September 2019 Head Of The Dragon Road Trip – Part Two

Liver Sandwiches and Entropy

Liver sandwiches are self explanatory. The only variables are bread type, condiments and method of preparation.
Entropy however can be defined several ways so for our purpose we will use the common understanding, that of “lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder” because that is what perfectly describes day two of this trip.
Day two began just fine with the promise of a wonderful breakfast at the Shoney’s just across the highway from the motel. I had discovered it the night before when I searched for “breakfast near me” and soon discovered the usual plethora of typical fast food joints, a couple Mom n Pop sit down’s and the shining breakfast beacon on the hill – A SHONEY’S! I just love those places for breakfast and I immediately set in my plan for the beginning of Day Two.

  Breakfast at Shoney’s was just as good as I had remembered it had ever been every time I have had it. Even the grits were perfectly cooked and had the skin on top that keeps the moisture in so they don’t dry out and they were not soupy at all. The scrambled and buttered eggs were tender, soft and moist. The bacon was thin and crispy and the fried bologna was heavenly. The french toast was made of thick yellow slices of bread cooked to nearly being fried after slapped on a hot griddle! I could tell because the outside had that fried egg toasty crunch but the inside was simply cooked not toasted! MMMhmmm! I ate too much.

So we waddled out to the bikes and rode a few hundred yards back to the room (we rode over because we knew wouldn’t want to waddle all the way back) and let breakfast sit a few minutes while I fiddled with my new Action Camera. I had ordered one to mount on the bike to record The Ride. Alas, in no way was I able to arrange the various fittings – and there were many – in such a manner the camera would be able to see over the instruments due to the configuration of the handlebars and fairing. I investigated mounting it to my helmet, but the adhesive patch instantly failed when I tested it out. There was a jacket clip mount but I figured that would be too susceptible to wind and road jouncing to be of much use. So after about a half hour the idea was shelved, I resolved to figure this out back home and be better prepared for next time. The entropy was slipping into the scene so gradually I suspected nothing.

We packed up and just before we left the motel I had what would turn out to be the brightest idea of the whole day. I said “according to my GPS we are 1 hour and 2 minutes from Welch and The Dragon’s Head. We should reserve rooms, or this room for tonight and just return here after the riding is done for the day. That way we also have a little head start on the return trip tomorrow.” The idea was readily accepted and we lucked out and were able to get separate rooms too. At this point I also discovered the rooms came with a free hot breakfast, which would save us time as well! I thought things were shaping up pretty nicely.

As we pulled out of the parking lot to gas up right across the street the sky was perfectly clear and it was that certain shade of blue that is just mesmerizing and feels so good to look at. The temps were just cool enough that jackets with vents open would be perfect. I just knew that soon I would be in that spot again where the SOFA (my bike) would be seamlessly gliding toward The Ride and I would be in the wind on the road and be the wind on the road and just be there being that. And soon I was. And it was what I had I had ridden so far to find and I had found it. And all the little aches in my soul were rooted out by the wind and drifted away behind me as all my pieces fell back into place deep inside whatever it is that is me.

I felt renewed, revitalized and ready as we pulled off the main roads onto the secondary road that would snake it’s way toward Welch where we would find the beginning of The Ride. We had left Princeton on 460 and then took 52 over to Bluewell and the GPS said stay on 52 so we did. I remember thinking Rt 52 could easily be part of The Dragon’s Head because it was so curvy, and indeed I found out later it is. At least part of it is anyway. We were enjoying the ride immensely going as fast as we dared on the nearly deserted road at times and slowing to take in the majestic scenery at other times. I remember thinking how cool WV is because the speed limits weren’t all 40 mph on the whole damn road like they would be back east! “These people get it” I remember thinking. Of course there were reasonable speed limits as you approached little towns and drove through them. Sure that was just fine. We were enjoying the old Main Streets USA too.

However, as we drove on entropy became more obvious as we encountered more and more small towns that were literally nearly deserted and many buildings were literally collapsing under the weight of years of neglect. Many places were decades into deteriorating and were far beyond saving. I felt sorry for these buildings. Some had obviously been centers of activity, some had been fancier than most, but all were succumbing to what we humans have come to know as progress.

There were the few clusters of die hard homeowners here and there and their homes stood out like color photographs on a table full of black and white. Somehow I interpreted this as more sad than hopeful, like a last gasp as the entropy of progress slowly enveloped them. It was in such a place I spied the Liver Sandwich sign and I just had to get a picture of it so I pulled over. The alleyway it indicated showed no signs of any sort of eatery and in fact led to the bottom of a small mountain with some houses perched upon it. I investigated no further. I turned the bike around and that is when I saw the few houses that stood out across the way and they made me think about what it might be like to have lived here through the good times and having careers and children and living your life through the slow decline as the coal business – your lifeblood –  was nearly strangled to death by your own gubbmint (a word I invented to indicate a perverse government) and your home town literally died around you.

I also thought of the possibility that the nicely kept homes and the few open businesses may represent young blood and renovation as it has in the old manufacturing sector of Roanoak where the huge old brick buildings are being re-purposed into trendy condo’s and independent shops. I sincerely hoped that was it, and perhaps it is! The place is ripe for ATV and motorcycle tourism. There are numerous ATV camps and many towns are ATV friendly!
Still, entropy was king around these here parts and I was only beginning to realize it.

We rode on, enjoying the sights and the road with it’s twists and turns and spectacular views until we finally did arrive at Welch about 11:30 in the morning. It had been a very fulfilling couple of hours (we had taken our time sightseeing) and we pulled over at the new Hospital on the edge of town after driving all the way through. There was a nice heavily shaded spot next to a brook and I figured to use my phone to plot The Ride from there, deep in the shade because it was getting hot. It felt like at least in the high 80’s and with full sun the shade was quite a bonus. but alas I had no signal at all in that location so I said to my friend “lets double back a couple miles, I saw a really tall McDonald’s sign and they have free internet and air conditioning.” It was agreed and so we did that.

When we arrived at the McDonald’s it was being remodeled. The drive through was open but that was it. There were a couple parking spots out in the open and full sun but the entire place was behind chain link fencing and the place was off limits except for the construction workers. We talked to them a couple minutes and they told us of a couple other restaurants nearby with free WIFI so we decided to go there. We put on jackets, helmets and gloves. He started his bike. I turned on my key and hit the starter.

It was then entropy made itself known and drastically altered the trajectory of The Ride.

Nothing happened again when I hit the starter the second time. The lights were on, the neutral light was on, the radio was working, everything seemed normal except nothing happened when I hit the starter button.

Tune in tomorrow for the third and final part of this adventure.