2019 Tour of Honor – Ride 15 (Virginia)

Day 1 – Saturday, September 21

I know I only have three days to get to Fort Monroe and back. This is going to be a fast run with little time to spare along the way. I will have to pace myself at almost 600 miles each day. Hey, I have done a couple of Iron Butt rides, how hard can this be, right?

I gas up at my usual place and head out through St. Florian, then to US43. I make a quick decision to hop on US64 over to I-65. The goal for today is to get at least to Princeton, WV. I have stayed here a few times on various trips. If I get there early enough, maybe I’ll try to get closer to Blacksburg, but I will have to check to see if Virginia Tech is playing at home before I try to get a hotel in that area.

I-65 is a quick ride to I-840 around Nashville. Soon I am on I-40. Not that I-40 is really that boring, there are spots that are beautiful, but when the focus is to get miles behind you, enjoying the scenery isn’t a high priority. I keep close to the speed limit, getting stopped won’t help. Once I get to Knoxville, I just keep up with traffic and try not to get run over. Once past Knoxville and head north on I-81. I have set the GPS to get me to Haysi as quickly as possible, and the route (and ETA) keep changing due to various happenings that the system knows about before I do. Expecting to exit I-81 before Johnson City, TN and take back roads, I as surprised when it has me staying on I-81 until Abingdon, VA.

I exit at Abingdon, these roads are so familiar. Many a baseball and softball tournament in this area. Staying in Abingdon and making the drive/ride to Pound, Clintwood, Norton, and Honaker, these roads bring back great memories. Memories of games, memories of fellow umpires who many know simply by their first name (some may need the initial of their last name to differentiate them from others.) Names like Boots, Frog, Jack (“I don’t need the microphone” as he booms in that deep voice), Joe (rest in peace my friend), Bob Huff (it always Bob Huff, like it was his first name), Darryl, Bill and Mary, and Tommy, and countless other umpires with whom I have shared the field.

The ride to Honaker is like second nature. So automatic that I almost turn to the high school to head to the field. My track today is on down the road. I pass through downtown Honaker and see that Farmer’s Table is still in town behind the Chevy place. The owner has a farm, most of the food he serves was raised on his farm, vegetables, beef, and pork all were from his farm. Not only was the food great, where else can you feed a dozen hungry umpires for breakfast or lunch for about $50?

Leaving Honaker I see the signs for “The Crooked Road,” Virginia’s music heritage route. We have ridden most of this route either in the car or the bike. This last section to Haysi will be a new road for me. Afternoon sun shines through the tree as I make my way through the winding roads. I pull into Haysi and notice another motorcycle in the parking next to the memorial.

As I pull in, I see that the guy is putting away his flag. I introduce myself, he is Luis Diaz Diaz. We chat for a bit. He has been riding the Tour of Honor for about 10 years. The Haysi stop is his last for Virginia. We get a joint picture and I submit it so we can both get credit. We walk around the memorial and get a few better pictures. He has just left Princeton, my next stop. He says it should be about an hour and a half, he is heading home to Chester, but will lead me close to Princeton.

He is quicker than I at getting turned around. I see him make the left at the next turn and I follow at a distance. A slower moving car, and truck, managed to get between us. I have the GPS set for the stop in Princeton and only hope that he was leading me that route. But it says that it will be about two and a half hours, he said an hour and a half. I have lost sight of him, so I am on my own. I make a few turns onto back roads, thinking he might have taken another route. No traffic, sun going down, I enjoy these twisty roads. The GPS says the speed limit is 55, but I thought I saw a sign a few miles back that said 35, or was it 45? Maybe I missed the one that said 55. A few miles later I see Luis behind a truck ahead of me. I catch him just before we get to the divided four lane road. We ride together for a while. Eventually, we find a stop light and pull side by side. He apologizes that his timing was off, he said to continue straight for a while and I will go right into Princeton. He will be turning at the night turn off and heading home. The sun is starting to set and he had hoped to get home before dark, he isn’t going to make it before dark.

