Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The days surrounding Memorial Day 2011

What a week! 
About 2200 miles, lots of scenery, lots of friends.  
I am back at work today, not sure really what to do first.
I think I am just recuperating for a bit.  :)
Saturday May 21, kick stand up at 5:30am. Gave my hubby a hug and a kiss and hit the road.  The weather had been rainy all week, and this morning dawned misty but promising, it was worth the risk to not wear rain gear.

My friend, Mannie rode with me for a few hours, destination- the Alexis Diner in Newburg, NY. We had a hearty late breakfast and then I ventured on solo, my destination Frederick, MD to have dinner with another friend. 
About to push on solo from Alexis Diner.

The 520 mile ride was uneventful, arriving at the restaurant at 4:20, very pleased to have made it that far and still have daylight. The trick for me is to leave at dawn, as my energy level is best before noon. I think I could do another couple hours IF I had to,
but 10 hours on the bike is about my limit.  
I was invited to stay at my friend's home that night.  I got to meet a couple of his pets... The orange and black guy is named Harley!  My brother had a big python in our house so these little guys were easy.
With only a couple hundred miles on Sunday, it was a welcomed short day. Before leaving, Michael took me to breakfast and to meet a friend of his who has an enviable collection of bikes. His choice for the day was a Honda CB500four, I think a '72. This was my mom's first bike back when I was a teen, so a photo had to taken! 

Rolling toward Virginia, my gps, Jack, said 'turn right and board the ferry.'  Cool!!!  I had no idea I was to do this, it was such a surprise, I almost didn't get my camera out in time before boarding, the ferry master was waving me on as I approached White's Ferry to cross the Potomac River.
I had so much fun, you'd have thought I never cross a river on a ferry before, taking a bunch of tourist type photos. It was a short scoot across the river and into Virginia...

The weather was gorgeous when I left, but approaching the mountains, the skies were threatening to do something. It seems that every time I ride into Roanoke, it rains!!  But thankfully, a short lived stint in my rain gear and it was clear riding to my next destination, New Castle Virginia, for a relaxing few days of riding the mountains with friends. How welcome the curvy mountain roads were after so much highway! 

 Farm after farm, rolling hills, wildflowers and the occasional deer looking at my loud bike from the woods was the order for the day.  I love this photo... it makes me think of time's passing in a gentle way:

We rode to a village called Burke's Garden, I don't know if it is a full sized town or not, so village seems to fit better. Take a quick peek at the link, see it from the air and read the paragraph about it. Bikers all love the road called the Tail of the Dragon, and that's fine and good, but there are hundreds of equally spectacular tight twisty roads in these hills, and the road up to Burke's Garden is one of them. If I could have, I would have taken pictures of the switchbacks, but I was too busy. :)  Woodsy and dark, it winds tightly and steeply up the mountain, 

opening up to a lovely farmland. Everyone's name is painted on arrow shaped sign posts with mileage to their houses. I understand that you cannot buy land up here unless you are related to the family. At the top is a sweet little store, where we stopped for a little bit, had a sandwich on the porch, before turning back down. There is only one way up, one way down. 

The days are all rather blurry at this point, so here are a few more photos to show you... 

A quaint covered bridge from 1916. I wanted SO much to back my bike into it and take a photo, but the obvious road blocks at each end told me that was a no no. It did look like someone else caved to the desire though and dragged the railroad tie to the side. 
This is the little town of New Castle from the top of the mountain. There's a small grocery, a gas station and a Subway... a few other small businesses.  People come here for a relaxing summer by Craig Creek, the cabins were just starting to be opened for the season.
A typical, serenely beautiful misty morning from the porch. I love the ocean, it goes straight to my soul, but I can understand how one can lose one's heart to these mountains. 
If I spent more time here, the ocean and mountains would have a fight for first dibs on my heart.

One of my favorite stops was at Blue Collar Joe's. Mark pulled into the lot and asked, "you want a donut?" I said, "are they good here?" 

