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Old 07-27-2014, 01:41 PM   #1
tomdubz OP
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Maniacal? meandering moto move from VT to AK

Was that her? Couldn’t be. What a view. This bridge is so much nicer than the rickety old rusty one they blew up a couple years ago. Man, am I going to miss Vermont.

Those were the thoughts that simultaneously ran through my mind while riding over the fancy new Crown Point bridge. Traversing Lake Champlain, the bridge took me out of Vermont and into New York. I’ve left VT on two wheels for many a two-to-three week, two-to-three thousand mile odyssey before but this time I’m not looping back, at least not this year.

On Tucker Mountain, Newbury. Whites in the distance

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A view of Moosilauke from my former neighborhood in Bradford, VT

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Look mom, no kickstand. Somewhere in Thetford.

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The new Crown Point bridge.

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Southeast Alaska is the destination for now. A scoot across the Adirondacks, a flick through Ontario, maybe the UP, a few other Provinces, and two ferry rides will get me to Prince of Wales Island. I’ve landed a Special Education teaching gig at the Craig High School and am looking forward to getting back to the land of IEPs and, interesting kids. I’ll teach there, for at least a year, and be in AK for the start of motorcycle season next spring. If I like it, a year becomes more real easily. If not, well, Mexico isn’t going anywhere. Either way, wandering around AK, Yukon, and The Northwest Territories should be fun with a fresh start next summer.

A few months ago, I had a bit of a crisis while working as a Culinary Arts Instructor at a career & technical center. As many fantasies go once realized, the job was not as wonderful as it initially seemed. Maybe the school’s climate was toxic. Maybe many of the kids were really just avoiding rigorous academics instead of pursuing an arduous passion. Maybe I’m not cut out to teach pirates how to behave in galleys. If all these maybes were seeds, the germination occurred when my dad died.

He’d been sick for years and died young, at sixty. While he had a good ride and lived a stoically heroic life, I can’t help but lament the what ifs and missed opportunities. After a brief stint as an active duty naval officer he opted to get off ships, transfer to the reserves, and take a job selling industrial electrical components. He stayed at that job for twenty plus years, a job he didn’t hate or love, while raising three sons and being quietly active in lots of community meanderings. On the verge of retirement, he got sick and found himself unable to fully engage in the respite he certainly earned. Sure, life is rarely fair but Whisky Tango Foxfuck?

Over the past seven years of his deteriorating health and now, in the process of grieving, I find myself newly determined to live life in a way that both honors his sacrifices and acknowledges my desire to not languish professionally or stagnate personally. So I’m flinging myself off to Alaska, the last frontier. Dad’s certainly on my mind as I roll around and I’m carrying some of his ashes to spread in the Pacific. He may not have loved ship life while in the Navy but he did like the Alaskan coast as seen from the Crap’n Turd, aka the USS Carpenter.
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Old 07-28-2014, 07:16 AM   #2
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A few disclaimers for the community here:

I have no GPS info. I know this may drive some of you bananas but I'd rather get lost and ultimately found. I debated the spot tracker route but decided to save the money for gas.

Keeping track of dates makes me bananas but I left VT July 14, 2014 and am still en route as of this post.

I might talk a little about the food I find along the way but I loathe shooting masturbatory pictures of my inevitable fecal matter almost as much as taking selfies.

So, If you can stand my terms and want to wade through my verbose trains of thought then carry on

Camp at Crown Point

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You might be asking yourself, who was the “her” initially referenced in the opening line already? As I was rolling over the Crown Point, A little red Subaru was heading back toward VT. I thought I saw an arm stick out and wave but I was distracted by an amazing view and one hell of a mean emotional stew. Luckily, I was fatigued enough from riding and intrigued by both a campsite at the bridge and some sweet looking fort ruins that looked like fun exploring. I was in the process of turning around in circles and chasing my tail when sure enough, red Subaru again.

Ruins of His Majesty's Fort at Crown Point

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Part of my emotional stew was due to the send off I’d just received. My lady friend Emma had stayed over and helped me fine tune the packing. In the grand scheme of things we’d really just met, having only been seeing each other for a couple months. We’re both in a bit of a transitional state - me off to AK and she off to TBD so it worked well. Alas, two non-sociopathic individuals engage in companionship for long enough and the proverbial yet wonderful complications arise. We like each other. I can’t help but wonder if it’s been so easy because we’ve both known that it could lead to us transitioning off in our separate directions. Or, is it rather, that we’re profoundly compatible? There’s only one way to find out right?

Well, Emma decided to stalk me down to the border because she regretted not telling me something before I rode away. She’s been applying to jobs all over creation but she went and applied to some in Alaska too - one in Ketchican even, which is a short hop away from where I’ll be. Who knows what the wind has in store for her but that’s exciting and I’m certainly flattered and guardedly hopeful. She helped make camp and took a picture of me and the rig so I could send it to my mom, who just has to have it for the Christmas card. After a nice ice cream trip we said our goodbyes, again. Whatever happens, I’ll miss her.

Rather than collect them along the way as done before I decided to start this trip with some preordained crash bar talismen. On the left, is a zip tied old silver dollar. Before you chastise me for drilling a hole in such a relic, my dad did it. It was on his key chain for as long as I can remember. On the right, is a cattle bone carved in the shape of a feather that was given to me by a Maori dancer friend I hosted last year. Arona gets to travel around the world and lead cultural workshops at schools. We had a great time and participating in his lifestyle certainly made me take stock of mine. Some secondary significance of this particular talisman? My journey will take me through a great deal of Native American land and I’ll end on an island that has a significant population of Tlingit. It’s a stretch but, any indigenous mojo can’t hurt even if it is from a completely different end of the Pacific. The Pacific is the Pacific.

The Talismen

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Old 07-28-2014, 07:32 AM   #3
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This is looking/sounding good.
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Old 07-29-2014, 12:43 PM   #4
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This is looking/sounding good.
Thanks! I've never written a report here so be as harsh/kind as you all like.
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Old 07-29-2014, 01:06 PM   #5
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The next day brought me through the Adirondacks. I’d done a long trip through the area before and it was as nice as I’d remembered even in the clouds, rain, and fog. Getting a little dirty on a squirrely road up over Azure Mt. next to Paul Smiths was, exciting. It was pouring, the road was waterfallish in spots, and my Continental “Trail” Attack tires meant the going had to be slow. Why Continental’s marketing gurus decided to use the trail moniker in naming this tire will forever remain mysterious. I’ve worn them before though so I knew what I was getting myself into. I’m fully loaded and there’s lots of tarmac between VT and AK so they’ll work wonderfully in the long run but behaving in the dirt is a little difficult after losing my spring knobs.

Not exactly my route but I'll cross it a few times and do little bits of hiking here and there.

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Crossing the border into Ontario from Ogdensburg was a bit silly. The bridge was metal grate which is always invigorating on two wheels. My past experiences of getting into Canada have typically been simple but they must be getting all Gestapoed up training with the neighborly US Border Patrol. Who knows, maybe Ogdensburg is a heroin conduit into Ottawa but whatever the case may be, I’ve never had this hard of a time getting into the land of abolitionist peace mongers. Rather than let you supervise the charade, the Stasi agents who do the searching make you wait inside this big glass building while they go about their business. My guy was an obvious juicer who clownishly went about a minimal search. Dude didn’t even open my monstrosity of a homemade, reflective emblazoned, pvc tool tube which I could have easily smuggled a pound of pot in. Of course, he left all sorts of stuff untidy and unsecured. My map of NY, which had been in my coat pocket, almost blew away. Anyway, after a little over an hour and explaining to four different “officials” that yes, indeed, I am moving to Alaska on that loaded orange contraption, I was back on the road.

Camp that evening was at Murphy’s Point Provincial Park in Ontario. $39 CAN but hey, the showers were free - even if they were lukewarm. The night’s entertainment consisted of Brock, the resident rat snake technician doing a talk with slides on the tracking research he was up to. I might have a way with words but I can’t claim to have given Brock his technician title - that was straight from the program. A little walk about and electricity use for mohawk carving purposes and I might have gotten my money’s worth.

