Friday, September 22, 2006

Day 21 - Coney Island, then Home

About the pictures: The flowers were somewhere in Idaho. Stan Obal in the center "won" the Cannonball.
This buffalo was in Wyoming (and probably still is), posted just a little late.

Today we rode our victory lap to the ocean: from Scooters Originali in Orange, NJ through Manhattan to Brooklyn and to Coney Island. Then I rode home to Ellicott City, Maryland. Too much of the day was eventful.

We got a late start. If you don't know what "scooter time" is, be glad. We were to leave for Coney Island at 10, but it was more like 11:30. Patrick's wife Heather needed a lift because his scooter wasn't set up for two, so she hopped on back with me. We took the slow city streets for the scooters that could not go on the freeway, went through the Holland Tunnel, and stopped at Battery Park. I was starving, and I remembered the Amish Market there, so I dashed in for a quick bite of tuna salad and pickled beets. I hated beets as a kid, but I love them now.

From there we rode over the Brooklyn Bridge to the Heights, and then on to the Brooklynbretta scooter shop. It drizzled a little, but that was all for the rain. We finally got to Coney Island about 4 p.m. We went to the original Nathan's. I had a chili and cheese dog. I can't imagine what a visit to the original McDonald's would be like, but there was nothing special about this Nathan's. I never got heartburn from the dog, though.

Patrick and I were in a hurry, so we mapped our own route for the 28 miles back to the scooter shop across the Belt Parkway, through the Brooklyn-Battery tunnel, up the Westside Highway, back through the Holland Tunnel, and then out to Orange. It was almost 5 o'clock, and I was astonished that we did not get in any serious traffic jams. However, I had another brush with the law. Somehow, due to poorly marked lanes, I ended up in an E-ZPass only lane for the tunnel. I cut between some orange cones to get back to a cash lane, and when I got to the toll booth, a transit cop asked for my license. But he could see that I was a clueless tourist and he let me go.

I left the scooter shop for home just before 6 p.m. I had a nice route of back roads planned based on leaving Coney Island about 1, but Plan B was in order now because I was still 220 miles from home. Yes indeed, I do mean the New Jersey Turnpike and I-95. I was really late. I had told Loriann that I would be home about 6. Big mistake. Even though I left a message that I would be later, her 8 pm message on my cell phone (cleaned up a little) was "will you f-in call me!!!"

The exhaust leak gradually got louder. I limped home the last 70 miles with a very loud exhaust and no rear brake. As the gasket blew out, the exhaust heat melted the brake line! But I-95 was not busy tonight, and I made it home about 10 p.m. without needing to brake suddenly.

It feels so good to be home and to see the family. I'll take the scooter in to Vespa Washington for service, and I know Wellesley and Greg will take good care of it. But I'm not in a hurry. If I don't ride a scooter tomorrow, it will be no big deal ...

There will be another Cannonball in 2008. If I do that, I think it will be on a vintage scooter this time.

Miles today - 290
Miles total - 8246
Best Hotel - Renaissance Cleveland - thank you, Priceline!
Worst Motel - Stagecoach in Dubois, Wyoming - no working internet, no breakfast, bad coffee, but it was a cool town
Best Meal (tie) - Meatloaf lunch special at the Red Rose Diner in Towanda, PA; also Dungeness crab omelet at Genie's in Portland
Worst Meal - gruel at the Original Taco House in Portland, and even worse, we had a real Texan with us for that disaster

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Day 20 - Warren, PA to New York Metro

It was a ragged day but we made it! Most of us (except for the "racers" who were counting points), took a couple of short-cuts to shorten the route by a little, and to eliminate some traffic lights. The ride went across northern Pennsylvania, through the Pocono mountains, briefly into New York, and then south into northwestern New Jersey.

John and I woke up late. We leave at 7 every morning and when we woke up it was 6:52. Libby was not happy with the delay, because John's scooter is not fast. She had the last-support truck duty today so she had to stay behind the last scooter. But in the end, John rode pretty fast. I finished at about 6:45 p.m. and John came in an hour later. The last people and the truck showed up at about 10. Andrea at Scooters Originali was so kind to host us with some burgers and beer, but most people were too tired to really whoop it up.