The GPS leads me to the memorial. I see a tank in front of a building and make the turn onto the side street. I pull out my sheet with pictures and notice that the tank is not the memorial. I do some checking and realize that I need to get a picture of the front of the museum with the bike. Road construction makes parking on the street dangerous since is has been grated for a new surface and traffic is moving pretty quickly through here. I look around and decide that my only option is to ride on the sidewalk. The sign is backlit and the flash on the phone gives me problems getting the picture I want. I have to take several pictures to get some to submit.

It is dark and I don’t want to ride any later this evening. I hunt for a hotel near a place to eat. I get my reservation, put the location in the GPS, and head out.

As I get close to the hotel, it starts raining. At first I thought it was water in the road from a recent rain. Yeah, recent as in currently raining! Not hard rain, but more than a drizzle. I switch the ride mode to “RAIN” and slow down. I make it to the hotel, passing a diner a block away. I get checked into the room then walk to the diner for supper.

Ever try to travel and eat out when on a seriously restricted diet, I am trying to stay close to a Keto diet (this is NOT the time or place to tell me your thoughts on it). If you don’t know about the Keto diet, I don’t eat carbohydrates (pasta, potatoes, rice, and breads). This means no cereals, waffles, or pancakes for breakfast. For lunch and supper, it means burgers and sandwiches are not an option. (Yes, I know that there are exceptions, but again, this is not the time or place for that discussion!)

The special tonight is two hog dogs and fires (or other side of your choice). The waitress really talks it up as I continue looking over the menu. The owner comes over and starts talking it up too. I can order it with any fixing that I want, chili, slaw, cheese, etc. I got it! I’ll have the special, hold the buns, with chili, cheese, slaw, and a side of bacon, with a glass of water. The waitress wrote it down, read it back to make sure she got it right, and quickly retrieved a glass of water (a refill actually). The really nice thing about a diner is that many times the cook is right next to the booth or counter. He turns to me and makes sure he has it right. He puts a bed of chili on the plate, two hot dogs, another layer of chili, a blanket of cheese, with the slaw and bacon on either side of the plate. I don’t like to take pictures of my food so I didn’t even think about a picture until I was almost finished. It was a work of art! Both visual and culinary art!

I finish supper, pay the bill, leave the tip, and head back to the hotel. Rain has stopped, but I had my rain jacket on since it also is highly reflective. The block between the hotel and the diner didn’t have enough light, nor a sidewalk, so I wanted to make sure I could be seen. I get back to the hotel to relax, turn on the TV to see which teams are on TV, and plan my ride for tomorrow.

Day 2 – Sunday, September 22

I rarely sleep well on trips and usually wake up early, so I don’t set the alarm. I wake up, glace at the clock, and notice “7:00.” WHAT?!?! I am usually on the road by 7:00am. I check my phone to make sure that the clock is correct. Yep, it is 7:00am!

No need to rush, I will just adjust and delete a few optional stops, such as the National Parks. I know that I won’t be able to get the minimum for the award, so I will forego them. I make a quick update to the route and reload the GPS. This delay will allow me to stop for church along the way.

I don’t need gas yet, so I take off. I hit US460, another familiar road. This heads into Blacksburg, fast roads through the mountains. As I pass through Blacksburg, I think about riding past Patrick’s old house, but decide to pass. I fill up the tank in Christiansburg before hitting I-81. I-81 to the Troutville/Cloverdale exit.

If I remember correctly, there is a church on the route that starts at 10:00. It is just past 9:30, I’ll be a little early, but that is ok. I park the bike make my way in. This is the first time I have not brought a shirt other than a t-shirt. I walk in and meet a few gentlemen in the foyer. They tell me that Sunday School is just starting. I asked if I missed the service. They tell me that church service starts at 10:30. I can’t walk out, that would really look bad. I feel that God has a reason for me getting off schedule.

After church, I chat with a few people, telling them about my adventures. They tell me that they are looking for a new preacher and have a prospect coming in a few weeks. I ask about a few people that we had met on previous trips. No one knew of them. I regret I didn’t remember their names.

