Saturday, September 10, 2011
Take me home...
I awoke, on the 3rd day of my trip, in Winchester, Virginia to wet pavement and dry skies. I expected rain, after the forecast but hoped I’d get lucky, like the day before. There were clouds above with patches of sky and sunlight poking through. My first route for the day consisted of a purple line at the top of my map - across route 50 from Gore, Virginia heading West to Grafton, West Virginia. This is another RIDE club patch road. I hadn’t intended to make my entire trip about getting patches but it was lining up that way. From the map, it looked like it would be great route for views- it runs along the base of the mountains- as well as for curves – it squiggles across the page.
I gassed up and headed out, expecting to find breakfast at a little diner along my way. I eased out of Winchester along route 50 which took me toward the mountains. Misty clouds hovered along the peak just at the edge of town. I slipped through a mountain pass and found myself on the other side of the mountains, beginning to wind my way up and through them. About 40 minutes in, I rounded a corner and came down a hill into a town with a quaint diner posting a sign which read “Open Labor Day.” While I’d been glad to gain an extra day by planning my trip over the holiday weekend, I hadn’t considered how many businesses would be closed on Sunday and Monday. It made my strategy to acquire patches a good one- there wouldn’t be much site seeing off the bike. I sat down for a hearty breakfast of eggs and sausage while I reviewed my maps. After 50, I’d planned to head south for a 3-road tour and another patch. I’d have to see how the weather held up first.
Filled up and warmed up, I hopped back on the bike and settled in for the ride. I continued through the mountains, which meant the roads continued to climb up and up, while off to one side stands of trees flitted by. A few were turning color here and there, so I’d be surrounded by green when a lone tree, dressed in red would appear, standing amid them. I found myself once again lost in the road, trying to stay in the best lane position while it snaked back upon itself. An occasional car would appear from around a bend in the road, alerting me to stay wider in corners than I’m used to. Riding tight on a track, when I can see all the way through the turn is one tact, but the mountain twisities require another.
I’d been a little afraid of this trip and what it would bring up for me. I knew I’d see some beautiful things and hoped I wouldn’t mind too much seeing them by myself. When I’d come around a corner to find a break in the trees and get a glimpse of the valley below- that’s when I’d pull over and grab the camera for a shot. Taking my camera with me was a way to bring a friend with me- I thought of those back home who’d be waiting to look at them with me. When Erica asked me why I was doing this trip, I told her it was because I really wanted to and was really afraid of it at the same time. We have this common understanding, her and I, that our fears sometimes direct us to what we really need to do. As I was riding along that day, the fear was gone. I found myself narrating my route, eager to share it, but glad to be there alone.
The road continued on, winding through the hills. At one point, a great wind picked up some fallen leaves and swirled them up and around me as I passed by- it felt like a hug from the wind- I smiled and a song from John Denver came to mind: “West Virginia, mountain mama, take me home, country roads.”
Route 50 took me from Virginia into West Virginia, Maryland and back into West Virginia, all in one straight stretch heading west. It was a marvel riding through this area, marked into statehood by such strange boundaries- not a river or a mountain range or even a lake, as is Michigan. It had me wondering how these territories came to be divided.
The rain started in, sprinkling here and there and I hardly noticed it for the rivers sneaking along the roadway and the rocky outcroppings out of which the forest grew. The sky above was filled with layers of clouds in all shades of gray until finally, they opened up and sheets of rain came down. From Grafton, I headed south on 119 to 250.
West Virginia is loaded with signs along the roadside proclaiming historic areas- the first farm, the site of a particular battle or the home town of a general. So much of this state’s history seems to reside in its place in the civil war. I remember very few details of the war from elementary school and don’t feel it’s pull on me. In fact, quite the opposite- I felt repelled by the signs urging me to visit a battle ground. This contrast was made even more stark as I pulled into Elkins to find a place to stay for the night. Across the street from the Marathon station and the McDonald’s was a “trading post” selling “genuine Indian” artifacts, which most likely meant turquoise jewelry and moccasins. How is it that current literature about the civil war proclaims victory in battle during the French and Indian War, while stores hock “artifacts” from cultures our ancestors denigrated and destroyed?
The last hour of riding had soaked clean through my riding pants and jeans. My leather jacket was soggy and gloves useless. My feet were sloshing around inside my boots. I found myself a restaurant in hopes a hot meal would warm me up enough to continue. I thought I could use the dry table to spread my maps out and plan the rest of the day.
Once inside the Applebees, I warmed up my insides with a few cups of coffee and some wings. The manager was kind and gave me leads on a few places outside of town. He urged me to head east toward Seneca Falls where I’d find cabins to rent ‘real reasonable like.’ I sketched out a few ideas on the map but couldn’t get a feel for how much further I wanted to go. Once outside, I got the clarity I needed. It was cold, still raining and I was still wet. I decided to call it quits right there and headed, once again, for the cheapest place in town – the Super 8.
The place had been updated recently and I found a washer and dryer for a dollar a load in a room right off the lobby. I parked my bike out back and lugged my gear inside. I separated my belongings into 2 piles. Wet and clean and wet and dirty. I threw the clean pile in the dryer, the dirty in the washer and headed back to my room to dry out my gear.
In planning this trip, I was looking forward to the roads I’d ride and the views I’d see. I was hoping for a neat side trip or two and thought I might meet some other motorcyclists on the way. I prayed I wouldn’t have to deal with any bike repairs, or worse, any damage to me, after taking a corner to hot. What I didn’t expect to get out the trip, was a sense of achievement from tackling the elements. Nevertheless, that was already shaping up to be one of the big “take-aways” from the trip.