Homeward Bound again

The Mad Dash home, with a visit in Wisconsin

The Great River Road is one of those routes you can’t ride without thinking of the history behind it

We left St Paul early on a Sunday morning, following the Mighty Mississippi River south through a wispy fog that brought a chill to the air. In some places heavily eroded limestone bluffs rose high above us, their faces pocked with caves. I’m not sure how far back they went, but I’m sure any boy living in the area had explored each one within reach. Though a fraction of its width further south, the Mississippi was still a massive river by East Coast standards. We caught up with, and slowly passed, a long freight train to our right, while on the left dozens of fishermen dotted the glare-streaked water.

Great weather for riding!
Great weather for riding!
Overtaking a freight train

Bridges took us back and forth across the river, Minnesota to Wisconsin. We passed through Red Wing, then headed southeast at La Crosse through rolling hills where voracious mosquitos waited at every rest stop.

Approaching the ADM plant in Red Wing

Crossing the Mississippi, again

The Trolls of Mt Horeb, WI

On to Mt Horeb and its carved trolls lining the streets; Barley was singularly unimpressed. We stopped at the surprisingly small Duluth Trading Company flagship store in that town and could have spent hours looking at the old tools on display, but settled for a toy to replace one Barley had lost, then pressed on to visit our friends in a small town near Madison.

Shine and her new litter of pups

Keep that blonde dog away from my pups!

The first time we visited Steven and Susan they had an adorable young golden female named Shine. Shine was extremely affectionate and craved my attention. She also wanted Barley to play. Barley had no interest, and had given her plenty of warning growls, which she had chosen to disregard. One afternoon, while Barley was busily hunting mice in their yard, Shine had barreled into him with her puppy exuberance. The result, predictably, was she was immediately put on the ground by Barley with a god-awful roar.

By our second visit Shine had matured into a beautiful girl who kept her distance from Barley but jumped immediately onto my lap, pressed herself into my embrace, and sighed deeply in utter contentment. On this visit, however, she had a litter of pups to defend. One look at Barley and the lips peeled back, the fangs came out, and the look on her face seemed to hint that she was about to beat Barley to death with his own limbs! He wisely retreated to a far corner of the house and avoided her the entire visit.

You gonna eat all that?

He did, however, carefully watch Steven and Susan hoping that they would have dining habits as messy as Dave and Liz at the recent rally. Sure enough, a few bits of breakfast fell to the floor and were quickly gobbled up.

Mount up, Little Bug

Thanks, Steven and Susan!

Evansville is such a nice, sleepy Wisconsin town

Traversing Wisconsin farm country on the way to I-39

Southern Wisconsin farm

We were on the road early, taking I-39 south to reach US 24 quickly.  24 is a route we’ve taken often. It allows us to make decent time while avoiding big cities, and at the same time offers enough small town hospitality to give us a chance to meet new people or take breaks as needed.

Corn. Lots and lots of corn

Another Beemer heading home from the rally

Hardcore cross country bicyclist

At Huntington IN we switched to US 224 and continued east, avoiding the traffic of Ft Wayne. We kept pace with a couple of BMW R1200RTs till they veered off with a friendly wave to a more southerly course. We also passed a few bicyclists doggedly battling a breeze that always seemed to come from dead ahead. By the middle of Ohio the horizon was looking wet and gloomy, so we made a marathon run for I-80 hoping to reach western Pennsylvania before the showers began.

Main Street, Huntington, Indiana

Is that rain ahead?

We holed up in an older chain hotel on the bank of the Susquehanna River in Oil City, PA. With a name like Oil City I was expecting a bleak landscape dotted with oil derricks, but the terrain was quite hilly and heavily forested. Directly behind the hotel was a delightful city park dotted with small bronze sculptures. One was of a small girl holding out one hand  preparing to throw something. Barley walked up and sniffed her outstretched hand to see if she was holding any treats.

Barley thought she was holding a treat!

Barley eyeing the geese with bad intent

You gonna eat all that, Dad?

