Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Back on the BMW in New England

After three nights in Avon, CT, we got back on the BMW and on the road heading north. A big thanks to our friends Ted and Liz and their children for having us over for dinner last night. It was our first home-cooked meal in over two weeks, and very much appreciated!

We started off on U.S. 10 north out of Avon, CT and in Simsbury were delighted to see numerous life-like statues along the road. At first we thought they were real people, and then realized we were actually seeing statues depicting people doing everyday activities. It's a part of the Simsbury Art Trail that features the sculptures of Seward Johnson. Here are a few of our favorites:

Our route took us north through Connecticut and Massachusetts, passing through small towns, busier sections of small cities, and twisting roads through the countryside.

Much of this area is familiar to us since we lived in southwestern Vermont for 20 years before we moved to Arizona 5 years ago.

We stopped in Brattleboro, VT for lunch at Whetstone Station restaurant and brewery, right on the banks of the Connecticut River that marks the boundary between Vermont and New Hampshire.

It was hot and humid by the time we stopped for lunch, yet it seemed cooler as we continued northeast into higher elevations in New Hampshire. We're stopping for the evening in Keene, NH where we plan to enjoy walking around the lively downtown. We can't think of a better way to celebrate our 37th wedding anniversary!

Monday, August 13, 2018

The rain catches up to us in Rhode Island

Rhode Island is one of the 19 states we hadn't been in on the motorcycle before we started our cross-country trip. Today we rode 2 hours from our base in Avon, CT into Rhode Island, checking off our 14th state.

We wound our way northeast primarily on narrow 2-lane roads through the Connecticut countryside, avoiding the major metropolitan areas.

We lived in Vermont for 20 years, and it's fun to be back in New England. Hartford, Connecticut's capitol, was founded in 1636 and we saw several houses dating from the mid-1700's along today's ride.

The roads were mostly lined with forests, but periodically we passed by fields planted with large, leafy tobacco plants. I didn't realize that tobacco is grown this far north, and discovered that Connecticut specializes in growing tobacco used for the two outer layers of cigars.

We crossed the Connecticut River, the longest river in New England, that flows from the Canadian border to Long Island Sound.

Once again the weather forecast was for rain, and based on the grey skies we expected it to rain at any moment. We crossed into Rhode Island on U.S. 6 and as we pulled into the first gas station a couple of miles into the state, it started raining and kept raining for the majority of our ride back to Avon.

We planned to stop for lunch at Sweet Peas in Brooklyn, CT based on their menu of interesting sandwiches, fresh salads, and baked goods but didn't realize that they only have outside seating. We gamely sat outside and pulled the table under the awning on the outside porch, staying mostly dry while we enjoyed our lunch.

We opted to take the interstate for part of the ride back to Avon since it was raining hard and we wanted to get back quickly. Our hotel room is now decorated with rain gear, gloves, and motorcycle gear hanging on every surface to hopefully dry out overnight. Another successful day on our cross-country trip!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Fog and mountain hills in the Northeast

The weather forecast this morning for the Northeast was dire:  thunderstorms, torrential rain, flooding, and dense fog. When we walked out of the hotel at 7:30 am, it wasn't raining and the fog wasn't horrible, so we set off on the BMW with a loose plan to continue northeast into Yew York or possibly Connecticut. Once again we didn't have a set destination in mind due to the weather.

To miss heavy city traffic and hoover up some faster miles, we rode for about 75 miles on interstates today, amusing ourselves by taking a selfie in the reflective silver of a semi-trailer.

Off the interstate we enjoyed the quieter pace of the less congested roads, even though the low-hanging clouds limited our long-distance views.

This part of northeastern Pennsylvania is the Poconos, a 2400 square mile escarpment overlooking the Delaware River. Because it's so close to major metropolitan areas, the forests, hills, lakes, and waterfalls in the Poconos are an extremely popular destination.

We rode through New York state on I-84, exiting in Connecticut. We enjoyed a fantastic lunch at The Bistro, located in the historic 1898 Chas. B. Thompson Queen Anne-style building. In 1866, Thompson was the first person to start a mail-order business, selling items like cheap jewelry and toys. He expanded his business into selling soap, and gave away free dolls to little girls who sold the most soap. Sales were so brisk that he opened his own factory in this building.

Since the horrible weather forecast hadn't yet come true, we decided to ride further than we originally anticipated, stopping for the night in Avon, CT. We're meeting friends who live in the area for dinner on Tuesday, and will enjoy three nights in the same hotel. Tomorrow we plan to ride into Rhode Island, checking off another state on our list, and return back to Avon.

