Friday, May 28, 2010

Regrouping Between Trips

It's Friday and we've been home since Monday afternoon. Tuesday set another hot temperature record and we didn't do anything except make a dent in our TV backlog.

Wednesday got interesting. The toilet in the upstairs bathroom developed a serious leak where the tank meets the bowl. I called Mike, our friendly plumber, and he came straight over. The fixture was so old the bolts tripped and we decided to get a new one which I picked up at Plumbing Warehouse. Mike installed it and, once again, proved why a simple job I should have been able to do myself, wasn't so simple. While soldering a new shutoff valve in place to replace the one that had seized, the 90 degree fitting inside the wall sprung a leak. Not wanting another hole in the wall, he rerouted the pipe from downstairs and we were good to go. Then, because we save jobs up until we really need him, he also fixed a leaky bathtub faucet and installed a new shower head.

While all the plumbing was going on, I told my six year old desktop computer it was OK to execute the Windows updates. When it restarted, all I got was the Blue Screen of Death. No matter how I tried to reboot, Safe Mode, Last Good Configuration, whatever, the BSOD kept coming up. No big loss, really, because it was old and tired and only held my backup files, but it was inconvenient and yet one more sign I should have stayed in bed.

Mike wrapped up and left in his plumber's van while I was pricing new and refurbished computers. I know that I will have to upgrade from XP to Windows 7 some day, but I wasn't really looking forward to the experience this soon. I forestalled that dreaded task when I discovered I could hook the monitor, keyboard, mouse and printer up to the little ASUS Netbook and Viola (whoever she is), I had a perfectly functional ersatz desktop. It will do until something better comes along.

Thursday, I paid all the bills and reconciled all the accounts, a task I really enjoy. Really. Then we took the old plumbing junk to the dump and I picked up a new two terrabyte USB hard drive to keep my irreplaceable data backed up on. I copied over my music, photos, book and data files and, after checking the disk usage pie chart, realized how big two terrabytes is and how little data I actually have. Oh well, better than the other way around. I made it to my quarterly appointment with Mark, my friendly family doctor, who told me I would probably live for another three months and froze a wart off my big toe. Then I went for lab tests that should have been done before the visit to the doctor but, because the appointment was moved ahead five days, I hadn't rushed to do. He wouldn't have had the results of my A1C in time for the appointment anyway. I'll call him next week for the magic number.

Back home, I settled in and out another dent in the still sizeable TV backlog.

This morning, I was up early riding to R&L Equipment in Verner to get the bike serviced. New tires (the rear was down to 1/32nd after 27,980 kms), brake pads and final drive oil were on the list. I will replace the engine oil myself this weekend. I found out the clutch switch problem causing the cruise control to work intermittently was because the pivot point and bushing for the clutch lever had simply worn out over 200,000 kms. I wonder how many times I have actually squeezed it over all that time? While they worked on the bike, I sat in the comfortable waiting area and caught up on my blogging. I also read some articles in Motorcycle Mojo magazine by Paddy Tyson, a crazy irishman touring the USA on an Aprilia. This guy is a hoot and has a funnier turn of phrase than many successful comedians.

I had lunch at the restaurant a cross the road and, soon after, the bike was ready to go. There is now a brand new silver Wing on their showroom floor with no clutch lever since, because they didn't have the parts, they raided it to get me on the road. Thanks to Sevice Manager Jim, Dale on the counter and wrench Marc for getting the job done.

The Wing getting some TLC on Marc's lift

The ride back home was straightforward although the bike felt a little more responsive because of the new round profile tires. As they wear, the rear flattens out. I also took it easy while the slick mould release compund wore of the new rubber and broke the new brake pads in gradually.

There is still a lot to get done before we leave next Wednesday but I expect we'll get through the chores.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Trip Summary

Days on the road - 15

Distance traveled - 4,949 Kms (3,075 miles)

Fuel fill ups - 20

US Gallons consumed - 77

MP(US)G - 39.9

Mileage on bike at end of trip - 200,816 Kms (124,787 miles)

Combermere Ontario to Sudbury Ontario

We were up and loaded early. I had packed the side bags yesterday so the process went quickly. It was 15C, and cool with patches of fog as we headed out shortly after 7:00 AM.

Ready to go

We rode the first two kilometers with the kids. Then, at Highway 62, they turned left for their trek back to Waterloo while we turned right to head for Sudbury. We stopped in Barry's Bay for fuel and found a group of Quebecois sport bike riders gassing up as well. The winding back roads around here are some of the best Ontario has to offer.

