Upcoming Ride – Covered Bridge Tour, Part 1

This weekend we have a ride scheduled with the local HOG group to tour the covered bridges on the east side of the state.  I believe there are five still in existence, so looking forward to seeing them in person.  The western side of Indiana has quite a few more covered bridges, somewhere around 31 still standing.  There’s a ride scheduled for later in October, just when the optimal leaf color changing is in full swing.  Not sure if we’ll do that ride or not at this time, as we look to be leading two rides back up to Wolf Park since quite a few of our riding friends have expressed interest in doing that in the next several weeks.

Stay tuned…ride report to come (again) this weekend.  Looking forward to it…long week at work writing standard operating procedures for an upcoming certification we’re doing; and already miss riding.  With winter coming fast, I’m sure we are going to get the winter blues and spring fever pretty strong soon.

Catfish Caper Ride, Day 2 of 2

ETA:  Sorry, no pictures today.  Weather was not cooperating, and I am not interested in purchasing a more water resistant camera at this time.  So, words will have to suffice for this ride report.

As posted on Saturday night from the Evansville hotel, the forecast for Sunday was 80% chance of rain; one weather forecast specifically stated 80% chance of thunderstorms, which did not abode well for any of the riders that evening.  We resolved to just see what the weather was when we all awoke, and make a determination of what to do with the ride at that time.

Sunday morning came early for Bonnie and I, 5AM.  We proceeded down to the lobby to find that food was being placed out for the guests, but our first goal was to acquire the needed morning java to get the senses awakened.  Taking our paper cups outside, we discovered that the rain had reappeared in the middle of the night, and was steadily wetting our motorcycles.  Somewhat depressed, we opened up the radar apps on our phone, to discover a storm was coming in, and reaching back into Missouri.  Watching the time lapse for the direction of the rain, we saw that the direction of the storm was going to loop all the way into the Indianapolis area.

Heading back to the room, we literally scared Shiz as she came off the elevator in search of coffee for John and herself.  Once acquired, we retreated to the room to find John pretty much ready to go for the day, and looking forward to breakfast.  The two of them went back downstairs in search of body fuel, while Bonnie and I readied ourselves for the day.  Eventually we headed back downstairs to the dining area in search of hot foods, to discover that the closest we would get to homemade eggs and bacon was to throw a refrigerated Jimmy Dean’s breakfast sandwich into the microwave.  It actually was not too awful in taste, and allowed us to continue pumping coffee and orange juice orally into our veins.

Kicks stands up was scheduled for 9AM our time, 8AM local.  We lounged for a while in the room, then gathered our belongings to take out and strap to our bikes.  The rain intensity had increased, but it was time to go and get back on the asphalt.  Due to the weather conditions, it was decided that we would head back home as a group, as we had at least one newer rider with us, and the original route for the day would probably have caused both the newest rider, as well as some of the experienced riders, some problems.  Leaves are falling in the area, and some of the roads previously picked were narrow and would be hazardous to navigate in such a large group in the current weather conditions.

Sometimes, as a group, it’s hard to get everybody ready to go on time.  When it’s pouring down rain and your sitting on the bikes ready to go, people are actually antsy to get going.  Rain gear will keep your dry, but the sound and feel of the rain hitting your helmet and body is slightly annoying, and you just want to get going for the day.  The decision had been for us to go back north to I-64 East, and take that as a group to the US-231 exit where we would regroup and decide on how to get back home.  The rain battered the group the entire way, causing some of the more cautious riders to fall back on the interstate and find their own comfortable paces to ride.

At the gas station at US-231, the decision was made to offer two choices to get back to the Indianapolis area. One would be to diagonally cut across the state, which was the shorter path back, but would require transit through a number of small towns and would require encountering unknown condition state highways.  The other choice was to head back and use the interstate system the entire way…I-64 East to Louisville, I-265 around to I-65, and then head northwards.  The group seemed to cut in half each way.  We decided to go the interstate route, as even though it was a longer path, I knew that the roads were in above average shape.

We said our goodbyes to half the group, and our group left first out of the parking lot.  We again encountered the rain on the super slab, and our ride leader wisely chose to keep speeds low to guarantee that the group stayed close together.  Traffic passed on our left going just slightly faster, as even the “cagers” seemed to be wary of the road and weather conditions due to the storm.  The spray coming off the tires of passing semis was enough to cause gray-out conditions, so each rider moved over to the right to prevent being blinded by the additional volume of water.

