Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Philadelphia Trip, May 21-31

Had a great motorcycle trip out to Pennsylvania last month! Meredith (old friend from college) and Sheri getting married in Philadelphia was the highlight of the trip, but I also got to see friends in Philly and Maryland and my family near Pittsburgh. Killed lots of birds with one stone, ate too much food, drank too much Yuengling and had a blast.

Here's my SPOT tracker map for the trip:

Boogied rather directly out to Philadelphia, while much of it was two lane and state highways I certainly didn't stray much from a rather direct course. Packed for camping and loaded with wedding presents. :) And don't forget the spare room to bring some Yuengling back with me!

Came across Kansas on US36. For once, it wasn't windy! Incredibly pleasant ride. Not too hot, not too cold, stayed dry and calm. Brilliant! Here's the sign for the center of the continental US. It's actually a few miles down a dirt road but this is close enough for me.

Before I got too far I had to make a stop to pick something up. This little place will do!

Mmmm. Yum.

One of my favorite things about Kansas are the people. These small little towns away from the interstate often keep free campgrounds up and running for visitors. Found one! Running water, real toilets, full hookups for RVs. All free. Thank you Maryville!

Did I mention how nice the people are in small town Kansas?? A local came and gently woke me in my hammock around 2am. He said there was a big storm cell inbound and I might be wise to take cover under one of the picnic pavilions. I was welcome to take my bike in there too. Thank you sir!

Was very nice to pack up in the morning dry! The next day took me the rest of the way across Kansas, through Illinois and Indiana and finished up just west of Columbus, Ohio. Things took longer than usual as I had to make a long stop early in the day to patch up my fairings and mirror. Things were rattling apart, nothing a little gorilla tape couldn't fix.

Big, beautiful skies

The sun set on me but I was still having a fantastic time just riding along, so kept going.

It was one of those super fun night rides where you're not feeling fatigued or bored. Jamming along to my music enjoying the road. Well all of a sudden I realized I'd hit another time zone and it was after 11pm! Whoops!! Guess I better stop and get some rest so I'm not utterly useless the next day. Snagged myself an inexpensive motel and slept like a baby.

Next morning:

There's a mantra that long distance riders hold, "put in 100 miles before breakfast." Now, I'm no long distance rider, atleast not like these guys. I do not like interstates and prefer quality over quantity. It's wise to heed their words though when putting in big miles! Breakfast and laundry drying break:

With all the miles I put in yesterday I knew I had some extra time today. So instead of taking the rather uncomfortable and crowded PA turnpike the whole way across the state I dropped down into West Virginia. Yes, Interstate 68 is a big freeway. Which I usually don't like. But this one was fun!! Up and down these big rolling hills, even some small mountains. Plenty of twists and turns and great views. Weeeeeeeeeeeee. So worth the extra time to stay off that dang turnpike! I did have to head back north and grab it in Harrisburg, but atleast I wasn't on it all day. Hit rush hour coming into Philadelphia (ugh) but got in just fine. Felt very strange parking my bike in such a big city! She got a full cover and TWO locks, which I think was overkill but I slept soundly.

 That's Meredith and Sheri's house in the background! They were kind enough to put me up for their wedding, great friends. I headed into the guest bedroom to find my nice clothes all hung up and ready, and look a robe!! (I knew better than to try and pack a blazer and slacks on a motorcycle....)

I remember when I used to live here kids on sport bikes with silly exhausts would blast through the neighborhoods... Well, seems times have changed and poorly running dirt bikes (sans license plates) are the new rage! Man, quite a few in there that really could use a carb cleaning and balancing. *facepalm

Had a fantastic time meeting Meredith and Sheri's friends on Friday night. What a welcoming bunch! They clearly had known each other forever and just sucked me right into their group. Good folks.

It is impossible to sleep in at their house. Good thing, I had places to see!

Opted to walk everywhere instead of cabbing, was great to see the old landmarks. Weather was perfect for it, Meredith and Sheri were off doing wedding things so I had some time to myself.

Italian street market:

 No one but the tourists get cheesesteaks here... Ew. It is quite the place though.

Here's my go-to cheesesteak spot. Didn't get one this trip. *sadface

I did get plenty of these though!! Rita's water ice with frozen custard. OMG. So good. Miss it.

 Independence Park is a beautiful area for a stroll

Christ Church cemetery

Old South Street haunts from college. Best $1 slices in town!

