House - Motorcycle Trip Reports
New England, 1997
We had decided to take off Tuesday evening after I got off of work, but as Tuesday rolled around I was buried with last-minute details and I had to tell Bob when he called to announce that he had filled the bike and was ready to go that I needed to postpone the "go" time till early Wednesday morning. We quickly decided that 5:00am wasn't too early and before I knew it my alarm was flashing 04:30 and squawking like a cat that had it's tail stepped on. I jumped out of bed, and had the 4-part packing done in two quick trips to the bike. The 4-part packing system consists of two hard case bags, an REI dry bag, and the multivario. I have it down so that it takes all of three minutes to completely pack the bike - all I need are two straps for the dry bag. All my clothes, a pint of oil and the map book go into the hard cases, my tent, sleeping bag, Thermarest and Gerbings jacket go into the dry bag, and everything else goes into the multivario.
This brings up an interesting point...what does one really need to travel? After several road trips my multivario has become the center of my "need it now" riding universe and some of the funky things that are now in there replaced things that common sense said belonged there but I found I had no use for. Take the MOA Anonymous book. It is small and initially rested in the bottom part of the multivario. In all of my travels I have needed this exactly twice...now it resides in the tail case of the bike where it is out of the way but at hand if needed. I have an old map of the eastern US that has been with me on 6 or 7 long trips now. I have found that using the map book to make notes on a piece of paper is far more useful then trying to work with too fine of a map. I simply make notes on a small piece of paper and tuck it in next to the "just right" folded map. Looking down for 100 to RIGHT on 105 is much easier at 80mph then trying to find it on a map. I keep the map book in one of the side cases, it rests nicely against the outside cover (so the Kathy's bag accessory pocket fits nicely in the recess on the inner part of the bag.) I keep a short length of 1/8" cable with splice eyelets on both ends in the tankbag. When I have to leave the helmet and my jacket with the bike I thread it through the chinguard and down one of the sleeves of the jacket, then lock it to the helmet lock. It sure won't stop a determined thief but what will? I am mostly worried about the guy who sees it and thinks it would make a neat addition to his closet. I figure that in public, if it looks like a hassle, for the most part they'll move on. I have a MiniMag light that has proved almost as valuable as the Swiss Army knife, from checking oil levels to finding an errant oil filler cap. I keep a cell phone handy, haven't needed to use it yet except to report a drunk driver. I keep a logbook with a pen so that I can keep notes on the bike's mileage and a rough draft of a trip report. I keep an altoid tin with singles each folded over into 1/4 and a pile of change for tolls. I carry a Wee-Willy, one of the few truly useful motorcycle accessories I have bought (and only $10!) In a carefully tucked away corner of the bag, in a zip-loc baggie, I carry a single photocopy sheet of my drivers license, my motorcycle and health insurance cards, the motorcycle's inspection & registration, and emergency contact numbers. Lastly, I carry a few cigars close at hand :)
With 5am quickly approaching I popped on the Aeroflow, and fired up the bike. There is something truly awesome about firing up a loaded bike for a long trip as the very first hint of dawn is creeping over the eastern sky. I popped her into first and off I was on this year's adventure.
It took me all of five minutes to get to the Wilson Bridge Amoco and I had the bike filled and ready to go by the time Bob Cox pulled up on his "oh-so-red" K1200RS (which he reminded me had been filled the previous night :) We quickly decided to forgo the typical I-95 route in fear of rush hour traffic in Baltimore & Philadelphia, and decided on a route neither of us had yet taken, Rt. 50 west to the Atlantic, then the Cape-May Lewes Ferry over to the start of the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey.
As we hit Rt. 50 we were still trying to get the pacing and order worked out. Whenever two people ride together for the first time there is always a 30 minute or so period where both riders get used to the other's quirky riding habits, comfort zones, following distances and the like. This went quickly as we both seemed to share similar riding styles and before long we were tearing along Rt. 50. It certainly didn't hurt that we started this trip with virtually no plans but to ride the mountains in Vermont and New Hampshire :) After fifteen minutes or so I saw what looked like a Dixie cup fly out of Bob's Pocket. I quickly pulled along side and motioned for him to pull over and we soon discovered that the K12 tankbag that had arrived just in time for the trip had its own quirks, namely that it is quite easy to overlook the main zipper being left open. What I had seen were Bob's smokes leaping to freedom from the tankbag, I didn't see the pager that also escaped however. As the smokes were probably flat from the 18-wheelers and I didn't see the pager (and so had no idea where to look) we decided to push on. I could tell Bob was pissed though, and it wouldn't be the first time this day...
