Saturday, June 30, 2007

The French Connection Rally - Saturday

It was about 5:45 when those of us on Field Bed Hill woke up to the sound of someone talking loudly outside. I don't know who it was, but I understand some words were said to someone later in the day that should prevent this tomorrow. I wasn't bothered too much and curled up in the down comforter (thanks again Joe and Karen) until about 7:30. This is big time sleeping in for me.

When I finally did get up, the weather was clear and cool. It looked like it was going to be a fine day. The club was cooking breakfast on site for a donation, so I headed over and had some pancakes, eggs, bacon and toast. Oh yes, and several cups of coffee. Then I went out to the parking lot and wiped down the bike. The dew was heavy and I had forgotten to cover it up the night before.

The run today was going to be a guided group ride with a Toonie Blackjack Run included. The BJ run basically meant each person kicked in a Toonie and drew a card before leaving. Another would be drawn when we got back and additional hits would cost a buck. The object was to get the best blackjack hand, closest to 21 without going over. I drew an 8 for my first card. Be still my heart.......

The leaders convened to go over the ride protocol. We wouldn't be able to block traffic, so some conventions were necessary. I suggested that we use the radios to our advantage. Ron, our fearless leader, liked the idea. I would ride second to him and relay messages from the back about whether the group was together or having any problems. This would have been a good time to check and see if we used the same hand signals, but I didn't think of it. Oh well, no real harm done.

The group headed west along the Ottawa River to the National Capital where the streets were deserted. Then it was over the bridge into La Belle Province (Quebec) where we followed the leader into the Gatineau Hills. The roads here were scenic but overrun with bicycles. We made a turn towards the infamous Meech Lake and wound our way up to the Champlain Lookout. From here, we had a spectacular view of the Ottawa Valley. In the photo, Sandy and Maysey Dyne have their backs to the spectacular view.

Leaving the lookout, we headed back down and took some back roads along the Gatineau River to Wakefield, Quebec. This pretty town had all the earmarks of a tourist mecca, including a scenic train. The leader told us that we could do what we wanted for a couple of hours. Many of us went down the street to a small outdoor place with some really good poutine. It rained while we ate at a picnic table under an umbrella. Then Terry and Jacques decided to accompany us back to the campground rather than wait for the rest of the crew. This would also give me a chance to check the GPS navigation in unfamiliar surroundings.

I selected the Charette Maple Farm on the Zumo and told it to take me there. Its first response was to take us back through Wakefield. Since I could see Highway 5 the other way, I immediately frustrated it by ignoring the first instruction but it recalculated and let us get on the big highway. Things were pretty uneventful on the way to Hull and Ottawa with the exception of the big, black clouds moving around. It spit a couple of times but nothing serious. In Ottawa, the Zumo had us turn left at a place where Jacques, familiar with the city, went straight ahead. Our route put us on 417 a little behind him, but we caught up before too long. The biggest, blackest rain cloud hadn't quite reached us when we turned east and slid out of its grasp. It was a straight shot from there back to the rally site.

My second blackjack card was a 3. Coupled with my 8, I was looking good and paid a dollar for another one. It was a 5. Tough luck. Jules led another group from Wakefield in about 15 minutes after we arrived. They got caught by the big, black cloud and got rained on pretty hard. Timing is everything.

We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening visiting. The door and raffle prizes were given out at 8:30. Sandy won a motorcycle model kit and I won some band-aids. There were a number of gumball machines, making me think of the Gumball Rally. That was a fun movie.

Jack and Cathay French, Freedom Riders from Parry Sound arrived with a story. They had been hauling Jacks' Harley on a trailer behind their pickup across Highway 60 the night before. Near Wilno, they broke a spring on the trailer. They walked to a gas station that was just closing and called CAA, giving them the location. Then they returned to the truck and waited. And waited. Seems CAA screwed up and the CAA truck was looking for them around Barry's Bay. If a fire engine driver, related to the tow truck guy, hadn't mentioned the truck and trailer near Wilno, they might still be there. Once the tow truck operator, from Combermere, found them, they were well looked after. Coincidentally, this was the same young fellow who took care of Heather's car last year when the fuel pump went at our Combermere gathering. Small world.

Later in the evening, there were music and dancing in the hall but many of us headed for the round house and started a fire. About 10:00, they started cooking sausages and hot dogs. They hit the spot. We hit the hay early under a clear sky.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Heading For The Ottawa Valley

Sudbury to Rockton, Ontario

Canada Day Weekend. Time for the French Connection Riders rally in Rockton, along the Ottawa River just the other side of the National Capital. We haven't been to this one for a few years (the last time we went it was in Round Lake Centre) so it would be a new location for us.

As usual, Sandy was packed ahead of time and I wasn't. I got up at 5:30 and threw my clothes into my bag. The trailer was opened up and loaded and then I hooked up to the bike. By 7:30, we were all ready to go. The more one travels, the less they need to think about what they need to do to get ready. In the end, you'll forget the same things anyway:-)

We had been down Highway 17 through Ottawa a couple of weeks ago on our way to New Hampshire. You may recall my description of the construction along the way and the many stops for flag persons. It's not that I dislike flag persons. I usually wave to them and many of them (mostly the female ones) are damn good looking. It's just that sitting on hot asphalt in exhaust fumes tends to reduce my enjoyment index a bunch. The upshot is that we decided to take the roundabout way through Parry Sound and Algonquin Park. The only potential problem remaining was the First Nations Day of Protest, where they intend to make the average Canadian aware of and sympathetic to their cause by causing major inconveniences. We'd have to take our chances with this one.

Doug Dandeno was heading to Owen Sound and Leo Laframboise was riding along part way, so we decided to run together as far as Parry Sound. They arrived at the house a bit early and we were on the road at 8:00 AM sharp. Heading out 55 to the by-pass, where I had been complaining about the poorly milled pavement, they added to the stress by routing us onto a shoulder with fresh, deep, loose gravel. I stayed in a rut until the end, when the rut was filled with more gravel. Not my favourite when towing a trailer.

The ride down Hwy 69 was pleasant and uneventful. The indicated 110 KPH was actually 103 by the GPS. When we got to Nobel, both the Timmies and the Esso station were jammed up so we rolled on to the new Timmies/Petrocan by the Seguin Trail access. While grabbing coffee and a breakfast sandwich, we met two HD's heading up to the big bike rally in New Liskeard and several Sudbury bikes on a day loop down through the Muskokas.

Doug and Leo headed south on Hwy 400 while we took Horseshoe Lake Road, the back way to old Hwy 69. About a half mile in, I found they were doing road work and the whole thing became loose gravel. Not having very much invested in this route, I made a U-turn and went back to 400 south, almost catching the other two before getting off at the next exit.

We only travelled on old Hwy 69 a few miles before turning east on Hwy 141. This is one of my favourite Ontario roads, especially since they repaved the roughest sections of it. In Rosseau, I stopped when we came up behind a line of cars that stretched out of town and out of sight up the next hill. I was considering taking the Aspdin Road to Huntsville when I noticed they weren't actually in the road; they were parked on the shoulder. I'm not sure what the event was, but we motored on past them and on through the twistiest part of the road. At Hwy 11, we cut north and then went east again on 60 towards Algonquin Park.

Traffic to and through the park was surprisingly light considering the long weekend. We stopped at the west gate and I dropped the trailer tire pressure back down (I can't stop tinkering with it) since Leo and Doug said it was getting airborne on some minor bumps on the way to Parry Sound. From my records, the tire pressure doesn't seem to affect the mileage anyway. Coming out the east side of the park, I gave thanks that we hadn't seen any kamikaze moose this time around.

We got gas in Barry's Bay and I asked the trusty Zumo to find me a TD Green Machine since I needed some cash. Our TD's at home are on strike. It found several, but the one in Renfrew was right on our way so I told Zumo to take us there. It kept wanting me to go south on back roads, while I stayed on 60 since I knew it went to Renfrew. Sandy thought it sounded exasperated when it said "recalculating" for the tenth time. Eventually, we got to Renfrew and Zumo took us right down the main street (with all the Friday afternoon traffic), indicating how far it was to the TD on the left. Well, it told us where the TD USED to be. I expected a percentage of the pre-loaded Points Of Interest to be out of date, but not the first one I selected. With heavy hearts, we headed out of town and east on Hwy 17 towards Arnprior, where our electronic cruise director (maybe I'll call her Julie) said there was another TD.

From the Arnprior by-pass, the GPS showed the TD was downtown. Let's see, several kilometers of Friday traffic or pay $1.25 to use the commercial ATM at the gas station right here. OK, I coughed up the buck and a quarter. Then we went across the street and had a bite at Mickey D's before continuing on. After Arnprior, the two lane 17 opened up into the four lane 417. Good for us, but not so good for the several miles of stopped traffic trying to funnel down into two lanes and get through the traffic lights as they fled Ottawa. Every time I travel before or after a weekend, I am thankful I live where I do because we are always going against the major traffic flow.

I had the Charette Maple Farm, on the other side of Ottawa and site of the rally, set as a favourite in the GPS. Well, I had the Postal Code set since it couldn't find the address. I told it to take us there and off we went through Ottawa. This was great because it alerted me as to what lane to be in every time the road diverged and I sailed along at about 130 kph (which was enough to avoid getting run over).

Getting out the other side of town, we passed four bike/trailer combos. OK, three bikes and a trike. As we slowed for traffic, one came up beside me and told me they were on CB channel 25. I dialed them up and found out they included old friends Kevin and Maysey Dyne and Paul and Jane Mitchell from the Kitchener/Waterloo area. I'm not so good at recognizing people in helmets, I guess. All heading the same way, we travelled together past Rockland to the spot the GPS said was Charrette's. But it wasn't there. It was, however, a quarter mile further on so I guess the Postal Code was a bit bigger than I thought. I immediately tapped the screen and made the actual location a Favourite. I like the way this works.

Since we skipped this rally last year so I could attend my high school reunion in the Soo, it was our first time at this site. It looked like the favoured trailer camping spot was on the raised spot over the field bed and we were in time to get a spot there next to Terry & Patsy Appleby and the crew we rode in with. Jacques Gaudet (Trucker), the VROCer from Quebec we first met face-to-face at Laconia a couple of weeks ago with his daughter Julie, was set up there and Freedom Rider Ray Albert was also in attendance. As we looked around, we saw more and more familiar faces. Set up went quickly and a few hands helped get the awning and rain fly on. So far, the weather had been perfect.

It was getting towards supper time, so Jacques, Julie, Sandy and I headed into Rockland to get something to eat. It was only about four miles, but as soon as we got on the road we could see what the trees at the rally site had been obscuring. Clouds. Big clouds. Big black ugly clouds. And they were right there. Riding through downtown metropolitan Rockland, raindrops started to fall and I turned into the first restaurant I saw. It was the Friendly Restaurant and turned out that, by chance, we had found the recommended place in town. Food was simple, reasonable and good. We had a chat with the server lady about UFO's. Jacques and Sandy are pictured at our table while Julie and I were out on the porch having a smoke. It rained cats and dogs outside but we were nice and dry.

By the time we were ready to go, the rain had stopped and the roads had dried. We went back to Charette's (the GPS now knew exactly where it was) and spent the rest of the evening visiting. They have a round house similar to the one at Combermere but larger. It is a round building with windows and benches around the outside and a fireplace in the middle. This one is big enough to hold picnic tables. That's where we hung out until, at 11:45, three of us were the last ones standing and shuffled off to bed.

In The Round House

Freedom Riders & Friend
Ray Albert, Julie Gaudet, Patsy Appleby, Sandy and Terry Appleby

Waterloo Wings and friend
Kevin, Maysey, I can't tell, Jane, Dorothy (FCR), Jerry & Linda

Bob Collins (right) and his buddy Byron
Bob has made almost every Ontario club rally since I first met him in 1980

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Zumo

I have been complaining in here for over a year about getting lost and how I need a GPS. As mentioned in a prior post, we picked one up in Toronto on our way back from West Virginia last week. It is a Garmin Zumo 550, a unit designed for motorcycle use.

The Zumo is a GPS, MP3 player, XM radio and is Bluetooth capable. The XM radio and Bluetooth aren't features I need right now but they may prove useful in the future. It comes with the hardware necessary to mount it on the bike (RAM system) as well as a car mount with speaker. It also features text to voice so that, when it speaks to you, it actually says the street names.

Since I needed to figure out how to use this with a minimum of risk to life and limb, and since wiring it to the bike was going to be a little challenging, I set up the car mount first. I found the unit quite easy to handle as far as figuring out where I was and how to get somewhere. When Kim and Mike were here, we followed its directions around town for practice. Since the default was to prohibit U-turns, the annoying "turn around" command was absent and it would recalculate a route every time I ignored a direction. Then Mike and I used it to find a geocache near the house. So far, so good.

Now that I could navigate, it was time to get the music going. I went out and bought a 2 Gigabyte SD card which goes in a slot on the bottom of the unit and has enough space for about 500 MP3 songs. When the GPS is hooked to the computer this shows as a separate drive allowing music files to be copied to it. Then I found a utility through that allows Playlists (lists of songs to be played) to be easily created. After loading about 500 favourites and creating playlists for Sandy, my more nostalgic moments and fast moving, the music situation was well in hand.

Today, I decided it was time to deal with the bike. First, I installed the RAM mount on the left handlebar. No problem. I had decided to take the power from the accessory cigarette lighter circuit in the left fairing pocket. Since this is also where the auxiliary sound input is, both cords could follow the same (as yet to be determined) routing. The power plug was a Hitachi type and I didn't have one to hook on the Zumo power cord, so I spliced into the cord with Scotch lock connectors and crimped plugs on the ends of the leads. This wasn't as easy as it sounds because the Honda wires were short and the room inside the pocket was small. But I did get it done. The cords were routed down the handlebar and, working blind, I managed to thread them around a bracket on the steering head for the transition from the parts that move to those that don't. Then they followed the Honda wiring to the fairing. Getting into the fairing was easier than I thought since there was a larger than expected gap at the bottom where the Honda wires enter. I plugged them in and mounted the GPS to the bracket. Wonder of wonders, it all worked.

The inaugural run came tonight when we headed out for the Freedom Riders monthly dinner run. Up to Levack and the Windy Lake motel, we listened to our tunes and watched the road go by on the screen. I did learn right away that the GoldWing speedometer is about 6% optimistic so I haven't been going as fast as I thought I was.

There are a variety of screens to tell you different things and I will master them over the next little while. Direction, estimated fuel remaining, altitude, points of interest (gas, motels, restaurants, etc) are only some of the available features. I also need to find out how the Mapsource software on the computer will let me plan more intricate trips ahead of time. I look forward to having this new piece of equipment enhance our travels in the future. Stay tuned for our progress.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Kim & Mike come to visit

Our daughter Kim and her husband Mike had a few days off and so they paid us a visit. They left early Saturday morning and made good time on the drive up.

Since it was still early when they arrived, we decided it would be a good day to visit Dynamic Earth. This is a part of Science North, our local science centre, and sits on the site of the old Big Nickel Mine attraction. We toured the facility and took the underground tour which imparts a sense of what it was like to work underground in the old days as well as now. We also checked out geological displays on how the Sudbury Basin was formed by an asteroid strike and the types of rocks and minerals found here. The gang is pictured standing under the famed Big Nickel, which still stands on the site.

On our way to Dynamic Earth, we stopped at Deluxe on Lorne Street for lunch. This is one of a chain of three local burger joints, which are local landmarks noted for their single golden arch. Specialties include the Super Cheese With Bacon and the Chicken On A Bun Dinner.

When we got home, Mike and I went on a geocache hunt with the new Zumo GPS. There was a cache on a walking path just beyond our subdivision which we found with little difficulty. We updated the log book and returned to the house where I found that mosquitoes really like Mike. It's been a while since I have seen that many bites on one person.

We spent the evening watching DVD's and movies.

