Great Lakes Tour




(From the perspective of the ‘Flying Fish’ Bob Michaud)

First: The Raw Data









Auburn, ME (Bob), Potsdam, NY (Tim)

Belleville, Ont

493 (bob)



Belleville, Ont

Providence Bay, Ont

383 (plus ferry ride over Lake Huron)



Providence Bay, Ont

Wawa, Ont




Wawa, Ont

Deluth, MN




Deluth, MN

Green Bay, WI




Green Bay, WI

Midland, MI

184 (plus ferry ride over Lake Michigan



Midland, MI

Boston, NY




Boston, NY

Auburn, ME (Bob)

648 (Bob

Total Mileage:


Average Per Day:



Now: The Details




The phone rings at work. I am expecting a call from ‘Tiny’ Tim Flack any moment now to discuss the plans for our impending motorcycle trip around the Great Lakes. The anticipation is mounting as we sweat over the little details of the ride - who will bring what equipment, have we contacted all of the brothers  en route to let them know that we will be rumbling through, do we have enough changes of shorts and socks to last a week on the road (2 should be enough,  right?). Tim’s voice is giddy with excitement as he says, "So, it looks like we  are going to get a little rain for the beginning of our trip."

"Really?", I reply. "I didn’t realize that they could forecast that far into the future?"

"We are leaving tomorrow, right?!?", Tim answers with a note of desperation  in his voice.

"No, I thought we were leaving a week from tomorrow. That is  why I said I would be coming up on Saturday instead of Friday so that I could go to my friend’s wedding"

"Please tell me you are joking", Tim said, now with a sinking sound.

"No," I replied, "I wish I were. I have made all my plans based on leaving next week!"

Silence. More silence.

"Can we do it any other week?" I asked.

A quick review of our calendars revealed that there were no other suitable times. It was either now or never. I told Tim to give me some time to see if I could get permission to take my vacation a week earlier than anticipated. I  began to scramble as I tried to smooth out my already crazed schedule. Finally,  about an hour or so later, I called him back.

"We’re on!"

"Waaaa hooooooo!!!!", or something to that effect was the noise that emanated  from the receiver as I held it at arms length.

The next several hours were spent in frantic racing around to finish rescheduling appointments, finishing work, and then - OH NO I HAVEN’T BEGUN TO PACK YET OR PREPARE MY BIKE!!! To complicate matters, my beloved and far too understanding wife, Stephanie, was out of state visiting friends. I dreaded  greeting her with the news that I would be leaving tomorrow, but she took it  like a trooper, and together we packed and made preparations for the next day’s departure.


DAY 1:


With a few other small mishaps behind me, the bike and my gear was ready to  go the next morning. The weather was overcast and foggy, so I donned rain pants (an omen of wetter things to come), and headed westward. The fog burned off  early, and the rest of the trip was warm and pleasant. I arrived early in the afternoon at Tim’s place, thinking that I would crash there for the evening, and we would get an early start in the morning. However, when I rolled into the driveway and saw his steed fully loaded with gear, I knew he had other plans. I had 325 miles behind me so far, but was still feeling pretty fresh, so we agreed to ride until I got tired, and then stop for the night.

We crossed over into Ontario from Ogdensburg, NY, and headed west on the 401 (a.k.a. the Canadian Autobahn) towards Toronto. Traffic moves at a fast clip on  this road, and posted speed limits apparently mean little to the natives, so  ‘when in Rome…’. By the time we had reached our next gas stop, we were getting  hungry, so we decided to look for a place to eat. We stopped at ‘Jim’s Italian  Restaurant’ (sounds like ‘authentic’ Italian, doesn’t it?). The food was OK, and the waitresses were especially kind to let us bring in some of our gear when we noticed the black thunder clouds encroaching. We brought our gear in just in time, and the skies opened up. While it appeared that it would just be a shower,  we still felt that this would be as good of a town as any in which to stay for  the night. We inquired as to the nearest lodging facility, and were directed to a Comfort Inn, that was booked by the time we arrived. They were kind enough to call ahead for us to the Motel 5 (an establishment not quite up to the caliber of a Motel 6 - no joke!). Just as we set out for the Motel 5, the skies opened  up again, and we found ourselves drenched before ever leaving the Comfort Inn’s parking lot! Since it was only a couple of miles down the road, and we were  already wet, we endeavored to press on.

