Sunday, June 26, 2011

To The Trees! To The Trees!

"To The Trees!"  Came the call.  I knew I had heard that before, I just really wasn't sure where.  Maybe it was Robin Hood or it was in The Patriot -- of course, it could have been the rally cry of the Ewoks in Star Wars.  I guess it doesn't much matter which movie it was, each of them would have used the phrase to mean one thing:  "Leave and escape to Freedom".  After all, wasn't that what we were doing?
The plan was for Saginaw HillBilly, GrnEyes, Workhard, Steve in Red, and Gary all to meet up somewhere on the eastern side of the state, and ride an hour or so to the corner of Highways 57 and 66 where I would meet up with them.  It was simple. The most amazing part of it was that it actually worked.

I took off by myself at about 8 AM and headed north.  It was a beautiful day for riding; the temperature was about 65° or 70° I was dressed up in my full leathers that were perfectly comfortable at that temperature.  My Valkyrie had just come out of the shop having gotten a new tire and it was performing awesomely.  I cranked up the radio, rolled it on, and freed my mind.  There is just something about the feel of rolling down the highway on a motorcycle that nothing else in life matches.

I arrived at the rendezvous point a little early.  So, I went inside grab a Coke and I was taking a few pictures of my bike because it was such a beautiful day.  A couple in a truck pulled up and a woman leaned out and asked if I wanted her to take pictures of me with the bike.  That really wasn't my objective, but I wasn't going to let an opportunity get away so I posed while she shot a few pictures of me.  A short conversation ensued with her and her husband concerning where I was going.  I mentioned the Tail of the Dragon that they had not heard of, so I told them a bit about it.  They wished me luck and I wished them the same as they drove off.

 A short while later I saw HillBilly pull into the intersection followed by everyone else.  They all rode into the gas station where I was and filled up.   Then, with the posse complete, we continued to ride north. 

Our objective was a short span of Michigan 119, which was known as the Tunnel of the Trees.  I had heard about this section of road for some time, but I had never thoroughly checked it out or ridden it up to this point.  The ride getting there was awesome.  The day was beautiful and sunny and as we all rolled down the road together, you could feel the good vibes sweeping over us.

At one point as we cruised down the road I took this picture because it occurred to me the difference in riding posture between men and women.  You'll notice the two men that are riding in front of me (HillBilly and Workhard) are both rather hunched over, and on the other hand, GrnEyes is setting up with perfect posture.  I have no idea what the larger social and metaphysical meanings of this are.  I am also unsure if the universe will continue to spin in greased grooves.  It was just one of those things that struck me as I went down the road.

We pulled in for a late lunch at a little roadside diner that seemed to be used to having bikers as clientele.  Over lunch, we caught up with everybody's news and shared a few stories.  I was surprised to learn that GrnEyes had a repertoire that now included forks in the eye as well as punches in the throat.  You never can be sure what talent you are going to find or where.

We pushed on and rode through a town I had never even heard of before called Charlevoix.  It was very picturesque and because it was right on the lake's edge, it had great views.  I want to go back there at some point in to spend the day exploring the town.  We were delayed slightly by some traffic there because they had held a marathon that morning but before long we pulled into Petrosky, which is the starting point of the Tunnel of the Trees. 

As we entered that stretch of road, my first thought was how green everything was-- the trees were all full and blooming.  There were smatterings of sunlight that was coming through the trees and splashing on the road and us in such a way that it added an unearthly feel to the ride.  The curves were not very challenging but the scenery was more enjoyable because of it.

We stopped at a small village called Good Hart that is midway through the tunnel.  All of us bought the patch for the ride in the general store/post office/bakery/Townhall/police department/insert your own choice here.  The single building seemed to be the all in one of the village and included everything except for a bathroom.  That was located a short walk down the road on the opposite side of the road.

As we pulled out I started to shoot some video of the front of my bike, but I had made a cardinal error – – I had gone on a trip and was using a new untested piece of equipment.  Therefore, a lot of the footage was out of focus because I had failed to toggle the autofocus setting on the camera.  Live and learn.  I was able to salvage some video.

Then, all too soon, it was over. 

We stopped at Legs Inn and took a quick look inside before mounting up again and heading to Mackinac City.  As we pulled in, Hardwork waved goodbye and turned off the head on to where he was going to spend the night.  The rest of us parked on the main road and then Steve in Red and Gary bid us a farewell and headed on their way.  HillBilly, GrnEyes and I decided to grab a quick snack and a drink before we headed back.

