We had 40 riders at the start line for the beginning of the second BLACKFLY 1600. The Blackfly is an endurance motorcycle event covering 1600 kilometers (1000 miles) in a 24 hour period. Simple math would tell you the average speed does not have to be that great to finish the rally but to do well in the riders will go off the main route to pick up bonuses. At the Friday BBQ we handed out the optional route to Radisson, over 2400 kilometers there and back again. This route was basically the same as the long route from the first rally and was only meant to familiarize new riders with the routing instructions. Strangely enough 8 riders went to Radisson for the adventure of going where very few motorcycles had gone before, to accomplish a 1500 mile day and earn the Iron Butt Association "Bun Burner Gold" award (BBG). The southern route of 1655 kms (1000+ miles) was the one I, as Rally Master, intended to have the winner do this time. This year I sent the riders in a big circle from North Bay to Thessalon, Chapleau, Wawa, Hearst, Timmins, Sudbury and back to North Bay. Along the way they visited the Winnie the Pooh Museum, Flying Saucers, a real live Bob and Doug Mackenzie in Ranger lake, Historical markers and oversized papermache animals. The big points this year involved visiting Jehovah’s Witnesses Kingdom Halls (the points went up exponentially for every successive Hall visited). Imagine 40 bikers visiting every Jehovah’s Hall they could find, in the middle of the day and the middle of the night. This set of bonuses was named "Payback’s a Bitch". Mark Daub (1998 winner) showed up on a 25 year old Yamaha 250, with 35 gallons of fuel capacity, a Telephony and a 0.5 watt maglight instead of PIAAs. Wisely he opted for the old FJ. The rally was very much a thinking rider’s game. While some had mileage in the 2400 kilometer range Tom and Dino did fewer kilometers (1840). I made it clear the ride to James Bay was not for the big points, people that went up there did it only to see places very few people have gone before and accomplish what few others have done. Luc David is one of the riders that tried it in 1998 and did not quite make the distance, what makes his story special is the fact that he is fighting cancer. This time he was better prepared and accomplished his goal of making the BBG. At the Friday BBQ an OPP officer give a little talk on the dangers of wildlife at night stating "If it smaller than a dog, aim for the center". Jim Leccappelain of North Bay Cycle was an absolutely fantastic host, the riders had the run of the entire showroom and parking lot. He was also instrumental in getting Honda involved in this year’s rally. He is a true enthusiast of all kinds of motorcycling events and deserves a lot of credit. There was far less rain this year some riders got none some got 3 hours. It was reasonably warm during the day but the night turned very cold. I was impressed at how much better prepared the riders were. Cameron Sanders was late into the finish but as he was allowed to finish without penalty because he helped a fellow motorcyclist (not part of the rally) who was stuck at the side of the road. There was one low speed accident but John Laurenson finished the rally anyway and had some choice words for our Ontario construction crews.
Most of the riders were from Southern Ontario but people came from Florida, Ohio, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Quebec and Manitoba. We raised $2850 for the Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter. Rick Sauter of Saskatoon was the winner of the Darian Jacket for bringing in the most donations. John Laurenson had the distinction of winning "the most technologically evolved motorcycle award" because of the GPS, maping systems, computers, radar detectors and all his electronic gadgetry, the prize was a Rand McNally map and a yellow highlighter. Most of the riders had a great time. Roger Oueltet of Sept-Ills was a little upset after the ’98 rally. He said he would not return. During the Dinner when I asked the riders to stand up and say a few words, he stated emphatically "I WILL NEVER DO THIS RALLY AGAIN ……. without an extra fuel cell".I, with the internet and the phone book and the luxury of time, had found 14 Jehovah’s Kingdom Halls scattered all over Northern Ontario but Tom Okanski and Dino Paron found a total of 15 (finding 5 that I had not). They went around knocking on doors and harassing the Jehovah's to find the missing ones. In Iron Butt terms this is not cheating, it was within the rules, they were just resourceful.
Blackfly 1600 Rally Bastard
My Recollections of the 2000 Blackfly 1600 Rally
I first heard about this event from Frank Murphy while attending the GWRRA Rally in Minden on July 22. In the following three weeks, I managed to register, obtain the instructions, prepare my bike and myself and attend the rally which was held in North Bay during the weekend of August 11, 12 and 13.
11 August - I left Ottawa at Friday noon to arrive in North Bay in time for the bike inspection that had to be completed prior to the motorcycle shop closing at 6:00 pm. Fortunately, my bike passed inspection without the aid of the mechanics. Next was an opportunity to chat with the other participants, to partake of the BBQ, attend a rider briefing by the Rally Master and the OPP and to receive the first of two rally packages. At 8:00 pm, I left to review the rally package, plan my trip and to get some rest. Three hours later, I was confident that I would ace the event, calculated my route to get the maximum points available for the time allowed and went to bed.
