Friday, August 12, 2011

Rallies 2011 – wrap up


Life is getting back to normal once again. We are falling back into a routine and our cats are happy we’ve sprung them from their ‘prison’.

The trip was 24 days, we spent 21 nights in hotel rooms and 2 nights with friends. We enjoyed 3 free nights at hotels thanks to reward programs from Super 8 and Choice hotels. The GPS shows 5,724 miles traveled. The route took us through 19 states; LA, MS, AL, GA, TN, VA, WV, MD, PA, DE, NJ, NY, CT, RI, MA, NH, ME, VT, NC.

We only had one problem with the bikes and that occurred on the final day of the trip just 120 miles from the house when a relay failed on Reagan’s auxiliary electrical system. As a result of the relay’s constant on-off cycling it appears her SkyFi3 XM radio receiver has suffered catastrophic failure and will need to be replaced.

There were only a few occasions where we were “unplugged” and they were usually temporary. Together we improved our abilities to work from the road. I tell people as long as I have an Internet connection I can work from anywhere in the world. That is usually true, of course, wanting to work is sometimes a different story. :)

We are considering a SS2000 in September so that I can check off Ohio and Michigan and complete my US map. The trip will depend on work schedules and temperatures. We’ll have to wait and see.

This has been a great summer and once again we got to enjoy parts of the US that we hadn’t been to before.

UPDATE: Sometimes taking something apart can fix the problem and not just make it worse. Honestly, that’s what I thought years ago when as a child I would take things apart. Of course, getting them back together was a whole other story. Today though it worked. I removed the back cover of the SkyFi3 and pulled out the battery. Then reinserted it and tried to turn it on, nothing. I plugged in a USB cord since it had a slot and the screen started to flash as it lit up and shut off. I then removed the usb cord and to my surprise the unit started to power on but then shut off. Thinking the battery was dead, I went outside, repaired the relay problem and plugged the SkyFi3 into it’s cradle. Presto!!! It booted up and locked onto an XM station.

So really the only bike related problem of the trip was a $5 relay. It actually took more time to remove the plastic access panel than it did to hook up the new relay. Reagan’s satellite radio is fixed. Hoooray!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Rallies 2011 – Day 24

Today’s route was simple, I-12W to I-10W into Houston, then we would be home.

We got an early start and the bikes were rolling by 5am. Not much to say about riding across Louisiana. We made our first gas stop after only 120 miles into the ride. Reagan was not getting very good mileage out of the Shell gas from Slidell. We stopped a second time for gas just after crossing into Texas at a place called Crawdads.

The second stop took a little longer because I needed to tend to an electrical issue Reagan was experiencing. The auxiliary relay that powers the accessory fuse block I installed was failing. The quick and easy solution was to bypass the relay all together. If the trip had continued past today I would have stopped at an auto parts store and picked up a new relay and replaced it when we got to the hotel. As it was, I just unplugged the connection once we made it home.

I’m glad we got an early start because the sun did too. By the time we got into Texas it was getting warm. We rolled into the Houston area around 10am and by 10:40am I was in my driveway with the bike turned off. Reagan arrived a few minutes later since she stopped at the nearby Exxon to fill up her tank and get a final receipt.

day 24

Today’s trip was a quick 376 miles in 5 hours and 46 minutes. The average speed was 65mph, we didn’t spend much time at the gas stops, even on the 2nd one where I bypassed the relay.

I’m going to finish unpacking, put stuff away, and take care of things that need attention after our absence for 3 weeks. Tomorrow I’ll write up a summary post for the trip. The short and sweet summary, “It was a great trip!!!!!”

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Rallies 2011 – Day 23

Today is only the second day of the trip that we had to set an alarm clock. We were up at 4:25 this morning and across the street at the gas station by 5. After filling the tanks we headed south on I-75.

The whole route today was about making time and getting closer to home before the heat set in. We sailed through Chattanooga’s construction with ease and soon found ourselves on I-59S. The GPS took us on I-495 around Birmingham and then we crossed the rest of Alabama on I-20W/I-59S. In Meridian, MS. we stayed on I-59 down toward Louisiana. Then it was a quick ride on I-12W into Slidell, La. where our hotel was. We stopped at the gas station before going to the hotel. It was 11:30 when we turned off the bikes in the Comfort Inn parking lot.

Obviously we had arrived very early and the hotel was just checking out 2 bus loads of teenage boys who had stayed the night before. The staff was helpful and got us into a room by 1pm. The wait in the lobby was certainly better than the heat outside. Actually the entire ride was comfortable temperature-wise until about the last 30 minutes. Then it started getting warm. Dealing with the traffic and heat around the gas station was about the worst part of the ride today.

day 23

We travelled 480 miles in 7 1/2 hours. Because of the time change we gained an hour of travel time which helped to keep us in the cooler temps a little longer. Tomorrow is just 377 miles (2 gas stops) so we’re going to get another early start. I expect we’ll be home before noon.


SPOT Followers:  It looks like SPOT ran out of batteries this morning. I don’t feel like changing the batteries tonight so it may not  be online tomorrow.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Rallies 2011 – Day 22

Today was our last working day on the trip, as such we worked in the room until 10:30 before packing up the bikes and departing. The Microtel Inn & Suites in Robbinsville has a decent breakfast although not the caliber of a Hampton Inn. With work complete we headed up Hwy 129 toward Deals Gap. We road the “Dragon” northbound first and the turned around to ride it southbound. There was heavy law enforcement today, likely due to the recent fatality of a sportbike vs. semi. From what I was able to gather, the sportbike was in the wrong by crossing the line, the semi truck driver is being charged and the sportbike rider is dead.

We stopped at the Deals Gap Resort for stickers, patches and a meal. Then we decided to ride HellBender (Hwy 28) around to 143 and head back into Robbinsville. There was a gas stop in Robbinsville to top off Reagan’s tank and we stayed there longer to cool off as the temperature was rising after lunch.

