Mike Roe’s 1970 Ride
Spurred on by the films Easy Rider and Then Came Bronson my friend Gerry and I decided to buy motorcycles and do our own riding adventure. We had both owned Honda Scramblers back in 1963 so we had some knowledge of riding but those bikes were long gone and we needed replacements. Gerry decided to purchase a brand new 1969 Triumph 500 cc Scrambler. It was the coolest bike he had ever owned. Cost $ 1175. I had been teaching only three years and only had $300 in the bank since I spent most of my spare cash on a 1965 Corvette roadster. Couldn’t bear to sell the ‘Vette so I borrowed $300 from Gerry and bought a used (2500 aprox. miles) Honda 450 for $ 600. I started transforming the “Black Bomber” into a chopper so I could maybe pass for the real deal when we got our motors runnin’ and headed out on the highway, lookin’ for adventure and whatever came our way. First, I swapped the ungainly Honda gas tank for a fiberglass three gallon “peanut tank” reminiscent of a Sportster tank. It was metal flake blue. Next was chrome fenders with the rear one styled like a bobber model. I extended the forks 4 and half inches using the unsafe screw on extensions sold at the time. Couldn’t afford the proper thing. To finish off the chopper look I mounted 4-inch dog bone risers and z bar handlebars. Also attached a sissy bar from a Schwinn Stingray bicycle and made it all comfy with a fantastic Bates leather seat and ditched the original Honda ironing board model. Mounted the license plate at the base of the sissy bar with a tail light with a license plate light to illuminate the rear. Found a used Scrambler up swept exhaust system and took off the goofy looking and sounding OEM plumbing. Now I was good to go. Back then saddle bags were not cool. You strapped your bedroll, usually a small Mexican serape to your handlebars or your sissy bar. Personal items like toothbrushes etc. were wrapped up in the serape. Back then you could travel light since you didn’t have to bring along a sack of prescription drugs, your nose and ear hair trimmer, and stool softeners. After a couple of shakedown cruises to Needles and Santa Maria, California plus a foray from Tijuana Mexico to Tecate south of the border we felt we and our sleds were ready to go. We were off for summer vacation so we had nine weeks before we had to report back to work. Our goal, ride coast to coast across the North American continent and back, and live to tell-about it!
In the next chapter the ride begins so I hope you all come along.
Mike Roe’s 1970 Ride Chapter 2
Across The Continent, The Journey Begins
Many of you can probably relate to the inexperienced long distance traveling rider of our early days in our sport. Keep in mind while reading of my journey that not only was I unaware of many of the traveling equipment needs the long-distance rider would find useful or necessary, many of the modern-day items such as cool vests, heated gear, even serviceable rain gear, were not on the market. Before I undertook this ride, I can’t recall reading a single motorcycle magazine or referred to a catalogue of any kind. I don’t know if there were any at that time. The stuff we did bring along were things we commonly took on an auto trip and weren’t particular to motorcycles. We brought things we imagined would make sense. One item we pirated from bums and hobos was the use of old newspapers. You could stuff them inside your Levi’s and jackets for insulation from the cold. We would have used plastic shopping bags to put inside our boots but they were issuing only paper bags back then. We hadn’t really thought of that technique anyway. For some reason we never visited a sporting goods store to see if any camping gear, like rain suits, would suit our purposes.
Also was our reliance on motorcycle movies for clues on what to bring. We didn’t notice Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, or Michael Parks with any stinking rain suits. Here is a partial list of what I brought. Most of this stuff was carried in a duffle bag, bungeed to my handle bars or wrapped up in my sleeping bag. Remember, we had no saddlebags or tour trunk or even a rack for carrying our gear.
Two pairs of Levi’s with one belt
Two tee shirts
One denim long sleeved shirt
Three pairs of socks
War surplus Navy pee coat
One pull over sweat shirt
One pair swim trunks (no ball hangers please!) and a large towel and wash rag
One pair riding gloves, neck bandana
One baseball cap, one wool navy watch cap to wear when not wearing helmet (ala Jim Bronson)
One pair cowboy boots to wear as riding boots
One pair jogging shoes for jogging and walking
Bell open faced helmet with snap on face shield, helmet laws in some states, not CA,NV,AZ
Bungie cords to hold gear
Sleeping bag, no pillow
War surplus half shelter tarp
Flashlight, matches, knife fork and spoon kit, can opener, folding jack knife, small canteen
One gallon plastic gas can to bungie on passenger foot peg to supplement my 3 gallon tank (unsafe or what?) Only needed the gas once!
Various common tools, tire patch kit, spare tube, tire removal irons, air transfer hose, Lava soap
Toiletries (no hair dryer or hair products) small tin of band-aids, antiseptic, aspirin, snake bite kit
Extra pair of prescription eye-glasses, extra set of bike keys, important phone numbers
Gas credit card, some cash
American Express traveler’s checks (remember those?)
Maps and a journal to keep diary of the ride, book to read
NO PRESCRIPTION DRUGS!!!!
Anything else we needed we got along the way. Mosquitos and rain forced us to purchase a $20 pup tent a few days into the ride. When we started to look shabby, we upgraded our wardrobes with a new shirt or two. Finally, the day of departure was reached and we loaded up, fired up our sleds, and headed out. We split at 10:45 AM on Wednesday June 21, 1970. We plan to stick to the two lanes and avoid the freeways and interstates as much as possible. We liked riding 50 to 60 miles per hour and taking it all in. We were in no hurry since we had nine weeks to complete our ride. We decided to ride old Route 66 as much as possible before we veered off towards Nevada and Utah. We rode the old Route 66 to San Bernardino. There we picked up Mt. Vernon Avenue which is old 66 and headed north for Cajon Pass.
In 1970 I15 wasn’t completed over the pass so we had to take 66 for several miles. We ate our first road meal at the famous Summit Cafe at the top of Cajon Pass. At Victorville, CA we swung around through Oro Grande and Helendale on 66 and pulled into Barstow for a rest stop. Things started to heat up and we started pulling into gas stations to soak down our clothing using their radiator water hoses (remember those?) After a few beers to cool down we attacked the really hot part of our first day out. Crossing the Mojave in the summer can be a challenge on a bike. This was a really warm June and we paid the price. We took I40 out of Barstow so we could follow old 66. 66 paralleled I40 for 30 miles and then I40 ended and returns to old two lane 66 to Ludlow. Then it goes off to the southeast towards Amboy and the landmark Amboy volcanic crater. Amboy is also the home of Roy’s motel, cafe, and gas station. Roy’s is still there and you have probably either been there or seen it in one of the many TV commercials they’ve filmed there. It’s a must stop for bikers heading from California to the Laughlin River Run each year. We pass through the ABC named towns (ruins) of Bagdad, Chambless, Danby, Essex, and Goffs, named by the Santa Fe railroad alphabetically to make it easier to remember their names (don’t forget Amboy for “A”)! and where they are and we finally reach Hwy 95 north just short of Needles. We reach Boulder City Nevada and find a USFS (US forest service) campground to stay in for the night (free!).
It’s hot so we sleep outside our bags and in our clothes to fend off the mosquitos. Really tired and so we sleep well. Dinner tonight was a cold can of Dinty Moore beef stew, some fig newton cookies and a six pack of Coors shared with Gerry. Mileage today, 284 plus. Mileage on bike 3639. Tomorrow we ride through Nevada, Arizona, and into Utah and my first visit to St. George.
Mike Roe’s 1970 Ride Chapter 3
Day 2. Mileage 3639. Today 236 Trip Total 520
Gerry and I were up at daybreak to get rolling. We figured we could get in some miles before it heated up. Also, our mosquito bites might subside to the size of mere golf balls by the time we packed it in for the day. We rode out to see Hoover Dam. Back then the highway went right over the dam. You could park on the west side and walk across the dam and peer over the face of the dam’s 700 plus foot drop. Of course, we had to ride over and back too just to say we had. We backtracked thru Las Vegas and headed for Arizona and Utah. The I15 didn’t go all the way we were going back in 1970. It was old 91 through Vegas and then I15 started up out near Nellis Airforce Base. We stayed on old 91 as much as possible anyway. It was pretty hot so we continued to soak ourselves with radiator water at gas stations along the way. A few people who saw us soaking down asked why we just didn’t get a motel to shower in. Being bikers, we just played along and told them we hadn’t showered in weeks. We stopped in Glendale, Nevada at a Chevron and bought a water bag for $2.50 that auto drivers used to hang on their bumper. It was made of canvas or hemp and it had to be thoroughly soaked before it would hold water.
With the bag we could soak down anywhere there wasn’t a gas station plus we had emergency drinking water if we needed it. It had a rope cord to carry it with so we wrapped the cord around my gas cap and it rested on my gas tank. The Chevron station is now gone but the bag is now hanging in my garage. I 15 ended again a few miles short of Mesquite. It started up again at the Utah line and ran to where the Beaver Dam off ramp is today. As we crossed into Utah, we got pulled over at the port of entry station. We were informed that Utah was a helmet state. We dutifully donned our Bell helmets and went on our way. Wonder if the officer who talked to us was Jon Kromroy!
I15 wasn’t through the Gorge yet so we rolled up old 91 over Utah Hill. We passed through Santa Clara and into St. George. This was my first visit to the city. It struck me as a beautiful little town sitting in some of the most striking scenery of the trip so far. After the heat and barrenness of the desert it seemed like a virtual oasis of green trees and grass. We parked our bikes in front of a school and took a nap on the lawn. I put St. George on my possible retirement list. After being resuscitated by our nap we continued on to Zion National Park. Of course, we passed through Hurricane not realizing I would someday be a resident. Next was Bryce Canyon. At dinner time we treated ourselves to a full course meal. Can’t remember the place we ate but it might have been Ruby’s. We had ground round steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, string beans, a dessert, and coffee. Cost…$2.50 each! Because of the hot weather making the asphalt soft, a small footprint kickstand, the extended forks on my bike and the top heaviness of the bike due to all my gear the bike had a tendency to fall over. When we exited the restaurant, I found that the bike had fallen over and had broken off the clutch lever! Luckily the brake lever could be transferred over to the clutch side and we could proceed. I’d have to find a Honda shop and get a new lever. In the meantime, I’ll have no front brake. Should have started using a block of wood under the stand but for some reason didn’t. More about that later. We found a free campground at Bryce and threw out our bags. Slept like logs.
Day 3. Mileage 3875. Today 214 Trip Total 734
Again, we wake with the sun. Breakfast was a quart of milk mixed with Instant Breakfast powder, a product we got in the habit of drinking on mornings we didn’t eat in a cafe. It had all the important nutrients a biker needed to smoke the asphalt. We toured Bryce Canyon, a thirty-two-mile round trip. Back at camp we went for a two-mile jog. It was tough going at the high elevation. Everyone we talk to in Utah seems friendly and interested in our trip. We stopped in Richfield, Utah at a Western Auto store that also sold Hondas. I got a replacement clutch lever and a spare to carry with me. The owner recommended a “greasy spoon” in Salina, Utah that is a trucker favorite so we decide to try it for dinner. We continue on Hwy. 89 to Salina.
The Day and Nite Cafe proved to be a winner. We wolf a complete blue plate special of meatloaf with all the trimmings with coffee and pie for $2.15. Portions were enormous. Gerry and I have returned to the Day and Nite Cafe many times over the years. We got to know the owners and they even gave us vintage menus to keep. On our last visit the couple told us they were selling the business and retiring.
The small cafe building is still there on old Hwy 89. It’s now the home of Atwood Saw. Makes me sad every time I stop by. Now we go to Mother’s instead.
We are too stuffed to go to bed so we continue riding until 10:00 PM. We find a little trailer campground in Fairview, Utah and for $.50 we get nice soft grass to throw our bags on and a shower. Also, a coin op laundromat. Today is Gerry’s mother’s birthday so he gives her a call.
Tomorrow we head for Bear Lake.
Mike Roe’s 1970 Ride Chapter 4
DAY 4, June 27. Bike Mileage 4089. Today 192 Total 1017
Farewell to Fairview, Utah! It’s tough giving up the soft grass we slept on last night. Much better than we’ve had so far. We continue north on Hwy 89. Today’s goal is Bear Lake which is in both Utah and Idaho. Beautiful day to ride, sunny with a few white puffy clouds. That will soon change.
We pass through Thistle, Utah and stop in Springville which has a large, nice, shady park right on 89. Its warming up again so it’s a nice break. We stop in Provo at a hardware store to repair my fuel line that has started leaking. Gerry finds a motorcycle shop to buy spare spark plugs for his Triumph. All of a sudden it starts raining. A real downpour. We duck into a twenty-five-cent car wash to keep dry. As we waited it out, we washed our bikes and drank a few beers. A biker from Oregon pulled in to get out of the rain. He had ridden out here on a, get this, a 300 Honda Dream (attention John Marshall!). We talked motorcycles and traveling and he helped with the beers. A good thing since Gerry and I only had two each instead of three and we had more miles to do. The rain stopped and at 4:30 we fired them up. We cruised through the beautiful little towns of Bountiful, (wonder if Cletha was still living there?) and Farmington. Ogden came and went and Brigham City. We stopped in Logan and grabbed a bite to eat. We know we won’t make Bear Lake before dark but we decide to ride on up Logan Canyon and maybe score a campsite along the way. As we cruise up the canyon it turns cold and windy. All the campgrounds are full or lousy. Now it’s really getting cold as we gain elevation. We put on our cold weather gear which consists of just adding more of our regular clothing. I’m wearing both pairs of my Levi’s, two tee shirts, a long-sleeved work shirt, my sweat shirt, and my NAVY Pee coat, helmet, gloves, and neck bandana. At one point we pulled over to talk things over. There was no Moon so it was really dark and no other vehicles were on the road. We turned off our bikes so we could hear each other better but I left my lights on as a safety measure. It was kinda scary out there with the darkness and all. I turned off my lights to start my bike and it was pitch black. Gerry got the creeps, fired his sled first, and blasted off into the night at full gallop while I tried to get my balky steed to start. He admitted later that he freaked out and wanted the Hell out of there. Of course, I teased him about it a few times as we traveled. We finally reach Bear Lake and find an RV park across the highway from the lake. To our joy, more deep soft grass.
Day 5, June 28. Bike Mileage 4371. Today 155 Total 1172
Today is my birthday! I am 28. Got up late and went for a ten-minute jog. We went swimming in Bear Lake too. It’s a huge lake and very beautiful. As we were loading up a nice woman in a motorhome came over. She wanted to know all about our travels. She gave us each a beer and an apple for breakfast. She also gave us each a small white cardboard box of army C-Rations to take along to eat later. We thanked her and hit the road. Somewhere between Montpelier and Geneva, Idaho we pulled over at a nice spot and scarfed the C-Rations. We sat on the ground and leaned up against the bikes. One of the most memorable photos of the trip was of Gerry sitting back after laying waste to our gift from the government with the empty cans strewn about.
Of course being old Boy Scouts we policed the area before we left. We both agreed later that the experience of eating that simple meal, sitting in the dirt next to our bikes, was probably the greatest sense of freedom and contentment we had experienced in life up to that time. On another ride we tried to locate the famous spot but couldn’t. We rode to Jackson Hole, Wyoming to check it out and hit a few hotspots. We find a bar and dance joint called The Mine Shaft and go in to check out the local talent and down some suds.
