Thursday, September 13, 2012

ESTN Day 2: Extreme Sport-Touring & Negotiating

Friday morning, we met Shane and Andrea in the breakfast room of our motel at 7:30 AM. Chris was ecstatic to find Fruit Loops as a breakfast option; apparently, he'd been jonesing Fruit Loops! Who knew? Once our bellies were full with continental breakfast goodies, we returned to our rooms to grab our bags and top case so we could get on the road.
We hit the road at 7:58 AM and found it to be kinda chilly!

Passing the Staunton Post Office...probably should have mailed Mom's birthday card from there!
(More on that later.)

Following Shane & Andrea through Staunton. Check me out in the shadow!

As soon as we left Staunton, we ran into quite a bit of fog and temperatures in the high 50s/low 60s.

Nice chevrons!
We stopped so Andrea could put on an additional layer under her mesh jacket, so Chris took advantage of the nearby "facilities."

We came upon a work zone and had to wait for the pilot truck to return to escort us through. We were stopped long enough that I hopped off the bike to stretch my legs.

Such a pretty blue bike!
Away we go behind the pilot truck!
Pilot Car...Follow Me!

Passing the Greenbrier Grille & Lodge in Marlinton, WV
A barn in fog.
Shane led the ride on Friday and, as you can see in the pictures above, we were on "real" roads. That "real road" phenomenon came to a SCREECHING halt when we hit Shady-Whitby Road in Raleigh, WV. This..."road" (and I use that term quite loosely) was one that we honestly had NO BUSINESS being on with an FJR and a Concours. Hell, I would be hard-pressed to take my AWD Subaru down this road, and it has a rally-inspired racing heritage! 

Actually, the first 90% of Shady-Whitby Road was OK. Just OK. It was gravel, but it wasn't anything we hadn't encountered before. Then things went downhill. Literally. Like we were losing elevation...steeply! And the road went from gravel to rocks the size of baseballs and softballs. We had the slight advantage of following Shane and Andrea so Chris could see Shane's lines and I could watch just how much Andrea was getting tossed around and prepare myself for the bumps and dips.

Ironically, just the day before, Chris and I had been talking about encountering bad situations and the mantra, "when in doubt, throttle out!" So when a large rut swallowed our front tire - despite Chris' best efforts - and threatened to send us off the "road" into a gigantic ditch, two things happened. First, I mentally prepared myself for the worst. I simply resigned myself to the fact that we were going down and tried to make myself as loosey-goosey as possible. Second - and most importantly! - Chris cracked the throttle and rocketed the bike (and us!) out of the rut and kept us going. That's when I started with the lamaze breathing! I couldn't believe we made it out of that alive, much less still upright! My hubby has MAD SKILLZ!!!

We stopped at the bottom of the hill from hell to collect ourselves (we were all a bit frazzled). Chris and Shane agreed that road was the worst one they've ever been on, two-up or otherwise! Almost immediately after we stopped, a guy on an ATV rode past us. Presumably he heard us coming down the hill (and feared we were going to find his 'shine still!). Thankfully, the worst of "that road" was behind us and after about another five minutes of a flat (thank God!) gravel road, we returned to asphalt.

Not sure you can see my smile, but that asphalt behind me is definitely reason to smile!!!

Welcome to Welch...Chris' Dad's hometown.
Coming into downtown Welch.

Downtown Welch.

Check out the coal chute that crosses the road!

Coal chute.
We took another stretch break before hitting VA 16 through Hungry Mother State Park. My goodness, I love VA 16!!! Wowzers!  

Had to take a picture of Happy's in Marion, VA for our friend Sara!

Friday was an absolutely beautiful day for riding!

Catching a picture of Shane and Andrea as they come out of a right-hand hairpin; caught us, too!


Welcome to North Carolina!

This. is. SPARTA!!!
We arrived in Sparta around 6:15 PM, checked in, and retreated to our rooms pretty quickly so we could get cleaned up for dinner. When we emerged from our rooms, we found lots of our friends mingling about in the parking lot - Garry, Doug, Jack, Frank, Scott (BEANS!), and Ben to name a few. The rest of our PA contingent - Jerry, David, Jeff, and John - arrived shortly thereafter. Once the guys were cleaned up, we all walked to JB's (in the motel parking lot) for dinner. 

After dinner, we stood around in the parking lot talking (shocker!) and enjoying a few adult beverages, including sampling a little moonshine that Jerry picked up in West Virginia. Jeff introduced a few of us to Wild Turkey American Honey Bourbon. One word. YUM! (I guess we'll be adding that to the shrine to alcohol at The Homestead soon!) I shared the Clementine's Dark Chocolate Chip Walnut Oatmeal Cookies that we brought. I usually make the cookies we take to motorcycle meets, but Chris made them this time to help me out last week (it was a short, but very busy week!). Everyone seemed to enjoy the cookies we brought, as well as the ones that Leisa sent with Jerry. 

