Monday, January 13, 2014

Warmer Weather Wasn't

Motorcycle Polar Bear Blog. Ride to Lake Hoptacong, NJ. January 12, 2014.

By: Chris Loynd

About this blog, I've decided to make this Blogspot posting more about the experience and less about the chronology. So I will post the fun or interesting or otherwise worthy stories here and use my web site for the chronological postings. Until I change web authoring software, this will be a more accessible tool, for me. For you, this blog is more about the words. I'll continue to put lots of photos on my web site version.

After a day and night of rain, Sunday promised clear skies and unseasonable warm weather. So we had a few more beyond the core. Unfortunately, Sunday did not keep her promise.

One good thing about Saturday's rain, it washed that calcium crap off the highways. Our state, and the surrounding ones, are now spraying a much maligned calcium chloride solution on dry roads before a snowfall or when ice is expected. This new mixture is far more corrosive rock salt and sand mixture DOTs used to apply. Already trucking firms and others who motor for a living are bitterly complaining about the rapid demise of their vehicles. I can visibly see the destruction of my beautiful Harley Springer. John J. has refused to ride with the Polar Bears. But he came out of hibernation Sunday thanks to Saturday's cleansing rain.

I was enthusiastic about riding, and that caused a bit of trouble. My excitement drove me to arrive a little earlier than usual at our Dunkin' Donuts starting point in Stratford. Most always I time it so as to pull up just as everyone is leaving. Over time this has shifted cause and effect. Now when my fellow riders see me they automatically assume it's time to go.

So when I was early to the Dunkin' on this occasion, my Pavlovian friends quickly mounted their machines. Captain waved me to the lead.

Everyone lined up behind me, I blithely led us out of the parking lot, forgetting to check the time.

My first clue should have been the Fonz. He generally arrives even closer to our departure time than I would dare. We met him coming in as we were going out. Sunday morning traffic being light on Lordship Boulevard, Fonz simply made a u-turn and joined the line of bikes as sweep.

Still it hadn't dawned on me that we were leaving early.

Turns out Fonz was only the first domino to fall.

We were supposed to pick up Pogy and Scott at the Darien rest stop on I-95. As we approached I saw only Scott. It's not like Pog to miss a ride. He's a former Marine. So when he says he is going to do something you can pretty much set your watch by it.

Ah well! I figured something came up.

Down I-287 and Token2 was waiting in his appointed place. Token2 was to take over the lead when we picked him up en route to the Tappan Zee Bridge. As he came up I deftly slid over to the number two position and followed him to our destination. Token promised to lead us over some tasty, twisty back roads on the ride home in promised unseasonably warm and sunny climes.

We arrived at Wearhouse Grill in good stead, making a straight expressway shot. As we dismounted and unlayered from our gear, I expressed my dismay to Captain about Pogy missing the ride. "Pogy's here," Captain said, pointing down the line of parked motorcycles. And sure enough he was. At lunch we learned the story.

Pogy lives in Norwalk and as was waiting at a traffic light near the I-95 on-ramp, he saw us motor by. If he had caught one more red light he would have missed us. As it was he chased us down and slid into the back of the line. I never even noticed.

My compatriots figured my enthusiasm fired us out of the Dunkin' Donuts paddock approximately three minutes early. I nearly cost Fonz and Pogy the pleasure of our company.

Or maybe not. I remember one ride a few years' back, all the way down to some dinky airport in downstate New Jersey. For some reason or another, I arrived late to an empty Dunkin' parking lot. No matter, I headed on down by myself. It was nostalgic in a way. I started riding Polar Bears on my own. And until it caught on with the Connecticut locals, I did more than one ride alone. That kind of riding has its own benefits. As it was, I arrived only 10 or 15 minutes behind my compatriots who had not yet even ordered lunch.

Warehouse Grill treated us well. They know how to do Polar Bears right. But our brothers in Bucks County HOG had an even better idea. They'd called ahead and made reservations, had a table of their own with their name on it and everything.

