2009 ESTN

Friday, 9/11 - Heading Up

What a great weekend this was going to be. I'd head out early Friday and meet Jim on the Garden State Parkway, then we'd meet up with Dave and Peter in Amsterdam, NY. From there it would be nice back roads through the Adirondacks to get to Lake Placid and join the STN'ers at the hotel. That was the plan.

I brought my Multistrada in for it's (overdue) 24,000 mile service on Tuesday AM, and made it clear I'd need the bike back no later than Thursday afternoon. "No problem" they assured me. Long story short, they didn't have some parts in stock so the bike would not be ready by the weekend. I was free to take the service loaner I was riding, a BMW R1100R with 45,000+ miles on the clock, to NY if I'd like.

This threw an immediate curve in the plan. I would have to pack super-light, as the R had no luggage. I'd be limited to what I could fit in a tankbag and a duffel bungied to the back seat. Old-school touring at its finest. I wouldn't be able to mount or power my GPS, so I'd be relying on paper maps. With no fairing or windscreen, the slab portion of the ride would be a lot less enjoyable. At least it had an accessory outlet, so I could plug in my heated jacket liner (using the BMW adapter I purchased for the Alps trip).

As the weekend got closer, the weather forecast got worse. And worse. Woke up Friday morning to near-hurricane like conditions. Rain was coming down hard, mostly sideways due to the 35 mph winds. Jim had it worse near the shore, with 45 mph winds coming off the ocean. My 6:30am departure was pushed back to 7:30am, then 9, then 10 as I waited for some break in the weather. Eventually it became clear that the rain was here to stay, and if I wanted to get to ESTN I was just going to have to get through it.

I had already cancelled the meeting with Dave and Peter, as no way I could make Amsterdam - or for that matter get any amount of backroad riding in if I wanted to get to Lake Placid by dinner.

I left the house at 10:15, with Jim still undecided. He has a shorter ride to our meeting place so he could wait a little longer for the weather to improve. The rain was biblical, just coming down in buckets. I was getting blown around pretty good on the NJ Turnpike, but by the time I hit the GSP the wind was dying down some.

No Jim at the meeting place - he had tried heading out and just didn't feel safe riding. I don't blame him, it was really nasty out and not looking to improve for most of the day. I scarfed down some McD's while thawing out some, then hit the road again.

What a crappy ride - rain pouring down, temps in the 60's, and riding a naked bike on the toll roads of North Jersey and NY. I just hunkered down at about 70mph, which was about the quickest I could do without the effort of just holding on becoming overbearing.

As I headed further north the rain started abating a little, and when I pulled into a service plaza on the NY Thruway for gas it actually stopped for a minute. I had just taken off my gloves and helmet when I saw a truck pulling in, towing a trailer with 2 Harley's on it - and one of those was Chris's (Chornbe nee LuvMy883) Sporty. Right behind them was Jeff (Jeets) on his Connie 14! I waved to Jeff, who circled around to meet me. He was about as miserable-looking as I was, but it was a real spirit boost to see a familiar face. We scooted up to where Chris was gassing the truck and laughed about the conditions.

Jeff and I decided to ride up together, which, again, was a real morale boost. The rain was on-again, off-again as we headed up to Albany. My reserve light came on about 10 miles before the Albany toll plaza, so I knew I'd be needing gas soon. As soon as I stopped in the line for the tolls the bike died. Uh-oh, does reserve really only go 10 miles? That seemed unlikely, but not my bike so maybe. I could start the bike, and scoot up when the car in front moved, but couldn't keep it idling. I paddle-walked most of the toll line, and told Jeff that as soon as I paid the toll I'm getting off at the first exit (20) and getting gas.

Couldn't find change, so I left Jeff to pay the $0.30 part of my $4.30 toll as I started the bike and headed for the exit. Unfortunately the exits were confusing, and there was no place to safely wait for Jeff. I took the first turn-off, which put me right in the middle of a mall. I should have waited right there for Jeff, but I figured we'd catch up at the gas station. Couple of twists and turns before I found a station on 20, and filled up the tank. Waited a while, no sign of Jeff. Started the bike, and it died. Started it again, and got moving, and it kept running. Hmm. Ran up and down the road a bit to see if I could find him, but no luck. I decided to get on the Northway (I-87) in the direction we should be heading and I'll text him from the roadside there.

Traffic was crawling on the Northway, and the bike was unhappy at low speeds. Used the fast idle lever to keep the rpms up and the bike running better. Just past exit 4 I pulled off and got in contact with Jeff, and we picked a meeting point just up the road. Got back on the bike, hit the starter. Cranking, but not catching. Uh-oh. Two or three more attempts and I ended up with 'click click click' and no cranking. Crap!

Since I was on a slight downslope I tried getting the bike rolling and popping the clutch, but it just wouldn't catch and stay running. About 10 minutes into this I see flashing lights in my mirror - it's a NYDOT truck here to help. The guy could not have been nicer, or more helpful, but nothing worked. We tried jumping the battery and the starter would crank some, but the bike wouldn't stay running. He called around to find a bike shop that could take the bike, and I called the number on my just-bought AMA Roadside Assistance card.

