Saturday, September 4, 2010
Well, I have been in hiatus for quite some time and my life's schedule being thrown my way by both work and home don't look like that will be changing much any time soon, but I'm not dead. In fact, just a short while back I did some REAL LIVING. Living to Ride, Riding to Live, if ya know what I mean.
I've driven both of these roads I'm going to tell you about before in a car, but never on a motorcycle until now. It's something I've wanted to do for years, since the first time I drove the roads. I finally made it happen with a couple of close friends whom are now even closer friends than before. Funny how that happens. Must be that biker brotherhood thing.
The ride was roughly 800 miles and we broke it up into 3 days.
Now I know that 800 miles doesn't sound like a lot for three days, but when 1/3 of thee miles are on back roads and you take the scenic routes to get there and there are more twisties than you can count, than you can respect 800 miles of pure put a freaking smile on your face riding.
Day 1, we got to a late start, but started at my place and rode most of the daylight away heading North on Hwy 35 / 61 taking the scenic route along Lake Superior.
We had prior reservations and stayed the night at the Aspen Lodge in Grand Marais, MN. We got a room with Lake Superior view, two double beds and a cot.
This worked out fine and the fair was reasonable. If you've ever seen one of those "Where the Hell is Wall Drug" bumper stickers, the you've likely seen a Yellow with Black lettering "Sven and Ole's Grand Marais, MN" bumper sticker too. Well, it's because it is some of the best pizza in the world. Of course we ate dinner there. I try to eat Sven and Ole's Pizza once a year, or I go through withdrawl. 'Nuff said. Eat there if you ever visit
Day 2, we started off bright and early in the morning and we rode the Gunflint Trail.
Its 55 miles one way. It starts in Grand Marais, MN and heads North West where it ends at the Canadian border at a lake in the Boundary waters. In fact, the trail goes through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, thus all of the twisty roads and lakes to view as you roll on through. The Gunflint Trail is filled with twisties, rolling hills, lakes, coniferous trees, pine trees and wild life. We even saw a fox cross the road right in front of us. There are a couple of places you can stop to eat on the way. I recommend Trails Center Lodge, which is at the center of the trail (midway going one direction, not midway turning around).
This is a good place to fuel up too if you have a smaller tank like I do.
There is a place toward the end of the trail by the turn around point too. But I really do recommend Trails Center Lodge for your food stop. I've eaten at both. Trail Center Lodge food freaking rocks.
Sitting at a pit stop, fulfilling a little boy's fantasy!
We double backed down the Gunflint, and then back down Hwy 35 / 61.
This starts the next leg of the journey. When you are traveling South from here on Hwy 35 / 61, you want to take a right at Hwy 1 at Ilgin City and head North West again. At this time, you are remembering the beautiful rolling twisty ride you just finished on the Gunflint, but you are in for quite a surprise. The Gunflint Trail is kind of like Hwy 1 if some one grabbed on to both ends and gave it a little tug to straighten it out a bit.
From here, Hwy 1 will take you to Ely, MN, which is a small, quaint old mining town. There is a really cool mine tour you can take. (I've done the mine tour with my family. It's really cool.) We didn't do so as our time was limited, but if you find the time, I do recommend it. Back to the twisties. The road from Ilgin City To Ely is almost exactly 60 miles one way. Precisely 42 of which are twisty. Some as twisty as Needles Hwy in So. Dakota. The twists and turns vary from switch backs to long rolling curves that you can hang for what seems to be forever at about 55-60 MPH. I suppose if you have a different bike, and more balls than I have, or are at least more daring than I, you could go much faster. There are a few lakes and rivers that are beautiful to see while you are on this road, but really, when you are riding these twisties, you're having so much fun you really don't care. At the mid point of the road there is a gas station for fueling up if needed, and a Coop with gas too. Again, helpful for those us with small gas tanks who already pushed limits riding from Grand Marais to this point here. This was also a good place to grab a snack before motoring on to Ely.
We stayed the night at a quaint home made cabin.
The cabin was loaned to us to use for the night from a friend of one of the guys I was riding with. Accommodations were a bit rough, but what do you expect for a little cabin in the middle of no where. The solitude and scenery made up for lack of pampering after a long ride.
We stayed up late drinking beer and talking smart around the camp fire and then called it a night. Good times my friends, good times.
Day 3, We packed up our gear in the morning to "DO" Hwy 1 again on our last leg, the journey home.
I enjoyed double backing Hwy 1, I think just as much as hitting it for the first time because I kind of knew what to expect more on a bike than the first way through. I was able to push the speed a bit more and really enjoy the curves. You know, when you drive a twisty road in a car, it aint the same as on two wheels, so the first time through for me was like being a Hwy 1 motorcycle twisty virgin. You want to enjoy it, but yet, you don't want to crash and burn either. I feel it's best to play it safe the first time through on motorcycle on any unknown road. Eventually the twisties ended, and we were shortly back on the freeway, heading home.
We safely and successfully returned home and ended the journey that made 3 friends better friends than before.