Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Ajusting the forks

I made a quick run down to R&L Verner this morning to get the forks adjusted in the triple clamp. I had the bike there at 8:00 AM as scheduled and they had it back to me within 30 minutes.

The first curve after I left told me I had the good old bike back. To celebrate, I stopped at Kate's Kitchen for breakfast. I hadn't realized they had WiFi until I opened the computer to post some bills while I waited for my food. The place was busy, including a lady OPP sergeant holding what appeared to be a team breakfast in the back area.

The rest of the way home, I revelled in the way the Wing felt. It was a good way to start a day.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Smiths Falls Ontario to Sudbury Ontario

It was grey out this morning, but the radar only showed patchy rain in a few spots. I checked out of the hotel and rode out of town on Hwy 43 towards Merrickville and then along the north side of the Rideau Canal on County 2. Not far from town, I passed an osprey nest on a pole right beside the road. There was a parent there and some small heads sticking out from the huge collection of sticks.

To get to the other side of the canal, I turned on the Andrewsville Main Street and crossed a single lane bridge. I now know where main street is but Andrewsville was nowhere to be seen. This is unusual country. Just down the road on the south side of the canal, I came to Paul's old stone house with his GL-1800 out front. He tells me the house dates from about 1830 and he can't make modifications without approval from some historical agency.

Paul's Old Stone House & Shop

We put the bike up on the lift and Paul started to pull the front end apart. He did one fork at a time and I got to watch while we talked bikes and politics. I probably shouldn't have distracted him because he had to redo the seal on the first fork when he forgot to put the bushing in and then forgot to check the oil level. The second fork went better except that the screw holding the cartridge in place didn't want to let go. An impact driver did the trick. The mis-steps didn't add to the cost since the job is done at a flat rate.

Paul dismantles the front end

Paul gave me one decision to make. When Traxxion installs the front end, the stiffer springs raise the front of the bike and they lower the forks 10mm in the triple clamps to compensate. Paul said he found that keeping them flush improved the handling for him, so I let him set them that way. He said he would reset them gratis if I didn't like them.

I left Paul's at 1:30 PM and rode up Upper Dwyer Hill Road to Arnprior. I knew I was heading into a front with some bad weather, so I had suited up, but wasn't ready for just how bad it was. As I turned towards Highway 29 right at the 417 access in Arnprior, I could see cars on 29 kicking up rooster tails and a wall of water coming towards me. On to 29 and 417, cars were pulling off the road but I figured that it was safer to keep going. The rain didn't last long and, just as quickly as it hit me, it was gone.

I stopped in Renfrew for gas and the slowest Tim Horton's sandwich I have had in a while. I took off my rain jacket but kept the pants and totes on. From Renfrew, I ended up in a huge line of traffic traveling at 75 KPH. I could see two large black clouds, one on each side of Cobden, and figured I could run between them if the traffic would just speed up to the limit. There aren't a lot of dotted passing lines on this stretch but that didn't stop me from working my way through the vehicles. I got clear in Cobden and figure I just missed getting creamed by the incoming cell. The Quebec side looked positively scary for many miles, but it wasn't coming my way.

The three construction zones I stopped for on the way east were shut down and I slid between two more storm cells near Mattawa. I encountered three OPP cruisers coming out of North Bay, an unusually large number indicating they might be planning a blitz. Or they might be returning to detachments after meeting at Regional HQ. One never knows. After Sturgeon falls, I got stuck for a ways behind another RV doing 75 KP. This should not be allowed in a 90 zone because, on a two lane road with few passing lanes, it causes frustrated people to take chances.

I left Renfrew with a full tank and, at the end, committed to making it the 400 kms to Sudbury on the one tank. I found out the fuel gauge does go below the red and it took 22.922 liters (in a tank that MIGHT hold 26 liters) when I filled in Wahnapitae. I sometimes wonder why I push this. If anyone knows, please tell me.

Home safe and sound, the one thing I was sure of was that I didn't like the change to the front end geometry. The bike rode better on bumps, but the handling was twitchier in turbulence and I didn't feel set in the corners. The bottom line is that when something is working for you, don't mess with it. It won't be practical to take it all the way back to Paul to fix, so I'll get R&L to do it as soon as they can.

Today's Route

View Larger Map

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sudbury Ontario to Smiths Falls Ontario

You may recall that I had a Traxxion suspension installed in the Wing back in 2007. Max, the designer, suggested that the front end be serviced every 20,000 miles including replacing the fork seals, bushings and fluid. Based on my calculations, I have put about 55,000 miles on since the installation so I am way overdue.

The one problem with fancy aftermarket gear is getting it serviced. I could take it back to Traxxion in Woodstock, Georgia but that wasn't convenient. I printed out three pages of detailed directions Mike at Traxxion pointed me to on the Web and took them to R&L. They took a close look at the work involved and the special tools required and came to the conclusion that they would rather not try to do it. I then called Paul Hilliard at YOUNEEDITDONE down in Merrickville, Ontario, the only installer in this part of Canada, and set up an appointment for the 24th. Merrickville is over 300 miles away so I would leave today and spend the night in Smiths Falls allowing me to be there first thing tomorrow morning.

