My First HOG Trip – FSH Goes To The Little Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania

West’s Deluxe

I wrote the below article in September of last year after returning from my first HOG overnight trip. It was a life changing experience for me. It was my introduction to “touring” by motorcycle. The story is a little long.

I don’t think I knew exactly what I was getting into when I joined the First State Chapter of The Harley Owners Group six months ago, but I have to say it has been a very satisfying and rewarding experience so far. The hospitality, camaraderie and brotherhood that I experienced during my first HOG trip was unexpected and refreshing. Our three-day trip to the Little Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania was so extraordinary to me that it was like a surreal experience. Typically some people might get a motorcycle shipping service for a long trip like this and possibly ride back, but not us. We are taking another three-day trip very soon and I can’t wait to take in the scenery, travel the American byways and bond with my HOG brothers and sisters once again.

Little Grand Canyon trip for First State HOg and Endless Mountains HOG

            My wife and I joined the local chapter of HOG to make new friends. At the time we both owned Sportsters and would often take short day trips. I quickly volunteered to take the position of Activities Officer. In my first few months of membership I went on several poker runs and day trips with our club. These trips made me realize two things: I wanted to take longer more exciting trips, and that I would need a bigger bike to do so.

            Our club was planning on two fall trips and as the Activities Officer it became my responsibility to plan them. Everyone seemed interested in riding Skyline Drive but our trip to The Little Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania had waning interest. At one point no one was interested and it was all but cancelled. Somehow things turned around and we had an outstanding turnout of twelve riders and five passengers.

            We met at our sponsoring dealership, Mike’s Famous Harley Davidson, on the morning of Friday September 21st, 2007. We had a diverse group including male and female riders, veteran and new members, and a wide range of ages. You could feel the excitement among the group. The weather report called for sunshine all weekend and we were already stripping off sweatshirts. We left at 10:30 am. Our expert road captains quickly took lead, mid pack and sweep positions. They planned an alternate route to avoid road construction on Interstate 95 south of Philadelphia and efficiently guided us from Wilmington, Delaware onto the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

            Once on the Turnpike things got a little interesting. I remember having a huge smile pasted on my face as we were cruising along. Then, the “cell phone incident” occurred. We were enjoying the ride even though the number of commercial trucks whizzing by seemed to increase by the minute. Then one of our members pulled out of formation and started gesturing at me. From what I could tell they were telling me my cell phone flew out of my pocket. That was impossible because it was in my zippered jacket pocket! I was quite startled and couldn’t decide whether I should keep riding or stop. So like an idiot I would hit the brakes then change my mind and then hit the brakes again then change my mind again. This is not a good thing to be doing while riding in formation with a dozen motorcycles being tailed by a tractor-trailer at 65 miles per! My wife abruptly ordered me to pull over! It was her phone that took flight. Like a good husband (we have only been married 2 months) I did exactly what I was told without hesitation. That’s when our sweep road captain narrowly avoided getting run over by the Mac trucks that were right behind us. He spent a few minutes on the shoulder of the Pennsylvania Turnpike explaining that abruptly stopping on the highway while traveling at high speeds with a Mac truck behind you is not a safe thing to do. At least, that’s what I think he meant. I made a mental note at that point to not carry any valuables in my wife’s rear end pant pockets and that although this was a fun trip, motorcycling is serious business and requires quick decision making. In this case I made the wrong decision, but I will learn from it and do better next time. If you happen to see me on the highway and something falls off my bike or out of my pocket, don’t tell me!

            Not too long after the “cell phone incident” we had the “map incident”. After our pit stop at a service station I thought we were all clear on the route we were taking. The transition from the Turnpike to Route 6 in the Scranton area seemed pretty simple. We were cruising up towards the end of the Turnpike when our road captain was unsure about an exit we were approaching. He wasn’t sure if we should take the exit, so we went up the middle. We all pulled up the center of the painted median between the exit and the turnpike. We came to a stop at the exit sign and noticed a car was tailing us so brainlessly that it had joined our pack. The car was on the median right behind us. We all stood around staring at each other, waiting for the car to go on its own way, waiting for someone to decide left or right. After a few minutes our road captain finally asked “well, is anyone going to take out a map?”

alice-on-rt-6-heading-west-in-pa.jpg

              Once we got on Route 6 we found ourselves in HOG heaven. I had read a lot about the beautiful scenery along Pennsylvania’s Route 6 and now I was experiencing it firsthand. The rolling hills, quaint towns and green pastures were definitely worth the trip. I knew then that I made the right choice in spending money I didn’t have for a new ’07 Dyna, new saddlebags, new backrest, new luggage rack, new T-Bag, etc…

West’s Deluxe Motel was awesome!

