A smart rider on a properly setup motorcycle can cover a lot of ground in a day, a sidecar rig only slightly less. The problem was that this storm was huge, and moving in my direction of travel. To avoid a repeat of the Deluge at Thunder Bay we would either have to go home…or to move far to the west very quickly. I paused in West Virginia where 219 intersected 50, that historic ribbon of asphalt stretching all the way to California, to check the weather along our original route. It did not look good. After checking my gear and ensuring my camera and electronics were protected from the weather, I reached down to caress Barley’s furry head and pulled his Doggles into place.
“Let’s fly, Little Brother!”
The portion of US 50 in West Virginia’s Appalachians is a lot like the roads crossing the Green Mountains of Vermont, but without the views. Vermont agriculture has converted many of the valleys to pastureland, while the road we were on that day was hemmed in by dense deciduous forest. It was scenic in a different way, but as technically challenging as the roads I was used to back home. It is roads like this where a motorcycle has a clear advantage over a sidecar rig. Unable to lean into curves, I was forced to slow down and use a significant amount of body English to maintain control. Pushing it on roads like that requires a lot of shoulder strength. Strength, and Motrin.
The flora changed dramatically as we crested the westernmost hill in the Appalachians; gone was the lush forest, replaced by something much drier and more windswept. At the base of that hill the highway straightened out and we were able to increase our speed, the storm closing the gap every time we stopped for fuel, food, or to stretch our legs. Across Ohio we ran, skirting Cincinnati and picking up the Interstate to make better time. Through Louisville, Kentucky, where an enormous UPS cargo jet passed just overhead on its landing approach, then continuing southwest, happy that the average speed of the cars around me was faster than my 85mph. Kentuckians travel quickly!
We stopped for the night at a hotel in the town of Murray, Kentucky. There was a family restaurant right next door; I ordered takeout, shared parts of it with Barley, showered, turned on the air conditioner to ward off the unexpected heat, and turned on The Weather Channel. The arc of our run had taken us out of the path of the storm. When we went outside for Barley to do his business I noticed how dry and brittle the grass was.
We turned in for the night.