At this point, it was time to point the bikes toward home, but not without one last scenic detour. We left the area via the Cherohala Skyway and for a while, escaped the high temperatures. When we reached Telico Plains we turned north on 68 then west on 39. In Etowah we took another break to get out of the heat and cool off. Then it was south on 411 to 64 west which took us to Cleveland, TN. We took the Hwy 60 bypass south to I-75. Then it was a short run on the superslab down to Chattanooga. After being on back roads for so many days I actually had to push myself to get the bike up to 70mph again.

We arrived at the Comfort Inn and checked in. We were done for the day. We travelled 187 miles today.

day 22

After showers and a little break we headed across the street to the City Cafe located in the Best Western Inn. It was one of only two choices we had within walking distance. The other was Waffle House and that really wasn’t a choice. OMG!!! The City Cafe at exit 7 of I-75 is a top notch restaurant. Their food is great, their menu is extensive and the prices are fantastic. If I’m on I-75 in the future I will definitely stay at a hotel within walking distance of the City Cafe. It was one of the biggest surprises of the trip.

Tomorrow we plan to make Slidell, La. Heat is of course a concern so we are starting early and plan to keep our stops short. If all goes as planned we’ll get to the hotel between noon and 1. If they won’t let us check in early I’ll just kick back in their lobby and wait. Two hot, sweaty, smelly motorcycle rider should be motivation enough to allow us to check in early.  :)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Rallies 2011 – Day 21

This morning I was slow to get moving, I didn’t sleep very well. I think it had something to do with all the beer although I didn’t feel sick. Breakfast was ‘light’, as in a bowl of Rice Crispies. But it was a breakfast none the less. We finished our work  this morning just before 10:30, loaded the bikes and headed out.

The first order of business was to go get some gas. There was a Wal-Mart just down the hill so I decided to fill up there. Bad idea, their gas is lousy and we could tell it throughout the day. With our tanks topped off we went back by the hotel and headed down 226A a.k.a “Diamondback”. It was definitely a twisty road. It started off slow but 4 miles into it things got really technical. Maybe it’s because I started the day tired but I found myself worn out before I reached the bottom of the mountain. I originally planned to turn around and go back up it but when we got down to 226, we took that back up the mountain to the BRP.

The ride south on the BRP started out nicely with a clear road ahead. As we got closer to Ashville more and more traffic started showing up. We stopped in Ashville for some snacks and Reagan topped off her tank to get some better gas.

After the gas stop, I wanted to eat lunch at the highest elevation overlook which was at mile post 431. We were still in the 380s and it was already after 1pm. Breakfast was a distant memory. I finally stopped a few miles short of my goal at an overlook with a picnic table. The view wasn’t great but the cool breeze made it nice none the less. We cut lunch a little short when rain drops started coming down.

When we got to mile post 431 we were rain free so we pulled into the overlook and sat there for a little while just taking in the scenery. Then it was time to head down the mountain and finish the BRP. It turned out that we had more miles left than I expected.

When we rolled into Cherokee, TN. The air was significantly warmer than we were accustomed to for the past 4 days. We kept moving, got to 74, then 28, then 143 into Robbinsville. We rolled into town a little after 4pm. Checked into our hotel, received a free upgrade to a suite and unloaded our bikes. Dinner was had at a local diner up the hill from the hotel.

day 21

Today’s trip was 200 miles long and kept us on the road for 5 1/2 hours.

Tomorrow morning we’ll go ride the Dragon, get Reagan a patch and depending on how we sleep tonight we might do HellBender, then head to the Cherohala Skyway and start our ride home.

It’s been fun to play for the last 3 weeks. But as the trip is winding down I have to say I’m looking forward to my routine and diet at home. At least until we knock out a SaddleSore 2000 in September so I can tag Ohio and Michigan thus completing my map to the right and allowing me to retire my well worn AST jacket.

UPDATE: Reagan’s been keeping track of the wildlife seen on the BRP. Her totals are: 3 does, 2 fawns, 2 turkeys, 2 wood chucks, a suicidal squirrel and a field mouse. Today she made a huge dent in the butterfly population, they may now be considered an endangered species (ha ha ha).

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Rallies 2011 – Day 20

This morning we enjoyed a great breakfast and then worked for a little while. Reagan finished her work first and I decided it was time to go play so I stopped working a short while later. We left the hotel just after 10:30 and headed south on I-81 to Hwy 8 which would return us to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

We stopped in Floyd, Va. for fuel and some food to eat along the way. A few miles later we reached the BRP and headed south. Traffic was very light and I joked that it wasn’t called the Blue Ridge Parkway but rather the Brian & Reagan Parkway. Travel was easy and full of twists and turns.

Around mile post 229 we reached the detour which Reagan had found out about by reading the site. The detour took us away from our route and into warmer temps. Cars unable to go the speed limit were the biggest stress factor along the detour. But with patience we made it to the end of the detour and found ourselves once again on the BRP with an open road in front of us.

We stopped for lunch at one of the overlooks and enjoyed a light meal, V-8 juice, snack mix, beef jerky. Yum! This worked well as we were able to enjoy the wilderness while eating something light.

With lunch finished we resumed the ride south with about 80 miles left for the day. The further south we rode the higher the elevation got. We were going into the mountains. We stopped at a visitor center and purchased a few of the “decreasing radius” items they had for sale. Then it was back on the road.

We exited the BRP at mile post 331 and turned onto 226A to find the Skyline Village Inn. When we pulled up I was a little concerned but once I went in and started talking to Joe I felt really good about the place. We parked the bikes around back under a special covered area exclusively for motorcycles and then carried our stuff.

day 20

Today we road 203 miles in 5.5 hours. It was a great day of riding.

