Tuesday 4th April
Jamestown was just what I needed. Not only was it one of the nicest accommodations I’ve stayed in but the whole area had a calm about it. No pretence and that is what I look for. The America we see on TV back home is all we know and when you visit the holiday resorts you are given a projection of that same image. The real America is so much better but unfortunately this can on be experienced in person.
My plan today was originally to head to Sandstone falls near Beckley but as my month’s plan on my phone was nearing an end I needed to find a Boost store. The only one I could find was off route and back near Bristol, which is a town split into half by Tennessee and Virginia. At the start back in November this would have annoyed me as I hated my plans being spoilt but one of the things I’ve learnt is that these unforeseen changes generally bring something interesting.
I couldn’t have wished for better weather, this paired with gorgeous roads made for a fun day for me. Even when my satnav took me down an unpaved road I wasn’t put off my good mood. Roads that I wouldn’t have tackled on my Honda seemed easy now. I was feeling confident and that isn’t always good as it can tip into over confidence so easily.
I arrived at Bristol and topped up my monthly call plan. The guy serving me was polite but a little off, right until I had to pay. If you have a credit card like myself you have to produce identification. When the guy saw this he said ‘oh, you’re the real deal’. I asked what he meant and he told me that there are people who pretend to be English to impress people. This was the first I’d heard of this and it made me laugh at how false some can be.
I rode only 20 miles north into Virginia and found a motel for the night.
Wednesday 5th April
Since being away I have relaxed as a person and have become more accepting of most things. Except TV. I see reality TV and feel like throwing the set at the wall. For a start it isn’t reality. It’s made up and then packaged as reality. Let’s face most of the time life is boring and not many of us could match all the things that happen to these “stars” on a daily basis. I once met a couple whilst off road training in Wales who’s daughter went on The Voice or Britains got Talent (some crap programme like that). They told me that they were told what to say when the camera was on them and nothing was real.
Anyway rant over it explains why this morning I was searching for more stimulating TV when I stumbled on a local network showing community TV. On this there was a guy showing a local attraction called Backbone Bridge. The guy was obviously not a professional presenter but he was good enough for me to Google it’s location and luckily it was 20 miles from me.
Backbone bridge was an excellent visit. Not only has is the accolade of being the worlds shortest tunnel but for me it showed me that in my older age I have developed a fear of heights. How odd that I never noticed this. I felt a little odd at the Hoover Dam but no issues at the Grand Canyon. Maybe it’s at a height that I can envisage actual becoming hurt. When it’s a lot taller I seem ok.
I was satisfied with my little find and decided that I would set my TomTom to the winding roads setting. From Backbone bridge I was to head north through a town called Damascus (yes Damascus!)and on to Sandstone Falls. TomTom is fantastic but it sometimes cocks things up when it comes to road surfaces. I took a road which resembled someones driveway and quickly the road turned dangerous. I was about to turn around when I saw that two rather unhappy looking dogs were approaching and didn’t want me there. Bugger!! I didn’t have the luxury of turning around now as that would mean being dinner for these guys so I would have to ride on with the hope that the road will improve. I felt a massive sense of relief when the dogs gave up their pursuit quite quickly. But that feeling didn’t last long. The road not only became impossible to ride due to the surface but there was a gate to block my path. I had one choice, turn around and face my two unhappy K9s. SHIT
The only thing I could do was ride at the speed the road allowed (10mph) and attempt to ignore them. I am a dog lover so booting them was not an option. The bastards done their best to knock me off but the Honda and me made it out without a scratch. Let’s hope the day becomes easier.
Coming of the Interstate as soon as possible I ended up on Old US 19 also known as Ingleside Road and saw one of the strangest sights since I’ve been here. 5 or 6 70’s Corvettes in a pretty bad state. I was about to ride past but I saw an opportunity for a few photos so turned back and parked up. It would appear that Hart’s Engine services had gone bust and these classics were halfway through being repaired. I wondered why the owners hadn’t collected them but they may have belonged to Mr Hart. I have seen so many abandoned vehicles on my travels but none quite as sad a sight as these classic muscle cars going to seed.
