Thursday, October 27, 2011

Oh, and there was a cannon...

...that went BOOM!!!

I can't believe I forgot to mention that our friend Jerry brought a cannon with him to the camping trip!  


A cannon.  A very loud cannon.  A very loud cannon that went BOOM twice before getting clogged.  A very loud cannon that was eventually unclogged and fired one last time...with a tad bit more gunpowder than was probably necessary.  It may or may not have sent climbers on Seneca Rocks plummeting to their deaths.  I never checked the newspapers down there.  

This little gem is about 10" in length, is made of solid stainless steel, with a 1/2" bore.  And it's LOUD!!!

Photo credit: Doug Smith

Sunday, October 23, 2011

It's like wearing a hug!

I'm yawning as I type this; I am exhausted!  Chris and I spent the weekend camping down at Seneca Rocks in West Virginia with 20 friends.  And this wasn't any ordinary camping trip...this was a motorcycle camping trip!  Some people cringe or look quizzical when I tell them that Chris and I took a trip on our Concours 14.  "Where do you put all of your stuff?!?" they ask.  Then I explain to them just how much storage we actually have on the bike, what with the two side cases and the 55-liter Givi top case...and they start to believe it's possible for two people to travel for multiple days on a motorcycle.  

So when I told people we were going camping for the weekend on the motorcycle, I wasn't surprised when I was met with skepticism.  Hell, I was skeptical myself at first!  Two sleeping bags, two sleeping pads, a three-person tent, a JetBoil stove, rain gear, cameras, snacks and hot chocolate, a triple batch of cookies, toiletries, and clothes...WOULD it all fit?!?

Yes, of course!

Chris did a great job of packing the bike on Thursday and we were able to set out for the ST.N Region 6 Campout at 8 AM on Friday morning.  The weather forecast for the weekend called for highs in the 50s with overnight lows in the 30s on Saturday morning and the high 20s on Sunday morning.  Knowing this, and in the absence of proper winter riding gear (yet!'s coming!), Chris let me use his heated jacket liner under my gear.  

I plugged in when we left the house, but it wasn't until we were rolling in I-99 that I asked him to turn it on for me.  We were headed to Breezewood to meet our friends Jerry, David, and John to continue the trip south to Seneca Rocks.  As we were making our way through Bedford en route to Breezewood, Chris and I were chatting to each other on our Senas.  He asked, "How's the heated jacket working out?"  I replied, "It's like wearing a hug."  Chris bust out laughing and said, "I'm pretty sure that's going to be the quote of the weekend!"  But it is so true...wearing heated gear IS like wearing a hug!  It makes you feel all warm and happy!

Heading out Friday morning...knowing that 20,000 miles would be a reality!

It was foggy, gray, and drizzly Friday morning, but we knew it would clear out.

There it is!  The magic connection that kept me warm!
We were due to meet Jerry, David, and John at 9:30 AM.  We arrived at 9:25 and found all three of them at the gas pumps.  Once I dismounted and looked closer, they were just starting to fill their bikes; they'd just arrived!  After gassing up the bikes, we moved them to the parking area and went inside to use the bathrooms and grab a quick drink and/or snack.  We noticed a variety of hard boiled eggs in the deli case, including plain, pickled, and mustard eggs.  Intrigued by the unknown, Jerry bought a three-pack of mustard eggs, which came with a ringing endorsement from the cashier.  He said they were delicious; we feared having to ride behind him on the way to the campground...LOL!

David fueling up his Concours 14, John is at the pump next to him (white helmet), and you can see Jerry's bike at the far left pump.

Filling up our Concours.

David *may* have overpacked.

Jerry leading, followed by John and David.
Our route from PA into and through MD included several miles of gravel/dirt roads.  As it so happens, two-up dual-sport riding isn't that bad!  And apparently, the dirt/gravel roads we took were in better shape than the asphalt option.  We stopped for a bathroom/stretch/cookie break at a small park on the C&O Canal just before we crossed the water on the Oldtown low-water bridge into West Virginia. 

