The McCrary Family Reunion - June 27th, 2009

From the very start of this blog I have striven to keep it motorcycle related in content.  Initially I had planned on doing two blogs, this one and another that would be more personal or family related.  The truth is though that it has been more difficult and time consuming to do this one than I had imagined so starting a second one just hasn't happened.  Yet.  ;)  This entry will stray away from the motorcycle only content so that I can share what turned out to be a very special visit with my family.

The whole fam Damily, well those that could make it anyway...

For a better look at the reunion and the family in general you can visit a Facebook page entitled "McCrary Family Reunion!" that my cousin Megan started. It can be accessed here: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/group.php?gid=191097169748&ref=mf .  There are a lot of photos along with some dialog that will make most people wonder about the sanity of some of our family members. You have to be a member of facebook to access it and please be forewarned, I have some crazy girl cousins (whom I love dearly and am scared silly of...) that are quite a handful.

The remaining grandchildren of Charles Maddox & Sarah Branan McCrary.

Over the winter months Bryan and I had decided that 2009 would be the year that we tried to become members of the famous (infamous?) Iron butt Association (  http://www.ironbutt.com/ ).  In order to do this we would have to ride at least 1000 miles in a 24 hour period and have documentation as well as witness signatures that we had done so.  No small feat, and the only real thing you gain from doing this, outside of membership into the association and an official IBA number, are the bragging rights and a license plate frame that reads "Iron Butt Association" on the top and "Worlds Toughest Riders" along the bottom.  What can I say?  It's the challenge!

The remaining children of Joseph Beecher McCrary Sr.
"Sister Jane", "Junior", and Mary Jo.

We both are members of an Internet based organization called the "Motorcycle Tourers Forum" ( http://www.mctourer.com ). The MTF is a web site that is dedicated to the long distance rider and many of the members are IBA members. Each year the MTF organizes rides for those wanting to make an attempt at becoming part of the IBA at various locations across the country. Because the MTF and IBA work together to make this as seamless as possible for the riders Bryan and I both thought this would be the best way for us to try our hand at it. As luck would have it one was scheduled in Charlotte on June 27th.

"Three generations of McCrary men.  Is the world ready for it?"

As soon as we found out about it I made arrangements at work to be off that Saturday and the planning began!  We knew what the route was going to be so using Microsoft's Street and Trips program I started checking mileages to see where our proposed stopping points would be.  I wanted to know as much about the route as possible in order to be totally prepared!  This was going to be epic!

Bryan and his Granddaddy McCrary.

During the spring I got a call from Dad telling me that this was the year of the "big" McCrary family reunion held in Georgia every five years.  He told me that he was planning on making the trip and hoped that Julie, Bryan and I would be able to make it too.  I choked when he told me the date... June 27th.

What can I say?  Family comes first.  So we started making plans to be there.
 
Dad and his wife Eleanor.

There would actually be two reunions, the first on Saturday for the kids of my Granddaddy, Joseph Beecher McCrary Sr., and their families which would be held outside of Thomaston at the home and farm of my cousin Glenn Ward and his wife Danell.  Then on Sunday the big five year reunion would be held on a piece of property owned by "Buster" McCrary close to the old home place outside of Molena.

Cousin Glenn Ward and his wife Danell.

Since we wanted to be there both days we would need to leave on Friday and then return on Monday.  We tried to book a room for all three nights in Warm Springs close to where Dad and Eleanor would be staying but the hotel was booked Friday night.  However, Julie was able to get us a couple of rooms in Griffin using her hotel points.  So the plan was to leave as early Friday as we could, spend the first night in Griffin, then the rest of the week-end in Warm Springs.  That way we could hitch a ride with Dad and Eleanor back and forth to the reunions.  See, Bryan and I were determined to ride down even though it was going to be pushing it time wise to get there before dark, not to mention that this would be the last trip that Julie and I would be making on our beloved Nomad.   We had decided to trade it on another bike and it couldn't be ready before this trip, so this would be the Nomad's last ride with us.

