I'd had an unusually rough year with all the work and pressures from both my publishing company, the magazine, and dealing with kids and needed a break to get my head back together. I sent the final version of the new issue of Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Magazine to the printer on May 15 and had until June 4th, when the kids got out of school for the summer, to get on the road, ride somewhere, and forget about all those pressures for a while. I'd never been to New England before, even by car, so in the end I decided that would be my destination. I'd had a fellow ADVRider forum "inmate" from Altoona, PA, camp out in my backyard for what turned out to be two months this past winter, so decided the route would take me by his place for a day or two to catch up.
The day after the magazine went to press, on the 16th about three in the morning, I took off. The first day took me up US 27 to US 301 in Ocala, then off through the Florida countryside to FL121 into Georgia. I followed familiar roads through east Georgia. 121 rejoined US 301then US 25 to Augusta. I skirted Augusta to the west, and entered South Carolina on GA 28 just north of the city.
I followed the eastern shore of the Savannah River, there known also as Strom Thurmond Lake. I stopped at a park on the lake to rest, have a snack, and do a little sketching. Then US 221 turned inland toward Lake Greenwood.
From there it was on to Waterloo, SC, and a fellow VJMC member, Bryan's, place on Lake Greenwood, where I was invited to stay the night. We took a ride on his pontoon boat and had dinner at a restaurant on the lake before heading back to call it a night.
The next morning I was up and out by about 7 am. (I generally aimed to be on the road each morning between 7 and 7:30). I headed east and north, first on SC 72 then 121 to US 176 and finally SC 211and 55 to US 321 into NC. NC 16, which looked like a reasonably straight run up to VA and on into WV. As I sped north I saw a sign for the “Back of the Dragon” and realized I was in for a twisty ride almost all the way to WV. I took US 19 toward Bluefield and north. I finally stopped to camp for the night at Camp Creek, WV.
In the morning I headed north through WV and then MD on US 219. In northern WV and MD (and later in PA) these appeared everywhere.
Before leaving MD I hopped on I68/US40 by mistake, having meant to jog east on US Alt40. Once finding the US 219 exit I ran north into PA. AT Berlin I turned off onto US 30 then north again on PA 96 at Schellsburg. Nearing Altoona I got onto Bus US 220 into town. At Altoona I met up with my friend Steve, who was putting me up for a couple nights. He took me around the rest of the day and the next, showing me Altoona. For lunch we went to Texas Hot Dog, an Altoona landmark since the 1910s. Back at Steve's that evening I was treated to grilled pork chops and, of course, beer.
The next day Steve got out one of his BMW GSs, and we went riding. We were in great riding territory within five minutes of his house. We rode up to the inclined railway, where canal boats used to be broken into three parts, loaded onto rail cars, and hauled over the Alleghenies to be deposited in a canal on the western side.
Steve's "garage" where he stores his two GSs and a dirt bike
I left Altoona after the second day, heading north staying on Bus US220 to PA 350 and PA 53. At Moshannon I got onto PA 144 for the run through Sproul State Forest. I continued east on PA 120 after the forest to Hyner, where I was going to take “Hyner's Run” over to PA 44. Hyner's Run was closed, however, so I continued on 120 to 664 back up to PA 44 South (heading southeast) and getting back on track to PA 973. I took 973 over to Loyalsockville where I switched to PA 87. At Russell Hill I took PA 92 to Gelatt, then eventually leaving the state on PA 370 in the PA's northeastern corner into NY and the Catskills.
A place I stopped to rest and take a short hike in Sproul State Forest
A train bridge spanning a creek and valley in eastern PA
Approaching the Catskills
When I had left Florida it had been in the 90s but now the temperature was falling. I arrived at Pleasant Valley Campground, on NY 30, and, upon pitching my tent, discovered my dry bag, containing my sleeping bag, pad, and knock-around-camp shoes, was missing. The straps were all still attached and tight, but the gear was gone. It was going to be about 40 degrees that night, and I did not look forward to sleeping on the ground in all my clothes in the tent on the ground.
I went back to the check-in station to ask if they had seen the bag, hoping maybe I had somehow kicked it off the bike when I had dismounted earlier. No; no one had seen it. The campground was almost empty that early in the season, so they offered me a mini-cabin at no extra charge.