Radar showed rain moving in from the south, so I suited up before leaving. This included my new rain totes with the solid rubber sole. The first drops started to fall not far out of town and, by the time I made my first gas stop in Deep River, I was well into a steady warm front rain, the kind that just doesn't let up. I had some soup and a sandwich after I got gas and continued on in the wet, although the Tourmaster suit and the totes kept almost all of it away from my clothes.

Around Cobden, the sky got very black and the rain turned into and absolute frog strangler for a bit. Then it eased and, as I looked at the very ugly clouds in my mirrors, I asked myself if I had actually gone through THAT. South of Arnprior, the rain eased and by Almonte the road was drying. It stayed this way until I arrived in Smiths Falls, the (former) Chocolate Capital of Canada. Hershey was a big presence here until they moved their factory to Mexico a few years ago.

The Comfort Inn in Smiths Falls was different. The rooms all faced the beautiful Rideau Canal but the parking was in the back lot of the Giant Tiger. The elevator was being refurbished so I took the stairs to the middle of the 2nd floor hall, then went to the end of the hallway to find the stairs to the 3rd floor. Not the easiest situation, but the view from my balcony was excellent.

I walked a couple of blocks to the main street where I stopped at Rob Roy's Pub for supper. I had a home made shepherd's pie (very good but I didn't take a picture) and watched the locals come and go. The proprietor was Irish, something I found odd in a pub named for a Scotsman.

Rob Roy's Pub - Smith Falls Ontario

Back at the hotel, I met an older fellow from White Rock BC. He had bought an old 850 Suzuki in Ottawa and was trying to ride it home. Unfortunately, he was a new rider with only a few miles under his belt and the rain today and the forecast had him spooked. He was going to take the bike back to Ottawa and try another time.

I turned in fairly early after watching a bit of TV and wishing for a drier day tomorrow.

Today's Route

View Larger Map

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sudbury Ontario to Sault Ste. Marie Ontario and Return

Kim, Mike and Jolene were visiting Mom and Rabbi in the Soo (Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario for Daley and the southern crowd). We were down in Waterloo when they came through Sudbury and stayed at our place, so I figured I would take a ride down for the day and see them while also delivering a surplus Linksys router to get Rabbi on-line via WiFi. Leo volunteered to go along for the ride.

It was overcast with specks of rain first thing, but drier when Leo and I set out at 7:45. Before I cleared the subdivision, Sandy called to tell me I had forgotten the wedding invitations I was supposed to be delivering. We left a second time a couple of minutes later.

We hit a bit of rain around Nairn Centre but it soon cleared. The comfort stop at Blind River was just that. Any thought of coffee was out of the question because, as usual, the lineup for service was right out the door.

On the new four lane into the Soo, we encountered and OPP constable using LIDAR, the laser speed checking device. I guess my 108 kph in a 90 was OK with him (something I count on) because he didn't bat an eye. Gas in the Soo was $0.909 / liter, a full five cents less than Sudbury. I've never figured out why we have these variations but I'm sure it's a sign of some kind of price fixing.

The visit in the Soo wasn't a long one because the weather radar showed a system moving in from Michigan. I installed the router and got it working, but found later that it was past its "best before" date and Rabbi had to get another one. Oh well, I tried. Jolene was in a good mood as usual and I had fun seeing her with Great Grandma and Great Uncle Dave.


Leo and Mike watch Kim with Jolene

Rabbi checking his portfolio via WiFi

We left town about 1:30 with thoughts of the tail of weather hooking in from the Upper Peninsula. Still, we didn't hustle which was good because we met the LIDAR unit again. I didn't see this one at first because the officer was hiding behind an old pickup truck parked on the side of the road. Again, 18 over was fine by him.

Near Bruce Mines, we got behind and empty wood chip truck. The solid sides with the open top and expanded metal back door created the worst turbulence I have seen in a long time. In Blind River, the temperature was up to 25C and I stripped the jacket down to mesh. That was good because we hit two stretches of single lane traffic near Beaver Lake and had to sit for quite a while in the heat. OK, it wasn't heat like down south, but we were warm.

We arrived home in time for supper after a good day of riding and visiting.

Today's Route

View Larger Map

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Waterloo Ontario to Sudbury Ontario (Van)

The trip home today was uneventful. We got breakfast at McDonald's in Fergus and then took the Orangeville/Hockley/Beeton/88 route to the 400 North. Traffic was light and we got home in good time.

The only thing of note was that, despite the breakfast, I felt shaky and clammy when I got home. The glucose monitor showed my blood sugar was down to 4.3, an unusually low reading for me. I have no idea why sometimes it drops and other times, when things appear the same, it doesn't.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Around Waterloo (Van)

Heather and Sandy were up and off to Elmira for fittings and then on to other shopping. I did some blog work and worked on the new Freedom Riders website. That pretty much took care of the whole day.

In the evening, we drove over to Burlington to look at tents at the Mountain Equipment Co-op store. They have a lot of really nice gear. Most of it is aimed at hikers, climbers and cyclists but that is usually the type of camping equipment motorcyclists like. Compact, light and durable. Tom and Heather wanted a new tent and had one in mind. After discussing their situation with a very knowledgeable young lady (who had both arms covered with spectacular body art), they changed their mind.

