Friday, September 5, 2008

SCENES FROM THE BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY

Dance as if no one were watching; Sing as if no one were listening; Live every day as if it were your last; And pass on graciously with a smile on your face. The Blue Ridge Parkway. A two lane motor Road that follows the very spine of the Blue Ridge Mountain range from Waynsboro, Virginia to the end in Cherokee, North Carolina. It is a splendid motor road offering natures best in the forms of wildlife, scenic wonder and is test for the skills of any two wheeled adventurer. Even more, it wakes a wonderment about the first peoples who traversed these impenetrable, hostile mountains. The asphalt ribbon cuts through peaks and valleys, hill and dale, but those three centuries ago had no trace to follow; no destination point to steer for. They simply hacked out their fortune on the frontier bearing their children along the way. Sometimes, early in the morning, it is possible to actually be above the clouds and the fog. I love the quiet, somber moments the parkway offers. There are no eighteen wheelers or heavy traffic. The tourists won't get out of bed. This is when I can think. This year another Blue Ridge Parkway ride was scheduled for September. I left Maryville, Tennessee after work last Saturday night. I left work at 7:15PM, drove home and mowed grass until dark. A quick shower, a one hour rest, kiss all my kids, and off I went on the big Blue Bike at 11:00PM. The Suzuki is a 1000cc two cylinder motorcycle that much resembles the BMW GS series of bikes. The suspension and comfort are superb and the power plant is, shall we say, more than adequate. Fuel economy is 50 to 53 miles per gallon. No motorcycle, however, will ever take the place of Big Red. She was my 2001 Harley. She had class, character and elegance. It truly is one of my favorite traveling companions over the years. But time moves on. 70,000 miles on the odometer indicated time to let go. Total reliability is the name of the game on two wheels. I arrived at Scottdale, Pennsylvania at 11:00 AM on Sunday morning, 12 hours later. I travelled home on a different route than usual. I doubt I'll use that road again. It was nice to stay and visit with my 84 year old cousin in Scottdale. She is the last remaining family member and treats me like a brother. A wonderful woman.!! The afternoon found me at a best friends home for lunch and a long visit. Jill and Tom are two of my very best friends in this world. Tom's lovely, beautiful wife Jill, cooked a dinner that was unbelievable! I'll never forget it. In case I didn't mention it; Tom would be my travel companion on the trip back to Tennessee via the Blue Ridge Parkway.. He will ride with me to Stations Inn located in North Carolina, where he will then return to Peaks of Otter to meet Jill who is driving down in the car. And so it was on the morning of the 2nd, after meeting at Ohio Pyle State Park in Pennsylvania, and an enormous breakfast; Tom and I started our annual September Blue Ridge Parkway journey South. We drove South on route 219 through Maryland and on to route 33 East which eventually would end up at Front Royal, Virginia where Skyline Drive begins. We, however, turned onto route 220 South in West Virginia and again onto route 250 East, which took us to Waynesboro, Virginia and the beginning of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Limited hotel accommodations and a desire to get away from people prompted us to get on the Blue Ridge Parkway and drive on to The Peaks of Otter lodge for peace, quiet and bliss. And it is all that. The lodge meant another sixty miles in the saddle but was well worth it. No cars, no horns, no trucks, no emergency vehicles and sirens and not even an air plane engine. The words you are reading were written while sitting on the rear porch of the lodge at the rear of my room. Deer were wandering on the lawn. It was too dark for a picture but the scene was precious I assure you. The next morning came too quickly as I watched the sun slowly rise above the forest and mountains that surround this pristine area. I enjoyed observing the small mountain lake come into view as the land was brightened by the rising sun. Deer stood up from their beds in the field by the lake and slowly stretched and walked about and finally found their way into the shaded woods. I enjoyed a great breakfast with Tom and packed away the final tid bits of gear. The horses were ready to meet the day. And off we went South. Who knows what the day may bring? It will be an awesome day. I have a reliable horse and a best friend riding with me. It doesn't get any better than this. The sun is rising quickly and it is already starting to make itself felt. Off we went onto the parkway. We rode gently; safely; enjoying the early morning. There were no cars. Only open twisty road. Endless forests on both sides of us and the occasional deer was the norm. We danced on the asphalt to a tune played by natures orchestra. Life is good. Everything is right. The ride wouldn't be complete without a stop at Tuggles Gap and a coffee at the famous Tuggles Gap Restaurant. It was here that another good friend and I were trounced from our motel room by the famed Pumpkin Head. Al and I knew instantly something was wrong when we noted that the hotel windows locked from the outside. This is an old Pumpkin Head trick to snare unwary guests. Al and I barely made it out alive. After two hours of hearing Pumpkin Head breathing outside our door; we jumped on Red and Whitey and blasted out of there at a crisp 45 miles per hour. Close one!! I snapped a couple pictures before we moved on. The hotel was renovated a few years ago so maybe Pumpkin Head is gone. I didn't see his tracks anywhere out back of the motel. We flowed with the curves in the road and stopped frequently to take a picture or two. I even tried taking a movie while on the bike. The results of that are below if you're interested. It's amazing the total freedom one can feel while touring on the seat of a trusted motorcycle. The view is unencumbered. There is a mental rush associated with negotiating a corner or curve. Motorcycling is sort of like playing pool. The cue ball is the motorcycle and the road is the table. It is a game of alignment between the bike and the corner. In short; its exhilarating! Evening finds us at Station's Inn just over the line in North Carolina. This is a motorcycle only motel. We both have been meeting here or ending the rides here at this super motel. Tomorrow we shall part ways. Tom will drift North and I South to my little family. I miss them a lot. I owe them a splendid afternoon in the woods for their patience. And so another wonderful adventure will end. An adventure shared with a best friend. A good solid friend on a spectacular ride on the finest road in the United States. The Blue Ridge Parkway. It doesn't get better than that. Life is good. 9:30 AM finds us talking over breakfast at the little hotel/restaurant at Bengi Gap, just down the road thirty miles South of Station's Inn. High lites of the ride so far and routes home were discussed.. He would go back North from here and I would amble South. We drove to the stop sign at the parkway where we would go our ways. Parting is difficult as I would not see this good friend for another year. A lump started in my throat as I told him to give my love to his beautiful wife Jill, whom I really just got to know on this trip. It's amazing how the mind works for us humans. I envisioned as we drove away from that stop sign; I turning right and he to the left, that our backs were to each other and the distance growing greater with each rotation of the wheels. A sorrow entered my thoughts and I pushed it out----------with another thought. My dogs; I miss them. Douglas, Shade and Happy; they impatiently await me. Can't wait to see them. Thanks for your friendship Tom and thanks for spending your valuable time with me. Until the next time, good friend; ride safe........ Below are the results of my meager attempt to take a video from the saddle of my bike. A small slide show follows. I hope you enjoy it. Just click the links.