Thursday, June 24, 2010

Staying "Honest" in all this Heat

There's nothing like being a running shoe test "mule" to keep a runner honest. You see, I committed to being a shoe tester for Brooks Running and those wildly colored Brooks "test" shoes arrived on my doorstep just days before I left for my trip up through the Northeast. So a pair came along with me on my motorcycle. I did get some runs in, just not as many as I'd hoped or would have liked. So now I feel like I have some making up to do.

I arrived home from the trip to the ongoing heat wave that has had Houston in its grip since mid-May. The weather forecast on the news last night said the low's for the night would be 78 degrees... !!! ..... I promised myself that once I was home I'd make up for the meager miles the past week, but when I arrived home to a broken A/C unit, I used that as the excuse not to go run that first morning home.

So I dreaded what lay ahead of me when I awoke this morning. Extreme Heat. Extreme Humidity.

Surprise! At 6:00 AM I awoke to the sound of thunder rumbling in the distance. As I laid there in bed, my senses slowly awakening, I began to hear the patter of rain outside my bedroom windows. The running gods chose to smile down on Houston this morning, sending a blessed and badly needed rain to the area. My outlook and expectations improved dramatically.

Running shorts and tank top on, pair "B" of the tester shoes now on my feet, I grabbed my two essential items - my running hat and a piece of Trident gum- and headed out the door. Distance?? I had no idea...I would just play it by ear, see how it goes.

I absolutely LOVE running in the rain! No fair-weather runner am I! It keeps the temperatures down and keeps me cool and, once totally wet, the rain makes no difference at all. By the time I got through the first mile I knew that I'd be turning this into a longer run than my usual weekday distance. The miles came easily. I paid attention to how the shoes felt for the first couple of miles, so that I could take notes when I got home. This was my first run in shoe "B." I'd brought shoe "A" with me on my trip last week and got a few miles in with those.

The neighborhood still slumbered under the dark clouds as I ran and in the darkness of the gentle rain I noticed more detail in neighbors' gardens than I'd ever noticed before: lawns were greener, flowers more vibrant. None of the usual walkers or biyclists were out this morning; it was just me, running through the gentle but steady rain and skirting the puddles in the roadway. The rain added novelty to an otherwise familiar route and to add to the novelty I mixed it up a little by doing the side streets a little differently than usual.

Along the way I came across the usual wildlife - rabbits mostly - but happened upon a new resident, one I'd not seen before. We have racoons and armadillos and opossums living on our golf course, but I can't say that I've seen one of these before.

You see, a skunk and I came nearly face to face this morning!

As I ran along the left edge of the road I spied movement off to my right coming from between two houses that back up to one of the fairways. As our trajectories grew closer - and as the object moved onto the roadway - I could see that it was a skunk. A really beautiful skunk, too. Her fur was thick and plush, a rich black color and the white stripe that is so often a dingy yellow color on other skunks was a crisp clean white. She got fully into the roadway then saw or sensed me and froze. I froze, too, once I realized what I was about to encounter.

We checked each other out, not 20 feet apart and, as I did so, I realized she had something in her mouth. I'm referring to the skunk as a "she" now because once I realized what she had in her mouth, I deduced her gender. She had a little baby skunk kit in her mouth, held by the scruff of its neck like a cat would carry her kittens. It was a tiny kit, but had a discernable tiny little white stripe on its back. It couldn't have been more than a day or two old, and mama skunk was apparently relocating her litter somewhere else: To be safe? To be dry? I only hoped that she made it with all her kits and didn't get hit by a car. I never thought I'd say this, but mama skunk was actually rather cute. So round, so fluffy, such pretty fur!

Madame skunk and I decided we were not a threat to the other and we each continued on our way, me to finish my run, her to safely relocate her little family.

I finished my run in a reverie, thinking about the little skunk and the other animals that call our golf course home. Whenever I see wildlife in our little gated community I must remind myself that they were here first. There are those hundreds of rabbits that freely roam our yards, our gardens, the golf course, with very little if any fear of humans. They're like pets, they're so tame. There are the geese that live in along the banks of the water hazards on the golf course and occasionally wander into someone's front yard. On hole 6 in particular, the geese come out front of one specific house and hang out in the driveway. The raccoons that claim my backyard and rooftop as their own are a little bit of a nuisance given the piles of poop they leave behind, but they are awfully cute and have given my cat plenty of entertainment as they've occasionally come nose to nose through the sliding glass door. The armadillos that routinely dig up the putting greens of our golf course are simply searching for their breakfast. They're so ugly they're cute in a way.

4.5 mile run in the rain with a skunk encounter to boot!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Scent of Fresh Hay is Getting Stronger!

Last night was spent in Wytheville VA and Monday will be pretty much a "get me as close to home as possible" day, just cranking out the miles.

I got on the road about 1/2 hour earlier than I thought...which is a good thing...and I'll gain an hour as I cross into Central Timezone today, so I'm feeling optimistic about how far I can get today, Monday. Today is my birthday, too! I can think of better ways to spend it, but I can also think of worse ways.

Things were going well today so, when I neared Chattanooga, I got a wild hair and decided to exit and head the short distance south to Chickamauga National Battlefield park to get a stamp. While this trip has resulted in collecting many new-to-me stamps (most of the stamps so far this trip have been new-to-me), this would be one I'd visited before. Even so....once again....I missed the turn into the visitor center. It didn't look right, turning into a driveway in front of yellow bricked columned plantation-style house. I didn't remember this. But as soon as I rode a few more feet I recognized the visitor center behind that building. Another U-turn.

But once I got that sorted out, I parked and went inside to get a stamp. Did I mention that today is my birthday?? Well, I now qualify for the senior park pass - a one-time $10 charge for the pass. So I thought I'd buy that pass today, since my regular pass had expired back in March. At $80 per year fee, I opted not to renew, to pay cash if necessary to enter some parks, until I could get my senior pass. But...the volunteer manning the desk said that I'd have to wait for a regular park ranger to return from his lunch break. I wanted to keep moving so opted not to wait.

It was officially now blistering hot. My predetermined destination for the night was somewhere around Meridien or Jackson MS, and I'd play it by ear as I got through Alabama and over the state line into MS.

By Meridien I was pretty much ready to get off the bike, take a shower, and go get some real food for dinner. Besides the later stops each night on this trip, regular meals have been few and far between as well. A Hampton Inn got my business this night and there was an Applebee's within walking distance. Steak and Shrimp combo for dinner, a Samuel Adams Summer brew to wash it down, and a "Triple Chocolate Threat" for dessert.

