2010 Color in the Catskills

Canadian XR decided we needed to head out for an ADVRider rally the 2010 Colors in the Catskills 3  Unfortunately one of our number had the bad luck to fry his starter, so it was only two of us who left on Thursday night for Kingston Ontario which would put us three hours closer to the Catskills, so I packed up the bike, got my dog Suzi on board and we headed up to his house so she could join her friends Honey and Scruffy for the weekend, while his wife very kindly adopted her into the pack for the weekend.

Our first stop was in Port Perry as I was on reserve and CdnXR was low as well. He's on the yellow DL-1000 and very disappointed that a KLR desperately in need of valve clearances and some engine work beats his gas mileage time and time again. Lol. The attendant in the background didn't ask any questions, just stood there and admired our bikes.

We dropped in to say hello to a friend, but he was busy objecting to the towering monolith of a windmill farm that the Ontario government has decided the Koreans and Germans are to build here in Ontario.
We made good time riding parallel to the 401.

Then dropped down into Port Hope and rode slab until Garmin told Willie we'd missed our exit so we doubled back and found our hotel for the night then had a disappointing meal at pizza pizza before turning in early in preparation for an early start.

We were up around 5:30, and clutchs released after our quick breakfast in the hotel lobby. A quick fuel stop and adding a bit of cold weather gear and we were off on the 401 East headed for our border crossing over the St. Lawrence at Ganonoque. The view of the St. Lawrence from the bridges was majestic, with blue cloud scudded sky behind us, and darker cloud mass ahead, the forecast calling for rain throughout the day.

The border crossing was uneventful, destination, duration of stay, how are you employed, are you bringing any fruits, vegetables etc etc. For me it always brings on a sense of adventure, some uncertainty, and a reduction in speed as my odometer is calibrated in kilometres, and I need to set my Garmin to statute vice metric.

As we progressed further south and east, we could see the hills in the distance, and the roads got more and more wet as we continued along, but still not requiring rain gear as yet, so we reduced our speed, I dropped back further from Willie to allow more braking distance, and we put our heads down and made time.

We entered Copenhagen NY where we were astonished at the angry cascade of brown flood water ripping underneath the bride on the southern side of the town. It looked violent, and of sufficient force to have etched a new path through the river banks had they not been reinforced with slabs of local rock. It was quite the sight, and while it alerted me to the fact that this was runoff from the previous days rain storm, it in no way prepared me for the scale of nature's ability to compromise the safety and security of man's fragile constructions on the face of her.

Garmin took us along a fairly fast route, but we had to take some side cuts and do a bit of exploring. Poland? WTF?
Along Old Poland road is this old via duct that takes you underneath the railway track and a long a little used road before you have to get back on the big one and learn to behave and share the road again. 

Hey, are those hills up ahead?! Suddenly I'm a bit more interested in what lies ahead, although it also looks like we're getting further and further away from the blue skies, and deeper into those dark clouds.
 It doesn't look quite as busy as it once was...
 One benefit of the rain, is the multitude of little mountain rivulets now become picturesque cascades as the rain water meets bedrock and follows the path of least resistance.

We were ready for second breakfast right about 10:30 or so, after three hours on the bikes, and as we rode through Herkimer New York, we spotted the Empire Diner and couldn't resist pulling in and seeing what this little gem of Americana had to offer. The interior was charming, with old license plates, movie posters, regulars who were greeted by name and had no need of the menu to order.

I saw corned beef hash on the menu and had but one question to ask, "Is the corned beef canned?" And when our waitress responded no, it was an no brainer, provided they added fried onions to my hashed potatoes. Darn was it good! You just can't get this in Ontario unless you make it yourself!  

We adjusted our gear for the rising temperatures, and headed south towards the mountains we could see in the distance.

Whoops! Willie makes an unplanned roadside stop and I made a point of complaining letting him know that we were behind time and all these little side ventures were eating into our daylight riding OR I was too busy grinning and trying to get my helmet off so I could enjoy shopping. You be the judge. 

South of Herkimer the land began to change in elevation rapidly, so we allowed Garmin to show us some side cuts or "up and overs" as I call them, until we had to leave the fun gravel bits and get back onto the road as our intended route had a low bridge that was out, as well as the gravel road had some chunks washed out of it. It really shows you why the call some areas along a river the flood plains. Devoid of trees, and relatively flat, as any water accumulation turns it from pasture and bird sanctuary to wet morass in hours.

