Jonathan and I have been friends since childhood. This summer he bought a gorgeous 1983 BMW R100R. The bike was owned for years by Arthur Einstein. Arthur is an old friend, fellow American Flyer, and father of Nick Einstein (one of my oldest friends who I rode my motorcycle across America with in 2004—the road blogs from our journey are here). Arthur is a Turtle Garage subscriber and has been mentioned and featured in prior posts on the pages of this blog.
After Jonathan bought Arthur’s R100 in June, we both toyed with the idea of taking his “new” BMW on a maiden voyage. Over dinner in August we opened up our calendars and decided to book an overnight motorcycle trip to an unknown destination. We set a firm date in late September and contemplated a unique destination that was close enough to home but far enough away for an overnight trip.
We ultimately settled on Cooperstown because its simply a great place to visit. The idyllic upstate New York town is a three-hour ride from my farm in Connecticut. The route to Cooperstown is dominated by fabulous curvy backroads with good pavement—perfect for motorcycles!. It’s a beautiful town that is situated west of Albany and is the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. On top of all this, Cooperstown is the home of a great friend of mine whose family has lived there for generations.
Nothing in life prepares us for losing a parent. For me personally, the death of my father Max in 2007 was the single most impactful event in my life. Last week Jonathan lost his 84-year old-father. Coincidentally, my dad’s 84th birthday was also last week. Our timing for this pre-planned ride turned out to be fortuitous for both of us. After all the sadness, sorrow and stress of losing his father, Jonathan needed some time away. A leisurely overnight motorcycle ride to a great destination was just the antidote. Given my dad’s recent birthday, I spent mile after mile reminiscing about Max. Over dinner we talked about how lucky we both were to have such loving and caring fathers.
I chose to ride my 1992 BMW K100RS. Back in the day this machine was a technological tour de force. Even by today’s standards it’s still fast, powerful, and advanced. It has a four-cylinder sixteen valve engine with anti-lock brakes. It has BMW’s innovate Paralever rear driveshaft which is ingeniously counterbalanced to correct “shaft jacking” under hard acceleration. Shaft jacking is a phenomenon that only occurs in older shaft-driven motorcycles. Upon acceleration the rear wheel experiences a reactive force that causes the bike to pull upward and to the side. This is why historically there has been a very noticeable difference between riding a shaft-driven motorcycle and conventional chain-driven machine. The groundbreaking BMW Paralever technology eliminates shaft jacking.
A week before the trip I took the K100 for its annual New York State inspection. I did not notice but the tires were worn and needed to be replaced. At the last minute I hastily had Max BMW of Danbury do a full service on the bike. They checked the oil, transmission, coolant, and final drive fluids. They also installed a set of new premium Michelin tires. I am very grateful to the team at Max BMW for helping get the K100 sorted out on such short notice.
Before we departed I picked up the K100 at Max BMW and drove over to Tator’s Garage to get it inspected. It was a tight timetable, but I managed to pick up the bike at noon and get it inspected in time to depart at 2:30. Jonathan met me at Tator’s Garage. Tator’s is an amazing place and worthy of its own future blog post. Located in South Salem New York it was founded by George Tator in 1908 and was one of the first Dodge Brother’s dealerships in the United States. Prior to the financial crisis in 2008, Tator’s Dodge was a low volume (but high service) new car dealer. Sadly, Tator’s was shut down as an authorized Dodge dealer when the government intervened in Detroit’s problems and determined the GM and Chrysler had too many dealerships. It’s now in its third generation of family stewardship. Chuck Tator is a true American patriot and has re-invented the family business since 2008. He is now considered the de facto worldwide expert in servicing the burgeoning Dodge Viper market.
We left Tator’s Garage around 2:30 and headed up Route 22. From there we got on Route 55 and took the Taconic State Parkway north to the Rip Van Winkle Bridge. After the bridge we rode the beautiful twisty roads to Cooperstown. The benefits of a weekday trip is there was no traffic and the roads were quiet. The leaves were just starting to turn and the evening temperature had a slight but comfortable bite. As we got closer to Cooperstown I had to activate the heated handlebars. Our timing was perfect and we arrived at at the Otesaga Hotel at sunset. We were greeted by a happy and helpful staff. We unloaded the bikes and checked in. The valet advised us that we had to park our own vehicles as he understandably was not comfortable moving our motorcycles. We swiftly ordered vodka martinis and (still in riding gear) parked ourselves in two rocking chairs overlooking the beautiful Otsego Lake. During the Hall of Fame week these same rocking chairs are full of the nations finest and most famous baseball players.
After a martini we got cleaned up for dinner and enjoyed a fabulous meal. Like the tractor beam of the Death Star in Star Wars, we were eventually drawn to the Otesaga’s fabulous outdoor fire pit. Every hotel, resort, and home should have one of these beauties installed! The fire pit is a circular bar with a raging fire in the middle. We subsequently learned that hotel management has, on multiple occasions, had to deal with intoxicated guests removing their shoes and attempting hot coal fire walking! The heat from the fire provided just enough warmth to offset the late September chill. At the fire pit we met up with a large group that was staying at the hotel for a conference. The group happened to all work for a leading beverage distributor. They asked us if we liked luxury champagne and an evening of many bottles of Veuve Clicquot ensued. Needless to say, it was a very very very late night!
We woke up and had a great breakfast at the hotel restaurant. At 8:30 my friend from Cooperstown picked us up on her fabulous lake boat and gave us a tour around Otsego Lake. We then toured the Baseball Hall of Fame followed by a visit to the Fenimore Museum. I saw Tom Seaver’s Hall of Fame plaque and sent the family a photo of me standing next to it. The Fenimore Museum has one of the most comprehensive collections of American Indian art anywhere. There is so much to see and do in Cooperstown that you really need more than one day to take it all in. It’s also just a great place to go and relax. The Otesaga Hotel is meticulously maintained and has all the amenities including a pool, golf course, lake, and spa. Cooperstown is a great place to vacation and visit year after year.
We loaded up the bikes and got some fuel. We headed south for the three and half hour ride home. The bikes ran flawlessly and we “threaded the needle” and somehow missed a myriad of electrical storms that were heading up the East Coast. I was so impressed with how well the two-decade old K100 performed. The new Michelin tires gave the 24-year-old machine a whole new life and it now handles with a hightened sense of confidence and control. We arrived home by about 5:30. Even though it was a leisurely ride I was reminded how mentally and physically fatiguing riding a motorcycle can be when compared to simply driving a car. Motorcycles are demanding and you really have to pay attention every second. There is no margin of error on a motorcycle.
Our short overnight trip to Cooperstown was one for the record books. I’ll never forget it and we both agreed that it should become an annual event. We are already planning our Cooperstown ride for 2017. A tradition is born!