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Blue Ride September 9, 2010

Posted by dakotabiker in Rides.
Tags: , , , ,

Earlier this week, I was forced to sign the paper authorizing the veterinary hospital to end the life of my friend and companion, a 7 year old Australian Shepherd named Blue.  She was the sweetest, most affectionate animal I have had the fortune to know.  She developed a cough upon my Thursday return return from speaking at Space 2010 conference.  By Friday, she was running a fever of 105.  By Saturday, she was admitted to the hospital for 24-hour care and placed on oxygen.  By Sunday she was facing going on a ventilator with the prognosis of never coming off of it, only delaying in misery a rapid respiratory decline.

Last photo of Blue while testing Retro Cam.

While some may feel a dog to be “just a pet”, Blue is much more and her death was (and is) devastating.  The speed of her decline from being a healthy active dog to lying in a veterinary ICU with a mystery ailment necessitating euthanasia was (and is) too much to accept.  As fate would have it, I had already planned to take leave of work this week.  I hung about the house for a few days trying unsuccessfully to move on and dealing with the barrage of memory triggers, and finally decided to take a ride to clear my head and just get out of the house.

I took the morning to slowly get ready and get the bike packed.  I used to have the routine down like clockwork, but the relative lack of rides this year and the preoccupation of what I was trying to escape had me moving a little slowly and forgetfully.  By noon I was gassing up and hitting the road heading west.

The weather was clear and the temperatures were in that deceptively confusing warm/cool range: that intermediate point where standing in a parking lot in the sun leaves you sweating, but being on the highway under a cloud leaves you freezing.  Fortunately I had been fooled more than once before by this meteorological duality and set out with jacket and gloves riding past folks in tank tops and shorts and yet still feeling a chill on the highway.  This trip started much the same as any other: riding like a bat out of hell out I-70W to escape the local urbania to really “start” the ride”.  The winds were very gusty and I was quickly reminded of how riding can so effectively clear one’s mind.  Hitting a huge lateral gust coming over a ridge, at 80-mph on a 55mph turn, while crossing the bow shock of semi, tends to push every thought from one’s head save the one idea of staying on the road.  Though I’d be on I-70 to Hancock, MD, I hopped off the interstate at MD-17 to cut over to the Dog Patch Tavern, my normal ride terminus. 

Downshifting into the parking lot, I was noticing how numb my fingers had gotten, and I wished I had brought thicker gloves.  Being an early Thursday afternoon, I was, not surprisingly, the only patron.  Despite my lack of rides this year, the barkeep, Dawn, recognized me and was already reaching for my “usual” before I ordered.  We chatted for a while about the wind and weather when the phone rang, leaving me to jot some notes about the trip and review the route ahead.

Dogpatch bartender, Dawn, has remembered my "usual" since the first day I walked in.

Heading out from the Dog Patch, I got back on I-70 via MD-66 and was immediately buffeted by the wind again.  It blew warm; it blew cold.  I was still chilled to the core so it was all cold to me.  I got off I-70 an exit earlier than I planned which took me along MD-144 though Hancock than to meet up with US-522 heading south, a new road for me. 

The change was immediately better than the interstate.  The wind had subsided and feeling slowly returned to my fingers.  I reached Berkley Springs, WV a short time later feeling a bit peckish and rode past my turn-off in search of sustenance.  I had passed a Hardee’s on the way there, and had very nearly pulled off for a Mushroom & Swiss.  The dearth of Hardee’s in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area is beguiling, and I would typically avail myself of the opportunity on these west-bound rides to partake of that particular burger; except for the fact on that on a recent ride I had missed out on what looked to be one of the coolest-looking BBQ joints simply because I had just filled up with fast food.  At that moment, much like Alton Brown’s Feasting on Asphalt, I had vowed to not again eat franchised food while on a ride.

Following US-522 through town, I happened upon a 5-stand market next to the city park and pulled over to check it out.  There wasn’t much suitable for lunch-fare at the stands, but I had parked in front of the Fairfax Cafe and so ventured in.  My fast food boycott had instead landed me a chicken salad sandwich on multigrain with grapes (not “on the side” but in the salad) and a cream soda.  I ate my lunch in the park, bought some gluten-free pecan-date cookies at one of the market stands, and headed back up US-522 to meet up with WV-9 heading west.

