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Old 10-31-2010, 01:22 PM   #1
esalentine OP
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NW Ontario's English River Road

A few weeks back, my buddy Chris (CaptainSlow) and I had planned on riding in the Harvest Rally in southern Minnesota. As it turned out, we werenít able to make the rally, but still wanted to get out and enjoy a good fall ride. Being weíre both in northern Minnesota, Chris suggested a shorter, closer ride around Lake of the Woods. As is usually the case when I have time to think about something, what was originally a simple plan morphed into something bigger.

While playing around with possible routes on Google Maps, it somehow mapped out an odd route north of Kenora. I was surprised because I didnít know of any major roads up there. As I looked closer, the route mapped out went all the way to Red Lake. Interesting. Iíd ridden sled up to Red Lake a couple times and have a buddy who grew up there. Talking to my buddy and posting some feeler questions out on the regional Canada forum, I wasnít able to learn much about the route. That made our mission obvious Ė ride from Kenora to Red Lake on back roads.

This report isnít just to tell the story of our ride in NW Ontario, itís also practice for a much larger report that Iíve been putting off Ė a 5 week adventure to Alaska. So bear with me if this ends up being a bit of a mess. Iím open to feedbackÖ
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Old 10-31-2010, 01:36 PM   #2
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That's an interesting route.
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Old 10-31-2010, 01:56 PM   #3
esalentine OP
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Northbound

We managed to get going a little before 8:00. A little behind schedule, but not too bad. Still plenty of daylight to get to Red Lake. Chris had already ridden a half hour to get to my place just outside of Warroad. It was a nice clear morning, but with temps struggling to climb above the freezing mark, I followed Chrisís lead with the winter gloves and balaclava. We rode over to Baudette to fuel up with cheap gas (relatively speaking) before crossing over the border. I filled up the 5 gallon (yes 5 gallon) gas can I had strapped to my back seat. I was just going to bring a 1.25 gallon jug, but not knowing what we were in for, we figured we better plan to carry enough fuel to backtrack the whole stretch from Kenora to Red Lake if worse comes to worse. Since Chris wasnít running his side cases, he had limited space after packing his camping gear and the 5 gallon jug fit OK on my seat. Chris hasnít had his side cases on since we got back from Alaska. Iíll let him tell that storyÖ

I forgot how long you had to ride north of the border before the road gets interesting. About half way up Highway 71, close to the Nestor Falls / Sioux Narrows area, we finally started seeing some hills and curves in the road Ė something thatís hard to come by on the south side of the lake. Unfortunately, we had missed the fall colors by a week or so, but it was still a great weekend for a ride.





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Old 10-31-2010, 02:03 PM   #4
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mmmm....... rocks and water beautiful....

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Old 10-31-2010, 02:06 PM   #5
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Backroads Mapbook

On the Canada forum, MFS suggested I find a ďBackroads MapbookĒ, claiming that it is a must-have tool for venturing into the bush. From their website, I learned that a store in Sioux Narrows was supposed to carry them. Sure enough, Gillís Trading Post had several copies on hand. I had found a new friend. The detail of the maps is pretty impressive. At first glance, I already found several roads / trails that werenít on any map Iíd looked at previously.



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Old 10-31-2010, 02:13 PM   #6
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Kenora

After spending about 20 minutes in Sioux Narrows, it was time to hit the road again. Off to Kenora. We decided that would be a good place to gas up again and find something to eat.

Pulling into the west side of Kenora, I had planned on stopping at the Sunset Strip Husky station, since thatís where we always stop on sleds to fill up. I shed my gear and was ready to start filling when the attendant mentioned that they were out of premium. I try not to be difficult, but F. Bueller really likes premium. Chris only seemed slightly irritated, so we suited up and went to the Canadian Tire Gasbar. F. Bueller is my bike BTW Ė an í07 Buell Ulysses. Youíll need to read my entire AK ride report once itís up to fully appreciate where the name ďF. BuellerĒ came from.