Cousin Mark Ward, his son Zack and wife Lea

Taking the Interstates all the way it seemed possible to make it by dark, but where's the fun in that, right?  I came up with a route that was a combo of back roads and Interstates that according to my Street & Trips program would get us there a little after dark.  Go ahead, start laughing.  Because it sure didn't work out that way...

Cousin Patty Webb and her daughter Megan.

Due to a variety of reasons after lunch turned into 2:00 pm, then it seemed like we got behind a slow moving truck, car or tractor every time we turned around.  On top of that traffic was unusually heavy on the back roads, I don't think I got the Nomad higher than 4th gear from the house all the way down to Richburg, South Carolina where we stopped to eat... at 4:30 pm!!

 
Cousin Keith Huckaby.

At this point we had no choice but to abandon the back roads and head for the Interstates if we wanted to be in Georgia before the reunion ended, so when we got to I-77 we headed south not letting any grass grow underneath us as we went.  After a stop for fuel just north of Columbia we went east bound on I-20 still flying low trying to make up time. 

Cousin Jim (Butch) Greathouse and his wife Susan.

Maybe it was knowing this was the last time I would be able to run the Nomad out, or maybe seeing those "I-20 west" signs was causing flashbacks to earlier in my life when I was an owner-operator trucker running to the west coast and back, could have been the way the highway gently rolled along the South Carolina and Georgia landscape and the general lack of traffic, whatever the reason, I began to make some serious time as we rode along.  The Nomad has always liked to stretch it's legs and just seems to want 80 mph, but I was seeing 90 and Bryan was still in my mirror.  Feeling a bit froggy I let the big Kawasaki eat, it climbed on up to 95, then 100 mph.  Bryan had better sense and didn't try to keep up, though he easily could have.  The sound of the bike at triple digit speeds was like music to my ears as my mind slipped into the zone and things began moving almost in slow motion.  I was in nirvana, truly enjoying life when all of sudden Julie screamed over the intercom "HAVE YOU LOST YOUR FRIGGING MIND FAT BOY?!?!" "SLOW THE HELL DOWN!!!"

*sigh*  Busted.  But at least not by the law.

Aunt Bobby Jo McCrary, cousin Ken, his sons Kenny and Kyle.

As darkness fell we exited I-20 at US 129 and stopped for fuel, to stretch and refresh ourselves.  From here it would be back roads into Griffin.  All of us were tired and weary, so we stayed a little longer than we probably should have.  But what the heck, we really needed the break.  We still had another 75 miles to go and it was going to be all on Georgia two lanes at night which meant easing along and going through one small town after another.  It was close to an hour and forty-five minutes before we got to the hotel, but who's counting, right?  We made it safe and sound and all in all it wasn't a bad ride.

Aunt Mary Jo Shealey and her merry band of troublemakers.

It was close to 10:00 pm when we got there, even though we were all hungry and thirsty none of us wanted to make the effort of going to a restaurant to eat.  Instead, we raided a vending machine and then sacked out for the night.  I know I slept like a baby...  The next morning we were slow to get going.  After breakfast we packed up the bikes and headed to Warm Springs.  It was a little over 40 miles through more Georgia back roads, by the time we got there and checked into the hotel Dad was chomping at the bit to get out to the reunion.  So we loaded up in their van and headed out to the farm.

Gathered around the fire pit shooting the breeze.

As usual there was more great food to eat than anyone really needed, Bryan and I did our parts trying to make sure the left overs were at a minimum. *burp*  Glenn and Danell's place is, in a word, spectacular.  It's nestled out in the middle of some truly beautiful Georgia farm land with hardly a neighbor to be found.  In fact at one point a car drove by on the road in front of the house and I heard Glenn say "There's getting to be too much traffic on this road, that's the second one today."

'Mirror mirror in my hand...'  cousin Kristi Shealey Adams primpin' .
She had a very... unique experience with Bryan when he was a baby...

After everyone got their bellies full we all gathered around the fire pit to visit and take pictures.  Jim, aka Butch has always been the official photographer of the reunions, this time was no exception.  He did have some technical problems though in that his trusty Nikon wouldn't power up.  Bryan offered the use of his Canon and Butch really had no choice, but let me tell you, the ribbing was on then!  Bryan stuck with him to assist while he took the posed photos and I took our other Canon in search of candid ones.  All in all I think they turned out great.  Maybe Butch should consider trading in that Nikon?

