Day 7
April 14th, 2002
Lorton, Virginia

I was up early saying my good byes.  David showed me out to the garage, and spoke with me as I loaded the ST.  I wanted a early start for the ride into Southern Virginia.  We shook hands and I backed out of the garage at 7am.

Weather-guessers were predicting a cool morning with a warm afternoon.  Good riding weather.  My plan is to ride south on back roads to Roanoke, spend the night at Hungry Mother State Park near Tennessee, and  along the way stop and see Appomattox.  I estimate arriving in Roanoke near 4 pm.

Traffic was light on I-95 South as went by a Virginia State Trooper running radar.  Don't they ever give it a break around here?  I know better then to speed in Virginia.

Virginia owns and operates the home where Stonewall Jackson died.  You can find out just off I-95 near Leesburg.  I took the exit and stopped for a visit.  I followed a narrow paved road into the quiet campus.  A white wood frame house sits quietly near the trees.  The railr`oad tracks that once carried southern troops to and from the front are still there, and in service.  It is a quiet Sunday morning, and birds can be heard in the trees above.

The old white frame house is not open but I peer in the windows.  It appears to look unchanged from the 1860s.  I took a few pictures and saddled back up.
​The house where Stonewall Jackson died.
South of Fredericksburg I exit onto SR 208 and begin the awesome ride through the Virginia countryside.
The morning sun is out, casting the landscape in a soft tint.  The road is smooth and curvy as I alternate between, woods and farmland.

I pick up SR 738 in Snell.  A tiny crossroads community.  Not much is there.

I go to SR 622 next.  The small, rural churches, I pass along the way are beginning to come to life, as parishioners make their way inside.  I quickly leave 622 for SR 601 near Lake Anna.  There will be many route changes today, before I leave the hills. 

I stop in a rural country store in Coatesville for a butt break and a snack.  The lady behind the counter is talkative-

"where ya from"?


"what brings ya to Coatsville?"

" nuttin, just ridin seeing the country"

She goes on to tell me, I am doing what she and have husband have always wanted to.  When I asked her why she is not doing it, she says, "well we had a unexpected surprise- a baby."  Surprise indeed, as I find out she is in her late 30s, and did not want a baby at this stage of her life.  But like most people, she is playing out the hand that was dealt to her.  All any of us can do.

As I strolled out the screen door, she says, "good luck, I envy you."

"Thanks, hang in nere baby."

As I left the dirt driveway of the store, I glanced down to my mirrors and could see dust swirling in the parking lot.

I follow state routes 601, and 609 south to U.S. 33, where I will briefly head north.  All of these routes are great riding.  Curvy, and twisty.  They are narrow with farm houses close to the road.  I stay in 4th gear most of the way.  I have a good time leaning the ST, and enjoying the ride.

I ride U.S. 33 to U.S. 522 to a crazy named placed called Cuckoo.  How do you name a town Cuckoo?  I pulled into a long closed store to check my atlas, and as I get my stuff out, a car pulls to the gas pumps.  A older man gets out, sticks the nozzle in his tank, and tries to pump gas.  I stare in disbelief.  He keeps janking the switch, and pulling the nozzle trigger, and can't figure out why it's not working.  This place has not pumped gas in months.  He tries another pump, and his wife is still patiently in the car.  Suddenly, another car pulls in from the highway to the pumps.  How did this guy ever go out of business?

Laughing like hell, I get back on the road and head for Appomattox.

I turn on U.S. 60 West and close in on my first objective of the day.  U.S. 60 has the most traffic I have seen all day.  I look down at my trip meter, and to my disbelief I have covered almost 200 miles already.  My, this morning has flown by, but things always do when you're having a good time.

I take SR 24 and pull into Appomattox, the scene where Lee surrendered to Grant.  I stroll the grounds and walk in the Mclean to house to see the parlor where the surrender took place.  It was here our nation was reunited.  From now on, we would no longer be New Yorkers or Georgians, but Americans.  In Normandy, Ohio boys lay in rest with Alabama boys.

