Thursday, April 18, 2019

In GPS we Trust

Connecticut Polar Bears at O'Connor's Grill, from left: Anonymous Ed, Dollie, Tony, Token2, CT Blogger, Scott, Captain, Grumpy and down front Pogy. Leader not shown.
Polar Bear Motorcycle Blog, Polar Bear Grand Tour, ride to O'Connor's Bar and Grill, Eastampton Township, NJ, April 14, 2019

By: Chris Loynd
Photos By: Grumpy, Anonymous and Grand Tour Photographer Bernie Walsh
Video By: Polar Bear Grand Tour Photographer Dave Thompson

Sunday's ride was the last of our 2018/2019 season. It was a bonus ride, rescheduled from January 20th due to a particularly nasty storm. Perhaps owing to Sunday's warmer weather, we picked up a couple of Polar Cubs for this ride: Dollie and Tony.

Our leader on this ride must remain anonymous. All the same, Leader contributed significantly to fodder for this blog post. So I will refer to him/her as "Leader" and use dual-gender pronouns to protect his/her identity.

We started out with seven bikes. Behind Leader was Anonymous Ed, Captain, Grumpy, me, Dollie and Tony offered to sweep. Things went well headed south through Connecticut on I-95. There was one confusing lane change in perpetually-congested Norwalk. But it wasn't our fault.

Mama June was driving a U-haul rental truck towing a car and doing about 30 mph in the center lane of the interstate. I got a good look and am 90 percent sure it was her, Pumpkin as passenger.

Just a bit later we picked up Pogy and Scott in Darien. For reasons that remain unclear, they stayed behind Sweep Tony for the remainder of the ride, including the ride back home. At breakfast I asked Pogy about it. He was expecting Tony to waive him into line ahead. Tony may not have been sure of our Polar Bear protocol. Tony, Pogy and Dollie all sort of shared sweep duties. It was a bit confusing.

As for Scott, we often let him stay in the back but do not assign him sweep duties. Scott tends to rubber-band a bit and seems to do best sort of on his own just generally following the rest of us. Thankfully his new Harley has an LED headlight that can be seen from the moon. So even when he's drifted back a mile or more, the lead rider can generally see he's still with us. Scott somehow always manages to catch up with us at the final destination and for gas stops.

Dollie was also was a bit new to our group riding protocol, but held her own. On righthand lane changes she shared sweep duties with Tony, moving to clear the lane, sometimes before he could. The he got a chance, Pogy gave her a quick primer on hand signals.

Dollie enjoyed riding in line with us and took to group riding just fine. Quoting from her Facebook comment, "I had a chance to participate with the Polar Bears' last ride of the season. 
"Sunday’s Ride took us to Eastampton, New Jersey. Even though we rode over 300 miles round trip I felt extremely Safe. 
"The Polar Bears make it a point to ride in perfect formation which was exciting to be a part of. The Lead rider communicates his intentions and everyone relays that message back to the Sweep through hand and arm signals. The sweep then takes over the lane so we can safely make our lane changes. 
"Everyone in the pack has a job. Not only do you have to maintain your speed it’s critical to maintain a proper following distance and leave no gaps. Riding like this is like operating a well oiled machine. 
What a rush riding through Cross Bronx Expressway, over the George Washington Bridge and The Tappan Zee. Thanks Polar Bears." DivaCT🏍💭💭

Our group riding discipline held up even when Leader strained it mightily with his/her route choices.

As we rode south on 95, Leader passed by the exit for I-287, just over the New York border. Our usual routine is to take 287 to the Hutchinson Parkway, then Cross County, Saw Mill and the George Washington Bridge. But we didn't Sunday.

Riding along past the 287 exit and deeper into New York State, I next thought of the I-95 exit direct to the Hutchinson Parkway. My GPS most always wants me to take that route. But we soon passed by that option too.

Now the horror dawned completely on my consciousness: Cross-Bronx Expressway. Since we're all on cruisers -- and not dirt bikes -- I could not fathom the choice. Captain thinks it is an over-reliance on GPS, even when it sends you places common sense tells you to avoid. His theory was proved later in the day.

After dodging potholes, trucks, traffic and crazy New York drivers, we finally found ourselves crossing into New Jersey. Leader had us in some questionable lanes but did eventually manage to get us onto the express road headed toward the NJ Turnpike.

We got through the tolls okay and headed south. When the Turnpike split, Leader inexplicably took us onto the truck lanes.

That was when Grumpy started rebelling. He dropped way back at times. Other times he would refuse to join us in lane changes.

We made it to the Pandora Diner okay. Coffee and good food lifted spirits. A general understanding of Polar Bear decorum kept us civil. Then a very welcome surprise broke the spell.

Token2 Surprise

Only Pogy knew. Token2 is taking a work break from his amazing South American motorcycle adventure. He's headed back soon. He talked to Pogy to find out where we'd be, then rode up from Virginia to surprise us. For him it was about the same distance as our ride to Lewes, Del., more than four hours one way. So there wasn't time for much more than an hour or so of breakfasting before we parted company. Grumpy lamented it was not enough time.

Pandora Diner was a great find. It worked well for our Early Departure Protocol objectives. We'll have to use it again. Breakfast was very good. Portions were generous. Service was fast. Our waitress attentive. Several of our party remarked at how good the prices were. But we're used to Connecticut and this is downstate New Jersey farming country.

Mutiny Over Gas

We had a brief meeting before departing breakfast. A general consensus was that we would gas up before O'Connor's so we could sign in and hit the road for home. Leader said we were turning left out of the diner parking lot and would gas up there. I was thinking Leader meant like the gas station was right around the corner.

I remember looking at the map when I chose Pandora Diner that it was right at the turn for O'Connor's and that our Polar Bear destination was less than a mile away. Google Maps said three-minutes travel time.

However Leader looked at his/her GPS, I'm guessing for "nearest gas," and led us left out of the parking lot. As we rode in the opposite direction from O'Connor's, deeper and deeper into the New Jersey farmland, frustration levels of Leader's followers rose and rose.

It is, of course, difficult to communicate when riding. We mainly rely upon hand signals. Captain caught up with Leader at a stop light and had a spirited discussion. But the light turned green too soon and Leader had us off again. Captain later said Leader said something about going for gasoline.

It may be that previous choices by Leader hurt his/her credibility with the crew.

A little known fact about pirate captains is that most pirate ships were very democratic. The pirate captain had to have the support and consent of his crew to be and stay captain. During battle the rules changed and the captain had absolute authority. But in all other matters the captain relied upon the his crew's good graces.

Captain started hanging back further and further. Only Leader and Anonymous Ed kept going, blithely motoring along. Captain finally had enough of going in the wrong direction and pulled into a crossroad. We all lined up behind him. Leader and Anonymous Ed disappeared over the horizon. The mutiny was afoot.

To his credit Captain emphasized that he acted alone in his own best interest. But communication among riders being limited, us lined up mostly on the barely existent shoulder of a two lane country road, the natural thing to do was follow.

Captain did a 180 turning back toward O'Connor's. We pulled into our destination parking lot minus two. We signed in and found our two missing riders waiting for us in the parking lot -- with full fuel tanks. Of course the rest of us had to ask Leader to make an additional gas stop for the rest of us. We decided to take a station on the road home, instead of searching the countryside.

Token2 loved it all. He said he was glad to see the Connecticut Polar Bears had not changed significantly from those lovable riders he always remembered. Token2 also had a reputation of simply striking out on his own when the group dynamic became intolerable. Token2 headed back to Virginia. The rest of us turned for Connecticut.

Leader did indulge us with a gas stop. From there we did follow him/her onto the turnpike truck lanes yet again. Fortunately Leader did take the Garden State Parkway. He/she stopped at the top. Some of us stayed for coffee, the rest beat for home. The early birds missed the rains. I'm not sure about those who stayed for coffee.

Oh, and if you recall from last week's blog, Anonymous Ed made it home in time for his granddaughter's birthday party.

A New Diva?

