Day 5
October 9th, 2008
Lorton, Virginia

Anxious to get on the road, I was up with the crowd.  My extended family here in Lorton has to get up early to get everything done.  I was loading the ST while Cathy was preparing lunches, and giving last minute instructions.  I was loaded and ready to go a little after 7am.

My niece and nephew have grown so much since my first visit here on a trip 8 years ago.  Michael is 15 now, active in sports at his school, and both are good students.  I wish I could see them more, but I take what I can get.  I've ruled a empty nest for 10 years now, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss kids.

With the 1300 warming up in the mild Fall air, I said my good byes.  David asked, "when will you be back?"  "Probably in the spring?  But we'll see, I think I'm just gonna send some clothes up here to stay, tell Kathy to assign me a drawer."

With Day 3's fiasco still fresh in my mind, I left the neighborhood for I-95 South.  "Surely I can do this, I know where it is."  After traveling Silverbrook Road to the end I could see the interstate to the left.  "There it is."  David told me there was a bank on the other side.  I needed to get to it for some cash.  It cost me a extra 10 minutes or so, but all I had was a few dollars in my pocket.  I paid 2 dollars to pull out 100.

Soon enough I was coming down on I-95.  I came up to cruising speed and blended in the south bound traffic.  I was not looking forward to this ride.  It will begin with a 500 mile slab ride to Asheville, North Carolina, and I didn't even have the Zumo to entertain me.

The route today is pretty straight forward.  I-95 to Richmond, I-85 to Durham, and finally I-40 West to the mountains.  I leave the system at exit number 37.  From there I can go to Cruso by memory.

I had a bad seal with my right earplug, but wasn't coming off to fix it.  "Lemme put down at least 100, I can make it till then."  Coming around 18 wheelers was the worst.  Their noise seemed way over the top, it drove me crazy.  The wind rushing around sounded like Niagara Falls in my right ear.  It was very annoying and I wondered if I was doing any permanent damage.  "Man this terrible, I hope I can hold out."

I knew from Lorton to North Carolina I would have to run a gauntlet of prowling state troopers.  Virginia has to be the worst at enforcing their 65 mph speed limits.  I've yet to make a ride on 81 or 95 and not see some hapless soul getting a ticket.  I don't speed in Virginia.  The deck is stacked.  I kept the 1300 in the low 70s, and that was good enough to get by a cruiser in the median 20 miles south of Lorton, another behind a bridge pillar 30 miles later, and still a third who was on the move patrolling from the north bound lanes.  Include the 2 I saw writing tickets when I came by, I saw a total of 5 for the hundred or so miles to the state line.  A stunning display of revenue generation.

But on this day I was the winner.  I rode most of the 100 miles in the 70-75 range and made it.  I wonder how much longer my luck will hold.  I've had no paying tickets since Kansas 2003 almost 200k miles ago.  Been stopped a few times, but because I'm so likable, (yeah right) been getting a pass.  My best advice is never be the fastest guy out there, and if you do get stopped, be honest.

Because of the ear plug problem I rode with the screen up to reduce the wind noise, that helped, but still not the same as a good seal.

By the time I arrived in Richmond, my long riding instincts were better.  I came through the city the old fashioned way.  I paid attention to the signs, calculated my lane changes, and came through with no foul ups.  I skipped the long outer loop 295 and came right through the city on 95 and veered off to 85 South.

I know I was born in Virginia, so the state is special to me, but I don't much care for Richmond, and what has happened to it since I left Norfolk in the mid 60s.  My dad use to take me to the Civil War sites, but I wouldn't care to do that now.

In Petersburg a left the interstate to take my morning break.  My right ear was still humming, when I came down from highway speed.

The mega con store was a busy place.  I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and bought a bag a chips and made myself comfortable at a booth.  The con store shared a Subway, so I knew it would have a place to sit.  I like that.

I took out my Blackberry and made my usual calls.  Debbie and Chris were at work, and I left the other Meaghan (in Alabama) a text message.  ( married to my nephew)  When she didn't respond I sent one to my nephew.  I just wanted to see if everything was good.

When I finished communicating I read the news and headlines off the Blackberry.  I love my phone and its versatility.  Just before I left I went to the weather radar to see a few sprinkles around Raleigh, but nothing serious.

Traffic thinned out south of Richmond, and soon the urban sprawl gave way to timber, forests and farmland.  I crossed the state line and went into North Carolina.  "Made it without a performance award!"  In North Carolina I picked up the pace to near 80, thanks to the state's more generous speed limits and 2 rabbits who shot by at 90 mph.

With my earplug fixed the ride was much better.  I felt as if I was in a isolation chamber.
I gave the rabbits the appropriate distance and fell in behind them.  I followed them all the way to Durham before each exited separately.

I was on schedule so took lunch in my usual window.  I needed gas also.  "No need to to fill up, and stop for lunch a few miles later, I'll do a combination stop."  I had put down over 250 miles so far.

The Henderson exit looked as good as any to I took it, found a Shell station and filled up. The 91 was bagged off, so I had to go with 87.  So far the ST seems to be doing ok with it, but I think my mpg is down a little.

After gassing up I went to a nearby Golden Corral buffet.  I had fried chicken and vegetables, but kind of lost my appetite when a 6 month baby or so, custody of a older lady, spit up milk all over the floor just across from me.  I moved far away but the damage had been done.  I lost my appetite and failed to get my 9 dollars plus tip worth of food.

"Man that sucked, but at least I ain't gotta clean it up."

I took out my PDA and put in some notes.  It was not a long lunch break.  "Still gotta lota miles today."  I was halfway to Asheville. 

