Behind Bars with my Wife -- A Marital Touring Guide to Two Wheeled Bliss in the Blue Ridge

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Motopumps, Sep 6, 2019.

  1. Motopumps

    Motopumps Long timer Super Supporter

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    This will be our 10th anniversary of riding together down in the Blue Ridge and Great Smokey Mountains. 2009 was Briar Rose's first taste of the twisty roads on her own motorcycle, a black and silver GS500F. That first year, there was riding bliss, but in reality, maybe more stress than bliss overall. I have learned a bit since then, and her tolerance for me has surely grown as well.

    The GS500F was replaced with a new, leftover 2008 GSX650F as Briar Rose's need for speed increased, and then her stable grew to include a 2007 DL650 VStrom as well. Over time the VStrom captured her heart, and it had acquired most of the miles since.

    At a little over 40k miles it went to a co-worker when we found a 2011 DL650 with 700 miles on the clock and ABS. ABS was the deal maker for us, and she has started piling the miles on that bike.

    We are setting off in about a week, without much of a plan. This has been a major contributor to Marital Bliss on two wheels. Having too much of a plan, pre-existing hotel reservations or destinations creates stress, expectations and the need to ride through really nasty weather. This is probably the most important thing I have learned over the years. Plan no more than the first night, and often we will not even make a hotel reservation until the afternoon of that travel day.

    Sounds too open ended and scary for those of you who are planners? I had the same feeling at first, but found it was a better plan to not have one. Give it a try and see!

    Stay tuned for an overview of our gear, bikes, preparation, route, riding philosophy and more.
    #1
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  2. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    Dead on! Matches my experience riding with my wife over the past eight or so years, and on our current trip through the Americas, that is how we roll. We have a general plan on where we are headed, but how we get there is mostly planned day by day.

    Https://xplore2gether.net
    #2
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  3. Motopumps

    Motopumps Long timer Super Supporter

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    We started packing last night. That is always a fun thing as it means we are getting close! With each trip I am trying to bring less stuff and so far have still ended up with a few unworn clothing items. Trying to reduce again for this trip. The smaller, right side pannier will have all the tools, MotoPump & plugs, maintenance items, extra straps, bike cover, etc. The top box will have things I need in the moment, laptop, snacks, water bottle, maps, shield cleaning spray and towels, extra layer, earplugs, etc. The left pannier will have all the clothes for the trip. Trying to go without a passenger seat bag, which should work out.

    Here are our mounts for the trip:

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    Briar Rose is on her 2011 VStrom 650 ABS. It has a Sargent saddle, MRA Vario Touring screen in a MadStad bracket, Barbacks, Koso Apollo heated grips, a Stebel Nautilus horn, Givi crash bars, LED driving lights, Givi V35 panniers and a Givi V47 top case.

    I will be on my new KTM 790 Adventure. The bike has about 1200 miles on it as we depart, KTM Powerparts Touratech panniers and racks, Quckshifter, Rally Pack, Koso Apollo heated grips, Camel ADV one finger clutch conversion and a GPS mount that may become another MotoPumps product. Other than that, the bike is stock and this will be my first long ride on it. I know the windshield is less than optimal, but it should act as a speed limiting device, leading to increased marital bliss.

    Temps are forecast to be in the upper 40s when we leave and upper 60s when we arrive in the Northwester VA area Friday evening. Not sure of our destination yet. The forecast for the rest of the week is in the 70s and 80s, significantly improved over what it looked like a week ago. Much less rain forecast.

    We will be using a pair of Sena 30k headsets for this trip. Testing them next to the Cardo Packtalk Bolds, they are louder and do audio multitasking better, easing the juggling of the GPS and iPhone.

    I will be trying out a new pair of Rev It! Dominator GTX Goretex gloves, with Held Steves as my main touring glove. Jacket and pants are Klim Overland with Gaerne Midland Goretex ADV boots. I am a big believer in LD comfort shorts and I wear Under Armor compression long underwear like things over them/under my riding pants. I also bring along a Klim Stowaway Goretex shell that I can wear of the bike or slip over my Overland jacket as another layer for extra warmth or water resistance if we find ourselves in a day long shower. My helmet is an Arai XD4 with a dark shield and a clear one packed as an extra or if we are out past dark.