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I’ve decided to not boondock as much this trip as I have in the past. Reasons? Primarily, I’m alone and I feel like a creep when hiding out. That and it’s nice to take it easy and take advantage of the amenities provided by state and national parks. Not needing to ride until dusk and be stressed out about finding some place to hide is pretty nice. Having beaches to swim at and trails to hike about on is pretty fun also. Maybe I’m getting old and maybe I’m not as adventurous and daring as I once was. Maybe I make too much money to warrant behaving like a hobo. I’m sure I’ll partake in some commando camping along the way but, for the time being, I think I’ll enjoy the easy life. That said, sometimes staying with the wallowers in these “camps” leaves me feeling lonelier than hiding out and dodging black bears. Maybe it’s the mohawk, the motorcycle, or just the solitary man effect but people seem reluctant to approach me in these places. They’re usually full of families which is safe but I often find myself feeling like an interloper nonetheless.

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Old 07-29-2014, 01:18 PM   #6
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The hawk. Next thing you know I'll be taking pictures of food.



At the not so farmy, Sysco supplied, Farmhouse Cafe in Lake Placid

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Old 07-30-2014, 08:39 AM   #7
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The next day brought me through Perth. Lunch at Fiddlehead’s was ok. Even though I wasn’t in Queerbec I felt the need to go the poutine route. After a wander around some scenic back roads, I hit the Trans Can in Pembroke and started west. That evening brought me to Mattawa along the Ottawa river which was remote but nice nonetheless. From Mattawa, I made it the Sault (Soo) St. Marie where I indulged in my first motel of the trip. It certainly wasn’t anything to write home about but it was cheap and the bed wasn’t on the ground.

Perthian Town Hall

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A Park

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Somewhere in Ontario

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While staying in the motel that evening I decided to cross back into the US at Soo in order to hit the hospital and deal with my sore throat that I’d been cooking up for almost ten days. Before this trip, I had a couple of severe battles with strep throat. The first one warranted a two night stay in the hospital. A couple weeks later I dragged myself to the ER for another round. The week before leaving I developed a mild sore throat and went directly to the doc’s. Sure enough, strep again but it was so mild I thought i’d try to just shake it without heavy duty treatment. Bad idea. While it didn’t get worse, it didn’t get any better and so I decided to hit the hospital for some more antibiotics. I could have been treated in Canada but I would have needed to pay for it out of pocket and then chase the paper for a reimbursement through my health insurance. To hell with that sort of song and dance. So, after crossing at Soo and getting the amoxicillin hookup, I decided to check out the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan.

I think I'll ride to Alaska in a few weeks.

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Camp at Whitefish Bay was fantastic. I found a great small site in the Hiawatha National Forest. Twenty five feet from my $15 campsite was a beautiful long sandy beach and the sunset and driftwood were spectacular.

From Beach Camp

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Heaven? Right this way.

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The next day took me along the lakeshore to a great big lighthouse along a dead end. Yet again, my aversion to GPS paid off. Had I been going the “right” way, I would have likely foregone the tenish mile North Whitefish Point Rd. dead end. It was worth it.

Focus Smocus

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Foghorn

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Once Upon a Pier

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Old 07-30-2014, 02:09 PM   #8
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After getting back on track, I spontaneously stopped in Newberry. They had the main drag all blocked off for an old car show. I like stopping at these sorts of cultural gems instead of just detouring around. The cars were pretty neat and the barbecue was decent.

Holy Honda Batman

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Out for a Rip

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Pretty sure this was real. License plate indicated as much.

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Ooo Orange

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There was a dude at the show who recommended I take the fabulous Route 58 that curved through the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The road was great and there were some interesting spurs off it to the sites along the shore. Miner’s Castle was pretty great. Ultimately, I left a lot unseen but that’s just the way it goes. It’s always good to leave reasons to come back.

Mini hike on that North Country Trail.

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Miner's Castle

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Once upon a time there was an arch here but nature had her way.

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There was another lighthouse along the way with a neat old winding staircase that they actually let you climb up. Apparently, the litigious police haven’t caught up with this gem yet. I decided to go around the “capital” of the UP and hit a state campground in Champion. I almost kept going when they revealed the, one time, $9 fee in order to register with the state park system. It would've been worth it if I had been planning on staying in the state for more than a night but I was exhausted so whatever.