Barley claiming his bed…and the remote

We shared a dinner of potato skins, then retired to our room just as the rain started. Barley claimed the bed furthest from the window.

We were up early again, not because of the weather but rather because we sensed the closeness of home. There comes a point on every trip when you feel the tug of home, and today the suckage factor was high! We crossed several waterways, skipping the swampy areas but often stopping to play in the clear rivers. Farmers at work in their fields waved to us as we scooted past. In one small town a sheriff pulled us over; I hadn’t broken any laws, he was simply interested in sidecar travel with a canine companion.

Marshy areas make poor rest stops as Barley comes back all muddy

Sometimes I have serious Barn Envy!

Oh gawd, what did I do this time?

We continued in a generally northeast direction, enjoying the sort of scenery you just don’t see on the Interstate. On this trip we were surprised at how few construction delays we encountered. On those few occasions when we were stopped by a flagger the delay was generally less than a minute.

Riding the Alleghenies

You don’t see this on the Interstate!

What’s the holdup, Dad?

Now THAT is an effective way of marking a narrow underpass!

Bones of an old barn. I’m always sad to see them fail.

Where’s the Rustoleum?

At some point we crossed into New York state, dashed north, and entered the Adirondacks with their distinctive style of guardrail. At gas stops I let Barley out to stretch or socialize. Between gas stops we took breaks at the numerous lakes that dot the park.

Getting chilled water to share with Barley

Socializing is good for Barley and teaches kids how to introduce themselves to dogs

The hatch keeps my dog inside and protected

The distinctive Adirondack guardrails tell me we’re close to home

The town of Schroon Lake, NY

Barley telling me he needs a break

And finally we crossed the Champlain Bridge into Vermont. A quintet of Holsteins welcomed us home. Ahead I could see the familiar shape of the Appalachian Gap. Beyond that was home and a reunion with Tamara, Kazoo, and Tulliver.

The Champlain Bridge between New York and Vermont

Some local girls saying hello

The Green Mountains: almost home!

Kazoo rushing to welcome us back while Tamara says, “Back so soon?”



The St Paul Rally

The 2014 BMW MOA International Rally: St Paul, Minnesota

The last rally we attended in this area had been cursed with hot, humid, and at times extremely violent weather. In a fit of just-in-case advance planning I had reserved a hotel room in nearby Stillwater. Suffering from a case of CRS, I had forgotten to cancel the reservations before the charges stuck. No matter; it’s nice having a roof over your head at the end of a long trip. And as luck would have it, we awoke that first morning to the sound of wind-driven rain pounding on the window.

The wind passed fairly quickly though a gentle shower lingered, and we rode the twenty or so miles to the fairgrounds in raingear beating the morning commuter traffic.  As we arrived shortly before seven o’clock I noticed a few tents upside down, a bit of unsecured gear scattered by the wind. I smiled, remembering a time when I had assumed the weather would be static, that I really didn’t need to stake the tent down. Others, it seemed, had just learned the same lesson.

We parked the rig, shed our gear, then grabbed a breakfast sandwich, finding a dry table on a covered patio area. The showers lessened, but gusts of wind still chilled. Barley, ever hopeful, hovered nearby hoping I would drop a few bits of my breakfast. Those big brown eyes caused me to be a rather sloppy eater, and Barley was quick to clean up after me. Shortly after finishing, while waiting for the weather to clear, we were joined by a couple of fellow Vermonters: Dave and Liz. It was great to see them again!

We had camped next to Dave and Liz in Salem, Oregon, and enjoyed their company at monthly breakfasts of the BMW Motorcycle Owners of Vermont, the MOOVers. Liz was a sucker for Barley’s expressive face! Not only did she become an exceptionally sloppy eater, but she encouraged Dave to be sloppy as well. By the time they finished their breakfasts, there was a plate of scrambled eggs left over for my extremely food-motivated golden retriever!

You gonna eat all that?

