Tag archive: Shenandoah National Park
Sunday June 12 – 354 miles/10 hours
After the preparation (read Part 1 here), it’s time to roll…
Early Sunday morning, my husband Neel watched me struggle to carry all my gear outside, strap it all on the Falcon, then tear it all off and strap it all back on because I forgot to plug in my USB cable under the seat. He kept quiet (good man!) but I could see he was straining hard to keep from proffering his much-needed help. I politely (that’s the way I remember it) acknowledged his intent and declined assistance as I was all too aware I wouldn’t have him in the coming days and needed to be sure I could do it on my own. When I was finally all packed up and ready to roll for real, he hopped on his Bandit and rode along for about the first 20 miles to be sure everything was OK. It was going to be our last ride together for a month and though I was more than ready for my solo adventure, this made me feel a little sad and quite sentimental. Parting is such sweet sorrow, but the open road was calling to me with her alluring whisper and a promises of delights. Who can resist her beckoning hand? We made a quick stop to pee and re-adjust my tail bag straps, then with a mixture of trepidation, pride, and sadness of his own, he kissed me one last time and bravely waved me off. (Goodbye sweet prince….)
The first 50 miles or so, I traveled roads I was familiar with, but once I got off the last recognizable path, my excitement began in earnest. Now I was on an adventure! I wound through country roads and small towns having delightful conversations with interesting people at gas breaks along the way. One such fellow was this gentle soul and his dog, Repo and Rocket, who were journeying on foot.
After about 6 hours of leisurely riding and taking long breaks I reached the lower entrance to Shenandoah National Park. At this point I had to take a gut check and realistically inventory my mental and physical reserves to determine if I was up for riding the entire length of Skyline Drive. I had taken the precaution of filling up on gas at the last possible stop before the park just in case I decided to continue. BTW, that was the only gas station I actually scoped out in advance on my route planner. I knew I’d need a full tank to get through the park so I wanted to know exactly where my last chance for gas was. Alternatively, I had given myself an optional stopping point here and could have stayed at what looked like a delightful bed and breakfast, lazily rehashing my day and plotting my next course of action. But of course, being ever the optimistic (hard-headed) adventurer that I am, it took me all of 5 minutes to scarf down my lunch and give myself a virtual chest bump and verbal “hell yeah, we ride!” before charging into the park entrance.
Not gonna lie – it turned out to be a mentally and physically demanding 4 hours. Luckily, I am one tough cookie and what my body lacked, I made up for in sheer willpower. It was soooo worth it though. The vistas were beyond incredible. I figured out early on that I couldn’t possibly stop at every overlook or I’d NEVER get out of the park. The speed limit is only 35mph tops and the cars in front of me were intent on sticking to it.
In addition to navigating the crazy twisty roads, I got caught in one a hell of a rain storm high up in the mountains. Many times that day I was grateful for my carefully thought out trip-specific purchases and superb pack job with easy access to helmet shield cleaner and rain gear. A little tip I gleaned from reading other blogs on the internet was to put the rain gear on BEFORE you need it. Wise advice indeed. I put that gear on and off 3 times in the first day alone and I was glad I did. However, even with all my research, I somehow missed the fact that about halfway into the park is a welcome oasis for tourists – a restaurant with real bathrooms (not outhouses like the rest of the park), intermittent cell service (one bar, maybe), and a GAS STATION! I was prepared to not need the fuel, but gosh darn it, it was a thing of beauty to behold and I stored that little nugget away in my brain for future reference. Also, of note, cell service in the entire park is almost non-existent; let that sink in if you’re planning on riding alone in the park (again). Lots of motorcyclists were holed up at this little hotspot after just riding through the same storm. We exchanged greetings and commented on park conditions while waiting to dry out (some had more drying to do than others – not me, hehehe) and with only a short break, I rolled out of the civilized area and back on the drive. Upon making the final descent out of the park and seeing the ranger station entrance booth, I coasted down the incline with both arms raised in victory like Rocky Balboa conquering the steps at The Philadelphia Museum of Art. I did it!
The next item on my list was to locate lodging for the night. While I picked out several potential places to retire in advance, I hadn’t actually called and inquired about availability or even made contact with any of them. The day before my trip, I could see some available rooms at the B&Bs I selected, so I figured I’d just wing it. Besides, I wasn’t sure if I would be stopping before Skyline Drive or after. I didn’t want to be forced to ride more than I was able, nor did I want to be grounded when I could have kept riding. I could have used my now-working cell phone to call someone to secure a room when I stopped for gas in Front Royal, but heck, where’s the adventure in that? I had directions to my number one pick, so I tooled on up to the front door of the historic and secluded Lackawanna Bed and Breakfast, road worn, wringing wet with sweat, and probably smelling like a rotting corpse. Ding Dong, do you have a room to let? Once the gentle innkeeper composed himself and suppressed his gag reflex, he kindly showed me in and booked me in the last available room. You caught that right? LAST AVAILABLE ROOM. Someone’s got a guardian angel…
Before I could unpack my motorcycle and scrub the road grime from my suddenly weary body, the innkeeper wanted to give me a tour. I LOVE tours of historic places so, what the hey, if he was willing to put up with the smell, I was willing to walk, listen, and learn. Fascinating place. A variety of factors went into my decision to select the Lackawanna as my number one pick of B&Bs for this leg of the trip. Perhaps the least important, but most sentimental, was the name. Growing up in the Southern Tier of NY, I’m more than familiar with the word Lackawanna (meeting of two rivers, or stream that forks) so I found it oddly enticing that a place in Virginia would have a name from my home territory. Turns out the original owner of the home was from Scranton, PA. SMALL WORLD! While playing the role of the impeccable docent, the innkeeper became aware he’d forgotten to turn on background music, so he paused to play, wait for it, Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York, before continuing his tour. A warm glow filled my heart and a wistful smile spread across my face. I hadn’t even told the man where I was from or where I was headed – he had no idea that both the history lesson and the music selection were just more signs that this is where I was meant to kick back for the night. After a much needed hot shower, I could be found relaxing with my feet propped up on the front porch, sipping on a complimentary glass of wine, and watching rabbits gamboling in the front yard as I desperately tried to articulate in 10 minutes everything that had occurred since our parting to my darling husband. He’s no stranger to my excited blathering and overwhelming information vomit following my exploits, so I imagine he might have been a wee bit happy to get me off the phone, although he’s WAY too kind (smart) to let on.
A man and his son, also staying at the charming B&B, were road-tripping on their BMW motos so when they returned from their dinner outing we chatted the evening away, swapping stories, and scratching the ears of the innkeeper’s two sweet standard poodles until I begged off and hit the hay. It was a perfect end to a perfect first day. I drifted off to sleep, blissfully nestled in my comfy bed, oblivious to what awaited me in the morning.Details