Periodically, life in general seems to reach toxic levels and I need to disconnect for a bit. Everyone has their escapes, some people veg out in front of the TV, some people play video games, others make their way down to the local sports bar and toss back a few. For me, the most effective way to wash away the mental gunk that builds up is a nice, long overnight on two wheels. Riding a motorcycle, especially on twisty roads at a good pace leaves little room for anything else in your head. Sweet bliss....
So, as I found the pressure in my head building last week, the notion of a quick overnight to wherever became more and more appealing. I've taken to letting these things sort of happen, trying hard to overcome my first instinct to plan the living crap out them. By Friday, I was about 80% sure I was going somewhere but I had no clue where that would be. Enter the oracle... One of my riding buddies that shares my enthusiasm for silly roadside attractions and other somewhat offbeat places to see. World's largest Garden Gnome? Yeah, she's been there.. Collection of "Muffler Man" pics?, yup she has one of those too...
It's a sure sign that I need a quick get-a-way when I become increasingly incapable of making a decision. I'm pretty decisive by nature but when I get overwhelmed, hell, it's paralysis by analysis. Friday night, I was seriously paralysed. Thankfully, the Oracle always comes through, even if I don't pick one of her excellent suggestions, the process always gets me pointed some place cool.
Saturday morning I woke up(late) 96% sure I was going. I had not packed a thing, I hadn't made up my mind for sure where I would go if I did and a zillion things at the office were weighing heavily on my mind. If I ever needed to ride, it was a that moment. The good news was I am pretty adept at packing for a trip, I have a good selection of riding gear and a couple of bikes from which to choose. By 10am, a bike was loaded, I'd picked a direction and places to see and I was off.
My destination was Drake's Well in Titusville, PA http://www.drakewell.org/
It is important to note that I did not visit that website in advance of my departure. I'd always wanted to see the birthplace of the oil industry, read about it in various magazines and heck, it was listed in my GPS so I KNEW I'd get there no worries...
Titusville is at the opposite corner of my homestate, pretty close to as far a diagonal I could take and still remain within PA. That seemed about perfect.
Leaving a little later than I'd have liked to, I slabbed it a bit trying to get north quickly. I'm no fan of the interstate but my BMW is about as good a highway bike as I own. The sun shone, the temps settled into the low 70's and I rolled up a lot of miles in short order. One of my goals for this trip was to ride Rt. 6 again. It had been a long time since I'd had a chance to ride the nothern tier of the state and I remebered great scenery, twists and turns and plenty of neat little places to stay.
Leaving the slab behind, I hit some nice roads north to Rt. 6. PA is full of great places to ride, a fact that I often overlook when planning a trip. By the time I got to Wellsboro, my mood had improved considerably...corners at speed though the forrests of PA on a near perfect day have that effect on me..
Wellsboro seems like one of those places where it would be hard to to grouchy. It just looks so small town perfect. When I pulled into town, things were bustling, the sun was shining, birds were chirping. I nearly parked the bike and got a room here.
Who knows what it's like inside but it sure looks like a tidy little hotel.
I convinced myself that "the ride's the thing" and pointed the bike west on 6. I knew I wanted to ride and I was sure I'd find a place to stay well west of here. Northern PA is beautiful country...and, if I'd stopped to take a picture or two, I would insert them here. But, I was still a little behind and I was enjoying the ride too much to stop. Riding towards Titusville, it became apparent to me that while Rt 6 was still a pretty road to travel, traffic was going to make my pace inconsistent at best. There are great sections of this road and places where you had better be patient. At least it was nice to look around.
As the day grew late, it became clear I'd either have to ride into the dark or stop before I got to Titusville. Knowing the tendency of deer to become suicidal in the early fall, I started to look for a place to park for the night. Up to this point, the GPS had mostly served as an MP3 player and scrolling map. I'd not mapped a route or done more than give a cursory glance at the distances involved. As I pulled into Kane, PA and scouted the motels available, I decided to let the Zumo make a few suggestions... A Holiday Inn in Warren, PA looked like a possiblity so I wicked it up. I will simply say this of the Holiday Inn, what a great place to stay. Clean, nice restuarant, and really nice folks on staff. And, the high speed wireless is really high speed :)
I got a nice meal at the bar, watched the train wreck that is a wedding party post wedding and headed off to bed pretty early.
I woke early and did a quick weather check. Dense fog, 40 degrees...perfect. Oh well, it was still dark, plenty of time for the fog to burn. Finally, by 8am it was clearing and the temp had soared to 43. Thank goodness for heated vests.
The morning was shaping up to be a good one.
Continuing west on 6, I found that not all of the fog had moved on. If you've never ridden a motorcycle in the fog, all I can say is good for you. It always sucks, period. But as has been said before, no condition is permanent and soon enough I found myself enjoying another sunny day on two wheels.