We enjoyed a great lunch with lots of ripping on each other. Russ was along (haven't seen him in a while) and we reveled in his retelling of some of our best adventures like the moose in Maine and the buffalo in South Dakota. No great story ever started with, "I was sitting on the couch when . . . ."

As we exited for the scenic ride home the weather was somber. The sky was still clouded, maybe darker than when we arrived. Perhaps it was the wind off the lake, the air felt raw.

A quick meeting of the board of directors and we nixed Token's scenic ride, hours with his Garmin wasted. Instead we fled back out Route 80 to the Garden State Parkway.

Scott left us there, choosing instead the GW Bridge and the straighter pathway to home. He used to do the GW Bridge a lot and knows every trick. Chris Christie could never foil Scott. He led us one time on a ride where we were suddenly off the Turnpike, onto some secondary expressway, up the hazardous materials lane and suddenly, poof!, we were at the toll booths.

If you ever want to get your motorcycle out in the winter, risk your chrome to calcium chloride and have a thick enough skin to absorb our jokes, you are welcome to join us. I send out an e-mail before every ride with the departure time. Visit my web site blog to learn more: 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Cape May, NJ; April 14, 2013. Motorcycle Polar Bear Blog

Cape May, NJ; April 14, 2013. Motorcycle Polar Bear Blog

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.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Langhorne, PA, March 24, 2013, Motorcycle Polar Bear Blog

Polar Bear Blog, Langhorne, PA, March 24, 2013.

By: Chris Loynd

Yes, I know it has been about a year since I wrote about the Connecticut Polar Bear's motorcycle adventures on this blog format. My privately hosted blog has been available all year. Click here.

But this ride was special, and worth sharing more broadly. Polar Bear founder Bob Hartpence celebrated his 75th birthday, at the meet, arriving on two wheels. And it got me to thinking, since I celebrated my 57th birthday exactly one week earlier. Here's my entry:

One of the rides close enough to my ancestral home, I decided to spend the night with Mom and Dad and rode to Wilmington on Saturday.

It saves me a couple hours' of early morning rising on Sunday. From Wilmington to Langhorne is a less than an hour hop up I-95 through Philadelphia.

Sunday morning traffic was non-existent, so the ride took me even less time. I was half an hour early. I settled in with a cup of coffee and expected to soon see my Connecticut compatriots.

But I didn't.

Seems this week's ride leader, Grumpy, figured he knew better than his GPS.

I've often waxed and waned on the virtues of these satellite-enabled computers. And I have myself gotten into trouble by blindly following the dang thing.

Grumpy missed his exit. Token2rode up to rescue the lead -- as Token2 has done for me before -- they arrived, albeit late, at Brian's Harley-Davidson.

No worries for me. I enjoyed swapping some stories with a guy and two girl Polar Bears from the Jersey Shore.

My guys eventually came strolling in, walked right past me actually, and I joined them for Brian's free lunch.
Several of our guys earned rockers and pins this run.

Fonz earned his gold rocker this ride -- and held it up for the camera every chance he got. (Take a closer look at the group photo above.)

Fortunately, I earned my gold rocker too, in time to have it sewn onto my vest. Brian's H-D for several years now has had seamstresses available.

 Unbeknownst to my buddies, I signed-in and got my rocker downstairs, then zipped back upstairs to get it sewn onto my vest.

That's the whole point of earning it on or before this run, right?

Meanwhile, the CT Bears downstairs in the parking lot were wondering what was holding up the group picture.

A highlight of this week's run was Bob Hartpence's birthday. Bob is one of the founders and the leader of the Polar Bear Grand Tour.

First, I thought it salient that Bob's family had to travel to the Polar Bear destination in order to celebrate their patriarch's birthday. No way Bob misses a Polar Bear ride, even for his own birthday.

