GOE VI: Day Two
Getting the Right Directions
The second day of our trip would see us taking off from Cumberland, and would end in Farmville, Virgina. In between we hoped for some scenic miles. Today would not be as many miles as yesterday. Here in lies a re-occurring situation: The shortest mileage days, always end up taking the most time. This is just the start of my lifelong trial with this. I really should learn, but I think, "Oh we are only going 150 miles today, so we have plenty of time stop and take pictures and such. We will still get to our destination early." I guess like a lot people, I am a victim of Parkinson's Law: Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
We headed south, staying on country roads. We wanted to pick up Skyline Drive at its beginning in Front Royal, Virginia. There we would be on a Parkway, free from trucks, and the road would lead us to the Blue Ridge. We wouldn't need to look at maps for a while, and we could enjoy the scenery.
Confusion at a city intersection early on in today's journey would force us to re-plan the rest of the day. We had to pour through the pages of maps. OK, I will admit it, we got lost. We happened upon a small town that had a Hardware Store, and a One Pump Gas Station. Our tanks were not empty, but our heads were as to where. We needed that knowledge to get back on path. With my atlas in hand, and a road in mind, I stepped into the service station. I showed the man where I thought we were, it was an educated guess. I never got how far off I was. The town had no sign, so who knows who this guy was, a Hootervillian, as far as I know? The man confused me so much, as I was trying to show him our destination, and how I wanted to get there. "Oh no, you don't want to go that way." The man warned, "That road is curvy!" My brother stepped in as the conversation was getting heated. I felt like I was talking to someone in a foreign land.
"I didn't come 500 miles away from Indiana to ride on a straight road," I answered. My brother seemed shocked, as if he going to have to halt fisticuffs. Then I saw the light bulb over his head. He sized my brother and I up, and with a glance out the door at the bikes, the lamp got brighter. The guy seemed to be getting it. "OK," He said, the draw in his voice was comforting. "Here's how y'all get there. When I take this route in my truck, it take me about an hour and 15 minutes. You two on those bikes, if ain't there in 45 minutes, y'all lost again."
It had seemed that he had got it. There are directions, and then there are directions. It is like back at the hotel front desk, asking the gal at the hotel, where is a good place to eat might be. I never specify the cuisine, as I want that left open. If the reply is a chain that is plentiful in the Midwest, I'm quick to specify that I'm looking for a non-chain, mom and pop kind of place. Then, I'm usually directed to a quality eatery, my kind of eatery, that is.
With this knowledge we headed out, and for more than 45 minutes we wondered around. In fact, it was more like twice that amount of time. One of the early roads he suggested was out for repair, and the detour bit us. Most of the route was a pretty drive, but really a big circle. It ended with a long straight stretch, heading north. The mountains grew out of the ground behind the farmhouses. They rose quickly, and the grass gave way to rock underneath. Sometime the helmet kept my head from craning high enough to see the sky above them. At some point we needed to find a road east, and one that a pass through these giants.
Eventually we would arrive at the mouth of Skyline Drive. We had a quick bite to eat, refueled the steel horses, and then headed down the scenic parkway. We would make occasional stops at overlooks, but also kept careful watch on the clock. We were already behind schedule with our detours. I think we were following the cue of Bob Ross, there were no wrong turns, just happy new roads to discover!
Skyline Drive traverses the Great Smoky Mountains, and we could see the namesake flowing up the tree covered rises. The sun was still shining on the pavement, as we meandered our way south. As I rounded a sweeping curve, I saw a small deer, it stood all of 18 inches tall, in the ditch on the right side of the road. I slowed, and moved to the center of the road. As he looked up, he jumped to the edge of the road, straddling the bright white line. I scanned the asphalt further down the parkway. No oncoming traffic. I moved the bike left, to the edge of the road in the oncoming lane, slowing even more, as I swerved. I made my way passed the little creature. I was nearly lugging in first gear. With a slow even twist of the throttle, the engine provided power smoothly, instead a chugging motion. I slowly began to accelerate. Then I remembered my sibling was behind me on his bike. He also needed to get around the creature. As I moved back into a proper position in the correct lane, I continued my slowly increase in speed. When I got to a point where I could check my mirrors, I was a little stunned to see my brother was still the same distance behind me. We were riding staggered, so I was in the left track, and he in the right. He should have had to veer even further to avoid the deer. I searched the limited range of my mirrors, but couldn't see the little deer anywhere. He must have darted back into the woods, I turned down the throttle, drew in the clutch, and shifted to second gear. The needle on the speedometer crept up slowly. I searched the mirrors, just my brother and road. I slowly revved my way through second gear. It was a slow ascent to third. I had time to increase my search pattern. I looked down, and to my right, where the exhaust opens to the environment. To my amazement, that little dear was there! He was running his little heart out to keep along beside me. Did he think I was some kind of chrome, black and red buck he was to emulate?. I was now about to shift to third gear. Speaking of a buck, where this is baby, there is mom and dad close. I knew another gear change would live the little animal. Then my brother would have to deal with it. I looked to the road in front of me, and made my gear change. When I looked down, the deer was gone. A quick scan, and I could see limbs waving from him passing through into the woods.
I would like to tell you that was all the excitement we would have on this day. But we were atop the Smokey Mountains. It would not be long before this road got smokey, too. Not the kind of smoke where there is fire, but the kind of smoke that turn into rain. First, the wonderful vistas would disappear, as viability down the slops got less. The rain started slow at first, and it wasn't a bother. Then it increased. We had enough warning to put on rain gear. By the time we hit the road again, the heavy rain made it hard to see. My brother had his warning lights flickering, as we slowed. Who knows how the local drive along here in the rain. As a parkway, the speed limit is set at 45. We were trolling along at a slower pace. We would meander to the west, and the rain would pick up. Then the road took us back east, and the rain would ease up, sometime to just a sprinkle. All the while, sunlight poured down on the road ahead. Every mile that ticked away, it seemed we were just a mile or two from basking in the sunlight, and drying out. This went on for miles. We spent the rest of the ride on Skyline Drive in the rain.
I was thinking at the end of the parkway, maybe we should look for a place to duck under, and find a quick way to Farmville. Maybe we could find away around the weather? As we arrived at the end, and the time to veer off the parkway and onto Virginia's Country Roads, the clouds above moved apart.
The roads were full of tight turns mixed with long sweepers. This allowed us to keep a higher speed, and hurtling through the wind dried us out. We arrived at the hotel, the last of the Cruiser Club to check in. Remember what I said about a short day? As I pulled off the leather gloves I had purchased at the motorcycle expo earlier this year, I discovered they were not of the highest quality. The dye had run, and my hands were now black. It would take the next couple of days of the rally before they even returned close to normal.
If you look up Farmville, Virginia on a map, and you will have to, just like we had to, you will see it is small town. So small, that about 80 bikes rumbling around was a major show. After checking in, the front desk manager directed us to a local place where everyone else had gone for dinner. It was a local bar that held all of a hundred people. So it was full of bikers, and one family, who was celebrating a senior woman's 80th birthday. Well she got quite a surprise when most of the group gathered as near her table as possible, and sang "Happy Birthday."