His answer was that yes, they are awesome and they make a donut with bacon on it.  I laughed and made the very firm statement that if a donut exists with bacon on it, I would eat it. Of course I did not believe him.  I have been a vegetarian for 20 years, so this is not something I toy with. We went inside and wouldn't you know... their best selling donut is called the Blueberry Pancake Breakfast. A blueberry donut, maple frosting and smoked bacon crumbled on top.  I could not stop giggling. It was an amazing sight to see all these interesting combinations. 
Check the link and look at the menu :)
 And I will admit, I liked the Blueberry Breakfast Donut... although I liked whatever amazing chocolate one  better :)  If you are going down I81 in Virginia, north of Roanoke, this unassuming donut shop is well worth the detour!
 And here's some coffee to go with those donuts... I take mine with cream and Splenda.  A fun tree on the road into New Castle. :) 
 I liked this picture of my bike... a very Dirty Girl, I might add. Road dust, bugs, rain spots and mud gave her a lot of character this week. I think a chisel will be necessary to get it all off.
 Next stop, was back north a little bit, to meet with friends for Rolling Thunder 2011.  After a whole bunch of emails, texts, phone calls and messages, we all finally got coordinated in Lynchburg VA. This year was the first time that a bunch of us were finally going to be in one zip code.  Big Daddy (Gary) flew in from Houston (left) and stayed with Mickey (right).  Two big guys with big hearts!  I came to Lynchburg a day early to surprise Big Daddy at the airport, to which he stated that he knew I would be there.
pffft...suuure he did. :)

A hearty grilled supper at Mickey's home with home brew on the back porch was just what the doctor ordered.  Oh, I have to say grilled because I have been corrected that when down south if I said a barbecue, it would have meant a certain kind of meat. Apparently we use it as a verb up north, down south it is a noun. And then there's the word supper...I got corrected to say dinner. A lively discussion as to what defines the two words ensued, and as you can imagine, no resolution, so another beer was the answer. :) 
The next morning, the 4th in our group arrived from St Louis, Missouri. Ranger rumbled up on Leroy, his Roadstar, ready for a hearty breakfast. 

 Bodies and bikes fueled up, we were on our way to Springfield VA, a suburb of DC.  We had three bikes and a truck/trailer. I was the ride leader, and was just praying that Jack had chosen a good way to get there. All in all, not a bad ride, a turn or two that approached quickly, a jockeying for position with a panel truck that left the truck driver more flustered than I was I think.  I could go the rest of my life not riding on I-95 again and it would be too soon. I have yet to see such a cut-throat section of highway as that one was going into DC. Very aggressive driving like none I have ever seen. It was difficult to stay together as a group.  Thankfully it was only about 30 miles of it. 
We arrived at our hotel, chilled for a bit with a cold beer, met other riders as they came in. 

Soon the parking lot, protected by an overpass was filled... 

That evening, the hotel shuttle took us to a nearby pub for supper... this poor van, it was stuffed like the clown car at the circus!  I don't really know just how many got into it, thankfully it only had to take us a few blocks. 
Every square inch had someone jammed into it. We laughed a lot that night!
Saturday, we went to Arlington National Cemetery and The Wall.  Last year was my first time at these two sacred places, they were very moving. This year was a little more challenging to overcome the stress of waiting an hour on the highway off ramp to enter. 
I bet we all sweat off a few pounds..... 

 The changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is emotional and powerful. One young soldier who was talking with some veterans about helping to change the wreath, did not look to be more than 24 years old. On his jacket was a purple heart.  It brings tears to my eyes to see just how young the people are that answer their call to serve with all their heart.
 It affects everyone in their own way...

We then rolled onward to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial or simply, The Wall. The commons all around the memorial were crowded with motorcycles, also known as Thunder Alley.  They allow the bikes to ride up onto the sidewalks and park anywhere there is space. Great thanks should be given to the police department for this luxury!  They calmly ride horses all around the area, very calm horses, I have to add.

 In my hand was a scrap of paper with a name and a few letters and numbers on it.  My friend's uncle was killed in Vietnam and I promised that I would find him. It did not take very long, and thankfully, it was within easy reach to make a rubbing of his name, Amalio Gonzalez.
 Big Daddy's cousin's name is also on the wall, Doyle McShan, killed at the age of 21.  I could not help but cry with Gary as he told me Doyle's story.  His name was up fairly high and we needed the help of a volunteer to make a rubbing of it. They graciously lug step ladders back and forth all day to help those looking for names. Thank-you...  

