Day 4
October 13th, 2005
Best Western Motel
Marion, Virginia

It was another foggy, gray morning in the mountains.  Our group was loaded and ready to ride by 7:30am.  
When I dreamed up this ride a few weeks ago, one of my desires was visiting Mount Airy, North Carolina, otherwise known as "Mayberry."  Andy Griffith grew up here, and the town heavily influenced the premise for his TV show.  Characters like Floyd the Barber, Walt the Gas station owner, and Goober, were all people from Mount Airy in one way or another.  The shops and stores of Mayberry, could be traced back to this city in the North Carolina hills.

All of us were curious about "Mayberry," but mostly it sounded like a good excuse for a ride, thus 7 middle aged baby boomers, were about to finish the quest.

Peter Menard had growing concern about his rear tire.  He bought the unit in Colorado, and was still riding on it.  It was growing slick down the middle.  "Look I'm just going to replace it, before it reaches a critical point."  Some of the towns we will be passing through had motorcycle shops, and the plan was to check them out. 

"Peter, ya know how hard it is to find a ST tire on a rack?  The odds of one of these dealers having one is small."  "Yeah I know, if I don't find one I'll locate one in the Asheville area, and install it in the morning."

I'm not sure about the routes used on this day, but know enough to give a general idea and direction.

We left Marion in the early morning drab on SR 16.  The route took us south through nice curves and thick tree tunnels.  The highway passes a few miles from Mount Rogers, the highest point in Virginia at 5,000+ feet.  The ride was good, despite a high fog in the mountains, that I was sure would burn off as the morning progressed.
Quilted farmland passed all around me, and the elevation dropped as we rode south.  We decided breakfast would be in Mount Airy, about 70 miles away.  Everyone is different, I skip large meals in the morning, in lieu of peanut butter and jelly toast, or fruit, whether at home or on the road.  I prefer knocking down a large segment of miles before lunch.  If I get a late start, I have to  ride long in the afternoons, stopping only for gas.  I don't find that kind of riding enjoyable so tend to avoid it.

Near Mount Airy we met a south bound ST 1100.  "That has to be Jaybird,"  I said.  But I'm in the middle of the line and can't stop.  "Surely he has to know it's us, and will turn around."  We rode on into the city, while I constantly looked in the mirrors for a extra headlight.  That was hard to do, because the RT's mirrors allow me only to see my shoulder.

We stopped at a parking lot to formulate a plan.  Uncle Phil said, "that joker on the ST was Jaybird, I could tell by the gray saddlebags."  "Well dang, how come he didn't come back?"  "I dunno but he's headin for the Parkway, we'll see him tonight in Cruso.  So lets go get sumptin to eat."

Our line made it to the Wagon Wheel Restaurant for a breakfast buffet.  I ate more than usual on this day.  Instead of just toast I indulged on grits, pancakes, and biscuits; the high carb stuff.  Our waitress told us how to get down to the business district to see the Mayberry stuff.
​Breakfast time in Mount Airy
A short while later we pulled up to the old jail, that was used as the model for the TV show.  An old squad car sat out front.  I'll say this, Mount Airy has learned to capitalize on it's Mayberry connection.
Peter Menard in front of the "Mayberry" Jail.
Photo Peter Menard

We strolled among the shops and stores and I really got the feel of Mayberry.  I'm sure it was even more pronounced 40 years ago.  Some of the character was surely lost when fast food, and other franchises invaded the area.

I saw Floyd's barber shop, and dropped off the street into a few shops.
​Andy Purmals at Floyd's Barbershop
A local man, named Jack Kemp saw us walking, and came to us.  He grew up with Andy Griffith, and knows all the local history and how it ties in with the tv show.  After traveling the world, Jack said, "I crawled back to Mount Airy, glad to be home."  Everyone in town knew him.  "Hey Jack how ya doin?"  " Morning Bill, good to see ya."  The nearby houses reminded me of Andy's, with front porches and sidewalks.  I could see why anyone would like to call this place home.  Everyone knew everyone, and loved living here.  The mail lady came by throwing her hand up to Jack.
Uncle Phil, Peter and Charlie with Jack in downtown
Mount Airy.  Jack could have been Andy Griffiths's 
cousin, with his folksy mannerisms and wit.

"Shoot Jack we were a group on a mission, we wanted see Mount Airy," Uncle Phil said.  

"Well we get folks from all over, I got a bus from Parkersburg due any minute."

After walking a few blocks we made our way back to the bikes.  Andy and I went in the old jail, which is now a office building for a heating and air place, but they still preserved the old jail part.  I half expected to see Otis stumbling out.
​In the Mayberry Jail
Peter was on the phone looking for a tire, but so far no luck.

I know it was a corny, but visiting Mount Airy was something only a bunch of Long Riders would do.  For a brief moment I had reconnected with my childhood.

