We got up and walked to the local Tim Horton’s for breakfast, grateful for what would probably be our only exercise today. When we got back and were looking over our bikes, an Indian guy from Toronto was loading his bag onto a metric cruiser nearby. He and three friends had been doing a circuit of Lake Superior on the occasion of one of their 40th birthdays. “Yeah, it’s been great,” he said brightly, then added, “Except for the weather.” Somehow he managed this with a straight face, and we all pretended that the prevailing conditions were only a minor damper on the great times of a motorcycle trip. But whether it’s a long or a short trip there’s usually not much you can do about the weather you get dealt. Fate determines which areas you get to see the beauty of in sun, which ones you ride through hunched over in cold, and which you see only through a film of raindrops on the visor and worries over traction and sudden obstacles. We were all in the same boat, but for both of our groups, seeing that it wasn’t “just us” cheered us up.
And in fact today it seemed the rain was at least temporarily going to give us a break. We finally got to see Superior in some of its glory on the east side heading down. We also discovered a “Coastal Trail” along the shores, partly in Lake Superior Provincial Park, which continued for so long you could actually backpack. Päivi and I hiked along a couple of hundred meters of it going in. Sun splashed onto a carpet of pine needles, granite, and moss through tree branches above, and the lapping of Superior against the shores reverberated off the rock rising above us. Beautiful. This was the way to see the lake, all right. We even had our backpacks with us. Too bad we weren’t equipped with either time or food though. We made promises to return another time.
We carried on, but as we drew in to Sault Saint Marie, the clouds closed in overhead, and we were back to cold and damp motorcycling, though not actual rain. A lunch stop did little to warm us up, so we just buckled down and continued east, now leaving Superior behind.
We passed an electric sign stating that Highway 17 was closed east of Thessalon. This seemed scarcely credible – how could the most major highway in the region actually be closed? But I remembered Päivi mentioning she’d seen a story about flooding on the news last night, and I started to worry a little. Thessalon lay about 50 miles east of where we were.
Sure enough, when we came to the place, there were detour signs, and it took us a bit of fumbling around before we came to grips with the scope of the detour, which ate a visible chunk out of the map. After a couple of false attempts to detour around the detour, we completed the full 40 miles on questionable roads and found ourselves 20 miles east of where we’d started. We only had energy to continue for another 10 miles before stopping at a Tim Horton’s to assess our chances.
I’d just been emailing a friend the night before that while we were having a good time on this trip, it was far from a bed of roses. And this had certainly been true for the past couple of days. But now a stroke of good luck befell us that made things roses again. Another motorcyclist had gone into the Tim Horton’s just before us, and as often happens, we found the occasion to exchange a few words. Päivi generally leads the way in these, since I tend to be shy, and this was no exception. This time though the man joined us at our table and I became involved in the conversation too.
It turned out he was an Ohioan up visiting his summer house for a few days before leaving his wife up here while he went down to work for another week or two. He was on a red Honda VFR 800 Interceptor. Definitely capable of smoking either of our two bikes without breaking a sweat, but he was old enough not to feel the need to make a number out of it. Instead we talked over our common interests in motorcycling and told a few things of our trips. Then he asked us if we had a place to stay, and invited us up to his house. Ordinarily I would be cautious about something like this, but since we was riding a motorcycle I thought he was OK, and in addition we were feeling a bit desperate about finding an end to our day’s journey. We’d already asked at two motels along the road and found them too expensive, but were starting to get the idea we were going to have to break down sooner or later.
Instead we hopped on our bikes and followed D. up some winding narrow roads a few miles above town to a beautiful lake house in Scandinavian style with light wood, large windows, and airy, open spaces. We couldn’t believe our luck, nor that D.’s wife didn’t seem too put-out by the unexpected guests. D. did mention this was not the first time he’d brought home wayward motorcyclists, and I guess it hadn’t turned out badly in the past.
We ended up having dinner with D., his wife P., and several of their friends / summer house neighbors. Company was good and the surroundings were pleasant and rustic. Very, very little to complain about indeed.