Thursday, October 20, 2011

Motorbiking in the Mountains

Friday evening, Rob came up with the motorbike on the back of his truck. We got up early on Saturday and eagerly awaited the arrival of Kim and Scott who we were spending the weekend with. Scott had for a long time wanted to ride through to West Virginia in the mountains taking back roads and no highways. It was going to be a perfect weekend weather wise with sunshine and no rain and the fall foliage was just starting to peak.
We set off on Route 55 and rode towards Strasburg. On the other side we stopped for brunch and wolfed down the best scrapple I'd ever tasted with eggs, sausage, home fries and toast washed down with strong coffee. We chatted to an elderly couple who used to ride a motorbike themselves and the lady showed us an old photo of the two of them by their bike. They were a wonderful couple and it was with sadness that we learned from a waitress that the wife suffered from Alzheimers. So cruel.

Me and Rob reflected in the restaurant window. We carried on riding, loving the absence of traffic although the winds were high. I was wearing my old bike leather jacket from my twenties, very pleased that I could still zip it up and loving its protection from the wind.
We trundled through the countryside enjoying its rustic charm and colors and the occasional comment with each other when we stopped at lights. A frequent sight as we rode through the mountains were wind farms, tall white windmills slowly turning. 
Blackwater Falls State Park was our next stop and we had to traverse along the top of a mountain to get there. The wind was brutal and slowly pierced through our protective jackets and scarves. The bikes skipped a few times with the crosswinds and we were glad to enter the sheltered parkland. Hot chocolate was supped greedily from the refreshment stand and then we walked down to see the falls.
They were spectacular and it was a pleasure not to see the place packed with too many tourists.
I borrowed Rob's hat but it was too big and kept falling forward over my eyes. At least it helped to keep some warmth in my head. Climbing up and down the many steps got the blood moving and we were warmed up by the time we got back to the bikes. And so it was onward again but the cold didn't get to me so much this time.
We hit heavy traffic in Oakland, MD, and took nearly an hour to get through the town because there was an Autumn Glory Festival taking place that weekend. A parade had passed through the town and I got of the bike to pick up some sparkly ribbon to tie on the back.
Some of the local kids who posed for my camera as we passed by.
Even though we caught the tail end of the day's events, we noticed a punkin chunkin contest had taken place and wished we'd been a little earlier for those photos. The temperature was really starting to drop now and we realized that we needed to start looking for a bed for the night. But all local motels were full so we had to ride out further.
We stopped at a gas station where I saw this sticker on the side of a truck.
I chatted with the owner who assured me that the bullet hole was real. His brother had taken a gun off the dashboard, dropped it on to the seat and it had gone off and shot a bullet through the door. Dayum! 
We kept riding down the road searching for the now seemingly elusive warm and cozy bedroom with hot food where we could rest. We finally hit the jackpot and came across a pretty hotel in Grantsville. The Casselman Hotel is owned by a Mennonite family and is on the Old National Road which we were following.
They had only 3 rooms free so we were extremely fortunate and blessed to stay here. We had a lovely meal with very friendly service and our rooms were clean and welcoming. With full bellies and the warmth permeating our insides we felt a heavy tiredness and went to our rooms straight after eating, glad to be horizontal on soft beds with warm heat blasting out. We all slept well.
The next morning we were up early and on the road looking for breakfast. The sun was shining, the wind had dropped a lot and we soon found a Denny's where we fueled our tummies for the day.
Scott and I posed with our choice of chocolate desserts from the menu. We didn't eat them but it was a great photo op since we're bestest chocolate buddies.
Kim and Scott up front. We happily rode through more towns and up more hills then came to a town called Cumberland.

There was thick black smoke billowing above the buildings and thinking there was a fire we drove into town to investigate. I was ecstatic to see an old steam train in the station which was responsible for the smoke and was so excited I could barely wait for Rob to stop the bike before I bolted.
The train was about to embark on a fall foliage trip but we had 30 minutes to take photos and enjoy the sights and sounds of this wonderful old engine. I put together a video here of the train. After the engine had left we strolled through the main street of Cumberland.
 A delightful pastry shop had its windows filled with Halloween cakes, a riot of color. I also spotted some Hawthorn trees which are very common in England and always found in hedgerows. I became quite homesick as I sniffed the foliage and berries. I used to make wine from these berries.
So then it was back on to the bikes again and back up into the mountains along The National Road. The views were spectacular and the foliage vibrant. We passed old barns and abandoned houses and even a convoy of motorbikes who like us were out for a ride.
Over the weekend we also passed many 'attractions', some of which I managed to capture on the camera from my back seat and others which I had to be content with just being lucky enough to see them.
The last 'high' point of the ride was the Town Hill Overlook, known since the 1029's as the Beauty Spot of Maryland.This hotel has been open since then but we think it is now closed, it's up for sale and there were no vehicles parked outside. A shame, I hope it's restored as a popular hotel.
We got back down on to lower ground and headed towards Winchester. Our last stop was Dairy Queen for ice cream and then it was the home stretch along Rte 50, with Kim and Scott heading towards Sterling and us breaking off towards Marshall. We had traveled through Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and gone into Pennsylvania, clocking up 351 miles. A fabulous weekend with Kim and I already talking about the next trip...

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