Cool day in a cool van

My goal for the Interstate was to try to find its natural place in the world, in other words to see what it was best at doing.  Having pulled a 30-foot Airstream travel trailer all over southern California, I had the opportunity to compare experiences and go where the big trailer couldn’t.

There was a problem with this great plan, however.  June 28, my first day, was also the first day of a holiday week.  In my part of the world people don’t begin celebrating July 4 until at least July 2, but the Californians apparently feel differently.  They crowded every available campsite from San Diego to San Francisco for the entire week and I discovered my chances of getting a nice spot anywhere near the ocean were virtually nil.

Had I not had several years of experience at finding alternative overnight stops, I might have given up right then and headed inland to the scorching desert.  No problem getting campsites in places where the temperature is running 110 degrees or so. But I wanted to experience the coast, so it was time to call on every resource I had.

My Saturday night stop was easy.  I just stayed parked at the Murphy Auto Museum overnight.  I hadn’t planned to spend the first night without hookups, but it seemed like a good chance to test all the Interstate’s systems.  Sunday morning I took a drive up to Ojai, then wandered down to Santa Barbara on country roads past orchards and ranches, staying off Hwy 101 for as long as possible.  That’s one of the nice things about the Interstate compared to a travel trailer.  I didn’t have any hesitation about trying narrow, winding road that might eventually force me to make a U-turn.  Twenty-five feet of motorhome isn’t exactly compact, but it’s a breeze to turn around compared to 53 feet of truck and trailer.

In Santa Barbara I got my first tank of diesel.  Turns out the Interstate has the same fuel capacity and slightly better fuel economy than my GL320, so it was a familiar experience, and not nearly as traumatic as I had feared it might be.  At the fuel station I got the first of many inquiries about the Interstate.  This is not a stealthy vehicle. People can’t help but notice it, and quite a lot of them will ask questions or even hint for an interior tour.  I ended up giving 15-20 tours over the course of ten days.  People want to know what it costs and what fuel economy it gets, and then they are often amazed to find that it has a full bathroom with shower.

A little further up the road I saw a sign for El Capitan Beach State Park and decided to drop in there, just to park in the day-use area for a while.

For $9 I had this spot for the entire day, and it was a truly beautiful day.  I opened all the windows, broke out a cold drink and a snack and a book, and settled in for a while.  I could hear people walking by and saying, “That’s a cool van!” and similar comments.  With the blackout windows and the day/night shades in “day” position, they couldn’t tell I was in there.

Later, when I felt like company, I slid out the big side door and got a spontaneous visitor about every twenty minutes.  One guy claimed the Interstate cost $300,000.  Another was so excited he went back to get his wife and kids for a second tour.  One woman got in, then gave me a look that said Uh-oh, I just got in a van with a strange man, but stayed for the tour anyway and then got her husband and friends. Lots of people took photos of themselves next to it.

I couldn’t spend the night here, so I wandered further up the coast on the PCH, ending up in Buellton.  There’s a good RV park there that I figured was far enough inland to maybe have a site available, and that turned out to be a good guess.  $63 with taxes reminded me that I was indeed in California.

Well, I needed a chance to hook up and try out all those systems too.  The full hookup site gave me a chance to try the fancy new macerator dump that the Interstate uses (no more stinky slinky) and I was favorably impressed with the neatness of the system.  I found a small water leak coming from the rig but it turned out to be just a dripping P&T valve on the water heater.  That’s an overpressure protection valve, and it’s a common issue that is easily rectified, but I just let it drip because it’s not significant and I didn’t expect to be using the water heater much.

This evening I tested the video system by playing a movie on the Blu-ray DVD and both LCD TVs.  With a Bose active noise-cancellation headset plugged into the headphone jacks (by the second row seats), I couldn’t hear a thing from outside nor the vent fan humming above my head, and I got totally immersed in the movie.  This Interstate experience was starting to feel very decadent, especially compared to the two weeks I just spent on a motorcycle. I was beginning to think that after ten days it might be hard to give the thing back.