Over dinner at the Pancake Chef, GrnEyes was telling us about her situation with her ex-husband and his psycho girlfriend.  AI related that I heard from many women who were suffering from the same affliction and suggested that she should form a support group called “Ex Wives of Men with Psycho Girlfriends".  We talked about this for a while and then at some point it was decided to T-shirt would be appropriate.  I added that the back should say "Psycho Girlfriend: If You Can Read This You Are in Violation of the Restraining Order".  This actually spurred GrnEyes into action and she started ordering the T-shirt on her phone while we were sitting there. 

As I rode home later, it occurred to me that the T-shirt could be made non-gender specific and just has checkboxes that says:  I am the Ex- Husband/Wife (Check one) of a spouse with a psycho Girl/Boy Friend (Check one).  After all, I have heard the ex-spouse with a psycho relationship several times from both sexes.  {I mention this here and now only because if this turns out to be a large moneymaking idea I want a cut.}

After some cherry crepes, piggies in a blanket, and biscuits & gravy (Play the home game: Guess who had what.)  We all bid each other goodbye and mounted up.  As soon as we hit the highway, I headed my bike south and rolled it on leaving both HillBilly and GrnEyes behind – – at that point I had another four hours of riding ahead of me and I wanted to get going.

The ride back was kind of uneventful, but I almost found out how far I could go on a reserve tank because when I was on a desolate stretch of highway 127 my regular tank when dry and I had to switch over and I rode almost another 35 miles on the reserve before I found gas.  The bike was still running when I pulled up to the pump so I know I have at least that far on reserve.

I finally pulled into my garage at 2430. 

The actual Tunnel of the Trees part of this ride was almost underwhelming as a ride.  Overall, the full day of riding was totally awesome.  The weather was fantastic and the roads and the company were wonderful.  At some point, when I was riding home the last stretch alone, I did the math and it occurred to me that in one 24-hour period I had ridden 14 hours and gone over 700 miles.  That was a record-setting event for me.
The Lorax may speak for the trees, but we rode them.


GrnEyes, who does a mean impersonation of the hog from Angry Birds, made our discussion in the Pancake Chef into a reality by actually desgining the T-Shirt.  I have no idea what she is going to do with it,  but if she makes a million I still want a cut.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

16th Annual Gilmore Vintage (& Lots Not So Vintage) Bike Show

The Gilmore Museum is a very good car museum located near Richland, Michigan.  From time to time they hold large events and today (12 June 2011) happened to be the day for the vintage bike show.  So, I went to take a look, spend a few hours and take a few pix along the way.

Lots of people turned out for the event

Lots & Lots of people
Yes that is a GoldWing Trike,  but the two wheels are in front

A Rat bike

Conversion kit for a Snowmobile to whatever this is now

A naked GoldWing
Another Rat bike

Kindofa scooter thing

Well I saw them looking at it and thought it might be important
so I took a picture.

Ya know, I really don't know what or why

He wouldn't put the ape hangers up but you get the idea

Really pushing it to put this cross between an air-boat &
 a trike into a bike show
Did I mention lots of people

And all the people came on bikes

And all the bikes parked

And as I wandered through the rows I found them more
entertaining than the show bikes in a lot of ways

This is actually a wheel chair,  he told me he wasn't ready to give up
and go with a standard wheelchair quite yet
It wasn't a bad way to spend a few hours and I did get my patches from Tail of the Dragon sewn on my vest.  Also picked up a sticker that says "Cleverly Disguised As A Responsible Adult",  at this point I figure I can't hide the truth.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Quest III, The Final Chapter: Chainsaw Wielding Vampire Werewolves on Motorcycles

The morning was quiet.  There were only five of us left in the cabin and everybody's attention was focused on going home.  Tikk got up and immediately hit the road to start his journey back home.  I couldn't blame him because he was riding alone and wanted to put as many miles in as he could during the daylight hours.  HillBilly and TXgalnTN were a bit more relaxed in getting up and moving but you could sense purpose in their movements.  My son and I were planning to take one more ride before we hit the road home.  I wanted to go back up to Deal's Gap one last time and was considering a run across the Cherohala Skyway.

My son and I packed up and had our bags ready to go, but we did not take him with us because we didn't want to haul the extra weight while riding.  After taking a few moments to say goodbye to HillBilly and getting the kind of a hug only a Southern woman can give from TXgalnTN, we hit the road up the Tail of the Dragon one last time.  This time I had the camera mounted on the back of my bike and was able to get this video of my son doing the ride.

