Friday, October 26, 2012

A Rainy Ride To Big Pink

This will be the last post detailing my late-summer ride to  the Maritime Provinces.  I awoke in Fredericton, NB Wednesday morning to light rain and when I checked the weather radar, I knew I was in for a wet day of riding. I was on the eastern edge of  a relatively narrow band of rain that was moving slowly to the east and that stretched in a long line from the Gaspe Peninsula all the way down to the Carolinas. It was raining only lightly by the time I ate and packed up and headed out, but the further west I rode, the harder it rained. When I crossed the border back into the US at Vanceboro, ME, the border patrol guy joked with me about choosing such a pretty day for a ride.  But somewhere around Lincoln, ME the rain let up and by the time I reached I-95 the sun was peeking out.  I rolled down I-95 until a point a little south of Bangor, before hopping over to Highway 9 at an exit with a sign that said Anglers Seafood Restaurant. It was way past noon and I was hungry for a tasty bowl of clam chowder.

I stayed on 9 for awhile, hugging the eastern shoreline of China Lake for a good 15 miles, and then got back onto I-95 near Augusta.  I now needed to make some time and burn some miles, so I stayed with I-95 all the way to I-495 and then Massachusetts Highway 2, and eventually wound up after dark in the Town of Leominster, MA, a town I had never heard of before, but one where my old friend Tom Bodett had a room with a light on for me.

I had been worrying about the condition of my rear tire for several days, trying to decide if it would last all the way back to NC or not. After inspecting it again Thursday morning, I decided it wasn't worth taking the chance, and so I began searching for a Suzuki dealer who should most certainly have the correct size tire for one of their most popular models.  As luck would have it, there was a dealer a few miles north in Fitchburg.  As luck would not have it, they didn't have the right size tire. So I continued many miles west on Highway 2 to I-91 where there was another dealer in the town of  Greenfield.  They too didn't have the right tire, but they made a call on my behalf to a dealer near Holyoke, about an hour south, who claimed to have the correct size tire.  By about 1 pm, I was leaving Holyoke with both a new rear tire and new peace of mind.

I had one more stop to make before heading for home with all due haste...Big Pink had been beckoning me since I first began this trip.  Big Pink is the house outside Saugerties, NY occupied by members of The Band  in 1967 where they made some of their best music, both as a stand-alone group (Music From Big Pink) and in colaboration with Bob Dylan  (The Basement Tapes).

Big Pink is owned today by Don and Susan LaSala, musicians themselves and very mindful of the home's musical heritage.  Their website contains a touching tribute to Levon Helm who passed away in March of this year, following Richard Manuel and Rick Danko to Big Pink In The Sky, and leaving only Garth Hudson and Robbie Robertson as surviving original Band members.  Big Pink is not easy to find.  Saugerties is a small town on I-87 about 10 miles east of Woodstock.  Big Pink is on Parnassus Ln north of Highway 212 about half way between Saugerties and Woodstock. Parnassus Ln definitely qualifies as a lane.

Just as you are thinking you are very lost, you come around a curve and there is Big Pink, unmistakable and almost unchanged from the album cover of 44 years ago.

I set the camera on the handlebars of Ole Blue and used the timer to get this picture.

Some of you may now understand why I fondly refer to our house in Florida as Big Pink.

My Big Pink pilgrimage concluded, and feeling happy for having made the effort to seek her out, I set a course for home, spending Thursday and Friday nights on the road in Pennsylvania and Virginia, and arriving back in Lake Lure at noon on Saturday Sept 22, tired, happy, and satisfied with a trip well taken.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Prince Edward Island

After leaving Cape Breton on Sunday and spending the night in Antigonish, I was at the ferry landing in Caribou, Nova Scotia early Monday morning to await the 11:15 boat to Prince Edward Island.  Shortly after I arrived, Muriel Farrington, the National Secretary of the BMW Motorcycle Owners Association pulled in behind me in the motorcycle lane. She was also on a solo tour of Nova Scotia and PEI on her brand new F 650 GS.

She said that she had this bike for about 3 weeks and that she had been awarded her 200,000 mile pin on the same day she picked up the new bike.  Now that's a lot of touring.  We had a nice chat on the ferry ride over to the island, and we stayed within sight of each other for about a half hour, then we lost sight and our paths never crossed again in two days on the island.

I first toured the east end of the island and ate lunch at Brehaut's Restaurant in Murray Harbour where I had a nice bowl of (let's all say it together) Seafood Chowder.

There are three things I can't resist taking pictures of, light houses, old wood churches, and boats on dry land.  PEI had all three in abundance, so what you are going to see here are a lot of lighthouses, old churches, and boats. This is the lighthouse at the entrance to the ferry terminal.

This is the lighthouse at Panmure Point, a little north of Murray Harbour.

