A Hell of a Ride - A military retiree meets the country he defended.

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Setanta ADV, Nov 14, 2017.

  1. Bat7

    Bat7 Adventurer

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    While my USAF (Vietnamese voice intercept op) aircrew training included parachute training I have always felt fortunate that I never had to jump (not sure a jump from an RC-135M would have been survivable), so feel grateful that there are those who can do it. Agree with the notion that motorcycles can be great therapy. Will be following this ride report with great interest.
    Mick
    #81
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  2. Bat7

    Bat7 Adventurer

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    I was able to go on the MRP April ride this year and totally agree.
    Mick
    #82
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  3. Ginger Beard

    Ginger Beard I have no soul

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    " Soldiers are not what’s best in a nation; they defend what is best in that nation."


    Indeed! :thumb


    Subbed! :lurk
    #83
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  4. IB Mike

    IB Mike AKA Yukon Cornelius

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    Great read! Love epic adventures like this.

    I'll also add my recommendation for this! Amazing program that has life changing results! Been on a ride and volunteered on 2 more and the life changing results I've seen are incredible. Fill out an application and get out on a ride. Great excuse to ride your ride to Colorado and we'll put you on a GS and take care of it from there!
    #84
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  5. Setanta ADV

    Setanta ADV Adventurer

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    A Hell of a Ride – 6

    Day 5, 2 September 2017. I was up with the sun this morning. I needed to end up in New York this day, with a stop for an interview in New Jersey, so my time in Gettysburg was extremely limited. Since I was adjacent to the battlefield cemetery anyway, I wanted to get up early and get some video of the area for the film project. Grabbing the tri-pod and camera, I headed out into the cemetery. The area I walked through, though “ancient”, was clearly not a military cemetery. There were great differences in dates, headstones and monuments were varied, and the graves were not exactly in line. As I walked through the site, quite a bit about the community of Gettysburg revealed itself. The effect the battle had on the community at that time. Subsequent wars the people of Gettysburg and fought in, and the sons and daughters who paid the ultimate price. In death, a story was told to the living.

    It was a brief walk to the national cemetery, but the way was blocked by an iron fence. It was obvious which portion was the military cemetery. Each gravesite, and headstone was in perfect, military, alignment. Forever standing in formation. In the South West corner of the Gettysburg National Cemetery, you will find a sort of outcropping, or a peninsula even, where this area is. The memorial for Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” is at this location. I wandered around a bit, and took in what I could. A few photos were taken. The camera and tri-pod were packed up and I footed it back to the room to finish packing my bags. The weather was threatening, but nothing more than a drop or two had come down by this time. After what I had dealt with yesterday, I was moving with a sense of purpose to hopefully prevent another day like yesterday.

    As the old jaded saying goes, “You can hope in one hand and crap in the other. See which one fills up first”. I arrived at the room, quickly packed, and began to bring my bags downstairs to load up Rexy. Stepping outside, I was greeted with pissing rain! I had only been inside for about twenty minutes, but in that time, the remnants of Hurricane Harvey, which had escorted me for most of my ride yesterday, had decided to show up and keep me company today. The rain was heavy. Not a storm per se, but the soaking kind of rain. Packing up in the rain. I wasn’t even on the road yet. Getting soaked pre-ride was going to make today a special kind of suck. It is what it is though. There was no waiting around for better days of riding, if I was going to keep the schedule I had set for myself. I was wondering when this pattern would end though. At this point, 3 out of 4 riding days had been done in significant rain conditions. I had expected SOME rain along the way, but the start of this trip had proven to be a bit ridiculous!

    With my lip hanging, and feeling sorry for myself, I finished loading up the bike, set up the cameras, and high-kicked my leg over. The hotel was on a hill side, and the rain had made the new pavement of the parking lot uber slick. “Paddle walking” had taking on a new meaning in this environment. A twist of the key, a press of a button, and the twins woke from their slumber with a roar. Despite the conditions, a smile crept across my face. I absolutely love the sound of this bike on start up! It’s the personification of that guy you know who has no medium pace. “What? You think I’m playing here? This is serious!”, she seemed to be telling me. Reminding myself that while having over 200 BHP available to my wrist might be great for bragging rights, it probably wasn’t the best match for today’s riding conditions. A quick toggle through the ride menu allowed me to set the riding mode to “Rain”, limiting Rexy to “only” 120 BHP, while also maxing out all available electronic safety nannys.

