Archive for July, 2012

Today’s route is the easiest. VT 100 to 17, to 7, and in Lee, Massachusetts we would separate from Todd and Kim. They take 8, we take 20 across the state and down into Connecticut.

100 has always delivered… it’s a scenic road full of twists and sweeps and makes its way through most of Vermont. Of course, we weren’t on it for any longer than a half hour today (I still think it would have been the fastest way home!). The turn off onto 17 took us by Mad River Glen ski area, and up and around the mountain. The road was peg scrapes delight. I thought it was OK. It was twisty, it was mountainous, it was chock full of frost heaves and it wasn’t maintained well at all. But Todd and Kim loved it!

See there are two types of riders in the world. There are those who ride to enjoy the ride, and those who ride to enjoy the road. I am definitely more of the former and less of the latter. Todd is pretty much the opposite. I scrape my pegs and it’s a warning that I probably leaned too far. Todd doesn’t scrape his pegs, and it’s his warning that he isn’t leaning enough!

There’s not much to say about Route 7. It’s scenic, and it’s fast. Cruising at 65-70 is simple. And expected. After a quick soda stop at the Pub 99 in Rutland, we cruised through the rest of VT on 7, cutting into Massachusetts, down through Williamstown, south into Pittsfield, and finally stopping in Lee where we figured if there was beer, we should drink it! Some time around 4:00 we pulled into Moe’s Tavern for a few beers.

As expected, we split in Lee. Melisa and I took Route 20, which was an awesome way to extend our trip. Although not the firs time for me, this was definitely the first time Melisa learned how great an investment the $1000 anti-lock break option is on the bike. Accelerating through the 30’s and approaching 40 MPH after pulling out from a gas station, a black bear bigger than a Great Dane (or at least my Great Dane) darted out from the woods.  I applied the brakes, and Melisa applied her two handed grip on my chest… each hand holding on for dear life. She never released her grip, instead she scratched her hands away. Had I taken off my shirt I would have probably looked like I was ravaged by Wolverine! And cars would have probably crashed and burned on the side of the road at the ghastly site of my pale, hair-covered chest. The rest of the ride home was uneventful. Or at least not nearly as eventful.

Our driveway greeted us with the same enthusiasm as it said goodbye to us 750 miles ago. And although the trip was over, we had a blast. There were some highs, and there were some lows. There was awesome food, world-class beers, and hours of laughter. The only thing we should have done was track all of Melisa’s quotes from the trip… out of context they will make no sense to anyone, but in context, each sparks a memory never to be forgotten. Until next time… “Shake it Betsy!”

Ride hard, ride safe, and enjoy every mile. 

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Is it really time to go home already?!?

Nothing sucks more than knowing your vacation is coming to an end. Especially when it’s coming to an end really, really soon. And even worse than knowing your vacation is coming to an end, is knowing you lost a day on your vacation because of breakdowns and weather, and the day you’re going home is a gorgeous July day. But life goes on, and on to Connecticut we had to head.

After a nice hotel breakfast bacon plate, and after packing up our gear, and after checking our pressures (safety first!), and after we mount our trusted steeds (the bikes, I swear!) and head out… we stop at White Mountain Harley-Davidson no more than a mile down the road. OK, maybe it was two miles, but nonetheless, you get the idea. White Mountain is essentially a tourist trap; it’s motor-clothes and basic parts only; no bikes, no service department. So, we do it all again, minus the bacon, and minus the pressure checks – I think it was safe to assume we didn’t lose much air in a mile or two. And off we went… this time no more than a half mile down the road to a scenic overlook for some pics. No pressure checks, no bacon, and off we went. This time for a few miles, as I needed to stop and fill up on petrol! It takes a long time to make it nowhere.

About 6 hours later we made our way to the Kancamagus Highway (New Hampshire Rt. 112). Ok, it wasn’t really 6 hours, but it sure felt it. The weather was tremendous… in the high 70’s, low 80’s; traffic was minimal at most… an added advantage to hitting the road during the week rather than on a weekend. I ran the Kanc two summers earlier, but it wasn’t nearly as nice as this trip. I realize the roads have not changed over the years, but I think I expected so much more when I ran it the first time. Knowing what to expect, I was able to sit back, relax, and take it all in. In a funny moment, Melisa commented, “This is it?” “Yeah,” I replied. “Oh. I figured it would be more like a highway…”

At the bottom of the Kanc is Lincoln, NH., our last extended stop before we head home. And let me tell you, it was a well-needed break! I think we road those bikes for an entire 45 minutes without stopping! The plan was lunch; the destination, The Common Man; The problem, it was closed. Instead we chose Gordi’s. Lunch proved quite tasty (I ordered the same thing I ordered last night at Moat, and Gordi’s was much, much better!), but no one wanted to go home.

