Times have changed and times are strange

Ok, so “tomorrow” took a few weeks to come around, but I’ve finally found the time. This might be a “better never than late” situation, but here goes anyway.

After the unfortunate Coyote Incident and subsequent stupidly late night, I got a bit of a late start Wednesday morning, but needed a good ride, so headed west into Washington National Forest. Found a short stretch of nasty unmaintained dirt road including a bridge that had more holes than bridge, but stubborned my way through and was rewarded with a nice stretch of no-traffic 1.5 lane twisty pavement heading generally north. Eventually I chose poorly at a turning and fond myself on a major road leaving the forest, but quickly turned that into a positive by routing over US33 into WV, a “don’t miss” road if there ever was one.

Followed a local in a pickup doing about 70 using all of the pavement through most of the uphill, he pulled over and waved me by just before the crest so I had a clear run on the downhill stretch. It is amazing what a good bit of riding can do for one’s mood. Followed 33 into Seneca Rocks then started looking for interesting county roads and managed to string together an excellent ride all the way to Martinsburg. There, I fell into the gravitational field of the cities and towns, and eventually gave up and found a hotel in Hagerstown for the night. 301 miles for the day, not bad considering the late start.

Thursday morning I did a bit better with the get up and on the road part of things, and decided to do a few miles of slab to get out away from city traffic. After 20-30 minutes found myself some nice fast farm roads and had an unexceptional but enjoyable ride north to NY. In NY mostly followed 30 until I got tired shortly after passing what would have been a good place to stop for the night, and eventually found myself booking a room in Amsterdam. My recommendation, if you ever find yourself looking for a place to stay near Amsterdam, is to keep going. Had dinner, did some laundry, and sacked out around midnight.

Friday morning, I got the earliest start of the trip (I guess crappy motels have some advantage), gassed up and headed north. I’d heard there was going to be a big opening ceremony the following day for the new bridge at Crown Point, so I figured I’d head that way on the chance the bridge was open to traffic. It was, but I ran into a little trouble of the legal variety before I got there. There is a long downhill straight leading up to the turn for the bridge, and I was paying more attention to asking the GPS for a gas station than I was to my speed and got tagged. The GPS tracklog indicates a significantly slower speed than what the ticket is for.

The new bridge is nice enough, and quickly got me the hell out of NY. Followed 17 to 100 and eventually found myself on 302 near Montpelier in brutal construction traffic. Once through that I was pretty well drained (this was day 10, after all), so I just followed 302 to 112 into Lincoln, and from there followed the normal route to the lodge. Arrived at the lodge shortly after 1400h, expecting to just hang out on the porch reading until people arrived, but was welcomed by our lovely oompah and her assistants. A quick run up the road for ice before opening a bottle of whiskey and starting the night early.

I overindulged a bit, got to bed late, and didn’t sleep well, so Saturday morning was a bit meh. Had breakfast at Glen Junction as usual, and got back to the lodge with just enough time to gear up and ride into Lincoln for the Zip Line adventure Dave & Sarah had arranged. This was my first time doing a Zip Line, and it is worth mentioning that I’m quite thoroughly terrified of heights. It took me what felt like a good three or four hours to build up the nerve to step off the first platform, but once I did I really enjoyed the experience, and am looking forward to the next time. Hung out with folks for a while after the adventure before heading back to try to make the White Horse Press open house before they closed, but bailed on that idea about halfway there due to exhaustion.

Back at the lodge it was another late night of drinking, and I finally fell over the edge on some stuff I’d been processing through in my head. Had several good conversations before everyone went down for the night, then sat with my head for a bit to sort things out. Ended up having another good conversation (thanks again) before finally falling asleep on the couch.

Another late start on Sunday, no surprise, packed up and rode over to Glen Junction for breakfast before heading home. Pulled up just after a couple of friends did, and we had a nice breakfast together before heading off to our respective homes. I’ve done the ride south from Glen what feels like 10,000 times, so I didn’t bother plotting anything in the GPS and just followed my nose. Eventually the heat got the better of me as I only had my cold-weather riding gear with me and had no room on the bike to stash any of it, and I got sucked into orbit of Concord. Crispy and tired, decided an hour of slab was the wise choice, so hopped on 93 and blasted home. That was definitely the right choice, the day only got hotter from there.

I believe that the best trips change us, and that was certainly the case on this one for me. I’m still figuring out all of the changes, but so far they seem to be for the better, even if I am still feeling like I left real life behind to come back “home”.

Back Home

Home safe, 3270 miles later. Great trip, but it was physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting. I’m completely wrung out. Shower, dinner, crash on the couch. I’ll try to make time tomorrow to write up the rest.

Kaboom! Fall down go boom.

I ain’t talkin’ ’bout your pigtails

Seems I’ve not been very good about writing on this trip, just been too busy tearin’ shit up, I guess. Lemme think…

501 miles on Thursday, all backroads & secondary highways, mostly through WV. Found a few good new-to-me roads in there. I think next spring I might just spend a week or two in that SE OH/NE WV playground. Arrived at Big Lynn about 15 minutes too late for dinner due to a seriously close call with a long legged forest rat, checked in and asked if there was anyplace nearby to grab a quick bite. The owners are awesome and said something along the lines of “we’ve still got food, if you eat now,” so I did. After dinner, found the rest of the early Spring Ride group and had an entertaining night getting to know some damned good folks over several games of very drunken 8 ball.

Towards the end of the day on Thursday I’d noticed some “bad” noises coming from the right-rear of the bike, which turned out to be because one of the three bolts holding the sidecase rack on had pulled out. My bad, really, just before the trip I’d grabbed the wrong torque wrench when putting that bolt back in and broken it off. When I drilled out the broken bolt, I munged the threads a bit, but thought I could get away with just running a 1/4-20 tap through instead of drilling it out completely and retapping at 5/16-18. Bad call, when it pulled out it ovaled out the hole pretty badly. Some folks noticed me poking at the bike and asked what was wrong, one had noticed a welding shop a few miles up the road from the lodge. I figured if they couldn’t help me they’d at least know who could, so stopped by first thing Friday after breakfast.

Arrived, explained the problem, one of the guys came out to take a look and was coming across skeptical until I pointed at the part that wanted drilled & tapped and said “I can have this off in 5 minutes.” Took the part in, he looked at it closer and explained he’d have to drill it out to 3/8 since it was so mangled. 15 minutes later the bike was back together and he tried not to charge me. I wasn’t having any of that.

Still pretty early, so I decided to take a run up to “The Snake,” using a route Greg H. put together. The absurdity of following a guy from Canada through the South notwithstanding, it was a good route, though a couple of GPS glitches sending me over unpaved mountain roads through private property cost me a couple of hours. Lunch at the Shady Valley Country Store because I was half starving, then a full pass in each direction across “The Snake.” Meh. Much like “The Dragon,” it is a nice road, but my reaction was more-or-less “with all of these great roads around, this is the one you brag about?” At least it isn’t so heavily trafficked as 129.

According to the GPS, following the rest of Greg’s route would have me back at the lodge around 2030h, too late for dinner. I thought that was pessimistic, but decided against risking it and bought a paper map. Plotted a fast but not completely boring ride “home” for the night, and arrived back at the lodge before 1700h, 229 miles for the day.

I’m really glad I decided to take the extra day and come down on Thursday, because by Friday night most of the group had arrived and I don’t think I’d’ve been able to get to know anyone if I hadn’t met a bunch of folks the night before. Another good night of talking and too much drinking before sacking out around 0030h.

Saturday morning I’d planned to go out in search of good roadside BBQ, but was convinced to join a group ride at the last minute instead. A couple of minor glitches aside, it was a good ride, and a good day, covering about 250 miles in good company. The evening was more subdued, as most of the group was looking at long rides in the rain the following morning. I only had to go as far as Asheville, so I ended up sitting up alone on a porch with a bourbon and a book for a couple hours after everyone had gone down for the night, but it was a good book, a great bourbon, and a beautiful night, so all was good.

Got a later start than hoped for Sunday morning, then got socked in on the parkway in the worst fog I’ve ever experienced in my life. At one point I’d deliberately sandwiched myself in between two slow-moving cars just for the bumpers, and had a moment of panic when I suddenly couldn’t see either of them. I probably should have pulled off into one of the overlooks to wait out the fog, but I was looking forward to my visit in Asheville so I pushed on, even after losing my bumpers. On the approach to Mount Mitchell the fog got so thick there were times I couldn’t see my own mirrors. I spent about 20 miles at a slower than walking pace with my left turn signal on, literally riding by braille. I finally emerged from the fog bank (or was it a cloud?) shortly beyond Craggy Gardens, and arrived at my host’s place around 1230h. 80 hours in almost 4 hours. It still breaks my brain to even think about riding that slowly.

As usual, after taking some time to unwind and catch up, we headed downtown for food & drinks. This time, we started at C├║rate for some damned fine tapas, including the very best eggplant I’ve ever tasted and a fabulous postre based around a rosemary gelato. We followed that up with a walking tour of some of Asheville’s “finer” brewpubs (“good people drink good beer”), then met up with my host’s boy and he and I made some wicked pissah bison & pork tacos and a ton of new in-jokes. It isn’t every night you see a couple of hipster spinners show up with their own mattress.

Monday, expecting storms all day, we opted to visit Biltmore rather than go hiking as  originally planned. It wasn’t anything I would’ve ever even thought to do on my own, but turned out to be a really good way to spend a day. After touring the house and a portion of the estate, we headed over to the winery for some samples. Shockingly, I fell a little bit in love with a limited edition Malbec they had on, and bought a few bottles even though I knew I didn’t have room for them on the bike. Those of you who will be at the Spring Fling this weekend might get to try some, if I’m not feeling too selfish.

It had been a gorgeous day up until this point, but while we were sampling a real frog strangler ran in, hard and fast. We were both hungry by this point, having skipped lunch and been on our feet walking all day, so we decided to brave the storm and run down the hill to Cedric’s Tavern for some dinner. About half-way down I realized the cardboard box I was carrying the wine in was starting to melt, and figuring I was already as wet as I could get I shifted the box into a Porter’s carry and walked the rest of the way. I’m pretty sure I’ve been less wet when swimming. Had a lovely meal, including a high-class but surprisingly honest Scotch Egg.

Stuffed and exhausted, I was ready to head “home” and crash for the night, but there were still people to do and things to see. We headed back downtown to meet up with my host’s sister and boy for a drink or two, since I’d not had a chance to hang out with them yet on this trip. I can’t say I’ve never been thrown out of a parking garage anymore; good times!

Finally made it back “home”, opened a bottle of wine and hung out on the couch for the rest of the night, playing around with maps & routes and reading. 0 miles for the day, but probably the most tiring, and definitely the wettest day of the trip so far.

Tuesday, woke up late, feeling pretty meh, decided to scrap my plans and just ride the parkway up to the end. Was doing fine, having a good ride, but the second tank kicked about 30 miles short of the mark, so I got off the parkway in search of gas. Rolled in to the BP on fumes around 1830h, and instead of the quick stop I’d meant to take ended up wasting a bunch of time searching for a place to stay the night, and didn’t get back underway until after 1910h. With light dwindling, I was faced with the classic dilemma; ride faster and chase the sun, or suck it up and play it safe.

Hi, have we met?

Yeah, there may have been a somewhat dramatic animal strike at something north of 65. I’m not at all sure how I kept the bike upright, but I am sure that (shit) 8 hours later I’m still a little shaky from it. Got the fuck off the Parkway at the first possible opportunity, which was probably a mistake given the road was faster and tighter, with even denser surrounding forest, but finally arrived in Waynesboro in the same number of pieces. Stopped at the Cracker Barrel and inhaled way too much food while looking for a place to sleep and trying to push off going all shocky as long as possible, burned through all the battery on my phone without much success.

Paid for my food and left, 95% ready to just roll around back and cowboy camp under the bushes, but fired up the laptop just for shits & giggles and found some open wifi. Quickly booked a room & rolled almost a tenth of a mile to the hotel. SSS and 2/3rds of a fifth of Henry McKenna later, I’m just now starting to think I might be able to get some sleep tonight. Somewhere around 405 miles today, almost all of them on the BRP.

I’ve no route planned for tomorrow, but I think I’ve still got the planned route files from last year’s MET heading towards home from this area that I never rode, so I’ll either follow one of those or just head vaguely north and east until I hit New York. As Locock said, “If I can’t find the next country, there’s something wrong with my navigation.” Ok, in my case it is a state, not a country, but considering New York is bigger than some of the countries he needed to “find”, I think I should be OK.

G’night, y’all.

Barrington? I don’t see what’s so great about it.

Finally got on the road this morning, about 16 hours later than planned. Last night I figured it was probably not the best idea to start a long trip on brand new tires, in the dark, in a thunderstorm, so I convinced myself to stay home and get on the road early. The staying home part worked great, the on the road early part, not so much.

The upside is I managed to avoid the worst of the storms, the downside is two 300 and one 400 mile days became two 500+ mile days. Trying to make up time right from the start, and expecting bad weather most of the day, I left myself plenty of opportunities to bail out to slab, and started the trip with a blast down the pike 2/3 of the way across MA, getting onto secondaries when rain stopped and the sun finally came out. Stopped for a snack & some gas in Great Barrington, where, as usual, my superpower kicked in and all of the creeps and weirdos homed in on me.

Finished my snack and got back on the road in time to enjoy a beautiful ride through New York. Stopped to top off the tank and grab a quick drink before heading into the Catsklls, and was approached by an older gentleman who wanted to talk bikes for a while. Nice guy, good conversation, but it turned my planned 5 minute break into something closer to an hour. Oops.

Finally made it into PA several hours behind even the revised plan. Stopped for gas & a drink, took a look at a map and realized I was about three hours too far north to even stand a chance of making it to Seneca Rocks much before midnight, so decided to suck it up and get on I80, quite possibly the worst motorcycling road in the world, but the fastest way to get north-south through PA.

Stopped for dinner about 50 miles north of MD, just before dusk gave in to dark, and spent the meal searching for likely places to spend the night. Found one that suited, started the booking process, and the stars aligned in my favour–free room! Even better, when I arrived the manager upgraded me to a jacuzzi suite. Serious score at the end of a long riding day; 545.3 miles is tiring when you aren’t used to it anymore, even if a lot of it was on superslab.

The soak completely revitalized me, and reminded me of my old belief that every ride should end with a soak in a hot tub. Shame the universe doesn’t always cooperate on that.

Ok, tired or not I should really get to bed if I want to make it to the lodge in time for dinner.