Monday, June 28, 2010

Alex Bay in the rain...

This last Saturday, rain or shine, I was fixin' to head on over to Alexandria Bay, NY. It was the 4th Annual Thousand Island River Run. I had attended last summer with my eldest daughter, just before she was deployed to Afghanistan. It had rained just as I was getting to her place and again, just as I was dropping her off.

I should have taken my cue from last year, but no. I had to go on Saturday. So early Saturday morning, my friend Claude and my younger daughter met me at our place and we got set to head out. Well I gotta tell you, it rained on our sorry asses all the way down there and all the way back. Mind you, it was not a heavy, drenching downpour of rain. That would have killed it pretty much from the get-go and we would have re-scheduled it for the next day.

But it was 'showers'. Light rain which at times got a bit heavier, then eased up again for a bit, but it remained with us... a constant companion. Still, we did not let it dampen our moods. We headed out from Orleans and made a stop in Manotick for a quick coffee, then a rest stop in Merrickville, where we had a late brunch consisting of sausages, eggs homefries and a toasted bun. It was delicious and my 'little girl' scarfed hers down like a trucker.

A lot drier and with happier guts, we re-mounted our steeds and headed South down the 15 which took us all the way to Hwy 2 along the St.Lawrence. We didn't stop in Brockville this time but toodled through the town and linked up with the 2S, after a brief and hair-raising dash along the busy 401. But then there we were... cruising sedately along the 1,000 Islands Parkway. Rain or no, it is always a beautiful spot to ride through. In fact, the moisture kind of softened the edges of everything and lent an ethereal, phantom-like feeling to the lush greenery which surrounded us.

There were no critter sightings this time out, but it was just as well. I was happy not having to make any abrupt changes in direction or emergency stops. My main concern was in making the trip as fun and enjoyable for my daughter as I could. It was our first trip together on the bike and I really wanted the experience to be a positive one. She had donned my better half's riding gear (Joe Rocket 5.0 jacket and matching pants...) and was as happy as a clam. Totally weatherproof. She was a real trooper throughout the whole trip and we really did have an enjoyable time of it.

She got excited when we crossed the 1,000 Islands Bridge. It does tend to provide a unique perspective of things when on a bike. The view is astounding. We rolled into Alex Bay and the bikes were everywhere. We parked off the main drag in a little parking lot across from Chez Paree. After dismounting and squaring our gear away, we sauntered down the street to the registration booth. My daughter was duly impressed not only with the number of riders who had shown up, but with the seemingly unending variety of the bikes on display.

After registering and picking up our goodie bags (t-shirt, pin, patch, bandana, sticker and coupons), we headed up the hill to the bandstand where the vendors had set up shop. On the way, we had to traverse the area where the bike builders were showing off their wares. The shops represented spanned the New England States. There is a lot of talent down there, I'll have to admit. Not all were my cuppa tea, if you know what I mean, but that didn't stop me from appreciating the talent and vision that went into each one. I met and chatted with one of the fabricators whose name tag identified him as "Nobody". He was a good ol' boy (Southerner), modest and with a keen sense of humour. I got my daughter to take a shot of us together.

The vendors tents offered up everything from leather goods, to skid lids (helmets), to accessories, to Baker 6-speed trannies. If it had anything to do with the biker lifestyle, you were guaranteed to find it there. The boys from the 'Red and White' were there with a table full of their 'support' merchandise. My daughter liked their one t-shirt which proclaimed: "Silence is golden...duct tape is silver." I don't think she realized who all they were though... Just as well.

I took a couple of minutes to go and pay my respects to PFC Jack T.Sweet and the lads of the 10th Mountain Division. Following which Claude and myself checked out more custom scoots which were displayed under the bandstand. There were many models which evoked that Old School cool. Rigid frames, girder and springer front ends, 21" front wheels, Webber carbs, Panhead engines, Z-bars... the variety and excellence of work was truly noteworthy. There was one bike which was roped off from all the others, which was a tribute bike. It had been built to commemorate the service and ultimate sacrifice of 4 young Marines. It was technically jaw-dropping and emotionally inspiring.

The hand shifter was a Marine ceremonial sword (cutlass). The front downtube was lined with buttons from a set of Marine dress blues. The sprung solo seat was hand-stitched and featured the names and ranks of all four Marines. The rear fender was adorned with a remarkable picture of their likenesses. The bike was done in black, red, white and gold... standard colours of the USMC. The bike itself was an eye-catcher. The tribute theme made it simply stunning...

Before our heads exploded from taking in so much classic steel, we decided to make our way down the hill to the shopping on James Street. As we moseyed along, Claude and my daughter began taking notice and reading the various 'biker theme' stickers that many riders had adorned their helmets with. These range from the irreverent, to the downright scandalous, but are always sure to provoke a smile, if not an out and out laugh. Aaaaaahhh... such cheap entertainment.

We stopped into one of the many t-shirt shops and picked up another River Run t-shirt. From there we headed to a shop called Good Dog Charlie's, as I was trying to locate a specific type of raincoat for my better half. Unfortunately as it turned out, they no longer carried it. We began making our way back up the street, on the other side. Again we were treated to all kinds of bikes and riders. We saw a member of the 1st Cav. (another Canadian military riders' group) who was bimbling down the street with a hat shaped like a stuffed crab. My daughter snapped a pic for posterity (or possibly future blackmail...).

It had pretty much stopped raining by this point and we decided that our stay was just about done here for today. We made our way back to the bikes and it immediately began raining once more, even as we stood there donning our gear. It's like it knew we were preparing to leave... We mounted our steeds and headed slowly out of town. I knew we'd be coming back later this summer, when the sun would be shining...

The ride back was just as pleasant and uneventful. In fact, as we headed North up Highway 31 out of Morrisburg, the rain actually stopped. A little further, just outside Winchester Springs, the sun actually came out and we were rolling along on dry roads. Perhaps it was Ma Nature's way of rewarding us for sticking it out so long. In any event, it was a welcome experience and a nice way to finish the day. We arrived home and peeled off our wet layers, as a wonderful spaghetti dinner awaited us, courtesy of my better half. I felt badly that Claude had to put his soaking boots back on for the ride home after supper. My daughter stayed overnight with us and I gave her a ride back home the following morning, after a breakfast featuring one of Dad's old school cheese omelets.

It was a great weekend and despite the rain, a very nice father/daughter experience. I for one, enjoyed it immensely.

No comments: