Saturday, February 23, 2013

Bubbler GPS

The grips of winter won't win.  Nope, can't stand it, but I refuse to be defeated by mother nature.  This winter has been full of excitement, but the siren song of asphalt grows every day now.

This winter has been dedicated to riding, but in a slightly different way than in years past.  I have been working on a new android application to use in the coming year.  Google Latitude just didn't cut it for me on the trips last year.  I wanted more.

The kind of riding I do gives me lots of time to think.  A fair bit of those mental wanderings were spent on how to improve the Latitude experience and tailor such a tool to my needs.

I am proud to say that the first version is just about there.  I have written an application that is lightweight and portable, but has many of the features that faded in and out of my consciousness.  The tool is called Bubbler GPS, and it is just about to be relased.

For the last month, I have been fortunate to have recruited 13 fantastic people, from 6 countries and all walks of life, with a wide technical skill set to provide feedback on Bubbler GPS.  I couldn't be happier with their findings.

Like Google Latitude and Spot devices, this application leverages SpotWalla.com to store trip data.  I have added some twists however.  No longer will users be limited by green and yellow flags with orange dots to communicate with their loved ones.  No longer will trip documentation be a head scratching experience of "where did I stop for gas".  The aim was to change all that, and I believe that with the extensive help and experience of the SpotWalla.com staff, and the pilot members, we are close to achieving that goal.

Bubbler GPS can document fuel stops, rest stops, meals, sightseeing, POI/bonus locations and even the occasional run-in with johnny law if you choose.  There is still some refinement that needs to occur, but it is looking like March will be the official release on Google Play Store.

There will be 2 versions. Lite is intended for new users to gain familiarity with the basic functionality.  It is full featured, but only supports being off line for 30 minutes when saving track and message information.  The moderately priced pro version, will allow users to stay offline for 11 days of 20 hour a day travel.

Bubbler GPS has 4 guiding principles:
1.  Security.  I had been a professional data security consultant for 10 years.  Those lessons were brought to this project.  All transmissions are encrypted that may go over the internet, and absolutely no history is maintained in the application itself once it is transferred to SpotWalla.com.

2.  Battery life.  Apps that kill your phone in a few hours have no place in my world.  Bubbler GPS was designed with the all day traveller in mind.  Whether you do you traveling on 2 feet, 2/4/18 wheels, or you cross the waterways of the world, I had you in mind when this was built.

3.  Useability.  The intent is understand what travelers need, and provide a tool that can work for nearly all of them.  It has enough details for the techies of the world, but comes ready to run right out of the box for those who have more to do than fiddle with their phone.

4.  Support.  While I cannot promise that I can answer every questions to each persons satisfaction, users can be guaranteed that I will respond quickly, and to the best of my ability.

Here's a small preview of what it can do:




We have set up a Facebook page, as well as a website at http://www.BubblerGPS.com so people interested can keep track of developments and release dates.

This is an exciting time, and I am looking forward to improving the travel experiences of users in 2013.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

2012 Team Lyle Garden State 8hr Rally

After waiting for a month for my first rally packet to arrive, the email from the Team Lyle Garden State 8hr Rally did not disappoint. LD porn for yours truly.  There was a well presented 32 page PDF of the rally book, as well as a separate PDF for the rules.  Bonus location files in both .csv and  .xls formats where also in there making my job immensely easier.  Package delivered 4 days before the rally.


Let the games begin.

First things first.  I knew the waypoint names wouldn't work for my style and GPS so the first thing I did was rename them using a convention of the first letter of the given name of the bonus, followed by the 2  digit page number, followed by the point value / 100, followed by a letter to indicate it was part of one of 4 threads. I take no credit for the system.  Many who have come before me have laid out those nuggets of wisdom for noob's like me.  That took SUSMIS002 (High Point State Park Monument) and made it   s13101t.  Page 13 - 10,100 points - Top to Bottom Thread. I could then easily convert back and forth between the rally book and my system.  Only problem was when rally HQ would communicate a clarification to SUSMIS002 (which there were only 2, they had clearly done their homework) it made it a little tough to find without re-reading 32 pages of bonus listings.  Fortunately, at the scoring table where it counts, the score sheet had the page numbers, which made scoring a breeze.

For 2 months prior, I assumed the big point winner would be Cape May, NJ to High Point State Point, NJ.  A ridiculously tight time frame from a Branchburg, NJ HQ, but doable.  The rally packet confirmed my suspicions.  It only had a 30,000 thread bonus however, which ended up not making my top 5 routes in the end.  In a way, I am quite glad that it didn't.  My sole intent was to enter and finish my first rally while seeing some bikes and riders who shared a similar passion. I also needed to figure out how much extra time the bonus documentation took for future rallys.  Cranking out 438 Jersey miles with 2 bonus stops wouldn't gain me that experience.  55,000 points would have made it a head scratcher.

To me, the way the bonus locations were laid out screamed 1 and only 1 route.  Jim Abbot, who ended up winning the rally, seemed to be bumping into me quite a bit during the day as did a few others.  The rally post-mortem with Jim seemed to indicate our planned routes only diverged by a few locations.  I came pretty close with a second route which included the graves thread as a bonus, but it was still 6-8,000 points less than the route I chose and the "doability" factor was a bit less in a more congested part of the state.  5 or 6 more small bonuses in the Old Bridge to Jackson Twp area would have been a complete free-for-all and there would have been several competitive routes in play.  Again, I just may not have seen the alternates and this is only my opinion.  That would be my only suggestion for changes to future versions of this rally, which I really hope Anthony and Kate continue.  They set the bar pretty high with their first.

So, when it was all said and done, my route, which basecamp said would take me 8:17 to complete, looked like the dark blue route below.  Rally HQ is indicated by the House at 6 O'Clock in the picture




Bonus distributions were like this:




Rally day.  6:30 am 10/13/2012.  28 degrees F on my deck.   Rally start is 45 minutes away at 70mph with a rider meeting at 8am.

Time to pop my rally cherry, but only after wrapping said cherry in as much electrically powered clothing as my stator can power.

"Ah, that was a refreshing ride" says your raconteur, as he pulls up to the gas station a mile away from rally HQ at 7:30am.  The display on his trusty Tiger 1050 said  80 miles to E on the lightly frosted screen.  "$@#*!" says he in several variations, in his ever professional and calm manner as today is only about staying calm and having fun.

Even though I live about 15 miles from the NJ state line, I always forget that Jersey has that ridiculous "pumping engineer" law.  Gas stations almost never open early, especially on frosty saturday mornings.  No matter how many times I slide my credit card into the pump, it still says "card reader not active" in its' stupid blue scrolling manner.  I have to get to the riders meeting, my plan for a 1 fill day is now shot to hell.  I will now need 2 gas stops on the clock, and my schedule is already tighter than a bull's ass. I need every drop of 2 tanks.  I can go 220 miles on interstate, but economy with this route today down places like "Old Mine Road", and up to the "Highest Point in NJ" wouldn't exactly make old Al Gore proud.

I am going to refrain from a blow by blow of the ride itself.  North West New Jersey is a beautiful place, I ride the high point area several times a year and was stoked to do the same in a rally.

My favorite historical bonus of the trip was my final bonus, worth 3500 points, which was big in this rally:
"World War I ended here by Warren Harding
(a tiny monument marks the spot where on July 1921 President Harding interrupted his golf game to sign the papers that officially ended WWI)"


Below, is a gorgeous picture I took of that location, which exemplifies the beauty, serenity and grandeur of the Garden State.

Then, there is a little perspective of the same shot.  Something tells me the "actual" location may be in section D row 4 of the PC Richard & Son parking lot.  Row 3 is where they put Jimmy Hoffa of course.



And some random other favorites from the day.

Starting in the nosebleed section, row 6 I think?




These are the riders who started in the rows in front of me.  Row 1 sported a couple 2 up on a GS  from Quebec.


Everyone knows dees' geys'

For whom the bells toll


The only giant's I like from Jersey are the one's who ride and offer to hold my flag.  No, I do not have 12 inch wheels on my Tiger.




The little gas oversight at the start of the day cost me in the end.  I got back to HQ at 4:52, my plan was 4:57 as drop dead time because the goal was to finish, not DNF.  You can lose 3 minutes in Jersey in the blink of an eye if 2 people get into a bird flipping contest out the window of their Camaro's.  Extra fuel stop cost me approx 4 minutes.  I needed 7 minutes to get my next to last bonus of SOMMIS010, the Hindu Temple.  I deleted the bonus from my route at 4:10pm so I could stay on the mostly reliable, and always fast rt 287.   Said bonus was worth 2,100 points.  I scored 71,100 points.  Jim Abbot, whom I appreciate letting me bend his ear afterwards, scored 73,200 for the win in the inaugural Team Lyle Garden State 8hr rally. I'll take a second out of 30 any day of the week though.

It's all good.

I won't rerun the coulda-woulda-shoulda's.

Second's not the first loser.

Anyway... I think the takeaway is that rally's have a little sumptin'-sumptin' to do with planning and execution.  I will have a full tank next year if I have to hire a sherpa with a jug to meet me at the starting line.

Congratulations to Jim Abbot on both planning and executing.  Congratulations to the RM's Anthony Mills and Kate Johnson for putting on one hell of show.  Well organized, lots of prizes, lots of riders, fantistic bonus locations.

If the rally master and mistress are reading this, please sign me up for next year.  I can't wait.

Rider #25


Monday, September 24, 2012

2013 Ride

So, I didn't think I would start obsessing about the 2013 ride quite this early, but it really started a year ago.  There are 2 frontrunners at the moment.

1.  Alaska
2.  California

Alaska is a bike longevity thing.  Ideally I would do this in about 3 years when Princess is a bit older and I can better explain a 2 week jaunt.  Problem is in 3 years, the Tiger, which should be a perfect candidate for a trip of this nature, will likely be beyond 100K and I am unsure how wise that would be.

California is currently the leading candidate, but as 2012 showed, that means slightly less than nothing when it comes to what is actually ridden.

I like the band Little Feat, and saw them a several times.  I have wanted to go from Tuscon to Tucumcari, Tehachapi and Tonopah for 25 years.  If I mix the order up a bit, that's a solid ride of 1184  Now that, my dear friends, is karma slapping me in the cheek with a white glove.

Dear Karma,
I'm Willin.



Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Deer Avoidance

This was an email to LDRiders list I penned.  May as well store it here.

Sun Tzu said "Know your opponent".  He just said it with funny looking 'scribblins.

Some things to be aware of:  That corn field you pass is the least of your worries.  YOU see them in fields, but densities tend to run at dramatically lower levels where people can, and do, hunt the animals. This tends to be more typical behavior in rural areas.   Your area may be different, but this list tends towards people who leave their own neighborhood on occasion.

Depending on where you live and which biologist you believe, optimal deer densities "should" run 15-30 deer per square mile in temperate climates with sufficient vegetation.

Here where I live in PA for example, Valley Forge National Park, which is basically in the the city of Philadelphia, supports approx 241/sq mile (1277 deer)  http://www.nps.gov/vafo/parkmgmt/white-tailed-deer.htm


In the forests of the Allegheny where riders and cagers alike tend to be most aware because it is "deer country", the numbers approach 5/sq mile.  (http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=587865&mode=2)

This study (http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1029&context=ewdcc6) broke down the vehicle/deer rendezvous frequency by a number of factors in Virginia.  Interestingly (to me) 50% of all strikes occurred when dark on "Lighted Highway's".  Something tells me it is not a deer's fondness for streetlamps that was at play with the study.  We don't have many streetlights around here in cornfields and forests.

Deer movement biology also plays a significant role and we are getting to that time of year people.  In the same study above, October nearly triples the chance of strike  (13.87% of monthly strikes), while November (25.91%) has it go up by nearly a factor of 5.  They are looking for love in all the wrong places.

Everyone has, or should have, their own strategy. After a number of years pursuing these buggers and studying them up close and personal on crisp October mornings, I have my own thoughts which may draw great derision, but have worked for me after a couple unscheduled pit stops at the body shop back in the day.  YMMV

1.  If there is a deer in the road, and you ponied up for ABS, see if it works.  Practice makes perfect.

2.  Deer evolved over millions of years as prey animals.  It's pretty rare for a prey animal to just stand there and let the predator git 'em.  If they are standing in the road in my lane, I aim for them (where they were) during my abs checkout.  In my opinion, it is much more likely they will move than stay stationary. I don't know the actual odds, I made up my own at 90-10. Whether they move left or right has a number of factors beyond your control, odds are 50-50 regardless.  Guess wrong and you are out of position and luck.  While I am not advocating running them over, I personally believe my chances are greater in the odds of fight vs flight than the coin toss of left and right.  You have a better chance of improving your sense of smell then matching reflexes.

3.  I am most fearful of deer in the opposite lane.  The tendency is to run towards their bedding area.  They don't wear a tag which lets you know which side the Holiday Inn is on.

4.  Previous comment about head up vs down has merit in my book.  That can change pretty quick though. I am still on my brakes, but not to an ABS checkout level.

5.  The deer you hit back in the day was not stupid just standing there.  They appear (to me) to have a hard time judging speeds that do not occur in nature from predators. Deer are fast, but rely more-so on their agility.  A dog will catch a deer every time in a race in the open.  Deer have very little stamina.  They survive by playing the angles game with tremendous reflexes and evasiveness with an unbelievable initial burst of speed. wait...Wait....WAIT...NOW! and they hope you blow right by them as they make their turn, not leaving the predator the time to react to it, thus wasting the predators energy by passing and requiring a 180 to resume pursuit.  Unfortunately, you blow through them when you are 30mph in excess of what their experience has taught them and catch them at the second wait.  If you get the chance some day, go out in the woods and sit there where there are a lot of deer, watch how they react when dogs or a bobcat come through.  Unless they smell them from far away, in my experience they wait for the predator to make the first move, putting them off balance.  For NFL fans, see old Barry Sanders highlight reels, and yes, it is OK to make the Chris Berman sound effects.

6.  When on the motorcycle I use my size to my advantage if I can.  I am only 25-30% as wide a target on the bike as I am in my truck.  Try and maximize that advantage, because you don't have the protection advantage of a cage, that and braking are your safety net.  Turn your side to them and now you are as wide as a car and have doubled or tripled your surface area without the protection.  (I saw some of your bikes at the meet, you may need to factor up a little...)

7.  I dislike following the rabbit closely.  I prefer soft carnage I can see, rather than spinning soft carnage mixed with spinning steel carnage I can't react to until the last second.

8.  Except for mature bucks (big antlers) and yearling males (tiny antlers) in the fall, deer are very rarely alone.  Don't watch the one that already crossed, watch his/her kid(s)/friend(s)/lover(s) following in their footsteps.

9.  Sometimes, stuff happens. ATGATT

Be careful out there.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Westward Ho!

Well, the time has come.  After many iterations of this years adventure and 9 months of planning, I have settled on one.  Or to be more specific, I have left heading westward with a very specific route I may or may not hold to.  This trip started off as laps around the great lakes, then morphed into a 6 waypoint trip.  Bethlehem, PA - Mackinaw Bridge - Lemmon, SD, Beartooth Hwy MT, Yellowstone NP WY, Grand Teton NP WY and a whole bunch of receipts from states across the country.  As noted in a previous post, I found the IBA National Parks Tour challenge and it's off to the races.  Route has been adjusted, now it is up to Me, my Tiger, and Garmin to get it done.



If you would like to follow my travels from Aug 11-21, you may do so via the map below.





Plan looks something like this.



Wednesday, August 8, 2012

NPT Rebel Edition - Ride Report

It's hot, but it's better than work.  I cannot recall how many times this rang through my helmet, but it was true.  Every ride seems to have a mantra for me, and this one was singular - HYDRATE.  3 days, 2500 miles, temps in the upper 90's. Bring it.

July 27, 2012, departure time 03:00.  First leg to Kings Mountain National Park, SC followed most of the same route that my saddlesore 1000 did in March.  78-81 with 77 being the new wrinkle.  Twist the throttle and get gas when miles to empty says 0.  No blasting zone headaches or snarl this time.  At 500 miles it felt like I had just left.  This new setup makes a world of difference.  Next up was Cowpens NB SC which was an on the fly addition. Unremarkable, except for a neat obelisk out front.  States=7 

Next stop was Carl Sandberg NHS Flatrock, NC.  I would like to have sat down and had a chat with old Carl.  First off, parking area was 1/3 mile downhill from the house where the stamp was located.  Temp was 95 already and humid as a sock.  I thought of this as an Iron Butt Rally bonus and the howls from the competitors which would ensue were that the case.  Turns out this is the only poet with a national park and that is because he was Lincoln's biographer, among many other endeavors.  I loved his most famous of quotes.  He found his place of loneliness in this homestead.  I would move in tomorrow.  Carl should have ridden on 2 wheels as it has the same effect, but with more scenery.  Better..that's is a judgement call. States = 8



Next up was some winding through western NC via Ashville, the home of my favorite musician Warren Haynes.  On to the Blue Ridge Parkway for the first time in many years.  It was raining, but it was still beautiful.  Traffic stopped dead in the street around a curve within eyesight of Great Smoky Mountains National Park visitors center.  Nice rack.


Grabbed a hotel near the GA, TN, AL border with storms rolling in and a mere 15 minutes from my next park.  Grabbed a burger and hit the sack.  Great day, and yes, way better than work.


Day 2,. July 28, 2012.  No need for an early start since I am 15 minutes from Chickamauga Battlefield, GA so had a banana and wheels were turning at 7:30.  Too bad the visitors center doesn't open until 8:30.  Had a great chat with some scout leaders and one of their kids about all kinds of things waiting for the doors to open.  Human contact was a welcome respite not being on the clock.  Cannons out front were neat, I am not feeling these southern battlefields though.  Better than St Gaudins though.  States= 9

Russell Cave, AL was a sleeper park for me.  Ride in was very enjoyable and wished I had time to see the cave.  I had no idea indigenous history went back that far.  Road in was really nice country twisty road and a nice counterpoint to the slab.  Also stamped for Little River Canyon NP and back on the road.  I was getting the feeling that I was not going to make my plan of Mammoth cave in KY today.  Unplanned 1/2 hr here, 1/2 hr there adds up when you only have 9 to play with.  I am loving the ride and really don't care.  Kentucky is hittable from home at a later date if it doesn't work out.  States = 10

Mississippi is hot as hell, but the best leg of the trip was here.  The Natchez Trace Parkway down towards Tupelo was just fantastic.  Not a car on the road.  Just me, my tiger and the turns.  Stopped at the visitors center and stamped for Brices Crossroads as well.  Tupelo National battlefield, another stamp.  I should feel more pride and interest here but I don't.  I am glad I am seeing these battlefields, but growing up daytripping to Gettysburg, Valley Forge, Washington's Crossing, Independence Hall and the Liberty bell seems to have calloused my sense of battlefield amazement.  I want to come back and run Natchez Trace again some day.  The next few sweltering hours were spent concocting a route that would take me all the way down the blue ridge parkway and onto the full Natchez Trace Parkway experience.  Someday rabbit, some day.  States = 11


Did I mention it's hot?  Are you sure?  Because it is blistering out here.  I am chugging water via the camelback and it's making it's way through the system on schedule.  3 litres by mid-day down and a partial refill of the camelback.  It's ok moving, dreadful at stops.  I recall 97 degrees being the highest number I saw, and I saw it several times.

40 miles or so from Shiloh National Battfield, TN, things don't seem right inside the helmet.  Decisions are coming a little slower then they should and there is a lack of confidence in my GPS for no reason.  I struggle over stopping for gas or pushing it with the yellow light on.  My riding seems fine, but that's what drunk drivers say too.  I stop at a gas station about 5 miles from Shiloh and finally there is gas.  87, 87 and 87 the pump says.   This sucks.  I poke at it a bit with my credit card trying to find the slot and there is none.  I have to go old school and pay inside I guess.  I thoroughly enjoy the blast of air conditioned air inside and strip off the jacket and wander the store for a bit and grab 4 bottles of water.  I have to pee as well.  What the hell is going on with me?  If I am taking a leak, I can't be dehydrated.  Confusion is getting a little worse, concerning, but not panicking me.  I put in $10 of the low test gas with trepidation, chug a cold water and refill the camelback with the others with slightly shaky hands.  Did I mention it's hot?

Make it to Shiloh, park the bike, strip off the clothes.  Must...get....stamp...  I feel like shit, legs are like jelly and now I am changing from concern to worry.  Walked into the big building, no stamp, have to go to the bookstore "over there".  I walk around a bit in the air seeing if that will clear my head to no avail.  Hit the bookstore for the stamp, have to pee again.  I am NOT dehydrated.  Chug more water from the fountain. Thoughts of sunstroke creep in, but that doesn't seem to fit but not sure if I can trust my faculties.  I am now foggy at best and just lay down in the grass behind my bike trying hard to assess my situation.  It was hard work thinkin'.  My legs were rubbery in my stamp quest.  It was high heat and sun at approx 2pm.  I could not continue my adventure, but there had to be a reason.  I was in an unsafe condition to operate any motor vehicle, let alone my prized steed.  I am not one to accept defeat, pretty much ever.  I told myself that I was in fact defeated and that I had to move on with a plan to get back to normal, then home.  I felt it becoming a survival situation and started making plans to ask passers by for assistance.

Ding!

Kid walks by with a brownie or something in hand.  My that looks...  SONOFABITCH!!!  I didn't eat at all.  The banana 7-8 hours ago was not cutting it.  All the symptoms of low blood sugar snapped into place.  No I am not diabetic, yes, I have been tested.  No, this is not a common occurrence.  I pretty much struggle to get to my feet  and stumble to the bike that is 10 feet away, brushing the ants off of me.  I HATE ANTS.  I opened the top box and inhaled a melted protein bar and a Planters Energy bar.  The downward spiral stopped while I was still chewing the second one.  Why not, wack a third one, this time the heart healthy Planters one with the cranberries.  (I love them!).  Lay back down again, this time hopefully not in the ants. Were there really ants before? 30 minutes or so later, I felt like a new man.  Not perfect, but able to safely continue.  My efforts of the last 2 hours to stave off my (lack of) dehydration were keeping me active back and forth to the air conditioned stalls.  I will admit publicly that I was scared.  I was loving the ride and never once thought to eat.  This is a stupid mistake that could have ended in tragedy.  Hopefully that is a lesson learned permanently. 10:00, 12:00 and 14:00 for protein bars from now on when on the bike whether I want them or not.  Check.  Oh yeah, States = 12

Hey stupid, it is SAFE, long distance motorcycling...

All hopes of mammoth cave are now shattered obviously, but I decide to press on and get there anyway.  I90 and I65 presented me with the fastest riding I have ever done.  Hammer lane was 90+ the WHOLE WAY.  Slow lane was 80.   Made mammoth in quick time feeling like a new man.  I ran across a military guy riding his wing from Buffalo that morning to Mississippi that night.  We talked for a while and wished him luck.  When he asked if it was hotter there, I just laughed and told him at least the sun will be down when you get there.   I had been thinking BBQ for 2 days, now's my shot.  Local's pointed me to "Big Moose's BBQ" in Glasgow, KY.  I am SO glad that they did.  Have you ever had Indian Stew at Big Moose's BBQ?  Run, don't walk, dear reader.  Ribs were smoked and sauced and just what the Dr ordered.  I want more indian stew.  Talked about my ride for a while with the owner in hopes he would part with the recipe or at least some hints.  No dice.

I grabbed a Days Inn in Mammoth for a deeply discounted rate somehow.  Great adventurous, though almost disastrous day, but not many miles on the clock.  In retrospect, 587 miles is my 4th highest day all time prior to this trip.  Amazing what a little experience and modifications can do to one's perspective.  Original plan was to hit Mammoth Cave at 4:59 and keep going back through Ohio, and stop there for the night for a short jaunt home on Sunday.  That ain't happenin now hot stuff is it?  I will just have to hit it in the AM.

Now I lay me down to...recalculating...ZZZZZ.  I awoke with a start, GPS on chest,  02:00.  Recurring dream that I am supposed to pick up my daughter from school and I forgot.  I have never forgotten, not once, not even been late.  I have learned over the years that this dream means I have a flaw in my plan, whatever the plan of the moment may be.  Recalculating...  This Mammoth Cave plan is a loser if I am to make it home before midnight. The little screen clicked around and the options became fluid.  I was awake.  Decision made to abandon Mammoth Cave.  I really did not want to abandon Kentucky though.  It is an awkward place to get to from my area, even though it is not too far away as the crow flies.  Only other Kentucky option, and just barely in KY was Cumberland Gap National Park.  If I leave now, I can make it there for the opening...  Snapped out of bed and got the gear on and as George Thorogood and John Lee Hooker said, out the door I went.

Day 3,. July 29, 2012.  KY rt 2008 is dark at 3am.  Just sayin'.

Dawn broke to heavy fog which got heavier as I wound through the hills and dales of SW Kentucky.  It looked like beautiful country though.  Fog gathered heavier, heavier..  It never really got light, though the clock said it should be.  Finally arrived at Cumberland Gap KY shortly after 8am and sauntered inside for a stamp.  Ranger showed me where the stamps were and I looked at the real nice exhibits they had there.  Seems like one of the better visitors centers.

"You know, there is an event occurring right now that you really shouldn't miss", says the friendly ranger.  By now on this IBA National Parks Tour, I am becoming adept at deflecting the tour offers.  Again he pleads with me to listen.  "If you can just spare 30 minutes (I swallowed my laughter), you will see a site that people rarely see.  It happens to a lesser extent, but nothing like this morning" he says.

"30 minutes huh?" I quip.

"Yup, you NEED to go to the pinnacle.  This area was created by a meteor impact long ago.  You will be amazed what you see."  This guy is really into this.  Strippers, sunrises?  What pray tell awaits me on your scavenger hunt.

"It's pretty foggy dude, not sure if I will be able to see anything anyway"

"That's the point, you'll see.  Just do yourself a favor, leave the parking lot and go right and follow the signs for the pinnacle"

"30 minutes?"

"Tops.  Go now."

Park rangers are like George Washington apparently.  They cannot tell a lie.

video 



Thank you Iron Butt Association, and nameless ranger at Cumberland Gap National Park.  This site floored me.  Your adventure suggestions made this possible.  I do not believe it to be a sight I will forget.  The road up to the pinnacle was a blast as well.  Hairpin after hairpin.  Good training ground for the Beartooth Highway in 2 weeks, even though it did put a crimp in the schedule.  The reason it was so dark all morning until I broke through a few thousand vertical feet later, was that fog bank was so think and dense, it did not allow the light to penetrate.  I love mother nature, even if she does occasionally macerate and broil me.  This makes us even in my book. Allman Brothers Blue Sky played on the way up and  Johnny Cash's Sunday Morning Coming down on the descent.  My android conspired in my favor.  There could not have been a more eloquent DJ.  States=13

Back down and hit the highway and East bound and Down, the song from my saddlesore, was up next.  I am NOT making this up.  Giddyup.

My god is it beautiful.  That intersection of KY, VA and WV may be my new favorite place.  613-19 is one hell of a cruiser road with even better scenery.  

West Virgina is bigger than I thought.  

I am navigating by GPS waypoints provided by "Barb" on the NPT forum.  They are an absolute godsend.  Next waypoint is New River Gorge WV.  As I approached, I was taken off the highway.  OK.  Road got smaller.  OK.  Road condition got worse. Ok  Miles to go. ok?  This is odd.  At the end of this barely maintained road is this.  It's cool, though the strangest National Park visitors center to date.  The reason for the site is that there is no longer anything there, like Seinfeld, the show about nothing that was really something.  It is just an abandoned railway town.  I am glad that I went, even if it did cut into my time pretty severely.   The train which went through here switched from coal to diesel and the town immediately ceased to exist.  Lights out national park.  States = 14


Not only is West Virginia big, it is fast.  These drivers are posessed.  They can actually drive as well, much like the other states I have visited this trip.  Nothing like the northeast!

Now I was back to Maryland and the home stretch.  Traffic got bad and took a couple "wing it" detours to get over to 81 after sitting for a while nearly stopped in the sauna.

Garage door rolled up at 10pm.  Battery died in the GPS for about 30 miles, but still a great mileage day, and one I won't soon forget.





As the key moved my tiger into sleep mode, I in fact gave a muted rebel yell as I dismounted, and in the solitude that only home can give, smiled and said:

"More, More More"


States:  6 + 8 = 14
Parks = 13 + 13 = 26

Thursday, July 26, 2012

National Parks Tour - Rebel Edition

I am a son of the south.  I just happened to be born and raised a yankee, in Philadelphia, PA.  I still say yes maam and no sir unless I am speaking to children, much to the chagrin of the lady folk.  Sorry Miss Kathy... Dixie's colors flew above my dining room table as a child.  For all of her egregious faults which that flag may represent,  the people of the south are different than the one's which I call neighbor.  It's time for a visit.

I had the opportunity to live with my grandparents on a sand road in the back woods of South Carolina.  We spent a week there for Easter every year, but those 2 summers so long ago changed me in many ways.  The house was in the middle of a tobacco plantation, with the owners 4 acre hog pen 20 feet from my window.  My grandparents had a "garden" larger than most community parks where I grew up.  They were a self sufficient lot.  They received protein from the fruit of their hens, and occasional supplementary income from the prize money of the hot blooded males.   I shot bb guns with gusto and proved Newton's second law true more times than I can remember with the local songbird community.  I shot the 22, which I now have in my possession, quite a bit as well.  Though, I was sent back to bb land due to the minor levels of destruction on objects I thought were junk.  I met my first black folk.  They lived across the street in a house they built out of construction scraps.  There was a rusty coffee can over the makeshift chimney.  Peaches, the only other person within 5 miles of tobacco within 5 years of my age gave me a different perspective on life, as did her father Mack and the rest of the family.  He was a modern day share-cropper with an infinitely small percentage, as he used Mr Johnson's tractors, diesel and spray.  The man worked from sunup to sundown.  I knew because my grandfather got up every day at 3am for coffee and a pipe on the porch.  A porch no black man dare step upon. Though many came to call, all knew the unwritten rule of staying 2 feet from the bottom step. Oddly, it felt like a world of bi-directional respect, not of racism. Another time, another world.

Back to motorcycles.

IBA National Parks Tour.  That's how this article started.  I have 6 states down.  I have a strategy, time will tell if it is successful.  I care only about states and I care about the one's furthest away most.  PA, NJ, MD, WV, VA, OH and DC I am considering in the bag and can hit all of the above in a winter day-trip.  That gives me 13 I will consider done.  Barely 1/2 way to the 25 required.  I am leaving in 2 weeks for my trip out west.  Here's the rub on the NPT.  To get the stamp, you have to visit the center between 8-5, 9-4, sometimes smaller windows.  That makes planning crucial, and also makes the distances a bit of a challenge.  The windows for hitting these do not coincide with good mileage strategies.  What to do?  Well, time to head south and pick up some insurance.  Other side benefit is that I will get 2,000 miles or so on the oil and can send it away to see how the new 15w-50 is working out.

Did I mention the bike was out of commission since my northern excursion?  It's good to be back on 2 wheels.  I am hoping to visit the Carl Sandberg National Historic site.  It's off my route, but anyone known by the phrase "Who am I, where am I going and where have I been?" has to make my book right? 

You can follow along on spotwalla as this weekend plays out.