Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Waynesburg Pennsylvania to Lake Lure North Carolina

It was cold this morning. The frost on the bike windshield and the frozen droplets on the body parts were a dead giveaway. We donned our full cold weather gear and rolled up onto I-77 South just after 8:00 AM, keeping an eye on shaded areas on the road in case they were slippery. The temperature slowly rose as we crossed into West (BG) Virginia, but remained on the quite cool side.

Over the next miles, we were given time to reflect on how beautiful West Virginia is. The Interstate stays up high most of the time but you can look down into the hollows and see small cabins that have been there for generations. I like to try to imagine what it was like to live there before the highways connected everything.

We left I-79 and took US19, which is a 60 mile shortcut to I-77. The main town along this route, Summersville, lies just over Powell Mountain is the worst speed trap I have ever encountered in my travels. The speed limit on the four lane highway is 50 MPH and there are usually several cruisers out there stopping those travelers who are a few miles over the limit. I have heard they use these revenues to augment their local taxes and there are awards for the police officer who writes the most tickets.

South of Summersville, we crossed the New River Gorge bridge, over 3,000 feet long and 850 feet above the river. It is an awesome structure but you can almost miss it if you just drive over it without stopping at the visitor center. Coffee and fuel in Beckley and then we continued south into Virginia through the impressive East River and Big Walker Mountain tunnels. At Wytheville, we turned southwest on I-81 and stopped at Abingdon Virginia for lunch. The temperature finally warmed up and we took off our cold weather gear.

Leaving the Interstate, we proceeded south on a little road I found years ago while attending a NASCAR race at Bristol Motor Speedway. It rolled and wound through the countryside as we crossed into Tennessee, passed the Speedway and the took us to Johnson City where we caught the new I-26. This took us over the North Carolina state line and on to Asheville where we caught Highway 74A and the last leg of our outward journey.

74A crosses the Eastern Continental Divide after climbing a series of twists, turns and switchback curves. It’s an interesting road and is typical of most of the roads in this part of the Smokey Mountains. It levels off in Bat Cave and we proceed on to Chimney Rock and Lake Lure where the early arrivals are standing out front of the Geneva Inn, our headquarters.

After getting registered, we unpack our gear and grab a bite at the Tiki Bar behind the Inn. Chimney Rock towers over us. Anyone who has seen the movie Last of the Mohicans with Daniel Day Lewis will remember the closing sequence at the end with the towering cliffs. This was filmed on Chimney Rock. I found out this trip that Dirty Dancing was filmed in Lake Lure as well.

VROCers continued to roll in throughout the evening as the temperature quickly started to cool off. The greetings are one of the best parts of these gatherings. Phil Thompson, AKA Gunslinger of Martinsville Virginia, and I finally were the last ones up as usual, along with Russ Argo (Cargo). We turned in about 1:00 AM.

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