 This is the end of our side cuts as the road ahead has been washed out by the flooding. It's clearly visible in the next two pictures.

Now that we were in the foothills of the Catskills, we stopped to put some rain gear on as not only were the roads wet, but there was at times a low lying mist that was colder at this higher elevation, but we still saw enough of our surroundings to enjoy the fall colours that looked a few days past their peak, and pummeled with the previous days rain certainly didn't help either, but the forecast for rain seemed to be wrong, as we'd been on the road for five hours and it hadn't materialised.

The fog obscures the road ahead, and our path takes us directly into it.

Here comes the fog, and the camera is going away after this next shot.

Now the runoff from the mountains was spectacular and we could see more and more evidence of the huge downfall of water that was now cascading off the highlands, forming new torrents and cascades as needed before draining away into the rivers and creeks that were dark with earth, and obviously swollen past their usual banks. I'd didn't really think of how the mountains channel many small rivlets and streams into creeks, then rivers, but here it was at every turn in the road as we followed the West Canada Creek deeper south towards our destination.

Toppled trees lined the banks, the creek had overflown and rerouted itself past parts of riverbank turning it into a new island. Stumps of small cedars and pine trees, collected together to form tangled flotsam lodged against bridges, other trees, and along the rocks. Signs indicating detours, road closures, and highway markers placed to alert motorists of the asphalt being undercut along the edge in spots.

The water was now a raging chocolate river that flowed past with a force that reminded me of white water rafting in the Ottawa River, but with the added danger of storm debris added in with previously unknown hydraulics as only a river in flood can form as the relentless flow of water etches the soil and moves rocks along the riverbed. WOW!!!
The force of the water was unbelievable!

Following the river road into our destination, we're now in the Catskill mountains, and while it's damp, the roads are wet, it's cooler, and the ride has become more exciting as the road follows the path of the winding river up into the mountains.

Talk about low lying cloud cover, but a picture is worth a thousand words.

Mere miles away from Hunter NY!

So we arrived at our destination, and rode past the river up to the Hunter Ski Resort, where we saw one of the homes with an addition had had lost it's pilings to the spate, and had collapased, but was still connected to the main house. Roads were closed in the immediate area and we were warned not to head to Phoenica as parts of the town were underwater, as was the bridge leading out of the town.
 Max at BMW and the vendors had to relocate off of the proposed gravel areas as they'd been affected with the high levels of water. He was still setting up for the demo ride, although he cautioned us that the route would need to be changed and that sign up would be at eight the following morning.

As the afternoon chill set in, and it began to rain harder, it was time to check in, unpack and wait for our friend RallyGuy to show up towing his DR650 on a trailer. "Trailers are for boats!", but this was his first season of riding and he'd less than 3,000km experience on it, although he showed great ability to master his ride and move on to learn the finer points of handling. He'd bought a small trailer, mounted the hitch, and wiring just for this weekend, but he bought some weak mass market tie down straps and they'd loosened off quite a bit as he pulled in, and took some ribbing from us about the state of his bike and his good fortune in arriving with it still on the trailer and undamaged. :)

We helped him offload while he checked in, then we all suited up for dinner, our destination tonight was a quick look at the Resort again, then Hyde-Park New York where we'd heard that the Eveready Diner was a place to get some great homemade food as mentioned on Diners, Drive-in's and Dives. It lay about 30 miles to the South East outside Catskill mountains, and to reach it we'd have to ride down Kaaterskill pass, and across the river. I was looking forward to this!

The route there took us through Tannersville, then down out of the mountains along hair pin turns, with run off across the cooling road surface, so RallyGuy got tested right away, and was equal to the task, although we reduced our speed to cope with those conditions and his un familiarity with mountain riding. Later on we'd have another challenge in store for him, riding those same roads in the dark on the way back. What a great trip, and we all commented on the lights, how close we needed to ride at night to ensure that our headlights didn't blind the rider in front etc. We all learned something from that, even those who'd ridden in similar conditions before.

