The last day.
Our wake up call comes in at 7 AM. Lee and I get up and head into the lobby for breakfast. I’ve been told that it’s more than the usual continental fare. Well… maybe and maybe not.
There’s a small room adjacent to the lobby with counters on three of the walls. The first counter has a juice dispenser with orange juice, apple juice, milk and hot water. Next to it is a display case with miniature muffins, Danishes and bagels. There’s a toaster for the bagels and a small microwave for those wishing to heat their pastries. There are several bins with dispensers for cereal. The far wall has a counter with what appears to be a recycled incubator. Inside are two metal trays. One has bacon and the other has a pile of yellow disks, about 3/8 inch thick and four to five inches in diameter. These are allegedly eggs.
“How do they make eggs like this?” a woman asks.
“That’s nothing,” I say. “You should see the chickens that lay these eggs.”
“But how do they make them like this?” she asks.
I chuckle and tell her that some things are better left unknown. This gets a few laughs from the other breakfast patrons.
To the right of the incubator is a Belgian waffle maker mounted on a gimbaled hinge. To the right of that is a dispenser for the batter. There are two choices: original and blueberry. There’s also a sign explaining how to make a waffle. Spray the iron plates with a non-stick cooking spray. Add one small cup of batter, close lid and wait.
Lee tries to make a blueberry waffle. Before the waffle is done, he takes a peek. Bad idea because it isn’t done. The outer part is cooked and sticks to the iron plates; the inner half is still a gooey mass of batter and blueberry ingredients. He closes the lid and waits. A green light comes on and a bell rings. It’s done, but the instructions never mention this alarm system. Oh well…
The last wall has salt and pepper packets in a basket. There are plastic eating utensils and Styrofoam plates and bowls. We exit and find a small table for two in the main lobby. Coffee is also available in the lobby. As we eat I come to the following conclusions: the coffee is pretty good. The bacon, although thin, is crispy and not too bad, the waffles are okay as are the bagels and mini-muffins. The eggs are something else. I suppose you could replicate the taste by taking a Styrofoam plate and spray paint it yellow. Add salt and pepper to your personal tastes.
Outside the skies are overcast and low clouds cover the mountaintops and ridges. Check out isn’t until noon. With luck, most of this should burn off by the time we leave. We have just over 200 miles ahead of us, so what’s the rush?
It’s my theory that this day might be the most dangerous for people on long trips. Their minds are on home, unpacking, laundry, mowing the lawn, loved ones, paying bills, sorting through junk mail and only 1% of their mind is paying attention to the highway and traffic.
We check the weather channel. Last night’s storm was not limited to Morgantown, WV. Pittsburgh claims to have had tornadoes. Arkansas was hit with a tremendous microburst storm and gusty winds are predicted for Pennsylvania. There is a good chance of rain showers near Harrisburg. We began this trip in rain and it looks as though it will end in rain.
From time to time we look outside. The clouds are slowly lifting and we can see patches of clear sky to the west, but we’re heading east and then north. As they say, we’re going to get what we’re going to get and there’s no way around that.
At 11:30 we have the bikes loaded and roll out of the parking lot. In a few minutes we’re heading east on I-68 toward Cumberland, MD. From there we’ll pick up I-70 and then I-81 north to home. I turn my iPod on and hear the Beatles, “Good Day. Sunshine.”
No one on I-68 is capable of maintaining a constant speed. The limit is 65 mph, but no one pays that any mind. The car you’re following might be doing 68 and you think, "I’ll just stay behind him." Then he slows to 54 and you try to pass, but then he accelerates to over 70. It’s a bit frustrating, but every mile covered is a mile closer to home.
We take a break at the Sideling Hill cut and walk across the interstate to take a few pictures.
The pedestrian bridge has a chain link fence on both sides. It curves up and partway over the sidewalk to prevent people from throwing anything on the cars. Midway across the bridge there are several vertical openings that allow you to take unobstructed pictures of the cut and the highway. If anyone tried to drop something through one of these openings it will land on the medial strip. I suppose one could manage a hook shot to hit the highway, but Big Brother will be watching you.
We know we’re back north again as the leaves have begun to turn.
We continue east to Hagerstown and turn north on I-81, the homestretch.
Lee needs gas so we exit at Chambersburg. Immediately we find ourselves in a construction zone. Pennsylvania only has two seasons: winter and construction. I decide to make the final run from Morgantown on a single tank of gas. The GPS says it’s less than 60 miles to home and the bike’s computer says I’m good for another 90. While Lee fills his tank I look down on the dash of the RT, I see a couple of stinkbugs. Yep! We’re back in Pennsylvania.
Getting back onto I-81 is another trying experience. There should be three lanes of travel, two going east and a third for left hand turns onto the interstate. Instead, all three lanes converge into one. Two highway workers with orange flags are attempting to sort things out. The 18-wheeler in front of me blocks any view I might have as to what is going on. Eventually we have the go ahead from a flagger and roll up the ramp to merge with I-81 north.
I have driven this stretch of road numerous times and for 45 miles it seems to be the longest stretch of road in the world. It seems even longer today, not because we’re so close to home, but because there is an endless line of semis reaching to the horizon. Strong gusts of wind from the west don’t make it any easier, but it isn’t raining and every milepost we pass means we are making progress.
Riding through Carlisle I turn off to take some back roads home. Lee and I say our good-byes on the intercom. It’ll be strange not seeing his bike in my rearview mirror after 6,000 miles. He gives a parting wave as I ride down the exit ramp. “Adios, amigo! Via con Dios.”
The last ¾ mile home is my driveway. It’s stone and gravel and was recently graded. I have a bad thought that with my luck I’ll drop the bike along the way and end up walking to the house. Today, Mr. Bad Luck is somewhere else. Paul Simon is singing “Kodachrome.”
“I’ve got a Nikon Camera
I’d love to take a photograph…”
When we visited the Colorado National Monument I came across five young ladies with long burgundy dresses and black bonnets. They were in a rental van and had stopped as this overlook to take pictures. I offered to take a picture of all of them with their camera. After the typical tourist poses I asked if they were Mennonites.
“No,” they answered. “We’re Amish.” It turns out that they’re from Ohio. I gather the Ohioan Amish are a bit more liberal than the old-order Amish I’ve seen in Lancaster County, PA. When I asked what brought them to Colorado, they told me.
“Our men are here hunting so we decided to fly out here, rent a van and surprise them at their hunting camp.”
“Were they surprised?” I asked.
“You should have seen the looks on their faces when we drove up to their camp and we stepped out from behind their tents.”
“Are these men your husbands?” I got a chorus of “No.”
“Boyfriends?” This time I got giggles. I began to draw my own conclusion at this point.
While their “men” were hunting they were sightseeing. I recommended the Black Canyon of the Gunnison for their next day’s tour. They thanked me, got into their rental van and drove off.
There are no pictures of that encounter, just a story.
Riding up the final hill I begin beeping the horn. As I pull up in front of the house, Ann comes out on the deck waving me into the garage. I can see several of our cats racing away across the lawn. “Who the hell is that?” they ask.
Inside the garage, the side stand goes down, the engine turns off, the Motolights and ignition are turned off. The helmet comes off and I come off the bike. Hugs and kisses from and to Ann. It’ll be strange not getting up tomorrow to pack the bike and head somewhere else. In the back of my mind I can hear Utah Phillips,
Oh, I will go up and down the country and back and forth across the country.
I will go out West where the states are square.
I will go to Boise and Helena, Albuquerque and the two Dakotas
And all the unknown places.
Home is the rider, home from the road. This is one, big-ass country and there’s a lot to see. It doesn’t have to be a journey of six thousand miles; it could be six hundred, sixty or six. There are so many places to see and so many people to meet. The places have their history and the people have their stories to tell. We need to make and take the time to go, to stop, to look and most important, to listen.
For those of you who followed our travels and enjoyed the readings, thanks for coming along.