Sunday, March 31, 2013

Connecticut Trip

Where to start on this one…. 

I guess I should start this one by stepping back to May of 2012. One of my best friends, Drew, has a very fun birthday, Cinco De Mayo.  Every year he has a grand time celebrating but unfortunately his birthday has always conflicted with my final exams.  However, this year Drew was finishing up his last semester of Law School and his birthday happened to be on the day of his last exam, ever. It also happened to be the same day that his fellow students hold “Festivus” which is basically a mud wrestling party with excessive amount of alcohol. So I made plans to attend along with the rest of our “crew.”  Long (and quite frankly, very fuzzy) story short, I ended up meeting a lovely young lady the night following the event.  Taylor and I hit it off quickly. After that weekend we talked on a regular basis and I even made another trip to see her before she left to go back home for the summer.  The distance between us that summer didn’t seem to slow our communication down, if anything it seemed to pick up after she left.   

June 2013.

Earlier in the year I scheduled vacation time to ride with my parents to the MTF Summer Ride in New Glarus, WI. In addition to that week off in late June, I had also blocked off the time around the 4th of July so I could party with my friends on the muddy water lake, we call home.  As I mentioned earlier, after Taylor left our communication seemed to pick up.  Our chats turned into long talks and our topics continued to gain substance. During one of our evening talks, she invited me to her home in Connecticut to spend the weekend after the 4th of July with her family and friends.  I was very thankful for the invitation but I was bit nervous about spending the weekend with her in her parent’s house having never met them before hand.  A multitude of questions and scenarios were running through my head.  What if they didn’t like me?   What if I say something wrong?  It is one thing to leave a so-so impression while at dinner, but to say, “hello”, shake hands and set my bags down for the night… This takes the “meet the parents” scenario to another level entirely.  Over the next couple weeks I gave the trip some serious thought and discussed it at length with my friend, Sarah.  Thankfully, Taylor was patient with me through my thought process and I eventually came to the conclusion that I really had nothing to lose.  If worse came to worse I would snag a cheap hotel and spend the time riding around the New England area before coming home.  While I was in Wisconsin I let her know that I would take her up on that invitation.

Leaving Dixie

I am 25 years old and still scared of what my parents think.  For some reason I couldn’t muster the nerve to tell that that them that I was going to ride to Connecticut to visit a girl I had seen twice.  (Not that they would have a problem with it.)  In addition to this, my friends are assholes, it is just how we operate.  If I told them that I was planning to ditch our party a bit early to see a girl 600 miles away; the ragging would have been relentless as long as the alcohol was flowing.  Solution: I told my parents I was riding up to Connecticut to meet Drew and Will so we could party with some of Drew’s friends from school.  I told my friends I was meeting up with an LD rider to wire up an intercom system on a Vstrom.  I am a terrible liar, but somehow it worked until I got home. 

The Forewarning

I pride myself in the amount of traveling I have done at this point in my life.  I am very fortunate to have traveled the amount I have.  I know it may not be much compared to others my age but considering that a majority of the people in my town have hardly been outside of North Carolina, I am thankful for every mile traveled.  With this trip I was heading into un-charted waters, Yankee Land.  I had been on a business trip to NYC the summer before.  It was a short trip and to be honest we didn’t venture out much from the hotel bar and the convention center.  So, I sent an email to the only guy I know from Connecticut, my partner in LD crime, Mike HammerDown Brown.  I asked him for any tips regarding the area before I set out on this adventure and his only advice was, “Plan on having your bike valet parked.” 0_0

Friday Morning Departure

I hate getting up early to go to work, however, I love getting up early to leave on a motorcycle trip. I was on the road and heading north by 3am on Friday morning.  The route I planned took me up highway 81 as I was avoiding I-95 like the plague after all the things I have heard about it.  At this point I was still participating heavily in the Waffle House Rally so I took some time to get all the tags I could on the way up.

Check this hotness out!!! (Waffle House parking lot)

Harley Davidson w/ Side Car (Waffle House parking lot)

Highway 81 through PA was very pretty; I was surprised at how green and rural it was.  I suppose my thoughts of any where north of the Mason Dixon involved crowded areas and tall buildings.  When I reached Harrisburg, PA I called a fellow rider and friend, Rob Wilensky, to see if he was available for lunch.  Rob resides outside Philadelphia and seeing as how, “I was in the area” I figured I would give him a shout.

