Sunday, May 31, 2015

Day Eight

No pics today unless I post some pics from earlier days.

Basically, today was spent riding from Watkins Glenn to Vermont. Only thing is, we didn't go to Vermont! We actually ended up in northwest Massachusetts for the night.

The day started out clear, then cloudy, then monsoon... We rode probably 2/3 of the way in heat and clouds. Muggy weather. But the scenery was beautiful. Lots of rolling hills and small mountains along the way. Many, many dairy farms spotting the landscape. Also, and this is just an observation over several days of riding--this part of the world is covered with ice cream parlors. In small villages and towns, but also in the middle of nowhere. We're not sure if they are so prevalent because of a surplus of milk from the dairy farms, or whether they become the social gathering place for the community in the afternoons. But they are plentiful up here.

The last third of the ride was in the rain. The line of thunderstorms caught up with us and stayed with us into the night. The rain was pretty steady, with it light sometimes, and sometimes hard with frogs dropping from the sky. Lots of lightening hitting around us. As I wrote in the first post, visibility was poor. But we didn't push it, we stayed focused on the road, and made it okay. I did get a little wet--one boot leaked, one sleeve got wet at the cuff, and my upper chest got damp. Janice stayed dry. Our hands and gloves were soaked, however.

We ended up in Massachusetts because we could find a place to stay there. A nondescript motel at a good rate, and we're in for the night.  Overall, it was a good day, but the last two hours were very wet and challenging.

Days Eleven and Twelve

Another twofer! And no pics of the two days to post. But we'll post a few pics from earlier days so there will be something pretty to look at besides these words.

On day eleven, we started out in Bellows Falls and rode north and east our destination for the day was Gorham, New Hampshire, near Mt Washington.

It was a beautiful day, with temperatures in the mid 80s and clear skies. The mountains were steeper than Vermont's, with patches of snow and ice visible in the tops of some mountains, and more granite showing on more mountains. Absolutely beautiful to ride along and see steep mountains on each side of the road. We really enjoyed the ride, so we stopped very little to take pics. Janice took some pics along the way with her camera,but we have no means to transfer those pics to the IPad for blogging. 

We rode by Mt Washington on the way to Gorham, but since it was getting late in the day, and we were tired, we decided to ride to the top the next morning.

We picked a motel for the night and checked in. While the outside looked OK, we were delighted to see that the insides had been completely renovated and our room was very nice, well above average. And a bonus; there was a nice restaurant and lounge next door. So, we had a very pleasant experience in Gorham. Oh, and a second bonus, most of the rooms were occupied by motorcyclists, so we chatted with several couples.

About 10 pm, a weather alert came up on TV, and a few minutes later, the bottom fell out. Thunder and lightning came and moved on, followed by steady rain all night. The forerunner for today,

The morning started with the pitter-patter of rain on the roof. Ugh, rain. And the temperature dropped over 30 degrees from the day before. Cold and wet is not a good combination when on a motorcycle.

So, we debated just staying in bed all day and resting and napping versus taking advantage of the best of the next three days and moving forward. The forecast was for showers today (90%) and 100% rain the next two days. After a bit, the rain eased up and we decided to move on to Maine.

We packed quickly and took off in moderate rain and 52 degrees. Traffic was light, so we jumped on US 2 and headed east.  A little over an hour later, we stopped in Mexico, Maine for brunch. It was good; we also warmed up while there, and Janice put on another layer of warmth to fend off the cold.

The rest of today's ride was more of the same-- rain and cold. Temps ranged from 49 to 56 degrees all day. And the rain never stopped.

Around 4 pm, we decided to quit for the day. Janice was a block of ice, and my hands and feet were getting soggy. We stopped for gas in Bangor, made a hotel reservation, and checked into a motel for the night.

All in all, it was not a horrible day, but it was wet and cold. Tomorrow, we plan to ride in the rain to Ft Kent, Maine, see what is there, jump on US 1 (this is the northern terminus for the road that ends in Key West, FL).  Then turn southeast and ride to Caribou Maine for the night.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Day Ten

We got out of the motel at a decent time this morning, but we still didn't make very many miles today. Instead of focusing on distance, we focused on covered bridges.

