|Flat Ground a Campsite Makes ...|
They say that all trips begin with that first mile. Not always so. In my case I had to travel a little over 160 km and cross into another country before a measured mile would come into effect. On July 7 I left Toronto early enough to miss the mayhem that is known as the morning rush hour. The QEW to Buffalo is probably one of the busiest arteries between Canada and the States. Add to that the morning rush hours of Hamilton, St. Catherine's and during the tourist season all the mayhem that goes with Niagara Falls. So you can see my early-morning departure avoids most of the usual carnage. At the border, a US customs agent shook his head when I told him where I was immediately going and then of my general plans for the next three months. Rather than a cavity search, he returned my passport and wished me well. My first stop in the United States of America, is always to see one of the great goodwill ambassadors America has to offer. But Marci wasn't home, so I had coffee with Chuck.
Normally when I head south to Georgia, I run Highway 219 from the Buffalo area to Johnsonburg Pennsylvania then head east to St. Mary's and then take a plethora of back-roads down to Interstate 80. ... This year I messed up. For some reason while still in New York, I took the ramp for Interstate 86 ... Only 75 miles short of where I wanted to turn. I use the interstate system for short hops to get to the roads I want to ride, but as soon as I committed to the ramp and commenced up toward the interstate I realized my mistake. Fortunately I was not in a car, so frustration and a temper tantrum are not part of this tale. I did however use a colorful metaphor, and then merrily traveled along to the next exit and figured on exploring other roads in the general direction of my intended general direction.
I discovered Olean, N.Y. and all the road construction that little town had to offer. Eventually I wound up on Pa. Rte. 46. Now 46 can be pretty curvy. No monster hills or anything like that but, the grades going into some of the curves keep your attention focused and the enjoyment levels high. However, this was the first time pulling the trailer with the Harley on roads through terrain that was of some challenge. The bike seemed to be acting twitchy. On one curve the bike actually felt she was sliding quite a distance. I slowed up. The road had been recently resurfaced but looked fine ... and just a little strange at the same time. Nice smooth surface with a fresh yellow dividing line, but the asphalt seemed laden excessively with gravel. Even at slower speeds the bikes handling seemed sluggish. I pulled under some trees at a roadside stop for lunch. I checked the bike and the trailer and everything was fine. I walked out onto the road surface and instantly realized what was happening. I had been riding on a surface of crushed gravel on a bed of tar. The midday heat had softened the tar and even walking on the surface I could feel the gravel move. But even standing there the road still looked like real asphalt.
By dinnertime the backroads and a short hop on I 99 and then more secondary highways I was just south of Winchester, Virginia. There is a campground I stay at, has hot showers and only costs 10 bucks a night .... The next morning I was off to Front Royal and the entrance to Shenandoah National Park and the Skyline Drive. The road leading to the park entrance turnoff is divided with a wide grass partition. There were two old guys on Harleys in front of me waiting to cross the oncoming traffic lanes. The one in front of me just up and fell over. As his partner and I helped him back to a more dignified position of uprightness for both man and machine, they thanked me for helping and a thoroughly embarrassed biker offered to teach us this fall down trick he had spent a lifetime perfecting. I stopped for a photo and they carried on up the Skyway ...
The ride down Skyline Drive is never a disappointment. The sun was shining, the temperature was warm and a big old fat black bear sauntered across the road in front of me! A few miles further down and another bear was gawking at me from behind the stone roadside barrier. Only his head was showing and at the moment he realized I was looking directly at him, if bear's have surprised expressions for "ooops, I've been caught" this one looked most animated before ducking behind the wall. I crossed paths with the two Harley riders several times. I told them of the bears, and they one upped me with a tale of a squirrel they had seen. At Waynesboro as I was about to gas up at a Sunoco station, the two Harley riders returned the favor I did them earlier in the day by pointing out a tanker had just made a delivery and that there would be all kinds of sediment in the fuel for a while. I thank them and we went elsewhere for gas. They were looking for a place for lunch, so I told them about good restaurant with homemade burgers. I then headed up the Blue Ridge Parkway with a full tank of gas and a cooler filled with things for lunch. Now all I needed was a place with a view but the Blue Ridge is another story ... Bon Appétit!