For our 25th wedding anniversary we rode motorcycle from Texas to Canada. We spent the first four days bouncing around the East Coast visiting family and friends. Afterwards we road mostly scenic roads to Niagara Falls Canada then across Canada dropping back into the states in the Upper Peninsula Michigan. We rode along Lake Michigan to Chicago. The last part of our trip was a ride down the Great River Road that follows the Mississippi river. We were gone two and a half weeks and it was a fantastic trip.
The first night of our Canada trip was a stop in Memphis Tennessee and bike night on Beale Street. Beale street is a national historic landmark having been declared the “Home of The Blues by congress”. The streets are lined with jazz and blues clubs along with some of the best BBQ joints anywhere. Unfortunately after a long day in the heat and rain we never left the hotel room opting to order pizza and go to bed.
The next night we spent in Harriman Tennessee visiting my parents then we rode to Wilson North Carolina to visit a friend that I knew since we were kids. On the way we found our CB to be quiet helpful. When there was a limb in the road we heard truckers tell each other and we were prepared. Several times traffic came to a screeching stop and it was good to be warned ahead of time.
Roanoke was the goal for our 4th day of the trip. We left Wilson NC after visiting my Friend and back tracked to Greensboro then caught US 220 north to Roanoke. The road turned out to be a nice drive thru the rolling hills of Virginia. We spent the night at Kerry’s sisters house in Roanoke.
Day 5 was our first day of what we would call touring. No longer were we pressed by tight schedules visiting friends and relatives. We had two days to get to Niagara
Falls and that gave us plenty of time to enjoy the ride. From Roanoke we took 220 north following the appellation mountains. The trip was made up of winding mountain roads and small towns along the way. At one spot we came across a waterfall and stopped to take pictures of it.
We ate lunch in Petersburg West Virginia then continued on to Cumberland MD where we caught IH 68 west to Grantsville then to US 219 and north to Somerset Pennsylvania where we planned to eat dinner and stay the night. We found the Somerset rundown and when we had poor service at a restaurant we decided to ride on. We left town and headed for the Flight 93 memorial.
Flight 93 was the airliner that went down on September 11 2001 when the passengers decided not to let the hijackers attack our government. The 93 memorial was a temporary memorial of mementos left by visitors witch left us in aw. From there we headed for Johnstown and a room for the night.
The next morning we left the hotel in the pouring rain, and rode to the Johnstown flood memorial. Inside we met a guy who was traveling on a 76? Norton 850. he said he had ridden that bike to Canada and South America since he got it new. He preferred the Norton because it was smoother than the other British bikes, but he did buy a BMW for a trip to Alaska.
After we left the memorial we went north on 219 where it took us thru small towns. It was a slow ride as we went thru town after town, but we liked the ride. At one point we stopped and talked to a group of 10 Gold Wings on the side of the road. They were out of Ohio and traveling to Niagara where they were going to spend four days. They offered to let us join them and we did.
Customs going into Canada was fine. The asked where we were going, where we were coming from, how long our stay was going to be, if we had fire arms, and our tag number. they looked at our passports and nothing else. We said goodbye to the Ohio riders after clearing customs and drove to our hotel about 1.5 miles from the falls.
Niagara falls, what do I have to say about Niagara falls? First if you are looking for the picturesque romantic getaway STOP! Speaking only of the Canadian side, we found it to be a little more like Vegas or Disney world. It was august 1st and the place was packed.
Skyline, the restaurant where we had our 25th anniversary dinner at was nice and the service was good. The price was as we expected 100 plus for the two of us but the view was worth it. Finally we were in a place to experience the beauty of the falls without bumping elbows with a million people. I would like to go back to the falls in the winter and see if its more romantic in the off season.
After our stay in Niagara we headed west into Canada. The roads were good and we found the Canadians to be fast drivers. The QEW was 100 km/h and HWY 6 was 80 km/h. Its funny that their speed limits were slower than in the US but they would speed so the end result was they drive as fast as we do. I guess they keep the limits low to be able to say they are a more responsible country by keeping the limits down.
The ride on 6 opened up to beautiful country sides. Though we got lost a few times it was a very pleasant ride and we recommend this ride to anyone. In Tobermory we took a one hour and forty five minute ferry ride across to South Baymouth. The ship was large and we were told it was the largest fresh water ferry in the world? We had a nice lunch in its cafeteria and a beautiful view. We though the $43.40 toll was fair.
