Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Captain's Kryptonite

Hatfield Connecticut Polar Bears, from left, Anonymous Ed (actually his sleeve only, see arrow), CT Blogger, Token2, Fonz, New Guy Jim.
Down front: Captain and Thumper.

Motorcycle Polar Bear Blog, Polar Bear Grand Tour, ride to Hatfield, Penn., December 4, 2016.

By: Chris Loynd a.k.a. CT Blogger

Captain's ride to Montgomeryville Cycle Center in Hatfield, Penn., some years ago made him a legend in Connecticut Polar Bear lore. Poor fellow has yet to live it down. Grand Tour Polar Bear Pooh Bah Bob Hartpence will never let Captain forget it. And this past Sunday we discovered there may exist cosmic reverberations from that event haunting Captain still.

If you do not know the story, I will torture our much maligned Captain once more in the retelling. Full disclosure, I got this hearsay from my fellow Connecticut Bears. Unfortunately, I missed the infamous ride.

The Grand Tour scheduled ride on that fateful day long ago was to Brian's Harley-Davidson in Langhorne, Penn. Captain was leading. Unfortunately, he programmed the wrong motorcycle dealership into his GPS. He then led his compatriots to Montgomeryville Cycle, despite miles of protestations. When he approached the dealership's empty parking lot, Captain's heart sank. To their credit, the other Connecticut riders followed him all the way to the wrong destination. Communications are limited at speed in full face helmets.

I can attest that as lead rider you feel the pressure of those behind you. You know everyone of them has his own GPS confirming or refuting your route choices at every turn.

I've had my share of u-turns and miscues. If you lead enough rides, you will too. I own a disastrous circle at the foot of the Whitestone Bridge in New York City. That one even led to bike damage.

Even wise and wonderful Polar Bear Grand Tour Chairman Bob Hartpence is known to his closest friends as "The Shortcut King."

For our Connecticut Captain, maybe there is some magnetic field around Montgomeryville known only to him. Maybe it emanates unseen in cosmic waves. Leading a ride there I famously overshot the mark because I was looking for this dealership on the other side of the highway. Russ stuck with me as I sought a far away U-turn opportunity on the divided highway. The rest of my fellow riders ditched me, hard on the brakes, dove into the dealership and were having coffee and chili by the time Russ and I arrived from our U-turn.

I am a scientist by training and philosophy. So I do not put much credence in the "supernatural." At the most I admit there are many things in this world we do not yet fully understand. One of these is the powerful effect Montgomeryville Cycle Center continues to have on our beloved Captain, once again evidenced in this year's fateful ride to the Hatfield dealership.

For one, Captain insisted on leading the ride there this Sunday. I was ready to lead, even wrote the key direction on my mirror in grease pencil: "I-287 x-15." I offered this to Captain. His response was, "I'll go where my GPS says." Unfortunately, his GPS chose prosaic over poetic.

We slogged west across Route 202. It was that much more annoying because it was the exact same route we took last Sunday. You start out in pharmaceutical land. Ortho-McNeil-Janssen, Roche, Johnson-Johnson, Thermo Fisher Scientific, the road is lined with corporate campuses fed by fields of solar energy arrays. Then the scenery settles into strip malls and housing developments, miles of them. Next you enter car land. As you reach Flemington the road is lined with auto dealerships: BMW, Audi, Jeep, Dodge, Ram, Buick, GMC, Cadillac, Infiniti, Hyundai, Toyota, Kia and the NJ DMV inspection lanes. Finally, as you near Pennsylvania, you enter some scenic farm land, much of it rich people's horse farm land, presumably for the highly paid workers of pharmaceutical land. Meanwhile my health insurance is killing me.

Over the Delaware River, Pennsylvania's version of Route 202 dumps into narrow New Hope, then continues in two lanes, small towns, stop-and-go congestion. It does look like Pennsylvania here and there. Fieldstone colonial houses and antique shops in town, along with convenience stores. It does open to some farm vistas now and then.

It gets more congested and suburban as you near Montgomeryville Cycle Center. Captain -- or perhaps more correctly his GPS -- magnified this effect by moving us over to Business Route 202 for the last bit. Personally, I was perfectly happy on the expressway 202.

