​​​BamaRider
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Day 7
October 5th, 2010
Lorton, Virginia

Clouds still draped the area, but at least it wasn't raining, but if I rode north, that would change near Baltimore.  The stalled system was still on top of the region.  "I hate that cause I really wanted to see the leaves up there."  It had been awhile since my last New England foray, it will just have to wait, I'm not riding into that if I can avoid it.

The morning was leisurely, because I only had about 200 miles to ride.  I loaded out the 1300 around 8 am and got underway.  I rode down Silverbrook Dr past the million dollar homes, and the elaborate schools Fairfax County is known for.  

With the gas tank full, all I had to do was point the ST 1300 south on I-95 and take off.  That is a relative term in Virginia because of the traffic laws.  These folks are the most hawkish in the nation when it comes to speed limits.  All my years, all my miles in this state I've never not seen someone getting a ticket, and this morning was no different.  Not 4 miles after entering the interstate a black SUV was busted for speeding, he came by me at a fast clip, I thought he might last longer, but I was wrong.  I was doing 75 when he came by me so I knew his miles were numbered.

I had some difficulty getting over to the fast lane, lot of traffic on this day, and it took several miles to get there.

Twenty miles south, the sun broke out.

I had a terrible seal with my ear plugs but not wanting to stop, I kept going.  "I'll solve it when I exit."  The wind roar was deafening.  I'm not use use to it, and don't tolerate it very well.

In Fredericksburg I left I-95 for SR 3.  My idea to escape I-95 was to follow SR 3 along rhe Rappahannock River cross it and the York, and come into the Tidewater area at Hampton. 

Congestion in and around the city slowed me, but I stayed with it and soon I was riding through woods and forests.  The road was good, but I spent most of the early miles behind a oxygen truck.  Just no space to pass with the traffic coming at me.

The truck finally, turned off after what seemed like forever.  I thought about taking the time to visit the nearby George Washington birthplace, but just wasn't interested enough.  After 3 days of just hanging out I wanted to ride.

Again I became stuck behind a slow vehicle, this time a mini van.  The highway had a few curves, but I missed them while looking at the back of the van.  I managed to pass the vehicle after awhile and it was very satisfying.
























                 I found this Fall fruit stand and flea market on SR 3

The morning had progressed slowly by the time I made it to the SR 3/U.S. 360 intersection, where I took a break at a Sheetz mega con store.  I stepped in and pulled a Mountain Dew out of the cooler, to go with my blueberry muffin.  While I was paying at the counter I asked the attractive clerk, "so how ya name a store Sheetz?"  "I dunno, kinda dumb ain't it?"  "Yeah, sounds too much like sumptin else."

I called Debbie, and sent my son a text.  While I was gearing up to leave a Triumph rider came over on his way in to pay for his gas.  "Alabama huh?"
"Oh noooooo this guy ain't right," I thought.  He had on camouflaged pants and some kind of duck hunting boots.  "yeah that'd be me, from Alabama"

"So why ya up this way?"

"I was born in Norfolk, and I stop in every chance I get"

"hey I gotta a Harley friend in Norfolk, call him when you get there and he'll take care of ya"

"look, I'm not gonna spend the night with some joker I dunno"

"he's a good guy, I promise, I'll take ya to him"

"Man, I knew this joker wasn't right," I whispered.   "Nah thats alright bro, I'll make it"

"are you sure?"

"YES"

"You know us riders hafta to stick together"

"yeah, and I gotta go, good luck"

"Well I'll ride with ya to the river"

"Thats ALRIGHT, I'll manage"

"no problem, lemme pay for this gas."

When he went inside I fired the ST up and layed rubber getting outta there.  No kidding I went long through all 5 gears.  "how do they find me?"
Traffic picked up as I neared the Rappahannock, it was not a good ride.  "I mighta messed up coming this way, but hey it was better then I-95."  But not by much.

I got behind a car with the following bumper sticker.  "Horn broken, check finger."  "He's actually riding around with that on the rear of his car?"
The GPS kept me on SR 3 till I arrived at U.S. 17, then the road turned 4 lane divided and I was glad to pick up the pace.

Resigned to my fate, I just followed everyone else to the York River crossing, a tall, long bridge into the Tidewater area.  It was windy on the ride over.

Now in the confluence of  Hampton and the associated chaos, I went to I-64, where the long tunnel took me under the James River into Norfolk, when I came out the other side, I saw the shipyards.  Norfolk is the largest naval base in the Navy if nothing has changed since I lived here.  "I'm here, what now?  Let's ride down and get a hot dog at Tony's, can't go wrong there."

