First a word about my route south through the US. In planning my route down to the Texas-Mexico border I want to avoid big cities if at all possible, because:
- Accommodation is expensive.
- Stop & go traffic might be a pain in a car but it’s a nightmare on a motorbike.
- The majority of cities in the US all look the same.
So its back roads for me. I’ve strung together a rough route that will take me down Skyline Drive, The Blue Ridge Parkway, and across Tennessee to the Nacthez Trace Parkway. That will put me almost on the Gulf of Mexico and from there I’ll wing it across Texas on back roads, or whatever passes for back roads down there. This should also mean that I need to transit almost no large cities.
Anyway first up is Skyline Drive. It stretches some 100 mile through Shenandoah National Park, no traffic lights, no stop signs and stunning scenery!
Again I started late but was on Skyline Drive by 11 AM (and that’s with the entrance to Skyline being 2 miles from my hotel…I really need to work on getting up and out the door earlier!).
Up & over the mountains then. The road runs along mountain range at two to three thousand feet. Each turn revealed yet more great views.
About two hours in I came upon a car stopped in the middle of the road. I was preparing to go around when an old man got out of the car and frantically waved me down. Thinking he was in some kind of trouble, I stopped and the following conversation ensued:
Me: “Is everything OK?”
Old guy: “Theahs a mawma beah an three cerbs ovah theah!”
Me: “What? where?”
Old guy: “Right ovah theah, in the trees! Luk! U see em?”
Sure enough, not 15 feet away in the trees I saw a black bear and a few cubs. Now I’m hardly a wildlife expert but I know it’s a risk to go anywhere near a mother bear and its cubs. I also know from experience that black bears tend to avoid humans. Not these ones, they were as bold as brass.
At this point the guy has the camera out and is walking over the to edge of the road to have a closer gawk. I wasn’t sure about this at all.
“Are you sure that’s a safe thing to do?, I mean, it’s a bear!”
“They doan mean no hairm!”
By now a small traffic jam had formed behind us, so I figured somebody else could rescue him if the bears got feisty. I wasn’t hanging around to find out. The magic of animal kingdom is lost on me, especially when the animals in question have the ability to maul me. And no, I didn’t take any pictures either.
The rest of the day’s ride was pleasant if a bit slow due to the speed limit. The entire 105 miles had a 35 mph limit so I wasn’t making much progress, but then again the scenery was amazing and I was going slow enough to take it in.
I ended the day at very nice cabin in the heart of the mountains. It was expensive but on the flipside my neighbours very kindly offered me dinner, so score!