Monday, August 24, 2009

Full Circle

When we returned home Sunday, KevAndDonna came full circle in more than one way. As fate would have it, August 23 was the day we left last year for our road trip to Milwaukee. Then, we were strangers riding together for the first time in a group of 11. 365 days later, we return home from the road together as a couple.

Also coming full circle were Mom and Dad. As was hinted about in the first post, they were celebrating their honeymoon together in Niagara Falls. 43 years ago, they left for their honeymoon in a borrowed car that never made it. They figured one day they'd be back, but never thought it would take so many years and a trip planned by their son. We intended to have a bottle of champagne sent up for them, but it didn't work out. We're sure they celebrated anyway.

The theme this year was the late days on the road. Caused in equal parts by overeager planning, weather, road construction, borders, and bike problems, it made for sort of a hurried atmosphere for most of the week. I'm glad we at least planned two easy days for the end.

Through that, I am more sure than ever that I would take Donna anywhere. It seems an awful lot of people buy motorcyles and leather jackets and run from bike night to bike night doing the Marlon Brando thing because they think they've somehow become cool by writing a check. I just have always loved to ride; don't claim to be cool and never really bought into the whole "ride hard" thing - I'm not even sure what that means. But if it means 400+ mile days on the hottest day all year, riding dirt roads in the rain, in the dark, with 50 miles to go and all the signs (including Moose Crossing) in French, eating out of gas stations at least once a day, and riding from above the clouds to the sea in the same day, then I guess Donna rides hard. Kept plowing through anything I led through, and never said a word. I'm sure a lot of people who have that phrase on their t-shirt or helmet or whatever have no idea. Out-ridden by a girl. Without a windshield.

What we ended up missing was the ferry across the St. Lawrence (we really didn't need to get up at 5:30 after that mess the night before, and the highway upstream to the bridge was quicker anyway.) That, and the castle in the Thousand Islands, and Fort Henry. We also skipped the northern route around Lake Ontario and cut across New York. Donna was disappointed that we didn't see a moose. I was just glad we didn't hit one that rainy night.

We did see the huge lock in the Seaway canal, and supposedly there was a ship in it, but I guess I didn't see it through the rain, and I was a little stressed at the time and afraid to shut the bike off to take a closer look. We also saw the northern end of US 1, so that when we get to Key West one day, we can say we rode to both ends. After this week, Mom and Dad can already say that.
We found that traffic on I-95 in northern Maine is so light, they can close down one of the two lanes and traffic doesn't even slow below 55 mph. Try that around here.

We saw a thousand little white churches. We saw the colonial districts of foreign cities, saw 12 states/provinces, lots of locals, lots of tourists, weirdos, porcupines, got scowled at and even yelled at by French Canadians [bastards] , and gained 5 pounds.
We did make it to the falls and had a relaxing day getting soaked on the Maid of the Mist and all the other tourist stuff you do there. We lived large in a suite overlooking the falls.

We found that whenever my bike breaks down, it's 1,000 miles or more from home. We proved for the third time that when we are in crisis mode and need a hotel NOW, the only game in town is a Hampton Inn (or better) and we pay through the nose. Doesn't it figure?

In the end, we got to see and do an awful lot of cool stuff, in a way that most people don't. And, we made it home safe and on time. Mission Accomplished.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Home Sweet Home

Well, here we are safe and sound. 2,492 miles in 9 days.

I had planned a nice summary post for today, full of profound observations and all the stuff that I missed along the way. But...

We slept in a little this morning, and took our time with breakfast, so we didn't hit the road until after 10:30. I had purposely planned the last two days' ride home from Niagara Falls to be fairly easy, after all the pushing we had to do along the way. So it was still no sweat to get home at a reasonable time, as long as Annie (my bike) would decide to cooperate.

There was one time where she wouldn't start, but 10 seconds later I tried again and we were on our way. I guess I'm going to replace a set of plug wires and a $250 ignition module and see what happens. With 49,000 miles on that bike, I guess you can expect a failure or two by now. At least we're home.

