If this trip isn’t on your travel bucket list, it should be
Whenever and wherever riding enthusiasts congregate and discuss the best places to ride, the old standards like the Pacific Coast Highway, Cabot Trail and Deal’s Gap come up often. I recently started hearing about another one lately that had me intrigued – The Lake Superior Circle Tour. The subject of perhaps the most famous Canadian ballad of all time, Gordon Lightfoot’s song about an ill-fated ship named the Edmund Fitzgerald and its 29 crew members warns of the peril such a treacherous body of water can hold.
Measuring 82,103 square kilometres, it is the largest fresh water lake in the world and reaches 1,333 feet at its deepest point. While she can be vengeful when angry when tormented, she is also the source of unparalleled beauty. Spanning thousands of kilometres through three states and one hell of a big province, I was most certainly interested but it would take some planning and most of all, time. After booking a week’s vacation and a BMW K1600GTL a month in advance, I finally set off during the first week of July to enjoy some long days on the open road and warm nights by the water.
Motorcycles are kind of like girlfriends; Travelling together will tell you pretty quickly if you can live with them or not. From the time I swung a let over the big BMW I knew we would get along just fine. After a decent day of riding from Toronto to the Delta Hotel overlooking the water in Sault Ste. Marie, I was still lively enough to get into some trouble at Smokey’s with the members of a Beatles tribute band called Beatles Magic who were in town to headline Canada Day celebrations the following night at the Roberta Bondar Pavillion. For a relatively small northern city, The Soo offers up a pretty solid Saturday night we quickly found out.
The next morning, rather, early afternoon, I met up with the gang from the Ultimate Northern Ontario Roadtrip – a motley crew of characters looking to track down and document the best motorcycle roads in the province. They were bragging about some of the roads they had stumbled upon recently and wanted to show off so we bombed up Highway 556 to enjoy some entertaining turns before heading for lunch at the Voyagers Lodge & Cookhouse on Batchawana Bay. The reality is that you get unique views either way you travel around the lake but I decided to go counter-clockwise so I could meet up with the UNORT gang on their ride.
Having gotten through my first couple days of riding on various roads and conditions, it still hadn’t ceased to amaze me how truly well engineered the K1600 is. Weighing in at 321 kg (708 lbs), its proportions never felt bloated since the weight is distributed low and evenly. The 160hp DOHC 24 valve liquid cooled 1,649cc powerplent is the lightest and most compact in-line six cylinder motorcycle engine in mass production and 70 percent of the torque is available at 1,500 rpm. Outfitted in Royal Blue Metallic paint with matching saddlebags and a cavernous top case that are all quickly removable, lockable and weatherproof, the Big K seems to boast every amenity under the sun. A perfect travel companion.
The next stretch of road up to Wawa and my accommodations at the Best Northern Inn offered some of the most spectacular views I have ever witnessed in my life. The last two times I had passed over the north shore it had been teeming rain, so thankfully this time I was able to truly enjoy it. After a hearty breakfast at the Kinniwabi Pines restaurant right next door to the Inn and gassing up at Young’s General Store, I had ample time to test the GTL’s cruise control. It definitely came in handy on route to Aguasabon Falls and the Terry Fox monument in Thunder Bay. Perhaps the most intuitive cruise control of any vehicle I have ever piloted, the system helped me keep my speed in check on the long stretches of smooth tarmac that are free of street lights and traffic, but not OPP. The trip also gave me ample time to play with the Multi-Controller mounted on the left handgrip that allows you to scroll though an intuitive interface that not only provides information on tire pressure and fuel economy, but also allows the rider to quickly adjust ESA II (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) settings between Comfort, Normal and Sport on the go. Throttle response can also be adjusted to Rain, Road or Dynamic settings depending on weather and road conditions. It also allowed me to easily switch between my iPod and favourite satellite radio station, Classic Vinyl while I rode. Surprisingly I could actually hear the music wearing a full face helmet thanks to the power adjustable windscreen, which also deflected a fair number of stones and bugs that would have otherwise been caught by my new visor.