From Barry's Bay, we headed west on Highway 60 with only a few patches of lingering fog. In the village of Madawaska, we could see the impact of the low snowfall as the Madawaska River was so low the dock pilings were exposed and more. It is going to be a long, dry, nasty fire season.

The docks are high and dry in the Madawaska River

Continuing on, I got a nasty scare on the way to Whitney. I wasn't in Algonquin Park yet so my moose sense wasn't on high alert. In fact, I have never seen a moose along this stretch so I was wool gathering and thinking about what a fine trip this had been. You think a full grown moose standing on the opposite shoulder of the road would catch my eye right away but I was less than 100 feet away when I first noticed it. I braked hard but, due to my woeful lack of attention, the outcome was all in the moose's hooves by this time. She spooked as I came even but, luckily, turned towards the ditch. There was no excuse for this rookie mistake on my part but it did serve to warn me once again of the risks of becoming too complacent.

Through the park, we only saw one other moose down off the road in a swamp. It was easy to spot because there were three cars pulled over taking pictures. Other than that, the ride through Algonquin was uneventful and I marveled at how pretty this part of our province is.

The washrooms (Canadian term for restrooms) at the west gate of the park were closed. This isn't a real good thing on a holiday Monday. We continued on to Huntsville, soon to be the site of the June G8 meeting, and stopped at McDonalds for a bathroom break and a quick breakfast. It was now up to 20C and quite comfortable.

From Huntsville, we headed south for a short way on Highway 11 and caught Highway 141, one of my favourite local roads. We bombed the 60 KPH corners using my newly rediscovered cornering technique of moving up on the tank and leaning forward. This provides immensely better control than sitting straight up and provides much more positive control. Funny how I had forgotten about this, especially since this is how I also handle tight corners on my snowmobile. We did encounter an O.P.P. black and white but I spotted the white roof a long way off. I am very happy that Commissioner Fantino returned to the old (and more visible) colour scheme.

At the Petrocan on Highway 400 south of Parry Sound, we stopped for fuel and ran into old Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs associate Tim West. He has an ownership stake in the new Tim Hortons located there. We talked for a bit and he told me that the four lane highway past Parry Sound won't be opened until the Nobel by-pass is complete in the fall. It seems they have a rule that they can't go from four lanes to two within a community because the drives are too stupid the be able to handle it.

Before leaving, we pulled the panels off the Joe Rocket Alter Ego jackets to get to the mesh layer because the temperature was now up to 26C. These are the greatest jackets I have found because they are good in the cold and yet permit being turned into mesh for hot weather without requiring hardly any storage space for the removed panels.

Two lane Highway 69 had a lot of southbound traffic as the Toronto crowd, who love to escape the city on the weekends, worked their way homeward. We stopped at the French River Trading Post (home of Hungry Bear and the Blueberry Hound) for a short break since it was time for Sandy to walk around and I was getting sleepy.

The French River Trading Post

The rest of the ride went quickly and we pulled into the driveway at 1:00 PM as the temperature was breaking 30C. This was exceptional hot for the Victoria Day weekend, especially since we saw snow this weekend for last two years.

After unpacking, I set out to mow the lawn. It hadn't grown too much due to lack of rainfall and even the dandelions were suffering. The stuff in the grass catcher looked more like dust than grass. I left the edge trimming for a later date.

Despite having reduced almost all the PVR recordings to standard definition to save space. the hard drive was still 92% full. All our shows were wrapping up for the season while we were away but we had multiple episodes of almost every one recorded, which will mean some concerted watching over the next week. We have nine days at home before we head west on the Colorado/Nevada trip.

Today's Route:

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Combermere Day 3

We were up by 7:00 AM. The sun was shining again and we still hadn't had to light the wood stove. Heather and Tom decided that they would take a ride together and we decided to meet them at Mapleton House for lunch at 12:30.

With the kids gone, I caught up on my bills and blogs. Then we went over to the lodge so I could post them. The weatherman lied about there being no precipitation today because it clouded over and we got a short but heavy shower in the late morning. We also got a chance to say goodbye to Pat, Shelley and the twins as they headed back to Rochester about noon. Their long weekend isn't for another week and they needed to be back at work Monday. It sure was good to see them after all these years.

