Friday, February 26, 2010

Motorcycling Memories: Oh Deer!, Six; The Accident, II

Published on Open Salon,FEBRUARY 25, 2010 5:28PM

[Monte after the accident waiting for an ambulance.]

The tease: June 24, 2005 Day Planner entry, after the fact: "Hit deer - totaled bike - ended at Trauma Unit, UVA Hosp, Charlottsville, 2 1/2 days - bad scene all around."

What you may have missed:

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

Part Four:

Part Five:

When we are in a serious accident and realize we have mde it and are alive if we have strong personalities there is a tendency to think we are "over the hump" and everything is going to be fine. Our optimism gets well ahead of the reality. Our hope becomes certainty that is based on what we want. And we don't want facts to get in the way.

That, in turn, makes us impatient with professional medical personnel who are trained not to cater to what we want but to follow well established and proven procedures that both ensure no more damage is done ("First do no harm.") and that what appears to be true about the health of the patient is, in fact, true. ("Test. test, and then test again.")

This tension is inevitable when the patient is alert and opinionated. There are drugs that can help reduce that tension, which is good to the extent that they tone down the fantasies of the patient that insist that he can "walk out of here right now." It can be bad, however, when the drugs are used simply to control of the patient. Medical personnel therefore walk a fine line between doing what is right for the patient and what is convenient for them.

After I finally agreed to lay down it was decided that I should not get up again until the emergency services people got there to check me out. I didn't decide that; but it was easier to go along than to argue. Plus, I was starting to feel lightheaded and drained of energy.

The first thing the six of us, Sue, me and the two BMW riding couples, learned was that none of our cell phones could get a signal. So the first order of business was for someone to go find a phone and call for an ambulance. One of the couples set out to do that.

The blow to my chest had caused a hematoma that was increasing in size. It was continuing to bleed into the muscle and surrounding tissue. While I did not realize it would continue to get larger, we decided to try to get some ice to pack on it because it was hurting more and more.

While they were gone I was talking to Sue asking her what she had seen and what had happened to her while the wreck was going on. I was interested in this because had this happened two years ago we would have both been on the same motorcycle and both of us would likely have been badly hurt.

One of the reasons I had encouraged Sue to take the safety course and get her own motorcycle endorsement was because I had always feared what would happen to her in an accident were she riding with me.

She said that the first thing she saw was me on the ground sliding and the bike sliding along behind me. She did not see the deer run into the bike. Fortunately, I had taught her to not ride too close to me on tight roads like this one so that she would have time to react to something exactly like what happened.

She said she hit the brakes too hard and locked the wheels. That is usually very bad news unless the bike is fully straight and vertical and stays that way. Once you are in a slide on pavement the key is to NOT let up on the brakes until you are almost stopped and simply ride it out, keeping the bike straight and vertical.

If you release the brakes too soon the bike will almost always crash. She followed what she had learned and rode it out perfectly. The picture of the crash site in the last post shows the black streak she laid down after she locked the brakes.

Also, while we were waiting the guy who was still supporting my head on his leg told me that he and his wife and the other couple owned a BMW dealership in New Jersey and were also on the last day of their trip. They were also taking valley rides but had intended to ride only the larger, wider highways.

However, when they settled in behind us they found that they liked our pace and were enjoying the slower riding so they just decided to stick with us, even when we turned down the smaller road. He did say that I "looked like I knew where I was going." I said I did not, but knew where I intended to end up, and that this wasn't it!

After a few minutes the other couple returned having called 911 and said that an ambulance was on its way. Shortly after that a Game Warden who was in the area and heard the alert on his service radio pulled up in his truck.

He was very helpful, moved the deer off of the road and started directing the small amount of traffic that came down the road. By him keeping them moving we avoided a large crowd of onlookers gathering and getting in the way.

Some Granny Clampett type lady walked over from her farm and started telling everyone what to do and why and what she would do and why we should not ride motorcycles, and on and on.

At some point she went to look at the deer, came back and asked Sue if we wanted the deer! Sue said "no" so she went to make arrangements with the Game Warden to take the deer home and butcher it. I didn't even want to think about that but I do know that most states allow that.

It took the ambulance another 45 minutes to arrive. Looking at a map much later I could see why since the hospital was directly east from where we were and there was no direct cross road over the mountains. This meant that the ambulance had to ride 20 miles up to route 39, go across two mountains, across two valleys, and then turn down some 20 miles to us.


[Stock photo of ambulance interior. Notice the orange "spine board" on the left wall.]

When the ambulance got there I was kind of out of it. The EMTs insisted that I not move. I protested, rather loudly, that if they would just help me onto my feet and be careful of my shoulder I could walk to the ambulance. That elicited the first stern "No!" of many I would hear over the next three days.

First they carefully put a neck stabilization brace on me.Then they removed my boots which caused my right foot to light up with pain. They then rolled me on my side and back onto a spine board and began to strap me into it from my forehead to my ankles.

It was at this point that I pointed out that I had a dislocated shoulder and to try to be careful of that. They looked at my shoulder and told me it was not dislocated. I said I knew it was no longer, because I had popped it back in place. They were very skeptical but one of the BMW guys said I was telling the truth and that they should have heard it! They became believers.


[Stock photo of a spine board like the one
I would be strapped to.]

They started to put the strap below my shoulder across my chest when I went white with pain and said that it really hurt so they took a look at my chest. The hematoma was twice as big as it had been a half hour before. They were shocked at the size and concerned. Sue told them we had been putting ice on it and they agreed that was the best thing continue to do for now.

Their concern woke me up a bit and I think that was the first time I realized that maybe this thing was not quite over. So I quit arguing and they got me onto a gurney and into the ambulance. One thing, unrelated to the hematoma, that I did not know then is that I would spend the next 30 hours! strapped to the spine board.

Sue gathered up all of our loose items and put them in the ambulance. The BMW riders, whom we now considered angels in disguise, agreed to stay with the bikes until law enforcement showed up. After we left a State Trooper showed up and called a wrecker. He was told what hospital we were going to and told the wrecker driver to gather up both bikes and to follow him to the hospital where the wrecker could drop Sue's bike off.

