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Old 02-06-2012, 09:16 AM   #16
xsPain OP
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M2m11

For those of you not fortunate enough to live in Milwaukee or the surrounding area, the M2M is an annual ride from Milwaukee to Minneapolis, using almost completely all back roads (freeways are allowed out of Milwaukee and into Minneapolis, since who wants to ride through urban sprawl?). When it was started it was called the M2MTT (as in time trial), but since racing isn't legal on public roads there was some concern about litigation again the organizers, and the event was officially dropped.

However, thanks to the local VinMoto clubs and the mysterious Racer X, route sheets still appear at the start point, Fuel Cafe in Milwaukee every year the Saturday after the Fourth of July. These are clearly marked “this is not a race,” but there are some riders who still treat it like on. No, there isn't a trophy.


The ride is intended for vintage bikes, but everyone is welcome. Traditionally there is a sticker for the event, cut in half so you get one part at each end of the ride. I was trying not to collect stickers on this trip, since I didn't have anywhere put them, but I still needed a route sheet. This was also my 'official' departure for the trip and friends stopped by to say hello and good-bye.






At nine the church bells rang and everyone took off. I wasn't in any hurry, and missed the initial rush. Most of the first part of the route I was pretty familiar with.



The GF and I stopped for a snack, and a couple other M2M'ers pulled in to stretch their legs.


And the Merrimac Ferry is on the route every year, the riders tend to group up again there.

Most of the bikes on our crossing were just HD riders out for the day, lots of shininess.


Once off the ferry and through the town of Baraboo (that's its real name, the Clown Hall of Fame is there) we were onto the little roads that fill the area west of I-39/90.





And a guy wearing a tutu got a flat.

Blue helped him out with that.




We stopped at the Minduro cut (after riding through Wildcat), then headed north more or less along the river until we reached the end of the route. Diamond's Cafe (which is another place you should go to)

Despite a short cut we managed to arrive at Diamonds about 15 minutes after they stopped serving food. So, after spending some time reliving some of the more entertaining parts of the route, we took a local's suggestion on a pizza place down the road. It was a good suggestion.



Completely stuffed we collapsed back in out hotel room. The next morning was part two of the M2M, the pancake breakfast.


I had never actually gone to this part before, heading back to Milwaukee after the ride (usually camping somewhere). Or if I stayed in town heading right back to Milwaukee in the morning. Since I was heading west from here, I thought a nice all you can eat breakfast would be good.



The Pancake Princess, who was constantly being burned by the griddle. So it was pancakes with a side of personal suffering. They were delicious.


Eventually it was time to go. I had wanted to head north to Itasca State Park, the headwaters of the Mississippi River. One of the few pictures of me when I was little that still survives (there was a flood, which isn't good for pictures) is me crossing the river there, where you can walk in it. I wanted to get a picture of me doing that again and send it to my mom. But, Minnesota was having a budget hissy fit, and all the state parks were closed. There was a possibility I could still get in, but the internet said the park gate was chained shut and local law enforcement was keeping it clear. I decided to pass. It was all rainy up there anyway.


So instead I headed Southwest, thinking I would make my way directly to the Badlands. That was also somewhere I had never had to time to really enjoy so I was looking forward to it. After a few hours riding I was looking forward to getting off the bike, it was hot!





I found a city park (with a pool, thank god, and a shower) and after the sunset crawled into my tent for some sleep.


And then I got woke by a flashlight and someone asking “Anyone in that tent?” The local police, there was a severe storm on the way. Maybe tornados. All the campers (there was just me and a couple in an RV) were being moved to City Hall for safety. I asked if I had time to pack, or at least ride the bike. He said “I don't think so.” I just grabbed my backpack (along with Blue this had all my other important stuff in it). It started pouring about 30seconds after I got out of the car.



Flags blowing in different directions, which I thought was funny. Yes, I was supposed to be inside. In the basement, actually. The rain was pleasantly warm and I wanted the fresh air. I was sort of near the door.