Normally that’s where the blog entry would end. But after we got into the room and changed into street clothes we headed downstairs to check out the food and drink situation. Reagan found the gem store on the first floor and acquired a beautiful emerald along with lots of other things, I bought a sticker. Then we headed into the restaurant. Again, my first impression was “what have I gotten us into?” But once we got our beers and placed our order then Mike, the owner, showed up and started telling us about the history of the place. The original owner was a moonshiner and built the hotel from his earnings as a ‘shiner’. Then we found out that Wednesday night is “Beer Club” night. Around 6:30 locals showed up and we were included in their weekly meeting. Mike has a passion for bringing craft beers to his store, he’s got so many unique beers I haven’t seen before. His selection rivals Specs liquor. We enjoyed tasting some different beers and then played a trivia game with some really odd questions. The evening was a blast!!! It was the most fun we’ve had in the evening during the whole trip.

If you want a great, warm and friendly atmosphere, show up at the Skyline Village Inn on a Wednesday and stay for the night. Get down to the first floor restaurant around 6 and enjoy the evening with fun people. And leave your apprehensions behind, the hotel has a unique character with all the wood working and masonry work. Reagan and I want to come back and stay for several days to enjoy the area.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Rallies 2011 – Day 19

Today we started our ride down the Blue Ridge Parkway. The higher speed limit made the turns more interesting. We stopped at the northern visitor center to get a stamp, sticker and patch. We managed to leave the center just before a large group of Harley riders pulled out.

Unlike yesterday, we didn’t stop much at the overlooks. I was wrapped up in all the twisties. We stopped for lunch at Peaks of Otter Lake. There were no Otters to be found. But we did find a regular National Parks restaurant serving normal nps food. Certainly not as enjoyable as yesterday’s lunch.

After we finished our meal and checked out the gift shop, we resumed our travels south. Once again we passed the large Harley group who had stopped at the general store across the street. Reagan wanted to stop at an overlook which had shade and a view so a few miles down the road I found an overlook that fit the bill. We stopped, took off our helmets and just sat on the curb looking out to the horizon. It was peaceful.

A short time later we resumed our ride south. The temperature was rising and our elevation seemed to be falling. The curves weren’t as fun and the scenery turned to that of local houses and farms. We pulled over to resolve a satellite radio issue and once we returned to the BRP we found ourselves behind 3 Harley riders who could barely keep the speed limit in the occasional curves but had no problem rolling on hard in the straight aways. I kept thinking they would turn off at an overlook. I had that thought all the way to mile post 159 where we exited and headed northeast to Christiansburg, Va.

After a 27 mile ride from the BRP to our hotel we were done. Tonight’s Quality Inn has juice, milk, coffee & tea 24 hours a day, breakfast from 6 to 10am and cookies from 5 to 10pm. Of course we enjoyed some milk and cookies.

day 19

Today’s route covered 193 miles which we did in 6 hours. Stopping for lunch really slowed us down. Tomorrow I’m hoping to take a lunch with us, something light. That way we can stop at a shaded overlook and enjoy the scenery for awhile. And then continue on to mile post 331 where the Skyline Village Inn is located. It promises to be an exciting stay tomorrow night. When I asked about gas, the proprietor said not to worry, they are one 1 1/2 from gas and it’s down hill so you can coast to the gas station.  I’ll make sure to top off Reagan’s tank in Floyd, Va. before we get back on the BRP.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Rallies 2011 – Day 18

After 2 weeks on the road we’ve really hit our stride. Things work like a well oiled machine every morning now. Since today is a work day that meant we worked until 10:30ET this morning. This works out well and allows us to travel an extra week this summer. Next year this routine will allow us to travel even longer. And since we won’t be on the east coast we should be able to finish our work earlier (1 hour per timezone going west).

We’ve started staying at Quality Inns again on this trip just like we did last year. And again I’ve discovered that Quality Inns are really a great value. They are only a few dollars more than a Super 8 but the breakfast is Hot and nearly rivals the Hampton Inn. We’re definitely going to be staying at more Quality Inns during this trip.

With work done, we loaded up the bikes and headed to the Skyline Drive. We entered the park and stopped at the first visitor center to get the passport stamps, buy a patch for Reagan and learn a little bit about the park. Then we continued south through the park. It seemed like we had the road to ourselves. Only occasionally did we find a vehicle traveling in our direction. A brief stop at one of the lookouts usually resolved that situation.

We stopped for lunch at the Skyland center. The view from the dining room was great! The food was better than normal for national park food and the prices were extremely reasonable. As we were getting off the bikes, Reagan had a close encounter with a deer. They were within 5 feet of each other at one point and the doe wasn’t the least bit scared. NO, Reagan did not try to pet the deer…  After lunch when we returned to the bikes we found a pair of deer just a little deeper in the woods with a little fawn being the closest. The deer didn’t spook when she started her bike either. On the way out of the area we saw a turkey run across the road.

After lunch we had a little more than half the park to ride through so we picked up the pace a little bit and headed south. The ride was very pleasant and relaxing. I found myself slowing at most of the lookouts like a bonafied tourist. In many cases, seeing the lookout from back on the road before the turn off gave a greater image than pulling off to look down in the valley.

Before I knew it we were at the end of the park and turning into Waynesborro. As we road into town we found a BBQ joint next to the Sunoco. We’ll get a picture tomorrow on our way back out. It was a little too far from the hotel so we won’t be dining there tonight.

Checking into the hotel was a real treat. Saturday night Reagan was in charge of booking rooms and picked the Quality Inn rooms. This was another fantastic choice on her part. She discovered we had a free night’s stay from last year’s promotion. So she opted to use it for tonight’s room. However because we had previously booked a room for July 31st the web site thought the second room, in another town was also for the same night. When we tried to correct the mistake the site would not let us. When I tried to call in to customer service I got an unsure commitment that the reservation was changed. Yesterday I called the hotel and got the reservation changed to tonight.

