Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Deep South

I left off at my first stop in Georgia. I made another quick one before heading back west across the southern states. At the risk of offending the friend I stopped to visit on the west side of Atlanta, I hadn't been expecting a lot. I knew it would be fun to see her and catch up, but I had no idea how much it would mean to me. I previously mentioned how I hadn't been back or spoken to anyone from that ten-year chunk of my past, for the last twenty years.

On one hand, I'm a very different person. There isn't a need to relive the past. People don't need to know who I was then. But I have to say, it is so comforting to talk to someone who does know who I was. We shared some... experiences, I guess is a good way to put it. Having someone to talk to that really knows what I was up against - priceless. We didn't visit for too long, but it felt like it took years off my life. (Having just re-read this, I think I need to clarify. I mean that in a good way, as in rather than having lived 48 years, I've only lived 45 - like that.)

I left Georgia on I-20, but I quickly left the Interstate and traveled through Talladega to Montgomery before stopping. It was hot. I stopped at a truck stop, where I think a trucker was trying to pick me up. I'm not sure if talking about taking a shower is the secret password, but it seemed like an odd topic for a random discussion with a stranger. I got on the bike and headed toward Mississippi.

I had planned to go a little further south and take US 84 west. As good as a nice summer shower sounded, the clouds to the south were looking a little scary. I didn't want to let the rain stop me again, so I planned on riding until the rain got heavy and then waiting out the worst of the storms. Although I was on a small state road, I saw that there would be a lot of opportunities at deserted gas stations, churches, and other uninhabited structures with awnings that would protect the motorcycle and me. I even considered spending the night in one of these places if the rain was more persistent than I was anticipating.

My first stop was at an operating gas station that was closing soon. The proprietor had satellite tv at his counter and was looking at the weather. I saw a huge storm just north of Mobile and just south of me; the northern edge of the storm I could see out the window. The weather report also showed rain throughout Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana for the next day, which meant I had no desire to hang out any longer than necessary. I decided to keep pushing and at least make it to Mississippi. The storm hit hard but let up pretty quickly, and I was back on the way.

Before too long, I had to stop again. This time it was a dilapidated old gas station, but at least I had cell phone service there and was able to check my e-mail and hang out on Facebook for a bit before moving on. Soon after that, I stopped to check my map since my original plans included riding right into that huge storm cell. After parking the bike, I looked back and saw a rainbow. The skies were clear to the west, and I headed on toward Meridian, Mississippi.

When I got to Meridian, I stopped at an RV park. It was late and the office was closed. Well, the signage said the office was closed, but it was open. I looked at a map of the campground and saw nothing but RV spots. I thought about pitching my tent in any grassy area, but I wasn't feeling good about the place. I went into the pool area, sat on a lounge chair, and used their Internet to find a KOA nearby. I was hoping the KOA was more in the woods and cooler.

I don't know if it was cooler, but it just plain sucked. The first clue was when I made the turn into the unlit driveway only to discover it was deep gravel. Nice. Without going into a lot of detail, it was a bad KOA. The site was bad, the bathroom had overflowing garbage cans, the grass wasn't cut. Yuck. Fortunately I'd picked a remote spot, because it was so hot that I left the fly off, which left me lying in my cocoon, without any clothes on, and only the screen between me and the world. It was nice to watch the stars - with my Glock 26 at my side. Despite the heat and exposed feeling, I slept very well.

I had more plans for US 84 westbound, but my clutch cable had loosened dramatically over the last two days, and as I was heading west out of Laurel, Mississippi, I realized it wasn't going to make it to Houston. I called my friend Chuck to see if he could walk me through fixing it. Chuck didn't answer, and I was overheard while leaving a message for him. A local guy clued me into a shop called 49 Cycles and gave me the number. I soon realized that 49 Cycles was well off my intended path of travel, but my path of travel hadn't been set in stone this far, so no big deal. Besides, I had a feeling that this was going to be one of those times that something good came out of the complication.

