Monday, September 3, 2018

Bark Park

I hadn't been to the Big Pine dog park in a couple of years, as Rusty made it clear early on he doesn't much like them. He never said why but he doesn't.
He wandered around outside happily enough but I suspect there are too many dog smells inside the fences.
People don't mind being fenced in...
And naturally instructions abound as common sense is in short supply. And no, the pool had not been drained by the last user.
Check it  out:
Beach volley ball in a place with no beaches! Well played.
I am not a great fan of dog parks because as you can see below it's not much of a dog walk but a gab fest. No really my scene.
You'd think picking up after your dog would be obvious....
Mr Cool prowled around a bit but he was ready to go.
Nice park. Too bad he won't like it even when it's empty.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Eric and Bill and Home

After lunch I headed to Virginia and Steve went home in pouring rain. I got the better end of the deal as sun came out and drenched Front Royal where I finally tore off my waterproofs and started to enjoy a Florida style ride albeit with hills and curves. Lovely.
 Hey you con't see this stuff in the Keys. I stopped for pictures.
 My Burgman 200 in a cornfield.
 Eric had prepared an elaborate surprise for my arrival in his garage.
He worried the burning buns on the right could offend me. Luckily we had 24 hours for him to get to know me. I took the carefully folded banner home.
Eric recently bought a splendid 40 year old Vespa P200 and I took it for a spin, filled with nostalgia and admiration for Eric's careful thoughtful refurbishment of the old girl. Great fun but I couldn't imagine riding the ride I just did on this scooter!
 Eric and Lisa took me to dinner and we had a splendid meal alcohol and laughter and it was good.
The next day looked good for my six hour ride to Florence South Carolina where a lonely hotel bed awaited. We rode together, Eric on his special edition Vespa 946 me on my Suzuki.
I loved the heat and the sun and we rode through canopied roads which made the sunny day even more delightful. Eric says the mountains are 45 minutes away and even better roads lie in wait. I shall return for sure.
 He lives the life does Eric and I was glad I got to meet him after exchanging comments on riding forums for years.
 He is his own brand of maniac. He rode this 155 cc Vespa all the way from Austin to his home, more than 1500 miles in pouring rain. These special edition Vespas are monstrous expensive but Eric found a discounted model for sale a long way  from home. Nothing deterred he did the ultimate fly and ride managing to pick the worst weather in motorcycle riding history to come home with his new 60 mph scooter. It rained hard almost the entire way. He had a deadline to be home so he rode.Makes my Iron Butt ride look like nothing.
 After Eric and I parted promising to meet again I took the lonely road to Florence South Carolina's La Quinta and I left there early enough to strike out on a quixotic mission to reach the coast thus lengthening my ride but getting another chance to visit one my favorite small towns, Beaufort South Carolina. It was dawn so I took a few pictures posted them on Instagram and I got going. 

Florida thank God saw a return of heat and sunshine. Even a few miles north of the state line Georgia offered Florida-like conditions and I liked them.
 I had met Bill previously so it was nice to see a familiar face as I pulled into the Welcome Center on I-95, a personalized welcome home just for me. Once again I was a follower trailing Bill's Vespa 200 to a burger joint in Fernandina Beach. Bill is a hard core long distance scooter rider so we talked and I suggested I was going to do the coast to coast ride known as the Cannonball in 2020.  He has done three previous rides, his latest this year ending in a spill and  a nasty leg wound so he has decided tor retire from Cannonballs. I started work early to change his mind.
From the farthest north of the state we had to ride south and I got the treatment, winding roads, canopies all on lovely smooth Florida road surfaces. 
 Bill is an architect by trade and he liked to point out....
 ... his creations.
 It was a fitting conclusion to my week long trip.
 Marshlands that I love.

This scooter would end the week with 3404 miles and no problems other than my dead muffler which my mechanic thinks was pretty heated by the long ride when I hit the pot hole and shook it up West Virginia style enough that the baffles fell apart undress excess pressure.  For the rest it ran and continues to run perfectly with a new muffler on order.
 Bills venerable approximately 12 year old Rocket with 86,000 miles on the clock.
 A final drink goodbye and once again I had met someone reluctant to part with me. This trip was a real ego boost even though I'm sure I'm not everyone's  cup of tea I made some stout long lasting friends this trip. Eric and Bill better get with the Cannonball plan!  I wish Steve could as well.
I left Jacksonville reluctantly at around 6 and Bill disappeared back into the urban jungle. I headed south watching the sun set as I cleared the southern edge of the Ocala National Forest on Highway 19. 
I spent the night in Sebring where the night manager at the hotel was a grumpy old toad but I was buzzing and high on life that he didn't bring me down. I left before dawn the next morning determined to get to see Rusty as soon as possible. Dawn on the levee of Lake Okeechobee:

 And then home by noon to a rapturous welcome from one who loves me warts and all. My wife was away in Miami on business with a colleague so Rusty and I immediately went for  a walk after the homecoming kisses were spent.
Joy all round, that most important of emotions and in such short supply. The ride was done.Friends were made. I am a happy camper. And so is Rusty.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Scooter In The Sticks

