BRP Trip – Day 9, Part 2

After the second cup, I had made my decision…decide later.  Heck, I still had to get through the rest of the Skyline Drive, and by the end, I’d need something to eat, drink, and to fill the bike up again.  So…I’d decide at the end of this magnificent road.

It had warmed up a little, but gloves and a medium thickness jacket were still required.  The road continued to take me through the park, and I came across Mary’s Rock Tunnel.  I should mention that there are around 14 tunnels on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  They aren’t that long, and some have a curve or two in the middle of them.  It still creates a pucker going from sunlight to the tunnel being illuminated by the headlights on the hog I rode.  The other ends were easy to see, but the lines in the middle of the road became faded to the eye, warranting slowing down the speed…and of course either hitting the throttle or the air horn when inside to get the loud echo effects that only a motorcyclist again understands the reasoning for doing such.

Before going into the tunnel, there is a scenic pull over, and a nice sign explaining the construction of the Mary’s Rock Tunnel.  Interesting reading, worth pulling over to read it.

This tunnel is the only one on Skyline Drive, and I think I liked it a lot better than all the other ones I had been through in the preceding days.

A few miles later, Skyline Drive, and the Shenandoah National Forest, came to an end.  A right turn out of the park put me in Front Royal, Virginia at about 10:30AM.  At the first stoplight, I crossed and pulled into a gas station, fueled up the bike, and rode the bike to the front of the business so I can get something to eat, drink, and make my final decision which way to go from here.

The sign on the building boasted of large gyros for sale inside, and myself, loving good Greek food (no, I’m not Greek), decided to venture inside to confiscate a fresh early lunch.  The condition of the back of the gas station, where the gyros were made, was unclean, dirty, and revolting to the senses.  I turned around and walked out, remembering the crackers I had bought the night before.  Oh, I should mention water stops a little bit while on the subject.  It’s easy to get water containers filled everywhere.  I do have to say that the campground I had stayed at the night before had the best source of spring water out of the pump I’ve ever had.  It put all bottled water I’ve ever had to shame on taste.

So, crackers in one hand, water bottle in the other, I pulled out my HD map, my laminated maps, turned on the GPS, and started doing some figuring.  5 days to get back home before needed at work.  I could backtrack the way I came, and see at least part of the roads I had already ridden.  I could ride around Virginia, looked like some good roads in the area running back by Shenandoah.  Or, I could slab quickly back down to North Carolina, and try some roads that I didn’t get to do on my first pass through that friends had highly recommended.

My wife and I travel everywhere together, over the last ten years that we’ve been together.  We’ve never had a vacation apart.  I love traveling with her, a lot of fun she is.  But this was my first solo bike trip since before I had met her, and I was having the time of my life doing it solo.  I may not get the chance to do this again on my own anytime in the next ten years to come.  So…go back home to see my wife, family, and dogs…or continue on for just a few more days.  The decision was actually very easy.

I planned my route…back home.  9 days already, and I missed my wife, family, dogs, bed, and more.  The bones were a little weary, and I was exhausted…a good exhausted, but exhausted nonetheless.  I knew I would need a couple of days rest of sitting in the recliner, and to take care of my own “honey do list” that had accumulated once I got back home.

I just didn’t anticipate that the trip home would cause me the most stress of the entire trip…would lead to easily having completed an Iron Butt (1,000 mile trip in 24 hours or less) certificate, and would lead to break downs…with one of those being so bad, that a semi almost complete jackknifed to keep from killing me.  Stay tuned…one more part to write…and I swear, no more boring words to read…at least for this trip  🙂

BRP Trip – Day 9, Part 1

Things that go bump in the night.  Branches blowing in the wind, shadows dancing on the tent sides.  Unknown noises from nature, wind rustling the trees.  The mind plays tricks on you when you’re in areas unknown…the senses are heightened, but the brain can’t decipher the real sources in the darkness of the wild.

One would think I would have been up in the tent all night, worried about bears.  Truth be told, I feel asleep quickly once I laid down, bundled in the sleeping bag against the dropping temperatures.  It wasn’t the dance of the shadows that woke me up…nor the sound of anything wild.  It was the smell…the obnoxiously awful smell.  Imagine the odor of a skunk that has just sprayed its pungent defense…but worse.  The scent of something rotten, mixed in with skunk, and decaying mud…that’s the wonderful aroma that awoke me this night.  It only took me a few seconds to hear the grunts…then the movement.

