Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Little Buddy Missing In Action

I had no Internet last night at the Sand Dollar Motel on Ocracoke Island, NC, or you would have already heard how sad and blue, morose and depressed I was all afternoon yesterday. Little Buddy disappeared sometime Monday morning. He was riding in his usual perch on the back of Zoom Zoom when we left Kilmarnock, VA early in the morning, and he was still there when I stopped to take this shot of sailboats in Deltaville, VA.

But by the time we stopped for lunch in Williamsburg, he was nowhere to be found. I of course accused Jim and Ron of kidnapping him. Ron, in particular, hates Little Buddy. For some reason Little Buddy threatens his manliness. They both swore up and down that they had not touched Little Buddy, and that he had probably jumped off at the earliest opportunity, in response to the spanking he had received the night before. I refused to believe this, since I know how much he likes riding, and I know that he would never run away just because of a spanking. He must have lost his grip while waving at someone and slid off the back. I could only hope that he wasn't badly hurt, or worse yet, run over. I thought about retracing our path in search of him, but it would have taken much too long. So I soldiered on the rest of the day without him, feeling very down and depressed.

We rode to the Outer Banks of NC and made a stop at an independent bike shop in Point Harbor to have a new front tire installed on Ron's ST1300 to quell the severe vibration that had developed over the last day. Around 6 pm we took the free ferry from Hatteras Island to Okracoke Island. On the half hour ferry trip, I was thinking about Little Buddy, and how much he would have enjoyed the boat ride.

After checking in to the Sand Dollar, Ron used some hokey pretext about betting on the color of the bedsheets to whip back the covers from one of the beds, and lo-and-behold there lay Little Buddy. Of course, I was overjoyed to see him, but I will never forgive Ron for such a low-down, snake-in-the-grass trick. All I can say is payback will be hell.

Dinner last night at the Back Porch Restaurant was amazing, easily the best of the trip. Ron and I had the daily catch, Bluefish, and Jim had duck. My Bluefish with Vietnamese lime sauce and julienned vegetables was possibly the best fish dish I have ever eaten. Ron's deep-fried bluefish was also very good, and Jim loved his duck breast.

On Okracoke, we found yet another back road to ride.

We caught the 2 pm ferry to Cedar Island on the mainland, a two and a half hour trip. At least Little Buddy got to enjoy this boat ride out in the open, not locked away in Ron's saddlebag.

After landing on Cedar Island, we boogied up to New Bern for the evening. From here, it should be about an 8 hour ride home tomorrow. This might be the last post for this trip, unless something memorable happens on the last leg tomorrow that is worthy of reporting. It has been a good ride, and even though the southeast has been blanketed with rain for the last eight or nine days, we have managed to avoid getting wet (so far) and boggied up to New Bern for the night.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Monkey Gets Spanked

I couldn't post last night. The newly-renovated Stonewall Jackson Hotel in Staunton, VA was the priciest and nicest place we have stayed on this trip, but their wireless network wouldn't let me access the internet....something about their router not assigning an IP address to my laptop. Anyway, they couldn't fix it, and neither could I. Both Diamond Jim and Pitstop have air-cards on their laptops and don't have to rely on hotel wifi, but neither one would go retrieve their computer from their bike so I could use it. They muttered something about being tired of me sitting at the computer all night.

Thursday night we treated ourselves to good blues and good home-cooked food at the train depot in Shephardstown, WV courtesy of the good people of the Save The Shephardstown Battlefield Society. Ten dollars bought us all we could eat of home made fried chicken, meat balls, lasagna, macaroni salad, pasta salad, fresh green salad, etc. and great music by The Hard Swimmin' Fish, a most excellent blues band (photo from their website) http://www.hardswimminfish.com/HTML_files/biographyNew.html

We left Shepardstown and headed for Staunton, home of the Statler Bothers, where Jim's daughter, Piper, now lives. She introduced us to the wild nightlife of Staunton (anybody who lives there, or has visited, knows what I'm talking about).

On the ride to Staunton, we searched out more back roads. We followed one sign that pointed the way to White Oak Canyon Falls, near Sperryville, VA. Route 600 that takes you to White Oak Canyon is a gem of a narrow, twisting, tree-tunnel of a road. White Oak Canyon is part of Shenandoah National Park. The ranger said the hike to the lower falls was 1.5 miles. That had to be the longest, toughest 1.5 miles I ever hiked, and the down-hill return seemed even longer. However, Little Buddy enjoyed the hike and really enjoyed the the falls.

