May 26 - 31, 2009

The View From The Back

May 26, 2009

I've been looking forward to this ride for a while, since I'll see many of my good riding friends that I only get to see at the FriendSToc gathering. So I'm up and after it early, headed out to meet Andy Derryberry at the Cracker Barrel in Franklin, Kentucky about the time that it opens.


It's funny how after doing this for so long, you can calculate arrival times in your head pretty accurately. And I also know that Andy D. will beat me there more than likely. The ride up is nice and quiet with not much traffic or wildlife. When I pull into the Cracker Barrel just before 6 AM, Andy is there waiting on me - just as I figured


We head in and get our grub ordered and do some catching up. He's still in the job market, having been 'chinasized' right out of his job last year. He's got some prospects and some ideas so hopefully things will work out. We talk about our upcoming 'Wild West Ride' in August and get excited just thinking about it. We make short work of the food when it arrives, I drain the tea pitcher and we're head off to Georgetown, Kentucky to meet Andy P. and Jason. If all goes as planned, we should arrive right at 9:30 AM, just as I said we would. It's a peaceful run up I65 then across the Bluegrass Parkway. We take 127 up to I64 off the Parkway and then a short run gets us in the area. The crossroads are not marked very well, so I make a wrong turn but I figure it out pretty quickly. The Andy P. is staying at the Hampton, so we make our way over there. When we arrive, I ask the front desk to call his room. He comes down and gives me a puzzled look -

"I wondered what happened to you. It's not like Uncle Phil to not be here when he said he would."

I'm really confused now, because it's 9:30 AM right on the knob according to my clock. Then it suddenly hits me - somewhere along the line we crossed over from the Central Time Zone to the Eastern Time Zone. Well, duh.

"Well, Andy, I was right on time - according to my clock" I tell him with a grin.

We get suited back up and I tell Andy P -

'You take the lead. I don't have one of them Gravel Positioning System thingys."

We have a lively discussion about GPS, then head for Jason's house with Andy P in the lead.

  Jason lives in a nice development just a few miles up the road and we're at his place in short order.  

Miss Holly comes out and I give her a big hug -

"First time I met you and Jason you just got the news about having a youngin. Now you've got two."

She's a really sweet lady (she has to be to put up with Jason) and it's great to see her again. But Jason's oldest boy, Clay, wants to 'ride' with the big boys, so we do an 'escort' ride around the block. With that business out of the way, Jason leads us for a tour of his stomping grounds. I fall into the tailgunner position and am able to get some good shots while we are rolling along.

  Jason takes us to a neat sort of place - Ricardos in Versailles. It appears to have been the local train station at one time but now it's been spiffied up to a nice restaurant.  

The food's good, the tea is plentiful so I'm a happy camper. Andy P orders a salad and I tell him -

"Yep, as I told my doctor, eat grass, drink water and live a long miserable life!"

But then I order the same thing as he does.

"Yes, I see now" he says "Misery loves company."

We both have a good laugh and do some catching up since the last time we rode together. When the food comes, we managed to eradicate it with great dispatch and then waddle out to the bikes for the next leg of the journey.

  It's nice just to kick back and enjoy the countryside and ride with someone who knows the area.  
  As we wait for the traffic light to change in this small town, I'm struck by the perfect alignment of three church steeples off to my left.  

On corner of US 60 and Versailles Road sets the Martin Castle. According to local sources -

'This castle was built 25 years ago by Lexington, Kentucky home builder, Rex Martin. He and his new bride honeymooned in Europe, where she fell in love with castles. Upon there return to Lexington he built her this replica of a castle, but they divorced before it's completion. No one has ever lived here.'

Having seen many castles in my riding trips in the UK and Europe, this one is as impressive as most that I have seen there.

