By: Kristi Emmons
Looking at the map starting the next day into the final stretch to Virgina International Raceway, it was quite squiggly; a motorcyclist’s dream. This is what motorized two wheels were designed for.
Waking up the following morning, I had set my alarm bright and early (at least for a night owl like myself). I drank some coffee, grabbed some hotel breakfast, packed my things, and I was on the road again. I couldn’t wait to make it to VIR. Although I would be missing out on a fraction of Saturday’s moto racing action, like the saying goes, “better late than never!”.
I went up the road a very short way from the hotel. From there, I made a right, which put me straight onto the Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway. This is where the real riding began!
With all my luggage in tow, I wasn’t sure how riding through the turns would be. To my relief….it was a relief! Instead of a constant straight and weight distributed evenly in the same place for long distances, going through the turns of the road shifted the weight of my large backpack to different spots, so that I wasn’t bearing the weight of it in one spot for too long.
As I headed deeper into the mountains in the morning light and breeze, the views were breathtaking. The turns were exhilarating, and this was only the first portion of twisty roads, before they got smaller and tighter. I would be venturing deep into “them thar hills”, and it almost felt like I was transported to another time, the deeper into the route I got.
Along my route, I made sure to stop for gas fairly often, as I was venturing into a part of the country that was just experiencing a fuel shortage. I went deeper and deeper into the mountains. By 9am, I was already two hours into my ride. I stopped at my second gas station of the morning. The gas stations along this route were mainly Marathon gas stations, which I’ve never really frequented, prior to this trip.
Most of my stops, I took this as a chance to take off some of my gear for a minute, even if it was simply just for gassing up. So, off came the backpacks, gloves, helmet, and jacket. I also used these pit stops as a time to buy hydration or snacks, as needed.
By this second gas stop I made, it was apparent that I wasn’t in Chicago anymore (or anything remotely close to resembling a city). The sparse buildings slowly changed into ones of timber, and tin roofs. I knew I was truly in the south now, as there were men at the gas station coming out of pickup trucks, wearing Wranglers, work boots, big belts with their shirts tucked in, trucker hats, and they spoke with a thick “country” accent. It was like something out of a movie. After curiously observing my surroundings, I finished up at this stop, and headed on the road again.
By this point, the route I was on had gotten super tight and twisty…just what I wanted! I was on highway 119, which would switch into highway 23 as soon as I crossed over the border into Virginia. I finally made it!…to the state of my destination, at least. However, being that I was doing things the old fashioned way in memorizing directions and trying to follow road signs, not long after crossing over the Kentucky/Virginia border, I made a wrong turn (cue creepy banjo music). The road I turned onto got even smaller, and just a few turns later, I arrived in what was actually a totally charming mountain town. Looking back at my Google Maps timeline, the town I ended up in, is named Pound. Instead of being frustrated for going the wrong way, I took in the sights and character of this old town. Not commercialized, this town was 100% #shopsmall, and was a glimpse of classic small town America; how things were “back in the day”.
Luckily, I quickly realized my mistake, and was back on my planned route in no time. This was a little bit of a long stretch for me this time, and I needed another pit stop. I pulled into yet another Marathon gas station, where the closest recognizable racing city, Bristol, was not too far away. It was 12:45p.m. at this point, and I took some extra time to rest this stop; about half an hour. I was hot. I was tired. After gassing up, using the restroom, and hydrating, not giving any cares, I parked my bike and made a nice, cozy napping spot on a curb. Between the physicality of all I was carrying with me riding, and having started the day so early, this little spot, while nesting with all my gear, felt amazing. I enjoyed a little snack after a tiny doze, and considered this my lunch stop for the day.
From this spot, I had about three more hours to Virginia International Raceway. I would only stop one more time, before making it to the main town near the circuit; Danville, Virginia. The next stop I arrived at was something else. It was an old country store with a gas station. Hot and tired, I nearly dropped my bike getting gas here.
The store itself was like a mix between a farmers stand and a general store, with also some cool knick knacks inside. While making a purchase at this store, I noticed there were no hand sanitizers to be found. Have no fear though, as I remembered that I was now in the South, and COVID didn’t exist here (yes, I’m cheeky).
I moseyed on out to get gas in my bike, and this gas station would be the first of many that I would finally come across as evidence that the gas shortage in this part of the country was real. The worst of it was over, by the time I made this trip, but many places were still out of anything other than regular, 87 octane gas. If you drive a normal car, this is all fine and dandy, but being on a motorcycle, and a sportbike at that, this was not ideal.
I got back on my bike and continued riding. About an hour later, this city girl finally started to see signs of real civilization again. I had arrived in Danville, Virginia; I was almost there! Danville is the biggest town right near Virginia International Raceway. From there, I made my way into some really beautiful, twisty roads again, where I would finally arrive at the track! Virginia International Raceway, situated on the North Carolina/Virginia border, is in a very rural setting.
Once arriving at the track, I felt like a kid going to my annual trip to Six Flags again (racetrack arrivals are always the most exciting thing!). I was mixture of being physically relieved, and elated to finally have made it to the VIR round of MotoAmerica!
Below are some photos of my weekend at the races. Stay tuned for my final sector of Ride to the Races: The Journey Home.