Sunburned, rain whipped and with really bad hair (I was sporting the Don King look) my wife Anita and I recently rode into Washington, Pennsylvania in the early evening. We were only 20 or 30 miles short of our destination of Wheeling, West Virginia, but I promised at one point during the ride that we would go no further that day.
The main reason was that my normally sweet wife had somehow turned into a gremlin over the eight hours we were riding: no, not cute little Gizmo, I mean Spike. With all the water we had encountered during the ride that day she should have melted–she didn’t.
But all things considered, I thought it was rather romantic waiting out the worst part of a cloud burst under the overpass on the Pennsylvania Turnpike with traffic roaring by at 80 miles an hour.
It’s funny what serves to be romantic to a biker.
Looking for a place to stay I asked her, “Do you want to stay here at the Ramada?” Grrr. Grrr. “Me no like.” “How about here?” Grrr. Grrr. “Me no like.” I knew it was up to me to make the decision. Fortunately we had passed a Bed and Breakfast called “Grammy Rose’s” just a little way back so I turned the Harley around.
But let me start from the beginning.
A book called the” National Road in Pennsylvania” by Cassandra Vivian had inspired me to think in terms of seeing the road by motorcycle. I figured a two-day trip would be enough to take in the sights and cover the 90 mile section that cuts across southwestern Pennsylvania.
This road was the first federally funded highway project in the United States and the section through Pennsylvania was completed in 1818. Many of the old inns, taverns and toll houses that were built to accommodate the travelers heading west are still there and still open for business.
Historic sites like Fort Necessity although not directly related to the National Road are right off the highway. Fort Necessity is where you will recall, in 1754 a young Lt. Col George Washington, fighting for the British Empire, tried to fend off a large and angry force of French soldiers and Indian allies because of (some say) an unprovoked attack on a much smaller French force. This ignited a little squabble called the French and Indian War that plunged Colonial America, France and England into a very bloody conflict for a lot of years. Way to go George! And I thought I was a troublemaker.
In the 1920s the National Road was converted to Rt. 40 and for the most part, follows the old road but does stray at points. One way to be sure you are following it faithfully is to watch for the mile markers (see picture). A couple of times we thought we were lost, only to come across those markers. And probably much like travelers 200 years ago they were a welcome site.
So after a very tiring day of sightseeing and being exposed to the elements we pulled into Grammy Rose’s Bed and Breakfast, owned and managed by Tim and Rose. It was a Sunday evening and we lucked out with one room in this large Victorian being available.
“We’ll take it!” I said, and the pampering began.
Tim, being the astute person that he is, pressed a beer into my hand from his own refrigerator. This was a touching gesture and almost brought tears to the eyes of this old biker and that’s pretty much how it went all evening.
Anything we wanted they tried to accommodate us.
My Harley even spent the night parked under a rose trellis so that in the morning there were rose pedals all around it. I was impressed. Even my hog got special treatment.
We’ve stayed at other B&B’s around the east coast but this was certainly one of the finest. We would highly recommend the stay if you are ever in Washington PA or it would serve as a destination in itself.
The next morning after a great breakfast we continued on our way to finish our last leg of the tour.
We were just a couple of miles into the ride when Anita started to complain about her eyes watering. As always, I ignored her on the first complaint but on the second or third she suddenly figured it out for herself. For about 20 miles she was riding with only one lens in her glasses.
It’s funny how wind in an exposed eye at 45 miles per hour (touring speed) will make your eyes water let alone be a perfect target for road dust or bugs. A June bug in the eye at that speed will guarantee a world of hurt and lesson learned. She was lucky.
The one thing I really can’t figure out about Anita is that it would take her that long to solve the glasses problem but as we pulled into Wheeling she remembered a trip to a friend that lived there (that I forgot about entirely) and remembered the streets we walked, where my friend’s house was, the motel we stayed in and everything, but I remembered nothing. One of us is a savant and the other has Alzheimers. You figure which is which.
It was in Wheeling that the last mile marker for that piece of the road ended unceremoniously and we began our way home. And I do have to give the little woman credit. The ride home had even less stops and she did it like a trooper– an iron butt trooper.
I would highly recommend this trip for two wheels or four wheels. There seems to be a lot to experience along those beautiful 90 miles and we definitely will make the trip again sometime in the future. This time hopefully rain-free, with better sunglasses, and maybe a shot of Novocain in the rear end.
By Tank Baird