  Jason guides us through the horse country where some of the barns are a lot nicer than most houses that people I know live in.  
  Along a narrow back road, he takes by an old mill and dam, built in the 1800s and still in use today. A father and his son are enjoying the time together, wetting a line and hoping something will jump on it.  
  As we wander out through the country, we see another barn that would put most houses to shame where I come from.  
  Then Jason gives us a quick run-around the Toyota facility at Georgetown. The size of the complex boggles my mind as it covers more space that the city proper that I grew up in.  
  With the loop complete, he gets back to the Microtel motel where more of the riders for the Triple J have arrived.  
  We decide that we'll walk over to the Ruby Tuesdays for diner. Andy and I head up to the room to cool off for a while and wash the road crude off. Soon we head back out to hook up with the other folks and do the bum's rush on Ruby Tuesdays. Jason had warned them we were coming, but they didn't seem to prepared for us. Poor Ron and Andy P have to take a booth by themselves, but they seem to be doing all right from what I can see.  
  As is with most gatherings, I get to see my old friends and make some new ones. Most of the riders I know and or have ridden with before. We're all joined by a common bond - the joy of riding a motorcycle and discovering challenging roads.  
  When we finished dinner, we congregate outside to sort out what the plan is for tomorrow. Jason checks to see how many folks have GPS systems and we're about half and half. He decides to use the drop and sweep method that I have used many times and I help explain how it works. I also volunteer to be the 'sweep' or tailgunner which will be the first time I've had that position. It's departure from the Cracker Barrel parking lot in the morning and we'll be off for three days of great riding. Andy and I make our way back to our room and are out like dead men in short order.  
May 27, 2009
  Andy and I get up and about pretty early since we're headed across the street for another breakfast at Cracker Barrel. I've done the packing thing so many times that I'm ready to go pretty quickly. The longest chore is rolling up the full bike cover, but I've got that pretty well practiced by now. Soon we mount up, and head across the street for some predictable grub.  
  Jason has got the folks at Cracker Barrel to put some tables together, but we don't know how many are going to show up. Some folks take advantage of the fixings at their motels, but ours was pretty foo-foo and nothing I'd want to ride on very far. Joe is there also, so we get our orders in and the food comes pretty quickly for a Cracker Barrel.  

Once we finish, we meet up with the rest of the group in the parking lot. We remind them about the drop and sweep we will be using and to be sure and stay in the marking position until I come up. I tell them -

"I'm the tailgunner. When I come up behind you if you are a breadcrumb, I'll put on my 4-way flashers and beep the Stebel. You can just pull in front of me."

Most of the riders have traveled with me using this system before so I don't expect a lot of problems. And it will be really nice to just set back and relax instead of being in the lead and all that entails.

With the details done, we're off like a herd of birds to see what kind of routes Jason has lined out for us.
The line stretches out as we wind our way through the countryside.
Nothing like sitting back and watch the STs in front of you do a lovely ballet with the curvy road as their partner.
As we work our way up to the ridges, the action gets a little more exciting.
But as the curves get more frequent, the line tends to stretch out. The nice thing about the drop and sweep method of group riding is that it does not matter how far apart the riders get - there should be a breadcrumb waiting at the next turn.
Being the last rider in the line, I get the feeling of somehow being attached to the end of a long rubber band that is constantly stretching then contracting. But I can lay back and then play catch up whenever I want.


One of the challenges on a group ride is managing the fuel stops so that different bikes get what they need when they need. Though most of the bikes are STs, some are not and they don't have quite the range that the STs do with their 7 gallon tanks.

  As we motor along, we pass through several small towns with their local furniture stores, funeral parlor, bank and churches. Pretty typical facilities for a small town in the South, where everybody knows everybody and they try to help their neighbors stay in business.  

In Owningsville, we stop at the Kountry Kettle for a down home cooked lunch. They decide to move us over to separate section from their regular customers. I understand and tell the lady -

"I don't blame you - I wouldn't want my regular customers run off by motorcycle trash either."


Service is a little slow and confused, I guess because they are not used to so many folks showing up at one time. While we are waiting, another Andy, who is scouting for AeroStich tours stops by and joins us for lunch.

"Where abouts are you from?" I ask him.

"I live in Taos, New Mexico and have just been riding for a few days" he tells me.

"Yeah, Taos is where you come into town on 64 and there ain't no signs as to which way to turn. I headed into the square the first time until I guessed right" I add.

He laughs and nods in agreement.

  As usual, I try to keep the fellers entertained with stories from my growing up in the country while we wait on the food. When it comes, it is plentiful, good, and a great value for the money. Nobody goes away hungry, and soon as the eatin' is done, we're back on the road.  
  I'm really enjoying being the tailgunner on this ride because I can take lots of pictures and mosey along at whatever pace I feel like. That's luxury I seldom have, as I usually am leading the ride I'm on.  
  This is a good shot of just how the drop and sweep system works. The 'breadcrumb' or marker was originally behind the leader. When the leader came to this turn, he signaled for the rider behind him to pull off and mark the turn. That way the riders behind know exactly where to turn without having to use a map or a GPS. As I approach the 'breadcrumb', I turn on my 4-way flashers and give a couple of beeps on my Stebel horn so he knows to pull back on the road in front of me.  
  By using the drop and sweep, the train just keeps rolling and you cover a lot of ground. And eventually, all the train ends up in the same destination.  
  With the roads a little slick, we have to be really careful as it rains off and on. As I round a right-hander, my heart races - Paul's VFR is facing my way and Paul is standing off on the side of the road. He barely touched the yellow line and did a slow speed low side. I block the road with my flashers on until he can get the VFR restarted and rolling again. We stop at a pull off at the top of the hill and do a check on him and the bike. Both are a little worse for the wear, but his AeroStich did the job it was supposed to do and he'll be fine. The VFR is rideable with a cracked saddlebag and little road rash but it will be fine too. We get back on the road and finally catch up with the rest of the group. Jason has stopped the group at an interesting local historical spot call the Nada Tunnel.  


The history is pretty interesting -

Gateway to Red River Gorge, Nada tunnel (measuring 13'x12'x900') was constructed to haul logs via narrow gauge railroad from timber operations in the Gorge. Construction began in December 1910 and was completed in September 1911. Rock and dirt were removed by dynamite, steam drills and hand tools. One man was killed during tunnel construction when he attempted to thaw frozen dynamite which exploded when he set it near a fire.

A 25-ton and a 35-ton Climax locomotive were used to haul logs through the tunnel starting in 1912. The first load of logs became jammed in the tunnel and had to be dynamited free. It was enlarged to accommodate the large logs common to the area.


Since the rain really starts to pour down, I head for the tunnel, figuring it will at least be dry inside of it. Fortunately, the weather finally clears up and we make it into West Liberty to the house of Jason's in-laws. Jason's father-in-law's grandpa built this house in the early 40's and it's been in the family ever since. It's got a large parking lot so there's lots of room for everybody. I also get to meet Jason's dad and step mom who have come over to see what kind of fellers would ride with Jason.

  Jason's father-in-law has a early 1970s white BMW in excellent shape that is something neat to see. He explains the details of how he ended up with it to Ron.  
  With plans in place, I head back to the Days Inn to get checked in. The rest of the folks decide to do the same, but I'm the first one back.  
  Jason is minding the grill and he's pretty good at it. The spread his folks and in-laws have prepared for us would make your tongue lick the tops out of your shoes. Not to mention chocolate brownies with chocolate icing. And you can't beat the price either - all at their expense. We all thank them for their more than generous hospitality to folks that they have never met before. I notice Andy D looks like he is on a serious phone call. As it turns out, his great aunt has passed away and he needs to head for home first thing in the morning. Jason gets him a good route that will place him quickly at the interstate and avoid a lot of the deer infested areas.  

Then Jason offers a free ride in the four wheeler to the local mountain overlook. It seems like nobody is willing so I tell him -

"Let's roll baby. I'm a game chicken!" I tell him.

Then I look at Ron, and say -

"Come on big guy, we need the extra ballast."

Clay, Jason's oldest boy wants to go, so he gets to ride shotgun with Ron and me in the back. I tell Jason -

"You ought get some mighty fine traction with us two slabs of meat here in the back."

And he does.

  He fires it up and we're off across the roads and fields to a well worn 4 wheeler path. It's a pretty peppy machine what will haul all of this freight and never complain. Once we reach the top, the views are pretty neat.  
  Jason points out which way the house is and I snap a picture just for grins.  

He takes back a different way than we came with lots of ups and downs. It's a great break from the day's riding and very relaxing. By the time we get back, everybody else has pretty much left for the motel. His father-in-law asks me -

"Did you take a picture while y'all were up on the ridge?"

"Yes sir, I sure did" I repsond.

"Well, we saw the flash and thought maybe that's what it was" he says.

We all laugh and then sit around talking about stuff in general. The large amounts of food I have consumed are weighing heavy on my eyelids, so I figure I'd better wind up my ball of twine and head for the motel. Once again I thank them all for having us and providing the way that they have. To me, it is awful kind to open your hearts and homes to people that way and I really appreciate it. With good-byes and hugs dispensed, I mount up and head back to the Days Inn for a great night's sleep.

May 28, 2009
  Andy leaves for home and the funeral around 5:00 AM, so I'm up and at it with him. I just hate to be the 'dog's tail', so I start preparing for the day. It doesn't take me long to pack up, so I tote my stuff outside and uncover the SweetTreat.  
  It's mighty foggy in the valley but I figure it will burn off as the sun gets higher. I can just see a far away telephone tower as it stands it's lonely sentinel on the next hilltop over.  
  One by one, the rest of the group gets checked out and ready to roll. I've got lots of time since I'll be the last one to leave. I'm really looking forward to another day of just chilling at the back and doing some more sightseeing.  
  The line starts to stretch out as each rider finds the pace that works best for them.  
  After some great riding, Jason gives us a break at Ralph's Market and Hardware Store in Martha, Kentucky. It's got whatever you need - from a cold drink to a commode float -  

and a nice parking area on the side. It's nice and warm so we all take advantage of the cold drinks.


It's warm enough that Paul and Christian have doffed their riding suits while we wait. I just look at them and say -

"Yep, ATSATT - all the shorts all the time."

It's a big discussion amongst sport touring riders about ATGATT - 'all the gear all the time' so we all laugh about it.

They talk about much stuff this little store has inside.

"Yep, I worked in a little country store like that when I was a teenager. We had a little bit of everything cause we were the only close place for most folks. There weren't no Wal-Marts to run to and probably ain't one out here either" I tell them.


It's still a long way to Princeton, WV where we are headed, so it's back to the curve slaying business at hand.

  And the curves are plentiful and enjoyable - and I've got the catbird seat.  
  Jason takes us through a 'short cut' that I wonder just how short it is. It takes us by the property that Loretta Lynn of country music fame was raised on. I figure it probably was just a narrow gravel road in those days.  
  And if it gets any narrower, this could get really interesting. I can't help but go back in mind to my riding in Scotland on their single track roads.  
  With the heat as it is, we take another break at an abandoned market. As I travel around the country, I am seeing more and more signs like this one which brings sadness to my heart.  
  But it's convenient and we all stretch our legs and talk about our adventures so far. As I stand there though I can't help but wonder how bad a lick someone must have taken when they had to close this store.  
  Our fearless leader consults with his chicken entrails, oh, I mean his GPS to see where our next lunch stop can be. Us old men are crying about how our stomachs think our throats are cut because it's been so long since we sat down and took nourishment.  
  The next little town is Inez, and there's not much to chose from. There's a small tearoom on the left but no parking. This causes great consternation for those of us who are dying from starvation.  

I finally motion to Jason and give him a little experienced advice -

"Hey, buddy we don't want to go there. Look at who is lined up outside the door - a bunch of lady folks. All we'll get are dainty little finger foods and cups of tea - it's a tea room."


He takes my advice and consults with a local propane tank truck driver who gives him a good lead. Just on the outskirts of town there is a place call Granddad's. And I like the sign on the side of the building -

"Home Cooked Meals Daily"



But they are not equipped to handle a bunch of motorcycle trash in masse. Seems like there is only one server for the whole place and she's as busy as a one legged man in a mile run. I walk up to her and ask -

"Ma'am, would it be okay if I put these fellers to work and bus that big table over there? I know you are covered up and I'd like to help if I could."

She gives sigh of relief and says "Sure."

So I get busy about it, gathering up dirty dishes and such into their cart, since this ain't my first rodeo of busing tables in a restaurant. Some of the other guys pitch in and pretty soon the business is done. I grab the silverware and some menus and pass them out. As soon as the server gets a break, she comes over and gets our orders.

  They aren't just whistling Dixie when they said home cooking on the sign outside. It's good grub just like any southern grandma would serve up in her kitchen. And it doesn't take long for this motley crew to polish it off either.  
  With good grub like that under our belts, we're ready to go attack some more of those lovely curves - although the bike suspension is probably suffering a little bit now.  
  As we cross over into West Virginia, it's time to fuel the beasts at the Marathon at Williamson.  
  I am amazed at the density of the rail cars moving the coal out of the area.  
  Working our way down the mountain into Gilbert, the damage done by recent flooding is startling. Right now the little creek beside the road looks pretty harmless.  
  But the houses moved off their foundations, the bridges washed away and the road destroyed in certain areas give a mute testimony to the power of a roaring mountain stream in flood stage.  
  The temps are rising and we all get stuck in a construction zone where only one lane of the road still exists.  

But further down the road, our problem of sitting in the heat for a little while pales in comparison as we come upon a serious accident scene. The ambulances are coming and we can only assume there were some serious injuries judging by the destruction of the vehicles.


The heat is starting to wear us down a bit so we make another rest stop. The group is oblivious to the plainly letter sign right behind Joe's head that clearly states -



  We pass through one small West Virginia town after another with their quiet streets empty of store foot traffic, a mute testimony to just how bad the current economy really is.  
  After fun but tiring day, I'm glad to throw the cover over SweetTreat and wash the road grime off of me.  
  There's a bit of a rain storm coming up, so Andy P covers up his ST1300 just to be safe. We decide that walking over to the Texas Steakhouse is just the ticket so we agree on a meeting time.  
  When the clock strikes the hour, we descend upon that poor eating establishment like a herd of hungry locusts looking for a wheat crop to devour.  

As we relax, the tall tales began to spin, with me in the lead. I tell the group -

"The last time I was in Gilbert, I was on my 73 Triumph Trident with a pretty West Virginia cutey on the back. My Marine buddy lived in Gilbert and we rode up to see his mom and dad. There was a county fair going on and the pickings were good. Back the days when I was young and footloose ..."


After we have done proper justice to the food set before us, we wander back over to the motel. I see an ST1100 pull in with Vermont plates and the rider has a gray STich on. It has to be my friend, Dan Baynes, from up yonder in the north land. I give him a hug and tell him -

"We waited supper for you like one hog waits on another."

We both have a good laugh and talk about our recent visit in Lincoln, New Hampshire where we had supper together. Nothing like sharing good memories with old friends.

  But the day has taken it's toll, so I turn in early so I can check my eyelids for holes. There's a storm brewing but it sure don't keep me awake long ...  
May 29, 2009
I'm up at good daylight and get my things ready to roll. With that bit of business taken care of, I stroll across the parking lot to get some hen fruit and pig meat at the Cracker Barrel.
Some more of the fellers join me in my repast and then it's back across the lot to get ready to ride.

Last night's storm has made today's choice of gear kind of interesting. But we all make our choices and ride with them.

Soon the train is rolling and I'm back in the caboose position again as we leave the town of Princeton.
There's some fog settling in as we head out into the hills, but the question of whether or not liquid sunshine is going to come our way is yet to be determined.

An overreaching tree makes a nice natural arch across the road in front of us, pruned on a regular basis by trailer trucks if I was guessing by the shape of it.

  Soon we're into the curvy bits and folks are extra careful with the moisture that still lingers on the road. One of the most dangerous times to ride is after a rain if it only rains enough for the oils in the pavement to float to the top instead of washing off.  
  We cross an old bridge that reminds of many of the ones that were around the place I grew up in Tennessee. But this one is in a lot better shape than those rusty relics with the board decks in them I used to cross.  

It sure looks like it is fixin' to dump buckets on us as we make our way up highway 20 by the Bluestone Lake.


As I see clouds continue to move in, I know it will only be a matter of time. You can smell the rain if you know what it smells like. One of the things I love about riding are the various smells that you experience while traveling at speed - something you don't notice when encased in a cage of steel.


The 'expected' visitor finally greets us with large wet drops which encourage us to be more careful as we approach the curves.

  But if you wait for the weather on a motorcycle, you will never get anywhere. I've learned to prepare for the worst, expect the best - and ride on. The sun will always be shining somewhere down the road.  
  But then again, the rain will always be falling somewhere down the road also.  
  It really starts to pour so we seek refuge at a market that has a very large awning. It's good chance to add gas to the tank and to take a hydraulic break.  
  When we pull out, I'm hanging back as the sweep, waiting for the last chicken to fly the coop. I see a logging truck coming but there's nothing I can do. There's no good places to pass him and before long we are stuck at another construction site.  
  The heat and humidity is starting to work on us so we take our breaks a little more frequently.  
  But soon all of the munchkins are ready to rock and we are back on the road headed toward Harrisonburg and our destination.  
  Now that the heat has dried out the roads, the opportunity to enjoy the West Virginia curves are abundant - and taken advantage of by many.  
  Charlie, who lives in West Virginia and is familiar with this part of Virginia, knows just the place to take us for lunch, the Hermitage. It's located in the Greenbrier River Valley, deep in the Allegheny Mountains on highway 250.  
  They are not quite staffed for a group of our size, but we move the tables together for them and help where we can. The conversations of the day are lively as we wait for our food.  
  And once again, there are not many fragments that remain after the group has vacated the premises.  
  The motel's location is quiet and peaceful, with a beautiful view looking down the valley. It would be a great place to base out of for those who might want to explore the area.  
  But now with the deed done, our fearless leader is ready to roll on down the road.  
  We are less than a hundred miles from our destination as we make our way through Monterey, Virginia. It's a small agricultural town with a population of under 200. Probably a good place to raise kids cause everybody would know you and there would be a sense of responsibility just naturally built in.  
  Soon we arrive at the Village Inn, where the FriendSToc gathering will be held. This officially ends the Triple J and gets Jason off the hook.
  Our crew is hot and tired and are grateful to get a room and take a load off their sitters. In fact, one is so bushed that he can't quite make it off his ST1100 ...
  After we get cleaned up, the group decision is to head for Miss Rowe's down the street a piece. I've eaten at their place in Staunton and it was exceptionally good. There is great debate about whether we will ride or walk, but a few of us good men like Jim Menard, decide the walk will do us good. I figure it's about a mile or so which is doable even with my bum knee. So as some strike out on their steeds, a few of us make the long hike.
  The food is good and well worth the long walk. Of course it is an all you can eat buffet, so we that are walking make sure that we consume enough desserts to strengthen us for the walk back. But fortunately, Tom M who has driven his truck down stops and offers us a ride. Not wanting to be unkind, we climb in his nice air conditioned truck and end our walking career right there. With my belly fully and the skin over my eyes being pulled down by it, I head for my room and am fully overcome by the rack monster.
May 30, 2009
  The day is kind of unscheduled except for the dinner and auction this evening, so I go uncover SweetTreat in preparation for the day. Mysteriously, the left signal is slowly blinking and the key is not in the ignition. I turn the key on and off and it still continues. Then it hits me - one of the four way flasher relays must have toasted and hung open. I pull the saddlebags, the seat, and the left side cover and yank out the fuse. This solves the problem, but my battery is deader than a hammer. So I guess I won't be riding much today after all. I figure I might as well eat, so I put the parts away and make my way to the breakfast buffet at the motel.

Joe and a few other riders are there so we all sit together and talk about what we plan to do today. The food is quite nice and I am thinking to myself that I might just kick back and take it easy today, since tomorrow is a long, 9 to 10 hour ride down the slab to the Holler.


I tell them -

"Well, my battery is deader than a hammer. A four way flasher relay hung open and drained the battery. I guess I'll have to find a place to get it charged before tomorrow."

Bob, a local rider, who just showed up, says -

"Well, I have a charger at my house I could bring over."

"If you can bring an extension cord too I should be in business" I tell him..

So he dashes off and returns with the goods. I quickly finish up breakfast, settle up, and get to the task at hand. Bob and his friend, Brad, have offered to take a group of us on some local roads, which is always of interest to me. The local riders generally know some really good roads that don't show up on most folks' radar screens. As my battery charges, I talk to them about the drop and sweep method and we decide to try it since some of us don't have GPS systems. Again, I offer to be the sweep so with that settled, we wait until SweetTreat is good to go. When she springs to life, I get the bodywork back on and we pull out. The roads that Bob and Brad have chosen are great, with nice surface and long sweepers. Once again I am enjoying the view from the back of the pack.


The scenery reminds me a lot of some of the roads back home where I grew up, with the landscape dotted by the occasional farm house on one side of the road and the barn on the other side.

  I start to play my 'hang back, then catch up' routine so I can hit the sweepers at a good rate of speed.
  As we approach one dairy farm, the smell reminds me of why I never cared for farming on a large scale to begin with.
  As we climb the local ridges, the curves get a little tighter and the group closes up some.
  Some of the bends are fairly tight which makes taking a picture as you go around them a bit of a challenge - but well worth the effort.

When we make our first fuel and rest stop, Bob M (another Bob) and his son talk about riding in general. Bob asks me -

"Since you were behind my son, did you notice anything good or bad?"

His son does not have the miles under his belt yet but I can tell that he will soon.

"Well, about the only thing I would say is to watch the yellow lines. You weren't running way over but you did touch them every now and then. And when they are wet, you can do a low-side quicker than you know what happened. But your lines looked really good and you did well" I tell them.

He took the advice and I believe he filed it away for good future use.

  Soon we're off again and I watch the line stretch out as each rider finds their pace.
  Again, I enjoy the sweepers through the woods and watching the riders in front of me carve their own way.
  Sprinkled along the route are the beautiful mountains and the old two story farmhouse where generations have enjoyed the view from the front porch.
  Off to my left I see an old farm house and wonder how many times the family gathered under those shade trees after a long day's work, to eat watermelon and crank the old ice cream churn. More than likely, there was a swing either on the front porch or a tire swing hung from one of the tree limbs so they could make their own breeze on a hot summer day.
  We make our way into New Market, Virginia where Bob and Brad know of good restaurant.

The Southern Kitchen is your typical old fashioned meat and three establishment where the food is good and the servers treat you like old friends. I ask the lady who's waiting on us -

"Those green beans, are they cooked done with a little meat throwed in?"

"Yes, just like they're supposed to be" she tells me with a grin.

So I go for the southern fried steak, the green beans and stewed tomatoes.

  And when it arrives, I am not disappointed! The best part is that is all tastes as good as it looks!

I don't see anybody of the group that goes away hungry as we waddle out to the bikes. I tell them -

"What I need is my blanket and good shade tree now."

  We head back up to high country and get stuck at a little road construction site. But the light changes soon and we're off like a rocket.
  The road twists and turns like a worm in hot ashes, which just suits the fire out of all of us.
  But it's getting time to head back to the motel so we have time to clean up before dinner. So it's down off the ridges and back into the valley.
  SweetTreat has once again served me well as I park her in front of my motel door. I go in and take a nice, long shower to wash off the road crud. Then I check my eyelids for holes for a little while - just to make sure there aren't any.

The Carriage Inn has been nice enough to set up some screens for our dinner and auction so we can have a bit of space to ourselves. Or else they are concerned that all this motorcycle trash might scare off their regular customers. Tom W, who organizes FriendSToc, has his laptop hooked up and we try to connect Moff, Dave and Keith - my riding friends from the UK and John, an ST rider from Australia (and a friend that I have not yet met in person yet) through Skype, an Internet phone service. Unfortunately, the wireless connection is a little iffy and we only have the laptop speakers. So at least I get to make smart alec comments to my friends. I tell Keith -

"If you don't buy something, I'll tell the story about your little ride in Scotland!"

We all get a good laugh out of that one. But it's almost midnight in England and Sunday morning in Australia and since it's tough for them to hear and speak to the group, they give their astute utterances which I relay to the group.

  The food is good and the fellowship is fine. No to mention there is quite a run on the dessert table.
  I had promised this year to hold the auction down to 2 hours and am good with that. I explain if they would just give me their wallets we could be done here rather quickly. As usual, I do whatever I can to separate the folks from their tightly held money and connect them with the various items that have been donated. It's all in good fun and for a great cause (to help Moff and Nikki in England with their special child, David), so it is a labor of love for me. With the last bit of stuff sold, we bring the meeting to an 'official' end. I thank them one and all and after several long good-byes to many of my riding friends, I walk back to my room. Tired from all of the days on the road, I meet the sandman rather quickly.
May 31, 2009

Knowing it is gonna be hot and I've got a long way to go, I start packing up early. A feller is walking his little poochie dog and I bend down to pet him. I've got a big heart for dogs and they seem to sense it.

I tell the dog "I bet you'll give me thirty minutes to stop that."

I ask his master "What's his name?"

"Sydney" and we begin a discussion of dogs and things. Kevin is also a rider from South Carolina and he is thinking about a sport tourer for his next mount. He currently rides a Vulcan cruiser. I tell what little I know about the subject and how pleased I am with the ST1100s. But time is passing by and the temps are rising, so I give Sydney a last pet and I'm back to tending to business. Soon I'm finished, checked out and on my way back to the Holler. I want to try to be back home in time for our evening church service so I keep that in mind.

  It's a short hop to I81, and fortunately it is pretty empty. I've got some good tunes playing from my jukebox, so I set the cruise to go and settle in for the long haul. Now it's just a matter of keeping her between the fence posts and watching the miles click on by.
  Since I gassed up the night before, which is my usual custom, I can keep running until my belly or my gas tank cries out first. Fortunately, they both occur about the same time. A Bob Evans beckons to me with a gas station near by, so I answer the call.
  I enjoy another good breakfast of sausage and cheese omelet and then it's back to mileeating. The traffic has picked up some but not too bad for a weekend.
  I know I have one more gas stop if I plan it right, so I try to stretch this tank beyond Knoxville. Having made the run many times, I know that from the west side of Knoxville and I get get to the Holler on one tank. The temps have risen pretty dramatically, so I also use the rest room to remove some unneeded clothes so I can be a little cooler riding the rest of the way home.
  From here, I could probably make the run with my eyes closed but I sure don't try it. It seems I remember every exit along the way and just count them off as travel. Soon it's a dash through Nashville to get to my exit off I40. I am glad that there's no special events going on downtown so the traffic is pretty light. Soon I am pulling into the peace and quiet of my beloved Holler where SweetTreat and I will take a much needed rest. It's been a great week of riding with new friends and old friends over roads that I know and roads that I didn't know. And I must say 'the view from the back' was not bad at all.