Saturday, November 26, 2011

Venturing into the unknown...riding in November!

Last year, my last ride was in October.  Having re-started back in April, I decided that I wanted to make the attempt to ride at least once in each month of the year going forward.  With the days in November dwindling, we decided to take advantage of the gorgeous day and log my November ride today.  We left the house shortly after 11 AM, bound for the Marion E. Brooks Natural Area in Elk County. 

We never get tired of odometer palindromes!

Heading west on US 322 toward Philipsburg.

Rock wall along US 322...there's a huge "blow-out" further west along the road.

Power station at the intersection of PA 879 and PA 970.

Quehanna Highway

More of the Quehanna Highway
Along the Quehanna Highway en route to the Natural Area, we passed through the Quehanna Boot Camp grounds; there were quite a few juvenile inmates out and about getting their exercise.  Quite a few of them looked our way with envy when they heard the bike.  When we arrived at the Natural Area, two gents were parked there with their pick-up trucks and trailers with ATVs.  They were scoping out the nearby trail for the upcoming deer season.  

Despite the sign, we didn't see any reptiles or amphibians.

The memorial marker for the Natural Area.

This Natural Area is known for the stand of birch trees.

I'm a big fan of birch trees.

I think birch trees make for excellent photography subjects!

The Concours

The Losey Trail

Another shot of the Concours with the birch trees.

A cross-connector for the Quehanna Trail.

A shot of the Concours from across the road.

The deserted Quehanna Highway.
Once we left the Natural Area, we followed the Quehanna Highway to where it ends in Medix Run.  We turned left onto PA 555 and followed it to PA 255, which we rode back to Penfield.  We stopped in Penfield at the Minit Market for a quick lunch.  

The roads were surprisingly empty today, despite it being such a nice day.

We didn't see any elk.  :(

We traversed quite a few railroad crossings today.

Coming down PA 255 into Force, PA.
After lunch at the Minit Market, we headed down PA 153 to US 322 through Clearfield and Philipsburg to return home.  

Heading east on US 322 from Penfield to Clearfield.

It was much cloudier to the north and west as we traveled today.

Despite the clouds, the temperatures were in the 50s all day.

We had another odometer palindrome while we were riding.

It's not the best picture, but there's Philipsburg's giant Santa!
Our ride lasted 4.5 hours, we went 140 miles, and now I can say I've ridden in late November...while listening to Christmas music on my iPod, no less!

When we arrived home, there was a bright orange Shutterfly box attached to our mailbox.  Inside was the 20-page photobook I made of "Our 2011 Riding Season"...but there's a footnote on the book.  "Our 2011 riding season isn't's just that our free Shutterfly book had to be made by November 22nd!  :)" 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Happy 10th Birthday, Oscar!

You call him Oscar. 

I call him:
  • Oscardoodledoo
  • My monkey man
  • Monkapotamus
  • Snuggle Bear
  • Snuggabug
  • Pea
  • Boogeyman
  • Bubba Gump
  • Snarfle
  • Shithead
But today, we can all call him BIRTHDAY BOY!  

Happy 10th Birthday, Oscar!!!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Iron Pony and the Hotel Doggy

Our most recent motorcycle adventures have highlighted my need for colder weather and heated riding gear in my efforts to be a year-round passenger on the Concours.  With nothing on the agenda for the weekend and Ohio State at Purdue, we decided to take a quick weekend trip over to Iron Pony Motorsports in Westerville, OH. (The OSU away-game was important as Westerville is very close to Columbus.)  We started talking about headed out to Iron Pony last month when we were on our trip with Shane and Andrea.  We decided since it was a 5+ hour trip, we would make it an overnight and find a pet-friendly hotel so we could take Oscar with us.  Hooray for La Quinta Inns & Suites; they have a "pets welcome" policy!  

We decided we wanted to leave at 8 AM Saturday morning.  I packed our suitcase with our clothes and toiletries and my tote bag with some sodas, snacks, Oscar's food and vitamins, and some Scooby Snacks and Snausages the night before.  Saturday morning, Chris set up the back of my car with Oscar's flat bed, his comforter, his fleece blanket, and a few members of "the brain trust."  

Here is Oscar ready for adventure:

Oscar with Reeses, Pooh Bear, Stitch, and Sprocket - ready for action!
Having gassed up the night before, we headed right out and drove for a little over an hour before making our first stop at the Sheetz on US 22 in Ebensburg.  We grabbed a quick M-T-O breakfast (schmagels!) and caffeine and let Oscar stretch his legs.  

