us to the keys.

We just rode into Florida, still some distance to go!

I was really looking forward to riding the keys. The image in my mind was one of blue-green water all around as we ride some immense bridge. A bridge so long we couldn't see either end of it. Eventually we were actually doing it!

Riding along over the bridges that join the numerous keys, the sun was setting. A large blurry reddish-orange disc still blazing as it was plunging into the water on our right side. Our Friday of riding was being extinguished in the amber light. I felt as if this captured - no commanded - the attention and imagination of every person in the cars around us. It was as if we were all seeking out the object that was disappearing before our eyes.

My first Key West sundown occurred on the highway!

I was disappointed we were not yet there. This is one of the things I had had in mind to enjoy while in Key West: to be reclined on a beach, Margarita in hand, Jimmy Buffett's "Margaritaville" playing in the background, watching the sun set over the gulf of Mexico. No matter, there was still Saturday night.

Traffic going to the keys was almost unbearable. The mile markers were counting down much slower than I would have hoped. We were not the only ones looking to enjoy this Easter weekend on the keys.

I was expecting traffic to thin as we approached Key West, as folks stopped at various islands along the way. Every key is it's own resort area. Each is filled with hotels, boat dealers, fishing charters, restaurants, condos, and of course bars. This effect was barely noticeable. Congestion was relentlessly slow. On one bridge ten miles or so from the keys, things opened up a bit with two lanes in each direction in contrast to the city-center two lane norm.

In the darkness, we did not see the Florida State Trooper parked at the exit of the bridge. We were well over the posted limit, but perhaps he didn't see us: he stayed put. Police presence was typically paranoid as it is in most populated areas of the U.S. Paranoid also describes the mindset of those who speed in this environment while not under the watchful eye of a good radar detector.

Finally we found ourselves on Key West. The sense of relief lifted my spirits immensely. The stress of the last 100 miles was immediately forgotten. The temps were still very mild. People were everywhere. Dress code seemed to be shorts and Ts, or even less. Scooters were the transportation method of choice, their riders unhindered by bothersome footwear, gloves or helmets. On my huge ST1100 dressed for highway running, I felt like a Clydesdale being buzzed and bothered by mosquitoes.

We pulled off highway 1 onto coastal A1A. Checked into our hotel room at the Sheraton, we caught the shuttle to the downtown. Our driver gave us the rundown of the downtown. Soon we were roaming the streets of this city known as Key West. For that's what it is, a city from coast to coast. Boat docks line the one side facing the Gulf of Mexico, while beaches stretch along the ocean side, with plenty of drinking in the middle!

We had dolphin fish at the A&B Seafood restaurant, one of the older eating establishments. A few brews later and the miles were once again catching up with us, I questioned whether I could even walk to catch a cab.

Standing at a taxi stand, we wondered where all the taxis were, as did quite a few others. We realized that they were being flagged down by savvy revelers while still enroute to the area. We headed in the direction of the full cabs and flagged one down ourselves. Ten minutes ago I hadn't known what a savvy reveler was, now I are one!

Sleep came easily in the air conditioned room. Ten hours disappeared in literally the blink of an eye. In the morning, we wandered outside to the beach across the street. Man, this is heaven! Warm temps, clean sand, sun, palm trees, and all we had to do was cross the street! We bought huge fruit smoothies, then sat down to take it all in as we woke up.

The scene directly across the street from our hotel.

Looking for photo ops, we jumped back on the bikes and headed for the downtown. We took pictures at mile zero of highway 1, which happened to be on a busy intersection. Being careful to avoid pedestrians and scooters, we manoeuvred our big rigs into position on the sidewalk. We took turns wedging our bikes between the fire hydrant, the highway sign, and the nearby building which began where the sidewalk ended. This just so happened to completely block off the sidewalk, we could barely get ourselves into the picture. Passersby were forced to walk onto the roadway to pass us by.

Scooters rule in this place!

Dom just parked his bike amongst the scooter throng.
"Did someone say thong???"

One of the many condo developments downtown.

Highway 1 ends on a very busy intersection downtown.

We ate at Sloppy Joe's where we watched a great singer who was playing guitar and banjo. We scoped out various landmarks, such as Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville bar. We spent the entire afternoon and into the evening downtown. After picking up a few knickknacks, we headed back to the hotel to drop off the bikes, my intention was to return to the downtown on the shuttle to finally sample a margarita in Key West.

I spotted this great photo op on the way back to our hotel, mere feet from deep water.

While at the hotel, we again bought smoothies, walked back to the beach and sat down at a picnic table. Yes, we sat down on this one instead of sleeping on it. I filled out several postcards I had bought. Life was good. The beach was a little quieter, quite peaceful actually. Of course now that the intense heat of the afternoon had left and it was actually comfortable to be on the beach, most of the folks had gone. We sipped our smoothies, the gentle breeze which rustled the palms was carrying away the hurried feeling of our afternoon of touring.

The beach across the street from our hotel, on the ocean side of the island.
The downtown area is on the Gulf of Mexico side.

Dom was feeling tired, and decided to get some extra sleep. So we parted ways as I waited for the shuttle to take me back downtown. I went straight to Margaritaville, where I had the (what else) Cheeseburger in Paradise. I drank two margaritas, one was on the rocks, the other in the form of slush, or as they call it - frozen.

It was approaching sunset and I still wanted to fulfill my dream of watching the sun go down over the Gulf of Mexico. So with margaritas in my stomach as opposed to in my hand, I headed to Mallory Square. Mallory square is the traditional place in downtown Key West where people gather to watch the sun set. There were buskers galore and people were already seated on the dock to watch the coming spectacle.

