I had to move rather quickly for a change but I didn’t want to leave the Blue Ridge Parkway either. The dealership I found in Roanoke was only open until 3pm on Saturdays though, and closed Sunday-Monday. I gave it my best shot to make time and still catch views, but with lazy raindrops falling and the clock ticking, I jumped on Hwy 52, cut through Hillsville on Hwy 100, and onto I-81.
I had to say goodbye to the views for only one day, but even 90min on the Interstate can seem boring after being on backroads for weeks.
The dealership was great though. I got there an hour before closing and they said they could probably get me taken care of. As soon as they saw the complete lack of tread on my front tire though, they said they’d even stay late if they had too: they didn’t feel right sending me back on the road in that shape.
The place is called Frontline Eurosports, and they carry BMW, Triumph, and Ducati in addition to Indian. They had a tire to match my new rear and their price wasn’t jacked up either. They even had a flat rate for tire changes with the wheel still on the bike, so there were no surprises and none of the endless fees that shops in California have to tag on top of everything.
I chatted with some staff, drank coffee, and ate way too many of the Halloween candy they had out in their customer waiting area. I also got a chance to see BMW’s new cruisers, which are extremely nice looking considering BMW loves to make their bikes odd-looking. It also seems Indian might be catching up on their supply chain problems, and there were several bikes in stock. Other dealers I’d been to were spacing the bikes really far apart to make it look like they had inventory, but Indian was struggling mightily in the aftermath of the pandemic to get parts.
I decided to treat myself and spent the night at the Home2 by Hilton, which is a fairly swanky hotel by my standards. Very nice room with kitchenette and a workspace. I made myself dinner from my camping supplies (I can do a lot with canned tuna after spending this much time on the road) and got some work done and did laundry, but failed to find time to soak in their hot tub.
I got back to the Parkway in the morning and didn’t make all that much distance before arriving at Peaks of Otter, where a gift shop, lodge, and campground are. I grabbed a gift for a friend of mine that loves otters and grabbed a campsite. The town of Bedford was nearby so I decided to head there for supplies.
Although small and feeling rather empty for a Sunday, Bedford was big on history. They were clearly fans of big brick buildings, and the downtown streets were narrow enough that they had surely been laid out when most people traveled by foot. There was also a D-day memorial, and having had one grandfather land on Omaha beach and have his tank taken out in the Battle of the Bulge, I couldn’t pass a chance to see it.
It was among the most spectacular memorials I’ve ever been to. It was closed, but no one was at the gate to turn me away, so I spent about an hour alone, looking at the many displays, individual memorials, and the well kept grounds. It left me feeling somber but grateful.
Back at Peaks of Otter I went to the lodge and drank some free coffee, chatted with some Harley riders, and escaped the rain. I also did some routing and looked at the calendar. When I came back to the bike there were two women who got out of the car next to it and started asking me about it. They were sisters and their father had passed away less than a year ago. It brought them to tears just to say it out loud, so the loss was clearly still felt very strongly.
Their father had owned many motorcycles, but one of them was an Indian Scout, a 1949. Fully restored and only ridden on occasion, they still had it and just seeing my 2017 model parked their with the Indian logo on the tank had given them an upwelling of emotion. I told them about Wheels Through Time and how if they needed anything for the bike, or wanted to put it on long-term loan, they were the people to call. That version of the Scout was the last new model to come out: the company shuttered four years later.
I didn’t see any otter, but they supposedly are still in the area, preferring rivers to the lake.
I had dinner at the lodge, grabbing a burger and fries since the kitchen was due to close in 5min and I didn’t want them messing up their clean stations with anything complicated. I chatted with the bartender until closing. She was doing her 2nd 12hr shift in a row and it was her day off, but she was still doing her job well, cleaning and stocking for the next day’s bartender and not trying to rush out the door. Her and the service writer at the Indian dealer were now two times in two day I’d seen really excellent service: the kind you used to expect 20 years ago.
The next day would see me leaving the Parkway, its northern terminus at the I-84 near Waynesboro. The road gives some good views up here, with far more small towns and farmland dotting the canopy of forest below. After stopping at the visitors center I was suddenly across the interstate at Rockfish Gap and off the Parkway. It becomes Skyline Drive immediately, slowing you to 20mph and an entrance station for the Shenandoah National Park. The speed limit doesn’t go above 35mph, but the road isn’t any tighter than the Parkway, which already has a 45mph max speed that’s low enough to allow rubber-necking.
Northern terminus visitor center has a 1900’s farmhouse set up with original buildings relocated. Note the tobacco plants actually in flower. They usually are crowned if buds start growing.
I was also going to run out of daylight, so after seeing one or two overlooks I just made tracks as best I could on such a slow road. I also was low on fuel and leaving Skyline Dr. would make things worse. It was 60mi to the only gas station in the park, and I had 45mi of fuel left according to the computer. By holding the bike at 40mph and lugging the engine I started improving the fuel economy enough that the computer was adding miles to my fuel range.
Once the range gets below 30mi though, it starts displaying “LOW” and you have to count miles on your own. When this happened I had 34mi to go. Coasting anytime there was a downhill section got me to the fuel station, where I pumped 5.2-gallons of fuel into my 5.5-gallon tank, so I was definitely pushing my luck.
I finished the ride to Antietam Campground right on the Potomac River after sunset. Shepardstown, WV was the closest place but everything was closed except for two gas stations, so I grabbed a beer and some junk food after setting up camp, then settled in for the night.
Up next, Pennsylvania and the run to Maine, my turnaround point.