We were having a good time and some cuties even were willing to dance with us. We obviously weren’t locals since the guys were all cowboys. We started to feel bad vibes from some of the cowboys. We didn’t know if they didn’t like bikers or didn’t like us dancing with the local girls (Black Bart’s Girls?) We decided to split as we were outnumbered and things were definitely looking hostile. We walked across the street to a hotel called Worts where our bikes were parked. We decided to go into the hotel coffee shop and get coffee and pie and see if any-one from The Mine Shaft followed us. There were some other bikers there and we proceeded to get invited to sit at their table since the place was crowded. We hoped to enlist their aid if the cowboys wanted to mix it up. We didn’t want to stay in town where someone could mess with our bikes at night. A waiter told us about the elk refuge seven miles out of town off 89 on the way to the Tetons. It was a dirt road up to the campground but is well kept he says. The coast seemed clear as we mounted up so we putt out of town. It’s about 11:30 pm when we reach the elk refuge turnoff. We wait a few minutes before turning off 89 to be sure no one is following us. We are on the lookout for cowboys in Pick-up trucks with gun racks. Then we head up the dirt road to the campgrounds. The waiter was right. The dirt road was smooth as glass. All the campsites were taken. We see a couple of trailers parked off the road by themselves. They are not in proper sites. We decide to pull off and park next to them and throw out our bags and deal with the consequences later if there are any. Still no Moon so it’s really dark again. As we are setting up camp the people in one of the trailers next to us invites us over for a night cap. Gerry wants to go to sleep so I go over by myself. We have an interesting political discussion and then the talk turns to a recent grizzly attack in Glacier National Park where a camper was killed. I returned to our camp and the trailer lights go out. It is darker than the inside of a cat. I crawl into my bag and start thinking about bears. There are some here too. Gerry is fast asleep, oblivious. After a while, I put my helmet on hoping it might save me in a bear attack. Maybe it would have been better to deal with the cowboys. Finally go to sleep.
Day 6, June 29. Mileage 4526. Today 181 Total 1353
This morning we awakened to one of the most stunning vistas imaginable. When we went to sleep it was dark and we didn’t have any idea what was around us. We were on the crest of a hill and to the north were the jagged snow-covered peaks of the Grand Tetons. The photo we took of the scene doesn’t do it justice as any of you who have tried to capture the magnificence of such a scene have discovered. Thankfully I was up before Gerry and had a chance to strip off my bear helmet before he saw me and snapped a photo of my cowardliness. Feeling like breakfast we rode back into Jackson for breakfast at Wort’s. On the road again we pass by the Tetons and into Yellowstone. The weather turned ugly with wind and rain all through the park. I cursed myself for removing my front fender for the sake of cool as I would many times on the trip. Hard to believe how little I knew about weather condition’s effects on motorcycle travel. Also, my heavy wool Navy pee coat would get soaked in the rain and weigh about 100 pounds and take eons to dry.
We got newspapers and stuffed them in our pant legs and on our chests to ward off the wet and cold. As we exited the east end of Yellowstone snow was still on the ground next to the road and it was foggy, gloomy, and wet. We were pretty miserable and set standards for other rides in bad conditions where we could say, “Hey, this isn’t as bad as it was in Yellowstone back on the1970 trip!”. Then we hit road construction. The asphalt was completely torn up for over twenty miles. It was just a morass of mud and slime. All you could do was stay on the throttle in a lower gear to keep from losing way and going down. Cars and trucks would try and pass us so we had to go fast enough to keep them back of us. A couple cars and a truck managed to get around us and threw mud and oily grime all over us. This is when I learned I could ride these conditions and still give the finger at the same time. We pulled into Pahaska Teepee at the east entrance of the park. Pahaska Teepee was originally a trading post established by Buffalo Bill Cody. It served as a stage stop and now is a full-on tourist trap for travelers. At the time it looked like heaven as we pulled in to warm up and dry out and un nerve ourselves from our Mr. Toad’s wild ride. The rain continued as we rolled down to lower elevations but at least it warmed up a little. We passed Buffalo Bill Cody Reservoir and dam and rode Hwy 14 into Cody, Wyoming. We found a KOA (Kampground of America) and checked in for $2.50 for a site. After wonderful hot showers we donned our swimming trunks and took all our clothes and jackets to the Kamp laundromat and washed and dried them. We even threw our boots in the dryer for a bit. We stuffed newspaper in them overnight to help absorb the moisture. Back at the site we used my shelter half and a picnic table to make a place that would keep us dry. Dinner was what we could find in the Kamp store. We were too tired to ride into town. It was windy that night but it didn’t rain. If this is how its going to be we needed to get a small tent for bad weather. Plus, at night the mosquitos are chowing down on us. Thankfully tonight the wind kept the skeeters in their hanger. Tomorrow we have to find a $.25 car wash to clean up the bikes. You can’t even tell which is which there’s so much mud and grime on them. Next on the agenda after checking out Cody is the Big Horn mountains and Hwy 14’s Granite Pass at 9000 feet elevation.
Mike Roe’s 1970 Ride Chapter 5
Day 7, June 30. Bike mileage 4707. Today 170 Total 1558
Woke early to sun and no rain or wind! It’s amazing how your mood can be affected by the weather on a motorcycle trip. We have had so much rain, wind, and cold the last few days that we were on a high from the beauty of the pleasant weather. Also, the scenery is so much more vivid in the bright sunlight. We decide to go into Cody and have a deluxe breakfast and then wash the bikes. The best place to eat and feel like the swells is Buffalo Bill’s Irma Hotel. It fairly reeks of the old west and the history of the place makes you feel like you’re a real cowboy and having chow before going out to round up the little dogies or slay buffalo and trade with the Indians. We learn that Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show held try outs in the lot next door for cast members who hoped to join and travel with his troop. The show started in1883 and entertained the world for thirty years. Bill helped found Cody in 1895 and built the Irma in 1902. He named it after his youngest daughter. Customers who stayed at the Irma were Yellowstone sightseers, big game hunters, ranchers, miners, and businessmen. Many famous people were patrons over the years including Presidents and Kings. After a huge frontier breakfast, we waddled out to the bikes parked out front. We find a twenty-five-cent car wash and clean up the bikes. then we return to our camp and load up the bikes. We head out of town on Hwy 14. We pass through the mini town of Emblem and reach Greybull, Wyoming then little Shell, Wyoming. We start up Shell Canyon and into the Big Horn Mountains. We are surprised at how cold it is! This supposed to be summer! Little did your southern California boys know about how the climate in this part of the country could be. We put on our extra clothes again against the cold but it didn’t help much. I’ve been over Granite Pass several times since on other rides and the temps were really nice! We stop at the Big Horn’s Granite Pass to rest and take a pic. The pic here became a tradition for me and I always stop and take a photo of whatever bike I’m on at the summit. It’s interesting that the elevation sign has been changed to a different number. Maybe due to more accurate measuring methods. On this trip the summit was posted as 8950 feet. I include photos of the two conflicting signs at the end of this chapter. We drop down out of the Big Horns and pull into the town of Dayton. We stop here and have lunch. After lunch Gerry decides to stop at the Dayton post office and buy some stamps and mail some postcards home to his parents and his girlfriend, Terri. We ride over there and find it’s on a side street that is gravel, not paved. Here we have the first real scare of the trip. After finishing at the Post Office, we mount up and fire the bikes. Gerry had a soft canvas tool bag bungeed to his handle bars that rested on his headlight. As he started his bike the bag slid over his throttle and locked it fully open. His Triumph pulled a tremendous wheelie, the front tire lifting from the gravel, rocketing him forward out of control. He crashes onto the gravel and he’s not wearing his helmet. It’s strapped on the back of his bike! I rush over to see if he is okay and help right his machine. He’s cussing a blue streak but seems okay. He’s really pissed when he finds his helmet which he had custom painted to match his bike has been carved up when the bike dragged it through the gravel. Thankfully the bike is not damaged seriously so we can continue. The forks were tweaked a little but we muscled them straight again. His handlebar grip and brake lever on the throttle side were scuffed a little too. At least nothing that couldn’t wait to be repaired.
He went over his tank with a fine-tooth comb but didn’t see any scratches. His gloves are roughed up but serviceable. We ride into Sheridan, Wyoming and as we cruise down the main-drag we see the Mint Bar. After the Dayton experience Gerry is ready for a few beers. The Mint Bar turns into the coolest bar I have ever patronized. It is totally old school with rodeo photos and ranch cattle brands all over the place. It has a huge ornate wooden bar with a hand carved back bar like you see in some of the old bars on Whiskey Row in Prescott, Arizona. Also, the obligatory mounted buffalo heads and stags and wild boar. A bonus is real cowboys and Northern Cheyenne Indians. Wahoo! All the patrons are pretty well oiled and soon we are too. A Cheyenne woman spies Gerry and moves in to get a possible free drink. Her girlfriend who’s name I don’t recall starts applying her technique to me. We bought them a beer each to be sociable. Both the cowboys and the Indians kept warning us they could be trouble. Next, they wanted rides on our bikes. We declined and started to discourage their advances. Soon we were being offered sexual favors for a nominal price. More cowboys and Indians started to arrive and our squaws were getting hostile so we decide to split before things got ugly. There was a back door near the restrooms so we went out that way and circled around outside to the bikes in case the squaws made an effort to follow us out and cause us a delay. We ride out of Sheridan after a great time at the Mint. We are pretty toasted after all the beers. We jump on a finished portion of the new I 90 interstate and ride until it ends at Hwy 87 about eight miles out of town. After thirteen miles of 87, I 90 starts up again and takes us into Buffalo, Wyoming. We find a public park in town and decide to camp for the night.
Day 8, July 1. Bike Mileage 4913. Today 261 Total 1830
We are thrilled that we didn’t get rousted by the police last night. We didn’t see any no camping signs in the park so we didn’t think we broke any local ordinances. We weren’t the only ones as it turns out. Other people, hippies, freaks, etc. also spent the night. As we pass through the smaller towns, we’ve noticed city parks loaded with hippies and freaks hanging out, smoking dope, playing their bongo drums, congas, and guitars. When we stopped to check it out the smell of pot and incense were so strong you could get high just breathing the fumes. We first noticed this at the city park in Jackson Hole. The authorities seem to turn a blind eye to all this and even an occasional sex act under a blanket goes without concern. The flower children are mellow and we never saw any bad vibes or open hostility. The most discord we witnessed was when a guy’s girl was being passed around (willingly) to some other guys and he was complaining. We were usually accepted into the happenings and offered friendship, free dope, and crash pads at various homes or farms. We declined their generosity because as school teachers we couldn’t afford to get busted with dope. We mounted up and headed for Gillette, Wyoming. We wanted to avoid the section of interstate that ran to Gillette so we took Hwy. 16/14 through Ucross and Spotted Horse. In Gillette we spy an A&W and pull in for Papa burgers and a shake. Really yummy! We get to the famous Black Hills of South Dakota passing through Custer to Rapid City. At that time, we knew nothing of Sturgis and the Black Hills Rally so we didn’t even go into Sturgis or ride any of the famous Black Hills’ roads. We were too early for the rally anyway. We did see Mount Rushmore. We found the Rapid City KOA campground and signed in.
We were told the KOA was full but we could throw our bags out next to the RV dumping station for free if we didn’t mind the smell. We’re Bikers, right? So, what could be the problem? Jon Kromroy would have been proud! At the camp a girl asked us if we just got out of prison. We wondered why she asked until we noted we were both wearing jeans and blue work shirts, needed shaves and our hair washed. Hoped she didn’t also suspect we were cell block butt buddies.
Day 9, July 2. Bike Mileage 5175. Today 156 Total 1986
The manager of the Rapid City KOA, a woman who Gerry thinks is related to Adolf Hitler, corners us in the Kampstore while we are buying milk for our Instant Breakfast. She orders us not to go in the pool. I guess she thinks we are too grubby and unkempt to go in and possibly pollute the water. Maybe after letting us stay for free at the dump station, we weren’t eligible for the fringe benefits. We weren’t planning to go swimming anyway as our bikes were packed and ready to go. Eva Braun was so nasty about it we finally told her, f-you very much! and blasted out making as much noise and dust as we could. We should have been more polite I guess since she gave us a free night to camp. We stop to gas-up at a station in town. Gerry drained the fuel hose on the ground before starting to fill his tank so the gas in the hose wouldn’t spill all over his nice paint and the station attendant went ape shit. The old codger probably thought we were going to set the place on fire! We exit Rapid City and make time on I 90. We have been seeing signs for Wall Drug for 700 miles so we are curious and want to check it out. I 90 ends about twelve miles short of Wall, South Dakota and we are on Hwy.16 again. Wall Drug was more than we anticipated. It reminded me of California’s early Knott’s Berry Farm. Certainly, more than just the drug store. We are right next to the Badlands National Monument so we tour that on Alt. Hwy 16. Pretty neat. Like riding on the Moon with a good road. Get back to I 90 and run until it quits again at Kadoka, SD. Back on Hwy 16 again and parallel the I 90 which is under construction. We stop in Presho, SD at another KOA. We set up camp (throw out our bags) and head for the showers. Back at our campsite we meet four guys who have ridden out from New York City on Suzuki’s and Hondas. These guys are stereotypical New Yorkers. They have the look, the attitude, the accent, if you turned to New Yorker in the dictionary these guys would be the example picture. They and their bikes appear grungy and in need of a good washing. I don’t think they have washed anything since they left NY. They are great guys, smart, funny, attending college. They are off for the summer like us. They remind us of a friend of ours back home, Larry, who is also from New York so we refer to them as the Four Larrys, ever since. However, our Larry back home bathes regularly. They tell us about a place called Albert Lea, Minnesota and suggest we spend some time there. Of course the Four Larrys had pot and proceeded to get loaded around the campfire as we all cooked marshmallows and hotdogs from the Kampstore using borrowed straightened out coat hangers. Gerry and I stayed with our beer for the previously stated reasons and declined the Mary Jane. It rained during the night and got some of our stuff wet again. Used the Kamp dryers in the morning and all was good.
Day 10, July 3. Bike Mileage 5331. Today165 Total 2151
Went to breakfast with the Four Larrys. Rain has stopped and another pretty morning. It seems the drill is nice sunny cloudless mornings and then some rain in the afternoon or evening. Bikes are running well and we seem to be getting almost the same gas mileage on both bikes, around 43 to 46 MPG. Amazing that we can get that or better today on modern bikes which have four times the engine displacement as our little 450’s and 500’s. We say goodbye to the Larrys and we all set off in opposite directions, them west, and us east. We head for Sioux Falls, SD to find a bike shop so we can change oil, adjust chains again, and I need a new headlight. A cop pulls me over in Chamberlain, SD and says my brake light appears to be on all the time. On inspection it seems I’ve already adjusted my chain so far back that it has pulled the rear brake cable tight (no hydraulic lines back then) thus activating the brake light switch. I adjust the brake cable and I’m good to go. We reach Sioux Falls and find a Triumph shop. While Gerry was leaning over his bike with his weight on the seat his kickstand breaks off the frame and his bike falls over on the curb. This punches a small hole in his oil tank. What to do? The shop says they have a used tank off of a wrecked Triumph Bonneville and it will fit his bike. We buy the tank and R&R the tanks in the street. Meanwhile, I put in a new headlight, change oil and filter, and adjust my chain but I have to remove a link or two to shorten it enough. Now I have my full adjustment back so I can adjust it again out on the road. I left on the trip with a new chain and sprockets and in just 2100 miles its stretched like a Kromroy-dollar and the sprockets are showing slight wear. We have been oiling the chains regularly so I’m concerned. Can we make the trip without new chains and sprockets? The shop guys were cool and welded up Gerry’s kickstand so it will work, at least for a while. After working on the bikes, we went to a local high school track and ran two miles. Failed to record where we camped for the night but probably a park or another KOA. Next, Chapter 6, will find us heading for Albert Lea, MN and our eventful July 4th celebrations. Also, you will meet Albert Lea’s most noted biker, “Twanger”.
