Fetching the Wing – part 4

I got up Wednesday morning and it was FOGGY. There was no real hurry so I had a nice breakfast and coffee with my parents. After the sun had burned off some of the fog I decided to get going. There was a lot of condensation on the windshield as I rode through the fog, lights on high beam to try and be as visible as possible. When I got to Columbia City on 30 west of Fort Wayne, the fog was almost gone.I bought gas In Plymouth and finished the trip home, arriving at my house shortly after 12 noon.

The first adventure with this bike is over, but I can’t wait for my first long trip on this bike. Stay tuned.

Fetching the Wing – part 3

The dealership, HDL of Shadyside, had everything ready to go except for a few signatures and a check. He went over everything on the bike and verified I knew how to get back to I-70 west. It was overcast amd rain was moving up from the south so I got going without wasting too much time. I thought that I could avoid getting wet by making a quick trip to Columbus. I was heading north from there and would have been able to put some distance between myself and the rain.

As I got closer to Columbus the skies started to clear and when I took the 270 bypass around to the north the sun was out. I took OH-23 north, intending to take US-30 west to Fort Wayne. I was starting to get a bit low on gas and since I didn’t know the range I didn’t want to get too low. Pushing an 800+ pound bike isn’t something I wanted to do – especially since it would be really dumb to run out of gas the first time I rode it. I thought that there would be plenty of places to get gas on US-30, since on US-30 west of Fort Wayne you cannot help but pull into a gas station. Well, I was wrong. There was no gas station in sight, the low fuel light was on and I was getting concerned. Finally, I decided to leave US-30 and head for Findlay. But, just 4 or 5 miles north of US-30 a small town had gas and I filled up to continue the trip.

I wound up at my parent’s house at about 2 in the afternoon, 300+ miles from Shadyside. The bike had performed flawlessly and was a joy to ride. Comfortable, great handling, smooth power, and plenty of range makes it a real cross-country machine. You can rack up the miles on this bike. Pizza for dinner (naturally) and a nice visit with my parents made this a great day.

Fetching the Wing – part 2

We left Chicago headed for Gary, Indiana (I travel to all the best places). We dropped off some passengers and picked up some replacements at what can best be described as the parking lot of a building that formerly was a tool distribution operation. Shortly afterwards we were back on I-65 south, our next stop to be Lafayette, Indiana. College students were heading back after the summer break.

Next was the bus station in Indianapolis. It seems that bus stations were built in the 40’s and 50’s and immediately thereafter a complete ban on improvements or maintenance was put in place. I’m fairly sure that rolling a rag, a broom, a trash can, and some random cleaning chemicals around the building does not constitute cleaning, at least not by my definition – maybe your definition is different. There is a small counter that sells substances that might be called food, but again your definition may differ from mine. There was a sign hanging from the ceiling that said “Traveler’s Paradise”. I’m familiar with the concept of poetic and literary license, but i think this was way across even those blurred lines. You could get some popcorn, made in one of those poppers that have clear plexiglass sides so you can see the enticing popcorn inside. But, this one was different. It didn’t look like it had been cleaned since the early days of the Carter Administration and the popcorn inside may actually have been made since the turn of the century.   With all the grease running down the plexiglass “windows” it was hard to tell exactly how fresh it was.   Despite the temptation, I decided to pass.

If I were shopping for jewelry, however, the carefully hand-printed sign saying “Fine Jewery” would have definitely caught my eye. I could have my choice of stylish rings for the bargain price of $3.99 and a matching pair of earrings would have added only $2.99. I’m surprised the line isn’t running outside the building and around the block, but I’m clearly not a marketing person. Maybe the thought of green skin underneath the ring and around the earlobes was a deterrent.

I had 3 hours to kill (waste) in the Indianapolis station and then we were on our way to Columbus, Ohio. At this station, I was actually to take the same bus on to Wheeling, so I was given a reboarding pass. Apparently, passengers that were on the bus when it comes into a station are given priority when continuing onward. How nice. After an argument with a large black woman that thought I was cutting in front of her in the reboarding line when she was in the boarding line, we continued on to Wheeling. By now it was about 3am or so, and most people have been traveling for a while and are in need of freshening up. I sat in the front of the bus, having been previously warned about sitting too close to the onboard “facilities”. I would like to have had my seatmate use soap and a washcloth but, sadly, it was not to be, and apparently had not been for some time. Having the air conditioning vents next to the window frame was a saving grace.

Finally, we arrived in Wheeling, pretty close to our scheduled arrival time. Just around the corner was a coffee shop and a fresh cup of coffee with a bagel was just what the doctor ordered. I called the dealership and soon was at the dealership taking delivery of my black 2006 Gold Wing.

Fetching the Wing – part 1

I decided to take a bus trip. I couldn’t find an airline flight into Wheeling, WV or anywhere really close and Greyhound goes directly to Wheeling. Seemed reasonable, and the price was too – $49.00. As I was to find out, the bargain price was only part of the cost.