Eventually the winds died out, and then the rain slackened to a drizzle. A little while after that some fire fighter types stopped by to say we could head back to the campground. They offered me a lift, but I figured they had better things to do and walked. It was a nice night.
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Old 02-06-2012, 11:59 AM   #17
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awesome

Love it so far. Subscribed. I admire your freedom of commitment to a die hard agenda. Great report.
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Old 02-06-2012, 12:55 PM   #18
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Old 02-10-2012, 08:55 AM   #19
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Pipestone National Monument

After the storm the next day was cooler, but overcast. I wandered over to a National Monument marked on my map.

Just a quick word on maps. I did have a GPS, but only used it for location and as a trip meter since the SR250 didn't have one and running out of gas sucks. For actually going places I relied completely on paper maps. I read a lot about map publishers, and went to my local map store (Milwaukee Map Service, nice people). They recommended International Travel Maps (www.itmb.com). For comparison purposes, the Michelin Maps do contain more distance information, the ITMB maps have topography. While it was something of a change to switch, I found the ITMB maps still had enough distances marked for me to know how far I had to go, and the landmarks were very helpful when I was off the printed roads.


So, the National Monument on my map was simply labeled “Pipestone.” I had no idea what was there, but it wasn't far so I rode over.




Pipestone is actually a Native American quarry, where they get the red rock used to make pipes. It is still an active quarry with Native American's allowed to dig up the stone and then sell it. I guess pipes are still being made but the gift shop had all kinds of stuff in it.


There was a visitor center we wandered in around for a while.





The real attraction though is outside. The open quarries. Unfortunately, since there had been that rather large storm, the quarries were generally filled with water and no one was actually working. There was a video of the process but it wasn't the same. At least the Rangers didn't care if I brought Blue with (Okay, I didn't actually ask).



That dark band at the bottom? That is the rock they are trying to get.

It's that far down. Even today only hand tools are allowed for working the quarry and new claims expect to work two years before they even know if there was rock where they are digging. Most of the holes are family run, with kids digging where their grandparents started.




Apparently when the holes fill with water they just wait for it to drain out before working again.



The area was nice to hike in, though a little small, and there was supposed to be an awesome waterfall along the path somewhere. The rains, though, had flooded the river and the path was...missing...in places. The Ranger said it sucked, since with the rains the falls themselves were amazing. She admitted there was a way around the flooding but wouldn't share.



I need to practice getting the camera level.


After wandering around Pipestone for a while (and buying my National Parks Pass) I headed west some more. I planned to stop in Mitchell, SD, to see the Corn Palace and then find somewhere to camp.



The Corn Palace is one of those strange things that are interesting and weird at the same time. Worth a stop, though, if just to say you have seen it. Go in the fall when the corn is new, before the birds spend a year eating it (this is an eaten picture).



The first Corn Palace. It burned down, but looked much more Palace like (note the horse and wooden sidewalks). I wished the current one looked this awesome, but sadly it is more like a warehouse with a basketball court inside.


I did get a recommendation on a campground just to the north, and on a place to eat.

It was a little pricey for my budget, but the portions were huge and delicious. And it had free wifi.


After eating two days worth of calories I got back on the bike and found the campground. It was, of course, clouding over again and would soon start to rain but I did have time to explore some of the hiking trails.

Next up – The Badlands

xsPain screwed with this post 02-10-2012 at 09:02 AM
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Old 02-13-2012, 01:28 PM   #20
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Badlands and Wall, SD

I rode west through South Dakota, thinking happy thoughts about finding a reasonably narrow place to cross the plains. I don't have anything against the plains, really, but sometimes they can go on forever.

When I stopped for gas there were usually other motorcyclists about, but generally I was left alone. Odd, since usually people are coming over before I can get my helmet off. I like solitude so it was a non-issue. I did go and talk to a few people, though, when I saw this -



Between him and his friend, also on a bike, they were traveling with three(!) dogs. He made the Vetter trailer him self, and It carries one. Another on the bike, and his friend had one. I will admit to being impressed, and I don't think I could do it.

The dog was a bit shy.


I got to the entrance of the Badlands NP without incident

and confirmed they have free camping, just without showers, and at the end of a 13 miles gravel road. Oh, and I was at the wrong end of the park so I had to ride through it to get to the camping, such a chore.

I had a flash of panic not long after I was in the park. I had used my National Parks Pass to get in, and she hadn't given me the little bit of paper I was supposed to flash if I left and re-entered the park. Then I remembered I had a National Parks Pass, and could come and go as I pleased.


