Thursday, May 31, 2007

Hanging Around KSL

Stecoah North Carolina

We got up to another beautiful morning. After a Chunk breakfast of pancakes and sausages, I wrote my Blog entries and posted my bills. Then we applied urethane to a couple of the new benches. Got two done and have four to go.

It was time to find WiFi. Chunk told me the Robbinsville Library had the capability, so we mounted up and headed over that way. After finding the library on a back street, I wandered in and enquired. A pleasant gentleman told me to go right ahead and hook up, so I did. Uploaded my mail and posts, downloaded new ones and posted the Blogs. Then I selected my NASCAR team for the race at Dover, but the way things have been going, I expect another disaster. After finishing the Internet fix, we had lunch at Mickey’s and stopped at the hardware tore to pick up a few needed supplies for the Lodge.

Back at KSL, people started to roll in. The first was Didsbury Dave Waugh from Alberta on his VN2000, pictured here. Then Scotty and Marlene from Michigan and Roger the Big Grouch from Windsor. After that, it was a steady stream. Dave, Marlene, Sandy and I moved picnic tables to allow the mowing to be finished.

Before supper, we got a short but intense rain. The trailer stayed waterproof but I forget Sandy’s sheepskin on the bike seat. Supper was spaghetti and salad for about twenty people. I spent some time talking to Troy (from Orlando) and his daughter Kelly who teaches in Atlanta. Kelly has only been riding for three months, so I was comparing their situation to Heather and I. After supper, the fire started up and we spent the rest of the evening talking about things and turned in fairly late.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Riding the Mountains

Stecoah NC to Deal’s Gap NC to Tellico Plains TN to Stecoah NC

It was a gorgeous morning. Our campsite looked lonely but I know we will have a lot more neighbors as the weekend approaches. This place is really a nice, peaceful place to stay and commune with both nature and people who love to ride.

On my way back from the washrooms, the Kickstand ducks assaulted me. This is the second year Mama Duck has chosen to raise her family here. This year, she laid an astounding 14 eggs and they all hatched. There are ten of them left now and they have come to expect their daily allotment of cracked corn. I grabbed the container and threw some to them but I really think that they are becoming welfare cases.

Chunk cooked breakfast for the assembled gang as we swapped some more stories with the Ohio people. Then Charlie, Annette, Sandy and I got ready to go riding. We bid farewell to the Ohioans since they were pulling out for home.

We started out riding west on US 28 to the Fontana Dam. There was little traffic and we enjoyed sweeping through the curves, although I wasn’t quite in The Zone. This was typical of how the day would go. Some days you have it and other days you have to take it a little easier. At the dam, we chatted for a while with the Kentucky couple who were serving their two week volunteer period in the Visitor Centre.

From the dam, we continued on 28 towards Deal’s Gap. We got behind a BMW SUV at Fontana Village that was crawling through the corners and didn’t seem to have the sense to pull over. I stopped for a few minutes and a Triumph Rocket III and a Harley passed us. When we got going again, we caught the procession sooner than I expected and were now following the Trumpet, the Harley and the SUV. The BMW finally got the idea and pulled over and then we passed the slower bikes and charged upgrade to the Gap. There, when the other two bikes pulled in, we found they were from Florida and the HD rider was on a rental since his Boss Hoss wore out the brakes. It seems the Boss doesn’t have any engine braking capability due to the automatic transmission and the brake pads weren’t up to this kind of riding.

We ran through the Dragon at a medium pace, with Charlie doing some excellent riding on his Nomad. Annette was a relatively new passenger, but she took to it in stride. The pegs were grinding in the corners and I’ve now worn away enough of the sacrificial acorn nuts that the bottom of the pegs are starting to show some wear. At the turnaround, two guys on GSX-R Suzukis were telling about a friend of theirs who was a very competent road racer. Seems he was into a corner for all he was worth on a winding road and was quite pleased with himself until he was passed on the outside by a Kawasaki Concours TWO UP. The ride back to the Gap featured more dragging. At the Deal’s Gap Resort, we watched some videos shot from a sportbike where the lead bike almost wiped out meeting an 18 wheeler in a corner. Thhen they played with a really aggressive bicycle rider for a while. There will be one really chagrined cruiser rider out there because the bicycle blew by him in a turn on a downgrade.

We rode down US 129 almost to Robbinsville and took 143 up to the Cherohala Skyway. Blog readers will know the Skyway is more open with higher speed sweeping turns than The Dragon. At the first pullout, we met two trike riders from Oklahoma. Sandy was showing the ladies her electric Gerbing jacket so we might have cost them some money.

The ride up and over to Tellico Plains was uneventful. We were not driving hard in the corners since I still hadn’t found the groove. When we arrived in Tellico, we stopped for lunch at the Tellicafe. Then we went a mile down SR 68 to pay our respects to Hunt’s Lodge, a new motorcycle campground. They approached the VROC Admin last week to make us aware they were there and Lori was very friendly when we stopped by. They are associated with the Honda Magna/Sabre V4 group. In the photo, she has a hand grenade with the number 1 attached to the pin. It says “For service, take a number”.

On the way back over the Skyway, we were passed by a Valkyrie Interstate and a Harley making good time. We chased them for a bit until we all pulled over at a lookout. They were from Beaver Georgia and we had a nice visit before setting out with us chasing them back over the NC state line. Then I slowed a bit and they got away from us. At the end, we met a couple from Parkersburg WV on two bikes, he on a Wing and she on an Intruder. She was a new rider and was having fun in the mountains. We headed on down to Robbinsville, stopped at the grocery store and then headed back to KSL.

Although this wasn’t as good a riding day as I’ve had, skillwise, the number of people we met from all over was a pleasure. And any kind of day riding down here is excellent.

At the campground, Chunk was industriously running the ZTR mower. After a bit, it started making a different sound and I realized he had finally engaged the mower blades. When pressed, he would not say how long he had been mowing without the blades. Supper was Sloppy Joes and salad, followed by the never-ending dish washing. We met Steve, a regular visitor who, before retiring, was operations manager at Atlanta Airport. Now there is a job. After talking quite a while, Bruce made a fire and he, Sandy and I sat around it and admired the blue moon. It’s been a while since I saw one. We got to bed in the heated trailer about 10:30 PM.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

On To Kickstand Lodge

Princeton West Virginia to Stecoah North Carolina

It was a fine morning in Princeton. We had the continental Days Inn breakfast and I checked the tires before setting out on 460. This road is much more enjoyable than taking I-77 and I-81. It winds through a long valley between the ridges and is all four lane bypassing most of the little towns. It may take a half-hour longer to get to Abingdon, but you get there very much more relaxed. We stopped at a Wal-Mart in Lebanon to replace my malfunctioning Velcro watchband.

Those who read this Blog regularly may remember how I got turned around in Abingdon on the last trip. I need to get that GPS soon, because I screwed up again. Instead of coming down to Exit 17 on I-81 and continuing south on SR 75, I arrived at Exit 14 thinking it was Exit 19. Confused? I was. Thinking it was 19, I got on the westbound ramp and found myself headed for Bristol. Rather than turn around, I thought I’d check out what the I-81 to I-26 option looked like. It looked like Interstate.

