Saturday, September 18, 2010


click on photos to enlarge them
And so it begins----I hugged each and every dog on my way to the fence gate.   They seemed to know they had to stay behind;  at least the old timers did.  Little Vivie came through the gate on my heels and jumped onto the front seat of the truck and sat down.  I left the truck door open when I got out last time.  She's a sweetie.  After putting her back behind the fence in the yard, I pulled my jacket on and grabbed the helmet.  This would be the first trip on the KLR 650cc Kawasaki.
I didn't know what to expect from this little mosquito motorcycle.  It was packed to the max.  She would be carrying lots of weight in gear and my two hundred pounds on the seat.  It seemed a lot to ask of a single cylinder 45 horsepower motorcycle.  I would put her to the test.  We would travel the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway from Cherokee, North Carolina to Waynesboro, Virginia which is, I believe, 470 miles.  Then on to route 250 North to 219 North where I would drive into the Savage River Forest located in Maryland and camp on the bank of the Savage River.
I will spend one day fishing the Savage River and camp one night before heading North to my birth place in Scottdale, Pennsylvania.  It sort of sounds like I'm migrating North for the Winter like a bunch of geese.  The little bike started at the touch of the button and she went into 1st gear with a ka-chunk sound; solid and authoritative.  We were off.  I was apprehensive about how the tiny motorcycle would handle in curves with all the additional weight.  I was amazed to find that it remained very responsive to rider input and flicked left and right through the tightest twisty curves with ease.  No force on the handle bars was necessary from me.  The little tyke goes exactly where the drivers eyes look.  Even the power seemed unaffected by the weight.  I gassed up in Maryville and noticed that the added weight compresses the suspension enough to make the bike sit very straight up while the side stand is down.  This isn't a good situation but can be dealt with by selecting parking spots with a slightly lower grade on the side stand side (left side) of the bike.  It wasn't a big deal.  I do wish the side stand was one inch shorter though.  At 6.1 gallons of fuel capacity and 55 miles per gallon, we should be able to travel at least 300 miles before becoming concerned about running out of fuel.  The first part of the journey would be through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
We drove along Little River on the road that bears the same name and climbed up into the mountains.  Traffic was moderate and an average traveling speed could not be maintained.  I was required to change gears and speed constantly due to the varied speeds of the tourist cars and pickups.  Cruiser motorcycles always seem to travel five to ten miles per hour lower than the posted speed limit for some reason.  Wonder whats with that?  I stopped often at overlooks to try and let the traffic get ahead and away from me but, it was useless.
A constant stream of motorists bombarded the highway.  The scenery is spectacular through the park but I must keep my eyes on the road.  This little jewel I'm driving has a tendency to go exactly where I'm looking.  High mountains covered with pines jut out of the earth and go vertical forever.  One must tilt the head back to view their peaks.  Some of the mountains boast solid granite cliffs fringed with vivid green pine trees.  Others are totally pine covered.
They are nothing short of magnificent.  We passed New Found Gap and started down the other side toward Cherokee and the entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway.  I noticed little pull offs with signs that read "Quiet Walking."  Each of these areas seemed inviting and tempting.  Maybe another day.  The entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway was like a magnet to the little bike but, I needed a burger and I also wanted to top off the gas in the tank.  Fuel is scarce on the Blue Ridge.  A quick lunch, a gas station and we made the turn onto my favorite road in America.

The adventure finally began.  Now, this is a real road.  The Blue Ridge Parkway, in my estimation, is the finest motorcycle road in the nation.  It offers every type of challenge to the motorcycle rider and his motorcycle.  It has it all.  Straight road, switch backs, decreasing radius curves, long sweeper curves and twisty repetitive curves that bring a smile to the face, and audible laughter caused by a heart full of joy.   Ah;  life is good on the Blue Ridge.
 It seems the park service is paving the North Carolina portion of the road for its entire length.  We have been stopped seven times to allow for paving activities.  I notice some flowers along an embankment.