That 2 miles proved more interesting and imposing than we could have imagined. With our daytime tinted face shields, and the rain coming down in sheets, we were reduced to near zero visibility. The best we could do was focus  on automobile taillights in front of us and pray that they didn’t do anything  stupid. That would have made the short trip interesting enough, but in addition to the poor visibility, the storm drains proved woefully inadequate for the  volume of water they were trying to cope with. As a result, on several occasions  we found ourselves entering puddles the size of ponds, unsure if we would be able to ride all the way through. I remember the water spraying up from my front  wheel coming up above my knees!! The scene was so bizarre, I couldn’t stop  myself from laughing, even though at any moment we could have been overturned and rendered useless like so much flotsam and jetsam.

We arrived at the Motel 5, and squished our way through the front door, and  took our place behind three foreigners who were having a dispute about their  room (which they did not know they had to confirm). During this dispute, we became seriously concerned that they were going to give away our room. They did not, however, and we were treated to a nights stay at this fine establishment. Probably the best thing I can say about it was that it was dry, at least except for that puddle that we left in front of the door, and any part of the room that was under our gear.


DAY 2:


The next morning we started off with a hearty breakfast, and hit the road. Back on the 401 the traffic seemed to be moving even more quickly than the previous evening. A Lexus and an Acura seemed to be trying to make their best  time to Toronto, so we let them run rabbit as we hung back and followed at the same pace. With nary an O.P.P. (Ontario Province Police for those of you who do  not venture North of the Border often) in sight, we cruised at LUDICROUS  SPEED until our machines were gasping for fuel. By coincidence, we stopped  exactly one hour after we had started. A quick read of our odometers revealed that we had traveled 93 Miles!!! Don’t try this at home, kids!

We barely caught a glimpse of Toronto before turning North to our destination  of Tobormory where we were to catch the first ferry of our trip. Upon arrival,  the gatekeeper recognized that we were on a mission from God (or was that a mission to God’s country?), and ushered us to the front of the line! Here at the front, were a few more select road warriors riding various mounts. The most  interesting, or at least eye catching, was a BMW K100 with a sidecar parked just  in front of us. The K100 is a sportbike, so seeing it with a sidecar is a sight indeed, but even more impressive was its odometer which read 126,000  MILES! Not to mention it was shod with custom wheels that accept automobile  tires (10,000 miles per tire for round motorcycle tires just doesn’t make sense when you can’t lean your ride). Its pilot was an older, slight man, sporting a  gray goatee and rolling his own cigarette. He was serious about his riding, and on our ferry ride, we learned exactly how serious (read: arrogant) he was about BMW’s and Moto Guzzi’s (of which he owned two). It seams that non-European  motorcycles just don’t count in his mind. To each his own, I suppose.

We parted company on Manitoulin Island, Ontario, as we set out to find our first campground of the ride. It was billed as having a great view of the  ‘famous sand dunes of Lake Huron’. Well, as the miles passed by, and we passed  more and more campgrounds with vacancies available, I wondered if Tim had forgotten the way, or was just pretending not to be lost. By and by, we did find that near mythical campground, with the not so mythical sand dunes across the  street. I am not sure what the fuss was about - I have seen bigger sand dunes in  a sand box, but the hook got us there, and the stay wasn’t bad. Before we made  camp for the day, however, we made sure to begin the ritual christening of the  motorcycles with Lake Huron water. I think the locals thought we were crazy, but  how many of them can boast a feat such as ours!


