July 15, 2012
On my vest, there is a patch of the United States (and a bit of Canada). Up until our trip to Indiana, I have only been able to color in 5 states; Maine, NH, MA, Vermont and NY. The patch almost looked like it was bare.
That is how many miles we road in 6 days. Technically, we rode those miles in 4.5 days as from 6 PM Friday until noon on Sunday, the bikes didn’t move an inch.
We left early Thursday morning and took Rt 9 thru NH and Vermont. In NY we picked up Rt 7 – a big mistake. Nice road and all, but slow, slow, slow. After a couple hours on that road, we had made very little progress so we hopped onto US 88 which took us to Pennsylvania. There we got on Rt 6. Another mistake. Although faster than Rt 7 had been, it was still slow and we needed to pick up the pace. So, we did what we were hoping to avoid and hit the big highway and took that to Du Bois, PA where we spent the night. The next morning we hit the highway and rode all the way to Sturgis. The whole ride was hot, hot, hot. I later heard on the news (at 7 PM) it was 100 at that time – so we were probably riding in 105 or so. We stopped a couple of times and I grabbed two drinks at each stop; one water and one slushy-type drink, and drank them simultaneously. At the second stop before Sturgis*, we stayed in the convenience store for about 20 minutes. It wasn’t all that cool in there, but better than outside. I finally got smart and went to the restroom, washed off all the sunscreen (which was keeping me from sweating very well) and ran cold water over my wrists, fore arms and inside the elbows. That cooled me down pretty well. Then we went to the Sturgis* Harley dealer about 2 miles from the convenience store and browsed for about 20 minutes. I now have a shirt from Sturgis*. When we left the Harley dealer, we turned back south and headed for our destination of North Manchester, IN (just south and west of Fort Wayne.
We had a great visit with Heather and Harry. They kicked one of the kids out of her room so we had a place to sleep (poor girl had to room with her sister). Saturday night, WS got to looking at a map of the states and decided that just adding PA, OH, MI and IN to my repertoire wasn’t enough; he was trying to figure out how to get some more southerly states into the mix. After explaining the route he was contemplating, it was determined that we needed about 6 more hours of ride time to be able to do it. So, we decided to get out of Harry and Heather’s hair early and leave noon Sunday instead of Monday morning.
H&H made us a great send-off breakfast (almost brunch) of biscuits and gravy with French toast after which we packed up and got on our way. Everything was great until somewhere in KY, where we ran into a storm. We could see it coming our way, but it was hard to tell if we were going to hit it as the direction of the road changed constantly. However, once the temp dropped about 20 degrees, and a few drops of rain fell, we stopped and put on our rain gear. We got back on the highway and the rain got progressively worse. It began pouring so hard that traffic slowed to 30-35 MPH and everyone turned on their emergency flashers. Then the wind started. After a while (with the rain still pouring and speed still at 30-35), the wind made it almost impossible to stay in one lane. Behind tree screens, we would regain control and get to the right side of the lane. Wherever the tree screen broke, we would be blown all the way to the center line even though we were prepared and leaning into it. We finally found an off ramp and followed it to an underpass. We were not the first there, just the driest. Two bikers were there without any gear at all. The wind howled and the rain continued to come down in sheets. Even cars were seeking shelter. Then, the wind shifted and came from the opposite direction. WS and I agreed that if we heard a train, it would be time to panic.
Fortunately, we never heard a train (tornado) and the wind and rain eventually died down enough for us to get back on our way. WS walked out from the underpass and found that there were train tracks about 50 yards behind our position. We would have freaked if a train had passed at that time! We had holed up for about 40 minutes but the rest of the trip to Lexington was uneventful.
After a good night’s sleep, it was back on the highway to go thru several more states; Tennessee (thru Knoxville), Virginia (thru Roanoke and Winchester – the Shenandoah Valley is very pretty!), and West Virginia before stopping for the night. We had hoped to spend the night in southern Pennsylvania, but a traffic jam that cost us an hour, then a stop to don rain suits, made that impractical. The last leg of the journey on Tuesday was a long one thru a bit of Maryland, thru Pennsylvania, then New York (on the Taconic), Massachusetts and Vermont before winding up home shortly after 8 PM.
The dogs and cats were happy to see us (and we, to see them). The neighbor kids had done a bang up job of taking care of both the animals and plant life, vegetable garden and potted plant, while we were gone (it doesn’t hurt that we pay them well). Wednesday we recovered from our whirlwind tour, doing laundry, putting things away, washing and waxing my bike (WS had waxed his the day before we left).
*Sturgis - the one in Michigan, not the one in South Dakota.
