Thursday, September 14

In Grafton

My timing was all off. I got on route 50 west and began a long climb through the mountains. At the peak (3000+ feet I think) I stopped to take a picture and put on more layers.

Then it got dark very quickly, but I still had almost 50 miles to Grafton, which is right near the park I wanted to camp at. The road (route 50) winds through mountains, with frequent 25MPH speed limits on turns, elevation warnings for trucks and no lights at all. It would have been really fun during the day; at night it was a bit harrowing but not bad, for the first 30 miles or so. Then it just got tedious. I finally made it to Grafton and came upon a motor lodge. Not knowing if the state park had campsites available or checkin past sundown, I decided to skip camping tonight and check into the lodge. It's $30 cheaper than the motel in Delaware and a room many times larger.

I like small roads like route 50 a lot better than the huge interstates. There are houses along route 50, spread out and with a lot of land, that would probably look very nice in daylight. There's a smell to the road - sometimes smoke, sometimes manure, usually just fresh air. There's a mist over the road, which lights up to announce oncoming cars. Traffic jams are worse on smaller roads, and one slow car can slow down miles of traffic, but the interstates are hardly immune to jams (as I saw today on 68). You can't pull off an interstate and get a slice of pizza like you can on route 50. And passing bikers don't wave to each other (left arm down) on the interstates, because the bikers in the other direction are across a concrete median and going at a relative 160 MPH.
There's still a hierarchy of biker communication, though. Some big Harley riders don't wave to non-Harley riders. I don't usually signal to scooters (I don't consider them motorcycles). I'm not sure where dirt bikes fit in, but you rarely see those on highways anyway.

Time to sleep. Tomorrow I'm headed in the general direction of Illinois. I'll try to time the ride better tomorrow.

Conversation in the pizza shop

(Blond Virginia girl who works at pizza shop standing looking out window; guy with baseball cap, also works in shop, walking by.)
Girl: How come on days like this we have to work?
Guy: Huh?
Girl: How come on pretty days like this we have to work?
Guy: Cuz we're open every day and we work here and -
Girl: Shut up.

Back in the zone

Interstate 68 has an amazing climb, until you get to a point where it tells you the elevation - 1400 something feet - and then it starts to zoom downhill, the traffic cruising down at a brisk 95 MPH. Fast enough to warrant the "runaway truck" escape lane.
Several hills later, traffic slowed to a crawl, due to construction a few miles down. Bumper to bumper traffic isn't much fun on a motorcycle, so I decided to wait until it picked up again, parking in the shoulder and sitting on the hillside until it eventually sped up to 15 MPH, enough to get back into the flow and get past the construction.
Somewhere past there I turned off to get gas, and found a real old-time station. (Others may laugh but I'm used to self-serve gas with credit card reading machines.) The store smelled like corn and had an old tv tuned to a Barack Obama interview on CNN. Cash only of course. (Thanks Pop Pop for the tip about cash, it has been very helpful.)
Back on 68W, I decided to try to make it to route 50 after all, even though 68 would be faster, so I turned south on 220. Past two prisons ("correctional facilities"), into a town called Cresaptown, I stumbled upon Fox's Pizza Den, where I now sit eating a small onion pizza. One slice tasted mildly like soap but the local stuff always has a special charm.
Onwards to Tygart Lake, hopefully before sundown.

(Press Play)

Very bad start to the ride...just a few blocks after heading out, I pass a garbage truck and just as I go past it a garbage man sprints out in my path. Luckily no one was injured and the bike seems fine. I was going pretty slowly and I doubt going even more slowly would have made any difference, as I would have had a fraction of a second to respond anyway. I need to be very very careful around garbage trucks from now on.
Things got better after that. I got gas, then got on 270N heading to Frederick, MD. From 270 I hope to get 70 NW and from there get 68W or 50W. The rain stopped about an hour ago, the sky is still gray but it's clear.
I'm now at a "scenic view" (so announced the exit sign) in the vicinity of Frederick. There's not much to see, it's a lot of the same shade of green and some structures below that have Confederate significance.
It seemed a good spot to pull out my stove and cook some chicken noodle soup, though, which along with beef jerky (softened by the soup) is making a very delicious lunch. I have beans and oatmeal for dinner, I might stop to get some more soup along the way. (There are always power bars when everything else runs out.)
There were two Harley bikers who came by here, also doing a big trip but not going in the same direction today.
I'll let my stove cool down, let my nerves calm down from this morning and then head back out towards Grafton, WV.

It's 65 degrees and raining hard now. I'm almost packed up, heading out to find route 50 in a few minutes.

Wet morning

The kids wanted to see my bike, so I got up before they left for preschool at 8 to show it to them. The little guy (age "four and three quarters") put on my helmet but it was almost as heavy as he was so he didn't like it very much.
I'm going to aim for Tygart Lake State Park in West Virgina today, taking route 50. Getting from Bethesda to route 50 seems very complicated, though, so I'll probably have to meander along some other interstates until I stumble upon it. If I head due west I'll hit 50 eventually, so I'll keep my compass (tied to the handlebar) pointed that way. I expect it'll take around 5 hours, so I'll stop a few times on the way. Hopefully it won't start pouring again; if it stays like this it'll be a very nice ride.