Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Blue Ridge Parkway - Days 6 and 7

We waited for the rush hour traffic to die down somewhat and then rode the 10 miles to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles Airport. That seems like a strange name for what should be called the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Annex, but when you donate $65 million dollars to its development, they name it after you. The facility downtown on the mall is stuffed to capacity, and the Smithsonian had many large pieces they could not display, hence the new facility. Dianna was a trouper but it wasn't really her cup of tea, nonetheless we saw some very impressive things among the hundreds of aircraft and other displays. The highlights were the SR-71 that flew from Los Angeles to Washington in 1 hour and 4 minutes at an average speed of over 2,250 MPH, the Enola Gay B-29 bomber that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, a Concord, one of the first Boeing 707's, and the Space Shuttle Discovery. It was particularly interesting to see the shuttle close up. It's much larger than I thought.



After eating lunch at the McDonalds which serves as their cafe (no dollar menu), we rode down the interstate another 8 miles to the parking lot at the end of the Metro Orange Line. It was an easy subway ride into town where we exited at the Smithsonian stop near the Washington Monument. Dianna had wanted to visit the monument, but the damage from the earthquake in 2011 has still not been repaired. It is completely encased in scaffolding and you can't get close.

The first place we went was to the WW II memorial. It is located at the other end of the reflecting pool from the Lincoln Memorial and was built since the last time I was here. We both considered it as a way to honor our Dad's who served. It is nicely done and we enjoyed it. We both spent some time thinking about our Dads.




We then walked the length of the reflecting pool and made my usual pilgrimage to the Vietnam Memorial. Iam not moved as I was the first few times I went there, but it's still something I feel I need to do. We then visited the Lincoln Memorial, which I always find moving, the Korean War Memorial which I'm not impressed with, and finally the Martin Luther King Memorial. I had not read much about the MLK Memorial, but it was nicely done.

By then it was after six PM so we hoped we would miss most of the rush hour crush on the Metro. We didn't. It was standing room only most of the way, but we were lucky and each found seats, just not together. Our feet and legs were tired from all the walking. DC is a big place and nothing is close.

The scooter was waiting for us at the motorcycle parking area near the entrance to the station, and we found we didn't even have to pay for parking with it. Another benefit of the two wheel world. The ride back to our hotel in Manassas was slow for a while, but finally the traffic broke up and we zipped along, stopping a mile or so from the hotel for pizza before the day ended.

This morning we saddled up and hit the interstates. Rather than take the long, slow way back to Cleveland, we are doing it the quick way. We rode 300 miles today and will be home tomorrow afternoon with only about 260 to go. We rode the length of the Shenandoah Valley today, looking up to our left at the Blue Ridge where we rode just a couple days ago. The weather was clear to start but became cloudy as we rode south, and we hit rain just 20 miles or so from Wytheville, VA where we are spending the night. We're in the same hotel, and the same room that we stayed in on day 3. The hot tub felt real good.

This will likely be the final post on this adventure. Tomorrow it is more interstate down through Knoxville and on to Cleveland. This has been fun, even with the rain, and we've seen some beautiful scenery, interesting sights, and moving memorials.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Blue Ridge Parkway - Day Five

BRRRR!! Except for the last hour of our ride the temperature didn't get above 55 all day! Richard might have had his cold weather gear but I didn't and I was a block of ice all day. (I'm still thawing out!)

Our first and only stop (besides Visitor Centers and any place we could get in out of the cold for awhile) was at a farm exhibit. It had the same buildings as the Beringer Cabin (main cabin, spring house and root cellar) plus a small barn, chicken coop and a peg pig pen (so constructed to keep the bears out). There were furnishings in the cabin and a docent to describe things in it as well as what life was like in the late 19th century. It was very interesting to see how my ancestors and others lived. The people were poor Appalachian mountain folk and they had to provide everything for themselves.

Mountain land was far less expensive than valley land and (mostly) poor Presbyterian Scots-Irish settled the area. My Knox ancestors were of that descent and they settled in VA and then NC before moving west.