This is the lighthouse at East Point, the eastern most tip of the island.

From East Point, I continued westward along the north shore of the eastern half of the island and then I headed south to Charlottetown, the capital of PEI, to find a place to spend the night. Brand name hotels in Charlottetown proved to be too expensive, so I headed out of town on Highway 1 west and found a more reasonable mom & pop place a few miles out of town with a good restaurant within easy walking distance. The next morning, I rode a few miles north up to Highway 2 and headed for the west end of the island where I found a couple of more lighthouses, a bunch of fishing boats sitting in the grass, and a whole boat-load of old churches.  Here are some of the boats. To my eye there is something beautiful and sexy about the lines of a boat hull when you can see the whole thing as the designer laid it out and the boat builder shaped it.

As you can see I was in boat heaven on PEI.

The other thing I find irresistibly photogenic is an old wooden church. Again, I was in old wood church heaven on PEI, particularly near the western tip of the island, where it seemed there was another wood church every half mile or so, sometimes right across the road from each other so I could stop once and shoot two churches. Many of them were surrounded by graveyards which is definitely an aesthetic bonus.

I have more church pictures, but I'm afraid I may be on the verge of boring you.

North Cape is the northern most tip of the island and the site of a wind energy research center, something I have a particular interest in.

Check out the size of this wind turbine blade in relation to the hurricane fence next to it.

Another view of the blade in relation to Old Blue.

Oh yes, there's a lighthouse at North Cape.

I left North Cape about noon and rode the western coastal road southward, heading for Summerside and the Confederation Bridge to the mainland. It was way past noon by the time I reached Summerside and my stomach was complaining, so I sought out a waterside seafood restaurant and found Sharkys, still serving lunch at 2 pm. I didn't want to leave Prince Edward Island without sampling the world renowned PEI mussels, and Sharkys fit the bill nicely.

Mussels and fries, moules and frits, a perfect end to my tour of PEI.

You can enter Prince Edward Island free of charge, either by ferry or by the 8-mile long Confederation Bridge.  But, when you want to leave you pay the price...$17.75 for the bridge toll or $40 by ferry for a bike, which is part of the reason I chose to take the ferry over to the island for free and pay the bridge toll to leave.  The other major reason was, it suited my route to a "T". This was the second major bridge crossing on the bike this summer, the other one being the "Mighty Mac", the Mackinac Bridge, a month earlier.

I was fortunate that wind wasn't a deal killer in either crossing, but it was slightly more of an issue on the Confederation than on the Mackinac. My knuckles were white and my arthritic fingers were aching by the time I reached the other side.  At the posted speed limit of 50 mph, it took about 12 minutes to cross back to the New Brunswick mainland.  I made Fredericton, NB by  about 7 that evening with the sun setting low but still shining. By 7 am the next morning there was no sign of the sun...only grey clouds and rain.

Next episode....singing in the rain, tire woes, and a pilgrimage to Big Pink.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Deja Vu All Over Again, Nova Scotia And Cape Breton

Having left Gorham, NH and Mt Washington on Friday morning, I was soon in Maine heading generally eastward on US 2 with St John, New Brunswick as my goal for the night, and hoping to be on Cape Breton by Saturday afternoon.  Passing through Rumford, Maine, I couldn't resist stoping for a photo of this stone church.

Penny and I had visited Cape Breton with friends on a camping trip way back in 1971.  On that trip, we arrived in Nova Scotia a day before Beth...hurricane Beth.  Consequently, our long-anticipated drive around Cape Breton to see the breath-taking scenery on the Cabot Trail was reduced to anticipating where the road was and where we were going to find a safe-haven.  We ended up in Baddeck along with hundreds of other tourists, all seeking shelter from the storm.  By the time we arrived there, the Holiday Inn was full, but they put us up in their "overflow house", which turned out to be an old sea captains house directly on the bay, from which we could safely watch the storm blow itself out. Much better than staying at the Holiday Inn, I must say.

After the washout in 1971 I had high expectations for this visit to Cape Breton. I stayed in a cheap Mom and Pop motel in St John New Brunswick Friday night and then crossed onto Nova Scotia about 10 am Saturday morning. I rode over the Cape Breton bridge around 5 that afternoon and inquired at the visitor's center about inexpensive lodging.  They directed me to Sandra Buker's  B&B which is housed in an old school house in Creignish.  Sandra is a very interesting retired teacher and farmer. Her Craignish Craftworks B&B  is decorated with a stuffed 1000 pound World Record tuna and a whale skeleton.

All manner of small wildlife were scurrying around the entry porch.  

I woke up to light rain Sunday morning, and after a hearty breakfast of ham and eggs I started up the west coastline of the island to ride the Cabot Trail in the clockwise direction.

