A Little About Us

A Little About Us
INTRODUCTION: First, allow me to introduce the members of this group...I'm Mike riding my 2003 Heritage Softail Springer...my wife Juju is on her 2015 Freewheeler...and Ed and Nancy are on their 2009 Heritage Softail. For the purposes of this trip we are referring to ourselves as H.A.R.P. HARP is a made-up name and it simply stands for Hogs And Retired People...and all that means is that we are members of HOG (Harley Owners Group) and we are...you guessed it...retired! The name came about when seven of us made a trip out west, but just the four of us this time. I've done blogs before, and this one will be for the same reason...to refresh our memories in our "Golden Years" (they say the memory is the second thing to go...and I can't remember what the first thing was). What is different this time is the blog is being shared by THUNDER ROADS PENNSYLVANIA MAGAZINE...Truly, an honor. This journey will be a round trip from, and to our home town of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The plan is to travel to the Atlantic coast at Ocean City, Maryland for the "Official" start on U.S. Route 50. We will follow U.S. 50 west for over 3,000 miles to its terminus in Sacramento, California. From Sacramento, we will head a bit further west to the Pacific Ocean before we begin to travel south. California Highway 1 and U.S. Route 101, better known as the Pacific Coast Highway, will be the route for about 500 miles to Santa Monica. At the world famous Santa Monica Pier, we hop on Route 66...The "Mother Road". Travelling about 2,500 miles to the north east, we'll arrive at the end of 66 in Chicago, Illinois. The "Official" end of our journey. From Chicago, it's just another 450 miles and we're back in Pittsburgh. We've made very few lodging reservations, thus eliminating the pressure of trying to get somewhere by some deadline. The whole purpose of this ride to see this country and whatever piques our interest along the way...and we will be looking for that giant ball of yarn! So we invite you to ride along with us. We hope you will find it both entertaining and informative. Please feel free to leave your comments and share this with anyone you feel would have an interest.

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Friday, July 31, 2015

Day 6 - July 30

Days without an incident: 1
Days without raingear: 3

Since the bike was in the obviously capable hands of Frieze Harley Davidson, and they didn't open until 9:00, there was no rush to get going this morning.

We enjoyed the hotel's breakfast and at 9:30 the service tech called to tell me he found the problem. The ignition switch was fried.  No one in the area had the part, so he said he was going to take one from another bike and it should be ready in about two hours.

At 11:30, I rode bitch on Ed's bike to the dealer.  Ryan was there to greet us and deliver my ride.  By 12:30 we were loaded and ready to go.

Again, thanks to Frieze Harley Davidson for their quick, and extremely courteous service.

Soon we left the last few miles of Illinois and crossed into Missouri and through St. Louis.  The Gateway Arch
was an impressive sight as we approached the city.  The homes of the St. Louis Cardinals (Pirates are catching up!), Busch Stadium and the Rams Edward Jones Stadium loomed large to our right.

Leaving the city, we got onto the less populated sections of U.S. 50.  Surprisingly, much of 50 through Missouri is set at 55 to 65 miles per hour.  Still scenic and still making some time.  When passing through a small town, the speed generally dropped to 45 mph.  Some towns were small, then there were the ones that literally were missed if you blinked.  Rosebud Missouri came in with a population of 409!

Approaching Whiteman Air Force Base, we got to see a Stealth Fighter taking off and fly directly into the sun.

Speaking of the sun, riding west in the early evening, we witnessed one of the

most spectacular sunsets as we neared Kansas.  As darkness approached, we were in the hotel and ready for some slumber.

Another good day!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Day 5...Here we go again!

Days without incident:  0
Days without rain gear: 2

Because we were on the east side of Cincinnati, we decided to get an early start to beat any morning rush hour traffic as we headed west.

The humidity was already very high in the pre-dawn hours and the fog was quite thick.  For the next few hours, we drifted in and out of the soup during our westward movement from Ohio, through Indiana and into Illinois.

Lunch today was in a family restaurant called the Crossroads in Versailles Indiana.  A lovely outdoor patio and yard made it a very homey location, with great food and service.

Soon we were back on 50 and the temps were now in the 90 °s.  Much of the road was flat and straight but filled with the scents and sights of farm life.
Soybeans and corn are the main crops and used in biofuels.

As we left Salem, Illinois, we were 50 miles from our hotel just outside of St. Louis, Missouri when my bike shut off.  When I say shut off, I mean as if I turned the ignition switch to off.

First thought was the battery.  Judy rode back to Salem and purchased a battery and I installed it...no such luck.  It still would not turn on.  It was then that I called AAA for a tow.  Turns out the Dealer, Fireze H-D was only 4 miles from our hotel.