We were all pretty tired at the end of the day, happily hanging out at a local eatery with some old friends. It was an awesome surprise to see Joyce and Jim, an unexpected suprise!  They brought with them their beautiful family and grandbabies...
Back at the hotel, the week suddenly caught up with me and I kind of hit my own wall.... I did not feel as though I had the energy to go through another hot crowded day and made the decision to go home rather than ride in Rolling Thunder this year.  It was an unpopular decision, but as I rolled homeward on Sunday, I felt it was the right decision.  I saw those people that were important to me, experienced the memorials and got the name off The Wall for Mannie.  
526 miles home to family hugs. :)

Ranger followed me to my town, to meet my family. DG had very rare company in the garage...Leroy was settled in for the night.

We had a nice little visit, some great home cooked food from my mom. It was wonderful to sit with feet up in the back yard, listening and watching the birds. Monday was iffy, threatening to thunderstorm, so we waited a little bit, then took a little country ride to a beautiful Veteran's memorial cemetery in Winchendon, MA.
Had to stop at Honey Bee Lane! 
The memorial cemetery is lovely... the grounds feel much like Arlington, with how the headstones line up. 

There is a peaceful monument dedicated to all the armed forces, I love to sit on the grass and listen to the 8 flags softly flying in the wind, their ropes gently tapping against the flagpoles.
I got to thinking that were weren't all too far from one of New England's meccas for bikers...Kimball Farm.
Heavenly, fattening fried foods abound here, big plates of onion rings, fish and chips, and lobster rolls. And of course, ice cream!
I am thankful there was no photo taken when my ice cream fell off the cone into my lap. haha :)
Back in Holliston, I showed Ranger one of the local photo ops.. the Arch Street Bridge, one of the smallest arch bridges anyone will ever see. Too bad for the graffiti, but the photo if fun. A neighborly neighbor came out of her house to take our photo- Mudville is the friendliest village in town! 

I was really grateful that Ranger was able to see one of our local memorials, one that is installed twice a year as long as it is necessary. Unfortunately, it is still necessary. 

One of our own Vietnam veterans makes posters of all the US and allied troops that have been killed during war, in the time between Memorial Day and Veteran's Day. It is poignant and moves me to tears each year, as I drive by, reading and saying aloud the names of those who have died and noting their ages. Mostly young, but then you see someone in their forties...and think about the high likelihood of young children at home... 
I will be happy when these wars are over!

All in all, a great week!
Thanks to all:
my family, my friends, and the military who serve our country.
Thanks for reading, 
God Bless,

Monday, May 2, 2011

Birthdays are a good thing!

This time of year is always so joyful and hopeful as the daffodils and tulips pop up, the forsythia are bursting with their delighted bright yellow blooms... having been born on May 1st, it makes for a happy backdrop to my birthday each year. 

The weather forecast was for sunshine and high sixties, which is my favorite combination for riding.... I get to wear all my gear, feel cozy and safe and have cool air on my face. I love it!  I planned a ride through back roads of Connecticut.  This state got more than its share of beautiful, twisty quintessential New England roads. My friend Mannie opened his day to ride with me on the 150 mile loop.  Gave Dirty Girl a pre-ride check, the air is good in the tires.  I am happy because I hate to kneel down under the saddlebags to inflate the back tire. :)  All ready to go...

But the first order of the day is church. 

This is where I transform from Biker Chick to Choir Girl.  I always get a chuckle or two as I robe up... I have no idea why!  :)
Mannie arrived and we took off for CT around 11:30

