Vacation Leave review

It sure took me long enough to get this typed out!  Well, here it is! Be warned, this covers pretty much my whole two weeks of leave, so it’s a long one!

The first few days I was home on leave were fairly uneventful.  We did have a surprise baby shower for my sister that first Sunday after church.  It was really cool, too.  She thought she was being sneaky and clever and kept my bruver from knowing his mom and sister-in-law were coming up from North Carolina.  Little did she know he had arranged it ahead of time so they could come to the baby shower!  Oh man, that was funny when she figured that out!  Haha.

I did also take a fun 80-or-so mile ride with my Bruver.  He’s not quite as comfortable riding alone at fun speeds as I am, so he enjoyed following me as we zoomed along the back roads at greater-than-legal speeds.  Since I know how both my bikes run and what they can do, we had a lot of fun leaning into turns and going wide-open-throttle on the straightaways.  When we came back into Martinsburg, we came up over the mountain and stopped at the top for a beautiful view of the area just as the sun was going down behind us.  It was really cool.  We were quite ready to call it a night when we got back into town, so we ended up heading to The Daily Grind and hung out till closing.  He got an Americano and I got a hot chocolate with a shot of cinnamon and hazelnut.

Wednesday morning I loaded up Outrider with my bags and got ready to make the short journey up to Lancaster where I was meeting my riding buddies, Ralph and Brent.  I actually beat Ralph to his place.  He was a little late leaving work.  After a quick introduction, we hopped in his car and went down the street to a local bar and grill for some dinner.  The burger I had was huge and awesome!  As it turns out, I ended up having a lot of good food on this trip.  Brent didn’t arrive at Ralph’s until 9:30 that night, but he had an excuse.  He rode up from Atlanta, GA!

The next morning we were kickstands up at 8:30am.  After a short stop for some fuel, we were headed North!  We didn’t ride hard at all for the trip up.  With the exception of the first couple hours of super-slab riding, it was all secondary and back roads with beautiful scenery and twisties!  Ralph had a route laid out, but we diverged from that pretty quickly when we ran into construction.  This lack of map following added about 60 miles to our trip overall, but that was mostly due to wrong turns and a little backtracking!  Haha.  It didn’t bother us, though, because we were in no hurry and we had awesome weather.  We stopped for lunch at a hillside restaurant called the Powerhouse Eatery that use to be an old steam power generating plant.  I had a great crabcake sandwich, even if the toasted bread did make a small cut in the roof of my mouth.  Stupid bread.

Into the afternoon we saw a mother black bear and cub along the side of the road.  Ralph was in the lead and motioned to turn around, but by the time we got back, they had walked back up the side of the hill to a small trail.  I got a couple pictures, but none were very clear.  It was still cool to see, though.  That was, near as I can recall, the first time I’d ran into a bear in the wild, let alone a mother and cub.

About an hour or so before dusk, we took a detour through the Catskills forest.  Man was that a beautiful section of road at that time of day!  We stopped for the night in the small ski town of Hunter, NY.  We had ridden about 350 miles.  The motel we stayed at was at the top of a hill, and our room overlooked the naked (as in, no snow) slopes.  It was a nice view of the mountainside, and interesting to see a ski resort minus a ton of snow.  We asked the guy at the front desk where was a good place to go to dinner, and he pointed us back down the hill to a small bar and grill.  There was a Chinese restaurant next door to it that we mulled over for a few minutes, but ultimately I had a big burger with fried onion straws.  Man was it good, too!  Incidentally, with the exception of one awesome salad I’ll mention later, eating healthy was NOT on the menu for this trip.  Haha.

The next morning we were back on the road around 9am, I think.  As we were crossing over into Vermont (I think), Brent rode up next to me and took a cool picture…

Brent likes to take pictures from his bike while riding.  He also smokes a cigar pretty much the whole time.  He also has ridden almost (if not) everywhere in the States.  He’s retired so it’s easier for him to get away for rallies and such.  One of the best compliments I got the whole weekend was when he told me he thought I was a good rider and seemed to know how to handle my bike well.  Being basically a novice when it comes to riding, I was quite tickled.

We stopped for lunch just outside of Brattleboro, not realizing how close to our destination we actually were.  It was a mom and pop type of place that had an icecream stand attached to it.  The lunch specials were pretty reasonably priced, but they had literally like 30 of them!  It took Brent, who doesn’t do anything without careful consideration of all the options, something like 10 minutes to decide.  Haha.  I had another crabcake meal, but this time it was a variant on Eggs Benedict.  Instead of Canadian bacon, though, it was a crabcake.  Delicious!  I’m gonna write that one down to make myself sometime.

