July 1, 2005 – Friday – Day 6

48 States or Bust – The USA on Two Wheels
Miles Today:203 – Total Miles:1238 – Daily Average:206
Buffalo,NY to Erie,PA
(-stayed at EconoLodge -)
(NY,PA – 10/48)
– About 100 miles in before we got anywhere – Massive Power –

Had another middle-of-the-night call last night – around 12:30ish. It was Clay, a longtime internet friend from Wisconsin. I had called him recently because all our trip journal emails to him were being returned to me. I was concerned about him, and since we were going to visit him, wondered what was up. Turns out he would be leaving his home in the next ten days, and we couldn’t see him. He didn’t know what the email problem was, and he was sorry to miss us. It wasn’t as hard to get back to sleep after this call as the one on that other night!

Since we were so close, we decided to take a hop up toward Niagara Falls this morning. To make it easier we left our gear in the room and planned on getting back before the noon checkout time. Everyone said it wouldn’t take long to get there and back. So we left about 9:30am. We thought the directions we got were simple, but something got bollixed up, and it took us about 40 minutes to get there instead of the projected 15. We finally reached the American side falls, parked for a $10 gyp fee, and walked over to the riverside with a plan to have someone watch our stuff and then run together along the pathway there.

The Falls – it was like standing beside massive unmatchable power. They were gorgeous in their swirling, foaming, rushing-gushing intensity. They were infinitely unending and seething in their blasting unimaginable might. As it turned out, we took turns running. (Because of security reasons, none of the staff folks would watch our stuff for the 15 minute period.) I had my full motorcycle suit on, and when it was my turn to jog, I had to take it off of course, to run in my shorts underneath. Am sure that some security camera operators were abuzz there at Niagara Security Central (and possibly about ready to set off alarms), as their viewscreen pictures displayed a bright-yellow clad motorcyclist there disrobing on the shoreline. We were there from 9:45am for an hour in the delightful 76º morning. The mist was splaying out all over us, but hey, after our rain days of late, it didn’t seem to bother us much. We left in plenty of time to get our gear, and make our noon checkout. However, then began a terrible mix-up of directions, and an exit that didn’t appear to be on our side of the highway. So it turned out that we had a beautiful tour of downtown Buffalo and the maze-like streets and high-arching Lake Erie-hugging bridges of what amounts to being the Buffalo ‘burbs. So, not only were we now running late, but also running out of gasoline. We found a gas station, but then got some wrong directions, and were even later. It was a bit of a nervous time all right!

We went down through one area that had all the stores we wanted or needed to visit – a Subway, an EMS sports store, and a K-mart where Karen needed a prescription filled. But we had no time to stop because we didn’t want to get charged for another night at the motel. At one point we were heading down Main Street toward the hotel, but it was a Main Street of the wrong town! (And at that, we SHOULD have been going the other way!) A quiet spoken guy at an outdoor café calmly gave us correct directions. Finally scrambling our way back to the right place, the older fellow behind the counter was smiley and didn’t mind us being a half hour late! We cleaned out the room, loaded up the gear, though sadly with one of my maps was missing, and headed out to that shopping area. We figured the day was about lost for big miles anyway.

We enjoyed a leisurely lunch at the Subway and down the street. A delightful bright-eyed young woman who liked to rock climb and who hoped to major in architecture in grad school named Cole waited on us at the EMS store. We got a new bungie wrap for the one that was melted an hour earlier on one of the pipes. (Yikes! the bag had fallen off a bit and hero Karen had to grab it while we were riding to keep it from dragging on the ground next to us!) We also got another waterproof bag, and some tie-downs.

We next went into a K-mart for Karen to fill her prescription only to find that the pharmacy was closed for some kind of emergency. So we were finally ready to leave the Buffalo K-mart parking lot at 3:30pm after going 93 miles without really going anywhere for the entire day so far!! Unbelievable.

Despite the wonderful sights, it was a morning and early afternoon of misadventures, mistakes, getting and following bad advice, missing turns, unneeded miles, not having turns marked, and just plain bad luck. Although I don’t entirely agree it should be labeled such, it does sound somewhat funny to say… but it’s like this journey should be titled, and would be titled if they ever make a movie out of it, “Joel and Karen Bumble Their Way Westward!”

One of the big differences between this ride and my bicycle tours – so many thoughts are lost now because I cannot tape record them as they come into my head. The engine noise is too intense, and I can’t get the mic to record at all clearly while riding.

The later part of the afternoon was good hard riding, blasting into the wind and ripping through the heat of the mainly long, straight, and smooth highway. Chatted with, and got an image for Dimitar – a fellow who was working the food stand at a McDonald’s on the last stop on the New York Thruway. Said I’d email it to him if he wrote me. A nice, mild mannered seeming guy, Dimitar let us have a cup of popcorn instead of having to purchase a whole big container. When he said he was from Bulgaria, I said, “Wow, that’s a LONG commute!” He smiled at the joke, and said he lived about 15 miles away for the summer. I’m just guessing his working here is either a kindly way for McDonald’s of showing young folks from around the world the USA, or it’s a way of getting cheap labor for their mega-company. I gave a loud exclamatory, “WHOA!!” when he mentioned that he was in the middle of a 12(!) hour shift.

One difference today was the wind. It was coming at us, and coming at us from the side, and it did some shoving around all right. (At one point at a rest area, I watched a low-flying seagull try to beat the strong breeze – but he couldn’t. He remained motionless, other than his white wings flapping unsuccessfully. No headway. Finally, he flew down, ultimately defeated, and decided to walk over to the popcorn kernels on the cement.) Because of the winds I couldn’t safely go the sustained high speeds as I could yesterday. And the concentration at keeping the balance of the bike was a LOT more intense. But I enjoyed the buffeted ride down the highway, although my hands were a bit more tired in the evening since I had to grip the handlebars much more tightly for longer periods, and more intensely at certain times, too.

It’ll be very interesting to see when we get home whether the momentum of all these days keeps us on the motorcycle for more short trips at home, or whether we’ll just be sick of it, and not go riding for awhile. Not quite a week into it, seems more like the former than the latter. Much to the surprise of some of the naysayers before we left, our butts are not hurting at all as much as they had predicted.

Anymore when we get into towns, I find myself more and more impatient with the damn traffic lights. Oh, but one thing I’ve grown to love is that EZPass. For those who don’t know about it, one purchases tolls in advance and then the EZPass folks send a little white transponder to you. It’s about the size of a pack of cigarettes. It gets attached to your vehicle (or is held up in the case of some motorcycles), and the transponder is scanned, and then you just breeze by through the toll booth – happily smiling at all the people stuck back there in line. It’s wonderful.

We rolled into Erie around 5:45pm, changed from one motel to this EconoLodge for the high-speed internet which hopefully will work with less hassle than the one yesterday. After getting in we unpacked, chatted with Don Lueke on the phone (Don of Don and Krista, who we’ll be visiting tomorrow in Michigan) and went out to a K-mart here (NO pharmacy!), and then to a Taco Bell for some supper.

Back at the room we organized stuff again, and culled a big pack of stuff to send home tomorrow. It was another day of contrasts – a morning of grand joy at the Falls, misadventures in timing and direction, and an afternoon of steady progress and good feelings.

Author: Joel Perlish

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