Sunday, March 18, 2012

In Search of Breakfast - "Our" First Ride of 2012

Words cannot express how absolutely wonderful, amazing, satisfying, gratifying, soothing, fantastic, peaceful, and comfortable it was to be back on my photographer's perch this morning! On second thought, maybe words can!?! All I know is I was a very happy girl earlier today during "our" first ride of 2012. 

Of course Chris has been out on the bike a number of times since the beginning of the year. In fact, just this past Wednesday, he did just over 450 miles with our friends Jerry and David. But was my first chance to get out for the new year and my first ride since the first weekend in December. Needless to say, I was ready! The lovely weather we've been having lately has really had me jonesing for some "backseat" time on the Concours. So when Chris mentioned yesterday (Saturday) morning that our friend Marty had sent out an e-mail suggesting an impromptu ride for breakfast Sunday (this) morning, I was ecstatic.

Ready to head out!

Chris waits for me to snap the pic before I mount up!
The plan was for everyone to assemble in the parking lot for Brother's Pizza here in Stormstown at 8:30 AM. There were quite a few "yes" replies to Marty's e-mail suggestion. When we arrived, Bill was already there; Jay, Woody & Ann, Kris & Jim, Dan, and Marty all arrived shortly thereafter. Marty called ahead to our intended destination - Tom & Joe's in Altoona - and reserved a table for 11 for 10 AM, so we stood around in the parking lot for a just a bit letting some of the fog burn off and trying to time our departure with a meet-up along PA 453 to pick up Andrew and our eventual arrival at Tom & Joe's in time for our reservation.

We arrived at Brother's at 8:15 AM. 
Jay parked his BMW behind us; behind him is Bill on his Harley.

Our gorgeous Concours 14.

Bob is our co-pilot. (Thanks, John!)

Sitting on the porch at Brother's waiting to leave...

Standing around chatting, letting some morning fog burn off.

Chris to Marty, "And then we found out that the BLUE Concours is the fastest color!"

The Volcano BMW twins.

Our ride leader mounts up!

There's Woody (white helmet) and Jim (yellow helmet) behind us.
Marty led a great route starting with Marengo Road (squeee!!!) to Dry Hollow to PA 350 to Huntingdon Furnace Road to Eden Mill Road to Johnson Hill Road to PA 453 where we picked up Andrew at Windy Hill Furniture.

Marty leading the way along Marengo Road.

Another year of riding, another year of barn photos!

It was a lovely morning for riding!

Approaching the Huntingdon Furnace.

Following Marty...

...and checking on those behind us.

We had the roads to ourselves this was great!

One of PA's many limestone quarries. 
Stone arch bridge.

Early "spring" scenery...

There's Andrew waiting for us!

And there's everyone gathering behind us as we wait at the stop sign at PA 453.
Andrew joined the group and we were off along Kettle Road for a wonderful run to Altoona. I've never been on Kettle Road before; I think I heard Ann and Woody comment that they hadn't either. It was a great road with a little bit of elevation change and a nice view of the Altoona Reservoir just before the steep bridge that crosses I-99.

Churches and barns, barns and churches...just good photography fodder!

Big ol' red barn.

Chris told these sheep, "Don't worry...David isn't with us."

Hi, Marty! I see you eyeballing me!


Coming into Altoona.
We arrived in Altoona at 9:50 AM and after finding enough parking spots for all of the bikes (we squeezed four into ours!), we stashed our gear on our bikes, switched to baseball caps, and headed around to the front of the restaurant. Our large table wasn't quite ready, so the plan was to split us 6/5. Just as the waitress was about to seat the first six, a large group left and there was enough seating for all 11 of us...yay! 

Settling in at our table.
Tom & Joe's was HOPPING!!! The flow of people in and out was steady. The kitchen and wait staff provided an element of entertainment, shouting orders and instructions to each other. In fact, the tag line on Tom & Joe's website says, "You can't pay for entertainment this good! Stop in, see what you're missing!" And it's true! 

There were quite a few tasty choices on the breakfast menu. The omelet menu included three "curiosities" - a buffalo chicken omelet, an Italian omelet (including pepperoni, provolone, and mozzarella topped with tomato sauce), and a Philly cheese steak omelet (including chipped steak, onions, peppers, and cheese). Not surprisingly, Chris opted for the buffalo chicken omelet. His reasoning was sound - by the time we got our meals, it would probably be close to 11 and it could count as both breakfast AND lunch! I ordered the Special nice, they named it twice! It was two eggs, home fries, toast, and choice of bacon, sausage, or ham...even though there's really no choice to be made...everyone knows you pick bacon! 

Lots of choices and reasonable prices!
Our take-no-prisoners waitress takes our orders.
(clockwise: Andrew, Jay, Marty, Drill Sargeant Waitress, Jim, Kris, Dan)
We sat at the other end of the table with Woody and Ann and had a great conversation with them while we waited for our meals. We traded ideas for local rides and places to eat, as well as talked about a few destinations we have in mind for later in the year. I'm envious of the trip Woody and Ann are planning that includes the New River Gorge in West Virginia. It's been too long since I've been down that way and I have yet to eat at Dirty Ernie's Rib Pit. I need to put this on the list of things to do...maybe we should do a birthday ride weekend for *MY* birthday this year!!! (Hint-hint, lovey...hint-hint!)

