Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The First Official Weekend of Summer

Well compared to the last several weekends, this one was pretty laid back. It started out by having to put in a couple extra hours at work Friday evening. I got out of there about 7:30pm and headed for home. Wanda wanted to go down to Clover Bar to get something to eat so that's what we did. By the time we got out of there it was already getting dark.
We decided during dinner to go to the late movie, probably not the best idea after a week's worth of getting up early, but we did it anyhow. We went to the Grand Haven 9 and saw "Cars". The show started at 11:35pm and lasted 2 hours. We were the only people in the whole theatre which is one of the best reasons for going to the late movie. It was a fun, animated film about a race car that falls out the back of his hauler and ends up in a town off the beaten path. As with most animation these days, the visual effects were stunning, even if the story line was pretty tried and true. By the time we got home from the flick in was 1:30am. I stayed up for a bit and then hit the sack cuz I was heading in to work at 7:00am.
I was at work by 7:00am and stayed until 10:30, trying to catch up on some details. After leaving work I made some stops for stuff I was going to need so that I could head up to the campsite with the camper and two dogs for the first official overnight stay. I'd called MarkE Thursday and Friday mornings to find out where we were at and to make sure the pad for the camper would be leveled and ready to plunk the camper down on when I got there Saturday. He assured me that it'd be ready so about 1 00pm, after spending a quick 10 minutes visiting with Jennette (and Ryan), who'd decided to come up for the weekend at the last moment, I headed off for Whiskey Creek.
The drive up to the campsite was uneventful, but when I pulled into the driveway at 5010 E. Meadowview Trail what should appear to my eyes, but a big ole pile of dirt....smack in the middle of the spot where I'd planned on putting the camper. Obviously ole Mr. MarkE isn't always to be believed. I got out of the truck and stood there for a couple minutes weighing my options and then decided to grab the shovel and start slinging dirt. So.....from about 2:30pm until 7:30pm, that's what I did, sling dirt. By 7:30 I was dirty, tired, sore and more than a bit irritated that my plan for the day hadn't even gotten off the ground cuz I spent the whole damn afternoon and evening trying to get the pad ready for the camper to be parked on it. Something that was suppose to have been done before I even pulled in the lot.
By the time I got the camper situated on the roughly leveled pad and got it set up, it was almost 8:30. I jumped in the van with the intention of going into Ludington to get something to eat and pick up a few things, but a couple miles down the road I said phooey, turned around and went to the lodge in hopes there'd be someone there to make a hamburger. Well, it was my lucky day, there was a young lady there who made a mean cheeseburger and a great chocolate malt. After the meal I was renewed, less grumpy and decided I'd take a second and drop in at the Fett's place to say howdy before going back to camp. The Mrs. was there so I talked to her for a couple minutes, but the Mr. was out cruising around with his buddies. After our short chat I went back to camp and quickly dug a fire pit and gathered some dead wood before it got dark. Mr. Fett showed up with his buddies as I was finishing up the firepit and introduced me to everyone. They hung around for a bit and then headed back out for another round of cruising. Once I got the fire going nicely myself, Mercury and Bailey all just kinda collapsed where we sat for the next couple hours. With the dogs there I didn't see much wildlife although we did hear a deer snort once and several owls hooted close by for awhile. No bears though and probably just as well, I'd been too tired from all the dirt shoveling to fight 'em off. Just about midnight we all gave it up and went to bed, thus ensuring, I thought, that we'd all get up early to head back home in the morning.
Sometime during the night it started to rain and by the time we got up it had made the area real wet. It was coming down pretty hard as I tried to get things around and packed up for the ride home. I decided I was leaving the camper up there, for better or worse. I was figuring it was about 8:00am or so when I turned on the cell phone to check the time....so imagine my surprise when the phone said 11:17am! Holy Moly I must've been tired. Slept about 11 hours straight except for waking up once during the night to make a short trip outside.
Well, I'd told Wanda I would be home by 10:00am to make breakfast for her, the daughter and grandson so needless to say I was on the shit list for not being there when I said I would be. By the time I got packed up, locked up the camper and made the trip home it was almost 1:00pm when I pulled in the driveway. Jennette and Ryan were at Gigi's house visiting so I decided to make something to eat and because I could....I made breakfast for myself and my four-legged friends. We shared pancakes and Bacon and after eating I went out and unloaded the van and put stuff away.
When Jennette and Ryan came back I spent a little time with them, but they were taking off back to Indiana when Wanda took off for Bingo so with Chris off skateboarding I was by myself again by 3:30pm. So, I took a shower, ran some errands and then decided to go down to Jeannies' for the Sunday night Cruise-in. I took Mercury with me and he made some new friends during the evening. I got something to eat, shot the breeze and took some pics like usual. I had one guy who volunteered to move his car over by the pond and trees for some pics so I said sure and fired off a dozen shots. I had some nice ones on the disc too, the only problem was that somehow this evening, I managed to reformat the disc rather than finalize it, which wiped out everything I did for the weekend. Aaaaarrrgggg....First time I've ever done that and hopefully it'll be the last time too.......what a pisser, can't believe I did that. Pretty much the same deal as losing a roll of film in the mail I guess, had that happen too in the olden days. :-(
It was 8:30pm by the time I left the parking lot and headed North for home. I cruised thru town once before putting the hot rod back in the garage. Then, to finish off the weekend I made a couple batches of Cookies, which kept me busy until the wife returned home. That pretty much recaps the whole weekend. This coming week I've got to get busy and finish choosing the route for our bike trip out to Western Wisconsin and the MIssissippi river. Right now though............it's time to get some sleep.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Father's Day Weekend Fun

Well, this past weekend wasn't nearly as hectic as the past several have been, but we were still plenty busy. Friday evening I attended the Spring Lake Heritage Festival Car Show. I pulled in the parking lot right about 5pm and found the place hopping already. I found a spot towards the back of the parking lot and parked the hot rod, Set-up the display materials and went and got registered. After a hamburger cooked by the local boy scouts to help finance their upcoming trip to West Virginia for a rafting adventure, I grabbed the camera and proceeded to start at one end of the parking lot and work my way up and down the rows of shiny metal. I managed to spend most of the evening shooting pics and BS'n with people I met along the way and was having a good time. Right about 9pm they started with the awards ceremony so I went over by the tent and picked out a piece of curb to sit on to view the festivities. They went right along thru all the classes and finally came to the class we were entered in and much to my surprise when they rattled off the 2nd place winning car they called my name! I was pleasantly and genuinely surprised. I went up got my very nice trophy, shook the man's hand and then sat back down. The big winner of the evening, Best of Show was a gentleman with a huge old Ford Truck that he'd turned into a car hauler. It was real impressive and worthy of the honor in my opinion. It wasn't long after that everyone was firing up their cars and heading out of the parking lot. I put all my stuff away and did the same thing, passing kids holding up "light 'em up" signs on the way out.

