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vacation by motorcycle

10/1/2005

I have been gone for 10 days on a trip I could never have imagined a year ago. I left on Sept 20th, as soon as a major thunderstorm cleared the area. The roads were wet, so I wore rain gear all day. I took back roads through farm country, enjoying the sites and most of the smells. (The farmers were spreading manure, so the idea of being in a car and rolling up the windows had some appeal, but not for long.) The first night, I stayed somewhere just over the NJ/PA line, then took interstate highways (81S and 77E) until I got to Fancy Gap, VA. Then, I got on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Truly the most beautiful road I have ever taken, and one worth the time for anyone to experience. The speed limit is 45 and no commercial trucks allowed, so it is wonderful to go slow and enjoy the breathtaking scenery. Just having the nerve to travel alone, to try a new route, to see new things is brand new for me. I always thought I'd do these things when I had someone to do them with. I really enjoyed the trip alone because I could stop when I wanted, for as long as I wanted, take pictures, stroll down a hiking path, eat or sleep when I wanted to.

This trip also meant eating alone in restaurants. Nice ones, not fast food, since I can't eat most fast food items and feel well at all. I was able to do that, without burying my face in a book. I enjoyed "people watching" and occasionally having a brief conversation with people at a neighboring table. I noticed that if I made eye contact and smiled, most people would smile back and often say hello. The whole idea of looking at people is new to me, but I liked it!

By the time I got to NC, my bike was pretty dirty. I went to a coin operated car wash (Note to self: make sure you have more quarters next time. It isn't good to run out of time before all the soap is rinsed off!). While there, a man with a similar bike in similar muddy condition finished washing his bike and rode over to where I was wiping mine down. He hung around and chatted a while, asked where I was going from there, and I think, although I'm not sure, that he was trying to pick me up. Or connect in some way, since we were both from out of state and attending the same rally. He was wearing a wedding ring, but made a point of telling me he was alone on this trip. I wasn't interested in persuing this line of conversation since he did have a ring on, but I realized my pick up lines are rusty, as is my radar. No one has tried to pick me up in years!

While on the rally grounds, strolling or riding from vendor to vendor, I got into conversations with lots of people. If I was chatting with a woman, her husband would often get into the conversation and everything was friendy and fine. A few times, the conversations were started by men asking about my GPS system or asking what part of VT I was from (after noticing my license plate). In a couple of those situations, the wife joined us a little later in the conversation, and I'd notice that sideways, look-me-up-and-down look from the wife. The first time that happened, I wanted to hug the lady. Little did she know what a compliment that was to me! I guess it could get boring, but for now, viewing me as a threat is so novel, I like it!

On Sunday morning, instead of heading back north, I decided to finish the rest of the Blue Ridge Parkway south, then took RT 441 through the Great Smoky Mountains Nat'l Park and ended up in Gatlinburg, TN. I walked around town for a while, had my first burger in 6 months at a local brewery (along with lemonade, no beer) then reversed direction and headed north.

I rode the entire BRP and Skyline Drive through the Shenandoah Nat'l Forest in VA. The deer where everywhere. The road rides above the clouds and mountain peaks. You have to see it to appreciate it. It literally was a "stop and smell the roses" kind of vacation. I turned off my MP3 player so I could hear the sound of the birds, rushing waterfalls and the breezes in the trees. Wow!

On the way home, I stopped in Lancaster, PA. There was a severe thunderstorm warning, so I did what any bright person would do, and I parked the bike, covered it and sought out a dry place....in an outlet mall. In the time it took that storm to pass, I spent about $700 on new clothes, of course at great prices. My goodies were stuffed into plastic bags and piled on top of my luggage with cargo nets. I didn't dare ride all the way home like that, and I didn't like the noise of rustling plastic, so I rode into PA Dutch country, found the post office in Intercourse, PA (Yup, there is such a town.) and bought some boxes and packing tape from the postmistress and shipped my new clothes home to myself. They should be here on Monday.

I was struck by the cultural clash as I, a woman, road quietly past Amish folks in buggies pulled by horses. I'm sure they thought I was Satan alive! I road down one quiet country road as school was getting out and I passed groups of Amish students, girls in dresses and prayer coverings on their heads, boys in black pants, blue shirts and straw hats. All clean faces, freckles and grins as I passed by. One little boy even gave me the victory sign, which is something bikers do to passing bikers as a sign of liking their bike. Now, how would an Amish boy know to do that, then they don't have TV or radio? I think they are exposed more to us "outsiders" than their folks know. I would have loved to take a picture of him, but it is not allowed to photograph them.

I continued toward Allentown, PA, then on to the Pocono mountains, through the Delaware Water Gap and home by way of the Northway in upstate NY. I took the ferry across Lake Champlain about 8:00 last night and was home by 9:00.

Before the MGB, I woud never have had the energy to do this. I would have been afraid, too. Afraid of getting lost, afraid of falling, afraid of anything happening to me. I have GPS to help me find my way, a cell phone and a CB on the bike in case I needed it. The most important thing is, I am no longer afraid to ask for help if I need it. It is hard to explain the changes in me mentally and emotionally as the weight came off. For any of you who have ever dealt with weight issues, you know that we feel like second clas citizens, afraid to demand what is rightfully ours for fear of ridicule or bringing the focus on us. That, friends, is all gone now. I still have a bit more weight to lose, but I am now "normal". I treat myself that way and expect others to treat me fairly, too. And they do! Ihave a lot of confidence now.

As of this morning, I weigh 179.

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