Friday, August 7, 2015

2015 Blogger to Blogger Tour - Adirondack Museum to Horseshoe Lake

The pit stop for this leg of the tour... no wait... this isn't the Amazing Race.

The meeting place for this portion of the tour was the Adirondack Museum.  It's a great place for a rendezvous, but it's also a great place to visit as a destination in its own right.

The museum is perched near the top of an escarpment so that it overlooks Blue Mountain Lake. But you won't know that until you are well into your museum visit.
Google maps
The theme for this expansive and well-endowed exhibition space ought to be 'the Adirondacks, a place where modern life and the wilderness meet'.

As you enter the museum's campus, there's no mistaking that you're in the heart of the Adirondacks, yet the space has a big city metropolitan feel to it. The exhibits are meticulously curated and presented, the documentation that provides insight and context for each exihibit is plentiful and comprehensive, and the objects in the museum are of obvious museological importance. In fact there is at least one piece in the collection that is on loan from the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.  You don't get exhibits on loan from the Smithsonian unless your museum has stature and pull.

It was mid-afternoon when Stephanie and I began our visit. We knew we would only be able to see portions of the museum's exhibits.  We also had a lot of ground to cover to get properly acquainted.

We began our visit by purchasing admission tickets (my treat).  From the reception desk outside the gift shop we headed over to the boating wing. The docent on duty (a very kindly and knowledgeable gentleman whose name I can't for the life of me remember - Jim help me out... he was on duty when we were there too) took notice of our armoured pants and boots, put two and two together, and took us straight to a corner of the canoe exhibit to show us a photo of a turn of the century (20th not 21st) motorcycle (it could have been an early Harley) rigged as a canoe transporter.
Copyright - Stephanie Yue
Copyright - Stephanie Yue
Another star of the boating wing is a 19th century ultra-lightweight canoe, cedar I believe, that beats a modern day Kevlar ultra-light by a whopping two pounds!  A ten-pound vintage canoe, can you believe it?

We strolled and talked, and talked and strolled.  The museum was an ideal setting to get acquainted.
Copyright - Stephanie Yue
Copyright - Stephanie Yue
Copyright - Stephanie Yue
Copyright - Stephanie Yue
Stephanie was at turns earnest and serious, sharing her considerable riding and touring experience, learning about the museum's exhibits... and playful.  I witnessed first-hand her signature selfies as works in process.
Copyright - Stephanie Yue
250cc Superhero!
We wrapped up our visit at the museum's cafĂ©.  Jim Mandle really, really wanted the three of us to enjoy this visit and had devoted considerable care and expert attention to an itinerary that was frustrated by the fortuitous sale of his Lake Luzerne home. I had to make sure that Stephanie and I sat at the corner table with the stunning views of Blue Mountain Lake.  Jim these shots are our heartfelt expression of our thanks to you for making our little two-day adventure so very pleasant.
We chatted over our late afternoon snack, getting to know each other. Our conversation inevitably turned to thoughts of a campsite as the afternoon turned to early evening.  It was time to make tracks.

Stephanie and I quickly agreed that Jim's suggestion of a camp site at Horsehoe Lake made the most sense for us. We had each saved Jim's e-mail messages so we had a really good idea of how to locate the evening's destination.
Off we went northbound on Highway 30 with Stephanie in the lead.
Cruising north on route 30 was joyful and thoroughly satisfying.  We stopped at the village of Long Lake to refuel at the same spot where I had topped up my anti-freeze earlier in the day. With a plentiful supply of gasoline we pressed on.

Stephanie pulled over to snap some photos on the causeway that crosses Long Lake.
We got rolling again and in no time we had covered the 22 kilometres from Long Lake to the junction where route 421 heads west, ominously marked as a dead end.

Memories of my ride with Jim came flooding back as we crossed the stone bridge where Jim and I had stumbled on the artists painting in plein air.  This time there were no artists to be seen  but this picturesque spot had attracted swimmers upstream sliding down the gentle rapids on the far side of the stream, and a couple of anglers trying their luck where the water spills north into Tupper Lake.
Hopping back on the Vespas we continued on 421.  The roadway degraded as we made our way to Horseshoe Lake, eight kilometres further west. Potholes, heaved pavement, and loose gravel slowed our progress. We crested a rise and there on the right was a gravel driveway leading to what seemed to be one of the campsites that Jim had suggested.  Stephanie asked that I stay put while she investigated. There were signs that the site had been recently used and we wanted to make sure we weren't about to take someone else's spot. Jim had suggested that if the first spots off the paved portion of 421 were unavailable, me might continue past the point where the road turned to dirt because there were other spots further on.  Stephanie was minded to explore a little further, so off we went.