12 August - Skipped the rally provided breakfast, arrived on site at 8:00 am, had the motorcycle shop owner show me how to use the Wing’s compressor to inflate a tire, briefly reviewed the second rally package received at 8:45 am, overheard a conversion where Larry from Ohio indicated that he was choosing the second package because the first package was a 1,500 mile run. (I thought to myself, this American is confusing miles with kilometres). Then at 8:59 am, I was first to the gate ready to leave at 9:00 am. As I entered the gate, Bob Todd of Owen Sound said, "You must be going to James Bay". I replied "Yup". Bob then looked over my bike and with eyes glued to my 4.7 litre supplementary tank said "But you don’t have enough gas to make it" to which I replied "Sure I do" and the gate opened and away I went heading west for Temiscaming, Quebec. 20 km later, I was passed by the first of the six bikes heading for James Bay. I tried to keep up so he would show me the location of the first bonus but after 10 km of reckless driving, I let him go. (I never did find the fountain that was supposed to be in the middle of the road in Temiscaming) The next bonus stop and first gas stop was south of Ville Marie at about 139 km. Several bikes pulled in as I left the station. Within 40 kms, the remaining four bikes going to Radisson passed me. For the next three hours, I rode alone only to enter the Matagami gas station four hours later as the four bikes were pulling out. Man was I proud of myself. My GPS indicated that my top speed during that four-hour stretch had been 179 km/hr. I had made three stops and covered 587 km in 5 hours and 8 minutes. During these four hours I came to realize that I’d made some gross miscalculations. First, the Radisson route was a minimum of 2,400 km; and second, I was getting about 10 km / litre. The next gas stop was 381 km away and my 28.7 litres was about 10 litres short. My choices were simple, turn back and have Bob Todd say, "Told you so" or make the 28.7 litres last by reducing my speed to 110 km per hr. Choice made, off I went and upon reaching the gas stop about 4 hours later, I purchased 28 litres. The next stop was Radisson, which was the turn around point. My trusty GPS readings after gassing up and heading out of town at 8:31 pm included: Distance: 1,201 km; Moving average speed: 115.4 km/hr; Total average speed: 104.4 km/hr; Stopped time: 1 hour 6 minutes; Moving time: 10.24 hours; Total time: 11.31 hours I was in high spirits as I left Radisson, however, the 620 km return trip to Matagami was to be the most difficult leg of the trip. Drowsiness combined with the potential presence of moose, the full moon was nowhere to be seen, so it was pitch black and there was slight rain from time to time. After filling up at marker 381 around 11:15 pm, I took several brief stops during the next three hours to catch a nap.
13 August - Unfortunately, my mind wouldn’t allow my body to get the badly needed sleep until my fourth attempt at approximately 2:00 am resulted in a 30-minute snooze. Then at about 4:00 am, the temperature changed from warm to cold and a knot between my neck and shoulder was beginning to become more than an irritant, however, I kept going rather then stop to put on my heated vest. Finally, I reached Matagami about 4:50 am and discovered that the last of the other bikes had passed through over four hours earlier. Some quick calculations told me that I had about a 50% chance of finishing the trip within the 26-hour window allowed. Oh well, no use quitting yet. I cleaned the windshield, which had become impossible to see threw (In my haste, I had forgotten to clean it at the previous three gas stops) and I put on the heated vest which almost immediately had a soothing effect upon that knot in my shoulder. However, the drowsiness soon started to set in again and I tried three times over the next hour before I was able to sleep for ten minutes. I awoke refreshed and soon found that I was again able to maintain a speed capable of making up the lost time and get me back to base in time to finish. Unfortunately, the next gas station that I was depending on in Riviere-Heva was still closed at 7:15 am so I was forced to reduce my speed a bit, cross my fingers and head for Rouyn-Noranda. In luck, gassed up and still within striking distance, it is 8:00 am as I leave Rouyn -Noranda. I’ve got 3 hours to do the trip that took me three hours on the way up when I was fresh. Long story short, I retraced my steps, stopping twice more for gas, paying with cash instead of debit card to save time and was rewarded by being the last one to check in for de-registration at 10:28 am having completed 2,444 kilometres in 25 hours and twenty-eight minutes. After de-registration, I caught three hours sleep before returning to the super awards banquet where I was honoured to receive a certificate for finishing. In addition, from a draw, I received a certificate for an Airhawk seat cushion, from ROHO Incorporated out of Belleville, IL. GPS readings are unavailable for the end of the trip as the batteries gave out at about 9:30 am. Man, what an event. Completing the Iron Butt Association’s Bun Burner event in 25 hours and 28 minutes under duress without my full faculties about me was exhilarating and yes, perhaps reckless. However, I intend to return and do the other part of the Rally at the next running of the Blackfly in 2002. I understand that about five riders didn’t finish, that about 12 speeding tickets and about that many warnings were received. Best of all, there was only one minor accident during the night, which resulted due to a misplaced curb in a construction zone. The Rally Master, Peter Hoogeveen, his girl friend Kelly; North Bay Cycle’s owner, Jim Leccappelain and a host of volunteers, put on a well-organized and second to none rally where the novices and the professionals alike received royal treatment. The technical inspection was covered by a Rider’s charity donation to the Ernestine’s Woman Shelter in Etobicoke while the registration fee covered the rest of the activities which included: Friday’s establishment of a well-organized registration centre with cold drinks, munchies, tea-shirt, rally pin plus an evening BBQ, Rider’s debriefing and the first rally package. Saturday, it included set-up of the rally start point which included a continental breakfast, a second rider briefing and rally package plus cold drinks and fruit that could be taken on the trip. Sunday, it included the bike inspection point and cold drinks plus a separate de-registration area at the hotel where munchies, drinks and various sample products were available. A cash bar opened at 3:00 pm followed by a full buffet style awards banquet at 4:00 pm. The highlight was the Riders tall tales (testimonials) and the presentation of the awards. At 7:00 pm with folks drifting back to Florida, Ohio, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Quebec, Manitoba and Ontario, I headed home to Stittsville. During the trip home I came to realize four things: First, I was more concerned for my safety on the homeward trip along busy Highway 17 than at any time on the Raddison trip; Second, I will never think of my motorcycle the same way again; Third, over confidence can be dangerous and Fourth, I have many technical and non-technical things to yet learn about the sport of endurance rallies. The only thing that could have made the event better would have been sharing the event with Frank Murphy who unfortunately had to cancel at the last minute after catching pneumonia.