Nevertheless, we arrived on time, 11:30 a.m. on the dime.

And that included an emergency pit stop. Hey, when you gotta go . . . .

Captain did not suffer the stop gladly. His outburst was out of character for him. Hmmm, maybe the Montgomeryville effect runs deeper than we divine. New guy Jim got a talking to the minute our helmets came off in the Montgomeryville Cycle Center parking lot. Apparently there was an earlier conversation. I'm not taking sides. But as I age, I do understand the need for more frequent potty breaks. That's why I restrict my coffee intake on Polar Bear Sunday mornings.

Captain soon settled. Jim seemed okay. Good humor was restored. We broke bread together and laughed once again.

The dealership treated us to free lunch, chili con carne, corn muffins, coffee, even doughnuts. It also offered 20 percent discounts. Thank you Montgomeryville Cycle Center for hosting us once again.

As we were walking into the dealership, Token2 remarked how tight our group rode on the way over. He was second-to-last rider; I was sweep. I wholeheartedly agreed. There was a bobble here and there, boxing in a Jeep and a last-possible-minute route decision. But all-in-all it was one of our better group rides.

We cannot claim the same for the ride home.

After a double U-turn, down-and-back, gas stop, Captain did take us on the scenic route home. He chickened-out on one turn thereby missing the covered bridge. He was probably influenced by peer pressure of the Unified Harley Riders of Central Jersey who were riding directly ahead of us.

It's a nice, scenic, country route on the way down to the Delaware River. The roads narrow, then narrow some more, then drop down to one-lane over creek bridges. (Thumper remarked at the obvious economy of a one-lane bridge.)

The fun ended as we entered I-78 heading back east for Connecticut. We missed the exit for I-287 plunging onto the Garden State Parkway in the Oranges. After voting to skip the stop at the top of the Garden State Parkway, we overturned that decision, deciding we might as well stop now that we were passing directly by it anyway.

Thumper shared a story of his first Polar Bear ride. He'd missed the group and went on his own. He avoided interstate highways, stuck to local roads, and made the destination at 1:30. He had a chicken sandwich, then rode home, the last part in the dark. "After that I realized the Polar Bear rides were mostly interstate riding," he concluded. To his credit, Thumper is a brand new rider -- was one of my motorcycle students just this past summer -- and holds his own with the rest of us on his single-cylinder BMW.

We're trying to talk him into leading a ride. Hey, maybe Montgomeryville Cycle Center next year?


Friday, December 2, 2016

Thanksgiving Leftover Traffic

Hillbilly Hall Connecticut Polar Bears, from left: Jim, Mac, Anonymous Ed, Captain, CT Blogger, Grumpy and Token2.

Motorcycle Polar Bear Blog, Polar Bear Grand Tour, ride to Hopewell, NJ, November 27, 2016

By: Chris Loynd, a.k.a. CT Blogger

My winter motorcycle compadres often remark on the crazy nature of our Sunday jaunts to nowhere New Jersey. Most riders put their bikes away for the winter: filled with fresh oil and Stabil-laced gasoline, tires on plywood bases, nourished by a steady drip of electrons from a low voltage battery tender.

We choose instead to plunge into Thanksgiving weekend traffic and other dubious adventures.

Temperatures were just over the freezing mark in the morning Sunday, but climbed to the upper forties for the ride home. It was just cool enough for me to wear my full electric suit. For years I polar beared with just an electric jacket and gloves. I'm glad to now also have electric pants and socks. All wired together and thermostatically controlled, the warmth makes for a wonderful sensation.

Why ride in winter?

For me it is a combination of positive joys. Prime among these is riding my motorcycle. I enjoy that so much, I was loathe to give it up all winter long. Then there is certainly the camaraderie. There is something special about having your friends bust your balls once and a while to keep perspective on life. It's also fun to get a few whacks in yourself, be honest! Then in some weird way, there's also the organization. Riding in the Polar Bear Grand Tour, instead of just doing a pick up ride now and then, adds purpose. You sign in, log your miles and earn patches and pins. In software circles they call it "gamification." Even if it is a silly sense of achievement, it is an achievement all the same.

I also enjoy riding well with others. Keeping a tight formation, good organization, managing traffic as we navigate our group of motorcycles down the road is a pleasure in itself. We rode quite well this past Sunday.

