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Head East: My Unrally Tour

Joe Frickin' Friday

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Joe Frickin' Friday



OK, so here's Day 1 of my ride tale for the 2009 UnRally in Lancaster, New Hampshire. Don't worry, this won't be as long or introspective as My Torrey Odyssey was. :grin:



Day 1: Sunday, August 9

Route: Ann Arbor, MI to Canandaigua, NY

Distance: 414 miles




It was a dark and stormy night.


No, wait:


It was a hot, dry afternoon.


Crap, let me think for a minute…




Our story begins in the quaint little village of Ann Arbor.


I tell a lie. Ann Arbor is neither quaint, nor little, nor a village; it's a bustling city, home to a famous Big-10 school that features a stinky-ass weasel for a mascot. Not that any of that really matters, since at noon on Sunday I was about to leave this quaint little village, not to return for six days. The weather had been great for the previous week, dry with highs around 80; today, the forecast high was in the mid-90s, not the most comfortable riding weather. Still, I was happy to be heading out:




Instead of launching off into the sparsely-populated countryside to the west or south, my first task was to wade eastward, toward Detroit. After braving 60 miles of eight-lane highways with dense, angry traffic and road construction, I finally squirted out of the northeast corner of the Detroit metro area and headed up I-94 to Port Huron. Little did I know that The Fates (or maybe it was just the Canadians) had conspired against me: on this hottest of days in recent memory, I had ended up – no exaggeration – in the slowest goddam customs line at the entire port of entry:




While cars all around me idled for minute after minute, keeping their occupants comfortably cool via the miracle of thermodynamics, I sat roasting in my riding gear in the early afternoon sun. I pulled my helmet off briefly, but had to put it back on eventually for fear of sunburn. The last car to be interrogated before me took a full five minutes before being permitted to enter the sovereign nation of Canadia. Maybe they were worried he might be smuggling in artificial maple syrup or counterfeit hockey pucks, I dunno. Part of my rationale for going through the frozen tundra that is Canada was to cut 50 miles off of my day, but this border crossing had waylaid me for at least a half-hour. Interestingly enough, the officious Canuck in the booth ended his shift right before I pulled up, and I was left dealing with a new fellow who was much quicker; after less than a minute of questioning, I was finally through customs and motoring along the expressways toward Niagara Falls.


Having only owned the 1200RT for a few months, cruising the frigid, ice-encrusted highways of Canada was the first opportunity I'd had for using the cruise control, something I didn't have on the 1100. It was a blessing from the gods of Bavaria: finally I could give my right hand a break from constantly tugging on the throttle. It did take a bit of learning, though. I soon figured out that if I was going to leave my right hand on the handlebar, I had to rest it very lightly on the grip, or else move it further out onto the bar-end weight; more than once I found my hand inadvertently applying excess throttle, slowly accelerating the bike up to a faster-than-expected speed.


After a few hours I was closing in on the world-famous waterfall that joins Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. It was there in the city of Niagara Falls that I arrived at my other reason for going through Canada:




Two years ago Masako and I were in Niagara Falls, and she had tracked down this little hole-in-the-wall Japanese restaurant. They had served us great food back then – their chicken teriyaki was better than any I had had before – and now I was back for more. If you like Japanese food, next time you're in Niagara Falls you should look this place up. :thumbsup:


After another fantastic meal, I saddled up and waded through the tourist district to get to the border crossing. Not only did the line move much faster than at Port Huron, but while I waited, the view was far, far better:





Before departing on this trip, I had visited the Roadside America website and made a list of all the entertaining and amusing sites that I thought I might visit on my way to and from the UnRally. Now that I was back in the US, I made a beeline for my first stop, described on the website as simply “a large Victorian head:”





As you can see from the photo, it was indeed large; the lady's pearls, if not properly secured, could give visitors a concussion. The building is home to the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society; in 1901 Buffalo had been host to the Pan American Exposition, and the text to the left of the door explained that this sculpture was a replica of one that had appeared at the “Dreamland” feature on the Expo's midway. They did a pretty good job – here's the original:




Heading east out of Buffalo, out of shear habit I had jumped onto the I-90 tollway. 50 miles later I was gratified when my next destination forced me to leave the tollway and start traveling on country roads. A few miles down NY19, I was in Le Roy, standing next to a miniature Statue of Liberty:




As I later learned, this statue was not at all unique; quite the contrary, over 200 of them were erected in towns all across the country in the early 1950s, courtesy of the Boy Scouts.


Instead of going back north to the tollway, I headed south out of Le Roy to US20. It was just a two-lane country highway, but with less traffic and more scenery than the tollway. I made it another 50 miles down the road, finally stopping just after sunset in Canandaigua for the night.



Day 2 will be posted tomorrow...:lurk:


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Canandaigua is my HOMETOWN. Gosh, I can't believe you were here and I wasn't. Nice seeing you at the UN. Thanks for making the effort to take the oddball photos. I love them.


I think I'll try the Japanese place in Niagra. Thanks!


Oh, and I thought that Head East title rang a bell...



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Paul In Australia


Great Photos. I am enjoying this story already. I went through Niagra in 199 and 2000, but unfortunately in a car. Had the same issue with customs. In all my trips to Canada I have yet to have a quick, humorise or pleasant customs chat.

USA exactly the opposite. Can't figure.


Anyway looking forward to the rest of the ride. Do you like the new 1200rt ?



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We didn't officially meet at the UN but we did talk a bit. It's nice to be able to put a face to these stories.

Good story so far Mitch. I'm sorry about the delay at the border, but counterfeit hockey pucks are definitely not a laughing matter for us Canucks.

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Joe Frickin' Friday
Oh, and I thought that Head East title rang a bell...




The first pic in my OP is the cover of a Head East album my brother had when I was a pup.


Paul in Australia spake thus:

In all my trips to Canada I have yet to have a quick, humorise or pleasant customs chat.

USA exactly the opposite. Can't figure.


It's funny, the Canadian fellow at Sarnia/Port Huron was all business, but the American guy at Niagara Falls was asking about where I went for dinner, and was curious about my GPS and bracket, and so on. So my experience was consistent with what you describe.


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It's funny, the Canadian fellow at Sarnia/Port Huron was all business, but the American guy at Niagara Falls was asking about where I went for dinner, and was curious about my GPS and bracket, and so on. So my experience was consistent with what you describe.