I take my own place, black motorcycle boots dangling toward the green churn below, a wide swath of dancing light stretched off to the horizon, well almost. I was a little miffed at first that what you are actually watching from this location is the sun setting over the island sitting several hundred meters off shore. But these are the islands, mon. Hell yes, we're closer to Havana than we are to Miami. So go with the flow, take it easy. Lulled into a dreamy state by the soothing sounds of a nearby busker softly singing and strumming quiet tunes on his guitar, I watched my Key West dream come true.

I got up and headed back in the direction of the shuttle pick up point. I was distracted from my path by a group of excellent musicians playing traditional Spanish music, dancers nearby throwing themselves around in a rumba, or maybe it was salsa or samba or something. I've only ever seen dancing like that on television.

My pick for best busker was a rotund gentleman sitting in a lawn chair with a sign that read: "Dirty jokes, $0.50 and up. I need beer." If someone passed by who looked like they needed to have their intelligence insulted, he would belt out "get your dirty jokes right here!"

The many little shops also caught my eye with colourful trinkets and baubles, drawing me in. I couldn't resist picking up a few more little gifts, just getting some of that Christmas shopping done a little early!

December in Canada was the last thing on my mind as I wandered back to wait for the shuttle. I enjoy people-watching, and they were in no short supply. Wild dress filtered by on a continuous basis, as did tricked out trucks, cars, scooters, motorcycles, and even several electric vehicles.

Back in our room, Dom is asleep with the TV on. I watched briefly as a desert cat in Africa slowly pesters a scorpion until it becomes his meal. Fascinating, but I needed sleep.

We had planned to be up at six on Sunday, but no wake-up call arrived. It was more like 7:30AM when I awoke Dom from his slumber. We got ready and loaded our bikes. We were on the road before 8AM, but it was already hot and muggy. We were in for a hot day. Thankfully, the trip back to the mainland was much quicker at that early hour.

Our run back up north was indeed hot. Many cars were visible on the side of the road with blown tires, victims of their own slack maintenance. Sure of our own tire pressures, we rode uneventfully back along our path at a quick pace.

Once out of Florida, it began to cool off. Must be something to that Florida sunshine after all! We were gradually adding layers as we crossed northbound state borders. Before we reached the point where we must go our separate ways, Dom and I pulled over to a rest stop, shook hands, and congratulated each other on a successful trip.

Continuing on, it turned even colder. I eventually found myself riding the mountains of West Virginia in a near freezing drizzle in the middle of the night. I was becoming fatigued once again and I began to wonder about the conditions of the bridges. I stopped to get a motel, and slept for several hours.

In the morning, it wasn't much warmer. But now it was Monday morning, I would be due in to work that night. I had to press on. It warmed up some as the sun finally came out, but I was glad for having my electric jacket liner.

While crossing the border back into Canada, I lost my sunglasses over the side. Riding in the bright sunlight was getting to be quite uncomfortable. I was soon relieved of my discomfort when the sun went behind some clouds. When the flurries began, I started to curse those clouds, however.

The ground was still warm, though, and the very light flurries melted quickly when they hit the ground. But as the afternoon progressed, it began to snow harder and harder. Pretty soon it was building up on the highway! I was close to London, I debated on whether I should stop. Finally, I felt I could no longer go on, I was pushing slush, and people were looking at me like I was from Mars. I pulled over underneath a bridge and called Jane. We arranged a meeting point and I got back on the bike to try to bring it safely off the highway. I trundled along on the shoulder at slow speed.

I was a little closer to London than I thought I was, and pulled up Wellington Rd. at the exit. I parked, had a Tim Hortons coffee, and waited for the cell phone to ring. As I was not at our pre-planned meeting spot, that phone call eventually came. I felt relieved as Jane and I left in the truck, my bike sitting behind us in the snow.

From sunny and warm to cold and snowy.
Welcome back to Canada!

It was cold and I felt that it would be unwise to attempt to ride home, so there it stayed. It would stay there until I was less disgusted and the weather more agreeable. I guess I couldn't avoid that cursed Canadian Easter snow after all, so my record of snow riding is intact after all! Dom informed me later his own ride was also chilly. Back in London and the snow, the dreams of Key West were not sated but in fact heightened.

For several days afterwards, I understood the mindset of the snowbird. Who knows, one day I may find myself "wasting away again in Margaritaville…"

The KLR650 Project - What's Wrong With It?

My 2002 KLR650 has delivered me from my home in southern Ontario to many adventurous places.

Here is my bike on the Newfoundland Rail Trail, after traveling over 2000 km via New England backroads and a ferry.

Here it is in northern Quebec near the James Bay Hydro projects.

Here it is on the Michigan Cross Country trail.

My bike also roams the backroads near my home, and takes me to work when the dirt road I live on is really loose and muddy in the spring. Here is me and my wife who is riding her Yamaha XT225.

Trouble started last fall while halfway through my trip to the Michigan Trail with my friend on his DR650. The rear suspension lost all compliance and free motion. I could press down the seat while standing next to the bike, and it would not spring back up. Trouble, and I was a day from home. I had to ride it back.

So recently I began to tear down the rear suspension to grease the rear suspension and install grease nipples. Unfortunately, I could not remove the front pivot bolt of the suspension linkage. Pounding on the bolt, the two frame halves began to separate. The frame needs to be put on a hydraulic press to press this bolt while holding the frame halves together.

Today I tore down the bike to be able to put the frame on a hydraulic press.

Here is a close up picture of the threaded end of the bolt on the left side of the frame. This is the bolt underneath the little round plastic cover on the bottom of the frame verticals.

Here is a wider shot which shows the linkage this bolt is for.

Here is the frame sitting on the floor of my garage, leaning up against the engine.

