Day 13
August 26th, 2002
West Chester, Pennsylvania 

My uncle's basement was dark and quiet, and I slept till 9:15am.  I'm not in a hurry, I don't have far to ride today.  I went upstairs and spent the morning chatting with Connie and Boots.  I read the paper, and took my time packing.

11:00 am rolled around and I figured it was time to start loading the bike and get on the road.  I spent a few private minutes with my uncle, then we took some pictures.  I rubbed his head when I said good bye.  I brought the V-4 to life, and backed out of the driveway, I gave a slight nod as I dropped into gear and rode off.  It was a long good bye, and out of character for me, but somehow, I think my uncle needed it.

Rush hour was over in the cities, and I had little problem getting back to I-95.  The weather was warm and sunny.  It will be short ride today, destination- Washington DC, and my in laws.

Even though there was nothing special going on, I-95 was loaded with cars and trucks.  It was a madhouse.  I will take a late lunch somewhere up ahead.

I crossed the Mason-Dixon line into Maryland about 12:30pm, but I don't count Maryland as being back in the south.  I don't do that till I get south of DC.

The ride from Philly to Baltimore is ugly and uneventful.  Lots of traffic and sprawl.  

I swing to the outer loops around Baltimore, and pick up I-95 at the other end.  I stayed in the left lane, and come through without  much problem.  I have special strategies to keep me safe when using the freeway systems of mega cities.  I will use them all today.

I leave Baltimore in my mirrors and get set up for the next metropolis.  Washington DC.  Halfway between Baltimore and DC there is a service center.  I need gas and a food court, and this place has both. 

Inside I go to the Burger King and place a order for a #1 with mustard and ketchup only.  I take it back to the table and my mind goes to spinning.  

I will be in DC in less then 30 minutes. I see no sense in quitting early.  If I keep going I can be in Tenn. around dark, from there, I can make it home.  I think about it.  I feel good, I'm in the mood for a long ride.  If I decide to bolt for home, it will mean a 1000 mile day.  I need a big day, just to reaffirm I can do it.  Unlike Maine, I feel good about this ride.  The weather and roads are good, and I can use the extra day at home.

I'll do it.  I call my wife and announce my plans.  I have a short conversation with RobH.  Both say to be careful, and to stay in touch.

The next choice is what route to take.  I-81 through the valley? Or I-85 through the Carolinas and Atlanta?  The latter might be a few miles shorter, but much more crowded.  Without too much internal debate, I choose I-81 through the Shenandoah. 
I go over to the Exxon station next door, and fill up.  The light wasn't on but I wanted to top off the tank.  I don't plan on stopping again, till I need gas, at least 300 miles.  If I can do this portion of the ride without a hitch, the rest will come easy.

With my gas tank full, I got back on I-95 and flipped my shield down.  It was time to put down some miles.
The day was now turning cloudy, and the humidity was picking up.

Quickly, I was in the outer suburbs that lay around the Beltway.  I followed the signs for I-81, and Northern Virginia.  I ran into traffic, and was bogged down a few miles east of the I-66 interchange.

It was only 2 pm, and already the afternoon rush was building.  I got in the HOV lane and whipped around the traffic jams, and slow moving trucks, that trapped thousands of cars to their rear.  

I took I-66 west and stayed in the HOV lane.  I zipped past miles of urban sprawl.  I estimate the HOV lanes saved me at least 1 hr in DC.

South of Manassas the traffic thinned out.  I was in rural Va now.  The large cities of the northeast behind me.  Things got quiet and I began to relax.  

I keep the ST on a steady 75 mph.  Virginia is fanatical about speed limits, I'm not going to speed while I'm here.
I keep riding south, and enter the Valley. The Shenandoah is pretty place, and I begin to enjoy the ride.  
I sing a few songs to entertain myself, and bring dormant things in brain to the forefront.  A car zooms by me at 90, and I fall in behind him.  I ride behind my rabbit for 50-60 miles.  He exits and leaves me stranded, so I slow down.  