Perhaps these are just different styles accomplishing the same thing? Asking about where you ate establishes evidence. Inspection of your GPS insures it's an operational piece of equipment. Just a thought.


Mitch, your brother and I are a bit dated :grin:

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It's funny, the Canadian fellow at Sarnia/Port Huron was all business, but the American guy at Niagara Falls was asking about where I went for dinner, and was curious about my GPS and bracket, and so on. So my experience was consistent with what you describe.


Perhaps these are just different styles accomplishing the same thing? Asking about where you ate establishes evidence. Inspection of your GPS insures it's an operational piece of equipment. Just a thought.



Heading home from the Un, I made the mistake of crossing into Canada at the north end of I-87 in New York. That was a half-hour backup with traffic so messed up that people were getting out of their cars and almost coming to blows. Once I got to the booth, it was all business questions - where are you coming from, why were you there, where are you going, any weapons or alcohol or tobacco - and I was through in about 2 minutes.


The interesting thing was when I got to US Customs at Port Huron at about 4 am. They only had 2 booths open, so there was about a 5 minute wait. The US guy was real cheery and chatty, but there was this (approximate) conversation:


- Why were you there?

- Taking the short cut across Canada from New Hampshire

- Why?

- The GPS said it was the quickest route

- Why were you there?

- Vacation

- Why were you there?

- Riding around in New Hampshire and Vermont

- No, why were you there?

- At a motorcycle rally?

- Right. Thank you.


I don't remember if I told the Canadian guy that I was at a motorcycle rally, or if it was in some database that I was at a motorcycle rally, but that was clearly the answer the US guy was looking for.

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Joe Frickin' Friday

Day 2: Monday, August 10

Route: Canandaigua, NY to Lancaster, NH

Distance: 491 miles





Having chosen a Super 8 motel, breakfast was not exactly a magnificent affair (but hey, the price was right…:grin:). With no real breakfast area to speak of, I grabbed some cereal, a muffin, and some coffee, and stumbled back up to my room to munch while I checked out The Weather Channel. The radar showed some nastiness in the vicinity, but given my route and the trajectory of the storm clouds, it looked like I'd probably be able to dodge it.


Packing up the bike, I had to wipe a lot of water off of the saddle. Although the forecast looked good, it had absolutely poured rain last night, a massive deluge; not only was the new Corbin saddle nicely cupped to retain water, but the leather and stitching meant that it actually soaked up a fair amount of it as well. Even after wiping off as much as I could, the saddle still had hidden stores of moisture that would not come to the surface until I sat down on it. :(




After only a couple of miles on US20, I turned south, headed for my first stop of the day. The riding was just great: farmlands, rolling hills and valleys, blue skies, lush greenery everywhere, and nice, cool temperatures. Cruise control enabled an action photo, though unfortunately it doesn't quite capture the vista of the whole countryside:





The riding that morning has forever changed my impression of the state of New York, much for the better. In the past, every time I had heard mention of New York, it was always about politics, New York city, 9/11, or some combination of the three. Instead, for the first time I was seeing mile after mile of farmland and forest, reminiscent of a ride through rural Wisconsin or Iowa. Very nice stuff, and I was happy knowing there would be much more of it before trip's end.


Oh yeah, my first stop of the day? The world's largest pancake griddle in Penn Yan:





The griddle is owned and exhibited by The Birkett Mills, who have been cranking out buckwheat products for over 200 years.





No, not THAT buckwheat, the other one.


After 80 more miles of scenic riding through rural New York, I arrived at the Stone Quarry Hill Art Park. As their website explains, this is a big ol' patch of land with numerous trails bringing visitors past an array of sculptures. If I'd had a cheeseburger with me, it would have been a nice spot for a picnic. As it was, I just walked down a few of the trails and browsed some of the strange offerings:







In the above photo, the books to the right are real books, but the books to the left are actually blocks of wood.


More sculptures:













Another 20 miles down the road, I reached the quaint little village (no, really this time) of Oneida, home of the world's smallest church:





I had just parked the bike and was figuring out how to compose a photo when a local resident walked by. She took my picture for me, and mentioned that a couple had actually gotten married in that church last year. In case you're confused by the greenery, yes, the church is actually in the middle of a pond. It's expected that you'd take a rowboat to get out to it, but from the density of the duckweed, it looks like it might have actually been possible to walk on water...:rofl:


The roadside attractions to this point had eaten up a lot of time. There were many more I wanted to see, but I also wanted to arrive in Lancaster at a decent time, so I decided to save most of them for the return trip. After a quick, greasy lunch at McDonald's in Palatine Bridge, I continued east to Saratoga Springs and then north to Burlington, Vermont. And there, I saw it – the world's largest filing cabinet:







It's so incredibly immense, you can see it (and its shadow) from outer space. Here's a screen capture of it from Google Earth:





The cabinet is a local artist's attempt to satirize the glacial pace of a local highway project that had been conceived of in 1965, but as of 2001 (the date the super-cabinet was erected) had yet to begin construction.


After leaving the file cabinet, I skipped a few other oddities in Burlington, instead opting to make haste toward Lancaster. On the way out of town I did pass by something Roadside America referred to as “the Whale Tails,” a sculpture of two large whale tails protruding from the earth right next to the interstate. I only caught a glimpse, and was not able to take a photo as I sped on by. After a little digging later on I found out more about this sculpture, titled Reverence.


Oh yeah, I did pass by one other waypoint, a barn with a weather vane shaped like a hammer. More on that later...:lurk:


Finally at about 6:30, I arrived at the UnRally, where virtually everyone had already arrived and was in the process of a casual cookout on a big communal grill. After briefly chatting with a few people, I finally tracked down Shawn, who had thoughtfully bought a couple of steaks and some potato salad (and some beer) and was waiting for me to show up so we could start cooking. That's us, front/center and second row/center:




It had been a long hot day, but the cookout with all these people around was a perfect reward. :thumbsup:


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Loved your 2nd day Mitch! Gosh, the best french toast on the planet is at Patty's on upper main street in Canandaigua. My bad for not thinking ahead to make recommendations for you. Thank you for the ideas of things to ride to :) I see my salmon on the grill, lower right. YUM!


I love the way you planned your trip!

