Day 1: Herndon, VA to Greenville, SC
After delaying by a few days, I went ahead and left on my trip on Wednesday, April 19.
I had spent quite a bit of time preparing my bike for the trip. The Honda VFR750F is not really designed for really long-distance trips, but if you add the right accessories it's the perfect long-haul rig. Here you can see the Zero Gravity extended windscreen I installed, as well as the GiVi hard luggage on the back of the bike.
In the weeks leading up to the trip, I had to fight with a lot of frightening feelings. I think there are some folks who would head out there on a cross-country trip on a motorcycle for the first time without batting an eye, but I'm not one of those people. I fought off visions of tires exploding in the desent and rabid minivan drivers on the interstate. I think that's what drove me to fiddle with the bike so much before I left for the trip.
One of the fringe benefits of the trip is that I invested the time and money to get my garage in shape. Heather (my girlfriend, aka m00kie) and I cleaned the garage, which basically consisted of moving all of the cardboard boxes and junk to one side of the garage. I also purchased a lot of tools. I love buying tools, I can honestly say I've never suffered from buyer's remorse when tool shopping. Even when it comes to those tools I've only used once in my life.
With the help of m00kie and my friend Chris, I replaced all the fluids, installed a new chain and sprockets, put on hard luggage, installed a Scottoiler to keep the chain lubricated (this way I don't have to think about it every 200 miles). Also, I spent a lot of hours planning the trip meticulously - here's where I'll be on this day, the next day, and so forth. Of course, the schedule went out the window on the third day - but more on that later.
m00kie helped me pack for the trip, and really I was way overloaded. Filled one GiVi with tools for the bike, the second with clothes, and the third with more clothes, my laptop, and a pillow to cushion the thing. I also took my Eclipse tank bag along. In here I put such things as maps, rain gear, earplugs, and other things I figured I'd need handy access to on the road.
Speaking of rain gear, on the day before I had planned to leave, it rained here in the DC metro area. So, I threw on my rain gear and went riding, hoping to test everything out before taking it on the road. The rainsuit worked great, helmet leaked a little, and my boots leaked like a sieve. Really, they ended up working like big sponges, soaking up water and then holding it, so that my feet were pretty much soaked all the way up past my ankles. Not a good thing! So, on the day before I left, I broke down and bought Sidi On Road Sympatex boots. These are supposed to be the dryest around, but they have this funky European sizing and I ended up with a pair that was a little bit too big. With heavy socks they worked out pretty well.
Fortunately, it didn't rain on the 19th, so I decided to head on out. I got off to a late start, left the house at around 11AM and headed over to have lunch with m00kie. I ate a light lunch, figuring that it would be better to eat light before trying to ride 500+ miles in one day.
After lunch, I stopped at Manassas Honda for a quick safety check before departing. The guy who looked at it was friendly but seemed uninterested. I asked him what he thought about the tension I had put in the chain, to which he responded, "kick the chain when you pull over to a stop." Guess I was looking for a more in-depth analysis!
Got on the road, took route 66 west to I-81 south. Before long, I started getting hungry, and pulled over in New Market for a hamburger. So much for eating light!
Continued south on I-81 but I got tired of the high speeds and traffic. Somewhere around Lexington VA, I decided to go try the Blue Ridge Parkway. Turned out this was a major detour, but well worth it. I rode a twisty secondary road up to the Parkway, with a nervous eye on my fuel gauge. I started to realize just how differently the bike handles when loaded down with 150 lbs. of luggage.
Stopped at a few picturesque spots on the Parkway, and along the way I met a guy with a British accent. I asked him how far the nearest gas station was, and after he told me, he asked to look at my map. He said he was heading up toward Shenandoah National Park, basically where I had just ridden down from. I told him it shouldn't take him but a few hours to get up there. He indicated that he was planning to take a couple days to get there, which surprised me. He didn't seem to be in a hurry at all, something I wasn't used to seeing in people!
I should point out here that I am currently living in northern Virginia, which is a highly commercialized area, and most of the people you find around here are caught up in the same ratrace I've been in for the past few years. It's that ratrace I was seeking to escape for a little while with this trip, but it's kind of hard to let go of that "focus on the goal" mentality. I think that mentality can be a good thing, necessary for progress, but we have to take a step back and think about what the goal is, anyway. Too often, I think we find that the goal is not nearly as valuable or precious as the journey that leads us to it. Not the kind of mentality your TeeVee promotes, is it?
Because I was low on fuel, and focused on getting to South Carolina that day, I only spent about half an hour on the Parkway. I told myself that I'd have to come back here and really take some time to explore and appreciate this road. The British fellow had mentioned that the scenery on the Parkway is even more breathtaking when you get to North Carolina.
Exited the Parkway and ended up in a town called Buena Vista, VA. The Vista there was indeed Buena! Fueled up and got back on I-81 about 5 miles south of where I had left it.
Rode the Interstate to Roanoke, VA, and stopped to call my relatives in Greenville to tell 'em not to wait up for dinner. I had originally expected to take about 8 hours to cover the 520 miles from Herndon to Greenville, which should have put me there at about 6PM, had I left on time. The way things were going, I was not going to make it until after midnight.
Rode past Roanoke and Charlotte, NC, and arrived at my relatives' place at about 12:30AM. My aunt and uncle had already gone to sleep, but my cousins Mike and Paul were still awake. We chatted and played with computers, and I got to sleep at about 2AM. I had racked up 580 miles today and was plenty wore out.
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