Parts of my body cope with the aches and pains of aging and long-ago wounds better than others, telling me the halcyon days of retirement were both short-lived and behind me. I reject that premise, though at times that rejection teeters between firm belief and lukewarm affirmation. I remind myself of a mantra recited by Marine Infantry: Master adversity or be mastered by it. It seems to help. But my biggest challenge – aside from the epic Honeydew List of rural life – has been mental. My entire life had been an accumulation of challenges accepted and met. Work has defined me over the years. It still does in some ways, though four years into retirement most of those ties have been severed. Still, I find myself wrestling with the desire to set myself at ease, to set aside the need for flawlessness.
Twelve years into long-distance motorcycle travel – ten of those years with dogs at my side – preparing for adventure has adopted an air of routine. My route has been carefully plotted and uploaded into my new Garmin Zumo XT, though experience sets the likelihood of actually following the GPS at 30%. I know what gear to take, which tools to pack, what emergency supplies are needed, what mindset to embrace. Nevertheless, as D-Day approaches I struggle to sleep while wrestling with anxieties. What if scenarios hover around my pillow.
Glenlivet, on the other hand, has supreme confidence in my planning skills. He savors each day as the best ever, though travel is taxing. Dogs typically sleep for much of the day. Their routine is one of naps punctuated by periods of often frenetic activity. Sidecar travel disrupts that routine; the noise and vibration make it impossible for them to attain a state of restful sleep. Barley, my first sidecar dog, was a marathoner. With him at my side (and HR refusing to grant more than two weeks vacation time no matter how much one had in the books) we routinely covered between 500-700 miles per day. Glenlivet is good for half that distance. With corporate policy no longer a barrier our daily mileage has been reduced, the number of play stops has increased, and our enjoyment has soared. It’s also given us the luxury of having enough time to hole up a bit during adverse conditions.
Motorcycle travel in and from Vermont is dependent upon the timing of winter’s thaw and the string of often violent storms that announce the arrival of Spring. Forecasts are at best educated guesses, and weather on our planned departure dates often falls on the losing side of chance. Sure enough, our first planned day of travel promised torrential rain and powerful thunderstorms with warnings of flooding and possible road damage. Our friends Roger and Diana – with their golden retrievers Halla, Dexter and Captain Jack – offered us refuge along the western edge of the Adirondacks if we bumped our departure up a day, so Glenlivet and I left home a day early and relaxed in their home as the storm lashed the region the following day.
We next spent two days camping at Watkins Glen State Park, dividing our time between the natural wonders and the comedy of new RV owners trying to maneuver their rigs into tight spaces. After five failed attempts one frustrated man moved to the far side of the loop and simply drove through several campsites to reach his spot without backing!
We hiked the gorge in the company of a busload of Italian tourists who expressed animated delight in everything they saw, including Glenlivet. Bellisimo cane! At night I’d lay on the picnic table safe from ticks, Glenlivet snuggled up against me, and look at the stars. My celestial navigation skills have eroded over the decades and I’ve forgotten most of their names, but there are still a few friends up there.
One of several falls Hiking the gorge
On two-lane state and county roads we skirted along the border of New York and Pennsylvania past hilltop mansions of the blessed surrounded by shacks of the damned. There was religion, judging from the sheer number of manicured churches, but very little godliness. (There is a difference between the invitation “Would you join us in prayer?” and the command “Bow your head in prayer!”) Banners and signs expressed political leanings in often vulgar terms. I saw in their socially sanctioned incivility the sting of misdirected envy, a narrow set of views plucked right off the television screen. I sensed political discourse here would be as perilous as navigating the Drake Passage. Still, recalling a time not so long ago when we as a nation were truly united, I longed to engage them in a frank exchange of perspectives, of divergent viewpoints. That would come later in a faraway state.