Mike Roe’s 1970 Ride Chapter 6
Day 11, Saturday, July 4. Mileage 5496. Today 200 Total 2351
Guess we were tired as we slept twelve hours last night. Usually, can’t sleep late as various noises and activities of fellow human beings wake us early and if we are in a public park or farm field we want to clear out before the authorities show up. While at breakfast at a local cafe in Sioux Falls, we run into a guy from Sheridan, Wyoming. We told him we had enjoyed the Mint Bar while we were there. He is a regular at the bar and tells us some history of the bar and some fun exploits that have happened there. It can be a raucous place on the hot nights. He tells us the Mint opened in 1907. The unusual twisted red cedar decor and a back bar made of gnarled pine burls lends to the atmosphere. Thousands of cedar shingles featuring local ranch brands are all authentic. The western rodeo photos, cowboy paraphernalia, and American game trophies, we mentioned in chapter 5. Later, in 1985 the television movie “Wild Horses” starring Kenny Rogers, Ben Johnson, and Pam Dawber was filmed there. The Mint front window is the one Kenny Rogers was thrown out of in a fight scene.
After chow we head for Albert Lea, MN as recommended by the Four Larrys, we met in Presho, SD. We jump on I90 out of Sioux Falls until it quits at Adrian, MN. Then its Hwy.16 through Worthington, Fairmont, Blue Earth, and finally reach Albert Lea. Back then I35 south from Minneapolis/St Paul didn’t quite reach Albert Lea or extend south to Des Moines.
Only forty-six miles of I35 stretched north out of Des Moines so Albert Lea retained its isolation from the Super Slab. Being the 4th-of-July, the town was bustling with activity getting ready for the festivities celebrating the birth of the nation. I wonder what Tom Fabio was doing for Independence Day in St Paul in 1970?
Albert Lea was settled in 1855 and became a city in 1878. It was named after Albert Miller Lea who was a surveyor for the United States Dragoons. He surveyed southern Minnesota and northern Iowa in 1835. His scout was Nathan Boone, son of Daniel Boone. In 1970 the population was19,418. Population has steadily dropped since then and in 2010 was listed as18,016. Albert Lea is located near three lakes and is nicknamed “The Land Between the Lakes”. Some famous people from her are Eddie Cockran, who wrote and sang the 50’s hit “Summertime Blues’, Marian Ross from “Happy Days”, and Richard Carlson star of the horror flick “Creature from the Black Lagoon” made in 1954.
Gerry and I cruise down the main drag looking over the town. It has a substantial downtown area. We spot a long row of bikes parked outside a bar and a few of their owners standing around talking. We pull over and park with them. Some cops pull up and start checking what’s up. There were at least twenty bikes at the curb. The rest of the bikers came out of the bar and everyone stood around the two cops chatting them up and exchanging hellos. The cops were friendly, asked a few questions. They warned against drinking too much on the Holiday and getting into trouble. Everyone knew each other and appeared on good terms. The cops were satisfied that all was well and took off. These bikers were not 1%ers. Just regular guys riding a variety of brands of bikes. We start to introduce ourselves and meet the apparent “leader of the pack”, Twanger. Twanger was an interesting guy. He has really long hair and rides, get this, a ridged Yamaha. He accomplished this by removing the rear shocks and replacing them with home-made struts that lowered the rear of the bike and removed any suspension whatsoever making it a hard tail. He also managed to attach a twisted chrome fork springer front end that appeared to be at least ten inches over stock. We cruise around town with the group and they invite us to barn party out of town this evening. Supposed to be home-made fireworks, food, beer, and some unattached local chicks. Hot Damn! They tell us how to get to the party and it seems simple enough so we don’t write it down. Starts at six. Be there or be square! We go on our way to get some late lunch and gas up. Since we showered this morning and have on clean clothes, we try to find the party as is. Besides, none of the other biker guys looked too spiffy when we met them. Plus, it was a barn party. Unfortunately, Gerry’s bib overalls were dirty and he couldn’t wear them. We try to find the party but we strike out. We head back to town thinking aloud that the party invite might have been a joke played on us. We go back to the bar where we met the biker guys hoping someone there can set us straight.
No luck but we do meet some other kids who offer a night’s lodging at someone’s crash pad. We decline the offer as the host and hostess appear to be pot heads. Everyone in town seems to have a lot of grass. We need a place to sleep so we decide on the lawn of a Holiday Inn. The Inn is set back quite a distance from the street and there are trees and shrubs to help hide us from view. We leave the bikes parked at the curb. We get to sleep quite late as we had caroused most of the night.
I went back to Albert Lea in 1999. I stopped in Bergdale Harley Davidson, to buy a tee shirt. I asked about “Twanger”. They knew him. They told me he supposedly had a motorcycle shop in Illinois but came into Albert Lea occasionally.
Day 12, Sunday July 5. Mileage 5696. Today 125 Total 2476
Woke after three or four hours sleep and had terrible hangovers. Holiday Inn didn’t notice us on their lawn or didn’t care so we didn’t get rousted. We ride to breakfast and people there are really gawking at us and our bikes. We look a little rough, I guess. The people we talk to are intrigued by our trip. The bikes loaded with our gear and our California plates amaze a lot of people at how far we are from home. Husbands that are in a car with a wife and kids look enviously at us and convey through words or the look on their face that they wish they were us. Even the wives flirt and bat their eye lashes at us when hubby isn’t watching. Everyone wants to have freedom and adventure and so many never have either. What frosts them is when they ask us where we are going and we answer with that famous line from the 1969 “Then Came Bronson” TV movie. “Anywhere I end up, I guess”. They really scratch their heads when they find out we are school teachers. Probably glad their little urchins aren’t in our class! Everyone is friendly and are all smiles. We did get some bad vibes in a cafe back in South Dakota. A black guy was sitting alone in a booth and invited us to sit with him. He was traveling too and we all talked about our experiences. Some other patrons were shooting dirty looks at us and making comments we couldn’t quite hear. We were getting some definite ” Let’s kill those damn Yankees and string up that n_____!” looks. We were surprised that that sentiment occurs this far north of the Mason Dixon line. After we ate, we cut out quickly to avoid any unpleasantness. We apologized to our black lunch partner for the rudeness of our white brothers. Our friend was hitch hiking so we offered him a ride to the next town but he declined. Good thing as we had little room for him with all our gear.
We hope to reach La Cross, WI by tonight. A couple of miles out of Albert Lea we hop on I90 and roll 36 miles until we reach Dexter, MN. In some little town my bike falls over and breaks off my clutch lever again! I use my spare and we get going again. We then ride Hwy 16 into La Crescent. La Crescent is on the west bank of the Mississippi across the river from La Cross which is on the Wisconsin side. We find the La Crescent Bridgestone motorcycle shop which also sells Hondas. I get a spare clutch lever and pick up a block of wood off the ground to put under my kickstand so my bike won’t fall over so easily. While in the shop I meet a cute sales girl and put on a move. I manage to arrange a date with her and a blind date for Gerry to go to a drive-in movie in her car. We are to meet them at closing time at the shop. We can leave our bikes in the shop parking lot chained to a light pole. I can’t remember the name of the movies we saw but a good time was had by all. One was “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” with Newman and Redford. The girls had grass and we brought beer. We abandoned our pot policy and partook of both. After all, we determined, it would have made us look like geeks or possible narcs and put a damper on the festivities, not to mention appearing ungrateful. The only downer for me was that Gerry’s blind date was a lot cuter than mine. A lot!
Day 13 Monday, July 6. Mileage 5821. Today 170 Total 2646
We cross over the “Mighty Mississip” into La Cross, WI. Last night’s dates offered to let us stay at their places if we wanted to hang out in La crescent for a while but we decided not to. The lure of the road is stronger than their charms, I guess. We are tired of the mosquitos and trying to sleep in the rain so we stop in Richland Center, WI on Hwy.14 at a gas station that has some sporting goods. We find a two-man pup tent for $19.95. We buy it. Now we are traveling in style! We can’t wait to try it out. A cop pulls us over as we leave town. He asks us a few questions and we show him our licenses. He allows us to proceed. We’ve only been stopped three times so far and received no citations. We ride mostly at or under the limit so we have given no cause. We ride Hwy 14 into Madison, WI and head for the university. We plan to try and use the university running track, weight room for a workout, and then get a shower. We cruise the streets around the campus and are amazed at the area. Fraternity Row and other houses occupied by students are mostly large old Victorian mansion types on narrow residential streets lined by trees. Stoned out freaks (students) are hanging out on the porches wearing long hair, beads, and various forms of hippy dress. Some appear to be smoking joints in plain view. Wonder what our Professor John Marshall would think of this place? I talked to John about it and he was well aware of the nature of University of Wisconsin, Madison. It’s still one of the most liberal colleges in the country even today. We get our workout and a shower. Just as Gerry predicted no one at the college ever asked who we were or what we were doing on campus. They would have freaked if they knew we were Goldwater Republicans!
We mount up and head out. Grab dinner at a McDonalds. We proceed to Marshall, WI, and find a state park to camp in. Another big scare (#2) occurs when we attempt to turn left across the highway into the park. Its dark now. We have no turn signals and hand signals are necessary. I was in front of Gerry and a car was coming up behind him. Maybe Gerry blocked the car’s view of my hand signal. We are slowing as I pulled out of the lane to cross the oncoming lane. Doesn’t he see our brake lights are on? The car behind Gerry stomps on the gas and pulls out to pass us both. The car then realizes that I am crossing over, and as he nears me, he slams on his brakes and skids to a stop just before impact. I roll safely into the entrance of the park unscathed but shook up. Thought I was a goner. The car’s skid marks were plainly visible in the morning. I took a photo of them and the pic appears at the end of this chapter. We used our new tent for the first time. Really nice.
In Chapter 7 we head for Milwaukee and the eventful crossing of Lake Michigan on the Muskegon Ferry.
Mike Roe’s 1970 Ride Chapter 7
Day 14, Tuesday July 7. Mileage 5991. Today 60 Total 2706
We woke up early and got breakfast in Marshall, Wisconsin. After my brush with death last night, I felt really lucky to get to have a good meal still here on earth. We mount up and head for Milwaukee. It’s not far so we will have enough time to check it out. We might go on a brewery tour and score some free suds. Maybe have time to visit the Harley Davidson factory on Juneau Avenue. I find myself singing the Blatz beer jingle over and over until Gerry begs me to stop. I’m sure you remember it since it was on TV constantly back in the 50’s. “I’m from Milwaukee and I ought to know, Its Blatz, Blatz, Blatz beer wherever you go !!!” and so forth.
We cruise into Beer Town on route 18 through Jefferson and Waukesha. We end up down in the poorer part of Milwaukee. The ghetto actually. We need to get directions to the Muskegan ferry so we can cross Lake Michigan. We don’t know the ferry schedule so we decide to go to the ferry terminal before we do anything else and find out. On the way over there my sissy bar breaks and I will need to fix it somehow. I determine the way to go is to have Gerry ride to a bicycle shop and get me a new one. While he is gone, I unload my gear and remove the broken sissy bar.
As I work a group of young black kids starts to gather to see what I’m doing. I determine I can repair the old sissy bar if I had a hack saw and a couple of small hose clamps. The kids come to my rescue by bringing me a hacksaw and even some used hose clamps. To show my appreciation I send a couple of the kids to the corner market to buy some soft drinks and everyone’s choice of candy bar. Just as I am finishing up the job, Gerry shows up with a new sissy bar! What will I do with it now that I don’t need it? Gerry is a little pissed because he rode all over town to find the bicycle shop for nothing. One of the kids was riding a completely trashed Stingray bike that the new sissy bar would fit. I offered him the sissy bar for his bike and he seemed really pleased. He said his older brother would put it on for him.
We locate the terminal and find that a ferry crosses late tonight and arrives in Muskegan in the morning. We buy our tickets and decide not to do any of our planned Milwaukee activities. We lost too much time fixing my bike and are tired of riding around town. We get a six pack of Blatz and a bag of Pretzels and relax in a park area until dinnertime. We are really dirty and grubby so we decide to go to the YMCA to shower. Next, we do our laundry. We grab some dinner near the terminal. We board the ferry around midnight and the crew directs us to where we are to park. The motorcycle area has hold down rings right in the deck plates. The crewmen quickly strap down our sleds and we are free to explore the ship. And I mean SHIP!
The SS Badger is a coal fired steamship 410 feet long and 6650 tons. Put in service in 1953 it is the largest car ferry to sail Lake Michigan. It is 59 feet wide and seven stories high. It was built to handle railroad freight cars too. The SS Badger also has forty first rate staterooms for passengers. The ship sailed for the last time in November of 1990 ending a century of auto and railroad car service on Lake Michigan.
In 1991 entrepreneur Charles Conrad reinvented the Badger and it continues today to provide trips for leisure passengers and their vehicles. It now sails daily from mid-May through mid-October. In 1997 the Badger became a registered Michigan and Wisconsin Historic Site. 2002 brought the title of “Ship of the Year” by the Steamship Historical Society of America. 2009 found the SS Badger placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the US Department of the Interior. It now does the sixty-mile crossing in a four-hour cruise at an average speed of 18 mph. It can carry 600 passengers and 180 autos, RVs, motorcycles, and commercial trucks. It makes 450 crossings per year.
Needless to say we didn’t reserve a stateroom but found benches on the top deck that passengers sat in during the day. People were allowed to sleep on deck out in the open too. We had brought our sleeping bags up from the bikes and found two unclaimed benches and racked out in our clothes. That night as we sailed across Lake Michigan a storm came up. I had heard that the Great Lakes could be as turbulent as the ocean but I wasn’t prepared for the violence the storm dealt our ship for most of the night. I was sure glad we were on a large ship because it was really rockin’ and rollin’. I have to admit I was a little nervous.
Some passengers appeared really frightened and were out of their staterooms milling around on deck. Some told us they were afraid to be below decks in case the ship rolled over. We were concerned about the bikes breaking loose but when we went down to them in the morning, they were nice and snug in their restraints.