Over half the days since we left have had some rain, and we gave up the ice-bucket-parking-lot wash routine in Riviere-du-Loup, Quebec on Wednesday. They've been filthy since, as evidenced above. So, we got home around 3, gave them a little bath, unpacked, (all that crap in the cart at left came off our two bikes!) started laundry, and here we are ready to hit the sack and get ready for the daily grind tomorrow.

That final post will have to wait a day or two. Aside from all the interesting stuff I didn't get to talk about, today was a significant day for us - another one of those neat coincidence-type things that seem to define our lives together. Details to follow.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


We started off today with a great breakfast, and had time to do the walk behind the falls thing before checking out and hitting the road.

The weather started out sunny and nice, but we were held up in a line at the border, and the dark clouds were closing in fast. We just got rolling and outran it with no more than a spritz, and were happily on our way home through the Finger Lakes, when...

A bee got trapped in my helmet and stung me in the cheek. Which sucked, but not compared to what happened next: I pulled over and stopped, and the bike wouldn't restart again. Same ol crap as Thursday.

So now I have no idea what to do next. I did get it started again, and put gas in it in Watkins Glen without shutting it off. It did restart at the hotel here outside of Elmira, so hopefully we will get home tomorrow with one more engine-running fuel stop. Mom and dad kept rolling tonight and should get home late. That way if I do have any trouble tomorrow, I'll be able to call him and sent him running for me in his truck.

So, I'm pissed but at least not in any great danger of being stranded and having my bike stolen and/or all my worldly possessions that are strapped to it.

I'll update one more time when we get home, then do my usual clean out of the notebook and fill in any neat stuff that I didn't get to post on the fly.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Now That's More Like It

We just got out of the jacuzzi, after watching the fireworks over Niagara Falls from our hotel window.

Yesterday, we left Montreal after another night of getting in late and trying like hell to catch back up. All was well in the morning, we had a great time poking around the city, and got out on the road headed for some more sightseeing. When we stopped to take a picture of a freighter on the St. Lawrence Seaway, my bike wouldn't restart. A second try a minute later brought it to life, and we shrugged it off. Until we stopped for gas, and the scenario repeated itself. We again got it started, but knew we were in trouble. A couple miles later, we were putting on our rainsuits and I had to leave it running for fear of being stuck right there.

Another one of those campfire stories developed throughout the day, including finding the worlds only Harley dealer with nothing but a Honda sign out front. This is no lie. We found it, turned back and rode 15 minutes back into town, only to end up retracing for the third time and finding out it was indeed true. We blew off all the sighseeing and ended up in management mode, trying to get out of a bad situation and preparing for the worst.

At the end of the day, I wound up replacing an ignition coil (same part that failed in the other blog three years ago) in the parking lot of a Super 8 in Pulaski NY while Donna was at the laundromat. We left today with our rainsuits on and hoped for the best.

We got here to Niagara Falls right around lunchtime as planned all along, and after a spritz or two of rain earlier, it was bright and sunny as we rolled in. The bike seems to be cured (although I did lose the guts of one muffler at mile marker 314 on the NY Thruway.)

So it's been quite the week. The bikes are filthy and everything packed for the ride is disorganized and shoved hastily here and there. We missed some of the things we wanted to do, and spent more time than we wanted hustling down the interstate. But here we are, having a great time on our little honeymoon like the lovebirds we are, and hopefully heading home refreshed after all. We did all the touristy thing here, got soaked in our goofy little souvenir ponchos, and are shacked up for the night in a posh resort hotel. Order is restored.

Pictures will be posted sooner or later, and we'll be filling in the gaps with the stuff we didn't mention along the way.

By the way, if you read the last post and prayed, thanks. It worked.

Still Swinging

We are about to pull out of Pulaski, NY headed for Niagara Falls. Seems like we've been trying to catch back up to schedule from Day 1, and we've had our share of delays to add to a schedule that was agressive to begin with.

