Friday, February 3, 2017
LAKE SUPERIOR 1000
IRON BUTT ARCHIVES
-The day before
Thursday 19 June 2014
We had two rooms reserved a month in advance at the Seaway Motel in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan.
A small one story L-shaped motor lodge that has seen better days, but has character and modest rates, both of which appeal to me.
The Smith's shared one room; my cousin Will, AKA drbuzzard on Advrider and myself.
Then Scott, AKA GasGuzzler on Advrider along with Ken, AKA BigTruckGuy on Advrider shared the other.
The plan was to ride up individually and just meet up at the motel whenever.
The sweet elderly women who owns the place was informed in advance that four riders will be coming in at different times and whoever gets there first will pay for their respective rooms and collect their key.
- This guy is a beast on two wheels,and has been riding on and off road damn near since he was a baby !!
He is to blame ... I mean thank for introducing me to long- distance touring 13 years ago.
Once he rode from Lansing, Michigan to New Orleans, Louisiana - which is just over 1,000 miles in like 16 hours.
The amazing part is he didn't leave Lansing until the evening and this is after getting up at 5:00 AM in Monroe and riding to Detroit to work all day, then riding to Belleville to pick up BigTruckGuy, and then rode out to Lansing to finally start the ride.
I warned you he was a beast !!!
His current weapon of choice is a 2006 BMW R1200GSA that just turned 100,000 miles.
I found him this bike around 2007 with only 10,000 miles on it and loaded up with accessories for an insanely cheap price on the western side of Indiana.
At the time I was riding a 2002 BMW 1150 GSA and I told him, " If you dont want or like the bike in Indiana, that I will buy it, so you cant go wrong."
I even rode him out there two up on my BMW to get it. Co-workers tried teasing us about riding two up and I simply said, "When you are secure in your masculinity, you can do that."
He has one distinguishing feature.His body looks that of a 21 year old but his head appears to have worn out 3 bodies !!
He must not be worried about it either because I caught him riding around Sault Sainte Marie without his helmet.
I tell ya, you can put a guy on a BMW - but you just can't get all of the Harley out of him.
I threatened to tell STICKGIRL (His young impressionable daughter) and he said, "No, Don't tell her" so hopefully she don't find this.
That reminds me of an article Fred Rau wrote years ago.
He went to 3 rallys one year. A Goldwing rally, a Harley rally, and a BMW rally.
He noticed the Harley riders all wore full leather from head to toe - but no helmets.
He noticed the wing riders all wore helmets - but were in shorts, t-shirts, and flip flops.
But the BMW riders - they wore ATGATT. (all the gear all the time)
So he concluded that it appeared Harley riders cared about their body and not their head, and that the Wing riders cared about their heads and not their body, while the BMW riders cared about their head and body - or something to that effect.
Then I see GasGuzzler like this and it defies everything.
-He is like a mysterious ninja quietly hanging back in the shadows - but make no mistake about it - he always comes to the fight weilding a big stick !!
Years ago I introduced and accompanied Ken on his first Iron Butt ride.
This will be our third documented Iron Butt ride TOGETHER, not to mention the countless miles we have ridden with each other touring all over the country.
His current long distance steed is a 2009 BMW R1200GSA with 38,000 miles on it that he bought brand new, with a little push from GasGuzzler and myself - what are friends for ?
He has one pet peave...sheepskin seat covers creep him out.
He is the surprise player of the year. He showed interest in seriously riding with us this year and brought his "A" game - big time !!
This is his first Iron Butt ride and we are determined to get him his number.
I heard grumblings from outsiders saying, "He can't ride with you guys" or "He will never make it".
Well, my couzin Will has been proving the naysayers wrong all year.
He is riding the 1500 Wing that I sold him some time around 2008 - and which now has around 80,000 miles on it.
I still say he needs a fuel cell for that thirsty wing though.
And you guys already know me by now.
Upon arriving, the first thing to do was check in the Seaway motel and establish home base for the next two days.
The woman who owned and ran the place was special and I felt an almost instant connection with her - she was real.