When I showed up to check in though I was still unsure about whether we actually had a room. As luck would have it the lady at the front desk was the same lady I spoke to on the phone yesterday. She said she had a room for me but there was a slight problem. “Oh boy”, I thought, “here comes the fact that I lost the free room.” She said, “We have you a room but we don’t have a key to your room.” She went on to explain that their computer system was messed up as result of an update earlier in the day which had disabled their ability to create room keys. We could still get into the room via a master key which had to be used by a hotel employee only. Because of this “inconvenience” and because we are Choice Rewards members they decided to refund our points used for the room AND…. wait for it…. give us the room for FREE!!!! How cool is that! This has been a great day on so many levels.

Needless to say, we’ve already got another Quality Inn stay booked for tomorrow night. And I’ll start looking for Wednesday night’s room before I go to sleep tonight.

day 18 

Today was a fantastic day of riding. We covered a short 113 miles in 5.5 hours. It wasn’t about the quantity of miles but the quality. Tomorrow we start the Blue Ridge parkway and stay in Christiansburg.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Rallies 2011 – Day 17

This morning we wanted to get on the road early as we knew we had a long day ahead of us running down I-81S. As a last minute thing before we left I checked the Garmin for food along the route with “BBQ” in the name. I found one stop in each of the 4 states we would be passing through; Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia. We managed to get on the road by 8am after having breakfast at the hotel. Today had my first waffle of the trip.

Riding the superslab isn’t usually exciting but the scenery along I-81 in New York state is very nice, and the temperatures stayed in the 70’s. In fact it was very comfortable until we got down into Pennsylvania and our altitude got lower. That’s when the heat started building.

Our first BBQ joint was at the southern end of PA in a little town called, Greencastle. When we rolled into town something big was going on in the center of town and they had the streets blocked off forcing people to follow detours that weren’t really intended for that amount of traffic. Finally after circling the entire town and coming in from the south we reached Bentley’s Old Mill Bakery & BBQ. The place met the objective of having “BBQ” in the name for the Smoke Chasin 2011 ride. They were closed for some local event and the hand written sign said they would be open “later”. Two things make me unlikely to ever try to go back to that place; 1. no bbq smoke smell outside (even if they were closed for business, the pit should have been smoking meats for Monday) 2. The place looked brand spanking new and lacked any authentic BBQ attitude about it. I’m really stuck on the lack of good smelling smoke…. UPDATE: Reagan did some investigating online and determined they have closed the place and it’s up for sale. That certainly explains the lack of smoke.

So we punched up the 2nd joint which was just down the road a few miles in Maryland. A short ride down I-81 and another drive through town took us to a shopping center in Hagerstown, MD. There we found Hempen Hill Bbq Bar & Grill which as luck would have it is closed on Sundays. OK, those of you who know me…. if I ever actually decide to open a BBQ joint, you have my permission to give me a “whoopin” if I don’t open on Sundays. I mean come on! BBQ joints should be open on the weekends, no excuses. Close down on Monday and Tuesdays if you want time off.

The rules of the Smoke Chase don’t require us to actually any Q so we got our pictures and moved on. The 3rd stop was a long shot in my mind. It didn’t show up on my Garmin and I had found it via google. So we headed down to Martinsburg, WV in search of JF Texas Brisket BBQ. The address led us to a little business center in the middle of no where. I guess they had gone out of business because there was no JF’s BBQ to be found. I should have checked it out a little more carefully online since it wasn’t in my Garmin. Oh well…

We returned to I-81S and went down the road a few exits until we found a Subway just across the Virginia state line. That gave us a chance to get out of the 100 degree heat and enjoy a late lunch. We opted to skip the BBQ in Virginia as we’ll be in the state for another 2 days and should be able to find a place along the way. We completed the last 45 miles of the day’s ride and found our hotel in Front Royal, Va. We are just a mile or so from the beginning of Skyline drive.

day 17

Today we travelled 440 miles and were on the road for 8 hours. This was certainly the hottest travel day we’ve had so far. Tomorrow we’ll be riding the Skyline drive in it’s entirety. The whole route is 111 miles and is supposed to take 3.5 hours plus stops along the way. It’s a work day so we’ll later but I expect to be in Waynesborro tomorrow afternoon in time for a nap.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Rallies 2011 – Day 16

This morning the sky cleared and the air was crisp when we checked out of our hotel room. We took a leisurely ride up to the Mohawk Casino where the rally closing ceremonies were. There was lots of beautiful scenery along the way and the roads were free of traffic most of the time. We arrived at the casino 74 miles later. I was impressed with the organization of the casino staff to direct us to our designated area.

After the ceremonies were over we left the casino and headed west  on Hwy 37 along the inland seaway. We them caught I-81S down to Pulaski, NY. We planned the afternoon ride to be short just in case the ceremonies went long. As it turned out the 144 miles were done easily and we were checked into our hotel by 5pm.

Day 16

Total mileage today was 218 miles.

Tomorrow we are pushing down to Front Royal, VA which puts us at the top of Skyline Drive. We’ll ride it on Monday down to Waynesborro on Monday. Tuesday we’ll start riding the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Rallies 2011 – Day 15

Today was all about the poker run. We got a late start due to some work issues.

Day 15

We had great weather until the last few miles. The rain finally caught us as we rode back into Lake Placid and went to the Lake Placid Pub & Grill for our final chip. We enjoyed a great late lunch before returning to the hotel.

Tomorrow we head up to the Mohawk Casino to turn in our chips and see what sort of poker hand we get. The 3 best hands win prizes.

Enjoying New York state locally brewed beer from our hotel room tonight.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Rallies 2011 – Day 14

Attention followers of my SPOT tracker: I forgot to turn it on today. ooops!

We had such a great internet connection that we stayed at the hotel this morning until 11am. There was also a heavy fog in the area which didn’t start to burn off until after 9:30. The Cabott Inn in Lancaster will not be a place I return to. The town is nice and there are a few other places to stay in town, pick one of those. Stay away from the Cabott Inn, enough said.

