I packed up the bike and said goodbye to Barb and Phil. The air was cool and wet as I crested his subdivision grades at 6mph. I turned on to 276E and soon crossed into the Palmetto State. I parked at the Raven Ridge Falls trailhead and banged out the 4.4mi hike in 1:15. I got my exercise in for the morning :)
4.5 mi hike down to the double falls
I took the time this week to preform a service on the Ruckus. Every 1000 mi I change the oil and blow out the air filter. I have a spare but mine still looked dang good. I need to do a gear oil change still but will knock that out somewhere soon.
Uncle Phil lubricated his Goldwing trailer wheels and bearings.
Afoot and light-hearted, I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me, leading wherever I choose.
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune—I myself am good fortune;
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Strong and content, I travel the open road.
The earth—that is sufficient;
I do not want the constellations any nearer;
I know they are very well where they are;
I know they suffice for those who belong to them.
Today my aunt and I went for a nice 6mi hike in the Pisgah N.F. of North Carolina on the Looking Glass Rock Trail. This large rock face visible from the BRP drew my attention last week. Formed by magma underground, this plumary monolith towers above the surrounding scenery and is an iconic site from miles around. I'm sure the native Americans also visited here and had a certain significance to it.
You meet the nicest people on the road. One Dutchman riding all the way from Guatemala on a Shadow and two Germans on borrowed Harleys. I gave some route advice and chatted for an hour while the rain fell.
The owners, Ken and Melissa are great and warm people. Please stop in if headin up 143!
I arrived in The Lair of the Dragon on Thr and enjoyed the twisty curves before cruising along Santeelah Lake and picking a camping site. I stopes in at the Thunder Mtn General store. Owners Ken and Melissa bought the place a few months ago. They have refreshments as Nathan's hot dogs so stop on by if you are on 143!
I made camp and spent the evening relaxing by the creek and fishing. I never left camp on Friday due to the amazing view and also the threat of Memorial Day campers capitalizing on the good site. We have two levels to the site and a beautiful roaring dam right beside the hammock. I caught one trout yesterday and promptly made a fire and cooked it on a rock. We worth the days effort!
camped at 6000+ ft last night up on Black Balsam Rd. Beautiful and quiet view of Spruce Pine Knob.
Made it down the parkway 50 miles this morning to Cherokee (cashing in on the native history).
Woke up in TN and ride the BRP down to Asheville. The little ruckus made it to the highest point east of the Mississippi! So proud.
The pine I camped under last night is a reminder that I'm the visitor in this forest. Crossed into NC this AM and on to the BRP.
I've been enjoying life in the country. All is well, heading to TN this week by way of Mt Rogers. Tmobile sucks.
Fixed an old Honda quad and ate all kinds of delicious homemade natural food. Tracy and Don are the best!
I camped out for the past few days in the forest. No service but I could feel the rain on the way. I stayed dry and safe and did some walking, hiking, reading and contemplating. Life is what we make of it and my mind craves simplicity.
May11: I leisurely spent Mother's Day morning relaxing with Rob and Gabbi while Val jumped on the trampoline and played in the VW "Vanny ". I gave Gabbi a Mother's Day card as a big thank you for her great hospitality. After calling my mother and sending her my love, I suited up to get the show on the road. Gabbi set off for her present to herself: a stress free bike ride. She quickly returned to tell me there was a turtle in the road that needed rescue . Off I went to save the terrapin from a tire. What a great start to my day! I saw an email from Ted with exact and excellent route advice. I made a point to stop at his place in Earlysville and chat. I met his witty and well travelled wife, Lisa ( ?) and spent the next 4 hours chatting on all manor of subjects. It was a most enjoyable time to absorb ideas and perspectives. They offered me a full lunch of pasta, broccoli and toast with strawberries for dessert. I left their home feeling more full of ideas and a warm heart than a full belly...but just barely. Thanks Ted and (Lisa) for the hospitality and knowledge you passed on. I scooted via Ted's directions on all manner of 8 and 700 series back roads toward Crozet. Fox Mountain rd was a nice treat and had an interesting backwoods feel to it with cattle grazing through the woods and a few half clothed, beer bellied landowners leaning on rusting 30 year old American trucks. The houses were few and uncared for and the potholes plentiful. From here I worked up Sugar Hollow to the busy reservoir. At some point I lost a trailer light lens and backtracked 4 times bu never found it. I gave up looking and cruised over to crozet where I pulled in to Randy's driveway and eventually through his gate into the yard. We spent the evening talking on all manner of topics. He set a delicious meal of flank steak veggies, chicken sausage , and pita served with chilled Magic Hat and later Xopper Fox whiskey and single malt Islay.(started with a T)
I accepted his offer to sleep in the RV camper trailer "Cassida" and enjoyed the cool evening weather through the vents.
