Friday August 5, 2005
It usually starts the night before, but sometimes it happens early in the morning. It is when I start to get really excited about my next trip. Usually by the night before, I have already packed the trailer and bike and it is sitting in the garage ready to go.
As always the alarm hasn’t even gone off when my eyes open and I look at the clock on the ceiling. “On the Ceiling?”, you say. Yes, on the ceiling. Okay, I have one of those clocks that projects the time on the ceiling. It also tells me the outside temperature. What it does is alternate between time and temperature, changing every few seconds. I have had this clock for about a year and I swear almost every time I wake up during the night and look up at the clock it is showing the temperature. I have to wait a few seconds for it to change, so I can see the time. I have even tried to trick the clock by waiting a few seconds before looking at it, but it always outsmarts me and I still have to wait for it to change. Is this one of Murphy’s Laws? Even Elaine has commented on the fact she rarely ever sees the time the first time she looks at the clock.
Okay, enough about the clock. This morning I had set my cell phone to go off at 4:00am, but at 3:58 I am already up and moving. By 5:00 I am dressed, showered, shaved, and all that other stuff. I am anxious to be on the move.
One stop on the way out of town to get a full tank of gas, and I am on the road. I love to leave early in the morning before the sun is up. It gives me a chance to enjoy the cool morning air and make a lot of miles before it gets hot. I only stop for gas until I get just north of Atlanta where I stop for breakfast at McDonalds. I don’t remember the exit but it is a four lane road and it is really busy. There’s nothing like a Big Breakfast and a Diet Coke to get the day going. A little caffeine and some good ole grease to keep the arteries clear.
Now I am back on the road, and heading north. I go through Clayton Georgia and continue north to the Blue Ridge Parkway. I ride north on the Parkway with one detour where the parkway is still out from last years storms. About the time I am getting on the detour, it starts to rain. I finish the detour, and as I get back on the Parkway, it starts raining hard.
After about thirty minutes of riding in the rain, and I mean it was really coming down, I started looking for somewhere to stop. I came to an overpass, but when I started to pull over, there was a small river running along the right side of the road. The other side was dry so I turned around and parked on the other side of the road under the overpass. There was a BMW rider from Tallahassee Florida doing the same thing. After forty-five minutes or so we head out in different directions, he is going south and I am going north. I have my rain gear on to try to keep dry. I finally find sunshine so it is time to get out of the rain suit. Wow, that feels a lot better. At least I am a lot cooler. I wish I had put my boots on when it first started raining; my shoes and socks are wet and uncomfortable.
I plan to stop in Mayberry USA, better known as Mount Airy, North Carolina. I have all kinds of great ideas about taking a tour of the town but by the time I get set up in my room and have some supper, it is 9:00pm and I want to get an early start. I have to plug in my phone and MP3 player so they will be charged and ready to go in the morning. I like to listen to the MP3 because it means I am not constantly looking for radio stations. I can listen all day and rarely hear the same song twice. I have around 1000 songs that I have downloaded over the years.
I took a few minutes to look over my E-bay auctions and answer any questions that were asked before turning in around 10:00pm. I leave the tv on and woke up around 2:00am and turned it off.
Saturday August 6, 2005
As usual I am on the road by 5:00am. They have not even set up breakfast at the motel by the time I leave. It is fairly cool this morning, so I put on a long sleeve t-shirt and my jacket. I am heading north on I-77. It gets so foggy at times that all I can do is pick out the taillights of a car ahead of me and follow them. In Virginia I have to get on I-81 and go west for a short time before heading north on I-77 again. It is still dark as I make this jog. I have been this way before and I am sad that I am missing some of the most beautiful scenery there is. The mountains here in Virginia and West Virginia are absolutely gorgeous. As dawn breaks, I get a look of some of the great scenery.
I finally stop at Bleckley West Virginia to get gas. Most of the way to this point, I have been paying around $2.20 to $2.30 per gallon for gas. Boy did I get a wake up call at this exit. Gas was $2.45 per gallon. I did not have enough gas to go any farther down the road so I went ahead and filled up. When I went into the store to borrow the bathroom, I asked the young lady behind the counter “Where is Pedro”. She looked blankly at me so I said “You know the bandit with the bullets across his chest, and pistol at his side. I feel I just got robbed out there”. Another blank stare and of course not even a smile. Oh well, maybe it was too early, or it just went over her head.
