Friday, September 30, 2005

Eureka Springs Day 4

It was a warmer Friday morning. I was a backup as a checker for the poker run so I wandered over to Ride On’s room at 8:45 but all the checkers showed up on time. I missed some excitement as the checkers, while on their way to their various checkpoints, were first on the scene of a single vehicle motorcycle accident. They acquitted themselves well and the last word we had was that the riders, although with some serious fractures, were doing well.

I spent the day wandering around the Iron Horse chatting with people and working on the agenda for the banquet this evening. Dinner was scheduled for 7:00 with a cocktail hour starting at 6:00. We got there at 5:00 to make sure everything was in place. It was.

I asked Sherm in he would take some photos and post them to a Blog as the evening went along. We didn’t have a webcam, so this was the best we could do to share the evening with those who could not attend. He did and excellent job, as you can see here: .

We had Croft Long, Product Manager for Kawasaki’s cruiser bikes, join us for the evening. I had met Croft in Durango back in 2000 and it was good to see him again. The dinner was excellent and the speeches were short. At the end, the ROK guys drew for a few items including leather jackets and bike covers. Not too shabby. And the MC didn’t step on his tongue too badly so it was a good evening.

After the cold night Wednesday, I never thought I would be riding back from the banquet at night in shirtsleeves. I threaded my way through the gathering Corvettes back to the Stables where we listened to a DJ with a spectacular singing voice and some Karaoke singers who did not. Lucky Al did well with the mike and so did Kopperhed.

After the music ended, it was time to turn in.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Eureka Springs Arkansas Day 3

It was cool this morning, even by my standards. JT Pendleton was serving coffee to the huddled masses in front of their room as we waited for the sun to rise high enough to make it worthwhile to dry off the bikes.

Kelly, Eagle, Sandy and I headed up for breakfast with the Riders of Kawasaki representatives, Channing and Brian, at the historic Crescent Hotel (link). ROK is the Kawasaki sponsored club for people who ride their bikes and the Crescent is the most haunted building west of the Mississippi. We’ll be having our banquet there tomorrow night. We covered details of the Reunion and it looks like everyone is on the same page.

After breakfast, Sandy and I took our turn in the registration barrel making sure everyone who was arriving had meal tickets and had a chance to participate in the two raffles we have going on. This is a good job because it is an excellent chance to meet new people.

After registration, we spent the afternoon milling around socializing with old friends and making new ones. I took a short hop down to the AlpenDorf to download my messages and post the Blog. No problem with the weather today since the sun was shining.

Oldman from Texas ran over a deer with his Vulcan 2000. The deer fell down and he ran RIGHT OVER it. Coyote tells me the only sign on the bike was deer hair on the tire. I wish they could all turn out this well, although Bill says he was shaking for quite a while.

Back at the Iron Horse, members were gathering as mealtime approached. The Iron Horse staff were preparing to serve us as the sun went down. The BBQ included chicken, pork, beans and salad. We sat with Thomas ‘Wiliedog’ Gates and his wife Pam from Shreveport, Louisiana. Chunk Keisling of Wisconsin joined us with a lamp so we could see what we were eating.

After the fine dinner (thanks Phil and Janie), we adjourned to the parking lot for the first raffle giveaways. Eagle did a fine job announcing and he, Kelly and Lucky Al from New Jersey managed to give away a whole table of donated goodies as we stood around shivering. Did I mention the temperature dropped severely at sundown? There will be more goodies at the dinner tomorrow night courtesy of ROK.

After the raffle, the parking lot cleared out quickly, leaving those of us residing at the Iron Horse sitting around the firepit chewing the fat until we turned in for the night.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Eureka Springs Arkansas Day 2

We woke up early and visited with some of our fellow HIS residents for a while. Then Sherm, K&P, Sandy and I made the obligatory daily visit to the WalMart Supercenter in Berryville.

From WalMart, we headed back through downtown Eureka Springs and north on 23 until we turned off on a side road to a place called Beaver. We stopped at a General Store that was built in 1901 and visited with a pair of Harley riders from Oklahoma. Continuing on, we rode until we reached Highway 62 where we headed west to the Pea Ridge Battlefield.

Pea Ridge was a critical Civil War battle where 26,000 soldiers met to decide the fate of Kansas and access to the Mississippi River. The Confederate general made a critical mistake on the second day when he boldly moved to attack the Union forces but neglected to bring up his supply wagons. Low on ammunition, they lost the battle and were eventually driven all the way back to the state of Mississippi. With weather threatening from the west, we didn’t take time to drive through the seven mile battlefield but the Visitor Center was very informative and the Ranger filled us in on a lot of details.

