I described Day one as mighty. Day one hundred and thirty two, the final day, could be summed up as peculiar. It began similar to every other day that I’ve experienced in the last four months. I was at a random motel, knocking out a post, packing my things and loading the Goose up for a precious day of travel. The West Virginia state line was 250 miles north of my starting point in Danville Virginia. That’s about a five and a half hour ride if you include a couple of fuel stops. Like the day before, I stuck with Igor’s advice and planned a rural route home that would parallel interstate 81 north, but avoid the eighteen wheeler saturated road.
Once packed, I returned the room key and took off for 58 west and the first stop of the day. Even though it was the final miles of the journey, I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to experience something. A few miles outside of Danville, I stopped to top off the tank. A fella pumping petro on the opposite side of my pump stopped what he was doing to come over for a quick chat. His name was Steve and he was a fellow motorcyclist. He asked a familiar question when he approached. “Are you traveling?” I responded by saying “Yep, I’ve been on the road for four months and I’m finally heading home.” He took interest and we conversed for a bit about what it’s like to do a multiple thousand mile ride. He has gone one thousand miles from home and back on a Harley, but hasn’t gone the full way across the United States yet. I recommended that he gives it a shot someday. That recommendation came with a side note though, one has to be a little crazy to do it the way I did. I told him that I gave up everything to take the trip. He and I finished what we were doing and I was off, on 58 west, in search of Lake Sugar Tree Motocross Park. That is the home of famous, retired, motocross racer now mx school teacher, Gary Bailey. My directions said to turn onto Lake Sugar Tree Dr. I popped over a hill and noticed a Lake Sugar Tree Ln. This made me second guess my handwritten directions, so I pulled into a crossover in the median to think about turning around to take Lake Sugar Tree Ln. About a minute later, Steve noticed me and pulled into that crossover also. He asked if I knew where I was going. I told him about my confusion and he said that I still had a couple of miles to go. He got me to follow him in his car to Lake Sugar Tree Drive, where he would put his right turn signal on to mark the road I was looking for. When we made it to Lake Sugar Tree Drive, his signal came on, I threw my hand in the air as a big thank you, he spotted it in his rear view mirror and waved goodbye. Steve was a hell of a nice guy and I hope he completes a long journey around the country someday.
Gary Bailey’s track at Lake Sugar Tree came as a recommendation from my buddy Jed from Crossroads Yamaha the day before. He said that the track was sweet and worth seeing while in the area. Unfortunately, it was not so sweetly, off-limits. I was met by a long metal gate/fence. Practice wasn’t scheduled for that day, and I take it that no MX schools were going down either. “No worries” I thought. I whipped out the camera for a couple of pics of the sign. After all this was sacred motocross ground whether I was standing right on the track or not. Gary’s son David reached the penultimate level of motocross in the eighties. For a few years he was champion and unstoppable until a nasty crash left him paralyzed. Even so, David has went on to become a serious athlete in wheelchair friendly long distance triathlons and has been a regular television commentator at professional level MX races. I love his undying spirit and respect his accomplishments. Soon after arriving, at the Bailey compound I left for roads that would take me north and a little closer to West Virginia.
The weather was beautiful, the skies were clear, and there were a million old cabins in different states of dilapidation along southern Virginia’s windy rural roads. In fact, I just had to force myself to stop pulling over to take pictures. They were great opportunities, but no forward progress was being made. I told my family that I’d be arriving home around four in the afternoon and planned to stick to it. Southern Virginia’s roads reminded me of earlier days in the trip where I would say that one can’t ride in this part of the country and not see something cool every few miles. Out west the landscape mostly dominates a riders stimulation. Here on the east coast, landscapes are more difficult to take in due to the tree-lined roads. For motorcyclist’s cruising the twisties in these mountains, there is not lack of beauty though. I remember a guy in St. George Utah that told me that his father said there is nothing worth seeing east of Colorado. Now that I’m back, I’m going to have to disagree with that man’s dad. We may not have ten thousand foot peaks around here, but boy do we have millions of little, century plus, old farms sitting on rolling foothills with gently rolling Appalachian mountains providing a perfect backdrop. Sometimes those hills are speckled with cattle. The cattle have no idea that they provide a better viewing experience for us humans by slowing grazing in the pastures. I find that the simplicity of it all works together to create a nearly flawless landscape. Add a tiny trickling stream to the base of those foothills and, oh my, you’ve found heaven. I found heaven over and over on my final day of riding.
Once I was a few hours into the ride, I got a hunger pain and had to find a place to grab a bite and disobey my mom’s strict orders to not eat anything. She was preparing a feast full of my favorites. I was in the mood for home cooking. Just outside of Lynchburg Virginia I found a little mom and pop style place called Jumbo’s Family Restaurant. Inside, the atmosphere was just what the doctor ordered. I grabbed an open seat at the front counter and ordered country fried steak with mashed potatoes and cottage cheese. While waiting on my order, a real hillbilly from Lewisburg West Virginia came over to meet me. This guy was the epitome of a backwoods southern West Virginian. First he leaned on the counter and stared right at me for ten seconds. I hope that isn’t the way he greets every new person he meets. I put my drink down and looked back at him. He spoke next with a draw that even my country boy dialect couldn’t decipher. What I did make out was that he noticed my West Virginia license plate and that he was from Lewisburg. I attempted to keep the encounter rolling to be polite, but the guy wasn’t much for talking. He just wanted to scope me out and meet a fellow West Virginian. When he said “You’re from up north in the state.” I felt like I was from WAY up north, and from a totally different planet than him. My fellow state dweller then went back to his table and I received my order. In a bit of a hurry, I wolfed it down and got back on the road. This time I was traveling on 29 north. I would follow that through Charlottesville Virginia, where I stopped at a Kroger grocery store for my last fuel stop of the journey. Being the last one, it was worth a picture. After that I continued north on 29 to Madison Virginia where I veered off onto back road 231. Again I was engulfed in the perfect rolling hills and farmland of Virginia. That was a blissful twenty-two mile ride to Route 522. Now I was getting real close to familiar roads. At this point, familiarity was only twenty-five miles away in Front Royal. Igor, Vivek, and I met in Front Royal for the first days of the trip, four months ago.