It was around 7:00am when I pulled out and headed north again. Just after entering Ohio, my belly was growling and the bike was in need of some more gas, so I decided to stop. I filled up the bike and had breakfast right next door. I had a Big Breakfast and Diet coke. Ah, the staff of life. While I was eating, it started raining. While I was sitting there a guy walks by and says, “That your bike out there?” I told him yes. I am always ready for the “nice looking bike “comment, but not him. He says “Looks like you’re gonna get wet”.
I didn’t say it out loud, but I thought “Ya think”?
I put my rain suit on and head north again. I intend to get to Buffalo this afternoon. Elaine is flying in, and she will arrive this afternoon. I ride about 75 or so miles before I run out of the rain. It never really rained very hard, just enough to make it hard to see out of the windshield. I stop at a rest area and take off my rain suit.
I decide I have enough time to stop by Shadyside Ohio and buy some parts for my Goldwing at Honda Directline (www.hondadirectlineusa.com). I buy a lot from them on the internet, and I would like to see their store. I had to go about 50 or 60 miles out of the way to get there. I have put the address into my GPS and it is directing me to my destination. Finally I arrive. “What is this”? It is a converted gas station. I park and go in, expecting to see all kinds of parts and bikes. Boy that is a joke. I am walking around looking kinda lost when one of the guys working there asks me if there is something he can do for me. I tell him I was expecting to see something different, you know, bigger. He says a lot of people who come here are expecting to see a big showroom. I guess that proves you can be big on the internet and not have a big store presence.
Disappointed and a little behind schedule I head out again. This time the GPS says to go through West Virginia and head north on I-79. This will take me near Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and on to Erie where I pick up I-90. The speed limit on I-79 all the way to Pittsburgh and a little beyond was 55 MPH. Needless to say, I wasn’t making very good time. As soon as I hit the New York border, it becomes the New York State Throughway, which will take me to Buffalo. I stop and get gas and call Elaine and find she has already arrived in Buffalo.
We are staying in the northern part of Buffalo in the Amherst area, in a Homewood Suite Motel. When we made the reservations I asked about discounts, and found out they have a government discount. Elaine works for the City of Albany and the motel says that as long as she has a government ID we can have the discount. We ended up paying just over $80.00 per night for our room, plus we get our Hhonors (Hilton) points. The motel is less than 6 months old and everything still smells new. Our room has a kitchen, a sitting or living room, separate bedroom, and bath. There are even granite counter tops in the bath and kitchen.
My uncle from Binghamton is here to show us around and be our tour guide. We decide that it is only fitting that we should eat at the Anchor Bar where Buffalo Chicken Wings began. Now I am somewhat of a Chicken Wing connoisseur. I’ve had very few wings that were not good. Of course to me, they need to be hot. Not so hot my tongue deserts me, just hot enough to require a good cold Miller Lite to cool my mouth down.
The Anchor Bar was a disappointment to me. I was expecting the very best and I only got fairly good. I would think that the “KING” of chicken wing places would be better. I think the hype has outweighed the actual food quality. The beer was barely cold (and they didn’t have Miller Lite), so I guess they started with two strikes against them; I gotta have my cold beer, and the wings were so-so. Oh well, I probably won’t be back this way again in my lifetime.
Sunday August 7, 2005
See “Buffalo 2005” page for pictures pertaining to this part of the story.
We eat breakfast at the motel. It isn’t a great breakfast, but it is good. It is nice to be able to eat at the motel and not have to load up, go somewhere, and come back to the room.
Elaine and I are going to Niagara Falls for the day on the bike. We are gonna do all of the tourist type stuff. I have visited Niagara Falls a lot when I was younger. We would go to Lockport every other year to spend time with our relatives at Christmas. Now picture this: Mom, Dad, Grandmother, and four kids in a station wagon, pulling a u-haul trailer, for three days (Yes, that’s right 3 days). Wow, what a picture. I had enough trouble traveling with two kids and no grandmother. “She touched me! Get out of my seat! Are we there yet? How much longer?” Anyone heard those before?
