Sunday, July 27, 2008

Maine Street

Ahhh...Maine! What a great place to be, yet I am considering cutting out a few days here. It seems a shame that I would consider leaving here before I have seen and done everything. Okay, in al fairness (to me - of course) that wouldn't be possible even if I stayed the additional three days that I had planned. There are just too many things going on at this juncture of the trip for me to dedicate as much time as I would like.

From the moment I crossed into New Hampshire I noticed a change in everything. I don't know why just a state welcome sign viewed through the rain was able to lift the haze I felt throughout MA. I suppose that I did enjoy my time in Plymouth, MA, but I can't believe how vehement I am about my dislike of Mass. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

New Hampshire

At one time I had an opinion that Texas was the worst state I had been to, but that has changed. I now have a new contender... Massachusetts. I should have listened to Bob and Kate when they offered for me to stay in their guest house in Rhode Island and see a bit more of the Ocean State. Bob told me that I should spend more time checking out RI instead of going to Cape Cod.
About 100 miles north of Concord, New Hampshire is a 37 mile road that snakes along the north side of Mt Kancamagus. There is a lot of activity in the town before the Kancamagus Highway and the town at the other end. This is also situated in the heart of the White Mountain National Park with plenty of things for people to do... including catching some rays while reading the USA Today.
Would you play in these waters?
They would.
Seemed a like a place where you would have signs cautioning people, but this is one of those places that has not succumbed to the fear culture that we have in America. Very refreshing!
To the south of this road is Mt K and to the north is Mt Washington which is the home to the worst weather in the world. It (Mt W) also has one of the narrowest two way roads that I have been on. I am happy that I had good weather - bad weather would have caused me to suck the seat up into my... sorry, too graphic. 
All the really cool places get a cog railroad. I want one!!
This truly does look better in its original size (... don't they all!)
It doesn't look as imposing from this angle. Perhaps if you squint...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cape Cod (otherwise named, "One more reason to hope Global Warming melts both ice caps soon")

Cape Cod - Nothing good to say about it. No need to ever go back. It is a heinous place and an experience that I would not want to repeat being in a place that has too much traffic for the roads. The roads were designed to support horse drawn carriages. Okay, they are perfectly serviceable, but were meant to support perhaps 500 people, but 25,000 are on the roads... OH YEAH... They blocked two of the main roads (there are ONLY two main roads in this area) off at the same time for construction. 

Upon arrival to a motel in Bourne, MA, (an entry point to Cape Cod) I parked the bike to check in a way that was not normal to how I usually park. It was late, I was tired and I just wanted to check in and get some sleep. I got the room and just had to move the bike to the room - with the angle of the hill I was in danger of tipping the bike over to the right side if I were to mount it here so I pushed it a little down the hill...only to drop it on the left side. So, with the bike lying downhill I tried to right it and found it to be too much, so I started to unload the bike. At this time two men that were checking in came out and helped me out. So... with the bike still on the awkward hill, I start to load it... As soon as I put the seat bag on the bike fell the other direction. You can't help but laugh at this. If there were two more idiots out there we would be Stooges, but it was just me making up for the others.   

Even after my comedy of errors, I still intended to head out to Provincetown (P-Town) in the morning... I am sure that there was more to see, but this was all I got. The Pilgrim's Monument (or something like that). I was just ready to get back to the mainland and continue on.

Prior to arriving in CC I had been cut off twice by different drivers just after I left Rhode Island. After leaving CC I was cut off again. Same M.O. - female, age between 50 and 60 and they all pulled right out in front of me from an intersection. In all three cases they only gave me about 20 feet to slow up, which meant that I had to really get on my breaks while I down-shifted. In one case I couldn't slow up fast enough so I had to go into the oncoming lane so I didn't hit her. 

Plymouth, MA was a nice treat after being in Cape Cod hell. I rolled up (again later than I wanted - because of the roads in CC) and found a room and a couple of other riders sitting outside their room having an after ride drink. Clay and Kit were from Upstate New York and down for a weekend trip to Plymouth. Their last trip was to Sturgis and a few other trips about the same length, they thought they would stay a little closer to home on this trip. We got to talking and they offered a nice glass of Scotch which turned out to be a full wine glass of Scotch. Nothing better than a 5 finger pour on an empty stomach. Whew! It was a nice 15 block walk to dinner.

The next day I made my way to Boston for a look around, find a place to spend a couple of nights and see the city. As I made it into Boston I was almost side-swiped when what appeared to be a middle aged woman changed lanes and ran me into the lawn of a park. Good thing there was somewhere to go. For almost 6000 miles I had come away with little to talk about in the way of stupid drivers, but in one state I have seen some of the worst driving of any other state (even in Manhattan) and it is not a big state. Even the ones that didn't almost hit me were ridiculous! I am not even going to talk about the person that hit me in South Carolina. That situation was stupid (she changed lanes hitting my right rear with her front left - very much in her line of sight) and it wasn't much of anything at all. Just a tap and we both moved away. No harm, no foul. That didn't bother me at all, but these 4 instances had me spooked so I left for New Hampshire in the pouring rain. I would rather ride in the rain than stay in Boston.

Massachusetts is giving West Texas a run for its money on my shit scale. In fact, upon reflection, Texas is far behind Mass.


I should have listened to Bob and Kate when they offered for me to stay in their guest house in Rhode Island and see a bit more of the Ocean State. Bob told me that I should spend more time checking out RI instead of going to Cape Cod. 

