Saturday, November 04, 2006

Another Robinson Takes to Two Wheels

Our daughter Heather signed up for the Motorcycle Rider Course at Conestoga College in Kitchener for the weekend of October 14th. Despite biting cold and some snow and rain, she put in two full days in the parking lot learning how to ride from scratch. Although a very good car driver, she had only a passing acquaintance with a clutch before this weekend. I did sneak over to Conestoga and watch for a while. In this picture, Heather is second from the right. Unfortunately, when the time for the test came, she cut a couple of lines while maneuvering and was a little slow in a few sections so she didn't pass. She was disappointed but immediately enrolled for the review and retest session scheduled for November 4th.

I figured that more seat time before the retest was called for so I called Fred Poysor, a friend down in London who helps people improve their skills. Fred is 77 years old and can put me to shame in the twisties on his GL1800. He agreed that he would bring his dirt bike ( a 1971 Honda CL125) up to New Dundee the following weekend where she could practice in the Community Centre parking lot.

It was cool the next Saturday as we met Fred in New Dundee. Heather had a few moments getting the feel of the clutch, but then she was away to the races. Fred set up some courses using small cones and we were able to watch her improve as the day went by. Here Fred watches as Heather does a serpentine. The next morning we met Fred and his friend Ginger in Kitchener for breakfast with the GWRRA. It was pouring rain after breakfast and we suggested that maybe Heather would want to cancel the day's session but she told us we shouldn't coddle her. By the time we got to New Dundee, the rain had let up and she got in another full afternoon of practice.

Although we didn't get down the next weekend, Heather met Fred for two more days of practice.

Finally November 4th arrived. We headed south the day before through the conditions you can see in the picture. I was wondering how they could possibly hold anything motorcycle related in the snow, but it stopped around Barrie and the roads were clear the rest of the way. Saturday morning, Heather headed off to Conestoga. Sandy and I dropped over in the afternoon to watch the progress. There were only two students, so they got a lot of close instruction. Finally, they took the test and both passed.

We are very proud of what she did, starting from scratch and working hard. I am also a little afraid that my child is going to be out there riding. Now I know how my Mom and Mother-In-Law have felt all these years.

I suggested to Heather that a small starter bike would probably be the best. That first day in New Dundee, we found out that Fred's friend Ginger was selling her very nice little Honda 250 Rebel, so we agreed to buy it on the spot. I don't expect that she will be on it too long, but it's a good place to start.

Anyway, it was hectic but now we can look forward to riding together next season.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th. The day that bikers head for the sleepy Ontario town of Port Dover by the tens of thousands. OK, we didn't have the bike with us and we didn't go to Port Dover, but we were down in Cambridge because Heather was taking the motorcycle course this weekend and VROC was meeting at Shoeless Joe's in Burlington. We took a wander over. Good thing we took the van because it was snowing on the way over. There's not a lot to write about. We had some food, a few drinks and took some pictures.

Gord, Maxxx and Roger the Grouch

Normie, Lisa, Ray, Roger, Gord, Maxxx, Sandy, Biker

Ace and Shelby

Everyone watches Shelby keep VROC up to date on what we are doing

The fish was THIS BIG!!

Hey, wait a minute..........

That's about it for this (almost) Port Dover gathering. Maybe next year, we'll get all the way down but then again, maybe not. Shoeless Joe's is just fine by us.

Monday, October 09, 2006

North Carolina to Sudbury - Day 3

The morning broke clear, sunny and 52F. The Weather Channel showed a front coming from the west, so we headed for the border. We stopped at the Duty Free so Terry and Patsy could buy some things and then headed across the Peace Bridge and back to Canada. After clearing Customs with no problem, we dropped a dime at the toll booth. I was ready to get off and get it, but the young lady in the booth said she would look after it. Not often that happens any more.

The front caught us as we reached Hamilton, so we added layers when we stopped for gas over the Burlington Skyway. More gas in Barrie, where we saw an older rider on a Yamaha FJ loaded like the Clampett's and heading for Alberta. Another older gentleman from Scotland stopped me in the parking lot to ask questions about the bikes.

Southbound traffic was heavy on this Thanksgiving Monday as the poor unfortunate cottage country people tried to jam themselves back into Toronto. The Tim Hortons at Nobel was so backed up that we went up to the restaurant at the Shell station for lunch. The food was good, so I'll have to stop here more often. We ran into Marcel Bigras, another Inco retiree, and caught up on who has been doing what.

The last 100 miles were uneventful and we waved as Sandy and I turned onto the by-pass while Patsy and Terry continued on through town.

This was a late season trip planned around a bonfire in August under the influence of beer and vanilla vodka mixed with root beer, but it turned out to be a good one.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

North Carolina to Sudbury - Day 2

It was raining this morning so we lingered over breakfast in Wytheville. When we finally set out north on I-77, we ran through fog as we went through the two tunnels that led to West (By God) Virginia. We saw two deer in fields, but there may have been more. It started to clear around Beckley and the sun came out by the time we stopped for gas in Summersville, so we took the rain gear off. We saw two Summersville cops and one State Trooper just north of town.

After catching I-79, we cranked the speed up to 130/140 KPH, stopping for gas and lunch in Morgantown. We ran up the hill to the K-Mart, where I got cut off by two oblivious woman drivers while I was trying to get into the parking lot. Failing in our boot purchasing challenge, we continued north to Pittsburgh. For once (maybe because it was Sunday), the traffic through the construction zone at the 279 interchange was light. We were paced for a while by a late 70's BMW R90S, a beautiful bike that looks so small today.

We gassed again in Grove City and continued north to Erie where the temperatures were cooling down and leaves were falling heavily. On the Thruway, I miscalculated the mileage to the Angola Service Center so we got off and fueled along US 20. I checked with Niagara Falls for rooms and found that prices were up because of the weekend, so we elected to continue into Buffalo on 20.

I missed the Thruway interchange I wanted to find with hotels in Hamburg and we found ourselves in a rougher area in Orchard Park. There was a Red Carpet Inn within sight of the Blaisdell stadium. It was a but rugged but the room was OK. We walked across the road to Louie's Texas Red Hots and had supper. After eating, Terry took Patsy back to the nearby Wal-Mart and left her to shop. Back in the room, we watched TV and passed the time until he had to go and bring her back. We watched more TV until we all fell asleep.

Note: This was Sunday. The following Thursday night, Buffalo got hit with an early blizzard that paralyzed the city for days. I guess we were very lucky.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

North Carolina to Sudbury - Day 1 - The Blue Ridge

It was cool and foggy in Robbinsville. As we went up the mountain heading back towards KSL, we broke out into clear blue sky with a cottony fog below is. At KSL, Fred was cooking a fine breakfast but we didn't have time to stay. Bidding goodbye to the gang, we headed up US 74 to Waynesville, passing two motorcycle cops doing business with an unfortunate car driver at the side of the road. After fueling and grabbing a quick McD breakfast, we took I-40 East to the other side of Asheville, where we entered the famed Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP).

Since it was Saturday, the traffic was slow. Cars were ambling along at below the 45 MPH speed limit, some as low as 30 MPH, enjoying the scenery and generally getting in our way. There isn't supposed to be any passing on most of the BRP, but we squeezed by where we could. One driver, whose dog had its head stuck out his open sun roof, took exception and honked as we passed. As we got away from Asheville, the traffic eased up and we were able to make better time. The leaves were starting to change and the views were more spectacular than usual. We stopped at a lookout to take it all in.

Further up the BRP, past Grandfather Mountain, the BRP is closed indefinitely due to a landslide and so we had to detour onto US 221. That is a road with some attitude and we were back in traffic again, especially one slow moving truck towing a horse trailer. Eventually, we got back on the Parkway and moved along until we arrived at Deep Gap, where we followed 221 into West Jefferson for gas and lunch at Arby's. At the BP station, an older couple from Cleveland stopped to talk about motorcycles.

US 221 from West Jefferson to Wytheville Virginia is a particularly winding road. We covered it earlier this year southbound and the northbound side is just as good. It is recommended to anyone heading through this area. We passed three dead deer and the mashed parts of what we suspect was one more, but didn't see any live ones. In Wytheville, I called ahead to Beckley, West Virginia and found things were booked since this was one of the last rafting weekends of the season. We elected to stay in Wytheville and got a room at a Travelodge.

Terry and Patsy went across town to do some shopping at the Wal-Mart. Sandy and I decompressed until they got back, and then we all went next door to Cracker Barrel for supper. I finally got a chance to have the chicken fried steak I had been promising myself. I don't know why this isn't available in Canada, but I make up for that whenever I am south of the border.

