It's a pleasant morning in Virginia, but I did not sleep too well because I found my bed fairly uncomfortable. Mattress springs that poke you whenever you turn over will do that. Everyone wakes and gathers downstairs in what has become our main sitting-area, one of the kitchens. (The alternate kitchen will go completely unused during the course of our stay, except we use the coffeepot there.) This morning, we'll go get my repaired bike, which I am assuming is finished by now, but I haven't been able to call to find out for sure. No one's cel phone works in the cabin, we're far enough outside of civilization that none of the carriers have any coverage, and there's no way to use the land line that comes with the cabin without paying exorbitant rates. We finally get our collective asses in gear by mid-morning; Wild1 and Thumper will once again take me to the Honda place and BamBam saddles up and rides with us if I'm remembering correctly. T saddles up to go out for a little riding. We'll all hook up again later.
Back down to Harrisonburg and Blue Ridge Power Sports. The work is indeed complete; in fact, they finished yesterday but I missed the phone call telling me I could come pick it up because of the non-working cel phone issue. The fuel pump problem? Turns out not to be fuel-related at all. It was a bad electrical connection. The screw on the negative battery terminal had vibrated completely loose, apparently not an unusual occurrence after three thousand or so miles. No juice from the battery = engine doesn't run. This explains a lot. Since the negative lead wasn't really attached, just sort of flopping around in the neighborhood of the terminal, there was a connection most of the time. At higher speeds, there were more vibrations and the lead would jiggle on and off more, thus the engine cutting in and out got worse. Lower temps meant the brass had expanded less, so more likelihood of staying connected, which is why it ran fine early in the day and after sundown. The upshot? No repair required besides tightening one single damn screw. Boy howdy, I wish I had known this earlier! (When Wild called up Tee, another Amazon sister in NYC, and we told her this, she said, ya dumbass! Don't you know the connections are the first thing you check after you travel long distance? I laughed and told her if it happens a second time, THEN she can call me a dumbass. I'm giving myself a pass on this first occurrence, and chalking it up to a learning experience. LOL.) I'm damn happy not to have to pay for any expensive parts. The dealership, however, has the nerve to charge me forty-nine dollars to tighten the stoopid screw. I rationalize this as a minimum labor charge for diagnosing and correcting the problem, but I still think it's excessive. However, they've also done the 20,000 mile service - oil change, spark plugs, air cleaner, yadda yadda - for so much cheaper than what I'd pay at home, I feel like I've come out ahead in the long run. It feels good to have a well-running machine once more. I saddle up and we head back to the cabin.
For the first time, these Amazon sisters get to see me ride. This makes me unexpectedly nervous. I want them to think I'm a decent rider. I suppose that the mere fact that I have come out from California would be evidence enough, but I concentrate on taking a good line on the curves, head and eyes, keeping my speed, good lean. I am very, very, VERY nervous about the dirt road and gravel driveway to the cabin. I have a horror of gravel. A passionate horror of gravel. (My go-down last October was in gravel. Well, actually it was a dumbass move in gravel that led to my go-down. This was back when I was a brand-new newbie rider, one month fresh from my MSF course, and tried to do something that's fine in a car but not so good on a motorcycle - I tried to pull off a paved road onto a gravel/loose dirt shoulder. I slowed, but not even remotely close to enough. Carrying too much speed, I transitioned off the pavement, the front wheel grabbed and stuck in the loose stuff, turned full lock right, and suddenly I was taking a short quick flying lesson. Anyway.) We reach the turnoff to the cabin, and I steel my jangling nerves, telling myself to take the road carefully and I will be just fine, just fine. Shifting all the way down to first gear, I start poking my way down the dirt road. It goes like this: the road starts out as packed dirt with loose gravel on top, not too much, and dips downhill but not too steeply. I repeat to myself, no front brake no front brake no front brake, and feather the rear brake to keep my speed down to that of an anemic snail. Curve to the right, just a hint of ruts that collect a bit of extra gravel, I stay out of the tracks as best I can, though they are a little hard to spot with the dappled sunshine coming through the trees. Less and less steep through here. A curve to the left, and the road practically levels out, even rises just a tad, and then curves again to the right. Immediately there's a narrow little bridge that crosses a rivulet, I momentarily panic for no good reason, but remember not to hit my front brake. Another tenth of a mile down there's an intersection with another NP access road. Left turn in slightly heavier gravel. Maybe fifty feet down, the driveway is on the right. It's all gravel, no dirt, and has a nasty little dip where it meets the road, enough to panic a gravel novice like me anyway. Swing wide to cross the dip at ninety degrees, up a little bitty hill, take the left arm of the Y intersection, and now a straight shot down a hundred yards of firm gravel to get to the cabin, tires feeling just the slightest bit mushy and loose. There. I did it. I did it! I park and pull off my helmet, breathing a sigh of relief, and think, that was not NEARLY as bad as I had built up in my mind.
We hang around the cabin that afternoon, waiting for T to come back. Maybe the five of us will head out and do something once she gets back. T doesn't show, and as the afternoon wears on, we start to get a little worried. The conversation goes along these lines: When did we all leave in the morning? Ten or ten-thirty or something like that? Well, what exactly did she say? She said she was going out for a ride and would be back in a little while. Oh, c'mon, she's fine, she's just out having fun. Would she get lost? Nah. Should we call her? It would be long-distance from here, cost a bunch. Besides, she can't answer it if she's riding. What time did she say she'd be back? She didn't say anything. Should we go look for her? How? Does anyone know what direction she was heading? Oh, quit yer worryin'. She's a grown woman. Does she have the number for the cabin here? You know, to call us if she broke down or anything? I dunno.
Enough time passes (several hours) to where we pretty much agree that yes, we're officially worried about T, she hasn't returned and we haven't heard from her. We decide to take a jaunt down the road, just in case she's broken down on the shoulder or something. We'll also try calling once we get down in cel phone range again. Thump will stay at the cabin in case she shows up there, Wild and BamBam will take the car, and I'll take my bike. I'm thinking that if we get all the way down to Lee Hwy and want to keep searching, that way one vehicle can go north and the other south (but mostly it's an excuse to ride a little.) We don't get nearly that far. Once we get down to Luray and Wild's phone wakes up, she picks up a voicemail that T left in the late morning, saying something to the effect of she's going to be out riding for a while & not to worry about her. Ah, well. We call off the search party and head back to the cabin. She's gotta be coming home soon, there's only an hour or two of light left. I successfully navigate the dirt and gravel again. A mental thing, it seems a whole bunch worse coming down than going up. Now that I'm in for the night, I can sit and drink beers and watch a little TV (Olympics, mostly, on satellite dish.) We keep looking out the window, watching the driveway for T to put in an appearance. Occasionally, we hear something that sounds like a motorcycle. It's probably a loud truck on the main road (which is not that far away), or an airplane, or something, but we never see a bike coming up the drive.
Suddenly, we hear loud knocking on the front door. Everyone looks at each other like, the hell?? (I think it must be the owners, who live in the first cabin on the property. They know how big the place is & that they would need to knock that loud. But I hadn't seen them walking up, and would have, since I was sitting right next to the window. So I'm thinking, the hell??, also.) Thump and BamBam go to see what's up. Joyful noises at the entryway! "OH MY GOD! What are you doing here? I didn't know you were coming! When did you get here?" etc etc. Thumper comes back in to the living room, saying "Guess who's here?" followed by a beaming Raven. Everyone's talking at once, wanting to know how Raven has managed to show up unannounced to the Gather, and when exactly did she decide to come, and how was her trip, and a million other things. Happy and excited chatter. Raven says she pretty much decided last-minute to come up from Florida, at Dan's urging, and it took her three days to travel, she stayed with Crazyhorse in NC one night, and she had a great trip and didn't get too much rain.
We wander outside ... new arrival means new bike to check out ... and we figure out how Raven got to the front door without being spotted. She'd taken the right leg of the Y intersection of the driveway, which loops around the back of the property, behind the third cabin and a screen of trees. So yeah, we'd definitely heard a motorcycle at one point while watching for T, but had dismissed it for lack of visual evidence. Raven tells us that she waited outside for a while, expecting us to come outside and check out who had just pulled up, until she gave up on our cluelessness and that's when she went up and knocked on the door. Hee. It's somewhere around when we're hanging out in the front yard that T comes rumbling up the driveway, and we're all happy to see her and all "where have you been?" She was surprised to hear that we were worried about her, not figuring that we wouldn't get her message until five in the afternoon. Her mission for the day had actually been to find Raven and ride in with her, but they'd missed each other on the road too. Not a problem, Raven found her way in just fine and T's back safe and sound too. All's well that ends well. Now we are six, and a happy little crowd. Dinner and talk is the order of the evening, and everyone's in a good mood and ... it's time to break out the ice cream!
Next: Day Nine