I was ready to leave for Mapleton House at noon but Marc, who said he would go with us, was nowhere to be found. We caught up with him in Cabin 2 and found he had changed his mind so we set out on our own for the rendezvous. Riding down 514, we caught up with a red Toyota following two motorcycles following a pickup truck. Guess who the bikes were? Heather and Tom had ridden to Pembroke and Cobden and we had now found them just before we got to the spot we were supposed to meet.

Lunch at the Mapleton was great as usual. This time, everyone had maple tarts for dessert. After lunch, we headed back to the lodge via Highway 28, Boulter Road and Highway 517. The latter wasn't a treat, especially where the road crosses the Renfrew County line. Sand in the corners, a few patches of gravel and broken pavement made it a less than pleasurable experience.

At the cabin, we gathered out word puzzles and quiz answers and took them over to the main lodge in time for the 3:00 cake and ice cream session. A group had a projector set up and were playing Wii bowling. I haven't played since Sandy beat me two games straight and didn't get a chance today.

Playing Wii and having cake and ice cream in the lodge

When the winners of the puzzle quest were announced, we came out in first place, winning a nice bottle of wine. I hadn't thought that we did that well, but it was a team effort with each of us contributing some answers.

We returned to Cabin 23 for some food and a nap. The kid with the small wheel motorcycle that had been running up and down the road all weekend was at it again. This thing sounds a bit like a chainsaw at full throttle but is more annoying.

About 8:00 PM, we headed down to the beach to check out the fireworks preparations. In past years, we have had a pretty even mix between the tubes that need to be buried in the sand and the mortars that are launched from a solid surface. I have handled the mortars, which have a base and consist of a single shot, from the end of the dock for several years. Last year, large muti-shot cubes appeared for the first time and now that made up 90% of our arsenal. These fore off a sequence of shots, sometimes over 100, for a coordinated display. Most of them carry the Vulcan brand, which made me feel right at home.

After discussions with Dave, we convinced him we could handle all the cubes and mortars with my team of three. I would line up the order, Kevin would place the shots and Tom would light. Thanks to Brian, all the fuses had been untaped and prepped already.

As darkness fell, I set off one mortar as a five minute warning for the spectators. Soon after, Marc and Oliver started the single short line of beach munitions. The first little ones spluttered and whizzed and the last few large ones sent up respectable displays. Then we started our part with Kevin placing the next cube as the previous one was still shooting. This was a dangerous job, especially with cardboard shrapnel (some of it still burning) raining down on us. Still, we kept up a seamless and non-stop show for over a half hour. Brian says it is the best we have ever done.

After the show was over, the kids cruised the beach with sparklers. We started saying our goodbyes since we would be leaving early in the morning. We ended the evening with a walk back to the cabin, this time using a flashlight. The light works so much better. Everyone was in bed shortly after 11:00.

Today's Ride:

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Combermere Day 2

I didn't rise too early this morning. I lay in bed ignoring the sounds Sandy, Heather and Tom were making in the kitchen while I read some more of Diamondback, Phil Bowie's adventure novel centred around Maggie Valley.

When I finally did get up, breakfast was a ham sandwich and a tangerine we smuggled across the border (thanks again, Butch & Tina). We all worked on the traditional word puzzles for a while and then I got yesterday's blog ready. I walked over to the main lodge to post it and got back just in time to get ready for the group ride. Heather and Tom decided they would skip the ride today, so Sandy and I went on alone.

The group getting ready to ride

Today's route was the same as last year around the lake to Barry's Bay. The road was rough and sandy with a short piece of gravel. In Barry's Bay, Bay Days were in full swing with many vintage cars and other displays. Sandy and I shared a small diet Coke and a small order of fires and then walked with Eric and Maggie to the Dairy where we got ice cream cones. On the way back, we saw a 1965 Cobra and a mid-fifties Porsche Spyder (just like James Dean's ill-fated car) head out of town together like they were going to play. Back at the bikes, everyone had reassembled and the three GL1800's, Ken, his twin brother Kevin and I headed back to the lodge via the much better surfaced Old Barry's Bay road. It winds through the countryside and we pushed along at a brisk clip.

Back at the lodge, Tom and I borrowed Nic's SUV and went back to Barry's Bay to buy some fireworks to contribute to tomorrow's spectacle.  I bought some at Stedman's and Tom got two 100 shot cubes at Home Hardware.  I stopped to talk to PC Gonzalez of the OPP who, along with an auxiliary, was displaying an OPP patrol boat for Bay Days.  Then we headed back to the Lodge and gave Brian our purchases.

