New England Part Two

BTH 5-21-08

Today I’m lazing around in Framingham (just west of Boston) while my niece is at work and two great nephews are at school.  I don’t mind saying it’s nice to sit around and not be on the bike today.

Soooooooooo. . . . yesterday I left Jonestown, Pennsylvania, in 42 degrees.  Don’t think it even got into the sixties at all, with intermittent showers all day, but we now know I like that for the lighting.  Sure glad I packed the warm clothes.  The camera stayed safely waterproofed all day so no photos to share.

Took Superslabs I-81 and I-84 to New Jersey.  I’d picked out the squiggliest line for a road I could find in Western NJ, which was Hwy 521, because those squiggles are always the best bet for sightseeing.  The lady at the Welcome Center said that’s a “very rural” route.  “Very rural” in this part of the country apparently means 20-acre farms because of the dense population.  No huge Texas-size spreads here.

The road itself, Hwy 521, was narrow and a bit disjointed with dog legs and weird little turns.  I imagined George Washington and the likes traveling these very same roads back in the 1700’s during the Revolutionary War. 

If Hwy 521 is typical, I see where NJ gets the name the Garden State.  There were beautiful flowers and green grass everywhere, with tons of azaleas and Rose of Sharon.  The Rose of Sharon were putting out a strong, wonderful scent that also made my eyes water and sneeze.  The gentle reader will choose to avoid details, but let’s just say sneezing is not what you want to do inside a full-face helmet!

This is sure a different part of the country.  At one point when it started to rain, I realized I should stop for a slight clothing adjustment or I’d soon have cold drops of water running down my neck.  If it had been the South, every two miles there would have been a nicely paved Baptist Church parking lot to pull into.  However, in this heathen east. . . .  Finally found a Tru-Valu hardware store, fortunately, before I sprang a leak.

From New Jersey I jumped back onto Superslab I-84 to cross a section of New York to get into Connecticut.  Uneventful.  People drive like maniacs.

Probably should have taken the superslab through Connecticut, but I’m here to see New England so opted for the highway.  Man, it was terrible!  Mile after mile of road construction, stop-and-go traffic, in the rain.  Yikes!  My clutch wrist tendons hurt like they do at the end of a bike parade!  Guess I’ll look at it as having experienced some Connecticut culture since it’s apparently what they’re used to here.  Who would have thought that little bitty state would be so grueling?  But the roads did finally open up to scenic, hilly sweepers all the way to the Mass Turnpike.

By the way, at the CT Welcome Center they give out a full-size map showing the best motorcycle roads.  Guess I should have taken a better look at it, huh?

So I was in FIVE states — Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts — in the same amount of time it takes to get from Austin to the Red River (northern Texas border).  Amazing.

For the next few days I hope to do some sightseeing here in the Boston area, take a few rides, see Massachusetts.

Peace on the Road!

BTH 5-22-08

Today I went south into Rhode Island and discovered that even though the many, many highways are well marked in Massachusetts, they are not well marked in Rhode Island.  And I know it’s not just me because when I stopped for directions at an auto place, a really nice guy said people stop all the time because they are so poorly marked.  He took a lot of time and even drew a map with two other co-workers chiming in and they were very helpful.

Stopped in Spragueville, RI, for brunch at the Beef Barn.  You should have seen the mini version of the tasty banana nut pancakes.  Forgot my camera today or I would have taken a picture of the overflowing plate.  MMMmmmm. . . pancakes. . . good!

Went through Chepachet, RI, which has several old houses and buildings from the 1700’s.  Way cool.  Again, no camera.  Grrrrrrr.

Then into Connecticut for a much better ride than the other day.  It looks like spring is now starting in Connecticut and Massachusetts, with a lot of the trees just starting to bud.  Came “home” a little early so I’d be ready for the after-school birthday party.

By the way, the party was nice and Todd made a good haul.  We went to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Botox, as my niece describes Harrison Ford’s amazingly well preserved face.  Both boys now have new Texas Longhorn shirts.

Tomorrow I go to visit Byron’s sister Julie in New Hampshire.

Peace on the Road!

BTH 5-23-08

Hello from Lincoln, New Hampshire, which is in the northern part of the state.