Beavertail Lighthouse is the 3rd oldest in the US (1749) and the adjoining house was built in 1898. 
I started talking to Bob (Matin) at Razee's Motorcycle shop while I was getting new tires. As you may recall, I had a flat in New York City and repaired it enough to get to the next stop where I could get it fixed. North Kingston, RI was about 175 miles from NYC and seemed to be the best place to head off to. Anyway, Bob and I talked about RI and how great it was (and Bob is right - definitely one of my favorite spots so far) and that I should spend some time in his fine state and ignore the cape. He and his wife Kate later called to ask if I would like to stay at their house for a couple of days to hang out, soak in the hot tub, drink some wine, etc... Instead, I left toward Cape Cod to try to keep on schedule. This was my worst decision yet.

I could have stayed in Jamestown, RI a bit longer. I just felt so much like I had been here before. It was euphoric just crossing the bridge - this is the first day in 42 days that the temps were below 90 degrees. Wow! What a treat! I did have an eerie feeling upon crossing the bridge. Everything felt so very familiar and like home to me. 

Every turn I made seemed to be familiar. 
Even the roads that didn't show on maps or GPS were familiar and I just followed them as if I knew where I was going on my way to get to the lighthouse or to the wharf or around an obstruction (rock outcropping). Very strange to ponder how I knew this place so well.
I have always been good with directions, perhaps I am just intuitive about stuff like this, but how do I account for the comfort and ease that I felt in this place.

This is the view from the main road toward the marina.
Claiborne Pell Bridge (or the Newport Bridge)

Urban Myths

PCP - has anyone ever seen it? I think it is an urban myth.


At Cafe du Parc on Pennsylvania Avenue, just a short jaunt to the White House sits a stellar place to dine. It has been several weeks since I have been here, but I have been trying to get to this since I left DC, but something always seems to pop up and prevent me from talking about this restaurant. I just can't let this meal go without some fanfare - it was that good.

After describing certain chain restaurants as "evil", I thought that I would try to describe what I consider to be a good meal. I had the gazpacho, which isn't as good as mine and I chose for an entree what I thought was a butterflied pork loin (actual menu listing: Poitrine de cochon croustillante 24 hour sous-vide pork, sautéed crisp, with natural thyme and garlic jus), but  turned out to be crisped pork belly sauteed in garlic with a side of fresh green beans lightly sauteed with a butter shallot reduction. Personally, I would not have ordered this dish had it not been written in French (sure, there was an English translation but can you make sense of it?) and simply didn't understand what this was. I am so happy that my skills in the French language have slipped in the past several years. This meal was one of the finest I have had in a very long time. The difference... fresh ingredients and cooked to order by someone who cares what they serve. 
I did find a little guilty eating the pork belly - it really is NOT a lean cut of meat. That is why I had a couple of glasses of red wine to wash it down.    Another nice thing about the restaurant was the staff. I must have talked to Sally (Sarah, S... damn! I thought I would recall her name - if you are out there, please respond and correct me) for 15 minutes about food, my trip, her goal to open a restaurant and several other topics - I think she took pity on me since I was alone. It was a very nice dinner. 

As Aaron and I headed to one of the many wineries surrounding Charlottesville, VA we encounter a good sized black bear loping across the road onto one of the many farms near the winery. I wish that I could have had my camera out quicker, but unless I find a way to grow a third arm in the near future, there won't be any spontaneous photos from the saddle. He was a good sized bear and was more scared of us than we were of him. 

After APT drank me under the table and I whined about it the next day, we headed over to her place in Schuyler, VA. If you haven't been here, it is a house in the hills of Virginia on like, 84 acres of land. There is a labyrinth in the making, a swimming pool, seclusion and views that are picture perfect. It was definitely a quieter evening than it was the night before on the mall in Charlottesville, but I think that is to be expected. 

It did seem a bit cooler in the hills than it was in C-ville and DC, but it got much cooler on the Shenendoah Parkway. Unfortunately, I have to be in Alaska at a certain time and that is always on my mind when I am working on my ever fluid schedule. I spent too little time in DC, C-ville and all the way into NYC.
How can I explain how amazing the Blue Ridge Parkway is? First of all, the temps dropped 20 degrees from what I had seen for 4 weeks - that in and of itself was a HUGE break for me. It can become extremely oppressive when you can't get out of the heat for 10-12 hours a day. With the humidity along the coasts it is hard to escape it. I have found that I lack the desire to explore as much as I would otherwise - that has all changed with this new, unknown temperature that I am experiencing here in Shenendoah. 

If nobody has been here I will try to explain it to you. This National Park runs the along the top of a "mountain" range in Virginia up to West Virginia. It is windy and has great overlooks. There are bears, deer and other critters (critter is not an unknown word in these parts). There are plenty of winding curves, winding hills and winding vistas for a motorcycle to to chew up and spit out. One of the great things about this road is that there are plenty of places to stop, grab a drink, rest or look out over WVA or VA. The bonus of that is that you can meet other people that are riding in your direction or the opposite direction on this 100 mile scenic highway. 

With this being a national park with a fee to enter, you will mostly find people that are camping or motorcyclists that are looking for the same sort of entertainment as I was. A few of these people peeled off from one of these views at the same time I did and we fell in together for about 40 miles. What an amazing treat it is to ride with 5 others that seem to be in sync with what you are doing. For a little while I led the way, but after I spotted a little black bear in the trees our order changed and I was in the middle. When everything is going well on a motorcycle, you can just float from one curve into the next. When everything is going well for a group of motorcycles, it is a lot like dancing. Dancing very well. It is a series of dips followed by rising into the next dip. If it is done right with a group of people you will pivot into a turn as the last person in line is pivoting up from the last turn - sort of like a line of Rockettes leg kicks. All synchronized and fluid. About 20 minutes into this I was feeling very poetic. It was one of the few times I have had a clear mind with no outside thoughts while riding. 