We left the jail and stopped at the Honda shop looking for Peter's tire.  No luck, but he did refer us to the Yamaha shop.  We went there and same story.  I was in the dealers when Mike Miller called, a ST rider from the Virginia Coast area.  He advised he was in town and looking for us.  I told him where we were, and short while later we had 8 for the ride to Cruso.

Our mission to Mayberry completed, we had to get south, to save time, Charlie had to lead us on quickest routes available.   I'm not sure of the routes because I take poor notes group riding.  Too busy socializing at meals and stops to get the Axim out.  I think it was I-77, to U.S. 421 to Boone.  From there we were able to escape back into the hills.  

By the time Boone came up the sun was out in full force.  We stopped on the outskirts of town for gas, and a informal lunch.  Peter said, "buy ya snack or something and call it lunch."   We still had a ways to go, and a big lunch would burn too much time.  I made a peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat and shared the fixings with Peter and Andy. 
Boone is a traffic snarled, tourist trap, college town.  It reminded me of Woodstock, Vermont or Dartmouth, New Hampshire.  We made it through and found good riding on the other side.  We were in the Blue Ridge, meaning the riding would be grand from here on in.

I'm note sure of the route out of Boone, but I do know it was narrow and twisty, and we picked up the ride on 19E over Roan Mountain.  On this side of the hills fall color was showing.  Leaves drifted down on us like rain, and the riding was fun, and technical.  A blue haired lady made sure ALL 8 of us had to pass.  You would think after the first 3-4 she would turn out, but nah she wanted us to do it the hard way.

About 50 miles and hundreds of curves later we stopped at a place called Thomas Grocery for a break.  Mike Gregory had served as the sweeper the last few hours and I commented, " dang Mike since you're the sweeper you get so see everyone's back one time or another."   "Yeah I get to check all of y'all out."
​Stretching legs at Thomas Grocery  
I found a old fashioned bottle Coke and a small bag of cashews.  Real Coke in a real bottle is sooooooooo good.
I'm not sure exactly where we picked up the Blue Ridge Parkway, but it was near Asheville.  Mike Miller had the turn marked, but somehow Andy misunderstood and kept riding down the mountain.  

I pulled along Mike, "which way did Andy go?"  "I think he went up to the Parkway, couldn't tell."  I went to Peter, "which way did Andy go?"  "Down the mountain."

"Dayum, I'll hafta to go make sure.  Wait for me here, I'll be back."

I'm pretty sure I saw him go straight, so took off after after him.  He had a 5 minute head start, and I wouldn't be able to catch the Honda, unless he became bogged down behind a car. 
Down the mountain I went leaning like crazy, throwing the RT side to side in a effort to catch the 1300.  If he's riding hard, I'm not going to be able to do it, just too big a head start, but I had to try before he came to a place where he had to make a decision.  When he doesn't see a "marker" it was my hope he would turn around and double back, but he might reprogram his GPS for Cruso and go in quickest route.

It was very intense as I pushed to within 75% of my red zone.  I never ride without some kind of cushion.  The shadows and sun light bothered me, and made it hard to read the road surface.  If I hadn't been chasing Andy, I'd say this was a fun road.  I over took a couple of slow sedans on the descent, passing them on a double yellow. I rode hard for 10 miles, still no sign of him.  "A little farther and I'll hafta to give up.  I'm sure he can find the campground, not that far away."

It was then I found him getting info at a construction zone.  "Dang brother you missed the turn."  "I know, but didn't know where."  "You didn't see Mike?"  "I did, but thought he was pointing straight."

We hustled the 10 miles back up the mountain, carving our butts off.  Back at the Parkway entrance Mike Gregory was standing on the road practically pointing at the Parkway entrance.  I came to Peter who was marking the turn at the top of the hill.  "Got him; that joker was almost back to Asheville."

At last we were on the Parkway.  What else is there to say?  The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the top roads in the country, and today it did not disappoint. 
The afternoon was warm and the mountains stood in contrast to the blue sky.  The silky smooth surface felt good under the RT's Michelins.  A few miles after entering the Parkway we found the others waiting for us on a scenic vista. 
A beautiful day in the Blue Ridge
Everyone took pictures and we left the vista with Uncle Phil at sweeper.  He always does good back there with his 4 way flashers.

We rode into a bright late afternoon sun, and it was sometimes hard to see the road.  Lots of bike traffic moved in both directions, but our group of sport touring bikes ruled the day.  We moved around the less agile cruisers and touring bikes, and the crotch rockets that passed us lost their space when they were forced to rest their backs and arms frequently.  

Our paced picked up to 65 and I was a little worried, but I was in the number 3 spot and felt secure. 

I'm embarrassed to write this, but in the tunnels we beeped our horns like little kids. 

