Monday, April 30, 2007

Fayetteville, NC to Clinton, SC

Hampton Inn and Suites, Clinton, South Carolina

1:00 a.m. (Tuesday)

Back in Fayetteville this morning, we started with bagels for breakfast (the "free hot breakfast".)

We formally decided this morning that Key West is out. Jeff is running low on vacation time. Our progress has been slow. (My strut problems, and the unanticipated stops in West Chester, and Williamsburg were contributing factors. The barely tolerable heat is also a persuasive influence.) We would instead head into the Appalachians (Deal's Gap and Cherohala Skyway among other possible destinations.) But Jeff wanted me to get to South Carolina, the only state I hadn’t “touched”. (I just barely touched Georgia the last time I was back this way.)

First we would visit Fort Bragg. Drove down Bragg Boulevard and onto the Army base. It seemed so casual compared to my military experience. Civilian security guards at the main gate. Lots of contractors building new structures on base. Dormitories and apartments have replaced barracks. Jeff shared a few memories of his time as an MP (military policeman) here. There are even fast food franchises on base. At the BX/PX, Jeff bought an 82nd Airborne ball cap for Kellie. He encouraged me to buy a laptop computer – “it’s tax-free!” (Oh, great, another "interest group subsidy"!) But I'm not ready to concede defeat in my laptop war.

It seems we’re driving less each day. Jeff is ready to go home, I think. It’s hard on him (harder than on me.)

We had the "good fortune" to find a "Cracker Barrel" at Lumberton, North Carolina. (They are actually not difficult to find, given their very prominent billboards along interstate corridors.) We enjoyed a huge breakfast. (A remarkable value – less than last night’s "snack". One can see how people get fat here!)

We had a long, and meaningful, discussion about the "Inn and Suites” moniker used by many hotel chains these days (especially Hampton, Holiday Inn and Quality Inn.) What's the difference between a property labeled "Hotel" and one labeled "Inn and Suites"? I am angered by what I see as deceptive marketing practices, in that despite sporting the same brand name, the features at a "Hotel" are usually inferior to the same brand "Inn and Suites". But the price may be the same. The Hampton Inn last night being another example of my falling for the "deception". ("They snookered me again!")

South Carolina seems very lush, green, rich with pine forests. So it is especially painful to see swaths of forest being cleared for development. It is still relatively pristine compared to other states, but how long can it resist the pressure?

It was hot this afternoon, about 85, but thankfully not humid. A relative dry wind blew from the north. (This is a problem for those fighting forest fires in Georgia, to the south.) We stuck to the interstate all day, first 95, then 20 and finally 26. In Columbia, SC we hit the afternoon rush hour, though not much of a jam.

My front brakes are in bad shape; probably due to warped rotors (the default response from technicians.) I don’t however understand why cleaning the discs provides momentary (5 or 10 minutes') smooth operation.

As a result, I was quite irritated each time Jeff, out in the lead, didn’t provide adequate warning that he was making a turn. Whenever there's a need to brake hard, I have to deal with a shuddering front end.

After our discussion, I was insistent,that if we were to stay in a major franchise hotel, it be an "Inn and Suites" property. So, when we saw the billboard for this one in Clinton, South Carolina, I deigned to stop. After checking in and unpacking, we headed downtown, in search of a supermarket.

Clinton is home to the Presbyterian College and the town has a certain grace and charm. The area seems poised for a development boom. We passed one huge tract of forest land that had been cleared, burn piles still smoldering.

We found a new “Bi Lo” grocery and stocked up on snacks and beverages.

Though after "Cracker Barrel", we vowed “no dinner tonight”, we of course found ourselves going out to eat at 9:30 at "Fatz Café" right next to the hotel. (We have to try these things!) It was considerably better than “Ruby Tuesday’s”. I sampled their "Calabash Chicken".

***

Stayed up posting a few photos, and watching TV tonight. Looks like no early start in the morning. (It’s "problematic" shifting back and forth from hotel to camping modes - though there hasn't been much "camping mode" on this ride!)

The Hampton last night was pretty crummy, but $60 (with Jeff’s government discount) versus $91 here (no discounts.)

We’ve been driving about 200 miles a day lately.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Cape Hatteras National Seashore


The Outer Banks, Ocracoke Island, North Carolina


Awoke at 7:00, the sun just coming over the dunes. Mild, breezy, nice. Lots of birds. Figured we have until 8:30 to pack up and leave. Packed my bike, then helped Jeff.

Reaching the town of Okracoke, I noticed a sign listing the ferry schedule. This morning's leaves at 9:30, not 9:00 as I had thought. Arriving at the ferry line, we were told all the ferries were booked until 6:00 p.m. this evening. We could wait in the "stand-by" line though, which had perhaps a half-dozen vehicles already. “Oh well, whatever.” But we made it aboard. The fare, $10 each.

A two-hour cruise on Pamlico Sound, from Okracoke to Cedar Island and the mainland. We even got a little bit of swell and chop where our path crossed inlets from the open sea. I enjoyed being outside on deck, watching the sea birds accompanying us during the crossing. Jeff napped in a cabin seat.

Talked with a North Carolina couple riding Harleys. Before docking, another Harley rider passed among us, warning all the bikers of the gravel awaiting us on Cedar Island. "It’s bad," he said.

Now I started to become apprehensive, recalling the deep gravel at Chile Chico. But this turned out to be a joke. A little pea gravel was scattered over a paved surface. A non-event. It took a while to reach solid land that wasn't bordered by marsh and criss-crossed with channels and bays. In small villages along our route, churches were clearly the busiest places around this morning.

Stumbled upon No Name Pizza in Beaufort ("Bow-fort", not "Bue-fert" - that's in South Carolina), home of the 10-ounce hamburgers! Excellent, juicy, crumbly beef home-style burgers. The after-church crowd filled the booths, in more ways than one. BIG people in these parts! This place deserved a photograph.



Beaufort, North Carolina is home to the best hamburgers in recent memory


As we moved inland, the heat ratcheted up. Out of the blue, Jeff said “I don’t need to go to Fayetteville.” What??? This had been one of our primary objectives, to visit his old Fort Bragg stomping grounds.