Todd and Kim wanted to keep riding. Melisa and I joked (albeit seriously) that we didn’t have to go home if we didn’t want to.  Why let weather and breakdowns ruin our ability to have some fun?  After all, we were planning this trip for over a year; why cut it short? And our gas tanks were full! And there were fine foods and craft beers to be had if we could make it to our intended Waterbury, VT destination. A few phone calls and 45 minutes later, the trip was extended.

We continued down Route 112. As a rider, I enjoyed the Kancamagus. But as a rider, I enjoyed the rest of 112 more. The entire 112, including the Kanc, has it all: sweeps, straights, twisties, mountains, valleys… starting in Conway and ending in Bath, or vice versa, it is an awesome 56 mile stretch of road.

At the end of 112, we took a right onto 302 to head into Vermont. Of course, it was the wrong way and we figured it out 15 minutes later. So we did what seemed to be the norm for the day… we took an hour break in the parking lot of a gas station. We turned around, headed in the right direction, and followed 302 in Vermont until we reached the Junction of RT 2 in Montpelier. We followed 2 to 100, sauntered (although we weren’t walking, it is a great word huh?) through Waterbury, stopped at The Alchemist Cannery for a 4-pack of Heady, and then hit up the Best Western pool and jacuzzi – but don’t worry, we were registered guests at the hotel!

If we only learned two things on this trip, it’s that a pool and jacuzzi are very relaxing after a long day of riding (or in today’s case, a long day of taking breaks with short rides in between), and nothing tastes better than good food and great beer after relaxing in a pool and jacuzzi after a long day of riding (or in today’s case…).

Unlike Conway, there were no cabs into Waterbury, and there was no way we were walking the entire 1 very long mile to the bar!!!  So we did what any lazy people would do, we hitched. But before you condemn us, we didn’t hitch a ride from a stranger using our thumbs on the side of the road; we hitched a ride from a stranger that works at the hotel. Sounds so much better right???  But there is a back story here… a few days earlier when booking the hotel, I jokingly asked the woman on the phone if we can borrow her car to get into town and she said yes, or she would give us a ride. So when asked for a ride, Cora said yes. She drove us the mile to Main Street Waterbury, and she met us at the pub for a beer and to bring us home when her shift let out. Not only did we hitch with a stranger, we got in a car with her after she had a beer. Clearly, this blog is not intended for the eyes of children!!!

We ate dinner at Prohibition Pig, the new tenant where The Alchemist Pub and Brewery used to be (click here for the history). Melisa and I have wanted to try this restaurant since it opened on March 15, 2012. As a table, we ordered burgers, brisket, chopped pork, mussels, fries, and hush puppies.  And the pickle? Hands down, the best damn pickle I have ever eaten. But without waxing poetic about all the food, let me just say, the vittles were great, and the brew selection was top notch.  [Update: I have since been back to Prohibition Pig numerous times. Check out my review of Prohibition Pig during a more recent visit.]

After dinner, we made our way across the street (I guess I should have used sauntered at this point!!!) to the Blackback Pub for some after dinner beers. Four, five, or six beers later (the majority of which were Hill Farmstead or Lawson’s Finest Liquids offerings) we were ready to head back to the hotel. Cora brought us back after midnight, and we settled in for a short night’s rest.

Extending the trip was definitely worth it, but getting up and out early is never an easy task after a good night in Waterbury… But damn, those microwavable sausage egg and cheese biscuits sure made getting out of bed worth the while.

Ride hard, ride safe, and enjoy every mile.

Rain, rain, go away. Come again another… ah whatever. Rain all you want, we have rain gear.

Last night was definitely a late night. And by the nature of it being a late night, we had a feeling this morning would not be an early start. We finally made our way to the bikes around 11am. The forecast called for rain throughout the day; again, not a problem, we just had to prepare for it. The plan was to head west into New Hampshire and ride the Kancamagus Highway, then work ourselves further west into Vermont where we would spend the night in Waterbury to enjoy their fine craft beer scene and enjoy what we would hope to be remarkably good eats. But before we set out west, we had a stop to make… Big Moose Harley Davidson in Portland. We still needed to pick up one more set of rain gear, and in addition, who wouldn’t want a shirt that says Big Moose on it! [As an aside, if I were female I would probably ride my bike, albeit unsafely, in yoga pants all the time. Kim looked way too comfortable riding in them!] With our uber-sexy rain gear donned, the road called our name.