The rain subsided outside of Louisville, and the sun actually started to peek out from behind the clouds for a few minutes until it was overwhelmed by the increasing cloud cover.  We had outran the storm’s speed with our motorcycles, but we all knew that the direction of the storm would intersect with us again as we proceeded north.  A stop just north of Louisville on I-65 allowed us all to fuel our gas tanks again, and we talked about choices for heading home.  Some people (me included) were already hungry due to a lackluster breakfast, and decided to stay at at the fuel station and get the offered McDonald’s or Subway fast food choices.  Others wanted to proceed north, and stop in the Columbus area to visit the local Harley Davidson dealer there and find a sit-down restaurant.  Still others wanted to proceed directly home, as we all knew that each of us would encounter the storm again.

We said our goodbyes again as our group again seemed to split in half, and Bonnie and I retired to the warmth and saltiness of a McDonald’s burger and fries.  We ended up staying at the rest stop with John and Shiz, as well as Dan and Marci…the same people we had gone to the James Dean Festival with a couple of days before.  Eventually, it was time to head out, and face the wrath of the storm that was waiting for us about forty miles north.  The storm causes the rider to focus entirely on the road ahead, as gray out conditions make it hard to see others around you.  Rain is collecting on the face shield of the helmet, spray is coming in under the shield, people in vehicles do not seem to care that they are driving inches away from you and still talking on their cell phones in the down pour, etc.  It can be exhausting for the rider…and scary to the passenger who is sitting behind you, who has absolutely no control of the situation.

The storm opened up with a strong intensity, and did not subside until we exited I-65 to allow for one more fuel stop for Shiz’s Sportster (which has a smaller fuel tank, requiring more refilling opportunities).  We said our goodbyes, proceeded north, and each of us parted ways as we came to exits we needed from I-465.  The rain continued for the rest of the ride home.  When home is just miles away after an exhausting ride, it is very tempting to give the bike more throttle so you can arrive earlier.  However, you fight back the urge, knowing that a steady, safe pace is what will actually get you home in one piece.  Pulling into the driveway, we gladly got out of our helmets and rain gear, and finally relaxed.

Our final small group made it home safely, and Facebook postings have abounded throughout the afternoon as our riders let the group know they were in their homes, warming up from the cold rain of the day.  We didn’t get to do the planned route for day 2, but we will make sure to ride those roads in the future when better weather prevails.

It was a tiring day, filled with rain, strong breezes at times, and hard to see conditions.  Not every ride can be in 80 degree sunshine, at least not for us.  We ride because we love to do so…and what makes it so much better, is to enjoy a ride with friends.  On days like today, being with friends is what it’s all about…and even though riding conditions suck, being with those that we love and care about on the open road makes it all worth it.

Catfish Caper Ride, Day 1 of 2

What do monkey pants, Corona beer, the best catfish in the Midwest, awesome desserts, a journey of hundreds of miles, competition of which restaurant to eat at for dinner, and good friends equal when you put them all together?  HOG RIDE!  More specifically, the Catfish Caper!

The 2011 Catfish Caper is now over.  As a reminder, this is the name assigned to the ride by our HOG chapter director, Ken…and it’s perfectly fitting.  Ken led the way through the Indiana and Illinois country-side for a weekend ride, and everybody had a blast…even if the weather did its best to drown out our spirits (which it did not).  I promised a more detailed ride report, so here we go.

Saturday morning arrived with forecasts of rain throughout the day.  Bonnie and I decided to meet a few other members at a Bob Evans for some hot coffee and breakfast, arriving there about 7AM.  Others trickled into the eatery, and our table grew larger as the waitress continually kept adding tables together so we could all sit together.  After in-taking our fair share of some of Columbia’s finest, and eating a hearty breakfast to ensure energy was available in the bodies for the ride ahead, we left the restaurant to go to Harley Northside down the street and help one of our fellow HOG members with any ride registration or sign-in needs.  A number of people arrived at Harley Northside at the staging location for the ride reporting that they had been rained on on their way in; and a quick look to the skies convinced everybody else to don their rain gear as well.

