The Great Lakes Challenge -
Chuck joins in record setting trip around
the Great Lakes!
By Chuck Stults
First, THANK YOU!!! to the Team Strange staff and volunteers for this fantastic, well organized and well executed event. Congratulations on it's success. I really appreciate all the effort that went into this fine affair.
Now, on to my Great Lakes Challenge.
Being new to organized long distance events, I was a little in the dark as to what was expected. Or what was going to occur. I've ridden all my adult life and have many thousands of miles under my ass, but when someone else is in charge of where you will ride, especially someone with a bit of a sadistic reputation, its a little frightening.
I started planning this ride after hearing of it on the LDRiders email list. I thought I could get some helpful information reading the Team Strange discussion board. There was a little, like radar detectors being illegal in Canada. But for the most part there is a lot of misdirection handed out. Still a fun read. Eddie James and Adam Wolkoff must have very thick skins, as they get hammered a great deal on this discussion board.
Besides preparing the bike, and bringing extra gloves and a couple of changes of clothes, there isnt a lot you can do to prepare for an event like this. You take whats handed out and deal with it. I reserved a room at the start point as soon as I sent in my admission fees. I added a three gallon Summit fuel cell because a 1200 Trophy is a gas hog. I purchased a GPS more as a novelty than a tool. At least until I learn to use it to its best advantage, its still just a toy. I added a set of bar end mirrors because the stock set is useless.
The long wait for May 24 is over. I leave work in Rockford ILL early, and head up I-90 towards Eau Claire Wisconsin. Arriving at the Park Inn and Suites I walk up to the tent and sign in. Rider #51, sign release, get T-shirt, and move right down the assembly line they call registration. Very organized, a good sign. Now, I wander around looking at bikes. Lots of bikes. Beemers, Hondas, Harleys, and Kaws. I believe there was one other Triumph in the pack, but not nearly as ugly as mine with my big black leather saddle bags and bright aluminum fuel cell. I get a slight hassle from a cager who didnt think a motorcycle should park in a handicap spot until I point out the wheelchair on MY license plate.
Dinner was very nice. The food was good and Rev. Eddie was entertaining. He seemed to take great glee in picking on a certain Tim Conway. There were a few prizes given out. We picked our start time in order of when we signed up for this ride. Special instructions were given as to fuel availability after 9pm along the route. The route packets were handed out. Afterwards I went to my room and studied the route, as Im sure many others did. I didnt want to stay up too late as I had a 6:26 start time. So I highlight the route on the maps I brought along and reread over the few other instructions given in the packet then hit the hay.
4:30 the alarm sounds. I look out the window at the steady rain. Not a problem. I shower, dress and go down stairs for a light breakfast. Not too much coffee, I do not wish to make any unnecessary stops along the way. Back up to the room to pack and ready myself for whats ahead.
By the time Im sitting on my bike in line waiting to go, I have about three minutes to collect myself before the guy says, "Fifteen seconds!". God Im excited!!! "3, 2, 1, GO!" he gives a salute (nice touch) and Im off.
I head out the parking lot, as did 26 other riders ahead of me. At one-minute intervals, the guy in front of you is long gone so you are alone, or so it seems. It didnt take long for a couple Beemer riders to catch up to me. So I fall in behind them. The first mandatory stop at the wayside, check odometer, and answer a silly question about the cost of ancient farm land. By the time we get to the first mandatory fuel stop in Superior there are eight or nine bikes in our little group. After fueling, filling out the log sheet and lifting tipped BMWs I take off again.
Not as fast a stop & go as Id like, Ill have to improve if I want to make this trip in the time Ive given myself. You see, I had set a few goals for this trip. The number one goal was to finish under the 50-hour mark. I really wanted to finish under 48 hours, but all the timing calculations Ive done over the last few weeks, along with knowing my limitations didnt bode well for that.
The rain stopped and the weather even seemed as if it was clearing. I dont mind riding in the rain. Modern tire compounds stick, even on wet roads. The air was still a little on the chilly side bit not too bad. Nice, I like riding when the air has a little chill.
Well, I regretted those thoughts. By the time I got to the Second mandatory fuel stop in Thunder Bay Ontario, it was raining and the temperature was falling steadily.
I fuel up in Wawa Ontario before turning onto HWY 101 heading East.
The folks at Kathys kitchen were a treat. After fueling up, they fed me a bowl of hot soup and a couple of cups of hot chocolate. They also warned of moose and bear in the vicinity. They said the moose are attracted to the salt left over on the roads this time of year. Oh joy. As it turns out, I did chase two bear cubs off the road. Theyre cute in a way. But you have to wonder where the mamma bear is .
Do you know how big a moose is at dusk, on a rain slick road, out in the middle of nowhere? Theyre HUGE! And they dont move. I went around one, but had to stop a little while later because a second Bulwinkle wouldnt get off the road. He just stood there looking at me. There were a few deer along this path as well, but not nearly as many as I find the next day in Wisconsin.
As stated, after leaving Kathys, the light was fading fast. The trail led to HWY 129. That is exactly what this next stretch is, a trail. I can only imagine how nice this would be on a bright sunny day. But being as conditions were a bit on the crappy side, it was white knuckles all the way. Over 130 kilometers (80 miles) of this wonderfully scary road. There were many times when I would crest a rise just to find the road turns sharply to the left or right as it descends down the other side. My headlights would be pointing into the trees more than on the road surface. Then a sign says theres a narrow one lane bridge ahead. Its a very slick wooden bridge. How quaint. Man I have to come back and ride this road in the daytime. Now, along this path there was supposed to be a fuel stop, the LeClair Fuel Stop--129 Resort where I had to record the price of gas on the log sheet. Im glad there were other riders already there when I came upon it because Id have never found it. It was dark, and this place has been burned out for a while from the looks of it.
