Below freezing, 30, to start; 40 and rain/sleet to end.
Forecasted sleet above the Merritt Parkway kept a bunch of bears away Sunday.
Token2 was in England; Bart, the most northern CTPB, was worried about ice, John J. prefers football and Grumpy had to pick his truck up from the garage; it was in for repairs.
We started out dry under low clouds. But thanks to the miracle of Internet weather and Doppler radar, we knew we were in for it. Our plan was to "turn and burn." We would ride down, sign in, and turn right around hoping to beat the rain.
Pogy intended to join us. But he jumped the gun.
I think he is one of those engineering type guys. So he was more obsessed with my descriptions in the weekly departure time e-mail of how many miles it was and how I was not going to get my extra point and MapQuest travel time. He missed the departure time (it is always the "subject line" of the e-mail) and went ahead and calculated his own departure time based upon data provided.
So we traded these mismatched voice mails Sunday morning. He called at 8:23 a.m. and left a voice mail to ask if we were going. By then I was running back and forth from house to garage getting the bike ready and missed his call.
I called him back at 8:48 and got his voice mail. My message to him was that we would be leaving the Dunkin' Donuts in Stratford in about 10 minutes; he should figure on us being at Darien rest stop in 20.
Meanwhile, John K. had stopped by my house and, figuring we might be the only ones going, except now with Pogy, we rode over to the Dunkin' together, just in case someone else showed. The Captain even mentioned riding over ahead of me to see if anyone was waiting there. He decided to wait for me.
So we arrived together at Dunkin' in "Chris time" which means a minute or two to 9:00 a.m. Meanwhile Russ had called me at 8:55 to see if anyone else was going. Of course he got my voice mail because by that time I was riding. Russ is used to the Captain arriving two hours early for breakfast and was confused by the empty parking lot.
Russ had just called his wife Christine to move the car back out of the garage so he could pull his bike in. As we showed he had to take his helmet back off and call Christine back to tell her he was going with us.
We took off a minute or two after nine and pulled into the Darien rest stop. No Pogy.
I checked my voice mail and had one from him at 9:11 a.m., saying he had been there since 8:30 a.m. and went back home.
And off we went, Pogyless.
We didn't beat the rain despite all our scheming.
We rode into it just as we hit the local roads into Hillybilly Hall in Hopewell, N.J. If the dang destination had been closer to the Interstates our plan might have worked. But it took so long to slog over the local roads from I-287 down to Hopewell, that the storm overran us.
Crossing through New Jersey backcountry was slow going. State Route 609 must be named for the number of tar snakes per square foot. So we had to tiptoe over the slickness.
We picked up our adopted New Jersey Bear big Matt on the way across. Discouraged by the rain and roads, he was turning around and heading for home when the CT Bears changed his mind simply by our blatant demonstration of insanity.
Matt actually turned around in a business parking lot and fell into our line.
It's a shame about the rain because Hillybilly Hall is one of the few destinations with a nice, big, warm fireplace in their dining room.
The parking lot sucks. It's too small and mostly all gravel.
But I have fond memories of nice lunches on cold days seated next to that big fireplace.
Unfortunately for Hillybilly management, most bears did the same as us, sign in and get the heck home before the sleet started. There were plenty of open tables in the dining room.
Russ and John K. did not even bother to take their helmets off. They just clomped into the place, dripping, and waited in lines. There were two long lines: sign in and bathroom.
We still insisted on taking our group photo. My camera stood in for Johnny B's.
It was raining harder for the ride home.
Seemed like forever picking our way over the narrow country roads. I kept thinking that if we could just get headed north we could get out from under this thing.
We did not get a break.
Our chosen route had a lot more east-west in it than north-south. In an attempt to avoid frozen precipitation we hugged Long Island Sound like a warm mother.
For us in coastal Connecticut it very often happens that a snow event north of the Merritt Parkway is merely rain along the coast. Long Island Sound often holds just enough heat to save us from the nasty stuff.
That meant the George Washington Bridge coming and going.
So we headed across Route 80 instead of up I-287. Unfortunately that meant we were running parallel to the storm as it swept up from the south.
