WELCOME to Between The Lines

This is my chronicle of my occasional travels about the country. I started it in 2010 for my trip on my 2005 Harley Road King Classic for Big Daddy's Gulf Coast Gypsy Tour to New Orleans...Read below to find out about it! NEW REQUEST FOR READERS! If you are following this blog, sign in as a follower! That way I get to know who my audience is, which makes it more fun. Thanks!

In 2011 its the same destination, and its another Big Daddy Gypsy Tour, but on a different bike (my new Road Glide Ultra) and via a different route. This year is going to be in preparation for a 'Travels with Charlie' trip sometime in the future --so its camping along the way, and reporting as I have energy and internet connections.

Periodic posts will appear below, latest first. The
"Pages" down at the bottom have some information of more general applicability or interest. Enjoy! HippieDave

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Elephant in the Room...

OK, it is something that we all are aware of, but nobody ever mentions.  And sometime we have to sit down and discuss this question as adults:  Is Kansas really necessary?
And I don't want to pick on just Kansas.  If you look where the spiral spine of your atlas is, there is a swath of states going north to south, each of which is equally unnecessary: North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and...sorry Texas, but y'all would benefit from losing a little weight if we slimmed you down some.

I have spent the last two days, and put only 750 miles under my wheels, mostly in Kansas and Nebraska.  Usually on an interstate network I can do better than this, and believe me--if it were someone's front yard I was driving by--I'd be impressed.  Very pretty lawn! Did you use sod? and, hey! Nice vegetable patch!  But really, do we need this much 'yard'?  My apologies to North Dakota, as I am dismissing you based on circumstantial evidence (your proximity to the others) and the movie Fargo, but I have driven extensively in and through the rest on my list and I contend fervently:  they are unnecessary.  Lets just get rid of them.  Maybe Canada would be interested? Eh?

Or, if one wished to keep the number of stars on the flag the same, and not disrupt the balance of powers in congress, well--we could just shrink them (like using your fingers on your IPhone) to the width necessary to spell out their names vertically on the map.  All of the people presently living there could still fit in, and your friends there would be a lot closer to you.  Just take a map of the U.S. do a bifold thing, and you'll see:  it works a charm.  Now I admit Texas has a bit more population to worry about, but you can't tell me Texas can't afford to lose a chunk the size of Kansas without anyone even noticing!

Mostly, what this would do is remove the last two days from my memory, as they never would have happened.  My God! the tedium!  The grass!...nothing but grass and cows.  I will dream tonight of riding a tractor mower forever in rows, back and forth, back and forth.  An occasional water tower offers the hope of a town on the horizon, but --alas--the tallest structures for miles around other than water towers are silos.  As near as I can tell, other than to provide a place for gas stations to situate themselves, there is no reason for towns here, and without the interstate trucking industry and me, there would be no towns.

One thing they do have here in plenty is weather.  Other than winds, which I would say were following me around on this trip were it not for the fact that they are always blowing adverse to the direction I'm going, I have been able to skirt bad wet stuff.  (I did get soaked to the skin in a rain and hail storm on Tuesday, but that was back in Illinois and was over before I knew it, or could do anything about it.)   I stopped today for lunch and read the Wyoming State Paper (no towns are big enough apparently to have their own papers) the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.  According to the front page headlines, I missed just yesterday 1) hail the size of baseballs that would have destroyed my motorcycle and 2) a tornado that would have made the hailstones irrelevant.  So, I count my blessings, and proceed westward under sunny skies and into winds that justifiably gave the conestoga wagons their nickname the Prairie Schooners --I'm surprised the oxen et al could even keep up! Or the that the Indians could even find them.  I can see Chief Crazy Horse now saying "Avast mates! Heave to!"

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Eastern Missouri Feels a lot more like Home

I spent last night in mid Ohio, awakening periodically to thunderous crashes of...well, thunder and lightning and the sky just dumping water.  Woke up to clear cloudless skies and headed westward ho!  Had I wagons, they would have started circling around 1 pm.  I've safely crossed the rest of Ohio, and fully traversed Indiana without incident:  but southern Illinois is looking pretty threatening.  Just as I'm about to talk to the wagon master about pulling over and hunkering down, it opens up. Hail, rain and more rain.  Temps drop about 50 degrees and in the four or five minutes it takes me to find an exit off the trail and find cover (gas station) I am soaked through.  I get a hot beverage without having to build a fire (how did the conestoga folks survive!) and decide to wait it out.  A nice lady with a smart phone (how have I ever managed to survive so far without one) checks the radar and I look good to go west.  She, the poor thing, is traveling east with the storm.  But she's in an SUV and does not deserve to look so nervous.  Sure enough the sun reappears, and I have to pull over again to take off the rain gear I put on too late and to no avail. ah well.

