Subject: Wanderlust 10 - Long Lake, New York
Date: Wed, 11 Jun 1997 12:49:42 -0700
Wanderlust 10 - Long Lake, New York
(This is a little longer because it's the last for 4 days.)
The red South Dakota dust finally was scrubbed off the edges of the tire tread today. Some was even scrubbed off the edges of my boots too. :) Today was the happiest day of the year. I enjoyed it also, but as mothers everywhere know, today is the day schools release the swarms of children for the summer. Aspirin sales are probably heavy today ... every school yard I passed before noon seemed to be vibrant with joyous screams. Every school yard I passed after noon seemed as though the yard itself was heaving a sigh of relief, now deserted and left to recover like a pack horse at the end of a hard day on the trail.
This being a somewhat reactionary ride, I reacted to an urge to see Niagara Falls again. It's been about 20 years since my last visit, and how much could have changed, right? Lots. I remember the hotels and the overlooks, but (maybe I missed it) I don't remember the casino being the only place road signs lead you to. It took me three circuits of the downtown to find the entrance to the bridge to the US. And downtown! Have you been to Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco? Wax museums, T-shirt shops, Dracula's house of horror, etc. Tourist dollars sure do have a way of plasticizing a place. But the falls are still beautiful. The beer-foam cloud of mist swirled and floated in the morning sun creating the promised 'rainbow bridge' across the river. Close your eyes to the 'support services' and the area is still lovely.
While waiting in the line for US Immigration inspection, I leaned back on my packs and rested, engine idling, helmet flipped open in the warm air, face to the sun, relaxing. Suddenly a roaring growl from the engine area startled me. I jumped and nearly fell off the bike. I had forgotten about the radiator fan. It rarely comes on, but when it does geez is it loud. And that's a reminder to K-bike riders. With hot weather here, you should reach up under and make sure your fan still spins. Sometimes they get 'gunked' in place from not being used often enough.
The land is changing again. Even in far western New York you can see the tend toward rolling terrain which will lead to the foothills. It is like those tiny wrinkles on the edges of a well worn face that all fall into place when the face smiles. It all fits. Here again the tree carpet is different. In the west trees seem to grow more in unitary societies. Not exclusively, but mostly the same kind together. In the east, all kinds of trees have mixed closely for a long time. As in any society, when the density gets high it leads to pushing and shoving. That's apparent in the 'tree swath' cut for the highway. All those at the boundary cut are elbowing each other and stretching into the open space to get the best view they can. Like a packed parade route with little kids straining under the ropes and some teens climbed on mailboxes. Being the parade, I waved to the trees occasionally. A few of the branches waved back in the breeze.
Noticing schools as I was, I found some of the mascot choices amusing. Some are chosen to be fierce. Some are to underscore local lore or history. Few are as whimsical as the University of California Santa Cruz Banana Slugs, but one really made me wonder what image was being offered: The ___ High School Lady Mules ?
How long has it been since you passed someone on the road? Stupid question? Not if you've just ridden across the country on secondary roads. I actually had to start passing vehicles again and it seemed 'strange'. In the west and in a lot of farm country either there is no one on the road, or they are really short haul trippers. As the road headed east toward the increasing density of the coast, towns were closer and traffic was more likely to be going to the next one. No big deal, but it is surprising how certain riding road skills need refreshing when not used. Timing of acceleration, lane changes, cutbacks, and keeping aware of emergent conditions all require some attention.
Now I don't know about loud pipes, but I do know sipde safe lives. "Sipde" is an acronym taught in Motorcycle Safety Foundation classes. <Preach> Take a MSF class. No matter how long you've been riding, you'll learn something. </Preach> Sipde is the constant awareness of road conditions: Scan for signs, Interpret the danger, Predict the likely occurrence, Decide how to react, Execute the action. (Apology to the certified instructors ... even if my words aren't the official script, that's the idea.) Sipde is one of those non-negative consequences. You can never tell that it worked as long as you don't have an accident. If you have an accident, you probably didn't sipde. Like some jobs ... if you do it right no one notices - if you do it wrong everyone notices. Sipde may have saved my life, but I won't know because I did not have a crash.
The controlled access highways in the east are quite beaten from too much use and too little repair. Surfaces are dangerous for motorcycles in some areas. I was taking a 3 mile stretch of an Interstate between two rural routes. Traffic was tight and fast. A car was accelerating hard up the entrance ramp to join the flow. I could see his timing was going to be close but my scan noticed a series of potholes and broken pavement right where the ramp joined the slab. If that truck to my left slowed, I would have no place to back off, so I switched lanes early. Sure enough, the driver saw the pavement at the last second and swerved out into the travel lane across the shoulder. The car he almost cut off slowed, the truck hit his smokers, and I safely watched it all from behind. There are many thrills in motorcycling. Living to tell about it is the best one. Do sipde.
Actually, after riding for almost 30 years I had developed my own survival skills before learning about the MSF. I even have my own style of riding that is a four point mimic of sipde - I ride SEXE (pronounced 'sexy'). My approach is Scan, Extrapolate (I was a science major), eXecute, Evaluate the results. The first three are just like sipde, but I add a review of what I just saw/did to capture and catalog an understanding that will help with problem recognition next time. It's easy to keep my points on the mind, just think SEX ... who doesn't? :>
I had an exquisite day rolling through the increasing slopes and curves leading to the Adirondack Mountains. Passing through Fulton, I saw a sign that introduced 'Hereyouare, the home of xx' like many towns have. Fulton is the home of the chocolate festival and damn if it isn't only 3 days from now. Maybe I ought to stay? Then I saw the banners "Fulton Children N Chocolate". Nope. I like children, but I think they would dilute the chocolate, so I'll pass. Across the palm of the finger lakes and along the 'thumb' of Oneida Lake. (Hold a map of New York out at arm's length and you'll see why they are called the fingers.) This is where the roads really begin to curve and riding is fun again! From Rome to Old Forge to North Hudson - it's hard to believe this is the same state that harbors the great metropolis.
Passing ice cream and burger stands, I kept seeing signs for "Michigans here". Since I don't remember any special item by that name in Michigan, I finally asked what's a Michigan. In New York, a Michigan is a hot dawg with a sweet tomato/meat sauce (chili?) on it. Didn't try one. What's tomatoes got to do with Michigan? Another American tradition is that the 'unusual' always has to be named for some other place. Who here would eat an "local upstate NY style dawg" ?
They say all roads lead to Rome, and sun of a gun, I passed through Rome. Oh, wrong one? Not entirely. It occurred to me that the phrase about roads is true because the Romans themselves built most of the roads that crossed Europe. That road network had a major, though slow, effect on society. It made ground transport of goods and news more dependable. The economy and therefore the development of civilization on the continent was affected. So it is near Rome, New York. The Erie Canal passes the town. The Erie Canal was one of the first major technological conquests of natural resources in America. It changed American economy and civilization the same way. Better commerce, easier expansion, but it did something else. It molded the mindset of American business that mountains, rivers, and the land itself was a tool that could be used. The transcontinental railroad, the bridges, the great damns - all possible because the Canal succeeded. America would have been conquered eventually anyway.
As I travel, I have received many email comments from people who are amazed at the different things I see to write about, and how do I remember them? My little secret is a fold-over notebook I keep clipped to the fairing. One time I stopped for a rest near a car in a view area. I'm fairly definitive in the way I move, so in a smooth but quick manner I pulled in, snapped out the sidestand, dismounted, flipped up my helmet, unsnapped the notebook, flipped it open, and began making notes. This guy shoots up from sitting with his family and comes racing across the grass ... "Hey! What are you giving me a ticket for!?" :) I could tell stories about the number of times I've been mistaken for police, but I've learned it is better not to be too strong in denying the image. I don't pretend, I don't impersonate. I just don't say "Dummy, look at me, look at my bike. I'm not ...". So I said to him. "Not a ticket. This is just surveillance." Finished my note, checked the pack on the bike, mounted, said "Enjoy your day." and left him standing looking at the back of his car.
Writing about these events has been both easy and hard. There is a lot to mention, but it takes a lot of time to keep the notes trim. Every morning I start with a clean sheet. By noon I have one or two notes and I panic every day 'what am I going to do if I have nothing by the end of the day?' Then every day some time in mid-afternoon I realize I *have* been collecting thoughts but not writing them down. That's when the 'ticket stop' happens and it all spills out. After that I ride much easier. All, in all, I'm having almost as much fun telling the story as living it. But for the next 4 days I am going to be off the net. I will be riding the White Mountains of New Hampshire with the BMW Motorcycle Owners Of Vermont, and while it is not 'off the record', I won't be recording. By the way, you may notice the Club initials are MOOV, they call themselves the MOOVers. Hence they were especially interested in my moooving experiences. :) :)
Wanderlust 11 will pick up when I leave Maine for ... wherever.
FuelPlus statistics: 328 miles, 7:16 engine run, 46 mph average
Sam Lepore, San Francisco, 1988 R100RT and 1995 K75RTA