Thursday, June 29, 2006

Catching up

We went out this morning and bought new jeans. I tried some relaxed fit, but Sandy said they made me look like an old farmer. I said old farmers knew comfort was important, but gave in and got some straight legs. After a long time and some help from a spectacular young sales lady, we got Sandy two pairs as well. Tomorrow, we need new running shoes and I need some boots since mine have virtually disintegrated after nine years.

Sandy headed out for her doctor appointment and I took the bike for my visit to the dentist. The tooth doc was jus supposed to take a look and discuss alternatives with me since he was very busy, but he decided he would make the time to fix it. Because of my leaking heart valves, I am supposed to take antibiotics before dental work and I hadn't done so, so he gave me four capsules and had me sit in the waiting room for an hour while they took hold. Then he brought me back in and, with the help of two metal pins, reconstructed a tooth from nothing. I made two appointments for November to get this tooth and the one next to it capped.

The list of things to do isn't getting much shorter, but I have all next week to get things done.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Green Bay Wisconsin to Sudbury Ontario

Last night after I finished posting the Blog, I was laying in bed reading a book and munching on a chocolate bar when I felt another crunch. The tooth I had broken in Combermere, and had the sharp edges ground off as a short term measure in anticipation of a crown this fall, had broken again. This time, all but the outer wall sheared off at the gum line. No pain, but alarming all the same.

It was a clear day in Green Bay as we arose to make the final 500 mile day home. The Weather Channel showed rain up around the Soo moving out. We grabbed a coffee and talked to the Minnesota riders for a bit as we packed up.

US 41 was only moderately busy as we headed north. For some reason, when we crossed into Michigan, I forgot that SR 35 was the shortest way to Escanaba (the hypoteneuse, if you will) and I stayed on US 41. I noticed that things looked different but didn't realize my error until we reached Escanaba from an unexpected direction. Had we taken the short route, we would have avoided a fifteen minute delay at a construction zone on 41. I am becoming more navigationally challenged as time goes by and the GPS is getting to be a necessity rather than a luxury. We connected with US 2 without further confusion.

We stopped at a pretty scenic spot in Manistique across from a motel we have stayed at a few times. There is a lighthouse way in the background in the photo. From here, I phoned the dentist and made an appointment for an assessment on Thursday. I also made a doctor appointment for Sandy to get one of her prescriptions renewed.

Further along, we turned north on SR 117 through Engadine, where five of us got speeding tickets on our way to the Rider Rally in Cody Wyoming back in 1988. Nice cop, reduced the ticket from 79 in a 55 to 60. This road took us up to SR 28 in Newberry and a stop for lunch at McDonalds.

We met two westbound Harley riders at the Mickey D's. They were from the Sudbury area, Falconbridge employees, on their way to a HD gathering in Billings, Montana. They will be staying in Glendive, the town on I-94 where I spent four days on that '88 Cody trip waiting for driveshaft parts for my GL1100. I hope their experience there is better than mine. As a continuation of the Small World theme, they know Sandy's cousin Graham.

SR 28 in Michigan is a dull road, tree lined and a straight as anything in Saskatchewan. It was a relief to finally reach I-75 and make the short run to the border. We fueled up with our last chance for (relatively) cheap gas and headed over the International Bridge. The line-up to get into the US stretched to the middle of the bridge and I wonder how long the rebuilding of the US Border facilities will remain limited to two booths. The Canadian line was much shorter and we were into the booth and cleared without any problems after about ten minutes.

We stopped by Mom's house for coffee. It was a short visit but we'll be back on Friday for the Bawating Collegiate and Vocational School 45th Reunion.

As we headed east for the last 188 miles, a large cloud system was moving east with us. From Echo Bay, the road runs due south for about ten miles and it was a race to see if we could get to the point where it turned east before the rainclouds got over top of us. Dead heat as it started to sprinkle a few drops just before we turned. There were a number of systems and I told Sandy I usually got caught at Bruce Mines. Sure enough, as we got to the town limits, the road turned very wet and, over the next few miles, it rained on us. The good thing was that we missed what looked like some very substantial precipitation.

Coming out of Iron Bridge, we got behind a green GL1500. In one of the passing zones, I got ahead and led them through traffic. They stayed tucked in behind us until I stopped at a scenic rest area alongside the Serpent River. They stopped as well to let me know that my right tail light was out. I informed them that the bulb was in my fairing pocket and explained about sticking isolator relays. They were Norm and Shirley? from Mentor Ohio heading for the ferry from Manitoulin to the Bruce Peninsula on their way home from a run around Lake Superior. Three years ago, they were charged by a Buffalo in Custer State Park so we had something in common.

Norm said he would follow me until they reached Hwy 6 to Manitoulin. In the small town of Spanish, we encountered stopped traffic. The CB told me that two transports had collided head on and that there were fatalities. Lucky for us, it happened in the town so we were able to detour around the scene on back streets. I never knew Spanish had back streets. The townspeople were out in force directing traffic and getting us back on the highway.

At Espanola, Norm and Shirley waved and headed south while we continued on the forty miles to Sudbury. Once in town, I again cursed our mayor and council as we traversed what are consistently the worst paved streets we have encountered in our travels. At home, we unpacked and unhooked quickly and settled down.

We were on the road for 30 days, attended VROC at KSL, Americade, NEVROC Laconia and the Custer Reunion. I was wrong when I said it took us 7,000 miles to get to Custer. It was, after recalculating, only 6,300 miles. The total trip was 7,700 miles and we turned over 60K Km's on Quicksilver yesterday.

Now we have almost two weeks before we head out again for California and High Sierra VROC at Topaz Lake Lodge in Nevada. Lots of chores to get done before that happens.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Sioux Falls South Dakota to Green Bay Wisconsin

It's a Small World After All

We were late getting away this morning since I was determined to get the last day of the Custer Reunion posted. I did, then we took time to have the Days Inn continental breakfast. We skipped the waffles after a kid at the next table screwed up the waffle making machine.

We headed east on I-90 and stopped at a rest area to drain the morning coffee. As usual, an older man wandered over and started asking questions about the bike, the trailer and our travels. As we were leaving, he wished us a good day. I thanked him and told him that with the blue skies and the wind at our back, we couldn’t do otherwise.

In the next rest area, a gentleman from Ann Arbor Michigan asked pretty much the same questions. He was traveling with his wife and mother and they were returning home. He said he had to drop his mother at her home in western Wisconsin. Where, I asked? A little town you probably never heard of, he said. Boscobel. She was very familiar with the VROC gathering there and I told her I attended every second year. The small world thing continues.

Continuing on the now mystical I-90, we slowly caught up to two bikes. The second one was a scooter with a licence plate saying VROOMM. The first one was a Vulcan ridden by a familiar person. We had caught the Batman’s. Marc ‘Batman’ Reed is a VROCer from Cedar Rapids Iowa and was returning from Custer. We waved and, as noted yesterday with Chunk, kept on at our own pace seeing them fade further and further back in our mirror until they disappeared. If we hadn’t just stopped, I would have made the coffee gestures but we were falling behind and needed to make some miles. It’s a VERY small world.

Entering Wisconsin, we stopped again at a rest area. The reason for all the rest stops was because, for some unknown reason, I was getting tired much faster than usual. Ten minutes was enough to get me perked back up but this was unusual. Maybe it was the late night at the computer or maybe I am just burning out.

We rode I-90 to the end at I-94 and cut north two exits so we could take Wisconsin 21 across to Oshkosh. This was a two-lane highway and was a relief after all the Interstate riding we had been doing. Part way along, we stopped at a gas station and had some hot dogs and coffee since I was fading out again. Refreshed, we continued on to Oshkosh and got on 41 North. This road is a multi-lane restricted access route in this part of the country and has a road surface that is rippled. Very disconcerting.

Getting off at the south side of Green Bay, we decided to try an Exel Inn. The rates are low but the room proved to be OK and, a must, they have WiFi. After getting settled, we headed next door to Denny’s for a light bite to eat. Upon our return, we found the parking lot full of eight bikes from Minnesota returning from circumnavigating Lake Superior. We chatted a bit and then adjourned to our respective rooms.

As I was Blogging, Heather called from Milwaukee. She had flown down there earlier today on business and was just checking in. She was surprised to find we were so close to her.