I decided to take a cruise thru town and stopped at Dairy Treat on the way thru to celebrate the trophy (like I need an excuse). From there I headed for home. When I got there Wanda wanted to go down to Clover Bar to get something to eat and check in on Chris who was still there washing dishes. We had our food and chatted with the future son-in-law a bit, who just turned 21 today. By the time we got back to the house it was 11 and time to call it a day.

Saturday we got up early and headed up to the property and a meeting with MarkE to exchange the down payment funds for a receipt. Once that was done he came out to the lot with us to double check where everything was going to go. They already had the drainfield for the sewer in so we're making progress......but it's still gonna be most of a month before everything is ready to go. The electric is gonna be the one thing slowing us down. In the meantime I plan to do a some rustic camping......an overnighter or two just to see how it feels.

After Mark took off I got busy with mowing and cutting limbs while Wanda and Chris went up to the lodge and spent awhile swimming in the pool. Later they came out to the campsite and helped me out for a bit. When we'd decided we were done with lot maintenence for the day we went back to the lodge for lunch and another swim in the pool before heading for home. For some reason I didn't ever take any pics of the drainfield, or this weekend's improvements so I'm enclosing a rough drawing of the layout. Click on the pic to get it to a size you can actually read.

I was planning to go to the races at Berlin when we got home, but once we got there I decided to hang around the house for the evening and get caught up on some of the little stuff that needed to be done. before I knew it, it was after midnight and time for bed.

Sunday morning the alarm went off at 5am. It was Father's Day morning and for the last several years that means we'll be at Charlton Park in Hastings MI. for one of the biggest car shows around these parts. By the time I got Chris up and myself ready to go it was almost 5:30am. The weather was pretty iffy looking but I'd already decided I was going no matter what the weather. The ride from home to the park was pretty much uneventful. It was a nice ride thru farm country and it did spit rain a time or two but nothing bad. We got to Charlton Park road a bit after 7, shut the motor off and claimed our place in line. The gates hadn't been opened yet so we hung out in the street, talking our temporary neighbors and taking pics. Once the line started to move we jumped in the car and crept our way into the park. I knew where I wanted to park and for the 3rd year running I was able to get a nice spot right along the river, just before the pavement comes to an end.

After setting up the display materials I headed over to register and get my official T-Shirt and dash plaque. When I got back to the car Chris was polishing so I grabbed a rag, some cleaner and worked at getting bug guts off the front end. It seemed like we'd hit every damn bug in 5 counties. After getting her cleaned up somewhat we decided it was time to take a hike around the grounds so I grabbed the camera and we took off.

The thing about the Charlton Park car show is that there's just too damn many cars to be able to shoot them all in one day. If you want to see what we saw click here for Vol 2 or here for Vol 3. We wandered around for awhile trying to be fussy about what cars we shot and which ones we didn't.......and then we hiked out to where the swap meet was and gave that whole area the once over. I was looking for a nice chevy-themed radiator cap and a particular set of valve covers with the old style Chevy logo on em, but really couldn't find anything to spend my money on, other than another Sheltie decal for 5 bucks, so we headed for the food booths.

We both got something to eat and sat on rocks on the hillside to dine. I called home to check in with the wife and called my folks to wish my dad a happy father's day.....after the calls it was back at it again. It continued to look like it was gonna rain any second the whole morning and at one point it did sprinkle for about 5/10 minutes, but nothing real heavy......Until about 10 minutes before the award ceremony was to start, then it started coming down pretty good. We stood around under a tree for awhile, but then that stopped being effective so we moved to the doorway of the nearest house and stood there, out of the rain for the remainder of the awards. As soon as they gave away the motor and someone came forth from their umbrella to claim it, we headed back to the car. Not wanting to head out just yet I climbed in the back seat of the car with the window rolled half way down and shot pics of my favorite rides as then paraded by, headed for home and their shammy (chamois) cloths.

After about 20 minutes of back seat photography I moved around to the driver's seat, fired the beast up and we headed out, in procession mode, to the highway. Once we made it to the highway the traffic thinned out and we were on our way home. Jennette called me on the cell phone as we were heading down the road to home to wish me a happy Father's day, which was kinda neat....never did hear anything from Ri which was a bit disappointing but I guess they were pretty busy with the new house and all. We arrived back in GH about 6ish and just took it easy the rest of the evening.
ADDENDUM: One thing that happened this past week which was real cool was receiving a package from Mr. Frank Jurney, the gentleman I wrote to out in Virginia about getting CD's of the Bluegrass band we'd seen play while out there.....when I opened the package he'd sent I found not 1, Not 2, but 3 CD's chock full of goodness. He'd sent a copy of their new album, not ever released yet and then on the other 2 CD's was the entire performance at Shenendoah Farms. Pretty doggone cool! I'll be designing some neat covers and liners for them of course....just cuz it's fun to do and theraputic too :-)
Time for bed, night.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Land Baron

Well, it's already Wednesday so the past weekend is almost a distant memory at this point. No cross-country trips or major family events to report this time around, but still several things happened that are worth mentioning.

First off, Last Tuesday, the 6th, we officially purchased property at Whiskey Creek. Two lots totaling 1.7 acres in the middle of 6 square miles of Manistee National Forest. If that doesn't make me a land baron I don't know what would I got out of work right at 3:00pm and Wanda was there to pick me up and from there we headed up to Ludington, to West Shore Bank, the people crazy enough to loan us the money to make this little dream come true. We got there a little bit after 4:00pm and we were back in the car and heading out of town 20 minutes later. It was a slam bam paper signing whirlwind. The guy running the deal kept throwing them out across the desk and we signed 'em and tossed 'em back at him. All that's left now is the monthly payments until hell freezes over. After the flurry of paper signing, we made a stop at Taco Bell for a cheap meal and then headed back down 31 to home.

