I am on record for being a huge fan of Horizon’s Unlimited. As a community they are knowledgeable, friendly, and generally more awesome than I am. To be honest I probably don’t spend enough time hanging out on their site and under utilized them on the trip, but live and learn.
One of the things HU does is have meetings all over the world where riders can gather, trade information and stories, and generally get empowered to stop planning and start actually traveling. There are four in North America, two each in the USA and Canada, divided between the coasts.
Well, that is true now, but 2012 was the first year for the Canada East meeting, being held in Barrie, ON, just north of Toronto. Horseshoe Riding Adventures donated some land for the event which was nice of them. It was also in late September, which might have been a little late in the year for Canada.
A few days before I was supposed to leave I noticed oil was (quite literally) pouring from one side of Curiosity’s engine. The gasket had failed, and a conversation with The Shop the next day told me I wouldn’t be able to get the gasket replaced before I was supposed to leave.
With Curiosity out I turned to one of the other motorcycles, a 1981 xs1100. This motorcycle (named Suffering) had been my main touring motorcycle for years. It truth, for a while I had been thinking about taking it on the trip, but the size (it’s almost 800 pounds unloaded) and mileage (just short of 100,000) made me hesitate. And I had the little bike so….
With Curiosity out I got Suffering out and prepped it for the trip. This bike has a full fairing and locking Vetter luggage. Packing was actually very easy, I guess there is packing memory like muscle memory.
To start the trip I headed to visit a friend about half way up the state of Wisconsin as a test run for Suffering, and to get myself used to being the big bike again. Carrying more than twice the fuel, on the larger bike I had about 30% more range. I could manage a higher sustained speed too, something I had missed without realizing it.
After spending a day with friends I headed for the western edge of Lake Superior. My plan was to ride along the northern shore, an area I really hadn’t explored very much. I had almost a week to reach Barrie, so had a fair amount of time.
On the way north I decided to pass through the town of Hayward, which is famous for some fishing museum. I am not into fishing, but there is also a giant fish –
And, yes, there is a museum on site about fishing. I don’t know much about fishing so I can’t really say anything about how good the museum is. I will say they have done a really good job with the landscaping to keep you from being able to get a good picture of the fish without paying to get in.
Since I was inside I took the opportunity to go inside the fish (yeah, really) and up to the mouth to check out the view.
Maybe it’s time for a new hat.
We spent some time inside the museum, where Blue made some friends.
I’m not really sure why there were bigfoots (bigfeet?) in the fishing museum, Blue didn’t ask.
While I was tempted to eat packed food I was tempted by restaurant signs claiming”Biggest” and “Best” burgers in the north. Not one to pass up on a good burger, I stopped at Gronks.
It was okay, and I don’t know where they are calling “north” so I don’t think I can really say anything about the biggest and best claim. It was certainly greasy.
I managed to get on the other side of Detroit before camping in a state park with a waterfall.
In the morning I found out the water was actually just up the road. The north shore is usually known for it’s waterfalls, though the Midwest was in a huge drought and, well –
Most of that is supposed to be under water. In fact, the waterfall was more of a water trickle and people were all over the riverbed.
Including Blue and me.
Back on the road we were soon at Grand Portage. This is a National Monument, and one I hadn’t been too before. Made famous during the fur trade as the place where the small canoes and trappers transferred their goods to larger boats for transport on the Great Lakes, now the place is covered with a reconstructed ‘company’ fort and small buildings where re-enactors demonstrate period skills and lifestyles.
It was while I was visiting the monument that the weather changed. While I had been enjoying 70s and 80s with some sun, from here through the rest of the trip I would be in 50s with rain when I was lucky. As the rain started and the temperature dropped Blue and I took shelter in the museum attached to the monument. I checked the radar to see if the rain was temporary while Blue went about making more friends.
Crossing into Canada was a non-event. I flashed my passport, assured them I had a job, and they wished me a save trip.
As I rolled along the North Shore the weather continued to me – less than friendly. A couple years eariler I had ridden Suffering along the Atlantic coast. It had been in the 50s and 60s some days and I’d been pretty sure I didn’t bring my heated liner with. Behind the fairing is usually pretty comfortable, but on this trip I was freezing.
Looking back at that trip I did actually bring my heated stuff along with. Oops.
I was determined to camp anyway, and just made large campfires when I could and made sure I cooked a warm dinner. Still, it was chilly. I stopped in a small town with a strip mall to find some extra layers to put on. I didn’t have any luck at the thrift shops and picked up a fleece from an actual clothing store. It wasn’t cheap, and was worse with the exchange rate, but it was my fault for not bringing my heated liner with.
When I left the shop it was snowing, so I walked into a Arby’s for lunch. There I met an older guy who had dropped off his Goldwing for winter storage and was impressed to see anyone else out riding. We chatted for a while, until this friend came to pick him and give him a ride back home. Another rider came in as well, parking his V-Strom a good distance from Suffering and sitting on the other side of Arby’s from me. It’s true I hadn’t showered in a couple days, but with it being so cold I didn’t think anyone would notice.