38 th of 38 riders to finish.
2,444 kilometres in 25 hours and 28 minutes
over 3,000 kilometres door to door in 58 hours
Note: I would love to take a three-day weekend next summer and go back to Radisson and actually be able to stop and see some of the beautiful country. Are there any takers with a trailer to carry the gas?
North Bay, Ontario, Canada
August 11-13 2000
Organized by Iron Butt Rally veteran Peter Hoogeveen
Lots of changes in format for this year. The biggest: Radisson, PQ, (BBG mileage - 2500 km) was worth WAAAY less this year. 1400 pts. instead of 4000. None of the top 10 finishers went to Radisson. In fact, I don't believe any of the top 20 finishers went there! The biggest points were garnered from going around and collecting pictures of Jehovah Witness Halls (P.H.'s twisted sense of humour evident here). These were the auxiliary bonus points listed on a separate sheet from the main list of bonuses. Points awarded were worth successively more for each additional J.W. pic returned. Did I work from the J.W. pic bonus sheet? "No." Can I tell you why not? "No." I went from the Ontario list of bonuses. (SS1000 mileage - 1600 km, hence the name of the rally) I think I just decided that it seemed lucrative enough, and didn't spend the extra time needed to calculate and map out the potential list of J.W. Hall locations. I get an extreme case of ants-in-the-pants when I am facing a big ride, and simply mapped out the standard list of bonuses and started riding. A more thoughtful approach would have been to examine ALL thepossibilities before leaving. John Laurenson of Fla. and Dennis Kesseler of Maine spent almost two hours doing this to my 45 minutes and placed many positions higher.
I put in 2250 kms and placed 19th out of over 40 riders. Several people in the top 10 put in less that 2000 km. I did not make a note of the two guys who tied for first place. They went above and beyond the call of duty by asking several J.W. members where all the Halls were and taking pictures of many more than were listed on the route sheet. This was specifically allowed for in the rules. Most of the alumni from the 1998 event returned for 2000. Mark Daub, the insane rider of an FJ1200 who placed first in 1998, proved that was no accident as he placed second this year. This earned him a special place in the heart of our perennial second-place rallymaster. A Harley rider placed third. The dinner was catered and was spectacular. Each of us stood and spoke breifly of our impressions and highlights from the event. It was highly entertaining. We all had different experiences in the same event, and many overcame difficulties to finish. Including John Laurenson. He had a flat rear tire moments before arriving for tech check in and needed a new tire installed. He had brought along a new tire as he wasn't sure his rear would make it all the way. There was speculation as to whether this new tire contributed to his spill during the event. John low-sided on a turn near Sault Ste. Marie and did damage on the right side of his new-to-him Yamaha GTS1000. John hadminor scrapes on his hands as he was involved with taking in nutrients at the time. Otherwise, he was unhurt. I struck a very large bird while doing about 140 km/h. It cracked my Ventura light guard in several places, sacrificing itself to protect my headlight as it is designed to do. Fortunately, I traded the Aerostich Evap-O-Danna won as a door prize (I already own one!) for a coupon for a new light guard another fellow won! Serendipity! Before starting the rally, I decided to tackle a coolant leak I had been worried about. Right after tech check-in and odometer synchronization was complete on Friday, I tore my bike down in search of the leak which had up to that point eluded me for over a year. Two weeks prior in Arizona, it became more serious and would require attention soon, should I want to avoid serious trouble. I located the leak, two hose clamps on the thermostat housing were loose. I enlisted the help of a mechanic from North Bay Cycle who used a small ratchet to tighten the offending nuts. Leak fixed. Then, a quick storm cell moved through and soaked eveything before I had a chance to re-assemble the bike and it's contents. Naturally, once eveything was undercover and covered in a layer of sand, it passed and the sky was clear again. I re-filled the cooling system with silicate-free coolant I had carried with me from London and I was good to go. Weather was great. Although rain did become part of the event for some. We started under a cloudless sky, and that was all that was in the forecast (for North Bay at least). However, those riding up north experienced cloudy skies from a system moving in from Manitoba and many (including me) were rained on, at times quite briskly. It was nothing but clear skies and warm temps at the finish line, however. Speaking of the finish line, this was changed this year from the hotel (where the scoring and festivities took place) to North Bay Cycle (where tech check in and start line were located). It was believed among many participants that I was responsible for this change after 1998s spectacular race to the finish mere seconds before the clock expired.
