LAKE HURON 1000 - June 27th of 2015
The alarm sounded at 4:00 am - jolting me back into consciousness.
As I lay there staring at the ceiling, awaiting the grogginess to lift, that dreaded sound could be heard .... steady rain.
If there is a mentally debilitating way to embark upon a 1,150 mile day at 4:30 in the morning - it would have to be in the rain !!!
This ride is starting and ending in Imlay City, Michigan.
A month before the ride I had called the local motels in the area, and they assured me there was no reason to make a reservation, as they always had vacancies.
So the day before the ride a call is made to forewarn them of our arrival and they inform me they are booked solid - No vacancy !!
Seems some massive funeral had descended upon town and there were absolutely no rooms available - anywhere. Not even adjoining cities. Who in the world died ?
So, this dictated a 70 mile commute to and from the start of the ride in the rain. As if a 1,000+ mile endeavor with border crossings was not enough. So be it, really wanted to accomplish this ride. Sure, I could do it any day I want to in the future, but being the procrastinator that I often am, who knows when it would happen.
Can't let the rain and winds deter me. After all, I have dealt with two monsoon seasons in the Korean mountains and villages. Living out in it for a week at a time. Incessantly soaked to the core. Rain so hard, you could barely see the soldier in front of you. Remove your helmet from your head, holding it upside down and within a minute water was overflowing the rim. We would laugh in disbelief. Then the year I was busted and sentenced to, among other things, cleaning out the "Turtle Ditches" with a shovel from morning till night, during what seemed like the entire monsoon season. The turtle ditches were deep open concrete culverts that ran alongside the road through our camp allowing the excess rain water to flow out and away. Problem is, the rain water flowing down from the surrounding mountains carried silt and dirt, which would accumulate in the bottom of the drainage ditches. Perfect job for someone needing to get their mind right ! Or the ferocious monsoon season that left cars floating away, as I waded in waist deep water from club to club in Tongduchon, stepping over the sandbagged doorways to get a drink. Ironically, happened to be in the village due to rehab classes during the day at Camp Casey, across the street. Those in charge should have been more careful where they sent a troubled soldier.
Keeping an arsenal of tougher times and unconventional situations in the back of your mind to tap into, can be a great motivator, often making the task at hand seem trivial. Most every obstacle really is psychological, or can be overcome psychologically. I got this. But I digress.
Off into the rainy darkness I plunged.
Obviously, we will be circumnavigating Lake Huron, starting and ending in the same exact location, per IBA rules. We will be travelling in a counter clockwise direction. There will be a border crossing into Canada and then again, back into the United States. Three bridges will be traversed; the Blue Water Bridge from Port Huron, Michigan into Canada, the International Bridge from Sault Saint Marie, Canada into Sault Saint Marie, Michigan in the U.P., and the Mighty Mackinac bridge back into the Lower Peninsula of Michigan from the Upper Peninsula.
We will be staying closer to the lake on country roads to avoid Toronto early on in the ride, but will have to veer away from the lake and head up to North Bay in order to make up the miles from bypassing Toronto.
- Lake Huron is the second largest Great Lake by surface area and the fifth largest freshwater lake in the world.
- It has the longest shoreline of the Great Lakes, counting the shoreline of it's 30,000 islands.
- Manitoulin Island is the largest freshwater island in the world.
- Georgian Bay and Saginaw Bay are the two largest bays on the Great Lakes.
-Early explorers listed the Georgian Bay as a separate sixth lake because it is nearly separated from the rest of Lake Huron by Manitoulin Island and the Bruce Peninsula.
-Georgian Bay is large enough to be among the worlds 20 largest lakes.
- Lake Huron receives the flow from both Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, but water flows through Lake Huron (retention time) much more quickly than through either of them.
- Huron was the first of the Great Lakes to be discovered by European settlers.
- Length = 206 miles
- Breadth = 183 miles
- Average Depth = 195 feet
- Maximum depth = 750 feet
- Elevation = 577 feet
- Outlet = St. Clair River to Lake Erie
- Retention/Replacement time = 22 years
- The Lake Huron Basin is heavily forested, sparsely populated, scenically beautiful, and economically dependent on its rich natural resources.
After arriving at the Speedway and topping off my fuel tank, it is time to look around at the diverse assortment of bikes that showed up. Still have a little time to spare before departure time.
We had 24 bikes and riders, along with 3 pillions show up for the Imlay City departure. Another 12 riders started and ended at different locations along the route.