The further north I rode, the heavier grew the rain and fog.

At one point, traffic stopped for men working to clear a rock slide from the road. This truck is dragging a huge rock out of the way.

Near the top of the island, visibility was down to about 100 feet.  Forget the magnificent deja vu all over again.

I stopped for lunch in Cape North, and while enjoying another bowl of excellent seafood chowder the sun peeked out and I made the decision to take the side road north to Bay St Lawrence, about as far north as you can go on the Cape. A dirt road continues to the west to the settlement of Meat Cove, but it doesn't get you much further north, and I was leery of the road condition after all the rain. Bay St Lawrence is a fishing village with lots of fishing boats, both in and out of the water.

Continuing down the east side of Cape Breton, the sun remained out and the scenery was beautiful, especially south of Ingonish Ferry where the road hugs the cliff side and winds back down to sea level. The views were amazing, but there is no place to pull-off to take a picture until you reach the bottom of the mountain at a place called Wreck Cove.  The view there was still nice, but without the spectacular aspect created by the high elevation just back up the road a little.

I rode south through Baddeck without stopping until I was back at the visitors's center in Port Hastings to ask again about a place to spend the night.  The good ladies at the visitors center made a phone call to a B&B that was on a dairy farm a little north of Antigonish, about an hour down the road.

After a good nights rest, I left early to allow plenty of time to reach Pictou to catch the 11:15 ferry to Prince Edward Island.  I arrived early and killed time in the ferry terminal which had wifi, drinking coffee and answering email. The next chapter will cover two days of riding around PEI.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Good Bye To A Good Friend

A fellow rider, and very good friend of my riding buddy Ron, rode his last ride on Monday Oct 8.  Phil Childrey was riding home to Florida, after a weekend of riding the twisties in western NC with Ron, when a dog ran into his path on I-26 south of Columbia, SC. Phil went down and was run over by a tractor/trailer. Phil rode a BMW K1200S, and he rode with enthusiasm and great pleasure.  I had the pleasure of riding with him several times in Florida, and he always made me laugh with his take on life and the world.  Phil will be missed by all who knew him. He was 48 years young and leaves behind a wife and two young daughters.  Rest in peace Phil...may heaven be full of twisties.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Monster Bikes and Mount Washington

On Thursday morning Sept 13, as Penny, Jackie, and Barbara headed to Burlington to catch flights home, and Ron and Jim started their three-day ride home to VA and NC, Old Blue and I headed northeast towards Nova Scotia.   But first, there was another place high on my bucket list and sort of on the way....Mt Washington in New Hampshire's Presidential Range of the White Mountains.  Gorham, NH is the closest town to the start of the pay-to-ride motor road that takes you to the top of Mt Washington, so I headed for Gorham.  On my way there, I passed through the tiny town of Bethlehem, NH and caught a glimpse out of the corner of my eye of a metal sculpture that made me turn around and go back for a closer look.

You can see why it caught my attention.  I had never seen anything quite like this monster on a bike.  It sat in front of a shop called Indian Brook Trading Company that had many more unusual metal sculptures, constructed mostly of old motorcycle and car parts.

The owner, Gerry Ramback, told me that he imports them from Asia (I can't remember the country, maybe Indonesia) and sells them for around $5,000 each.

I continued my ride into Gorham, arriving there about noon, and had lunch at J's Corner Restaurant and Lounge consisting of a bowl of award winning seafood chowder.  From there it was a short 8-mile ride south to the entrance of the Mount Washington Auto Road.  The cost to use the road is $25 for cars and $15 for motorcycles including the driver.  Each additional adult passenger is another $8, but it is well worth the experience.

If you are too afraid to ride or drive up the mountain yourself, you can take the cog railway to the top, or ride in a van with someone else doing the driving.

The second-highest wind speed ever observed on Earth was on Mt Washington. The record for highest wind fell two years ago to Barrow Island Australia for a gust of 253 mph during Cyclone Olivia. They have yet to amend the sign at the top of Mt Washington.

On this beautiful day, the wind speed on top was a moderate 17 mph and the temp was a comfortable 60 degrees.

At the summit, I met another V-Strom rider, Walter Wilkins from Prince Edward Island. He convinced me that I should visit PEI on this trip, and I ended up following his advice. He was riding one of the new redesigned 2012 V-Stroms, and he was very interested in the tool tubes attached to the back of Old Blue which come in handy for carrying spare gas or bottles of wine.

I returned to Gorham late that afternoon and got a room at the Northern Peak Motor Inn, a Mom & Pop place right next door to J's Corner Restaurant and Lounge.  Thus, I didn't have far to go for dinner which consisted of J's Shrimp Milano, one of the best shrimp and pasta dishes ever. The next morning, I was heading east through the Maine woods and into New Brunswick.