Sunday, September 26, 2010

10,000 Mile Milestone

When I left the house this morning I thought it would be sometime later this week that I'd see myself crossing the 10,000 mile mark on the BV, not at all thinking that I'd turn it over from all 9's later this afternoon. I headed north toward Scranton along the back roads with no particular destination in mind. I remembered when I got to Pittston that just yesterday I posted here about being out on the bike with short pants and a tee shirt and commenting about how the weather doesn't at all abide by the seasons, and I stopped there to take a contrasting picture of myself today clad in long pants, a flannel shirt, and a jacket.

When I got into West Scranton I headed east on Lackawanna Avenue and headed down into Steamtown. It wasn't until I'd parked the scooter to blab a little on the phone that I noticed that the line of old locomotives that used to grace the parking lot was gone entirely. I sure hope they were moved inside to be worked on and not just to keep all of the good stuff in the fee required area of the park. Why do I so effortlessly suspect the Fed of having moved them inside the complex just to squeeze an extra dime out of us?

At least they had one steam engine up and running complete with the bells and whistles that allow me to close my eyes and remember when an occasional iron horse still ran through downtown Wilkes-Barre, sometimes on a Sunday morning when dad was driving grandpa to the church where he was the organist and I went along for the ride. The very best of those Sundays were the ones when I got to see a train and chomp a still warm slice of rye bread from the bakery on Market Street.

From Steamtown it was back to the house for a lunch of haddock and halušky, and then a cat nap before running over to the school for a short ceremony. It was after that when I glanced at the odometer and realized that the big rollover was well within reach and after I thought about the weather forecast for the next few days I knew that if I didn't do it today it might not be till Thursday or so that I'd be able to reach the milestone. And so I headed for the hills, quite literally running up a road that climbs a mountain and heads out to a section of the boonies not all that far removed from the hustle and bustle of the city. I completed the circuit that brought me back to the foot of the mountain from where I'd made my ascent, glanced at the odometer, and promptly ran right back up the mountain to make the same run again and put me darn near close to the big turnover.

It was with a modicum of calculation and a good degree of luck that I managed to drop the kickstand exactly on the 10,000 mile mark in a place where stopping to get some pictures of the happy occasion would be easy. Not only did I land off the road as the dials turned over to the exact number, but I managed to do it in a pretty spot with some flowers in the background too!

And here it is! At 3:50 PM I completed my first 10,000 miles on the BV! The inset shows the first picture I ever took of the odometer when the scooter was just a kid.

At about 65 miles per gallon, it took around 154 gallons to get me here. In a few weeks I'll celebrate the third anniversary of the BV's homecoming. I don't know if 10,000 miles in three years is a little or a lot of riding compared to the average two wheeling bear's travels, but for me it was just perfect!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

First Autumn Ride

If you saw my last entry about the last ride of summer, there I was last weekend in jeans and a flannel shirt.  Ironically, here I am for the first long ride of the fall, but in short pants and a tee shirt.  I swear when I was a kid the seasons knew their times and places.  Back then it seemed that summer and its oppressive heat ended on that last day of summer vacation, and when school started the next morning, the temperatures were in the 50's where they were supposed to be and I was wearing a jacket.  It wasn't too many years ago that I remember taking a picture of a lone rose blooming on the bush at the foot of the back stairs two weeks before Christmas. I'm ready for autumn to get here with the colored leaves and all that, and for it to stick around already!

I set out this morning when the girls, both of whom are here for the weekend, were still in bed.  By the time I'd gotten ten miles out of the city that first cup of coffee was ready to escape and it was while tending to that that I decided where I'd head for the remainder of the morning before scooting to mom's and dad's for lunch.  I ended up having the breakfast snack I'd picked up on the potty break in a cemetery somewhere between Glen Lyon and Mocanaqua that I visit now and then simply because it's wonderfully peaceful there and a nice stop on my way south.

When I got to Mocanaqua I crossed the river to Shickshinny and retraced part of the route I took last weekend.  I'd remembered passing by a boat launch access road last weekend, but I'd been rolling too fast then to stop because the traffic was somewhat heavy and the road kind of appears out of nowhere.  Today, though, I had US11 to myself and I noticed the access road with plenty of time to slow down and make the right turn.  There were a good number of boat trailers there with it being such a beautiful day and all.  The sun was shining, the river was calm with only a breeze stirring the surface gently, and the only thing missing was the color show on the trees which were still mostly green.  I plan to head back when the oranges and reds pop out because the setting will be perfect for some delicious autumn pictures.

I was going to make mention of "Indian Summer" up there and then didn't in case there are some who'd lament that I didn't call it "Native American Summer," but then, after writing Mocanaqua and Shickshinny, it doesn't make much of a difference because the Indian heritage of the valley is inescapable with the Susquehanna running its length, punctuated by places bearing the names that its original citizens gave them.  Though my ancestors all came from Europe in the late 1800s and early 1900s there's a warm connection to the valley's native citizens who forged the trails which are now our main roads.  When I'm out in the middle of nowhere on the cycle enjoying the natural beauty of this little piece of the planet I sometimes imagine that it's not all that different than it was a few hundred years ago when the valley's original settlers savored the same sights that grace my own eyes now.