It turned out that nothing seemed obviously better than the first site, so we turned back and settled on that first one.

As soon as we parked the bikes we were viciously attacked.

It was the camping equivalent of Pearl Harbor. The word had gone out that there was fresh meat at the lake, and wave upon maddening, buzzing wave of winged marauders single-mindedly bent on devouring us whole, made Stephanie and I the ground zero of insect armageddon.  It was a bug-o-calypse of magnificent proportions. That said, not the worst I have experienced, likely because the mosquitoes and blood-thirsty deer and horse flies were struggling in vain to pierce our armoured clothing.  Another reason to ride ATGATT.

Fortunately, modern tents are easily pitched closed, so once we had our safe houses ready for us, we knew there were no invaders within.  That was a very good thing because while we were setting up house, the following conversation occured. Me: "Did you bring any bug spray?" Stephanie: "No. Did you?" Me: "No." So much for my Boy Scout pledge to be prepared.

I made the smallest possible opening in the tent flap, threw all my gear in, then zipped the flap up tight.

We stood there admiring our handiwork for a moment.
Copyright - Stephanie Yue
It took mere seconds to reach a consensus that this was perhaps a great place to spend the night, but not a place to grab our evening snack. Stephanie had picked up some cheese, dried sausages and some head cheese earlier in the day.  We hopped back on our mounts and made a bee-line back to the  Tupper Lake inlet. When we got there, the swimmers were leaving and the anglers had left, so we had that wonderful slice of Adirondack wilderness to ourselves.
Copyright - Stephanie Yue
Copyright - Stephanie Yue
Copyright - Stephanie Yue
Copyright - Stephanie Yue
We sat on a smooth rock, shared our dinner and chatted some more.  The bugs left us more or less alone.  I suspect that they had massed such an impressive offensive over at Horseshoe Lake, that they had left themselves no option but to leave a skeleton force at the Tupper Lake squadron. They were no match for our armoured clothing, and no match for the speed of our Vespas.

It was nine-ish by the time we declared dinner done, and made our way back to mosquito junction.

I made the smallest possible opening in the tent flap and dove inside, made a clumsy U-turn, and zipped the door shut.  I sat in the tent, surrounded by saddlebags and my two dry bags and assessed the situation. As far as I could tell I was alone in the tent. I zipped the window open pleased that the mosquito netting let the breeze in, but excluded the bloody bugs.  Stephanie was still outdoors, softly cursing the bugs and mumbling instructions and encouragements to herself.  I realized that I had left the fly panels closed, and I asked Stephanie if she wouldn't mind opening them for me, which she kindly did on the spot.

Stephanie settled into her tent as I began unpacking.  Mattress pad, sleeping bag, pillow, camp chair... then I struggled out of my armoured gear, jacket, boots, pants... At length, I collapsed on the bed, spent. Once we were both well settled in, the conversation resumed, tent to tent. It was strangely and wonderfully intimate. We were utterly alone, voices floating between the tents.
Stephanie had some whisky which she offered to share.  She poured a shot or so into an empty water bottle, barely unzipped her tent flap and tossed me the booze, which I retrieved in a similar manner.

I got a decent education on the merits of whisky, bourbon, and scotch, little of which I remember, other than the gift of warmth and relaxation that Stephanie's whisky gave me.

Darkness fell slowly but resolutely, and our exchanges waned slowly too.  Neither of us said goodnight.  It wasn't by any means a lack of consideration, or a lapse of good manners. For my part it was more that I didn't want to close the day, to end the conversation. It was heaven, and I wanted it to last, knowing that it couldn't. We were tired.

At some point our voices fell silent and we slept.

Monday, July 27, 2015

2015 Blogger to Blogger Tour - Departure

The night before I leave is never truly restful. I become apprehensive. The rut of daily life feels deep, and the comforts of home weigh on me as I think of the looming launch. The risks and uncertainties drift around me, like shifting banks of grey fog, as my imagination conjures reasons to stay safely put.