We ate lunch in Waynesboro at the end of the Blue Ridge Parkway. We then continued our ride, entering the 105 mile long Skyline Drive which goes through Shenandoah National Park. The biggest differences between Skyline Drive and the BR Pkwy are there are no farms, churches or cemeteries to dot the landscape and the speed limit is only 35 instead of 45. We had many wonderful views at "lookouts" of the beautiful Shenandoah Valley during the afternoon.

One stop we made was at a camp store which is at the 900 mile mark of the north-bound Appalachian Trail. (Dale hiked through there on June 17 of last year.) We visited with the proprietor who regaled us with stories. He was a marathon runner and one of his stories was that he and other marathon runner friends completed the AT in just 72 days in 1968! He said, had they known there's a race to see how quickly one can finish the trail, they would have done it in far less time.

We finally completed our journey along the Blue Ridge and Skyline Drive and dropped into Front Royal, VA around 5pm. We drove 45 miles east toward Washington, DC and are spending the night in Manassas.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Blue Ridge Parkway - Day 4

The rain moved through and we awoke to patchy clouds but much colder temperatures. We have our cold weather riding gear but putting it on and waddling around in it is something of a hassle. Nonetheless, we headed out. As the day went on the skies cleared even more and it turned out to be a beautiful, crisp fall day.

We made three noteworthy stops today. The first was at the cabin of Orleana Puckett. She was born in 1837 and died in 1939 at the age of 102. She was a midwife and helped in the birth of over 1000 babies. Ironically, she gave birth to 24 babies of her own, but none survived infancy.

The second stop was at the Mabry Mill. It is the most photographed spot on the Blue Ridge Parkway and it is easy to see why. Here's a photo of Dianna in the prime photo spot.

We wandered the grounds exploring the mill and other artifacts. The water wheel powered a grist mill, saw mill, lathe, jigsaw and whatever else Mr. Mabry could think of. There was also a blacksmith demonstration, a still, a sorgum making facility, lye soap making equipment, and many old farm implements. It was an enjoyable stop. The hot cider we bought at the restaurant there was a welcome touch too.

Later on, after stopping for a picnic lunch at an overlook above Roanoke and then crossing the Roanoke Valley, we climbed back up onto the ridge and stopped at Fallingwater Cascades and took a half mile hike down into the canyon to see it. It was pretty and we needed the exercise.

Tonight we are in Lexington, VA. Tomorrow we should complete the Blue Ridge Parkway, ride the length of Shenandoah National Park on Skyline Drive, and end up just outside of Washington DC in Manassess, VA.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Blue Ridge Parkway - Day Three

The weather forecast was right. When we got up we checked the radar and saw that it was indeed going to rain all day. Rather than spend the day getting cold and wet, we just moved to the nicer hotel next door here in Wytheville, VA to spend the day and night. This place has an indoor pool and hot tub. Therefore, there is nothing to report except that all the water we got on us today was heated and chlorinated very nicely.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Blue Ridge Parkway - Day Two

Another 200 mile day. It was way too long for our poor aching behinds. And we got rained on several times (again) - once was a down pour.

I know I've been disappointed that this parkway isn't more like the Natchez Trace in TN/MS that we did a few years ago. There just aren't the historical sites to stop and see like the NT.

We did stop at the Beringer Cabin, built in the late 1870's, just before the deluge hit us. There is a main cabin, one for fruits, vegetables and meat, as well as a spring house. All you could see through the windows of the main house was Mrs. Beringer's weaving loom.

For years I've been reading about linsey-woolsey in different books. Now I know what it is! It is a cloth woven from wool and linen (flax). Mrs. Beringer had to plan several months before someone in the household needed a new shirt, pants or dress in order to plant the flax, harvest it, prepare it for spinning as well as figuring the right time of year to shear the sheep for the wool into the equation. It is quite an involved process, literally taking months, to get from the first sprouts of flax to a final clothing product.

Mr. Beringer was a cobbler, making shoes for the immediate family as well as many friends and other family in the area. They grew all their own fruits and vegetables and slaughtered their own cows and pigs.

