No Helmets, No Pay-phones – Eastern USA

July 16 – 24

For the next 2 days we made our way toward Mountain Top, PA where we planned to visit with some good friends, TJ & MJ (Mary Jane) Fjelseth.  The ride took us through, New Hampshire, Vermont, & NY State.  All of these states have a large motorcycle culture and we found that car traffic was exceptionally good to us because of it.  NH & VT do not require the use of helmets and if we saw 200 bikes on the road, 199 had riders without them.

NH license plate says it all

Most were only in t-shirts and jeans.  The girls on the back were often in shorts.  I’m not judging (okay, maybe I am) but, crushed skull & road rash aside,  if a small pebble or bug hits you in the face  while you are cruising at 80 kmph, it’s going to hurt.  For the record, I know they think we are nuts, too – riding in full jacket, pants, gloves & boots in +30C heat.

Bennington, VT on the Molly Stark Trail

Camping in NY State

Breakfast at an authentic Silk Diner, Redhook, NY

One of only 2 silk diners left on the National Register

After a  few more campsites and beautiful roads winding through western NY State & eastern PA (route 30 through the Catskills Mountains was Jordan’s favourite), a short stint on our first American Interstate brought us near the town of Mountain Top.  ‘Near’ because we actually went back-and-forth a numerous times on the I-81 as our GPS was confused (again).  It was insanely hot, loud & busy, and each time we would pull off to look at the maps, we would instantly start dripping with sweat.  We stopped at two McDonald’s locations (free wifi, A/C, and $1 ice cream) to confirm the route using our iPhones.  As it turns out there are two Mountain Top, Pennsylvania(s).  And, whereas my iPhone gave directions to one of them 42 miles away, Jordan’s gave directions to the other 12 miles away.  Our bike-mounted GPS also gave directions to the 42-mile location.  Since we were tired, very hot and I was extremely cranky due to the situation, we did the logical thing and chose to ride to the 12-mile location.  A little more back-and-forth and one U-turn later, we decided to call our friends from a gas station.

We don’t have cell service any more and rely on Skype.  But, there was no internet connectivity at the gas station, nor was there was a pay phone (I guess these are now obsolete).  We were hungry having not not eaten in hours except for the ice cream, and it was +38C so we were soaking wet.  We were definitely feeling tense.  Thankfully, the nice girl behind the gas station counter gave Jordan her own cell phone to use just as a full-on argument was about to ensue.  TJ answered and told us he would come and guide us to his home.  It turns out we were only 3 minutes away from our final destination.  Screw you, Google Maps / GPS!

a pre-ride breakfast with TJ & MJ

The Fjelseth’s beautiful home provided us with respite complete with air conditioning and chilled wine.  We gave serious thought to moving in.

Fixed Bikes & Flame Throwing Cars

The 2 weeks we stayed with our friends went by really quickly.  The first item on our list was to have our bikes serviced.  We were at the 10,000 km mark for the trip and my bike had a few issues needing attention.  TJ hooked us up with his local dealer – Hermys BMW in Port Clinton.  They were very accommodating and fit us in right away, despite thousands of BMW riders coming to the area for the National BMW Rally.  We think this might be due to TJ buying a new bike from them every few months.  My bike got a full service, new tires, new brakes and they fixed the ABS & the vibration – both of which were due to a slightly bent rim.  They installed a new gasket seal on my gas tank so my bike no longer leaks gas when we fill it up.  Jordan’a bike also received a full service, new rear brakes, a new main shock bearing and something called a counter sprocket bearing.  His was extremely worn and the service guys were very surprised he made it all this way in the shape it was in (apparently it can cease one’s engine).  Not only was the service exceptionally fast and friendly at Hermy’s,  it was about 2/3 the price we would have paid at a Canadian dealership, which we also appreciated.  When I enquired about my ABS weeks ago with an Ottawa service provider (non-dealer), his email response said, among other things, “…dealers ‘suck balls’ (this fellow was highly unaccommodating, himself, by the way).  In our experience Hermys does not “suck balls”.

We attended the BMW rally with TJ & MJ.  It was stinkin’ hot, so we bailed on our idea of the ‘full experience’ which would have included camping on site.  The rally was okay.  Our first, and apparently not the best to date, though there were some great classic BMWs on display.  The worst decision they may have made was the grand finale show.  I was promised by the fellow who took my entry ticket that the show would be “amazing” and I should be sure not to miss it.  It turns out the finale did not include Chris Pheiffer, moto-stunt rider extrodinaire.  It was some kind of auto parade that I can’t really describe but to say it involved cars throwing flames 70 feet into the air.  A crowd of hundreds booed the procession because not only was it a terrible show, the cars were blasting their intense heat directly into the grandstand. Did mention it was over 100 degrees already?  We all would have been much more impressed with a parade of snow-making machines.

There were classic BMWs

... and a field of muddy GS's

We rounded out our visit with the Fjelseths by riding over 300 kms through nearby, Pennsylvania Dutch country and enjoyed a lot of great food and drink courtesy of Mary Jane.  Here is a drink recipe for your next outdoor party:

BEERGUERITES (like marguerites, but with beer)

  • Pour one bottle of beer into a pitcher of ice
  • Add one container of frozen concentrate lime juice (lime-ade)
  • Fill that same container with tequila and add it to the beer & concentrate
  • Stir it up and serve in a salted rim glass
It is important to mention how much we appreciate the kindness TJ & MJ showed us.  There is really too much to thank them for here.  We really enjoyed their company and they made the American portion of our trip memorable.
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