After I set up my tent there was a visitor in the campground.


When Blue saw the bison he killed and ate it, of course. Circle of life.


I went into Wall for groceries and cooked something for dinner in camp. While there I got a text message asking if I was still alive, and decided to spend part of the next day in Wall communicating with the outside world.



The next morning the rest of the bison herd was on the road leading out of the campground. I stopped further back so Blue would leave them alone (and so the motor wouldn't cause them to run). And we stopped now and then to enjoy the view.



Once in wall we walked around a while. I hadn't been there in a couple of years, and wondered what, if anything, was different.



Still have the free water. I filled up my hydration pack. It was very cold.

Not really sure what the deal is with the animatronic dinosaur, but not sure I care. It was pretty cool, huge crowd of kids every time.

Blue wondered if I could find him a Jackolope for dinner. I said maybe.


After some internet and phone calls, I headed back to the Badlands for some hiking. The sun had burned off the clouds, and the day had warmed up a lot, so the delay in the morning ended up being good.


The Badlands don't have the massive amount of trails some other parks have, but they do have a couple very nice ones (as well as a couple really long ones. I passed on those, more because I wanted to be in the rocky bits and they tended to stay in the plains).

I locked my helmet and coat to the bike so I could hike in just a t-shirt and my (mesh, thankfully, it was hot) motorcycle pants. I also had shorts and lighter shoes but there was going to be climbing and I wanted more protection.

Sadly, a lot of the cooler trails were dead ends, so I would have to walk them twice. Not too big a deal, I supposed.

Yeah, rattlesnakes! You better beware!




Nice of them to leave a ladder.


Once on the ridge the landscape changed a lot. No more green.


Sure, keep right over that big rock. The trail to the left was eroding away, if you can't tell from the picture.


Once at the end of the trail the view was impressive.


After soaking it in for a while we headed back for the bike and another trail.

Almost a line for the stairs.


The other trail I had decided to hike was Saddle Pass, which the little brochure rated as “Difficult” but it was only 1/4 of a mile, so how hard could it be? Opps.



It goes over that.
But I'm game and start climbing

And climbing.


(you can almost see my bike from here), oh and there was some more climbing



The top of Saddle Pass is a flat area where you can connect with one of the long trails that go through prairie.

I was willing to take the long way, but the bike was back at the bottom of the pass, so I got to climb back down.


On the way back to camp I found a prairie dog town. They were all very excited to see me.



And the bison were still around, actually causing something of a traffic backup for cars on the road.



I had a quiet evening in camp, and slept very well. Next I was going to head for the Black Hills, with a brief stop on the way.
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Old 02-15-2012, 10:17 AM   #21
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Missiles and Cars

I left the Badlands with the final destination of the Black Hills. If you look at a map you can see those two places are actually very close together, so it doesn't seem like much of a ride. It's all a matter of routing.

First, there was another National Monument I wanted to visit. I had often seen the signs while cruising on I-90, but even the one time I had stopped I hadn't found the site. This time I was going to keep looking until I did.





Right next to the Badlands is a National Monument containing old nuclear missile silos. I wasn't even born for the tense part of the cold war, but was old enough in the 80's to follow it all. And, of course, I have seen Red Dawn more than The Sound of Music, so this was something I wanted to see.


But you can't just roll up to the old bunker. The signs, if you are paying attention, actually lead you to a trailer in the parking lot of a gas station (which is why I missed it the last time, not really what I had been looking for). There isn't anything on display there, just a couple of posters. But there you sign up for a tour at the actual missile site and they give you a little piece of paper to prove it.


Then you ride a little further west,

and if you followed the directions correctly you end up here



We were early for the tour, so I had a snack and chatted with some other people who were also waiting. The grounds were still locked, and the parking lot was outside the gate. Old groups were let out as new groups were let in, and the gate was relocked. Seemed a little extreme, considering it was supposed to be a deactivated base (or was it?)


Once our time came the guide let us in and gave us a talk in the lot outside the building, showing off the VLF and VHF antennas that were still there, and the water and propane tanks. (The tanks I get, why are were there still all those antennas?), and admitted he was stationed at this very base during the cold war.

