Been There, Done That, Got the T-Shirt

After much worrying about what time to leave and what to bring, and a last minute panic when I realized I wouldn’t be able to use my phone, the day of the big adventure dawned early and bright. The weather looked absolutely PERFECT for a ride. Started around 55F and headed for about 85F. I decided I wanted to leave earlier rather than later. I’m always surprised by how much time it can take to pack up and get ready to leave, but I was ready to hit the road by 6:30 a.m. Interview was at 1:00 p.m. and about 250 miles away.

Headed out and it didn’t take long to figure out I hadn’t zipped my fleece jacket all the way up. Little bit of a chill to the air that I wasn’t expecting. And the clouds were hiding the sun a bit too. Nothing really terrible, but could have easily been avoided – and that’s what was annoying. The road I was on was the same road that I had been taking to my class all spring so a very familiar route. So I knew I would be able to stop in abut 40 miles to adjust the jacket.

Got to the rest area and not a soul around. Full of trucks though. I’m sure most of them were snoozing off the daybreak. Nasty time to be driving. Good for them for getting off the road. It was just a quick stop. Didn’t even get off the bike. Just pulled off the helmet for a bit, adjusted the zipper on my jacket, tied a bandanna around my neck, and stretched out my arms and hands a bit. And then fired her back up and got back out on the road.

I was surprised by how good the bike was feeling. Maybe it was the temps, maybe it was that the tires actually had the proper air pressure, maybe it was just a few weeks of riding under the belt. I’ve often hit a bit of a wall at about 65 mph where the bike starts to vibrate. Only lasts until you get up around 70 mph, but has often served as an excuse to keep it under 65 mph. Not today. Vibration seemed less than usual, and I found myself hitting the speed limit of 75 mph and occasionally getting past that just a bit. And feeling comfortable with that. Been up there before, but it had always felt like I was pushing the bike and myself. This trip it was coming naturally and just felt like a groove.

The next stop was Grand Forks where I chose a truck stop to gas up. Busy with people on their way to work. This is where my familiarity with the roads came to an end. I’ve been to Winnipeg several times before, but never on a motorcycle and the last time was about 8 years ago and I wasn’t driving. I had looked at a map and thought there was one more rest area before the border, but wasn’t certain it served traffic going northbound. I did know that there was a town just this side of the border where I planned to make one final gas stop before entering Canada.

So back on the road. Really wide open roads. Hardly anyone out and few headed my direction. Warming up a bit too since the clouds had moved off. And if there was a wind, it must have been very light or a tailwind. The fringe off my lever grips was flowing straight back and that’s unusual and quite a treat.

I did find the next rest area. It was a between-the-lanes one, which is why the map had only been showing one and not two. It served traffic going both directions. Decided I should actually take advantage of the facilities this time which is always interesting when I’m fully geared up. 🙂 Once again, had the place to myself, except for the DOT guys who were out maintaining the yard. Wednesday mornings are not a heavy travel day apparently.

Next stop was Pembina, which is the border town. Wasn’t really low on gas, but wanted to top it off anyway. Didn’t want to be running low arriving in Winnipeg. Also needed to turn off my phone to avoid those international roaming charges. 🙁 The gas station I stopped at was full of trucks getting their paperwork together before crossing the border. And there were lots of trucks hauling farm equipment to the local area too. And as would be predictable, the gas station was full of trashy souvenirs.

