Saturday, November 12, 2011

Riding the Ridge: Interlude--The Road to Willville

My first night camping in the Shenandoah National Park left me a little wary of the experience the following day. I'd spent a near 200 miles in the saddle during my second day on the Blue Ridge, and I hoped to find a more comfortable place to lay my head than I found in Mathew's Arm the previous evening. One of the truly remarkable pleasures of traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway by motorcycle lies in the abundance of cycle only campgrounds sprinkled at regular intervals beginning at roughly the half way point when running the Parkway from north to south. For the uninitiated, these spots are campgrounds that cater only to motorcyclists or, in certain cases, those travelers towing motorcycles.

I pulled in to Willville Motorcycle Campground located off of the Parkway at mile marker 177. A few miles west on Route 58 revealed a gravel drive and a large orange sign announcing the bike camp to the left of the road. What Willville offers, like many of the motorcycle only campgrounds I've had the pleasure of visiting, is the company of others of the two-wheeled persuasion. In my experience, camaraderie can be in short supply in campgrounds frequented by RV's, families squeezed into minivans, or school buses packed with cub scouts. MC camps offer amenities that rarely are standard at conventional campgrounds, such as laundry facilities to accommodate motorcycle gear, some form of communal shelter, hot showers, and often times coffee and other beverages for a small donation.

Willville was more pleasant than most. From the moment I arrived and established my camp in the grass (no gravel tent pads here), the owner and other riders went out of their way to make me feel as if I'd been there for days. I parked my butt in one of the easy chairs under the shade of the central pavilion and didn't leave the camp for two days.

I managed to meet a few of the regulars as well as a couple others like myself just passing through. One oldtimer promised to send anyone who would drop him an email a list of all known gas stops within one mile of exiting the Parkway. He'd built the list over years of traveling the roadway himself and information gleaned from those passing by. I was tempted to stick around through the early part of the coming weekend to take part in a Ural rally that would call the camp home over about three days. From the stories my fellow campers told, riders of the unique Russian marque are as charismatic as their machines. But being a youngin' (not yet retired), quite a few more miles of Parkway beckoned before I had to turn the Beemer west toward Kentucky. I left on a Friday morning, heading south.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Too Bad the Writing Doesn't

Last Christmas, my wife purchased several books off of my Amazon wish list. As one of those typical motorcyclists who will probably find the opportunity to tour exotic places by bike a distant dream, I've been rather fond of reading the exciting accounts of those riders who actually manage to pull it off. While I dearly love to read the exploits of Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman, it's always intriguing to stumble upon a book written by one of the rest of us. The not so super rich, that is.

When I added The Road Gets Better from Here to my list of must-reads, the title and subtitle fascinated me. The photo on the cover is absolutely spectacular. Surely, this must be the book that exemplifies how the rest of us would tour the Road of Bones through the former Soviet Union. I know I couldn't afford a fully loaded BMW GS1200, the helmet cams, the support crews with all the spare parts. My friends certainly wouldn't have come along for the ride. Most would have had me committed for even suggesting the idea. I want to ride my motorcycle around the world. Really? Wait right here; I have a special white coat I want you to try.

I appreciate everything about Mr. Scott's adventure--the audacity of climbing on an enlarged dirt bike and heading out into foreign countries, the magnitude of the time involved in the journey, the limited resources of the common man dedicated to a dream. I appreciate everything except the narrative. It reads like a blog entry--a 400 page blog entry. After about the first hundred pages, I felt as I'd been bouncing along on the passenger pillion across the rutted landscape. That's not a good thing; it's a KLR650 we're talking about here. I was tired and worn out. I kept having to refer back in the book to remember what nondescript person in which nondescript country I was reading about. In short, the narrative is tedious, and that's without the typing errors.

I've put off writing this review for so long because I've desperately wanted to like Mr. Scott's effort at mototravel journeling. My disappointment in this book is in that it doesn't begin to convey the panache of such a journey. While the book gives us the facts of the trip, it fails to entertain the reader. Traveling by motorcycle on a limited budget isn't just a challenge for most of us, it's a fact of life. Mr. Scott, however, should have used the funding he saved from the trip and spent it on an editor.