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Day 2
September 30, 2010
Gadsden, Ala.

I was up a little after 6 and on the road by 6:30am.  I left my sister sleeping in the bed.  "I'll call her later, she's not a morning person."
Before leaving I used a slow edge connection to check weather radar from the Iphone. It showed a lot of rain in Virginia, rising north all way to Maine.  But I was lucky, it looked like the North Carolina-Virginia area in the southwest was just under the line, and that was as far as I was going today.

Gas was still above half tank so I motored straight out of the city on 795, and hit I-59 North.  A heavy cloud cover hung in the sky, and it was warm and muggy.  I was quickly greeted by a long construction zone, as the state funneled north bound traffic to the south lanes.  I didn't complain much because this worn out tarmac was long overdue to be replaced. It use to beat a long rider to pieces in many sections.  Most of 59 is the old fashioned concrete recipe which is hard and loud.  I like the smooth and quiet asphalt blend.

Off to the west I could see blue sky.  "Too bad not going that way today."

Gadsden to Chattanooga goes for 90 miles, and today it was a uneventful ride.  I didn't even stop at the Rising Fawn exit on this day.  Fearing tickets, I kept the ST at 78 mph.  Traffic was light and the scenery good in this hilly region of my state.

I've been through the city so many times last 10 years I can do it blindfolded, because it is one of my "gateway" cities.  Any ride up the East Coast I take this route to avoid Atlanta and the I-95 mess.  It might even be a few miles longer but I don't care, it is a much better, more scenic ride.

The GPS has auto routed me to my starting point; a dot on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Boone, North Carolina.  From there I'll ride the Parkway to somewhere in the Shenandoah.  I was last on the northern section of the parkway in 2002 with Uncle Phil, and that day was very foggy and hostile.  I didn't see much, so I'm returning to see what I missed.  I've ridden the length of the Parkway, just not all at once.

Being a veteran of many Chattanooga interstate wars, I knew how to get through the city which has three interstates pass through, I-24, I-75, and I-59.  This makes for a lot of confusion, and to make matters worse not much room between Lookout Mountain and the Tennessee River.

I moved over to the far left lane, found a speed just ahead of the flow, and worked my through.  I expected more commuter traffic at 8am, but traffic moved steadily.  

The interstate system in Chattanooga has been under construction for 10 years or so, and I'm happy to say it has been completed.  Multi lanes north and south ferry large volumes of traffic through.  I rode up the ridge and back down in a fast moving line of cars.  The north side took the longest to complete, but now all lanes were open.

The gas gauge on the 1300 has been acting strange the last few months.  It will go from 3 bars to flashing in one swoop, skipping the two bar display.  Not a big deal I guess but it can take you by surprise.  I mean one second you have 3 bars and the next you're on reserve?  I have the GPS thing but it is not as precise because it goes by miles covered, not what is actually in the tank.  Still, in this part of the country gas is not a concern.  Have to get it fixed before riding to Nevada though.

Happy to be on the far side of Chattanooga I celebrated with a butt break at the McDonalds at exit 25, Cleveland, Tennessee.  I knew they'd have a wifi connection and place to sit.  I bought a hash brown thing and a drink, and contemplated the last 125 miles.  It had been a good ride but I was looking forward to the Parkway.

The Iphone told me not much has changed in terms of the rain in Virginia.  It was still pouring up there, but my intended path should be ok.  I called Debbie who said she was packed and ready to go for her flight. I sent my son a text message, but got no response.  His mornings are busy with prayer, breakfast, Mass, and then classroom.  I read the headlines from my phone and kicked back about 30 minutes.

When I finished my break, I rode down the street to a Chevron station, filled up and checked tire PSI.  The rear tire has a plug, and I was a little concerned it would fail as the balding tire wore down.  It stood to reason it would grind off, and cost me a couple thousand miles of life.  That happened on the RT, but the pressure was holding steady at 42.

I was now on I-75 and started the longest portion of today's ride.  I was in familiar country, and knew what to find a what exits, but I needed to get north so ran the 200 miles non stop.
  