I forced him to go there. "We can find a motel on the interstate. You don’t have to deal with the military community." In his GPS database, he located a Hampton Inn on Interstate 95. It turned out to be one of the old-style Hamptons, where you can drive up to the rooms (unlike the new internal-access-only hotels.) Jeff likes these, because we can park the bikes right outside the door, however my experience is that these are generally older hotels that Hilton/Hampton has purchased and slapped their name on. They generally have fewer amenities and infrastructure, while offering little concession on price. But they DID have fresh chocolate chip cookies! So I tossed out all my objections. And it was only $60 (with Jeff's government/military discount.) “It was meant to be.”

As I stated, the amenities are often lacking. So, to wash our clothes, we had to drive to the nearest laundromat, 4 or 5 miles away. And this had to be the most dismal laundromat I’ve ever seen, in this country or abroad.

Next door to the hotel is a Ruby Tuesday restaurant. I've never been in one, so I figured "once would be an education." We went in 30 minutes before closing. Our server was oblivious. She served us salads and left without noticing we didn’t have anything to eat them with. She was too busy talking with friends. We had to flag a manager to find us some flatware. Jeff left a $1 tip. Maybe she'd get the message.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Williamsburg, VA to Cape Hatteras, NC


Jeff and Steve discussing politics inside Yorktown Pub


Steve offered to escort us to Yorktown today. We followed him over on our bikes. Visited the embattlements and Surrender Field, then we stopped in at the Yorktown Pub, which Steve calls a "biker bar". Pretty bad food, but the local atmosphere is what you're after in these places. Outside, at the mouth of the York River, many windsurfers were laying out their gear on the sand, though the day was still gray and calm.



Steve Berger and I outside the Yorktown Pub, Yorktown, Virginia


After taking our leave, we stopped for fuel at a 7-11. I was hit with diarrhea, barely making it to the restroom. I suspect the "pub grub".

Following Steve’s suggested route to Nag’s Head took us through the city of Newport News. It looked like we wouldn’t approach very near the Norfolk Naval Station, a base I had long been curious about. I could see the giant cranes of Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, the granddaddy of shipyards. (I've since learned that's an old title. It's now called Northrup Grumman Shipbuilding.) So, I decided to lead Jeff over to take a peek and see if there were any Navy aircraft carriers under construction.

Driving the shipyard perimeter, I stopped a worker who was coming off duty and asked where the best views could be found. He said the U.S.S. George H.W. Bush (ugh!) was under construction, and (I think) the U.S.S. John C. Stennis was in the yard also. (Later learned from the JCS website, that it was in fact in the Arabian Gulf at the time.)

I couldn’t find a good vantage point, so I gave up after 15 minutes of roaming the streets. Off to Cape Hatteras.

We had the "good fortune" to stumble into another Harley rally, this one apparently sponsored by the Nag’s Head Harley dealer. Literally thousands of Harleys crammed onto the narrow strand that is Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Delightful. "There ought to be a law."

At Kill Devil Hills, I thought we "should" visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial, but when we stopped at the entrance and considered the fees for driving onto the site, we decided we really didn't plan to stay long enough to justify the expense. We continued south, passing in the distance the memorial's tall marble obelisk.

Jeff and I were grating on each others’ nerves. I think he was eager to just ride and didn't particularly care for sightseeing stops. The congestion on roads and slow progress was not helping.

We considered abandoning Cape Hatteras and returning to the mainland, but decided to press on. Another stop to visit (or at least drive by) the famous Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. The campground there was closed, so again we moved on.

After one short (and free) ferry ride to Ocracoke Island, the hordes of Harleys had diminished. We reached the ferry landing in the town of Ocracoke, at the southern end of the island. No ferries until tomorrow. It looked like we'd have to find another motel (and it appears the town is a popular resort, so locating a room would be challenging at this late hour - 8:00 p.m.)



Free ferry ride between Cape Hatteras and Ocracoke Island, North Carolina


It was Jeff who suggested checking into a national park campground we had passed back up the road. I was reluctant to backtrack, but it turned out to be only a few miles, and the Ocracoke Campground is a great setting with camping permitted in the sand dunes along the shore. At $23, it's a bit steep for a basic campground, but much cheaper than our other options.

I felt much better once we had an established campsite, and decided it would be fun to go back into town for dinner. After cruising around Ocracoke, and observing that most restaurants were likely beyond our budget, we settled on Jason’s. It's a casual family restaurant with a screened patio. We arrived just before closing and ordered a large pizza (and a hefeweizen beer for me.) Good food, and a pleasant way to unwind after a taxing day. $32 in total, not outrageous, considering the location.

According to Wikipedia, Ocracoke was the home base of pirate Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard.

Back at camp, the air was damp and landscape dew-covered. Lots of bugs and mosquitoes, but once inside the tent, no matter. It's quite a treat to rest beside the ocean.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Colonial Williamsburg


Jeff and I watched afternoon downpours from the shelter of Steve Berger's garage in Ford's Colony, Williamsburg, Virginia


Made contact with Steve and arranged to meet. He invited us to move out of the motel and over to his place for the night, where he has two bedrooms available. How could we refuse?

Met him at a small strip mall near "Ford’s Colony" and he led us into the sprawling exclusive development. It's a safe and secure world! He had an 11:30 meeting, so he left us with full run of the house. ("Are you sure you trust us?") Browsed his collection of model ships and aircraft on display. Incredibly-detailed miniatures.

We were a bit uncomfortable hanging out inside the house, so we pulled up a couple of lawn chairs into the doorway of the open garage and sat looking out, sipping a beer and munching chips and dip provided by our host. Watched the clouds developing and debated directions. I disputed the accuracy of his GPS’s compass. (But how could it be wrong? I argued maybe the house's gravity was throwing it off.)



Thunderhead billowing above Williamsburg, Virginia


Soon, the much anticipated thunderstorms were upon us. Lightning struck directly in front of us – probably less than half a mile away. Wake up!

When Steve returned, we headed out to Wal-Mart to visit his friend Jennifer. We invited her to join us for dinner tonight.



Steve Berger, my former boss at Robert Mondavi, and Jeff shopping at a Wal-Mart Super Center


In the mean time, Steve took us into Colonial Williamsburg where we visited Chownings (“choonings”), an old brownstone tavern, and caught up over a beer and peanuts in the shell. Afterwards, we walked among the shops and briefly watched a reenactment of Revolutionary patriot drills.



Reenactment of patriot military drills.






Practicing bayonet thrusts


Out to Milano for dinner, a restaurant Jeff and I had seen advertised. Unfortunately, the food was pretty mediocre, and service indifferent. The three of us "guys" got into a political debate, in which Jennifer wasn't inclined to participate.