For some reason that I cannot now fathom, I chose to start my trip at 95th and the Dan Ryan in Chicago. Let’s just say that the location isn’t too traveler-friendly. You get to wait for the bus standing outside on the sidewalk – rain or shine. It did both, and at the same time, too.

Now for the seat lottery. When a bus pulls up, there is apparently supposed to be a esp-type feeling that this bus is your bus because I didn’t see any other way to decipher it. And the really good part – Greyhound sells as many tickets for a bus as they possibly can, not concerned in the least that a bus has a finite number of seats. If you don’t divine the proper bus and wind up in the wrong line, there may not be a seat for you when you figure out the correct bus. But, don’t worry, Greyhound will take care of you. You can wait on the sidewalk for the next one. It may be an hour from now, it may be four hours from now, it might be 12 hours – who knows? It might rain, or shine, or snow, or sleet, ar all of them. Your next thought is – I’ll just get a refund and find another way to get there, but Greyhound has that covered too. No refunds. What a great business model – sell as many tickets as you can, knowing all the while that you don’t have enough seats, and then have a no refund policy. No wonder the number of passengers traveling by bus is climbing and the airlines are having trouble filling seats.

I did finally get on the bus, although there never was a sign anywhere that indicated where it was going. I could have been going to Des Moines, but at least I would have been leaving 95th and the Dan Ryan. That may have been good enough.

Decided to get a Gold Wing

I actually intended to buy a Gold Wing when I bought the VTX. But, I really liked the big v-twin and the Neo look was distinctive. I’ve made a lot of changes to the VTX since I got it but the trips I took and the rented/borrowed bikes I rode showed me the differences between cruisers and tourers. Even with saddlebags, a windshield, and a cruise control (throttle lock) the VTX is not the bike (for me) for a long trip over several days in many different kinds of weather.

The Gold Wing is that kind of bike for me. So, I started looking around to find a good price and for once, I was actually buying a bike at a time of the year (late August/early September) when you can get a good price. The riding season is slowing down in the northern parts of the US and the manufacturers are introducing the new model year bikes. Dealers want to clear out the current model year bikes and the prices reflect that.

I got a good deal from HDL of Shadyside, and planned to pick it up the Tuesday after Labor Day. I planned to ride to my parent’s house in Indiana, stay overnight Tuesday, and then finish the trip home on Wednesday.

Let’s just say it was an adventure.

Glacier National Park – part 6

HeavenI had seen signs for Gunsight Pass, but I couldn’t see anything that looked to me like a gunsight. Coming from the east, however, it was waiting for me. The V notch was very distinctive and easily seen coming from the east – coming from the west the sign is after the pass and trees must have obscured it. That’s why I wanted to go through the park both ways. You really can’t see things through your rearview mirrors very well.

The mountain goat is the symbol of Glacier NBational Park and I was lucky enough to find a ewe and a kid not too far off the road. They were probably wondering what that 2-wheeled machine was and why it was rolling through their territory.

Further west you come up on Lake McDonald and the deep blues of the lake and the gold, silver, and copper colors of McDonald Creek. Then you’re out of the park and into the town of West Glacier. I took a couple of pictures of the bike at the sign on this side of the park, and headed west.

I still had 300 miles to ride today.

Glacier National Park – part 5

FIRE!After a good night’s rest, i got up and headed out fairly early. I wanted to get breakfast and be in the park early so that I could take my time on the ewast-to-west traversal. I again took MT-49 north towards the junction with MT-89, and found some horses wandering around to west side of the road, maybe they were displaced by the fires, I don’t know. They allowed a couple of pictures and then decided they’d had enough of my intrustion and headed for parts unknown. From almost the same spot, I saw a small pond and the angle of the sun and the terrain behind it was prefect for one of those reflection pictures.

Where Mt-49 joins MT-89, there was a sign that said 38 miles to Canada. I didn’t realize I was that far north. I headed towards Canada and around one of the bends on MT-89 I stopped literally in my tracks. Fire! Smoke! You see pictures, you see video, you read news stories, but none of that prepares you for smoke covering the road in front of you. Maybe people that live with this are more accepting of it, but I had not personally experienced anything like this before. I tentatively rode closer and just like fog it appeared less like a wall. I stopped, looked around, and took several pictures of the woods with the mountains of Glacier National Park in the background. Continuing on I got to St. Mary and had breakfast.

As I was leaving to enter the park, the visibility was still low. As I entered the park, East Flattop Mountain was barely visible through the smoke and the wisps of smoke over Lake Saint Mary were a reminder of what was happening just a few miles to the east. The Going To The Sun Road, as it clings to the mountainsides along the shore of Lake Saint Mary reminded me of European alpine images I have seen. The road climbs slowly and surely towards Logan Pass and there were a couple of opportunities for pictures of waterfalls and of the road itself. There is some construction work on the road and signs indicated the delays could be as much as 30 minutes but I was spared any lengthy waits. After seeing where the power shovel was sitting, I don’t think I would like that job.

