Early on Wednesday of this past week, I fired up my Harley Davidson Switchback shortly before 0600, set one of my two trip odometers to 00.0 and headed Northeast on U.S. 221 towards Roanoke for the first of four days of the Merging Mountains Motorcycle Rally staged by the Harley Owners Group (HOG).
As a member of Roanoke Valley Harley Davidson Harley Owners Group, I was one of several chapter members who volunteered to help with rides and other activities over the event which ran from Wednesday to Saturday out of the headquarters at the Sheraton Hotel at the intersection of Hershberger Road and Interstate 581.
I served as a “sweeper” for some rides and helped on other things over the four days. On Wednesday, I got home right after 8:30 p.m., 14-and-a-half hours after setting out before the sun rose that morning.
Same for Thursday, Friday and Saturday. A “sweeper” is the last rider on a motorcycle trip and works with the road captain at the head of the throng that sets out on guided trips into areas of Southwestern Virginia and Shenandoah Valley for this rally. When I pulled the Harley back into the garage right at dark Saturday evening, my trip odometer read 1,143.7 miles of travel over the four days. My personal mileage is only a small part of the overall number of miles piled up by the participants.
Collapsed into bed before 10:30 p.m. Saturday and didn’t wake up until shortly before 7:30 a.m. Sunday. Tired? Yep. Sore? Without a doubt. Happy? Absolutely.
Yes, I was tired and sore from that much time in the saddle of a motorcycle. On one the four days, we rode from Roanoke up by Clifton Forge, through Covington, stopped at the Falls north of the city, then lunch at the Country Cafe at Hot Springs, then up 220 to Monterey before heading East on U.S. 250 through Highland and Augusta counties along twisty mountain turns on what is often called one of the “best biking roads” of Virginia. The trip continued to Goshen and Goshen Park before heading back on U.S. 11 from Lexington to Roanoke.
Another ride covered 165 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway to where the road meets the Skyline Drive near Waynesboro, then over to U.S. 11 and back towards Roanoke — a total of more than 250 miles. Still other rides ventured south on the Parkway or into West Virginia and/or North Carolina or over the “Back of the Dragon” from Marion to Tazewell, Virginia.
I have ridden most of these roads over the years, alone or with groups, but each trip provides challenges and enjoyment.
By the time we met for the closing ceremony at 5 p.m. Saturday, we celebrated four days of riding without major incident and praise from the more than 15oo riders from many states who came to Roanoke for the regional gathering.
I ran into a problem Friday when my bike stopped running off and on and had to swing by Shenandoah Harley Davidson in Staunton where the techs swapped out a malfunctioning security system module for a working one. It took less than 30 minutes and I was one my way with the problem resolved.
A couple of problem comments from some of the many rides over the four days:
- A rider was overheard complaining about part of the route he rode being on “a gravel road.” Turned out it was a country road with the usual gravel and tar surface — something he had not seen where he normally lives.
- Another rider emerged from the rest room after his group had lunch in West Virginia and found himself alone. All the others had left and he was lost without a GPS or map on the best way to get back to Roanoke. It took phone directions to get him back on his way to Roanoke.
The Roanoke Valley Harley Davidson chapter received praise from the National HOG representative during the closing ceremonies. Longtime RVHOG member Robert Johnson, who has been a kay part of rallies staged throughout Virginia, received a coveted souvenir and engraved knife at the closing. My thanks to Robb Lipes, director of RVHOG, and his leadership team for making this one of the best rallies I have had the pleasure of participating in over the years.
They’re a good group that works hard on events like this one and I’m honored to be a part of their activities.
Many of the riders praised the scenery of the area most of us take for granted. They loved the challenging rides.
It was a damn good rally.