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Friday, October 5, 2012

Back home, still riding

I wanted to post these pictures of our ride out of West Virginia yesterday. No words are necessary to describe the beauty of these mountains.

This is the Western Territory of Snowshoe. This is the slope I hurt my knee on last year.

 We got home last night and Steve had to work today. But his work means he gets to keep riding a motorcycle, albeit a Harley. Oh, and he gets to go to the State Fair.
At least Steve tried to make his trip to the State Fair seem like part of our trip by making the normal stop.

I, on the hand, get to go to our BMW Motorcycle Club of Hampton Roads annual rally. I'm not camping this year since Steve can't be there, but I rode down and will be back there tomorrow. Strange that the only pictures I took this evening were non-BMWs. I'll take more photos tomorrow that resemble the club a little better, though we do accept ALL bikes (obviously).

I did take the following picture because this is just too awesome. The next dog I get will be small enough for me to take everywhere I go. 

This is Greg Cutter's bike... and dog.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Feeling invigorated

Or motivated. Like I'll be able to tackle the mountain of boxes that still need to be unpacked at the new house. These West Virginia mountains are so amazing to ride motorcycles through, especially in the Fall.

I forgot to mention in my previous post where we ended up staying last night. As we were leaving Elkins and for one of the few times that our communication system worked, Steve suggested we stay at Snowshoe. We had just seen a sign for Snowshoe. We've been there many times for skiing, of course, but didn't know how it would be at this time of year. What I did know, is there is a Starbucks and they have an awesome, twisty road up to the mountain. So, that's where we stayed. When we were checking in, we decided to make it two nights and just do a loop through the mountains for our ride today.

And now, I've found out they have WiFi at the bar. Oh darn! It's definitely different, though, during the Fall, as far as the crowds go, virtually, none. When we arrived yesterday, it was socked in Fog; today when we got back from our ride, it was not as foggy, so we got a few pictures.

Snowshoe Village when we arrived yesterday.
Top of Ballhooter lift at Snowshoe. They have some great Mountain biking off ski season.

This is a very familiar ski spot. Looks so different with no snow.

Doesn't look like much compared to Western mountains for skiing, but one of the best places in the Eastern half of the United States to go skiing.

So the motorcycling today was a nice loop up to Petersburg, W.Va. area and back. It was fantastic. Here are a few pictures from today.

Here we are at Seneca Rocks. I'm coming back down from the gravel road that wound it's way to the rocks.
Seneca Rocks in the background.

This is Cass, W.Va. Took this photo for the Route 66 sign. We were on route 66, but it was State route 66.

You can't be lost if you have nowhere to be

We threw the planned route out the window altogether yesterday. We started along the route and thought we might make it to New Martinsville. At some point we ended up in Elkins, which is where I had planned us staying tonight. I had the GPS set on shortest route, which is always fun since we do have the perfect bikes for just about any road. Unfortunately, it also takes a more competent dirt rider than I am to do some of those roads.

Anyway, hard to explain how beautiful yesterday ended up being. We started the day with a pretty steady rain, but after a couple of hours, the rain stopped and the sun started peaking through. Absolutely beautiful.

We crossed the Potomac twice. I wish I had a picture of where we crossed it the second time coming back into West Virginia. It was a toll bridge. I asked the lady how much and she said (imagine heavy country accent) "50 cents for both." Yep, that's right. 25 cents per bike. Seems like a waste of time being there wasn't a line of vehicles. Well, the bridge was interesting. Single lane, wooden bridge. With it being rainy, I was a little nervous riding on the wood planks, which were placed lengthwise along the bridge. The river was probably only six feet under the bridge.

Here are some pictures from the rest of the day yesterday.

I don't know why, but a picture just doesn't actually capture how beautiful the rolling hills and Fall colors are here. Probably because I don't have the right kind of camera. hint hint.

This is one of the "shortest distance" roads with barely enough room for another vehicle coming the opposite direction.

Beautiful Fall day in West Virginia.

Steve is getting ready to turn my bike around on this dirt road, which had some insane pot holes.

