Lake Superior Circumnavigation

 

(This 860th Buffalo Sunday News column was first published on September 16, 2007.)

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Copper Harbor at the end of the Keweenaw Peninsula

 

My major undertaking this summer was a twelve day, 1400 mile camping trip by motor scooter around Lake Superior. Those twelve days included a four day break in the middle for a canoe trip in the Minnesota Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

 

It was indeed a major undertaking, a kind of last hurrah for an old man now in his 81st year. For Lake Superior is big -- bigger, for example, than the state of South Carolina. It is in fact the largest freshwater lake in the world in surface area and that is what I had to ride around. (Superior's volume is greater than all the other Great Lakes combined with an extra Ontario thrown in, but two deeper lakes, Baikal and Tanganyika, hold still more fresh water.)

 

As it happens, however, the name Superior does not derive from its size but rather from its position above its sister Great Lakes in elevation. It is the upper lake, at 600 feet above sea level some 30 feet higher than Lake Erie.

 

Although I took this trip on as a kind of challenge, it turned into a wonderful series of experiences, as did my earlier scooter trips around Ontario, Erie, Champlain and Huron.

 

I knew Superior's north shore from earlier visits, but the south shore was new to me and I found it quite different. The north shore is boulder strewn, but the south I found lined with lovely sand beaches.

 

While those extensive beaches were attractive, they were also evidence of a serious problem. The lake level was almost two feet below its average for August, setting an historical record low. Thousand-foot cargo ships have had to lighten their loads, forcing them to leave 10% of their cargo, upwards of 6,000 tons, on lake docks. In some cases vessels have even been turned back from harbors.

 

I met other results of this drought in the Boundary Waters. The park had suffered an extensive forest fire this past spring that burned over a hundred square miles and destroyed much property especially along the Gunflint Trail. On the day we set out on our canoe trip an open fire ban was instituted and even Duluth had a similar ban. Also, the water level was so low that we had to take extra portages.

 

That drought, however, meant a rain-free trip around the lake for me. Most nights I camped out in the light-weight hammock I carried on the scooter. All I had to do was ride into a wooded area, find two suitable trees a few yards away from the road and set up my campsite. The wonderful thing about this kind of camping is that I leave no trace. I no longer cook my meals on these trips; instead I eat in local restaurants. One of the trip pleasures is conversing with local people.

 

Finding those woods for camping was very easy on this trip for the Superior shoreline I found much less populated than the other Great Lakes. There are, of course, a few cities. The largest is not Duluth but Thunder Bay in Ontario, but even its population is less than that of Amherst. Most of the villages sported signs indicating populations of from 40 to 1000.

 

The lake is bounded by many national and provincial forests and state parks so there are not the lines of cottages of the other lakes. At least 90% of the ride was through boreal forest.

 

But, of course, the centerpiece of my adventure was the lake itself. Usually nearby, one minute visible from a high road cut through granite rock, the next across a beach just beyond the road edge. Everywhere on this trip the bright sun gave the lake water a deep blue, almost purple shade. And when I looked out across its vast horizon, I felt that I could detect the earth's curvature.

 

This was country with a rich history of Native Americans, early explorers and fur traders, and later iron and copper miners. In the Michigan village of Laurium (population 2100) is a statue to football star George Gipp and dozens of other miner's sons who played for Notre Dame.

 

And harsh winters including the Keweenaw County 1978-79 snowfall of 390.4 inches, most ever east of the Rockies.-- Gerry Rising

 

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LAKE SUPERIOR CIRCUMNAVIGATION TRIP LOG

Part I. Buffalo-Sault Ste. Marie-Tofte

August 10, 2007. Left home at 4:00 a.m. after mounting the scooter on the back of the car. I had forgotten the simple procedure for doing this that I had developed two years earlier on my Huron trip and did a very poor job. This caused me several stops to adjust the mooring straps.

