No Highways

Leaving for a three-night camping expedition to the Delaware Water Gap National Park area in northern New Jersey. It’s sort of the flip side of the trip I took to Maine a while back. 180 degrees in the opposite direction, but about the same distance.

I’m wearing my three season Sedici jacket here and insulated underwear. With a cloudy, 60-degree ride down, the heat gradually drained out of me and around Brattleboro, VT I was needing a place to warm up. I got rained on three times. Coming back was hot and I wore the summer RevIt jacket which lets the air right through.

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If I set the Google Map options to “Avoid Highways” I get the following route:

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It’s a nice, direct scenic run out through the Green Mountains, loosely following the Appalachian Trail down to the park.  The AT passed about 1/2 mile from our campsite, and we were able to hike a few miles on it. Perfect.

I had plugged a USB power outlet into the connector I normally use for the Battery Tender, straight connection to the battery. Bought a $10 phone mount and mounted the iPhone 7 on the handlebars with the charging cord coming out from under the seat. This worked great. I was able to navigate all the way and the phone stayed charged at 100%.

As you are passing through a complex intersection of roads, you can just glance at the screen and see your path through. You don’t have to read all the signs. I think it’s safer.

But there are some quirks to “No Highways”. It apparently computes the quickest route, which is good, but it will often avoid the center of towns. That can be good or bad. If you are sort of looking for gas or food, you might not go by any stations, stores, or restaurants. I wound up in the middle of the national park with very little gas and had to specifically go out and find some. I had started looking at 100 miles on the odometer and was approaching 150 when I finally filled up. Normally, I fill up around 125.

It does seem to like sending you by lakes and rivers, which is nice.

It seems overly averse to construction zones. Just leaving Laconia, it sent me on an unnecessary detour. On the way back from the DWG it dumped me into downtown Albany, NY, apparently looking for a non-highway, no construction way to get across the Hudson River. That’s not the way I went on the way down.

Also, using the navigate mode tends to leave you in the dark about where you are, exactly. You know how far it is to the next turn, how far it is to your destination, but you don’t have an overall sense of where you are and what is around you just beyond your vision.

Finally, it is too strict about “no highways”. On one occasion, I felt like I was riding through people’s back yards right next to the highway. Better to take the highway if all you are going to do is parallel it on much, much slower roads.

By the way, it was my wife and I making the trip, but she drove her Infiniti G37X, cruising in air-conditioned comfort while blasting Amos Lee on the Bose. We each got what we wanted.

 

Running Lean: Part Two

The Way of Saint James, the Camino de Santiago, is a traditional Christian pilgrimage that dates back to the 9th century. There are many routes, but they all converge on the cathedral in Santiago where the bones of Saint James the Great are thought to reside. The route “par excellence” is the Frances route that starts in St. Jean Pied du Port, France and goes up over the Pyrenees and down into Spain. It’s about 500 miles long.

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The spires are on the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela.

Nowadays, a willingness to cover some distance on foot seems to be the only requirement to become a pilgrim. My wife and I opted for a minimum Camino that includes just the last portion of the Frances route.

After walking 102 kilometers on the Way from Sarria to Santiago, we got our “compostelas”, spent some time sight-seeing in the old city, and then continued on to the Atlantic Ocean at Cape Finisterre, thought to be the “end of the land” in medieval times. We walked a total of 192 km, about 120 miles.

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End of the land, Finisterre, Spain. 0.0 km marker

We were hiking from marker to marker, cafe to cafe, inn to inn, carrying a change of clothes and a few personal items, minimal food and water, no sleeping bags and no tent. No baggage.

My brain had stopped spinning on the usual stuff after the first 20 miles or so, content to be doing just about nothing. Our days were filling up with very simple things.

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As novices, we were slowly increasing our daily mileage from 6 to 15 and had discovered an early afternoon rest was useful, so when we ambled by a Galician farmer’s mowed field with a nice shady tree near the path, we spread our rain gear on the soft ground and dropped onto it with our packs under our heads.

After walking for miles, it was luxurious to just get off our feet. There were no bugs to bother us and the temperature was perfect.

I munched on a few Choco Flakes, sipped some water, took in the green field, the animals, and the poofy clouds gliding by in a blue sky. I thought, “It doesn’t get any better than this.”

I fell asleep right in the middle of my epiphany.

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When I woke up later it took me a few moments to realize where I was. I heard the chatter of pilgrims moving along the path just behind us.

We said, “Hola”.

