Saturday, May 27, 2017

Grove City Pennsylvania to Sudbury Ontario

It had rained overnight and was still overcast this morning. We grabbed coffee and yogurt from the continental breakfast nook and headed straight out the door. After a stop to refuel and get some McDonald's breakfast items, we were rolling northbound at 8:00 AM. The $2.65 per gallon gasoline price hurt compared to $1.95 in Tennessee, but not nearly as much as the Ontario price will when we get home.

There were a lot of Pennsylvania's finest out patrolling this morning. Some were driving very creative unmarked vehicles. I wish some of them would look into some of the more obnoxious LED headlights, the ones that are mis-aligned so that they burn holes in your retinas.

We lade our final US gas stop at the Angola Service Center on the New York Thruway near Buffalo. I always like to cram as much of the relatively cheaper US gas as I can into the tank before crossing the border.

The Peace Bridge was back to three lanes and two of them were our direction this morning. There were a few vehicles in the NEXUS lane but it moved quickly. Three questions and we were on our way. We crossed the centre of the bridge at 11:09 and cleared Customs at 11:16. Can't do much better than that.

Buffalo skyline

Peace Bridge has all lanes back in service

Quiet at customs

We liked this trailer

Apparently this is MGX Trucking's only truck

I debated whether to take the 407 Express Toll Road or take a chance on the QEW/401 since it was noon Saturday. The electronic signboard warned of slow traffic through Oakville on the QEW (pretty much a sad and normal state of affairs), so I opted to pay the toll.

We stopped at a McDonald's on Major Mackenzie Drive near Canada's Wonderland. All went well until we tried to exit the lot. Westbound Major Mac traffic was heavy and would be held up by the next traffic light which turned red before ours turned green to let us turn right. So when we had the light to leave, we couldn't because the roadway was blocked with stopped through traffic. After several cycles, I pulled into the left lane and then out into the intersection where I stopped and blocked everyone until the westbound cars moved and let us get lined up. That pissed off some of the main traffic, but such is life. I don't know what dumbass traffic engineer designed that, but he should not be practicing anywhere.

The rest of the trip home was uneventful. It rained off and on and I am sure the construction crews at the Highway 400/11 split will be working on that one project for their entire careers. The fuel warning light came on just as we reached the PetroCan at Horseshoe Lake Road.

Canada's Wonderland was in full swing

Is that a wall of water before me?


But it was soon over

Northern Ontario scenery

We arrived home at 5:30 and had the bike and gear all unloaded by 6:00 PM.

Today's Route (501 Equinox miles):

Friday, May 26, 2017

Bryson City North Carolina to Grove City Pennsylvania

Today was the beginning of the US Memorial Day Weekend and the end of our stay in the mountains of North Carolina. Multiple alarms went off at 6:00 AM and we were loaded to go at 6:20. I knocked on Paul and Melika's door and they were moving soon after. It looked like a good day to travel but it would have been a better day to ride motorcycles in the mountains.

Ready for an early morning departure

We were on the road at 6:45. Paul and Melika had one of our GMRS radios so we could communicate as we drove along. A stop at the Rest Area after Balsam Gap allowed us to check the bike tie-downs.

Through early morning fog I see.......

No traffic on I-26 after crossing into Tennessee

Took the direct route through Bristol

Bristol Motor Speedway looks quiet

Special Forces patches

One large load

A lawn mower racing team

Tunnel 1 - Big Walker Mountain

Tunnel 2 - East River Mountain

Welcome to West (By God) Virginia

Crossing the New River Gorge

Interesting motorcycle trailer

Crossing I-70 in Pennsylvania

The new I-70 interchange is much nicer than the old Wall Of Death

Crossing the Ohio River on I-79

The day was uneventful. We saw some motorcycle groups on I-81 with military patches and it suddenly occurred to me that they were probably headed to Washington DC for the annual Rolling Thunder Run To The Wall.

Sandy and I were going to stop in Grove City, Pennsylvania for the night while Paul and Melika needed to be back in Ontario for the morning. They did have the advantage of two drivers. Melika wanted to stop at an Olive garden and we needed one last supper, so I found one in Cranberry Township north of Pittsburgh. We arrived at just about supper time.

In the parking lot, I found for the first time today that a strap had loosened and the back of the bike had shifted. I re-rigged while the others went in to find a table.

The restaurant was very busy but they were seated right away. I joined them and then had to go back out and change my shoes. The last gas station we stopped at had a fuel spill and my soles reeked of gasoline, spoiling the ambiance of the establishment. Sandy and I split a Tour of Italy, consisting of chicken Parmigiana, Lasagna Classico and fettuccine Alfredo, while Paul and Melika did the same. It was a good choice. Then the three of them shared a flight of desserts while I had (you guessed it) coffee. I had already bent my dietary rules with the pasta. The service all through the meal was excellent.

Parked at Olive Garden in Cranberry Township Pa

Our last communal supper of the trip

Three enjoy dessert while the diabetic kid watches

Back outside, we said our goodbyes. It was a good time even if the weather conspired against us. They followed us until we exited the highway at Grove City and they continued going north.

