My Lake Erie Loop

Lake Erie Loop 2013 map

Lake Erie Loop 2013 is now complete! I had wanted to take a longer trip on the motorcycle for some time, and the idea of a “multi-country multi-state” tour around Lake Erie came to mind.

The trip totaled 650 miles roughly, starting on the east-side of Cleveland. I left early Monday morning, allowing me to ride along the “Lake Erie Circle Tour” route, which uses the small roads that run alongside the lake for a great view through small cities.

I am always surprised by the number of sandy beaches Ohio has along Lake Erie, because you never think of the state being that warm, at least until the Summer weather gets into the 90s.

When I hit Toledo, I got back onto the highway, with Michigan and then Detroit coming up sooner than I had expected. I had wanted to use the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel to get to Canada, but found that they didn’t allow motorcycles and trucks. Probably due to the noise the average open-pipe cruiser makes not being pleasant in a mile-long underground tube.

Crossing the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor gave a great view of the two countries with how high it gets in the arched middle. Soon enough I was back on the ground at the Canada border booths. Entering the country involved showing my passport, answering a few questions about who I was, where I was going, and what I was doing.

While in Canada, I stuck to the major highways due to my Garmin GPS unit suddenly developing power fault. Normally, I would use my smartphone as a GPS, as it can send audio directions straight to the Bluetooth audio headphones in my helmet. However, AT&T’s “international roaming” rates are astronomical (120MB for $30), so I opted to turn the phone off and follow an easier to manage route.

The highway speeds average around 100km/hr (60mph). Once I switched the FZ6’s display over to kilometers, it became easier to keep to the speed limits. The Ontario country side in Windsor was filled with flat farmland just like the middle of Ohio, but had hundreds of giant wind turbines as far as I could see, with a few solar panel farms scattered about. Those miles were filled with the Pinwheel Playhouse theme playing in my head.

I stopped in London, Ontario, which is approximately due north from where I live on the other side of Lake Erie in Ohio. An aspect of travel that I always enjoy is seeing how similar, yet different, everything is in another location. The people were still regular people, going on about their average day. You still had Wal-Marts and even a few Best Buy’s (I stopped into two to check them out), but you also have Tim Hortons everywhere that a Wendy’s normally would be.

The next morning, I headed towards Niagara Falls. And got very lost for a bit there. The highways in Canada use signage a bit differently than here in the US. The roadsides are dominated by large signs telling you everything about the upcoming exit, but rarely do you see signs for the distance to locations further down the road. I missed the split onto QEW that heads south because there was no mention of Niagara anywhere 30 km ahead of it.

Riding through Canada, I was a little surprised at just how diverse their motorcycle riding population was. In Ohio, the vast majority of motorcycles are Harley-Davidson cruisers with a smaller number of Kawasaki Ninja sport bikes. Across the border, I saw a number of BMW motorcycles in the wild, along with KLRs and other adventure bikes that I didn’t normally run across here.

Eventually, I did arrive in Niagara, Ontario. It had certainly grown up since I had last been there as a very small child with my parents. The place almost feels like a mini-Vegas, with the number of large Casino hotels, souvenir shops and tourist attractions for families and newlyweds.

I took some time to go up in the Skylon Tower because it’s one of the memories I do have from my childhood visit. The center itself is old and worn down, but the view from the top of the tower is still good.

I also stopped down to the falls themselves and made to sure to properly take in the crazy amount of power 3,160 tons of water flowing over the Falls every second has.

Eventually, the trip home started. Across the Rainbow Bridge and to the US border, where I was asked similar questions to those when I entered Canada.

Just down the highway, lay Buffalo New York, which then led me down and through Pennsylvania, past Erie, and finally after a 3 hours on the road, I was back home.

It was an awesome trip to take on the motorcycle, and I look forward to my next 2 wheeled adventure!

Slow Riding Through Pennsylvania Back Country Roads

Pennsylvania Farm

For a change of pace, I headed towards the Ohio-Pennsylvania border today on the FZ6.

I took Route 6 out to Meadville, then Route 27 over to Titusville, and finally Route 89 up to Erie and back to Painesville.

The Pennsylvania roads in the northeast would be great for anyone looking to do some cruiser or 2UP riding. They aren’t too technical, their curves tend to be long and sweeping versus tight and twisty.

You do have to be mindful, though, especially this early in the season. The corners still have sand, gravel, salt and ash left over from the Winter. It’ll take a few really good Spring storms to clean those road obstacles out.

That said, there are other challenges that will continue through the year. Many of the side roads are dirt or gravel, with lots of trucks pulling the debris onto the country highways as they pull out.

I also ran into patches of Amish buggies moving slowly across some areas, and slow moving farm equipment in others.

It ended up being a 250 mile ride, which isn’t much by “iron butt” standards, but the relaxed pace and scenic countryside made up for it.

An April Motorcycle Adventure

Last year, I began my motorcycle journey with a 2009 Yamaha Vino 125 scooter and then a 1973 Honda CB350F motorcycle. Earlier this year, I added a 1978 Kawasaki KZ650 to my stable. The scoot and CB350F are great fun, but aren’t really designed for a longer ride that I had started imagining over the Winter here in Ohio. The KZ650, on the other hand, had the performance (and reliability) to make a multi-day trip.

So I took three days off during the first week in April, and set out to ride through Ohio (and a little bit of Pennsylvania). I even managed a stop at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame near Columbus, Ohio.

Some very cold and wet weather, along with a number of thunderstorms, delayed most of my progress on the first day. Fortunately, I had plenty of tech to help me out, and was able to bring up the latest weather reports on my tablet to help avoid the worst of it.

I was able to get onto State Route 78 and 555 on the second day. Both roads are filled with plenty of twists and turns, along with the hills and scenery one expects in southern Ohio. I was able to really enjoy the ride, and gained new confidence in all that I’ve learned over my first year as a motorcyclist.

Towards the end of the day, I headed through West Virginia, and on to Pennsylvania, where I stopped at Pittsburgh for the night. The next morning, I gave into my geek side and visited the Carnegie Science Center before heading back up to Ohio.

The map below shows my progress across those three days, but I like to think of it as a larger sign of the progress I’ve made as a rider. I definitely look forward to more opportunities to get onto the open road for some more motorcycle adventure.

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