Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Road Trip: Cruising Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah Mountains

This weekend was to be epic. I was traveling into the Shenandoah mountains for the weekend with a group of friends to spend the weekend drinking Scotch and Bourbon, smoking cigars, and cooking on the grille. On top of that, I had taken the day off to ride the entirety of Skyline Drive before arriving at the cabin we had rented for the weekend. Needless to say, there was no better way to enjoy this warm summer weekend.

My trusty steed, loaded up for a weekend with friends
The day started with me throwing the saddle bags on my trusty Kawi and strapping everything down tightly. Slipping into my gear and pulling on my helmet, I set off to begin my ride out to the northern edge of Skyline Drive, located in Front Royal, VA. But first, a quick detour to downtown DC to pick up a selection of cigars.

Smooth ribbons of gray surrounded by lush greenery
Back on the road, I had opted to take the highway to quickly get to the start of the fun, twisty roads. Stopping briefly to fuel up both bike and rider, I paid the entry fee and set off for 100+ miles of nothing but twisty, curvy, enjoyment. Buttery smooth pavement greeted me, along with Skyline Drive's notoriously slow 35mph speed limit. Just minutes in, I was also greeted by the Park Police welcome wagon and picked up a tail for about 5 miles. But I kept my throttle judiciously applied to maintain exactly the speed limit and before long, Johnny Law decided I was too boring to keep following and peeled away, allowing me to cruise in peace.

Beautiful views abound all along the mountain road
The temperature fell to a brisk, but comfortable level as I sailed deeper into the lush greenery. My mind cleared as my lungs filled with fresh mountain air and the sound of the parallel twin beneath me bounced off the road, filling my helmet with its pleasant thrum. This was nirvana and I was seriously alone to enjoy it. Not a soul in sight both in front and behind me for nearly the entirety of the 100 miles.

Keeping a relaxed pace, I was able to sail through the turns, maintaining a single gear nearly the entire way and never once touching the front brake and only periodically dragging the rear to tighten my line for a corner. Everything in my mind evaporated and I just cruised, enjoying the view of a sapphire sky contacting the jade green treetops, interrupted only by this ribbon of ash gray road on which I was traveling.

All too quickly, though, I reached the end of line. Up ahead, the Blue Ridge Parkway tempted with its many miles more of winding roads. Mentally kicking myself for not having allotted adequate time to go further, I did a quick time check and realized I would not be missed for another couple of hours. Recalling the many side roads that lead back onto Skyline Drive, I quickly decided that I would run through the middle section between Route 33 and Route 211. Ripping away down the road, I could not wait to get back onto Skyline for a little while longer.

During the weekends, Skyline Drive is a mess, overcrowded with tourists and filled with law enforcement officers looking to fill their ticket books. However, during the week, the road is clear and the opportunity is there for the intrepid soul to take some time off to enjoy themselves. If you ever find yourself down in the mountains of Northern Virginia, set aside a little time to take the cruise from Front Royal down to Waynesboro on Skyline Drive. And, if you are a fan of wine, there are a number of great little wineries in the vicinity of Waynesboro to be enjoyed.

Next time I will be looking to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway, but for now, the memory of this amazing day brings a smile to my face every time I think of it. This is an experience worth having for auto and moto enthusiasts alike. Take the time to get away from the world and create your own memories like this one.