Joined: Jan 2007
Location: Previously, Camel City Carolina, now Denver
I’d ridden over 500 miles the day before and today wanted to keep it under 300 and do some other stuff.
For example, fix my headlight. The Wing has a light on either side of the headlight so I still had light for people to see me, but I needed to get it fixed. What luck, fewer than 30 miles from Burlington, just as I left secondary roads for back roads, I met someone who directed me to a dealer so that I could buy a bulb.
The plastic stuff that makes a Goldwing a Goldwing is great at keeping off the elements in cold or wet weather. But it's also great at turning a 10 minute job into a two hour job. I pulled plastic and chrome off in the parking lot and replaced the bulb... without the desired effect. What the heck? Still no light. Damn.
I borrowed contact cleaner from the mechanic and soon got the light working. The picture doesn't really show the mirrors, chrome, and plastic strewn about the parking lot.
Electrical gremlins scare me and I was beginning to worry. Though I never planned on riding after dark in Moose country, I still didn't like the idea of having a busted light. Oh well, I put the bike back together and began riding North. I did all the mechanical work on my bike, but never learned anything about electrical systems. Call me “Sly,” or call me “dumbass;” either is appropriate given my bike is 21 years old and I don’t know my way around a schematic.
As I ambled along through farm country, I saw a road sign and knew I had to go. I hadn't planned on going to Canada at this point in the trip, but why not just go and see how long the line at the border crossing was and check it out.
The little 1 1/2 lane road with no lines on either the sides or the center rounded a turn and there was a border crossing. I was the only one there on both the way in and on the way out. It was pretty neat. I rode four miles to Frelighsburg, Quebec and then came back to Vermont. I thought about hitting a pub for a pint, but I don’t speak French and didn’t have Canadian currency. After spending the day riding thru the most rural areas up North in Vermont, I headed toward NH.
The Constable: Me and Johnny Law go way back. Seems that me on motorcycles has even worse luck with the 5-0 than with me in a cage. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those cop-haters. Far from it. But I do hate getting tickets and I get mad at myself. But not this time, I was mad at the cop. And still am. That money-hungry heartless SOB.
The setting: Early evening on a quiet afternoon in a cool little New England hamlet-of-a-town. Me on my old Wing, freezing my butt off. I’d gotten so cold I was starting to twitch. As usual, I slowed to 15-20 mph so as to come nowhere near the posted speed of 25. There wasn’t another car in sight on the streets of the town and I just looked around at all the cool historic buildings. As I approached the town limits before going back to the rural countryside, I pulled over to layer up. I was smiling just thinking how warm my fleece and gloves would be.
I got off the bike and turned around. What the hell? There was a Buick behind me that was lit up like a Christmas tree. Flashing lights everywhere. The green Vermont license plate said “Constable.” He walks up to me and I said “hi” and politely said that I take a lot of care never to speed in towns and that I was only going about 15 mph. He asks me about a stop sign. “A stop sign, I didn’t even see an intersection?” There isn’t an intersection he said, but there is a stop sign in the middle of town. I apologized for breaking the law. I told him I was cold, but still paying careful attention and certainly didn’t mean to roll through a stop sign. Then he walked away. He didn’t run my license, he didn’t call North Carolina, he didn’t do a damn thing but fill out a ticket. He came back and said: “you can go to the court house and pay it, or you can mail it to us as long as we receive the money order in fewer than 10 days. If you don’t pay it, we’ll track you down and put out a warrant for your arrest.”
I was stunned. Too stunned to argue. Totally in shock. I thought he’d run my license to make sure I wasn’t wanted and then let me off with a warning. I looked at the ticket: $250. WTF? $70, maybe $80, but $250? I was pissed off!
I’d just blown through 3,000 miles worth of gasoline by having to fork-over a quarter grand to the punk-ass LEO in BFE Vermont. OUCH! Time to get d-runk.
Time to get the hell out of Dodge… make that Richford. I liked this town, except for the jackass constable. The town was built on a river, but didn’t use the river for commerce, but only for natural beauty and boy is it a pretty little town.
Dusk approached, and I crossed the river into New Hampshire. Riding down state route 102, I noticed a little sign that said: " Racing on Saturday nights at 7:00" As a short-track fiend, I was excited. It was nearly 8:00 so I raced down the gravel road a couple of miles and pulled into the raceway. It was clearly race night. After checking with the cop standing in the parking field, I went to the back corner of the field and set up camp. I chugged a liter of water, grabbed a handful of trail-mix, and walked toward the track. I saw three hours of great racing before walking five minutes back to my tent for ten hours of fantastic sleep. What a Saturday! Just under 200 miles, but a beautiful day of riding.
Before going into the track, I talked to the cop for awhile. He was a super cool guy. He had a hard core New Hampshire accent and kept cracking me up. He laughed his ass off at my story about the Constable in VT. “How the hell do you think he affords that custom Buick?” he asked. Evidently, that guy sits there all the time and just writes tickets to tourists who don’t see the hidden stop sign. I also found out about a biker rally going on, so maybe he thought I was biker trash. I’m definitely a biker, but not one that causes trouble, and certainly not one who can afford a $250 extortion scam. Jackass.