At the cabin, we settled in and I finished reading Diamondback. It was a good story with many familiar places. I found it amusing in the end when one of the marginally bad characters was identified as a Bryson City lawyer named Kunkel. I wonder if Phil Bowes ever met Fred and Mo?

After a light supper of grilled cheese sandwiches with ham, we went visiting a few other cabins. Then we wandered down to the Round House where people had started to congregate. I got a chance later in the evening to meet Dave's new lady Karen, who seems to be very good for him. He got out his 12 string guitar and sang some songs inluding Fare Thee Well, Love (my favourite Rankins tune) which I have been trying to get him to learn for years. Brother Rob provided part time accompaniment on the recorder. I have never heard Dave sound better.

Dave entertaining the masses

Sandy and the kids headed for the cabin before I did. I was happy just sitting and listening to the hum of people and the sounds of Dave singing and playing. When I finally left about 1:30 AM, I had to negotiate the dark trail along the river's edge without benefit of a flashlight. I'm sure it used to be easier to do this back when I was less sober. Reaching the cabin without hurting myself, I turned in for the night.

Today's Ride:

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Gananoque Ontario to Combermere Ontario

We were graced once again with a fine morning, clear and sunny. It is now one month until the official first day of summer and things are shaping up nicely. The forecast for the weekend is excellent as well, even though I don't trust the weatherman any further than I can throw my motorcycle.

The restaurant was supposed to open at 7:00 but the bus tour people had it shut down until 8:30. We took the time to load the bikes and get everything set to go. At 8:30 sharp, we were back to sample the complimentary breakfast choices. Brown toast and either cereal or eggs or pancakes with fruit. Sandy and I had raisin bran and brown toast.

After breakfast, Tom and Heather headed to their bank while I was going to check out and stop at TD for cash. We agreed to meet at a Mr. Gas station on Hwy 32 that showed on the GPS. I was a little late because I stopped to talk to the Illinois couple with the Ron Paul bumper sticker. We talked about the US Constituion and libertariansim. He said he considered himself to be Thomas Jefferson reincarnated and said he would go home and tell his friends he had actually met a Canadian libertarian.

I was also delayed when I went to check out and found no one at the front desk. After hitting the bell twice and looking high and low, Amanda finally appeared and, without apology, gave me my bill. I can tell you that this Best Western is far from the best.

We hit the TD for cash and then followed the GPS to the rendezvous at the Mr. Gas station. As often happens, there was no Mr. Gas but we met at the Esso just south of that location. My principle of not separating on the road was, once again, validated.

By 10:10, we were headed north on 32 with only one tiny cloud way off on the horizon. I jolted myself when the GPS speedomter read 87. I'm not yet used to being back in kilometers. We paassed a pickup truck with a rotating brush on the front cleaning gravel off the intersections, something greatly appreciated by anyone on two wheels. We also passed a sign saying that turtles would be crossing the road between May and September. This was the first one of those I have seen. Soon after, we passed a box turtle on the shoulder looking longingly across to the other side.

We passed the road leading to Chaffee's Locks and the Opinicon Lodge, a place where I attended several Steelworkers union schools. At Crosby, where 32 meets Highway 15, I stopped so we could verify our GPS routing. Then we continued on 15 to 36. Up through Bolingbroke, 36 has a whole series of pleasing 60 Km curves and we passed another turtle, this time a snapper, crossing the road.

From 36, we caught Highway 509 which took us over new ground through Ompah, Palmerston and Plevna. It was a tar and chip road, but it was in good shape and we enjoyed the remote country. The only problem was that there was absolutely nowhere to stop for coffee. We were also bombarded by hordes of dragonflies, although they had an uncanny knack of mostly missing the bike. I did notice fir strees near Plamerston dying and wonder if Pine Bark Beetles have gotten this far east.

From 509, we took Highway 41 north to Highway 28. Heading west on 28, we came across Mapleton House, a wood structure that has a restaurant and features all thing maple. They were only open from 12:00 until 2:00 and, unusually lucky for us, it was 1:00 PM. They have all grades of syrup, candy and maple jellies. I had an excellent clubhouse sandwich and a tasty maple butter tart. Heather had a maple milkshake. To top it off, some nights they even commit Karaoke.