    A bit of throttle to get moving, a test of the brakes to judge conditions, a right turn out of the hotel parking, and we were on the Baltimore Pike, heading out of town, gingerly at first. Making my way down the road, I struggle to search through the rain and mist for the intersection of the next road I would require to take me to my destination. Navigation is not the easiest task in a driving rain. Rexy and I made our way up U.S. Highway 15 to Harrisburg, PA, where we would eventually jump on to the Interstate system. I would spend most of my time riding, that day, on Interstate 78. My rain gear was thankfully up to the task of keeping me dry. My Spidi rain jacket, Dainese ADV pants with Gortex liner, and Forma Gortex boots, were all proving that you get what you pay for that day, by keeping me dry. Lacking additional insulation, what they were not doing was keeping me warm. Wanting to maintain dexterity in my hands, I made a conscious decision to continue wearing my Aerostich Elkskin gloves, rather than my thicker Dainese Gortex insulated gloves. My hands were the chink in my wet weather armor, and they allowed the cold a slow and steady march into my consciousness that day. The high temperature that day, was only around 54 F, and the 70+ MPH wind chill I faced on the freeway would greatly increase my discomfort. While I would see much colder temperatures, and much more misery along my journey, this day would set the bar for “cold and miserable” for some time to come. As a reference, it was cold enough and wet enough that the Panigale, which normally has an operating temperature of 190-200 degrees F, was only running at 145 degrees F that day! I couldn’t even gather parasitic warmth from the engine, to help keep me warm. For 2 hours at a time, I would lay on my bike and rely on mind games learned over 25 years of dealing with miserable conditions, “embracing the suck”, until the next fuel stop required that I stiffly dismounted Rexy. In the moments immediately after filling the tank, I would look longingly at the hot coffee and warm food in the service stations, and an argument would play out in my mind over whether I would give in to comfort, or keep to my schedule. Somehow, the schedule won out. People traveling warmly in their cars, over that Labor Day weekend, would see me coming off the road that day and look at me like I was mad. I wasn’t sure they were wrong.

    Having passed near cities and towns I had never been to, such as Harrisburg, Lebanon, Allentown, and Bethlehem, I eventually arrived at my first stop for the day, in Bedminster, NJ. Bedminster had a beautiful small-town vibe in it’s heart, and was obviously an very affluent community, but I found the roads there extremely confusing. I was there to interview a gentleman I had met through Social Media contacts who is a motorcycle track day enthusiast, and overcame many obstacles growing up, to open his own health practice at the Chiropractic Care of Bedminster. The man I was meeting was named Nick, and couldn’t have been any nicer. Remember, this was a Saturday on Labor Day weekend, and for some reason Nick agreed to meet me to be interviewed for the film. Perhaps he didn’t believe I would actually follow through with my outrageous plans. I couldn’t blame him for that. Nick and I hit it off, chatting about life and what he and his immigrant mother and father had overcome to get where he is today. I had to continue on though, so I was only able to spend about 2 hours there. Plied with hot coffee and a warm environment, I was hesitant to get back into damp clothes and back into the slipstream. Time was ticking by though, and I still had to make my way into New York.

    Rexy and I made our way back on to the freeway after navigating the strange twists and turns of Bedminster’s surface roads. I’m sure the roads were made that way to confuse invading armies, or something like that… I was heading to stay the weekend with a family in a place called Pleasantville, in NY, not far from the megatropolis called New York City. If I’m being completely honest, I don’t really care for New York City. Being a small town guy, I prefer a much more sedate pace of life than the hustle at all times of the day, that the city is famous for. To me, the place seems more like a gigantic shopping mall than a place to live. To each their own though. I’ve been there a few times, and the last thing I wanted to do was go through the traffic in Manhattan, even if it was mostly on the freeway system. I had specifically plotted a route on may navigation system which would take me North of the city, and away from the busiest areas. I also wanted to avoid toll roads like the plague, due to the unreliable nature of EZPass sensors working when on motorcycles.

    Of course, as luck would have it, when I was at a point on the freeway when traffic was becoming busy and I was least likely to pull of the road for anything, the navigation decided it knew what was best for me and re-routed me to go through the exact places that I wanted to avoid. I was livid! There I went, along the busiest parts of New Jersey on Interstate 80 and 95. Across the wet metal grating of the George Washington Bridge. Upper level or lower level? I don’t know. Surprise me! Into tunnels I went, and multiple overpasses and exit ramps, where the navigation signal was blocked or couldn’t determine my location on the road, so there I went, guessing which exit’s to take on the fly. Oh look, an EZ Pass toll booth. Of course it won’t read the sensor I have. Why would I want things to go my way. I suppose I’ll just run through this gate so that the traffic behind me won’t kill me… On it went until the navigation and roads finally began making a bit of sense for me. Did I mention I wasn’t a big fan of NYC??? All told, things went about as well as I expected.

    Leaving the city behind for the smaller villages where the commuters live, the roads remained busy, but the signs caught my attention now. Names that came from American lore, such as “Sleepy Hollow”, were passed by. Those are the moments of travel that I cherish; when the line between reality and fantasy overlap and you wonder for a moment if a headless horseman ever did really roam these roads. Such is the power of a signpost.

    Following the exits, twists, and turns, I suddenly came upon the village of Pleasantville. This village certainly does live up to it’s name. With a train stop to support the commuting inhabitants, the village also maintains a quaint, though lively, town center. With a mix of unique individually owned restaurants, pubs, coffee shops, dessert shops, markets, and arts centers, Pleasantville is an ideal place to live in NY. Unfortunately, such an ideal place as this, so close to the city, leads to problematic real-estate costs. Such is the lay of the land though, you forget you are so close to millions of people. I could see the appeal of the area.