Left Framingham, MA, this morning as the boys left for school.  It sure was nice to stay put for three nights.  Got on Superslabs I-495 and I-95 to haul ass up to Maine before the Memorial Day congestion got too bad.  The temps were warmer, high fifties, with blue sky — at least in Massachusetts.  Cut through that funny little corner in southeast New Hampshire and then into Maine.

Maine is stunning, with well maintained quaint Eastern-Seaboard looking houses, and I don’t believe I saw even one piece of litter in the several hours I was in the state.  As soon as I could get there, got onto Hwy 1, which runs along the Atlantic coastline.  The tide had just gone out from the beaches so it was wet and a bit mucky so didn’t go down to the water. 

With a belly full of fried clams from Foster’s, I went over to the Neddick or “Nubble” Lighthouse  for a little sightseeing.  I won’t say it was as bad as Chevy Chase, but I didn’t stick around very long with so much ground left to cover.

This shows the lighthouse from a distance.  It’s not open to the public so you can’t see the inside.

Rocky Atlantic coast.

Followed Hwy 1 up the coast a bit farther to just south of Kennebunkport, where the temperature suddenly dropped, it became terribly windy, and started to rain.  Hmmmm. . . .  (Note to self:  No political sidebar; no political sidebar.)

Headed west across Maine on Hwy 302, which was excruciatingly slow, with school buses, off-and-on showers, traffic, you name it.  But Maine is absolutely gorgeous and lives up to its reputation.  I’d definitely like to return and spend some more time.

Finally crossed into New Hampshire to ride the Kancamagus Scenic Byway, which cuts through White Mountain National Forest in Northern New Hampshire.  You know you’re not in Texas anymore when you see moose-crossing signs and patches of SNOW!  In May?

The riding itself was not exactly relaxing on the Kancamagus on this particular day, but the wonderful scenery made it well worth the effort.  The temperatures dropped into the forties, and it was extremely windy with intermittent showers.  Had a few, what we motorcycle riders like to call, butt-pucker moments rounding the mountain and hitting a wall of wind.  Thank goodness the warm motorcycle balaclava I’d inadvertently left at home arrived in the mail yesterday, just in the nick of time.  Thanks, Desha!

Here is a turnout along the byway with some mean looking clouds.  This was taken about 4:00 in the afternoon and accurately portrays the, shall we say, less than inviting conditions.

One thing I noticed in both Maine and New Hampshire is that the town libraries look like courthouses, with pillars in the front and domes and cupolas with weathervanes on top.  Much more impressive and inspirational than our Texas strip-mall libraries.  Tomorrow if it’s not raining I’ll try to get a picture of one.

This is the day I was supposed to stay with Byron’s sister Julie and her family, who live in Nashua in far Southern New Hampshire.  However, once again, if it’s not a crime, it’s at least most disrespectful to not stay here in beautiful Northern New Hampshire an extra day and absorb as much “green” as possible.  When I called Julie to let her know, she was most gracious and happy to have her state appreciated.  I’ll stay with them tomorrow night instead.

Peace on the Road!

BTH 5-25-08

Hello from Gloucester Bay in Massachusetts!

Yesterday morning I left Lincoln and did a big loop in Northern New Hampshire, most of which was within the White Mountain National Forest.  One of the best parts of the day was the fact that it was a good 10 degrees warmer with only a few sprinkles of rain.

Since I was going to be going within ten or so miles of the Vermont border, I rode over to Wells River, Vermont, so I could say I’d ridden in Vermont.  (Yeah, I admit it’s lame to make that claim.)  But I noticed that cars were more or less streaming over the river  into Woodville, NH, but not the other way around.  Julie said they don’t have a sales tax in New Hampshire so everyone was coming from Vermont to buy gas and merchandise.

By the way, they also don’t have an income tax in New Hampshire, which explains the condition of the roadways.  Seriously, it looks to me like they don’t need speed limit signs since you can’t go very fast because of all the potholes and frost heaves! 

