WanderlustBy Sam Lepore

Subject: Wanderlust 2000.12 - Knoxville, Tennessee
Date: Tue, 18 Apr 2000 18:48:39 -0700

    A chill swirling mist rose through the still barren trees. The molten gray sky overhead showed no promise of warmth. Occasionally a cold rain pelted the ground as a taunting dare to set foot lest you be wracked with the barely restrained fury of nature.
    It was a perfect day for a motorcycle ride.
    But then, after a week of being in a car, anything short of a volcano raining fire and brimstone would be a perfect motorcycle day. I reeeeeally like to ride.
    The visit was nice, and it was just long enough to let my ear canals heal from the irritation of daily earplug wear. As I explained to the guys on the ride to Branson - it is kinda like a vacation with a nymphomaniac ... no matter how much fun, by the end of a week some parts are rough and sore from constant use. :)
    There has been a recent discussion thread on the Internet BMW Riders list about mothers who approve of motorcycles enough to have actually taken a ride (and some of the disastrous results therefrom). Wish there was someone around to take a picture. The day after I got to Marmet, the mother-out-law asked for a ride. My bike has a very tall saddle and a backrest which makes mounting difficult for a passenger. We had to use a stepladder for her to get on and off. It must have been quite a sight.
    Oh, yes, Marie is 79 years of age and would have ridden a lot farther if it hadn't started raining.

    Leaving the Kanawha (kah-naw') Valley, I tried to head due south. Ain't no straight lines in West Virginia. All the roads follow the tortuous traces of the streams which anywhere else in the US would be renowned for the precipitous canyons they carve, except here everyone lives and travels on the bottoms of the canyons so they don't see them that way. In some places the two ridges on either side block out the sun except between maybe 11:30 and 12:30.
    After turning on my first waypoint from memory, I went to activate the day's route in the GPS only to discover I had not uploaded it. The route was laid out on my mapping program, but I forgot to connect. Nope, there were too many route changes for me to remember them all, so at the first gas stop in Glen Daniel (which turned out to already be off the mapped route), I parked under the awning and opened up my computer work case. As I set up the pc and gps, a small boy wandered over to watch. Picture me. Spaceman's helmet still on my head, reflective rain suit with day-glow striping, wires and electronics draped all over an already from-elsewhere motorcycle. (At least he recognized the computer.)
    "Hey, cool, ya got a built in computer. Whatcha doin?"
    "Uploading waypoints to my GPS." I could have just said anything because it was obviously a foreign language.
    "Uh, huh?"
    I smiled at him, and in a flat, metallic voice monotone with pauses said, "I. Must. Contact. Spaceship." Just then the Street Atlas GPS interface made contact and the image of a satellite beaming to a receiver filled the screen and the pc began speaking the first waypoint directions. His eyes widened perceptibly. I continued in metallic monotone, "Greetings GolDak. Where will the spaceship land?" And Street Atlas focused the map on the current GPS position, which, of course, was where we were standing. He knew it was a joke, but he laughed anyway. "Wow!" As I shut down the program, an option window popped up. Continuing the joke I intoned, "No, GolDak, the earth boy is not food. He will not be beamed up." And at that the boy had to leave, but I could hear him telling his mother that the guy over there was talking to a spaceship ...

    A couple of days ago, in the car, I passed a sign on the Interstate that announced the town limit and "Home of Jerry West, NBA Great". It seemed a strange title, but I suppose if an explanation is necessary for passers by it will do. Today I rolled through the barely there hamlet of Bolt in a tight little hollow in southern West Virginia with its own claim to fame: Home of Little Jimmy Dickens. No explanation necessary. If you don't know, you are probably too far from where you should be.
    And let me tell you there are no two ways about it. You are either a local or you are a flatlander. The difference is obvious. Anyone who is driving a coal truck has a military short haircut and wears a Cat hat (no, dear, not cat-in-the-hat ... Caterpillar equipment. Elsewhere they are called baseball caps. Here they are Cat hats.) And anyone who is not 'cut and Cat' hasn't had a haircut in ten years. Looong hair on men is way common back in the hills.
    Bloomingrose, Comfort, Orgas, Sundial, Johnnycake. Some names were larger than the towns. Round about here I noticed that "names" were much more prevalent than where I live. In a city, you do business with a company with a corporate sounding name, whether it is a dry cleaner or insurance or a restaurant. In the hills, the name is more prominent than the company. Here you do business with a person, not a company. John Oaks Hardware. Bill Cuddy Insurance. Vickie's Cafe. The personal touch has been lost in a lot of America. Whether by design or slow to change, it remains here.

    The further south, the more spring like the land becomes. There are wild flowers on some of the hills. The trailing vines in the tree limbs over the creeks are beginning to turn green and look like verdant thermometers measuring the progress of the vernal season. Even on the most rickety and weathered cabins, some of the rockers and chairs from that pile in the corner are lined up on the porch (*everyone* has a porch) to face the road for evening chat time. Life is returning to the woods and to the woods dwellers.
    But it is still a miserable day, even being a perfect day for a ride. The cold and the wet never let my hard wall Dunlop tires warm to operating temperature, and they skitter in corners enough times to scare me into staying below the speed limit. Over Clinch Mountain the fog is so thick and moist I have to open my visor to see enough of the road. The slight diffusion on the faceshield is enough to 'white out' visibility. With all the difficulty and the exquisitely curvy roads, the miles go way too slow, so I am forced to break out of the plan and ply the Interstate to get close enough to make my appointment for engine maintenance with a dealer in Alabama (just crossed 78,000 miles). One more pit stop and I'll hit the highroad. One more pit stop, indeed.
    What is it about Virginia at the West Virginia border? None of the *five* places I stopped allowed use of the restroom. Not even national name gas stations. Never did care much for Virginia, anyway, so now my attitude is p*ss on it. That's what I finally had to do.
    As a side observation, southerners often feel northerners are rudely brusk. Ask a question, get 'yes' or 'no' as an answer. Nothing more. It is the way answers are given, no wasted words. By the same token, this northerner feels some southerners are rudely polite. They give effusive yet stupid answers to simple questions: Do you have a rest room? Well I'm sorry to say no, we sure don't , but you do have a nice day.
    Have a nice day?
    Actually ... I did.

320 miles
Marmet WV94 WV3 WV99 WV85 WV10 WV971 WV97 US52 WV80
WV83 WV635/VA635 VA680 US460 US19 I81 I40 Knoxville
Sam Lepore, San Francisco

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