After dinner, we returned to the house where the debate raged on. I tried engaging Jennifer in a less confrontational discussion of her travels in Europe, a subject she seemed much more animated by. After Jennifer went home, the "guys" turned to watching baseball: the San Francisco Giants were playing.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

West Chester, PA to Williamsburg, VA

At 6:30 a.m., I went downstairs to work on my laptop using the house wireless system. Clare came down after a little while and made coffee and toast. Bob was off to work at the stadium. Clare and I did lots of catching up on family, mostly the Grotz side. It's interesting how much she knows about "our" family and how little we know of hers. Clare had a funeral to attend at 11:00 today, so Jeff and I intended to be out of the house early enough to leave her time to prepare. After breakfast, we let ourselves out.

Skirted around Philadelphia and crossed into Delaware (can't tell the difference! This is the only part of Delaware that I've seen - the corridor between Philadelphia and Baltimore.) Cold and gray, threatening skies blowing down in pursuit of us. Rain, but only intermittent sprinkles. By Baltimore, I was bundling up and using the electric vest. Targeted a "Cracker Barrel" near Woodbridge, Virginia for a break. I was not so impressed this time. The seasonal strawberry pancakes were okay. But it is inexpensive!

En route to Cape Hatteras, we headed toward Norfolk and Virginia Beach. Williamsburg was along the route, so it would be easy to connect with my former Mondavi boss, Steve for a meal if he were at home and otherwise unoccupied.

Jeff insisted on taking a room at the "Comfort Inn" in Williamsburg. He received no argument from me. $69. They were very busy, as this is a heavily-touristed area. Changed rooms after we found the first one was too close to a noisy stairwell and too dark. Then I discovered the internet connection sucked. When I inquired at reception, I was met with the all-too-common reply “it’s the first time anyone has complained.” They couldn't help me, since the service is furnished by an outside provider. Another all-too-common situation. I was however able to post some photos and e-mail Steve to say we were passing through and would like to meet up with him.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A Visit with Aunt Clare


Cousin Missy!


Stopped at Eckerd’s in West Chester to call Clare. I didn’t have her number, so I asked to borrow a phone book. “Don’t go far with it” I was told at the pharmacy. No answer at her house. I remembered Missy works for QVC and that it’s somewhere in the area.

Asked directions of one of the salespeople. Outside, a young lady approached and said the directions given by the clerk were incorrect and she offered to guide us there. Followed her to the corporate campus, a couple of miles away. It's a strange place, nestled in a suburban business park. Fancily-dressed, beautiful people. Lots of "flash". There is a "cultish" feel in the atmosphere. Inside, at the reception desk, I inquired after Missy. The rather humorless gentleman said his directory showed a "Melissa Grotz". "She’s a packer – that’s a different location."

“Can I take a photo to show I’ve been here?”

He gently, but unequivocally said "you can take a photo outside.”



In search of our cousin Missy, Jeff and I stopped by the QVC Corporate Campus in West Chester, Pennsylvania


We followed his directions to the order fulfillment center, clearly a more "working-class" operation. We were told Missy was on second shift and would be in around 3:30, so we decided to get some lunch. A QVC employee directed us to West Chester’s downtown business district. In the quaint village, we found a bar (Teca?) that served paninis. Dined at a table out on the sidewalk (and close to the bumper-to-bumper downtown traffic.) Soon it started sprinkling and we were forced to move under an awning. An expensive and not very satisfying meal. The tab was over $30!

Returned to QVC. According to the first shift manager, the second shift would not be in until 4:30 or 5:00.

Jeff then suggested we just swing by Aunt Clare's house. At first a bit reticent about dropping in unannounced, he now seemed determined to follow through. There was no answer when I knocked on Clare's door. Jeff noticed a neighbor working on his classic cars. He went over to ask if Clare was in town. (It looked like she may be away.) We met Dave and Betty Mayo. When Dave learned I was from Santa Rosa, he asked “have you heard of Mayo Winery?”

"Of course. I know Mayo's winemaker, Mike Berthoud."

Dave has relatives in Santa Rosa, his nephew Bill and Sandy Mayo. They have nothing to do with the winery, he added. I was left scratching my head.

Dave confirmed Clare is around and said he’d try to call her cell phone. No response. He then called the house and Bob answered. He told Bob “you have company”. Bob opened the garage and stepped outside. He had been in the shower when I knocked.

Bob told us to pull the bikes into the garage, as the rain was steady now. He invited us in. A reporter covering the Philadelphia Eagles, he was working on an article regarding the current NFL draft. In his living room, with the TV tuned to the draft trials, working on his laptop and talking with us, Bob was the modern multi-tasker incarnate.



Cousin Bob working on a Philadelphia Eagles story


Clare arrived a short time later. Missy came over, on her way to work. It turns out she works only part time at QVC. I had forgotten that piece of the puzzle.

Are we staying, Clare wondered? We really didn't know. We have no plan.

"Of course!"



Aunt Clare at home in West Chester, PA


Missy blew off working, joking that she will just say that she heard there were two men stalking her at the corporate campus. Bob excused himself to work on his deadline.



Jeff and Missy


Clare collected an order for a local Asian (Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai) restaurant – and had it delivered. On the dining room table, Jeff noticed the glass sugar jar in the shape of a castle. It had been Nanie and Papa’s, and Jeff had fond memories of it from his childhood. Clare insisted he take it home.

We sat around the table, eating dinner and sharing stories. Learned (for the first time) that there are "Borks" in our genealogy. Though she married into it rather than being born into it, Clare knew more about our side of the family than we did. She outlined how Papa, Margaret (the chiropractor), Theresa (the teacher), John (the doctor) and Fred were all siblings.

Somehow we ended up discussing Sylvester Stallone’s height. I’m sure it’s 5’6” or something like that (according to my recollection of comments from my "Hollywood contacts", Mary and Janie.) The Grotzes claim "no way!"

Up past 11:00. Clare insisted that Jeff and I occupy the master bedroom (and share the bed???) But Jeff and I wouldn’t permit her to vacate for her guests. After much wrangling, we claimed the small room I used during my previous visit. Jeff took the bed, and I laid my sleeping bag on the plush carpet. It was quite comfortable.

Only 93 miles traveled today!

