Day 3 – Groovin’

Day 3 – Thursday, May 30
Early morn 56 & foggy, warm breezy morning, afternoon sunny & 89
Whitney Lake to Watkins Glen, New York

Awoke to thick fog after a damp, but not unpleasant night. Many thanks to my host Ron for a level place to set my tent. My down sleeping bag had become a camping bag desiccant. All the rainstorms yesterday were absorbed in it. Although the air was hot, evening rainstorms did not allow me time to dry it out. Nevertheless, I managed a comfortable night’s sleep.

Breakfast and internet was provided by the Country Kitchen on the Catskill Turnpike, also known as Route 11, just across the street from the Whitney Lake Middle School. You can’t miss it. Besides being an unlikely place with free wifi, the Country Kitchen has a great claim to fame, they have the least expensive two-eggs, toast, & home fries in the USA, $2.85. Coffee is 90¢. A scampers delight.

I sat sipping coffee and plotting my route to the day’s destination, Watkins Glen, New York. There is one state highway arching its way up through Utica and down to The Glen, Highway 79. It is 54 miles. Not a long day. However, I plan to zig and zag on county roads between the two points. So I spend an inordinate amount of time zooming in and out on my map looking for road names and designations: High Street here, Hill Road there, County Road 89 further on. I decide on the optimal combination and jot them down in my shirt-pocket notebook. This system depends on a great deal of memory and faith.

I am now in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. On a typical road map you might think this region is flat. Nothing could be further from the truth. The ice age did an interesting number on the geology here. Land between lakes is steep, gouged, and rugged. The flat calm lakes belie greater depths. Secondary county roads through this area zig and zag in long unbroken lines. Think W-shaped travel.

Fifteen minutes out of the Country Kitchen I made my second turn as my notes indicated. There were road and street signs. Thank you New York. Then came an unexpected T intersection. My first of very many choices to be made this day. My notes were now, as the British say, made redundant. Given the blue sky and sunshine, I didn’t care. Rolling through rural upstate New York is a delight.

I rolled along back roads drifting westward without going too far north or south. If I went too far north I would run into Route 79 or Utica. That would be obvious. What I wasn’t sure about was drifting too far south. The only boundary would be Pennsylvania. Although I was technically lost all morning, I wasn’t lost at all.

There are fewer farms in this area. Where I saw tilled soil I saw fields filled with rocks. Not the large border fencing rocks of New England, but softball and football sized rocks evenly distributed through the field. There are great forests here too. At times I would be out in blazing sunshine and a few moments later plunged into a shadowy forest where the rains do not easily evaporate.

I stopped and spoke with convenience store clerks, town maintenance workers, a postal delivery person, and one fellow taking a break from mowing his large yard. They all had suggestions and observations about ways to get to Watkins Glen. Most had 10 or 12 points of reference and things to watch out for along the way. My mind can only remember two. I made Watkins Glen by mid-afternoon. A 54 mile drive that I made in 106. The joy of scamping.

In Watkins Glenn I headed for the State Park Campground and checked in for two days. I will explore The Glen and the Racetrack, take several hot showers, do a laundry, and pick up a few items I need. Life will be good. Until it isn’t.

After loading my wet sleeping bag into a dryer and starting a load of laundry, I was driving to a sporting goods store when Ruby’s motor stopped running. I coasted into a parking lot. The engine would turn over, but not fire. A terrible feeling filled me. I catastrophize things easily. Life as I know it was over.

The streets in Watkins Glen are in bad shape. They are very bumpy, filled with holes and railroad tracks. I was bouncing and banging along when the engine cut out. I decided the spark plug connector had come off. I jumped into action pulling tools out from under the seat, unscrewing the front plate that hides the engine. There was the spark plug connector, still in place. I pushed on it just to make sure. It felt to me as it usually does (I changed the spark plug a few days ago.) I tried the engine again. It fired right up! Happily I replaced all the parts and screws, reloaded the tools under the seat and got ready to go on my way. This time it did not start. Out came everything again. This time I disassembled the seat and top of the bike to expose the engine. It was swelteringly hot. I reseated the spark plug connector and traced it back into the engine where it connected with other mysterious wires and connectors. I made sure each of these was secure. The engine fired right up. I had to shut it off to reassemble everything. This took time. I sweated. With everything reassembled I turned the key and pressed the start switch. It fired right up.

