Archive for the ‘History’ Category

August 16-18 were the dates for the 2nd Annual Weekend Motorcycle Trip. We (Melisa, Todd, Kim, and I) settled on Burlington, VT as our home base and rode up Lake Champlain and through the Adirondacks on Saturday. Sunday would be our long return trip home. Over the three-day span, we clocked almost 800 miles on the odometers, drank some decent (and some better than decent, and some not-so decent) beers, ate both good and disappointing food, saw some unexpected sights and places, experienced a ferry ride with the bikes, got crabs, cherished great company, and enjoyed every mile of the trip.

The one thing missing from this trip is a photo of the four of us. It really bums me out to realize we missed the opportunity to take one.

The Good

Asiana House (191 Pearl St. Burlington, VT) – This was great sushi. No complaints could be heard at our table. After a disappointing plate of chicken sate the night before, the sate here was the exclamation point on an eating experience filled with tasty rolls, and tuna and salmon sushi.

Fiddlehead IPA – This beer was consumed at Asiana House, not in the Fiddlehead taproom. It proved to be the best non-Hill Farmstead or Lawson’s beer I had all weekend. It was hoppy and citrusy with just the right bite! A close second was the Lompoc LSD at The Farmhouse.

Blackback Pub (Interesection of Main and Stowe, Waterbury, VT) – I couldn’t imagine being within 20 minutes of this place without stopping by. Faithful readers know this is a favorite location of ours, and the hour stop on Sunday early-afternoon was well worth it. Lawson’s Double Sunshine was my draft of choice.

The Could Have Been Much Better Than It Was

The Vermont Pub & Brewery (144 College St. Burlington, VT) – I am hoping we were the victim of the late night menu. The food was sub par at best (in fact, my rare burger was probably the best offering at the table and that’s probably because it was unintentionally undercooked), and worse, the beer was not memorable.

The Farmhouse Tap & Grill (160 Bank St. Burlington, VT) – I don’t feel right putting this in the “The Could Have Been Much Better Than It Was” category, but it’s primarily because of the beer selection. For a 24 beer tap list, I expected so much more. The aforementioned Lompoc LSD and the Hill Farmstead Edward were the best offerings on Friday night. And both kegs were killed by Saturday night (fortunately the Edward was followed by HF’s Society and Solitude 7). Clearly this is the hip and happening place in Burlington. Another drawback in my book.

The Scenery – We’ve done some great riding over the last few years, and unfortunately we all agreed that the scenery on this route was a bit disappointing. All roads are not created equal, and it’s ok. We still had a blast.

The Unexpected

Lake Placid – Never thought I would ride through this town on this trip. I had seen a few shots of the ski jumps some friends took on a June trip, and I at that point I wanted to eventually get to Placid. The town was packed with tourists, and riding down the main street reminded me of riding through Freeport, Maine. Long story short, I would like to spend at least a day exploring Placid in the near future. Of course, riding through the town wasn’t enough to make me want to sit through the movie of the same name.

Fort Ticonderoga – It is difficult to ignore pieces of American history, and it seemed a no brainer to take the short road up and try to see the fort. It just wasn’t in the cards for that day. Unfortunately we pulled in minutes after the gates closed to the last tour. I think the $17.50 price tag per person to visit is rather steep, but it really punctuates the point that nothing is cheap nowadays – including history! When I visit Placid again, I will be sure to visit Fort Ticonderoga.

Breathe Right – Thanks to these wonders of modern medicine, Todd really didn’t snore. Of course, he supposedly woke up looking like he played the role of punching bag to Mike Tyson (1980’s vintage Mike, not the Mike we’ve been subject to in later years) – again, one of those photos that unfortunately was never taken on this trip.

780 miles later, here is a map of the route, with the letters representing our various stops along the way:

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A: Starting and end points (Enfield, CT)

B: Hotel (Burlington, VT)

C: Jon’s Family Restaurant (Malone, NY) – A very enjoyable lunch stop. Food was very good with no complaints.

D: Lake Placid (Lake Placid, NY)

E: Essex – Charlotte Ferry (Essex, NY)

F: Hotel (Burlington, VT)

G: Blackback Pub (Waterbury, VT)

H: Start of Route 17 (Waitsfield, VT) – See below.

I: Fort Ticonderoga (Ticonderoga, NY)

J: Joe’s Crab Shack (Latham, NY) – First time eating at a Joe’s, and probably my second or third time eating crabs. Very enjoyable. And costly. But enjoyable and worth it.

