What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been…

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(Originally published in the October 2016 issue of BMW Owners News Magazine.)

Perched in the front seat and frozen in a trance, I peered through the large windshield and watched the lines on the pavement rapidly whir by in rhythm. I could hear the sound of the engine roar as the man driving laid his foot heavy onto the accelerator, along with the occasional ear-piercing wail of a siren. Although faint, I could also make out the voices of two more men riding in the rear of the vehicle calling out numbers to each other, along with the frantic beeping of machines that would heighten the pitch of their short, serious sentences. Squinting through the dark, I looked down and noticed the death grip I had on my tank bag which was perched in my lap, clutching it like it was my last possession in the world. Tank bag? In my lap? This surely was all just a bad dream. I closed my eyes tightly and prayed that when I opened them, I would be back in a bed in the curious little village of Woodstock, New York, with my husband snoring next to me. I wanted to wake up, throw down some coffee, slide into my riding gear, saddle up, and cruise down the road toward the next adventure.

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This particular journey started off with great promise. It was mid-July, and the first leg of the trip was Hamburg, New York, where Das Rally and good friends were number one on my agenda. My husband and I arrived on “rally Wednesday” and enjoyed four excellent days of socializing, volunteering, vendors and seminars, coupled with four nights of camping, fantastic music and a rocking beer garden where I enjoyed meeting so many of you, my fellow BMW MOA members. I must admit, one of my most favorite activities in this world of long-distance travel are the rallies – especially our annual BMW MOA International Rally. My very first was in 2006 in Essex, Vermont, where I was a wide-eyed pillion on my first long-distance ride. It was a magical affair for me then, so it’s no wonder I still feel like a child on Christmas morning upon arrival, each and every July. The Sunday morning of Das Rally, after many hugs and “farewells” to so many friends, we loaded up and hit the road with an agenda full of adventure.

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Following two nice overnight visits with friends in upstate New York and then Montreal, Quebec, it was time to get on with the next item on my list. I needed to fill in some blanks on my “U.S. Brag Map,” and several states along the Eastern Seaboard were in the crosshairs of my target…seven, to be exact. Following a lovely scenic drive-by of Vermont, the first planned destination was Glen, New Hampshire in the White Mountains. The landing pad for that night was at the Bernerhof Inn Bed & Breakfast. Great place! Also, the owner just happens to be a motorcyclist, and has added quite a few nice amenities for fellow riders. I especially loved the large jacuzzi tub in my room, and as a special bonus from “Steve” the owner, the ice bucket which was delivered to our room also contained a nice little bottle of whiskey. There’s nothing like a relaxing bubble bath and stiff drink at the end of a long day of riding (www.BernerhofInn.com). After a fantastic breakfast in the morning, next was a lucrative shopping trip to White Horse Gear in neighboring North Conway, NH, and then destination MAINE!

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I’m not really sure why, but all of my life, I’ve wanted to visit Bar Harbor, Maine. I was born and raised in Utah, and am used to breathtaking scenery, but something has always stirred my soul when I see photos of coastal Maine, especially the shores of Acadia National Park. As we rode onto the island of Bar Harbor, I was absolutely ecstatic, complete with tears in my eyes, that I was finally in a place I had only previously dreamed about. It was all I had expected and more. Acadia, with its glacier-scoured granite peaks and thunderous waves slapping against the enormous rocks lining its jagged shoreline, accompanied with the heavy scent of balsam fir trees, transported my soul to a total state of nirvana. I instantly fell head over heels in love. How was I so lucky as to be riding a motorcycle along such a glorious path of heaven? It was truly amazing!

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The village of Bar Harbor did not disappoint either. I had planned two nights of the itinerary at the Black Friar Inn in the village. It was another great pick for this two-wheeled adventure (www.BlackFriarInn.com).

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“Friar Tom,” the owner of this European-style inn, was very accommodating and ran a very casual, quaint and super fun place. The room was comfy and relaxing, and the tiny pub and restaurant downstairs served amazing eats and drinks. As an added bonus, the Black Friar Inn is very centrally located to the charming village of Bar Harbor, and just a quick walk down the street is a sand bar which is exposed at low tide and allows for a stroll over to the uninhabited Bar Island. I did that too, and experienced another soul-stirring moment during sunset while perched atop a large, ancient piece of driftwood. I look back and believe in my heart that those heavenly moments were my “calm before the storm,” and I’m very thankful for them, as the storm to come was very unkind.