About 2:30pm we arrived at the Colonial Motel and Tavern in Brattleboro, Vermont which was to be the base of operations for the rally.  We weren’t the first ones there, but not by much.  The might have been a handful of people already set up in their rooms.  I had reserved one for myself while Ralph and Brent had opted for a shared room.  As soon as we checked in, I think we all took a short nap.  Dinner that night was at the motel restaurant.  I had a way overpriced small dish of cheese and sweet pea ravioli.  It was dry.  I decided to not eat there again.

The evening was filled with catching up with old friends and being introduced to new ones.  There was a father/son Canadian group that came down in a minivan.  What was cool, though, was that when they opened the back of the van, their bikes were inside!  They had pulled off everything they could to get them crammed inside!  That was cool to see!  After unloading, it became sort of a group project to get everything back up and attached and in proper condition again.

That’s a video of the whole group heading out Saturday morning.  Our first scenic stop/group photo op was at the John Stark memorial.  It was pretty cool looking.  Very similar to the Washington Monument, but not as refined.  The Saturday ride was scheduled to take us from Vermont into New Hampshire, then down into Massachusetts, then circle back up to Vermont.  Along the route we saw a large number of the covered bridges in the area.  We only stopped at one for a photo op, though.  I’ll mention that in a second.

For lunch on Saturday we stopped at a little sub shop called Angelina’s Subs.  They ran specials every day where you could get a full size sub (something like 18″ long) for $4.00!  It just happened that the daily special was turkey, which I love, so I walked out with half a sub in my belly and the other half for my backpack.  It was delicious!

The next scenic stop was, I believe, and accidental one.  The only reason I say this is because we turned around when we left the place.  Haha.  We stopped at the Hail to the Sunrise Park, a Mohawk indian memorial park.  As far as interesting bit of local history, it was pretty cool.  On the route back to home base, we stopped at the Ashuelot Covered Bridge (est. 1864).  There was a sign on the bridge that said, “$5 fine for riding or driving over this bridge faster than a walk.”  Well… I know of at least one Canadian that owes $5.00… probably more for the skidmark he left with his bike.  Haha.

Dinner that evening was at a restaurant back in Brattleboro just down the street from the motel called the “89s” or something.  It was a plural number, but I can’t recall for sure what it was.  Trust me, though, you aren’t losing out by not knowing the name of the place.  I don’t know if it was because we were in a group or if it’s this way all the time, but the service was terrible and the food portions were tiny for what we paid!  More than one person asked the waiter/waitress/manager to take the included gratuity off their bill.

Back at the motel there was much drinking and laughter late into the night.  The Canadians brought down some of their brews that have something like a 12% alcohol content or some such.  No joke.  They were also in such huge bottles that it only took one for most people to have a buzz.  Haha.

Sunday morning was decidedly less pleasant weather.  It was cool and overcast and had rained the night before and appeared like it was going to again.  Everyone made sure they had their rain gear with them, and it was a good thing, too.  Today’s ride was scheduled to take us up to northern Vermont and then circle back down along the border of Vermont and New Hampshire.  Our first scenic stop was at the longest covered bridge in Vermont, the Dummerston Covered Bridge (est. 1872).  This is where we got the best group photo op because there happened to be a photographer there taking pics of the bridge.  He noticed we were all together (we kind of stood out) and asked for the widest angle camera we had and he’d take a group pic of us.  Here it is:

Not long after we left the bridge, though, it began to rain, so we pulled into a gas station so everyone could don their gear.  It continued at a light to medium drizzle for the next hour or so, but by that time we were stopping for lunch anyway.  Oh man, let me tell you about lunch!

Lunch on Sunday was at a restaurant called The Pot Belly Restaurant and Pub.  By this point in the trip, I had made pretty good friends with the Canadians that brought their bikes in the minivan, Gary and his son, Aaron, so I sat with them for lunch.  As an appetizer, Aaron had ordered this Caesar salad that looked like it came in its own salad bowl.  It was that big.  It looked awesome.  I had watched him eat about half of it and talk about how good it was when I couldn’t take it any more.  I called the waiter over and ordered one for myself.  It was everything that a Caesar salad should be.  It was sooooooo good!  I have never, ever, had a salad that good, even one that I made myself.  I don’t know why it was so good, but I didn’t care.  By the time my rueben sandwich came (which was literally an inch-and-a-half thick, and similarly delicious), I could only eat about half of it.  I made sure to finish that salad, though.  Holy crap was it good.  Man… now I want one…

