Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Cold Sunday Ride

Another Sunday, another Polar Bear Ride but now winter is starting to show it's ugly face. Serious cold weather is upon us.  The ride was to Hopewell, only 45 miles from my house but after meeting my brother and the RAT group (Rider Association of Triumph) we did what motorcycle enthusiast do and did a ride after the ride, destination; Van Sant Airport in Pennsylvania, a little west of the town of Erwinna.
I pull my bike out of the garage at 8:15am and got my first taste of winter, a chilly 29 degrees (-1.66666667 degrees Celsius for the metric readers) but with a beautiful sky above me.  I suit up and hit the back roads of Jackson heading towards JB's Diner to meet the Monmouth County Kruizers MC Group for breakfast.  I stop to take a picture of the bike in front of a dilapidated farm house.  Farms are quickly disappearing from Jackson.

After gassing up and stopping by the bank for cash I arrive at the diner and meet the rest of the group already sitting down.  We have a nice breakfast and then go outside to wait for two fellow riders that were running late.  The diner is decorated with all kinds of rock and roll era paraphernalia.

While waiting for the others I take a walk to a nearby Chevrolet Bel Air and snap a few shots, I have a soft spot for the 50's and 60's cars and this Bel Air is in beautiful shape.

We leave the diner and head to Hopewell with Chris, "The Ground Hog" from the Monmouth County Kruisers leading us through some nice winding country roads.  We arrive at the Hillbilly Hall Tavern & Restaurant and meet the rest of the group who had been waiting for us.  My brother had met the RAT group earlier on and had driven up from South Jersey with them.  There's hundreds of riders out on this day even though the day had started cold but by now the temperature had climbed to the upper 40's where it stayed for the rest of the day.

Monmouth County Kruisers

The RAT group

We quickly decide the day is still young and we want to ride.   Some of the riders had never been to the Van Sant airport and the roads leading to it are nice country roads along the Delaware River so a plan is put in place to ride there, by now the group has grown to nine riders.  The airport is a big hangout place for bikers in the summer but now it's literally empty, we arrive to see one lone biker with a beautifully maintained 1990 Honda Transalp. I had never seen one up close.

Nearby I spot a Ford Thunderbird and I quickly snap a few glamour shots.  I have already said I have a soft spot for old cars.

The airport is known for the glider and bi-plane rides and in the summer there are usually hundreds of bikes lined up along the road leading to the airport.  I am going to shoot for a glider ride next summer, it must be exciting to soar along the Pennsylvania countryside using only the air currents.

We leave the airport and head south making a stop in Stockton for lunch.  We pick Meil's Restaurant and Bakery at the suggestion of my brother who had been there before.  It's a nice and cozy little restaurant right across from the Stockton Inn.  The food was very good, I had a mushroom soup and Country Smoked Ham & Baked Beans with Cornbread, I cleaned the plate.

Meil's Restaurant and Bakery

Stockton Inn

We depart Stockton and head home, each following the shorter route home since the sun was quickly disappearing behind the Pennsylvania hills.  I get home just before dark covering about 150 miles for the day.

Bridge across the Delaware River

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Bear Mountain State Park

A while ago I met two fellow Portuguese riders at a Ducati open house in Metuchen near the place where I work.  I was ogling a beautiful red Ducati when I hear someone speaking Portuguese behind me, I turn around and introduce myself, turns out they ride Ducatis' and one of them actually owns two Ducatis.  We struck a friendship, exchange e-mails and decide we would get together for a ride at a future date.  They live in northern New Jersey while I live in the south but they tell me every Sunday a group of Portuguese and Brazilians riders gather in Newark which is about half way for all of us. It also happens that the meeting place is at a Portuguese/Brazilian bakery which is convenient since I have a very sweet tooth.  Last month I decided to take a ride to Newark and meet them at the "Cafe Cafe" Bakery, don't ask, it's not a typing mistake, that is the name of the bakery.

I arrive at the bakery around 9 am and find quite a number of bikes already there.  I go inside and proceed to have a warm cup of coffee and a "Pastel de Nata", the ones on the above picture.  After a little chit-chat we leave Newark and head north on the NJ Turnpike (I95) towards the George Washington Bridge where we pickup the Palisades Interstate Parkway and head north along the Hudson river towards the New York border.  We enter Harriman State Park and make the first stop where I spend some time admiring the beautiful lines of the Ducati 996.  Ducati does have beautiful motorcycles.