We headed west out of Lancaster on Hwy 2.  We followed that over to St. Johnsbury where the Garmin took us on a detour around the town via interstate. Then it was west again on Hwy 2 to Montpilier, VT. We hopped on I-89N to Burlington. I checked the GPS and there was a place in town with BBQ in the name so we stopped in at Big Fatty’s BBQ for some pork spare ribs and pulled pork. That’s mighty good eating there. While we were eating, there were a group of college kids cheering on their friend who was trying the monster challenge. It’s 4lbs of food for $20 and you have 1 hour to eat it all and keep it down. Then it’s free. What you get is a 1lb bun, 2lbs of pulled pork and 1lb of french fries. The kid talked a good game while he was waiting for the order but 10 minutes into the challenge he abandoned the idea of eating it all in 15 minutes.

We left the bbq joint and followed the GPS to the Charlotte/Essex ferry. For $12 we were able to cut out about 1 hour of travel time and enjoy a fun ride across Lake Champlain. It was Reagan’s first ferry ride on the scooter. It went fine. While on the ferry we met a fellow rally attendee who was from Maine. He had all sorts of LED lights and stuff to make his Spyder glow at night. It was a good visit across the lake.

Once off the ferry we were in New York state and riding back roads. We stopped along the way for gas. Riding back roads in this part of the country I equate to riding in Yellow Stone national park. There’s lots of scenery and always someone in front of you going slower than the speed limit. The roads are in fair condition and there are some occasional curves to enjoy if you find yourself alone and unobstructed.

We rolled into Lake Placid and found our hotel with ease. Checking in was just a matter of patience. There were a few people in line ahead of us and the front desk clerk seemed to have a singe track mind. When it was our turn, she checked us in and pointed us to our room.

After unloading the bikes we head down the road to Tail 0’ the Pup BBQ where the rally registration was. We walked around looking at all the other spyders. Some folks have put a lot of effort into customizing their rides. I couldn’t believe all the led lights and painted stuff on the bikes. The few that did have auxiliary lighting installed didn’t seem to have them set up for actual night driving. And I only saw 1 license plate backer claiming to be an Iron Butt member. I happen to know she’s from Texas ;)

After browsing the bikes we sat down to eat some BBQ and check off our 3rd joint and our 3rd state for the Smoke Chasin ride that Reagan talked about last night. I wasn’t all the hungry and really didn’t want any more pork today, so I ordered the Texas BBQ Brisket and 2 sides. What I got looked like it was cooked in an oven and had been pulled, not sliced or chopped. There was no smoke flavor to speak of either. I tried the meat by itself and then with their sauce. DON’T USE THE SAUCE. It positively did not go with the beef. I think it was a poorly concocted ketchup/vinegar combination. The potato salad was bland. The baked beans though were top notch. Reagan ordered “Poo Tin” which is waffle fries with brown gravy and shredded cheese on top. Together we cleaned her plate. More than 1/2 of the brisket went back untouched.

I kept seeing these shirts saying “It’s the wood that makes it so good.” When I asked our waitress she said she couldn’t tell me what they cooked on. I was thinking there was no wood at all for a giant oven. So I went up and asked to see the pit. I lucked out because the pit master was standing right next to the person I asked. He was a little shocked I was asking to see the pit but then took me around back. They are running 3 large vertical electric pits. When he opened the doors to his rib smoker I instantly recognized the hickory smoke. When I asked what else he had in the smoke besides Hickory he recognized that I wasn’t just a chump wanting to do BBQ. He confessed they blend Apple and Hickory together. After the ribs stay on smoke for a pre-determined time (sorry I’m not saying how long) then he takes them off, puts them into large uncovered pans with a little apple juice in the bottom to make them “fall off the bone tender”.

The guy is passionate about his Q. He’s proud of his pits and he’s working to get some larger ones so he can cook even more BBQ. My first impression was to say “Pass the place by.” But he’s got the passion and he certainly knew what he was doing. I think he just missed the mark on the Brisket. The Texas AG’s office might just want to prosecute them for poorly representing Texas Brisket. The table next to us had the ribs and they didn’t quite look like they were “fall off the bone tender”. I think he might jut be rushing his cook times to keep up with demand. He needs to slow down and cook things a little longer. And fix that BBQ sauce.

Of the 2 places we went to today, I’d definitely recommend Big Fatty’s BBQ in Burlington, VT. If your up to it take him up on his $20 monster challenge.

Tomorrow we get to ride around the area and see the scenery while participating in a poker run. This will be the first poker run Reagan and I have ever done. The route looks simple but of course I’m going to program the locations into my GPS, I wouldn’t be me otherwise. I’ll make sure to turn on SPOT tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Rallies 2011 – Day 13

Today we travelled from Bar Harbor, Me. to Lancaster, NH via Bangor, Me and and Augusta, Me. We only have about 72 miles of Interstate in the day’s route. The rest was on secondary roads through rural Maine and New Hampshire.

day 13

Today’s route was 233 miles long and we spent 6 hours traveling. I’ll let Reagan tell you about some of the things we saw and did along the way…

Along the way on this trip we are participating in Chasin’ Smoke 2011 which is a charity event that raises money for Eddie’s Road. We are working on 15 BBQ joints in 15 states. So far, 1 BBQ joint in Maine. – Maine-ly Meat BBQ in Bar Harbor. We had some pulled pork and sampled their baked beans. – Brian had to inspect their pit as well. All were deemed worthy.

The roads today were country roads with a good bit of traffic. The scenery more than made up for the delays. Thankfully no moose were observed along the route.

Today’s question is: What is “Chicken Pie”? We passed 2 places that had Chicken Pie (one is a church down the road that is having a social on Sunday). Our wait staff at dinner wasn’t sure either. We have concluded that it must be a pot pie of some sort.

Did Brian mention how great his lobster was last night, or how foggy it was in Bar Harbor? – The fog burned off by mid morning and we could actually see across the harbor. We took some time this morning to capitalize on the advantages of being an hour ahead of home and got some more work done. No whale watching, but I did get the aforementioned patch on our way out of town.

Tonight’s hotel is great! We have a room with a view and I can’t wait to get up in the morning to see the sun rise behind the mountains outside. Hopefully, my anticipation doesn’t exceed the outcome.

