Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Last Minute, Crazy Ideas on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Divine inspiration was lacking.  Champagne did not fall from the heavens, doors did not open, velvet ropes did not part to help us on our way.  Months and months ago plans were made for a "one big happy family" July Fourth weekend.  Those fell by the wayside when health issues for some came up that inhibited long distance travel.  Then heavy work and work travel schedules prevented Oilburner and I from coming to a decision of what we might actually do now with that time.  The ideas swirled in our heads, but one aspect always seemed to prevent "final approval."  Many times it was "the dog."  I didn't want to subject her to the scorching heat that is blanketing the South.  She wouldn't have done well in the truck, that doesn't have air conditioning in the covered bed.  Which means I didn't want to rent a cabin or house someplace to sit on their sofa either.  It would have been difficult to get anywhere in the heat, and the separation anxiety she has means we wouldn't have done much so as not to leave her alone.

The decisions became infinitely more difficult when Oilburner decided it would be a good idea to break a toe while he was traveling for work.  That efficiently put the kibosh on any idea I had of installing the master bath shower that has been hogging garage space for the last two months.  I know we can be lazy, but I haven't wanted to demo the bathroom until I knew we had a chunk of time to work on it.  Since we knew work travel was coming, there hadn't been an optimal time.  And now it looked like vacation time was also going to be out.

The pet sitter was an option...during the week.  She had already been booked for the weekends.  However, I was not too keen on figuring out where to ride in 95+ F (35+ C) heat.  It was simply impossible to stay cool.  Besides, Oilburner's toe wasn't quite fitting into a boot yet.

Much nap time and movie watching was to be had.  But there came a point in time that napping and movies just weren't cutting it anymore and we were both anxious to get out.  The plan hatched and came together overnight.  The Blue Ridge Parkway pull finally snagged us.

Oilburner's idea was to hop on the parkway, see how far we could get and then run the freeway home.  I had a simpler idea that had higher motivation.  How about running to the top of the parkway?  Since we had already covered the closest 200 miles why do them again immediately?  Wouldn't it be more enjoyable to see somewhere new?  And...that would mean a less stressful last day heading home since we would be closer.  Better than some mad dash from "wherever."

My idea won out and the plan was implemented.

We left early Tuesday morning and pointed the front tires towards Waynesboro, VA.  (Yay, this will be my 7th state.)  We had a long day ahead of us, but we had packed the night before and were well rested.  Having the tanks already full made it doubly enjoyable to just be able to get on the bikes and go.

For a day that was going to be in the low 90's those gray clouds threatening rain were keeping it a cool 75F (24C). Wasn't doing anything to help the humidity though.  After an hour the cold was getting to me and I made a deal with myself to put on my liner if it dropped one more degree.  It did.  this was a good thing since the rain started spitting down soon after.



We rode on in the drizzle for another hour or so, enjoying the empty roads.  Traffic wasn't too bad on the major North/South Interstate 81.  There were semi's to dodge and speeding cagers to avoid, but we managed quite well.  Until...  Construction of some sort had the two lanes almost at a stand still.  It was an easy decision to speed down the breakdown lane.  This act of defiance worked will for a couple miles.  (Though we surmise now that this is probably where I picked up that stupid rod/nail in the rear tire.)  We would pop back into traffic when we crossed a bridge.  The shoulder wasn't quite wide enough and was completely littered with fairly large chunks of concrete that had come out of the bridge surface.  Reports say that many bridges in our country are averaging 30+ years and many are in desperate need of repair.  It is something that I think about, but usually speeding over them at 65+ mph doesn't require you to ponder it for long.  The Minnesota bridge collapse does sit in the back of my mind many times, but I push those thoughts away.  However, it is highly unnerving to crawl across a concrete bridge that is missing fist sized chunks of material!

We took the first off ramp to discuss if we wanted to continue in this manner or find a back road.  This is where Garmin fun begins, as Gary France has discovered.  Oilburner and I have different Garmin GPS units and have speculated for awhile about the difference in route calculation between the two.  Oilburner's GPS directs us to turn left.  Mine, that has been told to avoid unpaved roads, directed us to the right.  Deciding on a course, we followed my GPS.  Hmmm...that is normally correct.

About a mile and a half down the road we lost the pavement.  Another two miles down the gravel my GPS directs us to turn left at the dead-end.  But the sign in front of me clearly states it is not a through road.  Well, in for a penny, in for a pound.  If we head right it appears to connect up with a nearby interstate.  Three more miles down this gravel road and I have the sinking suspicion that our little gravel road will be going over the freeway and not connecting with it.  I am not too proud to admit I don't want to go forward anymore and promptly stop to turn around.  However, I'm a little frazzled on this gravel and just park the bike, letting Oilburner know that he will be doing the work.

