Thursday, July 23, 2009

Return of Dora

OK, I'm updating this blog anyway, because this post belongs here.

Looking back to the 'Dora the Explorer' post, you'll see that Katrina has seen a fair amount of our great country from the back of a Harley over the years. Aside from most of eastern PA, she had been to NJ, MD, DE, WV, VA, and DC on the bike, and we've had a great time doing it. It had been a while since we've done a long ride, though, and I haven't been pushing it because thought she outgrew it, and I know from being a kid myself that it can get pretty monotonous back there.

So, imagine my surprise when she complained the other day that we haven't done it in forever and she outgrew all her H-D dealer shirts! And the timing was perfect - I'm on vacation and have her all week. So...

Off to Danbury, CT we go! We got a pretty late start for a ride of this length (imagine that) so we blew through NJ on the interstate to cover some ground, and then ended up retracing 287 again on the way home for the same reason. This, immediately before sitting in rush hour traffic on I-80 W due to some poor decision making on my part (it was already after 6...)

In between, though, we saw lots of nice countryside in upstate NY and western CT. Use the Photo Albums link at right to see the pix And, we got to experience Stew Leonard's -The World's Largest Dairy Store - in Danbury. It was, well, an experience. Like a hokey Wegmans but with animatronic animals throughout. And, the whole store was a maze. You had to walk past every item to get out!

Trina was disappointed that we didn't hit any real traffic circles in NJ, and I'd forgotten my EZ-Pass, so I took her across the free bridge and through Center Square in Easton on the way home. We had time for a Rita's stop in Hellertown, and got the bike parked about 5 mins before it started to drizzle and 15 mins before it got dark. 320+ warm, dry miles in all, and probably Katrina's longest single day in the saddle yet.

God, I love my kid!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Thanks for the Memories

With the change of calendars this year, came a major change in my life as well. As a page is turned in my own story, so shall it be with my road diary. My travels are now recorded elsewhere, on a blog that is shared -just as are the journeys themselves. I may decide to maintain this page as a personal outlet, but it just seems like this isn't the place to document my exploits anymore. See you on the road...

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

What Does It All Mean?

This was my first trip for more than a night or two with a large-ish group, on motorcycles at least. As interesting as the stories from the journey itself are, those of human interaction are just as much a part of it. As I alluded to earlier about individual riding abilities, a toxic personality can ruin a road stew, and a unique ingredient can make it the best you've ever tasted. Especially when it simmers for 12 days. In close quarters like this, you find out more than you've ever wanted to know about someone, whether you've been acquainted for years or just met at breakfast. That's part of the fabric, and as long as it doesn't get real ugly, it's pretty neat to experience. We were quite an intersting group. I leave with more good friends than I had when I started.

I also have a new hero.

Donna is a spunky gal who honestly lives to ride. Despite the thousands of miles on her Sportster, she'd never been out of state when she heard about our trip. For the non-bikers reading, 95% of the Harleys you see on the road to an event are purpose-built touring bikes designed for long-haul comfort. And 20% of those are pulled behind a truck (which drives me insane and would be a felony if I were in charge.) The trade off is when you're navigating in town or bombing through the curvy backroads, you're working hard while I'm flicking around my "piglet" without even concentrating.

So when you show up 1,000 miles from home riding a little Sporty, you're always the topic of discussion. "You rode that how far?" I get that all the time. Well, Donna here not only rode a Sportster, but she did it without a windshield, which I would never even consider. Basically she was doing pull-ups and neck excercises for 10 hours, and was still ready for more when we parked. I don't think she's right in the head.

The bummer of leaving Milwaukee was not unanticipated. You get closer and closer to the site, and the bikes begin to multiply, all loaded down and dusty, tags from literally across the globe. It takes over the city, and there is a constant rumble, honestly like thunder in the distance, from bikes in all directions emitting the same frequencies. Bikes are parked everywhere they'll fit, on sidewalks, traffic islands, 4 to a spot. You can fit 10,000 motorcycles where you couldn't put 500 cars. At night, bars are overflowing out into the street where the bikes gleam in the streetlights as traffic streams by. Live music is everywhere, something like 30 acts just on the official card. Here in Milwaukee, people stand on overpasses to wave and hold "Welcome Home" signs. There is always something to do, someone to meet, stories to be shared.