Our trip to/from Indiana was generally smooth. The bikes ran great, even in the hot weather (the bikes are air cooled, not radiator cooled). We didn’t forget anything at home that we had to have. Nor did we leave anything at any of our stops.
That is not to say there were no hiccups. I neglected to bring my Walkman charge cord, so by the second day it had died. I put my phone to work in its place, using the IHeartRadio app, The app had a few issues at times, but was working okay. Then I hit the thing with my hand and I saw parts fly. We were going 70-75 MPH down the highway, so I figured I had just lost my phone. But then I still heard music, the same music that had been playing before I saw parts fly. I finally located my phone hanging in front of my tank; hanging by the auxiliary cord. The case I had for my phone had broken and those were the parts I saw flying. I was able to secure the phone in my windshield bag after rotating my glasses to a pouch behind me.
Once in Indiana, I was able to get a new case, but I couldn’t get one with the belt holster, and it is slick in the hand, but it will do for now.
Harry came up with a charging cord for my Walkman, so I charged it while there (actually took the cord home with me to keep it charge). However, the Walkman decided that it didn’t like the big rain storms we hit on the way to Lexington, and quit working. Well, “quit” isn’t quite the word. It actually started playing everything in fast forward. Ah well, I turned to the radio and found that the mountains (hills) kept most stations from coming in for very long. That was okay, there was plenty of traffic and scenery to occupy my mind. The next day, the Walkman started working fine. Then it started pausing itself randomly. After an hour of that, I turned it off. At the next stop, I blew in the two speakers at the back of the Walkman to dislodge / dry out any remaining moisture, and it worked fine the rest of the way home (there is a joke about blow jobs in there – you can figure it out).
All in all, just minor irritants.
Observations from Indiana Trip
When we got into Pennsylvania there were two immediate observations:
- That state (and every state south of PA) is the land of bikers who wave to everyone – even across 6 lanes of traffic and a 90’ wide grass median. I have enough to do trying to pay attention to traffic around me, I sure don’t have time to look at what is going on way over there if it isn’t going to impact me. So, every biker we passed going the opposite direction on the highway thought I was a snob. That trend lasted in the southern states, but I didn’t notice it in Indiana or Michigan.
- If there are two bikes together, the one behind is in the greater danger from drivers merging onto the highway or changing lanes. They would hear the bikes, see WS go by (or wait for him to go by), and never look or check their mirrors for another bike (I know, because I was watching them thru the side windows). Several times, if I hadn’t anticipated it, I would have been run over/into. Sometimes I was able to move to the next lane. Sometimes I could slow down quickly, while avoiding getting run over from behind. One of those times the guy driving car that tried to run me over looked in his rear-view mirror and give me an apologetic wave. One time, I had no room to swerve into another lane and no time to slow down, so I twisted the throttle and squeezed the bike between the car’s bumper coming at me and the side of the car beside me. I literally made it thru by inches. It’s not like I was far behind WS either, so it's not like the driver's thought they could squeeze between us - they flat did not look once they saw WS go by. Fortunately I am always anticipating and watching other drives because I assume I am invisible (despite the 3 lights and liberal use of the horn when needed) and figure that everyone is out to kill me when I am on the bike. Okay, not all near misses happened in PA, but the first several were and the trend seemed to start there. I also had issues in the southern states – but not NY, MA, VT or NH. Probably doesn’t mean anything, just my experience this one trip.
PA, where the bikers are overly friendly, and the drivers are not.
July 08, 2012
We are Good
Made it to North Manchester, Indiana okay on Friday. Changed plans and left half a day early to head south. Now in Lexington, KY for the night. Went thru major storm to get here. Had to stop at an underpass for a while. The pouring rain was one thing. The 50-60 mph wind that blew us from lane to lane was the dangerous part.
Will try to go thru TN, WV and VI before heading back to PA, and then back home. The motorcycles have performed flawlessly (knock on wood).
Just wanted to let all know that we are okay.
June 08, 2012
WS's Trip to DC
Early morning on Wednesday before Memorial Weekend, WS and 3 of his buddies hit the road on their bikes to ride to DC. Okay, they actually rode to Gettysburg, about an hour outside of DC, because that is where their hotel was. The hit several sections of rain, one of which the rain was so hard, and the spray from the tractor-trailers so thick, that vision was very limited. Being on a highway, that’s not good, so they stopped at an underpass to wait out the worst. Several other bikes were there waiting it out too. They left at 6 in the morning and got to Gettysburg about 6:30 that evening.
There were memorials out the ying-yang. He said that there were a massive amount of memorials that they never saw because the woods were full of them; off the road and only assessable by horse of 4 wheelers, or hiking a distance.