When the National Park Service bought their property to include in the Blue Ridge Parkway, a national park, Mrs. Beringer was granted a lifetime residency, in the 1940's, to remain in their cabin. She soon tired of all the "noise" from visitors and moved in with her daughter.

Below the cabin is the spring house where a cool spring still runs. They would make several trips a day to bring the water to the main house for drinking and washing purposes. The buildings are located on the side of a hill, with gorgeous views out over the Smokies.

Shortly after leaving there we encountered the rainstorm we weren't expecting. We had brought our "Frog Togs" (rain gear many motorcyclists use) with us, allowing us to continue riding in the rain. Fortunately it was a warm summer rain so, even though our feet and lower pant legs got wet, we weren't too uncomfortable.

Our biggest concern was finding fuel. Richard starts looking for gas at about 150 to 175 miles on the odometer. We were at 199.1 when we finally found a gas station - the maximum he felt the scooter would go. It has a 4 gal. tank and we put 3.53 gal. in it - definitely cutting it pretty close. From there it was just a few miles from Wytheville, VA where spent the night.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Blue Ridge Parkwarkway - Day One

Yes, we're off on another adventure! We finally finished up all but a few small tasks with Darin and Diane's new house and decided to reward ourselves. We have enjoyed our overnight scooter/motorcycle trips in the past, and decided to do another one. This one will be much longer than any of the previous ones. It will probably take more than a week.

We left Cleveland/Benton Tennessee where we have been staying for the past few months and rode east about 100 miles to Cherokee, NC, the start of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Even the trip to Cherokee was a beautiful ride. The trees and greenery, the hills, mountains and rivers combine to make this part of the country very beautiful.

The Parkway is 469 miles long and runs through North Carolina and Virginia. At the northern end of the Parkway we plan to transition to Skyline Drive which continues another 105 miles to a point only about 40 miles from Washington, DC.

The speed limit on the whole Parkway is only 45 MPH, but most of the time you can't drive any faster anyway. The road lives up to its name. It indeed follows the ridge line of the mountains. Many times we found ourselves heading southwest instead of the overall direction of northeast. We climbed from about 2,000 feet to over 6,000 in short order, and there were many times we could see out both sides of the road to the valleys far below and the mountains marching off in the distance in both directions.

As we rode along we thought of Dale's hike last year. His route paralleled our route for much of the way, but I suspect ours was much easier. I can't imagine slogging this area on foot with a 35 pound pack on my back.

Unlike the Natchez Trace which we rode a couple years ago, the Blue Ridge Parkway does not have a lot of stops for anything except views. Not that many people lived right on the ridge of the mountains. Surprisingly we also found that many of the pullouts with signs for a view of some mountain or valley would only have been worthwhile in the winter when there were no leaves on the trees. It was impossible to see anything except the trees! Of course, not all the stops were like this, but in this part of the Parkway, at least 3 out of 4 were.

The weather forecast for Thursday and Friday was for a 30 percent chance of showers. Naturally that means that you have a 100 percent chance of getting wet, which we did. As neared the highest parts of the road south of Asheville, NC we found ourselves riding above the clouds, and then in them. Visibility dropped to 100 feet or so and a light rain began. It wasn't bad, but we still stopped and put on our rain gear.

We encountered light showers one more time before we dropped into Asheville where we stopped for the night. It was a fun day with very pretty things to see. We're looking forward to more to come, although the forecast is again for a 30 percent chance of rain tomorrow, followed by a 100 percent chance on Saturday.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Tale of the Tail

It's been a while since we had anything noteworthy to write about. We've been here in Tennesse near Darin, trying to stay dry and get over a nasty cold. It appears the worst of the rain is over (everyone say's they've never seen so much rain this time of year) and I only have a small cough and plugged ears left from the cold. As a result, we decided it was time to enjoy some of the beautiful weather and countryside around us.

