Thursday, September 21, 2017

Road Trip; the little guy

I was blessed to be able to be the first member of the Hill side of the family to greet our newest member.

I left my lunch meeting in Virginia and headed westward toward Fletcher NC, adding NC as the 15th state to enter on my journey. Jessica missed our family reunion this summer since she was late in her pregnancy and leave management for a young family can be an issue. Originally, I wasn't sure if a stop to see them would work out and I really was concerned about adding to an already overwhelming situation.

When I arrived late in the evening, Jason was out picking up some things for dinner. Jess came out to greet me and introduce me to the dogs. Bella was not a happy dog.
Before making my way to the back gate, Jess had me remove my jacket, gloves and cap. Apparently, Bella already has issues with strange men and those things don't help.

I was the first unfamiliar person to come to the house since baby Jacob arrived and Bella was going to do her best to make sure that I was okay. It took her quite a while to relax. Jason's arrival helped, but even then she positioned herself on the floor between me and who ever was holding the baby.

I got the home tour, enjoyed dinner and our visit, but also worried about being an intrusion as they make adjustments in their new world of life with an infant.

Although they offered their couch, I knew that a less than a week old baby was enough and opted for a nearby motel. Jess' mom was there and using the guest room, so one more person and a nervous dog was an unnecessary burden.

I enjoyed our visit but also wanted to leave when Jacob started his post dinner nap. I know that sleep time can be a precious thing for new parents and wanted them to be able to take advantage of his sleep time to get some of their own.

It had been a good day.
And the next day was the ride to the Dragon!

John <><

Here's a pic of me with Jason, Jessica and Jacob.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Road Trip; more people

After meeting with Bill in the DC area of NoVa, I traveled south until Fredricksburg where I overnighted at a cheap motel. I was able to sleep in a bit before traveling to meet an old friend from my days of being active with our controllers' union.

For my entire career, Adell Humphreys was the lady that kept NATCA running smoothly. Even while the officers of the organization changed, Adell was always there to maintain the office and acclimate new officers to their posts. It's true that she worked for NATCA and she has recently referred to me as one of her 15,000 bosses. But her leadership in guiding the office staff never went unnoticed by those of us that were privileged to work with her.

I have to admit that I always felt that my role in NATCA was pretty small and insignificant and am somewhat surprised that I have Adell and a few past officers as social media contacts. In any case, it has been more than a decade since I have been to any NATCA events so I was looking forward to this meeting.
I think Adell retired from her service to NATCA a little before I retired as a controller. Retirement is looking good on her. Like me, she has taken to motorcycle riding in retirement and is learning to enjoy the road on two wheels. She is engaged to be married and her guy, Stan, seems like a great guy. I was so pleased to get to meet him. I always enjoy talking cigars with someone that enjoys a good smoke and we exchanged a few cigars over lunch.

We met at a truck stop just off the highway and then rode our bikes to lunch.
Stan said, "John, we're taking to to lunch at a gas station!"

Some of the best places to eat are local dives.
This little BBQ place was busy for the lunch hour. Four state police cars were in the parking lot and several construction workers were there as well as a few local couples. I figured that they were taking me to one of their favorite places for a reason. I had a pulled pork sandwich with slaw and a little spicy sauce and was not disappointed! I don't remember the name of the place, but I'm sure one of them can help me by leaving it in the comments.
Once again, the conversation was easy and I think Stan and I did most of the talking with Adell just listening. I doubt an observer would have guessed that we just met.

I still had several hours of highway ahead of me, so they guided me back to the highway and we said our goodbyes. Stan gave me a good route to follow (was one of google's alternate routes) and I figured to take advantage of his experience over google (remember the ferry in Detroit?).

It was great to hit the road with a full belly and a light heart.

John <><

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Road Trip, a few of the people I met

Several years ago, I was looking at some random blogs (something I haven't done in a long time) and ran across one that was written by a fellow air traffic controller. I started following his blog and found out that he is also a minister!