Meanwhile, Sue rode in the front with the driver and two other EMTs rode in the back with me. I have little memory of the ride to the hospital. I don't know whether or not I was sleeping, or whether they put in an IV and had given me something to settle me down. I had been pretty uncooperative before they got me to agree to be strapped to the board.

In any case all I remember is the ride being bumpy and seeming to take forever. In fact it took probably 45 minutes or less. I was a bit more alert when they took me out of the ambulance and into the emergency room. Sue tells me that they would not let her stay with me saying they were going to do a lot of tests and meanwhile she should go fill out paperwork. I was told that we were at the Bath County Community Hospital in Hot Springs, VA.


[The Emergency Room entrance at the Bath County Community Hospital, Hot Springs, VA]

[I later learned that the Bath Hospital was an acute and emergency care facility, tiny, with only 25 beds but equipped with trained emergency doctors and other personnel and had good laboratory and diagnostic equipment. All of the equipment and lab work was tied directly into the UVA Trauma Center at Charlottesville by telemetry so that the doctors at the Trauma Center could read the results directly although they were almost three hours away by car. So it was not the light weight facility I assumed it was.]

I really don't remember having the tests, but the bill says they did several CAT scans, head, shoulder, chest and spine and Xrays of my spine and my right foot. I do remember them bringing me to a small curtain enclosed area where Sue was and we talked a bit before she told me that based on the tests they were going to airlift me to the University of Virginia Medical Center's Trauma Center.

That did not sit well with me since I don't like to fly and surely did not want to fly in a helicopter over mountains! But Sue had already told the doctor that and he said that I should not worry they would give me some morphine before they loaded me on and I would be OK with the ride. I wasn't so sure but I was alert enough to know that if these preliminary tests indicated the need to airlift me to a huge trauma center I had better do it.

The final indignation was that, in order for me to be airlifted I had to have a catheter. Oh, joy! Some young nurse must have been doing it for the first time (she looked like she was about 13) and couldn't quite accomplish it. But she was very good at inflicting pain. I forgot all about my shoulder, my aching chest and my throbbing toe.

So some Brunhilde type that you would not want to meet in a dark alley came in to do it. By then I was wide awake and fearful. Well, Brunhilde slipped that puppy in there with so little pain I didn't realize she was done until she looked at me, smiled and said, "There you go." Another angel in disguise!

It was also the first time I realized that they had somehow gotten my clothes off of me and put me in a gown. How they did that then strapped me back to the spine board I have no idea. I remember none of that.

By then I could hear a chopper landing nearby and the doc came in with some nurses. At that point I also first realized that I had an IV line in. Whether that was done by the EMTs or by the folks at the hospital, I do not know. In any case the EMTs came back in with their gurney to take me by ambulance again to the chopper which had to land a few blocks from the hospital for some reason.

After they had me settled on the gurney the doc injected some morphine into the IV. I immediately noticed these blotchy red spots all over the arm the IV went into and these quickly spread. I also noticed that my tongue felt funny and I was getting kind of red all over. The doc was not watching so I told Sue who told him what was happening. He just said to her that "He really has to get to the Trauma Center."

He came over to me and said, "Look, you need to get to the Trauma Center. That hematoma is getting larger and we can't stop that here." Well, that was pretty powerful motivation for me and I just said, "OK. Thank you. We'll do whatever you say."

So he decided to give me some IV anti-allergic reaction medications and let me go. He told the EMTs to explain what had just happened and what meds he gave me. Then he turned to me and said, "Good luck. You should be fine. But you must do this to insure it." And they wheeled me out.


Next: The Chopper Ride: "I didn't know that hallucinations were part of the morphine package." "Hurry up and wait." or "There is always someone worse off than you are." And, test, test and test again."

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Motorcycling Memories: Oh Deer!, Part Five, The Accident

Published on Open Salon, FEBRUARY 23, 2010 6:21PM


[My Triumph Thunderbird didn't look all that bad on the outside after the wreck. I didn't either.]

The tease: June 24, 2005 Day Planner entry, after the fact: "Hit deer - totaled bike - ended at Trauma Unit, UVA Hosp, Charlottsville, 2 1/2 days - bad scene all around."

What you may have missed:

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

Part Four:

One thing we learn and then usually forget quickly is that in life we never know what is going to happen to us around the next bend. I think that is a good thing because if we remember and dwell on the bad things that have happened to us and to people close to us we worry about them happening to us in the future. And if we do that we become paranoid, afraid of everything, drawn into ourselves, reclusive.

Life is risk. Yes, some things we do are more risky than others, and some people like to live further out on the edge than others, always pushing the envelope. But, if life is to mean much at all each of us has to push that envelope now and then. To not do so is to live a very dull life. At least that is my take on it.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Since we had ridden the highest mountain roads around Marlinton and were going to take high mountain back roads on the way home, we decided on our last day in that area to ride primarily in the valleys. Then, when we got back to Marlinton we were going to have those great steaks at the Road House bar and grill and lift a glass of tea in celebration of Sue's 50th birthday anniversary.

The day broke sunny and clear. A perfect day for riding. There was a light fog in the Greenbriar River Valley that was quickly burning off as we organized our bikes and saddled up for a leisurely, quiet ride.

We headed out of Marlinton on WVA 39 going east. Our plan was to go over the mountain into the first valley, and turn south at the first decent asphalt road beyond WVA92, which we had already ridden on the way back from White Sulphur Springs.

We didn't care which road because all of the valley roads ran essentially north to south and we would eventually come out at I-64 which ran east and west over the mountains. From there we would follow the interstate east over the next mountain to Covington, Va and take US220 back north to route 39, which would take us back into Marlinton. We figured about 150 miles of leisurely sight seeing.

After we topped the mountain and were in the wide valley beyond we noticed two bikes rapidly approaching us from the rear. I was riding lead and Sue was riding a hundred feet or so behind me. The two bikes settled in behind Sue and I figured that they would pass us in the next straight section of the road since we were riding slowly.

When they got close enough I noticed that they were two couples riding what looked in the rear view mirrors to be new BMWs. They certainly had more than enough power to quickly scoot around us. We passed WVA92 and I started looking for a good road to turn south on. It was several miles before I saw one that looked good.

I paid no attention to the route number, really didn't care, and did not know if we had ridden into Virginia or not. I was looking for a particular type of road, not for signs. We turned off and headed south. (As best I can piece it together after the fact we must have been on VA 600.)

I could not understand why the BMW riders had not yet passed us. They had plenty of chances to do so. When we turned on the much narrower road they were still shadowing us. Maybe they thought I knew where I was going. Whatever. Ironically, their following us turned out to be a blessing.

We had ridden several miles down the road which was winding and had a number of right angle corners. The mountains rose up on both sides in the distance but the valley was wide with scattered farms. The views were sometimes of grazing cattle and hay fields, some corn and wheat fields, and a lot of patches of woods that would come right up to the road.

Some of those woods were so close to the road that there was almost no shoulder of the road at all. Our speeds were slow, never more than 50 mph and often less. We had just come through some open farm country and had entered another patch of woods with trees and bushes crowding the road, but with open farm land just beyond the narrow woods. The next picture shows the scene.

[The scene of the accident. I ended up just past where the men are standing beyond the truck on the right side of the road.]

I was enjoying the scenery and the next thing I knew I saw a light brown flash of something big hit the front wheel of my bike. (We are still not sure which direction the deer came from. Sue thinks from the left, and I was sure it did for a long time. But the damage to the bike was mostly on the right side which would indicate it more likely came from the right. Plus, the deer ended up, dead, on the far left side of the asphalt road which also would indicate it came from the right. We likely will never know for sure.)

In any case, the impact sent the front wheel into a fully locked turn, causing an abrupt deceleration of the bike, in turn causing the rest of the bike to pivot around the triple tree in the front, while lifting the rear end, and me, propelling me over the front of the bike, over the wind screen, onto the asphalt.

In the trade this kind of "off" is known as a "high side." It is the worst kind of crash you can have on a motorcycle because, while you try to hold on to the bars you are thrown high in the air and will disconnect with the bike at some point, hopefully not before it hits the ground, and hopefully you will be propelled far enough in front of the bike that you will not be run over by the bike as it follows you.

At least in my case it is not true that your life flashes in front of you. There is no time. Plus, if you have read about how to survive a high side crash you know that you don't have time to reminisce; you have to think about what you are doing in those few seconds. Either you just give up and let physics take its course, or you do what you can to survive.

I held on until the bike came down and hit the pavement. The bike hit first and I hit something on the bike as I was hurtled over the front of it, probably one of the rear view mirrors. It struck me on the left chest toward the center and high on my breast, almost exactly over my heart.

As I came down I landed on my left shoulder and my right foot slammed full force into the asphalt. All of this time I was sliding forward on my front side on the asphalt at about 50 mph.

I immediately assessed a few things, all of which were to the good. While my chest, shoulder and foot hurt like hell, I was not rolling, which could do a lot more damage. Second, I was not knocked out and while my helmet was being scratched badly on the asphalt I was clear headed and my helmet (and my head!) had not impacted with the pavement.

My best chance was to stay sliding on my stomach and spread eagle my arms and legs so that I would not tumble but just slide to a halt. And I had to keep my head up when I did that or my face shield would quickly be rubbed away, exposing my face to be sandpapered by the asphalt. So that is what I did.

All of this happened in a matter of a few seconds. And nobody can tell me that you can't think and react in a situation like that. You can. What you can't do is wait until it happens to figure out what you might try to do. You have to know what to do because you have studied what you would do if it ever happened to you. I have. And it paid off in my case this time.

I continued sliding for well over a hundred feet and unfortunately my trajectory, which I could not alter, was heading me closer and closer to the shoulder of the road. The bad luck was, as you can see in the picture, while most of that shoulder was grassy I missed the grassy shoulder and ended up sliding the last thirty feet or so on a gravel wayside used by the farmer who owned a hay field on the right side of the road.

My safety padded shoulder and elbow riding jacket saved my shoulders and elbows for more harm than I sustained, but the double layered perforated textile summer mesh let in small pieces of gravel which penetrated my t-shirt and then me. I would be picking road rash gravel out of my chest for a few months.

I came to a stop in a cloud of dust and said a thank you to the guy upstairs that I was still alive. I remember saying, "I guess you aren't done with me yet." Before anyone could get to me I sat up. The pain in my shoulder was excruciating. I knew it was dislocated.

Very shortly Sue ran up to me and asked me how I was. I had, at some point, realized that a deer had run into my bike and the response I gave her was "How is the deer?" Wrong answer. Sue seldom screams at me but this time was the exception. "The hell with the deer! I want to know how you are!" I said, "I'm OK. But my shoulder is dislocated and the pain is way too much."

About then the two couples on the BMWs ran up and one of the men was insisting that I lay down. I said just give me a minute to get my thoughts together and I will. What I really meant was give me time to stop the pain in my shoulder which was so bad I thought I would pass out.

The two couples were talking to one another about what to do next. Sue was crouched down next to me, shaking, worried, crying softly. I took my left arm and bent the elbow as far upward as possible, my fist resting above my collar bone. I leaned my head to the left and caught my fist under my jaw making my arm as stable as possible. I took my right arm across my chest, grabbed my left elbow with my right hand and shoved the elbow straight up as fast and as hard as I could.

It sounded like a rifle shot. One of the BMW guys said, "What the hell was that!?" Sue looked up at him and said, "I think he just put his shoulder back in its socket."

With that, the other BMW guy said, "Now will you lay down?" My shoulder pain was now manageable and I was starting to feel light headed, likely shock setting in a bit, and I shook my head "yes."

He then did a surprising thing. He came over, gently and slowly leaned me back and rested my head in his lap. It surely didn't seem like a "man thing" to me but I was very grateful.



Next: What was Sue doing when all this started? Where are we? No cell service. Attempts to get help. Ice, and Grandma Kettle's advice. A long wait. Sue and I ride in an ambulance to where? And who was going to take care of our bikes?

Motorcycling Memories: Oh Deer!, Part Four

First published on Open Salon, FEBRUARY 22, 2010 9:04PM


[The vista, looking west, from Snowshoe Resort, West Virginia]

The tease:

June 24, 2005 Day Planner entry, after the fact: "Hit deer - totaled bike - ended at Trauma Unit, UVA Hosp, Charlottsville, 2 1/2 days - bad scene all around."