    I took my cues from the navigation and continued searching for the address I was looking for. Just around the next corner. There it is, more obvious than I had anticipated. I turned into the long driveway and brought Rexy in to her parking place for the night. Dismounting the Panigale, I straightened up for the first time in hours, and took an initial survey of the property I was on. I was cold, tired, sore, exhausted, and here. I was also expected at a dinner party with wealthy friends of friends soon. My weather beaten body was none to interested in rushing about for anything, but a warm shower and fresh clothes soon had me feeling like a human again. Human enough to go to the home of a member of the “1%” and be served a home cooked meal and fine wines. My hosts were Americans, immigrated from Ireland in the not too distant past, who had absolutely made the most of what opportunities our country has to offer. The company was grand, and the craic was mighty!


    Rexy – Taking a break after a long day. This Duc can swim!
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    #85
  6. Setanta ADV

    Setanta ADV Adventurer

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    A Hell of a Ride – 7

    The people I was staying with maintain a good network of influential friends. One of their friends, who maintained a significant position in the NYPD, volunteered to show me around the city and provide insights that only a veteran NYPD officer could. We met mid-morning in Pleasantville and made the trek down to New York City. Small talk commenced, and we compared notes on our respective experiences. I’ve always felt a sense of comradery with police officers. The purposes of police officers and Soldiers have inherent differences, but there are also significant professional and cultural commonalities. Chief amongst those is the sense of service that the members of both groups share. Regardless of your feelings about these organizations, everybody can acknowledge that these professions are dangerous. That is a given. Understanding that, there are people who still accept personal risks, not for their own sake, but for the sake of others. The intent to place the safety of others above their own, is there. In my estimation at least, that is admirable. I would place fire fighters in this category as well. For better, or for worse, there was a certain mindset that people working these jobs possessed, that they are serving something greater than themselves, and I felt a certain kinship to them.

    We passed by Yonkers, The Bronx, and Harlem. So much was pointed out to me that much was quickly forgotten. There was so much to look at, so much activity, that I was dealing with a bit of sensory overload. We went under the George Washington Bridge, past Yankee Stadium, somehow ending up in downtown Manhattan. We passed famous theaters, restaurants, shops and such. All very famous I’m sure. I’m also sure that any New Yorker I came across would fully expect me to know all these places and be in awe. The fact of the matter is, I don’t really care that much. New York is an amazing place. There is nowhere else like it on the planet. New Yorkers are in love with New York, as if it were a living, breathing person. As cities are concerned, New York is a celebrity. As far as I’m concerned, celebrities already get enough attention. They don’t need me fawning over them as well. Such were my feelings about New York. I don’t wish any ill will toward the city, “I’m just not that in to you.” I’m sure the 8.5 million residents of the city will be OK without my additional attention.

    We arrived at Times Square and got out of the vehicle to talk to some of the officer on duty there. Due to the popularity of area with tourists, I would assume, there was a fairly high police presence there. One of the groups I spoke with the most were officers from the Counter Terrorism division. These officers have an unusual role, possibly unique to NYC. Though they have typical law enforcement and arrest authority, they do not work a “beat” looking for crimes. Their role is mostly preventative in nature. They could be detailed anywhere there is an increased risk for terrorism in the city, such as a popular sporting event. They will use their presence to deter would be terrorists, or respond in a tactical manner if a terrorist event occurs, fully kitted out and prepared to separate victims from aggressors. It was an interesting role that I had not seen being used as a full time roll in other departments.

    I spent some time talking to, and getting to know, the men and women of this unit while they were out on the street. Obviously, there are heightened tensions between law enforcement officers and many in the public. Sometimes tensions are legitimately raised because of the illegal actions of a representative of the law enforcement community. Other times, tensions are raised artificially by the spreading of misinformation for various reasons. Regardless, one thing that is often overlooked when, for example, an officer in Oregon uses lethal force, and police departments across the nation that have nothing to do with that incident are held accountable for the event. The thing filling out that uniform and wearing that badge isn’t a robot. It’s a human being, who has dreams and fears, ambitions and disappointments, just the same as you and I. We often look at those wearing uniforms as faceless symbols. They are so much more than that, and we must fight to remind ourselves of that so we don’t risk losing our own humanity.

    So the officers and I chatted. We talked about work and frustrations, families, friends, and sacrifices. We talked about weapons and tactics. We talked. I wasn’t the only one to talk to them. A surprisingly consistent flow of civilians approached them and asked questions or even asked if they could take pictures with the officers. Most of the questions had to do with directions to a show or famous location. Some of the locals were reminded not to leave their bag laying around. There wasn’t a single negative interaction with this particular group of officers though. People approached them with respect, and it was returned to them in either a very professional, or personable, way.