He was active in his NATCA (our controller's union) local (Boston Tower) and I had also been pretty active in NATCA. It turns out that Tom (TC) and I have been to several NATCA events, but never met each other. After retiring, Tom returned to full time ministry and now pastors the oldest Congregational church in the US. It was founded in 1623!
We have been friends on Faecbook and he has been one of several NATCA people that I was looking forward to meeting.

We did!
I managed to make it to Boston in time to experience the afternoon rush hour.
When I left Steve's place in Vermont it was 56 degrees (13.3C) so I opted for a light shirt and left the lining in my jacket. By the time I reached Boston, the temp was mid 80s (30C) and I was regretting the lining -- especially with traffic moving slowly or not at all.

Imagine for yourself:
It's almost 90 degrees (32C)
You're in a long tunnel filled with cars and trucks adding engine exhaust to the heat of the day
You're wearing a lined motorcycle jacket, heavy denim jeans, and a helmet
You're sitting on a hot running engine

It was pretty brutal.

But I made my way to Weymouth on Boston's south side and met up with TC at his church office.
He took me out for a wonderful dinner of pan seared scallops and lobster risotto. We visited like old friends and it didn't feel at all like this was our first time to sit down and visit over a meal. He took me back to the church where I reloaded the bike and made my way on down the road another hour or so before stopping for the night.

The following day I was on the road to meet with yet another long time blogging friend in the DC area of northern Virginia. Bill has met a number of his blogging friends and added me to his growing list. I don't have as many followers and have cut down on the number of blogs I follow, but I have managed to meet a few of you and would love to meet more.
I met Bill at a little diner at the Springfield Mall -- Springfield VA, that is.

One might think that two guys that met for the first time would have a difficult time with conversation, but that just wasn't the case. It was an enjoyable respite from the road, especially when you consider that I also managed to hit DC for the evening traffic!

We managed to get our waiter to take the picture and it turned out much better than if I would have attempted another selfie shot.

Then it was back into traffic for another hour or so to move a little further down the road.

I'll post more from the road trip tomorrow. If you're a reader and want to meet, let me know. I'm sure that there is a highway that connects us and a future road trip to be planned.
(And if there is a major or minor league baseball team nearby the odds of a visit increase dramatically!)

John <><

Monday, September 18, 2017

Road Trip, Home

It's Monday morning and I am sitting in my home, drinking coffee from one of my favorite mugs.

I've been perusing Facebook and thinking that I should start writing about the adventures of my journey.
The thoughts that come to me this morning are that I am so blessed to be able to do such a ride. Even though Chris has no desire to ride, she is very supportive of my doing so and is willing to stay home while I take to the road.

The early retirement (and good retirement package) that I enjoy from my service as an air traffic controller is not lost on me. I know that few people find themselves in my position at this age. We are not wealthy by any means, but we are doing quite well as middle class Americans.

Because I was traveling alone, I didn't do much sight seeing that couldn't be done from the road and on the seat of my motorcycle. I'm not disappointed about that, but it seems necessary to mention that this trip was more about the ride ... and the personal visits.

In the end, if I had to pick a favorite part of the journey, it would be the one thing that started the whole process -- visiting with my brother in Vermont.
Steve lives in a small, seasonal cabin on Lake Champlain. He lives where other people vacation or go to get away from their normal lives. He hikes and camps in the Adirondack Mountains, kayaks on the lake or on any of the mountain rivers and streams. He'll have to vacate his cabin in the winter (lake living is seasonal and some services like water and septic are off during the winter) and find another place to live for a few months. Last year, he wintered in a house on nearby Mt Philo.

As I was preparing to leave, Steve picked up a voice mail from a friend asking if he was going camping on the weekend and if they could tag along.
Yep -- when others are starting to think that it's getting a little chilly to escape to the lake, he's packing up for a primitive camp in the mountains!

I really enjoyed our visit. We talked about our kids and what great adults they've turned out to be. We talked about life, family, work, and whatever came to mind. We ate a pizza by the lake as the sun set over the mountains, hiked up Mt Philo, toured the Shelburne Museum, walked the lake walk in Burlington and visited some of the shops, and we took the kayaks out for a paddle on the lake. (I kind of got my fat ass stuck in the kayak!)  I ate Steve's vegan diet at his place and indulged in a burger at the Vermont Pub and Brewery in Burlington, and a roast beef sandwich at his friend's after our hike.
In spite of the activity, it was a relaxing couple of days.
Did I mention that it was my favorite part of the journey?

