June 12, 2014 : Roanoke, Virginia : [ Day 16 ]
All of the remaining pressure, fear, and uncertainty transformed into calm satisfaction when I reached the mountains, diluted to near nothingness by the meer presence of geologic forces. There is something marvelous about rock thrust into the sky; as if the Earth itself, dissatisfied by the arrangement of its parts, chose a slow anarchy over quiet acceptance. One day at a time, it made imperceptible but deliberate movements, and the world we know is the running sum of these – much like who we are is the sum of our decisions, small and large. Mountains are a perfect metaphor for life itself, and they also speak, though quietly. If you listen closely, you can hear them.
The ride from Clarksburg, West Virginia to Seneca Rocks was stunningly beautiful. The Seneca Rocks themselves remind me of the Palisades, the knife-edge ridge of dolomite marking the front of the Beartooth Range in Montana. The sight of it immediately brought a flood of memories and mixed emotions.
But it was a good omen, because my Tiger is a mountain cat. We spent the first year of our life together exploring the high country between Red Lodge and Cooke City. She was born running in those hills, and I think moving back to the Midwest and ignoring her primal urges was bad for both of us. On the road up to Spruce Knob, the highest point of the Mountain State, I swear I felt her loosen up a little. The throttle response seemed quicker, and the turns smoother. When we reached the top, I know I was smiling. I like to think that she was, too.
Spruce Knob was impressive, but I didn’t linger. The storms that had been building and bluffing all day were starting to find their stride. I made it back to camp before the rains came, but was soon after forced to retreat inside my tent. I finished supper in there, listening to the thunder echo off of the steep ridges surrounding me. The storm became intense for a while, but nothing like out on the prairies. I passed the time with a little guitar; I still only know a couple of chords but I’m playing them better, and learning keeps me occupied. The next evening was far more pleasant.
I took the time to hike up the trail to the observation deck on Seneca Rocks, and it was worth it. The view from up there is amazing.
Say what you will, West Virginia is an under-appreciated state. It is absolutely gorgeous, and the people are friendly – even in the roughest-looking towns, someone always waved as I passed by. Sometimes it was a kid on a bike, sometimes an old guy mowing his lawn, sometimes a pretty girl in a pickup. A lot of coal country reminded me of the iron range in northern Minnesota, and I felt more at home there than in the larger cities of Clarksburg or Beckley. Those little towns nestled in the hills are some of the prettiest I’ve seen anywhere.
In Virginia proper, I hooked up with Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. It was raining all morning, and the fog was so thick that I had to stop and wait it out. When it cleared, WOW. The views are incredible, and because of the weather, I was constantly riding in and out of the rolling clouds. The feeling was absolutely indescribable.
South of the park, Skyline Drive turns into the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is full of views like this:
Today is day 16, a little over two weeks on the road. Not that it matters, really. I do miss my friends and family – spending a few days outside of cell range was another kind of wake-up call. One of my good friends found it curious that I burned out from being away from home all the time, and then left home to go disappear again on a motorcycle. And you know, she has a point. I thought about that a lot today… and I don’t know what to say.
But I did find this sticker, which I think it sums up this journey pretty well.