Author archive: coll3297
Thursday July 16th and Friday July 17th – Leaving one home to find another
Happy sunshine streamed in my window at an early morning hour and signaled me to get up and get moving; my month-long sojourn in the land of my birth had come to an end (read Part 4 here) and I awoke rested, refreshed, and ready to get back home to my husband and animal menagerie. Most of my belongings had been shipped out via UPS the day before and I had taken the time to pack almost everything to be carried on the bike before going to bed. Even though the tantalizing prospect of returning to my hunny and critters was pulling me southward, it’s always tough to leave the farm; no matter how many times I’ve done it over the years the pain is always just as fresh as it was the first time. Waving goodbye to my folks while they stand on the back lawn always makes me cry. They put up a brave front pretending not to be sad but I know they’re just waiting for me to get out of sight before they let their own waterworks flow. BUT, there’s no crying on a motorcycle (it fogs up your shield) so I stuffed back the emotion and focused on the job ahead. After all, the zombies don’t care if you’re emotionally fragile, they’ll eat you just the same. I’ve never heard one say (on film anyway), “Pardon me, is this a convenient time for an encounter?” Nope – buckle up buttercup and get your gameface on; it’s time to kick some ass.
I’m sure I’ve complained enough over the years and many of you already know that I simply abhor driving through Pennsylvania. It’s the bane of my existence. If I could skip the whole state I wouldn’t mind the drive between NC and NY at all. Any of you reading this who’ve had to make the same journey more than once knows what I’m talking about – Route 81 guarantees to have the ever popular and never-ending construction delays and the Poconos will most assuredly have some sort of crappy weather regardless of the time of year or forecast (fog, rain, snow, fire and brimstone, plaque of locusts, etc…). ~ Insert heavy sigh ~ Since I was forced to take that route on the way north, I was determined to get in a bit of sightseeing on the way south. PA must have something enjoyable to offer and I was going to find it. Unlike the outset of my journey, I hadn’t spent a month pouring over the atlas and Google Maps plotting my return trip. I figured I would plan that out when I got to NY but instead, I put it off until the last minute meaning I would pretty much have to wing it. My brother had been driving a tanker truck all over the roads of NE PA all summer so he had a good handle on which routes were looking decent and which ones might pose a problem. With his counsel, the night before I packed up I made a quick assessment of things, booked a B&B in Virginia and wrote a few quick directional notes to stuff in the clear window of my tank bag for easy reference.
Honest to God, I not only had a very enjoyable ride though PA, but it was the first time I can ever remember smiling and wishing it would never end! FOR REAL! When you get off the highway and ride the rural roads, you can see what a beautiful state it is. Every little town was quaint and welcoming. I wasn’t in a hurry, per say, but I was focused on getting to my destination, so I didn’t dawdle on this trip and I didn’t take nearly enough (or hardly any) pictures. Someday I’d like to take the same ride and take quality pictures of every church I pass to make a coffee table book. Every single one in every single town was a work of art. And then quite suddenly and completely unexpectedly I was thrust into the Lackawanna State Forest near West Nanticoke in Luzerne County which turned out to be one of the highlights on my impromptu route. That was a fine motorcycle ride indeed which had me rambling down twisty roads following a gurgling stream surrounded by wilderness galore. I DID get a picture here!
Picturesque towns and amazing landscapes were things I would have expected to see in good ol’ PA but I did, however, pass a a few things which caused me to double take, snort out loud with laughter, and made me wish I had turned around to get a snapshot. I saw (as big or bigger than life) Bigfoot, King Kong, bandits posed on top of a roadside saloon, a green tyrannosaurus rex and a purple triceratops. NOT. EVEN. JOKING. Apparently the folks in PA have a love affair with ginormous concrete statues. I’m kicking myself for not getting pics of any of those.
Onward I rode until I reached the point of having to check my GPS to be sure I was taking the right roads to my aforementioned B&B reservation at Zion Springs Bed and Breakfast. I wasn’t lost and I felt confident in my ability to read signs, but I wasn’t really sure I was on the right path either. You see, a couple of roads before I was to arrive at my destination, I found myself on a one-lane, tricky gravel
motorcycle trap, er… road. Was this correct? The B&B reviews all said what a fine establishment it was and it ranked at the top of the list of places I googled for that location. Yep, GPS said I was right on track. Ooooookay….. so let’s just keep riding. Thank God for dual sport tires! A couple of nerve-wracking miles later and the highly rated place of lodging appeared like a beacon on a hill. WOW!
It was a stunning locale and I got to ride right past horses in their pastures. And not just any old horses. I was right smack dab in the middle of Virginia horse farms with obviously very expensive equine operations. Oh be still my heart. Someday I’d like to live in VA and have my own horse farm in the gentle rolling hills and temperate climate. The innkeepers were so conscientious they left me an email with instructions to check myself in since they were away from the home when I got there. I called to let them know I’d arrived and was welcomed with all kinds of information on where to eat, things to do, and amenities they had to offer. Honestly though, I had packed enough of my own food to last me for several days and I wasn’t in the gallivanting mood, so I simply settled in for the evening quite early and retired with a glass of Milagro Anejo tequila and a well-read, but never-the-less enjoyable book.
The next morning, I made an appearance on the beautiful deck overlooking the back valley where my gracious hosts and other guests were conversing, simultaneously introducing myself for the first time and saying my goodbyes. They offered to pack my bags with some home-baked goodies for the road since I was missing out on the breakfast, but I couldn’t eat them anyway with my allergies, so I politely declined. God bless them. It was such a pleasure to just roll in, crash, and roll out with no fuss.