Because I'm not much of a selfie picture taking guy, I regret that I didn't snag a pic of the two of us. I didn't think of that until I was riding through the Green Mountains on my way out of Vermont. I also missed the early photo ops with Mom and Dad, Aaron and Jenny, and Jo and Gord.
At least I was able to get a few pics with people after that.

I'll have more on the people, places and food in future posts.
Today, I'm going to enjoy being home.

John <><

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Road Trip, Riding the Dragon

Today was a short mileage day, but a fun mileage day.
I checked off a motorcycle bucket list item and rode the Dragon.
Along the way I had some great conversations with shop owners and other riders.

As with the rest of the trip, I'll work on posting more about the ride when I get back home and have time to sort it out in my head. Until then, here are a few pics from the day.

John <><

Road Trip, Day 11 Changing plans

So one of the freedoms of no schedule is being able to change plans mid-trip.

I'm to the place that I can ride two pretty moderate days or three pretty easy days to wrap things up. I'll be honest -- I'm looking forward to being home. Living out of a suitcase when you're staying in one place for a week or so is one thing; changing locations everyday is a figurative pain in the butt.

I'm thinking of going two days and I think I'll stretch them a bit and swing to the south and add a few more states to the list. If I head south to Huntsville AL, I'll drive the eastern part of Tennessee, cut the corner of Georgia and then pick up Mississippi and Arkansas on the way home. I'll miss Kentucky (which was on my planned route), but gain the four other states.

So far I've managed to touch MO, IL, IN, MI, VT, NH, ME, MA, RI, CT, NY, NJ, DE, MD,VA and NC. I also managed DC in rush hour and traveled two Canadian provinces.

I guess if I'm going to do that, I should get going! I'll write about the journey when I'm sitting comfortably on my own sofa and sipping a cup of coffee.
Until then, here are a couple of pics from the people I visited with yesterday.

The lady that kept NATCA together for my entire career and her soon-to-be husband

My new great nephew

...oh yeah, and his parents!

More later.
Be safe and keep an eye out for old guys on motorcycles.

John <><

Friday, September 15, 2017

Road Trip, not an update

I know I should be keeping up with the daily reports, but freedom is a wonderful thing and I just haven't.
I had planned to over coffee this morning, but find that my laptop is dead and it's too nice to have coffee inside. I'm going to continue sitting outside and will have to update you when I have my laptop charged and am not thumb tapping on my phone.

Let's just say that I am enjoying the ride!
I've visited with family and friends. I've met some new people and seen some of the beauty of the land.

I'm sure today will be another grand day!
Be safe!

John <><

Monday, September 11, 2017

Road Trip, Day 6

Yesterday afternoon I arrived at my brother's place in Charlotte VT.
The ride from Cornwall, Ontario was just beautiful. I probably should have stopped and taken a few pictures when crossing over the St Lawrence Seaway, but that isn't really my thing and I'm sure that the pictures wouldn't be an accurate representation of the beauty of the waterway.

I crossed the border into the US along with a couple of Canadian riders out for a Sunday ride. It was a husband and wife team, each riding their own Harleys and each in their upper 60s to around 70. We chatted briefly while waiting in line and then after crossing. They noticed my Missouri plate and were just asking about my ride. Earlier, I had met a man on his way home to Connecticut from visiting his girlfriend in Chicago. We had both stopped for fuel. I was leaving when he was going to get something to eat.

Last night I really enjoyed visiting with Steve. We picked up a pizza for dinner and found a place by the lake to eat and watch the sunset.

This is really a beautiful place. We watched the sun set, enjoyed dinner and marveled at peace and serenity of the lake.

This morning we had some tasty pancakes for breakfast -- banana, nuts, blueberries! Yum.

We picked up a neighbor's dog on our way to Mt Philo for a nice hike.
The dog was along to help us find our way down the trails since Steve admits to getting lost on occasion. Yeah, Daisy saved the day -- twice!