Day 15, Wednesday July 8. Mileage 6051. Today 264 Total 2970
We roll off the Badger and find a cafe right at the end of the dock, thankfully on terra-firma. It is raining so we hope to wait it out while we have breakfast. We meet a guy named John Wolfe who just finished traveling around the world. He tells us about some of his adventures and we spend a pleasant morning swapping yarns. The rain stops and we head out. We run Hwy. 46 to Cedar Springs, Michigan. Then take Hwy. 57 north to 46 again and then into Saginaw where it starts raining cats and dogs. Out on the road again we are getting soaked so we pull into an auto wrecking yard and the owner lets us come into the office to dry out. We had to leave when the owner closed for the night. We stop in Kingston, MI and it had a laundromat. We strip down to our swim suits which we started wearing under our jeans for just such occasions and threw all our clothes and sleeping bags into the dryers. We hung around until the rain stopped. We enjoyed talking to the locals who came in to wash their clothes and made some new friends. As we left town Gerry decides he wants to call his girlfriend back home. He spots a phone booth and starts slowing to turn left into the parking lot. He almost gets creamed from behind by a truck in a similar situation to the one I had back in Marshall WI. The incident gave us both a fright and we each decided to call our girls in case we might not ever see them again. Continue to Sandusky and then south on 19 to Emmett. Turn east on Hwy. 21 into St. Clair, MI which is where Gerry’s uncle Vern and aunt Mattie have a farm. We plan to visit them and hang out for a couple of days. We arrive in St. Clair late, around 11:00 PM. We asked about where to stay for the night. We are directed to a fleabag joint called Murphy’s Hotel. $3.00 a night with bath at the end of the hall. It was closed. We then inquired at the State Police Station. They referred us to a vacant lot by the St. Clair River.
Instead, we found a nice spot on another street that dead ended on the river. We decided to not pitch the tent as it might attract negative attention. Slept okay and weren’t rousted. The sound of the flowing river lulled us to sleep.
Day 16, Thursday July 9. Mileage 6315. Today 10 Total 2980
We gorge at a local restaurant and then call uncle Vern. He says to come on over, we park the sleds and promptly get a tour of the farm. Keeps raining off and on. Mostly on. We eat huge farm meals morning noon and night. The way it works is breakfast is served around 5:00 AM. Vern and Mattie and all the farm help sit down together and scarf. Midwestern farm diet demands tons of farm grown eggs, potatoes, bacon, biscuits and gravy, pancakes, homemade bread for toast, home-made fruit preserves served out of Bell canning jars, gallons of coffee, and even an apple pie! After the morning farm work is done the crew returns for “dinner” which is at around noon. Mind you, Mattie started preparing “dinner” immediately following cleaning up from breakfast. The large kitchen table was groaning and creaking from the weight of “dinner”. The fare for this meal is sandwiches, potato salad, coleslaw, hardboiled eggs, turkey drumsticks and more pie. As soon as this is cleared Mattie starts on “supper” which is served after all the days farm work is done. Fried chicken, ham, steak, meatloaf, are typical main courses for “supper”. Add mashed potatoes and gravy, a vegetable, cranberry sauce, salad, and of course more pie. This farm wife spends most of every day preparing meals for the family and the help. She also has the laundry and mending to do plus various other tasks. When she has free-time she quilts or reads or cans preserves. These people aren’t young! We don’t think we could keep up with them.
We sleep on the floor and are out for the night thanking our stars we aren’t farm boys.
Day 17, Friday July 10. Mileage 6325. Today 112 Total 3092
Weather still poor. Raining again. We watch some TV after the huge breakfast, and pace the floors. We are getting anxious to get going since we are bored with farm life, and feeling guilty about laying around all day and not doing any work. We also fear we will be invited to help out in some way and as city boys would be averse to that. After “dinner” the weather seems to be clearing so we announce that we are pulling out. We pack up and take a pic or two and say our goodbyes. We thank Vern and Mattie profusely for their welcome to us. Of course, we vow to return someday and stay longer. We feel guilty about bailing so soon but as Peter Fonda’s character, Wyatt, said in “Easy Rider”, “I just gotta go!”
We had decided to ride up into Canada after this so we rode through Port Huron (pronounced Port Urine by the locals) to Sarnia which is the border crossing into Ontario. Sarnia is in Canada just across the St. Clair River which flows north out of Lake St. Clair into Lake Huron, one of the Great Lakes. In those days you didn’t need a passport to cross into Canada, just a driver’s license if you were an American citizen. As we pull up to the border-guard, he asks us a few questions like why we are coming to Canada and where we plan to visit and how long we plan to stay etc.
All seems cool and we get ready to pull away and then he tells us to pull over to the inspection area. A pair of border-guards approach, and tell us to start spreading all our gear out on the ground. They make us expose everything we have, even our toiletries like toothpaste and deodorant. They were probably suspicious since everyone knows real bikers don’t wear deodorant! They went through all our tools, our books, our trip journal, and even made us remove our seats. They went through all our clothes, even the pockets of our packed clothes. They made us remove our headlights, looked under our fenders and looked into our gas tanks with a flashlight. They really checked out my spare gas can. Next was our helmet lining and the contents of our wallets. Then they thanked us and welcomed us to Canada and left us to pack up all our stuff and reassemble our bikes. I didn’t think they knew any Spanish slang so I smiled and said, “Thank you putos” and a couple of other things I don’t remember.
They didn’t respond and I got away with it.
It was only forty-seven miles to a town called Grand Bend, Ontario so we decided to ride there and try some Canadian food. We ride Hwy.7 to Hwy. 21 and head north. Pass through Port Franks and then reach Grand Bend. Grand Bend turns out to be a great place. It’s a resort town situated right on Lake Huron. It has a main drag that runs down to the lake and has all kinds of cafes, shops, beer gardens, burger stands, cotton candy, souvenir schlock, and even an amusement park with carnival rides, a fun house, and best of all, bumper cars! We cruise the drag to see the best place to park the bikes so we’re nearest the action. The place is jumping and seems mostly young college age kids off for vacation. As we sit on our bikes a Canuck comes up and starts asking us about our trip. He informs us the town is full up but we can stay at a rented cottage with him and his friends if we want. We agree and offer to pay our share but he says no problem. We follow him over to a roomy cottage and park the bikes there. We don’t unload our gear because we want to be able to cut out if things get weird or the other guys aren’t wanting strangers moving in. We walk back to the main drag and find a beer garden and start to imbibe. So glad we came here! All kinds of cute girls! Really a neat way to spend our first day in Canada. The Canucks seem really friendly. The weather remains overcast and cloudy. Rain threatening again.
We meet the other guys who are staying at the cottage. They are friendly and are fine with us staying with them. Again, we offer to pay our way but they decline. They say we can buy some rounds at a local pub called The Colonial instead. We all go to The Colonial and find that Canadians can really drink! This was a pretty large place and was wall to wall drinkers. Soon everyone in the place was shit faced. They were singing drinking songs, dancing, and sometimes going out back to puke. Then they would be back to start up again! It was the largest collection of drunks I’ve been around. Gerry and I hustled a couple of gals who said they wanted to travel with us. We fooled around with them until the pub closed and then they backed out on going with us. This place was out of control. Guys were going around grabbing the girls’ behinds and even boobs. It was standing room only, and everyone was cheek to jowl so the guys would grab an ass and then just slide on into the crowd and the drunk girl wouldn’t even know who did it. Some girls were leaning up against a baby grand piano with their male companions at their side. The girls all wore really short skirts as was the fashion at the time and the guys were hugging and squeezing the girls and rubbing the gal’s behinds. A guy near us accepted a dare from his friends to crawl under the piano and look up the girl’s dresses and skirts and report if they were wearing any laundry or not.
While under the piano he came to realize that so concealed he could reach up and pet a few behinds himself and the victims would think that it was her boyfriend doing the act! It also seemed that once pretty drunk the guys who were really” pissed-up”, as the Canadians called it, would want to start fights either right there in the pub or out back in the parking lot. We got challenged a couple of times but managed to get out of it by cracking wise and buying a few beers and laughing it off. Later, when we headed back to the cottage, sure enough, there were a few fights going on in the parking lot. It seemed almost a sport with these guys.
Day 18, Saturday July 11. Mileage 6325. Today 0 Total 3092
What hangovers we have today! Feel like I’ve been run over by a semi. One of the guys here at the cottage is passing out Alka Seltzers, thank God. Raining again so we sleep in a while. Decide to go down to main street and walk around. That night we returned to The Colonial and got “pissed up” again. It was the same as last night but since it is Saturday night it was even more crowded and even more wild. More fights than usual. We left early as some guy thought Gerry was trying to steal his girl and wanted to go to the parking lot. Gerry offered to meet the guy in the parking lot out back and settle scores. When Toughy left for out back, we then left by the front door and headed for the cottage. We were beginning to fear the Ontario Provincial Police might bust the place and as foreigners we might get kicked out of the country. We plan to leave town tomorrow before we get in a jam.
In Chapter 8, Gerry and I escape from Grand Bend and head for North Bay, Ontario, Canada. We’ll introduce you to the prolific “Shad Fly” and its effect on human life. You’ll also be invited to a North Bay topless bar that featured a 345 lb. topless dancer. Learn what she could do with her boobs!
Mike Roe’s 1970 Ride Chapter 8
Day 19, Sunday, July 12. Mileage 6437. Today 402 Total 3494
We are relieved to motor out of Grand Bend, Ontario Canada. After our drunken sprees at the Colonial Pub and all the craziness of our party hearty Canadian compatriots we consider ourselves lucky not to have been arrested by the Ontario Provincial Police and deported back to the USA. After breakfast we decide to ride to Lake Muskoka, Ontario which is north of us. We were told it is a beautiful area and has many campgrounds to choose from. Since we are in Canada, we decide not to try to set up camp in unauthorized places such as vacant lots, public parks, and on private property so as to not run afoul of the law. We ride Hwy. 21 north along Lake Huron passing through Goderich and Southampton. After Southampton, named after the original Southampton, England where the Pilgrims departed for America on the Mayflower in 1620, Hwy. 21 bends inland away from Lake Huron. Our map indicates that Hwy. 6 runs north out to Georgian Bay National Park at the tip of a peninsula, about sixty-two miles away. We decide to ride out there and check it out and then return back to Hwy. 21. The peninsula runs north with Lake Huron on one side and Georgian Bay on the other. After a beautiful ride out to the town of Tobernory on Cape Hurd we are glad we made the effort. A ferry ride to Manitoulin Island is running and we are tempted to take it and head to Sudbury but decide not to.
We return to Hwy. 21 and head for the Muskoka Lake area as we originally planned. Hwy. 21 becomes 26 until we nearly reach Barrie, Ontario on Lake Simcoe. We head north from there on Hwy. 11 through Orillia, Washago, and Gravenhurst. We ask for information on where to camp and we ride over to the Lake and find the spot. We find a little store and get some grub to make dinner back at camp. Then we put up our tent and settle in. We dine on hotdogs and beef stew from a can supplemented with a bag of Fritos and a couple of beers. Life is sweet! Sleep well.
Day 20, Monday July 13. Mileage 6839. Today 275 Total 3769
After breakfast we try to bag some rays down at the lake but the sun wouldn’t come out. Decided to jog a couple of miles instead. We sent postcards to our girls to let them know we were still thinking of them. Gerry’s Teri is back home in California and my Sandy is in her home state of Indiana working for the summer at Owens Illinois Glass making beer and pop bottles. She is living at home with her mom in Marion and one of her four sisters. Gerry and I plan to drop by and visit her on our way home. I called my dad who is following the progress of our trip at home. He has a huge map on the wall of his office at work and he’s been tracing our route on it and using map pins to denote important stops. We update him weekly about our travels sparing him the more-grizzly details of our exploits (the Colonial Pub for example). Mom died from cancer a couple of years ago (1968) so she needn’t be sheltered from the base behavior of her only child. We continue on Hwy. 11 to North Bay, Ontario which is on the shore of Lake Nipissing! What fun we had with that! Lake Nipissing is a large lake nearly forty miles long and lies east to west. The town of Callender is the birthplace of the famous Dionne quintuplets and is only three miles away. They were born before the use of fertilization drugs that made such feats more common. Remember “Octomom” of a few years ago? When we pull into North Bay, we witness a phenomenon that we are glad doesn’t happen in Southern California. The town has been invaded by what the locals call “shad flies”! These are commonly called mayflies in the states. They are fairly large flying insects that fill the air and are writhing and fornicating all over the ground. They cover everything like a black blanket and crack and pop as you walk on them. it is impossible to go anywhere without treading on them. Vehicle accidents can happen as the cars and bikes slide on the slippery goo of the mashed bugs. The stores and shops try to keep their doors closed so the little beggars can’t get inside. People wear hats or scarves to keep them out of their hair. We manage not to go down and park under a market overhang and wonder what we should do. Then it starts raining! What a mess! We learn from a local that the swarms last only for twenty-four hours in an infested area. They fornicate with the females and then the males die. They should be gone tomorrow. As we are waiting out the shad flies and the rain two Canucks named Roy and Bob start to chat with us. They offer to let us stay at their place while we are in town. They felt sorry for us with the flies, rain, and all, we guess. We follow them over to their cottage, which wasn’t far, being careful of the slimy bug rug on the pavement. The key is no fast stops or starts and don’t lean your bike over any more than you have to, to make a turn. Stay away from other vehicles as much as possible. We reach Roy and Bob’s safely and park the bikes. We can’t believe what a break this is. We’d need a motel if Roy and Bob hadn’t come to our rescue. We spent the evening getting acquainted and listening to our host’s terrific music album collection. They even fed us dinner!
Canadians back in 1970 seemed fascinated by Southern Californians and Americans in general. They call Gerry and me “the Yanks”. Rains all night.
Day 21, Tuesday, July 14. Mileage 7101. Today 0 Total 3769
Woke up about 11:00 AM and went to breakfast with Roy and Bob. They are from Toronto and have a summer job here in North Bay. They were hired by a cable television company. Their work consists of trying to identify residents who are cable pirates, people who are illegally hooked up to the cable and not paying for it. Dum-de-dum-dum! At the restaurant we meet a cute waitress and try to get her to come to a party that Roy and Bob invented to entertain their girlfriends. We ask her to bring her friends so Gerry and I might get to pick out the cutest ones. The waitress says, “Maybe”. We aren’t hoping for much as we’ve been disappointed many times before. After chow we drop Gerry’s boots off to be re-soled at a shoe repair shop. We are getting one day service since we are on the road. We go back to the cottage and then go to work with Roy and Bob. They have telephone pole climbing gear and they let us try it out. The gear consists of foot spikes that you strap around your lower legs and a leather belt you wear around your waist that has a strap attached that you wrap with slack around the pole. I’m sure most of you have seen linemen scurry up a pole using this gear. It takes some practice as you have to flip the waist strap up the pole as you dig the foot spikes that are located at the insteps of your feet into the pole. As you do this you have to lean back away from the pole and let the leather pole strap keep you from sliding down the pole or falling to the ground. I let Gerry go first and he got the knack of it fairly quickly and got halfway up a pole before coming down. Coming down is harder than going up. The tendency is to not want to lean away from the pole and depend on the strap to hold you but if you try to hug the pole you’ll be in trouble. If your foot spikes break loose, you are also in a jam. Only your foot spikes touch the pole itself. Your hands only touch the waist strap as you flip it up the pole. I gave it a try but didn’t do so well. I went up a few feet but couldn’t get the hang of it as well as Gerry. I really don’t like heights anyway. Roy and Bob dropped us off at a laundromat so we can do our clothes. That evening Roy and Bob’s girlfriends came over for the party that turns out was just the six of us. Our prospects didn’t show up so Gerry and I decide to walk into town so as to not cramp Roy and Bob’s style. Of course, it’s raining again, but so what. As we’re sloshing along at the side of the road a Volkswagen Bug pulls up alongside of us with three cute girls inside. They roll down their window and start asking us where we are going. It’s raining pretty hard now so we ask for a ride into town. They say they can’t and drive away. We continue walking and to our surprise they hang a U and come back! Gerr and I pile into the back seat while all three girls are in the front. With the heater on, and the windows up, the fragrance from these freshly scrubbed young gals and their perfume fill the small interior of the VW. It was really intoxicating and we would have ridden all night with them if we could. One was wearing Shalimar, my favorite, at the time, and it really was wonderful. One of the girls, Mary, who was also the cutest, took an obvious shine to Gerry and invited us both over to her parent’s cottage on Trout Lake tomorrow for lunch. It seems as soon as people learn we are Yanks from the magical California they think we are movie stars. These girls are in high school! Dirty old men need love too! They drove us all over town pointing out the sights.
