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Journal Entry # 10
(Modified from story published in Muthuh's Rides - www.muthuh.com - 6/3/04)
Sunday May 30th
Somewhere between the last business phone call on the night before a bike trip, and the moment I leave down the driveway astride the Harley, my mind shifts gears and goes into vacation mode. I'll admit it's usually RIGHT after that last phone call.
I usually change the outgoing message on my answering machine, set up my office computer for remote access from the road, and begin the packing process. This trip was no different - and by 11pm, I'm crawling in bed… bike packed, my little bike trailer hitched, loaded and ready to go.
I got a call at 6:30am from the other couple who planned to ride with me...
"But, it's raining hard!"
"It's supposed to rain all weekend!"
Well ... (silence) …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, so 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 crew, Blaine and Janet.
Besides, I had some stuff to deliver to them - free hotel vouchers and some mail from back home, and I was eager to show some support for their adventure. Truth be told, it doesn't take much arm twistin' to get me to point north for a ride into "Almost Heaven" West Virginia.
I often hear people say they don't mind rain rides, but they hate LEAVING in the rain. I'm a little different, in that I'd much prefer to leave in the rain if I had to get wet anyway, because I have a cozy garage to get dressed in. I hate scrambling on the side of the road or under an overpass 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. 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 driveway.
I was fully prepared for 3 days of rain, and worried about how the dogs in their sidecars would handle it. From the road reports I've read in the days leading up to this ride, they've already been in days of rain so far and seemed to be handling it well.
Off I went, merging with Interstate traffic west on I-40 heading for Hwy 52 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 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. The fog was thick and the clear faceshield had no wipers, so I just hunkered down and trudged through it.
I snagged a bit of luck 20 minutes later with the rain stopping, but it continued to threaten another downpour at any moment. Not surprisingly, the weatherman was wrong once again, and it never rained on me again for the rest of the day. By the time I hit Pilot Mountain, in northern North Carolina, whose top was covered in clouds, I came out of my rain helmet, (that's the big one with face shield) took off my rubber boots, and folded away my rain gear, crossing my fingers that it wasn't premature.
I stayed on the Interstate anyway - making good time, ensuring I would have time for 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 (an awesome twisty ride at 60mph) and hopped onto I-77 north, the scenery was just as nice as any back road, and the traveling faster. Interstate-77 has got to be one of the nicest Interstates in the country, snaking through the mountains of Virginia and Southern West Virginia.
Pic #01 (Hover your mouse over the pictures and you can see what picture number the thumbnails are - click it for large view) shows a little of what the entire trip looked like, low clouds and wet pavements. Seems I was just behind the rain all day. It only took about 3 + hours to hit West Virginia.
I pulled into Fayetteville, West Virginia, around 2pm, checked into an overpriced Comfort Inn ($80) right at the southern end of the New River Gorge Bridge, unloaded my stuff, unhitched my little one-wheel motorcycle trailer and went in search of Blaine and Janet and Max and Bailey, who were making their way towards the same motel from the west. I only had to go about a mile before I bumped into them at a stoplight just inside the city limits (pic #02). So much for escorting them into town, huh?
I took them back to the motel, stopping at the Dairy Queen next door for a milkshake, and got them checked in and situated for the night. At the same time, I got a call from my friends who backed out of the ride this morning, saying they were on the way after all and would be up there sometime after dinner.
Blaine and Janet loaded up the dogs and we 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).
We got the obligatory pictures of the overlook viewing this impressive bridge (the longest single span east of the Big Muddy, and tall enough to fit the Washington Monument and two Statues of Liberty on top of one another). This is the bridge they close off one day each October and allow BASE jumpers to jump off and parachute to the bottom. It's a huge event up here on "Bridge Day".
After tearing away from the other bikers and onlookers trying to get snapshots of the dogs in sidecars, we headed off to a little known one-way one-lane road which winds down to the bottom of the gorge, across the old original bridge, and back up the other side. While on the bottom Blaine and Janet managed to sell some T-Shirts and accept some donations for their cause. Even through the short rainfall, more people gathered around the spectacle and bought T-Shirts and made donations.
Half way up the other side of the gorge, we stopped at a small waterfall for pictures and were waved over by a couple from Greensboro, NC 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 called Elliott's. Soon after, Jennifer and David pulled up, a little after dark, and joined us for a couple of beers. I was hoping the change of pace for Blaine and Janet would be a welcomed one, and it appeared to be working. Instead of spending time each night in the motel programming the GPS for the next day's ride, they could just follow me for a few days - I knew this area pretty well. West Virginia is one of my favorite states for riding in.