There was some sort of state track meet going on in town and the hotel marquee welcomed the attendees. As I returned to the hotel after dinner I spotted a few lanky young men heading out into that mid-90's heat, i-pods in hand, for a run. I confess it did make me feel a bit guilty, since I'd not run since leaving Cortland NY nearly a week ago.


Tuesday morning and nowhere to go but straight home. When I stopped for gas in Jackson MS, an overland trucker stopped by to chat a bit, asking me where I was headed. He advised me of all the construction spots on my route and suggested I avoid Baton Rouge. I was seeing traffic delay warnings on my GPS for that area, so I figured he knew what he was talking about. I had considered going through Natchez anyway, and his information just confirmed it for me.

As I was riding along on US-84 totally unimpeded by traffic or other delays, I remembered that there was a national park in Natchez, easily accessed right off of 84. It was a quick and painless stop and netted 3 national park stamps. Once over the Mississippi River, I knew I was nearly home.

US-165 south out of Alexandria LA connects to I-10 just east of Lake Charles and now I'm just a tank of gas away from pulling into my own driveway. I'll be home just at 5:00 PM and just ahead of the rush hour traffic. Home to cat, piles of mail, and a broken air conditioner. Looking on the bright side of the broken A/C is that I've just stepped off of a motorcycle, having ridden in 98-degree heat the last two days, so it wasn't as much of a shock as it would have been had I just stepped out of an air-conditioned car into a boiling hot house. But needless to say, I quickly put a phone call in to Houston Air to schedule a repair call and then peeled off the riding gear, took a refreshing shower and cranked all the ceiling fans up to high speed.

Home at last!

Total miles: 5,002

National Park Tour stats: (start date: 13 June 2010)
States: 13
Stamps: 23

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Another Roosevelt Connection and some Civil & Revolutionary War Sites

Yesterday I visited Roosevelt's home in Hyde Park. This morning I visited a legacy of Roosevelt's New Deal program: Catoctin Mountain Park.

Much of this day will be spent on secondary roads zig-zagging my way to some national parks in MD and WV. My route took me off the interstate and onto local roads in PA, heading toward the little town of Waynesboro then south into MD. I made the first turn but missed the second one, so pulled over into a parking lot to see what I'd done wrong. Not a routing tragedy, but it did add a few miles to my route. Once I got onto Route 77 east of Smithsburg I began to pass groups of motorcycles coming the other way. It didn't take but a 1/2 mile or so to understand why. Route 77 had some serious elevation changes by way of a few hairpin turns. The signs at the start of the road warned RV'ers and truckers greater than 25' to turn around. So I had a great ride up the mountain into the park and then, a few miles later, to the national park visitor center. This park was densely wooded with mature stands of pine and hardwood trees and I felt like I'd been transported to a different part of the country, and I guess, in a way, I was transported.

My next stop was Antietam National Battlefield, not too far south of Catoctin Mountain. I was at Antietam a few years ago with friend Mike. He and I did the full tour, listening to the ranger give a talk in the 2nd floor glass-enclosed viewing room first, then riding the full park route and stopping at each of the marked locations to take photos and read the plaques. Today, was a quick visit with relatively quick stamp, browse the bookstore, then leave for my next destination. When I was here before, we came up to the park from the south, but this time I'd be approaching it from the north and, of course, by the time I came around the curve and down the slight hill, the turn came up too quickly to brake safely. I had to ride into the town of Sharpsburg before I could safely do a U-turn. This just hasn't been my day for navigating! As I parked the bike, I saw a small group of reenactment soldiers mustering in preparation for a demonstration somewhere in the park.

From here it's a short ride down to Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. The route took me through the really, really neat and cool town of Shepherdstown then continued onto a stretch of the roadway that I remembered as being simply awesome! The road was so old, that centuries of "traffic" - first horse, cart and oxen, now automobile - had packed the roadbed down until it was well below the surrounding countryside, which now looms above the roadway like an earthen canyon. There are roads like this in the cotswolds of England, and it very much reminded me of trips I've made to that country. However....I missed the fork in the road that would have taken me on this stretch, so instead I found myself heading slightly off-course. But the road would eventually take me to within 2 miles of where I needed to be.

I toyed with the idea of taking the tour bus down into the old town area this time, since Mike and I didn't do it last time. But when I arrived at the visitor center it was blazingly hot! I walked up to the visitor center, got my stamp and even started heading for the tour bus that was sitting right there, waiting for its next load. I thought about it a few minutes, going to the restroom and getting a drink from the water fountain to delay the decision. But in the end, I skipped the tour...this time. Doing the tour calls for wearing comfortable clothes and shoes, and black armoured textile riding pants and motorcycle boots just don't seem to fit that bill for me.

I worked my way back to I-81 and continued southwest for 150-170 miles, where I got off in Buchanan VA to ride 43 over to the Blue Ridge Parkway. interesting as 77 was, getting to Catoctin, 43 was even more so. It twisted its way up out of Buchanan for 4.7 miles to get to the Blue Ridge Parkway and the signs forbidding any trucks or RV's on this stretch are serious about it. It was narrow and tight and steep and twisting. In one of those weird paradoxes of instantaneity and eternity, I then found myself at the entrance ramp to the Blue Ridge.

Just as I got to the top of the ramp and the stop sign, a dark red Gold Wing swept past me, gracefully leaning into the next curve. I followed him in hot pursuit, not quite able to keep up with him, and he pulled into the visitor center a few miles down the parkway, moments before I did. I stamped my passport book and then retraced my route on the parkway, but continued a few more miles south to US 220, which took me back to the interstate.

Before leaving on this trip, I had been in touch with a friend who lives in Marion VA. I thought I'd be stopping for the night near where she lives, and had agreed to give her a call once off the Blue Ridge Parkway, to set a meeting time. I stopped for gas on 220 and gave her a call. I had finished up the park stamps portion of the day's ride much later than I had hoped, and the heat was sapping what little resolve I had left in me to make it as far as Abingdon for the night. I told her this. I also needed to do laundry. Even the clothing items I'd been rinsing out each night were starting to take on a permanent funky aroma. I felt bad doing it, but I had to beg off for the night, partly because I didn't know where I would be stopping for the night, and partly because I really needed to get caught up with personal business like the laundry.