They looked around and were surprised to spot us on the ground behind the shrubs and tree, but quickly smiled their approval .

“Hola! Buenos dias!”

“Buen Camino!”

“Buen Camino!”

Our vocabulary was pretty much used up. Time to get walking.

Incidentally, you don’t “hike” the Camino, you “walk” it. Not sure what the difference is, but it’s probably part of the subtle magic that works on you while you are on the Way.

 

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Bacon and cheese sandwich and a Coke. Cape Finisterre in the far distance.

 

 

 

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Chocolate-filled breakfast cereal. It worked for me.

 

 

Stowe, Vermont

If you are going to Stowe to attend a wedding, I recommend riding your motorcycle. I took the occasion to do just that and try out my new Saddlemen TS3200 rear bag.  I had recently adjusted the valves, changed the coolant and put in the 20W50 summer weight oil. The bike was loaded and I ran 32 psi in the front tire and 34 in the rear.

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Saddlemen TS3200 bag with the bike rain cover on top of it.

The bag sits on the passenger seat and just clears my back. I can lean back onto it or not. Pretty much ideal in that respect. I have to help my leg bend enough to clear it when getting on and off. I can still open the top box enough to get at the contents pretty well. The bag hangs down over the sides of the seat, but is still well above the exhaust, and it sits just in front of the rear directional lights. It’s held securely with quick-disconnect straps, sort of pulled back against the top box, conforming to the shape of the available space.

The bike is more top heavy when loaded this way but it handles fine once you get rolling.

I was headed to the Field Guide Inn there and got Google Maps to cook up this 123 mile “back roads” route through the mountains northwest of Plymouth, NH and into Vermont. It was a sunny, 70 degree day. Perfect. I wore my Revit Wind summer weight armored jacket my wife recently bought me. Very comfortable all the way up.

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Bridge over the Connecticut River between Piermont, NH and Bradford, VT

The roads typically follow small rivers flowing towards the big Connecticut River and I leaned into a lot of curves on the way to Stowe.

I arrived at almost the same time as my wife, who prefers her Infiniti G37X over anything with only two wheels.

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The newlyweds

In addition to a great wedding, great food and company, we enjoyed hiking in the area, visiting Moss Pond Waterfall and Bingham Falls in Smuggler’s Notch.

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Moss Pond Falls – about 60 feet top to bottom

Stowe is a wonderful place to spend some relaxing time.

On the way home, though, the iPhone radar was showing rain approaching from the west. It was 42 degrees. I layered up and wore the Sedici three-season jacket that I had squirreled away in the TS3200. Also the down mittens with wool liners. Got on I 89 for the short run from Waterbury down to Barre, but the bike felt so good with little wind that I decided to cover some quick miles by staying on the interstate down to New London and then taking NH Route 11 east. I was comfortable running 65-75 mph with an occasional unintended streak near 80 mph. The bike always runs silky smooth in 5th gear and the torque peaks by design at 70-75. I only passed a few vehicles because I was mostly just keeping up with traffic in the right lane.

Stopped for gas and then again for a quick snack. Pulled into the driveway just ahead of some heavy rain. I love radar!

2012 G650GS

I enjoyed taking a spin on a 2012 BMW G650GS, essentially the latest and final version of the F650 line that started back in the early nineties. My own bike is a 1997 F650.

The engine is pretty much the same with the notable exception of fuel injection. I looked for the enrichment lever to start the bike and didn’t find one. Give it a little gas, press the start button and it fires right up!

It has the same characteristic big-single vibration in the 4000-4300 rpm range although a bit more subdued. Nothing in the bars, a little in the pegs, nothing in the seat. I think it has slightly more power in the 3000-5000 rpm range. I rarely use anything higher than that.

The sound is different with more of a growl. The exhaust pipe feeds into what appears to be dual mufflers, but they are connected in series and the exhaust exits from the one on the right.

The geometry and dimensions of the G are identical to the old F, but it felt a bit more nimble, maybe because the fuel tank is under the seat. Or maybe the rear tire had less of a worn flat center section than my Metzler Tourance tires with almost 8000 miles on them.

The suspension is identical as far as I can tell and, by the way, having gotten used to 6.5 inches of travel front and rear, I don’t think I would be happy with the couple inches you typically get on something like a Sportster.

The gnarly headlight works for me and I like the idea of running tubeless tires on the cast rims. It was a cool day and I enjoyed the luxury of heated grips.

