There used to be a Japanese game show on TV called "Endurance" in which young Japanese men endured a series of inhumane physical challenges, such as bathing in tubs of insects or hanging upside down over a cesspit. And today was a bit like that, really!
We started full of optimisn at 8.30 am and headed up to the entrance to Skyline Drive, a 120 mile road which runs along the top of the ridge that is the Shenandoah National Park. Unfortunately, the storm which had arrived last night had decided to linger and a large cloud descended over the mountain meaning that we could hardly see the bike in front let alone the famed vistas and panoramas referred to in the guide books. For mile on mile of twisting road, our view was the tail light of Roger's bike or the odd deer (why do deer stand in the middle of the road causing danger to life and limb when there are literally millions of acres of prime woodland where they could stand and be much safer)?
We decided after 5 hours of this to descend to the Interstate and continue our journey at speed and in clear visbility. A good plan - until the heavens opened. If, like the poor hapless contestants in Endurance, you have ever had a jet wash trained on your face for 45 minutes at full power, you will know what it is like to ride at 60mph in driving rain wearing an open faced helmet. I am sure that my pores are all the better for it but it is not a pleasant experience. For mile upon mile we rode through the storm. Roger assured us that our destination was about 30 miles away. He missed off the hundred, unfortunately.
The golfers among you will know that sometimes 17 holes of dross can be forgotten after a drive, dead approach and tap in on the 18th, and motorbike rides can be similar - hours of misery can disappear as the sun comes out for the last 20 miles as you cruise to your overnight stop. Well today that didn't happen. To use the golfing analogy, we scuffed the drive just short of the ladies tee and then hacked our way through knee high rough all the way up to the green, finishing with an ugly 3 putt as the heavens opened again with a biblical vengeance as we limped, bedraggled into Boone (although to be fair the Holiday Inn Express is a step up from last night's Super 8 Motel (which can best be described as a Travelodge without the finery)).
In all we did 370 miles today which, in all honesty, was about 120 miles too many. However, we had a great meal and some great margheritas in the bar across the road. Al described today as "the worst day of his life", which was probably a bit of an overreaction, but I can see where he is coming from.
Tomorrow will be much more relaxed......