Motorcycle Polar Bear Blog, Polar Bear Grand Tour, ride to Wayne, NJ, February 26, 2017
By: Chris Loynd, a.k.a. CT Blogger
Dear readers, at least once a season my fellow Connecticut Polar Bears suggest, sometimes strongly, the slings and arrows of this blog be also directed at its author. So every now and again I write a mea culpa and eat some humble pie. This week seems appropriate.
Fonz will be pleased to know his fellow bears rallied to his defense in his absence. Fonz was on vacation with his wife Dolly, riding rented Harleys from Las Vegas to California.
This Sunday I am accused of alternate facts and fake news. Token2 made an amazing confession at lunch. Pogy's back. Our favorite 100-year-old Polar Bear made an appearance. And we were at Hooters. Oh, and yes, I made a mess of those pre-Hooters twists and turns with which I challenged Fonz in last week's missive.
Wayne, N.J. is one of the Connecticut Bears' rare sub-one-hundred-mile rides. For most of us, Mac always being the mileage exception, our round trip distance won't break 200. We earn just three points. On the other hand, the variety of a short ride now and again is not all bad.
A leisurely 10 a.m. start time is rare for us. I even showed up to the departure point early . . . and that may have been a mistake. Usually I arrive just as my fellow riders are lining up read to go. But the later departure made me antsy. So I rode over with a whole 10 minutes to spare.
Much of that 10 minutes was spent poking holes in last week's blog. It was Token2 who actually blocked traffic when Anonymous Ed missed the turn at the fork. Grumpy was first to abdicate, not Fonz. Numerous other errors and omissions were pointed out to me by my critics. Then they accused me of fake news and alternate facts.
My reply is simple. I never made any such promises of facts and accuracy in the first place. I am not about to let the facts get in the way of a good narrative. And I'm pretty sure Fonz can take the criticism, however unfair.
When I hosted the blog on my website I offered this permanently placed disclaimer:
Please keep in mind I sometimes exaggerate here in an attempt at humor. I make no promises for the veracity of any statements. No warranty is expressed or implied. Your mileage may vary. Void where prohibited. Past blog performance does not guarantee future blog results.
Read this blog with a very big grain of salt. (And discount anything Russ Curtis tells you by at least 30 percent!)
I do understand the righteous indignation of my fellow riders. Each of them has been victimized by me in this blog at one time or another, rarely even rightly so. This week, with me arriving early, they turned on me. The upshot was challenging me to lead the ride. Of course I said yes. Of course I regretted it.
Perhaps frustrated by the short mileage, Token2 rode all the way north to Stratford from his Ridgefield hinterlands only to ride south again as we headed for Jersey. Typically we pick him up somewhere near the intersection of I-287 and the Hutchinson Parkway.
So we were seven in number departing the Stratford Dunkin' Donuts.
Prescient of the danger, I studied the route and map this morning whilst breakfasting. As leader I suggested we take the parkways to the George Washington Bridge then proceed straight out Route 80. This was immediately met with a disgusted look by Grumpy, verbal protestations and his favorite hand gesture. Feeling the heat over the blog already, I gladly switched my route to Tappan Zee.
We picked up Pogy and Scott at the Darien rest stop and were now nine.
Pogy's back riding with us after missing most of the season for personal reasons. Pogy actually taught me to ride. Then we saw a lot of each other at the now defunct Bridgeport Harley-Davidson dealership. Pogy eventually talked me into becoming an instructor; now he and I teach motorcycle riding together for the Connecticut Rider Education Program. It took me years, literally, to talk him into giving the Polar Bear rides a chance. Now he's addicted.
Scott called me, as he always does, Sunday morning of the ride to tell me to look for him at the rest stop. Temperatures were about 20 degrees less than last week when Scott famously rode in a tee-shirt, fleece vest and windbreaker. This week, Scott told me he was going to break out his electric jacket. At Hooters I learned he dusted off his gear and suited up but then, when he started the bike and plugged in his jacket, the heat controller started smoking. Yikes! He toughed it out . . . without electrical warmth. Fortunately the ride home was a bit warmer still.
I would not have made it. On one ride some years ago Token2's electric gear thermostat quit working. Fortunately we were at Montgomeryville Cycle Center and he was able to buy another. Since that day, I keep a second thermostat packed on my bike . . . just in case.
Nine is an awkward number of bikes in line. Not quite enough machines to break into two independent groups, it is a heck of a long line to do things like change lanes and exit interstate highways.
John J. was sweep. I found out at lunch his nickname is "Scoop." Some of us choose our own nicknames, others have nicknames thrust upon them. He shall be Scoop from now on, at least in this humble blog.
Scoop did a great job blocking lanes. Anonymous Ed (who had his nickname thrust upon him) offered his services as a sort of middle sweep, holding a lane open so those trailing could come up and squeeze in. We had cars in our line here and there and one real jerk who rode up on the left at the approach to the Tappan Zee Bridge. Despite more than a mile of warnings punctuated by big flashing arrows that the left lane is disappearing, he still came shooting up on our left at the last minute.
I cut my guys short trying to get over for the exit from I-287 to Route 80. There was a bit of a scramble, but we exited with just one car in our midst. Route 80 was worse, always is. But that wasn't the worst of it. Next came that loopy Route 23 exit with which I challenged Fonz. Only this time, I was the one being challenged.
My decision making and navigation skills came up short.