Now remember, when we went north it was back in the 1950’s and there are no interstates. There were only two lane roads. I remember going through the mountains and you could look right down the side of the mountain, no guardrails to protect you. Oh, the memories that produces. These are the same roads we motorcyclists love to ride now, but they were scary back then.
Like I said, I have visited Niagara Falls more times than I can remember. Actually I remember very little about most of the past trips. I think the big brain cells ganged up on the poor little memory cells and stomped the shit out of them, because they ain’t there anymore. Either that or something I did when I was younger wiped them out. Maybe it was a combination of both.
I do remember going to New York in the mid 1970’s to pick up a boat my Uncle Bob gave me and coming back with a golf cart sitting on the back of the truck and the front of the boat full of my aunt and uncles stuff where they were moving to Florida. I didn’t know a thing about trailer weights and the effect they have on vehicles until I left to go home. As soon as I reached 55 MPH the boat started to sway and throw the truck around. Too much weight in the front of the boat. So, it was all the way home (1100 miles) at 55 MPH. We left at 3pm on one day and arrived at 4pm the next day. I ended up driving straight through. Back then there were little black pills around that kept you awake for long periods of time, and they worked very well.
You’ll have to pardon me. I tend to wander a little. So now, let’s get back to the trip.
We left the motel around 8:00am and headed to Niagara Falls. We decided to take a scenic route instead of the interstate. It is only around 30 miles away, but because we were going to go to Canada, I decided to get gas before we left Buffalo. I don’t really have an excuse, nor do I know what I was thinking, but all of a sudden there was a gas station on the right and I decided to pull in and get some gas. I was on a three lane road and I was in the middle lane. I don’t think it ever dawned on me that there was still a lane on my right until I heard the squealing brakes of the car I turned in front of. I could see the car coming out of the corner of my right eye and made a hard turn to the left.
Boy, were we lucky. I kept waiting for the impact, but it was only a gentle bump. The lady that was driving the car had seen me start to make my turn and slammed on brakes in time to not hit us very hard. We pulled into the station and I don’t know who was shaking worse, us or the lady that I pulled in front of. I went over and apologized profusely for my stupidity, and assured her it was all my fault. It took her a while to calm down. It took Elaine and me a little while to calm down also.
I checked her car and there was no damage. I looked at my bike and the right saddle bag had two or three black marks where her bumper hit. I figured that this was a small price to pay for such stupidity. Later in the day I found that I could wipe the marks off and there was no permanent damage.
There was a question on the internet site I monitor that asked “Could you be a passenger on your bike?” Man, that is a tough question. My answer is “NO” I could not be a passenger. Having said that, Elaine climbed right back on and off we went. I did have a few more verbal warnings of stopping traffic, red lights coming up, and etc., but I didn’t complain. Actually I was glad for the extra set of eyes.
We arrive at Niagara Falls. We went across to Goat Island, which is in the middle of the river between the American Falls and Canadian Falls (Horseshoe). From here we can venture to any of the attractions. We bought a day pass to all of the pay attractions. Out of five or six we plan to do at least five of them and we get the full use of the tram for the day.
In all of the years I have visited Niagara Falls, I have never been to the Cave of the Winds (bottom of the American Falls), or on the Maid of the Mist. Our first stop is the Maid of the Mist. This boat goes right up to the bottom of the Canadian (Horseshoe) fall. As the boat pulls out, I take pictures of the falls, bridge, and river. As we get to the falls, it becomes apparent that there will be no pictures, as the mist and water is almost as bad as I imagine a hurricane to be. We are wearing poncho style rain covers, but everything outside of the poncho is getting sopping wet (for our northern neighbors, sopping is akin to soaking).
I cannot begin to describe the raw power of the falls from this view. The roar and the mist coming off is a complete rush. There is no way you can talk to anyone over the deafening sound of the water, nor would you want to. It is almost a religious experience where you stand there in awe of what you are seeing and hearing. It has been an awful long time since I felt the way I did. It seemed that the captain kept us there for a really long time. I know it was only minutes, but it seemed to last a lot longer. Finally we turn and head back to the dock. Other than visiting old home sites and places I remember in Lockport from my younger days, this had to be one of the highlights of my trip. I can’t believe I had never done this before.
