GPS is a bit squirrely when I forget to turn it back on after staying still for a while, but actually this captured most of my routes! Also, I have a bazillion photos of sharp blue skies, fluffy white clouds, distant blue mountains, and lush green valleys – geez, why does this route have to be so beautiful?
I said goodbye to Grace’s lovely real bed, and hit the cold morning road with camping intentions!Save for a brief jaunt to Home Depot to pick up a tarp for ground cover (I knew I’d forget to pack something), I took Rt-66 all the way to the northern entry point for the Skyline Drive in Front Royal. After a bit of stretch and wander through the local wine festival, I hit the Shenandoah National Park. It costs $10 for a pass which is good for a week, and it’s the best $10 I’ve spent.
I cannot describe to you how amazing it was to ride the Skyline. The cool, clear weather meant absolutely stunning views of the valleys, with a perfectly smooth ribbon of tarmac guiding you along. There was hardly any traffic, just an endless winding road with easy curves under a bright blue sky. I stopped for photos early on, but soon was lost to the easy sway of the curves, and the road. I’ve never driven anything as heart-stoppingly beautiful.
A short ways in, a motorcycle was stopped slightly to the side of the road. Wondering what was wrong, I pulled over just behind him. He had a camera in his hand, and just said, “Bear!” I turned to my right, and about 8 feet from me was Nature, looking me square in the face. Actually, there were three bears. After fumbling for a photo, I decided it might be wise to scoot a little farther away. The bears went to climb trees and forage, and I scooted off.
I was sad to have arrived too late for the group rides, but still had a great time! I got to try out Davide’s lowered GS, which bounded over that muddy gravel patch (the GTS got stuck in earlier) like buttah. Unfortunately, then I borrowed Rob’s the rally Rattler for a bathroom run, and slipped in the grass like buttah, incurring some bruises and scrapes (sorry, Rattler). This should have been warning enough for later that evening, after several helpings of wine. As metabolically tends to happen after some drinks, I went for another bathroom run… and, too lazy to dig out my flashlight, did not see the creek I fell into. The rest of the evening was spent steaming off my clothes by the fire. This is not to mention pricker bush damage I incurred taking the rally bike on a joyride on the trail. Thanks to Rob for applying first aid.
So a good rally, then! A bit rougher for wear, I found breakfast at a cafe along the Skyline Drive.
I was hitting a bit of a low point the night after the rally, after saying goodbye to everyone and camping alone. I’m not a nature person, so I don’t bother with a fire, cell signal was minimal, and the wifi was terribly slow. I had a beautiful drive and chatted with some other motorcyclists along the way, but by the time I picked the next campsite the high was wearing off. I was hungry, achey from the aforementioned shenanigannery, low on gas, and getting cold. I just wished for something easy and comfortable, and someone to tell about my day. Feeling a bit weak, I paid premium for a campsite with superb showers, set up tent, drew before the sun set, and went to bed at 9pm.
Breakfast back at the BP gas station in Big Island helped. $6 of rider fuel, and…salty apples? I have never had this before, it tasted like apple pie filling (cinnamon, nutmeg) but sort of salted, or perhaps vinegared? I enjoy these ‘mashup’ gas stations – diner, snacks, general store, knives (they always have knives), gas, all in one. Also, little did I know this would also be the beginning of a daily biscuit intake.
There were only three campers that night, but Will, who runs the place, was kind enough to make a fire for us. It was great shooting the breeze and sharing peanuts with these guys into the night, topics ranging from favorite foods to preferred chain lube. Willville has a great feeling to it, I’d recommend it to anyone on two wheels.
Over breakfast at the Meadows of Dan mashup station, I chatted with the cyclist whose vehicle was outside. Welsh guy, headed north to Maine on that contraption. I said Portland is not to be missed.
At a long scenic stop, I saw all these bikes lined up.
According to the internet, the Snake is a section of Route 421 from Mountain City, TN to Bristol, TN. It boasts 489 curves, 3 mountains, and 1 valley over the course of 33 miles. Really, I didn’t keep count.
Actually, shortly after I decided to join them for the Snake, Athony and Steve decided they wanted lunch first and peeled off. So I just rode off with Don.
After some awkwardness that always happens (at least for me) when riding with someone new, we hit the first few curves. Don pulled over to let me lead, and I was grinning ear to ear. After a bit of warming up, I was quickly taking off more of that dried mud on the side of my tires. With each turn, I got to know my machine better, and pushed a little harder the next curve. My poor beast, laden down as it was, did its best when I hit wide open throttle though an uphill apex, but it slogged and finally scraped the center stand as if to say enough is enough. Funnily enough, Don complimented my riding afterwards, but I think he just wants in my good books – he doesn’t realize he already is, for inviting me along for an amazing ride.
A heaviliy loaded down Ruckus pulled into the Shady Valley Country Store at the midway point of Rt 421, and I was about to ask the rider about his story when he says, “Hey, are you on ADV?” He recognized the blue Vespa! Much chatting happened (I would say nerding out, but I wouldn’t presume Mike a nerd) outside the store. I like his fishing pole, apparently a recent acquisition.
Honestly, I probably could have stayed at that country store for hours, watching bikers pull in and chatting them up. All sorts came through – cruisers, sport tourers, at least us two scooters, and a pair of KTMs with mohawk helmets. But I had the other half of the Snake to ride and a home to get to that evening, so goodbyes were exchanged, safe rides were wished, and ways were parted until another time.
Next up: Arts and Crafts in Penland, drinks in Asheville, and a traveling show in Maggie Valley.