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Nice n Easy Rider

Nice tale Mitch and great pics. Makes me want to head up that way and see those sights myself.


Gotta ask you something about your bike. Is all your gear in your two side bags? If so, I have to take some lessons on how to pack a lot lighter. :grin:

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Joe Frickin' Friday
It's funny, the Canadian fellow at Sarnia/Port Huron was all business, but the American guy at Niagara Falls was asking about where I went for dinner, and was curious about my GPS and bracket, and so on. So my experience was consistent with what you describe.


Perhaps these are just different styles accomplishing the same thing? Asking about where you ate establishes evidence. Inspection of your GPS insures it's an operational piece of equipment. Just a thought.

I agree with Superman: I stand for truth, justice, and the American way. :grin:



Jake did utter:

Why is "beer" in parentheses, diminishing it's prominence? Who are you and what did you do with Mitch?

Sorry, my bad. Won't happen again. :P



George was overheard saying:

Is all your gear in your two side bags? If so, I have to take some lessons on how to pack a lot lighter.

Ayup, just the two sidecases. Apart from what I was wearing, the sidecases had:


  • socks, undies, and T-shirts for five more days of riding;
  • sandals, shorts, and a couple of (slightly) nicer shirts for evenings at the Un;
  • a pair of jeans, in case evenings ran cool;
  • toiletries;
  • spare (clear) visor;
  • spray polish & cloth;
  • rain overpants, jacket liner, rain gloves;
  • Slime tire pump;
  • quart of oil;
  • some granola bars;
  • The MOA Anonymous Book.

There's probably some other minor stuff, but that's the bulk of it. Plastic grocery bags work great for organizing things a bit and allowing rapid loading/unloading of the sidecases.



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Paul Mihalka

Mitch, fun report. Thanks!

Packing: I also go as light as possible, about the same as Mitch. On a 5 to 6 day trip my stuff fits into a tank bag and the two GS side cases, not even expanded. Tank bag has Slime pump (some times I ride with tank bag only), spare face shield, water, small Plexus for faceshield cleaning, extra gloves, camera. Right bag has all the clothes in a bag liner. My Cruiserworks boots are so comfortable that I don't carry extra footwear. Left bag has the tool box, my folding cane (just in case), Gerbing jacket, 1 quart oil. On two-week trips like a Western UN or Torrey, it's more stuff, but it still fits easy into the expanded side cases and tank bag. In Torrey I know where the laundry is at the Chuck Wagon... :grin:

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Gotta ask you something about your bike. Is all your gear in your two side bags? If so, I have to take some lessons on how to pack a lot lighter. :grin:


Check some of those pictures again. He appears to have a lot of stuff in his pockets in some of them. :rofl:

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Joe Frickin' Friday

Day 3: Tuesday, August 11

Route: Lancaster, NH to Lancaster, NH

Distance: 149 miles




The campground cafe was the venue of choice for Tuesday's breakfast for most of the attendees. You could order up pretty much whatever you wanted – pancakes, bacon/eggs/potatoes, egg sandwich – but too much steak and beer the night before (and not enough water after a long day's ride) had left me feeling out of sorts; I opted for a simple bowl of cereal, and tempted fate by including a cup of coffee as well.


Fortunately breakfast sat well, and an hour or so later, Shawn and I hit the road. Most of the time at BMWST events we end up with two or three riders coming along with us, but this time, it was just the two of us. The roads we found ourselves on weren't obscenely twisty like the stuff you find in the Smoky Mountains, but it was wavy enough to be interesting, and the pastoral scenery and company of an old friend made it a very fine place to be.


After just 25 miles we reached the toll gate for the Mount Washington Auto Road. We paid our toll, then started up the nastiest stretch of paved road I had seen in a long time. Terrible, uneven pavement with frost-heaved boulders pushing up through the tarmac proved a serious obstacle course for the RTs. After several miles of weaving and dodging, we hit a stretch of unpaved road that was, ironically, far nicer to ride on than the paved stuff. The pavement resumed for the final mile or so before we reached the parking lot at the top.


And now, a short bit of history for context:


It's been a source of amusement to us and others that, for so many years, Shawn and I have ridden the exact same model/color/year of bike. Hell, for a long time, our gear even looked pretty similar. And then last summer when he bought his new RT, he announced his purchase to me with an email that said simply, “hey guess what, folks won't be able to call us ‘twins' anymore.” In case you're wondering what he's talking about, here's what our old bikes looked like in 2007 when we climbed Pikes Peak:





Well, of course I ran out and got me a new RT this spring. So here's what our bikes looked like at the top of Mount Washington on this trip:





Stop laughing, you, there's more! Here's what our gear looked like on that 2007 road trip:





And now, in 2009, at the top of Mount Washington:





The twins ride again... :grin:


Behind us in that photo was one of the cog-rail trains. Here's a better shot:





Interesting to see how the boiler is canted so that it provides best performance when climbing a steeply-graded track. According to Wikipedia, The Waumbek, built in 1908, is still coal-fired.


A close-up of one of the cog-drive mechanisms that enables these machines to climb grades that would be impossible for ordinary trains:




While we were admiring this old piece of iron, a more modern equivalent arrived at the summit:






This is one of two recently purchased diesel-hydraulic locomotives, operated on a biodiesel blend called B20. Although many train enthusiasts are nostalgic for the old steam locomotives, many others have been happy to see the diesels in operation, as they produce almost no visible smoke to clog up the vistas; this is not the case for the old coal-fired locomotives, which put out massive clouds of dark black coal smoke as they climb the mountain. Stinky-ass weasels, indeed.


Moving past the train platform, I captured a pretty good panoramic shot of the mountainside:


(click on image to open a full-sized panoramic photo in a new window)



Mount Washington is the site where the highest directly-measured wind speed was observed: 231 MPH. The buildings have to be built to take that kind of punishment, and in the case of the building which now houses the gift shop, they've simply chained the whole thing to the ground:




Elsewhere on the summit we found the Tip Top House. Built over 150 years ago, it's the oldest surviving structure on the summit, and originally served as a hostel for summit hikers.


