2014 Pennsylvania – Redux
So imagine that you overheard how a movie ended and then someone told you that you simply HAD to watch it. Knowing the outcome might make it difficult to objectively watch the movie, no matter how good it was.
This is the conundrum I currently find myself in. I will attempt to step back from this three day adventure and record these events as I was thinking about them in real time before the trip took a bit of a side step.
September 15th, 2014
I rose this morning to cool fall temperatures but I looked outside and as far as I could spy with my naked eye, I cannot lie, nothing but blue sky. Well I have to now say bye for I must fly, over hill, over dale past fields of rye. Oh my…..oh my….oh my.
I think Dr. Seuss is on the loose, silly moose.
That’s like a silly goose but bigger
But unlike a goose a moose cannot fly, no not one little bit,
but if it could,
have to watch for the sh….
I should quit.
At 0810 hrs we departed, my pop and I and it was…..crisp but pleasant. We took a nice route down to Port Dover and from there along the lake stopping for breakfast in Selkirk before turning south to take a run along the lake, a beautiful ride eventually connecting with highway 3 and heading for Fort Erie.
We crossed over around 1 and headed south (see map for details) heading down to Little Valley and Salamanca before following a beautiful route along 280, 346 and 321, which hugs the eastern shore of the Allegany Reservoir, arriving in Kane PA late in the afternoon.
We stayed at the Kane Motel right in downtown Kane, the second time in 6 weeks for me. Great spot, seemed to just fall at a natural point in the ride. Nice conversation with the owners which started when the wife found out my surname was the same as her maiden name. We discussed the things to see and do in the area and discovered that about 20 minutes east near Mt Jewett was the Kinzua Bridge State Park. Dad and I decided that the bridge would be our first destination in the morning.
We had dinner up the street at the Texas Hot Lunch and sat back in front our room and enjoyed a Bud and a cigar, the perfect end to a nice day of riding.
September 16th, 2014
After breakfast at the Texas Hot Lunch we took the short ride to Kinzua Bridge. We had a nice hike, took a few photos and talked with park staff about the bridge and some deforestation being done in the park near the bridge to make way for a visitors center and more parking.
The bridge was first built in 1882 and was constructed of iron. At 301’ off the valley floor and spanning 2,053’, the longest of its kind in the world at that point, it was considered the eighth wonder of the world. In 1900 it was redone using steel to accommodate the increasingly heavier trains. It was active although to a lesser degree than in its hay day, right up until 2002. In 2003 a tornado came through the valley and lifted the bridge ever so slightly, snapping off many of the bolts that attached the structure to its footings. It teetered, it tottered and then almost two thirds of it toppled to the valley floor where it remains rusting away today so that all can see how Mother Nature will reclaim it over time.
The parks service has built a walkway on the structure that remains allowing tourists walk out 600’ over the valley to an observation platform which has a glass bottom in the center of it. Pretty cool standing on that and looking down 300 feet.
From here we doubled back through Kane and continued along the route I had laid out. Somewhere east of Marienville along Loleta Rd I was so ensconced in my surroundings that we passed right by our turn off to Ridgway which I had taken in the opposite direction just 6 weeks ago. This wound up being a happy mistake as we found ourselves on some beautiful roads that ultimately connected to 949 which as I recalled from my earlier trip would bring us into Ridgway from the south.
We passed through Ridgway and headed east along 120 through St Marys and Emporium to a road that ran to the south which I astutely noticed on my last trip when we had to pull over for JR to tend to his newly acquired bee sting.
Turns out this was hwy 550 and I had planned fo us to take it a fair distance south before making our way around to a north bound road that would bring us back across 120 just a few km east of that location. It was getting later in the day and we decided to follow if south to Medix Run where the map seemed to indicate we could catch Quehanna Hwy east and Wykoff Run back north. It would shorten the route I had laid out but was a good compromise.
Highway 550 was beautiful and we stopped in Benezette at the…….Benezette Store. This was a small grocery store/ gas station / diner. We had a bit to eat and had a nice conversation with a Guzzi rider who was just ahead of us on the road down.
Then it happened. You know when you work in an often hectic work environment but some days it’s really quite until someone notices and says “hey everybody, man is it ever quite today” you can be sure that the forces at play in the universe begin to laugh hysterically and set in motion a chain of events to correct that.
