Sunday, September 27, 2015

Senior stuff

Except we weren’t staying.  We had places to go and things to do and see.  We got up on Wednesday, Sept. 22, and spent a leisurely morning having coffee and breakfast and then packing for a road trip, in a vehicle this time as I still wasn’t 100 percent.

We were headed north, to Ontonogan, Michigan, where we were going on an ATV tour for seniors.  We spent the day driving leisurely to our destination.  Although the colors hadn’t really begun to change around here, there were a few things to photograph.
I love seeing farm equipment coming down the road.
While I do enjoy farm equipment, my day was made when we spotted a couple of swans on a pond.
We ended up in a cottage near a lake just as it began to drizzle.  The forecast for the next day was not so good either so there was a second reason I was glad we’d taken the truck. 

We awoke on Thursday, Sept. 23, ready to go on our senior tour.  This is an ATV ride where they have ATVs and drivers to take you on some back trails to look at the fall colors.  We met at the designated place to meet the bus that would take us to the fairgrounds, where the ride would begin.  It was still drizzling a bit, but it wasn’t unbearable.

There was a long line of ATVs lined up.  I counted nearly 30 of them, all kinds, all colors, all sizes.  We ended up with Frank, who had a Cadillac of an ATV with a covered cab, doors, windows, a heater and a windshield wiper.  We got lucky as we weren’t wearing any raingear.  We’d not even thought to bring any.  But they took care of us.  We got lucky with our driver, too, because Frank was from around the area and could give us lots of information.
Our driver, Frank, at 72, was more senior that we are.
Some of the ATVs lined up and ready to roll.
We rode on, along a trail that stretched for about 20-some miles.  It started out over rocks left over from copper mining.  We rode over old railroad trestles, stopping here and there to stretch our legs, take a few photos and chat with others. 
We crossed several old trestles.
There wasn’t really the color changes yet and people figured the peak would be a couple of weeks later.  When I was down a few years ago, it was the same thing.  Oh well.  We had a great ride and saw some beautiful country from the trail side rather than the road side.
The colors were just starting to change.
We passed over a few little rivers.
We ended up at the Twin Lakes State Park where they had a lunch of pasties, cookies and beverages.  It was fun, and it was free.  When’s the last time you got a free lunch?  Of, course, you can't count the cost of airline tickets, hotels, food and gas to get there to go on the ride.  As we had come the furthest for the event, we were even interviewed by their local news station.
What's for lunch?  Pasties!!!
Just in case we needed it.
There were still pretty leaves, even if some were on the ground.  The one at the far right makes me think of a leopard.
Some of the colors are vibrant even in the rain.
Once we had finished lunch we were loaded back onto a bus and taken back to where our vehicles were parked.  From there we once again hit the road, ending up at a Ramada along the river in Hancock, Michigan.  It was still cloudy and not the best weather, but it’s been a great time and it’s always pleasant to stay at a place where you can see the water. 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Running through Iowa to Wisconsin to Michigan

Iowa was my state to run on Monday, Sept. 21.  I have only a few words to sum up this state – cornfields, feed lots and wind generators.  But I still love my beef.

As I was loading up the bike to continue my run there was a little wizened up old lady in a red puffy jacket outside the hotel smoking cigarette-after-cigarette.  She came over and asked if it was my bike.  Yep.  She said since it was parked next to a couple of antique vehicles owned by the hotel folks, that she thought it was theirs, too, especially since it had a license plate that said CHIPS after the TV show, and the tags on it were expired. 
Oh crap.  I was riding with expired tags.  I’d gotten them and brought them with me but had forgotten to put them on the bike.  I did it right away.  But … I’d ridden 1,400 miles from Phoenix to Iowa with no one paying my expired tags any mind.

Legal again.
Today I wanted to get through Iowa and over east of Madison, Wisconsin.  But there were also a couple of Harley shops I wanted to visit since I didn’t have pins for my map from these places, Waterloo and Dubuque.  I made my goal just as the sun was setting.  East of Madison put me into position to get to Beaver Dam, Wisconsin.  I had a new friend there that I wanted to stop to visit for a little bit.  I’d met her at the Wisconsin State HOG Rally a few months earlier and we’d been chatting.  One thing was that she had a motorcycle but no guardian angel bell.  I’d told her I had a bell for her, and that I’d be hand delivering it.

I got on the road early on Tuesday, Sept. 22, and followed the road to Mischler’s Harley-Davidson in Beaver Dam where I was meeting up with Catt.  She was waiting, waving largely at me when I rode in.  It was great to see her.  

We wandered into the shop and she introduced me to the owners.  Then we went to Chili John’s a local hole-in-the-wall cafĂ©.
This is the place.  And my friend, Catt, introduced me to it.
My iron horse stayed outside.
Chris cooking our breakfast.
This guy, Chris, is the owner, and chef.  He bakes his own bread and pies.  And he makes the best chili omelette.  He’s been approached by Guy from Diners, Drive Ins and Dives, but he’s not real willing to do the show as it would change everything.  He likes cooking, he likes serving people and doing it all himself.  The publicity the show would bring would change it all … so he goes along making a living and loving what he’s doing.  However, if you’re ever in Beaver Dam, that’s the place to have a bite to eat.

A little write-up on Chili John's.  It's been around for 93 years.
While there I also met Jeff.  He rides a Road King and pulls a casket.  He’s currently recovering from a motorcycle accident where they think he was struck by lightning.  Ouch.  Catt and I visited with the guys while eating our breakfasts. 

Then it was time to ride.  Catt rode with me to Oshkosh, and then we parted ways, waving madly at each other.  Then it was just me, heading north toward Peshtigo.  Again there were two more Harley shops where I’d obtain two more pins, Appleton and Green Bay. 

At the Green Bay shop I found out that the Peshtigo shop had closed.  They owned that one, too, and luckily for me, they at least had a poker chip I could get to put on my map.  I called and left Biker Bill a message telling him it was closed, but that I was on my way.

Green Bay shop is fine looking.  It does remind me of a Cabela's, though.
This metal horse is outside of the Harley shop.  It reminds me of the one Barry had made for the House of Harley-Davidson in Anchorage.  It was very cool.
I approached Peshtigo, pretty much on time.  Once again I couldn’t find the shop.  I had to stop to ask.  On down the road I went.  I still didn’t know where the place was.  Then I spotted the dead head bike, Biker Bill’s bike with all the animals painted on it, ones he’s killed with a bow and arrow in Alaska.  He was at a gas station exchanging stories with a guy on a bicycle and another on a motorcycle.  I pulled in and he seemed pretty pleased to see me.

We were ready to ride although I needed to gas up first.  Then we hit the highway and passed that old Peshtigo Harley shop.  I was glad it was closed since twice I’d had so much trouble finding it … and I flipped it off, too.  Made me feel better, it did.

Escanaba was our destination, and we arrived in plenty of time to get the bikes parked in the garage, get unloaded, get some fresh corn and tomatoes grown and delivered by the neighbors, and get settled in for the night.  The house is right on the lake, and it was a beautiful setting.  I saw Canada geese and a couple of egrets.  Biker Bill said the swans come in October.  I wonder if they will come while I’m here.
The two bikes hardly take up any room in this garage.
This is the back of the house and I'm near the water.
This is the view from the back of the house.
Biker Bill had turned down the bed for me.  Wow, very nice.  But where’s the mint?  I slept well, with the lake outside my window and the sound of the waves gently hitting the shore.  It would be a good place to stay for a few days. 


Thursday, September 24, 2015

The last 8,000 miles ... or not

Biker Bill and I had been planning a Michigan trip.  He always goes up deer hunting, and he’d asked if I wanted to come up for a visit this year.  Sure, why not?  We planned to do a lake cruise and an ATV tour they do for seniors, a fall color run with lunch.  AND, it’s free!!!  Wow.  Free???  We’re in.  Of course, we’d spend money on airline tickets, gas, food, hotels … it’s quite laughable, really!!!  But, it’s free!!!

Anyway, I’d been bemoaning the fact that I was short on my motorcycle mileage goal for the year, so he said why don’t you ride up to Michigan?  Hmmmm.  No brainer.  Of course I could do that.  In the meantime, I also realized I was only 8,000 miles from putting in for my 550,000-mile rocker with HOG National.  I knew I wouldn’t get that many, but I’d certainly get my yearly goal with this ride.  And I’d be very close to the other goal, and most likely get that in the spring of 2016.

I arrived in Phoenix the morning of September 17, Thursday.  The prior day I’d had a bit of minor out-patient surgery, but they said I could travel … wearing support hose and doing the usual hydrating, stretching and walking while onboard the aircraft.  I was also told I could ride a motorcycle.  In retrospect, maybe I should have told her how many miles I’d being doing and hours a day I would be spending in the saddle. 

It was a long day, that Thursday.  The plane had been packed, but I had snacks of my own – Kind bars, mixed nuts, apples, cheese.  The guy in the aisle seat slept the entire way so I had to get by him to get up and move around.  I spent most of the time awake, with sleep finally overtaking me due to exhaustion.  It wasn’t a fun trip … and my support hose?  I’d bought some fancy-dancy colorful ones, but the doctor said they weren’t the strength or something she wanted.  So they gave me a pair at the hospital.  Ha!  They were supposedly thigh-high.  They went completely over my feet and up to my crotch, and there was still some hose left.  They might have been thigh-high on the Jolly Green Giant but on me, they covered everything and could have gone up to my waist.  I’d say sizing was a bit off. 