It came out more in subsequent Facebook posts, but there was an interesting exchange I'd like to share between Dollie, our prospective Diva and Princess our former Diva. Princess left us for a man and Indiana. But she understood and resonated with Dollie's thoughts about maybe joining us next season.

I started by posting on Facebook a selfie of Dollie and me, "A new Polar Bear diva? Princess will never be replaced, but Dollie enjoyed a warm Polar Bear ride. We’ll hope to see her next season."

Dollie answered, "It was a little chilly starting out ok lol I had a really good time with you guys. Maybe I’ll join you guys next season." DivaCT 🏍💭

Then Joanna, our Princess and Diva NY, chimed in, "You go Dollie!!!! I miss CT Flight B crew! Great group of riders!!! Lots of experience there and discipline!!! I've learned a lot from these guys! You're in good hands and awesome company! 

"Hugs to all, especially Grumpy and Captain!!! 

"I'll work on planning next season and show up on one of the Sundays!" 😁
Dolly answered, "Princess I’ll Never be you. I don’t know about all the cold weather riding. But, with proper gear I’ll give it a try. It was a fun ride."

Joanna concluded, "Dollie, I was a Polar Bear Cub once too! The Captain had no faith in me. 😂😂😂 So finally I made the commitment and I was on a mission to prove him wrong! 😂😂😂I wanted that 100% Attendance pin more than anything in my life! I just didn't realize how small the pin actually was in size. 🙄🤔😂

"One of my proudest moments in life thou. 

"The Captain inspired me a lot and I'm grateful. 

"Dollie, get the heated gear, when you're comfortable, you can easily ride in any weather. Be safe sister and please give everyone hugs from me." 🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗❤️

I put the exchange here for those of our blog readers who do not do social media.

It's just six short months until the 2019-20 season begins. We'll see who shows up.

Polar Bear Photographer Bernie Walsh was one of many receiving Perfect Attendance pins and certificates!
Video of our group -- minus two -- pulling into O'Connor's.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Cape May for Breakfast

Connecticut Polar Bears in Cape May, from left: Grumpy, CT Blogger, Anonymous Ed, Mac, John J. and Scott.
Check the time stamp: six minutes after sign-in opens and we're hitting the road for home.

Polar Bear Motorcycle Blog, Polar Bear Grand Tour, ride to VFW, Cape May, NJ, April 7, 2019.

By: Chris Loynd
Photos by: Grumpy

Cape May is traditionally our first and last destination of the Grand Tour. For this season it is our penultimate run. Next Sunday we have a makeup run to Easthampton Township, NJ in place of a snow cancellation on January 20th.

Grand Tour managers ensure a full schedule each season. All rides cancelled are rescheduled. Partly this is so riders can earn the points they need for patches, rockers and pins. Managers are loathe to cancel but the weather January 20th was pretty horrible. It was the first major storm of the year. Ice in the morning quickly turned to snow as the temperature rapidly dropped from freezing in the morning to zero that night.

This Sunday was nothing like that. A chilly morning warmed steadily, reaching high 60s for the ride home. The sun felt good, once it was up. Our crew overwhelmingly voted for early departure protocol (EDP). So I reluctantly set a 6:30 a.m. departure time. I got up at 5 a.m. and still managed to show up at our departure Dunkin' at 6:29.

My original plan was to take the Honda ST 1100. It has an awesome 300 mile per tank fuel range. I just got it back from service. But then Scott called the afternoon before to say he was going to ride. I told him my plan and Scott talked me into taking the Harley.

He was right of course about the Harley being more comfortable, especially on long rides. I was thinking it probably needed an oil change after sitting in my garage most of the winter while DOT sprayed horribly corrosive chemicals on our highways. Pogy suggested the bike was probably fine for the ride, even with old oil.

So Saturday afternoon I polished the bike a bit, topped off the gas tank, affixed the windshield, bungee-corded my air cushion to the seat and strapped on the barrel bag. With highway pegs and the barrel bag's backrest, I have 23 unique riding positions. We've done plenty of 800 mile days, the big girl and I. Cape May is less than 400 miles roundtrip.

