The four of us made an early start out of Manhattan, Queens, & Long Island. I left at 4:30 and we met in Jersey City at a gas station just outside the Holland Tunnel around 5. The ride in the dark west through New Jersey and into Pennsylvania was uneventful. I was glad I brought my heated gloves and jacket liner. We were able to watch an excellent sunrise in our rear view mirrors. At our second gas stop, in Virginia around 10:30 in the morning, we were hungry so we got cheese burgers, except Antonio, who ate a piece of cake.
Frenchy had set a brisk pace for the day, and we were buzzing along keeping up with him. We got to Skyline Drive a little after 11, and begin the long ride to the southern end of the Shenandoah Valley. We stopped often, and took lots of pictures.
As we were pulling out of one of the rest stops, a rather large rest stop with conference facilities and lots of people in the parking lot, we spotted a young adult black bear foraging about 25 or 30 feet from the side of Skyline Drive. It didn’t seem to take any notice of us, or the other cars coming in and out of the parking lot, but was just rooting around in the grass by itself. This was the first bear I have ever seen in person in the wild. None of us understood why it was just sitting right there when there were plenty of people, garbage, and a kitchen not far away, perhaps 200 yards. We decided it was probably a very well fed, unmotivated bear because it regularly ate from the dumpsters in the food service areas of Skyline Drive. I was more worried about the other bears nearby that we might not be seeing at the moment.
A few hours later, we exited Skyline Drive, jump back on 81 south for a 3 hour ride to the hotel. About an hour before we reach the hotel, two crappy things happened: Andre’s Harley Davidson started leaking oil that we noticed back before Skyline Drive. At first it was just a drop or two at each of the gas fillups, but then it became a little bit more at each stop, and then finally he pulled us over because his oil temperature gauge was flapping wildly up and down. When we inspected his bike closely in the truck stop where we pulled in, we noticed that the entire underside was coated with oil, and his dipstick registered no oil. He added a quart from his tool kit (who carries oil?). We found a local auto parts store and a mechanic at 5:35. After about an hour, where a loose oil plug was diagnosed and serviced, we were back on the road. This delay would cause us to arrive at our hotel just after sunset. Frenchy and I took turns setting the pace for the final hour, a brisk 80 to 85 miles per hour in a 70 mph zone. I saw the blue flashing lights come on a few hundred yards back up the hill, where possibly Andre and Antonio were riding, having been separated from us by the traffic. So the second bummer of the day besides the Harley breaking down, was that Antonio got a ticket for going 81mph. Andre was not pulled over. And French and I were about a quarter mile ahead of them when it happened. We are going to let Andre and Antonio lead for the rest of the ride since they ride at a slower pace.
Today, we plan a 7 a.m. breakfast in the hotel buffet, a departure led by Andre and Antonio, to the Tail of the Dragon, about 140 miles away. From there we will proceed to the Cherohala Skyway, a 55 mile Skyline Drive-type route West back towards 81. Then we will turn north on 81 for a two to three hour ride back to the hotel.