Uhhh, Kathy...  Oh never mind.  You'll figure it out.

As I mentioned earlier, Sunday was the 'big' reunion where the extended family as well as our immediate one all got together.  Again, there was more great food than could be eaten, but again Bryan and I did our best to make sure there wouldn't be a lot for folks to carry home afterward by sampling a little bit, OK, a lot of everything.  *burp*  It was heavenly...

"Hope y'all brought your appetites!"

I've always had mixed feelings when going to this reunion.  As a kid I hardly ever saw my aunts, uncles and first cousins, let alone this crowd, for the most part the only time I do see or talk to them is at the reunion.  But they're family and a genuinely nice bunch of folks that certainly don't seem to mind feeding me!  So for the most part I tried to be there for Dad and spend some more time visiting with my cousins.

"Y'all did say you were hungry, right?"

After leaving the reunion several of us went to Mary Jo and Sister Jane's house where we hung out, ate (I know, can you believe it?) and visited.  It was extremely nice and a special time for me.  But as these things go, all to soon it was over and we found ourselves back at the cabin Dad and Eleanor were staying at.  They planned on leaving very early Monday morning so we said our good byes that afternoon, then went back to the hotel for the night.

That watermelon doesn't stand a chance...

On Monday morning we got away about our normal time, which was hours earlier than when we left Friday.  That being the case what I had in mind was meandering our way up the back roads, taking in the sights and having an enjoyable ride.  This was after all the last ride on the Nomad, I was looking forward to doing what it does best.  Just wandering around.

'Mmmm... this is good!'

We took the long way from Warm Springs back to Thomaston, then rode out on Ga Hwy 36 through the booming metropolis of "The Rock, Georgia" (it really is a town) and on up to Ga Hwy 16 outside of Griffin.  now we would be back tracking on one of the roads we came in on, but this time it was during the day so we could see!  We stayed on 16 all the way into Sparta (remember the TV show "In the Heat of the Night"?) then went north on 15/77 into Siloam where we stopped for fuel at the intersection of I-20 and Hwy 77.  Now in my mind we were going to go on up Hwy 77, then work our way over to South Carolina on Hwy 44 and US 376.  But it wasn't to be.

'I mean real good!'

The slow wandering pace was eating up too much time and Bryan was wanting to get back home before too late in the day.  He wanted to get on the Interstate and get on to the house, suggesting that Julie and I go on through 'the woods' and enjoy ourselves.  But rule number one is to never separate, so I pointed the Nomad east bound on I-20 and put it in the wind.

'I'd offer to share, but I don't think there's enough.'

Once again we found ourselves running like the big trucks, hammer down on the super slab.  We stopped for lunch outside of Augusta and again for fuel just north of Columbia, South Carolina.  From there we didn't stop again until we got to the house.  After listening to the pipes on the Nomad drone on for so many hours on end my ears didn't stop ringing for days...

'Just one more bite...'

All things considered it was a good trip.  We were able to spend time with members of the family that we seldom get to.   I got to know my cousins a little better and hopefully we'll make an effort to stay in touch more so than in the past.  Several of us are now on facebook together so at the very least I get to read the posts from my girl cousins I mentioned before when they lovingly call each other "bitch".

'Maybe I ate too much...'

In a way I'm disappointed because the last trip on the Nomad was for the most part blasting down the Interstates, but as it did in every other situation we put it in, it performed flawlessly and with out so much as a hiccup the whole time.  On the other hand it was fitting that on our last ride it carried us many miles away to see loved ones and family.  It has done so many good things for us through the years and has been like a part of the family, so maybe this wasn't such a bad way for our time together to end.

So long old friend...


Bruce

Test riding an FJR - June 7th, 2009

Early in June a customer came to the dealership wanting to trade a 2007 FJR 1300 on a new personal watercraft.  He told the salesman that he loved the bike and hated to get rid of it, but he wasn't riding it and felt he and his family would get more use out of and have more fun with a PWC.  The bike had just over 13,000 miles on it, was loaded with options and had obviously been well taken care of.  The deal was done and the bike went on the floor, where I saw it and promptly fell in love with it.  It truly was love at first sight.

