Day 10
October 10th, 2001
Wellington, Connecticut

 I loaded my bike in the pre dawn light.  We had to get a early start.  Nothing fancy today, a old fashioned, 500 mile interstate ride.  We have to get to Front Royal, Virginia to position ourselves to make the rally.
I replaced the burned out PIAA lamp, while Phil finished loading.  Good as new.

Phil says he secured the pork chops and not to worry.

We topped off the gas tanks at the nearby truck stop and took I-84 west.  As I merged into the traffic heading for Hartford, I thought about the great motorcycle I ride.  How versatile it is.  After 2000+ miles on back roads, and mountains, in commuter and everyday traffic, I was now going to ask it to zap me 500 miles down the interstate comfortably.  The ST can do it without a sweat.  In fact, for the last few days it has begged me to let the reins out, to stretch his legs and run free.  Now is the time, with miles to go and places to see.

We jockey for position in the morning commute.  Because of my mirror, Phil has the rear.  When we overtake slower moving traffic, I wait for Phil to merge back over first.  I learned if I bend way down I can see a little of the right lane.  When I see Phil in the right lane I know its clear to move over.

We hustle down I -84, slowing down slightly passing the downtown Hartford exits.

The morning is cool, and  bright.  Good riding weather.  No rain in the forecast.

We make it through Hartford and twist the throttle.  We move into the left lane at 85 mph, and head for Virginia.  We pass cages by the hundreds.  Traffic is very thick and the conditions are not good for radar. Too much congestion, the officer must have a clear line of sight at his target (if he is playing by the rules)and that is not possible in these conditions.  Our bikes grow large in the rear view mirrors of slower motorists, they yield moving to let us by.
A sign reads Danbury 50 miles, and what seems like no time the STs have us in the city limits.  "Damn here already?"  We are riding sleek powerful machines, that respond to us in a way the guys in these cages will  will never know.  I see them on their cell phones, and drinking coffee, total isolated from their surroundings and the road.  For these jokers 200 miles is a long trip, for us something we do before lunch.

We cross the state line and into New York in what seems like no time.  The traffic is thinning out, but we still keep the pace.

We exit at Farmers Mills, because a sign on the interstate advertised a diner.  We take the exit and find the diner in question.  The diner has long been closed down.  Dang, "well they should take the sign down."  I tell Phil.  Phil says, "I saw a sign for a Cracker Barrel up ahead, lets go there".

We get back on 84, cross the Hudson River, and move on to Newburgh where we find the Cracker Barrel.  The home office for Cracker Barrel is just down the road from Phil.  The chain is everywhere back home.  A southern style restaurant this far north?  The south is taking over the country.  We may have lost the shooting war, but in the end, we may prevail.  Our culture is alive, and well, and can be felt in many places. 

I order pancakes and bacon. 

After breakfast I called my wife at the office, and updated her on my whereabouts.

When we leave the restaurant, the sunlight makes me squint.  It is fast warming up and I remove my sweatshirt and switch to touring gloves.  It feels good to be warm again even it is 65 degrees.

We jump back on the interstate to continue our gas and go day.  We cross into Pennsylvania at Port Jervis. Just missing New Jersey.  Missing Jersey does not hurt my feelings.

In Scranton, we go to I-81 south, and take a direct bead on Front Royal.  I know Pennsylvania is a big state. We will be here for awhile.  Scranton is home to scattered construction, and the damn fastest pick up truck drivers in the country.  Pennsylvania has so many big, 4 wheel drive SUVS, I cringe thinking about the insurance rates in this state.  No such thing as a fender bender with all these monsters lurking around.  When they bang a guy, it will be crunch time.

Scranton and Wilkes-Barre are really one big city.  Talk about urban sprawl.

We clear the cities and settle in for a nice fall ride south.  The speed limit is 65, and we back down to 75. I-81 begins to turn rural and it feels good to relax in the saddle a bit.  The miles are going by quickly as my trip meter turns over 200 miles already.  My bike feels light and the motor purrs.  It is smooth and quiet,  hard to beat a ST on a day like today.

I take position behind a white car moving along at 85.  Phil is in the rear.  We are in the zone now.  The place where miles seem to melt.  We flash by slower vehicles.  I sing a few songs in my helmet.  A few  soft rock songs and a old B.J. Thomas song.  When I am in the zone, I feel like I can ride forever.

Even in the zone I am always conscious of my surroundings.  I glance down in my left mirror and see it.  A white Pennsylvania State Police car, with red lights flashing, closing down hard.  Damn.  Where did  he come from?  Noway I missed him, and if he did ambush us, the guy in the white car is the pigeon.

