Aside from the memories and photos that I take home from any trip, along the way I pick up postcards, brochures, stickers and name-specific “junk” and shove it in my bag as I go.
My friend Ally recently asked her blog readers if they were sentimental about objects. And I guess you could put a tick in the Yes column for me. These little bits of paper bring a smile to my face every time that I pull them out and get to remember that time when…
This is what I found in was in my Macbook sleeve:
Fisherman’s Grotto – San Francisco
Grandfather Mountain (4)
The Shoe House
Mr. Ed’s Elephant Museum
The Snake 421
Grandfather Mountain (2)
BRP Stunt Motorcyclist
Hotel Tomo – San Francisco
Comfort Inn — Franklin, NC
Sleep Inn Free Rubber Duck note – Waynesboro, Va.
Hotel Room Key from somewhere in California
Hotel Pad – Sleep Inn
Shoe House Magnet
Hotel Pad – Best Western
Printed Map of Blowing Rock, NC.
While doing our pre-ride once over we found that my plugged tire had dropped nearly 10 pounds of pressure overnight. We gave the mushroom plug one last tug to try to pull the seal a little tighter and went on with re-filling the tire.
Our morning began with a conversation with the girl from the hotel registration desk over the steady pumping whirrrrr of my Slime compressor.
She’d been standing next to the entrance with a disturbingly fake tan, baby-pink lipstick and too blonde hair taking long drags on her cigarette when we walked outside. Though my back was partially turned to her, I got that sensation that she was watching me as I put my overnight bag into my Givi box. Kenny was at his bike loading up his own things, readying to shove off for the day.
“You ride that bike?” she asked.
Nails on a chalkboard.The intolerant part of me hoped with all of its might that she was talking to Kenny. When I looked back to her, she was looking directly at me. Damn. This is the part where I have to remember that not everyone is on the same plane and to be gentle with them.
My first instinct was of course to say something like – “You mean this one here? The one I’m putting my stuff in to the luggage box of? The one you watched me put the key into? The one with NO ONE ELSE standing next to it? Yes, this one is mine.”
Cue smile and polite chit-chat.
The rest of the conversation was pretty inconsequential, you know – typical “I’ve always wanted to ride,” and “my boyfriend showed me how to ride a little bit in a parking lot on his R1,” type of stuff.
I do always drop my dress yourself properly and take an MSF class 2¢ on anyone who starts these talks with me. But, to be honest the more time goes by the more difficult it has become to deal with people. Sometimes it really seems like no matter what you say to try to steer them in a cautious direction it falls on deaf ears. You just can’t save the world and on this particular morning I wasn’t in the mood for trying.
That was enough of that, it was time to hit the road. We actually had somewhere to be!
Off the Beaten Path
Since we had just a couple hundred miles to travel, the route I’d strung together took advantage of some smaller roads on the map. We were all set to zig-zag our way around a bit before we picked up WV 219 to make tracks north to Elkins.
Because the map showed no indication that the pavement ended, I was a little surprised when the first leg of our trip was on dirt roads. Pleasantly surprised as it turned out.
Though it isn’t the 1050 Tiger’s strong suit, it did just fine on the hard-packed dirt. Aside from some pockets of larger loose stones, it isn’t much different than riding tarmac. You just do it with a little caution and stay off the front brake. You could really ride pretty much anything on that type of surface. No “Adventure Bike” required. But, I will say that there were many moments I’d wished I had my Husky to go ripping around on instead.
The upside of leaving the pavement for these dirt roads was the views. There were rolling hills and beautiful old barns that you would never see unless you rolled the dice and followed a whim. I suppose that is the reward of a road less traveled. A seldom seen view except for those that live there.
The little farm roads alternated between pavement and dirt between the valleys. Miles of green grass waved at us when we climbed down out of the mountains. Slithering S-turns beckoned us to come closer and go up, up, up.
There’s a Squatch in Them Woods
In the middle of nowhere in particular, we approached a traffic stop at an intersection. Two Virginia State Troopers were checking the licenses of everyone passing through.
The Trooper closest to us as we approached motioned for me to stop next to him and I did. He bruskly said, “license, please,” in that special tone and timber saved for law enforcement officials.
Because my wallet was not easily reachable while sitting there in the middle of the road, I politely asked if I could pull over to get at it. He agreed. It was in that moment that a cold sweat came over me.
He kept working the lane and the lady trooper who’d finished with another driver walked towards me while I was still fishing my kitty wallet out. When I finally freed my license, I handed it to her with a sense of dread.
She looked at it and quickly dropped it on the ground. She bent down and picked it up and looked me in the eye, looked back at my license and looked at me again. It was in this moment that I wanted to die.
You see, I have this teeny-tiny problem with my license. My brand new license, which I will have for the next eight years has the most HIDEOUS photograph on it. Sometimes I look at it and I just cannot believe the magnitude of just how disturbing it is.
I almost, ALMOST want to post a picture of it for confirmation that I look like Bigfoot in the photo.
On the day that it came in the mail, I opened the envelope and immediately and uncontrollably blurted out a nervous cackle. Surely it had to be some kind of joke? I handed it to Kenny for confirmation that the depth of cruelty the DMV inflicts upon you has been taken to new levels. He quickly confirmed my suspicions.
When your husband looks at your new drivers license and bravely deadpans, “you look like you have a beard,” you know it’s bad. That kind of candor from a man to his wife is reserved for unparalleled disaster.
It may not have been perceptible to the casual onlooker but I swear I saw the lady Trooper wince when she took one last look at my license before handing it back. This is someone who sees traffic accidents, so you get some idea of the level of grotesquery we’re talking about here.