I rode on down to Hattiesburg to the shop. Michael took my bike right in and went to work while I chatted with his wife Laura in the air conditioned store. It quickly became apparent that Michael and Laura are Christians and like to share their faith with anyone who's open to it. I really enjoyed speaking with them, and Michael did an awesome job on my clutch. I'm so glad that God threw them in my path that day.

I made it to Alexandria, Louisiana that evening and got extremely frustrated trying to find the hotel I'd picked from Priceline on my phone in the Burger King. I had to call the hotel three times, and the last time I got lost I'd hit a really big bump that reminded me of the rigid frame days. All my irritation vanished in a moment when another guest that was checking in asked if he could take my picture with my bike. The reason? He has a friend who brags about how badass he is because he has a Harley - an 883 Sportster. How to make Abby forget all her troubles? Acknowledge that her motorcycle rocks. LOL. I met my friend Ranay, who lives in Alexandria, and we went out to dinner. The next morning I left for south Texas.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Piece of cake

I should be leaving, but the friend I'm meeting today just told me he has to make a run somewhere so there's no need to rush. I was thinking about posts I'd made and some comments made by readers, which then digressed into a subject a little more deep. It might not be totally on-topic, but I'm running with it anyway.

The thought trail started out with me thinking about how some people have told me what they do in certain situations, which caused me to think about something an ex said about my blog on my first cross-country trip. Be assured, I know when I start out on these journeys that shit happens. Sometimes it's good shit; sometimes it sucks. Weather can be great, but more often it's challenging. When I write about the trials of crappy weather, I'm not looking for sympathy. I'm simply talking about life on the road. In fact, I'm usually proud that I encountered these forces and made it through. If every day was a walk in the park, well I'd just take a walk in the park like everyone else and there'd be nothing to talk about.

This led me to think about people talking about what they do when they run into certain weather, and whether or not they meant it that way (perhaps it's me being overly sensitive), I feel like they're saying I should have done it their way. There are so many factors that make up a road trip: type of bike, accessories, the road you're on, traffic, how hard the rain is falling, protective gear, a rider's past experiences, etc... The list is endless. As we say when we're teaching a class, it isn't one thing that causes a crash; it's an interaction of factors. The same thing is true regarding a person's response to adversities. Really, you can't say what you'd do in a situation until you've ridden a mile under those exact circumstances.

That led into the deep subject matter I'm about to bring up: domestic violence. People are so quick to say, "She should just leave," and then they proceed to say that she deserves to be beaten if she sticks around and other similarly harsh remarks. They think that clearly she's stupid or weak or any number of derogatory adjectives. She made a bad decision when she hooked up with the guy in the first place.

OK, let's look at that last statement: she made a bad decision, therefore she deserves what she gets. Come one guys. One of my friends made a comment on Facebook the other day: Women should come with Carfax reports. I don’t profess to know why he made the comment, but it could possibly be that he got involved with someone and found out later that she had some issues that, had he known about them before getting involved, he wouldn’t have. When people are entering into a relationship, they typically don’t present the other person with a list of their character defects. Some people are extremely talented at concealing those defects until the other person has become solidly hooked. It happens to both men and women.

Why doesn’t she leave? Unless a woman is willing to move to a place so far away that she can’t possibly run into the guy or any of his friends or relatives, what’s the point? She’s further angered him by leaving, so he’s now more likely to be more aggressive when he finds her. This is like witness protection. Most people don’t want to leave everything and everyone they know, without any hope of seeing those people again.

This is where the relevance to my trip comes in. I went to Georgia, the place where I gave birth to my son, lived for ten years, yet haven’t been back to in twenty years. I saw a couple of really good friends I haven’t seen in that long. I contacted a few others that I haven’t talked to since I left. Sure, my husband died nine years ago, but by then I’d moved on. Fortunately I was able to move on. Because my family wasn’t in the area, and we aren’t tight anyway, there wasn’t that issue. I was just losing friends. I couldn’t contact them, because I didn’t want to put them in the position of having to keep secrets – or not.