Bastion Falls after a heavy rain storm, Kaaterskill NY

The Eveready diner was every bit as good as reported. Not only was the decor fabulous, the staff was friendly and made some great suggestions for our meal. Try the onion rings, they're great, and the diner made soup, the New England style Chowder was fabulous and the diners fresh baked bread made me think I'd rather have seconds of the soup and bread and foregoe the special I'd ordered, Mama's beef brisket roast. I had to push myself away from the table after leaving part of it unfinished, but I did manage to wash it all down with a vanilla malt. :D

We stopped for gas and for some brew before heading back to Forester Lodge and our rooms,  and find even more bikes have pulled in for the rally. We slugged back, told tall stories, and planned out what we'd be doing the next day. All three of us are early morning risers, so my job now was to beat Willie to sleep and keep him awake with my snoring.

Hokay, waking up to six degrees Celsius at 0530 in the morning is not fun, but being the first group of riders to dash down to Max BMW to be told to return at 0800 to begin the signup for the demo ride was priceless. The two eager beavers, Willie and Robinson now had to cave in to my simple desire for breakfast, so we headed straight down the road to the bagel shop where we had complimentary breakfast coupons from our hotel, and tucked into a quick breakfast. I'm still working on my tea when Willie tells me he's hot and is heading outside. It turns out that it's his secret code for "Get your key in the ignition, or you're on your own." so by the time I saunter outside with my brimming full cup of tea, I'm in time to see him head back up to the resort demo area. It's now 0750. Lol. So I warm up my cold little carb, wedge the tea firmly in my tank bag, and Robinson and I follow him back up to Max BMW. Robinson wants to sign up for the dirt course, I just want to ride bikes that I can't afford.

They're still setting up, so It looks like we've got time to talk bikes and examine the BMW's we'll be riding later on in closer detail. 

Willie's already got his bike picked out, and the staff have a hard time getting him to give it back to them. 

As luck would have it, the F800GS is available for the first ride leaving at 0900, so I get my name in and wait along with everyone else. I sat on the bike and it felt just like the one I rode last year at the BMW demo at Mosport, and when I saw them wheel away one of the S1000RR bikes that was unused for this ride, I asked if I could switch up, and was given the green light by our flight leader, Barry.

What can I say? They have a pretty nasty startup routine as Barry has to explain that the brake failure warnings most of us see will disappear as soon as we begin to roll and the system calibrates itself. BMW has to be unique and has all the controls in different spots, so it's unlike a GSXR, Yamahaha, Kawi or Honda for that reason.
It was a little piece of heaven. The mode button hadn't been explained to me, but I was delighted with the brakes and low speed handling as we winded our way out of the resort and through the town. Crouching overtop a tank again with aggressive footrests was different, as I hadn't really flogged a supersport for a couple of years now, as I've been focusing on dual sport riding and dirt, but I've dragged my knee, and this bike was built for it! Creamy smooth throttle response, although it was a bit like an on-off switch in second gear, so good throttle control at slow speeds became important for low speed riding. Although once we turned off of 23A and took a side road up the hill, this bike came into it's own and was only held back by the riders ahead of me and my lack of familiarity and skill. I found that third gear was ideal, in fact if you didn't mind hearing the engine growl, you'd probably never have to take it out of third at all. I was keeping up easily at 7,000 rpm, and roll on would just make your grin stretch from ear to ear as the engine just pulled and pulled it's way to redline. The traction control became apparent after I watched a couple of other riders disappear over a "hump" in the road ahead of me, so I lined up the bike for a straight approach, rolled on and tried to catch a bit of air. At most I MAY have had the front wheel off of the ground for an instant, but the traction control caught me and brought me back down very quickly, so it soon became apparent that wheelies were going to be hard to do with it enabled, and consequently I was a lot more brutal on the throttle in a straight line. I found at the speeds the demo was going that I didn't need to hang off for cornering, but I wanted to see if I could set up for the approach, hang off then set up for the next corner. Some bikes are hard to transition on, and give you a feeling that you're on an old circus ride that been around the block one or two times before, with sticky fingered kids leaving bubble gum pressed onto your seat. Not so with this bike. I was able to concentrate on improving my technique right away and could forget the bike itself, but for that throttle. I was so used to the KLR's underwhelming 35hp that lets you whack on and off in mid corner, that I had to focus on being very smooth, as again, it felt a bit like an on-off switch. I think it's me, but that would be my chief complaint, and I'm sure I could ride through it and improve my ability.

