Blue Ridge Parkway, Part 3 (wrap-up)

Rear View Mirror

After a hot meal, a wonderful shower, and a great night’s sleep it was time to start heading back in the direction of home.  When I first started planning this trip I realized that we were going to only be about 15 miles outside of Tennessee.  I desperately wanted to find a motel just over the state line just so I could say that I rode in yet another new state, but alas there was nothing to be found unless we went much farther into Tennessee.  That would have pushed our already tight schedule over the edge of reason. 

My backup plan was to ride a few roads that would take us westward just far enough to cross the tip of the state.  Since Jay put all of the planning on me, he didn’t want to know the plans until it was time to do them.  So Sunday night was the first he learned of the route.  The over-eager freshman had planned for nearly 380 miles, but the more seasoned veteran decided I was biting off more than we would want to chew.  (It would have been do-able, but this was supposed to be a fun trip not an endurance test!)  So we altered the route just a bit before heading on our way.  I guess Tennessee will have to wait for next time…

It was 48 degrees when we took to the road…following in reverse the exact route on which we had arrived.  Somehow the pavement torn up for construction and the pavement that needed to be torn up for construction didn’t seem quite so daunting with fresh legs, and the steep twisties were totally fun going UP the side of Grandfather Mountain!

going back across the viaduct

After crossing the Linn Cove Viaduct once again we stopped at an overlook on the other side for a photo shoot.  I am still amazed at that thing — it is totally awesome!!!

Linn Cove

Not long after getting back on the road I noticed Jay was dropping back again…figured he was taking more pics while riding.  But he dropped back so far I could no longer see him, so I started to worry.  Into the next straightaway I’d spot him again for a second or two, but then I’d lose him again. 

road to heaven

riding to the top of the world

zig zaggy roads

this way and that

I was wondering what on earth was holding him up when he came speeding up and passed me, taking the lead. He turned into the next overlook, which was actually in front of a beautiful mountain lake.  It was then that I found out his memory card was full and he had to switch out to a fresh one!  We took our time sightseeing at this lake, just enjoying the morning.  It was already getting quite warm and I wanted to strip down to my lightest gear.  I decided once I got moving again I’d probably be chilly & regret it, so opted to go the safe route and keep on at least one layer. Jay did the opposite and kept his full cold weather gear on which he found comforatble up in the mountains when we were moving. Not so comfortable during rest breaks.

mountain top lake at blue rudge

pondering the beauty

The lake has a damn

the rapids below the waterfall

Bikes at the lake

stripp’n down the gear

We continued back along the Parkway about 100 miles, mostly enjoying the road and only making one more stop (where the rest of the gear definitely came off).  We crossed back into Virginia and finally arrived at the interchange for US-58, where we pulled off to a tiny little country store & gas stop.

We met some quite interesting people there before heading back out onto the road.  US-58 took us down the mountain via mostly sweeping curves and some gorgeous vistas.  By lunchtime our road stretched out into a divided highway entering a smallish town with several traffic lights.  As we passed a bank we noticed the temp had reached 88 degrees! Jay started to melt as he was pretty much wearing full winter gear. He immediately pulled into a Wendy’s, stripped off his chaps and jackets and then sprinted to the men’s room to take off his long johns. We stayed at Wendy’s for a bite to eat and to enjoy a few minutes in the air conditioning because this early in the spring we hadn’t yet built up a tolerance for heat waves!

WTF?  In less than 4 hours our temperatures had practically doubled!  And when exactly did the weatherman predict this???  Ummm…we’ve got several more hours of increasing sunshine today and its already pushing 90!  Tell me again why I opted not to buy that adorable purple mesh jacket I saw at the dealership just before we left?

bye bye mountains

Life on the mountain

tree farms

The mountains were now in our rear view mirror and it was sad knowing that in a few minutes they would be a memory. There’s not a lot to say about the rest of that day…we rode for hours along US-58; a divided highway heading east across Virginia skirting the North Carolina border the whole way.  The only noteworthy event was when my Go Pro camera started that all-too-familiar wobble on my handlbars once again.  By the time I found a place to pull off and pack it away in my bag, the handlebar mount snapped again just as it did last summer.  (Luckily Jay’s shoestring “leash” kept it from bouncing down the highway this time.)  There would be no pictures crossing the bay Bridge-Tunnel, but at least the camera & memory card weren’t gone this time!  It was just before dusk when we arrived in Emporia, VA and gassed up the bikes before checking into the Days Inn Emporia.  Day 3 had taken us 352 miles, but it was not quite in the books yet.

As we pulled up under the canopy at the entrance to the hotel, Jay stopped his bike and then sat there pointing emphatically and smiling like a giddy schoolgirl.  For a moment I wondered what the hell was so exciting about the hotel vestibule, but then I realized he was pointing at the mexican restaurant and bar right off the lobby!  SCORE!  I could taste me some nachos & Dos Equis already!!!  We pulled around to our room, I changed into my flip-flops (a packing requirement of all motorcycle trips), and we walked back over for a well-deserved nightcap before heading off to bed. Beer is good!