So back up onto the interstate, I promised myself that I would stop early for a change. My stops for the night while on this trip have all been no earlier than 7:00, 8:00, even 9:00 PM at night. As I rolled along, I looked up some potential options on the GPS. Wytheville was a good possibility, and I'd arrive there around 5:30 or so.

Somewhere along the way, two motorcycles appeared in my rearview mirrors and within a couple of miles they overtook me and waved as they passed by. I looked over and saw two fellows, one on a BMW R1200R just like mine, the other one on a Yamaha, a model I did not recognize. It sort of looked like an FJR but had boxy adventure-rider style sidecases and the fairing, while full fairing, was not like an FJR's. Both had Canada license plates. Soon, however, traffic began to back up and I caught up with them and fell in behind them. As traffic opened up again, we stayed together as a group for another 40 or 50 miles, until they peeled off onto I-77 south. I continued on to I-77 north and the first exit, which took me to a Hampton Inn. With a Subway at a TA Travel Center across the street. And a guest laundry room at the hotel.

This day was filled with bad decisions and navigating mistakes, but this choice of hotel - while on the fly - was the first really excellent decision I'd made all day! Stuff off the bike and brought to the room, dirty clothes assembled, I gathered the clothes and my wallet and headed downstairs to the laundry room to get a load of wash started before walking across the street to buy a Subway sandwich to bring back to the hotel.

Here I sat in the very comfortable breakfast/lounge area and ate my sandwich while watching the U.S. Open golf tournament on the big screen TV. Another couple, a little older than me, were there as well, splitting their attention between the golf game and the grandkids using the indoor pool which adjoined the breakfast area. Now here's an interesting observation: Ever notice how men -much more than women - will talk to the TV while watching a sporting event? I find this really strange. Even stranger...I've always wondered if men do this even if they're alone in the room, without an "audience" so-to-speak. Well, I think I have my answer. While watching the game, the husband continuously talked to the TV and, more specifically, to the golf ball itself. However, the wife would once in a while leave the room to watch the kids for a bit. When she did, his odd behavior would stop. He'd stop telling the golf balls what to do. When she returned to the room, he'd resume his golf ball harassment. Now isn't that really odd???

Full tummy, clean clothes, and I was one happy lady!

Tomorrow: I'm starting to smell the hay in the barn, so will push towards home.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Aristocratic Lifestye along the Hudson

It was a good day yesterday! Acadia National Park! Maine lobster for lunch! And then a really great hotel experience in Portsmouth. I remember this Best Western when it was a Holiday Inn many years ago. So it still retains a Holiday Inn-like flavor and there was a really great restaurant attached, The Roundabout Diner and Grill. It had a 50's style decor and served all the great soda fountain specialties in addition to a good menu. I had the best hamburger! Juicy, thick, covered with fresh mushrooms and swiss cheese. And homemade whoopie pies for dessert!

Today my route will take me through Massachusetts to eastern NY where I'll get off the interstate and onto Route 9 in NY, riding along the eastern banks of the Hudson River. Along this route I'll visit the homes of some significant historical figures and ride through NY towns with names familiar to all: Kinderhook, Hyde Park, and Poughkeepsie, before crossing over to the western bank of the Hudson River on the Mid-Hudson Bridge.

First stop, just a few miles south of I-90, was the home of Martin Van Buren. Van Buren, our 8th president and first U.S.-born president, struggled to hold the country together amid growing dissentions over the expanding slavery issues, a lingering recession, and issues with Great Britain, Spain and that upstart little nation, the Republic of Texas. On these political grounds, he failed to win a second term as president. It was at this house in Kinderhook that he struggled with the diplomatic issues of these situations.

From here, I continued down 9 through beautiful farmland. Miles and miles of apple orchards, bearing names like Love Apple Orchard and Hawk Orchards, and passing by many little fruit stands selling fresh berries, cherries, and other produce. Travel along this road was relatively painless as there were very few towns along the way and not much traffic. My fears were unwarranted and it looked like I'd make better time than I thought today.

My next stop was the Vanderbilt Estate, now a national park. Wow! Entry was through a really cool high gate, on a narrow little road through giant trees on the estate grounds. Life was very good for the Vanderbilts! The drive wound around the property and took me right in front of the mansion before diverting me to a parking lot near the visitor center. Impressive! Even the visitor center was housed in a beautiful two-story stone house on the grounds. I took a few moments to enjoy the grounds, but did not take the tour. Another trip, when I'm in comfortable clothes and have more time. In fact this whole area of NY is gorgeous and would make a great destination in itself.

Finally, I got back onto 9 and headed just a few miles further south to the Roosevelt compound, which includes the residence and the presidential library. This is a really large compound! It was originally Franklin Roosevelt's childhood home (imagine being neighbors to the Vanderbilts) and it was enlarged and significantly remodeled in his lifetime. I strolled over to the presidential library and then came upon a really great statue of Eleanor and Franklin behind the visitor center.

I should call this trip the "HOUSE TOUR" because so many of the national parks I've visited on this trip were of famous people's houses. These have all been interesting, and they've been each so different from each other in appearance and in historical significance:
Zane Grey
James Garfield
Van Buren


My last stop of the day before reaching Chambersburg for the night would be Morristown NJ, at Jockey Hollow, Where Washington's troops wintered over in 1780 and 1781. I watched the video and it truly was the nader of the Revolutionary War. Washington's troops were starving and half-naked when they arrived in Jockey Hollow and here they experienced the worse winter in living memory. 24 snow storms, one after the other, left 5-6 feet of snow on the ground. What meager supplies there were could not get into the encampment. Washington hounded Continental Congress to provide food, clothing and money. The state of NJ provided support and supplies that ultimately saved the army. It was a grim and moving documentary. Having just ridden to this location on motorcycle, it was hard to imagine arriving here on foot. It is heavily wooded and very hilly terrain.

Now I could get onto the interstate and point the bike south to Chambersburg for the night.

Tomorrow: I cross the Mason-Dixon Line and gather a few Confederate battle stamps.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Testing My Flower-Sniffin' Patience

I can do this. I can, as we motorcyclists say, "flower sniff" which means to get off the interstate highways. I can mosey along on little backwoods roads, stop often, and not pay any attention to the clock.

So...chastised by a friend for not truly "seeing" Acadia National Park last time I was up here, I was determined to prove that I can actually get beyond the visitor center and well into the park on its roads.

First, though, I had a 50 mile ride from Bangor to Bar Harbor and the Acadia park entrance. As I departed the hotel, there were the folks who chatted a bit with me last night about BMW's. They were in a CUV with four bicycles attached: Two on the roof, two on a rack hanging on the back.