Riding east into the sunrise we made great time and before long had arrived at the Cape May-Lewes Ferry Terminal. My only real recollection of this first leg of the ride is the incredible smell of corn fields as the sun rises and burns off the dew. It is more then simply the smell of corn, it is that sweet, earthy smell you catch when shucking fresh-picked corn, not at all overpowering but quite vivid.
We pulled into line and were waved ahead. This is a good sign! I expected a decent motorcycle rate too. Boy was I disappointed, we paid the same as the car rate, almost $20! The ferry quickly loaded (we had perfect timing) and we were loaded first along with a guy on a ratty old Honda. We parked in the motorcycle area at the front of the Ferry (right next to all of hatches on which were prominently painted "Engine Room Escape Hatch - Do Not Block") and as we dismounted the ferry cop (yes, they DO carry Glock 9mm sidearms!) mentioned that I might want to leave it in gear and chock the wheels. Bob had already done so with his K12 :)
The ferry had a pretty decent array of the "unhealthy" breakfast foods, and as I resolved to lose no weight in the proper riding tradition, I bought two sausage/egg breakfast sandwiches and a cup of coffee and headed for the deck. It was precisely at this time Bob began to mourn the loss and failure to subsequently replace, his smokes. I tried to bum one for him but the woman gave me a look as if I had just asked her to go have a quickie with me in the engine room so I gave up and proceeded to thoroughly enjoy a breakfast that would normally make my healthy stomach turn somersaults - screw it, I'm on vacation :) As we left the seawalls, several dolphins took up residence in the bow wake.
As we neared New Jersey we remounted the bikes and made ready to be the first to offload as well :) I looked over at the Honda and realized the guy was riding a time bomb. It was one of those bikes that had obviously been sitting outside for several years then resurrected with a minimum of effort. The chrome was all pitted and rusted, there were patches of rust along the left hand side of the bike (must have been covered on the right) and the tires had that white chalky crap on them. The spokes were all rusted and the seat was held together with fresh duct tape. The bike had fork fluid literally flowing all down the forks and onto his brakes. When he glanced over to it I pointed to it but he just shrugged and fired the old bike up. Well, I guess some people will never learn till they have to.
Fresh off the ferry we refilled and hopped on the Garden State Parkway for a quick sprint up the Jersey coast then a hook around NY City to Tappan Zee Bridge.
The Garden State Parkway must have more tolls then any other road in existence. I should have known when I saw the "Tokens - 30 for $10" at the first of many $.35 toll stops. I am sure a local denizen can correct me but I think there are like 15 of these tolls on the parkway's length, each demanding $.35. Good thing I had my change tin!
I had earlier told Bob I wanted to visit Campmor, the famous mail order camping discount store. On their website the directions looked simple, just exit Rt. 17 and you are there! When we hit Paramus, I motioned to the Rt. 17 exit and began a 6-hour odyssey into frustration, anger, and finally relief and good cheer.
Rt. 17 is a separated highway, with stores lined nonstop along each side (did I also mention the road is in poor repair, has narrow lanes and is full of trucks and people in a BIG hurry?) The maddening thing is that in order to get to a store on the other side one must exit, make a U-turn, then backtrack. We didn't realize this right away... Anyway, after several sets of U-turns and a quick call to Campmor we were on the right track and completing the last of the required U-Turns. As we were waiting for the two-into-one merge on the onramp, Bob yelled over that his horn wasn't working.
"Well that just sucks," I thought and wondered how the hell we were going to get him another fan so we could continue the trip. We arrived at Campmor and although Bob tried to hide it well I knew he was seething. Did I mention it had started to rain? We decided to do some quick shopping then go to the McD's next door (our last fast food of the trip!) and call around for local dealers to see if anyone could fit us in. Campmor is sort of like LL Beans without lots of people in penny loafers walking around. Here there are serious climbers buying serious climbing supplies, serious backpackers buying the best equipment made, and even a sales clerk that had been out slobbering over Bob's K12 and wanted a Beemer "so bad I can taste it." I bought a new map book, some padded bicycle shorts, a few Power bars and a Camelback...all for less then $50!
After a pretty bad meal of breaded McGreasyStomachDestroyers we got out the Anonymous book and tried to find a local dealer that wouldn't take us too far out of our way. I didn't recognize any of the towns in New Jersey, but knew we would be passing through White Plains, NY soon and saw there was a dealer there. So, we decided to try there first. This is when things started to look up :)
After a quick phone call to Westchester BMW, then another quick call to Bob's dealer, Morton's BMW, he shot me a thumbs up and we were off to the races again. We made it past the Tappan Zee bridge in record time (FYI, you only pay going North :) and were pulling into Westchester BMW just as the drizzle stopped and the sun came out. My first thought was that we were screwed as this was a BMW car dealer and the motorcycles were probably an afterthought. Then we met Rich. Rich Santora is no mere mortal. Rich greeted us with a big smile, told Bob that he had a bay waiting and to pull it right in. In one breath he told us that there were no replacement fans available in the country but that he had gotten the OK to pull one from a crated bike so why don't we have a Snapple and take a look around the dealership because it was all going to be fine and we would be on the road in no time.