We made a list of bridges along the proposed route we wanted to travel, and that was a help. We found 9 bridges we wanted to visit. So, we went looking.

Out of the 9, we found 8! Not bad at all. Each one took some hunting, and of course, some time taking pics, so we made great progress on bridges, but little in distance. And we tire easily. Although it didn't get hot, we got hot, especially in places where traffic was slow. 

Lunch was good in Brattleboro. We found a hole in the wall place where Malcolm had a "Hot Mess", which was a plate full of home fries, mushroom, cheese, onions, green pepper and eggs over light. Delicious!

We're not too concerned about the miles were making, but a little more concerned that we get tired so easily. Neither of us are sick, and everything is going well, but maybe the miles and disruption of normal routines makes a difference.

About 5 pm, we were bushed so we stopped for the day in Bellows Falls, Vermont.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Day Nine

Today was a day of visiting Bennington and riding. The day broke bright, with full sun when we woke up. But by the time we left the motel, there was mixed sun and clouds. Temp were moderate, around 70 degrees with 76 as the forecast highs.

Our plan was to ride into Bennington, VT, and take some pics of the painted Moose Gary and I saw 4 years ago when we were here. Then ride up Hwy 100 to the top of the state, then back down to our motel in Massachusetts for the night. We also wanted to see some covered bridges along the way.

Well, the best laid plans..... We did ride into Bennington, but alas, there were no Moose to see. They have been replaced by painted panthers!!! We could not find any of the Moose Gary and I saw. 

It was lunchtime, so we found a good brew pub downtown and shared a plate of Nachos with chicken. The BEST Nachos we've ever eaten. And shared a glass of very good local beer. A good lunch. 

Just as we finished eating, a cloud came up and a shower happened, just enough to wet the seats on the bike. We walked around downtown a little, and returned to the bike so we could ride Hwy 100.

Hwy 100 is one of the "must do" roads in Vermont. It runs north-south the length of the state, and has many curves and elevation changes along the way.

So, we started out, got behind traffic and putted along at 5 mph BELOW the speed limit. To our dismay, the top speed was 50 mph, with many villages dropping the limit to 40, then 30, and 20. So, we could not have any fun or make any distance. Oh yes, double yellow lines and no passing, so we were terribly disappointed. Each time a car ahead of us would turn, it was replaced by another.

About 20 miles up the road, a sign indicated road construction for the next 10 miles. Shortly thereafter, a sign said "Pavement Ends". Great, just what we wanted... And for the next 10 miles, we rode on dirt! At least it wasn't loose gravel, so we could manage about 25 mph.

Finally we got through the construction zone and we're able to ride a little more like we wanted to ride, about 5 to 8 mph above the speed limit. That was nice. 

A few more miles down the road, we spotted a sign advertising fresh pies. So, we had to stop for some fresh coffee and something sweet. Yummy, it was good. The operator of the place rides motorcycles too, so we talked about trips and rides. It was a good stop.

However, the day was getting away from us, and we had ridden only about a fourth of Hwy 100.  So, we rode another maybe 40 miles before we needed to turn back towards the motel. At that point we had ridden 100 miles for the day.

Heading south, we were on the lookout for real Moose, but didn't see any. Janice did spot one deer across the way.  No Moose for us, it seems...

We also saw no covered bridges. So, we're going to head out tomorrow and find some bridges before we head into New Hampshire. Maybe we'll make better progress tomorrow...

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Day Seven

Gosh, it doesn't seem possible that we've been on the road a week already. But today is the seventh day, so a week has passed. We've ridden just over 1,200 miles and had rain only part of one day. We experienced some fairly cool temperatures, but no cold temperatures. The bike and trailer have performed almost perfectly. The only blemish has been a high beam bulb blew out on the first day of the ride. I usually carry a spare, but the last ride we did encountered the same problem, and I forgot to replenish the spare with some bulbs I bought for the earlier BMW. These bikes love to snack on headlight bulbs. Otherwise, the bike and trailer have been perfect.

Having the trailer is great when touring. So nice to simply throw things into it and still have space to spare. But we are filling it up with things along the way. 3 bottles of wine today. A framed picture yesterday. I worry more about weight than volume. I don't want to overload the bike...