Less than a mile up the road was the border crossing. Had my hands, or was it my head, busy trying to follow the signs to the correct lane. No mention of motorcycles on any of the signs, but I wasn’t about to get in the long line of trucks waiting to cross. Actually there was only one car ahead of me and they pulled out quite soon after I pulled in to wait behind them. Once I got the green light, I pulled up to the window and shut off the bike. Too noisy to talk over. Dug through my pockets for my passport and driver’s license and handed them over. “What’s the purpose of your trip today?” “Job interview.” “Where at?” “Red River College in Winnipeg.” “What’s the nature of your work?” “Instructional design. Online learning.” “Where are you from?” “Moorhead.” “If you get the job, do know know you’ll need a work permit?” “Is that what it’s called? I know I need something, but I don’t know what the process is.” “You can get that taken care of here if you need to.” “Good to know, but it’s just an interview today.” “Anything to declare? (asks about certain specific items)” “Nothing.” “When will you be returning?” “Before sundown.” “Enjoy your trip.” “Is there anywhere I can get a map of Manitoba?” “Just up ahead there’s a travel center and there should be some there.” “Thank you.” Hands back my paperwork and I fire up the bike and start looking for this travel center. It’s actually just past the border plaza and I pull over to see what they’ve got, only to find out it’s only open Thursday-Sunday. Guard didn’t tell me that. Oh well, photo op at least.

Ok, the first thing I noticed after crossing into Canada is that this is not an interstate anymore. Lots of intersections. And the road was pretty rough. I had looked at the conversion for speed from kph:mph the night before, but hadn’t expected to see 110. Had no clue how fast that was. 65mph? Harley only shows mph on the speedo. Oh forget it. I just found a car and settled in behind hoping that if we were speeding, they’d get pulled over first. And the speed limit had dropped, appropriately, about 20 mph once across the border.

Passed through a small town called Morris that I thought looked like a good place to stop sometime. Some nice little places to eat right along the main drag. But another sign this wasn’t an Interstate. Went right through town and had several stoplights too. Actually, the kind of roads that can be a lot of fun to ride.

As all the signs with distances were now in kilometers, I wasn’t sure how long it would take to get to Winnipeg. I had crossed the border around 10 a.m. and thought I might have some time to kill once I got there. Winnipeg is interesting in that it has a sharp edge. One minute your in the middle of nowhere and the next your alongside strip malls and apartments. I had my route in my head (N75-W100-N80-N90-WNotre Dame) and was happy to see the signs I was looking for. Had no clue if the intersection would be a left or a right lane turn. And also had no clue whether right-hand turns on red were allowed. Made the first turn no problem (W100), and the second too (N80). But I kept going north, and north, and north, and thought I should have turned by now. Kept going for quite a bit, not knowing exactly how far it was. But I eventually had to pull over and pull out the printout from Google maps. I really didn’t know where I was, but it appeared that I needed to hit an east-west road and go west for a bit to make the jump over to N90. So the first major intersection I took a left and it wasn’t too long until I found the road I was looking for. Now that I was on 90, the next big landmark was that the road split for a bit and when it got back together I was nearly there. I had been looking for a place to stop and eat since I got to Winnipeg, but just hadn’t found anything. But at the last minute I spotted a Wendy’s just before the road merged together again and pulled over for a bite to eat. Sat down and checked the time and realized that it was just after noon. So much for having time to kill. Barely had enough time to eat lunch, find the campus, change clothes, and find my way to the interview.

I really was only about three blocks from the campus. I was expecting a small place, but instead found a rather large, if compact, campus. I knew I had to check in at a certain place and he pointed me to the motorcycle parking. That worked out well as it was one building away from where I needed to be. That allowed me to get out of my riding gear and put on the suit before being seen. First impressions you know. 🙂 Got that done and found the building, floor, room that I needed to be at. Filled out some paperwork, and waited just a few minutes before being called in.

The actual interview was with four really nice folks and lasted nearly two hours. Kinda long in my experience. I thought it went well, but then again I always do. Got done with that and grabbed my gear and did the bathroom identity swap again. It was about 3 p.m. when I pulled off campus.

I had done my research and knew there was a Harley dealership just up the road so I headed up there to check it out. Couldn’t have been a kilometer away. How nice of them to put it there for me. 🙂 Was looking for my souvenir t-shirt and chatted with the staff a bit regarding my handlebars. Nice place. Good folks. I’d go back there. I don’t think it’s the biggest dealership in town, but it was big enough for me.