Tent in hand, we planned to visit a St. Louis Bar & Grill. The GPS said there was one not far away but the address put us right into a residential area with no watering holes in sight. As we maneuvered and discussed our fall-back choice, we discovered it in the next block hiding in a mini-mall. Turning left into a side street, I nearly hit a bicycle crossing the intersection at speed while traveling the sidewalks. Scary. The rider doesn't have the best survival skills in the world. On the plus side, the food at the restaurant was good enough that I expect we'll visit one again.

From there, it was straight back to Heather and Tom's and early to bed.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sudbury Ontario to Waterloo Ontario (Van)

After we got back on Thursday, I didn't get much done. We had to be in Elmira Monday so Sandy could get her mother of the bride dress fitted at Taylor Bridal and, having just gotten back and because we might bring the dress home, we decided to take the van and head down today.

First, though, we needed to attend the monthly Freedom Riders meeting. We've missed the last two months because we've been away and, as Treasurer, I like to show up from time to time to assure the members that I haven't skipped town with our huge bank account. The meeting went well and then we hit the road heading south.

The trip was uneventful except for the traffic. North of Parry Sound, a blue SUV held the left lane all the way through one passing stretch and then dropped to 80 KPH as soon as we went back to one lane. I would really like to know what was going through the driver's poor addled brain as he did this. Is it possible he is that out of tune with his surroundings or does he just have a mean spirit?

As we neared Barrie and the merge with Highway 11, it became apparent that we were once again caught in the Toronto lemming migration. Twice in three days, we have gotten in the crowd either leaving or returning to Toronto, a situation that guarantees bumper to bumper stop and go traffic. A couple of miles before the two lane Highway 400 and the two lane Highway 11 merge and become three lanes, everything came to a grinding halt. As our two lanes became one, the lane that was merging was moving much faster than the lane that wasn't. I notice this almost every time a lane merges in heavy traffic and have to wonder why people in the through lane let others blend in at a more than 1:1 rate.

In Barrie, we exited on Dunlop St and let the GPS take us on a route similar to the one we took with the bikes on Victoria Day. It was a little different and we discovered a large wind farm north of Shelburne that I didn't know was there.

Once we got to Waterloo, we joined Heather, Tom and his mom Zofia as we drove over to Waterloo Park to check out possible locations for wedding photos. This is a very nice park with a large pond, a replica of the Erb Mill and a number of animals in pens. We got to see a rabbit attack a wild turkey (as Tom points out in his comment, it was actually a peacock), which I add to the list of things I had never seen before. There was a problem parking when we first got there but I'll link you to Tom's blog for the description of the doorknob in question.

Back at Heather and Tom's, we turned in early.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Winding down

We took yesterday off. It was Sandy's birthday but the only celebration she got was a Blizzard from Dairy Queen. She did, however, get many greetings on Facebook and the VROC Newsgroup.

I got word from Ron this morning that the weather wasn't favouring them and they headed home yesterday, arriving last night.

Today, before blogging, I called R&L and spoke to Serge about the cooling system. He says they can do a work up on it and use the heat gun to see at what temperatures the thermostat is opening and whether any rad blockages exist. We'll see what this turns up and go from there, but this will get fixed no matter how many parts need to be changed.

The bills are posted and the blogs caught up. I need to covert the US expenditures to Canadian and the lawn hasn't been mowed yet because we have some of the angriest sky I have seen in a long time and it keeps raining.

Tomorrow, we have the Freedom Riders meeting and then we're off (in the van) to Waterloo for Sandy's Monday dress fitting. Stay tuned for more adventures.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Trip Summary

Elapsed time - 13 days
Distanced traveled - 5,440 kms (3,380 miles)
Fuel Mileage - 40.8 miles per US gallon (49.0 miles per Imperial gallon)
States and Provinces covered - 9
Total cost - To be determined
My weight gain - 2.8 lbs

I was really impressed with the Uni-go trailers. They did not impact fuel mileage at all, handled tricky roads with ease and more than doubled the carrying capacity.

The heating issue on the Wing in certain extreme circumstances bothers me. I know Ron's and Sherm's Wings don't have this problem. I will pursue the issue with R&L.

Traveling with Ron & Laurie and Brad & Judy is a lot of fun. It's different from our usual trips which involve a destination. We don't cover as many miles as usual but we seem to enjoy them more. And,as Laurie says, Ron and I share a mind;-))

Next time I go to the southeast, it will be either spring or fall.

Front Royal Virginia to Sudbury Ontario

One more good looking morning dawned. I hadn't slept very well but we were up and packed early. We lingered longer than usual because we weren't happy about leaving our fellow travelers. The Quality Inn breakfast was better than most, with bacon and eggs in addition to the usual fare. We spoke with two men on Harley's from Montreal. One had lived in Sudbury when a child and the other had relatives there. There were also BMW sport bikes that had trailered in from Ontario, but we didn't see the riders. The last group were ATF K-9 handlers who, from their insignia, had bomb sniffing dogs. I hope they were there for a training exercise.

When the time came to head out, Sandy got a group shot of the gang. You can see from the sad faces that they are sorry to see us go:-))

We left the lot at 7:20. Since the route was 769 miles according to Google, I wanted to stick to the big roads so we took 340 and I-66 to I-81 North, the truck corridor. And there were trucks. Lots of them.