As I mentioned, I want to install grease nipples on the rear suspension bits. I also recently bought a doohickey kit to install. Also planned is to grease the steering head bearings, replace the wheel bearings, change the fork oil, install upgraded subframe bolts, inspect the oil intake screen on the right side. I may also install a new Progressive shock. Also to be done is to check the valve clearance. If I get ambitious, I may also decide to replace the piston rings and valve guides. We'll see how that goes.

I'll post more after more progress is made.

Mar 12, 2009

Lake Superior Saddlesore 1000 Ride

The following is my own ride report on a ride I took in April, 1999. IBA Saddlesore 1000 attempt around Gitche Gumi.

Total miles on the odometer (just for the circle around the lake itself, not including ride to and from start)
1626 km. (1010 mi.)
time 20 hours, 45 min.
low temp below freezing
high temp 12C (54F or so)
sleep 30 minutes. (near Duluth, MN)

I saw dozens upon dozens of deer, some on the road, some running right in front of me! I hit none. No performance awards, no tip-overs or accidents whatsoever.

Total riding miles were well over 3000 kilometers as I had to ride over 6 hours just to get to the starting point of Sault St. Marie Michigan.

Left London Saturday morning at 10PM, got witness forms signed by Michigan State Patrol in S S Marie at 4:30. End witness form signed at 1:45 on Sunday afternoon. Also, got another 30 minutes sleep on the way back home Sunday afternoon under the bright sun on a comfortable cement picnic table.

Some interesting information on Lake Superior can be seen on the Lake Superior Magazine Web Site.

Information on the Iron Butt Association can be obtained on their web site.

Ride Report for Lake Superior Saddlesore 1000 April 24, 1999.

I left London city limits at approximately 10AM Saturday morning. Weather was sunny but cold. Had on the full Gerbing electric suit set at a low setting. The summer construction season was in full swing in south western Ontario, and the 402 from London to Sarnia was down to one lane in each direction. Consequently, it was fairly slow going.

I successfully crossed the border without incident into Port Huron.

The ride up through Michigan on I-75 was pure interstate: long, straight, and boring. As I rode north, I was anticipating riding over the Mackinac Bridge. After reading of Ron Ayres' passage over the bridge in his book on the 1997 Iron Butt Rally, and others' talk of it locally, I developed a healthy interest and respect for the bridge before even seeing it for myself. I was expecting a long and high bridge.

But the main point of interest about the bridge is the metal grating center lanes, separated by a slight raised section in the grating which separates opposing lanes of traffic. The openness of the bridge's location spanning the border of Lakes Huron and Michigan allows wicked winds to rip across it, blowing those exposed along it's unprotected surface toward either the guardrail or the center section of questionable traction.

My passage over it for the first time was totally uneventful. I rode on the center grated section all the way across. I noted how the weaving of the bike on it's widely spaced and rusty metal grates made the bike feel like it is skimming on the water itself! And looking down, way down to the water only amplified the effect.

For those of you who enjoy the sight of looking down below your motorcycle to the churning waters below, it is also available at the Prescott, ON/Ogdensburg, NY border crossing southwest of Montreal. I took this bridge while returning from NESTOC in June of 1998.

While on the Mackinac, I removed one of my Gerbing gloves and allowed it to dangle free by the electrical connection. This is an unexpected benefit of electric gloves: you no longer have to search for a secure place to stow a glove while underway, just let the thing go. I removed my camera from the spot I had stored it just prior to entering the bridge, and proceeded to snap a few pictures. I figured the camera would focus on the metal grating but was pleasantly surprised when the water below showed up perfectly in the developed pictures.

When riding down off the bridge, I wondered what all the hoopla was about. More interstate brought me to my intended destination, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. I stowed my headset AM/FM radio, no such pleasures on the trip to come, this was serious business. Went into the Burger King and ordered a Chicken sandwich combo, jeez I like those things.

I asked the attendant who served me, a very fresh-faced and inexperienced looking youth, where the nearest police station was. He proceeded to give me a series of convoluted directions to the police station, then said "oops I think that's the back door and you can't park there." WHATEVER.

I continued eating and made a few calls on the cell at the same time. On the video screen, I learned that snow had forced the investigators in Littleton inside after the previous Tuesday's shooting. Horrible scene it was out there in Colorado. I got on the bike not looking forward to heading into the downtown core and the inevitable traffic which accompanies it. Who says downtowns are dying???

My sharp rallyist's eye then spotted the Michigan State Police station just a few hundred feet from the Burger King! I shook my head at the thought of buddy in the restaurant telling me to go downtown to the nearest police. This was perfect, about a hundred yards from the Interstate onramp and located right next to an Amoco, Mobil and Shell stations. For one on a Saddlesore, it doesn't get much better than that!

Inside, I was greeted by Sergeant Hopper and rattle off my standard spiel when groveling for a witness signature. I carry printed copies of one of the pages from the Iron Butt website and always hand one to my witness to keep. I wrote my name on it and told him to search the web site. It just so happens they had web access right in the station.

Thinking back, giving a MSP officer access to the rally schedule and a list of names was not such a good idea. In fact, he may actually read these words one day if this gets posted to the IBA web site! But he was a really nice guy so I guess it's OK! Besides, I am comforted by the emphasis the IBA places on safety, And this shows on their web site.

He followed me out to the waiting ST. I showed him my license plate (it's on the form) and my odometer reading (it's on the form also) and he readily signed and shook my hand in a good luck gesture. From my preparations, I told him to expect me back at about 2PM Sunday. Present time was 4:30 PM.

I headed to the gas station and of course forget to ask for a printed receipt. I realized this after I was rolling down the road to the interstate and stopped at the next gas station which was right on the way and topped up with a big .10 in gas for the receipt. It had been much too long since I've collected receipts, I told myself to quickly get back into the habit. After verifying location, date and time, I wrote my mileage on the back and stowed it in the tankbag.