Tuesday morning Jay headed out to wipe down the dew from the bikes which is a standard operating procedure for motorcycle trips. I turned on the Weather Channel to see if I could find some kind of info on this surprising early-April heatwave.  I had just discovered that we’d be heading into the possibility of a few scattered thunderstorms throughout the day when Jay came back into the room and announced that it was snowing!  “What are you talking about?  It can’t be snowing, it’s 64 degrees outside,” I harped.  “It’s snowing POLLEN,” was his reply!

And it truly was.  Literally everything was covered in yellowish green dust.  It took 3 wipe-downs just to be able to straddle my bike without looking like I just sat in a pile of chalkdust!  Every car that rode down the highway with us was green.  I have never seen anything quite like it.  (Someone told us that morning that the pollen count had gone from 7 to 3500 overnight!)

Being so close to Virginia Beach we decided that we must stop in and see Tami Walker at Diva Customs.  I had only met her back in February of ’09, but nonetheless I feel like she’s a very good friend.  Tami is the female owner/proprietor of a motorcycle shop that specializes in customizing bikes to “fit” women.  Guess I just connected right away with her spirit of throwing traditional gender roles to the curb! 

I gave her a call, but got voicemail so we were on our own to figure out how to get to her shop.  We had been there once before, so I checked my HOG Touring Handbook for the Harley-Davidson dealerships in the area as well as a map.  It didn’t give me directions, and I didn’t have an address, but it gave me enough landmarks to go off of, so off we went.

I am still not entirely sure how I did it, but I led us directly to the shop without making a single wrong turn or even having to loop around the block!  (internal GPS, I suppose?)  Tami was a gracious hostess as always.  We talked a little bit about Karen, and I signed my page in her book “Why We Ride.”  One day we will get to ride together, but for today it was nice to at least get in a short visit.

Diana and Tami

Return to Diva Customs

It was already lunchtime and there were hundreds of miles left to travel, so we mounted up and headed back out…driving along the coast as it looped around from the ocean to the bay.  Then it was finally time to ride across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel.  I’ve been waiting for this for nearly a year & a half!  Talk about engineering marvels — this structure is 23 miles long and comprised of long bridge sections which dip down twice along the way into tunnels under the water.  It spans the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay connecting the Norfolk/Virginia Beach area with the Eastern Shore Peninsula area of Virgina.  WAY COOL!!!  It took a half hour just to cross this thing!

After a quick stop to see if our friends Alan & Katie were at the Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center Jay took over the lead, riding along Seaside Drive for quite aways.  After awhile in the extreme heat it hit me like a brick — I needed food!  Riding through back country roads in the middle of nowhere was not exactly conducive to stopping, and for that matter not even conducive to communication between bikes.  I thought that after a few minutes I’d be able to suppress the feeling and I’d be ok until we could stop, but I soon discovered that my stomach was in total disagreement with this concept!

About a half hour later, we finally came to a stop sign where I was able to pull up beside Jay and tell him of my needs.  It was 3:00 in the afternoon and I hadn’t eaten anything since the bluberry mini-muffins back at the hotel breakfast bar.  By that point I didn’t care if it was a nasty gas station hot dog or a couple of Combos out of my bag, I just needed something in my stomach immediately or I was going to pass out.  So Combos it was — sitting in the gravel on the side of the road — to tide me over til we got to a Wendy’s in the next town.

I was back to leading, and that stretch of US-13 was the last place I saw Karen.  We were riding past the gas station that was our last stop on that fateful day last April, and the place we stopped for lunch.  I still remember vividly seeing Karen & Ed holding hands walking into the restaurant for lunch and how adorable it was that they were still so in love with each other after so many years together.  It occured to me that this was the road where she lost her life, and I became very tense riding along it.

After eating it was obvious that we were not likely to make it home in time for the First State HOG officers’ meeting that Jay was supposed to be running that evening, so I texted Big Ed and told him he may have to get it started without us.  We might arrive by the actual meeting start time at 6:30, but there was no way we’d be there to order dinner at 6!

We rode completely through Maryland and well into Delaware before our last stop, sent one more text to Ed to update him on our progress, then rode the entire rest of the way in one last stretch.  It was 7:00 as we rode directly to the officers’ meeting — bikes still packed down with gear as we hadn’t even stopped at home first!

We were greeted with the typical hugs, cheers, and jeers…and then Ed said, “OK we’re done here.  Let’s go.”  LOL  A little chapter business & a lot of socializing later, it was time to ride that last stretch through the neighborhood to home.  It had been an amazing journey with ups & downs (both literally & figuratively), one that I will remember fondly for years to come.

So after 344 miles, Day 4 was in the books.

4 Responses to “Blue Ridge Parkway, Part 3 (wrap-up)”

  1. Nice story Diana ! Enjoyed reading. you got a good “Knack” for writing. Sounds like you and Jay had a lot of fun

  2. Should you ever make it to Tennessee I certainly hope to get a heads up. I’ll do my best to make it to whatever part of the the state you’ll be in. Would love to meet you and Jay.

    Ride Safe,

    Ronman

  3. We’ll come down as soon as we can. Looking forward to meeting you and hopefully Lady R too.

  4. Rides like this one will help smooth out the road when unexpected bumps and pot holes should suddenly appear in your life. Ride Safe, Bob

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