Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Motorcycle ride planning focusing more on avoiding traffic than on the ride...sad

The last two weekends, we took a trip down to Yorktown to visit ailing family members. Two Saturdays ago, we drove our car down south because of traffic issues on I-95 and the threat of rain. This last Saturday, we rode our motorcycles down south in spite of the traffic issues on I-95 and the threat of rain. (Yes, we got wet...a common occurrence this summer :)

I've lived in the Washington metro area now for 29 years. During that time, the traffic has always been bad. Initially horrible during the typical morning and evening rush hours during the weekdays, certain roads now are in a perpetual traffic jam no matter the time or day. At least one local radio station issues traffic reports every 10-min. And on any given day, somewhere in the area is a traffic jam of monumental proportions. This is such a routine occurrence, it has become the norm. Sad.

Even sadder is that there is no respite during the weekend when traffic is often as congested but going in the other direction. Routes out of the WMA are jammed beyond belief starting Friday evenings and often through Saturday morning with everyone returning Sunday. During summer weekends that promise nice beach weather, the roads appear to be so congested it is unclear to me that anyone makes it to their destination. I fully expect traffic cams to show folks sun bathing on top of their cars while puttering down the road at a blazing 1.3 mph.

I've studied maps, Google maps, Google Earth, and myriad other mapping programs to find southbound routes that allow us to avoid I-95. There are few options. None are great.

As with everything else in life, nothing is truly free and the cost of my "avoidance routes" is time or distance or both. The most straightforward route to my in-laws is south on I-95, loop around Richmond on I-295, and then head east on I-64. Door-to-door this route is 159 miles and takes 2 hours and 30 minutes observing all legal speed limits, which of course, I always do. (It's possible to make the trip in less time by traveling at the same speed as the traffic; we've made it as quick as just over 2 hours.)

A more typical route for us is to take I-95 to just south of Fredericksburg and then travel Rte 17 south to Yorktown. The distance is the same at 159 miles, but the slower posted speed limits, occasional stop lights, and travel through towns adds 30 minutes to the trip. Avoiding a majority of the interstates, even at the cost of 30 additional minutes, is worth the extra time.

I have found an alternative route that avoids the interstate route all together; the closest approach is crossing over I-95. Alas, this route adds 22 miles to the trip and a theoretical 1 hour and 15 minutes over the interstate only route. In many cases, the 3 hours and 45 minutes comes closer to 4 hours when its all over and done with. I'll never get this time back...somebody help!

Monday, July 15, 2013

2013 motorcycle trip to Laurel Bluff Cabins wrap up...there was no day we didn't get rained on

On Friday, which was theoretically to have the best weather of our 4 day trip, we headed north west through the mountains on a planned 110-mile loop that ended in Galax, VA. We stopped at a diner on Main Street to have an early dinner and as luck would have it, the Galax's July Cruisin' & Groovin' Car Show was to start at 5pm so we decided to stick around to see it. The hot rods and classic cars started to roll in at around 4pm and I got a few photos, but at about 5:01pm, the sky got dark, clouds rolled in, and the bottom fell out. We donned our rain suits and stood under a roof overhang while rain like you've never seen came down, including pea-sized hail. After the rain eased a bit (but not yet stopped), we decided to forgo the car show and get back to the cabin. We had some difficulty getting out of town as several streets became impassable due to overflowing curb drains. We rode through several "puddles" that came up over our foot pegs and though it was less than 10-miles to the cabin, it took us about 45-min to get there. We arrived safely and spent a nice quiet evening in the cabin.

Terri making friends with a ZZ Top band member (not really) next to his 1934 Chevy coupe.
Terri explaining to the owner of a clean 1964 Chevy pick up that she first learned to drive in her dad's Chevy pickup similar to their's including 3-speed manual shift on the steering column. 
Terri pondering with the owner of a 1931 Ford Model A (I think) who was keen to sell it to her for a measly $44,000.