We left Arizona two weeks ago and so far haven't needed our rain gear. We've ridden through the dry heat of the southwestern desert, high heat and humidity in the South, waded into the Gulf of Mexico in Alabama, twisted our way up and down through the Appalachian Mountains, and currently are enjoying the sweeping, curving roads in the Northeast. Everyone we've met has been friendly and interested in our trip, making suggestions on roads to take and where to eat. We're not yet at our half-way point, and so far we've traveled 4,261 miles. We're looking forward to the rest of the trip!

Saturday, August 11, 2018

An out-of-the-ordinary day on the BMW

Usually we plan our route for the day's ride to stay off the Interstate highways, much preferring the slower pace of local roads that also give us more of a feel for the communities. We also book our hotel room so we know where we're headed, and plug the hotel's address into our Garmin GPS system so that no matter how many scenic 'wrong' turns we take, we always end up where we plan to spend the night.

Today we threw caution to the wind. The weather forecast was for intermittent rain and thunder storms, and while we planned to spend the night somewhere in Pennsylvania, we also needed to ride into Delaware to check off our 13th new state. We decided to start the day's trip with about 100 miles on I-81 heading north from Harrisonburg, VA to Chambersburg, PA to cover the miles quickly and hopefully beat the storms.

We started at 6:30 am before the sun came up, and watched the light gradually highlight the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains in the distance. I-81 travels through the Shenandoah Valley and crosses the Shenandoah River.

We crossed in and out of Maryland and Pennsylvania a few times today so that we could dip into the northwestern corner of Delaware. We rode through Gettysburg, PA, site of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, the inspiration for President Lincoln's famous Gettysburg address, and the turning point in the war that ended General Robert E. Lee's second invasion into the North.

This was the most traffic we've experienced yet in our 14 days on the road from home in Arizona, and it was jarring and frustrating to be in stop-and-go traffic through the numerous towns and small cities. We decided to let the Garmin GPS take over, and were relieved to be routed away from the centers of most of the towns and instead enjoyed the quieter side roads through the rolling hills of this part of the country.

We finally stopped for a late lunch in the beautifully named town of Honey Brook. We saw a billboard advertising a local diner, and Wimpy & Dee's didn't disappoint. Our waitress was friendly and helpful, the chocolate milkshake perfect with our sandwiches, and we enjoyed the 1950's memorabilia.

While we were eating lunch cellphones all around us started buzzing with a thunderstorm and possible flooding weather alert. We decided to find a hotel within an hour's ride to hopefully beat the approaching storm, and settled on Limerick, PA. This part of Pennsylvania is home to many Amish, and our route took us past several Amish farms, a couple of Amish driving a horse-pulled cart, and children working in the fields or riding push-scooters.

Everything out-of-the-ordinary worked out today:  we just missed several storms, riding on wet roads where steam was rising off the pavement covered with puddles; we rode into Delaware; the Interstate helped us get around congested areas and ride faster; and taking our chances using the Garmin instead of pre-planning our route took us on curving roads through the beautiful green countryside.

We rode 360 miles today and 4167 total miles so far on our trip. Each day brings new challenges and something unexpected as we continue to make our way northeast.

Friday, August 10, 2018

A twisty 13th day on our cross-country BMW trip

Part of the fun of traveling across the country is to eat meals in local restaurants in the small towns we pass through. We've noticed that whole grain bread, fruit and vegetables are much more difficult to find in the South, and today was the first time I've ever seen bologna on the menu. Bologna was one of the meat options at breakfast (sausage, bacon, or bologna) in Sparta, NC and a fried bologna sandwich with American cheese was on the lunch menu in Franklin, WV.  We passed on both.

After breakfast without bologna, we started our ride heading northeast through the Appalachian Mountains, quickly crossing from North Carolina into Virginia, and then crossing back and forth across the West Virginia/Virginia border.

Once again we rode through misty fog created by low-hanging clouds that remind me of the cotton spiderwebs used to decorate for Halloween.

The sun quickly burned off the mist, and we enjoyed sunny skies for most of the day.

Our ride took us through green farmland with fat and happy cows grazing on the steep hillsides, to technical twisties up, down, and around the mountains. The tight corners, 9% grades down the mountains, rivers and streams running along the road, and the green fields and forests made this an absolutely awesome day.

Mid-morning we were startled when a bear shambled across the road in front of us, and an hour or so later a young fawn scurried across the road.

Our route took us through several national forests:  Jefferson, Washington, and Monongahela and we even went past the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia, home to the most accurate large dish radio telescope in the world. Soon after we passed the observatory and were winding our way up and down the mountains on WV 28, the BMW's odometer rolled over to 6000 miles. We did a little happy dance and continued zooming on our way.

We ended the day in Harrisonburg, Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley  Tomorrow we'll continue northeast, dipping into Delaware to cross it off our list of new states.