Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Traffic? In Connecticut?

CT Polar Bears in Blue Bell, Penn., from left: Grumpy, Anonymous Ed, Captain, CT Blogger and Pogy down front.
Motorcycle Polar Bear Blog, Polar Bear Grand Tour, ride to PJ Whelihan's, Blue Bell, Penn., December 9, 2018.

By: CT Blogger and Pogy
Photos by: Grumpy

First of all, what a great Polar Bear location! This place is huge. They put the Bears out on a big enclosed, winterized and heated deck. Food was delicious, fast and reasonably priced. The servers were fun and bubbly and attentive. This is a new destination for the Polar Bear Grand Tour. Thank you PJ Whelihan's for a great job of hosting.

Kudos to our Ride Coordinators George Piegaro and Roy Bober! They have the tough job of finding restaurants with the right mix of capacity and attitude and willingness to host a couple of hundred motorcyclists on a Sunday afternoon.

Because of the proximity of our destination to my parents' home, I rode down Saturday late afternoon for a dinner and visit with Mom and Dad. I also had the luxury of getting out at 10 a.m. Sunday morning instead of 8:00 a.m. like my Connecticut compadres. Mom indulged me with a scrapple breakfast.

For my ride down Saturday I was sailing along just fine until I hit Norwalk. There I saw I-95 dead stopped in all three lanes. I had just enough room to make an ill-advised four-lane change from the far left passing lane to exit for Route 7 and the alternate Merritt Parkway south. I put on my blinker and fortunately was not the only one with the same idea. So the guy next to me in the big Cadillac Escalade beeps his horn, waves and then starts blocking lanes for me to get all the way over. He followed me off the exit and onto Route 7. Awesome! Thanks man, whoever you were!

It was a good risk; the Merritt was a breeze with no traffic. It was free-wheeling all the way down, over the Tappan Zee Bridge, Garden State Parkway and NJ Turnpike. I figured to keep it easy and so rode all the way down the Turnpike to Exit 2. That offers a slightly longer route but a straight shot across a country two-lane road to the Commodore Barry Bridge. Except it wasn't last Saturday night.

Just a short way across Route 322, I ran into a detour. Props to the local cops. They had cars with lights flashing at every turn of the well-marked detour with traffic control. There was still an unexpectedly long line of cars. All in, it was probably an extra 20 minutes, not bad at all by Connecticut traffic standards.

Sunday morning the rest of our Connecticut crew enjoyed an uncharacteristically traffic-free run down to Blue Bell. Turns out this part of Pennsylvania is well known to Pogy. So he took the lead. I think it may have been his first time leading a Polar Bear ride? They got to PJ Whelihan's at like 10:40. I'd figured them for for 11:00, which is when I arrived. I accused them of speeding but with Pogy at the lead he swore he kept a steady and reasonable speed. His fellow riders attested to same. The only answer was light traffic.

Going by the Pirate Code, they'd already ordered lunch by the time I arrived, knowing full well I was on my way. But our waitress was quick to get my order in too, including two progress reports on when my BLT would be arriving.

My sandwich was exceptional with the bacon generous, thick cut and crisp, the tomato thick sliced and the lettuce just right. The fries were right too. It was delicious, even though I rushed it a bit to catch up with my pals.

Polar Bear Grand Tour Grand Poohbah Bob Hartpence and Quartermaster Gary Rosen presented me with a staff hat (see photo below). They had special hats made in memory of Flight B Leader John Bachota who passed away recently. I'll wear it with pride.

Lunch done we gathered for the group photo. Grumpy was working a bit longer on his camera settings and Captain was being extra snarky, which led to the group photo you see above.

I joined up with my guys for the ride home, Pogy in the lead, Grumpy as sweep.

Pogy led a pretty smooth ride. We had a car get in between us once. There were a few instances where our pack riders were impatient, moving before Grumpy had cleared. That's not easy to do, by the way. Grumpy is an affirmative lane clearer.

Grumpy's take:
Pogy said nothing happened on the ride. Well being at the back you see a lot, to quote you (Chris). There was a car that cut into the group. I saw the Time to Tappan Zee sign saying 62 min. and my heart dropped and I just said s**t. But it was a great ride over  the Tappan Zee. See you next Sunday.
John B (Grumpy)

Once again the traffic gods smiled on us. We all stuck to I-95 for the whole trip home. We sailed through even Greenwich, Stamford and Norwalk. Captain and I were the last ones headed north with no traffic in Bridgeport. All the traffic trouble spots were quiet.

Maybe we should have Pogy lead all the rest of the Polar Bear rides if he's truly our traffic good luck charm! Here's his report:

Todays ride started off a balmy 22 degrees – The troops picked me up in Darien at approximately 0820 – The Captain somehow got me to  lead the ride today – which was fine – there were four of us – Me in the lead, then the Captain to keep me from getting lost in New York, then Anonymous Ed and sweep was Grumpy. The ride down was without traffic and we arrived at the destination at 10:40.  We got seated and just as the clock struck 11:00, the waitress took our order and shortly thereafter Chris showed up – he was in Delaware visiting his family so he joined us for lunch.  

