Wednesday, June 17, 2009

There and Back Again - Day 2...

Saturday, 06 June 2009.

0700- Feeling rested. Showered and now looking for a coffee before I begin finding a source for a new headlight for Baby.

The lobby offered up a continental breakfast. Two coffees later and I was ready to re-pack Baby. It may seem like a convoluted evolution to have to unpack and re-pack the bike, but we don't refer to our machines as 'iron horses' for nothing. Just as cowboys must tend to their steeds at the beginning and end end of a long day of riding, the same applies to bikes. There were a couple of truck parts stores in our immediate area, but not surprisingly, none of them offered up a standard H4 type bulb. I would have to wait and look further down the road.

0720- Departed Hagerstown, MD. Cruised along I-81 past exits for Boonesboro and the Battlefield of Antietam. At 0800, Baby and I thundered across the Potomac River, entering West Virginia.

0830- Stopped in Winchester, VA. Was coming off the Interstate for some fuel and spotted this bike shop as I negotiated the off-ramp. Decided to investigate. Parked Baby outside Winchester Motorsports and went on inside to meet the folks. Their staff were friendly and funny. The young fella behind the counter invited me to have a cup of coffee with them, while the older gent (one of their senior wrenches) went to see if he couldn't scare me up a new headlight bulb. I enjoyed a good conversation with these lads, just spending the time of day.

I finally had to get down to business, so I took my new bulb and went off to change it. It dawned on me as I approached Baby, that in order to get the face of the headlight off, I would have to remove or at least drop substantially, the light bar which was mounted under it. Great! No such thing as an easy job... Fortunately I had brought all the tools that I would need for this and any other minor work on Baby. Investing in that tool roll before leaving, was a great idea. I finally got the bulb replaced and fired the bike up to verify all my systems. The headlight worked great, but my running light on the right-hand side was out. Hmmmm... Oddly enough, the turn signal on that lamp worked, but not the running light. Curiouser and curiouser. Luckily for me, I always travel with spares. So I changed the lamp and flashed up the bike again... Same thing. Turn signal works, running light doesn't... Hmmmm...
Not feeling particularily analytical at the moment and happy to have a headlight and two functional turn signals, I decided I would let it go for the moment. I went back inside and picked up a t-shirt from the place before leaving.

0945- Departed Winchester, VA. Had to remove windshield and light bar to change headlight. Noticed right side running light out as well. Changed bulb too. Running light still out but T/S operating (?).

I arrived in Front Royal, VA at about 1030hrs. I gassed up and then rode through town, looking for the entrance to the Syline Drive. Pretty little town. Had to transit right through (speed limit 25mph). Took out a $10.00 bill and tucked it under the strap of my toolbag, between the risers. That way I'll have it on hand when it comes time to enter the Shenandoah National Park.

1051- Entered Shenandoah National Park. I am sitting on Mile 0 of the Skyline Drive. I feel exalted, excited and humbled to be here, at the beginning of something I have longed for, for so many years now!

1201- Stopped at Little Devil's Stairs lookoff. Took a pic of Baby with this gnarly tree in the background. Kind of reminded me of the 'Joshua Tree' song. Have taken a few other shots so far. The scenery is nothing short of breathtaking. Jess (my step-daughter) would smile at my usage of this word but it's the only word that fits.

1220- Stopped at Elkwallow Wayside store. Had a pork Bar-B-Q sandwich and a Pepsi for lunch. Friggin' deeee-lish!! Bought some souvies too. :)

1250- Back on the road!

It is impossible to accurately describe the views, the scents, the feeling of traveling the Skyline Drive. It is simply the most beautiful road I have ever ridden. How the Hell is it that the mere sight of some of this scenery, is enough to give me a lump in the back of my throat???

1520- At Rip Rap Gap lookoff. 13 miles left until I'm on the BRP. Took a photo of these wild lilac bushes growing here. My God this is going way too fast...

At about 1545, I reached the end of the Skyline Drive. Words fail me to do it justice. I took a couple of pictures, one of the signpost showing directions to both the Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway, and another showing Baby poised to enter the BRP.

1615- Stopped at the BRP visitor centre. Picked up some souvies and met some riders. Good conversation. Back on the road. Don't know how far I'll get today...(?) No cell phone service here. Will have to call home from hotel tonight.

