September 13, 2005

Start: Washington D.C.
Raleigh, North Carolina
Mileage: 254 miles
Route taken: Route 234 to Route 1 (
Jefferson Davis Highway), to I-440, exit at Raleigh.



        The emotions were mixed as I awoke on Tuesday morning and prepared to get on the motorcycle after a long break.

        The service for Crazy George went well and it was nice to see a lot of my friends again. I spent the four days cramming in as much time with people as I could and on the flight home Monday I slept for a good part of it.

Getting back on Libertad felt awkward since I hadn’t been on her in four days and even the short ride from the airport parking lot to the motel was graceless.

I understood. She felt abandoned and was letting me know about it and I wasn’t exactly in the right frame of mind to be on a motorcycle.

The road I chose for Tuesday couldn’t have been better for both of us. It was a two-lane highway with little traffic and very few obstacles, which gave me the ability to space a little bit without totally worrying an animal or a car affecting my progress.    

The service for Crazy George was over, but the mourning was not. It illustrated to me the fragility of life, especially for someone who rides a motorcycle and gave me pause to ponder if this was the lifestyle I really wanted to choose.

There wasn’t trepidation about being on the bike, but more like an assessment of why I do it. Is it because there is a genuine love for motorcycling, or is it because there is some other factor playing on my psyche, egging me on to do this dangerous activity?

That was more than enough to contemplate as I headed out of Manassas, Virginia and towards the North Carolina border.

My gut feeling was I chose motorcycles because there is no freer feeling. To ride on two wheels, out in the open, the blacktop rushing below you is a sensation that can’t possibly be fathomed in an automobile.

It is like flying, and I believe riding is connected to my soul. It is tough when I lose people like Crazy George, but in my heart I know he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. By the time I reached Richmond, Virginia, I decided neither did I.

The history oozes from the walls of the city in Richmond and the historic markers along Jefferson Davis Highway pop up like wildflowers.

Richmond was the capital of the United States for the South in the Civil War and the city has not forgotten its past.

Before even reaching Richmond there are historic sites, such as Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania battlefields, where some of the worst fighting took place. There is a national park off of Highway 3 that intersects with Highway 1 and illustrates that part of history.

Stonewall Jackson’s shrine is off of Route 2 to the east and is part of the national park. That is the spot where the general died from battle wounds accidentally inflicted by his own troops. The plantation-style house where he died still stands and is open to the public.

By the time I got to Richmond I was dizzy from trying to read all the historic markers, but one south of town caught my eye.

It was in Petersburg and the sign showed a house that was used as headquarters for General Robert E. Lee while he was fighting troops from the North.

My grasp of history is not as good as it should be, but I was given a small education as I drove down Route 1 and read the markers and stopped at some of the sites.

        As I was about to cross into North Carolina I was given a current history lesson. On the side of the highway were mobile homes, spaced about thirty yards apart.

        The siding was starting to peel away and rust had made its way on to the frame. There were five of them and I believe they belonged to five different people, though they could have easily been for one or two families considering the proximity.

        Cars from the 70s and 80s were on the property and none of them ran. The grass was long, growing around the frames, some of which had hoods open for work that wasn’t ever going to be done.

        The people were not visible and if it weren’t for clothes drying on the line, I would have guessed the shacks were abandoned.

        My words will have to do, out of respect for them, I didn’t stop and take a picture. It was just too sad to photograph anyway.

        When I crossed into North Carolina I saw clouds coming closer to greet me. Hurricane Ophelia was still a day away, sitting out at sea waiting for later time to fall on land.

        This was a just a late summer thunderstorm and the preceding wind was shaking loose leaves from the tree, sending them spiraling to the ground around me. They were given momentary life when the draft of a passing car would send them up into the air, a last gasp before they would settle to the side of the road.

        Rain was coming and I knew it. Picking up thunderstorms has become a hobby of mine and I knew the sudden coolness in the air meant I was about to get wet.

        The spits of water trumpeting a coming downpour started to smack my face as I looked for shelter. I knew I had about three minutes before I would be soaked, but finding an overhang on a country road is a challenge. A gas station came to my rescue and I dived to the right, coasting the bike to a stop under the metal structure and jumping off the bike.

        The sheets of water came quickly after. There was no thunder, no lightening, and I knew it would leave as fast as it came. The 20 minutes was spent talking to a police officer and reading the newspaper.

        After the drenching, the gray sky brightened a bit and I was able to head south again, my pants legs getting wet from residual water on the road, splashing up from my front tire.     

        Ten miles down another big black cloud impeded my path and again a gas station was there to rescue me. This was just before Franklinton and the cashier was gracious enough to let me bend her ear while I waited this one out.

        The storm was brief and was nothing compared to what awaited me in the morning.