In the two hours it took for AAA to send a truck, at least eight vehicles stopped to make sure we were o.k.  The gentleman whose house we stopped in front of, Gerry, came out twice to bring us water, ice, and paper towels.

The tow driver and his wife took us to the dealer, where they were waiting for our arrival.  Then the tow driver took me and my luggage to the hotel.

Damn nice people here in southern Illinois.....


At 9:35 this morning, the service tech at Frieze Harley-Davidson called to tell me the ignition switch had gone bad (Second time-remember Ron?) and he would have it fixed and have us back on the road in about two hours.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Let's just call it day 4

Days without an incident - 1
Days without rain gear - 1

Now, this is what we signed up for!

A little before dawn showed his butt crack, we were on the road.

We met Ed and Nancy at the West Virginia welcome center on I-79, then headed down the road a piece and picked up where we left off over a week ago.

Again, thanks to Jim P and his staff at Z & M's service department, Ed's bike was just hummin' along.

Soon after getting back on U.S. 50, it turned into a four-lane highway.  Once we got to Chillicothe Ohio, the road turned into a beautiful two-lane with sweeping turns through farms and little towns.

Even though the day started with us wearing jackets, it ended with us peeling off layers as the temperatures soared above 90°.

For lunch, we stopped in the Vinton County town of McArthur.  A quick bite at McClure's Restaurant,
and we were back on the road headed for our hotel in Cincinnati.

Here, we met up with Ed and Nancy's daughter Elyse.  She graciously made burgers and beers for us while we were being thoroughly entertained by grandson David.  What a happy little guy he is!

Soon, we were back in the hotel for another early get-up and hopefully off to St.Louis tomorrow.

Monday, July 27, 2015


The part arrived at Z & M today, and, as it should be, they installed it today (imagine that!)

Tomorrow morning we'll be back on the road in an attempt to complete this journey.

Again, BIG thanks are going out to Jim Persin and his staff in the  Z & M Cycle Sales  Service Department.  Without the excuses, misinformation or obvious lack of concern we previously experienced, Z & M rolled up their collective sleeves to get the job done properly and in the least amount of time.

If we had only known....


From the Too Much Time On Our Hands department:

I had plenty of time to look over our statistics for this blog, which you may (or may not) find interesting.  This is definitely for our geek friends out there.

We are now global...viewers have been reading the blog in several countries:

Countries viewing blog (In order of number of views)

  1. United States
  2. Netherlands
  3. St. Martin
  4. Russia
  5. Canada (Our Canadian friends aren't trying hard enough)
  6. Georgia (The former Soviet country - not the southern State)
  7. Malaysia
  8. Poland

Views by operating system
  1. Windows and Android users make up 56% of our viewers
  2. iPhone and iPad total 34%

Viewers by browser
  1. Chrome 36%
  2. Safari 21 %
  3. Mac 16%
  4. Samsung 9%
  5. Firefox 7%
  6. IE 4%

Page Referral Sites
98% of all viewers are accessing the blog through the Thunder Roads Pennsylvania site.  (This should make the magazine people very happy)

O.K. that's enough with the statistics.  
We hope these posts implant a travel bug in our Grand Kids (Demetri - Elliott - Xander and David).  So, in the tradition of Where's Waldo and Dora the Explorer, as we get back on the road and continue to write tomorrow, we trust this blog will provide their parents with some interesting stuff, other than the fascinating statistics above, for their bedtime stories (Of course it would be a huge bonus if you like it too).  

Saturday, July 25, 2015


After having the bike on the rack for almost a week...suffering through misinformation and a lack of information...24 hours of work stoppage because it was the "tech's day off"...and replacing parts that didn't fix the problem, Ed finally reached the end of his rope and hooked the trailer up to the truck, drove to Morgantown and retrieved his bike.  He then transported it to Z & M Cycle Sales Harley-Davidson in Greensburg, PA (Our home dealer).  He got the bike there just before closing time Wednesday evening.  As soon as they opened for business Thursday morning, a tech was assigned and work began.  

Z & M has done more in 24 hours than the previous dealer did in a week.  Before 11 O'clock Friday morning, Ed got a call from Z & M indicating the problem has been diagnosed and the part has been ordered. Barring any unforeseen event, the part should arrive Monday morning and ready to go Monday afternoon.  If all goes well, we'll be back on the road no later than Tuesday morning!

When I say Z & M's service department, I am speaking of Service Manager Jim Persin & staff.

Most of what they provide is customer service.   Aside from the obvious diagnosis and repair, an important factor is keeping the customer informed of the progress with status calls from the service department, rather than the customer having to call (and hopefully speak to) the service department.