Did I think he was a great guy when I met him? No. This reminds me of a comment I made on Facebook regarding scooter trash. It was funny to see that some of my newer friends thought I was kidding. The man was a 1%er when I met him, and after the death of his mother he went nucking futs. So he was a psycho badass. Bad combination. We started dating after he stopped by the strip club I was working at. Were we innocent? No. If you knew us in that situation, you wouldn’t have cared what either of us did to the other.

But you didn’t “meet” us there. You know me now that I’m long escaped, 18 years sober, have earned both a bachelor and master’s degrees, and basically have my shit together. I’ve found God. I get the feeling that people like to be around me and probably can’t imagine the situation I was in for several years. The thing is, a lot of women can’t pull off what I did. I’m extremely blessed and often know that “there but for the Grace of God go I.” Don’t try to justify why that woman deserves her situation. Consider what it’s like to ride a mile on her bike and say a prayer.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The second "going home again" portion of the trip

I slept really well at the KOA. For the first time on this trip, I slept with the fly open over my head, confident that it wasn't going to rain. It was a beautiful star-filled night, and I even saw a shooting star before drifting off to sleep.

There were a lot of miles to cover, and I decided to do some Interstate travel before getting back on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I headed south on 26, then west on 40, before stopping at Blue Ridge Harley-Davidson.

I browsed around the t-shirts, once again frustrated at overabundance of studs and rhinestones covering the selections. If it wasn't that, it was all kinds of weird cuts and strappy stuff that, well, if I was going to wear something elaborate like that to dress up, it wouldn't say Harley-Davidson on it. The two or three designs I liked, nice prints that reminded me of my newest tattoo, had been sold out except for a few in tiny or really big sizes. Clearly I'm not the only chick out there who feels that sparkly stuff belongs in jewelry and not on clothing. Having stretched my legs and filled my water bottle, I hit the road.

A little further up the road, I exited near Marion and headed up NC 80 to the parkway. That ten miles was easily as challenging as Tail of the Dragon, but there was no traffic, no cops, and it's right off the parkway. Unless you need to say, "Been there, done that," as far as the Dragon goes, find one of these twisties that takes you from the parkway into town and get lunch, then take it back up. Forgo the Deal's Gap congestion.

When I got up to the parkway, I pulled off at the first scenic overlook. There was a guy from Ohio on a Road King, and we discussed the virtues of traveling alone before I got back on my bike and headed south while he headed north. It was a beautiful ride with some threatening clouds. Riders passing me going the opposite direction were wearing their rain gear. I was resigned to getting wet. I didn't bother suiting up, because it was going to be scattered showers if anything, and I'd dry out before too long. I celebrated a landmark victory when I made it past the threatening clouds without catching a drop. I couldn't wait to write about my day of rain avoidance. As the Lolcats would say, "I can haz skillz."

I stopped at an overlook where the parkway heads down towards Asheville to figure out where I was planning on exiting the parkway and heading towards Gainesville, Georgia. A guy on a Victory pulled up and informed me that the parkway south of Asheville was closed. That meant change of plans, but because I was running behind (and I've ridden the entire Blue Ridge Parkway before) I was fine with exiting where they forced me to and jumping on I-40 to US 23.

It was as I was heading west on 40 that I was confronted by dark, ominous clouds again. I was feeling pretty smug, having conquered the curse earlier in the day. When I stopped at a rest area on 23, soaked to the bone, I overheard a couple discussing the hail storm that had appeared out of nowhere. Yeah, it didn't appear out of nowhere. It had lulled me into a false sense of weather optimism and then struck when my guard was down. I checked the radar on my phone and saw that I needed to keep moving if I didn't want to get in serious trouble.

The roads actually dried up for the most part, with just a few spots over the next 150 miles that were really wet. I was cooking though, dodging walls of water almost the whole way and hoping that law enforcement would be sympathetic should I get busted. Fortunately I didn't need to find out if relations between bikers and cops in that area of the country had improved since the last time I was there. Well, maybe it had. I didn't get thrown in jail for no good reason.