We left Norfolk in 1966, I was 11 years old.  Over the years I returned numerous times, I still had family there, (aunt and uncle mother's side) and my parents had a few friends they stayed in contact with, so every few years we made the trip back north.  But after I married and started a family those trips stopped, and I went almost 30 years without a visit.  It was during that time I realized how much of my life was formed in those years in Norfolk.

In 2002 I returned to Norfolk on the 1100, a very emotional visit.  You can read about that ride here.  Now I have the means and the time to ride to Virginia anytime I want, and as a result I feel connected to my hometown in a way I'd never known.  I struggled early to navigate the area, but my old memory served me well, and as I explored my memory quickly came back to me on how to get around the city, and now I can get anywhere I want.

With that in mind, I took the Tidewater Drive exit for my entrance into the city.  "Tidewater Drive is where Christ The King is, from there I can get anywhere."  I peeled off 64 and made my way past familiar landmarks, "I remember that building, that's where we use to eat, my sister went to school there, etc"

I cruised the parking lot of Christ The King School.  The old tree we used for home base in tag was still there, but now they have a new church, and a addition to the school.  The memories were so thick they seem to swirl around my head.  Not wanting to cause a commotion, I idled the ST through the parking lot, and back to Tidewater Drive.  "I better move on before they call the cops about a stranger on a motorcycle cruising around, don't want anyone to think I'm a perv, this ain't 1961."

Tony's Hot Dogs can be found just a few blocks away on Lafayette Blvd.  Every once in awhile my dad would stop on his way home from work and pick a few for supper.  It was a real treat for us lower middle class kids to eat out, even if it was takeout.  I vividly recall a night when my dad took us to a ballgame and we stopped to eat in the small shop on the way to the stadium.  

I parked out front and went in, nothing had changed.  It still looked the same, I took the stool I sat on that night so long ago.  A few customers were seated at the bar.  I recalled from my visit in 2002, that Tony had long died, and his widow had the business.

"How ya doin." the lady said.  "I'm good give me 2 without onions."  "Coming right up."  Nothing is like a Tony Hot Dog, a great sauce and the dog has just the right snap.  I sat alone with my memories when the lady asked, "Not from around here?"  "Well not in that sense, but yes I'm from here.  I was born in Norfolk and lived on Robin Hood Road in the 60s."  I told her this back in 2002, but she did not remember.   "Oh my," was her response.































                                      Tony"s Hot Dogs




"My dad use to bring me here way back when."  A younger lady behind the counter, that I correctly guessed as her daughter asked, "when did y'all move?"  "1966, I was 11 years old."

"what brings ya back?"

"Nothing, just passin through,"

The neighborhood and streets around the old Hot Dog stand are not good things now days.  The homes are old and not well cared for.  Streets were dirty, and trashy.

She asked, "where did you go to school?"

"Christ The King,  I use to walk to the movie theater that was next door"
 
"As you can see, that is a church now"

"yeah, I wouldn't have known that."

"you wouldn't walk anywhere in this neighborhood now, we close around 2 to get out of here"

"I see, in the 60s I rode my bicycle all over the place."

"You wouldn't dare do that now, your family did the right thing leaving here."

"I know.  I resented it at the time, but we prospered in Alabama,  I finished growing up in a way I never imagined.  We lived in a large brick home, we ate out anytime we wanted, I got a new bicycle, I wore nice clothes, and our neighborhood was safe and clean, and I went on to become a officer in the fire department.  I wouldn't change a thing."

"you did well, but nice you never forgot where you came from"

"How could I? This is home."

A customer, who was driving a wrecker parked in the back said, "if I had a way out of here I'd be gone."

Robin Hood Road was less then a mile from Tony's so I headed that way in the mid afternoon.  I noticed a branch bank across the street from Tony's, a bank has been in that building for 50 years.  My parents did business there, although I'm sure many different names have been painted on the front door since then.

Litter lined the streets of Chesapeake Blvd as I made the turn onto Robin Hood Road.  It had been a few years since my last visit and I was glad to see nothing has changed.  I recall being shocked in 2002 at the neighborhood's decline since my last visit in 1978.  In that length of time it was easy to see, but in the last few years the decline seems to have been suspended.   Estabrook was not getting worse, but it wasn't getting better either. 

My old house was still hanging in there, the only brick house on the block, the rest of the small wood frame homes were hit or miss.  Some were not bad, while others were in decay.  The streets I once played, and rode my Schwin on seemed to be welcoming me back.

I noticed the mailbox at the corner of East Bonner and Robin Hood was gone.  It was there in 2004, but since then the post office saw fit to move it.  I use to walk down to mail the box tops of cereal boxes to receive what I thought was cool stuff they advertised on the back.

The high tech ST 1300 seemed out of place on Robin Hood, because this place will always be stuck in 1963 in my mind's eye.

