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Columbus Day Weekend – Day 4 February 15, 2009

Posted by dakotabiker in Rides.
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I awoke the next morning and walked over to a nearby gas station for a cup of mud and thought about the day ahead.  In one sense I was eager to get home, but in another I was facing a cold monotony of a sceneless interstate.  (Going back to bed for a few hours actually crossed my mind.)  I drank my coffee in the frigid air wishing I were facing a warmer day and a casual scenic ride to nowhere …

My 66th point for 2008.My stop in Bull Run, Tennessee left me more than 50 miles from the Virginia boarder, still without the ABCs picture.  I packed the bike, gassed up, and braced for the cold as I headed up I-81 lik e a bat out of hell.  I was freezing and thought several times to stop, but I really had to make time if I was to get home at a decent time.  I was figuring to get the TN ABC shot at the the boarder.  With any luck, they’d have a “Now Leaving…” or “Thanks for visiting…” sign on the way out so I could avoid doubling back on the interstate; but it was not to be.  I took the first VA exit for US421 doubling back on I-81 to get the shot, then south to the US11W exit to get back on I-81 north back into VA.

Being originally from South Dakota, I always thought the states “out east” were comparatively tiny and quickly traversed.  After all, I started in Maryland, ate a steak in North Carolina, bought pears in South Carolina, had bad Mexican food with new friends in Georgia, and rode the Tail of the Dragon in Tennessee all in the last three days.  So why, oh why, was the stretch of I-81 along the spine of Virginia so interminably long?

I stopped in Abingdon, hoping to find a cool diner near the exit, but the best I managed was a Hardee’s, which would have been ok if the breakfast menu weren’t still up.  I was adventurous and had a chicken-fried pork chop breakfast sandwich with gravy.  Nice idea — but truly revolting.  I still spent quite a while there drinking coffee waiting for my core body temperature to get a few degrees away from hypothermia.

Back on I-81, I continued to race north.  The warmth of my “breakfast” and coffee wore off quickly.  I pressed on to Wytheville.  My Harley atlas indicated a dealership there, so I figured that would be a good place to stop for gas, warmth and a T-shirt.  The atlas, however, was pretty useless in-town, and the dealership was surprisingly devoid of signage (at least the way I came in) so I managed to completely miss it.   I gassed up north of town at a station on Peppers Ferry Road and picked up I-81N again via I-77S, and pressed on.

As the day progressed the weather warmed.  I was noticing that US-11 runs more-or-less parallel to I-81, and I kept thinking that it would be the better ride — but  the frigid tedium of  I-81 left me so worn out and tired, that I just wanted to get home, have a drink, and go to bed. 

I finally left I-81 at US211 in New Market.  I was getting quite warm by this point, and stopped to stow some gear and get a drink.  In the convenience store parking lot I met a couple BMW riders.   We talked for a while about how well the weather was shaping up and how great the Dragon’s Tail is (they had done it several times).  Now, with the day turning nice and the retelling my road adventures, my riding mood started improving dramatically.  I headed east on US211 toward Lurray.  Just east of New Market a few nice curves coming over a mountain ridge descending toward the Shenandoah River helped solidify the my renewed energy. 

Passing through Lurray, I was reminded that I live in a pretty decent area of the country for attactions of all sorts.  I have seen hundreds of Lurray Caverns ads on TV since coming to Maryland 20 years ago, but still have yet to go.  I made a mental note to come back this way in next spring and play the tourist role. 

After Lurray I crossed Skyline Drive at Thornton Gap, enjoying some short twisties, and enjoying the scenery of Shenandoah Nat’l Park.  In Warrenton I picked up US29 north.  I thought it might be interesting to stay on it through the middle of DC, but bailed on the idea, taking I-66 east toward the beltway.  Traffic on I-66 was moving well, and I was humming along at a good clip.  But then I started thinking that my ride was going to end too soon, after-all it was “only4:20″.  I made a snap decision to try US50/US29 into the city again, but traffic came to a miserable stop and go right off the exit.  My bike was over-heating; the engine gasping in parade-mode.  I did have one interesting chance encounter with a guy in the next lane who was telling me that his college roommate was one of the designers of the Dyna Wideglide, and that it was his favorite bike.  (yes, traffic was thatslow)  Appart from that exchange, the route sucked, and a miserable 5 miles later it was “already 4:40″ so I again gave up on the idea of going through the city and hit the Inner Loop heading home.

My beltway choice worked out well with my arrival home being perfectly coincident with sunset.   I grabbed a beer from my garage-fridge and thought about what a multifarious trip it had been in only four days.  Being home again, in the quiet evening with the characteristic pinging sounds of hot Harley metal cooling, it seemed like waking from a dream.  Looking around at the leaf-covered yard (and the other home jobs I had put off) and realizing that I would be going to work the next day, the whole trip felt like an unreal luxury.  I knew that, with a few exceptions, the details would fade, but the trip itself would last as another reinforcement of the feeling of the ride, like a well worn path through my psyche to that collection of emotions that can only be felt on two wheels. 

I sat for a while drinking my beer and listening to the pings getting a little softer and less frequent as twilight gave way to darkness.  I re-rode my journey in my mind, trying to recapture all the detail and nuance.  As I finished my beer and tossed the bottle in the recycling I thought to myself:  “I should really keep a journal…  or maybe a blog.”

Columbus Weekend Ride