For weeks, I eagerly checked the daily mail for the registration packet. It finally arrived on June 5th and I returned my registration with cheque the next day.
This years rally was again held in North Bay during the second weekend of August.
9 August - I left Ottawa at 8:30 Friday morning and took the scenic route via Calabogie, Bancroft and Algonquin Park to arrive in North Bay early in the afternoon. I relaxed and chatted with the other participants, enjoyed the BBQ, attended the rider briefing by the Rally Master and obtained the first of four rally packages. The package identified the location of five mandatory stops that made up the base route (see the attached map). Each stop represented the end of a leg not unlike that of the bi-annual Iron Butt Rally. At 8:00 pm, I went to check-in to my hotel and to review the next days route.
10 August - By 6:30 am, most of the riders were out in the parking lot doing a last minute check of their bikes before having breakfast, gassing up and arriving at the starting point by 8:00 am. At 8:45 am, we received our second and third rally packages which contained the instructions for locating the bonus points which were available along the route. The third rally package bonus locations were OPP and SQS stations which were marked on the Ontario and Quebec maps that we received. I marked all the second rally package bonus locations on the Ontario and Quebec maps, adopted an initial strategy and headed for the bike.
At 8:55 am as I prepared to ride to the starting gate, the Rally Bastard, Peter Hoogeeven threw everyone a curve by handing out a fourth rally package which contained a last bonus opportunity. It was worth 10,001 points which greatly exceeded the rest of the bonus points put together. Apparently, it was to simulate the trip to Prod'hoe Bay that our Rally Bastard took during the 2001 Iron Butt Rally. The destination in this case was Parent, Quebec which was mostly gravel road and a round trip of between 400 and 450 km. I was first to the gate and left shortly after 9:00 am.
My first stop was Mattawa, Ontario to get a picture of the OPP station and the second stop was at the park to obtain points for identifying the alternate name of the Mattawa River. The third stop was Deep River for a picture of another OPP station. The fourth stop was at the direction of a police officer who turned on his red light irecting three speeding motorcyclists to stop. Fortunately, after shocking us, he continued on his way in the opposite direction. Additional stops included Pembroke for gas, then Fort Coulonge, Campbell River, Otter Lake and Maniwaki for points and finally Gran-Remous at the end of the first leg for both gas and points. Now was the decision point. Do I or do I not go for Parent. As I had a recent experience with several hundred miles of gravel, and I wasn't sure if the trip could be made and still complete all the legs by 9:00 am Sunday morning (although a two hour penalty period ending at 11:00 am that cost 10 points per minute made this option attractive). However, I decided to stay with my earlier strategy.
I did decide to go to Mont-Laurier for points prior to heading north through La Verendrye Park to Senneterre, Quebec, which was the end of the second leg. Unfortunately, the bike experienced mechanical problems soon after getting the Mont-Laurier points and I had to come to terms with earning a big DNF. Let me tell you that I felt like I had just lost my best friend. DNF was the only thing that I hadn't wanted to happen and yet here I am, it did happen. #$@&$##&. As I arranged for a tow truck, and waved off two dozen fellow competitors while I waited for it to arrive , I spent the time eating the Rally Masters bag of Halloween treats, dreaming about tomorrows banquet and the other riders ride. Man, what I would have given to change places with one of the other participants. #$@&$##&.
Finally the tow truck arrived to take the bike and me to a shop in Mont-Laurier and I called home to arrange for my irritated wife to give up her Saturday evening to come and get me. #$@&$##& But, bless her heart, she came and even managed to find me at an all day & evening bike show taking place on the main drag. We arrived home in Ottawa at around 11:00 pm, about nine hours after my part in the rally had abruptly ended. #$@&$##& My last act of the day was to inform the Rally Bastard that I wouldn't make tomorrows finish line but that I was safe.
My GPS readings at breakdown were as follows:
11 August - My thoughts were in North Bay and I really wanted to hear first hand about all the other riders exploits. However, my wife had the car and threatened me every which way a woman can if I wasn't at home mending my pride when she returned in mid afternoon. For the week-end, I already had two strikes against me so I called it a day.