Another change made this year to ease people's speeding and panic close to the finish was to allow late finishes, but with penalties. These changes were welcomed by all. That didn't prevent a few from receiving tickets, despite Peter's repeated warning during the rider meeting that "this is not a race!" That was also repeated by the OPP officer who gave a talk to us at the start line, then rode off on his Harly Police special. Speaking of the start line, we had a few notable writers in attendance at the rider meeting: Larry Tate of Inside Motorcycles, who was riding the event, and Max Burns of Cycle Canada, who was not. Larry was riding a BMW F650 test bike. I noted that he was not wearing one of the now-infamous BMW riding suits, but rather a Hi-Viz Aerostich.
All in all, a great event. No drinking goats, but plenty of UFOs, Jehovah Halls, dead end roads, nickel and dime roadside attractions, and of course - BLACKFLIES! ©2000
An Anarchic Sort of Sport
By Larry Tate
Reprinted by permission of Inside Motorcycles magazine
Endurance riding is anarchic (for those of you who are a bit dim, that basically means "having no rules"). Given that, I suppose that my being assigned number 58 out of what turned out to be 44 entries rather set the tone for the Blackfly 1600.
Not to mention that a bribe to a Jehovahs Witness ended up determining the winner of this years rally Which is to say, it doesnt have to make sense, thats just the way it is.
Endurance riders are a smallish sub-section of the motorcycling community. Perhaps, if anything, theyre a bit more fanatical than most about their chosen perversion, which is basically to ride a motorcycle until they physically cant go any farther (Thane Siliker rode across Canada earlier this year in 65 hours. Coast to coast. Think about it. Thats less than three days).
Still, anyone would be forgiven for wondering what the attraction really is, or at least thats what I told myself when I sent off the cheque to enter the second bi-annual Blackfly 1600, basically a 24-hour public road race starting and finishing in North Bay, and covering at least 1,600 km.
Oh, sorry, its not a "race" at least thats what organizer Peter Hoogeveen kept trying to say with a straight face. Thats also what OPP Constable Brent Cechinni said cheerfully and optimistically at the riders meeting, although he certainly knew what was about to transpire and merely did his level best to warn those unfamiliar with northern Ontario what they might expect. For example, from my notes: "I suggest that anything dog-size or smaller, aim for the centre and gun it. Anything bigger well do our best with the remains whenever we get there."
To reduce the need to stop, serious endurance rallyists buy big NASCAR-approved fuel cells and plumb them into the bikes fuel system, up to 11 gallons U.S. allowed. Peter said that contrary to other long-distance events, hed be allowing regular gas cans to be packed, provided that they were immovably fixed nylon bike tie-down straps would be okay and sounded about at my level of technical expertise.
I decided on borrowing a BMW 650GS because it had about the most range of any bike I could think of, and I figured a small five-litre container wouldnt get in the way and would give me lots of leeway in an emergency. My friends at BMW were delighted to
oblige, bless their stylish little hearts, and away we went.
Arriving in North Bay I checked in at North Bay Cycle (great people; owner Jim Leccappelain and his staff were wonderful to all the maniacs and journalists, i.e., me, who showed up for the race, er, event) and checked in. A quick tech of the bike, including verification that I had a first-aid kit, flashlight, and tire repair kit aboard (uh, oh, bad signs happening here), plus a turnaround 14-km run to calibrate the odometer to the layout bikes odo, and I was in.
Oh, and another $50 for a charity, which turned out to be the Ernestines Womens Shelter in Etobicoke, a suburb of Toronto. Seems that Peter and Jim had decided that a charitable thingie would be a good idea, and when Peters mom (who is a director at Ernestines) heard about it, she promptly informed her son in no uncertain terms that her charity would be the one nominated.
Well, why not? Good causes are everywhere, and this ones as good as any. Besides, as she put it in a speech at the banquet, if she hadnt given birth to Peter and sold him his first couple of bikes none of us would have been there anyway. Fair enough.
Peter handed out one route pack Friday night, so you could spend all night planning your route, if you liked, and another the next morning, so you could frantically do a nights work in half an hour before heading out. Both sets of instructions appeared to be dead simple: "Follow this road to that town, take this road there, blah blah blah" etc." Piece of cake. Of course, then there were the bonuses.
