Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Long Ride for Tasty Meat

Born during a hike of Mt. Nittany on Easter Sunday afternoon, Chris and I made the idea of making the trek to Byron Center, Michigan to our friend Clay's house for a BBQ a reality over the weekend. Clay hosts this annual gathering of motorcyclists on a Saturday in June where he has his friend Daryl (a BBQ master) prepare myriad delicious smoked and barbecued meats and opens his driveway, garage, home, pool, and backyard to those who've traveled from far and wide. This year's event - known as Clay-B-Que (or Cat-B-Que for those in the know) - drew riders from as far away as Pennsylvania (us!), Texas, and even Washington. The state. As in Seattle. As in 2,239 miles away. Yes, friends...the BBQ is that good. And the company? It's even better!

With Chris working here at PSU now and me mired in fiscal-year end preparations at work, taking time off was not an option to stretch the 1,000+ mile trip beyond the weekend. I opted to work Chris' hours on Friday (6 AM - 2:30 PM) and we headed home to pack the top case and hit the road. Our plan was to ride as far as Cleveland, Ohio Friday late afternoon/evening, finish the trek to Michigan on Saturday, and make the entire return trip home on Sunday. That meant 230 miles on Friday, 293 miles on Saturday, and a whopping 523 miles on Sunday. Sunday would wind up being my longest day on the bike, mileage-wise. Thanks to the little bit of travel I do for work and my professional organizations, I had enough hotel points to get comp-ed rooms for us both nights of the trip. 

One of the last things to be packed Friday afternoon was the container of chocolate chocolate-chip maple bacon cookies that I'd baked Thursday night.

The plan was to be on the road around 3:30 PM since we were looking at about 3.75 hours of travel...and that was with smooth sailing the entire way. Which didn't happen. Of course.

Time of Departure: 3:41 PM | Temperature: 70 Degrees | Conditions: Sunny...for now.

Many bridges along I-80 are being replaced. In the midst of all of the merging, slowing, and jockeying for position, some thing bad happened.

Something REALLY bad happened.


I'm happy to report that as we passed the scene of the accident, the driver of the car who rear-ended the flatbed was out of the car and being attended to by witnesses. He was alive and - from what I could ascertain in the fleeting seconds it took to pass him - would continue that way albeit battered and bruised.

Our ride through Pennsylvania into Ohio continued without further incident until we were about an hour from our evening destination - the Courtyard by Marriott Cleveland Airport South. By then, those departure conditions - sunny and 70 - had deteriorated to very cloudy and obvious pending rain. And then pending rain became actual rain. And actual rain became harder actual rain. And finally, we decided to pull off under a bridge on the Ohio Turnpike and put our rain gear on for the remainder of the ride.

Ride Like Royalty...while your bus driver drives like a royal pain in the ass!

Scenery from one of the many bridge crossings along I-80 in Pennsylvania.

And again.

Look how clean and shiny the bike is! For now!

Stopped at the rest area in Pennsylvania just before crossing into Ohio.

Welcome to's round on both ends and high in the middle.
Except on I-80 when it's continuously, frustratingly, exhaustingly flat.

Ominous skies ahead!

The shoulder wasn't that wide here, folks. Tractor trailers passing at 70+ MPH is a wee-bit terrifying!

Why does it have to be raining?!?!?!?!?!?
(Last picture for Friday...had to stow the camera for safekeeping in the rain.)

We exited the Ohio Turnpike and headed north on I-71 toward our hotel. Just prior to the Bagley Road exit (our exit), a back-up of traffic began and continued down the exit ramp and west on Bagley (our intended direction). We sat in stop-and-go traffic for at least 25 minutes which - if you've ever been in stop-and-go traffic on a motorcycle you already know this - well, it sucks. In fact, I believe it's to blame for what became of some of the cookies, but that's a detail for later in the story! 

Finally, we got to the top of the exit ramp. We could see our hotel! Actually, we could see it the entire time we were in traffic - talk about frustrating! With our hotel to the left, I looked to the right and noticed, tucked behind some trees, a sign for a Bob Evans Restaurant. Since we hadn't eaten dinner yet and with no end to the traffic back-up in sight, I suggested we exit to the right (which we could do free and clear), snag some dinner, dry off, warm up, and hope the traffic cleared in the time it took us to eat. 

At Bob Evans, we found out that there was a parade in town that had caused some road closures as well as some kind of event at the local fairgrounds which were very nearby. After our dinner of "farm-fresh goodness," we hopped back on the bike, squeezed our way back into traffic, and made the 0.7 mile-trek from Bob's to the hotel in about 10 minutes (it should have taken about 2). It turns out that the event at the local fairgrounds was a night time "color run"-esque event where participants don neon clothing and wear glow-in-the-dark necklaces, bracelets, glasses, etc. Curious.

We got checked in, peeked in on the pool and hot tub, and headed up to our room to get out of our wet gear. While we'd packed our swimsuits and had planned on hitting the hot tub Friday night, after an early morning wake-up, a long day at work, and a wet and traffic-laden ride, we decided just to relax in the room and call it a night pretty early.

Saturday morning, we woke at 6:30 with a planned departure of 7:30 for the 4.5 hour-ride to Clay's house. All was going according to plan until we tried to check-out of the hotel. It was as if body snatchers had come into the hotel and stolen the staff. There wasn't a single staff person to be found on the first floor of the hotel for a solid ten minutes (at approximately 7:40 AM). There were two people (myself and one other patron) waiting at the front desk for assistance - me to check-out and the other lady to be let into a meeting room. There was also a patron at the Bistro counter wanting to purchase food. My plan had been to check-out and then grab food from the Bistro so we could eat breakfast on the road. While I stood there, the other lady waiting with me called the hotel twice. The phone - which was ringing at the front desk (and we assumed rang in the back of the house as well) - simply rang incessantly. Well, after waiting ten minutes for someone - ANYONE - to show up at the front desk or behind the Bistro counter, I finally gave up and left. Weird!

Since we couldn't grab breakfast at the hotel and because the healthy breakfast options were non-existent at the Ohio Turnpike Service Center we selected, our breakfast consisted of Cliff and Lara Bars in the parking lot of the service center. Here, we also gave Muskoka Moose (the official mascot of our moto-trips) a chance to stretch.

Thankfully, as we headed further west, the skies began to clear!

Backseat selfie!

Hello, blue sky!!!

Ohio is just. so. flat!!!

At least the scenery was pretty!

Woo-hoo! That's our exit!

Whoa! A Big Boy!


Hooray! Michigan!!!
Michigan is equally flat.
Ann Arbor. She's a whore.


TONS of opens spaces and this chick parks next to us...and sucks at doing so in the process!

Muskoka is back out. He may have even gotten into the cookies!

Then he hopped onto the tank bag to check our progress on the GPS and say "Hi" to the Concours' permanent co-pilot, Smooches the Adventure Moose (who is zip-tied to the bike).

Take the last train, mmmkay?

Before long - well, approximately four hours after we left the hotel - we were exiting I-96 and getting onto the M-6, skirting south of Grand Rapids and destined for Byron Center! 

We arrived at Casa de Clay and were greeted by quite the assembly of motorcycles and a hearty greeting from Clay himself. We haven't seen Clay since the last time we made the trek to his house back in 2012

What a pretty collection of bikes!

More of the bikes.

Our Concours 14

Sammy's (sammyseaman's) GORGEOUS Triumph Thruxton -
I fall more in love with it every time I see it!

Ryan's (Power Ranger's) Triumph Tiger

Ryan's wife Jessica's helmet - I'm digging it!

Eric's (Meemuh's) KLR

BJ's (Stromgal's) V-Strom

Coho's RT

John's (Bomber's) Tiger

Scott's (Oddball's) Tiger

ED! And Ed's (mxvet57's) FJR with something like 250K miles on it!

A shot of all of the bikes from the street. 
John's (Cookie's) Truck - the USS Defiant!
Ted's (Wilbornz's) and his wife's scooters
Proof that Coho wins the long-distance award - all the way from Seattle, Washington!!!

Around back, Daryl had the smoker going and it was nearly time to eat.

Everyone mills about in the pool/garage area waiting for the dinner (er...lunch) bell.

You have no idea how good the smoke rolling off this thing smelled!

Before we ate, Chris and I took a walk around Clay's backyard to check out his garden, fruit trees, hops, and grapevine.

Clay's grapevine

The hops!

The main garden

Apple trees

BJ and John's tents 
Andrew drove his Ural to the backyard to set up his tent.

Clay's secondary garden down by the creek

Andrew's awesome Ural 
Pretty sure this is Coho's tent.

While peeking in at the "baby apples" on the tree, I found this robin's nest.

Apparently, Clay's got a "thing" for soy sauce! :)

And then it was time for grub!

John started with dessert!

BBQ chicken legs on a bed of pulled pork. I mean, really...can you go wrong?

Chili - ST.N/O's mascot - drools over the tub of cookies.

The cookie crumbs that seemingly resulted from the stop-and-go traffic from the night before didn't stop Clay. He knocked back a few mouthfuls!

Right here I need to take a moment and introduce you to my friend Eric. In addition to being one of my motorcycling friends, he's also a real-life MyFitnessPal pal. In this picture, I am down 52.5 pounds and Eric is down 51 pounds. This, friends, is what 100 pounds lost looks like and - at the risk of sounding incredibly vain - I think it looks pretty damn good on both of us!

We're already looking forward to next year's even more epic picture of success!

After we ate, I roamed around Clay's garage in admiration of the manliness of it! While inside, I finally had a chance to meet and converse with BJ. I've "seen" her on the forums and admired her riding prowess, so I felt like I was meeting a legend!

There's a urinal, y'all. Total boys' club here!

Random seating to sit around, wrench on things, scratch various body parts, drinks beers, tell lies, etc.

The rest of the afternoon was spent sitting around, chatting, laughing, swimming, and eventually drilling into one of the bikes.

John and Grace headed out for an afternoon swim in Lake Michigan just to say they did it.

Sue and Derek chat.

Maggie told us about her and Nate's trip to Costa Rica - she gave us ideas for an international motorcycle meet!

How? How did I get so lucky?!?


Muskoka makes Chili's acquaintance again. It's been two years since they've traveled together.
(We assumed custody of Chili for a little while.)

Miles poses with Muskoka.

Clay decided to cool off.

And produced a mighty splash. 
Andrew brought Sue's bike back to the garage for some repairs.
Andrew surveys the needed repairs from underneath.

Clay busted out the power tools!

Drilling out a stripped bolt.

Oh! And of course, we brought out the cannon for some loud, explosive fun!

We left Clay's around 6:30 PM and made the long trek to our hotel - and by long trek, I mean a whopping 1.5 miles. There's a great Hyatt Place right off the M-6 within cannon's fire distance from Clay's house. We checked in, got Chili and Muskoka settled in, and walked to Monelli's to stretch our legs, have a local brew, and grab a light bite to eat.

Surprisingly, when we returned from dinner, these two hadn't trashed the hotel room!

After another long day and ahead of a monstrous day on the road on Sunday, we turned in around 9:30 PM. The next morning, we were up at 6:30 AM, ate breakfast in the hotel, and were out the door by 7:50 AM. While at Clay's, "the call for coffee" was made for 8 AM Sunday morning at the local Biggby Coffee. We visited with everyone over beverages for about an hour before everyone went their separate ways.

MUCH more convenient to Clay-B-Que than when we stayed in Battle Creek two years ago!

Overnight showers meant Chris had to wipe down the bike before we left.

Residual rain on the grass caught my attention.

Chris filled in for Ed with a foo-foo drink (chocolate chip smoothie).

Clay and Sammy discuss the epicness of the day before's festivities.

Grace and Chris enjoy the morning's conversation.

John partakes of a morning Rocky Patel.

John and John - these two are characters!!!

Sammy rolls out on his beautiful Thruxton.

BJ, John, Scott, Andrew, and Coho get ready to depart.

We were on the road for home at 9:03 AM. When we pointed the bike east, the GPS indicated an arrival time of 4:17 PM. Realizing that we would likely hit some traffic and stop for several stretch breaks and lunch, I mentally calculated an arrival time closer to 6 PM. 

About an hour after the coffee meet, well...what goes in must come out.
This sign was at the rest stop where we opted to "rest."

Yup. I'm immature.

When we stopped for gas, I noticed we were on Jolly Road!

Helmet reflection selfie!

My view on the right for hours and hours and miles and miles.

My view on the left for hours and hours and miles and miles.

Fortunately, we were out of room on the bike - no worries about picking up strangers!

Back in Ohio!

Flat, boring...but scenic...Ohio.

I noticed this barn with the gas signs on it Saturday morning and we mentally noted its location so I could try to snag a pic on the way back on Sunday. 

The Lordstown, OH Chevy plant is HUGE!!!

You can't really appreciate how big it is in these pictures. Trust me; it's big.

Back in the Commonwealth!

Happy to find a horizontal surface in the shade...#exhausted!!!

My view from the picnic table.

Chris said this is the face of someone who looked at the GPS and read "Turn right 130 miles."

About 45 minutes from home, I clicked over to Chris and asked him what he was thinking about dinner. Since neither of us liked the idea of cooking once we got home, we decided to stop about 30 minutes from home at Sarina's in Philipsburg to grab a bite to eat. This way, once we got home, all we'd have to do is collect lots of puppy kisses from Oscar, unload the bike, and relax!

Finally back home at 7:25 PM after 1,046.8 miles in about 52 hours!

It was a L-O-N-G weekend, but it was totally worth it! Rain and traffic be damned! There was BBQ and camaraderie to be shared! There were old friends to be seen and new friends to be made!

A HUGE note of thanks goes out to Clay for his hospitality and to his wife Jaci for her patience and tolerance of such a motley crew! Can't wait to find out the date of Clay-B-Que 2015...I plan to work on some of our local riding friends to assemble a bigger PA contingent for next year!

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