The scooter shop is in a rough neighborhood in Orange, NJ, and most of us had trouble finding it. Our twenty-something friend from home, Stacy, who works in NYC now, met us at the party with some friends, but they soon left. Sorry, Stacy, for not turning out lots of hot young scooter boys. It was still good to see you.

The highlight of the day was stopping for lunch in an old diner. Lunch was good, but that's not the good part. The owner, Gordon, took me around back and showed me the two old Cushman scooters that he has. He's had one of them for 50 years since he was a boy!

In the morning, most of us will ride to Coney Island. It will be sad to say goodbye to the old and new friends from this bunch of 30 of us, and the support team. There is already talk of another Cannonball in 2 years. Of course, everyone has (conflicting) ideas of how to do it better.

There was still no rain today, but it is closing in on us. I might get wet as I ride home to Maryland tomorrow. I am excited to stop by my charity, Canine Partners For Life, on the way. It's in Cochranville, PA, west of Philadelphia. I am exhilarated and exhausted at the same time. I am so eager to see my family, and also eager to see clients again. Thanks for reading, everyone, and for supporting my ride and Canine Partners For Life.

Miles today - 382
Total Miles - 7956
Number of short-cuts on the route today - 3
Number of lanes on I-80 in NJ - 12 - yikes!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Day 19 - Cleveland to Warren, PA

Today we had a short ride of 157 miles, yet the hundreds of traffic lights on US 20 east of Cleveland made it seem like forever.

But first, it felt great to sleep in, because we did not start until 1 p.m. The schedule was set up to allow people to fix their scooters. In a stroke of accidental good planning, John and I got our Cleveland hotel room on Priceline a month ago. We got soft beds at the Renaissance near the scooter shop. Everyone else was at a nasty Days Inn far away -- for the same price. I got a good workout in at the hotel gym, and John and I had fluffy omelets at a nearby restaurant.

Until today, I have been touring. I smell the roses while some of the others think they are racing. They take it so seriously that today we had a big discussion and a vote about how to penalize the people who went off the route and took shortcuts. Who cares! They finally decided on a 30-minute penalty. Apparently tempers flared over the whole issue yesterday.

Today was the first day that I started with everyone else, and rode to see how fast the scooter will go. I was right up near the front until I was low on gas with 17 miles to go, so I had to pull over for fuel. As a result I finished 7th out of 25 riders, about 7 minutes behind Stan.

It's probably not a coincidence that as I pushed the scooter hard today, the exhaust started to sound louder. I think the gasket is coming loose again. I am hoping to be able to tighten it up in the morning. If not, I'll have to limp in to the finish line tomorrow evening. We have a long day, with about 380 miles through hills. It should be just as challenging as 500 miles through the midwest.

Miles today - 159
Miles total - 7574

Day 18 - Merrillville, IN to Cleveland, OH

We are on the home stretch now, baby!

Today we rode from the southern Chicago area to downtown Cleveland. Once again, we had beautiful weather. I was down to no clean clothes, so I did laundry and worked out. I left about 9:30, which was more than 2 hours after the pack, so I rode solo most of the day. I expected to catch Kieran and John on their slow scooters after lunch, but I never saw them. It remains a mystery how they arrived 2 hours after I did, yet I never saw them. The support truck, which stays behind the last scooter, also passed them without seeing them.

I saw so much brown corn and yellow soybeans. The town of Milan, OH, near Cleveland, is where Thomas Edison was born, and it was very pretty. Sorry, I did not get a picture of it.

The last 25 miles of the route led us past 200 or so traffic lights! I arrived at Pride of Cleveland Scooters around 7 pm, well before dusk. Most people already had their scooters taken apart for maintenance. We had a really good dinner of Cambodian food down the street.