Next is the Cave of the Winds. We had actually gotten in line to go to the bottom by elevator before we noticed that everyone was wearing a funky pair of sandals. We noticed these sandals all around and thought they must be really comfortable and someone was selling them. We had to get out of line, to go to another place and get a pair of these sandals before we could go to the bottom. I never got an explanation but my guess is that people were slipping in their street shoes so they make everyone wear a pair of these sandals. You get to keep the sandals, but it also means you have to carry your shoes with you in a plastic bag.
The Cave of the Winds used to be a cave that came out behind the American Falls, but the falling rocks and etc. made it too dangerous so they moved it. Now you come out onto a paved walkway. They give you instructions and then you proceed along wooden walkways that they tear down each year and rebuild every spring. For us southern folk, this is because the freezing water would tear them down if they did not remove them. You can go up to what they call the “Hurricane Deck” which takes you within feet of the actual water and it is like standing in a hurricane. This is also an awesome site as the water is landing just feet from you, but the Maid of the Mist is a couple of cuts above this. You still get plenty wet, even though you have a poncho.
We did the rest of the falls area and by 3pm we were ready to leave. I wanted to go to Canada just to be able to say we had been, so we crossed at the Rainbow Bridge. We brought our passports with us, and after a few questions, we were allowed to enter. We rode along the Canadian side of the Falls looking for a place to stop, but could find no parking except a large lot that wanted around $6.00 to park there. We did not have enough time to make the cost that worthwhile so we just continued on. After looking at the traffic backed up at the Rainbow Bridge trying to get into the USA we decided to go back to Buffalo and cross there at the Peace Bridge. It was Sunday, so we figured it would be quicker. Boy, did we figure wrong. We spent about 45 minutes in line waiting to cross.
When we pulled up to the customs agent, he had to get out of his booth and walk around to the back of the bike to read my tag. They have cameras that read the tags, but with my trailer on the back, he couldn’t see my tag. We gave him our passports and answered his questions. He made me take off my helmet so he could see my face. It took a little longer to come back in than to go out. I guess I am glad they are at least screening people a little closer than they did prior to 9/11.
It’s been a long day and I am sure glad to finally get back to our motel, and to a really cold Miller Lite. True southerners drink local beer. Miller has a plant in Albany, Georgia and I do my best to support the people who support me by buying pools from me. Wow that sure does taste good. Uncle Bob is there waiting on us. We have a couple of drinks, talk about the day and then go out to eat at Bennigan’s.
Monday August 8, 2005
See “My Heritage” page for pictures pertaining to this part of the story.
Once again we have breakfast at the motel before heading out. We take Bob’s car and let him drive as he knows where we are going. We are heading out to Lockport.
Our first stop along the way is on Hinman Road. Hinman Road is named after my family. This is the first time I can remember actually seeing this road. I am sure that somewhere in my past I have probably been on Hinman Road, but I do not remember it. I did hear in the news that Timothy Mcvay the Oklahoma Bomber was from around this area.
We stop in front of an old house and Bob tells me that this is where my Grandfather and Great Grandfather lived and farmed (my Great, Great, Great Grandfather (Charles Edward Hinman) built this house around 1826). My grandfather was 3 months old when his father got kicked by a cow he was milking. The kick broke his neck and he died the next day. My father, his two brothers and one sister were all born in this house. Not born while living in this house, “born in this house”. The house looks to be in fairly good shape, and well cared for. My Grandfather lost the farm in the late 1930’s during the depression. They moved to Lockport and my Grandfather went to work for Harrison Radiator, a division of General Motors.
While we are looking at the house and old barn from the road, a truck pulls up. The guy gets out and starts setting up a seismograph. He says they are fixing to blast in the quarry across the road and the seismograph is to record the amount of vibration. I have never been this close to a blast before so we stay on and wait.
