I set out, heading west, around 5 p.m. Friday night. It took me ages to wriggle through Portland’s commuter traffic as working stiffs squeezed out of the city, headed for their weekends in the suburbs. Once I got past Standish, on Route 25, the cars and traffic lights thinned out considerably. Still, I knew I wouldn’t get there before dark. Missing the Route 28 turnoff in Ossippee, N.H. on Route 16 didn’t help either. Nope.
But, at least it wasn’t snowing this time.
I was on my way back to Gilmanton, N.H. to meet some of my Russian sidecar motorcycle clan for a little riding and camping. The last time I did this, in February, we were coldcocked by a blizzard. Almost nobody showed up. So, this get together was a makeup, or do-over, for those who didn’t want to brave the elements a couple months back.
I arrived well after dark to a welcoming fire and meatball sub, courtesy of our hosts, Tim and Linda. They held flashlights while I setup my tent atop a small hill in a couple inches of snow, not far from the Taj Mahal of outhouses. Once settled, I rejoined the fun around the fire. Chris, who owns Affordable Beemer Services in Manchester, N.H. brought his two young sons, known collectively as Team Monkey. They produced many a flaming marshmallow. Songs were sung, beverages consumed and countless logs went up in smoke amid the pine trees.
In the morning, Paul, (also known as Pieman because he owns a pizza shop in Ellsworth), made us all eggs, bacon and homefries in an enormous cast iron skillet. Keith, who’d made me coffee in his wood stove-heated tent in February, was still generous with the java. We saddled up around 10 a.m. and Tim and Linda led us on a fun ride through some rutted, muddy backroads. We stopped atop a hill for a view of Mt. Washington, and Tim and Linda showed us the locally famous twisted stone wall. A creative sort of mason worked a corkscrew figure into his work. I’d never seen anything like it. I’m not sure exactly where we went, but I’m pretty sure we zigged and zagged through Gilmanton, New Durham and Alton. I got fairly muddy and had a good time getting that way.
We had lunch, stopped at a store for provisions and were back, vegetating around the campfire, before dark. Just after sundown, Tim and Linda reappeared with a roast turkey that Linda’s mom had been basting all day. The combination of tryptophan-laced gobbler, swirling campfire smoke and the smell of muddy motorcycles in the dark was heavenly. I nearly passed out.
I managed to hold onto my senses, though.
In addition to our regular campfire, Tim and Linda touched off a brush pile they’d been building since last fall. Linda used a leaf blower to give it some extra oompf. Just about that time, Bill, owner of VT Cycles in Poland, Maine showed up. Better late than never.
Sunday morning, Easter, Paul fed us again and people started to pack up. I rolled my tent, packed my gear and set off for Maine with Thermos and Keith. Thermos and I turned off Route 16, onto Route 25. I pulled over in Kezar Falls to call my father and with him a happy Easter. Just as I was hanging up, I heard a roar and a whine. Paul had spotted me and slammed on his brakes, stopping his Ural as fast as a Ural can stop. We rode together as far as Standish. I continued home to Portland and he turned off on Route 35, making his way back to Ellsworth.
This trip was a lot less dramatic than the last one. But too much drama would be a bad thing. I’m sure of it.