After being on the road for a while, we stopped in Charlottesville at a motorcycle shop called Jarman’s Bike Shop to replace Mark’s headlight (the high beam had burned out the night before). The guys there were helpful and friendly and we even picked up a potential future contact in one man’s brother.
After Charlottesville, we rode on until we reached the end of Sky Line Drive, and the Blue Ridge Parkway. When we stopped to fuel up (we were warned that fueling stations were few and far between on the Parkway) Mark noticed that his right side saddle bag had shifted and come to rest on his muffler – melting the underside of the bag fairly severely, but not through.
We removed the seat and the bags, re-threaded the leather to cinch them up off of the muffler, and created an improvised wheel guard from a piece of string.
Once the roadside repairs were done, we left the little country store/gas station (which was obviously only in existence because of the Parkway) and jumped on the Blue Ridge.
Just a few minutes on the Parkway and I knew I was in for a treat. The Blue Ridge Parkway twists and turns – dips and dives as it cuts in and around and in some places through the Blue Ridge Mountains. Around every bend and on every straightaway (the few spots that could be called that) were vistas that were nothing shy of breathtaking. Clear skies and virtually no traffic on the Parkway aside from ourselves made for an immensely pleasurable ride.
We reached one of the first pull-offs and met an immensely nice fellow who offered to take a picture for us, and hobbled out of his pick-up with cast and crutches, took our picture, and chatted with us a while.
Later that night, things got a bit frustrating when we realized how far we had yet to go if we were still going to make it to Mom and Dad Edmundsons in even close to enough time to spend 2 days doing some needed bike maintenance and shopping and still make it to Jazz Fest.
So I did something kinda stupid.
We had stopped for a little while because a fog had rolled in and had slowed us all the more. We were at a virtual crawl. The real problem was that we didn’t have the light we needed. We found that if we rode side by side with both sets of high beams blazing we could see well enough, but had to ride real slow because we were so close to each other that one false move would mean a certain wreck. I don’t recall which one of us came up with the idea, but we decided to follow a car or truck after it passed us. Their lights plus our own, made for decent visibility and we could follow in a staggard formation and make good time. The problem? When a car is out on those lonely stretches of the Parkway with a thick fog and not only one but two bikers pull out of nowhere and proceed to follow – no matter the pace- the driver tends to get nervous and they try speeding up to loose the bikers. However, there’s very few people out there who could manage the Parkway’s twists and turns in a car at the rate of speed which would be needed to loose a motorcycle. So we followed. And we made decent time for quite a while.
The experience taught me a couple things: 1) I could do it again if I had to. It was stupid to do in the first place and I know it, but I also know the ability is there should I need to call on it again. 2) It taught me that nearly anything can become akin to meditation. As I went speeding down those crazy roads, in the dark and with a decent fog the rest of the world faded away for me. Sounds kind of obvious, I know – “No shit the rest of the world faded – it was pitch black out and there was a heavy fog!?” – but that’s not what I am talking about. There were no errant thoughts that didn’t belong – nothing except me, the bike, and those tail lights ahead in the mist – and we were all the same thing. One entity careening through the night.
That is, at least, until I lost my nerve. I would be lying if I said that following a speeding car wasn’t nerve wracking. I was worried from the first minute. There was too much that could readily go wrong. So when I thought that we had traveled a sufficient distance I slowed and let the car pull away into the night.
We rode a short distance longer (roughly ten miles) to reach the campground at Rocky Knob. We had checked when we entered the Parkway as to campgrounds. We were told that it might be a problem as the Parkway wasn’t crowded enough this early in the season to fill the campsites, so some of them might not have opened yet.
When we arrived at Rocky Knob, we were greeted with a barricade with a “Closed” sign across the front. We lucked out however as we weren’t in a car or a truck (which is what the barricade was designed to keep out). So, we road around the end of the barrier, found a site that suited us (out of sight from the entrance), set up camp quickly and quietly, and went to bed.