Steve is looking at the map. This is about when we determined that we weren't making it to New Martinsville.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Lazy start

We are sitting in the Fairfax Coffee House (not in Fairfax, but still in Berkeley Springs). We'll get going eventually.

I'm using my phone to post to the blog so I can add the photos that I just took. What I haven't figured out is how to add the photos one at a time and then describe them. So I have to describe now and then add photos.

As you can see, the bikes got washed last night. Thank goodness, I think mine still had dirt in places from the trip across New Mexico in April.

I swear the hotel we were in knew we were riding GSes, this suitcase shelf was a perfect fit for our boxes.

It's so nice seeing a mountain. The fog and Fall colors just add to the loveliness.

Steve in front of the coffee house. Yum.

Ok. Time to get a move on.

Monday, October 1, 2012

So familiar

Today was great. On the road for about 275 miles, mostly high-speed highway until the last 10 miles, which was a nice twisty road; exactly the reason we came to West Virginia.

We did stop in Fredricksburg, and since it is not likely we will see another Starbucks for awhile, I suppose it is only appropriate that we pay homage to the familiar.

We are in Berkeley Springs, W.V. I think this must be kind of an artsy town, which means we still might find a nice coffee shop in the morning, Starbucks or not.

We had dinner in the Mountainside Bar, and we were treated to the locals explaining the roads we should take when we set out tomorrow. One guy had us going to Pennsylvania. Not sure if it was just a good road or they were trying to get rid of us.

We happened across the Country Inn. Nice old place with "country club" charm in the country. Was hoping to watch my Boys in a little Monday Night Football but for some reason, out of the 40-plus channels here, ESPN doesn't have volume. Weird. Well, I guess I can still watch.

No alarm for tomorrow morning. No real destination tomorrow night. I have a route in mind, but it very well may change. I love traveling like this. The only destination is to be back to our house Thursday night.

Until tomorrow... Maybe.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

So need this trip

The summer has been one of the hottest here in Virginia Beach, and then August was almost the wettest. Needless to say, I've hardly ridden my motorcycle at all. I think about a month ago, I rode it 3/4 of a mile to the gas station for the state inspection. That's it. I had to ride my husbands to my BMW motorcycle club meeting because my battery was dead.

Well, the battery is all charged up, and now I need to recharge myself and take a trip. Steve and I will be doing our annual October trip to the mountains, again to West Virginia this year. We leave tomorrow. We had planned on camping and taking the dogs, but we are also in the middle of moving. Well, we've moved completely out of one house, and are in the middle of unpacking in the new house. The trailer is full of stuff.

I don't care, I'm leaving it a mess and going for a ride. It will all still be there when I get back.

I'll post if I can. After all, we will be in West Virginia, I guess it depends on if I get internet at the hotels.

Here's what the weather looks like in Ridersville, W.V. We may have rain on Tuesday. I don't care. Time to ride.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Camping/Reunion/Virginia counties

Over Mother's Day weekend, Steve and I packed up the bikes in the trailer and the dogs in the truck and took off for Luray, Va. This weekend had two overall purposes. One was to join up with distant relatives at a family reunion on Steve's side. The other was to complete our Virginia county collection. We had six more to go when we started out on this trip.

Luray is famous for the caverns there and its close proximity to the Shenandoah river, valley and mountains. I look forward to coming back some time just to enjoy those things specifically.

We stayed at a Jellystone Camp resort. It's the kind of place you could take the kids and never even leave the campground. There are two swimming pools, big water slides, a pond for fishing and paddle boating, and a huge playground. It's a little expensive if all you're going to do is camp, which is what we were doing. I wish I had looked for another place just for a cheaper price. We were there "off-season" and the water/electric hook up sites were $37 a night. Having said that, it was very well-maintained, clean place and perfect if you're camping with children. We weren't camping with kids, so we could have gone for a less commercialized campground.  The other good thing about it being such a family-oriented campground is that there was no late-night camping parties going on.