They also went into DC and visited several of the monuments to more recent wars (WW1, WW2, Korean and Vietnam. The reflecting pool is apparently being totally redone, so was closed. There is an Einstein statue near Thunder Alley (where all the vendors hawk items associated with the Rolling Thunder event, where the group of guys that WS went with meet up if they get separated. Of course they had to have their pics taken.
Then there was the Patriotic bike and the truck that started off the parade.
I rode to work that day even though there was a chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon (seems a little off topic, but bear with me). I left work shortly before 4 as I was watching the radar and there were storms roaring thru Vermont. I figured I would get home before the worst of the storms, which I did – I just got sprinkled and lightly rained on the last 7 miles. I could hear the thunder when I shut my bike down, so I hurried up and got it into the shed, then got the dogs into the house. Next, I turned on the news (it was shortly before 6 at that time) to see the radar.
The first thing I was greeted with was a tornado warning. Radar had detected a possible tormado in the Keene area, and the storm was on a vector to hit the Hillsboro area. Knowing that WS and the group should be coming thru the area around the time that the storm would hit, I decided to call WS. I left him a message (figuring that when they hit the NH border they would stop to take off helmets). The message indicated the tornado warning in Keene, that the storm was heading East and would hit Hillsboro in about 40 minutes. So, if they just set tight for about 30 minutes, they would ride in behind the activity.
About 10 minutes later I got a call from WS; he was down in Hillsboro and wanted to make sure the gate and shed were open when he got home. He beat the storm in; it was raining, but still fairly light. Shortly after he and his gear made it into the house, the heavens opened up and we got 2.5 inches of rain in 20 minutes. According to the news, they crossed thru Keene at the right time. Any later and they would have been back-tracking to get home as 9, 10, 12 and 12A washed out and were closed. Other roads in the area, completely disappeared. The only good news those residents had was that there was never an actual tornado spotted.
The driveway washed out in several spots, so WS spent the next day (which was still a vacation day) fixing it.
He must have done a good job as we have had another 6.5+ inches since then without any trouble (it has rained just about every day since then).
Anyway, he enjoyed his vacation with the guys, as much as I enjoyed my time alone.
June 03, 2012
Rolling Thunder - Run to the Wall Videos
Stu has requested that I put up some of the better Rolling Thunder videos. I googled and found a bunch and didn't find any that were not accurate as most are personal videos made by participants. Here is a moving one of the Marine that solutes for the entire parade, which lasts for hours:
Here is a time lapse video of this year's 25th anniversary parade taken from behind the Marine.
The only thing these videos don't get is the mass amount of humanity that is there to witness the parade. They are packed along the whole parade route like sardinges - but everyone is happy to do it as they honor our fallen, missing and POWs.
One of the most enduring memories I have from when I attended the parade years ago, was an elderly vet (most likey from WWII), in a wheelchair making his way down the sidewalk. Everyone along his path made room (although one would swear there was no room to make) and cheered and clapped just for him. He was moved to tears as people made their way thru the crowd specifically to shake his hand.
Additionally, for several days leading up to the parade, bikers (as well as others) are everywhere, going thru the memorials (Viet Nam memorial wall - for which the Rolling Thunder Run to the Wall is named, Korean, WWII etc), many of which are haunting in their presentation. Then there is the Reflecting Pool, Washington monument, Lincoln memorial etc.
I''ll put up pictures from WS's trip later next week so you can see some of the outlying tributes to our internal battles.
First Overnight Bike Trip - Friday
My solo trip to New York started with me getting my stuff together while listening to the local news. I happened to catch the weather, which called for scattered showers; the radar showed no rain at all. Yes, it was solid cloud cover, but warm(ish) so I just donned my chaps, coat, balaclava, gloves and helmet, turned on the tunes on the Walkman, and headed off.
Of course it started misting as I loaded up my saddlebags and placed the travel pack on, but I figured it was part of the fog that had been mentioned on the weather. about 3 miles into the ride, the mist turned into drizzle, then light rain, then rain. About half way to Keene, I hit heavy rain and had to slow down because of the amount of water on the road (2 wheels don't handle ponding as well as 4 wheels). There were a couple of cars behind me, but they didn't take the chance to pass during any of the truck lanes, so they didn't like it any more than I did.
Drizzle, rain, and heavy rain were the norm for quite a while; all the way thru New Hampshire, and most of Vermont. One of the places it wasn't raining was HogBack Mountain, in Vermont. That is a mountain that has spectacular views, when you can see anything. Unfortunately, I was literally riding in the clouds. The road is very windy, with a speed limit of 30-35 MPH, but I was doing 15-20 because I couldn't see the road. No cars were in front of me to help me see the way (and obviously I wans't seeing any scenery). When I got to lower elevations, the rain returned.