A couple of miles down 95, then to 395, then to route 1A, and then to route 3 to Bar Harbor. A few miles down 1A I ran into the first of several long nasty sections of construction. The road surfaces were scraped down to dirt, and washboard rough, with big potholes and plenty of loose stuff. Occasionally, a flagger had traffic stopped in one direction or the other as equipment moved across the roadway. At one point, they had the entire roadway closed and were routing the vehicles, one direction at a time, completely off the road bed and down onto an off-camber steeply sloping shoulder for about 20 or 30 feet. Not fun. But I survived. I was veeerrrry thankful that, once moving, the cars in front of me kept a steady pace, which made it easier for me to handle the bike across the really rough surface.

At the park entrance, I first pulled into the visitor center parking lot, climbed those 52 steps to the visitor center, got my passport stamp, and paid my entrance fee, even talked to a volunteer a little bit about the roads in the park.

Then, as I prepared to get back on the bike, who pulled up next to me but the couple with all the bicycles...the couple I met at the hotel the night before, who have an R1150RT. They chatted with me a bit more and I learned that they were from NC, never attend any MOA rallies although they are members, and were headed to Nova Scotia, taking the ferry out of St. John tomorrow. They asked me if I'd ever been and did I know how long it would take them to reach St. John, as they had a noon ferry to catch but wanted to see Acadia first.

Leaving the visitor center, I got onto the park loop road and thought I'd do the loop first, then Cadillac Mountain. But I found myself in a long slow line of cars and when the turn came to proceed on the loop, I opted instead to go straight another mile or so to the Cadillac Mountain road.

It was a great ride up to the top and the parking lot was only about 1/2 full. I found an excellent spot to park and then grabbed camera, wallet, and passport book and headed for the paved trail that makes a loop along the perimeter of the mountain top. The views were spectacular, even with the haze. In the above photo you can see Bar Harbor and a small cruise ship anchored off shore. I took some photos from several compass points of the mountain perimeter then walked over to the little gift shop to get a passport stamp.

I was at Cadillac Mountain maybe 30 minutes and in that time the parking lot was suddenly jammed with tour buses, park trolleys, RV's and cars. There was a line of cars backed up around the parking loop as folks waited for cars to leave, as cars tried to back out of parking spots, or as trolleys and buses disgorged their contents. I had to wait a few minutes for a break in the traffic so that I could pull out of my spot. This did not bode well for the rest of the park.

Going back down the mountain road, I had the bad fortune to find myself behind one of the giant tour buses. We crept down the hill as the bus driver negotiated the tight turns and slowed to let on-coming traffic clear a particularly tight one before he turned into it. I left plenty of space between me and the bus so that I could keep a reasonably steady speed through all of this. But, as I feared, I came around a particularly tight left-hander to see that the bus had come to a complete stop to let an approaching car negotiate a hairpin turn. He would need both lanes in their entirety in order to negotiate that same turn in the opposite direction.

We continued to creep down to the stop sign, the bus and I both turning right, but when he proceeded onto the one-way loop road I made a quick decision. The park ranger said it takes most folks about 2 1/2 to 3 hours to do the loop. I saw how crowded it had gotten at the top of Cadillac Mountain in a very short period of time, and I saw how agonizing it would be to get stuck behind a tour bus on that loop. Once committed, I'd need to stick with it for quite a ways and, besides, I was starting to feel the early pangs of hunger. I decided not to do it, to just exit the park and get onto route 3 toward Bangor.
So, okay...maybe I'm not a very good flower-sniffer!


But before getting onto I-95 in Bangor to head south, I needed to stop for lunch and I knew just the place. It was now 11:30, not too early to think about food. Last time I was here I stopped at a really great little place with outdoor picnic tables and umbrellas and serving traditional New England seafood - lobster, clams, mussels, lobster rolls - as well as BBQ. It would be the perfect place to stop at again and this time I was going to have the whole nine yards, the "whole enchilada"!

The owner came around to the customers, offering them a small sample of Texas sausage. I told him I was from Texas and that started a whole "it's a small world" type of conversation. Turns out he's from Fulshear TX and just bought this place last winter. Fulshear is just west of Houston and I friend and I often ride over there for good BBQ at Doziers. He said he'll come up in the summers and, when the place is closed down for the winter, will return to Fulshear. He pointed out his big RV parked near the rear where he'll be living for the summer. He also proudly pointed out his big wood-fired BBQ pit that he pulled up here behind the RV.

It was then that I noticed the messages on the menu white boards behind the hot water cauldrons. I think the official Texas BBQ theme will be a big hit for him. Most of his customers will be from other parts of the country, and there's nothing like the mystique of TX BBQ!

He convinced me that I needed to polish off a slice of warm blueberry pie topped with vanilla ice cream.

Waddling back to the bike, I remembered that I had to contend with all of that dirt road before I was "home free" on the interstate. So I geared up, sucked it up, and got back onto highway 3. Just as I approached the first of the several long stretches of dirt I see the very thing I'd hoped I wouldn't see. The water trucks coming toward me, watering down the dirt. So now, not only would it be very rough, but it would be sloppy, too.

Fortunately the flag men were not stopping traffic through any of these stretches, unlike my ride through here earlier. I did find myself behind a big, slow-moving front-end loader going 4 miles an hour through one of the long dirt stretches but he finally turned veered off toward the right and I could get around him.

A couple of miles before Route 1A met with I-395, I stopped for gas and it was then that I saw what a muddy mess my bike was! For muddiness, it was right up there with the best of the off-roaders' muddy bikes from previous MTF off-road events! My boots were totally caked, as were the shins of my riding pants. When I looked down at the sidestand, it was covered with mud. Very little of the bike from the bottom edge of the tank down to the ground was anything but mud-caked!

I stopped one more time for gas, south of Portland before arriving in Portsmouth. I momentarily considered going a little further south to Newburyport to get a maritime national park stamp, but couldn't remember when that visitor center closes. I seemed to recall it might be 4:30 PM. Even if it were 5:00 PM I knew that I'd be cutting it very close for time. Besides it would be nice to arrive at a hotel early for a change. And I had some routing to work on for the rest of the trip.

So here I am in Portsmouth for the night.