The gals were really swell. After a while, they dropped us off in town and we thanked them and promised to ride over to Trout Lake to visit Mary tomorrow. We loved the way the girls said the Canadian “ehh” at the end of sentences. After the VW was out of sight, we walked over to a topless bar we noticed while driving around town. It featured a 345-pound topless dancer! We had to see that! Turns out she put on a Hell of a show and was worth the cover charge and a couple of beers. Her main gimmick was to place her more than ample breasts under her arms so that they were facing backwards towards you when her back was to the audience. Unbelievable! At the topless bar we hustled two birds named Anne and Karen. We danced and downed more suds with them. We walked Anne home. We arranged dates with them for tomorrow night but not sure what activity to do with them. We walked home in the rain and got soaked. At least the shad flies are gone and the dead ones have been swept up. When we get to the cottage Roy and Bob tell us the girls from the breakfast house showed up after all and they were pissed we weren’t there. We think the guys are lying just to mess us up. We aren’t sorry since we probably had a better time going into town. Tired, so we hit the sack.
In Chapter 9 you’ll find out how Gerry’s visit to high schooler, Mary, at her parent’s cottage on Trout Lake goes. What will their reaction be if they find out sweet Mary is entertaining a twenty-six year-old cycle bum. One that spent part of the night Mary and he met drinking beer in a topless bar being entertained by a 345-pound, topless dancer and then dancing with another female he met there! Also learn what juicy secret sorrow, Anne, is dealing with and how it affects my date with her the next night.
Mike Roe’s 1970 Ride Chapter 9
Day 22, Wednesday, July 15. Mileage 7101. Today 30 Total 3799
Today is Gerry’s visit with Mary whom he met when she and her two girlfriends gave us a ride into North Bay’s downtown in their Volkswagen during the rain last night. Mary is staying over at her mom and dad’s cottage on the shore of Trout Lake, a small lake not far from North Bay. We both plan to ride over together since we both were invited and it may dull the shock for Mary’s parents if it appears it’s a friendly get together with two out of towners Mary is being hospitable to rather than just a date with Gerry. As I mentioned in chapter 8, Mary is just out of high school and claims she is eighteen but we haven’t seen any documentation. Gerr is twenty-six, and appears a little rough around the edges especially riding a motorcycle and all.
Mary knows we are teachers and college educated and this might help it to go down better with her parents. We never revealed our ages to Mary. If she would have asked, we planned to fudge a little and say twenty-one or two. I’m twenty-eight (just turned) and an even older coot than Gerry who will be twenty-seven next month. We ride to breakfast and then cruise out to Trout Lake. Really beautiful at the lake. We find Mary’s place and she is outside in the yard when we pull in. We try to keep the bikes as quiet as possible so as not to spook the neighbors, or worse, Mary’s parents. We are invited in and meet her mom and dad. They are excellent hosts, very friendly, and seem genuinely happy we came. Mary’s mom had made brownies and they were delicious. The idea of gnarly biker scum sitting with these pleasant, refined, conservative, Canadians was not lost on us. We were on our best behavior and were the perfect gentlemen. It all paid off for when Gerr asked if he could take sweet Mary to the movies in town she accepted and her parents agreed. The fun part is when Gerry had to agree to let her mom drive them to the show in the family car! It was to be a double date so I had to come up with a date also. They let me use their phone so I called Anne whom I’d met at the topless bar last night. Anne was not one of the dancers! Both girls wanted to see Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid so that solved the what to do problem. Gerr and I had been to this movie before with the girls in La Crescent, Wisconsin at a drive-in theater a week and half ago but maybe this time we would be able to watch it. Anne would meet us at the theater with her car and we might have time after the show to double to an ice cream shop before Mary’s mom came to pick her up. Anne appeared to be a little down at the movie. Turns out her boyfriend had just broken up with her and announced he was coming out of the closet. He realized he was gay. Gerry didn’t know about all this and cracked a couple of really funny gay jokes that made poor Anne feel even more miserable. After the movie and the ice cream shop Mary’s mom picked up Gerr and his date and drove them back to the lake so he could get his bike. Anne went home in her car and I didn’t get invited over. She is obviously bummed about her breakup with her ex. Poor thing probably thinks she was the thing that caused him to decide to come out. I ride back to Roy and Bob’s and watch the telly until Gerry gets back from Mary’s. Discuss the events of the evening with Gerr and then turn in.
Day 23, Thursday, July 16. Mileage 7131. Today 291 Total 4090
We sleep in as we usually do when we have good, warm, dry, mosquito free accommodations. The weather is clearing and we can see sunny blue skies for the first time in days. We decide to clear out of North Bay. Say goodbye to Roy and Bob and thank them for taking us in. They seemed sorry to have us leave. We might have stayed on a little longer but we just want to move on to new adventures. We have breakfast at a Tim Horton burger stand since its almost noon. Tim Horton is a famous Canadian hockey player who made good and now owns a chain of restaurants. We mount up and head towards Ottawa the Capitol of Canada. We take Hwy 17 east which is part of the Trans-Canada Highway. The 17 more or less follows the Ottawa River into Ottawa itself. Some of the road was really a mess with road repairs. We reach Ottawa and pass through and decide to camp outside of town at the Cumberland Campground. Ottawa is a beautiful city with an interesting history, it lies on the south side of the Ottawa River. It was founded in 1826 and was named Bytown. It became Ottawa in 1855.
Ottawa comes from the Algonquin Indian word “odawa” that means “to trade” (remember lawyer Algonquin J. Calhoun from the long gone “Amos and Andy” radio and television shows?) The area has three major rivers that converge which made the Ottawa area an important trading and travel center for the past 6500 years. There are many archeological sites in the area yielding arrowheads, pottery, and stone tools. We don’t have much desire to ride in the cities so we usually bypass them or pass on through. City sightseeing is difficult on a motorcycle anyway. Maybe return one day in an automobile with a map-reader, navigator at my side to guide the way to the sights. We set up camp and decide to take showers now since they are often crowded in the mornings. The showers proved eventful as you will soon see. The shower facility was really nice but there were only two stalls available. It was weird in that the two stalls, marked Men and Women, had a shared changing-drying off area between them with benches to sit on. The stalls did have an area between the actual shower and the entrance door to undress and hang up your clothes. Since I reached the showers first, I took the men’s side. Gerry, finding the women’s stall empty, decided to take it. It seemed okay since each shower had a locking door and no one could get in. The problem was that Gerry forgets to lock his door! As fate would have it two young girls age eight or nine walk into his shower and get a full uncensored viewing of Gerr au-naturale! They let out a yelp and go running out. We finish our showers and walk back to our campsite. We are worried that we may be assaulted by the other campers sporting pitchforks and torches, or worse, the Provincial Police putting Gerr down as a pervert of some kind. Nothing comes as a result of the “viewing” and we sleep well. The best part of the event was that I got years of teasing Gerry about it accusing him of purposely leaving the door unlocked etc… Mosquitoes are bad here! Thankful of having the tent.
Day 24, Friday July17. Mileage 7422. Today 205 Total 4295
After breakfast we roll for Montreal, Quebec. Montreal marks a big difference between the English tradition part of Canada we’ve been traveling in from the French tradition area. Being in Quebec is more like being in a foreign country. Most Canadians in Quebec prefer French as their language and although they are bilingual some often refuse to speak English even to tourists. We continue on Hwy 17 the Trans-Canada Highway. As we enter Montreal, the first thing we notice is how fit and lean the French Canadians are. The men appear kind of wimpy but the women of all ages are lithe and leggy. No American midwestern diet here. We ride out to the Montreal Expo after a real hassle finding our way. The Expo is kind of a world fair. The Montreal Expos baseball team is named after the fair. We check it out and then try to find a good pub to down some brewskis and ask where to go tonight for some action. At the pub we meet two Jewish guys from Philly. They tell us about an area in Montreal called Crescent Street where all the young people rock out at really cool pubs and restaurants. It was great talking to some Americans since we already had problems with the Frogs that refused to give us directions in English. Even waiters and waitresses wouldn’t take our food orders in English at times. My Spanish slang came in handy again as I insulted them thoroughly and they hadn’t a clue. We spent a few hours in the pub playing the juke box and downing Canadian beers. The box had Creedence Clearwater Revival songs and we kept dropping coins to play them over and over as we had many times in other joints along the road.
Creedence became our anthem songs for the trip and always perked us up if we were killing time in some dive waiting out rain storms. Finally, it was time to head for Crescent Street. The Sir Winston Churchill Pub seemed to be the center of all the action although there were several other places. The young people were all dressed to the nines and here we are looking like what we were, cycle trash. We tried to hustle a few mademoiselles but were rejected for obvious reasons. I don’t think I’ve seen so many fashion-able, foxy, sleek women all in one place before or since. Turns out the Sir Winston is world famous. It’s a multitiered pub in a touristy downtown section of Montreal. The two cross streets, Rue Crescent and Rue Catherine are akin to Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Its giant inside with seven bars and three levels of pubs with an outside terrace to dine overlooking Rue Crescent. At night its packed with standing room only throngs of mostly young, college age, somewhat international, people. It’s one huge party all drinking, dancing to multiple live bands, and carrying on. Its appropriately named after one of the most famous unapologetic drunks in world leader history. Sir Winston’s was founded in 1967 by an immigrant from the 1947 Hungarian revolt. An interesting guy, a builder of pubs and cafes, he goes to Cuba and becomes friends with notorious Castro commie butcher, Che Guevara, for whom he traveled to Europe on a trade mission. Upon his return to Montreal, he opened the Winston Churchill, the first pub on Crescent Street. It’s still a famous night spot today. Google it for an interesting read with photos, too. Despite our failures in the social acceptance area, we have a good time since we can drink as well as any of them. Finally, we leave the pub just as the local gendarmes arrive to bust the place for underage drinkers. Must have been fifteen or twenty cops. Apparently, these raids happen fairly regularly at various pubs here. We ride out of town and find a place to bag out in some place I can’t recall. Probably just a vacant field or some such.
Day 25, Saturday July 18. Mileage 7627. Today 237 Total 4532
Found a cafe for breakfast. Had to point out on the menu what we wanted since the waitress refused to speak English. Forget trying to ask for anything different than the standard menu item. She received some of my Spanish “compliments” and of course no tip. Next stop; Quebec City. We are still on Hwy. 17. About half way there it started to cloud up and get black. We pull into a bar in the nick of time and dive into the joint. The sky gets as dark as I have ever seen during the daytime. It is a deluge. We play more Creedence and wait it out. A few beers later it clears up. Note the photos I included at the end of the chapter showing the same view from the bar during and after the storm. On the road again we stopped for lunch and Gerry decided to check his battery water and oil. In the process his oil cap shorted a wire when it rolled from where he had left it perched. That started a flash fire that burned up the wire. Fixed that and then had trouble with his drive chain and rear brake. Gerr had adjusted the rear axle back too far to tighten his chain like I did earlier in the trip and it was making the brake cable too tight. Finally get going again. We stop just before Quebec City at a campground that looks nice. We set up camp next to three American girls who are traveling across Canada in their car. They are friendly and seem glad for some good old boys who speak American. They invite us over to their site for dinner and of course we accept. We all talk of our travels far into the evening until we can’t take the mosquitoes anymore.
We crawl into our mosquito free zone for the night. A few always managed to follow us into the tent so we had to spend a few minutes waiting for them to zero in so we could smack ’em. Tomorrow we plan to tour Quebec City and then head for Maine and the good old USA. We’ve had enough of the Frogs!
In Chapter 10 our heroes leave French Canada and cross the border into the state of Maine. Learn why one of them had to ride a few more miles than the other that day.
Mike Roe’s 1970 Ride Chapter 10
Day 26, Sunday July 19. Mileage 7627. Today 227 Total 4759
Woke at 8:30 AM and showered, did laundry and cleaned up the bikes a little. We say good bye to the three American gals who are camped next to us. We thank them for inviting us over for dinner last night. They plan to stay another day and tour Quebec City. We are anxious to get going and get back to the good ol’ USA. We are sick of the Frogs and trying to communicate with them to find our way around. I notice my front tire is starting to wear weird, cupping in the tread, especially on the left side of center. I wonder if this is due to my Mickey Mouse fork extensions? Our chains and sprockets are worn too. We’ve had to remove some links from time to time and make adjustments moving our rear axles rearward to take up the slack. We’ve done this several times and our sprocket teeth are getting the “sharks-tooth” look. Gerry’s tires look better but I have 3300 more miles on mine. We hope to get home on what we have but not sure we can make it. We definitely want to be back in the States if we have to make any major repairs at a dealership. My clutch seems to be slipping a little so I try adjusting it to see if it helps. Seems to. At breakfast the waitress seemed to come on to Gerr. He politely passed on her advances. She must have really been interested because she even was willing to speak entirely in English. We toyed with the idea of motoring on up to the Canadian Maritime provinces, at least make New Brunswick. In the end we decided to turn south to Maine.