I had a brief problem with my helmet today, but other than that, bikes and gear are performing perfectly. Mid 70’s today. Great riding weather. For those of you in Texas reading this, please have the hot weather gone by the time we return. You wouldn’t want me to melt would you? :)

Tomorrow, it’s on to Lake Placid for the Spyders in the Adirondacks rally for me. We have become so accustomed to the BMW MOA rally schedule that this will be a definite eye opener for both of us. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Rallies 2011 – Day 12

This morning we did something a little different. We stayed at the hotel and performed work related stuff until about 10:30. Reagan’s work is time sensitive and needed to be done by 8:30EDT while my work really does best if I start after 9AMEDT. So we compromised by staying at the hotel and getting a later start. The solution worked out well.

We hit the road around 10:20 and headed up I-95. When we got into New Hampshire we took a little detour on US 1 to swing by Max BMW to see if we could find Reagan some new gloves as her current gloves were now being held together with electrical tape. The sales lady was super helpful and found Reagan some gloves that fit. In fact they even had gloves a 1/2 size smaller which were too small. I was shocked, it’s rare that a shop has Reagan’s glove size but I’ve never seen a place that had even smaller glovers. Of course they were BMW gloves. So my impression of what the Germans think everyone in the world is like must be 6 1/2’ tall men with long legs and petite women with tiny hands who also have long legs. BMW engineers are just now starting to make bikes with lower suspension for us mere mortals.

As we were leaving the shop we noticed a bike outside with a Texas license plate. Almost instantly Reagan recognized the bike as belonging to Ardys, an 87 year old lady who is riding through all 48 states to sample their BBQ. Sounds like a perfectly good riding reason to me. And at 87 that’s awesome! Reagan went back inside while I checked on some things with my bike. When I went back inside they were chatting about all sorts of things and Reagan was helping her get a new set of gloves as well. We visited for a little while, Reagan was really excited about this chance encounter.

We left the dealership and proceeded north on US 1. I just followed it until I found a sign pointing me back to I-95N. We got back on the interstate at the Maine state line and proceeded up the road until we reached Brunswick. We did take one other detour from the planned route. When we got up to Portland we stayed on I-95 to exit 52 instead of taking exit 44 onto I-295. Signs indicated major construction delays on I-295 and I didn’t really want to sit in traffic.

When we got to Brunswick we followed the signs to US-1 east/north. We followed that road over to the coast and then north. We went by an old castle which belonged to one of our friend’s grandfather. Due to the street and traffic we were able to stop and take pictures. But just the thought of her running around in that castle as a little girl cracks me up. It was a cool place indeed.

Along the way we stopped for a light lunch where I enjoyed lobster stew (bisque is more like it) and Reagan had some crab cakes. It was a fun place called the Sea Basket. Definitely a place where the locals ate. A few miles down the road as we rolled into a little town there were 2 food stands near the water with very long lines of people waiting to place their orders, dining was on picnic tables outside. It’s the closest thing I’ve seen to the school bus in Hyder, Alaska where I enjoyed some incredibly fresh seafood back in 2009.

Traffic along US 1 can be slow at times and it seemed we were never alone. But the ride was nice and the temperature was amazing, it never got above 78 degrees and most of the time in Maine it was in the low 70s steadily falling into the upper 60s.

We turned south on US 3 to head down to Bar Harbor and road into town just before 6pm. It was a great day of traveling at a leisurely pace.

day 12

Total mileage today, 254 miles. Total travel time was 7.5 hours putting our average speed at 34 mph. It definitely wasn’t a high speed day. Of course stopping at Max BMW accounts for 1 hour of the time but that was a fun, unexpected stop.

Cellular service is almost non-existent. Every call I tried to make kept getting dropped so I just turned off my phone. The internet at the hotel isn’t much better. Email works because it’s not critical to have a responsive connection but the bandwidth is minuscule and latency is extremely high so it’s not possible for me to do any server work. I’m hoping it’s just all the other guests getting on facebook and such and that it will improve in the morning. Otherwise we’ll be hitting the road early to try and find a wifi hotspot in Bangor or Augusta on our way over to Lancaster, NH.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Rallies 2011 – Day 11

This morning we wanted to get an early start, so we set the alarm clock and got out of bed when it went off. By 7:10EDT we were on our way. The first part of the route was up I-95. Around 8:30 I started looking for a Panera Bread so we could stop for an hour or so and take care of some work related things. I never did find the Panera Bread but I did find an MGM Grand hotel and casino along highway 2. We proceeded down the road to a Subway which didn’t have any electrical outlets, we ended up in a Dunkin Donuts using my trusty Sprint Overdrive connection. We were really pushing the limits of that poor 3G connection.

Our stop lasted about 2 hours and then we proceeded south on CT-2 until we met up with I-95 again. We headed into Rhode Island and turned east on RI-102 and followed it over to Newport. Our friends from last night had recommended that we go to Newport, ride along Ocean Avenue and check out the “Old Money” mansions in the area. Well… Newport has to be one of the worst tourist traps ever! There are people crawling all over the place and traffic is insane. If it hadn’t been for the advice of our friends to check out Ocean Avenue I would have turned north and gotten the heck out of Dodge. We did make it all the way around Ocean Ave. and then cut back over to the visitor center to learn more about the tours. Navigating through the little city with it’s one way streets and rough roads exhausted me. By the time we made it back to the visitor center I was done. We found Reagan a patch and then got back on the bikes.

I pulled up tonight’s hotel in my “Favorites” in the GPS and let it do the routing. Thirty minutes later we were out of the area and back to freeways. We followed highway 24 north to I-93N which took us through Boston. Sure there was traffic through Boston but we were rewarded with a ride through the tunnel which goes under much of the city, then a beautiful suspension bridge followed by a “Double Decker” bridge. Boston is a pretty cool town freeway-wise.

