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Old 08-30-2013, 10:17 AM   #16
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Day 9: No bikes, but airplanes and boats!

Saturday, May the 4th, was our day to hit the skies over our beloved Cecil County. While Steener is a pilot by trade, I remain an aspiring novice pilot myself, and we had both been awaiting a chance to fly around our old stomping grounds again for years. We met up at the Wilmington airport with an old friend from the Civil Air Patrol, (the official Air Force auxiliary) whose family is involved in an aircraft business. First arriving at the Wilmington airport, we were greeted by several military aircraft (T38 Talons), sans engines, lying around half assembled. Our buddy explained the US had bought the aircraft off of Canada to use as trainers several years ago, but because of the ongoing budget crisis, the sad airframes were never made airworthy. Our friend was able to get us a good deal on one of the freshest Cessna 172's I've ever been in, and after a short check ride, we flew to Raintree Aero (Cecil County Airport) to meet up with the rest of Steener's family. Raintree is located at the very Northern tip of the Chesapeake Bay, where the bay splits into the Elk and Bohemian rivers, as well as the C&D canal. For those familiar with aviation, you are turning base over the Elk River, and the runway is only about 2000' inland. It makes for some spectacular views on takeoffs and landings, and made us remember why we love home so much.




















Now the two of us had spent a lot of time at Raintree through our high school years, participating in Civil Air Patrol activities, taking orientation flights, and even hunting. Since we left home, the owners had completely renovated the airport, and the only things left unchanged were a few of the old junk tractors and the Ford bucket truck, which was now being used to anchor a pickup bed camper. The modernization had, however, turned the airport from an old smoky building into an aviation center big enough to truly service the whole county and that would be pleasant for out-of-towners to fly into. They even had a souvenir rack, which we patronized. When Steener's family arrived, several flights were spent showing them their home from the air. They were flown around their house, the high school, the rivers, and any other points of interest before being brought back, and only one of Steener's sisters got airsick.










To celebrate, the whole family, as well as Steener's father's friend and his girlfriend, went to Schaefer's canal house for dinner. To understand the significance of this, anyone not around me and Steener growing up will need some background. Schaefer's, and the competing Chesapeake Inn across the canal, were central (geographically) to many of our adventures growing up. They were at the entrance to the levees where we crashed dirt bikes and ATVs, got trucks stuck, went on dates, wasted time, and generally hung out. The two restaurants were where fancy occasions, such as birthdays and graduations, were spent. The amphitheatre in the city hosted events, the docks were where I went and sat when I wanted to be alone and think, and the bridge over the canal remains an iconic image of home to anyone who has spent any time there. To be back at Schaefer's was both a comfortable and exciting experience for me.








We started off at the dockside bar, enjoying beverages in the shade of the canal bridge and watching the boats pass by. I tried my first National Bohemian beer, had a Manhattan with Steener's father, and was disgusted by Steener's oldest sister talking about an autopsy on a human brain. Just walking up and down the docks and taking it all in matched the excitement of the day's earlier flight. It was a highlight of the time spent at home. Once we moved inside for dinner, I naturally ordered the Maryland crab cakes, as I've really only had one crab cake worth eating since I left the Atlantic coast. While Steener passed on the crab cakes, instead indulging in an entrée of blue crab stuffed flounder, it would be neither of our last opportunity to enjoy some blue crab on the trip. Memories of that dinner are comprised only of delicious tastes and smells and pleasant chatter among friends and family. We all ate till we were full, and by the time we arrived home we were all exhausted from a long day. We went to bed, and prepared for another day in the saddle.






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Old 09-03-2013, 02:38 PM   #17
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Day 10: Lots of bikes!

Sunday the 5th was our "Ride Cecil County and the surrounding areas" day. For this ride, Steener and I joined forces with Davie and his Honda, and Steener's father and his friend on their Harleys. The plan was for only one passenger on the ride, Steener's mother, but after a bit of a fit and a helmet shortage from Steener's oldest sister we found ourselves at Wal-Mart looking for an emergency short term helmet for her. I must say, it was nice to be back in the Cecil County Wal-Mart though. If it doesn't feel like home I don't know what does. But on par with our luck, the Cecil Wal-Mart was the first I've ever been to that sells dirt bike helmets but not street helmets. After another small fit where Steener's sister begged to be taken to lunch with us, Steener's mother gave way and his sister borrowed her helmet.