Monday May 31st
Come morning, surprised to see the sun shining after weather.com swore we were under a severe thunderstorm watch, the five of us on four bikes pull out and grabbed some breakfast in town. Watching from the restaurant window, Max and Bailey entertained the crowd in the parking lot, and Blaine and Janet recieved well-wishes from several diners inside.
Belly full and gassed up, we head up to Summersville, pick up some dog food (pic #13) at Wal-Mart, where Max and Bailey take time to smell the flowers. Loaded with a small bag of dog food, (there's not room for anything but a small bag!) we turn onto Hwy 39 east, one of my favorite roads in West Virginia. With thunderstorms threatening the entire day (pic #14) the ride was pleasant - not too much sun and rather cool.
Pics #18-20 are at a small roadside park about an hour into the ride to let the dogs out to run a little. Plenty of time for a cigar and wandering around on the paths. We also came on this small foot bridge across the river we'd been riding next to for the past few miles.
The five of us 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, a Hogs for Dogs Board Member, had a place up in Snowshoe Resort that they were staying at and invited us to stay tonight as well, but we had to run into them first. This corner marked a point where we had to make a decision to take the scenic route over the Highland Scenic Highway or keep going into Hillsboro, hoping to still catch them. Cell phones were useless, so Blaine whipped out his Satellite phone which I used to leave Brad a message.
But 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 around 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 that Highway 150 split and took the Scenic route anyway, (Pics #27-33)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. Harley rides are all about having a fun time, unhurried and enjoying the view - having Max and Bailey along ensured we would take the time to stop and enjoy the scenery.
Pics #34-36 are in the town of Marlinton, at the B&B Roadhouse, a small-town tavern I stop at everytime I'm in town.
On the way to snowshoe, north of Marlinton, WV about 20 miles, we all got fairly wet, stopping for gas and snacks at the foot of the mountain and then climbing the 6 mile winding 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 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... "what happens on a bike trip STAYS on a bike trip" So, ya gotta really twist my arm to get the real story - but a good one it is, too!
Tuesday June 1st
These pics (#37-41) were taken the next morning while everyone was packing to head on out. It was only a few short miles to Cass, WV where 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 the dogs up...just in time. (Pic # 47 shows us trying to dry them all off.
Pics #48 and 49 are in Warm Springs, Virginia for another dog-romp break - the site of the Jeffersonian Baths, then on for more Hwy 39 through Virginia. I think all would agree, this was one of the best days of riding - perfect weather and small unused twistie roads.
That's me in Pic #54 consulting with Janet at her GPS looking for an Ice Cream shop... David promised he'd buy the Banana Splits 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. (Thats the name of a small town here, there WERE no Taverns in town!) Pic #59 is the remaining riders in Charlottesville, Virginia enjoying Outback steaks by the pool. Blaine volunteered to go fetch the dinner because his sidecar could hold all of it in one trip. It was pretty pleasant eating a good meal by the motel pool with friends.
Wednesday June 2nd
After Waffle House breakfast the next morning (and after a long 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. David and Jen and I headed home, past some nice rivers and a curiously named funeral home (Pic #62), then an hour-long stop at Appomattox Courthouse where Gen'l Lee gave up his measly 5000 troops and ended the Civil War...
... or did it? Actually, 100 miles south in Durham, North Carolina - 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 General U.S. Grant back to North Carolina to resume the war... so much for ending the war! Fortunately, General Johnston renegotiated an acceptable surrender before Grant arrived 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 Lee signed his name (#67), Slave quarters (#68), the darned outhouse was locked! (#69), and the final three pics are of the Confederate graveyard nearby... rest in peace boys.
Except for lunch at Jeanette's Diner in Halifax, Virginia (excellent meat loaf!) we just cruised Hwy 501 all the way home. So many roads...so little time!
I hope Janet had a nice break from the usual route planning and navigating for a few days - their ride up into the Northeast is going to be tough enough. It was obvious that she and Blaine sure enjoy doing what they're doing, and Max and Bailey take it all in stride - just another couple days on the road. You have to see them in person to understand that they really do love to ride in their sidecars. Every time we start to get on the bikes, they are prancing and pacing at their own sidecar ready to hop in and go for a ride.
Hope you four enjoy the next few months - I'll see you again out in California in September for the Bay Area events and a short ride down the California coast. Ride safe.
(Blaine will return in the next story to take up from here on their journey north.)
Max, Bailey and the entire Hogs For Dogs team thank you for your support. You can help us make a difference for millions of people with disabilities by making a donation today.
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