We made it back to Daisy's place and had a nice lunch while talking about Vermont and my travels when I leave here on Wednesday.

Here are some pics from our hike.

We also visited the Shelburne Museum this afternoon.
It's dinner time. I don't know what Steve is preparing, but it smells delicious.

John <><

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Road Trip, Sunday morning, Day 5

I know.
I haven't been very faithful in posting updates, but it's mostly because I've either been visiting or riding.
Or sleeping.

I'm using the wifi at Starbucks in Cornwall, Ontario this morning while munching on an Oatmega protein bar and sipping the usual Venti 5 shot Americano.

So let's back up and begin with Day 3.
I arrived in Chicago Thursday afternoon after having breakfast and lunch at Mom and Dad's place in Metamora. Traffic going into the city was a little heavier than I expected, but not too bad. Aaron and I met Jenny as she was walking to the condo and then went to Lagunita's for dinner. I had a spicy curried pork bowl that was very good and probably more healthy than my normal Lagunita's Hogunitas sandwich!
Our visit was pretty short since the kids have that adulting thing to do in the morning. I decided to just get up and leave when Aaron left for work, getting an early start to the day. It's a good thing I did because I forgot about the time zone change as I was heading east.

I rode the morning traffic out of Chicago and was in northwest Indiana before I stopped for coffee and a breakfast sandwich at Starbucks. I expected to be able to ride for a while before stopping for gas, but that all changed when it started to rain. I pulled over, filled up early and donned the rain gear. It was a light manageable rain and lasted for about 30 minutes. Since the day was cool anyway, I just rode with the added layer and was comfortable.
I had selected a route on Google maps that showed a ferry crossing from Detroit into Canada. I began to have my doubts as the road to the ferry went through a rather industrial area and then turned to a gravel road for about 1/4 mile or so. It ended in a quaint little yacht club with some nice boats -- but no ferry dock!
There was I nice guy working in the club house that informed me that Google had lied to me. There was no ferry. He directed me to the Bridge to Canada and I wound my way back through the industrial area and Detroit city streets and eventually made my way into Canada. At the border, the Canadian crossing guard asked me what I was doing in Canada and I told him I was visiting friends north of Toronto on my way to Vermont. He also asked if this was my first visit to Canada. I told him no and he asked when I why I had come in the past. I told him last September to visit the same friends. He said, "So this is an annual thing?"
I said, "No, but I like the way you're thinking!"

The drive across Ontario to Toronto was pretty uneventful -- other than the occasional rain showers and miles (or kilometers) of construction and single file traffic. About the time I reached Toronto and needed the navigation, my phone died. Through it all, I ended up at the campground much later than expected. Dinner was ready -- smoked ribs! -- and it was delicious!
It was grand to visit with Jo and Gord. Jo insisted on sending pictures to Chris, guaranteeing my banishment to the proverbial doghouse. We sat out and visited until late. It is really amazing the connection we made with these friends that we met on a Mexican vacation several years ago.
It was well past 1AM when we turned in for the night. Gord had to work Saturday morning, but I got up early to have coffee with them and then spent the morning visiting with Jo before getting on the road and heading eastward again.

I spent the night in Cornwall, Ontario, bringing the trip mileage to 1400 so far.
The scenery across lower Ontario is beautiful! As I moved further northeast along the seaway, the leaves on the trees began showing their colors. Ugh! I'm not a fan of fall.
There is a border crossing here in Cornwall, but I'm going to travel a little farther east to check off another Canadian province. I'll turn south after crossing into Quebec.

I'll write more later. For now it is past time for me to get on the road.

John <><

Friday, September 08, 2017

Road Trip, early Day 3

I'm just taking a morning coffee break at a Starbucks, somewhere in NW Indiana.
I left when Aaron left for work and rode the early morning Chicago traffic until clear of it and now I'll enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee or two. The downside is that I'll have to make another stop relatively soon after starting again, but that's the price one pays for indulging in the very nectar of life.

I zipped the liner into my riding jacket this morning and went with just a t-shirt underneath. I was thinking I might be a little warm while I was loading up the bike, but feel pretty comfortable on the road.

I'll be back later with a full day's update from the highway.

John <><