Highway six from South Baymouth is a beautiful drive. It is about 70 miles to Espanola, the nearest city of any size. The roads may be better than those in the USA but boy did we cross a rickety bridge. The bridge was a one lane iron bridge with a slick wooded deck that was partially covered in asphalt.
In Espanola we were at a trading post picking up trinkets for relatives when I decided I needed a bearskin rug. Thank goodness the clerk did not know shipping rate or how to deal with customs. I put the credit card back in my wallet and Kerry breathed a sigh of relief. When we left the trading post we took HWY 17. It was 7:30 and we decided to try to stay on schedule and make it to Sault Ste. Marie Michigan.
Its funny how long it seams to get from place to place when converting kilometers to miles. As we rode motels became increasingly full of motorcycles and we were getting concerned about driving at night in this desolate part of Canada. When the sun fell we were about 45 minutes from Sault Ste. Marie. I asked a trucker that was fowling us to pass so that he could warn us of any troubles. The truckers told us we had to be brave or stupid to be driving a motorcycle at night on that highway because of all the animals. All went well and we made it to the states by 10 pm and found a hotel.
The next day we drove to Manistee Michigan on a beautiful HWY 119. The views of lake Michigan and the scenery were superb. from thick woods to beaches to quiet little marinas we found it all to be nice. 119 was curvy and the tall trees made it hard to see gravel scattered on the road. Our speed limit averaged somewhere between 25 and 35 mph for most of 119. All together we drove about 250 miles in a 10 hour day. So don’t plan on being in a hurry if you take this route.
We planned to camp at Orchard Beach state campground in Manistee but found it not what we wanted. For 39 dollars, after paying an out of state penalty, the though of sleeping in a tent city where your neighbor was only a few feet away did not appeal to us. We decided to go into town, eat and plan where we were going to camp. We decided on a national forest a few more miles south called Lake Michigan Recreational Area. For 14 dollars we finally got the try out our tent and bed rolls. The tent is a 4X6 dome tent and instead of sleeping bags we bought two bed rolls witch are basically sleeping bags rated for 60 degrees or above. Together two sleeping bags and the tent fit nicely on the trunk rack on the bike.
We continued south on Friday. We made it to Indiana by mid day so Kerry decided she wanted to see Chicago. We looked the map over and decided ride along the shoreline thru Gerry Indiana into Chicago. We ate in Michigan City at a restraint called Pumps on HWY 12 and the food was very good.
Getting into Chicago on a Friday afternoon was easy but getting out took the rest of the day. Yes the water front was beautiful and If I ever have a hankering to go back I think we will take a train or bus and walk the riverfront. It was a terrible feeling knowing no matter what direction we wanted to go we could not get out of town without getting in long lines. Yuck.
Part of riding, is to be able to brag about all of the places you seen and states you have traveled thru. We figured since we were leaving Chicago we might as well take a quick trip to Wisconsin so we could say we had been there. I don’t know how close we got but the traffic sucked bad enough that we turned around and headed south to get a room for the night.
The next morning and not long after getting on interstate 55 south we got one last taste of Chicago drivers. A motor home merged into our lane leaving us no where to go. I thanked the driver with a hand jester and we had to put up with a motor home chasing us down the interstate. It wasn’t like he was going to catch us. When the motor home finally left the highway he and I exchanged jesters again and we were finally on our way.
On hwy 24 we became confused because we soon found ourselves in El Paso. El Paso? I know we were tired but El Paso. Ok it was El Paso Illinois. The ride was farm land and little towns except for Peoria where we got lost. We crossed the Mississippi into Burlington Iowa, found the great river road and headed south.
We got to St Louis around 4pm. The I-70 bridge was under construction and we were stuck in traffic. The truckers were talking about being in traffic for hours waiting to get across. We needed gas so we got off of the interstate only to find ourselves in a neighbor hood that you would find on Cops. You know the type of neighborhood where hoodlums will strip your car with u sitting in it. The clerk at the BP was behind bullet proof glass. Cars would pull into the station and dirt bags would lean into the car then walk away. Hum, I wonder what they were doing.
We drove the Interstate around Saint Louis to take another bridge across the Mississippi. Since we were already up on the drug trade we figured, what the heck we will spend the night in East Saint Louis and see if our bike was still there in the morning. It was. When we stay at hotels we ask the clerk if we can park by the front door in plain site of the front desk. They say yes most of the time. The Rest of the trip was a three day ride down the Mississippi’s Great River Road. We stopped and checked out a few sites along the way.