Monday, January 16, 2012

Lake Hopatcong, NJ, January 15, 2012, Polar Bear Motorcycles Blog

Lake Hopatcong, NJ, January 15, 2012
Polar Bear Motorcycle Blog

By: Chris Loynd

We finally got some polar bearish weather for our winter motorcycle rides. Sunday the temperature was 17 when I started out. By the end of our ride temperatures had not climbed even 10 degrees. I finished at a still frigid 24.

As I pulled up to the Dunkin' Donuts launching point, just in time, maybe even too close to just in time (had some trouble finding my really cold weather gear), Captain was holding court to determine who would lead. Since I was so close to the start time, and it was so cold, I left my bike running and my helmet on. So shouting back and forth, Captain and I had very poor communications.

We tried to goad Fonz into taking the lead. "I can get us to New Jersey," he offered. We then suggested he could sweep instead. Actually Fonz is a good sweep. He's responsive, proactive and cars move over for those funky lights of his.

I was trying to suggest that whoever was leading would take the more scenic route that I had suggested earlier in the week in my e-mail setting the time. Captain answered that Pogy and Token2 were picking us up en route. So I shouted back I would take the lead and pulled out to start our line.

Captain pulled up next to me and I wanted to confirm where we were catching Token2. My plan was to stick to I-287, crossing on the Tappan Zee bridge. Captain said yes, that was where Token2 would be waiting. As John J. pulled into the group of bikes, I took off. Only at lunch when communications were again established, and this time without helmets in our way, I found out Captain felt I stole the lead from him. He was gracious in conceding it all the same.

Looking at Google Maps the week before our ride, I had spotted a nice rural route alternative that added only a few minutes more to our ride. Instead of riding I-287 to I-80, expressway all the way, Route 23 took us up through some New Jersey woodlands.

As cold as it was Sunday, I probably should have checked the topographic or satellite view of my proposed "scenic" route. At the very least, the section riding on "Oak Ridge Road" should have tipped me.

As I led my motorcycle buddies off the Interstate, we started climbing into the New Jersey mountains, well, if not mountains, at least foothills. My GPS said we topped out near 800 feet in elevation, not all that much. Then again, we started at sea level.

Oak Ridge Road really does run on a ridge, or up on the western side of a ridge. It was scenic, but as we passed a bank, it informed us we were back down to 17 degrees. Another one warned of minus nine degrees, but that was Celsius; that's15.8 degrees Fahrenheit.

Scenery did not disappoint. We rode past some beautiful lakes and reservoirs, along steep rock falls and even had some twisty roads for one little bit. It was a nice break from the Interstates.

Another reason I should have taken a closer look is that maniac turn from Route 15 onto Route 181. You no sooner exit then cut back, almost like you're getting back onto 15. The GPS shows this curly-que which is technically accurate by mind boggling. More than a few times, we've missed or nearly missed this turn.

Fortunately Captain was on his p's and q's and made the tight right flawlessly. Me, I was trying to signal and wave with one hand, push the bars out with the other, coordinate brake and throttle. I went way wide, but I made her all the same. It musta' looked ugly in the back of our pack, but I received no disparaging comments.

Only after settling into Route 181 did I remember, "Oh yeah. That #$@*& turn gets us every time." I believe on past rides it has engendered a few U-turns.

Slower speeds of scenic secondary roads did little to alleviate my tingling-cold fingers. My Gerbing gloves are fine, up to a point. But for my long, skinny fingers, they just don't make it at these temperatures, even inside hippo hands. I should have known better. So for the ride back I switched to my down mountaineering mittens from NorthFace with a chemical heat pack in the end of each. Those are almost too hot. Almost.

Our Grand Tour hosts received their new shipment of this year's rockers. All of us on this ride have already earned the red rocker. Captain, of course, received red and gold. He is eligible for his 60-point pin too, but our flight leaders did not have them yet.

Wearhouse Grill had a special Polar Bear menu that included onion soup in a crock and chicken noodle. At first John J. ordered the chicken. But when most all the rest of us ordered onion, he caved to the peer pressure. Captain stood fast, however, when his turn to order came and resolutely ordered the chicken noodle. Maybe he knew something we did not.

As it turned out, they brought his chicken noodle right away. For the rest of us our soup came after our entrees. The soup hit the spot on such a cold day.

We missed Grumpy. He is back on night shift at his job keeping all our cables full of television shows. Fonz took over most of the photo duties. Anticipating Grumpy's absence, I packed my tripod and took the group shot. To see a version of this blog with more pictures, follow this link:

Pogy surprised me by saying that this Blogspot blog was the only one he knew. He got a new computer and I e-mailed him links to save to favorites on his new browser. Guess he'll have to do some back reading. Several seasons of motorcycle polar bear blogs are posted on this other site.

Generally I post here on Blogspot first because it is easier to access from anywhere. I am also experimenting with SEO for both my blogs. The other blog site is on my former company web site. There I have more control, and room for all the photos I wish to post. I generally also use Photoshop to size and sometimes crop or adjust the photos. And that program is only on my home computer. Blogspot I can use from my small laptop or tablet.

My Blogspot blog also allows comments, but my readers rarely do.

Eventually, I will have to upgrade my company web site. New web management tools will offer much of the same functionality. All I have to do is learn a whole new program. But hey, we all know what that is like. This technology treadmill never ends.

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