The main dining hall:





The bunk room, which seems even more Spartan than most modern submarines:





In the main dining hall there was a 3-ring binder on the table with numerous photos and sketches related to the history of the Tip Top House. Here's a photo from about 100 years ago showing the building's exterior, which hasn't changed much since then:





And a comical look at the experience of climbing Mount Washington in the 1870s:





Satisfied that we had seen enough of the summit, we made our descent and headed south on NH16, then west and north on US302. We waited out a brief summer shower under the eave of a country store before continuing on up the road. We stopped for gas just a few miles later, and when we spotted some really bad-ass clouds coming at us from the north, we decided this would be a good time to stop for lunch. For an hour or two. :eek:


As we walked into Fabyan's Station, Rich Edwards and his buddies (sorry, I can't remember everyone's names!) were just walking out; when they saw the clouds coming our way, they decided to wait out the storm, too. :grin:


After a good hour of torrential downpours and gale-force winds, the skies cleared completely and we hit the road. With a late morning start, time spent on the summit, and time spent waiting for the storm to clear out, it was already mid-afternoon, so we cut our planned route short. We went west/north on US302/I93 to St. Johnsbury, then turned back east on US2.


At some point on US2, oncoming drivers began flashing their high-beams and waving at us. We expected to encounter a cop, but were instead surprised to see a moose (a friend of mine calls them ‘swamp donkeys') by the side of the road:





It/He/She didn't seem particularly bothered by all of the cars – some stopped, and some speeding on through. After most of the stopped vehicles had departed, some other guy dismounted his bike and walked over to the moose. I wasn't sure what he was up to, but it soon became obvious that he was trying to scare the moose away from the road for everyone's safety:





It was a very civic-minded action on his part (or maybe he just feared for the animal's safety), but up until the moose actually started fleeing it was a real uh-oh moment in my mind, because I know that moose are quite fond of

(see at 0:30).


A few miles later, we arrived back at the hotel where we cleaned up and, um, relaxed:




Down the hill near the big picnic shelter, preparations were already well under way for the evening's clambake, catered by a company from Maine:





In this photo a wood fire is burning underneath a large steel tray holding a few inches of water. In racks above the water – inside the plywood enclosure – is about 450,000 pounds of soon-to-be-delicious seafood. When the plastic top bows upward and puffs of steam start coming out, the staff knows that things are starting to cook:





While the food slowly became delicious, we amused ourselves with beer, conversation, and of course the obligatory motorcycle maintenance. In this shot, Richard (Benicia_GT) was in the middle of a throttle body synch:




A short distance away, a Harbor Freight tire-changing stand was present, and it pleased me greatly to see that it had been fitted with my world-famous Mojoblocks:





A little while later, the food was done cooking, and the mysterious plywood enclosure was opened up to reveal a great big pile of Delicious:







Bags of mussels, clams, corn-on-the-cob, and of course, scores of lobsters:





The hungry mob stared and salivated, but somehow managed to maintain order and stay out of the caterer's way while they unloaded the treasure chest.


While the catering staff prepped the serving line, the rest of us had one last thing to do. We gathered at the foot of the hill for a group photo. Here's a photo of Shawn's carefully groomed ear, with Jamie and Roy visible in the distance:





Shawn's carefully groomed ear is seen here in profile, while Jamie barks directions at the hungry, salivating mob from up on high:





Jamie is seen here asking if anyone knows where Shawn's carefully groomed ear went:





Roy did an excellent job with the group photos and the many others he took during the event. Here's one of the group shots he took:





Once the photo shoot was done, the hungry mob perambulated over to the shelter, where the serving line was ready to dish out some really amazing food:





I was somewhere in the middle of the line, and it was getting difficult to be patient as I saw tray after tray of magnificent seafood float by, and more and more people sat down and started devouring the goods:


(click on image to open a full-sized panoramic photo in a new window)




Eventually I reached the serving tables, where an enthusiastic catering staff loaded my tray with so much food that it almost folded in half:





Each person got a lobster, an ear of corn, some potatos/onions and a roll. Stop drooling, you, there's more! Note also the top-heavy bucket of clams and mussels, with a big ol' cup of clam chowder sealed in a cup right behind it, flanked by a small cup of melted butter.


OH, it was good. Damn good. I had vague, distant memories of not enjoying clams and mussels from the shell some time in the past, but I dug in anyway, and they turned out to be fantastic. And the lobster? Hey, is there any way lobster could not be delicious? It was awesome.


But the biggest surprise for me was the corn. I love corn on the cob, always good stuff. But this was something special. See, somehow during the steaming process, the “seafood” essence from all the other stuff in the box had seeped into the corn, and it brought the experience up to a new plane of delicious. A chorus of angels sung in my ears with every bite, and I cried a little when it was all gone.


After dinner the conversation and beer both resumed full flow. At one point I left the noise of the picnic shelter to talk to Masako on the phone. Eventually I needed a place to sit down, but with no chairs nearby, the ground seemed like the best choice. As it happened, I found a new perspective on Raaaaaan's GS:





The UnRally brings together people who don't normally see each other at “local” events like Torrey or BRR. No matter where the Un is, several people invariably come from the far side of the country to attend. Jamie (KMG_365) and Leslie (Les_is_More, AKA “Mama Hoon”) rode all the way from San Diego to get here; I hadn't seen them since spring Torrey 2007, and I spent a good part of my evening talking with them about all sorts of things.


Later on in the evening, a special event took place. Some time ago a bottle of Very Impressive Whiskey (valued at $175) had been donated to BMWST by Gary (Carrotnc):





This evening, the Very Impressive Whiskey was being raffled off, with the proceeds to fund the discussion board's hosting fees.


A lot of people entered, but as Conner McCleod once said (actually he said it several times), “there can be only one.” The winner was Lester V (in the white shirt), here flanked by Armando and Mama Hoon while Paul (SAMSAR) looks on:





Actually, BMWST.com won pretty handily, too: the raffle generated approximately $400 in funds, enough to defray site hosting costs for the better part of a year.


:clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:


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Joe Frickin' Friday

Day 4: Wednesday, August 12

Route: Lancaster, NH to Lancaster, NH

Distance: 285 miles





Instead of the camp diner fare from yesterday morning, the Un Organizers chose Wednesday morning to have a custom-made breakfast just for our group. Bacon, eggs, taters, pancakes, fruit, danishes, you name it, it was all there waiting for us. Here we see Chris, caught with his hand in the cookie jar:





While Tuesday's ride had been very scenic, Shawn and I were hungry for something a little more sporting. After talking to Chris, we planned out a route that met our needs very nicely indeed. After breakfast four of us – Shawn, me, Chris, and Joel – headed southwest out of town on US3, then NH116 to Littleton, where we hopped onto I-93 for a few miles. Passing through Franconia Notch was an interesting experience: this was the only place I'd ever been where an interstate highway was reduced to a single lane in each direction under normal conditions. No road construction, this was just the way this stretch of highway was for several miles.


At Lincoln we headed east on NH112. The road was fun, with a good mix of sweepers and a few hairpin turns. We stopped briefly at a scenic overlook to stretch our legs a bit:





If Shawn and I are twins, then I think we may have found our Doppelgangers:




Eventually we took Bear Notch road up to US302, and then at Intervale we turned off onto an interesting little street called Hurricane Mountain Road. It was only six miles long, but it was immensely entertaining. Plenty of twists and turns, but the really unusual thing was the straight stretches, which had bizarre humps and dips; with a clear line of sight, you could carry a little bit of speed over them and actually get some daylight under your tires from time to time! Not bone-shattering Evel-Kneivel jumps, mind you, just little hops of a couple of inches. Didn't last long, but what a fun rollercoaster ride. :grin:


At the end of it we made our way north on highway 113, then US2 and finally NH16. In Berlin I spotted the factory where your ”Little Trees” car air freshener is made:





A few miles after Berlin, NH16 started following the Androscoggin river bend for bend. The treeline was quite far back from the river, so the result was sweepers and slaloms with great sight lines. Not only that, but being in the middle of nowhere, traffic was minimal; all together, it made for some great riding.


At Rangely Lake, we stopped for lunch at the Four Seasons Cafe, and then started backtracking toward Lancaster. We stopped briefly at a gas station in Errol, where Joel retrieved an earplug case that he had left there the previous day. While the other three of us waited, some kids – presumably lifelong residents of Errol – showed us how to have a good time without a motorcycle endorsement:







Future hoons, no doubt. :grin:


With only about 25 miles to go, an ominous-looking cloud ahead finally forced us to stop and put on rain gear; we had barely finished gearing up when it started raining on us. The rest of the ride was finished on wet roads; somewhat anticlimactic, but what the hell, the previous 250 miles had been great. :thumbsup:


Back at the hotel, we got cleaned up and then started thinking about dinner. There was no organized group dinner this time, so we were all on our own. It was still raining out pretty hard:





and so no one was terribly excited about suiting up to ride into Lancaster to find a restaurant. Shawn had the brilliant idea of having pizza delivered to us at the motel; before long, word got around, and Shawn ended up placing an order for ten pizzas. Delivery ended up taking forever, but we sustained ourselves on beer, conversation, and admiration of the view from the hotel balcony. The rain had slowly come to a stop, and low-hanging clouds skulked around in distant valleys:


(click on image to open a full-sized panoramic photo in a new window)



I snapped a shot of the resort sign, the subtitle of which suggested a much larger and grander group than our own little BMWST enclave:




When the pizza finally arrived, a few other folks decided they wanted some too, but sadly it was not meant to be. Richard tried to call in an order to the same pizza restaurant, but was curtly told “we are not delivering at this time.” :rofl:


Before long the clouds cleared enough to let the sun in, and we were treated to a rainbow:





The rainbow lasted on and off until sunset. With an early departure planned for the next day, I packed up as much of my luggage as I could and headed for bed.


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Joe Frickin' Friday
Great Ride Tale Mitch! Thank you for a great read.


Thank you Kathy, and everyone else, for indulging me. :grin:



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Joe Frickin' Friday

Day 5: Thursday, August 13

Route: Lancaster, NH to Arcade Village, NY

Distance:559 miles




On Tuesday a group had gotten up at 3:30 AM to watch the sunrise from the summit of Mount Washington. They had been turned back at the entry gate due to heavy fog which would have made for a dangerous ascent. This morning, some of them tried again, and this time were met with success. :clap:


Me? I slept in. 3:30 would have been a bit much; I'll see the sun rise some other time, some other place. Maybe on the internet. :grin:


Besides, I had a full schedule. I needed to get at least half way to Ann Arbor today, but I had a long list of things to see along the way, so an early start was important. After a tasty ham-and-egg sandwich at the resort diner, I finished packing up the bike, said my goodbye's, and hit the road at about 8:00. Like yesterday, there had been dense fog when I woke up (not just in my head), but by departure time it had cleared enough so that street-level visibility was not a problem.


The first stop was just 30 miles down the road near Lyndonville, Vermont, where an open field had been festooned with a giant ball and jacks:





They appeared to be expertly made, but there was no sign or anything else to indicate who made them or why. There was also a giant key and keyhole, but I didn't catch a photo of them.


A few miles away in the heart of downtown of Lyndonville, I searched for – but could not find – The Puking Pig. My bad, it looks like it was in the town next door, Lyndon Center. Oops.


As I was riding out of Lyndonville, I spotted a welding shop where the proprietor and his staff had gone a little nuts with creativity and assembled a bunch of sculptures from propane tanks and random pieces of steel:







A closeup of “The Vermonster:”





I thought the tax collection bucket (and blood spatter) were nice touches.


20 miles down the road, I arrived at the barn with a hammer-shaped weather vane, first mentioned on day 2:





Now you understand what I meant by hammer-shaped: it wasn't just a passing resemblance, or a freak oversight, this weather vane was deliberately constructed to look like a giant claw hammer. I would have loved to get closer for a shot, but the horse-sized dog to the left of the barn vociferously forbade further approach.


36 miles further, I arrived at the Middlesex Cemetery, where a brief search led me to an odd grave marker:





The text at bottom reads:





On the opposite side of the marker, Mr. Crow's name was accompanied by that of a lady, presumably his wife. It was difficult to find more information about this marker, but the one web page I found claimed that Mr. Crow had been the owner of the National Clothes Pin Factory in nearby Montpelier. One may also assume that he (or his family, at least) had an unshakeable sense of humor.