Stopped at Mapleton House

Inside Mapleton House

At the junction of Highways 28 and 514, we were stopped by ladies raising money for cancer research. Having no small Canadian money, I kicked in a US dollar. Starting up 514, we found someone had gone berserk sealing cracks with tar snakes. There were sometimes six or more parallel lines and they criscrossed each other. On a bike, these can be slick if you are in a corner. Luckily, this nonsense only went on for a few miles to where I think they ran out of tar.

We arrived at Stevenson's Lodge with the odometer reading 199,999. What are the odds of that. After finding our cabin assignment, we offloaded our luggage and went to Barry's Bay for groceries, turning over 200K kms on the way.

199,999 kilometers

200,000 kilometers

Back with the groceries, we headed to the lodge for an evening of chili, hot dogs and catching up. Brother Dave had taken Marc's new BMW for a ride and talked about his impressions. Pat and Shelley from Rochester, who haven't been up here for years, arrived with their twins. Eric and Sherry will miss their first Combermere because they took a road trip out west and don't want to come home. All in all, it was a pleasant evening. We turned in about 11:00 PM and this was the first time in many years we didn't have to light the wood stove for heat.

Katie and Gabrielle getting some sustenance

Marc and the newly found Pat

Eric A and Maggie

Today's Route:

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Other people's SEVROC pictures

Just a few other perspectives on the 2010 SEVROC for those not on the VROC newsgroup.

Tom & Heather's Blog

Sherm's SEVROC Blog


Blondy's Photos

Stonewall's Photos

Stewey's Photos

Jax & Curb's Photos

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ithaca New York to Gananoque Ontario

The sky was totally clear this morning in Ithaca. This was a new experience for us lately. I used the new clippers to cut my hair and went out to check the tires. The rear now has less than 1.5/32nds of tread (I'd say 3/64ths but that isn't the way tires are measured) but it looks like it will get us home as I predicted. Next time, I won't try to squeeze quite so much out of the rubber.

The hotel didn't have a complimentary breakfast but the buffet was only $6.95. Since we would be leaving late, this seemed like a good option. While I caught up some blogging, Tom took a large amount of US pennies to the bank. They gave him wrappers and made him roll them before accepting them.

Packing the bikes under a blue sky

We left Ithaca at 11:10 AM under a clear sky. The temperature was 24C. I saw a sign that said New York State has a noise limit of 90db. I guess Cheap B won't be able to visit here because Stewey's sound meter measured his Rogue at 122db.

In Weedsport, I was trying to find a place with shade because the heat was becoming oppressive. Or maybe we just weren't used to it. In any case, I found a gas station with an overhang. A local came by and commented on our Vulcan patches. Seems he has a 900 that he claims to have had up to 130 MPH. Other than his penchant for fiction, he seemed like an OK guy.

We continued north on NY 34 and turned on NY 104 just before Oswego. As we approached Lake Ontario, the temperature cooled and became quite comfortable. Although it was a short tank, I decided we should fill up here because we could make it to our destination from here and the projected fill spot was in the middle of nowhere. As Chuck Burt always said, "See gas, buy gas". It was a good plan because the only station in Dexter NY was out of fuel.

Combined Cycle Power Plant stacks - Oswego NY

In addition the the Combined Cycle gas fired power plant in Oswego, we also passed the 9 Mile Point nuclear facility which was belching a huge cloud of steam.

I find that upstate NY drivers are quite laid back. Almost everyone does the speed limit. Since there aren't faster OR slower drivers (including big trucks), everyone moves along at a safe spacing. It is a relaxing way to travel if one isn't in a hurry. We weren't.

We branched off NY 104 onto NY 104B and followed that to NY 180. Along the way, I saw signs for a Rail City Historical Museum []. Quite the story at the link. We also had to slow because they were creating new tar snakes along 104B. I hate tar snakes. They are slick much of the time and are particularly obnoxious in curves.

We stopped in a little rest area near Henderson that was supposed to provide a scenic view of Lake Ontario. As usual, they allowed the bushes to grow up, obscuring the very view they were promoting.

Rest Area along NY 180

A glimpse of Lake Ontario through the overgrowth

Great Lakes Seaway Trail

Near the end of 180, a gentleman had stopped his car and was trying to herd a snapping turtle off the road with a stick. The snapper was having none of it and was biting violently at the the stick as it kept trying to get back onto the pavement. There is some kind of life lesson here but I'm not sure what it is.