These roads are pretty far north and the types of trees and their stages of blooming show that.  In fact, in some of the higher elevations you could see some bud swell but no leafing yet.  While there are the many shades of green in the forest, there are also more golden, red, and sienna colors, along with the white bark of the birch trees, which is a little different from what I’ve been seeing south of here.  There were gorgeous purple and pink lilacs in full bloom and even some apple trees totally covered in bright, fragrant white flowers.

Rode the Kancamagnus Scenic Byway again and could appreciate it more today.  It still got pretty darned cold up there and, as always, my heated seat helped take the edge off.

This shows a few mountains with snow on them to prove I’m not making it up.

Here is some typical scenery for this area.  Once again, it was a million times better in real life.

Here is a library in some small town, possibly Jefferson or Randolph — should have written it down! — and it’s the best I passed today.  However, this one looks like a dump compared to some of them that I’ve seen.  The amazing thing is that  small towns have these incredible libraries.  Leads me to think that education is — or at least was an extremely high priority in this area of the country.

One of the highlights of the day was seeing a moose.  It’s not the first time for me, but it’s still exciting and unusual for a southern girl.  Here you can see him standing back in the trees.  He ran off when some ding-dong tourist set off a car alarm. 

I found New Hampshire to be beautiful with a lot of interesting history and would like to return.  In one respect, though, there was a major disappointment and it’s with the motorcycle community.  I’d be surprised if even a quarter of the many riders I met on the road did the motorcycle wave or nod.  In all my two-wheeled travels I’ve never run into this and am disappointed — and in a weird way almost, but not quite offended.

To explain, most riders wave or nod to each other as a sign of camaraderie, the whole sisterhood/brotherhood thing.  I realize we can’t all wave each and every time, but when very few out of a whole state don’t wave, it’s something I don’t understand.  I had the uneasy feeling if I had a breakdown on the side of the road, I’d be stuck by there by myself without help.  Hope I’m wrong about that.

Meandered down to Julie’s house in Nashua, NH.  The original part of her house was built in 1767!!!!!  That’s NINE years before the Declaration of Independence was signed!!!!!  Since then there were a few additions added to make it what it is today.  This picture shows the date etched into the front step.

This next picture looks up to the subfloor from the cellar.  Check out the rough-hewn beams with the original bark still on them.  Can you see the perpendicular saw lines on the floor boards?  This wood was cut before circular saws were invented!  Is that cool or what?

Julie and her husband “Nutter” are wonderful, gracious hosts, and their kids are nice, too.  We stayed up very late last night watching Into the Wild.  The movie was so good I only fell asleep a few times.

TIP FOR NON-NEW ENGLANDERS:  When you’re driving on the interstate and are totally confused by the large numbers of highways converging and you need to pull off to make sure you’re still on course, never, ever, ever take an exit that says loop tie-in!!!!

This morning left Nashua and came back to Massachusetts, where I get the motorcycle “wave” from everyone.  

Meandered through Ipswich and Essex and am now sitting at a historical house overlooking the bay in Gloucester (pronounced Glau-sta).  You can’t get any more New England than that!   Turned on my laptop to send out today’s journal entry and discovered that there happens to be wireless here on the hilltop.   Maybe you’ll be able to hear the seagulls and smell the salt air coming directly from America’s oldest seaport?

In a few minutes I’ll head over to Danvers, Massachussetts,  to visit Cousin Rachel and meet her boyfriend.  Danvers was originally known as Salem Village, which is where the famous witchcraft delusion started back in the late 1600’s.  Nowadays we commonly think of  it as the Salem witch trials.

Peace on the Road!

BTH 5-26-08

I have to mention the ride yesterday from Gloucester to Danvers, which was after the e-mail was sent.  Took the coastal highway, which is Hwy 127, and it was fabulous.  The coast was lined with centuries-old estates with spectacular gardens.  You know, the coast of Maine was quaint and beautiful and impressive, but this literally made my jaw drop.  If you come to Massachusetts, you HAVE to take this drive.

Now for today’s episode. . . .