Our first stop of the Sunday ride was Susquehannock State Park in Pennsylvania. In the midst of Amish Country, the park features a path out to an overlook with unbeatable panoramic views of the Susquehanna River, one of Steener and I's favorite places to fish and boat. From the park, we took a scenic drive to an early lunch. Lunch was at the deserving to be world famous Delta Pizzeria and Ristorante (Delta Pizza for short) in Delta, PA. Now Delta is a 0.3 sq mi town that you've probably never heard of or seen on a map. Steener and I had never heard of it until we decided to explore some geological features in the area. On one of our first excursions, we quickly discovered that we needed a flashlight and headed "downtown" to the general store to pick one up. While in town, we saw Delta Pizza, and being hungry upon concluding our adventure, decided to stop in for a bite. Little did we know we were about to have the best Italian style pizza we had ever had in our lives. If the pizza and cannolis and fried mushrooms weren't enough to impress us, the beer selection was the final blow. This place was awesome. So every time we're home, we make sure to stop by, and try to introduce everyone we can to its awesomeness. After finishing a couple large pizzas, we hit the road again. If the readers only take one piece of this ride report to heart, if you’re close enough to Delta or passing by the area, you owe it to yourself to stop by and support these guys and have some of the best pizza you've ever had. From here we went on a leisurely ride nowhere in particular, riding through Port Deposit and Rising Sun before stopping back by Steener's house and dropping off the tired, old members of our group and continuing our adventure.














After a short break at Steener's place, we each added one of his sisters as a pillion and took off for the Eastern shores of the bay. Our first stop was Steener's late grandfather's place in Earleville. His grandfather's house had been about a hundred feet from the cliffs overlooking the bay, and in high school we had launched our 12' dingy paired with 4 hp motor from the point's boat launch innumerable times. The views this time were no less spectacular. The trees and grass were all vibrant green, a peaceful feeling rested over the quaint homes, and the sun was just getting low in the sky over one of the wonders of our great country. Steener, his two sisters, and myself made our way down to the beach. We started a campfire, drank sweet tea, scavenged for treasures, and reminisced on the good ol' days. We stayed till almost dark. While Steener and I had camped on the banks of the bay many times before, we had other plans for the rest of our eve.














We arrived back at the levees (which I expounded on earlier in the ride report) just in time for sunset. While not really anything to brag about, this was the first time I'd had the Tiger two up on dirt roads, and it was fun, although I lagged behind the GS on its Heidenaus considerably. We had a photo op in front of the canal bridge, and then continued further down the roads, till we found a nice secluded spot to watch the sun set. There couldn't have been a better end to a wonderful day of riding. If you're ever around the C&D canal, the levee roads are free and unlocked, worth checking out. But if you cross into Delaware, stay on the levee roads... I learned that one the hard way. After the sun had done its thing, we headed home and enjoyed a Yuengling before getting some shuteye.


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Old 09-04-2013, 05:02 PM   #18
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trip of a lifetime. memories in every picture! When we doing a 21 day New England moto tour?
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Old 09-04-2013, 06:46 PM   #19
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As soon I finish posting this one! Another day coming up momentarily!
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Old 09-04-2013, 07:07 PM   #20
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Day 11: No bikes but lots of trees!

Monday the 6th, although involving very little actual riding, was one of the most significant days of the trip to me, and will be one of the hardest ones to capture in writing. Just a warning: If you don't like hiking, bonfires, creeks, history, family, and friends, you may want to skip on ahead to Tuesday, where bikes are involved and photographed again.


The day started off with Steener and I's return to a place where in high school, I wouldn't go more than three days at a time without visiting. I hadn't seen it in three years. We were returning to the woods behind my old house. MY woods. We used to ride there, hike there, hunt there (for small game), have bonfires there, tube the creeks there after it would rain, sleep out there, make explosive model rockets back there, and then a few other things I'll neglect to mention for legal reasons. We had made most of the trails that navigated the woods, from the early Suzuki DS 100 and a machete, to ATV's and KTM dirt bikes. We had several fire pits, creek crossings, carvings in trees, both to mark significant points and for our own amusement. We put stakes 80 feet up a tree and used it as a rappelling tree using surplus army supplies. (We actually had three rappel trees, with the 80 foot tree growing out of a hill eclipsing the other two in terms of awesomeness and rappel length.) We set out to relive all the best parts of my woods in an afternoon. From the rappel tree to McKenzie's corner, to the railroad tie, cold clear creeks, and civil war era bridges, we wanted to see it all.