This place was an eye opener as a freshman!! Ha, talk about your education ;)

The wedding was at the old Germantown Cricket Club. Historical, perfectly manicured, beautiful. No good pictures from me, I was too busy getting swept up in the joy of the moment!

Their photographer was super fun:

We all decided to pretend we were much younger and head downtown after the reception. Yeah.... That lasted maybe 2 hours. LOL it was fun, but we're all a bit seasoned for this sort of thing!

Talk about passing out. Whew!! What a great day. Woke up to bells Sunday morning and was treated to a fantastic brunch for friends and family. Delicious! Then it was time for:

Remember I said I ate too much? Oh yeah. Sure did. *belch

Leasurely packed up the bike and headed off to a friend's place in King of Prussia (just north of the city.) Stopped at a few spots along the way. City Hall:

John, do you see the Lienie's bilboard??!!

Rocky steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art: (poorly framed I know, I had to ask the park ranger REALLY nicely to let me stop for a quick snapshot)

Manayunk, I lived and worked here about a year. On the left is Pitcher's Pub, the local hangout and the only place in town you could get a reasonably priced beer. Very artsy/touristy area just outside the city.

Had to go check out my old college too. Holy smokes, it was far grander than I remember. Quite the place. Interesting memories. My oldest friends are from these days, I have some really good ones.

I scared atleast one prospective student and her family (oops) and public safety followed me around for a bit. LOL!

Lots of beauty. Mixed emotions. Glad I stopped by. Took me back to a different time when I could not even fathom that it was possible to be as happy as I am now.Life is good and I am grateful!

The last dorm I lived in:

What used to be the rugby pitch, ah the good ol' days.

Enough reminiscing, onwards!

Jeff is a good biker buddy, although we originally met on the Subaru Forester forum. Karla and I have hosted him and his friend Todd (who would show up later) in Denver, now they were returning the favor. The whole family plus Todd and I hopped in their Outback for some proper bar food and more Yuengling. There's that eating thing again!

This is Todd. He lives in Laurel, MD and came up to hang out and spend the night. They were gonna take me on a ride the next day. Anyways, Todd wasn't pleased with Jeff's driveway landscaping. "Hey Jeff, should you really give him that chainsaw?" I asked... "Yeah sure, he's got his helmet on." ROFLMAO

Firepit shenanigans.

There were smores! And more beer. Then it was time to go to bed.

I'll always ready to get up early for a motorcycle ride, but they sweatened the deal. Oh how I miss you Wawa.

Too bad it was Monday (and Memorial Day), so they were closed. Atleast I got to see it! MUST go back for a tour.

Shhhh. I'm mildly obsessed. So I took lots of pictures. Shhhhh!!

So neat.

Next stop was the rather bizarre ghost town called Centralia. Evidently there's a huge coal fire that's been burning under the town since 1962. The fire underlies about 400 acres, forcing another town nearby to be evacuated. Jeff says in the winter you can see smoke/steam rising from the ground. I guess most people took buyouts from the federal government in the early 80s and left. There's pretty much nothing left but a few residents (10?) and some rather torn up streets. We (ok I, then the guys followed) road (illegally?) down old 61 which was really spectacular. Check it out!

Jeff's Yamaha Super Tenere. Awesome machine.

Further down the road we found lunch! That's Todd's BMW K75 on the left.

Fantastic made-to-order sandwiches

Great sodas, homemade desserts and HUGE apples.

I should've bought more! Ate them over the next few days. Ginormous.

 Did you know Pennsylvania has a "grand canyon?" They do!

From there we hoofed it back south. Jeff headed back to King of Prussia, I followed Todd to his place in Laurel, MD. Made good time, finished off the day with:

Hi, my name is Ash and I have a water ice problem.

Todd has this hilarious adopted Main Coon kitten called Telly. He's nearly impossible to photograph, or even get a video of... I got one snippet. He kept me company!

Early start on Tuesday, wanted to enjoy the backroads between Laurel, MD and my gram's house in West Newton, PA (southeast of Pittsburgh). And talk about some backroads!! What a blast of a day. I crisscrossed all over Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Found some fantastic dirt roads too. So. GOOD.

Some pictures in case you didn't watch the above video:

If I wanted to ride interstates all day I'd take a car. Or fly. No, I'd rather do this:

Lunch stop!