Next stop Sandstone Falls. I rode through the mountain roads. Loving my choice and hoping that some more photo opportunities would present themselves I came around a corner to have another mad dog aiming itself at my bike. Bugger!! Again. It missed and I rode on. A little shaken. All that was going through my head was ‘what would have happened if we had connected?’. Within a mile I had another, then another, after 4 more dogs with teeth shown launching themselves at me and my 250kg loaded bike I decided that today was the day to avoid the mountain roads and get to Sandstone in one piece.
The falls had better be worth it.
Sandstone is a town just off the New river. A lot of houses were compulsory purchased and there was a lot of construction traffic which made my last two miles a 30 minute journey but after my day I was determined to get to these bloody falls. Anyway I could see that once I was through the road works all I had was a short trip to my next motel in Beckley.
Well………..the Falls were ok. Not particularly spectacular but that may have been from my over expectation.
Not an issue my road was only 500 yards away and I’ll soon be in a nice bed. My satnav said turn left so I did. ‘looks a bit steep’ I thought. Maybe discretion is the better idea, after all it’s been a tough day. I’ll turn back. But I was already facing up and had ridden 20 or so feet. I applied my brakes, SHIT, the wheel was locked but I was still sliding backwards. The stones had made it so that all I could do was head backwards on a severe hill whilst attempting to hold up a 250kg fully loaded bike. Ok this was going to be the time when I drop her. With both feet down and pure luck I managed to keep the bike upright. I couldn’t back the Honda where I wanted to so I had to turn mid hill. Not an easy thing to do on a small bike let alone this 1000cc one.
The interstate seemed so lovely for my last 20 miles. I didn’t expect to be thinking that.
I arrived at my motel in Beckley happy to eat and then sleep.
Thursday 6th April
Beckley was a quiet place and the hotel was comfortable. I was able to catch up on washing clothes etc and had time to check the weather. Snow was approaching and I wasn’t that unhappy. I was aching from yesterday. There was a heated indoor pool and TV with movies. I think I’ll stay for a few days.
Friday 7th April
I woke to snow. I looked out at the Honda and felt a little sorry that it wasn’t under cover. I hoped this doesn’t have a negative effect on it.
I hadn’t found anywhere particularly good to eat in Beckley. I had tried a steak house and even Holiday Inn but there wasn’t an atmosphere in either. Ruby Tuesdays was close, I’ll give that a go. I struck lucky as although it was a chain the staff made it feel family owned and I knew that I would stay for a few beers. I hadn’t had a drink for a week or so and they were going down well. In fact after the 10 oclock closing of RT I wanted to carry on. I jumped in the car of a local huy and we made our way to a bar which stays open later (Murphy’s I think). All good, James and his friends were all decent and invited me to join them elsewhere. Why not?
We walked in and I instantly felt an atmosphere and a good few eyes staring at me. The first time I had felt this since being in the USA. I stood at the bar and ordered a drink. A guy next to me asked me where I was from, not something I was a stranger to. He then said to the barman that he would be paying for my drink. I said thank you but he added that he would ‘if I am on his and his friends side’. I asked what he meant. He pointed at my new friends and said ‘are you on their side or ours?’. I now assumed I had walked in on a turf war a such. I played dumb. ‘What do you mean? I am not from anywhere around here’. ‘No you don’t understand, they’re from much further than you’ he said. Then the penny dropped and I felt a little sickened. It was because James and his friends were black. I didn’t mention this before because I do not care. I really had no answer so I tried to flannel them by being ultra british, the tension was obvious and I was now in a situation which could turn volatile.
I turned to James and asked if we could grab a lift quickly. He saw what had happened and agreed. I turned back to grab my jacket and it was missing. The guys had obviously taken it and I can only assume it was to teach me a lesson for talking to James and his group. I spoke to the management in vain and decided that leaving without it was the sensible option.
There was some positive interactions though. James for one and a lovely couple Paul, Kelly and their friend David who didn’t want his photo taken. Plus the bar staff were cool at Ruby Tuesdays. I thank them for how they received me.