Second, I was shocked to learn Bob was celebrating his 75th birthday. I thought he was much younger; most of our Connecticut bears concurred.

Bob is at every meet, on two wheels whenever weather allows. He's always fun and positive and quick with a joke.

Bob gives me hope.

Last Sunday was my birthday. At 57 I can just now see 60 on the horizon. It gets me thinking about how many more years of riding and fun and even life I have ahead of me.

If I can be on two wheels at 75 like Bob, well maybe the future looks longer than I thought. I can't imagine I'll be still riding like Leo at 90-plus. But who knows?

Meanwhile, I figure to hang around with enough old guys to feel young and enjoy my Polar Bear adventures as the years roll on. And with than in mind, I confidently paid my money and signed up for the 2013-14 season.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Long Valley, NJ; March 11, 2012, Motorcycle Polar Bear Blog

(Sorry, in my late postings I have this one out of sequence.)

Polar Bear Blog, March 11, 2012, Long Valley, NJ.

By: Chris Loynd

Spring has come early to the motorcycle polar bears. Not that I mind. I've always said I would rather ride on a warm day than a cold one. I ride with the polar bears because I did not want to park my motorcycle all winter. And now polar bearing has evolved into a series of enjoyable Sundays with great friends.

This Sunday the weather was gorgeous, too warm for winter. I rode over in layers, but never dialed in the electric heat until we were up high on Route 80 west. And that was only for a little while. For the ride home I was peeling layers and trying to find room to stuff them into my saddlebags.

Token2 was ride leader. Long Valley has sort of become his, ever since he found some creative and fun back roads several years ago. He did not disappoint this Sunday. Some of the roads he found challenged our riders. Captain stopped in the midst of a very steep series of very tight curves to downshift. John J. and I had to make some important and immediate corrections in our respective bikes' handling. As Token2 quipped later when we groused about it, “I thought I was traveling with experienced riders.”

He also noted that while his Internet maps may have shown the tight curves, it was tough to see the sharp rise in elevation on that particular spot. Captain said he was halfway up the hill when his heavy Honda had not enough umph to climb any further.

Token2 hosted a good ride and found us some fun and scenic roads to ride. He doubled our fun by taking secondary roads a good part of the way home. Eventually we had to get back onto the Interstate highways to grind up enough miles to our far away Connecticut homes.

Pogy agreed to sweep this ride and found himself a bit frustrated at time, trying to keep the flock together from the back end.

Group riding is not the same as riding by yourself. It demands a fair amount of concentration and vigilance. It is important to hold your place in the line of bikes as accurately and consistently as possible.

Ride too close – or even, God forbid – next to a rider in line and you've compromised the safety of both riders. But drop back too far and the group falls apart. Once a car gets into your line, you can all be separated by some very big gaps. Then the riders caught in the back have to ride doubly fast to catch up. Or the leader, if he's paying attention, has to slow the group down significantly to let the others form up again.

Cars can be bad enough, even without big gaps in the line. John J. suddenly found an SUV trying to occupy the exact same space as his motorcycle on the last leg home. He corrected quickly and appropriately. But his demeanor expressed his displeasure.

Each inconsistency in speed, especially toward the front of the line, is multiplied by each bike behind. So the sweep suddenly finds himself hard on the throttle, then hard on the brakes, to try to keep his place. When I lead, I try to keep my speed cruise control smooth, even though no such device resides on my handlebars.

We enjoyed Long Valley Pub's fabulous brunch buffet. It is the best on the Grand Tour.

They shoehorned us into a very small corner space and I sat next the fireplace, fire going. Still it was all good and we had fun catching up with each other's news.

Token2 took us out the long way as well. And we rode through the New Jersey countryside, avoiding I-287 for as long as we could.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Flemington, NJ; April 1, 2012, Motorcycle Polar Bear Blog

Polar Bear Blog, April 1, 2012, Flemington, NJ.