The next day, we set out for Science North, which sits on the shore of beautiful Ramsey Lake right in the heart of the city. We checked out the exhibits and got a picture of Kim and Mike under the dozing porcupine. Mike even tried lying on a bed of nails. We caught the I-Max presentation of the movie Fighter Pilot, showing the Red Flag exercises involving NATO aircraft and then we took a Virtual Voyage to Mars on a simulator. Lastly, we explored a travelling exhibit on the Arctic and Antarctic.

Monday, I stayed home and did some chores while Kim, Mike and Sandy went shopping at the malls. Sandy's mother, Jan, made a supper of Korean salad that we all enjoyed.

The kids headed home on Tuesday morning.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Running for home

Beckley West Virginia to Sudbury Ontario

It was time to head for home. Sandy and I woke up and began our routine for an early start. I went down, uncovered the bike and arranged the trailer locks while she packed the bags. Then we took the rest of the gear down with us to have the continental breakfast. Ron showed up to say goodbye just as we were ready to roll. We hit the road at 6:20 AM.

The first thing we discovered was that my microphone wasn't working. I tried unplugging and replugging but had no success. I have spare cords and figured I could debug it during our first stop.

It was foggy through Oak Hill, some of it pretty solid, and there were pretty tendrils rising up and swirling over the New River Bridge. We stopped at Summersville (the Chevron this time as is usual when northbound) for fuel and to get rid of the morning coffee. When I plugged in to move so I could check the cords, the mike was working. We headed north again with more fog on Powell Mountain and it cut out. I hate intermittent problems. Stopping at the scenic lookout, it started without any help from me. I figure the contacts need a shot of cleaner so I'll do that when we get home.

Still on US 19, I passed a truck from Muskoka. Hailing him on the CB, I found he hauls lawnmowers from the Myrtle Beach area to Toronto every week. Once we got on I-79, we found they were repaving parts of it. Other than going down to a single lane, it didn't hold us up but I wondered why they were doing it since much of what they were resurfacing was in very good shape.

There was a quick stop at the rest area north of Clarksburg and a fuel stop at Racetrack Road, just north of Washington, Pa. Around the Ohio River bridge, the lanes separate due to construction. There are radio announcements and signs, but two semis still made last minute panic lane changes in front of me. Other than that, traffic flowed well past Pittsburgh.

Around Mercer, Pa, clouds started building and we had about 1/2 mile of rain. Then we ran between cells to Erie and saw a very big line of bad looking clouds running east/west over Lake Erie. The wind picked up from the west with strong gusts. We stopped for fuel and a Mickey D lunch at State Line, Pa. Then we ran hard over the NY Thruway, hoping that wherever we had to cross the squall line would be kind to us. We crossed the Peace Bridge back into Canada at 2:15. There was no line up at customs and the pretty blond officer welcomed us back with a couple of questions, not even checking our ID. The toll booth girl was also a pretty blond. When we cut under the darkest part of the angry cloud on the QEW without getting wet, I knew that it was my lucky day.

After a quick gas stop at Prudomme's Landing, the tailwinds we enjoyed on the Thruway became headwinds. We crossed the Burlington Skyway under Extreme Wind warnings, which were now coming from the side, but there was no difficulty. The we had some tailwind taking the 407 towards Toronto.

In Toronto, I had to stop at Radio World to pick up a Zumo 550. Yes, I am finally getting in gear and doing something about it. I had phoned from Racetrack Road and found they had them in stock. Anyway, all I knew was they were at Steeles and the 400. Since it was now rush hour, I decided that going past the 400 and cutting south on Jane to Steeles would give me all right hand turns. For once, the plan came together. Then two kind cars let me turn left off Steeles into the parking lot. A salesman named Peter served us. He has a '91 GL1500 outfitted for EMS work. I could have paid less from the US, but I think that buying in Canada will simplify any warranty issues. We stowed the unit in the trailer.

Peter gave us an escape through traffic to the 400, sending us south to Finch and straight onto the northbound ramp. Getting to the 400 at rush hour is only the beginning of one's problems. I made it to the fast lane, but it was stop and go despite the six or so northbound lanes. I don't understand what can bring the left lane to a stop, but stop it did. Frequently. We crawled north until we crossed Major Mackenzie Drive, at which point things started to move along as if a traffic enema had been administered.

There were more cumulus clouds building east and west of us, but we were threading the eye of the needle. In Waubaushene, we made the final gas stop and added some layers because it was cooling down. North of there, they were paving and we ran a ways on the waffle grooves. They were no problem and we were able to cruise highway speeds. The temperature rose a bit and the skies stayed clear until we approached Sudbury, where it cooled quickly and we were surrounded by visible showers (although we stayed dry). Coming into town, they also waffle grooved the road but the misbegotten son of an unwed dog who was operating this machine must have either been new at it or didn't care. Cross cut grooves and uneven surfaces made this the worst job I have ever seen and I almost lost the bike in one place at only 30 MPH.

We pulled into our driveway at 9:00 PM sharp. It took just over 14 1/2 hours to cover 805 miles, pretty good considering the big trailer. I went out to Harvey's in the van to get some burgers and that's where a fairly intense shower hit me.

It was a great trip. Other than a long weekend at the French Connection Rally in the Ottawa Valley on Canada Day long weekend, we won't be doing any major travelling until we head for Colorado sometime in mid-July. That will give me time to get the new tires on the bike and to install and figure out how to use the Zumo.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I think I saw my own tail light.........

Grantsville Maryland to Beckley West (By God) Virginia

This morning, the front had gone through and it was somewhat cooler. There were clouds west of us but the Weather Channel radar showed no precipitation. Some lads with a lawn tractor and trailer were picking up the tree branches littering the ground. This is a picture of the sedate little stream that had been the raging torrent I posted yesterday. We had breakfast at The Casselman dining room. Ron and I tried to engage in some movie trivia (our tastes are scarily similar), but it seems both of our memories no longer work that well. Without WiFi, we didn't have IMDB to fall back on.

After checking out, we headed west on US Alt 40. This is also known as the National Road. It linked Cumberland, MD; Wheeling, WV and eventually Vandalia, Illinois and was also known as the Cumberland Road. "You gotta get me to the church on Cumberland Road." The plan was to follow Alt 40 to US 219 South. We probably should have programmed Betty (the GPS), but I called directions from the rear instead. We reached the intersection sooner than I expected and so I told Ron to keep going thinking there was another one. My error became apparent as we entered Pennsylvania and a sign said Washington Pa was the next major town. Time for another Betty rescue. Interestingly, if it wasn't for some wrong turns, we would have missed some of the best roads. This should be called the Serendipity Tour.

Pa 281, the closest available route south, skirted the corner of Maryland and became WV 26. You could tell when you crossed the border because of the sudden improvement in pavement quality. On average, I think West Virginia has some of the best quality paved roads in the country. WV 26 headed southwest, crossed I-68 (the National Freeway) and then headed due south, twisting and winding its way to Albright, where we stopped for gas and a break. Ron also had Laurie sit in the back of the Wing since he is considering one for the future.

We continued south on 26, took a short jog west on US 50 and then south again on 92. The road continued to twist and wind, as West Virginia roads usually do. Ron encountered one deer standing in the road but it moved off when he sounded the horn. When we reached US 33, we followed it east to Elkins where we hooked back up with 219 South. As we were approaching town, there were two more deer just off the road.

In Elkins, we stopped at a Subway for lunch. Two sport bike riders from Helen, Georgia were also there, running 219 northbound. We spent a few minutes talking North Georgia roads before the hit the road again. I phoned Jim "Wrong Turn" Ayers in Fayetteville WV for some road advice. He wasn't there, but got back to me as we were in the gas station fueling up. After talking to him, a route change occurred.

Coming out of Elkins on 219, one of the short, self-loading log trucks got behind us. He was running empty and must have known the roads well because, despite the sharp corners and hills, he stuck right with us. Ron, who has never run roads like this before, did a fine job hauling his cargo trailers through the turns but we couldn't shake the truck. After miles of this, we encountered a wide spot in the road and pulled over to let him by. He immediately turned off about 100 yards later. Such is life.

Several years ago, when EZ and Scooter came up to Laconia from the south, Ron warned them to be careful in the twisties. After riding the New England roads, they chuckled. Now he knows why. As the post title says, the turns in the south are much tighter than in the north.

