And so we last left our intrepid travellers with their glorious sunset over Lake Superior, comfortable in the knowledge that a red sky at night is a travellers delight.
Well… believe me, that theory is now well and truly debunked.
We woke to threatening skies and shortly afterwards the threat was realised and the heavens opened. A quick pack up and we even used the road to roll up the tent as doing it on the sand was just unthinkable. Even so we were shaking sand out of our gear for days afterwards.
We got going as soon as possible and rode the 30 minutes into civilisation, and coffee, at a town called Bayfield. We’d just parked the bikes when we were approached by Mike and Deb who started chatting and ended up joining us for coffee and a route discussion. And even more important Mike was able to help us work out where to get Janelle a back tyre without the hassle we had in Cody. I rang ahead to the Suzuki dealer in a town called Marquette, about 4 hours away. We arranged a fitting the next afternoon and worked out a route.
Mike took this pic of us as we left Bayfield.
It had just stopped raining and although we had on and off drizzle the rest of the day, we rode into Marquette in sunshine just as it started getting dark. Given how wet our pack up had been a hotel was the only option. When this happens we’ve discovered the trick of finding somewhere online and then turning up and without reserving. The savings are amazing. And so it was with this executive suite for half the “cheap” internet price. We got everything washed and dried, a great evening meal and the world was kind to us again.
Next morning we found out we had to wait till 2pm for the tyre so a relaxed morning, nice lunch and some supplies before heading to the bike shop and waiting well over an hour. Tip for beginners… if you find yourself stranded in Marquette needing a tyre, don’t bother with the local Suzuki dealer.
We finally hit the road around 3.30pm so didn’t expect to get that far, but it was actually a really good travelling day. We crossed into Michigan, rode down to the lake edge and hit a rather important milestone. 5000 miles and close to our halfway point. A quick video to celebrate and we rode into the sunset then turned south and crossed the amazing Mackinac Bridge. By then it was dark so we got off the tourist road and found a tiny little town with one of these classic single row family run motels.
It was only the next morning we decided to cut through Canada to Niagara Falls, so a run down through Michigan and then a small jump over to the east brought us to the Canadian Border, but not before USA waved us farewell with a horrendous toll over the bridge.
Janelle’s border experience and mine were completely different. We chose different lanes and she was waved through with barely a look, not even bothering with a passport stamp (?!?) while I was questioned about guns, intentions, money, matching passport photo to my gnarly mug, alcohol and guns again, for 5 or so minutes. There was never any problem as such, just lots of questions. But at least I got the passport stamp. We made an hour towards Niagara and found a campground just beyond the city of London.
Janelle knew of this pretty little town called Niagara On The Lake, so we thought we’d head there and take stock before entering the tourist craziness of the Falls. As it turns out, there were 2 surprises waiting for us. First it seems the pretty little town has been heavily marketing to Asia and the Sub Continent, which has worked amazingly well. It was still pretty, but we couldn’t see much of it. The second was we suddenly lost our phone communications. It took us some days to get that sorted with AT&T and was damn inconvenient, but we got by.
The advantage of visiting Niagara On The Lake was that we got to ride along the river which was just a truly lovely ride, albeit very slow. And then suddenly we were at the Falls. Parking was a challenge but we sorted that, and then went for a (long) walk back to the café overlooking the main falls and spent an hour or so enthralled by them. Well worth the hassle of getting there.
After a while, and a lot of photos, we found a campground a few miles away and paid a small fortune for a small campsite. Later that evening we rode back into the Falls and were blown away by the party town craziness. I’ll let the video describe it far better than I can. A melting pot of humanity with a mini theme park mentality catering for the teens and 20 somethings who apparently desire such things. What an experience! And they say the Canadian side is so much better than the American!
Next morning we rode back past the Falls one last time then followed the river all the way to the last border crossing at Buffalo (New York State). This border experience was completely different and even the concern about Janelle not having a Canadian stamp didn’t eventuate. We decided to use the same lane but go through separately. Janelle went first, it took about 3 minutes with the usual questions plus a rego and ownership check. She told the Border Security Officer we were travelling together and so when it was my turn all I got was the rego check. As I pulled up I told then Officer “I don’t know what you asked her, but whatever she said” The guard laughed, wished us a safe trip, waved me through and suddenly we were back in the USA.