DNF - 2002 Blackfly 1600
Blackfly 1600 Report
August 10 & 11, 2002.
· T minus 53 hours: Leave home on my fully-packed bike. It's never been so loaded. I even brought the kitchen sink, erm... I mean laptop computer just in case our esteemed rallymaster decided to give out some bonus locations the night before the rally. I guess I could input them directly into the GPS but with the laptop I can play with Streets & Trips the night before the rally instead of sleeping :)
I leave Fredericton at 04:00 AM and have a route plan that carries me through Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York state then through Ontario to sleep in Ottawa that night. The ride takes me through some of the most beautiful roads I've ever ridden on. The United States really puts Canada to shame with its nicely paved twisty roads that feel they were built by fellow motorcycle riders.
Make it to Ottawa that night (1 184 km later) and spend the night drinking beer and playing 'GT 3' on PlayStation 2 with some friends. The next day I get going a bit later than anticipated and arrive in North Bay shortly after one o'clock in the afternoon following some more nice twisty roads along the scenic route to North Bay (651 k m instead of the 400 or so had I taken the more direct (read boring) highway 17.
I tell myself that these last two days of riding were among the best quality motorcycling I've ever done, beautiful weather, beautiful roads and the feeling that there's plenty more to come...
· T-Minus 20 hours: Tech inspection (bike passes easily, I've put on 2 new tires specially for the rally). Fuel cell is fine. Life is good. Finish this off with a 'slow race', where you take as long as you can between 2 lines without putting your foot down. You get a point for each second you take and lots of penalties for touching the floor. This is to insure no one will finish with a tie. I'm pretty happy with my ride, 24 seconds...
· T minus 14 hours: We have a barbecue on the Friday night and Peter Hoogeveen hands out some envelopes containing the mandatory checkpoints for the rally. He says that no matter what we do or where we decide to go during the rally, we MUST get these ones done or we don't qualify as finishers. Shortly after that the barbecue ends and each goes off to their rooms to sleep / plan. I take the laptop out and start playing with numbers. The bonuses must be done in order in a counter-clockwise fashion. I input them into Streets & Trips and this is what I get
According to Streets & Trips, the base route is about 1 600 km, or 1 000 miles. After reading some reports from the previous years I was hoping for 'The Big Radisson Bonus' and have the opportunity to go up north to James Bay. From what Peter said, there would be no way this would be doable, with the base route, a side-trip to Radisson would total out at about 3 200 km. Once you've factored in the time stopped to find the checkpoints you're way over 24 or 26 hours and that's if all goes well...
I was sure I had figured it out. He would offer a huge bonus if we went the long way around from checkpoint 2 to 3 by going way east to Lac St-Jean. According to the mapping software, this would give a total of about 2 550 km, difficult but achievable. This was going to be my plan of action for the rally.
I'm really excited and nervous by now. This is my first ever rally experience. I met several riders who were there for the rally. They all seem serious. Not serious as in not fun to be around, but serious as in they know what they're getting themselves into and they're not going to drop out after ten hours in the saddle. Most have more experience than me but that's okay, I'm here to learn, not to take home trophies. Just checking out all the bikes with all the gizmos (or 'farkles' as the LD community refers to them) on them for going long distances was worth the price of admission. I came out of there with several good ideas for the future. I'm a bit surprised at the number of non-LD Riding-looking-bikes in the field. Of course there were several BMW's, ST1100's, Goldwings, but there was also a 1000 Hurricane, an R1 and a R6 and a couple of elderly Suzukis that looked as if they had a few interesting stories to tell.
Time to sleep.
C'mon, sleep damn you !
· T-Minus 3 hours: It's 6 AM and my alarm won't go off for another half hour. I've been awake since 5:15 and finally decide to get out of bed. Nervous ? Me ?