The route change after talking to Jim Ayers meant that, instead of heading for Summersville on WV 15, we continued south on 219 until we came to WV 150, aka the Highland Scenic Highway, traversing the Monongahela National Forest. I got a picture at the pullout at the start of the road where we stopped for a few moments. This road is a loop that comes out down on WV 39, which would also take us to Summersville. It climbed up into the mountains, but the curves were gentle and sweeping, unlike what we had been riding. The vistas were great, although we didn't stop at any of the overlooks. The Nature Center, at the junction of 150 and 39, was a must-see according to Jim, but we found it is only open from Thursday to Sunday. Today was Wednesday. Rats!

WV 39 to Summersville was possibly even more twisty than 219. In some areas, the trees formed a canopy and we were running through a green tunnel. We saw some more deer. Finally, after seeing more and more signs of civilization, we reached US 19 on the south side of Summersville. A pit stop was in order so I told Ron we needed to turn right. Then he took the first right off 19 and gave us an unintended tour of the hospital. When we got back on 19, we went to my usual southbound gas stop, the BP station. I tried to call Jim, but had to leave a voicemail.

From Summersville, I led south on US 19 to the New River Gorge. We arrived at the Visitor Center at 5:00 PM sharp. The Visitor Center closed at (you guessed it) 5:00 PM sharp. Rats! Again!! We walked out to the bridge overlook and admired the engineering. Then we continued on to Beckley.

The original destination for the day was Princeton, where we stayed twice in the last month. The Days Inn is nice and we can park in front of the room. There are also several good restaurants within walking distance. But, as Sandy pointed out, we have to go north back up the same road tomorrow morning so Beckley became the new objective. I was planning on the Super 8 at Exit 44, but decided to check out the Days Inn to see what parking they had. Turning right instead of left off I-77, I missed the street and then had to make a U-turn. The DI was further than I thought, so there was another U-turn. I was feeling pretty bad about leading the group around like this when I pulled into the Park Inn & Suites. They had five rooms left and we grabbed three of them. Breakfast, WiFi and a reasonable price. We were processed by what is probably the most efficient desk clerk I have ever encountered.

Supper was at the Texas Roadhouse and Saloon next door. Sandy, Ron and Brad had ribs and proclaimed them good. I had a house special rib-eye called the Marshall Dillon that was very tender and tasty. I don't remember what Laurie had but she washed it down with a Margarita. Jess, our server, was right on top of things and looked after us very well.

Back at the hotel, I made Blog notes and Ron, Brad and I talked to some Ohio bikers who were passing through. I talked to Jim Ayers on the phone for a bit and got his report on the Boscobel Rally. The others are planning to loop through the edge of Kentucky tomorrow and then head east to the Blue Ridge Parkway. The have to be home by Sunday. We will get into long haul mode and head north because Kim and Mike will be arriving Saturday.

The travel over the last few days has been slow (by our standards) but we have seen places we would never have found otherwise, the roads have been great and the company has been first rate. We need to make more trips like this in the future. Thanks to Ron, Laurie and Brad for having us along.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Change of Plans

Coudersport Pennsylvania to Grantsville Maryland

The continental breakfast at the Westgate started at 5:30 am. We weren’t so early. I managed, while eating, to get another Blog entry up but I’m running about a day behind. I bought a notebook yesterday to keep track of each day’s events because the Super 8 pads I had been using were disintegrating.

We’re looking forward to another day of wandering with Ron, Laurie and Brad. They are great people to travel with. Since we are NFD (No Fixed Destination), Ron changed the target of Ohio to one of Kentucky so we could head down into West (By God) Virginia. Also, storms were forecast from the west and we weren’t thrilled with the idea of facing them head on.

Highway 6 was very good west of Coudersport. Not much traffic, enough curves to be interesting and very pretty. In Mount Jewitt, we stopped for a break. I decided to bump the trailer tires way up to 50 PSI, the pressure I originally had them at before Mr. Lee in Osoyoos suggested the 32 PSI setting. Since the compressor cord wouldn’t reach the trailer, we plugged it into Ron’s bike. After blowing two fuses, I jackknifed the rig and used my socket. We’ll see if this reduces tire wear.

Heading south on US219, the first thing we encountered was someone who just had to make a U-turn with their 18 wheeler. For a minute, I was afraid that we would be stuck for some time, but he managed to get going northbound quite quickly. Brad, who travels through this area a lot by car visiting Sylvania plants, told a joke about Johnsonburg, a paper mill town. To me, after living in Bathurst NB when I was very young, a mill smells like home.

In Brockway, we stopped at the Honda dealer. This was the place I bought my one piece trip trunk for the GL1000 back in 1978. The dealer, who I guess is Ray Bish's son, doesn't even have a picture of one of the trunks up in the shop. I was disappointed. Ron did buy a pair of ventilated gloves. Outside, we had a mishap when Sandy swung her arm and her hand caught the end of my cigarette. I'll be apologizing for this for a long time.

After Dubois, where 219 crosses I-80, it got overcast. The road started winding more. We arrived in Barnesboro and decided lunch was in order so we tried to get parked in front of Erma Jean's Family Restaurant. After contending with unlevel streets and unworking parking meters, we finally got in and seated. Our server, Amanda, was a cute young lady who laughed a lot and talked with an accent I would have placed farther south, even though she was raised in the area. She was very competent and attentive, though. The final laugh came when she asked "Can I get you'uns anything else". You'uns. Look that up in your Funk and Wagnall's. She got a very good tip.

Outside, it was raining a bit. Sandy and I decided to ride in mesh since it was so hot and humid and hope it didn't rain too hard. Ron and Laurie put boots on. Laurie needed help, as you can see in the picture.

Heading south again, the road turned into a four lane divided highway. Ron missed the on ramp, but Brad and I caught it. Then Ron, moving to get back on track, almost got clipped by a kid who had been watch The Fast and the Furious too many times. The rains stopped shortly afterwards. We followed 219 down past Johnstown, site of the Flood, and past Somerset, where I could see the house my cousin Kathy used to live in. Shortly after, we were back on two lanes.

We stopped in Berlin for some ice cream at this fine place. The heat and humidity continued to be overpowering. As we left town, angry clouds started building to the east and our southeast track took us towards them. Finally, as the wind farms on the ridge stood starkly against black sky, we cut back to the southwest. Soon after, we crossed into Maryland.

We decided to try to escape the clouds to the east by heading west on I-68 (The National Freeway) towards Morgantown but we found ourselves riding towards more of them. They looked pretty severe, so we bailed in Grantsville and stopped at the Casselman Inn. The original building was built in 1824 to service the coaches travelling between Cumberland and Wheeling. The new 40 unit motel (pictured) was added quite recently. Our room cost $52 and was quite serviceable. Their restaurant in the historic building had a very Amish flavour and we ate there.

After supper, the storm was imminent and the winds started gusting. We had not been back at the motel for 30 seconds when it cut loose with high winds and torrential rain. After about five minutes, the winds abated but the wall of water continued falling for a while longer. Then it tapered off to a more normal intensity. The small brook beside the motel parking lot was a raging torrent and debris covered the lot. We stood outside under the awning watching the whole thing.

There is a chance that there will be a round two. We are under a Severe Thunderstorm Watch until 11:00 PM, but the forecast shows we should be on the backside of the front and out of trouble by tomorrow morning.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Catskills and Northern Pennsylvania

Fleischmanns New York to Coudersport Pennsylvania

It was foggy this morning. We took our time and I checked my tire pressures and measured the tread depth. Oddly, the gauge isn’t showing any wear since I left home. This wasn’t what I expected considering the way the rear tire has worn so far.

After loading up, we stopped at the Citgo for some food and coffee. I think we felt we owed them since they kept us from starving last night. I had ham and egg on a roll and found it quite good.

Our leader, Ron, made an announcement as we set out on SR 28 that we were on the road at 8:20 AM. Before long, we departed 28 for SR 30. This road wound and twisted its way along the edge of the Pepacton Reservoir for quite a ways and I’d give it a high rating. We encountered a number of ranger type vehicles entering the roadway at one spot. After the dam, the countryside opened up and we had a leisurely ride to SR 17.

Gary had decided that he was going to head home from here because our pace was to slow and we were stopping too often for his taste. I can understand this and one rule of traveling together is that anyone can leave at any time with no harm or foul. Our Colorado trip will be more to his liking, but right now we are content to be poking along. This is a style of riding I have been trying to do more of over the last couple of years.

Heading towards Binghampton, we got off at Exit 78 because my map showed there was a road that headed southeast. Gary continued on. Unfortunately, the road south quickly turned east paralleling 17. I got a good lesson on the value of the GPS when Ron programmed a destination down on US 6 and told Betty (the GPS) to take us there without using major roads. Following her directions, we turned onto a small road that we would never have considered. Several more turns and the road got bigger and, eventually, we ended up going south on SR 7 out of Conklin. The very road we were looking for. I was impressed.

We crossed into Pennsylvania where the road number changed to 29. This was a road Sandy and I followed last year on our convoluted way to Custer. At Montrose, the GPS sent us through the very pretty town to a corner where we turned on 706. We followed this to Camptown. Stephen Foster lived in this area and this is the Camptown of the races. Laurie and Ron are standing by the official sign. We stopped for lunch at a shop attached to the gas station. After lunch, someone in a pickup stopped and asked for directions to Herrickville. Using Brad’s map, we were able to send him (I hope) the right way.

Out of Camptown, we took a shortcut on 409 to US 6 and turned right. We skirted the Susquehanna River before following 6 west at Towanda. When we turned on 6, we could see a westbound bike behind us. As we came to traffic in small towns, it caught us and we could see it was green. It never stayed close on the open road. After a number of twists, turns and small towns in the very hot weather, I started to feel extremely tired. I fought it for a while and then called Ron to let him know. He said he had been about to call me for the same reason. In Mansfield, we detoured to the McD’s for iced coffee and a break. The Harley went the other way.

After the break, we went back to 6. Just before we turned, who should come along but the same green Harley. Now we were following him. We encountered slow traffic from Mansfield to Wellsboro. Ron and then Brad got by the Harley and one slow car, but I didn’t get a good enough space. In Wellsboro, everyone turned left while we stayed on 6 so we had some running room.

Galeton had a detour though town. WE saw a church that had been converted into a theatre. Interesting. Down the road, there was a call for a pit stop. We stopped at on gas station but they claimed no facilities. Then we encountered a nice little rest area (pictured) with two portables.

After yesterday’s accommodation experience, we were being cautious. Towns have been small and hotels sparse. Coudersport proved to be the exception. Entering town, we passed a huge Scottish Rite building, very new, a well maintained downtown and a pretty Catholic church before stopping at Sheetz for gas and ice. It was my turn to ask for info, and two cashiers and a customer were very helpful. One of the two places recommended was the Westgate Inn, which was a mile along the way we were going.

The Westgate was excellent. Just 11 years old, Sandy and I got a room with one double and one king bed for $72. They had WiFi so I picked up my mail and posted some Blog entries. Marlene, the lady at the desk, had lived in Quebec for 14 years, so we talked about Canadian things for a while. She also told us that the family behind the Adelphia fiasco had built the Masonic Lodge and now its future was up in the air.

Of course things couldn’t be perfect. The Erway Family Restaurant next door was closed for no discernable reason. Next down the road was Fox’s Pizza. They have a thing called a wedgie, with sandwich fixings between two pizza crusts. Quite good.

Before going to bed, Ron and I sat outside talking about life, the universe and everything. We do this quite a bit the rare times we see each other and it’s one of the reasons I wanted to take the trip. The relaxed trip pace seems to be working for us. Sandy and I decided that, since Gary headed north, we’ll continue on for a few days. We have to be home Friday, so wherever Thursday morning finds us, we’ll go from there.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Half Way To Somewhere.........

Northwood New Hampshire to Fleischmanns New York

The weather gods were with us this morning as it dawned clear with no dew. We weren’t in a rush because we didn’t need to be at Ron and Laurie’s place in Londonderry until 9:00. After packing, we talked to Snappa about his ’99 Nomad showing 435 miles on the odometer. He had just rolled over 100K, but the Kaw doesn’t have enough numbers. Thus faithful steed might be retired soon because he took a Wing for a test ride. We also talked to Coach Rick for a bit before pulling out.

Looking for something light, we stopped at Mickey D’s at the circle for the usual. Then we headed out 4, I-393 and took 93 South through Concord to the Everett Turnpike and on to Londonderry. One strange thing I noted was a freeway rest area with a liquor store in it. At home, we try to keep the booze away from the vehicles. In the picture, Laurie and Sandy are obviously discussing something of great import. Ron had gotten a pair of Radio Shack CB’s that would plug into the BMW’s sound system so they could communicate with us. They normally run with FRS radios.

We started south on 93, headed to meet Brad in Massachusetts. Traffic built as we got nearer to Boston, swinging to I-95 after a bit. I’m not quite sure where we met him, but before too long we took an exit by a mall. We followed a Cadillac that almost drove up a median (celebrating Father’s Day early?) and then found Brad in front of a Starbucks. Like Ron, Brad rides a BMW K1200LT, a righteous Tupperware bike.

Opting to get away from the populated area quickly, we headed west on the Massachusetts Turnpike, aka the Mass Pike in building heat and humidity. There was a cold front we passed through quickly, and then the heat returned. We stopped once at a service centre for a drink and then almost made the western Mass border before getting off at the Great Barrington exit. Here I made a bonehead move that used another one of my nine lives. The exit tollbooths had the FAST (transponder lane) on the right. Brad went through this while we went to the cash lanes on the left. After paying, I saw Gary and Brad waiting on the right side. Checking the other booths, I cut across all the lanes, forgetting that cars were coming through the FAST lane without stopping. Luckily, the car driver had fast reflexes and all I got was an angry horn blast.

Coming out from the booths, Ron (our fearless leader) took a wrong turn. Bitching Betty, the GPS, took us on an interesting little back road detour and put us right back on track. Turning on 7 south, we stopped for lunch at a Greek pizza shop. The food was good.

We continued down 7 to Canaan, Connecticut and then went west again on US 44 and followed it into New York. We turned on SR 199, a very good riding road, and stopped for coffee, ice cream and a pit stop in Pine Plains. After crossing the mighty Hudson River at Kingston, we switched to SR 28 that took us past the turn to Woodstock (The Woodstock) and up into the Catskills.

It was getting late and we started to be concerned about finding accommodation. There was a Tourist Info sign at a resort so we pulled in to ask, sending Ron inside. The picture shows us waiting for him to bring us news. He said that the Delaware Hotel in Fleischmanns had rooms at a reasonable rate. It was supposed to be just up the road. After riding for a while, we wondered if Fleishmanns really existed but Betty assured us it was there. And it was.

Which brings us to the title of this entry. Half way to somewhere is the same as the middle of nowhere, and that’s where we were. The town was obviously quite affluent once. One B&B had a marker saying it was built in 1832 and it was one of the newer ones. Many buildings were abandoned, more were run down and the remaining ones were pretty rough. The Delaware Hotel had seen better days but it was affordable and had flowers out front. It is sad to see a dying town.

We decided that supper was in order and walked down the main street to the Griffin Corners (original name of the town) Café. It seems the cook had left for a party and put whatever was left on the table and called it a buffet. We passed and headed back up to the Citgo station. The guy there made us subs and we got some other stuff and headed back to the Delaware, where we sat outside at our tables and ate. Then everyone adjourned to the bedrooms.

A call to Kim revealed that she and Mike wouldn’t be coming until Saturday, so we don’t have to be home quite so quickly. We’ll see what happens.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Short Ride Day

Epsom New Hampshire to Northwood New Hampshire

It was a dry morning, a little overcast when we got up. We skipped breakfast at the Circle and did McDonalds because they have Wayport WiFi. It cost $2.95 US for two hours but I needed to get the mail down and the Blogs up. After I got them up to date, we went back to the campground to get ready for the short ride planned for today.

