Several years ago, I made a frightening discovery while on a run near my parents’ home. Fortunately, no one had been robbed, nor was there any need to call the coroner. This was far worse. Two of the roads that I took to get to their home from the highway were in terrible shape, broken and crumbling from years of neglect. This was not the discovery, but a harsh reminder of the real tragedy: these two roads had never been repaved since I was born. Without getting into too much gruesome detail, I will just say that meant a very long time indeed: decades (several).
It was always harsh to drive over these roads. The winter cycling above and below the freezing point that makes our soil so easy to turn in the spring also wreaks havoc with pavement. Potholes and frost heaves are the result and, in fact, the norm for most of the Northeastern U.S. In Lancaster County, we also have the moving chicane known as the horse & buggy. Outsiders view them as simple and majestic, but they don’t take into account the havoc the carbide embedded in the steel shoes does to the road surface. The middle of each lane is often marred by deep troughs running the length of the road. It is only when riding motorcycle, bicycling, or in this case, running, that it becomes shockingly evident just how bad these roads were getting; you tend to notice these things when you’re more vulnerable to the elements. The potholes were deep enough to extend through the pavement and past the sub-base of coarse stones into the dirt beneath. While not wide enough to swallow a car tire, they could do some serious damage to a bicycle wheel. Or engulf a whole running shoe, and perhaps a whole runner. As I continued to run my course, fearing for my ankles, I pondered just how bad the Highway Department would allow these roads to deteriorate before slothing to action in an effort to repair them. Read more
We all know one. That guy. The one born of wealthy and intelligent stock, who is not only good looking and athletic but seems to be talented in all aspects of life. The guy that can do absolutely anything he puts his mind to. Meanwhile, the rest of us in society are left looking onward in disbelief. You are amazed by him. You are humiliated by him. You respect him. You covet him. You would secretly wish him dead, if it weren’t for that one flaw that you know about. It could be his giant nose, but often these flaws are hidden deep down beneath the surface, where only those close to him know the truth. That ugly truth is: he’s got a terrible sense of rhythm. And it delights you.
The golden boy of the two-wheeled world these days seems to be KTM. Their off-road lineup is a brutal force to be reckoned with since nearly every machine in their product range seems to be either a class-leader or at least right up there with the best of the best. They have a strong reputation as four-stroke single-cylinder masters (and their acquisition of dirtbeast builder Husaberg certainly didn’t hurt that), and they still have the backbone to offer a great two-stroke choice in each class as well. (It’s still nice to have the option of premix.)
As a devoted follower of The Driving Farce, you are certainly aware by now that I rode out to Indianapolis with a group of friends for the Red Bull MotoGP race. We headed out from Lancaster, PA on a warm, sticky morning just in time to catch a wicked thunderstorm just west of Harrisburg. We invested in $16.25 in PA Turnpike tolls per bike. That’s $162.50 for our crew, round trip. I will admit that the Turnpike did offer us decent road, with the exception of the tar patches that they have in the central sections. In the rain, a bike tire will spin up while changing lanes when crossing these which is anything but reassuring, and especially not expected at partial-throttle. They can do better. For that kind of money I expect more, frankly; like train service with a bunk. And perhaps a bag or two of stale pretzels.
As we made our way across the eastern part of the country we played Musical Bikes. We drew bike names out of a hat prior to our departure. At each fuel stop we switched seats (and keys, thankfully) to allow ourselves a chance to sample the pleasures and pains of various manufacturers, and to contort our bodies into different shapes for the next 120 miles. So, without further ado, I give you my impression of each machine in order of the riding stint. Read more
There is a buzz in the air these days. My mind is preoccupied with thoughts of adventure and interstate. (Strange, since the two are often mutually exclusive.) I’m finding it difficult to remain focused on the work left to do before departure.
This particular trip will be taking me and five other riders from eastern Pennsylvania to Speedway, Indiana for the Red Bull MotoGP race. I know the route well, having been to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway numerous times for the USGP Formula 1 races. (This was back when the United States still cared about Formula 1. Or, more accurately, when Formula 1 still cared about the United States.) I call it a route, but that’s a bit of an exaggeration. No GPS will be needed (nor is it allowed in this group). Our path will take us up a two-lane highway for about 20 minutes, where we will make a left onto the Turnpike, then continue straight for about 11 hours.