By: Chris Loynd

After Captain's storied ride leadership debacle last week, he adamantly refused to lead this Sunday.

Mac wasn't going to touch it and Fonz had already claimed the sweep position when I rode up to join them at the Dunkin' Donuts in Stratford.

Since it appeared I had no choice, I volunteered.

I had anticipated and prepared. The night before I loaded the destination in my GPS. Then I took a look at the location, Cheeburger, Cheeburger, on Google Maps. Ah, yes, I remember this from last year. This place is tucked deep in a shopping center located at the center of a complex of shopping centers all served by a maniacal New Jersey traffic roundabout.

Did you hear the story about the old farmer who came to town and drove his beat up old pickup truck into one of these New Jersey circular traffic controls?

Upon entering the roundabout, he made the mistake of moving to the inside lane. As his exit came up he tried to move across but a line of cars monopolized outside lane and the farmer meekly held to the center. He figured to exit the next time around, but just then a wankin' big SUV with a phone chatting driver nearly hit him.

The poor old guy figured to make it on the next go-round. As he came up the exit the car tailgating him suddenly swooped out and flipped him the bird as it powered off the farmer's exit. Leaving the poor farmer still on the inside.

Exasperated, the old guy saw his chance and pulled into a gas station that was located on the roundabout. It wasn't his exit, but he needed to gather his wits.

No sooner did he come to a stop then five guys came running out of the station. They pumped his gas, cleaned his windshield, changed his two outside tires, then one of the guys stuck his head into the truck's open window, handed the farmer a cold drink and shouted, "Get back in there old man, you're running in second place!"

I led a quiet and steady ride right up to our destination. Then I hit those roundabouts.

My GPS showed a diagram of the madness and counseled me to take the sixth roundabout exit.

Watch the traffic, the bikes behind me, the cars cutting into our line, and here we go. One, two, three, four, five, six, signal and exit. Dang!

I chose wrong.

Mr. Garmin must have meant six AFTER entering. Or was it six INCLUDING the one on which you entered? And I can't judge 200 feet if you held a gun to my head. Is it this one or the next? They both looked to be within a few hundred feet. And who puts seven or eight exits on one roundabout in the first place? Only in New Jersey where they have an absolute fear of left hand turns and thereby invented roundabouts and jug handles.

All the bikes tumbled in behind me. We were on the wrong road. Well I know we gotta be close. I was tempted to climb up on the Harley's saddle to see if I couldn't spot the dang destination. A visual bearing might have been helpful about now. Instead I was stuck with the little picture on my Garmin which was madly recalculating a fall-back route. I found myself and my five companions sitting at a stop light. Then the Garmin showed me that just to my left and slightly behind me was the road I truly wanted.

At first I figured to go right when the light turned green and recalculate again. Then I decided to make a u-turn and hard right. Yes I did! Despite my own ride leading debacle back at the Whitestone Bridge a few weeks back, I signaled and moved. This time nobody collided or fell.

Another couple jigs and jags and we found ourselves pulling into the parking lot of Cheeburger, Cheeburger.

Whew! As we dismounted I let out a sigh of relief and braced for the onslaught. My fellow riders did not disappoint and chided and teased me.

Captain thanked me for getting him off the hook for his last week's disaster. But it didn't last. He no sooner entered the restaurant 'till our Polar Bear Grand Tour leaders greeted him with pokes in the ribs, kicks to the shins and assaults on his ego.

You gotta have some thick skin to get out in front of this group and take them for a ride.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Highlands, NJ, February 26, 2012, Polar Bear Motorcycle Blog

Polar Bear Blog, February 26, 2012, Highlands, NJ.

By: Chris Loynd

Often I tease my fellow riders, boasting that my position as blog author makes me final arbiter of truth for our Sunday rides as reported here. But this one I have to own. This one I have to admit to. It was too egregious. There were too many witnesses. Physical evidence remains.