She was 82 years old and had over the years lost her husband and son along with recently battling and beating cancer. To look and talk to her you would think she was only 60 years old and it was obvious she never lost her grace or spirit. Now she had to handle everything on her own and said she can barely pay the bills year to year. That is understandable in this new economy.
The motel and rooms were nothing fancy but they were clean and If I return to the area this is where I would stay to support her business.
"After dinner we all just lounged around the motel chatting it up along with making final preparations to gear for the mornings very early start."
"It was an exciting day with alot of activity crammed in - along with 450 miles on the odometer."
Shortly after closing my eyes and drifting off, the alarm on the smartphone sounded, 4:00 am comes early - real early.
Stepping out the front door of the motel, it was a perfect morning.
It was eerily quiet with the streets desolate and the air was totally calm and cool.
This was perfect Iron Butt weather !!!
The cool early morning air, coupled with quietly talking amongst ourselves as we readied our gear and bikes, while the rest of the world slept, brought forth a familiar spirit that I often felt while a young man in the Infantry.
Likely, one of the many attractions for me, of these group LD rides.
The Jetboil was fired to life and Starbucks Via was quickly brewed up for all of those that were interested.
Breakfast will have to be eaten out of the tankbag !!
The meet up for the start is at the rest area - at the last exit on I-75 - just before the International Bridge to Canada, and is only about a mile down the road from our motel.
Off to the rest area to get our odometer readings recorded and fuel tanks filled up before our departure time.
We have 11 bikes starting this ride.
Ishii - 400 Burgman
Glenn - 2012 Harley FLHTK
ED from Wisconsin - V-STROM (Mens Version)
Duff - Older Kawasaki Voyager
Howie - FJR 1300
Jim - Ridemaster on his ST1100
Dave - From Wisconsin on his CB1100
Will Smith - 1500 Goldwing
Ken Koren - 2009 GSA 1200
Scott Auer - 2006 GSA 1200
Jeff Smith - "GAS GUY" 2004 ST 1300
David Olsen almost missed the ride due to a knee surgery he had to have.
The doctor cleared him to ride at the last minute, and being the trooper David is, he made it to the start ready to give it a shot.
He is a rider I picked up from a thread I started on the ADVRIDER regional forum.
Here is his CB1100 and him standing in the middle gazing on with that crazy twinkle in his eye.
Jim VandenBerghe (Ridemaster) checking and recording Ishii's odometer.
Thanks to all the hard work and planning of Jim, we have these rides planned and promoted as a group event.
The multiple riders and coordination adds an interesting and exciting dimension to these individual efforts !!!
Prior to departure, Jim held a brief riders meeting, adding any pertinent information or tips that he felt was important to the success of the ride such as alot of Bear sightings near and on the road lately approaching Terrace Bay, Ontario - so be aware.
He said an end witness will be at the rest area at 3:00 am for the finish to record our fuel receipts and record our odometers.
He felt nobody would be back before then due to the border crossings, slow speed limits, and alot of construction on our route.
There goes Glenn scooting across the lot for a last restroom break before kickstands up.
Scott and Kenny discussing last minute details.
Some riders were released at 5:30 am.
Scott,Kenny and myself were released at 5:45 am.
The remainder left at 6:00 to keep from loading up the border crossing with riders.
While crossing the International Bridge we were afforded a rare opportunity to view the "Soo Locks" from another perspective - at dawn no less.
We descended the Northern end and coasted up to the border crossing into Canada as the sun was still struggling to break the horizon.
All of us having enhanced drivers liscences proved to make the border crossing painless.
Before we could head out onto the open road and start making time, the streets of the other Sault Ste. Marie, the one in Ontario, Canada - had to be navigated through.
The area seemed run down and void of much activity. More than likely another victim of our new economy. I suppose it wouldn't hurt for more of the world to slow back down though, if only we can be strong and creative to make positive things come from it.
Once out into the country it wasn't long before arriving in motorcycling ecstasy !
This is a specific Iron Butt ride I have dreamed of attempting since back in 2007, when I listened with envy as some other riders recounted their experiences of it to me.