I emerge slowly from my restless slumber and the reality of the trip begins to dawn on me as the rising sun bathes the bedroom in shades of pale grey.

The warmth of the shower, the cascade of cleansing water, drenching my body, washes the doubts away, clears my mind. Reality is the antidote that sets me free.

The final pieces come together, I pull on my armoured pants, snap the buckles down on my boots. I look up to find Susan in the doorway, still sleepy, smiling. We hug and kiss. That seals the launch. I feel myself floating almost free.

I pull on my jacket and helmet, wrestle the tour-laden Vespa off the centre stand, and hit the starter. I roll down the driveway. "Turn left on Beaconsfield Boulevard" the Garmin commands. That's how my 2015 Blogger to Blogger Tour begins.

I was so preoccupied with the departure details that as I hit the highway and my mind relaxed, I realized that I had neglected to take a photo of the adventure-ready Vespa. I hopped off the highway and took the lakeshore road until there was a suitable place to take a picture.
With that out of the way, I got back on track headed to the border. Thoughts of risk were not completely banished.  The specters of risk rose to mind as I crossed the Champlain bridge to Montreal's south shore. I stuck to the middle lane. A few weeks earlier a motorcyclist was killed crossing the bridge when the impact of a crash launched him off the bridge, plunging him hundreds and hundreds of feet to the river below.

The border crossing was quick and easy.

I was headed to exit 29 off I-87 right in the heart of the Adirondack exits.

While there is plenty of beauty to behold on stretches of the Northway...
...  I was anxious to leave the Interstate and head west into the mountains.  The Interstate twists, and alternately climbs and dips as it heads into New York State's mountainous upstate playground.  I was riding wide-open throttle. The speedometer indicated just over 120 km/h, while the GPS, set to miles, reported a slightly more modest, but dead-on true, 74 mph.
Had I been more vigilant, I would have moderated the pace given that the temperature gauge was edging closer and closer to the redline.
But that detail had managed to escape me.

Exit 29 was finally here, I eased off the throttle and coasted off the freeway.

Looking down, I noticed water on my right knee. Huh?

Once off the exit ramp I pulled onto the gravel shoulder.  The sun was shining brightly.  Sweat beaded on my neck and down my spine as soon as I spotted the mess on the floorboards.  Coolant.

Was this the end of my adventure? Over before it had really begun?  Should I bail?

I knew that my Vespa's motor would be toast within mere minutes if it ran without coolant.  I looked at the temperature gauge.  The needle was at the midpoint, perfectly normal.  My mind raced, like a cornered animal, looking frantically for a way out, a path forward.

The amount of fluid on the right floorboard indicated a serious leak.  Since there was some fluid on the left floorboard as well, and anti-freeze had leaked from under the bottom lip of the glovebox, there were indications that it was a massive leak, likely a series of leaks.

Having taken my Vespa apart on a number of occasions, and having dealt with a previous coolant leak, I imagined the hose issues that might cause the cooling system to lose that much coolant. But how did the anti-freeze land on my knee and thigh? And with a massive hose or clamp failure, I would still be leaking anti-freeze. By now the temperature gauge ought to have been pegged at the top, not sitting  at the normal midpoint.

Aside from the fluid pooled on the floorboards, everything seemed paradoxically normal. All the clues pointed to a leak from the top of the reservoir behind the right kneepad.

The big question that loomed unanswered was, did I need to scrub the mission?  Did I call for a tow? Should I limp on and hope for the best? Move on, or retreat?  Was a catastrophic failure looming? Much as I wanted to continue, scrapping my Vespa was not an option. Still the heat gauge pointed to normal.  The check engine light wasn't lit. The motor sounded fine.

I'm not a quitter, and I'm not timid. Press on. Find a gas station, top up the coolant, keep an eagle eye on the gauge. Don't max out the throttle, spare the bike. The decision was taking shape. The whole time I sat there, not a single car went by.  Other than the rushing sound of passing cars on the Northway, I was alone.

Acutely conscious of the risk, I pulled off the shoulder and headed down the road. The one thing I didn't do was check the GPS to see where the next gas station might be.  Go figure.

It was a good thing. Had I checked, I might have second-guessed myself.