I got my US parting gift where NY 12 meets I-80. We stopped for a flagman and I put my foot down in fresh tar. Yes, they were making more snakes. Dragging my boot to clean it, we took the ramp onto I-81 and paid the toll to cross the two bridges to Canada.

Customs was a breeze. A couple of questions and a welcome home and the we were headed for Ganonoque on the 1000 Islands Parkway. We caught up to and followed a Mercedes SUV travelling 70 KPH in an 80 and the cabbage driving it still hit the shoulder. With a line of cars behind us, we reached Ganonoque and selected the Best Western Inn because of the indoor pool and functioning hot tub.

We had supper at the attached Good Time Charlie's restaurant. Sandy and I had Cobb salads for a change. Then we had to clear out because a two bus tour from Quebec was arriving for supper at 7:00. After supper, I blogged while the other visited the hot tub. They met a couple from Toronto on a Harley. We do have a good neighbor in the next room. Their black Hyundai Elantra (identical to Tom's) has Illinois plates and a Ron Paul bumper sticker.

After a bit of TV, we turned in. I am getting more sleep than usual on this trip which means I am probably getting close to the proper amount.

Today's Route:

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Luray Virginia to Ithaca New York

It was grey and cool this morning but there was no major organized rain in the area. We had the continental breakfast and didn't start packing until 7:30.

Packing the bikes at the Days Inn Luray

We left Luray at 8:15, turning onto the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Way. I cast a thought towards Gord as we did so. Riding toward Front Royal, I was pondering how Virginia is one of the prettiest states when I almost didn't see the School 25 MPH sign. Luckily, the flashing blue lights on the pickup truck were visible before I got to the reduced speed zone so I was able to haul it down before I got in serious trouble. Then I stood on it again as we came up on two deer in the ditch. They were good deer and headed into the brush.

Riding through Front Royal, we headed on to Winchester where a check of the ambient air temperature showed 13 C. Again. That makes three days in a row.

We ground up I-81 towards Harrisburg Pa, once again covering four states in 45 minutes. Patches of blue sky started to show and, taking a break at Shippensburg Pa, the temperature had gotten all the way up to 18C. I did note a lot of Florida plates heading north, paralleling the seasonal migration of the goose or the Canadian snowbird. The Floridians can be identified because they are usually found in black Cadillacs hogging the fast lane.

As we reached Harrisburg, we swung up along the Susquehanna River on US 15. In Selinsgrove, we stopped for lunch at a Denny's. I had a Superbird sandwich and fries and some chicken noodle soup. Sandy ate half my Superbird sandwich. Amazingly, we put sunglasses on when we came out. Sandy even had a tiny screwdriver to fix the arm of Heather's shades. My GPS continued to act flakey but I got it to do what I need. This time.

Denny's in Selinsgrove Pa

At Shamokin Dam, I started up a road I have never been on before. We left the familiar US 15 for Pa 147 north. We followed this a short way to Pa 405 and then to US 220. I found 220 to be a nice flowing two-lane road but novice riders have nowhere to get out of the way of the trucks who are hustling to make time.

We stopped for a few moments in Dushore Pa. As is my habit, I asked an older gentleman in front of the Shell station how to pronounce the name of the town. "Any way you want" was his reply.  Accommodating people.

Hanging vine in Dushore Pa

Continuing north, we approached Sayre Pa on the New York border where we planned to raid a WalMart for necessary items. The last few miles in, it started to drizzle and then lightly rain. Again. We parked at the Wally World fully expecting to be going to rain gear when we came out. Funny thing is that in the time it took to buy one set of electric hair clippers (call me shaggy), a box of flavoured coffee creamers (unavailable in Sudbury) and two 3-way electrical outlets (to replace the 6-way still gracing Room 15 at the Applecover Inn), the rain stopped. More than that, the sky was mostly blue.

From the WalMart lot, I called the Comfort Inn in Ithaca NY to see if they had an indoor pool. Nope, but the clerk sent me to the Ramada. They had one and Don, the desk clerk, cut the rate by $20.00. We were almost an hour away but we now had a destination.

Crossing into New York, the 5th state of the day, US 220 ended and we headed north on NY 34. The intent was that we would follow this all the way to Ithaca. The GPS had other ideas and took us on a short cut (maybe) from Van Etten up a thing called Langford Creek Road. It was interesting and we were not cursed with heavy traffic as we rode past farms that may have never seen a tourist before. But all's well that ends well and we managed to arrive safely in Ithaca, the stoplight capital of the world. Seriously, 34 through the city has more traffic controlled intersections in a row than I have ever seen before. We managed to stop-and-go our way to the other side of town where we found the Ramada and got checked in. We had a gross room. Actually it was fine but it was Room 144.