Woods are really different out here

I had picked some of these up at my last gas stop to go with lunch. Um. No. High hopes for deliciousness crushed.

Had to shut the GoPro off earlier than I wanted, hit rain the last 40 minutes or so going to my gram's. Bummer. At least the bike and I were far more presentable after a good wash!

Safely (soaked) at my gram's house! Love this place. Excellent memories. So happy! Something triumphant too about parking my bike in her driveway too. :)

Bike got a good wash overnight on the street. Shorted my GPS switch though, oops. Easy 3 minute fix, no harm no foul.

The next day was all about spending time with my gram and whatever family we could rope into a visit! I didn't get to see them over Christmas last year, what a treat to see everyone.

Lets start this day right! English muffins and tea, a tradition.

Gram has the most beautiful backyard, thanks to all the work she and my uncle Pete put in!

There's a train that runs the tracks just past the woods, I fondly remember running down to the end of the yard as a kid to watch them lumber by.

Gram's front door:

First thing's first, grocery shopping! Hosting a dinner tonight for some family. As Karla put it, "your gram is as cute as her house!" I couldn't be happier just being that day.

Uncle Pete sets the BEST table! Come on, who wouldn't want to join us??

Next up we went over to my aunt Patty and uncle John's cabin they're working on restoring. Uncle John is brilliant in construction and he's thrown all his passion at this place. Amazing. Here's aunt Patty describing the progress and what's next:

Check out the old beams under the kitchen floor

Uncle John converted this into a sink! Evidently it belonged to my great (great?) grandmother and has been in my gram's basement forever. Neat!

Uncle John, aunt Patty, Cathy Floriani (family friend, might as well be family!) and gram.

Look! Asparagus! So delicious, I was eating it raw.

We had a tasty lunch and stopped at Gary's for pastries, evil little things! Back to gram's for dinner. My auntie Barb and uncle George joined us, they're sitting on the couch. Really nice of them to come, great to see them.

So happy.

Gotta play King Gin!! Card playing family we are. :) That's aunt Patty, Cathy and gram.

A nice early start the next morning, time to head home! This day would take me southwest through West Virginia, bits of Ohio and Kentucky. Highlight of the day was definitely the Ohio River Covered Bridge Scenic Byway. Day started out foggy and moist. No rain, spectacular photos along the Ohio River.

I'd seen quite a few of these riding around PA, finally found a good one for a photo! As I pulled up along the edge of this little road, the property owner was on her way out. She invited me to roll up her grass driveway for a better shot. Thank you ma'am I think I will! Excellent example of a mail pouch barn.

Every solo trip I take I pack along a full size tripod that packs down pretty small. I enjoy having a picture or two of myself, but I have to force myself to do it. I figured this was a great spot, so here ya go:

Onwards!! Kept a big Kentucky storm ahead of me, rolled through London, KY where my dad's family is from with loads of standing water! My family will recognize this place, the rest of you just carry on....

Got to my intended stopping point after dark, the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area in Kentucky. Fireflies and frogs!! It was a fun evening. Found myself a nice spot for the tent, here's some pictures the next morning.

I was really looking forward to this day, as I'd ride US 160 all the way across Missouri. One of my most favorite roads and the entire reason I'd detoured to the south on the way home. It takes you all the way across the southern portion on a high speed limit (55 mostly), twisty, rural 2 lane road. Weeeeeeeeeeee. This time I even saw quite a few bald eagles! Managed to get one on the GoPro:

Bull Shoals Lake, just about the end of the good stuff.

Stuck to the two lanes in southern Kansas, ended up about 140 miles through the state before I opted to stop. I had planned on camping but nasty weather had me hunting a local motel. Nice and dry!

Last day, time to boogie across the heartland. Kansas really can be a beautiful ride. The trick is to stay as far away from I-70 as you can! I came across the north side on the way out, time to do the south. 2 lane roads, corn fields, cows, small towns and super friendly people. Good day.

Up before the sun means you can get shots like these. The moist fog made for a cool morning ride, perfect.


Hiding in the mist

Somewhere in Kansas later in the day...

Garden City had quite possibly the fanciest Wendy's I'd ever been in! I'd been frequenting them this trip, we received a bunch of coupons in the mail for their fancy new salads. Delicious.

Rolled back to the house around 4pm, 10 days and 4500 miles later. What a great opportunity to see family and friends, ride some new roads and some old favorites and share in Meredith and Sheri's big day. So glad I went.

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