Hi, ho, silver Interstate!

After the motorcycle trip in Quebec I only had a week to get ready for the next trip.  I don’t expect you to sympathize with me, if you like to travel. Having to rush around and re-pack between exciting trips is the way I would be happy to spend the rest of my life.

Really, re-packing is easy and takes little time, especially since I had months of advance knowledge of the trips.  The important tasks have to do with family and work. My wife is always my partner in travel even when I’m traveling without her, but if we have been apart it’s a high priority to spend some time together.  You can only connect so much via email, phone, and the occasional video chat. It’s just as important to share a dinner, or go grocery shopping, or any other routine thing.  The same goes for my teenage daughter, who probably noticed I was gone but was too busy to worry about it.  Even if she didn’t pine my absence, the comfortable assurance that comes with sharing day-to-day life can’t be replaced any other way that I know of.

It was especially important in this case, because I was gone for nearly two weeks and now I’m embarking on another trip that will have me away for a month. After years of trying, Airstream and I finally managed to coordinate the loan of an Airstream Interstate touring coach. I’m going to take it from Los Angeles and get to know it as intimately as possible, over a period of 10 days.

I flew from Vermont to Los Angeles on June 27 and spent an uninteresting night at an airport hotel before being picked up by Victor, who is currently the finance guy at Airstream of Los Angeles.  Victor is a 19-year Airstreamer and has apparently been a fan of Airstream Life magazine for years, so we had a lot to talk about on the hour-long drive over to San Gabriel in morning traffic.  I got a quick tour of the impressive Airstream of LA facilities with Wes Nave, General Manager, and then a ten-minute walk-thru of the Interstate’s systems with one of their service guys, and they handed me the keys and wished me luck.

I have to admit I was a bit stunned.  This moment had been years in the making.  The Interstate was standing there, ten feet tall and 25 feet long, gleaming in metallic silver paint, with the big Mercedes logo on the front and AIRSTREAM on the sides and back.  It looked confident and expensive, and it is—$150,000 worth of German automotive engineering and American RV design layered together.  I’ve driven some expensive rigs and pride myself on being able to drive just about anything, but with the keys in my hand for 10 days—no questions asked—it took a moment before I gathered myself enough to actually climb into the driver’s seat.

I was feeling like a total newbie.  The Airstream motorhomes are really nothing like the travel trailers that I know so well.  My head was spinning with thirty or forty details that the service tech had just run through with me, and which were all rapidly departing.  Where’s that switch for the power awning, and the hidden 12 volt outlet?  What are the six or so steps for setting up the bed, again? Where is the propane fill?  At one point he had shown me where the vehicle registration was, but a few days later I realized I had no idea where it went.  (I didn’t find it until Day 10, when my friend Rob showed me the hidden dash compartment.  Good thing I didn’t get pulled over at any point.)

Even worse, somebody had kept the Owners Manuals, so I didn’t have any help from Mercedes-Benz or Airstream (at least in print) figuring out the systems.  But I didn’t actually mind this because most new owners don’t read the manuals anyway, and so my experience would be closer to that of the average person.

Because this was a “media” loaner, the PR people had outfitted the Airstream with a bunch of “camping” equipment, which was nice but made me chuckle a few times.  The flashlight, dish soap, sponge, towels, tank deodorizer, and bed linens were great.  The hammer, 300-pack of paper plates, jumper cables, and massive frying pan—not as much.  The frying pan was about twice the size of the two tiny burners on the SMEV stove, and the automotive reporters who typically take this media loaner out aren’t generally going to be cooking beans over a campfire.  You don’t really need jumper cables since (if the starter battery is dead) you can press a button on the dash to use the coach’s auxiliary battery for extra juice.  I don’t know what the hammer was for.