I have history in this neck of the woods. Not so much Gainesville, but I lived in north Georgia for 10 years. My boy was born in Atlanta. We left in a hurry exactly 20 years ago on June 23rd, escaping from a bad situation. I never contacted any of my friends because I didn't want to put them in the position of knowing where I was, should my husband ask. He passed away the same day my motorcycle arrived at the dealership, nine years ago. By that time, I'd moved on and didn't consider trying to reconnect with anyone. I did maintain a long distance friendship, talking on the phone an average of maybe a couple of times a year, with my friend Richard. Just recently I got back in touch with some of my southern friends on Facebook. That's why I decided to add Georgia to this trip.

I finally reached Richard's house and have been chilling here for the past couple of days. Richard had a stroke a few months back, which, coupled with the birth of my granddaughter, has me referring to this trip as the "Geriatric Tour." Tomorrow morning I pack up and one of my other Georgia friends on the way out of the state. Next stop, somewhere in Mississippi, God willing and the Creek don't rise.*

*Benjamin Hawkins, and the phrase would be correctly written as 'God willing and the Creek don't rise'. Hawkins, college-educated and a well-written man would never have made a grammatical error, so the capitalization of Creek is the only way the phrase could make sense. He wrote it in response to a request from the President to return to our Nation's Capital and the reference is not to a creek, but The Creek Indian Nation. If the Creek "rose", Hawkins would have to be present to quell the rebellion. I believe that the phrase is somewhere in his preserved writings.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Now THAT'S what I'm talking about

Perfect day.

Started out early. I was excited to get on the road with nothing but sunshine and the ultimate road ahead of me. In fact, there's absolutely nothing to report, except that I made good time and took lots of pictures and the weather couldn't have been better. I really enjoyed the Skyline Drive, especially the part where they accepted my National Parks Annual Pass. I know most people wouldn't like to pay, but I'm trying to get my money's worth before the end of July. The Skyline Drive was $15 towards the $80 it cost me.

I was a little taken aback when I saw the the speed limit for the whole road is 35 mph. Maybe it was the fact that it was early on a weekday, but there was nobody out there enforcing the speed limit. Even better was that the road had such great curves I didn't have to exceed the speed limit very much to enjoy the ride.

The Skyline Drive ends and the Blue Ridge Parkway starts - or vice versa, depending on which direction you're heading. The parkway doesn't cost anything, but it's a bit bumpier. There are a lot of overlooks that may have been overlooks back in the day, but trees have grown up and you can't see much. It's still a beautiful road and well worth it. Skyline Drive goes through the upper part of Virginia, and the parkway covers the rest of Virginia and North Carolina.

After a while on the parkway, I needed gas and was hungry, so I got off at Buena Vista. While there, I decided to hop on I-81 to take me down to Wytheville where I was planning on camping out. I also wanted to visit the Harley dealership there. We're friends on Facebook, and we've had a little interaction, so I let H-D of Wytheville know I was coming.

It was really cool when I showed up and the marketing manager came out to see me. We chatted a while, and I went in to pick out some t-shirts. She wanted to take a picture of me with the bike, so we went back out. Wouldn't you know, it started raining. Now there's another person who can chime in on the issue. But the rain quickly became a non-issue when I noticed that my saddlebag was hanging down. At first I thought it had become detached, but I quickly noticed that the bracket had broken. Great. Fortunately I (kind of) knew people there - my new BFF. She talked to the guys in service, who looked at the bracket, and decided it could be welded. The next step was calling around to find someone who could weld it after 5:00 on Thursday night, and we discovered that Homer over on Lover's Lane (not kidding) could do it. She drove me over in her car, Homer welded and painted the bracket while we sat in the office and played with the dog, and we went back to the dealership and put the bracket back on. So there was this beautiful, well-dressed Southern gal right there with me, getting greasy. It was awesome. I know all the guys that were hanging around watching us work wished they could get in on the action. Oh well. Maybe another day.