The worst led ride in Polar Bear history found me at the front, in charge, at least until the mutiny occurred.

Sunday's debacle was not my intention. It all seemed so easy on Google Maps.

Our Polar Bear rides are, by necessity, heavily dependent upon the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway. When I consulted Google Maps for our route to Highlands, N.J., it offered three alternatives. One was way too familiar: down I-95, over the GW Bridge, down the Turnpike. The other was just as well worn: Tappan Zee to GSP. Then there was a third option.

So I thought to myself, “Hey! This is just 10 minutes longer. And it is the road less traveled – by us at least. It might be fun to take I-278 west down through Queens and Brooklyn, over the very cool Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and across Staten Island and then down Route 9. We would never even touch the Turnpike or Parkway! And how bad can the traffic be on a Sunday morning?”

I successfully navigated my Garmin software to map out the route, complete with way points. I then transferred it to my sophisticated, on-board, computer, global positioning, satellite receiver.

As it turned out, I should have used the wax pencil on my mirrors.

Any confidence I have built for my GPS over the past two years was shattered in a single Sunday. There is no longer any trust between us.

At first we had a grand time. Garmin and I were simpatico. I was really enjoying the urban twisties as the Hutchinson River Parkway became even more serpentine south of the GW Bridge. All too soon we were at the Whitestone Bridge. And there is started.

They have those damn toll gates. And it turned out that Pogy carries his EZ Pass mounted to the inside lid of his saddlebag. So when it did not read, there was a substantial time loss as he dismounted, opened the bag, handed the transponder to a disapproving toll clerk, remounted . . . well you get the idea. Our group came apart.

Exiting the bridge I saw a left-side turnout of sorts. It being New York City there was no shoulder on the right side. I pulled in there and waited for us to regroup.

We launched back onto the expressway, a feat of itself in traffic.

Then I missed a turn.

Leading a group of bikes, six were behind me, severely limits your options for navigation error recovery. If I had been by myself, I would have managed it all okay. And I would not have to report my stupidity in this public forum. Heck, I might have even paid three tolls for the Whitestone Bridge. I might have, if it was just me.

Instead, I blindly followed my GPS into bedlam. At lunch only then did a fellow rider reveal the causal element. “Sometimes when you miss a way point, your GPS will route you backwards to that point, instead of pointing you forward to the next one,” Token2 explained. “A better way is to plug in each point-to-point as a separate trip.”

Ignorant of that Garmin foible, and mildly panicked about missing the expressway after the bridge, and with a gaggle of conflicting opinions about the right way out of the mess, I found myself on the on-ramp headed back north to the #$%^& Whitestone Bridge, when I wanted to be going south away from the bridge.

A solution presented itself. One or two of my fellow riders even concurred. But not all of us executed the solution flawlessly.

Fortunately, no one was injured. Mac's rack should be able to be bent back to its original position. (Flag rack. On his bike. Geeze! What were you thinking?) Captain's front end may need replacing. But it's a Honda and therefore plastic and presumably only a money matter, perhaps even covered by insurance.

All that on my mind and a second wrong turn soon after recovering from the bridge roundabout and Token2 rode up with an offer to lead me to an easily discernible path, at which point he offered that I could attempt to regain any shred of dignity I might by retaking the lead. I was defeated. I agreed.

As we headed Token's way, me in the second position, I saw straight ahead of me the freeway ramp for which I'd so frustratingly searched. It was right there. It was straight ahead. It was the way point my GPS had been seeking. I should charge ahead and take it! The light turned green. I meekly followed Token instead, turning left to go a different way than my brilliant, desktop computer plan.

Eventually I recovered and saw the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge ahead. Holy crap! Thirteen dollars? The toll is $13? Oooooh, ouch! I should have Googled that the night before. It might have changed the whole route right there, and saved me the embarrassment of this ride.

