July 2, 2004 – 475 miles
Detroit to Utica.
The adventure begins. Michigan & Ontario are best appreciated on the interstate, where you can ride out of town quickly. Too flat, too boring, and too congested with neurotic drivers. Minimize the pain, I kept thinking. Nothing to see, less to do. Decided to cruise faster than traffic and get to Niagara Falls for nice break. Niagara Falls is nice, beautiful, and congested with holiday travelers. Rats! One hour, let me repeat, one hour to cross the border! Not a good time to be wearing full gear when it’s 92 degrees out. I sweated enough to make the customs officer ask me why I was wearing a “wet suit”. I wasn’t.
“No, sir. It’s not a wet suit. It’s an riding suit. I’m touring” I said, doing my best not to say something about the expedience of their job duties. Sorry, I was in a bad mood by then. One hour cooking does that to you.
“Aren’t you hot in that” he asked.
“Yes, the suit breathes pretty well when I’m moving but cooks me when I stop” He finally took the hint. WOOHOO!!! Good thing too, I was ready to pass out.
First gas station after crossing found myself chugging down OJ & water. The people filling up their cars looked on, wondering which mental ward I’d escaped from. I left before one of them worked up the courage to call 911 and get the cops to haul me away.
I didn’t mind the heavy traffic on I-95 on my way to Utica, it was after all my vacation and I was in no hurry. Truckers tailgating me however was too much, better to risk a speeding ticket than get ran over by an 18-wheeler I thought. Whatever happened to courteous truckers? Is their time schedule really worth more than my health or life? A##holes, but I digress.
Finally made it to Utica and what I hoped was going to be the last stretch of Interstate for the whole trip. I ate at Taco Bell, ordered a #5 combo & a burrito and sat down in view of my baby. Why anybody goes into a serious personal argument in a public place is beyond me. I really didn’t need to know that my fellow Taco Bell patron was an adulterer and neither did the rest of the patrons. Whatever. Time to sleep.
July 3, 2004 – 416 miles
Utica, NY to Farmington, ME
Oh yeah. Finally off the interstates and into the backroads. First scenic overlook I find myself talking to a gentleman from southern NY. I parked right next to his well worn but neatly kept Concours. He tells me I have a good road ahead of me, that’s what I like to hear. It made me smile.
Northern NY is wooded rolling hills and little traffic. It reminds me of driving to Flagstaff, AZ. You know you’re on a good road when it reminds you of a childhood spent nearly 2500 miles away. It also makes you promise yourself to go back home soon. I smell another road trip, but it smells like pinetrees my nose insists. Hush nose!, I’m plotting…. I mean planning.
NY Route 9N winds besides lakes & rivers. Beautiful but excruciatingly crowded. It was the wrong time to find out it’s one of NYC’s favorite vacationing stops. Once, again I cooked inside my ‘stitch for nearly 20 minutes in bumper to bumper. Quick decision was madek and I bee-lined it to the nearest bridge and crossed into Vermont. I was greeted with rolling hills carpeted with trees.
After lunch at a nice little town, I made my way towards US2 which would take me all the way to Maine. US2 is a bumpy scenic road full of sweepers; much better than the grooved roads getting there. Grooves are scary on a bike, they just seem to give you steering inputs without warning and usually at the most inappropriate times.
It’s strange hearing “Vermont people are not friendly” from one of it’s residents. Their standards are a tad high, or maybe they just need to visit Detroit. I wouldn’t consider them the friendliest, WV takes the prize there, but they were generally nice & pleasant. Or maybe they just needed more time to break my high spirits, who knows.
New Hampshire goes by in a flash (35 miles to cross) and drops me off on Maine’s doorsteps. Maine along US2 is dotted with small towns of approximately same size & charm. Most stores are Mom & Pop kinda deal. Streets are narrow, curvy, and bumpy from the ravages of harsh winters. Temperatures are rather pleasant too, mid 60’s. Perfect for riding. I never dared take a dip in any of the waterways however, I learned my lesson in Lake Superior a few years back.
An SV650 made a U-turn while I was taking a break & refueling. Gentleman from NH was behind the handle bars. Bella, the Polish name not Italian, and I talked for about an hour. One of my favorite things about motorcycles, people will go out of their way to introduce themselves and chit-chat. Nobody ever stops and does a U-turn just to go talk to a car driver taking a break. Nobody. Bella tells me that I’ll love Acadia National Park and to take my time. I planned to. He does dash my hopes that US1 would be a good road. Full of slow moving & swerving tourists he informs me. Damn it. Time to re-route and minimize travel on US1. He was right of course, but I still drove a little bit of it just to do it.