First, we made a cursory tour of Quebec City. After visiting the Quebec Armory and a few other sights we had had enough We catch Hwy 23 out of Quebec City and aim for “down east”. We roll through the French Quebec countryside and its really beautiful. Little farms and fields abound. All of a sudden, Gerry pulls up along-side waving and pointing off in the distance. He guns ahead of me and pulls over to the side of the road. I come up and stop next to him. He directs my gaze to a farm pasture across the road where a couple of bovines are engaged in attempting to produce a new calf! This wouldn’t have been that remarkable except that one of the subjects was white and the other was brown. A very funny farm joke that we had heard and told many times included a white and a brown cow. We jumped off our bikes and quickly snapped a photo of the event. We were laughing so hard I could hardly hold the camera steady. Fearful that the moment would end before we could record it for posterity, we felt lucky when we managed to get our photo safely in our camera. What a couple of sick f- – -s! We continue on before any locals notice our perv behavior. We joked later about how we could explain to anyone who happened to spot us taking the photo that we worked for Playbull Magazine and were working on a centerfold spread or perhaps the Playbull Forum. The weather is nice and sunny today. Much better than we’ve been used to lately. We reach St. Georges, Quebec and decide to get a Canuck burger at a local stand. After our gorge we flake out on a nice lawn next to the burger stand and grab forty winks. Watched some people fishing in the Chaudiere River that flows back towards Quebec and the St. Lawrence. We cross into the States at Jackman, Maine and to our surprise the border people don’t shake us down! No search of us or our bikes and no body-cavity searches, either. We discover we still have Canadian money on us so we decide to flip a coin to see who rides back to Canada to exchange it for greenbacks. I lose the toss and ride back to Armstrong and get it swapped. Now that we are back in the States, Canadian Hwy. 23 becomes US 201. We ride it sixty-one miles into Bingham, Maine. We find a nice campground called The Evergreens eight miles out of town. This a beautiful spot in a pine forest. We get a campsite and pitch our tent. Damn mosquitoes seem to like it here too. The camp store provides our dinner. Dinty Moore beef stew served cold out of a can with Fig Newton cookies for dessert washed down with a quart of milk each. Then a couple of beers for a night cap. Build a nice campfire and stay up late bullshitting about our days as kids in Elementary school and what we did for play back in the day. I told Gerr about the biker that lived near me that had an old Harley that he would work on all week so he could go riding on the weekend. We boys would go over to his house and he would let us watch him wrench on it. Sometimes he would let us hand him a tool or even turn a nut or bolt. Of course, we all would show up on Saturday morning to see him try to fire it up and go for his ride. Seemed like most of the time the Harley would return home in a Pickup bed or on an old trailer. He never got discouraged it seemed and would soon be working on it again for the next Saturday attempt.
Day 27, Sunday, July 20. Mileage 7854. Today 130 Total 4889
Gerr gets up early and does some push-ups and goes for a run and takes his shower before I roll out of the sack. As the trip progresses, I am losing the desire to keep up my workouts and running. I take my shower and we pack the bikes and get moving. Ride to Bangor, Maine and then reach Belfast.
Starting to get cold and foggy as we are getting close to the Atlantic Ocean shore. It starts to rain and it gets so bad we have to stop in Rockland on US 1 and find shelter. We dive into a cafe for lunch and to dry out. Play more Creedence on the juke box until I thought we would wear it out. We’ve spent a ton on juke boxes mostly due to rain stops. Gerry joked we should get those change dispensers on our belts, the ones that streetcar and bus conductors wear so we could punch out the nickels, dimes, and quarters we needed to play our songs. We considered getting some washers at the hardware store to use instead of real coins to save some of the expense but were afraid of getting caught. The rain stops so we ride out of town a-ways and find a dirt road that leads down into an open spot in a grove of trees and vegetation. We set up our tent on the soggy ground and use our kickstand wood blocks to keep the bikes from sinking into the soft soil and falling over. We picked the worst place to camp. The mosquitoes were fierce and when it started to rain again, we almost got flooded out. If the tent wasn’t already up and our gear unpacked, we would have left to find a better place, maybe even a motel. We had planned to eat somewhere but instead went to bed hungry so as to not have to deal with the rain on the bikes. It was really humid. It was like a swamp here. Everything is soaked. What saved us was that Gerry remembered he had two beers left in his pack. They took the edge off and were filling (tastes great!). Surprisingly we slept okay.
Day 28, Monday, July 21. Mileage 7984. Today 260 Total 5149
Woke early and couldn’t sleep any longer. Our sleeping bags were soaked and so was the tent floor. We get loaded up but I can’t get my bike to start. Everything is wet and the humidity is awful. Finally, it fires up after a million kicks. The electric starter only works if it fires the first attempt. After that you have to kick it. Gerr’s Triumph has no electric start. The dirt road we came in on is mush after last night’s rain so we have to dirt bike it up the fairly steep approach to the pavement. We follow US 1 into Wiscasset, Maine to find a laundromat to dry our gear and get breakfast. Gerry calls his gal, Teri, and brings her up to date on our travels. After chow we head for Boston, Massachusetts and Cape Cod. We pass through Bath, ME and have to take the I 95 Interstate through Brunswick and Portland. In Portland we rode down to the beach to take pics of us on the Atlantic shore. It was a thrill to know we had crossed the continent on motorcycles and no matter what happened now we can claim to have accomplished a major feat that not all bikers attain. We’ve been out twenty-eight days, almost a month, and feel like we are becoming real bikers, able to travel with the best of them. Of course, Eric and Cletha could have traversed North America in a couple of days but we still felt pretty proud. We continue south on US 1 again and reach Kennebunkport where the Kennedys have their compound. Reach Portsmouth, ME and stay on US 1 until we reach Alt. US 1 that leads to the famous Grand Banks fishing town of Gloucester. Gloucester is dedicated to the fishing history of the region and has the famous statue of the fisherman in his slicker at the wheel of his boat. After our visit we follow the coast road through Salem and Lynn and into Boston. We come into Boston from the north through the older industrial part of town and cross over the Mystic River on The Mystic River Bridge. The bridge is pretty high and offers a great view of the city on the other side of the river. The only problem is that the Mystic’s bridge deck is an open steel grid surface that allows you to see straight down into the water of the river.
The steel grid has a rough surface to prevent tires from skidding if its wet or has snow on it so it’s very noisy as your tires roll along. Your bike tires wiggle back and forth as they follow the irregular steel open grid surface sort of like they do on rain grooves on concrete roads. It was my first time on such a bridge surface and it was a thrilling ride. Soon I relaxed and enjoyed it once I felt I wasn’t going to go down. You just have to learn to let the bike do its thing and wander its way across. Boston has so many historical sights to see it can take a few days just to begin to see them all. Being on bikes we decided against doing the Freedom Trail. The Old North Church, Concord and Lexington would have to wait for another time. I had to see the USS Constitution, Old Ironsides, however! We find where it is docked but when we get there the tours had closed at 5:00 PM and we are too late. We do manage to see it through the locked gate and grab a photo. I was able to get in to see the Constitution on a couple of later trips. It’s wonderful to go aboard and see this warship. Believe it or not it is still a commissioned US warship and is on active duty at all times and ready for battle. The ship is constantly being maintained and repaired, so much so that in 1973 only 15% of the ship is still original. Any repairs must be done just like the original blueprints show. The ship is still regularly sailed out into Boston Harbor. The ship is turned at the dock periodically so it will weather uniformly on both sides. We decide to ride the sixty miles to the Cape Cod area. We reach Plymouth and stop to see Plymouth Rock. We inquire on where to eat and decide on all you can eat fish night at a Howard Johnson’s in the town of Sandwich. We thought the French Canadians were bad but we are shocked at the Boston accents we hear in the area. Car is pronounced, “caaaah”, and park sounds like, “paaaaak”. Egad! Harbor is “Haaaaba”! We talk to some cute girls at dinner asking where to camp and their heavy accents are a turnoff. Our waitress tells your easy riders about her Boston to Los Angeles BICYCLE ride! How do we feel? After a dinner of a few thousand fish sticks we ride to the National Guard gunnery range which we were told was a good place to camp. Nothing much goes on out there and no one will bother us. The range is not far from Sandwich. We find it and it’s among a sand dune area. The dunes are high enough that we can set up camp and be hidden from view from any passers-by. The ground between the dunes is hard enough to ride on. Rained AGAIN tonight!
In Chapter 11 our bikers explore Cape Cod and ride out to what the locals call P Town (Provincetown) at the tip of the cape. Learn what P Town is famous for much to the surprise of our heroes. As an added thrill, the boys find out what it is like to try to sleep in a war zone!
Mike Roe’s 1970 Ride Chapter 11
Day 29, Wednesday, July 22. Mileage 8244. Today 130 Total 5279
Woke up late again and decamped the gunnery range. We may return tonight but decide to take everything with us so we can be flexible if we find a better place. We are not willing to take a risk of having our stuff stolen or attract the authorities to our spot. The worst part is having to take down and set up the tent again. We cruise out Hwy 3 towards Provincetown which is at the very tip of Cape Cod. Maps nowadays show Hwy. 3 changed to Hwy. 6. Hwy. 3 is a major road until it branches off at Barnstable as Hwy. 6A. We pass through Dennis, and then skirt the north shore of the cape and pass-through Brewster, named we suppose, for the famous Pilgrim leader. The road then heads north through Eastham, Orleans, Wellfleet, and Truro. We reach “P Town” and spot a Howard Johnson’s and pull in to eat breakfast. After breakfast we cruise the town and it seems there are a lot of gay folks around. Little did we know that this town was destined to become a mecca for the gay community and as a unique artsy town it will eventually be populated with a majority of gays. We thought we were pretty safe since we hadn’t showered for three days and looked kinda scruffy. We learned years later that “scruffy” can be a desirable type to some fellows. We didn’t hang around long and decided to find a nice beach and go for a swim and bag some rays.
We ride over to the National Beach area and find a nice place at New Beach to lay out on the sand and go for a swim. This will be our first dip in the Atlantic. Really nice here! The sand is coarser than the California beaches we are used to but the water seems clearer and cleaner. The water temperature seems about the same as back home, around 57 degrees. Today is about 75 degrees on land at 3:00 P.M. After our frolic at the beach, we used the local shower to clean up and wash our hair. We cruise back through P Town and headed for the Howard Johnson where we had breakfast for another fish fry. This HoJo is not having a fry so we roll back to Sandwich and hit the one there. Set another fish record and decided to go back to the gunnery range to camp. Tonight, was a little noisy at the camp. Some kind-of military maneuvers were being conducted and we heard shouts, yells, bullhorns, gunfire (live?) and vehicle noises all night. We were worried that the Cavalry would come a charging right through our camp and mistake us for the enemy. Hardly any sleep tonight!
Day 30, Thursday, July 23. Mileage 8374. Today 155 Total 5434
Gerry gets up early, around 5:00 AM. He rides off to locate a new breakfast house and check for a nice beach for later. He ends up at HoJo’s again and has a light breakfast and reads the paper. By the time he returns to camp I’m up and packed and ready to go. We return to HoJo’s so I can have breakfast and Gerr proves the glutton by having a “real” breakfast on his second visit. This time he orders his favorite, chicken fried steak and eggs with biscuits and gravy and a gallon more of coffee. Gerr recommends Craigville Beach for today’s surf and sand adventure. We putt over there and discover that every amenity has a fee. Jon Kromroy would be proud of our method of coping with this problem. We avoid the parking fee by merely riding around the gate barrier since our sleds can squeeze through. That saved $.75 each. Bear in mind that it wasn’t the cost, it’s the principle of the thing. Jon would probably disagree with that! We find the restroom/locker facility where we can change into our beach togs and discover that its $.35 for a locker and horrors of horrors $.10 pay toilets! We can skip the lockers although we each have our own combo pad-locks, we use at our college gym stops. Here you have to insert coins into the locker handle to open the door and then pull out the key to take with you. We solve our other needs by crawling under the door on the toilet stall. I go first and then hold the door for Gerry. We take our riding clothes outside and pack them on the bikes. It was fun gaming the system and as bikers felt appropriate. Now to hope we don’t get busted for not having parking pass receipts on the bikes. We have a plan to deal with that. Since we can’t have our parking receipts locked up in a car on the dash, we can claim someone must have stolen them off our bikes. The worst that can happen is we will have to pay after all. We spend the day here with no hassles from the citizens. There are jellyfish in the water and they are fairly numerous but we manage not to get stung. Craigville Beach seems a little upper class and we don’t really fit in with our multi day beard stubble and all. We continue to be entertained by the east coast accents the denizens have here. It’s almost like being in a foreign country. We discussed whether if we had a chance to date or even marry a gorgeous east coast girl from this area if we could handle listening to the lingo they speak. We decided no. Maybe a weekend however! Finally, we agree we’ve had enough Cape Cod and head for Providence, Rhode Island. We skirt the no entry spikes at the exit gate by leaving out the enter gate where we came in. A nice beach and no tickets or arrests to spoil our day.
Gerry knows a guy who lives up on Lake Seneca in New York so we decide to look him up. We take Hwy 6 towards New Bedford, MA the famous old time whaling port. There we catch I 195 into Providence, RI. We feel like getting out of Dodge as we are tiring of the congestion of the East coast area and are starting to yearn for more open roads and spaces. We ride Hwy 44 out of Providence and then north on 12 to Worchester, Massachusetts. We stop for dinner at a small mom and pop grocery across from a public park. We get some tuna fish, potato chips, Fig Newtons, a small jar of mayo, and a loaf of bread and of course a six pack of beer of a label we have never tried before. We go over to the park which is teaming with hippies and freaks playing guitars, bongos, smoking dope, and throwing frisbees, to eat. The “pigs” stroll through but no problems. After a while, we move on finding a KOA Kampground a little out of town. We were too tired to set up the tent so we threw out our bags on a couple of picnic tables and let the mosquitoes be damned. The ground here is crawling with big red ants so it’s good to be up off the dirt. Slept well to our surprise.
Day 31, Friday, July 24. Mileage 8529. Today 227 Total 5661
Beat Gerr out of the sack for the first time in a while. Can’t take the hard boards of the picnic table any longer. Showered, shaved, cleaned up my bike. We are getting lazy about cleaning the bikes as the trip progresses. They are pretty scummy. I get some milk at the Kamp store and mix up some Instant Breakfast and eat a banana. Also knock off one of the remaining beers from last night’s dinner. Gerr finally rolls out and we do laundry. It’s going to be warm today since we are no longer near the coast. It reaches 95 degrees later in the day. My attitude towards the trip has changed somewhat now that we have succeeded in crossing the continent. I feel less driven to go anywhere in particular and to stop and see any sights. I feel like just riding and logging miles. I am thinking more and more of visiting my new girlfriend, Sandy, in Marion, Indiana. Gerry and I seem to be annoying each other lately. We had a couple of arguments over minor stuff and relentless teasing and ranking on each other seems to be wearing thin for him. I need to back off on some of my worst annoying habits. We aren’t to arrive in Marion until August 1. Hopefully, being around Sandy and her hometown friends will relieve some of the stress of it being just Gerr and me 24/7. Still, we’ve had great luck and have avoided severe mechanical problems, illness, accidents, and problems with the police or people we’ve met along the road. We have been amazed at all the friendly, generous, helpful folks we’ve met so far. The freedom this country offers to travelers like us is amazing. No one stops you to “see your papers” or to detain you in any way as long as you aren’t committing any crimes. The police have still only stopped us three times the whole trip and never have written us up for anything. Being “white” helps for sure as our experience back in South Dakota with our black lunch partner showed. I’m sure two black guys on bikes trying to do the same things we are doing would be a different story, especially at Craigville Beach. I am looking forward to reaching the west coast in Washington state, Oregon, and northern California. At this point in my travels, I have never been to these areas. We hang out at the KOA until 2PM and then hit the road. As we start to leave, Gerr, notices a white milky substance oozing out of my rolled up sleeping bag. No early guesses please! It turns out to be my can of shaving cream rolled up in the bag that has overheated in the heat of the day and discharged its contents in the bag.