    Their supervisor asked a few of them to kit up that day in order to show off their various levels or readiness. There was no threat at this time, so dressing tactically, like the following photo, was unusual.
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    We got along great, and everyone talked freely in conversation. Once the camera turned on though, that was a different story. Despite being told by their supervisor to feel free to talk to me, it was difficult to coax 2 words out of the officers. The reason for this was clear once the cameras turned off again. They had been told so many times not to talk on camera about their jobs, that it was hard for them to do so, even when they were told it was OK this time. I could appreciate that. In this day and age, you never know who is going to use camera footage for what purpose. There is quite a bit to worry about as a modern police officer. I had no reason to add to those worries.

    My guide loaded me up and drove me further around “town”. Past more landmarks on Manhattan. Across the Brooklyn Bridge. On to Long Island, which to this point, I had always believed was just a community called “Long Island”. I didn’t realize it was a legitimately LONG island, with multiple communities covering it. We stopped in a place called Long Island City, and observed Manhattan from across the East River. The perspective afforded was quite a nice one, despite the lingering clouds from the system I had ridden through the day prior.

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    On the way back to Pleasantville, there were more landmarks…

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    I make light of it, but the trip, the time, and the insights were all greatly appreciated. There is no way possible to see the amount of New York real estate that we covered, without being in the NYPD. The additional freedom of movement, as well as the intimate knowledge of the city, allowed us to cover ground in a way that would have been impossible for me as a lone tourist, alternating my view from looking down at maps to looking up at sky scrapers. Considering how short my time was, this was an amazing opportunity to get to see quite a lot. I had a good few hours there.

    Later that evening, in Pleasantville, another dinner was held. This time, guests were invited to the residence I was staying at. The guests represented quite a diverse group, both professionally. Occupations spanned from entrepreneurs to film makers, medical professionals to bankers, and more. I introduced myself to the collective group, shared my military background, and my motivations for undertaking the tour and project I was currently on. Because I was trying to discover the thoughts and feelings of the people around the country I would meet, it was important for me not to engage in debates and try to change people’s minds on any particular topic. I was there to observe, not act. I didn’t shy away from controversial topics. I simply attempted to broach them in a manner that elicited a measured response from the subject, rather than an argument. That would prove to be a difficult posture to maintain throughout the night.

    Several of the guests had commented on how they appreciated my neutral stance on controversial subjects. I appreciated the gesture, considering how I had been probed earlier by some guests, presumably looking for a weakness. Some, upon discovering that I was from the military, made assumptions on my political affiliations. Others would challenge my education, and attempt to debate me on foreign policy matters. That didn’t work in their favor very well, considering I had been involved in implementing, or providing information to set, U.S. foreign policies for the past 12 years or so. Once the butt sniffing concluded, things settled down and a nice dinner was consumed. What was also consumed by the guests, was a fair amount of booze. While alcohol consumption by the guests increased, tolerance for fellow guests’ opinions decreased. I observed with amazement how a civil, educated, group of people would turn on each other and start shouting, once a single politician’s name was mentioned. When the tone of the evening turned, there was no point trying to continue discussions. For the remainder of the night, it was either “observe and report”, or only inconsequential small talk, for me. These fireworks occurred amongst people who knew each other. I knew I would have a significant challenge ahead of me, interviewing people from various points around the country, with no pre-established cause to be civil with me in the first place. This night, no blood was drawn, but certainly several skirmishes had broken out. Thankfully, I was able to remain unscathed, and ended the night receiving handshakes and hugs.

    This was some of the upper crust in New York. I wondered how many different people I would come across on my journey. I still had a lot of miles ahead of me. Many of them led me into the unknown.
    #86
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  7. chudzikb

    chudzikb Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Great perspective on the law enforcement community and the challenges that they face. I have worked with them my entire career and have similar observations. Well done!
    #87
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  8. Gale B.T.

    Gale B.T. Long timer

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    Late to this ride, many thanks for your service. Hate to think I missed your ride here in Pagosa Springs if you came this way.
    g
    #88
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  9. keithg

    keithg Been here awhile

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    TOTALLY IN!
    #89
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  10. CavReconSGT

    CavReconSGT Just the right amount of evil.

    Joined:
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    Enjoying your write-ups. I wont hold it against you that you were airborne. Was 1/6th Inf in the scout platoon. That was Mech Infantry but I also did a lot of leg recon patrols, including being attached to 1/1 Cav on the Czech border. I am sure you have heard the old adage of there are only two things that falls from the skies? :imaposer

    Best of luck brother. I wish I had known before you went on the trip. If you were in CT or NH maybe I could have put you up or at least bought you a coffee.

    KR
    #90
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  11. Setanta ADV

    Setanta ADV Adventurer

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    I preferred flying coach to being crammed in the back of the min-van with the rest of the kids, on a long road trip! :roflI much preferred flying. I was mech several times in Fort Stewart (24th ID) and Germany (1st AD). I felt like a troll who's afraid of the light, coming out of his hole, when they would drop the ramp after a multi-hour movement. I'm sure we dismounts resembled that or a caveman, coming down the ramp. Ha ha!

