Tuesday 12 August 2014

Monday 30th June - 'The Beach Party Goes On, Down on The Jersey Shore'

We awoke to two things on Monday morning - another beautiful New Jersey day of sunshine, clear blue skies and 'thick heads' - it must have been that last beer we had!   It was another start to a week so we needed to get our laundry done, but feeling like we were on vacation we decided to splash out and pay for a "wash & fold" service whilst we continued to enjoy ourselves by the shoreline.   

Michael offered to show us around the area, much of which he grew up in. Once again we jumped into the slow-to-accelerate but ever so trusty and well driven 4-Cylinder SUV! And headed for Asbury Park which included a stunning cruise up the New Jersey coastline following 'Ocean Avenue' which is the road that runs right alongside the beach for miles and miles.

We had lunch, or was it 'brunch' at a restaurant along the board-walk and after much debate a "hair of the dog" beer, after which Michael and I felt much better! JG abstained, preferring the water to accompany his headache!  

Here we are after lunch - that's Michael in the middle flanked by those darn "Blighty-Boys."  In the background is the 'Asbury Park Boardwalk Convention Hall' a very famous concert venue for anyone "who's anyone in music" has played there. Like for instance, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, The Doors, KISS, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Bob Dylan, The Who, Van Halen, The Allman Brothers Band, The Clash and of course local boy Bruce Springsteen.....and many, many others.

The 'Stone Pony' (http://www.stoneponyonline.com/info/history.htmlalso in Asbury Park, just a short stroll down the Boardwalk is another distinguished live music venue and a career starting place for many young artists  at the time like 'Jon Bon Jovi' 'Bruce Springsteen' 'Blondie' 'Stevie Ray Vaughn' to name a few.  But for 'One Night Only' they could have booked The Blighty-Boys, but no one was home when we called!

As the sun was going down it was time to collect our laundry and head to another notable Sea Girt establishment - the 'Parker House' (http://www.parkerhousenj.com) which had been a house of fine food, wine, cocktails and beer for over 137 years situated just off the beach.  The atmosphere was great because another World-Cup football match was being played on the large flat screens.  The bar was packed, standing room only, as we enjoyed several well made margarita's and cheered on the Germany vs. Algeria game.

After all the excitement of the 'Parker House' it was time to go eat.  Michael drove us over to Klein's Waterside Cafe (http://www.kleinsfish.com) for some very fresh local seafood.

Great restaurant to watch the sun setting.

More margarita's just to keep the vacation vibe going!

Not sure who the singer/guitar player was but he was doing some great Springsteen covers.

After dinner we headed to another bar to meet up with Michael's college friend Paul.  It was late as we ordered our drinks and the bar was soon to close but being America "take out" for our Rum was an option, although I think could have been technically illegal......but hey at that point we didn't care!

What a great day we had, and an ever better evening thanks to the friendship and generosity of Michael & Paul - thanks guys!  Top blokes you are.

Monday 11 August 2014

Sunday 29th June 2014 - Let's Head For The Beach

After being on the road for 3 months, riding our motorcycles in all weathers, but let's face it, mostly beautiful sunshine, a man needs a vacation!

Time for us "Blighty-Boys" to head for the beach thanks to my dear friend Michael, and his college buddy Paul.  Paul has a holiday home in the town of Sea Girt, right next to the Jersey shoreline and had very generously invited us all to come and stay.

After early morning coffee with Michael by the Hudson River next to his Manhattan apartment we set off to park our motorcycles in a secure city car park for the sum of $100 each for just two days "welcome to NYC" I hear you say! Before jumping into Mikes car and heading for Sea Girt, New Jersey

The drive down from Manhattan took about an hour and a half.  It felt really strange being in a car and mixing it up with all the morning traffic as we battled our way out of the city in Michaels 4-cylinder SUV with the regular cry from him of "I gotta f***ing merge, I need 6 cylinders to merge, 4 'aint cutting it! I should never have bought this f***king car!!!  

Pulling into Sea Girt we stopped for supplies - cases of beer, and a magnum of vodka for the cranberry and soda vodka cocktails we would take to the beach in plain plastic bottles, so it looked just like fruit juice!  Apparently you can't drink alcohol on the beach in Sea Girt.  For a minute there JG and I thought we were back in California.

But before the beach we needed lunch and Michael knew just the place to go - 'Rods Tavern' - what a wonderful place and to top it all, it served ice cold 'Stella Artois' beer!

