To the north they turned, and savored one last parting look across
the cabin and the pond, then turned the roaring steed south. Through gentle valleys, lush with farmer's greenery, they
roared. Blurred signs with hamlets' names flew by....Grampian, Glen Hope, Tyrone, Huntington, Shade Gap....until
they came to the end of the Kingdom of Pennsylvania. On through Maryland and West Virginia, across the mighty Potomac,
then further south to Front Royal, in the Kingdom of Virginia by dusk. There they would make camp.
There, they savored the cherished wine of the Shenandoah. (To be honest here, it was Boone's Farm, but that's all
the fat lady in the little store had left. And perhaps it's a good thing, because I, once again, forgot to bring a corkscrew.)
At dawn, (well, not really quite that early) they stopped at the Knotty Pine Inn...the best
breakfast merchant in the village. Sausage. Ham. Eggs. Home fries. Smoking anyplace you feel like
it. A grumpy, smiling waitress with a ketchup bottle in her apron pocket. Interesting people. Nice
people. Grease. Atmosphere.
Again to the south. Skyline Drive. Nothing but beautiful scenery and wide, sweeping
curves for 105 miles. Friendly people. Full of motorcycles with all kinds with riders who, for one reason
or another needed a day to feel alive. Ride the Skyline during the week. Fewer encounters with campers/tourists/gawkers/park
rangers. Combined with the Blue Ridge Parkway, anyone can rejoice in the fact that there is here, available to motorcycles,
nearly 600 miles of the most scenic road in America, with NO stopsigns or commercial traffic. This is the stuff that
makes me daydream at work. Mopeds. Sportbikes. Dualsports. Touring bikes. Cruisers. Custom Show
bikes. Hell, that wasn't a knucklehead, was it?
The old Virago was, again, a joy. This was her third trip to Cherokee, which marks the southern
end of the BRP. After 40,000 miles and three summers of riding, she still carved her way through the Smokys like a youngster.
And so did I, I might add. For the most part, neither of the roads is a real tight, pegdragger. The speed limits
are low, probably to keep us from running into Granny, who insists on stopping dead-center in the middle to gawk at a crow.
And keep an eye out for suicidal deer. The surface, for the most part is coarse blacktop. Don't shred the tires
here. Save that for the new, smooth-as-glass stuff at Deal's Gap. I consistantly ran about 5-10 mph over the limit,
and didn't hear a peep. It may be different for you guys on sportbikes. Gray hair may be an advantage here.
I don't think they watch for Dragon decals when you go by...
I get lost in riding. I admit it. I love the situation of being in control of the
craft, weaving, slicing, or roaring down whatever road that I am on. It's a feeling that only a motorcycle can give.
Unless you have an F-16. But that's another story. Anyway, it is for this reason that I often find myself noticing
that it's getting a little dark on some God-forsaken twisty in the middle of nowhere at dusk, and I don't have a clue
where I am going to stay. No reservations. I'm just not a reservation kind of guy. Can't help it. Anyway,
down in this country, either make a reservation, or stop early enough to find a place to stay. They can be spaced out
(no pun intended) pretty far apart.
If you are in the area of Laurel Springs, NC, and in need of a unique, affordable room, check
out Station's Inn. It's within sight of the Parkway, and is VERY motorcycle-friendly. Was that a knucklehead out
back under the roof? Good people. Great service. Food. A roof over the bike. What else could
you ask for? Go for the barbecue sandwich with slaw. I bought a bottle of wine at the store, and they broke out an ice
bucket and offered wineglasses. I declined the glasses.....didn't want to ruin my image. If they hadn't offered
to open the wine for me, I would have been back at the room, digging at it with my pocket knife like I usually do. And
I usually swear while I'm digging. The things a man will do to impress his lady...
Again, southward we flew. To 6000 feet. I have a tradition that has yet to be broken
when I ride the Parkway. When I get to Craggy Garden, it rains. At best. The Rangers at the visitors center
have turned us back because of fog and sleet. We dropped off the Mountain, and the sun was shining and 80 degrees.
This year, it was thunderstorms. Lightning all around. We saw it strike the top of a tunnel just up the
road, and covered the road with debris. When we pulled into the parking lot, there were already a dozen other bikes
there. Sincere thanks to the Rangers there. Sometimes strange circumstances strand strange people in strange places.
They took us all in that day. And probably a million others like us, over the years. My apologies to the nice
people in the Volvo station wagon that seemed a little hesitant to pull into the parking lot. Maybe we did
look that bad. Or maybe they should try it our way.
the tale continues further...