Winnipeg to Ottawa, Day 3 East

I slept early and well, and am up and away at 6:00 AM. I gassed up last night, so I can get going right away.

Complication: it’s not fully light yet and there is dense fog. So dense I can’t see. Then I realize I’m wearing a dark smoked visor. I pull off at the goose and change to a clear visor, which makes a big difference although visibility is still poor. The fog is so dense visibility is only a few hundred metres. I find a speed where I’m confident I can stop and yet won’t be rear-ended. It’s damp and cool, and the electric vest is a welcome layer of warmth again.

I see motion off the highway in the fog and slow right down. What is that? As I get closer, I realize I’m watching a rather large wolf walking across the road. He doesn’t seem bothered by my presence, but I’m not going to stop and try for a picture.

The fog has made everything wet. That head-turn visor clearing trick comes in handy again. As the fog starts to lift it becomes associated with altitude and for half an hour I ride in and out of it as I go up and down hills. It’s eerie and quite beautiful.

The next couple of hours are an uneventful ride through Lake Superior Provincial Park and back to the lake shore.

I pull into Batchawana Bay rest stop on the shore of the lake for a photo and a stretch. I’m still admiring the lake when two big touring bikes pull in — a Wing and a Venture. These guys are Americans circumnavigating the lake. They haven’t done it for something like 20 years, so they’re interested in what’s ahead. We discuss the highway, bikes, the damp weather, The one who is very curious about the GPZ tries it on, on the centre stand, to see what the riding position is like. I take a photo of them with their camera, we enjoy more chat, and depart, heading in opposite directions.

As I approach the Sault I get a bit sad, as I always do when realizing I’m about to turn away from the Lake and return to more normal country. The region that is the real reason for this trip is now behind me.

I gas up at the station at the bypass intersection again, Km 16875. I forgot to note the mileage in Wawa so don’t know how far I’ve come today. Further evidence that I’m getting weary.

I’m thinking lunch at that same restaurant in Thessalon would be nice. About 20 Km from there I pass a big transport that I couldn’t see around and find myself pulling in at the tail of a big Harley group. Maybe 20 bikes, outlaw costumes, mainly riding 2-up. I look and feel out of place, but am ignored. Either they can’t see me, don’t realize I’m not one of their group or (most likely) simply don’t care. I’m the only one not wearing black, so I certainly don’t look like I belong here. They are doing something that’s unfortunately fairly common — travelling in a single pack with no gaps, so there is essentially no way for vehicles to pass them. I’m still wondering whether one passes such a group by pulling into it for intermediate stops when the Thessalon exit comes up & the problem is avoided.

Breakfast in Carolyn Beach resort at Km 16944 is delicious while the chain lube sets. There are always a couple of bikes at this spot, this time an old model Yamaha standard and a middle-aged Harley, both done up with gear. I can’t identify the riders in the restaurant crowd, though.

I get back on the road at 11:00 and by 11:30 my legs and shoulders are sore. This isn’t a good sign. Stop in Blind River to stretch and take a Tylenol. I must find a way to alter body positions more — don’t want to be doing stops every half hour (& growing more frequent). It’s getting very hot; down lots of water. In fact, I realize I’m probably dehydrated and resolve to drink more.

A couple of bridge constructions on the highway, 20 minutes apart, provide a chance to lower my feet & waves of relief flow up my legs. After each, I delay putting my feet up for a few more seconds of blood flow. Hmm if I can do that, why can’t I lower my feet below the pegs while riding? I try that, keeping my feet behind the pegs — afraid to touch ground and have my leg thrown backward into peg. It’s awkward but a bit of a help.

My next gas stop is Espanola at 12:43 and Km 17099. I buy a bottle of Gatorade and finish it while standing at the station; it must be 30 degrees or more, and waves of heat are visible rising from the pavement.

As I roll away from the pumps, my feet are on the ground in front of the pegs. The pegs catch up with my legs and they don’t jam them, they fold. I knew that, but hadn’t realized why. So my fear of lowering my feet in front of the pegs while moving is unfounded. Try that every now and then and it’s great. As long as I’m straight upright both feet can be carefully lowered; if leaned, only the outside.

Encouraged by my new found option, I keep experimenting and, as I enter the 4-lane 100 Kph stretch outside Sudbury I’ve finally perfected a position using the rear pegs and a deep forward lean, also refreshing. The forward lean, however, is incompatible with a full bladder. Where can I stop?

A picnic sign on the Sudbury bypass leads to Fielding Park, a garden/park combination that looks like it would be quite busy during some season or other but is now empty except for one other car. I toss myself down under a shady tree and sip water. It’s very hot and the shade is welcome. I also refresh my sunscreen while I’m here — I notice a visor-shaped tingling has been starting on my face in the last hour or so.

Dunno where this road comes from or goes to, but quite a few bikes use it, rumbling by every few minutes. All big cruisers.

Cooled, watered, peed, rested, and armed with two new riding positions, I head back out.

I’m in heavy traffic from Sudbury to Sturgeon falls — several gaggles behind slow RVs and it’s not easy (for a car) to pass here. I’m in no hurry (in fact I’m stalling) so I don’t race by. Instead, I pass a car or two then drop back in. Wait until the car now in front of me has missed one or two opportunities to pass before moving ahead. I think the profusion of passing lanes and 4-lane road has driven the ability to do a good pass on 2-lane out of our society.

Back at Sturgeon falls, I gas at Km 17264. The gas station is a small engine dealership too, and their showroom is full of new model snowmobiles, with pre-season sales starting. I’m standing in 33-degree heat on baking hot pavement, sipping water to rehydrate, and looking at snowmobiles sitting on simulated snow. I try to make a joke to the guy sitting in the showroom but get no reaction. I wonder how many times he heard it before he had heard it too many times

My new riding postures have slowed but not eliminated the leg pain, so I take another Tylenol and move on.

I’m passed by a cube van! How embarrassing. I catch up, hold the distance, and let him play radar shield. Whoa, he’s going 150 KpH. How can that thing go that speed and stay upright? I decide I’d rather let some distance build between us, and drop my speed back down.

Heavy traffic continues to and through North Bay. As usual I find it inconvenient to stop there and don’t. Instead I pass through, planning my next stop to be Mattawa about 4:00. As I expected, it’s now time to start arguing with myself it’s only another 3 hours home from Mattawa. I could have supper, rest, do short sprints, and get home at 9:00 or so. But I promised I wouldn’t push this to 3 days again. That’s not very convincing. What is convincing is the day of week and traffic. The roads are heavy with cottage traffic from North Bay, and I realize it’s Friday night. I easily decide that I’m not going to travel the notoriously dangerous stretch of highway from Pembroke to Ottawa on a busy Friday night, in a heat wave, while exhausted from a 3-day ride. I pull into an attractive looking hotel in Mattawa, on the shore of the Ottawa river. It’s more a resort than a one-nighter, but there are rooms out back (on the river side) on the second floor.

I need 5 minutes to get upstairs, unlock my room, and remove my suit. In that time, the bike has sunk about 5 cm, both legs of the centre stand, into the asphalt. The right side has sunk deeper than left, and it’s starting to tip. In fact, I get to it just in time to catch it going over on the right side. With all my weight, leaning into it from the right side, I’m able to prevent it from falling and push it upright, but this further embeds the left leg into the tar. Somehow I manage to push it forward off the stand but it’s too much for the balance, and I lose it. Bang, on the left side. How embarrassing; at least there’s no mechanism in the left bar end weight. Now both Givi panniers have scratches on the bottom and have saved my paint and bike parts. Another tenant appears and helps me right the bike, many thanks. I put it on the side stand with a 6″ stainless plate under it (I should have done this right away, but I thought the centre stand would distribute the weight, was tired, wasn’t thinking, etc.)

I’m too tired now to bother washing the bike. I just finish unpacking it, and give a thorough check for damage.

Shower, walk back toward town. I find a pub with cold beer and cheap wings and spend a couple of pleasant hours chatting with the locals. The bartender is wearing a Harley shirt and eventually we talk about riding. Hers is the Sportster parked right out front. The guy sitting next to me used to ride and still likes to talk about it too. Everyone is amused by my story of losing the bike in the hot asphalt, and getting laughed at makes me feel less a fool.

After walking back to the hotel, I spend a nice couple of hours outside, on the dock and on the shore. A few people are fishing from the dock (no luck) and the river is quiet and mirror-smooth. It’s getting dark as I climb the hill back up to my room. Looking back over the river from my little balcony I watch the sunset fade. A light bobbing on the river near the other shore turns out to be a houseboat that has moored there for the night.

On to Return Trip, Day 4


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