Springer Takes the Lead

I was concerned about gas. Range on my Harley is something like 180 miles per tank. All of the other riders are on newer bikes or big Goldwings with more range than me. As part of the rebuild, I lost accuracy of the gas gauge. So to go 180 miles I have to ride the last 30 with the low fuel light shining bright. I also have different pipes, so I'm not yet confident if I can get the full 180 miles out of a tank. Riding with half-a-dozen other guys on the Garden State Parkway is no place to discover the bike's true gas range.

Another concern is my 160,000-plus miles motor. I did do a rebuild about 40,000 miles ago. All the same, I like to keep it under 70 mph. (Some of my fellow riders may dispute that claim, especially on the homeward leg of our ride.) The bike also has a gas mileage efficiency cliff above 70 mph. My experience (out west of course where it's perfectly legal) is that sustained speeds much above 70 suck up gas at an accelerated rate.

So despite my last-possible-moment arrival, I rode right to the front of the line of bikes, all of them running and ready to depart. In a blatant violation of protocol, I snatched the lead from Grumpy. He seemed okay with it. Grumpy being Grumpy, if he wasn't okay with it, well, I'm pretty sure I would have known.

With my bold and blatant move, I was able to control the group's speed and gas stops. It would have been better if I'd arrived 15 minutes earlier and explained myself and asked nicely. It wasn't polite. But hey, we're bikers for heaven's sake.

We had a good sized group. John Jackson was back with us. He's now aboard a new-to-him BMW. After years of riding Harleys, starting out on a Sportster, John J. went metric. He says he's enjoying things like a real suspension.

Some of our regulars were riding Sunday, Mac and Anonymous Ed. We had another anonymous rider whose identity is a secret. A couple of our regulars were out on medical waivers: Pogy and Captain. It's rough getting old.

Thick-skinned Biker Bears

A thin skin is soon thickened riding with the Connecticut Bears. Ripping on each other is part of the appeal. Most of us are tough enough and take it all in good humor. Well, at least most of the time. We have lost a few newbies who weren't up to the task. Captain has scared off a few for sure.

Even Marines need a kind word now and then. For example, the day after our ride I received a call from a petulant Pogy. He was miffed I hadn't called to see how he was, tell him about our Sunday ride (I thought such was this blog's purpose), hold his hand and give him some love.

Poor Pogy took a tumble Friday at work. He spent Saturday afternoon on heating pads and Saturday night was unable still to mount his Goldwing. He reluctantly decided he couldn't ride with us. He's going to spend as much time as he can on heating pads this whole next week so he can ride our last ride this coming Sunday.

On our way to Cape May we had our first chance to talk at our gas stop. Everybody seemed cool with me taking the lead, even if I did screw up. As I rode into the rest stop I noticed too late they'd changed the parking lot stripes. There used to be a big area at the head of each row of parking spaces striped for no parking. Generally we could park there without any issue and close to the building. But those spots are gone now, replaced by handicapped spots, a definite no-no.

So I led my group to the next parking row, only to be confronted with a huge arrow pointing toward us. So I skipped to the next lane, figuring they alternated. Instead that row was also one-way toward us. Nevertheless, I went the wrong way and put us on the side of the lane which was painted for parallel parking. We did have to be a bit careful crossing oncoming traffic to get back over to the correct side of the gas pumps. Fortunately it was still really early in the morning. Traffic was nonexistent.

Preseason Breakfast

We arrived in Cape May at 10:30 a.m. ready for breakfast. We pulled into the lot of the Saltwater Cafe, our go-to place for lunch and where some of our EDP riders went for breakfast at the beginning of the season. Unfortunately we hadn't checked the cafe's website before departing from Connecticut. The cafe's season runs April 28 to October 31. So our fall run was two days before they closed. Our spring run is a month before they open.

As we started Googling our smartphones for options, a guy came out of the gift shop next to the Saltwater Cafe. We talked a bit. He offered some breakfast restaurant options down by the beach. Then it occurred to him this was the first Sunday of the month. The VFW -- our final destination -- has a breakfast fundraiser the first Sunday of each month. He called to confirm and told them he was sending seven riders their way.