DAY 3:


The sun shone brightly as we awoke the next morning, and we knew we were in  for a great day for riding. We broke camp and headed into town for a bite to eat  before tearing on down the road. After we had filled up both ourselves and the  steeds, we set off toward Sault St. Marie. The weather was sunny, and only a little cool. The miles went by easily, and before we knew it, we were eating lunch in "The Soo". The next stretch of road would take us along the  northeastern shore of Lake superior, and we were both eager to get started. The  scenery in the afternoon was even better than the morning as we left  civilization behind us. We stopped to fuel up at a beautiful vista where a buxom  blond attendant was more than eager to serve us. She had not seen the quixotic  likes of adventurers such as ourselves before, and I could tell she had eyes for  Tim. But the road was calling, and the ride was more important to our stalwart  leader than any fleeting moments of romance. So, after some polite conversation,  and the ritual christening of the bikes with Lake Superior water, we were back  on the road.

The ribbon of macadam lead us through some of the most breathtaking scenery  to behold, with twisting turns, rolling hills and views of Lake Superior that I could not have imagined If someone tried to describe them to me. It seemed as if this road was purpose-built for two wheeled cruising, with one minor exception:  they forgot to install some services along the way. You see, the fuel range of a  Honda Shadow is somewhere around 100 miles per tank full, and this Provincial  Park seemed to go on forever. My Yamaha FJ1200 was good for almost 200 miles,  but that would only mean that I would have to try to perform a roadside gas transfusion should Tim run out - a tedious and untested exercise that I did not want to have to perform. The miles went by, and I kept checking the ticker - 75  miles since the fuel stop, then 85, then 95. Tim was still riding (albeit more slowly to conserve what remained of his gas). 100 miles - still riding. 105  miles and I can’t believe we haven’t stopped yet. At 110 miles we ran into ….  Construction?!?! Here? In the middle of nowhere? Now traffic was stopped dead,  and Tim cut the motor to keep from idling his fumes away. However, we were only about 2 miles from civilization (or as close as you could come to it up there), and we rolled into the very first gas station at the edge of town, by the Grace  of God, with a sip to spare.

We set up camp at a very cozy campground in the town of Wawa, Ontario  (pronounced just the way it looks - I asked!). We rode back into town and supped  on fresh Lake Superior trout, and headed back to the campground to partake of their weekly ‘ice cream social’ complete with fresh blueberries and maple syrup. An outstanding end to the day.


DAY 4:


We arose the next morning and had to shake the frost off the bikes before we got started. OK, so it wasn’t that cold, but it sure felt that way! Still, the sun was out, and it was a good day to ride. In fact, as we got  underway, we were taken aback as the scenery and the roads exceeded even the  previous days riding. The road carved swaths through mountains leaving rocky  cliffs on either side, and when you emerged from such a crevice you were typically greeted with another astounding view of the lake. It was incredible!

In addition to the majesty of the wilderness through which we passed, there  were on occasion man-made creations which could not help but impress the two  engineers-on-wheels. We passed paper mills larger than either of us had seen  before, and even bigger were three gold mines, all in a row! To call them huge  would be to call the Pope faithful. These mines took up, not acres, but square miles! What is more, when we took a break at an area information  rest area, we found a scale model of one of the mills inside, which depicted not  only the buildings we could see above ground, but all of the mine shafts below  as well. What appeared to be an overgrown ant farm at first glance was quickly put into perspective when multiplied by the scale factor. The shafts when down over 1000 meters, and dozens of tunnels reached out for thousands more in every  direction. Very impressive.

Soon it was time to get back on the road. The next way point on the map was  Thunder Bay. Since the beginning of the trip we had looked forward to this mythical destination. I mean, with a name like Thunder Bay it has to be  good, right? Unfortunately, this was an example of an old port town that just  didn’t keep up with the times. We had in our minds, however, that we must stop  in Thunder Bay and enjoy a fine Canadian brew while kicking back to enjoy a view  of the lake. We headed for the waterfront, but to our dismay, found that it was  all but deserted. The only establishments left were a few grain export companies  with their tall decaying grain silos looming in the foreground. We rode around for a while, and found one restaurant that had tables out front and determined that it was the best we could do. The best thing we could say about the town is  that while we were having our beer, a meter cop passed by, and before I could get up to feed the meter, he waved us off saying that they do not ticket visitors for parking. Hardly a reason to go back and visit again, but we appreciated the gesture.

