Author Topic: The Ride through New England that wasn't  (Read 273 times)

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August 05, 2017, 10:42:29 PM on

Offline ssevy (OP)

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This year’s annual trip had a very simple theme:  if it could go wrong, it did go wrong. Frustrations ran the gamut from mundane issues such as torrential rain and dodgy coils to more serious things including a starter motor failing mid-trip, and finally, the ultimate headache, some ham fisted self-inflicted damage to a plastic bearing cage while replacing an oil seal on the main output shaft. Best of all, these events occurred at the most inconvenient times possible, which will make this trip one of our most unforgettable ever (regardless of how hard we may try).
Here begins our tale of woe:

Prelude
If you have read any of my other ride reports, you may recall that my buddies and I have ridden a multi-week trip on our bikes for the past few years. This year, Randy and Dave and I had decided to do a New England ride for our annual trek, and so I had spent many a night last winter burning the midnight oil researching the best routes. As Randy would be coming east from Ohio, I would plan on meeting him at a campground about halfway between us, which would give each of us a 300 mile day. Dave had other family obligations, so he would plan to join us later in the week.
I had just finished replacing some shims and buttoning the Tiger back up, when I had the brilliant idea to replace all of the seals under the sprocket cover. Now, I am using the term “brilliant” (notice the quotes) because not only did I undertake this when there really wasn’t a critical need, but I did so the day before I was to leave on the trip. Believe it or not, I do recall having the thought that I might be tempting karma by doing this, but being born with an overabundance of confidence, I blithely threw such cares to the wind.
That was a mistake. A big one, as it turned out.
Briefly, here’s a quick summary of what I did (working title: “How to ruin your day in one easy step”):

I checked the drawings in the factory repair manual, saw nothing that looked to be fragile behind the main output shaft oil seal, and commenced to tap a small flat bladed screwdriver into the seal to pry it out. In doing so I quickly learned three important things:
1- The factory manual drawings are not trustworthy.
2- Even the smallest metal screwdriver blade is stronger than a plastic bearing spacer.
3- The world can turn from rosy pink to shit brindle brown in the blink of an eye.

The result of my poking karma in the eye with my flat bladed screwdriver was that the Tiger wouldn’t be going on this trip, and I would have to come up with a Plan B, and quickly!

It just so happens that like many of you, I subscribe to the fleet theory of transportation with both my automobiles and my motorbikes. The brilliance of this theory is that if you have enough vehicles, your odds of having at least one roadworthy is better than even.
In my case, I have a fine ’99 Triumph Legend which I rode as my only bike until I found my Steamer, so Plan B was obvious. Of course, any Plan B worth its salt has to have some challenges of its own, and in this case, the Legend was in storage 40 miles north at my mother-in-law’s house, and upon driving up to get it, I discovered that both the registration and inspection had expired. Since my local inspection shop wouldn’t be open until Tuesday, we shuffled the dates a bit and crossed our fingers that the weather would cooperate.
It didn’t.

