Archive for the ‘motorcycle touring’ Category

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For a pleasant change we had family come to visit and ride with us! Debbie’s sister (Vicky) and her husband (Jeff) trailered their Harley Davidson Fat Boy motorcycle from Ohio to our home in Front Royal, VA.  Neither of them had ridden Skyline Drive or anywhere in this part of Virginia.

They came out for the Labor Day weekend arriving late Friday afternoon. Saturday morning, we unload their Fat Boy and made ready for Skyline Drive. The morning was cool but comfortable and the view of Skyline Drive from my driveway was clear and bright.  Little did we know that the bright sun would disappear and reappear and disappear and reappear as rode along the ridges of the parkway.

Stopping at a few of the early western view overlooks Vicky and Jeff though the sites of blue skies and the Shenandoah Valley were just spectacular! They were both enjoying the smooth tarmac and twisty nature of the parkway and as it was early in the day the bonus of a low traffic.

Looking east, however, I realized that the bright and sunny would not be the way the entire trip.  Lots of clouds clung at the treetops, with breezes moving them around in movie like motions as they sweep up and down the eastern ridge. I knew, from the number of times I have ridden the parkway, that in short order we would be riding in a cloud and the temps would drop.

I was not wrong, as we approached the first exit from Skyline Drive, Thornton Gap, the clouds were right down on the parkway.  Ridding through a cloud, if you have not done so, is foggy and damp.  Riding our motorcycles out of Thornton Gap we quickly made it to Mary’s Rock Tunnel.  Of course, we had to hit the throttle to hear the music of the V-Twins reverberate from the halls of the tunnel.

We pulled off at the Mary’s Rock overlook, today’s view was more, inside of cloud, then amazing vista but, we talked to Jeff and Vicky and generally admired Skyline Drive and the other motorcycles parked at the overlook.

Back on the bikes we were in and out the clouds going from warm to cool with the occasional mist and rain drops. We dropped off Skyline Drive at the second exit and then rode the motorcycles north on SR 340 back to Ft. Royal.

After the ride we went to “Shenandoah Valley Ax Throwing Company” for dinner and some fun.  Throwing the ax was a lot of fun and a bit therapeutic depending on what you were imagining the target to be 😊.  This is the first time we had been there be it will not be the last! 

The next day was just as much fun.  We rode the motorcycle south on Fort Valley Road to Luray.  Swung by Cooters, Duke’s of Hazzard Museum and then over Thornton Gap.

Thornton’s Gap has signs on both sides that state that this is a high crash area for motorcycles! The signs are right, people overestimate their skills.

Like the day before, as we reached the top of the ridge and passed under Skyline Drive, we activated our “storm chasers” superpowers. Three quarters of the way up a nearly all the way down the other side it was motorcycling in a light rain and fog.  But it was warm and sunny when we were back in the valley below.

This day we stopped for lunch in Front Royal at “PaveMint Smokn’ Tap House” which is a great place for wood smoked meals.  Everyone loved their food, Vicky and Jeff said they would like to come back someday. 

2 days of motorcycling, with 2 members of our family for 220 miles of the best of riding in Virginia … just cannot beat that!

Ride On, Ride Safe

I have ridden along many national parkways including the Natchez Trace (TN/MS), Great Lake Seaway Byway (NY), Blue Ridge Parkway (VA, NC) and, of course, the Skyline Drive Parkway (VA). I have also attended multiple motorcycle rallies along the east coast including Daytona.

Outside of rallies, I have never seen as many motorcycles in one location as I do in Front Royal, Virginia. During motorcycle riding season, it is not uncommon to see hundreds of motorcycles in Front Royal, either singular or riding in large groups daily. You can see these large numbers of motorcycles passing through almost every day but especially on weekends. In my opinion Front Royal could be the motorcycle destination of Virgina much like Tail of the Dragon in Tennessee.

Why are so many motorcycles passing through Front Royal? It is because the town is located at the northern terminus of Skyline Drive and about an hour from the nation’s capital.  All these motorcycle riders are passing through the town on the way to Skyline Drive or to parts unknown as they leave the Parkway.

By just passing through Front Royal motorcyclists are missing out on opportunities for some great local rides and the great local flavor.  For example, a rider can take a loop from Front Royal to Luray via Fort Valley Road. That ride would last about two+ hours, depending on stops, and would have you back in town by lunch time.

After lunch, mount the motorcycle and head south out of town to cross under Skyline Drive at it two gaps.  But be careful, they are quite technical, and the northern gap is designated as a high crash area. Two+ hours later you will be back in town with enough time to get to dinner and a stroll along main street.

After dinner, riders could visit the Virginia Beer Museum for brew and live music or Shenandoah Valley Axe Throwing for a unique activity or any of the many other venues in town.  Front Royal has lots of hotels and restaurants and a main street that could be considered a throw-back to another era. Check out the movie theater that has a 1950’s vibe with a state-of-the-art projector and sound system.

Front Royal may be the gateway to Skyline Drive, but it should also be a destination at the start or end of your motorcycle ride.  Stay a day or two, there are plenty of hotels and campgrounds, to explore both our local roads and our small-town atmosphere.

Going for a spin!

A few weekends ago the wife and I took a motorcycle ride to Shenandoah Speedway racetrack.  A friend of mine was participating in a “drift” event.  For the few of you out there that might not know about drifting it is the sport of sliding your car sideways through a turn as fast as you can.  Quite exciting to watch a lot harder to do, unless you have plenty of practice and a car set up to do it properly.  My buddy has both the skills and the car.

The ride to the racetrack was great.  Bright blue skies with a few big puffy white clouds. The temp was not too hot or too cool making the ride with “ATGATT” comfortable. We left Front Royal going south on SR 340 in the spring green Shenandoah Valley.  With little traffic it was no time at all before we passed Luray Caverns. The Caverns are a very popular tourist destination and today their parking lot was full of hundreds of cars and lots of buses.

Just a short distance past Luray Caverns is “Cooter’s”!  For those of us of a certain age that remember the TV show The Dukes of Hazzard, Cooter’s is a museum of sorts celebrating the show.  The man who played Cooter, Ben Jones, is from the area and had collected a lot of memorabilia from the show which is on display including some of the cars with a General Lee replica out front.  By the way Cooter is also multi-term US Congressman.

My wife had never been to Cooter’s, so we pulled into its packed parking lot.  This day they had a Blue Grass and Folk music band playing, something they do on a regular basis.  We wondered around the facility for a bit with Rocky Top and Country Roads dancing in our ears.  The stop was a nice diversion back to our teen years.

Back on our steady stead we continued south on SR 340 until we reached the racetrack.  I knew we were close when I could see the plumes of white smoke and the smell of burning rubber in the air, drifting is very hard on tires.

It was not long before my wife was buckled in the race car and out on the track.  She was only able to get two laps in before they blew up the right rear tire.  Yet, those few laps were enough to give her an ear-to-ear smile.  She talked about it for many days later.

As the day got longer it was time to head to the house.  A 100+ mile motorcycle ride and a new experience for my wife made this a great day.


Ride on, Ride safe

We were able to sneak out for about 2-hour motorcycle ride this past weekend.  Still a lot going on in life/work, so I am just happy to get out on the motorcycle.

Motorcycling around Front Royal, VA and the surrounding area is a lot of fun.  More than a few nice places as destinations and more than a few good country roads to ride.

We even got up on Skyline Drive for a short ride. The leaves have not yet reappeared on the trees, so the views were spectacular!

The curiosity of the day was the “Audi” Can Am Spyder.  The reality was the guy was not happy with the big, black, empty area on the front of his trike and put the Audi badge there.  It was a neat conversation starter.
Ride on, Ride safe

I though I would try my hand at video recording my travels.  This ride I wanted to “shoot the gap”, the southern gap of Skyline Drive.

There are two places along Skyline Drive where you can ride your motorcycle under the parkway, after going up a twisty mountain road and of course back down the other side.  I had never ridden the southern gap so now was the time.

As you can see in the video it was a wonderful day to ride a motorcycle.  Setting out from my home in Front Royal with a clear, bright, blue sky and a cool but comfortable temperature just made for a perfect journey.  Low traffic in the Shenandoah Valley provided little impedance, except for the deer and her three fawns.  I had to stop and let them cross, woe is me riding in the country. 

So why 150 in 9?  This was a 3-hour ride, but my batteries died after 2 ½ hours.  NO ONE wants to watch a 150-minute ride with no commentary, I have not figured that one out yet, so I set it to fast forward and got the whole thing down to 9 minutes.

Hope you enjoy.

*****

Ride on, Ride Safe

White Sands New Mexico

Five years ago, I didn’t own, ride, or predict seeing my future self on a motorcycle.  Not that I didn’t like motorcycles, they were just not on my life’s blipping radar.  I was a cruise agent with six grandkids, a brick-and-mortar home and, well, I did have a nice little convertible.  Transport yourself to the future ‘now’ and you see me riding 5-6 hours a day, many days in a row…and on a sidecar no less.  I rode it on the Tail of the Dragon, Twisted Sisters, Talimena Scenic Drive and so many other ‘famous’ road.  I’m full timing it in an RV working and riding.  Icing on the cake – I’m making a living at it.  How the heck did I get here!

  • Step one:  Your spouse suggests you guys buy a bike and take motorcycle lessons.
  • Step two:  Two-upping isn’t enough, you get your own ride.
  • Step three:  Life sneaks up and kicks your ass – you decide how to respond.

I didn’t take naturally to riding a motorcycle.  I failed my first class.  I went out and bought a bike anyway and practiced in a parking lot for months before I could get up the nerve to take the class again.  I passed with a perfect score.  About a year into riding, I was in a motorcycle accident (mechanical failure), the bike totaled.  Broke my kneecap and nose and was in physical therapy for 9 months.  What did I do while I was laid up?  I bought a new bike and helmet. 

On a cross-country road trip, I dropped my bike at a corner with my weak knee.  It took me an hour to feel like I could get back on the bike, but I found I had messed up the gear shifts.  My spouse and I two-upped it the rest of the trip.  On this trip I decided two things – riding a motorcycle wasn’t for me, not riding wasn’t an option either.

Mounting up for another day of riding!

Idea!  How about a sidecar.  A new journey of resistance, not on my part but for every inch I tried to step forward, something or someone was shoving me a foot back.  The first sidecar builder I found botched the job – the wheel fell off at 60mph going down the interstate.  The wheel well kept it from flying off and I was able to pull over.  At least 10 other things went wrong in this journey until I found the sidecar builder who helped me change my life (to him I will forever be in debt). Thanks Texas Sidecar Company!

I have put over 20,000 miles on my sidecar in less than two years.  And like this whole path, I continued to forge forward following my new passion.  My spouse and I started RVing so we could ride new places.  I had written a couple of articles for Ride Texas Magazine.  The editor found out and mentioned it might make a good story.  Like everything else, I took it to the next level.  I now write a series called Direction Wide Open on our RVing and motorcycling experiences for Ride Texas Magazine which will culminate in the first ever RV-Motorcycle Rally in the U.S end of September 2022 – hosted by ‘Me’.

I looked for new ways to share my excitement about riding and RVing and found several more magazines who would have me.  I submitted a short motorcycle story to Continue the Ride which is a series of rider stories that showcase the diversity and shared passions in motorcycling.  My story was in the first round picked up and the only one with the unique combination of RVing and motorcycling full-time around the United States.  A few months later Progressive reached out to me to present my experiences at the national Progressive IMS Motorcycle Shows across the U.S.  As an introvert, I now find myself center stage at six major cities presenting on RVing and motorcycling five times per weekend.

RV’ing at Iron Mountain

How did I get here?  Well, I don’t think I was planning on a shift from being a work from home cruise agent grandma to a RVing, sidecar toting, riding, grandma writer and speaker.  But here I am.  This has been the best ride ever!

We originally passed through Goshen a few years ago during one of our motorcycle tours of Virginia.

Goshen is a quaint town bordering the George Washington National Forest the nearest “big towns” are Staunton and Lexington VA.

One of the things that interested me was the Goshen Truss Bridge.  Not the best light for good photos but you get the idea.  Built in 1890 it was the height of bridge engineering at the time.

Ride On, Ride Safe

James Madison’s Montpelier

As noted in in Part 1 of this Quarantine Motorcycle Ride series on the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Byway, had to occur over three seasons.  Part 2 Leesburg to Montpelier occurred last summer.

This leg of the ride started on a cool summer morning.  Blue skies, white puffy clouds, and the local weatherman, promised a comfortable day to ride the motorcycle.

Our eyes and the weatherman were right! Our ride on the Harley Davidson Ultra Limited motorcycle was smooth and sweet.  Great tunes and light traffic made this leg of the Hallowed Ground Byway nothing short of great.

This part of the Byway is packed full of sites that just beg to be stopped and explored as this part of Virginia is packed with history and historical sites.

Getting to Montpelier took us past the following historical sites, and these are the major sites. There are many, many smaller sites in each of the towns you pass through.  This leg of the Hallowed Ground Byway can, by itself, could take a week to work your way though.

Ball’s Bluff Battlefield Regional Park | Nova Parks

George C. Marshall’s Home

President’s Monroe’s Oak Hill

Bull Run Battlefield (1st and 2nd Battle for Manassas)

This section also passes though the Northern Virginia wine and brewery corridor.  For example, there are over a dozen breweries and 30 vineyards in Loudon county alone! Just do not drink and ride, of course!

Of course, the destination of this motorcycle ride was the home of President James Madison’s home Montpelier.  Montpelier was the plantation home of the Madison family, including the fourth President of the United States James Madison and his wife Dolly.

Montpelier is both a National Historic Landmark and part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  Completed in 2008 a major restoration (by the National Trust), in part to return the mansion to its original size of 22 rooms.

Archeological investigations provided information on African-American life at the plantation. Philanthropist David Rubenstein funded and enabled the National Trust to restore the slave quarters in the South Yard and open a slavery exhibition, The Mere Distinction of Colour, in 2017.

Getting to Montpelier is a wonderful ride through historic lands.  If you are in the area, on the Journey Thorough Hallowed Ground Byway or not, take the time to stop.

This byway is 180 miles of American history. Stretching from Gettysburg, PA to Monticello, VA the byway covers sites and history from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, multiple Presidential homes, plus 18 National and State parks.  By motorcycle, this ride is a fun way to learn and honor American national heritage.

The majority of Hallowed Ground Byway is US Route 15 which runs right through our hometown.  This made it an easy decision for a motorcycle ride (like we need an excuse for a ride). 

While this should have been an easy long weekend ride for us it was anything but easy. Because of Covid and the changing quarantine restrictions we had to do this ride over 3 seasons of the lost year of 2020. We started our ride, of the Hallowed Ground Byway, at the Gettysburg Battlefield in the spring.

Part 1 – Gettysburg, PA to Leesburg, VA

Gettysburg by motorcycle is fun and it would be extremely easy to spend several days touring the battlefield and the town. You will not be the only motorcycle there, it is surprising how many folks ride their “iron” horses to the national battlefield. I highly recommend that you take a bus tour of the battlefield as the guide will provide a running commentary of what happened at each stop as well as the sites between stops.

Gettysburg by motorcycle is fun and it would be extremely easy to spend several days touring the battlefield and the town. You will not be the only motorcycle there, it is surprising how many folks ride their “iron” horses to the national battlefield. I highly recommend that you take a bus tour of the battlefield as the guide will provide a running commentary of what happened at each stop as well as the sites between stops.

At the time we rode this leg of the Hallowed Ground Byway most of the historic sites were open with very tight restrictions. Many of the indoor facilities were closed but you could still visit the outdoor sites.

I cannot speak to a lot of regarding local accommodations in Gettysburg. Being only a little over an hour from home we did not need to stay overnight. There are a lot of hotels, campgrounds, and such but with the quarantine limitations in place, few were open. Restaurants were mostly restricted in Pennsylvania and less so in Maryland (at that time).

The day of the ride was overcast and cool. The motorcycle was running well, and we were ready for a day behind bars.  We rode around most of the Gettysburg Battlefield stopping a few of key points of the battle before heading south on the byway.

The ride south from Gettysburg is an easy county ride on both 2 and 4 lane roads.  There are MANY, MANY places to stop along this leg of the Hallowed Ground Byway for example:

National Museum of Civil War Medicine

Multiple covered bridges

Antietam National Battlefield

Multiple State Parks

Vineyard, Breweries and Distilleries

Monocacy National Battlefield

Catoctin Mountain Scenic Byway

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal

Unfortunately for us most everything was closed or very restricted. This day was more about the ride and being with each other than about the sites.  One thing that is true is the couple that rides together tends to stay together. On this daytrip we had a great time, just the two of us.

The next leg will cover the Hallowed Ground Byway from Leesburg to Montpelier, home of President James Madison.

Ride On, Ride Safe

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

We pulled out of our driveway on a cool, crisp Friday morning for a long weekend motorcycle ride.  By cool & crisp I mean 51 degrees Fahrenheit, a little less with wind chill, of course. We knew it was going to be at least that or a bit less on Skyline Drive.

We had decked ourselves out in appropriate clothing and closed the vents of the Harley Davidson Ultra Limited, so the chill was not very noticeable. Otherwise, the sun was out with blue sky all about and traffic out of town was quite light.

It took us about an hour to get from home to the northern terminus of Skyline Drive in Front Royal, Virginia. I really think that the state could do a bit better job of signage to get people to the park.  I knew where it was but, until you are right upon it the signs are few and far between.

A lot of motorcycles on the road!

Once we were on Skyline Drive the cool air got a bit cooler! There was nearly a 10-degree difference from the valley to the top of the mountain.  While we did notice it, and I turned on the heated grips, the motorcycle seemed to love the cool air and purred as it rolled up, down and around the ridge.

The leaves had not yet started to change colors or drop from the trees, but the greens were awesome to view. I do have another complaint, maybe it is a by-product of Covid 2020 but several of the overlooks really did not overlook.  The trees and bush build up limited the view on some of the stops.   Only a minor disappointment as the day was so nice!

We reached the southern terminus of the parkway late afternoon and headed to our hotel in Charlottesville, VA. The next day we went to some local site like Monticello. Our return tip was via the American BywayJourney Through Hallowed Ground Byway”, which will be documented on another post.

It was our anniversary by the way!

Skyline Drive by motorcycle really shows that the adage “Riding in car is like watching a movie. Riding on a motorcycle is like being in the movie” is absolutely true.

If you live on the east coast this ride needs to be on your bucket list.

Ride On, Ride Safe