HMMMPFFF.  HMMMPFFF.  A low but discernible grunt…not a growl, not threatening, but definitely a sound of presence.  Half-awake, I immediately wondered why there was a wild pig outside of my tent…and then I awoke completely when I put all the information together, and realized that the night’s visitor was no pig.  You could hear the movement…the weight pressing against the ground as it shuffled around outside.  I’ve never been close to a bear in the wild…but there’s no mistake to what was outside the tent.

I grabbed the large camp knife that I use for cutting firewood, and quietly removed myself from the warm sleeping bag.  I strained to hear the direction of the night visitor as it moved around outside, hoping that it kept distancing itself from my tent.  I could hear it by a nearby picnic table, and I could hear it moving towards my Ultra Classic.  As seconds turned to minutes, I could hear it moving about my  campsite, obviously searching for a meal.  I’m pretty sure I heard a second set of grunts and movement, and I could only guess that this was another mother animal with a youngster in tow.  The grunts quietly continued, as if to let me know that they were out there, and I’d be better off to respect the fact that they should be allowed to wander on their own.

Sitting there, I put my riding on boots as quietly as possible, and alternated watching both exit flaps as I tried to decipher where the bears may be.  This probably lasted 3 to 4 minutes, but I have no idea how long the entire scenario lasted.  Eventually, the movement drifted off, and I sat for longer waiting for it to return…which it did not.  I would estimate that after about 5 minutes, I decided to grab my flashlight, slowly and quietly open the tent flap zipper, and reach out through the rain fly to sweep the area with the light.  Nothing to see, bike still upright…but the smell that had awoken me was lingering in the air.  I pulled back into the tent, and repeated the process with the flap on the other side.  Nothing to see.  The darkness was partially broken by the moonlight of a quarter-moon.  The bears had moved on.

When the nerves calmed down, I laid back down…on top of the sleeping bag, pulling my jacket over me.  Exhausted from lack of sleep, I eventually drifted off again…with my camp knife laying open next to my body.  I would not need it’s comfort again that night.

The sunrise cast a glow into the tent, which awoke me gracefully.  Unzipping the tent, I expected to find damage to something I owned…the tent, my bike, the bag hanging from the tree…something.  Nothing was found disturbed, other than the ground which contained faint paw prints from something bigger than a dog.  I stepped out into the cold mountain air, and stretched to shake off the sleep that still lingered in my bones.  Over the next hour, I would eat a breakfast of Pop-Tarts, take a shower, and start to pack up the camp site.  The preppy couple had wakened up as well, and they excitedly inquired of me whether I had heard the bears that they did as well.  I acknowledged that I had, and we all talked about the night for a few minutes before they too decided to get back to their morning requirements.

The temperature was in the high 40s, and my body was calling for the warmth of the day to arrive quickly.  Having the bike ready to go, I dropped off my camping receipt that was hung on the pole in the checkout drop box at the front of the campground, climbed on the bike, and with a wave of the hand to the preppy couple bidding them goodbye, rode out of the campground as quietly and quickly as I could without disturbing the other guests too much.

The cold air was damp, and the sunshine was barely making it onto the road through the trees.  About twenty miles up the road, I found the Skyland Lodge, and made a hasty entrance into the parking lot.  Following the wooden signs, I found the dining hall, and entered.  I was more than willing to pay as high a price for a steaming cup of coffee as needed, when I found the small Starbucks stand off to the side.  Not being hungry, nor wanting to sit in the restaurant for a period of time, I went to the stand and poured myself one of the best cups of coffee I had on the trip.  After paying the cashier, I found a comfortable lodge chair, slowly enjoyed the java, and gave thought to what to do once the Skyline Drive ride had been accomplished…which would be done in the next couple of hours.

I still had five days before I needed to return to work.  My wife was fine with my being gone an entire two weeks for this trip.  We had talked several times a day when I was able to get into cellphone coverage areas (surprisingly, Verizon service was almost everywhere that I tried it during the entire trip). We missed each other obviously, but I was on a trip of the lifetime.  Go where I want, see what I want, leave when I want.  To go home…or to stay out a few more days exploring my roads.  I had given thought to reaching the end of Skyline Drive, and then turning around to experience at least part of the journey I had taken…in the other direction.