Road highlights: Route 73 in New York, and Route 17 in Vermont. The recommendation is to ride all of route 17. The Mad River portion of 17 is very twisty with ascents, descents, and hairpins. Unfortunately, the road is in horrible condition.  In my opinion, riding the Mad River portion of 17 is best done west to east ending in Waitsfield rather than east to west. But of course, it’s all subjective. Route 73 was the best stretch of road on Saturday’s Adirondack ride. It meets with Route 86 south of Placid and meets up with 9N (N apparently does not mean north) which took us to the Ferry.

Although we didn’t stop, we passed a bbq joint called Tail O’ The Pup in Raybrook, NY. The place was packed tighter than a can of sardines (I think that’s a decent cliche). This is a definite must stop in the future. Further research shows it to be lobster and bbq. This may just be food Heaven, but I won’t know until we go back.

And finally, a gallery of our trip:

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[Note: Purposely omitted was our stop at Green Mountain Harley Davidson where Kim fell in love with a Wide Glide. I chose to leave it out so this post does not pour salt in the wounds of her aching heart.]

Ride hard, ride safe, and enjoy every mile.

Ride Date: August 8, 2013

I started looking into motorcycle availability and rental options 5 minutes after my Alaskan vacation was booked last October. And each time I said the same thing, “I can’t fathom spending $250/day to rent a bike.” Then the vacation came. I almost rented a 2002 Goldwing in Ketchikan but still refused to part with $125 for the first hour and $25 for each additional hour. And after that bug bit, stung, and drew blood, I inquired about renting a BMW or Goldwing in Fairbanks. It too would cost $250 for the day, with an additional $100 fee to ride the Haul Road – or Dalton Highway as it is known.

When I arrived in Anchorage I decided to make one last call to check availability at House of Harley. They had two bikes available and both had to be back by 4:00 pm. The rental rate was $25/hour (plus I would receive 20% off because of my HOG membership). How can I pass this up? I went to bed hoping for the weather to cooperate.

Waking up to rain is not a good sign when you want to ride. And it’s even worse when a dream ride is ahead of you. Melisa and I made it very clear to ourselves: unless the weather is horrible, we are going through with the rental and riding from Anchorage to Hope, Alaska – Hope was the site of the first gold strike… read about it here.

As luck would have it, the skies cleared. We set ourselves up with the rental of a 2013 Ultra Classic, spoke with Jolain at the rental desk about our route, and we were on our way. The journey wouldn’t be long, about 90 miles each way down the Seward Highway, but it was a perfect jaunt to fit into our 5 hour rental time frame.

Hopping on an unfamiliar scoot, or worse, one that doesn’t belong to you, is always nerve racking. A few feet into the trip the jitters go away and it’s time to enjoy the ride. After a few turns we were on the Seward Highway and heading south.

There is no sight like it in the United States – or at least none that I know of. While riding the highway, you are at sea level with the water on one side and the mountains immediately on the opposite side of the road. Train tracks run parallel the majority of the route as signs declaring avalanche dangers garnish the roadside. The water is known as the Turnagain Arm and it is part of the Cook Inlet. Apparently it was aptly named because of the glaciers that blocked safe passage through the water, and while Captain Cook steered the ship, it was always necessary to “turn again.”

We hit some rain for a 10 mile stretch. In fact, I think the rain stayed there all day. The cloud cover was low and the rain fell. And eventually we rode out of the rain. And it wasn’t until our return trip that we hit the rain again… for the same stretch of road.

Continuing down the Seward Highway, we passed the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, and rolled by the Whittier turn off – we were now heading into the Kenai Peninsula. Water was no longer on our side, and instead, we cut through stretches of lavish greenery, snow-capped peaks, and valleys filled with lush vegetation. Occasionally rushing streams (or more like rivers) cut through the landscape.

Within time we hit the right turn off to Hope, Alaska – a sign promised Hope to be 15 miles away. As we rode toward Hope, we were on the opposite side of Seward Highway, once again with water separating us from the Seward Highway. We knew a city wouldn’t simply “pop up out of nowhere,” and it didn’t. But sure enough, at the 15 mile marker, we started to see signs of civilization; albeit, small signs of civilization. A motel, a grocery store, and a gift shop all in one. A café and camping ground. A sign welcoming you to Hope. And suddenly the sign I jokingly thought I would see. “Road ends in 1 mile.” Then “Road ends in 1000 feet.” Finally, “End.” If you chose not to turn around, you could continue into the Porcupine camp ground, but we weren’t camping.

Turning the bike around, we tried to find more of the city of Hope. Turning left at the Welcome sign, the half circle road took us to 4th street, 3rd street, 2nd street, and back to Main St (apparently Main St. is the unnamed stretch of road into Hope). Although the town with a population of 200 was sparse at best, it boasted a free museum touting Hope’s integral history during the gold rush.