I think he did a very good job technically.  At two locations, he ran over the line, but you can see that there were no issues with other vehicles.  I'm very proud of him; over the past two years, he has turned into an excellent rider with not only good skills but also good judgment.  On a side note, before she left HBC took time to tell me what a great person my son was and that I had every right to be proud of the human that he had become.  I could not agree more.

We stopped at the state line so we could take some pictures in both Tennessee and North Carolina.

Once we got to Deal's Gap, we went into the restaurant and had a very expensive but very good breakfast.  It was nice to take some time, relax, and just enjoy the company.  The ceiling of the restaurant was covered with T-shirts including quite a few from Michigan.  My son was already talking about our next trip to the Tail.

After getting some directions, we jumped back on our bikes and headed towards the Cherohala Skyway.  As we rode there, it occurred to both of us that we had been here before.  Without really intending to, we had ridden portions of this on our rides with Tikk. 

As we started down the road, we stopped to get gas and at that point had a quick discussion with the owners of the store.  Based on what they were telling us we were going to spend the next 3 to 4 hours riding the Skyway and then we would have to come back.  After a quick discussion with my son, we decided to stop this expedition and start heading back to prevent us from having too long of a day.

So, we mounted up and went back towards Deal's Gap. 

As we were riding back to the cabin, we stopped at the gas station that was located just before the road that led up the hill to where we were staying.  While we were fueling our bikes a guy came over and asked if we were father and son.  When I said yes, he asked if we would come over to his stand after we were done fueling because he had something he wanted to give us.  He apparently was running a small stand that was selling patches and doing sewing.

Introduced himself as Stitch and said that he wanted to give us a pair of patches he designed for the Tail of the Dragon ride and offered to sew them on for free.  He said that it was admirable that my son and I were riding together and enjoying motorcycling as a father and son activity.  We handed over our vests and he sewed the patch on to the same location on both.  While he was doing the sewing, he talked about learning to make moonshine and how an Arizona native came to be in Tennessee.  Just one of the many interesting people we met along the way.  We thanked him and then went back to the cabin to finish packing out.

We loaded up our bikes in short order and then went back to Stitch's stand on the way out.  Not wanting to receive a gift without a proper thank you, I paid him to sew our patches from Moonshiner's 28 on both of our vests.   With that bit of business done, my son and I hit the road for Michigan.

The ride itself was excellent.  When we got close to the border between Tennessee and Kentucky, we were warned of incoming bad weather by some other bikers we met at a McDonald's.  We decided to push on and rode for another 50 miles or so before the sky ahead was covered with what my son calls  "ominous clouds of doom" at that point we pulled over and parked our bikes under the awning of a gas station.  I talked to the manager and she allowed us to leave our bikes there while we walked over to a nearby Waffle House.  Just as we entered the restaurant, the downpour began. 

When my son was little boy, I used to have him make up stories about people that were sitting around us on the bus or in a park to help exercises imagination.  We would make up stories about what they were doing and what they were talking about – – it is amazing the number of undercover aliens, spies, and pirates that you run into in everyday life.  The crowd at the Waffle House was ripe pickings for such an exercise. 

There were two old men sitting at the counter, a hard-core biker couple sitting in the corner, us, two older waitresses, and a tattoo covered cook.  We had all the makings of a great slasher movie.  While we ate our hash browns, we worked on various plot lines to kill the time.

When the rain stopped, we headed back over mounted up and left.  Amazingly enough, the chainsaw wielding vampire werewolves on motorcycles never showed.

As we rode through Kentucky, we slowed, honk our horns, and waved for KYChick as we passed exit 95. 

We eventually stopped for the night at Batesville. Indiana.  The next day we took off, stopped again just north of Indianapolis, and had lunch with one of my other sons.  From there it was a quick ride back home.  After pulling the bikes in the garage, I turned to my son and we gave each other a high five.

6 days, 7 states, 8 cabin mates, 1875 miles, and one helluva good time.


Friday, June 10, 2011

Quest III, Part V: Minus Two, One Triangle, Minus One

Our last full day there started very slowly with everyone getting up and moving in slow motion.  I think that we were all starting to get a bit tired but at the same time we were being driven on by the energy of the fun we were having being together and riding. 

Today was going to be like the day before with everyone heading off in different directions.  Tikk, my son and I were going to go ride the Devil's Triangle.  Everyone else was heading for the top of the Tail to get HBC's bike pinstriped.  Apparently, the guy up there was charging a good price and he was showing a significant amount of talent.

