Saturday, September 23, 2006

Hopeville Pond State Park, Connecticut

The best damn pork chop sandwich ever!

A comfy rest for a change last night. Luxurious! Awoke at 7:30. For some reason, feeling achy and run-down. Maybe the body just trying to take advantage of the situation. The hotel's breakfast spread was pretty nice: eggs, sausage, bagel and coffee for me (with banana, apple, and a few individual half ‘n half containers to go.) On the news, "big weather" is sweeping across Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky. Tornado warnings in Arkansas (and someone said this isn’t "tornado season"!)

Took care of some business on the computer. Logged an accumulation of gas receipts, balanced the check book, paid the "Visa" bill. At 10:30, I called Drew and Susan, using "Skype". We had a good connection (which is often not the case via "Skype".) Offered them my apartment when they travel south to visit Alana early in October. Vacated the room precisely at 11:00. Windy and cloudy but still dry. The forecast called for scattered thunderstorms.


10:00 p.m.

Hopeville Pond State Park, Connecticut

Returned to this campground, and the same site I had over a year ago. Quite a bit damper this time around. It rained earlier, but the temperature is rather mild.

Just down the road, in Norwich, I found a "Tim Horton’s"! (I know, it shouldn't be regarded as a "religious experience".) Still, it was the first one I've seen this trip.

Riding after dark, growing a bit chilled and hungry, I thought maybe I’d have to break down and go to a "McDonald's" for some hot (okay, warm) food. The highway left the coast and turned inland to skirt around New Haven. I was running low on fuel as I-395 led off into a dark, and what seemed rural landscape. After a period of growing anxiety, I was relieved to see the glow of Norwich up ahead. Refueled (regular gas $2.489! What happened? Must be a "blue state”!) And just up the street, the "evil McDonald's". I was about to give in to hunger and desperation, when I caught sight of the "Tim Horton's". Saved! (According to an LED sign inside, they just opened their 300th store in the States.)

Over an hour earlier, near New Haven, I had stopped at the “U.S.S. Chowder Pot III” restaurant in Branford. It claimed the distinction “best seafood in the state”. I thought I was pretty lucky to have stumbled upon the place. Inside, it was jammed, with a 1-1/2 hour wait to be seated. But I was told I could get chowder and a drink in the lounge and that actually sounded just fine with me. Took a seat in the bar as a band set up. I noticed an older couple at a nearby table enjoying each other's company. I offered to take a picture of them with their camera. They were from Texas. We discovered we agree on something: "New Jersey sucks."

After ten or fifteen minutes during which the lounge servers never even acknowledged me, I got up and left. Failing to greet a customer soon after they arrive is a big mistake in my book. Even if you know you can't get to them right away, you should at least advise them of the situation.


After leaving Manassas this morning, I moved on to "Bob’s BMW" in Jessup, Maryland. Light traffic, good directions and easy connections, made it an easy ride. Still it took over an hour to cross the metro area to Jessup. Windy, weather now blowing in from the west. Warm, muggy, hazy and poor air quality.

"Bob’s" is a happening place. On Saturdays, service is first-come, first served. (They suggested getting there at 6:30, but I said, given that I was paying $100 for a motel, no way was I going to cut my stay in half. Dismounted the rear wheel and handed it to Bill Joshua. A technician got right to it. They appear to take the concept of "service" seriously.

Bill Joshua at Bob's BMW

Saturday is "first come, first served" at Bob's. Bill at first recommended I come in at 6:30 a.m. and join the service line-up. I wasn't about to check out of my motel that early, so he said they'd do their best to fit me in whenever I did show.

I arrived after noon, removed the rear wheel and handed it to him. Ten minutes later, I found the wheel standing next to my bike with a new tire mounted. Outstanding service!

As they said at Bob's BMW, I got my money's worth out of this one

Bill suggested I go have a pork sandwich and coffee while I wait. Outside, at his industrial-sized barbecue, I met Dave Welch. He does catering and frequently parks his rig at "Bob's" on Saturdays. Definitely the best pork chop sandwich I’ve ever had. He wants to buy a restaurant in Clearfield, Pennsylvania. "Exit 123 off of Interstate 80," he said “check it out.”

Dave Welch operates "Dave's Barbecue and Catering" out of Laurel, Maryland. This guy knows his food (and enjoys it too!) On Saturday's, he frequently sets up his barbecue outside Bob's BMW, catering to the crowd that shows up at this busy dealership.

Chatted with a fellow rider, "Luis" from Portugal. On display in Bob's motorcycle museum, I found a never-been-driven blue 1973 BMW R75/5, almost identical to the 1972 model I owned. It was my last motorcycle. (I "loved" that bike!)

In the Bob's BMW museum, a BMW very similar to my 1972 R75/5, the last motorcycle I owned before the R1200GS. This one was never operated.

Returned to find my wheel, with the new tire mounted, leaning against the bike. "Josh", one of the service techs, was studying the motorcycle. He asked if I've experienced any problems with it during my travels. As I went down the list, he commented on each item, noting which ones they’ve seen before, and which are new to him.

New "skin"!

Purchased front and rear brake pads, as spares, then took some photographs to remember Bob's, thanked the staff them for great service and Dave for the good food, and got back to "the ride".


On road again after 3:00. It seems my breakfast may have left me with a case of diarrhea. Fortunately, it hit me just as I reached one of those controlled-access service areas with relatively clean facilities.

Purchased the smallest Starbucks coffee available (a "tall"). As with many consumer offerings these days, the portion was too large, and I ended up pouring half of it out. Standing there, sipping my coffee, "Delaware!!!" I suddenly realized it was my second "visit" to this state. Jeff and I passed through this summer. That just leaves South Carolina and North Dakota as the only states I haven’t “visited” (okay, "touched" might be more accurate.)

I decided against detouring west of Philadelphia to drop in on the Grotzes once again. The last time, it was unannounced, and felt a bit like barging in. (And obviously I still haven't learned to announce my intentions in advance.)

New Jersey struck me as "the pits." My nose guided me: the smell of petroleum, unburned fuels, dirty gasoline, solvents, chemicals, artificial flavorings. It is longitudinally bisected by the New Jersey Turnpike. I consider turnpikes elitist, so I opted for the (toll-free) I-295 corridor. A big mistake. This highway sucks, big time. Heavily congested with trucks, poorly-maintained, rough pavement. Obviously intended for use by the "masses". Around Trenton, I was forced back over to the Turnpike for the final leg into New York City. Stopped at the tollbooth, but no one was there. The driver behind me impatiently honked. Guess I wasn't supposed to stop! So I pressed on. When I reached the end of the Turnpike, another bank of toll booths.


"Where do I get one?"

"You were supposed to take one when you got on."

"I didn't see any ticket machine."

I was charged the maximum toll, from Delaware to New York.

("I hate New Jersey.")

I stormed across the George Washington Bridge, across Harlem and the Bronx, and on into Connecticut. No thoughts this time to wander Manhattan, as I've done on previous occasions. A little too late in the day, and I hoped to yet find a campsite (pretty inconceivable as one crosses this metro area!)

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