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Tour of the Week: Williamsport, PA  -  Round Trip

Text: Chris Myers • Photography: Chris Myers, Richard Rothermel

Like most American kids, I had my baseball heroes. The exploits of Roberto Clemente and Brooks Robinson inspired me to pick up a glove and take to the diamond. Though the mitt eventually gave way to a soccer ball and dirt bikes, I always managed to tune in to ABC's coverage of the Little League World Series from Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

As a kid, my summer nights involved baseball. I'd eat dinner and gladly scramble to my bedroom, intent on listening to the play-by-play of Baltimore Oriole games crackling from the small AM clock radio by the bed. I'd thumb through my latest issues of Cycle, Cycle World, or Dirt Bike, feigning disinterest during the other team's at bats, then immediately spring to the edge of my prized La-Z-Boy when it was the O's turn to hit. All through the season, the boys of summer certainly kept me enthralled, but come August, it was another group of boys, real boys, that commanded my attention.

Every year, the world's best young ballplayers converge on Williamsport, Pennsylvania for the Little League World Series. Their batting helmets look too big, they chew bubble gum instead of tobacco, the pitches almost hover, and the swings aren't so mighty - but after all, they're just kids, but they're kids playing baseball on national television. I never did experience the dusty glory of sliding across home plate to take the Little League crown home to Annapolis, but I am happy to say I finally made it to Williamsport, though on quite different terms. Now, my helmet fits and the curves I'll be watching out for will be delivered in another manner.

Roll Out the Tarp

I had hoped a trip to the Northern Pennsylvania mountains would offer a little relief from the triple-digit temperatures and sauna-like humidity of my North Carolina home. Thus far, no luck on that score. As I peel off of Interstate 180 and descend the ramp into downtown Wiliamsport, the late afternoon rush-hour crawl adds an extra wallop of engine heat to an already sticky situation. Creeping along in second gear, I become overly conscious of the stagnate clamminess that's beginning to simmer beneath my otherwise well-vented riding gear. Pass the dippin' sauce, I'm feeling like a near-done pork shoulder in a Lexington smokehouse.

I spot a bunch of sport-touring mounts parked at the Best Western and decide to join the crowd. But as I'm offloading the bags from the ZX14, a shockingly cool breeze knifes through the muggy haze to send up a thoroughly ruffling red flag. I'm no meteorologist, but I do know that hot and cool air currents generally don't play well together. A quick check of the Weather Channel radar confirms this, showing a potent, red and yellow blob of tornadic thunderstorms heading this way. I push the ZX beneath the awning just as the first peals of thunder usher in a parade of gusty winds and ice cold raindrops that begin slamming into the pavement in steaming, fist-sized splatters.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the January/February 2008 back issue.