Captain, who is always willing to step up and lead a ride, also encourages full participation. Two Sundays ago he started in on Ed.  Captain thought it was about time Ed took a turn at the front of the pack and told him so. Ed joined us last year, is a good rider, and has quickly become a regular Connecticut Polar Bear.

So last Sunday, Captain pretty much tells Ed it is his turn to lead. Ed apparently did not take Captain seriously the week before. "I'm not ready," he said, "I mean, I don't know where we're going."

"How did you expect to get there?" Captain asked. "Just follow you guys," Ed answered.

But Ed did not falter. He ran out to his bike, powered up the GPS, found our destination and took the lead.

We all agreed he did a great job. He set his cruise control and kept a steady pace. Mac was his wing man and I've never seen Mac ride so tight. Usually he rubber bands and wavers side-to-side in his lane. Not last Sunday. Especially on the ride over where traffic was lighter, Mac was right in place behind Ed. We found out at lunch that Mac also has cruise control and liked the predictable pace.

Grumpy was a little loose in formation this last ride. He was third bike of seven. I was behind him. Grumpy opened up a pretty big gap now and again. I pressed up closer on Grumpy's flank, goading him back into place. My machinations had minimal effect. Grumpy leads a lot of rides. And if you fall back far enough in the pack, you become the defacto leader. I'm not sure what was on Grumpy's mind.

Ed noticed, as did most of us. And when Ed teased Grumpy about it at lunch, he found out Grumpy's nickname is earned, not given.

New guy Jim is looking to become a regular. He rode with us to Cape May, then joined us on this ride. He's signed up, a new Flight B Bear. Jim mentioned at lunch that he was out in North Dakota this past week. "What's in North Dakota that entices you there in winter," we asked. Turns out he was there protesting the oil pipeline. I think Jim will add an interesting element to our political spectrum.

One thing we all agree upon is the fun of riding motorcycles in winter. Well, at least I think we do. You can comment below why you are, or are not, riding with us from Connecticut to have lunch in neighboring states from October to April.

On the way home, we knew we were in for Thanksgiving traffic. An early start Sunday morning got us back on the highway midday. My GPS initially predicted I'd be home by 3:00 p.m. We speculated that we would be out ahead of the worst of the traffic. We were right, right up to the Connecticut border.

Even the Tappan Zee approach was not much worse than any given Sunday. But as soon as we exited I-287 we got slammed as only Connecticut can do. Half the group took for the Merritt Parkway. Ed likes I-95, so does Captain. Sandwiched between them I figured it was "six of one, half a dozen of t'other" and stayed with them. As we got to the end of I-287 the traffic came to a dead stop. Looking over the bridge to our right, we could see the same condition on I-95 approaching us for as far as we could see.

"Merritt?" Ed asked, as I pulled up next to him. "I don't know," I replied, "Maybe it will break up after Stamford." "Not that," Ed said with a nod over the south side of the bridge. "It's your call," I said, "I'll follow you." Ed decided to turn around and head back up 287 for the Merritt. We let Captain know, and the three of us were off.

Mostly the Merritt was moving. But traffic ground to a halt at each and every on-ramp. It was like trying to stuff just one more bite of turkey down your overfilled gullet. The parkway was not entirely stop-and-go. Here and there we clipped along. But of the extra hour-and-a-half it took us to get home, a full hour or more was claimed entirely by Connecticut traffic.

Remind me again, why do ride these rides in winter, on a holiday weekend?

Token2 and new guy Jim.

Ed prefers to remain anonymous, at least in showing his face.

Phone check upon arrival.

Hillbilly Hall between seasons in its decor.

How does Captain always manage to attract liberals?

Lunch, around the table from left: Captain, Token2, Grumpy with camera, Anonymous Ed and Mac.

Bob photo of the week.
Flight A leaders.

Flight B leaders.

See you next week!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Tiny Taste of Polar

Connecticut Bears in Vineland, from left, Ed (slightly less shy than usual), CT Blogger, Grumpy and Captain.

