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Friday, October 21, 2011

County Update after October trip

Just wanted to update my county count. On our last trip, we gained a total of 22 counties, four of which were in West Virginia. We only have 15 counties in Virginia left to get. Total counties is 199 out of 3,143 counties in the United States.

So far, we've just ridden on the East Coast side of the U.S. Next Spring, we'll be venturing over to the West Coast, so we will have two little blue lines going across the USA. Can't wait.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The truck that should tow anything

(Oct. 15) This was our last day of the trip. We stayed at Hungry Mother State Park because according to their web site, check out isn't until 3 p.m. which means we get a chance to ride before we have to pack up and head back home. The drive home is a six hours from Hungry Mother. Doesn't matter, still got about 160 miles in first.

We still had two more counties to get in this part of Virginia, Buchanan and Dickenson. We also found ourselves another little dirt road.

Day 5 route

Right out of the campground is highway 16, the one I had talked about on Day 3. The plan was to travel that twice today, and luckily, the weather was absolutely beautiful, blue skies, unlike Day 3. 
Here's a video to give you a taste of this perfect road. 

Today's dirt road was about 8 miles perhaps. Here's a close up of the road.

This dirt road was better marked than the other dirt roads. First time seeing a sign like this.

On the way back, we got to do Highway 16 again. Even though I'm learning to go a little faster through the curves, I still feel obligated to pull to the side if someone comes up behind me that wants to go faster.  At one point, another BMW rider with a passenger came up behind us. We pulled to the side and let them pass. Steve said, "Can I try to keep up?" I said, "Go ahead, wait for me at the top." Our conversation system (ScalaRider) works pretty good, but definitely only line of site. Steve took off. A few miles up the road, I saw him waiting for me on the side of the road. I kept going and let him fall in behind me. I got a glimpse of the other BMW taking a curve not too far in front of me. I was like, "What? How am I that close?" Steve said they were going really fast for a few minutes, but the passenger must of hit him or something and said to slow down. So, the other BMW slowed way, way down. We met up with them again at the top of the mountain. It seems Highway 16 is very popular among motorcyclists, and with this being a Saturday, we saw plenty.

other bikers out and about on highway 16

 This is the same view that I was trying to take on Day 3, with my reflection in the mirror, 
but it was a little cloudy that day.

Steve and I at the top. The guy that Steve was following is taking the photo.

Steve's Adventure at the top of Hwy 16

I have to say that in all the counties we have ridden so far in Virginia (we only have about 15 left to get), Tazewell has my vote as the one with the most spectacular views and best for motorcycle riding. Just great.

We timed our trip perfectly, pulling back into the campground at about 2:30. We packed everything up and got on the road by 3:15. It was looking good for us to be home by 10 p.m. We have a 2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty pulling a small 18-foot toy hauler. That truck is capable of pulling anything out there. We got through all the mountains (thank God!). Made it just outside of Richmond, with still about 120 miles to go and the truck just quit trying. I was driving and it started slowing way down and I had my foot pressed all the way down. It just didn't want to work.  The engine light came on. We called roadside service but their option was to get a hotel for the night and they would take care of us the next day. We decided to limp along back home at about 45 mph. We ended up getting home at about midnight. I took the truck to the shop and it needed some software update and there was a wiring harness that needed repair or something like that. Anyway, it's back to normal, but that sure was a painful ride home, especially with such a new truck. We could get faster going down a hill, but slowed way down going up. When we had to go through the tunnel, we got up to 70 mph by the time we got to the bottom. We were down to 33 mph by the time we climbed out of the tunnel. A few people were probably a little upset. Oh well.

Next update will be the county count, including now having a couple of counties in West Virginia.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Case of the Missing Camera

(Oct. 14) The weather has finally cleared up. It rained all night long, so the roads were still a bit wet, but turned out to be a great day. This was to be our longest day because from our camp site, the plan was to reach Lee County, the farthest county in the Southwestern Virginia. As part of our goal to ride all the counties, this trip is capturing a bunch of counties in this whole area.

Lee County, Va.