            We arrived in Mansfield around 5:00pm at West’s Deluxe Motel. The motel is directly across the street from Cox’s Northern Tier Harley Davidson. As some of our members checked into the Motel and started milling about we were greeted by an unexpected surprise and our first taste of country hospitality. The Director of the Endless Mountains HOG chapter, Lance Allen, was there to greet us along with John Backman, another local HOG member. Everyone was delighted by the warm greeting. It was unexpected and made us feel like special guests from out of town. We enjoyed dinner at a local diner and were in awe of the deserts. I ordered a slice of apple crumb pie and requested a small scoop of ice cream with it. We all fell off our diner stools when that slice of pie came out from the kitchen under a mountain of French Vanilla ice cream. Now that’s a scoop! I think the slice of pie and ice cream cost half of what I get an ice cream cone for back home. The hospitality continued as motel owners Kristen and Doug Broughton set a fire for us in the fire pit on a stone patio in front of the motel. How cool is this? It’s like a camping trip out in the mountains. Several of us sat around the fire talking about the day’s trip and what to expect for tomorrow’s adventure.

            We woke up around 7:00am on Saturday morning and headed over to West’s Deluxe Restaurant and Lounge on the same grounds as the motel (only after showering of course). One of the first people to join us for breakfast was John Backman of the local HOG Chapter. I knew he was going to lead us on a ride scheduled for 9:30 am, but to have him come early and join us for breakfast was fantastic. Now I am starting to realize that being a member of HOG means more than being a part of my local chapter back home, but being part of a worldwide brotherhood of Harley Owners all over the planet with mutual interest and respect for each other regardless of age, race or religion.

            At breakfast one of our members mentioned he needed the service department at the dealership to make an adjustment on his bike before our ride. On the positive side, this justified my decision to pick the motel directly across the street from the dealership. On the negative side, I was sure this would kill our schedule. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The service department at Cox’s hooked up our member in less time than it took us to shop for t-shirts and souvenirs. Shortly thereafter John Backman started his pre ride meeting when I noticed that four more members of the Endless Mountains chapter had joined our group. The Endless Mountains members ran lead and sweep showing us a great ride to outlooks of the Little Grand Canyon from both the western and eastern rims. The views from both Colton Point State Park and Leonard Harrison State Park were awesome. The gorge with its meandering river between the two mountains does resemble the Grand Canyon!

The Little Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania

            Our brothers and sisters from the Endless Mountains chapter continued to amaze us with their gratuity by offering to split up and lead two additional rides. John would lead a shorter ride for those who wanted to head back to the motel early. Wendy Albor would lead a little longer ride up to the New York state border. Wendy and her husband Les lead us through the most awesome twisties, switchbacks and roller coaster like hills that I had ever been on. The old mountain roads challenged my abilities with slow cambered switchbacks that required adjusting my body weight and center of gravity to counter the banked turns, especially challenging with a passenger on board. I felt the odd sensation of being pulled over towards the inside of the turn and into the guardrail. But I assure you that did not happen. Everything is so flat and straight back home in Delaware that we all thoroughly enjoyed the mountain roads. I kept day dreaming about taking a new Buell 1125R out and dragging my knees through the hilly turns like a crazed sport bike racer. When I mentioned this to my fellow Harley lovers they looked at me funny, as if I had suffered heat exhaustion while riding all day in the unexpected 89 degree heat. Someone asked “What’s a Buell?”

            Wendy and Les lead us back to Cox’s where the Endless Mountains chapter was getting their club bar-b-q started. Lance Allen and another member named Jimmy were grilling chicken leg quarters over a huge bar-b-q pit behind a really nice pavilion at the dealership. The pavilion was next to a cornfield with seven foot stalks of corn. I looked out at the mountains behind this great party and couldn’t believe how unreal this experience was. While the chicken was cooking Lance conducted a Chinese auction where members from both chapters had fun and won cool prizes. I took home a Harley Davidson soda can koozie (it’s probably meant for beer). Jon and Flo Drennen, members of our chapter, won Harley Davidson Biker Brew coffee. When Flo found out I have a small collection of decorative tins on my fireplace mantel she insisted I have the tin the coffee came in. It currently sits on my fireplace mantel to remind me of this awesome trip. During this whole picnic style party the Endless Mountains members made us feel like the guests of honor. I think our members are still in shock. We are not used to being treated like biker royalty. The food at the party was awesome! The chicken was the best I ever had. I wish I knew what was in that jug they kept poring over the chicken while it was grilling! The potato salad, baked beans and macaroni salad all hit the right spot. And then there was desert again. Man they have great pies out here in the county! When the evening was over all the Endless Mountains members thanked us for coming! Are you kidding me? You guys made this trip the most spectacular trip ever by leading us on great rides and then feeding us like ambassadors from another country. We could have ridden around the mountains by ourselves lost trying to follow a map and turning around every time we missed a turn. We could have eaten some cheap restaurant food. No thanks, I’ll take the guided tour and feast anytime! Thank you John, Wendy, Les, Rich and Sue for riding with us “city folks” and showing us your awesome mountain roads. Thank you Lance and all of the Endless Mountains members for having us to your picnic and treating us like special guests! And thank you to Rebecca Dunbar at Cox’s Northern Tier Harley Davidson for helping me organize this trip and putting me in touch with Lance. I couldn’t have put this trip together as successfully without their help.