Here is Sherm taking one of his famous pictures in front of the Center.

As mentioned, there was a serious cold front moving in from the northwest, so we headed back down Highway 62 towards ES. The roads here sweep and wind through the Ozarks and the riding was excellent. We stopped to check out Blue Springs but didn’t get past the gift shop since they wanted $7.25 to enter and we felt this was a little steep.

Continuing on, we stopped at the Glass Church, a privately built non-denominational place of worship built with wood and glass and set in a beautiful grove of trees. It was also free.

Here’s Sherm in a penitent moment.

We returned to the HIS with Sherm while K&P went back into downtown ES to shop. Sherm sorted his pictures and I wrote yesterday’s Blog entry and then Sherm and I headed back to the AlpenDorf to get on-line and do our updates. As we worked at the picnic table out front, I could see the cold front approaching while thunder rumbled in the distance. Then the lightning started flashing. Finally done, we headed back the four miles towards the HIS as fast as our two plus two wheels would carry us. The rain was starting to spit and severe wind gusts were blowing debris onto the roads. Coincidentally, we caught Karen and Preston who were returning from downtown. Then we passed them and continued on at Warp 9. As we pulled into the HIS, gusts were blowing plastic chairs around and I was hit with an empty beer box. We beat the deluge by no more than thirty seconds.

As a precaution, we moved the bikes under the overhang.

This didn’t matter much since the rain was coming sideways but we figured it would help if we caught hail. Then we stepped back in the room and watched a mini storm surge as the water rose to within an inch of flooding the room.

Fortunately, the violent storm was brief and we were able to adjourn to the deck while a light rain fell and then abated.

We ate in the HIS restaurant with Six Pack Jack Ward and his riding companion Randy from Savannah, Georgia. They rode to ES via Kansas City so the could qualify for an Iron Butt Bun Burner certification. This involved riding 1,500 miles in 36 hours. Jack shows up many different places and is one of the serious trans-continental VROC members.

After supper, I took the computer to the deck to catch up on the newsgroup messages I had downloaded earlier. There were a number of friends there and we discussed things, swapped stories and met new people until about 10:00 PM when I decided to head for bed. Sandy was already in the room where she had been catching up on the Wednesday TV programs.

Anyone reading this Blog might wish to check out Sherm’s pictorial account of what we’ve been up to. You can find it at .

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Rolla Missouri to Eureka Springs Arkansas

It was a little cool this morning in Rolla, but we weren’t in a hurry. The hot breakfast at the Drury was a buffet with biscuits, gravy, sausage and pancakes plus an assortment of yoghurt , juice, cereal and pastries. We enjoyed it before mounting up and continuing west on I-44.

Down the road, we encountered some low lying cloud that misted on us so we stopped in a rest area to put on the rain pants. As we came back out onto the highway, we found ourselves behind a red 1500 Wing with Missouri plates. He was running about our speed so we tucked in behind and followed him to Springfield where we both turned south on Highway 65. He got off a few exits down and we waved to each other as he went down the ramp. This is one of the pleasures of motorcycling, sharing some miles and moments with a total stranger of kindred spirit.

As we approached Branson, we stopped in one of the tourist information places to get a list of upcoming shows in case we want to stop there for a few days after the Reunion is over. Then we cruised the main strip to see what had changed. There are new places every time we go through here. At the end, we cut down over Table Rock Dam, the structure that created the massive, man-made Table Rock Lake, and took a winding road back to Highway 65.

A short distance south on 65, we cut off on Highway 86, a favourite winding road that would take us to Berryville, Arkansas. Not too far down this road, we were carving through turns and catching up to a white Cadillac when a large buck with many points on his antlers decided to run out between the car and us. I hit the brakes hard in case there was anything else following him but I guess he was alone this day. Not really close but a reminder to be vigilant.

We entered Arkansas in the middle of the small, somewhat rundown town of Blue Eye, Missouri and then followed a pair of log trucks into Berryville, which interfered with our enjoyment of the remaining curves.

The Iron Horse Stables is a small motorcycle oriented motel and campground located between Berryville and ES. This will be our home until Sunday and will also be Reunion Central. Sherm, Karen and Preston from Oregon were setting up their camper trailers when we arrived. Janey checked us in and we unpacked. A variety of early arrivals trickled in throughout the afternoon.

Sherm, Karen, Preston, Sandy and I wandered into Berryville for some lunch and had sandwiches at the Ozark Café in the downtown square.

The town has been here since 1850 and the restaurant had toys, models and paintings of more John Deere equipment than I ever managed had existed. Afterwards, we wandered back to the Iron Horse to visit some more.