I really appreciate the owner, Phil Waters, for opening his shop up to us on a Saturday night (and I mean ALL night for some of us), and then on Sunday morning. He's just one of so many who have made this trip unforgettable. And I am so glad that Loriann is recovering well from her surgery at home; the family and friends have been wonderful. Thanks to all of you who have posted comments, keep them coming!

Miles today - 330
Miles total - 7215
Traffic lights today - 342
(No, I did not count how many of them were green.)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Day 17 - Ames, IA to Merrillville, IN

I had a good ride today through mostly flat Iowa and Illinois countryside. The high point was finding Ash's scooter patch jacket by the side of the road. He'd lost it a few hours earlier as he flew down the road in a strong crosswind. Alas, he did not realize it until later, so he put out an all points bulletin for it. It has all of his embroidered patches from 5 years of scooter rallies. I knew how important it was to him, so finding it was a great thrill. I thought about quietly showing up at the motel tonight and modeling my new jacket, but that would have meant his wife and everyone else looking for it all day, so I nixed that prank. He and his wife Devon were very appreciative.

We knew we were in Chicagoland near the end of the ride today when the gas station attendant was behind bulletproof glass. This is routine at home on the east coast, but after being in the western land of easy living for days, it hit hard to be back in the world of bulletproof security.

As usual, I left the motel in the morning well after most others. I caught up with the slower scooters in the first few hours. In the afternoon I rode with Noe and Heather. My roommate, John, was with us for a while but his scooter could not keep up with us. This was a shame because he got lost, went through a rough part of Joliet after dark, and made it to the motel hours after everyone else. Our biggest mistake was arriving in Joliet, Illinois at Friday evening rush hour. It took more than an hour to get through town.

Ashrat crashed today on a bad patch of road, but she's OK. So far the roads in Iowa and Illinois have been maintained much less well than the roads farther west.

Tomorrow it's on to Cleveland. We are still expecting good weather.

I haven't posted a link to the main Scooter Cannonball page, so here it is: It is mainly info about the people who are racing, which I am not doing.

I am still trying to get pictures posted. I took a lot of them in Wyoming 2 days ago, and fewer since then. There are only so many grain elevators, cows and cornstalks to snap before the picture starts to look the same ...

Miles today - 358
Miles total - 6885

Day 16 - Valentine, NE to Ames, IA

Yesterday's tailwind shifted to today's headwind. My gas mileage plummetted from 85 to 65 miles per gallon. Still, it was nice riding today, except for the toll bridge across the river from Nebraska to Iowa. The bridge deck was 100% metal grating, which is a nightmare for every bicyclist and motorcyclist.

The best part of the ride was a detour into town for gas. Usually we get gas right on the route, but this time I came to a tiny town with no gas on the main road, and I had doubts about making it to the next town. The town was charming; it is undiscovered because it is off the main road.

Most of the riders have rigged auxiliary tanks or carry gas cans. I have none of those. My 2.2 gallon tank will usually take me about 120 miles or so.

Most of the ride today was solo, but I caught up with Sara with about 80 miles to go.

I had very little sleep after pulling in to Valentine at 1:30 a.m. I was sad to say goodbye in Valentine to Mike H. and Rob D, who are both pulling out of the ride and driving home after breaking down repeatedly and failing to get their scooters running again. Mike is one of the best scooter mechanics I know. He also "won" the last Cannonball ride 2 years ago. Rob is one of the main organizers of the Cannonball. I will really miss them.

Miles today - 405
Miles total - 6527

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Day 15 - Dubois, WY to Valentine, NE

What a brutal day. We descended from the Wyoming mountains to Nebraska flatland, but 537 miles on a scooter in a day is just ... a long day. I rode with some of the slower vintage scooters, and we finally finished at 1:30 a.m.

We had a nice tailwind for most of today, and I rode at about 50 mph with the slower scooters. As a result, I got almost 90 mpg today!

