We had been alerted to the hazards of wildlife. In Canada, the road signs showed images of a moose charging out to challenge motorists. And everyone had a story to tell us, but all we had seen were a few deer peering at us from the edge of the woods. It was not until we reached the Northern Lakes Visitor Center in Ashland WI that we become properly concerned.
Poldi made sure that we got there in time to have our final Circle Tour credential stamped and authorized. The agent then took the opportunity to warn us about deer. That very morning, she had seen several deer on her way to work, and then witnessed a motorcyclist having a fatal encounter with one. After stopping, a wolf appeared, circled her car, and then vanished. This was all very unusual, and so she was concerned for us because we would be taking that same section of road.
With trepidation we drove the last 20 miles, without incident, to our destination that night, Bayfield WI.
We enjoyed our stay in Bayfield. We even took the morning off, spending it on a boat exploring the Apostle Islands instead of on a motorcycle avoiding deer. Our last day was deliberately light, a short 85 miles to Duluth to complete the tour. Surprisingly, this turned out to be one of the most challenging.
The route along the shore from Bayfield is through the Red Cliff Indian Reservation, a region that displays the natural beauty of this area. It was along this passage that we encountered deer crossing the road in front of us, even at mid-day. From her perch on the pillion, Poldi would scan ahead to check for deer at the forest edge, considering their dash across the road.
On several occasions they darted onto the pavement; each time I would either see it or hear Poldi’s alert in the helmet speaker, and aggressively apply the brakes. The recommendations for such conditions were NOT to attempt swerving, but to make a “panic stop” in order to reduce velocity. A swerve was unlikely to avoid the obstacle, and more likely to take you into oncoming traffic. Even if the braking did not avoid the collision, it would reduce the velocity (and the velocity-squared energy of impact), thereby making survival much more likely.
On one occasion, we witnessed a deer run out to the center of the road, look at the oncoming traffic, and then turn around and run back. Meanwhile, the lead car had braked and swerved to avoid it, and the subsequent cars swerved to avoid colliding with the first. The road was littered with cars out of place. I was glad to have made my panic stop so that I could carefully and slowly pick my route around them. Everyone was shaken but ok. We proceeded.
Eventually, we arrived at Superior WI, the connection to a post-wilderness world. Duluth was a few short miles away over the bridge to Minnesota. But as soon as we crossed that state line, everything seemed to fall apart—the pavement disintegrated into potholes, and its mitigation was at the expense of construction barrels and detours and bad signage. The rain had arrived again (can we ever bike to Duluth without rain?), and the rush-hour traffic had no patience for anyone less aggressive in getting to their destination.
We found ourselves on skyline drive, seeking to “close the loop” on our Circle Tour. Our navigation system had broken down, even in the midst of civilization, and we were momentarily lost, looking for the next major crossroad. Suddenly without warning, a fawn streaked across the road, its mother a few feet behind. I braked hard once again, and am pleased to be able to tell the story.
We did make it to our starting point, the Thompson Hill Visitor Center, and we also made it to our hotel, where we treated ourselves to a session in the jet-powered hot tub jacuzzi in the pool room. We would have further celebrated the completion of our Circle Tour, had we not collapsed into bed instead.