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Wonder what this was.

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Old 07-30-2014, 04:00 PM   #9
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Hey Tom,

Heard about your trip so figured I'd sign on here and live vicariously....

Sorry to hear about your Dad. I lost mine when he was 54. It's tough, but I'm glad you're taking it as an opportunity to follow your own dreams.

Wondering what you did with the Ural? Seems like you would have been able to haul more stuff, but then again, maybe you're intention was to travel light....

Anyway, all the best and safe travels.

Hank Plaisted
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Old 07-30-2014, 05:58 PM   #10
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Hey Tom,



Heard about your trip so figured I'd sign on here and live vicariously....



Sorry to hear about your Dad. I lost mine when he was 54. It's tough, but I'm glad you're taking it as an opportunity to follow your own dreams.



Wondering what you did with the Ural? Seems like you would have been able to haul more stuff, but then again, maybe you're intention was to travel light....



Anyway, all the best and safe travels.



Hank Plaisted

Hank! Sold the Ural at a bit of a loss but so it goes. Between the snails pace and the lack of gyroscopic effect it just wasn't doing it for me. Maybe I'll get another one when I'm 70 and want to pick up random old chicks at every other gas station.
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Old 07-31-2014, 09:06 PM   #11
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Maniacal? meandering moto move from VT to AK

So that was the UP. I was tempted to explore some of the myriad dirty sand trails but they'll have to wait for some other day and a lighter bike. The next day brought me through Ashland Wisconsin where I hit a dive bar on a recommendation from an old man yoda friend in VT. Brian is currently my glorified room mate / caretaker. He moved into my house and I didn’t really have to move out. I just moved a bunch of stuff out of his way and he’ll take care of my dilapidated cottage when I’m gone. He was a bit of a mentor in that we played music together at a few different open mics, me on the snare and him on the guitar. He also helped me sharpen my carpentry skills in exchange for many a martini and help sharping his cooking skills. I’ll miss him. Anyway, he lived in Ashland when he was around my age and recommended the Office Bar - quite a dive so the PBR was delicious. I then proceeded to The Black Cat Cafe and had a great Cobb Salad to cleanse my senses. Apparently, The Cat used to be another dive bar that found new life as a hipster cafe. The town also had lots of huge murals devoted to depicting the bygone cultural life of the area.

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Table ID Placard at The Cat

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Brian asked me to ask around and see if anyone remembered him. No one did and I didn’t have the heart to tell him. That said, I was only there for an afternoon. Why do so many towns paint murals depicting fictitious citizens from another era and yet allow many real people to be swallowed into oblivion? I’m sure he left his mark in the form of many living structures through his work as a carpenter but who knows how long they’ll last and be cared for?

Big Chief Spray Foam

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I know, bad form to poke fun at a hero's name but I needed a pee break and just couldn't resist.

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While partaking in my big salad I decided to hang in Duluth for a couple nights. I hadn’t stayed anywhere for more than a night yet and was looking forward to the rest. After first observing the line and then proceeding to hit up the fantastic Portland Malt Shop that was in a former gas station, I found a great place to share with an old hippy couple that live up on a hill with a nice water view from the porch. Miranda was a trip and Paul was an old Norton dude. They hooked it up with the scotch on the rocks and we had a great evening shooting the breeze and enjoying the view. I was informed that Lake Superior contains ten percent of the world’s fresh water and the breakwater beach in town was the longest sandy freshwater beach in the world. The next day promised to be a scorcher by Duluth standards approaching ninety degrees which made the beach sound great even if the water’s just barely above fifty.

Presidential Parking

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Porch View

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I spent the next day checking the town out. At just shy of ninety thousand souls, it’s big but not too big and relatively easy to navigate. Being a major port on lake Superior makes it a fun place to watch the big boats. Lunch at Fitger’s was pretty ok. The elk burger was decent, even if it did just taste like Worcestershire. The beer from the brewery was better.

