BMRx Rally 2016 Part 4: Closer to Home

Sat 9/24/2016 (Leg 2)
Toronto ON to Akron OH
~ 805 miles

Screamin Meanies work…I guarantee it!

The adrenaline surged immediately when this friendly looking device exploded with sound about 4 hours after my head hitting the pillow, waking me up instantly and completely, as I quickly pressed the 3 buttons necessary to make it stop. I was out of bed, making coffee, showering, and checking weather before I knew it.

I humped most of my gear down to the bike, which the hotel had kindly allowed me to park right in front under the roof. Grabbed a quick waffle and OJ in the breakfast room and wolfed it down while texting my wife that I’d lived to see another day and was on schedule.

Finished up my check-out and submitted my departure photo for Rest Stop #1, about 15 minutes later than the max points 6 hour rest time and 20 degrees cooler than when I’d checked in.

I quickly got back onto the highway system, amazed at how much traffic there was at 07:30 on a Saturday morning. I’m just not used to cities the scale of Toronto I guess. Things lightened up pretty quickly, however, as I zoomed southwest on 401 once again, with huge tracts of farmland becoming the primary scenery. My next bonus stop was in London, which was still pretty sleepy at this hour, so not much traffic to deal with in the downtown area. Note the little man on the Walk signal – it crossed my mind that the Canadian version seemed much happier and confident in posture than ours, somehow. Maybe I just needed more coffee.

I now headed due west on Highway 402. Next stop would be in Flint MI, a city I knew primarily not from the recent drinking water issues, but as being hometown to the 70’s super band, Grand Funk Railroad. I hoped I would get the opportunity to get a photo of a “Welcome to Flint” sign, if such a one existed, to show my best friend who loves GFR and turned me on to their music many years ago when we were teens.

More and more farmland passed by until I finally reached the St. Clair River and the border back into the states. This crossing over the Blue Water Bridge looked to be another stunning scenic point worthy of some photos (with a lighthouse visible off to the north and everything), but the bridge was under some major construction and most of my way across was under a tunnel of scaffolding and tarps, surrounded by workmen. And I had miles to go and a mission to complete, so any unnecessary detour, no matter how simple it may seem, was given no creedance.

I waited in line briefly for two cars to go through the border checkpoint before I was once again flashing my passport and answering questions about my purpose and purchases. This guy actually did ask me my license plate number so I was glad I had that one down. “Welcome back to the states, sir” and that was that, my first international motorcycle excursion was complete!

I was now on I-69 and covered yet more miles upon miles, due west across Michigan farm country. When I arrived in Flint, I located the bonus (at a senior center) fairly easily, just a few blocks off the interstate through a quiet neighborhood. The word match was “Street Senior”:

Before hopping back on the highway, I took some time now to decide on my next course of action, which would have a major effect on my route. Either head due south towards the Toledo bonus and thence start heading back eastward, or make an additional jog to the southwest for a couple more high point bonuses in Indiana. Though I was running a bit behind original schedule, I knew I could still omit a bonus or two the next day in Pennsylvania if I had to, so I decided to head for Indiana. I never did get a photo of a “Welcome to Flint” sign for my friend, or even get to see much of the place itself except the interstate (which incidentally was in the worst condition of any interstate I’d ever seen). But I had some GFR tunes on my phone and listed to the hometown band play as I rode through their state, including the classic “Closer to Home”, seagulls and all.

As I continued out I-69 to Lansing and then south, my wife texted me wondering where the hell I though I was going?!? I told her California was just over the horizon and thought I’d have a look-see :). Then I explained my plan for the day and carried on, the miles blending into one another as my mind wandered a bit. Somewhere around Convis Township, I happened to look down to see my final gas gauge indicator light blinking, meaning I had under a gallon left in the tank. I immediately exited, pulled over, and turned off the bike to conserve fuel while I took stock. Based on my trip meter, I believed I had probably just crossed the 1 gallon threshold, but looking around I saw nothing but rural residential roads and farmland. Pulled up nearby gas stations on the GPS and decided on one several miles away in the right general direction as my route. Happily, I made it to the station to fill up, and took the opportunity to grab a snack and doff my long johns, as the temps were getting warmer as I made my way south.

I turned west on I-80 and made it without further incident to the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend, IN to get my bonus photo:

I’d now reached my further point west on my planned route and it felt good to be sort of headed back now. I quickly covered another 90 miles on US-31 and US-30 to Fort Wayne, IN to get the bonus words in this oriental supermarket sign “Hoa Hung”:

Then I had to jog slightly northeast back up to Toledo on US-24 for another 100 miles, to capture the name of this machine shop:

As darkness was coming on soon, I paused here for a PBJ break, don my heated gear, and to pop a couple Alleve for my aching back. I also started scheming about where I might stop for my second mandatory rest stop. I knew I was going to have a long last day and wanted to take advantage of low traffic hours as much as possible, which meant getting to a hotel earlier than the previous night. I figured after hitting the bonus in Akron, I could start searching for my next bed. Headed due east on I-80 for a couple of hours to Elyria, for another fun time juggling my flashlight and placard to get this nighttime bonus shot, right downtown:

And another one, an hour or so further down the route, in Barberton OH.

The Subway across the street was open and looked inviting, so I opted to take a quick dinner break and don my long john bottoms, as the night was getting cooler, especially at highway speeds. I got moving again quickly, but the highway through Akron was busy and I was feeling the effects of the long day and thinking about my plan to get in the barn early to enjoy vacant highways in the wee hours. I saw an exit with several hotel signs and pulled off. Checked Yelp and found a Quality Inn right down the street. In contrast to the busy late night atmosphere at the Toronto hotel, there was nothing much happening here, and the friendly night clerk got me checked in quickly and let me park under the front awning roof. My rest bonus arrival photo:

I figured on taking a slightly shorter rest bonus this time, both to ensure I had plenty of time for my final leg and to take advantage of the empty early morning roads. I did some calculations with Basecamp and knew I was dropping at least one of the PA bonuses I’d had in the route. I also optimized the routing for the two Maryland bonuses. I wanted to hold the rest to five hours, but finally decided on 5.5, to get an extra two points and more rest, even if it meant ditching the other PA bonus (3.3 points). I set the Meanie and my cell alarm and was in bed more quickly than the previous night, pleased with my progress so far and glad to be so much closer to home, with “just” a day to go.

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