What you may have missed:

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

Thursday, June 23, 2005

We arose late, which is my habit, and ate a leisurely breakfast at our B&B, packed our bikes with a few cool weather clothes, water bottles, and prepared to ride out. The temperature by 9:30 a.m. was already in the 70s at Marlinton, so we were starting out wearing wicking t-shirts and summer weight perforated textile safety jackets.

Sue anticipated the mountain ride we were about to take and put in her jacket liner and added a sweat shirt. I reluctantly put in my liner, but take the cold better (lots more fat cells!) and nixed the sweat shirt. The skys were overcast but the clouds were already starting to break up with peeks of sun here and there. In the valleys it was going to be a warm one.

We backtracked on US219 some thirty miles, climbing up and over two tall mountains to come back into the valley just west of the Greenbriar Valley from which we started. Mountain roads increase distances to about twice what a crow has to travel to get to the same place.

We stopped at a gas station/general store at the foot of what is now called Snowshoe Mountain, filled up the bikes, grabbed a couple of sodas and some cheese and peanut butter cracker snacks to take with us. We headed a couple of miles east on a side road that led to the entrance on Snowshoe Resort.

I am going to take a little detour here and share a bit of one of my prejudices. It is not rational, but it will give you an idea of how I approached Snowshoe.

Snowshoe Resort is very upscale. The complex at the top of the mountain, one of three complexes on the property which includes an entire mountain, is a village in itself.

There are huge fancy condos, villas, cabins, hotel, upscale stores, restaurants, smaller cafes, all kinds of personal care service shops: hair, massage, nails, body treatments, and a full service spa. You could live on the top of the mountain, provided you had access to big bucks, all of your life and never have to come down. Snowshoe is money, and lots of it.

Ironically, because of the money, every July they also host the largest motorcycle rally in the state for three days of fun. Although this is open to riders of all brands of bikes it caters to the yuppie Harley Davidson crowd. Those are the doctors, lawyers, accountants, and executives who have seen too many Hollywood movies and have become riders as the result of advertising enticements and middle age crises.

These are the same guys and gals who buy the millions of dollars worth of Harley riding gear each year, think nothing of plunking down $30K for a motorcycle, and another $10K for accessories, and $5K for clothes, to look like pale imitations of Marlon Brando. (Incidentally, Marlon didn't ride a Harley; he rode a Triumph Thunderbird.)

But we don't want to let the facts get in the way of the fantasy which propelled Harley Davidson from an essentially bankrupt corporation in the mid-80s to one of the biggest US manufacturing success stories through 2006. Since then the bottom has started falling out of the dream bubble.

Before Harley realized that they were running out of yuppies who wanted to look like the Wild Bunch, there was a waiting list up to two years for top of the line Harleys. People were paying dealers up to $10K over sticker price just to own one. By the time the recession hit Harley had already seen its peak, prices were down to sticker level, and inventories were starting to build on dealer floors.

Now, with the recession just hitting bottom, Harley is once more in bad shape, and has reported the first losing quarters in 20 plus years. What goes around comes around. It will be interesting to see if Snowshoe continues to host the annual rally much longer, with fewer riders able to cough up the $150 and up nightly hotel bills and unable or unwilling to fork out over $100 a couple a meal in the pricy restaurants of Snowshoe.

But, hey, that is just the take on it from the bottom looking up. Both my bike and Sue's when bought new together did not cost as much as a low priced full sized Harley. I am sure that riders with money would give you another entirely different opinion on Snowshoe, Harley and late blooming riders. Just sayin'.

So, as you can imagine, I did not start up Snowshoe Mountain with a glowing feeling of anticipation. But, truth is, the ride up and back was beautiful. It starts out at the base of the mountain in a valley meadow complete with cattle grazing on the lush grass. The road is smooth and wide asphalt. The speed limit is 25 mph, which, of course, is insane on most parts of the road so I got some pleasure out of speeding now and then. The switchbacks are nonexistent and the curves are easily manageable. The road is long because that is the only way to keep the grade easy. No 8% grades on Snowshoe roads. That steepness is confined to the ski slopes.

You ride through the lower mountain hardwoods into mostly evergreen trees, predominately pines, and then into stunted scrub trees and bushes as you reach the top, with isolated pine trees scattered here and there. The top of the mountain has been leveled out for the development of the village, with the condos tightly packed at the top and additional condos setting below the top on the sides of the mountain.

As development dictates, level notches are created along the sides of the mountain to build the next condo units. There is not much "conservation" to be found. The green glow comes not from flora but from greenbacks.

That is not to say that it isn't an attractive development. It is. But for me it is in the wrong place and is a mistake, just as the clear cutting of the Cass lumbering area was a mistake. Neither cared one iota about the environment. Both exist and existed because of money.

But the skiing is among the best in the East, although since West Virginia is much milder in climate than in the Northeast, they have to "make" a lot of snow and the season is usually short. This year, however, with all of the snow coming through the upper South the season has been extended into early April.


[A winter view from the top of one of the ski runs at Snowshoe. This was an early winter picture. Notice there is little snow yet on the run.]


[A view of only a small section of the main condo complex at the top of Snowshoe Resort.]


[Monte and the bikes with another condo complex in the background, at the top of Snowshoe Resort. Notice both the short hair and the not so happy look. Monte does not do "money" very well.]

We found a place at the top where we could drink our sodas, eat a package of cheese crackers and look at the vista from the top. I had no interest in walking around in the shopping area, or visiting a restaurant, and we didn't want manicures, so we sat a while, took a few pictures and got back on the bikes and rode back down.

The trip up and down was very pretty and we stopped a couple of times to just look at the mountains and the valleys below. That was worth going up to the top. I guess for me it was a good place to ride to but I wouldn't want to stick around at that destination very long.

We rode back to Marlinton the way we came. Once in town we went to the one grocery store, walking two blocks to get to it, bought some milk, sodas, cheese, salami and Triscuits and came back to the Old Clark and made our lunch out of that. We were not very hungry, but it was still better than what we could have gotten down at the diner on the corner.