Last Friday we took a motorcycle ride. From where we are staying near Benton, TN we rode east about 40 miles to the Little Tennessee River where we turned south. After following the river for a while we began a section of US Highway 129 known as The Tail of the Dragon. In an 11 miles stretch there are 318 curves as you cross from Tennessee to North Carolina. It is considered the holy grail of motorcycle roads in the US.

Naturally, there are those who ride it as fast as they possibly can, and they account for the death statistics that grow every year. If you ride it like we did, observing the 30 MPH speed limit, it is a beautiful ride through some spectacular country. No one passed us on the entire route, but a couple bikes did pull over and let us go by. I will admit that I was going a little more than 30 MPH a few times.

At the southern end of the Dragon is the biggest motorcycle oriented tourist trap I have ever seen. There must have been 200-300 motorcycles parked in the lot, plus maybe 5 cars. We window shopped but couldn't bring ourselves to pay from $22 to $25 for a T-shirt that said "I Rode the Dragon" or some such phrase.

We continued on, following much of a well know route called the Cherohala-Dragon 120 mile loop. This took us over the Cherohala Skyway, a road that follows the ridges in one of the highest and most remote and rugged sections of North Carolina-Tennessee. The road took 34 years to build, opening in 1996. The views were spectacular and the ride was every bit as good as the 11 miles of the Dragon. In fact, I enjoyed it much more because the curves were mostly sweepers instead of hairpins. The speed limit varied between 40 and 45, and I did a pretty good job of holding it down to that most of the time. We stopped at several of the pull outs and enjoyed the views. As we neared the highest point in the road the temperature dropped to 69 degrees. That was some nicer than the 87 degree weather at the lower elevations.

Rather than complete the whole loop as some folks do, after we were out of the mountains we took a different and more direct route back to Benton, stopping for dinner at a Mexican Restaurant in Etowah, TN. Trust me when I say, Tennesseans don't know how to make Mexican food. At least it was filling.

It had been a while since we had a nice ride. This trip was only about 175 miles in total, but the scenery was spectacular and the ride was great fun. We're looking forward to more rides if the weather continues to cooperate.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

On Behalf of Mom

My most excellent day began around 9:30 this morning and didn't end until about 4:30 this afternoon. Due to a pricing change at CVAM (where they draw my blood to check my levels to determine if my coumadin dosage needs to be adjusted) I decided to go to a lab that was free and close my apt. After arriving on my scooter I was told that I couldn't go there as I am in the "north unit" (whatever that means) and they were not. Dianna and I had made arrangements to work on genealogy together today so I had to call her and ask her to take me to different lab.

She arrived and got me to to the lab. It was a long wait there and I've decided that I'll pay the $20 per visit and go back to CVAM. They don't have to draw a whole vial of blood and the wait is almost non-existent.

When we returned home Dianna took her clothes up to the laundry room as it's easier than having to haul water and run the generator for hours. The change machine didn't like any of her six $5 bills so down she came to change one of them for five $1 bills of mine. I guess the machine just didn't like $5 bills.

Later I noticed one of my hearing aids on the seat of my wheelchair with no silicone tip on the end. I put another one on and jammed it into my ear. BIG mistake. The other tip was still in my ear so I had just pushed it further in. The nurses were unavailable at the Square and my doctor is on vacation this week so off we went to Urgent Care to get it removed. It took a specialty tool with miniscule pinchers on the end to remove it. We were told they have to do that about two or three times a week! It was good to find out there are others who are about as bright as I am.

By then it was almost dinner time and with a Barro's Pizza right next door to Urgent Care we decided we owed it to ourselves to have a slice before going home. Boy, did that taste good.

I had taken a Soma (relaxant) before going to Urgent Care and was feeling drowsy by the time we arrived back home. I sat down in my chair to finish my piece of pizza and Dianna set out to print some genealogy pages from the internet. The printer jammed and kept on jamming. After doing all the trouble shooting she knew how to she called Daryl. He didn't know what else to suggest and will have to make a trip over, one of these days, to work on it. Richard attempted to do so when he arrived but couldn't find the problem either. By now it was 4:45 and time for a nap. I've really earned one today!

(Pleasant dreams, Mom.)