    Briar Rose will be rocking a Shoei Goddess helmet, Macna Jacket, Rukka Pants, TCX Aura wp boots, Cortech Scarab gloves, Spidi H2Out rain gloves, and probably has another half dozen pairs along because of her ongoing glove fetish.

    I will expand upon tools and gear as we go, and we are happy to answer any questions folks have about how any of these items are working.

    Looking forward to getting on the road!
    #3
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  4. Motopumps

    Motopumps Long timer Super Supporter

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    Briar Rose ready to roll!
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    Some Frog Toggs hi viz action to add another layer on top of the Macna jacket.

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    It was chilly this morning when we left, about 50 degrees and overcast.


    Took secondary roads the whole way except for a couple of spots when we had no choice. The route is below.

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    We were originally headed for Winchester, VA, but decided at about 3pm to divert to Hagerstown MD due to weather and hotel choices. The last 20 minutes were dry and we and our gear arrived dried out, but the few hours before had lots of misty rain and fog to ride through. Not a bad day by any means, but on the edge of cold with lots of overcast and fog. A good warm up for the riding ahead. Looks like it will be in the 80s from here on for the next week.

    Relaxing in the hotel now. Will find some food in a bit. Thanks for riding along with us. More pix and great scenery to come.
    #4
  5. Motopumps

    Motopumps Long timer Super Supporter

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    Hmmmmm. Mixed messages.
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    Overheard while walking back from dinner.

    Briar Rose -- "My bike looks N I C E...
    your bike is cool too..."

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    :confused
    #5
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  6. Motopumps

    Motopumps Long timer Super Supporter

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    We were up at O-Dark 30 and on the road.

    Ok, we slept in, had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, talked with fellow guests as we were loading the bikes and were on the road by the crack of 9:30. That is probably closer to the truth.

    Overcast, but warmer than yesterday was welcomed. Overcast and colder than yesterday would not have been... Just sayin'

    We headed out of Hagerstown...
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    ...on the Old National Pike and made our way from Hagerstown to Boonsboro, where we headed south and west toward Harper's Ferry.

    A lovely, history filled area that we have explored on many previous trips. My great grandfather's house is just a few miles away... Marameade
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    McClellan used the house as his Union HQ during the battle of South Mountain and stayed there again before the battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam).

    Speaking of Antietam, it is just a few minutes ride from there. One of my favorite spots is Old Burnside Bridge.
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    We didn't stop at any of those beautiful places on this trip, we headed for more pedestrian attractions...

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    Three of a kind...

    We continued to Front Royal, the start of the Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park. Making good use of our National Park Annual Pass, we entered the park and climbed to altitude.

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    Things were looking good after a wet and foggy day yesterday.

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    Well... Things got foggy and wet soon enough. You can see it off to the left in this shot.

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    We were in and out of the clouds for the entire length of the park. Not awful by any means, but there were a few moments of low visibility and moisture.

    We dropped down into Waynesboro, VA at the end of the Skyline Drive and got a snack and decided where we were going to head for the evening.

    View looking back at the ridge from Waynesboro
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    That cloud line is about 1000' below the ridge. Pretty dense in spots with sunshine poking through in others. Quite lovely and hairy.

    We decided to head for Lynchburg VA for the night. We headed back up 250 to the east and then 151 and 29 into Lynchburg. Very nice ride with more and more sunshine as we went.

    The view from the back of our hotel. Liberty University.
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    The route looks like a straight line, but up close it was pretty twisty...
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    This is beautiful country.
    #6
  7. Motopumps

    Motopumps Long timer Super Supporter

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    We had a nice hotel breakfast...

