A review of my motorcycle touring history shows that I have a tendency to blast home from the MAMMARY run in a single long day. Only twice have I taken the time to wander home via a more interesting route. For this trip, the first-ever tour with Karen, I decided to take a leisurely route home and wander through the mountains a bit.
This day started like all long-weekend vacation days should start: by sleeping in. I consider it a special gift that my body knows how to avoid waking up until it senses that someone nearby is getting ready to serve a breakfast of biscuits and gravy. So it was this morning, as I got up just as said biscuits were headed into the oven.
Most of the other MAMMARY attendees were already up and a few that had been staying off-site had already arrived. Unfortunately, a few attendees were habitual early risers with a long ride ahead of them; they had already packed up and left.
While Karen showered, I walked down to Mitch’s garage where he fished around in a tool chest and produced an exact duplicate of the crimp-on ring terminal that had failed yesterday (well, exact duplicate except that is wasn’t broken). A few minutes work and the replacement ring terminal was installed and the tools put back away on the Cruiser.
Time was flitting by so Karen and I and began our preparations to leave. That meant packing up the camping equipment and loading the bike. During these preparations I noticed that the right floorboard on the Cruiser had much more wiggle in it than usual. Grabbing it and giving it a good shake resulted in far too much movement in not only the floorboard but the rear brake pedal, the rear master cylinder, and the lower-right mount for the engine guard.
This is a bad thing.
All of the aforemented bits and pieces mount to a bracket that bolts to the Cruiser’s frame and apparently those mounting bolts were loose. So, the tools came out for the second time this morning and I began to disect the equipment around the loose bracket. It turns out that one of the two mounting bolts is a through-bolt that doubles as one of the mounting studs for the rear master cylinder; this bolt was broken where it met the frame. Such is the unfortunate truth of Murphy’s Law. The bracket in question was held in place by two bolts: one could be purchased at any hardware store; the other is a custom part that requires a special order at a Harley-Davidson dealership. Guess which one I needed to fix this problem.
I tightened up the other two bolts that attached to the loose bracket and that left it feeling pretty solid, solid enough to get us back to Michigan.
Given these delays, Karen and I were the last guests to leave Mitch and Kathy’s. I’m accustomed to being the last one awake during these gatherings but I’m rarely the last one out (oh, except for Snarl’s last year). We exchanged our goodbye’s, surreptiously left a “thank you” card for Mitch and Kathy, and headed up the road for the nasty-highway-that-shall-not-be-named (that is, Beltway).
The plan was to take I66 west until we pick up Virginia route 55. We’d use VA55 and a few other local routes to weave our way towards US50 somewhere in West Virginia, where we’d head west and spend the night in Clarksburg or Parkersburg. We had a beautiful, albeit hot, day for a ride. Brilliant blue skies with hardly a cloud to be seen. The combination of route and weather had the makings of a good day.
Karen has never seen downtown Washington DC but today’s Rolling Thunder festivities meant that this was not the day to ride through the middle of the city (lots of extra traffic, plenty of road closures, et cetera). We took the Beltway around the city and picked up I66. I don’t really like I66 near Washington DC but it turns into a good highway as you get out in the mountains near Front Royal, Virginia. We need to switch the Cruiser to reserve fuel just before we jogged south on I81 before exiting at Virginia route 55.
I was hoping for a gas station at the VA55 exit but there was none to be found. We headed west and hoped that we’d find one down the road. The motorcycle gods heard our prayers and offered up a country gas station near Lebanon Church, but there were several cars ahead of us waiting in line for the pumps. There was no shade to hide us from the hot sun while we waited so I took a chance and ventured further up the road.
Lucky for me the motorcycle gods didn’t punish me for forgoing their gift and they provided another gas station/market another eight miles down the road. This one had a short wait and shade. We ventured into the market and purchased some water to rehydrate ourselves. We stood in the shade, drank our water, and observed a cat half-heartedly torment two dogs inside a fence.
It turns out that VA55 is also the new US48 (I guess I need a new road atlas, mine is from 2006). West of Wardensville, West Virginia, US48 becomes a four-lane divided highway. Part of the reason I chose this route was to avoid the superslab highways but this one wasn’t so bad. It wound through the hills and valleys of the West Virginia highlands and was nearly devoid of traffic. It also has a dramatically high bridge that affords breathtaking (or heart-stopping if you don’t like heights) view of the Lost River valley.
We left the four-lane at Moorfield and picked up WV42 north at Petersburg. WV42 was a fun road, a well-maintained two-lane that wove its way along a creek before climing over two mountain passes, the second one lined with lazily spinning wind turbines as far as the eye could see. I’m pretty certain that Karen didn’t like WV42 as much as I did. I think all the up-down-left-right activity was making her seasick. Lucky for her, WV42 ended at US50 and we headed west into the late-afternoon sun.
After a supply stop in Grafton and a gas stop just east of Clarksburg, we found the four-lane (not limited access) stretch of US50 between Clarcksburg and Parkersburg. This 80-mile stretch of road spends most of its time gently winding back and forth from one hollow (that’s West Virginian for “valley” and is pronounced “holler”) to another. The sun was low in the sky now and often ducked behind the high hills bordering the road, so the temperature dropped a bit and made the ride much more comfortable. It wasn’t long and we were rolling into Parkersburg and looking for a place to stay. (After a long hot day you don’t want a tent, you want air conditioning.)
The problem with Parkersburg is that some exits have lodging, some have food, but few have both. I eventually pulled aside and we pulled out that oh-so-wonderful tool, the iPhone. My Hotels.com application noted that there was a special last-minute $52/night deal at a hotel a mere 10 miles up the highway in the direction we needed to go. We arrived and found the hotel across the parking lot from a nice little Dutch Pantry restaurant. The desk clerk at the hotel informed me that I need to book online to get that rate. I grumbled a bit and he eventually agreed to give us the room for $59. Done.
We unpacked, parked the bike, freshened up a bit and walked over the Dutch Pantry only to find that it had closed 20 minutes earlier.
Once again, we called on the iPhone to save us. This time, it was the Urbanspoon application that found us an Appleby’s restaurant in Marietta, Ohio, just across the Ohio river from where we were. A quick call to the restaurant, which you can do directly from within Urbanspoon, confirmed that they were open and wouldn’t be closing in the next 10 minutes.
We took the quick ride across the Ohio River in the darkening evening and noted a well-lit ship coursing up the river to our left. We found the Appleby’s without difficulty only to find that they were overflowing with customers. It turns out that the local high school had graduation ceremonies earlier that day and everybody was taking their proud graduate out to dinner. Lucky for us, there was no waiting to eat at the bar.
Usually slow on Sunday nights, Appleby’s only staffs one bartender. Given tonights unexpected rush, she was seriously busy but managed to take our drink orders without too much of a delay. Karen had a “perfect” marguerita and I, needing to keep the Cruiser upright for the ride home, had lemonade.
Aside: Ordering something with free refills was a stroke of genius since the bartender must have refilled my lemonade six times. I guess we did some sweating today.
We ordered a fried mozzeralla appetizer and chased that with some chicken strips and some cajun shrimp pasta. We were just finishing our meal as the Coke 600 was coming to a close with Dale Jr. running out of gas on the last lap to let some other guy win. Even with the TV muted you could practically hear the commentators screaming with agonized excitement.
We found our way back across the river to our hotel and soon relaxing in the comfort of an air conditioned hotel room.
Today’s ride had covered 359 miles in about 8.5 hours. Not bad considering the late start and all the winding around we did up in the mountains.