If you can't imagine how that feels, picture a perfect line down Prima then Pronto and just when you feel as if your legs are on fire, you drop off the catwalk into Log Chute to cap it all off. If you have done those right and found the right line, you know what I am talking about. If you don't know what Prima, Pronto and Log Chute are... spend a little time at Vail this winter. If that isn't in the cards, think about 12 inches of fresh powder and carving figure 8's. That is probably closer to the feeling than the knee grinding bumps of Pronto.
Okay, this isn't Virginia, but I placed this pic in here and now I am stuck with it. I found that I learned more about the war at Gettysburg in this short day trip than I recall from it being taught in high school. For some reason I always thought that it was Grant facing Lee instead of Meade vs Lee. I don't recall a teacher ever telling me that it lasted all of 3 days with Lee retreating back across the Potomac. The size of the battle is also something that can't be learned in a book. It really is hard to envision 165,000 people when you are reading a book - it is also hard to imagine that many people when you are looking at it, but you can almost get your arms around it to the point that you can imagine hearing troops walking through the woods that line the battlefield.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Road food

This jag has been brewing for 5 weeks now and I just have to say something about our country. No, this won't be as controversial as my rant on religion, but it does frustrate me to the same degree. Perhaps they are the same issue. Hmmm....

One of the goals I had when I left Denver was to avoid all chain restaurants. It was a small goal, but one that I felt reasonably certain that I could achieve. Now that I have traveled almost 5000 miles on highways and byways between Denver and Texas, Texas and Florida and Florida to Rhode Island, I have a greater understanding how utterly ridiculous that goal really was.

From Denver through Texas the only other options than a chain restaurant was mexican food. From Texas through... hell, I am not going through all the states to say what might be "non-chain" food is. I have traveled along single lane roads into the smallest of towns and the one common denominator is that the mom & pop restaurants have been run out of town. There are very few left from what I have been able to tell and I find this to be a sad situation. I call it the "Invasion of the Plastic Food". The worst state by far was Texas. Sure, once you got to a major city there were non-franchised restaurants, but unless you knew where to go you were out of luck finding something that wasn't plastic food. Very rarely was I able to find a suitable place to eat that wasn't a chain in Texas. In the smaller towns everything now is  McD's, BK, Subway, Wendy's, Taco Bell, Whataburger, etc... Those are the main offenders, but hardly the worst. 

Those are what I call first tier plastic food, then you have the second tier plastic food which are the Bennigans, Chilis, TGIFridays, etc... Those restaurants allow you to get in sit down for a beer and some food, perhaps even feel good about your meal and allow you to think you are better off than the fast food joints because the percentage of food that isn't as processed.

The third tier are the greatest offenders of all. These are the Olive Gardens, Applebees, Sizzlers, Armadillos, etc... These restaurants are guilty of allowing some people to think that a Ceasar salad is supposed to have that Kraft Mayonnaise based dressing and that the shrimp scampi is a cream sauce instead of butter garlic. The food at these places is a poor rendition of real food and personally, I would prefer to eat at Taco Bell before Olive Garden. This tier of restaurants is evil. I truly mean that. There is nothing good about them at all. The reason that third tier restaurants like Olive Garden are so evil is the very real possibility that people who don't know any better might walk away from them thinking that this is what a plate of shrimp scampi/fettuccine Alfredo/spaghetti Bolognese is supposed to taste like.

There is a fourth tier to these chain restaurants and I can't really touch those because the food is typically good. They are the Ruths Chris, McCormicks, Chart Houses, Morton's, etc... These restaurants have determined that they want to be fine dining and that is their corporate mantra. All these restaurants maintain high standards (and high prices). You can expect a good meal here any time and be assured that it will be scratch ingredients. You can also be guaranteed that it will cost you some scratch to get out of there without doing dishes.

Why is it that America is turning plastic? Our food, our boobs (well, not the guys... well, not any that I know) and our cars to name a few. Quality is being replaced by mediocrity and image takes precedence over wisdom. We seem to have bought the advertising and left the substance in our past. Clara Peller was right, "where's the beef?" Every restaurant has a similar dish that is inspired by a quality meal from a renowned chef that never seems to hit the mark - it always leaves you wondering why. There is no variety among these chains either. Chilis is like Applebees is like Friendlies is like... It doesn't even matter what state you are in. 

You know what the funny thing is? The food is the same, but the people are remarkably different. Their needs are different, their beliefs are different, there politics are different. Why do they want and gravitate to the same food? Sure, each region has a local food style, but those styles don't translate to the chains. You will find those in stand alone restaurants.  There isn't even an inflection of flavor that might translate from the different parts of the country. 

I have found that a certain part of the country is prone to this and others aren't as susceptible. It truly seems as if the red states are more into the plastic food and the blue states have their own identity. I also have a theory that the red states are a bit thicker than the blue states, but that is another jag. Mind you, there are exceptions to this and they are usually individuals bucking the trend. New Orleans is a delightful city that keeps its identity. Savannah is another that remains true as does... I had to go all the way up to DC before I saw others that had their own style.

As much as I abhorred Massachusetts, I found that they were almost without ANY plastic restaurants. I think that I saw a Subway store somewhere. I never saw anything else that I recall (I am sure they are there). I only saw independent-stand alone dining choices and it was refreshing. That has continued north and I can't explain it. Perhaps the people are just a bit more sophisticated than their southern brethren. 

Can anyone tell me they have had a memorable meal at one of the tier 1-3 chains (other than food poisoning)? 

With all that said, as much as I tried to adhere to my rule about chains, I had to break it with Subways, Quiznos, Schlotsky's and Chilis (only). I found that they were the least objectionable and everywhere seems to one. Fortunately things loosened up around Savannah and I haven't had to be subjected to the crap food since. I am back on the goal and I don't think there are any other places that subject their people to this phenomena.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The other shoe drops...