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My departure from coastal Maine was tough…it was like saying “goodbye” to a soulmate. There were tears again, but they were wistful this time. It was time to begin the descent southward and explore the coastline of Massachusetts for the next couple of days. As we trickled through sweet, little villages along the rocky coast that day coming out of Maine, the temperature rose steadily as if it was running a race with the trip meter. Upon arrival into Sandwich, Massachusetts, at the Sandwich Inn (another fantastic, motorcycle-friendly inn with nice amenities – www.InnatSandwich.com), it was close to unbearable outside.

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Following check-in and a hydration and cooling session, we set out to ride to the tip of Massachusetts where the Pilgrims first landed in Provincetown (or “P-Town” as the locals refer to it). After a few photos at the Cape Cod National Seashore, we cruised through the crowded, colorful streets of “P-Town” and became convinced that our tired, overheated bodies and motorcycles needed some downtime. We spent the next two days on foot exploring the sights and scenery of Sandwich, established in 1637, as I had hit a “wall” during this segment of the trip with a nasty sinus bug, so wasn’t feeling quite as travel-hungry as normal. It was my first time on the road with an “ailment,” but I wasn’t about to call it quits. I did rearrange our itinerary a bit to take advantage of more relaxing and a less tight schedule. I had to forego a couple of fun side trips hanging in the wings, but little did I know how important that itinerary change would be in the end.

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After a departure out of Sandwich, Massachusetts that Monday morning, I was excited to collect my trophies of Rhode Island and Connecticut for my brag map, which I did within the first few hours on the road. The day was super hot, and after several arguments with the Garmin which wanted to take us straight through the streets of bustling cities, we decided to chug it northeast to get out of the traffic. At our lunch stop that afternoon, I had an epiphany for accommodations that evening – why not get out of the heat and stop a little early that Monday to pay a visit to Woodstock, New York? How cool would that be? Little did I know how that decision would literally be an epiphany.

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We arrived late afternoon and checked into the super hip White Dove Rockotel (theWhiteDoveRockotel.com). This inn was one cool little joint. All the rooms were very tastefully decorated in themes of famous bands/entertainers from the famous “Woodstock” of 1969. We booked the “Garden Room” which celebrated Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. All rooms are stocked with turn-tables and vintage vinyl, so after unpacking the bikes, taking a bubble bath in an antique clawfoot tub, ordering a New York-style pizza for delivery and getting settled, I morphed from Fashionista to D.J..

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We were having a large time enjoying the ambience of Woodstock, and I was feeling quite satisfied with our spontaneous detour. The experience was groovy and as full of “love, peace and happiness” as you could get…and then in the blink of an eye, it was dark and I was sitting in a trance peering out the large windshield, praying I was having a nightmare and would wake up soon. Sadly, it was all real. I was riding in the passenger’s seat of an ambulance while the men in the back of the unit were working hard to keep my husband alive. Right there in that fantastically quirky room in Woodstock, where we were singing along to our favorite oldies and enjoying downtime together, my husband had a heart attack.

My memory of that fateful evening is still spotty at times, although I’ll never forget the 40-mile ambulance ride to Poughkeepsie, New York, where they were able to insert two stents into my husband’s blocked artery and eventually send us on our way back to South Carolina. There were many details in between that had to be attended to like getting our luggage, gear, bikes and ourselves back home. We got by with a lot of help from our friends. And everyone we came in contact with all along the way were so kind. As the saying goes, and to now I can attest, “life changes in an instant.” I have been grateful in every way that my trusty sidekick/hubby/mechanic/photographer is still here and is thriving after that horrific scare in Woodstock. For days after, we thought through all of the “what-ifs,” and the scariest one by far – what if we had been riding when this happened? I truly believe my epiphany earlier that Monday was certainly some sort of intuitive revelation, and we are very fortunate that we acted upon it. Time has passed, and we laugh about it now – I guess crazy things happen in Woodstock, but, oh “What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been.” 💋

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About the author

Debbie Gasque
Debbie Gasque

My name is Deb...I get extreme enjoyment out of music, am a big-hearted Idealist, possess a huge passion for fashion…and just in the last eight years, have built a life around long-distance motorcycling.

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