We've made a lot of adjustments along the way, and skipped a few things we had planned to see, but that's how these things sometimes work. I get the feeling we're being tested, but we're still getting back up and swinging!

Chance for rain today is 60%, and chance of bike trouble continuing I put at about 50%. But we're leaving with optimism, and if everything goes OK, we should still be in our posh suite by early afternoon. If you are the type that prays, you might want to think of us.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

This sucks

We are spending the night in Pulaski NY. Plans are way out of kilter and the bike is on its last leg it seems. Might have it fixed but not sure. In any case, we're bedded down for the night and all 3 bikes are here. Details to follow.

Au Revior

We're getting out of here to try to finally get caught up and maybe get checked in at a reasonable time today. We had a nice stroll up an avenue full of sidewalk cafes last night and sat sipping sangria until after 10. This morning we're going to check out Notre Dame basilica then head for NY for some more sightseeing.

Not sure at this point whether we will cross back into Canada at Cornwall and do our circumnavigation of Lake Ontario, or just take a beeline across I-90 and cross over in Niagara Falls. Key here being time. Have to do laundry tonight and get my damn blog updated!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Yes, we're still alive!

8:00 and we just pulled in here in downtown Montreal. Seriously. Downtown.

This the third late night in a row, and to be honest, it's getting old. At least it's not like last night, when it was 9:30 and raining. We're all in a good mood tonight - we had a nice ride today and are looking forward to taking a walk through the busy city streets.

We got up this morning in Riviere-du-Loup and again adjusted the itinerary because we had gotten in so late. What a night that was getting into Canada. We made a beeline for Quebec today and got a good look at the city before moving on to Montreal. The route was more or less along the St. Lawrence the entire way, although we saw very little water and a lot of flat land.

We've been techincally on schedule the entire way, landing in the places we intended to reach every day, but we've cut a corner or two and have been on the road later than expected more often than not. Once again, we'll try tomorrow to get a little bit ahead for a change.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hey This Ain't All Fun and Games

The Tuesday post that was never written would have talked about how we arived Monday night around 9:00 at the Eastland Motel, 5 miles from the easternmost point in the US, after another long day in the saddle. Then we woke up before dawn and rode the couple miles to West Quoddy in order to be the first two people in America to see the sun.

We arrived at the lighthouse at 5:20 am, 6 minutes before sunrise, to find the whole peninsula fogged in. Couldn't see squat. Well, it sounded good on paper anyway...

We didn't know at that time that it was an omen. We had about 375 miles planned for the day; the remaining 300 or so miles of US Rt. 1 to the Canada border, then another 75 or so to our hotel in Riviere-du-Loup, Quebec, on the banks of the Gulf of St. Lawrence where we would catch the ferry across.

The day dragged on without much drama, and the only stop we had of any length was at the H-D dealer in Caribou, ME. That, and an extended gas/ice cream stop to help beat the opressive heat.

It was already late when we got to the border, so we were having a quick meal at Subway, when it started to rain. It came and went quickly, so we headed for the bridge and Customs. The last thing we needed was the half-hour or more spent waiting for a random immigration check to be completed. In the meantime, a nice thunderstorm rolled in and really put a damper on things.

The day ended much worse than it began. Long story short, we ended up riding through rain, detours, and actual MUD where road construction had both lanes torn up at the same time. Then it got dark. The reflective 'watch for moose' signs were barely visible; and the rest of the segments of road construction I guess the darkness was a blessing because we couldn't tell if we were on milled pavement, dirt, mud, or whatever. Best we didn't know.

We rode the last 40 or so miles in the dark, and a hotel was never a more welcome sight. We were still behind schedule, but safe and sound.