I back off and watch my mirrors.  He quickly closes down on Phil and plucks him.  I see the red ST signal and take the shoulder.  It reminded me of the Lions in Africa, stalking a gazelle herd.  Thousands of the beasts grazing in the grasslands, as the lions zero in on the kill.  Suddenly the lions bolt and everybody hauls ass, but one hapless gazelle is going down.  Damn this time its going to be my buddy.

I keep going,  I am not going back, noway I turn myself in.  If he wants me, going to have to come get me. United we stand, divided we fall.  I keep pace with the white car and start running the options.  Probably going to radio ahead and put someone on the lookout.  I see a sign noting a exit a few miles ahead.  I take it, letting the white car go.  I wheel in a gas station parking lot, park the ST on the west side, and wait things out.  I later learn the white car was nabbed down the road.  This guy tracked all 3 of us from behind with one radar unit?  He must be super cop.

I waited around the store for 30 minutes.  Keeping a eye on the south bound lane, to wait for Phil, but I never see him.  Did I miss him?  I wait a little longer and when I think the coast is clear I get back on the interstate.  I take a chance and ride north to the next exit looking for him.  No Phil.  Is he north or south of my present location?  I have noway of knowing.  I make a executive decision to ride south, and hope I see him.  If not I will get the message in my voice mail for a place to reunite.

Dejected, I turn the ST around and go south.  I have no idea where my buddy is.  Instead of "Sleepless in Seattle" we are "Separated in Pennsylvania", and its a BIG state.  Dang, was HE going so fast they carted him to jail?  Besides, HE has the pork chops, and I will be hungry when I reach Front Royal.

I try to block it out, by assuring myself Phil is a big boy, and will find his way to Front Royal.

Gun shy, I motor south at 70 mph.  At this speed it feels like I can get off and jog along.  I-81 winds its way south among the Pennsylvania Mountains.  Not a bad road for a interstate.  Construction zones are scattered amongst the miles.

The morning gives way to afternoon as I ride south.  I ride through lunch, because I am still full from breakfast.  The skies are partly cloudy, and warm.  Every time I see one headlight coming at me I check to see if it might be Phil with the pork chops.

I know the lay of the land.  Southeast Pennsylvania is urban.  I prepare to meet more traffic the farther south I ride.  I take a butt break in Frackville at a gas/convenience store conglomerate.  Man, this place is busy.  I can no longer find "Cape Cod Chips", so I settle for peanuts.  Tired of Mountain Dew, I get a local lemonade thing that tasted like that paste the dentist uses to scrub your teeth down. YUK.  I did not stay long, as I wanted to beat Phil to Front Royal.

I formulate a plan.  I spent the night in Front Royal in 99 on cage road trip.  There is a Exxon station right on the highway on the north side.  A guy coming in from the north will HAVE to ride by it.  I will beat Phil to Front Royal, park the ST on the edge of the road where he can't miss it, and rescue the pork chops.

I-78 from Allentown merges with 81, just north of Harrisburg.  Why did they funnel the traffic from TWO interstates onto one?  Now, I have to fight those guys for position, along with the guys that were ALREADY on 81.

I think about my uncle in West Chester as I ride along.

I cross the Susquehanna River into Harrisburg.  The State Capital.  Not Pittsburgh or Philly, riding along I wonder what the deal was.  Perhaps William Penn got pissed off with the jokers in Philly, and took his toys elsewhere.

I see a lone rider ahead south of Harrisburg.  I quickly reel him in.  It is not Phil but some guy on a Gold Wing, smoking as he rides along.

My butt is stiff.  It has been well over 200 miles from where Phil was busted.  I have only been off the bike a few minutes since then.  I exit for gas at Shippensburg, because they have a Exxon station, and I can use my card.  While pumping gas, a young man drives in with a black Mustang with loud mufflers and a tach on the hood.  His car looks and sounds fast.  He has a conversation with the gas jockey, about a drag race he was in a few nights prior.  He won, and is now out to knock off the gas jockey.  The jockey tells the guy "yeah, but I can beat Ross on MY way to a race, so you ain't done nuttin special."

I get back on the road and feel hungry.  So, exit to Chambersburg and find a McDonalds for French fries and a drink.  Eating fries I scan the paper someone left in the booth.  There is a major haunted house attraction coming for the upcoming season.  The guy with all the pins in his head, from the movie I can't remember, is going to be in attendance.

Before leaving Chambersburg, I ride to the CVS Pharmacy in the shopping center and buy silicon earplugs.  They have a yellow car turned upside in the grass warning people not to drink and drive.  The pit stop costs me 20 minutes.