Another problem: although the platform that I had used on the Ford Explorer fit the special hitch I had added to my Honda Civic, it turned out to be much lower, clearing the ground by only about four inches. Thus I began the trip with a loud scrape as I drove out the driveway. Fortunately, this created no problems once I got underway. On the entire round trip, the carrier scraped the ground less than a dozen times.

The drive to Sault Ste. Marie took me 528 miles through Toronto and Sudbury. Even with the early start there was some delay in Toronto, which today has commuting traffic jams that must rival any city in North America. Despite this and the delays fixing the mounting, I reached the Sault at 2:30 p.m. I had made arrangements there with Staff Sergeant Wes Moore of the Ontario Provincial Police to park my car in their busy lot. I was impressed with their facility and behind the modern building I found myself parking with construction workers building a new structure that will house police forensic activities.

It took me an hour to dismount and load the scooter and to let the police know the information about my car. I finally left the parking lot at 3:30 p.m. and headed for the bridge to Michigan. There I spent from 3:50 to 4:35 lined up on the bridge -- thinking as I sat a hundred or so feet above the water about the recent Minneapolis bridge collapse.

By the time I had ridden 47 miles and stopped for supper along the way, I found myself in the Hiawatha National Forest. There along a dirt road I found a suitable campsite at about 7:30 p.m. (Here is will add my general qualifications for such camps: (1) a place with sturdy trees suitably separated to which I could tie the hammock, and, a bit more complicated, (2) a site where I could feel satisfied that cars passing nearby would not see me.)

As you might expect, my first campsite took quite a bit of time to set up. It took almost an hour. I set up the hammock incorrectly the first time and had to change it. (This was not really necessary but I always tried to sleep in a position that allowed me to see the scooter nearby.) The hammock is symmetric except for one thing: the entrance slit in the bottom is nearer one end than the other and this determines which way you lie once you have gotten in; you want the slit to be at the end away from your head.

Finally got in and read for 15-20 minutes. I used one of those little book lights that worked quite well. The book I highly recommend: On the Wing by Alan Tennant about following peregrine falcons north from Texas to Alaska and south from Texas to the Caribbean.

It had been cool riding along the lake but here it was warm and comfortable, a clear night. As is so often the case beginning such a trip, I had trouble with my sleeping bag zipper and could not zip it up. Fortunately, this did not cause a sleeping problem.

An aside: I find it a quite different experience sleeping alone in the woods. With others there is a kind of safety in numbers attitude and you don't think very much about your surroundings. Alone you don't have that comfort. And the forest is at the same time both silent and noisy. Some of the sounds are comforting: the croak of a raven, cicadas crickets and grasshoppers sawing and cricking, frogs and toads croaking and peeping, even mosquitoes buzzing, since the netting keeps them away. (At one campsite a raven, now silent, came within a few yards to investigate my intrusion on his territory.)

But other noises are less reassuring. Does that crunching sound represent an animal approaching? What was that unidentifiable screech? And now why is it suddenly so quiet? While I know that there are no ghouls or ghosts or unicorns out there and I know equally well that larger carnivores -- bears and wolves -- have virtually no interest in me, still I cannot throw off those childish thoughts of "something out there." Even more important: "someone out there." The thought of some person coming upon my campsite is perhaps the most threatening thought, not because he or she would do anything but rather because the very unexpectedness of their approach would scare me.

I certainly do not want to overplay this. In fact, I found it more interesting to think about this than discomforting. And I slept very well except as noted in subsequent reports.

Animal observation: kestrel

August 11. Awoke at 6:40 a.m. from sound sleep. I had wakened to use my bottle once in the night and it seemed to work quite well. Temperature 59°. Another clear day as, remarkably, were all to follow in this report! Amazing good fortune.

Packed and got underway at 7:40 a.m. (Recall that one major simplification on this part of my travels is the fact that I do no cooking and thus have no clean up to do. In fact, one great value of hammock camping is the fact that it would take a detective to find any sign of your having camped there.) Fixed the sleeping bag zipper while packing.