I thanked them and went off to search for dinner, which I had at the restaurant at Beaver Del, an RV campground just up the road I had just come up, where I threw myself a pity-party and dined on a bleau-cheese burger, onion rings, and good locally brewed IPA. (Up to this time my on-the-road meals consisted of instant oatmeal or handfuls of peanuts.)
When I got back to camp, I found the cabin, and inside a blanket and pillow had been provided. When on the road I have found someone always steps up to help when a rider has had trouble and Pleasant Valley Campground did just that! I left them a note when I rolled out at 7 am the next morning thanking them for their generosity.
A river in the Adirondacks
You know you are in the North when....
I had headed north-northeast on NY 30 into the Adirondacks to NY8, then NY 22 north along the Hudson River and Lake Champlain.
On the way, I passed this pond dotted with beaver lodges—a scene from an L. L. Bean catalogue.
And surrounded by beautiful birch trees
As I approached the ferry at Essex, that I was going to use to cross Lake Champlain, I stopped for gas in Crown Point and asked if there was any way I could get on top of one of the western mountains to get some good shots of the lake below. I was sent up a few miles to Lang Road that runs up the mountain to Lang Cemetery, a good couple miles up a dirt and rock road, where I dismounted and walked up the short, boulder-strewn remainder to the top.
Parked up at Lang Cemetery
The view to the northeast with Vermont on the far side
The view to the southeast
Video of the ride back down (It is steeper than it appears in the video.)
Then it was across and on into Vermont and past scenes like this.
Then it was past the traffic-nonsense surrounding Burlington. I got turned around a bit, and, although I went in the general direction I had intended, I was not sure which roads I was on so I stopped in Fairfax, VT, just northeast of Burlington on VT 15, where I took a stop and a serious look at my map in a gas station parking lot. I saw a dual sport whiz by, and I waved and got a return wave. The next thing I knew the rider had turned around and rode into the lot. “You Mike?" he asked. It was Larry, who had gotten bored and had decided to take a little ride and see if he could find me on my way in. Mission accomplished!
I followed Larry across a bridge and down a gravel road to his place, where I met Loretta, his wife. Larry and Loretta are fellow ADVRider inmates and were found, again, via the Tent Space Sign Up thread. I was staying the night with them, although the only way they knew me was through a couple phone messages and ADVRider emails. Both are motorcycle instructors and avid moto-adventurers. Loretta was slated to be leaving soon for her own multi-week road trip. They were fantastic hosts. They fed me dinner and breakfast (pancakes with, what else? maple syrup!), provided me with a warm bed for the night, and were great company. Larry even supplied me with a sleeping bag and a dry bag to use for the rest of the trip. He went even further than that, but more about that later.
Larry outside his home in Vermont
Me, getting ready to move on toward Quebec.
The next morning it was on to Quebec and the St. Lawrence Seaway. I entered Canada at the post between Richford, VT, and Abercom, QC. Passage was easy, and, after the formalities, I chatted with the guards and did not get good news. “Supposed to get down to 0 C (32 F) tonight and is forecast to snow.” I told him, “That will make for interesting photos,” then headed into Canada. It turned out that day never did warm up and probably did not break 45 F all day. My plan was to avoid all major cities as much as possible, so I headed north to Granby, where I turned to the northeast and continued through the countryside on QC 139 then QC 116. I was getting a little too close for comfort to Quebec City so jumped southeast on 165 to 112 where I continued on my northeasterly ride. I didn't turn toward the St. Lawrence River until QC 204, well past Quebec City. At the coast I rode QC 132, mostly hugging the shoreline.
Tim Hortons is now my favorite place and its appearance just about everywhere saved my day, providing me with hot coffee to, first, warm my fingers around the cup, then thaw my insides that were beginning to freeze solid. My original goal was to make Rimouski that day. After fourteen hours in the saddle and freezing half to death, in spite of my T-shirt, thermal long sleeve shirt, cotton/wool two layer shirt, thermal jacket liner, rain jacket liner, and finally riding jacket, winter gloves, wool socks, thermal underpants, and Kevlar-lined riding pants, I decided to call it a day at Rivière-du-Loup. Now I can tent camp in the cold, and I can ride in the cold, but after all those hours I thought better about combining the two and wimped out for a motel room and hot meal in Riviere-du-Loup, just southwest of Rimouski.
On QC 132 heading northeast toward Rimouski, my originally planned evening stop.
The television weather forecast was for 0 C (32 F) and possible snow. Sure enough, on the TV the next morning in my room, snow was shown across northern Maine.
I continued on along the St. Lawrence and turned inland at Rimouski, as planned, heading south on QC 232 and southwest toward the Maine border. I turned onto QC 289 which turned to NB 120 (I was crossing a tiny corner of New Brunswick!) to Lac Baker (Fort Kent on the US side) and ME 11.
On my way I was freezing, so I was not happy when I saw wet spots appear on my sleeve. I thought, “Great! Not only am I going to be cold, but I am also going to be wet now!” But as I peered ahead into the falling moisture I noticed it did not fall straight down but, instead, floated down with a sort of weave from side to side. It had been a long time since I had seen that, but I now recognized it as snow! It only lasted a minute or two and instantly melted when it hit, but it had not been rain.
The countryside along QC 232, which went on forever, only passing through little villages once in a while.
US Customs was a bit of a PIA. The officer, apparently lacking for something to do on this lonely outpost, decided to inspect my entire kit. After given a clean bill of health I moved out onto ME 11 and points south. And it wasn't long before I stopped on the road where a couple other vehicles had paused and looked over to see a moose walking around a clearing on the right. I had also spotted a porcupine that day and later I saw another moose. Up here, too, there was still snow on the ground from last night's flurries scattered here and there in shadowy patches under the trees at higher altitudes.
Following 11 south, I passed near Mount Katahdin, the peak where Appalachian Trail through hikers end their long journeys that had begun so many miles away in the hills of North Georgia.
You know when you are in the heart of the Great North Woods when you see these all over the place.
I followed 11 south until Brownville, where I took a small road to join up with ME 16, which I would continue on toward the west.
So, here's where Larry helped me out again. Larry had grown up in north central Maine and his family still had a homestead there near a little town called Sangerville, just a few miles south of my route on 16. Larry told me how to find it and where the keys and the breakers for the lights and heat were and offered me the use of it for the night. He also told me to make sure I stopped by "Sally's" just before I got there and introduce myself to her and her sons with whom he had grown up. I talked to a farmer down the road (So much for the rumor than Mainers are standoffish; we talked for twenty minutes!) and he told me where Sally's was. (He was, in fact, related.) I pulled into Sally's and a man, who I soon learned was George, walked up and said, "You must be Mike on a bike!" Sally walked up behind him, and, before I knew it, I was swept into the house and fed a traditional Saturday night meal of homemade baked beans, with farm-made sausage and bread, followed up with rhubarb sauce over ice cream while the rest of the family came in. Warren lived with his mom, Sally, and her grandson, Chris, came in with his girlfriend, Kelsy—all North Woods Maine farmers. After dinner, Warren took me to the basement to see his bikes, among which were a KZ1000, CL175, Honda XL, and a Honda 500 four, among others. I was given a bed for the night and the next morning an omelette for breakfast. I can't say enough about these great folks who took me in without knowing me beyond a mention in a phone call from Larry.
Sally and her son, George
I continued on ME 16 toward New Hampshire and along this river.
Soon I was in NH. 16 ran west into the state then south past Mount Washington. I failed to mention earlier that it had been blowing stink ever since Quebec. It had been so strong it was often hard to control the bike when the gusts hit sideways. I arrived at Mount Washington, thinking the Auto Road to the top would surely be closed because of wind, as I had before heard often happens. Cars were queued up, surprisingly, and I asked the attendant about the wind. "It is just under the threshold that we stop vehicles from going up. You want to go?" "Hell, yes!"
The ride up was not for the feint of heart, and I'll admit it was a bit scary for me. You could only go very slow and not pass, and going very slow on a bike is one of the harder parts of riding. Often, traffic stopped completely to let a wider vehicle pass. The gravel worried me a bit, but I was glad I had ridden that path up to Lang Cemetery earlier and had tried out the dual sport tires already and had a good handle on riding the Bonnie on gravel.
From the top of Mount Washington, where the world's highest ever wind speed was recorded—235 mph! It was howling up here.
My bike is parked below and has the yellow dry bag on it.
