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Rona Ride 2020

'Saturday June 20th, 2020 9:00'
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    Rona Ride 2020

    The greatest risk at breakfast at Primland was the number of servers tending to our needs and whims. We were there when the restaurant opened for breakfast at 7, the only ones in the whole place up that early. Just one big empty room.

    Out on the road it was as usual. A stop for gas, a stop at the Northwest Trading Post on the Blue Ridge Parkway. People were masked, exposures brief. Nothing but blissful riding.

    Arriving home all was in order. Our house sitter likes to leave before we return, we never meet. The yard was tended, the landscaper had been at work while we were gone, the dogs all groomed and relaxed. So nice.

    Now the question is how much do we quarantine ourselves? Not that it's a big imposition, prior to leaving we had pretty much isolated. Ordered food for the week has been delivered for both us and the pups, no real need to leave the house for a while. I'll give it at least 5 days. If there are no sniffles by then I think we passed through the pandemic unscathed. 

    We left the Stonewall Jackson Hotel in Staunton unscathed this morning as there was no chance to dine on site. Zero risk. So far so good.

    The bikes loaded we hit the road for the first leg of our return trip home on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Stopping to fuel up before we hit the isolation of the park road I located a coffee shop nearby in Waynesboro. It was nearly empty when we arrived and ordered our coffee and light breakfast to eat inside. Turns out it was the place to be Sunday morning and before long the place began to fill. As more people began to file in and a crowd started to gather at the door we chose to finish our coffees outside away from the masses.

    As is usual, riding is risk free. We rolled along the scenic park road stopping here and there to admire the views - what there was of them. The biggest respiratory threat we faced was the Sahara dust storm which painted the landscape gray as if there was a light mist. That light mist was replaced by a light rain, nothing of real significance as we wound our way south.

    Descending to Roanoke we found the park road closed and were forced to detour through the periphery of the city. It went surprisingly well as I knew if I could just get to US 221 we would ultimately find where the road closure ended as the road criss-crosses the parkway several times on into North Carolina.  Note to Blue Ridge Parkway - your road closure app is unusable on a cell phone. Fortunately I'd brought along my America Rides Maps and we found a delightful way to traverse the blockage. 

    Back on the park road we wound our way southward to our exit near Meadows of Dan, VA. Mabry Mill Road is a nice little paved trail that shortcuts going through the busy area. A few miles south on US 58 we turned off on Busted Rock Road to reach our lodging for the night.

    Arriving at the gate to Primland Resort we were stopped and required to fill out a health questionnaire form, have our temperatures scanned, and our reservations verified before we were allowed to proceed beyond the gate. Another 6 miles of rolling backroad brought us to the lodge.

    Masks are mandatory here and everyone is in compliance. It's a golf centered resort so outside you're free to breathe unfiltered but any inside space requires a face covering and everyone adheres to the rules. The restaurant was already booked and there were no seats available due to the reduced seating capacity.  We found our way to the pub, mostly empty, for an appetizer but chose to do room service for our meal. No real issues today, perceived threats easily managed.   

    Breakfast was in an empty room but for one other couple on the far wall. The Country Inn at Berkley Springs was quiet early in the morning and we were out without any human exposures.

    Again, the day on the road was of no issue.

    Arriving in Staunton, VA one of the first things I noticed was nearly everyone I saw on the streets was masked. Mostly young people. Checking in to the Hotel there were a few guests in the cavernous lobby sitting without masks but we just went on up to our room.

    With the hotel restaurant closed we went around the block to Beverley Street which had been closed off to traffic so the restaurants could provide street seating. Most of those walking around were masked. We found a wine bar and grabbed a table outside, the only ones there.

    Seeking dinner we walked the street looking for a good environment. What must have been the best places were packed full. These we avoided. we found a place that didn't look too crowded and chose to sit inside for dinner as it was still in the mid 80's. We were the only ones there.

    Back at the hotel there were several groups in the lobby, all unmasked. We passed through to our room. 

    Another day and I've seen little risk.  

    As previously described the Selinsgrove Inn offered little risk. Even more so that there was no breakfast available with the restaurant closed. 

    We packed up early and hit the road north. Our morning sustenance was found in Williamsport, PA at a coffee shop with take out. The "Masks required for entry" sign was reassuring though once seated outside (no inside dining) we observed several people including a local cop just stroll in bare faced. Whatever. Our takeout breakfast was in disposable packages - not very elegant but met the safety standards.

    Again, riding presented no challenges, a lot of miles covered today. No encounters with others.

    Arriving at the Country Inn at Berkeley, WV I strode right in to the desk forgetting to pull up my face cover. Jackie reminded me. Oops. The front desk staff had those plastic shields for protection, other hotel staff had faces covered. Few guests did. That was to be the norm.

    Our room seemed fine (how do you know). Once unpacked and showered we headed down to the bar. Tables were available in all four corners and we took one. The remainder of the room was no seating. It seemed safe enough and we were so comfortable there we took dinner at our table, quite good.