For us and untold thousands more, it all ended at a huge outdoor stage on the lakefront. Sitting in the dirt and grass holding a $6 beer, a warm summer breeze blowing out over the lake, watching Bruce Springsteen pour out his soul while we all sang along. These are the best of times.

All Good Things Must Come to an End

Well, here I am back in the white house looking at a pile of gear, a stack of bills, and a mound of laundry. Yay. At least the grass is cut; I wonder how much the kid earned on that.

My printed directions that on some days filled two pages were only 3 lines today: 76 E, 81 N, 78 E. 200 miles in about 4 hours with the mandatory Sportster gas stop. Weather was again ideal, and officially makes this a rain-free trip and winner of Best Weather Ever. We stopped at Yocco's to mark our return and left on our separate ways around 1:30. Total mileage was just under 2,400.

It's been quite the week and a half, and while it's always good to be home, I honestly wish I were just leaving tomorrow morning. Too much fun.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Last Call

God, I love being on the road.

Tonight we are in Somerset, PA -our last night on the trail. Just when I thought the weather couldn't get any better, today was the most perfect day God ever created. Crystal blue skies, no humidity, and 82 degrees. Tell you what, if tomorrow is a monsoon from the minute we fire the bikes, this was still the best weather I've ever had on a trip. 10 days and 2,000 miles so far without a drop of rain; the only day that was even overcast was the day we needed to cover a lot of ground heading into the setting sun.

As did Joliet, IL, our awakening in Zanesville this morning marked a transition -this time from flatland back to the fertile hills and valleys we're accustomed to. We spent the morning on a great backroad, Ohio's "Triple Nickel," carving through the dips and dives, then followed the Ohio River back up to Wheeling, WV. Along the way, we stopped at a rest area on the riverbank and ran into some other riders headed hither and yon. From there even the interstate was gorgeous, and we checked in early, leaving us time to run up to the Flight 93 memorial.

Ya know, it's funny. I had my iPod clipped to me again today, and the same songs that were all so colorless on Sunday were hip-swayin' good times today. I'll describe the Milwaukee experience a little better before I close out the blog, but I guess it's just hard to say goodbye. A couple good days in the wind, and all is well again.

In the interest of conserving fuel and natural resources, Jay and I finished up the Jim Beam and did our best with the beer tonight so we wouldn't have to haul it home. I feel like Hemingway. Wish you were here.

"Sippin' whiskey out the bottle, not thinkin' bout tomorrow, singing Sweet Home Alabama all summer long..."

Monday, September 01, 2008

Zanesville, OH

We're not much further down the road than we were this morning. Most of the day was spent at the Air Force museum there, which is, frankly, incredible. We rushed through it in 6 hours and missed 75% of it. It is truly amazing.

We rode another 125 miles of I-70 afterward, with Columbus about in the middle of that. Mom & Dad were at the hotel here when we pulled up, so we're back to 5 bikes at least for the time being. My mood is considerably improved today, and tomorrow we're off the interstate again so hopefully I'll be back in the swing. I was going to describe the Milwaukee experience in greater detail tonight, but we're out here in the parking lot looking at pictures and emptying out the community cooler so I think my work here is done for now.

We have about 1,800 miles in so far, and are closing in on the home stretch.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Headin' Home

This still sucks. Our 9-bike caravan on the way out has split up and gone separate ways, different plans having left only 4 of us heading home together. The fun has passed, and today was spent doing nothing more than gobbling up miles of interstate. Fuel the bike, get her up in high gear and just let it roll. Burn it all back off, and stop for more. Rinse, lather, repeat.

It's been a gorgeous day, but I just can't shake the grays. We made it all the way from Milwaukee to Dayton, Ohio - 380+ miles. Maybe tomorrow will be better. We're spending most of the day at the Air Force museum and will be out early enough to have a few beers and maybe kick the enjoyment factor back up a little.

Packing Up

This sucks.

It's Saturday night, and the party's over. Time to pack everything back up and set the alarm.

Not that you need a reason to ride, but to me a great road trip needs a great destination. Not only does it make a logical turning around point, it's a a diversion, a goal, and a few days to relax and not be so efficient. The windshield and T-Bags are off the bike and in the closet. Everything is unpacked and easy to get at, the little day bag carries necessities for the day's jaunt, and the living is free and easy.