Anyway, by the time lunch was over, the rain had stopped and the sun had come out.  It was blue skies and clear riding for the rest of the day.  It was a good thing, too, because rain would have really ruined our next, and last, scenic stop – the Quechee Gorge:

There was a sign near the visitor’s center at the gorge that read the following:

The Ottauquechee River forms the 165 foot deep, mile-long gorge. Cut through the hills at the end of the last ice age, the gorge was the only outlet for a large glacial lake. The original bridge spanning the gorge was built in 1875 as a railroad bridge for the Woodstock railroad. The steel arch bridge used today was built in 1911 as a railroad bridge until 1933 when the tracks were removed and Route 4 was to follow the same roadbed.

It was a cool place.  They call it the Grand Canyon of Vermont, and for pretty obvious reasons, I think.  I picked up some pure maple sugar candy while I was there.  I’m a sucker for that stuff.  I can get it on my way from Martinsburg to Fairmont at about the half way mark (Grantsville), but this was a chance to get some actual Vermont maple sugar!  It was tasty.  I’m having a piece right now, actually.  Mmmm…  Hey Mark, if you’re reading this, I know you want a piece to put on a spoonful of peanut butter, don’t you? You crazy diabetic, you!

Anyway, at this point in the trip the group split into two groups.  One who wanted to take the super-slab back to base, and one who wanted to ride a little longer and take some twisties back.  Of course, I was in the twisties group.  I had ridden this far, I sure wasn’t gonna pass up a chance for some more riding that wasn’t on the interstate.  Back at the motel it was an early evening of drinking and people starting to pack up.  Dinner was wherever you wanted, so a group of us went down to a local BBQ stand that overlooked a damned-up swampy area.  For about $10, you got a HUGE plate of BBQ that was fall-off-the-bone tender.  Very good stuff.  See, told you I ate a lot of good food on this trip!

The next morning on Monday, Ralph and I actually parted ways from Brent.  He was headed down to Williamsburg, VA to meet his wife for vacation.  Ralph and I paired up with one of the rally leaders, Marty, and his wife to ride back for most of the way since they live in western PA.  Ralph and I were planning on making the whole trip back to his place today, not in two days like we had done coming up.  Just before hopping on I-81, we all stopped for lunch at a small diner where all but I think Marty got breakfast.  I had some pretty good corned beef hash and an egg with homefries.

Just after lunch, Marty and his wife waved goodbye and parted ways with us.  Once Ralph and I got on I-81, we hauled ass!  I think we ran about 85 most of the way down that super-slab.  Haha.  I guess he really wanted to get home!  We ran into a small problem about half way to his house… construction.  Luckily, we were able to get off an exit with a truck stop and found out about it.  With a quick look at the map, we planned a route around where we figured the construction would be.  We actually ended up going a little further than Ralph had planned, but it was a pleasant surprise because the bi-way we took was very scenic and ran along a river for most of the way.

I don’t remember for sure, but I think we were back at Ralph’s in Lancaster Monday night by 6pm.  Man were we tired, too!  Dinner was a short jaunt over to Wendy’s, then back to Ralph’s for some NCIS on the tv.  Both of us were dozing through it so bad that we ended up just turning it off and crashing.  I was alseep before I hit the pillow, I think.  I haven’t slept that well in YEARS!

What’s really funny is, the next morning, my squad leader calls me the next morning wanting to know where I was and why I wasn’t at formation!  Haha.  I was so confused since I was still like 90% asleep when I was talking to him.  He figured out pretty quickly that I was still on leave, apologized, then hung up.   The weather Tuesday morning was pretty crummy.  A nice steady rain fell and didn’t show any signs of letting up.  In hopes that it would, Ralph and I loaded up in his car and went to the Amish market they have every Tuesday.  Ralph gets all his veggies and bread and fruit and such there every week.  We were actually hoping that the leather guy Ralph got his gear from was there so I could pick up a pair of chaps.  He wasn’t.  Oh well, I did pick up a half-dozen variants on homemade whoopie pies.  Those Amish sure can cook pastries!  Ralph picked me up a homemade sub for lunch to eat once we got back to his place.