I stopped at a small Confederate cemetery just outside of Appomattox.  I find the graves of 40 C.S.A. soldiers and 1 Union soldier.  All killed in the closing days of the war.  Grave #41 John Huggins- from Alabama, is a most tragic story.  He enlisted in the C.S.A a few days after Fort Sumter, and fought for over 1400 days in the bloodiest campaigns.  He fought at Bull Run, The Wilderness, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg and Cold Harbor. 

John Huggins was killed  on April 14th in a minor skirmish with Union Calvary, less then 24 hrs before he was due to be going home.

I leave Appomattox on SR 24 and pull in a Exxon station a short ride later for gas. I look at my clock, and see I am way ahead of schedule.  I will be in Roanoke shortly after lunch.  I called home and talked to my wife, after I filled up.  She was cooking pancakes, and going to Wal Mart later.

The ride into Roanoke was uneventful, but memorable.  Nice scenery and low traffic.

I fight my way through Roanoke and soon find myself on I-81 South.  

In Salem I exit for a late lunch.  I find a Faviollis and get BIG plate of spaghetti and meat balls.  I was starving and I just now realized it.  It was 1:30pm.

Eating lunch I weighed my options.  It would be a short ride to the campground, and it was too early to quit.  I decide to ride on to Knoxville.  I was sure I could make it before dark, and once there, it will be a easy ride to my sister's in Gadsden.  I felt good, but was not sure how the 300 mile ride in the Virginia hills, would affect me later on a slab ride.

I will take a nice long break here, to shake off the first 300 miles, and then focus on Knoxville.  With time to kill, I did some research.  I called station 2 back home, with a T1 connection someone is always on line.  Lt. Chris Ray picked up the office phone and I asked-

"hey Chris this is Guy, go to mapquest.com and tell me how far it is from Roanoke to Knoxville, I'm guessing 250 miles, but don't want any surprises."

"just a sec"

He came back, "258 miles"

"Piece of cake, thanks"

We chatted a while longer, then I called my sister.

"hey leave the door open, I will be there around 10pm."

"so where ya at now?"

"Salem, Virginia"

"what do ya think this is? A flop house?"

"no, but ya love me anyway"

"ride safe"

With a sudden urge to head for home, I get back on the road.

Dropping down the entrance ramp for I-81, I glance back to my left, when confident no one was about to run over me, I flipped the shield of Arai down, and came up to highway speed.

I found my place in the traffic, and put the ST on 75 mph and settled in for the long ride to Gadsden.  I am looking at 450 miles.

What comes next is one of the great rides.  After 300 miles of Virginia back roads and hills, the ST was now being called upon to zap these 450 miles of interstate quickly, and comfortably.  And that's exactly what happens.

Fifty miles from Salem I lapse into the zone.  The mile markers are flying by.  I get behind a cage convoy and move up to 85 mph.  I feel good, and I look forward to the ride to Gadsden.  I pass slower traffic by the hundreds.  Something tells me there are NO LEOs ahead, and I hammer on.  The road is MINE. 

I escape Virginia for the more friendly speed limits of Tennessee, and move up to 90 mph.  I see signs of rain in the distant hills, but it does not bother me.

I-81 in Tennessee is smooth and fast, and in what seems like no time, I have covered 150 miles.  Traffic is on the low side for this Sunday afternoon.  An old Dean Martin song gets stuck in my head.  " I'm prayin for rain in Cali forn ya, so they can grow more grapes, and make more wine; and I'm sittin in a honky in Chi caaaa go, with a broken heart and a woman on my mind'. The lyrics are from the song "Little ole Wine Drinker Me".  You can hear it the next time you rent the movie, "Vertical Limit."

The white lines on the interstate flash under me like paper off a high speed printing press.

Despite being in the saddle over 3 hrs my butt is ok, and I am disappointed when the reserve light begins to flicker.  I don't want to stop, because I fear it will snap me out of the zone.