As we dropped further into the Alleghenies the stridency faded. This was the Pennsylvania I knew and loved. Highlighted multiple times in my state atlas was a curvy side road screaming of possibility that I’ve long wanted to explore. Several times I’ve set my sights on PA-666 only to be denied by road construction or storm damage. This, my sixth attempt, would bring success at last! The eastern and western ends – near the towns of Sheffield and Tionesta respectively – were typical rural two-lane roads. But a few miles in from those endpoints the road narrowed and followed Tionesta Creek in a wonderful collection of forested twists and turns and inclines and drops over pavement that had been repaired so often there were patches on top of patches.
Taking a break in Sheffield PA 666 offered a devilish good ride!
Reaching the Allegheny River, we followed it south to Oil City PA, then headed west on secondary roads to Greenville PA, almost at the Ohio border. It was there that we were met and treated to dinner by Tim and Diane of the Laurel Highlands BMW Club (and her father, Glen). We talked about bikes, area roads, and their upcoming rally in September before parting company.
The following morning we crossed into Ohio, turned south through a lot of farm country to Damascus, then meandered along a string of sometimes paved and more often gravel roads to Full Circle Farm, the home of fellow rider Lori Clendening Payne and Howard the Duck. Lori retired after dinner, not feeling well, so her friend Carmel and I did some light chores then sat on the porch solving the world’s issues far into the evening.
Wrinkling her nose at my stash of big brand dehydrated camp food the next morning, Lori sent us on our way with all manner of snacks and ingredients of way higher organoleptic quality – all freeze dried herself. With a final wave we took backroads to Coshocton OH, many unpaved, then a string of Butler Map recommendations south to a nice little park adjacent to the Muskingum Lock at Stockport.
It was there that I noticed a bank of threatening clouds consolidating in our direction of travel. The absence of birdsong was an ominous warning. Cutting our break short we attempted to beat the storm to our stop for the night.
No dice; the rain caught us on OH-555 so with Glenlivet zipped inside his rainproof ragtop and me in my rain gear we eliminated a few waypoints and went straight to Hocking Hills State Park where we had reserved a campsite. Upon checking in, we found our site mired in a muddy mess several inches deep. All other sites were booked, so moving wasn’t an option. I set up our tent in the highest part of the site, but it was hopeless. To add insult to injury another deluge sent a torrent of water from an adjacent parking lot through our gear. With everything soaked we gave up on the park and opted for a hotel in nearby Chillicothe.
While traveling I often use the Zumo to locate town parks offering nice places for breaks. These show up in light green on the GPS. Unfortunately, so do cemeteries and golf courses. We scored in Aberdeen OH, finding the green spot on the screen was, in fact, a nice little park situated along the bank of the Ohio River. Settling under a shade tree with a poorly written science fiction book – the type you don’t mind losing – I proceeded to read a chapter while Glenlivet sniffed trees for messages left by other dogs. The book is part of my new and improved relaxed routine. By reading a chapter at every rest stop I ensure my dog has time to play, explore, drink and relieve himself. My bookmark is a folded poop bag, just in case.
Across a weathered metal bridge into Kentucky we went. Our planned route would take us across the northern part of the state, skirting major metropolitan centers (or passing through in the wee hours), pausing briefly in Frankfort to visit yet another friend from BMW club. But as we approached Paris KY my Brake Failure light came on, intermittently at first then constant. My brakes felt fine, but it was worrisome enough that we paused in Georgetown KY to investigate. Fluids were good, brake lines intact, sensors undamaged but dirty. In fact, the whole front end was covered in thick black goo most likely picked up at a fresh chip and seal zone some miles back. An old Navy Chief used to preach that the first step in troubleshooting was to ensure you were dealing with clean parts, so I bought a can of brake cleaner and hosed down the front brake, ABS sensor and ring. Black goo flowed from the bike. Problem solved.
But this presented another challenge. The delay had cost precious time. If we proceeded we would soon find ourselves in the middle of a very rural area when severe thunderstorms were due to arrive. I decided to hole up for the night in a hotel. And that is where the drama unfolded.