Of course, I take a lot of teasing about the “real” source of the mess it made. I’m glad to take the ragging since it gives Gerr a chance to even up our scores and somewhat take the guilt away I’ve felt about my merciless teasing and chopping of him. We hammer I 90 out of the Worchester area and head for New York state. Reach Hwy. 22 just across the New York Line and head north. We stop in Stevenstown, NY to fuel the bikes and eat. Steventown was a fun stop. We patronized a local small grocery and bought some grub. We sat outside the store on the grass of the parkway to eat. Two or three local B.S. artists were there practicing their craft heavily on us and another guy. One was trying to sell his Austin Healey Sprite to a young kid who knew nothing of sport cars and appeared really gullible. After the entertainment we rode hwy. 2 towards Troy to catch I 87 north to Lake George. Lake George is now famous as the site of the Americade annual bike rally. It now rates as one of the big four rallies along with Sturgis, Laconia, and Daytona. We knew nothing of this at the time. I asked Drifters, Bill and Judy LaSalata about it since they lived in Bridgeport, Connecticut back in the day. Bill said he and wife Judy had been to Americade eight times at least and to Laconia once. He reports that Lake George’s Americade was the better of the two. He says Laconia was pretty much a Harley only affair back then and drew more one-percenters. The interstate to Lake George, I 87 north, was a race track! It is called The New York Expressway for a good reason! It was now dark and traffic was honking at about 70 to 75 MPH. We pushed our sleds to keep from getting run over and it was pretty hairy even though we were glad to make good time. Honda 450’s aren’t a fun ride at anything much over 60. Neither were early Triumphs like Gerr’s 500. Our bikes were buzzing enough my feet kept wanting to slide off the pegs. Thankful for my air grips which helped keep my hands from tingling. Later Gerr informed me that my extended fork job was flexing and shaking like crazy and feared it would break off! I think my front wheel needs balancing and that might be part of the problem. We thankfully reach the turn off for the south end of Lake George and get to slow down. The little town here is commercialville. We find a little Kiwanis Club picnic park area just across the road from the lake and decide to set up camp. There is a fairly large white steamboat or ferry docked here. The LaSalatas say the boat gives tour rides on Lake George and he and Judy went out on it several times. There are picnic tables in the Kiwanis Park and a large wooden shed or barn across the road. It’s not clear if camping is allowed but we set up the tent and hope we don’t get evicted. More mosquitoes abound. Sleep undisturbed and well.
In Chapter 12 Captain America and Billy head west and are presented with the finger…the Finger Lakes that is. Also, our riders take in Niagara Falls but without the honeymoon!
Mike Roe’s 1970 Ride Chapter 12
Day 32, Saturday, July 25th. Mileage 8756. Today 172 Total 5323
Awoke to the cheerful sound of a local policeman’s voice! He was an alright guy but told us we should probably move on in about a half an hour or so. This is our first official roust from a camp spot and our fourth police contact of the trip but no arrests so far. We hastily packed up and went to a restroom nearby to wash up and brush our teeth. We rode to the south end of the Lake George State Beach area to decide what to do next. A guy at the beach came over to shoot the breeze while we were sitting on our sleds. A really friendly guy. He was traveling too, and had a cooler in his station wagon. He gives us a quart of milk and a similar amount of orange juice to share. The fluids became breakfast as we mixed the milk with our Instant Breakfast packets and the juice served as dessert. Our new friend even supplied us with some Dixie cups to serve it up in. We thanked our fellow roadie and said our goodbyes and he drove off. We had our swim trunks on under our clothes and so we tore down and walked out on the beach to bag some rays. We had good tans by now so we could lay out on the beach for quite a while without getting burned. At around 1:00 PM we mount up and head out. It was becoming overcast and the beach had started to fill up with people and their kids.
We aimed for Seneca Lake, New York, hoping to visit Gerry’s friend, Fred. Rain came down so we holed up in Corinth, NY on Hwy. 9N only about twenty miles southwest of Lake George. We pulled into a beer bar in Corinth to wait out the rain and it was full of the weirdest assortment of drunks in one room that I had ever laid eyes on! Think the bar scene in Star Wars! The rain ceased and we pressed on. 9N saved us from having to ride I 87 again at the higher speeds. Not sure of the route we took but finally reach Auburn at the north end of Cayuga Lake, one of the finger lakes of New York. In Auburn we stopped at the White House Market and bought some food to eat out on the curb by the bikes. As we were chowing an elderly gent tried to strike up a conversation with us. He invited us over to his house so we wouldn’t have to sit out on the curb. He apparently was quite lonely or maybe light in the loafers. We were happy on our curb and politely declined his invitations. He finally split and left us alone. A small disaster struck when Gerr discovered he was sitting in some dog poop when he moved back in the more comfortable grass next to the curb. We tanked up the bikes and headed for a laundromat to wash Gerr’s Levi’s. Two farm kids in the laundromat seemed enthralled by by our trip. They invited us to sleep in their barn for the night and we took them up on it. It was really different in the barn with the hay to sleep on and the horses and a couple of cows for bunk mates. At first the barn smell was a little hard to take but after a while we didn’t even notice it. It was no worse than Gerr’s jeans before he washed them.
Day 33, Sunday, July 26th. Mileage 8928. Today 200 Total 5523
A good night’s sleep for a change. We plan to try to find Gerr’s friend, Fred Shoemaker’s, place in Dundee, NY today. We skip the invitation to have breakfast at the farm and get back on the road. Hwy. 20 takes us into Waterloo for breakfast. Gerry wanted to drink more coffee and read the paper so I took off alone for Dundee. This was a mistake as once we were separated, we had a problem finding each other again. Dundee is about twenty-six miles south down the west side of Seneca Lake on Hwy. 14. When Gerr didn’t show up, I returned to waterloo to see if I could find him. We had a plan if we ever got separated. We would each call my dad or Gerr’s mom and report where we were and a phone booth number so the other could call and get the information. Then we could agree to meet up again. When I reached Waterloo again, I spotted Gerr’s bike outside a phone booth and saw him inside making a call. What a relief to find him again. One of the problems we had on the trip was the different pace we had as we went through our daily routines. This started to wear on us as each day went by. In the mornings I was anxious to get going while Gerr liked to lounge at breakfast and drink his many coffees and read a local paper. I tended to take more time getting packed and ready to go and this annoyed him. The reason I cut out from breakfast and left Gerr was that I was tired of having to submit to his pace every breakfast. It was obviously a control issue since we both were set in our ways. Neither of us had travelled with someone for such an extended time and we hadn’t learned some of the accommodations you have to make to have it all go smoothly. I was just coming to terms with annoying habits and behaviors that I realized could drive my traveling companion to distraction. I vowed to do better. We decide to get a six pack of Bud to take along to drink later when we reach Seneca Lake. We pass through Geneva, NY at the north end of the lake. We ride down to the lake shore and find a nice spot to down some of our suds.
We have a good heart to heart talk about our friendship and the problems we have had getting along lately. After the talk we both feel much better about the rest of the trip. We decide to not try to find Fred’s place and instead strike out for Niagara Falls where we have never been before. We continue west on Hwy. 20. Outside of Buffalo, NY we find a KOA Kampground to crash for the night. When we pulled up to the office to sign in, the proprietor came out on the porch and gruffly warned us, “No rough stuff after 10:00 PM! “. We find our site and get set up. Gerr goes next door to help two girls start up a Honda 50 they are riding. The girls showed us their appreciation by inviting us over to their site for dinner. The visit with the girls helped our morale. They were really sweet and helped to sooth us savage beasts. No action with the girls so we returned to our camp to sack out. Sleep really well after chasing the skeeters out of the tent.
Day 34, Monday, July 27th. Mileage 9128. Today 160 Total 5683.
Wake and grab breakfast out of the Kamp store. We shower and do some laundry. We go for a jog on the highway. We pack up and head for Niagara Falls. We checked out the falls and at some viewing points we got soaking wet from the mist coming off the falls. We decide not to take the Maid of the Mist boat ride that takes you near the falls down on the river. Believe it or not we were concerned that other passengers might think we were a honeymooning gay couple and we couldn’t handle it. After playing tourists we find a bar and start to imbibe. In the bar we find some interesting materials with information about the falls. Honeymooners have travelled to Niagara Falls since before Napoleon ruled France. In fact, Napoleon’s younger brother, Jerome Bonaparte, visited the falls with his first bride, American Elizabeth Patterson, in the early 1800s. The Bonapartes didn’t do as much as movie star Marilyn Monroe did for the popularity of Niagara Falls as a getaway for lovers. The 1953 film, Niagara, starring Monroe, Joseph Cotten,and Jean Peters, really starred the falls themselves. Scenes filmed at the Cave of the Winds, a series of wooden walkways beside Bridal Vail Falls and aboard the Maid of the Mist, that ferries tourists past American Falls and Bridal Vail Falls to the base of Horseshoe Falls stirred interest. Horseshoe Falls is the largest of the three falls that make up Niagaras famous cascades. You get so much mist and spray on the Maid that the crew hands out slickers and rain hats as you board. The falls straddle the US-Canada border, 20 miles north of Buffalo, New York where the Niagara River plunges into a deep gorge. Geographically Niagara Falls is only around 11,000 years old. It formed as the continental ice sheets receded at the end of the last ice age. Today in 2016 the falls have eroded back 6.8 miles from their original location. Scientists estimate that the falls will erode 20 more miles to the source of the Niagara River at Lake Erie and disappear in another 50,000 years. So, if you have never visited you better get cracking. We mount up and cruise through Buffalo (which seems a dingy, dirty, old industrial town) then Lackawanna. We choose to ride I 90 and pass-through Dunkirk and if you believe it, Fredonia. I am low on gas as we pass into Pennsylvania and emboldened by my spare gas can I manage to run out of fuel on the I 90 in Erie, PA. I knew I was low so I had stayed in the slow lane and just coasted to the shoulder when she started to sputter and poured in my spare joy juice. I saved half the can for Gerr since we both might need it. Gerr waited up ahead on the side of I 90.
My only concern was a State Trooper might spot us and write us up for sitting on the side of the interstate. This was the only time I needed my spare gas for fuel the entire trip. I was comforted many times however just knowing I had some. I mentioned before that Gerr’s Triumph had more capacity than my custom tank so he could ride a little farther as we both got about the same miles per gallon. We pull off the I 90 at the next ramp and find gas. We have dinner at a little steak house and kill some time. There is a vacant lot next to the steak house so we decide to camp there. It’s really humid. Maybe because of our nearness to Lake Erie? Mosquitoes abound but we don’t set up the tent. We keep our dinner and bar bills at the ready in case the cops drop by. We plan to tell anyone interested that we had eaten at the steak house, had consumed adult beverages, and felt we shouldn’t ride for a few hours and so we were taking a nap. Our schemes were for naught as no one bothered us and we slept well.
Day 35, Tuesday, July 28th. Mileage 9288. Today 200 Total 5683
We were awakened by two young boys riding their bikes around us like Indians attacking a wagon train. They were yelling all kinds of bullshit about it being twelve noon and having saved us from a ferocious wood chuck. They showed us the dead animal laying nearby. We expressed our doubts to their claims. We got the feeling they were expecting a reward for their supposed services. We packed up and took off and left them to give the poor beast a decent burial. We couldn’t believe we had slept until noon in a vacant lot with people driving by. Had some choice hangovers to deal with as well. We passed through Cleveland, Ohio and then headed down I 71 to Columbus. We hit a section of the I 70 that was being resurfaced with fresh oil and asphalt. We had to ride through the fresh oil and what a mess! As you remember, your heroes had removed their front fenders to be “cool” and naturally the fresh oil was thrown all over us and our bikes. We were so pissed! Finally, it ended after several miles and we pulled off into a rest area to try and clean off our sleds. My spare gas came in handy again as we used it to wipe off most of the oil. It was everywhere, even up under our rear fenders where we couldn’t get at it. Our boots and pants were messed up too. After cleanup we stopped at a market just off the road and put together a tuna sandwich, chips, and beer lunch. Had yogurt for dessert. At Columbus, OH we head west towards Dayton on Hwy. 40. This time we stay off the interstate as I 70 isn’t completed yet until you reach Springfield. We are heading to Indian Lake which is right near the border of Indiana. It’s supposed to be a neat place to relax and camp. As we are cruising along a lonely Ohio farm two lane blacktop a car that’s moving pretty fast overhauls us and starts honking furiously and riding our fenders. In my mirror I can see it’s a ’68 or ’69 Plymouth Roadrunner with what looks like three guys inside. They appear to be yelling and waving their arms out the windows. I slow down and Gerry follows suit hoping they would get impatient and blow by us. They didn’t. We decide to pull over and duke it out with them if necessary before they crash us into the ditch. They pull over too and we figure we are in for it. They jump out and are laughing and yelling. It turns out they are hard hat linemen just off work and they have a full keg in the back seat and they are drunk as loons! Soon we are all shaking hands and they are slapping us on the back like we have been friends forever. They tell us they can’t possibly drink the whole keg themselves and we are invited to help them! WHY NOT! So, we sit by the side of this bucolic Ohio road and proceed to get royally skunked.
These guys are from Kentucky and are working here in Ohio on the high-tension power lines that run nearby. After a while they invite us to a party at, you guessed it, a nearby trailer park! We mount up and follow them over there. More hard hats, beer, and some really skanky women all barely able to stand let alone engage in conversation. We stay long enough to be polite but turn down offers to spend the night in the trailers. After all, we still have a smidgen of class! We head out really smashed and in need of some dinner. We find a store and get some Dinty Moore beef stew, fig newtons, and some milk. Next to the market is a building that has a loading dock to sit on. The bikes are parked across the way from where we are sitting. All of a sudden Gerr’s bike falls over, AGAIN! Normally we would run right over to right the bike. I waited for Gerr to sprint over there but he didn’t move a muscle. He continued with his meal and showed no expression at all on his face at all. This struck me as hilarious and I started laughing and couldn’t stop. Gerr got really pissed at me. I didn’t realize how pissed until later. This was the beginning of the end of our traveling together on this trip. We ride to Indian Lake and stopped to talk about what to do about camping. It was dark now and we didn’t know our way around. As we sit on our bikes, Gerr tells me how pissed off he is at me and my laughing when his bike fell over was the last straw! He started to get off his bike and he looked like he was going to kick my ass. Before he could get at me, I told him we had better split up before we ruined our friendship. My bike was still running so I let out the clutch and rode off into the darkness. As I rolled along, I realized I was pretty tired of Gerr’s act as well. The farther I rode along by myself the more I came to the idea that I was relieved to be away from Gerr and on my own. I realized it was for the best and hopefully we could work things out when we got home. I rode into Indiana and gassed up at a filling station. It was late and I noticed a nice grass area behind the station. I asked the attendant if I could sleep behind the station and he said “okay”. It was an open all-night station, so I felt safe throwing out my bag. I was really tired and fell asleep almost immediately. Even the noise of the gas customer’s cars running over the bell hoses didn’t keep me awake. As I dozed-off I remembered Gerry had the tent. The mosquitoes are thrilled.
In Chapter 13 follow the exploits of the now, Lone Ranger. Learn if Gerry makes it home safely and the great time Mike has in Indiana visiting his girl, Sandy. Find out why Mike never does ride home from Indiana.
