The Drummer, the Private Eye, and Me (Rush Fans Take Note)

What follows is a true story, involving Neil Peart, Michael Mosbach, and Yr Fthfl Srvnt. As most of you probably know, Neil is the drummer and lyricist for the progressive rock band Rush, and many experts consider him to be the best living drummer in the world. Michael is a private investigator from Los Angeles. He is also head of security whenever Rush is on tour, since Neil considers him to be the best P.I. in the world. As for me, well, I’m just the luckiest guy in the world. But let’s begin at the beginning…

An Aston Martin at the Battle of Cedar Creek

So what is the best way to check out a newly acquired 2007 Aston Martin V8 Vantage? In the immortal words of Otter from Animal House, “Road trip!” Accordingly, in early May I set off to do two of my most favorite things: go for an exciting drive, and look for historic, scenic, and otherwise-interesting places in the Mid-Atlantic area.

Everyone knows the Civil War battles of Gettysburg and Antietam, but not many know the significance of the Battle of Cedar Creek. Yet it was a critical point that almost produced a decisive victory for the South, which would have jeopardized the reelection of President Abraham Lincoln. Ultimately, it proved to be a major Union victory, sufficient to end the Confederacy’s potential to win the war.

A BMW Tour of Fall Colors (and Haunted Houses)

BMWs are great for spirited riding or driving—and if you use that ability to visit scenic and historically interesting places, then you have an unbeatable combination. With that goal in mind, I set off in late October to find out whether Pennsylvania or West Virginia had the best Fall Colors. Along the way, I encountered no small number of historical haunted houses, just in time for Halloween. My path first took me through Gettysburg.

Ports—Royal and Otherwise (Rappahannock River Ride)

Having often explored the Maryland side of the Potomac River, I thought I’d try the Virginia shore for a change. And for good measure, I decided to work in the Rappahannock River, since I knew little about it. The river was originally named by Native Americans, naturally, and is said to mean “the river that rises and falls” or, possibly, “river of quick, rising water.” The Rappahannock runs roughly 195 miles before emptying into the Chesapeake Bay.

Lower Patuxent River Ride–Part II

After a bunch of bad weather plus work and other obligations, I was finally able to get out last Sunday to complete my tour of the Lower Patuxent River. As so often happens at this time of year, I started off with winter gloves, heated jacket liner turned well up, etc., and ended up with no liners, summer gloves, and plenty o’ sweat. It was less than 50 degrees at depature, but climbed to over 80 by mid-afternoon.

Too Much Patina

My old friend Peter Egan had a column in Road & Track not too long ago where his wife remarked that his latest used race car purchase had “excessive patina.” Her point was that it wasn’t just nicely aged–it was pretty much junk! Well, a lot of the places that I stop to take pictures of also seem to have too much patina.

This past Saturday, I rode up to New Freedom, Pennsylvania to visit some friends, and I encountered considerable patina on the way there. (And possibly among my friends as well…)

In Search of Battletown

Yesterday’s ride was in pursuit of Battletown, Maryland–at least, that was the general excuse. I wasn’t sure that there was any such place, but I’d found Battletown Road on the map, and it appeared to run right alongside the upper reaches of Antietam Creek, northeast of Hagerstown, so that was good enough for me.

Vultures Got No Holiday Spirit!

Today’s ride was just a quick, 80-mile visit to a handful of back roads in Carroll and Howard Counties in Maryland that somehow I hadn’t previously ever ridden. Also, it served as a shake-down trip to make sure that my new Vario side cases were properly mounted and stayed in place. (They did.) Along the way, I saw attractive streams and ponds—and too many vultures…

In Search of Dirt…

Yesterday, I decided that it was time to try the R1200GS on some dirt and gravel roads. It’s performed superbly on pavement, but I was curious whether it would feel more “at home” on dirt than my F650CS did. So, I headed off to Frederick to ride a few favorite old back roads and to discover some new ones. Along the way, I met Per Olof—a true maestro of off-road riding.

Amish Trains?

