Postcards from Pennsylvania -Wrap Up

By Eric Vengroff

The overnight rain on Saturday had just let up by morning and the streets of Harrisonburg, Virginia were drying out. The skies were still quite overcast and threatened more rain. We all decided to sleep in until about 9:00, just this one time. The only plan for the day was to ride in a 400 km loop through the mountain ranges in the area and end up back here in Harrisonburg, so we had plenty of time.

We climbed and descended four successive ridges, each around 3,000 feet high, and each time as we ascended, we rode upwards through fog and drizzle. While the conditions slowed all of us down, they probably slowed me down more as the big bike labored up the mountainsides often at full throttle just to within sight of my faster buddies. With each mountain, I started doing the mental math of what it would take to either upgrade my bike to give it 20% more horsepower, or trade the Harley in on a new BMW sport touring machine. My 2008 Electra Glide was just two years old (but three model years old); I’d take a beating on a trade-in or resale. Selling it was definitely not an option. Upgrading was cheaper, and would keep me happier, because as anyone who’s ridden with me already knows, this bike is me.

Although I enjoy riding in a group, I find that nowhere and at no time is that man-machine bond as close as when I ride alone; the symbiosis so apparent it’s a wonder most bikers never mention it. She needs me to keep her wheels balanced and I need her to take me home. It inspired me to take this picture, on a quiet country road near Burnt Cabins, PA.

On the fourth day of our adventure “the company of (piston) ring” agreed to split up. Three riders (Jonny, our ride leader with his Yamaha FJR1300, Steve and Benny, both on Hondas Gold Wing and ST1300 respectively) agreed to remain on original course. The other three, Bentley on his Ducati Multistrada and I would remain behind to assist Al, who after three days of tearing around on varyingly rough mountains roads for three days on his Kawasaki ZX12, a fearsomely fast machine with over twice the horsepower of my Harley, tore up his already fading rear tire and it needed replacing. Fortunately there was motorcycle shop close to our hotel that had what he needed. The plan was to wait around while the job was done and take a more direct route to a rendez-vous point that we would reach (one way or the other) by 1:00 PM. The point was Hancock, MD, a town almost at the vertex of three states – Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia.

Repairs done, the three of us made up time rapidly travelling by Interstate and arterial roads, which is my bike’s core competency. Tunes blasting, feet up (on the highway pegs of course) passing transport trucks and other assorted flotsam and jetsam of the open road. Set the cruise control and go!

Back in State College PA, and another visit to the Olive Garden. After the previous evening, where I’d convinced the boys to try one of Harrisonburg’s two reputed Mexican restaurants, they weren’t up for the spicy Tex-Mex place a block away. Don’t get me wrong, the food was good, but it was HOT! And some of us were totally OK with that. Funny thing about that Mexican food though- it has a way of ‘talking to you’ later. In fact, we were having quite a conversation. My roommate booked a separate room after dinner. I’m still not sure whether he was trying to protect me or himself.

At dinner, with one more day to go, conversation started turning to ‘when are we going again?’ This was an unexpected surprise. I’ve been friends with Jonny since we were in high school, and we’ve gone on numerous trips, so there’s really nothing new there. But almost everyone else had ridden occasionally if ever together and in some cases were total strangers. Not really knowing what to expect, we all concluded the chemistry was good, if not exceptional. Personally, I’m already taking steps in anticipation of next year’s outing. The bike’s upgrades have already been ordered and she goes into the shop tomorrow. When she comes out, she’ll be lighter, faster, and more powerful. But I ordered fish-tail exhaust tips. Even though next time I’ll only be one county behind instead of two, she’s still got to look like a Harley.