RetroTour Report: Steak on the Susquehanna, June 4 & 5 2011
This has been a great year for RetroTours. With 5 tours completed and 3 to go it’s the most ambitious schedule ever and I have been riding more than ever but unfortunately writing less. There are only so many hours in the day! Still, after rummaging through old emails and waivers, I can reconstruct some parts of this ride and take advantage of a rainy Sunday at home to capture those memories. Unfortunately, I have no photos.
Six riders and one passenger participated. Three of the riders and the passenger were repeat customers and three riders were on their first RetroTour. Charles from Bostonhas been riding with us since the last century and he brought Kyle with him from Boston. They arrived Friday night and were picked up at the airport by the BMW/EMLsidecar rig. Charles was wedged tightly into the chair with an oversize suitcase while Kyle took up his position as pillion passenger. I think Kyle must have been surprised to be on a motorcycle so soon. His first RetroTour was off to a fast start.
Scott was returning for his second trip with us after several years. He drove in Friday night stayed here as well. As usual, Lynncooked for everyone and there was plenty of space and comfortable beds, all included in the price of the tour. The other repeater was Rob who lives in nearby Delawarewho came in early Saturday morning with his wife and excellent passenger Kristen. New to RetroTours were David and Henry who both live in Pennsylvaniaand they came in Saturday morning as well. Bikes were chosen from the fleet of 23. We rode the BSA Lightning, the Benelli 650, the XS650 Yamaha, the Moto Morini 500, the Suzuki T500 and the Triumph 650. I carried luggage, spares, food and chemicals in the R100S sidecar rig.
Luckily most everyone had their paperwork completed in advance and the bikes were pre-loaded in most cases so we were able to get an early start, much needed if we were to make it to Bob Logue’s Honda Museum before closing time. It was challenging to find a route that didn’t just follow the main roads but which still allowed us to reach Williamsportby 2. I think I did OK in that regard: we made it on time and the roads were interesting enough. We road through Central PA Coal Country and kept a nice steady pace. The roads, for example route 54, were fairly open and direct, with little traffic and some good scenery: views of the mountains and old coal mining operations. There were no real mechanical issues to slow us down and we ate granola bars to carry us from a heartier than usual breakfast (thanks Lynn) all the way to our late lunch at 3:30.
It was just starting to sprinkle a little bit when we arrived at the museum and we were glad to be sheltered while admiring Bob’s incredible collection of old Hondas. He even has one of TWO prototype Honda snowmobile machines in existence: the elusive Silver Fox. In addition there are small cars and motorcycles from every era of Mr. Honda’s dynasty as well as trials bikes and more current models in the showroom. It was easy to spend an hour there; the machines are fascinating and Mr. Logue is very friendly and informative. We left the dealership and headed out about 2 miles for lunch at a great biker friendly tavern where we waited out the rain. Our timing seemed to be perfect the whole weekend. The rain toyed with us but we managed to avoid wet suits.
From Williamsport we headed west to an area that looked very undeveloped on the maps. Hugging the Susquehanna Riverthere were very few roads and even after exploring the area in advance on Google Earth I was not sure exactly what we were getting into. I had plotted a course over the mountains using very small roads which at least had names, but I was uncertain about the road surface: paved or not? Definitely NOT as it turned out. We made our way very slowly up steep grades on rough gravel and dirt roads. I was amazed that there were actually street signs out there in the deep woods, but relieved, as these were the only clues that I was staying on course. I stopped for a break at one point and the silence was deafening. I tried to gauge the riders’ feelings by looking everyone in the eyes. I sensed surprise and a bit of apprehension; no one expected to be traveling across terrain like this on vintage motorcycles.
But the beauty of the place was quite overwhelming and we were all resolved to press onwards. Soon we reached a crest and as we followed the high ridge, the rocky dirt road turned into a smooth graveled road. We overtook a horse drawn carriage driven by an Amish woman with her four little children. We began to relax and just enjoy the splendor of the forest. Before long we were back on pavement to everyone’s relief. Our group had been challenged and had risen to the occasion. Now we were rewarded by a really interesting section of rough pavement. Crossing the mountain had allowed us to access a disused section of roadway which paralleled the highway. Truly we had found THE PATH LESS TAKEN!