Despite the cold and precipitation, the north shore was a pretty area to ride through. The colors were just starting to change and, while I didn’t see any other motorcycles until I got to the HU meet, I could see why this area was popular. I wasn’t comfortable most of the time and this meant I didn’t take many pictures, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t see.
After camping for a week I decided to find a hotel for the night before the HU meet. I stopped just outside Barrie (actually south of where the meeting was) and had time to shop around before learning every hotel was exactly the same price.
In the morning I showered again and went outside. It was the warmest morning I’d had since leaving the States, though I was actually the furthest south I had been since then as well. At least I got a shower.
I had one more place I wanted to go and see before headed to the HU meet, Niagara Falls. I’ve never been, and from what I’d heard the Canadian side was better. Getting through Toronto was simple, despite the number of signs they have up. I mean, there were a lot of signs.
Niagara as a town was full of tourist things, including a Planet Hollywood and giant Hersey’s store.
Niagara got me back under blue skies, and it was warm enough that, even without my coat, I was too warm in my underarmor and long sleeve shirt. There was a fine mist coming off the falls and river, but the road wasn’t slippery. Free parking was hard to find, so I had to shell out for a full sized car spot. The attendant said if another motorcycle showed up she would let them share my spot, discount their fee and refund some of mine. It sounded good, but if there was another motorcyclist around they didn’t use the same lot.
There were a lot of people there, though talking with a couple employees I learned the crowds were actually pretty small. It wasn’t quite the off season, but it was getting close. I also saw at least one marriage proposal, and there were a lot, and I mean a lot, of couples along the sidewalk posing for pictures of the falls. Blue got me a hot dog to cheer me up, since I was feeling a bit lonely.
The view from the American side definitely wouldn’t be as good, so I guess being on the Canada side was a smart choice. That is the USA on the other side of the bridge, the same side as that smaller waterfall.
There are a couple visitor centers along the walkway, though I was disappointed that everything cost money. The Maid of the Mist tours were sold out until early evening, and I didn’t have that much time. I did still spend a couple of hours watching the water crash over the falls and learning what I could.
In the early afternoon I got back on Suffering and headed back north. As I rode the skies clouded over and the temperature dropped again. Passing through Barrie I started following signs for the Horseshoe Riding school, which brought me to the site from the wrong direction.
When I got there it was raining, but the Duvals (somewhat famous Auzzie couple) were there, along with Brain, who I had met in Hyder the year before. They had arrived the day before and already had a night camping, but I was still happy with my choice to hotel it. Showers are nice.
The first day was supposed to have some presentations in the evening after dinner, though a promised generator hadn’t appeared so instead there was a large bonfire and tall tales.
In the morning a different generator appeared and the presentations started. A passing conversation told me I was on the schedule – I had mentioned a willingness to talk on the HU forum so I guess I had it coming. The good news is I do like to talk so it wasn’t a big deal.
As usually for HU meetings, there was a lot of good information, though the rain and chilly temps were a bit of a downer. There was food in the evenings from the local high class sky resort, though it was a bit pricey. I did opt in for the last night’s dinner. It was really good.
As well as the presentations inside the tent there were a few outside too, including stretching exercises designed to help keep you limber on long riding days –
and some off road training from Horseshoe. At least one of their training courses led through the area we were in, so every now and then a line of little dirt bikes would come puttering through.
Since this was a motorcycle thing there were motorcycle around and I took some pictures –
As well as my making some new friends, Blue was meeting people too.
I’m not really surprised, but as travel pals go Blue is a little larger than most, at least among motorcycle people.
Eventually the meeting wrapped up, and everyone headed back towards their respectable homes. There were a lot of Canadians, unsurprisingly, but some American’s as well. I headed back into the USA over the Ambassador bridge into Detroit, surprised at how fast I got there. Toronto really isn’t that far away from Milwaukee, if you are willing to pass through Chicago and Detroit.
Getting back into the USA was, as I expected, more of a chore than leaving it. There was a toll for the bridge (which explains why the bridge owner is against another one being built), and I had to get through some drug sniffing dogs. The Border Guard on the USA side didn’t seem to think anyone should be out riding a motorcycle in September in Canada, and I had to talk about Chicago and Milwaukee for a while before he let me through. Maybe he was just curious about motorcycling?
Getting home was simple once I got through the border. Suffering actually seemed to run better on USA gas, and I enjoyed the ability to fly along the interstate, even though it meant I didn’t take a single picture or stop and look at a single thing.
This meant I got home in practically no time at all, but felt as though I had missed something along the way.
It was cool to go to an HU meet, and it was nice to be out on the big bike again. It reminded me of why people like them, as well as why they aren’t always the best choice. Curiosity was repaired while I was gone and I switched back and forth between the bikes until the snow fell when I stored the xs11 and sent Curiosity into the shop for maintenance.
Summer is coming.