It's been a year now since I took Melissa on that ill-fated date to the top of Reddish Knob. It was a good 5 months or so before we saw each other again, but she doesn't seem to hold a grudge.
The Ninja was eventually rescued from the forest and received a bit of maintenance, including a new clutch. She never fully recovered, however, and less than a month later suffered a full engine seizure. In her place, I'd purchased a Ducati 800ss. I loved that bike, but found I couldn't keep myself out of the woods and the dirt, and it soon became clear that this was not the correct motorcycle for that style of riding. It was also excruciatingly inappropriate for 2,000 mile weeks. It did get me lots of attention, however, from other riders, random ladies, not least of all, police officers.
So, that one was very soon traded for a Suzuki DL1000 V-Strom Dual-purpose machine. Or, as my friends affectionately called it as they helped me pick it up from the dirt trails, "That 550 pound pig".
The Laurel Fork Camp Out in West Virginia was only a month ago. That was the when the V-Strom declared that, despite what I put it through, it wasn't really a dirt bike. This is a story for another day, but suffice to say that as I lay against the tree at the bottom of the ledge, looking 15 feet up at my friends on their lightweight, knobby-tired KLX and TW street-legal dirtbikes, I realized there just might be something to their logic.
With the poor V-Strom now rotting in some Insurance Company's salvage yard, and a recently purchased Suzuki DR350S in my garage, you can be quite assured that I was eager to go on another camping trip.
Such an opportunity was presented this past weekend, with the Cat Herder's Skidmore Fork Camp Out.
Skidmore Fork is a road that leads out from Switzer Dam, in the National Forest a half hour away.
Two days before the event, it occurs to me that this could be an excellent opportunity to see Melissa again. Not as a date: I know she has a boyfriend, but as long a he's not one of those super-jealous types who would object to her sleeping in a tent with another guy, it should be a fun weekend trip. Melissa had just the night before returned from a three week trip to the Philippines, so I called her up. When I explained that I'd just totaled a motorcycle by riding it of a cliff, but now had a new one and wanted her to ride on the back while I got to test it out for the first time, she eagerly agreed.
Okay, maybe she's a little strange, but she is friends with me. What do you expect.
This does, however, present a slight problem. There's really not a lot of space on the DR350. The seat isn't really big enough to be comfortable for one person, let alone two people and camping gear. Immediately after purchasing it, I'd put on a topcase rack, so I had some storage space--but not a whole lot.
Clearly, I'm not going to be able to fit all the camping gear, let alone Melissa, in that case.
The day of the event, I call up Melissa again, and tell her to pack light--sleeping bag, toothbrush, raincoat, and one change of clothes. She says she'll be over to my house in a few hours. That gives me one hour to prepare, and two hours to sleep, as I'm working graveyard shift and haven't actually gone to bed yet.
One hour to figure out how to make everything fit. Shouldn't be too hard. Besides, girls always pack really light, right? I look around the garage. I have some bungee cords, some motorcycle tie-down straps, a GIVI Wingrack that I haven't gotten around to installing on another motorcycle, and some rebar.
A plan forms in my head, and I don my welding mask.
A few minutes later, I emerge from the garage with this contraption.
I won't include any closeups, because welding is most certainly NOT one of my skills. Most of my welds tend to fall apart if I do so much as tie a helium balloon to them, but I have faith in this extra luggage rack for some reason.
The rebar slides into the existing luggage rack ends, and basically extends the rack by another few feet.
The Wingrack includes a bracket to hold another topcase. I don't have any way to attach this to my rack extension though. That is to say, even I wouldn't consider a single tie-down strap to hold them together an "attachment".
I'll go ahead and say it.
This is probably a really, really stupid idea.
Satisfied with my ingenuity, I take a nap for a couple of hours. When I wake and call Melissa to ask where she is, it seems she'd decided to do the same.
Shortly afterwards, she arrives.
Melissa is actually pretty good at packing light, I realize as I pack the contents of her bookbag into the hard cases. I did have to wonder why she needed to bring a full 1-POUND container of salt, though. I thought she ate healthy!
And why did she need to bring all those condoms? Her boyfriend was staying in Harrisonburg while she was sleeping in a tent with me, so unless he was planning on driving up to visit her, I don't know what point they would serve.
Certainly something a little curious about those, but I can't think of any tactful way to ask, so I ignore them.
I mean, I'd brought condoms, too. But not for Melissa...or even for me. Mine were the super-extra-large ones so that I can pull them over my not-waterproof GPS when it rains. It looks a little strange, but it works! Here's a picture from last year.
Not that I felt any need to explain any of that to Melissa. She probably saw them in my supplies, but....well, she probably couldn't think of any tactful way to ask, either.