I saddled up and headed south on I-75 the short distance to Rt. 28. This road would be my friend for a long run as I headed west for the start of my clockwise circle of Superior. I had never seen Lake Superior before, and I got my first glimpse of this magnificent lake at Munising. I felt the temps drop noticeably as I approached town and the water. The view of the open waters of the lake however, was blocked by the presence of Grand Island.

A short while later, I saw the open water with a faint hint of land on the other side. I sat there, awed by the sight of it. There it was, Gitche Gumi. Strains of Gordon Lightfoot's Wreck Of the Edmund Fitzgerald rose to the vocal cords. This song followed me around the lake, echoing in my mind at particularly breathtaking overlooks. It was noticeably colder and I dialed in a bit more juice on my Gerbing heated suit.

Sundown near the lake.

I left the water behind at Marquette and the air warmed again despite the setting sun. I soon encountered every motorcylist's nighttime waking nightmare: The Deer. It wasn't long before I began noticing them everywhere. Maintaining a speed of 80kph (50mph) was all I dared, for they were in the woods, in the ditches, on the shoulders and indeed right on the road.

At one point after I crossed into Wisconsin, there were two on the shoulder on my side as I approached. I let off the throttle and slowed quickly. One decided he didn't like it there and bolted. Of course he ran not to easy refuge adjacent to him but right across the road in my path. I was still 150 ft away or so and in no danger. But his friend stayed a while until he too decided this was no place to be and joined his partner on the wrong side of the road.

I was much closer to them but also slower and a single finger on the brake handle slowed me to a crawl. He passed within 20 feet in front of me. This would turn out to be my closest encounter with deer. My 100W driving lights and the ST's snarling decelerating engine were usually enough to scare them into running away.

Nothing stopping those trucks, however. They blasted by at well over the limit, safe in their cage and the knowledge of what that big slab of a bumper would do to any animal unlucky enough to cross their path. Made me wish I had brought my CB with me. Alas, my forthcoming audio work was awaiting the arrival of my new Nolan N100.

I pulled into Duluth, MN feeling very awake and alert and 12 Midnight local time. I tried the Amoco and not one pump seemed to work, I went inside and inquired whether they were pre-pay. Nope. Just my bad luck. She said they should work but I couldn't get them to. It was Saturday night and the pedestrian traffic into this store slowed my progress as I waited in line to talk to the attendant.

After a fruitless third try at a pump, I gave up and headed down the street. Way too much time lost there. I got to the next station just before he closed and got that all-important Duluth receipt. Yup, there it was in black and white. I took the opportunity to make another call and ingest some of my trusted travel nutrients. As I was ready to mount my steed, I noticed the receipt on the ground underneath. Oh my god, I left it on top of the tank bag when I went in to use the bathroom. If it had been a windy day, I would have been in search of another gas station. Whew, almost pulled an Ayres there. Ron Ayres, author of the book "Against The Wind," wrote in that book of losing important paperwork during the Iron Butt Rally.

I safely stowed it and resumed my quest for more of Superior. This leg was interesting. To my left, the lights of various towns and resorts were visible. To my right the inky blackness of the lake. It was there that I obtained my only sleep during the Saddlesore, 30 minutes of slumber at Tettegouche State Park/Baptism River Rest Area. Remembering waking up to chattering teeth on some previous cold weather rides, I had brought along a 7Ah gel cell battery with a Gerbing two-prong plug attached. I dug this out of my tank bag and plugged in my suit. I set it on about 1/3 and laid down on the ground for a snooze. I woke up very warm and rested, feeling invigorated.

Hours later as I approached the Canadian border, I worked on my next border-guard story. This one would be more tricky, how many motorcycles cross through into Canada on the northern shores of Superior on a Sunday morning in early April? I was probably his first this year. Weeks earlier, I was told by a toll operator that I was the first motorcycle over Cobiquid Pass in the interior of Nova Scotia.

My story ended up something like: "Just finishing up some touring of the great lakes region and I am on my way back to London." This worked like a charm and I was wished well on my return.

I pulled into an Esso in Thunder Bay as the dawn approached. I gassed up and headed in to pay and pick up a snack. The gas attendant, surprised to see a motorcycle out at this early hour, asked me if I was cold. A question I get asked quite often. I lapsed into the old "nope, I'm packin' heat" explanation. I avoid this terminology while talking to my police witnesses for obvious reasons.

He asked me where I was going and I explained it to him while looking over the candy bar rack. As I placed a Crispy Crunch on the counter, he said that the bar was on him, because he just couldn't believe anyone would do what I was doing! Well thank you very much! I asked him how far it was to Sault Ste. Marie. His response of 12 hours was WAAAAY off the mark. NEVER ask a kid at a restaurant or gas bar for directions or any sort of critical information.

I knew from my constant map consultations that SSM was only about 8 hours away. At 12 hours, I would be over the 24 hour mark. I thanked him again for the bar, left and stowed the receipt. Mounted up again, I moved on.

The next 8 hours were filled with some of the most incredible scenery I had ever laid eyes upon. The region on the northern shores of Superior is mountainous and utterly beautiful. The roads are pure motorcycling ecstasy. Twisty, turny, rising, falling, you get the picture. Very entertaining.

Somewhere north of Superior.

I stopped in Marathon, a fitting stop I figured, and gassed up. And again, realized I had forgotten to ask for a receipt when about 3 kilometers down the road. I contemplated turning around and risking wasting all that time only to discover they couldn't print me a receipt, so I again stopped at the next station a few kilometers hence. I topped up my tank and got a receipt. I made a log entry about the whole ugly incident and carried on. The fine scenery soon made me forget about that and my mood was quite positive.