I wasn't the only one who plugged in Friday morning, as evidenced by David's cords.

C&O Canal

Jerry came prepared to pay our tolls ($0.25 each),
so no one had to go back for a shitload of dimes (or quarters, in this case). 

Jerry, John, and David prepare to cross the low-water bridge.

Crossing the C&O Canal.

Crossing the Oldtown Bridge.

Windmills in the distance as we make our way to Seneca Rocks.

It may not look like it, but the weather started improving in the early afternoon.

Country road...take me home...
We arrived at the campground around 1:30 PM and immediately started setting up our tents.  Our friend Scott's girlfriend Jamie was already onsite and had set-up in Group Site E.  She came down in her car with their daughter Keira, their dogs Zeus and Lucky, and Jamie's younger brother Matt.  There was initially some confusion about which sites were ours; however, confident that we belonged on Group Site F, that's where we set up.  We took the first tent pad with David; Jerry and John claimed the next one.  While we were setting up, our friend Sara arrived from Tennessee.  Sara took the next tent pad and hoped to find another non-snoring solo camper to share the pad. 

David lays out his ground cover and prepares to delve back into his huge bag of tricks.

John and Jerry start setting up on their tent pad.

More progress on the John/Jerry pad.

David gets his tent out; this was his first-ever camping trip!

Getting their tent flies in place and staked.

Sara gets her tent set up.

That outfit is all kinds of sexy!

We had a great view of Seneca Rocks from our campsite.

John's BMW K1300GT, David's red Kawasaki Concours 14, and our blue one.

Sara's blue Suzuki V-Strom 650 and Jerry's silver Concours 14.

Sara's Happy Riding Wee happier with smiley faces!
After we got set-up, it was 2:30 PM and we were hungry!  We decided to ride down to The Front Porch restaurant (not even 5 minutes from the campground) for a late lunch.  Jamie, Matt, and Keira came with us and while we were there, another ST.Ner arrived - Scott E. from Harrisburg.  He was a solo camper and claimed not to snore, so Sara offered the other half of her tent pad to him.  Since we were eating such a late lunch, we decided to grab some hot dogs, buns, condiments, and hot dog sticks from the country store for campfire hot dogs later in the evening.  We also picked up some beer and ice.

Once we got back, Scott E. got set up very quickly.  Also, when we got back to the campground, Ben had arrived and was setting up.  Everyone else arrived in short order - Ken and Dave, Jeremy and Rachel, Doug, Garry, Marty and Jay, Chris B., Robert, Frank, and finally Scott W.  We bought firewood from the campground hosts, iced down the beers, broke out the cookies, and settled in for a great evening of reconnecting with old friends and making new ones.

The view from The Front Porch Restaurant at Seneca Rocks.

Funny story!  Jerry and Scott E. seemingly have the same license plate from PA!
Jerry's is CON with an O; Scott's is C0N with a zero!

Poster on the beer cooler at Yokum's: "For Best Results - Don't Drink and Drive."

Keira is such an adorable baby!  LOVED her mittens and hat...a lot.  As you'll see...

Lucky made use of an empty chair to chill.

Everyone piled on Matt!  Keira is passed out drinking a bottle and the dogs were settling in to sleep as well.

Not the best pic, but I didn't want to disrupt the night with the flash.
Lots of good chatter, route planning, and story swapping was going on!

We woke up just after 7 AM Saturday morning and there were multiple JetBoil stoves going in short order.  Coffee, tea, and hot chocolate provided caffeine and warmth as plans for the day were discussed.  No one was interested in breakfast at camp (instant oatmeal), so the different riding groups that formed all made plans to start with breakfast.  Garry, Chris B., and Scott W. headed out on one ride; Doug, Ken, Dave, Robert, and Frank on another.  Jerry, David, John, and Ben set off on an adventure; Marty, Jay, and Scott E. headed down toward the New River Gorge Bridge.  That left Sara, Jeremy and Rachel, and Chris and me...we decided to be tourists for the day! 