I finished my errands and laundry and headed back to the soothing woods of Watkins Glen State Park. This long winded entry was written in the Watkins Glenn Dunkin’ Donuts, open 24 hours a day with free wifi. This is why I’ve joked with some motorcyclist friends that my treks are Adventure-Lite.

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Day 2 – Post Script

High of 79 degrees, breezy, thunderstorms punctuated by sun
161.4 miles

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Flash ahead 10 hours. I am camped in a farmer’s field in the town of Whitney Point, New York next to its namesake lake. The day has been wet and in a way wonderful. At about 9 am the rain stopped and though the sky was still a solid gray that would keep the most tenacious indoors, I decided it was brighter and therefore becoming more rider friendly. With words of encouragement and multitudinous directions, “Bear right at Mike’s Tavern. It will be closed. You’ll see the grey barn, you can’t miss it,” I suited up driving into the gray, barn or no barn. I was hoping to stumble upon a lock on the Erie Canal. A photo op. The canal runs along the Tomahawk River. I crossed the river in a downpour. Staying upright and avoiding potholes was my main focus. No canal this trip.

What this day held was fierce weather in farmer’s fields. Follow any county road in New York State and you are confronted with endless farms of the English and Amish. Cows need milking, grain needs cutting, new furrows must be laid. Farmers of all social persuasions are out in force every day. This rainy day is no exception. I ride over long inclines into broad valleys dotted with silos and barns framed by dark clouds and softened by wet haze. Here are the mechanized English, there, the horse drawn Amish. Each farmer waves as I pass at a robust 25 miles per hour. The Right Speed for agrarian New York county roads.

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I said in an earlier post I did not hit my groove or stride or some such on the first day. Today was not my stride, but my introduction to the living vibrancy that is America. It was humbling. Today it rained, it poured, it cleared, and it rained again. Baptism? I have to ask.

Lastly, my down sleeping bag was a water absorber for the camping bag. It was saturated. Intermittent thunderstorms and gray skies did not allow time for natural drying. So my second night on the road was a damp one, not completely uncomfortable, all a part of scamping.

20130531-084023.jpgphoto by Ron Keibel

Day 2 – Early

Day 2 – Wednesday, May 29
56 degrees pouring rain

Broke camp in a dry spell between downpours. Thought I was home free. Went to a McDonalds for internet connection and breakfast. While having a pleasant time talking to folks, drinking coffee, and trying to figure out how to get reasonable sized photos loaded into my journal, the rain picked up. Not quite Biblical proportions, but I thought about using the phrase. The forecast for here and where I want to go says rain with intermittent thunderstorms. That’s wet with more wet.

A plan might be to sit here and pray for divine (positive) intervention or suit up, drive down to the Erie Canal, throw myself in–no scratch that–find a cheap motel and hole up for a day.

Ruby and gear are sitting in a low spot in the parking lot. Water is flowing up to her rims. You can see from photos that I use soft-sided bags. They fall into the category of water resistant, not waterproof. Inside the yellow bags I have everything encased in plastic garbage bags. The blue bag has a thicker rubber-ish lining that does a good job of keeping water out. Inside it is all my camping gear. These items are in their own bags and only feel slightly moist after a deluge like this. Of course, trying to set up a tent and go to sleep in a slightly moist environment is not optimal.