I called Mom to tell her to expect us tomorrow shortly after noon for coffee and Sandy called her Mom to tell her we’d be home tomorrow night. I now need to get my list of purchases together for Customs and my list of things to do once we get home so nothing gets forgotten. Today marks four weeks since we left home.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Custer South Dakota to Sioux Falls South Dakota

We were up before 6:00 AM. Didn’t see the first bike to pull out but Cargo’s bike was missing. We opened the door and found Bucky, Scorp and Dutch getting ready as well as our next door neighbor Lanny from Arizona with his granddaughter Patience. It was a cold morning, but everyone was cheerful contemplating an early start.

We opened the trailer and stowed the gear as people started leaving in ones and twos. Wompus and Montene of Georgia prepared to continue on west and Malachi, Yvette and Trevor loaded up to return to Colorado. (Reminder to self: send Mal Harry Chapin's All My Life's A Circle)

It was while I was watching everyone pull out that I considered a change of plans. Next weekend is my high school reunion in Sault Ste. Marie, a destination that arose from a change of plans the week before. We had 1,400 miles to go and six days to get there. But we’ve been on the road a month so, after consulting The Boss, I decided we would run straight home and start getting things ready for the west trip. Then we will head back the 180 miles to the Soo on Friday for the Reunion.

Now that I had another plan, we hooked up and headed out. We took the scenic way across 244 by Mount Rushmore. At the profile view parking area, there was a family of mountain goats feeding on the side of the road with many spectators watching. We rolled on past the great carved heads, George, Tom, Teddy and Honest Abe, on down through Keystone City and north towards Rapid City. There we took the truck by-pass and stopped at the McD’s at I-90 for the usual.

Once on I-90, the pace picked up. I was doing an indicated 120 KPH and was one of the slowest vehicles out there. After Wall, I started to get a bit drowsy and pulled into a rest area to stretch my legs. I need to mention two guys we met on Thursday at the Flying J as we pulled off I-90. One was on a black Wing towing a trailer and the other was on a Yamaha Venture. They were from Iowa and we talked a bit. I saw them riding through Custer on Saturday and now, right out of the blue, they pulled into the rest area right behind us. Small world. We laughed about that.

Later on, about 2:00 PM, we were navigating eastwards near Vivian SD when I saw we were being overtaken by another bike. As it got closer, I saw it was the familiar Kawasaki Concours towing a camper trailer of Chunk Keisling. Chunk is another VROCer who travels widely and we see often. He made the coffee motion so we got off at the Vivian exit and got let into the local restaurant just as they were closing the doors. It seems they finish at 2:00 on Sunday. We all had coffee and Chunk had pie. Thanks for the coffee, my friend. Then, in true VROC style, we set out at our individual paces and the last we saw was him pulling out of sight ahead of us.

Later, we were passed by a solo rider on a GS-1200 BMW. At the next rest area, he was stopped for a smoke and a free coffee. It seems he was from Peterborough, Ontario and was ferrying his bike back from Seattle where it had ended up after spending the winter in Mexico.

As we rode along looking at the spectacular (read boring cornfield) SD scenery, We talked about changing some more plans. The run out to Stockton California and back to Topaz Lake Nevada next month was originally going to be another back road wanderfest towing the trailer and camping, but I suddenly had an urge to make it a destination ride. Leave the trailer at home, pack light and ride hard. This will cut the time on the road and should save a few dollars while still allowing us to see the people we want to. It should also give us the time to attend Dave McLeod’s poker run in Cheyenne Wyoming. Plans were made to change. At this point, the idea of running light appeals to me.

We were debating where to stop and camp when I pulled off at Sioux Falls. We decided that, since we were runnin g direct, we would motel instead. Went into a Day’s Inn with WiFi and was quoted a rate of $78.00 since summer rates had kicked in. When I made as if to leave, she knocked it down to $57.00,which seemed fair.

I checked the NASCAR results and called Mom to congratulate her on winning the week, as well as to tell her of our revised plans. Then we went over to Perkins and had supper. Then I updated two days of Blog before calling it a night. One more Custer day to get done in the morning.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Custer South Dakota - Needles, Iron Mountain and the Reptile Gardens

The sky was clear this morning but the Weather Channel was advising of possible thunderstorms. Nothing new here. We had breakfast at the Dakota Cowboy Inn with Auggie and Sue and then bid them farewell since they were heading home this morning.

We, along with Willie Wonka and Mike (Silverbiker), decided it looked like a fine day to catch up on our riding. We left town going north on 89 to the Custer State Park gate. The $5 each covered access to the park for a week. We headed on up the Needles Highway.

The Needles are awesome vertical rock formations. They are near the end of the steep and winding road we started at. At the Needles, there is a parking lot and then the road passes through a tunnel. As we were looking around, I heard bikes coming the other way and figured them coming through the tunnel would make a good picture. I had no idea who was coming but, after getting some pictures, I saw it was Scotty from Michigan. Scotty and I have traveled far and wide together in the past. His partner Marlene and brother Wag were with him.

A little ways along on the other side of the tunnel, there is a scenic overlook. We stopped and got a picture of Willie Wonka with the Needles in the background. For those who know bikes, Willie has a Kawasaki Vulcan Classic with Suzuki Cavalcade trunk and saddkebags, a Harley fairing and a Honda sound system. Willie tinkers a bit and he also has an 1800 GoldWing at home.

The Needles Highway is the type of road we like to ride; tight, twisty and in good condition. Cars we came up behind pulled over and let us go as soon as they could.

At the end of the road, we turned left on 16A and stopped in at the Custer State Park Visitor Center, a very nice facility. There were four rangers on duty and Pat Sharp appeared to be the ringleader. She’s on the right in the photo and we had some good laughs with them.

From the Center, we continued following 16A, which became what is known as The Iron Mountain Highway. This is even tighter than the Needles Highway. We wandered up and down, around and around. We crossed a meadow where burrows were begging for food. We went up the switchbacks to the summit where we could see Mount Rushmore and, once again, ran into Scotty, Marlene and Wag. We descended more switchbacks and crossed the Pigtail Bridges, where the road loops back under itself with the upper supported by timbers. We went through tunnels that framed Mount Rushmore, miles away.

Finally, we arrived in the town of Keystone, which I don’t ever remember seeing before. It is, how shall I say it, tourist oriented? It made me think of Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls although not quite so garish. We continued on down 16A past the Mount Rushmore entrance and on down 16 towards Rapid City and our next destination, Reptile Gardens.

Sandy and I had visited Reptile Gardens in 1978 and had been impressed by the collection. This time, we saw almost every venomous snake I have ever heard of and a few I hadn’t. I got to see three different varieties of Taipan, one of which (the inland taipan or fierce snake) is billed as the deadliest in the world. There was also a Komodo dragon, the first I have seen live. There is a central dome covered area with exotic plants, some birds and the odd boa constrictor hanging around. It took some persuasion to get Sandy to pose under the boa.

The young man doing the show with the alligators was funny. His routine was polished but delivered naturally. The most entertaining part of the place, however, was the prairie dog enclosure out back. Watching the little rats run around and interact with each other was, at times, hilarious. They even have a dome where, if you go down underneath, you can get a prairie dog’s eye view of the goings on. Sherm beat us to it.

We headed back south past Rushmore and into Keystone City where we stopped at a Dairy Queen for some Brazier food. We met a Vulcan rider from Minnesota who had never heard of VROC, so we talked a bit. Then we went across 244 and down 16 to the Crazy Horse Memorial.

Crazy Horse has been under construction since the 1940’s. One man, Korsczak Ziolkowski, started working on this in the 1940’s at the request of Lakota Chief Standing Bear. His family continues the work to this day and it is expected to take decades to complete. The face is now visible. More information can be found at

On the way out, we met two more couples from Minnesota, one on a new Nomad. We had to chat with them for a while. Then we headed back to Custer, only four miles down the road. When we got to the Rock Crest, someone had provided coke and a variety of pizzas. There was, as usual, a donation bowl to cover the cost.

The GPS story got interesting here. We had been talking the first night about how it would be nice to have a GPS that showed Doppler weather on it. We wondered why this had not been done. It seems we were behind the times because Ham, of the Pacific NW, has a Garmin 376C on his new GoldWing and it does all this and more. It takes the weather info from XM Satellite Radio and is also a radio player itself. It costs about twice what a normal GPS does, but being able to see where the rain is would be priceless.

