|12-01-2013, 04:01 PM||#1|
Joined: Jul 2009
Location: Arlington, VA
Over The Falls: DC to Toronto
Epic is in the eye of the beholder. Let’s face it, there are few among us who have the resources to light out for the far ends of the earth to spend a few months crossing the wilderness on two wheels.
So when we got the opportunity to string four days together, we decided to make the most of ‘em.
Here’s the cast: That’s Todd on the left, aka Dudelookslikealady.
And that’s his brother Troy on the right, aka amsterdamned.
The more observant reader will notice something unusual about them.
That’s right – both of their first names start with “T.”
We’ve known each other for almost twenty years; though this is the first time I think I realized that. We were all beginning skydivers together, at a little DZ down in southern Maryland. We learned together and jumped together for a decade or more – one of the great decades of our lives.
That’s me on the left (Eric, aka skyguy) with Troy at the World Freefall Convention. Every August, thousands of skydivers descended on Quincy, IL for ten days of non-stop jumping. In addition to the usual jump planes, they’d bring in exotics: helicopters, biplanes, a Super Connie, a Ford Tri-Motor. One year they brought in a B-17 and a B-24, and you could buy a (very expensive) jump ticket to dive out the bomb bay doors. That’s a 727 jet behind Troy and me, and yes – we jumped out of it. You go out the air-stairs under the tail. The 200 mph exit speed really gets your attention.
Here’s Todd on the right, with me (eating a Life Saver) holding open the hot-air balloon we later jumped from. Pretty much the opposite of jumping the jet.
What I’m getting at here is, we’ve known each other long enough to know that we’re pretty compatible traveling together. (the twins have known each other longer than I’ve known them, but you get the idea) The years passed, and we all left skydiving behind for some reason or another (though always promising to return). Motorcycles became the next thing, and now you’re pretty much up to date.
We’d never done a multi-day motorcycle trip together, so when the stars aligned for all of us to have four days off at the same time, we jumped on it. Troy wanted to ride across an international border, and for us mid-Atlantic boys, that meant Canada.
So come on along and join us for the ride. We’ll fill in the details along the way.
skyguy screwed with this post 12-04-2013 at 07:31 PM
|12-02-2013, 09:05 PM||#3|
Joined: Jul 2009
Location: Arlington, VA
Sunday, 18 August 2013
Nothing like starting a ride in the rain. After a flurry of e-mails back and forth last night (“Should we leave early and try to beat the weather?”) we ended up deciding to stick to our original schedule. And that meant rain, at least for the morning.
I was lucky enough to find a little overhang outside my building so I could pack up my bike in semi-dry conditions.
The mighty V-Strom! Mighty damp.
We rallied up at Troy’s place. That’s his 1200GS in yellow, Todd’s 1150GSA is in silver. And if you read my New Zealand ride report, you’ll recognize my clownish rainsuit. Photo by helpful neighbor.
A quick stop at the gas station to top off the tanks, and to synchronize our GPSs, and… we’re off!
Into the rain.
It rained off and on – mostly on – the whole morning. Hit the rest area outside Frederick for some very important reason that none of us can now remember.
Todd’s the older brother (by, I think, 7 minutes). He got his GSA first. Troy actually had the opportunity to get the exact same motorcycle (same year, model, and color) but decided against it. Too twinny. He got the 1200GS instead.
But they did get the same rainsuit.
Back into the dampness. This was actually a familiar route to us from our skydiving days. We used to drive this road when we spent a summer or two jumping in Chambersburg, PA.
Got to document the border crossing, even if it’s only a state line. We didn’t take a picture when we crossed from Virginia into Maryland, as it’s a pretty common occurrence for us.
More rain. Troy’s GPS directed him off-route for some reason, so we had stop and take more pictures.
Hit Breezewood, PA and decided to take an early lunch. It was nice to be someplace dry for a little while. Rainsuits work pretty well, but if you’re riding a motorcycle in the rain, you’re going to get wet.