We entered Johnson City on I-26, a totally new direction. After gas in Erwin, Tennessee, we rode up over the ridge into NC, skipping the summit lookout and stopping at the Welcome Center. Met a couple from Erwin on an old Virago and spent quite some time talking bikes and roads. They were headed to Lake Lure for lunch. He told me about a golf course on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Fancy Gap where two days of unlimited golf, a night’s accommodation and a golf card costs the princely sum of $70 a head. Bears investigating. An older gentleman ferrying a car stopped to chat as well. He was a Wing rider from Virginia.

Through Asheville, the I-240 was backed way up due to an accident but, luckily, it was the other direction. The construction along I-40 has me considering an alternate route for the return trip. After getting on US 74 and reaching Waynesville, we decided to eat. Easier said than done. We got into a traffic mess and, following the path of least resistance, ended up going through Waynesville on the dreaded Business 23. I had no idea that this place was so popular with tourists during the week. Luckily, we found a Subway and got our lunch.

We followed the Business 23 until it merged back with 74 and headed on to Kickstand Lodge. My plan was to fuel at the BP after Bryson City. Typically, it was shut down, so we arrived at KSL unfueled. That’s what tomorrow is for, I guess.

Mo, Chunk and Chunk’s friend Bruce were in residence when we arrived. Chunk has been here all month helping Mo. Bruce was working on a project to expand the wood chip area and create a border using logs. Unfortunately, he thought the dirt would be like Wisconsin, whereas it is actually clay and gravel This is ugly stuff to shovel. We helped out a bit, but Bruce did most of it.

We got set up in a shaded area under a tree and near an electrical outlet. Charlie and Annette arrived in the late afternoon from Mississippi towing his Nomad behind his Astrovan. It was good to see them. Chunk and Sandy made a late supper of burgers, various salads and beans. About the time we were finishing up, three guests from Ohio pulled in after a day of riding followed by an unmarked State Trooper with blue lights flashing. After a few words, the trooper left. He said they were looking for an Ohio bike but the description didn’t match. Everyone figured he was probably informally checking to see if they had been drinking.

The evening ended with us swapping tales with the Ohio people and then it was off to bed in the trailer, which had been warmed up by the ceramic heater. Roughing it is so much fun:-)

Monday, May 28, 2007

Back in the USA

Cambridge, Ontario to Princeton, West (By God) Virginia

It was bright, clear and only a little cool this morning. After coffee, packing and goodbyes, we hooked the trailer up and were on our way south. Took Highway 8 to County 5 to Highway 6 to 403 to QEW to Fort Erie. Here we had breakfast before crossing.

They say the Peace Bridge is one of the busiest Canada/US border points. Not today. We rolled off the bridge right into a Customs booth. Three questions, an examination of our driver's licences and we were on our way.

We stopped south of Erie in the little burg of McKean. I suddenly found out as we passed through Erie that Sandy's headset speakers weren't working even though her microphone was. She thought I had the radio turned off. Turns out she had pulled the upper cable plug part way loose while trying to get the NY Thruway toll ticket out of her pocket. Easy fix.

As we rode down I-79, we saw State Police in strength in every rest area. Not sure what that was about. We also saw many bikes northbound returning from Rolling Thunder. The traffic around Pittsburgh was fine for a change, although we started seeing clouds that told me thunderstorms would be a possibility. At a gas and food stop in Waynesburg Pa, we met two Vulcan riders from Cleveland returning from Washington. They weren't VROCers, and wondered why a guy on a Wing would be wearing Vulcan patches:-) BTW, Waynesburg is a hard town to get around in with all the medians and convoluted one way streets. I think the phrase "you can't get there from here" was coined here.

As we rode down through West Virginia, I was starting to get tired. We were running 75-80 MPH in 85F heat up and down the mountains into a stiff headwind and the bike was pinging. I was going to stop at the nice little rest area south of Weston, but this was where the nasty thundercloud with the lightning flashes was heading so we continued on and got around it. Finally stopped in Summersville for gas and water. I put mid-grade gas in the bike to counter the pinging.

Summersville may have a new police chief who wants to improve the speed trap image, but the cops in Fayetteville and Oak Hill are as busy as ever. I do wonder why, with the WV Turnpike as an example, the worst roads are the ones we pay tolls on. It just doesn't seem right.

We arrived in Princeton WV just before the next rain cloud. The Days Inn is very reasonable, we parked in front of our door and the Cracker Barrel (salads only) is right next door. Tomorrow, we'll avoid the I-77 tunnels in case the construction antics are continuing and will head SW on 460 to 19.

Should be at KSL by mid-afternoon. Then I'll have to search out a WiFi hotspot somewhere. KSL doesn't have one because there is no broadband service and a mountain sits right smack dab between them and the satellite. I used to dial in on their Visa phone line, but I gave up my AOL dial-up account. Oh well, what's life without a challenge:-))

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Rain, More Rain And Then Some More Rain

Cambridge, Ontario

It rained this morning. Heather and I were supposed to ride, but the streets were pretty wet. She and Tom had a going away party for a friend of his moving to Dubai in the early afternoon, so that's when the rain stopped. Then it hit again. She got back late afternoon and the streets were finally drying again so we agreed to go.

You know when you do one of those dumbass moves that you can't imagine you did? I went to start the bike to go over to her place and found that I had left the key in the accessory position the day before. The radio and other electrical doo-dads drained the battery. Flat. I don't know when they started coming out with these booster cables with the guards around the teeth to keep you from shorting them out, but there was no way Mike's cables would connect to the Wing battery posts. Borrowed two lag bolts from the neighbor, gripped them in the cable teeth and Mike held them to the battery posts. Got it started and it was fine after that. Oh yeah, I cut Mike with my Buck knife while severing a cable tie. Not badly, but he'll have a story to tell at work about how dangerous his father-in-law is.

Finally got to Heather's. We went through the bike starting procedure and got the little Rebel going. Then we set out down the back road to Paris with Tom following in his car. He took the pictures. Sure enough, after Glen Morris, big raindrops started one more time. We rode on a bit and then turned around and went back to Heather's place. She is keeping up better, but needs a bunch of seat time to get more comfortable. She also needs to practice downshifting but, considering here minimal experience with a manual transmission, she's doing quite well.

After we got back, Sandy and I borrowed Kim's car and went out to Waterloo to see Tom's condo. He's within walking distance of the St. Jacobs Farmers Market.

Back at Kim and Mike's, I found that my NASCAR Fantasy Team recorded one of the worst scores of the year. Good drivers, more bad luck. I dropped from 18th to 25th in the standings. Since there are only 33 in the League, I can't fall much further. Mom is now tied for first and continues to go like gangbusters.

With a heavy heart and no idea which drivers to pick for next week, I went to bed.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

A Slow Day in Cambridge

Today, I planned to go riding with Heather. She and Tom arrived from his place about 10:00 AM. The rain got here about 10:30. After spending part of the morning watching Kim and Mike plant flowers in their back yard, it looked like the ride would be a washout.

We watched some TV. Mike has recorded Grand Ole Opry performances on his PVR and we watched some of them. Then we watched Fast Food Nation, a movie with so many agendas I got confused. The rain stopped, the sun came out and I suggested that now we could ride but it was late afternoon and Heather thought tomorrow morning might be better. After watching Kim and Mike spread cedar mulch around their new flowers, the six of us went out to the Beaver & Bulldog, a sports bar on Hespeler Road. Food was good and the server, Enis, was a hoot. Then we came back to the house and played Scene-It, a movie trivia game.

Everything wound down about 10:30 and it was an early bed-time for all.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Getting on the road

Sudbury to Cambridge, Ontario

Why do I always leave everything until the last minute? I guess I work better under pressure.

The morning saw me paying bills, doing odd jobs, changing the oil in the bike and, finally, packing. We did, despite the rush, get underway before 1:00 PM. Traffic was backed way up on our usual way out of town due to road construction, so we went through the city for a change.

It was 27C when we left wearing light gear. By the time we were 60 miles south, it had dropped to 15C and we stopped at Still River to add more layers. Southbound traffic was light but the northbound side was starting to jam up with people leaving the city. It wasn't very kind of me but all I could think of was lemmings.

Going through Still River, I thought about our friend Shawn Rae, an OPP constable. When I got to Cambridge, Normie had sent me a link to this article about him.

I played with the rear suspension for the proper setting with the trailer. Another of my character flaws is that I can never adjust by just one increment. It's like Goldilocks. Ten is too soft but 12 is too firm. Finally I get to 11 and it's just right. One trailer tire is worn badly on the inside half, probably from riding to and from Interlochen last year with a loose wheel bearing. I'll watch it and if it becomes too bad, I have the spare.

Cambridge had called for thunderstorms in the late afternoon but, despite the cold front, they never materialized. Kim and Mike were out with Heather and Tom for the evening, so we took it easy and then went to bed before it was too late.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Heading South

We'll be out of here tomorrow afternoon.

This weekend, I want to get Heather out riding the Rebel some more. Seat time will be good for her. Then we'll be off to Kickstand Lodge in North Carolina to spend a few days hopefully being useful to Moe and then attending the Memorial Service June 2nd.

Stay tuned for how this all unfolds.

Monday, May 21, 2007

All Good Things Must End

Monday morning was a bit cool, but not as cold as last year when it snowed on us in Algonquin Park. It was clear and showed all the signs of being a really nice day.

Sandy and I got up, put coffee on and started the fire in the wood stove. Kim and Mike stopped by about 8:00 AM on their way out. Heather and Tom did the same a little bit later. We talked a bit with Jan but didn't bother Rob since he apparently had a rough night. It didn't take long to pack and then we were on the road as well.

After a quick gas stop in Barry's Bay, we headed west towards Algonquin. In the park, traffic was lighter than I expected and the only moose were in a swamp. At the park store, we saw a Harley towing a Lees-Ur-Lite trailer. With a Kayak on top!! We stopped and talked to the older rider, who was from the Toronto area and spoke with a German accent. From the "Guide" stickers on the kayak, I guess he's pretty serious about it. It turns out that he has also had the trailer open up, but his had the kayak on it at the time so it wasn't a complete deployment.

The rest of the park and into Huntsville, we were blessed with a minimum of dawdlers. We had lunch at Mickey D's in Huntsville and then went south to catch 141. I really like the new road surface. On Highway 69, we got in with a faster group of cars and travelled about 120 to 130 KPH. In a couple of passing lanes, where we were trying to catch slower vehicles, the speed exceeded 160. I continue to be amazed how many southerners come farther and farther north as evidenced by the lines of southbound traffic almost all the way to Sudbury.

We arrived home, unpacked and kicked back for the rest of the day.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Cool, Man

We slept in a bit this morning and never managed to get out for our walk. The temperature had returned to more typical Combermere May weather, which was pretty damn cold. The fire in the stove had gone out, so I started it again. Unfortunately, as I was playing with it, I left the handle for the lid hang over the open stove top. As a result, when I grabbed it I burned my hand. Not badly, but it did smart (which I wasn’t).

After having toast and coffee, I wandered next door where there was already a Wizard game in progress. From the foreground, Kenny, Marc, Sherri, Dave Jan and Eric (nursing the stitched hand) are hard at it. Back in our cabin, I worked on the blog and sorted some music on the MP3 player because Sandy was getting tired of my selection of songs. The Lodge does have WiFi, but it is attached to a permanent dial-up connection. This is a first for me, but even if it is slow I should be able to get some things posted and pick up the mail.

Rob Fry came by to try and enlist our cabin for a skit or performance for the afternoon talent show. Rob Hooks (left), Sandy and I tried to resist, but Rob drives a hard bargain and we ended up developing a skit for the event. The girls, Mike and Tom stopped by on their way to explore both Algonquin Park and the Polish museum in Wilno. Tom was born in Poland and Wilno is the site of the first Polish community in Canada.

At 3:00 PM, we adjourned to the main lodge for the talent show. There were a wide variety of skits and performances by young and old. I collected the Challenge answer sheets at the start of the event and marked them while watching the show. Our kids cabin came third. After the show, ice cream, sundae fixin’s, cake and treats were put out for everyone to enjoy. The young guys offered to dig the holes in the beach for the evening fireworks display. That was good of them.

We went back to the cabin and played another game of Wizard (see a pattern here?) and then sat down to an excellent supper of pork roast. Kenny brought me another bottle of Southern Comfort so I ended up coming out a half a bottle ahead on the deal.

After supper, we headed to the beach where Marc had been overseeing the planting of the beach fireworks. I headed out onto the stone dock to prepare and sort the rounds that are fired off plastic bases. Mike and a fellow named Kevin helped. Then we settled in to wait for darkness to fall. Luckily, the wind had died down. It was nearly 10:00 when we got the show on the road. Marc and Rob Hooks started lighting the small ones on the beach and then, when they got to the bigger stuff, we joined in. Some of the new fireworks are spectacular with up to 16 shots all choreographed to work together. We would launch out singles in between. The only mishap came when a moderate sized tube fell over after being lit. I knew there was a problem when I saw coloured balls exploding under the other dock. It seems Brian and Dave got clipped as it went by. Then it launched one shot back in our direction. Mike and I ducked and it went between where our heads had been. But then what is life without a little excitement. All in all, the show lasted almost 45 minutes.

We adjourned to the Round House for some visiting and Karaoke. It was livelier than the night before, but still rather subdued since many of the people (including us) were leaving in the morning. Sandy and I returned to our cabin about 1:30 and went to bed.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

An Unusually Nice May Day In The Ottawa Valley

It was, again, clear and cool this morning. Jan, Sandy, young Jen and I showed up at 8:30 for a morning power walk. Others had expressed interest last night but didn’t make it this morning. We set out and quickly established two pairs, with Jan and I setting the faster pace as we walked to Combermere village. It was about a half hour there and another half hour back. On the return, we passed Sandy and Jen who were setting a slightly slower pace. It felt good to stretch the legs.

