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Thread: Transcontinental ride (July 1, 2011)

  1. #21
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    Day 20

    Minneapolis, Minnesota to Nipigon, Ontario

    Barnum, Minnesota. Just a pit stop, but people are nice and the ice cream refreshing. 35 in the shade is still hot, but quite bearable compared to yesterday. I'd still love a dip in a river/lake though. Should cool down once I get to the shores of Lake Superior (soon).

    After Duluth, a pleasant ride hugging the North shore of Lake Superior.







    State parks, rest areas, rivers, resorts, cliffs, waterfalls, beaches. Many places to see and enjoy. Unfortunately all state run facilities are closed due to a pissing contest about the state budget in Minnesota legislature . For the first time in days the temperature dipped below 30. Refreshing indeed, even chilly at times.

    Stop at Gunnar's place in Grand Marais for a Philly Steak Sandwich. Will be in Canada soon.
    As I entered Canada (no hassle at the border, a pleasant chat with the guard actually) I was greeted with familiar sights. First, a sign for Eastern Time Zone - no more guesswork what time it is. Then, Canada geese, in a strange formation by the road, like they are waiting in line to cross the border . Next, a quick succession of road signs telling me how anal this country is and how bad they are going to ***k me if I do such heinous acts as speeding 50 over, even before I ever stand in front of a judge (no mention of additional, prolonged and heavy fornication by the insurance companies). No cell phones, no riding without the DOT approved helmet (the fact that Department Of Transportation is US does not bother anyone), no pit-bull terriers, no ****! Anyway, I'm glad to be back!

    Suzy B was long overdue for an oil/filter change so she got a quick guerrilla-style transfusion in the Thunder Bay Canadian Tire parking lot. I'm getting good at this, it took me less than half an hour, including buying oil/filter/pan/wrench. I left them the $4 oil drain pan as a token of my appreciation for not chasing me out of the lot. A police cruiser was parked near by and later passed by me like I wasn't there. I guess with Ontario plates no one knows that I'm not local.



    just as I was entering Nipigon for the night the locals at the gas station inform me about the severe thunderstorm and tornado warning for the area. The rain has just started and my motel is just a couple of kilometers away, so I consider myself lucky to avoid it. No luck though, still got soaked by the time I entered my room. I hope it will stop by the morning, but it's raining cats and dogs now.



    Total distance traveled: 634Km
    Moving average speed: 98Km/h
    Time on the move: 06:29



    Last edited by Vlad; 08-06-2011 at 12:18 PM.

  2. #22
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    Day 21

    Nipigon, Ontario to Toronto, Ontario

    The motel owner woke me up in the middle of the night and scared the **** out of me. He's lucky I didn't bear-spray him because he yanked at my doorknob without even bothering to knock or say anything. Apparently moron gave me the wrong room. What an idiot! I'm getting ready to give him a piece of my mind as I check out. Northland Motel in Nipigon, just in case you come this way...

    The weather looks terrible through the window but the forecast is good everywhere on my route to Toronto. Getting ready to roll ASAP.

    CORRECTION: The idiot was me. I thought I was getting room 106 while the key and my bill clearly stated 108. To my defense, I was tired and soaking wet and the marking on the key wasn't very clear to read in the rain at night. I managed to open the room with the wrong key because it was left unlocked for late guests. I apologized to the manager and thanked goodness I didn't bear-spray him (blush).

    Sunny start, but then...


    Forecast my *ss! Thick fog, drizzle and rain at 15 degrees all the way to Marathon, and it doesn't seem to be letting up. Determined to sleep in my own bed tonight no matter what. The gas station attendant doesn't believe me when I say I'll be in Toronto tonight (~1300Km). He says "How are you going to get that far when you can't see farther than that lamp post?". Frankly, I'm not sure either.



    Lunch in D&W in White River. Weather is clearing and warming up, thank FSM.



    Blind River. Food and fuel. It's getting damn hot again and I wear silk longjohns over
    bicycle shorts, under Carhartts double front dungarees . Too lazy to strip now, but may have to do it later.





    The road got somewhat less interesting after Sault Ste. Marie and turned into the relatively boring highway after Sudbury. Kept rolling until I almost ran out of gas at 340km on the tank and just 150Km from Toronto. Fortunately found the gas station on time, but was running on fumes. Planning gas stops can sometimes be such a challenge...