I have always wanted to ride this great bridge on my motorcycle. When it opened in 1964 it had the distinction of having the longest suspended span in the world. Greater than even the Golden Gate Bridge. The mighty towers at either end holding up the span actually are built to lean away from each other to allow for the earth's curvature. Each is held together by 3 million rivets and a million bolts. John Travolta danced around the mighty suspension cables in “Saturday Night Fever.” I had never been on the bridge on my motorcycle.

Myself, I gladly paid the toll. It was a thrill, even if it cost something like a dollar a second. But I would not have foisted that fee on my fellow riders without their prior consent. Lunch cost just $20 apiece, for heaven's sake, and was really good, and lasted an hour.

It will be a month before I get my EZ Pass statement. However, according to MTA's web site, the motorcycle EZ Pass is heavily discounted and cost us only $4.18. The $13 sign was for cars paying cash. By comparison, New York should have whacked us $2.09 for the Whitestone Bridge and actually charged us more, $4.75, for the far less dramatic Tappan Zee Bridge.

But you know how it is. These guys will forever remember the $13.

Over the Verrazano and rocketing across stately Staten Island, a perverse thought crept into my head.

Things were settled down now. We were back in our groove. And I wondered, if only for a moment, I wondered, I was still in the lead mind you, I wondered if these guys would all follow me if I just now dove off on some random exit. My voice of reason told me I had instigated enough confusion for the day and any shenanigans would be poorly received.

At lunch I did offer my return route up for a vote. The resounding majority was for the good old, boring Garden State Parkway. And off we trudged yet again.

South Wayne, NJ, February 19, 2012, Polar Bear Motorcycle Blog

South Wayne, NJ, February 19, 2012, Polar Bear Motorcycle Blog

By: Chris Loynd


Hooters is our shortest ride in the Polar Bear schedule. Most of us only get one mileage point. However this year we managed to stretch it into one of the longest rides – in terms of time.

There was a Harley-Davidson ad a few years back that said, “No great story ever started with, 'I was sitting on the couch when . . .'.”

Captain has had his share of adventure on a motorcycle. Fortunately he overcomes most every adversity with a well stocked kit. He is a consummate Boy Scout, though I don't know if he ever was one. Captain is always prepared.

He reminds me of the pilot Orr in Joseph Heller's “Catch-22.” Orr keeps crashing. Each time his plane is shot down he makes a water landing and comes popping out of the plane fully prepared for any emergency with his little yellow life vest and paddling around in his tiny, inflatable life raft. (For all I know, Captain carries a tiny, inflatable life raft on his bike.)

So when his tire went down on our ride last Sunday, Captain snapped into action, pumping it up with the compact, portable, 12 volt, air pump he always carries in his bike's saddlebags.

Captain was sweeping and we were alerted to his plight only when his buddy rider Token2 eventually noticed Captain was no longer in his rear view mirrors and came riding up to alert the leader. (I'm not sure who was riding ahead of Token2, but that is the rider who should have alerted us when Token2 dropped back with Captain to see if assistance was required.)

Mac, leading his first Polar Bear ride, was oblivious. But in his defense, we do tend to get strung apart a bit when we merge from one highway to another. And there were a lot of bikes, well okay just eight, to keep track of.

While Token2 was up front shouting at Mac through a full face helmet, a car pulled up and matched speed with me. I was in the third position, which made me the second left-side rider after Mac. We were in the right-hand travel lane. This guy in the car was gesturing in great earnest. I had not a clue as to what he was trying to say. I soon found out.

Token2 now in the lead, pulled us off at the northernmost rest area at the top of the Garden State Parkway (GSP). He knew only that he had lost sight of Captain as we merged.

Before anyone launched a heroic rescue effort, I got Captain on his cell phone and he told me he had lost pressure in his rear tire on the on-ramp to the GSP from I-287. He was hoping to pump enough air into the tire to reach us. It takes some time. Those little pumps are slow. Waiting seems even slower.