Maybe he was nuclear missile auxiliary? Do we have that?


After being shown the outside we walked through the above ground portion of the base.

Officer's bunks

Not officer's bunks.

Common area.


All in all, pretty comfy for the 1980s. Our guide reported he was stationed here before satellite TV, and there were only two channels that came in. There was a lot of movie watching, but he didn't say anything about Red Dawn. Or Wargames.


After seeing the above ground stuff we took a very small elevator below ground.





It was a very thick door.



The control room was very roomy for two people, and very cramped for the tour group of six.



The Button isn't even a button. I felt a little ripped off.


After the tour I was back on the bike and headed Southwest (which, if you looked at a map, would not be in the direction of the Black Hills) for another landmark I had wanted to visit but never made the time for.



Compared to the Little Big Horn site, the Wounded Knee site is empty. Just the sign, and some poorly built wooden shacks that looked like people were supposed to be selling things from them. There was a couple in an RV having lunch, which seemed like a good idea.


If you don't know the Wounded Knee story, there's the sign-




After lunch I was riding again, with one more place in mind before heading north for the Black Hills. It was starting to cloud over and there were occasional drops of rain, which made me think about heading back north where I could see blue skies, but I persevered and arrived.

Unlike the Corn Palace, where I have been to lots of times, I have never been to Carhenge. It was, in it's own way, just as weird as the Corn Palace, but there were fewer places to eat around it.


And there wasn't just the cars around either.





After walking around for about an hour, and getting rained on a little, I headed back north to the sunshine and the Black Hills.
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Old 02-15-2012, 01:56 PM   #22
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I am from the Cold War era, so had the pleasure of spending some of my 70s Army time sitting in the middle of a nuclear weapons storage site in Germany. Several of my Air Force buddies spent their military time sitting at the bottom of silos, just like the one you toured, up in the Dakotas. Interesting slice of history there. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 02-16-2012, 08:32 PM   #23
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Enjoying the RR. Great pics by the way. I hear where youre coming from. As a paramedic in Calgary I have had the same feeling about life and living and hope someday to head off like you have. Stay safe and enjoy!
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Old 02-21-2012, 12:42 PM   #24
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Black Hills

I didn't have a real plan for visiting the Black Hills. It was a convenient place to stop for a day, do laundry (which I hadn't done since leaving Wisconsin), back up some things online and update my blog. After looking around some I 'splurged' on a KOA, since they have decent wifi and laundry facilities, and a pool. It was hot.

After I had clean clothes again I started looking around for things to do. The caves, of which there are several, were an easy choice, since they are nice and cool inside. I headed for Jewel Cave first. It is supposed to be similar to Mammoth, where I had been recently, and I wanted to compare them.





No one seemed to care here about Blue or his backpack, and I walked right in with them.

Big cave, and chilly inside.


Like most caves in the National Parks system, you have to sign up for a tour. And, typically, the National Parks Pass doesn't cover the tour costs, which sucks. But, at least you end up with a ranger who can explain what you are supposed to be looking at.


Jewel Cave was filled with carbonic acid at some point in it's past, which caused the quartz on the walls to bubble.



Since there is a different rock under the quartz (granite, if I recall correctly), the rocks expand and contract with temperature changes at different rates. So the quartz bits occasionally break off and you can see the interior patterns.




Mammoth cave was also very dry, while Jewel Cave did have the occasional sign of water leaking in.




I took a lot of pictures,

but the tour still ended and I had to go back outside. There were other caves, but I decided to take a ride through Custer State Park. I was there a few years ago and on the wildlife loop saw impressive numbers of bison and burrow. I felt like I hadn't seen much wildlife. I couldn't resist the Mount Coolidge sign.


It was a nice view, spoiled slightly by all the power lines.

Mount Rushmore, off in the distance.

And Crazy Horse, a little further along the horizon.


The wildlife loop didn't disappoint.



Poor burrow, needs some reading glasses.


The burrows, by the way, are the only animals you are allowed to feed (though it isn't recommended), since they are not native to the Black Hills. They were imported to provide transport for tourists in Yellowstone and to Mount Rushmore, and when they weren't needed anymore just let loose. Looks like they're doing okay, though.