About sundown, a group of us headed into town looking for food. After a less than heartwarming welcome at Sparky’s, we found a buffet place that was just about to close. They welcomed us with open arms (business had been slow) and we chowed down. The ride back to the HIS was done carefully in the dark. Everyone spent the rest of the evening sitting outside the rooms swapping tall tales until the last of us went to bed about midnight.

A short note about communications is in order here. No phones in the rooms. The cell phone is connecting to a company that doesn’t recognize my phone despite the Digital North America package that is supposed to work everywhere. For Internet access, we have to run down to the AlpenDorf motel about four miles up the road where Lucky has WiFi set up. Our access to the outside world will be sporadic, so please bear with me over the next few days.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Montpelier Ohio to Rolla Missouri

There were a few flies in our room this morning as a result of having left the door open last evening. Although I am not good at smacking them, I noticed the large bank type elastic I use to hold some cords together. Shooting the elastic at them wiped out the entire bunch in less than a minute. Now I have a sport to keep me amused on the road.

The roads were still wet this morning but the sky had stopped precipitating. We took our time and put on full rain suits before heading out about 8:00 AM. We followed secondary roads to the Fort Wayne, Indiana by-pass and followed I-69 towards Indianapolis. As we had breakfast in a roadside Mickey D’s, we talked about stowing some rain gear since the pavement was drying out. Sandy suggested not to. Smart lady, since we caught some active rain while skirting Indianapolis on I-465. This was the last rain of the day.

The miles rolled by effortlessly. Terre Haute, Effingham, St. Louis. I phoned Sherm from a rest area in Illinois as we were removing our rain gear. He, Karen and Preston were in Branson and would be catching a couple of shows and spending the night. He suggested that if we turned the wick up a bit we could get there this evening. I said we would see, but that’s another 440 miles and it was already noon.

Near Greenville Illinois, there is a federal prison next to the Interstate that looks like a bunch of Microtel hotels stuck together. Out front, there is an obstacle course/training facility that, today, had many police cruisers. Officers in fatigues were running some kind of exercise in the field. First time I have ever seen any action there.

As we left St. Louis on I-44, the traffic eased up and we ran until we needed fuel in Rolla Missouri. It was 4:30 and we had covered almost 600 miles so we called it quits. They have a Drury Inn here. Nice rooms, hard wired High Speed Internet, a manager’s reception from 5:30 to 7:00 with beer, win and snacks plus a hot breakfast in the morning. It cost more than I would have paid in Branson, but not unreasonable. We had supper at a Steak ‘n Shake. Another first.

I talked to Mom tonight and she said if you laid out the route I took to get here it looked pretty odd. I had to agree. Ted Boyd, if you are reading this, you were right about the way to go. The weatherman was wrong and I was wrong to listen to him. But WTH, if I had gone the right way I’d still be waiting to meet Scruffy.

We’ll be in ES fairly early tomorrow. Then the fun can begin. Oh wait. We’ve been having fun all along:-)

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Erie Pennsylvania to Montpelier Ohio

There is a law of motorcycle travel. It says your chance of encountering rain is inversely proportional to the amount of rain gear you are actually wearing. More on this later.

All the hurricane coverage on CNN and The Weather Channel means that you can’t get any weather conditions reported for anywhere else in the country. The normally comprehensive and useful information was totally missing so we were pretty much in the dark about what was going to happen in the area we would be traveling today.

There were forecasts of rain predicted for Erie, Cleveland and Columbus so we started west on I-90 under overcast skies wearing full rain suits. At Mentor, Ohio, I got a report on the Weather Band radio on the bike that it was raining in Indianapolis. In an attempt to stay north of this, we continued west on the Ohio Turnpike through Toledo instead of cutting southwest at Cleveland to Columbus.

It looked good for a while, but about fifty miles from the Indiana line we stopped for fuel. Since the sky hadn’t changed and the temperature was pushing 80, we took off our jacket rain liners and stowed them. Sure enough, fifteen miles later we ran into a wall of water. Four miles after this we pulled into another service center and went in for lunch while high winds and driving rain scoured the parking lot.

An hour later, the wind had died down and the rain was reduced to a drizzle so we suited up, rain liners and all, and headed out. This proved to be my second mistake as, within ten miles, the heavy rain had returned with even greater ferocity, reducing visibility to NIL. We bailed at the first exit showing lodging. Luckily, the toll booths have roofs over them. Unable to see, I pulled into the first motel, an Econolodge, and found we were in Montpelier Ohio. They tell me there is actually a town around here somewhere.

