May 19, 2016 - May 22, 2016

Exploring A Bit Of Pennsylvania

May 19, 2016
I'm a bit tired, getting to bed too late last night, so I sleep in a little. I know the visitor center at the 9/11 Flight 93 Memorial closes at 5 PM so I figure I'd better get after it. Frost is already packed and fueled, so I'm out of the gate around 6 AM.

It's a bit foggy as I hit the slab on my way out of Nashville, but I do manage to miss most of the morning traffic.

  But there's plenty of it on the incoming lanes as folks head to their jobs. It's nice not to be included in that number this morning.  
  It seems that today will be another day of construction zones and the delays and reduced speed limits that accompany them - not a good thing given the distance I have to travel. But a day of riding in most situations beats the fire out of a day of working.  
  Since the mileage for the day is right at 800 miles, I'm hoping to stretch to my fuel stops to 200 miles at a pop. That will mean 2 fuel stops in route and a final one at the end of the trail.  
  My first is in Lexington, KY just up the street from the Martin Castle now known as the Castle Post. It's a sad story connected with this particular imposing structure. It's a case where large bunches of money and stuff didn't necessarily bring happiness.  
  My next stop is in nowhere West Virginia but I'm good so far on my 200 mile increments.  
  The weather is absolutely wonderful and the mountainous scenery makes for some nice background.  
  Soon I'm thankfully off the slab and on to some lovely backroads. If I had my druthers, I'd rather ride backroads all the time. But when you have 800 miles to cover in one day, that's just not an option. And since I still work a full time job, I don't have unlimited travel time. So you learn you have to do what you have to do or else you end up doing nothing and going nowhere.  
  There's a pretty little church on my way to the Flight 93 memorial, and in the background I can see power generating windmills. As I've said many times, I like the idea of them, I just don't like the appearance of them.  
  There's a grand old house and barn as I near the memorial.  
  Time is running out but at least I know I'm getting close.  
  I reach the official entrance, but looks like I will be about 15 minutes too late for the visitor's center. At least the site is open until sundown so I can still take a look.  
  The memorial is a quiet, somber place tastefully done to reflect the awful tragedy and hard fought victory of that day.  
  There's a model of the site's layout near the entrance.  
  The walkway is the flight path of the plane to the final crash site.  
  Its simple and elegant design cause you to contemplate the events of the day. It makes me stop and think about what would I have done in those circumstances.  
  Along the walk, it has the time line of that fateful day almost 15 years ago, as it gives the time of each of the other plane's destruction - one into the World Trade Center 1 ...  
  one into the World Trade Center 2 ...  
  and the third into the Pentagon.  
  The probe determined that this hijacked flight was probably headed for the Capitol in Washington since no one was staying at the White House on this day and the Capitol would be a much larger and easier target to hit.  
  From the balcony you can see a large boulder marking the final site of impact.  
  Since the visitor center is closed, I make my way down to the Memorial Plaza at the impact site.  
  The people on the plane knew what was going on as they made their last cell phone calls to their loved ones. So they knew the other three planes had already crashed into their intended targets.  
  These brave men and women decided to wait until the plane was not over a city to minimize the destruction if they crashed. Then they tried to break down the door to the cockpit where the hijackers were in control of the plane.  
  From the flight recorders, one which was found buried at 25 feet below the impact, they determined that the plane was flying upside down and hit the ground at approximately 500 mph. The hijackers were trying to disorient the crew and passengers to stop them from getting into the cockpit. The hijackers, as recorded on the cockpit voice recorder, determined to 'take it down' as they knew their time was limited as the crew and passengers were making progress on breaking down the cockpit door.  
  At the plaza are memorial marble slabs with each passenger and crew member's names engraved.  
  Todd Beamer was the one who said 'Let's Roll' to start the attempt to get into the cockpit.  
  Access to the impact site is protected by a strong gate and only family members of the crew and passengers are allowed access..  

Along niches in the separating wall, people often leave flowers and other memorial objects. The balcony glass indeed says it well -

"A Common Field One Day. A Field Of Honor Forever."