We arrived at the VFW and were treated like celebrities. They had a table waiting for us. The waitress was excellent, bubbly and friendly. The food was fast and tasty. Thank you Cape May VFW!

There was just one disappointment. We weren't first to arrive on motorcycles. Flight A Leader Jim arrived just minutes before us. Dang!

Breakfast was tasty and plentiful. They even had scrapple. Those who know me know that's soul food to my Pennsylvania Dutch roots. They even cooked it well. Sliced not too thick, griddle fried crispy on the outside, mushy in the middle. The scrapple came with three generous pancakes, also nicely done. Others in our group had variations of eggs and meats and omelets. With toast for all, juice, coffee and tea it came to $12 apiece including a generous tip.

Points, Patches and Pins

Like many biker gatherings, we value our badges of accomplishment. The Polar Bear Grand Tour has a formula for earning points. You get two points for showing up to each Sunday's destination on a motorcycle. You earn an additional point for every hundred roundtrip miles ridden to each destination. Coming from Connecticut, we generate a lot of mileage points. You can earn one point for driving in a car, but can only use that option three times. There are some bonus points to be earned for donating blood (or attempting to donate) and participating in specific events in summer and winter, including the famous Crotona Midnight Run. (The Midnight Run's 101st event was also scheduled for that troublesome January 20th and postponed for weather.)

Points are recognized by patches. At 30 points you earn your first patch, or a red rocker in subsequent years. Forty-five points upgrades you to a gold rocker. Sixty points earns a polar bear pin. There's also a perfect attendance pin. Connecticut Polar Bears created their own patch in addition to the official Grand Tour emblems.

Super enthusiasts have especially embroidered polar bear vests to hold our patches and pins. Grumpy and Captain presented me with a vest years ago and I've added my rockers to it ever since. They also have vests as do most of our other regular bears.

Our vests mean a lot to us. My vest tells a story about my life over the last 17 years. I earned my first patch the season I bought my Harley Springer and started riding motorcycles: 2002-03. There's a red rocker for the 2008-09 season because I started a new job at the aquarium that winter and missed a lot of rides. There's a blank space for last season; I started a new business and missed all the rides.

Captain has a great story about perfect attendance. In his first years of riding he made earning points a mission. He rode every summer bonus ride, donated the maximum allotted amount of blood and by the second ride of the season had already earned his red rocker. For quite a few years he had perfect attendance.

There was one season where Captain had a blowout on the last ride of the season. He went home on a tow truck, missing his perfect attendance. Polar Bear Grand Tour management appreciated his effort. They presented him with a perfect attendance pin with a black stripe across it to acknowledge his bad luck.

Grumpy told us at breakfast Sunday that he'd lost his vest. Grumpy joined me the second season I was riding Polar Bears and his vest reflected all those winter miles. He was packing for Daytona Bike Week and decided he didn't need to take his vest. He set it aside and somehow drove off without securing it. A grown man could cry.

Fortunately, Grumpy will be able to reconstruct his vest. Our excellent Grand Tour Flight Leaders have a record of all his seasons. Our Quartermasters had the right rockers for every ride but one. Polar Bear Chairman Bob told Grumpy not to worry, he's sure he has that one at home.

One of our group rode last week in the rain in order to get enough points to earn his gold rocker this season.

Another of our group said at breakfast he would not join us for the last ride of the season; it's his granddaughter's birthday. But as he was signing in for Cape May, his Flight Leader informed him he was just three points shy of earning his 60 point pin. "She's only four years old," he told us, "She won't remember." He'll likely join us this next Sunday.

We'll invoke EDP for the last ride of this season so our member can earn his pin AND attend his granddaughter's birthday party.

Almost first to arrive on motorcycles.

Signing in for points, patches and pins.

Grumpy's ride log page one . . .

and two.

Bob pic of the week with CT Blogger.

Grumpy earned his 60-point pin.

Mac earned his 60-point pin.

