The reactions I get from people when I tell them I am embarking on a solo road trip, whether it be short or long, on the bike or in a car, never cease to amuse me. The “you’re going alone, what’s wrong with you” and “why would you even want to” themes seem to be common across all modes of transport, but the “you’re brave” sentiment seems to come only from women, and applies only to motorcycle travel.
I love people, I do. And I also enjoy doing things in groups. But I don’t have to be with people to have fun. I know how to entertain myself. I don’t find anything unusual in that, but I guess I’m a bit biased, and I’ve been that way as long as I can remember.
I can understand why some people think solo travel is odd, but I don’t understand the “brave” thing. Maybe it’s because they think, me being a woman, if there were some sort of mechanical failure, I wouldn’t know how to make repairs. They’d be right. I wouldn’t know how to make repairs, but a lot of men wouldn’t either. And, even if I were mechanically inclined, there’s only room to carry the most rudimentary tools on a motorcycle. That’s why we have roadside assistance and towing coverage on our insurance. Like Hubby said when he and I were discussing this, the only difference between encountering a breakdown when traveling with someone or traveling solo is that I wouldn’t have to wait for the tow truck by myself.
And it’s not like I was ever far from civilization. In the mountains, yes, but I stuck to regularly traveled roads. Even I have enough sense to avoid gravel and/or dirt-surfaced Forest Service roads that are NOT regularly used and where self-rescue, i.e., extracting myself and/or the bike out of a muddy ditch or unsuccessfully forded stream, could pose a significant challenge. I was not trekking alone through a vast, unexplored wilderness.
Perhaps the women who think I’m brave are directionally challenged and think I’d get lost? I have a great sense of direction, and I’ve always loved maps. In fact, I still prefer to use maps and plot my own routes as opposed to relying on a GPS. Even when I do use a GPS, I tend to make it follow certain paths rather than rely on the recommended route. Maps are always more reliable for me than quirky GPS software.
I don’t know. I’ve given up trying to understand it. I just chalk it up to people being different, having different preferenes, or different outlooks. And I’ve learned to just sorta nod or brush it off when people say or act like they think I’m brave or odd for traveling alone. Some people will never understand the joys of solo travel, just as I can’t begin to comprehend why anyone would want to board a floating city with several thousand other people and follow someone else’s schedule for days at a time. They’ll also never experience the joy of accidentally discovering very special places like the one I’m about to describe.
I like going different places. I like encountering the unexpected, too. One of the most delightful experiences during my recent Appalachian ramble happened one day along a route I’d only just decided to travel that morning. Why? Because it looked interesting on the map. Granted, I was using one of my America Rides Maps, which ranks roads for their quality and appeal to motorcyclists, so I knew it would probably be a good series of roads, but it was what I encountered along the route that really tickled me.
I’d ended up in Princeton, WV the previous evening. I figured I’d stick to the higher elevations to avoid, or at least minimize, the oppressive heat and humidity. From Princeton, I chose to take US 460 east to just past Ripplemead, VA, to get onto VA-635/Big Stony Creek Road. From there, I’d head roughly north get on WV-17/Waiteville Road, which become VA-600 when it re-enters Virginia, and then head east on VA-311 at Paint Bank, VA. The plan was to go through Clifton Forge, Virginia, an area I’d been wanting to explore. I had no idea what to expect prior to Clifton Forge. But, for many motorcyclists, the destination isn’t usually as important as the road or roads one travels.
My only goal that day, other than covering as much of my route as possible, was to find a post office to mail some postcards I’d addressed before setting off. I thought for sure I’d have hit one before Big Stony Creek Road. When I saw this sign, indicating I was entering the national forest, I remember thinking those cards wouldn’t be getting mailed on that day.
I really enjoy roads through national forests. They’re typically not very heavily traveled and they’re in, um, forests, which means lots of shade as you travel through the trees.
There are usually lots of flowers and such, too.
I believe the flower pictured above is a variety of milkweed.
National forest roads are usually good for shady break spots, too. Like this one…
On my southward BRP trip, I’d kinda-sorta loosely planned to re-visits segments on my way back north, mainly to see the rhododendron forests again. I was a bit sad knowing I’d miss that, but one can’t see everything, right? So, imagine my delight when I started seeing these…
I wasn’t just seeing one or two. There were rhododendron everywhere. On very large bushes, just like I’d seen along the BRP, only more of these were in bloom.
Not only were they along the road, the forest floor was rich with rhododendron. It was cool. I hadn’t missed anything after all. 🙂
As I continued north and east, the forest opened up a bit and soon enough I found myself in one of the most picturesque valleys.
I just love roads like that. It’s a classic example of what I call a putt-putt road. Average speed is usually only about 45 m.p.h. (72 km/h), which means there’s plenty of time to look around. That’s a pretty relaxed pace on a motorcycle.
There were big curves every now and then, but it was relatively straight.
There were lots of pretty little farms interspersed with bigger farms. I saw a bunch of cows, too, but not particularly close to the road.
And then I passed these. I had to turn around and go back to get a closer look.
Those weren’t cows, as in regular run-of-the-mill cattle, it was bison.
Imagine encountering a herd of bison in a very isolated part of West Virginia!
Sadly, my first thought was, “Wow, I could really go for a buffalo burger right about now.” Not very likely considering I was in the middle of nowhere, and had been for some time.
But every road leads somewhere, right? As it turns out, I was back in Virginia. And, soon enough, I reached Paint Bank, Virginia, which is home to the Paint Bank General Store.
I swear, it was like I’d stumbled upon a little country oasis.
I parked out front, thinking I’d just run in and grab a drink, maybe a snack, and make sure the restroom was in working order.
I may have squealed aloud a little when I saw the inside of the store.
It was such a cute little place, really.
And guess what? The restaurant served buffalo burgers! (I later learned the proprietors also own the buffalo farm.)
I ended up lingering far longer than expected. That was by FAR the best meal I’d eaten since leaving home. It was THE BEST buffalo burger I’d ever eaten, too, and I’ve had some good ones across the western US.
Plus, like many general stores, there was also a post office.
I am definitely going back to Paint Bank one day. With Hubby next time, so we can stay at the awesome-sounding Depot Lodge.
What a lovely spot, eh?
And the general store’s lawn is where I captured this fun selfie.
I still don’t know the story behind that unusual sculpture.
Some things are better left to to the imagination.
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If you’re a map person, too, and want to see the location, you can still look at My 2015 Solo Adventure Spotwalla Track.