On the way back, we found that Eric DeVarennes, a long time friend staying in the next cabin, was returning from a visit to the hospital. It seems that, after we went to bed, Eric got back up to go to the Round House and party with the younger crowd. On the way back to his cabin, he tripped and fell on the asphalt roadway scuffing his face and, in an attempt to save his beloved rum glass, cutting his hand to the tune of three stitches. A sadder but wiser bear, he wasn’t saying much when he got back.

John Murphy from Ottawa, of Hendersonville nail-through-the-tire fame, showed up for a brief visit. He’s off for the Finger Lakes tomorrow morning. Marc Souliere, proud new owner of a Garmin Zumo 550 GPS, gave us a tour of the unit I intend to buy.

Our traditional Saturday ride was scheduled to go at 11:30. We try to take people who normally don’t ride as passengers. As the time grew close, people gathered to see who would go with whom. I was taking Heather’s boyfriend Tom, who hadn’t been on a bike before. I gave him the standard passenger instructions, he climbed aboard and the group headed out led by Brian Stevenson and John Fry. The weather was still clear and warming nicely (unusual for this weekend) as we first went to the gas station and then set out on the short, winding and scenic route. For anybody familiar with the area, it was a counterclockwise circle through Palmer Rapids, Quadeville, Foymount, Brudenelle and Wilno, ending up at the chip stand in Barry’s Bay. Tom was an excellent passenger. Marc, who has guided many tours and followed many Wings, said Quicksilver tracked through the corners better than any he has seen. It not only feels like it is working better with the Traxxion suspension, it looks like it, too.

The chip stand is across the street from the little park honouring the Avro Arrow. The main test pilot, a fascinating Polish gentleman named Janusz Żurakowski , retired in this area this area and they have a replica of the plane on a stand. The main street was closed off with vintage cars and other displays occupying the roadway as the town celebrated the holiday weekend. We met Sandy, Heather, Kim and Mike at the chip stand and, after eating, headed to the Valu-Mart to get some more groceries for tonight. Then Tom got back on with me and we cruised back down to the lodge.

We spent the rest of the afternoon playing euchre and Wizard and, for a while, I took a nap. Unfortunately, I left my one remaining bottle of Southern Comfort out and Kenny Lott drank half of it as he played cards. Of all the nerve. On the plus side, I hadn’t been to serious about drinking it anyway, but I wasn’t about to let Kenny know that.

Supper was on in Cabin 15, with Bambiburgers as the main feature. Dave Fry, who has lost 35 pounds, made up his own food. Supper was excellent. Afterwards, we headed over to the Round House where we had what was probably the quietest night I have ever seen. Little imbibing, only a small amount of singing and much conversation. Rob Fry brought his two excellent wooden recorders and I played around with them a bit. They had excellent tone. I spent much of the evening talking with Nik Milner who recently arrived from Britain. He is a photographer who specializes in panorama shots and has some very unique equipment to achieve this. The one camera that rotates is apparently the only one in Canada. You can check out his work at

About 2:00 AM, Sandy, Dave and I were the last three of the first shift to abandon the Round House. After we left, the younger gang moved in for the serious partying.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Road To Combermere

It’s hard to believe that this will be the 19th year that we have gathered in Combermere for the Victoria Day long weekend. This is the one gathering that takes precedence over VROC reunions (VROC is in Maggie Valley NC this weekend for SEVROC) but many of these friendships go back almost thirty years. This year, I was drafted (Dave claims I volunteered) to prepare the Brainteaser Challenge.

Friday morning, clear and a little cool. We are packed and planning to leave early. I had my challenges copied and stapled, with one puzzle yet to figure out. After an hour, I realized this one was way too complicated for the level of difficulty I was trying to achieve. Find a new puzzle, print it, take out all the staples, replace the page and re-staple. OK, now we’re not leaving so early.

We finally got away from town about 10:00. On the plus side, it had warmed up a bit. Highway 69 south was only moderately busy and we made good time to Parry Sound where we fueled and had lunch at McDonalds. Then we headed down and over Highway 141, where I was pleasantly surprised that much of the winding road had been resurfaced. This is one of my favourite local area roads and it is now much better than it was. When we reached Highway 11, we headed north to Huntsville where we caught Highway 60 east towards Algonquin Park.

At the Algonquin Park west gate we stopped for a few moments. Traffic through the park was light for what is usually a busy weekend and we cruised through the 80 Km roads at a comfortable 110. We passed one gang of stopped cars looking into a swamp, presumably at a moose, but we didn’t see it. Then, about five miles before the east gate, I saw a large moose running up a bank onto the roadway from the left. I got on the brakes, looking for a way to avoid it while Sandy, who had been looking the other way, asked what I was doing. As the moose reached the pavement on a collision course, it looked at us and wheeled back down the hill while I pointed at it for Sandy’s benefit. Had it kept coming, I think I would have gotten stopped in time but it would have been close.

We arrived at Stevenson’s Lodge at about 3:00 PM. The last way in from the village of Combermere, we could see where the massive cedar trees had been knocked down by four tornados last August. Many of the regulars were already here and we said our hellos before moving our gear into the cabin we would be sharing with old friends Rob and Jan Hooks from Vermillion, Ohio.

Twin brothers Ken and Kevin Lott were here with there GL-1800’s. Kevin built a trailer to tow behind his Wing. Parts of it came from a car topper, but it is far beyond what I usually see in a home built unit.

We went into Barry’s Bay to pick up some food and something to drink. Food requirements were minimal since our cabin and the one next door were sharing suppers. The little liquor store didn’t have any pints of Southern Comfort. Rather than get a quart, I got two little 200 ML bottles, which would fit nicely in my pocket and keep my indulging to a minimum. They also didn’t have any Castelvetro wine. Oh, the humanity. We then had a quick ride down Highway 62 back to Combermere and the lodge.

While waiting for the traditional Friday night chili and hot dogs to be ready, I distributed the Challenges to the cabins. Then we headed for the kitchen in the main lodge where we nibbled away and met a few more old and new friends. The sun went down and while we waited for Heather and Tom and Kim and Mike to arrive from Cambridge. Heather and Tom arrived first, with Kim and Mike rolling in about an hour later. They are sharing a cabin at the other end of the property.

With everyone accounted for, we moved to Cabin 15 where a Wizard game was in progress. Wizard is a card game traditionally played here. It is similar to the game of Nines, but with a few special cards. Easy to learn, it is harder to play well. I was in a game when the Maggie Valley VROC crew phoned to say hello. I talked to about seven people. It was nice of them to think about us. I managed to polish off one of the baby SC bottles.

About 1:00 AM, Sandy and I turned in for the night. Our bed squeaked.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Rebel

Fred Poyser is a GoldWing rider from London who, depsite his senior years, is an extremely competent rider. Last fall, after Heather didn't pass her motorcycle licence test the first time, he spent a couple of weekends helping her hone her skills in the New Dundee Community Centre parking lot. He even provided the Honda CL-125 she practiced on. Fred's friend Ginger has been riding a 1986 Honda 250cc Rebel for several years and is looking to move up, so Heather agreed to buy the Rebel from her.

After a busy April, we called Fred and arranged to get the bike on Sunday, May 13th. Fred had arranged for the mechanical fitness and Heather arranged for insurance and met Ginger to complete the bill of sale. Then, last week, she went into the MTO office and registered the bike in her name.