    Home at last around 23:00, after 15.5 hours on the road.

    Total distance traveled: 1291Km
    Moving average speed: 103Km/h
    Time on the move: 12:34
    Last edited by Vlad; 08-06-2011 at 01:54 PM.

  3. #23
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    Epilogue

    The GPS says 15,035Km for the entire trip, and what a trip it was!

    I've ridden so many beautiful roads and seen so many wonderful places in these three weeks that I feel I already forgot half of them. The impressions and experiences kept piling up in such a short order and so intensely that it was sometimes hard to remember all that happened on the same day. To paraphrase the late great Burt Munro, I lived more in these three weeks than most people do in a lifetime.

    Go West my boy, go West!


    Many people asked me what was the best place I visited, the best road I've ridden, etc. Such a ranking would be meaningless and inevitably faulty, but let's just say that 90% of the best roads I've ever ridden and the most beautiful places I've ever seen were all packed in these 15,000km. There lied my biggest challenge and the hardest part - deciding whether to soak up the scenery or enjoy a spirited ride. Doing both at the same time would likely be deadly and there was no time to take all those wonderful roads twice .

    Even the worst, like the terrible heat I endured for hundreds of kilometers over several days (more than five over 40, two over 45), was the experience I will cherish and remember for the rest of my life. Ditto with shaking like a leaf at 9 degrees and rain for 400Km through Canadian Rockies. All part of a wonderful experience.

    I came back home no worse for the wear, actually in much better physical and psychological shape than I was when I left. I lost over 5Kg (average of 250g a day), have no aches or pains and feel like my posture has improved, believe it or not. Sore butt was no issue at all, thanks likely to the Corbin seat. I only had a little discomfort behind my left shoulder blade, but that was taken care of by some stretching and warming cream my friend Paul gave me before the trip.

    The bike performed marvelously throughout the trip and never gave me even a hint of trouble. It ran flawlessly at all altitudes, from -85m to 2500m, at all temperatures, from 7 to 47 and all humidity levels, from 0% to 90%. I wore a chain that was already half-life and changed the oil twice, but that's just regular maintenance. The Shinko Raven 009 tires never gave me a slip and the rear lasted 16,000Km. At less than half the price of Michelin Pilot Road III this is the best price/performance ratio I've ever seen (my last MPRII rear lasted 18,000Km). Suzy B now has 130,000Km on the odometer and she has a few battle scars, but functions like a well made clock and doesn't show any sign of giving up. If I only hammers were that reliable...
    Last edited by Vlad; 08-06-2011 at 01:44 PM.

  4. #24
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    Lessons learned

    1. I can do and endure much, MUCH more than I ever dreamed of. My confidence took a huge boost. I found that the limiting factor in many cases is my bike - not me.

    2. Most miserable day on a bike beats the best day in a car any time. Folks in air conditioned cages have no idea what they are missing at 47 degrees.

    3. Extreme heat is bearable when humidity is low. I've established three temperature categories - up to 35, between 35 and 45 and above 45. As long as I'm moving and properly vented I'm fine up to 35 or so without any special measures. From 35 to 45 some extra help in the form of cooling vest or at least a cooling bandana may be necessary (they are too cold for temperatures lower than 35). Above 45 all bets are off and I have to rely on what my body tells me with regards of how much it can take. Drink a lot of cold water frequently and stop to rest more often than usual. Resist the urge to strip down to a T shirt - it doesn't help at all when the air temperature is higher than body temperature, plus you'll get sunburn. Dress up completely and close all vents except ones that provide air flow over the cooling vest (close them all if not wearing a cooling vest). In general, heavy and thick clothing is better than thin and light (socks are an excellent example). Absolutely no cotton underwear - use microfiber, Dupont CoolMax, etc. Wool should be good too, but I found no reason to experiment with it. Getting acclimatized, i.e. getting your body used to high heat over several days, goes a long way towards a comfortable and safe ride in extremely high temperatures.

    4. Tipping my head down in the rain does a much better job at removing water from my visor than turning my head left-right. It's also easier and safer.

    5. You can carry whatever you think you'll need on the bike. I didn't have to leave anything behind due to a lack of space. However, I didn't need and never even unpacked at least one fourth of the stuff I brought with me. For example, no matter how long the trip is it makes no sense to bring more than seven days worth of underwear. If it's a serious ride you won't be going to dinner parties and even if you do no one will expect you to dress up, so a pair of jeans, T shirts and comfortable light shoes you can ride in if need be are fine.