When you get good at packing a bike, you can really do a lot with a little space, and everything goes down the road real nice. You have clean socks and drawers rolled in t-shirts so that you can grab a day's worth of clothes without digging. You have some extras of each, and you get what you can out of 3 pair of jeans. When it's all on the bike, the easiest thing to get at are the rainsuits and the flashlight. Tools are at the bottom.

But right now, my heart just isn't in it. We ended up leaving the festival before the Boss was finshed with his show, because I crippled Lisa earlier in the day. Apparently I'm not the communicator I think I am, and she left with me at the crack of dawn all set to ride in the parade wearing boots with heels that are not sutiable for 4 hours of walking the festival grounds, which I evidently didn't tell her we had to do. (The streets are shut down and the bikes can't get back out until they're all in and the streets are reopened.) I barely got her on the bike and down to the show, and we left early. It's probably for the better, but here I am facing reality, saying goodbye, and I don't like it.

I decided to take a picture during the process, and then put everything together on the bed to organize. Pretty much everything you see above except Lisa's helmet goes on the bike.

At left is a picture of Annie in party mode, followed by a picture from the road earlier in the week. Nine o'clock tomorrow morning, and we'll be heading down Wisconsin Ave. for the last time.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Welcome Home

Surprised as I was about how much I liked Chicago, the appeal of our adopted home here has never left my mind from our first visit. Milwaukee doesn't quickly come to mind for most people as a prime vacation destination, but for those who know, this town boasts a wealth of culture, architecture, and ethnic diversity that rivals any. Best of all, though, is the hospitality shown by its people to guests. Milwaukeeans not only tolerate rowdy tourists lost in their city on their (often loud) Harleys, they genuinely embrace us and are proud to see the bikes that leave the factories here return home.

It's been nonstop since my last post, and as disappointed as I am that tonight is our last here, I'm kind of dragging my dead ass to the finish line. I don't know if I could last much longer! We watched the stunt riders and drill teams perform on Thursday, then caught Sugarland and Kid Rock. Crass though he is, he's a great talent and put on an awesome show. We had an authentic German dinner at Karl Ratsch's restuarant downtown, stayed up way too late drinking tequila, watched a Black Crowes show, took a ride to Greendale, flew the chapter flag in the parade this morning, and actually managed to get laundry done in there.

The parade was quite the experience and really demonstrates the hospitality shown by our hosts. An awesome moment we'll never forget. It was about 7,500 bike total and took nearly 3 hours.

I'm getting ready now to head back down and catch some more music, culminating with the Springsteen show at the "Roadhouse on the Lakefront." We haven't seen the "Racine gang" since Thursday and in fact our wagon train will be a lot smaller on the return trip as folks have different plans and arrival dates. I have not even thought about getting ready to leave tomorrow, and the room looks like a flea market. But that's details. For now, one last blast.

Welcome Home, indeed.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Club HOG 25

The Thursday portion of the festivities is for the HOG (Harley Owners Group) 25th Anniversary over at Miller Park, where the Brewers play. There is a national rally annually, and every 5th year it is in Milwaukee in conjunction with the H-D anniversary celebrations.

We had an iffy forecast this morning and got a leisurely start today after some well-deserved rest. Eventually, we did make it over there and found the banner that our chapter made, checked out the bike and tattoo contests, and watched the stunt and drill teams for a while. It never did rain and the sun came out in force, so we took the short ride back to the hotel for some A/C and maybe even a party nap. There are about a million bikes over there, and the line coming off the freeway has been a mile long all day. Tonight will be Sugarland and Kid Rock on stage, and I'm very much looking forward to both. We found the super double-secret back way into the park and should hopefully ride right in.

Internet service is $10 a day here, so I'll probably save it and not bore you with the details of Harley's 105th celebration Friday. We'll walk over and spend the day enjoying the festivities, and then Saturday morning Lisa and I will ride in the parade carrying our HOG chapter's flag. I've never done that before, and I'm pretty excited about it. Here in Milwaukee, parade participation is VIPs, one flag bearer per chapter, and the other couple thousand by lottery. Should be pretty cool. The 105th festivities continue Saturday, concluding with the big Springsteen concert on the lakefront. I'm not a huge Boss fan, but I did like him and hear he puts on a great, great show. Plus, you gotta admit it's perfect match for this event (Better than their choice of Elton John for the 100th!) That will probably also include whatever closing ceremonies they are planning, so it should be a good night.

I may update Sunday morning before we leave, but you're more likely to see the next post from Dayton, Ohio on Monday morning.