Friday, August 27, 2004

Day Nine

Skyline Drive/Shenandoah National Park

I sleep badly again last night, the particular bed I've chosen is quite subpar. It's the bottom bunk ... lumpy as hell ... and now Raven is sleeping in the top bunk, which was the last remaining non-foldout bed. I'm afraid I keep the poor dear awake all night with my tossing and turning, she's a very light sleeper. And I wake up dreaming about that woman again, in which she and I were talking to each other like perfectly normal people. I sit up suddenly (almost bumping my head) saying "Dammit!" Raven says, "What?" It's hard to explain to her in a couple of sentences, but I try. "Well, I was having this dream where my ex was being nice to me." "That's a good thing, isn't it?" she says. "Not really," I say, "because that's not how it is in real life, we don't speak to each other because of massive weirdness a while ago. So it's me dreaming about something I want but can't have." The conversation eventually veers back to normalcy as I shake out the cobwebs & get going with my day. Hate it when stuff like that comes up first thing in the morning. Makes me feel out of balance. I decide I'll relocate and try one of the foldout beds tonight. I've had too many nights in a row of not-really-good sleep and it's wearing on me a bit.

Today, the Amazons ride.

T, BamBam, Raven and I will ride together (amusingly, we all have purple bikes) while Wild1 and Thumper will follow in the cage. We'll take Skyline Drive from north to south today. We pack up a nice picnic lunch, stowing the cooler in the car, and gear up and head north to Front Royal. Another lovely day and another lovely ride through Virginia countryside. I am absolutely loving riding through country that looks and feels so very different from my native California. It's all green, farmland, fields dotted with cylindrical haybales. Mountains rise to our left and our right. The weather is perfect.

I am merely a Prospect for the Amazons so I have no patch on my jacket ... everyone else wears one. It's pretty cool to see all those Amazon patches together. I guess someone who isn't part of a motorcycle club wouldn't understand the feeling of pride at seeing the colors, but there it is. I have only been a Prospect for three months, half of my six-month eligibility period, and then my potential membership into the Full & True Sisterhood will be put to a vote by the members. Nonetheless, these women have welcomed me to the Gather with open arms. I am honored by their inclusion, and by the opportunity to ride with them today. Sounds corny, but it's true. :P

I am starting to get used to toll booths. (That's me in the yellow jacket.)We pay our fees at the Front Royal Entrance Station which is located at the far north end of Shenandoah NP. From here, Skyline Drive will take us 105 miles through the park. We head up into the Blue Ridge Mountains, the road sometimes covered by arching canopies of hickory & oak forest, sometimes open to expansive views of the valley below us. T takes the lead, she's our road captain for the day. I had been riding in the third spot behind BamBam, but we switch up once inside the park because I tend to go a little faster than she does on the twisties, and this road is ALL twisties. Heavenly. Raven takes the tailgunner position. I have to say this is one of the most perfect roads I've ever ridden. It is exquisitely maintained, no rough spots, it has lots and lots of pulloffs with beautiful vistas, and it is extravagently signed. Most of this road was created during the New Deal era, one of many CCC work projects run by the Federal government during the Depression, and you can see the 1930's characterist stonework on embankments, water sluices for drainage, etc. Unlike many CCC projects, this hasn't fallen into disrepair. The park's proximity to Washington D.C. ensures not only fairly heavy use, but decent funding as well.

We take our time heading south on the Drive, stopping at several overlooks to admire the view. T sets the pace according to the 35 mph speed limit in the park, which by all accounts is VERY strictly enforced. Makes sense, too. There lots of curves with blind corners, which is bad enough, but there are lots and lots of critters who tend to wander on the road here. I've already spotted a couple of deer lurking in tall trees and shadows, about a mile into the park. Not everyone in the group sees them. Deer have a bad habit of hiding themselves perfectly until they decide in their little pea brains that they need to run right in front of your motorcycle, at which point it's way too late for you to do anything about it, and you crash and hopefully don't die. Slowing down is the best way you can protect yourself.

We stop for gas and a little rest break at one of the park concession areas. The price for gas is not even that badly inflated, a surprise. I am amused by the sight of our four purple bikes parked together. They have four different state license plates - New Jersey, California, Pennsylvania and Florida - none of which are particularly close to where we are. I wish I still had my camera. Raven is chatting with a guy on a sportsbike, and he says he saw a bear on the road a number of miles back. Oooh. There's something I am not anxious to experience for myself. We saddle up and take off again, and not that far down the road we see a deer doing ... something ... something weird. I have no idea what is wrong with that deer. It is kicking and tossing its head and leaping around. To me it looks like a bucking bronco. Rodeo deer? The huge problem with deer is they will do unpredictable things, a strange-behaving deer even more so. T slows us to a crawl, and we all get past the animal safely, but it is quite bizarre. We ride on for a while, and find a nice lunch spot. Of course the first thing everyone says after we stop is, "Did you SEE that deer?" and we all speculate what could have possibly caused it. T's theory is the best, IMO. "Maybe it was getting stung by bees." Hey, that would make me jump around in a bizarre fashion, too, so I would believe it. We set up lunch at a nice little spot next to the Appalachian Trail, we can see the white blazes on a couple of trees. A plague of little black gnats descends whenever you sit still for approximately half a second. I revise my theory on what was making the deer crazy. The damn gnats are certainly driving ME nuts, at least.

After lunch, Wild1 and Thumper will head back to the cabin while we continue south. Wild's ankle is still bothering her a wee bit, and it's better for her to rest up in the cabin, instead of driving around. In case she forgets this, she has five women to remind her of it, and then she can call us a bunch o' nags and tell us she's fine, and then we'll threaten to tie her to the chair if she doesn't stop walking around and for gawds sake prop that foot up, and then she'll grumble for a while and let someone get her another beer. LOL. Anyway. The rest of the ride is uneventful and lovely, no strange deer, no bears, just fine, fine road. Skyline Drive opens up a little bit in the bottom half of the park, you can see further through the curves, and we start to push the speed limit a bit more. T gets a little ahead of us, she rides the heck out of that Harley. She eventually throttles back a bit. I have to say I was having fun trying to keep up with her, but I couldn't quite do it. The group winds its way down to the south end of the park, eventually coming out at Rockfish Gap on I-64. We'll take the highway back to I-81, then back up to Luray and home. Well, halfway there, I-81 gets buggered with traffic, and Raven needs to get gas anyway, so we hop off the freeway and pull into a gas station. It's one of those huge stations with about thirty pumps - Raven and I end up on opposite sides of one island, T and BamBam are all the way on the other side of the station in some other zipcode. A local boy starts hitting on Raven. I guess he figured the way to a woman's heart is to inquire whether or not she has the ability to fuel her own vehicle. "Know how to get gas?" he mumbles. (Sounds more like "nohahtahgitgaz?") Raven looks at him and says, "What?" "Nohahtahgitgaz?" he repeats. He is asking her this as she is ACTUALLY PUTTING GAS IN HER MOTORCYCLE. So she just stares at him and says, "Uh, YEAH." I am cracking up, stifling laughter on the other side of the pumps. He wanders off, properly chastized or maybe just clueless. I lean across, and mumble to Raven, "nohahtahgitgaz?" and we bust out in peals of laughter. Geez, some guys.

We find an alternate route back to Luray, Hwy 11, which is a much nicer road anyway. No traffic, and secondary highways are usually much more interesting that the superslab. Home again, home again. Raven makes us a wonderful dinner, and we try to figure out what we're going to do tomorrow, our last full day in Virginia. I may end up doing some Civil War sightseeing by myself, no one else is particularly interested in it, and I'm not that interesting in doing the go-to-town souvenir-shopping they're talking about. Well, we'll play it all by ear, it's been working for us so far.

Next: Day Ten

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