Thursday I went out on a limb and in the hopes of maybe steering the son onto a more productive course than the one he has been following lately......bought him a guitar. A Fender Strat no less, just like mine but about 35 years newer. He's also going to start taking lessons and as long as he can maintain his interest level and put in the practice time then I'll pay for them. Not sure where all this money is gonna come from, but I'd guess a fair amount of overtime is involved. Lucky for me there's plenty to be had currently so I'm gonna cash in on the opportunity and take all I can get my grubby little paws on. Even more crazy than buying him a guitar is the fact that I'm looking at buying myself a bass. Something I haven't had in, well in awhile. He (the guy at the RIT music store downtown) has a nice little red Ibanez lefty hanging on the wall that calls out my name everytime I'm in there......don't be surprised if it ends up here in the not too distant future..........not sure how many more rabbits are in that hat anyhow..........

I don't really recall anything else remotely earth shaking for the rest of the week.....can't even recall what I did Friday night, although I do remember that Wanda and Ri went out to play Bingo. Saturday morning I was up early, loaded up the pick-up with ground breaking tools, the lawnmower and the wheelbarrow and headed up North with Chris to our weekend home in the woods. We got up there around 10:00am or so and worked until 4:30pm. Pretty much got all the area I wanted to get mowed, done. Trimmed a bunch of limbs and did general clean up of the area. Rick Fett, Adam's dad stopped by for a visit and to tell me the latest bear news at Whiskey Creek. Seems they have a bear who likes to smash the crap out of bird feeders in the campground and he'd shown up again Friday night. Frankly, as far as I'm concerned, having a bear around the joint adds value to my property, although I might think otherwise if I happened to bump into him walking down the road after sunset.

Rick came back awhile later to take me over to meet Gene the wine maker. We sat around his campfire and had a glass of his homemade wine while we talked about his 5th wheel that he has for sale. He's 77 and has gotten to the point where the traveling from Florida to Michigan, back and forth every year is too much foolin' around so he's selling his site and his trailer there and gonna stay in Florida year 'round. The trailer brand new was $60,000, but because he wants to get out of there quick he's selling it for $20,000. It's certainly worth every penny of that, but I just can't pull that big of a rabbit out of my hat at the moment, as much as I'd like to. At the end of our visit we said goodbye and thanks for the wine. I took some pics of his trailer and the grounds and said I'd show 'em around to try and help him unload the whole ball of wax. If I was able to actually find a buyer for him there's incentive for me to do so in the form of a 1955 Jeep that he says he'd give to whoever brings him a buyer for his lot. That's all the incentive I need so I've made up some flyers to hand out along with the ones I made up for the sale of the wagon, which still is hiding out in the garage with no gas tank.

Byy 4:30 we'd gotten most of the area that I wanted to get cleared, cleared and we wanted to get home to see Jennette and Ryan who'd decided to come up for the weekend so we tossed the tools and the lawnmower in the back of the truck and headed for civilization. We were back home by 6 and after some playtime with the grandson we all piled into Jen's car and headed over to Vic's for dinner. By the time we left there it was after 9 so we headed for home. I wanted to get the hot rod out and take Jen for an ice cream run to Diary Treat, but she had to give Ryan his pre-bedtime bath (...parents) so me and Chris went instead. By the time we got back home from the around town cruise Ryan was asleep and everyone else was ready to head for dreamland so we spent the rest of our day down in the den listening to music and working on the websites.

Sunday morning I woke up fairly early and killed some time down in the den again until everyone else was up and ready for breakfast. After pancakes and sausage I pulled the hot rod out of the garage and started to work on removing the master cylinder to paint it to match the car. The plan in the morning was that Jen was going with Wanda to Bingo again for the evening and I was gonna babysit Ryan, but during the course of the first half of the day she got to feeling pretty bad and decided to head for home early instead of sticking around to play Bingo. So she took off for Indiana about 3pm and Wanda took off about 3:30 leaving me chris and the rest of the day to mess around with.

I'd gotten the master cylinder apart and painted and was ready to reinstall it and then head down to Jeannies again for the heck of it, but just like the automotive rookie that I am......when I got the brakes all put back together the pedal went right to the floor without a fight. Damnit, I'd gotten air in the lines and would have to bleed 'em out. Never having done that before made it a problem so I thought for a couple minutes and then remembered Ray Nelson, the older gentleman and car guru that I'd met last fall, who lived south of town. I still had his card so I dialed the number figuring he wouldn't even remember who the heck I was, but after a couple minutes on the phone with him he said he'd come over and see if he could help. Well, deep down that's what I was hoping he'd say so when he got there we commenced to bleeding the brake lines and within 15 minutes we had 'em back again and even better than they'd been in the first place. I thanked him for his help and time before he took off back home and then me and Chris jumped in the car and headed for Jeannie's for the evening.

....and that's pretty much it for the moment. I've got plans to go back up to the "cabin" :-) this coming Saturday and finish up what I started last weekend. The well and sewer is suppose to be getting done real soon and I want to keep an eye on what they're doing so I don't lose a bunch of trees to the bulldozer. For right now though it's the end of hump day and bedtime.


Monday, June 05, 2006

Graduation Day

Another busy weekend has come and gone and left my head aspinnin'. This was Graduation weekend for Rianna. Jennette and her family were coming up for the weekend too to be there for the Sunday afternoon ceremony. Christopher got to miss most of it all by having to spend time from Thursday afternoon until Sunday morning in Juvenile Detention due to violating his probation, but that's another story for another time.