Motorcycle Polar Bear Blog, Polar Bear Grand Tour, ride to Vineland, NJ, November 20, 2016

By: Chris Loynd, a.k.a. CT Blogger

Saturday night my bike was parked outside. It usually resides in a garage, albeit an unheated one. Our Sunday ride was down to southern Jersey. It's three-and-a-half hours from Connecticut one way, but less than an hour from my folks home in Delaware. Mom and Dad always enjoy a visit, even a brief one. Mom treats me to my favorite foods. This time, fried chicken and chicken hearts, sweet rice and homemade coleslaw with apple pie a la mode dessert for dinner; scrapple and eggs with toast and homemade strawberry jelly for breakfast, if you're interested. (Thanks Mom! Hi Dad!)

Mom and Dad's Prius takes their garage. I parked my Honda ST1100 out front. When I arrived Saturday afternoon temperatures were in the balmy 70s. I wasn't wearing my electrics, but packed them all the same based upon the forecast. It was windy however, very windy in Wilmington, harbinger of dramatic change as it turned out.

While we were watching TV later that night it started raining. Remembering my Airhawk seat was strapped to the bike, I went out to retrieve it so I wouldn't have to start my ride Sunday on a wet seat. Imagine my surprise to find my cushion covered in snowy, slushy, stuff.

It truly was a dark and stormy night with heavy rains and snow squalls.

Morning dawned sunny, but cold, just above freezing. Winds were still gusting, which was fortunate in one way. Streets were blown dry after the overnight rain. And the wind didn't push my Honda and me around too, too much.

This Sunday was the first time I wasn't too hot. Previous rides of this year's Polar Bear season have been in the 60s and 70s. It's tough to decide which layers to wear. Once you commit to long johns under your riding pants, it is almost impossible to change your mind. The last ride of last season I was so dang hot I stripped the insulated lining from my riding pants, hopping around in a bathroom stall on the Garden State Parkway trying my darndest not to touch anything.

My ride over to Vineland from Wilmington was comfortable. I had my electric layers on, but dialed in the gloves only, about one-quarter power.

My timing was perfect. As I was waiting to make the next to last turn to our destination restaurant, I saw my Connecticut compatriots ride by. Ed was unmistakable in his safety yellogreen jacket. Despite the fact they were headed in a direction my GPS did not recommend, I made a right turn on red and fell in behind.

No sooner did I catch them, than Grumpy led the group into a parking lot. I assumed he just wanted to say hello. But his GPS was also telling him to go straight at the light I'd just jumped. He just missed the turn.

Ed opened up a space for me and together we turned up the road to DeThomasi's East Five Points Inn. Grumpy was lead, Ed as sweep, Captain and me in the middle. We arrived just before 11:30 sign-in.

Despite having just had a sumptuous breakfast, Five Points tempted me with a well-stocked buffet offering breakfast and lunch. I opted for lunch, mostly all Italian standards. The asparagus bisque was superior! Everything was tasty, in fact I was tasting the meatball for the rest of the day. Maybe Italian was not the best choice on top of Pennsylvania Dutch. There was a culture clash in my tummy.

Our ride back was pleasant. Grumpy took us back north on the more scenic route, through the Pine Barrens, then blueberry country, past Pic-A-Lilli and finally onto the prosaic New Jersey Turnpike at Fort Dix, Exit 7. We had only one wait for a one-lane bridge on Route 206. Even the Tappan Zee traffic was not so bad.

At the top of the Garden State Parkway we broke in two. Captain was late for an appointment and Ed joined him on a quick stop and run. Grumpy and I took time for a cup of coffee and caught up on each other's doings. I'm still looking for work. Grumpy is planning retirement in a few years from a place he's worked for more than 30.

We opted for the Merritt Parkway route home in Connecticut. Just that far from the warm embrace of Long Island Sound we had a little spritz, a bit of sprinkle, then snow flurries. No droplets of rain really, just mist. We didn't even think of rain gear. The threatened precipitation held off all day. Hey, sometimes you get lucky.

As the day slid into night, I turned up the thermostat on my electric clothes. Not to full blast, but I was enjoying warmth on both the suit and the gloves. The little bit of snow never laid on the pavement. It just provided a tiny taste of coming winter in the most pleasant sort of way.

Not everyone would agree.