In our travels we often come across large groups of cruisers. Generally such groups are conspicuous by their desire to express their individuality by adopting the same look and – with their engines off – by the sounds of gay abandon as they socialize amongst themselves. But this group was different. Articulating more than a hint of dissatisfaction was an angry man of squat rotundity. Cursing Jesus in a most colorful way, he proceeded to berate his companions for their lack of discipline, improper lane position, failure to pass hand signals downstream, and sloppy formation. Listening to this tirade I wondered why the others tolerated it. From past encounters with such groups I knew it likely that there were skilled professionals and business owners among them. In the primitive part of my brain I resisted the urge to hold him underwater till the bubbles stopped, one of several skills learned in the Marines that did not transfer well into the civilian world.
And then the most inspiring act of defiance took place. As Lord Farquaad grabbed his duffle and stormed into the hotel the others fired up their engines en masse and simply rode off, leaving him and his compendium of vices behind. I saluted as they passed; clearly these were not the droids he had taken them for. Running out of the hotel just in time to see the last bike departing, the despot reacted with a string of dance moves and vulgarities until finally, rejected, he wandered off in search of solace.
That night I raised a toast to those riders.
We hit the sack early and were up by 5:00am. Our next stop was Evansville IN. It was also the next stop of a string of strong thunderstorms moving in from the west. Hoping to avoid searching for a hotel room in a deluge – and not wanting to restrict Glenlivet to the confines of a sidecar zipped up tight – I called the Drury Inn at Evansville to ask about their early check-in policy. We would reach them around noon, about the same time as the storm. A young woman named Jessica, the epitome of empathetic professionalism, promised we would not have to sit on the curb in the rain for a couple hours. “We’ll take good care of you,” she promised.
And so we set out on the usual backroads, admiring rural northern Kentucky albeit at a speed intended to minimize our eventual sogginess. We had hoped to have brunch with another BMW friend and dog person, Heather, as we passed through Frankfort KY. Instead, with an eye on the weather, we settled for a quick break where Glenlivet could play while Heather and I caught up. Despite the fact that they both ride K-bikes, she and her husband, Brent, seem pretty normal. I like them both.
True to her word, Jessica took excellent care of us. It was our first stay at a Drury, and from start to finish it was a great experience! The building was spotless inside and out, not a bit of trash anywhere. Every employee was courteous, competent, and completely familiar with every part of the facility. An excellent buffet-style dinner was included with our stay, as were up to three alcoholic beverages. In the morning, a filling breakfast was again part of the package.
Churchgrounds are always good for a break Catching some shade at a rest stop
It was in Illinois, on the bank of the Ohio River where a young Abraham Lincoln once ferried supplies to the other side, that we met Billie. A somewhat grubby thirty-something woman, she was stockpiling driftwood to feed a campfire in front of her tent. Baked beans bubbled gently in a cast iron skillet. “I love Scotch,” she mentioned upon seeing my dog’s name on his sidecar. Tucked discreetly into the depths of my trunk was a bottle; I poured her a healthy shot of my dog’s namesake and watched her face light up as she inhaled the aromatics. Then she grew solemn. I sensed she needed to talk. We moved to a log at the high water mark where she ran her dirty fingers through my dog’s fur. Glenlivet, who could be counted upon to draw others into conversation, leaned into her touch.
“I shouldn’t share this with you,” she began in a wearied voice. I leaned forward, for all the best stories start that way. She proceeded to weave a tale of bereavement on a biblical scale, having lost both her parents in her late teens, then her only brother in far off Afghanistan. She shed tears while hugging Glenlivet – something he rarely allows – bemoaning her string of failed relationships, unconsciously delivered in iambic pentameter. “Sounds like you’ve been crapped on a time or two,” I softly interjected. “Sometimes by yourself.” She fell silent for a few minutes, then nodded. A few minutes later a smile came to her face. A smile with a touch of resolve. “I’m working on that!”
Heavy traffic! It’s hot, Dad. Can we take a break?