After leaving Mr. Crow's clothespin, I went to Barre, Vermont, looking for something Roadside America had billed simply as “the whispering statue,” a statue whose esplanade was said to possess some interesting acoustical properties. When I arrived, it was not at all what I expected:



(click on image to open a full-sized panoramic photo in a new window)




Turns out this was a memorial to the nation's war-dead. The inscription below the statue read:









I was a bit taken aback by the solemn tone of it all, which was not at all in sync with the expectations I had developed based on the “whispering statue” description. I finally left without looking into the aforementioned acoustic properties (supposedly a person standing at one end of the semicircular wall can whisper and be heard by someone standing at the far end).


My next stop was much farther away, about 160 miles. I followed the GPS down I-89, then west on VT107/100 and US4 into Adirondack Park. Eventually I was enjoying a scenic, twisty cruise along the western shore of Great Sacandaga Lake. Half way down the western shore, I stopped at the Four Corners diner, where I was served a surprisingly good cheeseburger for a hole-in-the-wall shack in the middle of no where.


After lunch I rode through Northville, then turned south on NY30 for a couple of miles, at which point I arrived at a house with a tree growing through it:





The house appeared to be abandoned some time ago, and the tree was clearly dead; I simply could not figure out how these two items had arrived in their present configuration, and since then I haven't been able to find any relevant information at all. Berry, berry strange.


Unlike the whispering statue, my next stop was properly described by Roadside America as a 9/11 memorial. It seemed a bit odd to me that this memorial had been erected in DeWitt, a suburb of Syracuse about 200 miles from the World Trade Center site. Then again, maybe it's a bit different when 9/11 happened in your own state.


The memorial was built around a steel-and-concrete beam salvaged from the debris of the World Trade center:





In a few places on the beam, some personal effects – apparently from victims of the attack – had been left behind:







After leaving the memorial I headed west on I-690 through Syracuse. Near the heart of downtown I passed by another Roadside America entry called ”Waiting for the Night Train.” This is an abandoned train station in which a sculptor placed several ghostly, dirty white statues, all of whom are waiting for a train to arrive. Unfortunately the sculptures are only visible from the highway; with dense, fast-moving traffic, it's impossible to photograph unless you're a passenger in a car.


Further west in Syracuse I left the highway to check out an oddity in the Tipperary Hill district, a traffic light turned upside down:





As you can see, the red light is on the bottom. I waited and waited to take a second pic, but the light never turned green until I gave up and approached it on my RT.


The official history is that when the traffic light was first installed in the 1920s, Irish fanatics in the neighborhood were offended that the green was on the bottom (and red, a color associated with the British, was on top); they smashed the original light, and several identical replacements installed by the city. The authorities finally relented and installed a green-on-top traffic light, to which none of the locals objected.


Before I saddled up to leave, I saw a mailman walking his route through the neighborhood. I had with me a postcard which I had bought at the summit of Mount Washington, filled out in the hotel room at the Un, and intended to mail to Masako. Since then I had searched a few times for a mailbox but been unable to find one, and now here was a real live postman, happy to take my card off my hands. (The post card made it home the day after I did. :grin:)


I headed northwest out of town, bound for Wolcott, 40 miles away. It was late afternoon, and I was headed approximately west; as such, the sun had begun its transition from “damn hot” to “blindingly bright.” Things hadn't really started cooling down yet – the temp was somewhere near 90 – but the sun was getting low enough so that the sun was starting to get in my eyes. Ah, the best of all worlds. :grin:


Upon reaching Wolcott, I bore witness to the goddess Venus rising fully formed from the sea:





The plaque on the side of the fountain:





As pretty as Venus and her cherubs were, the benthic beasties what bore them aloft were somewhat more disturbing to behold:





After leaving Wolcott, I headed west on NY104 to Rochester. By now the sun was getting even lower, consistently blasting me in the eyes; I was grateful for my Shoei's tinted visor. At Rochester I turned south on I-390, relieving me of that damnable solar glare. The GPS begged me to turn west on the I-90 tollway again, but I had learned my lesson days earlier, and wanted to see more of rural New York. I skipped I-90 altogether, and further south at US20 I turned west for a couple of miles, stopping in Avon for gas before heading south and west on NY39 and NY78. By this time the sun had begun its transition from “blindingly bright” to “dazzlingly beautiful” as it sunk low on the horizon and grew redder and dimmer. The temperature had dropped quite a bit, too: the riding was transformed from an uncomfortably hot means-to-an-end into a true pleasure cruise across sparsely populated farmland.


Somewhere west of Gainesville I spotted a wind turbine, and then as I crested a hill, many more of them. Big turbines. Really big ones, by the dozen. Finally I decided to turn off on a dirt road that seemed to lead to one near by. Before I reached the end, I parked the bike and took a couple of shots, since the sun and surroundings seemed perfect for a glamour photo or two:







Back on the bike, I followed the road another hundred yards or so to its terminus, and was very surprised to see that the tower was fully accessible to any visitor. No fence, no “NO TRESPASSING” signs, nothing. The tower had an access door at the bottom; I didn't try it, but I would have been shocked if it were actually unlocked. The door is helpful in providing a sense of scale for this thing:





Opponents of wind farms sometimes claim that these huge turbines emit low-frequency acoustic noise from the big blades, but standing just 100 feet from the base of the tower, I didn't hear much noise from the blades at all. About every minute or so a big electric motor at the top of the tower would run for a bit, presumably to adjust blade pitch or heading.


Further west in Curriers, I spotted The Little Engine That Could:





On the other side of the tracks, the Curriers Depot:




The track is active, with antique trains operated by the Arcade and Attica Railroad making a weekly stop here with a trainload of tourists.



As you can see from the locomotive picture, by this time it was starting to get pretty dark out. I saddled up and got ten miles south and west before stopping in Arcade for the night. This town had the only lodging the GPS could pull up that was reasonably close, the Arcade Village Motel. During check-in the middle-aged lady behind the counter was having trouble with the credit card machine. I finally scanned my own card for her, and joked that she should start a self-service hotel and just go on vacation. I laughed when she told me this wasn't actually her hotel; she was running it for her daughter, who was in fact on vacation at the time. :grin:


At the end of check-in, I was handed an old-fashioned mechanical key:





Usually when I travel I stay in a major chain hotel. Over the past 20 years or so, all of the major chains have switched over to magnetic key-card systems on the rooms, eliminating a lot of the hassle, expense, and security problems associated with keys that get lost or kept by customers. The new-fangled key-cards certainly are more convenient, but with the disappearance of conventional brass keys, I feel like something ineffable has been lost. It's a bit like the arrival of twist-off caps on beer bottles: no doubt the new technology is more convenient, but somehow I miss the ceremony/tradition of the old way. Last year I bought Tom Petty's Highway Companion album, and it included a post card that evokes a similar nostalgia:





After a late dinner of beer-battered fish at the local restaurant across the street, I called it a night.