    I'll have to take you up on that coffee. Will give me a destination in NH the next time I make it up that way. :thumbup
    #91
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  12. CavReconSGT

    CavReconSGT Just the right amount of evil.

    Joined:
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    That sounds great. Looking forward to it. I was lucky to have hit E-5 so I was a TC and not always bouncing around blind in the back of the 113. Of course often we had the cargo hatch open. I was in charge of a heavy section with a TOW in the cargo area. TC and lucky depends on the weather though in Germany. I still have my insulated face-mask that I use to use when in snowstorms and I think I still occasionally cough up Grafenwöhr dust. 1/6th Inf was 1st AD. This was ancient history though. '77 to '80 for me. Great times, I miss the job.

    Again, a pleasure meeting you.
    KR
    #92
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  13. Setanta ADV

    Setanta ADV Adventurer

    Joined:
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    Raleigh, NC
    A Hell of a Ride – 8

    Day 7, 4 September 2017.

    An amazing “traditional” Irish breakfast was laid out in front of me that morning. Sausages and rashers (thick, heavy bacon), black and white puddings, toast, beans, and mushrooms. It was all there. Real “stick to your ribs” kind of food. The family I had been staying with over the weekend were just as generous as they could be, and had made me feel right at home. I lingered around the breakfast table that morning, sipping on several coffees, trying to absorb as much of this friendly environment as I could before I forced myself back to the loneliness of the solo journey again. Today was the last day of my first full week on the road. I thought back on what I had seen over the past week. Most of the areas I had traveled to were somewhat familiar to me, as I had visited most of the areas, with the exception of Gettysburg, in the past. Starting today, I would be forging ahead, into mostly unknown territory. To this point, despite traveling on my own, I felt I was well within my comfort zone. Today, I would begin to venture out of that zone.

    I took my time packing freshly laundered clothes, and loading everything back up on the bike. The contraption I had built reminded me of a mobile, motorcycle version on Jenga. Everything was in it’s place, seemingly supporting, or counter balancing each other. Everything loaded, touring gear worn, pack shouldered, and goodbyes to my hosts given, I placed my helmet on my head and began pre-flight procedures. Thumbing the starter button, Rexy surged to life with an urgent roar, before settling into a loud, but comforting idle. To this point, she had been a faithful companion, but Rexy let you know that she wasn’t the type that would let you take her for granted. Every single time I threw a leg over, and started this engine, that spark in our relationship was reignited. Damn I love this bike! Today, that spark would eventually lead me to New Bedford, Massachusetts.

    A dab of throttle to get me out of the driveway, a halt and a splash of gas at the nearest station, and were on our way. I had one last look at one of the small towns that I so admired, as I passed through Pleasantville. Big cities and national capitals are great beacons for a country, but I can’t help but feel that small towns contain the heart and soul of a nation. Heading out of town, and onto local highways, I couldn’t help but think of how much fun these roads could be. They were a seemingly endless line of winding ribbons, owing their curviness to the rough, hilly terrain, which they were cut into. Unfortunately, the proximity to the great hive of people called NYC meant that loads of traffic would frustrate any attempt of enjoying the ride. I took in less of the sights at this point, and focused my attention more on avoiding all the moving hazards in my immediate vicinity.

    The ride was fairly straight forward today. For the most part, I would reside on I-95 today. I had no designs on taking any detours along the way to observe some sort of “must see” attraction. Today was all business, and I concentrated on ticking off the miles to New Bedford. Traffic went from “Stupid” as I neared the city again, to “Heavy” as I entered Connecticut, to merely “Busy” as I passed through cities along the way. Those cities were well known names including Stamford, Bridgeport, the “Havens” of “West, New, and East”, and New London. The weather was clear and sunny, a welcome departure from the majority of the first week of travel.

    Crossing the border from Connecticut into Rhode Island was a bit of a moment for me. The extent of my knowledge on Rhode Island came from the classic documentary film “Me, Myself, and Irene”, and the Roto Rooter plumber guys from “Ghost Hunters”, who maintained their ghost hunting headquarters there. So, yeah, I was pretty much an expert… The first expectation burst by Rhode Island was my expectation that a place with “Island” as part of its name would actually – be – a – island! So there I was, riding down the freeway, nothing around but grass and trees, feeling good about – “Hey, was that a sign for Rhode Island I just passed by? Am I in Rhode Island right now?”. That’s pretty much how my entrance into a new state went. My visit to Rhode Island was officially consummated when I pulled off the freeway and pulled into a, seemingly middle of nowhere, gas station plaza, to get a quick splash of petrol. Adjacent to the travel plaza was a small Harley Davidson convention, or something, at the local watering hole. I didn’t see a town there, unless the town was the travel plaza, but I’m assuming it was the local watering hole. The weather had taken a turn. It remained sunny, but the wind had picked up significantly and brought a distinct chill with it.