On the side of the Northway, waiting for the AMA tow truck

About 30 minutes later I was helping load the bike onto a flatbed truck for the 10 mile ride to Max's BMW in Troy, NY. I declined the opportunity to work the leversof the tilt-bed and instead held the bike as we flattened out. The tow driver was a nice guy, but you don't want this guy behind you on the road. Between checking texts, talking on the cell, programming the GPS and writing notes, there wasn't much attention left to glance up out the windshield very often. He was impressed with my NJ plates, and asked me what the fartherst I've ever ridden was. "Wyoming" I told him. He said he has a 93 GSXR-1100, and he once rode it from his home in Ballston Spa all the way to Lake George (34 miles according to Google Maps).

Not the way I wanted to end the ride

Someone from service was waiting at Max's when we arrived, so I could put the bike inside and not just leave it "back by the dumpster and put the key in the mailbox". Tow driver backtracked me to the only hotel in town, the just-opened Hilton Garden Inn in Troy. My $110 room was very nice and on the top floor.

Updated everyone (Chris, Jeff, Dave, Jim, my wife) with my situation via texts and calls as I got changed and dried off. Turns out that Dave was already hanging out with Chris in Lake Placid. Chris was extremely generous with his offer of sending the truck down to get me if the bike wouldn't be done. That's at least a 6-hour round trip. Problem was, I wouldn't know the status of the bike until mid-afternoon on Saturday - too late to make it to LP at any decent hour. It was eventually decided that if the bike was not done Saturday they would swing by on the way home on Sunday and pick me up. If the bike WAS done, I'd ride to LP and put it on the trailer for the trip back on Sunday since I didn't want to trust the bike at this point. What a huge relief it was knowing I had friends offering to help me out during this whole fiasco.

Went down to the attached sports bar and had a decent burger for dinner, as well as some well-deserved ice-cold Yuenglings. Called it an early night.

Saturday, 9/12 - Lake Placid

Slept late - dealer didn't open until 9am, so no sense getting up early. Made my first call to my dealer, Desimone Motorsports, whose service loaner this was. I explained what happened, and their first comment was "You should have brought it back to us". I pointed out to them that I was 300 miles away from there, and that I spent 2 hours on the side of the highway in the rain with their broken bike yesterday, and what were they going to do about it? He said "I don't know" and I replied "well, call me back when you know". I hung up pretty annoyed with them, and called Max's to see how things would go today. They were very nice on the phone, but basically it was "If we can get to it, we'll get to it". Sigh. I spent most of the morning watching TV and thinking of backup plans and more backup plans. What if they called at 10 and said "we can't get to it?" Do I call on Chris to try to come get me and salvage some of the weekend? What if they called at 4 and the bike wasn't ready? How would I get it from them?

Someone else from Desimone called back, and it was all "how can we help?". They had spoken to Max's, but got the same non-commital answer I did. The said they would cover the repair (which I expected), but also offered that if the bike wasn't going to get fixed today I should rent a car (on their nickel) and they would send someone to get the bike next week. That was pretty decent of them.

I went down to the front desk and got a late checkout until 2pm, so I figured 1:30 would be my point-of-no-return. If the bike wasn't ready by then, I'd leave it there and go for the car rental. That should still give me time to get to Lake Placid for dinner and the parking lot BS sessions. Called around for rental cars, but wasn't having any luck. If that didn't pan out then I would just resign myself to another night in Troy and have Chris pick me up on his way home.

At a little before 1pm Max's called - the bike was done, new battery installed. Wahoo! I had already packed my bags, so I quickly got a cab to the dealership. They said the battery tested bad, so they replaced it. I'm thinking that could mean anything in the charging system could be the culprit, but the bike would at least run as far as Lake Placid. Of course it started raining as soon as I pulled out of the lot.

Took the Northway for a bit until just past Lake George, then got off on 9 and took that north. While not a fantastic twisty road, it was some respite from the freeway, and I wouldn't get so far from civilization to make "please come get me" to difficult if it came to that. To its credit the bike kept running, but every time it would surge a little (and this particular BMW surged horribly under steady throttle) I was afraid it would quit.

I always make a point to stop at a Stewart's when I'm in the area. I went to college up here and it brings back good memories.

9 led to 73, which is a pretty nice road that leads right to Lake Placid. I stopped for gas about 10 miles from LP, and when I was waiting to pull out I saw Chris go by. He saw me, I waved, and pulled in with him and Bravo12. Yes!!! I was back on track for ESTN!

