Thursday, January 28, 2010

January 24, 2010; Howell, NJ

1/24/10 Howell, NJ

29 with low clouds to start; 39 and drizzle to end

While Sunday's ride threatened a repeat of the previous week, we were lucky with the rain. It misted and drizzled for our ride home. It never rained drops.

Threat of rain was no deterrent for the Connecticut Polar Bears. We rode with eight. Years ago that would have been a big turnout. Nowadays, we have picked up enough new regular riders eight is de rigueur on any given Sunday.

Coming up from the south, the rain clouds also carried warmer air. Sunday's ride was more temperate. Still, I appreciated the enveloping warmth of my electric jacket.

We picked up Pogy, engine running and ready to join us, at the Darien rest stop. Token2 was back from England. Having left his wife and daughter in the U.K., and by his admission up early and bored, I was surprised to see him waiting for us at the Dunkin' Donuts in Stratford. He rode a half-hour the wrong way just to turn around and join us for the ride back south to New Jersey.

I had no duties on this ride except to rest in the cradle, motoring along. While I enjoy touring alone, there is a certain luxury in letting someone else handle the navigation, determine the route and speed, as you relax and enjoy the ride.

It was misting lightly as we crossed from the New Jersey Turnpike to Garden State Parkway headed south. However roads across New Jersey horse country to the Cabin are not as rural nor tar snake strewn as those to Hillybilly Hall. Except for negotiating a couple of New Jersey's famous roundabouts, the ride was relaxing and uneventful.

Pogy presented me with a Connecticut Rider Education visibility vest. He says I got the last one. Most of them were made for instructors who joined the program earlier than I. It will be worn with pride and just may save me from getting run over by a cager someday.

We, well most all of us, enjoyed our lunch.

Grumpy eventually settled down and enjoyed his lunch. But they had Pepsi, not Coke and the waitress did not divulge such. Then she had unsweetened ice tea. Johnny B. took it gracefully in stride.

It is late enough into winter that talk turned to Daytona. Russ is organizing a ride. He's leaving mid-week after Bike Week has started, so Russ' ride is mostly riding. That's fine for me and fits with a conference I have scheduled the week before in Los Angeles.

Daytona can be a very nice break in winter's tedium.

That second day of riding, as you descend through the Carolinas, you can start shedding layers. After riding all winter bundled in layers and tight-fitting long johns, and too thick socks and scarves tucked into full-face helmets, the warmth is nirvana.

Sometimes Florida treats us especially well and you find yourself riding around in shirt sleeves in February.

Not only is it warm, you get to act like a teenager again, one of legal drinking age, with no curfew.

It is like Leo's trike asserts, “Recycled teenager.”

Leo is my hero. I have said it in this blog before. The day before our ride he celebrated his 94th birthday. He still rides Polar Bear. I believe he earned a perfect attendance pin last season. Up until a couple years ago, Leo was still on two wheels. Now he rides a trike, obviously year round, apparently everywhere, anytime, all the time. You go Leo!

Our Polar Bear route choices are a topic of ongoing discussion. Apparently the Captain pissed off somebody at New Jersey DOT because they put a curse on John K.'s EZ Pass. They made him relinquish his preferred license plate style pass, the only person we know so banished. Then they registered his bike in two states, that we know of.

So as we scoot across the New York City parkways toward the George Washington Bridge most Polar Bear mornings, John K. prefers to jump onto Interstate 87. However that lands you on a GW Bridge on-ramp that is something of a motocross course.

I really nailed a pothole last Sunday. Dead center. Saw it coming. Could not avoid it. It was deep. I thought I saw some dinosaur bones in it, but figured my fellow riders would not tolerate me stopping for an archeological investigation.

Because the road is so rough, Johnny B. does not like the I-87 option. He would prefer to parkway all the way. Unfortunately the last toll on the parkways before the bridge has gates. They pay no mind to John K.'s EZ Pass. One year the Captain plowed through a gate, anticipating it's opening when it didn't. In revenge the gates open no more for John K. No one else has any trouble with them at all.

In Vegas they would call it a “push.” Nobody's fault. Nobody wins.

Our options are limited. I suggested riding on down the West Side Highway and using the Lincoln Tunnel to cross the Hudson River. That was roundly ridiculed.

John J. suggested the Cross Bronx Expressway. That is like a miles long motocross course strewn with hazards and potholes and junk fallen off of passing trucks lined with a concrete canyon inhabited by gangs of thugs and criminals and prone to massive traffic jams anytime day or night.

I have a friend, David Vincent. He's from Memphis, Tenn. David has a gorgeous wife Cindy, a real Southern belle. David and I worked together as writers at a now defunct agricultural PR and advertising agency in Stamford. We hired David away from a big New York City PR agency.

So David tells the story of his first time crossing the delightful Cross Bronx Expressway. It is summer. It is hot. Poor Dave nails a pothole and snaps a tie rod. So Dave does what he would have done in Memphis. He pulls over to the shoulder, puts on the four way flashers, and he and Cindy start walking the shoulder to a nearby off ramp. This was before cell phones, so David figured to find a pay phone.

It was a short walk. David is wearing a Hawaiian shirt and jeans. Cindy is dressed in halter top, short shorts and tall heels. And like this they walk down the off ramp into the Bronx looking for a phone.

Dave notices the neighborhood is not looking too good. But he's a big guy and has been in the bad parts of Memphis before. Cindy is getting very nervous.

They find a service station with a tow truck. But the guy at the station tells them he can't go retrieve their car. Ain't got the permit. Tells Dave he has to call the cops.

So Dave uses the pay phone and gets a police dispatcher on the line. He gives the address of the service station, describes the location of his car and then the dispatcher says something David does not expect, “I want you to walk back to your car.”

In disbelief David replies, “You mean you want me to walk back on the shoulder of the expressway? Against traffic?”

The dispatcher replies, “You'll be safer.”

Our ride this Sunday is to The Exchange in Rockaway, N.J. We can avoid the whole GW Bridge controversy on this one by taking the Tappan Zee Bridge going and coming. Then it is a short hop out Interstate 80.

MapQuest says just under 2 hours travel time. So let's set a . . .

9:30 a.m. Departure time from Stratford, Conn.

Just 95 miles one way, I will come excruciatingly close to missing a point on this sucker.

Was it last year that this ride was so cold, or the year before? I remember pulling out every bit of clothing from my saddlebags and then stuffing polishing rags in my boots that one year.

This Sunday's forecast is for cold, but not punishingly so. Forecast are temperatures in the high twenties.

Hope to see you soon.

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