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Wandering Biker

“All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost…

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Fri
14
Aug '09

Tremonton, UT to Durango, CO – 466 miles

Got out the door around 8:00 and it was warm enough already that I didn’t need my jacket liner. Looked for air at gas stations all the way to the interstate in case my tires needed a top up but only found one that charged 75 cents. Screw that!

The ride through Salt Lake City and Provo on I-15 was nerve racking. Kept switching between the HOV lane and the regular lanes becuase traffic was moving fast enough that the HOV lane wasn’t really an advantage.

Got off I-15 south of Provo on US-6 and traffic came to a halt after about two miles because of construction.  It wasn’t fully stopped for too long but was still slow all the way through the construction. The road winds up a narrow canyon and then winds down another on the other side of the mountains.

After Price, UT there is a long barren stretch of road to I-70. About halfway through this section traffic came to a total stop because of an accident. There wasn’t even any nice scenery around to take pictures of so all I got were these pics up and down the highway of stopped cars.

Traffic started moving again after about 45 minutes and I was glad to see that the traffic in our direction was cleared first.

I was going to stop in Green River, UT for lunch, but figured that all the people in the traffic jam would be stopping there so I opted to continue on to Moab, UT. Had lunch and gassed up in Moab and continued on to Monticello, UT.

There was a large thunderstorm southeast of Monticello and the road clipped the edge of it. It was great to get wet by the rain and cooled down by the cold thunderstorm winds on this hot day, but the lightening was a little too close for comfort.

Stopped in Cortez, CO for a snack and arrived in Durango a little after 5:00 PM. They had been having rain most of the day and it smelled cool and clean riding through town.

I went immediately to my storage unit, retrieved my car, unloaded my bags from the bike to the car, parked the bike in the storage unit and went looking for a motel room.

This little adventure is over!

Thu
13
Aug '09

Shelby, MT to Tremonton, UT – 581 miles

Woke up this morning to cold temps and gray skies. The gray skies were a good thing because the blinds in my motel room really sucked. I checked the weather and was dismayed to find that the high temp at my destination for the day was going to be 97F. Didn’t put on my jeans underneath my riding pants because I didn’t want to have to take them off later in the day and didn’t put on my electric vest because I’m an idiot. (Note to self….making yourself miserably cold in the morning will not make being miserably hot in the afternoon any more pleasant.)

There was no soda machine at the motel and no fast food restaurants in Shelby, so I stopped at a Gas Station/Convenience Store/Restaurant place near the interstate. They had one breakfast sandwich left in the hot foods display the consisted of a sausage patty and egg layer sandwiched between two mini-pancakes and some pancake syrup in the mix someplace. It was actually pretty good with a Diet Coke to wash it down.

While I was eating a guy on a Gold Wing parked next to me and wryly commented “What a great day for a ride.” as he went inside the store. I checked out his license plate and noted that he was from California.

It was cold when I got on the road and I ran through some rain showers on the way to Great Falls. I was kind of soggy after the second one but the blue skies ahead kept it from bothering me too much.

The ride on I-15 through Montana is very scenic and there were some curvy sections through different groups of mountains. The temperatures are great and I enjoy the ride. I really like the way this new (in Nebraska) rear tire handles. I wish I hadn’t had to use most of it up going in a straight line. The front tire is getting close to the wear bars but should make it back to Durango. Coming down out of the mountains into Idaho it suddenly gets very warm.

I stop for a break in Roberts, ID and remove the insulated jacket liner from my jacket. I think it has been in since Sioux Falls, SD .  That’s a lot of cold miles!

Near the Idaho-Utah border I stop for gas and have a chat with a guy riding a BMW F800 dual-sport bike. He is heading home to Salt Lake City after a pleasure ride around Montana. While I am getting ready to saddle up he walks over and hands me a beer from a micro-brewery in Montana. I thank him profusely and I assure him that I will have no problem finding room for it in the saddlebags. What a nice guy!

I stop in Tremonton, UT for the night at a nice mom and pop motel that I discovered on a trip in May. I unload my gear and find dinner at a local diner, go back to the motel and settle in. Had trouble connecting to the motel wifi internet connection so I used my Alltel cellular USB connector to listen to a webinar I had signed up for.  I bought it for just this reason but I have had great success in finding an Internet connection at motels on my entire ride.

I should be able to make it to Durango tomorrow.