After getting back from dinner, we watched a little TV and then turned in.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Riding the North Carolina Mountains

Today was to be our first real day of riding the North Carolina mountains. It was supposed to rain until noon today, but the forecast changed and (after a light early drizzle) no rain was anticipated. When Terry and I went down and uncovered the bikes, we met a GoldWing rider from Texas named Don Martin. He was a CMA rider on a three week trek around the south. We talked bikes for a while before getting the gear packed.

Terry led the way out of Maggie Valley bound for Bryson City on US 19. The road was mostly twisty as it wound its way up and down the mountains through the Cherokee Indian Reservation. Terry, towing the trailer, set a steady pace which picked up a bit as the pavement dried. We passed through Cherokee, going by the fancy casinos and the turn off to Gatlinburg. We came into Bryson City along the river and stopped at the ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Control) store to stock up for the evening. A couple of good old boys came out with a pint, climbed in their truck and took a long pull from the bottle before driving off. Luckily, they were going the other way.

I took the lead as we got up onto US 74, the Great Smokey Mountains Expressway, headed for Kickstand Lodge. This was familiar territory and we rolled through the four lane sweepers, turning onto US 28 North and running the short distance to KSL. Pulling into the KSL drive, we were met by several old VROC friends, including Jim Ayers, Russ "Cargo" Argo and Chunk Kiesling, not to mention Fred Kunkel, proprietor and "host with the most". We introduced our riding partners and Terry unhooked the trailer so we could go and find the real twisties.

After letting the gang know we would be back for supper, we headed west on US 28. Since these were roads I was familiar with, I led. I was able to motor along at a pretty good pace, although wet fall leaves on the road called for a little bit of caution. First stop was the Fontana Dam. They have a fine Visitor Center there and, although it was our third visit this year, it was a first for Terry and Patsy. I spent some time talking to the volunteer worker while Sandy showed them the video on the dam construction. Then the volunteer gentleman showed us a trick with a chain that I really can't describe. It looks like his personality was ideally suited to this type of public service.

Coming out of Fontana, we continued on to the Crossroads of Time. This is the gas station/store/ restaurant/motel that guards the east end of the Tail of the Dragon, the 11 mile 318 turn stretch of US 129 that leads through Deals Gap into Tennessee. We prowled the lot for a bit, checking out the Tree of Shame that carries the broken bike parts and gear from those bitten by The Dragon. Although this was also our third time here this year, it is always fun to take someone for the first time and see everything through new eyes.

Sandy and Patsy opted to have lunch in the restaurant instead of taking a run at the Dragon with us. For the solo run, I changed the suspension and we set off with me in the lead. I described The Dragon in a May post, but without a passenger and having more familiarity with the road, I was able to dig a little deeper. To give you an idea of what this is like, here are two videos of Wings, piloted by the esteemed Dragonslayers Yellow Wolf (in the lead) and Fuse (with the camera).

http://media.putfile.com/Riding-the-Dragon-Part-One

http://media.putfile.com/Riding-the-Dragon-Part-two

There were some wet leaves in the first few corners, but then it cleared up as I entered Tennessee and I was able to get fairly aggressive. Traffic was light and I only passed one Sportster on the way to the overlook. There was a good crowd there and I met a gregarious fellow from Nashville and a few Quebec riders. Terry rolled in a short while behind me and we chatted for a bit before starting back. Again I led and, part way though, I came up behind a pair of Harley riders two-up. They were all over the road and I waited for the second bike to give way to the right side of the lane so I could pass. I guess they never heard of Dragon etiquette because this guy kept using the whole lane, so I was forced to pass hard in a short straight stretch. The leader got the idea and moved over after another few corners. Then I caught a truck towing a trailer and figured my ride was over. Fortunately, there was a series of open mild S-bends up a hill and I grabbed some throttle and got by him as well. I arrived back at the COT and lit a cigarette while I waited for my hands to stop shaking. Terry rolled in shortly thereafter behind the two HD's and we went to the restaurant to find the ladies and get some lunch.

We left the COT on US 129 East, aka the Mini-Tail of the Dragon. I took the cut-off road through the Joyce Kilmer National Forest (think Trees). The road was heavily laden with leaves and broken pavement but we made it through to the Cherohala Skyway . I miscued because, at the rate the Valk was burning fuel, I realized that Terry didn't have enough fuel to make it all the way across the Skyway to Tellicoe Plains. After a stop, we decided to run up to one of the higher lookouts and then return to Robbinsville.

The Skyway is more open than the Dragon, allowing higher speeds through the sweepers (as long as the Highway Patrol isn't watching) while providing breathtaking vistas of the Smokey Mountains. Here, Patsy is posing for Terry at the lookout where we turned around. Coming back down the Skyway, we continued on into Robbinsville, where I had a room reserved for us at the Microtel. Good thing too, since the town was booked solid. We got checked in and then left town before the Homecoming Parade clogged the main street.

We headed southeast on 129 to US 19/74 and then northeast through the Nantahala Gorge. Here, the gang stands on a footbridge to get a look at the kayakers and rafters working some white water.

From here, we continued on 19/74 to US 28 and back to KSL where I spent time visiting and Terry took some time out to wash the bike. His rides are usually spotless, a habit I never seem to have gotten into. Bob "Joker" Denny of Florida and Bob "Judge" Oglesby of Georgia were just getting ready to leave, so it was good to get a chance to see them even if it was only for a few minutes.

As the sun set, Fred and Mo cooked burgers, brats, beans and slaw for supper to feed the assembled masses. We hung out and visited some more. Grampoo, of the Pacific Northwest Chapter, was in the area on business and took time out to visit even though he was without a bike. The temperature dropped as it got dark and, eventually, we put on warm clothes for the night run to Robbinsville. Leading, I thanked Honda for the excellent headlights on the Wing as I kept an eye out for Bambi and his relatives. We got into Robbinsville without incident, found odd corners to park in since the lot was filled with bikes, had some pre-mixed White Russians we picked up at the ABC, and turned in for the night.

This was an exceptional day of riding and seeing old friends, exactly the kind of experience that keeps us out here on the road.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Sudbury to North Carolina - Day 2

It was cool and damp this morning. The Weather Channel Doppler showed a band of rain across the Huntington, Charleston, Beckley area, so we prepared for the worst. We fueled and jumped back onto I-79 south. At Clarksburg West (By God) Virginia, we got off on the side road and found a McDonalds for breakfast. It's good to be back in the US where I can get a sausage biscuit while Sandy has her bacon, egg and cheese McGriddle without any cheese. Patsy didn't realize the McGriddle was made with syrup, so I traded her for my biscuit. We came out heading for the south interchange, but found there was no gas there so we doubled back ending up at the same gas where station I lost my clip-on sunglasses a few years ago. They weren't there.

We continued south and branched off on US-19 towards Beckley. I warned Terry about the police in this area and how they would stop someone for one mile over the limit. After all my warnings, we went up over the scenic Powell Mountain and through Summersville without seeing a single cruiser. South of Summersville, we stopped at the Visitor Centre on the north of the New River Gorge Bridge. The picture shows us at one of the lookout platforms on the boardwalk over the edge of the gorge. The bridge, 3,030 feet long and 876 feet above the river, is in the background. We stopped at the store below the Visitor Centre for the first time. I'm not quite sure what to make of the sign, but you can be sure we didn't play with the bullwhips.

South of the bridge in Fayetteville, we stopped at a K-Mart so Patsy could look for a pillow. It seems the seat on the Valk wasn't as comfortable as it should have been. She managed to get a nice, bead filled Batman pillow, but had to wait forever while one cashier dealt with a line of customers at a pace that can only be compared to a snail in slow motion.

Finally, in Oak Grove, Terry got to see one of the local constabulary who had been going south ahead of us. He saw a speeder and didn't even wait for a turnaround, wheeling his cruiser down through the median grass as he made a U-turn to go after him. They are aggressive here.

In Beckley, we caught I-77 and followed it down through the East River and Big Walker Mountain tunnels to Wytheville Va, where we caught I-81 westward towards Tennessee. We continued along here with relatively light traffic, fueling once at Exit 57, and then got off on my shortcut road at Exit 17 in Abingdon Va. This little road winds south through beautiful countryside and large houses, crossing into Tennessee and ending at Darter's Store and US 421. We turned west on 421, which goes to four lanes as we wound across the Tennessee landscape. Another left on the Tennessee Ernie Ford Parkway and we approached Bristol Motor Speedway from the back way. There were storms to the north as we headed across to Johnson City and I-26 South.

