July 21, 2012 – Day One – Skyline Drive Ride

As predicted, Mother Nature threw us some more clouds, rain, and cool weather; did that deter Rachel and I: I say No!!  It did make us hesitate a little, mainly on my part, because I didn’t want a ride in inclement weather to affect Rachel’s excitement in riding motorcycles, so we talked and she assured me that it wouldn’t.  So we checked the weather and recalculated a start time.  Waiting only about an hour or so, we packed, showered, changed, and we were off to Frederick.

It rained on us a little, but it wasn’t bad, and the temperature wasn’t a problem.  We arrived in Frederick in about 20 minutes and stopped off at Harley Davison of Frederick.  I wanted to buy Rachel a rain suit, but she wasn’t having it.  She is very stubborn when it comes to buying gear for herself but is willing to buy shirts in a heartbeat.  We wandered around the store, and texted a couple of friends to see if they were going to come, but the rain had changed the plan for them.  We made our purchase but had to get a meal before heading south, so we stopped off at the Double T diner.

Just after getting into the diner, the clouds opened up and dropped a lot of rain, but we sat and ate, talked about people at the restaurant, and discussed our travel plans.  We waited until the rain had come to a reasonable down pour then I got Rachel into the rain gear, and I put on the chaps and we were set.  Oh, we got her a bandana to cover her face from the rain.

It rained for the first 30 or so minutes until we were south of Washington, then it stopped.  The clouds remained ominous yet kept quiet.  We traveled along back roads and small quaint towns that looked as though time had stopped for them many decades ago.  Rachel, being the navigator, made sure we stayed on course; and just before getting on the Skyline Drive, we stopped at the visitor’s center.  We picked up a couple pamphlets pertaining to surrounding attractions and learned a little more about Skyline Drive.  There is a toll to get on the road; it is $10.00 for motorcycles ($15.00 for cars) which lasts for seven days: you can get on and off of Skyline to visit neighboring towns and cities.  So now we are on Skyline Drive, which has an average speed limit of 35 MPH, and the resort was at mile 41.5.  It would take us an hour, and in that hour we drove through some of the thickest fog I’ve ever seen.  Our resort was positioned about 3680ft above sea level, so I knew we were going to drive through clouds, but holy hell.  I didn’t think that much.  I used a leading car to help identify turns in the road.  I turned on my hazard signals through very dense fog, but we stopped at points for photo ops, if it wasn’t completely fogged out.

Just as predicted, our resort appeared on the right, and we took the turn.  You couldn’t tell what you were in for just from the outside.  City dwellers are used to viewing the gleaming steel and concrete construction of hotels and the reflections of the sun from the windows, but this isn’t what I had in mind.  I wanted a place that was different and more naturalistic…..Rachel loves nature.

We parked, stripped off the rain gear and walked to the office to check in. We got our cabin key and its location.  Rachel admitted to finally having rider’s fatigue, so she walked to the cabin while I repositioned the bike closer.  I parked, pulled out the bag given to us by HD when we purchased the new bike, locked everything up, and walked to the cabin.  I unlocked the door and walked in with Rachel immediately behind me.

“Where is the TV?” was the second sentence out of her mouth, the first being “Oh.”  I wanted to get away from technology and reintroduce her back to nature, as she keeps saying that I have deprived her.  This room has no television, no central air….well no AC of any kind, except for the windows.  We had a chill from the ride and we were looking for more heat than cooling.  There was a heat register on the far wall and I turned it on to the midpoint. Well I can’t think of a better way to warm up then a happy jaunt between the sheets, but that isn’t for this blog.  We laid about thinking what to do next.

Rachel’s addiction to the television prompted her to suggest that we go into the city to see the new batman movie, but I wasn’t as willing especially after driving through that mess, not to mention the temperature dropping because the sun is setting.  Luckily, I was able to provide other entertainment.  There is a great restaurant just a couple of doors down from our room.  We got cleaned up (she had to get rid of the helmet hair) and off we went.  It was about 9pm now and the dining hall closed at 10pm.

We walked in, asked for a table for two and were seated in a comfortable spot with a spectacular view.  This place didn’t have a huge menu, but it had a little bit of everything.  I got the beef and Rachel got the fish, and as we were waiting for our dinner, we could see the sun setting–simply beautiful.

The meal arrived and the scene was like one of those places you see on a reality TV show.  Perfect setting, and the chef was amazing.  It is funny to watch two skinny people inhaling their meal because it was so good.  We ate, and then we had dessert. I had the apple pie and Rachel had the blackberry cobbler. I think I made it half way through before I was stuffed.  Rachel placed a sizeable dent in her treat.

We paid for the meal and wanted to see what else was available.   There was live entertainment: a singer was playing songs from various artists all with a guitar.  We listened for a few minutes while walking around the gift shop, then headed back to the room.  We stopped at the office to pick up a book for Rachel to read.  I knew I wouldn’t make it through two pages in a book.  As we walked back to the room, nature has a way of appearing in the night and Rachel got a little freaked: some small animal crossed our path on his way back into the darkness.

Back in the room, we adjusted the windows and vents and heater to provide a little heat while circulating the air.  The sandman was beating me down, and before I knew it, I was asleep; I crashed into that wall and there was no coming back until morning.

July 22, 2012 – Day Two – Skyline Drive Ride

At 7 am, we both woke up and lazily laid around until about 9am just talking. We knew we had a checkout time of 11am, and I didn’t want to waste too much time not doing anything.  The sun was peeking through the trees, you could hear the birds talking and absolutely nothing else–an excellent morning.  No cars starting, no people screaming out the window, no engine revving, just quiet.  So we each got up, showered and dressed and we packed our bag.  On a side note, the bag that comes with my bike is phenomenal.  It held everything we needed, changes of clothing, toiletries, my laptop (had to blog), and a small assortment of electronic items.  The weather was playing tricks as the clouds hid the sun from view.  It would give the appearance that the weather was below average for this time of year. We loaded the bike and headed back north.  We wanted to stop off at Luray Caverns to check it out.  So headed north on Skyline Drive and took the exit for Rt 211W.  Another 10 miles down the road and we were there.  Tickets were a little pricey ($24 for an adult), but we were on a mini-vacation so screw it.  We took the tour around the caverns and saw some really nice stalagmites and stalactites.  Hell I actually learned the difference.  We got some really nice pictures.

After the tour, we ate lunch and took a tour around the Car & Carriage museum. There are some really cool vintage vehicles, dating back to the 18th century. Both tours were self-paced and self-guided within defined boundaries, but very enjoyable.  After the tours we knew we had to head back home: the kids would be getting restless at this point, and we didn’t want them to burn anything down.  So we had two options:  take 81N back home, which would be quicker, or return to Skyline Drive (which is still paid for) and ride it again, this time with far better weather.  Rachel made the decision to return to Skyline Drive, which I was very happy to do.  Back on the bike and in route, we quickly returned to Skyline Drive and turned towards the north.  The weather was absolutely perfect: sunny without a lot of heat.  It was in the low 80s, and the sun would break through the trees quiet frequently.  Since we were doing about 35-40MPH it took about 45 minutes to make it back to Front Royal.

We stopped for gas, just wanted to fill up again before we started, and we headed down 340 north.  Once again, traffic and weather played in our favor.  We rolled along at the speed limit (maybe a little above) listening to the music and talking at times.  Oh before I get to far ahead, Route 211 toward Luray was a very cool stretch of road.  It provided some extreme curves at a higher rate of speed.  Rachel did an excellent job matching my lean through the ride.  Okay, so we moved from VA to WV then got hung up in traffic from what looked like a water rescue in progress.  There was enough emergency equipment on this little two lane road that blocked up one side.  We waited so long that I actually shut off the engine for a while to allow it time to cool.  I was tempted to put down the jiffy stand and stand up, but just as I was about to have Rachel hop off, the traffic started to move, so once again we were off.

Thankfully, traffic opened up quickly, and even though I deviated and took some side roads during the ride home, we found ourselves quickly on route 270 headed south.  Close to home.  I fell in love with my bike very quickly during and after the initial purchase; however, during our ride down 270, holding steady at about 60-65MPH, the traffic came to an abrupt stop.  No warning, no hint that speeds are going to change.  I had to squeeze hard on both the rear and front brakes.  Rachel’s only reaction was to hold herself back.  Within a few hundred feet, the bike was stopped, no skidding, fishtailing, or loss of control.  The ABS system on this bike really saved us.  We stopped about a foot short of the car ahead of us, and the truck that was following us–mind you he was following too close and I couldn’t sway him to back up–stopped off to our left over the shoulder.  Quickly shifting down to first gear, we were moving again, before I could even put my feet down.  Traffic sped off as if nothing had changed.  I praised Rachel for remaining calm throughout and officially deemed her a biker chick.  Following that, I was able to move out from the other vehicles to a new lane and we made it back home without another incident.  Rachel didn’t comment about any rider’s fatigue today, but she is ready for her boots to break-in.  She walks around like she is wearing sky boots, a treat to see. We agreed that this type of trip will NOT be the last one and we will try to schedule as often as we can.  BB is extremely dirty and needs a full bath, but since I have to take my Advanced Rider Course tomorrow, and it is supposed to rain, I don’t want to go through the ordeal of cleaning her just to get her dirty the next day.  If I learn anything new at the course, I will be sure to blog it.