Three States and a Wedding
To some people, marriage is one of life's greatest adventures. Two souls navigating the roads of life together as one. But I wouldn't know, since I'm not married, nor is it even one of the upcomming exits in my personal journey through life. However, it is for a friend of mine I've known for well over nearly 15 years now. While I wouldn't necessarily call him my best friend, he's one one of the few I've been able to stay in contact with through the years.
One day, several months ago, he sent me a text. "Dude, what's your address?" he asked.
Being my typical smartass self, I responded, "why, whats up? You're not gonna send me a bomb or anything, are you?"
He laughed and answered back, "no, I want to invite you to my wedding."
I was shocked. This from the guy who was so adamant that marriage wasn't for him was tying the knot. We talked about it for a little bit, and I got some information from him, most importantly that it'd be in Charlotte, on the 27th of April.
Taking the Scrambler was a near-last minute decision. Initially I didn't know how I was going to get there. I had looked into renting a plane and flying myself there before I first did the math on how much that would cost me. So, from then on, i figured I'd take the cage, mostly because I didn't know how to strap my suit to the bike for long distance without ruining it. Or that I wouldn't be able keep it looking sharp as I rode from my hotel to the wedding's location. Then something changed, and to this day I don't know what it was. Like flipping a switch, I now would be riding the distance.
The evening before I set out, I pulled up the address and quickly set to work on finding a route. I looked at the Tail of the Dragon, being that I'd be in North Carolina, but it seemed out of the way. In its place I chose the Back of the Dragon, as it was significantly closer. Then I just chose points that kept me off the interstates that I've used on previous trips between DC and Charlotte. I was shocked to learn that the 6 and a half hour trip I'm used to taking would now be close to 12.
Since it seemed like I'd have to leave early, I quickly started packing.
The Kriega Overlander 60 is an incredible luggage solution. In one of the 15L bags, I fit socks, underwear, and other clothing I'd need for the 3-4 day trip. Another bag contained my dress shoes and toiletries. In another bag was the rain gear I always found myself wishing was with me. The fourth bag contained camera gear. My suit I had placed into a garment bag, and mused bungee cords to strap it to the MetalMule racks. I then headed to bed.
Day 1: 522 Miles, Clear Skies
Day 2: 408 Miles, Rain
Day 3: 253 Miles, Rain
I woke at 5:42, three minutes before the alarm. It was an annoying habit I've never learned to break. I quickly showered and dressed before walking down the block to my nearest Starbucks. The extra caffeine from the grande mocha would come in handy.
Back in my apartment, I slowly sipped my coffee while looking over the printout of my route, wondering how many times I'd have to stop and pull out that list again. I wished for a Garmin. I grabbed my batteries and iPad from my chargers, and headed down into the parking garage where I geared up.
At 7:05, my Scrambler roared to life with all the sound and fury of an overgrown sewing machine. I dropped it into gear, and set off with my first checkpoint clear in my head: get to US-29. I had planned to take the Mount Vernon Parkway for a scenic view of the Potomac River, but I had recently learned that the local toll lanes of the expressway were free to motorcyclists, so I figured I'd try them out. I'd have plenty more scenery throughout the day.
I headed west on 495, the morning sun at my back casting a long shadow in front of me. Alone in my helmet, my shadow became my riding buddy, my companion. We drifted in and out of the traffic, and as the non-lanes came to a standstill, I realized I was wise to follow my shadow onto the toll lanes. A cop had someone pulled over on the other side of the highway, and I began to worry once more about not paying the tolls. But my shadow pressed on, and so did I.
Eventually I made it to 29, and I started thinking about my next checkpoint: US-211. As I hit red light after red light on the surface street, I began to wonder if I would've been better off staying on the super slab. No, I decided. Red lights are part of the adventure, and it's not an adventure if you're not at least a little uncomfortable or annoyed by something stupid. Or if you're stopped by the cops. I pulled over at a gas station, my coffee having made its way through me. A man walking out of the store asked me when Triumph started making motorcycles again, and started telling me of a buddy of his that used to have one in the 70's. at this point I really needed to pee, so I excused myself and attended to business.
Feeling relieved, I hopped back on my bike and finally left urbania. Wide open skies welcomed me to my journey, while the Appalachian Mountains rising in the distance invited me onward.