It's no big deal;  I'm not in a hurry.  I carefully select a spot with the proper down hill grade to park the mosquito.  Remember the side stand issue?  I don't know the names of these plants but they are beautiful.  I needed a photography break anyhow.
After a short stop we were back on the road and handling the curves perfectly.  This little bike is amazing.  I have run machines with 130 horsepower on the parkway and have not enjoyed them more.
I held the little fellow at 50 to 60 miles per hour.  It was not strained in the least pulling all the weight up any of the steep hills.  At times I wicked the throttle to 70 miles per hour just to feel the rush and break the constant, routine speed.  It's amazing how one's mind can instantly focus on a speed change.  The acceleration to 70 miles per hour from 55 miles per hour rivets the eyes to the road and one sees nothing else.  The body slides to the left or right on the seat depending which direction the curve bends.  The speed increase demands total mental focus and attention.  But, speed is not what I'm about this trip.  Soft pleasure and scenery is the game.
The familiar landmarks I've come to remember over 40 years of running this Blue Ridge Parkway drift past.  Water Rock Knob, Balsam Gap, Richland Balsam and the sign indicating the highest point on the parkway;  6053 feet.
Another of a long line of my motorcycles sits in front of this sign.  For forty years I've been stacking motorcycles in front of this famous sign.  I've lost count of them----really, I have.  A quick stop is made to get a picture of the mosquito in front of that sign.  Then on past Beach Gap, Cradle of Forestry, Mt. Pisgah, Skyland, Craggy Gardens, Mount Mitchel State Park and more.
Deer are starting to appear along the road.  I've got to be careful.  The bike is running flawlessly.  I am satisfied it will prove a solid mount.
We drive past Blowing Rock and the Cone Memorial Park.  The temperature is dropping and I'm getting a bit weary.
That isn't a good combination on a motorcycle.  There is a motorcycle only hotel located at Laural Springs.  I'll put in there for the night.
It will be the only hotel I'll use on this ride.  We put 340 miles on today.  Not bad considering all the stops I made for pictures and general messing around.  I'm feeling it though.
I pulled the bike up onto the center stand in front of the room and looked forward to dinner and a shower.
Funny thing;  I remove my denim shirt, the same one I have worn riding for the past ten years, and there are golden hairs on the inside of it.  Douglas (my Golden Retriever) has laid down upon this shirt at some point in time.  He selected it to lay on because it is MY shirt.  I suddenly miss him tremendously and I almost get teary eyed thinking about it.  I know he is laying on the flat stones at the fence gate until I return home.  He will lay there, outside, day and night waiting.  I love him.
More scenes from the day.
A little color won't hurt about now:
I think more green is in order:
I really loved stopping at the spot below.  I actually read a few pages from a field guide as I lay in the soft grass.
Enough!  It's time to move on down the road.  We cross the Virginia line.
The blue ride meanders across the mountains of North Carolina and into Virginia.  A scenic transition occurs that is startling.
 The rugged high pine covered granite peaks of North Carolina give way to tall rolling hills (tall, mountainous hills) whose slopes flow down onto farm land.  The sights lend the flavor of agriculture and a certain oldness to the land proved out by the existence of old buildings that dot the many fields.
The farms are old and I'm sure have been passed along from family member to family member since eternity.
Many farms appear in disarray and in ruination; an indication of hard times.  For many it's been years of hard times.  Other farmsteads appear rather healthy and well maintained.
Note that I used the word health;  not wealthy.

Dirt paths lead back into the forests to log houses long abandoned and some still in use.  Weed covered gardens provide the only food for many.  The taking of the occasional deer supplements the larder.
These are hearty  people, the remnants of those sturdy folks who came before them to settle here high in the mountains carving out their futures.
Thoughts come to mind of pioneers lead by farmer Revolutionary War veterans struggling up the passes and through the gaps to build meager farms and raise families in this wilderness.
Those were the people who made this country.  They endured all hardships and triumphed. They and their like made this nation what it is today.  Well, I mean, what it was nineteen months ago.  I'm not really sure what path the nation is on today.
