Day 8
October 16, 2003
Hagerstown, Maryland

Chris was up early, and I had one ear open as he loaded and prepared for the road.  Just prior to leaving he asked, "sure you don’t want to come?" "No thanks brother, I’ll see ya at the campground later, have a safe ride and look out for deer."

On that note, he closed the door and fired up his ST.  It was dark as pitch, as for me, I went back to sleep and snoozed till 8am.  Man, I just can’t get out of bed these days.

The morning was cool when I stepped out to strap my gear down.  The sun was very bright, and I was looking forward to the ride south, and reuniting with my friends.  The constant drone of a gasoline blower hummed in my ears, operated by a worn out looking black man in a brown sweatshirt.  He was cleaning the parking lot, blowing leaves and trash to the north end to be picked up later.

I figured I better get going before he came my way.

I went back to I-81, and flipped the shield down as I came up to highway speed.  Trucks, cars, and buses were shoving me around trying to get into my space.  They are much bigger than me, so I let them take it.

Before I knew it, I was in Virginia.  I-66 merges with I-81 near Front Royal, and the highway turned south as far I could see.  South, I was back in my homeland, where sweet tea and cornbread could be found in café menus, and y’all replaces "you guys."

The pace was kind of slow on 81 and I stayed with the flow.  I’ve been on this road so much the last few years I know the major landmarks.  The plan is 81 to I-77 then find the Blue Ridge Parkway, and ride south to Asheville.  I estimated the distance at 350-400 miles.

The morning was beautiful, and the Shenandoah Valley looked regal in the bright sunlight. My mind drifted from subject to subject as I traveled. Songs popped in my head and abruptly left. I was happy to be on my way south to see my friends.  I feel at home in the Blue Ridge, I’m comforted in the knowledge Alabama is only half days ride away.

I was in no hurry to get anywhere, so stopped in a gas mart near Harrisonburg for a donut and Coke.  I returned a few messages, and lounged in the small dining area, with a warm sun shining on me.  I was halfway to I-77, but would need gas somewhere near Roanoke.  I will eat lunch there also.

I failed to charge my phone last night, so hooked it up to my mobile charger and placed it in the Moto Fizz.

Several north bound riders waved at me, most were cruiser bikes, but I did see one ST.

Roanoke came and went, and the fuel light was on.  I took the Salem exit and found the same Favioli’s I ate at on my DC trip a couple of years ago.  They have good pasta for fast food.  After lunch, I gassed at a Chevron down the street.  I was back on the road by 1215pm.

Near, Christiansburg a low flying plane startled me when he blew over me.  I thought a truck was about to run over me.

At last I-77 appeared and I eased around and went north, and was immediately greeted by a traffic jam.  Vehicles were backed up as far as I could see.  Why did I ever decide to come to THIS way?  A couple of cars ahead of me grew frustrated, and crossed over the median and went south looking for alternatives.  I was thankful it was a cool morning as I walked the ST along at 5 mph-when I wasn’t stopped totally.
I broke free 30 minutes later, and at last came to the exit for the Parkway.  I saw a pumpkin patch and stopped to check it out.
​Virginia Pumpkin Patch
At Fancy Gap I picked up the Parkway and put a big grin on my face.  This is one great road brothers.  Smooth and scenic, with lots of curves, there are no stop signs, red lights or billboards.  Nothing out there to distract a Long Rider. It was mid afternoon, traffic was light, but the Parkway is heavily patrolled by Rangers, so I entertain no notions of going fast.  It was a hard thing to do, because the Parkway is so tempting with its long sweeping curves.

The vistas along the BRP are some of the best in the east.  All afternoon I was treated to lookouts high above the Shenandoah.  The mountains here are old, very old.  Geologists say the Appalachians were once higher than the Himalayas.  I find it hard to believe this land of enduring green and warmth was once a wasteland of snow and ice.
​The Shenandoah Valley.  The West doesn't have all the beauty.
In the fading light, the ST and I slipped the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Every couple of miles I would see farmers on tractors heading home to dinner. This far north, farms sit among the hills of Blue Ridge, sheltered by the mountains.  I thought about Burkes Garden as I leaned in the shadows of fall trees, their leaves drifting down from high above, my windscreen parting and blowing them everywhere, a few even managed to slap my face in the flipped shield of the Arai. 

In my mind I could see the keepers of Burkes Garden washing their hands and neck after a long day in the fields, while wifes prepared what most would call a feast, but in this land of plenty, just another meal.   How he would sit down with his family, and say grace, talk about the days activities and the plans for the next, as he passed the mashed potatoes.  When supper was over they would adjourn to the den and watch TV, or if it was Friday night, go into town and attend the football game.  How wonderful it must be to live in such a safe and timeless place, where everyone knows everyone, and your neighbor stands by you.  The houses I pass are void of fences and sophisticated alarm systems.  Don't need them.  When his 8 year old daughter said she was walking to her friends house up the road, he did not worry a pervert would snatch her up.  Only 1 way in and out of the valley, a deviant could never slip in unnoticed, he knew 100 eyes of his best friends watched over his little girl, and most of all he KNEW a pervert also knew it, and that every farmer in the valley was armed.  I envied their sense of community in these hills, their church socials and bake sales.  Like the folks I passed in South Dakota, these were good people.