We socialized for a while and then they called us together for the group photo. Sandy got her moose hat so we should be able to pick her out. We should also be able to see quite a few Sherm’s. Then we got a picture of the Canadians, led by the very strong Alberta contingent. Then we went next door for pie. Sandy kept the moose hat on and got a lot of comments.

As the evening wore on, people slipped away after saying their goodbyes. Many will be at other gatherings this year so we’ll be seeing them again. This took the edge off the farewells. Finally, when there were only a couple of people left about midnight, Sandy and I said our goodbyes to those remaining and went back to the room.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Custer South Dakota - Wind Cave And The Buffalo

It rained overnight. Since the bike wasn’t covered, I took advantage of its soaked state to get out the magic microfiber cloths and scrap off some of the worst bugs and dirt. When I got done it was about, as my friend Ted Boyd likes to say, good from far but far from good.

We caught up with Auggie and Sue, along with our good friend Willie Wonka of Illinois and our new friend Mike aka Silverbiker of Utah. I found the chicken fried steak breakfast to be excellent but a little too much.

The weather looked threatening so, after breakfast, we decided to limit ourselves to a short run and then we would see what was going to happen. Sandy and Sue swapped rides with Sandy on Auggie’s Nomad and Sue on with me to see what the wing rode like. We decided to go north on US 16 and come back south on US 89. The pavement got wet just as we got to. The ladies switched back to their real bikes and I led up the twisty road taking it easy for the first few miles until the pavement dried out. We stopped at the gate to Custer State Park, the entrance to the Needles Highway, but chose not to pay the $5 each today. We continued back to Custer on 89 and stopped at the Rocket Motel where the rest of the crew were waiting.

I had called Bushtec before we left to talk to someone about the FUBAR relay box for the trailer lights. They took my number and said someone would call. I now checked my voicemail and found that, for some reason, my phone wasn’t receiving incoming calls. There was a message from Andrew Preston, CEO of Bushtec. He was at the Honda Hoot in Nashville and left his cell phone number. I called him and explained the situation. He said a new relay box would be in the mail to Sudbury today. I continue to admire these peoples’ dedication to customer support.

I also took a few minutes and called my high school French teacher, Del Weber, to see if he could do anything about getting me registered for the reunion next weekend since registrations and fees were supposed to have been in by the 15th. We had a pleasant chat and he offered to register Sandy and I and I could pay him when I got there. He remembered way too much about me since I haven’t seen him in 35 years, but that’s the kind of guy he is. Anyway, that is now taken care of.

We gradually migrated back to Reunion HQ at the Rock Crest. When we arrived, we were pleased to find that the infamous Scorpion and the famous Dutch of Washington state had finally arrived after being delayed by weather in Gillette, Wyoming. A few of us wandered over to the purple pie facility next door and ordered various kinds of pie and ice cream. After finishing, we departed while Scorp was in the men’s room. Nothing is too good for the Arachnid.

As we were hanging out with Willie Wonka, the skies cleared. Willie said Mike wanted to go to Wind Cave National Park. We couldn’t find Mike, so we chose to go ourselves. I took the lead and we rode south until I saw a sign that said “park” to the left. It took us eight miles up a very twisty road and then across some open plains full of buffalo, antelope and prairie dogs before we discovered it was the wrong park. We were heading north back into Custer State Park. I really need that GPS. We turned around and headed back.

On the return trip, we were on a two lane road with deep ditches and then hills bordering both sides. As we came around a corner, we saw two large buffalo RUNNING TOWARDS US. They were coming up the right side of the road so I pulled far left and stopped. Willie and I conferred quickly on the CB’s and determined that turning around and backing up were out of the question. One buffalo ran down into the ditch, but the other one stopped about 100 feet in front of us, set his front feet, lowered his head and stared at us. Our response was to not move a muscle. He stared for what seemed like three days but was, in reality, a minute or so. My mind kept replaying the story from the night before about a buffalo flipping a Harley with its horns. Then, he started to walk on down the right side of the road. We waited until he was almost even with us so he wouldn’t have a chance to turn on us when we started moving. Then we dropped the clutches and hauled out of there.

Back at the main road, we found Wind Cave park about a mile past where I had turned. Again we stamped the Passport book and talked to a ranger about the buffalo. She had no better idea about how to handle the situation, but told us that buffalo really don’t like motorcycles. Now we find out!

On coming out, we looked north and saw black clouds. Ugly black clouds. We asked an NPS lady cleaning the parking lot which way Custer was. She pointed at the cloud and laughed. Willie said she sounded just like the wicked witch in The Wizard of Oz. I can’t disagree. We laughed back, dithered about about whether we could make it the 20 miles back without getting beat up by a storm the weather radio was now describing as “severe with damaging winds and hail”. Then we went for it.

The run north was done at speed. As we got closer, we could see lightning bolts. Then, as we got closer to town, Willie told me on the CB that the radio said they had cancelled the thunder storm warning. As he was telling me this, there were five lightning bolts and rain started to hit my windshield. My opinion of weathermen remains unchanged.

It wasn’t a hard rain, but when we got to town, there was a line of cars at the traffic light we needed to turn at. We could see the Rock Crest, but the first green light only allowed three cars through and then there was a lady who seemed afraid to turn right on the red light. I could just visualize the downpour catching us stranded within sight of our goal. The rain was picking up so we pulled off the road under an awning at the car wash on the corner. When the traffic cleared, I pulled back onto the street using the pedestrian wheelchair ramp and made a dash to the Rock Crest, pulling the bike under the overhang. We beat the downpour by five minutes. Others weren’t so lucky.

We sat around under the awning watching those riders with less luck than us straggle in. Stories were shared, jokes were told. The rain ended and, eventually, Sandy and I headed back to the Dakota Cowboy Inn for a bite to eat. Paul “Slots” Manske, a friend from Reno Nevada joined us. Slots was heavily involved in the casino business before his recent retirement and told us some stories about the inside workings of the business. It was fascinating. Time spent with Slots is always a pleasure.

We returned to the Rock Crest and mingled with the hordes of VROCers in the parking lot. A while later, Barb Foree (4E) of Holbrook Arizona found me and said she needed $15. I can never refuse Barb anything so I forked it over without question. It seems I had bought Sandy a moose hat. I expect she will be in a lot of pictures.
After parading her new hat around for a while, Sandy went to bed. It was cold and damp, but I stuck it out for a while longer before hitting the hay. It had been an interesting day.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Picktown South Dakota to Custer South Dakota

Hills of Colour would be U-Turn's politically correct name for the Black Hills.

The Weather Channel showed rain in SW South Dakota over the roads we planned to travel. Pickstown didn’t have much to offer in the morning so we set out west on US 18. The first thing we had to do was cross the Fort Randall Dam. I hadn’t realized that this dam was built across the Missouri River but now I understand why the Missouri is so wide where I-90 crosses it up north at Chamberlain.

There was virtually no traffic as we moved along with the rising sun at our back. Deer alert was working but we only saw a couple out in the fields. In the small town of Burke (pop. 676), we stopped for gas at a small filling station/store. Since we hadn’t had our coffee yet, we poured some and sat down at on of two small tables they had. There was an older gentleman at the next table in a cowboy hat and plaid shirt and we got talking to him about weather, farming, the Black Hills and (of all things) Niagara Falls. This is one of the things I like about not rushing so much.

From Burke, we went on to Winner where they have an actual McDonalds. It was McGriddle time. I asked an older man at the next table if he knew how Winner got its name but he said he didn’t know. He was joined by another man and asked him. It seems there were two towns near each other. The railway picked one of them when it was laying out its route west and that one was called the Winner. The other one disappeared.

Outside Winner, I was flipping between two channels on the weather band radio. The station in South Dakota was saying how SD rainfall to-date was way below normal while the Nebraska station was reporting much higher than usual precipitation. On average, I guess they average out but that wasn’t helping the farmers.