I couldn’t resist stopping at one of the horse farm fence lines on the way out to get a picture of my steed in front of the real ones. Real. That word always reminds me of The Velveteen Rabbit. Before the house fire (our house burned to the ground when I was a kid), I received that book for a birthday or some other gift-giving occasion and it was an instant favorite. I replaced it as soon as I could (along with another favorite, A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson). I wonder if my Falcon looks at the horses with their swishing tails, gleaming hides, and snorting breath and wonders when it too will become real. It’s real enough to me. Love makes it so.
From here until I arrived at my front door in North Carolina, the trip was predictable, uneventful, and very pleasant. No zombies to behead or Bigfoots to get blurry photos of. I made lots of discoveries about the places I thought I knew and about my own intestinal fortitude. I came home a changed woman. However, the bite of the road warrior had infested my blood with a yearning for more. It wasn’t long before I succumbed to its viral fever again. There was a certain infamous Dragon (or at least it’s tail) calling my name. Being a superhero is a full-time job, and the Falcon and I were called into action before we were fully prepared for another battle. Time to don the cape and wig, here we go again….
But before I expound upon the next adventure, I’ll take time to recap some of my lessons learned on this one. Read the next installment soon to pick up some advice on what to do or what not to do on your own solo road trip adventure while I compose my thoughts on how to relay my little Dragon Tale.
Mid June through Mid July – The fun never ends…
YEEE HAAAA! With a momentous sense of accomplishment after planning and executing my first ever solo road trip on a motorcycle (read Part 3 here), I was looking forward to exploring familiar haunts on my summer vacation.
Buuuuuuut Mother Nature has a sick sense of humor and she wasn’t done with me yet. The rain I endured on the ride up? Oh, it was just the beginning. It pretty much rained for a month. Not a deluge that caused devastating floods like I’ve witnessed in past Junes in the Southern Tier, but irritatingly steady enough to put the kibosh on any possibility of seriously enjoying some road time on the bike. Those depressing weather stats I quoted in Part 3 are grounded in hard, cold facts. And speaking of cold, the misery of the rain was compounded by temperatures that consistently hovered at or below average (and the averages for this time of year in the good ol’ STNY aren’t pretty). Pity party in 3, 2, —
WAIT! I’m not a Debbie Downer, no sirree. No amount of chilly precipitation was going sideline me – am I a New York farm girl or what??! My odyssey had only just begun and I still had the return trip ahead of me to combat zombies and outrun nuclear explosions. Even if I parked the bike for a month and didn’t fire it up until time to put on the battle gear again I was already ahead of the game. Now that I’d arrived I had beloved family and friends to visit and a variety of entertainment options awaiting me which more than made up for any pseudo self-discovery pilgrimage I might have imagined myself on.
First things first. The timing of my journey was no accident. Although I left myself an open window for the exact departure date based on the weather forecast, I had a firm arrival date on the calendar. One of my uncles had passed away recently and our family, many of whom were traveling from all over the country, planned special memorial services in his honor to be held on the weekend I was to arrive. I won’t write a novel about this portion of my stay; instead I’ll just leave the intimate details to your imagination and I’ll cherish the events and memories in my heart. Suffice it to say, a lot of tears were shed and a great deal of laughter shared.
On one of the first breaks in the weather that coincided with my day off (I was still working my day job which I can do remotely BTW), I hunkered down over a road atlas old school style at the dining room table with my mom and together we plotted a wonderfully scenic ride that I hadn’t taken in almost 30 years: a tour of the Cannonsville and Pepacton reservoirs in the foothills of the Catskill mountains. Both reservoirs were created in order to provide water for New York City and several small towns were sacrificed in the name of progress. The town of Cannonsville, NY was flooded in 1967 to form the Cannonsville Reservoir and several small towns (Arena, Pepacton, Shavertown and Union Grove) were sent to a watery grave to form the Pepacton Reservoir in 1955. My folks tell me that when the water level gets low enough you can still see skeletons of building structures eerily lurking below the surface. Obviously, you’ve read enough of my whining to know that we’ve had plenty of rain so the water levels were more than sufficient to hide any evidence of lost civilizations.
Winding around the twisty roads with serene rivers and lakes on one side of me and cool rocky cliffs on the other certainly rivaled my Skyline Drive experience in breathtaking oooh and aaaahh moments. If you’re in the area and want a nice ride I highly suggest the either one, but be warned; the roads surrounding the Cannonsville Res were so atrocious any delight you might derive from the ride will probably be sucked right down the drain by having to expend your energy concentrating on dodging bumps, holes, gravel, and steaming piles of – was that dinosaur dung? – around every blind curve.
Next up, after I cajoled my dad into staining and painting the deck on the house, I set off for the Brookfield trail system where I spent a great deal of time tramping around the trails and camping with my (real) horse in my slightly younger days. I couldn’t help but shed a few tears while revisiting some of the familiar trails and destinations on my new horse knowing I probably won’t ever get to revisit them on a living beast again.
That same day, I stopped at the Old Mill in Mt Upton, NY where my folks used to take us for elegant meals. This former grist mill located in the Unadilla Valley, which had once been regarded as the western boundary of the United States and the division between the white and Indian territory, has since been turned into a restaurant with a dining room that overlooks the Unadilla River.
And you can’t visit that neck of the woods without making a stop at the historic White Store Church and Evergreen Cemetery, a Union Church built by the Methodists, the Baptists and the Universalists, and the neighboring cemetery which has twelve Revolutionary soldiers buried in it. The church’s name is derived from the fact that the store (which was built in pioneer times) was painted white, which was not in accordance to custom, for if a building was painted at all, red was the prevailing color–hence the name White Store.
