The bike had a new saddle (replacing the 15 year old OEM that was dead flat), fresh oil, and a newly waxed chain when I rolled out of the garage mid-day Thursday. I'd meant to set out early in the morning, but the chance to sleep in was something I couldn't pass up. Even if it meant taking roads that were less... fun. As such, I rocketed up the Palisade Interstate Parkway, dancing through moderate traffic and soaking up the beautiful day. I crossed the Hudson River at the Bear Mountain Bridge, stopping to pull out my EZ Pass (I think all tolls on the river are eastward only, file that away for future reference) for the first time in... I don't even remember. Last time I'd crossed the river eastward on my bike was at Kingston-Rhinebeck last August (headed to Terrapin Gardens in VT!), where there's no toll (and an AMAZING view; it's so high up).
Took 9-D to the Taconic Parkway, where I made up even more time. And I'm so glad I did. My route took me along US-44 on the way to NY-22 (which goes up the spine of the state, some lovely scenery as you sweep back and forth through the foothills between the Adirondacks and the Berkshires). I've never taken this road before, but I'm sure I will again. I was rolling down this forest-canopied road when suddenly everything opens up and I'm looking out over a sleepy agrarian valley. The view is soooo beautiful, but oh shit, there's a hairpin! But! The view! The road! The view! Such a cruel choice to pose; present me with a breathtaking, astonishing view but also a sharp 180-degree curve that demands my attention even more. Rassum frassum...
Minutes later, I rolled into downtown Amenia, NY. Saw a charming antique store with a sign reading: "OH BOTHER. WE ARE CLOSED." I'd already rolled past it before I could decide whether to stop for a picture. Oh bother, indeed. Well, with any luck, I'd be back on Sunday. When I'd have to make the entire trip in a single day, instead of two. Yeah... uh, the math wasn't too solid on that. Eh, whatever. Que sera, sera.
Sticking to 22 meant I got to skip Connecticut. But staying with friends in Massachusetts meant I was eventually going to have to cross over into Massachusetts. And man, was the difference in the quality of roads immediately apparent. MA's idea of road maintenance consists of repaving their roads several times each winter with a coating of salt several inches thick. They're a morass of tar snakes, potholes, and frost heaves. I actually don't mind the frost heaves; as a dual-sport rider, I kinda like them. They're like whoops or moguls. But overall, I had to pay more attention to the road surface and less to the scenery. Nevertheless, I took a scenic trip up 202 (there are one or two really nice overlooks) before beating a direct line across the state. As it was, it was already getting late and I don't like riding after dark.
I made it to lionstar's place by sundown, met her boy, and had some delicious pizza. motomuffin stopped by, too. So great to see friends again after so long. We oohed and ahhhed over my old-timey book of Mathematical Calculations for Mechanics (and Kate learned calculus in about 10 min). And then we all crashed and needed sleep immediately.
Mmm... sleep. Vacation sleep, too. So nice.
Morning brought the scent of bacon to my nose, lifting me out of bed and carrying me downstairs by my nostrils like a hobo smelling pie on a windowsill in an old-timey cartoon. And holy crap, people! They were everywhere. Eating and talking and packing and planning. I was still half-asleep by the time we raised our kickstands and got moving. Which meant I was apparently riding drag/sweep. Sweet, all the better to play out the line a little and then zoom through the curves to catch up with the group at the next intersection. I got split off from the group a couple times when the leader took off before I pulled up, but caught up pretty readily (though the gang did stop for me at one particularly brutal pair of intersections; one car between us turned into four or five).
Now since Kate had set up her GPS on the KLR, which Scott R. was riding, and also used a different mapset to make the route than was loaded in the GPS, we got a little off track. Never really lost, but we did hit some unexpected dirt patches. The two sportier bikes in the group drifted to the back of the pack, waving the rest of us past on our comfortable dual-sports. And, well, that's part of the reason I got a dual-sport. I like that I can keep going, even (sometimes) when the road doesn't.
Oh, and it's probably worth mentioning that most of us didn't find out about the route hinkiness until we stopped for lunch; I, for one, had no idea anything was wrong (though I was kind of wondering why Kate plotted a dirt road into her route when she didn't seem to enjoy it one bit). Also, I picture this whole paragraph as an aside, read in the voice of Waylon Jennings, a la the Dukes of Hazzard. Yes, including the word "hinkiness."
And now the video in my head unfreezes and the General Lee lands on the far side of the ditch.
We stopped for gas about 100 mi. in, limited by the smallest gas tank in the group (not naming names). Spying an eatery across the street, the group decided to repair there for lunch. During a long wait for our menus, the folks at the table next to us quietly advised us to "keep it simple." We stuck with burgers (and one cobb salad, because someone always has to be different). Yeah, the service was slow, but the company and conversation were good (as was the weather, OH GOD THE WEATHER), and I was in no hurry.
Second half of the journey started out pretty uneventful. I'd resolved to follow Kate up the Kanc (Kancamagus Pass) until at least around the hairpin. I figured if I followed the same or a similar line through the curve at a similar speed, I'd be forced to 'corner good.' So I did, and I did, and suddenly, everything clicked. Specifically, delayed apexing, which allows you to (safely) take a corner at a higher speed than you would otherwise. And so once I'd cleared the slow-moving cars in front of us, I took off, banking through sweepers like a hot knife... banking... through butter. Shut up. You know what I mean.
