Friday, June 15, 2012

We took a little ride. (Day 4 - Traverse City to Battle Creek)

Day 4 was THE DAY! The day of the BBQ at our friend Clay's house. The whole reason for the trip! We got up around 6 and headed down to the lobby for the complimentary breakfast just after 7 AM. The breakfast area at our hotel - the Quality Inn By the Bay - was tiny! There was a sign on the wall that they prefer to think of it as "cozy." Nah. It was small. So we grabbed breakfast to-go and headed back to our room. Oh, actually, before that, I should note that when we first woke up and Chris looked outside, it was POURING! Thankfully, about five minutes after we woke up, it stopped. 

After breakfast, Chris went outside with a towel to dry off the bike. When we took our stuff down to the bike before I walked to the lobby to check out, an older gentleman with a yellow Goldwing had come down to his bike to remove his cover. He said to Chris, "That thing (pointing to our Connie) is bone dry! How did you manage that?" Chris responded, "It's a doesn't get wet!" and we all shared a laugh. 

I left Chris to put the bags back on the bike while I went to check us out. When I got back, Chris was still talking to the gentleman, who'd asked for some riding advice on cornering. Turns out he and his riding partner were headed the way we'd just come, so Chris also gave him some insight on the roads we'd been on. We got suited up and left the hotel just after 8 AM. 

Since we'd gassed up in Sault Ste. Marie, we didn't have to make an immediate gas stop Saturday morning. We went a little over an hour and about 60 miles before stopping at a gas station across from the Little River Casino Resort.

Time to put some American petrol back in this beast!

Chili spies on Smooches the Adventure Moose, the C14's permanent inhabitant.
We stopped another 90 minutes later in White Cloud for something to drink and a dose of Vitamin I. At some point between our stop for gas and our stop to stretch, I'd fallen asleep while we were riding. I'd listened to the last Mike O'Meara Show podcast on my iPod and had switched over to jazz. Mistake! It was far too easy to close my eyes to listen to the music. Couple that with the flat and frustratingly straight roads in Michigan and, well, it was lights out. I don't think it was asleep for much more than 10 minutes, but I was definitely fading! I clicked over to talk to Chris and informed him that a stretch break was in order. He asked me if I'd fallen asleep having noted that I was pretty much perfectly still for a spell. 

We decided to stop at a Wesco gas station for our stretch break. When we walked into the station, we were immediately overcome by the aroma of freshly popped popcorn. The smell was intoxicating! I guess Wesco's popcorn is "a thing" in Michigan. Anyway, I'm weak and while I was waiting in line to pay for Chris' Diet Coke and my Gold Peak unsweetened iced tea (y'all have NO IDEA how thrilled it was to find bottled unsweetened tea!), I caved and bought a small bag of the popcorn. I was wooed by the smell! We went outside and shared the popcorn while enjoying our beverages and stretching our legs. Let me just say, it's a good thing I don't live in Michigan because that was some awesome popcorn! 

Are you familiar with the viral "honey badger" video?
Channel the narrator's voice and repeat after me:
"This is a house of flavors..."

THE popcorn!!!

This. is. SPARTA!!!

Approaching Grand Rapids.
Following our stretch (and popcorn) break, it took us just over an hour to make it to Clay's house. We pulled into the driveway and parked the bike. There were about 10 folks milling about in the driveway - some admiring the bikes, some changing out of riding gear, and then there was Clay! He came down the driveway with a huge smile on his face saying, "Chris? Beth?" You see, we'd never met Clay before that day. We "knew" him from ST.N and we're friends on Facebook, but we'd never met face-to-face before. There were quite a few folks at Clay's BBQ that we'd never met before. Heck, that was part of the appeal of going to the BBQ - the opportunity to meet several folks from ST.N with whom we've conversed over the years!