That night, we were embarking on the Lake Michigan 1000 out of Capital Harley Davidson in Lansing, Michigan - and the year prior they had done the Superior ride.
I had not been aware of it and was bummed out that I missed the opportunity and since then I have been putting it off inadvertently. So many places, so little time.
Now as the miles were beginning to accumulate and I was "On the clock" - the realization was starting to set in.
It's on, and I was excited !!!
We were enroute to our first mandatory fuel receipt in Wa Wa and the landscape was really starting to come alive.
There are not too many roads in these parts - so navigation was a breeze - just stay on Provincial Highway 17 and enjoy the sights.
Enjoying the sights is probably an understatement.
The combination of smooth, winding road, perfect cool riding weather, and incredible vista after vista - along with Area 51 rocking in my helmet - and it was more like sensory overload !!!
It's going to be tough going back to work and monotony in Detroit after this.
The first leg of the route and 143 miles was in the books as we entered Wa Wa and the gas station.
We quickly filled our tanks, trying not to focus too hard on the exorbitant price of fuel in Canada - I paid $6.50 a gallon for premium !!
55,462 MILES - ODO
152 - FUEL TRIP
3.35 - GALLONS PREMIUM
45.37 - MPG
8:21 AM - 58.46 MPH OVER ALL AVERAGE
WILL'S 1500 Goldwing = 36.62 MPG
SCOTT'S 2006 GSA 1200 = 40 MPG
KEN'S 2009 GSA 1200 = 41.17 MPG
The ST's fuel mileage has been exceeding my expectations, and even the BMW's MPG numbers, which really impressed me.
I thought these slower speed limits on this route would surely favor the GSA's in the MPG department, but this is not proving to be the case.
A cold Arby's roast beef sandwich was snatched from the Polar Bear cooler and quickly devoured before departing on the second leg of the route towards Thunder Bay.
This leg of the journey, from Wa Wa to Thunder Bay was 300 miles.
Scott, Ken, and I all had enough fuel capacity - so we planned on running non stop till we arrived in Thunder Bay.
Before too long we started catching up with the other riders who left out first.
I came upon David Olsen and his CBR 1100.
Then we came across Glenn on his Harley and he fell in with us and eventually teamed up with Will when they needed fuel. They had similar fuel requirements and would finish the ride together.
We were hustling a little too briskly through this area and a oncoming police car turned his flashers on as he passed,telling us to sloooow down !!!
He kept going, as I watched him my mirror, and I breathed a sigh of relief.
The temperatures stayed very comfortable all day.
- Between 40 and 60 degrees.
As you ran up close to the lake the temps would drop as low as the 40's and when you got away from the lake they might climb up to 60 degrees.
Out of the whole loop, this Northern-most section of Lake Superior is my favorite.
It is the most wild and untamed section - and is just incredible !!
It appears to be much more rocky than the Michigan U.P. side also.
After completing this recon Iron Butt ride I know this Northernmost section is where I would like to come back and do some exploring.
Through here is also where we started seeing the wildlife.
I about jumped out of my seat when I passed the first moose !!!
Then,in short order two more.
Awesome - three moose !!
I was going to stop and turn around to try and get a picture but just pushed on.
Thankfully David Olsen was stopping behind us and snapping pictures - which he was kind enough to share with me.
This guy must have come out just after our group passed, because I missed him.
David was not too far behind us and came upon him - grabbing these pictures.
We also encountered quite a bit of construction along this stretch. At multiple locations you came right down to a halt while waiting for the flag man or woman to wave you on because the road was down to one lane.
Surprising, was the amount of touring bicyclists way up here. There were many and they were fully loaded with front and rear panniers and many looked to be really working hard with heads down.
They are truely hard core.
Somewhere within the last hundred miles to Thunder Bay it started to rain. It wasn't a terrible downpour or anything but just a light steady rainfall that followed us just about to our fuel stop.
Around 1:30 pm we arrived at a Esso gas station in Thunder Bay and fueled up. Also, we took a short break at the attached coffee shop, enjoying a muffin and coffee.
