Saturday, August 31, 2013

Last Hurrah

What a whirlwind of nonstop fun since we rolled in here Wednesday afternoon. We'll put up details later, but I've said it before and I'll say it again: Harley-Davidson does two things better than anybody - build motorcycles, and throw a party.

We flew the chapter flag in the parade this morning (got ourselves on tv!) and we're heading to the grand finale later tonight: Kid Rock on the main stage. Then, all too soon it will be over and we'll be strapping it all back down for the long ride home.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Party Day 2

We're a couple days behind here on account of a dead phone yesterday and a whole lot of testing. The Wednesday post just made it up earlier today, and Thursday was a total wash. We are waiting out a storm at Wendy's a mile or 2 from the powertrain facility in Menomonee Falls, so I have some time to bring everything up to date.

We were kinda surprised/disappointed Wednesday that the city and hotel parking lot were not overrun with bikes like we had seen in the past. Things picked up Thursday and again today, and there are pockets where the rumble is constant, but this definitely is not the 100th or 105th. Thursday morning we went to the H-D Museum, then to the Summerfest grounds, where we caught Lynyrd Skynyrd, Blue Oyster Cult, and Bret Michaels. This morning we hit the gym, cleaned the bikes up again, and got a kind of late start. First stop was the powertrain facility, a demo ride of a 2014, and a quick dash to this table at Wendy's. We were planning to hit a dealer party down the road, then meet some local friends who hosted us on a trip a couple years ago, and hit a street party. We're re-evaluating at the moment, with our priorities being keeping ourselves dry and the bikes clean, in that order.

One looks likely at this point; the other doubtful. We'll let you know how that works out for us.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Happy Anniversary

Time to get the celebrating started! We left Escanaba about 9 this morning, made up an hour to Central time about 15 miles down the road, and after two quick tourism stops, we arrived here in Milwaukee about 4:00.

After 1,400 miles of smooth sailing, we're 50 miles out of town and my bike all of a sudden starts to cough and spit (at 75 mph in the hammer lane) I did a quick check over my shoulder, grabbed the right lane while Donna grabbed the brakes and Dad went sailing by. Now everyone is reacting, the motor goes completely dead, and as I pull in the clutch and hit the flashers I notice the smell of gas. And hey, is my left leg wet

Roadside analysis did confirm a blown fuel line. Further probing revealed a failed clip, and a little fiddling had it tentatively reassembled. With fingers crossed, we set out with the last 50 miles ahead of us.

We made it with no drama; we're checked in now, and off for dinner at a super-secret location, ready to get our party hats on!

Da Yoop

I typed out a nice post last night on the iPad, but for some reason it has not published. I will get to that later. We are in Escanaba, MI headed to our hotel in Milwaukee

Da Yoop

Today was a quick tour of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, highlighted by a quick trip down I-75, a ride across the 3rd longest suspension bridge in the US to Mackinaw City and back, and from there a scenic ride across the north shore of Lake Michigan.  We allowed ourselves a little extra sleep today, spent an hour in the fitness center, and enjoyed a healthy and fulfilling breakfast before setting out.  It was damn near 11 till we got out on the road, but that was not far off the original plan which always includes a bit of slack.

Rain was never far off the horizon again today, and sunshine was scarce, yet we only got rained on for about 2 miles on the way to the Strait of Mackinac.  Bikes are thick now that we are a day out, and we find ourselves running into kindred spirits at every turn - sometimes catching up with the  same people more than once. Without a reservation on the books, and being overdue for an early night and a good cleaning of the bikes, we called it quits early here in Escanaba, MI.  We had some  pizza delivered to us in the parking lot while we did our best to clean up  the bikes and lighten our load of duty-free liquor.

We've cleared 1,000 miles so far, and face about 225 more to our hotel in Milwaukee tomorrow.  We make up an hour to Central time a few miles down US 41, so with a reasonable wake-up call and  a quick stop along the way, we should  be in town by early afternoon.  There isn't much going on yet tomorrow, so we'll go over the bikes one more time at the hotel, re-acquiant ourselves with the city, and have dinner a really cool super-secret place that we can't tell you about at the risk of treason or maybe worse.