Friday afternoon, after leaving work I made a stop by Boston Motors and purchased a set of Highway bars (or engine protectors depending on your focus) along with foot pads so that the next time we go on an all day ride I have a second option of where to place my feet and keep my legs from cramping up. I got home a bit after 4pm and Ri was waiting there to take me up to their house to drop some stuff off. So, it was back up to Muskegon again. Along with the stop at her new home to be we also made a stop by "Recordings and More" where I picked up a Rory Gallagher CD I hadn't seen before. We got back home about 5:30pm. Jennette and her clan were already there. We hung out a bit, finally got to meet her husband and spent some time playing with Ryan before we all headed down to Clover Bar for pizza. By the time we got out of there it was getting late so Jen and company headed back to their motel for the night.

Saturday morning I got up and tackled the installation of the highway bars. I had 'em about 90% done when the Polgar clan finally showed up at the house so we could all go to breakfast together at Russ'. After breakfast Jen and company went up with Ri and Adam to check out their house while I headed back up to Boston Motors again for help in getting one of the bolts in that just didn't want to go. By the time the mechanic had fixed my problem Jen and family and Wanda were at the Holiday Inn, hanging out by the pool, so I headed there to meet up with them. We were there just a short while before they decided to take off and make a visit at Grandma Fritchen's to show off Ryan and Eric. I went on home and spent some time cleaning up the bike until everyone returned to the house. At that point it was mid afternoon and it was decided that we were all going to El Caminoes for an early dinner and then I would be babysitting Ryan while they all went to play bingo for the evening........so, after stuffing ourselves with mexican food, I drove Jen's car back home with Ryan in the back while the rest of 'em all went off to lose money and have fun.

The evening with Ryan went pretty smooth and we had some quality time together before everyone got back home about 9:30pm. I spent the evening trying to catch up on the writing from the trip to Virginia and sorting and formatting pictures. Jen and crew headed for their motel again not long after they got back here. I ended up staying up until about 4am working on website stuff.

Sunday morning I got up and made the usual breakfast menu for everyone. Pancakes for me and the dogs and scrambled eggs for Wanda and Chris. Jen and family arrived about 11am and we all just hung out until it was time to head out to the high school for the graduation ceremony. We got there about 2pm for th
e 3pm start and claimed our spot on the bleachers. Things started promptly at 3pm and after some droning speaches that were barely intelligible from our seats and a couple pieces of music from the band, rollcall started. By the time they 'd gone thru the entire graduating class it was almost 5pm. A couple closing remarks from some administrator and we were headed outside for a couple pictures of Ri in her cap and gown.

Jen and family had taken off during the ceremony and headed back to Indiana. After the graduation pictures, Ri and Adam took off for their house to work on getting things ready for their official first overnight stay and Wanda took off to go to Bingo, leaving me and Chris the only ones at the house. I decided that seeings how it was a nice evening and we hadn't been down to Jeannies yet this year for the Sunday evening cruise in that we'd head down that way, get something to eat and see what was shakin'. We hung out there until a bit after 8pm, eating, talking with folks and taking pics of this year's new cars. It was a good turnout with about 70 cars showing up for the evening. By the time we got back home it was almost 9pm and time to start winding down.

It's hard to believe that Ri is all done with high school already and moving out on her own with Adam to test drive married life until their wedding in September. With Ri gone to her new digs it's down to just Wanda, Chris and me all of a sudden and that's pretty much the way it's gonna be from here on out until Chris heads out on his own. As fast as the last 4 years have gone I expect the next 4 will go just as fast, if not faster and all of a sudden it'll be back to the way it was at the beginning of this trip, just me and Wanda Lynne.....and the dogs of course. Almost afraid to close my eyes for fear of missing something but I'm beat right now and need a nap.


Love ya, Mom & Dad

Friday, June 02, 2006

Motorcycle Trip to David's House, Front Royal, VA.

Well, time continues to fly. It's been a tad bit over a week since we left for Front Royal last Thursday afternoon and I'm just now getting a chance to sit down and start logging in the days on the road. This going to be a long, multiple entry, entry, by day. So with no further ado, let's start off with day one, Thursday, the 25th of May.


I left work directly at 3:00pm, a man on a mission. After a quick stop at the Credit Union for money, I went home and finished up a couple of packing details. It was 3:55pm by the time we said our goodbyes, fired up the bike and headed out of the driveway. The weather was warm and somewhat volatile, but we didn't run into any rain until we turned onto US-131 in Plainwell and starting heading towards Kalamazoo. Not far past the D Ave exit we had to pull over under an overpass and stop long enough so that I could put on my rainpants. After donning the raingear we fired the bike back up and headed down the wet road, taking it easy on the slippery surface. It rained a bit, on and off, for the next 30 miles or so, but by the time we got down by Three Rivers and the border area the sun was back out and the wetness was behind us.....at least for the day.

When we got to Constantine MI. we decided to stop for dinner and gas (for the bike). After a hamburger, fries and shake at the local drive-in, next to the gas station, we got back on our two-wheeled companion (need to come up with a good name for our "iron horse") and headed South, out of Michigan and into Indiana. After passing the welcome to Indiana sign we found ourselves in Amish territory. Numerous farms on both sides of the road, with their signature horse and buggies, dotted the landscape until we got close to Fort Wayne. At one point we rode by an Amish farm with kids jumping on a big ole trampoline out by the barn, who all hollared and waved at us as we went cruising by. We waved back.

The original plan for the day's ride had been to make it to Lima OH., but it became evident as we made our way around the outskirts of Fort Wayne, which included a doubleback for a missed exit thanks to a dumbass in a pickup riding our butt.......that we weren't going to get that far before darkness fell over the landscape. So, after another fuel stop just South of Fort Wayne we headed straight South as far as Decatur In. where we found a Days Inn that looked to fill the bill for our purposes. After signing in we headed for our room, unpacked the bike and called it a day. A shower and a chapter of the book I'm reading..."The hidden life of dogs" finished off the day.


Today, without the smallest of a doubt, wins the prize for longest ride I'll ever take on a Motorcycle. It rained about 75% of the time too so it was a day to remember any way you look at it.

We got up at 6:00am with a wake-up call from the Days Inn Phone robot and got busy getting dressed and packing the bike. The weather didn't look that bad at that point, partly cloudy and warm. Little did we know then.....