After the wild twisting climb up I-26 to the ridge that marks the Tennessee/North Carolina border, we stopped at the scenic overlook. You can see the Tennessee side laid out behind us in the picture. We continued on down the other side pat where the trailer opened by accident last year and went on to Asheville. Going around town, we took I-40 west. The truck traffic was as busy as ever so I was glad when we got off on 19 and followed it into Maggie Valley. We cruised through town and found a promising looking Comfort Inn, but it was full. The Microtel advertised a hot tub and so we got a room.

Patsy stayed in the room while Terry, Sandy and I went down the road to a place called Snappy's. The service wasn't very fast and the food was only OK, but we didn't complain and took Patsy back a sandwich. We changed and headed for the hot tub, which wasn't very hot. In fact, it was broken. The story of my life. After a quick dip in the pool, we turned in hoping for good weather tomorrow as we started playing on those "Nice Roads" I told the border lady about.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Sudbury to North Carolina - Day 1

We rose early to a bad weather forecast. We packed and the drizzle broke just as we left the driveway, heading for our rendezvous with Terry and Patsy Appleby at the Tim Hortons on the south side of town. We have known them since 1980 and Terry and I have a history of both high speed tours and sidecar family runs over the years.

We arrived at Tim's a little ahead of our 8:00 AM meeting time. The drizzle started up again as Terry and Patsy arrived right on time on their Honda Valkyrie, towing their cargo trailer. Starting south, we rode through a cold front with pretty stiff wind gusts and occasional rain. Since the Valk doesn't get good fuel mileage at best, and the trailer and headwinds cut into this, we stopped for fuel in Parry Sound. In an attempt to upgrade the washroom facilites at the Tim's in Nobel, they switched the Men's and Women's rooms. Luckily, I noticed. Unluckily, Terry didn't. Sandy and Patsy were in the Ladies' Room when he heard their voices from the stall he was in. Fortunately, they were the only ones in there as he beat a hasty retreat.

As we left Parry Sound, the rain let up although it stayed windy. We moved another 100 miles south at about 130 KPH to the Petrocan at 400 and Highway 89. The speed combined with the wind and the cold to further reduce the mileage. The day was starting to get a lot dryer and we almost took off the rain gear. I said almost, but we're more experienced than that and it's a good thing we kept it on. Before we reached Toronto, we hit the warm front that the weather map had shown at right angles to the cold front. This brought a steady rain, the all day kind that gets everywhere. We ran across the top of Toronto in virtually zero visibility as the rain combined with the spray from the vehicles. This continued all the way down the 407 and QEW to Fort Erie, where we got off the road for more fuel and a food stop at McDonalds.

The traffic at the Peace Bridge border crossing was light. I pulled into the booth first and the young lady asked the usual questions. When she asked where we were going and I told her North Carolina, she asked why. I said there were some nice roads we wanted to ride. She then asked "You would brave this weather to ride some NICE ROADS?" I said "Yes, Ma'am, that's what we do." She laughed and waved us through, with Terry and Patsy right behind us.

To our surprise, the rain stopped and some blue sky appeared as we headed west on the Thruway bucking headwinds to Erie Pennsylvania, where we stopped again for fuel. Our luck wasn't going to hold, though, and the rain started again as we turned south on I-79. We continued on to Grove City where we fueled once more as the rain let up again. Patsy says I need to mention that the ladies did not complain once, and she was right. These passengers are two of the best riding partners anyone has ever had.

As we approached Pittsburgh, the rain started off and on and, as we went up past the Mount Nebo Road, a spectacular lightning show started to the south of us. The sky lit up time and time again as darkness fell, but the brunt of the storm was still ahead of us. At the South 279 interchange, we came to a dead stop. AGAIN!! I begin to wonder if they will ever finish the road construction here. Fortunately, the temperature had risen to 25C by now and it wasn't raining any more. When we finally got back up to speed, it started cooling and the light show ahead of us got even more wild.

Terry has a habit of continuing to ride no matter what the conditions. My judgement was that it was now pitch dark with severe lightning ahead and it was time to stop. When we reached Canonsburg Pennsylvania, a pretty little town built on a series of scenic hills, I passed him and pulled off down into a Super 8 parking lot. We got a room and took the gear off.

You have to picture where we were. The Super 8 was in a low spot and all the restaurants were back over a hill in the next hollow. We decided to walk and headed up the hill along the side of the four lane road. At the crest, the shoulder disappeared and so we crossed to the median where the walking would be safer. As we descended the other side, we encountered a No Pedestrian sign but we pushed on. I guess people don't walk much in Canonsburg. In the mass of restaurants at the bottom, we found the Wai Wai Buffet. They had a good selection for only $8.95, so we filled up on food. Another thing about Terry. He can't pass up a good buffet.

After eating, we asked if there was another way back to the Super 8. We were told that we couldn't get there from here other that the way we came, so it was back out to the median and up over the hill. You will note in the picture that the road is on both sides of us as we walked down the centre with local drivers giving us strange looks.
Back at the room, Patsy went to the lobby to use the computer to check Email. We didn't last long after that, tired as we were, and we settled in to a good night's sleep.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Planning The Final Run

We got back to town last Monday with 85,500 Kms on the odometer. The rear shock wasn't damping as well as it should and one headlight bulb was burnt out. The next day, as we were at the presentation of a Freedom Rider cheque to an outfit that provides burn garments to children, I noticed the left handlebar end weight had fallen off somewhere.

During the week, I got two H7 quartz bulbs and replaced both low beams. This was tricky because I had to work by feel between the forks and the back of the fairing, but I now consider myself an expert on this little task. The new handlebar weight will be in tomorrow. I will use some Blue Loc-tite on the screw this time and will put it on the screw holding the right bar weight as well.

I called the Progressive Suspension tech line and found their new 460 rear shock/spring will probably do fine as a replacement for the stock unit. I had been planning on upgrading anyway, and this has a higher carrying capacity than the original. The price is around $500 US. I'll get a set of their fork springs as well and also the tapered roller bearings for the steering head, and I'll get them put in over the winter. To replace that rear shock, much of the bike needs to come apart so I'm going to make a list of other things to check and/or replace while everything is exposed.

We leave Wednesday for the last run. Terry and Patsy Appleby will be going with us on their Honda Valkyrie. We'll be gone six days with the objective at the southern terminus of riding the Tail of the Dragon, the Cherohala Skyway and other great motorcycle roads in the western North Carolina/eastern Tennessee area. We'll be paying Fred and Mo a visit at Kickstand Lodge, but this trip will be all motel.

Stay tuned for details as they occur.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Back to Sudbury

It was clear and 43F when we got up early in Auburn Indiana. The fog rolled in as soon as the sun started to rise. We checked the Weather Channel. I notice that many of us fixate on this channel when travelling, but I guess that is reasonable considering our exposure to the elements. Anyway, showers were forecast in the Michigan Upper Peninsula for the afternoon, but it looked like they would be affecting the Canadian side of Georgian Bay as well.

We put on some rain gear and headed north on I-69. Once again, I am amazed at how many will drive in a fog bank with no lights on. It seems that common sense still isn't that common. The fog broke before we got to Michigan. In Lansing, we turned north on US 129 and stopped in St. John for breakfast. We had a nice talk with a retired gentleman on a Honda 250 scooter. His girlfriend won't let him get anything bigger, but he was happy getting about 70 MPG.

We continued on at an indicated 130 KPH on the freeways. We connected with I-75 and, very shortly after, it started to spit on us. We were in and out of several fast moving rain systems with heavy winds gusting out of the west. When we reached the Mackinac Bridge, severe wind warnings were posted. We could see nasty rain clouds over the north side but, gritting my teeth, we started up. For once the paved outside lanes were open. A rider on an FJR Yamaha who passed us before the bridge was having a worse time than we were, and we went by him noting his white knuckled grip. By the time we got to the other side, he was nowhere to be seen and the rain had moved to the east.

The fifty miles to the Soo was going well until, just before the M 28 interchange, I could see a dark cloud moving in from the west. For a while, I thought I could beat it to the bridge but I should have stopped at 28 and let it go by. As the vectors resolved themselves, it became a race to the last Rest Area. We lost by about 1/4 mile, and got hit by hard rain and severe straight line winds before getting under cover. In the brief time it took us to get into the Rest Area, the worst had gone through so we just kept on going and, by the time we got to the bridge, it was all past.

From the International Bridge, we could see the fall foliage on the hills, some of the windmills out on Lake Superior, and the cruise ship Columbus docked at the Soo Ontario waterfront. This ship, loaded with mostly German tourists, was cruising the Great Lakes as I later found out. There was virtually no line-up and the border guy passed us through quickly, again without asking for ID. I would have liked to stop and visit Mom but it was 3:30 and the clouds were still looking pretty intense to the east so we ran for it.