Members were still trickling in as the ride meeting came to a very informal order.  Ken passed out directions should anybody get separated ( not needed, as he did a great job making sure the pack got back together when it got strewn out too far apart), and a quick reminder of the rules of the road were given to keep safety fresh in everybody’s minds.

9AM arrived quickly, and the command was given by Ken to mount up for the Catfish Caper.  Not sure how many people started the ride, I had heard it was 29 or 30.  That’s a great turn out for a ride that is scheduled over the entire weekend.  We easily navigated our way out of town, heading I465 West to I-70 West for a spell until we connected with SR39 South.  Traffic was average for a Saturday morning, and we did get caught in the construction on I-70 West which slowed our exit from Indianapolis, but at least traffic was moving slowly instead of at a standstill.  The rain that others had seen earlier in the morning had appeared, albeit light enough to just be noticeable without being extremely dangerous to visibility.

Once we reached country roads, we navigated many left and right turns, too many to list here.  You can see the route for Saturday in my other blog entry for the Catfish Caper, which allows you to zoom into the route and get an idea of how serpentine the riding was.  Ken had picked a great route, finding some curves, straightaways, and even canopy coverage at times.

The rain had become an on and off-again drizzle at times, and our first stop in Cloverdale for fuel claimed it’s first dropout, who decided to head back home due to the rain.  This first stop also afforded the riders who did not visit Bob Evans or another establishment the ability to grab a hot cup of coffee.

Graysville, IN was the last fuel stop in Indiana before proceeding into Illinois.  Fuel stops are fun for the group, giving everybody a chance to critique the riding just done, as well as gives us all time to mingle and talk while grabbing some refreshments.  It is almost comical to see such small gas stations out in the middle of “nowhere” go from having one vehicle in their parking lot, to having a dozen 93-octane hungry hogs pull into the lot from nowhere.  This usually brings out some of the neighbors who are curious to the visitors to their towns, and either brings about appreciation or dislike from the attendants or owners working the stores.

All were starting to get hungry for lunch, so it was time to keep riding onward.  One rider had a problem getting her bike started at the pump which only delayed us for a couple of minutes, and after getting some help in disabling her kill switch, found her Harley roaring to life with the rest of our bikes.

The Silver Moon in West Union, Illinois is a one-story building on the north edge of town, without many markings.  The small sign at one edge of the parking lot advertises the business name, while another sign on the end of the lot indicates that this may just be a place get a cold beer if so inclined to stop.

Want great tasting catfish?  The Silver Moon is the place to get it…everything we had been hearing was accurate.  The catfish fillets when ordered were piled high in baskets, and with a golden brown batter hiding the perfectly cooked flakiness of the actual meal.  Together with their gigantic salad bar, with many different types of pasta salads and breads also available, made this a meal that will be remembered for some time to come.  It also guarantees that all of the riders who participated will be willing participants whenever another ride is organized for this destination in the future.

Ken had made it clear to all riders at the initial ride meeting that he had a dessert surprise in store for those that came along.  Those that had done this ride in the past with him knew that this is near his home town where some of his family still lives, and that he enjoyed having everybody over to their home for desserts that are out of this world.  Nearly carrying our heavy stomachs back to the bikes, we proceeded back out to the asphalt to head for this next destination.  For those of us whom this was the first ride to Ken’s backyard, we were soon to be treated to treats that rivaled the best bakeries in Indianapolis.

A leisure ride to his sister’s home in Palestine, IL took us down a nearly deserted, very wide country lane, with a number of different curves at just the right places, which seemed to go on for miles.  We used the opportunity to clean out our fuel injectors and made great time to the location, where his family greeted each of us on our arrival as if we were members of their clan.

The desserts that awaited us were delicacies of cheesecake.  Chocolate, red velvet, and others.  I personally do not care for cheesecake, but I couldn’t resist trying the red velvet that my wife had chosen.  A bite later, and I absconded with her plate and fork…but shared when she caught up with me.  It was a perfect ending to a great meal, and the hosts made sure that we all had a perfect rest stop.  Getting late, the decision was made to climb back on the motorcycles, and to head towards Evansville, our final stop for the day.

The rain clouds (as seen in the photos above) guaranteed that we checked the radar applications on our phones, which showed that we should pull out the rain gear once more.  The journey to Evansville was a long leg, with one stop in Vincennes, IN to allow those needing fuel to top off, as well as to allow everybody that had not previously put on their rain gear to get theirs on, as the rain had reappeared and become more steady.