The little motorcycle has exceeded my expectations so far.  She has poured her heart out to please my sometimes extreme demands.
Fuel mileage has not been under 53 miles per gallon and the tiny 45 horsepower bike negotiates the twisty turns aggressively and with ease.  I'm delighted.
We'll see how she handles the real domestic highway environments later today when we reach the upper most point of the parkway at Waynsboro, Virginia and pick up Route 250 North through West Virginia.
Some Virginia parkway scenes follow:
The flowers come in field fulls here in Virginia.  Gorgeous!

Note the ragged wings.
I hate to see Waynsboro appear.  I'm really drinking in the sights along this high parkway road through Virginia.
I could really live tall if I had the place below.  Now, that's rustic.
What a grand old place!  It's part of a working farm.  The old buildings are an anchor to the past and I'm glad they're surviving.
For the better part of 40 years I've been stopping at this little family cemetery.  I've never seen one like it.  Fortunately the road bypassed the little plot when they built the parkway.  It is quaint and reverent and will be here when I am no more and long passed to dust. 
It is a family cemetery;  a farm cemetery.  The headstones all bear the same last name.
The little cemetery looks over some mighty beautiful territory.  Those who reside there have a good spot to rest in.
Just a couple more photos from the parkway and I'll say goodbye to it for a few days.  I will be returning for the trip back South later in the week.
You know I'd find a lake somewhere up here.
Just have to have the pretty flowers.  Gotta have em......

Up Route 250 out of Waynsburg, Virginia and into the high mountains of Virginia and West Virginia we traveled;  the little bike and me.  It has been years since I've driven these roads and I had forgotten how delightfully curvy they are.  They differ from the Blue Ridge Parkway in that these roads are what I call "wild roads."  They are made up of curves and sweepers but, unlike the parkway, they are littered with gravel, dust, spilled gasoline from overfull gas tanks, trash and trucks----large trucks.  One can not simply blaze madly along with any abandon.  A motorcyclist has to be on his game on Route 250.  After a short period of time I fell into the easy left, right, left leaning curriculum combined with path selection around corners containing gravel and stones.  Thousands of split second course alterations occur on multiple curves for various reasons, mainly gravel.  Wet or sun heated tar is another favorite of mine.  Staunton and Monteray, Virginia passed by and finally Elkins, West Virginia came into view.  I am amazed at how depressed West Virginia has become.  I've not seen a pretty town along the entire ride today.  The towns are in a shambles with windows broken out of stores and shops, curbs missing huge swaths of concrete and broken side walks everywhere.  Many of the towns appear deserted.  What is happening there?
West Virginia is depressing me.  I remember beautiful little towns with shops and ice cream stores.  Now there is nothing but logging trucks and run down rail road tracks.  It's sad to see.
At Elkins we swing onto 219 North that will lead us into Oakland, Maryland.  From there it's a hop, skip and a jump to Deep Creek, Maryland where good old Dry Run road would be found.  Dry Run Road would connect us to Savage River Road and a camp site along the Savage River.  I decided to make the entire run in one sitting.  The mountains were cold in Maryland.  The heated handlebar grips were switched on.  The warmth felt great on chilly hands.  Through Oakland and Deep Creek we went and at last Dry Run Road appeared on the right.  We were close now.  Deer were everywhere.  I cut our speed to 40 miles per hour and focused on the road edges.  A right turn onto Savage River Road and the steep decent to the bottom of the mountain began.  The Savage River made glorious sounds.  Stars were out and I could see the water down the embankment and the sound of the water was invigorating.  As I looked down the river through the darkness, I envisioned all the quiet pools and pocket water I once fished on a routine basis for years.  The water was rushing past these pools at a maddening pace but, spared the little calm basins of water, the turmoil of it's might.  The Savage can indeed, at times, be quite savage.  The release rate, it seemed to me, was about 40 cubic feet per second tonight.  That is as close to a natural flow of water for this stream that is possible.  I drove into the familier area across the road from the stream and erected the tent.
It all felt good.  It felt familiar.  Life was good this night on the Savage River.
