Horizons Unlimited 2014, Part Four


So, I had some mechanical issues to overcome. I got onto various motorcycle communities to ask for help, mainly where I could either buy parts or have them shipped. The overwhelming response was to use Wheeler’s Performance in Robbinsville, NC, near the Horizons Unlimited Event I was headed for. This didn’t seem too bad, except it was 300 miles away. I called them to ask about part orders and learned they couldn’t get them until Monday. I’m been hoping for next day shipping, but was pretty remote. Well, for NC.

I went ahead and ordered the parts, knowing it would put the ride to Ontario in jeopardy but not being sure what else to do. Then I adjusted my chain and got back on the road.

And 30 miles later got off the road. The vibration was too much, enough to destroy the Lifeproof handlebar mount for my phone, which had almost thrown my phone off at speed. I’d saved the phone, but the mount was unrepairable.

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I found an out of the way place in a truck stop parking lot and pulled the sprocket off, flipping it around. After a few hundred yards, the vibration was – less. It was rideable, anyway, so I got moving again.

Eventually I reached Knoxville and got a hotel. I had thought about ordering parts in Knoxville and waiting there for them, but it wasn’t that much further to the HU event and I was pretty sure I could make it. Once I was there, Curiosity wouldn’t have to move for a few days, and it was only another 12 miles to Wheelers.

I recharged everything and took a shower. In the morning I had a large breakfast, adjusted the chain, and headed into the mountains. My route, not by any real plan, took me through Deals Gap, the Tail of the Dragon.

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I have to be honest, I’m not a fan of The Dragon. There are other good roads in the area without the hype, traffic, or police presence. Still, there’s a store with gas, a couple restaurants, and places to stay. And there were people all along the 11 miles, 316 curves with cameras and large banners where the photos would be available for sale in the future. Some of them took my picture as I went past, but I certainly wasn’t going to push the bike any.

Once at the bottom of the tail, I stopped for some obligatory tourist pics while I took a break from the vibrations.

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Then it was onto 28 and to Iron Horse Lodge for the Horizons Unlimited Meet.

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Horizons Unlimited 2014, Part Three


I was heading south and east, no solid plan of when I wanted to be where, other than the area of Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge no later than Thursday. I entertained the idea of arriving on Wednesday, either to get a good camp site or to visit a friend who lives in the area. She wasn’t going to be available, as it turned out, so I day dreamed about riding mountain roads as miles passed under my feet.

My first night camping alone I found a state park in Illinois, Moraine View. I don’t know what I was expecting, but not the beautiful campground I discovered.

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I decided to try a new recipe for Spam and Mac and Cheese, something I make at home occasionally but never tried on the road (mostly because your standard stove top Mac and Cheese box makes too much).

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It turned out pretty well, actually. Needs some tweaking but it was good and filling.

I’ve had my ENO hammock since spring, and have enjoyed it. I don’t usually use the but netting, in fact I’d never used it, but at about 930pm the area under the rain fly (it was supposed to rain) started to fill with insects. They were annoying enough I got out the bug net and hung flit for the first time, in the dark. It did manage to keep the bugs at bay, and not long after the rain arrived.

I’m the morning I packed up and got back on the road. I’d thought about reaching Indianapolis for lunch, but I wasn’t that organized and didn’t pass through until mid afternoon. This meant I wouldn’t be out of Indiana before looking for somewhere to camp, and remembered Charlesville State Park from a previous trip.

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As I’d paid and rolled in, Curiosity had an odd, jerking motion to the left. As dinner cooked (curried rice with raisins) I looked the bike over.

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That was going to be a problem.

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Horizons Unlimited 2014, Part Two


Sue and I had vague plans to attend a ride to eat in St Olaf, IA. We both had ridden a lot the day before (me on the Wisconsin Adventure Trail), and neither of us felt like rushing to get anywhere.

This meant, not long into the ride, it was clear we weren’t going to reach St Olaf in time. After chatting a bit, we decided to head for Anamosa instead. It was further away, but we had all day to get there, it had a state park we could camp in, and a motorcycle attraction we could visit the next morning.

With a plan, we ride on. Sue had suggested a route along the river, and I certainly wasn’t going to complain. We stopped for lunch in Prairie Du Chien, passing on Pete’s Boiled Hamburgers for a place with seating. I enjoyed the ac after the heat, Sue (who thinks anything under 80f requires a coat) was less thrilled.