"Take a side trip to this provincial park; whats on the median at the gate?"
"What happened in Field, Ontario, in 1950?" (theres a sign at the centre of town, and of course Field is nowhere near
the straight-line route). "Get a signed business card from " Well, you get the idea.
And to top it all off, they werent in order, whereas the route instructions were. That meant you had to read the whole thing, figure out what bonuses went where on the route (where the HELL are Virginatown or Esker Lakes Provincial Park, anyway?) and then plan your ride accordingly, not to mention marking up your map so you wouldnt forget. You DID bring a tank bag with a big map pocket and
coloured marker pens, didnt you?
Of course, you couldnt possibly do all the bonuses and still get back in time (24 hours without penalty; two hours grace with big penalty points per minute late, ouch), so figuring out which bonuses were worth the extra riding time was key to doing well.
The Friday night packet basically said "Go to Matagami, Quebec, head north to Radisson on James Bay (hell, thats not even on the BACK of the Quebec provincial map), and get back in time if you can." The 650GS, as wonderful abike as it is, wont go more than about 170 km/h even if you drop it out of a plane, and that 1,300 km round trip (one gas stop ) from Matagami to Radisson, on top of the trip from North Bay to Matagami, just was NOT going to happen.
Which left me the Ontario route, which was basically a square. Hwy 17 west from North Bay to the Sault (or cutting off early on 129 north to Chapleau), then over to Wawa (from nearby whence all the water is flowing north to the Arctic Ocean, I might add ) and further
north to White River and Hornepayne, east to Hearst, Kapuskasing, and almost to Cochrane, then south to Timmins and Sudbury, then east a bit back to North Bay. Piece of cake.
There was also an additional set of bonuses included with the Ontario pack, which basically involved taking photos of the bike (everyone had to have a Polaroid camera with them) in front of Jehovahs Witness temples. Directions for many were given, so you just added them in as extra bonus thingies, but Dino and Tom (the eventual winners) cheated, ER, exploited a loophole. Clever buggers, they were.
The first church they arrived at was just finishing up a wedding. Tom struck up a conversation with a bystander, and within a couple of minutes had a listing of every J-W temple in northern Ontario, complete with detailed location instructions. He gave the guy $10 as a church donation, which I think makes him a cheap bastard for getting a winning cheat-sheet but then again Dino tells me the guy just put the money in his pocket, so who knows?
Even more admirable is that Dino got caught twice at about 150 in an 80 zone, and got away with one ticket for 49 over, which does NOT require a court appearance. My hat is off to his sales skills.
An Anarchic Sort of Sport
By Larry Tate
So how did I do? Let's say first of all that I actually only rode
for 20 hours mostly due to freezing my ass off, managed about
1,900 (corrected) km, finished 28th out of 44 entrants and 38
finishers, and got home with me and the bike intact.
Highway 17 west from North Bay is mostly a boring thoroughfare. It ain't the 401, but pretty much the north's two-lane equivalent. I was delighted to sweep north from Sturgeon Falls along 64 to the town of Field "What happened in Field in 1950?" (they got electricity). Nice road up and back, too.
At Walden a tiny hairline on the map indicated that it was indeed possible to get to the bonus at Fairbank Provincial Park. GREAT GS road; swoopy, hilly, twisty, and seriously lousy pavement interspersed with unexpected gravel "under repair" bits, all nicely signed about two meters before the pavement ended. No sweat on the GS, but after a bit I caught up to two Americans on big bikes, a Wing and a K1200LT, I think, who were discouraged by the gravel and were heading back.
I forged on to discover the anchor at the park entrance, and on the way out met ever-cheerful 1998 winner Mark Daub, who came rifling past me on his aging FJ1200. He caught me back up on the third bit of gravel going out, and I had a hard time keeping him in sight the rest of the way back to 17.
At Serpent River ("how many well-trained police officers are there?") I wasn't even off the bike before a couple of summer students were yelling "29!" at me. I passed on two bonuses up and around Elliot Lake in favour of one north of Blind River (fill in the blanks on the blue and white sign north of the river crossing).
Couple of big bonuses available on 556, which goes from the Sault to, er, nowhere, which is exactly where it meets Hwy 129 heading north to Chapleau. 129 is one of my favourite roads in Ontario, since it's seriously fast in addition to empty and pretty.
I decided to skip the bonuses (about an hour round trip off 129) and the Sault, mostly because I just wanted to ride 129 again. My delight increased when I crested a hill to find the first OPP constable I'd seen since Brent talked to us, busily writing up Larry Cooper, from Ohio.
By then I was really dragging. My butt was okay (remarkable seat) but my knees hurt, and I was getting tired and sore and couldn't help thinking that my friend Steve and I had gone less distance than this on our first day of a tour last year, riding a Hayabusa and a Honda XX. Sigh. Pressing on, I got to Chapleau for a nice bonus (meeting three other riders, including Mark Daub again), and after a gas-up and a granola bar, headed off for the biggest goose of my career.