Rather than enter via our hand blazed trail using the DS 100 and machete, we decided to take the shortcut through the drainage right of way that the neighbors always maintained was no longer a right of way and that they owned, even though it still appeared as a ROW on the appraisal district maps. But there didn't seem to be anyone around, and we were anxious to get into the action, so we slipped in real quick. Entering via this route, the first attraction was the rappel tree. It was a 100' tall American beech, and had always been a favorite for the neighborhood kids to carve, climb, and blast with shotguns. Our upper branches had never been disturbed though, and we expected to find it as we left it. Much to our surprise, the rappel branch had fallen clean off the tree, all the way down at the pith intersection with the bole. However the tree still stood as a grand center point welcoming you to MY woods, with a panoramic view of the sparkling waters overtopped by beeches, oaks, and tulip poplars that make up MY woods.






Next we made a pass by one of our primary fire rings. While most of the rocks making up the ring were still there, it was evident it hadn't been used in awhile. Still, it was nice to see hoodlums hadn't demolished it, and we made plans for a fire later in the afternoon. From there we hiked briefly West, to where the stream met up with the Little North East Creek (look it up, you can find it on google maps and follow it to the bay). Right before the stream intersects the creek, we photographed the first and smallest of the civil war era bridges. It was in even worse shape than last time I'd seen it, and barely the foundations remained. Still, encountering what used to be a bridge in what would now be considered the middle of the woods is a cool feeling, especially when considering how old it is and what all its seen. Satisfied that it was still there, we hiked West again, back up the stream until we'd reached McKenzie's corner. Now McKenzie's corner wasn't named for anything in particular, and you won't find it on a map. We just needed a cool, pretty name for a cool, pretty spot in MY woods. Although mostly rotten, the log crossing was still suspended over the creek. And the best mud-bogging pit in the woods still appeared to be nearby, if unused anymore.










From McKenzie's corner, we made the loop around the rest of the woods ending back up at the fire ring and meeting our buddy Davie. Now my woods have always had an abundance of downed woody debris, and collecting enough to make an impressive fire took only a few minutes. Steener and Davie manned the fire while I searched for the perfect size and shape rocks to repair the gaps in our fire ring. Soon the fire had cleaned out not only the litter in our fire ring, but thanks to a "controlled burn" we were able to clear out the immediate area around our ring as well. We sat, chatted, and enjoyed the fire until Davie had to depart.








On our own again, Steener and I navigated what was left our first trail, blazed with nothing but a DS 100, a machete, and hundreds of hikes and rides. This trail parallels the Little North East Creek around the edge of the woods and all the way to my old backyard. We passed the remains of the larger of the two old stone bridges, this one wide enough to have accommodated modern vehicles if still standing. Past the bridge remains, at the origin of the trail, is where the old beaver dam and original rappel tree reside. There was still a nice log crossing over the creek, and our rappel tree stood as proud and grand as ever, providing an excellent platform for rappelling face-first into the creek. We followed the Little North East Creek back South, to where the creek widens out into crystal clear water with rocky bottoms. In these wider, more consistent areas of the creek there are abundant crawfish in the summer and, when frozen over in the winter, a natural ATV highway for easy navigation around the woods.








At this point Steener and I split ways. I had a neighbor a few houses down from my old house who I consider like a grandmother, and who I have remained close with through college and right up till the present. She was celebrating her birthday that night, and I accompanied her to dinner with her niece and several friends. We went to a modern restaurant in Delaware and ate our fill, before enjoying cake for her birthday.


From the birthday dinner I rode through the Cecil County darkness to meet Steener and another of our friends from high school and have a brew before heading home for the night. I hadn't seen this friend in years, and we agreed we needed to hang out again the next day to catch up more.
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Old 09-09-2013, 05:31 PM   #21
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Day 12: Guzzis, Beamers, and Ducs, oh my!

Tuesday the 7th ended up being one of the most interesting, action packed days of the trip, and although involving very little actual riding, was full of traveling and motorcycles. For breakfast, we met our friend from the night before at a local sandwich joint and hangout, Bigfoot's subs. I rode my trusty Tiger while Steener decided to take his dad's Harley. We stuffed our faces till we were nearly sick and enjoyed canned Arizona sweet tea, and I couldn't help but feel seventeen again. We hung around and caught up with our buddy till we absolutely had to depart for our next activity.






Our agenda for the rest of the day was: Moto Guzzi/Ducati Dealership, Bob's BMW, College Park to pick up Steener's youngest sister, Annapolis for sightseeing, shopping, & dining, back to CP to drop off the youngest sister and back home. Our plans were slightly complicated, however, by the fact that it was supposed to pour on and off throughout the day, and we would be toting two of Steener's sisters around with us. We decided we would just take Steener's youngest sisters car, and forgo the several hundred miles of soggy two up riding. Now the car we would be taking was a 200k mile Pontiac Sunfire GT, in slight need of repair. The trip started with Steener, his middle sister, and me stopping at Wal-Mart for coolant to fill the leaking coolant system. Even once filled, the low coolant light remained on, as if to remind us that all was not well. The continuously flashing TCS light was another constant unsettling reminder that there were ghosts in this machine.