We navigated the city streets of Portland for a whopping 4.5 miles before it happened. My 2012 Street Glide, 3 months brand new with less than 2500 miles on it, decided to show the dreaded check engine light. With it, my battery light was also illuminated. Fortunately Big Moose was less than 2 miles away. The rain started to come down a little harder but we made it safely. We parked under a tent that was set up for a party the night before, but much to our dismay, the dealership was closed on Sundays. Who knew… [with hindsight I knew, but I didn’t remember at the time. It is illegal to sell vehicles on a Sunday in Maine, therefore very few dealerships bother to open.]

6 miles of riding on a rainy Sunday and there I was… stuck at a closed Harley dealer… in Maine… in the rain. After checking the forums and making a few phone calls (Laconia Harley and Seacoast Harley), it seemed apparent that my problem was the voltage regulator – a known problem on 2012’s, but the MoCo hadn’t issued a recall. Instead it was a “Program” that offered replacement on a need-to-replace basis. Both dealers were able to help me if I was able to get them my bike. Seacoast was a little closer and they were open later. That was my best bet.

We debated, and by we I mean the 4 of us, attempting to ride the bike to Portsmouth – I was still able to start her up and ride her (the bike sicko!), but it was only a matter of time before the voltage regulator would die completely and leave me stranded on the highway. It seemed worth the risk and if I needed a tow, we would be that much closer. But it didn’t hurt to call and inquire about a tow.

My first call was to HOG towing. A few weeks earlier I had upgraded my membership to the Ultra package to guarantee unlimited miles. I called HOG. Much to my dismay I was on hold for 26 minutes, yes, 26 minutes, before an operator picked up the phone. To make a long story short, HOG would only tow me to the closest dealer… a dealer they were saying was in Lewiston, ME. This pissed me off and baffled me at the same time. It pissed me off because I knew the dealer in Lewiston was closed. It baffled me because Lewiston wasn’t the closest dealership, in fact, Big Moose was the closest dealer to me… I was parked in their parking lot! I pushed as hard as possible to get a tow to New Hampshire but they insisted Lewiston was the closest dealer to me. I offered to pay for the extra mileage and I was told that needed to be approved first… the operator told me she would call back and hung up the phone. [Note: She did call back, more than two hours later to tell me she still hadn’t gotten hold of the towing company.]

Something occurred to me while waiting for the return call. I have AAA RV Plus for this very purpose! Within 5 minutes I was on and off the phone with AAA and a tow was scheduled. I was given a 45 minute window of time. An hour and fifteen minutes later the truck pulled into the Big Moose lot… the driver didn’t leave his vehicle and AAA called me back: “I’m sorry sir, I made a mistake. We can’t tow your bike off the lot without the dealership being open to verify the bike is yours.” But I could verify it was mine. But they didn’t care. The next hour was a battle back and forth between me and AAA. Although the driver was willing to help me, and he knew the bike was mine, his hands were tied. I called and requested a new tow from the same driver and claimed I had moved the bike to the parking lot next door… the call came through from dispatch and right as we were about to load the bike, they called back to cancel. My claim had already been denied so I couldn’t make a claim for the same vehicle on the same day. If worse came to worse, I would spend the night in Portland, get drunk again, and let Big Moose fix the voltage regulator in the morning.

More time passed. The driver’s hands were still tied. He understood my problem, but there was nothing he could do. I kept looking at my phone for the time. Seacoast closed at 5 and we were still more than an hour away. It seemed all hope was lost. And at the last moment, just as he was getting ready to drive away, the call came through from a supervisor that said “Just tow it.” We don’t know why, and we don’t know what changed their mind, but we were thrilled.

It took about 45 minutes to load the bike. There were ratchet straps holding ratchet straps. This bike was going nowhere. At 3:00 Melisa and I squeezed into the cab with our gear and Todd and Kim went their separate way. The plan was to meet them in Conway New Hampshire that night assuming of course everything would be fixed in time. Time was not on our side. We were an hour away without traffic in the rain… and of course, there was traffic! I had already come to grips with the fact that my bike wouldn’t be ready and we’d be spending the night in Portsmouth. Heck, I was already planning where I would eat dinner!

Much to my surprise we arrived at Seacoast at 4:15. Tim in service was aware of our location the whole time and they were waiting for us! With surgical precision their service team pulled my bike off the truck and brought it immediately into service where a tech was waiting to get to work. They were like a team of ER doctors waiting for an ambulance to arrive with the injured from a nasty crash site. I can’t say enough about Seacoast HD – they were phenomenal. The work was completed faster than I could buy a T Shirt (the same one I wanted the day before) and complete my paperwork in service. And not only did Tim remember me from our visit to Seacoast the day before, but so did the woman working in motor clothes; and she remembered I never came back to buy my shirt. Well, I was back now!

