Sunshine was once again present when I set out for the day and things were looking pretty darn good. The evil weather person had predicted a 40% chance of showers which at home usually means it’s going to rain 40% of the time, not bad odds if you’re dressed for it. It never happened today, at least not where I was.
I’d decided to follow a back roads route that would take me from Apalachin, NY to Somerset, PA which would be a fairly long ride if I did the whole deal in one day. That’s really never an issue for me as when I get tired of riding I just hang it up for the day and find a place to park.
I began by riding along the Susquehanna River on a small 2-lane road that took me from Apalachin to Towanda, PA, a distance of 39 easy miles. Early on I came to the border crossing into Pennsylvania where I stopped for one of the geeky photos of me posing in front of the sign. Duh...like, who cares, eh? The morning sunshine continued to warm the air and I could already feel the heat as the temperature began to rise. The homes along the river were located in beautiful settings; most had large lots and all were surrounded by neatly trimmed green lawns. The thought crossed my mind that the residents must spend a fortune on gas for their mowers. Such a crass thought…
The next leg of my trip would take me westward to Port Allegany, a distance of 110 miles on route 6, another fairly small 2-lane road. The weather remained idyllic, some clouds but none threatening and the sun kept smiling. The token breakfast provided by the Quality Inn people had run its course so I kept my eye out for food opportunities. I nearly missed Julie’s Country Kitchen it was so small but I noted as I went by there were a number of cars parked around it that were most likely locals. I found a spot to turn around and headed back for what I hoped would be another jewel of a place and it turned out to be so.
It was a tiny place so there weren’t many tables and all of them were occupied by people who obviously knew each other. I figured this must be the main hang out place for the locals, kind of like the post office in Bandon only with food and I grabbed one of the two remaining places at the counter. Within a couple of minutes the last stool next to me was taken by another local guy who seemed to know everyone there. He said hello, I said hello, and Julie the owner brought coffee and took our orders. It’s an odd thing stepping into a nearly full café wearing Big Red, I’m always tempted to say Ho, Ho, Ho, as somehow that seems appropriate.
He and I talked a bit about Big Red and the advantages of it when on the road and it decides to rain, etc. and I soon began to really feel the heat of the place. Maybe it was because the monster grille was located directly in front of us but in any case it was time for me to extricate my upper half from it, otherwise I was going to croak from heat stroke. Doing so is a fairly simple process, you unzipper Big Red’s main closure down to the waist and then like a snake shedding its skin you shrug out of the top half one arm at a time. People watching seem to regard this with natural curiosity and I think most of them realize I’m not having a fit or anything. I could tell the local guy next to me was having a bit of difficulty not helping me out of it as his hands made several involuntary starts towards my shoulders. Just as he was about to intervene I gave a serious shrug and out I came with Big Red’s arms and torso dangling around my waist. “Neat” I thought, I’m actually beginning to get the hang of it after all this time.
Breakfast or maybe it was brunch at Julie’s was delicious and a bargain which is probably why the tiny place was packed. Two big hotcakes, four links, two eggs, and good black coffee came to $5.19 including tax. I’d eat there every day if I was a local. I’d also weigh 250 lbs. Maybe 300?
Every other day or so I seem to have run across one of these little places and they always operate on the same principal; namely providing tasty food and friendly service, all at reasonable prices. Most don’t take plastic either so you need to have coin of the realm with you. Outside I gave any onlookers a final dexterity performance by removing my long sleeved shirt leaving only the underlying T-shirt. It was getting hot.
Cruising along route 6 was pleasant and easy; traffic was light and non-aggressive, perfect for riding. I stopped in Galeston for a brief stretch and couldn't resist the notice in one of the store front windows regarding their sphaghetti dinners. Small towns are all alike no matter where you go.
I’d been keeping an eye out for a Kawasaki dealership the past few days as El Nino was way past due for an oil change and the chain needed adjusting. I was also a bit concerned about the possibility of overheating since crossing the border back into the US and wanted to have the coolant checked. And just like that there it was, Larry’s Sport Center way out in the sticks, a multi-line dealership loaded with new bikes. Rolling into their massive parking area I left El Nino to her own devices and found the service manager. It’s sort of an unwritten policy amongst bike shops to give first service to traveling bikers and these guys apologized because they couldn’t get to me for an hour and a half. I laughed and told him I could spend all day just looking at their inventory and since they had the correct oil filter in stock it was a deal made in heaven.
I shrugged out of Big Red which made the resident Harley riders breathe easier I think, and looked forward to oggling new bikes for the next couple of hours. In case any of you reading this aren’t bikers you should know that the Harley folks have a definite dress code. Two things it doesn’t allow are non-leather outfits, especially ones like God forbid, Big Red, and full-coverage helmets. Flip style lids like mine probably border somewhere on the level of cardinal sin. I like to hang out with the Harley guys whenever possible, especially if I can park El Nino where they can see her, they do so love Japanese bikes.
Finally El Nino was ready and the mechanic who did the work on her said no issues were found that I needed to be concerned with. This made me feel very good indeed and the bill for everything came to a very reasonable $92.52. Waving goodbye to the Harley guys I rode off feeling secure that I’d received courteous and competent service. A couple of the Harley guys actually waved back. Maybe they're starting to like Japanese bikes, eh? Nah...
By then it was getting along into late afternoon so I looked for a place to stay and found the Buttonwood Motel & Restaurant located on Sizerville road in Emporium, PA. It’s an older place that’s priced comparable to Motel 6 and offers similar amenities, just the basic stuff but it all seems to work, WIFI notwithstanding. (I'll have to post this tomorrow.) The real find was their restaurant which turned out to be a gem; I had their daily special, the Country Fried Steak and got my gravy fix at the same time. It was probably the best country fried steak I’ve ever had anywhere and to answer my question the waitress informed me they make it themselves, no frozen patties like so many places provide.
So is the point of this narrative about riding El Nino to Nova Scotia or is it really an excuse to sample gravy all across North America? Suffice it to say life is good, especially with gravy…