I ride another 30 miles, before giving in to the light, and take the exit at Moshiem for gas.  I whip it in a gas mart called Okee Dokee, that has Exxon gas.  I pump in 6.1 gallons of gas and pay for it with my Exxon card.  When I finished that, I went inside to sit at the accompanying Dairy Queen tables to drink fancy water.  I was 50 miles north of Knoxville, and still had 60 minutes of light left. I am confident I will make Gadsden with little problem.  I also took this time to call fellow STer, Dennis Ryan, just to see what's going on the left coast.  He was sitting around the pool socializing.  Must be nice.

Anxiously, I get back on the bike and hope my ride in the zone continues.

A few miles later I-40 joins I-81 and the traffic picks up.  I will ride with the I-40 guys into Knoxville.  I jockey around for better position.

I am back in the zone, nothing has changed.

I pass through Knoxville in the late afternoon.  I remember coming this way last year with Phil Derryberry and Ron Wayden.  We had spent the day riding The Gap, Foothills Parkway, and the Cherohala, and came back home through Knoxville.  It was a cold, dark night.  I reassure myself if I can ride to Gadsden, from here, on a night like that, I would have no problem on this pleasant evening.

I blow through Knoxville without so much as a gear change.

I take I-75 south out of Knoxville and get ready for the last 200 miles.  I plan on a butt break and supper in Chattanooga, probably at the Cracker Barrel near the I-59 interchange.

Riding south I look east at the Smoky Mountains.   The setting sun is casting a orange glow on the hills, and the sky is beginning grow dark.  Nothing like a late afternoon ride.  Because I was in the zone, I don't even remember where the darkness overtook me.  When you are on a zone ride, you don't question things, you just go.

I enter the Chattanooga suburbs in full blown darkness.  I love Chattanooga but its a crazy place.  Lots of construction, that has been going since I was a teenager.  Traffic from 3 interstates converge on the city, making a it pretty much a crapshoot to get through.  But tonight the construction is better, the traffic is thinner, and I ease through rather easily.

I see the flickering lights high atop Lookout Mountain as I ride pass.  The Mountain is a favorite place of mine.
I see the Cracker Barrel exit and decide to ride on. I am feeling too good to stop.

With PIAAs cutting back the darkness, I leave I-75 for I-59 South, and start the last 100 miles to my sisters.  I have covered over 650 miles already.  The zone is starting to leave me, as my butt is beginning to get stiff.
I shift my position around on the ST and get comfortable again.   I keep my eyes peeled for nocturnal animals.  I bring the ST down to 75 in the darkness.

I cross through a tiny corner of Georgia.  Here you will find the town with best name in the country.  A name that brings images of quiet forests and fruitful land.  Rising Fawn, Georgia.  I don't know what kind of place Rising Fawn is, but with a name like that it has to be good.  Perhaps Winnie the Pooh lives here.

My lights thread me along I-59, its a dark, warm night.  A good night to be on a ride.  I'm looking forward to a hot shower, warm bed, and a TV at my sisters.

All too soon, I approach the Gadsden exits, and I check my mirrors, nothing is back there.  Just a dark night.
I take the Rainbow Drive exit, and gear the ST down on the long, twisting right hand curve exit ramp.  It feels funny to be coming down from highway speed. 

A little after eight hours and 450 miles, from Salem, I cruise down Rainbow Drive looking for a place to eat.  My reserve light comes on, I ignore it and keep looking. 

I pull into a Wendy's for a small chili.  Its 9:30pm.

When I finished eating I rode the 2 miles to my sister's house and pulled in the garage.  I rode 766 miles for the day, and completed one of my most memorable rides in terms of time and distance.

The next day will be a short 125 miles to Prattville.  I called my wife and told her I was at my sister's, and I would be home in time to take her to lunch tomorrow. 

I relaxed with my sister, and watched some TV.  I felt surprisingly good, but went to bed about 11:30pm, and slept hard.