As you probably know, a big low has settled over the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys, sucking in massive amounts of moisture from the Gulf Of Mexico and depositing it throughout the southeast for the last week, causing major flooding in many places. When we couldn't go west to the Grand Canyon due to the illness of Ron's mom, we at least wanted to go to Nashville for a couple of nights of good music. The constant downpour throughout Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, and North Carolina put a wet damper on that plan. The weather radar has dictated the route for this entire ride, and today was no exception. When we arose this morning in Staunton, the radar said "go east", hence we are now on the coast of VA in Kilmarnock, about as far east as we could get today.

On the way here, we took Cross County Rd to Cuckoo, VA.

We also passed through Bumpass, VA. Little Buddy got a kick out of the Bump ass sign.

Little Buddy was a bad boy today. From his perch on the back of Zoom Zoom....

he wolf whistled at some girls on the sidewalk as we pulled into Kilmarnock. The girls, of course, thought it was me, and gave me a witheringly nasty look....very embarrassing. Little Buddy had to be disciplined. This is the only shot ever recorded of me spanking the monkey.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Little Buddy At Harpers Ferry

I have a new riding buddy.

I made the mistake of peering into the 10 cent stuffed animal box in the second-hand shop in Berkeley Springs and Little Buddy was looking up at me waving and, saying "Pick me. Pick me. I love to ride."

He already had his own helmet, and he had this winning smile on his face, so I pulled him out of the box, paid the sales person the 10 cent ransom fee and rescued Little Buddy from a life of boredom trapped in a cardboard box and set him free on a life of adventure riding shotgun on Zoom Zoom, looking backward at where we've been and waving happily at everyone he sees.

We immediately set off on a tour of civil war battle fields and historical sites. Our first stop was Antietam National Battlefield, the site of the single most bloodiest day of the Civil War, when about 23,000 men were killed or wounded during the 12 hour battle of Sept 17, 1862. Little Buddy was very saddened to hear of this useless slaughter of good men. He paid tribute by visiting several of the battle scenes and the lookout tower that now allows us to observe most of the battle site at one time.

After our tour of Antietam, we rode over to Harper's Ferry where Abolitionist, John Brown, staged his insurrectionist raid on the federal armory in October, 1859. Little Buddy was interested that Meriwether Lewis relied on Harpers Ferry for most of the provisions for his great transcontinental expedition of 1803.

But he was even more interested in the offerings of White's Tavern.

After an exhausting day of touring battlegrounds, we repaired to Shepherdstown, WV for an evening of good food, drink, and music. Tomorrow, it's off again on another adventure.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Castles, Air Bags, and George Washington's Bathtub

Today was a non-riding day. It was raining when we woke up, and it is still raining now during cocktail hour. We can ride in the rain, and have had to do so many times. But today we didn't have to, so we didn't. Instead, we hung out in Berkeley Springs, home of Berkeley Castle, George Washington's bathtub, and our new home-away-from-home, Maria's Garden & Inn.

Jim slept in this room where the great-great-grandson of George Washington's gardener once slept. Jim really liked the coverlet and pillow shams.

Ron slept in the other bedroom, and I slept on the floor in the kitchen. I really like the bathroom, including the rust-colored carpet on the floor.

We really couldn't go anywhere because Ron had to wait for his new Blackberry to be delivered. After getting the phone around 10 am, he spent another three hours trying to get it activated. Turned out, he wasn't in a Verizon zone, so he couldn't activate it...right now he's about 10 miles south of here in the nearest Verizon zone, trying to complete the job. Isn't technology great?

Berkeley Springs State Park is a tiny state park right in the middle of town where you can take a hot mineral bath, or steam bath, or get a massage, or all three. The bath-house is in the background in this photo.

It is also the home of George Washington's bathtub. Seems that George liked the warm mineral water that bubbles out of the ground here so much, he visited often and had his own soaking tub constructed. The only thing soaking in it today were about a dozen minnows.

We passed on the state park mineral bath spa and decided to check out this place instead...couldn't resist the sign.

Jim finally took the owner's manual for his '08 Goldwing out of its protective wrapping for the first time today and began reading the Airbag Supplement booklet. He now has a whole new set of things to worry about while riding....like hitting a pothole or curb. To quote from the manual, "The airbag might deploy if the front tire drops into a sharp depression, such as a pothole, or strikes a hard raised object, such as a curb. A brief high rate of deceleration can cause the airbag to deploy, even though it would not be needed."

I can see it now, Jim hits a pothole on Skyline drive and the airbag blows him off the bike into the bike or car following behind. He's afraid to even put on his brakes too hard now. So much for technology.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Backroads and Blackberrys

Today we wandered around rural VA, WV and MD searching for back roads to ride and we hit the mother load.

This is the official back road of America, and it begins a little west of Columbia Furnace, VA. Here is an old mill along the route.

Very picturesque. The mill belonged to this house.

It's not a great photo, but you get the picture.