It was getting late in the day and both of us decided to find shelter, he was heading south & I pointed my steed north and drove. Farmington is the biggest little town I’ve come across so far while in Maine. Hotels were clean, plain, & barren; fine by me. Weather channel tells me tomorrow will be a nice & sunny day. As it turns out it would be the only time they predicted correctly.
July 4, 2004 – 427 miles
Acadia National Park
Got up at 5am today. Yes, it’s crazy for a holiday but I was anxious to go. Drive to Acadia from Farmington was a little chilly but rewarded with empty roads. The dew gave the morning a whole surreal tint to all the hills, flowers, houses, and everything in its path. What a great opening act to what was waiting for me at Acadia.
When you first enter into the Island that houses Acadia you begin to wonder if this was really worth the title of a national park. It looked just like the rest of Maine, which is not a putdown just merely ordinary rather than extraordinary. “I hope there’s more” I said to myself. It only took about 2 miles before I got my answer, and boy did I get an answer.
I took the back roads to the Park Loop Rd rather than the customary Route 3. I’m glad I did. Nothing like the victorious feeling that comes from taking a more beautiful & mostly deserted road. Let the lemmings take the “quick” way. We were already in the park, the destination, why take the quick route? I don’t get it. Whatever, I’m having fun. Just before arriving at Park Loop Rd, I ride thru a town in the midst of Independence Day celebrations & Church events. I don’t stop, too many people.
Park Loop Rd needs to be renamed “Wow” or “Cool” or “Beautiful”. Current name does no justice to this magnificent road. The road is one-way two lane affair where cars/bikes regularly stop, park, and take lots of pictures. It’s unusually white and smooth too. I spent nearly 5 hours traveling this road, never exceeding 20mph and making numerous stops. Speaking of speed, why do people speed and tailgate in a national park? Have they forgotten that it’s a holiday and they’re inside a national park? Are their lives so pathetic and cumbersome that they cannot enjoy the fruits of our Independence and National Park system. Idiots, the lot of them. But it’s too beautiful to let them ruin my mood. God or Nature, depends on your belief, was definitely inspired when creating this nook of the world. I was inspired.
And I was inspired even further when the sea fog began to dance it’s way into Acadia. Wow, this place is two faced. With Fog and without, I was mesmerized by both. Photos do no justice, they leave no way to thrill your skin with the cool mist or deafen your ears with the incoming stillness. I arrived and left Acadia at the right time, early enough to avoid the crowds and running out when they finally got there mid-afternoon. Acadia is best when nearly deserted.
Before I left Acadia however I had to deal with a bad situation I had gotten myself into. You see, I now had a stalker. I do not know his name or where he’s from or what he wanted. But I did not like him and the feeling was mutual. This “perpetrator” looked curiously like an ill-tempered seagull. Actually, whom am I kidding, it was a seagull. That little bastid followed… nay stalked me everywhere. I wondered if I looked like a giant fish out of water to him, if so then he must’ve been color blind as my Aerostitch is BLUE. Fish don’t ride bikes or carry luggage. Dumb bird. Shooing, threats, and verbal abuse did not persuade him to leave. A photograph & promise to turn him to the authorities finally did the trick and he flew away. But not before making a diving attack on me. Ha! colorblind and farsighted. He missed!
Feeling victorious, I left Acadia and headed to the New Hampshire border. I should’ve stayed in Acadia.
July 5, 2004 – 376 miles
New Hampshire to Westfield, MA
“Scattered showers” said the weatherman. It sure seemed that every shower “scattered” their way onto me. Aarghhh!!! This is supposed to be a good day, MY birthday for God’s sake. Alas, it turned into a survival day rather than a happy day. I signed up for vacation, not boot camp.
It started out as a misty cloudy day, about an hour into the ride it began to sprinkle and shower. No big deal, just reduce speed and keep my guard up. Good idea as it turns out. Just after noon the showers became rain on the mountains of Vermont’s Rt100. Switched to waterproof gloves from my usual leather gloves. Second lie, waterproof my ass. Joe Rocket lied, big time lied. Less than 50 miles into the glove switch, I made the best of the situation. Freak minds (such as myself) do strange things to entertain themselves when faced with adversity. My waterproof gloves had become excellent water retainers, little pools formed inside the fingers. So what do I do? I start to play with the water… squish, squash, squish, squash. Thirty minutes later it dawns on me, I’m a freak. A freak celebrating his birthday, no less. At least I’m having fun with this fiasco of waterproofness. My Aerostitch & Daytona boots stayed mercifully dry all day long. They were both expensive but obviously worth every penny. Must invest in new gloves when I get back home.