Tonight I’m staying in a place that’s one level above a dump in Claverack, New York, which is kind of in the middle of nowhere.  It doesn’t have internet so you’ll get this a day late.  Didn’t get too far today because I didn’t leave Danvers until very late and, of course, took the scenic (translated “slow”) route through Northern and Western Mass to squeeze the last bit of New England scenery out of the ride.  I’m a bit sad to say good-bye to this area since my time and exploration here has been so pleasant.  Happily, Western Massachusetts is wonderful and there isn’t nearly as much traffic as there is farther east.

By the way, if you’re at all into historical old buildings, immaculate Victorian houses, huge trees, and manicured lawns and gardens, Northhampton is the place to go.  Totally awesome, man!

Think I saw a muskrat crossing the road in Northern Massachusetts, but am not sure.

No pictures today.  Truthfully, I just didn’t take the time.

Peace on the Road!

BTH 5-27-08

Greetings from Mansfield, Pennsylvania!

Left the crummy hotel early at 6:30 a.m.  It’s daylight by 5:30 up here.  Who can sleep?   The original plan was to go up through Vermont to the Adirondack Mountains in Upstate New York, but your Biketrash is getting tired.  Think I’ll do that another time.

Got to the Catskills (in sort of Lower Central New York) in no time and meandered around quite a bit.  There was nowhere to pull a motorcycle over in the exceptionally gorgeous places so didn’t get pictures there.  The roads are old two-lane highways with two-foot shoulders that drop off quickly.  I wouldn’t have been able to put the kickstand even halfway down at that angle.  But I did get a few shots from some other places.

This next picture shows a dull and dirty Lizzie and a little waterfall.  These waterfalls are all over the place and are the cause of  a lot of rocks falling onto the road.  See the map case on the gas tank?  One of my chores each night is to make out a map and directions in big letters for the next day so I can see without old-lady glasses.  Big magnets hold the case onto the tank.

The next three pictures show a few places there in the Catskills.

From the Catskills I entered Northern Pennsylvania and got onto Hwy 6, shown as scenic on all the maps.  Got into a little rain here in Pennsylvania — no big deal — but didn’t get the camera out because of that. 

At one point I pulled into an elementary school parking lot to put on rain gear.  It was pretty funny to see an entire classroom of kids rush over to the window, and they all enthusiastically waved at me with their smiling faces plastered to the glass.  I chuckled about that for the rest of the day!

This area of Pennsylvania is lovely.  I wouldn’t call it mountainous, but very hilly.  The green pastures, plowed fields, red barns with silos, pungent smell of livestock — it’s awakening and stirring some Midwestern roots deep within.  By the way, it’s nice to see some healthy corn-fed cows out in a lush green pasture, as opposed to the skinny-ass shrub-fed cows in Texas that taste like leather.  These are real cows!  That’s what I’m talkin’ about!

Stopped early today, even though I wanted to keep going, but all of a sudden I got very tired.  Tomorrow I hope to make it to the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, but don’t think it will be possible to reach Columbus.

Peace on the Road!

BTH 5-28-08

Left Mansfield, Pennsylvania, around 8:00 a.m. in 40 degrees.  Even though there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, it didn’t feel like it started warming up until after 11:00.  My hands are very tired tonight from wearing bulky gloves so long.  Everything is so much more difficult with them on.  Small hands seem to get smaller.

Continued on Scenic Route 6, but got onto Hwy 59 for a distance.  A rider I’d met in a parking lot suggested I take that and he was, of course, right since it took me through the Allegheny National Forest.

One thing about these generic highways is that there aren’t visitor centers for us dorks to ask about the flora and fauna, and I guarantee you’ll never find a person who works at a gas station or convenience store who knows a thing about flowers.  I know because I’ve tried many, many times.

Found out a few interesting things from the forest visitors center.  The gorgeous pink, purple, and white flowers blooming all over the place here in PA are cranesbills, which are wild geraniums, which are native.  Also, remember me asking if it’s possible that I saw a muskrat?  It was a wood chuck, identified because of the more bushy tail and its behavior in crossing the road.  Apparently muskrats are very shy and won’t do that and have rat-looking tails.

This shows the blue skies and green hills in the Allegheny National Forest.