Blue Ridge Road,  eventually merging with Highway 28N miles away to the west, climbed and twisted its way west into the Adirondack National Park.  Two lanes of asphalt ribbon hemmed in by towering walls of evergreens. Mile upon mile racked up, no sign of habitation, certainly no service station. Eventually the road began a long downhill stretch with twists and turns, and signs warning truckers to slow their rigs.
The ride was spectacular, and would have been dreamy, but for my ultra-sharp focus on the temperature, and monitoring every other aspect of the bike's performance, nursing it up hills, and riding deeper and deeper into my commitment to the ride. While I rode I turned the coolant leak over, and over, and over in my mind.  I was slowly concluding that the cooling system had overheated and the coolant spilled out of the reservoir. That was the only theory I could muster to explain the amount of spilled coolant, the persistently and counter-intuitively normal operating temperature since, and the fact that the Vespa was no longer leaking coolant.

Thirty-seven very long miles later I came to the crossroads where 28N and 30 meet at the village of Long Lake New York.
 The gas station at the intersection was a sight for sore eyes.  I parked the bike at the pumps, and strolled into the gas station convenience store.  "Do you have any anti-freeze?" I inquired, my fingers secretely crossed in my pants pocket. My heart sank briefly as the cashier looked around the store with a furrowed brow. "Oh sure honey, check on that rack over there." I must have looked casual, but inwardly all I could think was "Yes, yes, YES, YES!!"

I eagerly grabbed the two litre jug, shelled out $15 dollars, and headed back to the bike.  I unloaded the gear, refueled, reloaded the gear, and moved the bike to a parking spot next to the convenience store. I unloaded the bike again, strolled over to the pumps and came back with the windshield squeegee, using it to clean up the coolant mess on the legshield and floorboards.

With the environmental clean-up out of the way, I dug out my  tool roll and a rag, and set to work. It took only seconds to remove the right kneepad to reveal the top of the coolant reservoir. I gingerly and slowly twisted  the cap counter-clockwise.  After a quarter turn it hissed softly.  That was it, the pressure subsided and I was able to remove the cap.  The bike had cooled enough that there was no gush of hot liquid. I peered into the neck of the reservoir with the aid of my super bright flashlight. Clearly the coolant was below the 'min' mark. I added anti-freeze slowly until the level was above the minimum mark and closer to the maximum.  In all, I estimate I added about a cup or at most a cup and a half of coolant which roughly matched the amount of coolant I felt I had lost.  So far, so good.

I made a pit stop in the restroom and refilled my water bottle.

I was now reasonably confident that the rest of the trip would be uneventful, at least as far as the Vespa was concerned.

I turned left and headed south on highway 30.  The miles to the Adirondack museum counted down on the Garmin.  Soon I rounded a bend, and down the hill there it was in all its glory.  I pulled into the parking lot and circled around looking for Stephanie's blue Vespa. She wasn't there. Not that she should have been. She had estimated reaching the museum between two and three o'clock. Even with my little coolant misadventure, it was only one o'clock.

I picked a spot in the parking lot where I could keep an eye out for Ms. Yue.
I got my camp chair out and settled in, desperately trying to get internet service so I could monitor messages.
The sun was hot, and I had to maneuver my chair in an effort to stay in the shade cast by the small tree at the edge of the lot.  I gazed at the passing cars. I looked at the clouds.

Time passed, slowly as it does when you wait.  I sipped my water.  I watched more clouds. I baked in the afternoon sun. I wished I was thinner. I checked the cell service, barely there, mostly useless. I listened to the  birds and cicadas. I wished I had brought a hat. Then I remembered a time when I was nine or ten. I went for a hike with my Dad. He had showed me how to make a hat by tying knots in the four corners of a kerchief.  As it happened, I carry a couple of kerchiefs in the glove compartment.  I fished one out and made myself a hat. Much better. I watched more clouds. I fiddled with taking selfies thanks to my camera's WiFi remote iPhone app.  Thanks Bob.
And then it happened.  A bike rounded the curve at the bottom of the hill to the south.  Could it be?
Of course it could!!!
And there she was, in the flesh. Stephanie Yue and her blue Vespa with the Rhode Island plates, most recently hailing from southern California.
Stay tuned my friends, there's more to come.

I just got Stephanie's photos.  Here are two of me that Stephanie took soon after arriving. I wore the T-Shirt that Bill Leuthold sent me. The perfect attire for the trip.
Copyright - Stephanie Yue
Copyright - Stephanie Yue
The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.