· T-Minus 1 hour: 8 AM, in the parking lot of North Bay Cycle, our starting point. Sipping coffee. Bike is fueled up for the ride. Tick Tick Tick
· T-Minus 30 minutes: The rallymaster (or RallyBastard as he calls himself) Hoogeveen hands us the 'B-list bonuses'. These consist of about 30 or so sites at varying distances from the main route that we can attempt to get. I quickly go through them looking for the 'Big One' but alas, the biggest bonus in the package is for a measly 500 points. Crap. Next is the 'C-list bonuses' or exponential bonuses. 2 years ago he had people hunting for Jehovah's Witnesses places and the winners ultimately were the ones who found the most of these. The theme this year would be 'Police Stations', kind of putting a new spin and having us hunt down cops instead of the other way around. The next 27 minutes are spent frantically trying to find the bonus locations on the maps and thinking of a game plan. I decided 'Police Station' would be my game plan.
· T-Minus 3 minutes: All right, he deserves the name RallyBastard. Mr. Hoogeveen calls us up again to let us know that he wanted to mimic last year's Iron Butt Rally with this one. There was one last bonus he wanted to share with us. For 50 000 points, we could go for a ride to a place called 'Parent', about 300 km north of Montreal. Oh and by the way, it's a dirt road.
· T-Minus 2 minutes and forty seconds: Found Parent on the map. It's really in the middle of nowhere. This is sick. My bike's never fallen down. My bike doesn't have any scratches on it. On the other hand, I signed up for this to be an adventure. Giddy up !
Is this thing possible ? I ask myself as I'm heading out the parking lot. By eyeballing distances on the map, Parent seemed to be about 300 km from the nearest checkpoint, which was the first one at Grand Remous, Quebec. The map showed that the near part of the road was paved but the great majority of it was dirt. Numerous questions filled my mind; would there be gas available at Parent ? In what kind of shape would the road be in ? Could I add another 600 km to the base route, most of it dirt road, and still get back on time ? and lastly, 'What is all this noise I'm hearing'?
In my attempt to get rolling as quickly as I could, I forgot to put in my earplugs. This warranted me stopping on side of the road to insert them in so they could do their stuff. Much better. Get rolling again. Of course no sooner had I got back up to speed on the highway that I noticed that I had my map folded wrong in my map holder. I wanted to be able to see Parent on the map as I was driving there but had it folded for the base route instead. Another stop.
Contrary to what it may seem, the plan was to get to Parent ASAP for a few reasons, the main one being that if this bonus is a very difficult one and it takes much longer than anticipated, I'll need every second I have at my disposal. This meant scrubbing out some very easy bonus points along the way. Some of them I could see as I drove by but I elected not to stop, thinking there would be plenty to do after the coveted Parent one. Checking out the map showed that the only way up there would have me passing the first mandatory checkpoint going there, then passing it again coming back. I decided to save it for later and just go for the dirt as quickly as possible. Must get out of the dirt road before dark.
Disclaimer: this story is written for entertainment purposes only. As you can imagine, a long motorcycle ride such as this one can get pretty boring at times so the story might be embellished with tall tales of fighting fire-breathing dragons, saving damsels in distress or even exceeding the posted speed limit. Any writings or innuendos about such testosterone-driven acts of foolishness should not be taken seriously. nudge nudge wink wink
I made very good time from North Bay to a place called Mont Laurier, the nearest town before starting on the dirt road. I covered the 460 or so km in just under 4 hours. The way I had it figured out was that to be able to complete the rally, I needed to be at the first checkpoint no later than 9 PM. It was now 1 PM, meaning that I had 8 hours to do the 550 or so km stint. When I gassed up at Mont Laurier I asked the attendant if they had gas stations up in Parent. Oh yes, I think they have 2 or 3. Sweet. I just put gas in my main tank and maybe a liter or so in the fuel cell just to be safe. I was concerned that if the going got very rough that the fuel cell bracket might break if there was too much weight back there. After all, my saddlebags were attached to the same bracket and they were pretty full of tools, warm clothing and other goodies. It turns out that my fears would be well founded. More on this later.
The dirt road began with a sign saying 'Parent 178 km'. I had a three wheeler when I was a teenager and a dual purpose bike for a short while a few years after that. My dirt riding experience definitely wasn't something I could consider a plus. How to best describe the road... I would say the word washboard is definitely right up there. I had been through small sections of washboard-like dirt roads before and they used to be just that - sections. This was constant. To make matters worse, this surface had varying amounts of loose gravel and sand on top of it. In this stuff the front tire would just dig in and slow you down with such force that the back end would want to overtake the front. I had several frightening experiences and they would inevitably follow the same pattern. Riding along at maybe 80 km / h or so, hit the loose stuff, major understeer, slow down, washboard starts kicking in and doesn't let go until I've slowed down to maybe 15 to 20 km / h. I've needed to stop several times because I was sure I had 2 flat tires. It was that bad. Locals in their pickup trucks and SUV's added to the entertainment as local customs dictated driving as fast as possible while hitting all the apexes regardless of which side of the road you wind up in. Thankfully the scenery was a bit better. I even saw an adolescent black bear cross the road right in front of me.
I finally arrived in Parent at around 4:00 PM. At this point I was feeling very good indeed. I figured that maybe 3 or 4 or us would have tried for this crazy bonus and I felt that I probably had about an hour in front of the others. I manage to get lost in town (!) and make my way to 'Hotel Central', which is a photo bonus
Strange but the bike actually looks clean in that picture. It wasn't. With my 50 000 point bonus in hand I get ready to leave. I check out the fuel cell and it seemed to be holding it's own. On the road to the hotel I meet two other riders, they are on a CBR 1000 Hurricane and one of those new FJR's. I had planned to start my timer as I was leaving the town limit to give myself an idea about how much a lead I had over the competition. Not that this thing was a race or anything... Total lead after 7 hours of hard riding = about 4 minutes. D'Oh !
As I was leaving Parent I met with another bike. It was a pristine-looking BMW K1200LT of all things. This bike ranked high in my list of bikes I *knew* wouldn't go for this bonus. I guess that the fact it was ridden by a 2-time IronButt Rally finisher should have told me otherwise... Along the road back I met 7 more riders. The last one I saw was about 2 hours behind me.
On the road back I decided that I lost my lead in the dirt so I tried to pick up the pace. About 20 minutes out I was passed by the Hurricane and FJR each with about 50 km / h in hand. I met up with them later when they had stopped to put some duct tape on one of their visors that had let go. They explained to me how to ride in this mess. Their words of wisdom were basically "ride faster and stay on the gas if the going gets tough" (only much later I would learn that this guy had 14 years experience in racing motocross). I tried this and came to the realization that this was the way to go. I didn't try to keep up with them as they were definitely in a different league than I but I gradually put on some speed and would regularly see 140 km / h on the clock. handlebars start flapping ? no problem, give it more gas. Corners were also much better handled with the rear wheel drifting out a bit to counteract the bike's tendency to understeer. I made up about half an hour on the return trip.
The feeling of relief when I hit pavement was similar to the feeling you get when you've been camping for a week and finally reach home and enjoy the luxury of no bugs everywhere, indoor plumbing and a soft bed. The road had taken its toll on the bike. The aux. driving lights I had installed with home-made metal brackets had failed and were dangling uselessly. This road made for serious vibrations. For the time being the fuel cell seemed fine. My leatherman made a good job at snipping the wires from the aux lights and into the saddlebags they go !
Make my way to checkpoint number one, Grand Remous. I arrive there at about 7:00 PM. I had 2 hours to play with to look for bonuses on top of the time I figured it would take me to do the rest of the base route. I met 2 guys at checkpoint #1 who had been hunting down police stations since the beginning of the rally. They congratulated me on doing the Parent thing but deep down I could sense a bit of discouragement in their voices. Fill both main gas tank and fuel cell (what do you know, it held !) and head off through the 'Parc de la Vérendrye' at dusk to see how many flies I can kill. They should rename this rally the 'Dragonfly 1600' instead of the Blackfly, as there are plenty of these big burly insects that feel like birds as you hit them.
The next 5 hours are pretty 'routine'. ride up north to Senneterre then west to Macamic while picking up some easy and some not so easy bonuses. One in particular was a nasty road with bridges that looked fine but you'd hit them with a wheel-crushing bump at the beginning. All this to get to the village and look for the church that had something written in front of it only to realize after searching for the right one that the bonus was at the next village down the road that incidentally had the same name. All this for a measly 110 points or so.
