I Guess It’s a Mental Thing

License to ExploreThe 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.

Entering the Jefferson National Forest
Entering the Jefferson National Forest

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.

Boulder along Big Stony Creek Road.
Boulder along Big Stony Creek Road.

There are usually lots of flowers and such, too.

Interesting Wildflower
Interesting Wildflower

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 the best pic, sorry. The light was challenging.

Not only were they along the road, the forest floor was rich with rhododendron. It was cool. I hadn’t missed anything after all. 🙂

Not the best pic, sorry. The light was challenging.

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.

Rough panoramic shot of Potts Creek Valley (click on image for larger view).

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.

Potts Creek Valley

There were big curves every now and then, but it was relatively straight.

Potts Creek Valley


Small farm in Potts Creek Valley.

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.

Cows! No, wait, what?

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.

An adorable general store!
An adorable 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.

Fresh Buffalo


A step back in time, eh?

It was such a cute little place, really.

The Swinging Bridge Restaurant

And guess what? The restaurant served buffalo burgers! (I later learned the proprietors also own the buffalo farm.)

Buffalo burger with fresh-from-the-fryer potato chips.

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.

This is where I mailed my postcards.

I am definitely going back to Paint Bank one day. With Hubby next time, so we can stay at the awesome-sounding Depot Lodge.

The Depot Lodge (far more than meets the eye here, follow that link above)

What a lovely spot, eh?

The Depot Lodge as seen from the general store’s parking lot.

And the general store’s lawn is where I captured this fun selfie.

Selfie with Hatchling Cow

I still don’t know the story behind that unusual sculpture.

Udderly Chick
Udderly Chick

Some things are better left to to the imagination.

– – – – – – – – – –

If you’re a map person, too, and want to see the location, you can still look at My 2015 Solo Adventure Spotwalla Track.

24 Replies to “I Guess It’s a Mental Thing”

  1. Hear, hear! I get the same questions and give similar answers. Either way works but I always prefer to not ride in a group. Once and a while would be fine but definitely not all the time. I like the flexibility you get from not feeling like your waiting for someone or slowing them down.

    The general store would’ve made me stop to look around…

    1. Or causing them to crash as you slam on the brakes for a better look at something that caught your eye. 🙂

      The general store was definitely a cool place, and I did look around, lingering much longer than I thought I might, but it was worth it.

  2. I could be mistaken but I believe it’s a cultural thing about gender — women are discouraged from acting independently. Women themselves frequently spread this belief by telling each other it’s unsafe to be out in the world alone. That isn’t true, so it seems it’s based in culture, not reality. I love riding alone.

    1. “Women themselves frequently spread this belief by telling each other it’s unsafe to be out in the world alone. ” <—THIS

      Keep being out there, keep being visible and keep leading by example. Some women of the world need to be reminded that they're whole people on their own, not part of a set like a salt & pepper shaker.

      1. Fuzzy, you keep on doing it, too! One day, more women will realize it’s not just okay, but really kind of fun to get out there and go where you want to go, see what you want to see, and do what you want to do without some Pepper there to protect you.

    2. ShyB, it could certainly be a gender and culture thing. Thankfully, not everyone buys into it. One of these days I’ll have to wear the GoPro to capture videos of the stares I get from people, even when I am with Mike. The classic, “Is that a girl?” look. LOL.

  3. I get that same reaction when people find out I ride a motorcycle. its crazy because to me its nothing out of the ordinary, but to others its beyond belief that a middle aged chick rides a bike.

    Love the pictures! The hatchling cow is interesting, which came first the cow or egg? Lol!

    1. Dar, I’ve even stopped telling people I ride a motorcycle. Unless it comes up in conversation somehow. I figure, if I act like it’s something out of the ordinary, people will continue to think it’s out of the ordinary. Like you, I’ve always felt like it’s just something that I do.

  4. Now you know about I felt when people used the same words to describe my travels. 😉

    Guess you got to mail those postcards after all! Very cool that you happened upon such a neat little shop and restaurant!

    1. Shan, you’re right, but traveling solo around the world IS a bit more unusual than just riding a motorcycle alone through mostly populated areas within half a day’s drive or so of your home..