We were not even to the Guzzi Dealership when the downpour started. Luckily it was on and off and still allowed us to enjoy our day, but it did pose a few problems later on. The Duc/Guzzi dealership reminded me more on an art gallery than a motorcycle dealership. If you can find a prettier assortment of machines than at a Ducati/Moto Guzzi dealership, I'll give you a dollar. While already aware of Ducati's technical prowess, I had never even had a chance to sit on a Guzzi or explore their model range up close. I was honestly very impressed with the attention to detail, low center of gravity, and general bang for your buck of these machines. While they didn't have a Stelvio NTX, I was still impressed by the sales team and had a really positive experience at the dealership. (As a side note, I had been to one Guzzi dealership before, in San Antonio, TX, and it was the only time in my life I have felt awkward at a dealership. Although I was the only potential customer in the place, the two staff members on the floor never even talked to me, but rather stared me down the whole time as if expecting me to start knocking bikes over and run. After walking around the floor a few times and several glares from the unspeaking sales reps, I gave up and left without getting a chance to really check out the bikes.)












From there we went to Bob's BMW dealership and museum. If you have never been, wow. Their display of vintage BMWs was nicer than some collections you'd have to pay to see, and the ones on the floor are only a small percentage of Bob’s impressive collection. They had a great selection of new bikes, super knowledgeable sales team, and even a 1200ST as a loaner bike, which I fell in love with. If you're ever in the area, stop by, check 'em out, and immerse yourself in everything BMW.










After getting our bike fix, we headed on to CP, made the sister pickup, and made it back to Annapolis without further delay. Although I knew how beautiful and amazing Annapolis was, I forgot how beautiful and amazing Annapolis was. There are few to no other cities I have ever been to with so much history, personality, so many historic buildings, captivating architecture, enticing alleys, and pleasant parks. While I would love to tell you about every one we saw, I'm going to try to restrain myself to a few highlights.








We started our tour of the city by going in every little shop we saw and infusing the Annapolis economy with some gulf coast money. While almost every shop had something interesting, one shop stood out above all the rest. To me, cars and bikes have always been about the extent of art in my life. But there was one art gallery that I easily could have dropped enough to purchase a new bike into, even though I don't have enough room in my apartment to hang all the paintings I liked. Well, looks like I have some culture in me after all.








From there we hit the docks directly adjacent to the Naval Academy, which are two of the things this city is known for. From there it was easy to see why Annapolis is the sailing capital of the US. We were surrounded by antique sailing ships, the Naval Academy sailing team practicing, and slips full of boats everywhere we could see. It was truly the only city I can recall where you can literally boat into downtown.










The Maryland State house provided a great photo op and the next attraction. Although essentially no one knows this, the building once temporarily served as the capital of the United States. There was also a cannon on display which was brought to this country in the 1600's with some of the first settlers, so naturally, I posed.






On our way to dinner, we passed more picture-worthy buildings and statues. Finally we arrived at Chick & Ruth's, featured on Man vs. Food for its giant milkshakes, and also famous for its crab cakes and crab breakfast dishes. The atmosphere was cool and had a slightly retro, definitely local, well representative of the ANP feel to it. We all started off with milkshakes, although not the giant food challenge shakes. While good, the milkshakes by themselves would not be worth visiting the establishment. Steener's youngest sister was quick and frequent to point this out, and it seemed to taint the rest of the meal for her. When it came time to order food, I went with the crab cake Eggs Benedict, while other ordered courses included crab cake omelets and crab cake wraps. I will say this, all the food was good, and the uniqueness of having crab in all of your favorite dishes WAS worth stopping by when you're in town. However, uniqueness aside, considering strictly the quality of the food, it was just good, and not one of the top meals we had during the trip. I feel like the meal met expectations for an icon such as Chick & Ruth's; good food with a side of a super cool experience.














After our meal it was starting to get dark and drizzly again, and we figured it was time to get the youngest Steener back to College Park. This is where things got even more interesting for the day. Upon cranking the engine in the mechanically not so superior American econobox, (the Sunfire,) the AC vents began blowing the smell of leaking gasoline into the cabin. Additionally, a former transmission hesitation turned into a full on lurch which bordered on causing the poor little I4 to stall. Turning the AC off reduced the gasoline smell, but did not eradicate it. And the heat made it quite uncomfortable to ride with no AC and the windows up, and the rain made putting them down an impossibility. By the time we reached CP we were sweaty from the heat and nauseous from the gas smell. We were also losing gas at an appreciable rate. We almost ran out of gas on the way back and just barely rolled into a gas station with the fuel gauge needle just a hair below empty. I'm pretty sure my '97 F-150 gets better gas mileage than the little GT did on the way home, and we pulled in with a Christmas tree of low fuel, low coolant, and TCS lights on the dash. We walked inside, hot, tired, and frustrated after an otherwise unbeatable day, and got some sleep for the return trip to the gulf coast, beginning tomorrow.
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Old 09-12-2013, 06:16 PM   #22
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Day 13: On the road again, to Pittsburgh!

