My First Camping Trip
My First Camping Trip
Preparing for the 25th Annual West Virginia Moto Guzzi Rally was a little bit of a challenge for me. Not that motorcycle trip preparation is rocket science or anything of that nature, but this Rally was going to be different for me. You see, I have never actually camped out in a tent before, so I would be trying my hand at “roughing it” in the outdoors. Those of you who are avid campers probably can’t remember your first camping trip, but I imagine this will be an experience I won’t forget. Hopefully, an experience I will enjoy!
I’m all packed up and waiting for one of my friends, Jeff to meet me at the garage with his Ninja 250. We had planned to ride out Wednesday afternoon to Mehanicsburg, Pennsylvania to meet Morgan at Andy’s house, then crash there for the night. We figured that if we got a couple hours east of Philadelphia and had an early start Thursday morning, the four of us could ride back roads from Andy’s house to the West Virginia Rally and make it there by dinner. We had a great time on Wednesday evening at Andy and Alecia’s house. They grilled hamburgers and had plenty of beer on hand to satisfy our pallets. My thanks to Andy and Alecia for their great hospitality! After dinner we went out to Andy’s garage to do some last minute maintenance on our bikes. Morgan and I needed to grease the shafts of our Sport 1100i’s and as you can imagine, this terminology was the brunt of many jokes that weekend. It was at this time I noticed I only had one “header flange nut” on each header. I was a little disturbed by this, but not too much of a problem, because Andy gave me two “header flange nuts” from off his modified Moto Guzzi CX100. This would now mean that he would have to ride his Triumph Sprint ST to the Guzzi Rally, but what are friends for?
Thursday morning came fast, but we were able to depart as planned. Unfortunately it was raining, but better to ride in the rain, than not at all! From Mechanicsburg we rode a few secondary roads unfamiliar to me, until we reached route 30, which took us just about all the way to the Rally. Route 30 is one of those great roads with really nice scenery and a lot of curves, but also gets you to your destination fairly quick. Unbeknownst to us, we were going to drive past the area where there was a Memorial for the crew and passengers of flight number 93 that crash landed in Shanksville, Pennslvania on September 11, 2001. Although we didn’t have time to stop at the site, I believe the tragedy on that day about a year and a half prior, was in our deepest thoughts. Forty five minutes later we stopped for lunch at a very nice, privately owned luncheonette. We talked briefly of September 11th and possibly coming back to the Shanksville Memorial sometime, but we all agreed to change the subject to something less tragic! After finishing a good home cooked meal, we saddled up and continued on. Fortunately it had stopped raining, but was still a little misty. It didn’t matter much at this point, because we were nearing the end of our journey.
We arrived in New Cumberland, West Virginia at about 5:00 PM and pulled in to the Rally site. The four of us went straight over to West Virginia Moto Guzzi Rep, Bucky Bush and picked up our pre-registration envelopes before pitching our tents. As I hadn’t had time to practice putting up my tent at home prior to this trip, this was my first attempt and I passed with flying colors. Of course it isn’t too difficult to do anyway, but having the same tent as Andy made it a lot easier! With that done, we were off to Rebecca’s for dinner. We met Snuffy Smith on the walk up to the restaurant and invited him to partake in the meal with us. Entertaining stories were told by all and between the food, beer and great conversation, we kept busy for hours.
It was now time for bed and my “camping adventure” was about to begin. Although it had rained most of the day, it had stopped sometime before we arrived at the Rally. But that luck was about to change! At about 3:00 AM, my sleep was interrupted with the sound of rain drops on my tent. At first I thought it might have been dew dropping from the trees above, but it soon became apparent that this was rain. Oh yeah, it was rain alright, because it pelted away at my tent for a couple of hours. I had a difficult time sleeping through this, because I was worried about my tent leaking. It didn’t, but I still worried! If we lived in a perfect world I would have preferred this happening after I had a few camping trips under my belt. But what the heck, I survived it!
I awoke to a fairly bright Friday morning with several folks under the pavilion drying their sleeping bags and clothing. Some campers were not as lucky as me at keeping dry. I met and chatted with quite a few people that morning, while sipping on coffee. You truly meet some very interesting individuals at Moto Guzzi Rallies. Well the coffee was helping to ease my hunger, but I needed some food in my stomach. So before heading over to Rebecca’s for breakfast, I checked on Andy, Jeff and Morgan, but they were still fast a sleep. As I walked toward the restaurant I saw Larissa Mellor, who I met that morning while she was drying her gear off, so I asked her if she wanted to join me for breakfast. On my return to the campground, Andy, Jeff and Morgan were on their way to breakfast, so I headed to the shower.
Our intentions that Friday were to explore some of the beautiful roads surrounding the Rally, but Morgan discovered that his front brake pads were worn quite a bit, so we opted to hang out with him until Joe Eish brought the pads later that afternoon. After the installation we decided to take a short ride before dinner. While out, I noticed that one of the “header flange nuts” I replaced at Andy’s house had come loose and fallen off. Very perplexing and frustrating!
I called Joe Eish on Saturday morning and put my order in for what I needed to make things right. Joe wouldn’t get to the Rally until later that afternoon, so I told Andy, Jeff and Morgan to go out for a ride without me. We didn’t get much riding in the day before and I didn’t want to spoil their fun, so after participating in the parade of motorcycles through the middle of town, they were off. Although unable to ride, I still had a great day. For one thing, I was able to enjoy Bucky Bush’s “unadvertised bonus”, which made my inability to ride a lot more “painless”, if you know what I mean? It was also my pleasure to make the rounds, meeting and greeting old and new friends. You really meet some great people at Moto Guzzi Rallies. And although these riders may be from different parts of the country and have diverse backgrounds, you truly find a lot of “like” thought. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Guzzi riders are some of the best people I’ve ever met in my life! Anyway, Joe Eish arrived with my hardware and within 5 minutes the Sport was back in service again.