There was going to be a detour west of Winner since they had closed US 18 for road work. We would be sent up US 183, across SD 44 and back down US 83. There was a decision to be made, however, based on the weather. Ahead to the southwest, the rain we saw on the morning Doppler appeared to still be falling. If we continued with the original plan of approaching Custer from the south, we could very well get wet. I hate wet. At the crossroads of Wite River, we changed the plan and stuck on SD 44 to the little town of Interior which is the south entrance to the Badlands National Park.

We entered the park using our National Parks Pass. After a quick stop at the Visitor’s Center to get the Passport book stamped, we set out up the 29 mile scenic road that twists and winds through the pretty colours of the eroded landscape. We stopped at several of the lookouts. At one, a ranger was going back to his truck with a snake stick. I asked what he had done with the snake and he said he had thrown it over the edge. Apparently, up to this year, there have only been four snake bites in the history of the park. This year, so far, there have been two so they are being careful. At another, we had a long talk with a gentleman from Colorado who, along with his wife, was taking his grandchildren on a vacation. We also spent some time talking to some riders returning to Illinois after a tour of Wyoming. They were very interested in the trailer.

It was very hot and dry in the Badlands. We finished the road and cut up to I-90 at Wall. Although the $0.05 coffee was tempting, we skipped the infamous Wall Drug and headed for Rapid City on I-90. The road was down to single lane for a ways as they are upgrading the pavement. Near Rapid City, we passed Ellsworth Airforce Base where two B-1 Lancer bombers were practicing touch and go. In the old days, we used to see B-52’s here but times have changed. They were elegant looking aircraft and watching the low level maneuvering was interesting.

We skipped downtown Rapid City by taking the Truck 16 route around town. As we connected with US 16 south of town, we could see a large black cloud hanging over the Black Hills. It looked to me like it might be right over Custer. We raced down 16 past the entrance to Mount Rushmore and on, through some road construction, to Hill City. Custer was only a few miles but the black cloud was right in front of us. I suggested rain gear but Sandy’s response was negative so, in a fit of stupidity, I didn’t stop. Just as we got far enough that we couldn’t pull over, it started. As I rode along in my mesh jacket with no gloves feeling the cold rain chill me, Sandy and I had a talk about life, the Universe and everything. Bottom line was that I would not take weather advice from here ever again.

Arriving in Custer, I wasn’t sure where the Rock Crest Lodge, center of activities and our home for the next three nights, was. I made a lucky guess at an intersection and we rode straight to it. Many VROCers had already arrived so hugs, greetings and introductions were exchanged as we got checked in. No WiFi, so we would be out of touch. We went across the road to the restaurant at the Dakota Cowboy Inn with Auggie and Sue, our good friends from Iowa, for supper. I saw a thing called a Buffalo Hongo on the menu. It was ½ pound of ground buffalo covered with brwn gravy and wine soaked mushrooms along with fries. Since I had never had anything like it, I gave it a try. Sandy stuck wth Chicken Parmesan.

People at the Rock Crest started kicking back and Piper, our resident vendor, put out the merchandise. New items included strange hats.

It was strange that our friend Sherm, convalescing at home from the recent accident, was not only there in spirit, but also seemed to keep appearing in photos. Based on these, I think he was having a lot of fun. John Hanneman, another VROC Winger, phoned him and a lot of people got to say Hi. Sherm’s absence was the only dark spot on an otherwise perfect evening.

Sandy turned in early while I stayed up a while to visit. Eventually, the days caught up with me and I toddled off as well.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Burlington Iowa to Picktown South Dakota

Today was the first day of summer and the longest day of the year. It started with the local rain clearing out to the northwest just as we got up. The Weather Channel radar showed red and yellow all up along I-80 so, once again, I felt pretty good about detouring south. There were some severe thunderstorm warnings, but no sign in the sky.

We road west to Ottumwa where, after a search, we found a McDonalds for the obligatory McGriddle for Sandy. We got gas and, since it was spitting, we put the suits on loosely. This meant nothing was done up tight but could be while we were riding.

As we continue west on US 34, we rode between storm systems to the north and the south. Near the west side of the state, the clouds dissipated and the SW wind changed to a strong gusting north wind. We stopped in Red Oak for gas and took off the suits under blue skies and 88F temperatures. We dug out the water retaining neckbands that Sherm gave us last year to cool us down.

While at the station in Red Lodge, I noticed the right turn signal bulb on the bike was still lit even though the ignition was off. The trailer wiring harness is isolated from the bike and draws its power directly from the battery. Each circuit is controlled by an electrical switch called a relay run from the bike circuits. The relay had stuck. This happened last year and Bushtec, the hitch manufacturer, sent me a replacement. I sent the bad unit back to them in Tennessee for an autopsy. Well it has now happened to the new unit, which wasn’t easy to install, and it was the same light again. After fooling with it, I pulled the bulb and had to use hand signals for right turns.

South of Council Bluffs, we caught I-29 to the northwest. We followed the Missouri River to Sioux City Iowa where we stopped to consider our plans. There was a nice KOA just over the river on the South Dakota side, but it was early and we decided to run some more miles. On up I-29 we got off at SD 50 and went into a tourist info place to find out what things were like along US 18 since it looked pretty bleak on the map. The nice lady gave us maps and told us where services were. She also warned us about a detour where 18 was closed west of Winner. Lastly, they gave us a DVD promoting the Sturgis Black Hills Motorcycle Rally. It was nice to see the government promoting this even though we won’t be going since we dislike large crowds.

The first part of SD 50 was inhabited but, as we got further out, it got quite empty. It was, however, much prettier than I-90. Finally, after going through a few small towns and changing to SD 46, we got to Picktown. This small town is right above the Fort Randall Dam and must be South Dakota’s version of Dog River Saskatchewan. If you non-Canucks don’t get the reference, this is a Canadian TV series based in a fictional Saskatchewan town. Action is based around a gas bar/café. Note the Fort Randall Bait & Tackle Café adjoining the gas station.

We got a room at the Fort Randall Inn. It’s a nice little place and even has WiFi so I can get this caught up. We went over to Bryndy’s Steakhouse & Lounge for a good supper and then I settled in to do my Blogging.

Tomorrow, we have about 319 miles plus the detour to Custer. I also have looked up the Bushtec number so I can phone them about the relay. It will be good to get in and join the VROC Madhouse Forum for a few days.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Vermillion Ohio to Burlington Iowa

The plan from Vermilion was to head straight west on I-80 and make up some of the time we lost wandering and looking for tires. Then I saw the morning weather forecast calling for severe storms around I-80 west of Chicago. The back roads were our favourite anyway so we took 2 to Sandusky and headed southwest on US 6. Before Indiana, we caught US 24 and headed due west through Fort Wayne. The two lanes only had light traffic so we made good time.

In Illinois, we got some raindrops and put on the gear again. That was it for the rain, but the decision to go south was a good one because we could see major ugly weather to the north. Crossing into the Central Time Zone gave us an extra hour to ride.

About an hour out of Peoria, on the two-lane, we come upon a slow moving line of traffic. As soon as I saw a clear spot, and on a dotted line, I started passing them. As I went by a tanker and needed to pull in, I saw he was only about eight feet off the back of the van in front of him. I signaled and pulled in expecting him to give a little bit of ground. He did but laid on the air horn. This caused me to turn on the CB and ask him just what his problem was. He started ranting about motorcycles cutting through traffic and said he would run me down if I did it again. I asked him who the bigger threat was, me passing in a clear spot on a legal dotted line or him tailgating a line of traffic with 80,000 pounds of truck under him. Then I shut off the radio, passed the rest of the line and was gone.

We caught I-74 from Peoria to Galesburg after finding the on ramp in a mess of construction. The ride up 74 skirted one rain storm with the rest of the sky clearing. In Galesburg, we took US 34 to Burlington Iowa on the bank of the Mississippi River. There we found the Arrowhead Inn, an interesting place with slate floors in the rooms and huge fish in tanks in the lobby. The owner told me about a local plan to build a man made lake to float a riverboat casino in. Interesting.