Tents come in all shapes and sizes

We wandered around that first morning getting the feel of the place. It’s all well and good to know that your first seminar is in Building X, but it really helps be on time if you have an idea of where that building actually is. We also checked out some of the campsites, always looking for ways to make our own camping experiences more comfortable, easier to set up and break down, more efficient means of packing.

Some tents are pure elegance

While others are more…deliverance
And of course people watching is always fun.

There’s a bug in my beer!
Dad with future riding partner

Another big rally attraction for me is the chance to see all the different vendors. We have one BMW dealer in Vermont, but it’s tiny and owned by a man who really ought not to be allowed out in public. A few hours ride south of home are the trio of Max BMW stores, each excellent in every sense of the word, but space constraints limit what they can stock. So coming to the rally lets me examine acres of goods I just can’t put my hands on in my little rural state. And of course many of the vendors look forward to seeing Barley each year.

Everybody loves Barley!

That is one happy vendor!

Barley’s friend at CycleNutz

A typical golden, Barley appears more interested in the contents of her cup than in the hug

But the big attraction is getting to see dear old friends, and to meet new friends that we’ll look forward to seeing again in the future. I get so excited among friends that I invariably forget to take photos of them! Of course traveling with the dog as cute and outgoing as Barley makes it extremely difficult to remain introverted, but we do enjoy some quiet moments together.

Nothing beats a tummy rub! (Photo by Mark Zimmerman)
Moving the rig (Photo by Joe P)

Checking out the grounds (Photo by Lynn Hodges)

Love you, Dad! (Photo by Lynn Hodges)

Love you too, Little Bug (Photo by Lynn Hodges)

Schuberth means outstanding customer service! (Photo by Lynn Hodges)

We again volunteered this year, this time doing the Gunga Din thing refilling drinking water stations with ice and water. It’s a lot of fun, gave us a chance to meet new folks, and, well – volunteers make the rally happen!

Volunteer Water Duty (Photo by Neil Elghannani)

Catching a nap between water deliveries

This volunteering thing is exhausting!



The Upper Peninsula to St Paul

Google Maps came through in the end…

Barley takes a break on the shore of Lake Michigan

Remember how I mentioned that there were only a couple of routes I had planned on following during this year’s ride? Well, this was one of them. I had painstakingly examined satellite photos of the area, using Google Earth to zoom in and find roads off the beaten path. Over the next two days I would discover the hard way that Google Earth does not differentiate between paved roads and goat tracks!

Whitefish Point Lighthouse

Thank you, Google Maps, for finding this excellent backroad!

The day started out innocently enough. We traversed a very flat, very straight section between Lakes Michigan and Superior on pavement, then followed the shoreline past Paradise and up to the lighthouse at Whitefish Point. The museum wasn’t open at that early hour so we played on the sandy beach for a bit, snacked next to a massive old anchor, then saddled up and returned to Paradise before angling west, then leaving the pavement on a wide and well-maintained dirt road.

But that road turned into a smaller road, which became a tiny road, which became a logging road on which we had to maneuver around stumps. At some point it turned into a trail and then what could best be described as a goat path. I didn’t dare roll off the throttle for fear of getting stuck, but the big GS Adventure muscled its way through deep sand, over whoop-de-doos, and through some deep puddles and pretty significant mud that splashed up and covered my helmet cam, rendering it blind. I saw no signs of recent human activity and wondered, if we got stuck out there, if Barley would be good enough to share with me whatever rodents he managed to find.

Are you sure about this road, Google?

Um, are you there, Google?

Barley, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore…

The goat path eventually became a trail, then a logging road, then narrow dirt roads on which I could see the tracks of other vehicles. We began seeing four wheel drive trucks nestled next to small ponds, fisherfolk trying their luck in the tannin-stained water.  The road widened some more, still not well-maintained, and we eventually found ourselves at an abandoned gas station. Beyond it was evidence of a not-too-distant fire. Miles and miles of dead, blackened pines reaching to the cloudy sky above.