Hit the restroom also, 300 miles without putting a foot down and it was time !!
55,764 - ODO
301.4 - FUEL TRIP
6.21 - GALLONS PREMIUM
48.53 - MPG
Scott's 2006 GSA = 47 MPG
Ken's 2009 GSA = 48 MPG
Will and Glenn were a little ways behind us at this point since they needed fuel earlier.
Will told me when they were fueling up in Thunder Bay that Glenn mentioned wanting to stop in at the Harley dealer and get a t-shirt.
Will said, "We cant spend too much time trying to find it." Then they looked over and there it was right in front of them !
Will had forgotten his heated jacket liner at home and was a bit chilly so he bought a HD sweatshirt. I think he paid around $70.00 !
Welcome to HD and Canada !!!
The next mandatory fuel receipt was in Ishpeming, Michigan in the U.P. - and was 425 miles away.
I would need fuel somewhere in between, plus we had a border crossing coming up.
After an approximately 40 mile leisurely ride through the Ontario countryside and farmlands, we arrived at the customs border crossing at Grand Portage, Minnesota.
This was approaching the half way point of the ride.
There was probably ten cars in front of us and the line moved at a fair pace. We shut the bikes off and pushed them, getting some exercise and promoting blood flow, until we reached the border officer.
He asked me the usual questions and I explained what we were doing. I could see him calculating time and distance numbers in his head, then after giving me a quizzical look, let me continue on with my task.
Scott and Kenny followed in short order.
I heard later, that they detained Ishii on the Burgman 400 for a short time to check him out.
He may have a foreign passport, but I am not sure.
The Minnesota shoreline of western Lake Superior from Grand Portage to Duluth is 150 miles and Route 61 runs the length of it.
Even though it did not rival the North shore, this was still an incredibly scenic stretch with many views of the big lake.
We hit some more construction zones through here that once again brought you right down to a halt.
One of them was very muddy and I was surprised at the condition; it would be very easy for a street bike to go down at that location if not cautious.
There were also two tunnels along this area that were carved through the mountain.
We came across a raging river coming down the side of a hill right next to a roadside rest stop, so we pulled in to check it out.
Right as we were pulling back onto the road, David came roaring by - with purpose - on his CB1100.
I hammered down to catch up to him and rode with him for quite a while before he backed off and I took the lead as I was running pretty hard now - and trying to make some time.
The one weakness I have on the ST is no Auxillary driving lights - YET. This coming winter I plan on adding them.
That being the case and knowing I have to ride across the Upper Penninsula of Michigan at night, I wanted to limit my exposure at night by covering as much ground as possible before dark.
Approaching Duluth, the traffic and speed limits slowed progress for a while.
The fog and light rain was setting in again also.
I followed the first bridge - spanning the far western tip of Lake Superior - that delivers you into Wisconsin.
The conditions on the bridge were horrendous; the fog became so thick and wet your only visibility was the car directly next to and in front of you. It felt like riding up in the clouds. The winds were heavy and cold also.
All of this combined with the busy traffic left for white knuckles !!
Riding along Route 2 in Wisconsin I came across a beautiful Bald Eagle perched up in a tree along side the road. Sightings like this make my day.
There was quite a bit of police presence along this stretch on the way to Ishpeming, which I thought was peculiar considering how remote it was, so I had to watch my speed.
David Olsen ended up getting pulled over in this area later on because his newly mounted Mondo Moto LED auxilliary lights were aimed too high and the officer didn't like it.
The cop told David he gets most of his drunk drivers for failure to dim their high beams.
He let him go with a warning but not before David snapped a couple photos.
Even though I didn't need fuel yet, the next mandatory receipt in Ishpeming, Michigan was out of my range, so when I came across a convenient roadside station with a porta-john in close proximity to the pump, I took advantage of the opportunity.
55,984 - ODO
220.3 - FUEL TRIP
4.612 - GALLONS PREMIUM
47.76 - MPG
Passing through Ironwood at the Wisconsin and Michigan State line there was a detour rerouting traffic through town.