On the way out of Boston we caught US-1N over to Danvers, Ma. We checked in without any problems and unloaded the bikes. Shortly after we were inside, the skies opened up and the rain started coming down. The temperature has dropped at least 10 degrees and the rain continues to come down.

For all of my readers in the hotter part of the US, we enjoyed comfortable temperatures in the 70’s today. We’ve finally reached the cool weather I’ve been expecting since coming to the Northeast.

Today we traveled 256 miles in 9 hours.

day 11

Tomorrow we are heading to Bar Harbor, ME. Right now the Garmin has us going up to Bangor and then cutting down. I may drop off the Interstate at Augusta and take 3 east. If I’m really feeling adventurous I might follow US-1 out of Brunswick. Right now I’m a little traffic adverse from the Newport experience of the day so I think I’ll load these 2 other choices and decide along the way…

Iron Butt fans: After I left Newport, I decided if a Rallymaster wanted a nice challenging bonus in Rhode Island, they could pick something in Newport. Just getting in and out of the town is a time challenge in itself. Then getting around to reach a well placed bonus could easily gobble up time and make routing a real challenge. Just a thought…..

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Rallies 2011 – Day 10

I’m getting behind on my blogging….

The BMW rally was great! We met lots of new people and saw some folks from previous rallies. It was fun. I’m already looking forward to next year’s rally in Missouri.

Today we left the hotel by 7am and easily made our way east across Pennsylvania and around Philadelphia. While riding across PA, Reagan noticed that we could purchase EZ Passes at one of the service centers. Sure enough they are sold through vending machine-like units. So we are riding around with EZ passes and whizzing through the toll booths with ease. We jumped on I-95 south into Wilmington, Delaware and then headed north on the New Jersey turnpike.  With the EZ Pass we made our way north on the turnpike. We stopped at a service center south of NYC while still in New Jersey and decided to reroute a little to really avoid New York City. We followed the Garden State Parkway up and around to 287-east and crossed the Tappan Zee Bridge. It was a cake walk, traffic was light. In no time at all we found ourselves on I-95N and near our hotel. It was almost an hour before check-in so I decided to take a little detour to go down into old Greenwich and look around. The homes were beautiful but the flora was phenomenal. We couldn’t believe all the colorful plants we saw in people’s yards.

After a little scouting around we checked into our hotel and cleaned up. Then it was time to go see some friends just up the way a few miles. Bill cooked up some great ribs and his wife rounded out the meal with all the fixin’s. I was quite surprised to taste such good BBQ up this way. We swapped some cooking ideas, so I’m going to have to come back and see how his brisket tastes! The sun went down and we called it a night.

Today, we had braced ourselves for some tough traffic and I had added 2 hours to the travel time. As it turned out it was an easy ride traveling 336 miles in 7 hours. Considering the last 45 minutes were driving around Old Greenwich that’s really a nice travel time, especially for a day that was supposed to be plagued with traffic.

day 10

* the pink section of the route was what I had originally planned. As it turned out, going up the Garden State Parkway didn’t add any extra time to the trip.


Tomorrow we are going to Danvers, MA via New Port, RI. Our friends told us we have to ride around Ocean Avenue to see some amazing old money homes. It should be fun. Tuesday night we’ll be staying in Bar Harbor, ME. I have a free night from one of my rewards programs so we’ll be enjoying a room on the bay. Wednesday night we’ll be in Lancaster, NH at a resort hotel. I found the place by accident but it looks like a neat little town. And Thursday we’ll roll into Lake Placid for the meet & greet of the Spyder Rally. It’s definitely going to be fun exploring New England this week.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Rallies 2011 – Day 5

Yesterday was great! We enjoyed time with our friends whom we had not seen in many, many years. They were incredible hosts and I discovered I have yet another friend who has more hi-tech gadgets than me. I’m really falling behind the times in technology. We went to see part of the Hershey exhibits and then we headed over to Gettysburg. I was thankful we had an automobile and a fanatical tour guide for the trip. Dave made it a great experience with his incredible depth of knowledge on the subject.

Today we said goodbye to our friends and headed out of town. I’d like to tell you it was a cake walk getting out of town but some how I got myself so lost and frustrated. We finally had to stop at a Panera Bread in Camp Hill to catch our bearings. It turned out we were on the very road we needed to be on to go where we wanted. We made our way down to I-76 which is a turnpike. Then we headed west for 91 miles passing through 2 tunnels. We exited in Bedford and got on US 30W. That took us out to where Flight 93 crashed on September 11, 2001. We visited the crash site and looked at the temporary memorial that is in place. Currently construction is under way to make a permanent memorial with the first phase of work to be completed by September 11th of this year. When everything is finished it will be a beautiful tribute to the heroes of that flight.

I was really impressed by the fact that gift shops and novelty shops had not popped up in the area. There really wasn’t much of anything nearby. I might be a little sensitive to this after walking around Gettysburg and seeing the shops selling everything from baseball paraphernalia to medieval weapons to witchcraft supplies. What any of that had to do with a battle in 1865 is beyond me, it just seemed to be about people making a buck off the tourist crowd. The Flight 93 Memorial isn’t like that at all, it’s a respectful place honoring the ordinary people on a flight that made an extraordinary sacrifice for others.

After leaving the memorial we continued west on US-30 until we caught 219N. That took us up to US-22 East which then took us to I-99N. When we reached the end of the road, we got onto I-80E toward Bloomsburg. We arrived just before 6pm. It was a longer day than we had expected due to routing challenges and stuff but it was a great day.

We’ll be at the BMW MOA Rally through Sunday morning and then we are departing for BBQ ribs at a friend’s house in Connecticut. Don’t expect much in the way of reports until Sunday evening. Have a great week!

Today’s mileage was 341 miles in 9 hours 32 minutes.

day 5

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Rallies 2011 – Day 3

Today our route from Abingdon was pretty simple, head north to I-81 until we get to Harrisburg, PA. About 30 minutes on the road I realized we would arrive too early so I took a detour at Marion, Va and went east on Hwy 16. We found a great twisty road into the mountains. Then we picked up Hwy 58 north. We eventually found ourselves on I-77 west which returned us to I-81N about 30 minutes north of where we exited the interstate earlier. It was a great detour.