Lake Taghkanic State Park, New York to Phillipsburg, New Jersey




1:00 AM - Comfort Inn, Phillipsburg, New Jersey


THIS MORNING: At Lake Taghkanic State Park

Started the day at 6:30. Light rain last night, as a cold front moved in. By daylight the campground looks rather poorly maintained, the landscape quite tattered and worn. At 7:30, a ranger's truck passed within view of our campsite but they didn’t stop. "They must have noticed us." Jeff is a bit rusty and re-learning how to pack.

Leaving the campground, the road passes right by the ranger office, so we felt obliged to stop in and ask how much we owed for the overnight stay.

The ranger said the area is closed for camping. “Did you camp here last night? Well, you best be on your way.” Nice. We thanked him for his kindness.

With 80,400 miles on my bike now, the rear strut appears to have lost all its fluid and it's like riding a bronco now. (Perhaps a slight exaggeration.) But the bike is nearly un-ridable and, since I fail to accept the reality, dangerous.

Crossed the Hudson River near Rhinebeck, New York. What an impressive sight! So broad. The ancient Hudson Valley mystique is immediately more believable.

Entering Woodstock, my "eagle eye for sweets" spotted the Bread Alone bakery and we pulled over for breakfast. I felt right at home. Excellent baked goods, a cheery staff and clientèle, and walls decorated with photographs of Bob Dylan and The Band.



We found this great bakery, Bread Alone in Woodstock, New York



On the wall of Bread Alone bakery in Woodstock, New York hang Elliott Landy's photos of Bob Dylan and The Band from their "Big Pink" days


Curious about the location of "Big Pink", the local house where Dylan and the Band recorded in the 60s, a customer volunteered the information that the house is in fact in nearby Saugerties. He provided some general directions to the vicinity.

We browsed through the touristy town of Woodstock for a while, buying some postcards at the General Store. As my rear shock required immediate attention, we went to the Public Library so I could research BMW repair shops on-line. It looked like my options were Long Island, Phillipsburg, New Jersey and Bob's BMW in Jessup, Maryland (home to those great pork sandwiches!)

Jeff was not enthused about going near either the New York or Washington metropolitan areas, so Phillipsburg was the natural choice. Using Jeff's cell phone, I called Touch of Class BMW, and spoke to "Cindy". To my delight, she said they had a used strut with only a couple hundred miles on it. A new strut costs $750. She would sell this one for $500. I asked her to hold it for me - we'd be there late in the afternoon.

In my excitement, I managed to "step on a few toes". A woman at a neighboring computer terminal went up to the librarian's desk to report my use of a cell phone in the library. I had quite forgotten where I was!

Jeff and I left Woodstock in search of "Big Pink". We got close, but needed some assistance. We stopped at a garage-turned-woodshop and asked the woodworker. He directed us further up the hill, to Parnassus Lane.



"Big Pink" in West Saugerties, New York, where Bob Dylan and The Band recorded some of the most influential rock music of the 60s, including "The Basement Tapes".


The house was quite obvious when we reached it. Still pink. Trying to be discreet, we quietly rolled past. A hundred yards beyond,I turned around to park and take a photo. Jeff followed suit, but in making the turn a bit too wide, ended up duck-walking in a field where his tire rolled into a downed branch, causing him to perform a slow-motion "get-off". Oh, and in the process, he managed to honk the horn and rev the engine, broadcasting our arrival to all the local inhabitants. Being the sport, he got up laughing. A minor scratch on the windshield, the only injury. I dutifully recorded the momentous occasion on camera, and we beat a retreat down the hill.



Jeff points to the scene of his first R1200GS "get off". I was hoping to inconspicuously sneak up and take a photograph of "Big Pink", but our cover was blown, when he took his spill, revving the engine and hitting the horn in the process.


Next, we had to pay a visit to the Woodstock Music Festival site in Bethel, New York.

Riding with the bad strut grew more challenging throughout the day. In a Interstate 86 cloverleaf, I hit a bump and started bouncing wildly, the rear tire skidding along. "Oh, this is fun..."

In addition to this challenge, I was quite irritated at being guided by Jeff's GPS. It took us along a route that was, I was convinced, much more indirect. I had been through the area previously, and had a general sense of the directions to Bethel, yet the GPS continually pushed us further afield. Jeff admitted it might have been due to the parameters he chose for route selection.

In the end, I really have no idea whether I could have gotten us there more directly and quickly, and in the scheme of things, it hardly matters. It was just one of those little irritations that gnaw at you unless you address it head-on. I am very reluctant to resign myself to having satellites guide me down the highway.

In Bethel, not quite certain I had turned onto the correct country lane, we stopped in front of a farmhouse to ask directions. There we met Ruthie De Fazio. She assured us that the site was just up the road. But since my last visit, a prominent and wealthy businessman purchased the land and created the exclusive Bethel Woods Center for the Performing Arts on the property.



Ruthie De Fazio lives just down the road from the site of the 1969 Woodstock Music and Art Festival in Bethel, New York.


Ruthie and her husband moved here not long before the 1969 festival. She told us of the swarm of concertgoers passing through their property and that even the press corps had set up camp in their yard.

At subsequent anniversary celebrations, she has permitted the press to set up on her grounds. She refuses to sell her property to billionaire Alan Gerry who has purchased much of the land in the area and built the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts on the site of the original festival.

She was happy to spend time chatting with us, and invited us to stay at her house any time we visit. A real sweetheart.

Up the hill, we came to sprawling parking lots, manicured lawns, gated drives, security guards and graceful pavilions. The public is (for now) still permitted free access to the Woodstock festival monument. We stopped for the "photo op", but the emanations of this place are no longer welcoming. We quickly moved on (as we should.)



Two cool dudes at the Woodstock Music and Art Festival site (with Alan Gerry's Bethel Woods Center for the Performing Arts in the background.)


The afternoon was slipping away, and I began to grow concerned we might not reach Phillipsburg before the BMW shop closed. I was not concerned about the service department. I figured I could replace the struts on my own, and that, in fact, it would be good training. But I did want to make it in time to buy the struts.

The next leg of our (GPS-guided) journey took us into the Delaware Water Gap. Before arriving, I was only vaguely aware of its existence. The parkway through this beautiful Delaware River Valley landscape provides a wonderfully soothing ride.

In contrast, the Pennsylvania roads we encountered after exiting the southern end of the Water Gap are poorly maintained. In fact, I would say "they suck."

Reached Touch of Class after 6:00. The strut was laid out for me in the Parts Department. Now thinking about preventative maintenance, I asked if they also had a used front strut, since we were at it. In fact, they did. Cindy's husband had replaced both struts on his personal R1200GS with Ohlins struts.