I moved the screen high, and leaned back on the Moto Fizz and belted down the miles.  It was here I missed the cruise control on the RT.  The joker that left it off the ST 1300 ought to be locked up.  Its absurd to make a touring bike without it.

The 13 cruised past traffic effortlessly as I took the loop around Knoxville and picked up I-40 on the other side.  A lady in Camry cut me off in one of the merge lanes, but other then that it was routine.

On the other side of Knoxville I switched over I-81, and met a trooper in the median painting cars with his laser.

The miles went by slowly on 81, and the cloudy skies hung low.  Because I put this portion of the ride on auto pilot, I missed the exit the Garmin was pointing me to take.  I don't have voice prompts wired to my helmet, so I just nonchantly rode right by it.  I thought, "don't I get off somewhere around here?" and looked down to the Garmin telling me to make a U turn when possible.  I rode on to the next exit (just a few miles), took it, and promptly found a Perkins Restaurant down the street for lunch.  "Might as well eat now, and get this sorted out."

I parked the ST in the front, and went inside.  "Better eat good now, don't know what I'll find at Meadows of Dan this evening."

After putting my order in for a pork chop and rice, I had to go outside to the Honda and get a sweatshirt to ward off the cool air inside the overly air conditioned dining room.  I also brought in my atlas to look over the route to the Parkway.  GPS is good, but nothing like the big picture of a atlas.
I was reading the atlas waiting on lunch when a man and wife about my age stopped at my table.  He had on a flannel shirt, and a thick goatee, he displayed a casual but neat appearance. The man said, "you passed us a few miles back, I saw you but never heard the bike, you went around, came back over, then disappeared in the distance.  I'd love to be that cool someday."

"really"

"yeah, just looked like you were in another world."

"well in a way I was"

"where ya goin?"

"New England, but that ain't lookin too promisin right now"

'Well have a good lunch, they're calling me to a table"

"ok good luck to ya"

I called Debbie who was now on her way to the Birmingham airport.

"yeah eatin lunch right now, call me when you get to Baltimore"

"ok becareful"


"you know I will"
Lunch was good.  When I was done eating I read the headlines from my Iphone.

I got back on the bike, rode back south to the correct exit and took I-26 for a few miles, then went to U.S. 321 through Johnson City and then Elizabethton.  Both places were a booger to get through.  Traffic, red lights and congestion, especially around the East Tennessee campus.  I come through here on my way south sometimes but didn't remember it as this bad.

U.S. 321 pass Watuaga Lake is a good road, but I couldn't do much with it because I was stuck behind a delivery truck.  The uphills were tedious as the speed dropped to 35 behind the under powered vehicle.

I took U.S. 421 into Boone and I knew the Blue Ridge Parkway was not far off. The gas gauge was flashing telling me I was now on reserve.
Boone is another college town, with the Appalachian State campus located right in the business district.  I don't mind small towns, in fact in find them fascinating, but this place was a quagmire.  

When I made it across town I stopped for gas and a butt break at a con store on a hilltop.  I pulled a Mountain Dew and bag of chips, sat on the grass near the 1300, and took a load off.  I put a few notes in the Iphone diary (good app) and checked messages.  My wife was at the airport and would soon be boarding.

It was mid afternoon, and I figured I better get moving.  "it will be a good ride the rest of way," as I geared up.  A few miles later I got on the Blue Ridge Parkway and headed north.  "Now this is more like it."

What a great afternoon ride on one of America's greatest roads.  This smooth ribbon of tranquil tarmac was just what the doctored ordered after several hundred miles of interstate cruising.

A ride on the northern parkway takes a guy back 60 years in time.  It traverses past old farmhouses, quiet fields, and grazing cows.  No billboards, commercial traffic, or long lines of cars.  In fact today, I saw very few vehicles.  I eased the ST back to a paltry 50 mph and quickly became lost in thought.  The Blue Ridge is made deep mental exercise.   






















Old barns always make good pictures, like this one on the shores of 
the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Access to the parkway is much easier around here also.  In the south, it takes a long climb on a twisty secondary road to access the road, but in this area, small mountain hamlets are just short distance away, in fact many are visible from the road.