We crossed into West (By God) Virginia at 8:00, over the Potomac River into Maryland at 8:22 and were in Pennsylvania by 8:30. That is four states in just over 30 minutes. Just inside Pa, a beat up car was holding the left lane. I flicked the brights and a female hand came up through the sun roof to make a gesture. I passed on the right and figure this girl could play the lead in a video of the Dixie Chicks song White Trash Wedding. Oh well, it takes all kinds.

As we rode north, I was having some concerns about my ability to switch from wandering mode to the long haul situation I would face today. It wasn't 9:00 AM when I was finding myself quite fatigued and stopped at a rest area south of Carlisle for a quick comfort break and a shot of 5 Hour Energy. This picked me up and we ran past Harrisburg, stopping for fuel where 322 meets US 15 just before 10:00.

When we reached Lewisburg Pa just before 11:00, the clouds were getting more ominous. A man on a purple 800 Vulcan stopped beside me at a traffic light and asked my thoughts on the Wing versus a Harley. He then followed us all the way to Williamsport, where I stopped at the scenic lookout above town and had a chat with him in detail. He's a truck driver named Don and he and his wife both have 800 Vulcans but he wants to trade up. We talked options and I gave him the VROC address. He was considering a Road King so I also suggested I would be more amenable to a Nomad or Voyager. I gave him my Email address and told him to contact me if I could be of any more help. I hope he finds what works for him.

Above Williamsport, the winds got quite gusty. We ran up the four lane road and, near the New York border, the GPS again got lost as the new road wasn't in the 2008 database. I really do need to upgrade.

Northern Pennsylvania along US 15

We crossed into New York at 12:40 and stopped in Corning at McDonalds for lunch at 1:00. There were a great number of redheads in the Mickey D's, something Sandy commented on. I have a thing for redheads (of the female persuasion). We were on the road again at 1:20, following I-86 to I-390 and getting off at Geneseo where I stopped another bout of fatigue with another 5 Hour Energy drink and a Butler mug full of coffee. While I fueled. The lowest gas price I saw on our trip was $2.29 for regular while here, in Upstate New York, I paid 2.77.

We followed SR 63 to Batavia, where traffic was backed up due to road construction. It took a while to get to the Thruway but, when I did, the transponder (the van one I took to replace the bad bike unit) gave me a green signal. Westbound towards Buffalo, we could see the line of dark clouds just north of us.

Cloud line north of the New York Thruway

Reaching Buffalo, I opted to take the southern route and cross on the Peace Bridge at Fort Erie instead of following the GPS advice and going to Lewiston. The Peace is usually a quicker crossing and a sign on I-190 bore this out, saying the Lewiston bridge was backed up. We crossed the bridge into Canada at 4:06 and everything went perfect. Sandy flashed the NEXUS cards at the reader and pulled into the booth with no one ahead of us. The young lady looked at her screen for a moment and then said "Thank you" and waved us on. The EZ-Pass opened the gate at the toll booth and we were on our way.

The line of black cloud was quite defined and we needed to get across it. We passed under it about Niagara Falls and, before coming out the other side, the windshield got hit by one huge raindrop. That was it. We continue to run with the horseshoes.

Cloud line around Niagara Falls

St. Catherines rush hour wasn't too bad, even with the road construction. We continued on, crossing the Burlington Skyway and connecting with ETR 407. There was a really rough patch as we approached the 401 but, after seeing the stopped rush our traffic westbound as we went over the 401, we were happy with what we had. This joy lasted until we left the 407 at 400 North and entered a parking lot. I hated doing it but I ran the right lane as far as I could and then slipped into traffic. Then I worked my way over to the fast lane. Balancing the engine temperatures with the clutch, we succeeded to getting north of Major Mackenzie Drive where the 400 settled on three lanes and the traffic started to flow. I stopped at the King Service Plaza for gas, coffee and one more 5 Hour drink. I think that was one more than I was supposed to have. We were going again at 6:00.

I have to wonder about people who commute to and from Toronto daily. This seems like an intolerable task. Luckily, most of them hog the centre lane so I was able to make good time in the right hand (slow) side. North of Barrie and the Highway 11 split, traffic got light and clouds got dark. It spit a bit by 93 but that was it.

We stopped again at the Esso in Waubaushene because the temperature was dropping so we put the outer panels back in the jackets and changed gloves. After days in mesh and light gear, the jackets felt really heavy. I also fueled on a precautionary basis just in case the fuel mileage went down. Now we could make Sudbury without worrying. I was feeling jittery, the effect of all the caffeine I had been downing all day. The sky now looked much better without sunglasses on.

We rolled through Parry Sound and on up Highway 69. About an hour from town, just as the sun was going down, Ron called to say the were south of Williamsport. They had spent time visiting Gettysburg in very hot, sticky weather and this was as far as they had gotten. The weather wasn't looking optimistic for them tomorrow.

As it darkened, the temperatures dropped to around 16C. North of Grundy, I noticed tall vegetation right at the side of the road. Great hiding places for the very wildlife I would like to be able to see to stay alive. I guess that the Province must not be able to afford the mowing they used to do. At dusk, the headlights don't yet have any power but the ambient light isn't good either. This is a time I avoid riding if I can but we were committed.