Arriving in Front Royal was odd. While riding through the town and into the country roads north of it, I kept glancing down at the map inside of my tankbag. There was no need for that though. I KNEW WHERE I WAS GOING….. That is capitalized because that moment was such an odd feeling. For the past few months, I lived by those little folded maps. They’ve guided me from sea to sea. Now I had a newly developed habit of checking my location every couple of minutes via the maps. I stopped looking down at the map about ten miles from the West Virginian line. That is also the spot where I saw my first West Virginian license plate in four months. Not one single time have I came across another West Virginian plated vehicle while driving on America’s roads. Around that time I was near the town of Berryville Virginia and decided to stop and pay a visit to my great grandparents head stones at the cemetery where they are resting. This trip has taught me to love my family more and my appreciation for where I’m from, has grown. If not for the decisions made by my great grandparents years and years ago, I wouldn’t be here.
Next the mileage count down to home entered the single digits. Those final few miles to the state line flew by. Then there it was, West Virginia. Home. Right about there, was the time when everything I had seen and done felt dreamlike. Sort of like when Dorothy went to Oz and then woke up to realize that she was still in Kansas. Had I just traveled that far? Were all of those characters in my journey real?Those exotic landscapes, did they exist? The answer is of course, yes. Was I happy to be back? As I write this, the answer to that is still on-going. No matter what thoughts crossed my mind, they had to take a temporary back seat to the darkening storm clouds that were lingering in the direction I was heading. I didn’t know if it would start pouring in the final miles to moms house, but I did know that I didn’t feel like throwing the rain gear on, so I put the hammer down and got there quickly. While driving through my little county, it felt like seeing it through a first timers eyes. The land seemed much more rural than I pictured while on the road. I realized that I was no longer used to this area. By far and away when I left here in October, I knew no other home, I was used to Jefferson County and one could say “in tune” with the place. Now it almost seemed like another random spot on the trip. My eyes were hunting down things that would make a good picture. Things that never caught my eye before.
When I pulled into my driveway Igor was there with his camera out ready to capture true to life reactions from my folks. Mom darted out the door with tears in her eyes, snatched me up and held on for dear life. She took my absence hard. Her reaction was a one way trip straight from the heart and was enough to make me shed a few tears in my helmet for the first time. I have the world’s most caring mom. I’ve known this all along and didn’t want to put her through that sort of heartache. There are just some things that one has to do to get sorted out in life though. My girl friend Brittany was next. She had been there all day waiting for my arrival. When I left in October, we were on the “outs”, now we are going to give it another go. My stepdad Tommy was right there also. He is a man I respect immensely and to see him again was good. He has been nothing but a positive addition to our family for about 15 years now. Soon my brother, Shane, pulled up. It wasn’t long ago that I saw him and his wife April in Las Vegas, so our reunion was fairly neutral. He is one of my favorite people in life and every time I see him, it’s a pleasure. Right after that we were ushered inside for a feast. Igor stayed to join us and April arrived a bit later. Mom, as promised, had everything that I like to eat, down to the dessert. We spent a few hours catching up, telling jokes, looking at pictures and videos from the trip. Mom mentioned that Monster energy came through with the swag that they promised to send after they turned down my request for sponsorship, while I was in Corona California. The package included a page full of stickers, two posters, a pin, and a key chain strap. It was nice to see that they were at least sincere. Being back at home around family was refreshing. In the back of my mind, I couldn’t stop thinking about long lonely roads or the people I met along the way. A few hours passed, we said our goodbyes, and Brittany and I headed five miles away to my new home in Shepherdstown, WV.
When we pulled up, I recognized the building. It’s an apartment building with about six units in it. My first thought was, I didn’t want to settle there, or settle yet for that matter. Although it is a tiny apartment, it is much bigger than the back of a motorcycle. Living simply, without the stress of a huge mortgage will allow me to start fresh, at the bottom again, and work toward goals that fit my interests. It will take some getting used to. She gave me the grand tour, I grabbed a quick shower, and we rode into town to meet another friend of mine, Jay. He and Igor are cousins. I’m not sure if it was the excitement that the day brought or the long day on the Goose, but I was wiped out. Brittany and I didn’t visit long before heading back home to her/our apartment for an early night. I was in a state that I’ve always considered home and a town that I’ve known since childhood, but something didn’t feel right. I went to bed thinking about what’s next, feeling like I’ve finally been able to be myself for the past four months and knowing that I didn’t want to change that. That life style fit me well. I loved the travel, the writing, the photography, our country and its people.
The trip started on October 14th 2011. It ended on February 22nd 2012 and lasted 132 days. The Goose and I traveled 17,437 miles from Gerrardstown West Virginia through, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and California. The Goose only had two mechanical issues; one flat tire in Roswell NM, and one lost oil cap in Atlanta Georgia. A Yamaha FZ1 is an incredible bike, although not great for long distance days. I made countless friends and developed family like ties with folks that I’ve never met before. As American’s, we share an astoundingly beautiful country that should be seen by all. This has been the best time of my life.