Friday, September 23, 2016

Major Milestone: 20,000 Miles!

The odometer read over 20,000 miles after my ride yesterday which I didn’t know I was taking when I left the house with no particular destination in mind.  It was simply one of those days that promised to be gorgeous from start to finish without a drop of precipitation anywhere in sight, cooler air temperatures, and sunlight aplenty to offset the breeze created by moving on two wheels through standing air.  I meandered here and there, changing my course as often as a girl changes outfits before an important date, and managed to make sure that I was somewhere safe to stop at when the big 20K rolled over from 19,999.9. 
As you can see, it was also my first jacket day even though technically it was still summer, albeit the very last day of it.  I enjoy stopping beside moving water whenever I can.  There’s something peaceful about a brook, creek, stream, etc. that’s moving along without a care in the world.  

I ended up in White Haven, and it was there, after consulting the odometer that I realized it would be a good day to make the milestone number of miles.  After that it was just a matter of deciding where to go and how to get there.  

Well, I didn’t decide it all at once.  This kind of haunting pic was made on a road I’d never taken before as I headed to Blakeslee.  It promised to lead to Lake Harmony and it did, but the lake wasn’t impressive enough to hold my interest more than a quarter of the way around it. 

The same road gave me this unique view of the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike which leads to where both my daughters live, though an hour apart from each other. 

Diuretics aren’t much fun when one is out riding.  Bathroom breaks are a necessity and here I am after taking one at the Wawa convenience store at Blakeslee Corners.  I picked up a huge brownie too, but didn’t get around to munching on it till I was back at the house.

Like a little kid, I’m still fascinated by heavy machinery doing its thing.  I paused at the red traffic light that controls the single lane of traffic that has to take turns here because of the construction in the other lane, and after snapping a few pics I looked up just in time to see the light going red again.  I wasn’t in any hurry, and nobody was behind me, so it didn’t matter.

I was still 20 miles out from rolling the odometer numbers to the new milestone, so I thought about where I might head so that I’d be close enough to the valley to be able to stop for the picture safely.  I road a bit more toward the Poconos and then turned around, headed back to Blakeslee Corners and then turned onto Route 115 north which would bring me back to the valley. 

The scenery when I take the back roads and byways is always worth taking in around here and whenever I could I stopped to get a picture of something I enjoyed seeing.  Here it was a stand of pines lined up like soldiers right beside the road. 

This “Pinchot State Forest” on a map makes one’s head spin.  It’s not a single area, but rather a whole bunch of different places not physically connected to the others.  I’ve been on roads where multiple signs welcome you to Pinchot State Forest, and then inform you maybe a half mile later that you’re leaving Pinchot State Forest.  And then after a few miles, the same thing happens.  Very odd indeed, but that’s Pennsylvania.

And here it is!  Twenty thousand miles, just a month shy of nine years from when the Piaggio came home with me for the first time.  I can honestly say that I’ve enjoyed every single turn of the tires on the BV!   In order to get to the spot where the odometer actually read the perfect 20,000 I rode about a half mile down a side road from Rte. 115, and then turned around to complete the mile where I knew I’d be safe to take the shots I took.

I was wearing a kind of goofy smug look of satisfaction as I snapped pictures to capture the joy of the moment. 

And I frolicked among the flowers at the nearby Bear Creek Cafe to add to the fun I was having from rolled the numbers over. 

After that it was down the mountain, back into the valley, with me wearing a huge grin the whole rest of the way. 

When I finally parked the bike under the deck I’d gone 11 miles into the next 10,000 miles that I hope to mark on the trusty old scooter.  Finding the perimeter of the continental United States to be 8,878 miles, I’ve gone over the equivalent number of miles twice!  Here’s hoping to do the perimeter of Eurasia next!  LOL!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Pitying the Hurried

“If you’re in such a hurry you should have left yesterday!” my favorite uncle used to exclaim whenever he was driving and some idiot came flying by at an unsafe speed, making it clear that he was a jerk with not enough time to get where he was going.  When I’m in the car and somebody cuts me off I don’t much give a rat’s ass, but on the scooter it pisses me off when somebody is riding my tail because I’m not going as fast as he’d like me to be moving.  

