Eben Gilkenson

Five motorcycles stopped at a pullout on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Rolley Hole Ride

Mid-September, five of us rode down to Tennessee to attend the Rolley Hole Marbles Championship in Standing Stone State Park.

Leaving on a Monday morning, the first day took us through familiar roads in Massachusetts, New York and into Pennsylvania. We began with our usual pass over Mount Greylock, rendezvousing with the Rhode Island contingent at our usual rally point, the Martindale Chief Diner, just off the Taconic Parkway. We then skirted the Catskills for a few hours before arriving in Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania for the night.

Motorcycles stopped on the roadside near the Catskills.

Tuesday was a scorching hot day of meandering south through Pennsylvania into Virginia. Late that afternoon, we took quick rides through the battlefields at Gettysburg and Antietam, and stopped for a night in Winchester, Virginia.

Wednesday was a scenic ride through more obscure battlefields throughout northern Virginia, ending at the Peaks of Otter Lodge on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

My first attempt at Krakover bagels.

Having already spent more time on the Blue Ridge over the years than anyone needs to, we only rode about five miles on Thursday morning before getting back on the less popular roads. This took us past a handful of those named motorcycle destination roads like the Snake and the Back of the Dragon, but we always took a turn before getting on any of them, instead exploring some gorgeous, empty roads through farmland and forests.

Our breakfast destination turned out to be closed, which forced us to make a detour to the Paint Bank General Store, which is becoming a regular stop for us. Getting back on the route took us over a mountain pass of gravel switchbacks, which was a bit of a surprise, but we all made it through without incident.

That afternoon, we crossed into Kentucky via Highway 160, the Dragon Slayer. It was an unexpected highlight, despite the setting sun making some of the curves a bit more challenging than they should have been. We ended the day in Harlan, Kentucky.

A view of Dale Hollow Lake from the lodge.

Friday was a short-ish ride to Dale Hollow Lake State Park in southwestern Kentucky. While short, it was still longer than expected, as we were all unaware of the time zone change, not understanding how our GPS units appeared to think we were going to cover 200 miles in two and a half hours.

The marbles tournament in progress. Williamson Branch bluegrass band tap dancing.

Saturday was the Rolley Hole, ostensibly the reason for the trip. Despite having chosen this destination as a bit of a joke, I thoroughly enjoyed everything about it. The marbles tournament itself was fascinating to watch, the live music was great, the food was delicious and every person was delightful. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back (there’s always some other destination to ride to), but it’s something I’d recommend to anyone.

The return trip began Sunday morning, with a ride through the Daniel Boone National Forest and into Ohio, staying in Gallipolis.

Motorcycles parked under windmills in West Virginia.

Monday was a long day through West Virginia, with a stop at the site of the Farmington Mine Disaster in Mannington. We hit a freezing downpour around Mount Storm, but it was short-lived and we were able to continue on to Cumberland, Maryland.

A toast at dinner in Cumberland, Maryland.

Tuesday had us riding through Pennsylvania and into New York, ending up at our usual final night stop at the Hancock House Hotel in Hancock, NY. As always, we were running out of daylight and riding in fear of deer, but we made it once again.

On Wednesday, we returned to Vermont, crossing over the Rhinecliff Bridge and riding through Dutchess County, into the Berkshires and up into the southern Greens.

Ten days. About 3,000 miles. It was a trip.

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