A deer came right up to the edge of the road briskly, then saw me and turned around heading back into the woods.
At least some of these deer have sense.
It's that pre dusk time when the deer start moving, so you have to be cautious. If that is even possible, when it comes to deer. Either way - it put me on full alert !!
The rain and fog cropped up again during the final miles to the fuel stop in Ishpeming.
The Klim Gore-Tex gear I wear kept me dry and allowed me to push on through various weather condition changes without the nuisance of pulling over to don rain gear, all the while being comfortable.
Staying focused along with minimal stops, since I was eating out of my tank bag and drinking from my Camel-Bak, allowed me to reach Ishpeming just after nightfall.
This energized me since there only remained 182 miles of night riding to cover with my marginal lighting.
What I did have going for me is the stock high beam on the ST is actually pretty impressive and there isn't alot of traffic up there so I would be able to use them often.
56,206 - ODO
221.4 - FUEL TRIP
4.639 - GALLONS PREMIUM
47.72 - MPG
Before heading out, I squeezed a few drops of Artificial Tears by Refresh into my eyes. This really helps me eliminate eye strain and dryness at night, along with giving me an overall feeling of freshness and alertness.
This is a tip I picked up from an article in Iron Butt Magazine.
The deer were out in force now. A few times I had to make a - brake check - as they were crossing the road. Luckily,no heart stopping close calls though.
I recall Glenn saying he counted something like 27 deer !!
Onward towards the "SOO" and the finish.
I was in the zone now.
This is one of the reasons I crave long distance riding.
At some point in the ride it becomes almost meditative.
I feel razor sharp and focused; at the same time I am deep in thought - while my soul is spiritually charged !!
This level of being is never reached, for me, in a normal day with constant distractions and monotonous tasks to be performed; instead it surfaces when I leave the comforts and normalcies of everyday life and get out in the elements and push myself.
Real life begins once you leave your comfort zone !!!
After a remote stretch of total darkness, the road crested a hill in the Marquette area and from my vantage point the shimmering lights and lakeshore along with the cool night air had my emotions buzzing !
This moment took me way back, to the long, lonely, and often cold nights high up on a mountain ridgeline in Korea in the 80's, looking down on a dimly lit village in the middle of the night - and the emotions it always brought on.
A deep lonliness, that eventually you learned to embrace.
We would patrol, often for weeks on end, living like animals.
Thats when the distant sleepy village would call to you.
Sometimes only a far off dogs erupting bark, would break the silence...
I passed through the cozy little towns of Christmas and Munising.
Munising is a special place that calls to you even as you pass through at night on the bike.
The next day I would return in touring mode.
One last blast across Route 28 and I was on I75.
I quickly covered the remaining few miles to the fuel station, across the street from the rest area, which is our start and ending location, filled my tank and retrieved my ending receipt.
56,390 - ODO
184.4 - FUEL TRIP
3.855 - GALLONS PREMIUM
47.83 - MPG
19 HOURS 10 MINUTES - 1,052 MILES54.93 OVERALL AVERAGE MPH
WILL'S 1500 WING - 38.47 MPG
SCOTT"S 2006 GSA 1200 - 47.36 MPG
KENNY'S 2009 GSA 1200 - 50.18 MPG
Kens GSA got a little better MPG than me on the last leg because I was running solo at a faster pace.
I was back early, so I went back to the room and took a shower and ate what food I had left in the Polar Bear cooler, while kicking back and watching TV.
About an hour later Scott and Kenny called me from the finish, so I rode back down there to hang out and turn in the receipts to the witness who was scheduled to show up at 3:00 AM and welcome some more riders in.
A little while later David Olsen pulled in.
Followed by Glenn and Will.
After a while the fatigue started to set in, so we went back to the room to get some rest for tommorow. We had some sightseeing and touring planned for the next few days before returning home and back to the grind in Detroit.
All riders eventually made it in and finished on time.
"WE WENT, WE RODE HARD, WE CONQUERED"