Overall, the G has that contemporary BMW feel of substance. It’s a great bike and could last a lifetime with the remarkable support BMW has for older bikes. But this one is essentially brand new with less than 6000 miles on it.

The G650GS got me to the local SlashBurger restaurant very nicely, but I felt like riding it further.  Say, to Deadhorse, Alaska.

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A borrowed 2012 BMW G650GS and Bell helmet and my new Sedici jacket

 

2017 Spring Winnipesaukee Ride

When a good day suddenly appears, I’m apt to find myself on a ride around the big lake. Like today, for example. Snow in the woods, bare roads, a high near 70 degrees and sunny.

I recently acquired a new Sedici three-season armored jacket for a closeout price of $138 and I wanted to try it out.

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It has zip-out wind and thermal layers. I had them both in. I was too warm when stopped, but it was okay moving. In several pockets of snow and shade, the jacket was just right.

I should have removed the thermal layer when I got overheated but I was too preoccupied (lazy).

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Cottage on Alton Bay with a red roof

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Tuftonburo Town Beach

The bob houses have retreated off the spring ice after curing several fishermen of their post Christmas blues. See December photo.

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Mount Washington cruise ship resting up before the summer season begins.

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Bad BMW man peering in the window at Meredith Harley Davidson

The bike ran well as always, traffic was sparse, things to see, spring in the air. And I like the jacket a lot. It was a good ride.

 

 

Running Lean: Part One

A motorcycle can be a pretty minimalist approach to transportation and I like that. Buy a good used 50 mpg bike for relatively little money, maintain it yourself, register and insure it for $150. Travel light.

Not really the North American way these days, but there was a time when that general approach to living was mostly what I knew.

In 1949 I was 5 years old and we lived just behind Elliott’s coal yard in a small cottage on a dirt road that led to the town beach on Pentucket Pond. My mother loved the beach.

But for my younger brother and I, a short walk through the back garden and into the the woods brought us to Mr. Bateman’s place, a 10′ x 14′ tar-paper shack. We called him Charlie. He was an old, slow-moving, WWI veteran who kept to himself, took care of himself and said little.

He had no car, no phone, no power, and no plumbing. Everything was dark. Kerosene lighting, coal stove, dark boards, black tar-paper walls and roof, old army blankets, and Charlie himself all in black with one of those heavy fabric vests that old men wore. One small window above a tiny makeshift table attached to the wall.

I was a bit afraid, not understanding Charlie and how he came to be there and what it meant, but there he was and there I was. My brother loved him easily and spent a lot of time shooting Charlie’s air gun, drawing cartoons at his table, and just hanging out.

The absolute best adventure was going hunting. Squirrel hunting. We’d hike down the abandoned railroad bed to a place in the woods Charlie liked. He had a shotgun and a big canvas bag with crossed rifles on it. The squirrels would go in the bigger part of the bag in the back. Our sandwiches and the shotgun shells would go in the smaller outer part. There were rules and only one of us could go with him at a time.

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A bag like Charlie’s, but his was darker.

One morning my mother found Charlie slumped down on the back stairs, unconscious. He had tried to come up to the house for help. That had never happened before.

It was my first funeral. I was surprised how good he looked in the casket, considering he was dead. At the grave site an honor guard of veterans fired their rifles in the air in a three volley salute. It was so loud! Again, and again, and I realized Charlie must have been young once and there was a whole world of stuff I didn’t know about him, and now shots were being fired out of respect for him and I could hear a distant bugle, beautiful and clear.

He’s one of the very few people I remember from way back then, before I went off to first grade.

In the years after Charlie died, the shack came down and the Elliotts built a large new home overlooking the pond on the wooded knoll behind the cabin site.

Trivia: People per Bike by State

How many residents are there per registered motorcycle in the various states? I have wondered. I found enough data on the internet to calculate it, but then I found a site that already has a nice article.

You can check it out on Motley Fool.

The national average is 36 people per motorcycle.

Iowa is third with 18 people per motorcycle.

New Hampshire is second with 17.

South Dakota is first with only 12  inhabitants per bike. By the way, the Stugis, SD motorcycle rally draws about 1/2 million riders annually from all over the country. Bonafide bike country.

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2015 Sturgis, SD Bike Rally Riders

 

It’s interesting that the warmer states have the least motorcycles per capita. I have no idea why. It should be the other way around but it isn’t. People with cold winters have more bikes.

But I think New Hampshire is too far out of first place for me to help much by buying a second motorcycle. It was a pretty good thought, though.