Tuesday, September 21, 2010

To Write or Not to Write

In an uncharacteristic move, I stepped away from the motorcycle over the weekend to attend the first meeting of the Monadnock Writers’ Group’s 26th season. It seemed timely as the back flared up again in twinges of pain at the slightest move, and I had a bushel of chores to deal with, which had grown and festered unattended since the last bit of snow melted from the drive last spring. It wasn’t easy let me tell you. Not only were there motorcycles everywhere to be seen, but they were traveling in miles long convoys.

I once witnessed above, the most glorious assembly of geese flying in formation. More geese than one could count, on the wing well into the heavens. They were so small and yet so immensely large by their sheer volume in numbers, that it stirred my soul. The faint and distant sound of their call raised the flesh on my arms and the back of my neck. Watching the motorcycle convoys pass was like that. All were intent on a destination only they knew. Yet, the muffled rumble of engines, the graceful way they leaned into the turn one behind the other in graceful formation brought to mind those geese of long ago.

As is my habit, the emotion turned to desire to express in the written word, not only that I saw a hundred motorcycles, but how it felt, inside my soul, and have you feel it too. I’m not always sure that my expression touches you, but that it feeds my desire to set the vision free is satisfying in itself. So imagine my shock, when in the course of dialog with our guest author, I heard the comment, “if you are blogging, you’re not writing.” While I was taken aback by this, I can also understand it from some points of view. I suppose if you are intent on your novel, blogging may seem a distraction. Then too, some people have a novel inside them. I have moments to precious to keep in a silk covered journal with a tiny lock.

I have to admit that I have met people who boldly told me they were riders too, only to discover they rode a 50cc scooter. I confess I did snicker behind my hand after they left. Maybe that is how novelists view us bloggers? We tell them “we write too!” They nod and smile and then snicker behind our backs. Well, I have learned a valuable lesson in all this. Who am I to say a scooter owner is not a true rider? They may be even more courageous than most! Those cars and trucks are terribly large and formidable not to mention FAST and any scooter that can survive those dangers deserves some credit.

So please forgive my boldness at describing myself a writer, but it will not keep me from expressing wellsprings of joy, heart wrenching grief or moments of wonder. Every day cannot be a novel, but every day is something to celebrate and write about.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

(Pat's Wild Ride)

I knew what I was getting myself into when I raised my hand to join EasyEd on a chase through some of Vermont’s most notorious twisties; or so I thought when Andy and I packed our bags and headed to Stowe Vermont to join the New England Riders at their annual Birthday Bash. It’s a cool ride up, but unlike last year, no rain dampens our clothing or spirits. For the most part too, it’s an uneventful ride except for the scattering of about 15 wild turkeys making for cover to every point on the compass as we come barreling around the bend. They all make it to safety although our hearts are probably racing as much as theirs.

My first surprise when arriving is seeing Kathy on a sports bike. Now Kathy started out on a vStar 650 as I did, but unlike me she soon graduated to the 1100. I would scratch my head in those days, looking at this petite woman handling this 1100 and think “if she can do that so can I.” It took me a bit longer, but I finally graduated to Blaze, my 1300 vStar. What a revelation that was in understanding just what a difference a few more cc can do for a person. Now, I’m looking at her and listening as she tells me how much easier and more fun the twisties are for her on this sports bike. As much as I enjoy Blaze, I feel a twinge of something I can’t quite define. I need to experience this feeling of total control in the tight turns she’s talking about. Jack is on a sports bike too. Wow, that is a big switch from a Goldwing.

Saturday, Andy and I head out to meet up with EasyEd. Ed’s left early to make up lost riding time from yesterday as he had to work unexpectedly. We make our way through Smugglers’ Notch, always a hair rising experience. The road is extremely narrow with tight turns and outcroppings of granite to obstruct your view. On this day, however, a few of the larger pickup trucks are actually stopped as we come around some of the outcroppings. Even they know there isn’t enough room for us and them. We meet up with Ed and the group in Cambridge and the junction of route 15 and Pleasant Valley Road. It’s then that the chase begins. Chase? Yes chase. Me, full throttle on my bagger trying my best to stay with this pack of sports tourers as they blast around Vermont.

With only a short breather at the end of Pleasant Valley, we blast our way along Trace Road through Jericoh. In Richmond, I’m regretting not wearing my camera around my neck, because I miss a fly by photo op of the round church, which Ed slows enough to point out. And so it goes through Huntington to Route 17 and the Appalachian Gap. Andy and I rode this a few weeks back with Lee and Deb. While Lee will take it hot all the way through, I’m happy at my own pace. Not too slow, yet civilized (in my opinion.) When I pop out the other end this day, I have a feeling the sports bike engines probably had enough time to cool while waiting. Good grief; and we’ve only just begun.