Mid-morning found us at Garden of the Gods in southern Illinois where we linked up with our friends, David and Kathy. After hiking the scenic overlook trail and sharing a picnic lunch, we followed them to their Lake Glenwood campsite where we met their two golden retrievers. Andi was all wiggles and love, while Tucker took an instant dislike to Glenlivet. We pitched our dripping wet Redverz tent to dry next to their 5th wheel, shared an excellent meatloaf prepared over coals in a Dutch oven, and talked till sleep claimed us.
David had been a scoutmaster for over forty years. He was intimately familiar with the area and over the next day and a half shared with us places we would never have found on our own. Thanks to him, our time in the Shawnee National Forest was brushed with perfection. Glenlivet happily splashed in every swimming hole we came upon, the radiant joy in his face warming my heart. In his big brown eyes I saw the echo of all the dogs I’d loved before him. Thoughts of Tulliver, lost one year before to the day, leaked from my eyes and ran down my cheeks. Some memories have yet to be softened by time…
We continued west through Anna IL, passing through a section of that small city populated by those whose needs far outstripped their wants. As we motored along streets badly in need of repair the faces of the poor studied us, seemingly resentful of our ability to travel so freely. Glenlivet, who as a general rule provides excellent counsel, growled softly. I took his advice and moved on hastily.
We crossed the Mississippi to Cape Girardeau MO an hour or so later, taking a break for play and water in a beautiful park at the site of the old bridge’s art deco footing. It’s funny that though I’d crossed that mighty river several times, this was the first time I’d actually stood on its bank. The speed of the current took me by surprise; viewed from a distance it had always struck me as a broad, lazy river. Up close, however, the sheer volume of water passing before us at speed was incredible!
Anna, IL Bicyclists approaching the Mississippi
Moving on to Grass Roots BMW just a few blocks away we joined Pat Taylor for lunch. Pat and I had been online friends for years and may have actually met before, though telling one white-haired old timer apart from another was becoming increasingly difficult for both of us. Proud of his hometown, Pat gave us a walking tour of the riverfront while sharing obscure arcana and a bit of local lore. We liked each other from the start, a reminder that depth of friendship is not necessarily marked by the passage of time.
On we went, the terrain getting more varied as we left the broad river valley behind. To the west was a broad shelf of dark clouds moving our way, to the north clear skies. We reached Sam A Baker State Park and headed for the rocky beach of a crystal clear river so Glenlivet could play in the water. There, sunbathing in skimpy bikinis, were perhaps three dozen fit young women and no men, not a sight I expected to find in the hills of Missouri. A few seconds later torrential rain came over the hill behind us and drenched the sunbathers. With much shrieking they hastily fled to their cars; Glenlivet and I had the river to ourselves.
It was during dinner in a small diner in Missouri farm country that I had the opportunity to have that aforementioned exchange of viewpoints. It started when a heavyset man in overalls raised one cheek and passed gas like a trombone fading on the upscale to a tiny squeak. When the laughter subsided I fell naturally into conversation with a group of farmers at the next table. They were a god-fearing lot, judging by the bible on their table, though their language marked them as not quite ready to abandon the joys of sin. Spotting my Marine Corps ball cap they made an assumption about my beliefs. I met the appraising look of the eldest farmer, a patriarch with hazel eyes under Andy Rooney brows, sensing a curious mind. And so we entered into a free exchange of ideas which the others soon joined. Issues were addressed with some vigor, but utterly devoid of blame or judgement. They were impressed that I could recite from memory the Preamble to the Constitution I’d pledged to support and defend, and listened carefully as I explained what it meant to me. We discussed that and more, not with the aim of changing minds, but rather to better understand each other. Political turmoil had changed much in this nation, but here, in a small Midwestern diner, at least on that night, we had bridged the gap.
It was at this point that the weather became oppressive and camping plans were replaced with hotel reservations. Neither of us are fans of heat and humidity; such weather tends to dampen our resolve. Making a huge loop through the Mark Twain National Forest we followed lazy arcs of overgrown roads, finding gems of state parks and noting them for future reference. As the heat rose our goal was no longer the ride, but the numerous breaks that provided time to soak in cool rivers and downright cold springs. I quickly learned to pick locations where the shore was lined with stone, not dirt, as after each dip Glenlivet would roll on the riverbank. At some locations he became so muddy he resembled an ad for Swiffer and had to be sent back into the water for multiple rinse cycles.