We did make a quick stop in at the Yamaha dealership, though, so I could try to find a replacement set of highway pegs for my bike.  I lost one in an unfortunate incident involving a large barrel planter in front of the motel in Vermont.  That’s enough info on that.  Back at his place, we ate lunch and when there was a lull in the rain, I installed my new highway pegs and loaded up the bike.  I was gonna get wet going home, no doubt about it.  I just didn’t realize how wet I’d get.

I left Ralph’s around 1:30pm to fuel up, then hit the highway.  It was really coming down now!  I had my hazard lights on the whole way home, but was able to stay in the left lane.  I don’t know if it was drivers just thinking “Oh man, look at this poor stupid biker!  Let me get out of his way!” or if it was something else, but I was able to move along pretty well without running into any delays.  I got home about 3:45pm.  My FrogToggs worked awesome.  My gloves and boots… not so much.  It took them a week to dry out.  It squished when I walked.  I’m talking squish like bottom of a creek bed squish.  My sister said I looked pathetic when I walked up on her porch.  Haha.  Thanks sis.  I’ll remember that forever.

Grand total mileage for the trip, from start to stop, was 1,524 miles.

The next day, Wednesday, was spent mostly just recovering.  I really can’t remember what I did.  I think I went to lunch or dinner or something with mom.

Thursday at noon I hopped back on the bike headed for Fairmont.  I wasn’t done riding yet!  My riding group here in Martinsburg (Mark, Rich, and John) are gonna poop their pants when they hear how many miles I’ve racked up so far!  Haha.  With the exception of a short stint of rain, the trip to Fairmont was really nice weather.  I got in to Fairmont before Mark had actually gotten off of work, so I ran a few errands and visited a few people.

My first stop was in to my estranged wife’s new (and by new, I mean she’s been there a few months) second job.  She was less than excited to see me.  I, for the life of me, can’t figure out why.  I just wanted to say hi and see how she was.  Well, after ushering me away, I picked up one of those new Pepsi Throwback sodas.  Don’t buy them, they’re crap.  As I was getting ready to leave, though, she came up to me and made some pleasant small talk.  This also confused me, but whatever.

I left there and went to the college to see my old boss, Dr. Tim Rice.  With school being out for the summer, I was taking a gamble he might not be there, but it looked like my luck was good.  We ended up sitting and chatting for about half an hour until I got a call from Mark saying he was on his way home.  It was good to get to see Doc and talk to him again.  He’s right up there with CSM(R) Neal and LTC Creed with my favorite people that I’ve worked for.

Nothing really interesting happened this evening, and if you’re still reading, I’m sorry it’s this long.  To be fair, though, I did warn you that this blog was for my whole two weeks of leave.  Just sayin…

Friday Mark and I went to hang out with 2.0 at the comic book shop where he works for most of the afternoon.  We got lunch down the street at a sub shop.  I was happy because this shop had alfalfa sprouts as an optional topping for my sub.  Alfalfa sprouts make subs better.  Period.  That evening was spent playing our Star Wars campaign until the wee hours of the morning.  There was much action hyjinx that occurred.  I’m pretty sure that 2.0 might have caused a small brain aneursim in one of the main NPCs.  He’s sure to pay for that this weekend when I go back to Fairmont.  Muahahahahaha… cough.

Saturday morning we got up and headed down to Parkersburg, WV for a surprise birthday party for our buddy Trey.  His wife, Heather, had arranged it.  Mark, Josh, and 2.0 all rode in Josh’s mom’s SUV while I rode the bike (more mileage!).  I’m actually still kicking myself for not riding the mile or so across the river into Ohio so I could check it off of my “states visited” map.  I might have to make my way back down there again this summer.  We went down a little early so we could hang out with our buddy Steve who also lives in Parkersburg.  It had been about three years since I’d seen any of them, so it was a fun reunion.  They were all pretty happy to see me.  Unfortunately we couldn’t stay late because we still had to drive back up to Fairmont.  I had to leave early Sunday morning so I could make it to church, and I didn’t want to be tired during the ride.

Sunday morning, as mentioned, I headed out around 8:30am.  It was sad because this was the last day of my leave.  I was NOT ready to go back to work.  By this time I had a full mustache and goatee and had no desire to shave it off.  Not that it’s a big deal, but damnit I like having hair on my face!  Haha.  I rode the bike back to post that evening to give me time to unpack and settle in for heading back to work on Monday morning.

I didn’t think to figure in the mileage from the first part of my leave, but just the miles from the Vermont trip and down to Fairmont/Parkersburg totalled over 2,050 miles.  My map now looks like this:

Next up… South!  Catch you on the flip side.

Keep your powder dry.

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