Just a few hundred feet later, I found myself at an important landmark: The White House! Not quite where I thought it would be, but maybe that's just a security feature. :dunno
I soon found myself in the mountains, on a twisty bit of road near Luray, but I wasn't alone. I was fourth in a parade of vehicles following behind a tanker truck, that at times barely managed to get past 15 mph. I found a spot to pull over, where I stopped and stretched for a few moments. By the time I got back on the road, the convoy of vehicles had vanished and I was alone again. Even the faithful friend that was my shadow had left.
The twisty mountain roads dumped me into the valley filled with rolling hills covered in farmland. Through the helmet, I could smell the fresh cut grass, the blooming flowers, and quite frequently: manure.
It should be noted just how unnoteworthy Virginia is to ride through. There's even an entire thread about the subject here. Just mile after mile of two-lane roads that meander past farm lands and mountains. And while I stopped to take this picture for proof of why Virginia should be avoided at all costs, a cop pulled up behind me. He gets out of the car and approaches, while I wonder what I've done wrong. Nothing, in fact. He simply was checking to see if I had broken down and needed help.
At least now it was officially an adventure!
I passed a sign for the small town of Sweet Chalybeate, and I started singing to myself "Sweet Chalybeate, do-do-do" to the tune of Sweet Caroline. While amusing myself with my amazing singing abilities, I missed the entrance for West By God Virginia. It's only once I started noticing the grand views spread out around me, the I realized I was in another state. The street signs helped too.
I continued onward, darting back and forth along the border of the two states. It was getting later in the afternoon, and I was beginning to grow hungry. The thing about small farming towns is that they appear to be self-sufficient, and don't need restaurants to feed them. I kept riding, hoping to find a city big enough for a McDonalds. Soon enough, I did. And not a moment too soon. The helmet, combined with the balaclava I had on, felt tight on my head and I needed the break.
http://mastodon.smugmug.com/Motorcyc...DSCF3224-M.jpg Feeling refreshed, I continued onward, knowing I was roughly a half hour from the Back of the Dragon.
Found a mural on a building in Tazewell for the "Bikes and Murals" thread. The town itself has a very old-time feel to it. I kinda liked it.
I stopped at a gas station to top off my tank. I screwed back on my fuel cap, and went inside. Returning shortly after, I found I wasn't the only one that had needed to take a leak.
I paused for a moment, concerned. I bent down to smell the liquid dripping from a routed hose. Fuel. Quickly reasoning it was a vent hose, and that I overfilled my fuel tank, I started the bike, and turned it towards the start of the Back of the Dragon, a 30 mile road with a 55mph speed limit and more than enough tight cliff side turns to keep you from reaching it in more than a few places.
Sadly there's not many pictures from here, as there's not many places to stop and shoot from. And from the looks of things, the Dragon was hungry too!
A truly awesome piece of road that took me to my limit. No butt-clinching moments(that'd come later) only moments of joy and smiles as I scraped either the Scrambler's pegs or the soles of my boots against the freshly painted asphalt.
Down from the mountain, I realized I was tired and that it was getting late. I chose to forgo the byways and take the interstate in to my hotel. Boring yes, but I still had over 130 miles to go. Fortunately, the distance would be covered quickly as I-77 was moving fast. The 70mph speed limit didn't stop anyone from doing between 80-90 mph. I know from past experience on the fast moving beltway near where I live, that my bike can easily hit 95mph, and occasionally the full 100. What I didn't know, was that today, with the way I had it loaded, it wouldn't go past 85 without starting to wobble. At first, I thought it was wake turbulence from a truck. But later on, when no one else was near me, it started. And grew. Once my whole bike was shaking, I started thinking "I'm on a straight, smooth piece of interstate, with no one around me, and I'm about to get thrown from my bike at over 80mph!" :p3rry I eased off the throttle, afraid of using brakes, else unsettling the bike even more. By the time it fell between 55-60mph, the "death wobble" had vanished.
I continued onwards, mindful of what had happened. Occasionally I'd skirt the 85mph limit again, and feel the oscillations start to build, but I was quick to recognize this time, and slowed to a controllable speed.
I made it to the hotel without incident and checked in. I dropped my gear off in the room, stripped down, and took a nice long hot shower.
It took me 12 and a half hours to travel the roughly 520, miles from DC to Charlotte, by way of West Virginia. But I made it.