Everything worked out for the best and we pulled into our driveway at 9:58 PM, just over 14 hours after leaving Front Royal. I was surprised how, after my tired morning, I had switched to the long haul groove and the miles had slid by. We did a quick unload, caught a little TV to unwind, and then hit the hay.

Today's Route

View Larger Map

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Charlottesville Virginia (Including Monticello) to Front Royal Virginia

It was yet one more beautiful morning today as we prepared to visit Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson. As we were checking out, our same desk man asked if we were planning to have breakfast at the attached Red Lobster, a special service they provided by contract to the hotel. He suggested we might do better a short way down the street at the Cavalier Diner. I don't know what the Red Lobster was like, but The Cav was not a mistake. Sandy and I actually split a breakfast and my one pancake was light and very tasty.

We were on the northwest corner of Charlottesville and Monticello was on the southeast. Despite a desire by some of us to pass by the university (and its bevy of coeds) again, we dodged traffic and took the 250 Bypass and then I-64. The road into Monticello was beautiful and passed the Michie Tavern, but more on that later. There was special motorcycle parking in the Monticello lot but it only held one bike and someone was already there, so we found room in the shade of a tree in the regular lot.

At the front desk of the Visitor Center, we paid our fees and were booked for the 9:50 house tour. A shuttle bus with extremely comfortable seats took us up the hill to the house where we disembarked and wandered around for a short while until our tour was ready. We then lined up with about 25 other people and headed for the side door where we met Don McCracken, our tour guide.

The side door where house tours begin

Tour guide Don McCracken warming up

Don had a very laid back manner and reminded me of, as best I can recall, William F. Buckley. It was a very entertaining tour and his knowledge of the house and the time was quite detailed. I asked him what he did when he wasn't guiding and he said this was his only job. I told him I could see him as a history professor and he replied that he had gone to graduate school for that very reason but no one had hired him. Their loss was our gain.

We couldn't take pictures inside the house and we were given so much detail that I'm just going to provide a link to the Monticello website and suggest that, if you are ever near the area, make a point of seeing it for yourself. After the house tour was complete, we wandered the grounds for a while.

Don calls this the Nickel Shot
For non-Americans, check out a US nickel to find out why

Sandy and Laurie photographing flowers and bugs

A flower

A butterfly

A sugar maple

From the house, we walked down to the Monticello Graveyard. This was originally established by Jefferson and a friend of his and, although many graves are from historic time, it is still the family burial ground. The most recent headstone I could see was from 1997 and the names Randolph and Taylor were prominent. Thomas' headstone was not the original, but it was the largest. The fact that he and friend/foe/friend John Adams both died on July 4th, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the United States of America, was a little bit of an eerie coincidence.

Monticello Graveyard sign

The graveyard

Thomas Jefferson's marker

From the graveyard, we continued our walk down to the Visitor Center with its collection of buildings and exhibits. In one room, I saw Jefferson's records on the daily weather and the methods he used for recording data. People poke fun at my data gathering habits, but I see I am in good company:-)

The beauty of Monticello was almost lost in the 1800's when the property was given to the US government to honour the memory of one of its greatest founders. The government of the day decided it didn't want it and the title was in question and the grounds declined for many years until, in 1879, Jefferson Monroe Levy acquired title to it and had it repaired and restored. In 1923, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation acquired it and has kept it up ever since.

Sandy seems to have a thing for bronze men (here with Jefferson himself)

To me, Thomas Jefferson's great gift to the world (along with John Locke before him) was the idea that liberty is based upon Individual Rights, the concept upon which the United States are founded and which he put forth so eloquently in the Declaration of Independence. This is why the memory of Jefferson and his home and times should be of interest not just to Americans but to freedom loving people everywhere. One of the exhibits in the Visitor Center was called the 'Boisterous Rain of Liberty' and featured an interactive display using sophisticated technology to describe the times, circumstances and ideals of Jefferson and the Founding Fathers. Unfortunately, with tourists abounding, Ron and I were the only people in this hall. I wonder how many people admiring the structures and artifacts have any idea what truly made this man great? And I wonder what Tom would say if he could see what the country he helped found has become.

But I digress. This is supposed to be a vacation and not a libertarian rant. So we left the Center and walked down to our bikes. Due to the inconvenient fact that the Earth rotates, they were no longer in the shade we had carefully chosen for them. We suited up in the sun and heat and continued our journey of exploration to a spot I hadn't heard of until last night from Talon on the VROC newsgroup, the Michie Tavern.

The tavern was established in 1784 on a different location and was moved to its current site in 1927. It currently offers tours of the old tavern and meals in it's dining room, The Ordinary. One definition of ordinary is "a restaurant, public house, or dining room serving all guests and customers the same standard meal or fare". That applies to the buffet here where you serve yourself BBQ pork, fried chicken and an assortment of vegetables and side dishes. For refills, serving girls bring you whatever you ask for. Although a bit expensive for lunch and more than we would usually eat, it did put a nice finish to our Monticello visit.