Now, y’all don’t be unhappy with me.  I know several of you were all excited to hear about the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame — and rightly so.  Well, it turns out it took longer than expected getting through Northern Pennsylvania.  I probably would have arrived in Downtown Cleveland about 4:00 and would have had to find the place, plus find parking in rush-hour traffic.  On a big ole motorcycle?  Just couldn’t do it today.  Your Biketrash might be a wimp, but a wimp who knows her limits!

Instead, headed south on I-79 through Pittsburgh and then turned west to Columbus.  So I’m cruising along just fine, and imagine my shock and horror upon seeing a sign that says “Welcome to West Virginia”!!!!!!  WHAAAAAAT??????  Let’s say I came close to needing a change of clothes!

Of course I immediately pulled over to regain my composure and check the map.  Turns out there is this weird little sliver of West Virginia only a few miles wide that juts up between Ohio and Pennsylvania.  All I can say is whoever drew up those boundaries must have owed someone a really big favor!  People should be warned about that.

So tonight I’m in St. Clairsville, OH, which is just over the border from WEST VIRGINIA!!!!!  (Sweet! Another state!)  Looks like it’s about 100 miles to Columbus.  As a consolation for not going to the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, I’ll stop at the American Motorcycle Association Hall of Fame and Museum, just to the south of Columbus.  Whoopee!

So it’s supposed to be in the thirties in the morning.  Sure glad I haven’t shipped all those warm clothes home.  In spite of the fact that I know y’all will be on the edges of your seats waiting to hear about the Motorcycle Hall of Fame (har-de-har-har!), you may not hear from me for a few days.  I’ll be visiting my aunt and uncle and then a short drive to Dayton to see my favorite cat Tipper — oh, yeah, and also her caretakers.

Stay tuned. . . . Same BT time, same BT channel!

Peace on the Road!

BTH 6-1-08

Today I’m in Dayon, Ohio, visiting my favorite cat Tipper — well, and her servants, Sandy and Wayne.  The previous two nights I was in Columbus, Ohio, visiting my aunt and uncle, Connie and Mike, and their labrador, Black Jack.

Friday I went to the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in Pickerington, south of Columbus.  Got to see a reproduction of the first motorcycle built, which made my back hurt to look at it!  They had a nice permanent display, but were in between exhibits.  Now, doesn’t that make up for not going to the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame?  Don’t answer that!

This was taken at the AMA.  You can see the beautiful grounds in the reflection on the door.

At a rest stop before arriving at the AMA, I suddenly realized my rear tire was on the verge of going bald.  Yikes!  Of course, all the Yamaha shops were too busy to fit me in on short notice.  Fortunately, though, Connie and Mike just happen to know the Ohio State Director of Motorcycle Safety, who told me exactly where to go, and Lizzie got a new rear tire, oil change and even a bath.

In case you’re interested. . . motorcycle tires wear out quickly compared to car tires because the rubber is soft and sticky.  This tire had about 10,000 miles, which I guess is typical for a rear tire.

One of the highlights of being in Columbus — besides spending time with my aunt and uncle and Black Jack — was seeing the early stages of a park being developed by the Audubon Society and City of Columbus (Scioto Audubon Metro Park) that my landscape-architect uncle is in charge of.  What I call Mike’s Park is what urban renewal is all about, reclaiming some ugly, misused land.  Very interesting to a nerd like me.

My much-needed R&R is continuing in Dayton.  Got to see musician Wayne perform at church.  I’ve had a lovely time petting Tipper and doing, well, basically nothing here.  Did get to try a White Castle slider and have to say it was a bit greasy.  I’m thinking they earned the name of “slider”!

Here is a picture of the sweetest cat in the world.

Cute picture taken at a park here in Dayton.  Ain’t that sweet?

In spite of the currently perfect Ohio weather, after looking at the forecast, it looks like I’d better leave tomorrow, although I planned on staying another day.  From here I’ll be heading to Minneapolis to see another aunt and uncle.

Peace on the Road!

BTH 6-2-08

Tonight I’m in South Beloit, Illinois, which is about a mile from the Wisconsin border.  It’s also in the Central Time Zone.  Managed to dodge one storm that came very close, so the day was dry and WARM!  Don’t think it will be that way tomorrow.