Wednesday the 8th was a bittersweet day. We were beginning our trip back after what had so far been the best trip ever, but to further confuse our mood, we were still excited to see several of the highlights of the trip, but depressed by the overcast drizzly skies. For the first time in a week, we strapped hundreds of pounds of gear back onto our machines, and said goodbye to Steener's middle sister and his dog, the only ones who were home at the time. It was such a defining moment of the trip; I can still feel the mix of wonder, contentedness, and sadness that formed the elements of the moment. Our route for the day would take us through Western MD, into Western PA, to Uniontown, PA, and eventually on to Pittsburgh then back to Uniontown.




The rain held off until we reached the Sideling Hill Gap and rest stop, which we of course stopped at. For those of you unfamiliar with the pass, it is a massive pass cut through the mountain in the Alleghany mountain range. We dismounted, made a quick pit stop, and then walked to the overlooks in an attempt to take some pictures. But consistent with our luck, after a picture or two the rains came. We decided to get back on the road and make it to Uniontown. Also worth noting though, was the apparent on duty cop playing kissy kissy smoochy smoochy with a woman in the back of the rest stop parking lot. Sitting on a bench, in his uniform, in front of his patrol car, a woman sat in his lap, swapping saliva for an alarmingly long period of time. We wanted to get close enough to see what department he was with, but he was parked so far at the back of the lot, there was no way we could inconspicuously get close enough to his car to identify his department and call him in. I know more respectable, noble officers than I can list, it's a shame power tripping pricks like him can give our peace officers a bad image.






A little while later we made it into Uniontown, to Steener's oldest sister's domicile. The only notable part of this stretch of the ride was really steep windy stretch of US Route 40 just a few miles before the town. While amazingly fun on two wheels in the relatively warm dry weather, I would not want to attempt a crossing in icy winter conditions. It was still a relief to arrive at the downtown condo and strip off our wet gear. It didn't take me long to assess that Uniontown was a cool if not economically thriving city. I also determined that only a fool would rather have my Lufkin, TX apartment than Steener's sister's East coast duplex with twice the square footage for the same price a month. I couldn't help but picture myself living there and began to feel dismay over my near imminent return to the East TX piney woods. It's not that there's anything wrong with East TX or anywhere else in this country, but once you've seen the best you will always long for it again. Steener and I found our way into his sister's fridge and fed ourselves and had a few brews and some sweet tea to relax until she got home from work.




Soon his sister was home, and driving us into Pittsburgh, PA for the first time. Now neither of us had been to Pittsburgh before, and for me it was one of the biggest surprises and one of the other most amazing highlights of the trip. Now it's not that I had low expectations of Pittsburgh; besides for being the home of the Steelers, I literally knew NOTHING about it. Now if you've never been there, I recommend looking at a map, preferably a topo map, so what I'm about to try and explain will make a little more sense. Pittsburgh is in the heart of the Alleghany Mountains, nestled among the slopes, where two smaller rivers meet to form the Ohio River. Pittsburgh is divided into thirds by the rivers, with the most downtown section wedged between the channels of the Alleghany and Monongahela Rivers. Unlike Houston, San Diego, Miami, and almost every other city I've seen across this country, you don't see Pittsburgh from a distance. You're driving through the mountains, and then you're in a densely populated city just like that.




The suddenness with which one comes into Pittsburgh and its mountainous surroundings are not its only attributes that left me in awe. Suburban life around the city could mean living in a house halfway up the slope of a low mountain peak with a view of one of the rivers. Bridges of every design and color crisscross the rivers, and the whole area has an air of relative prosperity, cleanliness, quality of life and happiness. Downtown showcased a mixture of historic (historic appearing, at least) buildings and modern architecture, with interesting shops and restaurants abound. I felt safe wandering the city, and no matter where you went you were never far from the water.


