Yes, yes. I am sorry for the long silence. Life has been chaotic here. Oilburner and family continue to ask about the remaining days of the trip and I am attempting to get it written down. There are only a couple more days...and the last one is quite boring and will be exceedingly short. :) This, however, is not the last day. hehe (I promise this is the last long post, though.)
(Day 15 - July 27, 2012)
The day was beautiful. And we weren't going to make very good time if we continued to stop at every overlook. But we can't help ourselves. It is too pretty of a day. Yes it is warm at the base of the mountains, but up here the temp was about 10 degrees cooler and almost perfect.
Overlooks and Vistor's Centers...it's all good. Of course, I snag my booty of books at the Gift Shop, while Oilburner gravitates towards caps and hiking stick pins. (He wants to see if he can attach them to the front forks instead of loading the motorbike up with stickers.)
We even took a little time to watch a new Ranger begin her presentation on the Black Bear.
Time marches on and so must our wheels. Shenandoah is 100 miles of scenic beauty. Yes, it seems alot like the Blue Ridge Parkway. But one of the books I picked up was the history of the land before the park was created. I looked on the area with an eye towards life here when people were making their livings off the land.
Reaching the south end of Shenandoah we jumped into the nearest city for lunch. Subway has been a mainstay for us on this trip. But my eyes spot an A&W. If I have ever been to one of these then I was too young to remember. And today Root Beer just sounded sssoooo good.
Since I was taking forever to suit up, I sent Oilburner across the way to pick up a couple 5 hour energy drinks. When I finally pulled up to the door I had to laugh at the sign posted up. English classes are overrated anyways. :)
Oilburner and I are of a mind to spend time on the Blue Ridge Parkway again. We aren't in a rush this time. Or so we thought...
We can't agree on a place to stop for the evening. He was thinking Boone, TN. I'm pretty sure I will not be able to do the distance. We may have ridden the Parkway in two days last time. I'm just not up to that pace this time around. I was thinking Roanoke, VA might be good.
The decision is taken out of our hands.
We knew there was a chance for showers in this area. We just kept seeing the blue skies and not giving it much thought. I mean, we've ridden in the rain before. So what?
Let me tell you...big "what"... I'm a water baby. I love swimming or lounging or floating or lurking or kayaking in the water. I'll stay in water so long the depth of the wrinkles in my fingers and toes can be measured in millimeters. I'll walk in the rain, sing in the rain, dance in the rain. A rain storm doesn't perturb me.
We had stopped for a break, and not able to get any cellular connection on the iPad, we couldn't check the location of the storm. A text message had come into my phone from a friend watching our track, telling us the storm was near. The clouds were starting to cover the blue. And we decided not to put on the rain suits just yet. As we are preparing to leave we wave to two motorcyclists rolling by. They are important...
When we take a turn a couple miles up the road that finally brings us out onto the west slopes of the parkway, giving us our first look west in a long while, my heart plummets into my stomach and begins to burrow into my intestines.
There should be a beautiful view of the rolling hills across the wide valley 1500 feet below us. Instead we are looking at a massive rolling wall of the darkest grey imagineable. The part that impressed me the most was that it was below us! We actually observed the clouds shift and roll over the land toward us. Picture the billowing puffs of the leading edge of a sandstorm. It was like that, only black. It was rolling towards us and it was coming fast!!
I pulled into a turnout hoping Oilburner's camera was handy. (Mine was in the top box.) The 20 seconds it took him to fumble in his jacket convinced me that I didn't want to be sitting here when that wall engulfed us. I told him to forget the picture and took off. Yeah. We should have put the rain gear on. Minutes down the road the sprinkles started and the clouds could be seen rolling through the gaps. The next turn out was an exposed western overlook. Oilburner was able to get into his gear. I managed to get into my jacket and just said forget the pants. The rain was coming down hard and I wanted to get away from the exposure. I knew it wasn't an option to walk away from the bikes. Where could we have taken shelter from the lightning? I had known of two different people who were recently killed by lightning striking the tree they had taken shelter under (yes, away from the bike).
A turn down the road convinced me there was no "right" decision. Too much rain had gotten into my helmet and I couldn't see. The rain was coming down so hard I couldn't see. The wind was whipping the trees into a frenzy and leaves were whirling around like a tornado and I couldn't see. When branches started littering the road is when I started to seriously thinking about ditching the bikes to crawl down the mountain a little way.
Within 5 minutes the brute force died down and the rain stopped. Now we just had to avoid the downed trees and crazy drivers. Thankfully there weren't too many drivers. There were quite a few downed trees, though.
Another 5 minutes down the road and the Lodge at Otters appears. Hmmm...fate? Oilburner makes an executive decision to stay if they have a room. I don't disagree. Oilburner discovers that the couple that had passed us earlier had just checked in. They had gotten the brunt of the storm too and not faired as well. Hubby, in the lead, barely missed getting hit by a tree, by riding through the crown as it fell. Wife managed to hit the tree and fall off her bike. She was close to stopping, so no real damage. Thank goodness.
By the time Oilburner checked us in all of the clouds had cleared out and drifted away. It was almost making me regret our decision to stop. What's done is done and we are going to make the most of this and enjoy the evening.
The lodge is...interesting... It's from the 50's era and still lives there. Televisions do not exist, cellular coverage is non-existent, no phones, no radio's. (Please don't take that as a complaint, since I loved it.) I even think the air conditioner is original. There is even a bathroom tile with a slot for used razor blades! I grew up with medicine cabinets with razor slots, but I have never seen a tile. Surprisingly the beds are new and quite comfortable.
The heater works well to begin drying our gear. We're using every conceiveable space and Oilburner manages to optimize space. Gloves are draped over the lampshades. Boots are upended and wedged between the table and window directly above the heater. My jacket and pants are hung on the curtain rod above the heater, with the curtains pulled around them to trap the heat in a pocket. Since Oilburner managed to don his rain gear his armor wasn't too wet.
The room was harboring a few dead spiders and a severely musty smell. The smell was a well known issue since there was a "damp collector" and multiple air freshners in the room. The food at the restaurant was "so-so." The $29.95 AYCE (All-You-Can-Eat) Seafood bar was definitely not to my liking, in either taste or cost, but was definitely the freshest thing on the menu.
The evening lighting was spectacular and I was up for a walk around the lake, until the mosquitos decided that I made a great dining opportunity. We took shelter in the room and talked, looked at maps, and read the night away. The evening was blessedly uneventful and very restive.