Took the superslab all day today so it was uneventful, but you can make some good time that way.  Went through both Indiana and Illinois, which is pretty good since I actually didn’t get out of Dayton until after 10:00.  Sometimes a girl just needs to make some progress and there’s nothing like the super-slab for that. 

I’ve reached our heartland here in Illinois.  You know, it may not be the most spectacular, grand scenery, but to me it’s green and vibrant and full of fertility and life.  That might be corny (HA HA HA HA HA!), but it’s the way I feel.  Guess it’s my Midwestern blood talkin’.

This next picture shows some typical farm buildings and a field of yellow flowers.  You can see some standing water in the ditch, which is something I’ve seen a lot since reaching the Midwest.  Even though the flowers are everywhere, so far I haven’t been able to find out what they are.

Oh, by the way, today was the first time a hotel clerk made me show my AARP card.  I prefer to think she didn’t believe I had one.  Ageism!  (I say that “Ageism!” comment like I’m offended when we all know I’m totally flattered!)

Tomorrow is supposed to be wet with cooler temperatures.  The plan is to go through the Wisconsin Dells, which I’ve never seen.

Peace on the Road!

BTH 6-4-08

Yesterday I arrived in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and am staying with my uncle and aunt.  Right this minute I’m at a coffee shop in St. Paul while I wait for a massage appointment.  The ole shoulder and neck need some work and this is just the ticket!

So I FINALLY got to visit the Wisconsin Dells yesterday.  I must be the only person who grew up in Iowa that has never been there.  It was raining off and on so opportunities for pictures were limited, but these next few pics show a few scenes.  Wish I could have gotten y’all a pic of some of their famous holsteins cows.

I kept wondering what all the pretty purple lupine-looking flowers were on the side of the road, and here is the answer.  If you’re from Texas and miss this — well, you should lose your citizenship!  Our bluebonnets are a much deeper, richer color, but are smaller than these.  Can you see the wine color coming out on the petals?  That happens when the flower begins to pollinate.  Sweet!

One thing I have NOT seen in Wisconsin is vultures, which seems weird.  Maybe they haven’t migrated yet?  Someone should tell them about the abundant roadkill.

TRAVEL TIP:  If you’re trying to be real efficient and get your main bag strapped onto your motorcycle before breakfast and you inadvertently pack your toothpaste, don’t despair.  There is probably enough dried toothpaste on your toothbrush for a brushing.

There is some weird and scary weather going on here in the Midwest and it seems to be relentless.  So far I’ve managed to dodge anything severe, but my luck might be running out.  Des Moines is only about four hours from Minneapolis – enough time to slip between storm systems — but more time is needed because I’m planning a special treat for my loyal, yet let-down readers to make up for the Rock&Roll Hall of Fame disappointment.  If you don’t hear anything for a few days, I’m just waiting to make my move.

Stay tuned. . . . same BT time, same BT channel.

Peace on the road!

BTH 6-6-08

Today I’m in Des Moines, Iowa, and am currently staying with my brother Scotty and sister-in-law Debbie.  Yesterday, once again, I managed to dodge severe weather to get here.  Must have stopped at least five times to put on and take off rain gear, but only had a few insignificant showers.  Went past many flooded fields and downed tree limbs.  Last night my nephew and I watched one heck of a scary Midwestern storm with tornado sirens blaring in the background.

On my way to DM took a detour to the Spam Museum at the Hormel plant in Austin, Minnesota, shown here.  What a blast!   Even though the parking lot was almost empty, I was instructed to park in the motorcycle parking in the far corner.  Whatever. . . .

Yours truly with a friendly can of Spam.

These people have a sense of humor!  Everything about this place is set up to be fun, right down to the pig-snout door handles.

I talked to someone there about any connection with Austin, MN, and our Austin’s Spam-o-Rama, but they’d never heard of it.

After the museum tour, I HAD to have a Spam burger to complete the experience.  Every restaurant in town serves a variety of Spam dishes, but I chose to walk across the street to Johnny’s Spam Burgers.  According to their souvenir paper place mat, Johnny’s mother was the first Spam Queen back in 1939.  Here is the burger, fries and Pepsi.  I have to honestly admit the burger wasn’t so bad, except for being unbelievably salty.