Belle and I sitting by the campfire.
When we camp with our dogs, we have to take into consideration the time of year. Our current trailer doesn't have an air conditioner, so we could not do this in the middle of the summer. We go on day rides on the bikes and put the dogs in the trailer. We keep the windows open and turn on a fan for them. We take their beds from the house and leave a big dish of water. Before we head out on our bikes, we take them for a long walk around the campground. This is pretty much the only time we have to put them on a leash. Belle and Tanner are the best camping dogs ever. Even in an area where just about every RV/trailer there had the family dog along on their trip, our dogs seemed to care very little about anything other than hanging out with us. At the campsite, we can let the dogs off the leash and they stay right there. Almost everyone that walks by with their dogs is shocked at how well behaved our dogs are and no one complains about them being off the leash.

I've not been sure how the dogs behave when we are out on the bikes. This was our third camping trip with the dogs in the last year. In the previous two, we were in fairly secluded campsites during times of the year that are not frequented by other campers. This time, with it being projected to be a beautiful weekend, the campground was pretty full, and the trailers are pretty much stacked up one right after the other. On the first day, I asked the guy that was camped next to us if he could just let us know if the dogs do a lot of barking while we are gone. He was there with his kids, so they didn't plan on leaving the campground. When we got back, he said he didn't hear a peep. I think the dogs think of the trailer as a safe haven. We sleep in there at night with them, so it's a real treat for them, since I don't let them sleep in my bedroom at home. Tanner doesn't really like being near the campfire at night and actually prefers to hang out in the trailer, even if he had been in there all day. Belle on the other hand wants to be as close to the campfire as possible. The neighboring camper was amazed that our dogs don't tear up the trailer while we are gone. They are 12 and 8 years old, so I'm guessing age helps there. His dog was only 5 months old.

So, we headed out for our first day of riding. The goal was to be back by about 5 p.m. for reunion festivities. On this day, we were riding through the top of Virginia, catching Shenandoah, Frederick, Clarke and Loudon counties. I plugged in a 140-mile round trip on smaller roads, no interstates.

We saw this Dinorsaurland on our route. Had to stop for the photo op.
We stopped for lunch in Winchester, Va. Steve never really gets involved in planning the route and just follows along and site sees. At lunch, I was showing him on the map what the route looked like, and he mentioned that we weren't far from the farm land that his parents owned when he was a kid, about 40 acres near Aldie, Va. He and his Dad had built a pole barn on the property. So, we decided to alter our trip and try to find this land. His parents sold it in 1981 to a neighboring farmer and they had built a big Black Angus auction house on it. We found it and the little pole barn was still there.

Steve was so excited to see it was still there. One of the current owners saw us on our bikes (outside the fence) and said we could go in once we told him Steve and his dad had built it. They use it for fencing material now, but other than it being painted black on the outside and a new tin roof, it was pretty much exactly the same.

Steve had mentioned how he and friend had planted the tree next to the shed when it was just a baby tree. It had actually grown from a small acorn in their front yard in Maryland, and they dug it up when it was a couple years old and brought to the Aldie farm and planted. He provided this picture from back then, probably 1976 or 1977 or so. The following picture shows the difference.

Steve also remembered carving his name in a tree along with a childhood friend. We found the carving still there in a beech tree. It's a little difficult to read as it was carved in 1976, but it was still there.

Steve actually climbed the tree to get to it. He took a picture with his phone once he was there.
His name, Stephen, is circled at the top, then 1976, then it says, "from here I can see our shed." His friends initials "TK" are circled to the right. Pretty cool.
From the tree you can still see the shed.

We made our way back to Luray and enjoyed a nice dinner with the Ruffner family. It was a great opportunity to learn some of the history about the Ruffners. Steve's mom's maiden name was Ruffner, and the story that seemed to be the favorite and this was from the direct ancestors of Steve's, was the story about Viola Ruffner hiring Booker T. Washington as a house boy after he was emancipated, when he was about 9 years old and teaching him how to read and write. Booker T. Washington mentions her in his book "Up From Slavery" as instrumental in giving him a start in education. There have been times when Ruffners have attended the Washington family reunions and vice versa.

The Ruffner generations enjoying dinner at the VFW in Luray, Va.