We eventually out ran the rain, as we left US-41, circled around I-64 to I-164 South, and exited on Lloyd Expressway to make sure that everybody fueled up for the next day’s journey.  Across the street sat the Marriott Fairfield Inn, which each bike ambled toward to complete their check-in once each fuel tank was topped off.  Evansville is on DST (daylight savings time), whereas the Indianapolis area has progressed to using the Eastern Time Zone for all of their clocks.  This continually threw some people into confusion, trying to figure out what the local time was.  Sort of hilarious to watch as conversations would end up “are we meeting at 7PM local time, or our time?”

Arriving to the hotel on overnight stays causes us all to drift in many different directions immediately once check-in is completed.  Some people wander up to their rooms to fall down on the beds to take a quick nap, some people pull out the cleaning rags and get the day’s grime off their bikes, and other people jump back on their bikes to find a liquor store or department store to pick up either adult refreshments or things that they forgot to pack for the trip.  My wife usually drop our bags off in the room, and go back outside or down to the lobby to mingle with our friends as they come and go.

Two very popular restaurants were located on the ends of the hotel parking lot, Texas Roadhouse and Bar Louie.  Usually dinner is “on your own”, which means go wherever you like.  A number of people decided to not go out, and the remaining people seemed to gravitate to one or the other of these eateries.  We decided to eat at Texas Roadhouse, one of our favorite regular restaurants, and easily talked 7 or 8 other people into joining us.  The lines were extremely long, over an hour wait, but Dan, one of our friends, managed to go in and clear out room for all of us at the bar…which guaranteed us a seat bypassing the others outside waiting.  In the few minutes before Dan proceeded to muscle us some room inside, we were treated to one of his favorite dirty dance moves.  While this would quell the hunger of most, Harley riders are known for their veracious appetites and we were not in the last deterred.

The 9 or 10 of had an absolutely wonderful time at the bar, and 90 minutes passed by quickly as we enjoyed the fine food and camaraderie.  The food portions were enormous, but bigger than what we typically get back home; and all agreed that the food was perfectly prepared.  The staff of this restaurant should be commended, due to the fact that service was excellent, even though they were at maximum occupancy most of the night.

Going back to the rooms, my wife and I took our items out of traveling bag, and placed them within easy access within the room.  For this trip, we decided to do something different than what we normally do.  A few weeks ago, we had heard that rooms at this hotel were hard to get, and an offer was given to us by our friends John and Shiz to split a room with them.  The two queen sized beds were plenty big for each couple, and it allowed both of us couples to split the cost of the stay.  Rides are fun to do, but they can get quite expensive over the course of the year with the number of day and longer trips we have been doing.  So, Bonnie puts on her now infamous “Monkey and Nanner” lounge pants, and proceeded to find out what’s going on in the hotel.

There’s always a party in the lounge or a few of the rooms when we all do the overnight rides, as this night was no exception.  My wife and Shiz disappeared for an hour while John and I were content with vegging out and watching the new Orange County Choppers off-shoot, Senior vs Junior or whatever it is called.  Eventually, they showed back up to the room, only to drag me back to the small party they had found with about half-dozen other riders.  Time flies when you are having fun with friends, and it came to the point where it was time to get some sleep for the next day’s ride.  It was easy to fall asleep, as fatigue from a long day had finally taken its toll on this aging body.  The next day, Sunday, would also test all of our abilities to endure less than ideal situations, as we had to choose between continuing the Catfish Caper ride, or to head back north to our homes.

Catfish Caper, Day 1 Route

Relaxing at the Evansville Hotel

Today was the first of our two day Catfish Caper ride to Illinois and Southern Indiana. Around 30 of our local HOG chapter members made the trip, with a few having to leave early to return home due to other responsibilities. Tonight finds the remainder of the group, around 20 members, relaxing at the Fairfield Inn in Evansville after a long day riding the country asphalt roads. Tomorrow’s forecast, at least tonight, is for an 80% chance of thunderstorms tomorrow. We will be working our way north and east in the morning, and hopefully we’ll be able skirt or ride around the storms. Once we get back, I’ll be working on a detailed ride report, along with pictures.