Glacier National Park – part 4

Lake St. MaryI exited the park on the east side, into the town of St. Mary. As I mentioned earlier, I found a room at the Mountain Pine Inn in East Glacier, which is a short ride south on MT-89. The ride south on MT-89 was an eye-opener but in a very different way than the sights in the park. You could see where the wildfires had burned and were still smouldering, you could see where the fire had flashed over the roadway and the guardrails were floating in midair, the wooden posts that had held it in place having completely burned away in many places. You could smell and taste the smoke. There were camps along the roadway, maybe command posts, maybe places for firefighters to get some food and a brief rest. It’s difficult to imagine the work that lay ahead for them, and also to imagine the work they’ve already done for the people of the surrounding communities.

A bit further south on MT-89, I saw a turnoff for MT-49 that was signed to East Glacier, so I took it. Signs indicated that this road is closed in winter, but it was a great ride along the Two Medicine River down to town, gasoline for the bike, a bite of dinner, and a clean room for the night. Mountain Pine Inn is a nice, clean, quiet place to rest and I’m glad I stayed there instead of a nondescript room in a chain hotel.

I had ridden over 400 miles today, not a really long distance but some folk’s standards, but when you’re stopping every 500 feet to take another picture it makes for a long day. Tomorrow I will ride through the park east to west. Different perspectives, different sunlight, and another difference I didn’t even know about.

Glacier National Park – part 3

019_13AThe Going To The Sun Road takes you to places that, sadly, most US citizens won’t see. IT’S WORTH THE TRIP, JUST GO. The Loop, where the road switchbacks with a turn radius of just a few feet is an amazing necessity given the work of the glaciers a few years ago. It is also one of the reasons that vehicles longer than 21 feet including bumpers are not allowed on the road between Avalance Creek and Sun Point – they simply could not negotiate the turns.

Triple Divide Peak is the geographic center of North America. As the park’s brochure states: the width of a human hand can determine whether a drop of rain will ultimately join the Columbia River drainage, the Mississippi River drainage, or the Saskatchewan River drainage. Logan Pass is where the Going To The Sun Road crosses the Continental Divide. Logan Pass is northwest of Triple Divide Peak, both on the Continental Divide. On the way up to Logan Pass, the road runs beside the Weeping Wall, a section of the Garden Wall that is constantly wetted by drainage from above.

Siyeh Bend gives you a great view of Mount Siyeh, one of the highest peaks in the park. Just past Siyeh Bend you can see Going-To-The Sun Mountain a high peak with an elevation just about 400 feet below Mount Siyeh. Then you come upon Sunrift Gorge and Saint Mary Lake on the east side of the park.

The wildfires burning in Montana have threatened the town of Saint Mary and can be clearly seen from the road as you leave the park headed east. The images are both scary and reassuring at the same time – people are risking their lives fighting to save residents and structures from the fires and yet nature decides when to start most of these fires and will recover from the burning without man’s help. It’s been that way for millennia and will continue in the future.

Glacier National Park – part 2

015_11After starting out seeing the tranquility of Lake McDonald, McDonald Creek along the north side of the Going To The Sun Road is a sparkling jewel of colors and sounds. The images can’t convey the sounds of rushing water, coming from glacial snows thousands of years in the making. The colors are as vibrant as those in Lake McDonald, but they’re different. The water isn’t as deep so the colors are not as dark. They reflect more of the colors of the stones at the bottom of the creek. Every opportunity to stop and make pictures is worthwhile, and on a motorcycle I can stop where cars cannot. This isn’t the type of scenery to live in, this is the type of scenery to visit and visit again.

North of McDonald Creek, you can see Heaven’s Peak, although I think the best picture I got of Heaven’s Peak was taken on Sunday when I was going east-to-west. The sun just wasn’t right for a good picture today. Doesn’t matter though, you can feel the mountain’s presence anyway. I read and learned about aretes, a sharp ridge formed by two separate glaciers carving out valleys and leaving a ridge of mountain in between them. I also learned about hanging valleys, a term I first read in a book by Zane Grey. A smaller glacier cuts a valley and then joins with a larger glacier moving roughly perpendicular to it. The small glacier’s valley stops at the side of the larger glacier’s valley. It’s left hanging. There are many images of hanging valleys.

As you work you way east on the Going To The Sun Road, you are constantly amazed at the work it took to construct the road itself. There are many pictures of the road where you can see how it was notched into the side of the mountain and I read that the road was constructed in the early 1930’s. I also read that Mother Nature doesn’t like guardrails, as the people plowing out the road in the spring and summer would find the guardrails in the valleys, having been ripped off the mountain presumably by avalanches.

There are turnouts where cars can park and see the scenery, but one great advantage of a motorcycle is that I can stop and turn around almost anywhere. I was able to get some pictures that would take a lot of walking if you were going through the park in a car.