After negotiating rugged road construction leaving the Soo, the run to Sudbury was pretty much uneventful with us running between and around rain systems. On the four lane near Sudbury, something made a move from the bushes in the median and I checked up as a large wolf crossed unhurriedly in front of us. He gave me a look as he went by, wondering I guess what I was doing heading towards him. I hate it when Mother Nature surprises me, but he was a beautiful looking animal.

As we took the by-pass around Sudbury, I could see another ugly looking system moving to meet us. This time, we made it home and got the bike into the garage thirty seconds before the rain hit. We were graced shortly afterwards with what was probably the most perfect double rainbow I have ever seen.


Thus endeth the second last trip of the season.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Homeward Bound

We were up at 6:00 AM. It was still dark, but the first light was breaking over the eastern horizon. There was a fast moving bright light in the sky that got darker as it went past us towards the sun. Some large, low orbiting thing. Maybe the space station?

We packed and were rolling by 7:00. Not much action at the Stables, but we had said our goodbyes the night before. The sky was clear as we headed towards Berryville and then north to Missouri. Unfortunately, as we crossed the Missouri border and the sun started to appear, it disappeared in a bank of clouds. Looks like the damn weatherman lied to us again. We got gas in Springfield for $1.999. Been a long time since I've seen that. Aiming for I-44, I missed the on ramp due to a myriad of orange construction barrels. We had to go a half mile north to get the next exit and loop back.

We were looking for gas about St. James Missouri. Got of the freeway and pulled into the Mobil station. Not far, since it was surrounded by yellow crime scene tape. The station across the road was closed too. Then we looked around. The one station had the pumps laying on their sides, signs were down or shredded, roofs were ripped up or missing. This looks like the place I saw on the news last night in the coverage of the tornado damage. Not a big one, maybe F1 from the damage, but I'm glad we weren't here when it happened.

In Indiana, we lost an hour to the time zone. I found the NASCAR race on MRN and once again listened as my team drivers got knocked out of the race. In Indianapolis, aka the Circle City, we went around on the I-465 south by-pass. There was a back-up waiting to get on I-69 towards Fort Wayne. This wasn't usual for a Sunday, but when we stopped to get gas I saw many were wearing blue and white jersey's. They said Indianapolis Colts. I guess the game just let out. Near Anderson, we were backed up again. This time, it was for a wreck. On the OTHER side of the Interstate. Damn rubberneckers!

We pushed on through Fort Wayne to Auburn Indiana with the temperature dropping as the shadows got longer. Stopped at a Super 8 with WiFi and had supper at the Steak 'n Shake next door. They let me park the bike under the overhang at the motel.

Today, we covered 726 miles in 11.5 hours. The weather forecast looks good for tomorrow, when we have another 620 or so to go.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

A Slow Day At ES

It was still raining and booming when we woke up in the morning. The Weather Channel told us that the tornado watches were still up in many places and that many places from Arkansas to Chicago were flooded. The weather caused the memorial service to be cancelled.

We had breakfast with some old friends maintaining a tradition that goes back a ways. The original plan was to go to the Sheridan Buffet, but we decided that we would stay dry and ended up in the TV room at the Iron Horse.

Luck Al, Dark, Wrong Turn, Brenda, Eagle, Sandy

I decided after breakfast that I would make some good use of my time so I took a corner table in the TV room and wrote Blogs in MS Words for later posting and sorted a large stack of receipts that I've been stuffing in a baggie for several weeks. I updated the gas records for the bike as well. There were some serious discussions going on, while looking at the forecasts, of options for those heading home on Sunday. Our route looks pretty good. By the time I got done. the sky was (finally) starting to clear and the sun was making an appearance.

You see the strangest things at ES:-)

Many of the people took advantage of the improved weather to go out riding. Since we were leaving early, I checked the bike over and we packed much of our gear. Then we went over to WalMart for some single serving packages of coffee that we can't get in Canada. Bought two boxes. We returned and hung out with those who were not riding.

Eagle invited us to supper. He, Brenda, Dark, Sandy and I went into town to the Forest Hills Restaurant. This is the third time Sandy and I have been there over the years, but this time we just had the soup and salad bar since we will be riding hard tomorrow. When we got back to the Stables, a live band Phil (IHS Owner among other things) had hired was playing. They were loud enough to interfere with conversations and some people were wearing earplugs.

I talked to Strider (Hickory NC) and Gary VanDerEyck (Listowel Ontario) for a while and then The Saint introduced himself and we spent some time chatting. Before long, I decided to go to bed since we would be up early. I made the rounds of those still up and said my goodbyes and toddled off to bed.

This has been a great weekend despite the weather. Maybe the weather was a plus for us because we'll talk about it for a long time. Thanks to Dianna, Tip and all those who pitched in to organize and execute this event.

Friday, September 22, 2006

An Unusual Outbreak

There was a thunderstorm overnight. The bike was covered with dirt and debris that had run off the roof. This was the first time we hadn’t covered it for the night and that was a mistake.

We got up late. After hooking up with Bob “Magoo” Montgomery from Bullhead City Arizona and Jim “Wrong Turn” Ayers from Fayetteville West Virginia, we set out for breakfast across town at the Smokehouse Restaurant. It was quiet there and we all split two big breakfasts including what is billed as the “World’s Largest Biscuit”. I won’t argue with that. The older lady serving us looked a lot like Doris Roberts the actress and had a wry sense of humour. She had an aunt who lived in Chatham Ontario who she had visited when young. On the way out, I asked for a napkin to clean my glasses but she took them back in the kitchen and washed and polished them for me. Nice place. We then went across the road to the Razorback Gift Shop and browsed their wares.

There was some interest in checking out the Crescent Hotel, the most haunted building west of the Mississippi. I led. I got lost. We wandered around, asked directions and finally got there the back way. We wandered around the lobby and then the others went upstairs and checked out the rooms. There was a binder behind the desk with accounts and photos of ghostly goings on. I do know that most photos taken in the dining room during our banquet last year had “orbs” on them. These are spots of light that look like water spots on the pictures, but they came from many different cameras.

From there, we stopped for ice cream and lemonade to combat the hot, humid weather. Back at the Iron Horse, the TV started broadcasting tornado watches for areas immediately east of us. There was a small but violent storm mid-afternoon. I saw it coming and moved the bike under the overhang in front of the room. They kept expanding the storm warnings all afternoon while we visited on the deck.

About 5:00 PM we headed over to the Best Western Inn of the Ozarks for supper. We posed in the parking lot for a group photo and then went inside and found seats. I was the MC for the evening and also had the privilege of determining the eating order. As a result, I got to the buffet last but the food was worth the wait. Pork, beef and many vegetables and salads along with one of the best lemon meringue pies I have ever had. After supper, we went outside and watched a large storm build. Black, black with lightning, but the air was still. The Okies and Kansas people looked worried. We went back in and, at 8:00 (9:00 Eastern), the room toasted Kegs memory as did VROCers all across the world. His memorial service in Pennsylvania will be tomorrow.

The new and improved Thomas "Wiliedog" Gates
(less 130 pounds)

The raffle started and I went outside to watch the storm hit. Rain was heavy and straight line winds were fierce. Pea-sized hail fell for a bit and low-lying fog clouds appeared and swirled while the sky was bright with lightning and thunder booked. Eventually, it quieted down, the rian stopped, and I went inside to watch the rest of the raffle which saw a huge number of prizes given out.

We went out after the raffle and found the rain and lightning were back. I suited up and Sandy caught a ride back to the Stables with Steve “Eagle” Gladfelter and his wife Brenda in there car. Steve and I met in Ignacio Colorado back in 2000 and he has been a mainstay of the World Reunions ever since. The ride across town was one of the worst I have done. Visibility was negligible because the rain soaked up the headlight beam except when the lightning flashed and it was like daytime. Then, when the flash was over, I would try to aim for where I remembered the road to have been. I moved slowly and carefully, eventually pulling into the IHS parking lot and back under the overhang.

The rest of the evening was spent in the TV room watching the Weather Channel as they talked about the “unusual outbreak of September storms”. The sever system started about here and extended all the way past Chicago with a record number of tornadoes spawned and heavy flooding in some areas. Eventually, we went to bed with the sky still lit over and over again by huge flashes of lightning.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Finally, We Arrive In Arkansas

We never did get the WiFi in the room working. I hate when that happens. I know we won’t have much opportunity in ES so I’m not sure when this will get posted.