Rivers, however small, going across the road is never a welcoming sight for a motorcyclist. Where’s the button to turn this thing into a jet-ski? I guess mine was defective as I never found one. Whatever, just focus on staying on the road. Needless to say, this day wouldn’t be complete without something scaring the hell out me. Unannounced left turns with a stop light at the apex are annoying in the dry. Scary when its darkish and rainy. And a freaking nightmare when said turn is also off camber into a wall!! The visor fogging up due to my heavy breathing & cursing did not help any. I was extremely hapyy that I had spent the previous weekend practicing emergency stops in Nowhere, Ohio. It was a big accomplishment that I didn’t lock the front under the circumstances and crash. It did take all my concentration however, as witnessed by the bucking and jerking of an engine stopped without pulling the clutch. Or downshifting. I was busy, sorry
I had enough fun by 3pm. I want a hotel. I inquire on my still trusty Garmin 2610 for the nearest hotel. Apparently Garmin, in their good graces, decided to include phantom hotels in the listings. Not funny. Second try finds me staring at the rusting door of a rundown garage. Sorry Garmin but that doesn’t qualify as a hotel in my book, maybe they should include a rating system. Zero stars for abandoned rundown garages and five for the Taj Mahal. Third hotel finds me staring at “will return soon” sign. Yeah right, anybody know how long “soon” is? It’s not 30 minutes in the rain, don’t ask how I know. Fourth hotel is another phantom, apparently Massachusetts is infested with them. Sigh. I soldiered on the fifth and last hotel. Jackpot. It even has a Wendy’s next door. Oh yeah, baby. I’m styling now.
My happiness with a clean & non-phantom hotel didn’t last long. While unloading my bike, in the rain, I discovered that the New England roads were not kind to my rear tire. It squared off with alarming speed and was now showing carcass threads. Not good. Made a call to a good friend of mine, and she looked up addresses for Pirelli dealers.
July 6, 2004 – 368 miles
Wesfield, MA to Pennsylvania.
Pirelli should separate car tire dealers from motorcycle tires. Sheesh. Neither store where any good, however they did serve a purpose. I went by a motorcycle dealership while following my Garmin. Dealership wasn’t opened to customers yet, but the mechanics were already hard at work. No tire for GSXR1000 here, they said. Try Valley’s Motorsports. Valley’s set me up with a new Metzeler M-1 rear tire, not the Pirelli Diablo I wanted but close enough. They put me right to the front of the line, thanks guys. I was out of there by 1130. Back on the road.
Ate lunch and quickly fled MA to NY’s Rt.28 & Rt.30. MA drivers are just as aggressive & rude as NYC’s. I saw one guy, make a pass using the parking zone as the high speed lane. Time to go away. NY’s Rt.30 gave me a chance to scrub in that shiny new rear tire. What a fun little road. Sweepers, fair surface, little traffic, and one hiding cop. Yikes! It was the one and only time I was glad that yet another cager decided to cut me off. I braked hard and was way below the speeding limit before hidden cop saw me. Time to slow down. Cager gets “evil look” from cop. Lucky he didn’t get “evil ticket”.
Pennsylvania, or Transylvania as I insist on calling it, had little twisties on my chosen route but the road was a fun rollercoaster ride. Actually saw an Amish buggy go by on opposite direction. I pulled in the clutch and let the engine idle so as not to scare the horse. They seemed to appreciate that. It was getting late and time to find a hotel.
July 7, 2004 – 451 miles
Transylvania to Roanoke, VA
I don’t want to do it, but I have to. I’m wussing out and changing my route, something I steadfastly refused to do on VT & MA. I didn’t want to get soaked yet again. The weather channel was warning of severe thunderstorms by afternoon. So I ran. I ran to Virginia via I-81 and into the start of Skyline Drive. The $4 pass to get into the Skyline Drive is well worth it. Fair traffic and awesome sweepers are worth $4, heck I got a deal. I quickly settled into a “no brakes” riding style. It forces you to keep the straight away speeds low and the cornering speeds high. Best idea I had all day. The cops seemed to agree too, just wished he wasn’t using half of MY lane when we crossed paths. Sheesh, now even the cops are crossing the yellow line into oncoming traffic. Good grief.