Entrance to Rod's after finding a "Rock Star" parking slot right outside

Paul's holiday home. Just a 2 minute stroll to the beach.  What a wonderful welcoming place.  Note the 4-Cylinder SUV recovering in the sun after the 'thrashing' Michael gave it on the drive down!

'Sea Girt' beach just calling you to it.  I couldn't quite believe that within hours of arriving we all found ourselves swimming in the sea - I mean that's the Atlantic Ocean!  Surprisingly it was warm and the waves were great fun to be jumping and splashing around in.

That night we enjoyed endless beers and great conversation at Paul's house along with his girlfriend Rachel who both prepared and cooked for us a "banquet" of a BBQ, such kind people. 

You may have been wondering why the 'radio silence?'

Hello 'Friends' - well it's been way too long since I last posted on our Blog.

Sadly I have had good reason.  

Just two days prior returning home to England after our epic, and literally 'life changing' tour of America I received a call from my brother whilst in my hotel room in New York City to say that our Father had passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on the 5th July - he was 78 years old.  He had died peacefully at home in his favourite armchair with a glass of red wine in his hands watching a World-Cup soccer match.  He loved football more than any other sport.   What a way to go eh!

My Dad was a daily devoted reader of our Blog and never missed a post and by all accounts it bought him great pleasure to see his youngest child realising a life's dream.  His last comment via my FaceBook  page was on the 2nd of July, it simply read "You've done it son, well done to everybody."   It has been a great comfort to me to know that he watched and read in detail the three months of our adventure across possibly the most beautiful country on the planet; A country he never got round to visiting even though he travelled extensively throughout Europe.  My Dad was many things, but above all he was a man of service to his community, including becoming the Mayor of his home town during his 56 years in public service roles.  What an example he set, and a challenge he leaves his four children.

Like my 13,000 mile ride across America he will never be forgotten.

Now the time is right to finish off our Blog.  Standby for the final few postings!

Monday 7 July 2014

After a week off relaxing in New York City - Blogging Commences Once More

Hi folks, just seven days ago 'The Blighty-Boys' rode into the Upper West Side of New York City On Sunday 29th June after a 25 mile cruise down from Nyack by the Hudson River, and a spectacular ride across the George Washington Bridge.  Here we are arriving at my friends apartment after 13,000 miles, 29 States and a collection of the most fantastic memories anyone would ever ask for in one lifetime - WOW!  What a ride.

We had taken a break from blogging whilst here New York re-uniting with family and friends but also because the hotel internet service is the worst we have experienced in all our travels!  Something we didn't expect in the 'capital city of the world.'  It is so intermittent that just one photograph takes 5-10 minutes to get loaded into Blogger…..!!  Arrrrrrh….very frustrating.

Anyhow once we are back to normal service we intend to close out the Blog with several final posts.  Stay tuned for the finale.

Sunday 29 June 2014

Is "The Big Apple" Ready for "The Blighty-Boys?"

It's 9:45pm on the eve of almost the official end to our 'TransAmerica 2014 Motorcycle Adventure.'  We still need to drop the bikes at the 'shippers' in a couple of days time.   

We are full of some incredible memories and very strong emotions this evening, some mixed up right now (possibly the effect of the beer and red wine, haven't started on the rum yet!).  However before we 'sign-off' there will still be a few more posts starting with our ride into Manhattan early tomorrow morning.  We plan to get up at 5:30am, leave at 6:15am and be cruising across the George Washington Bridge by 7am to meet my dear friend Michael for breakfast.

What a town…. I adore it!  For Jon it will be his first time in NYC.

Our new member of 'staff' "Ringo" has slipped very naturally into the role of the Blighty-Boys lead mascot.  Taking in the 'rays' as we departed Gettysburg this morning.

Nyack on a budget.  Our room tonight at the "Best Wifi" a.k.a Best Western before we enjoy the luxury of mid-town NYC.

Our morning ride hugging the Hudson river, just 25 miles before we become lost in the 'capital city of the world'

Saturday 28 June 2014

Our Last Longish Ride - Saturday 28th June

We are heading out of Gettysburg this morning on our penultimate ride up towards New York City.  It's our last long one, some 230 miles to Nyack on the Hudson River, sad in lots of ways, but exciting too.  Here is our run.

15,000 Page Views - Thank You!

Yesterday 'The Blighty-Boys Blog' clocked up just over 15,000 Page Views since our journey across American began.  Thank you for your interest and your comments and support it does mean a great deal to us.