I'm nearing 200 miles since my last gas stop.  I will make it to Roanoke, by then my light will be on.  
I'm squirming in the saddle and my butt is stiff.  I make it to Roanoke in the late afternoon.  I'm at least 500 miles from home, I made this same ride last spring, so I know what to expect.  

My light begins to flicker.  I take the second Roanoke exit.  The Exxon station was easy to find.  I fill the ST then go inside for a bottle Coke and Krispy Kreme donut.  I found them in a case near the door, where the cops can find them easily.

I called my wife and reported in, and reminded her to leave the garage door open.  I advised I should be home around 4am.  It was a good butt and gas break.  I needed it.  Riding tank to tank is tough on a guys butt.
I'm over 400 miles already and I'm just halfway home.  That's depressing.

I leave Roanoke with the sun slipping behind the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance.  It was a good moment. Then I got set up for the long, dark ride to Alabama.
​Dusk over the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The Parkway is just  over 
the hills in the distance.

By the time I get to the I-77 interchange it is almost dark.  

In what seems like forever, I finally get to Tennessee, and ease into the welcome center for a break. A TV with the Weather Channels sits in the lobby.  It tells me there is small band of showers near Knoxville.  Perhaps it will be gone by the time I get there.

I called and spoke at length with my brother.  All is fine he says.  I load up and keep riding.

I keep pushing vowing not to stop till I need gas again.  

Tennessee is quiet and dark as I ride through.  I stay on the look out for deer.

Mile after mile I keep going, not seeing anything but what my headlight allows me to.  My supplemental PIAAs are doing another outstanding job.

I go through Knoxville with a stiff butt, and don't stop.

I take I-75 south on this warm night, but my luck soon changes and I run into some rain.  It does not deter me, and I stay on schedule. 

The traffic in Knoxville was minimum, it was nice.

With my light flickering I stop at a store south of Knoxville for more gas.  I have just knocked off over 500 miles with just 2 gas stops.  While I was pumping gas a deputy approaches me.  I thought I was in trouble, but he was a fellow long rider that had just returned from a 2 week trip out west on his Harley.  He was impressed when I told  him I left Philly a few hours ago, and was riding to Montgomery.

I went to 75 to Chattanooga.  It was about 11pm.  My butt was stiff, but I decided to keep going to the next gas stop.

I started to get sleepy, so got something to eat at the same Waffle House in Athens I stopped at on day 1.  I had the pork chop dinner, while somebody played "Still Make Cheyenne" on the juke box.  One of the all time best Long Rider songs.  I guess they knew I was coming. Here's the chorus of the song- "He said I'm sorry its come down to this, theres so much about you that I'm gonna miss, but its alright baby, if I hurry I can still make Cheyenne, gotta go now baby, if I hurry I can still make Cheyenne."

Feeling rested I took off for Chattanooga, and coasted through it without a hitch.  I peeled off to I-59, this route will take me all the way to Birmingham, 150 miles away.

I crossed back into Alabama about 12:30am.

I'm at 700 miles now, and still feeling pretty good.

I-59 is dark and lonely.  I go to high beams and I light up the area all around me.  Nothing out there but darkness.  The miles keep adding up, if I get too tired I can always stop off my sisters in Gadsden, but I don't.
I start to get sleepy, and the road looks like a tunnel coming at me.  Time to take a break.  The rest area between Birmingham and Gadsden serves as my rest stop.  I walk around, use the facilities, and wash my face.

I can make it home from here non stop, but that won't be possible, I will need gas in Birmingham. 

On and on in the darkness I go.  These are familiar highways so I pick up the pace to 85.

Arriving in Birmingham, I go to I-459 to link up with I-65 for the final run home.  The miles are going by quicker now, and I go through the city and stop at a Chevron Station for gas, south of Alabaster.

I filled the tank up, using my Chevron card.  I never went inside.

Tired, but not sleepy, I make quick work of the final 60 miles home.  I exit for Prattville at #186 at 4:05am.  I slowly rode US 31 south the last few miles and turned in my neighborhood.

I pulled in the clutch and coasted down my driveway into my open garage at 4:15am, and drop the stand.  I covered 990 miles for the day and 6,003 for the trip. A great ride and a great tour.