And this wasn’t the only cemetery I visited. In addition to dragging my folks all over several counties visiting the final resting places of our dearly departed, I found time to visit the monuments of some local celebrities. Exterminator, one of the most famous Kentucky Derby winners of all time, was owned by Willis Sharpe Kilmer of Swamp Root fame, and lived out his retirement on the Kilmer estate on the west side of Binghamton on Riverside Drive. Old Bones, as he was famously nicknamed, is buried on the hill behind Ross Park Zoo. I visited his monument and by sheer dumb luck on another day I also happened to ride past the Kilmer Vault in the Floral Park Cemetery.
Here’s a collection of video footage featuring some of the local wildlife on the farm, shooting pool with my dad, me running the excavator for the first time, and me sneakily recording my dad playing the harmonica from the other room Oh and rain, did I mentioned it rained during this stay?
And as I said earlier, I there were lots of entertainment opportunities at my beck and call. The Triple Cities offers a plethora of live music, theater, and cultural events happening all the time. In fact, it’s difficult to choose which soirees to attend as there’s so much overlap, but I made room on my dance card for as many as I could. I also visited several churches whose sacred spaces and congregants hold dear places in my heart. I don’t possess a wide enough vocabulary to eloquently enough convey my experiences so I’ll just let the pictures in the video montage below tell their own stories. It features the song Strangers We Meet, by The Black Feathers, so you’ll want to click on this just to hear the song if nothing else.
After all the touring, visits with loved ones, wildlife sightings, laughter shared and tears shed, my final night to enjoy one last serene sunset on the farm from the peacefulness of the deck overlooking the valley had come. Mid July had settled into a warm, breezy summer with no rain in sight so my return journey was most likely going to be a lot drier, if not a downright pleasant, ride.
Would that brilliant sunset portend a rosy road ahead or was it just lulling me into a false sense of security? Stay tuned to find out.
Monday June 13 – 333 miles/8 hours.
After an epic first day and a good night’s rest (read Part 2 here) the zombies emerge…
Yawning and stretching I lazily rolled out of bed having slept like a baby at the Lackawanna Bed & Breakfast after a stellar adventure on the road the day before. Peering through the window panes between the silky sheer curtains I spied a dreary hue of gray that I hoped was just an indication of the time of day rather than unsettled weather. I glanced around the room. Somehow my bags had managed to regurgitate their contents overnight splattering the room with clothes, food wrappers, and toiletries. Viewing the carnage, I groaned apathetically; the thought of packing my gear seemed a little less romantic today than it did yesterday. UGH!
I gave the mess a dismissive waive and stumbled into the bathroom to begin the ol’ morning routine, when – SURPRISE!!! Mother Nature thought it would be funny to to bless me with a reminder of my femininity. This was sooo not good. Like a Boy Scout, I planned for everything and I was prepared with the necessary supplies; but I was not, however, prepared to ride for another day or two in unendurable misery, clutching at my contorting, convulsing, contracting, delicate internal lady parts while searching for decent restroom accommodations. This was not how I intended my personal Blue Highways exploit to unfold. I had envisioned discovering picturesque sights in unexplored, fringe outposts of civilization, having stimulating conversations with exotic characters who told compelling, unbelievable stories, and narrowly escaping pitfalls, landslides, earthquakes, and nuclear explosions while outrunning zombies on my trusty Falcon. DOUBLE UGH!!
Begrudgingly, but meticulously, I repacked all my scattered belongings being sure to place everything in an orderly, accessible fashion and made up my mind to hit the road as quickly as possible to minimize the, shall we politely call it, “discomfort” of the day. Leaving prematurely, I was going to miss out on the fellowship of my new friends and not be able to delight in the scrumptious breakfast at the B&B, but the road would, without a shadow of a doubt, become more arduous the longer I waited, so I trudged down the stairs and began loading up. I was all packed and about to throw my leg over the Falcon, when it began. Remember the gloomy skies I saw an hour ago? That wasn’t daybreak greeting me. It was light and misty, but yep, it was definitely raining. TRIPLE UGH!!!
I almost considered just riding out as is, thinking it wouldn’t last, but I’d be an idiot to set off while my battle-tested rain gear was tucked neatly away in my tail bag instead of on my body where it belonged. Alright, I spat through gritted teeth, then began the tedious task of unbuckling, unzipping, and unpacking the precious impervious attire, painstakingly stuffing myself into it, then re-zipping, re-buckling, and re-securing my bag once again. A good 10 minutes later and feeling like the Michelin man, I was finally ready to climb aboard my Scrambler Ducati and, given the inauspicious start of the day, prepare to battle the inevitable zombie hoard attack.
At 7:30 AM the kickstand went up and off I rode into the misty, drizzle under an umbrella of low hanging clouds. I didn’t exactly have a definitive path mapped out from this point to my final destination because the majority of my day would be spent traveling through Pennsylvania and I’m more than acquainted with the eastern PA roadways. Given the current circumstances, I chose a rather scenic byway with a slower pace in the early part of my day thereby allowing me to feel out my riding muscles and perhaps still reaping some rewards of the journey before I was forced to grit my teeth and power through on strength of will alone.
Honestly though, once I hit the road, a silly grin sneaked across my face beneath all that gear. I could feel my responsive mount tugging on the reins begging me to give her her head. Ah yes, this is where I belonged – sitting astride a beast full of untapped power. Drizzle and impending girly problems wouldn’t dampen my spirits – I DO LOVE RIDING!
A short time later, I was puttering though Harper’s Ferry, crossing and re-crossing the Potomac, standing up on my pegs to better view its waters happily bubbling over its boulder-filled river bed. I was mesmerized watching the eddies and swirls as I rode over the bridges and traveled along its banks in the shadows of the tree-lined cliffs and rocky outcroppings. There was no safe place to stop to take pictures and where I could pull off, the view wasn’t as spectacular, so I have no visual evidence to show for it. You’ll just have to trust me on this, put Harper’s Ferry on your moto destination list! And whaddaya know – no zombies here.