To celebrate, we went to a real pub in downtown Gettysburg.  It even looks like the pubs back home with the benches out the front, and we enjoyed a cold refreshing beer.  Happy days!

Gettysburg, PA - what a monumental piece of American History

Yesterday, Friday 27th June we visited the Gettysburg National Military Park, Museum and Visitor Centre.  (http://www.nps.gov/gett/index.htm).  Gettysburg was on our most important list of places to go.  We knew of the American Civil War battles that took place here and we had read Presidents Lincoln's famous "Gettysburg Address."  What we didn't quite appreciate was the scale of the fight between the Union and Confederate armies and the fundamental importance of the outcome and how it chanced the Civil War and the entire history of America to this very day. 

The Park is huge covering nearly 6000 acres of battlefields and is populated with some 1,350 monuments markers and memorials to the brave men that fought and lost their lives here on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd July 1863.  The park is visited by more than 1.8 million visitors per year.  We started in the visitor centre and for $36 we each got to view a 25 minute movie inside a proper cinema explaining in detail the history leading up to, and the breakout of civil war and subsequent battles that took place in Gettysburg.  Following the movie we got to view the "Gettysburg Cyclorama."  The cyclorama is a 360-degree oil on canvas painting measuring 377 feet long and 42 feet high that depicts the most critical battle at Gettysburg, the battle of "Picketts Charge."  It was painted by Paul Dominique Philippoteaux and completed in 1884.

Our entrance ticket also included access to the Museum, which is excellent and a 2 hour plus narrated bus tour around all the key points of the battles fields.  This was really very interesting and on it's own worth the $36.

Here are some photographs of the Gettysburg Cyclorama.  

You can't imagine the horror and the sounds and smells of being in land battle like this.  The Union Army of some 94,000 soldiers and the Confederate Army of some 72,000 soldiers clash in Gettysburg.  Nearly 10,000 soldiers were killed in just 3 days and countless wounded and captured as prisoners of war.

After viewing the Cyclorama we proceeded to our bus tour.

Our Tour Guide was first-rate and had a very detailed and passionate understanding of the history of Gettysburg and brought wonderfully to life for us the full story for us.  He delivery and knowledge were fascinating.

This is the "Eternal Light Peace Memorial" standing prominent in the park overlooking the battlefields.  It is made from Maine Granite (the Union, the North) and Alabama Limstone (the Confederates, the South) and signifies the country once again coming together and being whole.

This is "The Flame of Eternal Peace"

This is "Little Top" looking down into "Devils Den" it was held by the Union Armies during the 3 day battles and Confederates "The Rebels" made several unsuccessful attempts to capture it.  

Looking out over "Little Top."  There are original canons all over the park placed in the positions they were pointing during the Gettysburg battles. 

This part of the battlefield is called "The Angle" it was the scene of utter devastation for the Confederates as they executed what became known as "Pickett's Charge" during the 3rd and final day of battle at Gettysburg.

This is what the 'carnage' would have looked like with thousands of Confederate Soldiers trying to break through the Union's middle ranks, but they failed.  These photo's were taken from the 360 degree Cyclorama Oil Painting

The Gettysburg Address was a speech by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, and is one of the best-known in American history.  It is well worth a read. 

It was delivered by Lincoln during the American Civil War, on the afternoon of Thursday, November 19, 1863, at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, four and a half months after the Union armies defeated those of the Confederacy at the Battle of Gettysburg.

The Civil War was the central event in America's historical consciousness. While the Revolution of 1776-1783 created the United States and independence from British Rule, the Civil War of 1861-1865 determined what kind of nation American would be. 

The war resolved two fundamental questions left unresolved by the revolution: whether the United States was to be a dissolvable confederation of sovereign states or an indivisible nation with a sovereign national government; and whether this nation, born of a declaration that all men were created with an equal right to liberty, would continue to exist as the largest slaveholding country in the world.

What happened in Gettysburg on those first three days in July 1863 ultimately lead to the United States of America that we know today.

Friday 27 June 2014

"Ringo" (a.k.a 'Johnny Ringo') Joins Our Touring Gang

For those of you that have followed our blog from very early stages of this road-trip, you'll remember that we travelled with our faithful mascot "Malcom The Mouse."  

Malcom had 'served' alongside of us for many, many years all over the UK and Europe until  he decided to 'dessert' us in Oklahoma City. 