Supper was club sandwiches ordered from Aunt Bea’s Restaurant. They were huge and they were delicious. It took me all evening to eat mine as I worked at catching up the Blog entries and watched the thunderstorms roll in. I don’t mind them nearly as much when I am under a roof. The Weather Channel was predicting serious storms north of I-80, so the southern strategy appeared to be the correct one.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Horseheads New York to Vermillion Ohio

The weather was OK in the morning at Horseheads. Rather than take the Interstate, we turned on 417 at Corning and headed for Olean on the two-lane road. It was a pleasant ride until the rain started spitting so we put on the rain suits. There were no Mickey D’s so we stopped at a Dunkin Donuts in a little town and had their breakfast sandwiches. Sandy didn’t like it but I did. I guess I won’t be getting any more DD……

The rain started to get serious while we were inside. We met two older couples on Voyagers returning from Laconia. One was almost home but their partners were heading into Ohio. Called the bank and the fellow I spoke to said he would get things straightened out.

We headed on in the increasing rain to Olean where the skies opened up. A frog would have drowned in that rain. There was a WalMart so I stopped to ask about tires. They had the size but they were only two-ply. Darcia, the tire manager, called around and couldn’t find any so she sent us down the road to Jamestown to a trailer place.

The rain stopped by the time we got to Jamestown on the superslab. The trailer place didn’t have any either, but the called around town for us. This also came up empty so they suggested Erie. On we went on I-86 and then I-90. I stopped in town at a full service garage and asked them who would have tires. They sent us to Firestone downtown, who had none, but Josh the tire manager called and found a Firestone place on the outskirts had eight of them. I was impressed by the effort these people put out even when there was no way we would be buying from them.

After arriving at Mark’s Tire Service on West Lake Drive, they got right on it and had both tires installed in no time flat. While we were waiting, I realized our day was going a lot slower than planned and that we would probably only get to Cleveland that night. I called Jan Hooks, who lives in Vermilion between Cleveland and Sandusky to see if they had room to put us up. She said to come on down and gave me directions.

With the tires on, we thanked all the staff at Mark’s and got up on I-90 for the run to Vermilion. All was well until Painesville Ohio, where we were faced with another looming storm ahead of us. We got gas and put the suits on. Again. A short burst of heavy wind caused me to move the bike to the lee side of the station. After it looked like it had passed, we headed back out and, from the perspective of the road, saw the second storm looked worse. The clouds had a decidedly green tinge to them. As the rain started pouring down and lightning was crashing around us, we rode into a single lane construction zone. Luckily, we got through it in about 15 miles and the roads were drying by the time we got to Cleveland.

Cleveland at rush hour is only slightly better than Pittsburgh. We inched along through the S-bends, but things started picking up as we went past Jacobs Field. From there, it started flowing and we highballed it to Chez Hooks. I found after getting my boots off that the new socks weren’t quite colourfast.

We garaged the bike and trailer in Rob’s other garage. He has two of them. After a drink and some visiting, we sat down to a fine supper of chicken, corn on the cob and potato salad. We looked at some pictures of their recent European cruise, had another drink and then called it a night.

Many thanks to Rob and Jan for the hospitality. It was good to see you again.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Epsom New Hampshire to Horseheads New York

We were up and packed early. We had coffee, courtesy of the ever-reliable Donk, and did a tour of the campground saying goodbye. Many will be at the Sudbury Inn in Bethel Maine in September so we’ll see them soon. The weather, barring the first day, was spectacular. Thanks to Ol' Phart Joe, U-Turn, Bobcat, Donk and all the rest of the NEVROC crew who made this athering possible.

We took Highway 9 through Concord and followed it over the mountains through Brattleboro and Bennington Vermont. It was another scorcher. We then followed NY 7 to Troy. We did not encounter one McDonalds before the 10:30 end of breakfast, so we settled for a Dunkin’ Donuts sandwich in Schenectady. The temperature was 33C.

We jumped on I-88 to Binghampton but I was feeling very tired so we stopped in a park in the town of Cobleskill (pictured), a rest area and also in Apalachin for a drink and apple pie at McDonalds. At the McD’s, we saw all manner of classic cars leaving so I guess they have the equivalent of our cruise night back home. In Apalachin, I also recalled the ill-fated mob meeting in 1957 referred to as the Apalachin Conference.

We called it quits at a Knight’s Inn in Horseheads, NY. The town of Horseheads, part of Elmira, got its name when Revolutionary soldiers slaughtered their starving horses for food and left the heads for carrion. My uncle and his family lived in this rea before relocating to southern Pennsylvania.

We had a secure Internet connection so I checked my bank account for some money that I had arranged for. It wasn’t in the right place so I noted the info to call the bank in the morning. I also noted that the trailer tires were lacking in tread. I hadn’t been watching them, but I guess 25,000 miles is all they will do. I planned to update the Blog, but just vegged out instead.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Epsom New Hampshire - Ride to the Nubble Lighthouse

Two years ago, we took a ride with a group to the Nubble Lighthouse in York, Maine. It was a fine ride but, when we got there, the lighthouse was totally invisible due to fog. Today, we set out to try to repeat the experience, sans fog.

Joe led again, with blockers functioning. We had only one CB bike, but the group was smaller than the poker run so it wasn’t a concern. We took out turn blocking. Kudos go to Ron Russell, who blocked a traffic circle on Highway 1 with his LT. I thought it was a brave and suicidal move but, other than some horns blown, he survived intact.

Our first stop was Fort McClary. We didn’t tour the fort but we did get a group photo courtesy of Ron. I think we were a fine looking group of people.

The ride to York involved a winding little coast road. Ron made the mistake two years ago of asking EZ and Scooter what they thought of the ‘twisties’. Compared to the southern roads these two run, this was a straight road, but it was fun. At York, the sun was out and bright so we got to see the beaches crowded with people enjoying the fine weather.

We found room in the lighthouse parking lot and there it was. The Lighthouse. After admiring it for a while, the group split up. Bobcat took some to a mall for shopping and food. Joe led the rest of us home. Unfortunately, he made a wrong turn and took us through downtown Portsmouth, NH. This is a quaint place and I’d like to visit again, but it was hot and crowded.

On the way out of town, we were in the left lane. Ahead, the right lane was blocked by a tow truck. When the light turned green, the car to our right started to move, without a signal, into my lane (while I was still in it). I leaned on my horn so she moved back, pulled up beside Joe, and did the same thing. Joe hit the horn but she didn’t back off. Then, after he gave way, she gave him the finger. Twice. Joe pulled up beside her at the next red light and they had words. She threatened to shoot him. The plates were Maine, but U-Turn figures she relocated from Boston.

The rest of the way home was uneventful. We stopped at an ice cream shop at the Epsom Circle and Joe bought. It was fine stuff in the sweltering heat. I got a picture of Guppa’s Nomad plate. He spent some time in the SouthEast.

On the way back into the campground, it was just Joe and us. He slowed on a sharp right curve and I went wide so I came out on his left side. I could see him looking in his right mirror wondering where we were. I closed up silently and then hit my horn. I thought for a moment that he was going to jump out of his skin.

Supper at the campground consisted of leftovers from last night (there was lots) plus hot dogs and hamburgers cooked on the grill by Bobcat Pease. Everyone had their fill. One thing about NEVROC, you never go hungry.

I often wonder why many of the VROC people from other areas don’t attend this fine event. We always have a good time when we go and have developed a fondness for the New England crowd.

After supper, Dave Overton loaned his 2006 Wing to U-Turn and then let Joe and Karen take it for the ice cream run. Here’s Joe trying to obscure his identity so he won’t be mistaken for a Tupperware rider. Both seemed favourably impressed, so we may have some new converts out there.

It was an early night as I hit the sack shortly after Sandy in anticipation of hitting the road in the morning.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Epsom New Hampshire - The Poker Run, Clap and Food

When I got up, I had the opportunity to meet the elusive Ferris Leets for the first time. Ferris’ real name is Lee Denman but he got his nickname when the computer he used to first post to VROC had Ferris Leets in the ‘From’ line. Once posted, he was forced to keep it. Lee has a fine green 1999 Nomad.

We had breakfast at the Circle again but this time opted for something less filling. I opted for fruit covered pancakes and Sandy had raisin toast and bacon.

We had 58 bikes for the poker run. Since the radios had proved so useful yesterday, we opted to use them again. Joe went first and I rode second with Jersey at the back. Jersey was in the rear but, unfortunately, he didn’t have a large antenna and his signal couldn’t reach the front of the group. Luckily, Mark was on a GL1500 in the middle of the group and relayed.