Saturday, Sandy and I rode down to Cambridge. Heather was in Toronto with Tom while Kim and Mike were in Aylmer, but we moved into Kim and Mike's spare room while everyome was away.

Sunday morning, we headed over to Heather's for 9:00 AM. Our meeting time with Fred in New Dundee was 10:00. Sandy jumped in the car with Heather while I followed them on the Wing, at least until Heather missed a turn. After running over my own foot making a poorly executed U-turn, I led the rest of the way. When we got to New Dundee, Fred and Ginger were already there and the bike was unloaded and ready to go.

After taking a look at the bike, Heather got suited up and rode around the lot to get familiar with how it worked. She did some laps and tried some maneuvers. While we were watching her, a member of the local Lion's club came out to tell us there was a Mother's Day brunch buffet going on in the hall. When Heather was ready for a break, and after Fred tried out the new suspension modifications on Quicksilver, we went in and had a bite to eat. In the picture, Ginger, Heather, Sandy and Fred stand by the bikes before going inside. Afterwards, Heather rode some more until her boyfriend, Tom, arrived.

Finally, it was time to take to the road. I led, while Heather followed and Sandy (in Heather's car) and Tom (in his own), brought up the rear. We went up Queen St., east on Bridge and south on Trussler to Cedar Creek Rd. Heather was a little tentative in this stretch, but when I stopped at Cedar Creek to check on her, she said she was OK. On the way into Cambridge, we stopped and gassed the bikes up. After getting back on the road, I saw her pull over in my mirror. By the time I turned around, she was following me again. I had guessed right, that she had shut the fuel petcock off to refuel and forgotten to turn it on again.

In Cambridge, we stopped at a Tim Horton's for coffee, pop and iced tea and a photo. In the picture, Tom is sitting behind Heather. Then Sandy got into Tom's car and they followed us down the back road through Glen Morris to Paris. Heather was doing better at keeping up on this stretch. Finally, we returned to Cambridge via the same route and ended up at Heather's apartment building where we parked the bike in her underground space crosswise in front of her car.

Heather has a lot to learn about riding and maintaining the bike, but she's off to a start. We plan to visit and ride with her as often as we can over the summer. Now Tom is talking about getting his bike licence as well.

For the evening, Kim and Mike were home and Mike barbequed some burgers for supper. We watched some TV and visited until it was time for bed.

Monday was cool as we set out for home. It was a good ride until rain started spitting near Parry Sound. Although it was a little wet, we didn't get any serious rain and got home just in time to garage the bike before more meaningful precipitation began.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


It was warm when we got up in Erie. There were showers forecast for Sudbury and thunderstorms expected in the Toronto area. I uncovered the bike, bumped the front tire pressure and moved the rear shock from 8 down to 4. I will continue playing with the settings, looking for the optimum setup under various conditions. Softening the rear was to try to reduce the response to turbulence from big trucks on the highway, a condition that happens when the rear is set too stiff. After breakfast and loading up, we were rolling by 8:00 AM.

The bike was very stable as we headed east on the NY Thruway. It was a pleasant morning to ride and I led us along with the traffic flow. We cleared the toll booths in Buffalo and proceeded to the Peace Bridge through a relatively light rush hour. When we crossed on the way down, Canada bound traffic was backed up onto the bridge. Today, there were three customs booths open and all were empty. With a few cursory questions and no request for ID, we were allowed back into the country. The bridge toll was up to $3.00 US, up from $2.50 back in March.

I picked up the pace on the QEW and we worked out way through traffic at 130-140 KPH. I pulled into the Tim Horton's at Prudhomme's Landing for a coffee and muffin and to bid John goodbye since he would be heading for Burlington. We met Ivan Dagenais, who was getting coffee for his HVAC crew. Ivan, a Harley rider, was a Sudbury boy before moving south in the late 60's. After coffee and one final picture, John set out first, with Leo and I not far behind. I scared myself on the QEW on ramp when I took it a little to fast and grounded my boot, which got stuck against the peg. I had to straighten for a second to free it and then lean way in to avoid the guardrail but the new cornering ability did this with ease.

Leo and I continued moving fast up the QEW, over the Burlington Skyway and onto the 407. My fuel light came on at 350 Km as we approached the King service centre on the 400 north. After a quick fuel stop, we rolled north at about 130 KPH with some cars still passing us. We stopped at Waubaushene because the sky looked suspect and I figured it was time to put rain suits on. About ten Kms later, light rain started and continued to Parry Sound where we stopped so Leo could grab a quick bite to eat and rest his butt. North of Parry Sound, the light rain progressed to a heavy frog choker with very poor visibility and lightning. For a while, we were running at 80 Kph with the four way flashers on. Around Britt, it eased up and was just a steady light rain. This wasn't the shower activity that was forecast and it continued all the way home.

The fuel light came on just south of Sudbury, and Leo's came on about ten miles later. The bike ranges are very close. I set the shock back up to 8 as we reached town due to the very poor road conditions. I stopped for gas while Leo went on home. In the driveway, Sandy opened the garage door while I took the luggage out of the bike and backed it into the garage.

I was tired and spent much of the rest of the day napping. It was a good trip, but I missed Sandy and doubt that I will be going anywhere without her in the future. We are a traveling team and that's the way it should be.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Homeward Bound

Waynesville, North Carolina to Erie, Pennsylvania

The sunrise over the mountains as seen from our motel room on the hill was spectacular. We had the continental breakfast, although Leo had a fight with the waffle machine. While checking and loading the bikes, I lowered the front tire air pressure from 42 PSI (max rating) to 36 PSI (manual spec) to see if it would take some of the quickness out of the handling. As soon as I hit I-40 towards Asheville, I knew it was the right thing to do.

It was cool when we set out at 7:00 AM and the run to Asheville, where we beat the rush hour traffic, was through air permeated by the faint scent of pulp mills. We rode north on I-26, up over the ridge and into Tennessee. To keep Leo's monkey butt ( a condition you get from riding on an uncomfortable seat) to a minimum, I resolved to stop every 100 miles or so. This stop was at a scenic lookout on I-26. We made good time because the commuter traffic was hustling along at 75 to 80 MPH and we just went with the flow.

The route was a reversal of how we went down from Johnson City past the Bristol Track to 421 to SR 75 north to Abingdon. Usually I have to work the bike on 75, which is narrow and winding in parts, but today the bike just flowed. It was an awesome feeling.

After fueing in Abingdon, we tried a new route to avoid the I-77 tunnels. I spent almost half an hour leading the boys on a tour of Asheville because I misread the highway I was looking for on the map. Eventually, we found 19 north and followed it to Tazewell Virginia where it joined 460 to Bluefield WV. We joined I-77 immediately north of the East River Mountain tunnel and rode up the grade to the Visitor Center in Princeton. There I phoned Jim Ayers up in Fayetteville and set up to meet him for lunch at Arby's in Oak Hill.

We arrived at Arby's on time. After introductions, we sat down to eat. I tried an Arby's Turkey Ranch Bacon Wrap. It was pretty good for fast food. I did notice, after lunch, that the front tire was cupped pretty badly. I think it's been like that for a while, but was highlighted because of the way the sun was shining on it. Radial tires tend to wear strangely on bikes anyway. We said goodbye to Jim, or perhaps it was au revoir since I expect we'll be seeing him in three weeks or so at KSL.