Tuesday May 30
344 miles
Kettle Creek Campground

Having packed the Legend the previous night, I found myself in the parking lot of the bike shop when they opened at 9:00 am, and they promptly rolled the Legend in for inspection. I had renewed the registration online, and had printed a temporary permit which I had in my pocket. Once they rolled the bike back out with a fresh inspection sticker in place, I lost no time in getting underway.
The weather was dark and overcast, with rain predicted. Since I was getting such a late start, and since the weather was supposed to be lousy, I opted to use some interstates to recover some time and miles. I was just about 30 minutes into the ride when the skies opened up and the torrential rain began. It continued unabated for the next two hours, not even letting up slightly when I finally pulled off the road to grab some lunch. Fortunately, my lunch stop, Bob’s Diner, did not have carpet on the floors, and my waitress just smiled when she saw the steady stream of water running out of my gear onto the tile underneath my seat. She actually had to bring over a mop at one point to soak up the ever expanding puddle which had formed under my booth, but she still just laughed it off and said no worries. After riding humped over like a toad for two hours in a torrential downpour, her kindness was much appreciated, and you can bet that the tip I left her was a generous one. The food itself was also first rate, and it really helped to give me the pluck I needed to don my soaking wet gear and continue onward.
Confession time:  I have always hated to put on wet gear, and it’s usually a toss-up as to whether trying to jam wet hands into wet gloves or putting on a wet helmet is the worst. Today, it was the helmet, as the feel of ice cold water running down the back of my neck made so crystal clear. Unfortunately, so much water had infiltrated to the inside of the visor when I cracked it for ventilation that my anti-fog treatment had apparently washed off. Of course, I only discovered this after getting all of my gear strapped back on as I stood outside in the pouring rain. Obviously this wasn’t going to be successful, so I went back inside, wiped the visor as dry as I could with my handkerchief, then put everything back on for a second time and headed back into the storm. (By the way, old snot mixed with a bit of rainwater seems to be an effective anti-fog treatment.)
Continuing on in the downpour, I eventually exited the freeway onto backroads, which took me to the campground. The rain finally let up about an hour before I reached the campground, so I was able to flip up my visor and enjoy the last hour of twisty roads and the sun which had finally shown its face for the first time that day.
When I pulled in and found Randy, he told me that the ground was soft, and his bike had tipped over on the side stand and broken a turn signal. All in all, we both had auspicious starts for this year’s trip, and little did we know that the worst still lay ahead…

(click on the pictures if you are squinting to read this :icon_wink:)

The Legend all packed (yes there is a bike under all that stuff :icon_redface:)


My excellent lunch stop




Our wet campsite


Randy trying to remember the hand signal for a left turn :icon_razz:
I may not be big, but I'm slow.

August 06, 2017, 12:19:53 AMReply #1 on

Offline ssevy (OP)

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Wednesday May 31
195 miles
Letchworth State Park

Randy and I were up early to pack our wet gear and get rolling. The heavy morning fog burned off within an hour or so, and the sunshine and blue sky which was eventually visible was a welcome sight indeed!
My planned route took us over some nice back roads to cross into NY, eventually taking us to Hammondsport and the Glenn Curtiss Museum. This museum has quite an eclectic collection of items, from airplanes to motorcycles to boats. We spent a few hours looking everything over, running out at one point to throw some covers over our bikes and gear, as we could hear a huge thunderstorm was rapidly approaching. Typical of the summer storms we see, this one was very violent, but passed quickly and left behind more blue skies to enjoy.
We spent the remainder of the day riding back roads and dodging rain clouds, finding a nice barbecue joint for dinner, and then heading to Letchworth to camp for the night.
At one point, the Google Maps car drove by us when we had stopped to remove our rain gear, so I’ll need to see if I can find the spot and see if our photo is there. I’m already on Google Maps on my Tiger from a previous ride, so it would be cool to be there twice I guess?
Upon arriving at Letchworth, the lady at the main entrance booth said she was just about to close for the day, so let us in for free. We went to the tent camping area and picked a site with lots of open ground, hoping to dry out our gear a bit. As the evening wore on, the temperatures dropped and the humidity left, so our gear did dry out pretty well.
Apparently other campers have fed the local wildlife, as we had a raccoon boldly walk right up to our picnic table looking for handouts, and a short time later a skunk walked about 6 feet behind my tent as he passed through. The next morning there were raccoon paw prints on my exhaust pipes, so he must have returned in the night and climbed up on my bike to investigate my luggage. I was just happy there were no black bears!

Some typical back roads near the PA/NY border


Railroad lines are all over PA, as this state is very rich in mineable minerals


With all of the rain this year, wild flowers are abundant everywhere


One example of a Curtiss motorcycle


Here's another beauty


Our site at Letchworth


Raccoon and skunk bait?


Randy cleaning his chain


Paw prints from my midnight visitor









I may not be big, but I'm slow.