Well, actually it was Amish farms in Lancaster County, PA, and the Pennsylvania Railroad Museum near Strasburg! Like a number of others here, I had Friday off, it was a beautiful day, and I decided to take the new-to-me BMW R1200GS motorcycle on an excursion. Ride 15 in Great Roads, Great Rides by Glenn and Bard sounded appealing, so I headed off for the starting point in Towson, MD. From there, it was northward into Pennsylvania–and Amish country.

From Summit Inn to Summit Point

As many of you know, I live in Catonsville, MD and have a BMW F650CS motorcycle. My college roomate and best friend, Buzz, lives in Wooster, OH and has a Honda 750 Nighthawk. (In fact, he’s the reason that I got back into motorcycling after a 35-year layoff, but that’s another story.) So, we decided to ride West and East, respectively, and meet roughly halfway at the Summit Inn outside of Uniontown, PA.  After a great couple of days riding together, I found myself at the Summit Point Raceway–home to my 10 years of racing with the Sports Car Club of America.

Eastern Motor Racing Museum

About a year ago, a sprint car photographer acquaintance told me about the Eastern Motor Racing Museum in Pennsylvania. However, I didn’t catch its location, and it wasn’t until Road & Track magazine ran a story about the museum that I resolved to visit it. So, yesterday I rode from Catonsville, MD up through Westminster, Union Mills, Hanover, and York Springs to the museum. It was a gem!

To and From the Eastern Motor Racing Museum

On Sunday I rode up to the Eastern Motor Racing Museum near York Springs, PA. On the way, I decided to get in touch with my early car-racing roots, so I stopped by the Lincoln Speedway near Abbottstown, PA. I once autocrossed my MG here back in my college days.
On the way back from the museum on Latimore Valley Road, I ran across a junior version of Burnside’s Bridge –very similar architecture, but shorter and narrower, not as famous as the one at Antietam, but still in use! And, in the middle of nowhere, I even found the aptly named Tape Worm Road.

South-Central Pennsylvania Odyssey

Yesterday, I tried “Ride 13” from the book Great Roads, Great Rides, which is a guide to scenic and interesting routes in the Mid-Atlantic area. This ride is entitled “Apple and Peach Orchards of South-Central Pennsylvania.” I didn’t actually see that many orchards, but the route winds through lots of PA state parks, mountains, and forests. Definitely scenic, and a lot of fun.

Catch-Up Report

Two weeks ago, after all that rain, I went to see if there was any flooding–but I didn’t find much. I ended up in Cowans Gap State Park, near Mercersburg, PA, which was my boyhood vacation spot. If you haven’t ever been there, it’s well worth a visit. Very scenic, and free! I hadn’t been there for maybe 40 years and was pleased to see that it hadn’t changed a lot. (Looked a little smaller for some reason…)

Catch-Up Report: Cowan’s Gap and a Vacant House Guarded by Vultures

Two weeks ago, after all that rain, I went to see if there was any flooding–but I didn’t find much. I ended up in Cowans Gap State Park, near Mercersburg, PA, which was my boyhood vacation spot. If you haven’t ever been there, it’s well worth a visit. Very scenic, and free! I hadn’t been there for maybe 40 years and was pleased to see that it hadn’t changed a lot. (Looked a little smaller for some reason…)

MORE Montgomery County Rustic Roads

On my first trip, two weeks ago, I didn’t have time to see all of the best-sounding roads in western Montgomery County, Maryland. Naturally, I went back today to cover a lot of the others. Beautiful weather for riding, with only an occasional threatening cloud. Minimal traffic, and I only saw 25 deer … all in one field! When I went back for a picture, they had all stealthily disappeared. But I found the extraordinary Seneca Stone Mill lurking in the woods.

Around Antietam

Last weekend I rode my faithful BMW F650CS out to the Antietam Battlefield area at Sharpsburg, Maryland–first to visit “Sharpsburg Arsenal,” which is a Civil War artifacts shop that also doubles as a museum, and then on to the Potomac River and other sites. Along the way, I stopped at the Kennedy Farm, which was the home of John Brown (of Harper’s Ferry fame) and his family. And I also found Dam No. 4 on the Potomac. Prior to this ride, I didn’t even know there were any dams on this river.