HBC & Kent were also leaving that day.  So, I took a few minutes to say goodbye to each of them and tell him how much I appreciated their putting the cabin rental together and just being terrific people.  They would be relocating after the trip so this would be the last time I would ride with them for a while.  Good people…Alabama folks take good care of them.

Everybody took off and our group made a stop at a Denny's to have a leisurely breakfast.  We were actually killing time because a friend of Tikk's was going to join us and might show us in different roads to ride.  We made a couple of other stops and then Tikk got a phone call that his friend was going to make it we were on our own.  We mounted up and headed towards the Devil's Triangle. 

The start of this particular trail was approximately 30 minutes away from where we were.  

The Devil's Triangle is made up of four different highways that more or less join to form a triangle.  This turned out to be my favorite road to ride while down there.  It was different from any of the others because there were a lot of wide sweeping turns and fewer switchback curves.  As a result, you could actually enjoy some of the scenery as you are writing because you are not constantly concentrating on what the road was doing.  The Tail might be the best technical riding, but this was the best overall ride.

The video below will give you some sample of what the highway was like.  Is easy to tell we were moving along at a much higher speed than the other videos. 

Once we completed the ride, we stopped to grab a late lunch at a small family-run Mexican restaurant.  I wish I could remember the name of it because it was actually good and I would love to recommend it.

We also stopped at the local Harley dealership.  I wanted to pick up a pair of Guardian bells for HBC & Kent -- Wakko wanted to pick up a gift for a friend of his as well. 
We picked up part one of a three-part puzzle pin set.  The other two parts are only available at the Harley dealerships in Knoxville and Gatlinburg.  Eventually we will get the other two parts.  When you put all three parts together, it forms the image of a Dragon.  Cool souvenir.

When we got back to the cabin, we found out that GrnEyes had changed her mind and had left early so that she would not be riding back alone.  We kind of hung out at the cabin for a while and then went back into town to you dinner.  This time we had Italian food that was actually quite good.   

My son and I did a little packing and got ready to depart the next day. 


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Quest III, The Commercial: ...and Now a Word From Our Sponsor

I wasn't going to mention this incident at all, even after someone who was there reminded me.   However, after recalling what happened and the real lesson to be learned I felt obliged to share this. 

On the first night when all seven of us came back to the cabin, we were trying to find a parking at the same time.  The place where we had to park, because there was no driveway, was on the angled front lawn of the cabin.  From the dirt road, the yard went downhill to the front door for the cabin.  Because of this, none of us wanted to park nose end in first so we ended up riding down the lawn and then turning uphill.  The set the rest of the scene for this you have to remember that it was dark, and a light drizzle had left the grass in front of the cabin wet. 

Each of us waited for the bike in front to pull in and park prior to pulling onto the yard.  When it was my turn, I pulled across the yard and started to turn uphill into an open space.  However, the bike in front of me stopped so I did the same but I was in mid-turn and when I put my feet down my right foot slipped and the bike immediately started to lean over.  The Valkyrie is not a small machine, weighing in at just about 1000 pounds.  As my bike started to fall there was little I could do while straddling it to wrestle control back from gravity because the ground to my right was a downward sloping angle and my feet were slipping on the wet grass.

& Kent immediately jumped on my bike’s right hand side and started to push against it to prevent it falling over further.   Even though he is a strong dude, he was not able to get it righted until my son got on the left side of the bike and started to pull it back.  At this point, I was able to stop the engine and put the brakes on to regain some sort of control.  Once the bike was balanced, I pulled it forward and got it pointed uphill.  A situation that could have been disastrous turned out just fine.

When I think back on what happened, I realize how lucky I was to have people who reacted so quickly but also so selflessly.  & Kent could have been seriously hurt if the bike had continued to fall over.  Not only was he trying to prevent a bike from falling but in no small degree, he was also dealing with my weight added to it.   Plus, because we had been riding, the pipes and engine of my bike were very hot.  He didn't think about that at all when he jumped in; he just did it.

When I think about the people I’ve been lucky enough to go riding with and the kind of person that I try to be when I'm riding with others; I realize one of the true joys of being a biker.   From the minute we put it up on two wheels, we are an instant community of people who were willing to put themselves out to do the right thing and to help selflessly.  If he had not been there, I would've been trying to crawl out from under my bike and pick it up from an impossible angle, possibly after sliding down hill and into the front of a cabin.  Instead, I walked into the cabin with & Kent, my fellow riders, and with a story to be told later about what almost happened.