Signs appeared too fast. GPS was trying to keep up. I slowed the line of bikes. Still, at the last minute, I chose wrong, putting us onto a "service road" rather than Route 23. Captain was holding back, but to his credit he stuck with me this time. Fortunately my Garmin figured it out pretty fast. We went only a short ways, looped up and over and back around and soon were on Route 23 headed south to our final destination. Curses! Foiled again!
Grumpy was thrilled. My unexpected detour tipped him over the 100 mile mark, just. He claimed his two mileage points while most of us got only one.
At lunch Pogy made a presentation to Token2. If you're a blog follower you will recall Token2 had a bit of trouble with his Moto Guzzi a couple of rides back. The upshot was he had to ride in the passenger seat of Grumpy's bike to get home. The next day Grumpy went back to the destination with his pickup truck to retrieve Token2's bike. This is the second time Grumpy has rescued Token2. Grumpy's heart is bigger than his nickname would have you believe.
I will let the photo do the talking. Token2 didn't just hold up his shirt for a photo, he put it on and promised to wear it with pride.
(For any blog reader unaware of biker lore, the passenger seat on a motorcycle is generally occupied by the rider's girlfriend, wife, female significant other. Some bikers use a derogatory name for females to describe that seat. My apologies to anyone offended. Sorry, Mom. It's not what I call it.)
Lunch at Hooters is always, well, a hoot. Token2 got a table for us and we expanded it still. He also secured the Hooters girl with the biggest, uh, enthusiasm in the place. Cierra did a great job. Scott asked what was good on the menu. Token2 replied, "Everything's fried, so that's a good start." Even so, he and Captain had salads. More in the spirit, Grumpy ordered fried pickles for the table to share.
Service was a bit slow. However Polar Bear Chairman Bob told us that would maybe change for next year. For all the years the Polar Bear Grand Tour has been coming to the Wayne, N.J. Hooters, this was the first year the store owner came to see what we were about. Previous years only the manager attended.
Once he understood the Polar Bear challenge, and perhaps the money to be made, he was receptive to Bob's suggestion they present a special, and limited, Polar Bear menu. We're easy. Limiting choices speeds the kitchen and I would guess makes their job a lot easier too. Many of our destinations now offer a special menu, which I've lauded in earlier blog posts. We'll see what Hooters decides next year.
We were pleased to see Leo Chlebinkow walk into Hooters. He was using a walker, but lucid and bright and the assembled bears treated him like a rock star, taking pictures with him, shaking his hand, talking to him. Leo looked like he was enjoying every minute. February 23 was Leo's 101st birthday. I shared a biography of Leo last year. CLICK HERE to read, or reread his 100-year story, which involved motorcycles nearly from the beginning. Until just a few years ago, Leo was riding on a trike to our meets. Before that he was on two wheels well into his nineties. Today a friend brought him in a car.
|Yes, yes he is.|
|Anonymous Ed remains . . . anonymous.|
Guest Post from ScoopApproaching home our group split in half on I-287. One set exited to the Merritt Parkway for the ride home through our home state. I led the second group up I-95. Our interstate ride was a bit congested, but apparently not nearly so exciting as the Merritt Parkway group's ride. Here is Scoop's report:
By John J., a.k.a. Scoop
I don’t know how the remainder of your ride went on Sunday from 287 to 95, but our ride back on the Hutch and Merritt Parkways was more a battle than a ride, at least as my view from the back.
Let me start by saying “No one was injured during this skirmish”. That’s more like it, it was a “Skirmish” of sorts. Mac (Speedy) led, with Grumpy in the middle, I keeping Sweep position.
As we entered the Hutch we had to battle for position to get heading towards the Merritt, as usual, traffic was dense, so we found a spot in the left lane and wound up behind a Crossover doing 60 mph just because it could. Mac held lead just behind his rear bumper, until it pulled over to the right lane just before the rest area on the CT/NY line. As the Crossover pulled over, it decided to increase speed (as those kind of drivers so often do) but Mac drove us by at a goodly clip.
Traffic on the Merritt can be thick and clumpy on Sunday afternoons (as you well know) and Mac was soon on the back bumper of another slowpoke who was afraid of corners it seemed, as it would slow down to 55 mph at every curve on that beautifully curvy section we all know and love. This slowpoke finally pulled to the right lane and we got by it only to be plagued by the very same vehicle all the way to when I pulled off onto the Milford Connector! This a**hole was constantly trying to pass us on the right all the way home! We were doing as I said before a goodly clip in a lot of spots, but were hampered by the speed of the vehicle in front of Sir Speedy most of the time, and in those areas, the Crossover wanted to be in front of our little motorcycle train at any cost.
At one point the Crossover driver actually cut in between Mac and Grumpy, creating a space where there was none. This created an opportunity for Grumpy to have a rather lengthy conversation with the Crossover driver while riding alongside it! I think if Grumpy had had a grenade, or something of that nature, the Crossover would have crossed over into the other dimension of non-existence. I felt like I was watching a Chess match gone horribly wrong. Mac constantly protecting our position from an enemy charging up from our blind spot trying to steal our hard fought territory, adrenaline running high, gasoline fumes permeating the air as throttles open and close! Man! I though the ride down watching the end of a 9 bike train was exciting! That was nothing compared to this!
I hope your ride was less eventful. Anyway, we all (I assume) made it home in one piece, and I had a wonderful single malt Glenfiddich when I got home. So much for a leisure ride home!