Continuing north on the Blue Ridge Parkway the rear sprocket died. I had needed to tighten the chain regularly and noticed some wear on the sprocket but hoped it would last until the next service in 3000 miles time. 60 miles later the teeth had half worn away. My guess is that the case hardened outer skin had worn then the sprocket failed rapidly. The bike only has 8800 miles on it, a bit early for the sprocket to fail I would have thought. If I had been in Europe the repair would be covered under extended warranty but the warranty isn’t valid or transferable to the USA. I headed for the nearest town, Roanoke, Virginia. There didn’t seem to be a BMW dealership but I found a Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha and Kawasaki dealership that could carry out the repair but parts had to be ordered. I decided to get the rear tyre replaced at the same time. It had worn in the centre from the 1800 straight miles I did in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. The bike was booked in for Wednesday and I rode carefully away trying to protect the sprocket to look for a campsite. The one I was told about by the bike dealership turned out to be closed so I started phoning the ones listed on the GPS and got booked into the Alta Mons Campsite, 26 miles south of Roanoke.
Blue Ridge Parkway
Alta Mons turned out to be a one of the best campsites I have been on and the standard is much higher in America than the UK. Alta Mons has a stream running through it, a river down one side and huge grounds with a number of walking trails. I extended my stay to explore the area further before heading north again. I was kindly invited to dinner by Jason and Mandy who work at Alta Mons. Mandy is Welsh and had brought some real English tea back on her last trip. A real treat! It was the first time I had been in a house since arriving in America at the end of March apart from my single night in a B&B. We had great food and an interesting evening talking about the places we had been on our various travels.
Virginian Hitch Hiker
At the end of the Blue Ridge Parkway the road continues as the Shenandoah Skyline Drive which I intended to do but I also wanted to visit the historic sites of Jamestown, Yorktown and Williamsburg around the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. The north end of the Blue Ridge Parkway was the best place to detour although it meant doubling back for Skyline Drive. First I visited Monticello the home of President Thomas Jefferson (1743 - 1826) who drafted the American Constitution. He had a 5000 acre plantation and as many as 140 enslaved men, women and children to help run the plantation and the house, designed by Jefferson. How slave ownership fits in with his declaration that “all men are created equal and have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” and that “the right to liberty was self evident” wasn’t made clear. However I believe he inherited his slaves rather than buying them although they were sold to help pay his debts after he died.
From Monticello I rode to Chippokes Plantation campsite near Jamestown and the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. Chippokes Plantation was established in 1619, only twelve years after the first settlement by the British at Jamestown in 1607. It is one of the oldest continually run farms in America. Jamestown was a short ride and a ferry crossing away. The ferry crossed the James river from Scotland to Jamestown. Local counties included Sussex, Surry (US spelling) and the Isle of Wight.
House In Jamestown Fort
Indian Village, Jamestown
Jamestown now consists of two parts. A recreation of the first British settlement of 1607 and the original archaeological site nearby. Both were worth visiting although I preferred the original site. I hoped the archaeologists would dig up some find belonging to George Percy, a member of the Duke of Northumberland’s family and one of the first arrivals while I was watching but no such luck. Jamestown is accepted as the birth place of America although St. Augustine in Florida was established 42 years earlier in 1565 by the Spanish.
Reconstructed Ship From The First Landing
Pocahontas Was Born 15 Miles From Jamestown
Yorktown is linked to Jamestown by the 23 mile long Colonial Parkway, a scenic road with Williamsburg about half way along. Yorktown was the scene for the final battle in the war of independence in 1781. The British led by Lord Charles Cornwallis held Yorktown. The French, assisting the Americans got together a fleet of 36 Navy ships and blockaded Chesapeake Bay stopping the British Navy from supplying Cornwallis or aiding a retreat. The French and American troops marched to Yorktown and blockaded the British. Using larger guns delivered by the French navy the Americans and French bombarded the British for nine days until Cornwallis requested a ceasefire to discuss surrender.
Yorktown War Of Independence Memorial (USA 1, Britain 0)
I had to leave my campsite on Chesapeake Bay, Chippokes Plantation State Park as it was fully booked for the Memorial Day Weekend. Most campsites were full but I managed to get the last available site at a ‘remote’ campsite at False Cape 30 miles south of Chesapeake Bay entrance. The camp was seven miles from the car park so I sorted out the minimum gear and hiked in. Carrying the camping gear made it a long seven miles but I eventually arrived and got the tent set up. The following morning I walked a three mile round trip to the nearest water supply and back although I later discovered that the Park Rangers carried water and would top up containers when they drove through the camp. Being a bit of a hike to get to meant there was miles of Atlantic beach virtually to myself on one side of the camp and a large bay on the other.
False Cape Sunset
After the Memorial Day Weekend I headed back to the northern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway by a slightly different route to start the Shenandoah Skyline Drive. When I arrived there was heavy fog in the mountains along Skyline Drive although either side was fine. I camped at nearby Waynesboro for a couple of days and set off in clearer weather. Shenandoah Skyline Drive is a 105 mile scenic drive with a strictly enforced 35mph speed limit. I opted to go slower than that and try and spot a black bear which were supposed to be fairly common in Shenandoah. Naturally I didn’t see one although there were deer and other unidentified creatures. When I stopped to camp 20 miles from the end of Skyline Drive I asked the park ranger what was the chance of seeing a bear. She reckoned 30% and the best way of seeing one was to quietly walk the trails or stay still in the forest and wait for one to come past. As I left the rangers office a black bear was by the side of the road about 150 yards away. A deer crossed the road in front of it then the bear slowly wandered across the road and disappeared into the forest on the other side.
Spurred on by my first sighting of a bear in the wild I pitched the tent and set off on a ‘bear hunt’. Following the Park Rangers advice of being as quiet as possible I turned my hearing aid off as I have found I do everything more quietly that way. I spent a day and a half enjoying the trails through the mountains but never saw another bear.
I had spent hours studying maps looking for a good route avoiding the larger towns from Front Royal the northern end of Skyline Drive to Princeton New Jersey. My Mother’s birthday was coming up and my brother Keith was flying from Australia to England for the celebrations. I could hardly not ‘nip across the pond’ if Keith was travelling all the way from Australia. Foolishly I booked a flight from JFK, New York. In hindsight a smaller airport would have been easier. I had met Hank Farber at the Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge and Campground in North Carolina. He lived in Princeton NJ and kindly offered to store my bike. I could get the train into New York from there.
I ended up plotting a route on the GPS taking in all the small roads I could find. Weaving around Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia with an overnight stop in Susquehanna State Park. I was the only one in the camp. The house behind was bunk accomodation and toilets. I had my evening meal sitting in a rocking chair on the veranda.
I arrived at Bulls Island State Park Campground 26 miles from Princeton. Bulls Island is in the Delaware River on the Pennsylvania / New Jersey border.
The route worked well and would have been impossible without the GPS or a navigator sat behind me. It was mainly rolling farmland with some forest. I saw a number of Amish folk in Pennsylvania. It would have been interesting to chat to some of them on their, what seems to me to be an 18th century lifestyle. Unfortunately the opportunity never arose.
I am heading into New York on Friday catching up with Greg who I haven't seen for over 20 years then flying back to the UK Saturday evening. New York will be the first large town I have been in since starting the trip in Miami.
I have done over 4500 miles from Miami to Princeton New Jersey in eight weeks. The direct route is about 1350 miles. I have avoided Interstates and major roads wherever possible and done less than 100 miles in total on these. The only built up area has been at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay around Newport News, Portsmouth, Norfolk and Virginia Beach on the way to and from False Cape State Park for the Memorial Day Weekend.
The vast majority of the roads have been very quiet and enjoyable to ride on (unlike the Interstates). I have done a couple of 30 mile stretches of dirt road and a few shorter sections. These could have been avoided but added to the variety.
I have camped every night except one when I stayed in a B&B because the camping gear was wet. Not including getting to America, cost of paperwork and bike parts (tyre, chain & sprocket) it has cost about $260 per week (185 pounds sterling). Most of this was on camping fees of between $5 and $33 per night.
When I return in three weeks time I intend to head north, mainly along the coast to Nova Scotia to do the Cabot’s Trail.
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