Jacques and Julie met us when we got back and said they decided to leave today since, after the ride back to Quebec, Julie still had a fair drive to Ottawa. Jacques gave me their room key for the Northwood Motel, not too far away. He said the room was paid for tonight and had beer in it. My first inclination was to stay in the campground, but Gary and Sandy pointed out it might be wet tomorrow and, at the very least, the gear would be covered with dew. Outvoted and out reasoned, we decided to take advantage of the kind offer. Thanks, Jacques and Julie.

Bobcat led ride all over the back roads. I really have no clue where we went. The first stop was at a store next to a church. We were getting set to take a group photo when a lady coming by asked if we all wanted to be in the picture. I don’t have the group shot yet, but this is a picture of her taking it.

Leaving there, my turn blocking came as the group was making a right turn at a stoplight on a back road. I blocked and as everyone passed. After Joe went by, the rest of the bikes stopped at the sign. I waited a minute and then took a closer look. They weren’t ours; they were a group of Harley’s who had come up behind us. I felt a tad sheepish.

The second stop came at a place that made their own ice cream. We all had something before continuing. I should mention that the day was pretty hot.

As most of the group turned into the campground after the run, Sandy, Gary and I continued on to Northwood, a few miles east on US 4 from the traffic circle. We found the motel, checked out the room and then found Coach Rick from Rhode Island was one of our neighbors.

We headed back to Lazy River and tore down and loaded our camping gear. Then we hung around for a while until the supper of leftovers from the pig roast and hot dogs and hamburgers donated by Donk and cooked by Bobcat were ready. Once again, I ate too much. I did get a picture of U-Turn and his new son.

I have to thank Ol’ Phart Joe, his wife Karen, U-Turn, Steve (who needs a nickname), Donk, Bobcat and anyone else who worked to put this weekend on. We, as usual, had a great time.

Not long after supper, we said our goodbyes. Some we'll see next year, some we'll see in the fall in Bethel, Maine and some we'll see at earlier VROC runs like the big one coming up in Colorado. We headed back to the Northwood where I spent some time outside talking to VROCers (who seem to have this place sewn up). John, with his black GoldWing, has a new Zumo that I was looking at. Homer and Sylvie got back from the campground and we spent some time chatting before I went to bed.

Tomorrow, we’ll be riding east with Ron ‘Brother Bear’ Russell, his wife Laurie and his brother-in-law Brad. Brad’s wife Judy couldn’t get time off for this little adventure so he’ll be on his own. The goal, mostly on back roads, is Ohio.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Poker Run Day

I slept in this morning, getting up about 7:00. Despite the fact I wasn’t drinking, I felt hung over. Sandy had a rough night with the cold. Changing from sleeping bags to sheets and blankets may have had something to do with it, but we would have been cold in the bags, too. I did Blog notes and bills while enjoying Donk’s coffee. Cifra got up looking worse than I felt.

This morning at the Circle Restaurant, there were lots of VROC people. U-Turn finally arrived from Boston. It’s good as old friends arrive. Sandy and I both had French toast. After we ate, we stopped at the Citgo and then headed back to the campground to be ready for the start of the poker run.

The NEVROC poker run is a group affair. Everyone kicked in $10 and drew two cards. Sandy and I both had flushes going. Then we mounted up on somewhere between 42 and 44 bikes (counts varied) and followed Joe out onto the road. The front riders block the intersections so we can stay together and then fall in at the rear. We held good formation as we cruised the back roads.

Part way through the run, we stopped at a WalMart parking lot and drew two more cards. Here Sandy and Jewel are getting cards from Joe. We both busted our flushes. From here, we headed south on more back roads, blocking as we went. In Hooksett, we ended the ride at the Kawasaki dealer. The finally card was anti-climactic and we ended with nothing. The dealer had water, pop and snacks for us but, unlike other years, we didn’t have any demo ride bikes. Also, they never heard of a Butler mug so Sandy remains without a mug.

We left with Gary shortly after and headed north on 28 to the Epsom circle. We stopped at the Country Shoppe at the Circle, which has been known for 42 flavours of ice cream. Joe had told us they were now into very good deli sandwiches, and he was right. Sandy and I split a toasted turkey club sandwich with chips, a large cookie and a root beer for just over $7.00.

Back at the campground, we spent time visiting as people wandered in. We helped Lucky Al move his tent away from a party area so he could get some sleep. Ron Russell arrived back with his BMW and Lori. Joe’s wife Karen brought Sandy and I a down comforter that they had so that Sandy wouldn’t be cold if the temperatures dropped again tonight. Thank you Karen.

Ol’ Phart’s Raffle is a mainstay of NEVROC Laconia. We buy tickets and some lucky people win some very nice prizes. A few years ago I cleaned up, winning a set of $500 shocks for my Nomad and three other things. Since then, I haven’t done so well and today was no different. Eight tickets, no winners. But there were lots of happy people. The pig roast followed the raffle. Pork, turkey, salads, beans and drinks. I ate too much again.

Since Steve was an instigator in Joe’s bike modifications, Joe presented him with a special hat. It doesn’t show in the photo, but it is pink. Steve’s head isn’t pointed; the effect is achieved because of his sunglasses.

One Nomad broke the oil screen plug after hitting a rock at the campground entrance. This isn’t an unusual experience, but I haven’t heard of it recently. The bike was loaded on a trailer to take to Hooksett Kaw tomorrow. We had two bonfires going and we sat around as we listened to the Harley guys doing burnouts on the boards. One of them got a round of applause for blowing the tire.

Sandy and I turned in early. I hit the sack about 10:00 PM so I could be well rested tomorrow. We fell asleep to the sound of laughter and roaring Harleys.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Just Hanging Around

Epsom New Hampshire Area

I know I’ve said this before, but in my humble opinion the weatherman is an idiot. I figure that’s nicer than calling him incompetent. We woke up anticipating the clear skies that were promised yesterday. Instead, we found the usual grey overcast and cool damp morning that is typical of Laconia Bike Week.

Sandy and I headed over for a shower. Since Gary had been there first and spent a quarter to get the hot water flowing, mine was comfortable. I think Sandy was the first because she said hers wasn’t all that warm. I suggested maybe she should invest a quarter while she was brushing her teeth so that she wasn’t showering in cold water. The only real problem with the shower facility was a lack of benches to both put stuff on and to sit on while trying to reboot.

After the shower, I sat down at the picnic table under the awning while I enjoyed Don’s coffee, typed up yesterday’s Blog in Word and sorted the day’s bills. Then the three of us headed down to the Circle Restaurant for breakfast. I had their Deluxe, which consisted of eggs scrambled with sausage and ham covered generously with bacon, marble rye toast and real home fries, all for the princely sum of $4.95. As we were finishing, Ol’ Phart Joe showed up and joined us for coffee.

After we finished breakfast, we headed up 28 to Alton and then followed 11 and 11B to Weirs Beach, the heart of the major Laconia Bike Week activities. It was still reasonably quiet in town and we had no problem pulling into the booth where the pin striper Joe told us about was reading a paper. Gary talked to him about getting some work done, and he even put some paint on the Rogue to show what it looked like (picture), but Gary was undecided. While this was going on, I went to the radio station booth next door and spun a wheel to see if I could win a T-shirt. I missed by one notch, but Sandy won a Jagermeister shirt.

At 10:00 AM, the crowds started rolling down the hill into the Beach. We moved down onto the main drag where it was still possible to park on the street. We walked up and down checking out the vendors. Most had essentially the same things, shirts, pins and patches. Some had jackets and leather. Gary got his pin and patch. I bought some eyeglass cleaner. Before long, we tired of this and went back to the bikes where someone asked (spaces were now gone) if he could have my spot when I pulled out. I made a friend.

We headed north out of Weir’s on Highway 3. This stretch looks like they bought one mile of used pavement and tried to cover four miles with it. It is rougher than anything I have seen in Ontario, Sudbury included. A few miles down, we turned left and headed south, stopping at the Bombardier Can-Am operation to see if our friend Marc Lacroix was there. Turns out he was at Americade but wasn’t here. They were demo riding the new three wheeled Spyders. After a video and a parking lot orientation, the riders got a guided 20+ minute road ride. We passed since signing up would entail a ride back to Weirs, which was rapidly becoming very crowded. I hate crowds.