After lunch I noticed some uneven power and stopped. My chain was very loose, so I took a moment to wax and tighten it.

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Of course, there would be more problems later.

We reached Anamosa and the state park. It has a long, hard to say name which starts Wap. It’s nice, a but small and worn, but it has water and flush toilets, and what more could you want?

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The night was rough. My mattress leaked badly, functionally useless. A non issue in the hammock, but we were in Sue’s tent and it’s been a long time time since I slept in the ground.

Sue had just managed to fall asleep when a flashlight and loud voice woke us both, letting us know a storm was on the way. This wasn’t the tornado evacuation I had a few years ago, just a warning that we might have to seek shelter. There was a line of storms on the way, we checked the radar.

The storms, when they arrived, were impressive. Loud, bright, and the rain pounded on the tent. Oddly, it helped me sleep.

In the morning we packed and, after breakfast, we went to The National Motorcycle Museum. I hadn’t been there for years, and Sue had never been. It had changed some since my last visit, though it was still a bit cramped inside. There were new bikes and displays, and changes to the existing ones.

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And the steam bike was still there -

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And Blue found this white one he liked a lot.

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I don’t know how long we stayed inside. Sue was already making plans to come back in the future, it’s a lot to take in, and she (sadly) had to be back in Milwaukee that night.

We said good bye in the parking lot. It sucked.

I headed south and east, alone, stopping in Illinois to camp. I found a nice spot on a small lake.

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And made dinner for just myself, listening to the sound of the water and insects as the sun set.

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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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A Long Weekend – Part Three


I had an alarm set, which woke me as I dozed in the hammock. Sue, in the tent, heard it too. We both got up and cleaned up the camp a bit before hoping on the bikes for a ride. The Sport-Touring.net community in the local region(4) meets regularly for social events, and there was one nearby in Nooksa that evening. We hadn’t been sure about going, but couldn’t pass on the pizza.
But I get ahead of myself. First we rode. The weather had stayed nice all day, so we left early and took a scenic route, saving the direct path for the return ride to camp that night. Central Wisconsin doesn’t have the quality of roads the Southeast does, but they aren’t bad. We passed over a couple rivers and along a lake.
We arrived a bit early, but after most of the other attendees, who already had a table and drinks. Sue and I joined them and we started sharing stories. Most of them had gotten hotels In the area, Sue and I were the only campers. The rest of the group arrived and we placed pizza orders, then proceeded to devour them. There were 8 or 9 pizzas total, and little survived.
As pizza was finishing we noticed one small thunderstorm was headed right for our restaurant, and the camp. We decided to wait it out, rather than ride in the rain, and hung out a while longer before leaving. When we did it was dark, and late. Curiosity doesn’t have a great headlight, and I don’t ride at night much. This half hour ride reminded me why.
In the morning we were again up and packing. There was a second food event, this one in Wisconsin Dells, a town and tourist trap northwest of Madison. Paul Bunyan Cook shanty was where I first met this group of motorcyclists on a chilly October Sunday years ago. There were only a few people there, and we’d gone every year since, though it was usually in August now. Slightly less chance of snow.
Paul Bunyans offers an all you can eat breakfast with table service and fantastic donuts. Seriously, the donuts alone are worth it. Sadly, I was too busy socializing to take many pictures, so you’ll just have to go.
Sue had (so she claimed) never just hung out in the dells, and we talking about spending the afternoon there, but we were starting to get tired from the full weekend and decided instead to take a meandering route home. Sue had also never ridden the Merrimac ferry (she had see it from the lake) so we headed there. Just before arriving Curiosity became much louder, and when we reached the ferry I found a hole in the bottom of the exhaust. No idea how that happened, but I’d have to deal with it the rest of the ride home.
The ferry ride was uneventful. There were storms on the way but we still stopped for gelato before dinner.
It was humid and hot, so it went down very nicely.
The weekend was fun, though the weather wasn’t always the best. That is just part of the travel, though, and motorcycles. And it was fun to share with Sue, so future adventures are on the horizon.
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A Long Weekend – Part Two


We arrived at Roche a Cri after riding through occasional rain for a couple hours. As we turned onto Highway 13 and into sunshine and I thought we were in the clear. But, as we rolled into the parking lot at the office it started to rain again and, as we stopped under the questionable shelter of a tree hail started to fall.