    6. Bring a full toolkit. You may think you won't need the wrench for your rear axle, but trust me, you'll be adjusting your chain at least once. The tools in the toolkit should be of highest quality, so feel free to throw away that junk that came with the bike.

    7. Bring the tire plug kit and compressor. You probably won't need them, but if you do you'll be very glad you bought them.

    8. Food. Don't carry anything that can't stand the pressure, heat or humidity or needs to be cooked or otherwise prepared. Power bars are a good idea. Even brown sugar in those little paper bags comes in very handy when the hunger hits you unexpectedly. Everything else you can buy in any supermarket or even at the gas station.

    9. Drink. Nothing beats ice cold water at 40 degrees. Gatorade is OK too, but don't pour it in your hydration pack. Stay away from anything with caffeine in it, like so called energy drinks and coffee. The goal is for your gas tank to limit your range, not your bladder. Beer has a similar effect, plus it's alcohol and it will make you thirsty, so leave it for the end of the day.

    10. Remember that you'll cover more distance in a couple of weeks than most people do in a year and plan regular maintenance accordingly.

    Spraying the chain once a day is not enough when the day is more than 1,000Km long, starts with a bike covered in morning dew and continues through a lot of dust and possibly rain as well. Chain maintenance is also a PITA when the bike is loaded with gear and you can't prop it on the center stand by yourself without taking one or both side cases off.

    Oil change intervals can be comfortably extended by at least 30%, but you'll still need to do it sometime. The less time you spend on it the better, so bring the essential tools and do it yourself wherever/whenever is most convenient. I have the oil filter adapter so good filters are easily available everywhere car parts are sold. I use car/diesel oil so that's even easier to acquire. I need no tools to drain the oil thanks to Fumoto valve. Drain pans are a few bucks a piece, so I just leave them at the scene of the crime. Funnels can be made from any piece of cardboard and I'm fine without them too. A roll of paper towels, rubber gloves and Bob's your uncle. If the filter won't come off by hand (very rare in my case since I only tighten them by hand), stick a screwdriver through it.
    Last edited by Vlad; 08-12-2011 at 10:57 PM.

  5. #25
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    Tidbits

    - Passed a truck carrying pieces of 410mm battleship guns. Didn't fully realize what they were until I saw the rifling. They were cut with a torch into approximately 3m long segments. They are so heavy that and only two of them were on the truck. I guess there's not a lot of use for 1,700 ton guns nowadays when much lighter and cheaper guiding missiles do a better job. Formidable weapons in their day, firing a 1.2 ton projectile 36 kilometers away - enough to bust through a 9m thick reinforced concrete wall. Here's a little video of them fired for the last time. I wish I was there...

    - I saw a chipmunk being run over by a car. Poor thing had no chance although the driver did his best to avoid it. At least it didn't suffer. It happened right in front of me with the car going in the opposite direction, like it was in slow motion.

    - Wildlife was strangely accustomed to people everywhere I went, from buffalo in Custer State Park in South Dakota to the buck in Canadian Rockies, to the mountain goat in the mountains of Oregon. Never had an animal run away from me in fear and thankfully never had one attack me either, even though those buffalo were scary close and all around me.

    - Desert can play tricks on you. Having little to no frame of reference, it's easy to misjudge one's speed and distance. Fortunately there's not usually a lot of traffic to worry about in those environments, or sharp corners, for that matter. Neither there are cops masochistic enough to man a speed trap in the middle of nowhere at 40+ degrees in the non-existing shade.

    - Plenty of those RV "road trains". Fuel is obviously dirt cheap if that many people can transverse this huge country in a full size bus, towing a full size SUV. Enjoy it while you can folks, you'll wake up from it soon enough.

    - On the flip side, a dozen or so of Fiat 500's in the middle of the Nevada desert. Just a fad or Americans are realizing that car's don't need to "haul ******" to be a viable mode of transport?

    - Speed limits throughout US states I visited were generally quite realistic, even generous. Most interstates have posted limits of 70-75mph, but I got in no trouble holding 130-140km/h speeds for extended periods, with occasional bursts up to 160. Secondary/regional roads are even better, with speed limits almost as high, sometimes higher than I was comfortable riding at. My impression was that the law enforcement does not target speeding specifically, unless it's really excessive and you do it in populated/congested areas. This is a huge and sparsely populated country with plenty of places to responsibly open up the throttle and I took advantage of that taking into account all risk factors.