That'd be the one in Wawa, you understand, the statue which stands on a hilltop looking toward Lake Superior. It's actually pretty cool, for a tourist thingie. Another easy bonus "how wide are the falls on the Michipicoti (? I think that's right) River"? I'd been to the Falls last year, horsing the XX through about eight km of soft sand to do it (and it was worth the view, actually), but the answer was at the computer terminal at The Goose.
Next up, the Winnie the Pooh Museum in White River. The instructions were to buy something there, but it was closed so I took a Polaroid of the bike in front of the giant statue of Winnie. Ran into Mark Daub (still cheerful) again at the gas station.
I headed out before Mark did, heading north to Hornepayne on what I will state unequivocally and absolutely is the effing best motorcycle road I've seen in Ontario, Hwy 631. It'll get worse soon, of course, with the frost and all (north of Hornepayne, it's pretty rough already), but right now I'd happily spend the rest of the year riding ANYthing between White River and Hornepayne, 12 hours a day. AE50 scooter to ZX-12, it'd be wonderful. No shit.
Soon, Mark went by at about Warp 8, of course, and shortly after I arrived in Hornepayne (the rather shabby statue of three black bears "celebrates", or at least marks, the town's 50th anniversary). The town appears to have no reason to exist, stuck as it is in the absolute middle of nowhere. As an acquaintance of mine once said about a village in Northern Quebec, "If this isn't the asshole of the world you can certainly see it from here", and that about sums up my impression of Hornepayne.
At Nagagamissis Provincial Park just north or Hornepayne, I painfully copied the Nordic-looking fake Indian lettering off the sign rather than take a Polaroid clearly, I was getting tired. At the next gas stop in Hearst (I easily resisted the siren's call of a good bonus 50 km the wrong way down Hwy 11) I stopped for fuel, a couple of granola bars and some bottled water (gourmet food day, this is turning out to be), and decided to layer up the electric vest.
Hmm, where'd BMW stick the vest plug on this baby? YIKES. There isn't one. I never even LOOKED before leaving home, since every BMW I've ridden for years has had a plug. So much for assumptions. Sigh. So, add another sweater and see what happened.
Hitting the road again, I flipped on the electric grips nothing. ARGH. They worked the day before on the way into North Bay. A decision do I try to trouble-shoot the electrics at the roadside, or rely on my excellent lined Orina gloves and the extra sweater? Hmm, electrics suck, I'm a worse electrician, it's now getting very dark, worst case there are motels. Onwards.
At Matice are up two more easy bonuses, and I run into Brian Vasoff, on another BMW GS (his an 1100), at the Voyager statue. He vanishes before the life-size dinosaurs (yes, it IS starting to seem a bit surreal by this point) at the motel, and reappears at about Mach II (wonderful lights, he has) not long after. I finally figure out that he's chasing the Witness bonuses, which is why he keeps vanishing and
Moonbeam is an easy bonus photograph the bike in front of the flying saucer. Getting weirder by the town, it is. But by the time I get to Smooth Rock Falls I'm not only weirded out, but ready to give up, since it's started to rain and it's about midnight and I'm cold as well as damp and exhausted.
The town water-tower and the weird statuary in the cemetery aren't immediately obvious through the rain as I gas up, so another decision no more bonuses, just head for North Bay. The idea of wandering through a cemetery just past midnight in the rain was a bit too macabre for me at the moment anyway.
Hwy 655 to Timmins is currently rough, chewed up, and half gravel, a great addition to the rain and the increasing cold. I see my first and only wildlife here (aside from dozens of chipmunks), as a lynx rears up and snarls at me as I go by.
Timmins, about 1:30 a.m., is busy Saturday night and everyone's playing Shania Twain music, no doubt. The next stretch, to Chelmsford just north of Sudbury, is 300 km of absolutely nothing no gas, no stops, no motels, zilch. It's still raining and I'm still cold. Hey, it's only two and a half, three hours, right?
Half-way there, the rain continues, the temperature is dropping, and my knees feel like somebody has hammered ice-cold spikes into them. Meanwhile, my right elbow is freezing up (I have tendonitis there which is acting up, conditions being as they are), and my upper body is shivering so badly I'm twitching the bars enough to alter the bike's course down the road. My speed is decreasing and my thoughts of three hours to Chelmsford begin to turn to thoughts of surviving the trip at all.
Chelmsford, a Pioneer gas station, and a Tim Horton's appear about 3.30 a.m. I'm so cold and stiff I can barely stop the bike and get it on the sidestand, and getting my right leg over the gas can at the rear so I can dismount is a serious chore. I have trouble walking into the gas bar to pay, and the girl there looks a bit nervous of me; I'm shaking badly and have trouble even talking. Even aside from my behaviour, in my bright yellow Aerostitch suit, I no doubt seem a tad odd.
