Of Maple Syrup and Deerflies

Good times in DL!

The trail at Voyageurs
My bath

Leaving Detroit Lakes was difficult, but all good things must come to and end, and lo and behold, new adventures always await around the next bend. From DL (that’s local lingo for Detroit Lakes) I rode north, north, north, reaching Voyageurs National Park by late afternoon.
After such a long, hot, humid day, the ripe odor emanating from my person told me I warranted a bath. As luck would have it, Voyageurs is mostly lakes, with lots of little islands. I took a leisurely bath and splashed around a bit like an excited puppy, then got back to business and found a decent site to camp just a few miles outside of the park. Once I was settled in I took a leisurely little walk around my new home. The locals were very excited to make my acquaintance but were a bit too clingy for my taste. In fact, they tried to bite me, which I suppose is what ticks are meant to do. After removing a few from my pajamas I decided it would be best that we never saw each other again and so proceeded to hide away in the tent for the rest of the evening. The next day saw me on the Kab-Ash hiking trail, where the biting flies are incredibly irritating. Throughout my three-hour hike, not once was I left alone, and my shoulders afterward displayed many little red bumps. There was an upside, though – I was the sole hiker among several large patches of blueberries! Any onlooker would have thought me slightly insane (and I was, as the flies were maddening) as I excitedly picked handfuls of blueberries, grunting and grinning with delight as I stuffed my face with the tasty little fruits. I did eventually make it to the highway, and proceeded to walk several miles on the asphalt while trying to catch a ride back to the park. Nobody picked me up until I was about a mile away from where I’d parked; two jovial park rangers, Bill and Bill, were more than happy to give me a ride. Another bath in the lake, and off I went to Duluth, several hours south and right next to Lake Superior. In Duluth I stayed with Jim and Monte (that’s MON-tee). Jim is a friendly, talkative, tall gentleman who builds beautiful houses and boats. Monte is black and furry and loves to chase the ball. The matriarch of the abode was on vacation and I didn’t get the chance to meet her, although this provided for an atmosphere of manly talk and BS. Jim and Monte treated me well, keeping me on a diet of beer and fish and other wonderful goodies. I spent a full day in Duluth, hiking in Gooseberry Falls State Park to the north and exploring the actual city. On the 25th I left for Michigan, traveling through northern Wisconsin (where I stopped at a meadery for a mead tasting and to pick up a bottle to keep me company on those lonely camping nights) and into the upper peninsula (that’s The U.P. in local lingo), where a lonely night of camping was indeed in order. The next day saw me cross the Mackinac Bridge into The L.P (you can guess what that stands for) and ride a looooooong haul south into Detroit. Lots of people in Detroit. Lots. I stayed in an apartment there with a couple people after meeting them for pizza and beer for dinner at Buddy’s Pizza – incredibly good and apparently famous. After a good night’s sleep I was off to the BMW dealership to pick up my new tires, which I so economically put on myself in the shop parking lot. The mechanic, Don, was incredibly helpful, and gave me several tips and tricks for changing tires. He even gave me a gift certificate to a nearby restaurant so I could eat lunch while he balanced the wheels! I spent the entire afternoon lounging in the showroom, reading magazines and looking at the bikes. There were no customers there, and the guys working had nothing to do, so we sat down and drank coffee and watched a movie about a group of motorcyclists that travel around the world. Yes, it was a great day. My Detroit host later took me on a driving tour of the city, and the day after I moved on to Erie, Pennsylvania.

Ship going under lift bridge in Duluth

Erie is an awesome town and the family I stayed with made it even more awesome! The day I arrived, they took me to the festival at Presque Isle, and we swam in Lake Erie and ate lots of kettle corn (well, I ate lots of kettle corn). Swimming in the Great Lakes is incredible. Looking out over the water, you’d swear it’s the ocean. Then you get in the water, and behold! it isn’t salty! A BBQ dinner back home, a quick trip to go ride the local roller coaster, and a late-night movie finished out the evening. I decided to spend one more day in Erie, this time with another host who had been willing to take me in, and so I got to spend a second day at the festival and more time relaxing. It’s important to take a vacation from vacation every once in a while…

The White Winter Winery (“Meadery”) where mead is made!
You gotta love Erie locals. Note the California flag, flown in my honor.

