Thursday, June 15, 2006

Virginia Highlands Camping Trip

For the third year in a row I participated in my friend Daryl's annual Virginia Highlands camping trip at Comers Rock campground north of Independence. I really enjoyed it the last couple of years and had been looking forward to it this year for some time; again, I had a blast!

I left Columbia Saturday morning around 10:30 and took I-77 up through Charlotte to US421 west. I stopped at a greasy spoon right off 421 in Wilkesboro for lunch, where I had a tasty Philly cheesesteak sandwich and some excellent coffee. I then continued until I encountered the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of my absolute favorite roads.

I took it to US21 N, which leads to the 4-mile gravel road that leads to the campsite. I arrived around 4:30, and Daryl's wife Sheila, her cousin Bob, and Tim from the Ninja forum were already there; shortly thereafter Daryl and his friend Larry from Columbus, riding a Concours, and then Jeff from Raleigh and Jeb from the Ninja forum all arrived. We had a nice leisurly evening visiting and tossing the frisbee around. That evening we cooked brats in beer and the first of many servings of baked beans. That night we experienced one of the most severe thunderstorms I've ever been through; the rain got pretty heavy at times, and there was lots of lightning, several strikes which were very close to us - the thunder claps occurred almost simultaneously with the flashes; it was a bit unnerving and made sleep nearly impossible, but we nonetheless got up early Sunday morning and felt fairly well rested. My tent once again proved its worthiness by not leaking a single drop.

After a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast, Jeb and Tim headed homeward, and the rest of us headed into Independence to buy groceries, and Jeff and I headed across the state line into NC to buy beer and wine, as VA doesn't sell alcohol on Sundays. Shortly after we got back to camp another storm moved in, so we headed across the way to the picnic shelter, where we encountered a lady and her three daughters; her husband was back with their pickup truck, which they'd run off the road into a ravine. No one was hurt, but the truck wasn't going anywhere without a wrecker. Another couple had stopped to help them out and had brought the women back to the shelter and had gone into town to call a wrecker. We visited with them while the storm pounded down; they were really nice folks, and I think she was glad to have someone to talk to; they were understadably shaken. The rain tapered off, and then the wrecker made it down and got them out and they got off on their way. That evening we had pork chops, couscous, and corn grilled in the shuck. Yum! And, like every night, generous portions of tasty dark beer. :-)

We had another powerful storm that night; the rain was even heavier than the previous night, but fortunately there was no accompanying lightning with this one. I actually slept very well that night.

Monday morning we cooked pancakes, bacon, and sausage, and then Larry headed homeward, while Daryl, Jeff, and I headed out on a 200 mile circuit. We found some really great roads, though we had to be cautious of gravel in the corners, which was pretty common due to all the recent rain. We still managed to ride quite spiritedly, and my Ninja 250 was staying right on Jeff's Bandit 1200's tail; the Ninja 250 is such a good bike on tight roads like that! We had a great ride and were pleasantly worn out at the end of the day. Monday night dinner was cheese conies and more beans. Beans, beans, beans. And the associated after-effects. :-)

Tuesday morning was another egg, bacon, and toast breakfast, followed by a ride out to Grayson Highland State Park to use their shower facilities (ahh, that felt so good!), and then out to Smokey Mountain Barbecue in West Jefferson, NC; they looked rather mainstream from the outside, so I was concerned their food may be mediocre, but it was surprisingly very good. We then headed out to Thistle Meadow Winery in Laurel Springs, NC and did a tasting. I know my beer, but I'm not much into wine, so they all tasted the same to me, but Daryl and Jeff assured me they were quite tasty, so I'll take their word for it. That night Daryl cooked his famous beef and noodles, which we augmented with some more tasty grilled corn.

Wednesday morning we packed up and headed out. After stopping for breakfast in Speedwell and saying our goodbyes, I took 21 down to I-77 and shot straight home; I was home by around 2:30 or so. I rode along the western edge of tropical storm Alberta, so I got a bit of sprinkles and wind, but nothing too bad.

Yet another fantastic camping trip! I'm already thinking about next year's. :-)

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