I have faith in your navigational skills, Dad

Proof that at one point, civilization existed here

Miles and miles of burned trees

The GPS screen had been blank for the past couple of hours, showing nothing more than a motorcycle icon in the midst of a pale green screen, but the directions it sent to my Bluetooth headset proved to be spot on, assuming one had faith in the unit, that is. “Navigate off road. In 300 yards, turn half left and continue navigating offroad,” did not fill me with much hope of finding civilization at first, but time after time I would find a place to turn where instructed. And so we found ourselves raising a huge plume of powder on a smooth dirt road at sixty miles per hour, the GPS assuring us that there was, in fact, a small town ahead.

The sleepy town of Grand Marais nestled upon a sheltered cove

The town was Grand Marais, built along the shore of a small sheltered cove of that greatest of all the Great Lakes, Superior. I pulled over at a cove side picnic area for a stretch break. Barley does not enjoy the often violent ride that offroad entails, so some downtime to let him recover, and to forgive me, was called for. There was a restaurant nearby, so we grabbed lunch and brought it back to the shoreline to share before pressing on.

Resting on the warm pavement

Michigan H-58, following the southern shore of Superior from Grand Marais to Munising, had recently been paved. I wish I’d had the chance to ride it while the route was still dirt, because many simply turn around when the pavement ends. Dirt roads mean solitude. Still, it was a scenic ride; with Barley and I enjoying breaks on several side roads along the way. I took several photos of the magnificent cliffs of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, discovering two days later that the SD card in the Nikon was defective. Bummer – but an excuse to revisit the area another year!

We left the shore at Munising, heading overland directly west to Marquette, where I pulled over to don rain gear against the gentle showers that considerately washed the dirt and bugs off our rig. We continued west to L’Anse before turning north toward the very scenic Keweenaw Peninsula. The sun came out, promising fair weather ahead, and I pulled over to remove my rain gear. That turned out to be a very bad decision! Less than ten minutes later, my side visibility limited by tall trees flanking the road, the wind picked up dramatically and the sky suddenly turned a sinister black punctuated by lightning bolts!

Oh crap! A fast moving storm! Better pull over and put on the rain gear!

I pulled over immediately and raised the lid of the sidecar and bid Barley to dismount so I could retrieve the raingear stowed under his mattress.  It wasn’t till I ordered him back into the hack that I realized how seriously screwed I was. In the process of shaping each other into a cohesive, long distance riding team, we had developed a routine. Part of that routine was that once he dismounted, Barley was allowed a minimum of five minutes to pee and stretch before we pressed on. The fact that a wall of torrential rain had caught us in the open made absolutely no impression on him. In seconds everything that was not protected by waterproof bags – including myself – was completely soaked. Nonplussed, Barley dug a pit under a fallen log in search of rodent snacks.

Drat – too late. We’re soaked!
Nothing to do at that point but press on.

Already soaked, I gave up on the rain gear and waited for Barley’s play time to end. With his muzzle mud-rimed, he grinned at me from his soaking wet bed. With a sullen hrumph, I closed the hatch and pressed on. Ten minutes later, as if to rub salt in my wounds, the sun came out though the wind continued unabated. We crossed Houghton Bridge, the world’s heaviest and widest double-decked vertical-lift bridge, and set out on a meandering (and very cold) journey to the tip of the Keweenaw.

Beautiful downtown Houghton

The Hancock-Houghton vertical lift bridge

Plenty of abandoned mining and dredging equipment

Cool old stuff all over the place!

Eagle River – deviating from the main roads can be fun!

Iron Mountain at the northern end of the Keweenaw Peninsula. From this bluff we spotted a Russian freighter heading west

Near the town of Copper Harbor we rode to the top of Brockway Mountain. The trip up was sheltered by treed slopes, and it wasn’t till we reached the summit that the full force of the wind hit us. I parked with the sidecar downwind for stability, and struggled to raise the lid so Barley could get out. A few feet away a full dress Harley was blown off its sidestand and crashed to the ground; I helped the couple right their bike. By way of thanks they snapped a photo of my dog and me. We shouted unintelligibly, then gave up, laughed at the wind, and waved our goodbyes.

