Wednesday, July 24, 2013

2013 Blogger to Blogger Tour - The long ride home

I knew I had to hustle. Time was not my friend. I feared that somewhere along my route in Vermont some forest dweller was planning a stroll on the Interstate for when I'd be rolling through.

I still needed to grab a bite to eat though while restaurants were plentiful.

As I rolled up the street I saw that Tom had broken off from the group as well. We happened to be going the same way. Two identical Vespas navigating northwest and away from Old Orchard Beach. As our paths diverged we honked our horns goodby.

I lost as little time as possible refueling the Vespa and refilling my five liter spare gas tank. I had gassed up using the jerry can in the morning so as not to delay the group joyride. There happened to be a fast food joint across the street where I wolfed down a burger.

I punched the home button on my Garmin, cleared the avoidance preferences I had set in New Hampshire for expressways and toll roads, and I began the ride to Montreal. The day was sunny and clear and the heat wave we had all week had lifted. It promised to be perfect riding weather.

Getting away was weird at first. The GPS seemed to have conspired with the state of Maine to loop me through three tollbooths within no more than ten minutes. For a bit I thought I was riding in a vicious circle. If I was, then it was truly a conspiracy because they changed up the toll collector each time. It was like a Hitchcock movie, or the lead-in to an episode of the Twilight Zone. Three bucks. Not so bad.

The brief stint on the Interstate led to increasingly rural bi-ways, then to country highways as I slowly climbed from sea level towards the rolling hills of Maine. I eventually joined Route 302 headed northwest towards New Hampshire and the White Mountains. Oddly, in all our trips to Maine we had never come this way. We had either followed Route 26 further to the east, or I-93 further to the west, but never 302.

I knew I was in North Conway when I ran into bumper to bumper traffic down the main street. The congestion stretched for a mile or more. With literally no time to lose, I skirted the parade and lane split to by-pass the mess. This is where a Vespa shines. The CVT transmission and compact footprint make quick and easy work of the most daunting bumper-to-bumper traffic. In no time at all North Conway was in my mirrors.

After North Conway, Route 302 goes through the heart of the White Mountains. The scenery on this highway is simply spectacular. There were plenty of motorcycles on the road. I ended up riding behind a couple of guys on sport bikes. I was following them when the route twisted its way through Crawford Notch. I had managed to forget that a shortcoming of my particular Vespa is the side stand. I dialed in the countersteer for the tightest twist in the road and nearly ground the side stand down to the bolts. Now to be honest, that did freak me out. I handled it with an application of rear brake to scrub off enough speed to correct the trajectory and negotiate the notch more conservatively with less lean. Unless I remove the side stand, my Vespa is not a machine for twisties.

By five o'clock the shadows were getting long making it harder to see wildlife that might be lurking past the shoulders. I saw my first upright non-flat gopher poised on the left lane contemplating a myopic stroll to the great beyond. A couple of times a pungent feral odor wafted into my helmet. Deer musk. I rolled off the throttle and peeled my eyes.

In the fullness of time I reached the Stanstead border crossing at about 6:00 p.m.  It was later than I would have liked. I still had a good hour of riding in deer and moose country before reaching the relative safety of the plains of farmland east of Montreal.

The Montreal bound traffic on Autoroute 10 grew with each passing mile. At one point a fool on a sport bike with his girlfriend riding pillion flew by.  I say he was a fool because he was going much too fast, likely doing at least 140 km/h, and riding extremely aggressively, tailgating cars in the left hand lane, dodging left and right either looking for a way to slip by the car, or trying to intimidate the driver into getting out of the left lane.  I couldn't resist shaking my head in disbelief and disgust.  Why would his girlfriend stay on that bike?

Forty-five minutes later the traffic on westbound Autoroute 10 came to a sudden stop.  Until that point, my estimated time of arrival on the Garmin had never gone past 8:29 p.m.  At the border I had called Susan to say to expect me home at 8:30.  I phoned her to tell her that it looked like I had hit the traffic of cottagers returning to the city and based on where I was, it could take forever to get home.

It wasn't returning cottagers.  It was an accident.  Cars, RVs, and motorcycles  had pulled over to the side, people were milling around, and others were attempting to direct traffic.  The left lane was where the incident, whatever it was, had occurred.  There were no first responders on the scene.  As I rolled by the focus of everyone's attention, there was a car in the left hand lane, apparently undamaged, but, there were at least three people crouching on the trunk lid, hood and roof attending to the inert body of a person lying on top of the car.  I couldn't be sure, but the jeans and leather jacket seemed to be those of the madman's pillion.  If it was, he must have hit a car and catapulted his pillion onto the roof of the other car.

