Monday, September 19, 2011

Beauty and the Beast

It's really hard to describe my last drive, but the best that comes to mind is "Beauty and the Beast."

The first half of my drive across eastern Ohio and western West Virginia was simply beautiful. A fantastic, smooth, high-speed roadway rolled up and down the foothills of the Appalachians, each vista nicer than the one before. I dialed Darth into a perfect speed/gear combination and he just motored along. I had my current audiobook -- The Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes! -- adding to the entertainment. Life was great!
When I crossed the river and entered West Virginia, I smiled at the sign which reads "Wild and Wonderful", not having a clue just how wild and not so wonderful the next portion of US Highway 50 was going to be.

Just past Clarksburg, the road changes from a great, four-lane affair to a truly miserable, barely two-lane ordeal!
For the next hundred miles, it's up 5 miles of 9% grade, down 5 miles of 9% grade, a moment of flat in the valley, then repeat about a dozen times!

When I say the road is barely two-lanes, I'm not kidding. Plus, there's no shoulder on either side, so when any of the many, many trucks that come the other way pass by it's a door-rattling experience.
To top it all off, I don't think the roadway has been paved in decades, and the patchwork is horribly uneven. So, poor Darth was constantly changing from low-gear churning up hill to motor-braking going down, getting rattled to death by the traffic and pavement, generally working himself like crazy. If I ever had any concerns about the durability of my road rig, I certainly don't anymore.

This stretch of road was easily one of the worst I've ever driven -- even worse than the Haul Road in Alaska! -- and while it might be fun-ish on a motorcycle or in a sports car, it was miserable in a 9,000 pound truck hauling a 7,000 pound trailer!

'Nuff said... The road improved upon entering Virginia, and I am spending a couple of days here in Winchester before making one more push to the end of US Highway 50 on the coast!

Click here to see exactly where I am posting this from on Google Maps.

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