coast to coast, motorcycle touring, motorcycle gear, gps, triumph, kawasaki, harley davidson, suzuki, honda, aprilia, mv agusta, moto guzzi, bmw, tennessee, texas, arkansas, new mexico, arizona, california, nevada, oklahoma, bonneville, chesapeake
coast to coast, motorcycle touring, motorcycle gear, gps, triumph, kawasaki, harley davidson, suzuki, honda, aprilia, mv agusta, moto guzzi, bmw, tennessee, texas, arkansas, new mexico, arizona, california, nevada, oklahoma, bonneville, chesapeake
coast to coast, motorcycle touring, motorcycle gear, gps, triumph, kawasaki, harley davidson, suzuki, honda, aprilia, mv agusta, moto guzzi, bmw, tennessee, texas, arkansas, new mexico, arizona, california, nevada, oklahoma, bonneville, chesapeake

Day 13

Morganton, NC to Philadelphia, PA

 

Baby, I'm Coming Home

 

Honest barbecue in Virginia.

A miraculous ride up Concord Pike.

coast to coast, motorcycle touring, motorcycle gear, gps, triumph, kawasaki, harley davidson, suzuki, honda, aprilia, mv agusta, moto guzzi, bmw, tennessee, texas, arkansas, new mexico, arizona, california, nevada, oklahoma, bonneville, chesapeake

This was it, my last day on the road. Back to shuttling the kids to school, taking out the trash and weeding the garden. Even though I had avoided the total fleabag motels, I still smiled at the thought of sleeping in my own bed, eating home-cooked meals and having my dogs on guard downstairs at night.

 

I took 40 up to 85 and then rode east on US 58. I planned to pass through Norfolk and over the 23-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel, which carries traffic from Virginia to the Delmarva Peninsula. I had never used the bridge, so I figured as long as I was coming up from the South, why not? This turned out to be a mistake.

 

US 58 through Virginia is beautiful. What it is not, is expedient. It winds through many, many small towns, each with about 400 traffic lights. Total Homing Mode had taken over my riding-brain and this slow-down crap soured my mood. I should have taken I-85 to Richmond and then ridden north on I-95. I know every pebble on I-95 between DC and Philly -- I could have ridden it at 80, in my sleep. Instead, I languished on a lazy US highway, ironically the type of road I had sought out the entire trip.

The one bright spot of my US 58 sojourn was Porky’s Barbecue in Capron, Virginia.

 

Porky's Barbecue

 

Attendance is mandatory. Is it the greatest restaurant ever? No. Is it exciting? No. Porky’s is important because there is no other restaurant exactly like it anywhere, and in the age of McDonald’s, Starbucks and Wal-Mart, Not to mention Famous Dave’s, places like Porky’s are hard to come by. They deserve our attention and our money. A couple of polo shirt and khaki guys had staked out one of the picnic tables, so I decided to go inside and maybe chat with the locals.  

 

The inside of Porky’s looks like a lot like the big converted chicken coop I used to have as a workshop. Painted all white inside, shelves behind the counter selling a truly random assortment of goods – beer mugs, fluorescent bulbs, dolls, I can’t remember what else. The menu is a single typewritten page in a plastic sleeve; there was just one. The pulled pork sandwich did not knock my socks off, but that’s what made it good. It was simple and honest. It had the authentic barbecue flavor -- not typical chain restaurant oversmoked, overspiced meat designed by marketers to “blow you away.” 

 

I wanted to eat two or three more, but I knew that would make me sleepy. After an initial silence a conversation sprang up among two patrons, the counter girl and me. People usually have so many questions about my trip that we talk the whole time about what I am doing, and I forget to ask them questions about themselves, which would be a much nicer way to participate in a conversation than just sitting there pontificating on travel. Then as I leave I realize I didn’t ask them hardly anything about themselves and I feel like a jerk. This happened at Porky’s. If I ever come back, I will do better.

 

Back to the Atlantic

 

Traffic thickened as I approached Norfolk. The sea breeze lifted my mood and woke me up. I hit the bridge-tunnel complex, paid the toll, took off and was…underwhelmed.

 

If you’ve been on a long bridge like the Morganza Spillway in Louisiana, or traveled the Florida Keys, you’ve done something similar to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. The breeze definitely stiffened as I approached the midpoint, and I can imagine it would be rough going out there for a motorcycle during a thunderstorm. I pulled over halfway across or thereabouts, and asked a guy coming back from the beach with his family to take my pic with the Atlantic in the background.

 

I had made it! Funny thing was, I didn’t feel too excited. I felt a little bummed, like a kid the day after Christmas. I got back on my bike and made land on the Delmarva in a couple minutes.

 

Virginia Without End

 

I have spent plenty of time in Delaware (I live right on the PA-DE border), but I had never been to this southern end of the Delmarva peninsula. It has retained much of its authenticity. Yes, the standard chainstore hellscape of suburban America rears its loathesome head here and there, but beautiful farmland and unsullied small towns are the norm. Looks like a great place to retire. Funny how that idea comes to my mind more and more these days.

 

Many of the small towns have police who zealously enforce traffic laws. I can’t think of a time when I saw more speeders pulled over in a 100 mile stretch. I got the message and kept it around the speed limit. I couldn’t be angry at the cops. It wasn’t just about revenue generation – dozens of driveways and small streets empty onto US 13, and people going 90 mph will take out some kid or old lady who doesn’t see them coming.

 

The temperature and the sun both dropped. Never mind Delaware, where the hell was Maryland? The afternoon’s crisp sea breeze turned cold and constant. I pulled into a church parking lot and added a thicker shirt, but I had waited too long and it didn’t help much. Finally I hit the Maryland line, where I got gas and hot chocolate. I checked the mileage left to the house: This would be the last fill-up on the trip.

 

I got the day-after-Christmas feeling again.

How long was this damn peninsula anyway? It was completely dark now. I would have been almost home if I had taken I-95. Nothing to do now but gut it out.

coast to coast, motorcycle touring, motorcycle gear, gps, triumph, kawasaki, harley davidson, suzuki, honda, aprilia, mv agusta, moto guzzi, bmw, tennessee, texas, arkansas, new mexico, arizona, california, nevada, oklahoma, bonneville, chesapeake

Back at the Atlantic. Or actually, on the Atlantic -- I'm parked on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. I'm practically home! So I thought -- the Delmarva Peninsula is quite long. 

I had made it! Funny thing was, I didn’t feel too excited. I felt a little bummed, like a kid the day after Christmas. I got back on my bike and made land on the Delmarva in a couple minutes.

 

The last five miles to my house were EXACTLY like this. (Start at 0:20)

Finally I hit the Maryland line, where I got gas and hot chocolate. I checked the mileage left to the house: This would be the last fill-up on the trip.

coast to coast, motorcycle touring, motorcycle gear, gps, triumph, kawasaki, harley davidson, suzuki, honda, aprilia, mv agusta, moto guzzi, bmw, tennessee, texas, arkansas, new mexico, arizona, california, nevada, oklahoma, bonneville, chesapeake

The official final mileage. 

I can’t say much about southern Delaware. I had my head down, concentrating on the road. Once I got to Bear, I was on autopilot. Bear is the southern edge of my everyday world. Bear is the home of Powersports East, where I almost bought a motorcycle once. It wasn’t from lack of trying on both sides – I wanted to buy a bike and they wanted to sell me one, but with a 28-inch inseam my non-cruiser choices were few, unless I wanted to jack with the suspension, which I didn’t.

 

Powersports East rents bikes too, so if you’re in the area and need a bike for a day or two it’s the place to go.

 

From Bear I had about 20 miles to go, and those twenty miles handed me the worst traffic experience of the whole trip.

 

The Triumphant Return

 

I-95 takes an unnecessarily serpentine route through Wilmington. Traffic from Christiana (south of Wilmington) all the way to Philadelphia is frantic, rude and without logic. Lane discipline does not exist. I weaved through a lunar landscape of potholes while surrounded by tailgaters, speeders, drunks and all-around assholes. Were these people trying to kill me or was I just tired and getting in their way? I think it was a little of both. I finally got tired of being nice and hit the throttle hard, threading my way to the front of the pack and leaving it behind at about 95 mph.

 

My exit came up quickly, full of flashing construction barriers and arrows that weren’t there when I left town. Shit! I hit it way too fast but managed not to die. I merged onto US 202 north, about 15 minutes from home.

 

From the 202/95 interchange in Wilmington to my home in Pennsylvania Concord Pike stretches 9 miles, with well over a dozen traffic signals. Over the nine years I’ve lived in the area, I’ve driven this road hundreds of times. This night, for the first time ever, I got green lights from the highway to my house. A mystical Royal Welcome! I felt like Arrius in the victory parade in Ben-Hur.

 

I blasted the air horn as I rode up the driveway. I could hear the dogs going nuts – they know the bike’s exhaust note, which meant I was home. Dinner had been kept warm for me. My wife and kids gave me a big hug, and it was over.

 

It was over.

 

The trip I had planned and thought about every day for more than a year was done. Nineteen states and 7,477 miles. I distributed the souvenirs, the kids went off to bed and my wife and I sat on the couch and talked for an hour and a half about nothing, and everything. It was good to be back home.