Only a second cup of coffee would help me decide….whether to go home, or see more of this:

BRP Trip – Day 8 Writeup, Part 2

The continuing saga for the motorcycling fool in the Shenandoah National Forest left our rider on the side of the road, with weary hands.  Ah, yes.  The overlooks in this park rival those on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and it’s easy to find a place to sit on one of the retaining walls and just stare off into the miles of beauty displayed before you and relax and let sore muscles heal a little.  Eventually, with the hours passing from the day, it was time to remount the bike, and continue heading north, in search of a campground for the night.

For the life of me, I can’t remember the exact name of the camping site that I stopped at this evening.  It was probably around 10 miles south of the big Skyland Resort area, because I did stop there to get warm and get some hot Starbucks coffee after only riding about 20 minutes the following morning.  I guess for those so inclined, you can research it and find it…something I shall do at a later time as well.  Anyways, it was a nice campground…pulling off on the east side of Skyline Drive, a general store with coin operated showers and laundry were immediately in view, and thinking this is where I checked into grab a campsite, I stopped and went inside.

Two ladies were working the store, both nice as could be.  They quickly pointed me down the access road a little further, telling me to find a campsite, get set up, then go back to the entrance to the campground and deposit funds into a small locked wooden box.  Ah…the honor system….kind of.  There is a ranger that lives in one of the varied trailers on the property who checked the box several times a day as I was to find out (not to worry, I followed the honor system).  I thanked them for the information, and proceeded to find a site on the south side of the campground in a quieter area to make the presence of my loud hog known.

After setting up the campsite, I was quick to discover that the drop box was unable to break my $20 bill, which necessitated a walk a little further back to the general store.  While there, I purchased a drink, and some crackers to snack on for the next day.  I was informed by the ladies there that the area did have bear problems…more aggressive in nature, but none that had attacked anybody in all the years that the park was in existence.  Thanks, nice to know.  With Murphy following me (guess you’ll have to read my other postings to know who that is if you haven’t figured it out yet), I was sure that if anybody could break the safety record, it would be me.

Dinner came out of a can, and into a pot it went using my small alcohol stoves to provide the necessary heat.  After that much riding each day, dinner was always five-star…even if the same dinner at home was one or two star in taste.  Never failed to amaze me how good things taste while camping, and as usual, this meal was no exception.  Not much to do in this campground other than to sit and people watch.  There was a exceptionally large group of what appeared to be Amish or similar group located throughout the camp in different tents, I’d say at least 30-40 people, that used a campsite about an 1/8th of a mile away as a central meeting place.  People came and went quietly, as if parts of the large family or group branched off looking for some quiet time away from the main group.  In other campsites, I saw a young preppy couple that was having all kinds of issues with their camp (lighting a campfire, cooking, setting up a large fabric shelter to stay away from bugs) who seemed to enjoy arguing about every little thing the other person was doing, and right next to me were three men…two older, one in their late teens, who had appeared with very large backpacks and were obviously walking the trails in the park for an extended amount of time.

Nobody wanted to talk to the mean, nasty biker (me) when I said hello to them, so I went back to the campsite and continued to watch people around me.  Approximately 15 minutes later, the resident park ranger appeared, jumping out of his truck, and checking all the campsite receipts that hung from poles to make sure people had registered properly.  I walked over to him, and after a pleasant greeting, we both leaned against his truck to discuss the questions we both had for each other…him about my trip, and then me gathering information about this “so called bear situation” they were having.

“Bear problems?  Yes we are having serious bear problems right now.”  This is the answer I heard when I asked about what the ladies had told me earlier in the general store.  Apparently, unlike the last park I camped at, the bears in this area were more aggressive, and not afraid to be a little more inquisitive around belongings of humans.

So, the conversation went something like this (don’t quote me, but it gets the basics down to where the conversation was going):

Me:  So, Mr. Park Ranger…how bad is the beer problem?

Him:  Really bad right now.  They have been coming into the campsites each night.

Me:  Nice to know.  Anything special I need to do?

Him:  Yes.  Take anything with an odor, no matter how good or bad, put it in your big motorcycle bag there, and <pointing> hang it way up in that tree over there away from your camp.   You have rope, right?

Me:  Um, yeah.  I’ve got some rope, not sure I have enough to hang it a hundred feet up in that tree where the first set of branches merge, but I’ll figure something out.

Him:  Good.  I guarantee you that if they smell anything smelling like food or toothpaste in your tent, they will try to enter it.

Me:  That’s nice.  Glad wife has a lot of insurance on me, at least one of us will be happy tomorrow morning.

