This turned out to be 16 hours on the road and 575 miles. Here is how my day went…
Picturesque West Virginia
Along the way I saw a turtle trying to cross the road! “Frogger” he is not. I almost circled back to rescue him. I hope he made it.
This almost-freeway road finally gave way to a two-lane road deep in the back country. It winds up and down from valley to ridge to valley again, over and over. This is quite possibly one of my favorite roads to meander of my whole trip. Absolutely wonderful for a motorcycle.
Upon entry to Virginia, I was greeted with a series of road signs:
- Welcome to Virginia!
- Buckle up Virginia! It’s a law we can live with.
- Speed checked by radar and other electrical devices
- Radar detectors illegal
- Speed limit enforced by aircraft
Our country’s national park system is an incredible treasure of natural resources. Skyline Drive and the Shenandoah National Park is a shining example. Think of it: 105 miles of winding road along a ridge line on the Appalachian Trail. All of it to preserve natural wildlife and it’s all open for our enjoyment.
I paused at the ranger station near the entry for riding tips.
Barry: “Is there any wildlife that may be hazardous to motorcycle riders?”
Ranger: “Pretty much everything is hazardous to motorcycles.”
Barry: “Can you tell me about the bears in the park?”
Ranger: “These brown bears mostly keep to themselves, eating things like grubs and berries.”
Barry: (Makes a Jedi hand motion) “I am not the berry you’re looking for.”
With a park speed limit of 35 mph, it takes three hours to drive the entire length. I took four hours. There are 75 scenic overlooks and I paused at about half of them. Riding a motorcycle makes it very easy to snap a photo without dismounting.
Motorcycle vs. Nature
Mother Nature suddenly realized I was almost arrived and tried to make up for lost time. Although I had come over 4,000 miles in mostly mild weather, she turned everything loose in the last 30 miles.
First I was tricked into taking off my rain gear. Although Skyline Drive was 71F and sunny, temperatures rose steadily coming down off the mountain until I reached the freeway’s rest area at a steamy 84F. No rain yet, so I removed my Goretex liner to get a badly needed cooling effect.
This caused the rain to begin immediately. However, Alex said the skies were clear at his place so I rode on without stopping.
This made the rain increase, but it cycled off soon enough that I kept riding. Which in turn made the rain come and go several times, sometimes hard, until I got good and wet.
My full-face helmet is good for keeping my head warm and dry in any weather. I had closed the front vents but figured the rear vents are behind me and therefor no rain could enter. I was wrong, of course. I soon learned that rain can come in backwards and uphill in order to drip slowly down your head inside the helmet. And there is nothing you can do — you can’t touch it, and you cannot remove the helmet or it simply rains directly on your head.
Then it got worse. Once I figured I could handle the rain, the wind picked up. It gusted first from one direction then another. This big half-ton motorcycle felt like a tinfoil ball batted around by kittens. Fortunately traffic was light and nothing came of it.
I had been watching a distant lightning storm rip jagged strips in the sky. Now it became non-distant.
One big flash struck nearby and all the freeway’s street lights and road signs went dark. Too bad this happened just before my turnoff! But my headlight illuminated the overhead signs just enough that I recognized the proper exit and turned off properly.
As if this wasn’t enough, the side street was completely dark, including its stoplights. This was a problem because my instructions were “turn left at the second stoplight.” I guessed where it was (correctly as it turned out) and pulled into McDonald’s.
Enough is enough. I texted Hillary and Alex for a pilot guide car home. In this picture, Hillary’s Dodge pickup pulls in next to Barry’s motorcycle. They were just a block away and brought me in safely.
Today’s elapsed travel: 575 miles and 16 hours of riding.