By 6:30am we were heading out of Decatur, bound for the Ohio state line and our first big city, Columbus Oh. We took off across lush green farm lands and without the little welcome to Ohio sign you'd never known which state you were riding in. We rode East for a couple hours, thru very rural areas, looking for a good place to stop for breakfast and get in out of the misty rain that came and went every 10 miles or so. I wanted a good corn beef hash and scrambled eggs in a mom and pop restaurant kinda breakfast, but after riding for 2 hours with no such chow in sight we gave up and gave in to the easy way out as we pulled into the little town of Lakeview, who's claim to fame seemed to be the fact that it had the only body of water within a 150 mile radius within it's city limits. So, we parked the bike and headed inside the building with the golden arches for a Big Breakfast ala McDonalds. It wasn't what I had in mind, but it quieted the knawing sounds for awhile. After we dropped off our tray and hit the bathroom it was back on the bike and onto Columbus.

The weather continued to be iffy as we headed East thu Bellefontaine and Marysville. Just outside of Columbus we made a fuel stop and took 20 minutes to stretch. After the break we headed down the road and into the belly of the whale. Chris wanted to cruise thru downtown rather than take the bypass and I agreed to the adventure. We got thru the entire city without a problem and once we were on the SouthEast side and clear of the city limits we took off again.
We continued down Route 33, Southeast towards Parkersburg WV and things seemed to be going well at that point. The rain was holding off for the most part and we seemed to be on schedule for an early evening arrival at David's place. It was in the town of Athens Ohio though where things took a turn for the worst and things started to go South, literally. Had I been paying better attention and maybe reading the maps more often I would've probably noticed that when we reached Athens we wanted to get on Route 50 and head for Parkersburg. I didn't though and because of my sloppy navigating we continued on down Route 33 until we reached Ravenswood WV. which is about 40 miles south of Parkersburg. That was bad enough, to screw up the border crossing, but then to add insult to injury, after a half hour break, we got on Interstate 77 and started heading South instead of heading North back to Parkersburg. It took another 10 miles or so before I realized I'd compounded the problem. Nothing we could do but turn around and head back toward Parkersburg, now about 2 hours behind schedule.
My next foopah was to decide to turn right at Ripley WV and take route 33 East across West Virginia. It made sense at the time, after looking at the map, but about 20 minutes into the ride it started to rain. Then, it really started to rain. Then, it started to downpour. So here we are, on a twisty, turny, 2 lane mountain road, in the pouring rain, trying to make up two hours worth of lost time. Talk about asking for a kick in the head......It was still raining pretty hard when Chris asked if I would pull over so he could take a break. I said OK and looked for safe place to park the bike. As I rolled carefully off the pavement and onto the dirt shoulder of the road I underestimated the slippery factor of the clay and rocks and before I knew what had happened we were laying on our sides with 650lbs of motorcycle on top of us. I asked Chris if he was ok, did a self assessment of myself and then wrestled the bike back up on two wheels again. There were a couple anxious moments as I had trouble getting the bike to fire up again, but once she roared back to life we were good to go again, minus a bit of pride and the addition of a sore elbow.
We continued on route 33, but now the rain was almost coming down in sheets, making it damn hard to see the roadway, which at this point was 2/3's river and 1/3 road. We weren't able to go much over 35mph because of the hydroplaning and having already dropped the bike once I was very aware that dropping it again was a real possibility. It was to the point, at that point, that I just wanted to get the hell off the road and out of the rain, but we were up in the mountains of West Virginia with little sign of civilization in sight. But then, as we came around a tight mountain turn what should appear like a beacon in the night, like a lighthouse to storm tossed sailors, but the red and white vestage of a Dairy Queen! "Holy Moly we're saved!" I thought.......and at that moment I made the snap decision to pull into that parking lot, knowing full well I had a 50/50 chance of picking myself up off the ground again. Somehow I got the bike into a parking space and put the kickstand down, making contact with solid ground. As the water rushed down the mountain and over my soaked feet I simaltaneously shut off the motor and wondered just what the hell a Dairy Queen was doing out here in the middle of what seemed to be no where.........
We opened the door to our new found refuge and went inside. There were a half dozen locals who watched us as we stripped off wet coats, gloves and helmets and plopped ourselves down in a booth. After a couple minutes to regroup and get our bearings I went up to the counter and ordered food and ice cream and for the next hour or so we sat in our red and white booth, eating DQ hot dogs and watching the torrents of water run down the road, past our window, headed to a lower spot on the map somewhere. After a good hour of pouring rain all of a sudden it stopped and the sun came out. Just like somebody had flipped a switch. We started to gather our soaked belongings together, which over the past hour had left quite a puddle on the floor of the DQ. We poked our heads outside the door and spent several minutes wringing out gloves, coats, shirts and getting things in order while the bike warmed up a bit. It was with some urgency that now, being over 3 hours behind schedule, we climbed back on the bike and gingerly headed down the road in an Easterly direction, hoping that we'd seen the worst of the rain for the day and that we could still make it to David's house by nightfall.
The irony here was that we were now in the area of the country and on the type of roads that I wanted to be on, to leisurely cruise up and down and around the mountains, enjoying the view and the twists and turns in the road and now we didn't have the time, much less the enthusiasm to enjoy our situation due to the drenching we'd received earlier. We continued on east on route 33 until we came to the little burg of Millstone and highway 16 North which at the last moment I decided to take in the hopes of speeding up the process of getting back to US 50. It was all for naught though......16 was every bit as slow and twisty as 33 had been so by the time we reached US-50 and Ellenboro it was almost 5:00pm. We were now easily 4 hours behind schedule. I called David to let him know where we were and give him an ETA which ultimately was pretty much useless......then we jumped back on the bike and headed out towards Clarksburg on the freeway at a cruising speed of 80mph.
We made good time getting to Clarksburg, but then the civilized world of multiple lane highways came to a screeching halt. East of Clarksburg, until we got to Winchester Va. the road was two lane, twisty and either up or down hill, generally 9° or better with truck run-offs every couple miles. As we passed thru the Clarksburg area lights started to come on as the sun (Ha...what sun!) sank down below the hills. Again, the irony here is I am about to ride on roads that I've wanted to ride on, on a bike, for years and now it's gonna be not only cold and wet, but dark as dark can be..............We headed on East thru the darkness and occasional wetness, thru towns with names like Pruntytown, Grafton and Aurora.
A moment of panic arose when we came down the side of the 200th (or so it seemed) 9° grade and saw a big Welcome to Maryland sign. My first thought was WTF?? Having not read my maps nearly as well as I should've I had forgotten that a piece of Maryland dips down into what probably should be West Virginia. After realizing that we were still on course, albeit way behind schedule, the panic subsided and we kept arollin' on east on US-50.

We made a fuel stop somewhere up in the hills. Lord knows where....I sure don't remember. By now it's close to 10pm and we're both tired, damp, chilled and pretty much ready to get the hell off the bike for the day. The store we stopped at was a classic joint, every inch of the walls were covered with artifacts and there were shelves of things that, had I not been on auto pilot at that point, would of no doubt found their way into the backpack. Because we were on a mission from God at that point though.....I simply paid for the gas and got back on the bike. We continued on East, holding onto the hope that Winchester was just over the next mountain and down the next 9° grade.

It was close to 11pm when we met up with Route 220. I just "knew" we were close to Winchester so we pulled off the road to make a call to David. Not being a nightowl these days he wasn't too happy that we were keeping him up past his appointed time with the sandman, but said he'd wait up for us. So, we got back on the bike and with renewed enthusiasm, headed for Winchester. About a mile down the road though my enthusiasm took a direct blow when I read the road sign that said Winchester 40mi. Arrrrrgggg, I was thinking we were 4 or 5 miles out not 40! Damn. At that point I began to seriously consider the option of motel and bed and doing the last 60 miles to Front Royal and David's place first thing Saturday morning. I mentioned this idea to Chris who answered with a resounding "NO! we've come this far we have to go the rest of the way". Impressed with his tenacity at that point I became inspired again, twisted the gas and headed for Winchester, Front Royal and a house somewhere on the side of Massanutten mountain.

When we got to downtown Winchester I called David again and got some direction on how best to proceed from where we were to the bottom of his mountain. We headed for Front Royal and found our way thru the downtown area without too much trouble at all. Pretty impressive for a couple of guys that had been on a bike for about 18 hours at that point. When we got to South Main I turned left and we headed out to High Knob Rd. where David sat in his car, awaiting our arrival. the last 2 1/2 miles up the mountain to his house was some of the steepest road we'd been on all day, but we made it to his driveway, parked the bike and shut off the motor. We were home for the next couple days. I unpacked the bike and dropped everything in a pile on the floor. We sat up a while, shootin' the breeze until almost 3am then we all decided to give it up and call it a day.


Saturday morning arrived with sunshine and blue skies. I slept in until about 9am. David was already up when I got up and we shot the breeze a bit while Chris slept and I made some scrambled eggs for breakfast. We finally rousted the boy about 10:30am or so and not long after that we headed out of the house, down the mountain and into town to do some touristy stuff. We paid a visit to the Visitors Center, where I got right with the program and bought myself a couple of cool T-shirts. We strolled thru the couple blocks of downtown that comprised the foundation of Front Royal and then, as it was already lunch time, stopped in at a small, jamaican style restaurant for sustanence.

After lunch we headed out to the countryside to check out a Bluegrass festival that David had told us about previously. After some searching and a stop for directions we found the locale where the festival was to be and also found out that it was on Sunday, not Saturday, which ultimately worked out better all around. We bought our tickets for the show and then David took us on a cruise around the area for awhile. It was a beautiful warm afternoon and the scenic vistas around almost every turn were awesome. Even though we've been out there on vacation a half dozen times I never tire of the mountain views in every direction. It makes me wonder if the stork didn't screw up and drop me off in the wrong state.......it was mid afternoon by the time we got back to David's place. We hung out for awhile, took it easy, David and Chris played some pool for awhile, while I watched the Tom Petty DVD on the BIG screen TV.

When we decided it was time for supper David took us to what turned out to be a very good Mexican restaurant called "Jelisco" or something fairly close to that. After stuffing myself with Enchilada's and chips we stopped by a small roadside Ice cream joint and then headed back for the Parker Homestead for the rest of the evening. David and Chris went to play more pool, a game I find tedious at best, while I rewatched, in it's entirety this time, the Tom Petty, Live at the Olympic DVD. Later on David gave Chris more guitar lessons and eventually everyone, but me, wandered off to bed. I stayed up for a couple hours writing down bits and pieces for this blog that I sent to myself at home for later processing.


Sunday was an even better weather day than Saturday had been....if that was possible. Just a short ways down the road from David's place was a great little restaurant called the Apple Barn or something like that where we stopped for breakfast. After breakfast we headed East about 40 miles from Front Royal to visit the civil war battlefield and park, Manassas, or Bull Run, depending on what side you're on. Not more than two minutes after we walked in the door of the visitors complex there was an announcement that a 1 hour guided tour was starting to form out back so without missing a beat we headed for the back so we could be part of the tour. The young man who gave the tour seemed to know his stuff and made it an interesting hour. Among the many things I didn't know about Manassas before the tour was that the first civilian casualty of the war happened there. An old invalid woman by the name of Judith Henry, who lived in the house on the hill, was inside and unable to get out when the battle started. Unbeknownst to both sides, she was caught in the crossfire and discovered after the battle was over. Manassas was also where Jackson received his famous nickname, Stonewall Jackson, for the way he sat on his horse and never moved as the battle raged around him. I shot some pics along the tour and then, after the tour, the 3 of us headed down the hill from the Visitor's Center, to the Stone House, a house that was used as the hospital during the battle. We hung out there for a bit, I shot some pics and then we made the return hike back to the Visitor's Center. We spent awhile in the gift shop checking stuff out, but I ended up being cheap and not buying anything, even though there were a couple books that looked interesting. After going thru the rest of the Visitors Center and checking out all the displays we decided it was time to head on back towards Front Royal and the Berryville Bluegrass Festival we'd bought tickets to the day before.

We got to the festival grounds about 2:30 and things were already underway. We showed our tickets to the man at the gate and headed down the hill to the bandstand. The crowd was on the small side, but that was fine with me. The band that was playing when we arrived was called "All 4 Hym". As the name implies they were pretty much a one topic band. The music was fine, but after a half dozen tunes that all said pretty much the same thing it wore a bit thin so we decided to head back up the hill to the store / restaurant for some eats. We picked out a table and sat down. Sitting next to me at the next table was a little lady, probably about my mothers age, who was there by herself. We struck up a conversation effortlessly and for about a half hour discussed world war II, our current, wannabe King, president and a half dozen other topics. It was one of those strange things, like meeting an old friend for the first time. She'd drove out from New Jersey by herself, husband had died some time before and she wasn't the kind to sit around and rust. When our food arrived at the table it put an end to the conversation, but after we were done eating and getting up to leave, I made a point of saying goodbye to her and thanking her for the conversation. In retrospect I should've asked if I could take her picture, but I didn't act on the thought at the time. My mistake.

We headed back down to the stage area after eating and there was a different band on stage and they were markedly of a higher quality. The name of this band was Crooked Creek. They were comprised of of members of two other bands that just got togther for the fun of it. They were good. I recorded one of their tunes with my camera, like I did with the first band, but the tune I recorded didn't feature the awesome voice of their lead singer, a petite little lady on the string bass. For the next hour and a half or so they played and I listened. I left David and Chris back in the crowd and went right up front and plopped myself down in the grass to get the full effect of high quaility acoustic music. Sometime later Chris came up and said that David was ready to leave so I reluctantly got up and we headed for the car. We headed back to the Parker residence and David fired up the grill and cooked up several different meats for a home cooked meal. We had a good dinner and hung around the house as the sun went down and day two of our two day stay came to an end. We spent the evening playing some pool and later on spent some time watching the Coca Cola 600 on the big screen tv, which was a treat. When it got late enough to justify going to sleep I just laid back on the couch, closed my eyes and went off to dreamland.


Morning arrived too early and found me the first one up and around. I killed some time getting things together before putting on some music to roust the other two from their slumbers. Once everyone was up and on their feet we jumped into the car and headed down the mountain and into town for breakfast. I don't recall the name of the joint at this particular moment but the food was good. After the meal we headed to the downtown area and at David's suggestion paid a visit to Stokes General Store. A very cool place. We spent a while there, checking out all the neat stuff. As it was I dropped a bit over a 100 bucks while we were there......bought myself a nice leather vest that I've been wanting for awhile now. I also bought a real nice jacket for Wanda for those cool evenings around the campsite. I also bought a couple T-shirts and a half dozen handkerchiefs in colors I'd never seen available before. After I paid for my plunder we headed out, back to the house.

The time had come to pack the bike and head out of town. It was about 11am by the time we were ready to go. I had Chris ride with David down to the bottom of the mountain so I could negotiate the switchbacks and steep grades without worrying about dropping the bike with him on it. When we got to the bottom we said our goodbyes, had David take a pic of us on the bike and after another round of thanks for the good time we put the bike in gear and headed down the road, into Front Royal and to the entrance to Skyline Drive.

The plan, rather than head straight for home, was to spend Memorial Day wandering our way across the mountains after a short 30 mile stint on Skyline Drive. Afer paying the entrance fee we started heading up the mountain to elavations of around 3,000 feet. We stopped at several of the overlooks during our time on top the moutains and I got a handful of pics that do a poor job of recording the grand scale of the views available around every turn. The 30 miles went by quickly and we decided before dropping down off the crest of the mountains to get lunch at Thorton's Gap and hit the visitor center there. I bought shirts for me and Chris and then we ordered lunch. Once we were done dining we got back on the bike and headed down route 211, towards Luray and New Market. At New Market we made another stop, this time for Ice cream. While we were there a couple on their bike pulled up and after a moment to let it soak in we realized that this was no ordinary bike. It was powered by a Chevy V8 motor. I took some pics of the bike but for some reason the camera didn't do it's job so all I have is the one close-up still. I do have a short movie of him firing it up and taking off though and as soon as I figure out how to put that up online I will.........

After the ice cream break we got back on and headed for the highway and went South again to Harrisonburg Va. The road from Harrisonburg, up, over and thru the George Washington National Forest and out to Franklin Wv was a gas. Smooth, good riding roads with plenty of switchbacks and scenic vistas galore. Eventually we got to Route 220 and started heading North. Our route was less than direct towards home, but I wanted to see some of the countryside that we didn't get to see on the way out. Route 220 was a real nice road too, winding along side a river that I can't seem to find on the map....we cruised along at a good clip for awhile and then, I believe it was in Petersburg, we decided to stop, take a break, drink a pop at a gas station that ended up being closed on the holiday, but we took a break there nevertheless. While we were just sitting there, taking it easy, a mini van pulled up with an older couple in it and wanted to talk. Turns out it was their boy's gas station and they were just checkin' to make sure we weren't going to rob the joint. Once they realized we were safe they were up for shooting the breeze and so for about the next 20 minutes we chatted about all kinds of stuff, including the fact that they'd just lost a grandchild two weeks prior in a motorcycle accident. So, when it was time for us to go they said goodbye and admonished us to be real careful on the bike so we'd get home safely.

From Petersburg we headed kinda North.....as straight a line as you can go in, in mountain country and when we got to Moorefield we decided to stop at McDonalds for the drink we didn't get earlier along with some fries and a couple cookies. After the snack we made it the rest of the way up 220 to US-50 and turned left. Now we were back on road we'd taken on the way out. It was getting late in the day and we were wanting to get somewhere to call home for the night. We picked up the pace as we headed West on 50 and zoomed along up and down the hills until we got to Mt. Storm. We decided then it was time for a stretch break so I pulled in by the firebarn and parked. It was during the break that I decided we'd shoot for Grafton WV for the night. The sun was starting to sink behind the hills and we had a good hour of daylight left. We were going to end up riding in the dark for awhile to get to Grafton.