I'm thinking pasties for lunch tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Soo

Quick update here from Sault Ste Marie, MI. Yesterday, we completed our ride across the tip of Lake Huron on the Trans- Canada Highway. We hadn't gotten too far out of North Bay before we ran into some serious rain. While we were pulled off into the gravel suiting up (and right after the couple who did so at the hotel went zooming by) I wrenched my back and all the pretty stars came out. For a moment, I thought I wasn't going to be able to move at all, but we were 5 feet off a highway in the pouring rain. Paralysis was not an option.
I somehow made it work, and when we got to Sudbury, we stopped at the HD dealer and my sweetie rubbed me down with some form of magical poultice. It got me through the day amazingly well.
A short ride across town brought us to the nickel mine and the tallest smokestack you've ever seen. It's as tall as the Empire State Building (seriously-look it up.) The ride over was dry and the sun was peeking out, so we unsuited, and in the 10 minutes it took to do that, the pictured cloud rolled in and the wind picked up. We were thinking we were about to meet Dorothy.
It somehow never produced a drop of rain, and in 10 more minutes, it was gone. We continued west, and ended up at customs warm and dry around 4:00.
On the US side, we stopped to see the locks linking Superior and Huron and figure out where we want to end up for the night. In the visitors center, the board showed an upbound freighter scheduled to transit at 6:15. This excited me more than you'd probably think is normal, but it solved the remaining question, and so here we are in a Comfort Inn 3 miles down the road. This morning looks the same as yesterday: gloomy out the window and green blobs on the radar. My back is tight and sore, but functional. Off we go...

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Case of the Mondays

Packed up and ready to go on a dreary gray Monday morning. It's not cold, at least - 20 degrees already!

We've run into clumps of motorcycles heading west already, or parked at hotels here in town, assumed to be heading to Milwaukee based on the loaded bags and Quebec plates. Here at the breakfast table, we have a confirmation. Saw a couple wearing the uniform (Harley t-shirts) and asked where they were headed. Yep, you guessed it.

Anyway, off into the gray mist. Hey, we're not on our way to work, and we're not suited up. It's all good!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Bay City Rollers

From Alexandria Bay to North Bay today. We are here on the shores of Lake Nipissing, in Waythehellupthere County, Ontario. Mom and Dad rolled in about an hour after us, so we're one big happy family again.

This morning was crisp and clear, and after a quick and easy border crossing, we were on our way, eh? We stopped in Kingston to visit historic Fort Henry, and before we got any appreciable distance covered, it was already noon. With that, we hightailed it north going 110 the whole way up to the Ottawa River. Major highways in this neck of the woods are 2 lanes, with the majority of tributaries being of the dirt variety, so passing bunches of cars a half dozen at a clip sort of keeps your attention.

Reaching Pembroke, we turned west, while the weather turned south. Finally an hour or two short of our destination, it held out no more and we got a little wet and chilled.  Nothing major, and we never even stopped to suit up, but the bikes need a cleaning and our pants legs needed to dry out over dinner.  We're getting our showers now and we'll be ready to rock early tomorrow morning.  We'll continue west (that's where Wisconsin is, after all) to Lake Superior, hang a left, and hopefully make our beds back in the good ol' US of A.

I'm sure you figured out the play, but as we were going 110 the temperature was 23 degrees. Since the speed limit was 80, that meant those blocks of cars were going under 55 in mph. Ain't nobody got time fo dat.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

St. Lawrence Seaway

Here we are in Alexandria Bay, NY. We had perfect weather to ride up here- we'll take 9 more of these, please. Today's ride was a couple hundred miles of interstate, hammered out early so we could get into town and do some sightseeing.

The castle pictured is Boldt Castle, another Gilded Age retreat of the type that  seems to be becoming a trend with us this year.  Not by design, mind you. This destination was stricken at least three times from various plans over the last few years. The first time, I had a bike that started only occasionaly, ridden (when running) in pouring rain, and disassembled in a motel parking lot while Donna did laundry. We made the necessary adjustments and have been trying to get back here ever since.

We did take the ferry to the castle, and enjoyed an afternoon on the island grounds and in "downtown" Alexandria Bay. Right now, we're enjoying a Jagerbomb on our stoop here at JT's Roadhouse after a great day. We're gonna tritsel through the parking lot in a few minutes, grab a burger and a beer or two, and see wha tomorrow holds.

Friday, August 23, 2013

A River Of Iron Flows Home

That's the phrase used by Harley-Davidson for their 100th Anniversary celebration in 2003.  It's now time for the 110th, and I loved that line so I'm stealing it for my title.

I was fortunate enough to take my 100th Anniversary bike out for that celebration in 2003, and I actually documented it in my old blog, linked at right.  Donna and I first met on our way to the 105th - those entries from the same blog are kinda neat to read in restrospect - and so we've been looking forward to this with quite a bit of excitement for a long time.

We're going to take a route through Canada, (of course!) get there the night before everything starts, and then make a mad dash back to our real home Sunday and Monday.  As always, no guarantees as to how frequently we will update - especially while we're out festing - but we will do our best.

Kickstands up 8 am.  Hasta la vista.

