Tuesday, June 30, 2009

An awesome Sunday...

Sunday saw a return to my wandering ways. This time my better half and myself took the van on a little road trip. We left Orleans at about 0830hrs, under skies that looked anything but threatening. We decided to take the 416 and cross over at Ogdensberg, NY where there are virtually never any lineups. By 1015hrs, we were stateside and cruising West along Rte. 37. It's funny but no matter how many times I go through this area, I never tire or become jaded with the bucolic beauty that I find there.

As we reached Morristown, we branched off onto Rte. 12 which would skirt the St.Lawrence and take us to Alex Bay. We decided to forego the A/C and roll along with the windows down, despite the heat and humidity outside. Motorcycles were everywhere along this route. We stopped at one of the overlooks on the way, to take a couple of photos. As we were preparing to leave, we heard a low rumble which steadily filled the air. A procession of bikes, perhaps a hundred or so strong, thundered by. It took a couple of minutes for them to pass where we were.

I pointed out to my wife that it was likely an organized ride which had been laid on by the event promoters. These are always worth attending at an event, notably when it's held in a strange locale that you're unfamiliar with. They will normally have a couple of locals head the ride and it will lead you through some favorite roads, normally chosen for the natural scenic beauty and technical nature (twisties) of the roads. Once the phalanx of steel had passed, we left the overlook and continued on our way. Before long we had reached Alex Bay and were slowly toodling down the entrance road. As with Saturday, the bikes and riders were everywhere.

We wound our way to the end of town. down by the waterfront where the tour boats dock and the charter sportfishing entities thrive. We found what must have been the last van-sized parking spaces to be had. The sidewalks were busy with riders and other tourists. We slowly made our way along the street, stopping into the many shops and boutiques that compete for both space and attention along this stretch. Many of them carry pirate-related gear, clothing and accessories. Sure, a lot of it is kitsch aimed at the 'touristos', but there are some very good deals to be had there as well as some pretty unique items. And of course, it's just a lot of fun.

I'm just a big sucker when it comes to things nautical. Go figure... And our section at work has long been regarded as the "most likely to swashbuckle"... So yes, I picked up a couple of 'pirate-related' items. We took our time sauntering up the street, as there were plenty of gorgeous bikes to admire along the way. My favorite had to be a Boss Hoss Trike. It was done in fire engine red and had a back end which mimicked a '57 Chev. It was a real showstopper... Every so often, you see a bike that stands out from the rest of the hoi-polloi. Usually a paint job or the custom parts employed are the reason. In other cases, it is because it is different from the frame on up. There was no lack of skill, creativity or talent in many of the bikes we got to see that day.

By about 1345hrs, we were starting to get a little peckish. I reckoned we could safely bypass all the vendors' stalls under the lookoff area. My better half not being an actual rider, there would have been very little point in revisiting that area. So I suggested that we grab a little something to eat. We looked at a couple of places, but ended up at the 'Chez Paree' yet again. Once more, the food did not disappoint.

Once fed and watered, we made our way back down towards the van, but on the opposite side of the street this time. There were just as many shops to check out... We bumped into a couple who had to be in their early seventies. She was still straddling a Harley Heritage Classic, with a great paint job in golds and browns, depicting waterfalls on one side of her tank and wolves on the other. My better half just had to stop and get a picture of her and her ride. She asked her how long she had been riding for. "I've been riding for 15 years", she said matter-of-factly. "And I just love it!", she added. As though she needed to. You could plainly see on her face, the joy that riding held for her. Her male counterpart was riding an Electra-Glide Classic, done up in basic 'midnight blue'.

I was kind of hoping my wife might draw the lesson, that it's never too late to learn how to ride and that it's a pursuit you can really follow until later on in life. "As long as you can swing your leg over the saddle", as they say. We finally reached the van and decided to head out further West, to Watertown. The traffic provided a constant eddy of motion around us and it took a few minutes before it was clear to back out and start heading out towards James Street. Roughly 10 minutes later, we were leaving the sounds of bands and bikes behind us, as we swung right onto Rte. 12. There was a Valero gas station just a little down the road where we had stopped before. It had a grocery outlet attached to it and we decided to stop and get some cold drinks to take with us.