Primitive camping is fun, but it does mean you have to take more stuff. One case is pretty much filled just with the 3 gallons of drinking water and some food. (Given the heat and humidity here, and the exercise involved with dirt riding, it's certainly not unreasonable to go through a lot more water than you'd expect).
But somehow, we got it all on the bike. Tent, two sleeping bags, water, food, supplies, condoms and all.
Here's the picture of the bike, ready to go.
In other words, a perfect example of how NOT to pack a bike.
Well, unless you really like doing wheelies. Definitely keeps the front end pretty light. Handling was pretty awful. I kept the ride pretty smooth (if not exactly slow), and I don't think Melissa even noticed when the front end lofted a bit by mistake.
We met up with a few of the other Cat Herders at H14XL's house. He was originally supposed to join us on the trip, but wasn't sure if he could make it due to a shoulder injury. Luckily, the Doctor cleared him and told him he was fine to go motorcycling, and H14XL was so happy that he broke his leg a few hours later. Even if he wouldn't be riding with us, though, the group of us still met at his house. When we arrived, I introduced Melissa to everyone. They responded with the usual "Nice to meet you". Then I mentioned that she was actually the semi-famous "Reddish Knob Girl". Everyone immediately exclaimed "Oh, God, that was YOU?" followed by quick interrogation as to her sanity for going out on another trip with me.
And when I say "everyone", I mean it. People I've never met before who live 2000 miles away have told me how they've received forwarded messages in their e-mail containing the story I wrote last year. So I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised when everybody there--even the members of H14XL's family, knew immediately who she was. And for the rest of the weekend, they all referred to her as "Reddish Knob Girl".
Me, H14xl, and Knob Girl
Manganos & NiceViewBehindBars
Then together, we all headed out. Reddish Knob Girl and I on the DR350, HburgNinja on his Yamaha TW200, Manganos on his Supermoto WR250, NiceViewBehindBars on his WR250X, and H14XL, not wanting to miss out on a camping trip despite his leg, in his pickup with the truck bed full of camp chairs and firewood. Awesome! We should break someone's leg before every trip!
We plowed through the fog and mist down Route 33, up the twisties, and then turned off into the dirt just before the West Virginia State Line. A mile or so down a rocky, muddy dirt road, we arrived at the campsite where we were greeted by fellow campers Mtngoat with his XT and and Pomo with a nice, shiny F800GS.
I don't like to admit it, but seeing his huge, powerful adventure beast made me miss the V-Strom a bit. Just a bit, though that soon went away when I saw the difficulties he was having keeping that thing upright through some of the rock gardens we'd later ride over.
We got a campfire going, pitched up our tents, had some food and drink, and had a great time chatting about anything and everything.
Reddish Knob Girl told us about her experiences in the Philippines, including how she'd just had her belly button pierced. Aha! That explains the all the salt she brought, for disinfecting.
I'm sure there's an equally innocent story for the condoms she brought.
And there was...she told me that when she got back--almost 48 hours now--she'd broken up with her boyfriend, and was single.
Um...okay, maybe that's not an innocent explanation, but I'm not complaining. Though I must have been thinking about that so much that I can't remember anything else that was discussed that night.
(Yes, that's a nice way of saying there's no way in hell I'm posting the rest of the stories on the Internet.)
So, we all had a great time, talking, being merry, and I gave Reddish Knob Girl a demonstration of some of the latest things I've learned in class...something I've noticed has become much more popular since I switched from studying physics and calculus to studying massage therapy.
Here are some pictures from the campfire (mostly of Melissa, because I think she's pretty), before it got late and we all went to bed.
And as the night progressed...
.....and that's as far as I got.
I'm not going to pretend to understand a damn thing about what the hell goes on inside of a girls head. But when we headed back to the tent, I got rejected from the "goodnight kiss", and I've got to admit I didn't see that one coming.
No matter, though. I came on this trip for the rides, and having fun with friends, and I couldn't be more satisfied with how that turned out.
Besides, it was Manganos who's night could really have been better. Opting to go for a simple hammock between two trees instead of a tent, he suffered a midnight reminder of why you shouldn't trust anyone else to tie knots for you.
It went from this...
Anyway......on to the rides!
Well, almost. In the morning, I discovered this critter wanted to join Reddish Knob Girl and me in the tent. Is that an egg sack?
Anyway, that spider reminded me of something I'd been meaning to do.
I went into HburgNinja's tent when he wasn't looking an put this inside next to his sleeping bag. Because I'm a good friend.
Hey, there's always room for a rubber snake when packing for a camping trip.
The first ride was a relatively easy outing several miles through dirt and rocks to the top of Flagpole Knob. The weather, in an extremely uncommon occurrence this year, was beautiful, if a bit foggy. Reddish Knob Girl and HburgNinja stayed back at camp for this one--Melissa still being very jet lagged and HburgNinja waiting for another few Cat Herders to arrive.