Lunch at The Gay Bar

Back down the mountain we rode,  turning south on Highway 41 at Copper Harbor. We were doing 45mph, but the shadows of the clouds overhead passed us at a much higher rate of speed. And in my damp gear it was cold! To get out of the buffeting I turned east on an unmarked dirt road and headed for the town of Gay, which was sheltered by the bulk of the peninsula. Barley and I had an early dinner in The Gay Bar before returning to the town of Houghton, finding a warm, dry hotel, and settling in for the night.

Lake of the Clouds

In the morning we moved south and west as roads permitted, till we reached the coastline again, this time at Ontonagon. We followed the coastline to the Porcupine Mountains, visited Lake of the Clouds where Barley delighted a minibus of pre-teens with Down’s Syndrome. Their joy in finding a dog to hug was heartwarming!

Running across Wisconsin

We soon crossed into rural Wisconsin, making excellent time on a mix of paved and dirt roads, crossed the Mississippi River into Minnesota, and followed an increasing number of other Beemers to the state fairgrounds, site of the 2014 BMW MOA International Rally.

The Mississippi is a lot smaller up here than it was in Tennessee, but still a big river!

Getting close to the rally!

Let’s stop riding for a couple of days, shall we?



North to the Threshold of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

North to the Threshold of the Upper Peninsula

It was raining as Barley and I exited the hotel. Seven shiny Harleys were clustered under the covered parkway, their owners smoking cigarettes and staring at the clouds as if willing them to part. As they saw me loading up the rig, they pushed their bikes together to make a space for us under the shelter.

“Bring your rig up here, Brother,” one called out to me. “If you’re determined to ride in the rain you ought to at least start out dry.’

The sidecar rolled easily as I pushed it to the entrance and thanked them. Barley made friends while I retrieved the rest of our gear and lashed it all down securely. They noticed my Vermont plates and asked me where we were headed, looking surprised at my reply, “Minnesota.” They were all from a town about eighty miles to the west, and anticipated the return home would take all day. Noticing my puzzled look, one explained, “We stop for the smallest tank or the weakest bladder, whichever happens first.”

We all laughed, but it was clear we found each other’s riding style strange.

With a wave to our new friends, Barley and I headed north, the rain stopping as we crossed into Michigan. Southern Michigan looks a lot like northern Ohio: flat, carefully cultivated, dotted with farms. By mid-morning it was warm enough that I needed to take off my rain gear. I hadn’t eaten yet, and my tummy was rumbling. We followed a minivan into a small town, the woman driver showing an amazing ability to drive in a straight line while applying mascara and eye liner.

Driving Under the Influence of Maybelline

Grassy areas are good choices for play and napping

Barley has a keen nose, able to find a McDonald’s long before it’s visible. I could tell by his behavior that the scent of hash browns was on the breeze. Sure enough,  a few minutes later I could see the golden arches ahead on the right. I signaled and pulled into the driveway just ahead of mascara woman, who had overshot and was backing up. She was behind us in the drive-thru, still applying makeup. I got my breakfast and an extra hash browns for Barley, then pulled into a parking spot next to a grassy area so Barley could stretch his legs while I shed the rain liner.

Mascara Woman pulled in next to us. The rear of the minivan was occupied by her four small sons, each utterly devoted to his meal. I found her fascinating. Never before had I met a woman who could carry on a conversation while simultaneously eating breakfast and applying makeup. She was truly a talented young woman!

