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Old 08-12-2012, 08:11 AM   #54
jdrocks OP
Gravel Runner
Joined: Jul 2007
Oddometer: 4,586
The slight jog on 33 took me to the opposite side of the highway and MiddleMountain road, and a long run of gravel south southwest over the mountain. There used to be a gas station at this intersection, convenient as heck, but like so many small stations, it’s closed. It’s still a landmark, a reminder to turn either north or south on gravel.

MiddleMountain is well graded in the summer season, but can be rough and muddy in the shoulder seasons, depending on Forest Service maintenance. Today the road was in good shape, graded, but not top dressed, and I could get a good roll. Another cut-through road, although gravel, so you can have a mix of traffic, not unusual to find a corner with someone in your lane.

A quick stop at the Laurel Fork campground for a break, a camper and toy hauler parked, no tent campers, no bikes. College age Forest Service guys were mowing the grass, and these were the only signs of life I saw crossing the mountain. Fine with me, and after a drink and snack I was back on top of the ridgeline.

Stopped at an opening along the road for a photo, one of the few places to get a look out across the mountains.

The camera captured a collage through the haze, the Blue Ridge, and I wondered if it looked much different as the first Europeans pushed west.

There are several branch roads down off the mountain to Glady, Durbin, or Bartow, pick one in the direction you want to go, north or south, or you can ride out to 28. I wanted to get down to Bartow and fuel, so I made that choice, oops, freshly spread deep marbles, and I saw no tracks on this road, might be the first to pass through after the work was done.

The quick mart gas station at Bartow is a well known fuel stop for bikes, no matter whether you’re on a gravel route, or riding the “twisty” roads. There are a number of rallies that are based at Boyer around the corner, no bikes around today. I pulled up to the pumps, shut down, did my awkward as heck dismount off this tall bike, whew. The woman gassing up in front of me started laughing, and I said “That’s a new dance step I invented”, and she said “No it ain’t, ya cain’t dance a lick”. Oh well, now my feelin’s were hurt. Got the helmet off, took a look around at the cast of characters, oh boy, here we go, show time at the quick mart, and it ain’t the Grand Ole Opry. Geeeez, isn’t this just wonderful.

Ok, it was a somewhat hot day, but not one you would think of as getting your behind cooked in one of those jumbo smokers. It wasn’t a designated beer festival day in West Virginia as far as I knew, no “Beer on Sale” signs posted around this place, but every single person in this crowd was somehow engaged in a beer activity enterprise. Buying, carrying, icing, opening, and drinking, the works, it was a dog gone beer free-for-all. There should have been a stage with the local garage band playing heavy metal covers, half deflated beach balls swatted around, corndogs, cotton candy. No beer snobs here, no art deco beer labels, no sirree, this was drinkin’ beer, the cheap stuff, no bespoke hops, no nutty flavor. Here was an instance where the nuts were all on the working end of those cans and bottles.

One thing you learn quickly around these stores is that those single jumbo cans and bottles sold are not for sipping while watching the night game on ESPN, they rarely make it out of the parking lot. So I wasn’t surprised when two guys and a gal walked by and one guy said “Honey, can you open this, ma hand’s too slippery”, she grabbed the bottle and a big handful of her ragged cut off T, wrapped it around the neck and gave a big twist.

Yowzers, ain’t nothing on under that T shirt, not pretty, no one stepped up to offer her the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, she had no glowing halo of celestial light shining around her…it was just the reflection from the Coors Light sign. Then again, could have been her mustache, I think you’re supposed to have a close shave if ya want to be in SI, be good to tear off that birth control patch too. The other guy was standing there and saw the whole thing, “Can ya open mine too?”, must have been more woman parts than he’d seen up close in a coons age. Those two guys thought she was enchanting, I wasn’t standing all that close, still thought I might be gettin’ an outbreak of hives.

I was watching for an encore…until she gave me a cold hard look through those dull granite eyes, damn lucky I was a mind reader…holy crap, she planned to cut my balls off with her car keys if I didn’t stop staring and get lost right quick. She wasn’t drinking a sense of humor out of that bottle, at least not today. So long, Honey, enjoyed the show.

The three big ol’ boys across the pumps from me had finished off six beers just since I parked the bike, tossed the empties in the back with all the rest. I didn’t think they were binge drinkers, they were steady drinkers, all day every day drinkers, chaser tucked under the seat of the pickup. Matching beat up cooler in the back of that beat up truck, gettin’ low, and the one guy went in and came back with another case, plus a bag of ice. Put away another while the beer was carefully iced down, that makes nine, heck, they haven’t even left the pumps yet.

Time’s up, and they squeezed three itchy, sweaty, tatted up hippo bodies into the cab of that pickup, driver and passenger half hanging out the windows, not a good fit in there, each holding beer number four, don’t think they were in there discussing the wine list for that upcoming soiree. The motor in that truck sounded like an old refrigerator falling down three flights of stairs when it started up, yup, those boys drank up a 12 pack when they stopped for fuel.

Damn, too late, I wanted to ask that one beetle browed guy where he got those pale blue jailhouse flipflops, he had a certain sartorial fashion sense, a trend setter, but he was grinding his teeth and mumbling something, a slow bubbling lava flow of mental acuity, an explosion eminent…better not. The collaborating hippos took their drunken circus on the road, no fear of the abyss ahead, might be a buzz kill…and I think I could still hear that POS truck when it was half way to Durbin.

I needed to get back out there too, but the opposite direction. Fired the rat, down the road to Old Pike, and I was back on gravel, fueled, hydrated, and…laughing.

Old Pike starts paved, then macadam, broken macadam, finally gravel, all in short order. I’ve never seen any traffic on this road, it’s sometimes rough and muddy, but today I found a Jeep driven by a young boy, way underage, might have been his mother in the passenger seat. They were creeping along, not expecting anyone, the kid was so short he could barely see where he was going. Mixed feelings on this one, I wouldn’t want to meet that kid on the wrong side of the road, but I was an accomplished driver at that age, although a good foot taller. Got to start sometime, somewhere. I taught all my grandkids to drive by age ten, or as soon as they could reach the pedals. Try a cushion under his skinny butt, he might be able to see the road.

The road was interesting, but I had been poking along, and now I needed to get going if I wanted to get to camp at a reasonable hour. I had passed numerous deer along this road and was watching for animals, but I didn’t expect to find a dog. Big white dog, not sure of the breed, and he was down in the grass when I ran right past him. Whoa, surprised the heck out of me, my line had taken me within five feet. If that dog had jumped into the road I would have hit him. The dog was just laying there, head up and alert, man, I hoped someone hadn’t dumped him out here.

I sat there and thought about it for a few minutes, decided there wasn’t much I could do without a vehicle, then rode the remaining distance down to 250 and stopped, that dog was on my mind.

(to be continued…)

jdrocks screwed with this post 08-13-2012 at 09:48 AM
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