The crawl through the Summersville speed trap may be dated because Jim tells me the town has a new mayor who is not pleased with the town's reputation. I hear he has cut funding for many of the traffic cops who have harassed people passing through for years. We gassed and went on. The bike continued to handle well and I found that my usual 120 KPH was often getting to be 130 or 140 without me noticing it.

We continued stopping every hundred miles or so, with gas every second stop. I knew the stretch of I-79 past Pittsburgh, between the I279 South and North splits was going to be very rough so I hiked the rear suspension up to 8. The road was worse than ever, but I cruised through at 120 KPH with none of the jarring I am used to feeling.

We arrived in Erie, Pa about 7:30. It took 12 1/2 hours to cover 651 miles due to our frequent stops and we were ready to kick back when we got here. We're in a Comfort Inn that is very nice. Lucky it's Tuesday, because the rates double on the weekend. We had a nice Chef Salad at the next door Bob Evans and returned to the room for a bit of TV and blogging.

One strange thing I found today. I had lower front tire pressure and ran higher than normal speeds and yet got better than usual gas mileage. I don't know what this is about, but I hope it continues.

It's only 400 miles home tomorrow and it's about time I got there.

One other thing. I did a survey today and determined that four out of five drivers who don't use their signal lights are women. I wonder why?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Traxxion Day

Woodstock, Georgia to Waynesville, North Carolina

We were awake early and enjoyed the somewhat more than continental breakfast at the Hampton Inn. After packing, we left about 8:30 to make the 9:00 appointment at Traxxion Dynamics. The address was 261 Rope Mill Parkway in Woodstock. Streets and Trips showed a Rope Mill Road and a Rope Mill Lane. After checking them both out and not finding anything, I phoned and found the real place was about three miles away. We finally got there shortly after 9:00.

Mike Hardy took the order and showed us to the conference room where they had a table, coffee, soft drinks and WiFi for the customers. There was a couple there, Brian (Mr. Fixall) and his wife plus their little poodle. They were both riding Traxxioned Wings and he was in to get the damping altered in his rear shock. It seems he likes and exceptionally stiff ride for his canyon bombing style. We talked Wings and rides for quite some time.

About noon, Tom T. from Toledo rolled in on a '07 Airbag Wing with trailer. We continued to talk bikes and then Brian and Tom learned that they both worked for Fedex so they got talking business.

About 1:30 the mechanic brought the bike out and took a test ride. I noticed right away that there was no fork brace on it. Seems they did not have any in stock. Since this was an integral part of the handling package, I was disappointed until I found Tom had one in his trailer that wouldn't work on his newfangled forks. I bought it from him and Mike installed it. After paying $2,342 and some cents, we were ready to roll at 2:00.

I could feel the bike was tighter, firmer, less sloppy right off the bat. It also made low speed turns very easily. The rear shock, which had been set at 16, was now set at 3. I could feel every bump and ripple but the harshness was gone.

We grabbed a quick McD cheeseburger in Canton since we hadn't eaten since breakfast. Then we headed east on SR 20 to SR 400/US 19 North. We went up through Dahlonega on US 19 and then turned onto SR 60 towards Suches. That is the home of Two Wheels Only, a motorcycle only resort where we held the first big VROC gatherings in 1999 and 2000. Let me say this first. The tanker driver was doing a spectacular job of guiding his big rig through the twists and turns going up the grade on 60. That said, he was still holding us up. In frustration, I pulled over into a lookout where we met a young lady originally from Bismark ND. She has lived in Belfast Ireland for the last 11 years and is on day two of a three month trek up the Appalachian Trail. A gutsy young woman, it was a pleasure to meet her.

In Suches, I pointed out TWO and we turned east on SR 180. This would take us through Wolf Pen Gap. I had forgotten how tight the Gap road is and how steep the drop-offs. This has no forgiveness of errors at all. The bike didn't handle as well as expected, but I found after that, while tinkering with the suspension settings, I had accidentally lowered it to 2. By the end of the day, I found 6 was about right for spirited riding.

SR 180 took us to US 19 where we headed north for a bit and then turned east on the other half of 180 which took us past Brasstown Bald to SR 17. Going north again, we entered North Carolina and turned east on US 64 towards Franklin. There we caught US 441 north to Sylvan and 74 into Waynesville. Here, we got a room at a Days Inn way up on the side of a hill and went to the Sagebrush Steakhouse for supper. Every road we were on today reinforced why this is the best motorcycling area I have ever seen.

The McDonalds where Sandy and I usually have breakfast when leaving KSL has been torn down. Our server at Sagebrush told us the health inspector had found the carcass of a wharf rat in one of the fryers. With all the negative PR, McDonalds tore the place down and is building a new and improved place. I wonder how long the rat was there?

Sorry I got so distracted I didn't take any pictures today. We should be able to make it home in two days from here. Weather looks good (knock wood). We'll see how it goes.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

A great day in the Smokies

Hendersonville North Carolina to Woodstock, Georgia

First, let me say that riding without Sandy is starting to wear on me. Usually, she's right here to share everything and I really miss her.

We awoke in Hendersonville expecting the forecast morning showers but, for once, the weatherman was wrong in our favour. It was overcast but dry with patches of blue showing through. Today we would ride those good roads.

After our complimentary continental breakfast, we loaded up, fueled up and headed west on US 64. For a long while, there were no more 64 signs. I stopped to check the map and found we were on the right road. I guess the NC highway guys figure we should no where we are. Before long, we ame to a junction where 64 cut south and US 276 kept on west through the Pisgah National Forest. A few miles in, I got hit in the forehead by a large, hard shelled bug. Other than the bug, we didn't see another vehicle until we got to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

We stopped at the overlook right at the junction. The sign says we are supposed to have a view of Cold Mountain, but all we could see was cloud. We headed out west on the BRP and enjoyed the ride for a while. Then we got into either fog or low lying cloud. At times, visibility was down to 20 feet as we putted along with our four-way flashers on. Finally, after we came through the second tunnel, we were out of it. We continued on across 74 to Soco Gap and US 19. Unlike other roads, on the BRP you go DOWN to the gaps. This is my first time on the BRP below Asheville. I do believe it is the best part.

Following US 19 down into Cherokee, there was a guy driving a yellow Dodge truck with Maine plates who was really out of his element. He kept riding his brakes until we could smell them burning. Eventually, he pulled off and we moved on into Cherokee in a more spirited fashion. Past the casino, we stopped at Wendy's for a bit of food. It opened at 10:30 and we got there at 10:27 so we had time to stow the rain gear. The manager, a Cherokee lady, told us about things the tribe was doing to reclaim their heritage. It all sounded pretty impressive.

From Cherokee, we continued on US 19 to Bryson City and then took US 74 and US 28 over to Stecoah and Kickstand Lodge. We visited with Mo for an hour or so and John and Leo made a contribution to the KSL geocache down by the creek(picture). Mo is finding the place to be a lot of work without Fred, and Hairy the cat is having a rough time of it. On a positive note, the duck laid 14 eggs and they hatched three weeks earlier than last year. Another couple from Spartansburg, Terry and Tina, stopped by to say hi while we were there. Although they are currently VTX riders, they were at Fred Fest last year. We headed out about 1:00 PM westbound.