Monday, August 17, 2009

West Quoddy

Today we left the stunning peaks of the White Mountains in New Hampshire, and made our way across the piedmont (today's vocab word - look it up) to the Down East shore of Maine. We left this morning at our usual 8:00(ish) but started off behind because we had to stop for breakfast, as the Top Notch Inn didn't have the donuts and bagels that we're used to by now. The place was really nice and all, clean and well-kept, but that's not how they roll around here, I guess. Another culture shock is the hospitality we're quickly getting used to. It's amazing. Where we come from, trying to cross a busy street from between intersections is jaywalking, and will get you an earful of horn or verbal abuse for being such an idiot. Here, drivers see you waiting patiently, and stop right in the middle of the street to wave you across. Damn!

The flip side of that is that we've eaten 3 or 4 sit-down meals since we got to Vermont, and it's like being in the South in a heatwave. We've lost at least 6 hours of vacation time trying to eat 3 meals. Breakfast this morning took over an hour. Leaving Coopersburg on Saturday morning, we were back on the bikes after our bacon and eggs in under 20 minutes. And the restaurants here were practically empty! I know it happens, but it seems to be the rule and not the exception on this trip.

With that, I cut out about 40 miles of today's route before we even turned out of the parking lot, but it didn't really get us off the bikes any earlier. We spent all day in Maine, about 300 miles, and will spend most of the day tomorrow too. The state line was only about 7 miles from our hotel, but by the time we got there, we had passed the third flagman regulating traffic down Route 2. At one point, they had both lanes of a US highway graded down to a dirt road! We'd go 3 miles, then another construction zone with traffic in either direction alternating use of the only open lane. Just as we were getting used to sitting in line behind waiting to proceed, we were stopped this time behind a temporary sign marked 'accident scene'.

If you've spent any significant amount of time on the road, you know that most US highways (the ones with the white shield markers like US 1, US 22, etc.) run right alongside rivers or railroad lines, and often both. This is because water cuts the easiest path for roads of any type, rail or other, along irregular terrain, and railroads preceded highways in connecting destinations via direct routes over friendly terrain.

So this morning, we're waiting at front of the line at the accident scene, and looking around, we see that the accident was not a fender bender, but an *actual train wreck*. Just when you thought you've seen it all. Frightening to see 100-ton railroad cars scattered about like toys.
Anyway, it was lunchtime till we covered any considerable distance. We're working with an aggressive itinerary this time, and we have almost 1,000 miles in already. We've been getting in late every night so far, and today was the latest yet. We rode about 300 miles from the sky-touching peaks of the Presidential Range in New Hampshire, across the piedmont (today's vocab word - look it up) to the shores of the Atlantic. Proper tourists, we had a lobster dinner to die for, with a dessert of fresh blueberry pie before setting off in the late evening for today's final leg. We rode the last 8 miles of bad road in the dark, and got off the bikes around 8:00. We are in the middle of nowhere, and aside from the one little streetlight bolted to the side of the hotel here, it's pitch black. There are 20 rooms here and the office closed at 9:00. Lights out.
We are in Lubec, Maine - the easternmost town in the United States, and Donna and I are planning to get up before the birds so that we can be the first people in the country to see the sun's first light. Mom and Dad told us to take pictures...

The plan for tomorrow is another agressive 300+ miles, ending in Canada on the banks of the St. Lawrence. Barring more road construction, the sparseness of the territory here should let us run off a lot of mileage at 60 mph, even on secondary roads. There's only 1 interstate highway in Maine, and it ends a few miles up the road. The rest is 2-lane US 1 all the way to the end in Fort Kent.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

This Bike Climbed Mount Washington

I knew we were on to something when we woke up this morning and there were a dozen bikes in that little parking lot. We left Brattleboro and spent the morning riding the Green Mountains in Vermont, and if there's a more beautiful place in the world, I can't imagine what it could be. If you could move that to New Jersey and charge admission...