In the parking spot next to the ST I noticed about a half gallon of anti freeze on the ground.  "That joker ain't goin far."

I-40 and 85 merge for a number of miles, and the road was hectic.  I recall in the old days, this route was 2 lanes each way.  I'm talking way back in the late 60s, when my family came this way on our return visits to Virginia.  Today it is multiple lanes, you could not put the traffic of both systems on the same roadway now days.  It would be a cluster.

"I'm not stopping again till I get to Asheville," and I didn't.  I pushed the Honda as fast as I dared, sometimes in the 85 mph range, and still the ride seemed like a long time.  I skipped through Raleigh/ Durham I tried to go on auto pilot, but just too much traffic, even in the rural areas.

The sprinkles I saw on the radar came and went.  They wet the road bed, but not enough to get me.  After a hundred miles or so, my butt was stiff.  I just shifted it around and kept moving.

Soon I was working the hills into Asheville.  "Not far now."  The 1300 blew by slow moving 18 wheelers, and RVs and the many cars affected by the steep inclines.  "Stay outta my way people, I ain't got time to get bogged down behind y'all left lane hogs."  I had turned on the PIAAs so they could see me on the approach and get out of the way.  That tactic seemed to work well.  The road was 3 lane and I had plenty of room, the interstate had a few high speed sweepers, and it was fun.

With my reserve light blinking I took the Black Mountain exit for gas and a break.  I had just slapped down 230 miles of boring interstate.  Once again the 91 was bagged off.  I filled up, pulled the 1300 from the pump, bought a candy bar and diet Dew.  

I hate restrooms with blowers to dry hands.  They seldom work, and don't do a good job.  The one in this store blew cold air.  They don't tell ya that till after your hands are wet.  Plus you now have the problem on how to open the door.  The dirtiest part of any public restroom are the handles on everything.  I'm not much for using the handle on a sink knowing the guy just prior to me had just P'ed, before grabbing it.

With paper towels you have a buffer.

I was finished with my snack when I called Peter Menard.  "Where ya at?"  "At the campground.  You?"
"Asheville, be there in about 45 minutes."

I left the con store, went through the city to exit 37.  The Canton exit.  From there it was U.S. 19 to Canton.  By now it was late afternoon, and I had over 500 miles of hard riding for the day, but I was looking forward to the 2 lane road through the valley to to Cruso.

I noticed my left PIAA was out.  "Dang", but not much night riding remained.  I was glad my low beam and PIAA went out now, and not while I was in the West Virginia hills a few days back.  That would have really been bad, but presently just annoying.

Canton has a huge paper mill almost in the middle of town.  I don't understand that. Prattville is a paper mill town, but ours is way out on the west side.  NOT in downtown.  I followed around the mill and was soon riding across the valley.  I knew the route would take me to the Jukebox Junction.  It was a nice ride after a long and hectic slab day.

By now the sun was out and the clouds seemed to be drifting away.

I could see Cold Mountain off in the distance, and why I didn't stop for a picture I don't know.  I regret it now, because it really looked scenic in the afternoon light.

The intersection where 215 and 276 meet is know in ST circles as the Jukebox Junction, so named for the cafe there.   Sometimes it is referred to just as the "junction."  I went left for the last few miles to the campground.
The Blue Ridge Mountains are special to me.  I love coming here each year to ride and be with my friends.  It is how I end the riding year.  But this year seemed different, absent a cross country ride.  Somehow I felt I wasn't worthy of it this time.  I hoped by being around my friends, and having fun, that feeling would pass. (it did)
I pulled in the campground in late afternoon, registered, and rode over to the campsites.  Somebody had my usual spot, so for the first time I went across the trail to the creek side.  I saw many new faces and a few old ones.

When I stopped at my spot a few guys from the ST Owners site introduced themselves.  It was good to put names with faces.  Peter was on the scene but not at the campground.  He had gone somewhere.
About the time I finished putting my tent up, my good friend Ron Epperly showed up from Orlando, Florida.  A long ride for him today, over 700 miles, but he's done it many times.
​Home sweet home for the next 3 nights.  You have to love
the Blue Ridge in  Fall.

Peter Menard arrived and we had a nice greeting.  "Here's your low beam."  "Good man, we'll work on it tomorrow."  It was good to see my old friend again, it had been almost 2 years, but we communicate regularly.
Uncle Phil was still not on the scene, but I knew he wasn't far.

After camp was set up, we gathered up to go eat supper.   About 10 bikes made the supper run down to the Jukebox to eat.  It was a good ride in the twilight.  We have become a fixture here over the years, and the owners look for us each fall.  The food and service are good.  We pooled together several dollars for the girls working to play the jukebox. 

We had a good time, I got to meet and know several guys off the list for the first time.

We were on our way out, when Uncle Phil came in with Chip and Andy.  We had a big reunion anyway.  The kitchen was closed, so they had to go back to the Mexican place.  Ron went with them for moral support.  I told Uncle Phil, "we'll see y'all back at the campground ok?"

The ride back to the campground was dark, and my missing PIAA and low beam didn't help.  "Work on that tomorrow."

I rode 580 miles today.

Back at the campground a number of riders gathered around the campfire.  It was cool but not cold, clouds were moving in over the mountains.  We could see them in the moonlight.

We talked about all kinds of things, and Uncle Phil gave us a preview where of the upcoming ride in the morning.  "What time is the train leaving Uncle?"  "9 o'clock."  And on that I hit the showers and went to bed.  Sleeping by the creek was a new experience at this campground.  I liked it, and slept well.