What a great time for a late afternoon ride.  My mind played me for miles on end.  

I was last on this section of the Parkway in 2001. A foggy, wet day.  I remember leaving it because of the poor conditions.  I saw the escape route I used when came I through Doughton.   I was glad to come back and finish what I started.  Today, the afternoon is perfect.  

I stopped at a rest area to soak in the view, and met a BMW and Gold Wing rider. The latter had ridden up from Florida.  The Beemer pilot was local, and showing his friend the beauty of the Blue Ridge.  

The trees were a couple of weeks away from peaking, but color could still be seen.  How I love the fall. 

Traffic increased as I grew closer to Boone and Blowing Rock.  The daylight to shadows made it hard to see.  I was unable to pass on the few sections I could, because I couldn't see the opposing lane well enough.  The sun was directly in my eyes at times.  I am NOT betting my life on a feeling nothing is coming, I HAVE to be SURE, before I jump into the north bound side. 

My speed on the Parkway never went over 50 mph, and I still had a good time.  The ride soothed my inner being, and I did not want to give it up when it came time to leave near Asheville.
​"I stopped at a rest area to soak in the view, and met a BMW and Gold Wing rider. "
​The sun sinks below the Blue Ridge Mountains, casting a yellow sky.
A spectacular sunset captivated me, I had to stop to admire it.

By the time I left the Parkway, darkness had grabbed me.  I knew where I was in relation to the campground.  Getting there from Asheville would mean a brief ride in the hills after dark.  I was glad I took the time to fix the PIAAs. 
Asheville was cleaning up from supper when I came through on I-40.  It was well after 8pm, where did the time go today?  I took the Canton exit, and found the same store I used in 2001.  I topped off the tank, and secured directions to Cruso from a friendly, soft speaking clerk, with old fashioned glasses.

"go down to the 4th light, and turn left, it will take you to "Jukebox Junction."


US 276 and SR 215, otherwise known in ST circles as the "Jukebox Junction," so named for the cafe that rests there. 

The road was as dark as the night, but the PIAAs and H4 bulb beat it back, and just like the man said, the road brought me right to the "Junction."  I turned left onto US 276, and smiled the last few miles to the campground.  I was careful in the hills, and was not fooled by the decreasing radius turn just north of the campground, that curve has earned the nickname of "Sals curve."  It took brother Sal out at Eastoc 2001 (spring), thankfully he wasn't hurt.  

The wooden bridge of the Blue Ridge Motorcycle Campground clanked as the ST and I crossed over it around 930pm enroute to the office, ending a 515 mile day.  I didn't think it was going to be that far from Hagerstown.   Peter Menard and  Ron Epperly greeted me and told me the office was closed, and to go put my tent up.  I can settle the fees in the morning.   A number of ST were on the scene.  Even though the formal fall Eastoc is defunct, many riders continue to meet each fall here.  I have become friends with many, and I look forward to seeing them each year.  

I was getting my bed ready, when I noticed I only had ONE pillow.  I left my other in the motel in WVA.  THAT IS WORSE THAN FORGETTING MY ATM CARD.  How am I EVER going to sleep?  I can't stand my head lower than my shoulders.  I will think of something.

Ron held the light as I got my tent out for this time this trip.  Peter stood by with his 1 liners.  I met Peter's older brother Jim, he went to the dark side, and rides a BMW 1150 RS.  Jim and Peter stand in contrast to each other.  Peter is outgoing and constantly in the mix, while Jim likes to be on the reserved side, sitting back taking it all in.  
I was relieved when I saw ChrisK.  He told me had a great ride south and made the campground about 2 hours prior.  
Ron has been on the road 2 weeks.  He just finished ST rallys in the Texas Hill Country, and State College, Pa.  That joker has definitely moved into the ranks of the hardcore.  

The night was getting cold and we were still waiting for Uncle Phil to come in.  He has a 400 mile ride from Nashville, and he wasn't leaving till after work.  He has the routes we will be surfing tomorrow, I'm sure he won't let us down.

We were sitting around the campfire when the whisper of a ST was picked up.  We turned around and saw Uncle Phil's red ST pulling up.  He was instructed in the same fashion I was, and proceeded to his site. 
It was late, and I didn't feel like eating, so skipped supper.

Everyone we were looking for was accounted for, so we went back to the fire.  For some reason the owners discarded the old drum thing, and made a big pit.  Now, the dang fire is 5 feet below us, and you can't feel the heat, and we were going to need it.  Already it was getting cold, not good. 

I took a shower, then said good night to everyone.  I had a long day.  I put a sweatshirt on, and zipped up in my bed.  I made a second pillow by stuffing underwear in my sweat pants, but it didn't work very well. 

The night was COLD, real COLD.  The coldest I've ever camped in. Temps dipped to the low 30s.  I was on the verge of being cold, but made it.

I slept fitfully because of the pillow situation.