After the 3rd mandatory checkpoint, it became clear that I wouldn't have enough gas to make it to Timmins Ontario to carry on with my route plan. All the places I'd been to recently were of the smaller-town persuasion and didn't have 24 hour gas. I looked at my options, I could either backtrack to Lasarre and hope it had some (it didn't seem any bigger than Macamic on the map) or change plans and head south down to Rouyn-Noranda, which was about 50 km. I opted for safety first because I didn't want to get stuck somewhere waiting until 7:00 AM for a gas station to open. I had a bit of trouble finding gas at Rouyn-Noranda but eventually found it. While I was there, 3 more bikes showed up. that same K1200LT I saw on the Parent road, along with a Goldwing and a BMW R1150GS. When I was about to put gas in my fuel cell, I came to realize that the bracket had broken in not one but 2 places. One of the bolts had snapped off and one of my 'L-brackets' had broken off in the middle. The cell was flapping up and down, pivoting on the 2 front attachments. That was the end of using the fuel cell for the rally for me. I didn't want a more catastrophic failure later on.
As we were heading in the same direction anyways, I decided to tag along with these other guys. This was mainly for safety at night but also for the 4-heads-are-better-than-one factor for finding the bonus locations in the darkness I learned a lot from following the more experienced riders. The main thing was that at this point my plan was to mainly go for only the easy bonuses along my route plan, as I didn't figure I had a lot of time to spare to make it to the finish in time. The experienced boys didn't seem to stress about this and took some time looking for the harder-to-find places. I figured that if they didn't panic, I shouldn't either.
Next gas stop was in Timmins and I decided to put on my electric vest as it was beginning to get a bit chilly. The temperature was only down to maybe 18 degrees or so but I find that after a hard day in the saddle, you lose your ability to tolerate changes in temperature. Electric clothing is very nice. Toasty....
Next stop is the mandatory one near Gogama. While there we meet up with another 3 or 4 bikes. I down one of those 'energy drinks'. I don't know what all the fuss is about, it was my first time using one of those and frankly, it tasted awful and didn't give me 'energy'. Oh well.
My 'group' decided to head down South through Sudbury rather than head East because the latter seemed quite squiggly on the map with a dirt road section in it. The road to Sudbury was my low-point of the rally. I was a bit tired (after all, it was around 5 in the morning) and following the big touring bikes at 120 km / h I would get hypnotized by all their tail-lights. I found myself starting to have some unsafe behavior, almost nodding off, having trouble keeping a constant speed etc... I decided to leave the pack and try it at a more comfortable pace for a bit and if this didn't work, I'd stop at the nearest 'IronButt Motel' and take a quick snooze. I had purchased a 'Screaming Meanie' before the rally and really wanted to try it out. Once I got up to a more 'challenging speed' the fatigue quickly went away. Daybreak was coming up and the road was nice. Life was sweet. Sweet that is, until the bike died.
Sputter Sputter Sputter Silence. Stop by the side of the road. The bike had been running great until then. it was about 15 minutes to seven. I was near Sudbury. Push the starter, bike starts. I head back out. 20 seconds later, same thing. It feels like I'm out of gas but the gauge still has 2 bars showing. I open the tank and can hear gas sloshing around. Hmmm. take off helmet, gloves and jacket and start looking for reasons. oil level okay, no strange smells coming from anywhere (good), no smoke coming from anywhere (also good). My group passes me, I don't flag them down. I figure that if they stop for me they will never make it to the final checkpoint on time and it's not like they will be able to help me quickly or anything. I start wondering not only about not finishing the rally, but how will I get back home (still have 1 500 km to go).
I take out my toolkit and start looking for the usual suspects. Fuses are okay, fuel pump is making a funny noise. Hmmm, it sounds as if it's sucking air instead of gas. Might this be as simple as out of gas with a broken gauge ? I think there might be a bit of gas left over in the fuel cell. I open the valve and blow into the fuel cell vent and expel a few milliliters of gas into the main tank. Start up the bike and it runs ! Repack my stuff and I'm able to make it to the next gas station which is about a km down the road and it's open ! 07:09 AM !