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I also got a chance to check out Aerostitch. Being a warehouse/factory, the showroom left a little to be desired. I had fantasies of scoping out some helmets and maybe replacing my stupid XD4 with something quieter and less smelly. Alas, they’re really just helmet middlemen and don’t stock very many. I fondled a Falstaff instead and chatted with a dude headed to a BMW rally down around the twin cities with his old GS and, trailer. Ultimately I managed to get out of there having only purchased some of those fancy silicone earplugs and a pair of kneepads to fit in my Aerostitch issue jeans. The plugs sucked but the pads proved a great replacement to the sweaty ones I had been rocking as part of the Bohn armored underwear setup. I’ll keep the hip and tailbone pieces and mail the knees off to Alaska. After the heat of the warehouse the beach was great and yes, I went in. Flipping freezing.

Dinner was smoked whitefish and a great conversation with an old guy. I almost moved down the bar when I arrived because there was this blowhard making stupid Jewish jokes on the end I chose. Thankfully, he indicated he was leaving and the other two guys he was, sort of, with breathed a collective sigh of relief. They got to asking me what I was up to and the story earned me a beer. The beer buyer left and it was just me and this old guy Larry. He was a retired fireman and washed up bookie and he figured me out real quick. He was convinced that I wasn’t just moving or riding around but rather, I was on a bit of a spirit quest. His words. I got to revealing the whole dad factor and he related some of his family story. It was good.

Before leaving Duluth, I decided to purge some jetsam. I packed up the aforementioned kneepads, some clothes I wasn’t finding useful, The Talmud, XD peak, and my Madstad windshield. Between the hellacious night glare, dangerous rain view, same buffeting above 60 mph, and significant decrease in gas mileage - I decided that it was a waste of $400. Off to Alaska. Anyone want a scratched up Madstad system for the 9x0? $150 shipped from AK.
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Old 08-01-2014, 08:12 AM   #12
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Terrific updates. Glad the locals are chipping in with words of wisdom or what-nots. Ride the world! (okay, those words are at the top of this page and not original but they're heartfelt nonetheless). Oh and I can't resist adding a smilie cuz they're just pretty funny
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Old 08-01-2014, 03:02 PM   #13
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Great update , keep it coming.
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Old 08-01-2014, 04:55 PM   #14
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Once on the road, the North Shore Route 61 out of Duluth was pretty great. I decided to skip the $9 view of the Silver Bay lighthouse and then my front exhaust header cracked, a perfect slice at a machine weld. I’m a proud owner of the Italian GPR full 2:1 exhaust system. This is the second one that cracked, at the same weld. The first one was replaced by KTM Twins but they’re no longer dealing with the good folks at GPR. This was no Friday at the factory factor - GPR are just a bunch of pazzos. There’s a thread in the OC about their bologna. So, I was limping around and looking for a good welder. I stopped at a True Value in Silver Bay and was going to rig up a patch. I had some galvanized flashing and two ring clamps. It wasn’t going to work.

Like a Laser - Not rust but souvenir red clay from a previous PEI twirl.

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As I was leaving the store, there was this dude in the parking lot on a shiny new Guzzi Stelvio NTX drooling at my 990. Ted was his name aka c-zulu here. He saw my Labrador & Newfoundland stickers and was commenting on how he’s planning a trip up that way later this summer on his 950. Turns out Ted was a genuine moto angel. After relating my cracked header woes and Mickey Mouse MacGyver plan, he graciously offered to take me to his garage full of toys and tools, and beer, and Rush music. Apparently he’s a drummer too. He called a friend in town who, you guessed it, happened to be a good welder. We tag teamed the tank off, header extraction and took it to his buddy Todd’s place. He welded it up good and we went to try and put it back in.

Hextracted

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Cousins

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Maybe I marked it wrong or maybe the welding process warped it a few degrees but it wouldn’t line up correctly against the gasket. We tried for an hour or so before succumbing to the pizza and wings temptation. I got to sleep like a champ in the blacked out basement and Ted went so far as to cancel a doctor’s appointment he had for the following day in order to stick around and help me out. We tried loosening everything in the morning to no avail. After getting in touch with Todd and telling him the story we were invited back over for an evening of cutting and grinding and welding, this time on the bike. With a few hours to kill, Ted proceeded to let me borrow his Buell Ulysses and took me on a nice rip for a couple hours while I followed him on his Stelvio. We scored a free lunch at the local Auto Value promotional barbecue. Yummy brats and kraut and root beer floats.