Our particular destination in this amazing city was the Primanti Bro's in Market Square, another Man vs. Food restaurant, and a wonderful setting to have a meal. The food, on the other hand, was the least impressive part of my Pittsburgh excursion. While Steener and his sister said their food was OK, I thought it was sub-par. It was the only time I didn't finish my food during the meal on our whole trip. (I took it home and ate it for breakfast at least.) From there we drove around and saw a few other local landmarks before reaching our final stop of the outing, Blue Slide Park.


We arrived at the park just at dark, but were impressed enough with the park overall. (Compare it to Memorial Park in Houston for instance; not all parks are created equal.) Always the crazy one, I immediately saw an opportunity in the semi-steep hill immediately east of the ball field. I ran at the slope and threw myself down into a high speed roll to see how far down the hill I'd go. Surprisingly, I just picked up speed on my way down. By the time I was near the bottom, the recently masticated Primanti Bro's was bouncing around my gut and threatening to come back up. Never deterred, I ascended the slope, and following my comrades in adventure, made a second trip down the hill. And then a third. And I think even a fourth. Basically, I continued until my stomach could literally take no more and I was blue in the face and couldn't stand. So we wandered slightly West to the similarly colored blue slide and went down forwards, backwards, and upside down until adequate pictures were taken and friction burns acquired. Blue Slide Park gained a level of national recognition when native Pittsburgh musician Mac Miller named an album and its title track after the park. Another track was named after the local Frick Park Market, which we also visited, although we arrived after business hours. Finally, we went home and slept, and prepared to head South the following morning.








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Old 09-16-2013, 06:25 PM   #23
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Day 14: Wild, Wonderful West Virginia

We woke up on Thursday the 9th knowing we had only 3 days left of our adventure. But we also knew the adventure wasn't over yet. Today, we would adventure West Virginia, our favorite state in the union. Our route would take us through Morgantown on our way to the New River Gorge, where we would explore and camp for the night.


On our way into Morgantown, one of the first places we passed was Morgantown Powersports, which we just had to stop at. Although Morgantown is sadly not considered a world economic power and cultural center, their powersports dealership was more impressive than many I've seen in larger cities. They had a dirt bike for every occasion, and every day of the week for that occasion, plus an impressive array of four wheelers, asphalt oriented bikes, and most importantly, an Adventure 950, a S10, V-Stroms, a NC700x, & even a Versys if that's your thing. Their selection of accessories also impressed. Steener even ended up buying a tank bag there, realizing the necessity of it on this trip. If you're in the area and need to pick something up, I can definitely recommend them.




Realizing that we had our own motorcycles to look at, we saddled back up and hit downtown Morgantown. We had no destination in particular, we just wanted to wander the steep streets of the town and enjoy an hour in this unique college town. Although both fond of our alma matters, (I went to Texas A&M and Steener is a USAFA graduate,) we both daydreamed of how awesome going to college at the University of West Virginia would have been. It was the four year adventure that never happened for us. We were also forced to reaffirm that it was one of the most beautiful college towns we had ever been in, on par with the Naval Academy in Annapolis. On the way out of town, we stopped by Mountaineer Stadium. We wanted to get a few good pictures of our machines against the iconic backdrop, but encountered an issue; to get the picture we needed, we would have needed to be on a walking path. We REALLY wanted the picture, but didn't want to do anything that would risk getting ourselves into trouble or causing the non motorcycle types around to develop biases towards us motorcycle types, reaffirming stereotypes of the inconsiderate motorcyclists who respect no one and follow no rule. But being early May, there was no one around, and we may not have this opportunity again for, well, ever. So we rode up on the path, pulled out our cameras, and started snapping pictures of each other with the bikes. Just then, a bicyclist came along the path, veered in our direction and stopped right by us. At this point I was expecting a well deserved. "Can't you read the signs? You don't belong on this path!" To my surprise, the gentleman asked if we'd like a picture with the two of us by our bikes before asking where we were coming from and where we were going. Everyone wants to be your friend when you're on a loaded down motorcycle.




We departed Morgantown already satisfied with the day, but knowing it was far from over. Riding the highways between the home of the Mountaineers and the New River Gorge Bridge, we developed a strange sentiment we would have thought impossible a week earlier: perhaps we had wasted time spending so long on the BRP and Skyline Drive. The scenery, the sweeping corners, and the remoteness were all as magnificent as on the two National Park roads, but with higher speed limits, and no entry fee like on Skyline Drive. We realized we could have spent a week happily riding the roads in that area alone and it would be a good candidate for a future ride.


As impressed as we were with the highways, the actual gorge proved to be mind-blowingly extravagant. The views, the hiking, the mining town ruins, the river, the roads... It was potentially the grandest sight I have seen on the East Coast. We hiked the trail down to the bridge viewing platform, and then decided to try to make it to camp before we lost daylight.