More than anything, Jim P. and his crew instilled a feeling that if something could be done...it WOULD be done!...and it HAS been done!  

We hope that knowing they enabled us to continue our journey brings them satisfaction equal to the amount of gratitude we feel.

Additionally, while we've been delayed, we received several calls and messages of support and condolences for the interruption of the trip.  Thank you very much...it does help.
So, while we sat like an expectant father in the maternity waiting room, I found myself thinking of what's been happening during the downtime, and made a bad vs.good list.

o  Ed's bike has been down since July 16th 
o  Stuck in a hotel for two nights 
o  Can't ride   
o  Had to go home  
o  Replaced a water heater in a rental unit                     
o  Had to cut grass
o  Living out of the suitcase in anticipation
o  Ed had to drive to Morgantown to get his bike

o  Repairs are covered under warranty
o  Hotel reimbursed by the warranty company
o  Hotel had maid service, pool & free breakfast
o  Slept in my own bed
o  Replaced a water heater in a rental unit
o  Yard looks nice
o  Unpacked stuff I'll never need
o  Packed things I forgot to pack the first time
o  Ed's Bike at Z & M
o  Went to Bloom cigar shop with a friend 
o  Did laundry
o  Changed primary oil
o  Changed transmission fluid
o  Washed bike
o  Went to Italian Club Picnic with Dad
o  Threw away the milk we forgot the first time
o  Drank some beer with the neighbors
o  Had a Real McCoy Capicola 'n Cheese sub
o  Date night at Southpaw movie premier (Go see it...I'm in it...DO NOT BLINK!)
o  Spent time with Grandkids.

So, the Good obviously out-numbers the Bad by a wide margin...not the worst way to look at life!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Photo Gallery #1

While we wait for the repairs to be completed before we can continue, here some photos:

The H.A.R.P. crew heading to Ocean City Maryland for the start of our Summer Tour

After getting a flat, this is what was left of Ed's inner tube

Juju waiting for tire to be repaired...and no...that's not a stake through her heart!

Lunch at a very cool Burger King in Myersdale, Maryland...Ed says "It's good to be the King!"

Finally in our hotel in Ocean City, Maryland

Day 1   The H.A.R.P. crew is on the beach and ready to go!

Boots in the Atlantic Ocean...soon, boots in the Pacific!

At the easternmost end of U.S. Route 50

Only a "Hop...Skip...and a Jump" from here!

On the road!  In the rain!

The rolling hills of Maryland and Virginia

Who cares about a little rain?

Heading toward the "Mountain State" West Virginia

Saddle Mountain West Virginia

Yeah!  This is why.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Triptus Interuptis

The problem with Ed's bike became more serious.  What is unfortunate is that the part needed to make the repair can't be shipped until Monday, and will not be here until Tuesday.  We're hoping that is also the day the bike will be ready to go.

So, as a result, the blog will be taking a long weekend off.  Since we are now only about 80 miles from home, we're heading back to wait for the repair to be completed and then start from here.

We expected this trip to take four weeks but were allowing six weeks to deal with any incidents just like this.  And after sitting in the hotel for two days, we realized that we couldn't think of anyone else that would have been able to put up with this kind of bump in our road and still have the positive attitude, and the willingness to complete the trip.

Keep viewing as we will be posting the first of the weekly photo pages over the weekend.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Day 3 - July 16th 2015

Days without an incident:  0

Today was just one of those days.  Ed noticed a clicking sound coming from his bike.  It sounded to me like a wheel bearing, so we decided to ride to B & B Harley in Nutter Fort, about fifteen miles from our hotel.

Upon arrival, the owner took a look and determined that it was the main engine bearing...then proceeded to tell us that it would take about 10 days to get the part and repair.  At that point, the decision was made to ride the 30 miles north to Triple S in Morgantown for a second opinion and to get us closer to home if the need arose.

The folks there were more than accommodating and got on it quickly.  They diagnosed the problem as a wheel bearing and took it in to do the repair.  A couple of hours later, the bearing was fixed, but the problem wasn't.  Now came the task of opening up the motor to find the cause.

After lunch, a couple more hours in the dealership lounge, and about a hundred games of table-top shuffleboard, we decided to get a room for the night.  If it gets fixed tomorrow, we'll be back on the road.  If not, we'll head back to Pittsburgh, and when it is fixed, we will continue.

In spite of it all, we are having a great time.  Tonight we had some drinks, lounged in the pool, went to dinner and had some laughs.  More evidence that life is what you make of it...and we are making the most of it!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Day 2 - July 15th 2015

Days without an incident: 2

Today was a mix of sunscreen and rain gear.  Not enough rain to make it a problem, just enough to "suit up".

