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.

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