Mike Roe’s 1970 Ride Chapter 13
Day 36, Wednesday, July 29. Mileage 9488. Today 190 Total 6053
Felt weird to wake up without Gerry with me. I toyed with the idea of trying to contact him and patch things up and continuing the trip together but decided against it. Maybe better this way. The fact we went our separate ways turned out to alter my plans for the trip significantly as you will soon see. The question now is what to do next. I had told my new girlfriend, Sandy, that both Gerry and I planned to be in Marion, Indiana on August 1st. That was four days from now. I didn’t want to change that so I needed to find something to do until then. I planned to visit my uncle, aunt, and cousins in Decatur, Illinois after the visit with Sandy in Marion. I had no set date for my arrival in Decatur so I decided to call them and see if I could come today and spend time with them before heading to Sandy’s. I call and they are thrilled I’m coming and will expect me later today. I explain that I’ll be coming alone as Gerr and I have split up. I was feeling a little down and lonely so I was glad to be with my relatives for a visit. I packed up my gear and brushed my teeth in the gas station I slept behind last night.
The night man who worked last night and gave me permission so sleep out back was still on duty so I went in and thanked him again for his kindness. I mount up and head west on Hwy. 40 towards Indianapolis since I 70 wasn’t completed all the way there yet. I skirt downtown Indianapolis on the southern Interstate 465 beltway. The northern loop wasn’t built yet. I turn west again at the Hwy. 36 off ramp heading for Decatur, Illinois. Hwy. 36 was a narrow two-lane concrete road with expansion cracks spaced evenly every few yards. Tar filled the joints and the road being old was a little bumpy. At that time most of Illinois’ secondary roads were the same as 36. It felt soothing somehow to be in my birth state once again, even though I had never really lived there. I had visited Decatur, Illinois several times with my parents in the past. I had left my hometown, Quincy, at the tender age of eight weeks old. Back during WWII in 1942 my dad had applied for a job with Todd’s Shipyards in Seattle, Washington to work as a draftsman and artist for the war effort. He later switched across town to Boeing Aircraft. His main work at Boeing was to illustrate mechanic’s shop and assembly manuals for the famous B29 bombers that eventually were used to drop the first atomic bombs on a refusing to surrender Japan. Dad always felt he helped save millions of Japanese lives and the lives of thousands of US soldiers by his work on the B29’s. The bombs caused Japan to surrender immediately after Hiroshima and Nagasaki and made an invasion of Japan’s home islands unnecessary. Before the bombs the Japanese had vowed to fight to the very end. I reached Decatur and rode over to the Roe house on College Street and parked the bike. I spent a nice three days in Decatur. It felt good to be off the bike and sleeping in a real bed and eating home cooked meals again. I took the opportunity to spiffy up my wardrobe a bit. I went to the store and bought some new Levi’s, tee shirts, undies, and socks for my visit with Sandy and her people. My old stuff was getting faded and worn. My cowboy boots were still stained by our “oil” ride back in Ohio and my left boot toe was worn and oiled up from the gear shifter pedal. I bought a real nice new pair for $25 and threw the old ones away.
Day 37, Thursday, July 30th. Mileage 9658. Today 20 Total 6073
Spent most of the day touring around Decatur with Jack Alan who is my cousin Dorothy’s husband. My family here are really proud of Decatur and don’t want visitors thinking it backward and unsophisticated, especially any hip cats from California. Most people here, including my cousin, Jack Roe, Dorothy’s brother, still show they are a bit in awe of Californians. Jack is my age and introduces me to his friends as his cousin from, “Cal” with obvious pride. On the tour, Jack Alan points out all the Decatur major sites and industries including the famous Staley’s corn processing plant. He is a pilot and takes me to see his small plane at the airport. Cousin Jack Roe loves sailing and he takes me to Lake Decatur where he is a member of a sailing club. We take out a 14-foot Lido sloop and sail the lake for a while. I haven’t sailed in quite a while so it was fun. We had a nice breeze so I had a chance to heel her over a bit and we even got to sail her “wing and wing” on a down-wind run which I had never tried before. Tonight, another great midwestern dinner. Meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy, one of my favorites. Cousin Jack proudly tells me interesting facts about Decatur.
Founded in 1829, named after the famous Steven Decatur of the US Navy, and once the home of “Black Bart” the famous highwayman who plagued California travelers before he was captured and hanged in the 1800’s. In the 1960’s TV show “The Fugitive” starring David Jansson an episode was filmed here. Famous football coach and past resident, George Halas, founded the Decatur Staleys team which later became Drifter Jeannie Sjo’s beloved Chicago Bears (pronounced “Bay uhs” by Chicagoans). Jack Roe was full of a seemingly inexhaustible knowledge of all things Decatur. I remember his often-used expression, “Right here in Decatur!” whenever he wanted to show all things could be found in this midwestern town. Decatur’s population in 2014 was 74,010.
Day 38, Friday, July 31st. Mileage 9678. Today 207 Total 6280
Packed up and said my goodbyes to all. I planned to return after my visit with Sandy on the way home. It was easier saying goodbye since I was coming back before my final ride home. As it turned out I never rode back to Decatur on this trip but I’ve been back many times on later ones. Aunt Irene and uncle Forrest are now passed away as are Jack Alan and cousin Dorothy. Dorothy passed just last year. Cousin Jack Roe and his wife, Linda, now live far from Decatur in Virginia Beach, Virginia, retired now after his 23-year career in the Navy. Their only daughter, Maria, and her husband and kids live just outside of Indianapolis. Only Jack Alan and cousin Dorothy’s surviving children still live in Decatur. It’s just not the same, but what is? I planned to ride back the way I came passing through Indianapolis and then heading north on Indiana 37 to hwy. 9 into Marion. Then I’ll get a cheap motel and call Sandy in the morning, August 1st as agreed. Feeling better about riding alone. I can do what I want and all future opportunities are available to me. I’m sure Gerr and I can repair things when I get back home. Marion turns out to be an interesting place. It’s the birthplace of actor James Dean who became a movie icon. Also, cartoonist Jim Davis of “Garfield” fame hails from here too. Both were raised however in nearby Fairmount. Fairmont hosts James Dean Days every year and thousands descend on the tiny town to celebrate his life. It’s held every September. Its also known as the wedding place of actress Julia Roberts and singer Lyle Lovett in 1993. Founded in 1831 Marion has an interesting history of nearby Indian battles and even a famous lynching. Marion is named for General Francis Marion “the swamp fox” of revolutionary war fame. Thirty-six other places in America are named after General Marion! As I pull into Marion, I find myself on the main drag into town. It’s the Grant County Seat and I see the courthouse square on my left with business buildings surrounding it on all sides. This is a substantial town as evidenced by the buildings downtown. As I am cruising along, I notice a movie theatre on the right with “Airport” on the marquee. I put that down as a possible date with Sandy if she hasn’t seen it yet. I then notice a gal with a really great figure walking down the sidewalk with her back to me. This girl looked so terrific! I looked as I passed her to see what her face was like. OMG! It is Sandy! I can’t believe my eyes! What are the chances of my riding into town at the exact moment Sandy is walking down the sidewalk? She doesn’t notice me so pull over to the curb, which just happens to have one of the few vacant parking spaces right alongside of her. I call out “Hey sweetheart!” in the fake bass voice that Sandy and I kidded each other with. She spins around probably expecting some local horn dog to be regaling her for her physical good fortune.
Instead, she is facing a horn dog she knows well, namely me. She lets out a yelp and rushes over an gives a me hug that almost knocks me over and her with me. After a fusillade of questions and general amazement on all sides, she insists I don’t go to a motel but ride immediately over to her mom’s house and stay there with them. I rearrange my gear and she hops-on the back of my sled and off we go. Indiana has a helmet law but we take the chance of her not having one. At this point I don’t even care if I get a ticket for no helmet! This is so unbelievable! We arrive at her mom’s house and we go inside and Sandy introduces to her mom, Mercedes, and her little sister, Diane, who is fourteen and lives here too. Sandy’s three older sisters are married and out of the house. Sandy’s dad and mom are divorced so he is living in an apartment closer to downtown. There is a spare bedroom for me to stay in “as long as I like”. I’m thrilled of course to be so welcome. I unload the bike and put my stuff in the bedroom. While I visit with Sandy’s mom and Diane, Sandy gets on the phone and starts calling all her friends and sisters to invite them to a party tonight at the house so I can meet them. Its a grand affair with call in pizza, all kinds of snacks and drinks, including beer brought by friends Larry and Joyce. I have a great time. So glad I came to Sandy’s.
Day 39, Saturday, August 1st. Mileage 9885. Marion, Indiana total 200 total 6480
My time in Indiana turned out to be one of the best experiences in my life. Not only were the people wonderful to me but it gave me a chance to sample midwestern life. Having left my native Illinois before I ever got to know my origins, my Indiana visit really gave me insights into what it might have been like if I had been raised, lived, and worked in the area. In 1970 there were still cultural differences between California and the Midwest that in some ways have been erased over time. One great thing that Marion had was “cruising the bypass”. All the kids cruised their cars and hotrods on the street that ran between Custer’s Last Stand Drive In restaurant and another joint a mile or so away. Custer’s was the Bob’s Big Boy of Marion. Sandy would borrow her mom’s car and we would cruise “the strip” with the teenagers. In my recent visits it seems the sameness of much of the nation’s broader culture has brought the Midwest and other parts of the country into a common shared experience that has taken away some of the quaintness and perceived “squareness” of what the cool set calls “fly over country”. Maybe we can attribute some of this to television, music, films, and other cultural forums that in effect present the masses to the same fashions, information, and even ways of talking. I had such a great time that I kept postponing leaving until I had stayed for five weeks! During that time Sandy and I went to many of Indiana’s interesting places. We rode to Indianapolis Motor Speedway which as a race fan I always longed to visit. Loving sprint car and midget auto dirt track racing as I do, I got to attend several good races at local tracks. Larry Snider and his wife, Joyce, were friends of Sandy and also avid race fans. Larry was my age as Sandy was five years younger. Larry was on temporary furlough from the General Motors plant here in Marion. While Sandy worked during the day at Owens Illinois Glass Company making pop bottles for her college money, he and I went water skiing with his boat and went to the races. On recent visits, Larry and I still go the Sprint car races at Gas City’s I 69 Speedway or at Kokomo Speedway. Even though Sandy and I broke up in 1974 Larry and Joyce remain my friends as hopefully does Sandy. Sandy, her husband, and two grown daughters live in Minden, Nevada.
I haven’t seen Sandy since we broke it off in 1974 but did talk to her on the phone back in the 80’s while I was at a birthday party at her sister DeDe and her husband’s back in Carpenteria, California. Sandy had called DeDe to wish her happy birthday since she couldn’t come herself. Gerry was with me at the party and it was like old home week. I often thought of contacting Sandy and setting up a visit with her and her family in Minden. I would enjoy introducing Trish to them but never felt sure it was a good idea. Maybe someday. Larry and I have attended three Indy 500’s together since 1970 and hopefully go to more. Larry goes every year to Indy and also Nascar’s Brickyard 400 at the Speedway. I attended the inaugural Brickyard 400 with Larry as well. After the five great weeks in Indiana, I didn’t have time to ride my bike home to California before I had to start teaching again the Monday after Labor Day. I called my dad and he arranged for my bike to be shipped home by a trucking company his company used to haul wheel balancing products all over the country. All I had to do was ride to Chicago and leave the bike at the trucking company there. Then get a plane and fly home. He even arranged a flight on American Airlines, his favorite carrier, for me. I was glad not to have to ride home. I was spoiled by the good life in Indiana, wouldn’t have to buy another tent, and didn’t have to worry about any break downs on the bike that would make me late for work. Each summer I went with Sandy we returned to Marion to visit. I even considered retiring there someday. Once Sandy and I drove my 1969 VW bug to Indianapolis to attend the 500 on the Memorial Day three-day weekend in 1971. Larry and Joyce were amazed when we made it in thirty-three and a half hours to Indy including a few hours’ sleep at a motel in Tucumcari, New Mexico! What you can do when you are young and healthy! And dumb!!!
Day 74, Tuesday, September 8, 1970. One day after Labor Day. Mileage 10085. Today 160. End Mileage 10245. Trip Total 6630.
Packed up and said my goodbyes. Hate to leave but I must. Have to be at work next Monday at the latest. Sandy will be flying back to Los Angeles for college in a couple of days so I’ll see her soon. I ride to Chicago and find the Metro Cartage Trucking terminal in an industrial part of Chi Town. I leave the bike with them and throw my sleeping bag and some other non-essentials in the trash. Will replace them later. Now I’m glad I don’t have the tent to carry home. For the twenty bucks it cost and all the use we got out of it I probably would have given it away to the trucking guys. One of the truck drivers who is heading my way offers me a ride in his rig to O’hare International Airport to catch my flight. Fly home on a TWA 747, my first time on one of the new big jets. When I get home, I call Gerry right away. We work things out and he tells me about his ride home alone. All went well except his chain and sprockets are totally shot and his tires about gone. He also lost one of his cam chain adjuster access plugs somewhere along the way. I didn’t ask if his bike fell over anymore on the way home! He followed our original plan and rode through Montana to Washington State and then south through Oregon and northern California. Feels great to be home and OK with Gerry again. His story of his journey home made me almost wish we had gone on together and I felt a little guilty having not gone on with him somehow. But then I would have missed the wonderful Indiana experience so it turned out for the best after all.
This ride was one of the best, maybe the best, travel experience of my life. What an adventure it was! To have traveled by motorcycle across the country and to have experienced and seen so much with a safe ride free of any serious problems was a wonder. My reconnection with the Midwest of my birth was also a revelation. The insights I had into myself helped me grow as a person. Even with all our trip problems, a tighter bond formed with Gerry who became a lifelong friend, and yes, a valued traveling companion. Gerry and I rode many more miles together including an even a longer ride of 54 days and 7600 miles on which we went to the Sturgis 50th Black Hills Rally in 1990 on our Harleys while retracing parts of our original trip twenty years earlier as well as new roads and places. We got along and stayed together the whole trip this time! To those who have followed along on this 1970 journey my hope is that you enjoyed it and maybe recalled a few memorable times you had in your early days of riding. It’s funny. I started to write this hoping to entertain you, like I was doing something for YOU! Somewhere along in the narrative I realized how much more I was probably getting out of telling the story than you were from reading it. I felt as if I was reliving it! Although I used the Journal we kept during the ride, I called Gerr several times asking him if he could recall certain things that I didn’t have a clear record or remembrance of. Of course, he remembered things I hadn’t or he remembered it differently. We went on for hours laughing and recalling what transpired back-then. I am grateful to our Drifter webmaster and secretary, Dawn Derenski, for all her help in getting the story to press. Without her expertise and devoted time, I would never have attempted to write it. I’m also indebted to Drifter President Emeritus, John Marshall, who spent many hours preparing all the photographs of the ride and emailing them to Dawn for each chapter. His photoshop skills greatly enhanced these forty-six-year-old photos which were originally on slides taken with a simple Kodak 110 film plastic cheapo camera. Most of the photos, which were slides, were transferred to a disc he could use so he wouldn’t have to scan all of them. John’s photo and computer skills also allowed me to get as close as I’ll ever get to super model, Kate Upton, on my visit to Niagara Falls (See photo in Chapter 12 ). Also thanks to friend Gerry without whom I probably would never made the journey…At least on a motorcycle!
Remember; Ride and have fun!!!