My single biggest reason for getting a GPS for the bike was to allow me to roam, thinking nothing about how I might get where I need to be. When the time comes to actually get somewhere, I'll let the GPS sort out the best way to get there. So it was on that Sunday morning. It was time to see the thing I'd ridden out to view. A couple of quick taps and I had a route. Ain't technology grand? It looked like 30 minutes would have me immersed in the history of dinosaurs to motorfuel. OK, I am a geek but I really couldn't wait. Blindly following my electronic escort, I worked my way southwest to my destination. About 7 miles from my destination, the GPS wanted me to make a right on a dirt road. Uh, no thanks. It's supposed to know better but sometimes the roads are not mapped properly. No worries, I kept going and waited for the GPS to recalculate. Another few miles found me making another right, this time onto a hard road. Perfect. Well, until another right turn proved to be dirt also. Damn... I stopped and scrolled the map. Sure enough, according to the map in my GPS, I needed to take this road. Well, I was not about to miss seeing something I'd ridden hundreds of miles to see. Down the dirt road I went. Of course, I was riding my largest, heaviest bike. A real road burner but suited for a slimey, muddy road? Uh, no. So, here I was headed down hill at about 10 miles an hour on one of the worst roads I'd ever had a street bike on. At least I had no problem with deer. They could cross the road with no fear of me hitting them as I could run faster than I was riding. You will forgive me if I didn't grab pictures of the deer...a deathgrip on the bars makes that pretty tough. Even tougher was the next turn, bike pointed down a steep slippery, rocky road, the turn 120 degrees to my left uphill. Geez, could this get better? I managed to make the turn, somewhat flattrack style, no mean feat on a 650 pound sport tourer. The good news was the museum was about a mile ahead on the left. The bad news was this road was even worse. I did my best to keep a relaxed grip on the bars and just gently ride the bike. No reason this should be that much different than riding my dirt bike, LOL
Arriving at the "entrance of the museum", I am a little puzzled. Perhaps you can see why..
Just as a point of reference, the bit o' road you see there is actually nicer than the road I was riding!
Ok, so here's where the whole "whadda ya know" thing comes in. Seriously, in this world, what do you really know. I've been accused of being cynical at times but there are precious few things that I am convinced of 100%. Mostly, I am just kind of sure about stuff. Funny thing is, I pulled bike into the least soft part of the road and looked around for the museum! Duh, this is obviously not the place. Where the error in the GPS mapping occurred, I don't know but this was not the place. Me, I needed to see for sure. Once again, blind faith makes for a silly choice. It was with great effort and much sliding of tires that I got the bike pointed back the way I came. Not knowing what lay ahead, I decided to take the safest route and head back .
For some reason, I stopped for a second and decided to call the museum. At least the phone number listed in the GPS was legit. I managed to learn that the museum opened at noon on Sunday....it was 9:30am. Great. Also, the lady that answered had no idea where I might be. Perfect. So, there I was, my German wonder bike parked in the mud, me on my cell phone when a nice lady stopped to ask if I was ok. I assured her that I was ok, just a little off course. Darned if she didn't set me straight, give me directions to the museum and a hard road as well as wish me a safe ride.... What a nice person. It would have been easy to view me as some cityfied yuppy and snicker at my predicament. Thanks, to whoever you were.
With a better idea where I was going, I headed back down the road. I had to turn the bike back around... how I manged not to wind up stuck in the mud is beyond me but I made my way per her directions. About a mile from where the GPS had me stuck in the woods, I found blessed asphalt and the Drake's Well. Yea for me. Ah, but irony is my most faithful companion. When I arrived, I was greeted by the sight of the well covered in a great big green sock.
Seems it's restoration time at the ole' well. I had no choice but to laugh. Hey, at least I was here.
I made a point of saving the correct coordinates for the museum in my GPS. You just never know.
Having scored one of my destinations, more or less, it was time to figure out what to see on the way home. For me, the choice was obvious, the muffler man in Kittaning, PA. What? Why? Ah, that would be hard to explain. I'll just say it's one of those silly things that make me smile. You can research them to your heart's content here http://www.roadsideamerica.com/muffler/
I worked out a route to Kittaning and headed off. More good roads and great weather made the day seem ok after my offroad adventure. Not far from Drake's Well I saw the sign for Pithole City. Yet another asterisk on the story of big oil, I couldn't pass it up. Truthfully, there isn't much there but it's an interesting story. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pithole,_Pennsylvania
Continuing towards my muffler man destination, I notice how close I will be to Punxsutawney, PA. Well, who could resist a quick lap through the town made famous by a groundhog named Phil.
I am sure it's much more magical when the Groundhog is prognosticating. Still, why not stop and get a shot? It would heve been better from the other side but stopping in traffic for photo ops has earned me more than my share of conversations with the folks in charge so I opted for a less contentious location.
It's funny how 36 hours away and riding along seems like the most natural thing. I can't even describe how good I felt by that afternoon, such a change from Friday night. As dangerous as people claim motorcycles are, I am convinced they are adding years to my life.
With one last blast down some twisty roads, I finally scored my first muffler man.
I celebrated with a sugar free Redbull and some beef jerky. Nothing like having your first meal of the day at 3 pm at a gas station.
From here, it was homeward bound. I've been searching for an east-west route in PA that doesn't suck. I'm still looking. I managed to avoid the worst roads and still made great time home.
Back home, sitting in my driveway, I felt like a new man. You shed the world's worries however you want, for me, the choice is obvious.