After I finished my 32 hour, 1500 mile Iron Butt ride I was in no way impaired to keep on riding. I attribute that to my rather fierce exercise regimen at home so when I was faced with a  five hour ride across New York and Pennsylvania from Niagara to State College I was actually looking forward to the ride. Mountains! Curves! No need to log every damned thing! Freedom! Yay!
Besides all that I was going to meet a long time correspondent and I was a bit nervous. Among scooter riders Steve Williams is the author of a photo blog by a man who is a professional photographer,a  gentle soul who wouldn't say boo to a goose. My instructions were to meet at an historic watering hole in his village.
I was nothing loathe as I was curious to see if the local brew tasted the same at home as it does in Florida. No difference that I could tell.  
I was  wind burned and pleased with myself. And I was in Duffy;s Tavern which was a place I had been looking forward to seeing, even if I had misplaced my ears.
Steve showed up and we circled each other drinking beer and talking until eventually he took me to my quarters across the street. Boalsburg reminds me of the little New England town (filmed in California!) which is the setting for the Hitchcock movie "The Trouble with Harry." Steve remarked rather tartly there were no spare bodies floating around Boalsburg. I think they would have found such a thing to be in very poor taste in this delightful small town. 
We drove and that was a thoughtful gesture getting the truck out,  as he probably figured my backside could use the break. Plus we could talk.  I was nervous I was going to piss him off with my odd sense of humor and eccentric view of life. I annoy some people all the time by my inability to take things seriously but luckily unlike those humorless souls Steve has a wicked sense of humor, he sees the droll in daily life and he sees absurdity all around him, including doubtless in me and my ridiculous Iron Butt ride... But he is still the thoughtful, polite easy going guy who writes his page, Scooter in the Sticks. It's funny really how different and how alike we are.
To me Steve represents the quiet steady voice of a man who has found his trade and his place in life without hesitation. He is a Pennsylvania native from Pittsburgh who came to State College for the education and stayed for the job. 44 years on campus as their photographer, a well liked presence at the university over the decades, followed by a secure retirement in the place he never wants to leave and doubtless never will. Shown here outside the exhibit I specifically came to see of his photographs:
You can check his pictures properly on his website and they are worth checking out. Steve got quite a lot of attention from the show and he said civilians wanted the ones without the Vespa which is interesting to me as in my head and other scooterists' he is the Vespa! I unashamedly wanted to crib his technique because his photos are compelling and I couldn't figure out why.
 And there you have it: he is a professional photographer from the era of paper and  and chemicals, he is established and settled, and I am a brash amateur and and as rootless as it's possible to be. But I do have one thing over Steve. Not photography for sure:
I am a traveler and inside this man, who saw his picture and described himself as grizzled, and liked this one because it made him look tall (he is tall from my perspective), Steve wants to travel. He has obligations, his wife needs him near home and he has never had the get up and go to be gone. But he idles his time pondering riding a motorcycle or hitting the horizon. Stuff I've done and would love to accompany him on a trip.
I did get a few photography tips and they are in my head all the time but I have to break my own bad habits which is what I've been working on now I'm home. 
We cruised State College and his alma mater. It turns out the University founder put in a clause requiring that dogs have free rein on campus. Really. I need to bring Rusty to get an education. It turns out nowadays they have to be on leash but that was not always the case. I like this place. Plus they were dancing in front of the main building. 
Steve in his world, a city filled with young people bars, shops and a welcoming downtown. He like me likes to come out ion the middle of the night and walk his dog here. Before he got fed up with me I think we could have a grand time together. 
This is the store front of the worlds largest educational toy shop that sells stuff by mail order. Something like that. A local success story. It looks pretty modest which is I gather the point.
 If you read his blog the Saints Cafe features so we did the obligatory photo but it was closed so I couldn't have the iconic tea and bagel.  But I've been there! 
 My bed and breakfast (dog friendly please note) was super luxurious and I slept like a log after meeting Kim at Steve's house. But I awoke to a crappy wet day. I mentioned to Steve he didn't have to get on the road but he replied over the phone that wet foggy days are best for photography. Lunatic.
We rode off and all I did was follow him. We stopped at a fogged in overlook me feeling like I should be cold but wasn'ty, he looking like a martian: 
Scooters in the fog...I had it all this trip. Steve is very shy about his riding style which is slow and requires much stopping but this was our first time riding together so he gave me the conventional treatment and we wandered up hills and down dales winding and twisting through forests. He pulls over for cars and lets them by which I found quite relaxing as the roads were not terribly crowded and people don't drive like jacked up Floridians with much aggression and low skill.
I guess not yet having met God I must have more road to ride. Steve had wanted to get the picture of the barn for a while so I was glad to be the catalyst for the encounter.
I have ridden eastern Pennsylvania before to visit Jack Riepe and it is a state with crappy road surfaces and superb riding
 Those rolling fields...

 Twists and turns...
 Bucolic countryside...
Hagerstown Maryland was quite industrial once I believe. We stopped here for lunch,   disrobing like monks, layers coming off one after the other and then we tried stretching out the lunch as long as we could. 
 I don't think either of us wanted to part. It was a sensation that was to repeat itself as the ride south continued. I wish I didn't live so far away. Steve felt like an elder brother with so much to teach me, about cameras and thoughtful riding and life itself.
I cannot wait to go back and dither around Mt Nittany until even Steve gets bored.