As I expected, personality issues are starting to flare as some scooters break down, the support wagons are full of scooters and people, and everyone is getting tired. Unfortunately some of my good friends from the Washington-Baltimore area are the ones whose scooters are un-fixable, so they are having to figure out how to get the scooters and themselves home early.

I took a lot of pictures yesterday, but am having trouble posting them. Check back later.

The weather is still beautiful, and it looks good for tomorrow, too. The next day will have to take care of itself.

Miles today - 537
Miles total - 6122
High temperature - 93 degrees
Low temperature - 51 degrees

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Day 14 - Hailey, ID to Dubois, WY

We made it to the finish, just barely at dusk! I talked my way out of a ticket, saw beautiful Jackson Hole and Grand Teton, lots of buffalo, etc. More later with pictures!

Miles today 320
Miles total 5585

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Day 13 - John Day, OR to Hailey, ID

Today we made it across Oregon and through the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho, through Sun Valley and Ketchum. Many people broke down by the time we got to the 8200 foot mountain pass. I am really excited to see Grand Teton and Jackson Hole tomorrow.

I rode slow and steady with one of the slower vintage scooters today, and finished the route about 8 pm. Also I am so happy that Loriann's surgery back home went well.

I have to go now. Stay tuned for more about today, with pictures.

Miles today - 376
Miles total - 5265

Day 12 - Pacific City, OR to John Day, OR

Thirty of us and our support crew gathered at the coast where the bonfire had been last night, for the ceremonial start of the Cannonball Run to New York. There was really no ceremony. We did not leave exactly at 7 am as planned, but I rode out at 7:05 and 29 others followed within seconds.

Today was a beautiful day for riding. I rode in small groups, but mostly with Noe. The scenery was stunning. First we has the coastal mountains, then the central Oregon farmland, and finally over the Cascades, through a lava field, and into the high desert with rocky outcrops. Noe and I rode fairly slowly compared to some others. We had a nice lunch stop in Sisters. With 70 miles left to go, I found Jim broken down by the side of the rode. Libby pulled up soon with the support truck. It had room for his scooter, but no for him. So I rode the last 70 miles with Jim
on the back of my scooter.

I was one of the last to finish the ride. I got to the motel about 7 pm. I am not "racing" but some people are. There was a bit of discussion about how to penalize the people who missed some turns and shortened the route. It was a confusing route today.

John Day is a nice town. It even has a 24-hour gym. It's not locked at night. You just walk in and leave them five bucks if they are not there.

The weather forecast is looking good, for the next 3 days at least.

Miles Today 386
Miles Total 4879
Low Temperature Today - 39
High Temperature Today - 89
Number of Road Construction Delays - 1

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Arrived in Portland

Hi, folks, it's Saturday morning and we are gathering in Portland for the 3-hour ride to the coast at Pacific City. Some people are straggling in to Portland but it still looks like all 30 of us will start.

I got in yesterday afternoon with fears that the scooter exhaust might not have been fixed. I actually pulled an all-nighter and stood by for the 6 am flight from Baltimore so I would get here at lunch time to be able to take the scooter for a test ride. No worries, Rob V. here had picked the scooter up earlier and taken it for a 100 mile test ride. It is running like a top!

For the next 10 days of our ride, it will be hard to top the breakfast at Genie's that I just had with Earl, John and Noe! I had an egg white omelet with dungeness crab, onions and tomatoes and hollandaise sauce, accompanied by beautiful Oregon peaches and blueberries. Yum! Pictures will follow. It makes up for the horrid food last night at the Original Taco House. If you're ever in Portland, just don't go there.

More later! Thanks again to all the sponsors and supporters of Canine Partners For Life! I had a blast on the flight writing some thank you postcards and I think I am caught up on them, but I want to have to write a LOT more! I met my fellow rider Noe from south Texas last night for the first time, and he has raised more than $80,000 for his local library! What an inspiration.

Later update: we had an uneventful group ride to the coast, and then a party on the beach with a bonfire and bowling balls shot from a cannon! It was Scott's 40th birthday so we had a little party for him in his room.

Miles today - 104