Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey
For most of the years I've been riding motorcycles, I've been lucky to live in areas where traffic wasn't a real problem. Sure, there were specific places where you really didn't want to be during rush hour, but while those locations were all knotted up, there were others where I could get free of the gridlock. Not so here in Northern Virginia. Traffic is bad. I have to get to work by 6:00 a.m. in order to get free of most of the mess, but mainly because if I leave the office anytime after 3:30, then it's 9 miles of stop-and-go in first and second gear.
I miss the 30 miles of wide-open US219 in Pennsylvania and the similar stretch of I-70 through Missouri. Cruising at highway speeds is not only better for the bike, it's better for the rider as well. Stop-and-go is very hard on the clutch and tiring on the clutch hand as well. I remember on one ride from Pennsylvania to Richmond, VA I was caught on I-95 in the fallout from an accident some 40 miles ahead. I ended up overheating the clutch, which forced me to the side of the road. I parked the bike and got off...and then almost got crushed by some crazy lady in a Suburban who was cruising the shoulder.
The hardest part of this commute is that there's no real alternate route. All the roads are crowded, and the side streets rarely connect. On one particular Friday, It took over an hour to get those 9 miles and I literally never got higher than 2nd gear. I guess the other thing I miss is the freedom to take a longer more scenic route. In the big city, there's just no such thing. In looking at the map, I think I'd have to go 30 or 40 miles further west before things really opened up. It's kind of frustrating, but at least around here, winter hasn't really started yet. There have been one or two 20-degree mornings, and a surprising amount of rain, but I can still get a day or two of riding in. Up in PA, there's snow on the ground and sand and salt on the roads. My bike would alread be in hibernation.
At some point, our life will settle a bit, probably after we sell one house and buy another one. At that point, some semblance of routine will assert itself and things will become a bit less frenetic. Or not.
I do look forward to spring and summer, since it will arrive here much earlier than in the mountains. 50 miles west of here lies Front Royal, VA, the gateway to the Blue Ridge Mountains and all the best motorcycle roads in the state. Just thinking about spending a Saturday careening along those twisty roads through that spectacular scenery gets me all twitchy inside. In the meantime, it looks like I'll have a few riding days between now and then, enough to keep me sharp and whet my expectations.
I also look forward to visiting the many Civil War Battlefields, of which Virginia is awash with them. That's one of the neat things about this part of the country. You can visit sites representing three distinct eras in our history, the colonial era, the revolutionary era, and the Civil War era. Maybe that's snooze city for some, but I've always had a strong interest in history and nothing gives context to knowledge like actually being there.
So my plans are being made for an adventurous spring and summer, full of riding and touring.
Now if I can just get through winter.