Tom & Joe's
1201 13th Avenue
Altoona, PA 16601

I suspect we might be back here at some point.

Chris talks to Kris and Jim.

Marty's Tiger, Dan's K1300S, and Bill's Harley 
Woody and Ann - great brunch tablemates!
It was close to 11:30 by the time we left Tom & Joe's. The food was quite good and the company could not be beat! With no plan post-breakfast, the group split up for the trip home. Marty led us, Jay, and Bill back to Stormstown initially back the way we came along Kettle Road until the turn off for Skelp, which brought us back to PA 453 to PA 550 and back home.

Heading for home on Kettle Road.

Following Marty.

I WILL get a decent picture of this godforsaken barn this season!
 (We need to approach it from the other "good" picture-taking side.)
Our ride was only about 80 miles, but it's quality over quantity when it comes to rides like this morning. A quality route, a quality leader, quality company, and quality "noms." We arrived home at 12:30, just in time for the puck drop on the Penguins/Flyers game and with plenty of time this afternoon for Oscar to get outside to enjoy the warm temps and sunshine!

Thanks to everyone that showed up for the ride this morning, with special thanks to our leader/organizer, Marty! Today was the first of many, MANY rides for 2012. I'm thrilled to be back blogging my ride reports. If you enjoy them, you'll have plenty of reading to do in the coming months!

Stay tuned and thanks for reading!

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Tale of Two Bags

My goodness! How is it that I haven't done a blog post in a month and a half?!? I'll tell you how...because nothing has really happened in the last month and a half! We've been having crappy weather on the weekends that has thwarted any attempts at our newest hobby (geocaching), but not enough crappy weather (specifically snow) to allow us to break out the cross-country skis and tool around the property here at The Homestead. Any decent weather days that might allow for motorcycle riding have happened on weekdays - meaning Chris has gotten out a few times, but I'm stuck inside slaving away over certificates of payment, change orders, and special budget funding requests (oh my!). That's OK...spring (and consistently better riding weather) is just around the corner. 

With the promise of better weather comes another new adventure for Chris and me - backpacking! When we were in Pittsburgh last September to purchase a sleeping bag for me for our fall motorcycle camping trip, I looked at backpacks and found one that I really liked - the Gregory Deva 70. Since I already have a backpacking-weight sleeping bag and sleeping pad, and we already have a backpacking tent, the next logical purchase for me was a pack. 

Thanks to some fundage from my in-laws for Christmas, I was able to pull the trigger Monday on the Deva purchase! I went to our local outdoor store - Appalachian Outdoors - on Sunday where I was assisted by Adam H. in getting properly fitted with the right frame size and waist belt. The only color they had available in-store with a small frame was Bodega Blue - not my first choice. I decided to go home and see what I might find out there on the interwebs; I'd seen a Beta Red online last week that I really liked, but it turned out to be last year's color. In my research Sunday afternoon, I managed to find an online retailer selling the pack for $60 less than AO's price. I e-mailed them to ask if they would match it, and they would! So Monday at lunch, I headed downtown to AO, tried it on one more time with Drew's assistance, and walked out grinning carrying my new Deva 70!

I am super pumped about this pack and I can't wait to get out on the trails! Our first backpacking adventure will probably just be an overnight on the Allegheny Front Trail (it's local) because we want to make sure backpacking with Oscar isn't a complete disaster. It's our hope that we can backpack as a family this spring/summer/fall assuming Oscar can/will settle down at night in the tent. We'll see... Before we can do any significant hiking, Chris needs a new pair of hiking boots. I think another trip to REI in Pittsburgh is in order!!!

Now, you may be thinking right now...this blog post is titled "A Tale of Two Bags" so what's the other bag? Patience,'s coming! 

Thanks to some Christmas fundage from my parental units and a sweet e-mail coupon from Vera Bradley, my non-outdoorsy travel just got a little more stylish! About a month ago, I bought myself the Vera Bradley Weekender bag in my favorite pattern (Baroque, in case you were wondering...I mean, my birthday is less than five months away...). It is the perfect size bag for, well, a weekend of travel...or, as I'm thinking, for the four days/three nights I need to go to Philadelphia later this month for the ERAPPA Mid-Year Meeting. It's also a great size for an airplane carry-on that won't need to be gate-checked for the small regional jets they use here at University Park Airport. It should fit quite nicely at my feet or in the overhead storage bins without any problems.

Again, I am super pumped to travel with my new Vera bag! I even bought an awesome lime green purse for this spring/summer to compliment this Weekender, as well as the Baroque accessory pieces I already have - the slim case, the coin case, the hard sunglasses case, the "one for the money" wallet, and the passport holder. I can't bring myself to carry a Vera purse (I prefer solid color purses), but I do love all of the accessories and travel bags! Wait...does telling you about my new lime green purse qualify as the tale of a THIRD bag?!? Uh-oh!!!