The parts man said however they couldn’t install the rear strut tonight. "That's okay. I can install both," I told him.

Then Cindy showed up. She talked with the mechanic, who happens to be her husband Steve. He said he’d install the strut. I could hardly decline such a generous offer.



"Cindy", co-owner of Touch of Class Motorcycles in Phillipsburg, NJ. My motorcycle's rear strut needed replacement. She sold me two slightly-used struts that came off her husband Steve's R1200GS.


While he worked, Jeff and I wandered the showroom and then went outside as the sun set. Soon, Steve appeared with my bike. He had taken the initiative to work late and replace both struts.



Mannequin astride Suzuki Burgman shows remarkable resemblance to Timtraveler


Cindy gave us a run-down of the local motel options. Not many choices in the neighborhood. But we decided this Comfort Inn would do.

A few blocks away, there's an Olive Garden Restaurant. Jeff's a big fan, so we went over and had some soup, salad and fresh bread. I think we were their last customers tonight, but we were not hurried by the staff.

I was pleased that we have "accomplished" so much today.

Now it's 1:00 a.m. This is a relatively trashy motel, but it gives me an opportunity to catch up on some notes. (Jeff is asleep, snoring loudly. I notice how his chest heaves and think that deep snoring must be very taxing on the body.) Read the latest entries in the "Fellowship of Friends" blog. The interest is snowballing. I see an old friend "Sandra" from Sebastopol has joined in the discussion. Each time I visit the site, the are new surprises, and old friends surfacing.


MEANWHILE, OUT ON THE LEFT COAST





Drew on his book tour of Southern California with Jed and Greg Noll. They're signing their new book Greg Noll: The Art of the Surfboard for adoring fans.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Lake Taghkanic State Park, New York


Loaded up and ready to ride, leaving Jeff's house in Waterbury, Vermont. We're riding to Key West, Florida.



10:30 p.m.

Camped on a large wooden platform in this rather shabby campground. Apparently, we're the only campers here. Our first day on the road has not been particularly auspicious. Jeff's experiencing a lot of frustration. It's a matter of adapting to the routines of the road, and to the minor discomforts and inconveniences.



Driving her new (to her) Mazda Kellie drops in to see us off


We planned a 9:00 a.m. departure. Actual was about 10:15. I noticed some oil apparently leaking from a couple of places on his bike: under his valve cover and around the oil filter. We decided to go back over to Frank’s Motorcycles (a twenty-minute drive in the wrong direction) to have it checked out.

Lester said he would immediately have a look at it. (I was impressed to see Lester, who is not a big fellow, hop up on the big bike and ride it side-saddle around the building to the shop area.) It appears they had just neglected to clean up the bike after servicing it the other day. Our route south took us back to Waterbury, so we decided to go to Kellie’s market for a slice of pizza. Jeff and I filled up on samples as she heated up slices for us. Another farewell to Kellie, and we were off. A hot day, by Vermont standards. Of course, we wonder if it's this hot in Vermont, what's it going to be like in Florida? We were anticipating highs in the upper 80s down there, but that might be wishful thinking.

We headed for the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts. I thought we might camp near Mt. Greylock (from Breaking the Limit fame). I was disappointed to find the access road leading up to Greylock closed. In Pittsfield, we searched for a restaurant. I noticed an interesting pub located on the central square. It looked inviting, but Jeff didn’t want to park too far away, with his GPS exposed. (He didn’t have the key that would allow it to be removed and stowed during stops.)

We kept moving. The Berkshires appeared a little trampled and threadbare to us, not the rich secluded forests I might have imagined. Too many people, too few retreats.

In Lenox, we passed up the abundance of familiar restaurant franchises, and settled on the Arizona Pizza Company. As we prepared to go inside, I noticed fluid leaking from my rear shock absorber. The seal must have blown out. Both Jeff and I were feeling tense. I had hoped to camp at Greylock. That being closed, there appeared few other options. I would hate to admit defeat on day one and resort to a motel.

The map showed a campground just southeast of Lenox. We found it, tucked on the edge of a residential area. But it too was closed. The camping season has not yet started back here.

By now it was dark. I gave Jeff another park to plug into his GPS: Taghkanic State Park in New York. I hate using a GPS for this kind of thing, much preferring to use a map, where one can see "the big picture". He led us onward. Connected with the "Mass Pike" and rode it about 12 miles to the New York state line. No toll charges, a pleasant surprise.

Over dark roads, through sleepy mountain villages, we wandered following the GPS god. It delivered us to Taconic State Park. A look around revealed no accommodations for camping. I was confused and consulted the "real" map. There are two parks with similar names within about 20 miles of each other. We were at the wrong one.

Our patience was reaching an end. Traveling these country roads at night, distractedly following the GPS display, is a formula for disaster. We had not yet encountered deer, but they are certainly out here.

After a seemingly convoluted series of turns and winding backroads, we stumbled into this park. No signs of life, we wandered until we found a camping area, and quickly, almost wordlessly set up our tents. We weren't in the best of moods. "It will be better in the morning."

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Waterbury, Vermont

Up around 8:00, after waking several times earlier. Walked over to the new Green Mountain Coffee Company Store at the train depot. It was closed. Continued up the tracks to "K.C.’s Bagel Shop". Quiet in town this morning. Over a bagel and some mediocre coffee ("Green Mountain", but not brewed to my liking), read up on the news. A few days ago, a young fellow killed 32 students at Virginia Tech before killing himself. Flags have flown at half-staff across the country. Lots of soul-searching going on now.

We have an insane gun culture. The wonder is that such rampages are not more common.

upon my return, I found I was locked out of the house. Jeff was still resting, so I sat on the front stoop writing some notes. In a field across the street, the spreading of liquid manure (a by-product of Vermont's dairy industry) began again, trucks and tractors rolling, even on Sunday.

Kellie pulled out of her driveway next door and into Jeff’s to drop off leftover steak from the other night. She opened up the house to let me in. Jeff, looking out from his bedroom window upstairs reminded me of our mother – just something in his mannerisms.

Jeff and I started to look on-line at camping options along the East Coast, planning to take advantage of his access to military facilities and soon a tentative route began to emerge.

The weather warmed up to over 70 today, the snow quickly melting and buds are about to burst. Birds fill the air with their song.

Watched a patch of snow in the backyard shadows disappear by day’s end.