Him:  Heh…yeah, I don’t think you’ll have any problems.

Me:  So, if they try to come into the tent, what should I do?

Him:  I see your tent has flap on each side.  If they try to come in one side, go out the other, and scream like the devil.

Me:  What if there is more than one, and one decides to wait in ambush by the other door?

Him:  Sorry sir, guess your wife is going to get rich.  By the way, that’s nice paint you have on your bike sitting there.  Bears like to scratch and push things around that they aren’t familiar with…they think everything’s a toy that’s new.

Me:  Really.  Well, the bike is almost half a ton.

Him:  They aren’t going to bench press it, son.  It only takes a little bit of weight to knock it over.  It only takes one swipe of their paw to take the seat off, or require new paint work.  Ya got insurance on it too, right?

With that and a little snicker…he left to keep looking at other camper’s tags.  Now, I’m an adult, I’ve camped quite a bit…but never had a park ranger say to expect potential problems with at least one bear in the middle of the night.  I can handle myself…somebody gets physical with me, I’m kicking them in the nuts, and punching them in the face as they go down.  If somebody wants to steal from me, let them…I’ll buy something else after I call 911.  But what they heck is the plan for dealing with a bear that may think that my body odor, the smell of my sleeping bag, or the taste of my tent may be an invite to a buffet inside the tent?  A little nervous, but not enough to leave.  Let’s see…nobody’s ever been attacked, there’s tons of tents in eyesight, food’s now up in the tree, they come around nightly and don’t cause too many problems…and hopefully they know what a motorcycle is already and find them boring.

Too much thinking…time for a little campfire to get warm (it got down to 48 overnight), and watch the sparks and flames.

I thought that this would turn into a interesting night…and it did.  Stay tuned for the Day 9 writeup, it has new cast members in it….Mr. Bear and his pal, Bubba Bear!

BRP Trip – Day 8 Writeup, Part 1

Dozens of motorcycles starting nearly at once.  Must be close to 5:30AM, which the club I had met the night before had told me would be their leaving time for their own trip onward.  Opening the door, I leaned against the frame absorbing the sounds and vibration…which most likely would be an irritant to other motel guests…but to me was music.  I received the goodbye wave or thumbs up from nearly all, as they exited the parking lot and headed out on their journey.

I’ve been asked by non-riders why motorcyclists wave to each other…after all, Ford car owners don’t when they see another Ford go by…so what gives with bikers?  Well, the short answer…is because “we know what others’ don’t”.  It’s like a fraternity, with most that pass another biker giving a wave, the two-finger down salute, or a thumbs up to signify the freedom of the open road and the enjoyment of experiencing it on two wheels (or three if you have a trike) with the wind against your body.  Another Harley adage is “If I have to explain it, you wouldn’t understand”.  Fits perfectly…only a motorcyclist knows the freedom you feel when you ride.

Breakfast was a trip to the hotel lobby, where the advertised hot breakfast was nothing more than cold biscuits, sausage patties, and something that resembled scrambled egg discs that could have been used for keeping water cool on the bike.  At least the orange juice was colder, and the coffee hot.  I talked with a motel guest a little about motorcycles and answered the questions he had about my journey, and I found out about his being in the area to attend his granddaughter’s graduation ceremony from high school.

With the bike ready to go again after a visit to the local BP, I easily found the Blue Ridge Parkway and found my way north again.

The road was surrounded by higher hills and smaller mountains more frequently once again.  Peaks of Otter was an interesting pull off, with some nice views in the area and a chance to restock the liquid needs that I was having already from their lodge and trinket shop.  More souvenirs went into the bike for the family, and I officially proclaimed the bike to be full.

Seriously, there are many, many scenic overlooks, as well as places to stop along the BRP for rest areas and food/lodging needs.  There are many attractions and great riding roads off the Parkway as well.  You could spend a month on this road, and never visit everything that’s offered within 20 miles of the main road.  I guess this is why so many people I met said they come there every year on their vacation…and haven’t seen it all after a dozen trips.

There are lots of National Forests in and around the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Much of the road is designed to run you through them for the best views.  George Washington, Jefferson, Pisgah, Nantahala, and many more…at times you feel like your in deep in the forest, and other others you feel like you are flying about them.

