Thursday, September 8, 2005

The Scooter Stories, Part Three: The Falls and Falls

Before I rattle on some more about Disneyland (I find I'm not much interested in writing about it anyway), I should wrap up my series of scooter stories.  When we left off last time, I had just bought my Honda Elite 250.

The year was 1985.  Sometime that summer, I was maneuvered into quitting my job at George's record store chain.  I soon found another job at a different record store, working for much nicer people who treated me fairly.  I don't honestly remember when in that sequence of events I took my big scooter trip.  I think it was probably while I was still working for George.  I must have arranged to take six days off.

It was my most ambitious scooter trip ever:  I intended to ride my Elite from Columbus, OH to Syracuse, NY, with a side trip to Niagara Falls.  John had gone along on the Loveland castle trip, but this time I was going alone.

The big day came - and it was raining.  I wrapped most of my luggage in large black lawn & leaf bags, and left town anyway. 

Somewhere around I-270, which rings Columbus, my speedometer cable stopped working.  I didn't let that stop me, either.  I figured I could replace it en route.  And anyway, with a top speed of 71 mph, the Elite was unlikely to garner me a speeding ticket on the Interstate.  I checked with the Honda dealerships in Columbus and Mansfield (or was it Canton?), OH, but neither one had a speedometer cable on hand.

the scooter in Cleveland (I think)I headed up to Cleveland with no further problems.  I tried to drop in on my brother Steve outside Cleveland (I think I took the photo at right outside his apartment building), but he wasn't home.  I gave up on that little visit, and hit I-90, bound for Erie PA and points east.  I wouldn't see my brother again until after my mom died in December, 2002.

The tricky part of the driving between Cleveland and Rochester had to do with wind.  The vineyards and fields did nothing to keep the cross currents of air from Lake Erie and Lake Ontario from buffeting me and my bike.  It made for interesting, challenging driving.  I tried to pace myself based on the trucks with whichI shared the road.  They could shield me from the wind somewhat, but I dared not drive too close behind them.  I didn't want my tiny vehicle to hide in a semi's blind spot!

Me and the falls, 1985.
At Buffalo I tried another Honda shop, but no speedo cable was to be found there, either.  I began to feel I was touring the Honda scooter dealerships of the Eastern U.S.  The heck with it!  I drove off to Niagara Falls. 

And just to make a point about what the Elite and I could do together, I crossed the border into Canada, to visit the Falls from the Canadian side, too.  A certain Bruce Springsteen song was a big hit that year, as evidenced by the college-aged girls in the car ahead of me.  When the customs guy questioned them about their citizenship, they sang out, loudly, "Born in the U.S.A.!"  Uh-huh.  I bet the customs agent had never heard that one before!

I'm sorry I don't have a picture of the scooter itself at Niagara Falls, but here I am in front of them in 1985.  Trust me: it was the Elite that got me there.

Why is there a picnic table in the Niagara River above the falls?One thing puzzled me, though.  Why was there a picnic table in the river above the falls?  How did it get there?  Who put it there?  Did anyone ever dare to go out to where it was?  Why didn't it wash away over the falls?  I never learned the answers to these questions.

I stayed until about 5 PM, when the shops and such started to close.  Then I got back on the road, heading east again.  I stayed at a Red Roof Inn somewhere, I think near Niagara Falls.  The next day, I "laid down" my bike, which is to say that it fell over as I was riding it.  There was little or no damage, but it was a little scary - that bike is heavy! 

Nevertheless, I finally made it to Syracuse.  Total distance, one way: about 411 miles.

While I was in Syracuse I visited my dad, who had not yet retired from Syracuse University.  I think we went to a local park by the Erie Canal, and dropped in on Manlius, where I was shocked by the heavy traffic.  The scooter at Syracuse UniversityI probably went to see my friend Bob, and I know I had lunch with Ed, the ex-priest turned security guard who had performed my wedding to John.  And I checked for a speedometer cable.  No luck, of course.

And I visited Syracuse University itself, or at least Marshall Street.  The neat old gray building up the hill from the scooter in the picture to the right is the Hall of Languages, commonly referred to as HL.  Crouse College is prettier (it looks like a castle!), but HL is the venerable old building that greets visitors as they come up University Avenue.  Besides, it's the home of the English Department.  Crouse is the music school.

On the way to Syracuse, a state trooper had questioned whether my Elite 250 was capable of keeping up with the rest of traffic on the New York State Thruway.  I told him that it was fast enough for me to have gotten a speeding ticket on it, doing 69 miles per hour outside Mansfield, Ohio.  (I don't remember exactly when this happened, but while the traffic cop filled out my ticket that time, I fretted that he would notice my Walkman and give me grief for listening to it while driving.  Also, on the police band during those few minutes came a report about some fugitive that was contaminated by nuclear waste or something.  The radio advised that police not approach the guy.  Or something like that.  It was a long time ago.)

But I digress.  The point is that the state trooper didn't want me on the Thruway on a bike that couldn't go as fast as prevailing traffic - in other words, at least the speed limit.  I gather there was a law to that effect.  And the Elite, being the first of the newer, more powerful scooters, was enough of a novelty that law enforcement people didn't know it was fast enough for the Interstates.  The trooper let me on the Thruway, that time, but I hit a similar snag when the time came to start back to Columbus.  The guy at the toll booth refused to let me onto the Thruway at all.  He claimed that a minimum tire size of 14" was required for a vehicle to drive on I-90.

In tears, I turned around and went to see mydad at University College.  Together we measuredmy tires.  14.5 inches, if I recall correctly.  At any rate, it met the requirement.  "Just get on at another on ramp," my dad advised.  "You shouldn't have any more trouble."  I did that.  Nobody gave me any further grief about the scooter's size or speed.

Niagara Falls, 1985.
The ride back was much harder than the ride east.  Even so, I stopped at Nigara Falls again, and crossed into Canada again--briefly.  It was 90 degrees as I approached the Pennsylvania border, and I was getting very sore from all that riding.  Worse, the road itself was a mess.  There was construction for about 50 miles.  This consisted of ten mile stretches of closed-off lanes, with nothing at all going on in the forbidden lanes except one or two five-foot patches of missing pavement.  It bugged the heck out of me that I was struggling along on rough road in the other lane, while mostly-pristine stretches of new pavement lay a few feet to my left.  And there was no road crew working on the road at all.  When I complained about this at a Welcome station, the person said, "You don't want them working outside in 90-degree weather, do you?"  Why, yes.  Yes, I do.

The condition of the road was even worse in Ohio, grooved and pitted.  I was mighty sore by the time I got home.

A week later, I was off again to Mansfield, to collect my favorite pillow, which I'd left at the Red Roof Inn.

One more installment to follow.


1 comment:

ryanagi said...

How fun! If I had a scooter and was 20 years younger, this is exactly the kind of road trip I would have taken too. I'm really surprised the Red Roof Inn still HAD your pillow to return to you.