Some folks at the race had told be about an unusual bike rally up the road about 20 miles. It had been going on since Thursday. I woke up with this view and then headed out on a beautiful Sunday morning. The "Our Lady of Grace" shrine is a French church which holds a biker rally as its premiere fundraising event. It’s held just after Laconia and draws quite the hard-core crowd. I saw a few “81” t-shirts. Nice guys. All of them.
Over 500 bikers came to have the minister bless their bikes. It's called the Great North Woods Ride in for the Blessing of the Motorcycles. I didn't stay for the blessing, but I did check out the vendors and stay for the pancake breakfast. I was talking with a woman whose husband served the pancakes. Their son's girlfriend had a job offer from some school in no-where NC. They didn't know the name of the school, but after playing the name game, we figured out it's the NC School of the Arts, located five minutes from my house. Certainly not in podunk NC! What a small world. They are going to look me up when they visit in the fall.
I met a guy on a 1500 Goldwing who had been on the road for a year. His name is Skip and he got divorced after 28 years and took his savings and set out to live on the road for three years. He’d lost a starter in Fairbanks, but other than that, the Wing had performed beautifully. His bike was packed to the gills and he gave me some packing tips. He asked me about The Dragon. “Yup, I rode if a few weeks ago.” He said he had three “must rides” on his list. The Dragon, The top of Mt. Mitchell on the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Top of Mt. Washington. I’d ridden 2 of 3 and Mt. Washington was close by, so he suggested a route and I decided to ride it later that afternoon. Great call Skip. It was stunning!
A group of French speaking women took this picture for me. You can see the shrine in the background. It's quite large. The surrounding grounds are beautiful. I wish I spoke French.
I left the rally at 10:00, three hours before the blessing. I had to make the coast of Maine before dark. There was plenty of time to take the long way.
The ride to Mt. Washington was every bit as nice as the rest of Northern New Hampshire.
It's eight miles to the summit at 6,288 feet. I didn't know that the last couple of miles were gravel. It was a stunning ride. When I saw this, I was glad to be riding a Goldwing. I might have to start my bike with a screwdriver, but I know that there is no chance of overheating.
The first mile or so was just an awful road with no view. As soon as the view opened up, the view was spectacular. With my camera dangling from my neck, I just kept clicking away. Riding one-handed on a gravel road along a 5,000 foot precipice drew some strange looks from car drivers. However, I've practiced a hundred times and saw no reason to let elevation affect change anything.
A distinction about Mt. Washington is the erratic weather. The wind is intense. The temperature dropped from 80 to 40.
After taking pictures and buying a refrigerator magnet, I decided to get back on the road. Before that, I had to descend. What a different experience than was the ascent. The bike's gearing keeps speed down, but a lot of braking made the ride pretty exhausting. Forearms, wrists, and abs are the only thing that acts as a brake for me. The brakes slow the bike, but slowing me is up to me.
It was quite steep for the entire eight miles. The stretches where I didn't have cars in front were really enjoyable.
I got behind a pack of bikes. Ride however slow you want, but don’t be a jerk and refuse to pull over. These morons were going so slow that it was hard for me to keep the big bike upright. Less than 20mph on gravel is really a pain in the neck for me. Finally, I lost my temper and flew by them on a stretch of straight gravel at 50+ mph while giving them the ADV salute. I know, that makes me the ass. Oh well.
At a brewery on the NH / ME border, I got a great lunch and a great tip to head further south than planned to go to Old Orchard Maine. It's a vacation town for people from Quebec.
When I set up camp in the downtown campground in Old Orchard Maine, I was exhausted. After a hot shower, I was ready to head downtown.
There, I met some guys from Quebec City who overheard that I was from NC. One was smoking Winston's, so I commented that I was from Winston-Salem. One of the other guys said he lived in NC for awhile and asked if I'd heard of Greensboro. He played hockey there. I asked when, and he answered 2002. I told him I'd seen the Generals play in Greensboro every Thursday night that season. His friends spoke broken English, but when they heard that I knew the name of the Greensboro Generals, they were stunned. They were all hockey teammates now playing for a team in Quebec. He played goalie in Greensboro and I actually have pictures of him playing during the 2002 season. While working in Dallas several years ago, I took a fantastic picture of Patrick Roy in action while he was tending goal during a Stars / Avalanche playoff game. Since then, I photograph goalies. (Because the indoor lighting is tricky and they’re the only ones that stand still long enough to be photographed.) They insisted that I party with them in Quebec on my way back from Alaska. That was truly amazing! Two "small-world" experiences in one day.
I walked back to a downtown campground. It's nice to be able to camp and walk to the downtown scene. Nice, but expensive ($30.) I like the free camping in Lake Ontario Apple Orchards. After many hours of drinking, and tagging along with the hockey players who had a following of hot French-speaking Canadian women in tow, I was happy to have forked over the $30. What a night!
I was behind this guy on my way into Old Orchard... I get it buddy, it's yours. Wo-hoo... a 911, la-de-da-de dah. Nothing agains Porche drivers, they're great cars but the licence plate is a bit pretentious. Good for a laugh though.
At least there was wi-fi and I could let pictures upload overnight. Tomorrow, I’d ride the coast of Maine and spend the night in Acadia.