The Michie Tavern entrance

The Michie Tavern

Entrance to the dining room

The people here were very friendly. When we first pulled into the lot, which was almost as angled as Hofer's of Helen where I dumped the bike, a young lady rushed over and told us we could park over in the staff parking area where it was more level. On the way out, a lady confirmed my suspicion that the noises we had been hearing for several days were cicadas. She also told us that the high 80 degree temperatures that we had been melting in were more like May and September weather and that seasonal values would be 90-100 degrees and 90% humidity. I resolve to confine future visits to the spring and fall because, while I can handle the heat, we all know "it ain't the heat, it's the humidity" that gets you. Or, at least, it gets me.

We departed the Michie Tavern just before 2:00 PM and followed the by-pass around Charlottesville to US 29 North, also known as The Seminole Trail. I wondered why this would be since I was pretty sure the Seminole Indians were native to Florida and then were relocated to Oklahoma. It seems that a line of north/south highways leading through the southeast were christened this because they led to Florida. Another useless fact to stick in my head until I get a chance to appear on Jeopardy.

After wrestling with traffic, heat and stoplights going north from Charlottesville (and doing my utmost to keep my temperature gauge from hitting the stratosphere), we stopped in Ruckersville at a Sheetz for fuel and another shade and water break. While there, an older gentleman asked if we were from around there. We said no and he seemed disappointed, saying he was looking for an address. I got the GPS and was able to find the place he was looking for and provide him with directions. I hope they worked. While I was doing that, Sandy photographed another bug.

Sandy's moth at Sheetz in Ruckersville, Virginia

Leaving town, we finally really left town. US 29 was a four lane road to Madison, where we took a left on SR 231 and then 522, following the Blue Ridge Turnpike, the Lee Highway and the Zachary Taylor Highway. We were paralleling our ride down but this time we were in the valley we had seen from the ridge. At the outset, as we stared into a winding stretch, a slower Corvette piloted by an older gentleman, pulled over and let us pass. Whoever, the driver was, thank you.

I got one scare in an open stretch when I met a deputy while I was doing about six over and saw his brake lights come on and then he turned off. I watched the mirrors but I guess he was turning for another reason because we never saw him again.

Typical road of the day

The Blue Ridge as seen from below

I will tell you that, by the time we had finished the short run to Front Royal, I was done. I am usually able to handle temperatures at both ends of the thermometer but I was really fried this time. We didn't take long to decide that we would follow the GPS to the Quality Inn. They had rooms but couldn't get us on the ground floor. Ron and I were on the second facing the back lot and Brad, because his 6'6" frame wouldn't tolerate the two double beds each of us had, wound up in a king on the 3rd. Sandy and I decided that we would strike for home the next day so this would be our last evening with our companions.

Ron found out from the front desk that there was a restaurant about a block down Main St. We hoped that this was a real block and not one like they measure it in Buena Vista. We set out from the motel and found the restaurant just as described.

The team about to explore historic, downtown Front Royal

The Main Street Mill Restaurant was a good place to eat. The server was cute and friendly, with just the right bit of attitude. The food was good and quite reasonable priced. She brought it quickly and then told us, in no uncertain terms, that we would be having dessert. Brad declined and was labeled a wimp. We got a laugh out of that.

After supper, we walked through downtown Front Royal. Sarge had me concerned on the newsgroup when he said to secure our bikes well because the name Helltown was well deserved. This was at odds with what we saw after dark in the town square and I found out later it gained this name in the mid-1700's and mountain men and river travelers came here looking for booze and women. In fact, we quite enjoyed our walk.

The town was taken by Stonewall Jackson early in the Civil War as Belle Boyd, the famous Confederate spy, provided information that the town Union strength was being reduced. In one of the ironies of a war between brothers, the 1st Maryland Regiment (USA) was defeated and captured by the the 1st Maryland Regiment (CSA). The war was not kind to Front Royal amd most businesses were closed by the war's end.

Sandy got some more horticultural photos in Front Royal.

Behind our hotel

In the town square

Returning to the hotel, Ron and I reflected on our travels. Years ago, when EZ and Scooter came to New Hampshire for the Laconia weekend, Ron had warned them about 'twisties' and they had laughed. After our wander through North Carolina and North Georgia, he says he now understand why:-))

Since we will have a long haul tomorrow, Sandy and I went straight to bed without working on either the blog or the bills. There will be time enough for that very soon.

Today's Route

View Larger Map

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Morganton North Carolina to Charlottesville Virginia

The air was clear when we looked outside at 6:00 AM. By 6:15, however, Morganton was wreathed in fog but it started to clear as we prepared to roll out. The hickory golfers were getting ready to head for the course as well and we caught two of them admiring the 1912 automobile trucked in from South Carolina to transport them to the course.

Golfers step back in time

We also had a moment to discuss the case of a teenage girl who was so busy texting while she walked down the street that she fell into an open manhole. It was interesting to watch the attractive young lady describe her ordeal on the news without any comprehension that her actions contributed in any way to the incident. I expect that if she isn't driving already, she will be soon and we will have one more to watch out for on the roads.

We left Morganton on US 64 at 8:20 under now sunny skies. The road was another perfectly banked, winding stretch that one might find in motorcycle heaven. It was cool in the shadows and warmer in the sun, all-in-all a very comfortable start to the day. In Lenoir, we connected with SR 18 North and rode to the famous NASCAR town of North Wilksboro. The cancellation of Winston Cup Racing here years ago signaled a change in the focus of the racing organization as it started to abandon its roots in favour of greater national popularity, a move lamented by its traditional fan base.