I had been undecided about going to visit Mount Rushmore, but back in the campground had met a family who were there just to see it at night. Apparently there is a program and them they light the monument up. I had only been there during the day, so figured a night visit might be interesting.



The program was only so-so. Generic facts about the four presidents on the monument (Generic for anyone who has paid attention in history class, anyway), and about the monument itself. Then some standard patriotic music. Perhaps I wasn't in the right frame of mind, but it seemed a little over the top. At the end of the Star Spangled Banner they turned on the floodlights.

A little washed out, but I like how the sky turned out. And I took this shot too-

There was actually something resembling a line for that one. I sort of cut in.


The ride back to the campground was short, which was good since there was a lot of traffic, no street lights, and I was in an area known for it's wildlife. My next general destination was the other side of the Tetons, where I had some friends I could stay with for a couple of days. There was a lot in between me an them, though...like the Tetons.
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Old 02-22-2012, 10:02 PM   #25
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Old 02-28-2012, 12:02 PM   #26
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The dead, the devil, and some mountains.

I left the Black Hills and headed more or less west, heading for the Tetons and Yellowstone. I had mixed feelings about Yellowstone, since I knew it was going to be crowded, but I was also going to pass right next to it and it seemed silly not to visit (since it would be free on my parks pass).


It wasn't far, and I took my time, seeing the usual odd things along the road.


I went over a pass and saw snow for the first time. It was worth a picture.

The pass was just sort of 10,000 feet, and when I got to the other side the campground was full of bicyclists who were going to ride over it the next day.


Then I stopped here

And saw this

The cemetery is all hills – bring water if you go.

Nice view though.


Then there was this other place-

Where aliens like to land. Or so I heard. I hiked around some (which was good exercise but a bit much after the cemetery) but didn't find any.

I think they were looking for aliens too.


Devils Tower (in case you didn't know what that was), was exposed as the surrounding landscape was eroded away. The Native Americans had a legend that a buffalo pounded the ground down around it in a race between the different animals. Humans, pointing out that they only had two legs where buffalo had four, were allowed to let a magpie race in their place. The magpie won, and Native Americans could hunt buffalo.


The story science tells, of melting magma and erosion, isn't nearly as much fun.


Some hot springs, I guess. There were a few mounds like this around in a park, but the visitor center was closed.


Oh, and I met these guys-

At a wayside when I stopped to eat, refill my water, and decide if I was going the right way. I didn't think so. Anyway, they interviewed me for something, I wrote down who they were (and couldn't find the paper later that night when I went to journal about it), and we took of in different directions.



I did finally make it here.
The Tetons are pretty spectacular, and I spent a lot of time just looking at them. Pictures don't really do them any justice, certainly not my pictures.




I rode through the park, looping around the southern end of the mountains.


And the pass I used wasn't that high, but still had a nice view.



Then I dropped onto the western side of the mountains and headed for a friend's house to stay for a couple of days, do some maintenance and rest up some.

Blue, getting all comfy.


It was a good break before I headed back over the Teton's to Yellowstone, then started north for real.
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Old 02-28-2012, 03:26 PM   #27
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Liking your RR. As healthcare workers (I am a nurse) we see many things in life that let us wondering if we should be doing something else. As an ER nurse we see many things that there are no words to explain. Someday I should embark on a trip like this and see some of the freat places this land of us has to offer.

Later
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Old 03-02-2012, 09:33 AM   #28
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Yellow Stones and Glaciers

I went to Yellowstone for the first time in 2008, with Sharon my friend from GA. It doesn't seem like that long ago, and we made a pretty complete sweep of the part, but it was right there, almost on my route north, and I figured I would at least drive through (forgetting what traffic in the park is like).

The weather was pleasant, and it didn't take me long to reach the park.



To my surprise, there wasn't anywhere to camp. I mean, even the private campgrounds were full. At one I met up with a father and his two sons, and we did some calling to find out the only place left was a KOA. So we all headed over there, to find out it was amazingly expensive. We decided to share one site.


After the tents were up, we got dinner and traded stories, then hit the sack. In the morning we ended up having breakfast too, before going our separate ways. I headed into the park, and I think they went somewhere else. Good move on their part.