The ride went well. At each intersection, the bikes right behind us stopped and blocked traffic and then fell in at the back. The checkpoint in the middle of the run was in Rochester at a mall. It was so hot that the sidestand on Quicksilver sank into the asphalt. Luckily, some alert VROCers caught it and held it until I could be found.

The run ended at Hooksett Kawasaki where demo rides and discounts were the order of the day. Sandy and I wandered around a bit and then rode back to Epsom with Ron from Vermont. We stopped at the McDonalds at the Epsom traffic circle to see if there was a WiFi signal. Unfortunately, I had left the computer at camp so we went up to Lazy River, got it and returned. No WiFi, so we had milkshakes and returned to camp.

Jersey Dave had bought a lightbar and was installing it. He looked done at one point but then I saw him taking it apart again. I asked why and he told me the headlight wouldn’t come on when he turned on the key. I ad to remind him that the Kaw is unusual in that the headlight will not come on until the bike is STARTED. Sure enough, the wiring was fine.

We took a few moments in the field to cut my hair using Dave’s power cord for the clippers. After two weeks, it was getting way too long.

Joe runs a CLAP (Chrome, Leather & Performance) raffle every year. This year there was over $10,000 worth of prizes. We were only slightly lucky as Emily, Lost Bob’s daughter, pulled one of our tickets and Sandy won some expensive sunglasses. Two members with casts on their foot won everything in sight. Karma, I guess.

The catered supper consisted of pork, beans and salads. It was very good, as usual.

After supper, I spent some time talking to Jeff Hirsch VROC #100. Jeff was around at the beginning but now he only attends Laconia once in a while. I was brought him up to date on some of the things that have happened as we grew.
There were some burnouts but not much. Sandy went to bed about 9:00 while Ron Russell and I talked politics and work until midnight.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Epsom New Hampshire - Mount Washington, Beef & Trivia

The rain had started up again by the time we got up, but it ended just before we set out for the Circle Restaurant for Breakfast. The Deluxe Breakfast included scrambled eggs with sausage and ham mixed in, bacon, toast, home fires and coffee for the whopping sum of $4.50. This was a good deal.

After breakfast, we returned to the campground and formed a small group (about eight bikes) for a ride to the base of Mount Washington. Joe led us up I-93 and got off at Lincoln so we could ride the scenic Kancamagus Highway. On 93, we saw a Border Patrol checkpoint on the southbound side. Near as I could figure, they were looking for wetback Canucks trying to infiltrate the US of A.

The Kancamagus was a nice 32 mile ride. Not as challenging as North Carolina, but pleasant. We stopped at a lookout and I saw an older couple who had been in the same gas station in Lincoln. I started talking to them and found they were from Israel on a two-week visit to the US. Week one was Miami and week two was touring the North East. The lady wondered why all the bikes were around so I told her about the Laconia Classic. Later, they were pulled over on the side of the road while she waited to take our picture as we rode by. Just before the road reached Highway 16, the troopers had a speed check using laser freehand. Back home they use tripods. Luckily, we had been warned before we got there.

We by-passed Conway on West Side Road in an attempt to avoid the construction, but slipped up at the end and got into North Conway right where the dirt started.

Mount Washington had a horde of bikes at the base, but not many were going up due to high winds and cold temperatures. We took a break and some went for food while I accosted a couple with a 2002 Nomad who had never heard of VROC. I gave them the website.

Here’s a picture of Sandy with the peak of Mount Washington just visible in the background.

We headed back with some local knowledge and by-passed Conway on the east side. This time we missed all the construction. In Wolfeboro, Yolanda’s clutch started acting up after a brutal wait for a stop sign on an uphill grade. Did I mention it was hot again? Luckily, with Jersey Dave at the back with a CB, we were able to hold the group with a minimum of trouble until they got going. At Alton we stopped for gas and a fellow on a Harley with a Diablo patch hit Joe up for a metric allen key. There was some good-natured ribbing over this.

At the campground, more people had arrived including Ron Russell who was sporting a new Vulcan. He still had his BMW LT, but was back in the cruiser fold. A group of us headed into Concord for the traditional dinner at the Longhorn Steakhouse. I had Prime Rib and Sandy had baby back ribs. Service and food were excellent.

On the way back, Sandy and I were able to spot a glove that we saw fall from one of the bikes on the way to the restaurant so we picked it up and returned it to the rightful owner at the campground.
At the bonfire, Ron Russell, Steve Cifra, RiderMike and I sat around talking movie and TV trivia and about hot actresses who are below the radar. It seems we have similar tastes. Eventually Ron went to bed and, about midnight, Steve, Mike and I managed to get the fire put out before we turned in.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Cedar Pond New Hampshire to Epsom New Hampshire

It rained overnight. To be really appreciated, rain must be heard while trying to sleep upstairs in a camp with a tin roof. Luckily, the sky was clear by morning when we loaded up and bid Jerry good-bye.

We stopped at a Mickey D’s in Gorham NH to have our usual breakfast and found a WiFi connection. It gave me a chance to post the Blog for the day before and get the mail. This would prove to be the last connection we got for several days.

As we came out of the restaurant, it started to spit rain. Heading out of town, it picked up in intensity and then rained off and on all the way to Conway. It was clear when we passed the entrance to the Mount Washington Auto Road but it will be the twelfth of never before I take a bike the eight miles (last two dirt) up to the top of the mountain. The sheer drops would do both Sandy and I in. Call us chicken if you want.

We got to the tourist town of North Conway to find the road torn up. As we were sitting waiting for a flagman to let us go, he indicated we were to wait while a loader came out on the road ahead of us. The loader operator called the flagman over and he came back and told us to go first since the operator didn’t want to get our bike dirty. Once rolling in the dirt, I saw a water truck coming towards us wetting down the dust. He was spraying from two nozzles on the front bumper but, as I hunkered down for the worst, he shut off the one on our side. I think I will put these guys on the Christmas card listJ

The temperature had risen and the sun came out as we rode through North Conway. I saw a train station posted as the Conway Scenic Railway. We pulled in and found the train tour to Bartlett was leaving in twenty minutes. Why not? We bought tickets and climbed aboard the First Class car. The ride eleven miles to Bartlett was slow and most of the scenery consisted of trees with scenic glimpses of the mountains and occasional rivers. We had a good time talking to a lady from Washington DC and her 82 year old mother. At Bartlett, the engine ran around the train to be at the head end for the return trip. The return trip was marred by a hysterical screaming child of about three years old. I feel comfortable in saying that, by the time we got to North Conway, this was the most hated child in New Hampshire.

When we debarked, who did we find in line to climb aboard but Bob and Cindy, the couple from Nova Scotia we had met a couple of days before in the KOA at Twin Mountain. They had been to Laconia and were now sightseeing. The rain had caught up to us while we were on the train so we suited up again and set out.

We rode on down Highway 16 and caught Highway 28 towards the campground. Near the end, we saw a gas station named BoscoBell. Since Boscobel is the town in Wisconsin where the other VROC gathering is taking place this weekend, we figured we would get a picture to prove that we CAN be in two places at once.

We got into the Lazy River Campground about 4:30. There weren’t too many there, but Jersey Dave had his camper up. We set up and then ran down to the Circle Restaurant for supper. This is our usual breakfast hangout. I had the special 16 oz. T-bone for $11.95. You wouldn’t think it would be very good at this price but I was pleasantly surprised.

Back at the campground, the black clouds built and then the rains came. A few others arrived including Cheyenne Dave (from Cheyenne Wyoming) on a Drifter and his son Matt from Rockford Illinois on a new Harley. We helped them set their tent up between rain squalls. The rest of the time was spent under the NEVROC awnings catching up and swapping tall tales until bedtime. By midnight, the rain had stopped.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Twin Mountain New Hampshire to Cedar Pond New Hampshire

The clear sky we went to bed under had been replaced by overcast, but it burned off quickly.

Sandy and I met Jerry Gagnon in 1978. We had been planning an assault on Mt. Washington when the rear brake went out on our GL-1000. He was the first rider we met when asking how to find a shop, and he had a friend with a garage and the necessary equipment. A simple bleeding and the brakes were fine, but Jerry took us in and insisted we stay at his camp up on Cedar Pond. A few years later, Jerry came up and visited us in Sudbury on his GoldWing. We fell out of touch over the years, but have reconnected since NEVROC have brought us back to the area in recent years.