Dropping into Arkansas we continued the pattern, finding some incredibly beautiful spots worthy of another trip in cooler weather. We passed through small towns with one of everything: one store, one bank, one gas station, one diner. We rested on the shoulders of wild rivers watching kayakers shoot the rapids. We found the Oark Cafe closed, but had an excellent meal at the Ozark Cafe in Jasper AR, complete with great music from my teens.
Oark General Store Sadly, many small diners had gone under
But the heat took its toll, as did the physical effort of piloting a sidecar rig on twisty roads for several consecutive days. We had reached the point where the goal was simply making it through the day. Cutting a few side trips off the agenda we headed north, found a hotel room in Harrison, and fell asleep in air conditioned bliss.
Climbing into the hills This early, we had the road to ourselves Buffalo River near Ponca AR Farmland north of Jasper AR
We got up early and reached the Peel Ferry landing by eight, but had missed our ride by several minutes. No matter; it was a beautiful bug-free morning and there was a lake to play in, sticks to retrieve. Glenlivet finds pleasure in the simplest things.
Drat, we missed the ferry! No worries. It’s playtime!
The ferry arrived half an hour later. We boarded – the only vehicle present – and waited another forty-five minutes while the crew refueled. As we finally got underway the small vessel rocked a bit. Glenlivet jumped into his sidecar as trained when startled, looked to me for reassurance, then returned to the deck with cautious curiosity. He has learned over our years together that venturing forth despite uncertainty usually leads to fun.
Approaching the Missouri side Thanks for the ride! Welcome back to Missouri! Markers showing how deep you’d be if you ignored flood warnings The hills gave way to farmland as we approached Springfield The Ozarks were behind us…
As a hedge against inclement weather I had reserved a room at the Best Western Coach House near the rally site. (So many others had the same idea that location became a miniature rally in itself.) With the heat building we stopped briefly at a pet shop to replenish our kibble supply, then checked in early, unpacked the rig, and continued to the rally resolved to savor every minute of it.
Sure we made concessions to the heat, but experience has left its mark on me. One must celebrate the here and now or go home filled with scant memories and a surplus of regret. We attended a few seminars, bought several items from the many vendors present, and greeted our expanding circle of friends while Glenlivet tolerated caresses from his coterie of fans. Through the entire rally experience he exhibited behavior befitting an ambassador of his breed, even holding his head up with dignity to allow club president Reece Mullins to drape the Long Distance Sidecar Dog Award pennant around his neck.
I thought you said you fixed it this time, Dad Moving to find more shade
While investigating a rattle with the help of longtime friend Robert Bolton I realized I was missing one part, a small cone-shaped adapter so the lug would properly seat into the LT mag wheel of the sidecar. Figuring Reece Mullins would know every single rider on site I gave him a call hoping he could help spread the word. Instead, he personally started a search and brought to our partially disassembled rig a man who had seen a couple of LTs on a trailer being sold for parts. Robert went off with his tools to retrieve the cone while Reese kept us company. Their help was so far above the norm that I wore a grin the rest of the day.
This is our tribe. We look after each other.
Closer to 2800 miles by the route we took
The whirlwind of reunions and introductions, of meals and beverages shared, of being helped or pitching in to help others ended all too soon. With an even more oppressive heat bubble approaching from the west we packed up, said our goodbyes, and in the wee hours of Sunday morning set a course for home.
Pushing hard to get ahead of the approaching heat, we started in Springfield MO at 3:45am and ended the day in Hamilton OH – a total of 606 miles. We were both tired, but the weather gods had cooperated to give us a perfect day for the hard push. We stopped for breaks every 90 minutes or so, timed breakfast so we didn’t have to ride into the orb of the rising sun, and averaged 80mph (while moving) with abysmal fuel economy.
