Scoot Commute

Camping in Wells State Park on the way to Rice-o-Rama 2010…what a way to spend a weekend!

Wells State Park, Massachusetts

Wells State Park, Massachusetts

Lemme start off by saying that’s there’s nothing like a quiet campsite on a lake followed by some schweet vintage Jap bikes. This post will deal with the camping part. The schweet Japanese motorbikes will follow.

Friday afternoon I left campus early because I’ve been basically living there. My aim was 1:30pm, but I think I managed to get on the scooter and head off around 2:30pm. I hadn’t been feeling well since the night before so I hadn’t packed anything. I tried to on Thursday evening, but after I put in a load of laundry, I sat down on the Dromminge for a few minutes and closed my eyes. Erik looked at me and said, “Go to bed. I’ll deal with the laundry.” Good man. It was early because Terry Gross was still on the radio.

I got home and the R75/5 was already at the back of the house. I parked the scooter and pushed the DRZ over into the backyard to pack up. I pulled together some food and my usual Ziploc bag collection of camping items. I also grabbed a couple of clothing items. I usually don’t take a lot of clothes because they take up space and I can wear the same stuff a few days in a row.

We probably left about 4:00pm. I was really trying for earlier because Friday traffic can be beyond stupid. We had to maneuver our way to Route 44 (Smith Street) and along the way stopped to get gas. We took the same route I take to get to work. Traffic was backed up everywhere. On Elmwood Avenue. On Dexter and Cranston Streets. On Westminster. On Harris Avenue.

DRZ400SM & Mayor Cicilline in a hybrid Chevy Tahoe

DRZ400SM & Mayor Cicilline in a hybrid Chevy Tahoe

It was on Harris Avenue that I noticed we were behind the soon-to-no-longer-be-mayor-of-Providence David Cicilline’s car (license plate 1 gives it away). I will say that the driver was in the correct lane for this light. I don’t know if it’s just that he’s thinking, I better not be an asshole as the mayor is running for the District 1 Congressional seat or he has an actual respect for the rules of the road; either way, shout out!

It must have taken over an hour to get out of Providence and surrounding suburbs to where traffic could actually go the speed limit (or well over it as is the MO of my fellow Rhode Islanders). Mind-numbing. Beyond irritating. I don’t get why it gets so stupid. If drivers just stuck to the actual rules of the road, traffic would flow more freely.

We headed toward Connecticut with an eventual turn up north to Massachusetts. We cruising along, enjoying the curvy roads of northeastern Connecticut when this comes over the Scala: “I’m down to two strands on my clutch cable.” “Great,” I think to myself. I’ve been looking forward to this weekend for three weeks and he takes the old BMW and this is what I get. Grrrrr. His response is “Let’s see how far I can get.” You gotta hand it to the guy; I think he was more afraid of turning back and having me kill him than riding a bike in traffic with a clutch cable that is going to snap any moment.

As we’re riding through Southbridge, Massachusetts with me leading as I know the way through the town, we come up to the infamous double stop lights. We came through here in November 2009 when I was riding the CB750 and I didn’t see that there were two sets of stop lights. As I was coming down the hill, with the sun glaring into my eyes, I saw a green light and was about to go on through. Suddenly Erik started to slow and stop the Honda Dream; it was then that I saw the second set of stop lights and they were red! I braked the CB750 and the back tire started to go out from under me. I released the brake and the bike stood up and I was able to stop for the light. But the ensuing adrenaline rush caused me to pull into the next driveway after the light: Five Star Auto.

Five Star Auto -- savior of the BMW R75/5

Five Star Auto -- savior of the BMW R75/5

It was at this same set of lights that Erik’s crackly voice came over the Scala. “I’m out.” I responded, “I’m pulling into the auto place where I had the freak-out.”

As I get off the bike, some guy runs up to me yelling and waving his hands. He comes up to me as I’m pulling off my helmet and he says, “He’s up on the hill. Looks like he’s having problems with his clutch or with shifting.” I laughed and said “I know. We’re talking about it right now.” as I pointed to the intercom on my helmet.

Erik eventually coasts down the hill, through both lights and into the auto repair shop’s parking lot. I’m talking to the random guy about what’s happening as Erik gets off the /5. Now the three of us are standing around trying to think of what to do, sorta a brain trust with only one brain. Erik wanders into the open auto repair place as I entertain random guy. He comes out with information about an auto parts shop up the hill, and I say, “Take my bike and I’ll keep an eye on yours.” Random guy says the shop is across from the CVS, a very Rhode Island direction given in Massachusetts. He’s on the hunt for vice grips.

A young guy comes out of the shop holding a pair of rusty vice grips and a roll of duct tape. Apparently “the old man” had the grips in his trunk. There’s a guy in an old car backing out of the garage; Erik assumes he’s a customer but it turns out he’s the dad of the young guy.

Vice grips as clutch cable

Vice grips as clutch cable

Random Guy wishes us luck and heads off down the sidewalk to wherever he was headed. We duct tape up the vice grips which have the clutch cable in its teeth. Erik offers the young guy at the shop some money, which he actually accepts (I was a bit taken back by this as I thought it was an unwritten rule to not accept payment from the absolutely desperate, but this is Massachusetts), and we start to head out. As we’re leaving the lot, Random Guy is coming back down the sidewalk in the opposite direction carrying a big pack of Bud Light. Oh yeah, Friday night in Southbridge, Mass!

Michael, the young guy at the repair shop, told us it was only 5 or 6 miles to the campsite so we knew we could make it with the MacGyver clutch set-up on the R75/5. We continue along as it’s starting to get dark and make it to Wells State Park. We pull over at the ranger station and the young ranger checks us in. The place was booked solid so I was congratulating myself in my head for booking three weeks ago. The ranger tells us that we have his favorite spot, so I’m congratulating myself even more because booking a spot in a campground you’ve never been too can be very random.

I pay up for some firewood (3 loads for 10 bucks, not bad at all!) and the ranger offers, note: offers, to drop it off at the site for us as we’re on bikes. I protest, saying that we have a good system for checking in, setting up camp, and picking up wood, but he insists. This is where I should have gone with my gut and not my lazy, lazy brain.

Site 18 Wells State Park, Massachusetts

Site 18 Wells State Park, Massachusetts

We ride into the campground and pull into site 18. It’s really, really nice for a park that seems to generally cater to RVs and people who have a different definition of “camping” than the two of us.

More to come on the great firewood debacle, the delicious meals cooked over the fire, and people who think pugs make good hiking dogs.

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