Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Adventures in Perspective -- A Simple Trip For The Soul

The difficulty with writing a blog for riders who take motorcycle touring seriously is that many of them have had real adventures in comparison with those of my own.

My friend Edde Mendes recently returned from a 29,000-mile ride from Morocco to Sudan, to Turkey, to Russia, to Asia and across the United States. He faced poisonous spiders and bears in Russia.

Pal Doug Raymond rode from Philly to Prudhoe Bay (on the Arctic Circle) in Alaska -- and back in 14 days. He was chased by a wolf.

Buddy Jeff Harth conducts tours through the Andes, and routinely rides from Argentina to Bolivia. He got married.

Steve Asson, who first challenged me to a five-state ride three years ago, rode from Oregon to meet me in North Carolina. So did longtime friend and acquaintance Granny Two Wheels (Sammye), who rode from Oklahoma to attend the same rally. I stuck both of them with a bar tab. Granny gave me a lap dance, so she got something out of the deal.

There is little I can write that will appear new and adventurous to these folks, but I hope to offer a different perspective to riders of my own ilk. I am writing to the bikers who hear the call of the road, but who insist on taking it out of context. Adventure is where you find it. It can be a new road, a new bike, or even just a pleasant change of surroundings. I am considering four multi-state rides this summer. Most are are within a 900-mile radius of the driveway. But one could could stretch all the way from the Jersey Shore to the Pacific. Yet another will barely span two hours of riding fairly local roads -- and I can hardly wait for the trip.

Living in southeast Pennsylvania puts the best of the Amish country, the Delmarva coast, and some of the most hotly contested sites of the Civil War within an easy ride. Terrain, local culture, and cuisine change with every county line. Going west, you find yourself riding through 18th Century farms and stone houses. Heading north, you ride into mountains, coal mines, and the hellish fires of Centralia. Moving south, the steamed crab reigns supreme. This is the direction of this post.

The most northern tip of Chesapeake Bay touches land about 50 miles from here, in the Maryland town of North East. This charming crossroads offers a mile-long main street with boutiques, antique stores, and a once legendary restaurant called Woody’s Crab House. Five minutes outside the center of town will bring you to the bar of the Nauti-Goose Saloon, a crab-oriented establishment with tables right on the water.

My destination is eight miles beyond the bars of North East, however. Elk Neck State Park is a heavily forested tract perched on heights, overlooking the cool waters of Chesapeake Bay. The park offers numerous campsites, that are attractive, level, properly drained, and well maintained (as a rule). Elk Neck also has a limited number of camper cabins and more commodious structures, that feature some amenities, but no commodes. The camper cabins are basically sheds, equipped with screened windows, an electric light, and a lockable door. Wooden bunks (a double in some cases) come with some kind of mattress and I believe there is a table and bench of sorts inside. It’s like camping in a wooden tent. Cooking is done on a grill outside.
The "camper" cabins at Elk Neck State Park are like wooden tents. 
But nice backdrops for the bikes.

An even more limited number of “rustic” cabins are available. These are larger, alleged to offer a stove and a refrigerator, and cold running water. I’m told they have a screened-in porch and a view of the water. Guests are advised to bring a sleeping bag, any linens they require, and utensils. A washroom with hot and cold showers is about a hundred yards away.
"Rustic" cabins are bigger than "camper" cabins, 
with a stove, refrigerator and cold water.
No bathrooms though. A restroom with showers is nearby.

I have always wondered about these places. This year I decided to cure my cabin fever by reserving a “rustic” cabin at Elk Neck. I have a vision of sitting back on my little porch and watching the dusk color the bay. I want to hear the peepers fire up as the shadows grow. I want to read a book and sip my hot cocoa as the sounds of night lull me to sleep. And I want all this without riding to ends of the earth. So I got my reservation in for the first weekend of the season.

While I may bring something to cook on site, this park is fifteen minutes away from North East. The Nauti-Goose Saloon is an interesting place that caters to the tourist trade and the boating crowd. It is right on the water. On a nice day you can get a dockside table or one in a shaded pavilion with overhead fans. The fare here is touristy with a lot of fried fish dishes. Pete Buchheit and I had ridden down for the day, specifically looking for a new place to try. Considering it was an October afternoon, when the temperature was pushing the envelope for an outside table, the joint was empty. 

Several blocks away is Woody’s Crab House. This place used to be good but is no longer worth consideration in my book. The last time I ate here, with Dick Bregstein and Tony Luna, the soft-shelled crabs tasted like they were caught in the toilet and fried in motor oil. Tony ordered a seafood platter that was 10 percent fried fish and 90 percent hush puppies. And this was not a sudden thing. We’ve noticed a gradual decline in quality at this place over the past two years.

Both places can be seasonally mobbed.

About 15 miles west of Elk Neck State Park is the town of Havre de Grace, and home of the Tidewater Grille. This is a superb restaurant, with a commanding view of Chesapeake Bay, at the mouth of the Susquehanna River. Patrons have been known to arrive in boats, float planes, and helicopters. There are both outside and inside tables. The bartenders are competent and dedicated. The food is always good, though with a limited menu in the winter (as you would expect). During crab season, the bill of fare is a lot more expansive.

Cooking and cleaning pots seems like a waste of time with these options available. A pot for making coffee or instant oatmeal may end up being my only concession to the kitchen. Then again, it would be just as easy to get something “to go” from the Nauti-Goose, and to eat it at leisure on the cabin’s little verandah.

Oddly enough, I’m planning on doing this ride alone -- at least the cabin part. There is something about being alone with your thoughts at night, in a strange place, that I find soothing.

©Copyright 2008 Jack Riepe
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Delphi)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)

1 comment:

MackBeemer said...

Nice, Jack. I'm looking at a leisurely ride out U.S. 6 when the weather gives us a break. I don't know how far, or for how long. But I remember U.S. 6 from when I was a kid and my parents made yearly trips to Aspen, CO, and much of it on U.S. 6 or U.S. 40, before Eisenhower (or whoever it was) decided we needed Autobahns.