I should note that, while we were in Weirs, the sun came out and it warmed up. As we headed back towards Epsom, we crossed the line and it got grey and cold again. After stopping at Dunkin Donuts (I really like their key lime pie donut), the blue sky caught us but we got ahead of it again towards the Circle. At the circle, I found some Cherry Coke Zero, a product not available in Canadia. Then it was back to the campground.

There weren’t a lot of people in the campground yet. Gary and Sandy took naps (separately), while I sat up and chatted with the people who were there. The weather went from cloudy to sunny and back again several times. Then the campground owner came down with a message. Seems that Lucky Al from New Jersey had run out of gas and phoned. He was a mile short of the Sunoco gas station we filled up at yesterday. Al is a master at getting into situations.

Joe and Donk jumped in Donk’s truck to go help Al just as a huge Dutch Start RV rolled in towing a Drifter. Last year, Cheyenne Dave came from Wyoming on his bike but this year he brought his wife in style. There was a bit of confusion as he and the campground owner tried to figure just where he was going to put this monstrous vehicle. While turning it, he hit a dip and the trailer hitch broke the rear bumper. Finally, he found a spot and got parked.

Ernie Duncan arrived on his A and grazed the sand lip between the drive and the field and fell down, but he didn’t cause any damage. Quite the entry. Then Lucky Al arrived (that’s Al in the photo) complete with his custom Igloo travel trunk. Of course, as he was turning around, the bike fell in the soft sand and he bent his floorboard mount. After setting up, he went back to his tent to get something but, unfortunately, he mistook Ron Russell’s tent for his own. He did attribute the gas running out to a switch from high-test gas to mid-grade.

Steve Cifra and Ron Russell got back from being pinstriped at Weirs. Steve’s Nomad, bought from Lucky Al (he likes living dangerously) is now yellow like U-Turn’s. Homer and Sylvie rolled in from Montreal along with Jacques Gaudet (Trucker) and his daughter Julie. I’ve been waiting all year to meet Jacques face to face. Before leaving for supper, there was some discussion about aftermarket horns. Joe demonstrated his, but it had a problem. The sound can best be described as the bleat of a sick calf. Cheyenne Dave, with the same horn, went to show us how it should sound, but it was even worse. Lots of laughing ensued.

About 6:25, the group left for the Longhorn Restaurant in Concord. The photo was taken in the parking lot as we arrived. They had an area reserved for us and a server named Kelly said she and three others would be serving us. They did a fine job. Sandy had ribs and I had a rib eye. Ate too much again. While we were in, Steve and Lucky Al did some modifications to Joe’s bike. A bicycle squeeze horn, bicycle tassels on the bars and a little woven basket under the headlight. I made sure I was outside when Joe came out and discovered it.

Joe checks out his newly modified Nomad

We, along with Gary, returned to the campground via Wally World, where Gary bought a new sleeping bag since he had been cold the night before. He got a nice one rated for 20F that had memory foam on the bottom side and also in a pillow. Camping technology is great. It was dark and cold when we finally got back to the Lazy River.

At the campground, we gathered around the fire. In ones and twos, people started drifting away as the time got later. Finally, the usual three, Steve, RiderMike (aka Grimace) and I were the last three. We spent time talking about NASCAR, and Steve wanted to know how Mom was able to pick her Fantasy League teams so well. The two of them are leading our league. Then we switched to talking about our VROC experiences. I wonder if Ken Bass really knows how much he improved our world when he started this whole thing back in 1996.

Eventually, I gave up and wandered back to the camper about 1:00 AM. It was cold and Sandy immediately put her chilled feet all over me, a service I provide in return for all she does for me.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Day Started Out Fine.........

Cornwall Ontario to Epsom Hew Hampshire

It was a beautiful morning in Cornwall. After checking tires, we went next door and had our complimentary continental breakfast at Jazz Magnolias. It looked like the Canadian Border Service was having a breakfast meeting downstairs. They were all over. Even had a dog.

After checking out, we headed for the two bridges that would take us to the USA. Just so we would remember yesterday, we encountered a flagman on each bridge. There were three customs booths open and no cars so we drove right up. The lady spoke very quietly, so I had to ask her to repeat some of her questions. AS she let us go, she made an admiring comment about the trailer.

There is no community on the US side of the bridge. We picked up US 37 East off the traffic circle and followed it to SR 122, which was a shortcut through Constable NY to US 11. We followed 11 and then took SR 190 to Plattsburgh where we took 314 out through a state park. I hadn’t realized from the map that there was no bridge from here to Vermont. At the end of the road, we came to the Grand Isle Ferry dock.

With the luck of the Irish, there was the ferry. It was full and cars were lining up for the next boat, but there was room to squeeze two more bikes on board. We met an eclectic foursome of bikes on board from the NY Mohawk reserve. Two Harleys and two sport bikes. They were, of course, also Laconia bound. Crossing the narrow spot on Lake Champlain took about fifteen minutes. Docking was smooth and we were heading east again in no time.

We connected with US 2, which took us to I-89 north of Burlington, Vermont. Here we headed south, past Burlington and on past the Vermont capital of Montpelier. Clouds started gathering and it looked like we might catch a local shower. South oh Montpelier, the temperature dropped from 24C to 20 C in a mile. I decided it was time to suit up, so I pulled off and we started getting dressed. Except Gary, who went all through his luggage and couldn’t find his suit (see picture). Finally, he did find it. Good thing we weren’t on the side of the road in the rain.

We continued down I-89 and crossed into New Hampshire. The temperature had now dropped to 16C and the sky was steady overcast, indicating to me that we would get wet. We stopped at a Dunkin’ Donuts for a quick bite and to let Sandy put on her Gerbing electric jacket. The pavement was wet when we stopped but had dried when we came out giving me a false sense of optimism.

About 30 miles north of Concord, the rain started. It was light at first, but got harder as we went along. I had changed my rain gloves for my leather ones at the donut shop, once again proving that my judgment leaves a lot to be desired. It tapered of as we approached Concord and swung north on I-93. We followed this for a short way and then turned east on I-393 and then onto US 4. A quick stop at Sunoco for gas and water and we took Chichester road, the back way to the campground, to avoid the traffic at the circle. The temperature was now 12C and still overcast. Typical Laconia Bike Week weather.

At the camp, a number of the usual culprits were skulking about. Ol’ Phart Joe (head organizer), Bobcat Pease (alternate organizer), Ron Russell, Steve Cifra, Donk (coffee boss) and a few others came over to greet us. After catching up, we scouted the field for some relatively level ground and set up. The others left, some going home for the night and the others promising to be back later.

Joe and Ron told us about a roadhouse style restaurant north of us on SR 28. It was, and I quote “just north of the Italian restaurant”. We went past the Italian restaurant. Five miles past and still no roadhouse. Finally, we gave up, turned around and went back to the usual Circle Restaurant where we had some good food at reasonable prices. The portions were actually quite large and Sandy couldn’t finish her chicken Parmesan.

Back at the campground, Joe returned from his house down the road and started a fire. It took two tries but, eventually, we had a roaring blaze and everyone pulled up there camp chairs. We talked bikes and computers until about 10:00 when everyone decided to either turn in or go home.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Laconia Bound

Sudbury Ontario to Cornwall Ontario

It is hard to believe that it has only been a week since we arrived home at +3C in the hail. Today, I saw a high of 34C on my trusty digital GoldWing temperature readout.

We were packed and ready to go at 8:00 AM when Gary "Biker" Lamarche (longtime friend, fellow A.R.S.O.L.E. and travelling companion for the next week) showed up on his Vulcan 2000, AKA Rogue. Leo and his BMW RS arrived shortly after. Leo was going to ride with us as far as North Bay. The three of us will be going on to Epsom, New Hampshire to join the New England VROC gang for the Laconia weekend.

It has been said that Ontario has two seasons. Winter and Road Construction. We had a mild winter, but the road construction is pretty intense along Highway 17 this year. After being allowed out of our subdivision by a cop who was caught in the traffic lined up due to intersection paving just up the road, we made the next two miles without any problem. Then we came to a sudden stop to wait for construction equipment to move around on the Regional Road 55 widening project. That took 15 minutes. Between Sudbury and North Bay, we got stopped several more times for single lane traffic.