I'll keep an eye on the bracket. I called National Cycle, and they made me a deal on a new set, which will probably be waiting for me when I get home. Now I'm at the KOA and will be heading out tomorrow for another beautiful day of riding that will put me in Georgia by the end of the day.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Looking for a brighter day

I woke up to some chilly temperatures in New Hampshire, but there was no rain in the forecast. I didn't rush out the door, confident I could make it to my planned destination in Pennsylvania without a problem. There's a reason I moved out west, and it has to do with riding in the northeast.

I had all Interstate planned for the day. I needed to get on my way, and I've ridden most of New England's and eastern New York's back roads. I forgot how much I hate riding in Massachusetts until yesterday. I had to get off for some gas, and did that at Chelmsford. There's a weird kind of rotary to get back on the Everett Turnpike, and I didn't have the experience or knowledge to do that with skill. When I say rotary, it's more like a series of bridges with signs that give you the general idea of where you want to be.

At one point I realized I needed to be in a different lane and took the opportunity to jump in front of a pickup when he was slow to start. If you want to survive in Massachusetts, you must become a Masshole. That was fine until the car in front of me needed to do the same thing but was too chickenshit. I had to slam on my brakes, which then caused the pickup behind me to demonstrate the air horn he'd installed. I don't blame him, but it did scare me. I have a fairly consistent reaction when I get in a tight spot on the bike. I twist the throttle to get out of the situation. I saw a clear path to the on ramp and took it, accelerating rapidly. Then I got behind someone who must have been from Connecticut, going about 40 just before we needed to merge. Wondering how my carb was going to deal now that it's sucking down a sea level amount of oxygen while jetted for 5280, I cranked it once again, cutting off a Porsche who was also hoping to get ahead. Seems like it handles the demand better at sea level and jetted for altitude than it did the other way around. Meanwhile, I was irritating people left and right. Oh well.

Despite the lack of rain in the forecast, I found it. It wasn't too bad; just a little drizzle here and there. The clouds looked so pretty and fluffy in the distance. Not so much when they were overhead. I got into Connecticut on I-84, which eventually brought me into Hartford. I was glad I'd been through Hartford a few times before and knew where to be. Before long, Waterbury was approaching. That's when the downpour started. I wasn't seeing well, but there's a section of road where you're under an upper deck for a while, and that gave me a break. It was only worse on the other side, and there were a boatload of trucks. I was riding almost blind by the time I decided to pull over under a bridge. Of course I didn't feel much safer there with the trucks blasting by, but at least I could see. Another rider pulled up. I don't think he cared about stopping all that much but was more interested in the social aspect. He was a young Jap bike rider. We talked for a minute or two, and then the rain let up on the far side of the bridge and off we went.

I was able to stop and visit a friend in Westchester before getting back on the bike and heading over the Tappan Zee. I wish I could say I blasted over the bridge, but it was rush hour, and it probably took about an hour to go less than 5 miles. Gotta love those Hudson River crossings at rush hour. I finally reached an open road and made it to a campground outside of Allentown after dark. I had to do the night check-in and was glad I could find the tent spots easily.

This morning I opened my laptop, which I'd brought in the tent with me, to find 100% chance of precipitation. Seeing some blue sky, I figured I should get up and out of there before those odds kicked in. I was on the road about 10 miles before it started.

The rain wasn't too bad at first. It was on and off and totally bearable. I was happy thinking that would be the most I'd have to deal with for the day. Walk in the park. Yeah... no. After about 50 miles, it really started coming down. I was back to water boarding with my Full Throttle Coffee House bandanna. I started experimenting with ways I could hold my lips that would enable me to breathe. I found a way that would work, then I'd go for another deep breath and get a face full of wet fabric.  Finding ways to breathe kept me occupied for a while, and I didn't notice the water that was finding every possible opening.

I stopped at one rest area, had a cup of coffee, and talked to a friend on the phone. I got back on the bike and stopped at another rest area when I couldn't see anymore. I was there a little longer. The rain was showing no signs of letting up. There was some tattooed guy there in flip flops who was whining about having to run to his car in the rain. You can imagine what I wanted to say, but I was whining enough myself that I didn't feel justified. It was at this point that I finally realized why this was being so difficult: I don't have a windshield. And while I felt like less of a wimp, I was still discouraged that I had to keep stopping.

