More good riding

The couch surfing in Charlottesville was excellent. My host was a professional web developer who uses WordPress in his business. We got a chance to talk some shop and I think he’ll do a fine job on his next WP-based site. It’s going to be a big one!

Sunday, I left before noon and rode up Skyline Drive. It took about three hours to cover the 105-mile road from end to end. There were lots of nice views and twisty, hilly sections of road to enjoy. Then I rode to Syracuse, NY, to stay with a good friend from college. I arrived pretty late. After the sun went down, the flowing air started to feel like ice cubes on my hands. Night riding is much more pleasant in Texas. I’m learning to start earlier so I can make my targets before dark.

The last day of riding, Monday, took me through Adirondack Park on Route 8. The roads were mostly in very good condition and it didn’t rain, though it was cold enough to prompt me to put on my rain jacket to keep the wind away. I rode up 9N and across the Fort Ticonderoga Ferry, a cable ferry across one of the narrower parts of Lake Champlain. It was $4.00 for the crossing and a nice break from sitting on the bike.On the Fort Ti Ferry I met two BMW riders from Massachusetts. They had sheepskin seat covers that looked very comfortable. Remind me to find something like that. I spoke with one of the BMW riders for a while and he was amazed that I had come all the way from Texas on my little 500cc cruiser. I figure that people have ridden longer distances on smaller, older bikes in less time. It’s not that much of a feat.

Each day I got better at riding 500 miles on my way-too-small bike. Gas stops were not frequent enough so I began to take breaks every fifty to sixty miles. Five minutes off the bike makes the next half hour far more pleasant. Frequent posture shifts also helped, as well as re-packing my backpack (backrest) to give me more room on the seat. My father was amazed to see me get off the bike and walk normally when I arrived.

Still, I didn’t intend to ride such a small bike forever. My plan was to ride my little Shadow to Vermont and then sell it and get something bigger. I had brought a wad of cash from the sale of some furniture, hoping it would be enough to get a longer bike with a little more power. Barry was sure I’d buy a Goldwing before the end of my trip but I didn’t think so. Besides, I was more in love with the Honda Valkyrie Interstate and they are even harder to find.

So I fired up the old dial-up internet connection with Dad and started looking for a mid-size V-twin on ebay and craigslist. I bid on a yellow VTX in New Hampshire but a sniper took it in the last ten seconds. By this time, Dad had come down with full-blown motorcycle fever and was spending every spare minute looking for a bike “for himself.” Of course, Mom doesn’t want him to buy a motorcycle but he kept looking.

We saw a maroon 1993 Honda Goldwing Aspencade in very good condition on ebay and the bike was only about an hour away. With 24 hours left on the auction, the reserve hadn’t been met but bids were rolling in and it looked like it would go for a lot more than I could afford. Long story short: we drove over there unannounced, I gave him my wad of cash for a deposit, he closed the auction and let me have it for an unbelievable price. He’s going to finish cleaning it up and get the title and inspection taken care of, and I’ll pay the balance and pick it up on Friday. What a ride! I must thank my grandparents for helping make this possible.

Today I logged into craigslist to post my Shadow for sale. I may still keep it; the engine is big enough to get me around Vermont when I fly up to visit and though the small frame makes it uncomfortable for long rides, it is quite nimble on the twisty mountain roads. There’s also the sentimental value of keeping my first bike.

I’m staying with my grandparents in Stowe, VT, for a few days. I don’t know what we’ll do but I’m sure it will be time well spent. They are in their nineties and I want to hear what they’ve seen and done. Tomorrow, if it’s nice, we’ll take a tour around the new golf course up at the Stowe Mountain Resort. They’re doing about a half a billion dollars of work on new lodging and recreation up there and as my grandfather cut the original trails and built a hotel on the summit many years ago, he’s very interested in the new developments.

Lodging and Running

Couchsurfing.com hooked me up right in New Orleans. I stayed with a totally cool filmmaker along with some other people. He took me out to a couple of great shows in the French Quarter and I met my one goal for every NOLA trip: surviving a hand grenade.

Yesterday was my first 500-mile day (map). I left the Interstate several times to ride U.S. 11, a slightly slower route with more hills and turns. I meant to take a byway around Birmingham (69 to 79 to U.S. 72) but the storm around Tuscaloosa robbed me of an hour.

Couchsurfing.com totally failed me in Chattanooga. Despite starting two weeks in advance, I could not find a place to sleep. Three people said “no” due to their own circumstances and two didn’t respond at all. I got to Chattanooga after midnight and couldn’t get a room at any Marriott because a sorority had booked everything for a big event. I prefer Marriotts only because I still carry a Platinum Elite rewards card which they gave me for staying with them when I was working for Lockheed Martin.

So I wound up at the Wingate in Chattanooga, which only had a smoking room. I figured I should take advantage of this so I asked the clerk if he sold cigarettes and he said he did not. Damn. So I woke up this morning with a nose full of other people’s smoke and no neti pot. Remind me to avoid smoking rooms and to pack my neti pot so I can rinse my sinuses out. Well, at least the shower head rocked.

Also, please remind me to get a bigger bike. My 500cc 1985 Honda Shadow runs very well on the highway but it’s not as smooth as a bigger bike would be (it works pretty hard to maintain 75mph) and the vibrations take their toll on the body. I would like more than anything to get a Honda Valkyrie, a cruiser with a 1500cc flat-six engine just like the Goldwing’s. Honda stopped making them a few years ago so they are only available used.

Well, now I’ve breathed enough of this smoking room air and it’s time to hit the trail. I just noticed that you can click and drag to alter routes in Google Maps, so plotting today’s route was much quicker. Note the twisty interlude in the second half (map).