We had discussed the route in general terms, and noticed a particular landmark was on the way. So we made sure to include a stop at the Flight 93 Memorial.
You know this story.
United Airlines flight 93 was one of the four planes that were hijacked on September 11th, 2001. It was the only one that did not crash into its target building. The twin towers of the World Trade Center were struck in New York City, and the Pentagon was hit in Arlington, VA. But on United 93, the passengers (who had learned the fates of the other hijacked planes through surreptitious airphone and cell phone calls) attempted to re-take the plane. As they rushed the cockpit, the hijackers rolled the 757 into the ground outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
They apparently don’t know the exact target of UA-93, but it was suspected to be the U.S. Capitol, or possibly the White House. Since both of those are a stone’s throw from our homes in northern Virginia, the Memorial definitely merited a visit. (Note: Actually throwing stones at the Capitol and/or the White House is frowned upon)
The Flight 93 Memorial is not right off the road; you have to ride in a couple of miles. We found the parking lot and headed into the site, welcoming the chance to walk around a bit.
There’s a plaza with informative signs that give a chronology of the events of that day, and a talk from the ranger.
You start by walking along the long black slate wall that borders the field.
Here and there niches are inset into the wall for people to add small mementoes.
The field, referred to here as “The Hallowed Ground.” That boulder is generally considered to be the point of impact. The remains of the 40 passengers and crew (and four hijackers) are still in this field.
At the end of the wall are the panels. 40 of them, each with a passenger’s name.
Or a crewmember’s.
The panels are lined up along the flightline.
There’s a slatted wooden gate (for some reason) through which you can see the path the plane took to impact.
The whole Memorial is actually still under construction at this writing (10/2013). They’re supposed to be adding a tower back near the main road. In any case, it’s worth a visit.
Todd’s happy to be rid of his raingear. Yes, the rain’s finally stopped.
Still life with stuff.
Back to the road. Shortly after we left the memorial, we passed the largest salvage yard I’ve ever seen. Literally acres of flattened cars
But now we’re now heading north, to where the groundhog lives.
Stopped for a barn photo. Liberty. Justice. Democracy. Freedom.
This is the kind of scenery you can expect along the small roads in central Pennsylvania.
Had to stop in Punxsutawney, home of the famous rodent, Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog from Groundhog Day.
That creature in the mural is supposed to be Phil. The creatures in front of him are Todd, Troy, and Eric.
Actual groundhog, for reference. Sadly there were no Bill Murray sightings. His movie, “Groundhog Day,” was actually shot in Woodstock, IL. Apparently, the movie groundhog bit Bill Murray repeatedly.
Well into the afternoon by now, and we’d been on the bikes all day, so any chance to stop for a picture was welcomed.
The very well-documented Route 666.
6.6 miles on 666...
Troy told us later that he had taken his glove off to take our picture (above), but we zoomed off before he was ready, so he quickly tossed his glove and camera in his tank bag and tore after us one-gloved, only to look down and notice that he was doing 66.6 mph on Route 666 with 6.66 miles to go. To quote Troy: "ooooOOOOOoooo..."
Despite its demonic descriptor, Route 666 is a fine road – two lanes, light traffic, twisting along a river thru Allegheny National Forest.
Finally we hit our destination for Day One – the little town of Warren, PA. We had a room booked at the Hampton Inn, which turned out to be very nice. It’s so new that Google Earth still shows it as a vacant lot.
We even hit the pool (fortunately, no pictures). The boys found this poster, and were disappointed that we’d be just missing a very special acoustic show with Great White.
The hotel is right across from the Warren State Hospital, which houses the mentally interesting. Sorry for the terrible picture; I thought I had a better one. (and that’s the Hampton back left)
Dinner choices were limited, especially if you want someplace within walking distance (we had no desire to ride at night after a few beers, and we were definitely having a few beers). So we opted for the Applebees.
Which has surprisingly high tables.
Obligatory food shot, with optional beer inclusion.
When we got back to the Hampton, we realized that we needed to take more pictures of the motorcycles.