Fortunately for me, we are now on 100 heading south, and I can manage the pace. Ed stops us at the Warren Store for lunch. I’m glad for the break, but my relief is short lived when Ed proclaims with a grin like the Cheshire Cat that he has a treat in store for us coming up. Holy cow, I’m thinking, how will I get out of this with my pride intact? To make me feel even more inadequate, Andy is asking me questions on the radio. “Did you see this? Did you see that?” Like I have time to see anything but the next bend in the road! We leave 100 and head east on Bethel Mountain Road. Then pick up 107 to 110. A look at any map will show you there isn’t a straight line to anywhere along any of these routes. From 110 we connect with 302 which brings us to Ed’s surprise for us this day; newly paved 232, one seriously wrinkled ribbon of road. With the asphalt smooth as silk the sports bikes are off like a shot from a cannon, and I’m taking up the rear trying my best to keep pace. After a bit, I’m not even trying to keep up, but instead trying to preserve the aforementioned dignity. Halfway through this stretch two other sport bike lovers blast by in the opposite direction, the zing of their passing like being grazed by a bullet. When I get the end, they’re waiting, bikes parked and helmets off. The pride is now gone. Next to these folk, I’m feeling like a Sunday riding flower sniffer.

Phil takes over and leads us on a stretch he’s familiar with and we all eventually arrive back at the Commodores Inn safe and sound. I’m thinking the worst is over (in the blow to my pride) and planning on ways to regain my self esteem. One NER’d kindly suggests that there are tools for every job, and bikes are no different. These sports bikes are built to do just what they did. We enjoy the feast that evening and then hit the hay. I’m soon out like a light from so much excitement. In the morning however, I’m no more rested than if I hadn’t slept a wink, because in my dreams I chased Ed through the state of Vermont all over again!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Unexpected Weekend in the Whites

It’s Saturday morning and the throat still hurts after two weeks. The walk-in care doctor writes me a prescription for yet another ear/throat issue. Then with groceries shopped for and a short visit from Lee we sit and look at each other wondering what the rest of the long weekend will look like.

“I wonder if my old buddy Ron is at his camp up north?” Andy says to me.
“Hell, if I’m going to go north, I’d rather visit my sister and check out the camp.” I say

With that, I start texting my sister. She and John are at the Lancaster Fair with her son and his fiancé who are visiting for the weekend. I relay this to Andy and there is a slight pause. With Jonathan and Shannon there, we know there is “no more room at the inn” so to speak. However, I’m sitting in front of my PC and propped there since last May is a gift certificate for two free nights at the Birch Bend Motolodge in Shelburne New Hampshire Andy won at the Whitehorse Press open house. I pop open MapSource and take a look. Heck! Shelburne isn’t that far from Jefferson! Unfortunately, the certificate says “two week’s notice and no holidays.”

“Should I call anyway?” I ask Andy.
“What can it hurt?” he asks in reply.

I dial the number and ask if there are any available rooms. They answer in the affirmative. It’s then that I launch into my spiel, apologetically letting them know I am violating the terms of the gift certificate etc. The voice at the other end asks if I’m coming by bike. When I say “yes” he tells me that reply just cinched it, and come on up! Our bags are packed and we are on the road in less than 30 minutes. The blustery ride up due to what I believe are the remnants of a hurricane off shore, has us tired from keeping the bikes to the road. At 7:00 PM, (three and a half hours later) we are pulling into the Birch Bend Motolodge.

Mike and Rebecca we discover are the new proprietors of the Birch Bend and this is their one year anniversary weekend. They are motorcyclists themselves, and promote their establishment as a motorcycle friendly destination. Our room has a very comfortable king size bed and the place is immaculate. There are two things that strike you the most when you stay at the Birch Bend; the beautiful birches outside your door, and how quiet it is during the night. Instead of a downtown location on a busy street, the Birch Bend is tucked five miles outside of Gorham on Route 2. The night is still, with only the sound of wind rustling the birch leaves, and in the morning a few geese honking at the farm across the way.

Sunday morning we make our way to Jefferson. The wind gusts are still with us, and the temperature is hovering in the low 60’s. My sister, in giving us directions, mistakes us coming in from the other end of the road so we pass the campground at first. We stop realizing our mistake and head back the way we came. My sister is flagging us down and Andy stops first to speak with her. I’m not paying much attention to what’s being said as looking at her with her current hair cut, all I can think is how much she looks like our cousin Claudette! Holy Cow! We could plop her right in the middle of that big clan and she’d easily be accepted as a Lacroix for sure.

Fran and John are hospitable. We have coffee to warm us up, take a tour of the campground and meet all their friends. Their “neighbor’s” parents have stopped by before heading home after their cross country trip. Only their car and camper are far from typical of today’s equipment. In fact, for Andy, it’s a blast from the past. When he just a young boy, his parents packed the station wagon and camper and drove cross country themselves. With a passel of kids and a camper just like the one he’s now looking at, into and around the memories are washing over him and showing on his face. Lester and Millie let us look all around, and Lester, who restores old cars, lets Andy pop the hood and examine what’s beneath.