We got an earlier start today after working through the learning curve of packing and unpacking every day.

After a breakfast of ham, eggs, waffles and such, we were off through the eastern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.

Within 25 miles we were into horse and farm country.  The sun was glowing and
the clouds, at this point, were sparse as we passed through towns like Middleburg and Waterloo before getting to Winchester.  Here we took a rather extended break at the Harley dealer.  We shopped a little and then went to their Cafe for a snack.

While there, we met a couple from Staten Island, NY as they were traveling south.  We talked for quite a while and compared riding stories as they waited for a tire to be installed.

Another 25 minutes west and we were heading toward the mountains in West Virginia and riding through towns like Capon Bridge and Mount Storm.  Here we stopped for lunch at the "Sit a Spell"
Saddle Mountain West Virginia
Restaurant and U.S. Post Office.  A nice little place with good food....and stamps.

The rain was light but intermittently steady (if that makes any sense.)  Just enough to warrant the rain gear and tighten your grip on the bars a bit.  Even
with the rain, the scenery through Virginia and West Virginia was spectacular.  Rolling meadows, farms bordered by miles of hand-laid stone walls, and twisty roads where the trees on either side had reached across to each other and created a green tunnel that was both cool and dim.

All in all, it was a good day...and for me, it was the best way I could think of to spend my birthday.  With my baby and our traveling companions on the road, on the bikes.  I am indeed, one lucky guy!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Day 1 - July 14th 2015 The Journey begins

At Nancy's suggestion, we're beginning each day with an incident report (based on yesterday's events)

Days without an incident: 1

View from our Ocean City room
Today was the big day.  We had a long and short kind of day...long on time and short on miles.

Due to some "organization" issues, we got kind of a late start.  But since we don't need to be anywhere at any time, no one cared.

After getting packed up, we took a walk down to the beach.  Each of us put a boot in the Atlantic Ocean to get us started. The idea is we'll soon be putting our boots in the Pacific!

Next, we went over to the starting point of U.S. 50 and we took a photo of the sign stating "Sacramento 3073" miles.

A couple of stops for some much-needed supplies and we were on the road.

Grey skies accompanied us to the other side of the Bay Bridge and only a few sprinkles came down.

We were supposed to meet up with friends Robbie and Carol at the Cracker Barrel on Kent Island.  Stupid me, I called the manager and asked for directions from Ocean City.  He said to come across the bridge and take the second exit.  Unfortunately, he was giving me directions from the opposite side of the bridge.  Apologies to Rob and Carol for not making our lunch date.

From that point on, the temperature soared and the traffic slowed to a crawl as U.S. 50 wound through Washington D.C.  It was hot and slow and not very scenic...although we witnessed a tractor-trailer push one car into another one on the downtown street...and I take back everything I ever said about New York City drivers!

The hotel in Fairfax, VA was a welcome sight.  Especially since the amenities included indoor parking, a complimentary dinner buffet with beer and wine too! Tomorrow we get a complimentary breakfast.  Not a bad deal!

Now that we're more experienced at unpacking/packing, we should get a much earlier start.  We'll see how that works out!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Getting ready to begin

The "official" ride doesn't begin until tomorrow, but that didn't stop the adventure from leaping in headfirst.

Since we're in the middle of a 40 days and 40 nights version of rain in Pittsburgh, the weather today was better than we expected. We got a little bit of a splash around Breezewood, but it was less than you would get from a lawn sprinkler.

Then we got to Williamsport, Maryland... When I looked in my mirror Ed, Nancy and Juju had disappeared. A quick call told me that they were a few miles behind me and Ed now had a flat tire.

I took the next exit and doubled back to see if I could help. I got the air compressor out of my saddlebag and inflated his tire. Just at that moment, Upton Hilderbrand of the Maryland Department of Transportation driver assistance program pulled up.  He added some more air and offered to take us to the Harley dealer.

Nancy got in his truck and we had to stop halfway on the five-mile trip to the dealer to put more air in the tire. When they took the tire apart this is what they found.

The inner tube had been completely obliterated. After about a four hour delay we were back on the road only to hit a torrential downpour as we neared the Bay Bridge.

But as we crossed the bridge, we were greeted by sunshine and a magnificent rainbow overhead.

Finally, in our hotel room around 8 p.m., we were able to stand on the balcony and look out over the Atlantic Ocean. Then it was time for dinner and a couple of drinks before retiring.

Everyone is safe and we're ready to go tomorrow. And like our friend Franco always says "It's all part of the @$#&ing experience!"

Looking forward to smoother riding starting tomorrow.