Must be careful to document everything.
In our skydiving days, we thought nothing of packing half a dozen jumpers into a single motel room, so this was positively luxurious. And thanks to a rollaway cot, we each had our own beds.
Day one – goodnight!
skyguy screwed with this post 12-02-2013 at 09:12 PM
|12-03-2013, 02:13 PM||#4|
Joined: May 2008
Location: northern va usa
It's like I was there!!
When we arrived at Warren, PA, Todd turned to me at the last light with the hotel in view, and said, "Hey, I just thought of something...I hope this isn't a dry town."
Thank god for the recently opened restaurant we had dinner in that brought alcohol to Warren, PA...and, cheers Todd, for the scare. Burp.
|12-03-2013, 05:01 PM||#5|
Anything Can Happen
Joined: Nov 2011
Location: NorEast Ohio
This is great stuff. You passed my neck the woods on your way up. Looks like you're having a great time.
"Better to live alone in the desert than with a nagging wife" - Proverbs 21:19
|12-03-2013, 08:43 PM||#8|
Joined: Jan 2009
Eric, Troy, Todd.. Totally cool to see you guys on this epic trip. I think Troy was telling me possible about this trip coming up when we met at Bob's several months back. Its cool to see old pics from the mid 90's. I to learned to jump down in southern MD and had a blast jumping with ya there and in OC. Good luck with your trip, you are bound to have lots of fun.
|12-03-2013, 09:03 PM||#9|
Joined: Jul 2009
Location: Arlington, VA
Monday, 19 August 2013
From here on, the picture count starts dropping. Sorry about that. Perhaps we weren’t stopping as often. Perhaps we each thought that the other two were taking pictures. In any case – fewer pictures.
The Hampton includes breakfast, so we had a bite before packing up. Rolled out around nine, then had to pull in to the small arboretum across the road because we realized that we hadn’t taken pictures of the motorcycles that day.
That was close!
Back to the highway. Troy and I have Sena Bluetooth headsets and we were able to talk to each other. Todd has a Scala headset, and of course the two brands won’t talk to each other. (yet) So we had to communicate with Todd by frantic waving and beeping, or just by zooming up front then pulling the group over.
That’s how we wrangled the photo stop at the New York border. That’s state number four; not bad for day two.
Paused for the requisite photos, then rolled on into the Empire State.
Nice road this morning, mostly small towns and farmland. Took a quick stop in Jamestown to top off the oil…
…and the wallet.
But we were looking forward to our next landmark, which actually wasn’t land at all.
Lake Erie. One of your Great Lakes.
Turns out a lot of the land abutting the lake is privately owned, so there weren’t a lot of places where we could pull over for a photo with the lake in the background.
Once we found such a place, we took lots of pictures.
Todd waits in the shade. You know how, in every group, there’s always one person who’s always the last one to be ready? That would be me.
The route paralleled the lakeshore as we rode north, and civilization started to fill in as we approached Buffalo, NY. The route took us along the Buffalo waterfront and over a big blue bridge. And soon enough, we turned onto the Robert Moses State Parkway and headed west along the Niagara River. We could see the cloud of mist rising straight ahead of us: Niagara Falls.
We chose to cross the border here because, duh, Niagara Falls. We actually bypassed the “American side” for now, so we could get in line for the border crossing.
That’s Rainbow Bridge over the Niagara River. The constant mist from the falls assures a rainbow whenever the sun is shining. (Only on the other side, sorry)
Plenty of time to take pictures as we waited in line to cross over. I thought there might be issues with photography at the border crossing, but apparently not here.
Getting a mite toasty under the ATGATT.
Welcome to Canada! Troy and I had actually discussed doing this trip several months ago, but he realized that his passport had expired. If only he had AN IDENTICAL TWIN BROTHER WITH A VALID PASSPORT.
(I actually suggested that he borrow Todd’s passport, but Troy was not interested in such international fraudulence. A disturbing honest streak runs through that one.) This was his first border crossing on his new passport. You have to ask nicely if you want it stamped, otherwise Canada just asks you a couple of questions and waves you on in.