Token2 did not ride with us this Sunday. He lives near Ridgefield, Connecticut, far from the warm embrace of Long Island Sound. He claims he was snowed in Sunday morning. Really? I mean he's in Ridgefield, not Vermont. He provides the account below. I did some fact checking on your behalf dear reader. You can see my screen grab from the weather almanac. Still, I cannot verify the photos Token2 provides are not Photoshopped. However he did miss a big points ride, and that may be verification enough for any Polar Bear.

Token2's Report:

Dear Chris:

Measurable snow fell overnight in Ridgefield, sufficient to prompt the town to plow (but not treat) the roads. With temperatures at 32F and snow still falling the 7.30am inspection of my long driveway and the local roads revealed snow and slush on top of leaves with larger debris in the roadway. Conditions did not meet my criteria for safe two wheel travel and with the early start time were unlikely to materially improve . With a heavy heart I called Captain to report my intention to bag the ride today. 

Captain is always supportive of riding decisions based on safety and risk assessment. However, as a coastal dweller it was impossible for the Captain to entirely cover his disbelief and while supportive suggested that my bona fides as a card carrying CT Bear might be under threat in this week’s blog. No-one who knows you could ever reasonably suggest that the CT Polar Bear Blog be retitled the LoyndBart news. Unfortunately, I remain mindful that we live in an era of abundant fake stories and an environment where if something is tweeted enough it must be truth. As a consequence I feel compelled to offer you photograph evidence of conditions, knowing your slogan to be “We report, you decide” that you will post this email and pictures.

It hurts to concede the point that my British upper lip may lack the stiffness of youth. In times past I would probably have ridden through the 4 miles of local roads to hit Route 35, which undoubtedly would have been safe, but I like to think I am wiser (others may differ on this point).

Hoping for better things next Sunday. In the meantime a Happy Thanksgiving to all.

I remain yours respectfully,

Token 2.

More photos from Vineland:

Arrival. Brisk with gusty winds.

Bob photo of the week!

Holiday dressing at Five Points.

Departure. Is it feeling colder?

Monday, November 14, 2016

Peer Pressure and the Unappreciated Sweep

Bridgewater Bears, back row from left: John J., Captain, Fonz, Scott, Thumper and Mac.
Down front, CT Blogger and Token2.
Motorcycle Polar Bear Blog, Polar Bear Grand Tour, ride to Bridgewater, NJ, Sunday, November 13, 2016.

By: Chris Loynd a.k.a. CT Blogger

We say, "Ride your own ride." It's an important reminder to ride safely within your abilities, assiduously avoiding peer pressure, using your own best judgment. It's also an acknowledgment that each of us is responsible for his own safety.

Still, if we are to ride together, there are a few conventions that serve us all. We take advantage of having a leader who sets a good pace, chooses good lines in traffic and knows where he's going. We take advantage of a sweep who keeps us together, helps any who fall behind and clears lanes of traffic making it safer for us to merge and change lanes. In the pack we keep to a certain code and lane positioning so other riders can predict our actions, keeping the group together and tight in neat, staggered, safe formation.

Or not.

In his book Social: Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect, renowned UCLA psychologist Dr. Matthew D. Lieberman proposes we are social creatures, more than we know, hard-wired by evolution to run in packs. Based upon his brain scan research he writes, "We intuitively believe social and physical pain are radically different kinds of experiences, yet the way brains treat them suggests they are more similar than we imagine."

Supposedly bikers are tough and independent. But we love to ride in groups and join clubs.

You must have courage and a thick social skin to lead a group of bikes. Peer pressure is behind you, sometimes 10 or more deep.

For the Connecticut Polar Bears you run the extra risk of being excoriated in this blog. Sooner or later every CT Bear gets raked over these coals, including the author. Ripping on each other is part of the fun. And believe me, not all of what gets said around the lunch table or over coffee at the top of the Garden State Parkway makes it onto these digital pages.

We encourage everyone to lead a ride at least once. Not all are willing to face the potential pain.

Sunday morning my wife Cynthia asked me if I was going to lead this Sunday. This is the first ride this season where I've started from the start. The first two rides I started Sunday morning from my folks' house in Delaware. I said I might. "You don't decide ahead of time?" she asked. "No," I said, "We generally just call for volunteers."

When I offered to lead as we were gathered at our Dunkin' Donuts starting point, it turned out Captain had already goaded Token2 into taking the lead this week. "You can sweep," he offered. Ah well. Why not?