To Burlington so Jeff could shop for a few items, including suspenders for his fleece-lined jeans. Over to "Longhorn" to visit with Matt and have an appetizer and margaritas. Strong drinks! (Matt had his buddy the bartender make them “special”.)

Jeff packed tonight.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

A visit to The Alchemist in Waterbury, Vermont

Up at 7:30, really enjoying a comfortable bed! I’ve been lucky. A few hundred yards away, tractors are spreading liquid manure in a corn field and it fills the town’s air with a stench (which will linger for days.)

This morning, I walked over to the new “Green Mountain Coffee Roasters” store at the train depot, an odd, touristy shop that feels out of place in this small town. Next, I stopped in at Kellie’s grocery store. She drives her car the two blocks to work! Everyone in town seems to know and like her.

Jeff and I took a drive into Williston to visit Matt at "Longhorn Steakhouse". Of course, since we were there, we may as well have lunch. Matt served us.

Back in Waterbury later, I changed out the BMW's fuel pump electronics, putting in a brand new controller. Jeff mounted a GPS and LED auxiliary headlight on his bike. We sat out on the front porch a long time, "watching all the girls go by" (Two dirty old men.)

Maintaining the day's food theme, we went to dinner at "The Alchemist". We walked over (well under half a mile.) Kellie had a fit. She wanted to drive! A 45-minute wait for a table. Jeff didn’t want to stay, but I prevailed. It really wasn’t so painful. We waited outside. Kellie knew many people who passed by in cars (and she has only been in town a short time.)

(A customer walked in wearing a “Bear Republic - Make Beer not Bombs” t-shirt from Healdsburg, California, near my Santa Rosa home.)



Jeff, tired of all the paparazzi



Kellie and Jeff outside our favorite Waterbury eatery



Downtown Waterbury, Vermont

Friday, April 20, 2007

East Aurora to Waterbury, with a Dinosaur in the middle

Around 7:30 a.m., I rolled the bike from the garage out to the front curb to load it up. Priscilla woke just before I was to leave. On my way out, I stopped at the "Great Harvest" bakery (formerly "Montana Mills") where Priscilla said I’d find local color. Over cappuccino and a cookie, chatted with the baker about motorcycling.

I'm afraid the shop won’t hold up against the new competition from "Starbuck’s" down the street. ("Taste" will suffer as well, as their coffee isn’t so good.) Perfect riding weather today, clear and cool. Tolls for the New York State Thruway are not cheap, but it's much easier to part with my money for this well-maintained and scenic byway. A far different experience than that Chicago area disaster of a tollway.

I'm always surprised how close East Aurora is to Buffalo - maybe ten or twelve miles? Yet in East Aurora you feel as though you're deep in the country. In California, that ten miles would be lined with frontage roads and franchises rather than forests and fields.

I felt quite positive this morning, soaking up the energy of sun and wind, as I made my way to Syracuse. I expected to just keep cruising at the speed limit (65 mph) but found myself racing with the New Yorkers, often at 80 mph. The contagious and frenzied energy of the city-dwellers! Approaching Syracuse, the hills to the south are still whitened with snow from the recent storm.

Arrived at "Dinosaur Bar-B-Que" at 11:30, parking right out front with other bikes (the "privileged" spot. The restaurant was started by three bikers in 1983.) I hadn't realized before that it is part of a chain, with other locations in Rochester and Harlem. Reserved a table and Chris and Amber arrived within minutes in Chris’ open-top red Jeep Wrangler.

Amber is within a week of completing her MBA in Social Work. After their June wedding, they’ll go to England for 6 months. They’re thinking of moving to Colorado, or somewhere out west. Chris, who’s a lobbyist for an auto dealership group (and wearing white shirt and tie today) says jobs are disappearing in New York and the cost of living is rising.

Jeff had told me to order the pulled pork sandwich at "Dinosaur", but Chris said the ribs are the best. So I ordered the sandwich and Chris gave me a few of his ribs (which I’ll definitely order next time!) Of course, I had to try the local "Blue Moon" beer. A friendly and colorful staff (both in terms of energy and ethnicity) helped make the meal fun and memorable.

Sitting around the table after lunch, we all signed a "Dinosaur Bar-B-Que" post card for Jessica. Chris and Amber insisted they were buying lunch, but I wouldn't have it. Since they’re facing major expenses in the months ahead, I chipped in $20. (I would have liked to buy their lunch, but my buying days appear to be over - at least for a while.)

Chris had to get back to work, and Amber to her studies. I hopped back on the Thruway and continued my eastward trek.

Following Jeff’s directions for the fastest route, while avoiding snow, I skirted around the Southern Adirondack’s. Except for Saratoga Springs, nothing looked familiar to me, because previous trips through this region were at night. Similar to Indiana and Ohio a few days ago, once I left the Thruway, it was slow going, with towns every five miles or so.

Somewhere along the way, I mixed up directions and went through Hudson Falls by mistake. Quite congested. (I know Jeff had specifically instructed me to avoid this town.) Once on Vermont Route 22A, traffic was light, and the pastoral landscape and mild weather quite soothing. Nice riding, but it had been a long day: roughly 450 miles (over 80,000 miles on the bike now.)

At 6:40, I reached Jeff’s house in Waterbury. Niece Kellie was sitting out on the stoop, waiting for me.

Jeff still has a patch of snow in his back yard.

A stop at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, Syracuse, NY



Amber and Chris arrive in their big red jeep



Chris and Amber will be married June 23rd. The ceremony will be conducted on a rock overlooking the Moose River rapids in the Adirondacks. Chris and Amber lead rafting trips down the river.



"Engagees", Chris and Amber inside "Dinosaur Bar-B-Que", Syracuse, NY




"Dinosaur Bar-B-Que", Syracuse, New York

R & R in East Aurora


My cousin Becky decorates her car for the holidays. (You should see these at night!)


Rested well last night. Conditioned by the road, I was up at 6:30 (but stayed in bed until about 8:00!) Priscilla was off to work in Buffalo. For breakfast, I finished up the soggy remnant of a cinnamon roll from Norske Nook in Wisconsin and some now-tough bread from Alterra Baking Company in Milwaukee. Visited with Priscilla's neighbors Frank and Nancy next door. Thanks to Frank, Jeff is still alive. (A story he can tell in his personal blog.)

A perfect, blue day. I brought it with me! (Yeah, right.)

Kathy had wanted to take me to an upscale restaurant in Orchard Park this evening, but we decided to call it off. It's just way too out-of-character for us! I confirmed plans to meet Chris and Amber for lunch in Syracuse tomorrow.