Wed
12
Aug '09

Whitecourt, AB to Shelby, MT – 521 miles

It was another cold morning, so I wore jeans underneath my riding pants and my electric vest. I’m so glad I have the vest. It’s been a lifesaver on this trip.

The trip south was pretty uneventful and traffic was moving at a good pace. Had lunch at an area called Gasoline Alley between Edmonton and Calgary. I’m sure there is a story behind the place. Seems to be a bunch of car dealerships and traveler services that all clumped in the same spot.

Stopped about 50 miles north of the US border to take a break and get an extra gallon of security gas. Talked to a couple from British Columbia who had been to the Sturgis rally.  They were lucky enough to miss getting any damage from the bad hail storm (http://tinyurl.com/m6uptd).

There was about a 20 minute wait at the border. When it was my turn I handed the border agent my passport and took off my helmet as required. I was asked the usual questions and the agent went in to the office. He came out and said “Sir, do you realize you are traveling with invalid identification?” My heart went to my throat as I asked what was wrong with it and he handed my passport back to me. He said “Sir, you never signed your passport….I would suggest you do it the next time you stop.” Well he was right and then he smiled, welcomed me back to the US and told me to go ahead.

Stopped for the evening in the small town of Shelby, MT. Thought about continuing on to Great Falls, which was only a little over an hour farther south, but it looked like there was a storm ahead. Checked into a funky mom and pop motel called “The Sherlock”, listened to all the voice mails I had since last Thursday, returned all the calls and am calling it a night.

Tue
11
Aug '09

High Level, AB to Whitecourt, AB – 374 miles

I expected to be writing that today’s ride was like running a movie in reverse from yesterday. That wasn’t the case.

I got gas in High Level at the same place I had yesterday and was on the road by 8:30. It was a beautiful sunny day but still a little chilly so I had the electric vest on and plugged in.

In Manning I stopped and took some pictures of a beautiful moose statue.

And my favorite…

Mid-morning I ran into some very high winds from the west. They were strong enough that I always moved to the right hand side of the lane when traffic was approaching so that I had maximum room to maneuver in case I got hit by a really strong gust at the wrong time. Sometimes I would get a little break when a stand of trees was blocking the wind to my right, but I would get blasted again as soon as I left their wind shadow. It made for a tiring ride.

About 50 km before Peace River I found my self behind a line of 6 cars doing a little slower than the speed limit. Since I normally ride a little above the speed limit I started a long high speed pass of all the cars when a straight deserted stretch of highway came up. I was going very fast by the time the passing zone ran out and had to pull in in front of the 2nd car from the front. It was only then that I realized that the lead car was a police car.  Doh!

I expected the officer to turn on his lights and motion me to follow him to the shoulder, but it never happened. I just followed at his speed.

We both made the turn on the road to Peace River and when we got to the shopping center with the McDonald’s he pulled in to the turn lane and I followed. As the light turned green and we made the turn into the shopping center the police car lights lit up …..and he pulled over the guy in front of him. Whew…

Had a quick lunch at McDonalds. While I was getting ready to leave the guy on a motorcycle parked next to me asked if the winds were bad farther north. I told him that they were and assumed that they were aslo bad going south. I was right. They were even worse than what I had already come through.

It was pretty miserable. I was getting annoyed with the helmet pressing up against the right side of my face and my head was starting to itch on the right side because of all the helmet motion. Since there is no way to scratch an itch underneath my motorcycle helmet you can imagine how enjoyable that was.

The wind finally subsided around 2:00PM and now I realized that my knees were bothering me. My head still itched as well but I decided to continue on to my gas stop at Whitecourt.

As I approached Whitecourt I could see a storm with rain ahead. After getting gas I thought about my knees, my itching head, and the thunderstorm up ahead and saw the nice motel I stayed at two nights ago beckoning me.  I had planned to ride another two and a half hours to get south of Edmonton for the night but I decided to stop while the stopping was good.

Mon
10
Aug '09

Whitecourt, AB to High Level, AB via Sixtieth Parallel Provincial Park, NWT – 611 Miles

High Level, AB is the closest real town to my goal of visiting the border of the Northwest Territories and the 60th parallel, so today’s task was to get to High Level. There are still 16 hours of sunlight up here at this time of year and it is a four hour round trip from High Level to the Northwest Territories border. I decided that if I got to High Level before 4PM I would continue on up to the border and back today. That would mean it would still be daylight when I got back to High Level. If I didn’t get to High Level by 4PM then I would go to the border tomorrow morning.