  I leave the site with a much greater appreciation for the sacrifices that were made that fateful day 15 years ago. Again I notice the windmills standing silent sentinels to it all.  
  Because of the hilly terrain around Shanksville, there are some pretty good roads that will take me back to the slab to finish up my ride to the campground.  
  Once I'm back on the slab, I at least do have some beautiful vistas to enjoy as I contemplate what I have just seen and experienced at the memorial.  
  But another pesky construction zone appears and it's a slow motion go for quite a while.  
  The store at the entrance is closed as I come by, so that pretty much shoots my plans for supper. I finally reach the campground and some folks are already there - Raymond, Rolf, and Tim. Thanks to them, I am able to get my tent pitched in the darkness. Raymond has some cookies and Tim has some delicious slices of meat that they are willing to share with this hungry traveler. We get a good fire going, swap tales, then finally head to our respective tents to test just how well our sleeping bags will keep us warm.  
May 20, 2016
  There was a little rain last night, but I'm nice and dry as my Eureka Timberline Tent did its job. My 5 degree sleeping bag and air mattress kept me comfortable so I slept very well.  

We decide that a good cooked breakfast is in order, so when we stop for gas at the store, the kind lady gives us good instructions to a local place. She says -

"It's not much to look at, but the food is really good."

Since I'm going there to eat and not to live, that will work just fine for me. We're off like a dirty shirt.

  The name of the place is Janey's and it looks like a converted service station to us.  
  But the food is great and very reasonably priced. While I'm here, I whip out my netbook and check the route. We plan on riding the Pennsylvania Dragon, Highway 125.  
  The ride was set up by some riders that could not come and it starts out nice. But the GPS does it's 'work' and we are on the slab, much to our disquietude. I get us off as soon as I realize out what has happened, figuring we will need to rearrange the route. Because there are not enough waypoints in the route, the GPS routes us the 'shortest and quickest' which means all the interstate it can squeeze in.  
  We get through a little town and we make a pit stop. I whip out my notebook and 'fix' the route to be sure we get where we want to be by roads that are less than straight. With the work done, I download it to my GPS and we're good to go.  
  There are still some unavoidable four lanes, but nothing like the interstate.  
  We're now back on twisty two lanes which are much more to our liking.  
  When we get to highway 125, it is a real treat indeed.  
  It has lots of elevation changes and twists and turns ...  
  and turns and twists ....  
  down hill runs with wide sweepers ...  
  and down hill runs with nice bends.  
  Too soon it's over and we make our way back to camp. In the process of unpacking last night, I broke my snap-on sunglasses. My eyes are really hurting and the other folks need some stuff, so we decide to hit the first WalMart we see. Whether you love 'em, or you hate 'em, WalMart usually has what you need. They have my sunglasses so my eyes are now happy campers.  
  When we get back, Dave pulls in on his ST1300. Once he gets his tent and stuff pitched, we decide we'll walk down to a restaurant just outside the gate. Their menu has lots of selections, so no one starves to death and the stuff is pretty tasty.  
  When we get back to the campsite, we decide we'll watch a little caveman television - also known to normal folks as a campfire. The wood's a little wet, but we manage to get it going pretty good. But before long, the rack monster carries the day and we all head for a safe place to check our eyelids for holes.  
May 21, 2016
  The weather forecast for today appears to be rain, then rain, then some more rain. Raymond and Rolf decide they will pack up before the rain arrives and head for their houses. Dave is about 6 hours from his house and I'm 12 hours from mine - so we would be riding in the rain anyway if we head out. Tim has family within an hour or so, so he's good. We decide to go ride anyway since we've got proper rain gear. We'll just kick back on the throttle and take it easy. There are a lot worse things than riding in the rain - like working.  
  Our ride for today is to the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. I've never been there, so it sounds like the place to go. We stop by the local store for fuel and some snacks in case we get stranded along the way.  
  There's a very 'interesting' one lane grated bridge as we head north from the campground. Grated bridges can make a bike feel really nervous. When the grates are wet, they are really slippery which in turn makes a rider feel really nervous.  
  On our way, we often see signs like this, but we manage to bear up under the pressure.  

When we make our next break, we are trying to figure out what we want to do. Dave says -

"There is a Grand Canyon around here. I remember visiting it many years ago."