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We waiting 10 minutes, but the hail turned to rain and our shelter didn’t keep all the rain off us. We darted across the parking lot to the office and checked in. Checking the radar we saw there was going to be a break eventually, and the staff person kindly allowed us to take shelter in the attached garage while we waited.

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After snacks and some hot cocoa, we saw there was a window in the rain and packed the bikes to wait. As soon as the rain stopped we headed to our site. Sue set up the tent while I cooked chicken and rice pilaf we’d brought with.
Ah, chicken and rice. The overlander classic.

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Since we were on two bikes, I figured we would pack two stoves. Having two stoves was awesome, though I remain not a fan of the MSR. It was way too hot for the pilaf, and a little too hot for the chicken. Still I managed to have dinner ready when the tent was up and bedding assembled. We ate and drank wine, just beating the next round of rain. Inside the tent we’d planned to talk about our plans for the next day, but instead we fell asleep in minutes.

In the morning we woke to bright sunshine and warm weather, which we’d been hoping for. Roche a Cri has a couple hiking trails, and part of Sue’s desire to get healthy again was to climb the 300+ stairs to the top of the Roche a Cri look out. I like hikes, I’m less of a fan of stairs.

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It was a short hike to the start of the stairs. We were already being rebels.

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We started up, Sue taking breaks when she needed. There were benches along the way. Blue had to struggle a little more.

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We reached the top and enjoyed the view, relaxing while we watched the others who’d made the climb arrive, recover, and leave. I take a certain pride in having managed the climb better than most of them. I did okay too.

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After a break (and more illicit beverages) we went back down the stairs (much easier) and headed to one of the sights along the trail, called Chickadee Rock.

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So, it wasn’t much of a sight, really.
We got back to camp and opted for naps in the afternoon. I tried to write, but the hammock was comfortable and I dozed until it was time to meet friends for dinner.

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A long weekend – Part One


I’m blessed with three day weekends every other week (with the catch of working three days the opposite weekends). This year, these long weekends have usually had me taking some day trip with Sue, or just catching upon chores from the week (exciting, I know).

This wasn’t a happy situation for either of us, so we were determined to get at least one motorcycle camping trip in this summer. Now, it’s true that we camped at Clays for the BBQ, but if you think sleeping in someone’s yard is camping, you have a host of issues beyond the scope of this blog.
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Sue had lots of camping experience, but little of it was on a motorcycle. I have been self sufficient on a bike for so long, it was hard for me to determine what extra stuff, if anything, she had to bring along. She did carry the tent, a 4 person REI she used with the girls, but that didn’t stop me from bringing along the hammock (which I’m in as I type this now).

She made a reservation in a state park, and I invited motorcycling friends to the Dells for breakfast Sunday morning. By coincidence, another friend called a pizza meet not far from the state park, and a plan developed for the weekend. Then, before we were supposed to leave, I learned some friends were camping at the EAA Airventure Fly in (they are on a motorcycle, and just went there to see it). That was too close for me to pass on the chance to see them, so Sue and I hastily decided to ride to Oshkosh and camp, then spend Friday morning at the airshow.

I had to work Thursday, so I packed Curiosity Wednesday night. Sue finished packing her bike during the day on Thursday, and we hoped to leave not long after I got home at 615. Sadly, work was busy and I didn’t have the chance to eat dinner before leaving, so it was closer to 730 when we actually left. We were further delayed by rain, and arrived at the EAA just after 9. Then we had some problems finding where my friends were camped (“just turn left” turned out to be inadequate as directions) but eventually we had the tent up and were settled in.

The next few hours were spent catching up (they has just come back from Cuba, somewhere Sue been years ago. They traded stories and I sat there being jealous) until almost midnight. I’d been up since 445, and was constantly yawning, so we headed into the tent just as it started to rain.

Camp Scholler was densely packed. We had someone snoring loudly to one side of us, and a generator (which was supposed to be off) running to other other. US 41,a multilane, limited access highway not much different than an interstate, was only 50 or so yards away, across a road. Oddly, none of this bothered me very much, and even Sue main complaint in the morning was the cold. Her sleeping bag hadn’t been up to the temps and she’d been cold all night. With the added issues, she hadn’t slept much.