I waited for Becky to drive in so we could "hang out" together today. Jeff called. He just returned from Quebec. I suggested that on our up-coming road-trip we return from Key West via East Aurora so he can spend time with the cousins. He seems open to the idea.



Heading out to the coffee shop with Cousin Becky


Out to Taste coffee shop with Becky. Had some expensive and not too interesting sandwiches, but more importantly, we chatted a long time, much about Joe and Mary Jane (her uncle and aunt), and how to care for the elderly.



Becky visiting with Bev Vidler, who represents the third generation to run "Vidler's 5 & 10" in East Aurora, NY



Becky picks out some treats at "Vidler's"



Doormat seen in "Vidler's 5 & 10", East Aurora


East Aurora now has a Starbucks at the "circle" (the town's main highway intersection.) Kind of a shock in this quaint "All-American" town.



Hanging out with the cousins on a beautiful Spring afternoon in East Aurora, NY






Kousin Kathy



As soon as the sun dips behind the trees, the air chills and Becky "tucks in"



Kathy and Priscilla get a laugh out of the models posing in David's athletic shoe catalog. (A little wine, and just about anything turns entertaining.)





For dinner, we again chose Pasquale’s takeout. Another crazy evening with the cousins, as Kathy joined us. Stuffed ourselves. (Couldn't do that at a fancy upscale restaurant!) And saved money in the process.

Worked on the blog for hours today, posting photos from Washington onward. Wrapped up at 2:00 a.m.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Reaching East Aurora


"First cousins once removed", Chris and Charlie


THIS MORNING

At 5:00 a.m., I got into motion quickly, hoping to escape detection by rangers showing up for duty. (One becomes adept at packing in the dark, a useful skill at times.)(Actually, it was not so dark, as the lights of South Bend to the northeast filled that part of the sky with a vermilion glow.) As far as I know, no one came by my tent site last night.

Completely overcast and cold, but not intolerable. On edge driving the country roads, All the while scanning for deer, carefully made my way back to U.S. 6 and turned eastward.

Surprised how quickly the sky lightened. “Damn this cold north wind!” According to displays outside banks and convenience stores, the temperature appeared stuck at 41 or 42 degrees.

At sunrise I could see the sun's disk beneath the blanket of cloud, which was a good sign. "Out ahead somewhere there are clear skies!" It took 1-1/2 hours to reach a break in the overcast, but it made no difference. Still it was 42 degrees. And then I submerged again into a thick layer of low gray cloud.

Through Amish country, school buses making the rounds. Quaint towns and farmlands. With towns scattered every three to five miles miles, progress was slow.

Drove into Napoleon, Ohio to search for some breakfast. Pulled over on a downtown street and flagged a pedestrian to ask where I might get some breakfast. “Right here,” he said pointing to the building we were in front of.

Spengler’s Restaurant and Pub (established 1879) serves breakfast in the morning and spirits at night. Definitely the place for local color. Eggs, sausage, pancakes and coffee, I was eating for the warmth as much as anything. Unexceptional home-style cooking, but a fun atmosphere and popular establishment. $5.28 total. What a bargain!

While filling up at a the Shell station, a fellow approached me and asked if we had met in Ottawa two years ago. He said the person looked and dressed like me, and was riding a similar bike. I tried to piece things together. I had been in Ottawa, but it was further back, and I had flown. Maybe he meant a different city? We concluded it must have been a different rider. He said, his brother, Rod Thompson, buys and sells BMW motorcycles in New Hampshire.

The rest of the day seemed to be a ride in pursuit of some warmer weather. I couldn’t make sense of this. I thought the weather front must be associated with the lakes, but the cold didn’t diminish even in Pennsylvania where the north wind was no longer passing over frigid waters. (I definitely need to study meteorology!)

I was buffeted all day long, at first by a powerful crosswind through Indiana and Ohio, then more head-on as I turned up toward Cleveland. Returned to the Ohio Turnpike for about 40 miles before picking up Interstate 90. No more "diddling". I wanted to make East Aurora as soon as possible.

Reached there around 3:30, chilled to the core. Drove to 200 Walnut just to see if Priscilla might have come home early. Nope. Went to Taste coffee shop and got comfortable. Set up the computer and announced my arrival. "I'm waiting." I would stay here until Priscilla got home.

Looked at the NOAA website to make sense of the weather I’ve been experiencing. A powerful "Nor’Easter" has been swirling over New England, sending a stream of Arctic air down the Great Lakes. A warm front skirted eastward to the south of here. Ah-ha! Suddenly everything made sense.

So, as I was leaving Taste, Priscilla pulled up nearby. We went to buy some wine at a shop a few doors away. Coming out of the shop, Kathy was parked behind my bike. Becky rolled in and joined the procession to 200 Walnut.

Chris and Charlie showed up with some furniture that they were moving into Priscilla’s house for safe keeping. Dinner "to go" from Pasquale’s Italian Restaurant. Priscilla bought a Robert Mondavi Private Selection wine: “Vinetta”.

I studied the wine packaging (the focus of my professional life for nearly twenty years.) Yet another senseless label change infuriates me though I have nothing to do with it! (I always argued the too-frequent label changes merely confused customers.)

I have this feeling that marketing professionals (the modern "Ad Men") are the instigators of more waste than any other profession on the planet. Over-packaging, over-consumption, planned obsolescence, and their vanity “pissing on the package” (the immediate impulse to change a package and thus leave their mark.) That appears to be their ultimate goal in life. It was an endless, and futile battle at Mondavi. For years it seemed that management felt the Marketers could do no wrong. That is, until our finances were seriously scrutinized and the often wasteful follies exposed. It’s sickening. (All this angst from looking at a bottle! Give me a glass of that stuff!!)

A whacky evening (as usual) with my wonderful cousins.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A brief visit to Milwaukee


My kind of place! The "Alterra Coffee Roasters" in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This great coffee house is located inside an old stone pumping station on the Lake Michigan shoreline.


Opened my eyes at 6:45 a.m. and noticed there was no sunlight shining on the tent. I was concerned. "Is it overcast?" There was a light breeze and only a few birds singing. Emerging, I saw the sun was still behind some hills. I wanted to pack up and exit the woods without detection. I’d prefer to avoid the unwelcome attention of park rangers and others. Last night, I had charged into the woods, “enjoying” a bouncing, out-of-control ride. Now, I was a bit apprehensive about extracting myself and the motorcycle. I walked various possible routes and noted the path with the fewest obstacles.