Off we went, four of us from Stratford: Captain, John J., Mac and me in last position. Captain took the lead which he planned to relinquish in New York when we picked up Token2 en route.

Fonz joined us unexpectedly as we rode past the Fairfield rest stop. I dropped back to let him into our formation ahead of me. At Darien we picked up Scott and Thumper; again I dropped back and waved them into line. Token2 was waiting for us on the shoulder of I-287 and as we passed he shot to the front, offering a perhaps imperious wave as he passed each of us. With near military precision our riders changed sides in their staggered formation as Token2 took his position in front of Captain.

We rode tight and clean right up to the Route 22 exit. I moved over to the lane for north, thinking to control it so no cars cut us off as we exited for south. That was a bad choice on my part. Token2, perhaps swayed by peer pressure, and flummoxed by sun glare on his minuscule GPS screen, followed my lead and led us off onto 22 northbound. In his defense, there was not a lot of time to make that decision.

No biggie! We rode a few hundred yards north, exited into an office park and made a u-turn,, actually two lefts, the last aided by a traffic light.

The short remainder of our ride to the Eagles was smooth and tight. As often happens, the ride home wasn't.

Maybe it's fatigue. Or there is an overwhelming sense of heading home. They say a horse always runs faster on the return trip, a warm stall and grain bag on its mind.

We were a bit disorganized going through the first set of tolls just after we entered the Garden State Parkway. Thumper and I cracked our throttles a bit and caught up to the main body.

After a coffee or coco at the top of the GSP, I rode around to the back of the parking lot to take control of the merging lane so our guys could enter at the top of the lot and would not have any cars in the way opening a clear shot onto the expressway. But Token2 jumped ahead instead of patiently waiting for the cars ahead of me to clear the lane.

As the rest of the group powered onto the Parkway, I was stuck behind two cars that stopped to turn into the parking lot and a third that merged onto a 65 mph speed limit highway at 30 mph. It's a left lane merge no less. So this car was pulling into the passing lane at less than half the speed limit. Scary! Meanwhile our group was now out of my sight.

Fortunately traffic was light here. I was able to find plenty of room and took advantage of the "sport" in my Honda's Sport-Touring designation. I don't know if Token2 ever even knew I was left behind. I caught up to the back of the pack just as they all slowed down awaiting our turn to merge onto I-287.

Now that merge is always a challenge. I'm not sure we've done it right yet in the 14 Polar Bear seasons I've been riding. Pogy and others with training in safe motorcycling have complained. Token2 prides himself on being an accomplished and disciplined rider. So I thought this week we might finally pull off a smooth and controlled merge.

In theory it's a simple process. The last bike in line, the sweep rider, me this week, moves over first. He then holds traffic behind him. As the cars in front of the sweep move on ahead, our riders can file into the now open lane. Then the sweep waits for a break in traffic and moves over to the center lane.

Because this part of 287 approaching the Palisades Mall tends to be heavy, stop-and-go, traffic. we like to take the far left lane.

Rolling down the on ramp, I found a gap and moved one lane left right away. As the cars moved forward, our group began filling in front of me. It was working! Then Captain passed the lead bike, Token2, advancing farther up the on ramp. Meanwhile, with all the rest of our riders in the first lane, I'd already moved over to clear the middle.

But now Captain was impatiently leading a mad scramble mishegas across the remaining two lanes. Following peer pressure the rest of the riders cut in front of cars and worked their way across the lanes. By the time I'd cleared the far lane, they were bunched up in the center and left lane several cars ahead of me. I ended up with six cars between me and the pack. In dense traffic there was no way I could easily catch up to the group. I wasn't about to split lanes or use the shoulder. I took a deep, cleansing, breath and rode my own ride, by myself. Still peer pressure gnawed at me.

We may get this right someday. But not this Sunday.

Traffic finally loosened enough on the Tappan Zee bridge itself for me to make a safe, three-lane, maneuver to rejoin my pals.

After the bridge, Token2 peeled off for I-684 to head from home, handing the lead back to Captain. Unlike our morning ride, it took miles for the bikes to preposition themselves. I think it was only when Mac peeled off for the Merritt Parkway that the mishmash sorted itself, sorta by default.