I figured I would be out of the park by later morning or early afternoon, going from the west entrance to the northwest entrance. I didn't factor in the bear, and moose jams, as well as people just stopping in the middle of the narrow roads for pictures and such. I reminded myself I wasn't on a schedule and tried to relax. It really is a beautiful place.






Eventually I got to the NW entrance and the arch.

Once clear of the park my average speed picked up, and I kept heading north. Along the way I passed through the Lewis and Clark National Forest.

Which was also beautiful. And there was the usual array of strange things on the side of the road.




It didn't seem to take long before I was here-

This time I had no trouble finding somewhere to camp.


This was my first visit to Glacier and I was willing to be impressed, so I was. After the heat of the plains the cooler air was welcome, and the food at the campground (the one night I was there and they had it. Food only on the weekends) was excellent.



Inside the park I played tourist and gawked at everything.



I learned those bowl-shaped valleys are formed by glacial movement. Water made valleys are V-shaped. I would see a lot of bowl-shaped valleys.




The middle third of Logan Pass, the one road through the park, was under construction. Gravel and mud, but given my ride plan for the next few months I knew I couldn't complain. And there was a goat jam. Clearly some people were more impressed than others, give the number of times I heard “They're just goats people! Keep moving!” yelled out windows.

One of the guilty goats in question.


The top of Logan Pass still had a lot of snow.

So much snow, in fact, that most of the hiking trails were closed. I found out which were open and planned to come back the next day for some hiking.


Being from the Midwest I am constantly mesmerized by mountains. We don't have any. I wonder if people from the mountains get the same way staring across the vast plains. Come to think on it, I get that way staring across the vast plains.






It was getting late, and I wondered if I should loop around the outside of the park or cut back over the pass. In the end I took the pass. This time I had it to myself.



The next morning I rode up to the top of Logan Pass, planning to spend at least part of the day hiking. There were already some crowds.

The red trucks were built specially for the Glacier Park Resort. They are open-topped, and you can sign up for tours in them. 200 were built, and 50 or so are still running. I didn't take the tour, since I wanted to be able to stop where ever I wanted. Call me anti-social.


The hiking trail was...well...

well marked I guess you could say. It started off a bit chilly, but I was shedding layers quickly given the slope and altitude. Hiking 9,500 feet lower is way less work.



Eventually I did flee to a lower altitude and found another trail.

Also well marked.



The end of that trail, Three Waterfall Lake. It was a popular spot, given the walk to get there.

And while it was possible to hike a little farther I decided to just hang out on the beach for a while.


The hike back was simple enough (down is always easier). I headed back for my last night in the campground before heading to Canada the next day.
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Old 03-06-2012, 11:54 AM   #29
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Canada and Shopping

I haven't left the USA since 9-11. No particular reason. I had gone to Eastern Canada before then, but didn't need a passport at the time. I had a passport now, but will admit to some nervousness as I rolled up to the border crossing. Just some concern over the unknown, and in truth I should probably have been more concerned about getting back into the USA than out of it.

It was cold and overcast, so I stopped here

to add a couple of layers. It was a popular place to stop, though I think it was mostly for the bathroom.

More snow. It was July, for crying out loud.


Of course, the crossing was a non-event.



Once in Canada I relaxed a little and looked at stuff.

(okay, that might not be quite in Canada yet. I took poor notes on some of these pictures.)


The sun was coming out too, and I stopped in a small town to take off some of the layers I had added back when it was cold. Then I noticed I had a lot of oil on my left pant leg...and boot...and engine.

One of the two bolts holding the camshaft cover on had come out. It took me a couple of hours in the town to find a replacement. Actually, it took me about 5 minutes to find a replacement and a hour and 55 minutes to find a store that sold hardware. I wasn't expecting to have language issues until Mexico, and no – it wasn't French.


Once I got the bolt replaced and oil refilled I took the time to wash off the bike. It hadn't been washed since I left home, but I needed to get the oil off so I could spot any new leaks. There weren't any.


It was late in the day so I found somewhere to stop. I had hoped to be closer to Calgary, but no such luck. In the morning I got up and rode the last couple of hours into the city.