Grumpy tried out his selfie-stick at our stop-at-the-top break at Montvale Services on the Garden State Parkway.
He's originally purchased the stick for Princess who was our social media diva.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Known and Unknown Connecticut Polar Bears

CT Bears in Kingston, NY, from left, Scott, Pogy, Anonymous Ed and Sharon. Additional rider not shown.
Polar Bear Motorcycle Blog, Polar Bear Grand Tour, ride to Smokehouse BBQ, Kingston, NY, March 24, 2019.

By: Pogy

Departure time today was 0915 from Stratford.  Because of the route, instead of going down I95 we go due north, so I drove to the DD to meet the guys.  Arriving at 0900, the Captain and Anonymous Ed and his better half were already there.  Within a few minutes, Scott and another Anonymous guy showed up making it a party of 6 – The Captain announced that he would not be going with us due to some unexpected family issues so it was 4 bikes and 5 people.  

Anonymous Ed very eagerly asked if he could lead the ride – We were so thrilled that we all went out to his bike to help him program the address into his GPS – What a sport!

We departed a couple minutes late but no big deal – we headed up Rt 25 to 84 west to 87 – Traffic was light and we arrived at the Hickory at 1115 – walked right in and had our pick of a table.  Service was a little slow but the food was very good and a nice portion – and priced right.

We were back in the saddle around 1230 – Anonymous Ed and the other anonymous guy were going to Empire Harley in New York so when Scott and I broke off at the 84/87 split, they continued towards the city.  Scott broke off just as we were entering Ct towards Stamford and I continued to Rt7 s – 

All in all a good ride and good weather and an excellent point man!!!

Until next week Ride Safe 


Too Windy

CT Bears at Brian's H-D, from left, Pogy, Chris, Scott.
Polar Bear Motorcycle Blog, Polar Bear Grand Tour, ride to Brian's Harley-Davidson, March 17, 2019.

By: Chris Loynd

Brian's Harley-Davidson, this week's Polar Bear destination, is less than an hour from my folks' place in Wilmington, Del. It's always good to visit Mom and Dad, so I invited myself to dinner Saturday night. Home is where you're always welcome.

Mom surprised me by inviting my longtime, like since the fourth grade longtime, friend Lenny and his mom to dinner. We had a great time.

I did not say anything to my folks, did not want them to worry. But Saturday's ride was one of the least comfortable of my 17-year, 150,000+ miles, riding career. I've ridden in a lot of stuff. Plenty of rain of course. Through a hail storm in South Dakota. I've done some very windy riding before, but on my Harley.

My Springer has a heavy front end. The Softail sits low to the ground and the weight is low. Russ Curtis and I rode in a wind so strong at Sturgis one year that we gave up on our ride and turned tail for our lodgings.

Saturday I was on the Honda ST 1100. It's not as heavy as the Harley. It sits up high. It's covered in flat plastic panels catching every side wind. I felt like I was balancing on the edge of a knife for four hours.

Crossing the Tappan Zee bridge was an adventure, but I was still fresh. Crossing the Commodore Barry Bridge from Jersey to Pennsylvania in the last half-hour of my ride was truly nervy.

After getting pushed around, 'pert near into the next lane at times, on the New Jersey Turnpike, I got off at Exit 7 to take I-295 south instead. I figured it would have more trees and protection. As I rode, I tried to read the terrain for open spots. The wind was gusting from the west. When there was a break in cover like an open field, I laid over the Honda's airbox to streamline my profile a bit.

Sunday morning the winds were diminished. I lit out for the Polar Bear destination after Mom's delicious scrapple breakfast. Pogy and Scott had started out a whole lot earlier that morning and were waiting for me when I arrived. I would have been there about 15 minutes earlier, but I messed up on my navigation two miles from the exit.

Interstates 95 and 295 intertwine just south of Brian's H-D. I opted for 95 north when I should have stayed left on 295. By the time Garmin sorted it all out, I was banging along the backroads retracing my steps.