I then spent 3-4 hours very difficult and uncomfortable riding on dirt (and more important, sandy) roads. The scooter is not designed for this and even tries to throw me off when it swerves in the road's soft spots. Based on this experience I decided finally when I reached Grand Marias that I simply had to avoid them. This meant that all the DeLorme topographic maps that I had carefully organized were on no use whatsoever. The regular state road maps served perfectly well for the remainder of the trip. (Even some of the roads they included I had to avoid.)

I cannot explain how frightening this kind of riding was. I had to keep my speed down to about five miles per hour. And all the time I thought about my experience two years earlier on a trail north of Lake Huron where the scooter did indeed throw me off. Fortunately that accident, the only one I have ever had with this scooter, did not damage either to me or, perhaps more important as I was miles from civilization, the bike.

This dirt road episode took all of my attention and I didn't get around to eating until supper in Grand Marais. When I came out of the restaurant, I found it raining and it appeared that I was headed for bad weather: fortunately the rain only amounted to a few drops.

Several times during this and subsequent days I crossed the North Country hiking trail.

The day had been hot, which made the slow going on those dirt roads even more uncomfortable, but normally my speed cools things considerably. I ended the day at 6:45, exhausted. Temperature 81°. I was again in the Hiawatha National Forest west of Shingleton, Michigan. Despite my problems, I had made 164 miles during the day.

I rode along Lake Superior some of the time and found the shoreline quite different from my observations along the north shore. Here there are sand beaches as opposed to the rocks with which I have been familiar. I even walked out to test the water and, much to my surprise, found it warm. (That means that it would only have taken me a half hour to get in to swim in it.)

Again some reading but asleep by shortly after 8:00.

Animal observations: broad-winged hawk dead in road, two immature but very big hawks that I finally decided were red-tails but might have been rough-legged.

August 12. After a hot, muggy night, awoke at 7:10 a.m. (Notice the unusual eleven hours of sleeping. At home I rarely sleep for more than seven hours.)

Underway at 7:50. A front must have gone through because the day was very comfortable. No longer muggy and with a high about 79°. Windy.

Many stops on this day to check out scenic areas. Had good country breakfast and dinner.

One irritating experience. As I point out to everyone, the scooter gets 100 miles per gallon, but it only holds one gallon. This means many stops as I fear getting caught far from a gas station. (I carried a camping gas container for emergencies but it held only about a quart.) When I stopped for gas, I had to undo half of my packing to get at the gas opening. At one station, I unpacked but then when I tried to use the pump I found it inoperable. Had to half repack and move to another pump. Then when I went in to pay (few stations in Michigan allowed credit cards at the pump) I was told that I had used 36¢ worth of gas at the first pump. I had to insist that I had received no gas whatsoever from that pump.

Despite many more stops and leisurely meals reading, I stopped at 6:50, having made 188 miles. I was now 20 miles from Copper Harbor at the end of the Keweenaw Peninsula. (Despite my promise to myself that I would find out how Keweenaw is pronounced, I never did remember to ask.)

August 13. A major difference in temperature last night. It was 48° when I got up at 7:15. I had been cold during the night but I had still slept reasonably well. Left the campsite at 8:10 headed for Copper Harbor. I went through town and headed for the end of the peninsula, but that turned out to be a waste of time. I even broke my rule about dirt road riding, hoping to reach at least a lookout. No luck, just farther and farther into a forest. I finally turned around and headed back, soon meeting a man and woman riding dirt bikes. They told me that there was a side road that did lead to an overlook, but I had seen that road; it was little more than two ruts leading into the woods. So my best lookouts at the lake were found south of town.

Breakfast and gas back in Copper Harbor and headed off back down the peninsula. Again many stops for sightseeing. Good dinner and reached a campsite south of White Pine Michigan at 7:10. Temperature a mild 73° at end of day. Abed again by 8:00. Miles for the day: 156.

One stop I made on this day. My oil gage informed me that I was due for a change. I bought a quart of oil and changed it as best I could. (This is a rather complicated process and took more than a half hour.)

Animal observations: none. In fact, I was impressed with how few birds and animals I found on this trip. Admittedly I did not bring my binoculars, but I found nothing to stop for. I checked the many beaches for southbound shorebirds but saw not one on the whole trip. This should be the height of their migration.