I was a bit more worried about going down, but it turned out to be much easier and I finally found my way to the bottom and on Highway 16 again.
I had originally planned to detour to northern VT that day to stay with a high school friend of my wife's, Suzanne, and her husband, Ron, who lived in Newport, on the Canadian border. It turned out they had a camper parked down in Conway for the summer season and were there for the weekend, so that's where I headed. This turned out much better as it was on my way, anyway, and just down 16 a short distance.
I stayed in their camper, had fun catching up, and was fed steaks for dinner. I left early the next morning to take the Kankamagus Highway west, then US 3 paralleling I93 to NH 104 west, then US 4 into Vermont.
Green Mountains in Vermont
I had planned to head west in VT to the Hudson River and then ride south along it, but the thought of traffic made me change plans, so I headed south on a route my friend from Altoona had suggested (VT 100) to southern VT where I took VT 9 out of the state and into New York.
I aimed to work my way around Albany and shoot for the middle of the Catskills. I took US 4 toward Albany, but something went horribly wrong, and I ended up in Schenectady before I stopped and sat contemplating my less-than-detailed map. I don't know how I did it, but finally I found my way back to a highway I recognized (NY32) and headed toward the mountains again.
I was planning to stay with another fellow ADVRider and fan of my book in Goshen, NY, so I had meant to cut through the middle of the Catskills from northeast to southwest then jog over to Goshen, but because of my earlier "detours" it was getting late when I got into the mountains on NY 23. I turned onto NY 269 and was in the hills heading southwest. I jumped onto NY 214 with light fading. So, halfway through, I bailed and headed southeast on NY 28 toward Goshen and out of the Catskills. I had seen numerous deer and did not want to be caught out riding after dark up there. 28 took me to US 209 which backtracked a bit to the southwest but away from the Catskills, and I turned onto the major highway into Goshen, NY 17.
I entered Kevin's address into my GPS and went right to—the wrong house. Someone peeping out from behind a curtain beside a securely closed door said, “No, that's the right number, but there's no Kevin here. Could you mean Lower Reservoir Road?” By the time I arrived at Kevin and Amy's, it was after 11. Amy stayed home to work on a paper she had that was due by midnight, while Kevin took me out to a diner for some food. (Of course, he refused to let me pay!) By the time we left, the retaurant locked the doors behind us. I hit the shower early the next morning and Kevin, a motorcycle racer, by the way, led me out of town on one of his bikes, a Honda 400 Automatic. I was able to keep up, barely, then we shared a breakfast before he zoomed back for a meeting while I headed out toward Pennsylvania On US 209.
Kevin had got me well on my way and had worked out a nice route for me. I sped along 209 following the Delaware River for a while through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area.
US 209 connected with PA 443 that took me all the way west to Harrisburg, where I jogged around the city. On the far side I picked up PA 34 into Gettysburg.
Pennsylvania countryside and Poconos
My Dad has cousins who have a farm in Fairfield, adjacent to the Gettysburg battlefield, where I was going to stay the night. As I approached, I entered the address into the GPS and dutifully followed its directions. It led me here, to a water crossing on a gravel road across Middle Creek. And, yes, I went on through. It turned out to be about two foot deep but flowing briskly. The rocks were slippery, and I ended up plunging my boot in and riding with wet boots for the next couple days. I didn't get a photo that day, but went back the next morning to the same spot for this shot.
My dad's cousins, Bonnie and Bill, live in a very old farmhouse. There was a "summer kitchen" next to the main house that was probably built in the 1760s and was probably lived in while the big house was built. They also had an old traditional "bank barn." The oldest structure was a blacksmith shop across the road, built in 1757 and converted for use as Bonnie's office.
The house(s) and barn
The blacksmith shop
A better view of the barn, which was being re-pointed and in which my bike stayed the night
During the rest of the afternoon, Bill and Bonnie took me around town helping me research the area for a possible venue for a new Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club event there. After that, we went up town and had dinner in an old tavern. I had a stupendous burger with cheddar, onion rings, and, of all things, apples! (Of course, I was once again told to keep my money in my pocket!) Back at the farm, I hit the bed early looking forward to getting on the road again the next day. In the morning an omelette was waiting for me, courtesy of Bill.
