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Best Friends on Back Roads

Jim Hale
September 15, 2011
Filed under Rider Magazine Blog

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Last Friday evening I returned home from a week-long motorcycle trip. Bob, my riding buddy of so many years that neither of us want to remember, and I left his home in Gahanna, Ohio, on Monday morning. Our plan was to ride nearly 500 miles on the first day, taking care to avoid interstates, to Waldorf, Maryland. We took Route 33 south to Route 50 east, which we followed out of Ohio, through Virginia, into Maryland, back into Virginia, and then back into Maryland. Both roads are good for traveling by motorcycle, with minimal traffic, good pavement and plenty of small towns to provide visual entertainment along the way.

Bob and I took turns leading, giving us both a chance to set the pace and stop whenever our curiosity, or bodily functions, needed to be satisfied. The scenery in Ohio and Virginia is familiar to both of us, with nothing unusual to distract us from our destination. At a gas station in Virginia we joked that, based on the scenery (corn fields and cow pastures), we could have just as easily been riding from Columbus to Cincinnati. Having bypassed Washington, D.C., to avoid heavy afternoon traffic, we arrived in Waldorf well before dusk, checked into the hotel and had dinner at a local steak house. Good thing the restaurant was close by. After 468 miles and 11 hours in the saddle, it was good to get off the bikes and get some blood pumping into our lower extremities.

Riding across the 20-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

Riding across the 20-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

A good night’s sleep found us both ready to get back on the road. We stopped in Annapolis, Maryland, before noon and parked the bikes on the main street downtown near the docks. Annapolis reminded me a lot of Philadelphia, colonial architecture and history oozing out of every old brick. After walking around and snapping photos, we mounted up again and headed for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, which crosses the bay of the same name and connects Maryland to Virginia. If this bridge isn’t considered one of the architectural wonders of this century, it should be. It’s 20 miles long and built low, close to the water. This was done because in two places on the bridge you actually go under the water through tunnels, allowing ships to travel back and forth through the bay without the need for a drawbridge. Traffic was light and the $10 toll was well worth it.

A rare glimpse of the coast on North Carolina's Outer Banks.

A rare glimpse of the coast on North Carolina's Outer Banks.

The next morning we headed for the Outer Banks of North Carolina, with a plan to ride onto Ocracoke Island then take a ferry over to Cedar Island. We hadn’t been on the road for much more than an hour when the sky darkened up and it started to sprinkle. The rain never became heavy, but we donned our rain suits just in case. The Outer Banks, frankly, were somewhat of a disappointment. All we could see for most of the trip were hotels and storefronts. I’m sure the ocean was close, but we couldn’t see much of it. After our two and one-half hour ferry ride to Cedar Island, we headed to Moorehead City for another hotel and another steakhouse.

Antique truck in Mt. Airy, North Carolina.

Antique truck in Mt. Airy, North Carolina.

Having gone as far south as time would allow, we made our way from the southeast corner of North Carolina to the northwest corner. Our destination was the town of Mt. Airy, the real-life location of Mayberry, the fictional town in the “The Andy Griffith Show.” We were looking forward to wandering around and maybe having a milkshake at the malt shop where Opie (Ron Howard) used to hang out. After a two-hour traffic delay, we followed a local’s recommendation and took Route 86 north and then worked our way west on a two-lane road that had us both smiling like two little girls at a Justin Bieber concert. Hardly any traffic, glass-smooth pavement and trees lining both sides of the road that provided cool shade. The closer we got to Mt. Airy the more the road started winding, and the bigger our smiles got. The malt shop was closed so we didn’t get our milkshakes, but we saw lots of classic cars in town for a show.

Friday was our last day on the road, and we got on the road about the time most folks were clocking in at work. We followed the Ohio River north to Ohio, traveling through lots of small mining towns. We rode through every last bit of daylight, and soon before Bob waved as he turned toward his house and I waved back as I continued on. As I pulled into the garage at my in-laws’ house, I checked the tripmeter: 1,768 miles. The smell of fresh, hot pizza made it’s way from the kitchen to the garage, and my stomach rumbled with excitement. Before heading inside the house, I thought about how lucky I was to be able to spend five days riding with my best friend, on good roads through good weather. I must be living right.

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