Mid-day found me at the end of the Blue Ridge Parkway, on a little side pullover.  Where was the sign that surely existed that let the adventurer know that one of the most beautiful roads in the world had now ended?  I looked all around, and even asked another motorcycling couple that was already parked there where the end sign was.  We all just shrugged our shoulders.  Looking back, I could see the sign showing the beginning from the other direction…but no sign to mark any accomplishment for the traveler who had traversed the entire route.

What better thing to do than to ride into Waynesboro, and get a full tank of gas to start out on Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park?  This side trip took thirty minutes, and found me right back to the pull-off I had previously been parked at.  Looking forward, signs indicated the entrance to Shenandoah, along with the notice that this was a “entry fee park”, requiring $10 for a week’s pass for usage of the park.  Also on a sign was the distance to different areas within the park, with Front Royal, VA being the exit point of the park from this direction.

In comparison to the BRP, Skyline drive is less than a 1/4 of the length…but still offers plenty of beauty, scenic pull overs, and amazing views.

On my third or fourth curve inside the park, right after the above picture was taken, I came out of a long right sweeping curve to find myself presented with one of the most beautiful things I know I will ever encounter in my life.  So enthralled I was, the camera sitting in it’s case on the handlebars was totally forgotten, but I will never forget the next ten minutes of my life.  Bear with me, as I truly do not do justice explaining what I had been given the opportunity to view.

Coming out of this curve, doing the required 35 MPH maximum speed limit that is strictly enforced inside Shenandoah, I immediately see about 200 yards in front of me on the straightaway a doe and her baby standing in my lane of travel, eating the grass on the side of the road.  With honed reflexes from years of riding, I quickly downshift to first gear silently, and slowly head towards the deer.

The mother was full-sized, clean, and stood approximately five and a half feet tall.  She was easily taking up 2/3 of my lane of road, and I can easily see the entire right side of her body as she grazed.  Beside her, was a fawn that had to be a late spring present to the doe…she was extremely little in comparison, perhaps no more than 2 feet tall at the highest point.  Both were engrossed with eating the plants that grow on the edge of the asphalt, and didn’t look up as I slowly closed the distance to them for an unbelievable amount of distance.

I slowly get to about 120 yards away, and both suddenly realize that they are no longer alone and raise their heads to stare at my approaching hog.  Both refused to move as I slowly closed our gap.  About 50 yards away, I come to a stop and put the bike into neutral, waiting for the unpredictable animals to jump one way or the other and go off into the side brush.  None of the three of us move…for minutes.  I’m marveling at the scene in front of me, while secretly wishing that they’d be the first to break the stalemate and bounce off to avoid any collision between us.  I really have no idea how much time passed…me sitting on my idling Harley, they standing thre looking at the creature that invaded their space with the loud machinery puttering underneath him.  They refuse to move, either out of anger or fear…or amazement of their own.

I decide to use the ProPad Air Horn on my bike.  It’s comparable to the tone of a freight train engine…not as loud of course, but well over 120 decibels.  I give a blast on the horn, and the baby immediately jumps off into the brush.  The mother, now probably either confused or pissed off, starts stutter stepping on all four legs, but not moving from her spot.  I believe completely that the deer is going to charge me, and I ready myself to take off and am prepared to go left or right depending on which way she comes.  I ease up a little further, and get into the oncoming lane of traffic to afford me a little more distance from my original lane of traffic…which she has taken ownership of and refusing to leave.

After maybe 30 seconds, the mother stops her in-place dance…and goes back to eating the vegetation on the side of the road.  Seriously???  Here I am, on a 900 pound machine, fully loaded, sitting on the empty road in the wrong lane, wondering what my next step should be.  Common sense says I need to turn around, find one of the earlier overlooks, and take a break for a while to allow the deer to finish grazing and move on.  Stupid “keep moving forward” sense says just go past the deer.  I ponder this, and decide…let’s go with the stupid choice.

I engage first gear again, and slowly approach the deer, riding in the wrong lane.  I’m already sending the different commands to my body…twist throttle hard, lean right or left depending on circumstance, lean down as far as I can to avoid the leg to the head when she jumps over/at me.  But I’m not giving the command “initiate” to my body as I get within around 25 yards of the deer.

The mother had stopped eating again, and just raised her head and watched me approach…her head turning in slow motion as I advance, keeping me in both of her eyes as the gap closes to nothing.  As I pass the deer, I’m already fighting the pain of the crushing blow that is going to happen…but never occurs.  As I ride past the mother, she simply watched me go right past her.  As I’ve now told my wife, I could have extended my arm two feet from the bike, and touched her nose as I rode past.