We lounged around a bit. Sue took a nap. I read some more in the mystery that I was determined to finish before we left. I hate to not finish a mystery and didn't want to ask if I could buy it when we left. Has anyone noticed yet that I am cheap? Sue is too, but she is less obvious about it.

After an hour break we were ready to go again, but it was mid afternoon and we didn't want to go too far so we headed for the Watoga State Park only 14 miles south of Marlinton. It is 10,000 acres of forest, meadows, trails, cabins, camping, swimming pool, store, headquarters, restaurant and a 11 acre lake. All of this makes this park a nice family destination.

You enter the park at the village of Siebert and that road is delightful, winding through old growth timber for miles that forms an entire canopy over the road much of the way. At the end of the well maintained asphalt road you come around a corner and the headquarters lodge greets you on the right and the lake on the left.

The building is log cabin base with wooden siding and sits on a rise above the road and lake. There is a statue near the parking area dedicated to the members of the Civilian Conservation Corps who built all of the buildings of the park, including the log cabins that can be rented in season, as well as laying out the camping area.


[The Lodge at Watoga State Park. The restaurant is on the right]

[The statue honoring the workers of the depression era Civilian Conservation Corps who built the park.]


[The swiming pool area at Watoga State Park]


[The 11 acre lake at Watoga State Park]

[A rental cabin at Watoga State Park]

After wandering around the area for a while, checking out the nice swimming pool with a children's wading pool, and the pretty lake where canoes, paddle boats and row boats can be rented, we went to the headquarters lodge and read the information boards about the CCC and the building of the Park, and looked at the CCC pictures. We had an ice cream in the adjoining restaurant, made a pit stop, and hopped back on the bikes.

The day was getting almost hot, well above 80, so it was good to get on the bikes and feel a little breeze. We rode out of the park through the back entrance. This took us on county road 27 north which wound through the Greenbriar Valley past farms and woodlands, with a few wetlands thrown in for good measure. We ended up at US39 again and hung a left back into Marlinton.

Once back at the Old Clark we cleaned up a bit and were wondering where we could have another mediocre meal when I remembered a bar across from the street from the main restaurant where we had a poor meal. The sign, I recalled, said it was a "bar and grill." There had been a number of motorcycles parked out front on its gravel parking lot but it did not seem particularly busy otherwise. It was called "The Road House" and it looked like one. Gray, seedy and a bit run down with small windows and a Bud sign. Actually, it looked like a lot of the bars at home.

I told Sue we could not have any worse luck at the Road House than we had already experienced so why not try it? She agreed and we rode together on my bike to the bar. There were booths along one side and two pool tables on the other, a bar one end and a door into the kitchen at the other. There were maybe a half dozen people at the bar, two playing pool and one couple eating in one of the booths. As we walked in the food smelled good.

A waitress came out of the kitchen, handed us menus and welcomed us. Sue ordered something that was hard to screw up, but not impossible, chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, white gravy, and green beans. A salad came with the meal. I ordered liver and onions because I won't let myself eat it except when on vacation due to its high cholesterol. I wanted lots of onions cooked in the liver drippings. I settled for french fries and the ubiquitous green beans.

To make a long story short, the entire meal was wonderful. The salad was excellent; the home made blue cheese dressing had large chunks of cheese in it. The chicken fry came with a thin crispy crust. The gravy was smooth and tasty. The liver was thinly sliced, fried just right - which is almost not at all over a high setting, and there was a mound of golden onions on top. We finally had a good meal! And while it was common grub it had to be cooked just so; and it was.

We complimented the waitress and asked her to tell the cook how good everything was. She said, "That would be me." Well. That made it even better. I told her that we had been hoping to find a place where we could have a good steak and asked did she know of any place. Steak was not listed on the menu. She said, "Oh. Friday night is steak night here. I can do you up a great big T-bone or a ribeye. So come back tomorrow."

Tomorrow was Sue's birthday and we decided that while the place lacked in the ambiance department, a nice steak would make a good end to the week since we planned on packing up Saturday morning and working our way home via some new to us back roads.

We told her to expect us tomorrow night. We were looking forward to it. It never happened.


Motorcycle Memories: Oh Deer! Part Three

First published on Open Salon, FEBRUARY 21, 2010 10:51PM


[You just never know what you will come across in the mountains.]

This short series is for Mishima666, who has waited longer than I promised he would.

The tease:

June 24, 2005 Day Planner entry, after the fact: "Hit deer - totaled bike - ended at Trauma Unit, UVA Hosp, Charlottsville, 2 1/2 days - bad scene all around."

What you may have missed:

Part One:

Part Two:

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

This vacation week was not like our normal touring weeks where we would routinely put 250 to 350 miles a day on the bikes. We were exploring a small geographic area and Sue's birthday was coming up on Friday. We had decided before we left home that we were going to take it easier than usual. So, having had a busy Tuesday, we slowed way down, slept fairly late, had breakfast and spent an hour cleaning the bikes after riding in the rain on Tuesday.

The skies were mostly cloudy clearing to partly cloudy as the day progressed. Temps were in the mid 70s, perfect for leisurely riding. In late morning we left Marlinton heading east on WVA39 to WVA28, the first valley road over the first mountain. We headed north up a lovely valley with the mountains tight on both sides.

At WVA66 we took a left and found ourselves climbing rapidly up a very tight road that followed a stream toward the higher mountains. The road leveled out a bit and we came to what was originally a large meadow but was now the well restored remnant of a company lumbering town.

A rail line ran in front of the large Company Store which was on the lower floor of a set of two large barracks which composed the "home" of the single men who worked in and from the town. Further down the street and around the corner was a row of small identical houses, the homes of the married managers and bosses.

We had found the company town of Cass, now known as Cass Scenic Railroad State Park.


[Sue and our bikes in the Cass parking lot. The two large adjoining barracks houses is seen in the back.]

The town existed until the mountains around had been stripped totally of salable timber. The railroad was built up to the point where the logging began. The heavy Shay steam engines were designed to bring the heavy loads down to the valley where they could be sawn into smaller logs which were then hauled by trucks and mules to regular railroad cars in the lower valleys.