Unless I’m scurrying about in town to get somewhere in particular, when I’m on the bike I’m going nowhere and I’m not in any hurry to get there either.  I enjoy seeing what’s on either side of me while I’m scootering along.  I like taking in the smells, like yesterday when I was going past the Susquehanna Brewing Company and they were cooking a batch of wort on its way to becoming a delicious beer.  I enjoy a slow speed that makes it clear to myself that I’m living life and happy to be doing so, and I don’t want to be rushed along by somebody behind me who should have left sooner than he did to get where he’s going. 

It tends to piss me off that if I were in a tractor trailer or big dump truck going 25 miles an hour the fruitcake behind me would likely growl to himself but not likely do something stupid and unsafe like passing where passing isn’t allowed, yet seeing me on a scooter doing the same speed makes some folks itch to fly past me over a double yellow line with impunity.  If I’m Sunday riding, as I was literally today, and if I’m on a straight-away with at least a little bit of a shoulder to the road, I’ll gladly move as far to the right as I can and signal a car behind me to pass, but if he’s practically kissing my ass with the nose of his car, he can wait and I’ll hold the speed limit.

To be certain, I know what it’s like to be that ass hat going or wanting to go too fast.  I got my one and only traffic citation to date for going 102 MPH on an interstate.  Most of the time, though, I leave the house with plenty of time to get wherever I’m going, holding fast to my maternal grandfather’s dictum of, “I’d rather be an hour early than a minute late.”  Yes, I use the scooter to zip about the city because it is faster than taking the car with its speedy take offs from full stops, but when I have it on a winding country road I’m there to savor the ride.  I don’t typically ride under the posted limit if there’s somebody behind me, but I do detest being expected to exceed the limit just because whoever’s behind me is impatiently chomping at the bit. 

All in all, I feel a sense of pity for the people who are in such a hurry to get to where they're going.  They're missing out entirely on the fun of getting there.

Like it or not, the evidence is there that autumn is well on its way with winter to follow.  This lone tree seems eager to be the first to herald the change of seasons.  

I’ve switched to jeans instead of shorts for riding now, but on a good day like today I can still get away with staying comfortable in a tee shirt.  It was an unusually beautiful day for riding.  The sky was cloudy, but the rain was still hours away while I was out on the Piaggio.  

One of the best parts of living in a valley is the sight of coming back to it after a trip be it a long or short one.  When I’m out of state and see a “Welcome to Pennsylvania” sign on the way back, it feels like I’m coming home even if I’m still hours away from the house.  Likewise when I’m out of the valley and coming back into it down the side of one of its mountainous walls, the sight of the tiny looking houses visible in the distance never fails to warm me with that same feeling of coming home.  

It wasn’t all that long ago that I posted my having crossed 19,000 miles on the odometer, and here I am with only 100 miles to go till I’m at 20,000 which I’m confident I’ll arrive at in another week or two.  Finances being as they are I’ve been putting off some needed maintenance, namely getting new rollers and a new drive belt installed.  I’ll need my annual inspection by the end of next month, though, and then the riding season will slowly dwindle.  Hopefully by spring I’ll be ready to get the much needed items replaced.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Late Summer Musings

A single yellow leaf hit the windshield on the bike this afternoon as I made my way through Harding on a leisurely ride toward Tunkhannock.  Although the first of September was the beginning of what the weathermen call “meteorological autumn” I think it was that leaf going splat and then sliding off the side of the shield in the slipstream that finally got me to admit that summer’s just about near its end.  

Well, that and that I almost returned to the house when I was about a mile out to change into long pants and to slip on a light jacket.  I did come back to switch out my glasses which were annoying me, but at that point something inside me refused to give in to the nagging sense that I was going to be cold by the end of the ride.  I’m glad that I ignored that concern because what I’d feared was going to be a chilly adventure turned out to be merely cool in just my tee shirt and shorts.  I believe today’s the first time that I ever made a distinction between cool and chilly, the difference being that cool isn’t really uncomfortable while chilly definitely is. 

I decided somewhere between leaving the house and heading north that I’d ride toward Tunkhannock along Route 92 which would take me through Harding along the western side of the Susquehanna River.  It was a gorgeous day for such an undertaking with the sun shining brightly for me to have to reach for the clip on sunglasses and the air, as already mentioned, being a wonderfully perfect degree of cool. 