I am still having trouble describing what the vibration felt like. It was a
series of blasts, one right behind the other. As the shock wave passed under
our feet it felt like someone ruffled a carpet under your feet. You know those
roller things they use to unload trucks where the boxes roll down a kind of
conveyor? It felt almost like you were standing on one of those and the ground
literally rolled under your feet. I am still trying to come up with a good
We say goodbye to the old home site and continue on to Lockport. Lockport is a couple of miles from the old house. Lockport was named for the locks on the Erie Canal. There are two locks that lift and lower the boats up and down the escarpment. This is the same ledge that created Niagara Falls. We wander around the locks for a while, go to the museum at the bottom of the locks, watch a couple of boats go through the locks, and then leave to tour the Towne of Lockport.
We rode past Harrison Radiator’s old plant, which has long since closed its doors, another victim of overseas cheap labor. It is sad to see an old plant like this closed and sitting idle. Even in my area of the country we see plants that fall victim to cheap Mexican and other foreign labor prices. Both of my Grandfathers worked at Harrison’s. My mother’s father was a draftsman for the company, and my father’s father tested and repaired radiators.
Our next stop was at 67 Harrison Avenue, my grandmother’s (and grandfather’s) house. I remember many wonderful visits to this house. The house has changed very little since we used to visit in the late 50’s and early 60’s. They rented the upstairs part of the house, and lived on the ground floor. You know, it may seem odd, but I never saw whoever lived upstairs. During all of our visits, I don’t believe I ever met the upstairs neighbors. Originally the upstairs was inhabited by my Uncle Ed and his wife. Ed was the oldest of the four kids. He died of Hodgkin’s disease four days after I was born.
I walked back and forth on the sidewalk across the street, and remembered the many times we visit this house. How we were given a small amount of money and allowed to walk about a hundred yards to the corner store to buy candy or cokes. We also played in a park that is located just around the corner. I even spent a summer visiting here when I was around 12 years old and I guess one of the most memorable things was visiting my Aunt Ida and Uncle Lankford Dobbins on their farm. I got to drive the tractor, pick vegetables, and have fun. It was the first time I had been on a farm.
I remember every morning when I got up while visiting, my grandfather would be sitting in his chair at the kitchen table smoking a cigarette, drinking his morning coffee, and reading either the paper or a book. My grandmother sold Stanley Products and had a room in the basement where she stored her products. The basement was always a fascinating place to me. We do not have basements in Albany Georgia.
I always remember one Christmas when we were in Lockport. I was sleeping on the couch in the front room, when I woke up in the middle of the night. It had been snowing really hard and everything outside was absolutely white with snow and so pristine. No car tracks or footprints disturbed the beautiful landscape lit up by the street lights. It was one beautiful snowscape, a kind of Norman Rockwell Postcard type of setting.
I also remember the Rathke’s (my Aunt Peg and Uncle Ed) pool was too cold for me even in July. My cousins made fun of the southern boy with thin skin. They also got me to talk for their friends, so they could hear a real southern accent. I didn’t think I sounded strange; they were the ones with the funny accents.
My Aunt Peg and Uncle Ed Rathke lived at 22 Windemere Road. This was about a mile or so from my Grandparents. I spent a lot of that summer visiting my two cousins David and Paul. David was killed in a car wreck in 1974 at a very young age of 27. Paul is married with 3 grown girls and living in Grand Prairie Canada. I finally saw him again in 2004 when I stopped to visit my aunt in Sun City Center Florida. He was down visiting and I really enjoyed talking with him. When he answered the door, I did not recognize him; I thought he was his father, my Uncle. Isn’t it funny how as we age, we take on the traits and looks of our parents?
I told him how much he looked like his father, and he told me the same. At one time these would be fighting words, but the older I get, the more of a compliment it becomes. I guess if I had any advice to anyone, it would be to tell your Father or Mother “I love you”. I know it was never the manly thing to do, “tell your father you love him” but you will only regret it when you can no longer do it. I have reached a point where I regret it. I think he knew it; I just didn’t have the strength to say it.
We decided to go and see my cousin Bud Dobbins. Bob called him, and made the arrangements. I got the impression from Bob that Bud was mad at him for calling him on such short notice. I even got to wondering if maybe we did the wrong thing by calling and wanting to visit. I found out later that he was put out, but only because Bob didn’t call earlier so we could do lunch or plan to do something. I really prefer not to be tied down to spending too much time in any one place as it gives us a little time to continue to explore.