A quick look at the map showed that we were not far from the U.S. border.  That would be an easy goal to reach, but there wasn’t much else on the map between there and Deluth, Minnesota. That would be a hike, but we thought we would give it a try. Just after crossing the border back into the States, like some deranged welcome home, the skies began to cloud up, and before we new it we were in our rain gear. Little did we know how well acquainted with this rain gear we would become before the end of the trip, but for the time being it  simply seemed a nuisance. The nuisance turned dangerous as we approached Deluth,  however, and the skies got darker, the rain fell harder, and Tim began to ride faster! Upon arriving in Deluth, I asked Tim if he knew how fast we had been travelling on that last stretch of divided highway.

"No", he replied, "how fast?"

"Try 80 to 85!" I gasped

"Gee, I was just following those taillights in front of me. I couldn’t see my  speedometer because of all the rain", Tim said

The only thing I could do is slap my forehead in disbelief. "Let’s try keeping it down in the inclement weather from now on", I advised.

We then proceeded to find an inexpensive motel that had a dehumidifier in the  room. This would not normally be an appliance of note, but because virtually  everything we were carrying or wearing was wet, we were glad to see it. We  carefully hung and arranged the moist articles of clothing in close proximity, and turned the knob to ‘Sahara Desert’. When morning came, I couldn’t feel the tongue in my mouth because it was so dry, but that was OK, ‘cause our gear was  dry too.


DAY 5:


That dry sensation wasn’t going to last. We wouldn’t make it out of town before feeling the bone chilling rain as it worked its way through our gloves  and boots (note to self: purchase waterproof gloves and boots before next trip).  This day took us across the very top of Wisconsin, into the Upper Peninsula of  Michigan, and then south to Green Bay. Not much to talk about either. Wet. That pretty much covers it.

Upon arrival in Green Bay, we called on brother Zahir, who was anxious to see  us, and put us up (or put up with us) for the night. He and his wife, Mariznahz, were wonderful hosts, especially considering they were already entertaining his  cousin from London. After dinner, we went out for drinks to a great local  watering hole called ‘Titletown’ (gee, why did they name it that?), after which we had to pay homage to the shrine of Green Bay: Lambeau Field. We can now count ourselves among the privileged few who have trodden its parking lot. Sounds a  little melodramatic? Not if you are from Wisconsin - they take this stuff SERIOUSLY!!


DAY 6:


We were able to spend a little extra time with our hosts in the morning  before saying good-bye, because our next stop was the ferry landing in Manitowoc  about an hour or so away, and the ferry did not depart until 1:00 PM. So we had a leisurely breakfast, took pictures, gathered up our things and hit the road.

We arrived in Manitowoc with time to spare, and christened the wheels once again. The ferry ride across Lake Michigan takes four hours, plus you lose an  hour as you cross back into Eastern Standard Time. This would put us in Michigan  at 6:00 PM. We wanted to put some miles behind us before calling it a day, so Tim felt it appropriate to catch some ZZZ’s on the boat. Unfortunately, he chose the Movie room, where we had started to watch Apollo 13 to sleep. When the first of his thunderous snores arose from his near comatose body, the captain wired  down to engineering figuring that they had run aground and scraped a gash in the  hull, such was the ripping noise of the snore. The second one sent a shock wave through the boat so ferocious that it knocked all of the bingo chips off of the  old ladies’ cards in the adjoining room. Seeing what a calamity he was causing,  I woke our favorite sleeping giant. However, he could not force himself to stay  awake, as he explained the rocking motion of the boat felt much like being  rocked to sleep by his mother. I convinced him that we should at least go above deck where he could sleep on some lawn furniture on the bow of the deck where  the captain could keep an eye on the cause of the noise. This seemed to work for the rest of the ride.