Next, I made an obligatory stop in Gettysburg, PA. because, well, it’s Gettysburg. I could have just ridden past as it’s a hair out of the way, but come on, if you’ve been there you know you don’t bypass it. First order of business: rain gear OFF! Whew, that’s better. Next, I hung out in town, gabbing with the locals and eating some lunch. BTW, everywhere I went, G-Burg included, people were enamored with my Falcon. She’s not like any other bike out there and draws quite the crowd because not many Scramblers have hit the roads in America yet. After wrapping up my Scrambler TED talk, I plopped my butt back on the seat and went on a little tour. I love this historic town and riding through the rolling battlefields with its trees growing out of formerly blood-soaked soil always makes the hair stand up on my arms. Its history is humbling. However, I’ve spent much time here in the past visiting the must-see sights like the wax museum and Hall of Presidents, touring the battlefields, and nosing around the shops so I didn’t dawdle too long today.
Thus ends the enjoyable portion of Day 2. Once I got to Harrisburg it was all highway, all the way baby. I now needed to put as many miles behind me as quickly as possible. The rain gear went on and off several more times and I can tell you, riding at 80 plus mph for hours on I-81 without a faring, battling intermittent rain, and enduring cramping pain is not for amateurs. Boys and girls, don’t try this at home.
Let me take this moment to complain about something else (as if this whole blog post isn’t one long PMS-y bitch session). I love my Joe Rocket Alter Ego riding pants, really I do. But I do not love the original knee armor that came with them. They have always drilled into my knees leaving angry red grooves and purple bruises. I attempted to remedy the problem by cutting ovals out of a yoga mat and inserting them into the armor pockets to cushion my tender (knobby) knees. That solution seemed tolerable on my preliminary test rides, but not even an hour into Day One I was miserable and had to remove the fabricated cushions – they just made my pants stick to my legs in a weird way and didn’t really buffer the pain. When I got dressed this morning I briefly contemplated removing the armor altogether to alleviate the problem, but quickly shot that down. The whole point of wearing ATGATT (all the gear all the time) is protection. (Don’t believe me? Click here to read MotoLady’s blog about her recent crash. Or click here to read about GearChic’s recent crash.) BIG sigh… If I was already going to have to use my superpowers to override pain sensors today I could override a few more. I am Hitgirl after all (If you click the video be warned – it’s graphic – but so much fun):
An unfortunate side effect of ignoring the pain and riding for hours at a time without shifting was that my knees sort of locked up. When I got off the highway for a gas stop in Wilkes-Barre, I could hardly straighten my legs to set my feet on the pavement at a stop light and then I couldn’t upshift properly once I had to move ahead. Awkward … and a little scary… time to take a break, refresh my reserves, and get my act together. I was only an hour or so from the end of my journey so there was no quitting now!
Gathering my strength, I took a few deep renewing breaths, focused my superhero brain on the task at hand, and braced myself for the crappy conditions ahead. How do you know what lies ahead, you ask? Oh c’mon, it’s NE PA and SE NY – crappy conditions are a way of life there – no need to check the forecast – According to Wikipedia:
Binghamton is the 10th rainiest city in the United States, with 162 rainy days a year. With 212 cloudy days annually, it is also the seventh cloudiest city in the country, and the cloudiest east of the Rocky Mountains. Binghamton’s proximity to the Great Lakes results in significant cloudiness and precipitation, as weather systems traveling over the lake pick up significant moisture, and cooler air masses from the west and the north culminate in a continuously unsettled weather pattern.
Without prolonging your suspense any longer, I’ll just cut to the chase. I made it to my folks’ home without having to actually whack the heads off any real zombies. With the full power of my steely mental reserve, I successfully battled my metaphorical undead villains which came at me in the form of physical pain, shitty weather, and highway traffic. Remember in yesterday’s blog how I raised my arms in victory like Rocky at the end of the day? Well, when I crossed the NY border today, I was most certainly more subdued and slightly battle worn, but no less appreciative of the victorious ending to my day’s ride.
“I did it. I’m home, I’m home,” I said out loud and proceeded to cry big fat tears of joy and relief mingled with pride. Most definitely pride!
Less than 15 minutes later I approached my final hurdle with a bit of apprehension. As I turned the corner to head up my parents’ long and rocky driveway (no seriously – we’re talking river rocks, washed out ruts, and not much gravel!) I held my breath in preparation for sliding around and losing control, having visions of dumping my bike spectacularly while my dad stood shaking his head watching out the window. About six feet into what could have been my downfall (quite literally), I realized this was some of the most fun riding of my entire trip! There goes that silly grin across my face again. My Falcon’s stock knobby-ish tires LOVED the gravel obstacle course and let me know it really is dual sport bike!
I wheeled up to the back door of my childhood home to find my mom waiting for me just inside with a big smile on her face. Given an opportunity, no doubt she would have taken the same adventure – we’re cut from the same cloth. Suddenly feeling revived, I couldn’t WAIT to get out there and see where else the Falcon would take me.Details
Sunday June 12 – 354 miles/10 hours
After the preparation (read Part 1 here), it’s time to roll…
Early Sunday morning, my husband Neel watched me struggle to carry all my gear outside, strap it all on the Falcon, then tear it all off and strap it all back on because I forgot to plug in my USB cable under the seat. He kept quiet (good man!) but I could see he was straining hard to keep from proffering his much-needed help. I politely (that’s the way I remember it) acknowledged his intent and declined assistance as I was all too aware I wouldn’t have him in the coming days and needed to be sure I could do it on my own. When I was finally all packed up and ready to roll for real, he hopped on his Bandit and rode along for about the first 20 miles to be sure everything was OK. It was going to be our last ride together for a month and though I was more than ready for my solo adventure, this made me feel a little sad and quite sentimental. Parting is such sweet sorrow, but the open road was calling to me with her alluring whisper and a promises of delights. Who can resist her beckoning hand? We made a quick stop to pee and re-adjust my tail bag straps, then with a mixture of trepidation, pride, and sadness of his own, he kissed me one last time and bravely waved me off. (Goodbye sweet prince….)
