Friday, June 24, 2011
Imagining a Ride to the 2011 BMW International Rally in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania
Last Saturday morning I was on the road early, just before sunrise. Not early enough for my plan to ride to the Kutztown Family Diner to visit the MAC-PAC breakfasteers. The alarm went off shortly before 4am so I would have enough time to make the 175 mile trip and get to the diner by 8, but as luck would have it I cursed the alarm and slept for another hour and a half.
Riding at dawn is satisfying on many levels not the least of which being empty roads. The drunks are already home, in a ditch or in jail by this time and the crazy cagers aren't up yet. So with the road clear and some time to ride I decided to pay a visit to the Bloomsburg Fair Grounds -- the site of the upcoming BMW International Rally.
I stopped in Spring Mills hoping to grab something to eat having left home without breakfast. The Fairlawn Store wasn't open yet. No food, no bait.
Many years ago, before the Vespa, during a time when I was more serious about riding a bicycle, I appeared at this same store on a Sunday morning to buy some snacks and something to drink. A group of men were sitting on the front porch eying me balefully as I went into the store and made my purchases. I thought they might have been bothered by the black Spandex riding shorts and unusual riding shoes I had on until I looked down and realized I had one of my wife's shirts on -- a beautiful black t shirt with cute pink kitties on the front. From that time on I've become more careful of what I drape over my body.
Just east of Aaronsburg I came across the Amish equivalent of the abandoned car. A back wheel fell off the wagon and it ground to a halt. Instead of pulling the plates they just unhitched the horse and moved on.
One of the ugliest Amish wagons I've seen.
The road between State College and Lewisburg cuts through some beautiful farmland with great views of the countryside. Riding is a pleasure. This is PA Route 45 about a half mile west of Woodward, home of Camp Woodward, one of the biggest BMX, skateboarding, snowboarding and gymnastics camps in the East. ESPN is often here to televise events like X Games. Whatever that is.
The road promptly enters the 193 thousand acres of forest comprising the Bald Eagle State Forest. I was beginning to feel warm when the temperature descended to 59 degrees under the trees. This stretch of road often gives me the creeps though I'm not sure why. It passes a place called Hairy Johns Picnic Area. Seems Mr. Johns was accused of murdering his wife in the early 1800s -- she was found hanging on a meat hook in the cellar. I've not fully investigated the story but perhaps some of that energy is still floating around, enough for a sensitive Vespa rider to absorb.
It doesn't take long before you cross into Union County and the wide valleys leading through Hartleton, Mifflinburg and on to Lewisburg. If you come this way on Route 45 make sure you slow down in Hartleton. They have an ambitious speed trap running that I think funds their schools, water system and sewage plant. And an educational fund that sends all their kids to college and provides, room, board and a fast car.
I stopped for a gratuitous picture of the Vespa and a vanishing railroad track. I can't remember why but I think these kinds of pictures make it possible for someone to get out of bed and ride on an old motorcycle or something.
I'm always glad to help when I can.
Crossing the river at Catawissa takes you through some beautiful roads running along the creek with lush moss covered rock outcrops. If I had time I could stay here with the camera all day.
Arriving at the 2011 BMW International Rally site in Bloomsburg was anticlimactic. The place was dead and looked pretty ordinary in the hazy light. But add thousands of motorcycles and it will probably have a completely different feel.
For those of you thinking of going it runs from Thursday, July 21 through Sunday, July 24. And the ride from State College to Bloomsburg is an easy ride. Easy pretty much from anywhere in Pennsylvania. Or the United States.
I didn't linger. It was Father's Day and I wanted to get home and see if Kim got me a new motorcycle or something. And my daughter was going to take me out for tea and cookies. (That sounds kind of weird.) The scooter was running well and I headed back through some winding country roads until picking up US 11 in Danville.
An Apology to a Band of Harley Riders
I'm usually a rather quiet, sedate rider and keep to myself. But there are times when I find myself caught up in a surge of deviling energy. This was one of those mornings.
I was standing along the road shooting a picture of something when a group of about 15 Harley riders roared by on full dress motorcycles and a bunch of near-chopper type machines. Each without helmets and a general collection of gloveless hands, leather and t-shirts, the common fashion statements that one associates with this riding subculture.
I got back on the scooter and headed down the road in their direction. They weren't traveling very fast and after a few miles I joined the group, hanging back a couple car lengths as we all headed towards Northumberland.
And then a fascinating thing happened. The rider at the back of the pack saw me and began a series of hand gestures that were passed forward to the leader of the pack. In moments the pack sped up to put some distance between their mighty throng and my Vespa.
The devil whispered in my ear and I rolled on the throttle. The Harleys moved faster, 60, 65, 70, 75mph but I was still riding along as if I were a member of the group. They probably didn't know that another mile per hour of speed would have left me behind as I had reached the limit of the Vespa.
I have to apologize for intruding in their fantasy and possibly ruining their day. There are days when I can be a bit assholish. I have no business taunting anyone on the road regardless of how harmless I think it is.
They eventually slowed and turned into a parking lot of a breakfast establishment as I went by. Talking later with a Harley riding friend I suggested they were either talking about what a jerk that scooter rider was OR how fast that Vespa could go.
He assured me that it was the former.
Across the Susquehanna River and on towards home. Once the sun gets higher the temperature hovers near 80. For a moment a swim sounds like a good idea.
After a short break to look around the riverbank and make a few pictures I plot a route home including one more break for gas and a bite to eat. While sitting on the sidewalk in the shade of a trash can at the Sheetz in Mifflinburg a BMW R1200 GS rides up. I talk with the rider and he's planning to attend the rally in July. I ask if he's going to ride in the big GS event, ride over those log piles and through the water. He looks and me and smiles, looks over at the Vespa, grins, and tells me, "It's a new motorcycle."
We didn't say anything else, both nodding and doing that thing guys are so good at --- leaving a conversation with incomplete information. He headed east and I west towards a nap.
Five miles from home I stop to make a picture of the round barn near Centre Hall, one of the few left anywhere. I heard a Harley coming towards me and wondered if I could fit it into the frame as it went by. By dumb luck everything fit. It's a challenge to do considering the shutter lag on a point and shoot camera.
Home, a nap, tea and cookies, and lounging around like a lazy bum with Kim's complete approval. Ah if Father's Day couldn't come twice a week every week. Junior on the other hand was not pleased that I left early without his usual four mile walk. He was at me every moment trying to get some action. Or at least a portrait for his website. So he and I strolled out to the garden and I made this picture.
While he was nosing around for chipmunks I raced into the house and leaped onto the couch with him hot on my tail. If he could talk I'm sure he would have said something like, "You're one lazy bastard."
And that's a good thing.