We parked past the botanical gardens, across from the old power station.
As dedicated family men, many of our stops started with a phone call back home.
“Guess where I am?”
Niagara Falls. This is the Canadian side, aka “Horseshoe Falls.”
Hard to get a good picture from the top – you need to step back to get the big picture. Up here, you just see the dropoff. And hear the roar.
Had to stop for souvenirs, of course.
After we’d had our fill of the falls (and lunch), we found the Queen’s Expressway. As the queen was not using it today, we were allowed to ride it around the western end of Lake Ontario (our second great lake) to Toronto. No pictures of this stretch, as the QEW is really just your basic interstate highway: trucks, traffic, and a few maddening stretches of milled pavement, waiting for asphalt. Oh, how we hate the milled pavement.
As we approached Toronto, we noticed that the traffic on the other side of the QEW was jammed up good for many miles. We hoped that it wouldn’t be that way tomorrow, as we’re coming back this way.
Found our hotel – the Ramada Plaza. Parked out in front like rock stars.
Speaking of rock stars, there was a musician/band bus out front, but we never found out whose it was.
Our view. There was an old church on the corner.
We were right across the street from a park called Allan Gardens, one of the oldest parks in Toronto. It has a large glassed-in conservatory with many exotic plants. By the time we got there, it was closed for the day, so we just wandered around outside.
It appears that one plant needs a bit more headroom than the others. I believe that’s a flowering Agave (aka century plant) coming out of the cactus garden. This is the cactus from which we get tequila. (Not this one specifically)
As in Warren, once we got to town – we walked. Fortunately, there’s a lot more to see here than in Warren. Just down the block, we stumbled across the historic Maple Leaf Gardens. This was the home to the Toronto Maple Leafs (not “Leaves”) hockey team for 68 years. The Leafs won 11 Stanley Cups while playing at the Garden.
Now, however, it’s mostly Loblaws, a massive city block-sized supermarket.
Todd poses by the wall o’ cheeses.
This calls for a drink. It was perfect weather for drinking outdoors, so we did.
Properly hydrated, we set back out into the city.
Some public art. Todd offers masonry assistance.
Lots of interesting buildings, old and new.
The boys were in search of a particular government building: The Ontario Legislative Building, which was featured on the cover of Moving Pictures, an album by the famous (Canadian) band, Rush.
Sadly, scaffolding obscured the building entrance, so we were unable to re-create the original image. Plus, we didn’t have any framed artwork handy.
Posing in Toronto.
A nearby statue honored firefighters. We didn’t mess with that one.
How not to lock your bicycle. Nearby, we found an HMV music store, and the twins scoured the place for exotic imported CDs.
Getting on toward dinnertime. We were attracted to the neon of Zanzibar, but they did not have a dinner menu.
We ended up at a random neighborhood restaurant, (NAME OF RESTAURANT – Hair of the Dog? Hound of the Baskervilles? Some kind of animal something) which turned out to have great food.
Good thing, because it was either this place or Tim Horton’s.
On the way back, Troy got a couple shots of the church and the full moon.
Swung by Loblaws on the way to grab dessert from their extensive assortment of cupcakes.
End of day two!
|12-04-2013, 04:58 AM||#10|
Joined: Oct 2008
Location: Innisfil, Ontario, Canada
I'm liking your ride report! It's different seeing the city you grew up near from the eyes of tourists :)
|12-04-2013, 07:14 PM||#11|
Joined: Jul 2009
Location: Arlington, VA
Tuesday, 20 August 2013
My turn for the sofa-bed last night, and apparently there was some snoring reported. I don’t think we need to know WHO was snoring; suffice to say there was snoring.
Another shot out our window – the church is still there.
As are the motorcycles (though the band bus is gone). We hiked to a promising-looking pancake place for a nearby breakfast, then back to pack up.
And once again, no pictures for the QEW ride away from Toronto and back to Niagara Falls. The traffic that we had seen heading in this direction yesterday was fortunately an afternoon rush-hour phenomenon.
