Saturday June 13, 2009
On Saturday I meet up with the Warrenton Area Street Riders Association to ride out to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home outside of Charlottesville, VA. The ride started, as all good rides should, at a diner. The Frost Diner in Warrenton is a landmark and the real deal when it comes to diners from the 1950’s. I ordered up a plate of blueberry pancakes while I waited for the others to arrive.
The group for this ride was pretty small. Four riders, two Honda Shadows (Ron and James), one Yamaha FJR 1300 (Jeff), and my Harley Electra Glide Standard. Ron, the group organizer, laid out the plan while the four of us devoured the diners specials. We were to meet up in Luray, Va with the Shenandoah Riders coming from Winchester, Va. That meant taking Rt 211 over Skyline Drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains, a great little stretch of road with some nice but tricky curves, as we were to discover. Then we would follow Rt 340 to Charlottesville and Monticello. We talked and continued to eat (the portions are not for the faint of heart) while we waited for the call that would tell us the Shenandoah Riders had left Winchester. The call came in around 9:30 and we saddled up and headed out.
Rt 211 comes into Warrenton nearly across the street from the diner so we were on our way with full bellies and great weather. The ride through Amissville and Washington lead up to the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The scenery was green Virginia in the summer and gorgeous. Where Rt 211 starts up the mountain there is a large (and I mean large) state sign pointing out that this is a “high motorcycle crash area”. I’ve taken this pass only two other times before this trip and there are a few corners that make me a little nervous, that sign does nothing to help my confidence, it was, however, appropriate. Five minutes up the road Ron and James on their Shadows pulled ahead of me as I held Jeff on his FJR in check (not on purpose, I’m just a little slow in the twisties). As Jeff and I came around an “S” curve we both (as I discovered later) saw a motorcycle on the ground and thought, “Wow, someone crashed … oh wait that’s Ron”. Lucky for Ron the cars (yes plural) that were coming down the road stopped and people were out of them before he stopped sliding. Behind Jeff and me was a Semi who stopped to block on coming traffic from behind us. There were no serious injuries to Ron, a torn jacket and a little road rash were all he had to show for a 20 ft slide. The bike was rideable but we would need to break out the tool kits once we got off the mountain. It appears that a combination of tires with 14,000 miles on them, a damp road and possibly some trail braking all contributed to the low side slide across the road.
After making sure that Ron was ok, we all mounted back up and headed out for Luray, albeit a little bit slower. The fact that Ron made it through this incident mostly unscathed is really due to 1) wearing a good leather jacket 2) wearing riding boots 3) having crash bars on his bike. The helmet never touched the pavement, but I’m sure that if it did the full face helmet would have helped out. It was really a great stroke of luck that this went as well as it did.
We met up with the Shenandoah Riders, a very diverse and friendly group of riders, in Luray. We broke out the tool kits and got Ron’s bike in working order, gassed up and were off to Charlottesville. The route took us on 340 south all the way to Charlottesville, and then a quick hop on 64. The ride was a beautiful romp through farm land, small towns, and some sweeping forests roads. Most importantly we stayed dry even though the rain clouds threatened several times.
Monticello was pretty packed, this being the beginning of the tourist season in the Virginia/Washington DC area. Something to note when attempting to go to Monticello, make reservations for tickets before getting there. When we arrived around 1:00 pm we were told that the next house tour was starting at 3:00. We were also told that if you want to go anywhere other than the gift shop or the small restaurant you had to buy a $20.00 ticket. So I grabbed an Ice Tea and the four of us sat down and plotted a ride home. Nice ride down there but none of us wanted to wait around until 3:00 for a tour of the house.
The ride home was great. Nice sweeping, back country roads and very little traffic. We took Rt 20 to 231 by Orange, then turned on Rt 522 ending up at Griffin Tavern in Flint Hill. We ordered drinks, nachos and onion rings because the kitchen was transitioning from lunch to dinner. If I were to rate the food at the tavern based on what we ordered I’d have to give it a poor (and a silly). The nachos consisted of watery cheese dip in a bowl and obviously the end of a bag of tortilla chips. The onion rings, all 3 of them for 4 of us, were good … but come on … 3 … Well they did bring out a whole 2 more when we pointed out the obvious issue and that Ron, along with getting into an accident, also got stung by a bee in the taverns parking lot. Not really Ron’s day.
Talked turned from the days ride to past rides to accidents to future rides. Jeff roused all of our wonder lust by recounting his tales of 3,000 mile rides and camping trips to Canada, ambiance, brandy and all. The stories lead inevitably to the planning of a camping and riding trip. I’m looking forward to the details for the ride on the WARSA website. It’s going to be a 5 day ride to Deals Gap. Sounds fun. From Griffin Tavern we took back roads back home which was a perfect end to the day. I enjoyed being able to reflect on the days events while riding past horse farms and mansions. I can’t wait for the next ride and to meet up with the WARSA guys (and gals) again. This was my first ride with them and I’ll be back for many more.