The sky was partly cloudy with mid-60’s and the Doppler showing rain to the west. Rather than spend the morning around Branson, we decided to head for Eureka Springs right away in case the weather moved in. We took the scenic route out of Branson, following SR 165 across Table Rock Dam and through the countryside and then turning in SR 265 to US 65. The twists were somewhat spoiled by a van towing a trailer, but it was still pretty. We followed 65 south a short ways and turned on SR 86, which is a beautiful road to wind our way to the Arkansas border.

Just north of Blue Eye and the state line, SR 13 meets SR 86. The traffic coming off 13 in an odd shaped Y intersection has a stop sign but I guess the driver of the big red dually truck hauling the large piece of equipment on a trailer didn’t notice or he didn’t see us. I didn’t make the best move by stopping when I should have swerved right, but he stopped as well and we glared at each other for a moment. Then I took a deep breath to clear the adrenalin and we moved on. In the middle of the small town of Blue Eye, we entered Arkansas. The road got a little straighter as we moved on down to Berryville where we stopped at McDonalds for the usual. No WiFi at this Mickey D’s either.

It’s a few miles from Berryville to the Iron Horse Stables where we would be staying. On the way in, we passed Scott “Ride-On” Steen leading a group of Vulcans out on a ride. There were still a number at the IHS when we pulled in. We exchanged greetings with some old friends as we tried to check in. This was a challenge because they kept moving the registration files between the office and the restaurant. For a bit, I felt like the ball in a tennis game. Finally, we got the keys and unloaded our gear in the room. Rainman (pictured here) from Georgia was trying to diagnose an intermittent misfire on his Nomad. The standard VROC advice for this is to first check the battery terminals for a bad connection. His positive terminal was loose so he tightened hit and I then talked him out of doing more messing around with it. The problem was, in fact, solved by the simple fix based on VROC wisdom.

On the way to registration, we saw some old friends and met some new ones. We got our meal tickets and bought some raffle tickets for the large number of donated prizes that Dianna “Moon” Hugely, the organizer, and her team had found. People continued to arrive throughout the afternoon. Supper was slated for 6:00 PM under a large awning next to the IHS. A few of us started loitering near where we figured the food line would start well ahead of time and were, as a result, the first to be served the chicken, pork, beans and other good stuff.

After supper, some of the goodies were raffled off at the back of the IHS. After the prizes were done with (we didn’t win anything but two Honda hat winners gave them to us), we sat around the fire and watched brilliant flashes of heat lightning illuminate the sky. Eventually, we turned in for the night.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Maine to Arkansas - Day 4

It was 44 degrees in Paducah this morning, but the sky was clear. Lucky us since the Weather Channel was showing rain in the northeast. Forecast for the area was a high of 66 with 77 being forecast for Springfield Missouri. We’d be headed for the better stuff.

I checked the tires after breakfast. The pressure was fine, but the rear is wearing strangely on the left side. It is cupping with distinctive ridges. However, after seeing the way the Dunlop Elite 3 wore, I am never surprised by what these radial tires do.

It was a slow start. We got underway after 8:00. After a day and a half of Interstates, there were none in the plan today. We started out on US 60 West right out of the parking lot. After leaving the city, it dropped to two lanes of fairly flat, straight road. I had to pass a few slower cars but we generally moved along pretty well. After a while, I could see we were traveling along the top of a levee. At ended at a pair of very long, skinny bridges over the Mississippi. The second took us across the state line into Missouri.

US 60 got on I-57 for a while. This didn’t look like the Missouri I know, with straight, flat roads and flat fields of crops. Many were cotton. When I-57 ended, US 60 remained a four lane divided highway. Near Dexter, we encountered our first rolling hill and by the time we got to Poplar Bluff, the rolling hills and trees were looking more like Missouri. At Poplar Bluff, we turned off on US 160 West. This was a two-lane road that started to wind a bit. After Doniphan, it got seriously twisty with many of the corners marked for 35 MPH. This is not a New England 35 MPH. Those carry 50 MPH signs down here and can be done easily at 70. These 35 corners needed some effort, coupled with the fact that the road was simultaneously going up and down like a roller coaster. This was why we came this way.

After 33 miles, we came to Alton. I recognized the town because we had come through here with Auggie and Sue a few years ago heading south on SR 19. From Alton, the road straightened out but the hills got steeper and more frequent. We were getting butterflies over the top of many of them. We made good time to West Plains, a fairly sizable university town. After that, there were some straight stretches and some sections with the trees and 35 MPH corners. All in all, I’d recommend US 160 through here to anyone looking for a good ride. Near Forsythe, we turned south on SR 76 to Branson. Now many of the corners were 25 MPH. Near Old Branson, traffic picked up and we came into town at a crawl. I saw a gas station advertising regular for $2.11. Also, the temperature was very warm by now.

The Georgetown Inn, where we stayed a few years ago, only had rooms with single queen beds. They were going for $28.95 a room, showing Branson is still a good motel value, but Sandy wanted more space. We moved up the strip to the Palms Motel and a king room. The couple in the room next door, from southern Illinois, had a new Harley at home and a Corvette that they take to Eureka Springs each year. They’ll be down there in two weeks and he seemed disappointed to find that the bikes had moved their weekend. The only drawback here is that the WiFi is 3rd party. The gateway near my room isn’t working and, while I can connect in the lobby, it won’t take my credit card so I can’t do anything on line. I’ll check back alter.

Sandy and I walked over to the Uptown CafĂ©. I told her it was a short walk. I lied. It was a lot further than I thought. Sandy had Hawaiian chicken and I was good and had a chef salad. Then we walked slowly back to the Palms and I sat down to type this. Now, since it is a gorgeous evening with a pleasant breeze blowing, I’m going to sit out in front of the room for a while.
On a different note, one thing has caused me to wonder all summer. I see people everywhere talking on cell phones. Even in backwoods Missouri. Just who the hell are all these people talking to?????

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Maine to Arkansas - Day 3

The weather strategy worked perfectly. By dawn, the rain had passed by and was out east over Hagerstown Maryland. There was some broken cloud cover but it was 66 degrees in Morgantown. We uncovered the bike, wiped it down and went in for our continental breakfast.

After loading and fueling, we rode through Morgantown and connected with I-79 South. This stretch of road is an old friend. This is the fifth time we have traveled it this year. But, for a change, we didn't turn off on US 19 to Summersville. For the first time since 1990 we continued on towards Charleston. I was still not in the groove as we went up, down and around at 80+ MPH on one of the more interesting Interstates in the country. Not sure what is wrong, but I'll work it out.

On the outskirts of the state capital, we stopped so Sandy could get her McGriddle. A lady with a two-for-one coupon offered her a second McGriddle, which we split. We connected with I-64 West out of Charleston towards Kentucky. Stopping at a rest area, we met Dan and Deb from Valparaiso Indiana. Dan owns a GL-1500 but they were traveling in their van since Deb likes to shop for antiques. We talked for a while before going our sperate ways.

Huntington West (By God) Virginia sits on the Kentucky border. For many years, Inco owned Huntington Alloys Inc. located here. I communicated with them for years about product and recycle shipments between our divisions but I had never been here before. No matter now, because Inco sold it some years ago to raise money for other projects. The town is pretty with rolling hills and very many trees. After crossing the Big Sandy River, we were in Kentucky.

Lexington. I've passed by many times on I-75 going north or south. This was the first time heading west. Strangely, there is no restricted access road going west and connecting with the Interstate. We had to find US 60 and proceed at street level before getting on the New Ring Road. This took us around town past a three car pile-up on the other side before connecting with US 60 West. Several miles out, we turned on the Bluegrass Parkway. This is like an Interstate without the number. Different stretches are named after different people. We headed southwest and found that exits were few and far between. With the exception of Elizabethtown, there were few towns of any size. At one exit, we stopped for a bit and had some local older gentlemen ask us questions and voice their comments on motorcycles in general.

When the Parkway met I-24, we took the latter towards Paducah. We had scoped out some places to stay. I stopped at a rest area at Exit 7 for a pit stop and found the building was an old mansion listed in the Register of Historic Places. That was different. We ended up at the Pear Tree Inn at Exit 4. Pear Tree is Drury's budget line, with the rooms going for about 2/3rds of the Drury rate. The WiFi is good and the room is nice. Exit 4 is one of those that looks like it has sprung into existence overnight with new buildings and streets all over the place. For supper, we walked across and down the street (no sidewalks) to an IHOP. Turns out it was the opening day and the place was IHOPping, all right. Our server, Jamie, was a large girl with a winning smile and a bubbly personality. All in all, it was a fine experience.

Now we are back in the room and I am about ready to call it a night.

