Friday, September 22, 2006

Hampton Inn, Manassas, Virginia

Cold this morning! No frost, but probably in the upper 30s.

Up at 4:00 a.m. to "pee", then crawled back in the tent. The unusually still night evoked thoughts of “The Blair Witch Project”, a shockingly good ghost story set not so far from here. The occasional rustlings outside my tent became a bit disconcerting. I considered, "maybe I should just stay up, make an early break (and avoid the $17 fee)." I could tell the weather was quickly changing, perhaps for the worse. But I waited to long to decide. Fell back to sleep and didn't regain consciousness until 7:00, too late to execute that plan. Still I complain inwardly about the cost: it's expensive for what I derive as a motorcycle-tent-camper, compared to others who use the same facilities. One consolation, I guess, was the hot shower last night.

Just before waking, I had a strange dream about killing a small, threatening bear with my bare hands. (Must be the Daniel Boone/Davey Crockett Country influence!)

Pay or don’t pay? I could have easily slipped away without anyone even knowing I had been here, but decided to do the "right thing" (though I hardly consider it a black-and-white situation. Something that doesn't usually occur to me is that I could just self-pay a "discounted rate" - whatever seems appropriate - rather than the all-or-nothing approach. Of course, I can't recommend this method, since it's technically "illegal".)

Three Harley riders camped nearby last evening (for a single fee, no doubt!) A couple of them stopped briefly to talk on their way to and from the bath house.

***

Exiting the park, I learned it is 3 miles to the highway in one direction, 19 via the other road (on which I had come in last night.) It turns out, I was very close to town, not in the remote park I thought I was driving to last night. (This explains why the campground was so full.)

I took it easy this morning. I’m tiring of riding the mountains, and the rear tire is dangerously slick. I stop often to check it's condition. "I've got to do something about it NOW."

But the "weather" is coming on strong, or so it looked. Clouds rolling in out of the southwest. My path was northeast, so I hoped to out-run it.

The Appalachians are fascinating: a series of folds or numerous parallel ranges, unlike the Rockies or the Sierra Nevada, where the mountains steadily climb until they reach a distinct backbone, or divide.

Upon reaching Goshen, Virginia, I noticed the unmistakable smell of ozone - polluted air. ("Are you really sure you want to dive in?") Traffic on the backroads increased, suggesting I was getting into "commuter" territory. Three consecutive Virginia drivers hit their brakes as I passed them. It was annoying, and potentially dangerous. ("Is this what they teach drivers here?") I was taught to maintain speed while being overtaken.

Connected with northbound Interstate 81, thinking "I’ll just make a beeline up to Vermont." Oh...but there's the rear tire matter.

In Staunton, at the interchange of 81 and 64, I stopped at the “Cracker Barrel”. All their restaurants seem to be too cool – just as the floor plans are the same, "corporate" probably specifies the thermostat settings for all restaurants: 65 degrees.

About a 15-minute wait for a table. As I’m realizing, I’m traveling with the retirees these days. I'm practicing being one of them. Again, I find myself doing a survey of diners. 75% overweight or obese. Though the clientèle is fairly mixed, the worst cases are almost all women. What are we thinking? Who is going to take care of us as we succumb to the effects of our overindulgence?

Turned toward Washington on I-66. I needed a tire! In Front Royal, I called an information hotline (a useful community service!) and asked about motorcycle shops in town. I was directed to “Stonewall Cycle”. They don't stock any tires that would fit my bike, but they were kind enough to let me use their phone to call a couple other shops in the area: "Winchester Powersports" and "Valley Cycle". No luck. Well, I knew this wouldn't be a repeat of the South America tire fiasco. I finally called BMW’s customer service line.

I asked for BMW shops in the Washington, DC area. The agent referred me to three or four locations...in Washington State. ("Idiot!") I clarified my location again. "Washington, D.C. is on the East Coast."

The nearest BMW dealers were in Jessup, Maryland and two other locations (Roanoke and Richmond, I think) that would require that I turn around and go south again. It looked like, having delayed this long, I’d have to go through Washington (and the other cities on the Seaboard).

Returned to Manassas (where I had stayed before heading south to Mexico), and checked the price at a few motels.

After looking at the "Super 8" ($75) and "Best Western" ($90), the "Hampton Inn" (where I stayed previously) was worth the extra $25 ($100). Leveraged my "returning customer" status and (expired) AAA membership. Can't afford to do this often though.

Once settled, I called “Bob’s BMW” in Jessup and talked with service manager Bill Joshua. On Saturdays, their service department operates on a "first come, first served" basis; no appointments. He suggested I come in at 6:30 a.m. and get in line. “Well, that's unlikely." He told me to just get there as early as I could.

Got electronically connected and found a cryptic e-mail from Priscilla: “answer ASAP”.

"What’s up?"

She wrote back that Drew was worried. (I've been off the grid, up in the hills, for a while now. I think I had actually lost track of how long it had been.) E-mailed Drew to set him at ease.

At 8:00, the hotel served up the traditional milk and cookies. I "pigged out", having 4 cookies! (What was that about obesity in America?)(Actually, I was just trying to compensate for the $25 premium for staying at the Hampton.)

Spent hours posting photos to the blog, a slow and cumbersome process.

In the evening, "made the rounds" checking in with family. Tried calling Drew, but had to leave a message. Called Jeff and then Jessica. (Sergio answered and we talked a while. He wants to take me to Flowers Winery, where his brother-in-law works.) Jess sounds good. They’re both doing well in school, she tells me.

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