Well here is how this went. Guzzi rider says “did you see the two deer back there”. No we had not, but this sparked a conversation which revolved around our different close call wildlife encounters. I in fact have been riding for 40 years and had seen more deer this year, a year I didn’t travel a lot, then in any other riding season. In fact I have ridden several seasons in a row and not seen any.
The Guzzi rider talked about a couple encounters he had had. My dad relayed an incident I had in 09’ while travelling near Durango Colorado. Then the guy from the other side of the counter which I had noticed was intently following our conversation with a little grin on his face finally chimed in. He told us that just this past spring he had been riding his full dresser (Harley) and a deer ran in front of him hitting this front wheel and fender causing the fender to twist around and abruptly stop the front wheel from continuing the normal gyroscopic spiny thing that it does and, as it turns out, is critical to the forward direction of the motorcycle. He was thrown to the road and the bike in his estimation did somewhere in the neighbourhood of 7 or 8 endos, just enough so that Harley couldn’t remember who Davidson was. The bike was destroyed and he escaped with only some nasty road rash.
We had finished our lunch by the time his story was done, sort of reminded me of Kenney Rogers “The Gambler”, we paid our bills and exited to the parking lot. It was at this point I said to my dad and I quote, “all that being said you can’t ride around 100% of the time being hyper vigilant and looking for something you may never encounter…..besides it’s not the deer you see that’s gonna get you”
Now…..if this were a Stephen King movie and we were all sitting and watching it together, well I guess not me because I’m in this one…… anyway this is the point where everyone would gasp and collectively whisper “oh shit, he’s screwed”.
We got back on our bikes and continued south on 550 to the Quehanna Hwy. Heading west from there for a few klicks we connected with Wykoff Run which would take us back to the north where we would cross over 120 and continue north on 872 toward Austin.
It was about 2 miles north on Wykoff Run where the little side step I alluded to at the outset occurred.
This is a gorgeous road by the way. Apparently the deer in the area have strong affinity for this road as well. It was about 1530hrs and I was on a reasonably straight downhill stretch when a previously eastbound buck thought he would like to play “dances with motorcycles”. He was standing off to the right hand side of the road which consisted of about a foot or so of gravel and another foot or so of high goldenrod before dropping off on at sharp angle some 20 feet to the forest below. He was standing very still concealed by the goldenrod, I was virtually on top of him when I saw movement out of the corner of the, “I spy with my little eye”, eye that I had been spying blue sky with just yesterday morning. He turned and bolted across the road. All I had time to do was straighten out both arms out and push as hard as I could to make the front end as rigid as possible. My headlight hit him square, just behind his front shoulder. He basically gave the front of my bike a big ol’ sideways hug, with the front half smashing parts off the left side of the bike while his back half disintegrated the right hand side of the bike and as I would soon learn, damage the rad. I managed to keep the rubber side down somehow, I let off the gas, slowed, braked, downshifted and more calmly than I would have imagined, eventually pulled over once there was a shoulder wide enough to do so.
Dad pulled in behind me and I had already walked around to the front of the bike to survey the damage and it was extensive. Dad told me had it not been for the parts flying everywhere, well that and the deer sailing through the air upside down, he wouldn’t have known I hit it, the bike hardly waivered, due in part to how I hit it but not to understate the construction of the ST1300. Yeah Honda!
A couple of guys on their way up the hill were nice enough to stop and check on us. About 15 minutes or so past; I walked back up the hill while dad continued talking with them and looking over the bike.
I found the spot where buck slid down the embankment and came to rest under a pine tree. I took a photo with my iPhone, already thinking ahead, insurance proof, as though all the hair in the fairing wouldn’t be adequate.
I returned to the bike which was roughly a 100 meters or so down the hill. The two gentlemen wished us luck and drove up to look for the deer. We decided that I would stay with the bike and dad would ride the 10 miles to the bottom of the hill and make some phone calls as this was clearly a “tow required” situation.
Dad rode off and I saw the two gentlemen seemed to be having difficulty locating my dance partner. I went back up the hill only to discover that this deer was not as much a “once was a deer” as I had once thought he was. He had dragged himself further in to the woods albeit vewy…vewy slowly. It would seem he was fading, that is until the two gentlemen descended the embankment for a closer inspection. With surprising speed the buck summoned the strength to suddenly right itself and stumble with some agility, deeper in the forest.
