November 01, 2003 GMT
Massachusetts to Texas, Lots of friends and great bike roads

We blitzed down through New York State into Springfield Massachusetts. We had a tip off from Ireland that our great friend Sean Daly was there and we set out to surprise him. I think we succeeded! We spent the following 12 days becoming part of The Big E. The Big E is a huge Exposition that started in 1916 as a agricultural show and now includes the state buildings, homewares, side shows, circus performances, parades, concerts - you name it, the Big E has it and it represents all 6 states that make up New England. We had a fantastic time helping out on Sean and Liz’s Dingle Crystal stand and Mike and Alice’s Irish goods stand. Springfield and The Big E was a totally unexpected and wonderful part of the trip. We felt like we completely belonged to a scene of work, parties and camaraderie, we met so many people and made so many new friends, had so many laughs and shared so much.

From Springfield we made a flying one night visit to New York City to catch up with some family and friends. We just love this exciting city. What a thrill, riding the bikes through the Big Apple. It was all too short but - We’ll be Back!

Now, do you all remember “The Dudes”? We met Rusty and Tim in The Yukon and rode into Alaska with them. We’ll, from NYC we rode to Tim’s house just north of Baltimore, where we spent a wonderful evening and the next day. Then we skipped around the Chesapeake Bay to Rusty and Bev’s for a few days of complete relaxation. We caught up on the diary, fixed and fiddled with the bikes and ate the famous Chesapeake Bay Crabs. Both Tim and Rusty have wonderful workshops full of motorbikes so Dom was in his element.

From Rusty and Bev’s we headed over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, through Wasington DC, west across Virginia and onto the Skyline drive then the Blue Ridge Parkway. In total, some 500 miles of perfect road that twists and turns in long curves along the top of the beautiful Shenandoah and Appalachian Mountains. Between the road and the scenery it was heaven. And that’s not all, The Blue Ridge Parkway ends in North Carolina at the entrance to the Smoky Mountains. Now this is bike country with twisty roads everywhere! The most famous is Deals Gap, 340 odd bends in 11 miles and huge grins at the end of it. Througout this area, you just ride from one magical road to the next. Our favourite was the Cherohala Skyway. You could (and people do) spend weeks in this area and not get bored. The scenery, the people, the riding, the walking, the mountains, the lakes, the waterfalls - it was just so beautiful.

Our next move was to Sunny Florida to catch up with our wonderful friends Martin and Jackie, Austin and Aisling. Dom and Martin grew up together in Waterford and we had been really looking forward to catching up with them. It was no disappointment. They live in beautiful Palm Coast where the weather is warm and
life is good. We spent the next two and a half weeks catching up on a lifetime of stories. There was never a quiet moment

After the first weekend of our visit we headed south for a few days, down to the Florida Keys where we enjoyed the Bohemian atmosphere of Key West (Where Hemmingway wrote “The old man and the sea”) and went snorkeling on the reef. On the back up to Palm Coast, we camped a night in The Everglades National Park and the next day joined a great group of young agricultural students and their lecturers on a tour of an Alligator Farm that included a wild airboat ride and snake display.

That evening we rode until quite late, finding a camping spot in the dark. The next morning, when we packed up the tent, there on the ground sheet having a lovely snooze was a snake. He had crawled in between the tent and goundsheet and must have been delighted with the warmth we had provided for him overnight. We have since been told he was a harmless ribbon snake but you would have thought he was a deadly killer from my reaction! It made my skin crawl.

We left Palm coast on the Sunday of Biketober Fest after spending the day at the Daytona raceway watching the bikes race on this famous circuit with its amazing banked “walls” at each end and twisty inner circuit. Aisling and I got to meet an Aussie racer and Aisling even sat on his bike.

Our next stop was New Orleans (N’Awlins to those of you that don’t know how to pronounce it properly) where we visited the guys we had met in Utah. We were well and truly looked after by Ray and Jo who showed us the lake, drove us around all the New Orleans sights and over the longest bridge in the world. We walked around the wonderful French Quarter including the obligatory walk down Bourbon Street. We were joined by John from Chicago and had a great time. Joe and Ray both have lots of cruisers and wonderful garage’s. Dom even had a ride on Joe’s Harley Davidson Chopper.

From New Orleans we headed west to San Antonio where we visited 2 of the wonderful old missions, Conception and San Jose. We were adopted by a lovely family on Saturday night who opened their home to us when we were lost then stayed with Thomas (who we met in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska on his BMW) and his wife Terri. They are a great couple and are helped us with our preparations for heading south. This includes new top boxes for both bikes. Wonderful aluminum toolboxes from Home Depot.

Now we´re ready for Mexico.

Posted by Leah Chapman at November 01, 2003 09:54 AM GMT

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