While we were waiting to go to Bud’s, we go to the cemetery to see where my Grandfather Hart is buried (Chestnut Ridge). We visit the cemetery and see the Hart plot and Bob also takes us to another part of the cemetery where the Dobbins are buried. Dobbins was my grandmother’s family name. I didn’t figure I would be back, so I took some pictures of the headstones to help me remember.
Bud had told Bob to come around 2:00pm. We had some extra time, so we went to a local winery. We tasted some of their wines, which to me tasted like vinegar or worse. You gotta know, I am not much of a wine snob, nor am I much of wine drinker. I guess the best wine to me was back in the 60’s and early 70’s when there wasn’t anything better than Boone’s Farm, to knock back the smoke in the air.
We finally arrived at Bud’s. We have a very nice visit with Bud and Rita. We talk about an hour, catch up on most of what is going on, and then it is time to be on our way. I remember Bud from the summer I spent in Lockport. He is an apple farmer and owns an apple cold storage. His son is running the cold storage now and Bud is retired.
From Bud’s, we head north to Lake Ontario and Alcott Beach. This is where everyone from this area used to go in the summer, like we go to the beach. It is amazing to look out across a lake and not be able to see the other side. There are even little waves like at the beach. There are a few people around the area enjoying the water and boating. It is a weekday, so I am assuming that maybe on weekends there are more people. Bob (my uncle) tells us how they used to come to Alcott Beach and picnic and have other family outings when he was a youngster.
Bob is going to take us to dinner tonight. He has a little local restaurant in mind in Lockport. The restaurant is Shamus. It is a small place, but the food is absolutely great.
We do not have small family style restaurants like this in Albany. When we leave, there is a local car show going on in the park, so we take a tour of the cars.
We have decided to go back to Niagara Falls and look at the falls at night with
the lights on. They shine lights on the falls from the Canadian side. The best
view is from
Canada, but it is not worth the hassles to go over there. The lights are really pretty and made for some great pictures.
Tuesday August 9, 2005
We have been looking at websites and maps for months before we headed out on our Buffalo adventure. One place that kept jumping out at us was Letchworth State Park. It is reminiscent of the canyons where we come from. A river has carved out a canyon on land that was owned by one man William P. Letchworth. He finally made it a gift to the State of New York, in 1849, for them to make a park out of it. We are going to ride through the park and then go to Corning to visit the Corning Glass Works.
Bob is going to take care of some things around Buffalo and then meet us in Corning after lunch. He is heading home after leaving Corning, as it is about halfway back to Binghamton where he lives.
Elaine and I leave on the bike and take a leisurely route which will have us ending up at Letchworth. We are trying to stay off of the interstates and ride the back roads where we can see some of the countryside. This has a downside to it though, because by the time we had arrived at Letchworth, we only had time to ride through a part of the park. I think there was a lot we missed by not taking time to explore some of the side roads.
Corning Glass Works was interesting to visit. It gives you everything from history to a museum atmosphere where they have many different types of glass on display. I didn’t find the museum as interesting as the history side. Of course we had to visit the gift shop. We still find that we need to bring back some kind of trinkets to give the kids, and now Turner.
We said our goodbyes to Bob as he headed one way and we headed another.
When we left Corning, we got on the interstate and headed north. We wanted to make up a little time so that we were not too late getting back. About halfway back, we got off the interstate and headed for Hamburg to see where the Erie County Fair was located. We intend to visit the fair and say hello to John Strates. John is part of the Strates Shows (www.strates.com), which are the people who furnish the rides for the fair. We know him and his family because they also come to Albany Georgia and do our fair. As we got part of the way there, we changed our minds and turned back towards Buffalo. We will visit the fair later in the week.
We make a few stops along the way to rest and enjoy the local sites.
We end up back at the motel and decide to eat at the motel. Every evening they have snacks and salads for their guests. They also have beer and wine. It has been a long day, and we have a lot to do on Wednesday so we turn in early.