Last night was cold but comfortable.  I brought the down sleeping bag this trip and am glad of it.  My three day fishing license doesn't start until the 12th so I planned on visiting some mountain roads I haven't been on in years.  a walk up the Savage River Trail is in order also.  I have a habit of comparing everywhere I go to Tennessee.  The first major difference I noticed was the lack of wild flowers here.  There were none.  I really searched for them.  Tennessee's streams and lakes are covered with wild flowers of many colors.
Here, the forests and trails are void of any colors accept greens and browns.  I wonder why.  No matter;  I am surrounded by natural beauty in all directions.
I had planned to buy hip wading boots when I got here and was perplexed to find that all the stores were out of them.  Actually (both) stores were out.  I had to drive 45 miles to Uniontown, Pennsylvania to get a pair, and they weren't what I wanted.
I had to settle for the Waldo Mart brand.  Good ol Waldo Mart.  Between walking around in the woods and driving to buy hip boots and, oh yes, eating;  I'm back at camp writing these last few words very late.  Tomorrow we'll be on the stream.  I can't wait.
Cares and toil are far away,
I'm on the Savage Creek today.
I went away and left her charms;
I'm welcomed back with open arms.
She speaks to me in her own sweet way,
Not words but, sounds she seems to say-
I've missed you, son, where did you go?
To other waters, other flows.
Did I not satisfy your needs?
Did I not make your life seem free?
Did I not give you all you sought?
I gave you all, at least I thought.
Savage mother, I feel small;
And yes, you did give me your all.
I strayed away from you it's true,
To visit waters green and blue.
I'm back to visit you today,
And in your water I will play.
To chase the trout is my intent,
Please give them up and I'll repent.
I'll always hold you in esteem,
The cold pure water of your stream.
My love for you an endless one.
And I'm privileged that you call me son.
You have my word on all Ive said.
My love for you until I'm dead.
Cares and toil are far away,
I'm on the savage creek today.
And if you've missed me as you espouse,
Please, give up your native trout.
I'll hurt not one, I'll set them free,
A promise that I'll make with thee.
For, I love them as I do you;
I'll set them free when I am through.
No harm to gill or scales nor fin,
I'll gently hold and put back in.
So, Savage mother hear my plea,
I've come so far to be with thee.
To catch a trout would be just grand.
Have mercy on this aging man.
The stars disappear and the night grows darker.  Every now and again a tiny drop of rain touches me somewhere.  The fire soon comes to life and adds a touch of warmth to a chilly evening.
I stare at the dark sky to find one lone star.  There is only one.. The rest are covered in a blanket of clouds.  Thoughts of the old days fishing this stream with friends long gone are resurrected from memory.  Those were good days.  The droplets of water fall with increasing volume.  It will be a good night to sleep.  I'm glad I brought the warmer of my sleeping bags.  It's the same sleeping bag that Happy crawled into with me on a very cold camp out on Calderwood Lake last year.  I sure miss Happy tonight.  I miss all my dog friends tonight.  They are such good company.
Savage River Dam below:
This morning resulted in some disappointing experiences.  The hip boots fit perfectly but, they turned out to be useless trying to wade in the Savage.  The stream bottom is made of irregularly shaped rocks and boulders.  No only did the soles of the hip boots slip on every rock;  they allowed the stones to bruise my feet on the sides and ankle areas.  Even with the use of a walking stick I made; the rocks were too slick to even stand on.  Felt covered soles were necessary.  I gave it up.  There was no way to succeed.   On top of the displeasure with the boots;  a water release commenced at 9AM which would have turned the trout off anyway.  Enough said about it.  Off toward Scottdale I would go.  Time to pack the tent away and swing into the visiting mode.  As for the brand new Waldo Mart hip boots;  they stayed where they lay.  They're in the bag below on the picnic table.  It's all packed back up below:
I checked under rocks to determine the condition of the water.  Under rocks, you say?  Trout food lives under rocks in the form of mayfly nymphs.  The stream had a very healthy supply of Paraleptephebia nymphs.  That's long winded for "two winged mayfly."  These particular mayfly nymphs were what we call in the fly fishing world "blue winged olives."  The bottom of the rocks were covered with them.