Again, we decided to change our planned route a bit, but still had a long day, about 240 miles or so. The GPS did get us a little confused at one point with a requested turn into a hill that had a railroad on top. Should have taken a photo of that. If you looked hard enough, you could see that there might have been a road there a very long time ago.

Day 4 route

As part of our change, we saw another one of the dirt roads that crossed over a mountain, so we decided to take that for fun. Just a short 5-mile road, but still full of fun. 

The mountain range we would ride over

This was the only day that I had any issues and dropped my bike twice. Remember how in my first blog of this trip that I said I forgot my good camera so pictures will be with either the GoPro or my phone. Well... the truth is I couldn't find my camera before I left for our motorcycle rally in Virginia Beach the weekend before this trip. After riding my motorcycle about 900 miles, some on the Interstate at high speed and some on dirt roads, I dropped my bike and wouldn't you know, the camera falls out onto the ground. I was like, "What?" 

Should have gotten a picture with the bike on its side,
but Steve is always so quick to pick it back up for me. :)

dirty camera

I'm guessing I placed the camera on top of one of my boxes and it slid off and got lodged somewhere under the seat or something, where I couldn't see it. So, 900 miles later, two days of pouring rain, the camera is covered with dirt, and guess what? It still works. Unbelievable. It's a Cannon PowerShot SX210 IS.

Proof the camera still works

But here's the real proof. The Sexy shot. :)

I took a video of some of the dirt riding with the GoPro attached to the engine guard. Pretty cool. At the end of this clip is video of my second drop at the end of the dirt road. By then, some condensation started appearing on the weatherproof case the camera is in, so it's a little blurry, but still pretty obvious what happens. I did try to lift it myself this time, and almost had it, but I couldn't get good traction with my feet. My boots kept slipping in the mud. But I think if I really had to, I could have done it.

This was another great day. We didn't get back to camp until about 6 p.m. so the dogs were very happy to see us.

Photo with the phone
Photo with the long-lost Canon

This is a close up of the dirt road on the map. I think it was called Tower road.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Nice Dirt Surprise

(Oct. 13) For the most part, I've planned all of our routes ahead of time and on all roads I'm not familiar with, of course. Well, I did discover that one of my maps was transposed as I sent it to my GPS and was a duplicate of the route we took the day before. And I might have been a little ambitious in some of my planning. We didn't have time to go to New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia, plus the rain kind of slowed us down.

We got up this morning and moved on from Greenbrier River Campground to head to our next one. I wanted to get there quickly since we had a ride planned for that day as well. But we started out a little slow.

It was a beautiful campground and we were the only ones there for the most part, so the dogs were able to hang out without leashes, which they loved. We were headed to Hungry Mother State Park near Marion, Va. After a Starbucks break, we finally arrived there at about 1:30. I had originally planned a 160 mile route for the day, but no way that was happening if we wanted to be back before dark.

We had another day of rain as well, so I re-planned the route using an old-fashioned map to a nice short 90-mile route which included highway 16, a great road that someone had told me about once before but I had forgotten. The park had great maps with motorcycle routes which helped in planning. So, the GPS became just a map.

Old-fashioned GPS

Route for Day 3

The surprise came about 2/3 through the ride when our road turned to dirt. We crossed over a mountain on about 10 miles of gravel. While that slows us down, that's what having BMW GS's is all about. It was so much fun. Here's a close up of the dirt road.

Once we recognized on the paper map what a dirt road looked like (wasn't on the legend), we looked for those the rest of the week, which pretty much meant the planned routes went by the wayside.

Here are a few pictures of hwy 623 (dirt), or Burkes Garden Road.

The ride continued to be pretty awesome after the dirt road, despite the rain. We reached elevation 3460 ft.

Beautiful Fall colors.

We made it back well before dark and drove the truck back into town for dinner. We ate one meal each day at a restaurant and cooked all the rest of the meals at the campsite. Our site at Hungry Mother was also beautiful and very quiet. It's great camping in the middle of the week during the school year.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Damp Day

Well, not just damp. It was darn right wet today. So, not quite as fun as yesterday. I hope tomorrow will be better. We will be moving campsites tomorrow morning to the Hungry Mother State Park near Marion, Ga. then doing a few day rides from there.

