Horizons Unlimited 2014, Part One


It was at the Ontario meet last year I commented absently that, if both the east coast event were on sequential weekends, I could probably attend both.

So, naturally, this year they are the first and second weekend in September, and I signed up for both events. Since my schedule meant I’d have a little extra time before the first one (in North Carolina), I decided to extend the trip a little and ride the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail.

If you hadn’t heard about it, the trail runs from Lake Superior to the Wisconsin/Illinois border (a recent addition extends the trail into Illinois, but I’m going to ignore that part), using almost entirely gravel roads. These are forest and fire roads, legal for use by any licensed vehicle, and you don’t need an OHV permit.

I had Friday to ride to the top of the route, but all of Wisconsin was blanketed by storms the week before I was to leave. Even Friday morning saw storms moving across the state, and I wondered if tackling a 600+ mile dirt road was that great an idea.

Still, I waited a couple hours for the local rains to let up and started north with Curiosity and Blue. The plan was to reach the area of Delta, camp, and start south early in the morning. This plan came a little apart as I reached Phillips and saw lightning ahead and to my left.

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Prudence being the better part of valor, I found a motel for the night, listening to the booms as I drifted off to a dry sleep.

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In the morning it was overcast and cool, but it was raining in Phillips and I took that as a good sign. I grabbed a couple bananas, checked out, and headed north for Delta. About 10 minutes north of Phillips, the rain started. It didn’t stop for the next couple hours while I continued north.

You might wonder why I was trying to reach Delta, and the answer would be two parts. Delta is on the adventure trail, so it’s easy to get on and off there. Also, it has the Delta Diner.

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The diner is straight out of the 40s, and has a vague menu one of the servers took 5 minutes to explain to me and a Minnesota couple who were also first timers. I was tempted by a couple of the choices, but decided to go with the classic cakes and bacon.

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And pie for desert.

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Because, you know, pie.

The big breakfast meant I hit the trail hours later than I had thought I would, but the delay meant I only got rained on for a few minutes after starting. And the trail had the much extra time to dry out. This northern part is mostly sand, which might have been easier since it was damp, but long areas were still flooded and parts of the trail had been chewed up by quads and were soft.

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I haven’t done any real off-pavement riding since coming back from South America (okay, some gravel here and there), so I had to relearn some habits. Even with street tires and loaded (with extra stuff for the HU events), Curiosity is light and can shake off most wobbles. It’s me, the rider, who needed to relearn how to relax and float on the bike.

I was alone too, and that always affects my riding. Having the rear end slide way out while doing 30 on a sandy road is fun, but injury or damage would leave me feeling quite lonely. Having the front end start to slide out was even more nerve wracking.

I did stop to check out some signs along the road.

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But mostly it was riding and riding and riding.

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As I neared the southern end of the Chequamegon National Forest, I turned back onto pavement and headed south west. Sue had gotten onto her motorcycle that morning and we hoped to meet and ride together on Sunday.

The pavement felt weird under the tires, and I kept not trusting my traction in the corners, mentally trying to readjust to being back on solid ground.

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I understood the elk, I’d been seeing elk crossing signs all day. The bike seemed optimistic here in the north where snow was probably expected next week. I wasn’t sure what the large scaffold thing was, and thought perhaps there was a plant here that made high tension power lines.

I was wrong

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It’s hard from the pictures to get a sense of how huge this thing is.

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And that it’s the last one in the United States is pretty cool. Who knew?

I reached Chippewa Falls and found Sue lounging in a park drinking hot Cocoa. Her ride had been cold as wet as well, and after talking about camping we headed for a motel she’d seen on the way into town. The room was inexpensive (especially split) and after hot showers we fell asleep (after learning the Badger game wasn’t on).

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