Riding through Virginia I found driving to be stressful. Traffic tended to run in large packs. We were either in a pack running 10+mph or driving below the posted speed limit. Virginia isn’t my favorite state to ride in, at least not on the interstate. The back roads are great though!

Today we travelled 466 miles over 8 hours 19 minutes. It was a great day. We arrived at our friends’ place without issue. We’ll be here until Tuesday when we leave for the rally.

day 3

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Rallies 2011 – Day 2

Today we headed up to Abingdon, Virginia. The route was simple, I-59 up to I-20 east, then on up to Tuscaloosa and Birmingham. We continued to follow I-59 north. In Chatanooga we encountered construction which delayed us some. But once on the other side of town traffic flowed again and we caught I-75 north. Outside of Knoxville we joined I-40 east and followed that until the I-81 split to the north. As we merged onto I-81 I realized we would be on this road all the way up to Pennsylvania. We arrived in Abingdon without incident. Total mileage today was 620 miles, travel time was 10 hours 52 minutes from hotel to hotel.

The weather was great today, it was cloudy most of the way up with only the occasional patch of sunshine or rain. At one point in Tennessee I saw some really dark clouds with rain coming down ahead of us so I stopped and put on my frogg togg pants. 5 miles later we were riding out of the rain. I left them on since we only had a few hours left and I really didn’t want my boots to get wet on the inside again. The boots had actually dried out from yesterday. Temperatures were awesome, for the most part we in the 70’s all the way up. A few areas it was in the 80’s and during the traffic jam I think it actually got into the 90’s with the sunshine. Reagan and I are considering starting out tomorrow morning wearing our cold weather under jackets. It’s going to be in the 60’s at the start. I haven’t ridden in 60 degree temps since February!

day 2

No gear issues today. I had my sleeves zipped up most of the day and the rain was never really strong enough to penetrate the zippers.

UPDATE: For dinner we went across the street to a restaurant called Tuscon Italian Grill. Try the Douby rolls, they are to die for. And be sure to order the alfredo sauce.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Rallies 2011 – Day 1

Greetings! It’s been a year since I last posted. It certainly hasn’t been a year since I was last on a motorcycle. Frankly, my little weekend trips like the annual Big Bend Freeze Out or riding to Fredericksburg just hasn’t inspired me to record the events. Maybe it’s because those are short trips but none the less they deserve to be recorded.

As the title of this post indicates it’s time again to attend rallies. This year we are attending two, first the BMW MOA rally in Bloomsburg, PA and then a CanAm Spyder rally in Lake Placid, NY. But first, we have to get up to the north eastern part of the US. And that’s what we started on today.

The plan was simple, as in years past, we wanted to get out of town quickly and stack on some miles to get to parts of the country we don’t normally get to see. That meant the super-slab and today that meant I-10. We left the house at 7am, the route took us to downtown Houston where we picked up I-10 heading east. We were running 10 miles over the speed limit and doing our best not to get run over. We stopped for gas just outside of Winnie, TX.

We continued east on I-10 into Louisiana. We stopped again for gas in Lafayette. In Grosse Tete we found a BBQ joint for lunch. When we walked inside I realized this was more like a grill. Today’s special was a fried catfish or fried shrimp basket. I opted for the fried shrimp. It was a decent meal, I have no idea what their BBQ was like. For anyone who wants to check out their actually BBQ, it’s just north of the Shell/Subway station so take the Grosse Tete exit in Louisiana and turn north.

After lunch we resumed our eastern trek until we reached I-55 where Garmin decided we should head north. This turned out to be a divergence from my originally planned route of I-10 to I-59. We went up to McComb, MS where we stopped for gas. Then headed east on Hwy 98 into Hattisburg, MS. We found the Super 8 and checked in without any issues.

Once the bikes were unloaded I tried to get onto the Internet. No luck. I called the support number for the WiFi service. I found out they had the WiFi down for maintenance over the weekend and expected it to be back up around the first part of the week. Really????? Thankfully my Sprint Overdrive was able to pull a 4G connection. It was a real surprise to see 4G service up here, this isn’t a large market where you’d expect 4G service just yet. I was very thankful.

Today’s route certainly wasn’t complex and it wasn’t uncomfortably hot either. We road through rain all the way through Louisiana and had cloud cover in Texas. It wasn’t until we reached Mississippi that we saw the sun.  Here’s our route.



I need to talk about some riding gear issues….

I’ve been wearing an Olympia AST jacket for several years. I’m still wearing the same jacket I wore to Alaska back in 2009. Unfortunately, since I sent it in to have the zippers repaired the jacket just hasn’t been water proof like it used to be. And today proved that it may be time to retire the jacket. At first I stayed dry as we got into the light drizzle of rain. But when the rain started to intensify I felt the moisture creeping in through the zippers. Of course wearing mesh pants didn’t help but my upper torso got soaked because the jacket failed me. I still intend to wear this jacket into every state in the US (except Hawaii). After this trip I’ll only have Michigan left, I think I’ll have to make an iron butt ride to Michigan and back in September, and then retire the jacket. I have a brand new Olympia AST jacket in the closet just waiting for the old one to be retired.

Another gear failure issue I had today was with my HJC IS-MAX BT helmet. It seems to leak around the top seal of the face shield. When I was in the really heavy rain, I had enough water coming inside the helmet that it was pooling at the bottom of the shield. I had to keep opening the shield to let the water out. A new helmet is definitely in my future but it will have to wait. I’m not going to hassle with wiring up a new helmet while I’m on the road. A Schuberth C3 seems like a good possibility.


Tomorrow night we’ll be in Virginia and Sunday night we will catch up with some old college friends in Pennsylvania. This summer we are going to be on the road for 24 days. This is going to be a great vacation!