    Stretching the legs for a few minutes brought a welcome respite, I still had places to be though. Making our way back the way we came, we found the on-ramp to I-95 and continued to the day’s destination. On the way to New Bedford, I passed by Warwick and Providence, which had and interesting skyline to it. Built along the banks of the Providence and Seekonk Rivers, the city seemed to have a bustling port city feel to it, along with a unique skyline, which was very scenic, especially as viewed from the bridge over the river. I silently wished I had more time on my travels, to take moments like this and explore unexpected places as I came upon them.

    Not long after leaving Providence behind, I crossed into Massachusetts. I soon came upon another nice-looking city, built upon a river. This was Fall River, and it appeared to almost serve as gateway, heading into New Bedford. This was another interesting looking city that I regretted not having the time to explore. As I closed in on my destination, I began seeing signs for New Bedford exits. Not knowing the lay of the land, I was relying heavily on my mounted navigation / phone to get me there. I was looking for the hotel I had made a reservation for, which was across the street from the piers of the main fishing fleet. It seemed that, with my limited time, that location would allow me to most efficiently take the measure of the town. The roads to the hotel appeared to pass through several awkward intersections, so my focus was fixed on where I was at, rather than taking in the architecture, when all of a sudden, BANG, there was the hotel. Being September, and a Northern Latitude, there was still a good stretch of light in the day, so thankfully I had arrived while the sun was still up.

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    I tucked Rexy in for the night, checked in to the hotel, did the bag drag up to the room, and rang up my contact in town to let him know I was there and to see if he wanted to meet up for dinner. One of my friends has an extensive network of people who run in interesting circles. I was put in touch with Joseph, and told that he had “an interesting story”. Being nearby, he said he would be at the hotel in only a few minutes.

    Joe is one of those people who a guy like me would probably never, under usual circumstances, seek out to introduce myself to, but upon shaking his hand, I knew this guy was awesome. To paint the picture for you, I’ll describe him. Joe is a black guy with stylized braids in his hair, and he walks with a certain carefree swagger that is all his own. He hails from generations of New Bedford fishermen and sailors, dating back to the late 1600s. A member of MENSA, he was admitted to college at only 16 or 17 years old. Smart enough, but not mature enough to deal with the social challenges college exposes our youth to, he dropped out and lived a life most would try to avoid. Years later, he would drop everything and walk across the country with a close friend, as a means to deal with a personal crisis that friend was dealing with. His personality was infectious, and his energy seemed to have no limit. Joseph IS New Bedford.

    As the sun was failing, Joe loaded us into his car and sped out of the hotel parking lot. I was to be provided with the budget tour of prominent New Bedford sites and history, as only a local with a love for his community can provide. Unknown to me, New Bedford was once the whaling capital of the world, and was also the richest city in the United States at the height of the whale oil industry, until the discovery of crude oil. Like many cities forced to deal with historic changes to their primary industries, New Bedford suffered economically. Thankfully, the city was able to turn things around in recent years, while maintaining their sea going traditions. The city is still very much tied to fishing. Presently, New Bedford is able to make claim to be another global capital. This time, it is the scallop capital of the world, hauling in more scallops with the fishing fleet than anywhere else.


    The tour was fantastic, for the time allowed. Here, we briefly visited Fort Tabor / Fort Rodman, which was constructed at the onset of the Civil War to protect the fishing fleet from Confederate raiders.

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    Both of us were starving, so we decided to finally go sit down and get something to eat. The chosen establishment was one of those classic, no frills sports bars preferred by the local workers. This wasn’t one of those bars downtown, which chose to cater to the tourists. This was the real deal. I was assured the food was fantastic. I was more than happy to find out. Beers and dinners were ordered, and stories were swapped. Dinner eventually made it’s way to us. Now, I’ll say this up front. I’m not a fan of shellfish. For all the hoopla everyone makes about shellfish and crustaceans, I just don’t get it. To me, they are all just a bunch of sea-bugs, and I am more than OK to let them live lives not bothered by me. That being said, I was in the “Scallop Capital of the World”, so I figured “When in Rome”… I hedged my bets though. I had ordered “Surf and Turf”, heavy on the turf! The food was good. The scallops were… okay? I could eat them. They didn’t make me sick or anything. I just didn’t understand the appeal. The overall experience was good though.

    Joe and I left to go conduct the video interview, so I could gather his thoughts and insights for my project. It had been great meeting him and getting to know him, but the night was getting late, so I returned to the hotel. Unable to sleep, I wandered around the piers for a bit, observing boats in their slumber. Not everyone was asleep though. Despite the late hour, a few crews were still working, either having just come in to port, or preparing for the next trip out. I enjoyed the peace of the water and the sounds of the night immensely.

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    The hour was late, and I should have been getting some rest and preparing for the morning. Still, my time in New Bedford was short, and I wanted to get a better sense of the people in the town. I did a map check, to see what bars were in the area. Wandering around the historic part of town showed that there was much to see and do in daytime, but the time was long past closing. I wandered on a bit further in my loop, heading back in the direction of the boats. I figured there had to be some where I could get a drink, that close to the fleet. It turns out two places were open. One was… a bit fancier than I was expecting. It turns out that the establishment was a wine bar. If you are wondering, “What the hell is a wine bar doing around where rugged fishermen work”, you and I are of similar minds. It turns out there is also a college in the area, and the college students are a large part of the social scene in that part of the town. I had a drink there, to say I did, and moved next door to the more classic establishment, to begin sampling local beers they had on tap. Overall, it had been a great day, all washed down with finest local ales. With that, I called it a night.