We were back on the road (all 5 of us) by high noon – traffic again coming home was with very little traffic and I was home by 1500 – the rest of the guys had another 15-20 miles more to travel north

Great traffic day for the Bears, the food was good at Whelihan's, priced right and we now can look forward to next weeks ride 

Thanks Guys – Ride Safe


Polar Bear Grand Tour photographer Bernie Walsh.

"Yeah Kathy, I led the ride, no really."

Grand Tour photographer Bernie Walsh captured a couple photos of the Connecticut Bears arriving and a great picture of Polar Bear Grand Tour Chairman Bob Hartpence.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Rainy Day Friends

CT Polar Bears in Montgomeryville, via automobile, from left: Grumpy, CT Blogger, Pogy and Captain.
Thank you Bernie Walsh for taking the photo!
Motorcycle Polar Bear Blog, Polar Bear Grand Tour, DRIVE to Montgomeryville Cycle Center, December 2, 2018.

By: CT Blogger
Photos by: Grumpy

It is said that there are sunny day and rainy day friends, the latter being more reliable and resilient. Perhaps such is too philosophical an argument for our Sunday Polar Bear excursion. Pogy put it better, "Oh great; six hours of ragging on each other!" One advantage of riding together in the car is that we get a lot more taking time together. Even riding together all day on bikes, we get less than an hour to talk. Sunday's drive was a real treat.

I am not ignorant of the perception that a six-plus-hour drive to nowhere in the rain is crazy. As it turned out, we had great fun the four of us. At the end we were all glad we went, and went in a car.

Sunday's forecast was for rain. Weathermen disagreed on how much and when. Some were saying thundershowers would end by morning. Some called for clearing in the second half of the day. Still others suggested an all-day thunderstorm threat.

Me, I'm getting too comfortable these days to desire a whole day of riding a motorcycle in the rain. It's one thing if you're touring and have to. Even more acceptable is the unexpected shower. You suit-up and take it. But purposely starting out in the rain, in the winter, riding all the way to Pennsylvania and back, seemed excessive.

So I called Captain and suggested we consider a four-wheeled alternative. We'd discussed just such a possibility the night before. Captain's weather forecaster was more optimistic. He answered my call from the Dunkin' in Stratford with his rain suit on and his Honda Goldwing parked outside in the steady drizzle. "See what Pogy thinks and call me back," he suggested.

I called Pogy and his National Weather Service forecaster was more dismal. Pogy had even called the tower at Sikorsky Airport in Stratford. He was flat out against riding but willing to spend the day with us in a car. He even offered to drive if Captain and I could get down to Norwalk.

Captain easily agreed to driving instead of riding when I called him back. So he rode his bike back home, quickly stripped off his motorcycle gear, changed into regular clothes, got in his car and drove over to pick me up, most conveniently, at my house.

Meanwhile I guessed Grumpy might be going. He's a Connecticut Polar Bear regular; he's even adjusted his work schedule to open up Sundays for riding. Fortunately, I got him just before he headed out the door, also all dressed in rain gear, and ready to roll on his Harley. He wasn't dead set on riding either. He quickly changed clothes and drove his pickup down to the Dunkin' to go in the car with Captain and me. (Maybe we're all valuing our comfort a bit more these days.)

As it turned out, we left only five minutes later than our originally scheduled motorcycle departure.

On his drive down from Derby, Grumpy heard on the radio that I-95 was shut down in Westport for an accident. So  I called Pogy, rerouting him to the Merritt Parkway for pick up.

If we had gone on the bikes we would not have known about the accident. We would have been sitting, dead stopped, on the Connecticut expressway, in the rain, with Pogy waiting at the rest stop, in the rain, wondering what the heck had become of us.

So we were lucky in that. But our luck didn't hold.

It rained steadily all the way over to our destination. All day, all the way there and back, we saw heavier and lighter periods of rain, never a thunderstorm, neither a respite.

Pogy originally lobbied for a route over the Tappan Zee Bridge (we all decided not to call it by its new, politically-motivated, name) to I-287 to Route 202. It saves us slogging over the all-too-familiar NJ Turnpike or Garden State Parkway. In a car it was even easier and Captain was amenable.

Captain's sophisticated Subaru GPS refused to recognize his voice, or Grumpy's or Pogy's when we tried to change her mind on I-287. She was refusing to go the way we wanted. Finally, I was able to use my "computer speak" to get through to her and she acquiesced to Route 202.

Over more than a decade of riding to Montgomeryville, I think we've probably covered just about every route and approach. The destination is positioned such that there are a variety of options, one even includes a scenic covered bridge. At one time or another we've ridden then all. Today we figured to work diagonally down Route 202 from the more westerly I-287 beltway.