Refreshed I get back underway.  It is late afternoon now, my favorite time to ride.  The traffic begins to thin out, but still a lot of trucks on the road.  I wish I knew if Phil was north or south of me.

I cross the Mason-Dixon line and into Maryland.  It took a long time to get out Pennsylvania.

Maryland is a blur.  I ride non stop right through it.  I am surprised when I see the West Virginia sign.  I didn't realize 81 snipped its way through the state.  I get another state for the belt the cheap way.

Virginia at last.  The land of Gestapo speed enforcement.  Ridiculously low speed limits enforced zealously.  Where they put a guy in jail for radar detectors.  I was born in Virginia, looooooong ago, but it has become too socialistic for my tastes the last 30 years.  Glad they moved us to Alabama.  My brother in law in Springfield, tells me they tax EVERYTHING in this state.  The transfer of wealth in this state is right up there with Massachusetts.

I switch over to I-66 east and land in Front Royal.  I am only 75 miles from my in laws home in DC, and take a passing thought of going to see them.  Front Royal is the gateway to the Shenandoah, and the Skyline Drive.
I find the Exxon station and carry out my plan.   I top off the tank, and park my bike near on the highway, he can't  miss it.  I start the wait.  I loiter around the store, and notice a car pull in with Alabama tags.  A lady goes in the store, and I speak to the passenger.  A gentleman in his 60s.-

"you're from Bama?


" where ya been?"

"New York City"

I am saddened to learn they are returning from the funeral of their nephew.  A FDNY Firefighter killed on 9-11.  His wife comes back and joins the chat.  A classy lady.  They are from Mobile.  We speak at length and she tells me it is good see someone from home.  She says her nephew's funeral was the most moving thing she has ever witnessed, thousands were in attendance.  She gives me hug and kiss, and says to be careful at work and on the road.  I never found out their name.

I wait a hour and still no Phil.  Wait a minute!  Check your voice mail dummy!  I check it and hear Phil tell me he will meet me at the entrance to Skyline Caverns, and if we miss there, go to the first campground on the Skyline Drive.  He didn't mention the pork chops, so I guess they are still ok.

I ride down to the Caverns entrance and no Phil, so head back to the Skyline Drive entrance.  It is dusk, it will be dark soon.  I pull into the ticket office, and pay my 10 bucks.  The ranger says Phil has been here.  How did that joker get in front of me?  He tells me to look out for deer, and the campground is 25 miles south on the Drive.
I get on the Skyline Drive and cautiously take the curves at 25 mph.  Constantly scanning for deer. The road is smooth and quiet.  It is dark now.  Not a good time to be on the Drive.  Blind switchbacks, tight curves.  I am ever thankful for PIAA driving lights.  They blaze the countryside in intense white light.  So bright I fear I will start grass fires.  

Soon I begin to see them.  Red eyes up ahead.  I can count 4 deer on the road, moving slow. I ease to a stop, and let them pass.  They don't bolt.  I continue on.  Deer are everywhere.  On the shoulders, on the road, and in the trees.  Never seen anything like it.  I slow down to 15 mph, and pick my way through.  The deer KNOW they are in a protected park, and act accordingly.  I see a buck with nice rack.  Damn these guys are brazen.  Buddy, if you were back home in Alabama you would be on some good ole boys wall so fast you won't know what hit you.  Noway in Alabama you see deer acting this nonchantly.

I finally make the campground, and there he is.  Campfire going and none worse for the wear.  Good ole Phil.  Amazingly, a guy named Mitch, made friends with Phil, and was keeping him company.   He is riding a 93 ST back to California after shipping it to DC.  He just happens to pick the same campground we did.

I rode 522 miles today and it felt good to wick it up.

Mitch holds the light while I set my tent up.

"still got the pork chops brother?"

"you know it"

"well get em goin,"

"don't worry"

I look for a shower but the campground is void of such a thing. Damn.

Phil cooks up the chops, and warms up the Bush's Baked Beans.  Man it was GOOD.  

We offer some to Mitch but he declines.  He ate back in Front Royal at Outback.

The ranger informed Phil a small Black Bear hangs around the campground.  He is harmless and reminds Phil not to feed him.

After we clean up, we sit around the campfire.  We gather more wood.  We talk about STs and road trips.  I ask Mitch what he is looking for on this trip.  We invite him to ride south with us the next day.  He politely declines, advising he wants to be alone on this trip.  We understand and tell him to look for us at the first campground in the Blue Ridge.

I get in my tent, put on my headphones, and zip up.  I take comfort in the fact I am only a days ride from home if I push it.  The radio says a front is closing in, and to look for rain tonight and tomorrow.

My right leg is feeling better, and my tent is comfortable, so I drift off to sleep about 11pm.