As we stood in line to check out with our items, I noticed a rider who was checking through his purchases. He was kind of hard to miss, as he must have stood a good 6 feet eight inches tall. He was also sporting a three piece patch (full colours) in green and white. I recognized these colours instantaneously. They were the colours of the Boozefighters, MC. His chapter rocker read : Ontario, which I have to admit, kind of took me aback. He departed ahead of us and I eyed my wife. "That there is a very old organization", I told her.


We made our way to the parking lot after having paid for our drinks. The rider was packing his provisions into his saddlebags. "You ride safe out there, young feller", I told him. He looked at me and smiled. "Thanks, Bro!", he replied. We clambered back into the van and my wife asked me who he was. I then proceded to tell her the story of the Boozefighters, probably one of the oldest organized motorcycle clubs in North America, if not the world. I related how they had been founded in 1946, pre-dating even the Angels. I also told her about a 4th of July party (The Gypsy Tour) that had once been held in a little town called Hollister, California in 1947. How there had been some drinking and racing, nothing terrible of out of the ordinary for young fellas in the post-war years. But the most visible club at Hollister in 1947 was the Boozefighters: a group led by the charismatic “Wino Willie” Forkner. At the time, the Boozefighters consisted of chapters in three cities: Los Angeles, San Pedro, and San Francisco.

Barney Peterson, an opportunistic photographer from the San Francisco Chronicle, saw the potential for some vicarious titillation as the bikers enjoyed themselves. He staged an ominous photograph with an unknown drunk (not a club member) on a motorcycle surrounded by broken beer bottles. The photo never ran in the Chronicle but Peterson managed to get it onto page 31 of the July 21, 1947, edition of the popular Life magazine. When the issue hit the stands, the nation was greeted by a disturbing full page photo accompanied by the screaming caption: “Cyclist’s Holiday: He and his friends terrorize a town.”


From this one incident, came the negative connotation which has forevermore been associated with bikers. Hollywood seized upon this totally fictitious story, which became the basis for the 1953 movie "The Wild One", starring Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin. This of course only reinforced the stereotype and was the first of a wave of 'biker trash' movies which would subsequently flood the big screen in the sixties.

We reached the turnoff for the bridge to Canada, which also led to the on-ramp for the I-81. We headed off to Watertown, some 35 miles down the road. The ride there was sedate and restful. We were passed by just about every other vehicle on the road, but I was unperturbed. I had the cruise control set at 95kmh and I couldn't care less. Let 'em all navigate around me. I happen to know that NY State Troopers are a dedicated lot that you don't wanna mess with. They're not gonna cut me any slack simply because I have out-of-state tags.

We arrived in Watertown at about 1545hrs. Plenty of daylight left and our last stop for the day before winding our way back home. We browsed through both the Kohl's, Target and finally T.J. Max outlet stores, before deciding it was time to start on the road back. Once more we took our time, enjoying the weather and the countryside around us. We took Route 12 at Alex Bay and carried on towards Ogdensburg, where we would take the bridge back over to Canada.

As we came across the bridge, I related the crossing from the previous day, where my daughter was a little freaked out by the water down below and the feel of the bike skating around beneath us. I told her that I had never noticed the water, or even knew that it in fact visible, as my eyes were usually otherwise occupied by the act of driving or riding. The last thing I had time for while negotiating this narrow, slippery, truck-laden bridge deck, was looking down.

We breezed through customs at the other end and were soon travelling along the 416. We took the second exit for Kars, which would bring us out on the Rideau River Road by The Swan on the Rideau restaurant. As we neared that intersection, I asked my better half if she felt at all peckish. I offered to treat us to supper out, as I pulled into The Swan's parking lot. Now, we always have misgivings about eating at The Swan. Don't get me wrong... the food is usually great. They serve up a particularly good fish 'n chips. The service however, is usually bloody awful. As in you can time their wait staff with a calendar and they regularly forget about you...

Feeling lucky this evening, we decided to chance it. I had a hankering for spaghetti, for some unknown reason. My wife ordered a single portion of their famous fish 'n chips. The food didn't disappoint and the service was good. We were acknowledged upon entering and our drink orders were taken within a reasonable time frame. My spouse regularly times the period between the time our order is taken and the time we actually get our food. I believe it was a half-hour this time around, which if you're not ordering one of the specials of the day, is actually not bad.

Happy and sated, we continued our trek home. We stopped off at Blockbuster to pick up a couple of movies as well. All in all, it was a very enjoyable day and wrapped up an active and thoroughly enjoyable weekend.

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