August 14. Up at 6:30, temperature 68°. Very comfortable night. Left at 7:15.

Today I wanted to get reasonably near Tofte so that tomorrow I could get to the motel early enough that I could shower and use a Laundromat to wash my clothes before I met Bob and Anne. Thus I moved along, crossing all of Wisconsin with only a few stops for observations.

Many times when I did stop people would talk to me about riding the scooter. Even some of the motorcycle riders showed interest. (They returned my waves when we passed on the road, giving me a feeling of membership -- even if in a junior category.) At one Wisconsin beach when I told some locals how I couldn't ride the scooter on sand, a woman turned to point to where the previous day a motorcycle had thrown its rider in sand a few yards away.

When I approached Superior, Wisconsin, I began to worry about riding on an interstate highway and in particular the bridge to Duluth. I decided not to test this and headed off the other Route 2 bridge. No problem there but the north end of the bridge led directly to Interstate Route 35. I decided to follow it until I found a reasonable exit onto a parallel street. But by the time when I finally did exit, I found that I was only one exit from where the route changed into state route 61.

For the first time on this trip I stopped here at a MacDonald's restaurant in order to call Doris on my cell phone. I also tried to reach Bob without luck but left a message that I was going to meet them. I note here that the shore of Lake Superior is not a good place to use a cell phone. Even in major towns I could get no access. And I do not have a contract that gives me access in Canada so the phone was not much help on this trip. I made many credit card calls.

Along Route 61 I was stopped by a highway patrolman and told that I had to move over onto the road shoulder in order not to slow traffic going at the allowed 55 mph. I heard him out but informed him that I did exactly that even though I worried that I was illegally riding in a bike lane. Much to my surprise he told me that the shoulder was not a bike lane. The very young officer was certainly not unreasonable and he turned out to be from Minneapolis. (I should have asked him if he was a patient of Dr. Bugenstein.)

I missed our usual canoe trip opportunity to discuss the local murder.

Finally turned north (on another dirt road) a few miles east of Two Harbors to find a camping spot. For some reason finding a campsite turned out to be more difficult here and I finally followed a path up several hundred yards to a good location. I ended quite tired at 6:30, the temperature had dropped from the afternoon's 80° to 65°. In the afternoon again a few dozen raindrops had fallen. I had made 227 miles.

Lots of trouble setting up the hammock. The first time I did so I found that when I got into it, it drooped down to the ground. I wouldn't have minded that but I worried that a stick might tear the canvas. Had to get up and change the location entirely. But still relaxed and ready to sleep by 8:00. Hardly able to read a page before sleeping.

April 15. Up at 7:10 for my last day before the canoe trip and the end of SC (Superior Circumnavigation) Part I. Morning temperature was 60°, making for cold riding. Once again during the night a few raindrops had fallen, only enough to give me a scare. Left campsite at 7:42.

This was a short trip broken only by a stop for breakfast a few miles from Tofte. I learned when I arrived at the AmericInn motel that I could have saved my money as they were still serving breakfast when I arrived at about 10:00 a.m. (but 9:00 a.m. here in Minnesota's Central Time Zone) having ridden the scooter for only 47 miles.

But the motel's front desk had a sign announcing that check-in was not until 3:00 p.m. Despite this, the desk clerk said that she would try to get our room open for me before that and allowed me to leave my clothing in a garbage bag behind the desk. I also asked if she knew of a Laundromat in Tofte. "We have laundry facilities here," she responded and I was able to change in the rest room and wash and dry my dirty clothes while I waited for the room to open.

Before noon the room was indeed available and I was able to take a bath and look a bit less woolly awaiting my partners' arrival.

It turned out that Anne had worked a half day before she and Bob had left Minneapolis so they didn't arrive until about 5:00 p.m. Bob had enjoyed breakfast with Wally who would not be able to join us. He was pleased, however, to know that Wally's health is in control.