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der Wanderer

I don't remember if I told the Canadian guy that I was at a motorcycle rally, or if it was in some database that I was at a motorcycle rally, but that was clearly the answer the US guy was looking for.


I travel internationally maybe a half dozen times a year or more. I have had a couple very bizarre conversations like that, very freaky. Big brother watching me and knowing things about me, and telling me they know...

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der Wanderer

Mitch, this is great reading. Thanks a lot!


I have been looking at your gear. You seem to be wearing some sort of reinforced jeans, presumably with some kevlar patches at the knees, etc; and impact protection at the knees. It actually looks much better than those I had seen to date. What brand is that?


Also, your "twin" and you seem to wear something with black stripes on your shoulders (but the pictures never let it be seen). Are those Camelbacks?




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Joe Frickin' Friday
I have been looking at your gear. You seem to be wearing some sort of reinforced jeans, presumably with some kevlar patches at the knees, etc; and impact protection at the knees. It actually looks much better than those I had seen to date. What brand is that?


They are Draggin' Jeans. You're correct, they have a Kevlar lining in the knees and seat. I bought them with extra length and an extra couple of inches in the waist so I could fit in CE-rated knee/hip armor, which attaches to the Kevlar. I also had one mating half half of a zipper stitched to the back so that I can zip my jacket to it; keeps my jacket from riding up.


Also, your "twin" and you seem to wear something with black stripes on your shoulders (but the pictures never let it be seen). Are those Camelbacks?


Ayup. (Look closer in those pics, and you'll spot the blue drinking tube coming over our right shoulders.) I do whatever I can so that I stop when I want to, not when I have to. A Camelbak or other hydration system removes thirst from the list of reasons to stop.

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Hey Mitch, nice ride report. I missed the Un this year due to work obligations, but I did just do a New England tour over the last 4 days.


I rode Hurricane Mountain Road in the pouring rain. Fun road.

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der Wanderer

Thanks Mitch!

Indeed can see the details now, in particular that blue tube.

While I am at it, two more questions if I may:

- what brand jacket is that? I suspect that your "twin's" may be a Motoport, but am not sure. As a result yours might be as well?

- I tend to find pants over boots more comfortable for me; you seem to wear boots over pants. Any particular reason besides looks?



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sOME aWESOME tALES, my brutha - Good to see your twin Shawn was up for the trip and continues the "doubling"...crazy pair you two.

Nice pics..very cool trip for you, Mitch.!

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Joe Frickin' Friday

Day 6: Friday, August 14

Route: Arcade Village, NY to Ann Arbor, MI

Distance: 407 miles






You know you're in a small town when there's a grain elevator right across the street from your hotel:





Nellie's restaurant is connected (business-wise, at least) to the motel (I assume Nellie was the one on vacation...). At check-in the previous night, I was given a card that gave me a 10% discount at the restaurant, so I walked over for breakfast. Good stuff, although it felt a bit weird to be in there. The restaurant shares a parking lot with the motel, but it seemed to be mostly locals who were eating there, all of whom knew each other – and here I was, a solitary stranger in weird-lookin' motorcycle gear, quietly slurping down coffee in the corner.


After breakfast I wanted to take a picture of the motel, but the battery in my camera had died. :( I bought some more before heading out of town, because I had more fun stops to make. :lurk:


The GPS was again suggesting main highways to reach my first stop, but by this time I was regarding its instructions as what NOT to do. Instead of heading west on NY39, I turned SOUTH onto county road 59. Mission accomplished: literally two blocks later I was out of town and headed through cow-and-corn territory. I zigged and zagged west and south on back roads, maneuvering through hills and valleys with the sun more or less at my back, dead-reckoning my way toward my first destination, the Griffis Sculpture Park near East Otto.


I was a bit worried as I progressed up the dirt road to the parking area. A big German Shepherd dog had stood up and begun staring as I approached. I didn't know whether he was a stray, or just a nearby farm dog who had acquired some extra territory, and an RT facing the wrong direction (i.e. toward the dog) on a very rough dirt road wasn't going to afford a quick escape if the need arose. Ultimately he got bored and wandered off in some other direction. Shortly after that I was amused to see, on the park sign behind him, a list of rules – the first of which was “NO DOGS ALLOWED.” :rofl:


The park had an appreciable trail complex to take visitors past a whole array of sculptures. Owing to time constraints I decided to only walk the first portion of the trail. After examining their website it seems I missed out on quite a few of the more interesting sculptures, but I did get to see a few neat pieces.


This was one of the first I saw:





It was interesting for a couple of reasons. First, the surface was covered with an ornate contouring texture (more easily seen here in a full-sized view) that appeared to have been made with just a long series of weld beads. Pretty creative, thinks I. Second, when I touched it, I discovered that the whole thing was not fixed to its base: it had literally been balanced like a coin on edge. Maybe it was brand new, or maybe it was broken, I don't know; it worried me a bit, because the first little kid to poke that thing is likely to get thumped by 60 pounds of falling steel. :eek:


Down the trail a bit, a giant wasp:





Nice work on the lace-wings. :thumbsup:


The trail took me over a stream on a footbridge. The stream was pretty modest, but there was evidence of a very recent, very large flood: ten feet up each bank, the grass and scrub had been beaten to a pulp and was all pointing downstream. Some parts of the trail where the flood waters had spread wider were still very muddy, too.


Across the river I found this cryptic obelisk:





It was a nice abstract piece, one I wouldn't mind having in my living room. It had features on both sides; as you can tell by the sign, this was the backside, but the sun was facing the wrong way for photographing the front. C'est la vie...


Further on, I arrived at this piece, which actually creeped me out a little bit:







The idea of getting into (and taking up residence in) someone's head – or maybe being a prisoner in your own head – was kind of unsettling. Nonetheless, the muddy witness marks on the seat told of a philistine raccoon that had found the place entirely agreeable.