Officially the bike was ready at 4:50. We loaded our gear, debated dressing for the rain (the sun was trying to poke through), and set on our way. It was 5:05. Melisa and I were thrilled that we would be meeting up with Todd and Kim once again, without losing too much time on our trip. Route 16 toward Conway was a great ride… two lanes most of the way with very little traffic. About a half hour into our trip the mist started to fall, but we made no thought of stopping. Then a light rain. Eh, we can persevere. And a steadier rain. We were wet, but it wasn’t too bad. Then the deluge. Yup, that sucked. And we were soaked. So we did what any smart person would do. We stopped to put on the rain gear after we were already soaked. Of course, once dressed properly, we completed the jaunt to Conway, albeit very wet. Thank the Maker for the hotel pool and hot tub!!!

Lost in the woes of the day was the desire to eat… in fact, we ate nothing after breakfast. And it caught up to us. We decided on a local brew house called Moat Mountain Smokehouse and Brewing Company in North Conway. The last time I visited Conway my riding partner and I couldn’t decide on dinner at Moat or dinner at The Scarecrow Pub & Grill – we chose the latter and it was very good so I was happy to be checking out Moat this time around. Of course, that happiness lasted minutes at best once we walked through the door. The beer was average brew house quality at best, and the food was very disappointing. I ordered the blackened peppercorn burger cooked medium rare. It was overcooked. It wasn’t very blackened. And it wasn’t very peppercorny. How’s that for a review?  The bacon however, was a nice thick cut bacon. We stayed until about 11 to get our drink on and made our way back home.

Melisa wanted to go for a gondola ride outside Moat.

 

The trip to and from the restaurant required a cab (and a cab ride when Kim forgot her ID) as we expected to drink more than we actually did and didn’t want to bring the bikes. The highlight of dinner came on the way home when we decided to play reverse-cash cab with the driver. He answered our questions, but he didn’t make any money off us. We actually thought we would stump a Granite Boy (that’s the same as a New Hampshirite in case you were wondering) by asking him what the capital of Vermont was. Yeah, that didn’t go so well.

Lessons learned today:

1. AAA, although great when it works, is a total failure when it doesn’t.

2. Enterprise “We’ll pick you up.” Yeah, not on weekends.

3. HOG Towing = horrible!

4. Put on rain gear before it starts to rain!

5. French Canadians love to vacation in New Hampshire.

6. Seacoast Harley Davidson… sure it’s the equivalent of a big box store, but in name only. Personalized service at its best.

7. Dealerships don’t open in Maine on Sundays.

Ride hard, ride safe, and enjoy every mile.

Man 5:20 came early! Yes, that means I got to sleep in a little. It was a hot and humid start to the morning; especially for 5am… hopefully the day wouldn’t get much hotter. I performed my usual pre-ride inspection checking my tire and shock pressures and guaranteed the luggage was secured.

We assumed a minimum of 5 hours saddle time and 2 hours break time to reach our first destination in Yarmouth, ME. With this in mind, our plan was to meet at the local Pride station, fill up and roll out at 7:30.  Truthfully, we didn’t roll out until 8:00, but we had extra time built in to our numbers. We didn’t want to ride highways, so we knew our times would be subject to traffic – we just didn’t expect to fall behind so early.

The first leg of the journey was easy. Cruise up 91 North into Brattleboro, VT and head east on 9 into New Hampshire. Our eyes were set on a stop in Keene for a quick breakfast at Dunkin’ Donuts. Although uneventful, one Mass State Police Officer had us in his sights.  The problem with using the highway to chew up miles and destroy the asphalt on a trip like this is that you want it done sooner rather than later. And that’s where the cops come in to play.  Just don’t do 80 MPH like we were and you should be OK.

A mad case of the giggles was also in full force on this trip, starting early with 2 woman walking Weimaraners. And the dogs were cute too! I should have known this would set the pace for memorable moments/sayings that spark laughter memory.

We continued on RT9 east on what proved to be the most scenic riding all day (and practically the slowest too, at speed’s averaging 55MPH). From 9 we connected to 89 (highway), 93 (highway), and RT101 (may as well have been highway). We stopped at Seacoast Harley Davidson in North Hampton, NH, filled up the tanks and fought traffic up into Maine, eventually making it to Yarmouth for lunch at 3:00.