We walked to dinner at the Bluefin Restaurant. Bob graciously treated us to the meal. Typically I accepted thinking how I would have ordered differently if I had only known then.

Part II. Canoe 2007

 

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Loaded for Bear

 

August 16. We rose at about 7:00, packed, snacked at the AmericInn, and headed for Sawbill. The motel agreed to let me park my scooter in their lot for the time we were in the bush.

On the way to Sawbill we discussed the itinerary. Bob thought that I had described a trip from Baker Lake back to Sawbill. When I explained that that was not what I meant, he and Anne agreed with my more wimpish trip: Baker, Peterson, Kelly, Peterson, Baker. We had the trip permit adjusted to reflect this change when we arrived at the outfitter's. We also discussed how we would go back and forth to the Baker landing. I had assumed that the Sawbill people would take us and pick us up. Bob suggested we change and do the driving ourselves and we decided to do that.

At Sawbill* we encountered Frank and Bill Hanson who greeted us warmly with Bill reminding the assembled crowd that Bob was his pediatrician who saw him through a nasty bout of mononucleosis. Frank and his wife are moving into a condominium, I believe he said in Lutsen.

Bill turned us over to a young woman named Katie, a student from Northern Illinois University, who helped us with our outfitting, showing us several different materials and techniques. These included waterproof bags for our clothing, a freezer bag for meats, a double rope arrangement for raising the food pack at night, a new method for shrinking the sleeping bags for packing and some folding chair backs that worked with the air mattresses. And of course all kinds of food.

I note here that this whole operation reminded me of all the work that Wally had done over the years to provide us with many similar support facilities. One thing especially reminded me of him: a silverware holder that tied around a tree. Missing, however, we would find out later was the drying bag we had always used. The modern folks have not yet quite caught up with everything.

Finally, Katie helped us mount the canoe on the car and we headed into the bush. We left the Baker landing at 10:30 and headed out, thinking that we had an easy day: a 30 rod portage, then a 3 rod lift, then a quick pick of one of four campsites. Surprise, surprise, it didn't turn out quite that way.

We paddled into the wind to the first portage which turned out to be, as expected, reasonably easy except for the rocky landings. Then we paddled down Peterson Lake -- named after my mother, Emma Peterson, I assume -- to the "lift" into Kelly.

Here is where the troubles started. The lake level was obviously very low and all of the landings were very difficult -- over many boulders. As Bob notes: "the worst portages that I have ever seen up there; they were all rocks to walk over carrying our heavy equipment. It was lucky that we didn't break an ankle."  A pair of canoes had reached this portage shortly before we did and we followed them to what seemed to be the portage over the rocks in the outlet. Foolishly, we followed them. This difficult process only led us to a pool with a second set of rocks below.

Fortunately we noticed a path alongside this section and were able to take this 10 to 15 rod portage. It was very difficult and I had to have Anne lead me in order to make the sudden turns. (We had an extra long canoe for three people which made this still more difficult.) At least this saved us climbing over those rocks as the other trip did.

By the time we had everything across and reloaded the other trip had departed -- but without one of their jackets. Anne retrieved it and we headed out to try to catch up with them. We soon found them paddling back and were able to pass it on to them -- after paddling directly into their canoe side.

Now we only had to head for a campsite. At my suggestion we tried for the farthest which was beautifully situated on a point. Mistake: it was filled. Back to the others. Now filled. Our last chance: a single campsite at the very north end of the lake. Off we went. About half way there two women in a canoe caught up with us. They had just come across the 230 yard portage from Burnt Lake where all campsites were also filled. (They were upset, feeling that too many permits were being given out.) We offered to share the north end campsite with them if it was empty but they went off and we did not see them again.

The lake seemed to go on forever with winds mixed, some with us, some against; all of us worrying about what to do if the campsite was filled. Thank goodness it was not. A solid B-, but we would have taken it if it was an F at that point. (Bob had been talking about how we would have to make our own campsite if we found nothing here. I was more prepared to go begging for a corner of someone else's campsite.