I happened to stop directly in front of a worn out, pieced together house with a large lab crawling out from under the non-working truck, barking menacingly with his hackles up.  Then the screen door opens and a child of about 7 stares at us.  As Oilburner is maneuvering my bike the mother also  comes onto the porch squinting through the light at us.

I gave the universal sign of confusion...lifting my shoulders, head titled to the side and yell that we are a little lost.  Oilburner was a little concerned over possible Deliverance encounters, but I still like to think most people are good.  And this lady was very nice, telling us what we already surmised about having to back track.  On the side, Oilburner had an entire conversation with the boy about motorcycles and tractors.  And the dog had gotten one good sniff of Oilburner and just rolled on his back exposing his tummy for scratches.

Funnily enough, we made it back to the interstate and decided to roll with traffic since it was moving.  Turns out the construction was only 5 more minutes up the road. If we had just remained on the interstate we would have saved a 30 min adventure.  But who would have thought we would be "off-roading" in Virginia anytime soon?

(Yes.  It was also proven that Oilburner's GPS would have been better to follow in this instance.  We watched the frontage road parallel the interstate to the on ramp directly after the construction.  Now why wasn't that road on my GPS?!?  I wouldn't have missed the old mill, cow on the side of the road and the Rock and Roll Mansion for the 30 minute savings.  It was great!)


We continued down the road and finally experienced some of those highs we were expecting.  My bike registered 100.4F (38C).  Oilburner's consistently shows higher and he firmly believes it was 104F (40C).  Either way, it was hot!  We "enjoyed" a few more GPS mishaps reaching our destination.  They were only time eating and not time wasting.  But it sure was good to slip into the pool at the hotel and cool off.

The Parkway awaits the morning...



  1. Road signs and bikes... must be an epidemic these days (I do that, too).
    Getting lost despite GPS is one of my favourites, especially when you think that the area is getting eery and the people look different... at you. But I believe that your confidence in the good of the people has proven you right. I tend to believe the same. Sounds like an exciting trip.

  2. This is a great post, entertaining, easy to read and it makes you feel like your riding along. Interesting low amgle shot of the dirt road. Was it taken while riding?

    Nice shot of the bike with the sign. One of these years I'll get there. BTW, I like your tank bag (I have the same one).

    I don't think I would be able to function in this heat & humidity.


  3. Steel Cupcake:

    I love your offroad adventures. I use an outdated Garmin which has old maps and POI's. Often you are riding in "no man's land". It hasn't let me down yet but doesn't always take the most efficient route.

    I would melt in your temperatures. Lucky it never gets that hot up here. On road trips we usually do the same as you, head to the farthest point first by the fastest possible means, then mosey (or is that dosey doe) back slowly.

    can't wait for more photos to come. Hope you enjoyed your trip

    Riding the Wet Coast

  4. Lori,
    Yay! If your muse isn't back, she is definitely in the neighborhood.

    Great post. I waiting for more. And, right now have plenty of time to read.

    Be safe,

  5. Your relience on GPS is disturbing, next time just wing it. After all what is the worse that can happen? WHat no pics of food? Looking forward to hearing of the rest of your adventures.

  6. SonjaM: Yes! Love getting lost with the GPS. It can always find you a way out. :) I don't know what Oilburner was worried about. This was a traveled road, other houses were close by. Nice, nice people. The UPS guy even stopped to talk with us before we left.

  7. RichardM: I appreciate your taking the time to read and comment while you are on vacation! :)

    The low angle shot is from Oilburner's GoPro mounted on the crash bar of his bike. Yep, that is me in front! I had to clip it from the video he was taking of me riding on said dirt road. ;)

    I hope that you can make it to the BRP. It was a nice ride. And I agree with you on this heat/humidity combo. I still can't stand it.

    Have a great vacation. Tomorrow is the big day!

  8. Bobskoot: Yeah, this is about the extent of my off-road adventures. LOL. Luckily we seem to rarely use the GPS unless we are trying to get someplace specific. There has been so much road construction and intersection changes and bypass creation here I often am "off-roading" according to my GPS.

    I melt in these temps too. You aren't the only one. I think you had to have been born here.

  9. Circle Blue: Thank You! I think she came back today. Hope she sticks around for awhile.

    Thanks for reading. I have posted up the second day just for you and your "boredom". Heal quickly.

  10. Raftnn: When someone tells me to go to Purgatory I take it seriously. I want that darn GPS to work to get me there properly. ;)

    Believe it or not, no pics of food. You will have to use your imagination.


  11. Very entertaining. These are the stories that remind me I needn't hurry to get gps. A real adventure, I must say. Back woods house on a lonely dead end road. Yes, deliverance comes to mind, or X-files. :)

    The word verification is psyco

    Not sure what to think about that! :)

  12. Hi Bluekat,

    Correct...a good map is easy and handy. The GPS is lazy. But sometimes you stumble upon some good roads, unexpectedly, with it.

    hmm...pysco seems way too coincidental. But it is a reflection of you, me or both? ;)