This trip, 'vacation mode' started with a trip downtown to watch the Durham Bulls (AAA team for the Tampa Devil Rays) kick ass over Syracuse. Dunno what them Yankee boys were thinkin' coming down here on our home turf, but they looked like a High School team in their 7-2 beating. Their two only came after we put our Bat Boy in there as relief pitcher.
Curiously enough, the couple sitting in front of us read a book, each of them, throughout the entire game, looking up only if the crowd noise got above some predetermined level. A strange world we live in. I packed late into the night, got the bike turned around and Lil'Mut hooked up ready to pull face-first out of my garage in the morning.
I got a call at 6:30am from the other couple who planned to ride with me... "It's Raining!"
"But, it's raining hard!"
Well ... you gonna go?"
OK... so you can see where this was heading. In the end they decided not to join up - and actually, Weather.com pegged the entire 4 days as a complete wash-out, with Strong Thunderstorms and a chance of rain set at between 70 - 90% all three days. I could totally understand why you'd back off on this one, but this was my only chance in the next couple months to join up with the Hogs For Dogs people and besides, I had some stuff to deliver to them - free hotel vouchers and some mail.
I often hear people say they don't mind rain rides, but hate LEAVING in the rain. I'm a little different, in that I'd much prefer to leave in the rain, cause I have a cozy garage to get dressed in. I hate scrambling on the side of the road or underpass trying to get my rain stuff on. And in this case, I needed to make sure I had ALL my rain gear on, as it was a steady drumbeat of hard rain outside. I ride with my 3/4 helmet and face shield in the heavy rains - and this qualified as heavy. I had bought a new face shield the day before - something I do every 6-8 months because it gets so scratched up no matter how much I try to take care of it. Today I had the rubber over-boots on, too, and the nylon waterproof gloves... I was ready for anything, and everything is what I got when I pulled out, inundated before I got to the bottom of the drive.
I was fully prepared for 3 days of rain, worried about how the dogs in their sidecars would handle it, but from their reports, they've already been in days of rain so far and seemed to handle it well. Off I went, merging with Interstate traffic west on I-40 heading for Hwy 52 in Winston-Salem. I had planned a nice back-roads ride, but in the rain - as heavy as it was - I figured Interstate travel is safer and I wasn't gonna see much scenery anyway.
I snagged a bit of luck 20 minutes later, with the rain stopping, but it threatened another downpour at any moment. But for some reason, the weathermen were wrong once again, and it never rained on me again for the rest of the day. By Pilot Mountain, whose top was covered in clouds, I came out of my rain helmet, took off my rubber boots, and folded away my rain gear, crossing my fingers.
I stayed on the Interstate anyway - making time and ensuring a nice long evening ride after I got to my destination in West Virginia later this afternoon. Besides, once I got finished climbing the Blue Ridge Parkway on Hwy 52 (awesome twistie ride at 60mph) and hopped onto I-77 north, the scenery was just as nice as any back road. I-77 has got to be one of the nicest Interstates in the country, snaking through the mountains of Western Virginia and Southern West Virginia.
So we went back to the motel, stopping at the Dairy Queen next door for some lunch and got them situated for the night. Right about then, I got a call from my friends who backed out of the ride, saying they were on the way and would be up there sometime after dinner. Me Blaine and Janet loaded up the dogs and went for a little day ride to the New River Gorge Visitor center (where they sold a few T-Shirts and gathered some donations from a crowd of people surrounding their bikes).
Even through a short rainfall, more people gathered around the spectacle and bought T-Shirts and made donations. Half way up the other side, we stop at a small waterfall for pictures and were waved over by a couple from Greensboro who wanted to see the dogs in the sidecars. All good people, nice conversations, and profitable stops, but I began to worry about keeping to any schedule at this pace!
We got back to the Motel before dark, and headed to a small restaurant/lounge right in the motel, Elliott's. After a couple beers and a great dinner (really was good!) we find ourselves treated to a solo singer / keyboardist. Took us a bit but we finally concluded this guy was blind - but man could he sing and play the keyboard. Soon after Jennifer and David pull up, a little after dark, and join us for a couple more beers... gotta love these little bars right in the motel!