(Mannie's pic was taken from another ride earlier this season) 
We happily set sail for CT, getting almost immediate satisfaction with the beautiful day it had turned into...
The one big bummer of the day, was the shock at the gas pumps!  Look at the number on the pump, I have to use premium... $18.45 for 4 gallons.  $4.59 per gallon...UGH!  
It is a good thing that it was my birthday and I was having a good time. Mannie and I wound our way south toward a little town called Moosup and then headed west to Willimantic. 
We had the usual missed turns as I was happily looking at the scenery, and one spot where my gps, Jack wanted us to turn down a road that was posted with a 'bridge out, road closed' sign.  The road straight ahead was gravel and Jack did not recognize it.  I am willing to ride on uneven ground when I have to, but DG and I are not trailblazers, so we turned around and found our way back to the route on another back road. Jack worked very hard to get us back on track.  After about 70 gorgeous miles, our bikes rolled into Willimantic CT.  An old textile mill town full of history, The American Thread Co gave the town it's nickname, Thread City.  Names of businesses through the downtown harken to this heritage. 
But the most fascinating tidbit of history centers around these guys... something that made my head nearly spin off trying to get a good look at them:
Giant copper frogs, sitting on top of spools of thread, two sentinels at each end of the bridge. The story of the frogs is rather funny.  Back in 1754, the townsfolk heard horrific screams in the middle of the night. Thinking that the native Indian tribe was attacking them, they ran out into the night with loaded muskets. Others dropped to their knees in fervent prayer. There was no one to be found. The sun rose, people went outside and found thousands of dead frogs piled around a drying up pond. The town suddenly had a mascot, one that appears all through the downtown on signs and sculpture. 
Mannie and I stopped at the Willimantic Brewery, a micro brew pub located in an old post office.  The decor was rustic and welcoming, the food delicious.  The fact that motorcycles were aplenty in their parking lot told us that it would probably be a good choice.  Bikers know how to eat! 
behind those glass door are the brew tanks...
I had a most delicious home made veggie burger,big and flavorful, a delight to most vegetarians. A side of cajun fries and I was happy.  Mannie had fish and chips that he gave the thumbs up to.  A quick stop at the frog bridge for better photos was in order on the way out of town after lunch....The things bikers do for a photo... I just HAD to lay down on the pavement to get my bike and the frog into the same frame because it was so tall  :)
Back on the road, heading north east over more lovely roads, most New England bikers are familiar with route numbers like 664, 198, 197 and 169. The never fail to disappoint.  Having ridden across the states, these roads often remind me a bit of Kentucky and Virginia.
 The houses of New England though, are something special... these old towns are built around Victorians and Colonials that simply take my breath away.  Here is one of my favorites, and you only have one guess as to why I might like it.. 
I could not have asked for a more perfect ride... thanks to Mannie for following me and snapping a boatload of photos!!  That in itself was a great gift :)  I got home around 6:30, parted ways with Mannie and sent him on home... he snapped one more as he rode home that I think is lovely...
BUT... this is not the end of the celebration! Monday, my husband Mo and I took the T into the city and spent a leisurely day walking around Cambridge.  My birthday wish list had art supplies on it, so a trip to Utrecht was in order. It is the equivalent of a 6 year old in a toy store to take me to an art supply store. New paints, markers, drawing pencils and a couple of oil brushes were put into my bag and I was a happy girl :)
Cambridge has such exquisite architecture. I grew up in this area and I was snapping pictures today as if I was here for the first time...I love the old brick and stone buildings and churches. 

The next order of business was lunch...Mo got out his new 4G phone to see what was in the area.  Actually, he had this phone out much of the time to see where things were or to find the answer to a question we had... when I turned to look at him, this is what I saw most of the time. He's only had it a week, so he's having a lot of fun seeing what it can do.  I can't say that I blame him.  :)

We decided on Tommy Doyle's pub.  It is right next door to the famous Grendel's Den, which was crowded with patrons. Tommy Doyle's got a 4 star rating and so it sounded great. As we walked up, it looked quirky and welcoming, just my kind of place. How can one not like a burger and beer lunch special for $9.99? 

Inside it was cool and dark, the perfect pub atmosphere.  We order up our brew, Mo got Guiness and I got a Harpoon special wheat beer on tap.  Again, how could I not love this?  My beer was color coordinated with my hair... (no bike riding today, so I could indulge)
And for the second time this weekend, I had another home made veggie burger, with a side of sweet potato fries, one of my most favorite treats ever!  And I remembered to get a photo of it.  This is dedicated to Lloyd, supreme photographer of his food.  :)

We stuffed ourselves at lunch and after walking it off a bit, stuffed home made ice cream on top. The day today was again, perfectly presented to me with bright sunny and somewhat cool temps.  Mo and I window shopped, and poked through some of Cambridge's multitudes of funky stores, finally dropping exhausted into a seat on the trolley home, in time for pizza and birthday cake.  I am not hesitant in sharing what I wished for.. something that I wish for nearly every day, and that is World Peace. Wouldn't that bee lovely?

A happy birthday to me. 
It truly was! :)

Thanks for reading!  
love, bee