Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Spannerland... Almost

R1200GS Adventure - Waterdown, Ontario to Manhattan for the Spannerland Garage Christmas party... One day in and One day out. December 5-6. Weather - cold but clear all weekend (really that is what it said)

So I left for the Spannerland Garage party in Jersey City and made it to Ellicottville Friday night for a quick stop - dry riding with some damp roads but about 3 inches of snow in Fort Erie. Not too cold yet. No snow anywhere after Fort Erie to Ellicottville. All good.

Woke up expecting the 3 inches of forecast snow and just got -5 degree weather - friggin cold. But, a good sign for the weather...

Stole some of my brothers skiing mitts but put on my gloves to see how they would do. So I at least had an option to move up to mitts when I got cold - more psychological than anything I thought.

I also put on the heated vest that Drew gave me - I have never used the sissy vest yet but thought it might help. Note to self: A heated vest not only made my core warm it made the trip fun - kept my hands warmer and my arms warmer and is the greatest cold weather invention yet. I will formally accept my dumbassness in this regard. The only thing that got cold on the trip was my finger tips - despite the heated grips. Hippo hands or a bit better hand guards will easily solve that one in the future.

Frig was it cold at speed. Took one nice little detour over a "hill" but it was a 1,000 foot vertical so pretty cool and valleys to look at then went west to Corning etc. on 86/17. Then missed my other long-cut through the Poconos and had to take the interstate to Binghamtom then down on 81 to NewJersey. Too much interstate but I had a party to get too.

Good thing too it would turn out. Snow started in Binghamton - steady and dusty at first then all out - roads were either dry as they had no salt yet or wet which was fine - so far.

I Took off of 81 onto a secondary 6 - to hop over to the 380 - no less time but a nice little secondary road - well too many towns and hills and no shoulders in snow.

Went north when I should have went south about half way on 6 -- then the "new" #6 portion over a nice little pass - full out snow storm now - no towns - no where to go - no shoulders and up and down and turny - great road but not in this weather... still don't know I am lost yet. I had to follow the tire tracks in the snow of the car in front of me and I am glad they didn't turn anywhere because I could barely stand up - averaged about 30 miles per hour. Got down to decent elevation and still snowing but wet roads.

Stopped in some town - went to the gas station... uhm, what state is this? Here let me look at your map and I will tell you..

Note to self: Never ever leave with just a google map showing your route - normally I am anal and think for these contingencies... and a missed turn and I was off my map with no other maps to get me back on. I will get a GPS for sure. Frigg off to anyone who tells me I am selling out. Yah and a compass is selling out too right! But wait a paper map was advanced technology at the time.... sorry for the diatribe.

Anyway - figured it out and got back on the highway interstate which was better as the surface was a bit warmer due to the heat in it and the traffic - all going the same direction - less to hit (more to hit me) and the first thing salted... I picked up some speed about 120kmh which was good traveling - still lots of snow. My visor - windshield front forks and fenders - arms - all caked with dirty slushy - now frozen ice.

Exactly 5 minutes after I told myself and I yelled in my helmet that I thought I would actually make the party... solid snow on the road. I had a few dicey moments on overpasses - sort of a slow speed wobble in the back end that I corrected by getting more speed up and gently throttling it over in a near coast. Riding either the centre lane etc. (Cars and especially big trucks will heat up the snow and ice slightly due to heavy weight and friction making it actually ice - much like a ice skate blade makes a thin layer of ice under the blade - but you know that right) Anyway - that was scary but I figured I could handle it. Well this now was complete road all over ice and snow - could not even change a two foot lane without nearly losing it. I am still motoring at about 100kmh wanting to keep my momentum as it is easier to coast the big stuff - not wanting to bunch traffic up behind me and not wanted to need to get on the throttle. That tactic works only if you don't need to stop for anything ahead. I figured I couldn't stop anyway...

It got so bad that I knew I had to stop but couldn't process what to do - stop on the shoulder? off-ramp? where? when? how....?

I passed a desolate off-ramp (not a gas station in site) and saw a huge uphill -- banking left overpass coming.. and said no way. I hopped over the center of my slow lane - nearly lost it and shifted down. The back wheel locked up when I let the clutch out it was so slick and I did a short right wobble - medium left - big right and pulled in the clutch - not too fun on a 500lb+ bike but hey...

I got onto the shoulder about 3 feet in front of the bridge and could not even apply the front brake with the ABS. It was so slick that the wheel would hardly roll again when the ABS engaged etc. I slowly backed up - shuffling backwards down the median towards the exit about 100 meters behind me - hoping no one would collect me before I got off.

I managed to make it to the stop sign - looking at the heavily banked left off camber turn in front of me to take me on the secondary road too....? It was literally that slick that I knew if I turned against the off camber I wouldn't be able to stand up.

Then as I was frantically thinking - what the @#$%&$# do I do now.... Larry pulled up. Hey you need help? Uhm... well... if me not knowing what I am going to do means help then - sure do.

I have a warehouse about 2 minutes up the road - empty with a boat in it - literally the other side of the highway - you can put the bike in it and figure out what you want to do... I followed him down the road - chugging in first with my feet down - down a bloody steep snowy hill to the gravel lane to his shop. We put the bike in, I got an invite to his house on the hill and...

Well I didn't make the party in NewYork.

But, I met Patty (his wife) Larry (him) Larry (his son) and two daughters who were kind of freaked out by the stranger and took off once I sat on the couch. Patty made me some soup and sandwich and a coffee before I could say "no" and they offered their house to make my plans.

A little bit about Larry - 50 years old - done okay for himself - Son Larry almost died (well he did technically die twice and was brain dead another time) after a car accident on the highway beside their house 2+ years ago. Larry is now blind (10% one eye) and deaf in one ear and can't smell a thing - he also has a number of other ailments - enlarged heart - pituitary etc. from the extended hospital stay. . A note on Larry the near death experience son... He is the nicest coolest most well adjusted kid from what I could tell and managed to make me think it couldn't be him that was in the accident because he got around so well and I couldn't even tell. Funny cool and awesome guy - but he had Larry as a dad and well the whole family was just cool. No question. Big time skiers so we hit it off. And, he was willing to drive my bike in the back of his pickup into the city and drop it off. I couldn't impose like that as it was a 6 hour round trip for him and would have put me at the party about 11:00.... Or drive me back a few hours toward home... I couldn't ask for more help at this time of the night anyway as I had to get home the next night. I would have to see Kenny and the boys later.

Anyway, he got me to a hotel with the plan of calling the next day to come and pick me up at ether 9:00 or 12:00 as he had lots to do - depending on the road ice or snow. I made the best of my quiet night in the Scranton Comfort Inn with a nod to "The Office" which did add some humor to the night.

Snow stopped overnight - but it got cold -7c. And, we still had to figure out how to get the bike out of the shop and up the hill - they had 4 inches of snow that night and in places near over 8 inches. We met and conversed a bit about life in general and then I got suited up. Larry plowed a path for me up the hill... I got a good run - as much as I could given the about 90 degree right hander at the bottom of the hill.... and just barely made it to the top with a good light throttle and coasting so as not to bin it. On the highway and home. The rest is pretty simple really, simple and cold, with no snow until Fort Erie and well I did have a horrendous head wind for about 5 hours of the trip so that was not fun but not bad comparatively.

I know I don't have to say it but biking is so very cool. From the old lady in the diner who told me she used to ride all the time on her Harley and to be careful, to the guy who came over to give me the heads up on the weather in the Poconos, to Larry giving up his weekend to take care of me. Very cool indeed.

Gear: REVIT Cayenne Pro, Scorpion EXO400 Neon, Sidi Waterproof Discovery's (All worked flawlessly)

I have to put in a note about the Scorpion Visor... it is the first "no-fog" visor I have ever used with a factory coating. I have used a stick on version at the Isle of Man but it was cumbersome and distorted the view. This visor and coating that Scorpion has rocked. There were only a few times when I changed temp quickly that I had a little fog on the bottom and a quick crack of the visor cleared it out. +1 for that visor... In those conditions it gave me one less thing to think about.

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