I was actually pleased that the Interstate came with a few basics, because I knew I would need to get stuff for the rig right away, and at least my list was shorter by about six items.  But going to the grocery store seemed like a dull way to start the trip, and soon afternoon traffic would be building up, so if I was going to get out of LA County easily, it was better to make tracks now and shop later.

Eighty-five miles of stop and go traffic from San Gabriel to Oxnard taught me a few things.  That Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 3500 EXT chassis is really sweet. Airstream ordered it with a bunch of premium options including suspension upgrades and a bunch of neat safety items (like lane-keeping assistance).  It’s really easy to drive, and the 6-cylinder diesel is super-torquey.  Most importantly, it has great brakes.  I learned that over and over as I worked down the Ventura Freeway.

My first stop was at the Murphy Auto Museum in Oxnard.  My friend David Neel runs the place, and he had invited me to bring my ’68 Caravel to join in a special weekend vintage trailer show.  He was a bit surprised when I showed up in a 2015 Airstream Interstate motorhome, but since Airstream of LA had helped sponsor the event     we rolled the Interstate right into the middle of a bunch of 1960s Shastas, and I spent the rest of the afternoon showing it to everyone.

Well, that’s not all I did.  David gave me a tour of his museum (small, but lots of fun, open weekends only, $9 admission), and of course I checked out some very cool rigs outside in the show.  The big star was this rare GM Futureliner, and there was also a sweet 1949 Greyhound bus converted by a boat builder into an RV in the late 1950s.

That evening, David offered me the keys to the museum’s 1984 Maserati Quattroporte III, to go do my grocery shopping.  Sheesh.  With great reluctance (ha!) I took the keys and had a very fun evening driving a Maserati to Wal-Mart, and then to meet David’s family in Oxnard for sushi.  What a rough day.  First Airstream gives me their top-of-the-line touring coach, and now I get a Maserati to run my errands in.

To be honest about my tribulations, David did mention that the car had $20 worth of gas in it, which in California is less than five gallons, and it is a Maserati (did I mention that already?) so it was iffy how far I’d get on that amount of fuel.  But hey, if I had to put another twenty bucks to cruise the 101 in southern California on a beautiful evening, it was going to be well worth it.

Feeling sorry for me yet?

BMW tour wrap-up

It’s hard not to make the last day of an epic trip seem anti-climactic.  We wrestle with that every time we come back to home base with the Airstream.  The last day is usually over roads you already know well, and there’s always that sense of being so close to home that you may as well just blast through.  Sometimes in the Airstream we combat this by taking a completely unneeded detour, or spending another night less than 100 miles from home.  This also has the benefit of making our arrival time early in the day so unpacking isn’t done at the end of a long drive.

On the BMWs it was the same sensation, but rather than spend an extra night in the last 100 miles we just packed up our camp without rushing (the tents and ground cloths were particularly damp because of condensation) and then made lots of stops along Rt 2 through New Hampshire and Vermont, like dropping in on Dunkin’ Donuts in downtown St Johnsbury.  (No more Tim Hortons now that we are out of Canada).

I needed the breaks along the route anyway.  It was a colder day than most, and I had skipped the long underwear layer on the assumption that it would warm up later, but that never happened.  Eric bit the bullet and did a quick change outdoors about an hour into our ride, in a location where he’d be inconspicuous to passing traffic.  I wasn’t freezing so I just threw on another top layer, but it wasn’t really enough until the afternoon.

Also, my shoulder was bothering me.  It has gotten better since that accident back near Murdochville, and now I can sleep on that side again without the pain waking me up, but in riding position with my arms extended and the constant vibration of the thumper, and road bumps, it begins to hurt after a while.  Eventually the pain becomes excruciating and I have to take a 10 minute break, which relieves it entirely.  I’ve had a lot of time to think about a particular blog comment by one of my curmudgeonly blog advisors, suggesting that this particular problem may eventually require surgery. I’m thinking it won’t, because it has gotten steadily better.  At least I hope not.  I don’t want that sort of permanent souvenir of this trip.