Meanwhile, Captain, smelling the barn, twisted the wick a few notches. Scott was making peripatetic use of his prerogative in staggered formation. He was also rubber banding, brusquely punctuated by his Harley straight pipes.

As we approached the merge onto I-95, Thumper pulled out of line into the center lane. I rode up even with him to see if all was okay and we traded thumbs-up. I'll have to ask him next week, but my guess is that between Captain's pace and Scott's mercurial lane position, Thumper decided to "ride his own ride."

Thumper actually rejoined us in Stamford. Traffic jamming reunited us this time, instead of separating us as before. By then we were also down to just four bikes: Captain, John J., Thumper and me. Small group riding is certainly less challenging.

Speaking of peer pressure, as we sat around the table at the top of the Garden State Parkway taking our coffee/coco break, Scott was feeling, perhaps, a bit left out. Scott rides with us only occasionally for Polar Bears. He never signs up for the patches and pins. That's all good with us. Anyone is welcome to ride along on one or all the rides, with or without signing up.

So Scott notices all the rest of us have a black stamp on the back of our hands. My guess is he'd noticed for some time that everyone but him had the stamp. He finally worked up to asking, "The stamp, is it a Polar Bear thing or something? Did you all get it when you signed in?"

Uh oh mateys, the black spot!
"You mean you don't have one?" I asked, "Dude! They stamped us when we paid for lunch!"

"Where did you pay for lunch?" he asked. "Right there at the end of the buffet line, the guy with the cash box," I said. "The one we were all giving 15 dollars to," Token offered. If you're reading this from the Fraternal Order of Eagles, Scott has promised to send a check. Oh, and you might want to invest in some stanchions or bigger signs.

The lunch was wonderful, by the way. A non-Connecticut Polar Bear in line with me complained about the $15, it used to be $10. One of the Eagle Brothers overheard and offered that when they first started hosting the Polar Bears they offered us only hot dogs and hamburgers for 10 bucks. This Sunday they offered salad, bread, pork loin with apples, roasted potatoes, pasta, chocolate pudding dessert and the worst coffee I've ever had. There was a small urn with hot, burnt, bitter coffee and a larger urn with cold coffee so weak it looked like tea. It didn't occur to me until just now that I probably should have tried mixing them into one cup.

Oh and as we all sat down to lunch Captain waited almost 15 seconds to mention the election. He was magnanimous though, hardly gloating at all. He and Thumper actually had a measured conversation at the top of the GSP.

See you next week. I'll be starting from Wilmington again and will gladly take one of those comfy spots in the middle of the pack.

Token, John J. and Mac in the back.

Scott and his shiny, never-been-rained-upon, Harley.


Organized bikes ready at the top of the Garden State Parkway.

One of Token2's bikes.

Mac and Captain at the top.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Longest Day of Our Season

Connecticut Polar Bears in Lewes, from left, CT Blogger, Thumper, Token2, Captain (Ed behind him) and Grumpy.
Fonz was out filling his gas tank while we took the group photo.
Normally we'd have a Pogy down front and center. Missed you buddy!
Motorcycle Polar Bear Blog, Polar Bear Grand Tour, ride to Lewes, Del., Sunday, November 6, 2016.

By: Chris Loynd

A 12-hour day and 560-plus mile ride is a darn good touring day during summer season. Okay, Princess, can we at least say it's respectable? (If you don't know, Joanna's a long distance rider.)

Our guys started at 7 a.m. and, with a much needed stop at the top I pulled into the garage at 7 p.m.

I say "our guys" because I cheated. Investing a few extra miles in toto, I rode to my Mom and Dad's house on Saturday. That saved me about a quarter the time and distance on Sunday. It also bought me a two hour later start time and thereby scrapple and blueberry pancakes, with wild Alaskan blueberries hand picked by my sister. Thanks Gretchen!

My Alaskan sister Gretchen says "Adventure is always out there."
So I missed the ride down from Connecticut. If you read last week's blog, I kept my promise and arrived in Lewes about 20 minutes early. I sat on the curb with my camera awaiting my compatriots in order to grab an action photo.

Arrival in Lewes from a 7 a.m. start with Grumpy in the lead.