For 30 miles we zoomed along as fast as our trusty steeds would carry us. There were sections of gravel and some rough pavement but also wonderful sweepers and absolutely no traffic. We caught glimpses of the ‘New Road’ which paralleled on one side and White Deer Creek on the other side but we had this road to ourselves. Finally we came to a tiny village, White Deer, and stopped for a granola bar break in the park. We crossed the Susquehanna and turned south, following the river to Miltonwhere we checked into Steel Steeds Campground.
This is a biker friendly campground. Their motto is ‘bring nothing but your toothbrush’ and it really works. Nestled along the shore of the mighty river, the soothing sound of flowing water can be heard at night. We are to sleep in tents, but not ordinary tents. These are semi-permanent shelters erected upon wooded platforms. There are beds with linen inside, electric lights and out side the front ‘door’ a wooden deck with picnic table and chairs. There are several trailers set up with clean flush toilets and great hot showers. Clean towels are neatly folded on the beds for our use. Other motorcyclists stop by to admire our vintage bikes and to talk. Although we have managed to totally avoid riding in the rain, the weather looks threatening. The proprietors are incredibly hospitable; upon our arrival, there are snacks and drinks waiting. We unpack and choose up tents, 2 per, as dinner is being prepared.
A massive open fire is stoked and huge juicy steaks are put on the grill along with sweet corn and baked potatoes. Cold beer and other drinks are handed to us and we just totally relax, unwind and EATuntil we can eat no more. The more adventurous are welcome to walk to nearby Mindy’s Tavern for drinks plus, but most of us just turn in to our comfortable accommodations for much needed sleep; it has been a long day. Some of us hunker under the canvas pop-up against intermittent drizzle, feeding wood into the bon fire well into the wee hours. During the night there is heavy rain but we stay snug and dry. In the morning the sun comes out; we have escaped riding in the rain again.
We head south and angle towards Route 125, renowned hereabouts for its magnificent swervery coupled with dramatic elevation changes. What a great road! The ride home is going smoothly, I call ahead and project a 6 PMarrival. Then things begin to unravel. Somewhere in Amish country, near the town of TerreHill I think, we loose 4 riders. We’re tired; someone forgot to wait and they have missed a turn. We pull into a church parking lot to wait, but no one comes. Riders report to me that the Triumph is misfiring heavily. I test ride the Bonneville, deduce that the battery is nearly dead and luckily discover a broken wire at the rectifier which is easily repaired. The fuse holder then falls apart in my hands. Lucky Lucas? I repair this as well and hope for the best. Still no sign of the others, so I double back. I think I can see where they probably missed a turn and set out in that direction and after about 5 miles they pass me going in the opposite direction. We regroup at the church parking lot; back on route and all bikes in running order but we have a new problem: Scott has lost his wallet. While I was off chasing the ‘lost 4’ he had retraced his route about 10 miles back to our previous stopping point but with no luck. We are standing around trying to determine the best course of action when his cell phone rings.
The wallet has been found! An honest citizen about 25 miles back has the wallet and will hold it for us. Scott suggests that we carry on towards home while he backtracks but in the end the weather is fine and are enjoying the ride; there is plenty of daylight so I call Lynnand revise our ETAto 8:30and we elect to ride back as a group to retrieve Scott’s wallet. We stop for ice cream afterwards and get home after sundown. Lynnhas a great hot meal waiting and we eat and bench race and say our farewells. Those that are leaving depart and those that are spending the night bunk down. In the morning Lynndrives them to the airport for the flight back to Boston. Another adventure filled RetroTour is in the books and we all feel great about it!
Hats off to Kristen for being as always, lots of fun to be with and a great passenger. It’s great to have a woman along. I wonder what it would be like to tour with a whole group of women? Check out a subsequent report: “Moving Violations”.