Tomorrow: Could be an ambitious day, but I have a contingency plan if it starts to fall apart time-wise.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cold, Cold-and-Wet, Wet, and then just Cold

The title of this blog post says it all...but then I was expecting it. And dressed for it. But still...leaving Cortland in cold rain is not the best way to start a leg of a trip. I'm used to it, though. It seems the cold-and-wet part happens to me on a regular basis and no matter what part of the country I'm in.

When I left Cortland, I had a couple of national parks in my GPS to help break up the monotony of interstate travel to Maine. The first would be Fort Stanwix in Rome NY, just up the road so to speak from Cortland. If I left the motel at 8:00, I'd arrive there just after they opened at 9:00 AM. My original plan was to pass through southern VT and NH to pick up national park stamps in each of those states, but I knew the going would be slow. Add in the fact that this is Laconia Bike Week and, based on an email from a friend who lives in southern NH, it was all I needed to make a decision: Skip that route and get to Maine the fast way, via I-90 to I-495 to I-95.

Fort Stanwix is a revolutionary war-era outpost, established to protect the "Oneida Carrying Place," and an important trail connecting the Atlantic Ocean to Lake Ontario. It is known as the fort that never surrendered and played an important role in the series of victories over other nations fighting for control. It's a faithful reconstruction of the fort as it was built in the late 1700's. It's square, with four bastions, one at each corner, and occupies a large piece of land near the center of modern-day Rome. I found it with no difficulty and was able to park right in front of the visitor center, which sits right on a city street.

I stamped my National Park passport book and, not interested in the extensive walking required to visit this site (rain + motorcycle boots/pants/jacket = not very conducive to lots of walking), I reversed my course back to the NY Thruway and headed east toward Massachusetts.

With the deletion of NH and VT from my route, I could add Lowell National Historical Site to this day's route instead. This allowed the "cards" to fall into a better hand, so to speak, as it eliminates that stop from Saturday's itinerary, which is a very good thing.

As I rolled along the Mass Pike, I skipped a service island east of Springfield, thinking there would be one between Worcester and where I'd get off onto I-495. But there wasn't. So then I thought I'd get off at US 20 for gas, but the cars and trucks were seriously backed up onto the exit ramps (what the heck??) so I skipped that exit and decided to get off onto 290 and go west to the next exit - Solomon Pond Road - almost certain there was a gas station there. There wasn't. So I pulled into a parking lot and started searching for one on the GPS. The nearest one was 2 miles south, in the center of Northboro. So that's where I headed. By this point I'm sorta "dancing" in the saddle a bit (cold weather always does that to me). A mile down the road a policeman was directing traffic around some workers who were patching potholes, so I had to wait for our turn to proceed along the single lane to get past them. Arghh! But finally! I arrived at the little Gulf station on the corner in the center of town. It was one of those full service gas stations from yesteryear, with two service bays, no C-store, and bathrooms on the exterior wall, accessed by the key attached to a time-burnished large wooden wand.

That took a little longer than I would have liked, but somehow it was gave me a chance to see the center of a town I haven't seen in 30 years, looking much the same as it always has, with its antique colonial houses and tiny little downtown area, carefully preserved by architectural restrictions (a good thing).

Next stop would be the Lowell National Historic Park in a town that I knew well back when we lived in Billerica and I worked in Lowell. I took the Lowell Connector exit, getting major flashback memories as I did so. But where Lowell Connector deposited me in town had changed radically since I lived there in the late '70's, early '80's. Actually much has changed about this small city. Nearly all of the downtown is incorporated in one way or another into this national park. Nearly all of the old buildings that were mills, stores, boarding houses and the like during the industrial revolution are still there today. The city sits on the Merrimack River, a significant source of water power for the big textile looms, and Lowell and Lawrence saw significant growth as a result of this.

I managed to find the visitor center on a street that I should have known well, but hardly recognized. The intersection, once controlled by a traffic light and crisscrossed by rail, is now controlled by off ramps from what used to be Fletcher Street. The canal - once weedy and trashy and long-neglected - has been cleaned up and its banks cemented and bricked.

As I left Lowell on the Connector to get back onto I-495, I noticed that the traffic, which was backed up just north of the Lowell Connector when I exited 495 earlier, was now backed up well south of Highway 3 and the Connector. I went to Plan B. Knowing the roads pretty well around here, I headed straight down Highway 3 to I-95. I figured that the backup could quite possibly be caused by the I-93 interchange which was quite a few miles north of Lowell. Traffic flowed freely on Highway 3 and on I-95, backing up just a little as it neared I-93, but never enough to come to a complete stop and only for 1/2 mile or so. Once past that interchange, traffic was flying again.

I stayed at the Hampton Inn in Bangor and as I carried my things into the lobby I greeted a nice older couple who were doing laps around the hotel parking lot. I couldn't help but notice this. They were very friendly and informed me that they had just eaten at Olive Garden and felt guilty about the quantity so were walking it off. Once in the lobby, a woman checking in at the desk turned to me, smiled, and said that she and her husband had been admiring my BMW. It seems they saw me somewhere on the interstate and now at the hotel. They have an R1150RT, but were not riding it this trip. More about them later.

A walk down the hill to Wendy's for some honey BBQ boneless wings, and I then crashed in my room for the evening.

Tomorrow: To Acadia National Park for the day.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Day Trippin' in Upstate NY

No matter what else happens, today I want nothing more than to sleep in late and hang around OFF THE BIKE for the day doing absolutely nothing. Dream on, girl!

Weather forecast for today is for beautifully clear skies and idyllic temperatures, whereas the forecast for tomorrow is for rain, heavy at times, and gusty winds.

So guess what I'm doing today? Not sleeping in, not hanging around OFF THE BIKE. That's for sure!

Therefore, the plan for the day is to get up early and head south out of Cortland NY to go to Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton PA and then east to a couple of national park units of the greater Delaware Water Gap historic corridor, in the Upper Delaware region.

It was cool but not uncomfortably so as I left Cortland and got onto I-81 heading south through Binghamton and on to Scranton. Despite being an interstate, this road is plenty pretty - green mountains and high-speed sweepers - all the way to Scranton.

Steamtown is a large collection of steam-era rolling stock,donated by the orginal Blount family, which had accumulated this collection in the '50s and '60s. The following is from the NPS Steamtown website:
Steamtown NHS occupies about 40 acres of the Scranton railroad yard of the former Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad, one of the earliest rail lines in northeastern Pennsylvania. At the heart of the park is the large collection of standard-gauge steam locomotives and freight and passenger cars that New England seafood processor F. Nelson Blount assembed in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1984, 17 years after Blount's untimely death, the Steamtown Foundation for the Preservation of Steam and Railroad Americana, Inc., brought the collection to Scranton, where it occupied the former DL&W yard. When Steamtown National Historic Site was created, the yard and the collection became part of the National Park System.
My first husband (a huge steam engine fan) and I visited the park in Vermont in the early 1970's. The collection was huge, with much of it sitting outside on short rail beds. They ran a train on a short out-and-back route, giving us a great steam engine experience.