Those that started in other areas needed to obtain a couple more receipts.
As usual, Ken will be on this ride with his 2009 BMW 1200 GSA, and we will be riding together for the entirety. Will Smith also showed up on his 1500 Wing, after his rainy commute.
Hey, there is another ST rider and his buddy on a Harley.
There is Jim VanDenBerghe, the ridemaster, witnessing and recording odometer readings prior to departure.
Had to do a double take on this one ! Thought Glenn J. showed up, as this is almost identical to his bike, but then remembered he was in Montana.
Even a Sporty.
A husband and wife team, each on their own Victory Bagger !!! That Blue flamed one is a very limited edition model, I was informed. Probably an Arlen Ness.
Small Beemer twin.
Canadian Husband and Wife riding a BMW 1200 GSA two up. The next Iron Butt ride they showed up on a 2014 Road King.
Ishii's Burgman 400. He always shows up for these rides. A very efficient rider too.
Jim holding the riders meeting. Look at that Red menacing sky !! You know what is said of Red skies in the morning.
Jesus said, "When in the evening, ye say, it will be fair weather: For the sky is red. And in the morning, it will be foul weather today; for the sky is red and lowering."
Even though we are enjoying a welcome break in the rain, looks like we may run into more in short order.
Jim sent us out in three separate waves, so we did not all arrive at the Bluewater Bridge and the Canadian border simultaneously. Ken, Will and I left last. Around 6:20 am.
The first leg to London, Ontario was about 96 miles.
Despite construction throughout this stretch of the route, we were hustling along at a decent clip. The Blue Water Bridge was also under construction, but at this hour of the morning, things stayed rolling. We also ran back into the rain. Although, recalling the looks of that ominous sky, it was inevitable and expected.
It didn't take long and we were catching up to the other riders and arriving at the border crossing.
The pillion rider in front of us was taking the opportunity to burn one during our delay at the border.
Better get some money ready for the bridge toll.
Somewhere between the Canadian border and London we lost Will. Later we found out he had a wardrobe malfunction, was soaking wet, and had retreated to fight another day. Sometimes that happens, and often lessons are learned from failure that would not have been realized otherwise. Such as invest in Gore-Tex riding gear if at all possible. Since this ride, Will has purchased Klim Latitude Gore-Tex Jacket and pants.
About four years ago, Klim Traverse Gore-Tex jacket and pants became my go to gear, and rain suit stops have become obsolete ever since.
For me, the straw that broke the camels back, was one year when Ken and I were spending the better part of a week exploring the Smoky Mountain Region. It would downpour rain, which would have you scrambling to don your rain gear on the side of the road. Within a half hour, the sun would come out and the heat and humidity would have you peeling off the rain gear as sweat was rolling down your back. This cycle repeated itself about five times one day, and I swore that was it. Just had to spend the money and get the right gear. The old rain gear was relegated to Trials duty.
Leg 2 to Stayner and Leg 3 to North Bay, Ontario.
Shortly after departing London, we miraculously rode out of the rain, and the morning became wondrous ! Especially after starting out in, and enduring the adverse weather conditions up to this point. Just makes it even sweeter after the nagging rain dissipates. Can't enjoy a high without a low. Not as intensely, anyway.
During this section, we enjoyed fast riding through the Canadian countryside and farmland.
A handful of bikes arrived at Sunnidale Corners (Stayner) within close proximity of each other, including Ken and I, adding to the already busy fuel station as we all were shuffling in and out of the lone restroom in between fueling up our bikes and snatching the mandatory fuel receipt.
It was 10:09 am. We were making fantastic time and already 250 miles into the ride.
From Stayner, we maintained a blistering pace up Highway 11 to North Bay, all the while with a Harley Davidson Road Glide in hot pursuit. He was doing a good job of staying in our mirrors. Later, I would learn he had come down from Wisconsin to participate in this ride. He kept the wheels turning.
We reached North Bay at 12:52 pm, and were now 414 miles into the ride.
After fueling, we decided to sit down and eat lunch at Mr. Sub. Must be some kind of franchise exclusive to Canada, as I have seen a few during these Great Lake rides in Canada, but don't recall them Stateside. Not sure.
As we ate and conversed, a few groups or teams of our riders motored past.
So cool, these individual or team efforts within a organized long distance challenge. Does wonders for morale and adds an interesting depth !!!
Leg 4 - North Bay, Ontario to Massey, Ontario.