Clay gave Chris a hearty handshake and me a big hug. It was great to meet him and, in short order, folks like Eric, Sam, Wally, Matt, Nathan & Maggie and their son Miles, Clay's wife Jaci, our friend John's wife Kathy, Ted, and Dan (among others). We saw our friends John, Jim, and Ed again (we'd just seen them at the beginning of May at the Spring Meet in West Virginia). We ducked into Clay's house to change out of our riding clothes into shorts and t-shirts (it was in the 80s and sunny). While in the kitchen, Clay handed over the box of cookies that I'd shipped to his house ahead of our arrival. I'm kinda sorta known on ST.N for my cookie-baking prowess. I try to take a batch or two to every meet for sharing. For the BBQ, I made a batch of chocolate-chocolate chip maple bacon cookies. They were phenomenal, if I do say so myself!

We headed to the back of the house to Clay's barn where all of the food was. I started to unwrap the cookies and immediately felt like a flame attracting moths. I was swarmed by Chris, John, Sam, Kathy, Ed, and Eric! I let them all take a cookie before heading into the barn to put them out with the rest of the food. That's where we met a few more folks. Shortly thereafter, Clay announced that everything was ready and everyone grabbed a plate and dug in. Clay's friend has a smoker on a trailer and had come over to prepare a FEAST - pulled pork, BBQ chicken, sausages, hot dogs, stew, baked beans (with PINEAPPLE, y'all!), and hamburgers. I'm tell ya, it was QUITE the spread!!!

Hail, hail, the gang's all here!

The spread after everyone had been through it.
You can't appreciate all the food that was there, so trust me when I say it was a lot!

Sitting in the shade chatting with Ed, Ted, and Jim.
After we ate, Chris went to sit with Kathy to hear about the touristy things she and John had done on their trek to Clay's. They'd come in their car from Massachusetts and had spent two days in Niagara Falls along the way. I sat in the shade talking to Ed, Nathan, Maggie, Ted, Eric, and Jim while Miles played with and among us. (Side note: He's 2 and he's adorable!) 

When I got up to refill my drink, Clay asked me if I wanted a tour of his gardens, which I definitely did! One of the threads on ST.N where Clay and I post is the gardening thread in the off-topic section (we can't talk motorcycles all the time!). 

Clay's garden for heat-tolerant plants like peppers and tomatoes.
He has an irrigation system under the tarp.

Down by the creek at the edge of his property, Clay has his "cool" plants like lettuce, radishes, and peas. He has this rigged with irrigation using water from the creek and a solar-powered battery. Genius!

One of Clay's grapevines. The grapevine at our house came from Clay last year!
Chris joined us for the garden tour and then we walked out front to admire all of the motorcycles in the driveway. I had a nice conversation with Wally before snapping a few pictures of the bikes.

Our Kawasaki Concours 14.

Jim's Aprilia Mana

Sam's Triumph Thruxton

Matt's Yamaha Super Tenere (love this bike)

Wally's Aprilia Caponord (I'd never seen one of these before!)

I LOVED Michael's was the "prettiest" bike there.

All of the bikes in Clay's stable! His Suzuki Bandit 1200 is the third from the left.
After baking in the sun out in the driveway admiring the bikes (my neck was sunburned for days!), we went back around the house and sat on the lawn in the shade of one of Clay's trees. We sat around chatting with folks about this, that, and the other for quite a while. 

Clay, Miles, Maggie, Nathan, and Scott

Ed and Clay

Scott, Sam, and Chris

Miles and Nathan in the trampoline.
Around 5:30, Chris and I decided we should probably hit the road. We had about an hour's ride to our hotel in Battle Creek. We went out to the bike to grab out gear and headed into the house to change. After donning our riding gear (which had been sitting in the sun all afternoon and was all warm and roasty-toasty), we walked around back one last time to bid everyone farewell.

On Clay and Jaci's suggestion, we took M-89 to get to Battle Creek rather than the highway. We left Clay's about 5:50 and got to our hotel - the Hampton Inn - just past 7 PM. We checked in - and a lovely check-in it was thanks to Franklin at the front desk! - and headed up to our room for a quick shower before we walked to Bob Evans next door for dinner. When we were walking back to the hotel, we talked about going for a swim at the hotel but decided we were too tired. We returned to our room and watched "The Hangover 2" on HBO.

Our on-the-road time for Saturday was only about 5.5 hours and we covered approximately 262 miles.

Stay tuned for Day 5...

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