We arrived on schedule in Ludington, Michigan, and headed east for as far as we could go. We enjoyed fair weather for only 15 to 20 minutes before the rains came again and followed us to Midland. Here is a tip: if you are ever driving in or around Midland Michigan and feel you need to stop for the night, do yourself a favor and drive to the next town, any town, and look for lodging. We must have spent nearly an hour driving around the streets of Midland looking for a place to stay, before finally settling on the Ramada. This is no hick town, mind you. It is just up the road from Flint, and there are all sorts of  restaurants, businesses, factories, etc., but we had the worst time finding a motel.


DAY 7:


More rain when we awoke told the tale for the day. Rain all the way through  Michigan, Ontario, and back into the States at Niagara Falls. It was so miserable, we didn’t even bother to stop and look around in Niagara. By the time we reached Buffalo, we had enough. We called Bob Frieirt who offered to put us  up at his place in Boston, NY. He and Beth had to attend a wedding, and would be  there to welcome us when we arrived, but they left the door open for us.

Unfortunately, we weren’t bright enough to get the right door the first time.  Don’t get us wrong, we read the directions correctly, we even got the right house number. But I could sense something was amiss. First off, I didn’t remember Bob saying that he had a dog. Second, the doors were all locked. Third (and probably the most telling clue) was that the name etched on the door  knocker wasn’t the right one. So we figured we would go back to town and call Bob from a pay phone. But first, our intrepid leader needed to do a little personal recycling, so he went to have a closer look at the lovely bushes at the edge of the lawn. When he returned, we rode in town. To our dismay, we found  that Boston, NY is such a po-dunk town that they don’t have pay phones. In fact,  by the time we found the nearest phone at the local diner, "The Super Chicken"  (no joke - its the real name!), we had to recall from our history lessons how to  operate the old crank style phone. The operator answered and Tim asked her to  connect him with Bob at Ingram Micro. I though I heard some cursing by the  operator about the ‘blasted voice mail phone menu system at that place’, but she  was kind enough to place the call just the same. When Bob finally answered, Tim asked first:

"Uh, Bob, do you have a dog that you didn’t tell us about?"

"NOOO!", was the reply - I could hear that clearly from several feet away.

"Well we followed your directions to the letter, and the house has the right number, 9690 Trevett Road, and I even recognize it from my last visit - what did  we do wrong?", implored Tim

"You dough head, we live at 9690C TrevettRoad!",  Bob answered back.

"I see", Tim said with his voice trailing off , no doubt recalling the urination incident on what is now evidently Bob’s neighbor’s lawn.

We went back to Trevett Road, and this time found the right house, and made  ourselves at home. We soon discovered that Bob and Beth have a nice big California style hot tub on their back deck, and we wasted no time testing the waters after first raiding the fridge for some beer. Bob and Beth returned from  the wedding, and we sat up until the wee hours of the morning chewing the fat.


DAY 8:


The next morning, our gracious hosts treated us to a great breakfast, and  then lead us to Lake Erie so that we could once again christen our bikes before heading homeward.

After bidding farewell, we headed back out to the highway, our home away from  home for the past several days. Our trip was coming to a close, and it would soon be one for the record books, or at least frivolous memoirs such as these. The weather was still not cooperating, and the weather reports we had seen earlier in the day led us to believe that the weather front we had chased all  the way from Minnesota would dog us all the way home. Around Syracuse, after some discussion, I made the executive decision to part company from my riding companion, and make the long trip home in one wet day instead of two. We bid each other Godspeed, and headed to our respective homes. I had the farthest to  go, as Tim planned to stop and stay with his folks in Oswego. By the time I reached Auburn, Maine, I had traveled 650 miles in about 11 hours. Not bad considering that includes rest, meal, and fuel stops.


The 1997 Great Lakes Motorcycle trip shall go down in the books as an  overwhelming (if somewhat moist) success. We saw beautiful country, met friendly  people and old friends, and returned home without incident. Where are we going  next year?





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