The Glade Creek Campground would be the site of our lodging for the night, which was just one campground in a series of free campgrounds run by the NPS. The road to the campground was a dirt road running along the river several miles from the main road. As long as you could avoid the potholes, the road was actually very well maintained and easily passable by any vehicle imaginable, yet still provided million dollar views. The river was usually visible to the left, with dispersed waterfalls running down the slope to our right. Black and purple butterflies were clustered around pools of water. The whole scene was like something out of a mythical paradise.








When we got to the campsite, we immediately unpacked what was necessary and threw up a fortification that Bear Grylls would have approved of. After our experience in Blowing Rock, we were going to take no chances. Now, I must make a few observations on this campground and its rules. While in probably the coolest location on the East Coast, the rules were such a drag... While there were no fees, no reservations necessary, and you could camp in any open spot, you could only stay in one spot for fourteen days, then you had to move... And while you could collect down firewood, you couldn't cut standing trees for wood... Oh, open containers, even glass bottles, were allowed, but public intoxication was prohibited... All sarcasm aside, if you have access to facilities like these, don't take them for granted. It sure beats making reservation a year ahead of time to go sit around a hot crowded lake where you can't even drink a beer, for $20 a day...




Camp fully set up, we decided to explore our surroundings a little bit. We hiked up the slope opposite the river, but found it too wet and slippery to make any real progress. We checked out the bathrooms, which had no running water, but featured eight individual stalls. Not bad for free facilities. Finally we headed down to the river. This ended up being another treat, as the river appeared to be about three feet higher than normal, and the current was rushing along with the power of about a thousand trains. Even the sound just reverberated through the ground and radiated the feeling of pure power right through you.


Even after walking around, we still had daylight, so we decided to pile up on the GS and let it shred. We rode several miles back up Glade Creek Road, and took a side road that was supposed to follow the river even more closely. Of course, this road was flooded, but it made for a good picture. On the way back we decided to stop by a well graffiti adorned, abandoned house. Although full of non functional furniture, the house actually showed signs of part time habitation. While I would have preferred to stay in the campsites than this dilapidated, on the verge of collapsing structure, it was easy to see how it would have been a desirable location at one point in time: it was just a few feet away from a fresh, cold, flowing creek.








We rode back up to the point where Glade Creek Road met the main road, and found a perfect example of the deprived economic conditions of the area and their effects on the public services. The bridge crossing the New River had prominent signs dictating the weight limit of the bridge at 3 tons. For comparison, a Ford Excursion weighs closer to four tons than three tons. Even without the warning signs, the highly uneven road surface of the bridge was enough to cause a typical traveler unrest.








We returned to the campsite with the setting of the sun, and stacked our damp firewood into the fire pit and started a fire with a single match, the way only adventurers can. After making a fire large enough to dry our damp bodies out, we cooked a two course feast of spam and corn, which has become somewhat of a tradition for Steener and me. We ate our fill, put away our dirty dishes, and went to bed for our second to last night of the adventure.




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Old 09-24-2013, 07:46 PM   #24
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Day 15: An adventure wanes

May 10th was a Friday. Although that meant we were on the final leg of our trip, it couldn't have begun in a better place. Crawling out of the tent, the cool damp air was refreshing and smelled (accurately) like the mountains in springtime. As desperate as I was for coffee, our time was as precious as Scrooge's time with the Ghost of Christmas's yet to come, so I skipped my coffee and we got moving. Our first stop was Glade Creek itself, which anywhere between the Mississippi and the Rockies would have been fittingly named Glade River. The single track trail hugged the curves of the creek/river, shaded by dense horse chestnut trees, and crossed by abundant, tumbling waterfalls with crisp, cold water. There were ruins of old mining towns, and these strange burnt orange geckos/newts/salamanders with bright red spots along their backs. We walked, photographed, and wondered at the surreal scene we were traversing. Between the deer, fresh water, and ready natural shelter we observed, we couldn't help but note if you wanted to disappear, any decent mountain man could subsist off the land for near the rest of his life without being seen once.








Satisfied with our morning hike, we packed our trusty steeds and got on the road. We had another potential attraction, a riverside road called McKendree Road right across the New River from Glade Creek Road. As it turned out, McKendree Road was adventure bike terrain, or at least terrain for a more experienced rider on a Tiger 1050 that wasn't loaded down with over a hundred pounds of gear. Steener went a little ways up before turning back, and then vowing to one day return and shred the road on a dual sport. While I was busy not being man enough (hey, a man's got to know his limitations) to attempt McKendree, I did find a sweet old railroad tunnel just a little ways further up the road.