The Super 8 in Grove City has huge rooms. I got my favourite pull-through parking space(s) pointing at the exit from the lot and, after we moved our gear inside, unloaded and reloaded the bike straight. After a moment of confusion when it refused to start, I saw the kill switch had been flipped. Rookie move, but it has been years since I have had this situation occur.

The room at the Super 8 in Grove City Pa was huge

View from the reverse angle

Again, I worked on sorting and posting photos of the day while Sandy watched television. Then I went to bed and read my Kindle for a little while before falling asleep.

Today's Route (574 Equinox miles):

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Bryson City North Carolina - Today We Slew The Dragon

I woke up about 1:00 AM with a swelling in the back of my right leg. There was no sign of a bite or any other cause and it was no worse by morning so I chose to ignore it.
This was our last day here and we wanted to make the most of it. The weather forecast called for 20% chance of precipitation this morning and 70% probability of a trace of rain this afternoon. We talked about where to ride, but I could see the look in Melika's eyes yesterday as we drove through The Tail Of The Dragon in the truck. Many who ride here a lot say that there are a lot of better roads in the area, and I agree. But to come this far and not check this right of passage off your bucket list would be a shame. Paul said they would follow wherever I led and I decided to lead back up to Deal's Gap.

We rode back out to Highway 28 and started north. After another quick stop at Fontana Dam, we climbed up to the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort.

This is the best morning weather so far this week

But the view starting up NC 28 looks the same as yesterday

Looking nasty one way at Fontana Dam

While a 180 shows blue skies

A bald eagle

There were more motorcycles at The Gap today. A special treat was a collection of classic two-stroke bikes who imbued the atmosphere with their ringy-dingy exhaust sounds and clouds of blue smoke. Parked right there in the forefront was a 1970 Yamaha R5 350cc, resplendent in its fuchsia and white colours. It was identical to my first motorcycle, the one I was riding when I earned my nickname. We talked with a couple from London, Ontario who had two bikes here, including an old RD 350 Yamaha.

It started raining, so we went inside and had some lunch. In our eagerness to get a ride in, we had skipped breakfast and Melika was craving a hamburger. I finally bought a Dragon sticker to put on Pogo.

More bikes at Deals Gap today

Including ours (if the propane truck doesn't hit them)

1970 Yamaha R5 350 cc - identical to my first bike

 I had a fuchsia helmet, shirt and socks

Looks like a few miles of smiles

This is all that is left of mine

Miss you, Fred

After eating and hanging around for a while, the rain let up. The road was still a little wet when we started up the hill, but traction was pretty good. It was a fun ride. Only one fast mover overtook us on the way to the Overlook, and we didn't catch up to anyone. The further we went, the dryer it got. The northbound pullout at the Overlook was blocked by some kind of work crew so we went to the other side, where I met an Okie on a Concourse and we talked about favourite local roads. Melika seemed to have a good time.

Slaying The Dragon

Congratulations to our newest Dragon rookie

On the ride back through The Gap, we did not encounter anyone going our direction. We didn't stop at the Crossroads and continued down 129, aka the Mini-Tail, stopping at the bottom for a view of the Cheoah (or Fugitive) Dam. This spooky old structure is almost 100 years old.

Cheoah Dam aka The Fugitive Dam

Happy riders

A thorn between two roses

I led through the sweepers on 129 along the river back towards Robbinsville. We stopped at the Skyway Convenience Store and Gas Bar at the intersection of NC 143. I loaded my Butler mug with black coffee and the others had ice cream while ee watched bikes come and go. Many with rain gear on but our luck held.

Skyway Convenience - Robbinsville NC

We had already ridden through the Nantahala Gorge two days earlier, but Melika had been riding pillion that day. I opted to lead us back around that way one more time. It is a winding but pleasant ride, one that I always enjoy. We were behind traffic for most of the way, but some guy in a Ford didn't hold us up for a lot of it. He could drive. Then we got behind some flatlander for the the last bit and got to watch his tail lights as he braked for everything including straight stretches. We arrived back at the lodge at 3:30.

Several couples from Alabama had arrived. This was going to be a busy Memorial Day Weekend at Two Rivers Lodge. Starting tomorrow, all the rooms were booked. The most impressive thing so far was a Boss Hoss trike.

Boss Hoss trike

Paul still hadn't had his BBQ and we had to fuel the Equinox and truck, so we drove to the Bar-B-Que Wagon on the way into Bryson City. After having been closed for several days, business was brisk. The food was OK, but not as good as I remember. Or maybe I am just getting older and more critical.

The Last Supper

A Bryson City landmark

Waiting for our numbers to be called

Somebody won't go to bed hungry

After we finished eating, Sandy and I fueled the Equinox and returned to the lodge while the others stopped by the Ingles grocery store to stock up on provisions for the trip. I hooked the trailer up, loaded the bike and stowed the suitcases and riding gear. All we had left were our overnight bags. We were all set for a 7:00 AM departure.

Before retiring, I played my favourite motorcycle video for Melika. Now that she had been here and ridden the road, The Ballad of the Gap meant more to her. Sad that our latest stay in the Smoky Mountains was coming to an end, we all hit the hay about 10:00 PM.

Today's Route (127 motorcycle miles):