The Saturday dinner that Bucky Bush arranged was delicious and plentiful. The slice of ham given was the same size as the plate. Everything served was to my liking and I didn’t hear anyone else complaining, as they were too busy eating. After dinner Andy, Jeff, Morgan and I hung out with Adam and Larissa Mellor, while enjoying the “unadvertised bonus” and listening to the acoustic wonders of the Precision Imprints crew and others. I’m sorry I didn’t get all of their names, but the music was incredible and very fitting with the atmosphere of the moment. Thanks folks!
Unfortunately Sunday morning came very quickly, which meant it was time to begin our journey home. Packing up was a bit frustrating for me, because nothing was packing down as small as when I originally packed it. Of course this was because my sleeping bag, tent and Therm-A-Rest pad were factory rolled and packed, so they were a lot easier to pack in to my tank and tail bags when I started this trip. I did finally get everything sorted after Morgan lay pity on me and assisted. Jeff and I departed by ourselves, because Morgan was going to be sleeping at Andy’s house that night and not riding all the way back to Philly.
Jeff and I had planned to go back the same route we came by, but because the Sport starting running poorly east of Pittsburg, we decided to use the Pennsylvania Turnpike instead. Before we made it to the Turnpike entrance, the Sport stalled at a traffic light and I couldn’t get her started. We pushed my bike in to a near by gas station, while I contemplated the situation. Well, my sometimes impatient impulse won over and I decided to push start the Sport, which ultimately got me 100 miles closer to home, but not without regret. You see, if I had checked the battery at the gas station, I would have noticed that the positive lead was loose, hence the reason my bike was running terribly with my eventual decision to push start it.
At the next gas stop, we needed to push start the Sport again and then Jeff and I were off. Only this time my bike totally died after about a mile of getting back on the Turnpike. I was fortunate to get through traffic and to the shoulder of the road safely. There wasn’t much of a shoulder, due to construction, but enough for me to get out of the way of traffic. By this time, Jeff was too far ahead and with very little shoulder, there wasn’t enough room to ride back. He pulled over and called my cell phone to find out what had happened and if I needed his help. I thanked him, but told him to continue on, as there wasn’t anything we could do to get the Sport running! I also knew Snuffy Smith would be along soon, because we saw him at the previous gas stop.
Anyone who knows anything at all about modern motorcycles, computers and fuel injection already knows what my problem was. But me being a third rate mechanic at best, I did not realize the obvious. In short, the loose battery cable sent a power surge through the electrical system and fried my computer, which is the brain. And without a brain, there is NO life! This is the knowledge Snuffy shared with me at the side of the road when he stopped to help me. I can say it in six words…THANK GOD FOR THE RESCUE REGISTER. A distress call was made to John Wells, who was the person on the RESCUE REGISTER closest to where I was broke down. I initially spoke with John’s wife, who told me that John hadn’t returned from the West Virginia Rally yet, but she expected him home soon. I left my cell phone number and within 10 minutes John called me and said he would be there with his trailer to pick me and my bike up. I thanked Snuffy and told him he could head home, as help was on its way. He did, but reluctantly.
While waiting for John to pick me up, Jim Mellor and his daughter Larissa stopped in their mini van to see if I was alright. When I explained the situation to them, they offered to wait with me until John came for the bike and then give me a ride back to Philadelphia. This was very good, because I really didn’t know how I was going to get home! News of my dilemma was circling the local Guzzi community, because on the way home I received a call from Joe Herbert, who also lives in Philly, offering to take me back to John Wells’ house the following day to pick the Sport up with his trailer. So the next day, Joe and I depart fairly early for the Altoona, Pennsylvania area to retrieve my bike. Although I encountered some problems on this trip, I was very lucky everything was working out for me. But if you thought my predicament couldn’t yield any more fortune, here’s the night cap! On our way home, Sport 1100 in tow, I received a call from my friend Franz Nachod of The Spare Parts Company in Philadelphia. He told me that he heard through the grapevine that I had some trouble with my bike, gave his condolences and asked me what I planned to do. I explained to him that I wanted to bring it to him in a few days, so that he could sort it out. He then said to give him a call back when we were about 15 minutes from Philadelphia and he would leave home and open the shop up, so that I could put my troubles to rest. With the exception of my call to John Wells for a "rescue", I didn’t need to ask anyone for help; it was just offered to me! What was it I said earlier in this article about Guzzi riders being some of the best people I’ve ever met in my life?
This may be a bit repetitious, but I must again give my thanks to Snuffy Smith for helping me troubleshoot the situation, John Wells for picking my sorry butt up off the “slab”, Jim and Larissa Mellor for following me to John’s house and bringing me back home, Joe Herbert for bringing me back to John’s house the next day to haul the Sport back to Philadelphia and last, but not least, Franz Nachod for opening his shop up on his day off, after hours and on a holiday, so that I could drop the bike off.
In closing, I’d like to say that regardless of the bad luck I encountered during this trip, I still love motorcycle touring and enjoyed the camping immensely and didn't get discouraged by the rainy nights in a tent. I don’t know why I waited so long to try my hand in this pursuit, but I found camping a lot of fun and will certainly be doing more of it in the future.