We started our day with breakfast at the Gateway Restaurant about 10 miles south of Seneca Rocks on WV 28 at the base of Spruce Knob.  Since it was a gorgeous morning, we decided to head up to the top of Spruce Knob after breakfast.  It was still chilly Saturday morning...probably in the low 40s.  But as we climbed up to Spruce Knob, the temperature started dropping back into the upper 30s and all of the sudden, the ground and trees were covered in snow!  The road was clear, but it had quickly become a winter wonderland at 4,800 feet (the highest point in West Virginia)!

Area F is reserved, y'all!

Our group campsite.

Heading down to breakfast...39 degrees at the campsite.


Beautiful blue skies...heading up to Spruce Knob.

Lots and lots of bare trees!

Making our way up, up, up!

The scenery on the road to Spruce Knob was gorgeous!

Wait.  Is that...SNOW?!?

In is!!!

Just. beautiful!

Can you tell which way the wind blows?

We walked to the observation tower, snapped some pictures, and decided to walk the 1/2-mile Whispering Spruce trail.  We were not disappointed by the vistas along the trail!

The path to the observation tower.

Snow covered scenery along the path.

Group shot:  Chris, me, Jeremy, Rachel, and Sara

The view from the observation deck.

It was such a beautiful day!

Chris and me at the observation deck at Spruce Knob.

Looking down from the observation deck.

The Whispering Spruce Trail.

Walking along the trail.

It was so cool how branches were encrusted with snow and ice.

Check out this tree trunk!

Sara took a frosty seat.

Another beautiful vista!

The trees really did look like something from a Christmas card.

The ladies...

...and the gents.

More of the trail.

Another scenic vista.

It was only a 1/2-mile walk, but it was stunning.

I could have snapped tons of pictures along the trail.

The gang heading back to the bikes.
From Spruce Knob, we headed south to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank, WV to see the Green Bank Telescope.  Chris has been to the telescope a few times and told me all about it, so I was anxious to go see it for myself.  Rather than try to explain the telescope, radio astronomy, etc., I suggest if you're curious, that you visit, click the Visit GBT button, and learn more!  Suffice it to say, the Green Bank Telescope is HUGE!  The area of the bowl of the telescope is 2.3 acres...that's the size of our property at The Homestead!!!

Jeremy and Rachel on their Concours 14, followed by Sara on her Wee.

Arriving at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.

Let's go learn something!

The first radio telescope, built in the 30s in some guy's backyard!

Shhh...we're in the Quiet Zone!

The Green Bank Telescope.

When we got back to the bikes, this Kawasaki was parked next to us with this dog in the back.

It was so cute!  But it also did a good job of guarding the apples.
We left the NRAO and decided to head toward Cass to catch a glimpse of the train at the Scenic Railroad and grab a bite to eat at the Route 66 Outpost.  We did see the train while we were eating, but I didn't manage to get any pictures.  When we went to leave the restaurant, Jeremy's bike died.  It turns out he has some corrosion in one of the cables that connects to his battery.  Chris and Jeremy worked on it briefly (no more than 10 minutes) and then we were back on the road!  It was about 3:45 PM and we were about an hour and 15 minutes from the campground via the most direct that's the way we went!


Wriggling and jiggling wires and cables to bust up the corrosion.'s a barn!

It was an absolutely wonderful day!

Chris told me this creek in Circleville rarely has water in it.

Giving Chris bunny ears...LOL!

On our way back to the campground.

Another barn!  (You honestly didn't think I was off the barn-kick, did you?!?)

Arriving back at Seneca Shadows Campground.
The setting sun shines on Seneca Rocks.

Do you see the climbers?
When we got back to the campground, folks were trickling in from their various rides.  I took advantage of the lull in late-afternoon bathroom traffic to hit the shower.  When I got back to the campsite, Chris, Sara, and I decided to ride down to The Front Porch to grab a late dinner.  The parking lot at The Front Porch and Yokum's was PACKED, but it was all climbers at a chili cook-off in the back parking lot...the restaurant had plenty of open tables.  As we walked in, a large group of our campers was finishing their dinner.  We grabbed a table nearby and while we were eating, Garry joined us, having wrapped up his eventful day.  

When we returned to camp after dinner, it was a decidedly mellow crowd.  Clearly, everyone was exhausted from an exciting day of riding the wild and wonderful roads of West Virginia on a chamber-of-commerce day!  Folks drifted away from the campfire one-by-one until finally around 11:30, we decided to call it a night. 

When we woke up Sunday morning, it. was. cold.  Like...really, very, altogether COLD.  It was nearly 7 AM and both Chris and I needed to walk up to the bathroom, so we threw on our shoes, unzipped the tent doors, and...WHAT THE?!?  Frost.  Everywhere.  Heavy frost.  Crunch-crunch-crunch went the grass as we walked to the bathroom.  We returned to the campground and put water in the JetBoil for hot chocolate.  One-by-one, folks started emerging from their tents and milling about.  Scott E. took the frosty cover off his Concours and checked the temperature...28 degrees!  ZOINKS!!!  We were in no hurry to get out of Dodge, so we decided to wait a bit before packing up; we were hoping once the sun rose above the rocks, it would melt the frost and make packing up easier.  Some folks didn't wait as long and we spent most of the morning exchanging handshakes and hugs as individuals and pairs of riders headed for home.  

That seat is going to be COLD!!!

Frosty Connie!

Chris' brand new black tank bag...doesn't look so black right now!

Sara's emergency-repaired shifter.  Her bike fell over the night before.
This fix consisted of JB Weld, an Allen wrench, and zip ties...and it worked!!!

Rockin' my new raccoon hat!  (I told you I was jealous of Keira's hat!)

Feeding the birds the leftover hot dog rolls.

Aside from Scott W., who was staying with Jamie, Keira, Matt, and the dogs, we (Sara, Marty, Jay, Jeremy and Rachel, and Chris and I) were the last to leave the campground.  We rode down to the Gateway Restaurant again for one last group breakfast.  As we arrived, Garry and Doug were suiting up after their breakfast; Garry was headed back to Pittsburgh and Doug was Winston-Salem-bound.  We said goodbye to them and headed inside for some Gateway hospitality.  

After breakfast, we said our goodbyes to everyone.  Sara was headed back to Tennessee.  Jeremy and Rachel were headed back to Dallastown.  Marty and Jay were taking the direct route back here to State College.  And we had decided to make a side trip over to Blackwater Falls State Park before heading for home.  More hugs and handshakes...a few beeps and waves...and Chris and I were on the road.  Only to have Marty, Jay, and Jeremy and Rachel catch up with us at the gas station 10 miles up the road...LOL!  Another beep and wave later, we were off to the falls!

Headed down to the falls. interpretive sign!

Hello, caterpillar!

Chris at the falls.

Yours truly at the falls.

Blackwater Falls

Us at the falls.
When we got on the bike after the falls, we set the GPS for the fastest route home.  It was about 1:30 and our estimated time of arrival at home was just after 4 PM...just in time for the Steelers' kickoff!  On our way home, on a lovely twisty stretch of US 50, we hit a milestone with our Concours...20,000 miles!!!  The bike is 15 months old, so that's an average of 1,333 miles per month...not too shabby!  I managed to snap a picture of the milestone, as well as the odo-palindrome 20002 shortly thereafter...2 miles, 2 minutes, and 2 degrees later!

20,000 miles!!!

I snapped just one more picture - that of some windmills on a ridge top just outside of Keyser, WV.  

None of these windmills were spinning, which was disappointing!
I spent the rest of the ride listening to my iPod and periodically nodding off...but only for a minute or two at a time.  We arrived home around 4:20 Sunday afternoon to an enthusiastic greeting from Oscar.  We quickly unpacked - I set off to do the laundry while Chris set up the tent on the deck to dry it out and put the sleeping bags out to do the same.  Chris checked us in over on ST.N to let everyone know we were home and to check on everyone else's progress home...especially Sara with her emergency shifter repair.  Everyone agreed it was a fantastic weekend and we're all already looking forward to the next outing!