August 06, 2017, 12:54:09 AMReply #2 on

Offline ssevy (OP)

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Thursday June 1
221 miles
KOA Campground

The rain had finally relented, and we awoke to sunny blue skies with lots of wind as the day progressed. Our destination for the day was the area near Watertown NY, leaving us a nice reasonable ride for Friday, when we were scheduled to meet Dave on the west shore of Lake Champlain to head to New England.
We rode some lovely back roads past some big farms, with lots of rolling hills and curves, stopping at Fort Ontario, which was closed for renovations(our luck continues).
We took a break from riding and walked around the grounds a bit, enjoying the sunshine and amazed at how strong the wind had become. I grabbed a few photos, and then we continued north towards Watertown to grab a late lunch/early dinner.
During our dinner, I checked the radar and the weather forecast, and as you may have guessed, there would be several more days of torrential rain ahead for us. Friday looked to be clear and quite cool, but beginning Saturday we were in for steady rain all weekend.
Talking it over, we decided to forego the campground just down the road, and keep heading east. This would give us a clear and beautiful ride tomorrow to meet Dave, and then the three of us would just have to ride in the rain for a few days on our way through Vermont and New Hampshire. Not a perfect itinerary, but nothing that we hadn’t done before. As it turned out, riding in the rain this weekend would not be an issue for us.
When we went to leave the restaurant, my bike suddenly acted like it had a low battery. I carry a lithium jump battery with me, and this I connected and tried again. It still was acting like a low battery, but I did manage to get it started. Off we went.
We found a KOA along our route, and grabbed a cabin for the night. It was a quiet campground, and we had some daylight left, so I pulled out my toolkit and measured the battery voltage. Everything was fine. I turned the key on and tried to crank it, and nothing happened. Having gone through this with Dave’s Legend, I suspected the starter was heading south on me. I called Dave to tell him not to leave in the morning, as we were going to ride back home to fix my bike. He reminded me that he had resorted to putting his bike in gear and rocking it to get the starter off the bad spot so that it would crank, and that is what I ended up doing the next morning to get started.
We settled in for a night of restless sleep, curious as to what fate had in store for us in the morning?

Your intrepid heroes before their bikes began to act up


View of the lake behind the fort


Our cabin for the night, two sketchy running bikes parked front and center


I may not be big, but I'm slow.

August 06, 2017, 01:07:11 AMReply #3 on

Offline ssevy (OP)

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Friday June 2
175 miles
Home

We left the campground at 8:00 am, with the thermometer stuck at a brisk 42 degrees Fahrenheit. Setting a pace that would get us home without freezing off any of our appendages took some experimenting, and I missed the better wind protection of the Tiger as my nose kept dripping inside my helmet. 
Since I had to rock the Legend in gear for a while before it would crank this morning, I dared not shut it off once I got it running, so of course I ended up stalling it later in the day, forcing us to push it to a hill to bump start it.
Better yet, Randy’s Super 3 lost power coming out of Long Lake, and he had to limp it the remaining 80 miles to my garage. All in all, we both had better days than this one.
I may not be big, but I'm slow.

August 06, 2017, 01:13:33 AMReply #4 on

Offline ssevy (OP)

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Saturday June 3 to Tuesday June 6
Not many miles

It poured cold rain for most of these 4 days, but we were able to sneak in two loops in between the worst of it. Dave let me use his Legend while we waited for my new starter to arrive, and we swapped in one of my used coils to get Randy sorted again. I ordered a new Denso starter through a local alternator shop, and paid $130 for it rather than the $600+ that Triumph seems to think they’re worth. Given the price and the miles on my Tiger, I went ahead and ordered another new one for that, too, which I will install when I rebuild the engine. The old Tiger starter still works, and it will go in my spare parts bin “just in case”.

Here's what my starter looked like with all of the carbon fused around the copper contact area


I may not be big, but I'm slow.