We had two hours to make it back so we quickly hit the road. And we hit the road quickly. Making it back by 4:15 – we had a half hour window we could take advantage of and we opted to use it.

The only regrets of the trip would be time. In hindsight, seeing and exploring Hope’s history would have been fascinating, and stopping for a bite to eat at a barbecue joint called “Turnagain Arm Pit” would have been, if not tasty, a great photo opportunity.

Chalk this up as a great ride all around. I enjoyed it. Melisa enjoyed it. We experienced the wide sweeps of the Seward Highway, the vast Alaskan scenery, the ever-changing climate, the modern of Anchorage and the old in Hope.  Riding a rental wasn’t bad, but I can’t help to think how much better the roads would be on my Bea.

Ride hard, ride safe, and enjoy every mile.

This is probably one of the hardest riding related pieces I’ve ever tried to write. And why is that? Quite simply, Melisa and I packed so much into 3 days of riding that I wouldn’t even know where to begin! It started off as a quick getaway… a nice ride, time at the beach, and lobster dinners. And we kept adding to the list from there. The best way to format it is to try day-by-day…

Wednesday August 22, 2012:

We left CT after 9:00 am with the hopes of making it up to Seacoast Harley Davidson between 12 and 2 – I had a service appointment to install the Boom! Audio speakers on my bike. And this wouldn’t have been a problem had our stomachs not gotten in the way. On our previous trip to Maine with Todd and Kim (see A New England Weekend series of posts dates July 28-31) we passed a restaurant on RT 1 in New Hampshire that touted the best lobster roll in New England. Seeing as the point of the July trip was to try “the best lobster roll” Todd and Kim had ever eaten, it was safe to say The Beach Plum (the restaurant on RT 1) would become the brunt of many jokes that weekend. But fast forward a few weeks. On my weekend trip to Vermont, The Beach Plum came up again in conversation; this time from Jeremy, a resident of the area. He swore they were the best. If what he was saying was true, Melisa and I weren’t about to let the “best lobster roll in New England” go untasted. And of course, we were stopping for lunch before our service appointment!

According to Todd, “Served with cheap potato chips……I think not.” According to Melisa, it was way better than Day’s.

Following lunch and the subsequent (late) installation of my speakers, we made our way up RT 1 for a whopping 10 minutes until we stopped in Portsmouth – I have been meaning to stop in at The Portsmouth Brewery for quite some time, and I was hoping, although a long shot, that Kate the Great would be on tap at the brewery. Well, it wasn’t. And worse, I found out Kate may never be brewed again [what the article doesn’t mention is that although Ted Mot owns the recipe, The Portsmouth Brewery supposedly retains the rights to the name]. Well, without Kate on tap, we ordered up two beers, which were average at best, and ordered up a plate of nachos. They were definitely above average… see what I mean?

Oh my god… soooo cheesy!!!

After filling ourselves up at The Beach Plum, and then topping off our tanks at Portsmouth Brewing Co., we were ready to make our way into Maine and discuss our dinner options. But first, we had to check in at The Lodge at Kennebunk, unpack, take a dip in the pool, cruise the town a bit, and then, and only then, were we finally able to eat again. As self-proclaimed creatures of habit, we like to stay where we’ve stayed in the past, and we like to eat where we’ve eaten in the past. Tried and tested by me is always better than recommended by another. The Pilot House is a great example. Personally, I can’t stand the places that are touted as “the place where the locals go when they want…” in this case, a lobster meal.” Truthfully, the locals aren’t going anywhere. They are buying their whole lobsters for $2 off a boat and cooking them up at home. But alas, I digress. The Pilot House is not a tourist trap in the expensive sense of the word.  We have learned through many a meal there, that their food is very good, and reasonably priced. You can usually get a lobster dinner around $10 (the cole slaw is worth the price alone, it is sooooooo good!), and if you read all the signs, you can often add a steak to it for a buck more. Cans of PBR are cheap. The outside dining is more like eating in a shipyard than a quaint Maine harbor, and because it’s never as busy as the true tourist traps next door, it feels like you’ve made the right decision choosing a place to eat. And it tastes that way too. Just keep your motorcycle maps off the table, and no one will ever know you’re not from around there (except of course, if you order the lobster dinner).

Finally, after a long, hard day of riding, and a day of constant eating, it was off to bed.

Thursday August 24, 2012:

What should have been a nice relaxing 30 mile ride south into York, turned into a 200 mile jaunt that brought us north for more lobster rolls, then south into York.