Today we rode up the eastern side of Lake Seneca, around to the town of Geneva, then east to Lake Cayuga, then south along the western edge of that lake back to Watkins Glenn. 

Oh, I almost forgot-- the first stop was at Watkins Glenn International Speedway. The track is the grandfather of road racing tracks for motorcycles and sports cars. In fact, this week the Porche auto club is holding a rally or meet in the region, and Porches are commonplace here at the moment.  

We were able to enter the Speedway and ride to the first grandstand and look around a bit. No one else was there, so we climbed the grandstand to see the view. Pretty good for a road course. We were able to see 4 grandstands, which is more than most road tracks. The track itself is narrower than I expected, especially with NASCAR using it once a year. It was neat to see a track I've heard of since a boy.

From there, we did the rest of the ride described above. We stopped at only one of the many, many Vineyards along the lakes. Since I had to handle the bike and don't need an accident or DUI, we did one wine tasting only. All six wines sampled were great. Very, very good. So good that we bought three bottles, one of which was another reisling ice wine (at half the price of the bottle bought in Canada).

The weather was mixed sun and clouds with temperatures in the mid 80s. Not HOT, but fairly warm in the bumblebees. The forecast was wrong; it called for rain, so the weather was good.  One interesting observation. In Geneva, which is located at the northern end of Lake Seneca, we noted a distinct drop in temperatures along the way. It was cooler because the wind was blowing from the south, up the entire length of the lake. The evaporative cooling from the last effect was very evident.

It was yet another good day!  

Tomorrow, to Vermont

Monday, May 25, 2015

Day Six

Our last morning in Canada 😧.  We got up early, packed the bike and headed back to the good old USA!!  The border crossing was no problem at all.

We had to stop in Grand Island to pick up the handgun. Along the way there, we spotted the Kelly Country Store to kill a little time. The store had a lot of old artifacts and stuff. Janice spotted a pretty picture, framed, with meaningful phrases at a very good price, so we bought it. Carrying it home in the trailer is a snap!

We headed Southeast to the New York Finger Lakes.  The ride was nice.  During the ride, we spotted several Amish carriages ambling down the road.  Nice weather and beautiful countryside.  Vineyards started appearing as we got closer to the Finger Lakes region.  They seem to be everywhere.  We rode along Seneca Lake, as the road followed the contours of the land, up and down until we reached Watkins Glenn at the southern end of the 38 mile long Lake.

Once in town, the first order of business was to find a place to stay. We saw several small mom and pop motels along the way into town, none with a "No Vacancy" sign, so we knew we could get a room for the night. But in town was one newish really nice hotel at the harbor, so we stopped there to check on price and availability. 

Well, it certainly wasn't cheap, but it was very nice, so we decided to blow some more of the kids' inheritance and got a room for two nights! Terry cloth robes. Walk-in shower. Suite. Probably the best room we've ever stayed in in the USA. It's only money.

After some rest, taking a shower and soaking some dirty clothes in the sink, we walked around the village a bit, and found a place for dinner. We watched the sun set over the lake and called it a night. 

Another great day.

Day Five

Today was an easy day. We slept in later than usual. Touring gets harder as you age. We both get more tired earlier in the day, and it takes longer to recover the following day. So we approached the day at a slower pace.

We walked back down the street to the pancake house and had a very good breakfast. The waitress, who was about our age, was very attentive, and mentioned that she had been to a South Carolina beach (Myrtle Beach) and a North Carolina beach, and liked ours better because it was less busy. 

After breakfast, we decided to ride up to Niagara on the Lake, a region of many wineries and beautiful homes. Wow, it was a pretty place. Vineyards everywhere, 19 different wineries that we counted on a map. How do you choose only one? Too bad we didn't have a designated driver; my limit was met in one winery. They do the wine tasting differently in Canada--the law allows a tasting to be only one ounce. Most wines are $1 per ounce, but some are as much as $3 per ounce. A wine tasting can be expensive.

We tasted some ice wine, one with a label saying "Dan Aykroyd". The ice wines ( for those like us who don't know) are made from grapes left on the vines after the harvest. They dry and shrivel up, leaving the sugar in the husks. They are picked at night, when the temperature has been 13 to 15 degrees overnight for 3 nights (at least, that's what they told us), squeezed, and made into wine. Very sweet, but the bottle we bought was, by far, the best wine we've ever tasted.  It's definitely for sipping and makes a great dessert! 