August 06, 2017, 01:52:14 AMReply #5 on

Offline ssevy (OP)

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Wednesday June 7
257 miles
Genesee Country Campground

With both bikes fixed and running well (more on that later), we swaggered a bit as we fired them up, and then headed west, our destination Letchworth State Park.
That’s right, we did not have enough days left to do the New England part of our ride, so we decided to pick a central campground and then do day rides from there. Randy could get home in a day from there, as could Dave and I, so we would get the most riding days as possible before the curtain fell on this year’s trip.
The weather was sunny and beautiful, the bikes ran flawlessly, and we had a great ride west along the secondary roads. As the day approached late afternoon, we decided we had better call Letchworth to get a cabin for the night. Unfortunately, they could not take a credit card over the phone, and they were closing the office at 5 pm, so we would have to find somewhere else for the night.
I used my phone to search for local campgrounds, and after calling the first two, I began to worry, as no one was answering. Finally, my third call was a success, and the friendly woman on the phone said she would leave the keys in the doors of three of her cabins, and we could square up with her in the morning. Whew! Maybe our luck was finally changing for the better (such naiveté).
I may not be big, but I'm slow.

August 06, 2017, 02:03:30 AMReply #6 on

Offline ssevy (OP)

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Thursday June 8
142 miles
Genesee Country Campground

I went to the office and paid our bill, thanking the very nice owner profusely for her kind treatment of three old Triumph riders. She told me to keep them in mind if we ever were traveling that way again, and I assured her that I would, never imagining that it would be that very night!
Off we rode, heading to Letchworth to book our three man cabin for the next 3 nights. The route took us through beautiful rolling farm country, and the weather was crystal clear and perfect for riding. The Finger Lakes area of NY through which we passed was simply gorgeous, and we all enjoyed the unique scenery with the farms and small towns and almost no traffic.
We soon arrived at one of the entrance gates to Letchworth State Park, and this time we would need to pay the entrance fee of $10 each. The attendant was very nice, and offered to call ahead to the main reservation office to be sure they had a cabin available before we paid the fee to get in the gate. As it turned out, they assured her they had a cabin for us, and so we paid the fee to enter and rode the 30 minute ride to the main office building. It was starting to get pretty sunny and warm at this point, so we peeled off a few layers of gear and went inside to make a reservation. This is when we discovered that karma wasn’t quite finished showing us a good time.
The young girl who waited on us said that she needed our license plate numbers, so I went back outside and shot a photo of each one on my phone. Then we had to give her all of our individual information, and finally we were ready to pay. When she said the price, I corrected her, saying it was too low for three nights? She then told us that we could only have the cabin for Thursday and Friday, as their policy was to rent the cabins for both Saturday and Sunday night blocks. I pointed out that we were actually booking for 3 nights, including Saturday, and so they would actually be making more money with us. Being so early in the season and with public schools still in session, it also wasn’t likely that anyone would take a cabin for a Saturday and a Sunday night, as Sunday is typically a travel day. As is typical in a state run facility, policy is policy, no matter how illogical, so we told her to forget it, we would take our money elsewhere. It was quite a contrast from the excellent experience that Randy and I had in the tent campground area a week ago!
Since we had each already paid $10 to get into the park, we decided to ride back to the northern entrance, stopping to see the views along the way. This turned out to be a good plan, and the photos below give you some idea of what a cool geological site this is.
Oh, by the way, in case you haven’t already guessed, our first action when we left the reservation office was to call back to Genesee Campground and grab those three cabins again. Luckily, they were still available!

Cabins at Genesee Country Campground


Randy and Dave planning routes


Views of the gorge






Breakfast (oh wonderful, oatmeal again :icon_frown:)


Three amigos (Randy's arms are fine; they look cut off because he is wearing camo suspenders, but you can't see them of course :augie)









I may not be big, but I'm slow.

August 06, 2017, 02:20:38 AMReply #7 on

Offline ssevy (OP)

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Friday June 9
271 miles
Kinzua Bridge

Dave and I took Randy south into PA to see Kinzua Bridge, which is this really cool railroad trestle that was knocked down by a tornado. The state has reinforced the remaining section, and installed a glass floor so people can take pictures of each other jumping up and down on it.
We rode some spectacular roads both to and from the bridge, and just beat a nasty thunderstorm getting out of there on the way back to the campground.
There was a nice young girl selling hot dogs as long as your arm from a caravan, and I couldn’t help myself. While parked here, we spoke with a guy from Canada that was riding an older high mileage Trophy, and he had pretty much skipped most of the maintenance on it, so I suppose one could say that his bike is a testimonial to how ruggedly these engines are built?(maybe except for the plastic bits on the bearings, although these are probably safe for anyone except a ham fisted fool the night before a big trip)
We finished the day back at the campground enjoying a campfire with a fabulous pizza delivered right to our doorstep. Overall, a great day!