I knew that my fortunes were bound to change after the superior greeting that I received upon my arrival in New York/Jersey... Welcome to my first flat tire.

Somewhere between trying to find Orange County Choppers and the hotel, (probably my little detour around Brooklyn) I picked up a...  it looks like a shiv... (see pic). It is a little metal shaving from something - it looks a little medieval to me. I could also have picked it up  from riding on the side of the road and not obeying proper driving etiquette. Staying within the lines is hard to do when it is 97 degrees and the humidity is off the charts and you are backed up 9 miles to the Washington Bridge, which was the only access to where I was going. That is one of the main flaws about NYC. It is still an island and islands are not always easy to get off of or on to. Everything bottlenecks at the bridges and tunnels.
This little nub of metal was protruding about an 1/8th of an inch out of my rear tire - it was a slow enough leak that I didn't notice and was able to get home on it. Now comes the task of fixing the tire temporarily so I can get someplace for a new tire or a permanent patch - something I don't have with me - yet. I have tire plugs for any hole, but those aren't meant for permanence, at least not the plugs that I have. 

30 minutes later...

I seem to have sorted it out well enough, except that the plug is not holding air. I will see what things are like in the morning (it took 5 hours to release 20 psi, but that was without moving and it isn't supporting weight), and I to have to re-inflate the tire several times during tomorrow's 175 miles (at a slow pace). I may have to replace the plug I have put in, unloading the bike and putting air in the tire. Like the shampoo bottle says... "wash, rinse, repeat" until I get to North Kingstown, RI.

I blame this situation on Jung's idea of the collective unconscious. Since I have been on the road I have adapted my riding to whichever state/city/town that I am in at the time. The typical New York driver has an aggressive, "I need to get there first at all cost" type of attitude that I don't enjoy riding in because they are an arrogant driver, but to survive on these roads you need to be very aware, yet thinking aggressive or always looking for the escape route. Since the whole city drives this way I felt that it was a collective unconscious action by all, but if I remember my high school psychology correctly; according to Jung the collective unconsciousness was not personally acquired but "inherited" somehow in the brain structure. It is a reservoir of all human memory and experience that could somehow be tapped into, just not acquired like the way I am trying to make it into. It is over 20 years since that class so I may not be explaining it right, but that is the way that I remember what Jung was saying about it. So let's take Jung out of the equation and just say that driving habits are universally shared in an unconscious way. 

So, long story short, there I was driving like a New Yorker and I screw up my "driving karma" by driving outside the law and get a flat tire. (I know that is just a contemporary version of karma and not a real example of karma) I can't say that I will never drive in the breakdown lane, but I will do so when I am not in a city with so much trash on the roads. Jersey is clean by comparison to NYC and Brooklyn. The lead up to and from the Washington Bridge seems to have the most junk on the roads. 

All this drivel just because I get a flat tire. Imagine what spews out when I am having real difficulties.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The City

No matter how many times I come here, I just haven't ever gotten an understanding of it. I think that is changing this time since I have had a few days of walking with some riding thrown in. Before I have stayed in Midtown and never strayed much to places like Bleeker Street, Battery Park, Brooklyn, Harlem, SOHO, Greenwich Village, etc... I was usually here for just a weekend so it was some show, a little dinner and a few bars. Not this time. 

NYC turned out to by my 6k Service point for my bike. (Can you believe that I have 6500 miles on it in less than 3 months? 4800 on this trip alone) I had to rush through Washington, DC and miss catching up with friends because I couldn't schedule my service for later in the week or the beginning of the next week. It was a good thing that I called to schedule - might not have worked out otherwise. I suppose that I could have done the service in Jessup, Maryland or Frederick, Virginia. I suppose that I will have to spend a day in a few of those little backwaters without wheels for a couple of days, but it seemed better to walk around NYC than Jessup.

After dropping my bike off I caught a cab to SOHO and started walking around looking for a breakfast restaurant. Perhaps some of you have the same issue that I do... Whenever I am here, I want to find the most hole-in-the-wall-gem restaurant and not just anything will do. So, with the quest for a a great breakfast (it is 10am by the time I caught the cab) I just started walking. And walking. And then I found Bleeker Street. Wow, what a great little street with lots of choices. Too many choices! By this time I was really ready for breakfast and all the lunch restaurants were opening giving me more choices. I stumbled into a little Thai restaurant and was the first to sit down. There is something disconcerting about being the ONLY PERSON in a restaurant in New York. In NYC you are never the only person. Being the only person in a New York restaurant usually means that there is something wrong. All this was going through my head when the door swung open and two girls came in speaking Japanese. Then three more people came in and then two more and two more and another three. I stopped worrying about something being wrong as more people came in and it started getting crowded, I started to become bothered that this little gem I found was now full of people. 

I don't know if I could ever find my way back there, which would be a shame. Not a great shame since it wasn't the best Thai ever, but it was good and wasn't a chain. (see following story called "Chains"). From here I continued up Bleeker until I veered off onto another street and then up another to another and about this time I was wishing for a city map. I didn't feel lost, but I didn't know where I was until I stumbled across Broadway and then it became clear that I was not even close to Times Square. At the time I didn't realize I was close to the Financial District and Wall St., otherwise I would have made a u-turn to worship at the "great bull" and hope for a turn around of the stock market. I was able to stumble across this mean looking bronze statue the next day - twice. The first time I had the bull all to myself and pulled up in front only to have mobs swarm it without respect that I wanted to take a picture. It worked out much better later on.

Onward up Broadway through a couple of parks an Irish pub, another Irish pub, another park, up a couple more streets to 34th and then left to get to B&H Photo (Mecca for camera gear). It was then that I stumbled across Madison Square Garden. The history of basketball runs through this arena. I stood in awe for a few minutes... and then the walk signal came on. 