Back on the road, I head toward Lynchburg. There is a memorial and a Doughboy in town. I get to Lynchburg right at noon. I think the chapel at Liberty University has just let out, traffic is horrible! I wind my way to the American Legion. I have to park on the walkway to the front door to get a picture of the memorial with the bike in the same picture, the street is too busy for me to park the bike against the curb. I walk around and get a few pictures. I drop off one of my poker chips and get a picture of it next to someone elses’s poker chip. Time to head to downtown to the historic district.

Road closures, cobblestones, and pedestrian traffic all make maneuvering a challenge. I make a left and see that the doughboy is at the end of this street, at the top of the hill. The intersection is a bit steep, but I plan my moves carefully. It is a one way street heading to my left. I enter the intersection from the far right of the lane and sweep across the 3 lanes to get to the far curb. I wrangle the bike to an angle for picture with the doughboy. Next stop: King George, VA

Spending 30 years living in Virginia, the last 10 travelling the state via motorcycle or geocaching, so many roads are familiar. Every now and then I run into a road that I don’t remember. A Sunday afternoon in late summer, this means people are leaving Lake Anna to head back to Northern Virginia. And they are dragging their boats from the lake either home or to a nearby marina. The roads I was hoping to make up some time on has slowed me down even more. I make my way through Spotsylvania and Fredericksburg, crossing I-95. Bumper to bumper traffic for an hour. Traffic eases up once I cross I-95. Time for gas.

I don’t usually write about the gas stops, but this was special. I pull to the pump and go inside to pre-pay. I come back out and start pumping gas into the bike. Unlike the car where you can set the pump handle to pump without holding it, I keep a close hold on the handle when filling up the bikes. I keep a watch on the pump since overfilling the tank means spilling gas! As I am filling up, I smell gas. This is normal, it is a gas station, but this is a bit strong. I look down and see that the hose is leaking gas on my pants and boots! I stop pumping and the hose is still leaking so I turn off the pump. I notice that the hose has tape on it, so this isn’t the first time it has leaked. I go inside and pay for my gas and explain to the guy at the desk that he needs to block off that pump. I tell him I am going to get a drink and I’ll leave my bike there so no one tries to use the pump. When I go back out, the guy has put a bag over the pump handles, put down oil dry where the gas has spilt on the ground, and taped a yellow bag to the hose where it was leaking. He tells me that it looks like the hose had been cut and someone had put tape over it, the tape had come loose and started leaking. My boots are now dry and my pants seem to be dry too.

During my years in Virginia, the area around King George has been left off my travels. A former co-worker and carpool member lived in King George, we commuted to McLean. He would meet me in Dumfries and we would carpool to the office. I take in the beautiful rolling farmland.

As I roll into the town of King George, construction crews have recently scrapped the roads for repaving here as in Princeton. I pull into the parking lot at the Courthouse and pull out my information on the memorial. I walk around to find it and assess the area for a picture. Again, another site where parking on the street is not going to happen. No one is around, so I ride the bike on the sidewalk and park behind the memorial. Pictures taken and I take off.

I work my way back to the parking lot then back onto the road. The construction only lasts a few mile miles. All those years in northern Virginia and I never spent time on these roads. There are several options to get me to Reedsville, I set the GPS to pick to fastest option. If the roads are straight and have light traffic, I might be able to pick up a few extra minutes too. I make the turn off Rt3 onto SR2o2. Fairly flat farm land with some wooded areas scattered in to keep it interesting. No traffic, I pick up the pace a little. I am close enough to the Potomac River and nearing the Chesapeake Bay, the smell of the water is in the air. Not like the salty ocean smell, and not quite the fresh mountain stream, but you can tell you are close to lots of water.

Soon I make the turn to merge onto US360. Reedsville is at the end of the road, right where the Potomac River meets the Chesapeake Bay. Quaint little town where I have only visited once or twice. We visited the Reedsville Fisherman’s Museum and the Railroad display next door. I remember that there had been a great little seafood place there (it’s on the water, would you expect anything less?)