Day’s Crabmeat and Lobster (Yarmouth, ME)

“The best lobster roll I’ve ever eaten.” – Todd

Day’s was good. Heck, Day’s was really good. Even heck-er (?!?), Day’s was a great lobster roll. The rest of the food was good, but I can’t give it to many more accolades after that. Is it one of the most visited roadside spots because it’s the best? Or is it because Day’s is conveniently located right off of I295 next to a Tourist Information building? I mean, really, who wouldn’t stop to find out how far they are from destination X and say, “Ya know, we’re in Maine. Let’s do what all native Mainers do and get a lobster roll!” Day’s deserves a second chance and all the other lobster shacks in Maine deserve a first chance. I am thinking a new road trip is in the making. But I digress…

With 250 miles traveled, 8 hours of saddle time logged, and full stomachs, it was time to head back to Portland for the night. By the time we arrived at the hotel and hit the pool, it was time to fill our stomachs once again – only this time a few good drinks (yes, beer!) were an even greater need than food.  Happy hour found us at Sebastian’s on Fore St. where we enjoyed $5 Mojitos (it’s always fun drinking Mojitos and making Sam  Axe/Chuck Finley references) and local brewery Baxter Brewing Company’s Stowaway IPA.

A quick stop at Gritty McDuff’s, and it was off for chow. Dinner proved to be one of the worst, if not the worst, lobster dinners we have ever eaten.  Based on its excellent reviews and despite its tourist trap location, we chose to eat at the Portland Lobster Company. The wait was over an hour (after placing the order), the lobster was overcooked, the PEI mussels were mostly mussel-less, the corn was blah, and the seafood chowder was bland… furthermore, the beers were outrageously priced but at least we were able to leave with that good ‘ole drunken feeling.

Onward we moved to find more beer. Novare Res Bier Cafe was our destination. And it was there we remained until our night ended. With a long day of riding behind us, a long evening and night of drinking behind, and a full day of riding ahead of us, it was time to call things a night around 11 pm. Only the night didn’t end when we got back to the pool. The aquarium was once again open as we put our bathing suit bodies on display in the hotel pool for half of downtown Portland to see. And of course, after drinking and swimming it was time for bed finally, right? Nope.  We hit up the hotel restaurant for the day’s final meal… Most of us chose typical pub fare but Todd was feeling fancy as he first questioned why there was mushroom ravioli on the menu, but then proceeded to order it up… And fall asleep eating it. Unfortunately there are no pics floating around of this.

And as a special treat for reading about day one, please enjoy the following pics of our first day antics.

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Ride hard, ride safe, and enjoy every mile.

This weekend has been over a year in the making. Not because it takes an entire year to coordinate, but rather because it took us an entire year to actually get off our asses and hit the road.

The Itinerary:

Leave Connecticut on Saturday morning (July 28), zip up 91 North through Massachusetts, cut across Vermont (a few miles), zip through New Hampshire, hit Maine and enjoy a lobster roll for lunch (“The best lobster roll I’ve ever had.” Todd). Our overnight stay should be in Maine.  We will spend Sunday on the Kancamagus and traverse New Hampshire east to west, into Vermont where we will stay in Waterbury for the evening.  Our return trip home will be Monday; the plan is to zip down Route 7 through Vermont and Massachusetts and head back home.

The Players:

Our friends Todd and Kim (who you’d better know by now if you’ve been reading this blog), my wife Melisa, and obviously, me. This will be my first overnight bike trip with my wife. Super stoked about that – now let’s hope she doesn’t hate it!

It’s time to get some sleep.  5:00 am will come very early.

Ride hard, ride safe, and enjoy every mile.

Yesterday I took my wife for a 150-mile ride into Massachusetts.  We grabbed a nice lunch (as previously mentioned here), we visited with her mother and brother, and we headed home via a shortcut down the mountain. Here are two conversations as they went down…

 

Conversation 1

[Setting: Mother-in-laws living room]

Wife: Do you mind if there is a patch of dirt road?

Me: No, it’s fine. Dirt isn’t bad unless it’s all rutted out.

Wife: I don’t think it is.

[1/2 hour later, on the bike, on the dirt road jostling around]

Me: So, how long did you say this patch was?

Wife: Not long, like 20 or 30 minutes.

WTF!!!

 

Conversation 2

That metal sign.

[Setting: Bike approaches a T intersection.]

Me: Left or right?

Wife: I don’t know I need to read that sign.

Me: What sign?

Wife : (pointing at sign) That sign.

Me: What sign?

Wife: Right there. Can you read that metal sign?

Um… No honey, I don’t think I can read that sign.

 

Ride hard, ride safe, and enjoy every mile.

Stopped at Angelina’s Subs in North Adams Massachusetts. Simply put, it is one of the best Italian grinders I’ve ever eaten. If I wasn’t so fat, I would have brought the second half home.

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Ride hard, ride safe, and enjoy every mile.