As is the case with much of the scenery here in “da valley,” Rte. 92 is dotted with reminders of King Coal that once fed the bellies of many of the valley’s families whose daddies worked in the mines.  This building is beside the concrete remains of a railroad overpass, perhaps having been some sort of station where train crews might have swapped out their duties.   

And this tunnel leads through the remains of the trestle that connected the tracks that ran over the road decades ago.  Were there somewhere to park the scooter other than on the rubble and gravel that kisses the road there, and if I were able to walk better than I do these days, I might venture through to see what’s on the other side.  

Because I need to take a diuretic for my cardiac problems this Rent-A-John was a very welcome sight out there in the virtual middle of nowhere.  Although there are a few businesses along the run of Rte. 92, they’re garages and other sorts of places that aren’t open on Sundays.  A big thanks to Frontier Communications on whose property it’s set.  

The eastern wall of the valley can be seen in the distance with the river just behind the trees on the other side of the road from me.  The scooter has given me such a different perspective on so many things, one of them being how life here in the valley is sort of “boxed in” by those opposing mountainous walls.  Most of my rides are simply up and down the length of the valley, though on different roads and byways.  Although I’ve gone west a few times I’ve not much ridden out east.  I’ll have to think about that!  

This remains one of my favorite waypoints on 92, where this tree appears as though it might have grown apart as it has to let the wires run through it.  That, and that the house at its base is one of those places that seems like it would be so cozy inside.  I’m not sure why some places just give me that feeling like they’d be a happy home to anybody, but this one does and I never ride past it without a wistful smile on my face.  

Likewise, old school buildings and the like draw me to them.  Although I remember my elementary school days with the nuns as not having been particularly pleasant, somehow I think in reality they must have been a lot better than I remember them as having been.  So odd that I returned to that same building as a teacher only eleven years after getting out of it, and staying there as a teacher for 24 years till it was closed.  But, I digress.  This building had that rustic school appeal to it so I had to give pause for a bit just to check it out.  

Along a right turn from 92 that I’d never noticed before I discovered a neat little neighborhood that almost seems cut off from the rest of the hustle and bustle of nearby things.  With a neighborhood deli, a post office, and a church, I could imagine being happily snuggled in any of a number of the inviting looking homes there through a wintry cold spell or snowstorm.  The river looks a lot nicer here than it does as it runs through Wilkes-Barre where it always looks brown and dirty.  

Although being out on any sort of boat for this non-swimmer is a very rare thing, there’s something about it that never fails to look appealing.  I’d imagine being in a light craft like one of these would be somewhat like riding the scooter with plenty of time for introspection and taking in things about the world that one often just doesn’t otherwise.  

I see the river a lot in my scootering because of my tending to ride north and south within the confines of the valley walls and somehow in spite of my not being a water person it calls to me in some primordial way.  I never tire of stopping just to watch it run its course and it invariably causes me to feel something ineffable that’s good.  

When I cross the river in Falls, Route 92 continues north to Tunkhannock, but there’s more of a “wildness” about it.  The twisties are plentiful and to anybody on two wheels the ride is a lot more fun from the sheer fun of riding perspective.  No more looking at homes in rustic settings and thinking about how hospitable they might be inside; just the sheer joy of leaning into the turns and feeling that likeness to being at an amusement park that makes two wheeled motoring exhilarating.

The roads closest to the Susquehanna, on both the eastern and western sides, often have the wall of a mountain on one side of the road with a set of railroad tracks between the road itself and the river.  The tracks around here closest to the river don’t see a lot of use these days, but some of the local short lines still run a few cars here and there, now and then on them.  I was surprised today when just on the other side of the trees you can see to my left a small freight train went blazing through.  I don’t typically get to see trains there as I do out my own back window every day when the trees aren’t full with their summer coats.  

This roadside stand in Tunkhannock, now on Route 6, was another reminder that fall is just around the corner.  Facebook is full of posts from former female students of mine who are all excited about pumpkin spice flavored everything, hoodies, hay rides and such, and while I love the fall and all of that myself, I don’t like that it’s the doorway to winter, and after the very mild winter we had last year, I’m fearing that this year’s might be brutal.  

I hadn’t thought about meal times at all when I headed out, but halfway between the bridge and Tunkhannock itself I started feeling ravenous.  A quick stop at the Burger King coming out of Tunkhannock along Route 29, and then a quick jaunt a mile or so back to the tracks and river where there’s a pleasant little park, and I enjoyed a quiet and most pleasant lunch alongside the river.  As I was heading back to the scooter a couple in an SUV stopped to ask me some scooter questions which I’m always happy to answer.  I wonder if anybody who’s ever stopped to talk to me about the bike went out and got one as a result of my singing the praises of scootering? 

I’m so easy to entertain!  Something as simple as a place named “Whistle Pig” gives me a grin that’s probably much wider than is warranted.  I can’t help it, though.  When I’m on the scooter I’m just in the kind of mood that makes such things so easy to appreciate.  There’s a kind of joy in riding that I’ll never be able to express.  William Byrd who put his pen to paper in a lifetime spanning the later 15th and earlier 16th centuries wrote a piece that was set to music and performed by the chorus in college of which I was a part.  It ends with, “Since Singing [sic] is so good a thing, I wish all men would learn to sing.”  That’s how I feel about scootering!   

A selfie at my last stop along the way home at the “Twin Stacks” in Dallas, has me looking more like a biker than a scooterist.  Well until anybody might stop and see the cute cartoon squirrel on my shirt.  

I have to say that I don’t really know why sometimes months go by between my writings here.  I’m always riding when the weather is conducive to enjoying it, but my want, desire, need, impetus to write just isn’t there at times.  I used to joke with my kids in school who’d try to argue “writer’s block” when they couldn’t get started on an assignment and ask them rhetorically, “What if your house was flooding and the plumber said he couldn’t help you because he had plumber’s block?” or “What if you were dying and needed emergency surgery to save you, but the surgeon threw up his hands and cried, ‘Surgeon’s block!’?”  But, then again, my writings here aren’t assignments with due dates; they’re just scattered notes about how good life is that I make when I’m so disposed.  Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Farther Than Usual

I hadn't intended to take a long ride this morning when I left the house on the Piaggio.  I was simply taking a forgotten phone to somebody (who'd have felt naked all day without it) and then doing whatever I felt like doing.  What I felt like doing after dropping off the phone was to get something in my belly which was practically doing tricks to convince me to fill it.  Lucky for it I was in a generous mood.

When I got to McDonald's (for the cheapo menu, not the great cuisine) and sat down to munch what I'd gotten (that I'm not going to specify here lest my cardiologist ever venture in to read this) I took one look at the sky and knew that heading back to the house after eating wasn't going to be an option.  The open road was calling and after just a little internal debate I knew where I was heading - Honesdale, PA.

I visit Honesdale often enough when I'm away from the house for a few days and staying elsewhere, but then I approach it from the other direction, east going west.  Today's trip took me from west to east and it was a marvelous ride.  For good portions of it I was able to push the scooter to 80 mph just for the hell of it, staying at the posted 65 most of the time.  In spite of its being nearly 10 years old and approaching 20,000 miles it ran beautifully and without seeming effort.

It's always enjoyable to take in new scenery and this trip provided much of it.  Stretches of the trip that weren't on the expressway between Scranton and Carbondale were posted at about 45 mph, and on the scooter 45 is a very nice cruising speed at which to take in the sights and smells along the way.  Though nothing was out of the ordinary, a lot of it was new to me and that alone made it something to savor.

I didn't tarry long in Honesdale, stopping just long enough to top off the tank, hit the men's room, and adjust my boxer briefs that felt like a thong after an hour and a half in the saddle.  I snapped a picture or two and turned myself around for the ride back.  Honesdale is one of those towns that takes two parallel streets, each plenty wide for two lane traffic, and makes one a ONE WAY main drag in one direction and the other a ONE WAY in the opposite direction.  I abhor that and wonder what the hell it is that makes town planners do that instead of just keeping both streets two way.  There's no advantage to it that I can discern.

Simply because of what side of the road it's on, the westbound side of the expressway which I took back from Honesdale lends itself to some wonderful scenery overlooking the valley and drawing the eye to the mountains forming the opposite wall of the valley, miles away.  Because it was a gorgeous clear day with humidity much lower than it was before a cold front came through yesterday with some much needed rain, the eye could see clear to the horizon without the haze that often makes the view across the valley murky a lot in the summer.