As evening approaches, we head back to Shelburne. It’s still pretty cold, and I’m feeling a bit funny. Maybe I’ve got more going on than just the ear/throat deal. I’m not usually bothered by a little cold, but as we rise and dip through the elevations I’m happy to be back at the Birch Bend, where I find the heat’s been adjusted and the room is very comfortable. We have a quiet evening with me reading and Andy watching TV and in the morning it seems Andy is in no hurry to leave. He’s feeling very comfortable and at home.

Mike has given us a few pointers; one for a photo op, and another for getting around Conway traffic. Andy takes a right instead of a left. All we do is loop around and end up from whence we came. No matter, we head on homeward. Andy pulls into the Mt Washington Auto Road parking lot. We chat with bikers who have just come down. Its 35 degrees at the top they tell us. It’s clear though and Andy suggests we go on up. I can’t seem to warm up so after a short debate, he backs down. I pull more clothing out of my bag and we are back on the road. I’m in the lead this time to find the next tip to get us around Conway, but I do no better than Andy and we end up in the traffic. Then up and over the Kanc we go, with Andy telling me shortly into the ride that he is on reserve!

Our ride over the Kanc is civilized as Andy doesn’t want to stress the last reserves of fuel, and thankfully, we pull into Lincoln and a gas station where Andy fills the tank with only fumes to spare. Good old Blaze could have easily done the Kanc again and back. She’s a great motorcycle my Blaze! We have lunch in Lincoln and it’s the last stop we do for the day. While our desire is to hightail it back; there is no way anyone is going anywhere fast. A good portion of route 93 is traveled between 25 and 35 miles an hour due to the crush of people heading back home from their own long weekend adventures. Eventually, we pull into the drive, tired but satisfied with our unexpected weekend in the Whites.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Only the Best

Remember this jingle? “What would you do for a Klondike bar?” Our recent weekend riding spree had me chuckling inwardly as our very actions recalled this jingle to mind. We motorcyclist use any and all excuses to justify setting our responsibilities aside and taking to the road. It may be as simple as “the sun is out” to something more serious or necessary. Of course each person fills in their own definition of necessary. I found two very serious needs to ride this weekend; to the tune of 430 miles.

My good friend Dave and I have not had the pleasure of riding together this season. It’s been one thing or another that has kept us apart on nice days. With the fine weekend approaching, Andy asked me what manner of dangling carrot would entice Dave to drop his responsibilities and join us for a jaunt. The answer was simple. RIBS!

With that I picked up the phone and asked Dave to join us for ribs at Curtis’ on route 5 in Putney Vermont. Now Putney isn’t a terrible long way away, and in fact doable for a ½ day adventure. This includes riding to, eating ribs, lingering for some quality chat time and the ride back home. Curtis’ BBQ is a serious barbeque rib place famous for its tender fall-off-the-bone ribs with their own sweet or spicy sauce. Now in his 42nd season the old man knows his stuff and you can’t get better ribs around than here. Dave suggests we get there before the crowds. In fact there is already a good long line of bikes and cars when we arrive. By the time we leave, it’s hard to find parking.

I’m no sooner home taking care of chores when I notice a Sunday ride message posted by the Amherst Motorcycle Club. It seems there is a birthday theme playing out in the posts. To celebrate, Manny wants to enjoy “the best burgers around” which by the way, he claims you can find in St Johnsbury Vermont. Since Andy’s birthday is coming up too, I feel it’s done deal. The requirement has been met for the “something more serious” reason to ride.

Now riding with the Amherst group is a bit different than we’re used to. They are more laid back and loosely organized than the New England Riders. There are good points to each group, and what I like most about riding with the AMC is that they are local, they are spontaneous, and the pace is typically relaxed for the most part. St Johnsbury is a bit more of a ride than Curtis’ but the day is so fantastic, the birthday theme perfect, and toss in the opportunity to experience the “best burgers” around and who can stay home?

We take the long way to St Johnsbury, and in the process Andy and I ride sections of 12A and route 5 we’ve never done before. The views of the distant mountains, the ride along the Connecticut River all lend itself to nearly idyllic. Our destination is Anthony’s Diner, Railroad Street, St Johnsbury VT. The burgers were indeed good, and the atmosphere was no extra charge. Anthony’s is celebrating their 60th year. I guess the lesson here today is that if you want to sample the “best” something, check out an establishment that has weathered the test of time.

(Now who would have helped this guy but a decent biker dude.)

We meander for a bit along route 3 south for more relaxed riding. We stop for a break and I witness ears to cell phones. I’m not exactly sure what was said in those conversations with the women folk left home, but the next thing I know we are high tailing it back on route 93. Freedom is often fleeting it seems and illusionary as well. Andy and I part company with the rag tag group in New Boston and squint our eyes westward into the setting sun. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m feeling pretty good. Best ribs; check. Best burgers; check. New roads explored; check. And best of all, another check on the “been there; done that” list.