The reason I've titled this thread "the parts that don't suck" is because, having lived here my entire life, I have a habit of focusing on the negative. I hate winter. I hate humidity. I loathe how the area I live in has exploded with strip malls, townhouse communities and people from NJ.
I read too many RR's from the southwest (sunny skies, no lawn to mow) and the rockies (mountains that make ours look like the foothills they really are) and grumble about being stuck here. But, via motorcycling I am reminded about the things I do love about this state. We've got forests with hundreds of miles of good gravel roads, wildlife and solitude within an hour's drive. This barely makes up for not being able to buy beer at a grocery store.
My rides usually happen one of two ways: I just hop on it and ride with no direction in mind and see where I wind up, or I sit down with the laptop and my DeLorme map program and seek out squiggly lines that run through 'green' topography. This time I chose the latter. The nice thing about mapping out a route is you can get an idea of how long the trip will be and just how far you can go before you need to head back home. I've got a terrible frame of reference when it comes to distances. I try to keep a day ride around 200-250 miles as I know that's the limit my butt can tolerate the KLR seat. It's not always clear on the DeLorme program if you're choosing pavement or gravel, so often times I'm pleasantly surprised finding dirt where I wasn't expecting it. Today had a nice mixture of both; I really did get lucky with my choices and the route will be saved for a future repeat or modification.
I began and ended in Wertzville at 114 and 944. I'd recently joined a group ride at this location and it's a great starting point, right off I-81 with fuel access and quickly turns into mountains as you head west. I don't get but a few miles up the road and stop to do a clothing adjustment and stall the bike. I go to restart it and nothing; no power at all. I assume I've popped a fuse somehow, so being a KLR I have to remove the seat, which means I have to remove the saddlebags, side covers and so forth to access the bolts. Grumble...snarl...curse...as I'm doing this a couple people stop to offer help which I refuse in a slightly terse response (and I do apologize, if you're reading this. These situations put me in a very foul and undiplomatic frame of mind). One guy is happy to keep chattering on while I work telling me about his kid's KTMs...what great bikes they are...how expensive they are to fix...(I begin to chuckle to myself in spite of my growing rage at the stupid bleeping allen head bolts I can't seem to reach)...but that I've chosen a great bike in a KTM. Should I tell him?
Yeah, I do confess that his reading comprehension isn't all that great. He looks at the bike again...
...and realizes his error.
Pseudo KTM vinyl decals: $5. Look on befuddled KTM owner's face: Priceless. Anyhow, the problem returns after the wildlife encounter later in the day and I finally find that it's a loose battery cable bolt (a loose bolt on a KLR? What are the chances?). Anyway, back to the action.
A short jaunt to 850 and rode this up through Kistler where I turned onto gravel (surprise!) at Little Valley Road. This is a mostly straight road that follows the side of a mountain. Those of you with KTMs will probably be going 90 or so but on the KLR 50 seemed like a pleasant speed.
There's a spot on the map named "Big Knob" with an access road that looks like it would be an overlook; the gated road was open but the only things there were radio towers and a cabin being used by someone that didn't seem too happy I was riding past.
If you go, you can avoid that little side trip. The day started out very hazy and was like this most of the morning. I stopped at a power line to check out the mountain laurel which were just starting to bloom but weren't yet into full plumage. Butterflies abounded.
With little exception, well groomed gravel awaited. My route could easily have been taken by a street bike (I'll point out the bit that would be dicey). However, riding a KLR you need not worry about having to clean the chrome later, so the stress level is much lower.
I wound up riding on a portion of the route the group ride had taken a few weeks prior without realizing it. A bit annoyed at my inadvertent duplication of route, I was riding down the mountain and into a tight right hand turn when a deer of substantial
size darted across the road in front of me. I always come to a full stop when I spot deer, because the "forest cattle" as I call them travel in herds and you never know when the next one will run in front of you (or, into you. They aren't especially bright.). To my right is a drop off of maybe 20-30 feet, a little valley with a brook running through it and a steep hill beyond it. Sure enough, another deer is standing at the bottom, looking at me. I've seen thousands of these stupid creatures in my lifetime so, as pretty as they are, have zero desire to pull the camera out and snap a photo of one even for you FF's. As the annoyed doe bounds up the steep far hill I notice movement...and see something in the wild I've never seen before. A fawn! Okay, I've seen fawns before, but this wobbly legged little fellow is very obviously on his first day of life. GRAB CAMERA!!! I do my best to zoom in on it, silently cussing its every move as it turns the wrong way each time the shutter clicks, but here is what i managed:
I learned, many years ago with my first video camera, that one who is not a good photographer should not waste all of one's time taking images. Instead, I stop with the camera and just savor the moment. This helpless, freshly born creature drinks from the brook, stumbles his way up to a perch on the bank and then begins bleating for his mommy in such a pathetic way I know it's time to go. Such are the once in a lifetime moments one can have riding a motorcycle; an event like this would not have occurred in a car as I'd never have seen the fawn below the window frame of a vehicle door.
New Germantown Road took me down to 274 through some switchbacks (love those) to 75 at Doylesburg. As much as I love the mountains/woods there is something to be said for riding through open valleys of fields. Unfortunately, the humid haze made photo opportunities less than stellar so I didn't take any; you'll just have to take my word for it that on a clear day the fields with cows and the farms that tend them are pretty in their own way.