The flowing curves of the Parkway have a rhythm, and we made good time south.  The scenery was good, and I felt lucky to be on a ride like this.  SR 276 came into view and Peter pulled to mark the turn off, and I pulled to mark the direction at the bottom of the hill.  I counted 5 bikes and then they stopped coming.  I knew Peter was at the top so I waited a while longer.  

After 10 minutes I went back up to Peter.  "Seen anything?"  "No and I'm concerned, Uncle Phil and 1 more are back there, must be a problem.  I don't know who is with him, but I only counted 5."  "Wait here, I'll go back north to check it out."

I was worried something had happened, "Uncle Phil was sweeping he should be here by now, I know he knows the way."  I was riding north when I said, "no telling how far I might have to go back."  I pulled to a scenic overlook and went to the southbound entrance.

  "I'll wait here and wave in the next southbound rider I see."  I wasn't there long when a yellow Gold Wing appeared.  I waved frantically for him to come in.  He obliged and I asked. 

"Didja see anything bad back behind ya?" 

"Yeah, a ranger had 2 of your boys pulled over."

  "Sport tourng bikes?" 

"Yep, kinda of like yours."

  "They were ok?"  "Outside of gettin ticketed-yes."  "Thanks."

"Well I ain't goin back there, and get ME a ticket."  I went back around to hook up with Peter and Andy.  "What'd ya find out?"  "GL rider told me a ranger had em."  "Well dayum, lets go before he comes this way."  Peter didn't mean it to be funny but it was.  That joker is always cracking me up.  We were like antelope on the plains after the Lions snare one of the herd.  Hate it for the poor joker that got nabbed, but thankful its not ME.

While waiting for me, Peter saw a couple pull up to a overlook, get out of the car, put on ballroom music, and start dancing, with the sun going down over the mountains.  He took this pic:
​You have to look close between the sign legs to see the 
dancing couple.  Photo: Peter Menard

I hope MY wife never sees this pic, and gets any big ideas.  I'd feel like a peckerhead for sure if had to ballroom dance in some parking lot, with a guy like Peter watching.

The 3 of us eased on down 276 to the campground.  We took it easy.  It had been a long day and we were too close to the end to have a mishap.  It was dusk when we pulled in after a 300 mile day.

At the campground we gave the Parkway report.  "Man, they got Uncle Phil and JIm."  We were still near the office when they pulled in.  "Y'all owe us, that joker clocked everyone and got me and Jim only cause we were in the back."  It was like he was fishing.  He wasn't going to catch all the fish, but he was going to get what he could.

Charlie did a heck of job leading us from Parkersburg to the Blue Ridge.

At supper we passed around the hat, to help pay their 79 dollar fees.

I wheeled around to sit up camp.  Ron Epperly and a few more STer's were on the scene.  It was fall, and it was OUR time to be in the Blue Ridge.  I took my usual spot and quickly had my tent up.  Word went around the campground supper was going to be at the famous Jukebox Junction Cafe.

It was dark when we lined up for the run to the Jukebox Junction.  It was a nice ride, and if felt good to be in the Blue Ridge with so many of my good friends.  At they Junction we were seated on the rear porch while 2 young high school girls served us.  They were polite and good workers.  You could tell they came from good families with a nice work ethic.  I asked Heather if the Mexican Cantina down the road was good.  "yeah but don't eat there, we want y'all to come back here."

I had a chicken sandwich, and a good time.  We were the last customers, and the crew was cleaning up the dining room, and playing the jukebox.  Songs were a quarter a piece so the girls were not able play many.  I motioned for Heather to come over, "here baby take this dollar."  "Hey y'all give the girls your change for the jukebox."   Soon she had 5 or 6 dollars.  "What do y'all want to hear?"  "Anything you want baby, just pick em."  
The jukebox was loaded with 60s and 70s music, and the girls did good.  I never knew kids of this age liked such old stuff, but these girls did.  They danced with mops and each other in between filling our coke and tea glasses.  We stayed way too long and tipped the girls extra for their good work and for keeping them late on a school night.  They were grateful.  
​Inside the Jukebox Junction
I tip well when I'm on tour.  I feel I represent ALL motorcyclists, and the state of Alabama.  I know waiting on tables doesn't pay much, so I do the best I can.  

We went back through the detour (bridge still washed out from last years hurricanes) to the campground in darkness.  It was a nice ride.

Back at the campground I sat around the fire with Ron Epperly, Aundray Hubble, and a few others.   Although all the ST guys were here, the numbers were down for everyone else.  Only a few years ago the Blue Ridge campground was the only 1 in the area, now there are many to choose from.

Not sure when, but Peter told me he found a tire in Robbinsville and would be heading that way in the morning, and would try to hook up with us later in the day.

When the fire died out I went for the showers.  

It was cool but not cold, and I slept well.