Needing to get back on the road, and being quite hungry at this point, we decided to hit the nearest Sheetz (the Wawa wannabe) on our way to Tennessee. We had some breakfast sandwiches and soft drinks for a caffeine fix, and then decided to support the West Virginia economy a little more than we already had. Each having one, $1 bill in our wallets, we decided to each purchase a WV lottery scratch off. Steener lost. Surprisingly, I won a dollar! So after cashing in my ticket, I went and bought another, which I won another dollar on. After cashing in the second, buying a third ticket, and winning a third dollar, I made a decision to play one more time. If I lost, oh well. If I won, clearly my money wasn't good enough for WV. Well, I lost.




After breakfast we got on our way to Kingsport, TN, where a friend of the family has a house on a ridge overlooking the city. To be honest, although still quite beautiful, this stretch of ride was one of the least exciting of the trip. Gas stops and fast food were the only things that broke up the "monotony" of the Appalachian peaks of West Virginia and Tennessee. However the excitement picked back up as soon as we arrived at the family friend's house. We had to choose between showering, and freshly baked beer bread paired with beer and cheese on the third story balcony/porch overlooking the city. Oh, and there was a fire pit burning on the balcony to keep away the damp evening chill. We decided to shower and dig in. We fairly devoured the bread, and because of our enthusiasm, our host decided to teach me to make beer bread myself. It ended up turning out alright, and provided our lunch for the next day. For dinner, we were served steak and baked potatoes, with more beer. Desert was served on the porch besides the fire. If watching the stars rise over Kingsport, sleepy but still dazzling in its resting place between the endless ridges of the Appalachians, wasn't the most peaceful, fulfilling, and rewarding experience on this side of eternity, then I don't believe peace and satisfaction can be found on earth. This would be the last night that I considered part of our adventure. And despite the terrible feeling of knowing that our dream was waning, I can't think of a better way for it to have culminated.






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Old 09-26-2013, 04:15 PM   #25
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Day 16 & 17: I have come by the highway home, and lo, it is ended.

We slept well Friday night. But that didn't make Saturday morning, the 11th, any easier. We were facing the view of a lifetime, and had to leave it to return to Columbus, MS, and Lufkin, TX, respectively. We said a very gracious thank you to our host, but there was a definite sense of melancholy in our departure. If you live somewhere beautiful, don't ever take it for granted, even for a day. As we descended out of the mountains, we encountered nothing but traffic, accidents, and drizzle. We didn't even take any pictures until we reached Columbus. The most "exciting" part of the day was the sudden, intense rain that hit us shortly after Birmingham. We tried to make it to the bridge a half mile ahead to don our rain gear, but by that time, we were soaked, the rain managed to short out my fog lights, and we had a damp, sticky, depressing conclusion of our adventure together...




But the day wasn't over yet. Even though it was no longer a motorcycle adventure, never underestimate the fun two best friends can have whenever they're together. We took a picture in front of the gates of Columbus AFB, to commemorate our two bikes traveling thousands of miles and returning in one piece. The ground was damp enough my kickstand wouldn't hold the bikes, so I was forced to contaminate the picture with my presence, but the fact stands: we made it.


For dinner, we went to KFC and ordered an eight piece family meal, and answered the Colonel's urgent call. By the time we left, we were stuffed to the point of being sick and having devoured every bit of food on the tray, we picked up a six pack of craft beer and headed back to his place. We drank beer, smoked a victory cigar, gloried over our triumphant machines, and talked with Steener's neighbors and played with their dog. Since that time I have become friends with Steener's neighbors, although none of them any longer live in Columbus and I may never see the base again. It was a good night. A sense of conquest permeated the night, and despite a deep, suppressed feeling of sadness, I have never had such a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment.

Sunday, the 12th of May, 2013. With about 4000 miles behind me, I mounted my Tiger. Shorted out lights, dirty, weighed down even more than when I left, and with a few more scratches, I said goodbye to Steener and rode off the base. At a Columbus gas station, a gentleman putting gas in his truck approached me, told me he used to have a Triumph, and asked me where I was going with everything I owned loaded on my bike. If only he knew...

I took no pictures until I got home. Despite being tired, hungry, and dirty, I began unloading all of my possessions that had accompanied my on my adventure. After I had all of my souvenirs out, I took my last picture of the trip. Finally, despite my delirium and exhaustion, I looked with excitement through our 800 pictures, opened Microsoft word, and began typing a few sentences. Three months later...
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Old 09-26-2013, 04:19 PM   #26
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In memory of...

This ride is dedicated to the memory of two very special Teutonic machines:

Aimee; 2002-2013




Athena; 2006-2012




They are both missed.
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