The Spam Museum experience was great fun and I highly recommend stopping if you’re in the area.  Don’t know that I’d call it a destination like Graceland, but definitely worth seeing.

You won’t be hearing from me for a few days because I have a full schedule of visiting my other brother Alan and a lot of nieces and nephews and other miscellaneous people.  Fortunately, my sister-in-law has loaned me her car for running around, which will make things so much easier with all the rain.  Thanks, Debbie!

Peace on the Road!

BTH 6-9-08

Hello from Omaha, Nebraska!

Remember reading in the last BT Holiday installment that my nephew and I watched a severe Midwestern storm last Thursday?  Well, because of the record-setting rainfall that night (4.5 inches), my brother, sister-in-law and nephew were bailing water out of their basement and commiserating with neighbors in the middle of the night because their street was flooded, and yours truly didn’t even wake up, let alone wake up and help.  Geez, what a bum!  And a bum on a pension is still a bum!  As Judge Thurman says, “Pitiful, just pitiful.”

By the way, their basement is damp but fine.  Some of their neighbors’ basements down the hill, not so fine.  In fact, a Hazmat truck has been parked down the street all day, cleaning up.  Other brother’s basement, okay only because of a hard-working sump pump.

After yet another heavy rainfall Sunday morning, Debbie and I went on a little tour of Des Moines to see some of the flooding.  We didn’t get to rubberneck at any of the really bad places because those roads were closed down, but did see where a road crew had bulldozers building an earthen dike  (Hey! No comments from the peanut gallery!) in the middle of a city street.  That’s something you don’t see every day!  The water on the Des Moines River is expected to crest tomorrow (Tuesday) and it looks like there is going to be some serious damage.

In my four days in Des Moines I made the rounds and got to spend quality time with everyone important except my brother Scotty, but did get to see him for a short time.  Over the weekend he was at the Olympic swimming regionals in Omaha volunteering as an athlete chaperone and actually got to chaperone Michael Phelps!  Big honor!

Sent ten pounds of clothes and maps back to Austin via UPS.  My luggage feels so nice and light now!

This afternoon I pulled into the cleanest garage west of the Mississippi, located here in Omaha.  I’m staying with a close friend from high school, Connie, and her partner, Marg.  Later today I will personally present my now retired retirement countdown clock — which has been absorbing good retirement juju in a saddlebag — to Connie, who will be calling it quits in a few years.

This pic was taken from Connie’s back deck as a storm was rolling in.  Almost looks like a fake backdrop, doesn’t it?


Peace on the Road!

BTH 6-11-08

Visitations are over and I’m on the move again, somehow managing to dodge all the severe weather here in the Midwest.  Left an extremely windy Omaha this morning (after a hailstorm last night) and am in Grove, Oklahoma, which is in the northeast corner of the state.

Stopped three times this morning to take off and put on the luggage rain cover, but never did get very wet.  The logical question is, Biketrash, why not simply leave the rain cover on?  It’s so the cell-phone maniacs can see that uncovered bright yellow bag from a distance — if I’m lucky.

The weather in the Midwest is insane with hail, flooding and tornadoes, and at least for today it looks like I’m south of all the activity.  For the first time, saw fields of healthy, growing corn in far South Kansas.  Tragically, the fields in Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska are either a wet, muddy mess or seem to have beaten up tiny plants.  Sad.  Saw a truck kick up some dust for the first time since Ohio.

Tomorrow I’ll return to the place where it all started, the Talimena Scenic Drive.  Can’t pass that area without checking it out.

Peace on the Road!

BTH 6-12-08

Tonight I’m in Paris, Texas.  (That sounds odd, doesn’t it?)  I probably could have gotten a little farther, but it was so danged hot.  Paris is about 300 miles from Austin.

I knew this would be a good day when one of the first things I saw this morning was a scissortail flycatcher, one of my favorite birds.  That’s a sure sign I’m heading south.  Well, that and the heat and all the rusted-out, junky cars in front yards!

Spent the day riding in very little traffic in Eastern Oklahoma for the last sightseeing hurrah.  It sure was nice not to have to constantly scan the horizon for anvil clouds and tornadoes.  Got to put the dark lenses in the sun glasses and they stayed there all day!

