I woke up early and grabbed a shave. I don’t shave everyday, but when I do I feel refreshed like I am getting new start on life. Nicole and her kids were on my mind for many miles yesterday. I wrote them a short note on the hotel stationary which made me laugh because I never stay in places fancy enough to have such amenities. I walked over to a posh eatery called Cafe Lombardy for breakfast. I ordered pancakes and coffee. My mind must have been elsewhere because I poured syrup into my coffee. Embarrassed, I told the waiter what I had done and he professionally rushed off and brought me another cup. I wonder if he sees this kind of scatterbrained behavior often in this city where so many people have jobs with such great responsibility. The meal was excellent and I felt fueled for the ride ahead of me.
I got back to the hotel room but felt a bit feverish. I rested on the bed for a few minutes and the feeling left me. Traveling by motorcycle can be pretty tough on the body. The constant wind, temperature changes, and ingestion of bugs can lead to many ailments. Halfway through my tour last summer, my ears felt like they popped, and it took until 2 weeks after the completion of the tour for them to return to normal.
I packed my things and carried my cases down to the parking garage and rumbled onto the road. A few dots of rain speckled my fairing, but I drove on and outran the bad weather. I don’t know that I will return to DC again since not much seems to change here. The musty museums house the same old artifacts that my eyes have seen before. I headed west on 66 and picked up 81 South, a beautiful piece of road cuts right through the Shenandoah Valley. One of the first songs I ever learned on the guitar when I began playing back in 1977 was “Country Roads” by John Denver, a song that describes this very corner of the world. I laughed while I spoke to myself inside the confines of my Arai helmet, “Oh, this is what he was talking about!” The scenery was breathtaking and the weather spot on. I began to sing full volume within the muffled confines of my headgear, “Almost heaven, West Virginia!”
The beast of hunger was rearing his ugly head, so I used Yelp to locate a place to eat. Serendipitously I came across a southern fried chicken joint appropriately dubbed the Southern Kitchen. It is a rustic old-time diner with ladles full of southern hospitality. I of course ordered the fried chicken with mashed potatoes and green beans. The entire meal was fabuolous. The chicken was juicy without being greasy, a feat that is tough to muster. After downing the meal, the waitress insisted that I get the lemon meringue pie. I wisely took her advice with a cup of coffee to boot. I was full, but I was sport eating at this point – taking in the local flavors by the plateful as sparks shot from my knife and fork. Discoveries like the Southern Kitchen are one of the main reasons I like adventuring. Culinary surprises are around every corner, and with a little on-the-road research the best establishments can be easily located.
I continued on 81 to 77 South and then to 421. I did eventually catch a little rain but it didn’t last long. The pain larger than the water itself is putting my rain gear on and then taking it off again. The last leg on 421 was one of the most beautiful roads I’ve ever traveled. Much of it was covered with a canopy of trees and the rolling changes in elevation made the ride enjoyable.
I arrived in Boone, NC. I pulled into my sister Ann’s driveway and she and her husband Brian met me with huge smiles. Before doing anything else I decided I was going to do pictures of everybody in my family sitting on the Flying Brick. Ann, Brian, and Ann’s son Wyatt, all took the saddle and hammed it up for a few snapshots. Brian broke out some ice cold Yeunglings as Ann grilled up some brats. They both know what I like.
In my family of five kids (yes, I was raised Catholic), my sister Ann in second oldest. She was an outstanding student in high school and was the first one in our family to get a 4 year college degree. She also went on to get her masters degree in Chemistry which I imagine is no easy feat. Her memory is excellent and she also studied piano and french horn for many years. When I was young, she was always supportive of my music making and she helped me through cumbersome preteen years by styling my ridiculously straight hair. She made me feel cooler than I thought I could be, and that bolstered my confidence as I navigated murky social waters.
Brian conjured a fire in the pit they had in the backyard and we talked for hours into the night. We told old stories and discussed the hardships of growing up in such a large family. I had not seen Ann in a while so it was good to catch up. I took note of the fact that it was nice to talk to Ann and Brian without the rest of the family being around. Typically, when our enormous herd gathers on holidays or other life events, the sheer amount of people that is assembled makes communicating difficult. One must scream over the din of the other family members to be heard. We constantly interrupt one another just to get a word in edgewise. This more mellow hang was a nice respite from the calamity.
I continued to drain the 12 pack of brews as we toasted marshmallows. I often think about relocating to an area more rural than my current home of NYC. The thought of owning a garage and a yard is nice at first glance, but then I catch myself. Where would I work? Who would I hang out with? Where would I see art and bands. I realized that the solution is to travel a few times a year to get my country fix and escape the rat race of Gotham.
With a good buzz in my head, I drifted off to sleep. The first family member stop was an excellent one, and I reminded myself that I need to do trips like this more often. Good roads, good food, and good family. A city boy sabbatical away from the traffic, noise, and the rats, both large and small.