First, a few basics: this would be roughly a 160-mile round-trip, and while I wanted to keep things interesting (not just highway hooning), I wasn't necessarily avoiding the big slabs out of fear…in fact, I was relishing what would actually be my third run on the New Jersey Turnpike with Melody.
At this point, I'd already run the Garden State Parkway the better part of a dozen times, each successive time easier than the last. I was already confident that Mel could hang with the semis and semi-leadfoots with relative ease. But I knew what I was in for traveling into Philly, which is justly reviled for its scantly-maintained highways and boulevards, just from riding shotgun with Le Wife when visiting her older of two sons and his GF. Now, I was paying a visit to them solo, with a side-trip to RevZilla HQ and dropping in for the Philadelphia Bicycle Expo. At least, that was the plan.
A big part of that plan was hitting the road from Asbury no later than 10 AM, which included making sure Melody was all checked out and gassed-up the night before. That part happened, but somewhere in the wee hours I got an urgent message from Le Wife about a matter that ultimately was a non-matter, but did a number on my sleep. Suffice to say that I didn't hit the road till well after 11. Naturally, I was hoping for easy traffic that Saturday.
For my route, there seemed to be one simple rule: whatever I did, do not cross the Ben Franklin Bridge. The route to and from this bridge is notorious for being something of a Mad Max-like free-for-all, and this is just during the day, when you can actually see nearly everything that's coming at you. Since there wasn't a guarantee I'd get out of there before sundown, this was probably good advice. I took the route that brought me to the the Betsey Ross Bridge (I believe), straight off the NJ Turnpike, then down 95 into Philadelphia proper., where my first stop was RevZilla.
There's no doubt about it: upon approach, any major thoroughfare through Philadelphia is what you might call "character-building." The pavement is lousily maintained, but everyone drives fast regardless, and signage is largely worn-out and confusing at said speeds–I bought my Quad Lock smartphone mount partly in anticipation of this trip, as I recall Le Wife going nuts navigating with her phone on the dashboard, albeit with a lousy dash-mount. This actually worked beautifully heading into town by day, but I actually missed an exit while leaving at night; more on that shortly
RevZilla was a blast: no, I didn't run into Anthony, Lemmy, Spurge, or any of the other online luminaries there, but the crew I did meet were warm, helpful, and approachably hip. There were lots of moto-wear to try on, a lounge where you could grab coffee or tea, plus multiple overhead monitors showing events, races, and (naturally) various Zillans describing all sorts of gear. If you find yourself anywhere nearby, and have a little time to kill, you should definitely visit.
Heading back out into the parking lot, I looked at my watch: I decided to blow off the bike expo in favor of spending more time with eldest son-in-law, his GF and dog, while sorting out whether or not to dine out with them and chance a nighttime exit. Ultimately, I chose to live dangerously and head out to a very cool pizza joint (Clarkville, 4301 Baltimore Avenue: their "Danger Pizza" is magnificent), where we caught up on each other's lives over slices and a pitcher of seriously good Belgian-style Ale. We also joked about just how bad driving in Philly is: his GF had someone total her parked car a bit over a year ago just a block from their apartment, then run from the scene, leaving a hastily-written note on her windshield. (Made little sense to me at the time, and I'm an ex-New Yorker.)
Time passed, and before I knew it, I was saying my goodbyes and astride Melody a bit before 8:30 at night. Rode about five blocks to a Sunoco on Baltimore Avenue to fill up with Ultra 93 and checking Los Googles for route info. The ride out of Philly was rather eventful: lots of disabled vehicles along the way, one of which caught the driver of a Jeep Rubicon to the right of me off-guard, slamming on his brakes and veering into my lane. I shot ahead of him while prepping to brake to a mere foot from the number of an SUV in front of me. Thankfully, that was the only close call of the night, although dealing with those awful roads was a tad tiring. Unfortunately, right after that incident, I missed a, exit that in retrospect is damned easy to miss, even with Google at one's side; fortunately, Google got me back on track via a relatively straightforward (for Philly, anyway) loopback.
Once I was back on 95, things calmed down, and I dialed up my pace to about 70-75 for most of the way back, especially along the Turnpike, although I was also on-guard for that errant Deer With My Name On It…which was a concern, since there were periods where it seemed I had the Turnpike almost to myself. Melody handled the high(ish)-speed run very much in stride, my only issue being ever-so-slightly chilly in spite of having hauled out my thermal undies as a base layer for the first time since early March. Not shivering cold, but a tad less-comfy than I'd have liked for the 80+ mile run back home.
Overall, and in spite of some of the abovementioned mishaps, the ride was seriously fun. Getting Melody out on the superslabs a bit more proved she could handle the fast intercity thing (as if folks like Quezzie hadn't made the point already, and repeatedly), and simply whet my appetite for more of the same: I have a photo shoot in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn this Saturday, and given the vagaries of public transit around those parts, I'm likely to ride there directly–another somewhat-challenging ride, but this time on more-familiar ground.
Anybody up for a slightly-impromptu Brooklyn meet-up Saturday? If that doesn't work, I might try for the weekend after.
Getting There and Back: Yes, you CAN do that on a Vespa.
RevZilla Parking Lot: Admittedly a bit slow that early afternoon.
Inside RevZilla: Well, yes, impressive.
Melody, in Philly: Just watch those SEPTA streetcars.
Last edited by amateriat on Wed Nov 06, 2019 8:39 pm; edited 4 times in total