Verlie picked me up at the airport and as she’d had some major surgery, I helped her out as well as got myself ready to depart on Friday.  We had a great visit, too, although this time it was a short one.  One of the best parts is that it included naps for both of us.  This is my third visit this year.  How do we find anything to talk about?  I guess good friends are like that.

Friday, September 18, I departed about 9:30 a.m., headed to Michigan to meet Biker Bill.  My goal was to reach Durango, Colorado, about 490 miles away.  I’d made a hotel reservation so I was pretty much locked in.  Leaving Phoenix, it was warm, T-shirt riding weather, but I was wearing those Jolly Green Giant support hose.  As I progressed on my journey, it began to get cooler.  That meant putting on gear.  And then more gear.  Colorado was beautiful, but as I reached Cortez it was starting to get late, and now I realized I’d be in a mountain pass in the dark.  I really didn’t like that, but I had a hotel reservation waiting for me.  The key would be in the room. 

It was dark; it was cold.  I’d put on my jacket and my helmet for warmth, and I was sure appreciating those support hose now as they kept my legs warm.  I was too bull headed to drag out my chaps and put them on.

There wasn’t much traffic, and when a car passed I tried to stay up with it.  When the brake lights flashed, I paid attention.  Sure enough, there were a couple of deer right next to the road.  The pucker factor kicks into play then.  But when you’re out in the middle of nowhere, you gotta do what you gotta do.  I arrived in Durango about 8:30 p.m. and immediately called Biker Bill to let him know where I was.  He wasn’t real happy about me riding in the dark as he knows this area like the back of his hand and knew where I was riding.  But I was safe and all in for the night.  And it was my kind of motel … I was parked right outside my door.
When's the last time I had a towel flower on my bed?  It made my evening.
Originally I’d planned to leave Anchorage a few days earlier making for shorter riding days.  However, that didn’t happen and now I needed to be doing 450-500-mile days.  Usually those aren’t bad, but I now like to run shorter days and see things along the way.  Maybe on the way back.  In addition, I also don’t like to run Interstates, so it’s possible my mileage calculations will be off and there will be more miles rather than less.  Oh well.  It’s all about the mileage, baby.

When I got up on Saturday, September 19, it was 37 degrees.  I didn’t plan to leave right away.  I’d be riding through more mountain ranges heading east.  I still wasn’t feeling 100 percent.  But I finally got on the road.  I saw some antelope which was cool since I’d not seen much game. 
Del Norte, Colorado.  Finally, I've seen a big bull elk.  It's the only one I'll see.  I've been searching to see one in the wild for years. 
I stayed in my jacket, helmet and gloves until it was 80 degrees.  It was nice riding and I made my next goal of Garden City, Kansas, 460 miles from Durango. 

I had to stop to take a photo of pumpkins.  They sure do brighten up the landscape.
What's a blog without a photo of an old courthouse?
Tonight I decided I needed a real meal since I’d just snacked the previous day.   A burger, salad and fruit.  It was one of the best burgers I’d ever eaten with cheese, bacon and Cajun onion strings.  And it was at a hotel.  Imagine that.

On Sunday, Sept. 20, I was hoping I’d meet up with a friend and do a surprise visit to a Women on Wheels meeting in Kansas.  When I computed the miles, there was no way, so I plowed on north and east.  I need to be in Wisconsin on Tuesday, September 22, so I have to keep to my schedule and get through Kansas, a piece of Nebraska, a corner of Missouri and on to Clarinda, Iowa.

This stuff is quite colorful, but I didn't know what it was.

Hobbs told me it's cattle feed.  It's still pretty.
Loading up I could smell distant feed lots.  It is not a nice smell.  I’d seen some the previous day on my way into town, but not near the hotel.  The good thing is that inside the hotel you couldn’t smell them.  They must have a great air handling system.

I’ve seen a lot of hawks.  One was on a kill and wasn’t interested in me as I rode by.  As I came up a hill, in the middle of the road there was some dead animal and perched on top was what I guess was a turkey vulture.  He did not want to move and as I came up to him, he just glared at me.  He finally flew off, but it was definitely under protest.  Yep, it was another good day of riding.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The last long one ... in Alaska ... for 2015

When the leaves start to change, or have changed and it’s already started getting cooler, or colder, you know you need to make plans for that last long ride of the season.  It’s the same thing every year although I had wondered if there would be one as the weather had turned pretty cold and there’d been reports of snow up toward Fairbanks and Paxson.  But then, a reprieve as the weather got a bit warmer again, and it was trip-planning time.