We took US 119 to avoid the toll road on PA 66 (we're Clarks; we don't pay tolls if we can avoid them!).  Coming into Greensburg, PA, we passed Scooby's Pub.  As many of you may recall, Scooby is my car's name!

Scooby's Pub is right next to Dagwood's Subs -n- Suds
In downtown Greensburg, we were really impressed with the gorgeous courthouse.  This courthouse - the Westmoreland County Courthouse - is on the National Register of Historic Places.  The following is from regarding the courthouse:

The fourth and present Westmoreland County Courthouse was completed in 1906-7 and dedicated in January of 1908. Designed by William Kauffman, an architect from Pittsburgh, the courthouse has a large central dome. Only two of this style dome were ever built by William Kauffman, the other is in British Columbia, Canada. The ornate gold glazed dome and decorative statues and carvings help to make the courthouse an impressive building in the Beaux Arts style.

A gorgeous courthouse on a gorgeous day.
We hopped on I-70 at New Stanton, PA (where all UPS packages go before they come to our house!), and pointed Scooby west for the next 200 miles.  Poor Chris had to drive the entire day with the sun blazing down on him.

Chris was roasting in the driver's seat.
Meanwhile, I had my seat heat on full power!  (But I'm always cold!)
Oscar was just hanging out, taking in the scenery...apparently too lazy to hold his own head up!
We crossed into wild and wonderful West Virginia and stopped at the rest area!

Welcome to West Virginia - one of our favorite playgrounds!

Chris walks Oscar in the Pet Area as I walk back from the Welcome Center.

Oscar and I waited for Chris to come back from the Welcome Center.
Once back on the road, we noticed there was a Cabela's store just off the highway in Wheeling, WV.  We made a mental note to stop there on the way back on Sunday!  The stretch of I-70 that runs through West Virginia is only about 10 miles long.  We were in Ohio pretty quickly, but we still had about 135 miles to go.

Welcome to Ohio, where the capital is O.  (Brittany S. Pearce)

We passed Zanesville; we didn't see any tigers or monkeys. 
Baltimore?  I thought we were headed west AND in Ohio?!?
We arrived in Westerville, OH at Iron Pony Motorsports at 1:30 PM.  Chris walked Oscar and I poured him a bowl of water before we went into the store.  The place is HUGE!!!  It was a bit overwhelming at first.  

Iron's ginormous!!!
We started by looking at First Gear jackets and pants.  I really liked the First Gear Jaunt jacket, as well as the First Gear TPG Rainier jacket.  There's a huge difference in price between the two.  I'm going to read up on both of them and try to find some firsthand opinions from fellow riders.  

We looked at some other gear from Joe Rocket, Cortech, Scorpion, and Tour Master, but I didn't find anything that I like as much as I liked the two First Gear jackets.  I went back and tried on some First Gear over pants to figure out what my size would be, particularly if I'd need the "short" or "regular" length pants.  (I need the short ones...because I'm short.)

After investigating the colder weather gear, we walked around the rest of the store.  Iron Pony has an impressive selection of helmets and simply TONS of dirt bike stuff.  We walked over to the motorcycles and Chris was happy to see they had a Yamaha WR250R (his next second bike!).  I was intrigued by the used Kawasaki Super Sherpa they had in stock.  I *still* toy with the idea of having my own motorcycle...but I think if I ever do get my own, it will be a dual sport and only for trail riding.  I have ZERO interest in ever piloting my own bike on the highways and twisties.  I'm PERFECTLY happy to be the photographer/passenger!

Chris wants one of these for dual-sport riding.

Kawasaki Super Sherpa - I think I like it!!!
Back over on the "gear" side of the store, I checked out the winter glove selection.  I have a pair of Joe Rocket Nitrogen gloves that are warm enough, but they suck when it comes to being able to operate my camera.  Hence, as soon as I can find a suitable replacement, I'm selling them!  I found a nice pair from Alpinestars that are certainly a contender. 
These gems have C70 Thinsulate insulation...WARM!!!
The last thing we looked at was heated gear.  If you read my blog post about last month's camping trip, you know that I discovered the warm wonders of heated gear on that trek.  With the Region 6 Winter Meet less than two months away...if I'm going to ride with Chris to that event, I am definitely going to need my own heated gear!  I tried on Powerlet and Gerbings heated jacket liners.  I liked the Gerbings, although I'd like to check out a Warm & Safe heated jacket liner like Chris has, too, before I decide.