Finished on Robin Hood, I decided to ride across the Estabrook neighborhood to the house I came home to when I was born, a small brick home on Larkin Street.  My dad and mom settled here in the early 50s just after they married.  Like millions of other young men of the time, he bought the house on the G.I. Bill he earned fighting the Japanese in WWII.

The house is very small compared to the new middle class homes built in Alabama presently.  It would make a good closet in such homes.
Larkin Street does not hold the same place in my heart as Robin Hood Road.  Probably because I was too young to remember much about it.  I do have memories of our time there, even though we left there when I was 5.

I parked in front of what I thought was the correct house.   We have old 8mm movies of the house and neighborhood, but nothing looked the same, and the area looked nothing like the home movies.  The trees on the block were mature now, and that seemed to make the houses look even smaller.  Everything seemed "big" to me back then, but now I see it for the true size.  The house was empty so I walked up to the porch.  "I wonder how many families lived here since we left?"

I was able to confirm it was the correct house, when I peered in the window and saw the wall separating the kitchen from the den; it had a built in shadow box, that is prominent in our home movies, "this is it, I know that wall anywhere, all these years, and nobody has changed it?
A man, about my age, sitting on his porch next door, called out to me, "looking to rent?"

"noooooo I use to live here 50 years ago"

"When did you leave?"

"1960"

"I missed you, I came here in the early 70s"

"how many families have lived here, since you been here?"

"I couldn't name all, but the most recent was a older lady who had to move when the landlord was foreclosed on"

"lotta that goin around"

"yeah I know"

I had a brief conversation with the man, he told me he retired from the shipyards a few years ago.

"So why'd ya retire?  I know a guy with as much time you had in is top of the food chain, you didn't have to do anything"

"Management got too hard to deal with"

We chatted a few more minutes, then I said, "well better go find a place to lay my head for the night"

"where ya goin to?"

"Motel 6 on Military Highway, stayed there before"

"I see, I'd offer ya room, but house is a mess"

"you don't know a guy with a Triumph do ya?"

"no, why?"

"Just curious"























Of all the thousands of pictures I've snapped riding the USA, none are more
poignant then this one outside the first house I ever lived in.

It came time for me to ride on, so I fired the ST up after taking a few pictures.  I also called my brother and advised him where I was, and sent him a few pics via Iphone.  He asked me a hundred questions, and couldn't believe I was walking the yard of Larkin Street.

Traffic was moderate out on Military Highway, especially around Janaff Shopping Center which was now a some kind of mall.

Arriving at the motel a plump black lady was working the desk, I said, "need a place to sleep tonight."

"Can't do it right now"

"Why not?"

"System is down"

"So? Just get out the form and I'll fill it out like always, and when it gets back online call me and I'll come down and pay, its not like I can take the room with me"

"I dunno if I can do that, boss won't like it"

"well whaya reckon he's gonna say when he finds out folks are goin across the street for a room?"

"Prolly won't like it"

"Just do like I said, and you'll get atta boy for being resourceful"

She went on and checked me in the almost empty complex, I was just a few units down from the office.

After settling in, I went out to attend the ST.  The rear tire looked no worse then when I left. "I think this tire will make it."  I cleaned the screen, then came back inside and put in a few notes.  I called Debbie to tell her I was done for the day, and would call later.

I completed the day with 218 miles on the trip meter.

The front desk called soon after and I went back down to run my debit card.

"The boss said I did good, by having y'all do the paperwork and calling ya back when it came online"

"See, I today ya."

For some reason I wanted to ride back down to Robin Hood in the dark.  I wanted to see it at night, why I don't know, perhaps it was because I associated the night with supper, homework, and watching TV on a 19 inch black and white TV that picked up 3 channels, you had to get up to change. "I'll head down there on my way to supper."  

It took only a few minutes to get back to my old neighborhood.  The night I remember most was my last Halloween in Virginia.  I went trick or treating, and 2 weeks later I was in Alabama.  It was a cultural shock to say the least.

Up and down the street I rode, thinking back to all those years ago.  I was flooded with a catalog of good times, and what I enjoyed most was the smells of my old street.  I picked up the scents of someone cooking, of fallen leaves, and cut grass.  But sounds were lacking, I saw no youngsters playing in the streets or yards like we use to, laughing and shouting.

My yearning to see these places again were satisfied, I even had a Tony Hot Dog.  I will always be connected to Norfolk.  I pointed the ST out of Estabrook, "I better find something to eat."  I rode back to the motel area, and after a long internal debate I settled on a Chinese buffet.  There were many available options.

The food was good, after I ate my fill, I went back across the street to the motel for the night, where I put a few more notes in, called home, and watched TV.

I went to sleep looking forward to the ride to the Blue Ridge  next day.


Next- Long ride south to the mountains.
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