I paused by a familiar church on the way back.  It's a place I remember well from a very humbling day some years ago on which I failed the "written" (i.e., computerized) portion of the PA motorcycle test because I was too cocksure that I'd studied the book well enough though I knew I hadn't.  My plan was to nail the test and trade in the 50cc Piaggio for the BV250, but after I flunked the test I couldn't swap the smaller bike for the bigger one because to ride the 250 I'd need a valid PA motorcycle learner's permit and I couldn't get that without first passing the test.  (Anyone can ride a 50cc in PA with a regular driver's license.)  I was passing by that same church on the day when I failed the test to take a phone call and remember well the shame with which I admitted to my caller that I didn't pass the test and couldn't get the bigger bike.  Now whenever I pass that particular landmark I often pause for a bit just to remember the taste of humble pie that I gorged on that day, I guess just to keep myself in check lest I get too big for my own britches again.

When I checked the odometer after parking under the deck at home I discovered that my trek was 4 miles over the 100 mile mark.  I hadn't taken a ride of this length in quite a while but today was an excellent day to have done so.  The weather was perfect, the traffic light, and my spirit in the proper frame of awareness to have enjoyed every mile of the trip.  All too soon the days of ice and snow will be here and I'll find myself looking out the window and longing to take a ride like the one I got in today.  Hopefully my pictures of today's venture will keep the smile on my face then.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Another Feather in My Helmet

I truly was going to go downstairs to get a turkey feather (from my turkey feather collection, of course) and stick it on my helmet to get a picture that would match the title of this post, but it’s hot, my legs are tired, and I’m almost ready for a nap.  Thus with much less visual fanfare than I’d hoped I present this post in honor of my having ridden the Piaggio 19,000 miles so far.  

I was pulling into my Mom’s driveway when I looked down and noticed that I was only nine miles short of the milestone, and the sky was darkening.  With thunderstorms on the way I cut my visit with Mom a little short so I could get in the nine more miles before the sky would open and drench me.   I rode about four and a half miles away from the neighborhood (Mom only lives two blocks over.) and then turned around and eventually crossed the Susquehanna to get to a relatively flat residential area where I knew I’d be able to pull over exactly as the odometer crawled over to mark the new record.  It was here that I officially marked the achievement.  

 As always, when I cross off another thousand miles, I take a few pictures of where I was at the time so when I’m decrepit enough to ride little more than a rocking chair someday, I’ll be able to remember where I was and when I was there to knock off another thousand miles.  

Looking ahead now to 20,000 miles!

 On a sadder note that has nothing but everything to do with my riding a scooter, my beloved Aunt Betty left us two weeks ago.  It was her husband, my Uncle Andy, who I mentioned in my very first post, who first introduced me to scootering when I was still of pre-school age.  He and his brother-in-law had rented a couple of scooters just to ride on around the valley, and he gave me a ride on what I remember as a gorgeous emerald green classic looking model.  We didn’t go far, but it was an awesome ride to me, and for all my life, till I was in my 40s, I hung onto that memory as one of the best of my childhood.  All those years later, it was a huge factor in my deciding that I wanted to get a scooter. 

Uncle Andy died in 2002, and for the past 14 years Aunt Betty longed to be reunited with him.  Yes, she knew what the price of that reunion would be, but still she knew that she wouldn’t really be happy again until she was back in his arms.  When my dad, her brother, died in 2012, she wanted to be with him too.  As she was dying all I could think of was how happy she’d be.  I was sad.  I cried when I realized that I’d not see her again in this lifetime.  Moreover, though, I rejoiced in the unshakable faith that she’s exactly where she wants to be. 

Two weeks before she was taken to the hospital from the nursing home where she’d lived for the past year after breaking a leg and never really recovering her ability to walk alone, we took her to her home for one last visit before putting it on the market.  She, my sister and mom, and my cousins shared a last meal with her there, and afterward I posed for this picture with her, the last in which we’d be together.  

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her.  May her soul, and all the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace.  Amen.

And just like that I got home from my next ride and there on the grass was lying a blue feather.  Into my helmet it went for the picture I'd intended at the beginning of this post!