Token2, perhaps feeling guilty about abandoning Captain, hesitated a bit then decided to ride back to see if he could help. This would require him to ride through quite a few miles of northern New Jersey and southern New York. Captain arrived at the rest stop long before Token2 reemerged from his fruitless reconnoiter.

When he arrived at the rest stop where we were waiting, I crawled on my hands and knees behind Captain's bike as he slowly pulled forward, trying to see if there was a nail or screw or other obvious problem with the tire. We went quite a ways through the parking lot, me on all fours like a dog sniffing Captain's rear tire. I could not find anything. Only when we arrived at Hooters did Captain reveal he had a center stand, you know, the kind that allows the back tire to spin freely while the bike remains conveniently stationary?

Captain next pulled out his tube of Slime flat repair and used the gas station's air to pump his tire back to life again.

It seemed longer. And nobody looked at their watch when we pulled over. But the whole delay was maybe 30 or 40 minutes. We headed to Hooters.

Unfortunately, the Slime did not perform as advertised. So in the parking lot of our destination, Jim-O, yet another apparent Boy Scout, brought out a tire plugging kit.

These are good guys with which to ride! It seems everybody but me had a can of slime and air pump. Jim-O had a complete tire plugging kit, one especially made for motorcycles nonetheless.

I remember when I bought my bike. I asked my friend and Dealership General Manager Domenic Maturo what tools I should carry on my Harley-Davidson. Dom looked at me, smiled, and said, “You?” and then held up his cell phone, “This is all you need.”

In fact I do have some tools tucked away in my saddlebags. But I don't much know how to use them. And there are a few emergency supplies too, mostly centered around my survival as I wait for help to come after I've called on my cell phone.

And in my own defense, I have tube tires. So if one goes flat, well, there's no way I'm carrying tire irons and a patch kit or spare tube. Besides, I would not have the first, faintest idea of how to get the wheels on and off this machine with its springer front end and the drive belt on the rear.

Captain tediously pumped his tire back to life in the Hooters parking lot. We patiently waited.

Then we were headed home.

Mac, also a Navy man, gave no quarter. Me, I maybe would have tried to limp the bike home. Mac blasted up the GSP at speed and Captain kept up . . . for a little while.

Fonz said you could see smoke out of both sides of Captain's rear tire when it blew.

Captain never heard the explosion. He just felt the wobble. But it must have been a big boom. Because when Captain went to guide his crippled bike from the far left passing lane to the far right shoulder, across four travel lanes, he found them all empty. All the cars had come to a dead stop behind him. Fonz and Jim-O had blocked the lanes too.

Captain never lost his balance. He expertly guided the bike to the shoulder. This time Fonz, Jim-O and Token2 stayed with him. (In fact I wonder if Token2 followed the tow truck all the way back to Milford.)

I did not see it happen. Three other bikes and I were trying to keep up with Mac at the head of the pack. So I cannot say for sure how Captain reacted to calamity.

I bet he was nonplussed.

My point of reference comes from when Captain blew up his Harley-Davidson motor on a Polar Bear ride last season. I stayed with him until the tow truck arrived and then followed them home. Captain took it all in stride and with good humor.

Then there is the story of Captain on a summer ride across the country a few years back, where his engine blew up and he had the bike shipped home, completing his trip by bus and then flying back from the West Coast after completing his vacation. He describes it all as a fun adventure.

Hooters was good to the eyes and stomachs, not so much the service. I was left waiting for my food, last one at our table. We tried to recall who it was that befell the fickle finger of fate two years ago. We voted that it was Russ whose order was forgotten. Well they don't hire the wait staff based upon an I.Q. test, and who can protest?

My chicken sandwich arrived just as my compatriots were finishing their meals. As my fellow Bears can tell you, I am a slow eater. So it turned out I contributed, in my own small way, to making our shortest mileage Polar Bear run of the season into the longest in time.