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Beginnings

Day 1 – Tuesday, May 28
High 60s low 70s overcast & breezy
Starting odometer 9,112.1
Start time 11:15 am
End time ± 7:30
Ending odometer: 9,283.8
Distance = 171.7 miles
MPG ± 72.2

Early mornings errands & tying up loose ends. Designed an escape route through central Vermont to Lake Catherine, then west into New York State south of Lake George into the southern Adirondack. Near Roundtop Mountain Ski Area the road turned into a track popular with snowmobilers in the winter. Here was my first change of plans.

I headed south on route 100 to route 11 past Bromley Ski Area into Manchester Center, Vermont. Paused for internet service at the noisiest McDonalds on the planet. The beeps, whirs, and shrill pitches were debilitating for patrons and staff alike. Where’s OSHA when you need them?

South on 7A to Arlington, VT then west on 313, 372, & 29 to Saratoga, New York. Some highway traffic late as it became colder and my muscles stiffened. 6:30 pm in Gloversville, NY dinner at large family pizzeria. Don’t order the eggplant parmesan grinder. It’s frozen, thawed, & gooey. My night’s camp was at the base of a graveyard southwest of Johnston NY. It rained steadily during the night. I was dry & warm.

Ruby @ Calvin Coolidge's General Store

Overall: The warm morning turned cool. Glad I had extra jacket. Felt good on back roads. Some highways in NY were busy. Ruby does not have any extra kick at the top end. 55 is the max under good conditions. She also seems to be gulping gas.

Good to be on the road. Haven’t hit a groove yet, but hey, it’s the first day. The people I spoke with along the way were all nice. I picked up my first sticker – VT – in Weston. I hope to add many more. Onward.
Guardians of Campers

Ruby

How Far?

– Bob Dylan & Sam Shepard, Brownsville Girl

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20130517-070725.jpg Ruby (With a Sigh) is a 2008 CF Moto E-Charm, 150cc scooter. It is liquid cooled with 16” wheels and motorcycle tires. This is the make and model I previously owned, but two years newer. I bought it used with a little over 8,400 miles on the odometer.

I have about 400 test miles on it now and can say that Ruby is like a timid dog from the pound. A little slow to warm up but when she does she is an enthusiastic, fun companion. Despite some ragged cosmetics, she cleans up nicely and behaves well.

Ruby passed inspection yesterday. She’s a little arthritic in the joints. A seal in one of her shocks is leaking. Happily, her drive belt is clean and new like an Olympian’s heart. She has two new IRC 530 tires. I have yet to check the spark plug. When I do I am sure it will look fine. Secretly, I want it to be a little worn and need replacing. I am only getting 72 mpg and while that’s great, my old bike got 84. I hope a new iridium spark plug will increase the miles per gallon. Maybe Ruby will be happier with better dog chow.

A Pig In A Poke

Picking up my new (used) motorbike in Manchester, New Hampshire. Driving it back home. Thanks to Gracie Lou for the ride down. The day is perfect for riding, but since the bike is new to me, I’m a little apprehensive. It’s used. Has it been abused?

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Perfectly beautiful weather, leaves coming out, uncrowded roads. The bike ran well through the rolling hilly terrain of rural New Hampshire. Reached Hale’s garage in Enfield in about two hours. Toured back roads over to Hanover then down to West Lebanon for shopping. Finally home. Washed the bike. I rode about 100 very enjoyable miles. Filled the tank once in Enfield. Started an MPG log.

A phrase, long dormant from my youth, arose this morning, “A pig in a poke.” Sometimes you don’t know what you’re getting. However, a pig in a poke should never be confused with a cat in the hat.

What’s In a Name?

Why name the trip: L1616 Le Voyageur? I’ve always liked the French pronunciation of ‘The Traveler.’ Also, my bicycle trip across the United States 35 years ago was on a Schwinn Voyageur, so there is beauty and sentimental value. But what about that cryptic L-16-16? It’s my new license plate number. It feels infused with meaning while being completely random. I liked it immediately.

Why is this a ” scamping” adventure? Scamping = Scooter+camping.