One note on today. It wasn't the backroad wander I had wanted, but most of the superslabs and scenery were new which was nice.

Also, a warning. I don't know if we will have Internet access over the next few days. If not, I will be writing just the same and will post at the first opportunity.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Maine to Arkansas - Day 2

Today is my brother Dave's (aka Rabbi's) birthday. Fifty-one years. Whodathunkit. Happy Birthday, Rab.

It was again (surprise) cool and foggy this morning. They are forecasting clear and a high of 81 here. I chatted with the desk guy while I was checking tires on the bike. He was originally from Oklahoma and spent eight years in Amarillo before moving north. The tires were OK, but I'm not sure about the desk guy.

I find the gas prices interesting. I was paying $2.64 for a gallon of 87 octane in New Hampshire. This morning was $2.80 in New York. Later today, I found it for $2.40 in Pennsylvania. The disparity in state taxes is amazing. But however I slice it, it's about the best I have seen all season so I won't be complaining.

My initial plan was to head towards Binghampton on I-88, get off at Exit 6 and head south to Susquehanna and cut back over to US 11 south, thereby by-passing the city. The only problem with this plan was that, at Exit 6, I could barely see anything in the fog. The idea of taking a minor back road in the pea soup didn't appeal to me, so we continued on I-88 to I-81 South. The fog largely cleared in this stretch and we stopped at the Pennsylvania Welcome Center (a fine new building of Bluestone) for a state map.

We got of I-81 at the next exit, entering the Endless Mountains, and followed US 11 south through New Milford and Hop Bottom. Here there is a spectacular viaduct and, after we turned west on US 6 towards Tunkhannock, there was another one. The fog was with us off and on through this stretch. From Tunkhannock, we turned south on SR 29 and followed Fishing Creek through a pleasant valley. At SR 118, we went west and then took SR 487 South just past a place called Red Rock. It was marked that on the map, and one of the three buildings said Red Rock Store, so that must have been it.

Down SR 487, the Endless Mountains ended. In Benton, we saw the nicest mobile home park I have ever seen. Then we got into Bloomsburg and we found one of the prettiest towns I have ever seen. It has universities, an old historic looking downtown and well maintained everything.

I heard on the radio that it was good we came through when and where we did. It seems Dick Cheney is going to Dallas (west of Scranton) and many of the roads in the area, including I-81, will be shut down by State Police to allow his motorcade to pass securely. It's a fundraising lunch, not a state occasion, and he's only the Vice-President and yet they are shutting down one of the busier truck routes in the country. Glad I got through the area first.

From Bloomsburg, we followed the Susquehanna river to Selinsgrove and on to Harrisburg. Sandy suggested that maybe if we picked up the pace a little, or a lot, we could get to Branson on Wednesday and spend the night before going to Eureka Springs on Thursday. And with that one suggestion, she laid waste to my plans of crossing the eastern US on the blue highways.

We took I-81 south to Maryland and connected with I-70 West. Stopped for gas at a Pilot truckstop that was the same one we went by in June while camping at Hagerstown. The trucks were still lined up to get in there. When I-70 cut north, we continued on I-68. They call this the National Freeway and promote it as an "alternative route to the west", but the traffic was light and there were almost no trucks. We did get to run up Slideling Hill with the big rock cut at the top (pictured). Down the other side, we could see at least seven layers of hills ahead of us, each one fainter and higher than the one before it. This was evident in the Gaps we went through. The first was 940', the next was 1,100', the next 1,300, the next 1,600. We crossed the Eastern Continental Divide at 2,640 and the next was even higher.

Cumberland is an interesting looking city from the Interstate but it was rush hour and I wasn't getting down to street level. Still, we will have to get back here some time and check out what looks like a richly historical city. At the West Virginia line, we stopped again to check on accomodations ahead in Morgantown. Exit 7 looked good and the lady said the Holiday Inn Express had vacancies so she didn't need to make a reservation for us. That was a mistake because the last room was rented just before we got there. The Super 8 next door had rooms. This place has WiFi, is much nicer than Oneonta and cost me $15 less. Go figure. I asked why Morgantown was so busy and Gloria, the lady on the desk, said she didn't know but it has been like this for a month.

After settling in and logging on, we went over to Bob Evans for a light dinner. Meat loaf for me and a turkey dinner for Sandy were not exactly light. Then we came back to the room where Sandy went to sleep and I have been diligently pounding the keyboard. I need some sleep too since I wasn't in the groove by the end of today. It was subtle, but I could feel I was tired as I ran through the downhill sweepers. My focus was a tad off and the riding was a bit ragged.

A word on the weather. There is a large storm front coming through from the west along a SW/NE line. I am hoping that this gets through overnight so we can get behind it tomorrow. We'll see how this works out.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Maine to Arkansas - Day 1

It is Sunday morning and we have until next Thursday to get to Eureka Springs Arkansas. This should allow us the opportunity to explore some back roads. The only problem I have found with this is that I can find the fastest or shortest way in a few seconds. Finding the right back roads can be a long a confusing process. I work on it one day at a time and hope that, at the end of the day, I am closer to my destination than I was in the morning.

Since we were in no rush, we packed and then I wandered outside for a smoke. The weather was a bit cooler and foggier than yesterday, but held the promise of great improvement. After talking to Ron Russell for a bit, we all went inside for breakfast. We again sat with Manjo and Linda, but today we had "real" breakfasts. Eggs, bacon, toast, home fries. Lots of it, and very good too. After breakfast, we brought the gear down and loaded the bike. People were heading out in ones, twos and threes so there were a lot of goodbyes said. Then it was our turn to hit the road. It was 10:00 AM.

We fueled up and headed west on US 2 through Gorham NH to the little town of Jefferson. There we turned south on SR 116 towards Littleton. This was a new road for us. At one point, I had to turn around a go back to photograph some cows. You can see by the picture that two of them are black and white, but the pattern is unusual. It looks like they are wearing a white cummerbund. Sandy says she has seen cows like this before. If anybody knows what they are, please drop me a line. In Littleton, voted as having the Best Main Street in the USA (I have no idea who voted, but it is a very nice main street) we took US 302 to Woodville and over the bridge into Vermont. Then we ran down the west side of the Connecticut River. This was the reverse of the route we took from Americade to Laconia in June. It was nice to see that the river level, which was over the banks then, was back to more normal levels. I have noted before that Vermont drivers are very polite. I should also mention that they are quite slow. We had to pass more than a few of them to keep up a reasonable pace.

At White River Junction, we turned west on US 4 stopping at the visitor centre at the Queechee Gorge. I put the bike on the centre stand to check the rear shock, which didn't seem to be damping as well as I would like. I found that there is no way you can even see the rear shock on a GL-1800, so further inspection will have to wait until sometime it can get to the dealer. From there, we went on through Rutland where we stopped beside a rider on an ST-1300. He asked where we were going and I said Arkansas. I asked him the same question and he said he hadn't decided. I like that. He took US 7 out of Rutland while we stayed on US 4 to New York State.

Near the state line, we stopped at a very nice Vermont information place with some nice flowers, shown here. Unfortunately, we didn't need Vermont information since we were leaving. Across the line, we arrived in Fort Ann, New York. Sandy noted that some signs billed it as Fort AnnE, so there must be a difference of opinion somewhere. In any case, a little research shows that the Stars and Stripes were claimed to be first flown in battle here on July 8, 1777. We turned right on SR 149 towards Lake George, a familiar road. Lake George was very quiet compared to Americade week. We went through town and took 9N South (I have never figured out the naming rationale) through Lake Luzerne. In Greenfield Center, I had to ask for directions because the map atlas did not name the road I wanted. Just south of town, after passing under a railway overpass, we turned right on Middle Grove Road, aka Saratoga County 21. Anybody at Americade should consider riding this because the south end, towards 118, is excellent. Twists, turns, reduced speed corners, pretty trees.

When CR 21 reached 118, we again turned west heading for Johnstown. This is not the one made famous by the flood. We didn't see anywhere to stay, so we headed south on 30A to Fonda at the NY Thruway. There were a couple of places, but nothing we considered suitable, so we continued on 30A South to I-88. This was another new road and was another great ride. At I-88 there was nothing either, so we jumped on the big road headed west towards Binghampton. We came to Oneonta, where we have eaten and gassed up earlier in the season, and stopped at the Super 8. This was not our favourite Super 8 since it didn't have WiFi and a few amenities were not up to standard, but it was 6:30, the sun was going down and it was there.