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    The baked apples were a treat... and then fueled the bikes (the 790 got 62.6666 mpg) and headed south on US 29. It was a lovely morning with temps in the upper 60s and a bit of a breeze. We are headed for Elkin NC, where friends Tim and Barb live, having moved from Upstate NY after retiring from Cornell and Ithaca College.

    After US 29, we headed south and west on back roads, farm roads, all twisty two lanes. We navigated old style with just a list of route numbers to follow sequentially as the GPS was having issues. Soon enough we crossed into North Carolina from Virginia. We passed through Level Cross, the hometown of Lee and Richard Petty and the site of their first race shop. Pretty cool.

    We stopped for a snack along the way.
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    Never one to pass up some fried chicken...

    The roads were empty as most folks were sleeping in or in church. It was a lovely ride. We arrived at Tim and Barb's a bit after 2pm. Lovely to catch up! We got cleaned up and visited for a bit before heading into Elkin to check out the town and get a bite to eat. Elkin is a lovely town having a bit of a rebirth after its textile mills fell on hard times. It is called "trail town" by some and is the confluence of many hiking trails, 15 minutes from Stone Mountain and 20 minutes from the Blue Ridge Parkway.

    We headed downtown to walk around and get a bite at the Angry Troll Brewery.
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    Good beer, burgers, pizza...

    Lots of cruising and off road action in the area.

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    Strolled a bit and headed back to Barb and Tim's to relax, visit and catch up.
    #7
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  8. Motopumps

    Motopumps Long timer Super Supporter

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    We woke up to a crisp, cool, sunny morning. Two bucks were munching on the dew covered grass in the back yard and bounded away when we went out onto the deck to have our coffee. Hummingbirds were were humming about and all is well in the world.

    Tim made us bacon and eggs and we packed for our departure, but had an escort for the first hour or so. Tim and Barb rode on their FJ-09, leading us up to the BRP and we rode together from Roaring Gap south to Rt 19 where they headed south to Wilkesboro and home. Thanks for the hospitality and tour!

    It was a perfect morning on the BRP and we motored along with very little traffic.

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    We stopped a couple of times to enjoy the view. There are lots of ways to do that and catch some rays at the same time.
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    The 790 has turned out to be a great light touring bike. The one deficiency at this point is the windshield. When in perfectly smooth air with no side winds, it is fine, but if there is a side wind or even a quartering headwind, there is a significant drumming coming off the side of the windshield that can get to the point of blurring your vision. Easy enough to get some relief by ducking down behind the shield, but this needs to be addressed with a spoiler or different shield.

    The range and fuel efficiency is exemplary with multiple calculated tank fulls about 60 mpg. This gives a range of 300 miles with a bit of reserve. We have been riding at a sedate pace, but nonetheless, this makes for a great back roads touring mount.

    We ran through 3 or 4 sections of the BRP that were being resurfaced with tar and stone, but didn't have to wait for any amount of time for the pilot truck. Most of it was fine, with only one section being fresh.

    We stopped again at Mt Mitchell to have a drink, call my parents to wish them a happy 58th Anniversary and find a room for the night.

    This is the visitors center and you can see the tunnel we came through in the background.
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    We made a reservation at the Clarion Hotel in Asheville and resumed our path south on the BRP for about 30 minutes. It was a short, leisurely day, but a great one.

    This was our route for the day.
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    BTW, the driveway at the Clarion is "experts only" as Briar Rose puts it. You enter on a steep downhill off Rt 25 with two lanes of heavy traffic in both directions. First gear, 180 degree switchback in one narrow lane to enter, then climb up a steep hill to the parking lot. Not your average hotel entrance.

    We headed for our pool front room and unpacked, got cleaned up and walked down to the Biltmore Village section of Asheville in search of some sustenance. It would come in the form of Moe's Original BBQ, one of my favorite places to eat when in the area.

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    Local brew. Mmmmm.

    Local BBQ - Before
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    ...and after.

    Well, the slaw and greens were consumed after that photo was taken.

    We walked around Biltmore Village for a bit...

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    Interesting bush...
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    Anybody know what that is?

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    Nicer than our place, but at $62 per night for a king room in Asheville, you can't beat the Clarion (except for the driveway, I am reminded)

    We hiked up the hill and decided to catch up on the MotoGP race we missed on Sunday morning. Life is good. #gladtobehere
    #8
  9. Motopumps

    Motopumps Long timer Super Supporter

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    Most normal people would transit from Asheville NC, to Johnson City TN in a bit over an hour using the scenic yet ultra modern Rt 26.

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    Well, not us. We were once again up at the crack of 9 and enjoying the hotel covfefe and breakfast before mounting up and dragging some rear brake down the double black diamond slope that Clarion calls a driveway. Briar Rose stuck the landing and we fueled up at the Shell station at the base. Having spent the entire day yesterday on the BRP with its 45 mph speed limit, fuel consumption was spectacular. The 790 got 70.00 mpg calculated (very close to the 70.8 mpg indicated) and the VStrom got 65.33. I wonder how lean that 790 is running...

    This is the route we took.
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    A little longer, but really a lovely set of roads. The BRP was pretty empty. The few slow cars and motorhomes were easily dispatched and the temps were delightful. We got off the BRP and headed down 215 North, which is a tight, technical twisty road that demands some respect. We came upon a herd of Harleys with one off the road, deep gouges and skidmarks as the driver seems to have target fixated on the outside of a tight curve. Everyone looked fine and they were evaluating the downed bike. No SAE tools on board and the rest of the folks had it under control so we continued on.

    We picked up 209 North and road "The Rattler" up to Hot Springs NC. The closer you get to Hot Springs, the more tight and twisty it gets. Aside from a fair amount of gravel in some of the turns, it was all 2 wheeled bliss.

    In Hot Springs, we picked up 208 headed for Greenville, TN. 208 is wonderful as well and had very little traffic. 208 turns to Tennessee 70 as we crossed the line and then we picked up 321 in Greenville. Greenville is another lovely old town with a revitalized antique downtown that is very appealing.

    We followed 321 into Jonesboro, then back roads to where we are staying with my ex brother in law.

    Lovely day of riding and looking forward to a few days in Johnson City doing very little. Film at 11.
    #9
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  10. Motopumps

    Motopumps Long timer Super Supporter

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    We have been doing a lot of nothing for the past two days. Ahhhhh!

    There has been a lot of eating, but not a lot of food porn pix. This was breakfast this morning...
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    What the heck is that??? you ask...

    Over easy egg on whole grain toast, avocado, sausage, sautéed mushrooms, raw red onion, tomato and hot sauce. No reason to leave the house.

    Despite that, we will start heading north tomorrow. :cry

    The weather looks good the whole way home. We are not in a hurry, so it will be backroads and not a ton of miles per day. Nice.
    #10
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  11. Motopumps

    Motopumps Long timer Super Supporter

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    We headed out of Johnson City with a great day of riding planned. There was a bit of fall in the air and we are starting to see leaves on the ground in places. No real color in JC, but a bit more as we head north.

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    Rt 321 to Elizabethton, then 91 over to Shady Valley and the Snake (421). 133 into Damascus where we picked up 58 to Volney. A great morning of twisting, technical, beautiful roads. Traffic was pretty light and temps were perfect.

    Taking a break in Volney, VA.
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    From Volney, we continued north on 16 into Marion where 16 becomes "The Back of the Dragon". A great road that crosses three mountains in about 33 miles and has countless twists and turns. Worth the trip in itself.
    In Tazwell, we pick up 19 and 460 which run together here and there and followed 19 North toward Beckley WV. 19 has a mix of divided country 4 lane and challenging 2 lane and we continue for a couple of hours more up to Fayetteville, WV, our destination for the night.

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    We are staying at the Quality Inn, New River Gorge in Fayetteville. Another free night, courtesy of my Choice Privileges credit card. It takes the bite out of these trips, for sure.

    We clean up and walk into town to have a pizza at Pies and Pints. Highly recommended.
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    MOZZARELLA CAPRESE Fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, fresh basil & balsamic reduction

    Not bad. Lots of local beers. I had a Bridge Brew Works Long Point Lager. Crisp and refreshing with more flavor than your average lager. Nice.

    We walked around Fayetteville a bit more. Some say, the Coolest Small Town in America.
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    Basement vintage store with a low doorway...
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    Well guarded
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    Be sure to check out the Cathedral Cafe. Awesome place.
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    Stroll back to the hotel for the night. A good day. #gladtobehere
    #11
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  12. Motopumps

    Motopumps Long timer Super Supporter

    Joined:
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    We enjoyed the hotel breakfast
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    and packed up, heading north on a lovely route across WV. We love riding in WV because the roads are in great shape, have lots of twists and turns and are generally very lightly traveled. Perfect

    This is our route for the day.
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    Up Rt 19 to Summersvill where we picked up Rt 39, one of my favorites. 39 crosses a number of small peaks and runs through the Monongahela National Forest.
    Short pause in Marlinton.
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    Beautiful day to ride. Temps are in the lower 70s at this point and you can see some leaves on the ground.

    A few miles later we picked up Rt 28 and turned north toward Green Bank and the quiet zone. If you have not visited the National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank, make time for it on your next trip. Very cool facility, tour and geographical area. You can see one of the largest telescopes from the road. HUGE!

    We continued on toward Seneca Rocks. It is a great, relaxed ride. Temps are coming up and we decided to stop in Seneca Rocks to shed a layer, clean our face shields and get a snack.

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    Always a treat to see the rocks and explore Yokums and Harpers Old Country Store.
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    Looking for a pelt? We have skunk, fox, coyote, beaver, mink, rabbit, raccoon...
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    You never know what you are going to find...

    We continued north toward Cumberland, MD for the evening, enjoying the roads all the way.


    Ahhhh. Home sweet home away from home. This Comfort Inn and Suites in Leval, right near Cumberland is exceptionally nice.
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    The view from our lovely large room.
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    We decided to heat out for dinner at D'Atri's, a local Italian restaurant that is famous for its hot steak sub.

    This doesn't really show the size properly.
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    Fries were hot and crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.
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    Briar Rose had spaghetti and meatballs. Life is good.

    Final leg home tomorrow.

    We waddled back to the hotel for the night. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
    #12
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  13. Motopumps

    Motopumps Long timer Super Supporter

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    Route for the ride home...
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    Since we stayed a half an hour or so west of 522, our usual route, we decided to go back via 220/99 and 15. Kind of the express route, but without all the truck traffic of Rt 81.

    We had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, packed up, loaded the bikes and got on the road. The temps were great for the first 2-3 hours, in the lower then upper 70s. I have noted that the air temp reading on the KTM closely matches what we see on bank clocks. Nice.

    As we neared Williamsport, PA temps rose into the upper 80s and there was a bit of color in the trees. Summer feeling fall. A few miles north of Williamsport, we passed a dead bear, a dead turkey, a dead porcupine and a dead deer within less than a mile. Good grief, honey - This place seems dangerous. Let's get out of here!

    We rode non-stop from Cumberland to Ithaca. It felt a bit strange to put our feet down on the pavement after a few hours on the pegs. We were anxious to get home after nearly 10 days away, missing the dogs and our own home sweet home.

    It was a great trip. Wonderful weather, good friends to visit, great food, miles and miles of twisty roads and beautiful scenery. No mechanical issues, no close calls and no big arguments. It was a great trip!
    #13
  14. ATLDB

    ATLDB Adventurer

    Joined:
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    The plant you asked what it was :
    Ricinus communis, the castor bean or castor oil plant, is a species of perennial flowering plant in the spurge family.

    I grew up in Brazil, stuff grew wild everywhere, we would put those on our slings and hit each other with it........ :) Kids! :jack
    #14
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  15. Motopumps

    Motopumps Long timer Super Supporter

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    Cool. Thanks for that. Looks like it would make a fun weapon! :D

    Rob
    #15