In researching this trip, we discovered that at one time there had been a high-speed ferry that went across Lake Ontario from Toronto to Rochester, NY. There may be again, someday, but not today. We didn’t have time to circumnavigate the lake, so we went back the way we came.
As before, plenty of time on the Rainbow Bridge to take pictures while waiting for customs.
AMERICAN customs, this time. Good view of the Falls from here, though. We never did take the boat ride and have the whole tourist experience.
Getting a bit warm… I think we woke up the US Customs guy. We saw cars going through and handing the guy everybody’s passports at once, so we thought we could save time and do likewise.
Turns out, they would prefer that you not do that.
And… back in New York!
We had actually planned two different routes back from Toronto. At one point, we had talked about taking a long detour along the southeastern shoreline of Lake Erie so we could tag another state (Ohio, via Pennsylvania). But we decided, nah… not this time. We headed back toward Warren, PA, via a slightly different route than the one we took up.
Stopped for lunch near the Erie shore. The diner had Betty Boop in a phone booth, for some reason.
And a nice replica gas station to go with her. We should’ve gotten some replica gas.
Sorry, as I noted – the picture count is definitely down. After a quick stop to document Todd’s monumental mileage…
…we’re already back in Warren at the Hampton.
A quick note – the twins are family men, and each carried a reminder of their respective kids. Todd wore a shark’s tooth necklace, a gift from his son.
And Troy had one toenail painted red, courtesy his daughter.
Safely checked in, our thoughts naturally turned to beer. We asked at the desk if there was a place nearby where we could grab a six-pack, and were told, “Oh, yes – there’s a place just down the road.”
On the way, we passed thru the arboretum, and found some tiny wildlife…
…as well as Mr. Snuffleupagus, disguised as a tree.
We wandered past the state hospital again.
So… where’s this alleged beer place?
We passed a fruit stand (was it a fruit stand? Some kind of roadside stand) and asked the attendants how close we were to the beer store.
They informed us that we were in a dry county – the closest place to get beer was a couple of miles away. I guess Miss “Just Down The Road” thought we were driving. We ended up bribing one of the guys from the stand to drive us there and back to the Hampton. The things we do for beer.
Back to the room to drink our hard-won beer and experiment with panorama mode.
Although with twins, it’s really kind of cheating.
We asked the concierge (aka the guy at the desk) for a restaurant recommendation. He said the best place in town was an Italian restaurant called “Chiodo’s” (pronounced “CHY-doze”). Perfect. We dug out our white evening jackets (we overpacked) and called a taxi. Or more properly, THE taxi. I think there was one in the whole town. Just as she pulled up outside, we had one more thought: “Mr. Concierge,” we asked, “Just to be sure – Chiodo’s is open on Tuesdays, right?”
“Oh, no – they’re not open on Tuesdays.”
Rather than sending the taxi lady away empty-cabbed, we had her take us “downtown” so we could check out the establishments that WERE open on a Tuesday night in Warren, PA. And half an hour later, we called her back to return us to… Appleby’s. Hey, in an otherwise dry county, pick the oasis that has beer.
End of Day Three!
|12-04-2013, 08:20 PM||#12|
Gnarly Poolside Adv.
Joined: Feb 2010
Location: Darnestown, MD
There are so many great ride reports on Adv. You have a nice route along with great scenery and pictures, but the comradery, the spirit and bond of friendship makes this an excellent read.
All the Best,
|12-05-2013, 05:33 PM||#14|
Joined: May 2008
Location: northern va usa
The toe nail...it's orange. Bright orange. My favorite color. My daughter asked me long ago, what was my favorite color Smartie?"
I replied, "orange".
That's been my favorite color ever since(apparently).
|12-05-2013, 06:34 PM||#15|
Joined: Jul 2009
Location: Arlington, VA
Thanks for the kind comments, folks! It's true, writing up the report lets you re-live the whole trip all over again.
Day four coming up - is it over already?
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