We tucked the bike in and went over to the Denny's next door for a light bite to eat. After we got back, Sandy went to sleep almost right away while I made notes and looked for some roads for tomorrow.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Supper At The Inn

We sat down for dinner in the Sudbury Inn dining room at 7:15. They were seating groups in fifteen-minute intervals to reduce the load on the kitchen. We shared the table with Steve Cifra and his wife, Lost Bob and his wife and Ol’ Phart Joe. Sandy and I ordered veal Oscar and I had French onion soup to start. The meal was excellent and, by the time we were served, VROC people occupied almost all the tables.

Joe had one of the ladies from the Inn draw three tickets from the ones he gave out before the ride. The first won $200 to help defray the weekend expense. RiderMike aka Grimace (long story) and his wife Melissa, pictured here, won. Mike announced that half would be donated to cancer research in memory of Kegs. Classy move. The next two won $100 each.

After supper, we hung out for a short while. There was a Texas Hold’em poker tournament going on in the breakfast area while some of us stood outside chatting. Since we were pretty tired, Sandy and I headed up to our room about 9:30 and turned in almost at once.

NE VROC Tours Maine

We were up at 6:00 AM and I took the time to write up yesterday’s Blog. Sandy got a picture of me typing in bed naked, but after the ongoing thong jokes I decided not to publish it. I must be getting old or something.

Breakfast service started at 7:00. We joined Manjo and Linda and got a cup of coffee while we checked the menu. Inn guests get a choice of anything on the menu included in their rate. Rather than go for an omelet or other usual fare, both Sandy and I opted for the granola, yogurt, fruit and muffin combo. I looked longingly at the sausages, ham and hotcakes but the road to my winter weight loss has to start somewhere.

After breakfast, we got our riding gear and dried the dew off the bike. The weather was clear and warming, much better than we had any right to expect at this time of year. Departure time for the day’s ride was 9:00 AM from the Irving gas station on the outskirts of town. We got there about 8:30, fueled up and hung out until just before 9:00 when Keith Kohler, planner and leader of the ride called the riders of the thirty plus assembled bikes together for a riders’ meeting.

Keith gives the riding orders to the group

Ol’ Phart gives out tickets for a draw

We left sharply at 9:00. The ride was the usual staggered, using the block and fall back method at intersections. The riders right behind the leader block the intersection while the group rides through and then fall in at the back just ahead of Ol’ Phart who, as sweeper, rides last to be sure no one gets lost. This is the usual NEVROC riding protocol and works very well almost all of the time.

The back roads in Maine are fun. Everybody rode well, which is typical for VROC groups. We passed through areas where the maples were turning bright red and some oak leaves have already fallen. As with yesterday, we found that Maine looks very much like different parts of Ontario. We stopped after 30 miles and sixty miles for brief rests, and then Keith took us to an overlook called Blueberry Hill where we admired the vista and Ron Russell took a timer tripod group shot. Then a pretty blonde girl who was having a picnic there took another two shots with Ron’s camera just to be sure.

Blueberry Hill

Maine has many good roads and many pretty roads where the pavement isn’t quite as good as we would like. After one turn, Ron pulled his BMW K1200 over suddenly because one of the breakaway mirrors had broken away after hitting a bump. Luckily, he has a tether on it so it wasn’t lost or run over. I stopped with him as did Joe and then we got a little bit faster riding trying to catch the group.

We stopped for lunch in Norridgewock. Our bike had just turned 80,000 kilometers and I guess that is the life of a low beam bulb on a Wing because, as I pulled up in front of the restaurant window, I saw one was burnt out. I’ll have to see about fixing that on Monday. Sandy was concerned about the rear shock since the ride was rougher than usual, but so was the road. I think we are OK, but I intend to replace it with a heavier duty aftermarket unit over the winter.

The ride back to Bethel was smoother and quicker since the roads were wider and newer. We connected with Highway 2 and had a good run. The one problem with the blocking came at Rumford, where Keith called for a blocker (it was my turn) but didn’t wait for three oncoming cars to clear the intersection before he turned. I moved to block, looked at an old, beat-up car coming my way at speed and not slowing down, and pulled out of the way. From the look of the redneck types in the car, I don’t think they would have stopped.

We got back to the Inn with no further problems and people parked and then visited until the pub opened once again at 4:00 PM. We are now waiting for our supper seatings in the dining room and I am killing time by Blogging.

Friday, September 15, 2006

On to Maine

It was another grey morning so we put on our rain gear right from the start. Traffic was light as we made our way down to the bridge to the US. This bridge has the worst road surface of any I have found, although there are more patches than holes these days. The lady border guard was pleasant and we even got chatting about the Maine mass murderer who had been a cook at the Sudbury Inn where we would be staying. Quiet border crossings mean bored guards and you can never tell what’s going to happen then. This one worked out well.

Off the bridge, we took SR 37 east through the large Mohawk reserve that spans the border. Gas stations, casinos and cigarette shops line the road for miles. After leaving the reserve, we connected with 122 East through the little town of Constable. This place looked less than affluent, but it also had a sense of honesty about it. Simple folk doing their best to get by.

We reached US 11 and followed it across upstate NY past dairy farms and cornfields to Champlain where we stopped for the usual breakfast. I’m back in the US so McD biscuits are again an option. There was a couple on a Harley headed east who turned out to be from Caledon, Ontario. They were returning from a Maritimes trip and so we talked travels for quite a while before heading our separate ways.

Crossing the north end of Lake Champlain into Vermont at Rouse’s Point, the sun made its first appearance. We eschewed the southbound interstate, instead following Highway 7 south to St. Albans where we stopped and took off the rain gear and sweaters. This, of course, ensured that the clouds would reappear which they did before we left town. The rest of the day was alternating sun and clouds but it never came close to raining. Departing St. Albans didn’t go according to plan. I’m sure the sign for 104 South was missing and, by not making the correct turn, we were committed to I-89 South. I guess I could have turned and gone back up the on ramp the wrong way, but that did not seem prudent at that juncture.

The miscue was a good thing. About ten miles south, we got off and cut over to 104A. This was an entertaining road, winding over to 104 with little traffic. Turning onto 104, we started the diagonal run to St. Johnsbury Vermont, about 40 miles away. The road wound pleasantly through farming valleys, small towns and the tree lined Green Mountains. Eventually, it gave way to SR 15, “The Grand Army of the Republic Highway”. More of the same except that we got behind some slow traffic near the end that we couldn’t pass. The last turn was onto US 2. We saw two Vulcans a few vehicles ahead and moved to catch them. I thought they were Homer and the Montreal crew headed for Bethel so we fell in behind them and followed them around St. J. on the truck by-pass. We separated when I exited to go back to Highway 2 and later I found out it wasn’t Homer anyway when he arrived on a different coloured Nomad.

US 2 was OK. We were now in the White Mountains with the NH “Brake for Moose” signs. Once again, who wouldn’t brake for a moose? The foliage in some places is very much like Algonquin Park. Other places looks more like Northern Ontario. I feel at home here. This was our first time across 104 and 15 and I would recommend the route to anyone looking for a nice ride.

After Gorham NH, we crossed the Maine border and passed through the thriving, if tiny, West Bethel before coming to a stop sign in Bethel. I wasn’t sure if I’d remember where the Sudbury Inn was, but there it was, only a half block up from the stop sign. There, out front, was Ol’ Phart Joe’s Nomad and one wheel trailer along with a few other bikes. People were standing outside or sitting on the porch waiting for the Suds Pub to open at 4:00. We checked in and found our room on the third floor. After the long climb, we found an entrance hallway, bathroom and bedroom with two queen size beds and all kinds of space. It's #21 on the Select Rooms section. Not bad. Dropping the gear, we went back down and socialized until the pub opened. That cleared the VROCers off the street in a hurry. Joe the bartender was on top of nearly everything and Sandy and I split a chicken Caesar wrap and fries along with drinks.

The evening consisted of socializing in the bar or the smoking area (parking lot) as more people arrived. Later, we had a make your own pasta supper, also in the bar. It was good to see all the New England people again, since we missed this run last year. Other than Homer and his wife, we were the only Canucks which surprises me since Bethel is not that far from Southern Ontario. It is only about 255 miles from Cornwall.

After supper, Sandy went up to the room. I spent some time talking to Ron and Lorie Russell and Manjo and Linda and then decided to turn in. Up in the room, Sandy pointed out that the Inn had WiFi, so I dug the computer out. The signal in the room wasn’t good so I went back down to the lobby and logged in. After posting a Blog, checking the mail, getting the newsgroup posts, checking the NASCAR pool for Steve Cifra and looking at stock quotes for Ol’ Phart, I was just about to turn in when the desk got a phone call asking for VROC. I was the only VROCer still downstairs, so I took it. Joliet Jake, who posted earlier that he couldn’t make it due to work, was calling from a bar in Conway New Hampshire to rib Ol’ Phart about it being bedtime. He was amazed to learn that Joe was already in his room.

