I have a good friend. A dear friend. You’ve read about him before. Shuey. Here is his Flat Ruthie Adventure!
I have wanted to visit Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, PA, to see Phil the Groundhog predict the weather for a long time and this year things finally came together. I checked with Flat Ruthie and she was ready to go (as usual) and the weather prediction for the Punxy area looked . . . good!
Thursday, 31Jan13: 40% chance of . . . clear (not snow)
Friday, 1Feb13: 40% chance of clear
Saturday, 2Feb13 (Groundhog Day): 50% chance of clear
Sunday, 3Feb13: 60% chance of clear
Monday, 4Feb13: 70% chance of clear
So . . . UBB (my Honda ST1300 motorcycle) was gassed up and ready, let’s go!
(Here is where I am to insert the map of the route but it will not allow it, says I don’t have permission for this type of file- so here is a screen shot of it Ruth)
Departed Thursday afternoon in 58 sunny Florida degrees and headed North. Had a short first day and stopped for the night in Cleveland, TN, 26 degrees. Brrrr. FR was fine and snuggled up in her carrier.
We continued North on Friday and as we turned North on I-77 up through West By God Virginia (I have been corrected many times by friends living in WBGV as to it’s correct name) and finally crossed over into this year’s Winter Wonderland. The road was dry, clear and sunny with everything else we could see in stark white/black as if drawn with artists ink. Gorgeous
Since the roads were clear, I decided to take the shorter route from I-77 on US 19, crossing the New River Bridge and connecting up with I-79. Always a pretty ride.
Well, US 19 required a bit of attention as it had received 1-3 inches of new snow an hour or so before we got there. We followed vehicles in front of us, staying in their tire tracks and made it up to I-79 where the roads were again clear; no new snow. As temps continued to fall we made our way up to Indiana, PA, checking in about 9pm. Roads were clear.
So, it’s an early start on Saturday about 5:30 am and the temp in Indiana, PA . . . ZERO degrees! Campers, that’s cold! Heated gear and dry roads, off we go. Overcast and dark, we headed North. About 10 miles out it was easy to see where Gobblers Knob was from the fireworks shooting up into the distant sky. About 5 miles out we caught up to a few vehicles and followed along. We rode into town, traffic not bad, as festivities had gotten under way about 5 am. I’ve been there before during warmer weather and knew where to go, but quickly saw that roads were blocked by law enforcement. Traffic was being directed to parking areas where busses would shuttle revelers up to see Phil.
“Morning officer, yep, on a motorcycle and rode all the way up from Florida to see Phil make his prediction this morning. Any way I can maybe park a little closer to the event? I don’t think there will be a crush of other motorcycles coming in this morning. There’s always a little space somewhere that I can maybe squeeze into.”
Nothing but smiles and . . . “You are one crazy guy, sure. Go that way and turn right on Elderberry Rd and it’ll take you up to the Knob. There’s another road block up there and maybe they’ll let you through.” Next road block, I was allowed to park behind a police car about 50 yards from the entrance to Gobblers Knob! Perfect.
We entered the park area and asked the temperature at the Weather Channel van, -2 degrees on arrival. I’d ask again as we left and it had warmed up to +2 by then. Much better. We noted quickly that although Phil doesn’t come out to make his prediction until 7:20 am, people were lined up 3 abreast to get back on the shuttle buses and back to town, their cars and shops with HEAT. Later televised reports I saw estimated 30,000 people attended the event; well, they were definitely not all there Saturday morning when Phil arrived!
Saturday, February 2nd, 2013, 7:20 am – showtime!
Phil came out of his “den” precisely as scheduled, whispered his Winter prediction into the ear of the President of his “Inner Circle.” The President is the only one who has the gift of understanding Groundhogeeze. A moment later, this year’s proclamation was read announcing that Punxsutawney Phil, the only true weather forecasting groundhog, the Seer of Seers, the Prognosticator of Prognosticators did NOT see his shadow thus predicting an early end to winter!
FR with one of Phil’s relatives and it’s handler.
OK, saw Phil, time to get back on the bike, plug in (ooh, ahhh) and head on up North for lunch. I think we’ll go to Clarion, PA, for a sub sandwich at Bob’s Sub and Sandwich Shop. Why there you might ask? Because these subs are the best in North America!
We rode North to Brookville and got on I-80 heading West. Roads were clear and dry, nice riding . . . no bugs. LOL As soon as we got on the Interstate however snow flurries began to appear. By the time we were approaching Clarion they were bigger, more numerous and starting to stick. We probably should just keep going and get out of the storms path by heading down to Pittsburgh. Maybe, but . . . this close to Bob’s? If roads get bad, I’ll just check into a hotel and enjoy a good book.
OK, local roads are marginal, but made it into town. Arrived about 9 am and . . . they don’t open until 10 am. However, someone was working inside and motioned me in.
Turns out he’s the owner. He not only let me wait inside to stay warm but after hearing my story about riding up from Florida in the frigid cold, snowy and icy roads, he made me an early bird free sub saying the story was well worth the price of the sub!
After that it was a quick “good by,” brushed the snow off the bike, which had continued falling. I carefully made my way back to the Interstate then followed in the tracks of semi-trucks as the snow accumulated. The snow abated somewhat as I headed South on I-79 to overnight in Cranberry Township. The worst part was getting from the cleared city roads across the hotel’s uncleared parking lot to their entrance way. Made it.
My friend Ruth, who I had planned on having dinner with in Pittsburgh Saturday night, drove up to have dinner with me when I decided the roads might be to dangerous for me to ride back from Pittsburgh. What a treat.
In the morning, after a night of continued snow fall, I had to shovel a path out of the hotel parking lot to even have a chance at getting to the city road which had been cleared. Snow shoveling . . . yuck.
“Yins” can have it!
Brushed the snow off the bike, FR and I loaded up and carefully, feet splayed out to hopefully keep us upright if needed . . . got out, no problem.
On to Pittsburgh to attend my friend Ruth Henderson’s Photography Show Opening reception at the Undercroft Art Gallery. It was wonderful to visit with Ruth, Steve and her many friends as well as meet some new people unfamiliar with her work. Flat Ruthie also enjoyed the moment sharing space with her creator and model!
After to short a visit at the art show, we were off again and headed to Cincinnati to watch the Superbowl with family (FR had a good night as Baltimore won). The next morning we continued South back to Florida with two significant stops for Flat Ruthie.
The first was near Berea, KY, at the Kentucky Artisan Center. It’s right off of I-75. It’s a great short stop to stretch, use the very clean facilities, learn something about Appalachian art and maybe something will catch our eye and follow you home. The cafe was nice with lite fairand something refreshing to drink. Once we left Berea, the roads were clear all the way to Florida.
The second stop, near Chattanooga, TN, which anyone who has travelled through the area has seen signs for, was . . . Ruby Falls.
This sign, picturing the falls, was worth a quick pic stop on the way up Lookout Mountain to the Entrance building. From the Entrance, the view of Chattanooga is stunning.
An uneventful ride back to Florida finishes out the 2,382 mile trip. Challenging, exciting, beautiful and good friends. What could be better?
So, where to next?