The landscape of gas station and trailside eateries is starting to look familiar again.  The east had odd looking jumbles of commerce strewn haphazardly around.  The west tends to be more organized, having , no doubt, the luxury of space in which to be organized.  Road engineering is also improving. The east depends for safe interchanges on everyone around already knowing where they are going.  There are tremendously unsafe highway and road connections east of the Mississippi compared to western standards.

All and all, it is starting to feel like the west again.  If my wagon train can only make it through the wild west of Missouri and Kansas,,,,remember this was Jesse James country....I should be OK.  Colorado weather, Utah and Nevada heat and then blessed California.  See you soon.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

My experience in NJ was actually good...it really puts things in perspective.  Not everything is homogeneous in the good old USA...we have it really good in CA because voters have generally made good decisions over the years, plus we have less population density per square mile.  I count it among my many blessings to live here, and access to the ocean because of the California Coastal Act is just one of them.

Today I continued my meandering route to avoid the Jersey Turnpike.  This was fun, as it led me south into northern Maryland and West Virginia.  I stopped for coffee mid-a.m. And there was an equal number of license plates in the parking lot from PA, MD, WV and Virginia.  It must be unsettling to drive around never knowing what state you might be in.  I have no idea where the coffee stop was, other than near the border of those four states.

I drove westward mostly through Maryland and then  West Virginia, and then back into PA for a bit before entering Ohio, in which jurisdiction I presently reside.--somewhere just west of  Columbus for those keeping track.  To tell the truth, not much of interest is viewable from the interstate, other than the fact that there is a striking cluster of churches in the very center of Cumberland MD (or it could be WV—I haven't checked.) Perhaps because of the mining history, this town was obviously influenced by the major religions, as this “church hill” is comprised of impressive brick built cathedral-like structures, each vying for the highest, closest to god steeple.  There is an odd 'country' then intense 'city', then 'country' feel to the landscape.  It is like New Jersey, but real, without the people.  The people are all in these monochromatic brick towns;  the countryside is just countryside.

Tomorrow, I attempt to burrow deep into Missouri, and then on tuesday to my music jam in Topeka.  Tell you how it goes later.!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

You can look, but you can't touch!

I ran SE this morning to the Jersey Shore, leaving about 8 and getting to the beach about 11:30.  Ocean Grove NJ is definitely a beach resort town.  It is pretty amazing, in that someone took the concept of an oceanside B&B, got a good model up and running, added a number of sidewalk bars and cafes, and then duplicated it 5,000 times and named it Ocean Grove.  It is very compact, neat and orderly, and totally devoid of any personality whatsoever. Cars are tightly parked everywhere in carefully and clearly marked parking slots.  The B&Bs too are nestled jowl to jowl along the grid of streets, each identical to the other, except for a few decorative touches and a different cute resort name.  It is very uniform, gridlike and swarming with people on a June Saturday. I  felt like I was in line at a major Walmart having a going out of business sale on beach going togs and sand castle construction equipment.  I did find a parking spot--one huge advantage of riding a motorcycle! --and walked down to the shore.

The shore consists of 1) a frontage road; 2) a fence; 3) a boardwalk paralleling the beach and 4) periodic breaks in the fence for access, with a pier jutting out towards the Atlantic and restrooms etc right there; and 5) ramps down to the actual sand beach.  The beach seemed pretty crowded for 11:30 a.m., and bristled with beach umbrellas and towels.  This topography of the shore appeared to repeat itself as far in either direction as one could see.  I got a winsome lass who was just sitting there in a chair (why was she sitting there? I asked myslef) to take my picture in front of an informational  sign, and then walked out on the pier to take some photos.  So far so good.  I had in fact arrived at my ultimate destination:  The Atlantic Ocean!--A trip, shore to shore according to the computer maps, of 4038.7 miles for the route I actually took to get there. Since I get lost a bit, and there were four days of RKRR rides tucked in there, my actual mileage is probably 1200 or so more than that...I will calculate the total when I get home. So, there was only one task left--to dip my toes in the actual ocean. I had had many hours to plan this step.  I would walk down to the lapping water (I had not contemplated what I would do with crashing wavers) and wade in  Then I would simply snap a photo of my motorcycle boots in the ocean.  Wonderful imagery, no?  Alas, here, I was brought up short as I began to walk down the ramp to the beach: "Sir", asked the winsome lass "do you have a pass?"  " A pass?" said I, and she pointed to the sign I had stood in front of for our short bonding moment when she took my picture.  I turns out that you can walk the boardwalk and the pier.  You can also use the restrooms.  But if you actually want to walk down the beach to the water, you need to buy a pass.  It was all spelled out clearly on the sign. $5.00 for a day pass. (I could have gotten a senior season pass for a trifling $45 or so.)