    We'll see what the morning brings. First impression is people seem less vigilant. 

    Harpers Ferry this morning was a ghost town. We were up and out early enjoying the empty streets and historic sights in solitude.

    Returning to our room to pack up we noted the bakery across the street opened early and jumped at the opportunity to get on the road faster. Getting breakfast always seems to hold things up. We popped in, grabbed some coffee and breakfast sandwiches and took them to our terrace across the street. Barely any exposure to others at all.

    Back on the road we were once again safe from creeping corona. The roads were good at times, a few nice twisty bits here and there, but mostly lots of long valley rides through farms. And farms. And farms.

    Arriving Selinsgrove mid-afternoon we found the hotel empty. It has remained so even now. Outside of checking in there's been no risk of exposure at all. Even so we don our masks indoors, especially in the elevator as it's just plain become like wearing seatbelts now. If you don't have the mask on you feel something's not right.

    The hotel restaurant and bar are closed so we hoofed it the short walk into town to find dinner. The first brewery was closed. We next came to BJ's M Street Tavern and Oyster House. The usual precautions in place once inside, and it being early in the evening we were essentially alone in the bar booth we were led to. Excellent dinner as well. 

    Another day passes and I still think we've been pretty safe so far. Tomorrow is a long day on the road. There's no breakfast nearby so we'll stop 30 miles north in Williamsport where a local place advertises a take out breakfast. I think we're staying ahead of this thing.   

    Our final breakfast at the Ft Lewis Lodge was as before. Our same corner table safely tucked away and delicious food brought to the table.

    Afterward we set out on the bikes with little ares or concerns crossing from west to east on a road about course to reach the start of the Skyline Drive. The hours spent cruising it were in relative isolation save the few encounters at overlooks none of them close.

    Arriving in Harpers Ferry, WV around 5 we were greeted by signboards in the road carrying the governors message to "be safe, stay home".  Pulling up in front of our historic hotel we noted many of the businesses were closed, including the restaurant and pub at our destination. People were out in the streets, some masked, some not, and our soon to be neighbor was sitting outside with his laptop barefaced. 

    Our host greeted us the same and showed us to our room which had been moved from the expected location to the old Hotel building. The room had probably been there since the 1800's with a few modern accommodations and we just hoped it had been sufficiently cleaned. We noted no issues once we took residence.

    Dinner this evening was at a restaurant across the street, The Rabbit Hole on an outdoor deck overlooking the train station. We were pleased to find a strict protocol for admission, widely s[aced tables, masked and gloved servers, and numerous small signs reminding us of the rona rules - stay in your seat, ask for passes to use the restroom, exit only out the back entrance. All pathways for traffic were taped to the floor. It was some of the most extensive precautions I've seen in a public setting.

    The food was excellent, the beer fresh from the tap, the dessert delicious, very satisfied and comforted to our safety. Better than expected. 

    Opportunity knocked and plans changed today. Friends from Charlottesville were available to come out and meet us for some riding and we jumped at the chance. It's been too long since we were all together.

    It was a bit of a conundrum early on. One of them was receiving medical care that left him highly vulnerable and at risk for infection. Meeting here at the lodge was not the best idea so we chose insteadd to rendezvous on the road. meanwhile we enjoyed breakfast here. The dining are was a bit crowded but we found a secluded table tucked away and ate in relative safety. 

    We all met up at a gas station in nearby town. It was great to be together though we all kept a distance between us. As the day wore on it became hard to resist drawing closer together and I found myself slipping my neck gaiter up over my face from time to time when I felt any concern. It's just become a habit no, I almost don't think about it anymore.

    A good day was had, the riding was excellent, and we spent time together. Returning to the lodge for dinner it was again a bit crowded and with a thunderstorm passing windows were not open as before. Still, we found a table ticked in a remote corner and enjoyed the great food brought to our table. 

    Tomorrow we move on and may face the greatest risk yet. We'll see. 

    Our morning at Mountain Lake Lodge was as before. Breakfast in the sparsely populated dining room then out on the road. Mask use was common today, a Monday.

    Once we were on the bikes it was bliss. The roads were great, the stops scenic and spectacular. The only public encounter we had was a stop at the Paint Bank General store when we strayed towards West Virginia for a short while. It was nearly empty, we got in and out to take our photos with little worries.

    Arriving at the Ft Lewis Lodge a little early we headed up to our room to find it hadn't yet been turned over. The bed still amiss had me a bit hesitant. With the windows wide open there was no risk of stale air from the previous guests and the team quickly sanitized the room that had somehow been skipped on the list that morning.

    We're staying in one of the 3 silo rooms so it's isolated from the rest of the the lodge rooms and we encountered no-one at all today in the area. Windows open, we soon became comfortable with the narrow winding staircase that led to our third floor room. No close encounters of any kind.