A.D.D. moment: I went through the town of Dry Run, which consisted of a few houses and a bridge over (wait for it...) Dry Run Creek, which was noticeably not dry. Makes guys like me wonder where they come up with these names. It may not have that effect on you.
Photo op somewhere along this portion of the ride (I forget exactly where this was):
Or, without the sinister zombie apocalypse machine blocking the view:
A right turn onto 641 takes you up and over another ridge (switchbacks!) followed by a left onto SR2009. This somewhat boring bit takes you under the Turnpike and down to a ridge crossing at Carrick Valley, then through Fannettsburg on SR4004 and over another ridge (switchbacks!) at which point I turned left onto Lower Horse Valley Road. There's some unpaved roads marked on the left side of this road that I didn't investigate; may do that next run through. This leg could easily be cut off by simply riding 641; I was just adding miles to see stuff. Left onto 997 at Roxbury; this is a more 'major' road but not heavily trafficked and a nice highway speed ride if you want to get some wind on a hot day. There's a greasy spoon restaurant at McKinney (turnpike exit) if you're hungry. Three Square Hollow Road to Cowpens Road gets you back to gravel (several 'unimproved' roads noted on DeLorme in this area; anyone know if they are open?). I think it was on this bit I was climbing when on the left I see this 'mist' alongside the road. I'm greeted by several flowing mini-waterfalls feeding a creek that runs under the hairpin turn. I nice refreshing spot to take a break, wash the grunge from my face and take a artsy photo of the terrifying KLR:
Laurel Run takes you up the mountain; at the top I had Bowers Mountain Road on the route. This road is gated but was open; my guess is it is closed over the winter as it's not heavily graveled. This one may be a bit rough for a 'street' bike as it's a bit rocky. As I'm zooming along at, oh, 40 mph I pass a sign, which is really unexpected out here in the middle of nothing. I slide to a stop, turn around and check it out. Another of those fascinating little surprises you find when least expected.
Note the little coffee can 'pot' and the flowers. The marker is right next to the road, so I pondered if poor Henry was actually buried there or not. And I had to ask myself, how does one get run over by a bulldozer, a vehicle not exactly known for reckless high speed? Google instantly brought me the answers and a little more background about our mystery man (copied and pasted here from a site with pop-ups):
Almost 72 years to the day from when Henry Hamerski lost his life while working for the Civilian Conservation Corps in the Tuscarora forest, his survivors paid a call on the marker erected on the site of his fatal accident on Aug. 20, 1934.
As a girl, Kathy Burd of Latrobe recalls her father Edmund talking about the uncle she never knew. Henry Hamerski was just 18 years old when he was run over by a tractor along a fire road his CCC crew was clearing of brush.
Details of the accident were sketchy and Edmund Hamerski died this past June without knowing his brother had been memorialized by a marker that still is in place 72 years later on a gated forestry road in Tuscarora State Forest in Toboyne Twp.
DCNR Ranger Andrew Boyden, who met with family members at the site on Sunday, said that he had passed the marker many times over the course of the last seven or eight years, but never imagined that it would attract that sort of attention from the family of the man it memorializes.
Burd said that she and other members of the family had no idea of the markers existence until she began doing some family-related research on the Internet after the death of her father.
She stumbled upon a Web site called findagrave.com on which someone had posted information about the marker under the misapprehension that it marked a grave site. Henry Hamerski was buried in St. Maryís Cemetery in Latrobe. The marker was erected on the site of his fatal accident.
Burd also was able to access CCC records on the Internet and was able to find official reports of the accident. Her uncle, as Burd tells it, had just returned with other members of his crew who had been on furlough for several days. They got in late and most of his coworkers decided to rest that morning rather than rejoin the work project along the fire road.
Henry Hamerski made the fateful decision not to sleep and joined the work crew that morning. During a rest period, he laid down along the road to take a nap. He chose a spot which recently had been traversed by a bulldozer that made its way up one side of the road and down the other.
The operator, for whatever reason, decided to descend the road on the same side he had ascended, which was not the normal practice, and one of the cleats of the bulldozerís tread hit Henry Hamerski in the head as he slept, according to Burdís account.
Edmund Hamerskiís older brother, Tom, is the only surviving family member who knew Henry. Burdís mother, Roma, met and married Edmund after the accident that claimed his brotherís life.
Both Roma and Tom, as well as Kathyís two sisters, Diane Watson and Nancy Hauser of Latrobe, were among the group of people who traveled east to pay their respects to an ancestor who died 72 years earlier while working for one or President Franklin Rooseveltís New Deal construction projects with the Civilian Conservation Corps.
The CCC is whom we have to thank for all these miles of wonderful roads in the state of PA. If you've never heard of the CCC, you can read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilia...ervation_Corps
Though Roosevelt's impact on the Depression with his various programs and meddling is highly debated, the CCC I conclude was a good idea. So thank you, Henry Hamerski, for giving me a road to ride.
Laurel Run Road takes our ride back to 233 and is a fast, rollercoaster ride interspersed with some occasionally sudden twists and soft, muddy spots that will keep you from getting complacent.
From there it's a short ride back to Landisburg where you can alternately take 74 south and then Fox Hollow Road for a change of scenery. The entire trip is about 200 miles (my numbers are skewed since I have a commute to/from the start point) and will kill about 5-6 hours depending on your pace and the length of stops. Despite the haze, high humidity and constant threat of thunderstorms it was a day well spent. Well, any day on the bike is a day well spent, right?