2019 Tour of Honor – Ride 5 (DC Trip)

I live in Alabama. I retired from doing a 30 year sentence in DC. I actually enjoyed my job for the most part. But, due to the cost of living, I would not be able to enjoy retirement if we stayed in the DC area. We looked outside of the immediate DC area without any luck. Since my parents are tin Alabama and Tennessee, we settled in Florence, Alabama. We left behind many friends. More importantly, my sons were still there.

When I got a call that my grand-baby was sick, I started planning a trip to the DC area. I had needed to plan out a route for the local Harley chapter to ride to Winchester, VA and had been stalling on that for a better time to go. We decided that I would ride the bike to see the grand-baby, as well as my sons and their wives.

Being on a tight schedule, I was only going to look for Tour of Honor sites and bonuses that were withing only a few miles off my planned route. While in DC, I would plan one day to visit DC and another to visit Quantico. To no surprise, nothing ever goes as planned.

I spent Monday planning my route and various options. I would keep my Garmin as my primary GPS with the Harley GPS to just show me the surrounding roads. I got all my routes and waypoints loaded into the Garmin and was ready for to head out Tuesday morning.

A quick breakfast with my bride and I was on my way. I made my stop at my normal starting point. Noted all my mileage (I have gotten into that habit so it will be second nature when I take an Iron Butt Ride) and turned on my Spot so my bride could keep track of my location.

My first night would be a stop in Abingdon, VA. This is the planned stop for the chapter ride to Winchester. Spending the night at the proposed hotel would give me a chance to meet the manager and talk about a reduced rate for a block of rooms. On the ride there, I would pass next to the cemetery where a GoldStar Memorial is located.

By the time I had approached Knoxville, afternoon traffic was starting to pick up. For the most part, I was going against the traffic, but there was still traffic noise. As I pulled into the cemetery, I could see the GoldStar Memorial close to some parking. Parking close to the memorial for a picture, I pulled out my rally flag and camera. I got a few pictures at different angles then walked to the memorial for a closer look. What do I see? A poker chip for 2019 Rider #1! As I look around, I realize how quiet it is. There is traffic on the road next to the cemetery, but it is eerily quiet in the cemetery.

I load up and head for the interstate to get to Abingdon for the night. It is between an hour and a half and two hours to get to Abingdon, The time goes quickly and I check into the hotel in plenty of time to have a relaxing supper at Papa Tom’s which is next door to the hotel. My new diet has me eating a lot of salad (not a problem since I enjoy salads), so I order a steak fajita salad. Just enough spice to accent the flavors, but not so spicy that all you taste is the heat.

Wednesday morning I take off on my planned route for the chapter ride. I could go north on I-81, but I hate I-81. Truck traffic, steep inclines and declines, and it isn’t that exciting of a ride. I have always enjoyed Rt42 from Blacksburg to Harrisonburg, but trying to find a route on the west side of I-81 difficult due to few options that can be affected by weather (rain, snowm fog, etc.). I didn’t want to go US-19 since it was mostly 4-lane, I would rather find a route that goes through the countryside. I know that once I get to Saltville, the roads are all pretty good, nothing that would cause concerns for a group riding together. Getting to Saltville is where I seem to have the problem. I decide to ride out of Abingdon on US-19, then turn right on Poor Valley Road. The maps don’t show any issues, directions seem to be pretty straight forward. As I ride, I notice that the road is a little narrow. Not a big deal if only motorcycles on the road, but a few sharp turns that would cause a problem with on-coming vehicles. I pick up Rt42 in Saltville as planned. I follow Rt42 on to Eagle Rock for lunch at Maw and Paw’s. For as small as Eagle Rock, there is a LOT of business in this little diner. For parking, I had to park a block away at the Post office.

Every so often, Rt42 would vanish as another road would take its place, then it would reappear a few miles away. Without a GPS, a person could get lost here. I manage to follow Rt42 as planned until I get to Harrisonburg. From here, I am fine with Rt42, US-11, or even I-81 into Winchester. I turn onto I-81, then I-66 so I can get to my son’s house before I have too much traffic in his neighborhood. As I pass my old neighborhood, the traffic on the west bound lanes look like a parking lot, luckily I am heading east bound. I pull into my son’s driveway shortly after he got home.

Weather for Thursday and Friday had been forecast as heavy rains. By Wednesday, the Thursday forecast for the chance of rain had dropped to below 50% with temps in the 70’s and 80’s. I call an old friend to see if he wanted to meet for lunch. I head to the National Museum of the Marine Corps for a few Tour of Honor bonuses.

Many of the bonus sites aren’t in a location where I can get a picture of the memorial with the motorcycle in the same picture. This means that I will need to have a picture of the motorcycle with out side the museum to prove the bike was there and I will have to take a picture of the memorial with the rally flag while inside. I get a quick picture of the bike in front of the museum. I like to think it was a decent picture. A security guard tells me I have to move and can’t take a picture there. I move behind a tour bus to get a quick picture of “Iron Mike” then settle into a parking spot.

Before going in, I walk the trail. I know there are two K9 memorials along the trail. I find “Kurt” near the Chapel. A couple of pictures and I start trying to find the second one. The map indicates that it is near the overlook, but that the only way there is to drive around the grounds. I eventually find a trail and take a hike up the side of the hill. There I find “Caesar.” A few more pictures and I head into the museum.

Inside the museum I am on a mission to find a Huey and another K9 memorial. I head to the Vietnam area since most Hueys I have found in the past have a history in the Vietnam era. I go through the sections once, then a second time with no luck. I ask one of the docents about a Huey helicopter who confirms it is in the Vietnam section. But, he gives me a little more information, “look up.” Doh! Sure enough, it is hanging from the ceiling and I had walked under it, TWICE!

I ask about a specific K9 memorial. He explains that the particular display is not due to be set up for about another month. I ask him about one that I had seen in the past, the guard dog from Quantico what been stuffed by a taxidermist and had been on display, but I wasn’t sure where it would be. He explained that he is new, and doesn’t remember seeing that display either, but there is a K9 display around the corner. I find a display of a K9 service dog during the Vietnam era. I take the picture and plan to submit it even though it is not on the list. I spend a few more minutes at the museum before I have to head to meet my friend for lunch.

I pull into Occoquan and find parking in front of Madigan’s Waterfront. This place is right on the Occoquan River, fresh seafood, and FANTASTIC people. The Crab cake sandwich is huge, but I settle for the salmon salad. Great conversation catching up with friends while enjoying some good food. If you are ever in the area, Madigan’s Waterfront is a place to stop. (No, Chris did NOT comp the meal or even give me a discount, it really is that good.) I head back to my son’s while reminiscing about the roads I used to travel on a daily basis.

Friday was supposed to be heavy rains all day, so I don’t make any riding plans and take the time to clean some of the bugs off the bike and look over route options to get back home. I had committed helping the boys build a shed for the other son, so that was my Saturday. Saturday evening we were all going to cook out and spend time with my grand-baby. Sunday I planned to go to church then head into DC for some Tour of Honor sites.

At the last minute, my plans for Sunday get changed. We didn’t finish the shed on Saturday, so the boys and I put in a couple of hours before hitting the links. After a round of golf, we finish the shed. I say my good-byes to my grand-baby, daughter-in-law, and my son before heading back to the other son’s house. I will be heading home Monday morning.

Sunday evening, to thank my son and daughter-in-law for letting me stay with them, we go out to La Cote D-Or Cafe. This is a french restaurant that I have seen for many years while living in the area, but never stopped. I have eaten several times at Chasin’ Tails which is across the street. Without going into a lot of details, if you are in the area, either one is a great choice.

Monday route option 1 had been to head toward Hampton Roads for a few Tour of Honor sites and bonuses then across US-58 to Danville for the night. Tuesday I would head to I-81, I-40, then I-840 around Nashville, and head home from there. I was still bothered by my option from Abingdon to Winchester. On my planned ride for Sunday, I was going to visit Lovettsville and Brunswick, MD. I finally decide to get through Tysons Corner before 7:00am and ride to Lovettsville then Brunswick.

I have been near Lovettsville many times, but never stopped there. I follow the route and come into town square from the back. I find a lull in the morning traffic to get a quick photo and remount my trusty steed to head to Burnswick, MD.

Once you get out of the immediate DC area, it area is so serene. There is a fog rising off the Potomac as I cross into Maryland. I turn right toward the GPS waypoint, another right turn and I park next to the train station. I hadn’t reviewed the memorial in Brunswick, so I have to double check since I don’t see any memorials that would appear to be one for the Tour of Honor. I pull out my paperwork and realize that I am looking for the American Legion. Right across the street with an open parking spot! I move the bike and get the picture.

I watch a train come into the station, the commuters file in like lemmings, and the train head on toward DC. I don’t miss those days. I plan for my next stop, Churchville, VA.

On my way into the DC area on the previous Wednesday, I had not added the waypoint in Churchville to my route. I must have overlooked it, since it was only about a mile off from the road I was riding on. I head back to Harrisonburg and gas up before turning back onto Rt42. On the south side of Churchville, Rt42 makes a sharp turn to the right, the waypoint is straight ahead. This site is a Doughboy in the town cemetery. The road narrows and I start to wonder if I am about to be riding on a gravel or dirt road. I see the entrance to the cemetery and make the left turn. The Doughboy is readily visible, fairly close to the road.

I park the bike and get a picture of bike with the Doughboy in the distance. I take my rally flag and walk over to the grave. Mr Snyder had been a soldier in WWI. He died in 1918. Mother Nature had weathered the Doughboy, but he has been standing guard proudly over Mr Snyder’s grave for 100 years.