It may sound like I was having a miserable time - that is not the case. I was in good spirits as it was warm and I was staying relatively dry as I had been smart last month and re-water proofed my gear last month. I was also happy that I was riding new (to me) roads. And in actuality, much of Rt 9 in Vermont was new pavement because of Hurricane Irene's massive flooding and erosion in Vermont last year.
Finally, a couple of miles from the New York border, the air and roads dried up. It was still solid cloud cover, but that was no big deal. I made it to Fort Ann noon time. I stopped to get gas (my second stop) and take some time to get off my butt as well as eat a breakfast bar (I packed several for the trip). While resting, a huge line of RV's, trailers, mobile homes and trucks towing boats when by. It was an almost continuous line for the 20 minutes I was there - all headed toward Lake George, which was supposed to be my destination.
I'm nothing if not flexible (in heart, if not in actual body), so I decided to head back toward Vermont toward my hotel for the night. I traveled down US 4 and then US 7, saw my hotel (good, I knew where it was at), and kept going south on US 7 for a ways. Eventually turned around to go back to the hotel, checked in, took a walk around Rutland for a while (no, there isn't anything great to see, just needed to stretch my legs), ate dinner studied a map of the area, and got a good night's sleep.
Saturday I woke and was ready to head out. I'd decided to take NY 22 to the northern tip of Lake George, take 9N down the western shore of the lake. About half way down the length of the lake, I turned around and headed back the way I had come.
After that, I found Fort Ticonderoga (I was apparently too early in the day),
then found the ferry across Lake Champlain to take me back to Vermont.
Once back in Vermont, I rode north for a while, stopping at Vergennes to take a drink and remove my coat (the first time it was warm enough to be without a coat)before heading east to eventually get to Quechee Gorge, where I had to stop to do the touristy thing.
Eventually I took off for home, taking part highway and part surface roads - getting home about 3:30 in the afternoon.
An enjoyable trip and successful ride (shiny side stayed up at all times, saw a bunch of cool things and no major issues encountered), I'm looking forward to a few more like it!
There were a couple of oddities that I noticed while on my ride last weekend.
- In Vermont, there were times I encountered signs that said "End of No Passing". However, the double yellow lines continued. Does Vermont have special laws that allow one to pass on double yellow lines?
- Shortly into New York, I saw a sign that said "End of 40 MPH". Well, that's great, but what the heck is the speed limit? Do I get to make up whatever number I want? Am I supposed to go faster or slower? I later saw a sign that said the state speed limit was 55 (or maybe 50, I have forgotten already) so the sign actually made sense - if you had that little fact at your disposal.
- And last, this isn't an oddity, but a Kudo to the Holiday Inn at Rutland, VT (where I stayed). I walked in with my leathers still on, carrying my travel bag and helmet. The gal that checked me in was very friendly and caring. She offerred me the use of the unload area, which was under cover, to park my bike for the night in case it rained. I declined, but was appreciative of the gesture. She also offered to help carry my gear to the room (it was quite a ways from the lobby), but once again I declined.
The next morning she and I discussed taking the ferry between Vermont and New York. She said that she had taken the Burlington / Port Kent ferry and it had some great sites along with being a much longer ride. I decided to take the shorter Ticonderoga ferry. I will, at some future date, take her advice. But, looking at the website, I'm glad I declined - the Burlington ferry doesn't open until June 14.
Anyway, Kudos to the hotel for making me and the 3 other bikers there - one of which took them up on cover for his trike feel welcomed when it would have been easy to negatively stereo-type, and not offer any added ammenities.
May 24, 2012
Rolling in Different Directions
The Wonderful Spouse left early Wednesday morning. He and several other guys are riding down to Washington DC for Memorial weekend. they should have gotten to their motel, located about 1 hour outside DC, late Wednesday night. Then it is exploring the many areas of interest in the area (battlefields, homesteads of early presidents, etc).
Their trip is part of the Rolling Thunder tribute.
This is the fourth time WS has participated, some of the other guys go every year (some are Veterans). I went several years ago (I drove).
I am going for a short trip of my own. Friday morning (tomorrow) I will ride thru Vermont, to Fort Ann, New York. Then off to Lake George (also in NY), then back to Rutland, VT, where I will spend the night. Saturday is up in the air; I will do some riding in VT, then come back to NH via Quechee Gorge, then a meandering trip back home before nightfall.
I'll only put on 300-400 miles, but it will take quite some time. All roads are windy surface roads, along the mountains, that have a speed limit of 30-45 MPH. All but the first 35 miles (up to Keene) will be totally new territory for me as the operator of my own bike. Only another 30 miles or so is road that I've been on in any manner. Should be interesting and have plenty of spectacular views.
I'm hoping WS is enjoying his sorely needed vacation, I know I'll enjoy my mini-vacation!