It will be a very different experience from my previous Indy treks. We took a Coachman RV on every other trip to the Steakhouse Capital. I never understood the draw that a recreational vehicle offered to the elders of our society until I used it just once. It provided transportation, shelter, and entertainment to its occupants. (Albeit the last one in the tragic drama of nauseatingly high fuel consumption.) We could set up camp (extend the awning) in a parking lot directly across the street from the speedway. Aside from the fact that we were situated on top of blazing-hot asphalt skillet, this location proved ideal since there was no traffic to battle after a long day spent at the track, food & beverage were immediately available, and there was the added bonus of being awakened at 7AM to the shriek V10s turning 20,000 rpm. Also, motorhomes also give you the ability to pack once and be done. You don’t even need a bag, just pack your clothing and toiletries directly where you need them; none of this hauling suitcases and sleeping bags in and out of vehicles every time you stop for the night. Read more
We were welcomed into Brian’s home at Lancaster Gate and were shown around the flat. There was a lovely sitting room, furnished with rather lavish furniture that was a bit past its prime. A formal dining room was located off the sitting room, dark and unused—yet well-stocked with tall bottles of unopened liquor. A small kitchen offered a bright contrast to the rest of the living quarters; its tiny appliances proved to be equal parts utility and novelty. Brian’s room was in the corner. Gordon and I would be staying in the spare bedroom at the end of the hall, conveniently located next to a large bathroom.
There were still two rooms left unexplored. “Oh, that’s Dieter’s bathroom and his bedroom. Please don’t go in there.” I was perplexed and a bit miffed. Here I was, being the best friend I knew how by intruding on his Canadian hospitality, and he had the audacity to refuse me entry into the rest of his home! He went on to explain. “This is actually Dieter’s flat and I act as a sort of roommate/caretaker. Dieter has schizophrenia. Don’t worry; he’s not a danger to anyone. I’m just here to keep tabs on him.” As we took our bags back to our room, we passed the semi-closed door to the forbidden bathroom. My curiosity got the best of me and I looked in through the crack. I saw shower curtain withdrawn to expose the bathtub, but instead of seeing towels drying on the rung I saw a large, foldable drying rack full of black dress socks. There must have been two dozen pairs hanging there, the air drying them to the crisp stiffness of cold English toast. Intriguing… Read more
I leave for the shore tomorrow evening. I’m not sure why those of us living in the Mid-Atlantic states call the place where land meets sea water The Shore, nor why elsewhere it is called The Coast, The Beach, or The Ocean. I do find myself reacting to the mere mention of The Shore as though someone was talking of The Plague or The Gout. I find it best to avoid any of them, for two reasons: 1) massive amounts of people (and massive people, more often than not), and 2) the traffic jams.
I must admit that I tend to dislike people, in general. I find them to be genuinely rude and inconsiderate of others (namely me). They also tend to speak too loudly and, while they’re at it, seem to have no concept of when to stop talking. I will admit that there are a few exceptions, and those are usually real gems. (I am not one of them, sadly.) However, by and large, most people fall into the category of Best Avoided, and a strict adherence to this rule has kept me alive and at least partially sane to this day. Read more
I was due for a vacation. It had been weeks since my last one, and I noticed that fatigue was setting in. I couldn’t eat my own body weight anymore, and I was having trouble sleeping more than 12 hours a day. I needed to get away, but wasn’t sure just where or how. It was a terrible dilemma.
I already knew who would join me. My friend Gordon would join me—that was a given. We’d been on many trips together over the years: Vermont, Delaware, Maryland, all over Pennsylvania, Vermont again, Virginia, Massachusetts, Vermont again, New Hampshire, and Vermont. In fact, we’d been to Vermont so often that I considered becoming a Phish fan just to make the locals hate me even more for intruding on their state. (It is also strange, considering that I like New Hampshire more.) A couple of years prior we had flown out to visit a friend of mine in Seattle, where we proceeded to drink our body weight in espresso-based drinks every day. I always preferred to drive to our destination–not for the convenience of it, but for the enjoyment of hitting the road and listening to Gordon’s astute observations of the world. Since we had flown once, we could fly again, so it opened up our options. Read more
When I was just 16 years-old, (just weeks ago by my recollection), I simply got into the car and drove. I had no real destination. There was no devotion to my navigation, and rarely was a chart consulted for guidance. It seems strange to think of the risk I took in doing that, heading out alone with only the cash in my Velcro-secured wallet. I had no mobile phone and no GPS, not even a credit card. I didn’t even have my mother along. It was simply me, the car, and the road. It was wonderful. I got in, put the windows down, turned the key, and was off. I was looking for nothing more than to discover a bit more of this world than I had known when I left the house. Sometimes I was even successful.
The road that I chose inevitably led to another one and sometimes two. I was forced to make a choice: which direction would I take? More often than not, it was the one that led further from home. I wasn’t trying to escape home as much as I was striving to embrace freedom. For the first time in my life I could make my own decisions and get myself into some REAL trouble, if I so chose (which I rarely did).
It used to be a weekly occurrence for many in America to pile into the family Buick (a brown ’73 LeSabre in our case) after Sunday lunch and go for a drive. The kids were all stuffed in the back seat and forced to look out the window to observe the world. There were no DVD players or other electronic devices to keep their minds occupied—that was up to the kids’ imaginations and the parents’ route. This drive allowed the family to get out from the city and the suburbs to see some scenery, to witness another style of life, or at least other brands of cars. Read more