Friday, August 28, 2009

On Toward Roanoke and the RSBS Annual

Yesterday's highlight was the Hudson Auto Museum in Ypsilanti MI, a really terrific find on my stamping travels. Last night I made it to Grove City, on the south side of Columbus OH. And today I head south into WV for more national park stamping before arriving at the Holiday Inn in Roanoke for the weekend.

This morning I slept in a little, since my first stop would be not too far down the road at Hopewell mounds, near Chillicothe OH, for a national park stamp. The GPS routed me down a great secondary road, OH-104 toward the national park. Very little traffic and some very nice scenery along the way...not to mention a few roller coaster hills thrown in for good measure. I was a little underwhelmed by this park. The mounds at this site are recreations; some actual, surviving mounds are on a non-contiguous piece of land not open to the public. However, there was an excellent display of artifacts - effigy pipes, pottery shards, beads - found at this and other nearby Hopewell mound sites. The area not open to the public is undergoing some archeological studies. Ever since I read the De Soto book, I've paid closer attention to the Indian mound sites that are strung across the south and mid-regions east of the Mississippi River. De Soto's expedition took him through many of these areas and his interaction with the Indians forever changed their culture, even their very existence.

With this stamp in my NPS Passport book, I continued south on US-35 - a great road - through southern OH and into WV. I'd never been through Charleston WV before; it's gilded capitol dome dominates the landscape, poking up above the low buildings of downtown and with green mountains providing the backdrop. I-64 becomes a toll road south of the city, but its twisty nature makes paying the toll well worth it. It took enormous amounts of restraint to keep to the speed limit on the great sweepers and 90-degree curves!

My original plan was to visit the New River Gorge Canyon Rim visitor center, since I've not been to this one yet, but the road to get there would be slow going. So I deleted this waypoint from my GPS and let it recalculate my route straight down I-64. Instead, I opted for the Sandstone VC, even though I'd been there on my last national park tour. But it was right off of I-64 and very easy to get to. I would go there after my next stop in Beckley WV.

I had visited the Coal Heritage administrative offices on Mason Rd in Beckley the last time I was through here, which was on my way to the Cape Fear 1000 rally in April. It was nothing more than an office - not a visitor center - and getting there was a PITA. So this trip I had the Exhibition Coal Mine visitor center in my GPS. The exit off of I-64 sent me east down a busy two-lane road past the obligatory fast food restaurants, strip malls, and gas stations that always seem to congregate near interstate exits. Once past all this, the road wound its way downhill to where I took a left turn onto a small road that dropped me down a steep hill and into a little grotto-like area of small homes.

Just a little further down this road and it opened up a bit and I could see the turn into the driveway for the Exhibition Coal Mine visitor center. It was a large building and behind it I could see the entrance to the "coal mine camp," a reconstruction of a typical coal mine area. I parked the bike and walked inside to a small cash register desk and a gift shop. The stamp was behind the counter and I had to ask for it. I had no interest in paying to take a coal mine tour, so looked around a bit in the visitor center and then headed back out to the bike.

Next stop would be the Sandstone Visitor Center at New River Gorge. As I got off the bike, a nice fellow walking two cute dachsunds stopped and we chatted for a bit. The usual questions, "where are you from? where are you riding to?" He was nice and I was hoping he'd still be there after I got my stamp and used the ladies room, but he was gone. I used this stop and the really great picnic area to take a break, pulling a banana, a Power Bar, and a bottle of Gatorade out of my sidecase. The view was spectacular from where I sat and I took my time savoring the rest stop.

From here I had two choices of routes to Roanoke. I could continue on I-64 to US-220, or I could backtrack on I-64 to I-77 to US-460. I opted for the latter and so got back on the bike and headed back toward Beckley and I-77. As it turned out, 460 was a great road, following the New River for much of the way and passing through small river towns like Narrows and Pearisburg and Pembroke, and passing through miles and miles of Jefferson National Forest. With the changes in altitude, the river gave me some great views of rapids and small "falls" over rocky ledges. Just before it united me with I-81, it passed through Blacksburg VA, home of Virginia Tech.

Once onto I-81, I was only 20 or so miles away from the RSBS Annual event at the Holiday Inn on the south side of Roanoke. I let the GPS route me, which was a huge mistake! I wandered endlessly on busy local streets with its accompanying traffic and frequent intersections and red lights. Note to self: route myself back to I-81 on US-220/I-581!

Finally, one last left turn and into the Holiday Inn parking lot where I could see many motorcycles already parked and a few ladies outside gabbing and hugging new arrivals. I'm here!

Tomorrow: Perhaps a short stamping run along the Blue Ridge Parkway and some sister-time visiting with other Rumble Sisters.

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