By: Chris Loynd
We finished the 2012/13 Polar Bear Grand Tour in grand style. Cape May, NJ, is one of our longest rides. It ends up being more than 400 miles and an 11-hour day, lunch and breaks included. We were lucky in the weather; spring finally arrived in Connecticut. It was warm and sunny with no great swing in temperatures from morning, through midday, to evening.
I used my electrics for the first part of the ride in the morning, and only at one-quarter power. But then again, I'm a wimp when it comes to the cold. I've always said that just because I enjoy riding my motorcycle in the winter, that does not mean I'm willing to be cold. For the ride home, I ditched my Gerbing jacket liner. The outer riding jacket, unheated, was enough.
As you can see by the group photo, our group was composed of our regular riders. Some of us were able to make good use of the 6-points generated by this final ride of the season. Token2 earned his 60-point pin and $5 rebate. John J. earned his gold rocker.
And Grumpy proudly collected his perfect attendance pin.
Grumpy's achievement was no small task considering the winter we've had in Connecticut. Several snows covered our roads on Sunday and we had one bona fide blizzard. I had more than 30-inches of snow at my house.
Grumpy missed two rides for weather. I seem to recall he made one other in his truck. You can drive to a Polar Bear destination. It earns only one point, but preserves perfect attendance. Grumpy is also challenged by his job. He's on a rotating shift. That means some Polar Bear rides he rode after the end of a long work night. Other rides he skipped lunch to get to work in time to start his shift.
For the two rides he missed for severe weather, Polar Bear Grand Tour Grand Poohbah Bob Hartpence, offered Grumpy a dispensation to earn that perfect pin. Grumpy had to ride his bike to the two destinations he'd missed, getting a restaurant receipt as proof. He did.
I ended up as ride leader Sunday, not by any discussion. I was last to arrive at the Dunkin' Donuts in Stratford -- not an uncommon occurrence -- but I was also first to pull out. The others fell in behind me, so I found myself in the lead. Captain was my wing man. As we formed up I motioned him up next to me and asked if we were picking up other riders. He confirmed Pogy in Darien and Token2 at the bus stop.
We crossed over the parkways and GW Bridge with ease; traffic was very light. Our route was down the NJ Turnpike and onto the Garden State Parkway and that to the very end. Cape May offers shirts with "Mile 0" signs on them, but I bet Key West, Fla., did it first.
For several weeks, Pogy has been bragging about a lobster and steak house that he "found" in Cape May for lunch. I had to laugh. As we entered town there is a billboard-sized sign with a giant arrow.
At the VFW, Pogy suggested there may be a wait at his fabulous destination restaurant. So as we waited, he ran inside to confirm the availability of tables. It being lunch, not the dinner service for which Pogy had originally waited, we got a table straightaway.
Unfortunately, the parking lot was mostly all gravel, and some of that deep. With riders following me, I rode around trying to find a good place to park. Several of the crew abandoned me in search of asphalt. But eventually I found a manageable solution.
Now we had two opportunities to rip on Pogy, the giant sign and the gravel. Fortunately for him, the food and service were truly exceptional.
It has been maybe 30 years since I had turtle soup. When I saw it on the menu, I threw ecology to the wind and ordered a bowl. It was excellent! Hopefully the turtles were farm raised someplace where it's safe to drink the water.
While the place looked expensive, it really wasn't. We got out for less than $20 per person, about what we usually spend at much crappier places. One of our retirees was whining about his fixed income.
Our ride back home was a bit less disciplined than the ride down to Cape May.
Mac commented that he was using his cruise control on the ride down. Since I was leading -- and do not have cruise control -- I took that as a great compliment. As ride leader, I work hard to keep my speed consistent, so consistent you can set your cruise control by it. Such consistency, however, depends upon every other rider in the line to maintain the same.
On the ride home, my wing man changed my role from leader to scout. At times he was hanging back so far, he became the effective ride leader.
A few comments from his fellow riders at our stop at the top of the GS Parkway and the last bit home was a good bit smoother.
We will see what next season brings. This one started in a hurricane, had a true blizzard midway and ended on a fine spring day.
See you all for the 2013/14 Polar Bear Grand Tour.