And the trip has been amazing, almost worth a permanent twinge in the shoulder.  I look back over the last 13 days of it and it’s like three trips in one, with all the stuff we saw and did along the way.  I’m pretty sure I only covered the highlights here, and there are a thousand fascinating details that I’ve already forgotten.

Finally, in the afternoon of June 20, we rolled back into the Champlain Valley on a gorgeous sunny summer day, to our respective garages.  We had covered 2,600 miles on those little BMW bikes—a trip almost equivalent to riding them back to Tucson!  None of us thought we’d do such mileage.  We really didn’t know much of anything for sure, since every day was spontaneous.

Back at base, after a nice reunion with my family, I slowly unpacked all the gear, laid out the tent and groundcloth to dry in the sun, and made an enormous pile of laundry.  My motorcycle pants and jacket are flecked with asphalt, bugs, and mud.  My boots are unmentionable.  The helmet has a few new dings in the finish, and it’s probably time for me to put on a new, unscratched visor.

The BMW is looking good except for two broken turn signals and a very handsome scuff mark on the front fender.  We’ll fix the turn signals later.  Otherwise the bike has held up very well and I have a new appreciation for why Steve likes them so much.  It’s not nearly as comfortable as traveling by car or by Airstream, but there are definite advantages to the experience.

We had a great “wrap party” with friends on Saturday night, showing a quickly-made video of some of our 500 photos.  If you want to see more, check for the album.

In a few days I’ll be flying to Los Angeles for another adventure, which will also be posted on this blog and pre-dated.  I’m picking up a new 2015 Airstream Interstate and taking it out for a 9 day adventure up the California coast.  This is a trip I’ve been anticipating for literally years, and it is finally coming together, so I’m very excited about it.  Long-time blog readers note: Since I’ll be traveling solo, I’ll also be hoisting the TBM flag for the month of July.

BMW day 12: Moosehead Lake ME to Mt Washington (NH)

Ever since we crossed back into the US we could all sense that our trip was winding down.  Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine are all familiar territory, and I think we had the sense that if we weren’t careful we’d end up re-tracing roads we’d all driven before, and becoming bored with the final days of our trip.

Yet we were still in the midst of some beautiful country.  So despite having Gaspé behind us, we decided to maintain our relatively slow pace and try to find things to do in the upper part of Maine and New Hampshire that we had never done before.

day12 mapWe selected a convoluted path following Route 16 past small towns and summer cabins.  This turned out to be ideal.  While entirely paved, it had the benefit of lots of vistas, sweeping turns, interesting small towns, and not much traffic.  The weather was once again ideal for riding, so we settled in at about 45-50 MPH most of the way and just soaked up the scenery.

Early in the ride we stopped in Abbott, ME for a quick break.  Lately my shoulder has been bothering me more when we ride.  The arm extended position really starts to hurt after a while, so an hour is about all I can go without giving it a rest.

But this was really a great excuse to stop in at the Abbott Village Bakery where, as luck would have it, the donuts are truly awesome.  I got one for the road after eating an enormous I-forgot-what-they-called-it jelly and cream stuffed creation.  I may have forgotten the name but it will take me a long time to forget that donut. I’d go back but it’s almost 300 miles from our base camp in Vermont, and 2,900 miles from our base in Arizona.  Some great things are destined to stay local, and that’s a good reason to keep traveling.

Just down the road we found an ATV shop, too.  Steve had been struggling with chain lube ever since the trip started.  It wasn’t holding up, and he was re-lubricating and adjusting the chains nearly daily on both our bikes.  The solution, he decided, was chain wax, and Victory Motorsports in Maine had one can of the stuff left on their shelves.  We did a quick spray wax on all three bikes and it seemed to last a lot longer.

I was feeling so relaxed that I took very few pictures on this leg of the trip, and I even stopped writing nightly notes on our travels.  Sometimes you just have to experience the travel and not worry about documenting it.  Traveling by motorcycle was becoming as natural as Airstreaming, now that I had the routine down. As we paralleled the Kennebec River in Maine I remembered long-ago whitewater rafting trips done on that same stretch of water. It was all becoming very familiar and easy, even though I hadn’t seen most of the roads before and we didn’t yet have a firm destination for our stop that night.

Our working plan was to ride to Gorham, NH, and check out Mount Washington. If you aren’t familiar with it, it is famous as the location of the “world’s worst weather” and there is a road all the way to the summit which (yet another lucky break) would be open only to motorcycles on this particular day. We figured it was a sign that we were destined to end our day with an epic ride to the 6,000+ ft peak of Mt Washington.

We made it to Mt Washington around 5 p.m., after having spotted a magnificent moose along the road in northern New Hampshire.  (This was our fourth large mammal of the trip, counting the bear cub early on, the seal in Perce, a second black bear (full grown) along the dirt road to Murdochville, and not counting the numerous deer because I’d rather not see deer.  They like to jump in front of moving vehicles and I didn’t want to find out what happens when one jumps in front of a motorcycle I’m driving.)

It was still early enough to drive up the 8-mile road to the top, have a good look, and start heading back by the mandatory 6:45 departure. It was a very nice day by Mt Washington standards: mostly clear skies, temperatures in the 60s, winds running about 55 MPH.

Yes, I said 55 MPH. When we arrived there were dozens of motorcycles coming down the mountain, all much heavier bikes than ours, 1200 cc hogs and 1100 cc street or touring bikes, everyone wearing black leather & bandannas (New Hampshire has no helmet law), and all looking a tad pinched in the face from the wind chill, perhaps even grateful to be back at low altitude. But with hundreds of motorcycles going up that day, we figured “how bad could it be?”

Pretty bad.  Unlike virtually everyone else, we were on tall, light, high-clearance bikes designed to maneuver around rocks and through potholes. Where we had the advantage on tricky dirt trails, these guys had the advantage on pavement and most importantly, in wind.

BMW Canada-32

I promise not to exaggerate. This was without a doubt the most terrifying experience I have ever had while operating a motorized vehicle. The time that the trailer brakes on the Airstream went out while descending off a bridge to a stoplight in the rain was a relaxing nap compared to our ride up Mt Washington.

After we reached about 5,000 feet of elevation and were above the treeline, the road becomes entirely exposed to the brutal winds that never stop up there.  The gusts that hit us broadside were (we later discovered) reaching 65 MPH, which is still a nice day by Mt Washington standards but nearly impossible conditions for a BMW F650.  It was all we could do just to hang on to the handlebars with a death grip and try to stay upright against the unpredictable gusts.  My bike was being slapped around the road like a hockey puck.  Sometimes I had to lean sharply in the opposite direction of a turn just to counter the huge impact of the wind.  I felt like a Weeble, except that there was the very real possibility that at any point I would fall down or even be blown right off the road and down hundreds of feet down a rocky slope—because of course there are no guardrails on this road.

We got to the top somehow.  The wind was so strong in the parking lot that Steve had to relocate his bike into the lee of a large cliff, otherwise the wind was simply going to blow it over.  We finally had a chance to take off our helmets and talk, and discovered we’d all had the same experience and thoughts on the way up: holy wind gusts, Batman!  A ride like that will teach you to focus very sharply on the task at hand.  And I was already thinking of something horrible:  we had to go back down the road later.  Perhaps there was an Inn we could stay in, for a month or two until there was a small break in the wind?  Maybe we could call a flatbed to haul the bikes back?

20140619 5240IMG_4558

The picture above makes it look so pleasant, but you can’t see any indication of the wind that was howling at every moment.  I recommend Mt Washington in a car, or at least in a much heavier bike on the calmest possible day. Then you can really enjoy the view, the museum, the coffee shop, and the outdoor observation deck without having terror in your heart.

