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!

My May Motorcycle Adventure

I took advantage of the warm weather in May for a mid-week motorcycle adventure. Like most motorcycle adventures, I did not plan ahead a specific itinerary. I simply pointed my 1978 Kawasaki KZ650 motorcycle in a general direction and went where the roads would take me.

I knew that I wanted to make use of the southern Ohio roads again on this trip, but also knew that I needed some new tires for my vintage ride. I stopped at Shop Dog Cycles in Hilliard, Ohio to get a new set of Spitfire S11 sport touring tires put on. Shop Dog Cycles is a one-man affair, but owner Ryan puts great care in his work. An older bike like mine meant more work to pull 34 year old tech apart, but Ryan did so with patience and professionalism. I have to say, the back country riding with those new tires was certainly smoother.

While in Hilliard, I encountered one of their sets of double roundabouts. The road signs for the roundabouts look like a mess of circular arrows, but once you’re in the middle of it all, it makes sense. The roundabouts make for an interesting alternative to the normal intersection with stop lights. While they require more work on the driver’s part, I think the extra attention required works to make the affair safer. Traffic constantly flows, versus the stop and go of a light, which is welcome as well.

Leaving the Columbus area, I took off to the back country roads of southern Ohio. I hit most of the more famous roads here, like Route 555, 78 and 26. Route 26 feels like a roller coaster, with plenty of tight and sweeping turns, hills and spectacular views. Route 78 has plenty of twists as well, but I always find myself stopping at points just to take in the view when you get to the top of one of the hills and can see miles of rolling Ohio in all directions.

One particular stop I did want to make on this trip was the Sisterville Ferry. This ferry shuttles cars across the Ohio river between Fly, Ohio and Sisterville, West Virginia. I crossed the border into West Virginia so that I could take the ferry back into Ohio. There’s something magically adventurous about crossing a river on a ferry with a motorcycle, and as soon as I heard about the ferry, I had to make the detour. Although a short trip across the river, it was absolutely worth it, if only for the view in the middle. The ferry crosses as one of the longer straight sections of the river, giving you a view down the river in both directions for miles.

As the sun started to set, and the clouds began to darken, I made my last stop at the historic Lafayette Hotel in downtown Marietta, Ohio. The hotel sits next to the Ohio river and offers many spectacular views from the rooms. The rooms themselves are like a time capsule from the 1940s with their furniture. Definitely a must stay if you’re in the area.

The next morning, I took the straight shot home up highway 77 north. It was another great trip, and I am glad I was able to take the time to experience it. I can’t wait for the next adventure!

Science and History: My Geek Mini-Vacation

I took two days off from work this week to spend a little bit of time recharging my geek batteries. Sometimes it’s easy to forget the wonder you can have around technology when you deal with fixing tech issues every day. Fortunately, Ohio has some great geek destinations within driving distance!

Foucault pendulum clock at COSI

My first stop was at the Center of Science and Industry (COSI), a science museum in Columbus, Ohio. This was the first time I’ve been to COSI since they moved from their cramped little building in the downtown area to the larger area on the other side of the river years ago.

There’s a lot of really great displays of science and technology there, and I really found plenty to interact with over the few hours I spent there. I really liked the “Progress” display and it’s view of life in 1962 from a street level.

You can check out my photos from COSI here.

Biplane on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force

The next day was spent at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. The last time I had visited there was with my parents in the 1980s. Since then, they’ve expanded the museum itself with two other hangers, and are even looking to add a fourth down the line.

The museum catalogs the history of the Air Force from the very beginning of flight all the way to through present day, and it’s pretty awe-inspiring to walk around all those aircraft from every historical period. The hangers are absolutely enormous, with plenty of space for B-52s and other monster planes and helicopters.

You can check out my photos from the Air Force museum here.

There was a lot of walking for me over those two days, and I had a lot to take in thanks to having access to Wikipedia via an iPhone app that allowed me to look up further details into the science or history I was looking at.

I didn’t really end up spending much for the trip, and it really did help to recharge the geek inside, so I’m absolutely glad I took the time!

Mini Geek Vacation in Southern Ohio

National US Air Force Museum - Dayton, Ohio

I decided to take an extra two days off next week to go on a small geek vacation involving a drive down to Dayton, Ohio. There, I plan on visiting the National Museum of the US Air Force to feed the aviation geek in me and take in the hangers full of history they have on display. I’ll also probably visit the Wright Memorial while I’m in the area.

It’ll be nice to take the short trip to get just far enough away from work, yet not too far as to cost much more than a few tanks of gas. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of photos to add to the Road Trip gallery, as well.