Those of us doing the Cape Fear Rally received our rally packets by email last night, which was a different procedure than last year. This meant I not only needed to be sure I had internet connection last night to download it, but that I needed to find a place to get it printed. Fortunately there was a Staples in Beckley and it took only a few minutes and $1.80 to get the 20 page document printed. Remember way back, when copies cost $1.00 a page?
So, rally packet safely tucked in a large ziploc bag and locked in my topcase, I got back on the bike and let the GPS lead me to the Coal Heritage administrative offices somewhere in Beckley. I was directed back out onto highway 16, backtracking for about a mile, when my GPS "Jill" told me to turn left. I looked left. I saw a road that pitched upward at about a 45-degree angle, did a 90-degree right, continued at that death-defying pitch for 100 yards or so, then did a 90-degree left and disappeared behind houses that were perched precariously on the side of this mountain. Oh, Lord! Please let me negotiate this safely and in one piece!
Once I got to the top of this mountain the land plateau'd and the road was relatively flat again. Within 1/4 mile "Jill" told me to turn left, but I could see no road there, only what looked like driveways to the houses that lined the street. I slowed way down and eventually saw the green "Mason Street" road sign on the left, and a tiny, one-car wide street that ducked off to the left and up a hill. I turned in, praying no car wanted to fight me for the small space, and then saw a parking lot behind a small yellow house. The GPS was telling me that I'd arrived, so I turned into the driveway which took me around to a small totally off-camber parking lot behind the building. It reminded me very much of that really ugly pull-out in Tucson where two of us dropped our bikes for lack of level ground. The lot was nearly empty, so I pulled across two parking spots, the only angle that would permit me to safely put my sidestand down. Gawd, but I really hate this being short thing!
I walked around to the front of the house, went inside to find....desks but no people. Hello??? Is any one here??? Eventually a woman came partway down the stairs and peered and me over the banister. I take it they don't get many visitors here and I even wondered if the Noodles List was correct about there being a stamp here. But there was, and the very pleasant woman asked me all the usual questions about where I was coming from and where I was going. With that stamp in the book, I got back on the bike and let the GPS take me out of here and onto a road that would get me to the Sandstone Visitor Center off of I-64.
"Jill" told me to turn right out of the parking lot and continue to the end of Mason Street and then take a right. This street was even smaller than Mason if that is at all possible. It was just short of being an alley. But I was in no position to question the routing since I had no idea where I was, and the roads here seem to have no orderly rhyme or reason. So I turned right. A little ways down this road and it looked like it disappeared. Next thing I knew, my BMW and I were nearly standing on our heads as we went down a hill that was so steep that it had me sliding forward onto my gas tank, something that never happens on the BMW. The FZ...yes...but never the BMW. Oh Sh*t! To make matters worse, I could see that there was no break at the stop sign at the end of this hill. You know...that little section of road that flattens out at the top or bottom of normal hills. No. This hill ended abruptly against the stop sign. Then to make matters much worse, the GPS was telling me to turn left, but I can see the one-way sign telling me that I can only turn right.
Now, I've just ridden down possibly the steepest hill I've ever been on in a car or on a motorcycle and since I couldn't turn left, I had to turn right, guess what? I must now ride back up to the top of that hill, where I encounter a red light and...again....one without that little level area to come to a stop on. So now I'm balancing the bike on one toe, trying to keep from sliding back on the seat, and holding the bike on the hill with my right foot on the brake pedal. And the light took FOREVER to turn green. With absolutely no traffic coming on the cross street. Maddening!
The GPS was going hysterical trying to recalculate, since the one-way street threw "Jill" for a loop. Finally, I found a level parking lot in front of a CVS drugstore, where I could put the bike in neutral, put the sidestand down, and browse the GPS map to figure out where the heck I was and how the heck to get to I-64. I ended up going back to Staples and the state highway, which took me to I-64.
Now it was a lovely ride to the Sandstone Visitor Center where an extremely cheerful and enthusiastic park ranger told me all about the area, this new visitor center, and anything else I wanted to know. The floor of the visitor center was unbelievable and it prompted me to walk back out to the bike to get my camera. You be the judge.
I had two more stops to make this day, before arriving in Wilmington NC. The first was Forsyth Motorsports near Winston-Salem. An MTF member is parts manager here and I wanted to meet him in person. He and his son are both avid riders, and I know his son from the FZ6 forum. We had a great visit, and they called ahead to the Yamaha dealer in Wilmington NC and talked to the service manager there. I had new tires put on the BMW before leaving for this trip, but it felt like the front tire was not balanced properly. The Wilmington shop agreed to take a look at it for me the next morning.
It was now 3:30 PM and I knew I needed to get going if I was going to make it to Guilford Court House National Park for my very last stamp, the one I needed to get my 25th state and finish my 3rd national park tour. My first stamp of this 3rd tour is dated April 17, 2008, so today is the very last day. If I don't get this stamp, I will lose 3 states and will never get caught up again.
Guilford is on the north side of Greensboro and there was just no good way to get there, and lots of traffic and red lights along the way. I arrived at 4:30, just 30 minutes before the visitor center closes. Talk about cutting it close! Finally! It's done! Stamp is in the book, the 3rd NPT is complete!
I'm still 160 miles away from Wilmington, so just headed the nose of the bike in that direction and pushed. I arrived at the hotel around 8:00 PM, got checked in, unpacked, changed out of riding gear, and walked to a seafood restaurant nearby. I will now have this evening and tomorrow morning to start working on my mini-rally route. It's not much time, but I'm hoping I can put a halfway decent route together that won't humiliate myself.
Tomorrow: A quick trip to the Yamaha dealer to get the front tire dealt with, then back to the hotel for some serious routing.