After hanging up with Jake, I did go upstairs and climbed into bed for the night.

Blogger Problem Fixed

OK, it was my fault. I published two pictures back on the 7th side by side and the total width was wider than the post column size so it kicked all the limks to the bottom. It looks better now.

Blogger Problems?

Jax Emailed and asked what happened to my older posts. I checked the here and see the profile and archive links sections are missing. I'm hoping this is a temporary Blogger problem and will check it over the next few days. If they don't appear, I'll have to start looking for the problem.

We have WiFi here at the Sudbury Inn in Bethel Maine so look for new stuff over the next few days.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

It Was A Dreary Day........

It was supposed to be sunny today according to yesterday’s Global TV forecast. The morning, however, didn’t dawn as fog and then cloud obscured the sun. After packing our gear, I pulled the bike out and checked the tire pressures and oil level. The bags were loaded and we set out shortly after 9:00. We didn’t get far. I’ve been complaining about the lack of work on the Regional Road 55 widening project. Now they are working and we were held up for about fifteen minutes as they blasted a section of rock cut and then had to use a loader to clear the rock and blasting mats off the roadway.

Under the grey skies, we finally headed out Highway 17 east. We made it to Sturgeon Falls before the McDonalds breakfast ended and had the usual. Then we were delayed several times by flag persons between there and North Bay. In North Bay, I’m sure they time the traffic lights on 17 so that someone traveling through will catch every red light. I know we did.

East of North Bay, there was nothing special to comment on except for many more construction zones with many flag persons. It looks like they are doing this whole highway at once. The high point was a car highballing the other way that drifted over the centre line into our lane. I evaded as he cut back to his own side. That got the adrenalin flowing for a while.

Near Pembroke, it started spitting a light rain. We stopped at the Big Irving for gas and continued towards Ottawa. Around Arnprior, the light rain turned to a heavier precipitation just as the sky lightened. This is typical for this type of weather. Then it stopped for a while. Rather than go through Ottawa on 417, I took 416 south towards 401. This was when the rain picked up again.

We stopped at a service centre on the 401 so I could check the detailed map. I got off at the Long Sault exit and followed Highway 2 into Cornwall, stopping at a small motel we stayed at two years ago. We ordered supper delivered from the King George and settled in for an evening of reading and TV. It is the first night of the new Survivor season. The forecast shows rain across New England tomorrow, contrary to previous forecasts, so the weather man is not my favourite person right now. In any case, it’s only about 255 miles to Bethel, so we’ll be there regardless of the weather.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Home Days

It was cold again Monday as we headed back up to Sudbury. Nothing special about the trip but we did stay dry. Arriving home, we unpacked the trailer and stowed all the gear for the winter. The bike will be heading out again on Thursday for Maine and Arkansas.

Tuesday, nothing got done by me. Sandy was busy doing laundry and organizing, but I just laid back. I was feeling bad thinking I had to leave Wednesday, but then I checked the reservations and found we were scheduled to arrive in Bethel Friday so I had a one day reprieve.

Today I caught up the blogs and will do a few other chores. I expect we will leave tomorrow after 9:00 AM and head for Cornwall.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Guinea Pig Intros

While we were away, Heather's guinea pig Penny got her final shot for suspected mites and Heather cleaned the cage and all the related items. Now it was time to introduce her to Coco, the new pig.

For neutral ground, Heather fenced off the apartment hallway and we put one at each end. They ignored each other for a while but then closed in, playing peek-a-boo around Heather. Eventually, they got down to butt sniffing and we atched for any hostile signs. None. Coco ended up following Penny around like a caboose.

After a while, we put them both back into the large habitat. Although Coco avoided close contact with the larger Penny, they both went about the business of eating, drinking and generally running about without any confrontations. Watching guinea pigs is more fun than watching fish by a long shot. It looks ike they have a happy future together.

Birthday on the Road

Today is my birthday. I am 54 but it doesn't feel like it.

The sun rises really late when you are on the far west end of a time zone, particularly eastern. Also, the temperature dropped overnight resulting in a huge amount of dew on the bike and trailer. Good thing we tore down yesterday. So I spent some time outside in the cool dark wiping down the bike. Then we hit the continental breakfast and hit the road before 7:00 for the 550 mile trip to Cambridge.

As we headed north on SR 37 towards the Circle City, I noted that (to paraphrase Robert Duval) I love the smell of dead skunk in the morning. There is something visceral in the pungent odor. The sun peeked above the horizon like the Red Rubber Ball in the song as it wrestled with the haze. As we hit 465 south of Indy, the sky clouded over and the temperature dropped some more. I am amazed that, two years later, the I-465/SR 37 exchange is still under construction.

We stopped at a Love’s/McDonalds and fueled. We were looking for some food but this Mickey D’s was so screwed up and the large girl taking orders looked so miserable that we moved on up the road. There was a much better one in Warren Indiana. After the usual light breakfast, Sandy broke out her rain pants and electric gloves.

Just south of Marshall Michigan, the odometer rang up 77,777 kilometers, an auspicious number, while Garrison Keillor was in the middle of reciting The Raven on PBS. Spooky. While moving through Lansing Michigan, a young lady in a mini-van decided to move into my lane without signaling. I moved just enough to keep from getting hit and leaned on the horn. After about ten seconds, she got the idea and moved back, but she gave me a look that suggested she though all this was my fault. Just another menace on the highways. At the next gas stop, I put on my rain pants and both of us added sweaters to our layers.

Near the border, the sun came out again. We had a quick border crossing. The headwinds, cold and higher (130 KPH) speeds really hurt the fuel economy. We arrived in Cambridge about 5:15 PM.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Kicking Around Elletsville

We were up about 7:30 this morning and made straight for the coffee on the deck. We found Marlene visiting with Evil's attack Pomeranian, Annie. I usually don't like small dogs but this one is an exception. Scotty and Marlene had decided to go home a day early to see if there was any sign of Sam the cat, and left shortly after everyone was up, amid a flurry of hugs and goodbyes.

We went back over to Wee Willie's again for breakfast and got the same girl serving us. I took the computer since they advertised WiFI, but I couldn't find the proper access point. Sandy had a good idea and suggested that we get a motel room for tonight so we wouldn't have to tear down wet in the morning. I wasn't for it at first, but the idea grew on me and, after breakfast, we wandered over to the same Super 8 in Bloomigton that we stayed at two years ago and got a room. Surprisingly, the room was ready and they let us into it right away. The TV showed the Shuttle launch at six minutes and counting so we settled in and watched them light it off. I also used the WiFi to download Emails and the newsgroup.

When we got back to Evil's, some were heading out for a scenic tour. We declined and moved our chairs into the shade to pass the time. Evil put some leftover brats, sausages and hot dogs on the grill for lunch and we finished the potato salad. Then we packed the trailer a little differently so that the folding aluminum table would be more accessible since it was needed first after setup. I decided I didn't like the tongue weight so we opened it and repacked it with some heavy stuff at the back. This resulted in a more reasonable load on the hitch.

As the scenic tourers came back, Snake and KT showed up. Although they live nearby, Snake had dry sockets from two wisdom tooth extractions and KT had broken her leg and was on crutches. Despite this, they were their usual cheerful selves.

It was about now that Evil and Skeeze came out to say that they had received a call that Kegs had passed on. It was a relief to know that his suffering was over, but we will certainly miss him. For those who didn't know him, a look at the VROC memorial page will let you see a glimpse of a fine individual. Ride on, Brother Kegs.

Supper was interesting. Earl spent all day preparing gumbo and alligator. The gumbo was interesting. As Earl said, it wasn't hot. My mouth didn't burn with the spices and my stomach didn't react. All the same, about half way through my bowl of gumbo and rice, I broke out in a massive sweat. So did others. I never had this happen before. Then I tackled a bowl of alligator which really does taste like chicken. After the fine meal was all over (thanks Earl), we adjourned to the fire.

Around the fire, we remembered Kegs. Then, on a happier note, they brought out a birthday cake for Evil's wife Bobbie, Patricia Reed (Mrs. Batman) and I. Patricia and I blew out the candles and everone got a piece.

After saying many goodbyes and thanking Evil for an excellent weekend, Sandy and I headed for the motel shortly after the cake. I was going to Blog but ended up working with tech support trying to connect. Finally, after going over all my computer settings, the guy reset the gateway and I connected right away. That lasted three minutes and I was disconnected again so I gave up and went to bed.