Rotopax fuel and water cells keep Barley’s bed clear

We loaded up, mounted, and continued north. For a while we followed an old blue Harley that was making good time except at stops, where the rider seemed to have some trouble finding first gear. Pulling close for a better look, I noticed he had a suicide clutch, truly an impressive antique iron horse! Barley and I covered a lot of ground that day, but it was flat farmland for the most part with not much to talk about. Around noon we threaded the rural gap between Grand Rapids to the west and Lansing to the east, caught Highway 37 and rode north through Manistee National Forest. It was a pretty ride, but most notable for the hundreds of road kill, mostly woodchucks and young raccoons. Late in the afternoon we pulled into the Kesselwood campground near Cadillac, set up our tent, cooked some dinner and turned in for the night. As campgrounds go, Kesselwood was a good choice: clean, well laid-out, and quiet.

Antique Harley moving right along!

Long trains provided impromptu stretch breaks

Checking on Dad

Is it chow time yet? Camping at Kesselwood

Naptime at Kesselwood Campground

I’d chosen the Kesselwood Campground because it was located at the intersection of  Highways 37 and the very scenic 55, a forested road that would take us to the shore of Lake Michigan at Manistee.  It was a good starting point for an early morning ride, with the sun at our backs. Barley soon smelled water – and I noticed the expanse of blue on the GPS screen – miles away from the lake. But as we topped a rise where I expected our first look at the lake I saw not water, but an oil derrick. Just one. Solo.

One oil derrick all by itself

I smell water!

We entered the town of Manistee a few minutes later, stopping at a dead end next to the lakeshore. Barley did his happy dance and made a beeline for the water the moment I raised the sidecar lid. Lake Michigan’s shoreline was as beautiful as the other Great Lakes, crystal clear water lapping a shore of soft, sun-warmed sand. I let Barley explore until a strolling couple drew near, then called him to me and returned to the rig. The couple followed us. They had a golden of their own and needed a dog fix!

Couple getting a dog fix

North again, following the shore we rode through Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore up to Lake Leelanau, then east to Suttons Bay and back south to Traverse City. We rounded the south end of Grand Traverse Bay then angled north again with the magnificent lake always to our left. We stopped for lunch in the delightful town of Petosky, chatted with a friendly Triumph rider who looked – and sounded – just like Cheech Marin of Cheech and Chong fame, then continued north on 119 through the famous Tunnel of Trees.

Barley unimpressed by Sleeping Bear Dunes

Saying goodbye to Cheech

The Tunnel of Trees

The trouble with famous scenic routes is that once they achieve fame, they become clogged. The scenery was very nice, with some stretches nearly as pretty as the roads back home in Vermont, but the heavy traffic and distracted drivers took a lot of joy out of riding this one lane road.

Our next stop was Mackinaw City, situated on the south side of the strait where Lakes Michigan and Huron met. It was, literally, a crowded parking lot lined with souvenir shops and national chain stores. I grabbed a bite to eat, sat on a park bench to share it with Barley, then suited up and got ready to press on. It was then that a pair of teenaged girls, accompanied by a young boy, approached and politely asked if they could pet my dog. Watching the little boy hugging Barley, it was clear he wanted a dog of his own.

Paved Paradise

Do you think Grandma will let me have a dog?

Mackinac Bridge, commonly called the Mighty Mac, a magnificent suspension bridge spanning the five miles between lower and upper Michigan, is one heck of a ride! I stood up on the pegs mid-span to glimpse a freighter passing two hundred feet below. Barley curled up on his bed, completely unimpressed by the crossing. He roused himself briefly at the toll booth, hoping for a treat, then sank back morosely when none was offered. A few miles west on US 2 we pulled over for the night.

Wow, Dad – that’s a freakishly big bridge!

Crossing the Mighty Mac. The metal deck in the middle lanes lets you watch freighters pass beneath you!

Sorry, no dog treats



2014: Minnesota

Rural Pennsylvania and the Amish Country of Ohio

Fog ahead as we ride past the Trapp Family Lodge

Departure Day was foggy, with a dark sky that promised clouds when the fog eventually burned off. There was rain in the forecast to the south, but nothing we hadn’t dealt with before. I installed the ragtop on the hack, tucked Barley safely inside, and said my goodbyes. Tamara, my long-suffering BMW widow. Kazoo, my gentle giant who carried a slipper and made worried sounds. And Tulliver, my red dog, my Velcro dog, who had learned over the years that when the rig was packed like it was today, Dad was going away for a while.

We motored down our dirt road and turned right at the pavement, slipping past the still sleeping Trapp Family Lodge into the fog.

On our way down Trapp Hill Road

The rain began just south of Waitsfield, Vermont

Great little cafe, but we’re not hungry yet
Route 100 in a light drizzle

Showers caught us in Waitsfield, Vermont, less than an hour from home. I’d expected it, so had my rain liner in place under my protective gear. I pulled over to let Barley pee, then zipped the ragtop windows shut to keep him dry as we pressed on. The rain lasted no more than an hour, and shortly before we crossed into New York State it stopped. By the time we reached Pennsylvania the sun had come out; fluffy clouds scurrying past created patches of sun and shade.

The rain stopped as we crossed into New York State
Most people think New York City is all there is, but upstate is very different

Welcome to Pennsylvania!

By late afternoon we reached Tioga, Pennsylvania, gassed up, then took the dirt road that led to the camp owned by our friends, Linda and Dennis. Barley stalked frogs in their pond as we caught up on things.

Tioga Camp: Good friends ahead!

The next morning we were on the road shortly after sunrise, traversing familiar turf along PA 6, then angling southwest along rural backroads through the Alleghenies. At some point north of Pittsburgh we crossed into Ohio on a back road. There were no signs or welcome stations, just a change in the road markers. We switched to a state highway and moved west quickly, moving back to secondary roads when we noticed signs of the Amish.

Continuing west through rural Pennsylvania

We must be in Ohio by now…

Not many tourists come this way

We pull over for a break in a small town

During one of our rest stops I accidently bumped my left hand mirror sending it spinning around on its mount. I dug through my tools but as luck would have it, the wrench needed to lock it back in position was the one I had failed to pack!

By that point we were near New Philadelphia, which had a BMW dealer, so I plugged the address into the GPS. We arrived at Mathias BMW Motorcycles mid-afternoon. The staff took care of us immediately, refilled our water bottles, and wished us well. As we were saddling up to continue our way, a couple on his and hers Beemers pulled in. “Is that Barley?” asked the woman, lifting the front of her modular helmet.

While many seem to know my dog, few outside of Vermont seem to know me.

Mathias BMW in New Philadelphia, OH

We spent the night in Uhrichsville with a couple we’d met on ADVRider.com. We didn’t get to chat much as Mark, a police officer, was on duty till late at night and by that point both Barley and I had had the radish. With my medical background I had a connection with his lovely wife, as she was a nurse working full-time while studying to become a nurse practitioner. But she began to feel ill as the evening wore on, and eventually retired.

I have that effect on women.

Mark and his wife, both riders, put us up for the night

A morning huddle before hitting the road

We set out early in the morning, planning on exploring backroads in the Amish Country and ending up near the Indiana border. It was really pretty country! We found ourselves on dirt roads so narrow the brush often caressed both sides of our rig, populated by Amish who rarely see tourists so far off the beaten path.

Some roads were lined with dry brush

Others were lush and green

Women riding bicycles were commonplace

I was surprised by a couple of things this day. First, in addition to buggies, bicycles were a common mode of transportation. It was not at all uncommon to see people, the women with head coverings and long skirts, pedaling on the side of the road. The other was that not all Amish were averse to being photographed. None would pose, but many had no objections being photographed while working. It pays to ask.

Fair weather brings out the tonneau cover

Such a good riding buddy!

Pass slowly and at a respectful distance

By midday the weather was very pleasant, so I removed Barley’s ragtop and replaced it with his tonneau cover so he could feel the wind in his fur. This made him much more visible, and many of the Amish we passed laughed and waved. Even among the Amish, Barley was able to spread good cheer! Later in the afternoon, just before we turned onto a state highway to press west, we came to a T-intersection. I heard a delighted, “Awesome!” in a young boy’s voice, then six boys of elementary school age – all in Amish garb – raced out of a nearby house to check out the dog and his rig. “Awesome” was not a word I associated with the Amish before that day.