However, while I had been thinking for some time that I'd like to make the switch from cruiser to sport tourer to gain the performance and handling advantage they offer, Julie and I really hadn't found one that we were comfortable on.  A month or so prior I had brought home a 2008 Kawasaki C14 Concours sport touring bike for us to try out but neither of us really care for the bike.  And at the International Motorcycle show we went to in Greenville, SC we had both sat on several sport tourers including an FJR, and none of them really felt right.

The problem for us was two fold, on a cruiser the riding position is not unlike sitting in a recliner.  Your weight is mostly on your...ahhh, posterior, and your feet are in front of you.  A very relaxed feeling position.  Plus we had gone to great lengths to make sure Julie felt secure and comfortable (as she should) on the Nomad.  The big, plush backrest and armrests were just what the doctor ordered and what she was used to.  With a sport tourer the riding position is more upright with your feet below you.  This puts more weight and strain on the riders back and honestly reminded me of the way a dirt bike felt.  The passenger areas on these bikes is a tad more cramped due to the layout and the big thing was that none of the bikes we had sat on or rode had any type of rear passenger support which made Julie feel unsecured and uncomfortable.

From talking with owners of sport tourers I knew that we would eventually adjust to the different riding position.  Everyone I spoke with that had come from a cruiser to one said that after the adjustment period we would more than likely prefer it to the cruiser and I could see that being true.  I also knew that while passenger backrests aren't really the norm on sport touring machines there were all sorts of tour trunks available for them and thought that one of those would go a long way in making Julie feel better on one as well as being handy as heck to have.  But they are usually very expensive so you seldom see one on a new bike sitting on a sales floor, so it was difficult for us to try out.

Until the FJR showed up.  It had a color matched Yamaha accessory tour trunk already mounted.  Oh boy!

Bryan came home for with the FZ6 for that first week-end test ride, I thought he would want to go and honestly wanted is input and thoughts on it.  Julie and I started out on it that day with Bryan behind us on his bike.  We rode out US 64 and then up Hwy 601, we were looking for a place to eat called "The Depot" ( http://www.visitmayberry.com/templatelisting.aspx?ListingPage=%2fCody_Creek-The_Depot_Dobson_NC.aspx&PhotoPage=1 )  that had been highly recommended.  We found it and had lunch (it was great BTW).  As we were leaving I asked Bryan if he wanted to try it out, and of course he did, so he and Julie saddled up and took off up 601 while I followed on the FZ6.  They rode the bike into Mt Airy and then up US 52 into Virginia, stopping at a little gas station on the side of the road just before it starts climbing the mountain and getting twisty.  He told me he wanted me to ride it up this road because up until now we had just been on country roads and I really hadn't seen what the FJR could do.

I got back on the bike with my lovely wife and we started up the mountain, in no time at all we were in the twisties.  I had let Bryan lead as I always did on these types of roads because he and the FZ were so much smoother and quicker than Julie and I could be on the Nomad.  Initially he pulled away from us as I was still trying to get the feel for the bike, but it didn't take long for me to adjust somewhat and we began to reel him in.  Exiting the last turn before the Blue Ridge Parkway I felt confident, in control and was rolling on the throttle.  Looking down at the speedometer I saw it was displaying 80 mph, the most I could do on the Nomad and feel good about it was 60.  I remember muttering "daaaang" under my breath as I let off the throttle.

Another surprise came once on the BRP that day.  Because of the more sophisticated suspension the bike actually rode better and was smoother than the Nomad.  This bike was truly amazing.  The addition of the tour trunk also made a world of difference to Julie, not to mention the grab handles beside her seat.  She was much more confident and comfortable than on the C14 and said she really enjoyed the overall ride of the bike.

We ended up riding that bike a little over 300 miles that day.  We all loved it, but weren't sure how we'd could swing getting it.  All I could say was that I'll talk to Mike (my boss) and see what I can work out and we'll go from there.

Bruce