From North Wilks, we took SR 268 northeast to where it intersected with SR 601. On the way, I saw more kudzu covered trees, poles and wires and reflected on my reading about "the vine that ate the south". Originally imported from Japan, it was initially favoured as forage for its high protein content and enjoyed for other beneficial properties and purposes. The US government promoted its introduction and even had CCC workers plant it from 1935 to 1950. In a typical example of the Law of Unintended Consequences, it found the perfect home in the American south and, by 1953, was declared a pest weed. It is now one of the definitive landmarks when travelling in the southeastern United States.

A train picture for Bob

At the intersection of SRs 268 and 601 lie two gas stations. We stopped at the Citgo for a comfort and water stop.

Sandy and friend at the Citgo

The gentleman painting the metal posts in front of the station told me that he always wanted a trike. He and the others were very pleasant, showing true southern hospitality to the traveling northerners. He encouraged us to visit "Mayberry", aka Mt. Airy, just up the road and the original home of Andy Griffith. We were headed that way anyway and I let the GPS take us right through downtown. It's a pretty place and I can just see Andy and Barney having little need to maintain law and order here.

You can almost see the old police car if you imagine hard enough

The humidity was lower today and, even as the temperature heated up, it was much nicer riding than the last couple of days. We left Mt. Airy on SR 103 entering Virginia at a spot marked only by a pleasant curve in the road. A turn on SR 8 and then US 58 brought us to the edge of Martinsville, another famous NASCAR spot, where we stopped at Subway for lunch.

The fearless travelers enjoy a Subway lunch

A vulture looking for his own meal

What is a bakery thrift store?

We left Martinsville on SR 57 and then turned on SR 799, aka Climax Road. This got a few chuckles and the sound of heavy breathing from a few of us. Then it was Piney Road to SR 40 to US 29 North, a major highway that we followed as it took us north and around Lynchburg. Every power line we crossed leaked enough to cause major static over the CB radios, causing us to raise the squelch levels. I'm going to explore getting a GMRS radio setup on the Wing before our next ride with these guys.

We took a brief break at a Sheetz before continuing on towards Charlottesville, our destination of the day. The GPS thought it would be nice if we took a detour into town and had us turn right on 708 and then left on Old Lynchburg Road. This is the kind of road that no tourist would find unless they were moving at the whim of a GPS. It was narrow with no centre line and twisted and turned over small hills and valleys under the cover of thick trees. Pleasant houses sporadically bordered both sides and we met what appeared to be rush hour traffic going home. They knew the road and were moving at a good clip.

Old Lynchburg Road

Suddenly, without warning, the narrow road burst into Charlottesville and became, all at once, a modern four lane divided street. Talk about culture shock. I guess the big new road had to end somewhere. We saw an Albemarle County Police car turn out of the station. I was unfamiliar with County Police since most American county enforcement I know of is provided by Sheriff's Departments, so I looked it up and found they exist in metropolitan counties in some areas.

Our ride through Charlottesville was far from a treat. The pleasant scenery and stately buildings were offset by the fact that we were tired, it was very hot and the traffic was stop and go. I was managing the bike carefully to keep the temperature gauge out of the red. Still, Sandy got a few photos showing the lovely architecture.

A church in Charlottesville

The University of Virginia

We paused for a moment a to consider our options and let the GPS take us to a Days Inn. When we got there, the lot was full and there were three State Police cars in front of the door. Things didn't look promising, but the older desk clerk managed to get us three king rooms on the ground floor almost side by side where we could park in front of our doors. And the rate was reasonable. I was warned that the WiFi might not be the best but I hooked up with no problem.

Before supper, we availed ourselves of the large L shaped pool It had two separate deep ends with the shallow section in the middle. Then we took the desk man's advice and walked next door to the Aberdeen Barn for supper.

The Aberdeen chef was outside greeting patrons and we were seated inside immediately. The ambiance was nice, the service was very good and the food was excellent. On the menu, it said:

"our steaks are their best when served rare or medium - excessive broiling ruins flavour and tenderness - we will do it for you if you insist but it breaks our heart"

Ron was disappointed that they didn't have Bearnaise sauce, but at least they had heard of it. They offered it years ago but the public in this region did not express any demand and they had to keep throwing it out.

My choice was the thick cut of Prime Rib

It was a very thick cut

Without our knowledge, the New Englanders conspired against us and we did not receive a bill tonight. They told us it was out of gratitude for our guiding services but it was our pleasure to ride with such fine people and explore a run where it truly was 'the ride and not the destination'. They also further conspired to mark Sandy's upcoming birthday with a festive note. In any case, thank you Ron, Laurie, Brad and Judy for both dinner and an entertaining trip. Although we aren't quite done this one yet, we are already looking forward to our next adventure together.

Sandy's birthday treat

The Aberdeen Barn - Charlottesville, Virginia

On the way back to the hotel we noted that, while to south has withering heat and humidity on most summer days, the mornings and evenings are among the most pleasant to be found anywhere.

After supper, I worked on some blogging and bill recording before turning in. Tomorrow, we will visit Monticello and pay homage to Thomas Jefferson, a thinker and doer to whom the world owes so much for articulating the principles of individual liberty.

Today's Route

View Larger Map

Monday, July 13, 2009

Hendersonville North Carolina to Morganton North Carolina

It was raining hard at 6:00 when we woke up. The radar showed it was not that big and was well organized so it should clear us soon with nothing behind it. I took the old tunnel blocks from the bike, which had 82K miles on Sherm's Kokopelli and probably 75K miles on Pogo, and left them in the room with regrets. This should confuse housekeeping. The rain cleared before 7:00 but we were waiting until Schroader's Honda opened at 9:00.

The old tunnel blocks

We loaded everything up and headed just up the street to Schroader's. I got some rubber washers that Ron and I were missing on the front fender bolts and some grommets for where the side covers attach to the injector covers. Mine were getting pretty ratty. I also put in some pre-mixed coolant. Ron bought a head skin and an extended warranty while Brad got some Frogg-Toggs rain gear. The ladies talked to Catherine, one of the owners, who described how they got into Honda in 1970. The lady is 73 but doesn't look anything like it. Their usual Wing inventory is about 100 units and they have many accessories. One thing that caught Brad's attention was the variety of after-market seats for taller people.

A tall person's seat

A tall wide person's seat

A row of GL1800's

Another Row

And still one more

Plus these outside

And these used GL1500's

We found the people to be friendly and genuinely interested in our stories and and our needs. It was a good visit. We learned that they had just sold a yellow Wing to the King of Kuwait. Eventually, though, it was time to hit the road again.

Ron and Brad getting ready to head out

From Hendersonville, we headed out US 64 towards Bat Cave and Chimney Rock. I had forgotten all the apple places on the outskirts of Hendersonville. Riding up over the Eastern Continental Divide, we then wound down to Bat Cave, which is just a little town. There must be a cave somewhere but I've never seen it. We then turned towards Chimney Rock and entered the new State Park.

With all the concerns about The Dragon and Wolf Pen gap, this was by far our biggest challenge. The road up is almost two cars wide with no centre line. In the second hairpin, we met a small semi that had been making deliveries. It was a mile to the entrance where we paid the fee and then another mile and a half up the narrow road with tight switchbacks and slow traffic. I soon found that the foam block removal hadn't solved the problem as the temperature gauge went almost to the red. I stopped once in one of the few pullouts and let it cool down a bit. Eventually, we got to the top and parked in the motorcycle area.

A couple from Greenville, NORTH Carolina arrived soon after on a Suzuki C50 like Heather and Tom's. He was retired Air Force and she had relatives in both Beverly, Massachusetts (Brad & Judy) and Londonderry, New Hampshire. Brad and Judy chose to walk up the 400 stairs to the top of the rock while the rest of us took the elevator up the 26 story shaft.

Judy & Brad climbing the stairs

I managed to make it up the stairs onto the rock where the view from the top was spectacular. We could see Lake Lure and the Geneva Hotel where we stayed for years, getting up each morning to look at Chimney Rock without actually climbing it.

View of Lake Lure from Chimney Rock

Laurie bravely standing by the flag pole

Yours truly hugging a tree

Looking down on our bikes

When we rode the elevator back down to the parking lot, I couldn't find my headskin. After looking all over, I resigned myself to sweating in my helmet lining and we rode back down the hill to the village. Stopping at Genny's Restaurant, an old hangout from SEVROC days, I discovered the wayward skin under my beaded seatcover, a location I guess I put it to keep it from blowing away.

We all had lunch at Genny's with Sandy chowing down on the blackberry cobbler she used to have here at the WARB breakfast. Then we set out in the great heat on US 64 towards Rutherfordton. The famous Margarita Grill is now named The Beachside Grill so another tradition has gone by the wayside. The curves leading out of town are well banked and about as perfect as you can get.

We continued on towards Rutherfordton and then Morganton, meeting rain near a little gas station where they didn't take credit cards. I can't remember the last time I saw one of these. We hid under the overhang until the heavy rain eased and Ron & Laurie put rain suits on while the rest of us decided to brave the elements. A couple of miles down the road, the rain stopped and it was evident from the dry pavement that it had never rained here at all.

As we reached Morganton, it started raining again and our plan to reach Lenoir went out the window. After the GPS took us to a non-existent Super 8, we swung back and checked in at the Comfort Inn. There were many golfers in town for the Hickory US Open at Mimosa Hills, a tournament played with antique hickory clubs. Players were here from all over the world.

The Comfort Inn was a little less than expected. They had no little soap and shampoo in the rooms because their big shipment came in marked Quality Inn so they sent it back. The did provide a large bar of soap if you asked at the desk. Also, they were running the whole hotel on one Wireless Access Point which didn't quite reach our room. Archaic.

We walked across to Butch's BBQ for some pork and then the girls went shopping at WalMart while the guys went back to the hotel after a beer stop at the adjacent gas station. Strangely, there were no sidewalks anywhere. Then Ron and I walked to Lowes where we had two Honda Accord keys cut to fit the bike. Out back of the hotel, we sat at a table while he cut the keys with a hacksaw and assembled two knobs for Pogo. One would go in the gas door keyhole while the other fit in the fairing pocket lock. Now I won't have to take my key out of the ignition to access either one.

We would be running about 330 miles to Charlottesville tomorrow on back roads so we decided to turn in relatively early.

Today's Route

View Larger Map