Next on the agenda was to find something for lunch. We opted for something quick and chose A&W. While suiting up after lunch, I noticed oil on my front wheel. I had seen before we left that it looked like I had a leaky fork seal, but I didnít think it would get much worse in a couple days. Wrong. At this rate, there wasnít going to be any oil left in the fork by the end of the weekend. Oh well Ė I wasnít going to give up this ride now. Iíd deal with it later - itíd have to make it a few hundred more miles like that. F. BuellerÖ



After lunch, we had one more errand to run. We needed water, and Chris needed a bottle of fuel for his camp stove. After spending a half hour in Wal-Mart, we both walked out frustrated with a full case of water and no fuel bottle. We only needed a few bottles of water, but the case was cheaper than a 6-pack (go figure), so we packed what we could, gave away the rest, and rode across the parking lot to Canadian Tire to get fuel for the stove. Finally, we were ready to go again. It was already after 1 and we were officially behind schedule. This day was starting out as slowly as most days during our Alaska trip did, except we didnít have 20 hours of daylight to work with.
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Old 10-31-2010, 03:20 PM   #7
Hektoglider
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thanks for posting
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Old 10-31-2010, 03:44 PM   #8
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English River Road

I had the route planned out in my GPS, which probably wasnít needed for this trip, but it was nice for getting us out of Kenora quickly. The drive up to Redditt wasnít too exciting. Pretty straight road. Just before town I saw a sign for the English River Road. That was our turn. I stopped to get a thumbs up from Chris. He pulled over and said that he wanted to delete some pictures from his camera to make room for more, so I turned around to get a picture of the sign.



The first few miles of the road were a bit un-nerving. Deep, loose gravel and washboard. Weíd ridden worse, but it was looking lke the going would be slow. Not good news given the time of day already. I hoped that it would get better the further we went, and sure enough, several miles it did. We stopped for a couple photo ops, but for the most part forged ahead to make time.














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Old 10-31-2010, 07:12 PM   #9
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Bridge Out

We got up to an intersection that was marked on my GPS from a waypoint that Hektoglider sent me. This is the intersection where, several years earlier he came up on an old road closed sign, and turned off to go to Ear Falls. Well, there was no sign, and although the road narrowed ahead, there were tracks and we decided to keep going.




Each mile we rode, the road got narrower and visibly less traveled. Then, up ahead, we saw a pickup sitting on the side of the road. Once we got up to it, we knew why it was sitting there. The road suddenly ended at a small canyon - about 30í deep. It looked like there either used to be or was planned to have a bridge there. You could see the road on the other side was built up to the same grade as the road we were on, but there was nothing in between. There were tracks where ATVís had been going down the embankment, crossing the creek, and climbing up the other side. We walked down the embankment to survey the challenge. Going down our side and crossing the creek wouldnít be bad, but the other embankment was loose sand and gravel with big rocks exposed all over it. On top of that it was a pretty steep incline and was at an angle. With a dirt bike or anything lighter than we were riding, itíd probably be possible. I had images in my head, however, of F. Bueller lying half on my leg and half on its frame sliding back down those rocks. As much as I wanted to keep going, I didnít see us making it across. This was the end of the road for us today.









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Old 10-31-2010, 07:17 PM   #10
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Plan B

It was only about 6 miles back to the intersection Hektoglider had marked. From there we knew from his route that weíd be able to get to Ear Falls. It was already 4:00 and there wasnít too much daylight left, so it was actually a good thing that were were turning out now.




Looking in the Backroads Mapbook, I found what looked like an alternate route to get us around the bridge that was out, but unfortunately we were out of time. Oh, well. Even if we didnít make it all the way to Red Lake this time, there was hope for another attempt!





The rest of the ride into Ear Falls was nice. Not such a bad way out.










esalentine screwed with this post 10-31-2010 at 07:25 PM Reason: Added pictures
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Old 10-31-2010, 07:40 PM   #11
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Ear Falls

It was about 7:00 when we pulled in to Ear Falls and was starting to get dark. We had origainlly planned on setting up camp before supper in the light, but after driving around for a 1/2 hour and not finding anything, we decided to have supper and ask. It didnít look like there was too much to choose from, so we picked the Hotel 105 Restaurant. It was pretty busy and the food was actually better than I expected. The waitress didnít know much about camping, but said the gas station next door had RV parking.