When the lumber ran out, including the second growth stands which could be harvested for making pulp, so did the owners. By 1960 the site was abandoned. The state eventually bought the site and the railroad and slowly is building it up to be an important tourist attraction. Several rail rides to three different destinations are popular and it is a nice family destination.

For those who would like more than a day trip the company houses have been refurbished and can be rented as cabins for those who want to get a better feel of what it was like living in a "company town."

A Wikipedia article does a good job detailing the history of the site and the uniqueness of the locomotives at Cass.

Some additional pictures will give you a better idea of the place.


[One of the specially geared locomotives that pushes the open sided excursion cars up the mountains.]


[A closer look at the barracks building that holds the modern version of the old Company Store. A larger barracks joins this one on the right.


[Inside the Company Store, looking at the curio and souvenir section. The store is large and has an historical section beyond this picture, and a cafe behind where I took the picture, as well as a old fashion soda fountain, next picture.]

[The soda fountain area of the Company Store at Cass.]

We ate lunch at the Cafe in the store, explored some of the historical exhibits and walked around a bit, but did not take any train rides. The shortest ride was two hours and the other two were five hours. We stayed about two and a half hours and learned a great deal about the history of the place.

But we had one more place we wanted to visit before we called it a day. So having had a nice time we got back on the bikes, took one final swing around the company town and headed out of town the way we came, riding slowly down the pretty and narrow road back to the valley, enjoying the sun which was now peeking out more than it was hiding; and got back to WVA28.

From there it was only another five miles further north to a place that exists primarily due to the power of Senator Byrd to get nice federal facilities and roads for West Virginia: the Byrd National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank. With a name like that it had better be impressive. And it is.

The thing you see first as you approach the site is the world's largest steerable radio telescope. There are several other smaller radio telescopes as part of this large complex, but all the others are dwarfed by this giant.


[The world's largest steerable radio telescope. Those tiny objects at the bottom include full size 18 wheeler trailers. A smaller telescope can be seen in the background.]

Direct access to the large telescope was only by a bus and we were told that there was no docent to give us explanations of the scope. Since the next bus would not leave for another hour we decided to spend our time in the Science Center. There was a certain irony to that for there were nice viewing telescopes on the deck and good brochures explaining the operation of the radio telescopes.


I think we lucked out and could see much more than we would have from the bus. What we missed was the idea of being under something "big." That didn't seem much of a loss to us, especially when we went through the Center's interactive museum. That was very educational, and for us, not just for children. Or, perhaps for an hour and a half we just let our inner children out and enjoyed it.

In any case it was more fun than I thought it would be. We got to see what the telescopes "saw" through the radio frequencies, the discoveries they made and how they were able to interpret the data to draw their conclusions. It was fascinating.

A couple of web sites for those who enjoy this kind of science.

The official site:

Wikipedia article:

It was very late when we left Green Bank and we headed back to Marlinton on the same roads, arriving after 8 pm. We had traveled all of 72 miles!! But we had a good time. Neither of us wanted much to eat so we rode out to Dairy Queen, had hamburgers and fries and ate Blizzards. Sadly, that was the best meal we had up to that point in Marlinton.

We were enjoyably tired and went back to the Old Clark Inn, locked up the bikes and headed for the shower. Sue decided she could sleep but I was still nowhere near sleepy so I went out to the common room, grabbed a mystery paperback and read for a few hours.

I went to bed about 1 a.m., tired, ready to sleep. That was when a neighborhood dog started barking, waking the dogs who lived at the Old Clark. (Had I mentioned that the Old Clark is dog friendly as well as motorcycle friendly?) Sue slept through it. Eventually either the dogs quite barking or I just passed out. I don't remember. Morning came at some point.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Motorcycle Memories: Oh Deer! Part Two

Published on Open Salon, FEBRUARY 20, 2010 8:46PM


[The view from just above Marlinton, WVA, looking east]

This short series is for Mishima666, who has waited longer than I promised he would.

The tease:

June 24, 2005 Day Planner entry, after the fact: "Hit deer - totaled bike - ended at Trauma Unit, UVA Hosp, Charlottsville, 2 1/2 days - bad scene all around."

What you may have missed:

Part One:

Tuesday, June 21, 2005. After a nice breakfast at the Old Clark, when we left the Inn the next morning to begin our exploration of the area the temperature was expected to be mid 70s in the valley where Marlinton was, but much colder in the high mountains. We backtracked our way a few miles north on US219 and immediately climbed the first mountain, at the top of which was WVA150, the 20 mile long "Highland Scenic Highway."

It is a beautiful, well maintained, wide, two lane asphalt road the highest point of which is at 4750 feet. Above 3000 feet it is a good 20 degrees colder than the valley, and was very windy that day. We stopped at a rest area/scenic lookout and dug out sweat shirts and jacket liners.

A key to enjoying motorcycle touring, particularly in the Spring and Fall, is to carry a variety of clothing which can be layered on and off, and to wear good water resistant safety gear as your top jacket, two or three different warmth leather or safety gloves, good rain suits for the real heavy rains you may not be able to avoid, and water resistant boots or boot liners. A good helmet not only keeps you safer, but keeps you cooler in the summer and warmer in cold weather.

There is nothing more miserable than to get soaked and have to ride in 50 degree rainy, windy weather for 30 miles before you can dry off and warm up. The only smart thing is to never get cold and wet in the first place. That is not always possible but you can limit the bad times to infrequent surprises by being properly prepared.


[Stock photo of Entrance to the Highland Scenic Highway]

The vistas were beautiful with clouds scudding not far overhead while the sun broke through occasionally. The meadows and the famous "Cranberry Glades Botanical Area" at the south end of this short, 20 mile, mountain highway were alive with white, blue, yellow and lilac colored wildflowers.


[ Sue and our bikes. View from cold and windy rest stop on the Highland Scenic Highway. This was at about 3500'. The road climbed to 4750' in the next three miles.]

The Highland Scenic Highway wends it way south from the tops of two ridge back mountains into the valleys between and ends at WVA39. At that intersection there is a small State Park featuring a water fall. We rode in, parked, stretched and warmed up a bit from the cold that accumulates in the bones when riding high in the mountains, shed our sweatshirts and jacket liners and walked up to the map of the small park.