I got back on the road, determined that I'd make it to Lexington, Virginia if the 200 miles took another 6 hours. I didn't think it was possible, but it started raining harder and more consistently harder. I had to stay behind a vehicle so I could see the road. I felt safe because there was a tractor-trailer truck at a comfortable distance behind me, and I felt like he/she was watching my back. We went on like that for at least 20 miles, but then I guess the truck felt the need to move on. I was in Maryland by this point, and I decided to stop at a hotel.

After driving through Hagerstown, Maryland, I decided there was no way in Hell I would be staying anywhere there and leaving my bike outside. I got gas and whipped out my phone to find a dealership. Surely they'd have some warm, dry gloves and a place for me to sit for a little while to dry out and warm up before heading out again. Williamsport H-D is tiny. They were nice, but they really didn't have a place for me to take off my wet clothes and chill. Nor did they have a good pair of gloves in my size. With no sign of the rain letting up, I found a hotel and headed out. Wouldn't you know it, as soon as I checked in, the rain let up. Very frustrating for me, but after agonizing over my lack of progress for a while, I was grateful I'd made it safely as far as I did.

Tomorrow is another day.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Riding New Hampshire - all I hoped it would be

I was excited about getting to visit some of my favorite places in New Hampshire, but I was also nervous that I'd get my hopes up and then be let down. But it was awesome!

I met Cheryl and Tom at the Harley dealership in Lebanon. I had seen Marc and Scott at the dealership on Friday, and this time I got to see Dawg from HD Forums, aka Road-Dawgs1 from Harley Tech Talk. I knew I'd seen him before, but he recognized me first. It took me a minute to put the face with name. Well actually, he kept dropping hints, and I was slow. I love running into people like that.

When I left the building, Cheryl and Tom were outside scoping out the long line of used bikes for sale in the parking lot. Cheryl has her eye on this sweet blue Road King. She should get it.

After catching up a little, we jumped on the bikes and headed north through Hanover to Bath, home of the Brick Store, which bills itself as  "America's oldest continuously operated general store." I don't care how old it is, they make incredible smoked pepperoni, which they smoke right there. For the first time ever, I checked out the covered bridge behind the store. It's the longest covered bridge in New Hampshire (it crosses the river to Vermont) and one of the oldest in America. Look at the Burr-Arch construction in the picture.

From there, we headed across Route 112 to visit Beaver Pond and then ride the Kancamagus, which is probably the most popular motorcycle ride in the state. As we were leaving Woodstock, we noticed some evil looking clouds. Sure enough, just after we got over the pass, the rain hit. This is standard when I ride with Cheryl and Tom. Better than our last ride over the Kanc though; no snow.

After the Kancamagus, we headed south to the intersection of highways 16 and 25, to the Yankee Smokehouse. They get enough motorcycle traffic that there is motorcycle parking against one side of the building. Great food, extremely casual atmosphere. If you're ever in the area, you should stop there.

Of course it was necessary to stop at the Mecca of quilt shops, Keepsake Quilting, in Center Harbor. From there it was Laconia Harley-Davidson, formerly known as Meredith Harley-Davidson. We managed to take a left out of the dealership, which is nothing short of miraculous at times, and continued to head south towards the Weirs, which is the main drag for Laconia Race and Rally Week.

We were stopped at a light just above the dealership. When it turned, Tom and I both took off. We were shifting at different times, so when I'd let off the throttle to shift, he'd come up alongside me - just enough that I could see his front wheel out of the corner of my eye. When I squeezed the clutch to bang it into 5th, I expected to see Tom's front end but didn't. I looked into my rear view mirror and saw a minivan instead, with Tom behind it. I was stunned. I didn't see how it got there, but I couldn't imagine any way the minivan got in between Tom and I without doing something that he should be shot for. Figuring that the idiot must be in a big hurry to pull a move like that, I casually slowed to about 25 mph. It didn't take long before the eunuch figured out that if he wanted to go anywhere, he needed to pull over and let the other motorcycle pass. When we got to the Weirs, I asked Tom and Cheryl what happened, and apparently the guy almost took us both out in his need to get ahead.