US 28 was in fine shape as we cruised along briskly, winding up and down the ridges. We stopped at Fontana Dam. The Huckabee's were volunteering this week in the Visitor Center. They were there last year when we stopped by with Sherm. It was getting pretty warm and so we stripped down to mesh or opened vents depending on who had what gear.

Leaving Fontana, we continued on up the the Deal's Gap Resort. There were Mini Minors running the Dragon this weekend. The Huckabee's told us there had been 480 of them at Fontana Village. With them and a lot of other four wheel traffic up there, we opted to skip The Dragon, although we got the obligatory photo. Sandy and I will be back down here in about 3 1/2 weeks anyway.

We left Deal's on US 129 towards Robbinsville. An oncoming car flashed his lights. Good thing because the Sheriff's car was well hidden and would have had us. In Robbinsville, we fueled, talked to a 1200RT BMW rider from Arkansas and headed back to 143 and the Cherohala Skyway. This is a more open road with big sweepers and some corners posted at 25 and 30 MPH. The NC speed limit was 45 MPH and I tried to keep it in the 55 range most of the time. At the summit, we crossed into Tennessee and the limit dropped to 40 but we didn't slow down. There were many bikes going the other way.

At the end of the Cherohala in Tellicoe Plains, we turned south on SR 68. This was a nice road that tightened down. We were following a Harley with loud pipes. He was two-up and loaded and was doing a fine job handling that until we came up behind a blond lady driving a new Ford Fusion. Every time we came to a curve, she would brake and then, partway through the curve she would get back on the brakes and decelerate. In the few spots we could pass, she floored it. Finally, I pulled off and let her go to get my blood pressure back down. What a ditz.

SR 68 turned to SR 5 in Georgia. After Ducktown, the road opened up and we were able to make better time. We took an unintended tour of the town of Blue Ridge when I missed a turn. Yet another justification for the GPS. Further south on SR 5, someone towing a tractor on a trailer behind a pickup truck was having a bad day. The truck was spun around and the trailer overturned with tractor parts spread across the road. There was barely enough room to get by.

SR 5 became I-575 South. There were threatening clouds to the east, so we hauled until we got to Exit 7 in Woodstock. The Hampton Inn that Traxxion has the corporate account with was easy to find. We checked in and, since it was after 7:00, immediately went down the road to Folk's Restaurant. We talked to a local GL1500 rider there while our server, Jonathan, took our orders and brought our food. Lots of good grub very reasonably priced and Jonathan was excellent.

After supper, we returned to the hotel, unpacked and Leo and John watched TV while I took care of my bills and my Blog chores.

Traxxion opens tomorrow at 9:00 AM.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Every cloud has a silver lining.........

We were supposed to be in Maggie Valley tonight. We aren't. More on that later.

It was cloudy, cool, damp and foggy this morning in Wytheville. The radar showed rain SW of Asheville, moving NE. That wasn't good. We had breakfast in the hotel restaurant and Slammer called to warn us about bad weather on his end, with a forecast of clearing in the afternoon. He suggested we avoid the Parkway. We agreed, put on weather gear, and headed down I-81.

The pavement was dry and we made good time. Saw a State Trooper in an unmarked Dodge Charger with all the hidden lights blinking as he ticketed an unsuspecting driver. In Abingdon, we got off and headed south on SR75. As we crossed the Tennessee state line, it started to rain. We stopped at Darter's Store at US421. This was where we wanted to go up 421 east to check out the road VROCer VT told me they call The Snake, but the roads were now wet and we opted to head directly to Johnson City via Bristol Motor Speedway. The road dried again, but a sign at BMS said all drag racing had been cancelled due to rain.

In Johnson City, we stopped at Perkins for coffee and pie. Then we headed south on I-26 towards North Carolina under a sky that didn't know what it wanted to do. There was just enough rain that I had to keep my visor down. We stopped briefly at the lookout at the summit, where I took a picture of Leo and John, and then crossed into NC and started down past the site of the infamous drag chute episode of 2005.

Past Asheville, I phoned Slammer and told him we were inbound to Lake Lure where we were meeting him for lunch. As we approached the start of the twisties, we came up on a slow moving Sienna van but didn't have time to get by. After a few turns at 20 MPH, there was a stretch long enough to pass and then we had a spirited ride up over the Eastern Continental Divide and down past Bat Cave and Chimney Rock to the Margarita Grill in Lake Lure.

Jerry was waiting for us. Apparently he had just gotten there. We had lunch, told some tales and had a good visit. After lunch, we found the dry roads had been cancelled and it was now raining more seriously. Another morning forecast shot to hell. The picture shows Jerry, Leo and John on the deck as we prepared to set out. for Hendersonville and Maggie Valley.

Leaving LL on soaked pavement and steady rain, we went back to Bat Cave and turned south on US 64 towards Hendersonville. Once there we abandoned plans to take the back roads to Maggie and were heading for the I-26 ramp when John's rear tire went flat. We pulled into a gas station and the older gentleman attendant told us we could park under the awning. A 4" spike had gone through the tread and come out the sidewall (see picture). This was not repairable. James, the attendant, got us a phone book and the company phone. We found that at 2:30 on a Saturday afternoon, all the bike shops in Hendersonville were closed.

At this point, our first angel of the day appeared. Enter Johnny Johnson of Hendersonville who was filling his small SUV with gas. He came over to see what was up and told us the he had a trailer. He also said the Honda shop would be open tomorrow since they were 7th Day Adventists. He could haul the bike to the dealership or a motel. Johnny headed off to get his trailer and I went to find a motel room. There was a Days Inn near the Honda shop so I got a room and called to cancel Maggie Valley. As I was finishing, Leo pulled up and said they had found someone who had a tire and would change it right away. He thought we could still make MV, but I decided that we would stay here regardless.

Back at the gas station, Johnny arrived with the trailer. He was the one who had found the tire changer. Turns out it was right next to the Days Inn. Justice Cycle, a little shop, was closed but Johnny had called CJ at home and he said he'd come in. While we waited, John took the wheel off the Beemer. CJ and his wife Marie (they've had this shop since 1965) arrived. This little shop has a huge inventory of tires. In the picture, Johnny is standing in front of about 1/3rd of the tires in stock. They had an Avon made for the GS and it was on sale. It took CJ no time at all to get it mounted and balanced. After paying them, John struggled a bit before getting the wheel back on the bike, but it went.

CJ and Marie, our other angels, said goodbye and headed home. Johnny refused any payment so I gave him my card and told him that if he was ever in Ontario to look me up. I also invited him to stop by Kickstand Lodge in June when we are going to be down there again.

Note to anyone passing through Hendersonville. Justice Cycle is at 137 Orrs Camp Rd, right near the US 64/I-26 junction. They are good people.

Back at the Days Inn, we unpacked and then wandered down to the Pizza Hut for sandwiches. Back in the room, we're watching a rain delayed NASCAR race and I'm blogging this.