Route 202 isn't too bad once you break free of the pharmaceutical suburbs. The initial stretch near I-287 is pocked with stoplights and shopping plazas with the attendant traffic. Further out it is less interrupted and more scenic. It is familiar to us for multiple Polar Bear destinations. We were recalling some of the now defunct destinations. What ever happened to the Knights of Columbus?

(We also passed NorthlandZ on 202, the world's largest model railroad layout. Once again I promised myself a trip to see it . . . someday.)

Somehow our GPS got a bit confused as we closed in on our destination. We did a bit of suburban dodging in Chalfonte, Penn., before coming out at the dealership. Still we arrived right at sign in, 11:30 as planned.

On motorcycles our communication with each other for the hours involved is relegated to hand signals. We get to talk at lunch and even more briefly at the occasional rest stop or coffee break. But in the car, whoo hoo!

We delight in making fun at each others' expense, and sometimes our own. With some 16 years of Polar Bear riding together, we have plenty of ammunition. There's also an interesting political dynamic. I am the token liberal in a cadre of Glen Beckian, Fox Newsian, Trump Loving, Army-Navy-Marine Veteran, conservatives.

Grumpy early on gave a very convincing, cinema verite, soliloquy of his general thoughts about other drivers. The rest of us agreed we probably do not want to know what Grumpy is thinking, maybe even saying, inside his helmet on our many motorcycle rides. A few insights learned: he does not appreciate drivers who wantonly touch their brake pedals, he dislikes aggressive drivers weaving in and out of traffic, he feels most people are not going fast enough -- especially in the passing lane, he doesn't like . . . well, let's just say he takes great umbrage at a whole panoply of driving indiscretions.

Grumpy's not-so-secret is that beneath his gruff and often animated exterior beats a truly generous heart. He saved me years ago on my first Daytona ride. He barely knew me yet shared his campsite with me and another rider when our only other choice was a camping "site" literally next to the sanitation dump tank. His home is refuge for family and others. But don't you dare call him a sweetheart.

Pogy regaled us once again with his stories of world travel. He was triggered by Grumpy's stories about his global work making sure we all can enjoy cable TV. Together they commiserated about dealing with international cultures in ways not for publication.

On a tangent, Captain shared stories from his property management days. I thought I’d heard all his stories by now — a danger with longtime friends — I was wrong! Captain has lots more juicy content.

Our drive back took the scenic route to cross the Delaware River at New Hope. Great plan but the bridge was out. Not the one over the Delaware. A smaller bridge cut off our pathway within site of New Hope. The only detour sign we saw pointed us directly toward the defunct bridge.

Captain's GPS knew only to run us in a big circle right back to the impassable bridge. So Grumpy and I got out our phones and started navigating via Google Maps. Able to see a larger scale, we headed back the way we came, made a big loop, and ended -- finally -- on I-78 eastbound.

We all agreed such navigation would have been miserable on motorcycles, in the rain. Even the turnaround at the bridge detour would have been daunting.

So when the drive was done and the day complete we all decided it was not such a bad idea after all to come in a car. We earned a mere one-point each on our Polar Bear schedules. Still we were dry and warm and entertained.

Next week looks to be dry but very cold, perfect weather for Polar Bear motorcycling. The destination is just 10 miles south of Montgomeryville, so it will be interesting to see what route our ride leader takes. Fortunately, we already know about the bad bridge for the ride back.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Holiday Traffic

Connecticut Polar Bears in Hopewell, NJ, from left: Fonz, Grumpy, Captain, Mac and Pogy down front.
Motorcycle Polar Bear Blog, Polar Bear Grand Tour, ride to Hillbilly Hall, Hopewell, NJ, November 25, 2018

Report by: Pogy
Photos by: Grumpy and Fonzie

All agreed to an early departure anticipating heavy holiday traffic on the return flight – Ride started at 0800 in Stratford picking me up at about 0820.  There were 5 of us, Fonz in the lead, then the Captain, Mac, Grumpy and I fell In as sweep.  The ride down was little traffic and we decided to stop at a diner before signing in -  after chow we motored a short distance to the Hillbilly hall arriving just in time to sign in – 

We were back on the road but 1150 – fueled up and proceeded north.  Fonz took us thru some interesting countryside – it looked like if we came sooner we would have encountered some flooded roads – just an observation!

Made pretty good time until we got about 9 miles from the Tap bridge – Lots of Hand, eye, and toe coordination – finally made it over the bridge and we followed the leader on to the Hutch – we no sooner got on it when Fonz, the Captain and Mac decided to make another right – I was thinking that they decided to cut over to 95 and not really knowing what was going on , myself and Grumpy decided to stay on 15.  Traffic was heavy right thru Stamford and then opened up.

Later I talked to the Captain only to find out that when we got on the Hutch they pulled over for a pee break – Grumpy and I had no clue

In the end it was a nice day and a good ride 

See you all next week
Ride safe

Fonzie, the Polar Rican!