I’m not sure what time the first bike fired up but it was still dark. And I didn’t hear the telltale of rain on the tent fly yet. That didn’t last long. As I’d packed my bike Saturday evening and done all but tightening the straps (I need them loose so I can get into my panniers), I rose and dressed quickly so I could get out of the tent, allowing Kathy to break down the inside while I retrieved the stuff sacks from the dry bag. By the time I’d returned from the Bear Paw lodge getting coffee, Kathy was ready to pass me out gear. We were resigned to whatever it was getting wet and we’d dry it when we got home. With the wet tent and ground cover the last to go in, we were loading the dry bag onto Kathys’ F900 XR as Wendy and Gilly put the finishing touches on their packing.
The weather report was right. It was cold, so was the rain. Our goal had been to make the Scranton area to split the two days evenly. Now, I’d programmed Bloomsburg PA in, 270ish miles on. Of course, I’d neglected to reset the option to allow highways, an omission I didn’t realize until about an hour or so into the very, very wet, very, very cold ride. We all discovered just exactly how difficult it is to pack for 12 days on a motorcycle trip when the packing is in near 90-degree heat and the riding home is in 50 degree rain. We also discovered just what parts of all our gear were not or no longer waterproof. My new BMW gloves were holding their own against the rain but the Klim jacket, even with 3 layers underneath including my Olympia rain/wind liner from my old jacket, struggled against the cold of the rain. All of our boots proved only adept at holding water in, not keeping it out. We stopped under an overpass and I pulled the rest of my old RevIT rain suit over the jacket which at least provided some wind protection. We slogged on until we reached some nameless town that had a Denny’s. The host took pity on us and was accommodating in cleaning up the water we tracked in. The hot coffee and tea and a hearty breakfast helped but none of us was looking forward to putting wet gear back on.
Gilly suggested that Altoona PA was 90 miles down the road. If we could make it there, we could get a hotel. We found a Comfort Suites just north of the city and headed off. Getting used to the cold is no fun at all but you eventually settle in. At that point it really becomes the visibility, or lack of it. Even without traffic, constant heavy rain makes seeing through the visor difficult at best. What you CAN see in the macro, you miss in the micro. Something on the road, a pothole, even a small animal. For me that’s enough to keep my brain engaged but it makes for a tiring ride.
We made the hotel in Altoona around 12:30 to find that it checked all the boxes: Room available, – literally the first cleaned room as the hotel was host to 3 wedding parties over the weekend that had just finished checking out – working dryer, food delivery. I wished I’d taken a picture of the pile of wet clothes and gear by the door. We spent the afternoon swapping wet clothes for dry, using the hotel hair dryer on our boots, swapping one out for another every so many minutes, rotating gloves and liners draped over the HVAC unit and watching football.
By Monday morning, everything was dry and the sun was out. We made Bethel CT in the mid-afternoon, riding the last 45 minutes in rain and showers. Rather than push on and get wetter, we found a hotel right across the road from a liquor store and a wonderful Italian restaurant. Tuesday’s ride was more or less uneventful save for a couple of detours off I 84 that included a 25+ mile backup westbound on the Mass Pike that also impacted the eastbound lanes.
I know my Zumo showed about 1500 miles over the 12 days, Kathy’s, Wendy’s and Gilly’s would show more. We had some excellent roads and riding, the mountains of Vermont and West Virginia most certainly do not disappoint. We had zero bike issues, even Arthur, my pushing-50-years-old ‘77 R100 ran flawlessly. She (yep, Arthur is a girl!) really doesn’t care what road we’re on, twisty, sweepy, or tooling down an interstate at 80, she just hums along.
Kathy has taken a shine to the ‘21 F900XR we bought earlier this year, so much so that she’s put about 6000 miles on it - I’ve put probably 50 on it if that tells you anything!
I can say without reservation that none of the heat of packing, the rally site, or the rain can detract from the most excellent time we had with our best riding companions Wendy and Gilly. Riding and meeting new friends makes for a great time. Riding WITH friends and making new friends is PERFECT! I know I speak for Kathy when I say we can’t wait for the next one!