We still had two more counties to get to complete Virginia, but they were about 150 miles away from Luray, which would have made a 300-mile round trip. That's a little far for leaving the dogs. So, we decided to pack up and head to Charlottesville and find some shade to park in for the dogs while we go out and get these two counties. We found a nice park with shade and perfect area for parking. We took up about 8 spots, but it was not a full parking lot anyway. We unloaded and I plugged in a route that was about 119 miles total to get Buckingham and Cumberland counties.

I discovered a feature on my GPS which I really like and will use a lot more when we do day trips, the shortest distance feature. The GPS is defaulted to the shortest time, so there are generally larger roads. When I changed my route to shortest distance it dropped about 8 miles but added about an hour of time. Hmmm, interesting. The only problem is that you do have to really pay attention to the GPS because there are a lot of turns when you select the shortest distance. This route took us on some really small roads with no lines and even a few dirt roads.

Virginia Complete
We have now traveled through every county in Virginia. As we complete states, I'm going to change the color on my map for each state. So, this is what it looks like now.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

County Count Up

Now that we've been home for a week, I've had time to update the counties list. This is total counties we've traveled so far on motorcycles since I got a motorcycle in August of 2009.

Here is a video illustration depicting the April trip on the U.S. Map. This shows counties we crossed over each day we traveled.

We added 181 counties to our total count on this trip. Our total count so far is 385. So we are just over a tenth of the way to achieving our goal of riding through every county (3,033 counties).

Here are some other statistics about our trip.

19 days
19 States
6,565 miles

Longest day: 1040 miles (Anna, Ill. to Parker, Colo.)
Shortest day: 175 miles (day trip through Santa Fe)

Four of 19 days were non-traveling days.

We didn't keep all the gas receipts, but the average cost was $4/gallon, so at about 40 mpg per bike and each bike traveling 6,565 miles, that's about $1,300 we spent on gas.

It rained on us for about 100 miles out of 6,565, almost all of that rain was on our Iron Butt day. We had a few sprinkles on two other occasions. We had unbelievably great weather, we stayed between storms somehow. We followed tornadoes into Texas about two days later, and 25 inches of snow dumped in Mammoth two days after we left.

We had wind gusts up to 70 mpg in New Mexico. I will never look at the wind report the same now when considering whether to ride my bike. 30 mpg just doesn't seem so menacing now.

Highest elevation with the bikes was at 11,158 feet (Eisenhower Tunnel, I-70. Colorado) and the lowest was 214 feet below sea level (Death Valley). 

We stayed with family or friends 12 of 18 nights. Three of those nights was with Steve's brother in California, but we rented the condo there, so that's nine nights of paid lodging, but all of it was less than $100 a night, in some cases, well less. We didn't end up camping at all.

The Iron Butt Association has already notified us that we have been approved for membership in their prestigious organization.

We needed no bike maintenance on the trip, but I had one headlight bulb go out two days before getting home. And my bike is now in the shop for its 12,000-mile service (It has 15,530 miles on it right now) and a new rear tire. Steve's bike just had the major service done before the trip, so he's going to do his own oil change.

I had 985 emails in my work email when I got back on Monday.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Natchez to Home

Time to wrap up this trip with the final three days. We started on Wednesday (April 18) in Natchez, Miss. We intended to ride the Natchez Trace Parkway the entire 444 miles to Nashville. I forgot to mention when we were in New Mexico that we decided that we weren't going to camp on this trip, so we had Sully send some of our extra bags back home to Virginia. So, we were staying in hotels the rest of the week until we got home on Friday. Anyway, once we got up and going, we entered the Natchez Trace right at the beginning in Natchez. I forgot to get a photo as we entered, so picked one up at a later entrance ramp.

This parkway is nice, but Steve and I like the Blue Ridge Parkway a lot better. But the great thing about a parkway like this is there is very little traffic, no big trucks, no stop lights or major intersections.

The speed limit is only 50 mph on the NTP, but there are almost zero curves, at least in the first couple of hundred miles. I wanted to take it slow to enjoy the ride, maybe like 60, but Steve really wanted to go faster. This was about the only disagreement we had in three weeks of riding together. We edged it up to about 70, which really felt kind of fast to me on this little road with the trees right next to it. But we kept it there for a while. At one point, we had a police car pass from the other direction; right before he got to us, he flipped his lights on. I was thinking, "Oh, bummer, we're going get a ticket." But he kept going. I guess it was just a warning.