The first 50 miles or so, I traveled roads I was familiar with, but once I got off the last recognizable path, my excitement began in earnest. Now I was on an adventure! I wound through country roads and small towns having delightful conversations with interesting people at gas breaks along the way. One such fellow was this gentle soul and his dog, Repo and Rocket, who were journeying on foot.
After about 6 hours of leisurely riding and taking long breaks I reached the lower entrance to Shenandoah National Park. At this point I had to take a gut check and realistically inventory my mental and physical reserves to determine if I was up for riding the entire length of Skyline Drive. I had taken the precaution of filling up on gas at the last possible stop before the park just in case I decided to continue. BTW, that was the only gas station I actually scoped out in advance on my route planner. I knew I’d need a full tank to get through the park so I wanted to know exactly where my last chance for gas was. Alternatively, I had given myself an optional stopping point here and could have stayed at what looked like a delightful bed and breakfast, lazily rehashing my day and plotting my next course of action. But of course, being ever the optimistic (hard-headed) adventurer that I am, it took me all of 5 minutes to scarf down my lunch and give myself a virtual chest bump and verbal “hell yeah, we ride!” before charging into the park entrance.
Not gonna lie – it turned out to be a mentally and physically demanding 4 hours. Luckily, I am one tough cookie and what my body lacked, I made up for in sheer willpower. It was soooo worth it though. The vistas were beyond incredible. I figured out early on that I couldn’t possibly stop at every overlook or I’d NEVER get out of the park. The speed limit is only 35mph tops and the cars in front of me were intent on sticking to it.
In addition to navigating the crazy twisty roads, I got caught in one a hell of a rain storm high up in the mountains. Many times that day I was grateful for my carefully thought out trip-specific purchases and superb pack job with easy access to helmet shield cleaner and rain gear. A little tip I gleaned from reading other blogs on the internet was to put the rain gear on BEFORE you need it. Wise advice indeed. I put that gear on and off 3 times in the first day alone and I was glad I did. However, even with all my research, I somehow missed the fact that about halfway into the park is a welcome oasis for tourists – a restaurant with real bathrooms (not outhouses like the rest of the park), intermittent cell service (one bar, maybe), and a GAS STATION! I was prepared to not need the fuel, but gosh darn it, it was a thing of beauty to behold and I stored that little nugget away in my brain for future reference. Also, of note, cell service in the entire park is almost non-existent; let that sink in if you’re planning on riding alone in the park (again). Lots of motorcyclists were holed up at this little hotspot after just riding through the same storm. We exchanged greetings and commented on park conditions while waiting to dry out (some had more drying to do than others – not me, hehehe) and with only a short break, I rolled out of the civilized area and back on the drive. Upon making the final descent out of the park and seeing the ranger station entrance booth, I coasted down the incline with both arms raised in victory like Rocky Balboa conquering the steps at The Philadelphia Museum of Art. I did it!
The next item on my list was to locate lodging for the night. While I picked out several potential places to retire in advance, I hadn’t actually called and inquired about availability or even made contact with any of them. The day before my trip, I could see some available rooms at the B&Bs I selected, so I figured I’d just wing it. Besides, I wasn’t sure if I would be stopping before Skyline Drive or after. I didn’t want to be forced to ride more than I was able, nor did I want to be grounded when I could have kept riding. I could have used my now-working cell phone to call someone to secure a room when I stopped for gas in Front Royal, but heck, where’s the adventure in that? I had directions to my number one pick, so I tooled on up to the front door of the historic and secluded Lackawanna Bed and Breakfast, road worn, wringing wet with sweat, and probably smelling like a rotting corpse. Ding Dong, do you have a room to let? Once the gentle innkeeper composed himself and suppressed his gag reflex, he kindly showed me in and booked me in the last available room. You caught that right? LAST AVAILABLE ROOM. Someone’s got a guardian angel…
Before I could unpack my motorcycle and scrub the road grime from my suddenly weary body, the innkeeper wanted to give me a tour. I LOVE tours of historic places so, what the hey, if he was willing to put up with the smell, I was willing to walk, listen, and learn. Fascinating place. A variety of factors went into my decision to select the Lackawanna as my number one pick of B&Bs for this leg of the trip. Perhaps the least important, but most sentimental, was the name. Growing up in the Southern Tier of NY, I’m more than familiar with the word Lackawanna (meeting of two rivers, or stream that forks) so I found it oddly enticing that a place in Virginia would have a name from my home territory. Turns out the original owner of the home was from Scranton, PA. SMALL WORLD! While playing the role of the impeccable docent, the innkeeper became aware he’d forgotten to turn on background music, so he paused to play, wait for it, Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York, before continuing his tour. A warm glow filled my heart and a wistful smile spread across my face. I hadn’t even told the man where I was from or where I was headed – he had no idea that both the history lesson and the music selection were just more signs that this is where I was meant to kick back for the night. After a much needed hot shower, I could be found relaxing with my feet propped up on the front porch, sipping on a complimentary glass of wine, and watching rabbits gamboling in the front yard as I desperately tried to articulate in 10 minutes everything that had occurred since our parting to my darling husband. He’s no stranger to my excited blathering and overwhelming information vomit following my exploits, so I imagine he might have been a wee bit happy to get me off the phone, although he’s WAY too kind (smart) to let on.
A man and his son, also staying at the charming B&B, were road-tripping on their BMW motos so when they returned from their dinner outing we chatted the evening away, swapping stories, and scratching the ears of the innkeeper’s two sweet standard poodles until I begged off and hit the hay. It was a perfect end to a perfect first day. I drifted off to sleep, blissfully nestled in my comfy bed, oblivious to what awaited me in the morning.Details
From baby steps to a big adventure
A little over a year ago I took my first ever tentative ride on a 250 cc motorcycle. Wobbly and scared, I slowly let out the clutch and rolled on the throttle while my encouraging husband nearly exploded with pride like a daddy watching his child ride a bicycle for the first time.
Giddy with excitement myself, but tempered with a healthy dose of respect, I embraced what became a motorcycle obsession with fervor and within a month I took the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic Rider’s Course (MSF BRC), obtained my full endorsement, and conquered some long-standing childhood fears. After attaining a little more intuitive dexterity in manipulating the levers and controls, a forgotten voice in my head whispered, you were born to ride. Growing up on horseback (almost quite literally) I already knew that riding was akin to flying and as natural as breathing for me, but it was an intoxicating surprise to find that my passion and natural inclination transferred seamlessly to a machine-driven beast.
In short order, I began the hunt for my next bike, a bigger one. After months of searching and researching and agonizing and dissecting what MY riding style is (or will be) and what sort of bike lit my fire, I was left with a ho-hum attitude and a feeling that nothing in particular filled that bike-shaped hole in my heart. And then one day while randomly scrolling through Facebook posts, I saw a silhouetted head-on image of the new Scrambler Ducati about to be unveiled at the impending 2014 Intermot show in Germany. Ah-ha!! I had at last found my personal Holy Grail without even a shred of info about its specs or a real picture of it. Two days after the actual reveal I put a deposit on one at Garcia Moto then endured seven long months of (sort of) patient waiting and pouring over every scrap I could find on the internet before the Falcon, as she would come to be called, would be mine. Why the Falcon you ask? Because upon downshifting she sounds EXACTLY like the Millennium Falcon when it can’t make the jump to hyperspace:
Without the teensiest bit of buyers remorse, I was pleased to find that the Scrambler was everything I’d dreamed she would be and oh, so much more! So what’s a girl to do with just a year’s worth of riding experience (10 thousand miles!) under her belt and a brand new 803 cc bike in her possession? Why, take a solo road trip adventure of course! Every summer for 18 years I’ve traveled from North Carolina to upstate New York to visit my family and friends back home. This year I vowed to RIDE the nearly 1200 mile round trip journey plus rack up some scenic miles in the beautiful mountainous regions of upstate NY and northern Pennsylvania.
The Falcon needed only a couple of modifications for my purpose. I simply had to have lower handlebars for my personal comfort (and aesthetics) so I purchased a set of superbike bars from Dime City Cycles and enlisted my buddy William Vaughn at DMC Motorsports to put them on. Then I quickly figured out that I needed something to secure my tail bag straps to and found a handy DIY solution from a fellow Scrambler owner on one of the forums. And that’s about it. The bike itself is a handling dream and with an on-board USB port I never have to worry about losing charge on my cell phone (which BTW, I used quite often to check my GPS to ensure I was either on track or to make diversions). THAT alone is worth its weight in gold let me assure you!
With the major-ish mods out of the way, I focused my efforts on planning routes, plotting sites, purchasing gear, and picking apart every little detail I could think of as I counted down the days to my journey. Among my trip specific purchases were a Schuberth C3 Pro Women’s helmet and an Olympia Horizon rain jacket and pants, BOTH of which proved to be more than worth their expense and lived up to every review I’d read about them! I logged tons of miles on day trips and took a small overnight ride with my husband in an effort to appraise the best configuration of my set-up and gauge my stamina. I picked the brains of fellow road trip warriors and scoured the internet for advice. I planned and packed for every possible scenario (and my pack job, by the way, turned out to be brilliant as a result of all the time I spent visualizing and thinking through the placement/purpose of every little item). A week before I set out, I took and passed the MSF Experienced Rider Course so I was refreshed on my riding skills and knowledge. And in the event of a breakdown (assuming of course I had cell service) I had my trusty AAA card ready because, as my dear friend Johann Keyser of Moto Motivo told me in his suave South African accent, “There is nothing on this bike you will be able to repair.” Then he smiled and told me I would be fine with the basic tools and gave me a cheery send off. Even the world famous adventure rider Neale Bayly was kind enough to impart some good advice to me, “Don’t forget to stay loose, don’t grip the bars too tight, and have fun,” to which he sprinkled humorous (albeit, potentially valid) suggestions of items to pack.
Finally, after all the analyzation, preparation, and anticipation, the day of action arrived as determined by the best – or rather, least horrible – weather forecast. Ready or not, it was time to throw caution to the wind, load up the Falcon and hit the road.Details
She’s 48 and still walking a runway?!