    - Speaking of roads, they are all very well engineered and maintained. I haven't encountered a single serious road hazard, even on snow covered mountain passes or wind swept desert roads. Sand/gravel or other debris on the road is practically non-existent. All that made me feel much safer and more confident, adding greatly to the riding pleasure. Only two things I was weary of were before mentioned tar snakes and delaminated truck tires, but I haven't has a serious encounter with either (tar snakes are easy to spot if you look where you are going).
    Last edited by Vlad; 08-09-2011 at 12:23 PM.

  6. #26

    Re: Tidbits

    A W E S O M E !!!

    Thanks for sharing, Vlad.
    I hope to do this someday soon - likely a bit shorter version of the trip - but I'm def leaning towards sport-touring as the time (and mileage) goes by.

    What's next ?

  7. #27
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    Re: Tidbits

    Thanks, I thought it left everyone speechless . This was my first from many aspects, starting from riding alone for 2/3 of it. I just needed to summon the will to step out of my comfort zone. I found my comfort zone is much bigger than I thought and that was a huge confidence booster. I then kept looking for the limit of my endurance but was unable to reach it. The more I pushed myself, the more I could do and endure and the more I liked it. All that without ever being in a situation to seriously think I have bitten more than I could chew. I realized the catch is to always aim at least 20% higher than you think you can do. Baby steps are fine, but life is too short. Picking a general direction and going without having each day planned is the way to go. The best experiences were had during unexpected detours, delays and little mishaps.

    Next? Who knows? I've been thinking about an Iron Butt ride to James Bay...

  8. #28

    Re: Tidbits

    Quote Originally Posted by Vlad View Post
    Thanks, I thought it left everyone speechless .
    This Rides section is kinda quick hit... ask admins to move this to Touring or even Multimedia - it will get much better reception

  9. #29
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    Re: Tidbits

    Amsome trip man I would love to do something like this one day.Great pics
    Barrie and area riders.
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    Faster, faster, faster, until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death.

  10. #30

    Re: Tidbits

    Great adventure and awesome trip. Would love to do it one day!!!
    Thanks for sharing.
    ~~I rather be riding my bike & thinkin of GOD than sitting in Gurdwara thinkin of my bike!!

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  11. #31
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    Re: Tidbits

    Great thread, also read your blog. Love the photos. Makes me wanna pack up right now and go for a nice tour myself!

  12. #32
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    Re: Tidbits

    Quote Originally Posted by adv_round View Post
    This Rides section is kinda quick hit... ask admins to move this to Touring or even Multimedia - it will get much better reception
    Thanks for the idea. I was looking where to put it and nothing seemed to fit the bill, but I missed Cruising / Touring (probably because of the "Cruising" part ). I'm also planning to copy it all to sport-touring.net when I get a chance. It was a lot of work putting this report together, so why not showing it to as many people as possible.

    Quote Originally Posted by boooya View Post
    Amsome trip man I would love to do something like this one day.Great pics
    Thanks. Don't dream too much, just do it

    Quote Originally Posted by gAbRoO View Post
    Great adventure and awesome trip. Would love to do it one day!!!
    Thanks for sharing.
    You are all welcome, thank you for commenting.

    Quote Originally Posted by XTRAWLD View Post
    Great thread, also read your blog. Love the photos. Makes me wanna pack up right now and go for a nice tour myself!
    It's easier than most people think and easier than I thought it would be. It just takes the right mixture of preparation, "go get it" attitude and reckless abandon . One can't plan everything nor wait for all the stars to align. Just make sure your bike is in good condition and go. Once you are prepared to fail and OK with it everything just starts working in your favor. I was ready to park the bike and take the first flight home if push comes to shove. I'm glad it didn't happen, but I would be more ashamed if I didn't even try. Mishaps, if any, are just a part of the trip and I never let them get to me. The prematurely worn chain was the best thing that happened on this trip - if it wasn't for the day it cost me I would have never seen the awesome beauty of Crater Lake or experienced the overwhelming pleasure of riding the Rogue Umpqua. I would have never met Dave Blaze nor had a chance to spend a morning chatting and wrenching in his fine shop.