Dave and Randy trying not to look scared of heights


The bridge


Zoomed in for scale (notice the people in the center)


View of the understructure


My hot dog




I may not be big, but I'm slow.

August 06, 2017, 02:51:29 AMReply #8 on

Offline ssevy (OP)

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Saturday June 10
108 miles (then another 371 miles for me)

Another beautiful day of weather, so we rode down to the Warplane Museum near Geneseo NY to see a few planes. They had a B-17 outside which was testing a newly installed engine, so we got to watch them taxi it around.
They had a bunch of other cool stuff to see, including more airplanes, so we spent several hours there.
Continuing on, we rode lots of beautiful quiet roads to Naples, where we enjoyed some excellent tarts at Cindy’s Pies. Since this a major wine region in NY, grapes are available in large quantities, and Cindy’s orders them by the ton each fall to sustain their pie making business throughout the year. I had previously never tasted a grape pie, but it was delicious!
Circling back to our campground, we stopped at a barbecue spot in Caledonia NY for an excellent dinner, and then headed back to our cabins for our last night there.
After I had gotten out of my riding gear and before I had any hard cider, I called home to check in, and my daughter told me that my 87-year-old mother-in-law was on the way to the hospital with a possible stroke. My wife had forbid her from telling me, as she did not want to interrupt my trip, but there was no way that I could not go home to be with my wife in case things got worse.
I told Randy and Dave what was going on, packed up as quickly as I could, and then jumped on the Legend and headed to the nearest exit for the interstate. Unfortunately, I had to weave around a bunch of country roads to get to the thruway, and one had a bridge out, which put me even further out of my way. Eventually I got on the interstate, jumped behind a white Mercedes that was doing about 90 mph, and kept the throttle pinned as much as I dared. I had to stop several times to clean off my visor, as the warm evening created a perfect climate for flies to be out in huge numbers.  I finally rolled into the garage at 12:30 am, and reflected upon just how many things had gone wrong during this trip.
Hopefully, we have “paid it forward” in terms of karma in the future, and next season’s ride will be trouble free (un huh :icon_eek:)

Warplane Museum






My visor when I pulled in my garage


Yep, still have some work ahead









I may not be big, but I'm slow.

August 06, 2017, 03:53:00 AMReply #9 on

Offline ssevy (OP)

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Epilogue

Dave made it home riding solo on Sunday, his bike being the only one that had no issues.
Karma was not quite finished with Randy, however, and his bike died on the interstate north of Pittsburg as a different coil shit the bed.
His son rented a trailer and drove several hours to retrieve him and his bike. Randy spent most of the day trying to find the shadiest spot under the few trees in the pull off where he ended his ride.

(The above story is all true. The names should have been changed to protect the innocent. :cp)
I may not be big, but I'm slow.

August 06, 2017, 05:56:53 AMReply #10 on

Offline Timbox2

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Thanks for the report, will finish reading later,  only up this early (06:00) on a Sunday as we are off to a Country show at Blenheim Palace ( In car with dogs).
2016 Tiger Sport

August 06, 2017, 04:36:14 PMReply #11 on

Offline Chris Canning

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August 06, 2017, 04:56:39 PMReply #12 on

Offline Nick Calne

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Have you been borrowing Danwarb's good luck charms again?

That's quite a tale and an interesting read.

Hopefully things will only get better, especially for your wife's mum.

August 07, 2017, 12:57:33 AMReply #13 on

Offline ssevy (OP)

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Hopefully things will only get better, especially for your wife's mum.
Thanks Nick! She apparently had something like a mini stroke (?), but is back in fine fettle now.
I may not be big, but I'm slow.