About twenty yards past the deer, I can’t help but look back at the deer.  I watched surprisingly as the fawn, which had taken cover in the deep vegetation, bounded back out, went to her mother’s side, turned around next to her, and started grazing again.  As I rode down the road to approach the next curve, I took one last look in the right side mirror, and saw the two deer jump back into the forest together to go on with their lives.

My words do not do the event justice.  It truly was a “wonder of the world” to view and be a participant in.  There’s beauty in a baby’s smile…there’s beauty in a warm cup of cocoa given to you by a loved one when you come in from the cold…there’s beauty in the cool breeze on a hot summer day…and there’s beauty in being invited into nature like I was.  I’ll never forget it.  Very powerful moment to me.  Maybe not to you…but hey, it’s my blog  🙂  (Note to self…invest in the video camera and mount for the bike before the next trip…)

About 1/2 mile down the road, a pretty scenic overlook invited me for a closer look.

This was a great place to pull out the water bottle, a apple and cinnamon snack bar, and invest thirty minutes of my life into just appreciating the moment and remembering what’s good in my life.

Even roads as beautiful as this has to be maintained, and I was happy to be riding on freshly created asphalt with bright lines in the middle and side of the road.  I thought I had washed away Murphy’s Law outside of Roanoke the evening before, but it caught up with me again (like them road gremlins that my bell keeps knocking off…look up Gremlin or Guardian Bell to understand).  I managed to drive about 30 miles into the park only to catch up with the striping truck, and instead of turning around and going back to a rest area for a couple of hours, decided to follow the truck with the large gathering of cars that were accumulating behind me.

Want to know what’s not fun when riding a motorcycle?  Riding in bucket fulls of rain.  Also, following a striping truck for 3 miles up and down a mountainside with no pull offs available with a line of cars behind you, on freshly laid asphalt, on a 90+ degree day, with an overheating motorcycle under you…at 2-3 miles an hour.  Over an hour of stopping, clutching, braking, and idling.  Finally, the line striping truck pulled off into a scenic overlook to let the line of vehicles pass…and I quickly put 3-4 miles of distance between us until I could find a place to pull over and rest the weary hands.  Didn’t want the truck to catch up and put me behind it again!

Coming up…my own midnight encounter with a bear…and the decision whether to head home…or turn around and ride south along the path I had just come.

BRP Trip – Day 7 Writeup, Part 2

Rain.  Essential to all living things.  It can be welcome, or it can be cursed, depending the intensity of the storm at hand.  Puttin’ along northward on the Blue Ridge Parkway, I could see the storm continuing to build in strength, and it would alternate between sprinkles and showers for miles.  Turning in to Mabry Mill, a National Park Service rest area, I pulled out the iPhone and searched on the MyRadar application to gauge what was coming.  About 20 miles NW of my location, I could see that the massive amount of yellow and red color radar indicated that once the storm hit the BRP, it was going to last a while, possibly for hours.  I evaluated its position, and my surroundings…no place to bed down in the area, no campgrounds nearby, and only a busy parking lot that would surely empty out in a few hours as all the visitors to the Mill slowly went on their way.

So, I guessed that I could beat the storm before hit the BRP, and proceeded northward at a more hurrying clip to try try to out-flank the deluge that was sure to come.  I guessed wrong, and paid for my mistake.

Approximately 20 miles north of my rest stop, the storm met me on the road with an intensity that is impossible to describe to those that read this.  The best I can muster is to imagine somebody pouring a never-ending bucket on your body and head, one so strong that you can not see a foot in front of you.  I could not make our my windshield, nor my illuminated gauges…and even worse, I had absolutely no chance of making out the road that I was on.  The Parkway is a two-lane road along its length…the sides either fall off the mountains, or go straight into the grasslands of the meadows, depending on your location.  There are no pull-offs unless it’s into a scenic overlook, and as Murphy’s Law would have it, I was on a stretch of the Parkway that had no overlooks…but lots of meadows.  The last thing one wants to do, besides falling off a mountain, is to drive blindly into a soggy meadow, which would surely ensnare the 900+ pound machine and myself.

For those that ride, you undoubtedly know the term “duck walking”.  For the layman, this is when you walk your bike as you give it light throttle; usually used when a non-confident person makes a very tight turn at low speeds, or backing into a parking spot…or simply trying to feel the road with your body as you slowly keep the bike going forward.