It was a great ride, enjoyable but fast-paced enough that we didn't bother to take pictures. We ended up going right past Flagpole and on to Reddish Knob--I'm almost glad Melissa didn't come, lest that bring back flashbacks of a previous date. This time, however, we did actually take thecorrect road.
Afterwards, we went back to camp, picked up Reddish Knob Girl and Hburgninja, and went over to Fat Boy's Pork Palace for lunch.
In retrospect, this may not have been the greatest place to take a vegan girl, but we were finally able to get a vegan meal.
Not wanting her to the only troublesome one in the group, I managed to order a glass of milk, a serving of ice cream, and a really big spoon and straw after being told they didn't serve milkshakes.
When we went back to camp, I gave Melissa a 3 minute explanation of how to ride a motorcycle, and told her to jump on.
She did very well, going up and down the dirt road by the campsite. I followed her in HburgNinja's TW200, taking the opportunity to find out if it was possible to wheelie a bike with only 13 horsepower.
The verdict? Yes it is, but the owner didn't seem to happy about it.
Whatever. Once I crash one of his bikes on the highway, we'll be even. :evil Until then, he's forever in my debt. (A few months earlier, I'd allowed him the pleasure of trying to keep the pig upright...after I'd raised the bike to a 35-inch seat height.)
After lunch, Motocox and Kawikazi showed up, and several of us went for another, more technical but equally fast ride down some rather tricky terrain, including crossing some streams, big puddles, and scary hillclimbs.
It's only 20 seconds, go ahead and watch it.
Link to original page on YouTube.
At one point I was behind Kawikazi, and looking for a good chance to pass him. Not too long afterwards, he slowed and pulled off to the side of the road, and I gassed it to go ahead.
The nice thing about the DR350 is that it really can handle any kind of terrain, so I don't have to worry about rocks, puddles, or other things that would make me slow down on the V-strom. Other people apparently still slow down or try to avoid these things, though--so as I plowed through the 2-foot deep puddle at 35mph, I realized that Kawikazi had actually slowed to go around--trying to avoid getting wet. It would have worked out for him, too, if it hadn't been for the 8-foot high tidal wave I left in my wake.
Well, what do you expect when you ride in the dirt tracks? When we stopped later, I apologized, but he thought it was almost as amusing as I did.
There was one hillclimb of particular difficulty on this route.
Being one of the first at the top, and worried that Pomo might not be able to clear the 18-inch jump up a rock required if you didn't pick a good line, I walked back down to point him out an alternate way up the mountain. You can see me here on the left, and Motocox preparing to clear anything that might be in his path.
HburgNinja came up next, and I waved him by, knowing he'd done this route before.
Then Pomo came, and I pointed out the detour that avoided the huge rocks. He went that direction for about 20 feet before stopping, turning off his bike, and giving me a look that clearly meant "Why the hell would I go up there? You've got to be kidding me!"
Well, the detour may have avoided some of those rocks, but that still doesn't mean it's easy! I told him I thought this route would be better since it avoided...well...at that point I just pointed to HburgNinja, who was clearly coming to the realization that he had NOT picked the best line.
It did not end well.
But eventually, everyone was at the top of the hill, and we proceeded on for some more great riding.
Back at camp, some people roasted marshmallows, some people cooked burgers, and I dried out my gloves by the fire.
More stories were told, good times had by all, until we all went back to bed, and, unfortunately, to sleep.
In the morning it was time to go home.
But not before I stumbled out of the tent towards the scent of warm donuts, supplied by HBurgNinja. I might be soaking wet, freezing cold, and half asleep, but dammit, I WILL eat donuts for breakfast.
Luckily, Reddish Knob Girl was kind enough to put some extra warmth on me. I don't actually remember putting this on. I'm pretty sure my eyes weren't open yet, or I may have objected.
XC Rider unexpectedly dropped by the campsite just then, sorry to have missed the campout, but wanting to meet and great fellow cat herders. It happened to work out very well, as while I packed up the tent and our stuff, Reddish Knob Girl was able to take my bike and get some more riding lessons from XC Rider.
When they returned, we loaded up the bike, said our goodbyes, and headed back to Harrisonburg.
After a pleasant sunny ride back to my house, we crammed Reddish Knob Girl's articles into a backpack, and then I gave her a quick (very quick) ride back to her house on my CBR-600. Definately a very different animal than the DR350S, but equally fun.
All in all, we had a great time. No one got hurt, no bikes got destroyed, and no one got pregnant.
Amazingly, my luggage rack worked out perfectly. No problems at all, once you get used to hardly being able to steer.
The weight balance did take its toll, though.
After the ride, note the difference between the front tire:
..and the rear:
They didn't look like that when we started!
And finally, here is a video from HburgNinja with various clips from the weekend: