Sunday, August 29, 2004

Day Eleven

Start: Luray VA (21273)
End: Bristol VA (21575)
302 miles

Getaway day. There is a wee amount of general grumpiness at having to get up early and hit the road. I am looking forward to my return trip, but sad at having to leave Virginia and my Amazon sisters. The weather looks fine for now, but promises to become threatening. It looks like a chain of hurricanes and tropical storms are setting up for hit after hit on the East Coast this year ... by the end of summer, this turns out to be more true than anyone imagined! ... and right now, the remnants of Tropical Storm Gaston are moving through the Carolinas, may reach Virginia by late day. This will affect the Sisters who are going home to Florida, and may affect me a little bit, because I have decided to take I-81 south to Knoxville, and pick up I-40 west across the country. We all get our gear packed up, check and triple-check the cabin so we don't leave anything behind, and finally there is nothing left to do but exchange our goodbyes. Warm hugs and well-wishes, safe travels to you my sister, I will see you again.

I am on my own once more. I am a little slow getting back into my solo roadtime headspace, but it's not a problem. I sort of meander south in a pokey way. The morning is fine, warm and a little humid, and the sun is shining. The Blue Ridge Mountains are to my left, I follow along their base. Green surrounds me. Descending into a wide river valley - hey, it's the James River! Placenames out of American history. The water is wide and placid-looking where I cross. I smile. Where I come from, we don't have rivers, we have storm channels paved over with concrete. Real rivers are always a strange and wonderful treat to me. Even here, miles from where the James widens and flows into the Atlantic, it looks unimaginably huge to my desert-accustomed eyes. I continue, climbing through forested hills, enjoying the Virginia countryside.

For lunchtime, I decide on that quintessential Southern experience, and stop at a Waffle House. Have to do it at least once, ya know, since I've come all this way. I make the mistake of filling my tank before eating. Basic science: gasoline expands dramatically in volume as it gets warmer. This is a property of all volatile liquids, is it not? So, gas keeps cool in underground storage tanks at the station, but warms up and expands quickly in my little 2.9-gallon tank, and oofdah, I have gas absolutely POURING out of the top of my tank in the time it takes to order and eat lunch. D'oh! I suppose everyone has to learn this the hard way sooner or later. I guess it's never happened to me before because, even though I waaay overfill my tank every single time, because I always fill up and keep riding, so the gas doesn't have time to expand before it starts getting consumed.

A few hours later, I am farting around in the southwest part of Virginia, and for no particularly good reason have gotten off the interstate and am cruising around in a little town about ten miles from the Tennessee border. I'm looking for a c-store, actually, but get off track and have to hang a u-turn. Something feels wrong, the rear tire suddenly feels mushy and loose as I flip around. Whaaa? Need to stop and check, this isn't right. I find myself a gas station, find my tire pressure gauge, and sure enough the rear tire is extremely low. I fill it back up to pressure. Seems to be holding, but maybe it's a slow leak. Gotta watch that. I head back down the interstate, towards Knoxville, and stop again in Bristol VA, the last town before crossing the state line. In the amount of time it takes me to go in a market, buy stuff, and come back out, the rear tire is flat as a pancake. A helpful guy tries to put a can of fix-a-flat in, but it's a pretty worthless exercise ... foamy green goo comes pouring out of the rim, it's obviously not working. Looks like when the tire went, it went completely. I brave the street, riding a block and a half to get to a gas station & air pump, in the vain hope of seeing if I can get any air to stay in there at all, and I discover it's almost impossible to ride a motorcycle with a flat. Hee. I am learning so much on this trip. The tire, she is dead. Sigh. Time to call for a tow truck again. What is it with slow tow trucks? This time I wait almost TWO HOURS for one to come. This guy, however, knows how to tie down a motorcycle on the flatbed, so that's good news. The bad news is it's Sunday, and late afternoon, and no one is open who can fix the thing. Tow Truck Guy takes me to the nearest Honda dealership. Yay, my luck is holding! There is a Comfort Inn directly across the street, with vacancies! There had been a big NASCAR event in Bristol earlier in the morning. Had I broken down there yesterday, I wouldn't have been able to find a hotel room anywhere; now, the event is over, the race fans are on their way home, and all the hotels are empty.

Well, I wanted to make four hundred or so miles today, but I've only made three hundred before getting stuck with the flat. Things could be worse, so I'm not worried. I check in, get settled, order Chinese. Clouds come in, thicken and turn dark, and rain starts to fall after the sun goes down. The Honda shop opens at 8 am tomorrow. Hopefully they'll get me on the road again quickly, and I'll be able to make up some miles.

BamBam says I just like riding around in tow trucks :P Them's fightin' words, girl!

Next: Day Twelve

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