We walked across the street to Applebees where I had the best and, at the same time, least expensive steak of the trip. Both couples had the 2 for $20 deal. Two entrees and a shared appetizer for $20. After eating, we returned to the hotel and suited up for a swim.

Sandy walking back to the Ramada in Ithaca NY
(note how the new Canon handles sunset backlight)

Amazingly, blue sky in Ithaca

Of course our luck wasn't perfect. The Jacuzzi was down. Still, everyone splashed around in the pool for a while before heading back to the room to see who the two American Idol finalists would be. As predicted, we will get to see Lee and Crystal go head to head next week.  Then, we pretty much faded out.

The gang around the pool

No hot tub for you

Today's Route:

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Natural Bridge Virginia to Luray Virginia

There was a light rain falling when we got up. We slipped down to the Colonial Dining Room for breakfast and saw the two Appalachian hikers again. Heather had huge fluffy pancakes while the rest of us had more normal fare.

We got word yesterday that Ol' Phart Joe had a wreck on US 219 in West Virginia. He and Lost Bob were riding long at 30 MPH when Joe was hit in the head by a large flying wild turkey. Luckily, Joe only received some road rash but the bike went off a steep embankment. They were put up by some kind local folks for the night. I feel a little badly because I suggested 219 to Joe and Bob before they left Maggie Valley. On the bright side,, it could have been much worse. Get well soon, Joe.

Before pulling out, we toured the Natural Bride Toy Museum and the Wax Museum. The Toy Museum just had a collection of toys, although many were in their orgiginal packaging. One of note was a Dale Earnhardt HO electric train set.

The Intimidator Train Set

The Natural Bridge Hotel in the background

It wasn't raining when we took the Lee Highway to I-81N, but it was 13C as usual. We rode to Staunton where we stopped for fuel and a Subway lunch. Heather's gloves were soaked and the nice young lady making the sandwiches gave here a bunch of the plastic gloves they wear handling food to put inside her road gloves. this would keep her hands dry while wearing the soaked riding gloves.

A black cruiser with Indian on the tank and a huge Indian fender pulled in. I told Tom it looked like a Vulcan motor and, sure enough, the bike was a Drifter. Moon, the rider, was traveling from New Orleans to D.C. although the bike was registered in Maryland. He had a VROC number but couldn't remember it and hasn't been on the site for a long time. He said most people didn't recognize the Drifter and I said the huge Indian logos might be a reason why.

I phoned R&L and talked to Jim about the cruise control. He said it was probably the clutch or brake interlock switch. Rather than order parts, when it is in next week they will check it out and steal whatever they need from the Wing on the floor. That kind of service is hard to find.

We continued on and eventually got off I-81 to go to Luray. The 116th Infantry Regiment Memorial Highway must be a handful to put on an address label.

The Skyline is wreathed in clouds

We arrived at Luray Caverns at 2:50, in time for the 3:00 PM tour. In addition to the tour guide, they also provide headsets for detailed descriptions of the different parts of the cavern. With the group assembled, we descended 68 steps. At the lowest part of the caves, you are 160 feet below ground.

Outside the main building

Everybody geared up with headsets

The first cavern

The place the original discoverers entered

Sandy looks startled

Dream Lake (the apparent valley is a reflection of the roof)

Pluto's Ghost


More stalactites

The redwood

Saracen's Tent drapery

The keyboard of the Great Stalacpipe Organ
(the sounds come from rock formations being struck)

The Wishing Well

Tom & Heather taking a break

Fried Eggs

After the cavern tour, Heather and Sandy checked out the shops while Tom and I wandered thorough the Car and Carriage Caravan Museum. They have an awesome collection of almost anything on wheels here.

Photos from the Car and Carriage Caravan Museum

From the caverns parking lot, I phoned the Days Inn and talked to Cathy. They had a room and we headed over, with Tom & Heather taking a side trip to get a water tower photo.