    The only bad motorcycle trip is the one that was never started.

  13. #33
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    Re: Tidbits

    Good work on the pictures. Brings a lot of memories of my own back, as I saw many of those sights on my '09 ride.
    I guess when it hit 35 or so on my trip, it was just a candle flame to your blast furnace though. Loved the snow.

  14. #34
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    Re: Tidbits

    Yup, move this to the touring and cruising section, I am not the writing guy but will try to do my write-up on my trip after Calgary.

  15. #35

    Re: Tidbits

    vlad - I have yet to read everything here - but am anxiously awaiting to read as much as I can.

    Looks like an amazing trip. I understand how this can just get in your blood. I can only imagine a trip like this.

    Vlad is da man. Keep it up.
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  16. #36
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    Re: Tidbits

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete5000 View Post
    Good work on the pictures. Brings a lot of memories of my own back, as I saw many of those sights on my '09 ride.
    I guess when it hit 35 or so on my trip, it was just a candle flame to your blast furnace though. Loved the snow.
    Thanks. Most were taken "on the fly" and with little to no aiming/framing/preparation, so I'm happy with the results. However, I will be better prepared and equipped next time - there's so much I've missed just because it takes time to take the camera out. As for the extreme heat, I could do without it, but since it was already hot then it better be to the max . If I'm sweating like a horse already it may as well be above 45 .

    Quote Originally Posted by djez View Post
    Yup, move this to the touring and cruising section, I am not the writing guy but will try to do my write-up on my trip after Calgary.
    I've asked the Cruising / Touring mod, but I guess I'll have to ask mods of this forum as well.

    Quote Originally Posted by wandering_bandit View Post
    vlad - I have yet to read everything here - but am anxiously awaiting to read as much as I can.
    I'm glad you like it and grateful for the encouragement. Those are the main reasons I took time to post it all up. Please let me know if there's anything you would like me to elaborate on while it's still fresh in my memory. So many things didn't get in because I forgot them or didn't have time to write them up when I was still under the impression. I'm going to seriously consider using a voice recorder next time. Ditto a camera with built-in GPS geotagging.

  17. #37
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    Re: Transcontinental ride (July 1, 2011)

    Amazing read, thanks for putting it all together, Vlad. And, holy cow, well done!

    Any chance you'll be posting the route you took?

    Derek

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    Re: Transcontinental ride (July 1, 2011)

    ^

    You are welcome Derek, glad you liked it. Unfortunately I haven't kept the exact track logs since I wasn't familiar enough with the borrowed GPS that I used (it was recycling the log instead of saving it every day). However, the links at the beginning of every day's post point to the Google map route for that particular day, as much as I could reproduce it from memory. Let me know if any of them don't work properly or don't look right.

  19. #39
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    Re: Transcontinental ride (July 1, 2011)

    Vlad.

    Thanks so much for putting this ride report together as I'm sure it was almost as huge an undertaking as the ride itself. You are definitely gifted in the art of communication.

    At this time of the riding season I start to think about what kind of trip to plan for next year and this report is inspiring me to head west. The seed has been planted.

    One more thing, where did you find that nifty Bios thermometer?

    Cheers

    Gary
    Turn up the good, turn down the suck.

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    Re: Transcontinental ride (July 1, 2011)

    Thanks for the kind words Gary. I'm glad you liked it and appreciate the positive review.

    Don't get entangled into a lot of planning, just establish the basic parameters, get the bike/gear ready and go. The more detailed the plan is the more likely it is not to be fulfilled, creating unnecessary frustration and confusion. To paraphrase an old saying, Organized riders pick a destination and go... Wise riders pick a direction and go. Also, unexpected detours, delays and even some mishaps are all part of the experience. Once I decided to take the plunge I never looked back and now I know I can do it again in a heartbeat.

    I don't remember exactly where I bought that thermometer, but it was likely Canadian Tire. It was under $10 and has proven quite durable, even through some pretty heavy rain (it's somewhat shielded by the windscreen, but that didn't prevent the previous one from a different manufacturer from dying after just a sprinkle). I also have an infrared handheld thermometer that I decided not to bring on this trip because it measures only surface temperature and is relatively big (it would be interesting to see how hot the black asphalt gets at 47 degrees air temperature though ).Attachment 0 You can see I'm big on measuring instruments, statistics and other interesting data

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