Monday, October 19, 2015

May trip leg One - Halifax to Charlotte NC

In May this year I did a fifteen day road trip from Halifax NS to Gatlinburg TN and back, over 3950 miles on a Harley Davidson 1200 Sportster. Here is Leg one of the journey.

Yes, a Sportster. Her name is Max.
She has a detachable windshield and backrest, crash bar with highway pegs, a set of stacking backrest bags, leather saddlebags, a touring saddle with a detachable gel cushion, a backpack, and a pillow. Once she’s all loaded Max is a formidable touring partner. She’s a little light for the highway on windy days, but fun as hell the rest of the time.

As is typical for all my road trips to the US, the first two days are spent getting from home through New England, and also as is usual it rained like hell from Fredericton to Calais which completely threw havoc into my travelling plans as I had intended to ride another two hours to Bangor.

As everyone knows who has gone on a multi-day adventure on two wheels, not making it to your established destination can have an major effect on your trip and your plans for subsequent days, which in my case it meant not getting to places I had planned to be and getting stuck paying for accommodations you can’t get a refund for. Damn Expedia deals. Instead of plodding on to Bangor in the rain and nearing dusk I checked into the Calais Motor Inn and started my dismantling routine.
My camera gear is strategically placed in the top section of the stacking bag set which gives me easy access to it when I stop, and enabling me to take it off first when I arrive wherever it is I land. The windshield comes off next, followed by my backpack and pillow, then the bottom part of the stacking section which I have learned to leave still attached to the backrest and take off as one unit.
The saddle bags mount under the seat, so all it takes is to remove the seat screw and pull them out. It’s about a 20 minute process depending on the distance from my room to the bike and the ability to use a luggage mover. 
The Calais Motor Inn is not a bad place and the bar has decent food, especially their gluten free pizza which was a total surprise and well deserved treat after riding in shit weather all day. And they have a decent enough dark rum.

Day two was spent in not much better weather, but the scenery was better along the midcoast of Maine. Along the way I met and old guy in Kittery who proudly told me of his 90,000 miles on his Goldwing, and how he has since traded it in for a scooter.
I've said it before and I know I’ll say it again; a Harley will attract virtually everyone from little kids to old men. And the stories the latter will tell.

I’m not a fan of a GPS and consider it just one more distraction to process while navigating so I go old school and plan ahead. Day three made me reconsider my opinion temporarily because between construction detours, traffic, and impending darkness I mis-navigated after a fuel stop and ended up off track, spending the night in East Milford NJ and double paying for another motel.

The weather cleared overnight and Day 4 took me to Richmond Va., starting on I 95 as far as Wilmington and onto US 301. That route took me across the northern third of Delaware and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and down the centre of Maryland.
US 301 crosses the Potomoc River via the Harry W Nice Bridge, and the ride continued not to disappoint, ending just after supper in the Red Roof Inn in Richmond.

The redneck in me started to buzz the next morning as I headed out towards Charlotte, knowing that night was the Nascar truck race and All Star Race qualifying. The buzz was short lived and replaced by another when I saw the sign for Colonial Harley Davidson in Prince George, so I took the exit, asked for directions, and landed in the parking lot a little after 1000.

As soon as I walked in the door I said “Holy Shit”: Colonial HD has by far the most loaded showroom I have ever seen, bar none. Somewhere around fifty bikes all lined up by class, Sportsters, Dynas, Softtails, Baggers, row after row, tire after tire; it was a lot to take in. My heart was going pitterpat in a good way.

Colonial HD is also home to some of the nicest folks I’ve ever met in HD land. I no sooner had got my breath back when I was met by Mike, who after finding out where I was from, what I was doing, and where I was heading pointed me in the direction of the newly arrived limited edition Wounded Warrior T-shirt’s and helmet stickers to support veterans living with PTSD.
The t-shirt is by far the most comfortable of all my Harley T-shirts and the sticker has its pride of place on my helmet
He also told me about the Wheels through Time museum in Maggie Valley NC, told me what it was about and we agreed, I needed to stop. More to come.

As always I ask for permission to take a few shots and hand over my business card and after getting the go ahead took a couple of dozen shots inside and out.
As I was packing up my gear a guy walks up and introduces himself as Jim. Turns out he’s the owner, and we start chatting about where I’m from (coincidentally not far from where his wife grew up) and where I was headed, how long he’s owned the dealership, and where he has yet to ride in North America. It’s a short list.
If you want to be treated like family, stop in at Colonial HD. It was one of the first (and in my top ten) highlights of a very highlight filled trip.

The rest of the day was spent cruising through the Va. Countryside, down Rte 15 to Danville where I met Michelle on her 76 Electraglide (1200 panhead).
She was heading for an antique bike show and shine / swap meet and apparently drinking beer from a can in a Koozie, which I didn’t realize until she came out of the store with a box of cans of Busch beer, put them in her cooler box on the back of the bike, and replaced the one that was in her Koozie with a fresh one, placed it in her handlebar holder and rode off.

The rest of the trip was uneventful highway driving in mid-nineties heat and I pulled into the Microtel Inn and Suites in Kannapolis late in the afternoon.

After I unloaded the bike I headed over to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Qualifying race and the Nascar truck race.

I spent the most of the next day just lazing around and went to the All Star Race that afternoon. If you've ever experienced a Nascar race live, you know it's the experience you go for, not the race.
Little Big Town played a concert in the infield, Kid Rock heard I was in town and came to say Hi, there were rednecks galore, a ton of fun was had, and Denny Hamlin won the race

Knowing what I know now I’d have rented a car because I ended up having to sit in traffic and ride for over an hour in the dark, which I hate doing even when I know where I’m at.
When I finally made it back I ordered a gluten free pizza from Domino’s, which served as a great late night snack and a decent breakfast as well. After I picked the olives off.

Sunday was a rest day and I basically just hung around the hotel chatting with people who were there for the race, drank some rum, and watched a little TV. Leg two of my trip would start in the morning.

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