Only much later (as in 10 days later) will I realize that had we taken the more direct route after the last checkpoint, I would have been stranded in the middle of nowhere instead of near Sudbury. Funny how these things work.
After putting in the gas and seeing the bike run normally was probably the high point of the rally for me. I would be a finisher ! I still had about 250 km to go in 2 hours but that was okay. I was allowed up to 2 hours after 9:00 AM with only penalty points deducted. So long as I arrived before 11:00 I'd qualify as a finisher. I eventually arrived at 09:23 AM. Smiles.
After checking in and handing over my bonus sheets it's off to the hotel for a bit of a snooze.
Later that afternoon we had our banquet and exchanged war-stories and had a great time. Having some food was also pretty nice. Very well organized banquet, hat's off to Peter for putting all of this together.
The next morning I left North Bay at 04:00 AM heading out for home by the quickest and most boring route possible (1 415 km), arriving home around 5:30 PM. Total mileage for the 5 days : about 6 000 km.
· km traveled : 2334 in 24 hours 23 minutes 360 of those on dirt road
· food consumed : 9 hot-rod meat sticks and 4 processed cheese sticks 'on the run'
· water consumed (in camelback) : about 3 liters. one 200 ml can of 'energy drink'
· 4th place finish
· lessons learned : brackets need to be more solid. As I write this, the bike is at a welding shop to have them make me a nice and solid bracket for the fuel cell and aux. lights.
· skill acquired : dirt riding. I'm still nervous about it, but much more comfortable at it.
· I had a great time. I'd do it again tomorrow.
This was a great rally, very well organized, weather co-operated (no rain) and was a great initiation to rallying.
Kevan Welch and Gerald Van Wyngaarden have been long-time customers at Tony's Cycle, and have both got a serious interest in endurance riding. This August they entered the Blackfly 1600 endurance rally for the third time, and once again both survived unscathed. Here's Kevan's take on riding 1,917 km in 24 hours ...
The Blackfly 1600, a bi-annual 24-hour endurance rally, is over for another year, a huge success by all accounts. This year's field of 36 riders was as diverse as could be, with veterans and first-timers both. The bikes are as varied as the riders, including BMWs, a Gold Wing, a Valkyrie, R6, R1, Triumph, Suzuki, Kawasaki, one Harley, and a pre-production 2002 Yamaha FJR 1300. This was being piloted by Mark Daub, winner of the first Blackfly with an incredible ride to Radisson, Quebec of 2,400 km in 22-1/2 hours. I was aboard my 1984 GS 750 and my riding partner Gerald had his 1982 1100 Katana. We had fitted both bikes with auxiliary fuel tanks in the anticipated opportunity to visit Radisson. This was our third Blackfly, and each time I have come away having learned more about endurance riding.
The start and finish for this year's event was North Bay Cycle. Tech inspection starts on Friday, which involves one of several volunteers checking your bike to ensure it is capable of completing 1,000 miles in the next 24 hours, including having a first-aid kit, tire repair kit, and tire pump on board. Then there's a quick 38 km ride down the road for a check of your odometer accuracy. Fortunately, there is no sanity test.
Friday evening consisted of a wonderful BBQ and everybody introduced themselves, where they were from and maybe, why they where there. The first set of instructions where handed out by the Rally Master, referred to affectionately by many as The Rally Bastard, exactly what his name tag stated, Peter Hoogeveen of Iron Butt Rally fame. He is a very accomplished rider with a sick sense of humor. His lovely girlfriend Kelly assists him. Thanks to both of you for organizing this event each year.
The rider information consisted of five mandatory checkpoints which had to be visited in a given order: Grand Remous, Senneterre, Macamic, Gogama, and Temiscaming. Along with the checkpoint information were three maps, for Ontario, Quebec and Montreal. What's that for? These five checkpoints would require you to ride a minimum of 1,600 kilometres. We retired to the hotel to consult the maps and try to guess what we would face tomorrow when the rest of the information would be given out. The possibility of going to Radisson was dwindling; the chance at 2,400 kilometers in 24 hours was not to be.