Prior to this trip, we had watched Adam Richman’s Best Sandwich in America on the Travel Channel. One of the restaurants he highlighted for the New England area was in Portsmouth New Hampshire (a crab-filled grilled cheese), but we weren’t heading there again. One of the other sandwiches was a zesty lemon lobster roll in Naples, Maine at a restaurant called The Galley. When debating whether or not we wanted to try it, we concluded, “why wouldn’t we?” And so, we did.

Famously, President Bush (George H.) owns a family home in Kennebunkport, ME. We saw it for the first time on a trip two summers ago, and we couldn’t help but stop again. We were relieved to see the family boat docked safely in the bay after their previous mishap. There is something mystifying about watching Secret Service patrol the premises on golf carts and a fleet of black government vehicles in the driveway. But more so, I like to stare at the home and daydream. I just cannot fathom what it would be like to live in a house with such a stunning view of the water.

The Bush Compound (Kennebunkport, ME)

Melisa, moments before diving in the bay and cruising away on the Bush boat.

Our trip north took us through the Sebago Lakes area, which was pretty cool to see and ride. We arrived at The Galley around lunch time. We ordered up some of Baxter Brewing Company’s Stowaway IPA, and three lobster rolls… an original, a chicken caesar, and a zesty lemon (thanks to recommendation of Adam Richman… yeah yeah, I know, just earlier I was talking about recommendations as opposed to tried and tested… yada yada). They did not disappoint, however, I am hard pressed to call the flavored rolls better than any traditional lobster roll, simply on the basis of added flavor alone. Don’t get me wrong, they are very good, in fact, they were great. But it’s not like judging similar things… it’s like comparing a hot dog with mustard to a hot dog with chili, cheese, and bacon.

After Naples, and before York, we stopped in Bath. The shipyard was releasing 2nd shift at 4:00… quite a sight it was to see the workers waiting at the gates then running to their cars, and peeling out of the driveway as soon as the whistle blew. I have never seen anyone so happy to leave work. Once the whistle blows they are on personal time, so why stick around?!? On the way down to York we hit the congested Route 1, then jumped onto the highway slab to make it quick and less painful.

Picture it, Cape Neddick and the Nubble Lighthouse on a Thursday evening in August. People everywhere. Barely a spot to park the bike. Tourists taking pictures. Tourists eating seafood dinners and lobster rolls from the neighboring shack. We were those tourists, but we weren’t eating anything. Looking forward to dinner I was, but we still had a hotel to get to, and a pool to swim in… but alas, we took our pictures, we climbed all over the rocks. We read our compass readings.  All in a 45 minute stop! And all in a 45 minute stop we weren’t expecting to make but I followed the GPS wrong. Funny how that stuff happens.

Time for dinner after finally making it to the hotel and grabbing a quick swim. Of course, as tourists, we wanted more lobster. Lobster, lobster, lobster – all I could think of was lobster, and of course, the great scene in Summer Rental…

Upon receiving a recommendation, we felt it better to take a quick ride up to Main Street. Is it even called that?!? It is the Main Street in York, but I don’t know if it’s Main Street. Either way, we parked. We walked. We visited stores we would never normally visit. We bought candy. We visited more stores we only went to because they were there. We ate candy. We visited more stores that sold things we would never buy (besides candy). We watched the salt water taffy being made… you know, all the things kids enjoy doing when they go, but as an adult it might be appealing once. If that. But it was tons of fun because we were doing it.

When we were done being kids we decided to take a little cruise down the beach. There is something awesome and exhilarating about smelling the ocean air on a motorcycle. There is also something kind of awkward about feeling the salt and ocean spray as well. But it was a blast nonetheless. And down the beach we went.  And up the beach. And down the beach. And up the beach. And when it was finally time to stop for dinner, it turned into a son of a beach. Everything closes early. Who would have known. Cheap lobster was not in the cards for us. Pub fare was not in the cards for us. A burger was not in the cards for us. Everything was closed except one restaurant that very politely said, “we are closing so if you could find another place…” And they recommended the York Harbor Inn. Down the road about 3 miles. And I am very happy we went.  We had a casual dinner with live music in their Ship’s Cellar Pub. The nachos were great. The burger was awesome. And the fish sandwich was phenomenal.

Friday August 25, 2012:

There was one mantra for the day. No highway. No asphalt slab. No getting up to speed (a very rapid speed) and just going. No… well, you get the point. Without nary a worry in the world or a reason to get back home (the dogs were being cared for thankfully!) we decided we would spend the day casually riding and stopping where and when we wanted.