From Erie I rode up into New York, following the lake shore the whole way and taking in the view. Stopping in the city of Niagara Falls, I saw the falls known as Niagara Falls (it gets a bit confusing) and then moved on, going northeast along Lake Ontario. That night I stayed in Rochester (another CouchSurfing gig) and then moved up to the iconic Adirondack State Park. They say the Adirondacks are beautiful. They are right. What they don’t tell you is how many deer flies (these, I learned, are the infamous biting flies I’ve referred to) and mosquitoes there are, although I suppose one should just assume they’re there. I’m becoming convinced that the most
beautiful places are also the most uncomfortable places – at least in the United States, not including California. I was able to pitch camp in a small clearing surrounded by dense woods near a lake. Of course, the whole while I set up the tent, the flies and mosquitoes kept me company. I’ve learned to keep my clothes and helmet on while doing this. I took a short hike through the forest to the lake and took my lake bath and did a bit of exploring, then it was back to the tent, where I holed up and took shelter from the bugs. Within an hour I heard some strange cooing/hooting noises, and to my great delight I saw that a family of barred owls had come to keep me company. As I had not put the rain fly up over my net tent, I got to look up at the owls (who, in turn, looked right down at me) and watch them fly back and forth, keeping me in sight and trying to figure out what on earth this funny dome was doing in their forest. They eventually left, and then I heard rumblings. “Must be a jet,” I said. More rumblings. “Maybe a jet breaking the sound barrier!” I said. “Or is that distant thunder?” More rumblings. “Hmm,” I said. “Must be thunder. It’s still light out here, so I’m sure it’s far off.” More rumblings. “Maybe,” I said, “it’s not all that far off…” I decided it would be a good idea to walk out to the road and look out in the direction of these rumblings. As soon as I looked to the west, my hear began pounding – right in front of me was a massive wall of storm clouds. Adrenaline-pumped, I worked as fast as I could to put up the rain fly and jump back into the tent. Not five minutes later, the wind began howling through the woods and a downpour arrived. Ah, but of course! The nice little clearing I had found was in fact a drainage to the lake! Well, there’s nothing for it but to wait out the storm and see what the morning brings. Fortunately it didn’t rain enough to flood me out, and I was able to enjoy a full night’s sleep.
A misty morning in the Adirondacks is a morning every person should experience; I will say no more. Soon the mist burned off, and the riding was lovely. There’s not a whole lot more to say about it, except that the scenery is beautiful. I came out the east side of the park at Ticonderoga and took the ferry across Lake Champlain. Here I met two other guys riding BMW motorcycles, and one of them led me to Montpelier via the super-fun Highway 17, which goes up and down over a small mountain range and is full of twists and turns. Hitting US Route 2, I continued east and, needing a place to stay, made use of the awesome BMW Owners Anonymous Book. I called up a gentleman by the name of Angelo, of Danville, Vermont. He and his wife Virginia took great care of me, feeding me a home-cooked fish dinner and providing lots of great conversation. Of course, we talked about motorcycles, among other manly pursuits such as firearms and hunting (this is not to say that mention of and participation in these subjects are not explicitly restricted to the Y-chromosome gifted, but only that said individuals attain an euphoric sense of masculinity by partaking in conversation of such topics). In the morning Angie made waffles with real Vermont maple syrup. According to him, Vermont maple syrup is better than New Hampshire maple syrup. Who am I to disagree?
Moving right along, I buzzed through New Hampshire (never did try their maple syrup) and into Maine, where I had to pull off onto some unnamed, rocky road in the forest to find a place to camp. No near-death anecdotes here, just a long day and more deer flies and mosquitoes than I can count.
For the time being I have no way of getting my most recent photos onto the infinite network of the interwebs, so I will leave off here, though I have much more to tell you. Get on my case about writing more often and maybe I’ll be a little more disciplined about it!

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3 responses to “Of Maple Syrup and Deerflies

  1. “After such a long, hot, humid day, the ripe odor emanating from my person told me I warranted a bath.”

    “Once I was settled in I took a leisurely little walk around my new home. The locals were very excited to make my acquaintance but were a bit too clingy for my taste. In fact, they tried to bite me, which I suppose is what ticks are meant to do.”

    “Any onlooker would have thought me slightly insane (and I was, as the flies were maddening) as I excitedly picked handfuls of blueberries, grunting and grinning with delight as I stuffed my face with the tasty little fruits.”

    “Stopping in the city of Niagara Falls, I saw the falls known as Niagara Falls (it gets a bit confusing) and then moved on, going northeast along Lake Ontario.”

    “According to him, Vermont maple syrup is better than New Hampshire maple syrup. Who am I to disagree?
    Moving right along, I buzzed through New Hampshire (never did try their maple syrup)…”

    I can't tell you how many times I started laughing while reading this entry. You, sir, have the makings of a great humorist (if you aren't one already)! Hope you're doing well and staying safe 🙂

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