Stopped at a Yamaha dealership in Poteau to check tire pressure before the asphalt heated to blistering and all was well.  Lizzie caused quite a stir, and everyone in the whole dealership came to see her, asking all sorts of questions about ergonomics, handling, and gas mileage.  They must have talked for a half hour before going back to work.

At one gas stop a few friendly locals were giving me route and sightseeing suggestions.  One of them said his friend had actually seen Bigfoot at Broken Bow Lake, although he personally hadn’t.  Well, whatever. . . .  I acted like I believed him.

Didn’t have enough time to do the entire Talimena Byway, but it was nice to ride the Winding-Stair half of it.  This was taken at a stop at the Horse Thief picnic area.  Wish y’all could smell the fresh, clean scent of the pine, hear the birds and wind, feel the breeze, and see the green.  So nice.  Even after this much time on the road, I still can’t get enough of those national forests.

Here is the “Welcome to Texas” sign, which is always nice to see.  The thing I really wanted was a picture of the Red River sign, but there wasn’t a safe place to pull over for that.  For the nonTexas readers, if you don’t already know, the Red River marks the Texas-Oklahoma border.

Tomorrow I’ll leave early and hopefully make it to Austin by early afternoon.  The Camelbak bladder blew out a few weeks ago so I’ll be making lots of water stops because of the heat.  That time adds up.

Peace on the road!

BTH 6-13-08

Well, kids, here I am at home on Friday the 13th, safe and sound, and NOT wearing the same old pair of khaki pants that I’ve changed into every day for the last 36 days.  In the past there have been times when I didn’t want an adventure to end, but this time I was ready and feel a little like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz.  How lucky I am to return to a wonderful partner and lovely home.

Left Paris about 6:30 this morning and rode like the wind, which was a good thing since it was in the 80’s by 9:00.  At 10:00 the thick morning clouds broke right on cue, and the temp went up from there.  Saw several fields of healthy waist-high corn in North Texas, but the corn was burned up closer to Austin.  Do you suppose those farmers in North Texas and South Oklahoma know they’ll be feeding the world next year?  No pressure there!

It was green and beautiful with tall pines around Palestine, as always, and the roadside was covered in black-eyed susans and stunning white thistles.  In fact, for just a few miles I thought I was back on the Blue Ridge Parkway, but that didn’t last long because this year Central Texas is literally baked.  June 13th is a little early for that.  That danged el Nino!

When I reached Hwy 79, I was able to put the map case away for the first time and enjoy that pretty blue tank reflecting in the sun.  Sweet!   This shows an unloaded Lizzie safely parked in the carport.  Except for being filthy, she’s in the same condition as she was on May 9th.

One of my biggest apprehensions about this trip was not knowing if I’d be able to handle the “big bike” in all situations.  I’m delighted to report she wasn’t dropped or banged into or stuck-where-I-couldn’t-get-out even once.  To tell you the truth, for several reasons, I wondered if I’d even make it past Graceland before turning back home, so you can imagine how pleased I am.

To my riding buddies:  Sorry to say, I avoided gravel like the plague so my gravel-maneuvering skills, or lack thereof, have not improved!

A few ride statistics:

Total mileage, 7,274.5 miles. 

Total number of states visited, 28.

Most paid for gas was $4.35/gallon in New York.

Average mpg for the first few thousand miles until I got sick of keeping track of it, 52.49 mpg.  Not bad!

I’ve been asked a few times what I’ve learned about myself on this trip.  I guess the main thing is that even though my physical capabilities are not what they used to be, I still have what it takes to pull off a great adventure.  You see, sometimes a girl just has to get out there to find out what she can do or not do.  Now I know!

Thank y’all for sharing the ride.  Long live long rides!

Peace on the Road!

2 Responses to “New England Part Two”

  1. mhoy January 29, 2011 at 11:15 am #

    Congrats on a very beautifull ride. I hope to someday do a cross country ride some day.


    • biketrash February 2, 2011 at 7:44 pm #

      Thanks! I also hope you get to do a cross-country ride someday. Good for the soul!

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