I set the alarm for 6:00 and after taking a shower, getting breakfast, packing and checking out, I was on the road at 7:30.

I was almost out of Canadian currency and every time I tried to use my ATM card yesterday the machine would say the network was out of service.  I wanted to stop at a bank in Peace River and try a real bank ATM machine instead of the toy machines they have in convenience stores here, and if that didn’t work then I would exchange some US currency.

Coming into Peace River it started to mist a little. I was thinking about the weather and completely forgot about finding a bank until I had already passed the exit for the city center. The next place I could get off the divided highway was a large shopping center. I lucked out and found a bank in the shopping center and my ATM card worked there. Since it was right next to a McDonalds I also opted for a very early lunch. When you are trying to put in some miles time counts and Ronald gets me in and out fast.

The rain started to come down harder as I left Peace River but stopped about 10 miles up the road. I was beginning to dry out as I turned on to AB 35, the Mackenzie Highway, which I would be on the rest of the day.

I saw the first mileage sign to High Level and calculated my arrival time. 2PM? Woohoo! Way ahead of my 4PM deadline. Stopped in Manning to make sure I had enough gas to get to High Level and then stopped in High Level to get gas for the round trip up to the border.

The trip to the border was uneventful. I had hoped to see some wildlife. There was a sign warning of bison in the road and another warning not to feed the bears. I didn’t see either. Not even a deer. Got to the border after going through a light shower and took some pics. It was a fast stop because the gnats were brutal

Headed back to High Level. About 30 minutes from town I hit a thunderstorm that lasted all the way in to town and then decided to park itself there. I checked in and unloaded and went back out into the storm to get dinner. It was still raining when I got done. I’m spending another night drying out.

Sun
9
Aug '09

Taber, AB to Whitecourt, AB – 454 miles

Made the decision to try and make it up to the 60th parallel and the border of the Northwest Territories last night. Being just an hour north of the US border and only 3 days away from home made it a difficult one.

Got on the road about 8:00AM. 15 miles up the road I spotted a Tim Horton’s with just a few cars in the parking lot. I felt obligated to stop  because a) it is such a Canadian institution and b) I hadn’t had any breakfast. I probably should have gotten a breakfast sandwich, but Tim Horton’s is famous for their donuts, so I got a donut. It was a good donut, but just a donut.

Most of today’s ride was on AB 2, a very nice expressway with a speed limit of 110 kph most of the way.  I had an “anxiety episode” about half way between Calgary and Edmonton. Not sure what brought it on but I kept thinking of all the things that could go wrong and started second guessing my decision.  Stopped at a McDonald’s and had lunch, checked the tires once again and gave myself a little pep talk. The anxiety never really went away but I pressed on.

After detouring around Edmonton on a bypass I started up AB 43. I expected this to be a lonely two lane highway through the wilderness. I was surprised to find it was a 4 lane semi-expressway with a fair amount of traffic.

I had planned on stopping in Whitecourt but it was only 3:45 when I got here. I thought about pressing on but a brand new motel advertising a 59$ rate caught my eye. This has to be the nicest $59 room I have ever stayed in. It’s huge and has a kitchenette with a full stove/oven and a full size fridge. There is a nice sitting area with a coffee table and a gas fireplace. There is also a desk and a dining table. The chain is called Western Budget Motel and I saw other ones on this trip. You should definitely check them out if you are traveling in  western Canada.

I’m washing clothes before heading out to find something to eat. Looks like I should try and get an early start tomorrow.

Sat
8
Aug '09

Regina, SK to Taber, AB – 362 miles

Got up early enough today that I had to wait for the continental breakfast to open at 7:00 AM. Everything had dried out except my jeans. Had a nice chat with another guest about people texting on their cell phones while driving. He had been run into the ditch by one last week.  He warned me to be careful. It was a little chilly leaving Regina this morning so I started out with the electric vest.

The ride was a pretty boring trudge across the endless plains of Saskatchewan. It got a little hillier towards the western border, but still. I had lunch at some little outpost in the middle of nowhere. The best that could be said about the food was that it was edible.

There are very few services directly on this section of the Trans-Canada highway. There are signs announcing all the services in each town, but the town itself is usually 5 to 10 kms off the highway.