We decided to ride Route 1A as far down the coast of  Maine and into New Hampshire as possible. It was bright and sunny, and  the roads were surprisingly empty. I guess it makes sense on a Friday morning at the end of August. There were a few detours, which meant we couldn’t cross 1A into NH, but it wasn’t much of a worry. As we crossed, we noticed what appeared to be a fairly random submarine on the side of the road.

Spontaneous stop number one: The USS Albacore

This was cool! The USS Albacore visitor’s center (yes, it was the biggest Tuna sub I have ever seen) was a small  museum and you could board and tour the submarine. We took a few pictures on the sub… I felt like a giant on this thing. A man of my not-so-athletic physique is not cut out for life on a sub. Hopefully they are building them larger nowadays.

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Click here for more details on the USS Albacore.

The next stop wasn’t very spontaneous. We knew we were stopping back at The Beach Plum for lunch. And we did. And it was just as good as it was two days earlier.

After lunch we followed 1A as far as possible, down the New Hampshire coast, and into Massachusetts. It’s amazing how much Salisbury Beach in Mass reminded me of the dingiest parts of Wildwood, NJ or Atlantic City. Definitely a far cry from beaches in Maine (and even NH).

The way the GPS routed us, we were going to head directly through Boston. In order to enjoy the roads more, we rerouted and winded our way over to route 2 West, and made our way to 2A.

Spontaneous stop number two: Walden Pond

I would like to pretend I was enamored by the site. I would like to pretend I felt the magic and mystique felt by Henry David Thoreau more than 150 years ago. I would like to pretend it was silent and peaceful. I would like to pretend we visited for more than 10 minutes before we got fed up with tourists, and swimmers, and beach goers, and the inability to park, and the… well, you get my drift. We didn’t last very long there.

Click here for more details on Walden Pond

It was 4:30 pm. With the rumble of the engine, the open road ahead of us, and Walden Pond thankfully behind us, I began to wonder out loud in conversation with Melisa whether or not something was wrong with me. Here I am, a high school English teacher, a lover of literature, visiting an important site of American Literature, and I couldn’t tolerate it. Thankfully she couldn’t either.  But nothing was wrong with us, as we learned shortly thereafter. We were riding through some of the most historic towns in American History – Concord, soon Lexington, etc. We were riding on the very roads that now sit on Revolutionary War grounds. Somewhere along Route 2A we hit Lincoln and passed rather quickly a sign that read “Paul Revere Capture Site.” We slowed down, turned around, and decided to give it a few minutes.

Spontaneous stop number three: Paul Rever Capture Site

Although American History is important, I never considered myself a scholar in it, and truthfully, I never gave it much study except where necessary. Figured this would be a quick stop – after all, if I, an English teacher, couldn’t stomach staying at Walden Pond longer than 10 minutes, why would I want to stay here longer than 5?  We were wrong. Our stop was about 30 minutes. It amazes me how a site like this could evoke such a sense of wonderment and awe. Although nothing more than a small monument and plaque, my mind couldn’t get over the fact that I was standing on a site of history. The man never made it to Lexington. There were stories that you never hear in history class. William Dawes was at a bar? Samuel Prescott was with his girlfriend and he was the only one that finished the ride – figuratively and literally I guess. The scene of Revere’s and Dawes’ capture played over and over in my head…

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Click here to read Paul Revere’s account of that night. (Unfortunately I don’t have a link to Sam Prescott’s girlfriend)

Our history lesson over, we snaked our way through east central Massachusetts until we hit Route 20 and followed it west from Wayland, MA, passed Sturbridge, and into Brimfield. Although the sun was down, and it was dark outside, we noticed tremendous amounts of damage to Brimfield and Monson resulting from the tornadoes that hit on June 1, 2011. Although we had seen parts of the damage in the past, this was the first time we had seen how it affected these areas in Massachusetts. It was fascinating to say the least, as I had to force my eyes to stay focused on the road rather than trying to take in all the damage – vast landscapes wiped out (vast for New England), tree branches and tops all gone, bare hillsides, and damaged homes.

The last 30 minutes of the ride were special in their own right. A few teenagers were walking on the streets as we rumbled through Longmeadow, MA. I can only imagine the looks on their faces as they turned to see a Harley Davidson Street Glide cruising to the blaring sounds of Ke$ha’s Animal blaring from the new Boom! Audio speakers that prompted us to take this trip. We arrived home at 9:30, clocking more than 10 hours saddle time from Maine to Connecticut.

As I reflect back, this one day of riding is up there as one of the best, if not the best, days of riding I have ever had. It’s greatness is a result of equal parts shared experience with Melisa, awesome spontaneous stops at interesting sites along the way, many hours in the saddle, and of course, awesome food.

Total Trip: 646 miles.

Ride hard, ride safe, and enjoy every mile.