I didn’t realize at the time that this was only going to be a two day trip. I woke up Sunday morning and still wasn’t sure where to go from Roanoke. Watching the Weather Channel has been a normal occurrence in the days leading up to the trip. And Sunday showed some nasty weather coming in from the west and possible snow showers at night.
After checking in to the F650.com forums and my contacts over on ADVRider.com, I had a few options. I could take the Blue Ridge Parkway south instead of I81. This would keep my speed down and be more scenic. But the weather in the mountains would certainly be worse and I would have no place to go for shelter if needed. Ike from F650.com offered me camping space at his place on the border of Georgia and Alabama. He said I could hold out there before heading to the Thumper Thaw in Robbinsville, NC. The thought of camping for 3 days just waiting for the Thumper Thaw event didn’t really appeal to me. Although the event sounds like a lot of fun.
I chose to try to head back home. Riding constantly every day, all day, and trying to meet certain destinations was just too tiring. And I wasn’t enjoying it. But I also did not want to go back north on I81. So I pull out the Rand McNally Atlas and take a look at the state of Virginia. Since the storm was coming in from the west, I thought I would try to head east, then north towards home. About 70 miles east of Roanoke is Appomattox. I’m a bit of a history buff too so I thought this sounded like a good first destination for Sunday. And route 24 leads from Roanoke to Appomattox. That sounded simple enough. Also, not much further east from Appomattox is route 15 which I know goes the entire way to Camp Hill, PA.
So I grab some breakfast at the hotel before checking out and loading up the bike. The lady at the front desk got me pointed in the right direction to hook up with route 24 out of Roanoke. It was a cold morning. I had the Gerbing heated jacket cranking and the heated grips on high. As I head east on route 24 I cross under the Blue Ridge Parkway and imagine how scenic it must be once there are more leaves on the trees. The road winds its way through rural Virginia where any gas stations seemed to be closed due to it being early on a Sunday morning. Regardless, I stop a few times just to take the wind-chill off.
The sky is dark and cloudy. The road takes a sharp right and to the left is a nice opening in the trees which offered me with this view of the Virginia country side. The mountains of Virginia are quite beautiful! But those clouds don’t look so friendly. I look down at my GPS and count down the miles to Appomattox so I can find a place to take shelter from the bitter cold and wind.
As I come into Appomattox I spot a Wendy’s. Good enough for me. I need to warm up. I head in and lay my gear down on a chair and order some food. After I finish eating I start to think of where to head next. Just about that time I look out the window and spot a Harley Davidson parked across from my BMW F650. Cool! Another rider! Up to this point I only passed three other motorcyclists on route 24 which just happened to be BMW riders as well, and they were all riding together.
I look around for someone who fit the Harley description and spot him standing in line. Once he had his food he headed over towards me where I sparked up a conversation. He seemed very knowledgeable about the area and I explain that I would be happy with getting to Frederick, Maryland if possible. And I ask him what route 15 is like this far south. He said that 15 didn’t have anything on it and probably would not be a good choice. Then my phone rings. It’s Lee from the BMW Dutch Country Riders which I belong to. The group has breakfast every Sunday and I called him before I left the hotel and left him a message. I told him where I was and he responded with a route suggestion. He said to hook up with route 29 north towards Manassas where I can pick up route 15 north and follow that the rest of the way home. I relay this info to the Harley rider and he agrees and points out that I can pick up 60 right there which will take me to 29 and on my way.
We both head out of Wendy’s together and head our separate ways. He was heading to Lynchburg and I was heading north. I plugged Manassas into the GPS and am on my way. As I was heading down route 60 my GPS points to the right onto Tye River Road. But I also see a sign for 29 that tells me to keep going straight. So I continue straight but as I glance down at the GPS I don’t see 29 anywhere on the map. I pull off the road and zoom out to get a better picture. The connection with 29 is about 8 miles down the road, but Tye River Road is a shortcut between the two roads. So I turn around and hop on Tye River Road. This was a great decision because Tye River Road wound it’s way through the forest with no driveways, no houses, just beautiful countryside. It was a spectacular ride.
Route 29 was another beautiful route. The road rolls along the countryside and around the beautiful mountains with trees budding and blooming the entire way. There was no truck traffic and speeds were a relaxing 60 miles an hour. Still no rain.
I stopped in Charlottesville, VA for fuel. As I head towards the bike after paying for my fuel I look up at the sky and it looks threatening of rain. A guy looks at me, looks up at the sky, then looks back at me and explains he knows exactly what I’m thinking. Please let that rain stay to the west!
Finally I pick up route 15 north towards home. After hours of riding with my balaclava over my head I realize that I’m not drinking much and staying hydrated. And with the Gerbing jacket cranking I’m feeling fatigued. I stop a few times to drink more but it’s just not helping much. I consume a powerbar with a mixture of Gatorade and water and push on. It’s hard to explain the feeling of fatigue on a motorcycle. It’s not a good feeling. It’s not like being in a car at all where you can just sit and be out of the elements. You’re in the wind, the heat, the cold, the rain, you’re balancing a bike, being extremely alert of everything around you, it’s strenuous.
I keep pushing on and find myself in Frederick, Maryland. Have I said I like Maryland? I know my next destination. It would be Thurmont, Maryland. I’m familiar with that area a bit and I know I’m getting close to home. This section was difficult for me. I don’t know if it was the fatigue, or the cold, or maybe I didn’t have my balaclava on very well. But my face was feeling uncomfortably cold. I would pull off the highway at almost every side road just to stop for a minute. I finally made it to Thurmont and pulled into a McDonald’s to warm up. I think to myself, is it safe to keep going? I’m almost home. But is it safe? Should I just stay here tonight? I decided to continue. I felt a bit better after leaving McDonald’s. My face wasn’t as cold so I must have had my balaclava on better.
Just past Gettysburg I see some sprinkles land on my shield. Oh boy, here comes the rain. Then a few more rain drops. By the time I reached Dillsburg I was riding in the rain. I continued the rest of the way home in the rain. Riding in the rain is a mental challenge. At first I get a feeling of fear. But when I recognize that my gear is keeping me dry I relax a bit. The thought of getting wet and the wind-chill factor in cold weather is still always present though. Those two factors are a big danger when riding.
I arrived home a little after 8PM on Sunday night. I didn’t make it to Texas. But my trip was an experience. It was an adventure. It let me see things I’ve never seen before. And I met several people along the way. It was worth it.