Farms were remarkably well-maintained without power tools

They might be insular, but the Amish were delighted to see Barley in his rig

The house of awesome!

Barley often watches me as we ride

Army Corps of Engineers projects like this dam are often paired with camp and picnic facilities

This campground and picnic area was linked to the dam above

We stopped for the night in Defiance, Ohio, had dinner at a local Mexican joint, then settled into our hotel room after checking the rig and covering it for the night. Barley curled up next to me on the bed, lay his head on my shoulder, sighed deeply and started snoring.



The Last Leg: Ohio to Vermont

The rest of the way home…

We didn’t need to depart before dawn. After the Western desert the conditions east of the Mississippi were quite pleasant, almost chilly.  There was no need to rush. But there comes a time in every trip where one feels the gravitational attraction of home. By the time we reached eastern Ohio I felt that pull quite strongly, so we scooted along secondary roads into rural Pennsylvania.

An Amish ATV

Amish vegetable gardens are marvels of efficient use of space
Rural Pennsylvania offers a restful pace

Unfortunately the knocking sound I’d heard from the sidecar on left turns over the last few hundred miles was not my imagination. Barley gave me his best “Are you crazy?” look as I made a series of figure eights on a quiet road in a small town, listening carefully to the sound echoing off the brick buildings on either side. Yup, rotational noise coming from the outboard wheel. I set a course for Freedom Sidecars near Selinsgrove; Claude Stanley and his crew are the best in the business, absolute gurus in the world of hacks.

Pennsylvania towns hug the road and generally don’t offer much in the way of dog attractions

Barley treated Claude like an old friend, leaning against him and telling all who would listen about his latest adventure. I love watching that dog interact with people, the smiles that blossom around him. Their attention soon turned to my rig, which was rolled into the shop and pushed back and forth while we crawled on the floor next to it, trying to pinpoint the source of the noise. The outboard wheel came off, other parts removed, and by a process of elimination the team decided I had a bad wheel bearing. Claude also noticed that my final drive seal was leaking fluid.


I called Max BMW, the dealer in Troy, NY that had cemented my relationship with the marque and was halfway between home and where we were at the moment. Replacing the seal was not a problem, but the wheel bearing was a big unknown. If I could leave the rig with them for a while they would press out the old bearing and find a replacement to match.

Next, I called my long-suffering wife, the woman who held down the fort while my dog and I explored much of the continent. She agreed to meet us at the dealer the following day. Barley and I said our goodbyes to the crew at Freedom and rode north to Tioga where Dennis and Linda again shared their camp with us. Dog lovers are the best!

Construction is hard to avoid in summer months

Tioga Reservoir: almost there!

Familiar turf: our friends Dennis and Linda once again offer us a place to relax

Neither of us slept very well. My thoughts were of homecoming, and I think Barley sensed that our journey was nearly over. We did manage to get underway in a leisurely manner, packing carefully and enjoying breakfast while waiting for the morning fog to burn off.

Just shy of eight o’clock we left Tioga on secondary roads, my dog and I, heading north to I-88, then following that scenic slab northeast toward Albany, NY. With home in my thoughts the excitement factor was high, and we made excellent time.

Gassing up for the last leg

Heading northeast out of Tioga on a rural Pennsylvania highway

First cut hay alongside the Interstate
The Interstate between Oneonta and Albany NY is quite scenic

But as we near Albany it’s madness, sheer madness!

We passed through the madness of the toll booth around lunch time, then navigated urban routes to Max, where we found Tamara waiting for us. Barley was crazy happy at the sight of his Mom, told her all about the trip, then jumped into the Prius and stretched out across the back seat.

Barley loves the staff at Max BMW and they are always glad to see him!

The long suffering wife was waiting for us

Three weeks. 8882 miles. A man and his dog…and the woman who loves them.