Regrettable that the poor thing had to suffer, it would have been the merciful thing to euthanize it but nature would surely see to that. Part of me was not at all upset.
The two men moved on and I returned to the bike where I would wander in circles along the side of the road, doing my best to not be annoyed to death by black flies. This went on for almost 2 hours. A lot of thinking and over thinking can go on in that amount of time as you wear a hole in the pavement with your boots. Left with nothing but your thoughts to entertain you. I was experiencing a number of emotions.
Disbelief – how could this have happened? Going over and over it in my head, was there anything I could have or should have done to avoid it. I resolved that one pretty quick, resoundingly no!
Grateful – there were a number of factors that could have unfolded differently which would have no doubt led to a far more serious outcome for me. I was thankful for whoever was looking out for me.
Angry – that this happen. Quite PO’d at the deer which I cursed repeatedly.
Perplexed – Everybody is so curious about why the frickin chicken crossed the road, who cares. Why does a deer that is safely out of harm’s way at the side of the road feel compelled to wait until the last possible second to dart toward/in front of a larger fast moving object? It seems a bit counter intuitive to the survival of their species?
Again grateful – See above
I got bored with all the wandering ang reflecting and then realized this would have been the next bit of road that I wasn’t going to get to ride on so I snapped a shot. Curses, damn deer!
The occasional person stopped to check on me and the last guy I spoke with provided me with some information that would have been more helpful over an hour before, “You know” he said, “It’s basically downhill for 10 miles. You could coast all the way to the bottom”. I thanked him and he drove off up the hill. I pondered that for a moment, got my gear on and set out coasting down Wykoff Run.
Only a few curves into this journey, moments really, I passed a Pennsylvania State Trooper heading up the hill and thought, “hummm, I’ll bet the smashed up motorcycle with no headlight coasting downhill might just catch his attention”. A few curves later there was a shoulder to pull off on and few minutes after that along came the trooper with a familiar passenger.
Apparently at the bottom of the hill my dad had alerted the police and called CAA/AAA to start the ball rolling on a tow. The tow took some time to figure out as the area we were in was basically right between nowhere and the other little spot no one hardly ever goes unless they live there. AAA was also attempting to figure out where the tow should take us and dad was calling some of the shops they had identified.
The trooper did up the incident report and the tow truck driver eventually arrived. With my ST on the flatbed off we set to the shop we reckoned made the most sense, Legends Powersports in Brockway PA.
The bottom of Wycoff Run is just beyond the bridge in the background. As we approached the bottom we noticed 30 to 40 deer in a clearing off to the east side of the road. Apparently the species is doing just fine, maybe it just thinned out the dumb one. Natural selection.
Ever since buck and I tangoed I had been racking my brain trying to come up with a positive spin of some proportion that would make this aggravating situation…..well a little less aggravating. This positive would come in the form of tow truck operator and garage owner Ken Shaffer. A 2 hour ride in a tow truck can provide an environment for communication and Ken was a very sociable guy.
Ken owns Wally’s Super Service in Johnsonburg, PA. He had driven about an hour to get to us. He suspected he wasn’t AAA first call but a lot of tows don’t like picking up bikes for reasons that escape Ken.
Our route would take us back west on 120. The third time I’d been along this stretch in the last 6 weeks, of course first time as the passenger in a tow truck. This afforded me an opportunity to look around a bit more and with the narrative provided by Ken it was an educational ride.
Most of the area we travelled through was Elk County. The region is best known for Timber/ pulp and paper and mining which dates back well into the 1800’s. There are also oil and natural gas deposits spread throughout the region.
By 1992 Elk County was home no less than 24 carbon graphite and powder metal companies that could trace their roots straight back to 1899 and the formation of the Speer Carbon Company. At one time the region was arguably the global center of the powder metal industry. Regrettably things change, global market, cheap foreign labour etc.
We passed the Green Tree Landfill, located in an abandoned surface mine, southwest of Kersey, PA., a testament to modern landfill science. Disposing of waste in a planned fashion and syphoning off the methane gas to provide energy back to locate residence. Residence within a certain distance from the landfill pay little to no taxes. Green Tree has picked up the tab on this.
We arrive at Legends Powersports after dark and the plan is to park the bike at the rear of the building and call them in the morning. As luck would have it however one of the owners, Austin Palumbo was still there working on a bike. Perfect, with the bike safely inside for the evening and a quick sharing of the details of what occurred we were off to find accommodation at this late hour with a plan to return when they open at 10:00 am.
I won’t bore you with the accommodation saga but suffice to say that 9 in the evening is not the best time to be hunting along Hwy 219 for a motel. We found something in Clearfield, 20 minutes east of 219 and settle down for the night.
I arrived back at the shop just as they were opening. I had a conversation with the parts manager and advised that I had stopped here once before on my way to the Flight 93 National Memorial. He advised that he was one of three new owners, Joe Mckee, and that they had only owned the business about 4 months after the previous owner had retired. This shop had been run by the previous owner’s family for 40 years.
Joe directed me to Austin who was in the back about to start looking at the bike. Long story short, I cannot say enough good things about the way Joe, Austin, Matt and their staff treated us. They took a lot of useless plastic off the front end and repaired a tiny pinhole leak in the rad with some brilliant epoxy putty. As it set up I grabbed the fresh roll of Gorilla tape I carry in my side bag and taped what was left of the fairing up. I’ve since heard tell that Red Green felt a great stirring in the force Wednesday morning as though someone had just completed a spectacular duct taping job. Well….really not a job….more like a work of art.
Standing in front of the shop waiting for the epoxy to dry we had a conversation with the previous owner of the shop who had dropped by to talk the the guys for minute. From our conversation with him and another rider that wander into the lot on an older Gold Wing deer strikes by motorcycles are pretty common in this area. In fact the guy on the Wing told us that during one recent summer, on a 10 mile stretch of 219, about 120 deer carcasses could been observed along the side of the road. Of course this doesn’t include the number that were hit and stumbled off into the woods. That’s a lot of frickin accidents.
Around 1:30 PM the epoxy had set up and we set out. We had to stop in Ridgway at Kunes Used Cars for some stop leak as a second tiny leak had appeared in the lower side of the rad.
The ride north along 219 travels through some beautiful country. One small community we passed through was called Kill Buck, now there’s a name I can really get behind.
Apart from a couple gas stops the ride home was smooth. The Honda ran as usual, like a top, with no apparent mechanical/ performance side effects from the incident. It took us about 7 hours to make the 450+ km ride home, arriving just after 8.
That is that, as they say ( still not sure who they are but they say stuff all the time). Great route, lovely weather overall so other than the deer it was a super three day ride. A ride that on principle I will have to do again to complete, minus the deer.
An epilogue, cool, I’ve always wanted to write one but the opportunities are so rare. Sort of reminds me of an episode of Barnaby Jones.
I have made contact with the insurance company. Time will tell how that will work out….positive thoughts I will be treated fairly and be able to find a ride close to identical to the one I just lost. Did I let the cat out of the bag or had you guessed, the cosmetic damage was so extensive that it is looking like it will be a write off, an odd process in itself because otherwise the bike seems fine.
While standing in the bike shop I got a text from my dad, “If you are at Inglis can you pick me up a deer whistle.Just a bit of insurance. Don’t know if it really helps but can’t do any harm”. I laughed and called him immediately. “You know there were two mounted under the headlight, the epicentre of the impact. Likely amongst the first parts to turn to dust. I’m pretty sure you can save you money”
Personally I think they are attracted to the sound. If we researched it I think we’d find they are marketed and sold by someone who would gain an advantage for deers hitting vehicles. Just a theory.
This guy appears from time to time on my trips if you watch carefully for him. We had a little debrief. I said to him”I thought you had my back” to which he replied, “You said watch for zombies, you didn’t say nuthin bout deer”. Plus he was locked in the side back so fair enough I guess.
Til next time remember Moto Canuck says; “A twist of the wrist can bring miles of smiles”.
Keep an eye for my next ride.
Well I could have done without the furry, four legged, forest dwelling rodent but if there is an upside…..here’s my replacement. Out of pocket a few dollars but not an unreasonable trade up.