We got up and made coffee, tea, and oatmeal. The sky was clear, and it promised to be a warm day, so we made sure we had water and headed into the grounds. Sue and I, needed exercise, decided to walk. My friends, staying for a week, instead rode their bike to the gate.

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There was a bus too.

Once inside we had to run a gauntlet of vendors (t-shirts, mostly. Some signs) to reach the airplanes. These were also vendors, of a sort, selling planes or plane parts.

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Further in, there were a collection of military planes, and most of them you could enter. They all had long lines, but the line for the C-17 was pretty short. Blue was happy to sit down.

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From there, we headed along the runway, where there were small planes doing stunts and others taking off and landing. There was a large crowd there, sitting in chairs they’d carried in, clearly planning to spend the day. Sue and I found somewhere for lunch, then noticed a sign reading “vintage.” It was too much for us to resist, and we headed that way.

The area was actually for fly-in camping, something which sounded cool. There were a fair number of planes, but not all of them had tents with. Apparently camping was optional. Some planes without tents had people huddled under the wings, the sun was blazing down and there weren’t a lot of trees about.

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It was around 1:30pm when we headed back to camp and packed up. While we could’ve stayed another night at the EAA, we had reservations at a (much quieter) state park in central Wisconsin. It was clouding up as we finished loading the bikes and started west.

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Road Trip Changes


I’ve been a solo rider for all my motorcycling life. While there might be occasional shared trips, or long passengers in the Ural, if you looked at my total miles 99% of them have been in my own. This is my sad or anything, I like being in my own. It’s allows for freedom in choosing where go, how to get there, and when to stop along the way. Solo travelers also seem to be more able to connect with locals on the rode, being more exposed and less threatening than a group would be.

As I’ve mentioned a bunch lately, I met a very nice woman late last year. We haven’t been able to take a lot of trips yet, but travel (and motorcycle travel in particular) is high on both our lists. I have a friend in Lower Michigan who hosts a party at his house in the summer, where he grills meat and offers camping in his yard. Sue was feeling pretty good that weekend, so we decided to ride motorcycles around the southern tip of Lake Michigan and attend the party.

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I haven’t used the Ural for a multiway trip in years, and chose to bring it this time to remove any pressure from what was packed. In the end, we only managed to fill the Ural half way, even with the passenger features (seat and windshield) still installed. Urals carry a lot.

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We left later than planned, and after a stop for lunch and ice cream at A&W, we entered Chicago. Sue was leading, but I had heard her plan to take I-94 through the center of the city. What I didn’t see, and she did, was the sign reporting major traffic backups on I-94, so when she hadn’t moved over as the exit approached, I assumed it was because of traffic and blocked the lane for her. We didn’t have hand signals for directions, and (unsure hat to do) Sue moved over as well. And we got to sit I traffic for hours and hours, instead of taking the bypass.

I have a Sena headset, which includes an intercom. Sue didn’t have one, so we couldn’t talk. She has one now.

We struggled through, reaching the south side of the city about the time we had planned on camping, still with a ways to ride. The rest was much easier, and we reached the sandy dunes of Southern Michigan ready to call it’s a day.

And there was no where to camp.

We tried state and private parks without success, and as it’s got later heavy fog rolled in off the lake. I was willing to give up and find a cheap hotel, but worried about Sues feelings on cheap lodging. As it turned out, her feelings were much the same as mine – hotels need a bed and bathroom, and nothing else. We found motel, walked somewhere for dinner, and went to sleep.

In the morning we found one of the bolts holding on her luggage had sheared off, and one saddlebag was resting in her exhaust. We used straps to secure it as best we could, and I hoped Clay would have tools for a repair. He did.

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The afternoon was food, fun, and tall tales. Sue met everyone and ate and laughed, which made me happy. There was a bit of extra paint damage but we got it all sorted out, with higher grade bolts so it shouldn’t happen again. They actually felt far more secure afterwards.

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We sat up late around the fire, going into the tent just before the skies opened up and a huge thunderstorm roared. I don’t remember it ending, but when I woke in the morning, the sun was bright and hot. We headed to coffee, then returned to pack up and start towards Wisconsin. We decided on a scenic route, and a cool little BBQ place for lunch.

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Sue found an old Ford, and we posted a picture on social media reporting she’d bought it. She might’ve, if he hadn’t been on the motorcycles.