The BRP isn’t a road with high traffic in most spots.  The part I was on when the storm surrounded me was pretty remote, and I hadn’t seen a vehicle go by the other way for a good fifteen minutes at least.  When the massive quantity of water fell out of the sky, I had no choice but to keep going..there was no way to safely pull off the road, and sitting on the road in a blinding rainstorm is a recipe for disaster if somebody were to come along with weak headlights.  So, I energized my emergency hazards, kept the bike going at about five miles an hour, and duck-walked it in order to feel that the road was continually under the motorcycle.

Usually down-bursts like this in a storm last seconds before the intensity would give away to steady strong rain.  Not today.  The intensity maintained for a good twenty minutes, as I tried desperately to find a pull off to get off the road before my luck ran out with traffic approaching behind me eventually.  It quickly reminded me of being mortal…of being at the mercy of a higher power in the universe that had my own fate at their disposal.   Eventually, I found a small private road leading to houses in the hills, and duck-walked myself down the drive a good 50 yards, and turned around on the one lane road (luckily without spilling the bike or myself in the process).  I sat there, waiting for the storm to dissipate a little, for a good thirty minutes…in the monsoon that didn’t want to stop.

I’ve got to give kudos to Harley-Davidson for one thing.  HD as it’s otherwise known by its initials, stands for “high dollar” by most Harley riders…nothing with the logo or brand is cheap.  Much of their merchandise is actually overseas created junk….their $35 t-shirts usually are $3 shirts with a $1 logo plastered on it, and generates millions of dollars a year for HD dealerships.  Kudos go to their branded rain gear.  Although also undoubtedly made in China or in some overseas market, their rain gear is top notch.  My hands were soaked through their waterproof gloves…my helmet had gotten wet inside of it…but my body stayed dry through the onslaught of water.  What I had on was their Hi-Vis (high visibility) rain gear…seen on the right side of this picture with the bright orange:

Again, thanks to HD for a well made product for a change.  And no, I didn’t get any pictures of the storm…just imagine yourself in your shower full blast, and you’ll get the idea how bad it was.

So, thirty minutes later, the storm slowed down to a steady rain.  I can deal with steady rain with no problems.  I pulled back out on the BRP, and knowing that Roanoke was a few miles away, and the fact I had no interest in setting up camp in the driving rain, I rode towards the city.  Twenty or so minutes later found me in a Home Depot parking lot, about three miles from the BRP.  By this time, the rain had stopped, and pulling out my trusty iPhone (I took many pictures with two cameras on this trip…a Canon 850IS, and my iPhone), I used the AroundMe app to find a nearby hotel and proceeded along my way after getting a good rate over the phone.

Guess I should talk about the AroundMe app since I mentioned it several times.  Great little app, found on the  iTunes store.  Shows where just about everything you could be looking for when traveling…banks, stores, hospitals, camping, motels, etc.  Works extremely fast, and it’s extremely accurate.  Don’t know the developer of the app, but worth checking out if you need something like this.  Did wonderfully my entire trip.

I stayed at the Quality Inn off of 220 I believe.  Not the best hotel in the world, not the worst.  For $55, I was happy with it, it was clean, dry, and close to plenty of fuel and restaurants.  I actually pulled into the lot to be greeted by dozens of motorcycle gang members in three-piece patch leather vests, full beards, etc. who were enjoying the evening sunshine that had appeared.  Something non-riders should know…not all motorcycle gangs are full of “bad” people.  This was a group of retired police officers out for a few days of riding.  When I got off the bike, they had smiles, kind words, slices of pizza, and plenty of cold beer they couldn’t wait to give me enough of.  My exhaustion was apparent on my arrival, and they immediately jumped into action to make me feel welcome and pampered to help restore my energy.   I watched as families pulled into the lot…and immediately left.  I guarantee they missed out on meeting some very nice motorcyclists, as well as staying at the safest place in the city that night.  Even the 1% gangs (those that are known to be on the criminal side of things) are mostly decent people.  You show them respect, you get the same respect back.  They’ll stop on the side of the road to help you when you are broken down, they give you their last dollar if you need it more than they do, and they will go out of their way for anybody that needs it.  Just remember the respect thing, and you’ll never have a problem with them.

After a few hours of socializing and my trying to get them to take money for my share of the dinner and drinks for an hour, which they politely kept refusing, I made my exit to my room…where in full clothing and now-dried rain pants, fell on the bed and perished into dreamland less than three seconds later for the entire night.