Jerry’s house is in Berlin. In NH, this is not pronounced like the German city. They say BUR-lin. Cedar Pond is north of Berlin in Milan. As you might expect, this is not pronounced like the city in Italy. MY-lin. And, get this, Sherm. This is all in Coos County. Yup, it is pronounced COE-aws. Separate O’s, one long and one short.

We arrived at Jerry’s new camp on Cedar Pond early. He made a fine breakfast and we sat on the deck catching up while we watched and assortment of squirrels fight over the bird feeders. This is as entertaining as watching Doris and the ducklings.

Jerry took us for a drive up Highway 16 to Errol in search of the NH moose. The road would be very nice if the surface wasn’t so rough. Apparently 90% of the residents opposed improving the road because they wanted to discourage tourists. On the way back from Errol, we saw a cow moose on the side of the road. Jerry stopped and I got out for a picture. As I walked towards her, she looked up and started walking towards me. I stopped and she stopped. I took another step and so did she. Before we could get this resolved (we were still about 15 feet apart), a pickup truck with a barking dog in the back spooked her and she headed into the bush.

Highway 16 runs along the Androscoggin River, which flows from Errol down past Milan to Berlin. There are a series of small hydro dams along the way. As with the Connecticut, the river is very high and they have been taking logs out of the dams. In a few places, the water level is not far from the road. This photo is the Pontook Dam between Berlin and Errol.

Later, we went over to West Milan for soft serve ice cream. The graveyard next to the general store has headstones going back to the mid-1800’s. Then we took a drive around Cedar Pond. The road is two miles and is lined with camps. People from “down state” and furriners from Massachusetts have pushed the price of a simple camp up here into the quarter million dollar range.

Sandy and I were tired and decided to turn in early.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Brattleboro Vermont to Twin Mountain New Hampshire

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky at the Brattleboro KOA this morning. That was a new experience given how the last few days have gone.

After tearing down, I asked a KOA person if the little road on the map that led over to Vermont 30 was passable. He said it was but to be sure to take the left fork when the road ended and watch out for the wooden decking on the covered bridge. It was a good thing I asked because the road, which resembled a paved goat path loaded with cars taking a shortcut to work, had no signs of any kind. It ended three times and I turned left ever time. Amazingly, that got us to 30.

We took 30 north to Jamaica where we turned on Vermont 100 north. This is billed as one of the top scenic highways in the US. The trees before Jamaica had an open and orderly air, but when we started up 100 they became closer and more intense. The whole feel was rustic in a very pretty way with old houses and farms, well appointed small businesses and stretches of trees as the road wound around up and down over the hills. It soon became apparent that most of the eating establishments, and there were some nice ones, only served lunch and/or dinner. We were getting hungry.

When we got to the little town of Ludlow, we found an open restaurant called The Hatchery on the main street. They served Sandy a huge mess of blueberry pancakes. This was their “short” stack. I had what appears to be a Vermont thing. Eggs and Polish sausage. There was more than enough.

After leaving, we noticed some wildly coloured llama sculptures in front of various buildings. The Ludlow Llamas. It seems people buy these things, paint them up and auction them off at the end of the year with the proceeds going to charity. They are on wheels and last week they had a llama parade. We would never have seen them except, in my GPS challenged manner, I accidentally headed through and out of town on 103 South. Just call me Wrong Way Robinson.

My sense of direction failed me again leaving town on the right road when I missed the 100 North turnoff and we ended up going into Rutland on 103.

While in Rutland, we stopped at a Walgreens for a few supplies. Another Wing rider there asked us how we liked breakfast in Ludlow. Seems he saw our bike as he rode through town. A Ludlow local, I may have convinced him to forget Quebec and come sledding in Sudbury. Outside Killington, we found that Kokopelli has been seen in New England. Note the ski’s on his feet, Sherm:-)

From Rutland, we headed east on US 4 and stopped to see the Queechee Gorge. We walked the road bridge over the gorge but it was hard to get Sandy close enough to the railing to get a good picture. Then we stopped at the Visitor Center and had a nice talk with a local lady working the counter. They will be having a hot air balloon festival here in a few weeks. That should be a sight.

I need to make a comment here on Vermont drivers. They were the most polite I have ever seen. Three different times, a driver stopped and motioned me to go ahead when I was pulling out of somewhere. I also saw three New York drivers and every on of them was totally without a clue. Go figure.

From Queechee, we went east and caught US 5 up the Vermont side of the Connecticut River. The river is overflowing its banks as you can see if you look at the picture carefully. There is also a lot of water standing in the fields so the ground must be totally saturated from the continued rain. Highway 5 is a fine road, very nice curves and great scenery.

At Woodsville, we turned right on US 302 and crossed over into Vermont. We needed a break so we pulled in at a Dunkin Donuts. There were two Ontario bikes there. Both riders owned Independent Grocers, one in Huntsville and the other, of all places, in Espanola (about 40 miles from Sudbury). Small world. They were Laconia bound by a different route. In the DD, we were about to order when the power went off. This is a real problem in a place that depends on electricity for everything. Luckily, it came back on in time for us to get our coffee.

We continued twisting and winding along 302 until we reached Twin Mountain, where we looked up the KOA. We wrangled over sites and the staff were extremely accommodating. We finally got set up and met Bob and Cindy, from Dartmouth Nova Scotia. They are here for their first Laconia. We chatted a bit and then Sandy and I went down the road about seven miles to find supper. Clouds had been building all day and it was now spitting a bit of rain on us.

Fabyan’s is a restaurant made from a converted railway station. It is located on 302 at the turnoff to the Mt. Washington Cog Railway. Good food, better service. The many Harley riders there ignored us, so we returned the favour. Sandy has a sweet and sour chicken concoction and I had a bacon/turkey melt that was superb. We skipped dessert.

On the way back, we saw this sign. It made me ask myself just who in their right mind would not brake for a moose. Where I come from, this would be so obvious that I would think it went without saying, but in New Hampshire, they seem to need signs.

Back in the campground, we stopped and visited Mort and Elaine from Hershey, Pa. They have a home built cargo trailer made from aluminum diamond plate. It has a solar panel to charge a 12 volt battery in the trailer that runs an inverter for 110 power. When we came back to our site, I was surprised to see that all the clouds had suddenly cleared. Sandy went to take a shower and I gave a tour of the camper to yet another riding couple.

As the sun went down, I sat at the picnic table to update the blog. We called a friend, Jerry Gagnon, in Berlin and made arrangements to drop by his camp for a visit tomorrow morning. The heater is running in the camper and I expect we will have a comfortable night.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Lake George New York to Brattleboro Vermont

Today we had a dilemma. Laconia NH is the next stop. We have about 240 miles to cover and four days to get there. Gord and Shirley were headed for Pennsylvania. Ray had laft early for Sudbury.

We loaded our respective vehicles and headed out. At Exit 20, we got off I-87 and took 149 east. For the second day in a row, I missed a turn and, instead of taking Highway 30 through Vermont, we went straight south on Highway 22. I finally checked the map and found the GPS was looking better and better. But, same as yesterday, all roads leave to the same place. We cut east to Bennington Vermont.

In Bennington, we passed the famous women's college. There was a leisurely stop at a Dunkin Donuts for coffee and a muffin. We talked to some riders from Boston headed home after Americade. One was on a 2000 purple/black Nomad just like my old one. I phoned Mom and got her to change my driver selection in the NASCAR pool for today's race.

From Bennington, we headed east on 9. This road gets a thumbs up, especially the part east of Wilmington. We arrived in Brattleboro and headed north of town looking for the KOA. This is the absolute best campground I have ever stayed in. It is small but the sites are level and well tended, laid out in semi-circles. The shower and washrooms are spotless and the games room/laundry/TV lounge are excellent. They have TWO WiFi access points. We did laundry and met retired couples from Florida and South Carolina who are wandering in their RV's. Sandy also met a couple from Australia on an eight week tour in a rented unit. I even got to see the end of the NASCAR race on TV.

For supper, we went in to Putney Village, just north of here. The Putney Diner is the kind of place you wouldn't look twice at, but it was recommended. Once inside the old building, you could see there was something special. The food was great, the prices low and the service friendly. I even tried a homemade maple walnut pie since I had never seen one before. It was great. I would recommend this place to anyone who is in the area.