YES I AM! If people are willing to have me, who am I to object or question it? So here are a few pictures from the Spring 2015 Redress Raleigh runway fashion show. I am blessed beyond measure to have Leopold Designs owner Kim Kirchstein ask me to wear her garments in public and I’m humbled to be surrounded by such young beauties and have their support. Kim’s creations are utterly amazing and as long as she’ll have me I’ll keep walking for her – with a cane, walker, or wheelchair. Whatever it takes! Here are some pics from the show at The Lincoln TheaterDetails
The Complete Bio
(in third person as you would expect)
Colleen Ann Guest’s performance roots can be traced to the barnyard of her family’s farm in upstate, NY – the barn floor being her first stage and the majestic hills her backdrop. It was a rustic venue with little amenities but the house was always packed and she could name her dates. Her audience was kept thoroughly entertained by rambling monologues and songs sung without regard for conventional styling; however, interpretive dance was foregone due to the sometimes slippery nature of the dance floor. Hardly able to contain their exuberance, the attendees cheered her on with their doe-eyed droopy-headed silence, an occasional tail swish or lazy flick of an ear; and for those moments of undeniable greatness, a resounding grunt or sigh – – the height of critical acclaim!
Fast forward through adulthood. She grew up, got married, had children, and lived an extraordinary life punctuated by joys and tragedies before finally leaping back into the world of make-believe. Having an arsenal of life experiences to draw upon (and the recollections of happily amused farm animals to encourage her) she sought training and pursued her lifelong passion.
The stage held a certain allure for Colleen but, oh there was magic to be made in the movies. Relishing one of her first film roles as a slasher victim in a student horror film, she (and the audience) was shocked to discover during the screening that – – apparently – – Colleen couldn’t hold her breath very well while playing dead. The film’s dramatic climax ended with shouts of, “She be breathing,” and gales of laughter echoing throughout the theater as she and her husband slunk out desperately hoping not to be recognized. (Directors take note: Colleen has since gained a ninja-like control over her involuntary bodily functions.)
Catapulted forward by these and other adventures, her acting resume began to take shape. She knew she’d “arrived” when she had to either reduce the font size or drop some credits to make the resume fit on the back of an 8 x 10 headshot – a milestone every actor dreams of! So, now, without further ado (cue the overture and hit the lights), let’s take a gander at some of her more illustrious career highlights….
Colleen Ann Guest made her theater debut in 2000 playing Claudia Grubner in Raleigh Little Theatre’s John Lennon and Me, a poignant play about the fragility of life – – a subject close to her heart. She has since performed on numerous stages and is a two-time Cary Players’ Pietzsch Award nominee for Outstanding and Supporting Actress for her portrayals of Lousia Bodek in Don’t Pick Up from Love Bits and Bites, and Lily Belle Savage in The Curious Savage.
Making considerable progress in the celluloid (ok, digital) realm, her IMDb credits continue to accumulate. Colleen’s on-screen appearances include the nationally distributed Pray series by Cross Shadow Productions in addition to being cast in several feature-length films, shorts, and internet webisodes; some by award winning filmmakers, like Rob Underhill and Aravind Ragupathi.
Colleen has also become a popular actress of choice for corporate clients; representing prominent organizations like United Therapeutics, TSA, Lowe’s Home Improvement, and Church Initiative. She has been featured in dozens of commercials, industrials, promotional videos, voice-overs, and print media.
She genuinely cares about her craft and has studied earnestly with some brilliant mentors. Among them are Writer’s Guild member Ellen Shepard and Casting Society of America member Jordan Beswick. Ever the opportunistic student, Colleen also stashes away mental notes of people’s habits and mannerisms for future character development. So beware – – you have been warned!
Someone has to wrangle all that talent and Colleen is most fortunate and grateful to be professionally represented by Talent One. She and her adoring husband Neel currently reside in North Carolina along with their charming (and frequently obnoxious) kitties and Miss Gracie Mae – the most delightful 3-legged dog to EVER walk (hop) the earth.Details
When your best friend has insulin dependent diabetes, you have to do something – besides freak out and cry with her; though we’ve done our share of that over the years. Nope, a best friend has to take action.
My bestie is an amazing woman who has bravely navigated the diabetes waters with a smile on her face (mostly) and a desire to be a strong role model to her daughters and others. She takes on the 24/7 challenges of this disease with grace and style in spite of her desperate wish she didn’t have to – there are no breaks or vacations from diabetes. She recently created a blog to help other newly diagnosed diabetics feel a little less alone: lifeandthesweetlife. But behind her winning smile and helpful blog posts lies a tender heart beating madly to keep her emotions in check while the infuriating numbers on her many devices occasionally tell her she’s over or under estimated the amount of insulin needed to cover her food intake or exercise output. When things don’t add up, it’s not that her calculations are wrong, but her metabolism plays insidious tricks on her, putting the perfect dose elusively just out of reach, while she plays a Price Is Right sort of bidding game with the bolus. I can hear Bob Barker shouting into his mic “Higher, Lower, Higher, Lower,” while she furiously tries to compensate for something entirely outside of her control. Yet, she puts each episode quickly behind her – no looking back – and readies herself for the next dance with diabetes. She’s got a life left to live and she truly is an inspiration. See for yourself:
So what’s a best friend to do?
Why make fun of her of course! She couldn’t possibly have thought I was going be mediocre about this “challenge” could she? I mean does she even KNOW ME??
I hope you watched through to the end including ALL of the credits – it’s worth the time. If not, go back and finish watching! See? Told you it was worth it! Special thanks to my husband Neel for being a the best straight man, Chesney and Cambree for being roped into the action at the last minute, David Aman for his tireless work filming and editing and to Grace and Tony and The Black Feathers for the use of their songs.
Now, if you care at all about trying to knock out this disease that literally destroys bodies and takes lives, help us make this thing viral!! LIKE, SHARE, and REPOST far and wide!! Then take the challenge yourself. Take a video and share it using the hashtags #EggCrackChallenge #EllenEggCrack #JDRFeggcrack #T1DEggCrackChallenge for the most exposure! Don’t forget to donate too or you’ve missed the point of the whole thing.
