Polar Bear Motorcycle Blog; Snydersville, Penn.; December 18
By: Chris Loynd
Winter finally found us. For the motorcycle polar bears it came a few days early. If it ever got above 30 degrees Sunday, such was but brief. My electrics were set on “nuclear” for most of the day. I broke out the snowmobile boots and doubled up on chemical heat packs under my feet.
Our ride over to Schoch's Harley-Davidson would likely have been warmer, at least for the start, if only we had left later. A mistake in the departure alert e-mail by CT Blogger Chris Loynd (yeah, it was all my fault) lit the fuse of confusion that set off a bomb of controversy. Fortunately when the dust settled we are all still pals, committed to good humor. No feelings were permanently damaged. Leave the Captain alone! I mean it now!
When I sent out the departure time alert this week I slavishly followed Captain's meticulous spreadsheet of rides and recommended departure times. Only it turns out he was not so meticulous. (I know! That's crazy talk! Can you believe it?)
Captain's sheet recommended leaving Stratford at 8:00 a.m. In the subject line of my e-mail I set 8 as launch time. But then, in a perhaps Freudian slip, in the text I stated 9.
Mac was the first to catch the confusion. He e-mailed all the regulars looking for clarity. That only kicked off a flurry of competing e-mails espousing the virtues of either 8 or 9. As the controversy reached a fever pitch one of our riders even broadcasted a call for calm. Can't we all just get along?
Unfortunately, I had long since walked away from the computer. And I am not one who has e-mail pushed to his cell phone. I know how. I just don't care.
I only became aware of the tempest in my teapot as I glanced at the e-mail trail before shutting down my computer just before bed.
As I read through various missives the most strident was a dire warning from Captain that if we left after 8 a.m., we were doomed to arrive past noon. Now I did not really care one way or the other. Unlike some of my com-padres, I like riding at night.
Figuring the Captain to be the most demandingly precise of us all, well aware of his flag etiquette and other sundown worries, I sent a correction e-mail confirming my original 8 a.m. departure time. I mean the Captain was once the navigator of a submarine. Certainly he was qualified to calculate the travel time of 150 motorcycle miles. I did not do the math myself.
We got to Schoch's Harley-Davidson almost exactly . . . an hour early.
We gassed the bikes and proudly took those hard-to-get, front-row parking spaces. We killed some time taking the group picture (the early morning light was dramatic) and discussing the virtues of MapQuest-suggested travel times.
John J. had a printed copy of Captain's Excel sheet and pointed out several other rather questionable entries, including one suggesting a 10 a.m. departure. (Mmmm, yes, that does not seem quite right. Guess I should double check.)
In a way it all worked out better than usual. There was no line for the bathroom. We got the very first pieces of cornbread. The soup and chili, courtesy of Mrs. Schoch, her family and her HOGs, was delicious and piping hot. And we had a relaxed time sitting around the table and catching up on the news of our various lives as we waited for sign-in to open.
The Connecticut Motorcycle Polar Bears are a diverse group. Some of us are wealthier than others. Some are working, some retired, some face uncertain futures. Some, like me for example, have gone through dramatic change in the time we've ridden together. I went from having my own business to working at The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, put one-and-a-half kids through college, lost some hair and gained some pounds.
It makes for interesting conversation. And we're all close enough in age to share some of the same perspectives. Any TV producers out there? We are ripe for a reality show! I guarantee we'd be better than that Hairy Bikers tripe.
Grumpy promised a ride home more interesting than the interstate. (Silly reader, segues are for kids.)
So we mounted up 'pert near noon. As we were preparing to pull out of our preferred, honestly-earned parking spaces a bunch of dweebs on metric hardleys started filling in a row of bikes ahead of us. Could they not see us getting ready to pull out? Certainly they did not respect our early arrival. They thoughtlessly blocked in several of us.
However there were more of us than of them. So those of us blocked in were able to exit – after a bit of backpedaling – through the gap left as our fellow riders moved out.
Soon after the Delaware Water Gap, Grumpy led us up New Jersey Route 94, headed north and east.
He found us an old timey tunnel to ride through, some quaint towns and scenic farmlands. In the town of Fredon an honest-to-gosh bald eagle lit from a limb and flew right over our line of bikes, not 30 feet above our heads.
At Franklin we transferred to NJ Route 23 for a slightly southerly and more directly easterly ride to connect with Interstate 287.
As we sipped our coffees at Chez GSP, to a man we approved of the non-Interstate part of our ride.
(We didn't get Token2's vote. He ditched us on the last coffee stop for a family obligation.)
It can be a drag just blasting up and down the New Jersey Garden State Parkway and Turnpike. For many of our Polar Bear rides the distances involved require the most direct route. Also, once the “S” word happens – no it's SNOW, not that other “S” word you were thinking – secondary roads can be less reliable, especially on motorcycles.
As it turned out, Grumpy's scenic ride added maybe 10 miles and half an hour to our return – and that includes U-turns. It was worth every mile and minute.
Maybe we have identified a new trend, although we will have to wait a while to exploit it.
Our next ride is a long one, Vineland, New Jersey. So there won't be as much time for fooling around. Although some years back Grumpy and his Tom Tom took the boys on a Dunkin' Donuts tour on the way down. And we have before cut directly east across the countryside to the GSP for our ride home, come to think of it.
Wearhouse Grill the week after offers an opportunity. It's nestled right in the country we passed this week, west of 23, south of 94. Maybe there's a CT Bear with some GPS skills who wants to lead? If so, and if your route requires a recalculation of our departure time, be sure to let me know well in advance. You are welcome to consult with the Captain in advance if you wish. But be forewarned, he gets up early and hates to ride late.
Meanwhile we have two weeks without riding, thanks to the foibles of the 2011-12 calendar. Christmas and New Years days both fall on Sundays. Not many of us have the chones to ask kitchen permission for rides on those days.
So until we meet again I offer best holiday wishes – for whatever holiday(s) you choose to celebrate – and a happy and prosperous New Year full of good weather and great rides. No future is ever certain, but all futures are filled with possibilities.
Ride safe, and warm,