Unfortunately, the water fall was almost two miles away down into a steep valley, reached by what was described as a "moderately difficult" trail, which meant another two miles climbing UP that trail to get back to the bikes.

Now, there was a time I would have done that without thinking. But one of the realities we have come to accept as I have aged was that my wide body, with my feet shod in engineering boots, was not likely to enjoy, or possibly even make it back from, such an adventure, tame as it once was. It was time again for a reality check and the resulting compromises that entails.

Keep in mind that Sue is 16 years younger than I. When some obstacle like this comes along, and it does with increasing frequency as I age, Sue and I do a little dance that has become choreographed. I offer to wait while she explores whatever we are stopped at. And she mostly says "No, let's just ride on."

Now I know and she knows that there are times when she really would like to go ahead and explore where I can't go. But she wants me to have as much enjoyment as I can while I can still ride. And I want her to enjoy our rides together as much as she can, which should include her being able to go to things I cannot.

And so it goes, our love for one another and our willingness to sacrifice for the other, dancing with our desire to make the other as happy as possible. Selfish people will find this strange, and possibly amusing. Those who understand love will find it normal.

Another seldom stated reality is that I have always thought that the ride is infinitely more important than the destination. So when we arrive at a new area to explore I usually map out carefully all the roads that look like they will have the most interesting riding, regardless whether they lead anyplace important.

But I have learned to include some interesting destinations because Sue is much more likely to enjoy spending time off of her bike exploring places. This too is a dance as we seek to balance my desire to ride as much as possible with her desire to both ride and investigate new sites on foot.

This time we got back on the bikes, hung a left onto WVA39 east and headed back to US219 south of Marlinton. At US219 we turned south toward Lewisburg, a colonial era town we both wanted to see. Along the way we passed up Pearl S. Buck's birthplace which was just a small bungalow in a hay field.

A short time later we rode into and around Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park. The overlook shown in all of the tourist brochures was closed, but the park itself was beautiful with tall woods that formed a cathedral of shade with a carpet of leaves that the road wound through.

Lewisburg is said to be a beautiful colonial town. We would never know. It lies south of I-64. From the intersection with US219 cars were backed up two miles to the center of town. We carefully worked our way around the cars when we could, eating fumes when we could not, and arrived in the middle of town a hot half hour later.

It seems that this was a famous town wide crafts and antiques show and sale that lasted a frenetic week. We hung a left on US 60 which parallels I-64 and was the main route between Beckley, WVA and the east before the interstate was built.

Traffic out of town was bad for only a few blocks and we made our way to Caldwell, a few miles east. Running low on gas we stopped at the one large gas station in that small town and filled up. As we were doing that we heard a crack of thunder not far away and decided to pull our bikes up by the building and started in as huge drops started falling.

Within a second it was pouring buckets with wind, lightening and hail. Having been caught out in such showers in the past we laughed at our luck this time. I reminded myself to be a bit more observant in the future, remembering that storms can be hidden easily in the mountains and come upon you quickly.

There were a few booths in the station and there was a large covered porch with rocking chairs, benchs and tables out front. It turns out that they had a pretty good short order grill in the back so we ordered lunch, grabbed a couple of large bottles of juice and sat in the rockers outside of the store on the porch and enjoyed, dry, the sound and light show. The sky was an angry dark gray and the water cascaded down the steep street in front, turning it into a river.

Half hour later the skies were much lighter and the rain had reduced to sprinkles. We went out to the bikes, got our raingear on, and fired up the bikes. We rode in the light rain to White Sulphur Springs. The air smelled wonderful, the ozone leaving a sharp scent and all the dust we had encountered on the ride was long washed away.

As we entered the town the sun came out and the azaleas and rhodedendra were in full bloom. It was clear that White Sulphur Springs had gotten a gentle rain while we were being hammered just 7 miles west in Caldwell. We spent some time riding around the town, which was very pretty. Its colonial atmosphere was every bit as nice as we had been told was Lewisburg.

We rode by the entrance to the famous Greenbriar Resort, but didn't go in. We could not afford to buy a soda at a place like that and they would not appreciate two wet motorcyclists pulling up in the driveway of the rich and famous.


[Stock Photo of the Greenbriar Resort]

From there we took the beautiful valley road, WVA92, north to US39, stopped at a small store at the intersection for ice cream and a soda, and then hung a left, west, back to Marlinton. The road was very pretty with a large, dancing, white water creek bordering the highway much of the way.

The highway is cut into steep mountains, but the grade is not overly severe, and the curves were tight but easy and fun to ride. We topped two mountains on the way back and entered the Greenbriar River Valley from a high mountain with a great view of the valley looking west. We stopped at an overlook for a while, remounted, and worked our way down the mountain into Marlinton.

We were tired and hungry, having traveled only 150 miles, but with the traffic jam (who would have thought?) in Lewisburg and the thunderstorm we had more than enough for one day. We went to the largest cafe in Marlinton, which was down by the river, for dinner.

It was a disappointment. The main dining room was log cabin style, with a high wooden vaulted ceiling. All the sound echoed off the wooden walls, and it was loud. The food was mediocre and unimaginative, but the prices were "gouge the tourist" high. We were starting to think that there was no place in Marlinton where there was decent food.

But all in all it was a good day. We saw some great scenery, learned never to visit Lewisburg during the third week in June, avoided by sheer accident getting drowned in a thunder/hail storm, rode around a beautiful colonial town, enjoyed the highest mountain road in the state and one of the prettiest, curvy valley roads, crossed four mountains, rode for miles along a beautiful mountain stream, and learned a bit about the area. Not bad. Not bad at all.

The television at the Old Clark was in a large living room which had a tape player and lots of magazines, books and games. We didn't find anything of interest on the 15 channels available so we read a while and then went to bed early. The bikes were filthy and I wanted to get up early the next day anyway and clean them up.


Motorcycling Memories: Oh Deer! Part One

Published on Open Salon, FEBRUARY 19, 2010 9:54PM


[The view from just above Marlinton, WVA, looking east]

This short series is for Mishima666, who has waited longer than I promised he would.