Over to Timmy's, a large coffee (to warm the hands as well as drink), a hot muffin and half an hour walking around and I feel nearly human again. Hmm, there are a lot of bonuses around Sudbury and I have until 9 a.m. to get back Screw it. On the bike and flat out to North Bay, bouncing the little GS off the rev limiter the whole way (170-plus; thank heaven no traffic or cops on the 80 km/h road). Hit the sack about 5:30, up again at seven to check in across town at the finish line and back in the sack.
Well actually, the F-1 race from Hungary is on, so I brew some coffee, pour in a little scotch ("Be prepared", as the Boy Scouts say), and watch until the first pit stops before drifting off until the banquet at 3.
Next day, on the way home, the oil filler cap (up near the steering head) loosens off and sprays me with oil, more or less from top to bottom. I used to have a new bright yellow Aerostitch suit. The day after, I find the rear tire flat from a piece of a nail that looks like it was rubbing on the tube for a couple of days. I think I was very lucky.
Will I do it again? Right now I'd say not a chance in hell. Two years from now? Ditto. Glad I did it; once was enough.
Congratulations to Dino and Tom, joint winners on a BMW K1200LT (Dino) and a BMW K1200RS (Tom). Also to John Lawrenson, who rode a Yamaha GTS from St. Augustine, Florida for this, managed to fall off in gravel and wreck his hands (doesn't like wearing
gloves) and still finished 13th, to Rick Sauter, who came all the way from Saskatoon and was also the highest fund-raiser for the Shelter, and to all the other maniacs who made such an entertaining weekend.
Also, big thanks to Larry Cooper of Dublin, Ohio for distracting that OPP car.
And of course, huge thanks to BMW for loaning me the bike (trusting buggers that they are, but hey, I even fixed the tire and got the oil level back where it belongs), and to Peter Hoogeveen, the sadistic bastard who organized the whole thing.
A most memorable weekend.
As a matter of statistical interest, by the way, the average age of the nutbars who entered this thing (and I don't exclude myself in that loose definition) was 46. Bikes included 16 BMWs, nine Hondas, four each Suzukis and Kawasakis, three Yamahas and one Harley (which finished third!). I think that leaves me one short of the total number of finishers, but at this point I'm too tired to re-add it all.
Blackfly Rally, August 2000
This was my second long distance rally, in a format new to me, similar in concept to the Iron Butt with a base route plus bonuses that could be found by making side trips, very different from the Alberta 2000 back in June. It took place August 12/2000 from North Bay, Ontario.I rode the ST1100 from Saskatoon, heading for Toronto first, about 2000 miles, and tried for the Iron Butt Association's Bunburner Gold (1500 miles in 24 hrs.) on the way. Left Saskatoon at 8:50 am but by 11:00 pm at Thunderbay, it became obvious that the BBG was not going to happen on this route with the most difficult portion of road still to come, and in the dark. Therefore I would have to wait for the actual rally.
The tech inspection for the rally was Friday afternoon at North Bay Cycle. I had prearranged to have a new rear tire installed, but after looking at front and rear tires, it was obvious that the back would be good for the rally while the front might not make it. Fortunately, they had a front tire in stock so that was mounted. After an odometer check, I enjoyed the atmosphere as other riders started coming in, sitting around the dealership on a beautiful afternoon. Looking at bikes and meeting new people was a great way to pass the time until the barbecue and rider meeting. The rider meeting was a "this is not a race" lecture fromthe rallymaster, Peter Hoogeveen, and a Harley riding OPP officer. Peter explained that there would be two possible routes. One would be handed out tonight, and would qualify for an IBA BBG. The other would be handed out 15 minutes before the start Saturday morning, and would cover enough distance for a Saddlesore 1000. The route we received consisted of a trip to James Bay, apparently the same one that the previous Blackfly covered. I had no idea that there was a road up there, it is not on the Quebec highway map since it is owned and maintained by Quebec Hydro. I laid out all the bonus locations on the maps back at the hotel, and pretty well made up my mind that this would be my ride the next day.
The second route turned out to be a loop around Northern Ontario that involved lots of bonuses, particularly Jehovah's Witness Halls. It was obvious that it had far higher points potential, but that didn't change my mind about heading for James Bay.We started at 9:00 am Saturday, in beautiful sunshine. My rally route took me from North Bay to Temiskaming, just over the Quebec border. The fountain in the middle of town was a bonus location. Two guys on Beemers were there already, they were parked in the prime location so I needed to pull off to the right of the fountain. I put the bike on the sidestand, and got off to look at the fountain when out of the corner of my eye, I realized the bike was moving. I had parked on a slight downhill and the heavily loaded machine rolled itself off the stand. I was able to keep it upright, but just barely - that was a lesson learned, put the bike in gear, stupid!