I said my goodbyes and thank yous and headed south toward Front Royal, Virginia, and Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway. From Gettysburg I continued south on US 15. I ran through Harper's Ferry on US 340 which took me all the way in to Front Royal, where I hopped onto Skyline Drive and into the Shenandoah National Park. Doing Skyline Drive and the next section of the Blue Ridge Parkway would mean I had ridden by motorcycle the entire length of both.
Plein-air painters on Skyline Drive, Shenandoah Valley in the distance
I transitioned to the BRP and continued south until past Roanoke. Along the way I saw several big black snakes stretched across the road, apparently warming themselves on the tarmac. I stopped to look at one that was different and it turned out to be a large diamondback rattler with distinctive rattles.
Taking a break on an overlook
As the afternoon progressed and the forest shadows lengthened, I started looking for a campground, using the GPS for the task. It sent me off on a small side road to the southeast and, as usual, I followed. Runnett Bag Road ran down the mountain, quickly turning to gravel and becoming a twisting, steep grade descent to the valley. I rode the gravel for miles on what could aptly be described as a "Tail of the Dragon Without the Pavement"! Eventually, however, the tarmac returned and I continued on twisty roads until, sure enough, I found the promised campground, Deer Run Campground, on, what else?, Deer Run Road, near Ferrum, VA.
I pulled into my spot, adjacent to a fellow moto-traveler, Bill Clarke, who was a couple days out on a five week trip to the US Southwest on his GS. We had a lot to talk about and had both spent time the day before up in Gettysburg. It was great meeting up with another fellow rider.
Bill and his GS the next morning as we were packing up to head out
The next morning, I headed back up to the BRP and south until NC 80. I had ridden 80 before, and, once again, it proved to be a wild ride down out of the mountains, just east of Mt. Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi. I had been up on Mitchell before, so I felt no need to return and, instead, headed south to US 70 then west until Black Mountain where I picked up NC 9 for the run south past Chimney Rock and Lake Lure, now in familiar territory where I had ridden a few times before.
Just before the Linville Falls Viaduct on the BRP with Grandfather Mountain in the background
At the South Carolina border I took Landrum Road into South Carolina. From there I took SC 14 south to SC 11, also known as Cherokee Scenic Highway, then west until US 25 which I took south past Greenville. I turned left at US 76 to get on the east side of the lake, then Neely Ferry Road south toward Waterloo, where I got momentarily turned around and drenched in the only real downpour of the entire trip. I finally found US 221 and, this time, took it the right direction ending up at on the east side of Lake Greenwood for another stay at my friend Bryan's place.
In the morning, I headed back into Georgia on US 221 via the Strom Thurmond Dam and then south-southwest through Georgia until Douglas, where I switched to GA 135, then switching to GA 76 just south of crossing US 82. I continued on 76 toward GA 133, west of Valdosta, with an aim to see my old high school friend, Julie, for my final night's stay.
Strom Thurmond Dam
The following day, I headed east from Valdosta on 133 and ended up on Old Clyattville Road by accident. I jogged back east to US 41 then continued as I had planned south and into Florida. As usual, traffic was very light all the way to Dunellon, and at Floral City I got off 41 and cut east on CR 48 to Center Hill, then CR 469 to FL 50. I was in home territory now. At Groveland I turned right and sped south through the Green Swamp, left on Deen Still Road, right at CR 557 (Old Grade Road), and finally then onto Old Polk City Road to Haines City. A dash down US 27 (to avoid construction in Haines City on FL 17) took me to a left on CR 546 then a right on FL 17 south. 17 took me all the way home into Lake Wales.
After all that time on the road, as I parked my bike in the driveway after getting home, I dropped it! (No damage)
2011 Triumph Bonneville T100 outfitted with Pirelli Scorpion Trail dual sport tires, homemade bash plate, Scott Oiler, rear brake caliper relocated to top of swing arm, Magellan auto GPS (sometimes worked)
Temperatures ranged from 90 F to 32F
Total Mileage 5,142 miles
12 States and 2 Provinces
Fuel Cost $330
A huge thanks goes out to ADVRider, the great Tent Space Sign Up thread, and all those willing to offer a place for those of us on the road. This trip would have been much harder and much more expensive were it not for their kindness and generosity.
Route Maps (Approximate)