If you want to spend a day in NYC, walk from SOHO to the Lincoln Ferry Terminal. It was a great way to see the parts that are equally as New York as the stuff in Mid-town.

Day two in NYC had me lying low for a good part of it. Catching up on some phone calls, bank stuff and other things. After I did what I could, I hopped on the ferry from New Jersey back to the city to get into some trouble. A little walk around Time Square to see what shows I might want to see and a little dinner. What I found were a slew of chains catering to the "Plastic Food People", so I kept walking... and then I found it. Tickets for Yaz (I did say Yaz! As in Upstairs at Erics Yaz). I thought that Allison Moyet was retired. 

You know you are in New York when you see a buck naked dude jogging in the middle of the day, or so I thought. He was already halfway down the block as I pulled into it. I couldn't quite get my mind around what I was seeing. I thought perhaps he was wearing all white or cream, but NO! About the time that I got close, the van in front of me was slowing down and then they let him in a the end of the block. Nothing like a good dare I suppose.

I barely got out of Manhattan last night before falling asleep... at midnight! Of course I can blame that on waking at 530 and being on the ferry at 8 to get my bike from its service and spending the rest of the day walking around Battery and Central Park, then the Met, then dinner, then the Yaz concert . I made the mistake of dropping the bike at one side of Central park and catching a cab to the other side. About the halfway point I started to doubt the wisdom in this and then about 3/4's of the way I knew it was certainly going to be a bad idea. I got out of the cab and realized that my feet hurt from all the walking I have already done the past few days, what was I thinking. I can always pop out and cab it back I suppose. One step and another until I am striding past the lagoon, past the reservoir and through throngs of people. It was about halfway to this point that I realized that I didn't bring my camera. I suppose that is not a bad thing - it would have been destroyed by the sweat and humidity. After I had enough I walked out to one side of the park and accidentally stumbled across the MET and there was no line! Wow, AC and a bench to sit on where I could pretend to be interested in some piece of art for a while. Life is good when you are in NY!  

Day four is yet to come, but once I get motivated I am going to visit the Tuttles at Orange County Choppers. Perhaps "visit" is not the right word, but I am going up there to check out the crafted scooters and then in bed for an early night. Maybe even some room service.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Spectacular sunset, but too little time

I truly planned to stay in Washington for more than two nights. Let me revise that to be a check in at 8pm, a full day trying to catch up on stuff (bank, laundry in sink, reorganizing bags, etc...), an afternoon of walking around, dinner and then a few photos followed by an early check-out and lunch before going back south to Charlottesville. Definitely not enough time here!
When I cut off my planned trip to the panhandle of Florida and started feeling rushed to get to Alaska, I screwed up my schedule. I was hoping that I wouldn't have to back track anywhere. I sacrificed seeing Washington and my buddy Darrel for APT and staying in the woods for a few days. It turns out that I chose the right path. I was able to hang out with APT for more than the few hours we spent together in Denver last year and I got to see some amazing historical sites. 

Before I get to Charlottesville, let me touch on my stay in DC. It is crowded and driving is fouled up by tourists, blockades, protest marches, the goof-ball we call president had somewhere to go while I was there and I got caught in the traffic caused by his cavalcade. Even through all this I was able to pull off on a curb and, with my camera on the ground, take this photo of the National Monument.
I liked how the women in DC dressed. They dress smart and businesslike. This place has a comfortable feel to it... if you could get rid of the traffic.

Sorry I missed you Darrell!! Just ran out of time and seemed to get busy elsewhere.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Police Escort

Okay, I am woefully behind. Where do I start? Do I start with my shortened stay in Washington? My time in Charlottesville with APT? The three black bears that I saw (one with APT and 2 others on the Blue Ridge Parkway)? Gettysburg, Manasas, or any of the other Civil War battlefields? OR... should I jump right into my trip through New Jersey with a police escort? I think I'll begin with the most recent and work backwards - that is the most peculiar.

So there I was, stuck in rush hour traffic trying to get through the Lincoln Tunnel into Manhattan when a motorcycle cop rides up next to me and starts chattering away. Fortunately, he had a half-face helmet and I could read some of what he was saying and reply while trying to pause my IPOD. With earplugs in it was a strain to hear precisely what he was saying. We road on for a few miles talking about where I had come from, where I was going, what hotel I was staying in, and all of a sudden he motions for me to follow him while he turned on his lights and siren to part the sea of rolling steel, plastic and rubber. We rode side by side in perfect tandem, me wrestling with my taller-gear-laden bike, and him effortlessly keeping his line in the pavement. Every time we came to an intersection he would chirp is siren to stop the cars so we could make a left hand turn or to part the cars that were in our way. We would come to a red light and talk a little about his trip with his two children (9 and 7, boy and girl respectively) to Florida later this summer and their trip through Shenandoah  National Park or how the fishing is in Maine right now.

After I told him where I planned to stay he laughed and asked if I was serious. Apparently I had chosen a place in one of the worst neighborhoods as well as an "hourly rate" (if you know what I mean). That is not the place I want to be for 5 days in NYC. When I told him where I was staying he took charge and guided me to a hotel right on the river overlooking Midtown Manhattan (see pic taken from room) and close to the Lincoln Tunnel which doesn't ever seem to be without traffic.(note to self... check to see where the All-Star Game is being held before trying to stay in that city)
He convinced me that I didn't need to make my way to the island at that time of day and that I should check into a hotel first. When I explained that the rooms were probably sold out, he just continued on anyway and took me to the hotel and left to go do other good deeds. It was a very nice welcome to Jersey and the Big Apple. I am still amazed by this.