We're back now and I am typing this so I can turn in. Tomorrow we will decide where to head as we explore New England for a few more aimless days.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Lake George New York - Saratoga Springs

Today started fairly cool but at least it wasn't raining. Terry had to head for home but he didn't start as early as he originally planned. After Terry was gone, we relocated the RV to our new location. This one would prove to be much more peaceful since it was away from the highway and the incessant loud pipes roaring by.
After we got situated, we decided to go for a ride. Gord and Shirley's Pennsylvania friends had given us a copy of the official Americade self guided tour map. We chose the run to Saratoga Springs and suited up. This was the point at which Gord realized that the cable provided with his new helmet with the embedded headset wouldn't fit the HD. The trip got deferred in favour of returning to the Tour Expo and solving the dilemma.
Downtown Lake George was a congested mess. Rather than try to find parking for two bikes at te Expo, I told Gord I'd wait for him at Fred Thompson's Garage. This took us out of the ratrace. Imagine my surprise when one of the guys at Fred's told me that the restaurant next door had WiFi. I couldn't hit it from the office, but using a flatbed trailer on that side of the lot and putting my jacket over both my head and the computer. It looked silly but I got a few Blog updates done.
Gord showed up while I was doing this and made fun of me. Imagine that. Anyway, he managed to get his cord problem fixed and we headed out on the self guided tour with me in the lead. We took Highway 9N south past the rally headquarters at Roaring Brook Ranch and on to Lake Luzerne where we had stayed back in 1983. Somewhere in there I missed a turn, but the wrong road ended up the same place as the right one so no harm done:-)
The road wound up and down, back and forth until we reached the outskirts of Saratoga Springs where we stopped at a little roadside diner for lunch. Talk about a difference from the high priced disappointment the night before. Sandwiches piled high with meat, fries with a unique flavour, fresh bread, tasty soup. They even brought Gord more fires because "they didn't give him enough the first time".
The next stop was the Saratoga Automobile Museum. They have a small but interesting display of classic and historical automobiles. Many belong to a man named Taylor of Taylor Made golf club fame. The current selection was mainly Jaguar with some Aston Martin and others. Upsatirs, cars from as far back as 1903 were on display. They also had one of Darryl Waltrip's 1985 stock cars.
From Saratoga, we wandered east on 29 and then north on 4 eventually getting on 9L which runs up and then comes south on the east shore of Lake George. We caught a few showers and the lake was very angry when we got to it. We wound our way back into town where we discovered major gridlock in the direction we wanted to go. Not to be deterred, we headed south, jumped on I-87 and went around the problem.
We picked up a pie and a few things at Ray's Deli and Shirley did wonders whipping up a fine supper out of leftover odds an ends. The woman is honestly a marvel.
After supper, we started a fire to burn what was left of Ray's crew's firewood. Down the hill I saw a Fibco camper trailer identical to the one I bought in 1988 and wrecked in 1997. I wandered down and met Wayne, the owner. He has been hauling it behind a GL-1500 for a decade but hasn't been able to find an awning or add-a-room for it since the company is long out of business. I gave an awning and a screen porch to a friend years ago. This friend no longer rides so I told Wayne I'd see if I could find out what happened to them.
After returning to our site, the crew all turned in early since tomorrow is pack up and leave day.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Lake George New York - Another Rain Day

More rain this morning. Nothing new about that. There are a series of shuttle buses that look like trolley cars. One turns around right in front of the campground and goes downtown. Gord, Shirley and Terry hopped on and went to town while Sandy and I stayed behind.

I sorted and posted all the bills I had since the beginning of the trip. Then we reorganized our gear and repacked the trailer and saddlebags. Finally, it was time for a nap.

Gord went up to tell the park office that we wanted to stay until Sunday, as they had told him to do. To our surprise, we were informed that our site had been rented to someone else for Saturday night and we would have to move. Fortunately, Ray’s crew had paid until Sunday and all except Ray were pulling out tomorrow. The 31 foot coach would fit.

The day took a turn for the worse when both campsites joined forces and walked across the road to the Raintree Restaurant. The prices were substantial so we expected service to match, That didn’t turn out to be the case. Our server took a long time to bring menus and our food took over and hour to arrive. She took Sandy’s food, coconut shrimp, to the wrong table and, by the time we discovered it, they were cold. Things went downhill from there and the server and I had an exchange of opinions. I won’t be on her Christmas list and she got a $0.01 tip. Unfortunately, I had no Canadian pennies. I had a few words with the owner as well. I can’t recommend this place.

Here's Terry standing by the sign of the restaurant that will have no fear of us ever crossing their threshold again.

We wandered back to the campground via Ray’s Hellova Deli where Sandy and I bought ice cream bars. We then sat up for a while discussing life, the universe and everything before going to bed with hopes that tomorrow would bring better weather.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Lake George New York - Ride Around The Lake

We awoke to the sound of rain on the roof. Fred came by and said they had delivered the ball joint to the wrong place but he was on a mission to go and pick it up. Before too long, he was back and the mechanic, under expert Freedom Rider supervision, was installing it and replacing the brake pads that had disintegrated when the pulled to assembly apart. In short order, we were mobile again and made our way back to Hearthstone Park.

After getting the RV situated, we fired up the bikes and rode to Warrensburg, just north of Lake George. Terry led, we were second, Ray Albert was 3rd, Gord & Shirley 4th and Barry (from Beeton Ont on a Cavalcade) brought up the rear. There were a number of vendors set up here. I picked up a replacement Butler Mug (a 20 oz mug that fits in a holder on the handlebars) to replace the one that had been leaking around the lid. I also got some Kuryakyn cruising pegs to replace the switchblade pegs on the Wing. One lady did have Tour King motorcycle covers in stock, which dismayed me a bit since I had finally broken down and ordered one just before I left Sudbury. We grabbed some pizza slices and then went for a scenic ride.

From Warrensburg, we took a side road back to the lake and Highway 9N. Most of the highways around here are variations on 9. I have never figured this out. The road was gravel for a ways in the middle, but we got back on pavement before too long. Just before we got to 9N, we descended a steep grade and could smell burning brakes. Soon we caught the culprit, a car towing a medium sized house trailer. I guess he didn’t know about using a lower gear.

At 9N, we turned north and rode up through Bolton Landing at a leisurely pace since Terry was scuffing in a new rear tire. It was nice riding behind him since I can pretty well anticipate his every move from the years we traveled extensively together. We stopped at a scenic lookout and got the Freedom Riders official Americade photo. The Vulcans and a Sporty pulled in. They were part of the silent VROC majority, reading but not posting. There was Phil and his son Phil from Long Island and Tim (probably from the same place). I don’t recall the HD rider’s name. Their photo is the second one. [Since my memory is shot, Bill Grimes Sr. corrected me on the names. With him and Bill Jr. ar Tim on the Drifter (got that one right) and his son-in-law Bryan on the HD. Sorry about that, Bill.]
We continued along the lake until we came to the northern end and pulled into the lot at Fort Ticonderoga. Because we were short of time, we didn’t pay the $12 to tour the fort, but did grab a coffee in the restaurant and checked out the gift shop.

The return trip was down the east side of the lake on Highway 22. When we connected with Highway 4 at Whitehall (home of the US Navy) things became familiar since I use this route coming home from Laconia. At Fort Ann, we turned west on 143 and the threatening skies dumped a little rain on us.

Back at Highway 9, we turned north towards Lake George Village. There was a brief stop at Frontier Town where more vendors were set up but nothing caught our fancy. When we entered the village, right in front of our old home at Thompson’s Garage, there was a police checkpoint with six cars in the median and another half dozen in the HoJo’s parking lot. It seems that the operation to deal with loud pipes was well underway. They waved us right through.

Some friends of Gord and Shirley’s from Pennsylvania showed up when we got back to the campground. We sat and talked with them for quite a while. After they left, we cooked up some bratwurst, sausages and odds and ends for supper. After the late night at Fred’s, everyone turned in early.

Lucky Al and Tony The Kid, VROC from Jersey, are in town. I’ve talked to Al several times on the phone but we haven’t been able to connect yet.