With my 990 in pieces, we loaded it onto his truck and off to Todd’s we went. Ted had to go to band practice before Todd and I got it all sorted out while partaking in some Vodka and. Orange no less, Gatorade. I’m forever grateful to those two gents and was happy to surprise Todd with a bottle of Crown Royal. Todd’s wife stuffed a Silver Bay souvenir t-shirt into a pannier and off I went.

Meh, eyes closed cell phone shot.

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The shirt depicted the town mascot Rocky, an anthropomorphic amalgamation of taconite balls. Made from mined iron ore, taconite is shipped around the world from the area. It’s a stretch but taconite is used in steel production so who knows, maybe my bike frame came home, maybe even the exhaust header. Maybe it was the metal gods that were with me more so than the moto gods. Either way, good stuff.

From Todd’s I camped at Wildhurst Lodge. Leroy, the owner, manned the registration and the bar. Pizza was OK, conversation was better, and the camp was exceptionally clean. Leroy informed me that the local moose population had dwindled to the point of hunting ban due to some parasite. He was convinced it was due in part to the ban on wolf hunting thanks to those "nature people." Maybe he was onto something. Either way, his recommendation for breakfast the next day brought me to the Stony River Cafe. I was instructed to heckle the cook/owner Tom and request the, off menu, Tom’s omelet. Omelet was mediocre but the banter was hilarious. They requested my story and I got their's and some. They wanted to know what I thought of the Common Core as a teacher. I asked them if it’s possible to homogenize an entire country. Ever been to a Walmart? I also asked them if you shouldn’t be able to move anywhere and play with the other kids. We’ll see.
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Old 08-02-2014, 09:40 PM   #15
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After breakfast I headed up Minnesota Route 1 in search of the Echo Trail. Ted had recommended I check it out and it was certainly worth the wander. After finding my way out the other end I headed up toward crossing back into Canada at International Falls. This crossing went much smoother.

Fresh Grade on the Echo

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Heading up around Lake of the Woods was beautiful and once I got to Kenora I decided to splurge on a fancy hotel room with a lake view and went out for dinner at the Lake of the Woods Brewery. Who knew that fried walleye bites with house made kimchee and lime aioli would work?

Falling into Lake of the Woods

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Who gets a bloody caesar at a brewery? Why are they so bloody popular here in Canuckada? Yes, that's a sausage in my drink and I'm happy to see you.

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After dinner I headed back to the fancy room and went to take a shower. Used soap greeted me there, as well as urine and spit in the toilet that weren’t mine. I was ready to forget about it but then I couldn’t get the bedside light to work. Rooting around trying to troubleshoot the plug revealed a rumpled facecloth behind the nightstand with who knows what on it. I’ve never left a hotel room before, especially not at 11:00 PM, but there’s a first time for everything. After politely demanding a refund, I roared off to a cheap motel down the road.

Fun fish sculptures on the Rat Portage in Kenora, ON

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The next day brought me to Winnipeg, aka The Peg. It’s certainly a world class city with lots to offer. I picked a pretty sketchy hostel in a seedy neighborhood. The joint used to be affiliated with Hostelling International but, not anymore. Instead of leggy blond frauleins, I was happy to share a men’s dorm with a smattering of darker itinerants. I was the only white boy and I stank so the Indians started cooking up some delicious pungent curry to share and kindly pointed out the laundry facilities. Initially, I had thought about spending two days to explore the city but I was itching to get moving. It was a little disturbing to see Native Americans as the urban destitute. Maybe I’ve seen too many westerns and have a stereotypical image I need to get over, or maybe I was just in the sketchy part of town - but there were lots of them and most were obviously poor.

First day on the prairie. I'd forgotten how you can watch the weather come at you from afar.

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After hitting up a great yoga class at this extravaganza studio Yoga Public the next morning, I hit the road. I’ve enjoyed yoga for many years but between the 2.5 rounds of strep and this here trip I’ve been slacking. So, no badass Astanga for a while quite yet. I was happy to hang with the old folks at an early Saturday restorative class.
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