My intention was to stay upscale when I got to NYC and stay in Manhattan. This was not meant to be, but I am not all that concerned. I spent all of one night trying to find a hotel in New York, but there was ABSOLUTELY no rooms at any hotel on the island. That includes B&B's, fleabags, 1 star, 4 stars and anything else with a website. Little did I know that when baseball went on strike 8 years ago, (Might be 10, might be 2 for all I care) and I quit watching/caring about baseball, that I would regret not following the men in pinstripes. I had no idea that I was coming here during All-Star Week and that the hotels would be sold out. 

So, even though I had checked this hotel out online the night before and it was sold out, I pulled in anyway. After all, I couldn't just ride in a different direction after all the effort that went into getting me here by the Jersey motorcycle police.

Immediately after inquiring about rooms I found out that they were booked for the time I wanted. This wasn't much of a surprise, but I had to try anyway. I asked the front desk clerk (a trainee) if he had any insight about hotels with vacancies, and while he was in the back checking, another front desk clerk and I started talking. She has the typical Jersey accent and talks a thousand miles a minute, but for all that she is very into motorcycles. We start talking about all the bikes she has owned and what I am riding and where I am going and, and, and... All of a sudden, there is a room that is available for me. It is a smoking room and overlooks the Hudson and the skyline. Is that okay with me? Of course it was okay! I was about to go rent a room for the next 96 hours in a sketchy part of Hoboken (is there any other kind?). 

I don't know if Newton's Third Law (for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction) applies in these situations, but if so... I will just have to accept the horrible situation that is bound to occur later in this trip. If you break that down it doesn't work that way. Perhaps it is karma and all the good I have done manifested itself in the physical form of a hotel room. 

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Apparently I was going to write something about hotel laundry service being crappy. At this point in the night all I can think about is not hitting thrreee keeys at the same time and that Holly Hunter is hot. It doesn't seem like there is a whole lot more up there.

Okay, I know APT is going to call me on this one, but I have to say it... Can you believe that the NRA's home is in Winchester, VA?  (apparently they just share the same exit - But come on! That is not insignificant!)

What is so cool about Holly Hunter? Other than the Piano, what else has she done that is significant?

Back to the stains. Why is it that if you turn your laundry in to the hotel's laundry service that you will get it back as if they just pressed the clothes and sent them back OR there is new dirt that you didn't cause? 

Hmmm... What else can I say? Dang, it is late! Heck, I can't recall my thoughts from the day. Darn it, why did APT have to get me drunk in Charlottesville? How come people always blame someone else when they get their drunk on? 

Kudos to APT! It has been many years since I have got my drunk on.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Some sights up to now... now is Washington, DC

This is where you can find the current map. If you can't click on it, paste this address:
Must be the fog... or the humidity on my lens.
Do I need to explain what might occur here? "Grown Folks Party", is that what they are calling a "key party" these days?
North Carolina, home of the first flight and Kitty Hawk. 
Little (4'11") Judy was riding this crazy inverted trike. She used to ride a  V-Strom but wanted something a little shorter and less effort.
Two hour ferry ride...clear skies! Yeah!!!
After 2 hours on the ferry... Holy crap - look at those clouds!

Something is living here, can you see them? One of the houses in a residential area on Cape Hateras.
I don't know why I am taking all these state sign photos. I can't remember who suggested it, but at the time I just blew it off and now it has turned into a little game I play with myself. I am missing Maryland so far... unless they don't post one when you enter DC. I might have to get into Maryland proper.

Something that needs to be mentioned is the different types of food served that is based on what is available. We all know the New Orleans faire and have a good idea that you can get good seafood in Florida and Alabama and Mississippi are keen on shrimp. I didn't know that the Carolinas and Georgia had just as many shrimp dishes. As I head north I am seeing more crab on the menu (crab cakes, crab louie, halibut stuffed with crab, rock fish stuffed with crab, shampoo for crabs, crab claws, you name it - if it has crabs in it I have seen it) and that seems to be a good thing. I had the most amazing stuffed halibut the other day. It was cooked perfectly, but what would you expect from McCormick's? Oysters from Chesapeake Bay in Maryland are now popular... mmmm! I can't wait until Maine's lobster, Prince Edward Island's oysters and Alaskan salmon - maybe even some moose steaks in Maine or Canada.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Outer Banks, NC

Outer Banks (OBX) is spectacular and the ride north into Virginia is only rivaled by what has come before. There is something about the inlets, rivers, and other bodies of water that so intrigue me. 
It was easy to break up my trip into small bites from Savannah to OBX. I had planned to stay several nights on the islands, but was stopped by torrential rains and lightning a couple of nights. Rain doesn't bother me much, but the lightning is a little disconcerting when it was as close as it was. I actually stayed the same amount of time I had planned, but I didn't play on the beaches like I would have liked. Not for lack of desire, but they were closed due to the nesting of the Piping Plover. Apparently they are here at a different time and in greater numbers, so they closed a lot of the beaches. 
Remember as a kid when you learned about the Wright Brothers and Kitty Hawk? I always knew it was in North Dakota, but I never realized that it was within a mile of a beach east and west of the hill. Perhaps I was told that and wasn't geographically savvy at the time. The brothers would have had to ship any of their tools and supplies by ship/boat from the mainland. I really don't think that they had that fancy two mile long bridge in place at the time.
Virginia Beach and Chesapeake are my first tastes of Virginia and I would have to say that I am pleasantly surprised at some of the changes. There seems to be a bit more wealth here (no shit, huh?) than the southern states below. The houses are built better and if people are on the coast they are in 40' schooners and ketches vs. bass boats and pontoon day cruisers.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Observations on too much right wing religion - don't bother to argue with me...I may not be right, but I am not wrong!