There was some shopping I wanted to so, trading out my cheap and largely ineffective compression bags for higher quality ones. This done I decided I would look at a tent upgrade. My tent had definitely been leaking the last time I used it, and while I could probably have found some spray resealent I was being tempted by all the new tents available.


So I bought this one-

In truth, looking back, I couldn't tell you why. It isn't free standing and probably increased the weight of my luggage by 30%. I will freely admit it is comfortable though. And roomy.
With the new tent and gear obtained I shipped another round of stuff back to Wisconsin. Then I headed for the house of a couple I had met back at Glacier. They were exploring on their bikes (HD's) and offered me a place to stay if I was near Calgary. I called them up to make sure they were still open to company and then stayed at their house for a night. They were all leaving again the next day, so I couldn't stay any longer, but the one night was perfect and they gave me good tips on where to head next and how to get there. And there was food.
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Old 03-13-2012, 01:16 PM   #30
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Banff and Bears

I left Calgary with some routing tips, heading back for the mountains. The people I stayed with had told me about a town called Banff, which was at the southern end of the Banff National Park (Canada has national parks too, how cute.)

My new friends were of very mixed opinions on whether I should actually go to Banff. The national park they all thought was worth the visit, it was the town the had mixed feels on. It was supposed to be very touristy and expensive. I didn't mind the touristy thing, but expensive was something else. They also gave me some route suggestions which I gleefully followed.



The weather was also very nice.



And the views got better as the day wore on.



Eventually I reached the town of Banff. I had decided to at least stop and look around a little, since I had never been. It was touristy, and expensive, but there was a regular grocery store I got supplies for camping, and the information center was nice enough to help me find a camp site. They also recommended getting bear spray. I hadn't actually bought any yet, not in some “oh, be nice to the bears” mentality so much as just not yet having felt like I needed it. But there were bears living just outside of Banff, and while none had been reported in the campground golfers weren't allowed on the course without spray. So I got a can.








No bears, yet, but there were a lot of other animals around. And I got to set up my new tent!


I was already having second thoughts about it, the thing was huge. It got a little better when I repacked it, but I was still wondering what I was thinking whenever I picked it up.

Still some nice views though.


The next day was overcast, and felt colder. I was going to ride north, along the Icefield's Parkway. ICE fields. Why didn't I think that all the way through and dress warmer I have no idea.




Clouds get less cloud-like as you ride into them.


I had to pay to enter the park, since they didn't recognize my US Park Pass for some reason, and asked the ranger what I needed to stop and look see. She recommended Peyto Lake without hesitation, so when I saw the sign I stopped.



There was a short hike from the parking lot to the overlook of the lake. I was surrounded by
Asians and Germans – no one was speaking English. It was a little surreal. It was also raining, sleeting and snowing. Snowing, in later July. And cold. But I kept on walking.



Payto Lake did not disappoint.


I couldn't stay there, though, since hypothermia was closing in. I went back to the bike and added a couple of layers, fishing out my electric gear, then continued on.

The views remained awesome, and Blue and I enjoyed a light lunch on the side of the road.


I reached the Columbia Icefield

which was even colder than Peyto, but there wasn't water falling from the sky so it was more bearable.

Yay learning.


Somewhere along the way I went from Banff to Jasper National Park, then I was in the town of Jasper. I decided to replace my rear tire, which was showing wear bars. I probably could have kept it, but I like to replace my tires early when I can. Prince George had a tire of the correct size in stock and I told them I would be there the next day. Then I left the national parks and went looking for somewhere to camp.



And there was my first wild bear of the trip. In what would become standard, I stopped the bike without turning it off, got out my camera, careful to have the strap on, took pictures of the bear, then put camera away and rode off without ever killing the motor or getting off the bike. And everyone else stopped their cars, got out (sometimes locking the doors), and went walking around like they were in a zoo.


My mom had been worried over the increase in bear attacks on 2011, but I think it was just an increase in stupid people.


I found camping in McBride, and set up my massive tent again.

then cooked myself dinner over the fire. Three Wisconsinite KLR's pulled into the same campground later, but I completely forgot to take their picture. Oops.


The following day I got to Prince George and got a tire. It was generally a non-event, and I took an extra day so some rain could clear out. From there I was heading for the Alaskan Highway.
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