We left Mt. Storm and picked up the pace to get to Grafton. We got as far as the Maryland, West Virginia border, coming back into WV and stopped for gas. It was mostly dark by the time we got back on the road again and we moved along as quick as we could until the lights of Grafton shone upon us. It only took a couple of minutes to decide where to spend the night. We checked in, found our room and unpacked the bike. We were home for the night. It was 10pm by then and the next order of business was to find somewhere open where we could eat a late dinner, on a National holiday no less. The good ole boy behind the desk told us about "Jerry's" down and around and over there so we went looking for it and weren't having much luck until we saw a couple guys sitting at the firestation and stopped to ask them for a second round of directions. We were only a block or two away at that point so we got there with no more problems. Given that it was 10:30pm now we had Jerry's pretty much all to ourselves. We ordered chow and between the long day on the bike and the fact that we were hungry the food tasted great. We cleaned our plates in short order, paid the bill and headed back to the motel. I took a shower and flopped down on the bed to watch a bit of tv before the lights went out and day 5 was history.


Day 6 started early. I went to sleep earlier than usual so I woke up before the 6am wake up call. I fiddled around a bit getting things together and then when we got the wake up call I started packing the bike and trying to wake the kid up so we could go get breakfast at Jerry's. It was an absolutely beautiful morning and as we rode over to Jerry's the sun shown down on the mountain sides giving them a gorgeous hazy glow. The night before, in our search for Jerry's we'd stumbled in to the Grafton Historical district and so after a big breakfast of eggs, hashbrowns and toast we cruised back down thru the old areas of downtown. We'd noticed a music store with cool stuff in the windows the night before so we stopped there first, but they weren't open yet and there was no sign on the door that said when they would be so we gave that up and rode up and down the streets for a bit. It was a hard decision to make....I could've easily stayed around there for a couple hours, shooting pics of all the cool things I was seeing, but the reality of the situation was that we needed to get home today and after my poor attempts at time management on the way out I wanted to leave myself a bit more leeway for the ride home. So, I shot some quick and sloppy stuff and then we pointed the bike West and gave the throttle a healthy twist.

We took the last bit of "fun" road into Clarksburg at a decent pace but once we got to the freeway I put the hammer down (That's trucker talk for go fast) and we hauled it across the remaining miles of West Virginia. A stop in Ellenboro for fuel was the last stop we made in West Virginia. It wasn't long afterwards that we saw the Welcome to Ohio signs as we crossed the Ohio River into Ohio.........We kept right on going now, taking 50 up to 33 and heading for Columbus. I don't recall what town it was for sure but I think it was Athens Oh., where we made our next stop, at a Dairy Queen no less. They'd just opened up for lunch so we got shakes and sandwiches. After the early lunch we got down to heading North again and as we came into Columbus I decided this time we'd take the by-pass. In retrospect I'm not sure it was any quicker than going thru downtown. We made a short stop on the other side of Columbus for bathroom breaks at the local McDonalds and then got on 33 North and started ripping off the miles.

It was mid-afternoon when we took our next break. Again, not sure exactly where we were, but we had to be close to Wapakoneta. It was a warm day and I was having trouble keeping my eyes open so we pulled off the highway and just down the road a 1/4 mile was a church with some inviting looking shade trees. We pulled in there, shut the bike down and took most of an hour to kick back and rest up. We'd called home to check in on an earlier stop and found out about heavy thunderstorms that were between us and home and as we sat under the shade trees and looked around we noticed that the clouds to the North were indeed piling up way high in the sky. Realizing that we were a couple hours behind schedule again we pulled ourselves away from our grassy bed, fired up the bike and headed back onto the highway.

Somewhere between the Indiana state line and Fort Wayne the rain caught up to us, or us to it......either way it started to rain pretty good and not having had the good sense to put on the rain gear before it started to rain it was necessary to pull over, under an overpass and get out of the rain for a bit. It wasn't so much the rain that prompted the overpass hideout as it was the lightning. We're talking a good storm here with lots of flashes and booms, all around us so we just hung out for awhile rather than get out there on the open road and pretend not to be a lightning rod. We sat under the bridge for about a half hour, getting further behind schedule and waving at truckers who blew their air horns as they flew by.........somewhat Ironically, one of my favorite pics of the whole trip was taken underneath that overpass. The one with the bike facing West with the sun shining down thru the storm clouds in rays with the wet road and highway fading off into the distance.

After the rain let up and the lightning subsided a bit we decided to get going. We passed thru Decatur again and took the bypass around Fort Wayne, where it started to dump buckets of rain on us again. So, once again we parked under an overpass and waited out the worst of it. Now looking at being home considerably past our original 6pm ETA, we got on the bike and rode in the rain. It wasn't too bad until we got North of Fort Wayne, out in the country where there were no overpasses and no where to hide and then the skies just opened up and it came down in buckets. I was slowed down to 35mph, which was even a bit fast for as good as I could see at that point and we were really getting beat up with the wind, thunder and lightning going full tilt again. For what seemed like a day but was probably only a half hour we rode in those conditions, hoping something was around the next bend to hide under. Finally we saw civilization and the sign welcoming us to Churubusco In. "Well thanks" I thought....."how about a towel for me and my little buddy?" We pulled into a quik-mart gas station, shut the bike off and headed inside. Much to my chagrine within two minutes, if that, of walking in the store, the rain stopped and the sun came out. Timing being everything I looked across the street from where we stood and saw a huge rainbow right over the top of the Churubusco Mickey D's. I found it funny that there were the golden arches and over top of the puny little yellow arches was a much more beautiful arch made they say by a higher power. I didn't realize it at the time, but that was to be the last picture taken on this trip.

We didn't stay in Churubusco long. With the sun out and the clock ticking we jumped back on the bike and headed North. As we got closer the the border things started looking bad again. There was a line of black clouds and streamers that stretched from West to East dead ahead. Fortunately by the time we got to where they were they'd moved on and all we got hit with was some light rain.

I remember seeing the Welcome to Michigan sign, but I don't recall a whole lot after. I was pretty much on auto pilot for that last hour and a half over roads I'd traveled many times before........We pulled into the driveway just a bit after 10pm and went inside to say Hi, we're home. Our arrival was somewhat anticlimatic because of the lateness of the hour, everyone was ready for bed, but it was nice to be back home again. I stayed up for awhile, winding down and going thru pictures until I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer. It'd been a whirlwind 6 days on the road. Total mileage was 1,722. The bike performed flawlessly and other than being wet to extremes I was never really uncomfortable on it. Now that this trip is history it's time to start planning the next one!