Beforehand, in email at least (I missed any later verbal agreements), we'd agreed to regroup at the end of the Kanc/beginning of Bear Notch Road. Unfortunately, I didn't see the other members of the group waiting for us, so I missed the turn. I went all the way to the end of 112, pulled off to the side of the road, and heard a small clunk, like a couple of stones banging together under my wheel. I sat there and looked around, decided it didn't look familiar, and pulled out my (phone) GPS. I discovered my mistake and turned around to follow my GPS (still just my phone) back to BNR. And, that's odd, my speedometer says I'm moving at 0 mph (that's 0 km/hr for you foreigners). Oh, and my odometer's not working.
I pulled over at one of the many stops in the park, checked my speedo cable, texted Misty that I was still alive but diagnosing a mechanical problem, and then headed off again. Nope, no dice. Well, good thing I had the GPS to keep track of the miles to my next waypoint. I don't mind the speedometer, but I'm an odometer nerd. I'm always keeping track of stuff with it. So, boo. Sad me.
By the time I got to the inn and checked in and all that nonsense, everyone had already fucked off to the lodge without me. So once I was moderately unpacked and cleaned up, I followed them, only to find they'd already left for dinner; again, without me. So I walked the WHOLE 10 yards or so over to the restaurant, found a seat at a table with people I knew, and sat down. I looked a bit like this. Well, OK, exactly like that. But hey, moments later, I got a plate of piping hot nachos, loaded with steak and cheeses and assorted deliciousness. All food groups represented, y'all. Didn't take long for my strength to return. Good company, cheer, and conversation helped, too.
We didn't stay too long at the lodge that evening. I wasn't the only one who was tired, to be sure. So we carpooled back to the inn, and I asked the gang to give me a holler when it was time for breakfast the following morning. Which didn't happen, unless I slept through it. Mildly annoying, but hey, I'm a big boy; I can make my own plans. So I did. Went for a nice breakfast at Glen Junction (which has a couple of trains that run around the walls near the ceiling) followed by a run to Whitehorse Press/Gear for their open house. Despite having just plopped down serious cash for a new saddle, I took advantage of the deals and lack of sales tax to purchase some racks for hard luggage. Because, you see, on the ride up, the new (to me) bags I'd got from tomatoe333 expressly for this trip had slipped and been melted partway by my exhaust. I figured the luggage racks would keep the bags off of the exhaust for the trip home, which they did. I also bought a new speedometer cable; WH just happened to have one (1) remaining in stock for my bike. You didn't forget about the broken speedo, did you?
I rode back to the lodge, figuring there were enough folks there that someone would have whatever tools I needed. I had some help from milktree replacing the speedo cable, but to no avail. The gear in the front wheel hub that communicates with the cable wasn't spinning the cable. So I threw my hands up in the air (metaphorically) and switched to installing my luggage racks. And fortunately, I was essentially correct about the tools. I had to get mildly creative in some parts (big thanks to John Goldie for all his help, too). There's always something on top of something else that you can't undo/remove until you remove the thing underneath (and vice-versa for the reassembly), but like I said, we're clever monkeys. I managed to finish before dusk, even though I took a break for food.
There was some interesting conversation that evening, but unfortunately, I had to split early. On Sunday, I would have to make the entire trip home in a single day (as opposed to the two days I'd taken to arrive). Woke up PFE (pretty fuckin' early), had breakfast with a sweetheart of mine (who'd driven in from Maine; 2 hrs. away as opposed to her usual 7 or so), and hit the road. And man, what a trip. I hit the Kanc again, this time without a speedometer or anyone to follow. And, like I said, stuff had just clicked earlier in the trip. I was way smoother and faster through the curves, it was like a hot knife through silk. Smooth, gently caressing silk. I took various numbered highways through NH on a bee-line for lovely Vermont. I love lovely Vermont. I discovered VT-143, which is a short and twisty little road with a low speed limit. It's still plenty fun.
I stopped for "lunch" in Bennington (although it was around 3pm by then, and I was only about halfway!) at a place where I'm pretty sure Becca had gotten sick when we vacationed up there years back. I did not get sick. Headed to NY past all sorts of Bennington landmarks I remembered from a trip up there with my family years earlier. Once in NY, I made for NY-22, which is nicely scenic. I wanted to loop back to NY-44 (actually US-44 as it turns out) and get pictures of the stuff I'd missed taking pictures of earlier. I even got a little bit of video of the hairpin (not from the bike, sadly). It's not very good, and you can't hear me (the road noise was nowhere near that loud to me when I recorded it, sorry), but there ya go. You'll have to go and see it for yourself, of course. Pictures, justice, etc.
By the time I hit 9W this side of the Bear Mountain Bridge, the light was fading. But that was OK, I was positively on fire, handling curves I'd been through dozens of times in ways (and at speeds) I'd never done before. Tremendous fun, and nary a black&white to ruin the fun. I'd estimated my arrival at around 9pm; I made it back to my garage and immediately looked at my watch just in time to see 21:00:00. Roadcraft, baby.
So, anyhow, I called my mechanic and the KLR speedo parts should be in this coming weekend. So I'll likely spend my Saturday undergoing repairs. BUT! When I'm done, my bike will be in pretty damn good shape. Now I just need the money to put hard luggage on it before this year's Terrapinstock in VT...