Rob was free that afternoon so I reset my GPS to Philly and headed east.  At this point I forget how long this detour was, but it didn’t take long before I was in his driveway.  The temperature outside had started to rise into the lower 90’s so Rob offered to drive into town so I could enjoy some AC.
When in Rome

Seeing how I was in “Philly”, I had to have a Philly Cheese Steak.   I can now say I have had one and I will agree with the majority, they are delicious.  After lunch, Rob showed me around town before we headed back to his place.  He did his best to explain the best route to back to the highway, contrary to what my GPS had programmed, but I was out of my element and ready to be in Connecticut so his directions were not sinking it.  In the end he just gave me an escort out of town.  His Vstrom was down after having some issues on his way back from Alaska, so he fired up his Harley and led me into New Jersey so I could continue my ride to Connecticut.

Following Rob on his Harley out of Philly.

New York Traffic

Before I left on this trip I had talked to a co-worker about the roads, traffic and tolls that I would encounter on my way up.  He highly recommended that I stay away from the George Washington Bridge as the toll was rather high and the traffic would be terrible.  With this information I routed my trip across the Tappan Zee Bridge, which is just north of the GW. 

After Rob pulled off, I continued up I-95 towards NYC.  At one point the road split and offered lanes for truck traffic and then separate lanes for car traffic that were divided by a concrete wall.  My GPS was guiding me onto the truck lanes but I didn’t see the point in doing that as the car traffic was moving quicker. My fear with this decision was that I might need an exit ramp that would only be accessible via the truck lanes as they were on the right side of road.  It turned out that my fears were not warranted and I continued on my way without an issue.  I will note that the speed limit was 55mph through that area.  I felt like I was in Atlanta again while traffic was doing every bit of 80mph around me.  This time I kept it below 79mph just to be safe.  I didn’t feel like re-living that experience over again.

When I neared NYC I managed to miss my turn off to make it to the Tappan Zee Bridge and I was headed towards the GW.  A few lane changes and exit ramps later I managed to find myself on the Tappan Zee Bridge on Friday afternoon at 4pm with temperatures in the mid 90’s. To make things more interesting there were accidents in the left lanes on each side of the bridge.  40 minutes later I was finally on the other side. The toll was cheaper but I didn’t make up any time. Sometime around 5pm I pulled into the Taylor’s drive way.  I was greeted with a hug despite how terrible I smelled and led into the house where the air conditioning was a relief.

Time to meet the parents

When I arrived at Taylor’s, both her parents were still at work. Taylor informed me that her father said she was to have a cold beer ready for me when I got in as he knows that nothing ends a long day on a bike better than a cold beer.  I couldn’t agree more!  However, I was in his house to visit his daughter and I have never met him.  Drinking his beer without shaking his hand first just didn’t seem like he thing to do. I told Taylor to let him know that I would wait till he arrived and we would crack open a couple cold ones together.  A few minutes later both her parents arrived, the introductions were made and the beer was served.  They were great.  This wasn’t anywhere near as awkward as I feared.   

Taylor showed me around the town that evening as we made our way to dinner.  Her initial dinner plans were changed as the restaurant she wanted to go to was packed.  We drove around town for a bit and ended up at a nice Bar and Grill joint for a couple burgers instead.  That night we went to a late night showing of Ted before we returned home.  I had been up for close to 22 hours at that point. That couch slept amazing.


Not in Kansas anymore.

On Saturday morning Taylor took me on another tour through town while running errands. This tour included a ride through the neighborhoods where the very large and extravagant houses were.  It blew my mind to see valet parking services at the end of the drive ways throughout the town.  Several people had rented valet services for their 4th of July barbeques.  

Back at Taylor’s house we made plans with her parents for the rest of the day.  They had planned a cookout for later in the day for some close friends and family before heading out to the local park to watch the fireworks display in the evening.  In our discussions over the summer I had been describing the beaches in North and South Carolina as Taylor has never been to them.  While I was in town Taylor made sure to show me her beach on the Long Island Sound.  However, before we could get into the beach area we had to go to visit her brother at work to borrow his beach pass.  That’s right; I had to have a pass to get on the beach. My mind was blown, again.

Old Corvette at local country club.

With this baby parked across from the Vette'.

 Alongside the roadway heading to the beach there were large houses and a few public buildings for the locals to rent out for entertainment.  Taylor informed me that the beach land was privately owned previously but the owner felt the land should be enjoyed by more people than himself so he sold it to the town.  From there they came up with the passes so that it was accessible to the locals, only.  Not such a bad thing I don’t suppose, I’m sure it keeps the “riff raff” out.  The beach area was smaller than what I was used to but it was nice and very well laid out.  At the edge of the parking lot, before walking onto the sand, there was a large snack bar that seemed to have just about anything you could want at the beach. Along the top of the beach area were a few open air shelters that were nicely built and large enough for picnic tables.  Like I said, it was all very nice however that was the first time I had ever seen anything other than water and blue skies on the horizon while at the beach.  When I looked across the water I could see the sky scrapers of New York City off in the distance. 