As I near the Reedsville town limits, the GPS just signals to the right. I slow and find the entrance into the cemetery. I might be on an Adventure bike, but I don’t really care to take off on a foot path. Especially when there is a gravel road that leads to the center, which is the location of the memorial. I pull up and see that another poker chip is here. I place mine next to it and notice it is the same person’s chip as I saw in Lynchburg. I remember passing a biker a few miles back, I wonder if that was the other rider in the Tour of Honor. I get a few pictures and ready to head to my next stop.

I back track on US360, then onto SR200 to Kilmarnock where I rejoin to Rt3. Before reaching Reedville, I was seeing fewer and smaller farms. Now the major commerce is based on water and fishing. I soon cross the Rappahanock River. Soon, a few back roads eventually get me back on US17. Familiar roads again. Sun is getting low in the sky, lower than I would like. I am WAY behind schedule, and no way to make up time.

I wind my way through Gloucester, cross the York River into Yorktown, and turn onto the ramp for I-64. My plan was to avoid interstate as much as possible. Sun has set and I appreciate the new lights on the GS. Wait, they don’t seem to be working the way I want and not as bright as I expected. This hasn’t been my day. Hope tomorrow is better.

I follow the directions from the GPS to get me to Fort Monroe since this is a new place to visit. I have passed the exit several times, but never stopped. I exit the interstate and follow the GPS directions. I see barricades ahead and the GPS still telling me to go straight. Once at the barricades, I see that the road is narrowed due to an event from earlier in the day. I find the memorial and park across the street. I aim the headlights to the memorial and check that my auxiliary lights aren’t working. I get my picture and take a break to plan my move.

My original plan as to get to Danville or at least to Emporia. I also wanted to visit a Doughboy located in Suffolk. I have to make it home tomorrow (Monday) night. It is now too dark and too late to go to Suffolk and still get as far as I want for the night.

Again, I do NOT like riding on the interstate. But, there comes a time when you have to do things you don’t like. Heading west on I-64 is now the plan. Richmond is a little over an hour. I call home to give an update, at least the Spot is still tracking my route. I have reset the GPS preferences to allow interstate. My goal is to get past Richmond, or at least to an area where I will be traveling against the traffic in the morning.

I have members card for Choice Hotels. I can usually find one of their brand hotels most anywhere. From Williamsburg to I-295 around Richmond there are no Choice Hotels, actually I don’t see anything other than small hotel signs on the interstate, and they don’t appear to be close to the exit either. The GPS wants me to take the north loop of I-295 around Richmond. I take I-295 south. I cross the James River and star looking for a hotel. I pull into the Hyatt which has two restaurants next door. I get checked in. It is a few minutes before 9:00pm. I walk to the Mexican place that is in the process of closing, but after a few minutes of talking with the waitresses, the hostess “lets” me find a table. I check the price and realize it is out of my price range, and they don’t have margaritas! I politely leave before they bring water and chips. I hear the door lock behind me as I leave. The Chinese place next door only has canned beer. I walk over the Taco Bell.

Day 3 – Monday, September 23

No stops planned for today. I just want to get home. Goals for today is to get through Knoxville and Nashville without hitting traffic. Nashville isn’t too hard of a goal since I take I-840 to go around Nashville south to I-65. Knoxville is another thing, I want to get through Knoxville before 3:00pm.

My gas gauge had let me know last night that I was going to need to fill up before going too far this morning. Next to the hotel is a gas station. I roll over and fill up the bike, ready for a full day of riding. 7:30 local time, 6:30 Alabama time (CDT). This gas station is buy with people getting their morning coffee and making sure they have enough gas to fight the Richmond traffic.