At the riders' meeting on Saturday morning, two more envelopes, if you please. One consisted of nine pages of optional bonuses and the other was a progressive type bonus: return with Polaroid pictures of your bike in front of police stations, all marked on your maps. The first photo was worth 50 points; the 10th 800 and so on. It seemed somehow ironic that 36 riders would be riding quickly throughout Quebec and Ontario and also visiting police stations of their own accord.
One minute before the 9:00 a.m. start time, Peter delivers envelope number 4 – 50,000 points to go to the small town of Parent, Quebec. It is 215 km beyond Grand Remous, and 175 km of that is gravel. The winner of this year's event would have to go to Parent. I dismissed this immediately as 24 hours would not be enough time for me to go to Parent and all five checkpoints, not with 350 kilometers of gravel thrown in.
We pulled out of North Bay Cycle at 9:15 a.m. Let the games begin! Gerald and I had been concerned that 36 riders all basically going in the same direction at roughly the same time would be a problem, but the vastness of Northern Ontario and Quebec soon swallowed everybody up.
The ride down to Pembroke was smooth, across into Quebec and along 301, my favourite road of the entire trip. Traffic was light, scenery great, and we were making good time. North to Grand Remous and north through Park Verendrye along 117. The daylight hours are spent riding, answering questions on our bonus sheets and taking photos of our bikes in front of any police station we can find. We work our way across northern Quebec bagging bonuses, skipping small ones, with the constant reminder that we must be in North Bay at 9:00 a.m.
It's 2:00 a.m. and we are riding into Timmins, a billboard announcing Shania Twain's hometown. Much more important than that, they have a Tim Horton's, and Shania is not there to welcome us. Five riders are already inside plotting the last leg of their journey. They leave before us and we never see them again until the finish. From Timmins to the next gas station in New Liskeard is 381 km. This is where the auxiliary gas tanks are worth having. This ride along 560 would have been beautiful in the daylight, but at 3:30 in the morning I am having trouble being alert enough to enjoy any of it. My bike takes $19 worth of gas when we finally fill up. We found out later that Cliff's 1100 Katana took $27. My Toyota van gets mileage like that, just doesn't travel as fast.
The sun comes up and I am rejuvenated. We hurriedly ride toward Temiscaming and pick up a few bonuses along the way. The gas attendant there was mystified when we offer to pay him two dollars for a gas receipt that we required. He takes our money but has a confused look on his face. Cliff and Henry come in behind us and are much more generous, they give him $5. The attendant wants to know if they will be back later for the gas.
We cross back into Ontario and North Bay is only 60 kilometers away. Henry and Cliff catch us and pass, Henry on his Harley, loud pipes trumpeting. He had been saving lives all over Quebec and Ontario for the past 24 hours.
We ride past the finish at North Bay Cycle at 9:00 a.m. There is one more police station in North Bay and it is worth the 20 point per minute penalty to bag another 800 points. We cross the finish line at 9:13 and got checked in, reviewing our receipts, photos and answer sheets. Even though these riders had been out all night, there where smiles and grins everywhere as people shared their experiences. We waited around some, our friend Neil was not yet back. He finally arrived, within the two-hour penalty window. He had taken his Valkyrie to Parent. That is the largest dirt bike I have ever seen.
Back to the hotel for a short rest and then off to the banquet at 3 p.m. The food at this dinner is always the best, it may be because it is the first sit-down meal we have had since Saturday morning. I don't know. After the meal, everybody has a chance to stand and share to the group some thing about the rally. This part of the evening is always entertaining. The finishing order is read aloud, with each participant going forward to receive his or her award. Eleven riders braved going to Parent, Quebec, 10 finished. We had ridden 1,917 km and finished 11th and 12th.
I had suggested on Friday that the reason so many of the same riders return each year was similar to salmon swimming up stream, they can not help themselves. Peter had responded that maybe it was more like lemmings jumping off a cliff. It is difficult to convince most people why events like this are so much fun. An average motorcyclist will ride approximately 2,000-3,000 km in a season. In four days I rode over 3,100. It was a perfect weekend.
Luc, you ride with us all.