At 46,613 acres (188.64 km2), Harriman State Park is the second largest state park in New York.  The park is also known for its 31 lakes and great vistas.  I spend some time walking around taking in the beautiful fall colors.  It's the perfect time of the year to visit this area of New York state, it's not too cold, not too many people on the road and the park offers some beautiful and winding roads.  The yellows, oranges, reds and the few leftover greens of the leaves are just breathtaking.

The park has 31 lakes, I will have to go back in the summer and spend time hiking the area to really appreciate the beauty.  You find beautiful vistas no matter where you look.

Sergio and To Ze, my two Portuguese buddies had brought along a few of their friends.  I return to the group and we spend some time talking about bikes and previous bike adventures.  The group consists of two Ducatis, two Suzukis, one BMW and my Kawasaki Concours.

The Ducati Bandit
We leave the area and continue north entering Bear Mountain State Park and climbing Bear Mountain where we make our next stop.  Bear Mountain is one of the best-known peaks of New York's Hudson Highlands.  Along the way we pass various groups of riders enjoying the beautiful "7 Lakes Drive"

The climb to the summit is along a beautiful and winding paved road and at the top you find the Perkins Memorial Tower, an observatory offering a beautiful view of the Hudson River and the surrounding park.

There's literally hundreds of bikes at the top, dirt bikes, cruisers, sport bikes but only two  instantaneously catch my eye.  A beautiful deep blue Yamaha R1 with Ferrari stickers, obviously a Ferrari fan, I later find out the owner collects Ferrari toy model cars just like me, maybe I should put some Ferrari stickers on my Concours.  The other is a green Kawasaki Ninja.  I have always had a soft spot for pure sport bikes and these are two of my favorites.

We leave the mountain, cross the Hudson river and then come down on the eastern side stopping in Tarrytown for lunch.   Obviously we pick a Portuguese restaurant.

After lunch we cross the Tappan Zee bridge going west on the New York Thruway picking up the Garden State Parkway and heading south splitting up a little later, each one of us heading home in a different direction.  I did a little over 200 leisurely miles on this day.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Polar Bear Grand Tour

I had heard about the Polar Bear Grand Tour but always thought of these guys in the same way I thought about the other Polar Bear Club, you know, the crazies that jump in the ocean on New Years Day.  A few weeks ago my friend Wayne asked me if I wanted to take a ride to Cape May, the first meet of the Tour. I bit the bullet as they say and took a 100 mile ride to Cape May, a city at the southern tip of New Jersey, where the Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean.  Cape May is known for its Victorian gingerbread homes and beautiful beaches.  As I approach Cape May I stopped in front of the New Jersey National Guard Armory for a few photos, I have always loved old military equipment and they have a few pieces in front of the building.

First meet up was on October 31st, it wasn't particularly cold, I took a solo ride down the New Jersey Parkway and arrived at the location around lunch time walking around admiring and photographing a few of the famous Cape May homes near the V.F.W. location.

I had no intention of signing up for the tour, I don't even own winter heated riding gear but then I saw a very old rider with a trike and on the back of his trike it says "Just a recycled teenager, 93 and still going",  I figured, if he can do it then I can do it too, why should winter stop me from enjoying riding my bike.

A little later I meet Wayne (he rides a Triumph ST) and the rest of the Triumph group.   I go inside and sign up for the tour.  The Polar Bear Grand Tour consists of over 550 motorcyclists from all over the NJ, NY, PA, DE, and CT area who each individually ride to a designated destination each Sunday. Points are awarded for each ride. When we each reach the destination, we sign-in and write down how many round-trip miles we traveled to get there, there is usually a restaurant at the site or nearby where small groups will congregate.  24 Sunday rides are scheduled to the various designated check points throughout the 4-state area.  Check the rules at the Polar Bear Grand Tour web site but basically if you accumulate 30 points by showing up, you get a badge and a free dinner at the end of the tour.  You don't have to attend all meet ups to get the 30 points but there's usually a large number of riders at each meet up.  I plan on getting my badge in April.

We leave the location and ride a few blocks to the Captains Cove Restaurant for a warm meal.   The restaurant is located right across from a marina. There's always lots of fishing boats in Cape May.

After a nice meal we leave and start heading north but first is a stop for gas where I snap a picture of Wayne and his daughter turning into the gas station on the beautiful red Triumph ST.  I have always loved the sound of the Speed Triple engine and his bike is my favorite color too.

My next stop is at the famous beginning of route 666 where I take a picture of the sign while the rest of the group waits for me.  The sign gets stolen a lot, Wayne tells me, I wonder why?

Wayne knows the area well and we spend the rest of the day riding home through the back roads of southern NJ as he takes us through some amazing roads with the fall colors as a backdrop.