Share the journey — read the Blue Ridge Parkway Ride blog series.
I woke up at 4:30 this morning, ready for the motorcycle trip, but stayed in bed another two hours. I thought it prudent to lie prone as long as I could. And good thinking that was!
My dad and I set out at 8:30 this morning for Staunton, Va. It was funny to be on board instead of standing in the driveway waving goodbye as I so often have.
On my dad’s neighbor Bob’s advice, we took the I 64 instead of I 81 — Bob said the semis are bumper to bumper on 81. Good call Bob! 64 was smooth sailing. Heading north on 75 an ominous cloud cover chased us from the west but as soon as we cut east and south we outran it and rode under blue skies all day.
I made it to the town of Winchester (about an hour) before I pulled out the cushion my mom so wisely packed in the trailer. I was determined not to complain but holy mother did it hurt! I spent most of the day on the bike trying not to think about the two red hot pokers that seemed to have replaced the bones in my bottom, and the sandpaper in my eyes.
Luckily I had plenty to distract me. My dad’s GoldWing is rigged with all the amenities one could ask for, including XM radio. We tuned it to XM 46, “the anthems of rock from the 60s and 70s.” I could forget about the pain while rocking out to the Who, the Doors, the Allman Brothers, the Dead, the Eagles, Led Zeppelin, CCR and all their buddies.
We cruised along with little traffic to contend with, stopping in Hurricane, West Virginia for a picnic lunch — ham sandwich for him, colby-jack cheese sandwich and Terra Chips for me, Vanilla Coke for both to drink. While we ate we pulled out the map. GPS was telling us we’d be in Staunton at 3. No need to get there so early. We found a detour that would take us off 64 for a while and allow us to visit the second tallest bridge in the country.
Just past Charleston W.V., we exited onto 60, riding past the Capitol and the Executive Mansion. 60 turned into a giddy curve and hill fest. The road ahead on the GPS looked like a kid had spilled their red paint, twirling and spinning in fantastic loops.
I loved being off the interstate, leaning into the curves and laughing at the 20 mph warning under the snaking curve signs. When we weren’t caught behind coal trucks or log trucks we powered through the hills, the wind keeping us cool in the 80-degree sun. I closed my eyes (to rest them from the sun and grit) and lost count of the trucks booming past in the oncoming lane, hot coal-scented wind in their wake.
After a particularly fun set of curves my dad said beat the Tail of the Dragon, we turned onto 19 to make the short detour to New River Gorge Bridge. This is the world’s longest spanning, steel single-arch bridge, and at 876 feet, the second tallest bridge in the country. No way would I ride across this thing on a motorcycle — I’d be terrified of blowing off.
We stopped in the visitor’s center to check out the story. New River is a misnomer — this is one of the oldest rivers on our continent. How do they know that? (That’s what I wanted to know anyway) Evidently it flows across the Appalachian Plateau, not around it or from it, meaning it was here before the Appalachian mountains formed. New indeed.
We climbed down the 177 steps to the lower viewing platform and checked out the bridge. It made me think of a roller coaster, and again I thought I wouldn’t want to cross it. Though I’m sure the people who make a one minute crossing instead of a 40 minute detour as they did before the ridge are happy.
After a quick snack (Nutella and crackers for me!) we hit the road for the last leg. I’m pretty proud of myself for not complaining, though my dad did notice my squirming I found out later. I tried to occupy myself (and not think about the pain) for the last couple hours by playing shadow hand puppets, observing the wind pattern (trying to anticipate what land formation would lead to a huge gust), and asking my dad what the temperature and altitude were. I was pretty good at noting temperature dips and realizing we had ascended.
We rolled into our HoJo in Staunton about 7 tonight. I had some major fears about the place. It was literally the only hotel within 50 miles that cost less than $100 — that’s what happens when two college graduations take place nearby — and i had read some scary stuff on TripAdvisor. But the guy at check-in was nice, even let us park under the entrance (in case it rains) and the rooms are clean and perfectly fine. And wow, was that hot shower bliss.
We had worked up a major appetite with all the fresh air, so we feasted at a local Mexican restaurant for dinner (my first choice, a cute little bistro, had a 45-minute wait). I’ve done my blogging duty now so it’s lights out and time to stretch my weary bones.