Ya gotta love stories that end like that.

HBC & Kent.  May you all have friends like this to ride with.


Quest III, Part IV: Lost in the Smokies, Moonshiner's 28, & the Hot Tub Is Still Broke

The original plan for this afternoon had all of us going off to some trail that was approximately 50 to 75 miles away.  However, it took longer than we thought to take our first run down the Tail of the Dragon then various people decided to do other things - the plan was being rewritten as we went along.  Tikk broke out a map and we took a route that let us see some of the beauty of this part of the country. 

As I said my last entry, we did not know where we were until much later but the roads had great sweepers and dynamite views.  We went along a pretty river for a while that was filled with trout anglers and kayakers.  We were mapping our way back when I suggested that we take Highway 28, a.k.a. Moonshiner's 28, on the way back.  I had heard it was a good ride as well. 

We took off down the road and headed for it.  It was a great run.  I honestly liked Moonshiner's 28 better than Tail of the Dragon.  Even though it was challenging most of the curves were wide and long sweepers, which gave you an opportunity to enjoy the scenery as well as the ride because you were not antsy about handling a switch back.  We finished Moonshiner's 28 it took us back up to Deal's Gap so we rode back down the Tail of the Dragon again to get to the cabin.

When we got back to the cabin everyone else was gone.  Tikk had plans to meet some friends downtown so he changed and left.  Since my son and I were hungry, we headed to a brand new BBQ place that had just opened on US129.  As we arrived, HillBilly, GrnEyes, HBC &Kent were leaving, but they were all talking about how good the food was.  We were the last customers of the evening and we had some of the best pulled pork BBQ I had eaten in a long time.  We each ordered a second sandwich to go and we headed back to the cabin.
Before we got there, GrnEyes had left to meet up with a friend.  &Kent was trying to fix the heater in the hot tub, so my son gave him a hand.  Cards were being played and TV was being watched.

At some point during the evening I sat down on the couch; I am not sure why but I think it seemed to be the right thing to do about then.  A short while later HBC joined me and immediately launched into a conversation.  She asked many questions about how my son and I ended up going on this trip and if we were enjoying it.  We talked for about an hour and she spent part of the time showing me pictures she had taken of the side trip they had taken to a waterfall. 

Somewhere during that hour, I realized another reason why I enjoyed riding:  I get to meet warm, caring, and special people like HBC.  She was one of the friendliest and most open and caring people I had met in a long time.  I really enjoyed getting a chance to get to know her and the true kind of person she was. 

GrnEyes showed up and for whatever reason she was unable to meet her friend and had returned to the cabin without dinner.  She and &Kent headed out to find some food.

Around this time, HillBilly showed up with TXGalnTN.   She breathed fresh life into the room, as she seemed to be a force of positive nature from the minute she crossed the threshold.  Unlike all of us, she was from the Deep South and possessed a wonderful Southern accent and a sense of fun that seemed to just flow.

A short while later &Kent arrived back with GrnEyes carrying bags from Subway.  With almost everyone in for the night, I decided it was time to get some sleep so I went upstairs and in moments was out.  It is amazing how exhausting sitting on your ass and twisting your wrist to work the throttle can be. 

The next morning I lay in bed listening to an unfamiliar voice.  It was TXGalnTN telling a story and laughing.  I listened to part of one of them, which I also thought was funny.  I was trying to decide whether or not I was going to get up when &Kent started humming Dueling Banjos --  having recently seen Deliverance  - again -  any time you hear that song being played is a good time to get up and see what the hell is going on.  It is kind of like hearing the mandolin music from the Godfather.  You know something is about to happen- and it ain't good.

So, I grabbed my stuff and headed downstairs.  Nothing dramatic was going on, everyone was waiting on the shower and drinking their first cup of coffee.  I grabbed a cup, sat down, and tried to let the caffeine do its business.  We finished off the last of the eggs with cheese and &Kent and my son took another shot at trying to fix the hot tub.  They were actually were able to drain some water from the shower to the Hot Tub which raised the temp a little bit -- but not enough. 

Shortly after HillBilly and TXGalnTN left to go ride the Tail, Tikk walked through the front door.  He had not shown up the night before, but we all decided to wait until noon before organizing a search party.   Glad we waited.

With Tikk back amongst us, everyone said about taking off or wherever they were headed that day.  I, my son, and Tikk were going to head out and ride the Devil's Triangle.