As the days of my retirement drew closer, the most asked question by my co-workers was "What are you going to do when you retire?" My standard answer, "It's not what I'm going to do but what I'm not going to do. I'm not going to take the interstate anymore." After years of racing back and forth across the country on the interstate to fix airplanes, it was time to take it easy and enjoy the countryside along the two-lane blacktop. The moment I saw a sign in Ocean City, Maryland, at the beginning of Highway 50 that said - Sacramento, CA. 3,073 miles - an idea formed.
By noon of the third day of my trip, I arrived in downtown Ocean City, Maryland, from my home in Georgia. With my tank bag bulging with over 20 maps, I was ready for the long haul to the West Coast. I had taken my time riding along the Outer Banks of North Carolina, even camped one night at a hostel in Kitty Hawk, which would have been a lot more fun if I was 19 all over again. I thought it would be a good idea to stop in Ocean City and eat lunch before starting the long ride across country on Hwy 50. Wrong. After a couple of trips around town I couldn't even find a place to park my motorcycle. Stopping on the sidewalk to take a couple of pictures, I then rode under that sign and headed west for California. For the first 100 miles or so, Highway 50 was anything but the scenic two-lane I envisioned. Four-lane cement with plenty of traffic continued across Maryland to the Bay Bridge at Annapolis, and I soon realized I had a problem I had to fix.
The day before leaving Georgia I had installed two new tires. The front one had a wobble at low speeds that increased to an unwieldy vibration with more velocity. I needed to find a dealer with a tire in stock, so after crossing the Bay Bridge, I turned north towards Bob's BMW near Jessup, Maryland. Even though I was riding a Triumph, Bob's service department made a quick tire change and I was on my way by closing time on my third day. I've heard other people talk about their third day always being the worst one. Even while sailing or on a working trip, it seems like the third day is the worst. As soon as I left Bob's I was caught in a thunderstorm so horrendous it made the national news that night. Usually I ride through most storms but this one was so severe I finally took cover under a hospital parking garage and watched as tree limbs and trash blew by. In about 15 minutes it was over and I headed off to find a camping spot. The only place I could find was one of those with the three initials that cost me double what I had wanted to spend. But it was a dry, safe place.
The next morning the sky cleared. I didn't even mind the rush-hour traffic going into Washington D.C. Stopped in traffic, a guy next to me in a SUV rolled down his window and asked where I was going. "Coast to coast," I answered, "on Highway 50." He wondered if I had my tent with me. "Yep, I camp every night," I said, and at that he undid his seatbelt got out and approached. "I want to shake your hand," he said. "You are doing what I've always dreamed of doing, riding cross-country on Highway 50." What a great day. The ominous third day was behind me and so was Washington. The road turned to two lanes and entered the country on Northern Virginia. I've always had a strong interest in the events of the Civil War and Highway 50 across Northern Virginia is heaven for any buff. Here the route is known as the John S. Mosby Highway. Y'all remember Mosby's Raiders, don't you? Anyway, there was a lot of action up and down the Shenandoah Valley and I could hardly make any headway for stopping to read all the historical markers.