My only concern with the chapter ride’s route is between Abingdon and Saltville. I had checked and thought I would try Rich Valley Road. This is past Blackburg, so I hop on I-81 and will catch Rt42 after making a stop at Virginia Tech Veterinary School for a K9 memorial.

As I leave Blacksburg, I make a stop for gas at US460 and Rt42. I gas up and head west on US460. I miss my turn and end up taking a wrong turn to get back on track. After an off-pavement jaunt, double back, and u-turn, I eventually get back on track. Long story short, Rich Valley Road isn’t going to be an option for the chapter ride either. I get to Abingdon early enough that I know I can make a stop in Kingsport and still make a hotel on the eat side of Knoxville for the night.

I hop on I-81 in Abingdon then exit toward Kingsport. Pleasant roads, light traffic, and no rain makes for a calm ride. I pull into the park in Kingsport. I notice that there are several kids waiting for rides home. They are being respectful of the park, some even doing their homework or reading. I get a few pictures and head on to my hotel stop for the night.

I check into the hotel and walk next door to Puleo’s Grill. I order a large glass of water and a much needed margarita. The Sorento Salmon Salad seemed like a unique mix, feta cheese, salmon,and house-made citrus vinaigrette dressing. The salad was great and the service was there when needed and out of the way when you didn’t want them. I’ll be back! I look over a few options for the ride home from Knoxville and make a few notes over supper. Back in the room, I map out the stops and a few roads that I want to avoid. Since my bride will be working at the library and won’t be home until about 5:00pm, I don’t need to get home too early. I set the alarm for 6:00am.

The phone rings at 11:00pm and I hear my bride in a panic on the other end. I hate when that happens. The dog had wanted to go for a late night potty break, he wasn’t taking no for an answer. She let him out and he took off in a full run. Before she realized it, he had a ‘possum cornered in the yard. She tried to pull him in, but he picked up the ‘possum and started playing catch with himself. He would toss it up, catch it, shake it a few times, then toss it up in the air again. After a few minutes, my bride managed to get him to drop it. It just laid there in the yard. Dog in the house, cleaned up, then my bride goes out to check on the ‘possum. It is still where the dog had left it. She goes to get a shovel, her plan is to move it over the fence where the dog won’t mess with it in the morning. She is mad at the dog. She calms down, I get back to sleep.

Alarm goes off as planned. I head down to breakfast, waiting for a ‘possum update. Imagine sitting in the breakfast area and hearing this conversation:

“Well, is the body still there?”
“Sure no one found it?”
“I’ll find a place to get rid of it when I get home tonight. Make sure it is hidden, we don’t need any of our neighbors seeing it.”

But, alas, no call at breakfast. I load up and make my way to Sevierville, TN. The Tour of Honor site here is the American Legion. Though it is overlooking the main road, the parking lot is a nice level area. I get a picture of the bike and building to meet the requirements, then take one of a howitzer in the parking lot.

Next stop is Sweetwater, TN to visit a Cobra helicopter. Quiet country roads lead me to town with a left turn onto Veteran’s Drive leading me to the VFW where the Cobra is housed.

I am west of Knoxville, so I have no issues getting on I-40 for a ride to Crab Orchard. I exit the interstate, make the left onto US-70, then left into the town cemetery. The memorial is facing US-70 with no parking along the road. I opt for the 2 picture format. One with the bike in the area and one at the memorial. I get the bike picture, then take my rally flag to the memorial. There are several cars with people visiting various graves and placing flowers. I take the time to look at some of the older gravestones.

I turn left back onto US-70 as I leave the cemetery to the short trip to Crossville. A quick turn on I-40 then exit a few minutes later at exit 320. I make the left onto Genesis Rd and follow the GPS to turn into an apartment complex. The description did say a small hike was required, but I see nothing here. I get out my phone and check the aerial view. I see that I should be at Centennial Park, a short walk in the woods, but a couple of miles on the road. I turn around a head to the park’s entrance.

I ride around and see a sign for a dog park. This must be the place! I get my rally flag and camera then head down the trail. This wasn’t the usual K9 memorial, this was a plaque, most have a statue. As I walk up, I wake up a dog that had been sleeping in the park while his owner was reading. She was startled at first, then asked why I didn’t have a dog with me. I explained I was there to get a picture of the memorial plaque. She seemed surprised to hear about a memorial, I pointed to the plaque which was above her on the pavilion where she sat. I explained the Tour of Honor to her. I went back to the bike, got my second picture there and was ready to head home.

I was ready to be home. Once I got back on I-40, it is almost autopilot from there. I set the GPS to home, just so I could see when I would get home, but knew I wouldn’t be following those directions.

‘Possum update. Wife went to check on it in the morning. It was gone. She now understand the term “Playing ‘possum.” I am sure it will be back since I think it has been living under our house.