They would eventually become the little guy you see below in about five years:
 The next evening was spent with my cousin, who is 85 years old.  We talked mostly about how the climate is changing and how Scottdale, my home town, has been declining all these many years.  There wasn't much substance in the conversation but it was important to her and I dealt with it out of respect and truly caring about her.
This morning I would see three very close friends;  Craig, Tom and Wally.  But before all that, I decided to visit a favorite spot of mine; Bridgeport Dam.
 It's located just up the road from Scottdale on the outskirts of Mt. Pleasant, PA.  It was on the grassy banks of this dam that I wrote a piece about my aunt as she lay eaten away by dementia in a nursing home waiting for the end.  It is her daughter whom I am visiting now.
My cousin Vinton, Stella's brother, introduced me to this dam when I was only seven years old.  He brought me here fishing----my first time fishing.  I loved it.
The colorful sunfish were caught and released by the hundreds it seems.  We always used worms as bait.  Those were wonderful years.
The farm flourished in those days and I was blessed to grow up in that environment.  The visions of Hay piles littering the fields are vivid in my mind.  The cattle, holestines and Guernseys, only, lingered about at pasture.  Dad always said the holestines made the volume and the Guernseys produced the butterfat.  Talking about milk here now.  He was a knowledgeable guy.   Of course its all gone now.  All of the players in that movie of life have passed accept for my cousin Stella and me.   It seems sad that there are no more to carry on but then, it was all about us;  my family, no one else.  It's just the two ends of that, our, circle of life growing closer and closer together.  Soon the ends will join and an era and the movie will be over.


This evening would be a gathering of friends.  Wally, who lives in Scottdale, and I drove up to Craig's home in Greensburg and visited there a short while.  Then all three of us drove to Ligonier where Tom resides.  I'll not delve deeply in this reunion of friends but, I will say that the get together was wonderful.  Tom's wife, Jill, pulled out the stops by creating the finest chili I have ever eaten.  I couldn't stop long enough to take a snap shot of a bowl of the stuff.

Below are Jill and Tom.  Great, great friends.  I promised Jill a mention in this blog entry.  Here it is.
Tom;   you're a lucky man!
 Look at that face.  He's saying; "I know I'm a lucky man."
We at lunch (chili) in front of Tom's new barn.  She's a beaut.  That barn will be my new retirement home when I get too old to paddle a canoe and become crippled and half crazy.  I can live on chili the rest of my life.
Yep;  that's a barn.
We had a great visit.  We left in the evening as I wanted to spend time with my cousin.  The next night Craig invited us up to his home in Greensburg where he cooked endless burgers.  They were delicious!  He did a great job doing it all alone too.  His father and mother dropped in for burgers and his daughter, Peanut, short for Lauren, really studied hard for school.

And a special thanks to my cousin Stella for putting up with my reclusive ways while under her roof.  Just Great People!  There's nothing more to say about it..


I thought of a new route back South; different roads.  It will be 219 South to Monteray, Virginia to 220 South, which goes over the Blue Ridge parkway North of Fancy Gap.  Once on the Blue Ridge I'll pull out the stops and try to drive the entire distance back to Greenback, Tennessee in one sitting non-stop, 1180 miles total.  There's a fresh oil change on the little bike and its running perfectly.  The only weak link in the chain is the not so young man on the seat.
 Wally and Craig rode with me this morning as far as Red House, Maryland.  We stopped at Deep Creek Lake for a sandwich, when Wally approached us laughing.  You have to know Wally.  He is a very frugal guy.  If he can save a buck he will.  It seems he bought a new pair of shoes from a place that gave him a really great deal.  After a couple weeks and this ride;  look what happened below.
 He got a great deal on them.  Buy one and get the second free.  Wally can find the good buys.
 So, here we are a hundred miles from home and ol Waldo blows out his shoe.  Amazing!  I started into one of my continual laughing fits and Craig suggested buying a new pair of shoes.  Oh no;  we'll have none of that.  Waldo just got these new beauties.  Ok;  how bout some duct tape?  Ya;  that's it;  duct tape.  Craig disappeared into the convenience store and brought out a roll of duct tape.. I'm in total disbelief.  I'm serious about all this.  Look at the pictures if you don't believe the story.  Craig started wrapping the tape around Wally's shoe.  I'm dying about this point.
 This is a first for me.  I'm rolling around on the cement.  A million motorcycle miles under my belt and I never, ever ran across an incident like this.  Only Wally!
 Below is a shot of the traveling shoe repairman sitting proudly aboard his 2000 BMW K1200RS.  Million dollar bike and $1.50 shoes.  Ha!!
 After we got Waldo taped up, we took off South.  Wally and Craig rode with me this morning as far as Red House, Maryland.  A quick shoe check proved out that the road side repair on Waldo's shoes was a righteous repair.  We said our goodbyes and I pushed South on 219 and they West on Route 50 across West Virginia.  I hated to see them go.
 Route 219 South had a lot of truck traffic for a two lane road.  I was becoming frustrated with the pace I was making.  Once through Elkins, West Virginia, the trucks disappeared and a steady 60 miles per hour was maintained.  A guy in Monteray, Virginia made me aware of a different route that would take me to the Blue Ridge Parkway.  I changed my route to 219 South to 220 South to 39 East to 60 east.  Route 60 actually passes over the Blue Ridge Parkway at the town of Buena Vista.
 Route 60 goes through the middle of a gorgeous state park named Douthat.  This is the most beautiful state park I have ever driven through.  It is also enormous.  These were perfect roads for the KLR 650.
 The new route joined the parkway further North than I would have liked but, that route 39 was one of the most scenic, wonderful roads I have ever been on.  It was a joy to ride over!

Once on the Blue Ridge Parkway, I pushed the little bike hard.   I needed to cover as much ground as possible while I had the light of day.  I drove into the night holding a 55 miles per hour average speed on the snaky blue ridge road.  Deer were congregating in the fields along the road and ocassionally one could be seen crossing far in front of me.
  I used to love driving at night on the Blue Ridge Parkway but, these days the eyes aren't as sharp as they once were.  shadows and shapes along side of the road play tricks and a boulder becomes a deer and a shadow is a person walking along side the road.  Combine that with 50 degree temperature and it's time to stop.  There is a motel on the parkway at Tuggles Gap and the gap was just ahead.  I would stop there for the night.
 I sat on a hard chair in front of the little run down motel and just stared into the night and glanced at the little, tiny 650 sitting in front of me.  I marveled at the leaps of motorcycle technology over the years but, mostly I revisited memories of previous trips over the years up and down the Blue Ridge Parkway.
 I've ridden this road on some fast motorcycles and have made the run across the blue ridge road in a day and a night.  This particular ride was refreshing in that I was riding a machine incapable of sustained interstate speed.  So, I kept her tires on the winding side, back and mountain roads the entire trip.  I loved this experience.
 I would take the 650 on a trip in a heart beat.  I don't want to lead a reader into believing the 650 KLR Kawasaki is a touring bike.  It is not that at all.  It is an enduro motorcycle that will tour.  You just have to realize it's limitations and work within those confines.   I would be home tonight with my dogs.  How I miss them!  I often time prefer their company to humans.  But I do have my favorite humans.  And again;  thank you Craig, Wally, Deborah, Tom and Jill for your hospitality.  And, thank all of you for being my friend.
 A few parting shots below:
Thought  I'd add some color to the blog with the above shot.  Below is my home when a young boy.  I grew up on this farm.  It and the land has been sold and the old barn and house are surrounded by homes.  It was once a beautiful property.  Those were the days.  Those were really the sweet days.
Nice T shirt Jill.
I hope you enjoyed the ride up the Blue Ridge Parkway and back.  I'll see what I can dream up for next week.  I wish the wind at your back and the sun on your face.  Until next time;  please be kind to a dog.  They are innocents who can not speak for themselves.