I woke in the morning to the mourning doves and stirred the dogs to bark. He prepared a big spread of fruit to top the massive collapsing Bizmarck (breakfast pancake of eggs flour and butter). I washed it down with freshly prepared coffee in a belitta coffee maker. We chatted for a few hours until 10 when I decided to head west a bit. I gassed up on 250 then rode up Greenwood Rd and followed bike route 76 to 250. The ruckus labored up the grade and was constantly being passed. I saw a cop but he didn't hassle me. I turned into skyline drive and enjoyed a leisurely ride along the ridge while absorbing all the views and mountains in a flow of green down to the fertile valley below. After riding half of Skyline, I turned onto 33 W and cruised over to Georges to shoot the shit. 4 hours later, I reluctantly had to turn down Rosie' a offer for dinner and rushed over to Antonio and Marions just in time for fresh trout, asparagus, muffins and salad. Her cooking is fabulous and was served outdoors along the beautiful stream side patio they recently constructed. We sat outside beside the creek for the remainder of the eveneog discussing travel and life chooses of all sorts. I value the care and attention my friends have given me through the past three days. I know full well that months may pass in the future where I will never come across meals or conversation so beneficial. Sleepy.
The alarm slowly coaxed me awake. Five hours was barely enough sleep but it'll do. I had a light breakfast at the old teak dining table and savored the bittersweet moments with my parents. I geared up and pops took a snapshot of me. I always enjoy seeing the before and after shots from a long journey. I wonder how much gear, parts and even the motorbike will be replaced by the end. Will there be an end?
I beeped goodbye and set off from the only place a military brat could call a home. It is the people here that make it home more than anything else - good friends and coworkers I won't forget. Justin and John surprised me at the elementary school as I cruised out of the neighborhood. There they were on an old CB and TU pacing behind me out of town. That was a cool feeling ala "Long Way Round" and I appreciated their company. I have plenty of time to be a loner later. They dealt with my speed constraints well and we stopped for coffee and chitchat at a McDonalds on Rt1. From here we went out separate ways and I cruised away from the concrete and traffic toward farm fields and forgotten homesteads.
I ran into rain around Rapidan on a dirt road at the same time my fuel light came on. I didn't think I could make Orange so I dumped in a fuel bottle while the clouds of dust from the oncoming honey wagon enveloped me. I pressed through the storm and gassed up then rode through some high winds to my friends Rob and Gabbi. We grilled burgers and chicken then relaxed with Heath's homebrew honey blonde ale and witbier. The night found us in the garage watching a projector play the opening scene from Super Troopers then The Dictator. We wrapped up the night with a dip in the hot tub beside the creek as the dogs licked my dripping fingers. Tonight I'm in a bed with more pillows than I know what to do with. I'll thank my lucky pillows, soon I'll be sleeping in the dirt where I feel at home. For now, the kindness of friends and motorcyclists will carry me through the next few days. I pine for the pines.
Two weeks ago I attended an annual ADVrider.com camp out in the beautiful Monongahela National Forest of West Virginia. The nearest town is 8 mi away and there is no cell coverage or amenities (nature is amenity enough). This was my first real test of the Ruckus offroad and loaded with all my gear. I tried my best to set it up as I plan to for the grand voyage. I was pleasantly surprised with how well it handled and how comfortable it was to ride with the weight. It was a bit more sluggish off the line and climbing steep hills but otherwise cruised on the flats and downhill at around 38 and 45 respectively.
The first challenge was negotiating the bumper-to-bumper traffic leaving Washington DC. This sucks on the highway where it is moving at 15-20mph but on US-50 it took me nearly 2 hours to go 30mi. What a nightmare. Fortunately I had some tunes to listen to and my emotions were buoyed by the fact that in two short weeks I would be leaving the congestion behind. Once I finally made it past Haymarket, my mood improved and muscles relaxed. I cruised out Rt.55 to Crest Hill Rd and down through the beautiful farming community of Hume, VA.
The sun sank lower to the horizon as I continued west at 20-45 mph depending on grade. I worked my way over the Blue Ridge Mountains on Chester Gap and through Front Royal, gateway to Skyline Drive. Traffic was light and most of the people passed when waved by and given a tap of my brake lights. The sun disappeared behind Great North Mountain as I made the turn to Back Rd and eventually climbed up Wolf Gap. This road crests the mountain at a small circle of campsites with a bath house. There were few campers at the sites and I set up in the picnic area. So what...arrest me. The hoot of Barred Owls and the scurry of a nearby racoon lulled me to a comfortable sleep in my bivy sack. I am going back to nature as fast as I can.
I rose at 5:45 and was packed and riding by 6AM. I scooted down Trout Run Rd to Wardensville and paused as the sun rose over the mountains behind me. I'm taking a cue from Scooter In The Sticks by taking shots of the bike from a distance. It helps lend scale to the ultimate landscape behind.
The ride from Wardnesville west was quite scenic and peaceful. I've made the trip countless times on big bikes but never on a scooter at 45. Fortunately it was early and the weather was clear and low 50's. I cruised through Moorefield and Petersburg before approaching 33W through the narrow mountains and along the Potomac River. I was shortly cruising past Seneca Rocks, a world class rock climbing destination and location of WWII training for the Italian front. (pic taken on Saturday)
From Seneca Rocks, I wound my way into the Monongahela up White's Run. The leaves had just started to come out and as the elevation rose, the green disappeared but the early spring flowers began to be visible low along the grown. Some of the most beautiful flowers come out in the first couple weeks of a budding spring.
The view along the back gravel roads is beautiful. The pastoral landscape of mountaintops and cattle grazing is a snapshot to another time. This area probably looks much as it did 100 years ago but I bet the roads are in better shape.
I arrived at camp just in time to put up my tent and hammock. I covered the scooter as the downpour began. Safe and sound under a tarp, I picked up my library copy of Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to Long Term Travel by Rolf Potts and read 100 pages over a cup of Gevalia and a bite of chocolate. My friend Kevin roasts his own coffee and is working on starting a small business on the side. I hope he gets the approval from state because DAMN! This coffee tastes amazing.
I led a ride the following morning to hike the Sinks of Gandy, a geologic anomaly of Karst limestone geology where the river flows into a mountain and emerges a few hundred yards on the other side.
The next adventure was climbing up to the highest point in WV (The Mountain State). The road up ascends into a beautiful forest of Red Spruce trees, native to much cooler climates farther north. This marks the second time I've rucked' up to this spot.
From here I led the ride on down to Rt 33 along the amazing twistes of Brushy Mountain Rd. Always a hoot! I came across a horse laying motionless in the field. I thought it was dead and took a picture. Fortunately when I got gas and returned 20 min later it had stood up and moved to another side of the field. It made me feel better.
I returned to camp and hung out with friends for a while before leading a hike up Laurel River Trail to an airplane wreckage. The year was 1960 and a USAF C-45 flying from Richmond, VA to Elkins, WV encountered wing icing coming over the mountain. The pilot radioed in but the plane never made it to Elkins. The surrounding trees had little damage indicating the plane came down at a direct angle. All three aboard perished but the wreckage remains in one general location up the trail (if you know how to find it). The area is full of wild leeks known as "Ramps" throughout this portion of Appalachia.
The evening light brough much drinking and eating of delicious food. I limited myself as usual but had a swell time with all my buddies. One thing I will miss is this group of folks I meet in the woods on european dirt monsters. They are a good group of folks from all different walks of life.
The following morning I loaded up the Ruckus and set off for home...the LONG way. I took my time. Stopped often and had a blast!
In May 2014 I quit my job to ride a Honda Ruckus over 55'000 mi and counting. Wild camping most nights and cooking most of my own meals, I keep the costs low and the landscape changing.