At first glance – you see this picture of my (lovely if I do say so myself) Tiger and think Okay, it another picture of her (lovely if you do say so yourself) Tiger. But look closer, my darling.
That is the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory across the valley. It kind of looks like it just fell out of space into that bucolic setting, doesn’t it?
Apparently it is the largest of its kind. It spans 100 meters across the dish.
Now, if you’re metrically challenged – like me – you have no idea what that means. But, thanks to the little elves that tirelessly work inside my computer, I can break it down for you. That’s 328 feet across. Or in layman’s terms: f’n huge.
I’ve seen the telescope a couple times before when coming across WV66. Even so, there is a sense of amazement each time. On the approach out of the mountains I am immediately reminded of the movie Contact with Jodie Foster, specifically that first moment that you get a glimpse of the machine that was built. Not because the telescope looks like it but because it gives that same strange juxtaposition of something tremendous and inherently man made in a pristine natural setting where it seems that it doesn’t belong.
It is one part startling, one part fascinating, one part beautiful, one part curious. And one part unsettling. Okay, that may be a couple parts too many but we’ve already established that I’m not so good with the maths.
I finally spotted one of the 666 routes. This one was in Virginia:
I have this other photo of the route sign that I wasn’t originally going to post. I kinda sorta realized that the way I shot the pic makes it look like it’s pointing at Kenny like Kenny is devil. But then I realized if I only told you about the pic it wouldn’t be the same. So… Sorry, babe!
I moseyed on over to The Google Maps to find VA Route 666. Imagine my surprise when I found nothing more than a stick and an arrow. The 666 sign is not visible.
Maybe it was a ghost sign? You know, like one of those phantom hitchhikers found in scary stories? The sign only appears to lure in curious travelers. But when the nosey Roseys get too close to it someone lunks ‘em on the head with a rolling pin and evil flying monkeys swoop in to carry them away to the Netherworld.
Flying monkeys are always bad news.
According to the all-knowing-ish Wikipedia, there are a few states (and countries) that have routes with the number of the beast like ~ Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Florida. I’m sure there are others. Does your state have one?
f you’ve been playing along at home then you may recall that I’ve noted that Kenny isn’t the most observant guy in the world, what with that whole failure to notice goats on the roof incident and all. As it turns out, he seems to have a teensy weensy problem with not picking up on the fuzz when they’re afoot, too.
But you can understand that, can’t you? It can be difficult to notice the big block letters on the sides of their cars that say things like “POLICE” or “SHERIFF.”
And I’ve always said that the flashing lights on the roofs of their cars just seem to blend in with the scenery. You could be looking at Grandpappy’s Crown Vic or a slightly agitated town cop. Who can know?
Powers of observation be damned, we had luck on our side when we rolled out for our day’s ride. Whizzing past a Sheriff at seventyblahblahmph and not having him flip on the lights is a great start to a ride. I quickly dialed back the throttle and set the cruise control to Grandma mode. That was enough fun for 10 minutes.
When I mentioned to Kenny how lucky we were for not getting snagged, he said he never saw the cop.
I am a Reformed Jackass. Mostly.
There was a time in my life when I rode like a complete idiot – always wanting to go faster, faster, faster. Those days are long gone.
If you would have told 25 year old me that I would enjoy poking around at 50mph looking at waterfalls and mountains and meeting roadside donkeys just as much as being a menace, I would have said you were crazy. And probably mocked you for being old. But here I am, walking that line of being the “old person” I would have mocked back then.
As it turned out, I managed to learn many valuable lessons without hurting myself or anyone else. For that I am most thankful. Could I ride with my hair on fire if I wanted to? Maybe. But these days I’m now a proud member of the “I’ll meet you at at the next turn” club.
Our group of friends and riders from here on Long Island is affectionately called The Mixed Nuts, because we’re such an eclectic bunch of weirdos.
When it comes to riding, within the group there are some tortoises and some hares. Because we’ve known each other for years now the dynamic is very natural and it is easy to manage everyones expectations. They are usually – be safe & have fun. My dudes are easy to work with.
In many ways it almost seems like when we all hook up and ride – we’re riding alone, but together. There is plenty of mutual respect, there are no “rules” outside of don’t be an asshole, and there is no pushing to go faster or to do anything you don’t want to. If people want to cluster together and have at it – they do. If others want to string out and do their own thing, that’s fine too. Meet ya at the next turn.
Doing your own thing…together with my friends The Mixed Nuts. It’s perfect for me.
Our ride plan for the day didn’t involve many miles but they were quality miles. West Virginia has excellent riding. We were just going to ladder around a square of the big WV, have lunch and then be back in Elkins in the early evening for beer and pizza. A little Rt 33, a little Smoke Hole Rd., a little Rt 250, a couple connectors and gravels roads thrown in for good measure.
It was a perfect plan that we executed beautifully. And to top it all off, we couldn’t have ordered better weather from a catalog.
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.