Pogy and Scott were gracious and allowed me time to eat a bit of lunch and enjoy some stories. The Brian's H-D HOGs do a wonderful job hosting the Polar Bears each year. They have free food, excellent traffic control and friendly hospitality all the way around. One of the HOGs who was managing traffic took time out to take our group photo for us.

On the way back, I-295 got me again. Instead of splitting off to follow it, my GPS directed me east through Trenton, then north up Route 1 through Princeton and the Brunswicks South and North. We finally joined the New Jersey Turnpike at exit 9. It's a route we've done before. As I recall, Grumpy favors it, especially to dodge turnpike traffic.

Nestled in Route 1's suburban sprawl, Sunday's wind wasn't so bad. Scott had business elsewhere and split off from Pogy and me on the New Jersey Turnpike to take the George Washington Bridge. Pogy and I pursued the Garden State Parkway for the Tappan Zee Bridge.

Since it was a longer haul, and we now have more daylight than in previous months, Pogy and I made time for the stop at the top, Chez GSP, a.k.a. the Montvale rest stop, or as Token2 calls them "services." Pogy treated me to a hot chocolate and celebratory glazed donut.

CT Blogger earned his Gold Rocker on this trip.

Chris and Pogy at the "stop at the top" of the Garden State Parkway.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Maybe We're Getting Soft?

CT Bears at Bahr's Landing. We took the group photo indoors, hey it was raining outside.
From left: Pogy, Captain & Chris.

Polar Bear Motorcycle Blog, Polar Bear Grand Tour, ride to Bahr's Landing, Highlands, NJ, March 10, 2019.

By: Chris Loynd

Maybe we're getting soft. I certainly am willing to admit I'm not as willing as I once was to ride four hours in a cold spring rain. My compatriots agreed. So we decided discretion was the better part and took the car. Pogy offered to drive. I picked up Captain on our end of Connecticut and we drove together south to Pogy's home. Pogy took over and we headed south in his Honda pickup truck.

Grumpy, Anonymous Ed and Fonz were in Daytona for Bike Week. Rumor has it the Fonz is shopping for a new ride since his Harley was totaled by a left-turning car a few weeks ago.

It's maybe a little crazy to drive two hours to have a seafood lunch in New Jersey. We did each earn one point for showing up, albeit on four wheels instead of two. That one point tipped Pogy's tally, earning him his 60-point pin this Sunday.

Pogy managed to make the trip in two-and-a-half hours, despite being in the fast lane most of the way. (See last week's blog if you haven't already.) There was also a bit of a not-so-scenic detour which added to our total travel time.

Pogy's detour wasn't as bad as the time Captain led us into the ghetto. Or that time Clark took us through the worst part of Newark because he was breaking-in his V-rod and didn't want to challenge the engine at interstate speeds. That time I was nearly an unwilling participant in a police car chase. But that's another story.

We had a truly delicious lunch. Bahr's Landing does a wonderful job. Pogy and I miss the turtle soup.

A good time was had by all as we ripped on each other, told big stories and not too much politics.

Captain and Pogy.

Pogy earned just one point this Sunday, but it was enough for his 60-point pin.
Bob pic of the week. He also took our group picture.

Disappearing Buffet but Snow in the Background

CT Bears in Long Valley, NJ. Snow in the background is rare for this season.
From left: CT Blogger, Captain, Thumper and Pogy down front.

Polar Bear Motorcycle Blog, Polar Bear Grand Tour, ride to Long Valley Pub, Long Valley, NJ, March 3, 2019.

By: Chris Loynd
Photos by: Chris Loynd and Grand Tour Photographers Gary Rosen and Bernie Walsh.

Turnabout is fair play. So this week, Pogy took the lead and I was sweep. All-in-all, I thought the ride was pretty smooth. Only Captain was tucked between us. Grumpy and Anonymous Ed were at Daytona Bike Week. With just three of us, lane changes should have been a breeze. Perhaps my only complaint was that our leader tended to hang out in the left lane a bit too much. As sweep that gets a bit challenging because cars backing up behind us tend to get a bit testy.