So getting down to Scranton to see the same U.P. Big Boy that I stood and admired nearly 40 years earlier was a treat. The National Park museum is built around the Scranton Lackawanna terminus and working roundhouse. This is a far better home for these historical trains than was the setting in Vermont. It kind of reminded me of the wild exotic animals - like lions, tigers, and bears - that are rescued from intolerable conditions and placed in the humane care of wildlife sanctuaries to live out their remaining lives.

After spending some time here - and buying some souvenirs - I left Scranton and headed east to US-6 and eventually to a very good motorcycle road, highway 590, which twisted its way over the Poconos to a tiny little hamlet on the Delaware River. Here are two national historic sites: Zane Grey Museum and Roebling Aquaduct and its adorable little toll house. While the getting there was half the fun, the being there was the other half.

First of all, Zane Grey's house sits on a small rise over looking a very picturesque section of the Delaware River. I could easily imagine how creative writing "juices" would flow in this setting. I found the house but rode on past it to find the tiny little bridge. It's one lane wide and I had to yield to another car already on the bridge coming the other way.

Crossing the bridge was something else! It has high wooden walls on either side and only needs a roof to qualify as a covered bridge. There is a small parking area on the NY side of the bridge and I parked there, grabbed my camera, and walked back to the bridge and the little toll house that sits next to it. The bridge description, from the NPS web site:
The Delaware Aqueduct is the oldest existing wire cable suspension bridge in the nation. Begun in 1847 as one of four suspension aqueducts on the Delaware and Hudson Canal, it was designed by and built under the supervision of John A. Roebling, future engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge.

I got to ride over the little bridge again, then, to head back to the Zane Grey house. Such a beautiful house! I chatted a bit with the young park ranger, who told me a bit more about the bridge, as well as some about Zane Grey and this house. He told me that when they inspected the bridge for structural integrity recently, they found it to be in excellent shape and its cable tensile strength to far exceed today's structural standards yet, at the time that Roebling designed and built the bridge he had no precedent and no idea what engineering standards to shoot for.

So after my little visit at the Zane Grey house, I got to ride back over the bridge once more, to the NY side again, and then headed up NY 97, a designated Scenic Byway. It was a beautiful road, hugging the Delaware River, matching it curve for curve. Sometimes the road climbed up to a bluff overlooking the river, sometimes it descended down to river level and followed along its eastern bank.

It was while I was enjoying this road that I noticed my GPS suddenly jump from "arrival at 4:30 PM" to reading "arrival at 5:38 PM." That seemed mighty odd, but I just assumed it was the nature of the road. It took a very long time to get from Scranton to the Zane Grey Museum on 590, since it was a narrow, twisting road on which 35 mph felt very fast, 20-25 mph more typical, and 10-15 mph 90-degree or greater tight turns occasional.

But when I got to Binghamton and merged onto I-81, I knew this wasn't right. Worse, it kept adding a minute here and there even though I was moving along faster than the speed limit. I checked the turn-by-turn directions on the GPS and those were all correct, showing 62 miles to destination, which was correct.

As I neared Cortland, the turn-by-turns were on the money for correctness yet the arrival time was still way by more than an hour. When I pulled into the motel parking lot, the map showed me at the motel, but the GPS arrival time still showed more than an hour later AND the GPS did not say "arriving at destination." So strange! Someone else in our group said that their GPS did something similar that day, so we chalked it up to a GPS-like Bermuda Triangle somewhere in the area.

It was a very good day ride for me, Not so many miles - maybe around 260 miles for the day - but some great national park destinations, a few more stamps for my National Parks passport book, and some really nice roads between Scranton, Zane Grey museum, Roebling Viaduct, and back up to Binghamton.
Tomorrow will be a different story: I do fully intend to NOT RIDE!


As forecasted, Wednesday morning was gray and rainy when I woke up. Everything was wet in the parking lot so it had apparently rained quite a bit during the night and threatened to do more today. An MTF member from Rhode Island came in yesterday and he and I made plans to go for a morning run today. I had a 3 mile route mapped out and we agreed to a 7:00 AM start.

So there I was and there he was, both right on time in the parking lot and we struck out heading south on Church St toward US 13 westbound for a mile or so, then turning into SUNY Cortland campus. I warned him that I'm not a fast runner but he didn't seem to mind, and struck out a few times on some short sprints until I could catch up with him. Once on the SUNY campus, the road wound through the athletic facilities and then popped out in an unexpected place.

It was then that I realized we'd taken a wrong turn somewhere on that campus and I was pretty sure we were further west by about a mile. Once on a main road and heading sort of north, I saw where we were. Highway 222 was just ahead and we had a long run east on 222 to get back to the hotel. A check on mapping software afterward confirmed that we'd run 4.38 miles, not the promised 3 miles. But my running partner didn't fact he took off on one last sprint past the motel then doubled back and joined a few of us in the motel lobby for coffee.

On that run, he and I passed by a great little diner within easy walking distance of the motel that promised to be the perfect breakfast spot for those of us hanging around the motel for the day.

A leisurely breakfast, followed by some web surfing and getting caught up with email, then Claye (from MTF) and I walked over to Main Street and had lunch at a great NY-style deli. We all spent a some-what dissipated afternoon until those that did brave the weather returned from their rides and we all walked over to the Community Restaurant for one last dinner together.

Tomorrow morning those of us still in Cortland will all be heading out to our various corners of the country, me to Bangor ME to visit Acadia National Park before heading south toward home.

Monday, June 14, 2010

OH, a Sliver of PA, and then to Cortland NY

I was blessed this morning by very good luck...good luck indeed when it comes to running!

I've been chosen by Brooks Running to be a tester for one of their shoes. I currently wear Brooks Axiom 3, but that shoe has been discontinued, replaced by the Ravenna model. What I'm testing for them is an update to the Ravenna. The wildly color-schemed shoes are coming with me, tucking into my topcase on the BMW with hopes that I'll get lots of miles on them on this trip. Today I hoped to get the first of several "on-the-road" runs in.