Saturday 8th April
The weather was good thankfully as the jacket I had lost from last night was heated.
My ride today wasn’t going to be long. I was heading through the George Washington and Jefferson national forest towards Mount Jackson. I wanted to see the caverns around that area of which there are many.
But I couldn’t shake my bad mood. I had thought about what had gone on the previous evening and couldn’t get my head around it. The jacket I can replace so that’s not an issue but the blatant racism is something I’ve not experienced anywhere before. I was born in East London and have grown up with all nationalities. I have friends from all over the world as I’ve been lucky enough to travel more than most. Perhaps this is why I don’t judge people on their appearance, more how they are to me. If someone is nice to me then I reciprocate, equally if they’re an arsehole then I give back the same.
I will not let this get to me but it will stay with me for a while.
On the positive flip side I had so many people offering help with replacement jackets etc and nearly all from America. That picked me up.
Sunday 9th April
Mount Jackson was a good place for me. Not only were the Shenandoah caverns a great attraction but my motel had a Denny’s attached. I know small things please small minds.
The room I had was a little odd though. Last night I kept hearing a loud bang on the wall like a door being slammed but I was too tired to kick up a fuss and slept easily without saying anything.
Before I left to see the caverns I heard the same loud bang. I put on my shoes and went to see what the issue is. There was no one there. The room had been made up and there were no occupants.
I visited the caves and was suitably impressed, I like getting something out of each day and this was worth my time and effort.
I got into bed and ‘bang’. So loud. I walked outside only to find that the room wasn’t occupied. I’m moving on tomorrow so if there’s a ghost he’ll have to play with someone else.
Monday 10th April
Although I am not a fan of cities I thought that a quick trip into Washington DC shouldn’t be missed. After seeing a cavalcade of police cars and black cars I assumed that I had been in the presence of Mr Trump albeit us both travelling and 60 mph in the opposite directions of the motorway. But I did see is new home and was a little surprised as to how close you can get to it. I can see why they have security issues.
I can now feel the end of this stint approaching and I’m starting to look forward to being back in the UK. Before this happens I’ve a few states to ride through. My mood is one of making progress so Maryland was passed through with ease. Not that it’s a bad state as the riding was fun but I have the feeling of wanting to move on.
The local rest area made me laugh. I love a good sense of humour and whoever made this has definitely got one.
Some will say that I have missed things but as my wife said, this is my trip and everyone else should really be ignored. Delaware was noted in Waynes World as being boring so maybe this state I wasn’t expecting much but I was where I was staying for tonight.
Tuesday 11th April
Heading off without any idea of what to do I headed towards the Pennsylvania state line. Along the way I rode past Dover Airbase. Now decommissioned it is a museum and rivals anything we have back in England for exhibits. Why it isn’t better known is anyone’s guess.
Taylors Bridge Road threw up a surprise too. An abandoned old lighthouse. Due to the state to the house it hadn’t been active in years. One that made for good pictures and later for a some research being as there was no sea for miles. Too far away for this to be effective.
Wednesday 12th April
Decisions Decisions??? Personally I don’t want to go through New York City but the images are icons. Sod it I’ll head to New Jersey and get my pictures then head around the city itself into New York state.
This turned out to be a good idea. At Liberty state park, Jersey City you can see all the skyline and the statue of liberty without braving the crowds. Don’t get me wrong there’s nothing wrong with paces like New York City but it just doesn’t suit my trip. Although I was there in 2000 I may return with my wife as I’m sure she would appreciate it.
After trying a couple of beers this evening I have decided that I’m going to give beer a miss until I’m back home, it’s not that it tastes bad but it has a most unpleasant effect on my stomach. In fact only Stella back in Miami Oklahoma didn’t effect me negatively. I guess my stomach is in tune with European beers.
Thursday 13th April
A nice relaxing day and my chance to catch up on this blog. It’s surprising how long this takes to write or maybe it’s just that I’m slow. Either way it was good to chill in my room.