            On Sunday we packed our gear, saddled up and took an even more scenic route home down route 15 through Pennsylvania along the Susquehanna River to Harrisburg. From Harrisburg we took 283 to Lancaster where some of our group split off and headed straight home. The rest of us enjoyed more riding through the country roads. It was great riding even though we had to watch out for Amish buggies and horse poop on the road. It sure was a busy day for buggies! We had dinner at a nice family restaurant and enjoyed some more riding afterward as we headed for home. The few of us that were left split up in Fair Hill, Maryland. As I approached my neighborhood I couldn’t believe the fun was over and soon we were going to be back in reality. It really was like a dream!

I’m glad I bought a Harley Davidson, I’m glad I joined HOG and I’m damn glad I dared to do what others only dream about!

 

Click Here To See Photo Album

                         

11 Responses to “My First HOG Trip – FSH Goes To The Little Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania”

  1. I enjoy reading about your ride. I enjoyed checking out the picts too. I can relate to all you said. Yeah, once you get bit by the road bug there is no coming back. Sounds like you got bit bad bro. I can relate to the “It was really like a dream” statement, however I can’t agree with the “back to reality” statement. You lived a roadtrip experience and now it is part of your life and your reality. Your reality has changed now …hasn’t it. It’s better than before. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I also really enjoyed reading about your road trip. That really is what it’s all about, isn’t it? You and Di were really lucky that a trip like that happened so early in your HOG membership! I went on a dozen rides with Blackstone last season before I went down, but unfortunately none of them were over-nighters. I do know the feeling though because on some of the longest rides, even though my ass was being tortured by my stock seat, I just didn’t want it to end.

    Like some of the things Blackstone has done seem to have inspired you to bring them to your Chapter, you have now inspired me. I think a good 2 or 3 day road trip is just what we need to kick up our events calendar for this year. I’m not the Activities Officer, but I am on the committee. I’m going to suggest our own version of your road trip at our next meeting, and naturally I’ll be volunteering to organize it. If I can get ‘er going, I’ll be sure to hit you up for some helpful tips as well as the do’s and don’ts list!

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Thanks guys. I’m jealous of your schedules. I added a few links in the story that I had a problem with last night before my Internet connection glitched up.
    Joker you have a lot of trips you can do from where you are at. You can do Canada, up state New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Main, Americade, Laconia… the possibilities are awesome! Di and I are getting this down to a system but we are not quite there yet. We would be glad to give you tips on trip planning. Your new touring Sporty will be perfect for some trips once you’re back on your feet.

  4. Let me clarify — I was trying to explain it was my cell phone that went flying, but trying to communicate on the highway with helmets and everything else was not working. It was only out of sheer frustration about the whole situation that I barked out any “order.” I needed to break the information down to the lowest common denominator, and “Pull over!” was it.

    BTW – the phone was a piece of crap, and has since been replaced with a much better one! 🙂 Guess it was a blessing in disguise.

    As far as the trip, I can’t wait to go back in May. It will be wonderful to visit with our HOG brothers and sisters from the Endless Mountains Chapter again. This winter has been too long already, and I am eager to get back in the saddle for some more two-wheel traveling!

  5. It’s great to read about all these wonderful H.O.G. experiences. I know joining was one of the best things I’ve ever done. Granted I still enjoy the solo ride on occasion. Great blog my friend.

    Ride Safe

    Ronman

  6. Thanks Ronman, I’ll have to check out your blog and see what’s going on over there.

  7. Greetings…. I read your whole story! Steve & I can’t wait until next weekend…… We’re psyched! By the way, you are an awesome author! Looking forward to hooking up for the Little Grand Canyon run……

  8. Thanks Jay and all your members that joined us this year 2008, May 16, 17, and 18 th for a great time. Even though it was a wet weekend I think we all enjoyed the ride and the time together.

    Visit our website at http://www.endlessmntshog.com

  9. Thanks Dave, we can’t wait to come back when the weather is better. We got back safely but it was a challenge. See you again soon I hope.

  10. I was so disappointed that I was not able to ride with you all on your last trip up here! However, it was a smart decision on my part…I think the weather would have made me even more ill….I do want to let you know that it was great to see you all here once again. I definitely think that we need to come down there and have you guys show us you special rides to the Beach!
    You are welcome here anytime…. Safe riding! Keep in touch!

  11. […] I’m thinking that the Zippo/Case Museum in Bradford, PA would be a great stop on our next motorcycle trip to the Mansfield, PA region. […]

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