Having survived that, we enjoyed some conversation and pictures at the lake while watching vendors start to set up for rally week. With all the places I wanted to see checked off the list,  we headed back to their house for the night.

Very enjoyable day.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

You can go home again...

but it's kinda weird.

I left the campground in New York on... (what day was it?) OK, Friday morning. Had to check the calendar. I left the campground Friday morning, fairly early, and blasted up I-88 a couple of exits where I stopped to get gas and something to eat. It was one of those exits that advertises services, but then you have to drive five miles through traffic lights, rotaries, and school zones before you can find them. I finally ducked in at a McDonalds - fast and cheap. There was a Can-Am Spyder in the lot, and I parked next to it.

Going inside, I noticed that this McDonalds doubled as the town's senior center. I wouldn't have wagered a guess who belonged to the Spyder. As I was almost finished with my meal, a Harley-looking guy came in, looked at me, nodded and smiled. You know what? This was something new. He obviously knew my bike belonged to me. One would think this was common, but it's not. There's usually an entire conversation that takes place before someone believes that my bike is mine. I typically have to get into her age and measurements and prove that I have a clue about the pretty Softail. Despite the unusual "don't even ask me the time of day" attitude I'd been having for a lot of this trip, I asked him if he'd like to sit with me when he walked by. He did.

I'm glad I asked. We had a great conversation about long distance trips. He told me he had gone to a wake someplace west of where we were at the moment and had used the opportunity to do a test run for the Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge. I've read about this. It's a 7,000 mile race running from Key West to the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska. He's heading down to Key West soon to start the race on June 20th. His name is Heinz, and if you're on Facebook, search for Heinz's Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge and become a fan. I left there feeling more like my happy road-trip-girl self.

I had been planning to make a quick trip of the morning's ride, but Heinz suggested 23 along the Catskills. He was following 23A, but I needed to move along a bit quicker than 23A could take me. Because I can be easily swayed, I figured an extra hour or two wouldn't hurt anything and changed my plans. Yes, all of you out there that have expected me at some time or another and I've shown up a day late... there's your answer. Which is why I don't think the Hoka Hey would work that well for me. I'd see a shiny object or a squirrel or something, and off I'd go.

So I crossed over the north end of the Catskills, hit I-87, and continued up around Albany to Troy. That's where I got off the Interstate and headed east towards Bennington, Vermont. I stopped at one of my favorite Harley dealers. It's called Brunswick Harley-Davidson. I like it because the building looks like a huge log cabin. The bathroom is really neat too. You can lose track of time sitting there (that shiny object problem again). I have no idea how they are for buying bikes, parts or service. I just like the place because it looks good. 

After that was the ride into Vermont. I was getting to familiar turf. I started knowing where to turn without having to look at road signs. I was also getting annoyed with the east coast issue of too many vehicles and towns too close together. I thought it must have been a banner year for frost heaves. It was like my bike had the hiccups. The trees were nice though, and I miss the way you can ride down into a shady area with a small creek running through and feel the temperature suddenly drop ten degrees. Just when it gets a little too cool, you come back up into the sunlight and warm again.

I wound my way around southern Vermont until I got to Chester, the home of my favorite quilt shop. I killed at least an hour there, as well as an undisclosed amount of cash, some of which went to shipping my new future creations home. No room for purchases on this trip.

After the quilt shop, I started winding my way north until I got to White River Junction and the home of my granddaughter. She's definitely the most beautiful, wonderful baby that was ever created. She loves me. I showered her with several Harley t-shirts, which are additions to the ones I'd already mailed out. Her mother likes her in pink, so I've given in on that and bought mostly pink Harley items. However she is the best-dressed baby I've ever seen, so I'm not sure when it will be t-shirt day. I'm sure I'll get pictures.