Riding back to Niagara Falls, we decided to ride along the Niagara river to Lake Erie. We did, finding a beach where we could dip our feet into the water. We have now seen Lake Ontario and Lake Erie within a span of about 30 miles!

Back to the hotel, some rest, and then back out for dinner. Our meal, burgers and fries, eaten on the patio of Cocos, was very good. Then back to the hotel for the night. Another good day...

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Day Four

What a beautiful day spent in a beautiful place with a beautiful woman! Niagara Falls is an astounding place. From the city it self to the wonderful falls, it's truly one of the "must see" places in the world. We had strong sun and blue skies all day. There was also a strong breeze from the northwest, keeping temperatures cool, but not frigid.

We got up, got dressed, and walked down the street to a pancake house we'd spotted when riding to the hotel, only to be told at the entrance that their electricity was off and they weren't cooking. Darn! So, we went in the other direction in search of breakfast grub.

In a few blocks, we came up on a Tim Hortons restaurant. I had eaten at several in previous rides,so I knew it was okay. While we make it a practice to shun chain restaurants when touring, and Tim Hortons is a Canadian chain, we bent the rules and ate there (after all, it's a Canadian chain). And the rules are our rules, so we can interpret them as we want.  Breakfast was good.

Then down the street to the falls themselves. 

What a sight! Millions of gallons of blue-green water flowing over the falls every minute. It stuns the senses! At the American falls, the water crashes down onto huge rocks, splashing and roaring as it flows into the Niagara river. Off to the right, in a true horseshoe shape are the Horseshoe falls. God certainly knows how to make beautiful things!

We decided to buy passes that included 4 attractions: the Hornblower boat ride, the Walk on the Rapids, the Journey behind the falls, and the Niagara Fury show.  3 of the four included flimsy ponchos to keep you dry. So, we got wet three times; tennis shoes absorb water pretty well. But all were fun, and the walk along the rapids showed the power of the water moving along at 30 miles an hour. Awesome!

Nearing dark, we caught a bus to the Elements Restaurant, overlooking Horseshoe falls. We both enjoyed a drink and a good steak, while gazing out the windows at the falls. We also got a good Internet connection and downloaded email while waiting on darkness and the big lights shining on the falls. Just beautiful...

Oh, and dessert was a peach dreamsicle drink.  Yummy!

From there, we walked along the falls, watching the lights dancing on the water, up the hill, down the street and to our hotel. a good ending for a good day.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Days Two and Three

It's a bonus post, the first twofer of this blog!  Seems that I'm always late it seems...

Yesterday, May 21 was a very different day. Waking to showers, we stayed in the house, drinking coffee and chatting with our hosts until lunchtime. They are both very interesting people and seem to have traveled everywhere.

The shower tapered off, so we donned our bumblebees and climbed on the bike, headed for Gettysburg. We wanted to see the battlefields where so many died all those years ago. The ride up to Gettysburg was about 45 minutes long, with a few sprinkles scattered along the way. It was chilly, with temperatures in the mid 50s.

 At the welcome center, we bought tickets for a bus tour of the battleground, the museum, the movie, and the cyclorama. Unfortunately, time ran out before we could get into the museum. However, the bus tour was excellent. The tour guide knew his stuff, and made the narration interesting.

We watched the film about the war; in was informative and helped us to see why the South could not prevail. Also made us sad to hear all the loss suffered.

The cyclorama was great, and very well done. The original mural is on display, depicting a snapshot in time of the battle at Gettysburg. It was very sobering and brought great sadness to both of us. A horrible war.

When we left the visitor's center, the rain had completely ended. But it was very overcast and cool. And we were hungry, so we left Gettysburg and headed out for food and back to the house. Riding along, we spotted the Shamrock Restaurant and stopped for dinner. A good choice; the food, service and ambiance were all very good. Then on to the house for the night.

Yesterday was a good, but long day. We woke up early, packed our mess on the bike, and left before our hosts were stirring. We left a thank you note to let them know that we had enjoyed our stay, but didn't want to wake them. Hopefully that was not too rude.

The ride to Niagara Falls was very picturesque. Riding state highways across Hill and dale in bright sunshine, it was close to perfect. Crisp, cool air, little to no traffic, hilly country with long sweepers, we both enjoyed the ride very much.

When I tour on the bike, I carry a small handgun for which I have a concealed carry permit. North Carolina has reciprocal agreements with many, but not all states. Even though I carry it in non-reciprocal states, I don't worry too much about doing that. However, Canada has a very strict prohibition on guns. Sneaking a gun into Canada, and getting caught can bring a 3 year jail sentence. So, we had a real problem--what do we do with the gun when we cross into Canada. We could get lucky and not be searched at the border. But having been searched in a previous crossing into Canada, and knowing the consequences, it wasn't worth the risk.

Then a thought hit me--friends who live in Grand Island, only a few miles from Niagara Falls. So, we made contact with them and dropped off the gun at their home, to be picked up the following Monday morning. Problem solved!

As it turned out, the border crossing was simple and non eventful. Short lines at the crossing, no searches, and then less than a mile to our hotel for three nights.  A long, but good day.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Day One

The first day of the trip was a mix. Hot and cool. No traffic to miles-long traffic backup. Calm to irritated.  But most of all, it was a good ride.

At 10am, we pulled out of the parking lot at the house.  It was already pretty warm, so I was already drenched in sweat from loading the trailer and getting the trailer and bike hooked together. The trailer was more packed than I had hoped, but it wasn't completely overloaded.

Well, the first mishap was getting half lost in Durham. I had decided to take US 15 all the way to Frederick, MD so we could stay off the Interstate. My bad--I thought 15-501 stayed together for a while north of Durham. Well, it doesn't!  About 5 miles north of Durham, I noticed that there was no sign of US 15, so we had to backtrack until we could get on US 15. It worked out OK..

The Hwy had very light traffic, and the scenery was green, so it was a nice ride.  At Clarksville, VA, we stopped for lunch. We went to a place where I had eaten on an earlier ride. The food was good the first time, but this time that was not the case.  I really like Italian food, and I was hungry, so we got the buffet because there was a pasta with lots of cheese and red sauce. Bad choice. It had absolutely no flavor.  It looked like a baked Ziti, but tasted like mush. Ugh! I did eat two pieces of pizza that were OK, and the tomatoes on the salad bar were good. But otherwise, it was not good. My last time there...

The rest of the ride was nice until we hit Leesburg VA, where traffic stopped. After a while, we found that it was the old 2 into 1 lane trick, followed by another merging lane. That delayed our arrival to our Motorcycle Travel Network home in Frederick by about 45 minutes. If it had happened early in the ride, I'd have been a little irritated. But at the end of a long, hot day of riding, I was well beyond irritated. Again, my bad for letting it bother me so much.

The MTN home we are staying in is UNIQUE.  We should have known when we saw the 8 foot tall rooster in the front yard that it was not an ordinary house. The second clue was the 6 foot diameter metal hornets nest hanging from a tree above the walkway to the house.

Eccentric is the best descriptor for the lady of the house! She's as nice as she can be, but her artwork is a real trip. Actually, after I had a chance to look around some and to talk with her, I came to really like and appreciate her handiwork. A lot of it is using broken glass and ceramic pieces to make a scene or just art on virtually any surface. Walls, mirrors, doors, fireplace mantle, medicine cabinet--whatever surface strikes her fancy. For instance, the backsplash above the kitchen sink and cabinets is broken pieces of mirrors, and it becomes a flower garden on the adjacent wall. I loved it! She's very talented.

The husband is a really neat guy. 72 years old, but looks and acts as if he's in his mid-50s. Rides a tricked up Gold Wing and 4 or 5 dirt bikes. Mostly rides the dirt bikes now since his wife does not ride anymore (health issues).  Married for more than 50 years, they're a very neat couple and very interesting people.  We're enjoying our stay with them very much. They also keep cups of frozen margaritas in the freezer and invites their guests to help themselves. We did!

Tomorrow we'll do a day trip to Gettysburg to view the battleground.

Till next time...