We had been on the water and portaging from 10:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. without a break, Bob the taskmaster, not even approving my attempts at pontooning.

Now, however, we were all set for two full days of relaxing. Well, almost. We had to set up camp. We -- mostly Anne -- had to cook and clean up after ourselves. But mostly we had to read between naps. Beautiful weather: if anything hot during the day, cold at night.

The biggest task the first evening after our tent and fly were set up and dinner -- steaks -- served was hanging the food pack. At this we failed miserably. I spent a half hour trying to get a rope over a limb far too high and then Bob suggested trees too low. We ended up with one of those laughable hangs: the bag about five feet off the ground. Our only hope if a bear appeared would be to set him into such giggling that he wouldn't be able to reach up with his paw.

To bed at about 9:00 p.m. Very brief reading by Bob, mostly after I was asleep.

Animals: Anne and I heard a loon give one brief call just after we donned our sleeping bags. That was it for wildlife.

August 17. Up at 8:00 to another perfect day. Breakfast omelet and hash browns (great) and, because the meals are set up for four, more than enough.

Much time after that was spent reading. Anne was practicing one of the "seven deadly virtues" as shown in a recent New Yorker cartoon by reading "only the classics" -- Charles Dickens' Tale of Two Cities and similarly Bob was reading Gabriel Marquez' Of Love and Other Demons which, in his words, he found "sort of absurd after being impressed in my younger days with One Hundred Years of Solitude. I guess that I am getting old." I continued with On the Wing. Of course we also did a lot of gossiping and solving world problems.

The major day's accomplishment: after many false starts I finally found a perfect tree and got the rope over it on my first toss. (No one was looking so the reader may or may not accept this claim.) When I showed my accomplishment to my colleagues, Bob suggested an improvement with the second rope that made this one of the best lifts Canoe you-name-the-year ever achieved. The recommended distances are 12 feet up and 6 feet from trees alongside. This hang came close: about 10 feet high, 5 feet on each side. We can assume that they added those feet as a kind of bonus.

Supper: hamburgers, two each (again excellent and an indication of the value of the cold pouch). After this, Bob accurately describes our usual mealtime routine as "fill pouch with boiling water, stir and pour into pan."

With the food pack suitably risen into the BWCA heights, we again hit the sack.

Animals: On this and the next day we heard a soft tapping near the camp, but we could never find the source. The sound was so weak that we could not even identify its direction. I suspect that it was made by a three-toed woodpecker.

 

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The Food Pack on Its Way Up

 

August 18. Up after a very cold night at about 8:00. I suspect that it had been in the 30s. French toast for breakfast.

A major side trip on this day. We paddled the 100 yards to the portage into Jack Lake and walked across the 30 rods. Remarkably, we found Jack Lake to be exactly like every other lake in the BWCA, water surrounded by trees. Once we had taken required photos of ourselves and the lake we retraced our steps and paddling. Suitably exhausted, we spent the rest of the day reading and napping.

During the day there was much discussion of how to end Canoe 07. After several permutations of possible outcomes, we decided that we would simply finish up on the 19th instead of the 20th, that way giving me an earlier start on SC Part III.

After a supper of some version of pasta we prepared for bed. Food pack up and I donned every piece of clothing I had with me including rain suit.

Animals: Anne saw a red squirrel.

August 19. Having spent a comfortably warm night -- it was not quite as cold as the previous night -- I arose at 6:30, the others at 7:00. After another omelet breakfast and packing, we left the campsite at 9:45.

Although it was easier going returning than going out -- we at least knew where the portage trail was -- it was still not at all easy. At least the wind was only a minor problem.

We reached the Baker Lake landing at 12:20, loaded up and departed for Sawbill at 12:45. (Minor episode: a sudden gust of wind blew the canoe off the car before we got it secure.) Bob: "After we took showers and were cleared to go we drove back to Tofte and helped Gerry pack up his scooter. Thus we concluded the white shirts memorial trip" aka Canoe 2007. We reached Tofte at 2:30.

Animals: A single bird flew from our campsite just before we left. It may have been a flycatcher. While paddling Anne pointed out some young mergansers swimming across the lake. Even with these observations and a few raven croaks, this was the poorest trip for animal observations I can ever recall. Not even a chickadee or a camp mouse.

Part III. Tofte-Sault Ste. Marie-Buffalo

 

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Lake Superior Eastern Shore

 

Bob and Anne were forced to watch me load up the scooter before they departed for Minneapolis. This took more than a half hour and I finally putted off at 3:10.

At this point I found myself, as I usually do on these scooter excursions, much like the horse that sees the stable ahead. This had already contributed to my contributions to the decision to curtail the canoe trip. For that I apologize to Bob and Anne.

In any case this attitude led me to accelerate a bit on the road. Whereas before this I stuck to 30-35 mph, I now made it 35-45.

Once underway I also decided that I would stay at motels the rest of the way. I should have made this decision earlier because I had borrowed a mattress from Bill Hansen to make my hammock sleeping more cold tolerant. (Never used, I shipped it back as soon as I reached home.)

I reached Thunder Bay at about 8:00 p.m. and found a downtown fleabag motel, having ridden 106 miles. Hot bath loosened the riding tension but read until midnight.

August 20. Now the attraction of finishing up really kicked in. Arose at 6:30, off by 7:10.

But now finally the scooter began to act up. Having given me over 6000 miles of good service, I felt that this was at least due, but I still worried. Any ability to do anything more than add gasoline and oil is absent, so I had no recourse other than a garage mechanic.

First the scooter began to make a loud chuf-chuf-chuf sound going up hills. After this happened several times I was able to identify it as occurring when the scooter was going 5 mph and 30 mph. This suggested that it had something to do with the scooter's automatic shift. I checked the manual to see if there was some kind of special oil to be added but found none. Next step: when I next stopped for gas, I asked if there was a mechanic available. No, next town. There I found a mechanic whose response to my inquiry was, "I know nothing about scooters." His look implied that he also wanted to know nothing about scooters.

What to do? Despite never having taken a course in scooter repair, my years of Ph.D. training kicked in and I decided that the one thing I could do was add oil to the regular oil receiver. I had never needed to do this before. As soon as I did this, the problem was solved.

I may, however, have overfilled the oil in doing this -- the dipstick is impossible to interpret -- as the scooter now lost some of its power on hills. And there were many on this section. In several places I passed signs warning trucks to shift down as the grade would be 5%, 6% and in one place even 7%. Although it slowed sometimes to 10 mph, however, it still made it up all the hills.

Near the end of the day another problem arose. My muffler stopped functioning and the car reported its presence in no uncertain terms.

Despite all these difficulties, I found myself impressed by the scenery: the lovely dark blue of Lake Superior as a backdrop to high red rock cliffs through which the road was cut.

At 6:30 I ended this 308 mile day at a motel in Wawa, Ontario.

August 21. Thank goodness I didn't sleep out last night as it was very cold in the morning. I knew that this was to be a big day so I arose at 5:40 and left the motel at 6:15.

Despite my wearing many layers including rain jacket and pants and gloves, I found this morning a punishing experience. And I was lucky to have filled up the gas in Wawa for it was 97 miles to the next filling station. The route had been through Lake Superior Provincial Park where there were no services.

I finally reached the police station in Sault Ste. Marie at 10:45, having completed the Lake Superior circumnavigation. My distance that morning 143 miles.

Total scooter distance on the trip: 1419 miles.

It took the better part of an hour to unpack, mount the carrier and then the scooter on it, thank Sergeant Moore and get underway. Upon reflection I had recalled the way to mount the scooter quite simply and having done so had no further problems with it whatsoever.

Good weather on the drive until the outskirts of Toronto where I met rain and, despite it being almost 8:00 p.m., major traffic jams.

Home at 9:50 p.m. Total driving distance, round trip, 1057 miles, making the full excursion 2476 miles.

So endeth my last hurrah.

 

 

 

 

 



* Here and in a few later places I draw upon Bob's brief account of Canoe 07.