Friday, September 10, 2010

Harley Trip

I've always wanted to take an actual trip on my Harley. Sure have done the rallies, Sturgis, Daytona and Myrtle Beach but we trailered the bikes to these events. And honestly because of the distance involved as well as limited time available (job, family - those pesky commitments) riding there was not really an option. Needed to find something close but not too close, a nice 3 - 4 day trip.

Last year my son Gates and his wing man Nate rode out to Lake Erie for the Roar On The Shore Rally. Not a major rally and relatively new, believe it was the 3rd year. But he said it was a great time, a 4 day deal. Sounded perfect for what I wanted to do. So I called my wing man (you NEVER leave your wing man) Marko, who I had at hello, and we were set. We did add a fifth day to the trip, the two AARP members did not want to push it too much!!!

As the departure date gets close, you go through the normal routines, get the bikes serviced and spend hours cleaning them. You check the weather channel what seems like every few hours. Get the clothes ready. Buy the rain suit you've been putting off for years (if you have it, it will not rain). Download new songs for the I-Pod, tunes are oh so important!

Thursday morning has finally arrived. Marko and I are going to meet at a rest area off I84 and catch up with Gates and Nate at the Dunkin Donuts in Port Jervis (nothing like a DD coffee to get the heart pumping!). My phone rings and its Marko (not good) he holds the phone next to his bike as he tries to start it and all you hear are the dreaded clicks (really not good), damn, dead battery. No biggie, put it on the charger and we might just miss a few hours. Well, four hours later and still nothing (we find out later that if a bike battery dies you cant recharge it).

We tell Gates and Nate to leave, that we will catch up to them. Marko decides to buy a new battery, he swaps them out and he is off. We catch up with them at a Harley dealership, where Nate takes advantage of our delay to get his oil changed (ultimate procrastinator!) After a short wait we are finally off on the journey!

Gates mapped out our route, pretty much taking Route 6 all the way, which is a freaken scenic route. You travel along rivers and lakes, through forests and small towns. We took our first break at one of those scenic overlooks, the views were breathtaking. As we were heading back to Route 6 I notice Marko looking down, seeming to have trouble clutching and sure enough he pulls over and stops. "Holy Crap" I think to myself, what next?

Well, none of us know much about the mechanics of Harley's, Gates knows just enough to get himself in trouble. After a few minutes we notice there is a loose bolt which prevented the clutch from fully engaging. We dig the loose bolt out, (damn we're good) and now need to find out where it came from. Must be that damn flitch plate!! Knowing really nothing about motorcycles, flitch plate is a generic term we use for any problem, hell it sounds good!. Actually it came from the horn assembly, Gates gets it back in and we are off again.

A few hours later the skies darkened and sure enough they opened big time on us. By the time we could stop and get rain gear out we were soaked. With no other options we rode on. We came  upon some road construction, where they were repaving the highway. It was still raining and we were riding on grooved pavement. If you have ever ridden a bike on grooved pavement you know it sucks big time. Even at a slow pace we were all over the place. We made the 10+ miles without incident, but damn not looking forward to that on the ride back.

As the sun was setting we pulled into the hotel for the night, road weary, hungry and needing to quench some serious thirst. We did not have reservations and you can guess what happened next - no rooms at the inn! They were kind enough to call the other hotels in the area and again, all booked. We were about to head back to the previous town, but we found a B&B that had two rooms. We checked in, walked to the first restaurant we found (we were the only ones in it) had burgers and  several beers and called it a night. In the morning our host prepared a breakfast that was simply nip-doodleish, far better than we deserved. We said our goodbyes, filled the tanks and we were off again.

The ride into Erie was thankfully uneventful. After a stop at the Kinzua Dam, again great views, we rolled into Lake Erie in the early afternoon. As I said earlier, it's not a big rally, but with Harley being a major sponsor you know all the ingredients for fun will be there. An endless supply of unique bikes, cold beer, beauty pageant contestants, live bands - what else do you need? Again as the sun was setting (not a huge fan of riding at night) we headed to the hotel, where we HAD reservations. Marko and I dropped our bags and headed right to the liquor store to stock up. After a few cold, tasty libations by the pool we decided to walk downtown for dinner. Learned many years ago that the bikes remained stationary after 3 drinks and we planned to have many more than that, which we did.

We had thought about joining the poker run through the vineyards the next morning, but the 8 am departure time prevented our inclusion. We found a nice local place for breakfast, visited the Harley Dealership and then headed off on our own tour of the vineyards. We rode north, along Lake Erie, visiting and doing tastings at the vineyards, found a place to climb down to the beach and stopped at a local pub on the way back. A great day believe me. Back at the hotel we again enjoyed pool side cold ones, kabitzed and mingled with other bikers before we walked downtown to the rally. We stayed longer than we planned (not much of a surprise) and stumbled back to the hotel.

Sunday morning, after several Advil we need to gather whatever marbles we have left along with our belongings and start the journey back. Things never seem to fit back in the packs the same way and all I added to the load was a t-shirt. I guess the Oscar Madison method of packing takes up more room. We get squared away and are off once again.

We decide to get as far as we can, leave a short ride for Monday. Thankfully the ride back was pretty much hassle free. The grooved pavement still sucked but at least we had dry weather. We did once again face the "no room at the inn" - next year reservations will be made. Another B&B saved us again. Monday we were up early and after a lite breakfast we started the final leg of our trip.

Several hours later we were in Port Jervis where we parted our ways, Gates and Nate heading back to NJ and Marko and I continuing north to NY. It was a great time, sure there were many bumps in the road so to speak but that just adds flavor. We traveled just over 1,000 miles on the trip, met some interesting folks, had some great belly laughs, saw great views of this wonderful country and killed a few more brain cells. It might not have been the Route 66 trip (my ultimate dream trip) but we had a damn good time and will be back again next year with a few more riders!

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