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.


Jack Riepe said...

Dear Scooter In The Sticks (Steve):

This was a great blog episode, and I loved the Harley group ride. You know, most of these guys really don't mind, but some of the hard-core riders take it to heart. I got on the tail-end of some serious HD riders, about 60 of them, and they wanted no part of me. I can understand that. Club rides can be special, and just for the group.

So I just waved and rode past them, doing 100 plus mile per hour. I was in a hurry, on my 18-year-old Beemer.

The pictures in the post were great, with the quality of mist. Bloomsburg is about 150 miles from here. How far a ride was it for you?

The Mac-Pac meet at the POTTSTOWN Family Diner, on PA Route 100, about a quarter mile north of its junction with PA Route 422. The diner is on the Northbound side of Route 1000, set back on a half assed access road. On Sunday, Father's Day, we had about 70 bikes in the parking lot.

You would have been my honored guest. Stiffie was in attendance too.

Steve, any time you want to buzz out this way, and maybe take a look at Strasburg, please drop me a line. Leslie is thrilled to have photographers drop by.

I am firmimg up my plans for Bloomsburg. I'd be delighted to reserve you a seat in the front row at my presentation, and invite you as my guest for dinner on Friday, at a Mac-Pac affair. Nikos and his wife will be there too, and I'd like to have them attend as well. Otherwise, we could try and get reservations at a local restaurant, but that will take some fancy tap dancing with the expected crowd.

Fondest regards,
Twisted Roads

hrw115 said...

Tea and cookies sound weird to you? Let me tell you something buddy, the only food pictures on this blog that out number the pictures of tea and cookies are the ones of bacon and eggs. :P

Conchscooter said...

The worst thing about using the Vespa for a commute instead of the bonneville is dealing with other road users' low expectations when they see a moped on the road. It drives me nuts dealing with their egos when all I want is to enjoy the ride, perhaps even passing them.

SpannerX said...

Excellent post, Steve, and the pictures are amazing as ever. Currently I should be writing Ship in the Dry dock. :)

Charlie6 said...

Steve, I echo the others in saying what a great posting this was; great pics, good humor points about the wife's shirt and the HD pack (what a bunch of hosers), informative re the rally, and overall great commentary.

Lets hope the picture of the train tracks motivate "he who shall be hinted at" to ride today.


PS: as to your attire that time when on a bicycle...could have been worse, you could have changed out from your biking shoes into pink crocs! : )

Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

Orange Libraries said...

Great post! I really appreciate the effort you put into the writing and the photos for your blog. It makes me feel like I've been on the ride, too.

Todd R. Tystad said...

What a great post. I loved every bit of it, especially your rogue intrusion on the Harley pack. Awesome story. Keep up the great work... I can't wait to see what's next.

Steve Williams said...

Dear Mr. Riepe: Thank you for the kind words about the post. I'm not sure how it is for others, but when I begin I don't know where the story will lead.

Had it been possible to ride past the HD group on the Vespa I'm certain I would have done it that morning.

My route to Bloomsburg was about 80 miles. A nice ride. I plan to be at your talk under the bleachers.

My friend Dan Leri got agitated when I said I had almost done a spur of the moment Mac-PAC trip. He wants to come too. And he already rides a BMW. And Pottstown is even closer!

One of these days...

Steve Williams said...

Hrw115: I'm not dissing tea and cookies. It just sound weird when I wrote it.

Conchscooter: Thankfully my negative Vespa interactions on the road are uncommon. Most of the time my riding enjoyment is uninterrupted.

Steve Williams said...

SpannerX: thank you for the supportive words about the post and photos. Some days the light is great and hard to make a bad photo!

So, why's your machine in dry dock?

Steve Williams said...

Charlie6: First, no pink Crocs. Ever.

Are you coming to Bloomsburg to see all the BMWs?

Steve Williams said...

Orange Libraries: Thanks for the kind words. I'm glad that there is something useful or entertaining in my posts.

The fact that the post makes you feel part of the ride is nice to hear. Thanks!

Steve Williams said...

Todd R. Tystad: Thank you for the words of encouragement.

I visited your blog and I have to say the next post I'm working on is in the same vein as your most recent post !

Thanks for visiting.

Charlie6 said...

Steve, thanks for the affirmation re the pink crocs....

As to Bloomburg, if I'd the vacation time, I'd go just to hear Mr Riepe hold his audience in a trance (is sleep a trance state?).

My meager vacation time that I do have, will be used to go instead with the family to Glacier National Park in Montana this coming month.

I hope they have the "Going to the Sun" Highway open by then. Last report showed it covered in at least ten feet of snow I think.


Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

Mike Saunders said...

more on Hairy John

bobskoot said...


I'm now deflated . . . what NO PINK crocs ? Didn't you know that Pink is the new Black ?

Riding the Wet Coast

Schnarpsel said...

Ah - Thanks for another mini mind-vacation... If I could only ride those roads, too. Not to mention the 59 degrees which REALLY stirred my envy here in TX.

Steve Williams said...

Charlie6: I think the Highway to the Sun trumps the rally regardless of how you look at things. An excellent expenditure of your meager vacation time.

I plan to pay close attention to Dr. Riepe's lecture on blogging and fully expect that a few days afterward I will have tens of thousands of daily visitors, unexpected income from blogging that will cover the cost of a BMW motorcycle, and earn the respect and admiration of riders everywhere.

I'll post my notes so you can benefit as well.

Charlie6 said...


you Sir, are too kind.


Steve Williams said...

Mike Saunders: Thanks for the link to more Hairy Johns stories and information. Now I have no reason to not be more educated.

bobskoot: Pink is only the new black in the Pacific Northwest. In the East, it remains the exclusive color territory of Mary Kay Cosmetics and bad color choices for 80s bars.

Steve Williams said...

Schnarpsel: Texas weather would be hard to take this time of year.

Glad you find some relief in the Vespa adventures I share.

irondad said...

You evil asshole trouble maker! I knew there was a reason I liked you.

Forget the pink crocs. You need a small vase just under the bars. Kind of like the VW Bugs. Then put a flower in it. Forget following the Harleys, too. Grab the element of surprise and pass them before they know what hit them.

Be sure to point at the flower as you go by.

Steve Williams said...

irondad: Evil Asshole Troublemaker.... I kind of like the sound of that.

Everyone needs a myth.

I'll look into the flowers.