Because a lot of rain was forecast, I looked into hotel rooms. Very expensive here. I called the KOA to see if they had any of their "Kabins" available. They don't have Kabins here yet, but they did have an RV that was cheaper than any hotel room in town. It's a great alternative to a hotel room. Kitchen, tv, fire pit, picnic table, and the bike parked under the awning next to the front door. I've been loving it.

The baby is gone. I hope she'll be able to come out to Colorado to visit soon. Tomorrow I head over to New Hampshire and meet some friends to hit some of my favorite spots before heading south towards Georgia on Tuesday. It's been a nice couple of days here, but I'm ready to hit the road.

I saw my mother and a former co-worker. It was great to see both of them, but that's about my limit for trying to get together with old friends at any one location. When you start trying to hook up with too many people, the trip gets complicated. The weird part is being from someplace else, but being from this area before that. I'm from out of town, but I know where everything is. I'm from Colorado, but I have a local cell phone number. I know a couple of people at the local Harley dealership, but nobody else has a clue. Luckily tomorrow I get all the good parts about being back without all the weirdness.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Finished with flat

I woke up the morning after the rain day hoping for a fresh new start. Despite putting on cold, wet boots, it went well. There were low clouds that seemed more like fog that had separated and drifted up a little. Before too long, the day was sunny. I was headed to a friend's house on the eastern edge of Ohio, and she'd mentioned thunderstorm warnings on her Facebook page. I was determined to make it if it took me until midnight. Fortunately that wasn't required. The weather was beautiful. The ride was OK. Back roads again, which were nice, but I was getting tired of flat and straight.

I had been considering more Interstate yesterday, since my clutch hand was killing me and I felt like I needed to pick up the pace. Looking at the map, I could get out of town quickly and then head up for some scenic riding through the Allegheny National Forest along US 6. I saw the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon marked along the route and decided I'd look for it when I got to the area. After that I'd be heading up US 220 to New York route 17, east into Binghamton, and then northeast toward Albany. I wasn't sure how far I'd make it, but I was going to be happy if I could just get into New York. New Hampshire would be less than a day from there.

I was in a really pissy mood for some reason. I thought of the conversation I had with the tattooist when he was working on my back a few days before I took off. It's nice that we (bikers) don't get thrown in jail or pulled over for no good reason as much anymore, but sometimes you want people to leave you alone. Everyone wants to be our best friends now. As social as I usually am, yesterday was not the day. I must have had that look, because almost everyone gave me the feeling that they were calling 9-1-1 if I didn't leave soon.

I caught a glimpse of a sign that said "West Rim - 5 mi" as I was almost passed the turn off. I was making pretty good time, so I hung a right and headed up the road. It was a fun ride; narrow, curvy road with trees overhanging. It was shady and cool, and there was hardly anyone else on it. I messed with the video on my camera and took some shots (I'll upload them later). I was wondering if I was on the right road when I finally came out to the overlook. A few minutes later, another Harley came flying up and stopped. I thought there were two people, but it was just an extra helmet strapped to the top of the guy's T-bag. I guess he hoped he'd get lucky. He was from New Mexico. I found it amusing that there were two of us who lived close enough to the real Grand Canyon to make it a weekend trip, and yet here we were in Pennsylvania overlooking a... valley. It was pretty, but not spectacular. I'd been feeling homesick all day, wishing I was back in Colorado, and this didn't make it better.

I kept plugging along, made it through Binghamton being a total hater all the way, and got back into a rural area between Binghamton and Albany. I got off the Interstate and checked for a KOA nearby. There was one close enough it was worth calling. She told me I had about 40 miles to go and they had plenty of room. I ate a little bag of Swedish Fish, which gave me the sugar rush I needed to blast through the next half an hour. It was well worth it.

I have an awesome campsite by a river. I went all out and got firewood, marshmallows and hot dogs. I liked it so much, I considered calling the baby's mother and checking to see if it was OK to show up Friday instead of Thursday. As it turns out, the baby needed to go to a hospital in Boston to have a suspected cataract in her eye checked out, so I stayed another day. I've done a good bit of writing on the book and have enjoyed my day off of the road. Tomorrow I'll get to ride some of my old favorites in Vermont.