The Garmin advised I was still 90 miles from where I needed to be, so I rode steady. 
 
The foresight of those who came before us, who made this road, is extraordinary.  They cut the road without disturbing the countryside, and now we have it, and it must be preserved for those coming behind us.  I have vastly under appreciated the Parkway till now.























                   The peaceful lines of the Blue Ridge Parkway

I rode the parkway past several landmarks known to all knowledgeable Blue Ridge visitors.  Places like the Northwest Trading Post, E.B. Jeffries Park, and Doughton Center, where Uncle Phil and I ate breakfast that foggy morning, just before I bolted the parkway for surface roads.


























        On the Blue Ridge Parkway, near Boone, North Carolina.

 
The pace of the ride was much slower now as I stopped to take pictures at several of the turnouts.  Leaf foliage was still green and my guess at least 2 weeks away from color.  The sun was breaking out and made the last miles of the day even better.






















"The pace of the ride was much slower now as I stopped to take pictures at several of the turnouts."

I crossed into Virginia and all too quickly I was at Meadows of Dan, my stopping point for the day.  My custom route ended, and I was left to my own devices to find the Willville Motorcycle Campground.  I guessed wrong at the stop sign leaving the Parkway and went the wrong way looking for it.  I corrected myself and went back the other way after a couple of miles.  I guess I should've asked somebody in the little hamlet but you know how that goes.
























              I found this general store just a few feet from the Parkway.

Willville seemed unusually quiet as I turned off the U.S. 58 into the campground, completing a 503 mile day.  "Longer ride then I anticipated," was the thought.  I stopped at the little office, and was told, 'Kinda wet down there, I'm not sure you wanna camp here, lotta rain last couple days"
"Well lemme check it out."  It was the first time I'd ever been discouraged from spending money somewhere.

I rode in and saw 3 bikes at the far end, then parked and got off the bike to find suitable spot.  "If they can do it so can I."  It was damp but I've camped in worse.  I found a pretty good spot near the creek.  I was setting up camp, and one of the riders came over,  "when ya get done we have some scotch and other goodies if you wanna come visit."

"thanks I appreciate that, I'll be over when I finish this and get a shower"

I walked back to the office paid my fees and took a shower and a shave.  After securing a few things at my tent, I strolled over to visit the other riders.  Only 4 of us in the entire campground, so we had the place to ourselves.

The bikes were a GL 1800, GL 1500 and BMW K bike.  Old friends from Florida out on a road trip.  They had spent the night in Asheville with friends the night before.  All had been riding a long time, this wasn't their first rodeo.

"want some of this?"

"No thanks, don't drink, but some of that Coke might be good"

"help yourself"

Also handed me a Baby Ruth bar.  "Thanks just what I needed"

I needed to call Debbie to let her know I was done for the day but had no signal.  One of the other guys did and lent me his phone.
"I didn't know who this was calling me"

"yeah I had to borrow a guy's phone, no signal, but he had one"

"oh ok, glad ya did"

"did your flight go well?'

"yeah but it was a nasty drive from Baltimore, lots of rain"

"hopefully it moves out by tomorrow afternoon."

The riders told me their names, but I forgot them.  They were good guys and I was glad for the company.  We talked about bikes and tours long into the night.

"So you've been to the Outer Banks?" one of them asked.

"yeah few years ago"

"how was it?"

"pretty good but doesn't last very long.  A lot of work getting there though"

Soon it was time for me to give it up.  "Hate to leave good company, but I need a early start in the morning.  I gotta be in DC by mid afternoon, got sumptin goin on tomorrow night."

"ok see ya in the morning"

I went to my tent, and put on my headphones, but grew sleepy after the first song.

A few hours later I was awakened by a gusting wind that bent trees far over.  My guess the outer fringes of the storm in the Northeast was now doing a "wrap around" thing.  It even spitted rain for a short while.

Sleeping was a  little difficult but I did the best I could.

Next- back on the Parkway for my great riding.
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