North Bay was left behind via Highway 17; the Trans Canada Highway, heading West.
You notice the terrain change up on the Northern shore, becoming more rocky and remote. Wonderful country.
Some cool looking Bogs scattered just off the highway also. Kept scanning for a monster Moose wading in one, but no such luck on this day. While riding the Lake Superior 1000, multiple Moose were spotted along the north shore, which is also rocky.
We rolled through Sudbury and Espanola. We needed a fuel receipt somewhere in this vicinity; Espanola.
Saw a Subway, so we stopped and had another small sub, and realized we had passed our fuel stop. After eating, we backtracked to Massey for a mandatory fuel receipt. This added another 20 or 30 miles onto the day.
It was 3:59 pm in Massey after fueling, and this was the approximate halfway point of the route.
The temperature was up around 85 degrees now, and the heat coupled with this time of day had me feeling a bit lethargic. All the eating didn't help. I do best if I eat very little on these rides, just munching out of the tank bag.
Regardless of where I am or what day it is, between 3 and 6 pm, my Circadian Rhythm is on a downswing and I get tired. Just how my body clock works. After 6pm and I become reinvigorated. When you realize these things, it helps deal with the onset. Knowing it will pass.
While passing through Espanola, I took note of Route 6 that leads down into Manitoulin Island. Sometimes it is hard to bypass these desirable places, but no worries, I will be back !! This is just a recon run. Sharpening my Geography skills. Will explore and dissect the area at a later date while in tour mode.
Along one stretch, I spotted Ken fumbling around in his tank bag, and knew he was getting into the gourmet licorice he had tucked away. After motioning for him to share, he handed me off a piece. When you have rode the miles we have together, you can pass snacks at 70 mph, even with saddlebags almost touching. No room for error though.
Our next fuel receipt was in Harrison, Michigan. A border crossing, 2 bridges and over 300 miles away. Time to ramp it up and get moving. No more eating.
Glimpse of the lake, as we ran across the northern shore, towards Sault Saint Marie.
Along this stretch, we caught back up to Tom on his Silver ST, the Victory riders, the Harley trike and the two up couple on the Harley Ultra.
They turned off for fuel, as we continued on into the "SOO" and the border crossing.
Long line at the border. We killed and dismounted our bikes, then pushed them a few feet at a time, as we slowly shuffled towards the guard post, all the while swatting at the swarms of nagging nats circling our heads.
The three sport bike riders, who started and were to end in Tawas City, were just in front of us. One of them, Wayne, had a few months prior, come down and picked up my FZ1, that I sold to his friend. Small world.
After reentering the U.S., there was construction and a long detour on I-75 south, costing us some more time.
Crossed the 5 mile long, including it's approaches, Mackinac Bridge and then passed by Mackinaw City, as the sun was beginning it's fast descent. My favorite time of the day.
Mackinac or Mackinaw ?
- The French pronounced it "aw" but spelled it "ac".
-The British heard it pronounced "aw" so they spelled it that way.
- Whichever way it is spelled, it is always pronounced "aw".
Made it down to Harrison, Michigan for fuel at 10:00 pm. We were about 866 miles into the route now. They had just shut the pumps off at this tiny station set back along a wood line, but they happily accommodated us by turning them back on for 5 minutes. We were grateful not to have to find another station.
- The final push -
Not long after departing Harrison, intermittent rain would begin to taunt us.
As we were closing in on the finish, our start location, we were also riding back into the storm that had attempted to break our spirit at the outset !!
If I remember correctly, it did just that to 5 of our riders, whose attempt had been thwarted due to inclement conditions.
Had to make a brief stop in Flint for another mandatory fuel receipt. Ken's credit card had been shut off by this time, so he had to run into the station to pay. The CC company must have thought something went haywire, as this card holder could not have possibly made all these transactions that circumnavigated Lake Huron in this ridiculously short amount of time. Some kind of bizarre expedited vacation.
Leaving Flint with only about 40 miles to devour before reaching the finish, the storm was in full force. Blowing wind, with very heavy gusting and rain pelting us, as we pushed hard anyways, arriving in Imlay City for our ending receipt at 12:30 am.
The Road Glide rider from Wisconsin arrived just after us. After procuring our receipts and safely tucking them away, the three of us walked next door to Timmie's and splurged on steaming hot coffee and donuts. We earned it.
Then it was back into the midnight storm for the 70 mile slog home in the rain. Gluttons for punishment. Started in the rain, and ended in the rain.