I'm a hardcore over-packer. For the most part, my travel is by car, so I'm inclined to just load up everything I might need. Clothes for every weather event and every occasion. Shoes to match every outfit. All my full-size toiletries, like shampoo and soap and such. I pack coolers of food and sodas, bags of snacks, and everything you might want, ever, to eat at a picnic. I mean, why not? Where I'm going has sheets and pillows and towels? Well, I can bring my own, just in case we are struck by some unexpected bedding and towel emergency. After all, I can just pile it all in the car, and I don't even have to unpack it if I don't need it. And forget luggage. Paper bags, plastic bags, or even just random items in the back seat. It all comes with me.
So when Bill suggested we take a motorcycle vacation, honestly, one of my biggest worries was how to pack four days of my life into two small saddlebags. I had just watched "Long Way Down," where Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman travel all through Africa on motorcycles, and I saw how they packed tents, clothes, and all their supplies on their bikes. (And in three accompanying SUVs, but let's not focus on that.) "I can do this!" I told myself with no conviction whatsoever. And sure enough, I procrastinated like any anxious person doomed to failure does. But Tuesday night came, and there was no turning back. I took out four Ziplock freezer bags and told myself what didn't fit in them, didn't come. Aye carrumba!! But I managed to squeeze in seven days' worth of clothes (yes, for a four-day trip, I know, I KNOW), but I even included jammies and swimwear. I squished the air out of the bags before I zipped them up, and lo and behold, I looked like a super-packer!!
So I proudly loaded the saddle bags up Tuesday night, squeezed in a few more empty ziplocks for wet clothes and dirty clothes, and went to bed excited for the trip the next day. Yay motorcycles! Yay Ewan McGregor!
Until about 3 a.m. when the sound of a horrific downpour woke me to find Bill checking the radar and weather report (modern technology is AMAZING) on his phone, and oopsy. Rain ALL weekend ALL over our route. We had originally told ourselves we would take the car if faced with bad weather, but come ON, I'd packed in Ziplock bags! We couldn't turn back now!
So after an anxious and fitful night's sleep, we awoke to the rain still pouring down steadily, gathered up the animals for feeding time, showered, and slowly donned our gear and waterproofed ourselves. I'm proud of us that we never for a second considered the car, although I whined about the rain gear. It's just so uncomfortable and ugly. Not at all the motorcycle babe look I'm going for.
And off we went, stopping of course for coffee and by about 8:15, we were sitting in rush-hour traffic on 54 heading to Graham in the rain. Wait. What? Oh right, it's Wednesday!! So, yes, rush hour traffic, right past both our offices, and then off! on country roads to Graham, then to 87 north through Burlington, and by now we'd been on the road like an hour or more, our tummies rumblin, and jeans damply stuck to my legs. The rain gear worked fine, but North Carolina this time of year is somewhat like the inside of a clothes dryer, and while rain gear keeps rain out, it also keeps sweat IN. So, this is all to tell you that we stopped at the West Webb Curb Market, which looks like a hole-in-the-wall convenience store, but when you step inside is an enormous general store with a crotchety old lady who will scramble you up an egg, fry some bacon, and curmudgeoningly throw it on white toast for you. The rest of the folks there were very sweet, keep their bathroom clean, and wished us safe journey on our way out. The sun was making an occasional appearance by now, and one thing I realized was that even in the rain, I was having a great time. I love love love the bike (you may have gleaned that from previous posts), and the roads of North Carolina are just exquisite. Even in the rain.
We swooshed on for several more hours, and eventually the rain dissipated, and we rolled north to nearly-Virginia, and then cut west, south, west, north, and so on, following a route carefully construed to see as much as possible and end up in Mount Airy for lunch. The green fields, the pines, the jungle-like stretches where huge and lush greenery encroaches on the shoulders and shades the pavement, the corn fields, the tobacco fields, and the endless supply of churches all glide past, the sound of the wind drowning out most thoughts, and the bike responding like it's part of you. This, this could go on forever and be wonderful.
And then we made it to 89 North toward Mount Airy. The curves on this road fold tightly in on one another, and the grading creates bowl-shaped loops all intertwining to give you the sense of being the ball in the old game Mousetrap, that slid and rolled and swooshed through the track. The trees leaned over the road and we were basically in a jungle tunnel (well, the North Carolina jungle, if you can imagine), and since we mostly had the road to ourselves, we could slow as we needed, bend and twist, lean and tuck, scraping our pegs and floorboards along the way. At one point there's a turn onto 66 that takes you about 350 degrees--no lie--to the right. There's a stop sign first, so you're starting from stillness, but then you're on a road of even more intense curves, but this time we were following a logging truck who had obviously traveled here before because he was barreling down the road in front of us. Nothing good could come from that, so I was glad when we eventually turned off, back on to 89, and eventually into Mount Airy. In those moments I felt kinship with the adventurers of the world who set off on long journeys to simply explore the terrain. Mine might only be four days, and it might be my home state, but I've got to start somewhere. Today North Carolina, tomorrow, well North Carolina!