Between then and now, when I'm miles from the house with nothing around except what God Himself made, only my horse is a little different.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Last Ride of Summer

I know already that this is going to be a brutally busy week and that my riding time is going to be more or less limited to the daily work commute.  Autumn will arrive on Thursday.  Thus it was that my ride today became the last official long ride of Summer 2010.

I set out heading south on US11 with no particular terminus in mind.  The air was cool enough to warrant a flannel shirt over my tee, and nobody with whom I was sharing the road seemed to be in a ridiculous hurry to get anywhere which kept me relaxed and enjoying every turn of the tires.  Well, that was until I noticed that I was being followed by a state police car.  Even when I'm not doing anything foolish or illegal, those guys unnerve me so when I saw him back there I turned into the riverside park developed by the electric company to make the area around the nuclear power plant less ominous looking.  Those flowers hide the twin cooling towers so perfectly!

I gave Mr. State Trooper a bit of a head start and then pointed the front wheel south again to head toward Berwick which would be the next populated place with a name that I know.  On my way I caught sight of a long trailer with cartoon characters painted on the side.  The blue monkey, Shrek, and the little South American girl wouldn't have stopped me, but Sponge Bob made me double back for some pictures!

Once I hit Berwick I had to decide whether to turn back or keep going.  Berwick was as far as I'd gone south on 11 in the past and I knew Bloomsburg was next in line.  When I saw a sign indicating that it was a mere 12 more miles I figured I'd go for it.  The sky was cloudy, but the clouds weren't dark and it was still early.   I got to Bloom, as the college kids call it, in little time and while rolling down their Main Street I noticed a sign indicating that Danville was only another 9 more miles.  I'd thought for a few years about taking the scooter there someday.  Today would turn out to be that day.

Danville is the home of the order of nuns who taught me in elementary school.  The grounds of their mother house are beautifully kept and on a typical day the stillness in the air there hovers about the place like a whispered prayer.  It was there to which I'd hoped to take the bike someday, perhaps to visit the few old gals who might remember me, but today wasn't the day to knock on the door and linger in conversation.  I'd begun to get tired between Bloomsburg and Danville and didn't want to tarry for long.  So it was that I visited the sisters who couldn't strike up some chit-chat - the ones in the cemetery.

I walked the rows and found some of my former teachers, and a few relatives.  I remembered my life all those years ago when, "Yes, Sister," and "No, Sister," were the order of the day.  How simple life was then, rich in a simplicity that I wish I could have appreciated when it was all around and about me and growing up was just a vision with which I toyed.  There are times when I'm in the front of my classroom when I wish I could somehow get my kids to stop and savor where they are instead of being in such a blooming hurry to grow up.

And that, I guess, is what makes riding this scooter the joy to me that it is.  Somehow when I'm on that saddle my spirit returns for a time to those days when my biggest worry was that they might be serving "tobacco soup"  (tomato soup with rice cooked in it) in the cafeteria and that the nun would make me eat every last drop of it.  If I could trade my worries now for a big ol' pot of that gruel I would.  I'd chug the whole pot down and not spill a drop of it.

So long, Summer!  I'm going to miss you.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Back at It

With my vacation days dwindling in late August I did a number of short and moderate rides as often as appointments and setting up the classroom would allow, each time wondering if it might be my last ride of Summer '10. I visited the usual old haunts and a few more distant places totally enjoying the freedom of the open road with its abundance of opportunity for introspection and soul searching. Not that I discovered nor encountered anything new in my own head, but it was nice to visit with myself just the same. Soon enough the leaves will put on their color show and then tumble to the ground, but for now I'm still savoring the green with which Spring was heralded and Summer was enrobed, trying to keep Summer's sweetness with me even as I begin to lament the eventual arrival of Winter's gloom and darkness.

School began two weeks ago and I was fortunate enough to have bike weather the whole time although this week isn't promising to be as nice. Not only have I been happy with being able to come and go on the scooter, but so far my days have been blessed with wonderful experiences with a great bunch of new kids and my kids from last year's classes whom I'll teach again this year at the next level. This is my 28th year with junior high school aged kids and call me crazy, but I still love it! Here I am complete with dress shirt and tie in my special half sized scooter parking space.

I greeted the weekend with an evening ride on Friday after a picnic style get-together at the school. The air was cool and crisp after the sun went down and the ride was brisk and refreshing.

And yesterday, Saturday, I took my longest scooter ride ever to visit my baby at college. It was a 174 mile round trip and taking it has me itching now to do one of my typical Somerset trips next summer which is 240 miles one way. I'm still skeptical that a "little" 250cc scooter is designed to be pushed that far and hard, but I was very pleased that it took to the highway yesterday with as much gusto as the Neon does. The cool air was almost intoxicating and the route I took was quite relaxing. Combined with a splendid visit with my little girl and lunch at a Chinese buffet, the day was next to perfect!

A quick stop at Harvey's Lake to snag a pretty picture.

I'm hoping to take the BV to school most days this year unless there's a threat of precipitation, frozen anything on the ground, or temperatures below freezing. I'll let you know how that works out!