That was about 2:00. We spread things out to dry and, after a while, went over to the adjacent Country Fare restaurant for the meat loaf special. The rain has been a steady drizzle all afternoon and is forecast to continue tomorrow morning, but what do they know anyway.

We’re about 750 miles from Eureka Springs and we have two days to get there. It looks like we will get in the familiar groove tomorrow (Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Springfield) and try to ride out of it. A good day tomorrow and we can coast in on Tuesday.

Another law of motorcycling is that you have to endure the bad days so you can appreciate the good ones.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Sudbury Ontario to Erie Pennsylvania

It was clear and cool this morning as we finished packing and loaded up the bike. I am a last minute packer, which drives Sandy nuts, but by the time I start doing things I have planned everything out in my head and it goes quickly. That’s the way it was this time.

We headed out under sunny skies at 42F. Traffic was light and we covered 150 miles before needing a pit stop to get rid of the morning coffee. I was happy to find gas was just over $1.00 per liter after the panic buying on Thursday, but I am also afraid that this will be the price for the foreseeable future. I guess we’ll have to cut down on groceries so we can keep traveling.

With a full tank, we headed south and stopped at a Tim Horton’s in a service center on Highway 400 just north of Toronto. Lunch was a sandwich combo we split and I filled my Butler mug with black coffee. Heading on, I took the easy way and jumped on the 407 Highway, our overpriced, privately owned toll road that took us all the way to Hamilton with very little traffic. The bike was humming nicely as it pulled its way through a stiff headwind.

Before we knew it, we were at Fort Erie where we stopped for more gas before crossing into New York. A fellow at the gas station was checking his windshield where it had been struck by an errant 2x4 that fell off of something. No damage. Better him than us. It turns out we have a common acquaintance, someone who works for my former employer. Small world once again.

The border crossing was quick. No line-up, no request for ID. A couple of basic questions and we were on our way. Again the run to Erie was uneventful, although there were a few NY State Troopers lurking in the medians. I figured that if they didn’t stop the tanker truck doing 85 MPH, I was pretty safe.

We got settled in our room and I called Tom “Scruffy” McCalmont. Tom and I have been trying to get together for several years but he has always been otherwise occupied. We first exchanged Emails when I mentioned on VROC that I saw a Vulcan Classic suspended from the ceiling in the Quaker Steak & Lube Restaurant in Erie. He dropped me a line to say he had bought it. He is now on a Nomad.

Tom and Linda showed up and took Sandy and I out for supper at the same Steak & Lube. Good food and fine company. Can’t do any better than that. Thanks Tom and Linda and I hope we see more of you again soon. Here are Sandy, Tom and Linda in front of the restaurant.

Hurricane Rita must have heard I was planning on going around her through Memphis, because she appears to be hitting Memphis now. The flanking plan is in the dumpster and we will take a close look at the weather patterns tomorrow before deciding how to proceed. Stay tuned because I don’t have a clue where we will be tomorrow night:-)

Friday, September 23, 2005

Catch Up

I guess I left everyone hanging back in July when we hit the Soo. Sorry about that. The ride home was uneventful and we parked the bike to decompress. We decompressed for quite a while.

Since then we attended the local Freedom Rally the first weekend in August, the first time in about seven years we have been able to do that. After that, we made a run down to Interlochen, Michigan the third weekend of August for the annual Michigan VROC gathering and had a great time. Then we made the 26th Annual Cyclefest near Waterloo Ontario and enjoyed that as well. Heather and I setup up the Observation part of the road run.

There was a very sad van trip in late August to Stafford Virginia to attend the memorial service for Rick "Wolfman" Jakubas, VROC #3, one of the driving forces behind VROC , who died in a motorcycle accident on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Rick was accurately described as "the heart and soul of VROC" and we will miss him.

Right after the Stafford trip, I headed to the Soo where my brother Dave had been hospitalized for a severe but unknown illness. Dave lives in Edmonton, Alberta but was home visiting Mom. Some hotshot doctors finally diagnosed Addison's Disease, a condition where the adrenal glands shut down. On the plus side, it is controlled with medication.

There have also been some van trips back and forth from Cambridge in the interim to visit the kids.

Tomorrow we start the last trek of the season. We're leaving the trailer at home and heading for Eureka Springs, Arkansas for the VROC Fall Reunion. Unfortunately, Hurricane Rita is headed the same way so this will be an interesting one. The current plan is to ride due south and then head west, hooking around behind it and arriving Tuesday. Rita was supposed to pass through the western Arkansas area Monday. Unfortunately, the latest projection shows Rita stalling around Texarkana so we may be in for it, although we could always hold up in Memphis and be a little late getting to ES.

We'll play this by ear and try to keep the Blog updated as we go.