For as sunny and bright as my ride down to Lake Norman was, my time in the city was anything but. I navigated the unlit city streets of Davidson to find a place to eat dinner. Navigating by the GPS on my phone to a place called the BrickHouse Tavern, my battery quickly fell below 8% and I started to worry about being unable to find my way back to anywhere. I gave up my quest and settled for a Fuel Pizza instead. As I placed my order and sat down to wait for my food, I was asked what I rode in on, I told him it was a Triumph Scrambler, and he began to tell me about his love of Triumphs, including his Steve McQueen edition. Dave, his wife Shannon, and I spent the dinner talking about bikes and careers, and the road trip down from DC. Seemed like nice people, and never would've met them had I taken anything but the bike.
The next morning, after my traditional BoBerry biscuit from Bojangles, I explored the area around the lake. While it was mostly subdivisions and golf courses, I found one road that interested me, and I began to wonder where Sarah Connor's road might be, before going back to my hotel and changing into my suit for the wedding.
The weeding was typical, I think. With the groom being a pilot, and the bride a flight attendant, they had chosen a travel-inspired theme, complete with programs made into paper airplanes.
It was a fun time, and a good chance to see friends I hadn't seen in nearly a decade.
The above photo of the bride and groom, along with the flower girl and ring bearer, were taken by the groom's father. He and I spent some time talking about bikes, and had been considering a Scrambler for some time. Seeing mine didn't help him any.
The hangover from the night prior kept me laying in bed long after I planned on leaving. Groggily, I stepped into the shower in a weak attempt to wake myself up. Nearly a half hour later, I stepped out, dressed, and slowly walked to the gas station next door for a bottle of my cure-all: Coke. On my walk back to my hotel, it started to rain. I knew from a previous glance at the weather, that it would. But it was sunny further up on my route, and only figured this was a then band of showers. Little did I know that the rain would last for the next 2 days.
I packed my bags, tossed on my rain gear, and a few minutes after 11am I set off, only to find myself stopped at a red light prior to the Interstate. While waiting, I began to think. My parents were only two hours away. I could easily make it there, have lunch, and arrive back to DC a couple of hours after night fell. Why not. When the light turned green, I changed lanes and headed for I-77S.
Almost immediately, the constant patter of rain on my helmet made me reconsider. "Are you sure this is a good idea?" I'd ask myself. I only answered by letting the miles keep rolling beneath me. After an hour, the rain began to seep through my jacket and I felt the cold spot of water on my stomach. I reconsidered again, but since I was half way there...I kept going. I pulled into their driveway after another hour, drenched. They were surprised, first that I came, and second that I came in the rain. I put on a pair of my dad's clothes, while thy let me toss my soaked ones in the drier.
Pizza and hugs goodbye later, I was mostly dry again, this time with a oversized trash bag as extra rain protection under my jacket. They offered to let me stay the night, but I declined and left later than I wanted, certain I could cover the remaining 500 miles without incident.
As I recovered my route back through Charlotte, I realized I had seen 12 other motorcyclists, and a moped riding in the rain too. I wasn't the only crazy one. I pushed onwards until night fell. By then, I was again cold, wet, and tired from the 8 hours I had been in the rain. A hotel was in my near future.
I woke the next day, and left early, hoping to make it back home in good time. The rain hadn't let up, the constant patter of raindrops welcoming me back to my journey. As I covered the remaining miles, I found myself singing. Classic rock songs such as "Sharp Dressed Man" "Life in the Fast Lane" and "Ob La Di, Ob La Da". I realized I must have been a sight, a lone motorcyclist in the rain, head bobbing along to the tunes only he can hear. Soon I began improvising lyrics, with songs like "Sugar Sugar" rewritten as "Shiver Shiver"
Eventually, I made it back to DC, stripped from my wet clothes (trash bag had done zero good) and as I warmed myself in the hot shower, I thought back over the last couple of days and smiled. Despite the cold, and the rain...I wouldn't have changed a thing!
This is excellent. Great writing.
Good stuff :clap
I love West Virginia !
Wonderful story. Great excuse for a eventful ride. A noble effort to visit your parents. A treasure for your memory bank.
Great story and adventure! :norton
Appreciate the positive comments. Just edited the initial post to include links to the maps. :deal
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