Friday, August 16, 2013

One Wedding and a Funeral

Today was a strange, emotional day.

Last week, we lost a dear friend in his prime to an idiot in a car.  Actually, two idiots in two cars.  And truth be told, it wasn't idiots on the phone or not paying attention, or being inconsiderate.  One was, in fact, being quite considerate (and stupid) and the other was being grateful - and stupid.  So, when he made the left across traffic at the invitation of Friendly Driver stopped in the other direction, he never peeked into the slow lane before just missing the back of Jocelyn's bike, and presenting himself broadside directly in front of Freddy and Raindrop.  And that was that. 

He had lots of friends and family send him off today, and that's great to see, but it should have never happened.  We'll never laugh with our friend again.

In the next breath, we came home to shower and put on our Sunday best to head to NJ and witness the wedding of my cousin Andy and his beautiful bride Laura - which was the complete opposite emotion from just hours earlier.  It was great to see them so happy, and to be in the company of friends and family not seen in so long.

Life is strange. 

And precious.

Rest in peace, Freddy.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


Today, Katrina and I did something, as Monty Python would say, completely different.

We jumped out of a perfectly good airplane.

Katrina had this harebrained scheme for some time now, and couldn't get her boyfriend to do it with her.  I'll try just about anything once, so I agreed to take the plunge - literally - with her.  Donna graciously agreed to man the security post at home.

We go through the video, sign the waivers, and pay for our "tickets" which is actually a manifest declaring us to be cargo on our specific "load."  Self-loading cargo, as they say.  Since it's a tandem jump, the most important thing to remember today is DO NOT LOSE THIS TICKET.  It is usable any day if we can't go up today, but it is irreplaceable.  Oh, and you can't have anything in your pockets when you walk out onto the airfield.

So, just before we're to be called, the could ceiling encroaches, and everything stops.  For a long, long time.  We finally get word that the group before us (we thought we were next) is about to go up, but I see just a small opening in the clouds, and with the ride up being TWENTY MINUTES, I'm betting the farm that we're not going.

But then, lo and behold, our "load" is called.  We tritsel over to the car to empty our pockets, and, of course, discover that I have, in fact, lost my ticket.  (Actually, I lost the one Katrina gave me to hold since she didn't have pockets.)

Panic ensues, as we have just a few minutes to get into the suit and harness.  Nothing turns up.  I end up making a plea to the lady who told me NOT TO LOSE THE TICKET, and she says, "well, you're gonna have to," which gets me hopeful...

"go over to the manifest room and get yourself taken off this load."


So I decide to give Katrina my ticket, since it was her idea and my goof, when I'm struck by a realization that makes my hair stand up:  What if all this is a way for fate to keep us off this plane, and I'm "graciously" sending MY OWN DAUGHTER up while I stay on the ground?  Heebie jeebies...

We end up in the manifest room asking if anyone might have turned in a found ticket, and after some discussion between the girls working diligently on their actual jobs, I am relieved to learn that someone has, in fact, done exactly that.  So now it's "ohmyGod we're late and everybody else is ready to go and we're not even suited up and who's going to be our jumpmaster and hurry up and we're going to miss the goddamn load after all and..."

So we meet our jumpmasters, and they double and triple check our gear, and out we march to the plane.  I'm pretty calm at this point.  Katrina is getting antsy.  Mind you, she has never been in an airplane in her life, let alone a rickety little buzzbomb that she's about to jump out of.  We start climbing, and this thing is audibly laboring, and the minutes tick slowly past.  Katrina keeps asking "are we there yet?" and is definitely not at her best at this point.  Finally, all in an instant, the plane levels off, a green light goes on, a buzzer sounds, and the door rolls up to allow a roaring 12,000 ft 120 mph wind turn the cabin into chaos and take our breath away.  Shit just got real.  Out we all go, one by one, Katrina then me.  Sun / sky / plane / ground / sky / ground / other ground / sun / more sky, until the guys gets us oriented and into some serious freefall.  Then we're doing controlled flying for a good 60 seconds or so until he pulls the cord and my harness tries to jerk me through it like a sieve.

And in an instant, all is calm.  The freezing roar turns into calm silence interrupted only by the gentle fluttering of the canopy. He lets me steer for a while, and before you know it, he has us gliding in for a landing so accurate that when we stop, I can literally reach over and touch Katrina.  We are both ecstatic.  What a rush!

It didn't turn either one of us into skydivers, although we'd do it again.  If you like adventure, it's well worth the money; I can't imagine there's an experience like it in the world.

The footnote to the story is the following week, Katrina is flying to California with her boyfriend and her family.  When anyone asks her if it's her first time flying, she'll be able to say, "no, but it will be my first time landing!"