It was an unnerving tail to a week-long moto adventure. A good ten minutes later a police cruiser wailed past on the east-bound side of the autoroute.  I knew where it was headed.  I never saw an ambulance.  Clearly one was desperately needed.

About forty-five minutes still to go before crossing onto the island of Montreal and clearly I needed fuel.  I should have just pulled onto the shoulder and filled up from my jerry can but I was still a little shaken by the accident aftermath I had witnessed.  I hit the call button on the Sena and asked Siri to take me to a gas station.  She cheerfully replied that the closest station was four kilometers away and suggested I take the next exit.

I did something I hadn't done the whole trip.  I tossed the right side ROK strap to the right side of the bike.  Somehow, that strap had always ended on the left side during my refueling stops and I would have to pull it through to re-secure it.  I remember thinking 'I'm getting the hang of this in time to end the trip'.  I took my time refueling.  The driver at the adjacent pump came over to chat and enquire about how one takes a Vespa moto camping.  He was amazed when he found out where I was coming from.

When I reloaded my gear, I realized that my right-hand ROK strap that I had tossed over to the right side, had had a nasty encounter with the red-hot exhaust.
It held, just barely.  All I needed it to do was hold enough not to come off and trail in the wind.  Fortunately it made it home, still in one piece.   I made a note never to do that again, and to buy a new set of ROK straps.

At 8:45 p.m., I rounded the corner of my street, hit the garage door remote and rolled into the garage.  There was a finality when I hit the kill switch.

The last thing I did was to check the odometer against my departure reading: 2,862 kilometers over nine days, or 1,778 miles.  Quite a trip for a first-timer.

I was glad to be home, safe and sound.

I gave Susan a long, long hug.


Coop a.k.a. Coopdway said...

Excellent job and welcome home! You did very well for your first big trip; much better than my first one(s). You are already an old Master at two wheeled tripping and I'm very pleased that you've proven that scooters can Travel.

David Masse said...

Thanks Coop, much appreciated. I knew the Vespa could do it. I wasn't so sure about the rider though.

On the right sidebar you will find the cross-continental exploits of scooter cannonballers and the long distance Vespa adventures of Ken Wilson.

David Masse said...

Ed, you are right about where the grief was going to come from.

I most likely applied a mix of front and rear brake because I would have been covering both. I was careful only to apply what I needed.

I knew I shouldn't apply more lean, which is really what the situation wanted. The only other option was scrub off some speed and fix the trajectory.

You're also right, all's well that ends well.

Like most situations like this, there was rider error involved on the way in.

The far better thing would have been not to scrape the stand to begin with.

It happened twice. Once on the way from Niagara Falls to Fort Erie on the ramp to the QEW, and that time in New Hamsphire.

Some Vespa GTS riders have ended up removing the side stand for precisely this reason.

RichardM said...

A great write up on your adventure and demonstrating once more that scooters are cross country touring rigs. A local columnist rode his scooter around the world in the mid-60s and wrote about his trip weekly in his column. Old world moto-blogging.

David Masse said...

Thanks Richard for the kind words.

Canajun said...

Congratulations on the successful completion of your first (of many I expect) moto-trips. I must say that seeing the aftermath of a motorcycle accident (which I have, unfortunately) sobers one up in a way that seeing a car accident never has for me. It just seems much more personal.

David Masse said...

You know Dave, if the victim on the car roof was the idiot's pillion, he should be charged with a criminal offense.

SonjaM said...

What a wonderful finale despite the encounter with a motorcycle accident. It is indeed a sobering experience as it hits close to home, being a rider oneself.
I am curious about your whole Vespa travel experience, and looking forward to your 'trip analysis'.
Welcome home!

Trobairitz said...

Hooray for making it home safe and sound. Way to go on your first two wheeled moto camping/touring adventure.

Never good to come across an accident scene especially bad if you'd viewed their poor driving habits just prior.

David Masse said...

Thanks Sonja, If we had had you and Roland along it would have been more perfect.

I'm working on the final post. I need to take some time to digest, as opposed to just telling the story.

Hopefully you won't be disappointed.

David Masse said...

Amen Trobairitz. If we worried about all the single points of failure that can spell catastrophe on two wheels we wouldn't ride.

It's a constant struggle to remain alert to the risks.

The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.