I pulled into Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario at about 1PM and followed a convoluted path of signs to the bridge to the US. My next border story: Just visiting a friend is SSM and heading home to London. The border guard asked me if I was making any stops in the US on the way, and I uttered an outright lie and said NO. What would he say if I told him I was going to the Michigan State Police Station in SSM, MI? Probably something like "please pull over into the inspection station" no doubt. No thanks, I think I'll pass.

I gassed up and headed to the aforementioned police station. Time was 1:30, a half hour ahead of schedule! Witness form signed and pictures taken, we shook hands and I was again on my way. I grabbed more grub this time at Wendy's (man, this exit had it all!) and got back on the road south.

At that point, I found out why motorcyclists are stressed about a crossing of the Mackinac Bridge. The wind was blowing from the west at a very brisk pace, forcing a steady lean angle just to stay pointed directly ahead. I rode in the high traction paved lane on the outside, continually envisioning the scene should I stray onto the grated center lanes. The thought of me and my mount scraping our way across the surface of the bridge, metal clawing away at plastic panels and cordura nylon was not pleasant. The occasional gust upset my path , sending my heart into my throat as I inched towards the grates and certain doom. Crazily, I snapped a few pictures with the camera just for good measure, which don't turn out anyway. I came off that bridge in one piece, wiser, and with a healthier respect for the structure.

North of Saginaw, I obtained another 30 minutes of needed sleep on a comfortable cement picnic table at a busy rest stop. The picnic table and my parking spot were away from the main body of traffic, ideal for a stay in the Iron Butt Motel.

It continually amazed me how many billboards were visible on the side of Interstate 75. Approaching Saginaw, I knew the location of every Honda dealer, antique dealer, and motel in the city. I think they fit the entire Yellow Pages onto all the signs on the side of the road. South of Saginaw, I saw a chilling advertisement on a billboard. Mere days after Denver shooting, reading "Guns, Guns Guns" on a billboard made the hair stand up on the back of my neck, and it wasn't caused by the warming air. Then I saw this HUGE gun the same length as the tractor trailer it sat on the side of the road.

My last border story of the day: Just returning from seeing a friend in SSM, Ontario, and I was once again in Canada. It was evening and I was looking forward to bed.

I pulled in at around 10PM and fell into bed. It would be an early bell in the morning: 5:30AM.

My wrist and my (Iron) butt were a bit sore at the end. It had been a while since packing on that kind of serious miles all at once. Butt it sure felt good to be back in the saddle!

Mar 11, 2009

Cross Canada - Stats From My 2001 Record Ride

RIDE LOG Trans Canada 75

Thane Silliker 1998 Honda ST1100

July 3/018:45AM ADTHalifax PD175693 kmsign witness form
July 3/019:09AM ADTHalifax, NS175695 kmstart receipt
July 3/0110:27AM ADTGreat Village, NS175827 kmCobequid Pass toll
July 3/011:47PM ADTPokiok, NB176217 kmgas
July 3/015:20PM EDTSte Foy, QC176743 kmgas
July 3/018:21PM EDTSt Jovite, QC177099 kmgas, add heated liner
July 3/0110:45PM EDTLac Gatineau, QC177302 kmsleep 15min
July 4/012:23AM EDTRouyn Noranda, QC177605 kmgas, sleep 20min
July 4/015:10AM EDTCochrane, ON177888 kmsleep 10min
July 4/018:28AM EDTKlotz Lake, ON178224 kmgas, did not fill ($0.93/L!) *
July 4/019:01 AM EDTLonglac, ON178271 kmgas, phone, personal needs 45 min **
July 4/0112:19PM EDTThunder Bay, ON178571 kmgas
July 4/012:45PM CDTBorrup's Corners, ON178826 kmsleep 20min
July 4/014:14PM CDTKenora, ON179057 kmgas
July 4/018:38PM CDTVirden, MB179571 kmgas
July 5/0112:00AM MDTMoose Jaw, SK179931 kmsleep 15min
July 5/011:20AM MDTMorse, SK180037 KMsleep 40min
July 5/012:46AM MDTSwift Current, SK180108 kmgas
July 5/015:10AM MDTRosemary, AB180466 kmsleep 20min
July 5/016:57AM MDTCalgary, AB180626 kmgas
July 5/0110:34AM PDTRevelstoke, BC181038 kmgas
July 5/012:43PM PDTCoquihalla Summit, BC181398 kmtoll receipt
July 5/015:00PM PDTVancouver PD181604 kmwitness form

* Klotz Lake fishing camp is 45 km east of Longlac, ON. I almost ran out of gas, couldn't make Longlac.
** The only time I removed my helmet from Halifax to Vancouver!

Total elapsed time 65h 02m 59h 51m
Gas stops 2113
Bathroom stops212
Helmet removedthree timesonce
Average Speed 89.5km/h99.9km/h

Additions for 2001 record.
  • Auxiliary fuel cell
  • catheter
  • Valentine radar locator
  • all food for entire trip consumed while riding from tail pack on rear seat
In 1999, all food was consumed while riding, but from tank bag a bit at a time. This required moving food in steps from tail trunk to tank bag and throwing out garbage while stopped for gas.

This time-consuming step was eliminated by having all food available right behind me for 2001, with a spare pocket for garbage. Route was slightly shorter in 2001.

The day before starting my ride.

My starting receipt.
I used the very same pump I finished my record with in 1999.

Taken during my record ride.

The only visible part of my 'system.'

Less than 60 hours later, getting my finishing form signed in Vancouver

Mar 10, 2009

Dover In December - Port Dover Friday December 13th 2002

There's not much anyone can write that's not been written about Friday the 13th at Port Dover. Everyone probably knows by now that it was started in 1981 by Chris Simons and 25 of his closest friends, and has ballooned into the largest gathering of motorcyclists in Canada.