We made our way to Cumberland, MD for lunch at Roy Rogers where Pitstop was using his Blackberry to do some business after lunch when a wino rode up on a bicycle and started talking to him about his bike; "What does ST stand for? How many horsepower does it have? Does it have reverse?" Ron says, "Sport Touring, 125 hp, and no, it doesn't have reverse, but my friend's Gold Wing over there does." The wino comes back from looking at Jim's Goldwing and says, "That things got an air bag!"

"Yes it does", says Ron, "ain't that something." Then the wino rides away and Ron lays his Blackberry on the tail bag on the back of his bike and begins to investigate why his radar detector won't power up.

Later, when we stop for the night, Ron can't find his Blackberry and finally remembers the last time he saw it lying on the tail bag of the ST 1300. Verizon says they will deliver a replacement tomorrow to our temporary headquarters at Maria's Garden & Inn, Berkeley Springs, WV.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Snake and The Parkway

We hooked up with Ron at the Shady Valley Country Store on US 441 "The Snake", a great motorcycle road in extreme northeastern TN.

The Country Store, at the intersection of 421, 91 and 133 is a biker friendly institution, combining a general store and restaurant.

We rode 133 north to Damascus, VA and then 58 east into Galax...both beautiful roads. After a night in Galax, today was Blue Ridge Parkway all the way. We entered the Parkway at Fancy Gap and rode it to its northern terminus where it becomes the Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park. Mabry Mill is the most photographed site on the entire Parkway, so of course we stopped and took pictures of Mabry Mill.

With a $10 entry fee just to ride Skyline Drive through the park, we bailed out and picked up 340 north to its intersection with 211, and took 211 west to New Market. Finding no suitable accommodations in New Market, we jumped on I-81 north to Woodstock where we found lodging and a Walmart where Jim could buy reading glasses so he could read the maps tomorrow.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Coalwood and Beyond

I have been totally ignoring this blog ever since creating it last March and doing the Bikeweek post. I got busy with the cottage renovation (see Penny's food blog for photos and details http://lakelurecottagekitchen.blogspot.com/ ) and really didn't ride much all summer. The goal was to have two more bedrooms and a guest bath done by Labor Day weekend for a vi st by family and friends. I completed the final detail work with a day to spare so I also had time to get the boats cleaned up and ready for the weekend. I am now relaxing and riding again.

Long standing plans called for a two-week ride westward to the Grand Canyon and other national parks in AZ and UT with my riding buddies, Diamond Jim McMillan and Ronald Pitstop Pittman. But best laid plans often go astray. Ron's eighty something mom fell and hit her head which led to brain hemorrhaging and the ICU for a couple of weeks. She was moved to a rehab facility two days ago, and is hopefully out of the woods, but nothing is for sure. Needless to say, Ron isn't in a position to ride out west for two weeks. Being the nice guys that we are, Jim and I agreed not to leave Ron and go west on our own, but rather to stick closer to home to be within a day's ride of Johnson City, TN in case she takes a turn for the worse. It's not much of a sacrifice in-as-much-as we have some of the best riding roads in the country right here in our own back yards.

Jim had already said that he couldn't leave on Saturday because he was throwing a surprise party for wife Barbara's 60th birthday. Here she is with her big red birthday present. Nobody ever gave me one of those for my birthday.

I rode from Lake Lure in western NC to Jim and Barbara's Richlands, VA home in southwestern VA on Saturday for the birthday party while my bride drove her car so she could go back home on Sunday. Jim and I rode all day Sunday but covered less than 200 miles because it is hard to average more than 30 mph on the mountainous back roads around here. Since we won't be going to the Grand Canyon, we visited Breaks Interstate Park instead. The park straddles the VA and KY border 8 miles north of Haysi, VA.

Here's why they call it the Grand Canyon of the South.

Jim also took me on a tour of his ancestral home in Coalwood, WV.

Coalwood, made famous in the book Rocket Boys and the movie October Sky, based on the book, was the home (above) of Jim's grandfather who worked as a machinist in the coal mines. Jim spent many a carefree summer day playing in the hills above the house and in the stream directly behind it which would sometimes run yellow from some unknown substance, and at other times would run black with runoff from the slate dumps. That explains a lot about Jim's current behavior.

We returned to Richlands for another of Barbara's fantastic home-cooked meals....this one included pinto beans, mashed potatoes, corn bread, fresh tomatoes from the garden, and her mom's pickled tomatoes, onions, and banana peppers. Birthday cake for desert of course. I gained another pound.

Tomorrow's plan....ride. We are to rendezvous with Ron at The Country Store in Shady Valley, TN at the intersection of highways US 421 and 91 in extreme northeast Tennessee. This section of US 421 is commonly referred to among motorcyclists as "The Snake".