I really didn't think there was that much to enjoy about this parkway. There are no views, just green and trees and more trees and the occasional stream or something.

We did come across some construction and had to sit for a few minutes waiting our turn to go.

I have to admit, I was kind of thinking it would have been kind of cool to get pulled over by that cop. So far, we hadn't had any negative things happen on this trip, other than some high wind. Not that that's a bad thing, but a little trouble can add some character to a trip. But I'll take all the good stuff, especially with weather.

At some point along this route, we decided to get off and start making our way toward Virginia. I'm quite sure we missed the best part of the Natchez Trace, but if we had stayed in Nashville, it would have meant a very long day to Danville, Va. the next day. We got off on mile marker 320 in Alabama and went past Muscle Shoals (actual place, not just lyrics in a Lynyrd Skynyrd song).  We made it to Chattanooga, Tenn. When we decided to get off the parkway, I looked up a hotel and reserved a room. It said downtown Chattanooga, so I thought it would be cool. I should have known the $67 a night rate was a dead giveaway to "not cool." This hotel was totally in the hood. The GPS was freaking out a little bit. It was lagging in directions and would say to turn right as I was passing the right, we ended up driving through a neighborhood with cars double parked and folks outside drinking 40s. Steve was thinking, "Don't stop to ask for directions."

We did find the coolest Starbucks, though, on our way out of Chattanooga. This place had an outdoor fireplace and they gave us stickers.

So, while we were sitting there at the Starbucks, we were trying to figure out the best route to get to Danville. Fastest route was I-75 to I-40 to I-81 into Virginia, then U.S. 58 across the bottom of Virginia. We have done a lot of the mountain roads in the Smokey Mountains, like Deal's Gap, a.k.a. the Dragon. I had heard about the Snake, so looked it up. It was pretty much right on the route already. So, we adjusted a bit, to get off of I-81 in Bristol, Tenn. to take U.S. 421to Boone, N.C. then we were going to take the Blue Ridge Parkway to U.S. 58. The Snake is 421 from Bristol to Mountain City, 489 curves in 33 miles. It was a very nice road, not quite as good as the 318 curves in 11 miles on the Dragon, but still a very nice road.

Anyway, there is a neat store in Shady Valley that is really trying to promote the Snake. We did get our stickers though. Got mine next to my Dragon sticker. Also, gotta love the gas pump with the premium snake venom. 

We got on the Blue Ridge but had to get off after about 20 miles for a closure. We made our way down N.C. 18, (also a nice road), to Winston-Salem then up through Martinsville, Va. before heading to Danville, just a few minutes after dark. We had to go via Martinsville in order to get Henry County as part of our county collection. I think we have about nine counties in Virginia left. At the beginning of this blog back in June of last year, we decided we are going to visit all the counties in the United States on our motorcycles over the course of the next couple of decades, starting with getting all of Virginia. The rules are that we both have to be on our motorcycles and we have to be together for it to count. Steve had been to Henry county before on his bike, but I had not. 

We stayed in the best hotel of the whole trip in Danville, it had a bar/restaurant right there that was apparently a happening place for the locals there, not just hotel guests. Great dinner and DJ.

We left Danville on U.S. 58 home. This was uneventful and we've both ridden this route before, so no pictures. We got home early, so we stopped at Adventure BMW in Chesapeake to pick up a headlight bulb for my bike (it burned out two days before) and also to make my service appointment, since it's been a few miles.

We just didn't want our trip to end, so we stopped for lunch at Catch 31 at the beach, just two miles from the house and then at Starbucks, of course.

We made it home safe and sound Friday, April 20. I will add some statistics in a follow-on blog, like 6600 miles, 19 days, etc. I will also have a follow up of the counties collected.

The dogs were also very happy to see us. They were beginning to think we weren't coming back and they were destined to live at the house with the two giant dogs. Not a bad thing for Belle, but Tanner was apparently starting to get depressed. He was so excited that he was even ready to drive the car himself if I didn't hurry up.