June 24, 2005 Day Planner entry, after the fact: "Hit deer - totaled bike - ended at Trauma Unit, UVA Hosp, Charlottsville, 2 1/2 days - bad scene all around."

Maybe we should back up a bit.

Sometimes living close to a beautiful place makes me less likely to visit it. It is a perversion that is not conscious but a habit I have inevitably fallen into all my life. The only time I visit any of the many tourist attractions in the beautiful foothill country of the Appalachians where we live is when someone visits us.

And even then I mostly point them in the right direction, hand them some tourist maps and brochures; tell them to enjoy themselves and I'll see them at dinner. I think that works out best for all concerned. I don't have to be bored, and they don't have to put up with me all day long. Sue says that is just the curmudgeon coming out in me as I age. I say, "Humbug!"

When I lived in Washington, DC those 20 years I almost never spent time visiting the sites tourists enjoy. Just so, Sue and I had often ridden in our neighboring state of West Virginia, mostly on our way "through the West Virginia mountains" to some other destination.

And we had never ridden in its highest county, Pocahontas. This in spite of the fact that the county advertises itself as motorcycle rider's heaven, hosts three large motorcycle rallies a year, and contains of some of the most interesting historical and natural sites in the Eastern United States.

This week long tour was to rectify our neglect of that motorcycling paradise, ending with a romantic celebration in the mountains of Sue's birthday on June 24th. It turned out that birthday celebration would be put on hold indefinitely, and that I would come closer to heaven than I had ever been in over 50 years of riding over some half million miles.

Looking back I am glad that I had arranged a surprise 50th birthday anniversary party for Sue the previous Sunday after church, inviting the entire congregation to join us for punch and cake in the Fellowship Hall. We had a good time with good friends.

And, the days following lived up to our expectations. The tourist bureau hype turned out to be true.

Monday, June 20, 2005. We left our home in Newcomerstown, Ohio after 10 a.m. It was cloudy but mild, mid 70s, no wind. We rode south on I-77, across the Ohio River at Marietta, and on to Parkersburg, WVA. All the greens were vivid and the trees were just then in full foliage. Lush deep green hay fields were at peak growth prior to the first cutting.

I-77 south of our village is one of the prettiest interstates in the East as it curves through Southeast Ohio's tall rolling hills and valleys, mostly forested, but with grazing land cleared for cattle and horse farms, through high mountains in West Virginia, down into the mountain valleys in Virginia and on to the piedmont of the Carolinas.

Since you are riding fast on the interstate, it helps a lot if there are some hills and curves and pretty scenery along the way. While we much prefer two lane roads to interstates, we use the interstates to get to the two lane roads we want to explore.

Some motorcycle touring purists think that it is a sin to ride the interstates. But to totally avoid them you need a lot of time off. When you have to take one week vacations like we did before I retired, if you don't use the interstates you are severely limited in the distances you can travel, and, over time, you run out of new places to explore. We had already done that.

At Parkersburg we headed east on US 50, took a couple of jogs out of Clarksburg and eventually ended up in Elkins where we turned South on US 219 and straight into the mountains just past Elkins.


[Sue and her Yamaha Virago 550 from US 219 looking down on the Greenbriar River valley]

[Monte and his Triumph Thunderbird, same view as above.]

US 219 at that point was a two lane highway that was well paved and maintained, but narrow. It wandered up and over several ridgeback mountains. Switchback followed switchback, some so tight that you had to slip the bike all the way down to first gear and make a tight 180 degree turn in thirty feet. On the downhill side 8% grades coupled with the switchbacks meant 2nd gear and constant engine braking.

A couple of times we met large 18 wheelers coming the other way and had to stop to let them pass. The switchbacks were that tight. The air got colder as we continued into the mountains and we stopped once to put the liners into our jackets. About 6 p.m. we arrived at our destination, Marlinton, West Virginia, an old village of 1200, just surviving, primarily on tourist dollars.

[Downtown main street, Marlinton, West Virginia. We ate at diner on left corner the first night.]

The town works hard to maintain an attractive downtown area, but signs of wear abound and a number of storefronts are empty. The town sits along side the Greenbriar River which is a wide and shallow ice cold mountain river where you can watch people trout fishing within the village limits.

[Restored Marlinton Railroad Station, across the tracks from the Old Clark Inn.]

Most of the "growth" of the village is north along US219 paralleling the River where the valley is relatively flat. But this is not really growth. It is the replacement of services that once were downtown and are now ubiquitous in small villages throughout the USA: Dairy Queen, McDonalds, Dollar General, auto repair, medical offices, small three to five business strip malls, etc. The buildings are often metal or quick stick construction as opposed to the brick and stone construction in the downtown sections of the village.

This is the shape of most small villages we have visited on our touring travels, regardless of where they are located. They are trading the old for the new. Unfortunately, the new is flimsy and often tacky; and the layouts are designed by someone in a corporate headquarters far away and imposed on the local owners by their franchise agreements.

It matters not whether you are in West Virginia or Kansas it all looks the same. Youngsters don't mind. It is all they have ever known. People of a certain age, however, have a sense of loss that is easy to feel and hard to describe.

Marlinton is close to the Virginia border and during the week we would explore the border area of both states, moving between states frequently, often not knowing for sure which state we were in as signs were nonexistent on the smaller roads.

We had traveled 260 miles that first day, the last 60 of which was slow, careful going. And since it was the first actual tour that season, we were out of shape and too tired to do much more than unload our bikes when we got to our lodging and wander down to the corner to a diner for a dinner neither of us remember.

We stayed at The Old Clark Inn, owned by Nelson and Andrea Hernandez, a nice bed and breakfast that is motorcycle friendly. They offer sheltered motorcycle parking, bike cleaning supplies and access to water for washing and cleaning your bikes.

The rooms are appointed well, but small, and there is no air conditioning. However the quiet window fan worked well in that high mountain country once the sun went down. If you enjoy ambiance but with a small sacrifice of convenience, at a very reasonable price, it is a good place to stay, and certainly the best place in Marlinton. Nelson and Andrea were very helpful to us, both before and after the accident.

[The Old Clark Inn bed and breakfast in old downtown Marlinton, West Virginia.]