Before we all scattered and turned in for the night, Chris and I agreed with Shane and Andrea that we would meet for breakfast at JB's at 7:30 AM. Day 2 and our extreme sport-touring and gravel road negotiating was over! 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

ESTN Day 1: Elizabeth's Surprised Thursday Night

This past weekend was the ESTN (Eastern Sport-Touring.Net) Meet in Sparta, NC. My first "big trip" with Chris was to ESTN in Sparta two years ago, so I was anxious to return to Sparta and to hit all of the great roads in and around the area. Like our ESTN 2010 trip, we decided to make a longer weekend of it - departing on Thursday and returning home on Monday.

We spent early Thursday morning packing and preparing to leave. The night before Chris said we should try to be on the road by 9 AM. Well, 9 AM came and went but Chris wasn't being a taskmaster about our departure time so I didn't think much of it. We wound up leaving the house at 9:48 AM.

We took a long and circuitous route down through central and south central Pennsylvania on our way to Western Maryland and our destination for lunch - Uno's in Deep Creek Lake, MD.

The ski slopes of Wisp in Deep Creek.

Chris was very excited to have lunch at Uno's, especially since our nearest Uno's (Altoona) has closed.

Gassing up at the Arrowhead gas station next to Uno's. Arrowhead Market used to be a must-visit place when we used to do a long weekend in Deep Creek with our friends from Baltimore.
I kinda felt like we lingered over lunch a little too long, but didn't really think anything of it since we were riding by ourselves and were on our own timeline. After leaving Deep Creek Lake, we continued south into West Virginia. Before I knew it, we were seeing signs for Blackwater Falls State Park and Canaan Valley Resort State Park. I mentioned to Chris that maybe we could swing by Canaan Valley so I could meet the group sales coordinator and get a copy of our countersigned contract for the STN Region 6 Spring 2013 Meet. I also wanted to check the place out. I didn't think our schedule permitted the stop, so I was surprised when Chris agreed to the deviation from our plan. We stopped in, I met Lisa, got a copy of the countersigned contract, looked around, and lost no more than 20 minutes. Canaan Valley is going to be a great spot for our Spring 2013 Meet!

From Canaan Valley, we hit some of our favorite West Virginia roads, including US 33/WV 55 and WV 28. And then? It was GAME ON once we hit US 250. I think US 250 is one of my favorite roads...ever! It's simply an awesome road with elevation changes, sweepers, twisties, and has it all! And on this day, it had an "Emergency Scene Ahead" sign and a "Loose Gravel" sign as well! I'm not sure when, but someone ran off the road at some point and just peppered the road with gravel. We were grateful for the warning signs!

Riding along US 33/WV 55, next thing you know Seneca Rocks comes into view!

We stopped at "the chicken gas station" in Monterey, VA for a stretch break. Again, we lingered but I didn't think much of it. We didn't have that much further to go (it's only 44 miles from Monterey to Staunton). Not long after our stop in Monterey, we stopped again at the Confederate Breastworks for pictures and a handful of cashews. 


How to eat cashews while wearing a motorcycle helmet...
one at a time and delicately!


Flashing my Pens shirt!

Chris cops a feel!
After the Breastworks, it wasn't long before we arrived in Staunton, VA - our destination for the night. We checked into the Howard Johnson on Central Avenue and proceeded to get cleaned up. AGAIN, Chris was dawdling. I got in and out of the shower fairly quickly, got dressed, did my make-up, and started working on my hair. Chris dilly-dallied watching the news before finally getting in the shower himself. We left the room around 7:30 to head out to dinner. 

When we left the lobby of the motel and walked outside, there was another bike parked behind ours. An FJR! With a guy fiddling in the top case that looked a lot like our friend Shane! As I looked from the FJR to the Shane the FJR to OMG-is-that-Shane?...back to the FJR and finally settled on HOLY CRAP IT'S SHANE, I said, "WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?" Shane said, "SURPRISE!" and gave me a big hug! I was still in shock, saying "What the...?!?" He explained that Andrea (his wife) was upstairs getting ready and that we'd be ready to leave for dinner in about 10 minutes. 

Suddenly, all of Chris' dawdling made sense...he was stalling for time because he knew that Shane and Andrea couldn't get on the road until 1 PM and were shooting for a meet-up time around 8 PM. Sneaky, sneaky, sneaky!!!

The Smokers and the Clarks - reunited again!
We finished our day by walking to dinner at the Byer Street Bistro downtown. We had a lovely meal that was reminiscent of, but not as good as, our meal in Asheville, NC last October on our couples' trip. We walked back to the motel after dinner and decided to meet for breakfast at 7:30 AM and depart soon after. 

Day 1 of our ESTN 2012 Adventure was in the books, complete with what is possibly the best surprise I've ever experienced!