In fact, I didn't buy anything at Iron Pony on Saturday.  This was strictly a fact-finding mission.  I wanted to see what was out there, find out what fits, what looks good, etc.  But before I pull the trigger on these purchases, I want to check out all of my options, so we are hoping to get to Bob's BMW in Laurel, MD in the coming weeks to check out their selection of Olympia gear.  My mesh gear is made by Olympia and I really like it.  Plus...honestly?  Everything at Iron Pony was MSRP.  Who pays MSRP?!?  Not me!

Once we were done at Iron Pony, we headed down the road for a quick bite and drink before making our way to our hotel - the La Quinta Inn in Reynoldsburg, OH.  We checked in and headed to our room to relax for a little while before heading out to dinner.  Oscar gave the room a once-over sniffing before settling in with Chris in the recliner.

Oscar checks out the room.

Oooo...a king-sized bed...there *might* be enough room for all three of us!

Oscar chillin' with his daddy before we went to dinner.
Friday afternoon, I sent a note to an ST.N member - Jim - who lives in Columbus, OH to see what restaurants he might recommend in the Reynoldsburg area.  He sent me back a list of at least five suggestions and we picked one of them - City Barbeque - for our dinner Saturday night.  It was relatively close to the hotel and we were counting on being able to get in and out pretty quickly since Oscar was in the car waiting for us.  When I think of Ohio, I don't think of good barbeque...but that's what we got!  Delicious, excellent, smokey barbeque!!!  Chris got the pulled pork platter; I got the beef brisket platter.  We both got corn pudding as a side.  I also got mac-n-cheese, while Chris got fries; we split a cornbread. 

Yum.  Just...yum.
We went back to the hotel and, in the absence of anything really good on TV, watched reruns of "The Big Bang Theory" until 10.  At that point, Chris rolled over and went to sleep.  Oscar and I snuggled together, flipped over to Showtime, and watched "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse."  Yay!!!

Sunday morning, we woke up just before 8 AM and started to get ready.  After showers and packing up, Chris and I walked to the lobby for a quick breakfast.  We checked out and left the hotel at 9:15 AM, but we didn't get on the road for home before stopping at Tim Horton's (located just in front of the hotel) so I could get a hot tea and we could get some doughnuts to take home.  (Note: Tim Horton's in the U.S. does not serve  "steeped tea" like the kind that is served in Canada.  FAIL.)  After that, we hit the highway bound for the Cabela's store in Wheeling.

Oscar (and Pooh) waiting patiently to leave Sunday morning.

Six Tim Horton's doughnuts destined for the Homestead!
Check out Oscar's ear on the headrest!
We did stop in Wheeling at the Cabela's to take in all of the outdoor goodness the store has to offer.  We didn't really need anything, so it was just a browsing visit.  The highlight of the visit was finding a buffalo foot thing you know, we'd found "Guy on a Buffalo."  OH!!!

(My) Guy on a Buffalo-OH!
After Cabela's, we hit the nearby McDonald's for a quick bite.  We bought a four-piece McNugget meal for Oscar.  As I suspected, knowing we were going away and then being away, he hadn't eaten since Friday night dinner (save for a few fries from our lunch stop on Saturday afternoon).  I knew he had to be hungry and he does love McNuggets!  I broke them up into small pieces and let them cool while we ate inside.  I added a few fries and when we went out to the car, I added them to his food bowl and he promptly noshed on his lunch.  

We made one last stop on our way home around 2:30 for small sundaes from DQ.  We popped the rear hatch of the car and sat in the back with Oscar with whom we shared our vanilla ice cream.  Sure he had some "junk" this weekend, but it's very, very rare that he eats that kind of stuff.  Plus, he was a very good boy this weekend; he deserved the treats!

We listened to the Steelers game on the way home; they won!  We arrived home at 4:30.  We unpacked the car and Oscar took to the backyard to stretch his legs and make sure it hadn't become overrun by critters during his absence.  Oscar is currently PASSED OUT in his chair here in the living room.  I'd say it was a great little family getaway!

Sleepy doggy!