We phoned Dominos and ordered two XL thin crust pizzas. Due to a mistake, we didn't realize that they don't make thin crust XL and received regular crust. They offered to send large thin crusts but we said we'd keep what we had. Eating pizza, we watched American Idol where Lee was the best of the show. At least we managed to stay awake until the end of the show this time.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Johnson City Tennessee to Natural Bridge Virginia

Today was the 39th anniversary of the wreck that earned me my nickname permanently. I had been riding just over two weeks when I ran my 350cc Yamaha R5 into the back of a parked car at close to 40 MPH, putting myself on crutches for six weeks. This ensured that when my boss had called me "Skid" two weeks before, after a minor laydown, it stayed with me forever.

The radar showed the big green rain system leaving, heading northeast. It was good that it had left but unfortunate that it was going the same way we were. There was a big green blob on the radar map all over I-81. We had to pay for the breakfast in the sports bar. This, combined with the high room rate, pretty well ensures that Doubletree is off our most favoured accomodation list.

While I was checking tire pressures and drying the bike off, I talked to a young BOA bank fellow from Buffalo who was down for a few weeks training a local startup operation that would be looking at mortgage modifications. It surprises me that this late in this program, there are still places that are just getting going with it.

We left the hotel at slightly after 8:00 AM for the short ride to Bristol Motor Speedway. we parked at the new office building and waited for the gift shop to open at 9:00. When it did, we paid our tour fee and a nice young lady named Sandy loaded us in a van for a private tour. This included a run down the drag strip (we hit 58 MPH) and a visit to Bruton Smith's private suite. We couldn't circle the track because of the heavy construction work going on in the infield. Sandy and her husband ride a Suzuki C50 Boulevard just like Heather and Tom.

At Bristol Motor Speedway

The drag strip

Bruton Smith's suite

Bruton Smith's seats

Track construction

Sandy got this picture of a poster outside Bruton's suite

Our tour guide Sandy

The weather looked better to the west as we left the track about 10:00 AM. We took the usual route along Tn 394, US 421 and Tn 44, which turned into Va 75 after we crossed the state line. In Abingdon, we caught I-81 and headed east. Near Marion, the temperature dropped, the winds got quite gusty and then it started to spit a light mist on us. We stopped at the McDonalds at Rural Retreat and had lunch while checking the radar using the new, free Mickey D's WiFi. It showed that the heavy rain had moved off to the east of I-81 so, while the kids suited up, Sandy and I didn't.

Suiting up in Rural Retreat, Va

Continuing on I-81, things went well foor a while except for a problem I was having with the cruise control kicking out. I suspect the clutch switch, an interlock device in the cruise control circuitry, may be sticking. Near Christiansburg Va, the mist picked up and we started to get some sever road spray so I pulled of at a gas station where a number of bikes were taking shelter.

Bikes hiding from the rain

We met two older HD riders from Tucson Az who were retired corporate pilots. We talked planes and bikes while Sandy and I suited up. There were also a couple on another Harley and a VW trike rider trying to make it home to Roanoke. They left as the rain eased and we were on the road again shortly after. The steady rain picked up once again and we passed them sheltering under an overpass.

I hate I-81. Traffic is heavy and it seems one truck doing 66 MPH is always trying to pass one doing 65. The hills in this area mean that before the pass is complete, we start an upgrade and they both slow down. Add the steady fine rain and this was not a leg that was much fun.

It was still raining and 13C when we pulled into the lot at the Natural Bridge Hotel. After checking in, we hung the rain gear in the bathroom to shower and unwound for a bit. The museums closed at 5:00 PM so we decided we would see them at 10:00 AM tomorrow before leaving. We planned to catch the Drama of Creation light show at the Bridge at 9:00 but it was cancelled due to technical difficulties. Just one more thing we have jinxed along with the pools. Instead, we walked down to the Bridge before supper.

Sandy on the stairs to the Natural Bridge

Natural Bridge, Virginia

Keep an eye out

Indian village (closed as expected)

The gang along the little river

George Washington carved his initials here

Heather and Tom at Natural Bridge

The 137 step climb was our exercise for the day

At the Red Fox Tavern, adjacent to the Colonial Dining Room in the hotel, Faye served us a light supper and then the four of us shared two huge apple cobblers. We talked to two retired gentlemen who were taking a day off from hiking the Appalachian Trail. One of them was quite familiar with Vale and the mining industry while the other had been in mineral processing.

Natural Bridge Hotel Apple Cobbler

After supper, we covered the bikes and adjourned to the room to watch Dancing With The Stars. It must have been a tiring day because Sandy and I fell asleep before the end of the show.

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