      Did you click on The Depot Lodge link? They’ve got some very cool accommodations I’ll be using sometime soon. I hope. 🙂

      1. Nah! 😉

        I hadn’t clicked on the Depot Lodge link, but I just did since you asked. It looks very scenic!

  5. So cool, Kathy! This was truly one of those fortuitous days where everything was meant to make you smile! Especially the egg cow – WTF? 😉

    I agree it is a cultural thing that many women, and even more men, think women are not capable of doing things on their own. I love riding on my own, and have traveled solo both on and off the bike. Ditto on the stares and stupid questions… I am fortunate, like you, to have a best friend/husband/riding buddy, but solo riding is also good for the soul.

    1. Thanks, Lynne. It IS good for the soul. Motorcycle riding frees the mind like few other modes of transport. Sometimes, you even end up making life-changing decisions along the way, however difficult those decisions may be.

      I love going on adventures with Mike, but he doesn’t share my affinity for odd stuff and photography. He usually doesn’t need as many potty breaks, either. LOL.

      1. Ooh Kathy, your comment about difficult decisions is intriguing! And Jerry is much the same about my photography mode…but he is getting into the fun of it now and even suggesting we turn around when we miss something great! I call that progress!

  6. I got the response all the times when I tell that I’m traveling solo for a year on a small bike. Ironically, most men say “right on” and most women say “aren’t you scared?” I tell them Yes and No at the same time. I’m having a wonderful time and also cautious enough for my safety.

    Now my dilemma has been to say no for a lot of people want to ride with me or want me to detour from route to meet up with them.

    Safe travel and enjoy the serenity of solo traveling 🙂

    1. Welcome, Gina! I can see I have quite a bit of reading to catch up on your grand adventure.

      Every now and then, a small detour to meet up with a friend and follower might be good for the soul, too. But that’s totally up to you. Being completely in charge of your own schedule is quite liberating. Thanks for stopping by. I look forward to reading more about your journey.

  7. I think you are brave for solo travels. Not because you are a woman, or anything to do with your abilities, but because of my own comfort zone.

    I’ve never lived alone and rarely ride alone. While I am not a fan of group riding I do enjoy riding with my best friend/hubby – it is my preference. While I’d be fine if hubby wanted to take a solo trip I don’t know as if I’d have the desire for it myself.

    1. Brandy, I can understand wanting to stay within your comfort zone, but it might be good to push its limits once in a while. Even in a small way. Maybe there are some things you like to do that Brad doesn’t? You could even take off in the car for an afternoon of solo exploration, just to get your feet wet. A little independence is healthy. God forbid anything happens to your spouse, you’d be slightly better equipped to deal with life on your own if you get a little taste of it now. But that’s just my opinion. If you’re happy, that’s what matters. I’ve never lived alone, either, but I’ve always had my own interests. Those interests have changed over the years, but I still like to do my own thing once in a while. And I love traveling with Mike, don’t get me wrong. I just know he doesn’t enjoy stopping to gawk at stuff like I do, he’s really not crazy about interacting with folks he doesn’t really know, gets impatient when I’m in photographer mode, etc. He and I have been riding together for so long that it would be weird riding in a larger group. We can read each other pretty well, understand that we’re supposed to ride our own ride, not always try to stay right with each other when slower obstacles get in the way, know how to position our bikes in relation to one another when we stop to park, get fuel, etc.

  8. So, little lady, when you say that you “ride”, no doubt you mean as a passenger on your man’s bike. Because–let’s be honest, sweetheart–gals simply do not possess the strength, the fine motor skills, or the intellect to pilot anything more powerful than a vacuum cleaner… 😉

    (Please hold any wrathful responses for five days, as I will happily be out of range of all forms of wireless communication until then.)

    1. Lol Ry! Seriously, I have had (usually old) men say things very similar to this to me in the past. Oh well, we’ll just have to keep leading by example, like Kathy.

    2. You must’ve just joined the witness protection program and will be given a new Internet identity after that comment. Doesn’t Google run that program? 😉

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