There are some stories that perhaps shouldn’t be shared.
50 Shades of Gray, as one purely hypothetical example.
That’s not the kind of story I’m talking about, though.
After I published a recent story which sang the praises of an obscure, meadering road in the woods, a friend of mine sent me a note.
“WHY, in God’s name, would you tell anyone about that? This time next week we’ll be up to our asses in squids being medivaced out of there, their fractured sportbikes littering the streambed, and the local constabulatory will be digging bunkers into the rock trying to find a place large enough for a cruiser to hide. WHY, I ask you, WHY would you tell anyone this?”
And upon reflection, he may have a point.
And although he may do me the complement of vastly overestimating my readership, there are some pieces of information that shouldn’t be bantered about, and left lying around for any idjit-with-a-Google to stumble upon.
Like the Heisenberg principle — where the observing of a thing can fundamentally change the thing — this is, because of the cirumstances, a story that hangs on a concern about operational security.
If I were just to tell the tale with all cards on the table face up, that I would thereby destroy this thing which is so rare and wonderful.
There is this road that no-one knows about.
It’s amazing because it exists somewhere where no one would expect it. But also because it provides a total-opt out of the grostesquely oversubscribed modern, overdeveloped and undeplanned and now collapsing transporation infrastructure that completely surrounds it.
Its like a fistfight between the 18th century, and the 21st, and the 21st gets freaking clobbered.
But if everybody knows about it, it gets destroyed in a New York Minute.
So It Is The Road Whose Name Cannot Be Spoken.
Living in the Washington DC Metro Area is to understand that speed and acceleration are very seldom the answer to getting from here to there, especially during the day Monday through Friday. Agility, lightness, narrowness and maybe — under extreme stress — the ability to operate gracefully offroad are likely all more important.
Its why I have found my full dress tourer to be less than perfect for the daily transpotation role, except in cases of really awful weather.
Its why my R90S was mechanically refreshed — aaahhh! — so that it could reliably survive the required floggings.
And its why on this day, I found myself outside a certain County Seat in a Northern Virginia county, sitting on that same R90S. Sitting on that R90S, on a 90 degree day. Sitting on that R90S, on a 90 degree day, wearing ventilated leathers, and ….not….. going…… anywhere.
The District of Columbia has to tow behind it a heaping load of history. Starting with the decision to build a Capital city in a swamp at the end of great river across which it would prove very, very difficult to build bridges.
So that now well over 200 years later, that river and the very few ways to cross it continue to wreak havoc on those of us who are simultaneously lucky and cursed to live here.
And the bridges that cross that river, and the highways that lead to them, reflect the transportation needs and patterns of 50 to 100 years ago. The roads have not changed, the three bridges haven’t changed, but there are hundreds of thousands more of us than there used to be, and we make our livings differently than we used to, and we need to go to different places than we used to to do that.
Two lane and four lane rural highways with traffic lights were never meant to carry Interstate Highway System style volume. But the growth of the entire Capital region has forced them to do just that, and local goverments continue to do rural development to put more and more people on those same roads. Those roads with no transportation plan or upgrades even contemplated. So if you live in Maryland, and must go to Virginia to work, you can’t, really. And if you live in Virginia, and must go the other way, your odds don’t look any better.
I have worked, off and on, in Northern Virginia for 25 years. Where my current employers’ office is located was a pleasant 30 minute ride in the country in 1988. Now that same ride is an hour 15 minutes to 2 hours, depending on one’s choices and one’s luck.
So, on a stinking hot day wearing vented Vansons on a vintage performace tuned motorcycle — a motorcycle for which a real cool carburator idle circuit wasn’t way up on the list of design requirements — with my jacket heating up, and being airheaded, my feet heating up, one can emphathize that the supply of patience available to me was not infinite, and the level gauge on my dashboard indicating same was swinging visibly leftward.
The street leading out of the County Seat to the highway was not moving. No one was entering the highway. Hence the highway was not moving. Situation Critical.
I noticed a park off to my right — an Historic Home of an Early Virginia Governor.
I read the sign, recognized the name, and realized I had never been there.
I had a shot down the gravel shoulder to the side street that lead into the park, so I took it. I figured any movement was preferable to no movement, and that as long as I kept the sun off my left shoulder, I’d be headed generally towards home.
I cruised around past the park driveway and the street curved around the boundary of the old estate. When I got to the back of the property, the road headed towards a dense treeline, turned to hardpacked dirt and pea gravel, and dove into the woods.
Remember that we’re maintaining Operational Security, so any names here will provided for the sake of Dramatic Progress, and will be fictionalized.
There was a county road sign where the road went into the woods — “Old Brigadoon Road”.
“Brigadoon? The Imaginary Scots Village that one exists for one night every hundred years?” No. There was a small country village, completely preserved in its rural setting, called Brigadoon. It was completely across on the west side of the county.
“Damn,” I thought, “If this road goes all the way to Brigadoon, You Can Call The Queen Me Auntie”
But to Brigadoon it went.
It was a lovely rural road. Surface was generally loose but it was thankfully free of any serious ruts or soft stuff. About half the time we were in the trees, where the shade was about 15 degrees cooler than we had been back in Town. The remainder of the time it scooted past a good many horse farms — animals in the fields, checking out the bike — with lots of tight corners at the end of short straights, which were great fun to do a little controlled slide out of on the slippery surface.
Fun — just add throttle.
In the next 7 to 10 miles, I think I saw 3 three other vehicles — all pickup trucks coming the other way.
After a few miles of this I was no doubt wearing a helmet cracking grin. I was unbearably smug, and stayed that way for the better part of 2 days.
I’d gone from total, hopeless gridlock to a nice ride by meself in the woods in about 3 minutes time.
With a turn of luck like this, maybe I would disappear with Brigadoon into time for the next hundred years.
When the road emerged into the Village, there were a few cars coming through. On the other side of the Village — less than a quarter mile — the road became nicely paved and a sign indicated a chage of name for the road.
I knew I’d seen the sign…that I knew where it came out…but I couldn’t place it, and I was sure I hadn’t ridden it.
I was following a Subaru coming out of town, when the stripes indicated a legal passing zone. I rolled the throttle open, moved smartly by, and that was the last car I saw.
This, too was a lovely road — more farmlands with lots of new round-baled haywheels — and good sweeping corners with great sightlines.
And I did know where it came out — at the end of the mainstreet of the town on the Virginia side of the Potomac River Bridge that leads back into my neighboring town of Brunswick.
More or less a beeline home.
I looked at the dashboard clock as I pulled the bike onto its mainstand in the driveway. My elapsed time home, taking the ATM stop into account, was in line with my best recent point-to-point time.
The two main highways that lead out of the County Seat would have been completely stopped or crawling at this time any day, but lost in the woods between them is a dirt road and a country lane from Colonial Times that development and the present have forgotten.
Maybe I did imagine it — I have this vision of going back to the park and having that tunnel into the woods not be there.
I need to go back soon just to reassure myself.
Its been since a 2008 adventure on the TransCanada Highway that I’ve had the LT out playing in the dirt. I wonder how the Big Girl would do out by Brigadoon?