My lunch venue in Berkley Springs.

Another “new” road, WV-9 was a great ride: lots of 40 mph twists and beautiful landscape affording views of the Cacapon and Great Cacapon rivers.  I continued on WV-9 to WV-29 south, continuing to afford beautiful scenery and some great twisting roads (at least until hitting the valley).  I met up with US-50 toward Romney stopping for gas in Augusta. 

The worst tank fuel overflow of my riding experience had me rushing for non-existent paper towels, and spending a bit longer at the station than I had planned to let the bike “air out”.  While waiting, looking at my map, and drinking my Lo-Carb Monster energy drink, I heard the roar of a Maryland State Police helicopter immediately above my head coming in for a landing.  Wondering what a MD police chopper was doing in WV landing right across the road from where I was standing, I quickly ran through a mental list to confirm that it couldn’t possibly have anything to do with me just as the Augusta Rescue Squad ambulance showed up with sirens blaring.  Minutes later a patient was transferred to the helicopter and airlifted away as a small crowd looked on from the Augusta BP gas station.

Concerned that I was making poor time to my tentative destination of Covington VA, or at least to Warm Springs, I continued down US-50W toward Romney.  I passed the KoolWink Motel with a smile (post-dated blog pending) and met up with US-220S in Junction, WV.  US-220 continued to be a great ride, though the road did straighten out a bit along the valley and the wind picked up again; but I was making good time and the countryside was still a good backdrop.

I reached Petersburg as my shadow was getting longer than I hoped, and pulled into the Rite Aid as I appeared to be heading out of town to check my progress on the map.  Assuming (possibly incorrectly) that town populations were a fair indicator of prospects for food, drink, and lodging, I opted to turn back into downtown Petersburg and seek the Hermitage Motor Inn (whose sign explicitly welcomes Bikers and boasts a restaurant).   Checking in I learned that Grant County had exactly four bars, and that Petersburg has two of them, and furthermore, that the Hermitage is within two blocks of those. 

I guess the Hermitage Inn proper was built in 1800 and something but the building where my room is situated is apparently a bit “newer”, yet somehow not nicer…  The place is more reminiscent of a dorm built in 1960 than a motel or hotel, with an eerie sudden familiarity with the other guests.  The rooms are clean, though not extraordinarily so, with wood paneling decor that has not changed in about 30 years (not much more nor less).  I have stayed in much worse and much better, so I am content. 

I unloaded and covered the bike, got a quick shower and headed to the restaurant at the motel, where I had a pretty decent rib-eye, reasonable asparagus given the season, and a mediocre zinfandel with very friendly service. 

Finishing dinner, the evening had a bit of a nip in the air so I grabbed my jacket to walk down to the two bars in town.  The first, The Office Pub, is CLOSED; the owner was on vacation until the 14th, so of course (?) the bar is closed.

Fortunately the 3rd Base Sports Bar and Grill is open and right across the street, which is where I am right now…  working on the blog and really regretting ordering the nachos….



1. JT - September 10, 2010

How very sad. To ‘some’, they are ‘just pets’…but it matters not what ‘some’ think.

I grieve for different reasons, but the cure is the same…I set out on a ride, too terribly short though (due to family duties). Yet, it clears the head and heart quickly….even in temps of mid to upper 40’s I find it pure …the ride that is….

Australian Shepherds are great! We had a Aussie Shep/Blue Heeler cross….excellent dog, but she chased a tire 😦

2. Rex J. Covington - September 10, 2010

Sorry to hear about Blue! I’m enjoying your trip, keep blogging.

3. leilani - September 11, 2010

brings me to tear’! just reading what happen to blue.such a great loss.my heart go’s out to you.

4. iowaharleygirl - September 11, 2010

Very sorry for the loss of your dog, Blue. It’s good you left to clear your head. The loss of a pet is just as difficult because they become part of your family.

5. Marika - October 6, 2010

I’m really sorry for Blue, she had a sweet look.

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