During supper I noticed that I has a pretty big blister on the palm of my hand. The weekend before I noticed a smaller one in the same spot. I do sit behind a desk at work more than I like to admit, but I didnít think Iíd gotten that soft. I thought it could be from my grip heaters since they were smokiní hot all day long. A fellow Uly owner on Badweb had built some prototype heat controllers and I had been willing to try one out earlier this summer. In theory, the controller is pretty cool. There is a thermocouple on the board that senses the temperature and adjusts output to the Polly Heaters as needed. The problem though is that there are a lot of other conditions that affect how much heat you want Ė wind, rain, gloves, speed your riding, etc. The grips had been so hot today that Iíd have to let go or the bars to cool my hands off every minute or two. Apparently my right hand had seen too much heat. I think before next season the auto-controller is coming out and Iím putting the factory hi-low-off switch in.

After supper we went over to the gas station next door to ask about the camping. The young girl behind the counter didnít seem to know much about the camping, so another lady who was mopping the floors helped. All they could find was a sheet giving the rate of $35 per person, which included water and electricity. We explained that we didnít need hook ups and would just be tenting. It didnít matter - that was the rate. The girls mentioned that there was a park by the softball diamonds that would be nice for camping and gave us directions there.

After a half hour of looking, we gave up and decided to set up camp by the visitorís center across from the hydro dam. We saw this spot on the way into town, but being right off the highway, it didnít look like a good place to camp. It was looking better now that it was dark and getting cold. It definitely wasnít a designated camping spot, but we didnít see a sign that said no camping either. We hid the bikes and tents behind the structures there.

One of the downfalls to this makeshift campsite was that we wouldnít be able to have a campfire. Instead, we huddled around Chrisís camp stove and boiled some water for hot chocolates. After warming up a bit, we turned in early.

I had woke up at about 3 in the morning and had to piss, but I eventually just made myself fall asleep becuase it was too damn cold to get out of the sleeping bag. Chrisís alarm went off at 7:00. It was just starting to get light out and it definitely wasnít getting any warmer yet. I had to fight with the zipper on my tent a bit because of all the frost. The view of the sunrise across the water was awesome! Iím not sure which I enjoyed more Ė the sunrise, or the 5 minute piss behind the bathroom that was locked up for the seasonÖ







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Old 10-31-2010, 07:49 PM   #12
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The Road Home

The plan was to stop in Vermillion Bay for gas and breakfast. When we got to Vermillion bay, it didnít look like the same town I remembered snowmobiling there a couple years before. At first glance, it didnít even look like there was a gas station or restaurant open anymore. Dryden wasnít very far down the road, so we forged on to Dryden.

Man, does Dryden smell. Iíd been there before, but didnít remember how bad the town smelled. Itís obviously the big pulp plant on the edge of town. We stopped to get some gas and then look for a nice place to sit down for breakfast. We drove around for a bit and didnít find anything at first. Then I saw a restaurant sign out of the corner of my eye and we pull into the gravel parking lot. It looked sort of run down, but there were a lot of cars in the parking lot. As we were sitting there, a heavy-set native (ďFirst NationsĒ) woman was yelling at her kid at the top of her lungs across the parking lot. As we watched the circus walk into the restaurant, Chris and I looked at each other and asked, ďDo you want to find something else?Ē. Again, we drove around for longer than I care to admit and decided to settle for something quick - Baskin Robins.

On our way home, we took highway 502 toward Fort Frances. This was my first time on this road and I thought it was nice, but not quite as fun as 71 is through Sioux Narrows. It was a nice day for a ride, but nothing too noteworthy happened.







We stopped in Fort Frances for gas, and stayed on the north side of the border until Baudette. Although we didnít make it all the way to Red Lake, I think it was a pretty successful trip. Good riding, no problems, and we found a new area to explore. Canít wait to make it up there again!


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Old 10-31-2010, 09:08 PM   #13
Hektoglider
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way to go on the no dollar camping! I figured this late in the season it would be a hotel for sure.......
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Old 11-02-2010, 03:22 PM   #14
cleanair
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enjoyed the rr & pic's. been all over ontario but not the nw part.
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Old 11-05-2010, 06:21 AM   #15
zoki1
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GREAT PICTURES , TO PROMOTE ONTARIO MORE !!! CHEERS
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