We didn't stop at Ben and Jerry's, but we did pick up some maple syrup before crossing the Connecticut River into New Hampshire, where we were greeted by the prim and proper grounds of Dartmouth College. Only two states today, but it sure was quality time. Our goal was to get to Mount Washington and get one of those cheesy bumper stickers that says "THIS CAR CLIMBED MOUNT WASHINGTON," so I could cross out the word 'car' and write in, 'bike.' In order to get up before it closed for the day, we had to fall back on a contingency plan and skip the Kancamagus Highway, which is supposedly a must-ride if you're in the Granite State. But in comparison to the route we took today, it probably wouldn't have been much different.

We did get up to the top, and get this: the road has become so popular with motorcyclists, there is one lane at the "toll booth" for cars, and one for bikes. And, there is even a smaller version of the sticker that says "bike" instead of car! And just in case you wanted to know, the decal is your ticket - you can't buy it in the gift shop and the only way you get it is by driving up. So when you see one, you know the car was actually up there.

It's a pretty hairy ride, and it goes up above the treeline where the only thing besides rocks is lichens. For a while, we were actually looking across the cloud ceiling like you do in an airplane. pretty neat if I don't say so myself. Donna left her bike at the motel and rode on the back with me so she could take pictures. We actually have a cool video she took on the way down.
Tomorrow, we're off to the Maine coast and a good lobster dinner.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Piece of Cake

I was a little concerned that we would be behind the 8-ball already at this point, but we actually made it here to Brattleboro early enough to take the scenic route the last 30 miles. Plus, we backtracked and re-entered Vermont twice in order to get the corny "Welcome To ___" pictures I insist on getting with Donna and her bike. There was no sign on US 5 coming across the border, so we tried I-91 and got our Kodak moment that way.

The weather was great today, and we had no problem covering a lot of ground. We didn't do much sightseeing or picture taking, but we did manage to get in 406 miles and 6 states, plus a nice dinner at Friendly's. Not bad for a first day.

We're making a Z-shaped kind of route here for the first couple days, so that we can hit every state on the way to Maine. Starting at the bottom, we're almost to the upper left corner right now. From here, it's almost straight across New Hampshire to the Maine seashore, before we turn north for Canada.

It's nice riding with seasoned riders who get the picture and know how to keep moving and get where you need to be (and do it without whining!) We're all set for big things tomorrow. Donna is out of the shower and it's my turn, so that's it for today.


OK, we're outta here! 7:00 and time to head for breakfast and meet Mom and Dad.

Goal for today is Brattleboro, VT or as close as we can get. The catch is, we're going by way of Rhode Island. It's a long day, but it won't be a big deal if we don't quite get that far.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

On The Road Again

Kev and Donna are about to set off on a ride up through Maine and down the St. Lawrence River, finishing with a loop around Lake Ontario. Along the way, we'll visit every New England state, take a ferry across the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and hit the major Canadian cities on the way to Niagara Falls. There, we will have a romantic pause for a night (that's what you do in Niagara Falls, right?) before threading through the Finger Lakes on the way home. There's a lot of cool stuff planned, but you'll have to check back to find out.

Kevin has for years taken an annual 9-day road trip to somewhere, blogged for the world to see (link at right,) but this time is very different. It will again be journaled as we go, but this time, it's going to be the two of us sharing in the adventure together, as opposed to a solo ride. Also, Kevin's mom and dad are riding along, and they are actually going to have their honeymoon in Niagara Falls - 43 years late! We are all very excited about this ride, and we can't wait to hit the road. Kevin and Donna doing what we do best. It's about time.

With that said, there won't be as much down time in the evenings as in trips past. And, the itinerary calls for a lot of long days in the saddle this time. So, no guarantees on how frequent or detailed this will be, but we'll do our best to let y'all know where we are as often as possible. What do you want for free?

Lastly, this blog has been written by Kevin exclusively to this point, and it will probably continue that way with very few exceptions. So, I think I will dispense with the third-person narrative and relate what I see and think, which is much more personal and much easier. Maybe I'll make Donna post in pink typeface or something.

It's Thursday night, and I have a TON of stuff to do before that kickstand goes up. Gotta go. Wish us luck and good weather!