Finally on the Cross County Parkway we got good news and bad news. The good news was that we started to break into bands of dry and wet. The bad news was at the very front edge of the storm it was sleet, not rain, that was falling.
A brief stop in the rest area on the Hutch gave me time to examine the precipitation at less than speed. It was frozen, white pellets.
I took advantage of the very brief stop to put my Harley rain jacket OVER my Gerbing Union Ridge heated jacket.
It was soaked by now.
Soon after leaving Hopewell I felt wet coming through at the crook of my arm. More on the right. Soon on both sides.
We hit some heavier rain at freeway speed. And the wetness spread. I cranked up the thermostat to compensate.
Nevertheless I was very disappointed. Gerbing touts this jacket as all you need to ride in severe conditions. I intend to send them a strongly worded complaint. And next time I see our Polar Bear Gerbing dealer, Len, from MLDS, I want to see if there is anything to be done about the jacket.
Generally riding in rain on a motorcycle is no big deal with the right gear. But when that gear fails, it can get miserable, fast, really miserable.
Russ' Harley version Gerbing leather gloves were soaked through. My new T2 gloves were dry on the inside. The leather cuffs were wet, but dry and comfy on the inside.
However it was not a fair test. My hands were tucked inside nylon hippo hands which blocked all direct rain.
As we headed up Interstate 95 on our final dash for home, it alternated between rain, sleet and dry, every few miles.
John K. was leading and he must have smelled the barn on Interstate 95. He cranked it and we flipped through the changing bands of weather. Fortunately the road surface was never more slippery than on a rainy summer day.
As I pulled into home in Stratford it was dry. Not a half hour later it was raining. Another half hour later and it was raining hard.
When I took off my Gerbing jacket it must have weighed ten pounds, eight of them water.
All in all we never rode through a heavy rain. It was steady, heavier at times, but nothing I would characterize as a downpour.
Any riding gear worth its salt should have kept us dry.
My new FirstGear pants, which if you read last week's blog I wanted to test, came through with flying colors.
The jacket was a huge let down. Here, pasted directly from Gerbing's web site, is their promise:
Q: Is my heated clothing waterproof?
A: Gerbing's outerwear products and gloves are constructed to conform to the industry standards of waterproofing and will keep you dry. Gerbing's outerwear is constructed with a waterproof outer layer, or face fabric. The main function of the face fabric is to provide a durable outer shell. To make the face fabric waterproof, the inside of the fabric is laminated with a urethane coating that provides a protective moisture membrane. In addition, all seams are tape sealed and our outerwear fabrics have a durable water-repellent coating (DWR) which is a chemical treatment that forces water to bead up and roll off the surface of the fabric. Gerbing's gloves (excluding glove liners) are all constructed with a waterproof/breathable membrane to keep your hands dry however the leather is not waterproof and should be treated.
We had no time for banter this trip with nary a lunch or coffee stop. So my blog posting is short a few stories.
And I apologize for the Gerbing jacket failure rant. Any fellow rider can empathize.
If it was some sort of hellacious downpour I would be more forgiving. As we found out two years ago riding back from Cape May in a nor'easter, all weatherproof equipment fails at some point. But I expected better on a mild rain day. As Russ quipped, "What did you expect for $400?"
I should note for our blog fans and posterity that Russ earned his gold rocker this ride.
Thanks to the freakin' terrorist with exploding underpants, our Fort Dix ride has been moved to a repeat of The Cabin.
Club Dix is the officers club and has treated bears for years. I remember varying levels of security over the years, ranging from being waived through to having to show photo ID and be on a preapproved list submitted in advance by Bob Hartpence.
This year's security requirements were more than Bob could prepare in time for our ride. And I certainly understand and support the Army's concerns. Hopefully things will settle down for next year.
Meanwhile departure time for next week's ride is: 9:00 a.m.
Weather looks iffy with possible snow in the afternoon. But I never believe the long term forecast, unless it is good.
I will be celebrating my 29th wedding anniversary that day, with a ride to Freehold if the weather permits. I already have permission from my wife to go.
Did I pick a gem or what?!
Feel free to post your comments on Gerbing gear or anything else.
For a version of this blog with photos see my web site posting: