Sunday, June 20, 2010

Another Roosevelt Connection and some Civil & Revolutionary War Sites

Yesterday I visited Roosevelt's home in Hyde Park. This morning I visited a legacy of Roosevelt's New Deal program: Catoctin Mountain Park.

Much of this day will be spent on secondary roads zig-zagging my way to some national parks in MD and WV. My route took me off the interstate and onto local roads in PA, heading toward the little town of Waynesboro then south into MD. I made the first turn but missed the second one, so pulled over into a parking lot to see what I'd done wrong. Not a routing tragedy, but it did add a few miles to my route. Once I got onto Route 77 east of Smithsburg I began to pass groups of motorcycles coming the other way. It didn't take but a 1/2 mile or so to understand why. Route 77 had some serious elevation changes by way of a few hairpin turns. The signs at the start of the road warned RV'ers and truckers greater than 25' to turn around. So I had a great ride up the mountain into the park and then, a few miles later, to the national park visitor center. This park was densely wooded with mature stands of pine and hardwood trees and I felt like I'd been transported to a different part of the country, and I guess, in a way, I was transported.

My next stop was Antietam National Battlefield, not too far south of Catoctin Mountain. I was at Antietam a few years ago with friend Mike. He and I did the full tour, listening to the ranger give a talk in the 2nd floor glass-enclosed viewing room first, then riding the full park route and stopping at each of the marked locations to take photos and read the plaques. Today, was a quick visit with relatively quick stamp, browse the bookstore, then leave for my next destination. When I was here before, we came up to the park from the south, but this time I'd be approaching it from the north and, of course, by the time I came around the curve and down the slight hill, the turn came up too quickly to brake safely. I had to ride into the town of Sharpsburg before I could safely do a U-turn. This just hasn't been my day for navigating! As I parked the bike, I saw a small group of reenactment soldiers mustering in preparation for a demonstration somewhere in the park.

From here it's a short ride down to Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. The route took me through the really, really neat and cool town of Shepherdstown then continued onto a stretch of the roadway that I remembered as being simply awesome! The road was so old, that centuries of "traffic" - first horse, cart and oxen, now automobile - had packed the roadbed down until it was well below the surrounding countryside, which now looms above the roadway like an earthen canyon. There are roads like this in the cotswolds of England, and it very much reminded me of trips I've made to that country. However....I missed the fork in the road that would have taken me on this stretch, so instead I found myself heading slightly off-course. But the road would eventually take me to within 2 miles of where I needed to be.

I toyed with the idea of taking the tour bus down into the old town area this time, since Mike and I didn't do it last time. But when I arrived at the visitor center it was blazingly hot! I walked up to the visitor center, got my stamp and even started heading for the tour bus that was sitting right there, waiting for its next load. I thought about it a few minutes, going to the restroom and getting a drink from the water fountain to delay the decision. But in the end, I skipped the tour...this time. Doing the tour calls for wearing comfortable clothes and shoes, and black armoured textile riding pants and motorcycle boots just don't seem to fit that bill for me.

I worked my way back to I-81 and continued southwest for 150-170 miles, where I got off in Buchanan VA to ride 43 over to the Blue Ridge Parkway. interesting as 77 was, getting to Catoctin, 43 was even more so. It twisted its way up out of Buchanan for 4.7 miles to get to the Blue Ridge Parkway and the signs forbidding any trucks or RV's on this stretch are serious about it. It was narrow and tight and steep and twisting. In one of those weird paradoxes of instantaneity and eternity, I then found myself at the entrance ramp to the Blue Ridge.

Just as I got to the top of the ramp and the stop sign, a dark red Gold Wing swept past me, gracefully leaning into the next curve. I followed him in hot pursuit, not quite able to keep up with him, and he pulled into the visitor center a few miles down the parkway, moments before I did. I stamped my passport book and then retraced my route on the parkway, but continued a few more miles south to US 220, which took me back to the interstate.

Before leaving on this trip, I had been in touch with a friend who lives in Marion VA. I thought I'd be stopping for the night near where she lives, and had agreed to give her a call once off the Blue Ridge Parkway, to set a meeting time. I stopped for gas on 220 and gave her a call. I had finished up the park stamps portion of the day's ride much later than I had hoped, and the heat was sapping what little resolve I had left in me to make it as far as Abingdon for the night. I told her this. I also needed to do laundry. Even the clothing items I'd been rinsing out each night were starting to take on a permanent funky aroma. I felt bad doing it, but I had to beg off for the night, partly because I didn't know where I would be stopping for the night, and partly because I really needed to get caught up with personal business like the laundry.

So back up onto the interstate, I promised myself that I would stop early for a change. My stops for the night while on this trip have all been no earlier than 7:00, 8:00, even 9:00 PM at night. As I rolled along, I looked up some potential options on the GPS. Wytheville was a good possibility, and I'd arrive there around 5:30 or so.

Somewhere along the way, two motorcycles appeared in my rearview mirrors and within a couple of miles they overtook me and waved as they passed by. I looked over and saw two fellows, one on a BMW R1200R just like mine, the other one on a Yamaha, a model I did not recognize. It sort of looked like an FJR but had boxy adventure-rider style sidecases and the fairing, while full fairing, was not like an FJR's. Both had Canada license plates. Soon, however, traffic began to back up and I caught up with them and fell in behind them. As traffic opened up again, we stayed together as a group for another 40 or 50 miles, until they peeled off onto I-77 south. I continued on to I-77 north and the first exit, which took me to a Hampton Inn. With a Subway at a TA Travel Center across the street. And a guest laundry room at the hotel.

This day was filled with bad decisions and navigating mistakes, but this choice of hotel - while on the fly - was the first really excellent decision I'd made all day! Stuff off the bike and brought to the room, dirty clothes assembled, I gathered the clothes and my wallet and headed downstairs to the laundry room to get a load of wash started before walking across the street to buy a Subway sandwich to bring back to the hotel.

Here I sat in the very comfortable breakfast/lounge area and ate my sandwich while watching the U.S. Open golf tournament on the big screen TV. Another couple, a little older than me, were there as well, splitting their attention between the golf game and the grandkids using the indoor pool which adjoined the breakfast area. Now here's an interesting observation: Ever notice how men -much more than women - will talk to the TV while watching a sporting event? I find this really strange. Even stranger...I've always wondered if men do this even if they're alone in the room, without an "audience" so-to-speak. Well, I think I have my answer. While watching the game, the husband continuously talked to the TV and, more specifically, to the golf ball itself. However, the wife would once in a while leave the room to watch the kids for a bit. When she did, his odd behavior would stop. He'd stop telling the golf balls what to do. When she returned to the room, he'd resume his golf ball harassment. Now isn't that really odd???

Full tummy, clean clothes, and I was one happy lady!

Tomorrow: I'm starting to smell the hay in the barn, so will push towards home.

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