About 90 minutes later we had cleared most of the craziness around Buffalo and got ourselves off the interstate, found somewhere to have lunch and started working options for getting our phone comms back. It turned out there was an AT&T shop open till 8pm that night (Saturday) a few hours down the road. So we set the GPS for a town called Horseheads (yes really) and spent the afternoon riding through beautiful backroads and a few highways and up near Watkins Glen Raceway. We arrived late afternoon and found the shop. The manager, Eric couldn’t have been more helpful. Even so it took him over an hour to sort out their mess and restore our phones. It was a huge relief as without them we’re lost. He even arranged a refund of then $320 that they had taken out of our account. They actually got an accounts person on the phone to apologise to me. He couldn’t explain what had happened but I figure someone will have a look. We decided we deserved a hotel and booked ourselves into one close by. Nothing special but a comfortable night.
We were a little ahead of schedule and weren’t expected in New York for a few more days, so thought about exploring the area they call upstate New York, commonly known by the locals as the Catskills. (No one could explain why). And we also thought we’d try out this accommodation page on the ADV Forum. So we randomly contacted a member in the area we wanted to head for and were invited to spend the night at his home. He also sent us a route that wound its way through some amazing motorcycle country which turned out to be one of the most lovely rides we’d had. We arrived to a warm welcome from a motorcycle racing nut who had set up his TV for us to watch the Italian MotoGP from the night before. Rich (everyone up there is called Rich it seems) then casually mentioned the weather forecast the next day and suggested that unless we wanted to ride in pouring rain, we probably weren’t going anywhere.
He was right, we weren’t. But as his friend Melissa (who also rode adventure bikes) turned up a few hours later, and the local Walmart sold motorcycle oil, we took the opportunity to change our oil and filters and run through a minor bike service. It turned out both Rich and Melissa were avid rock climbers and both had recently climbed Devils Tower in Wyoming. They told us many stories and we shared a few of ours while we spent a most pleasant day staying dry.
Next morning we packed up and said goodbye, armed with another fabulous route down to New Jersey where we had an offer for accommodation in Jersey City. We were only 5 minutes down the road when the heavens opened and we spend a very uncomfortable hour getting thoroughly soaked before it cleared and we slowly dried out.
We stopped for lunch about 90 minutes out of Jersey, contacted out host (another Rich) and received nav instructions to his place. The ride from there was almost surreal. After a month on the road, over 5000 miles we were actually riding into New York (ok Jersey City, but it’s almost the same). As we crested a the huge bridge on the New Jersey Turnpike and caught sight of the Manhattan Skyline we both took a few seconds to take it all in. We had arrived at the eastern leg of our trip and in doing so had crossed the continent. I wont share the words we said to each other over our intercoms but it was a very special moment that we will remember forever.
Fifteen minutes later we pulled up outside Rich’s building in York St Jersey City. He came down to meet us and help us unload and take everything to his 9th floor apartment. Then he informed us he was going to stay with his partner in Manhattan for the duration of our stay so we had his apartment to ourselves for the next 5 nights! I should explain that Rich contacted us from the ADV Forum over a year ago with the offer of accommodation. We spoke over the phone and everything was sorted, but to then learn we had it to ourselves, totally free, was an unexpected and very welcome gift.
So then Rich briefed us up on everything, explained the craziness of the NYC subway, options for crossing the Hudson into Manhattan and then we walked with him the 5 minutes to the Hudson shore where he caught the subway. But not before we all took in the sight of the skyline at night. But not just any night. This was, by pure chance, 9/11. The 2 beams of light shining up from Manhattan was an amazing and humbling sight. Almost 20 years ago hundreds of people stood on this very spot and watched those towers fall. And we were here, by accident, on the anniversary of that day, that changed the world forever.
Another amazing highlight of this incredible adventure, and the one which I will leave with you for now.