My first visit to Waffle House that didn’t involve crime Glenlivet urging me to pick a different spot next time
Decades ago as a teenaged Navy Corpsman serving with the Marines I decided learning to defend myself might come in handy if we ever saw action. So I struck up a deal. I’d teach my Marines basic anatomy – where strikes would likely cause incapacitating injuries – and in turn they’d teach me how to disable an opponent. Or at least that was how I saw it. They saw me as an easy mark and I got beat up so often that I became an expert marksman in the hope the enemy would never get close enough for mano-a-mano. But an astute Gunny noticed that I got angry after taking a few hits. He patiently informed me that fighting was an intellectual thing. “Once you’ve lost your cool,” he told me, “you’ve lost the fight.” So I worked hard on that. I still got beat up, but also managed to land more zingers. Four decades later that lesson came back to me.
It was early afternoon on the first day of our journey home that for only the second time in my adult life I found myself in a fight. Glenlivet and I were in line at a takeout diner in eastern Indiana when a chubby man in Walmart attire bellowed “What is that THING doing here?” He aimed a kick at Glenlivet which I blocked with my motorcycle boot; the impact of his unprotected toes with my shin guard caused him to wince in pain. Angered, I responded with some harsh words thinking the verbal slap down would be the end of it. But he actually took a swing at me! Even more surprising, an emotional blankness fell over me; I had instinctively reverted to that reflexive mindset from my distant past. His big roundhouse swing was easily avoided by stepping into it so I got nothing more than a slap on the ear with a flabby bicep. Two strikes had him on the ground in seconds – a palm to the throat and a knee to the face as he doubled over – with a boot poised over his right hand to render it incapable of delivering additional punches. But there was no fight left in the bully; he ran off hurling insults in a raspy voice.
Glenlivet, that incredibly dependable soul, remained in a perfect down-stay till called.
I decided we deserved a bit of luxury after the ordeal of the tussle and our six hundred mile day, so we got a room at an upscale Courtyard by Marriott in Hamilton OH. The hotel was situated on a riverbank, adjacent to both parkland and several open-air eateries and breweries. Colorful murals crawled up the walls of nearby buildings. Glenlivet walked at my side carrying his leash as I led the way through revelry in the square, a generous platter from a food truck in one hand and a nice IPA in the other. An insufferably self-absorbed man was putting the make on a pretty barmaid half his age. Friends reviewed in hushed tones the intrigues of their social lives. A young mother chased her newly bi-pedal child through the tables of the beer garden. A thirty-something couple was trying to sober up a bit before riding home on their bicycles. Young couples drifted toward romance, speaking in tones of tenderness. People raised toasts to most every worthwhile aspect of life in a free society.
My grasp on civility was restored.
We set out early the following morning, determined to be out of the city before commuter traffic picked up. The cityscape soon gave way to farmland. We made good time, generally at 5mph over the posted speed limit, slowing as we passed through small towns hoping to find parks suitable for play stops. We discovered that byways containing the word Pleasant in their name were generally aspirational.
Tallest structures in farmland
We stopped for lunch in Zanesville OH, choosing a diner surrounded by grass and trees so Glenlivet could play a bit. A big guy named Zack, who reminded me of a few of my Samoan friends, came by to check out our rig and introduce himself. A local, he gave me several tips on good roads leading to our next waypoint.
In the diner Glenlivet curled up under the table, one paw resting atop my foot as is his custom. Now and then I’d discretely pass him a bit of my food. When it came time to leave our bill had been paid by a small group of Harley riders. They followed us to the parking lot, asking questions about our mode of travel and shrugging off my profuse thanks. As we were suiting up to leave, Zack showed up on his Yamaha cruiser, insisting on guiding us along some of the roads he had earlier recommended. What a welcome!
We followed Zack for miles along roads we never would have found on our own. Eventually he pulled over and waved us forward, indicating we were on a road that would take us straight to where we were going. With a heartfelt wave of thanks we motored on.