Sometimes I see something that sticks in my head and festers. This is one of those times. While I was in So. Carolina I heard about a bill that was being passed to allow the printing of license plates that say, "I Believe" with a Christian cross on it. There are some things that just should NOT occur and this is one of them. Today this story was broadcast on CNN and other networks as a new story, but  if they have the plates it is not a NEW story! (see article)

Elsewhere in the news (actually this is about 4 days old)...The People for the American Way (A conservative Evangelical group) were discussing the Olympics and Tyson Gay (an Olympic runner) who will probably win a gold medal. In their article they wrote, "Tyson Homosexual ran the 100 meter...". Apparently they have a program set up that switches the word "gay" to "homosexual". They (The PftAW) won't respond to say which was more offensive to them... gay or homosexual... and why either would give them pause.

These are the same (okay, perhaps they aren't exactly the same) people that want to put a label on all text books describing the Theory of Evolution as being one possible "theory" of life's origin. See article below:   While this article I have included is about a group in Kansas, I would like to point out that there were three, count them...THREE, Republican candidates (Huckabee, Brownback and one other) during the primaries that raised their hands when asked if they believed in Creationism over Evolution. Huckabee went as far as stating that while he didn't know if it was "6 days to create the earth or 6 days of undetermined value". Here is a great article about how the Creationists are trying to subvert the Supreme Court ruling by stating that they want "Intelligent Design" (same as Creationism - they came up with this name to divert the populace AND the courts from who they really are) to be taught.

Honestly, I truly don't care what they teach, as long as they teach both AND state that BOTH are "THEORIES". I would also like them to state that Newton's Law of Gravity is a "Theory" - personally, I need much more proof before I will succumb to such nonsense as this gravity-thing. Who are they trying to fool... gravity, bah! I think that we should also make sure that we list Ohm's Law, PI, Pascal's Principle, Avogadro's Number and all the other proven laws as "just theory".

Why does religion have to be so zealous about manipulating a situation for its own gain? It isn't just the Christian faiths that are so fanatical, you can find this in the Muslim religion as well. I find it highly amusing that these same "Christians" are the very first to point fingers at Fundamentalist Muslims as being too right wing. Zealotry is not to be admired or emulated, it leads to blind-militarism and the demise of many cultures. 

Okay, I don't want everyone to all jump on this and get confused and think that I am confusing religion with charlatans like Jerry Fallwell, Pat Robertson or Ted Haggard (everyone's favorite drug using - cock chugging evangelical pastor). Religion, more specifically, the belief of something can be good for people. What I mean is that belief in some higher power can make people feel as if they have purpose and that there is more to life than what is in the mirror. I realize that some people need that. 

I would like to think that reading a variety of books is key to a grounded education, but when a person neglects to broaden their knowledge base, they become as narrow as the charlatans I have listed above. One quote I have seemed to hang onto for over 20 years (I re-read it before my trip) is from Robert Persig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance", it is, "When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion, it is called religion." 

Don't get me wrong, I am not against religion, religions, spiritual beliefs or the teachings of those religions. What I get unplugged by is that there are people who become unhinged by people with diametrically (and not so) opposing viewpoints. Why does the religious "right" try to push so hard to have a voice in the government? Why won't they just allow government to exist without their influence? Maybe another question is, why do governments allow religions so much influence?  

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Still South, but thinking Northern thoughts

One thing is certain, it is hot in the south. It is also quite pretty. The forests were something I didn't expect and they ranged all the way from Florida to Virginia (and into VA). The bayous, rivers, tributaries and coast are all so varied and intriguing to me. If it weren't for the fucking humidity I would move here in a minute... oh, and the bouffant coiffed TV preaching puppets - they would need to go too. Religion can stay, the radicals need to go.I can't say enough about Savannah, but I will try. It is a beautiful, it is as old as it is still segregated. Yes, I said segregated. Throughout the lower downtown area it is touristy and mostly white. To the west and the southwest appeared to be devoid of white people to the point that it seemed locked in the past. This went on for miles in all directions. The houses were all beautiful colonials that needed lots of work, but the sense of community there was amazing. I had lunch at a BBQ joint that was just some guy's pickup truck towing a smoker. I rode past it and dismissed it because there was a huge line and it was ungodly hot, but the smell was too much and drew me back. I was the only white person in line and had such a great time pulling up on my bike and getting all the interest from everyone. All the children climbing all over the bike and wishing that I had my camera with me... I had 4 kids sitting on the bike and all I could think of was, what if they fell off. The BBQ guy (Randy of Randy's BBQ) was so surprised that he had a white person stop - he said that they mostly just drive by and that the 11 years he has been doing this I was the 4th. It bothers me that, in this "United" States, we still have ideals that would make the late Jesse Helms proud. 

4 white people in 11 years... pathetic! You would think that the press would find out about this little gem that is set up daily in the same spot and serves the best BBQ I have had on this trip.It has been many years since I have seen a fireworks show (the shows in Iraq don't count - even though they could be louder and more colorful) and was thoroughly entertained. It wasn't just the show, it was the preamble, the crowd (this is where people become integrated here) and the location that was amazing. The looks on the children's faces were the best when it was their first show. 

Of course, with everything, you get your idiots. It is funny to me that someone without an accent can yell and scream yet not seem half as stupid as someone with a southern accent. Like APT said once, "A person with a bad southern accent immediately lowers their IQ by 15 points when they open their mouths".  
Spanish moss is so cool.

Random thought of my day: 

What do you call a dead, deep-voiced crooning soul singer who is turned into a zombie? Barry Wight. 
I didn't say it was good, just random. 