She made a tiny amount of small talk and sent us on our way. No doubt she was in a hurry to get the photo of a bearded warthog out of her hands. I felt like tearing my helmet off and screaming, “LOOK AT ME! LOOOOK AT MEEEE! I DON’T REALLY LOOK LIKE THAT!” Frankly, I’m surprised I wasn’t arrested for assaulting an officer.
For about 50 miles following that traffic stop, I was left to wonder:
Will that poor Virginia Trooper lady go back home and tell her family about the yeti she saw?
What if I really do look like my license photo?
When we made our way into West Virginia we pulled off at a gas station to fill up and grab a drink. As I stood on the curb outside I watched the big puffy, white clouds that seemed to just sit stalled in the sky; never moving forward or backward. They just seemed content with their place in the world. I wondered if I would ever feel like that for long periods of time?
The whole day’s ride felt romantic in a way that I know other motorcyclists must understand. It was a long string of vignettes featuring gorgeous corners and beautiful scenery, punctuated by moments when your heart and your mind are wide open and anything seemed possible.
When we arrived at Elkins, our friend Robert from New York had already arrived and was unpacking his motorcycle. That excited feeling like something fun was about to happen overcame me. Of course Kenny and I had had the most amazing time riding for 6 days with just the two of us, but when you get together and ride with good friends – the days take on a whole other level of excitement.
After we said our initial our hellos and talked briefly about our respective travels so far, I ran inside to check-in while the guys hung outside. The grandmotherly lady working the front desk quickly went about checking me in. Everything was going fine until she fumbled my license on the desk after asking for my ID.
With only a single bar left on the gas gauges, Kenny and I hopped off of the Blue Ridge Parkway in search of gas. After a few stabs at the screen, we followed the GPS over hill and dale to what seemed like the middle of nowhere. We popped out of a rambling farm road next to a major roadway in the town of Thaxton, Virginia.
While Kenny tended to menfolks work (lifting heavy objects, pumping gas, paying for things), I went off to do much more important lady things like gathering nuts and fruit.
Considering I found a giant little apple on a stick, one might argue that I was clearly better at doing my job. Look at the size of it! The gas pumps he found were just regular sized.
While Kenny was busy doing his job (which I will grade as poorly due to regular sized pumps) I also briefly thought about trying to get inside of the apple ride next to Lowly Worm.
But then I wisely reconsidered as visions of having the fire department come with the jaws of life to extract me flitted through my mind.
It was probably best to not kill my husband of just a few weeks with sheer embarrassment. See how considerate I am? You’re welcome, babe!
When Kenny and I rolled away from Backbone Rock, we hooked a right in the town of Damascus, Virginia and followed route 58 into the mountains.
There were several times throughout the 9 days we were on the road that I needed to flip on my heated grips as the wind whistled through my summer gloves. I found myself doing it once again on the Highlands Parkway. The air was chilly I think in part due to the rain storm we kept skirting around the edge of.
For the first time during our trip, we saw ourselves faced with actually having to be somewhere at a given time. We were set to meet a handful of our friends in Elkins, West Virginia the following evening.
With that in mind, Kenny and I decided that it was time to abandon our eastern course and head north. By the end of our riding for the day, we would be in a good position to make a fast trek from the foot of West Virginia to meet everyone the following day.
We’d decided to pickup VA 16 to head north. It is another one of those roads that has been given a nickname in motorsport circles. It’s called “The Back of the Dragon.” Sticking with the theme that if a stretch of tarmac has some reptilian type of name – it’s gotta be good, and it was.
By the time we passed Hungry Mother State Park, the rain that we’d been following behind all day stalled completely over us and unleashed hell. It was a ferocious white-out kind of rain. As Kenny and I climbed up through the winding road, gravel and debris started to pool in the apexes of the turns. It was slippery slow going but thankfully the rain didn’t last long. It was over almost as fast as it started.
Wait a minute. Something felt a little weird. Steering… sloppy, heavy… SONOFA! Flat tire. I nursed my bike down through the curves into a farm driveway.
My rear tire was indeed f-l-a-t. A chunk of glass had pierced it. I’d been stung on the back of the dragon.
In the 4 or 5 years that we’ve had and used both of these tire repair tools, they’ve worked as advertised. Both Kenny and I were thankful to find that they again worked like a charm. I can’t imagine leaving home without ‘em.
Standing there on the side of the road waiting for the tire to be filled, we’d decided to cash in our chips and call it a night. We were soon on our way to finding a hotel for the night.
But, not before seeing one more unusual sight for the day – a rooster farm:
For all of its highs and lows, it was a great day of riding. Thinking back through different moments and places that we’d been, now I find myself asking, “was that really the same day?” A lot of living happens in a small amount of time.
Though I had jotted Backbone Rock down on my list of things to see when we left home, sometimes the wind takes you elsewhere.
In the days and miles that had already passed it had slipped my mind until we were headed west away from Shady Valley. That was when the lightbulb went off in my head. Doh! I wanted to see Backbone Rock! I resigned myself to doing it “next time.”
While Kenny and I were zig-zagging around, I started poking through my GPS and looking at the pit stop waypoints that I’d saved. As it turned out, Backbone Rock was just a hop skip and a jump ahead.
There it was ~ the Universe unfolding as it should, again.
When I read other blogs, I really appreciate it when folks take the time to tell you what the name of or where a place is. It can be awfully frustrating at times to do the detective work on your own. If you’re one of those folks who shares their cool stuff – thank you!