The pace of the traffic picked up after crossing into Alberta and I was surprised at the size of Medicine Hat. I just had never thought about it as being a big place. There were 10 exits off the highway for it.

I thought I was making really good time until I realized I had taken the wrong highway out of Medicine Hat. My befuddled mind thought that I was supposed to stay on the Trans-Canada Highway. Reality thought otherwise. I got back on track at the town of Taber, about an hour north of the US border.

I stopped for the night early because I was thinking about my idea of going to the 60th Parallel and the border of the North West Territories.  Checked in to a little mom and pop motel run by a very nice gentleman from India and started checking maps and weather.

The weather looks good. It would be about two days up and two days back from here. I have good tires and the bike is running fine. I’m having a hard time finding a reason not to give it a go.

I had dinner at Boston Pizza. I had seen them in other places along the trip and was curious, since I had never heard of them until I was in Canada. Despite the name they actually started out in Edmonton. The pizza was very good.

Fri
7
Aug '09

Regina, SK – Google Street View Car

Spotted one of the cars that takes pictures for Google Street View in the parking lot of the hotel I am staying at in Regina, SK tonight. Thought you might enjoy seeing what they look like. Here is some info on Google Street View if you don’t know what it is

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Street_View

Fri
7
Aug '09

Brandon, MB to Regina, SK – 224 miles

Woke up this morning to see that it had rained overnight. Seemed to take forever to get packed and out of the motel. By the time I got all loaded it started to mist, but nothing too bad. I stopped to get gas on the way out of town. My plan was to just blast through the rain and get as many miles in as I could. Well that was the plan.

The mist stopped and the weather was cooperating until the Saskatchewan border. It looked very rainy up ahead so I pulled over at the Saskatchewan welcome station and put on my electric vest and and rain over-gloves.

I was right and it started to rain after a few miles. Then it continued to rain and rain and rain. My riding outfit is pretty waterproof, but obviously not up to the task of three hours of steady rain. By the time I got to Regina it was only noon, but I was pretty wet. Water had pooled on my seat and gotten through my over-pants so my jeans were wet. My over-gloves had managed to channel the water on my jacket sleeves down to the gloves themselves and they were actually wetter than the would have been out in the open.

Looking like a drowned rat I stopped at a Holiday Inn, but was told they didn’t have any rooms. I tried a Comfort Inn next and the trainee behind the counter took pity on me and let me have an early check in.

So not many miles today. The motel does not have a guest laundry so I am doing my best to dry everything out in the room.

Looks like the rain ends tonight but they are forecasting very high winds for tomorrow.

Thu
6
Aug '09

Fargo, ND to Brandon, MB – 370 miles

Repacked all my stuff this morning after my wonderful rest day. Didn’t seem like I had all that much more room after shipping two pairs of jeans back home, but I guess if my bag gets too empty I’ll have to worry about the contents shifting around as I ride.

Contrary to the map above I spent the morning on back roads about 10 miles to the west of I-29. There was very little traffic and not much to see except farmland. On a break stop I called my cell phone company to find out the best way to use my phone while I was in Canada. I was hoping I could change my plan to include Canada for a week or so. No such luck. Because I have a “smart” phone there is no plan that includes Canada and voice calls will cost 79 cents a minute.

I stopped for gas and a lunch break at a small town about 20 miles from the border. Called the GF and told her the bad news about the cell phone. She immediately ordered me not to enter Canada and return to Durango. After we laughed about that we settled on me buying a prepaid phone card if necessary and sending e-mails in the evenings otherwise.

I was a bit apprehensive approaching the border and already had my passport in my front pocket when I got there. I was amazed that it was so easy. 10 questions and I was waved through, although I was required to take off my sunglasses for the questioning. I didn’t even get off the motorcycle. No looking at any paperwork at all, although I was asked if I had a gun twice. I just know I am going to pay for this getting back into the states.

I spent the afternoon puttering around through southern Manitoba. I was surprised at the low amount of traffic on Manitoba Highway 3. I wrenched my back during a parking lot maneuver while I was trying to find an ATM machine to get some Canadian money, so I stopped and got some Ibuprofen at a pharmacy. I really wanted some Aleve, but I can only assume that it is not sold over the counter here.

Got a room, had some sweet and sour chicken for dinner and am back at the motel medicating my wrenched back with some Labatt Blue.

Tomorrow I get to ride some of the Trans-Canada highway.