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Easter Loop April 12, 2009

Posted by dakotabiker in Rides.
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Again, the week had kicked my butt.  With the launches of LRO, LCROSS, and MLAS coming up and LMMP heading into implementation I was feeling a bit spread out.  The LCROSS Mission Readiness Review had been scheduled for this week, but moved with the recent launch delay.  I incorrectly thought I’d have some time to get caught up; didn’t, but at least managed to bring things to a low roar.  I figured to take a 2-day ride to blow out the stress and regain a little focus.

Saturday and Sunday were supposed to be nice.  A chance of rain Saturday morning, but sunny 50’s thereafter.  I woke Saturday morning to rain — gray, steady, soaking rain…  I checked the weather: supposed to clear by 10.  At 10: supposed to clear by 12.  At 12: still raining… and the power was now out.

I’ve ridden in rain, and I am well able to do so….  But if I am riding for relaxation, STARTING in rain is not fun.  I held off…  Finally at 3 o’clock the rain cleared and the sun started peeking out with most of the day gone.  I had planned on riding west in to West Virginia, maybe Ohio, and get on some roads I’d not ridden before.  No way I would make Ohio today, but I set out on my loosely defined route. 

As always, I high-tailed it west on I-70 (the ride to the ride).  I got off at MD-355 in Frederick.  I crossed back over I-70 on New Design Road heading south, and stopped in a little shopping mall at a bar called Beef O’ Brady’s for a bio-break and to warm up a little bit.  The kindly barmaid comp’d me my coffee (which ironically, I only ordered to be a “customer” to use the restroom). 

Heading back out to the parking lot, I changed the batteries in the GPS (its for tracking not for routing) and headed south on New Design.  Following each of three cars going slightly slower than I was wont, I was held up just enough to just be stopped by a coal train crossing the road — something I had seen and often waited for in my youth in South Dakota, but not for years living in the DC metro area.  I shut off the bike and watched the endless stream of cars crossing in front of me.  Little did I know, that would not be the last train on the trip.

The only ABC photo I managed to stop for (28th point for the year)

The only ABC photo I managed to stop for (28th point for the year)

I took New Design to MD-28 west picking up US-15 south to Leesburg, VA.  I really thought to stop at the Downtown Saloon across from the Loudoun County Court House (“Better here than across the street” is their slogan.)  but instead turned onto VA-7 and headed west.  Picking up VA-9  I headed west to Charles Town, WV.

Charles Town is one of the closer “gambling” towns to Maryland, touting “Charles Town Races and Slots!”  I am more for table games (Blackjack and Craps), but thought Charles Town may offer that which comes with gambling… good restaurants and bars.  Turns out Charles Town is really much more of a typical lazy small town  than I imagined — at least the parts of it I saw. 

Just entering town there is a little confluence of roads and signage directing everywhere but Charles Town.  I continued straight and ended up on WV-115 not knowing if I was heading for Charles Town or not.  It was getting colder and the sun was heading for the horizon — and I knew I’d best find my place for the night with enough light to explore.  I stopped at a 7-11 at a crossroads and polled the parking lot inhabitants.  I ended up taking the advice of a man in a neon green shirt who was giving his recent knee replacement a multi-mile workout.  He recommended heading up into Ranson, staying at the Budget Inn and having a drink at a bar called Secrets within walking distance of the motel.

The Budget Inn was a typical cheap motel, though it was surprisingly “nicer” than than it first appeared (note: I did not say “nice” , only “nicer than…”).  The room was cleaner than many, the sheets were clean, and the towels were unusually soft for a cheap motel, however, the beds were among the worst in which I had lain.

I stripped the bags off the bike and headed down the road to check out Secrets, which really should have been a good bar — but wasn’t;  probably because of the meager pre-Easter patronage and bad music.  Right across the parking lot from Secrets was Anthony’s, a pizza and subs place where I feasted on one of the BEST cheese-steaks ever.  After the late start and damp chilly ride, it really hit the spot, and will be a “must have” for future rides in the area.

Budget inn only about 450 feet from the tracks.

Budget inn only about 450 feet from the tracks.

Heading back to the motel and feeling too logy to blog, I tried watching some TV but found 20-odd channels of static covered stations (despite having a cable connection).  The room was cold, the bed hard and lumpy, and the blanket useless– I actually questioned for a moment my “road rule” of staying only in the local cheap motels on my rides.  Lying tired and nearly asleep, I heard a familiar sound in the distance growing louder and louder…  As it  turns out the train tracks are 450 feet from my motel room

I watched the 1960 film Inherit the Wind with Spencer Tracy.  Somehow the black and white film made the signal noise more tolerable, as though watching it four decades ago with a foil-laden set of  rabbit-ears. 