After lunch, my day got a whole lot better. No, Wendy’s is not that good. Even after the third time this week. Blue Ridge Parkway is a highly hyped road that manages to be underrated. Lightly traveled, on weekdays at least, and good roads are just the entrée. The meat of the road are its unending supply of sweepers and scenery. The dessert is its length, over 400 miles long. The rider I met on one of its numerous lookouts summed it up best. “Looks like you’ve been having fun” he said as he finished inspecting my front and then rear tire. My grin could not be any wider otherwise my face would split in two down the middle. Just like in horror movies, except I would be smiling all the time rather than try to kill the nearest hapless virgin or whatever the lame script calls for.
Later that night in the hotel room, I found out that the severe thunderstorms were about 50 miles behind me all through out the day. That bit of news capped off an awesome day. I took one back from the weather gods.
July 8, 2004 – 412 miles
Roanoke, VA to Greenesboro, NC
Returned to Blue Ridge Parkway to continue into North Carolina. Sweeper paradise continues for another couple of hours. The approaching US221 encouraged me to stop more often at the overlooks due to increased traffic, sometimes heavy. No problem, scenery is good. I needed to take more breaks anyway, I didn’t sleep well the previous night.
North Carolina’s NC-80 was my chosen exit from Blue Ridge Parkway. What a wicked little road NC-80 is. It would’ve been much more fun if it had less gravel. This road really does give Deal’s Gap a run for its money. Large portions just got repaved too. Guardrail was making me nervous all the way down though. Maybe I was tired, but it looked very menacing.
While refueling at the bottom of NC-80, I witnessed a car crash. Lack of attention was the culprit, no need to hang around as one of the many witnesses is an off-duty cop. Ooops. Time to hit I-40 to go visit my brother in Greenesboro. Stories of girlfriends, roommates, and Mustangs were exchanged. Hadn’t seen him in a while.
July 9, 2004 – 270 miles
Greenesboro, NC to Beckley, WV
Left my brother’s at 1pm and headed north. Route 16 from US421 to Blue Ridge Parkway is a nice twisty little road. Perfect appetizer to riding the Parkway again. Continued to do “no brakes” on the Parkway again today. Worked out great because when an oncoming cop “clocked” me, he found my speed high but not enough to warrant a stop. He only flashed his parking lights and did not turn around. Lucky he didn’t clock me in the middle of a turn as that would’ve found me at much higher speed.
US19 into Beckley wasn’t as twisty as I had hoped but that’s ok. I was in West Virginia and I know most of the good roads here. Tomorrow should be a nice day of twisties.
July 10, 2004 – 532 miles (3721 miles total)
Beckley, WV to Detroit, MI
Route 16 is one of my favorites whenever I find myself in WV. Not this time. One out of three, that’s my record with strong thunderstorms. Less than 2 hours into the day and I’m relieving the nightmare. Please make it stop. WV is littered with great roads, but they all turn nasty during thunderstorms. You see in WV you won’t just get rivers running across the road, you’ll also get mud & gravel from the mountain sides. Few people live in WV, which is a blessing in the dry but a curse in the wet when you’re looking for shelter. Did I mention hail sucks. Don’t let me forget.
I think God finally took pity on me since the storm only lasted 30 minutes. Thirty very long minutes. I was worn out and decided to find a hotel early. At 3pm I rolled in to a Hotel in the Ohio border. Sign said “will return soon”, I should’ve know better. As 6pm rolls around, I’m pissed, despite reading Peter Eagan’s excellent book “Leanings”. Only good thing about losing my cool is that I usually get really focused and determined. I decided that I was going to sleep on my own bed that night. No more hotels. Or rain.
I was wrong about the rain of course. Third time to get drenched, twice today alone. Sigh. My strategy of trying to outrun the storms using I-77 backfires, it only gets worse and I have to stop now. Heavy rain and car spray keep my left hand busy while I scanned for the nearest exit ramp. Rain stops at 11pm, while I sat waiting inside a Wendy’s. Do Wendy’s just pop out of the ground whenever it rains? This can’t be coincidence. Conspiracy? I ask myself. Great, now I’m delusional. Time to go.
I’ve never seen I-80 so empty, I loved it. Made good time into Toledo and made a beeline towards Michigan. I pulled into my garage around 1am. I haven’t slept so well in a long time. On Sunday I treated the bike to a good wash and oil change, it earned it. It covered 3721 miles without a hiccup. Good girl.