It started off well

Vermont to Maryland – Why is the Sky so Dark?

Vermont was lovely when we left

Vermont is such a lovely, verdant place! We left home, Barley and I, early on a bright and cheery summer morning. The forest was a riot of different shades of green, the streams full of clear, cold water, and the blue sky dotted with puffy clouds rushing off to someplace else. We crossed into New York, then Pennsylvania as the sky grew progressively darker and more menacing. Our goal was a campground in West Virginia, but I began to have second thoughts in southern Pennsylvania when the rain started. By the time we reached Maryland the rainfall was moderate and steady. I abandoned the back roads and picked up Highway 219 to make better time.

I don’t mind riding in the rain during daylight hours, and actually prefer frank rain to annoying sprinkles as the light stuff fogs my visor with a film of oil and other road grime. Camping in the rain is another story. I’ll do it if I have to, but spending the night in a small tent with a wet dog – one who insists on waiting till he’s inside before shaking – is not as much fun as it might seem at first glance. So as the sun began to set I was looking for a motel in which we might manage to stay dry. I found one with vacancies in McHenry, Maryland. It was a Quality Inn, which I remembered fondly from a couple of decades ago.

This was not the Quality Inn of my memories.

The foyer was nice and gave a good first impression, but it went rapidly downhill from there. It started with the broken elevator, which meant we had to schlep our stuff up three flights of stairs. And I mean all our stuff! There is precious little security on a motorcycle; unlike a car you can’t simply lock the doors. Not anticipating having to park so far from our bed, I hadn’t brought any sort of large bag into which I could pitch the many compression bags containing our stuff. So it took a total of nine trips to transfer stuff from rig to room. Then Barley had to poop, so back outside to find a patch of grass. It was only then I noticed how filthy the grounds were! Empty soda and beer bottles and cans littered the grounds, there was so much trash I suspected people living nearby used the hotel’s parking lot as a regional dump, and in the bushes at the lower end of the lot I noticed a discarded condom. Totally gross and there was no way I was going to let my dog off leash!

Barley does not enjoy pooping with an audience, much less on a leash, so there followed a standoff that lasted several miserable minutes. Finally, when neither of us could possibly absorb any more rainfall, he gave in and attended to his needs.

But only when I faced the other direction.

Back in our room I sat in the swivel chair and nearly went over backwards; it was missing one wheel. The heater didn’t work so I got Barley as dry as possible with one of the towels, then used the hotel’s blow dryer to finish the job. I normally use a large microfiber towel that I pack for just that reason, but by this point was so completely disgusted with the hotel that I figured they couldn’t possibly complain about a little fur in the bathroom.

The television worked, but the only channel available with The Weather Channel. Just as well, as it showed a map of the region we were heading into. The map had all sorts of multi-colored blotches on it with banners warning of high winds with downed trees and powerlines. I unfolded a map and sat on the bed to study alternative routes; the mattress took on an immediate list to port.

The bed only had three legs.

Thanks to the hotel’s pillowcases we needed only three trips to get all our stuff back on the bike in the morning. The rain had slacked off considerably overnight, and so I was thinking we would stick to the original route. We refueled, then continued south on 219 into West Virginia.

But then I noticed a convoy of utility trucks from various counties in other states heading south. Plan A rapidly lost its luster.