73 heading toward Lake Placid

Finally, a decent bit of riding this weekend

Chris and Bravo12 on 73

The required shot of the Olympic ski jump towers

I was so relieved to be finally pulling into the parking lot of the hotel. I don't remember who was there at the time, but it was great just to have the whole difficult trip behind me and be hanging out with friendly folk. Had a great time talking with Chris, Dave, Peter, Frank, Jeff, Sam, Garry, etc. Things got kicked up a notch when Scottzilla pulled in on Chris's 883 and compared his seat to "being held up by the fingers of 10 chubby..." (I'll leave off the rest - you had to be there). Eventually dinner beckoned, and instead of suiting up on the bikes and riding over, we went in true style.

I'm finally at the hotel - woohoo!

Um, OK...

Believe it or not, we were having a good time.

(Chris's pic) Dave, Jeff, Me, Frank and Bravo12

Chris and Mike pulled up with the pickup truck, already filled with people. I hopped in the bed and we rode through town to a mostly empty pizza/italian place for dinner. They had no problem accomodating 14 on such short notice. Dinner was a hoot, in no short measure due to the Scottzilla show. Between stories of offending Russian hookers, lessons in how to speek fluent Italian, how to deal with lowball offers ("You'll pay me $500 for my Buell? Sold - come get it"), his vocal critique of the dinner ("How do you fuck up chicken parm-a-gee-ana?"), to his wariness of the dessert menu ("No way do you make a good canolie or cheesecake. Where do you buy it from? Who makes it, Tito?"), he kept the party rolling. There were other good conversations as well. I'm pretty sure we made some families finish their dinners early.

Off to dinner we go!

Classing up Lake Placid

This is one seriously funny guy

(Chris's pic) Dinner

(Chris's pic) Dinner redux

Laughing so hard I was in tears

Another redneck ride back to the hotel for a long night of drinking, laughing and telling stories. Met lots of new folks there, most of which I can't keep track of. It's bad enough trying to remember people's names, but add in different screen names and it's an uphill battle for me.

I can honestly say I don't think I've ever had a better time at an STN event. Possibly my difficulties in getting there helped that feeling, but it was really a great night full of good people. Lots of beer was consumed (even to the point where I could drink a Miller Lite and not scrunch my nose even a little bit), and by around midnight I called it a night.

Peter (gasgauge), Dave (nearlyseventy) and me

Scottzilla instructing Mike's girlfriend on how to properly pose for cheesecake bike pics

(Chris's pic)

I won about $35 in the raffle. Cool!

Sunday, September 13th - Heading Home

Met Dave and Peter for a ride to breakfast. Chris was heading out for some runs on Tracey Road, and when he returned we'd load up the truck and trailer and scoot home. Had a decent breakfast at the local diner, and then Dave and Peter took off for points north. I returned to the hotel to wait for Chris's return.

Morning plans being hashed out

So long, fellas!

Didn't take too long for the rain to start back up, and after a bit I was the only person left at the hotel. I did check around back to make sure the truck was still there and I wasn't forgotten about (accidentally, of course).

Eventually Chris returned, followed shortly by his brother and girlfriend, and we started the task of loading up the bikes. The trickiest part was getting the big "Street Anvil" up onto the pickup bed - there weren't a lot of suitable hills around. We briefly entertained the idea of riding the bike through the hotel and out the back door (where there were some elevation differential that might work), but we didn't want to be too barbaric.

Wasn't as scary as it looked (but not by much)


I helped as much as I could, which pretty much meant I was more than happy to lift or push. I've no experience with strapping bikes down, so I was no help in the logistics of that process. Sliding the back tire of the "Street Anvil" in the truck bed was particularly grunt-worthy.

We hit the road a little after noon. A quick stop at the ski jumps for some more pics, and then we were on the Northway headed home. Burger King in Queensbury provided a grab-and-go lunch, then we settled in for the long drive home.



What the hell was that? Turns out we blew a tire on the trailer somewhere south of Albany. We made it to the shoulder with the bikes intact, and got out to survey the damage. The tire was basically gone, and it did a number on the fender on it's way out (I think it also killed the brakelight on that side as well). OK, this should be easy to fix. Spare? Um, no spare. Mike and his girlfriend took off in the truck to fetch a spare (and tools) while Chris and I stayed with the trailer and made backup plans in case no tires could be found. Maybe we'd unload all the bikes, throw the trailer in the truck and ride home. Maybe Chris and I would unload our bikes and ride home, and they'd come back for the trailer tomorrow. Maybe....

The old 12" tires were no match for a hot day on the highway and 1,000+ pounds of payload

We were only almost killed once, when a semi drifter toward us over the fog line, but he pulled it back in time. Mike was successful in finding a tire (two, actually) at WalMart, of all places, and after about 2 hours we were on our way again.

NASCAR pit crew in action. I mostly watched out for oncoming traffic

The rest of the ride, fortunately, went without incident. Unloaded the BMW just off the Turnpike at Exit 2, and I had a short ride home.

I had a fantastic time at ESTN, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat - even with the issues on the way up. I'm indebted to Chris and Mike, as without their help I could just have easily been sitting on the side of the highway again. On a Sunday. Just knowing I had people backing me up was a huge morale boost while I was having bike troubles.