November 21, 2015
Hi all – I’m actually writing this at the end of day two as there was no internet access at the lodge…
The beginning of the day was filled with all of the usual anxiety associated with a trip like this – compounded by the fact we were trying new gear and riding a new bike. There was also the little part about starting out of NYC. Still – we were super excited to hit the road with Michael & Nuri – plus our dear friend Miriam had also decided to join us! Super cool.
First off we had to get out of the city and the Sunday morning traffic was a total breeze. Heading west toward Jersey through the West Village and the Holland Tunnel and just like that we were out of the big apple. No big deal except that *every* time we stopped I thought I was going to dump the bike :) It’s so tall and I’m used to the luxury of remaining flat footed at every stop.
Out of the city we headed west circumventing Philly, Baltimore and Washington – opting to stick to the highways as we headed out to visit some of Nita’s old friends in in Elizabeth NJ. Edith and Del have an amazing 12 acres and all kinds of goodies for people looking for a great time. The barn’s skate-ramp is currently also a holding pen for the snowmobile and mini-bikes and Del took us all for a terrifyingly great run on his side-x-side around the track he’s built on the acreage. Edith made us some great eats before we said our goodbyes and headed out on the road.
With the heatwave the temperatures have consistently been in the low- to mid- 90’s so the heat was a huge factor on day 1. We stopped in at Cabela’s to pick up a Camelback to keep ourselves hydrated and cool. Around Cabela’s a car stopped short in front of Michael and he demonstrated perfect form on a no-brake stoppie right into the drivers bumper. Luckily it was a slow speed and they both came off the bike like leaves on the wind. It was a scary moment for those of us watching but both were fine as were the two (older) ladies in the car. No harm no foul and we were on our way after a quick bike check.
The next hours were filled with freeways as we motored toward Skyline Drive. After riding through New York, New Jersey & Pennsylvania, we stopped for a bite at the local Friendlies where we already noticed a shift in accents and hospitality. It just seems crazy that there can be such a difference in such a small geographic range. About 20 minutes down the road we stopped for gas and collectively realized that we’d skipped on the bill – everyone thinking that someone else had paid :) We laughed our asses off! A quick call from the station had the bill paid and we were once again on the road laughing at the way the day had played out – we were thieves and stoppie masters.
The next push had us heading toward Big Meadows Lodge at the 51.1 mile marker of the Skyline Drive. The sun was quickly dropping and we wanted to make sure that we made it to the lodge well before the light was gone. Unfortunately we’d spent a little too much time stopping and the results would prove stressful, to say the least. As we pulled into the last gas station before we hit Skyline Drive a great guy started chatting to us an mentioned that there were *tons* of deer on the road and that we should take it easy. Other than that everything looked good.
We headed out and were soon on the Skyline Drive. What can I say? It’s a stunning road – lot’s of twisties, heavily wooded and it seems to rise forever. With the sun very low on the horizon we were pushing to make the lodge when, at mile marker 27 Nita noticed that Miriam was no longer behind us. We turned around and found her lying in the road with two other riders helping her -a deer had jumped out as she exited a corner and Mir ended up t-boning it killing the deer instantly. Mir on the other hand was woozy, and in obvious discomfort but overall she was in good shape considering the severity of the crash. Her gear had most certainly saved her from much more serious injury. Her bike was mostly okay though her headlight, windshield and brake levers were toast, and Mir was in no condition to carry on. In minutes rangers, firemen and an ambulance were on scene and before we knew it she was on her way to hospital.
The emergency crews were amazing – just great people. After the ambulance left we waited for the tow-truck and the ranger drove us 20 of the last 30 miles to the lodge. It was a pitch-black ride on one of the twistiest, deer-lined, cliff-hugging roads in North America, and I’m going to admit that the last 5 miles seemed like a fucking eternity. By the time we were at the Lodge it was 12:30 – a full 16 hours after we left NYC in the morning.
Nita and I were starving when we pulled in and honestly, I wanted a drink of some kind just about more than I’d ever wanted one. The kitchen was closed and we retired to our room to eat the last of a granola bar when there was a knock on the door. The woman who checked us in felt so badly for us that she’d gone to the kitchen, made us a cobb salad, some fruit kebabs and poured us some Dr. Peppers in Starbucks cups. It was the most amazing thing to happen at that moment – one of those things that happens in awful TV movies – one of those things you’d swear doesn’t *really* happen. It was wonderful. As she left she just smiled and said “I hope it tastes okay, I’m not a great cook!”
It was the best salad we’ve ever had.
On day 2 I’d wake up and find Miriam back from hospital – beaten up but not broken – and that made for a brilliant start to the day. Her husband (and one of my dearest friends) drove from NYC to pick her up and take her home. As for us, we hopped on the bikes and prayed for an uneventful day. And we got it.
More to come.