Ready, to move out, I listened carefully to be sure no vehicles were approaching on the forest road. Rolled out of the woods without incident and resumed my journey. Many white tailed deer along the road this morning. Emerging from the hills, I faced a COLD northeast wind (a shift in direction.) The forests I passed through are soggy, even flooded in places. Water everywhere! The landscape seems barely above sea level.

Passed some large cranberry farms (Cranmoor brand.) Nekoosa is dominated by the huge paper mill, right in the middle of town. Curious about what it might be like to live with this “presence”, I wandered neighborhoods around the mill. Within a short time, I felt the effect of sulfur dioxide on my lungs and nasal passages. At this "dosage" it resembles a very mild asthma attack. Downstream from the mill, I stopped to watch fisherman along the Nekoosa River, hearty souls braving the harsh elements (though I’m sure they consider today’s weather “summer-like”.)




Fishing for walleye (I think) on the Wisconsin River at Nekoosa, Wisconsin. The Domtar Kekoosa Paper Mill is putting out some nasty chemicals, reminiscent of my visit to La Oroya, Peru. Probably not lead, but the sulfur dioxide (or other sulfur compound) caused lung irritation just in driving around the mill a few times.


By the way, there are some serious fishermen here! It was about 40 degrees with a brisk wind out of the northeast. The picture doesn't capture it, but there were about twenty fishermen out on this stretch of the river.

Filled up at the BP Amoco station downtown, noting an internal resentment at being forced to hear recorded advertising emanating from a speaker on the pump. “And we pay extra for this?” (BP are usually among the higher-priced stations.)

With a trace of alarm, I noted clouds on the northern horizon. They were not advancing rapidly, but it was definitely a cold front and I had no interest in being overtaken by rain or snow.



As a number of people have mentioned, burning corn in our cars is bound to drive food costs higher. Maybe they'll even figure out how to run them on beef? (Who says machines won't ultimately replace humans?)



On to Fond du Lac, and an old mission. It was in 8th grade, as I recall, that my best friend at the time, Monty Meigs, and I came up with a plan to buy Yamaha 250 “Catalina” motorcycles and ride across the United States, at least as far as Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin, from where Monty’s family hailed. (I can’t recall the timeline of this project, since we were still a couple years from qualifying for a driver’s license.) But we had fun charting the proposed path on a large U.S. map spread on the floor.

It took over 40 years, but I finally made it to Fond du Lac.





I just needed a way to prove I was in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. There's a story here, but not the one you think. When I was 13 or so, and living in California's San Fernando Valley, my best friend "Monty" and I decided we were going to buy motorcycles and drive across the U.S. Or, at least as far as Fond du Lac, from where Monty's family had moved to Los Angeles.


In Fond du Lac, I found the Bagelmeister restaurant on South Main Street downtown and enjoyed a good cappuccino and “everything bagel”. Wandered around the business district, looking for an angle for my “official Fond Du Lac” photo, but nothing really captured my interest. Then I thought “how about the city hall?” But that building appeared too busy and actively defended against “terrorist activities”, so I didn’t want to create a scene parking my bike illegally in the shadow of that great institution. Just around the corner, however, I found the rather modest-looking, but clearly-marked Fond Du Lac police station, and (shockingly in this “post 9-11 era”) curbside parking just feet from the front door. “This will have to do.”

An eye on the sky, I continued my track southeastward. With the break in Fond du Lac, the cloud cover had gained on me, and the edge of the front was now a bit south of my position.

Since I had never been there, I wanted to have a look at Milwaukee. I've heard it’s a beautiful city. So, I turned east on Interstate 94 and followed it down to the waterfront, passing the prominent Miller High Life baseball stadium along the way. Turned north on Lincoln Memorial Drive, up the scenic Lake Michigan shoreline. Looked for somewhere to take a little break from the ride. Housed in an old stone building below the bluffs, in a rather affluent district, I found Alterra Coffee Roasters. Their parking lot was full. A good sign.

Inside, I learned that this structure was formerly a flushing pump plant. It served to pump lake water up and over the bluffs to the somewhat beleaguered Milwaukee River and help flush the sewage that accumulated in its waters. (I assume it was then flushed into the lake.)

This coffee shop is “my kind of place." Patrons scattered at tables across three or four different levels, plenty of fresh baked goods, soups and sandwiches, many people taking advantage of the wi-fi connections (and plenty of outlets provided!) The music of My Morning Jacket, The Band and George Harrison playing during my visit. Ordered a bowl of their great turkey sausage gumbo, accompanied by a bagel with garlic chive cream cheese. The only sour note, their internet service was poor and because the equipment is provided by an outside supplier, the staff was powerless to help.



Mansions in Milwaukee


I had no desire to jump into Chicago, especially at this time of day (approaching afternoon “rush hour”.) Instead I opted for the Interstate 294 Bypass around the city. I discovered that this route is, as some might say, “fucking hell” (though I would never use such foul language.) A total construction zone. Two lanes clogged by trucks, plus one solid with cars. And for the honor of enduring this apocalyptic nightmare, you get to pay about $8 in tolls! Motorcycles are charged the same toll as cars and SUVs (and trucks?) A rest stop in this urban gridlock is termed an “oasis”!

A cold wind out of the north all day long, temperature in the 40s. Fed up with the Interstate and toll roads, I stumbled via surface streets into Merrillville, Indiana, where U.S. Highway 30 features perhaps the highest concentration of chain stores and restaurants I’ve ever seen. Hell on Earth. A soul-less place. Virtually any chain store I could think of was represented in this stretch of suburban blight.

My target for a campsite tonight was Potato Creek State Park, near South Bend Indiana. After nearly a full day running south, I caught a taste of a warm front, now colliding with the cold air from the north. For a brief time, I relished the markedly warmer air, but it was soon overpowered by the north wind. But since my destination was Buffalo, I couldn't keep moving south!

Entered the state park at twilight without registering and paying and drove out to a remote part of the campground – a group area. There I found a position on the edge of a broad lawn, that would be inconspicuous. There was some activity in the park, but it was pretty empty.

Apparently this park is situated near an executive or secondary airport. Small jets frequented the night sky (reminiscent of last night.) Otherwise the night sounds were dominated by crickets, birds and frogs.

Reflected upon how cities with their overcrowding make people behave in crazy ways. The unbearable tension attacks the animal brain within. Consequently, insanity must increase. (Well, that's my analysis.)