We stopped at the Highway 150 intersection to call ahead looking for Brad and Johnny - I'd told them yesterday by phone we'd be riding Hwy 39 - they were gonna ride in the opposite direction to look for us. Brad had a place up in Snowshoe that they were staying at and invited us to stay tonight, but we had to run into them first. This corner marked a decision to take the scenic route over the Highland Scenic Highway or keep going into Hillsboro, hoping to still catch them. Cells were useless, so Blaine whipped out his Satallite phone which I used to leave Brad a message. Not 10 miles up the road, outside the Hillsboro General Store (pic # 22) we ran into them on the side of the road using their cell phone trying to leave US a message... great timing! We back-tracked about 3 miles to this curio shop (pics #23-26) and goofed with the owners a little bit looking through their shop. Being Memorial Day I though Pic # 24 would be appropriate.
Backtracking some more - we all went back to the Highway 150 split and took the Scenic route anyway, now with Brad and Johnny with us, the 6 bikes snaked up on this great road, a lot like the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Some of these pictures were taken by Blaine or Jen & David - but all show the sweet ride this highway gave us. We stopped at a scenic spot, again to let the dogs run a bit, while we enjoyed the view and another smoke.
Pics #34 - 36 are in the town of Marlinton at the B&B Roadhouse, newly re-opened, although I'd been here a few times in the past.
On the way to snowshow, north of Marlinton about 20 miles, we all got fairly wet, stopping for gas at the foot of the mountain and climbing the 6 mile road to the peak... one of the few ski resorts where the resort is at the top of the mountain. This was still off-season, and we had the entire building to ourselves. There was only one restaurant/bar open and we kept it open til 1am - causing a little ruckus that I won't get into in writing to protect the not-so-innocent... he knows who he is! We gotta adhere to the code of the road... "whathappens on a bike trip STAYS on a bike trip" So, ya gotta buy me all kinds of beer to get the real story - but a good one it is, too! These pics are of the next morning while everyone was packing to head on out.
Only a few short miles to Cass, WV we stop at the Cass Scenic Railroad for lunch (yeah, lunch - we got a pretty late start after last night!) While inside, it poured rain before we knew it was happening - poor Brad was the only one out by the bikes who saw it coming and scrambled over to the sidecars to cover them and the pups up...just in time. (Pic # 47 shows us trying to dry them all off.
Pics #48 and 49 are in Warm Springs for another romp break - the site of the Jeffersonian Baths, then on for more Hwy 39 into Virginia.
Thats me in Pic #54 consulting with Janet at her GPS looking for an Ice Creme shop... David promised he'd buy the cones if we found a place...never did because we were sticking to the back roads.
Here (Pic # 57) we stop on the Blue Ridge Parkway for a few minutes and take our group picture - Brad and Johnny were gonna head home once we made it to Charlottesville, so this was our last chance for a group shot. Pic #58 is working out a good ride for them home at the gas station in Steele's Tavern... great name for a town, but no friggin tavern in the entire city... Pic #59 is the remaining riders in Charlottesville enjoying delivery Outback steaks by the pool.
After breakfast the next morning (and after a long bullshit session on the patio the night before at the motel) we say our goodbyes to Blaine and Janet and the dogs as they head north into New England (follow their ride at www.hogsfordogs.org) and David and Jen and I headed home, past some nice rivers and a curiously named funeral home, then an hour-long stop at Appomattox where Gen'l Lee gave up his measly 5000 troops and ended the war...
... or did it? Actually, 100 miles south in Durham - my home town - General Johnston commanded over 87,000 troops and was trying to negotiate surrender terms to the Union. When newly inaugurated President Johnson (right after Abe was killed) refused to accept those terms, he actually sent Gen'l Grant back to North Carolina to resume the war... so much for ending the war. Fortunately, Gen'l Johnston renegotiated an acceptable surrender and finally the war DID come to an end - but not in Appomattox. They get the recognition, 'cause Robert E. got nabbed there.
Anyway - the rest of these pics are of the Appomattox Courthouse (#64), the General Store (#65), the Tavern (#66) the desk where Bobby signed his name (#67), Slave quarters (#68), the damned outhouse was locked! (#69), and the final three were of the Confederate graveyard nearby... rest in peace boys.
Except for lunch at Jeanette's Diner in Halifax, VA (Excellent Meat Loaf!) we just cruised Hwy 501 all the way home. Had to get some work done in time for another ride to Rider's Roost next weekend! So many roads...so little time!
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