After finding the sandy turn onto 554 towards Iron Bridge, Im getting tired. I know I still have a little more in me so I decide to try to make it to Sudbury. I fill up in Iron Bridge with a handful of other riders and then take off for Sudbury Ontario. You see, planning this trip, only the organizers knew which direction we would be going. So, I had thought that if they sent us counterclockwise I would try to tackle a IBA Bun Burner Gold which would mean covering 1500 miles in under 24 hours. Well, Sudbury is 1500 miles to Eau Claire. Now I am thinking, why not get a hotel here for a few hours and try the BBG on the second day? So now I have another goal. The first half of the road between Iron Bridge and Sudbury was under construction. The pavement milling machines had done their work in removing the top layer of asphalt leaving a very rough lined rode. It could have been worse I guess.
I make it to Sudbury, which is only 950 miles from the start, get a hotel and crash for 3 whole hours! For me three hours is a good rest. You cant live on it, but for the short term its a great pick-me-up. The Screaming Meanie certainly lives up to its reputation. It will get your adrenaline going trying to remember how to shut the damn thing off. After a quick shower, Im refreshed and ready to go.
"You know, this is fun! Im going to be entering more of these madness events in the years to come."
I head off to get my mandatory fuel receipt from a Sudbury gas station. Pulling up I find another rider doing the same. We fill up and take off for Wisconsin. As we are cruising East on HWY 17 the sky begins to clear. We catch up with Dave the Harley guy from Michigan (nice guy). Then we catch up with a larger group. The scenery is very nice this morning. Im at the back of the pack and I notice the guy I met up with at the gas station in Sudbury wandering off towards the side of the road. As I watch, its almost as if he dozed off for a second. He wanders on to the road edge, into the gravel. Im thinking, "Oh geez, here we go", but he skillfully rides it out and brings it back up onto the pavement. I found out later, that his face shield had fogged over and blinded him temporarily.
I never was much on group riding, so as soon as most of them pull into a fuel stop I keep going. Ive still got my spare 3 gallons before I need to find more.
There is some fine riding in Ontario, Ill come back this way some time. Leaving HWY 17 for HWY 29 I turn south towards New York. Crossing the 1000 Islands Bridge Im looking out from this very tall structure. The water below is dotted with many islands and it seems most have very large homes on them. Very picturesque. So, Im daydreaming of having way to much money and building a house on an island when all of a sudden a cop leaps out into the road and points his gun at me. Its a radar gun and he flags me over. Then he gives me a prize. How nice is that? I go all that way and get a ticket as Im LEAVING Ontario. Bummer. Oh well. I guess I wasnt the only one who got that kind of prize this trip.
Im in New York, I get the mandatory receipt from a Watertown gas station and get back on I-81. Suddenly an idiot light on my dash comes on. What the hell? Just what I need, 1000+ miles from home and my bike is breaking. So I pull over at the next exit and pull into a gas station and inspect the bike. I see the switch to my side stand idiot light dangling and the wires resting against the exhaust. Well this isnt so bad. I dig out my tool pack, find black tape and isolate the wires from each other as well as wrap them up tight. Then I take a couple of zip ties and tie the switch up out of the way. Easy fix. Load everything back up and back on the road. 20 minutes wasted. At least it wasnt serious. Im mechanically inept for the most part and anything more may have taxed my mental skills.
Interstate riding is not really something I enjoy. It has its advantages when you are trying to get some place in a hurry, but it can be hot a boring. The next required stop is the Seneca service station on I-90. This is our 1500 mile mark and I believe I got an IBA Bun Burner. Finishing 1500 miles in under 36 hours. But what I really wanted, (as previously stated) was to finish this 1500 mile leg from Sudbury in under 24 hours for a BBG adding the Gold onto the back of Bun Burner would make my day.
I-90 tolls are a pain in the backside. They slow you down and take your cash. I really need to figure out a better way. Im very slow with this transaction and I waste a good deal of time fiddling with gloves and change.
The next mandatory fuel stop is the Des Plaines Oasis Mobil Gas station north of Chicago. Getting there is kind of like playing roller ball. You never know when someone is going to take you out. At this point I figure I have a little more than three hours to get back to the start point before my 48 hour mark. It would be close, but doable. So I fall in behind another Beemer rider who is running at a good pace. The problem is that He is much better at the toll thing than I am and there are 4 tolls before I get back to my home state. So every time we came to a tollbooth Hed whiz through and Id have to play catch up if I wished to stay with him. I dont know why it meant so much to me, but I felt I needed to hang with someone for this part of the trip. Good thing too. Just before we got to Baraboo Wisconsin there was a big ass deer right in the middle of the road. I think the other rider may have PIAA 910s or something similar because he lit that animal up in plenty of time to miss it. Still, I think I must have been dozing when it happened because it was a bit of a shocker.
I decided that making it back was more important than trying to do it in under the 48 hour mark. Besides, during the last 100 miles I had realized I wasnt going to get the BBG I had hoped for. When I started out that morning I didnt figure in the time change from Sudbury to here. I exited at Baraboo.
I spent a half-hour drinking coffee and hot chocolate as well as doing some stretching exercises. Im so close at this point, I just wish to finish. And now, to finish in less than 50 hours is the goal. So, I gingerly place my sore backside into the saddle for the last 129 miles. The sun is up, the deer carcasses litter the road, and one tired rider makes it back to the Park Inn and Suites to complete the Great Lakes Challenge.
I figure about 48.5 hours start to finish.
Sorry no photos, but when you are running a trip of this nature, there is little time for sight seeing!
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Page by Naomi 11/24/2004 08:19 AM -0600