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    #93
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  14. Blader54

    Blader54 Long timer

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,686
    Would you believe spermaceti, the waxy substance taken out of the head of dead sperm whales was a vital component of automatic transmission fluid? Yup. 'Tis said that when killing sperm whales was outlawed, the number of transmission failures in the US went up 800% in just a few years! Until Dextron-II hit came into being! Nice to hear that New Bedford is on the rebound.
    #94
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  15. Hokem Malarky

    Hokem Malarky Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2006
    Oddometer:
    151
    Location:
    Kentucky
    Really enjoying reading this one. Great photos too. And Thank You for your Service sir!
    #95
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  16. Setanta ADV

    Setanta ADV Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2017
    Oddometer:
    24
    Location:
    Raleigh, NC
    Thank you. Glad you like it.
    #96
  17. Setanta ADV

    Setanta ADV Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2017
    Oddometer:
    24
    Location:
    Raleigh, NC
    A Hell of a Ride – 9

    Day 8, 5 September 2017.

    Decision point. I awoke this day and had to decide where I was going to end it. When planning this Grand Tour that I was now embarked upon, I had planned to travel from New Bedford, MA, to Bath, ME. My intent was to meet people in a small town with a rich American nautical history, which continues to this day with the world renowned “Bath Iron Works” ship building factory. While traveling to and from Maine, I intended to have stops in New Hampshire and Vermont. I had never been to any of these states and was really looking forward to seeing their unique characters. Checking the weather forecast last night showed me that this area was in for a pounding. The next 3 days would be affected by a 100% chance of strong thunderstorms. I was planning on camping in Maine, so sleeping through a thunderstorm while in a tent, not to mention being set back 3 days so early in my schedule, did not appeal to me. Decisions must be made, and waiting doesn’t change anything, so I made it. As much disappoint I knew I would feel, I had to stay focused on the overall mission. Sorry Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. I fully intend to get back up there and get a proper visit in.

    The next destination on my trip, after Maine, was to be Niagara Falls, NY. A former co-worker from the Army, and now a friend, Jeff had retired and started a hostel business there in the city, called “Gorge View Hostel”. He had purchased a hotel with a storied history, built in the 1880s, and was now restoring it to provide a sense of it’s former glory. In reintegrating with his old hometown, he had taken a newfound interest in the history of Niagara Falls, the current depressed economic situation the city is in, and had decided to run for a county political office. I was interested to hear the perspective of a local with deep running roots and a new vested interest in the community as a business man and hopeful representative of the people.

    I instantly found myself 3 days ahead of schedule. I contacted Jeff, let him know the situation, and asked if he would be able to put me up at the hostel a few days earlier than expected. He got back to me quickly and said that would be no problem. I now had a bit of time on my hands. The storm systems that develop on the East Coast tend to travel in diagonal lines, up the Eastern Seaboard, rather than in a round mass, as may be found in other parts of the country. As such, you could find yourself in rainy conditions for days if you were traveling parallel to the storm, or only very briefly if you traveled perpendicular to it. I was going to get wet no matter what I did. This was a very large system coming in. I figured I would just try to punch through it and hopefully catch better weather on the other side. I needed to get going to do that, but first, I wanted to take a better look at the heart and soul of New Bedford while I was here; the fishing fleet.

    I had left most of my kit on the bike that night, so I didn’t have as much to load up this morning. I grabbed my camera and compact tripod, and set out to the commercial piers, just a short walking distance away. There are few man made objects that are so readily photogenic as a fishing fleet at dock. The colors, the light, the water, the birds, the people, all add to a dramatic scene, as if they were from sort of ready made cake mix. As I did the night before, I roamed around and took in the sights. Being the daytime, there was a different vibe happening than in the dead of night, but still, the activity seemed much more suppressed than I expected, for commercial operations. I talked to some of the crews there and it seemed that they were just preparing for the weather coming in. Since they weren’t at sea already, they had decided to forgo valor, and just sit this one out. I also spoke with one of the old hands from the area. Now retired, and at an age in his 80s, this gentleman still came to the pier every day to see what was happening. For over 70 years, he had been coming down to the piers and plying his trade somehow. Old habits are hard to break. Wandering among the secured boats, the scarred hulls spoke volumes about the intensity of their efforts and conviction.

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    The winds picked up, and swept the harbor. I knew it was time to get back, get loaded, and get moving. The weather wasn’t going to get better. I wouldn’t be able to sit this one out, myself. Back in the room, I did a final sweep, looking for all the doo-dads susceptible to being left behind. Suiting up again, pack on back again, I was ready for battle. Heading out on Rexy, and turning the corner, the wind let me know that I was up for a bit of challenge today. Sitting still at an intersection, feet planted, the wind threatened to topple me. I was thankful in a way. This was another reminder not to get complacent. I was still a relatively new rider, doing an outlandish task on a machine not suited for the task. I couldn’t allow myself to take any moment for granted. Not even sitting still. I had an awful long way to go, and I the fates were providing a million opportunities for me to fail.

    I made my way down the road a bit, and realized I had better top off my tank before I was properly underway. Pulling off the highway, I made my way to a gas station which required a U-turn and some slow speed maneuvering. Again, I must have looked incredibly timid in the way I was handling the bike, but that’s because I was. The wind was becoming relentless and threatened to blow me over whenever there was a loss of momentum.

    Gas stations were interesting places to me. I was finding that in most areas where I wandered in towns, nobody took notice of me. At a gas station however, with Rexy parked in her full Ducati splendor, festooned with baggage which may as well have been Peacock feathers, people couldn’t help but ask what the heck I was doing. Whether it was a wealthy individual who was eager to share memories of their Ducati from days past, or the working stiff who was seeing a unicorn for the first time, I found my reasons for taking this voyage on a Ducati superbike being confirmed. Such was the case today where, as I was pumping gas, I suddenly found myself engaged in conversation from two different directions, and two different economic demographics. The guys from the fencing company were the most entertaining. Two locals, missing a few teeth, wearing the muddy clothes that showed the labors of their trade, couldn’t get over the fact that a guy from the Army was just taking a few months out of his life to go lap the country and meet people like them. They made me feel like some sort of superhero, which I in turn found hilarious. Time was the enemy, as these meetings and conversations always had to end far too quickly. The road beckoned.

    I made my way back across Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, much the way I had traveled to New Bedford. Most of the ride that day was uneventful. I thought I would prepare for the next day’s ride by establishing myself well inside New York, to make the final leg to Niagara Falls that much shorter. A weather check at a gas station showed me that course of action may not be possible this day. Still, I ventured on, eager to get as many miles done as I could. Onward I rode, with my phone navigation occasionally altering my route in reaction to backed up traffic, accidents, or weather. The day’s journey was taking that much longer for all of those reasons. Passing through Danbury, Connecticut, I could see formidable rain clouds assembling up ahead. I took this opportunity to exit and forage for my evening meal. I stopped at a fast food place called “Duchess of Danbury”, which looked like some sort of chicken place, but I couldn’t be certain. Taking my helmet off, it was immediately evident that rather than worrying about catching up with bad weather ahead, I needed to take shelter from the weather that was inbound my location now! Adjacent to the restaurant was a Holliday Inn Express. I quickly found their website and phone number, while saying a silent prayer to whoever invented smart phones. The hotel had a room available, which I booked on the spot. Promptly, I rode Rexy through the block of rush hour traffic, parked the bike, an proceeded to check in. Check in accomplished, I grabbed a few bags off Rexy, went up to the room, and did a quick search for other restaurant options in the immediate area.

    Apparently, you don’t even need to stay the night in a Holliday Inn Express to become smarter. Merely checking in does the trick. The decision to stay the night there was confirmed as the smartest single decision I made that day, when, coming downstairs and exiting the building to get my dinner, I was confronted with a storm of epic proportions! This was the kind of rain which turned the air silver, and lightning of such abundance that the sky was purple. The parking lot was instantly flooded, despite being on a hillside, and rivers formed and flowed. I witnessed two Harley riders on a trip from Canada, who, while only a few minutes behind me, were now completely soaked to the bone. They had stopped their bikes under the unloading roof at the hotel entranceway, and were trying to briefly recover from the onslaught of rain they had just experienced.

    I had often heard of the animosity between motorcycle riders and “cagers”, but hadn’t really witnessed much to confirm any bias. Today, I witnessed my first episode of lack of consideration of such epic proportions that I just had to scratch my head. These two riders were obviously nearly drowned. All their clothing was soaked through, with water clearly running out of their clothes. On of them had his electrical system shorting out, where his engine wouldn’t turn off. Here comes a gentleman behind them, in his car. With the space remaining due to where the Harley guys stopped, he was able to get the front of the car under the overhang, with the rear of the car getting rained on still. This wasn’t good enough for him. He began honking his horn at the two riders, insisting that they get out of his way. The overhang was far too small for the riders to clear the area and allow him to park his car. Still, he insisted, until one of the riders relented and pulled his motorcycle back out, into the pouring rain. A driver, sitting warm and dry in his automobile, had just forced a rider back out into the deluge, just so he wouldn’t catch a few rain drops while he was exiting his vehicle. It was an unbelievable display of a complete lack of empathy.

    The rain eventually settled and I navigated the newly formed rivers to get to my choice of food for the night – Japanese. The room was nice, and I didn’t know when the next onslaught of rain would come, so I order a meal far to large for one person, “to go”. Saki was consumed, and when the food was later delivered and unwrapped, that was consumed as well. Video from the day, downloaded, I poured myself into pressed sheets and a fitful sleep.
    #97
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