On The Road Again With Ed 'Shevy' Shevlin
Last year Shevlin rode his Harley cross-country from Rockaway Beach, New York to Rockaway Beach, Oregon. He kept his own personal travel diary documenting his adventure and planned to do the same this year.
This year's journey, to Newfoundland by bike and ferry, began on July 23. Below is Shevlin's first entry from the road.
July 23, 2008, Rockaway Beach, NY
I would like to start by thanking everyone in advance for reading my travel logs. It is most gratifying. I began reporting on my motorcycle tours last year when I made a trip to Rockaway Beach, Oregon. I have written this column to raise awareness and money for the Cystic Fibrosis Found ation. I also write to entertain myself and others. (I enjoy writing.) So please help the people who suffer from this debilitating disease by donating the price of a gallon or two of gas to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
My intention to leave the Rock at 7 a.m. was shattered when the reality of things left undone settled in. I needed a watch battery, I needed to pack and I needed to load the bike, among other things. By 10 a.m. I was on the road wearing the requisite Harley t-shirt and jeans. The weather report was less than favorable, at some point I would be putting on the rain gear for the remainder of the day's ride. The question was how far I would get without donning that cumbersome crap.
The rain was relentless and so was I. We continued in partnership all the way up I-95 as if we had some kind of pact. The vapor trails that followed the 18 wheelers obscure the road ahead, so with twist of the throttle, I launch myself out ahead of the behemoths for a while until I reach the next one and the process is repeated.
Picture yourself as the bow of a ship. As it splits the ocean before it the displaced water is moved to the side creating a wake. The same holds true for the 18 wheelers. As they burst through the air in front of them they create a massive draft that is as formidable as a ship's wake. Upon passing the vapor trail of atomized water, the rider must next deal with the buffeting from the trucks bow. This is best handled at high speed, generally 10-20 mph faster than the truck. Considering that trucks travel at 70 mph on the interstate you better have a little giddy-up in your get along.
That's all for now. I am safe and sound in Portland, Maine, drying out while enjoying a luxuriously large celebratory cigar. Tomorrow I cross the Canadian border and go international with my tour. Before turning in I shall pray for sunshine.
July 24, 2008, Portland, Maine- Fredericton, New Brunswick
I thought I had awakened to the sound of bacon sizzling on a frying pan, but it was just a dream. In reality it was the sound of rain bouncing off of a car's roof right outside of my hotel room. No, I thought, not again! Another day of riding in torrential downpours was in my foreseeable future. As I packed up my gear and put on my waterproof suit, I took a little comfort in the fact that I had a major errand to run before I actually set out on the road. My bike needed a new rear tire and I had an appointment at Big Moose Harley Davidson to have the job done. After splashing through puddles for 10 miles or so I arrived at the Harley shop and was greeted by the friendly staff with a hot cup of coffee and many inquiries about my tour and my machine. I am always happy to talk about motorcycles with other bikers. I whiled away the 2 hours with what seemed like a bunch of old friends. With the job done and after drinking 3 cups of coffee I pulled out onto I-95 and headed north.
My bike was running strong and the new rubber on the rear gave me an extra measure of confidence that helped me to enjoy the ride. When I got about 100 miles north of Portland a blessed event graced my day when the rain stopped! It was still overcast and gloomy, but the road was drying up and I found myself increasing my pace until I reached my normal cruising speed of 78 mph. Before long it was time to make a gas stop and after all that coffee it was a wonder that I got as far as I did without stopping.
I rolled into the gas station and stayed just long enough to fill the bike and empty me and then I felt it. The rain had caught up to me. I revved up the bike and blasted out onto the highway in an effort to outrun Mother Nature, up through the gears, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, all the way to 6th gear and 85 mph. We were motoring along at a fast clip and success was to be our reward. Finally Saoirse and I got out in front of the storm.
The fellas at the Harley shop told me not to worry about seeing any cops once I got north of Bangor. That is just the kind of travel advice that I like to hear. Having burned up a lot of gas, I thought that it would be prudent to fill up before I reached the Canadian border. A little lunch wouldn't hurt either, so I turned into the sleepy little hamlet of Orono. This is the town that time passed by. Pat's Pizza was the only game in town and hunger is good sauce, so Pat's it was. Being a New Yorker I am always suspicious of pizza in far away places and Pat's was quartered in an old diner. Needless to say, I did not order the pizza, opting instead for a Greek salad which was really fantastic! Now I was ready to roll. As I began to put on my helmet it happened. First one then 2 then one after another rain drops were again falling all over me and my lovely dry road. Like Frankenstein in an old movie the storm was stalking me. I had to run, or all the way to the border and beyond get caught again. I arrived in Fredericton later that day, harried, tired and relieved that Frankenstein didn't catch me again.
July 25, 2008, Fredericton, New Brunswick
"Towring in gallant fame Scotland me mountain hame, high may your proud standards gloriously wave. Land of the shining river, land of my high endeavor, land of my heart forever, Scotland the Brave." The melody swirled from the pipes of the St. Andrews Society of Fredericton Pipes and Drums. Marching six abreast with 30 pipers and 20 drummers, the band was a formidable group indeed. As they proceeded up Queen Street to City Hall there was no doubt that people in Fredericton would be eating haggis that night, but I would not be one of them. The short parade signaled the beginning of the Highland Games for the weekend. With Mayor Mc- Tavish's (no, not Mayor McCheese!) proclamation and the raising of the Scottish flag over City Hall the weekend belonged to the Scots.
The rain never really did let up, it was always right over my shoulder but what the hell, and I was on vacation. As morning broke on Friday I began to think of the day ahead, it was a blah kind of day and that suit ed me just fine because I didn't have to do any real riding, just a putt around town to get here and there. Grabbing my knee socks and flashes I dressed my legs first, then on with my combat boots, next I grabbed a black Harley t-shirt from my bag and finally reaching into my bag I found my kilt. Funny thing about wearing a kilt, it is one of the last things that you put on when dressing. Now you should know that I do not usually dress this way when I'm riding my motorcycle but this is the Highland Games after all so form follows function.
Following the ceremony at City Hall I made my way over to the venue for the games, Old Government House. The gates would not open for a few hours but no one stopped me from walking in. As I strolled the grounds watching people erecting tents and setting up stages, I happened upon a collection of logs which had been stripped of their bark and placed atop two other logs to keep them off the ground. Then it dawned on me, these were the cabers. They looked huge and they had been marinating in rain water for at least 3 days so they were heavier than ever. How was I going to toss one of these things I thought? They looked like medieval weapons of war! In for a penny, in for a pound, I would just do it and that's all there was to it. I began to question my judgment in regards to my participation in the games. The thing is, I told a lot of people that I would be competing so there was no backing down now. The morning was hours away so I decided to get a bite to eat and cross that bridge when I came to it. Throwing my leg over Saoirse I adjusted my kilt and rumbled away, perhaps I'll go for oysters.
Happy Trails, Shevy.