With the exception of one day during our weeklong trip, it rained. Legend has it that the Eskimos (Inuit) have almost a hundred words for different types of snow; Lee and I have one word for rain - wet. There's heavy rain, downbursts, cloudbursts,frog drowners, gully washers, thunderstorms, light rain, sprinkles, drizzle, showers and mist, but the end result is always the same, you're going to get wet.
We rode from Harrisburg, PA to Herkimer, NY by way of the Delaware Water Gap and the Hawk's Nest route. It was pleasant until we crossed into New York and it began to rain. By the time we reached the KOA cabin it was dark with strobe flashes of lightning followed by heavy thunder making a 500 watt sub-woofer green with envy. The kind of thunder that you feel in your gut rather than hear through your ears.
As the rain intensified we parked the bikes and unloaded our gear into the cabin. We were hungry, but had no desire to get back on the bikes and ride to a nearby restaurant. Instead we fired up a one burner backpacking stove to boil water for coffee. Looking out through one of the windows was like standing in one of the portals behind Niagara Falls. We thought about covering the bikes but what was the point in that? They were already wet.
"What now?" Lee asked.
Lee gave me a look like a dog does when it hears a strange noise; head tilted to one shoulder and a quizzical expression.
"A sprawl is what happens when you reach your destination and unpack your gear. The object is to cover every possible surface area with some article that you have carried into the room, cabin or shelter. Beds, chairs, shelves, mantles, tables - they're all fair game."
"So you're saying that everything we packed on the bikes is going to fill this cabin?"
"That's the objective." And as the coffee brewed in our coffee presses I began to unpack the soft bags from the side cases and the stuff sacks from the top case.
It's not unlike watching 14 Shriners emerge from a Mini Cooper during a parade. Sleeping bags, clothes, rain gear, boots, towels, toilet kits and more magically expand as they are taken out and set upon every available horizontal space. When those areas are covered it's time to hang stuff on the coat hooks. What was once a neat and tidy cabin looks as though a bomb went off in a Goodwill store.
And when all of those spaces and hooks have been occupied, there's always the floor.
The end result usually leaves the occupant asking two questions: One, how did all of this stuff come off my bike? Two, how am I going to get all of this stuff back on the bike. I am convinced that there is some sort of spell that causes these items to expand in volume during the night. I was able to pack it all when I left home, but in the morning there doesn't seem to be enough space on the bike to pack it all back in again. I must send a letter to the Ministry of Magic for an explanation.
A day later we rode into and out of Vermont and then rode west into the Adirondacks of New York. Staying in a suite at the Adirondack Motel , at Saranac Lake, we were able to repeat our sprawling performance. I would like to point out that this suite was larger than the one in Herkimer and we were still able to cover everything.
Our attempt to ride to the summit of Whiteface Mountain was thwarted by the guards at the gate. It was a sunny afternoon (How rare!) and we wanted to take advantage of it by riding to the summit and enjoying the scenery. We were told the road closes at 4 PM. It was 4:10 PM. We tried pleading - no luck. We gave them sad puppy eyes - no luck. I even pointed out that it wouldn't get dark until 7 PM and it was just two motorcycles. No luck there, either. These guys would have done well working for Sauron in Mordor.
Dejected, we rode back to the motel and prepped for our ride to Watkins Glen. As a side note, the owners of the motel, Fred and Susan are a wonderful couple. If you're looking for ride suggestions, just ask Fred. He's a former rider and has done some extensive riding in these mountains.
The ride to Watkins Glen was quite pleasant. It was overcast, but no precipitation. We drove up to the entrance of the race track and asked if we could look around. Back in 1966, growing up in Elmira, I had just earned my driver's license. I borrowed the family's second car and took my younger brother for a road trip to The Glen. When we got to the track, there was no one there. There were no gates down and locked. We drove through, crossed the track and pulled into the pits. Nobody, not a soul, just my brother and me in a 1962 Chevy Impala convertible with the top down on a warm summer afternoon. I drove one lap and left for home. I didn't set any speed records, but I felt every bit as good as Sterling Moss or Graham Hill.
Times have changed. Today the entrance gate was manned. As I took pictures, Lee walked up to the guards and asked if we could ride in and look around. Even with his schmoozing powers in overdrive his request was denied. It seems that someone was having a private party on the track and access was by invitation only. You have to have some serious money to rent a world class race track for a day. Lee mentioned that these guards must be related to the ones at Mount Whiteface.
Dejected we rode through town, stopped for beer and groceries and headed for the KOA and our cabin. Two blocks later and less than two miles from the campground, the heavens delivered all the back ordered rain that had been pending since Noah set sail.
In the morning the sun came out and the sprawl expanded onto the cabin's porch allowing some of sodden gear to dry out.
We drove south to Elmira and headed up Harris Hill where Lee got a ride in a sailplane. My brother and I worked as members of the ground crew when we lived at the base of the Hill. As it turns out, Lee's pilot was flying on The Hill when I was there on the ground back in the '60s. He remembered me and my brother and mentioned that Lee was going to have a good flight. He did.
That's Lee on the right and his pilot on the left.
We wound our way home south along Rte 287 through Wellsboro and then 414, the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, to Jersey Shore and finally home.
In our next episode I'll explain how 47 various electronic devices can be charged from a single 110 outlet.