Unfortunately, that road was closed several miles ahead for bridge repairs. There were no detour signs, just huge barricades. Not wanting to backtrack that far I pulled over and asked a man in a hardhat if there was an alternative. He pointed to a side road. “Go around that Road Closed sign,” he said. “Take a left at the first stop sign, then a right at the second.”
The road was well-maintained but narrow, and seemed to wander all over the countryside. But that was fine with us. We had no timeline, the scenery was great, and we still had two hundred miles worth of fuel in the tank. Eventually the detour dropped us on OH-16 just south of the delightful town of Coshocton.
When traveling long distances, one of my preferred staples consists of a hard roll (preferably a crusty sourdough), summer sausage, and extra-sharp cheddar. We’d traveled over three thousand miles by this point and I had yet to find a bakery able to fill that need. Google Maps listed a highly-rated bakery in Coshocton, so I headed in that direction hoping to score at last. It was, unfortunately, another strike out. The bakery specialized in sweet things, elaborate cakes and cupcakes with thick frosting in swirls of color as varied as the domes of Saint Basil’s Cathedral.
But no rolls.
From there it was a string of backroads through Carrollton OH, New Castle PA, and up into New York state. We stopped for lunch at a diner in the tiny town of Busti NY where we were served by a teenaged girl who blinked one eye repeatedly. At first I thought she might have a nervous tic, but on closer examination it seemed one of her false eyelashes had come partially unfastened, the stray half waving in the air like a caterpillar trying to bridge the gap to the next leaf.
Tim and Karen, our good friends near Rochester NY, offered to put us up for the night, so off that way on secondary roads we went till the threat of rush hour in a major metropolitan area had me switch over to the Interstate with thirty miles to go. It was not quite rush hour, but coming from a town of 1100 people with just one paved road that last thirty miles was an E-ticket event!
We reached the safety of their home just as commuter traffic was peaking. Their neighbor, spotting us approaching, ran up to us with her small daughter as we pulled into the driveway. “I had no idea Tim and Karen had such cool friends!” she exclaimed, practically bubbling with excitement.
We get that a bit.
By this time the forecast was again playing a major role. Though we’d passed north of the heat wave’s path, it was about to collide with cold air dropping down from Ontario. To avoid riding through torrential rain and lightning we would either have to make it home the following day, or cool our heels for two more days. And of course by this time home was exerting its gravitational pull. We opted for the mad dash method of travel: Rochester to Mexico on 104, up to Watertown on I-91, east on mostly 3 for a very brief visit with friends at Saranac Lake, then across Lake Champlain on the ferry to Vermont and home.
Just past Watertown we pulled over for a break on the well-groomed grounds of an old church. The heat wasn’t terrible, but the humidity was uncomfortably high. As I freed Glenlivet an elderly woman approached waving her arms and looking disturbed. Criminy, I thought. Here we go!
But as I removed my helmet and earplugs it was obvious she was happy to see us. “I love animals!” she declared. “Especially dogs!” So we had a nice visit in the shade of large trees, refilling all our water containers and making a new friend.
Our visit with Tom and Kelli at Saranac Lake set records for brevity; with an eye on the clock and weather radar we were in and out in less than half an hour!
As luck would have it, road construction with multiple flaggers slowed our transit considerably. It was cold by the time we reached the ferry landing at Essex NY. So cold I switched from mesh to my Rallye jacket with a sweater underneath. We boarded and set out for Vermont on the far side of the lake in wind that was sharp and merciless, often sending sheets of spray to cover us thirty feet back from the bow of the vessel. A young girl took a liking to Glenlivet and gently caressed him till it was time for us to mount up again.
A rough ride, with spray reaching us several times Glenlivet absorbing a bit of love
And then we were disembarking through darkening skies as the wind slapped the fabric of Glenlivet’s ragtop and shrieked past my helmet. Past familiar landmarks in our mountainous terrain we went till finally we were home…five minutes before the deluge.