It’s YOUR turn to Crack, Nominate, and Donate!
If you take the challenge, I would LOVE to hear your story!
PLEASE share a link to your video in the comments below
Who remembers the episode from the Pink Panther cartoon’s Inspector series in which Sargeant Deux-Deux spent the whole time complaining about this painful infliction? Anyone? Well I do and I always used to laugh at the pathetic little character and shrugged off what surely was as much of a real disorder as cooties were.
WOAH Nellie…back it up. Turns out “de chilblains” (you must say it in a Spanish accent – think whiny Antonio Banderas) are REAL!
And, oh man, are they real!!
I cannot believe after spending over 30 years of my life living in the frozen Upstate NY tundra (or Hoth as I affectionately call it – Star Wars Geek Alert) and having suffered mildly frostbitten feet from spending HOURS in subfreezing temperatures that I never developed this painful, itchy, and completely annoying condition. And now, after almost 18 years of living in the warm south, I get visited by the chilblain monster. What kind of twisted game is mother nature playing with me?! I haven’t even been exposed to sub-freezing temps! Or have I ….?
First, let me give you a quick explanation of the condition. I’m too lazy to write my own so here’s someone else’s description from Straitdope.com:
Chilblains, also called perniosis or pernio, are a skin inflammation, most commonly seen on the fingers and toes, caused by prolonged exposure to low but not freezing temps and damp … Chilblains form because blood vessels constrict from the cold, and when said constriction lasts for an extended time the vessels don’t respond quickly enough to rewarming, causing blood to leak into the surrounding tissues and damage the skin. Your skin doesn’t have to freeze, as with frostbite–it just has to stay cold and damp for a while. Chilblains often show up in the form of swelling and discoloration and sometimes blisters, sores, and painful nodules under the skin. They can itch something fierce and scratching can lead to a secondary infection. If they’re bad enough they can cause numbness and long-lasting temperature sensitivity due to autonomic nerve damage.
Oh and and pretty too. <INSERT SARCASM>
So, now that I have solved the mystery of what the heck is going on with my toes, I am still left with the question of “how did I get chilblains in the first place?” Then I thought back over the last few weeks and considered my motorcycle riding. While I was bundled up well and didn’t suffer too much from riding in the cold temperatures (40ish degrees) and monsoon rains, I realize I may have neglected to properly care for my feet. They didn’t FEEL cold (too cold that is). I’m getting older (if you haven’t done the math then scroll back up and puzzle it out for yourselves) and it could be that my sensitivity to cold just isn’t what it used to be – maybe my extremities don’t relay that information as efficiently to my brain as they once did. Or, perhaps I’m so hard-headed that I just don’t care when I’m cold because riding is just too damn fun. Probably a combination of the two, um … heavily weighted on the latter – my parents could attest to many (oh brother, way too many) instances of the latter.
So, according to the description quoted above, it doesn’t take below freezing temps to get chilblains – just cold temps and dampness. I’ve freely bragged about riding in those specific conditions lately. And… uh, I’ll bet the wind chill factor on my feet (especially after they were soaking wet) was pretty effin low too.
As much as I love my Gasolina Boots – which are SUPER AMAZING BTW – they apparently aren’t imbued with super powers, like say, an invisible shield which keeps your feet toasty warm and dry in storm-of-the-century conditions. I guess I need to add more than a skimpy wimpy sock to the lower limb set-up. I almost purchased a pair of SmartWool socks before the winter season began but balked at the price and didn’t bother. I’ll be ordering a pair (or two) RIGHT NOW!
So there’s that. Mystery solved. As I sit here following my afternoon ride today, G R A D U A L L Y letting my feet warm up to room temperature while still wearing my boots, I know with a little care, I will continue to ride another day. Happy moto riding in winter to me!
(Oh, you better believe I’m still riding! Stubborn, remember?)
If you have any cold weather motorcycle riding tips, I would love to hear them. Leave me a comment below!
“Hey Dude!” he said said to me with a huge ear-to-ear grin and frantic wave of his arm while his eyes eagerly devoured every inch of my bike.
Today was a gorgeous day for riding the motorbike. And I don’t mean above-average temperature, warm-enough-to-ditch-the-scarf, sunny-enough-to-take-the-chill-off-at-red-lights, gorgeous. I mean picture-perfect-blue-skies, sunshine, summer-like-warmth-so-that-I-didn’t-have-wear-a-stitch-of-winter-gear, gorgeous. IDEAL day for crusiing the twisties; hard to believe it’s December 1st! So I took the looooong way home after running errands for work this afternoon.
Near the end of my ride, I was stopped first in line at a red-light in front of a local middle school when a pair of boys, around 12 years old, strolled through the crosswalk directly in front of me. School was just letting out and the intersection was flooded with car-pool parents trying to make it through the light, kids swinging backpacks on the sidewalk, and other drivers just trying to get past the congestion. I sat there patiently, surveying all the potential obstacles when the boy closest to me burst out with his enthusiastic greeting and ardent gesticulations.
When I waved back, he nudged his buddy and his face beamed. It reminded me of times when I was a kid bravely calling out to a rider (or driver of an awesomely cool car) and getting the acknowledging nod or wave from the driver – who was a rock star at that moment in my eyes. I wish this boy could have seen me smile behind my full face helmet. The funny thing is, he thought I was a guy and I bet he would have crapped his drawers if he knew I was a woman that could almost be his grandmother’s age! For just a brief moment though, I was that “cool dude” on a motorcycle that a boy looked up to – kind of like Frank Poncherello! I’m hearing the CHiPs theme song now….
I hope that little boy went home half as inspired as I was gratified. I’m treasuring being a “dude” today.Details