It was 3:40 when I pulled out of the parking lot. I had wanted to stop somewhere for a nice meal at some point in the day, but not just yet. So I was thinking through the route in reverse so I could get out of town. Headed south on 90 and was looking for my shortcut road over to 80. Well it was late in the day and getting to be a bit of a traffic jam. Stop and go, standstill traffic. And about 30C out before engine and exhaust heat. As it turned out I found a different E-W road for a shortcut but made it over to S80. Now I was looking for E100. Wound up in the left lane, and let me tell you changing lanes was not easy. Got to an intersection, stuck in traffic, and realized I was in a left-turn lane for some road. OK, that’s fine. I need to go east anyway. I’ll just jump on it and look for Route 75 South and it’ll all be good. Going east. Going east. Going east. Going east. Ok, I should not be going east this long. Once again I had to pull over and consult the map. Yeah, I had passed it. Route 75 changed names in this part of town to Route 45, a.k.a Pembina Highway. Jeesh. (Could have really used that map of Manitoba I had been looking for.) Found the Pembina Highway no problem and finally headed south out of town. I hit 6000 miles on the bike at 5:00 p.m. at the intersection of the Pembina Highway.

I was still kind of hungry and knew I needed to fill up with gas soon. Wasn’t too far out of town that my gas light came on. Thought maybe I’d fill up in Morris. Got to Morris and talked myself out of it. Don’t know why. Conversion of gal/ltrs? Whatever. Knew the border wasn’t too far so decided to make a run. My gas light comes on awfully early into a tank anyway and the border couldn’t have been 25 miles away. Well, of course as you’re riding down a bumpy road, hungry, a bit ragged from the heat and riding, and staring at an idiot light all kinds of scenarios go through your head. But luckily I made it to the border and gas was just on the other side.

This time the border was a little tougher. Everyone said it would be. Handed the guy my paperwork again. Was asked nearly the same questions as before. The differences were that he asked for my license plate number, he wanted me to take my sunglasses off (doh!), and looked through my bag. Still pretty quick and painless. Got across and headed back to the gas station where I had last filled up. (Silly gas tank. It’s a 4.5 gal tank. Light’s supposed to come on with a gallon left. I’d been riding a while with it on and still only put in 2.5 gallons.) This time I went inside and got a doughnut and Mountain Dew. Not a Diet Mountain Dew either. Knew I was getting dehydrated. And it was supper time. So sat down next to the pump and ate my junk food and checked the phone for messages.

Still making good time with the bike. Could tell it was a headwind now though. Not bad as prairie winds go though. Stopped at the rest area and once again had the place to myself. Took a few photos then hopped back on the bike. Next stop was Grand Forks where I decided I needed to eat, but didn’t want to take the time for the nice meal I had planned on. It was near 8:30 already. So McDonald’s it is with a fill of gas next door.

Even though it was still pretty warm out, I put my fleece jacket back on under the leathers. Sun was getting low and I knew the temperature would drop. Good thing too. By the time I made it to the next rest area, the sun had gone down and it was getting foggy in places. Availed myself of the facilities and looked around at the traffic/weather. Had put a Class 2 high-viz vest in my bag just for giggles, but it looked like this might be a good place to use it. Right at twilight in a fog, I’ll take all the help I can get. So I put that on for the last segment back home. Got home right at 10:00 p.m. and wasn’t all that exhausted. Tired, yes, but not completely wiped out.

For all my helmet advocate friends, you’ll be happy to know I wore my helmet the whole way. It’s mandatory in Canada, and I didn’t really have a good way to stow it otherwise. It did bother me a bit on the way up, but either it got better or I learned to ignore it on the way home.

Actually, there were a lot of firsts for me again today. First time riding in Canada. First time riding in a big city. First time stuck in traffic. But somehow none of those were a big deal. I remember a year ago when it was a big deal to me just to ride on the Interstate. I’ve come a long way since then.

I wonder what the next adventure will be?

Oh yeah, and I did get the t-shirt.

Odometer: 6,221 miles (475 for trip)


  1. Pam says:

    Oh my! What an adventure!! I still haven't ventured too far from home. Well wishes on getting the job! Do tell when that happens.

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