This may seem a trivial thing, given that I had ridden a motorcycle 4,000 miles just for the experience of dipping my toes in the Atlantic.  But it quickly became a msatter of principle.  $5 to park I might have begrudgingly swallowed.  But $5 to walk on a public beach that constitutionally belongs to me?  I just couldn't do it.  I explained to her the nature of my trip, and how symbolic and lovely a gesture it would be to allow me five minutes to walk down, click the shutter, and return.  And while she seemed mightily impressed, she was having none of it, for rules are rules on the NJ shore!  So I left, somewhat disappointed, but filled with new detailed information about why I don't live in New Jersey.

New Jersey is the Garden State, and at first blush it is beautifully lush with vegetation and river resources that justify its name.  But it has had several hundred years of a LOT of people living there, and they have left an imprint.  A cultivated botanical garden, sculpted and crafted by hand provides more of a feeling of nature than does New Jersey..or New York (lower) or PA for that matter.  Everywhere you look, yes--you see trees--but you know it is people that dominate and heavily tip the scales of importance in that area.  My cousin Pat told me about upstate NY:  "Take all the leaves off, and you'd see 10,000 deer looking at you".   NJ is the similar: remove the trees and you have several million people staring at you, and ready to take your parking spot the minute you look away.  There is a sense that people are what the place is all about, and no pretense to being a nature preserve can change that.  Plus, c'mon, everyone knows it: you got attitude in Jersey like no where else.

So a bit to the wiser and a bit disappointed, I headed west hoping to get as far as I could to use the day efficiently.  Unfortunately, it not only costs you to visit the beach, it costs you to get away as well.  Pretty soon I found myself on the New Jersey turnpike, as my GPS thinks that is the only direct route out.  It turns out the GPS is right.  That IS the only way out of there that is at all efficientl  After racking up $15 bucks in tolls in only a few dozen miles, I bailed out and reprogrammed the gps to take non-toll roads.  We've been wandering about the PA landscape trying to find a way out ever since.

Each setback has its positive aspect tho.  In our wanderings today I encountered many Menonites, driving horse and buggies, but also riding bicycles and showing other signs of a much more relaxed adaptation to the world, such as patterned, less austere clothing.  I'll have to do some reading about them, and how they compare to the Amish.

Off to Mid Ohio tomorrow, and then St Looey and Topeka for a Tuesday night music jam.  More later.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Going East to Get home....

Tomorrow I take off eastward to begin my return trip.  That is because I have not yet dipped my toes in the Atlantic, and must do before turning westward ho.  Will refine plan over coffee in the a.m.  I really want to go to Atlantic City, the cultural hub of the area, but time constraints may make me set my sights lower.

This has been a fun but extra tiring week of riding.  Northern NJ, at its intersection w/ PA and NY is a very beautiful area, with very beautiful homes, incredibly pastoral rivers and lots of roads.  Mucho roads.  You have to take ten or fifteen roads to go anywhere. (See earlier posts re this.)  Today we visited Highpoint State Park, which has an obelisk monument celebrating the fact that it is the highest point in all of New Jersey, at 1800 feet.  They didn't say whether that is with or without the monument. We could see all the way to our motel from up there, plus the bridge we crossed to get there. Despite all the incredibly lush vegetation, however, this is an extraordinarily urbanarea.  Lots of people.  Lots of stores, roads etc that make up an urban landscape.  Oh, give me room, lots of room, to see the starry skies.  I wanta go home.

It was great seeing people I only see at these events, and to share biker stories.  People have some new bikes.  Barney from Miami Fla. has a new Indian!  Gorgeous bike!  Some of these folks are genuine eccentrics, as you might imagine given that they are all MC Riders.  We had people from over 20 states...from Florida to California (that would be me) and from Canada. I had the oil changed at a local dealer while we stopped for lunch one day, as I've racked up over 5,000 miles since I left Caspar and, therefore, since my last oil change.  No serious accidents this year--we had one fender bender when a sudden stop caused by an errant truck caused two of our bikes to collide at a stop sign.  $320 bill later for a new tire fixed the situation.

Mostly we've just ridden the back roads around here, but it has been tiring, as there are lots of stops and tight turns and it has been hot.  Today we rode to West Point and got a guided tour of the facility on an airconditioned bus.  It was very interesting and nice. I could have used the time for a good nap, but the tour guide kept waking me up to go see something.  Lots of history there.  This year's athletic cheer is "Beat Someone, Anyone!"

I don't know when I will have internet again, but until then I am yrs. trly.....