1st gear roll on topped out at 97mph! That converts to about 156 kilometres per hour before I found it necessary to shift to 2nd. lol. What a rush!

This bike would have me losing my license in no time. It'd be awesome on the track. Now back to my KLR. :) 

Willie decided he wanted to do the very next demo ride, so we signed up again to find that there were two bikes available, The BMW RTP that his buddy Darryl bought recently, a 2004 I believe, and the LT which I consider to be the Goldwing wannabe that BMW offers. I can barely figure out how to start the bike, but I did manage to blast out the tunes on my FM radio. But damn it! I can't get this pig out of neutral and into first gear! I double clutch, roll it forward as BMW employees and well meaning individuals come rushing forward to help me... Do what? Show me how to pull in the clutch and press my foot down? Is this a dirt bike that I need to stomp down on? The rest of the ride is off and out of sight around the bend, and a strong push I've managed to get this behemoth rolling ever so slightly forward and I manage to get it onto gear and take off before the well wishers lay hands on me and I rev it up and ride out the clutch. I've been warned that in spite of the abs on this bike that when you hit the brakes it stops dead. They meant it. Think of it as the first car you ever drove that had power brakes. Remember lurching forward trying to keep your head from hitting the steering wheel because you didn't ease up a bit and let it roll the last six inches? Exactly! It rides low, and has a predictable power band, so I head into the first corner until I hear a "SCRAPE". I'm dragging something on my very first kilometre on it. LMAO! But the tunes are blaring and I'm having fun.

Once on the road through the town this thing feels akin to a car in width. I have to take the lane and be very cautious of people in parked cars whipping there doors open. I'm supposed to be in right lane track staggered, but it just isn't happening on this beast, so I drop back and take centerish left track so the rider ahead and behind can see that I'm not a total newb.

Remember that hump? Hahaha! When that telelever front end comes down it does NOT feel good, despite the fact that it soaked it up. Some road debris had me playing with the traction control, so I lined the bike up at a section of gravel and dirt on the road, road through it and rolled on while the front was back onto pavement and the rear was still on the gravel. The rear shot sideways then instantly regained traction as the engine retarded ignition until the wheel spin front and rear was the same. A great system for a huge bike like that, but a joy killer on a bike like my KLR.

Roll on wasn't nearly as impressive as the S1000RR, and the engine felt like it was taking it's time to get to redline, but if you were patient and had planned a slow day, it'd be fine. Clearly I had fun, but I'm so not ready for a bike like that.

Time to sign up to ride up to the top of the mountain! It's private property so you have to sign a waiver and join up with the BMW offroad school who escorts that ride up and back down. Robinson has done his offroad training and is off on a demo ride somewhere while Willie and I watch a crowd of BMW owners looking on at how to pick them up when they inevitability fall down. What? You've never done that with your GS? That simply means you haven't been pushing the limits yet. :D

The time, it is a wasting...
The ride was supposed to leave at 10:30 but the class is running late, so Willie and I decide to act like we signed up for it and jump in and play. We're both pretty much on street tires, so it's a bit of fun to show up some of the wanna be's that never see mud on their GS bikes try to keep up with us in the braking exercises.

These guys know their stuff, but they'd have been able to get the message across by having their fellow instructor demonstrate after briefly discussing the manoeuvre once. I found that I was falling asleep listening, but as soon as I saw the rider demo the skill, it was apparent what was going on.

Willie is bored, and I'm kinda itching to ride, so when he suggests heading over to the vendors and grabbing lunch I agree, as that bagel was a long time ago now and I'm hungry and bored. Willie took the easy route, I had to get a bit of air and took one of the grass humps as a jump and caught some on our way back to the vendors area where we parked our bikes and wandered around while waiting for Robinson to hook back up with us.

When I found this, the www.twistedthrottle.com bike. Sweet farkles that make my heart beat faster. And make the suspension work harder. :P

Yes, that's a deer in the road in front of Willie, part of a herd of three that ran across the road in front of us.

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