Twenty miles of matching speed with a FedEx truck on I-287 was a bit much. Every now and then, Pogy eventually noticed the cars zooming up on the right and then cutting him off. Then he'd move over to the middle lane.

When I had the opportunity, I tried to suggest lane changes from the back by moving over. But with only three bikes in line, drivers were moving into my space behind Captain. I ran the risk of being trapped and separated from our group. I also think Pogy's mirrors may not be working.

After observing Pogy in his truck on the following Sunday (see next week's blog) I think I understand. He's one of those Connecticut drivers who figures the left lane is best and safest for all circumstances. Grumpy is one too. And on Connecticut's congested interstate, it's hard to argue. But using Connecticut lane strategy on New Jersey's I-287 or Garden State Parkway is like applying Mad Max rules to the Natchez Trace Parkway. (That's a wonderful ride, by the way. If you ever find yourself in Mississippi with time on your hands, I highly recommend it.)

By the way, a tip for car drivers, flipping the bird at us as you drive by really does not change anything, especially when directed to the sweep rider. When I first moved to Connecticut I battled road rage fighting through rush hour traffic from Stratford to Stamford every day. A standup comic cured me. Here's his schtick:

"You people having a fit in traffic. What do you think you're accomplishing? Let me ask you something. A guy cuts you off. You blow your horn, flash your lights, make obscene hand gestures, tailgate. Now what do you think happens? Do you really think the guy who cuts you off gets home and says to his wife, 'I feel so bad. I cut in front of this guy on the way home. He was so upset. I feel terrible.' Do you really think that's what happens?"

Anyway, we got to our destination restaurant Long Valley Pub in good time. In fact we got there a half-hour before the kitchen opened. Our server bade us welcome nevertheless and brought Captain his coffee.

We were joined by Thumper. He was waiting for us as we pulled into the parking lot. Based upon my Connecticut Polar Bear departure email, he tried to catch us on I-287. But I guess with Pogy poking along in the left lane, he got tired of waiting.

Reminded me of former Connecticut Polar Bear Clark Makinson. Clark was from Connecticut but spent a lot of time in New Jersey caring for his elderly father. We were a lot looser in those days. None of this calling Captain in the morning to tell him where and when you will be joining us or if you're riding that day.

We'd be riding along I-287 or the Turnpike or Parkway and suddenly Clark was in our line. Sometimes you'd spot him on the shoulder waiting. More often than not, he just appeared. Rarely we'd meet him at a rest stop.

While we waited for the cook to arrive, Pogy and Captain entertained us with a spirited discussion of whether or not and when the Merchant Marines were an official branch of the U.S. military. Pogy was a Merchant Marine before he was a U.S. Marine. Captain was in the Navy. I'm too ignorant to know who won the argument.

Next Thumper unfurled his geek, engaging Pogy in a discussion of the F4U Corsair engine. Next was how helicopters work, pretty much from Igor's first one to modern day.

Sadly, Long Valley Pub has new owners. Captain asked the manager about the fabulous buffet and the manager claimed it was never there every Sunday. He asserted it was only offered on holidays like Easter and Thanksgiving. He should know better than to try to fool a biker when food is on the line.

Long Valley Pub for years was a prized Polar Bear destination. They had an amazing buffet with breakfast and lunch goodies of every sort plus a dessert table. It was a bit on the expensive side, but worth every penny. As we ate our sandwiches Sunday we reminisced about smoked salmon with capers, shrimp. king crab legs, fresh bagels with cream cheese, carving stations with rare roast beef and moist turkey, puddings, fruits, eggs, bacon . . . .

One thing I observed about the restaurant was that it was uncharacteristically empty. In years past, it was crowded. We got there early to be sure of a seat. My compadres said it was perhaps a forecast of evening snow. But I blame the buffetless fare.

Our sandwiches were very good, still a bit on the expensive side.

Pogy got us home well before the snow, Thumper dropping out on Route 80 to head to his now New Jersey residence.

Captain on arrival.

Connecticut bears just arrived.
Lunch but no buffet.

Captain earned his 60 points.

Bob pic of the week.