But if you're like me, you probably find those huge gatherings somewhat boring, too many poseurs, preeners, and trailer queens. On the other hand, a cold-weather 13th almost guarantees a higher loony ratio. These folks are more likely to be interested in riding, and the performance of an act which would differentiate them from the crowd, and less likely to care about what their bike looks like. In other words, my kinda people! To mesh with these folks and find out the real story, driving a car down was not an option. I would need to be on two wheels to have the cred with this crowd of hard-core cold riders. I'm also not one to make things easy on myself, so I decided to decorate my Honda ST1100 with Christmas (can we still say that in public?) lights.

My day started out on Ancaster, in my friend Mike's garage where I've been keeping my ST lately. Leaving with a local Gold Wing rider, we picked our way through piles of salt and dirt onto highway 6. Pulling onto this road back in September, I had to wait for a kilometer long string of bikes to pass by before pulling in behind them. Today, not one single bike is visible. It was going to be a slow day at the office I thought.

As we approached the bridge over the frozen Grand River, I noticed there was no sign reading “Bridge Freezes before Road,” but there was a sign saying “No Diving from Bridge Surface.” I was hoping this particular bridge was exempt from the former, as I certainly didn't want to do the latter.

Parking right on the main drag in Port Dover was not a problem, as opposed to the warm September 13th where thousands upon thousands of motorcycles clogged every inch of available soil. I decided to park at the Tim Hortons, with my string of lights lit up by the marine battery strapped to the back seat. Coffee in cold hands, I set out to walk the strip.

I didn't expect to see any open air beer gardens, but there were quite a few vendors. The Hells Angels were back with their booth. They had the biker gang market sewn up, the Outlaws club being wounded by recent and well-publicized busts. The one percenters were not the focus of the story this time, though.

Those who did ride were noticeably proud of their deeds. The festive mood carried over into their dress as well. Many were sporting Santa hats, reindeer antlers, and the t-shirt of choice read “Where's The Heat” in a chilly snow-covered font.

Interesting were two “municipal enforcement officers” walking a beat. These two older ladies were not carrying guns, but did have another lethal weapon with them, at least for those hawking goods. They carried binders with various Haldimand-Norfolk county bylaws inside, and weren't afraid to draw them and aim at any unlicensed seller. Peeking over the shoulder of one, I read the title of the page she had open, which read: “Peddlers Licensure - Haldimand Norfolk County.” I listened in as they asked a man selling souvenirs from the back of his pickup to produce his license. Of course he had none, but asked how much they were. Five hundred dollars annually was the answer. After being asked to leave, he packed up his things and drove off. Seems they are trying to put Friday the 13th out of business, one vendor at a time.

Back amongst the milling motorcyclists, I felt almost guilty (almost) about having ridden there behind a fully faired motorcycle wearing a heated jacket and gloves. Surprising was the percentage of bikes with no windshield or weather protection of any sort, their riders suffering with open face helmets, protected by sometimes as little as a kerchief over their faces.

As expected, the restaurants were busy, as folks attempted to warm themselves after their cold ride in. However, just as many were gathered outside in pockets. As they talked, steam escaped from their own internal vertical twins, mirroring the steamy exhausts of the v-twin double lungers rumbling by up and down the main drag.

According to constable Mark Foster, Community Services Officer for the Haldimand-Norfolk detachment of the O.P.P., between 200 and 300 motorcycles arrived, with many more people coming by some other means. Wusses! He reported no altercations, nor frostbite or other injuries.

Late afternoon as the sky darkened, people gradually began to leave, no doubt worried about traction as the temperature started to fall. Crowds would form sporadically, watching to see if the latest guy to weave down the street on his blatting Harley, goosing the throttle, was going to dump it.

Now that the light was more favourable to view my own spectacle, I decided it was an ideal time to cruise up and down the main street a few times. Reaction was positive to the string of lights I had mounted. On my way out of town, the inevitable spot check kept traffic to a crawl, and the O.P.P. were handing out MacDonalds gift certificates to motorists prior to being waved on! Provincial budget cuts produce strange bedfellows indeed. What's next, can we expect little ads for Tim Hortons on the cars, or perhaps the location of every outlet in the province printed on the back of your speeding ticket?

Overall, for those riders who made it, a sense of accomplishment reigned, of victory over the elements. Kudos to two riders especially. Two fellows by the name of Bob and Don came in from Kentucky and Ohio for the event!

Don't expect easy parking or parkas at the next celebration of two wheels in Port Dover. It's taking place in June, 2003. See you there, with bells on!

No, these weren't
taken in December.

These were taken on
Friday the 13th in
September 2002 by
Mark Bowman.

Just a teaser of
what you may find
next June.

Mar 9, 2009

2001 Iron Butt Rally - A Look From The Rookie's Seat

Climbing out from under my bike and surveying the scene, my thoughts turned to Madison, Alabama. Lowsiding into a guardrail is not something that would normally make a person think of the small suburb of Huntsville in northern Alabama. But I did. The start of the Iron Butt Rally was exactly a month away, and there I was with my rally mount wedged into the Ohio dirt on a drizzly Sunday morning.

On that oily, slimy I65 off-ramp north of Columbus, motorists quickly pulled over to help me extricate the bike and right it. I was still wearing my helmet, sunglasses, and gloves as I shook hands all around in thanks. Damage was mostly cosmetic, which is never cheap. Most troubling was the left saddlebag and the right-hand mirror. The left saddlebag was shattered from making contact with the guardrail. The right hand-mirror was also smashed, but worse yet, its supporting framework was bent back several inches. The light socket was also MIA, its wires pulled out and dangling haphazardly.

I wondered then about my participation in the rally. I had a last minute spot offered to me in 1999, but was not able to take it. I decided that I didn’t want to miss this one too. Some applicants wishing to ride the Iron Butt Rally never do, the waiting list usually runs into the hundreds.

I replaced the bag with a used one of a different colour, bought from a member of the ST1100 mailing list. The mirror I replaced with one I had ordered and waiting at a Huntsville Honda dealer. The rest of the damage stayed.

I’ve ridden many organized endurance rallies, and have a few other big rides under my belt, but finding myself in Alabama a month later, this felt different. The mystique behind this event is quite daunting to a newbie competitor like myself. I was ready, but who knows what lies beyond that wall. Out there past seven or eight days would be new territory for me.

Rightly so, my priorities were first to stay safe, then to finish, followed closely by finishing well. Successful winners of this event in the past have mixed and matched those priorities in various orders. Indeed to win, one must be willing to hang it way out there on the edge. What it is hanging out there depends on that competitor’s appetite for risk and how bad he or she wants to win.

My wedding day was two weeks after the finish, so I had good reason to stay healthy.

I stuck to my plan, but no plan is perfect. No one has full control of one’s surroundings. Over 11 days and 17 or 18 thousand kilometers, almost anything can happen. Lest you misinterpret, I’ll state up front that I finished, and finished well. I experienced no accidents; not even a single tipover.

Fortunately for me, the events which may have impeded or even sidelined me were equalized by a few of amazing serendipity. For instance, the odds of getting struck by lightning are incredibly remote, but I came close to it. Or rather it came close to me! On the first leg, in the middle of the night somewhere in New Mexico, a massive explosion occurred at the base of a white column of searing white light in the ditch a hundred feet or so to my right. That made me think. It made me think about the full fuel cell inches from my butt, and of the tall CB antenna whip wired into speakers on either side of my ears, and eventually through the electrical system to two electrodes I had my hands wrapped around – better known as grip heaters.

Even before that, I had managed to forget to re-apply the fuel cap of the fuel cell at a fuel stop. I discovered this fact somewhere in Texas, and managed to scrounge a few rubber gloves to stretch over the fill neck. After two days of asking, I did eventually find a replacement at a gas station in California.

Hours before the first checkpoint in Pomona, California, my wheel bearings began to fail. I still needed to ride through the morning LA freeway miasma to get there. A ride wrecker? Nope. I was carrying spares, and the checkpoint was a BMW dealer. The next roadblock: they wouldn’t work on my Honda ST1100. Down the road I go to the nearest Honda dealer who agreed to shuffle the schedule to accommodate me. While there, I just happened to meet a member of the Edmonton police force that I knew from my regular participation in the Alberta 2000. He gave me his hotel room to sleep while the bike was being worked on.

All of this occurred in the first two days of the rally!

Days later I decided to go for big points by taking a detour up to the Alaskan panhandle between the Washington state checkpoint and Maine. I once more question my participation in the rally as I spend hours attempting to negotiate a twisty and rigorous mountain pass on my way to Hyder, Alaska. It wasn’t just the monsoon-like rain. The proverbial pea soup fog and bears running out in front of the bike had also taxed my ability to cope. Of course this all occurred after more than five solid days on the road.

Once in Hyder, I merely had to ride around the rain-filled potholes the size and possible depth of Superior, take a Polaroid of a sign, then stash it all and make for Maine. Did I mention the driving rain?

Again, I benefited from the providence or just plain luck of a fortuitous happenstance. At the start of the rally, a fellow competitor gave his beaded seat cover to me. It changed the ergonomics of his riding position to an uncomfortable degree. I would never recommend making any kind of change to your gear this close to a big ride. But for some reason, I took him up on his offer. I am glad I did, too! Those beads kept my rear from soaking on a wet seat, and for the first time ever, I stayed dry during a long ride in the rain. And boy were they comfortable, possibly due to the air circulation they permit.

Crossing the continent, I used the same route I had used earlier in the year setting a record of 59 hours and 45 minutes across Canada. Fatigue would slow me from that pace, but I at least managed to ride past that evil rest stop where I had broken down in July. As if sensing the proximity to this place, it was right around then that I sensed the bike running rough. This slight vibration persisted for the remainder of the rally. I surmised that it was because I was overdue for a valve clearance check and carburetor synch.

It turned very cold in northern Ontario and Quebec. No amount of luck could allow a rider to continue on through that. My heated clothing allowed me to ride on, and I slept inside truck stops in the driver lounge instead of outside on picnic tables.

Along this stretch, I linked up with another rider. Our differing riding styles caused some friction, but as luck would have it, his headlight blew and I had a spare to give him. Later on and not paying particular attention, we became separated. This was just as well as I had reached my wall in Quebec, and I needed to stop and sleep for several hours. We ended up crossing paths again later on, however.

At the Maine checkpoint, I was in the top twenty. But there were many riders going to northern Alaska who as yet had few or no points tallied. I knew I would drop down many places once everyone was counted, back at the finish. Feeling quite fatigued, I collected few bonus points between Maine and the finish two days later back in Madison.

Going to Hyder was worth enough points to give me a gold medal, an extremely satisfactory result for any rider, let alone a newbie. All this was good for 32nd place, again very good in this competitive field. I forfeited a top spot in this rally by choosing not to go to Prudhoe Bay in northern Alaska. This decision was driven by my desire to not beat up on the bike, and a wish to have a standard checkpoint to checkpoint rally experience. Seeing the bikes that had been in the far north only confirmed for me I had made the right decision. These bikes displayed varying degrees of trauma. Most had massive fairing damage and some had even boiled over due to radiators plugged with mud.

As expected, the top riders did pull out all the stops. Bob Hall won after riding to Prudhoe Bay from the Washington checkpoint. George Barnes wasn’t so lucky. That same desire to ride near the edge that garnered him a rally win in 1999, caused him to overstretch while riding a similar route to Bob Hall and he time-barred at the finish.

Knowing where that line is so that one may ride as near it as possible is the mark of a successful competitor. I can say that I know much more about the limits of my own performance envelope than I did before the Iron Butt Rally. What that means for the next one, only time will tell.

The vibration turned out to be a failing U-joint. It eventually seized the rear end in the spring of the following year, causing damage to the swingarm. Fortunately, it didn't cause me to have an accident or even dump the bike. It happened at about 80 km/h about an hour from my home. It was a scary experience.

Mar 1, 2009

2000 Blackfly Endurance Rally

North Bay, Ontario, Canada August 11-13 2000
Organized by Iron Butt Rally veteran Peter Hoogeveen

Lots of changes in format for this year. The biggest: Radisson, PQ, (BBG mileage - 2500 km) was worth WAAAY less than in 1998. 1400 pts. instead of 4000. None of the top 10 finishers went to Radisson. In fact, I don't believe any of the top 20 finishers went there!

The biggest points were garnered from going around and collecting pictures of Jehovah Witness Halls (P.H.'s twisted sense of humour evident here). These were the auxiliary bonus points listed on a separate sheet from the main list of bonuses. Points awarded were worth successively more for each additional J.W. pic returned.

Rallymaster Peter Hoogeveen

Did I work from the J.W. pic bonus sheet? "No." Can I tell you why not? "No." I went from the Ontario list of bonuses. (SS1000 mileage - 1600 km, hence the name of the rally) I think I just decided that it seemed lucrative enough, and didn't spend the extra time needed to calculate and map out the potential list of J.W. Hall locations. I get an extreme case of ants-in-the-pants when I am facing a big ride, and simply mapped out the standard list of bonuses and started riding.

A more thoughtful approach would have been to examine ALL the possibilities before leaving. John Laurenson of Fla. and Dennis Kesseler of Maine spent almost two hours doing this to my 45 minutes and placed many positions higher.

I put in 2250 kms and placed 19th out of over 40 riders. Several people in the top 10 put in less that 2000 km. I did not make a note of the two guys who tied for first place. They went above and beyond the call of duty by asking several J.W. members where all the Halls were and taking pictures of many more than were listed on the route sheet. This was specifically allowed for in the rules.

Most of the alumni from the 1998 event returned for 2000. Mark Daub, the insane rider of an FJ1200 who placed first in 1998, proved that was no accident as he placed second this year. This earned him a special place in the heart of our perennial second-place rallymaster. A Harley rider placed third.

Mark Daub

The dinner was catered and was spectacular. Each of us stood and spoke breifly of our impressions and highlights from the event. It was highly entertaining. We all had different experiences in the same event, and many overcame difficulties to finish.

Including John Laurenson. He had a flat rear tire moments before arriving for tech check in and needed a new tire installed. He had brought along a new tire as he wasn't sure his rear would make it all the way. There was speculation as to whether this new tire contributed to his spill during the event. John low-sided on a turn near Sault Ste. Marie and did damage on the right side of his new-to-him Yamaha GTS1000. John had minor scrapes on his hands as he was involved with taking in nutrients at the time. Otherwise, he was unhurt.

I struck a very large bird while doing about 140 km/h. It cracked my Ventura light guard in several places, sacrificing itself to protect my headlight as it is designed to do. Fortunately, I traded the Aerostich Evap-O-Danna won as a door prize (I already own one!) for a coupon for a new light guard another fellow won! Serendipity!

Before starting the rally, I decided to tackle a coolant leak I had been worried about. Right after tech check-in and odometer synchronization was complete on Friday, I tore my bike down in search of the leak which had up to that point eluded me for over a year. Two weeks prior in Arizona, it became more serious and would require attention soon, should I want to avoid serious trouble. I located the leak, two hose clamps on the thermostat housing were loose. I enlisted the help of a mechanic from North Bay Cycle who used a small ratchet to tighten the offending nuts. Leak fixed. Then, a quick storm cell moved through and soaked eveything before I had a chance to re-assemble the bike and it's contents. Naturally, once eveything was undercover and covered in a layer of sand, it passed and the sky was clear again. I re-filled the cooling system with silicate-free coolant I had carried with me from London and I was good to go.

Tear down tupperware - 1 hour, fix leak - 15 minutes.

Weather was great. Although rain did become part of the event for some. We started under a cloudless sky, and that was all that was in the forecast (for North Bay at least). However, those riding up north experienced cloudy skies from a system moving in from Manitoba and many (including me) were rained on, at times quite briskly. It was nothing but clear skies and warm temps at the finish line, however.

The Wawa Goose

Speaking of the finish line, this was changed this year from the hotel (where the scoring and festivities took place) to North Bay Cycle (where tech check in and start line were located). It was believed among many participants that I was responsible for this change after 1998s spectacular race to the finish mere seconds before the clock expired.

Another change made this year to ease people's speeding and panic close to the finish was to allow late finishes, but with penalties. These changes were welcomed by all. That didn't prevent a few from receiving tickets, despite Peter's repeated warning during the rider meeting that "this is not a race!" That was also repeated by the OPP officer who gave a talk to us at the start line, then rode off on his Harly Police special.

Speaking of the start line, we had a few notable writers in attendance at the rider meeting: Larry Tate of Inside Motorcycles, who was riding the event, and Max Burns of Cycle Canada, who was not. Larry was riding a BMW F650 test bike. I noted that he was not wearing one of the now-infamous BMW riding suits, but rather a Hi-Viz Aerostich.

All in all, a great event. No drinking goats, but plenty of UFOs, Jehovah Halls, dead end roads, nickel and dime roadside attractions, and of course - BLACKFLIES!

This rally is now known as the Northern Exposure Rally.