This morning I awoke to sunshine and nice cool temperatures as I headed out the door of the hotel for a 6 mile run. I had "scouted" a route using MS S&T and Google satellite view and decided the best route would be south down the highway to the town of Bellville, a distance of about 3 miles, give or take, making a nice 6 mile out-and-back route. When I zoomed in on Google Satellite view, I noticed some B&O railroad lines that have been converted to trails. At the time it was just idle curiosity on my part, since the ones that I'd noticed were in town and heading out of town going southeast.

So as I started my run, the first thing I notice is that there was nearly no shoulder to the road and each time a car approached, I had to leave the pavement and hobble along on very rough and uneven grassy shoulder. This would be miserable for 6 miles. But then...

I rounded a curve in the road about 1/2 mile down, and there was the B&O trail! It crossed the highway at this point, coming from somewhere west of the road, and then curved around to follow the road in the direction of town. Unbelievable good fortune!

What an absolute treat! The old rail bed was smooth, nicely paved and tucked far enough away from the road that it was heavily wooded on both sides, creating a wonderful canopy over the trail. A river ran somewhere to my left...I could hear the rushing water. This was heaven on earth! As it neared the town, it crossed a branch of the river over the old rail trestle bridge and then I began to see lovely old homes to my right. I knew I was within a couple of blocks of the main street of town and there, on my right, was the old train station. It was a cute little dark green structure with white trim and on the other side of the trail was an old-fashioned railway station clock, the kind mounted on a 10 or 12 foot pillar. And still functioning!

In town, I left the trail to run on the bridge that crossed over the main river, taking a moment to look down at the water rushing over small falls and continuing south. At the junction of the main street and another highway, I turned around and headed back up the main street into the cute little downtown of Bellville. Very cute!

Time to turn around and head back up the B&O trail towards the hotel. The time just flew by! Nothing like a new venue and beautiful scenery to rev up a run!


Packed and checked out of the hotel, I headed north on I-71 toward the first of three stops today. First would be Cuyahoga, near Cleveland for the first national park stamp. A very large greenbelt passes through the Independence OH area, preserving the old towbarge canals and tow paths. The visitor center I'm heading toward is near the northern end of this very large park.

I exited the interstate and rode through some beautiful neighborhoods to reach Hillside Road, which would take me to the visitor center. This road passed through some residential areas before narrowing and becoming twisty and steep, as it descended down toward the river canal. At the bottom of the hill, just before crossing railroad tracks, a very large turkey stood its ground in the middle of the road. I honked my horn, with no effect. He or she just stood its ground. I had to come nearly to a full stop before it strolled on over to the side of the road. I rode across a nice old trestle bridge to the visitor center, on the right.

The visitor center is housed in an old but restored wooden frame house which sits right on the canal. A sign post in front gives the history of the structure, and a colorful history she has had!! It became known as "Hell's Half Acre" by the canal travelers, due to its colorful reputation, and was built in the 1820's. Over the years it has served as a tavern, a general store, and a residence known as the "lock-keeper's house."

There is a lock on the canal in front of this house and today it is still water tight and holding. The difference it water levels is about 10 feet or so, and can be seen in this photo. It's amazing that this wooden lock is still functioning today!

This stamp in the books, I then crossed the canal over a tiny bridge and proceeded north on the other side of the canal for a few miles before picking up the interstate to I-480. It began to rain and I pulled over at a rest stop on this road to put on my jacket liner. I would wear the liner for the rest of the day, as I rode through brief showers and cool temperatures all the way to Cortland NY.

My next stop was going to be the David Berger Memorial, housed at the Jewish Community Center near Shaker Heights. I exited I-271 at Chagrin Blvd and turned left, then turned right onto Richmond Road. As I neared my turn onto Woodland Road, just a couple of blocks from the Community Center, I could see orange cones blocking the turn, signs that said "road closed" and heavy equipment tearing up the roadway. Well, now what?!

The GPS began to recalculate and a quick look at the results showed it taking me onto a route that it and S&T both insisted existed, as that was how they both wanted me to leave the center after the visit. But a view in Google Satellite view didn't show that road existing. I was racking my memory, trying to conjure up a mental image of the alternate streets surrounding this community center and I was drawing a blank. All this while riding on very busy streets with no shoulder and no businesses - all residential - to pull into to consult a map.

So I blew this one off in the interest of time and getting up the road. I was already at least an hour behind schedule because of a late start this morning from the hotel. Well worth it, I might add, for the fabulous run I got in this morning!

My next destination is the home of James Garfield, in Mentor OH. It's a relatively easy-off/easy-on from I-90 and it shouldn't take me long to get there. It should be easy to find, even a child can find it, right?? So I got off the interstate, headed north for about one mile to Mentor Ave and then continued east on this road for about a mile. The GPS was telling me that I was getting near, but there was so much congestion and "visual clutter" on this road, that I managed to ride right by it. So, ducking down a side street, I did a U-turn and got back onto Mentor Ave heading the opposite direction and I STILL managed to miss the turn into the narrow little driveway that would take me to the parking lot. I could see the house, sitting right there on the avenue, but just couldn't seem to snag that dadburned driveway!

Now I was getting pissy! I turned into the Eleanor Garfield park, parked the bike and walked back the one block to the historical site. This would add considerable time to my stop but I was ready to get off the bike and find a bathroom.

The house is lovely, as are the grounds. It was easy to imagine what this road must have looked like before all the commercialism. Big beautiful 19th century homes on large wooded grounds.

This stamp in the book, I walked back to the bike and got back on the road, with no more stops other than for gas, until I get to Cortland NY.


Once onto I-86 through the lower tier of up-state NY, I was initially disoriented by the exit numbers. I would ride for several miles and then see exit 2. Then I would ride for several more miles and see exit 3. I thought I was hallucinating or time-warping until I realized that NY apparently has retained the old method of numbering exits...sequentially rather than by mile marker. Thankfully I wasn't reliving a nightmare. You know the kind. The one where you travel for what seems like hours only to discover that you've moved only a short distance.

Back on I-90 I stopped at a gas station that had a Subway shop but since I only had 60 miles on that tank of gas, and because the pumps were crowded, I opted not to top off my tank. So now 100 miles later I needed to stop for gas. I hate it when my gas/food/bathroom stops get out of synch, which sometimes happens. It makes me feel like I'm taking that proverbial two steps forward, one step back.