After a few hours of swimming in the ocean and lying in the sun, Taylor and I packed up our stuff and went for a hike around the park that made up the rest of beach area.  She led me through some marsh areas and back to a rocky shore line where her father does his art work.  In his free time, he goes out there and stacks rocks in very unique ways along the shore line.  Once he gets the structure to stay, he takes a few pictures of it with the bay in the back ground.  He has some amazing shots!

Connecticut Beach - Long Island Sound

One of the rock photos by Taylor's Father.

Saturday Evening

Around 4 or 5 that afternoon several of Taylor’s friend’s, cousins and extended family began to show up for dinner.  We played some bad mitten in the yard while her father cooked up some hamburgers and hotdogs for everyone; he even cooked up some sliced pineapple on the grill for desert. (Which was delicious!)  After dinner, Taylor and I met up with some of her best friends to watch the fireworks in the park.  

After the show we all said goodbye as I had to leave early the following morning.  The rest of her friends offered to drive us home but we decided to walk back instead.  I was really starting the dread the thought of leaving.


Unfortunately, the fun had to come to an end and I had to be at work on Monday. I was 600 miles from home and the weather man was calling for temperatures in the upper 90’s again.  I set my alarm for 7:00am so I could get some miles in before the heat set in.  Taylor saw me off that morning and regrettably I left without saying goodbye to Taylor’s parents or thanking them for their hospitality.  They weren’t up and stirring when I was leaving though.

Heading home. Crossing over the Tappan Zee Bridge
Tappan Zee Bridge
Breakfast of champions...
Glider getting a tow up.
On my way home I managed to pull on of my most embarrassing stunts on a motorcycle to date.  I had run the main tank down pretty low and I was ready to pump my aux tank forward.  I passed a sign that noted the next toll booth was 10 miles ahead.  At that point I turned on the fuel pump to move the fuel forward with the notion that I would shut the pump off at the last warning for the toll booth.  This would prevent me from potentially over filling the main tank.  Well, I guess my mind was still on a certain blonde hair, blue eyed girl in Connecticut… as I pulled into the toll booth I began to smell fuel.  I closed the valve and killed the pump as quickly as I could. It was already too late; the tank was so full it was pushing fuel out the overflow line.  Without any air in the tank the main fuel pump, that feeds fuel to the engine, loses its prime and no longer supplies fuel to the engine which causes it to sputter before shutting off. So there I was, in the line for the bay that was three lanes from the shoulder.  I was next in line to pay and my bike would not run.  I tried to start it up but it just coughed and sputtered, it wouldn’t produce enough power to move the bike forward.  The car in front of me had pulled away from the bay and there was traffic behind me.  I put the bike in neutral and pushed it to the toll booth while still sitting on the bike. I paid my money and walked the bike out of the way towards the shoulder.  To do that I had to push the bike across several lanes of traffic that were exiting the tolls.  Eventually the tank drained enough fuel out of the lines so the fuel pump would work properly again.  When that happened I hauled ass. 

The temperature reached 100 degrees as I made my way across Virginia that day.  Just as I started to the think the heat was going to get the best of me I saw some dark clouds brewing just to south of my location.  I had never been so thankful to ride in a thunderstorm in my life and I was happy to slow down and enjoy the soaking.  However, like most summer storms it didn’t last long, neither did my wet my gear. I was dry and hot again within 30 minutes.

Storms rolling in....

15,000 miles since I purchased!

Finally, RAIN! Felt so good!

The heat finally won and I had to stop.  I found a Sheetz gas station off an exit ramp somewhere in southern Virginia.  I parked the bike, bought and ice cream cone and headed for the walk in beer cooler.  I made myself a nice chair out of cases of Bud Light.  It wasn’t long before another bike traveler showed up and joined me.

Power line crews heading home after helping with storm damage from the previous week's storm.

It was an impressive convoy!
After my cool off I gassed up the bike and continue home.  I arrived around 7 that evening.  Just enough time to unpack and shower before passing out.  I was worthless at work on Monday. Totally worth it. 

Special thanks to Taylor's parents for their hospitality that weekend! I had so much fun that weekend as well the Thanksgiving trip later in the year.  Looking forward to see you again soon.

Taylor and Myself at Lake Norman - Labor Day Weekend.

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