I have left Savannah and have continued north to North South Carolina and will cross into South North Carolina in the morning on the way to the Outer Banks. With the storm off the Eastern Seaboard moving in from Bermuda I should expect plenty of rain for the next few days. Not a big deal, but it sure does make things a lot less entertaining and more exhausting. 
This bridge in No Carolina was so cool - I had to stay in Mt. Pleasant (it was neither) to get the night shot.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

3 States - 1 Day

Mississippi - Wow! Not much to talk about. Nice, fine, white sand, empty beaches. Why are the beaches empty? Why can't you drive along the coast without having to stop at every light? I literally was stopped at 40+ lights that turned red just as traffic reached the next light. Only 3 lights in 50 miles was green. Seems like someone needs to figure out how to get the timing of the lights right. Should save lots of money in fuel costs and would cut down on pollution, but that is just me. 


I don't know what to say about Alabama. In most convenient stores you can grab a bottle of water, open and drink it as you are waiting in line. In Alabama it is apparently considered uncouth and against the law. In fact the woman behind the counter, the same one that was gossiping with a woman on my side, yells at me for opening my water before I paid for it. First of all, I was waiting for about 5 minutes before I opened it because I had to wait and listen to what Vern and Kate were fighting about the night before in the bar, secondly it was 98 degrees outside and I was VERY thirsty. I also had my money out and was waiting in line behind little gossip queen - it wasn't as if I was walking out drinking it and whistling Dixie. Alabama can only... Ahh crap! I just remembered the postcard I was reading while I waited. The memory of my great aunt saying M I Crooked letter, Crooked letter (etc...) kept playing in my head while "Vern and Kate were drunk and yellin' at each other"... This happened in Mississippi. That Mississippi-Coon-Assed-Redneck-Cow!  

Apparently the only thing I did or saw in Alabama was visiting with my Uncle Ron and Aunt Betty. 

Days before I arrived I tried to call them, but the number I had for them was disconnected. Since I would be passing by them anyway, I decided to surprise them and go to the address that I had. I programmed the address into my GPS and rode on down the country road to their house. When I arrived at the address I wasn't sure if I was in the right place. With all the houses spread apart on this Country Road it was hard to determine if I was in the right place. I found the address and found a house, barn, a few trees and a mail box with just a number. Fortunately on the side of the barn was their name. I pulled up the grass driveway and knocked on the front door. 

Out of the side door comes a wizened old lady that I didn't recognize. As with all things in life, they change as they age. It had been 20 years since I had seen Betty and at the age of 86 she is healthy and able, but she is still 86 years old and her body isn't as straight as it used to be. Ron, is six years her junior and other than bypass surgery (septuple bypass) two years ago, he looks good. Neither of them have lost any memory or seemed addled by Alzheimer's, which was so very nice to see. That was a big fear as I got close - that and that one of them might have passed on in the five years since I had spoken to them. 

It was cathartic talking about my parents, past events and other family stuff. What wasn't cathartic was when Ron brought up politics. One of the things that I never realized about him was that he is a staunch Republican and is, well... he has certain beliefs that I believe should have been left behind 50 years ago (or more). Here are a few examples that made my skin crawl. 

-Ron claims that Fox News is the only real news that is unbiased and not tilted toward any direction. It is a fair and accurate depiction of what occurs in the US and world and that CNN, MSNBC and network news is biased towards the liberals. 

-Another Ron (ism) was that George Bush has been one of the better presidents and that Obama will be like Carter. 

-Yet another... He doesn't understand why any white person would vote for Obama and that they should be ashamed of themselves. 

That last one was what struck me as the most reprehensible. I don't ever recall hearing him say anything like that when I was growing up. I just don't understand how people can't have evolved past the 1800's. It was almost as if he missed out on the whole MLK-Equal Rights movement in the '60's. Since I can't recall those sorts of comments from him prior to his move to Alabama from Las Vegas, I would have to guess that his beliefs have been acquired since they moved. If that is the case, Alabama is a pretty fucked up place. 

I really did enjoy seeing them again, but these thoughts and beliefs are so much of what is screwed up with our country. Everything is exactly what Fox News foments. Nothing but hate and divisiveness from the Fox folks who feed on those that are weak of mind and can't think for themselves.  Even now I am getting worked up! If I didn't love my family, I wouldn't have been able to respect them and their house by not saying something rude. 

Florida - Pensecola...

I left Ron and Betty's around 730 pm and rode West looking for a hotel for a bit before I decided to just head East to see if anything was there. I hadn't realized how close I was to Florida, so I just continued. For some reason the GPS glitched and told me that there was a hotel somewhere it wasn't, so I had to press on. I ended up arriving at the Motel 6 around 930 in the dark and then have this whacked out front desk chick try to charge me $80 for a room at this little fleabag motel. When I call her on that she tells me there weren't rooms on the first floor. That wasn't a problem for me, but as I went out I looked around and the hotel was empty. I walked back in and mention this to her and she miraculously finds rooms after I point it out.  She then puts me in a smoking room and I have to come back to tell her the room next to me is non-smoking room and I can tell because the blinds are open and it is empty.

Shortly after I get settled into my non-smoking, 1st floor, $45 room, the whole place gets crazy. She is having a party for friends in the empty rooms... a party that lasts until 4 am. Nothing like being awakened by the alarm on my bike when these idiots decide they want to try to sit on it and move it. It was so loud that they freaked out and started running around. Idiots!!! It was a good thing that I locked the steering column and put my alarm and lock on this night. Must've been something about this clerk.

Florida - Panama City

Rain starts...

Georgia (okay, this is a 4th sign - not part of the 3 states in 1 day)

If this isn't Murphy's Law. It rained for 3 hours, stopped for the next 2 (long enough for me to dry off), then more rain the last 30 min... just to keep me from being dry when I checked into my motel in Waycross, GA on my way to Savannah.