This was some kind of place, we grabbed a Snapple and watched as he popped the bike onto the lift, then showed Bob how he could test the fans through the side grills with a long screwdriver (it was the left hand one that had failed.). He deftly removed the left side bodywork and removed the fan. He then popped off the actual fan part and showed us the motor, which seemed to be dribbling a little oil. He quickly had the fan out of the crated bike and while he went to work installing the new fan Bob and I thoroughly checked out the shop. Westchester is quite nice and apparently has had quite a bit of luck in selling bikes. While the parts department doesn't have much in the way of T-shirts (and I did really want one!) the entire place is remarkably clean and has the type of atmosphere where you don't feel as though you are stepping on any toes if you ask to talk to your mechanic or look over his shoulder while he works on your bike/car. We even had a nice chat with a tall, tattooed blond bombshell who claimed she was selling ad space in the yellow pages, we however like to believe that she was drawn to our rugged biker looks and enrapturing charisma.
With a quick lesson on disabling a broken fan and replacing the fuse so at least one fan works should either fan go out again (neither did :)) we were on our way and riding like greyhounds with our tails on fire to make it to the Weir Farm National Park stamp before closing time. After a nice (fast) ride up the Merrit and a quick hop up Rt. 7 (thanks to Karl Rosenbaum for Excellent directions!) we pulled in to this incredibly beautiful farm with exactly two minutes to spare. While they didn't have a book for Bob, they did have a stamp :) I can see why this was an artists' retreat, it was quiet and peaceful, had the requisite "Robert Frost" stone walls, and was just dripping lush green foliage from virtually everywhere. After a quick stroll around the grounds and few seconds of introspection we were again off on the great trek north. A stop at the liquor store yielded a fifth of Wild Turkey for me and some schnapps for Bob (it was getting late and I didn't want to get caught on my first night out with a cigar but no Bourbon!) and we were making tracks. We had originally decided to take I-84 up to Waterbury then hop onto Rt. 8 in order to bisect Massachusetts and hopefully make it into Vermont. However, Rt. 7 was such a nice road we just stayed on it, all the way through Connecticut and into Massachusetts.
In Winstead I started to hear my stomach grumbling so I motioned over to Bob and pointed at a Burger King. He shook his head and when we stopped he suggested we hit a local place. We literally circled the village green and as we came around to where we started I spotted the distinctive Boar of Boar's Head brand meat (literally the best there is!) I immediately stopped and we walked into one of the nicest deli's I have ever had the pleasure to visit...period. The name of the place was C. Anthony's Italian Deli & Market and the waitress was a knockout blond who had an incredible sense of humor (she was also married to C. Anthony who besides being the owner was also the head chef.) She quickly had us talked into two delicious locally produced root beers, and I ordered the 12" Italian sub while Bob went for some French sounding chicken dish made with wine. When it arrived I was wishing my 12" sub, which was HUGE and more like 14", was Chicken Marcela too (but after one bite of that Boar's Head salami & ham....Naaaahhh :)) Between mouthfuls Bob extolled upon the virtues of his dish, while I tried my best to finish that sub but just couldn't! We had a great time with those two, they apparently are newlyweds who bet it all on this place and I am willing to bet big that as long as they run the place it will do quite well. As an aside, they had a T-shirt hanging in the window with a motorcycle on it and "I survived the Winstead Biker Invasion" as a header. Apparently there was a big Hog rally nearby and the town's leaders freaked and paid all sorts of law enforcement officials all sorts of overtime....for nothing. Not even one incident - it is now a big joke and you can tell these people welcome bikers with open arms.
We mounted up and again truly enjoyed this winding road to around Eastover where the late afternoon sun suddenly disappeared behind a thick wall of black and the skies opened up with a steady, heavy, huge-dropped summer rain. After about 30 minutes of this (including Bob almost running out of gas in Becket), we decided to grab the first motel outside of the resort area we were seemed to be running through.
In Pittsfield we had pulled over to try and make our next turn decision as we had ridden through the center of town without seeing a single motel when there it was, that familiar blue "TravelLodge" sign. We broke two or three traffic laws getting there, but we made it in minutes and after getting that great AAA discount we were unloading the bikes and starting to relax. It then stopped raining and we didn't see another drop the entire rest of the trip. I was quite happy that nary a drop made it through my freshly NikWaxed Stich. After a cigar and a nice Turkey on the Rocks I hit the sack and was quickly asleep.
All Photos and Text Copyrightę1996-9, Ted