I am assuming I eventually slept, only because I finally awoke.  Tired and achy, I put on yesterday’s clothes and strode across WV-115 to the Ranson Grill in the crisp 31 degree air.  I ordered a coffee to go, and let the proprietor know I’d be back after I woke up.

I headed back to the room and tried to get moving with the day.  Watching a snowy, staticky airing of Spiderman, I drank my coffee, showered, put on some fresh clothes and packed the bike. 

Checking out of the motel, I wondered where the nice weather was that I was counting on.  My “great” electric gloves had just failed earlier in the week, and I was not prepared for 30 degree riding. I rode the bike across the street to the grill.  I ordered French toast, eggs, and bacon, and sat loosely planning the rest of my trip as Lorne Greene plotted to save his son, Michael Landon, from kidnappers, in a  Bonanza  episode playing over my head on a big flat screen TV.  The locals were coming in for breakfast after church services, talking about who they’d seen there (and who they hadn’t in a while).

It was still cold by the time I finished with breakfast and headed out.  I back tracked a little ways south on WV-115 to pick up WV-51 west.  I only made it as far as Inwood (about 13 miles) when I had to stop and warm up at McDonalds with a large coffee.  I pulled out the laptop and started this blog…   I really nursed that McD’s coffee, writing instead of riding, waiting for day to warm.

Finally, I headed out continuing on WV-51 meeting up with WV-45 heading west.  Despite the cold, WV-45 was an unusually beautiful ride: smooth ,well banked road, lots of gentle twisties with few surprises.   WV-45 crossed the boarder into Virginia becoming VA-681 (which I didn’t notice) which soon terminated (unexpectedly) leaving a choice of right or left.  I guessed wrong, and ended up on VA-671 (the road I thought I came in on).  VA-671 was still a scenic route, but the road condition became increasingly poor; never horrible, but just enough to become a little tense in some turns taken a little too quick.  I kept thinking I sould be coming across my next leg, US-522, at some point.  The optimism of seeing a highway in the distance was shattered when I pulled onto US-11;  I had been heading in nearly the opposite direction since the VA-671 error.  I pulled into a Truck Stop to reassess.

Easter Weekend Ride 2009To avoid the maze of three digit Virginia state routes, I needed to go south to go north.  I continued down US-11 toward Winchester and picked up US-522 north via VA-37 west.  I stopped at a Farmers Market (it didn’t dawn on me that nothing is in season), bought some homemade black walnut fudge and horehound candy, and continued up US-522.  US-522 north out of Winchester was easily one of the best 4-lane divided highways I have ridden.  Big broad sweeping curves through rolling “mountain” countryside.  Traffic flowed well, the views were scenic and the twists were just enough to be like gliding at higher speeds without imposing any significant challenge.

I somewhat regretted leaving US-522 to take VA-127 west back into West Virginia, where it bacame WV-127 to pick up WV-29 north, and in retrospect I rue the decision even more.   The roads were nice enough, but from WV-29 through the rest of the trip, the incessant wind and cold made the ride more work than relaxation, especially after my poor night’s sleep.

The rest of the day was just a hard ride.  Every muscle clenched bracing against the wind and cold.  My failed glove left my left fingers freezing and sporting that old cadaver cream color forcing me to pull over too often.  I don’t think I had drunk that much coffee in a day since running all-night thermal vacuum tests on the MESSENGER solar arrays. 

I followed WV-29 north until it became WV-9, which I rode into Paw-Paw.  Crossing the Potomac into Maryland it turned to MD-51, which I rode into Cumberland.  All the while passing ABC photo ops, but being too cold to care.  Stopping in Cumberland for my ump-teenth cup of coffee, I debated briefly about taking I-68 west to pick up Garrett county.  But at this point, 15 miles up and 15 miles back was a 25 minutes delay to getting home and warming up in a comfortable bed.   So I punted, figuring if all else failed, I’d pick Garrett on my coast-to-coast ride this July, and I headed home at high speed on I-68 east to I70 east.  

After 80 miles I was at the Dog Patch, still an hour out from home.  I stopped for some chilli and beer.  I realized that despite the fact I was tired, hungry, and freezing (and maybe because of that fact) — I hadn’t thought about work at all.  I had exchanged one form of stress for another, but now it was purer and simpler — kicked a couple notches down Maslow’s Hierarchy.  I think it was a good trade.

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