On Saturday we packed up and hurried out of town hoping to get ahead of the rain coming up from the south. We decided "fast" made more sense than "scenic" so we got on the interstate highway and made a mad dash northward. The rain started and after 100 miles of frenetic speed, traffic, semi trailers, and one accident that slowed traffic to a crawl for about 5-miles, we got off the interstate to gas up the motorcycles and decided to stay on secondary roads. Not counting the "spritzing rain" we encountered even though the sun was trying to shine, we managed to stay ahead of the rain for the rest of the ride home.

I was glad we got off the interstate highway. The ride on the secondary roads is so much more pleasurable with its less traffic and its necessarily slower speed. Plus, I would have never had the chance to wave at the guy sitting in his front yard who waved back with his fly swatter...no, I'm not sure why he was swatting flies in his front yard...

Though we got rained on every day of our 4.5 day motorcycle road trip, we had a great time. It was nice to get away. The stay at Laurel Bluff Cabins was great. The rides through the mountains were great. The rain made it hard...but it's supposed to be hard, if it wasn't hard, everyone would do it, the hard...is what makes it great.

Here are the GPS stats & track:

  • 949.8 miles
  • 31.8 mph overall avg
  • 44.9 mph moving avg
  • 77.4 mph max speed

A not so easy to read Google Earth map showing our route color coded by day. It starts out red for the evening of July 9th on I-66 west & I-81 south to Staunton where we spent the night. Then blue on the 10th where we took secondary roads to the cabin. Cyan on the 11th where we made our "eastern loop" and green on the 12th for our "western loop". Magenta for the 13th which was our route back home. Though it looks like we traveled I-81, we only did this for about 100 miles and then rode most of the time on Rte 11 which weaves back and forth across I-81 to Rte 211 through Warrenton to home. All total, nearly 1000-miles!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Motorcycle ride today undaunted by 80% chance of rain

Mainly because the weather map is relatively clear, we hopped on our motorcycles for a day ride in the vicinity of our cabin. Many roads in this area are closed because of bridge construction and detours abound. This is impacting my preplanned routes and we're having to ad lib. That's ok, 'Let's find a road and ride' is my middle name. :)

Look what we found: 

A trestle bridge built in 1931 for the railroad, now used as a foot bridge across the New River in the vicinity of Hiwassee, VA. 

We left at about 9am and got back to the cabin a bit after 3pm. No rain...except for the last 10-min just before the bottom fell out. See weather map below. We were lucky on a day threatening 80% chance of rain!

(No more weather maps...I promise.)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The rains came and we kept riding...

The day started out great. We had nearly 250 miles to cover and I mapped out a route off the beaten path. At breakfast, we met a guy who had an older Royal Enfield (that's a bit of an oxymoron), sidecar and all. After breakfast, he kickstarted it and waited the obligatory 10 minutes until it would idle without the choke (no fuel injection on this motorcycle) during which time he told me a story about riding a Harley in 1932. But since he didn't look 90+ years old, I'm assuming he actually meant he rode a 1932 Harley sometime in his past. It was hard to hear him clearly and I got embarrassed asking him to repeat himself so many times that I went into 'head nodding-saying yes-smiling' mode as he talked. (I got the distinct impression he didn't get many opportunities to talk to people.) He finally waved bye and motored off which I took as a cue meaning he was done talking. 

With about 60 miles before we arrived at the cabin, the bottom fell out and we rode through some pretty fierce rain. We donned our rain gear but when it rains as hard as it did today there's no way to stay completely dry. I didn't get any photos because I didn't want to get my equipment wet, so you'll have to take my word for it. 

An early start on our motorcycle trip to Fancy Gap

Originally planning to leave on our motorcycles bright and early Wednesday morning, true to our spontaneous form we decided to pack up and head out with no dinner at 8:30pm Tuesday evening. Taking the interstate--something we avoid with fervor most times--and even with a stop at a Cracker Barrel for dinner, we made it to Staunton well before midnight to stay the evening. 

The evening ride was most excellent. Both the temperature and humidity had lowered to pleasant levels from the sweltering daytime highs. More concerning, though, was the possibility of rain which we thankfully avoided. And looking at the weather map Tuesday morning, it was a wise choice to have left last night as it is raining at home this morning. 

We'll see how our luck holds today in keeping dry. Though maybe riding through a shower wouldn't be so bad as it would wash off the 20-lbs of bug carcasses left on my motorcycle. :)