The route continued north to Rouyn-Noranda, first through heavily forested countryside, and later, surprise, beautiful farmland and rolling hills, not at all what I had expected this far north. I continued east toward Val d'Or, then north again to the end of the provincial highway system at Matagami. There is a check-in procedure for entering the Hydro road, it also involved buying a souvenir to earn bonus points. The road was fabulous - mostly long sweepers, comfortable at 130 (kph), a bit of a challenge at 150, and no police. After some 250 km, a sign announced that we were crossing the 52nd parallel. This may sound impressive to someone from south of the border, but hey, I LIVE north of the 52nd! Gas was 381 km up the road, and Radisson, the big bonus, was 620 km north of Matagami. The trees got progressively smaller as we went north, around Radisson the landscape was tundra. The only animal of any size that I saw on the entire rally was a wolf, just south of Radisson.
The return south was mostly in darkness, at considerably slower speeds. Had company on this stretch, an R1100RT, a Triumph Tiger, and another ST ridden by Al Potvin from Montreal. Al had a monstrous set of driving lights so we let him lead most of the way back to Matagami. Once back on the provincial highways, I had my only encounter with the law. Around 3:00 am, in a small town south of Matagami, I was directed to the side of the road by the Surété. I had slowed down considerably when entering the town, but wasn't sure whether I was down to the speed limit yet. The officer wanted to know where I had come from, when I answered "Radisson" he remarked that a lot of motorcycles were coming from Radisson tonight. Turned out this was a check stop, they were looking for drunk drivers.
Up till now I had been quite lucid and awake, even if the only breaks from riding had been fuel stops and bonus locations. Shortly south of the town of Amos, I felt the need for a rest, pulled into a closed gas station lot, had a nap and ate an apple. Then it was on to Rouyn-Noranda, another fill up and the first cup of coffee since leaving the motel the previous morning. This really did the trick, I was fully awake now and ready to tackle the few remaining bonuses. There were two big ones on highway 11, back in Ontario, both involving provincial parks, plus a couple of monuments in Virginiatown and Kirkland Lake. Virginiatown was easy, right beside the road. By this time it was 6:00 am, only 3 hours left before I had to be back in North Bay. Unsure of how long the big bonuses would take to collect, I decided to skip the Kirkland Lake bonus and take a shortcut from Lardner to Englehart, that would save me about 50 km and the Kirkland lake bonus wasn't worth much anyway.Big mistake. The shortcut was a poorly paved road, which after about 10 km turned into a construction zone with deep, loose gravel. Not wanting to turn around, I hoped that the construction zone would be short - wrong. It was another 20 km at no more than 50 clicks. At least the sun was coming up and I was able to see better. A beautiful sunrise, lots of fog on the lakes on either side of the road, very picturesque. Finally the construction ended and I was able to pick up speed and join Highway 11. I started to realize that the bike had developed a bad vibration at the rear wheel, as if the tire had gone out of balance. This would get worse before the end, but I had a new tire waiting for me so was not too concerned.
Finlayson Point Provincial Park came next, the trick was to locate the historical marker at campsite 14 and find out when "he" came to Canada. I drove into the park, the campsites were all practically on top of each other, but I found a sign stating sites 5 to 18 --> and dead end. So I parked the bike and hiked in, helmet and full gear on, sneaking among the camp sites trying not to wake anyone. No campsite 14 to be found - I was turning around, ready to give up, when I spotted the bronze plaque about Greyowl - he came to Canada at age 18. No time to read the rest, off I went.
The last bonus was in another provincial park and involved some more walking to get to a logging exhibit site, quite simple. Now all I had to do was get back to North Bay in one piece. As it turned out, I had plenty of time, I was back a full hour early and in retrospect, could have easily made Kirkland Lake. Rather than check in, I used some of the remaining time to put on a few more miles, just to be sure that I was in fact over 1500.
At 8:31 am I pulled up at North Bay Cycle where my odometer was read and handed in the receipts and paperwork, this was sealed in an envelope to be taken to the scorers at the Best Western. I also pickedup my new back tire which was to be installed by the local Yamaha shop the next morning, since North Bay Cycle is closed Mondays. After the short ride to the motel and turning in my sealed envelope, I crashed for a few hours before the banquet.
The final result was somewhere near the bottom in rally points, together with all the others that had chosen the James Bay route. It turned out that there were far more Jehovah's Witness halls along the other routethan the rallymaster knew about - and they all counted!
As for my personal goal - I made it. My rally finisher's certificate says I did 2602 km in 23 hours and 31 minutes.
The rally was extremely well organized, it was obvious that a tremendous amount of effort had gone into the planning and execution. My congratulations and thanks to Peter and all of the volunteers that helped out, as well as to the owners and staff of North Bay Cycle for their hospitality and great service.
Monday morning, the mechanic at the Yamaha shop showed me why my tire had gone off balance - the axle nut had come loose allowing the wheel to move around and wear unevenly. Looking at one half of the tire showed enough tread to make it back to Saskatoon - the opposite side was bald.By 11:00 am I was on the road and decided to head home by way of Michigan and Minnesota. Stops at the Rider Wearhouse in Duluth, the PrairieChem office in Winnipeg, and Prairie Geomatics (GPS supplier) in Minnesota stretched the trip home to Wednesday, just in time for supper. A great round trip, 8,800 km in all.