If the weather is good tomorrow, we'll head out US 64, up US 276 and across the Parkway to US 19 near Maggie Valley. Then we'll head across US 19 and up US 28 to KSL to say hi. Then across the Cherohala Skyway to Tellicoe Plains, Tennessee and straight south to Woodstock, Georgia. If the weather sucks, we'll take a more direct route. Whatever happens, we have to be in Woodstock tomorrow night.

Friday, May 04, 2007

A Short Day in W(BG)V

We got up late today. The sky was clear but it was a bit cool, although nothing compared to yesterday. The forecast for the south part of the state wasn't as cheerful, though. After hitting the Super 8 continental breakfast for cereal, bagels and coffee, we went out and checked tires on the bikes. Mine were OK, but both of Leo's and John's front needed air so I broke out the compressor. I repacked my saddlebags to make better use of the space and we were southbound on I-79 by 8:30.

The West Virginia Interstates are some of the prettiest and most interesting in North America. We wound up, down and around at an indicated 120 KPH while being passed by many who were bending the 70 MPH limit. We could have gone faster, but I enjoy looking at the scenery down here. In Weston, we pulled off for gas and found a WalMart. Not a Supercenter but a good, old fashioned store. We wandered in and picked up some water and eight micro-fiber cloths. Something is going to get cleaned somewhere when nobody is looking. We then proceeded to the gas station where I talked for a bit with a jail officer who was using a Chrysler minivan with a cage in back to transport prisoners. The temperature was now quite warm and we took off our cool weather gear.

After fueling, we continued south and turned onto US19. The hill up Powell Mountain was as steep as ever and we watched our speed through the infamous Summersville speed trap. We stopped at the New River Gorge bridge visitor's centre for a bit. In the picture, John and Leo check out an exhibit with the 3,000 foot bridge in the background. Then we headed on to Oak Hill where we stopped for lunch at Subway.

The next leg took us to Beckley and onto I-77 south. As we were leaving Beckley, we hit the cold front. It clouded over and the temperature dropped from 26C to 13C in a few miles. As soon as we cleared the last toll booth, I pulled off. We gassed up and put on the rain suits while talking to a couple from South Carolina who were in their car but owned a GL1500 with over 200K miles and a new GL1800. The lady checked her cell phone weather and said Virginia was clear. We thanked her and continued on. It spit a bit and tendrils of fog were rising from the trees, showing where the Smokey Mountains got their name.

As we passed through the East River Mountain tunnel into Virginia, the rain started for real. And got heavier. So much for cell phone weather reports. By the time we got to Big Walker Mountain tunnel, rain and fog were seriously impeding visibility. Through the tunnel, we realized it could have been worse. The northbound traffic was stopped and backed up for ten miles. Since we were aiming for the back roads after Wytheville and this wasn't the weather for it, I stopped at the Ramada Inn Sandy and I have used before. It was only 3:00 PM, but you can see in the picture that we are wet. Tomorrow, if the weather is OK, we'll head for the Blue Ridge Parkway. If not, we'll stick to the Interstate.

The Ramada managed to give us two bed room with a cot. Since they were busy and tomorrow was Saturday, I phoned ahead to Maggie Valley and reserved a room at the Comfort Inn. We'll get there one way or the other. Then we went to the attached Country Kitchen restaurant for supper. We were going to have apple pie for desert, but they were out. Damn. Then, since the rain had stopped, I wiped down Quicksilver and covered him.

Leo, is napping, John is watching TV and I'm blogging. Although the forecast for tomorrow isn't promising, it says showers and not rain. We'll see how that works out. Somewhere and somewhen, we'll meet Slammer for lunch in Lake Lure.

BTW, the back up at the tunnel was because one lane was closed for refurbishment work. They will be working on both tunnels until 2008, according to some new I Googled and may shut down either a northbound or southbound lane in either tunnel without warning. I looked on the map and figure we'll explore 460 on the way back to by-pass them both.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Georgia Bound

It's time to head for Georgia to get the Traxxion suspension upgrade. I have an appointment in Woodstock Monday morning. Sandy decided to stay home this time, but Leo (on a new to him BMW R1150RS) and John (out of Ottawa on an 1150 GS BMW) will be riding along.

Yesterday, I checked the tires and oil and packed my gear. Leo dropped of a saddlebag full of things that won't fit on his bike. All was ready when this morning dawned early. Leo was at my door before 7:00 AM and we departed at the top of the hour as scheduled. Our rendezvous with John was set for 1:00 PM at a service centre on the New York Thruway, so we didn't have time to waste.

The sky was clear and the air chilly (0C) as we struck out southbound on Highway 69. I stopped about 40 miles out at the French River Trading Post to check that Leo was doing OK. We met a young fellow there riding a Triumph south, followed by a couple in an SUV. He looked cold, rightly so since he had no windshield. I can only imagine what that felt like.

The temperature had warmed to a balmy 4C by the time we stopped at Nobel for gas and a quick Timmie's breakfast. Then the road changed to four lane and I picked the pace up a bit. Traffic remained light. North of Barrie, we passed the O.P.P. Golden Helmets motorcycle drill team riding north in their standard two abreast formation. It amazes me that they can ride side by side for long distances without mishap.

One more gas stop at the service centre just north of Toronto and then we opted to pay the exorbitant ETR 407 toll to speed our passage around Toronto. The temperature was now up to 13C, which held until we crossed the Burlington Skyway. Then the wind off Lake Ontario chilled us until we got past St. Catherines.

At the Peace Bridge, traffic into Canada was backed up quite a ways on the bridge, but it seems not many were USA bound. I went through the booth first. The border guard asked the usual questions and then held me there about four minutes while he talked on the phone. Then he admitted me and went through the same procedure with Leo. Strange.

We were 25 minutes late getting to the Angola service centre. John had been waiting about 40 minutes when we rolled in. We had McDonalds cheeseburgers and then headed west, planning to fuel in Erie. Unfortunately, John's GS was thirstier than he expected and he had to get off and grab a little gas while Leo and I continued on to the state line. After settling our tolls (this is another place I miss Sandy), we pulled over to wait for John. As you can see from the picture, we were hanging with the big trucks.

John caught us and I led them the the Truckstops of America station on the outskirts of Erie. I almost filled the Wing with diesel, and Leo prepaid but they turned on the wrong pump. Not a seamless stop by any stretch.

Between Erie and Pittsburgh, I saw three dead wild turkeys. This is the stretch we were hit by one several years ago, so I don't mind seeing them mashed. The construction zone south of Pittsburgh was still there but we flew through for a change without so much as slowing down. Just north of Washington Pa, we stopped for gas and took of some of our layers since the temperature was up to 25C.

We continued on the West (By God) Virginia and around Morgantown, heading few miles back up I-68 to the Super 8 Sandy and I stopped at last September. Gloria, the desk clerk, had quit but the service was still with a smile. We got a business double which had two queen beds and a large recliner. After putting the bikes to bed, we went across the street to Bob Evans for supper. Afterwards, we returned to the room where we watched the double episode of Grey's Anatomy and I posted bills and blogged until it was time to go to sleep.