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The rest of the ride was uneventful, and we took the bypass around Chicago. We stopped again to watch the USA vs Ghana World Cup match in Kenosha, then finished the ride home. I was happy with how the trip went, happy enough to look forward to the next one.

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A weekend away


She’s family has a property on Lake Buelah. When I first heard of it, and it’s boat house, I pictured a small, rundown building and tiny, seaweed encrusted lake. Since I’d met her in Fall and we hadn’t really started dating until winter was almost upon us, I hadn’t seen it until this summer. When we were packing up the last day of my return trip from OX14 west, she mentioned stopping there.
The property is now shared by her family. People request a week, but Sundays are open to everyone. That Sunday we stopped and I learned the “lake house,” was a two bedroom, full bath house above a two boat garage. There was a sail boat, pontoon, and speed boat (for waterskiing), as well as half a dozen smaller boats. There was a beach and large area for camping, a large fire pit, and an entire second house on top of the bluff.

Now that I’d seen the place, I was more interested in Sue’s week. She’s scheduled it during her break between chemo and radiation. With a bit of luck, the people who had scheduled the week before her had only been able to stay the weekend, so Sue’s time was extended a few days. I, of course, had to work, so I didn’t arrive until Friday when she and the girls had been there for a couple days.

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I had a long weekend at the lake house, with an option to head back into town on Saturday for one of my friend’s stepson. He isn’t actually her stepson, but it’s complicated so we’ll leave it there.
I’d arrived mid afternoon, and there was swimming and boats. Well, tubes. The lake was already packed, so the boats stayed on their moorings. For dinner Sue loaded us all up and went to a local Italian place which had free ice cream for the girls, though older one noted this was her last year of qualification.
Back on the beach, a bonfire was started and wine opened. She had told me there were no Mosquitos, but I was attacked by them as the sun set. The fire helped keep them away, and after a couple glasses we headed in to bed.
In the morning there was bacon, then a boat ride so I could see the lake.

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After the boat ride I headed back to Milwaukee for the graduation party. It was nice to get a ride in and see friends.

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Back at the lake, Sue’s parents had friends over for a party. There was grilled food, a variety of pasta salad and fruits, and ice cream and cookies for dessert. Another fire, much larger, and s’mores ended the evening.

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Sunday morning had the girls making a second kayak trip across the lake and creepy helicopter overflights.

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After breakfast there was another boat ride, where I saw a sailboat regatta on one of the linked lakes. This made me take a long look at the small Barnett Butterfly that was the family sailboat. It looked a bit neglected, but I was pretty sure I could get it out it onto the lake. I used to sail all the time when I was younger, and had to fix up boats at summer camps during college. So, that would be my next project.

Curiosity, by the way, is still dripping oil. I’m going to need a replacement gasket, which I’ll order this week. The HU events are coming up, so it’s time to get cracking.

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My Summer of Discontent


I’ve been back from the Overland Expo for a while now, here it is mid July already. Since that trip I’ve only been on one motorcycle trip, which I took few pictures off, going back to a friend’s house in Lower Michigan for some cooked food and conversation. I will write more about that later.

This isn’t a lot of riding for me, and I will admit to some antsyness over it. As I mentioned earlier I met someone late last  year, and while she is a huge fan of motorcycling, this summer hasn’t been the best for her (especially for taking trips of any sort). That is mostly her story, and I will let her share it. I’ve also buried myself, what spare time I’ve left myself, writing. I promised myself three books this year, but with half the time gone I haven’t managed one.

So, the truth is I don’t feel like I’ve done much this summer, though close inspection should show that isn’t true. I miss camping and lonely roads, and will be on them again (soon, I expect, since I am going to Horizon’s Unlimited events in September), but right now, typing at this keyboard, I feel like it’s been forever since I adventured.

There is other stuff too, an attempt to move to Squarespace with the website was a complete disaster, and struggling to make it work added stress and took away time I would rather have spend doing something. I get to build another site now, but that will have to wait until winter (I think).

The ride back from OX14 west also caused me to have a sore butt for the first time in years, so I am upgrading the 250’s seat, something I hadn’t wanted to do since most of the seats were valued more than the cost of the bike. I will be sure to post some pictures of that, once I get it.

I will be getting back to gear reviews as well, since that is at least part of what I am trying to do here. I have a list, just need to write it all out. Sounds so easy, don’t it?

In the mean time, keep the rubber side down and watch out for squirrels.

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