Back of the pack with Token and Captain. Other bikes behind aren't our group.
Fonz also rode, but like me not with our group on the way down. He just missed them at the start and never caught up. He arrived just after the main group but still in plenty of time for lunch.

We enjoyed a tasty, if a tad expensive, lunch at Irish Eyes Pub along the water. I continued my morning's culinary extravagance with a soft shell crab sandwich and homemade potato chips.

Thumper was along for this ride. He started riding with us last season. We call him Thumper because he's riding a single cylinder motorcycle. Now a sophomore he should know better, but he made two newbie mistakes Sunday.

At lunch he mentioned the election just two days before it was to happen, and with Captain sitting directly across the table no less. If you've ever wondered what it would be like to see MSNBC and FOX News playing simultaneously just feet apart, well we got a bitter taste at lunch Sunday.

I once carried the liberal mantle with my mostly conservative Connecticut Polar Bear buddies. Thumper makes me look like a birther, truther, prepper, tea-party, faithful follower of brother John Birch.

Still, we ride together because we enjoy riding together. Joys of the Polar Bear Grand Tour trump, um, supersede, our personal and political viewpoints. That doesn't mean we aren't free to express them. You are who you are and all are welcome to ride with us.

However, we are less tolerant of riding mistakes.

So when Thumper, wing man (wing person?) to Grumpy, tapped his helmet and led all the rest of the bikes off the exit, leaving leader Grumpy to ride on alone, well, that called for a talking to. Thumper thought Grumpy saw his signal. And in Thumper's defense, Grumpy had just changed lanes to the right. But it turned out that was for traffic, and not because he saw Thumper's signal.

Thumper was running out of gas, so he had to fill up sooner than we'd all agreed when we started out for home back in Lewes. His experience with his bike's fuel range was based upon 60 mph. The speed limits are mostly at 65, and Grumpy took a bit of liberty too. Thumper's little one cylinder was stroking pretty hard; his gas mileage suffered mightily.

Grumpy was doubly aggrieved. Last Sunday he was sweep. When the rain came, Captain led us under a bridge to gear-up. Grumpy thought it looked too crowded there and so rode to the next overpass. We just assumed he'd decided to ride straight home without us, as his nickname would sometimes profess. So we blew right by him in the rain, leaving him no choice but to ride home alone anyway.

This Sunday I tried sending him a text to meet us at the first rest stop after the Delaware Memorial Bridge. But he didn't see it. Surreptitiously, we finally caught up with him at the stop at the top of the Garden State Parkway. He was walking out as we were walking in.

Amazingly, Grumpy was gracious. We all had a good chuckle and Thumper apologized sincerely. New to group riding, he misunderstood communications protocol. Admittedly, it is hard to understand each other in full face helmets at 60 mph.

Thumper learned his lesson. Communications while riding takes time, so you build in lots of lead time. And you must get confirmation.

So when Token2, who had taken over the lead with me as wing man, promised to make one more gas stop along the Garden State Parkway, and then blew by all of them, I looked for his signal when we saw the two-miles-ahead sign for the last rest stop. He offered none. Nor did he tap his helmet at the one-mile sign. So I rode up alongside him and confirmed with a tap of my helmet, receiving a nod back of his.

We topped off our tanks at the pumps and gathered in the parking lot. Since Token2 would be exiting just after the Tappan Zee and I would be taking the lead, I asked Thumper if he had enough gas to get home to Norwalk. He answered yes, perhaps a bit insulted at first, then got the joke.

See you next week! That ride should be doable on any two tanks of gas. Hope you can join us Thumper. Otherwise I'll have to hold up the banner of reason in a country gone mad. Stratford departure 9:30 a.m.

Thumper on his single cylinder BMW. (Photo by Bernie Walsh.)

Thumper isn't the only one riding Polar Bears on one cylinder. (Photo by Bernie Walsh.)

Liberal wing of the CT Polar Bears, Chris and Paul.

Captain and Token holding down our table while the rest sign-in.

Ed, Fonz and Captain waiting for food.

Flight B leaders, Joan and Jim.

Flight A leaders Pat and John.
Grumpy's ride log.
"Outdoor" dining, closed in for winter.

Suiting up for the ride home.

Lovely Lewes and the light ship museum. Maybe a summer trip?