1715- Stopped for a break and to put my JR jacket back on. I'm at Yankee Horse Ridge parking area, about 30 miles into the Parkway. It's slow going with speeds of 45mph and curves that you have to take at 25mph. It's a huge roller coaster. Up and down, twisting and turning as you go. Will stop at about 1900hrs tonight. I still have tomorrow and Monday to make it to Tellico Plains. I miss my Honey...

The elevations here are really something. I feel my ears popping constantly as I climb into the sky, then feel them decompress on the way back down again. It's just like flying or sailing on subs. At times I'm basically partially deaf, with everything sounding all muted and fuzzy as we burble along. On the long downgrades, I just ease off the throttle and coast downhill in 4th, Baby merrily burbling along with her characteristic: "Ffnnnn-rrrrrrrr..." sound. It seems as though she is enjoying this experience as much as I am. :)

2030- After being turned away from the Peaks of Otter (they are full up owing to a large D-Day anniversary celebration around these parts...), I landed at the Reba Farm Inn Bed & Breakfast, about 8 miles off-mountain. It is located in Bedford, VA. Owners Ron and Kathleen have over 40 rescued horses, colts, foals and of course, dogs. This place is so charming, although I almost lost the bike on the way up their steep gravel driveway. Tomorrow leaving will be something else...

Coming off-mountain, I saw so many deer it was incredible! Now I know where they all come from, when you see them less than a foot off the road. I passed so many on the mountain that were so close, I could have reached out and slapped their ear as I scooted by. Also passed a skunk bimbling along the side of the road. Like the deer, he was totally oblivious to my presence. All the animals appear to be totally relaxed... totally unconcerned.

I met another couple here, Bill and Sandie. They're both native Virginians from Charlottesville and are riding a big black Yamaha Star with hardbags. I reckon I'll try to follow him out tomorrow. We started chatting and I related the story of my spill last year. So he pulls up his t-shirt and shows me the same scar that I have. This happened some 7 years ago and he can move his arm just fine. Over his head, behind his back... no problem. He's been a real inspiration. We talked physio and he said:"Why I'd just use them pullies until it brought tears to my eyes. Then I'd stop, have a couple of whiskies and start right back up agin'...".

Bill oddly enough, is 55. Same age as me. He kinda even looks like a Southern version of me. It's eerie...

My wife would love this set-up. Particularily with all the rescued animals. It's so odd that I should end up here. Everything happens for a reason, I guess.

2110- I'm feeling a little panicky right now. There is no cell phone service here and I have yet to call home. Must contact the owner and see if there is a land-line I can use to call collect.

2145- Just finished talking to my Honey. Let her know where I was and that everything was just fine. Recounted spotting so many deer coming off the Parkway, relating how the scenery is simply stunning. Also told her the story about getting here, meeting Bill & Sandie and of course, the driveway from Hell. She almost lost her mind when I described the surroundings I found myself in. I promised her that we would both come back here so she could enjoy it for herself. Ron has suggested using Rte. 11 to take on the way back, just to escape from the madness of I-81. I may look into that.

My supper then arrived. Ron and Kathleen had overheard my wife asking me if I had eaten anything for supper yet. It was pretty late by now and I had not, so I told her I still had some energy bars stashed in my saddlebags. After I had finished my call, Ron asked if I would like some supper brought up to my room. I told him that would be extremely nice of them if they could manage it. Ron has just brought up 2 barbecued chicken breasts on a large bun, w/lettuce and tomatoes, a large dollop of homemade potato salad, a large bunch of green grapes, a homemade chocolate-walnut brownie and a Dr. Pepper on ice.

2219- I'm stuffed!! And I haven't even touched the chocolate-walnut brownie yet... I'll sleep very soundly tonight.

0320- Having a hard time staying asleep. Too much food, too late in the day. I won't be doing that again... Am still fretting about getting Baby down that hill in one piece. Yeah... I'll let Bill lead. There are brief, isolated times during this trip, when it feels as though I am diving down to the bottom of the ocean. I keep thinking I should stop, turn around and make for the surface before I run out of air. I have no idea why I would feel this way...

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