Gas tank topped off, I pressed east, pushing the speedlimit as much as I dared, as the NY state police were in full force, working this interstate. After what seemed like forever, and after watching my arrival time on the GPS creep later and later, I got to highway 13 which would take me diagonally northeast to Cortland. While it was a very enjoyable secondary road, it also passed through many small towns with reduced speed limit. And then it passed through Ithaca, a not-so-small town, before finally dumping me off in downtown Cortland.

As I pulled into the EconoLodge courtyard-style parking lot, I could see all of the motorcycles, but no people. I knew I was late and that everyone was at the nearby restaurant, so I parked, quickly checked in, grabbed my clothes and ran into the room to quickly change. One other rider arrived about the same time so he and I walked over to the restaurant to join the rest of the group.
Here in Cortland NY at last! Let the visiting begin!!

Tomorrow: I think I'll ride down to Scranton to go to Steamtown National Park (some personal history goes with this choice) and then through the Pocono's to the Delaware River and Zane Grey Museum.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Two Hot Days - Cool and "Cool" Ending

How cool is "cool?" Well, tonight I was escorted back to the hotel by a squadron of that's pretty "cool!"

I'm in Bellville OH for the night, after two long, hot days on the road. This trip started Saturday morning at 7:00 AM as I got onto the entrance ramp to 288 south of Houston and headed northeast on US 59. First gas stop in Nacogdoches: 6 minutes 4 seconds total stopped time.

This was the most efficient stop, all the rest got slower and slower with lines for the toilets, uncooperative gas pumps, and the usual slow lines at the cash register. You see, the longer I had to stand inside an air-conditioned gas station C-store, the harder it was to go back into the heat and gear up. :-)

I had called a friend's mom who lives in Memphis and asked her if she'd like to meet me for dinner at Corky's in Germantown. She eagerly agreed, so I had this to look forward to near the end of the first day's ride. I stopped in West Memphis to call her and let her know where I was and she estimated my arrival time at Corky's to be 4:30 PM. She was right! I pulled into the parking lot at almost exactly 4:30 PM! We both had the pulled pork dinner plate: umm umm good! And we visited together for nearly 2 hours over our dinner until we realized the place had filled up and had many folks waiting for a table. Reluctantly we hugged and said good bye and I mounted back up on the bike and got back onto I-40 east to Brownsville, where I had a reservation for the night at Comfort Inn. A small ice cream sundae at the DQ next door and I settled in for the night. I was ready to call it quits for the day: It had been a long hot one!


Sunday morning: Well, this road was paved with good intentions. I thought I would get up and run 2 or 3 miles, but when I woke up at 7:20 AM, I knew that plan was out the window. I jumped out of bed, showered, grabbed my stuff and headed out to the bike. It was already suffocatingly hot at 8:30 in the morning!

Today I have a few national parks to visit. This date - June 13 - will be the start date for my 5th IBA National Park Tour. At Jackson TN I got off the interstate and rode all secondary roads toward Kentucky. First stop will be Ft. Donelson, near Dover TN. The road to get there was a mostly enjoyable country road passing through small towns like Milan and Paris. Somewhere along this road I saw my first deer of the day, a doe. I happened to look up a side street to my right and saw her standing there in the middle of that road up at the top of a little rise. It was if she was posing for a photograph.

At Ft. Donelson I bought a new Passport book and got my first two stamps of this year's National Park Tour. It was ridiculously hot outside by this time and I reluctantly left the visitor center and headed for my bike. There were many motorcycles on the road today and as I got my stuff stowed on the bike and geared up, several motorcycles pulled into the parking lot and several more passed by on the park road.

At Bowling Green, I picked up the interstate for 20 or so miles to the exit for Mammoth Cave National Park. The road to the visitor center is a pretty, winding and wooded road, the various colors of trees and grass were a rich and lush green. The parking lots were full at this national park, as folks sought out the cool shadiness of the park and the coolness of the cave. The lines outside waiting for the next tour were very long. If I come back - not on a weekend - I'll take the tour. But not this time. I obtained my stamp at the visitor center and then headed back to my bike.

Here's where I saw my second deer of the day, another doe, standing in the middle of the park road. I slowed to a crawl as I approached her and she loafed over to the shoulder taking her time, in no hurry, then moved to the grassy shoulder and took a nibble or two of the grass. Still cautious and careful, should she change her mind - since she seemed a bit indecisive - I crept past her.

Now I was undecided. I had Lincoln's birthplace waypointed in my GPS but I was looking at a 9:00 PM EDT arrival at the hotel in Bellville. Should I or shouldn't I? I needed gas about the time I got to the exit for Hodgenville. What the heck! I decided to head over to that National Park and use it as an opportunity to have a snack in the shade of the visitor center's front porch. On the way out, I bought gas near the interstate and then pressed north. This was the last stop and now it would be a straight shot up the interstate through Louisville, through Cincinnati, through Columbus, and finally to Bellville.

It was in Louisville that I saw the next 3 deer, this time a doe and two tiny little fawns eating grass along a chain link fence on the interstate as it passed through a very busy and built-up section of the interstate through one of the cities, Louisville I think.

I passed through Cincinnati and as I did, it brought back recent fond memories of the Flying Pig marathon experience. Definitely gotta come back and do it again next year! I even saw several cars with "26.2" stickers on their rear windows. I proudly display one on my bike.

As I got north of Cincinnati the temperatures dropped noticeably. It had been in the mid-90's most of the day but a quick check of the temp on the bike showed it had dropped to 85. Now that might not sound cool to you, but after running in the mid-90's all day it felt downright chilly! As I got further north, it dropped down to 81, and I was feeling a little chilled. Crazy, I know, but every undergarment I had on was damp from sweat, and the windchill was very noticeable.

Finally to Bellville, I exited, got gas and headed to the Comfort Inn. There was a Burger King right there, between the gas station and the hotel and I momentarily considered going through the drive-through for dinner - I've always wanted to do that on the bike, but haven't yet -but didn't and headed straight for the hotel instead.

The very sweet young lady at the front desk informed me that my reservation was not here at Comfort Inn but across the street at the Quality Inn...arghh! I had brought all my luggage and gear in off the bike and definitely did not want to pack back up and get on the bike again. She fixed it. Room at the Quality cancelled with no penalty, room at the Comfort Inn booked for just a few dollars more.

So here I am, tummy full from the grilled chicken sandwich I bought at Burger know, the walk that was escorted by those fireflies?

Tomorrow: A morning run to the center of historic Bellville then some OH national parks and into upstate NY.