Four of us made plans at the last minute to ride to Fairbanks for the Labor Day weekend.  We would ride up, then spend a day at Chena Hot Springs, and on the third day, ride home. 

Birdie, Jaz, Rockin’ Rita and I headed up that Saturday morning, September 5.  It was cool, but we were all geared up, so it was pretty comfortable.  We stopped here and there, including a lunch break at Mary Carey’s McKinley View, but pretty much made tracks to Fairbanks. 

We’d made a reservation at the River’s Edge.  It was our first time to stay there but it was quite nice, and there was a restaurant there.  Diana of the Fairbanks HOG chapter came and had dinner with us.  We told her we planned to run out to Chena Hot Springs and get in the pond the next day if she wanted to join us.
People use a lot of different things for drying racks.
Chena worked out well for us although originally we’d been hoping to stay over.  That did not happen.  I’d never been in the hot springs before although I’d been to Chena.  What a treat.  I felt like a little prune after and quite relaxed with my legs feeling like noodles.  And then we had to ride back in.  Ugh. 
Rockin' Rita ... with a new ride.

Everything is a planter in Alaska.
Good thing we took a bit of a walk as there’s a nice trail.  It was enjoyable and helped us to get ready for the ride back into town.  But first, lunch.  Diana rode out to join us and then we all headed back into Fairbanks.
The colors were magnificent.
After returning to our room, I texted Thomas, of the Fairbanks chapter.  He’s been the rally coordinator for a number of years, and is a big part of the Fairbanks group for me.  He’d had a stroke so I wondered if he’d like a visit.  Of course, so we all headed in that direction. 

Thomas and his lady, Star, made us welcome and we sat out on the deck for a great visit.  They were in the process of starting their Halloween decorating.  It’s an understatement to say they love Halloween.  They had tons of decorations out and had only just started.  I sure wish I could see it when they’re finished.  Then it was time to get back into town and prepare for the ride back the next day.
The girls.
Monday was another nice ride home, coming back via the Richardson and completing the loop.  It’s always a great ride … and with great friends?  It doesn’t get any better.  It’s been a long time since there’d been a girl’s weekend. 


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

There's always something to do

Members of the local Harley Owners Group made plans to ride down to Seward, Alaska, to do the canopy zip line that is located there.  The same people have this one that have the one in Talkeetna.  A friend and I did the one in Talkeetna a few years ago and had a ball.  We all figured this one would be no exception.

A group of us headed south to Seward and included some who were going down to have lunch and then return to Anchorage.  But there were a few of us hearty souls who would brave the height, the suspension bridges and the rappel.  There were some who have a fear of heights, and this would be a test of that fear.

We arrived at the designated location and were taken via a van to another location outside of town where a much rougher type of vehicle awaited us. But first, we had to get geared up, harnessed up, helmeted up, gloved up. 
Jim, all geared up.

Blue helmets become Robin.
Then we were taken to zip line 101 where we learned about braking and zipping along a line that doesn’t seem to be very thick.  The sight of the cable sets you wondering if the line will hold you. But we all passed and were ready to take on the challenge.

Mike and Rita are the last two for the practice line.

Mike aced it.
The group is ready.  Us, plus some poor guy from Colorado who got stuck in our group.
Our guides loaded us into the back of this military-style vehicle with wooden slats for sides, and off we went up a bumpy, seemingly-unmaintained road.  We didn’t have a long ride until we were at our destination for the first zip line.
We were crowded into the vehicle and hauled up the hill.
The first couple of zips are short, to prime you for the longer ones.  Our height-challenged folks were doing well, and there was no discussion of quitting.  Just don’t look down.
Jaz is an old hand at zipping.

Robin smiled all the way, no matter how short or long the zip.

Mike was having a ball, and even showed us a wave.
This is another Stoney Creek photo, but I cropped it.  We were having a blast.

Rita did the rappel like she'd been doing them all her life.

There's always time for a selfie, or a half selfie, of Rita, Robin and me.
Once we were comfortable with the shorter zips, we progressed to longer ones.  Zip, zip, zip.  We were flying. 
A zip selfie isn't the easiest thing to do.

You could tell Jim and Robin had a great time.
That wasn’t the end of our fun.  There were a couple of suspension bridges, where you walk like drunken sailors, trying to keep your balance.  No one fell.
It swings, it bounces.  It's fun even when you're off balance.
And we did a rappel down to the ground.  No one was lost on this adventure either.  Everyone did great.  There was no one screaming like a little girl about heights, going too fast, nothing. 
The last rappel begins ... Jim.



And me.

We all had such a great time.  So, where’s the next one?  Hoonah?