After about half an hour to calm down, we came up with a strategy.  Upward travel would be stopped at 6:00 pm, so we’d wait until about 6:10 to start heading down.  That way we’d likely be the only people on the road and could have the freedom of being blown across two lanes instead of just one.  That sounds ridiculous but it helped quite a lot.  Downhill turned out to be not quite as bad—we got a small break from the wind during the most exposed portion of the road—and when I counted bikes at the bottom there were still three of us.  A bit shaken, perhaps, but intact.

So be careful what you wish for.  We wanted something exciting and new to do on this last leg of the trip, and we got it.

Tonight’s stay is the peaceful Moose Brook State Park in Gorham NH. No bugs here, for some reason, so we got to stay DEET-free.  It’s a short ride to the center of town from the state park, and we found an excellent wood-fired pizza place in town (with a power outlet under the booth for me to charge up my helmet intercom and cell phone).  This night of camping will be our last on this trip.  Tomorrow, we have only a half-day ride back to home.

BMW day 11: Presque Isle to Moosehead Lake ME

It turned out that the weather report was depressingly correct again, and rain was coming soon.  I was feeling some pressure because I needed to locate a Notary Public in town, and I wanted to get that job done before the rain came in.  Around 8:30 I was finally able to find a law office in town where a notary was available, and so I zipped out while the other guys were still packing.  I got my documents signed and notarized, dropped them in a FedEx box, and finally was free of that business obligation.  So, back to motorcycling.

Now here’s the other part about working from the road.  You can’t really enjoy the travel if you mentally carry around your work worries with you.  I’ve had a lot of practice at this, so believe me when I say that one minute after I dropped the package in the FedEx box, I was thinking about nothing but our day of adventure ahead.  Compartmentalizing your work is a skill that full-time travelers must learn, if they are to have any fun at all.

It wasn’t yet raining as I went back to the motel, but the toes of my boots got soaked anyway from the puddles on the ground left by overnight showers.  So another lesson learned:  wear the overboots whenever the road is wet.  Or, as I’ve decided to do, invest in a good pair of motorcycle boots that are waterproof.

day11 map

Our route for the day was completely undetermined.  Steve hadn’t done much research on travels in the US.  He kind of regarded the trip as being more or less over with by the time we left Quebec.  But we had at least three days of travel remaining before we landed back in Vermont, and we needed to plan some sort of interesting route, or we’d just end up on the paved highways covering miles for the sake of covering miles.

We did some checking and were disappointed to find that virtually all of northern Maine is closed to motorcycles.  The roads up in the forests are all privately owned, by land conservation groups, paper and timber companies, and various others.  So the roads are all private too, and they are not exactly speedways. This was a major blow:  the most exciting roads were off-limits.

At first our route was just pavement, so it didn’t matter.  And it was raining again, so we weren’t eager to hit slippery dirt yet anyway.

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Even at our lunch stop, the rain continued.  But by the time we got to East Millinocket, things had cleared up and the lure of dirt riding was too much for Steve. If I had remembered my pledge to go wherever he led us, Eric and I might have allegedly possibly could have followed him along a 50 mile ride of hell.

Let’s just say that there are very good reasons why motorcycles are not allowed on certain roads.  There is no street bike or hog that could ride the road we theoretically might have ridden.  Harley riders, don’t take that as a challenge, it’s just a fact that might save your bike. Imagine water crossings with two-foot deep ditches, potholes with potholes in them, and sections so riddled with bone-jarring bumps that it would be more comfortable to just ride a mechanical bull in a 1980s romantic comedy.  Remember my sore shoulder?  If we had ridden that road—and I’m not saying we did—it would have been the least sore part of my entire body.

We ended our day in a nice state park called Lily Bay, near Moosehead Lake, ME.  The sites were wooded and lovely, the rangers were super friendly, and so were the mosquitoes.  You’re not supposed to feed the wildlife, but in this case, it’s hard to avoid without 100% DEET on your body.  I slapped one mosquito flat while we were checking in at the gate and without looking up the ranger said, “Thank you.”  One down, 75 billion to go.

BMW Canada-25

This was again the sort of place where we immediately slathered ourselves with DEET before we did anything else.  Fortunately, it worked.  We set up camp and set out for the town of Moosehead Lake (maybe 10 miles away) for dinner.  A light rain shower started again on our way to town, so we stopped and threw on the rainsuits again, but after dinner things cleared up to give us a nice evening ride back to the campsite.

Or so I thought.  Along the way back Steve took a detour up yet another dirt road, which turned out to be not much more than a road, but then he zigged again and found something really challenging.  I was in the third position, and feeling pretty tired.  I didn’t want to go down these roads so late in the day, and within just a few hundred feet the road got so technical that I was beginning to worry about crashing again.  But I couldn’t raise the other guys on the intercom because their batteries had run out, and I couldn’t catch up to them.  So after the second or third near-crash in a puddle or while avoiding a massive rock or fallen log, I just stopped.

They spotted me, waved, and I just shrugged.  So they came back, and we got back to the paved road, and headed toward camp again … when Steve spotted a sign indicating the route to a famous B-52 crash site.  We had read about this earlier.  Apparently the B-52 crash site is only 0.3 miles from the road.  Steve asked if I wanted to go see it, and I said, “Sure, we’ve got time before the sun sets.”

Little did any of us know that the crash site was not 0.3 miles from the paved road, but rather 0.3 miles from a dirt ATV trail off the paved road.  That dirt trail wound into the woods for literally miles, forking into separate trails periodically, and seemingly without end.  Once every mile or so we’d see another “B-52” sign but no other indications of how much further it might be.

This wasn’t what I was expecting and I wanted to turn back, but I was so tired that even catching up to the other guys on this potholed loose gravel road was too much of a challenge for me.  So I followed, hoping eventually we’d find the B-52.

We never did find that crash site, but I made one of my own.  At one of the forks Steve stopped for a conference, and I said, “Forget it, I want to go back.”  The other guys were agreeable to that.  The fork in the trail formed a nice triangle that made for an easy turn-around, but right then my brain just suddenly forgot how to ride a motorcycle and instead of staying on the road I just helplessly watched as the motorcycle, seemingly under its own control, went off the road, across a ditch, and crashed gently into a stand of saplings.  I was on the bike and theoretically the operator, but for those few moments I could not remember even how to apply the brake.

Fortunately, the crash was soft and the bike jammed between a few trees so it was left standing upright.  I was so disgusted and upset that I just got off the bike and stomped off while Steve and Eric retrieved it.  I yelled to Steve, “I’m just too tired to keep riding!” and he said, “I can see that now.  We’re going back.”  It was 7:30 pm.

The crash did no damage other than to break the other front turn signal.  Eric made me feel better when he said, “That’s OK, they are supposed to be replaced in pairs anyway,” which is a mechanic joke.  The nice thing about riding with these guys was that when I did have an incident they just jumped in and helped, and didn’t make me feel worse about it.  But I did feel pretty awful and I was exhausted.  Plus, the score was now embarrassingly lopsided, Rich 4, Steve 2, Eric 0.

The campground bathrooms at Lily Bay are not close to the camp sites.  We had a pit toilet nearby, but for actual running water I had to hop on the bike one last time that evening around 7:45 pm and ride 1.2 miles to the shower house.  You can believe that I was extremely careful for that last ride.  I had pushed beyond my personal limits on this day, with about 200 miles of riding spread over 12 hours, at least 50 of which was tough dirt (theoretically), and the last thing I wanted was to crash again somewhere in the campground in the final mile.  I survived this final ride, said goodnight to the mosquitoes, and retired to my tent.