As you can see, the roads were wet. In places, it was also very foggy. And for the most part, it was a steady rain. These roads would have been so much fun had it been a bit drier. It was a good test of our equipment, though. GPS works in the rain. Most of my rain gear was in working order, only my backside got a little wet. My new helmet that I won at the Beemers and BiPlanes Rally in Virginia Beach was awesome. It is a Fulmer 3/4 helmet. My chin got a little wet, but the temperature was high enough that it didn't really matter. The important thing is that the face shield didn't fog up and my glasses didn't get wet at all. Steve, on the other hand, had a different experience. His rain liner for his REVIT jacket did not work at all. His shirt was soaked when we stopped for lunch. He also had poor visibility since he didn't have his full face shield. He was following me and for the first ever in our riding "together" career, he said "I don't feel comfortable riding at these speeds."

We did see a black bear come out onto the road in front of us on this road not long before we took the pictures. Pretty cool. Looked like a cub and he waited until we were almost to him before dashing back under the guard road.

We did stop by a couple of places to take some good photos on the way, but not many with the rain.

The Greenbrier

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory in WV

This was our route today.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Great start to a wonderful week

Columbus Day started our vacation riding through the mountains. But first, I took the Total Control Advanced Riding Course (Lee Parks) class at the Motorcycle Safety Center of Virginia in Ashland on Monday. What a great class. It's all about cornering and I really feel I learned something. I've been riding for 2 years, about 14,000 miles, but I've still always had problems going into curves. I slow way down and inch my way through tight corners. I kind of knew that it was one of those things that learning how to do it right would be one of those "aha" moments. Well, this class provided that. I really feel I can trust my bike and myself to lean and keep leaning if necessary. I'm not scraping my knees or anything just yet, but I'm well on my way to getting comfortable in the twisties. Here's the last video I took on my GoPro during the class yesterday.

So, now off to West Virginia to practice my turns. I would say that our fist day was an awesome way to do it. Hwy 311, which started on the Virginia side heading into West Virginia was a beautiful road. The whole 190 mile route was great.  Here's a snapshot of what we did. (311 is from point 5 back up to I-64)

We trailered the bikes and dogs to Greenbrier River Campground in West Virginia. (they have wifi, yeah). Then we will be taking day trips with the bikes. Dogs get to hang out at camp, but they sure love to come with us. We've got five days of this. I planned all the day trips ahead of time and pre-loaded them into the GPS. Already can't wait until tomorrow. Here's a few photos from our first day. Unfortunately, I couldn't find my normal camera before we left, so all photos are taken with the GoPro, which is why it looks like you're looking through a fish eye lense.

 our campsite

getting the bikes ready

 Sinking Creek Bridge in Newport, Va.

Fun day. Looking forward to tomorrow.

***Addition after the original blog. The instructor sent me a video from the class I took. Pretty cool.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

2011 Rally

Well, I failed my colleagues of the BMW Motorcycle Club of Hampton Roads. I forgot my camera this weekend, so I didn't get any good photos of our rally. But what a great rally it was. We had about 110 folks register. That's a great success for us. The only bummer about being part of the rally committee is that you don't actually get to ride very much. So, I rode my bike there and I rode it home, the long way. Came across that same spot my GPS took me before, this time on purpose because I wanted to get a photo.

One of my step sons turned 13 this weekend, and got to hang out with his Dad for his birthday, riding motorcycles and making fires. A friend also gave him a ride in his side car. Kerry is trying to make sure people know that side cars are cool. And they are.

Good birthday present, I think. 

During the rally, we had a charity ride for the Wounded Warrior Project that ended at the Military Aviation Museum and included a ticket to the WW-1 Air Show being held there. Of course, I didn't get any great pictures of that, other than this one I took with my phone of a bunch of the bikes parked under the water tower.

I hope someone got some better photos. I'll be looking for them on our club facebook page:
I'll be heading up to Ashland, Va. tomorrow to take the Total Control Advanced Riding Course, then out to West Virginia and western Virginia for some mountain riding.