I don’t want to rush, I enjoy watching some of the people. The ladies putting the final touches on their make-up before heading out. The ladies changing from their comfortable shoes to the shoes for them to make their sales calls and lobby calls in the State Capitol. Even saw one lady taking her ring off and putting it in her purse, was she wearing that same outfit when she went into the store or did she change outfits? Most of the guys appear to be blue-collar, no suits for them. I got a few looks on the bike, how dare me riding a motorcycle on a Monday, especially since I was’t headed to work!

I pretty much know the routine and route from here. I’ll have about 10 miles of slight stop and go while people leave neighborhoods heading toward the major arteries into Richmond. I’ll make a few turns, SR10 to Rt288, Rt288 to US360, US360 to US460 then to I-81. Mostly open roads with speed limits 60 to 65, but there are a few towns that will slow me down until I get to I-81. I am hoping to get past Bristol before having to stop.

I make it to Greenville, TN before my gas tank, butt, and stomach tell me I need to stop. I pull into the truck stop and see an old Army truck. Is that a Doughboy? Sure enough, one that isn’t on the initial list. I park and get a few pictures. The phone app has been updated to included this on the list!

Since I am stopped, I’ll get a quick lunch. I am still on schedule to get through Knoxville by 3:00pm. I see a sign for a “meat and 3’s”. I go in and see an IHOP. I ask about the other place and the hostess tells me that it is at the other end of the truck stop, but there is not seating over there, it is just a to-go place. I think fr a minute and decide a comfy booth at IHOP is better than a park bench. I enjoy a lunch of tilapia and spinach. I realize I have now spent too much time here.

I get back on the bike, refreshed, but now have little time to spare. GPS is telling me I should get to Knoxville about 3:00pm. So much for being past Knoxville by 3:00pm. I hit the interstate and enjoy the power that the GS has. I make the ramp onto I-40 at 2:30pm Knoxville time. This is going to be close. Traffic is light and I take advantage of it. I hit downtown Knoxville right at 3:00pm. No traffic yet and I am through town and cross the time zone from Eastern time to Central time.

I am now watching the clock. I should get to I-840 just about 4:00pm. I shouldn’t hit much, if any, traffic on I-840 since this goes far enough around town that it isn’t a major commuter route. Most of the traffic will be people getting around Nashville. I make the exit for I-65 a little before 5:00pm. Yep, traffic waiting.

I make a quick change on the GPS and set it to adjust for the traffic. It keeps switching between going through Spring Hill, Columbia, and heading on down to US64 before exiting I-65. I am in stop and go traffic when a guy comes up behind me, flashing his lights. Where am I supposed to go? He cuts to the right lane, stops there. cuts back behind me, stops there. He keeps switching lanes, but doesn’t seem to find any advantage.

Traffic finally starts thinning out, so I pull to the right lane as it clears and my “friend” now zooms past me. I set the cruise on the bike a few miles over the speed limit. in short course, I have gained on him and now I need to pass him! He waves (but doesn’t use his whole hand for some reason) as I gain on him. Then he starts to slow, but stays in the left lane. I ease to the right lane and start to pass. He speeds up. I speed up. He speeds up more, I speed up more. I slow down, he now starts to slow down to stay beside me.

Enough. I take advantage of the power of the GS. He is now a small speck in my mirrors. I reset the cruise. He eventually catches up, passes me, then cuts in front of me to take the exit at Columbia. I am not in the mood to play games, so I decide to take another exit. Several options that are all within a few minutes of each other getting me home.

I take a new option, Alt-US31. This takes me to Pulaski and US64. I make the left turn onto US31, then the right onto US64 and the left onto Minor Hill Road. Almost home. I am about an hour from home. I stop to top off the gas tank before the last 5 minutes home.

Great trip, but a few things I need to start working on. I need to spend more time off the interstate. Make sure I set an alarm clock, even when I know I will wake up early! At least I have finished Virginia. This is one state that I didn’t visit last year. Still have over a month before the end of the Tour of Honor ride. Where to go next?

Final stats for the ride:

  • 6 Tour of Honor sites (5 in VA, 1 in WV) (I finished VA!)
  • 2 Doughboys
  • 3 Days (2 nights)
  • 1835 miles