A beautiful moon darted in and out of the clouds and often lit up the nighttime sky as I sped south on Interstate 80 and turned off onto I-581 towards Roanoke late Thursday night — a sharp contrast to the bright orange sunrise that greeted me when I headed out nearly 18 hours early for a day trip to Washington, DC for lunch with an old friend.

Very little traffic on U.S. 221 as I headed up Bent Mountain following a comfort stop at the Kroger Store in Cave Spring.  I kept a sharp eye out for deer but no critters ventured onto the roadway as I topped the mountain and started the final 19-mile leg home.

A long day but a good one that logged more than 700 miles on the Harley in cooler-than-normal August weather.  It began shortly after 6 a.m. as I steered the Harley towards Roanoke and a trip towards DC along U.S. 11 through the Shenandoah Valley.

At Strasburg, turned east on Virginia Route 55 — The John Marshall Highway — for a pleasant ride through Northern Virginia horse country and the quiet towns of Delaplane, Paris, The Plains and Marshall.   If you turn off 55 and onto Virginia Rte. 704 at The Plains the road takes you to Brynley, actor Robert Duvall‘s 362-acre, Revolutionary-war era plantation.  I attended an event there in 1998 and met Duvall.  Musician Bernie Coveney worked with Duvall on the movie, Tender Mercies, and taught the actor to play guitar.

But I stayed on Rte. 55 and picked up I-66 at Gainesville for the final leg into DC, arriving in time for lunch at The Palm with Jim Wright — and old friend from our 23 years in the National Capital Region.  Jim, a retired lawyer, is the son of the late federal judge James Skelly Wright who rose to national prominence in New Orleans in 1960 when his rulings struck down 29 Louisiana segregation laws and forced the state’s schools to integrate. The rulings brought threats to Wright and his family and forced the judge to pack up his family and move from his native New Orleans to Washington, DC,where he served on the Court of Appeals and later as Chief Judge of the DC District Court of Appeals.

Jim would achieve some notoriety of his own while attending high school at the private St. Albans Academy when he scored a date with St. Agnes party girl March Elizabeth “Tipper” Aitcheson for the prom.  At an after-prom party, Aitcheson met one of Jim’s classmates — Al Gore.  She would later morph from fun-loving party girl into Tipper Gore, crusader against the sin of rock and roll music.  I often teased Jim for bringing Al and Tipper together and unleashing them on an unsuspecting world.

Jim and I hadn’t seen each other for seven years and spent a pleasant lunch catching up on each other’s lives.

After lunch I headed out in DC traffic for Chantilly, near Dulles Airport, to drop in on Ivan Arzola at IMA Motorsport. Ivan is another old friend from the DC days.  He took care of my Porsche and we worked together on many projects with the Potomac Region of the Porsche Club of America. I served as President of the region — the first Porsche Club in America — in 2000 and as chief steward of the driver’s education program for several years.  I also met Jim Wright in the Porsche Club.

Rush hour started before I left Ivan’s shop and headed south on U.S. 29 towards Charlottesville. Topped up the tank of the Harley in Warrenton and finally cleared traffic near Culpeper as the sun ducked behind clouds.  By the time I reached I-64 just south of Charlottesville, darkness fell.  Coffee and a Snickers bar brought a burst of energy near Waynesboro and I turned south on I-81.

After another gas stop and a shot of caffeine and sugar near Troutville I had enough energy for the next leg.  Picked up some sushi for Amy and I at the Kroger in Cave Spring and arrived home just after midnight.

A ride in gorgeous weather, quality time with two old friends and time to take in some of the natural beauty around me.  Doesn’t get any better.

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