In my geographical ignorance of local stuff, I didn't know if the 'grand canyon' business was just a general area or an actual site. With that information in hand, Dave finds it in his GPS and leads us back to it. I find it on my GPS just for grins to see if I can locate it, and it does. Along the way are a couple of old churches. One has seen the weather and the effects of many years ...

  and one is in excellent shape.  
  We arrive at the official site just as the rain decides to get really serious.  
It's a lovely landscaped area in full spring bloom.
  And there's a statue to the early Pennsylvania Conservation Corps who worked in the area from 1933 to 1942.  
  The flowers are lovely and certainly soaking up the abundant liquid sunshine that is falling.  
  The views are very interesting ...  
  from where we stand ...  
  in either direction.  

We button back up and head back to our main route. As we pass the turnoff to head back south, I see sign that says -

'Highway 44 Closed. Local Traffic Only.'

Looking for a decent place to turnaround and knowing it is about dinner time, I spy this diner. Since it has quite a few cars parked around it, I figure we'll give it whirl. We can sit in the dry, get something to eat, and figure out how we want to get back to camp.

  I'm a sucker for pot roast, so I go for it. And I am not disappointed at all.  
  But I don't quite know what happened to what is on my plate. I can only figure that the roof must have leaked and washed it all away. Fortunately, some ladies sitting nearby us hear our conversations about the highway 44 closing. They tell us that they came through there this morning and you can make it all the way through. We thank them, settle up, and head for our original route with that information in hand.  

They did not bother to tell us that is was hardpack gravel, but that sure beats deep gravel any day of the week. We just treat it like a bank robbery -

'Don't make no sudden moves and won't nobody get hurt.'

It's a pretty extended section that is in this condition, but we make it through it just fine.

  Soon we are back to the good old asphaltic stuff and it's a pretty dandy run.  
  This area reminds me a little bit of the Avenue of the Giants in California that I love so well, but these trees are of a much less grand scale.  
  It's been a day where we are sometimes in the rain, and sometime out of the rain. Tim decides he will head back tonight since he's only an hour or so way. Since we are staying the night, Dave and I decide we'll walk back down to the local cafe for a bite to eat. The food is good and the cafe is dry which suits us both. When we get back, we sit around and chat for a while but decide we'll pass on the fire since it's raining and we both need to get out early in the morning. The rain makes a gentle sound to usher me into the land of slumber.  
May 22, 2016
  It's been raining all night, so I do not look forward to packing up. Fortunately, the rain has greatly tapered off, so at least we won't be packing up in a drenching rain. Dave is much quicker at packing as he has a nice custom trailer he built to pull behind his ST1300 and has more 'packing' space. As I still have a few things to sort out, I walk over and give him a good-bye hug. Then he's off and I am left to my lonesome to finish up. I manage to get stuff crammed into my river bags, figuring I'll sort it all out when I get back to the Holler.  
  The rain shows no sign of letting up, but that's just the vulgarities of the road.  
  Then it really starts dumping as I hit the interstate. And if there's anything unpleasant about riding in a downpour on the interstate ...  
  it's more unpleasant riding in a downpour on an interstate in a construction zone!  
  I didn't put on my heated gear this morning and the cold dampness is starting to creep into my bones. I am wearing summer gloves, and they are soaked through and through. When my hands get cold, they turn into useless clubs so I figure I'd better tend to that. I find a nice bridge to pull off under and get my heated gear on with my heated gloves. Now I'm toasty again and get back on the road a much happier camper.  
  The rain continues for over 4 hours but I finally see a little clearing up ahead, and for that I am thankful.  
By the time I hit Kentucky, it's all blue skies and and the temps start to rise.
  Back at Lexington, I start shedding gear for the last 200 miles I have to cover.  
  When I see this sign on I65, I know I am about 50 miles from my beloved Holler.  

It's been a 4 day journey of over 2,000 miles but I've been able to see places and ride places new to me. I've gotten a much greater appreciation for the events of 9/11 and I've got to spend time with some of the best folks on the planet. As I have said many times before -

At The End Of The Day, All You Get To Take With You Are Memories.

And on this trip I have made some mighty fine ones.