In North Bay, we stopped at Timmies, grabbed some food and waved goodbye to Leo. On down Hwy 17 between North Bay and Deep River, I lost count of the number of times we stopped and waited. It gets hot sitting in +30+ temperatures watching paving crews. I can't imagine actually being on the paving crew.

We stopped at the Big Irving in Pembroke for gas and a cold drink. Then it was on again towards Ottawa. About now, the pop-up clouds were starting to build north of us, moving on a course to intercept us. Ottawa traffic was light and we slid through on 417, continuing on until we got to Hwy 138. We just avoided the clouds and turned south towards Cornwall. The photo shows us in the shade at a gas station in Monkland, just north of Cornwall.

We got a room at the Days Inn here and had supper at the adjoining Jazz Magnolias restaurant. I expect we'll turn in early. It's a short hop to Epsom tomorrow if we take the direct route. We'll decide in the morning.

BTW, Cheryl (Gary's wife), if you are reading this, Hi!!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

We've Had Better Days

Barrie Ontario to Sudbury Ontario

There are some days I make decisions that don't work out for the best. Deciding to stay in Barrie last night, rather than ride the rest of the way home in the light rain, was one of them. The idea was that, even if today was a little cool or raining, it would be better than running at night. Wrong.

We didn't wake particularly early because it was only 180 miles home. When we did, it was 15C and almost raining. After breakfast and packing, we got on the road about 8:30. By this time, the temperature had dropped to 12C and a light rain had started. No big deal, we had the rain gear on and Sandy was wearing her electric jacket liner.

As we moved north, the rain picked up some under a steady grey sky. The temperature readout on the Wing panel counted down the temperature as it cooled off. With only a fast gas stop at Waubaushene, we arrived at the Sudbury city limits at 11:30. By now, the gauge was reading 3C, the rain was steady and patches of hail were hitting my face like fiery needles. My water resistant boots and gloves were soaked and my hands and feet were in considerable pain.

I've had worse rides, but it's been a while. Wet and cold, when taken separately, are no big problem. Put them together and you end up with a severe level of discomfort. On the plus side, Sandy's boots held out the water. This was probably due to the waterproofing goop she's been applying. I'll be using some of this before the next trip. But you need the bad days to make you appreciate the good ones. I know I've said this before, but it's true.

We'll be home for a week before leaving for Laconia, New Hampshire next Tuesday with Gary Lamarche. I need to replace the worn trailer tires and get some chores done before heading out again. Until then, I hope all of you that follow this Blog are having a great summer.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Crossing Paths and Confused Weather

Princeton West Virginia to Barrie Ontario

Today was a 640 mile day. We could have made the remaining 180 miles, but I wasn't keen on riding in the rain in the dark.

It started when we both woke up about 4:00 AM in Princeton WV. This was because we had fallen asleep early last night. I spent some time posting Blogs from the last few days and getting the bills caught up. A group of Harley's from western Wisconsin had pulled in last night headed for the BRP, and we spoke with one of them over breakfast. We were on the road before 7:00.

I adjusted the front tire pressure back down to 38 yesterday. I am in a conundrum about this. Metzeler is very specific that the front tire pressure needs to be 41 to rpevent cupping. The Honda manual calls for 36. Mike at Traxxion says that I should be able to run less than the 41 because of the reduced squirm in the front end. At 41, with the quicker steering due to the stiffer front end, the bike feels squirrely in corners. At 38, it handles fine, but I can't tell whether the cupping, pretty bad before the Traxxion mod, is getting worse. I guess I'll keep it at 38 in the interest of the handling and will see how the next front tire (not going to change until the tread is worn out) handles it.

Today's weather was like Rebel Without a Clue. It didn't know what it wanted to do, but it looked angry. We made it OK to Summersville where we stopped for gas. Back on the road, a nice GL-1800 trike pulled up next to us at a light. The lady riding it was travelling with a van hauling a two wheeled Wing on a trailer. They were bound for Erie, Pa. We ran along with them for a while and then got ahead on I-79.

A Yamaha we waved at at the Powell Mountain Overlook passed us on I-79, as did a black GL-1800 with a NC plate that said BIGDOG. I could hear the trike on the CB (which I finally remembered to turn on), but she couldn't hear me well. I guess she had the squelch up, since she was only talking to the van. I slowed a bit until they caught us and then we were able to communicate. They live in Florida for nine months but have a house in Erie they go to for the summer. They had left south of Charlotte this morning at just after 3:00 AM and needed to be in Erie by 2:00 because people were coming to turn on the water at the house. Our little convoy stopped north of Washington Pa for fuel and we got to meet the lady and the van driver, her husband. Sandy and I sat down to eat, but they rolled on to make their appointment.

Before we left again, the BIGDOG Wing pulled up to the gas pumps. The couple from NC were headed for Niagara and then Americade. He had an '01 with 100K miles and this '06 already has 28K miles on it, so they ride. I gave them some Americade tips and then we headed north again.

The trip up through Pa was uneventful except for the dark storm cells moving west to east, sucked in by TS Barry. We managed to slide between them, finally stopping at the last Rest Area before Erie, where the wet pavement told us rain had just been through. On to Erie and East on I-90, we encountered very wet pavement at the I-86 split. We then had a discussion about whether to lay over in Erie (my initial objective) or keep going. After dithering, we stopped for gas at State Line and suited up in the face black skies. We passed two Vulcans, a Rogue and a green/white Classic on the off ramp. They headed down US 20, leaving us wondering if they were VROC.

We caught the rain from behind on the NY Thruway, the same shower that had gone through the rest area and across 90. It was moving fast, but we were moving faster and went through it in about 15 miles. Then it was sunny and our rain gear got very hot. The border crossing was quick. More questions than usual, but we were waved through. US bound trucks were lined up for miles. Heading past Niagara Falls, the black Yamaha we had seen in West Virginia came rolling past us at a good clip. Small world.

We stopped at the Tourist Info place before St. Catherines and took the suits off. We threaded the QEW and 407 through crosswinds. The 40o North was stop and go, a usual thing for 5:30. We skirted one dark cloud and then a second one started dumping on us. In Barrie at 6:00, we could have made it home by 9:00, but the weather looked pretty choppy and I don't like rain in the dark, so we reigned in at the Travelodge off Dunlop St.

We had supper at Elaine's, a small restaurant in the hotel. Sandy has been nursing a stiff neck all day, and I was tired, so we went to bed early. Forecast for Sudbury tomorrow AM sucks, 4C and rain, but we'll deal with that when we get there.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Headed Home

Stecoah North Carolina to Princeton West Virginia

We awoke at 7:00 AM to a light drizzle. Not what we had been hoping for. BMW Bob was still missing. Sandy packed the gear while I got the bike ready and then we closed the camper and I hooked up the trailer. The rain stopped as we spent some time on the deck saying our good-byes. Many will be in Colorado in late July, and we'll see the others here or there before too long.

We set out about 9:00. A bit of spitting rain continued, off and on, as we went through Asheville and on up into Tennessee. In Johnson City, it got more persistent and I could tell we were in an all day system, so we stopped and put the rain suits on. I opted for I-81 instead of 460 through Tazewell and it got much worse as we proceeded towards Wytheville. We stopped at the Mickey D's in Rural Retreat, Virginia that we know and talked with a Baptist mission director who opens new churches. He asked if we had rain in Canada and Sandy later figured he must have been talking about those Weather Channel precipitation maps which show nothing north of the border.

Clearing, Wytheville, we headed north on I-77 into West (By God) Virginia. Near Princeton, the odometer finally reached 99,999 Kms. I stopped and took several pictures. You will note the raindrops.

We decided to knock off in Princeton and stopped at the same Days Inn we stayed at on the way down. It was only 2:30, but we have several days to get back so there was no point in pushing it. The Weather Channel showed we were caught in the system spawned by Tropical Storm Barry as it slid up the east coast. The NASCAR race was washed out by the same system and won't go until tomorrow afternoon.

We had supper at the Cracker Barrel and then watched the Deadliest Catch Marathon on Discovery until we both fell asleep.