Out in the field near the entrance, a piece called “Orbit,” a large, oblate spheroid constructed of cleverly stacked wooden pallets:





After admiring “Orbit” for a bit, I got back on the bike and headed north. I only got about ten miles before I encountered a work crew and a big “ROAD CLOSED” barricade. Huh. I sat there and fiddled with the GPS a bit to find an alternate route north, and eventually took off down a side road. A few miles later, another “ROAD CLOSED.” Another detour, and yet another “ROAD CLOSED” sign. :eek: What the heck? It finally occurred to me that this was probably related to the flooded creek in the sculpture park: my assumption was that the Cattaraugus Creek (visible on the GPS) had similarly flooded and washed out the bridges for all of these roads I was trying to ride on. The Zoar Valley Nature Society's webpage (the creek flows through Zoar Valley) later confirmed my suspicions. Even today as I write this (August 18), their website is reporting the following:


- Forty Road is closed due to pavement buckling/washout. No access to the DEC Forty Road parking area.

- Deer Lick Preserve parking area is closed until further notice.

- Route 62 between Gowanda and Dayton is closed.

- Gowanda Zoar Road between Springville and the gorge closed in some areas due to washout conditions.

- Pt. Peter Road may be blocked/congested with construction vehicles due to reconstruction of washed out water reservoir. May affect Valentine Flats access.


That must have been one bad-ass storm.


Ultimately I ended up backtracking about ten miles southwest to the town of Cattaraugus before I could head north on an intact road.


Before leaving Cattaraugus altogether, I spotted the American Cutlery Musem:





Surprisingly, this little gem was not listed on Roadside America; it was just an added bonus. As exciting and enticing as it seemed, I declined to stop, as I wanted to get home at a decent time today.


A few miles later, I passed by a house that had been decorated with a barnstar:





There weren't many of these in this part of New York, but up in New Hampshire and Vermont, it seemed like everyone had one, as common as mailboxes. Always remember you're unique, just like everyone else. :rofl:


Half an hour later I reached Silver Creek, on the shore of Lake Erie. After some searching (and ultimately a phone call) I located Valvo's Candy, home of the Dotty Dimple statue:





As you can see, Dotty is a laid-back kinda gal:





Although they bill themselves primarily as a candy shop (and they do have a ton of candy!), they sell lots of other stuff too, including a vast army of statues suitable (well, some maybe not so suitable) for decorating one's yard. And really, who wouldn't want a hand-painted bust of Elvis greeting visitors on their doorstep?





Inside the shop, the smell was a bit...odd. And soon I noticed the carpet fans scattered about, blasting air all over in an effort to dry the floor. Clearly the place had flooded recently, probably at the same time the Zoar Valley bridges washed out and the creek in the sculpture park overflowed. I asked the staff when the flood happened, and they said it was the previous Sunday evening. That was the first night of my trip, when I had stayed in Canandaigua and my bike got hosed; it must have been the same storm system. She told me they only had a couple of inches of water and hadn't lost any inventory, but the cookie factory down the road had four or five feet of water; they lost all their inventory and damaged a lot of equipment. Ouch.


I spent several minutes browsing around the inside of their store:


(click on image to open a full-sized panoramic photo in a new window)



Just ten miles west in Dunkirk I arrived at the last of my planned Roadside America attractions, a giant Indian head carved from a tree trunk:


https://photos.smugmug.com/BMWST-ride-tales/i-wLRgwsq/0/601a6579/L/2009-08-head-east-110-L.jpg' alt='2009-08-head-east-110-L.jpg'>



It's been there for a while; the artist donated it to the city back in 1973. Judging from his face, it looks like he'd rather be somewhere else.



With the last roadside attraction now crossed off the list, it was time to make tracks for my Michigan domicile. And so I found my way to I-90 and made good use of the cruise control. Erie, Ashtabula, and Cleveland rolled by before I stopped for gas. I stopped one more time at a service island somewhere between Cleveland and Toledo to stretch my legs and check in with Masako.


Finally, a little after 4:00, I arrived at Ann Arbor. Before riding the last mile home, I stopped at the grocery store and picked up a bunch of roses:





Buying flowers ought to be standard practice for any gentleman who travels solo while his wife or girlfriend holds down the fort, awaiting his return (if your lady doesn't care for flowers, you can safely disregard this unsolicited advice). Put one plastic grocery bag over the bottom of the stems, and another grocery bag over the top, with that bag wrapped snugly around the stems. Then tangle the stems (and top bag) tightly in a bungee on the rack of your bike, and the blossoms should be able to survive a mile or two, provided you don't do much over 30-40 MPH.


A great homecoming, how nice to arrive at a big, air-conditioned Home and a happy-to-see-me Masako after melting my way across Ohio on I-80 (the chocolates, BTW, did just fine). An added bonus, Masako had just finished putting together one of my favorite dinners, chicken tagine:






Now all I had to do was grab a beer and tell stories to Masako for a couple of hours while it finished cooking. :Cool:






This was the first road trip for the new R1200RT, and it did pretty good. Cruise control was a great improvement over the old bike, and the extra power was a nice plus as well. I have, unfortunately, less enthusiasm for the new Corbin saddle. The stock saddle was of course completely unacceptable for all-day touring; although the Corbin was an improvement, it was not nearly as comfortable as my 1100's Corbin was, and – more importantly – not as comfortable as it really needs to be. Modification or replacement is forthcoming.


And the trip itself? A nice getaway. Always fulfilling to ride cross-country, to find twisty roads we can't find here in Michigan, and to meet up with a big group of new and old friends at the terminus. As I mentioned on Day 2, my impression of New York has changed much for the better. Also, this was the first bike trip where I'd made a point of seeing roadside attractions in addition to the scenery and roads, and it was a hoot. I expect I'll be doing it again on future trips.


Thanks for reading. :wave:


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You have to wonder at the mind that would choose to shoot a multi-shot panorama in candy shop.... :)



Nicely done.



Looks like a lot of work went into the posting.



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Eggsellent tale sir! Nice pics and your writing is always great!


Thanks (probably was your twin)for pissing off the Pizza place.


I ended up riding in and strapping a pizza to the back seat from the other place in town, which apparently was much better any way, so there!

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