    As is custom we headed to Buck's Bar at 6:45 to kill the time before the dinner bell was rung. There were others in the area but all were outside and we had the open air bar to ourselves. When the bell rang indicating dinner was ready it was not the typical buffet setting, rather a menu was presented and the staff brought our food to our table.

    The Ft Lewis Lodge is mostly open air and oopen windows all around with much of the facilities outdoors. I overheard there has not been one case of Covid in this county to date and while there are a good number of people here it's seems a very safe environment to be in for these couple days we're staying.

    Tomorrows plans have changed as an old friend in Charlottesville and his wife are riding out to meet us in the morning. He's been under medical care lately and is avoiding any and all risk so we will rendezvous in a small town nearby to avoid contact with unknowns. 

    Overall it was a pretty good day and I think we are still just fine.   

    Breakfast at the Mountain Lake Lodge was fairly benign. We've pretty much come to accept you can't eat with a face covering and there were no real crowds to deal with. We eat early and it seems most of the likeminded are mask compliant. Seating was adequately distanced, the food was good, it was not anything that triggered concerns.

    We rode into West Virginia today. Of course the time on the bikes is about as safe as it gets. There was a needed stop at a Staples store to pick up something I'd forgotten to bring but the place was mostly empty and the staff wore protection. Again no real concerns.

    The only time we found ourselves around a number of people was at the stops on the ride. The foot traffic at the New River Gorge State Park was active but we and some others took precautions. When those large bare-faced family groups passes on the outdoor trails I fouond myself holding my breath for a moment until we reach the clear air beyond their slipstream but overall it was not overly crowded and it was outdoors.

    On visiting the Glade Springs Grist Mill in Babcock State Park, Jacke was not comfortable going into the working mill as there were people in the small space, I took the dare for the video minimizing my breathing in tight places. It was open to the outside air throughout so I doubt there was really any significant risk.

    Returning to the Lodge this evening we found the ability to isolate ourselves in remote corners and such when we need to go massless for purposes of consumption. So far, I think our risks have been minimal overall and we're better for having taken precautions just in case.

    Tomorrow is another day and a new environment as we move on. We'll see how it goes then.

    After so many months of sheltering at home it's surreal to be out on a motorcycle trip. A for-real trip, not just a day ride or a work project. 

    Until we arrived at the Mountain Lake Lodge this evening it just seemed like another day ride, a loop out from the safety of home and back. Even during times of local lockdown we've been able to get out and escape confinement by riding. There was no risk of contamination winding through the backroads of the Blue Ridge Mountains alone on our motorcycles. We felt fortunate to have the opportunity to enjoy it and you always came back to the security of home.

    The trips planned for early this year were cancelled, a real disappointment after all the work that went in to organizing them over the winter. When the lockdown came we couldn't leave the county for more than 3 days without a 14 day quarantine on return. Nor were there any places to stay or eat, they were all closed.

    Even this trip is a compromise. It was originally a visit to New England much more extensive and ambitious. We hoped and waited to see if things would open up for us to do it but Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts still remain closed to out-of-state visitors, and New York is making noise about closing again. Scrambling to salvage what could be made from the wreckage of that earlier trip, RONA RIDE 2020 evolved and here we are.

    The ride up was as many rides, pleasant, fun, some challenges, a few moments of excitement. But now we look at a situation we have not had to deal with either while riding or at home, putting ourselves in public places with a public that only half embraces this pandemic truly exists. It was quiet when we pulled up to registration at the Lodge, more so than I'd seen in the past. That was encouraging. Donning our masks we made our way inside to check in.

    Hotel staff are all masked, that's becoming pretty common at most competent businesses and the now normal plexiglass curtain separates the front line desk workers from the unwashed masses. Blue "Masks are Required" signs are posted on the door as we'd seen at the gas station where we'd stopped for a break on entering Virginia. The apparent order and precautions were fleeting.

    Coming inside our Rona radar quickly alerted us to several people just ignoring the mask mandates. It quickly became apparent this was the norm, not the exception. Alas, it was the same here as it was at home, and we weren't going out at home. Now we are amongst the potential plaguers and we'll have to do the best we can.

    Arriving at our room the window was already open insuring no stale nor lingering air. I still left the door open for a bit to insure it all flushed away before removing my mask. Once that transpired and all our baggage had been carted to the room we could relax in our sanctuary. We have a safety spot. Dinner reservations were made, our next challenge.

    Going out to snap a few photos some guests were covering their faces. The majority just went about their activities oblivious to any potential consequence. 

    It was our first sit down dinner in a restaurant is many months. Overall I think was just fine. The room was open to air, there was good airflow, and the nearest table to us was at least 40 feet away. While it was a novel experience to be out in a public setting bare faced once we sat down to eat, we felt mostly comfortable with it. First hurdle cleared.

    Tomorrow we repeat the experience for breakfast then head out on the road. Rona Ride Day 1 is done.   

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