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

 I never know what state I'm in...

..other than lost.  I am presently in Pennsylvania.
Without the gps machine, though, only the ghost of Robert Frost would know which road I've taken.
New england has been around so long that they have filled up every nook and cranny with people nestled together in little hamlets. (Don't get me started on the language barrier---”towns” are not towns at all, but very large sections of land which contain towns.  No more than one town per town, please.)  Where there are not towns full of people, there are rivers and road connecting all the dots.

I left Canton Sunday a.m. heading for my friends' Steve Gillette and Cindy Mangsen's home in Bennington Vermont.  It took somewhere around fifteen different roads to get to Bennington....excuse me, to NORTH Bennnington.  To get to Bennington itself takes another whole set of directions.  I came down through Adirondack State Park, alongside slowly moving, very large rivers, much physical beauty, and virtually nobody outside enjoying it.  One of the puzzlements of this section of my trip are these huge rivers with nobody playing on them!  But back to the roads.  I imagine because of the incremental growth pattern --filling in here, filling in there—and the need to utilize every square inch of land, there is no road grid pattern.  To get from point A to B, they put a road in.  Then when points Aa and Ab And B1 etc. came into being, you just drew a bunch of squiggely  lines hooking them all together.  In any event, there is much truth to the old Maine joke with the punc hline: “you know, you just can't get there from here.”  There is certainly no easy way.

In a minor rebellion sort of mood, I turned off my GPS machine.  She and I had been developing something of a contentious relationship, and there were some communication issues...such as my asking “why do you say “bear right here” when what you really mean is “turn right”...there is a difference you know!  So after a wonderful visit with Steve and Cindy, and a night spent in the sleeping loft over their music studio (look for one of their CDs and you will not be disappointed:  Steve Gillette is the singer songwriter responsible for Darcy Farrow and Molly & Tenbrooks and his sister Darcy (yes Virginia, there IS a Darcy) was due to take over the studio sleeping pallet the day after my departure), I headed south west to my ultimate mid-point destination of Matamoras PA.  Being off-GPS I got lost almost immediately.  After wandering around a bit, finding ever tinier and quainter hamlets, I stopped to ask for directions to the interstate, which maps indicated should be no more than about twenty miles away.
This proved  to be a non-trivial problem.  After scratching his head a bit, the gas station owner said I should come inside and talk to Bob.  I did and Bob said: “...mumblemumble,bestway, I goto my grandson's that way, so you ...left then straight and pick up Highway 22 South.  Take you right there.”  [Pause] Me: “I thought I was on Highway 22 south.”  Bob: Oh you are. But you gotta, mumble draaaz [incomprehensible] then leftrightleft,,,,,or rightleftright? You'll see.  Then you mumble mumble and pick up Highway 22 again.”

Having reconciled with my GPS, we wandered south, found the interstate and safely arrived at our destination in Matamoras.  Old friends and new bikes to talk about.  More later on the 11th Road King Riders (and Gliders) Annual Rendezvous.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The birds are tweeting and I am not

It is a beautiful morning in Canton NY!  the birds are singing, it is not raining (got it all done last night) and I am sitting with a cup of joe contemplating what it will feel like to do nothing today.  I will tag along with my cousin and hubby to a community garden potluck lunch.  And we may go visit the Remmington Museum (he was a local in this area, which I did not know.)

I am absolutely thrilled to have had my first encounter with the Amish Community.  It wasn't much.  I just passed a two horse team buggy with a familiy in it, and then a bit later a two draft horse flatbed wagon piled high with grain.  I say thrilled, because -- while I do not aspire in any regard whatsoever for the austere religious community life---there is something very romantic in the throwback lifestyle of hand tools and horse drawn locomotion.  Maybe it is because I've just done 3600 miles or so on a  motorcycle that the idea of sitting on a buggy behind a beautiful matched team of horses to go into town to shop just sounds wonderful.  How do they get their ice cream home frozen though?

Talking with my cousins, I learn that the Amish have been in this area a while, and are increasing in number as their need for land expands, presumably as families grow.  Land is relatively cheap here compared to Pennsylvania.  I know  next to nothing about the Amish.  I presumed that they were home schooled, but was not aware that English is taught in schools, to varying extents, as a second language, and that they speak one of several dialects of German dating back to the 17th Century...Their 'official church' language is Hoch Deutsch, or high German.  The fact that a population (current estimates are about 250,000 nationwide) of people can more or less smoothly coexist in our society even when they hold such dramatically different beliefs and cultural practices from the rest of us speaks to the flexibility and strength of our system.  It is surely a difference to be honored and respected.

I wonder if there's a place I could buy an Amish hat...they are really cool.