See below - we put out a "Wanted Poster" for him, but nobody came forward to claim the bounty, forget the $100 bucks, it was the Free Rum that we hoped would motivate them! 

Well that is all history now……Malcom The Mouse…..Who?  Never heard of him!  We have finally managed to "press-gang" a new recruit into joining the travelling circus that is "The Blighty-Boys"

Ladies & Gentlemen, Boys & Girls……we give you………. "Ringo"

Thursday 26 June 2014

Harley Davidson Factory Tour - York Pennsylvania

On Wednesday 25th June we visited the Harley Davidson, York, PA manufacturing plant.  The significance for us was it was where our two 'touring' bikes were made.    

What an amazing experience it was too.  To give you a feel for the place, take a few minutes to view the official Harley YouTube video below about the York Plant, or click on this link - (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ThjYcG9H3Ys&feature=kp).

We had booked ourselves on the 'Steel Toe Tour' which as the clue suggest you had to where steel toe-capped boots and high-viz jackets, plus safety goggles in order to be allowed escorted access to all the key manufacturing areas of the plant covering fuel tanks, frames, fenders and the full motorcycle assembly lines, final stage testing, and packing & shipping areas.  Our hosts were 'Ron & Don' a customer service double act, that were retired, but had spent their entire careers in manufacturing companies, but not Harley Davidson.  Unfortunately NO PHOTOGRAPHY was allowed within the factory.  Given we were close to the new launch of their 2015 Models (August) - still yet to be announced, no doubt much 'top secret' work was going on at the plant to at least build the models to be used in their Press Launches and Advertising Videos.

The "Home Coming" for 'B1GD0GH0G' and 'HOBO-LULU' at the entrance to the plant.

The factory, which doesn't look big but in 2013 they produced more than 260,000 Harley Davidson's from this plant.

In 2014 this plant also makes the 'CVO Breakout' model which I am very lucky to have one waiting for me at home.  It took 16 months from order to arrive and frustratingly did so eight days before I left for this tour!  She's in my garage, with only 90 miles on the clock just waiting to get out and enjoy the English summertime with me  - let's hope there is some summer left by the time I get back.

This was a wall display that allowed you to build your own bike and choose the colours from the production line choices by applying magnetic cut-outs to the basic frame .  Jon chose to build his model, with the exact paint colour scheme he has in about 45 seconds.

Just outside the 'Tour Centre' entrance.  This is where our bikes were 'born' their frames were stamped with their unique VIN numbers in this very building and assembled here in 2011 and 2012 - Jon thinks his was made on a Friday afternoon in 2012 given some of the small, but annoying issues he has had with it!

Tuesday 24 June 2014

Two Weeks Left….and much to do still, time to leave New Hope

Just two weeks today we will be touching down at London's Heathrow Airport.  But first there is much more fun to be had in this beautiful country and some interesting places we've got to go, ending with our party with family and friends in the one and only "Big Apple." 

Today we are heading down to York, Pennsylvania to the Harley Davidson Factory where they manufacture their 'CVO' (Custom Vehicle Operations) bikes.  Our own bikes were produced here.  Mine in 2011 and Jon's in 2012. (http://www.harley-davidson.com/content/h-d/en_US/home/events/factory-tours/yorkpa.html).  We are booked on the 'Steel Toe Tour' where we shall gain insight first hand into the entire bike bike production at the plant.  Unfortunately I don't think they allow photography on the shop floors, which we can understand.

We have enjoyed our brief stay here in New Hope, a very pretty historic old town on the banks on the Delaware River.  I even went for a swim in the pool at the hotel, the first time in 10 weeks finally using those shorts and goggles I've been lugging around America.

The only disappointing thing about New Hope is there was no provision that we could find to park our bikes (free of charge of course!) We ended up having to use a meter, two for one though.

Through the years this historic town has had its share of French influence.

Even those nasty "limeys" were still taking pot shots at the town back in December 1776 from across the Delaware River.  This was a stunning house, and very old by American standards.

The Delaware River.  New Jersey on one side and Pennsylvania on the other.  Operationally disruptive for us bikers.  Helmet law enforced in one, but not the other.  We saw a number of bikers remove their 'lids' once they had come across the bridge.

We treated ourselves to a fabulous lunch at the 'Logan Inn' established in 1727- fresh Calamari followed by an enormous Greek salad with enough grilled chicken breast on it to feed a family of four.